The court scholar serving Hermann of Thuringia.

The court scholar serving Hermann of Thuringia.
The scholar


Bush Administration outdoes itself again

I've been wondering how to follow up the obviously important story of the NSA having been instructed to spy on American citizens without going through the FISA courts specifically set up for the purpose. The Bush Administration has set up a great screeching and yowling and clamoring about it, but has been completely unable to justify it. Congress, which in 1998, "had" to impeach Bill Clinton for, in their words:

Henry Hyde (R-Ill.): "Mr. Speaker, my colleagues of the people's House, I wish to talk to you about the rule of law. After months of argument, hours of debate, there is no need for further complexity. The question before this House is rather simple. It's not a question of sex. Sexual misconduct and adultery are private acts and are none of Congress's business. "It's not even a question of lying about sex. The matter before the House is a question of lying under oath. This is a public act, not a private act. This is called perjury.

A serious charge, to be sure. Yet, George W. Bush has not only violated the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

But Article 2, Section 2:

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States

Amazingly, even though the President has violated the privacy of many thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of individuals (We don't know yet, as the full list of individuals investigated by the secret means employed by the NSA has yet to be provided to competent and disinterested authorities) and even though his actions go well beyond what the Supreme Court has defined as the "Commander-in-Chief powers" in the case of Youngstown Sheet and Tube Co. v. Sawyer (in essence, the Court then decided that President Truman "had violated the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers" by attempting to do what was rightfully Congress's job) Congress has shown little interest in holding President Bush to account. The nation's news media at the end of 2005 has certainly not adopted the hysterical tone of "Constitutional Crisis" that was a staple of news coverage in 1998.

Was the President justified in "making the call" to follow a different set of procedures? The Attorney General suggests "Yes":

ALBERTO GONZALES: We have to remember that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was created in 1978, and technologies have changed dramatically. [Snarky comment here]

My problem with this justification of course, is that THAT'S NOT THE PRESIDENT'S CALL TO MAKE!!! The President has absolutely NO authority to decide on his own that current wire-tapping laws are inadequate to deal with the threat posed by the "War on Terror". The President may bring his case to Congress and have a member of Congress submit a bill to make a revised wire-tapping law which would take his concerns into account. He has ZERO authority to decide unilaterally, on his own authority, that the wire-tapping laws need to be chucked in favor of a broader rule.

In any event, the Bush Administration has, once again, outdone itself. Completely ignoring the underlying crime (i.e. the unlawful surveillance of an unknown number of American citizens) and ignoring the fact that the leak of this information was known to the Bush Administration since BEFORE the 2004 Election:

The New York Times was the first to report the story on December 16th and then officials confirmed its existence to CNN and other organizations.

"The Justice Department has opened an investigation of the unauthorized disclosure of classified information related to the NSA," a Justice Department official told CNN. [emphasis added]

The Administration did not investigate the leak when it occurred, that investigation is only now occurring. The Administration has no interest in the underlying crime, only in who spilled the beans. Thank Heavens, various people in authority are taking this latest move seriously!!!


Latest justifications

Here's an interesting exchange:

QUESTION: I wonder if you can tell us today, sir, what, if any, limits you believe there are or should be on the powers of a president during wartime.

And if the global war on terror is going to last for decades, as has been forecast, does that mean that we're going to see, therefore, a more or less permanent expansion of the unchecked power of the executive in American society?

BUSH: First of all, I disagree with your assertion of unchecked power.


BUSH: Hold on for a second, please.

There is the check of people being sworn to uphold the law, for starters.

There is oversight. We're talking to Congress all the time.

And on this program, to suggest there's unchecked power is not listening to what I'm telling you. I'm telling you, we have briefed the United States Congress on this program a dozen times.

This is an awesome responsibility, to make decisions on behalf of the American people. And I understand that. And we'll continue to work with the Congress, as well as people within our own administration, to constantly monitor a program such as the one I described to you, to make sure that we're protecting the civil liberties of the United States.

To say "unchecked power" basically is ascribing some kind of dictatorial position to the president, which I strongly reject.

Well, to say that people are held back from doing what they please by an oath they took earlier is to say that they take their responsbilities very seriously and that they aren't re-interpreting their limitations out of existence and not thinking up ways to get away with doing what they planned to do all along. Unfortunately, the history of presidents and senators and governors, etc., since the founding of our republic and of different rulers stretching back into antiquity does not give us any comfort as to how well rulers can be expected to behave when there's no one there to keep an eye on them. Bush isn't disputing the history of American presidents for the last 30 years, he's disputing the history of rulers since the dawn of recorded history.

"We're talking to Congress all the time." is a very nice-sounding, comforting sound bite until one reads what Harry Reid, the Senate Minority Leader, has to say about his "notification":

I personally received a single very short briefing on this program earlier this year prior to its public disclosure. That briefing occurred more than three years after the President said this program began.

The Administration briefers did not seek my advice or consent about the program, and based on what I have heard publicly since, key details about the program apparently were not provided to me.

Under current Administration briefing guidelines, members of Congress are informed after decisions are made, have virtually no ability to either approve or reject a program, and are prohibited from discussing these types of programs with nearly all of their fellow members and all of their staff.

So, yeah, sure, a very few Senators got briefed, but if they weren't permitted to tell any of their constituents or even their fellow Senators or Congresspeople, what the heck kind of check or balance does that constitute? Bush's people apparently didn't even tell Senator Reid the full story.

So no, I don't think the actions that Bush describes amount to "oversight" in any meaningful sense. I completely agree that his actions constitute "unchecked power" and that yes indeed, he acted as a dictator.

Bush's "sober" speech

Crooks & Liars describes Bush's latest speech as “sober”and applauds his tone of seriousness. Others have noted the phraseology:

That is an important question, and the answer depends on your view of the war on terror. If you think the terrorists would become peaceful if only America would stop provoking them, then it might make sense to leave them alone.


Some look at the challenges in Iraq, and conclude that the war is lost, and not worth another dime or another day. I don't believe that. Our military commanders do not believe that. Our troops in the field, who bear the burden and make the sacrifice, do not believe that America has lost. And not even the terrorists believe it. We know from their own communications that they feel a tightening noose - and fear the rise of a democratic Iraq.


Defeatism may have its partisan uses, but it is not justified by the facts. For every scene of destruction in Iraq, there are more scenes of rebuilding and hope. For every life lost, there are countless more lives reclaimed. And for every terrorist working to stop freedom in Iraq, there are many more Iraqis and Americans working to defeat them. My fellow citizens: Not only can we win the war in Iraq - we are winning the war in Iraq.


I also want to speak to those of you who did not support my decision to send troops to Iraq: I have heard your disagreement, and I know how deeply it is felt. Yet now there are only two options before our country - victory or defeat. And the need for victory is larger than any president or political party, because the security of our people is in the balance. I don't expect you to support everything I do, but tonight I have a request: Do not give in to despair, and do not give up on this fight for freedom.

So, to translate all of this earnest speechmaking:

There are two sides to the argument: Victory, which I, the President, am representing and Defeat, which my political opponents represent. I'm the optimist who looks forward to each new day as a challenge to excel in an attitude of buoyant optimism. My opponents look forward to a half-empty glass of defeat and gloom and doom and despair and pessimism and hopelessness.

The phrase: "I know how deeply it is felt." makes it clear that the opponents of the brave and mighty President are reacting entirely from emotion, that there is no reasoning at work here, no common set of facts that we can all refer to or common "metrics" (Rumsfeld's term) with which to reach an agreement on how the war is going. As from when Bush first set about selling the war to Americans in the first place, everything depends on the American citizen simply taking Bush's word for everything. Bush speaks with great apparent authority about the goals and objectives of the "terrorists", but there's no indication of where any of this information comes from. Presumably, it all comes from intelligence reports, perhaps even from interrogations. As has been exhaustively proven, the intel that the President gets is quite different from what everybody else gets.

