Monday, May 31, 2004

Meet the Facts:

On this recent Sunday's Meet the Press (30 May), the roundtable consisted of:
  • Stephen Hayes, Weekly Standard, Author, "The Connection: How al-Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America";
  • Joe Klein,Time Magazine;
  • Andrea Mitchell, NBC News;
  • Roger Simon, U.S. News & World Report
Now, of those listed above, which one is from a politically oriented organ? Stephen Hayes of the conservative (and currenty very anti-Kerry Weekly Standard). And what did he write? A book claiming there were connections between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda - just the sort of thing to keep the "Iraq War is revenge for 9/11" theme alive.

Viewers wondering if Hayes would bring up the alleged connection during the round table on MtP were not disappointed. Here is the key exchange:
MR. RUSSERT: You have written a book called "The Connection: How al-Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America." The president has gone out of his way to say there's no evidence of Saddam Hussein linked to September 11. What's your thesis?

MR. HAYES: A agree. I don't think--I think it's too strong to say there's no evidence, but at the same time I think that one has to consider the fact that he may have had something to do with it on even a marginal scale. The Wall Street Journal reported this week that a man named Ahmed Hickma Shakir, who, it looks like, was a Saddam Fedayeen lieutenant colonel, was present at the January 2000 planning meeting for September 11 in Kuala Lumpur. Is that definitive? It's not. But is it interesting? It certainly is. And I think the 9-11 Commission really needs to look carefully into who Ahmed Hickma Shakir was, and what, if any, was his role.
Now it happens that two days before MtP, Hayes had posted a story over on the Weekly Standard's website, The Connection. Here is a summary of what he wrote:
[WARNING: Even Hayes concedes at the beginning of the story that the claimed identity of this single man has problems because of discrepancies in spelling. There might actually be two people (terrorist and Iraqi agent) with similar names which would render the whole argument invalid.]

"This conventional wisdom--that our two most determined enemies were not in league, now or ever--is comforting. It is also wrong."
  • Lieutenant Colonel Ahmed Hikmat Shakir was a member of Saddam Hussein's security force.
  • An Iraqi of that name had been present at an al Qaeda summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on January 5-8, 2000.
  • U.S. intelligence officials believe this was a chief planning meeting for the September 11 attacks.
  • Yazid Sufaat, an American-born al Qaeda terrorist, hosted the planning meeting.
  • Shakir had been nominally employed as a "greeter" by Malaysian Airlines. Shakir was instructed to work on January 5, 2000, and on that day, he escorted one Khalid al Mihdhar from his plane to a waiting car. Shakir climbed into the car with al Mihdhar and accompanied him to the Kuala Lumpur condominium of Yazid Sufaat.
  • Khalid al Mihdhar was aboard American Airlines Flight 77 when it plunged into the Pentagon at 9:38 A.M. on September 11.
  • Six days after September 11, Shakir was captured in Doha, Qatar. He had in his possession contact information for several senior al Qaeda terrorists. Shakir was released on October 21, 2001.
  • Soon afterwards, Shakir was detained by Jordanian intelligence. CIA officials who interviewed Shakir in Jordan reported that he was generally uncooperative. The interrogators concluded that his evasive answers reflected counterinterrogation techniques so sophisticated that he had probably learned them from a government intelligence service.
  • The Jordanians proposed to the CIA to "flip" him - allow Shakir to return to Iraq on condition that he agree to report back on the activities of Iraqi intelligence. The CIA agreed to Shakir's release. He posted a modest bail and returned to Iraq.
  • He hasn't been heard from since.
"The Shakir story is perhaps the government's strongest indication that Saddam and al Qaeda may have worked together on September 11. It is far from conclusive; conceivably there were two Ahmed Hikmat Shakirs. And in itself, the evidence does not show that Saddam Hussein personally had foreknowledge of the attacks. Still--like the long, on-again-off-again relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda--it cannot be dismissed."
Well, it's far from conclusive. Hayes peddles, in print and on Meet the Press, the "interesting" notion that there is a connection between Hussein and al Qaeda. Also, Hayes repeats claims (or speculation) that this Shakir fellow was at the three day al Qaeda summit. That appears not to be the case - otherwise why is Hayes spending so much time telling us about Sakir's activities as a greeter and ride-along companion of al Mihdhar?

Unsubstantiated claims of contacts tied to speculation about what happened even if the contacts took place are the stock-in-trade of Hayes. It's a real shame that he was invited by Russert to be on Meet the Press.



With all the renewed interest in Judith Miller of the New York Times [New York Magazine, Political Animal, Atrios for comments), we though we'd reproduce a post from June of last year:
Org chart:

The Washington Post has a detailed story about New York Times reporter Judith Miller and her influence over U.S. military officials and operations.  She is also closely connected to Ahmed Chalabi of the INC.  In the wake of this news, Eric Alterman writes, "... if this story is true, it is really beyond belief."  We agree.  Miller has become part of the team(s), and should not be considered an impartial reporter. We diagram key points from the Post story below:

UPDATE: Miller has connections with Daniel Pipes' Middle East Forum (story)
NOTE: Josh Marshall was on the case last year.



On JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS for May 26, there was a discussion by "regular folks" in Pennsylvania about Bush's speech at the Army War College. Woodruff interviewed three Democrats and three Republicans. The views of two Republicans were of interest. Here is a part of the exchange: (emphasis added)
THERES ALFANO, REPUBLICAN: For the past couple of years, we've had to worry about the war as well as the economy. So I think the economy kind of took a downslide. But I think now it's coming up in good ways. Also, one of the reasons why I voted for him is that I feel that he can possibly bring more Christianity, put God possibly even back in the schools eventually. I mean things can happen.

WOODRUFF: I want to -- I do want to stick to this point about Christianity and, Jim, come to you on that. Is that something that makes you more comfortable or less with President Bush or is that even a factor for you in your voting?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a factor. I think that he's -- I think that he wears his Christianity on his sleeve a little too much. I think he in some sense has made this kind of a holy war, a Christian against those people, the Muslims.

WOODRUFF: Glenda, what about for you? You brought that up as a reason. Is the fact that the president talks about his faith as Jim mentioned, what reaction do you have to that?

