Sunday, August 31, 2003


This terrorist scum dog was biting at the heels of freedom. The look on that girl's face is priceless. It's like Bush just told her that her hips don't look wide enough to properly breed the next generation of Arab-killers.
Confessions of a Terrorist

TIME's Johanna McGeary previews an upcoming book by journalist Gerald Posner, in which he aggregates and evaluates numerous intelligence miscues and oversights that preceded the attacks of September 11, and continued through the US' official military and diplomatic reaction. The most shocking revelation made in Posner's book, however, centers around the details of Al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah's confession to US authorities immediately following his 2002 capture. Apparently, Zubaydah--hocked up on sodium pentathol as he was--told of explicit collusion between the Saudi and Pakistani governments and bin Laden.

McGeary says nothing about the length of the confession, but the official Postmodern Potlatch speculation on the matter is that the transctript would be somewhere around 28 pages.

Zubaydah's capture and interrogation, told in a gripping narrative that reads like a techno-thriller, did not just take down one of al-Qaeda's most wanted operatives but also unexpectedly provided what one U.S. investigator told Posner was "the Rosetta stone of 9/11 ... the details of what (Zubaydah) claimed was his 'work' for senior Saudi and Pakistani officials." The tale begins at 2 a.m. on March 28, 2002, when U.S. surveillance pinpointed Zubaydah in a two-story safe house in Pakistan. Commandos rousted out 62 suspects, one of whom was seriously wounded while trying to flee. A Pakistani intelligence officer and hastily made voiceprints quickly identified the injured man as Zubaydah.

Posner elaborates in startling detail how U.S. interrogators used drugs—an unnamed "quick-on, quick-off" painkiller and Sodium Pentothal, the old movie truth serum—in a chemical version of reward and punishment to make Zubaydah talk. When questioning stalled, according to Posner, cia men flew Zubaydah to an Afghan complex fitted out as a fake Saudi jail chamber, where "two Arab-Americans, now with Special Forces," pretending to be Saudi inquisitors, used drugs and threats to scare him into more confessions.

Yet when Zubaydah was confronted by the false Saudis, writes Posner, "his reaction was not fear, but utter relief." Happy to see them, he reeled off telephone numbers for a senior member of the royal family who would, said Zubaydah, "tell you what to do." The man at the other end would be Prince Ahmed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, a Westernized nephew of King Fahd's and a publisher better known as a racehorse owner. His horse War Emblem won the Kentucky Derby in 2002. To the amazement of the U.S., the numbers proved valid. When the fake inquisitors accused Zubaydah of lying, he responded with a 10-minute monologue laying out the Saudi-Pakistani-bin Laden triangle....

...The last eight paragraphs of the book set up a final startling development. Those three Saudi princes all perished within days of one another. On July 22, 2002, Prince Ahmed was felled by a heart attack at age 43. One day later Prince Sultan bin Faisal bin Turki al-Saud, 41, was killed in what was called a high-speed car accident. The last member of the trio, Prince Fahd bin Turki bin Saud al-Kabir, officially "died of thirst" while traveling east of Riyadh one week later. And seven months after that, Mushaf Ali Mir, by then Pakistan's Air Marshal, perished in a plane crash in clear weather over the unruly North-West Frontier province, along with his wife and closest confidants.

Without charging any skulduggery (Posner told TIME they "may in fact be coincidences"), the author notes that these deaths occurred after cia officials passed along Zubaydah's accusations to Riyadh and Islamabad.
'Down with America' chants crowd as Shia Muslims mourn dead

Packed into buses, pick-up trucks, taxis and cars, an estimated 500,000 mourners descended on the holy city of Najaf yesterday for the burial of Iraq's leading Shia cleric who was among at least 80 people killed by a car bomb on Friday.

From dawn, a ceaseless stream of traffic clogged the roads around the sprawling cemetery of mud brick tombs. Devastated followers of Ayatollah Mohammed Baqer al-Hakim walked the final mile to the sacred shrine of Imam Ali where the huge blast claimed the life of the key American ally.

The crowds beat their chests in sorrow and denounced the American-led occupation of Iraq. Chants of "down with America" filled the air as two white lorries carried away the charred remains of the cars used in the attack. Some carried coffins wrapped in black shrouds bearing verses from the Koran.

In turn abject and ecstatic, mourners demanded that Iraqi Shi'ites seize control of the country. "We cannot remain silent any more," said Hassan Abu Ali. "We must do something I will not allow our enemies to sleep peacefully any more."


I'm trying to think of the way to interpret this that will allow me to feel OK about the situation in Iraq. I'm having some trouble with that.

This blogger--who happens to be a history professor at the University of Michigan--makes an interesting case that this could be the work of Saddam loyalists. Assuming that is the case, is "Saddam loyalists" really the best term? It would be impossible, to my eyes, to determine if this was done by former Ba'athists because an emboldened Shia population was a threat to the old power structure (which is pretty much toast anyway, right?) or if the used the information and materials made available to them by their afiliations with regime remants but the real reason was more simple and sectarian.

Either way, with death counts this high and a population this polarized, it seems very possible that Iraq is slipping into civil war. The Shia have numbers on their side, but the Sunni have all the advantages that come with 50 years of authoritarian power. In either case, if we hadn't created the power vacuum in the first place, none of this would be happening. This exact scenario--a power void leading to civil war--was theorized by a number of people before the war, all of whom were laughed off. "Don't you know that all bets will be off once we flip the democracy switch?" Well, the democracy switch probably doesn't work without electricity.

via American Samizdat
Saturday, August 30, 2003
Baghdad Burning

This is a blog written by a girl in, you guessed it, Baghdad.

Check out this recent entry:
The Promise and the Threat

The Myth: Iraqis, prior to occupation, lived in little beige tents set up on the sides of little dirt roads all over Baghdad. The men and boys would ride to school on their camels, donkeys and goats. These schools were larger versions of the home units and for every 100 students, there was one turban-wearing teacher who taught the boys rudimentary math (to count the flock) and reading. Girls and women sat at home, in black burkas, making bread and taking care of 10-12 children.

The Truth: Iraqis lived in houses with running water and electricity. Thousands of them own computers. Millions own VCRs and VCDs. Iraq has sophisticated bridges, recreational centers, clubs, restaurants, shops, universities, schools, etc. Iraqis love fast cars (especially German cars) and the Tigris is full of little motor boats that are used for everything from fishing to water-skiing.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that most people choose to ignore the little prefix ‘re’ in the words ‘rebuild’ and ‘reconstruct’. For your information, ‘re’ is of Latin origin and generally means ‘again’ or ‘anew’. ...

Yesterday, I read how it was going to take up to $90 billion to rebuild Iraq. Bremer was shooting out numbers about how much it was going to cost to replace buildings and bridges and electricity, etc.

Listen to this little anecdote. One of my cousins works in a prominent engineering company in Baghdad- we’ll call the company H. This company is well-known for designing and building bridges all over Iraq. My cousin, a structural engineer, is a bridge freak. He spends hours talking about pillars and trusses and steel structures to anyone who’ll listen.

As May was drawing to a close, his manager told him that someone from the CPA wanted the company to estimate the building costs of replacing the New Diyala Bridge on the South East end of Baghdad. He got his team together, they went out and assessed the damage, decided it wasn’t too extensive, but it would be costly. They did the necessary tests and analyses (mumblings about soil composition and water depth, expansion joints and girders) and came up with a number they tentatively put forward- $300,000. This included new plans and designs, raw materials (quite cheap in Iraq), labor, contractors, travel expenses, etc.

Let’s pretend my cousin is a dolt. Let’s pretend he hasn’t been working with bridges for over 17 years. Let’s pretend he didn’t work on replacing at least 20 of the 133 bridges damaged during the first Gulf War. Let’s pretend he’s wrong and the cost of rebuilding this bridge is four times the number they estimated- let’s pretend it will actually cost $1,200,000. Let’s just use our imagination.

A week later, the New Diyala Bridge contract was given to an American company. This particular company estimated the cost of rebuilding the bridge would be around- brace yourselves- $50,000,000 !!

Something you should know about Iraq: we have over 130,000 engineers. More than half of these engineers are structural engineers and architects. Thousands of them were trained outside of Iraq in Germany, Japan, America, Britain and other countries. Thousands of others worked with some of the foreign companies that built various bridges, buildings and highways in Iraq. The majority of them are more than proficient- some of them are brilliant.

Iraqi engineers had to rebuild Iraq after the first Gulf War in 1991 when the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ was composed of over 30 countries actively participating in bombing Baghdad beyond recognition. They had to cope with rebuilding bridges and buildings that were originally built by foreign companies, they had to get around a lack of raw materials that we used to import from abroad, they had to work around a vicious blockade designed to damage whatever infrastructure was left after the war… they truly had to rebuild Iraq. And everything had to be made sturdy, because, well, we were always under the threat of war.