He speaks with great apparent authority on what American "military commanders" "Our troops in the field" and "the terrorists" all feel and how they assess the situation, but he, as the military Commander-in-Chief and as the one who gets the intelligence reports, is speaking on behalf of all of these people. No one can independently demand that the troops and commanders speak honestly in possible contradiction to what the C-in-C wants them to say. No one has press contacts among the insurgents. None of these on-the-scene personnel have a voice that can be independently verified.

What exactly constitutes "victory"? Hard to say, beyond the assertion that only the President is for it while everybody else is against it. Victory is defined in vague, maximalist terms, "freedom", etc. Our President is a very clever propagandist, or at least he has very clever people working for him. He does not believe in any sort of democracy, as is shown by the NSA being ordered to spy on American citizens in complete contravention to long-established rules and procedures.


Fisking Bush's latest speech

So, let's see what owwer glorious
has to say today. My last quick reading didn't
dredge up anything new or very interesting. Let's see what we can
come up with this time.

We're taking the fight to those who
attacked us and to those who
share their murderous vision for future attacks.

Really? America is attacking al Qaeda? Where?
As I recall, the al Qaeda member Zarqawi is the Iraqi "Scarlet Pimpernel"
who's sort of here, there and everywhere, forever present, yet
uncatchable. Many doubt he even exists or is even alive. In
any event, the real-life Zarqawi was operating in the area of Palestine
and only became an active opponent of the US after the US occupation of Iraq, in
June or July of 2003. "...murderous vision", eh? I suppose
one could take that to mean the members of the Iraqi insurgency who
were not actively shooting at American troops on September 11th,
2001. It's an idea that sorta lumps everybody over there into one
big, vague, indeterminate group of "bad guys".

Yet the terrorists have made it clear
that Iraq
is the central front in their war against humanity.

Wow! They're fighting all of humanity? They must be
underworld demons, then. This is the kind of thing I'm referring
to when I talk about Bush & Co making "hysterical"
statements. I don't mean hysterical in terms of funny, I mean
hyserical in terms of Bush & buddies running down the street,
naked, screaming and flailing their arms. The most interesting
thing about these sorts of utterly hysterical statements is that
neither of Bush's prime-of-life, college-graduate daughters are serving
in the Army, fighting in the desert along with everybody else.
Neither is the daughter of Hillary Clinton, the big Democratic
war-hawk, for that matter, indicating that neither Bush nor Clinton
considers the Iraq War to really be any sort of big deal. How is
Iraq the "central front?" Bush has never specified this, despite
his having used the phrase dozens of times.

Last month, my administration released a
document called The
National Strategy for Victory in Iraq

They did indeed do so and an unimpressive document it was. It's
been described as a string of cliches. It contains no deadlines
and no strategies. It was considered so embarrassingly
devoid of useful details
that even Republican Senators Santorum and
Hagel came out against it.

I'm traveling with United States
senators. They are always quick
to hop a ride on Air Force One...

... particularly when they don't have to reimburse the government.

Hmm, I guess this lne might have come off as funny at the time.
Don't know, since I'm just going by the cold text, but it sounds
awfully mean-spirited and dismissive of any advice that Congresspeople
might give. After all, they're just grubby opportunists grabbing
a free ride when and where they can. Congressman John Murtha (D-MA) reponds
anyway (Video).

Our founders faced many difficult
challenges, they made mistakes,
they learned from their experiences and they adjusted their approach.

Our nation's first effort at a governing charter, the Articles of
Confederation, failed. It took years of debate and compromise before
we ratified our Constitution and inaugurated our first president.

It took a four-year civil war and a century of struggle after that
before the promise of our Declaration was extended to all Americans.

Oh good Lord! Is Bush saying the US is going to be occupying Iraq
for the next century or so?!?!? Big, big difference here.
America after the Revolutionary War was independent. America was
NOT occupied by a foreign power "helping" us or "guiding" us until we
were "ready" for freedom. Americans made these choices and
mistakes by themelves. That's simply not true of Iraqis under
American occupation. Unfortunately, the US motivation for
remaining in Iraq is crystal clear. US corporations are hesitant
to invest in Iraq because as it stands, any investment made there now
stands at great risk of being nationalized the moment Iraq obtains a
truly legitimate government, on that truly represented the Iraqi
people. Bush has been trying to square a circle. He has
been trying to arrange a genuinely popular, truly representative
government that nevertheless favors American corporate privileges and
allows the American government to control the Iraqi economy.
Sorry for not sharing his optimism and "can-do" spirit, but I don't
think it can be done.

Just over 2 1/2 years ago, Iraq was in
the grip of a cruel dictator
who had invaded his neighbors, sponsored terrorists, pursued
and used weapons of mass destruction, murdered his own people and,
for more than a decade, defied the demands of the United
Nations and the civilized world.

First off, where is the evidence that Hussein EVER sponsored
terrorism? Military analysts have remarked that Hussein's army
was modeled on the Soviet Red Army. The Red Army was of course
under absolute, iron-fisted control. Why on Earth would Hussein
trust a bunch of rag-tag, undisciplined terrorist-types to carry out
his policies? Why would he expose his country to the vengenace of
countries who could trace attacks back to him?

Second, Hussein did NOT defy the UN. It was demanded of him that
he produce a complete accounting of all of his weapons. He
delivered a 12,000
page document
to the UN that detailed all of the weapons that
he had on hand. The US made many complaints about this document
and claimed that it fell "far, far, far, far short" of listing all of
the weapons the US "knew" Hussein had. Those complaints have not
withstood the test of time. Nothing has been found in Iraq that
seriously deviates from that 12,000 page document. Hussein
disarmed Iraq in accordance with the demands of the UN.

Gentle reader, please understand that I'm only two pages into Bush's
speech and alread I've found a whole passle of lies and
distortions. Bush has AGAIN produced a speech that hides and
distorts far more than it tells. A speech that lies and spins and
covers up far more thn it informs and educates. The guy is a liar
and a fraud and should not be regarded with any respect at all.


Tortures and wording

Curious story on this NY Times article: I saw a link to it from the Huffington Post, read a good chunk of it and resolved to return to it later. A few hours later, I fruitlessly looked for it. A day later, I saw that it was restored after a correction had been added. I had imagined Karl Rove getting on the phone to the NY Times' editors and making all sorts of mafioso-type threats. I still think Karl routinely does that sort of thing and yes, I realize that presumption on my part is far more an insult to the Times than it is to Rove.

Seems Secretary of State Rice is having a hard time persuading Europeans that no, the US does not torture captured persons. Earlier, Maureen Dowd had quoted Rice saying: "The United States government does not authorize or condone torture of detainees." She then commented that: "It all depends what you mean by 'authorize,' 'condone,' 'torture,' and 'detainees.'" Liberals never felt strongly about Bill Clinton as a person (Probably because NAFTA was a big, early priority of his), so we have no problem describing such careful wording on Rice's part as "Clintonian parsing".

Rice made an "...impassioned argument for aggressive intelligence gathering, within the law, as an indispensable means of saving lives endangered by an unusually dangerous and unscrupulous foe." My problem with this statement begins with Rice's phrase "within the law". If she meant the Geneva Conventions, why not say that? Why not be specific? Why use the vaguer, less precise "law" unless the Bush Administration means to apply a less stringent standard? Article VI of the Constitution specifies that "Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land" meaning the Geneva Conventions are just as much "the law" as are any of the laws in the US Code. Yet, Rice chose not to use that wording. We might also remember that the Torture Memo that our current Attorney General authored has never been formally repudiated by any member of the Bush Administration. This memo made what I and many, many others have regarded as grossly excessive claims as to the authority of the Commander-in-Chief in wartime.