GLENDA LENTZ, REPUBLICAN: That's wonderful to me. That's wonderful. The fact that a president does look to a higher power, prays to God, looks to God for guidance. As a Christian I do that every day in my life.
You can be sure that no amount of politicking will get those two to vote for Kerry. Religion will trump policy every time.


Sunday, May 30, 2004

Light holiday fare:

We just found out about Hormel's website,, which is about something called a Spammobile.

A short excerpt:
They're the three largest SPAM® cans in the world.

Instead of containing pure pork shoulder and ham, however, each of the three cans is actually a vehicle used to prepare sample sizes of SPAMBURGER® hamburgers. The large replicas of a SPAM® can are crossing the United States to enable people to become more familiar with the great taste of SPAM® classic and SPAM® oven roasted turkey.
Be sure to check out the schedule and the pictures of the Spammobiles at various places (we liked the one at Pearl Harbor best).

BANDWIDTH ALERT! Some images of the Spammobile are very large files (1.5 meg) reduced in size by the HTML code to modest proportions (3"x4"). A small image, whose original size matches the display size, would normally be under 100k in .jpg format, but for some reason the folks at Hormel have decided to transmit the full-blown image (which can be seen by obtaining the URL and inserting that into the browser's Address field). For the pictures taken at Orlando, Florida, there are 4 images on the webpage, each 1.5 Meg in size. That's a 6 Meg download - no picnic if you are on a modem.


Friday, May 28, 2004

Right for once:

We almost never like what Krauthammer writes, but find ourselves in agreement over his essay on the National World War II Memorial. (He doesn't like it.)

Wt think the memorial would have been better situated away from the Mall, should have been larger, should have presented some representation of each of the services (and the merchant marine), and should have given a sense of the geography involved.


Thursday, May 27, 2004

We are officially in Wonderland:

NOTE: Bush didn't actually utter those words, but he's acting as if he did.


Out of his mind:

Rush Limbaugh responds to Al Gore on his website. Get a load of this from Rush:
I speak for more of this nation than Algore does, and I will say it on this program.


Wednesday, May 26, 2004

There is no reason for this post, we just thought it might be amusing:


Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Are you ready for an L. P. M. ?

In a (Yahoo/Reuters) story, White House Ignores Critics, Voices Iraq Optimism, we encountered this passage: (mphasis added)
"I think he succeeded in explaining that there's going to be a long protracted mess but that in the end we're doing the right thing," said Tripp Baird, an analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation.


TV alert:

On the Charlie Rose Show this Tuesday, one guest is Gen. Anthony Zinni.


What was the name of that prison?

Bush had trouble pronouncing "Abu Ghraib" when he gave his speech yesterday. Three times the name came up (all in a single paragraph). But, as our audio clip reveals (133k .wav), he got better each time. Now that's a sterling example of the president learning on the job!

NOTE: Joan Walsh in Salon's War Room '04, has some pithy comments about Bush's inability to correctly pronounce "Abu Ghraib".

UPDATE: Via The Hamster, we learn of a Yahoo/Reuters report on the flubs. Excerpts:
Two rehearsals for his prime-time speech were not enough to keep U.S. President George W. Bush from mangling the name of the Abu Ghraib prison that brought shame to the U.S. mission in Iraq.

... the Republican president, long known for verbal and grammatical lapses, stumbled on the first try, calling it "abugah-rayp". The second version came out "abu-garon", the third attempt sounded like "abu-garah".


They have got to be kidding:

On the front page of the Los Angeles Times (not the top story, but right below):
Onus Now on Kerry's Iraq Plan
By Ronald Brownstein
ANALYSIS: Bush's articulation of plan for ending chaos puts rival on spot.



We're going out on a limb here, but we think that Bush will cancel one of his scheduled speeches (post below).


Monday, May 24, 2004

The Bush "Speech Offensive"

Here is the schedule, as reported on ABC's Good Morning America.

23 speech 25 26 27 28 speech
30 31 1 speech 3 4 5
speech 7 8 9 speech 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 handover 1 2 3


Sunday, May 23, 2004


We watched Fox News Sunday this morning and kept track of the time spent by their panel on various hot topics for the week. Minutes spent discussing:

Kerry's possible delay of accepting the presidential nomination: 9.3
Bush to address the nation about Iraq in the coming weeks: 3.0
UN, transfer of power in Iraq, elections in Iraq: 1.6
Abu Ghraib, Chalabi: 0.6
Republican squabbling: 0
Generals' testimony in congress on the war: 0
Anniversary of Brown vs Board of Education: 0

NOTE: Even the "discussion" of Chalabi or Abu Gharib was nothing more than someone (often Juan Williams) merely saying, "Well, what about Abu Gharib?" in an attempt to bring it up for discussion.

Visualizing the priorities at Fox:


What really happened?

From a story in Asia Times:
Berg beheading: No way, say medical experts

... according to what both a leading surgical authority and a noted forensic death expert separately told Asia Times Online, the video depicting the decapitation appears to have been staged.

... both [experts] perceived it as highly probable that Berg had died some time prior to his decapitation. A factor in this was an apparent lack of the "massive" arterial bleeding such an act initiates.

Providing another basis for their findings, in the course of such an assault, an individual's autonomic nervous system would react, typically doing so strongly, with the body shaking and jerking accordingly.


Saturday, May 22, 2004

Kristof - unreliable and carrying water for Rumsfeld:

In today's New York Times Op-Ed, Nicholas Kristof writes in defense of Donald Rumsfeld regarding the toture of prisoners. One point he makes is this: (emphasis added)
If Mr. Rumsfeld turns out to be complicit, he must go. But if, as Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba has said in his report (deservedly praised as tough and unsparing), the problems were at much lower levels, then why make a scapegoat of the defense secretary?
But surely Kristof knows that, as many have observed, Taguba's assignment was limited in scope and did not go up the chain of command. In fact, Taguba made that point in his public testimony: (emphasis added)
... my task was limited to the allegations of detainee abuse involving M.P. personnel and the policies, procedures and command climate of the 800th M.P. Brigade.


