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