Is al Qaeda an "unusually dangerous and unscrupulous foe"? Unscrupulous, yes. Dangerous? I seriously doubt the danger posed by al Qaeda is any greater than that posed to Italy by the Red Brigades or to Germany by the Baader-Meinhof Gang back in the 1970s. Hitting the World Trade Center back in 2001 was a one-time-lucky event that very clearly owed just as much to Bush Administration incompetence, negligence and dereliction of duty as it did to any brilliance on Osama bin Laden's part. In fact, there are those who theorize that September 11th owed more to the Bush Administration than to al Qaeda. Those questions are still, four years later, far from satisfactorily answered. Can we accept that al Qaeda is such a dangerous threat that overturning the Geneva Conventions are necessary? No.

Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg claims that the US "..does obey international law" which, as I've pointed out, is nowhere in evidence. Being a person who works for the German Chancellor though, it's not at all surprising that he'd say this.

I was partcularly impressed by paragraphs like this:

Parsing through the speech, Mr. Tyrie pointed out example after example where, he said, Ms. Rice was using surgically precise language to obfuscate and distract. By asserting, for instance, that the United States does not send suspects to countries where they ''will be'' tortured, Ms. Rice is protecting herself, Mr. Tyrie said, leaving open the possibility that they ''may be'' tortured in those countries.

And of course:

Others pointed out that the Bush administration's definition of torture did not include practices like water-boarding -- in which prisoners are strapped to a board and made to believe they are about to be drowned -- that violate provisions of the international Convention Against Torture.

How anyone can believe the Bush Administration is against torture when the very definition of the term is left as vague and fuzzy as it is, is something that absolutely amazes me.

In another article, UN Ambassador John Bolton criticizes the Canadian United Nations human rights chief Louise Arbour:

Arbour warned Wednesday the global ban on torture is becoming a casualty of the "war on terror," singling out reported U.S. practices of sending terrorist suspects to other countries and holding prisoners in secret detention.

Her comments sparked an immediate rebuke from Bolton, who said it was "inappropriate and illegitimate for an international civil servant to second-guess the conduct that we're engaged in in the war on terror, with nothing more as evidence than what she reads in the newspapers."

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric left no doubt about the secretary general's support for Arbour when asked if Annan believed the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights was out of line for criticizing practices reported used by the United States.

To assert that the UN human rights chief is making serious charges based on nothing more than news clippings is both insulting and unlikely in the extreme. As the "War on Terror" (WOT) is billed as an endless, borderless conflict where there will never be a true victory, it's difficult to see how human rights can be put aside until that war ends. If now is not the time and Arbour is not the person to criticize the US for excesses in the WOT, then when will those excesses ever be criticized? Obviously, if Bolton (and by extension, the Bush Admnistration) had his way, such criticism would never take place.


Ford Motor Co & Gay Community

AmericaBlog has been on an absolute jihad against Ford Motor Company Link is to Ford press release which states: "Advertising decisions for all our brands are driven strictly by a business case, including Volvo, which has decided to market directly to the gay and lesbian community" which of course implies that most of Ford doesn't market to the "gay and lesbian community". Another article shows that there's "less than meets the eye" to Volvo's "commitment".
On December 3rd, The Advocate reported that:

"The antigay American Family Association claimed a cultural victory on Thursday and called off its threatened boycott of Ford Motor Co. On Friday, Ford spokesman Mike Moran confirmed to that the company will stop advertising its Jaguar and Land Rover brands in gay publications but insisted it was strictly a business decision."

Two days later, Ford confirmed that they made their decision based on pressure from the AFA. The same day, EVERY GLBT group in the US came out against the Ford Motor Company's decision. On the 7th, Ford agreed to no longer sponsor gay events. The Kraft Food Company has shown itself to be a hero in this case with the statement:

"It's easy to say you support a concept or a principle when nobody objects. The real test of commitment is how one reacts when there are those who disagree."

AmericaBlog provides lots and lots of contact information to let concerned citizens know how to contact Ford.



Senator Arlen Specter's home will be the focal point of a Winter Solstice Peace Event at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, December 18, sponsored by several peace organizations which belong to the Philadelphia Regional Anti-War Network (PRAWN).

"He's way overdue on speaking out on this war," said Celeste Zappala, a Mount Airy resident who lost a son in Iraq and who is a member of Military Families Speak Out.

"If Cindy Sheehan could go all the way to Texas to Bush's ranch, we can certainly go a few blocks to Senator Specter's house," said Chris Robinson, a member of the Northwest Peace and Justice Movement.

Robinson said the vigil will take place on the corner of Timber Lane and Schoolhouse Lane in East Falls. Specter lives at 4111 Timber Lane.

"It is too late for the more than 2100 families who lost a loved one," said Zappala. "They are tied forever by grief to the disaster that is the Iraq War. Saving the lives of those who are still serving or about to be sent to Iraq is the urgent mission of all military families."

The Winter Solstice Peace Event at Specter's home on December 18 has been endorsed by the Green Party of Philadelphia, Northwest Peace Coalition, Northwest Peace and Justice Movement, Peace Action of Delaware Valley, Philadelphia War Resisters League, PRAWN (the Philadelphia Regional Anti-War Network), and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).

Meanwhile, Specter's office in the Federal Building, 6th and Market Streets in Center City, will be targeted by the Philadelphia Affinity Group on December 7. They are seeking an appointment with Specter to ask him to sponsor legislation in the Senate to allow Pentagon funds in Iraq to be used only for the safe and orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops. Such legislation -- H.R. 4232 "The End the War in Iraq Act of 2005" -- has already been introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman James McGovern (D-MA).

The Philadelphia Affinity Group is composed of persons who were arrested in a non-violent demonstration in front of the White House on September 26, 2005.

More information contact Chris Robinson at 215-843-4256 or check PRAWN's website at


Latest Bush speech

The problems I have with the very first paragraph of Bush's "Strategy for Victory":

Helping the Iraqi People Defeat the Terrorists and Build an Inclusive Democratic State

  • Victory in Iraq is Defined in Stages
    • Short term, Iraq is making steady progress in fighting terrorists, meeting political milestones, building democratic institutions, and standing up security forces.
    • Medium term, Iraq is in the lead defeating terrorists and providing its own security, with a fully constitutional government in place, and on its way to achieving its economic potential.
    • Longer term, Iraq is peaceful, united, stable, and secure, well integrated into the international community, and a full partner in the global war on terrorism.

The "Short term" of course presumes that "Iraqis" want to "fight terrorists", or that insurgents are even defined as terrorists by the current Iraqi government.

In the "Medium term" the presumption is made that a "constituitional government" would somehow not include any Iraqis who are today shooting at American soldiers. Once, while we were waiting upon the arrival of Bush's second Inaugural parade, A follower of Lyndon LaRouche told me that Hugo Chavez' popularity among Venezuela's voters wasnt really meaningful because Chavez was "mostly popular among the poor, so it doesn't really count." I suppose one could do a similar reading upon native Iraqis who are fighting American soldiers, but I suspect their popularity among Iraqi voters is likely to be quite significant. I and many others noted in mid-2003 that a guerrilla force without followers among the population was like a group of fish out of water. They need peopl supporting them so that they can get meals, places to sleep, places to launch ambushes from, etc. Their popularity is certainly significant enough that they would be entitled to quite a number of seats in a truly free and fair election. Hard to see how that could be squared with a government that was "in the lead defeating terrorists".

"Long term" - Hmm, "peaceful" but busy fighting the "global war on terrorism"? Um, er, okay. Perhaps if all of the "terrorism" were coming in from abroad or from outside the Iraqi "community". That of course presumes that the people currently fighting Americans could be somehow eliminated without causing utter depopulation. In which case, it's hard to see how it's ever going to be "secure". depoulating the Iraqi contryside would demand a major, long-term deployment of American troops, which might make integration into the "international community" a bit difficult.