Friday, May 21, 2004

You decide:

Via Drudge, we went to a webpage on that is devoted to attacking Nancy Pelosi. Here are the points they cite, apparently in the belief that her positions are something to be embarrassed about.
  • Pelosi Voted Against Persian Gulf War In 1991 And Liberation Of Iraq In 2002.
  • Pelosi Questioned Readiness Of American Troops.
  • Pelosi Prefers Increased Domestic Spending To Increased Defense Spending.
  • Pelosi Doesn’t Consider War On Terror A Real War.
  • Pelosi Voted Against Creating Department Of Homeland Security.
  • Pelosi Doesn’t Believe Tax Cuts Stimulate Economic Growth.
  • Pelosi Voted Against Both 2001 And 2003 Bush Tax Cuts.
  • Pelosi Voted Against Welfare Reform And Called It “War On The Poor.”
  • Pelosi Voted For Clinton’s 1993 Tax Hike.
  • Pelosi Voted At Least Four Times Against Balanced Budget Amendment.
  • Pelosi Voted Against Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA).
  • Pelosi Has Consistently Voted Against Banning Partial-Birth Abortion.
  • Pelosi Is Hostile To Gun Owners’ Rights.
  • Pelosi Opposes Death Penalty.
  • Pelosi Voted Against Banning Flag Burning.


The USS Cole fires back!

Juan Cole writes a sensible and mature rebuttal to Andrew Sullivan. Juan points out the propaganda and character assination that Sullivan often uses (in this case, in a London Times essay penned in September 2002). Unfortunately, we suspect that Cole's response will cause Sullivan to overreact by attacking him personally. Watch for it.


If only:

A U.S. soldier appears to be using both hands to restrain a dog
facing a right-wing radio personality in the Abu Ghraib prison.


Smashing stuff:

We still don't know what to make of the raid on Chalabi's office, an event we find puzzling.

In any event, this caught our eye in the New York Times report: (emphasis added)
Dozens of Iraqi policemen, backed by American soldiers and unidentified men in civilian clothing who Iraqis said were American agents, stormed into Mr. Chalabi's headquarters, carted away computers, overturned furniture and smashed photographs of Mr. Chalabi and his family.
Overturning furniture? Smashing photographs?

What to make of this bully-boy attitude? Is it to "throw a scare" at the INC?



Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Give it a rest, Bill:

Scare words & trashing the opposition, by William Safire:

Sarin? What Sarin?

You probably missed the news because it didn't get much play, but a small, crude weapon of mass destruction may have been used by Saddam's terrorists in Iraq this week.

The apparent weapon was sarin gas, a highly toxic nerve agent that causes victims to choke to death. Developed by the Nazis, it has been used in the past by terrorists in Japan to kill a dozen subway riders and panic thousands, and by Saddam Hussein, who produced tons of it to kill Iraqi Kurds.

Rigged as an "improvised explosive device," or roadside bomb, the 155-millimeter howitzer shell was accidentally detonated by a U.S. ordnance team. Two men were treated for what an Army spokesman called "minor exposure" to the nerve gas.

You never saw such a rush to dismiss this as not news. U.N. weapons inspectors whose reputations rest on denial of Saddam's W.M.D. pooh-poohed the report. "It doesn't strike me as a big deal," said David Kay.

"Sarin Bomb Is Likely a Leftover From the 80's" was USA Today's Page 10 brushoff; maybe the terrorists didn't know their shell was loaded with sarin. Besides, say our lionized apostles of defeat, a poison-gas bomb does not a "stockpile" make. Even the Defense Department, on the defensive, strained not to appear alarmist, saying confirmation was needed for the field tests.

In this rush to misjudgment, we can see an example of the "Four Noes" that have become the defeatists' platform.

The first "no" is no stockpiles of W.M.D., used to justify the war, were found. With the qualifier "so far" left out, the absence of evidence is taken to be evidence of absence. In weeks or years to come — when the pendulum has swung, and it becomes newsworthy to show how cut-and-runners in 2004 were mistaken — logic suggests we will see a rash of articles and blockbuster books to that end.

These may well reveal the successful concealment of W.M.D., as well as prewar shipments thereof to Syria and plans for production and missile delivery, by Saddam's Special Republican Guard and fedayeen, as part of his planned guerrilla war — the grandmother of all battles. The present story line of "Saddam was stupid, fooled by his generals" would then be replaced by "Saddam was shrewder than we thought."

This will be especially true for bacteriological weapons, which are small and easier to hide. In a sovereign and free Iraq, when germ-warfare scientists are fearful of being tried as prewar criminals, their impetus will be to sing — and point to caches of anthrax and other mass killers.

Defeatism's second "no" is no connection was made between Saddam and Al Qaeda or any of its terrorist affiliates. This is asserted as revealed truth with great fervor, despite an extensive listing of communications and meetings between Iraqi officials and terrorists submitted to Congress months ago.

Most damning is the rise to terror's top rank of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who escaped Afghanistan to receive medical treatment in Baghdad. He joined Ansar al-Islam, a Qaeda offshoot whose presence in Iraq to murder Kurds at Saddam's behest was noted in this space in the weeks after 9/11. His activity in Iraq was cited by President Bush six months before our invasion. Osama's disciple Zarqawi is now thought to be the televised beheader of a captive American.

The third "no" is no human-rights high ground can be claimed by us regarding Saddam's torture chambers because we mistreated Iraqi prisoners. This equates sleep deprivation with life deprivation, illegal individual humiliation with official mass murder. We flagellate ourselves for mistreatment by a few of our guards, who will be punished; he delightedly oversaw the shoveling of 300,000 innocent Iraqis into unmarked graves. Iraqis know the difference.

The fourth "no" is no Arab nation is culturally ready for political freedom and our attempt to impose democracy in Iraq is arrogant Wilsonian idealism.

In coming years, this will be blasted by revisionist reportage as an ignoble ethnic-racist slur. Iraqis will gain the power, with our help, to put down the terrorists and find their own brand of political equilibrium.

Will today's defeatists then admit they were wrong? That's a fifth "no."

Josh Marshall at TPM has some thoughts on Safire's column. Worth reading.