Over a hundred of the 133 bridges were rebuilt, hundreds of buildings and factories were replaced, communications towers were rebuilt, new bridges were added, electrical power grids were replaced… things were functioning. Everything wasn’t perfect- but we were working on it....

Russia would back US-led international Iraq force with UN mandate

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday Moscow would not oppose the establishment of an international force in Iraq under US command so long as it was authorised by the United Nations Security Council.
"We see nothing wrong with having an international force (in Iraq) under American command. But there must be a United Nations resolution," Putin told a joint news conference in Sardinia with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

He also said Moscow was prepared to back a new UN resolution on Iraq if the global body was given a real role in organising the country.
"We think a new resolution is possible and even desirable. But only if the UN effectively plays a serious and genuine role in the reconstruction of Iraq, the organisation of the country's political and economic life, and if it really leads the process of democratising Iraqi society and the creation of institutions of power," Putin stressed.


Ulitimately, the most obvious benefits of a UN mandate in Iraq would probably be the most significant. The US would save money, increase the operation's credibility, do a better job of incorporating neighbor Arab states--what happened to that one? But it might be most important that UN involvement would amost necessarilly mean that the US would be forced to particpate in the formulation of a plan. One of those would come in mighty handy right now, and the neocons don't like plans, they only like ideology.
Fistfuls of Dollars By PAUL KRUGMAN

It's all coming true. Before the war, hawks insisted that Iraq was a breeding ground for terrorism. It wasn't then, but it is now. Meanwhile, administration apologists blamed terrorists, not tax cuts, for record budget deficits. In fact, before the war terrorism-related spending was relatively small — less than $40 billion in fiscal 2002. But the costs of a "bring 'em on" foreign policy are now looming large indeed.

The direct military cost of the occupation is $4 billion a month, and there's no end in sight. But that's only part of the bill.

This week Paul Bremer suddenly admitted that Iraq would need "several tens of billions" in aid next year. That remark was probably aimed not at the public but at his masters in Washington; he apparently needed to get their attention.

It's no mystery why. The Coalition Provisional Authority, which has been operating partly on seized Iraqi assets, is about to run out of money. Initial optimism about replenishing the authority's funds with oil revenue has vanished: even if sabotage and looting subside, the dilapidated state of the industry means that for several years much of its earnings will have to be reinvested in repair work. ...

Still, even the government of a superpower can't simultaneously offer tax cuts equal to 15 percent of revenue, provide all its retirees with prescription drugs and single-handedly take on the world's evildoers — single-handedly because we've alienated our allies. In fact, given the size of our budget deficit, it's not clear that we can afford to do even one of these things. Someday, when the grown-ups are back in charge, they'll have quite a mess to clean up.
Who's Losing Iraq? by Maureen Dowd

It has also now become radiantly clear that we have to drag Dick Cheney out of the dark and smog. Less Hobbes, more Locke.

So far, American foreign policy has been guided by the vice president's gloomy theories that fear and force are the best motivators in the world, that war is man's natural state and that the last great superpower has sovereign authority to do as it pleases without much consultation with subjects or other nations.

We can now see the disturbing results of all the decisions Mr. Cheney made in secret meetings.

The General Accounting Office issued a report last week noting that the vice president shaped our energy policy with clandestine advice from "petroleum, coal, nuclear, natural gas, electricity industry representatives and lobbyists."

Favoritism to energy pals led to last week's insane decision to gut part of the Clean Air Act and allow power plants, refineries and other industrial sites to belch pollutants.

Another Bush-Cheney energy crony is Anthony Alexander of Ohio's FirstEnergy Corporation, which helped trigger the blackout after failing to upgrade its transmission system properly since deregulation. He was a Bush Pioneer, having raised at least $100,000 for the campaign.

This logrolling attitude has led to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers allowing Halliburton — which made Mr. Cheney a rich man with $20 million worth of cashed-in stock — to get no-bid contracts in Iraq totaling $1.7 billion, and that's just a start.

I don't know who decided that John Dean, of all people, was going to be the savior of American investigative journalism, or why, but I ain't complainin'.

GAO's Final Energy Task Force Report Reveals that the Vice President Made A False Statement to Congress

Dean writes clearly and with legal fluency (you would hope that Watergate taught him something), as he has done in recent articles about George Bush and the Valerie Plame affair.

This month, the General Accounting Office (GAO) - the investigative and auditing arm of Congress - issued a report that contains some startling revelations. Though they are couched in very polite language, they are bombshells nonetheless.

The report - entitled "Energy Task Force: Process Used to Develop the National Energy Policy" - and its accompanying Chronology strongly imply that the Administration has, in effect, been paying off its heavy-hitting energy industry contributors. It also very strongly implies that Vice President Dick Cheney lied to Congress. ...

On August 2, 2001, Vice President Cheney sent a letter - personally signed by him - to Congress demanding, in essence, that it get the Comptroller off his back. In the letter, he claimed that his staff had already provided "documents responsive to the Comptroller General's inquiry concerning the costs associated with the [Energy task force's] work." As I will explain later, this turned out to be a lie.

Moreover, it turned out, as the Report reveals, that the documents that were turned over were useless: "The materials were virtually impossible to analyze, as they consisted, for example, of pages with dollar amounts but no indication of the nature or purpose of the expenditure." They were further described as "predominantly reimbursement requests, assorted telephone bills and random items, such as the executive director's credit card receipt for pizza."


I don't have any idea how it is that someone can read one of Dean's exquisitely organized and tightly argued pieces and not come away with the sense that whatever issue he is addressing has legs.
Friday, August 29, 2003
Your daily Howard Dean propoganda:

From the Seattle Stranger:
The Democratic presidential nomination, which will be decided over a frenzied six-week period beginning in January, is now Dean's to lose. He is not yet a classic front-runner--he lacks the party support for that--but as campaign manager Joe Trippi says during an in-flight interview, Dean is mounting "the strongest insurgency in the history of the [Democratic] Party." While insurgent candidacies almost always collapse in the face of the superior financial and institutional support marshaled by the Establishment front-runner, this nominating cycle is different, Trippi argues. Never before has an insurgent shot to the top of the heap before a consensus Establishment candidate has emerged.

This article goes on to make the very important point that while Dean is in the driver's seat, he lacks the institutional party support typical of candidates in his position. Call me optmistic, but I see it developing, given the amount of time before the primaries that the party will have to ackowledge the Dean campaign' primacy on their own timeframe.

From LA Weekly:
The most impressive thing about Howard Dean, and what seems genuinely to distinguish him from his fellow candidates, is his ability to think in three dimensions, to connect disparate ideas and concepts and problems in a remarkably intelligent and compelling way. It’s a doctor’s way of thinking: puzzling things out. “That’s what the job is,” he explains a few months later, “that’s what physicians are inherently required to do in the course of their work . . . to accurately assess and analyze data, in order to reach a diagnosis and a plan of treatment.” To the extent that this process involves evaluating the reliability of information, the history of past outcomes and the availability of resources, it’s fair to say that doctors can acquire a certain amount of expertise in crucial elements of government during the regular course of their practice. (Dean was still a practicing physician, and was, in fact, in the middle of examining a patient, when he received word in August of 1991 that Vermont governor Richard Snelling had died suddenly, catapulting Dean, the part-time lieutenant governor, into the full-time post.)

To listen to someone passionately and clearly delineate the connections between social justice and fiscal soundness, say, or between the growth of middle-class populations with more to lose and reduced tolerance for violence and terrorism, is a downright exhilarating experience. It’s part of his appeal, the stimulating mental workout that Dean, when he’s at the top of his form, provides. And he is at the top of his form this evening, weaving seamlessly from topic to topic, and describing programs already in place in Vermont that apply these concepts to experiences of everyday life.

Thursday, August 28, 2003
Another poll shows Dean gaining the lead in Iowa.
Both the Washington Post and the Miami Herald are running huge stories today about Haliburton's copious cost overruns in filling their NO-BID CONTRACTS in Iraq. Man, you'd think that cronyism would work better than that. You gotta hate sloppy war profiteering.

From the Post article:
Halliburton, the company formerly headed by Vice President Cheney, has won contracts worth more than $1.7 billion under Operation Iraqi Freedom and stands to make hundreds of millions more dollars under a no-bid contract awarded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, according to newly available documents.

The size and scope of the government contracts awarded to Halliburton in connection with the war in Iraq are significantly greater than was previously disclosed and demonstrate the U.S. military's increasing reliance on for-profit corporations to run its logistical operations. Independent experts estimate that as much as one-third of the monthly $3.9 billion cost of keeping U.S. troops in Iraq is going to independent contractors.