In short, the latest "plan" is very, very short on realistic assessments and very, very heavy on wishful thinking.


Gee, I wonder...

David Brooks writes in the NY Times that:

Every time you delve into the situation in Iraq, you come away with the phrase 'not enough troops' ringing in your head, and I hope someday we will find out how this travesty came about.

Wow! He really doesn't know? He really has no clue as to why America doesn't have anywhere near enough soldiers to do the job in Iraq? That Donald Rumsfeld decided long before the Iraq War that it would be fought on the cheap, with minimal troops? Rumsfeld is now trying to dodge the blame for his underestimation of what was needed, but he was following a pretty clear philosophy:

Rumsfeld moved quickly following September 11 to reframe the Quadrennial Defense Review as part of the new war on terrorism, pushing hard for a new generation of "modular" combat units heavy enough to sustain combat over time, yet light enough to be packed into transport aircraft for quick movement. Although the Army had already begun work on this piece of the transformation under its chief of staff, Gen. Eric Shinseki, Rumsfeld increased the implementation pressure dramatically.
Throughout the period, Rumsfeld continued to push for increased outsourcing, especially in basic administrative services such as information technology, security, and maintenance. "Why is the Defense Department one of the last organizations that still cuts its own checks?" he asked in 2001 in a harbinger of contracting-out to come. "When an entire industry exists just to run warehouses efficiently, why do we still own and operate so many of our own? At bases around the world, why do we pick up our own garbage and mop our own floors rather than contracting those services out, as many businesses do?"

Problems with this business-like, efficiency-based philosophy surfaced quickly. Cooking meals for troops in the field was outsourced to private contractors:

A few days ago I talked to a soldier just back from Iraq. He'd been in a relatively calm area; his main complaint was about food. Four months after the fall of Baghdad, his unit was still eating the dreaded M.R.E.'s: meals ready to eat. When Italian troops moved into the area, their food was "way more realistic" — and American troops were soon trading whatever they could for some of that Italian food.

The essential problem of course, is that civilian contractors cannot reasonably be expected to serve under enemy fire. Outsourcing meal preparation to private contractors meant that front-line troops couldn't get hot meals. Privatization caused still further problems:

There's also another element in the Iraq logistical snafu:privatizedn. The U.S. military has shifted many tasks traditionally performed by soldiers into the hands of such private contractors as Kellogg Brown & Root, the Halliburton subsidiary. The Iraq war and its aftermath gave this privatized system its first major test in combat — and the system failed.

According to the Newhouse News Service, "U.S. troops in Iraq suffered through months of unnecessarily poor living conditions because some civilian contractors hired by the Army for logistics support failed to show up." Not surprisingly, civilian contractors — and their insurance companies — get spooked by war zones. The Financial Times reports that the dismal performance of contractors in Iraq has raised strong concerns about what would happen in a war against a serious opponent, like North Korea.

Privatization miserably failed its field test. The US armed forces don't keep all of their functions under a unified command because they're the victims of old-fashioned thinking, they do it because private contractors are very limited in what they can do when it comes to operating under dangerous conditions. When someone signs up to be a member of the armed forces, danger is part of the contract, death and injury are real possibilities. Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen get trained to handle those possibilities and to get the mission completed anyway.

Rumsfeld also felt that fast, light forces could do the job. Well, they could have, if the job had been limited simply to demolishing Saddam Hussein's army and if fighting a guerrilla war had not been necessary. As it was, even something as early as guarding the al Qa-qaa ammo dump was beyond the capacity of Rumsfeld's "fast, light" forces.

As the Chief of the Iraq Survey Group, Charlie Duelfer pointed out, the US didn't have enough troops to both seize Baghdad and secure weapons sites.

The commander of the first unit into the area told CBS he did not search it for explosives or secure it from looters. "We were still in a fight," he said. "our focus was killing bad guys." He added he would have needed four times more troops to search and secure all the ammo dumps he came across.

In other words, the Bush Administration got America into a fight it wasn't prepared to win. Bush, Rice, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz failed to see to it that the US armed forces were up to the strength necessary to complete the task assigned to them.

Rumsfeld's two ideas, "fast, light" forces and privatization failed when applied to real-world conditions. Rumsfeld is very tired of hearing about Eric Shinseki, but the fact remains, Shinseki was right and Rumsfeld was wrong. The US needed several hundred thousand troops to secure Iraq once the main-force fighting was over. Of course, a draft would have been necessary to have built up a force of the size needed and Bush has never called for any real sacrifice to fight his little vanity war, meaning it was doomed from the start.

Unfortunately for David Brooks, there's no mystery as to why US forces in Iraq are understrength. It's the result of Donald Rumsfeld's ideas concerning efficiency and privatization.

FURTHER THOUGHTS: In a Quick & Dirty Guide To War (At least I think it was in this book, I know I have the author right), James F Dunnigan points out that there were two methods of replacing casualties in World War II, the American way and the German way. The Americans borrowed from their method of re-supplying grocery stores and automobile dealerships. The officer in charge of the unit would count up how many "units" (men) were lost to combat and order up the appropriate number of replacements "Send me 17 riflemen, 5 tank-crew members and an artillery officer."

The Germans, drawing upon centuries of land warfare, kept units in the field until they were worn-out and needed a break, sent them to the rear, new personnel would then report, unit-wide training would commence and the veterans trained the newbies until that unit became a solid, cohesive group. Until it had become a unit where everybody knew everybody else and they had all gained confidence in each other. When the German unit reported back to the front, casualtes among the newbies were proportionately not much greater than they were among veterans.

By contrast, when American newbies reported to the front, casualties among them were proportionately much, much higher than they were among veterans. American newbies reported without knowing anybody, without having had any experience working alongside the veterans, without having gained any confidence in their new partners. No two ways about it, the German way was far superior.

Using Rumsfeld's corporate-influenced theories of warfare, the American Army tries to send cooks into the field that aren't even soldiers, that don't have any training at all. Not surprisingly, it's like tossing people into a furnace. They're almost certain to get burned up.


Credibility and groups

Really good piece in DailyKos about a media person who says in an interview that a copy desk is a critically-necessary resource for a reporter and how she would have been lost without a editor to oversee her work and provide advice and guidance. I agree with Armando (The writer on this piece) that yes, an editor is indeed a valuable resource for a lot of people, and probably a necessity for just about everybody who's starting out, but an editor is no guarantee that a story will be done right. In fact, Armando cites whole institutions who just took the uncorroborated word of just one side's lawyer in a case and who never even bother to look up the original interview that the allegation is based on. Sloppiness is hardly something that only individuals are guilty of and that automatically disappears in groups.

Of course, it could also be that these groups have agendas like "Gee, we've been awfully tough on this guy lately, let's give him a break and 'interpret' this story in a way that makes him look good." The effect is the same. Stories get altered and told incorrectly because of hidden agendas or sheer sloppiness, in both cases shortchanging the American citizen of an honest telling of the story.

The New York Times just finished up the case of Judith Miller, a reporter who posted numerous stories to the front page about Saddam Hussein's [snark] evil, awful, scary Weapons of Mass Destruction that constituted an obvious and growing threat to the good ol' US of A [/end snark]. The Times clearly had many agendas behind their giving free reign to "Miss Run-Amok" (Her term, amazingly enough), and regaining credibility with the Republicans who were jumping up and down and banging their fists on the table in support of a war with Iraq seems to have been a pretty major motivation. We don't know this, of course, as no one has gone on record to confirm that and they probably will not for several decades.

Of course, lest anybody get the impression that I'm romanticizing individuals as always being better than organizations, there are the real amateur who just have no clue.