Tuesday, May 18, 2004


In a world full of bad news, it's nice to hear something good for a change. For us, it was learning about Randy Johnson's pefect game.

Very few things are perfect in this universe. Pretty much the only area where perfection is attained is in the Platonic realm of mathematics (e.g. a "perfect sphere"). But Randy Johnson gives us a taste of it in the messy real world - and at age 40, no less!


This is what drives people into the ranks of conservatives:

News item - (excerpts)
Tarantino Plans Most Violent Film Ever

Maverick director Quentin Tarantino hopes to make the most violent film of all time one day - because he thinks ultra-gory movies are "fun."

Tarantino says, "Violence is fun, man. I would have no problem with the most violent, bloody movie, if that day ever came. There's still time."
TO CLARIFY: People associate filmmakers like Tarantino with liberalism for two reasons. The first, for eggheads, is that classic liberalism promotes a free market (with economic not moral regulation), and Tarantino is acting within the freedom of that framework - and they don't like what they see happening. The second, more widely shared by people, is that they see Tarantino as being ensconced in the 'liberal culture' - perhaps because he gets rave reviews from liberally-oriented media (and to be fair, also from the mainstream media).

Speaking for ourselves, we dislike Tarantino's work. Hated Pulp Fiction. Perhaps that's because when we go to the movies, we actually take them at face value. When people were laughing in reaction to lines like, "When you came pulling in here, did you see a sign out in front of my house that said 'Dead Nigger Storage?'"   -   we weren't amused at all.

Considering all the news these past weeks from Iraq, it's remarkable that Tarantino can be effusive about images of violence. If Tarantino really likes violence so much, perhaps he should volunteer for duty at Gitmo.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

A winning strategy:

Forget McCain for Veep. Forget trying to inspire voters with a "vision." Forget about having to come up with a plan to salvage the Iraq War. Forget worries about charges that the Democrats "want a bad economy to run on." John Kerry can win the 2004 presidential election if this happens:
One of the non-conservative justices on the Supreme Court resigns this summer.
Even Nader supporters who are troubled by Kerry's foreign policy stance (mostly over Iraq) will have to sit up and pay attention. Instead of dealing with the possibility of a justice resigning and a re-elected Bush nominating a Scalia-clone, it would be a reality that, to use the expression, "concentrates the mind."

Will it happen? Probably not, but it is fun to speculate.


Liberals vs Conservatives:

It got pretty hot on the Fox News Sunday roundtable. Here is part of the exchange: (emphasis added)
CONNELY: There are a lot of unanswered questions here. We still know very little about contractors over there and what they do in the prisons. We know that Army pathologists ruled two prisoner deaths in Afghanistan, homicides.

HUME: [garbled] we don't know though.

CONNELY: I'm just saying we've got more to learn.

KRISTOL: Here is one thing we do know. We're at war. I think one of the best lines Donald Rumsfeld had there "I've stopped reading the newspapers about this", and he should stop reading the newspapers about this. There's a legal process under way. Punish the people who engaged in wrongdoing; go up the chain of command to the degree necessary; rethink our military intelligence rules if you want to. It's ridiculous. We're at war. I've been a critic of Rumsfeld, but I was heartened by his visit to the troops, and I've been heartened, actually, by his, many of his [garbled]. You interviewed Colin Powell - very well - and Senator Levin for half an hour. Neither of them mentioned the fact that we're at war. We've got to win this war. And it's insane for this country to be obsessing about a small prisoner abuse scandal.


KRISTOL: We'll win the debate if the Democrats and the liberal media want to obsess about seven guys from Cumberland humiliating some Iraqi prisoners.

WILLIAMS: You want to make this into Liberals versus Conservatives.

KRISTOL: Absolutely.

WILLIAMS: ... over the treatment of prisoners. Well, I think you should go talk to Lindsey Graham and people who have been military prosecutors, and they'll tell you this is not what America should stand for.


WILLIAMS: ... moral values. That when we take this position, that the president doesn't forswear putting hoods over people, putting people in humiliating sexual positions ...

KRISTOL: Do you think we should fight the war on terror without ever putting hoods ...


KRISTOL: Do you think we should fight the war on terror without using any techniques like that.

WILLIAMS: No. You have to use techniques, but there are legitimate techniques. The Geneva Convention exists apart from whatever moral standards we want to advance, and say they are truly American standards. We didn't even adhere to the Geneva Convention and you're going to sit here and say it's a matter of Liberal versus Conservative? That's wrongheaded.

HUME: I would say this about it. Bill's point is right. This comes down to whether you think we're at war or not. And if you think we're at war and this is a real war, not a figurative war, but a real war, you recognize one other thing, which is war is hell and terrible things happen.

WILLIAMS: Oh, so we do ...

HUME: Excuse me.

WILLIAMS: ... no standards at all. No standards. Do whatever you like. We're Americans, held to a higher standard and we represent something great in the world - we'll then you lose all that Brit. You lose your standing representing anything different from [garbled] terrorist [garbled]

HUME: That is a monstrous distortion of what I am saying. What I am saying, Juan, if you'll let me finish is this. War is a terrible thing and terrible things happen in wars on all sides. Something terrible happened in this war and it's being addressed and it is not being minimized. It was way less terrible than the things that are happening to us in this war. The business at hand ... the real business at hand is to get on with this war. To win it, and finish it. And that will eradicate all the rest of this and it won't matter in the end because the Iraqi people will be better off and so will we and so will the world.

WILLIAMS: They want us out. That's what I notice.
NOTE: For a limited time (about one week) we provide a low-fi .wav file (1.3 Meg) of the exchange as an assurance that our transcript is accurate. It is availabe from this link.


Saturday, May 15, 2004

Magnets and hats:

In light of the new poll number that have Bush at 42% approval, we went over to FreeRepublic to see what they are saying about it. Here is the first post for a thread on the subject of Bush's slipping numbers: (emphasis added)

Let's get moving Freepers on actions that will put President Bush and the Pubbies over the top come this November:
1. Be certain your voter registration is current and VOTE.