It continues:

But, according to Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and other critics, the Iraq war and occupation have provided a handful of companies with good political connections, particularly Halliburton, with unprecedented money-making opportunities. "The amount of money [earned by Halliburton] is quite staggering, far more than we were originally led to believe," Waxman said. "This is clearly a trend under this administration, and it concerns me because often the privatization of government services ends up costing the taxpayers more money rather than less."

Wendy Hall, a Halliburton spokeswoman, declined to discuss the details of the company's operations in Iraq, or confirm or deny estimates of the amounts the company has earned from its contracting work on behalf of the military. In an e-mail message, however, she said that suggestions of war profiteering were "an affront to all hard-working, honorable Halliburton employees."


Yeah, Wendy, but what about the sleazy ones?

The Herald article, on the other hand, goes into detail about Haliburton's contracts in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where they are building an all-in-one prison, ad-hoc justice system, and execution facility, a complex to which any American whose love of freedom is questioned by King of Pop John Ashcroft can be whisked away for an unconstitutional secret trial. Haliburton's Kellogg, Brown and Root have been contracted--again, with no bidding necessary (what, do these guys hate the free market? Coroprate welfare is closet socialism)--to construct an entire new camp intended as a combination interrogation/detention facility.

Told of the development, Wendy Patten of Human Rights Watch wondered about the implication of an interrogation facility that included cells.

''It's interesting they chose to frame it as an interrogation facility,'' Patten said. ``Does it become the camp to house the people who are the subject of the more intensive interrogations, or whose cooperation they haven't been able to obtain?''

Patten also said the news of ''a commitment to a level of permanence we haven't seen up to now'' likely means that analysis of detainee releases has been wrong. Some commentators have said the military may have decided to draw down the numbers held here.


Which Wendy do you believe?
It's now being reported that Dick Armitage has said the US may accept UN leadership in Iraq provided that the commander is American. This would be a major step toward actually having a plan in Iraq, which is important if you ever want to f***ing get anything done. I'll give props to Duhbya if he sgins on to this shit.

It's also pretty amazing that this article quotes an actual exchange between Dominique de Villepin and Dick Armitage. That could be a sitcom.

-------
No easy U.N. deal on force for Iraq By Reuters' Peter Graff

There is a precedent for the Security Council bestowing its blessing on a peacekeeping force after a war even though members could not agree before the conflict. Russia, which strongly opposed the U.S.-led war on Yugoslavia in 1999 nevertheless signed up to the security force that arrived later in Kosovo.

''But here this is different. The war is much more controversial, much more unpopular worldwide, and if the U.N. is seen as giving its blessing to it, that is likely to be damaging to its reputation for independence,'' he said.

''The U.N. couldn't stop the war. It couldn't start the war. Now it's in a position where it can't really do much in the aftermath.''
Wednesday, August 27, 2003
Poll: Bush Support Eroding In Maryland, Dean, Lieberman Lead Democrats In State Poll

Support for President George W. Bush has dropped significantly in Maryland with voters almost evenly divided now on whether he is doing a good job, according to a poll released Wednesday.

In the poll by Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies, 48 percent of voters questioned disapproved of the president's performance and 43 percent approved. In an April poll by the Annapolis-based company, 62 percent of voters liked what Bush was doing and only 31 percent disapproved. ...

When Democrats were asked to pick their favorites, Howard Dean with 25 percent and Joe Lieberman with 23 percent were far ahead of the rest of the seven candidates. John Kerry at 11 percent and Richard Gephardt at 10 percent were the only other candidates in double figures.

The poll showed that Bush would be in a tight race with both Dean and Lieberman if the general election were held today.


Maryland, New Hampshire, Iowa, California... I still hear from people that Dean is the "fringe candidate," and that he has no chance of securing the nomination. I hope the people saying that will come around and play the game after the primaries are over. Barring an oral-sex fiasco, Dean is clearly in the driver's seat and set to receive the Democratic nomination. The only way that Dean will get McGoverned is if the Democrats do it to him themselves by failing to offer unified support once he is nominated.
US Republican Party outsources fund raising to India
and just to prove that Inquirer is in fact not the same as the Enquirer...
Bush’s party to raise funds via Noida, Gurgaon

There's nothing like extraordinarilly powerful assholes with no sense of irony.



Dean surges to 21-point lead over Kerry

'Nuff said.

War Issue Threatens Bush in New Hampshire

It's been presumed that the antiwar sentiment animating these early months of the presidential campaign is a conceit of the loony left. The caricature distorts the truth of the debate before the war. And it ignores growing voter angst not over Bush's decision to go to war, but over the ill-managed occupation that has followed.

The failure to secure the peace, or the safety of American troops, or even water and electrical lines, has people in this state, site of the first presidential primary, unnerved.

"People are concerned and a bit confused right now," said state Sen. Burt Cohen of Portsmouth, a Democrat who's seeking a U.S. Senate seat next year. "People are concerned about an exit strategy. How long are we going to stay? How bad is it going to get?"


The myth of the antiwar left is quickly receding. Every day I meet people in my office park--suburban, "normal" people--who have had a recent about-face in regards to the war in Iraq.


U.S. troops using confiscated Iraqi AK-47s

There is something very strange about this picture. If only Bechtel made small arms or Halliburton provided health insurance to aged veterans. Then we'd properly equip the young men and women sent to die for the neocon lie.
Postwar Deaths of U.S. Troops in Iraq Exceeds Combat Toll

The number of United States soldiers who have died in Iraq since May 1, when President Bush declared the end of major combat there, has surpassed the number of American deaths in the first stage of the war, which began on March 19.

A total of 141 United States soldiers have died from May 1 to today, compared with 137 from March 19 to April 30, according to a spokesman at Central Command at McDill Air Force Base in Florida.
Governor Jeb Bush Sends Lawyers to Represent a Fetus

Several months ago, Florida Governor Jeb Bush intervened in a case to try to have a guardian appointed for a fetus. Bush's motion was denied, but he has now sent lawyers to assist in the appeal.

The fetus in question is believed to be a product of the rape of a severely retarded 22-year-old woman, who police say has the mental capacity of a one-year-old. If she is still pregnant, which is unknown, the woman - known as J.D.S. in court papers - is very close to term.

Both pro-choice and pro-life groups view Governor Bush's efforts as an assault on abortion rights. But it may in fact amount to a far broader assault on the ideals of this nation.


This is disgusting. Jeb is trying to take advantage of a retarded girl to set legal precedents. Man, Miranda was a pedophile, but even his rights were respected.
Tuesday, August 26, 2003
Bush, Speaking to Veterans, Says Iraq May Not Be Last Strike

President Bush defended his policy on Iraq today, declaring that the United States had struck a blow against terrorism in overthrowing the government of Saddam Hussein. And Mr. Bush said the United States might carry out other pre-emptive strikes.

"No nation can be neutral in the struggle between civilization and chaos,'' Mr. Bush told members of the American Legion gathered in St. Louis for the group's convention.

"We've adopted a new strategy for a new kind of war,'' Mr. Bush said, to loud applause. "We will not wait for known enemies to strike us again. We will strike them in their camps or caves or wherever they hide, before they hit more of our cities and kill more of our citizens.''


Great. More elective war. I hope they do it soon enough to draft my little sister! Bush also added, in case you doubted the ignorance of his hubris:

"Having fought under the American flag and seen it folded and given to families of your friends, you are committed, as am I, to protecting the dignity of the flag and the Constitution of the United States,'' he said, to loud cheers.
Bush 'Compassion' Agenda: A Liability in '04?

Today's NYT documents the displeasure of many who allied themselves with Bush's "compassionate conservative" message. He has failed--across the board--to provide the leadership, be it financial or rhetorical, on which he stumped. Aside from the fact that it is absolutely hilarious to hear such a cyinical dissection of whether the word "compassion" is a political liability, this piece makes some good points.

"After three years, he's failed the test," said one prominent early supporter, the Rev. Jim Wallis, leader of Call to Renewal, a network of churches that fights poverty.

Mr. Wallis said Mr. Bush had told him as president-elect that "I don't understand how poor people think," and appealed to him for help by calling himself "a white Republican guy who doesn't get it, but I'd like to." Now, Mr. Wallis said, "his policy has not come even close to matching his words."
Howard Dean's Sleepless Summer Tour is in Chicago right now, with a crowd of over 3500. There were reportedly 15,000 people in Seattle yesterday, and of course Portland drew a big crowd as well. But more profoundly, the Dean campaign continues to have success with fundraising challenges.

When Bush spoke in Portland last week, he addressed a small crowd that generated in excess of $1 million dollars for his campaign. Dean's response--typical of his brash and confrontational manner--was to show that his supporters could raise a million dollars themselves during a single weekend, as opposed to a single event. When I first heard of this challenge, I thought that it might be the time that the wheels start to fall off of Dean's momentumwagon. But now--and the deadline isn't until tonight--they already have over $850,000. Online donations make it easy to get "impulse donations," one would think.