What a sad, sad joke

Gotta say, I really agree with Melanie of Bump in the Beltway, Bush doesn't look like a calm, cool Commander-in-Chief here. He looks like he's desparately trying to hang on before the tide sweeps him away. Definitely a man facing heavy weather.

My problem is, of course, that I just can't take the guy seriously when he talks of “we” and “us” and how “we” must stay the course. Problem is, George's grandfather was rich, his father was rich (still is) and he was always rich. He's never been down in the trenches, he's never been within 100 miles of any real personal danger, he's never had to make any kind of sacrifice for the common good. The guy is simply not believable, with or without his “let's play dress up and pretend” military-style outfits. Maybe a lot of the country is used to seeng him on TV as a tough, macho cowboy sort-of fellow and perhaps I don't buy it just because I don't watch much TV, but I've always seen Bush as a cigars and gold watches and three-piece-suit kinda guy.

Talk of “Not on my watch” rings even more hollow when 9-11 happened on his watch, New Orleans just about ceased to exist on his watch, Iraq dissolved into chaos on his watch and never recovered. Afghanistan was not cleaned up before Georgie-boy opened up a new front and still is not squared-away. Sorry, but far, far too much has happened on “his watch” for me to take him the slightest bit seriously when he uses Reagan's old phrase.

George is running around lecturing China? On anything? We've got Cheney running around trying to get the CIA exempted from laws on torture and Bush is lecturing the Chinese on human rights?!?!? Gimme a frickin' break! What a joke!

UPDATE: From LeftCoaster:
In a sign of China's widening diplomatic leverage, President Bush on Sunday ended his first visit to Beijing in more than three years with no clear commitments on issues ranging from China's trade surplus and currency valuation to intellectual property rights and democratization.


Excellent point!

It's already been pointed out that it was grossly inappropriate for Bush to appear on the deck of an aircraft carrier wearing a military uniform and that he was displaying an obvious political cowardice by choosing to appear only before audiences that would be sure to clap and cheer him. Nevertheless, this is a very good point:

I've obviously missed something. When did it become appropriate for the Commander-in-Chief to go onto a military installation before a military crowd and denounce the opposition party? I cannot remember a time in my 21-year career when anything remotely like this happened. Is it just me or are we embarked on something very dark and dangerous for our democracy?


Remember all that talk about how Americans don't torture?

In the words of Emily Litella "Never mind". National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley corrected the record:

In an important clarification of President George W. Bush's earlier statement, a top White House official refused to unequivocally rule out the use of torture, arguing the US administration was duty-bound to protect Americans from terrorist attack.
Republican Senator Kit Bond, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told Newsweek magazine that "enhanced interrogation techniques" had worked with at least one captured high-level Al-Qaeda operative, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, to thwart an unspecified plot.

Emphasis by

And I have to agree 100% with Senator McCain:

The senator said he disagreed with that approach because he was worried about the damage to the image of the United States. "I hold no brief for the terrorists," he said. "But it's not about them. It's about us. This battle we're in is about the things we stand for and believe in and practice. And that is an observance of human rights, no matter how terrible our adversaries may be."

It's not as though anyone believed Bush in the first place when he said "We don't torture" (I noticed a few verbal loopholes right off the bat), but now Hadley has made it clear. The US doesn't torture, except of course, when it does.


This sure means something

Not really sure WHAT it means, but it sure is a meaningful passage:

A good one from the Assrocket. But not his best:

It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can't get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile.

That, I submit, remains Assrocket's masterpiece.

Yeah, hmm, let's see...a leader of a democracy where the people can't stand him. Hmm, what should we call that? My vote is for "Failed Presidency.

Incoherent gibberish

I read Glenn Reynolds' original piece on this, but The Talent Show reproduces the important passages, so why bother linking to the original and getting cooties from it? This section especially drew my notice:

Patriotic people could -- and did -- oppose the [Iraq] war. But so did a lot of scoundrels. And some who supported the war were not patriotic, if they did it out of opportunism or political calculation rather than honest belief. Those who are now trying to recast their prior positions through dishonest rewriting of history are not patriotic now, nor were they when they supported the war, if they did so then out of opportunism --which today's revisionist history suggests.

Now, what exactly does this mean? Honorable and dishonorable people both opposed the war. Uh, what exactly is the point of that statement? What does that statement prove, exactly? What exact meaning follows from that statement?
In any event, Reynolds had begun by claiming that opponents of the war were, by definition, unpatriotic. Before the quoted passage he said:

Reader Kathleen Boerger emails: "Could you do me a favor and define 'patriotism' please?"

I think it starts with not uttering falsehoods that damage the country in time of war, simply because your donor base wants to hear them

Of course, Reynolds at no point in his post gives an indication as to what exactly the anti-war folks lied about. The lies of the Bush Administration are legion, so gross and so numerous that it's hard to think of an appropriate metaphor.
I agree with Reynolds' following point:

...people who have spent the past year saying that Bush took us to war to enrich Halliburton somehow now think it's beyond the bounds of civilized discussion to question people's motives on the war.

But one might notice in reading lefty commentary that not very many of us make any real attempt to guess at Bush's motivations. I once gave an interviews to a reporter in my capacity as "Prospective protester waiting to board bus that will take him to site of protest" and I indeed guessed upon the whys and wherefores as to the war, but I remember making it very clear that I was just guessing as to the reasons for the war, and that as I had no real clue as to why, I was just taking a shot at it. Again, as we have so very many times before under this president, we're dealing with a straw man of an argument. At best, this rebuttal deals with a minority of anti-war critics.


Moral authority and torture

Bump in the Beltway reprints an article from the LA Times that discusses the torture camps in Eastern Europe. Among it's very persuasive arguments is the following:

The argument that the U.S. should not heed the Geneva Convention because its enemies do not sets the stage for a race to the barbaric bottom.

Also, the MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Database demonstrates that there has been a steep rise in terrorist incidents over all of the years that Bush has been our president, i.e. the statistics demonstrate that torture has done little or nothing to head off terrorist incidents or to prevent them from happening. What clearly does happen when torture is used is that America's moral authority disappears down the drain.

In Argentina, Hugo Chavez has been severely criticizing the US. In response:

Bush argued for the American model, instead of the neo-socialist approach being taken and advocated by the wildly popular Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.

That latter approach, the president said, "seeks to roll back the democratic progress of the past two decades by playing to fear, pitting neighbor against neighbor, and blaming others for their own failures to provide for their people."

Now at the moment, it would be hard to find any failures in Venezuela, where Chavez has been using his country’s windfall revenues from oil to fund schools, to help displaced and unemployed workers take over shuttered factories and run them as co-ops, and to bring in doctors from Cuba to bring health care to the country’s poor.

Instead of being able to forthrightly respond that the US has a better government than Chavez does, Bush first used this "straw man" approach of describing his opponent in a way that nobody else in the world recognizes but that his right-wing base back home applauds. Finally however, Bush felt obliged to reply to the reports of torture camps in Eastern Europe:

`We do not torture,'' he declared.

``There's an enemy that lurks and plots and plans and wants to hurt America again,'' Bush said. ``So you bet we will aggressively pursue them but we will do so under the law.''
``Our country is at war and our government has the obligation to protect the American people,'' Bush said. ``Any activity we conduct is within the law. We do not torture.''

Of course, it's clear by "law" that Bush is not referring to the Geneva Conventions. Those were the laws that our current Attorney General referred to as "quaint" and "obsolete". What law is Bush referring to? The law perhaps that Vice-President Cheney is trying to get the Senate to adopt, the law that makes it okay for CIA agents to torture, but not regular soldiers?

Sorry, but the US record on torture leaves the US with absolutely ZERO moral authority to argue that Chavez is anything other than a marvelous and upright and respectable leader.