2. Donate to Bush-Cheney '04 re-election campaign. We've got to compete against liberal billionaires.

3 I've found magnetic Bush-Cheney bumper stickers on ebay. They're really cool and demonstrate grass roots support.

4. Join the Republican National Committee.

5. Buy a Bush hat or t-shirt and wear it around. I get more compliments and thumbs up on my Bush hat than anyone would believe. You'll be the coolest Pubbie on the block.

6. Get involved with a your local Republican party and work the Bush campaign in 2004. Canvass, do literature drops, work a get out the vote phone bank.

7. Tell a relative, friend, or co-worker what a great job you think President Bush is doing. I have a picture of the President on my desk at work.

8. Never back down from your beliefs!


Friday, May 14, 2004


Right-wing detachment from reality is nearing completion. Today, Rush Limbaugh urged his listeners to read Kate O'Beirne's essay at NRO. She was defending Limbaugh against the reports about his radio show that are presented at Media Matters. In her piece, she related the following falsehoods:
  • ... the Left ... transparently prefers this latest image of the American military [at abu Ghraib] to the daily evidence of their courage, character, and self-sacrifice ...
  • Rush went on to defend our troops. ... This is Rush's true offense.
And ends with this line: (emphasis added)
Rush is one of those rare acquaintances who can be defended against an assault challenging his character without ever knowing the "facts." We trust his good judgment, his unerring decency, and his fierce loyalty to the country he loves ...
That just about sums it up. Right-wingers don't need to know the facts, which they prefer to refer to as "facts".


Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Domestic tensions:

We were listening to Michael Savage's radio program on Tuesday. Apparently he had Senator Inhofe on earlier and Savage asked him if he would confront Ted Kennedy on some point. Inhofe demurred - no doubt because of senatorial collegiality (what little remains). We didn't hear that exchange, but did hear a caller who had complaints about the interview - Gary. Gary described himself as a 57 year old conservative who used to be a Republican but was dissatisfied with the party ("both parties are alike") and is now registered Independent. Tells (or told) his children not to watch the biased NBC, CBS, ABC, etc. That gives you an idea of what kind of fellow he is. He called to complain about Inhofe's attitude. Gary was unhappy that Ihnofe didn't take up Savage's suggestion to confront Kennedy, and as a result, considered Inhofe to be a wuss. Savage tried, without success, to point out that Inhofe is one of the right-wing's good guys.

While people like Gary are a minory, they appear to be a significant minority.

On Hannity's radio program, a caller was upset with the Berg murder. She blamed liberals and the elite media, which is pretty amazing when you consider that Berg's plight was substantially the result of the U.S. authorities detaining him in Iraq, and that Berg's father was outspoken against the administration. But facts don't matter to those who listen to Savage or Hannity.


Total war:

Billmon writes:
... Berg's death is also a much-needed break for the apostles of total war here in America.

Consider these excerpts from today's lead editorial in the New York Post: (emphasis in original)
Now it's time to ratchet up the response to this war.
Forget Abu Ghraib.

Some people - some Americans - have forgotten about 9/11.
That attack should have been enough to justify all-out war. But the hand-wringing over the war in Iraq - and over even the modest steps America took to defend itself, like the Patriot Act - suggests that folks truly have lost sight of what the war is about.

This war cannot be waged with half-measures.
It can end only with the total annihilation of those who practice butchery and barbarism. Those who have set as their goal the destruction of America.
There is no negotiating with such people. There can be no compromise with those who mean to destroy us.

America has to come out swinging.
And not stop until every last one of the savage thugs is dead.
If that means a resumption of major combat in Iraq, so be it.
Would it mean another division or so of combat troops to get the job done?
Turn to our garrisons in Europe, or Korea, to get them.

To hell with political sensitivities in the region.
To hell with negotiating with radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in Najaf and the Sunni insurgents in Fallujah.
To hell with handing Saddam Hussein over to Iraqis, as some want to do, and risking some reverse - perverse - kangaroo trial that results in his survival.

Let's face it: This is a job that's going to take overwhelming - yes, brutal - force. There is simply no "nice" or painless way to accomplish this.
This morning we just heard Laura Ingraham say "No more staying the course, we want victory" (quoted from memory)


Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Rove + Falwall = ?

Did you know that Karl Rove spoke to graduates at Liberty College this past Saturday?

President Bush's chief political adviser told graduates of Jerry Falwell's Liberty University on Saturday to judge leaders on the basis of character.

America needs people who have "the moral clarity and courage to do what's right, regardless of consequence, fashion or fad," Karl Rove said.

Rove, who said he never earned a college degree, was presented an honorary doctorate of humanities by Falwell for his "commitment to conservative ideas."
Thanks to for noting the event.


McCain - you've got to admire the guy:

From Talking Points Memo: (emphasis added)
Sen. Inhofe on Abu Ghraib: "I'm probably not the only one up at this table that is more outraged by the outrage than we are by the treatment ... These prisoners, you know they're not there for traffic violations. If they're in cellblock 1-A or 1-B, these prisoners, they're murderers, they're terrorists, they're insurgents. Many of them probably have American blood on their hands and here we're so concerned about the treatment of those individuals."

According to CNN, McCain walked out during Inhofe's statement.
NOTE: At time of this posting, the reports indicate McCain walked out in reaction to Inhofe. But that isn't certain.


Monday, May 10, 2004

Thank you!

Bush on Sharon: (emphasis added)
Ariel Sharon came to America and he stood up with me and he said, we are pulling out of Gaza and parts of the West Bank. In my judgment, the whole world should have said, thank you, Ariel. Now we have a chance to begin the construction of a peaceful Palestinian state.
Bush on Rumsfeld: (emphasis added)
Thank you for your leadership. You are courageously leading our nation in the war against terror.

You're doing a superb job. You're a strong secretary of defense and our nation owes you a debt of a debt of gratitude.