In one sense, this tour that he's doing now is just a publicity stunt. But one shouldn't underestimate the value of such endeavors. Dean is the only candidate out there right now who doesn't have to pay to get his face on television, and, ironically, he's the only one taking in any real money to begin with.

The New York Times is reporting today that the Dean campaign intends to raise $10.3 million this quarter, which would not only top Dean's $7+ million haul from the previous quarter but would also be the most money ever raised by a Democrat in any one three-month period.

Joe Trippi, Dr. Dean's campaign manager, said the goal was to match the highest amount ever raised by a Democrat in three months during a year without an election. That amount was raised by Bill Clinton as the incumbent president in 1995.

"Running for president of the United States is a marathon," Mr. Trippi said as Dr. Dean and the campaign's senior staff flew here from San Antonio, Tex., on the last day of a four-day, 10-city national tour. "We decided we were going to run the first four miles at a 100-yard dash pace. We decided we're going to run the second four miles at a 100-yard dash pace."
The Fall of John Walker Lindh Part I, II

Salon is running two excerpts from Mark Kukis' forthcoming biography of John Walker Lindh. These excerpts are pretty wild, and I would venture to guess that this book is going to be rather interesting. It reads a lot like a diary of an abortion clinic bomber might: earnest religious conversion becomes religious fundamentalism becomes religious violence. A sad and all-too-common story, given extra Hollywood cache because the leading role is played by a rich white kid.
I just got invited to join American Samizdat, a very interesting group weblog moderated by Dr. Menlo. Sometimes I'll probably be posting things over there that are also discussed here, but I'll probably also be linking to entries I make over there as well, because there should be some built-in discussion.
Monday, August 25, 2003
well, this shouldn't be a surprise...
U.S. bid for new U.N. resolution on Iraq meets resistance, officials say

The Bush administration is encountering resistance to a new U.N. Security Council resolution to encourage additional countries to send troops to Iraq, officials said Monday. ...

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Friday the United Nations could not send a peacekeeping force to Iraq but added that he could not exclude a council decision "to transform the operation into a U.N.-mandated multinational force operating on the ground with other governments coming in."

He stressed that U.N. approval for such a force "would also imply not just burden-sharing but also sharing decision and responsibility with the others."

"If that doesn't happen, I think it's going to be very difficult to get a second resolution that will satisfy everybody," the secretary-general warned.

Powell has made clear that Washington won't cede any of its decision-making powers in Iraq.


Essentially, we want to continue (not) making the plans, but we expect the UN to eagerly wade through our wake of shit. Increased international involvement in Iraq would be a godsend at this point, but if the end result is the same reckless policy simply being carried out by poeple with blue hats, then the UN is right to balk. Yeah, yeah, hubris is a bitch, but the US needs to bring in its allies precisely because the decision-making process needs more diverse input and some sort of structural incentive for honesty. We don't need our friends in the way that a person building a deck on their house needs friends--just for help. We need our friends like a recovering junkie needs his friends to barricade him in a room and tell him to shut up when he starts jonesing and screaming.

Or maybe the UN could send a team to Washington, at least to monitor the 2004 elections.
Empire Builders

The Christian Science Monitor has put together a fantastic interactive resource of information about neoconservatism. They have a background/primer section called Neocon 101 , and a quiz so you can find out if you're a neocon. I took the quiz, and it turns out that I am not a neocon. Phew! They also have bios of an extensive list of core and preipheral neoconservatives from the last several decades.

Seriously, though, while the quiz seems silly, I could see it being educational for people who are just coming into the fold on this issue. Overall, there is a lot of information on CSM's site, and they have it well-organized and easilly navigable. There is also an index of neocon institutions and publications. Hopefully, we are about to see of this kind of site. The web and hyperlinks make a great medium for explaining a topic with so many tangents and relevant personalities.

Howard Dean's "Sleepless Summer Tour" got a pretty good write-up on CNN.com.

"The president is sleeping comfortably in Crawford, Texas, tonight," Dean said, speaking to thousands at the rally on Saturday, "but there are an awful lot of Americans who are kind of sleepless these days -- they're sleepless about wondering where their job went. They're sleepless about wondering where their health insurance went or whether they are going to have health insurance. They are sleepless wondering whether their kid is going to be the next to die in Iraq."

This article was more than a glowing account of the latest brilliant media stunt orchestrated by Dean's campaign, it also quoted Dean indicating that he is leaning toward Wesley Clark as a potential running mate. While it may not be my first choice, politics is hardly fantasy football, and Clark is a very pragmatic choice. It also looks like the Dean campaign is likely to name a running mate sooner rather than later, which ought to be extremelt useful when the real attacks from Republicans start rolling in, especially because those attacks are liekly to paint the Governor as a "dove."

...and it seems that 15,000 people showed up to his rally in Seattle!
The philosophers of chaos reap a whirlwind

The intensification of violence in Iraq is the logical outcome of the Bush administration's choice in 2001 to treat terrorism as a military problem with a military solution - a catastrophic oversimplification.
Choosing to invade two Islamic states, Afghanistan and Iraq, neither of which was responsible for the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, inflated the crisis, in the eyes of millions of Muslims, into a clash between the United States and Islamic society.

The two wars did not destroy Al Qaeda. They won it new supporters. The United States is no more secure than it was before.


The International Herald Tribune's William Pfaff explains the lack of surprise and worry eminating from neocon circles as the rest of the country is violently awaken by the daily attacks on American troops in Iraq and Afghnaistan. How could they have let this happen? How did they not know that an open-ended war with no goals would spin out of control? The simple answer is that they did know, and this chaotic Total War is what they have sought all along.

This outcome was foreseen. It was dismissed in Washington because of the radicalism of the neoconservative project, taken up by President George W. Bush with seemingly little or no grasp of its sources, objectives or assumptions.

The neoconservatives believe that destruction produces creation. They believe that to smash and conquer is to be victorious. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel is an influence, although one would think they might have seen that a policy of "smash and conquer" has given him no victories in Lebanon or the Palestinian territories.

They believe that the United States has a real mission, to destroy the forces of unrighteousness. They also believe - and this is their great illusion - that such destruction will free the natural forces of freedom and democracy.


So the next time that you hear of two or three American or British soldiers killed in a grenade attack, or read about additional infrastructural damage in Iraq or the resurgance of the Taliban in Afghanistan, don't give in to the temptation to chalk it up to poor planning by Richard Tecumseh Perle or Wolfowitz of Arabia. Our anarchy is their "creative destruction," and until we as a nation address the fact that this never-ending war is about words, sentiments, and ideology more than security or clear goals, they will continue to have free reign over the foreign policy of a nation that seems eager to get hoodwinked.
Sunday, August 24, 2003
Farewell America

After six years, The Observer's award-winning US correspondent Ed Vulliamy takes his leave from a wounded and belligerent nation with which, reluctantly, he has now fallen out of love

This is a great read. The British media have always had a strange relationship with the US, and this piece fleshes out a bit of its nuance. I spoke with a Canadian woman today who told me--as so many Canadians, Brits, and Mexicans have--that she wishes Americans in general understood the scope and importance of their role in decision-making. An American could be rightly unconcerned with an expressly domestic matter in some small, far-off country. But the converse cna never be true for the rest of the world, because our role as superpower dictates that American policy--foreign and domestic--will ripple throughout the world
I just got back from the Howard Dean rally in Portland, which was very impressive. It's worth noting that there were a couple of Kucinich supporters there "spamming" the event by yelling obnoxious shit during silent spells, but they eventually capitulated to the fact that they were being completely ignored.

All in all, the Dean campaign is reminding me more and more of Vicente Fox's successful 2000 campaign for the Mexican presidency, one little part of which I had the privilege to experience when he stopped in Xalapa, Veracruz (which I was proud to call home for a year or so). The drama of the Fox campaign is probably never going to be topped by any political upheaval that doesn't involve violence. Seeing campesinos with no shoes give a politician a standing ovation was one of the more profound sights I've encountered. A similar theme is at play with Howard Dean right now. A majority of the energy and money flowing into his campaign are coming from people who are on board because they have felt alienated by politics and politicians for their whole lives. And Bush and the Republicans' control is nothing compared to that wielded by Mexico's PRI party for 70+ years.

Today's rally was absolutely packed, so photo ops were few and fleeting. I got one decent shot of Gov. Dean:


and one of Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury:
I'm off to see Howard Dean speak downtown. The People-Powered Howard Sleepless Summer Tour is rolling through Portland, and I must confess to being a little more excited about particpating in a politician's putting on a show for the press. Maybe it's because it's somewhat easy for one to feel that they're shamelessly prmoting themselves today, and not just Dean. Joe Trippi and the rest of Dean's campaign have been laying golden eggs for months now, and this littel grassroots tour should only be another.