UPDATE: BuzzFlash comes up with the most sensible reason yet for the Bush Administration to engage in torture.


Cindy Sheehan's question

The famous question Cindy Sheehan asked of President Bush that Bush never saw fit to answer was “What was the 'noble cause' that my son died for?” Her son was Army Specialist Casey Sheehan and he perished in the Iraq War while fighting in Baghdad in April 2004.

Was her expectation of getting an answer a reasonable one?

Is it appropriate for citizens to expect their Commander-in-Chief to explain to them what the reasons for the war are?

Let's take a look at history. In 218 BC, Hannibal of Carthage invaded Italy in order to break Rome's grip on the Mediterranean. His exploits were chronicled by the Roman writer Livy two centuries later. Cannae & Lake Trasimene were his two most famous victories. His main opponent on the Roman side was Scipio. How did Scipio evaluate his foe? In the Penguin version, this is on p 65. /

My men, let me tell you of the sort of warfare you must expect: it will be against an enemy you defeated in the last war both on land and at sea; an enemy from whom you have exacted tribute for twenty years; an enemy from whom you took Sicily and Sardinia as prizes of war. You, therefore, will enter upon it with the high hearts of victory, they are in the despondency of beaten men. Nay more, their readiness to fight at all is due not to courage but necessity – unless you imagine that an enemy who declined combat when his army was still intact, has better hopes of success now that he has lost two thirds of his troops during the passage of the Alps. Perhaps you will answer that though they are few they are nevertheless brave and strong – that they are irresistible fighters. Nonsense! They are the ghosts and shadows of men; already half dead with hunger, cold, dirt and neglect; all their strength has been beaten out of them by the Alpine crags.

And so on and so forth. The war, by the way lasted 16 years, until 202 BC. Did Scipio actually utter these words? Back in college, my Professor of English History told us “Probably not. Ancient historians weren't that worried about what exact words leaders spoke, they were more concerned with what those leaders should have said.” Scipio's words are interesting to us here as they make very clear why the Romans are fighting. After twenty years of receiving tribute from Carthage, Rome must now defend itself from the Carthaginians, who have crossed the Alps into Northern Italy in order to do damage to Rome and its possessions.

How about Hannibal's reasons for war?

Circumstances compel you [My soldiers] to fight; but those same circumstances offer you in the event of victory nobler rewards than a man might pray for, even from the immortal gods. The prize would be great enough, were we only to recover by the strength of our hands the islands of Sicily and Sardinia which our fathers lost; but all the heaped wealth of Rome, won in her long career of conquest, will be yours

He also disses the enemy: army of raw recruits, beaten this very summer to its knees and penned in by the Gauls – an army and its commander still strangers to one another.

And provides further reasons for the war:

They demand the right to dictate to us who our friends should be and who our enemies. They circumscribe our liberties, barring us in behind barriers of rivers or mountains beyond which we may not pass – but they do not themselves observe the limits they have set.

So the answer to the question here is yes. By traditions going back at least 2000 years, it is entirely appropriate for citizens to expect their Commander-in-Chief to explain the reasons for the war that they are currently engaged in. I noticed that conservatives did not attempt to explain what the war in Iraq was all about when Ms Sheehan first posed her question. It would have been inappropriate for them to do so. Explaining the purpose of the war was President Bush's job. I notice that support for the President and for the war have both sharply declined over the past few months. I would suggest that it is precisely Bush's failure to articulate what the war is all about and what it is that America hopes to achieve that is driving the popularity of the war ever downwards.

BTW: Billmon composes a thinkpiece on the Iraq War in which motivations and objectives are highly relevant.

Peggy's valentine to the blogs

Many thanks to Peggy Noonan for the wet, sloppy kiss!
Still, I'm thankful there is a mainstream media (MSM) and I really hope they get their act together and start reporting real news instead of just running Bush Administration press releases.


How to write a persuasive article

[I wrote this for the PhillyIMC Editorial Meeting and decided it might be of general interest. BTW, the first two links don't go anywhere.]

Let's use a journey metaphor. I tend to think in terms of horse-drawn carraiges, but you can use whatever vehicle strikes your fancy. The idea in writing a persuasive article is that you want to start your journey with a very specific destination in mind. In other words, you want your reader to arrive at a specific conclusion. You want him or her to think “This writer is correct! The answer to the question is...”. The recommended way to begin then, is to write down the one to three sentences with which you'll end the article. Once your conclusion is down on the screen, you can check each major assertion in the article against that conclusion “Does this assertion help lead my reader to the conclusion that I've typed out?” is the question you want to constantly ask yourself.

The Starting Point

Where do you begin? Well, where is your reader “located”? What is their state of knowledge? An example would be the current “Plamegate” scandal. Before you begin writing, you need to have some idea as to how knowledgable your reader is. Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald is currently prosecuting that case. On many of the liberal blogs, he's referrred to simply as “Fitzgerald” because he's been referred to so many times and the readers now generally know who he is. If you're writing for a more general audience, you might want to use the more expansive defnition that I gave the first time. Another way to refer to “Plamegate”, for instance, would be the Joe Wilson/Valerie Plame/Niger uranium scandal that Vice-President Cheney's Chief of Staff Lewis Libby had to resign for. You can always compromise by using the expansive definition first and then the nickname each time afterwards. Just be sure your reader can tell that the nickname clearly refers to the item in the full definition.

The Route Along the Way

Each fact must directly support the conclusion. If there is not a clear, straight line between one and the other, you probably shouldn't use the fact. Say you want your reader to conclude that marijuana is addictive (Some followers of Lyndon LaRouche actually believe this).

Telling your readers a story about how you attended a concert and it was soooo cool because you were like, soooo stoned is probably not helpful to your case as you don't want to give the reader the impression that you enjoyed being addicted. Saying on the other hand that: “I used to smoke that awful stuff, it was hard to quit.” would probably help your case a great deal.

A list of your paraphernalia would probably help because it would illustrate how deeply you were into it. A list of the really cool lovers you hooked up with while stoned would confuse the reader because you're trying to convince the reader that being stoned was bad for you.


There are three types of references. A short quote is done simply as “I went down to the store”. The link is usually then done right beforehand. Usually, writers link to a word that would ordinarily be “bolded” anyway. “Ordinarily, people would snap the fizzle '...with a cheerful and determined snap.' ”

For long quotes, these are usually done in paragraphs where your quote is long enough to justify a separate paragraph. The reference can be right before as in the last example or within the paragraph, again it's best to use a word or phrase that would be bolded in any event. When in doubt, use the first two or three words to do the link with.

For another article that's too long to quote from because the whole thing is just so darned good, you can provide a “Read Asia Times today” sort of statement and make the link go to the specific article that you found so good. Usually when I do this, I like to provide a “teaser” or an explanation as to why the piece is so good.


Usually, an assertion or accusation is more likely to be true if there are sources to back them up. Fortunately with the Internet, a link is all you need to establish that an assertion is a fact. Here's an example of someone who does not make use of sources:

John Hinderaker of Power Line explores the legal liability question:

"A violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act seems highly unlikely. It is doubtful whether Rove or any other administration source knew of Plame's affiliation with the CIA through access to classified materials; it is further questionable whether Rove or any other source knew that she was a 'covert' employee, or that the government was making an effort to keep her affiliation with the Agency a secret. (In fact, it is unclear whether the Agency did make such an effort.) As to the third situation covered by the statute, neither Rove nor any other administration source identified Plame as part of a 'pattern of activities intended to identify or expose covert agents' for the purpose of impairing national security.

"It is hard to see how Rove could be indicted for violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, and it is very unlikely that he would have been foolish enough to testify falsely before the grand jury about his conversations with journalists. None of this will matter much, though, when it is publicly acknowledged that Rove was one of the sources of the Plame 'leak.' (This isn't, by the way, the sort of communication that is ordinarily referred to as a 'leak.') We can expect a media feeding frenzy or potentially unprecedented proportions."