Safire Matrix:

From his exxay praising Rumsfeld -

Donald Rumsfeld designated by Democratic politicians as the scapegoat
highly effective
owes it to the nation's war on terror to soldier on
assumed ultimate responsibility
good man
a war leader
has the strong support of the president
effective and symbolic
[has] a duty to serve in our "long, hard slog"
the command structure and
[Rumsfeld's] Pentagon staff
sheer stupidity
Senator Mark Dayton of Minnesota rudely badgered the chairman of the Joint Chiefs
sound-bite-hungry politician
reports [about the prison] life-threatening
delay [is] part of long military-media tradition
no cover-up
public exposure certain
propagandists abroad,
defeatists here
[call] American prisons a "gulag"
glefully equating Bush not just with Saddam but with Stalin
others [i.e. Military Police] depraved acts
critics of the war vain hope of appeasing [by removing Rumsfeld]


Sunday, May 09, 2004

Diagramming the situation:

Here are the key elements from Seymour Hersh's most recent report in the New Yorker, Chain of Command:

NOTE: Detail about 800th Military Police Brigade is from a Yahoo / AP news item.



Did you notice that in the Washington Post's "exclusive" picture of the solcier and Iraqi-on-a-leash, that, as the [highlighted] text indicates, the "photo was cropped for publication"?


Saturday, May 08, 2004

That wacky New York Post:

We took a look at the New York Post to see how they are handling the Abu Ghraib torture story. It was very interesting. Here are excerpts from their editorial (emphasis added):
Donald Rumsfeld acquitted himself convincingly and with dignity at yesterday's hearings on Capitol Hill.

Let's be clear: The Army openly announced that it was investigating abuses at Abu Ghraib on Jan. 16 - just three days after it was notified about them. It made another announcement about criminal proceedings in March.

That the media chose not to pick up the story and that lawmakers showed no interest in it until photographs were broadcast by CBS is hardly Rumsfeld's fault.
Of course, nobody outside of the military had a clue what the problems at Abu Gharib were or how extensive.

Anyway, here is a sampling from the Post's letters page for Saturday. Seven of ten letters were supportive of the war effort or dismissive of Kerry. They were straight out ot the Hannity playbook:
  • In wartime, a few bad apples are bound to surface. When they do, you swat them down like the vermin they are - and you move on.

    You don't defame an honorable man [Rumsfeld] serving his country during these perilous times.

  • Please note: They did not slit their throats, burn their bodies and hang them from a bridge. The Iraqis are the ones who commit such atrocities.

  • It is absolutely outrageous that the Democrats and the liberal media are calling for Rumsfeld to resign over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by a handful of wayward U.S troops.

    I was disappointed by the actions of a few of our people in Iraq.   ...   But I am more ashamed of our media for helping our enemies by distributing anti-American propaganda.

    A lot of these liberal media types seem to have no loyalty to America ...

  • We are still waiting for apologies from anyone in the Muslim world for the murder of 3,000 Americans in the World Trade Center.

  • Who cares how Iraqi prisoners get treated?     Have we all forgotten how these people treated America's people on 9/11?

    I say do whatever it takes to keep our guys safe over there ...

  • Kerry has not only accused an entire generation of American servicemen of committing far worse atrocities than humiliation, he has confessed to committing such atrocities himself.


It's all Turkey's fault:

A new theme appears to be emerging to excuse the problems in Iraq. It's Turkey's fault. Consider:

From PBS's News Hour (6 May 2004) (emphasis added)
LAWRENCE KORB: .... When Gen. Shinseki under pressure from Sen. Levin were testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee said you need several hundred thousand troops to guarantee security after Saddam fell, he was disparaged publicly by Rumsfeld ...

JIM LEHRER: What about that, Rumsfeld has more on his negative plate than just what happened in the prison?

R. JAMES WOOLSEY: Keep in mind not only would the state and CIA not cooperate in training the Iraqis, as I said, but also the Turks didn't cooperate in letting the 4th Division through. They would have had 25 percent more forces right there and an anvil on which the hammer of the 3rd Division and others could have broken a lot of the Sunni Baathists who were resisting still in Fallujah. It wasn't Rumsfeld's fault that the Turks decided not to go that way.
From a Weekly Standard essay by Tom Donnelly (emphasis added)
To make progress ... we need to have really conquered the so-called Sunni Triangle. But this goal was beyond the imagination of the war plan and beyond the abilities of the invasion force. We can only speculate what effect the 4th Infantry Division might have had if the Turks had permitted an attack through northern Iraq.


Never give up, never surrender!

The folks over at the Weekly Standard are in full support Bush, support Rumsfeld, support the war mode. Today, they have three essays. One on how the torture at Abu Ghraib is just the work of a few bad eggs. Another on getting the job done right (by Kristol, of course). And one on the strategic wisdom of going into Iraq. This last essay was penned by Tom Donnelly of the American Enterprise Institute. Get a load of this passage (emphasis added):
A president other than George Bush might have been content to invade only Afghanistan, but it's not clear that a more limited campaign would have saved us from our present troubles. There is no guarantee that our enemies in the region would have been content had our presence been limited to Kabul. Indeed, given the centrality of Afghanistan to the jihadist wing of Islam, it is almost certain that we would be facing tougher resistance there had we not gone on to Iraq. To have focused on Afghanistan and/or the ever-more-intricate global manhunt for Osama bin Laden would have been to relinquish the strategic initiative.
So, going full-bore after bin Laden and crushing al Qaeda in Afghanistan would not have seved us from our present troubles? Aren't pretty much all our troubles in Iraq?

And what's this notion that going into Iraq made the resistance less tough in Afghanistan? Is that some sort of endorsement of the "flypaper" scheme? That some jihadists left Afghanistan (making it easier for U.S. troops there) and decided to head for Iraq?

Boy, there are a lot of pretty amazing assertions being peddled these days by the neocons.


Thursday, May 06, 2004

Bush & Co. may have finally lost any connection with reality:

Rich Lowry writes in NRO's Corner: (emphasis added)
BUSH AT RNC [Rich Lowry]
I was down in Washington yesterday and saw Bush speak at the RNC “Gala.” He gave a ringing campaign speech that lasted about 30 minutes. This may seem a banal observation, but I was struck at just how conservative his speech was. It was all tax cuts and war. His compassionate conservative riff was relegated to a small bit at the end (Ramesh wrote a cover story about this a few issues ago appropriate called “The Death of Compassionate Conservatism”). Bush seemed fully engaged. He seemed to genuinely enjoy his own anti-Kerry jokes and appeared to get teary-eyed when defending his decision to go to war in Iraq. There is no doubt that he is up for this campaign, in contrast to his dad in 1992 and to himself at times in 2000. One disturbing thing was that almost all the speech was backwards-looking, defending things that he has done rather than talking about what he will do going forward. At this rate, if he wins a second term, it might well be a listless one. In the meantime, he is working up quite a campaign stump stem-winder.
Posted at 03:52 PM
Okay, it was at the RNC, so one expects some tax & war rhetoric. But still, one gets the feeling that Bush hasn't a clue about what people are concerned about.