I'll post some pictures when I return.
When is Enough Enough?
In a new Newsweek poll, Americans say they’re spending too much in Iraq with too little to show for it. And with the 2004 approaching, Bush is losing ground

SIXTY-NINE PERCENT of Americans polled say they are very concerned (40 percent) or somewhat concerned (29 percent) that the United States will be bogged down for many years in Iraq without making much progress in achieving its goals. Just 18 percent say they’re confident that a stable, democratic form of government can take shape in Iraq over the long term; 37 percent are somewhat confident. Just 13 percent say U.S. efforts to establish security and rebuild Iraq have gone very well since May 1, when combat officially ended; 39 percent say somewhat well....

Against this backdrop, President George W. Bush’s approval ratings continue to decline. His current approval rating of 53 percent is down 18 percent from April. And for the first time since the question was initially asked last fall, more registered voters say they would not like to see him re-elected to another term as president (49 percent) than re-elected. Forty-four percent would favor giving Bush a second term; in April, 52 percent backed Bush for a second term and 38 percent did not.
Howard Dean in the Wall Street Journal:
I will begin by repealing the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts....

Dean's coming to Portland tomorrow at noon, and I'm very interested to see how many people turn out to see him.
Saturday, August 23, 2003
Four 9/11 Moms Battle Bush

The four moms are demanding that the independent commission hold a completely transparent investigation, with open hearings and cross-examination. What it looks like they’ll get is an incomplete and sanitized report, if it’s released in time for the commission’s deadline next May. Or perhaps another fight over declassification of the most potent revelations, which will serve to hold up the report until after the 2004 Presidential election. Some believe that this is the administration’s end game.

Kristen sees the handwriting on the wall: "If we have an executive branch that holds sole discretion over what information is released to the public and what is hidden, the public will never get the full story of why there was an utter failure to protect them that day, and who should be held accountable."


via Warfilter's madamejujujive

It seemed a couple of years ago that the "9/11 Families" were going to become this sort of national symbol, revered and doted upon. Now it's becoming clear that these families--and passion with which they pursue their shared esire to know the truth--are a major inconvenince for an administration that clearly has something to hide. It's looking more and more like at this point covering up for the Saudi's is probably the most benign explanation for the administration's insistence on secrecy and doubletalk.
Bush Misuses Science, Report Says

The Bush administration has repeatedly mischaracterized scientific facts to bolster its political agenda in areas ranging from abstinence education and condom use to missile defense, according to a detailed report released yesterday by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.).

The White House quickly dismissed the report as partisan sniping.


Read the report for yourself, and tell me if it's partisan. It's actually pretty brief and navigable, and just adds to the heap of useful progressive muckraking that Waxan has been pukking off of late. Congresspeople who give a shit are a small fraternity, and Waxman is a key member of that contingency at the moment. Though, maybe to the Bush administration, the methodology of good science is just part of the libr'l agenda.


I took yesterday off from the blog--I had "retreat" at work, and spent my day playing ridiculous games with other adults in a musty hotel convention room--but I'm back. I checked out Talking Points Memo and found a few very interesting links, and some pretty spot-on commentary by Josh Marshall:

All this talk about civilization, totalitarianism, fascism and terror is just preventing us from looking at what's happening and recognizing what are own interests are. They also make it possible for some people to convince themselves that it's not a screw-up that we've turned Iraq into a terrorist magnet. After all we're at war with 'the terrorists' and it makes sense that 'the terrorists' would attack us anyway, if only in a new venue. And we always knew it would be a long fight, a long twilight struggle, and yada, yada, yada and the rest of it. Same with the mumbo-jumbo about totalitarianism.

Look at the difference thus far between Afghanistan and Iraq. In the first place, we drained the swamp. In the second, we've made the swamp.

It's really that simple.

Admittedly, that's an odd development from an administration so generally inimical to wetlands. But, you know, ironies abound.


Marshall is right. Nonsense rhetoric and Manichaean posturing may be an important part of selling bold policy actions, but it is a horrible port of entry into understanding why a bold policy action has gone wrong (which may even be the case with the Bush administration at this point. They have, after all, bgeun petitioning for increased international involvement in the last few days). I think that even Paul Tecumseh Wolfowitz knows that the hubris must be rolled back in order to get other countries on board, but actually, Europe is used to a macho, goofball America. What they couldn't get down with was a disdain for procedure and transparency, which are really two of the chief principles that have led to any UN successes (and also obvious stalwarts of European political culture, which smart negotiatiors would have taken into account). To those two I would also add that good-natured participation by the superpower has been a driving force, and that was undone in March, when we spat on the international community and began our ill-fated and ahistorical tenure as Sherman of Arabia.

In basic terms:
We tried to con the world into something by lying to them about the task at hand. Now, said task is all f'ed up, and we want to use our (in some cases) centuries of comaraderie with much of Europe as a leverage to get them to aid us in the new task of cleaning up all the shit caused by our failure in the first task. Lying about the new problem will not work. Of course I don't know how the previous three sentences translate into Straussianese, as I have yet to receive my William Kristol decoder ring, but--wild guess here--I bet it picks up some adolescent comic-book bloodlust along the way. And that possiblity is only enhanced by the neocon's possession of the world's foremost collection of action figures )not that that's what they ought to be).

The WaPo's David Ignatius is optimistic about the potential outcome of this situation:
Sometimes tragedy forces people to see things in a changed light. Perhaps Tuesday's truck bombing at United Nations headquarters in Baghdad will have that galvanizing effect -- on the Bush administration, on its critics in countries such as France and Germany and most of all on the Iraqi people.

Amid the rubble that buried the brave U.N. emissary, Sergio Vieira de Mello, one can discern three lessons that, taken together, could produce an Iraq policy that might eventually succeed in stabilizing the country. But it will require all the players to put aside grudges and, as the slang expression goes, "get over it."


I think that the long-term outcome indeed needs to be something along the lines of Ignatius' scenario, but whether it is remains to be seen, and that happening before a "regime change" in the US injects some rationality and credibility into our diplomatic appratus seem really unlikely. In any case, a new course is definitely needed.
Thursday, August 21, 2003
So it appears as if KATU News, a Portland TV station, created a blog to cover the protests of Bush's visit to Portland today. At first, I thought it was an interesting way to create a chronology with time stamps. It was also a great opportunity for these people to show how stupid they are without having focus-group input.

First, for balance, here are the pictures they provide of the Bush supporters, and the Bush protestors:




Nice cross section. I know that I always make sure to expose my nipples when petitioning for a redress of grievances. Here are a couple of my top favorite blog entries:

Strong odor of marijuana observed at protest scene

KATU News crew assaulted by protesters incidentally, a member of the "crew" mentioned here was actually arrested for assault, though no godless hippie blooddrinkers were

Corporate whores.
The Imperial Bluster of Tom Delay by Edward Said

If you haven't read it, his book Culture and Imperialism is an awesome lens for understanding gloablization and post-colonialism.
Oregon Public Broadcasting has just posted the transcript of an interview with Howard Dean:

CF: How much of the energy around your campaign comes from a strong anti-Bush feeling among Democrats?

HD: I think people understand that the country's in a lot trouble. We've lost 3 million jobs since this president's been in office. We're spending a billion dollars a week in Iraq but we don't have any money to fund schools properly. In Oregon, as you know, you had to shut schools a few weeks early. And why is that? Because the economic situation has deteriorated under the leadership of this president. I think this president has led us down the wrong road in foreign policy, and led us down the wrong road in economic policy. And if you don't get those two things right as president, you really ought not to be president.

CF: Is it a challenge for you to convince Democrats that you're more than just an anti-war or anti-Bush candidate?

HD: Not really. What's happened is that because we've done well, we've started to do very well in the polls and get scrutiny form the media. And when they've come to Vermont and discover I've balanced budgets, that I'm and am strong on social programs but am tough at measuring results, suddenly this McGovern stuff melts away. That was really a concoction of the Republican national committee and the other Washington candidates I'm running against. But I think it's time now for Democrats to stand up and be Democrats again. I think we've exhausted the notion that we're going to move continually to the right and somehow beat the Republicans that way. We can't. We've gotta be in the real center, the center of the country not the center of the electorate.
Why do I say Irving Kristol had better keep a close eye on his allies on the “official” right? Simply this: He recently wrote a piece for The Weekly Standard in which he spelled out exactly what neoconservatism is. What’s worse is that ol’ Irv’s description of neoconservatism proves that it is everything its critics have said it is—and worse.

Michael Tennant, conservative columnist, has written another of what may be very many angray deitorial responses to Irving Kristol's recent public neocon "coming out."