As I've pointed out in some other posts, this is all mind-reading. This is the statement of someone who makes absolutely zero use of sources. He gives himself away with phrases like: "It is doubtful", "it is further questionable", "it is unclear", "It is hard to see", etc. What's absolutely crystal clear here is that Hindraker is, as the saying goes, talking out of his butt. He's guessing. It's clear that he has no evidence to back up anything he's stabbing in the dark at.

Now, one can get away with not using sources if one is a bit of an expert in the subject being discussed. I'm a Navy veteran who took part in numerous Damage-Control drills back when I was stationed on a ship. Lessons I learned from this could then be applied to the government's reaction to 9-11 and Hurricane Katrina and a few other minor incidents. My conclusion that during 9-11, the President should have gotten himself to a command post, either at a base, to Air Force One or onto a ship is based on my Damage-Control experience. I made it clear to my readers that I had the relevant experience and then told them what I thought.

The final way is to put two & two together for your readers. Simply stating the facts with perhaps a sentence summarizing how the facts fit together is usually the best way to do this. One might wish to use sources to back up the facts one cites, of course.

Introduction to the piece

After one finishes writing the piece, look through it for something that might grab the reader. Look for an interesting twist or not-well-known fact that you can use. Then put that up front. If that doesn't seem to be a profitable approach, remember the Army rule of writing “Tell 'em what you're gonna tell 'em, tell 'em, then tell 'em what you told 'em.” You “told them what you told them” by writing the conclusion before writing anything else. You “told them” by filling in all of the details and proof to back up the details. So for the introduction, you can “tell them what you're going to tell them.”

And that's it. You've now composed a persuasive piece!


A right-winger complains in our local paper

What we're fed is an unbalanced menu of negative news.

All the right is asking for is some parity so that in regard to Iraq, for example, the positive is reported and analyzed along with the negative, fair and balanced. Do that and just watch the criticism subside or disappear.

Sounds like a thoroughly unobjectionable and fair and proper thing to us all, eh? I could certainly live with that as a general rule. But how did the right act when they had he megaphone? How much parity did the left get? How “fair and balanced” was the news? My memory is that there was no parity, there was not even the pretense of anything resembling “fair and balanced”. Dave Lindorff explains:

If the N.Y. Times, in articles by Miller, was reporting breathlessly about Hussein’s having vast stocks of poison gas, germ and nuclear weapons, all ready to be delivered to the U.S. any day on pilotless drone airplanes, that was good enough for most of the rest of the nation’s media. And if any reporters elsewhere had sources who were questioning this view, they had an almost insurmountable task trying to convince their editors that they were right and the Times was wrong.

Leftist or just plain skeptcal views were pushed to the back pages, writers like Judith Miller, who were pushing hysterical stories of imminent death, were placed front-and-center in both newspapers and on newscasts.

In mid-2003, Michael Moore accepted an Acadmy Award. He carried on about how the Iraq War was immoral. [emphasis added]

Michael Moore was booed. Lustily booed. Loudly booed. Every single human being with functional ears heard this. It's on tape. It's history. It's a simple fact.
And while a few folks in the audience (mostly in the balcony area) did not appreciate his pushing-the-envelope style, many applauded him for his bold scolding of the main man in the White House.

I saw a tape of Moore making his speech and it sure enough did sound like everybody and his brother, Aunt Ellie and little Suzy too, were all booing as loudly and lustily as they could. It was a wonder he could hear himself! Not only did conservatives object to liberals speaking, not only did they not want to hear what we had to say, they wanted to give the public the false impression that such viewpoints were less popular than they actually were!

Sorry, but conservatves have no claim to any kind, sort or variety of fairness.


Incompetent propaganda

From The Angry Arab News Service (Gee, what could they possibly be mad about?). Despite the fact that Saddam Hussein "deserves every humiliation that is visited on him, and more", Hussein is nevertheless winning support among "vulgar Arab nationalist segments" by appering on the stand as "...strong and unrepentant, the fact that he challenged the court, scored points in his favor among some in Arab public opinion".

...make no mistake about this. Those who foolishly took this country to war, are also managing the most foolish propaganda campaign ever. With every appearance, Saddam's standing among some in Arab public opinion seems to go up, not necessarrily because of any skills of his, and not because people admire him, but because the people the US brings as his judges are either buffoons or incompetent lawyers who are easily intimidated by Saddam. As far as the show is concerned, Saddam performs better than those lousy judges the US brings to confront him. And just by appearing, mereley appearing, to stand up to US occupation enhances his public standing.

Also, how's our old buddy Iyad Allawi doing? He was the guy who ran Iraq from the time the US "gave sovereignty back to the Iraqis" to the January elections. Well, er, not so hot.


McClellan, Thomas and WOT

Questions today from longtime White House reporter Helen Thomas caused White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan to declare that she opposes the war on terrorism. His response caused one of Thomas's colleagues, Terry Moran, to leap to her defense.

Here is the exchange from the official transcript:

HELEN THOMAS: What does the President mean by "total victory" -- that we will never leave Iraq until we have "total victory"? What does that mean?

SCOTT McCLELLAN: Free and democratic Iraq in the heart of the Middle East, because a free and democratic Iraq in the heart of the Middle East will be a major blow to the ambitions --

THOMAS If they ask us to leave, then we'll leave?

McCLELLAN: I'm trying to respond. A free and democratic Iraq in the heart of the broader Middle East will be a major blow to the ambitions of al Qaeda and their terrorist associates. They want to establish or impose their rule over the broader Middle East -- we saw that in the Zawahiri letter that was released earlier this week by the intelligence community.

Obviously, McClellan was very, very distressed by Thomas' question as he never gets back to actually answering it. Thomas' question to McClellan is infuriating to him because if America does not succeed in establishing a “free and democracatic” Iraq, there is apparently no "Plan B". Neither McClellan here nor the Administration in general appears to have any kind of back-up plan to use in case the Iraqis have no enthusiasm for the plans that have been made for them. And of course, McClellan's assertion that al Qaeda "...want[s] to establish..." their rule or his assertion that the establishment of a certain kind of Iraq will be a setback to them is sheer, flat-out mind-reading. If the US had any sort of insight into al Qaeda's intentions or plans, it would have been able to stop their attacks on Saudi Arabia, Spain, England, etc. Any claim by the Bush Administration that they know with any certainty what al Qaeda wants or desires is just plain wishful thinking.

Juan Cole makes some very sensible comments in response to Bush's October 6th speech. Here, he responds to the idea that al Qaeda is attempting to take over Iraq:

"The murderous ideology of the Islamic radicals is the great challenge of our new century. Yet, in many ways, this fight resembles the struggle against communism in the last century. Like the ideology of communism, Islamic radicalism is elitist, led by a self-appointed vanguard that presumes to speak for the Muslim masses . . ."

It is not important that al-Qaeda ideology is Leninist. What is important is that Lenin and his successors had a state, the Soviet Union, which was a superpower. Bin Laden is a fugitive. Al-Qaeda not only does not have a state, it doesn't have really good places to hide. It is ridiculous to attempt to scare the American people into thinking that there is this huge, Soviet-style challenge out there, when in fact "al-Qaeda" is a few hundred or at most a couple thousand local misfits and fanatics. The enemy is fishermen in Mombasa, Bedouin first-generation intellectuals in the Sinai, British school teachers meeting in a gym in Leeds, part-time seminarians in Indonesia. This asymmetrical enemy is not like Soviet communism. It is like the Baader Meinhoff gang and other small terrorist organizations.

Is democratizing Iraq the only possible route to a more peaceful Mideast? Cole loses patience with Bush here.