Right wing radio watch:

We are listening to Michael Medved in his first hour proclaiming that the abu Ghraib torture stories show why women and gays should not be in the military. Women? They have urges and when you put them in positions of power over men, what can you expect? Medved is tapping into the woman-as-temptress theme. Gays? Medved asserts that the activities in the prison clearly show that they were "closeted gays". (Sorry, no audio available. Our technical set-up is inoperative at the moment.)

On the other station, Hannity is raving. He is saying that "It's insane out there" - referring to the critics of the prison issue. Claims "Libs" want Rumsfeld's head. Hannity is pushing the us-vs-them theme. Sadly, hey is getting traction from Ted Rall's cartoon about Pat Tillman. Our position on that is the same as Tom Tomorrow. Rall made fun of those who are paying the price for failed policy, and not the policymakers themselves.


Right-wing religious trivia:

We read in a Weekly Standard story about the National Day of Prayer (NDP) that this year's theme is "Let Freedom Ring". Who wrote a book with that title? Sean Hannity.

Actually the full title is: Let Freedom Ring: Winning the War of Liberty over Liberalism

BONUS INFO: The National Day of Prayer is the first Thursday in May (today). This year's Honorary Chair is Oliver North. The NDP Chair is Shirley Dobson, wife of Dr. James C. Dobson, founder and president of Focus on the Family.


A great cartoon:

We think today's cartoon by Tom Toles is right on.

Link: here

NOTE: The New York Times (where we go to check out cartoons) does not always display every cartoon created. One has to, occasionally and in this case, click on the Much More Toles (or Oliphant) link to see the full set.


Not the torture, but the failure to inform of the torture:

This is probably reading the news too closely, but we were struck by the following passages in the Washington Post story, Bush Privately Chides Rumsfeld
Bush is "not satisfied" and "not happy" with the way Rumsfeld informed him about the investigation into abuses by U.S. soldiers at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison or the quantity of information Rumsfeld provided, the senior White House official said.

The president was particularly disturbed at having had to learn from news reports this week about the scope of misconduct documented in an Army investigative report completed in March, according to the official, who refused to be named so he could speak more candidly.
NOTE: Mark A R Kleiman has a post along similar lines.


Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Do you understand?

From the White House:

President Bush Meets with Alhurra Television on Wednesday
  • First, people in Iraq must understand that I view those practices as abhorrent.
    They must also understand that what took place in that prison does not represent America that I know.
  • The American people are just as appalled at what they have seen on TV as the Iraqi citizens have. The Iraqi citizens must understand that.
  • The people of Iraq must understand, sovereignty will be transferred on June 30th.
President Bush Meets with Al Arabiya Television on Wednesday
  • First, I want to tell the people of the Middle East that the practices that took place in that prison are abhorrent and they don't represent America. They represent the actions of a few people. Secondly, it's important for people to understand that in a democracy that there will be a full investigation.
  • Again, it's very important for people, your listeners, to understand, in our country that when an issue is brought to our attention on this magnitude, we act -- and we act in a way where leaders are willing to discuss it with the media.
  • And so the people in the Middle East must understand that this was horrible.
  • The Iraqi citizens must understand America is not going to leave until the job is complete.
  • ... first of all, you've got to understand, sir, that military options are always my last option, not the first option, and that we can promote freedom without use of military.
  • Secondly, it's very important for the people of the Middle East to understand that freedom doesn't have to look like America.
Fred Kaplan in Slate writes:
Too often, the president began a sentence with the words, "People in Iraq must understand ..." or "The Iraqi people must understand …" or "People in the Middle East must understand … ." He probably didn't mean it but, to an Iraqi audience, these phrases may seem insistent, overbearing, even autocratic, coming from the man who is currently occupying their country.
We also read (in Slate's Frayster round-up) something to the effect that "[you] must understand" translates into Arabic into a less-than-friendly attitude.


Having a good time, just blowing some steam off:

From Rush Limbaugh's own transcript of a conversation about the Iraqi prison torture: (emphasis added)
CALLER: Rush if you were in the military and you were ordered to interrogate someone even though it was an in-depth interrogation, you would do your job in a business-like manner. And I think most people would, do a difficult job that they didn't want to do in a business-like manner. These people had a job to do, but they were taking pleasure in it. There's something psychologically wrong with that. It's not the act so much. It was like a college fraternity prank that stack up naked men --

RUSH: Exactly. Exactly my point! This is no different than what happens at the skull and bones initiation and we're going to ruin people's lives over it and we're going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day. I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You of heard of need to blow some steam off? These people are the enemy. Our people are being fired at, shot at, these are young people that have volunteered to go over there and they're having bullets fired in their way, bombs and mortar fire aimed at 'em by the people that they are guarding and charged to get information from.


The list:

From the Taguba report: (emphasis added)
6. (S) I find that the intentional abuse of detainees by military police personnel included the following acts:

a. (S) Punching, slapping, and kicking detainees; jumping on their naked feet;
b. (S) Videotaping and photographing naked male and female detainees;
c. (S) Forcibly arranging detainees in various sexually explicit positions for photographing;
d. (S) Forcing detainees to remove their clothing and keeping them naked for several days at a time;
e. (S) Forcing naked male detainees to wear women’s underwear;
f. (S) Forcing groups of male detainees to masturbate themselves while being photographed and videotaped;
g. (S) Arranging naked male detainees in a pile and then jumping on them;
h. (S) Positioning a naked detainee on a MRE Box, with a sandbag on his head, and attaching wires to his fingers, toes, and penis to simulate electric torture;
i. (S) Writing “I am a Rapest” (sic) on the leg of a detainee alleged to have forcibly raped a 15-year old fellow detainee, and then photographing him naked;
j. (S) Placing a dog chain or strap around a naked detainee’s neck and having a female Soldier pose for a picture;
k. (S) A male MP guard having sex with a female detainee;
l. (S) Using military working dogs (without muzzles) to intimidate and frighten detainees, and in at least one case biting and severely injuring a detainee;
m. (S) Taking photographs of dead Iraqi detainees.
We highlight the issue of female detainees because (according to a guest on Monday's Charlie Rose Show) abuse of women is supposed to be an even greater outrage to the Iraqis.