Finally, in case any doubt remains as to whether the Bush administration qualifies as neoconservative—and there are still some out there who believe it remains fully within the American conservative tradition—Kristol puts all doubt to rest. Bush and his administration, he says, “turn out to be quite at home in this new political environment, although it is clear they did not anticipate this role any more than their party as a whole did.” Face it, says Kristol: We’ve won, and you traditional conservatives in the Republican Party never saw it coming and still don’t know what hit you. Unfortunately, he’s right.

It would be dishonest and pointless for me to pretend to share in the indignation that is sweeping through conservative principles. Much of Tennant's shock about Neoconservatism is directed at the components of the philosophy that I find least troubling, like their embrace of FDR and the New Deal. That aside, it is rather heartening to see people of any political stripe interested in honest inquiry into what the neocons are doing to the most basic aspects of how we conduct ourselves as a nation.

Not only are conservatives--like Tennant, presumably, but more importantly John McCain and Ron Paul--welcome allies in the fight against sweeping (big-N) Nationalist dogma, but they may be luminary precursors of a new political identity forged of response to the PATRIOT Act, unilateralism abroad, and rampant and dishonest fiscal policy.

I really don't want to toot my own horn here--especially because I've noticed a few new readers recently, and I want them wait a while before they figure out that I'm a total blowhard--but this editorial, along with the Justin Raimondo piece from a couple days ago, seem to me to herald the emergence of a political split about which I have been bellyaching for months. The standard-bear left/right axis can easilly be shelved when people find more salient common ground in more abstract arenas: protection of civil liberties and the Bill of Rights, transparency and honesty in politics, the social and "moral" consderations which drive foreign policy.

If this is true, if defense of civil liberties really is more important than one's proclivity to endorse high taxes or macrosocial reproductive decisions, then I think the Democrats would be unwise to look at it as simply a division on the right that can be exploited for short-term advantage. After all, the primary singificance of the "neoconservative awakening" is really just that Republicans are realizing now what Democrats have known for years: that they are painfully underserved by their party appratus. The Dems would be better-served to get behind the surhing outrage, rather than trying to harness it into a sort of binary I-told-you-so-ism. Because they didn't tell us so. They voted for the PATRIOT Act and the war in Iraq the same as did Republicans.

off the deep end I go:
Here's how the Democrats shoul deal with this. First, they need to keep acknowledging the need for real change. Polls make it pretty clear that Dean now has the nomination in his pocket, and this weekend's upcoming publicity stunt won't hurt matters, either. Dean is all about populism and change. But the real radical departure should come with the selection of Dean's running mate: John McCain. McCain would do as good a job of patching the "national security hole" in Dean's resume as any Dem, and politically he would help Dean to attract centrist libertarian types, who really ought to be a voting block that he shoots for. But more importantly, he is an anti-Republican in the same way that Dean is an anti-Democrat.

Just something to think about, and I know it will never happen, but wouldn't it be a freaking coup if the man that is written off by the press as being too far to the left picked a Republican running mate?
Electric group says, 'We told you so'

Officials at the council lacked the authority to order the utilities to take steps to prevent a small local failure from snowballing into a catastrophic one. They concede they didn't suggest anything more be done to protect that section of the nation's grid. But the report makes it clear the industry was notified of the threat and the fine margin for error that existed.

But the energy executives said it would be fine...
Wednesday, August 20, 2003
From Joe Connason's column in today's New York Observer:

While Kenneth (Kenny Boy) Lay may no longer be in a position to raise money and conceive policy for George W. Bush and Tom DeLay, other influential executives remain eager to fulfill his role. Among them was Anthony J. Alexander of Ohio’s First Energy Corp., the firm whose failing transmission lines near Lake Erie seems to have kicked off the blackout. As a deregulation enthusiast and loyal Republican, Mr. Alexander raised more than $100,000 for the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2000, thus earning distinction as a "Bush Pioneer."

All of the hundred or so checks delivered from First Energy’s donors to the G.O.P.’s accounts were marked with an "industry code"—and in due course, the grateful recipients of the company’s largesse appointed Mr. Alexander to the Bush administration’s Energy Transition Team. (That favor must have been particularly gratifying to him, since the departing Clinton administration had sued First Energy for violating the Clean Air Act.) Whether he also showed up as an adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force remains a mystery, since the administration still refuses to disclose any of the task force’s documents. But public records show that First Energy’s executives and political-action committee have given about $2 million to (mainly Republican) politicians since 1999.


It looks like much of the Eastern United States just got the Enron-around from another "Pioneer."

Also, Salon is serializing Connason's new book Big Lies. Today's installment generally debunks the dominant conservative myth that only conservatives can be patriots or serve in the armed forces. In fact, as Connason illustrates, virtually any prominent Republican you can name avoided Vietnam service, while many of those who get slandered as unpatriotic did serve in active comabt duty--Kerry, Daschle, Robert Byrd.
The Bush team has now created the very monster that it conjured up to alarm Americans into backing a war on Iraq.

Rushing to pummel Iraq after 9/11, Bush officials ginned up links between Saddam and Al Qaeda. They made it sound as if Islamic fighters on a jihad against America were slouching toward Baghdad to join forces with murderous Iraqis.

There was scant evidence of it then, but it's coming true now.


Thus begins Maureen Dowd's NYT editorial from today. The War on Terror has always been based on a myth--that a monolithic and singular entity known as "terrorism" transcends national, cultural, and political context, as well as the myth that all of political Islam was cut from the same anti-American cloth. Now, that myth seems to be turning into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Essentially, we pre-emptively wacked a hornet's nest, and we're now getting stung far worse than we would have if we had just strolled on by. But it's a great chance to say "look at those evil hornets. Aren't you glad we invaded before they did something horrible. Such ahistorical babble is likely to become a cornerstone of whatever new rationale for the war the administration switches to in coming weeks.

Even the Bush people, who tend to look at excruciatingly difficult problems and say no prob, were shaken by yesterday's carnage, which delivered a terrible truth: just because we got Uday and Qusay, Iraqi militants are not going to stop blowing up Westerners. Even if we get Saddam, the resistance will no doubt keep at it, hoping the dictator will enjoy the carnage from paradise.

"The dynamics have really changed," said an administration official on the reconstruction team. "Now we're dealing with a guerrilla war, not terrorism."
American Idol John Ashcroft has begun a tour of the United States, stopping off in different cities--all conveniently located in states likely to be 2004 election battle grounds--with the purpose of defending the USA PATRIOT Act, and pushing for his new VICTORY Act, which will remove sunset provisions from the original act as well as decrease the extent to which the 4th Amendment stands in the way of the Total War. No word on Ashcroft's stance on the BULLSHIT ACRONYM Act.

At first, I thought that crazy John had missed a memo of some sort, and was actually operating the assumption that a police state needed popular support, but then I read the following:

Mr. Ashcroft's speech before the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research group, is the first in a series of appearances that will take him to more than a dozen cities in the next month to speak in defense of the Patriot Act.

Mr. Ashcroft will speak before law enforcement groups but is not scheduled to address any public groups, officials said. That task will be left to federal prosecutors around the country, whom Mr. Ashcroft has asked to organize town-hall-style forums on the Patriot Act in their cities.


Ah ha! So he's not actually talking to the people, per se. He's starting with Richard Perle's neoconservative American Enterprise Institute. I guess the AEI is jealous of all the attention that PNAC has been receiving lately? Trying to sell the PATRIOT Act to necons is like trying to convince Steve Forbes that the flat tax is cool. Does Ashcroft really expect people to belive that he doesn't know who wrote the PATRIOT Act? And, in true PATRIOT Act unfunded-mandate fashion, Ashcroft has left the task of convincing the public of the Bill of Rights' obsoloscence up to local law enforcement. Brilliant.

At some, the dominant yet opposing conservative memes of waging the "Total War" and "drowning the government in a bathtub"--as Grover Nordquist so eloquently put it--are bound to come into conflict.
I've been asked by a couple of people lately why I would support Howard Dean as opposed to Dennis Kucinich. My friend G. recently came at the question from another angle, asking me how I could support someone who appears, to him, to be unqualified for national leadership--"another Jimmy Carter."

I guess at this point it's clear (to me, finally) that Dean is my guy in the presidential race. He may not match perfectly with my own politics, but watching his campaign has been inspiring for me, a person who in the past has been less than wont to try to engage in politics. In any case, Dean is beginning to appeal to me as an individual, as well.

I just re-read the US News interview from a couple of weeks ago, and I must have missed this nugget the first time:

What accounts for President Bush's current popularity?
I think people like the president. I like the president.

You do?Yeah, I do. He's an engaging person, but I think for some reason he's been captured by the neoconservatives around him.


This might only be an aside at the end of the interview, but Dean is now broaching the single topic that matters most in the upcoming election: the ideological course of our nation.

George W. Bush will be in Portland today (note to blog-scouring Homeland Security agents: I'll be at work all afternoon), and I have no doubt that he'll be met by a throng of anger. I know that it may sound basely partisan to say this, but I see this anger as a bit more genuine and less political than that directed at our previous President. Dean is the only candidate to address and validate that anger, and that allows his campaign to harness it.
Tuesday, August 19, 2003
Sign the Petition to Stop Ashcroft

Sign the petition. Now. The only bad thng about Dean elected President is that the Dean campaign will go away. 25,000 people have signed this petition today.
Again, leave it to the British media to care more about the actions of the American military more than the American press.

When I read a few days ago that American soldiers had shot and killed another Reuters cameraman, I didn't post anything here, mainly I saw no reason not to buy the US' claim that they thought he was an enemy soldier. Today, the Independent reports, it's pretty clear that that was a lie:

The Americans claimed that the soldiers mistook the camera Mr Dana was holding for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher - a claim that was immediately rejected by journalists who witnessed the killing.

"We were all there, for at least half an hour. They knew we were journalists," said Stephan Breitner of France 2 television. "After they shot Mazen, they aimed their guns at us. I don't think it was an accident. They are very tense. They are crazy. They are young soldiers and they don't understand what is happening."

Mr Dana's driver, Munzer Abbas, said: "There were many journalists around. They knew we were journalists. This was not an accident"


This admission echoes an Observer piece that came out following the American shelling of the Palestine Hotel, "home" to 90% of the war correspondents in Iraq:

The Pentagon made it clear from the beginning of the Iraq war that there would be no censorship. What it failed to say was that war correspondents might well find themselves in a situation similar to that in Korea in 1950. This was described by one American correspondent as the military saying: 'You can write what you like - but if we don't like it we'll shoot you.' The figures in Iraq tell a terrible story. Fifteen media people dead, with two missing, presumed dead. If you consider how short the campaign was, Iraq will be notorious as the most dangerous war for journalists ever.
This is bad enough. But - and here we tread on delicate ground - it is a fact that the largest single group of them appear to have been killed by the US military.
It was funny to see these two headlines one-after-another on Salon's AP feed:

Company in blackout probe big GOP donor

Bush moves to consolidate blackout probe

It's great to hear that the administration is so interested in how we could possibly have gotten into this energy mess. Maybe Bush and his top advisors could take an old-school whistle-stop tour of America, and get our input on what could have gone wrong with our energy policies. I know the perfect vessel for them to travel in...

John Dean has written another airtight piece for Findlaw, this time about Robert Novak's uncovering of Valerie Plame-Wilson, CIA agent and wife of ambassador Joseph Wilson. I don't really understand why this hasn't become a more serious story, except that people might be suffering from scandal overload at this point. In any case, Dean shows how clear-cut the case is against these "senior administration officials," who clearly broke the law.

It's odd that John Dean has emerged as a voice of reason during this period of excessive political hubris, but no more disturbing than the slience with which this story has met in most of the media.
Monday, August 18, 2003
So Michael Powell has announced that the FCC will, um... basically, they will talk about the deregulation decision more. He didn't say that they would delay the implementation of the new lasseiz-faire guidelines championed by future-media-conglomerate CEO mark my words Powell. At least the FCC has noticed the outrage by the public--and even the Republican-dominated Congress--at the relaxation of media-concentration rules. And he's trying to get us to shut up by pretending that he is listening.

Powell said the FCC will "put itself back in the leadership position in trying to look at these concerns and direct them in a much more focused and positive direction rather than the mudslinging that I think we've seen this summer."

Andrew Schwartzman, president of the Media Access Project, a Washington-based media watchdog group, said he's watching what Powell "does, not what he says"

"He's going full speed ahead in implementing the rules," Schwartzman said. "He can study to his heart's content and it's not going to change what's going on."
Neocons Come Out

Antiwar.com's Justin Raimondo has written an editorial praising Irving Kristol for doing something that a lot of us have been waiting for: admitting the existence of the neoconservatives.

Kristol, in what he himself may not have seen as a sort of grand coming-out piece, explained neoconservatism in this way:

It is not a 'movement,' as the conspiratorial critics would have it. Neoconservatism is what the late historian of Jacksonian America, Marvin Meyers, called a 'persuasion,' one that manifests itself over time, but erratically, and one whose meaning we clearly glimpse only in retrospect."

On this, Kristol and I agree. The neocons have redefined themselves several times in recent decades, and have at times been represented by individuals as disparate as Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Scoot Jackson, Donald Rumsfeld, and Newt Gingrich. I, for one, am completely OK with glimpsing the meaning of neoconservatism in retrospect.

By simply publishing this article, Kristol has inadvertantly put to death the primary defense that the neocons had to this point: to defame as a "conspiracy theorist" anyone who so much as noted theis existence. Hopefully, this admission can help us to completely pull the "thorough public vetting and explication" up from the mire of the tinfoil hat crowd and into the realm of civil public discussion. One barrier remains, however: the ease with which those questioning the wisdom of our new "National Greatness" philosophy can be cynically labelled as anti-semites by the neocons themselves.

Anti-semitism is (rightly) a touchy subject, and there is no quicker way to earn the label oneself than to go overboard when dismissing the label's application to someone else. In that light, its worth noting that I can't claim to have seen zero anti-Jewish sentiment coming from the antiwar left. It's out there, and it's confusing and appalling. That being said, I am quite confident that one can oppose neoconservatism irrespective of one's religious sentiments. I couldn't be more sure of my own feelings about equality and freedom of religion, yet I am quite concerned about the idea of a small group of ideologues driving American foreign policy, and it has nothing to do with whether some of them are Jewish.

The false claims of antisemitism have been intertwined with the neoconservatism meme of denying their own existence. "Why, you have dreamed up the 'neocon' label as an underhanded way to promote hatred of Jews." Now that Kristol himself, the sort of neoconservative Dalai Lama--picked at birth to carry his father's movement into the future---has elected to be "pre-emptively" forthright, it ought to become easier to discuss neoconservatism without having people speculate as to what one's "real" motivations are.
For Bush, Loss of Jobs May Erode Support in South Carolina

Bush may have trouble in 2004, even in key industires in traditionally conservative states, like South Carolina, where the textile industry is growing very sick of NAFTA.

"We've heard a lot from elected officials that free trade creates jobs," Mr. Dillard said. "That's absolutely true. It has created jobs in Mexico, China,
Indonesia and everyplace else in the world, but not here. We're tired of it."

Asked for a show of hands in Spartanburg to indicate how many of the executives voted for Mr. Bush in 2000, all indicated they had. Asked for a show of hands of how many would be willing to abandon him in 2004, all indicated they would.




Sunday, August 17, 2003
Drunk on Power

Bill Richardson, current governor of New Mexico and former Secretary of Energy [1998-2001] has an editorial in today's New York Times.

Utilities now operate under voluntary guidelines developed by the reliability council, which in practice means no one has to comply. An almost identical measure is pending before a House-Senate conference committee. Congress needs to stop delaying and pass this legislation.

Second, we need to outline basic rules of the road for utilities. For some time, the industry has been caught between the old paradigm of vertically integrated monopolies and the more modern approach of competitive wholesale markets. During this transition to competition, utilities have been reluctant to make investments in the transmission grid until they know what the rules will be and how they will benefit by them. Congress is considering legislation
supported by utility monopolies in the Southeast that would further delay efforts by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to develop and enforce such rules. Congress must defeat this measure and, instead, promote the commission's efforts to modernize the grid.

Next, we should create regional transmission organizations to provide much-needed oversight. We learned from the 1996 blackout in the West that operators of the transmission grid need to communicate better. Such coordination can be best achieved if a single operator, independent of utilities controlling power plants, is established to control the grid for a region. Such organizations can also help a region accommodate the additional need for power within the grid.


It's going to be interesting to see how this plays out. You know that in the end there will be large push for further deregulation, as energy lobbies prove that they're better at controlling the government than we filthy rabble. I remember after Septmeber 11th, waiting to see how many days it would be before someone said the problems it created could be solved with a capital gains tax cut. It took until around the 14th, as I recall. Fantastic.
Just a couple of random notes here...
It looks like much of the Eastern United States--most notably New York and Detroit, cities with histories of rioting--is rocovering from the recent blackout with little immediately visible ill effect. It should be noted, of course, that even a couple of days of drastically restricted economic activity in such a large area will cast a lingering shadow. Nonentheless, it could have gotten worse.

Of course, in the Washington Twilight Zone this becomes a reason to push through Bush and Cheney's pillaging energy bill, which would open up Alaska's ANWR to oil drilling, while further deregulating the rest of the other energy companies. But in even the mainstream, television press, we are seeing a renewed debate about the relationship between deregulation--of any utility or public commodity, I would hope--and the public interest. I would like to throw the following meme into the ring: if deregulation of energy and its attendantly lax oversight gave us this three-day blackout, then media deregulation--with the fall of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 and Clinton's signature of the first big deregulation package in 1996--has bequeathed a constant, insutry-wide brownout. The free market is awesome, but it can't always be expected to serve the public interest, because the invisible hardly has a brain attached, let alone a heart. You know, even Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman need electricity. And clearly, they both need some better information.