In a world of his own:

Via Liberal Oasis, we learn that Rush Limbaugh has opined on the Iraqi prison torture story. It's pretty amazing what he has to say. Excerpts: (emphasis added)
Here's the way I see this. About as many soldiers are said to be involved in these outrageous acts of torture against the Iraqi prisoners as there have been plagiarizing and fabricating reporters working for the New York Times, USA Today, and other papers around the country. We have as many indecent acts by these soldiers as we have plagiarist reporters working for mainstream media, partisan media institutions here.

... I think that we need somebody with expertise to get to the bottom of this. And I think we should send Kerry over there. John Kerry, who has lots of experience in war atrocities. He admitted to committing them.

Folks, these torture pictures with the women torturers, I mean Marv Albert looking at those pictures would say, "Hey, that doesn't look so bad." You know, if you really look at these pictures, I mean I don't know if it's just me but it looks like anything you'd see Madonna or Britney Spears do on stage. Maybe you can get an NEA grant for something like this. I mean this is something you can see at Lincoln Center from an NEA grant, maybe on Sex in the City: the Movie.



We see the following headling in the New York Times: Senate Blocks New Rules on Pay for Overtime Work

And read:
With five Republicans breaking ranks, the Senate voted, 52 to 47, to ensure that the new Labor Department proposal does not deny overtime to any category of worker now qualified to receive it.
The headline should be: Democrats plus a handful of Republicans Block New Rules on Pay for Overtime Work

Because here are the details of the vote for the Harken amendment on overtime pay:
Harkin's proposal was supported by 46 of the Senate's 48 Democrats, as well as one independent and five Republicans. Two of them, Sens. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, are running difficult re-election campaigns in states where organized labor has a significant presence.

Republican Sens. Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado, Olympia Snowe of Maine and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island also voted for the Democratic measure. Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia was the only Democrat opposed.

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, did not vote. An aide said he supported Harkin's proposal.
NOTE: Though Kerry didn't vote, he is a co-sponsor of the amendment.


Monday, May 03, 2004

The foolish John R. Lott Jr.

In an essay over at National Review Online, well known "statistician" Lott attempts to defend electronic voting. In particular he dismisses the need for a paper trail ("Paper ballots add nothing, except generating unnecessary costs.") and says that there is good reason to have confidence in electronic records of the votes. He writes: (excerpts)
So what about the claim that electronic voting machines make recounts impossible because they lack paper records? Each electronic voting machine contains multiple redundant memories that are "read only." These unalterable memories are just as available to be rechecked as paper records.

Possible computer crashes or corrupted data are taken care of by multiple redundant memory systems, some of which cannot be altered but are "read only." These memories are constantly checked for any differences.
What Lott writes is completely misleading. All this talk about "read only" memory sounds good, but doesn't mean anything. The only instance of "read only" memory that would have value would be a burned in chip or CD with the computer program on it. But what about the votes? If all storage on your machine is "read only" then it is impossible to write to it. It's hard to say what Lott is getting at, since he's so confused about computers. Perhaps he was thinking about write-once/read-many storage. Perhaps not. Who can tell with this guy? And in any event, even if there was the kind of "unalterable" storage that Lott promotes, it doesn't stop a corrupted machine from writing bogus voting data. What is needed is an alternate recording medium - like paper - which can be inspected right then and there to insure that the voter's choice was properly recorded (and can be re-counted if necessary).

NOTE: We could have gone on and discussed all sorts of technical security issues at length, but it can get pretty arcane. The basic point is that machines are still vulnerable to tampering, that the tampering can be undetected, and until that major technical problem can be solved, an alternate non-electronic and human-verifiable record should be generated.


Sunday, May 02, 2004

The torture story:

Intel Dump has a very good post on the subject. He was a former MP and has a unique perspective.


Was today the day things changed?

It sure feel like it. The impact of those pictures taken in the Iraqi prison, the withdrawal from Fallujah, bringing back a top Republican Guard general, another shipment of tanks rushed to the theater, proper troop levels in dispute, lingering resentment in the Middle East over Bush's embrace of Sharon's plan, some members of the Coalition now less "willing", charging opponents of the war as racist or anti-Semitic, general confusion as to who is in control over what in Iraq, a sharp increase of troop fatalities, private contractors misbehaving, Ahmed Chalibi still getting money for his services, the Deputy Secretary of Defense doesn't know now many have died, time (now a vital commodity) lost due to the Provisional Authority squandering months of opportunity, and so on.

The smell of "we can't win" is pretty strong right now.

Question: Is anybody in control?

If this mission is as important as Bush said it is (defeating evil-doers) then why hasn't there been somebody "on top of the situation"? It sure isn't the president.


Remember this? (our post of 6 October 2003)

"This puts accountability right into the White House," a senior administration official said:

White House announces reorganization to deal with Iraq and Afghanistan (according to story in the New York Times). Here's a snapshot.

NOTE: We were reminded of this item in a comment by Dick Durata in Matthew Yglesias' post: Wrongest...Column...Ever


Saturday, May 01, 2004

The new new Iraqi flag:

BAGHDAD, April 30 -- It was supposed to take care of problems raised by the first flag redesign: a figure of an Iraqi prisoner with a hood over his head, standing on a box and with wires connected to his hands, two light blue stripes representing broomsticks used to beat and sodomize captives, and a third yellow stripe to symbolize the urine that was directed at their heads.

But the newest national flag, presented Friday after an artistic competition at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, appears to have met with widespread public disapproval here.