The media's performance of its public service task can't be as easilly measured as the energy industry, but the economic scale and timeframe of their swindle can be. There are a lot of people out there--smart, informed people--who are fully aware of the dynamics of the military-industrial complex and its relationship with the media but can just write it off. Rupert Murdoch funded the neoconservative's mouthpiece journals and thinktanks before the Bush administration gave them somewhat heftier implements to wield. Now, Fox News is fair and balanced atop the scrap-heap of responsible journalists who can't keep up. The likelihood that Rupert Murdoch and Richard Perle sat down and planned the whole thing a decade ago is pretty low, but that makes it no less demonstrably disastrous as a phenomenon.

Were I a science-fiction writer, I would be working on a book called MadMax: Hooverville.
Saturday, August 16, 2003
The east-coast blackout this week made me remember something that I found odd when reading Howard Dean's position speech on the environment. He stresses energy conservation and efficiency, a simple-enoguh idea, despite its total lack of play in general:

Conservation - principally through efficiency improvements - has to be a centerpiece of our national energy policy. All it takes is ingenuity, and Americans have that in abundance.

For instance, today, technology helps us keep cooler while consuming less energy. American businesses should be world leaders in building highly efficient air conditioners, refrigerators, light bulbs, industrial motors and other appliances used in homes and businesses. Unfortunately, the Bush-Cheney Administration delayed and then weakened efficiency standards for air-conditioners. We can do better.

Energy efficiency is a centerpiece of my environmental plan because I know it works.

During my tenure as Governor of Vermont, we created the nation's first state-wide energy efficiency utility. So far, our Efficiency Vermont program has prevented one million tons of greenhouse gas emissions while generating $66.8 million in energy savings for customers. Businesses have seen an average return of 65 percent on their energy-efficiency investments.

Today, Efficiency Vermont meets 2 percent of Vermont's electricity needs. It's on track to meet 10 percent in the next eight years. If we could match that nationally - and we can, with help from the federal government - we'd need 200 fewer new power plants over the next decade. We could help with federal matching funds for state energy-efficiency programs or by creating a national Energy Efficiency Performance Standard to be met at the state level.


It sounds almost childish to say that all of the little engery crises we've had lately would have been prevented if we all had low-current toasters and efficient air-conditioners, but it's still fucking true. And increasing the standards of consumer products could easilly be coupled with cracking the skulls of the companies that make them. The silly economic agrument against making environmental regulations tougher--that it will hurt business--is sideways in one key way: it might hurt certain businesses, but it will not hurt business in general. The safer products willl be created by *gasp* the market, just not by the obstinate, oblivious pricks who have been fucking us out of electricity all along.
Friday, August 15, 2003
The New York Times' Nicholas Kristoff has written another thoughtful and topical editorial, addressing a significant but easilly ignored ongoing development in American culture: the polarization produced by American Christianity's shift away from its long intellectual tradition and towards a sort of modern mysticism.

Today marks the Roman Catholics' Feast of the Assumption, honoring the moment that they believe God brought the Virgin Mary into Heaven. So here's a fact appropriate for the day: Americans are three times as likely to believe in the Virgin Birth of Jesus (83 percent) as in evolution (28 percent).

So this day is an opportunity to look at perhaps the most fundamental divide between America and the rest of the industrialized world: faith. Religion remains central to American life, and is getting more so, in a way that is true of no other industrialized country, with the possible exception of South Korea.

Americans believe, 58 percent to 40 percent, that it is necessary to believe in God to be moral. In contrast, other developed countries overwhelmingly believe that it is not necessary. In France, only 13 percent agree with the U.S. view. (poll details)

The faith in the Virgin Birth reflects the way American Christianity is becoming less intellectual and more mystical over time. The percentage of Americans who believe in the Virgin Birth actually rose five points in the latest poll.


Krsitoff goes on to make these numbers sinto a rather salient point. At prima facia I was moved to realize exactly how strange it is--historically speaking--that religion in America is essentially an enemy of inellectualism. And even wierder because to most people today, that opposition doesn't seem remotely incongruant with our expectations. That would have seemed extremely odd to St. Augustine or CS Lewis, not to mention a particular hometown minister who I have counted as a lifelong friend despite my own atheist humanism.

If my own childhood in then-fundamentalizing southwest Missouri--I think that I take an interest in globalization because I have always hoped it would come to the Ozarks--was any precursor, we may want to really watch out for this Great Awakening Kritoff's talking about. If my own family weren't rational and totally unbitten by the born-again bug, I'd certainly be sporting an It's a Child not a Choice bumper sticker on my truck. It's hard to get historical perspective on your own life, but I would contend that a couple factors make the case that the Ozarks Model of Rightwing Jesusification may come to be applied to the rest of America.

Institutional

One key player in any Great Awakening will be the opulently insane Assemblies of God. The official church of singing sensation John Ashcroft, builds sprawling multimillion-dollar compounds churches that pack in 1000-plus humble, Chrsitlike esoterics (just as it's always been done) to watch their sermons and Chrsitian-rock performances on Jumbotrons. While they don't have the charming disdain of dancing, music, and women not wearing shawls that characterizes other fundamentalist wingnut congregations, the Assemblies of God by no means lags behind in terms of hating people. The AG is headquartered in Springfield, MO (also the home of Ashcroft, who according to this profile enjoys dirtbiking).

The Hooverville Factor

This is simple. Really poor people have more abundant caches of desperation, the required ingredient for being "born again." The Ozarks were originallt all-about pine logging, but they cut down all the pine trees like 100 years ago. Since then, we've all just been sitting in shacks, tryin' to think up how to get to Beverly Hills. Now, there are no jobs anywhere, and the Jerry Springer show has swept a great wave of redneckery across the nation. This confluence of economic desperation and whooping anti-intellectualism has forged a sort of coniguous zone of sensationalist drones, ready for the Armeggedon. We'll call it Trailerparkistan. No doubt they have operative cells even on the coasts!

Maybe we could just have another Enlightenment instead? Perhaps I could get a grant from the Pugh Charitable Trust to go read Nietzche to bumpkins. Because I am a blogger, and not a real writer, I will allow Kristoff's conclusion to suffice:

I'm not denigrating anyone's beliefs. And I don't pretend to know why America is so much more infused with religious faith than the rest of the world. But I do think that we're in the middle of another religious Great Awakening, and that while this may bring spiritual comfort to many, it will also mean a growing polarization within our society.

But mostly, I'm troubled by the way the great intellectual traditions of Catholic and Protestant churches alike are withering, leaving the scholarly and religious worlds increasingly antagonistic. I worry partly because of the time I've spent with self-satisfied and unquestioning mullahs and imams, for the Islamic world is in crisis today in large part because of a similar drift away from a rich intellectual tradition and toward the mystical. The heart is a wonderful organ, but so is the brain.
Confidence in Iraq war falls below 50 percent

Public confidence in America's military involvement in Iraq has eroded recently with 42 percent of U.S. adults now describing themselves as "not certain" that committing troops to war was the right thing to do.

Certainty that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction immediately before the war also has declined, according to a survey of 1,048 people conducted by Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University.

The poll, taken over two weeks ending Aug. 12, found a broad drop in commitment for U.S. involvement in Iraq over a similar survey taken in early May, shortly after President Bush declared an end to major military operations there. At that time, fewer than a third of Americans said they had doubts about the correctness of the war and the military occupation that followed.

Bush's approval rating also has dropped, with 52 percent saying they approve of what he has done as president, a 12-percentage point decline in less than three months and the lowest number yet recorded by the polls since he took office in January 2001. The general feeling that America is headed "in the right direction" has taken a hit recently as well.


A good sign, right? Hold on...

Still, the poll found considerable support for Bush's underlying principle of the use of pre-emptive force. Half of adults in the survey said they "agree" or "strongly agree" with "our policy of preventive military attacks on countries that we feel threaten our national security." Twenty-four percent said they "disagree" or "strongly disagree," while slightly more than a quarter said they are undecided or uncommitted over the policy.

That is a troublesome development for a couple of reasons. Initially, it demonstrated the public's prediliction for personifying policy decisions. People can somehow disagree with Bush's decision while not questioning the framework that made that decisions possible. Additionally, this is just further evidence that the neoconservative platform is being cemented in ways that transcend the positions of specific policymakers. It seems possible that the people will soon decide that this war was a grave mistake, yet leave unaddressed its underlying false warrant. This is hardly promising when one thinks about the prospect of invasion of Iran or Syria.

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