"Some have also argued that extremism has been strengthened by the actions of our coalition in Iraq, claiming that our presence in that country has somehow caused or triggered the rage of radicals. I would remind them that we were not in Iraq on September the 11th, 2001 -- and al Qaeda attacked us anyway. The hatred of the radicals existed before Iraq was an issue, and it will exist after Iraq is no longer an excuse. The government of Russia did not support Operation Iraqi Freedom, and yet the militants killed more than 180 Russian schoolchildren in Beslan" . . .

This argument is stupid. That Iraq is not the only grievance of the radical Muslim fundamentalists is obvious. The converse is not true, that Iraq does not matter. I agree with Bush that it is not useful to worry about the crackpot reasons for which al-Qaeda says it does things. But what we want to avoid doing is to spread around sympathy for al-Qaeda-like ideas.

The point about the US military occupation of Iraq is that it serves to convince Muslim publics that the al-Qaeda leaders were right to see the US as an imperialist, domineering power that wanted to take their lands, rape their women, humiliate their men, and steal their oil. We needed to avoid doing things that would help al-Qaeda recruit a new generation of trained activists. By going into Iraq in this way, the Bush administration has vindicated Bin Laden in the eyes of many Muslims. [emphasis added]

No, obviously, democratizing Iraq is not the only possible way forward. Cole also discusses al Qaeda's ambitions:

"Second, the militant network wants to use the vacuum created by an American retreat to gain control of a country, a base from which to launch attacks and conduct their war against non-radical Muslim governments. Over the past few decades, radicals have specifically targeted Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, and Jordan for potential takeover."

Yeah, except that at no point have the radical Muslim fundamentalists ever come anywhere near taking over any of those countries. It is like saying that the Weathermen dreamed of a revolution against the US government in the late 1960s. So what? Small fringe groups dream big dreams.

Translation: Establishing al Qaeda's control over the broader Middle East ain't gonna happen in any event.

THOMAS They also know we invaded Iraq.

McCLELLAN: Well, Helen, the President recognizes that we are engaged in a global war on terrorism. And when you're engaged in a war, it's not always pleasant, and it's certainly a last resort. But when you engage in a war, you take the fight to the enemy, you go on the offense. And that's exactly what we are doing. We are fighting them there so that we don't have to fight them here. September 11th taught us --

THOMAS It has nothing to do with -- Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.

McCLELLAN: Well, you have a very different view of the war on terrorism, and I'm sure you're opposed to the broader war on terrorism. The President recognizes this requires a comprehensive strategy, and that this is a broad war, that it is not a law enforcement matter.

What this exchange demonstrates is that McClellan and the Bush Administration are very, very confused concerning the War on Terrori Bush and his spokespeople have never distinguished exactly what the WOT is all about. Apparently, it's a war against a tactic or form of fighting, i.e. terrorism. So they throw in 9-11 whenever and wherever they get the chance. Problem is, they also continually drag Iraq and Afghanistan into the picure whenever they think they can get away with it. But there's zero proof that Iraq ever had anything to do with terrorism. Iraq under Hussein committed many great and terrible acts of evil to be sure, but to say they used acts of terrorism or aided groups that did so is a thesis that's badly in need of evidence. US intelligence agencies have had several years to look for that evidence and have consistently come up dry.

What exactly is the WOT all about? Beats me.

Personally, I've always compared 9-11, not to Pearl Harbor, but to the Reichstag Fire because the immediate effect of it was primarily domestic. The Bush Administration used it to push for the Patriot Act, a serious assault on the US Constitution. Jose Padilla was imprisoned amidst the sense of panic that 9-11 created and his case remains one where the government claims that it has the right to toss American citizens into jail without any checks, balances, rights or avenues of appeal. Padilla's case endangers all Americans because the precedent it creates applies across the board to all of us. Bush's attempt to have the US military take overall control of New Orleans about a week after the levees burst and his suggestion that the military could quarantine whole regions in the event Avian Flu breaks out are very, very disturbing events that continue to give many American citizens the impression that Bush and Company are doing their very best to turn America into a dictatorship.

I'd like to be wrong about that. I sincerely hope I am.


NY Times Editorial Page Editor Sulzberger discusses Judith Miller case

The editorial page, which is run by Mr. Sulzberger and Gail Collins, the editorial page editor, championed Ms. Miller's cause. The Times published more than 15 editorials and called for Congress to pass a shield law that would make it harder for federal prosecutors to compel reporters to testify.

Mr. Sulzberger said he did not personally write the editorials, but regularly urged Ms. Collins to devote space to them. After Ms. Miller was jailed, an editorial acknowledged that "this is far from an ideal case," before saying, "If Ms. Miller testifies, it may be immeasurably harder in the future to persuade a frightened government employee to talk about malfeasance in high places." [emphasis added]

Joe Wilson was not frightened, but otherwise, there is no difference between this hypothetical case and Wilson's. Joe Wilson was a government employee reporting on malfeasance in high places. Judith Miller, at the miimum, aided and abetted the Bush Administration's attempt to silence Wilson or to punish him for speaking out and thereby silence any other government employees who wanted to follow in Wilson's footsteps.

The NY Times was working directly against the ability of government employees to blow the whistle on government malfeasance. Judy is no First Amdendement hero and never was. The Times should be condemned for having supported her for so very long.

UPDATE: Arianna Huffington covers an extremely questionable point in Miller's story.


An interesting justification

Ryan Chapman, a "senior marketing major" is terribly offended that people would call him a "chickenhawk" just because he supports the Iraq War, but has no plans to sign up for the military to help fight that war. Here's an interesting justification:

The second lie liberals have been spouting lately is that conservatives, most notably the College Republicans, are being hypocritical for supporting the war in Iraq/on terror and the troops serving in those wars without enlisting themselves. This is ludicrous. Supporting the troops means letting them do their jobs and praying for their safety, NOT saying you support them and then holding a rally damning the cause they are fighting for.

"...letting them do their jobs and praying for their safety" sounds like an admirable thing to do. Presumably, that means seeing to it that they're properly supplied with things like body armor, properly armored vehicles, etc. Funny how a soldier challenged Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld about why the government wasn't doing much about that back in December of last year. When a Gold Star Mother recently questioned why this still wasn't being done, the best a pro-war spokesman could offer was that the richest country in the world was "really trying to resolve that issue". [emphases added]

JERRICK: -- because we've had so many people respond to us at DaySide with their emails and phone calls saying that don't you feel like the people who are protesting this war, especially the people we saw down there in D.C. over the weekend, are just giving the terrorists in Iraq and the insurgents in Iraq more hope -- [applause] -- that possibly we're losing will in the United States to continue to battle?

ZAPPALA: Are we losing will because the mission we're trying to accomplish is ill-led, because the soldiers are not well supported, because the information --

HUDDY: When you say "not well supported," what do you mean by that?

ZAPPALA: I mean that we families have had to buy equipment for our young people because they are told you need to go but you're not being supplied with a global positioning device, or you're not being supplied with phones, or you may or may not get a flak jacket.

JERRICK: But the Pentagon is really trying to resolve that issue, Celeste. The Pentagon is really trying to resolve that problem.

I dunno, but it seems to me that the peaceniks are the ones calling for America to support the troops whereas it's the warmongers who are offering weak excuses for why our soldiers are still not receiving things they need, like flak jackets.

So what exactly is it that Ryan thinks peaceniks should not be doing? He says: "...holding a rally damning the cause they are fighting for.". But the soldiers didn't choose the cause. The Commander-in-Chief did that. It wasn't a group of soldiers who decided "Let's invade a country that had nothing to do with 9-11", who decided "Let's invade a country that is not allied with al Qaeda.", who decided "Let's invade a country that has no realistic means of attacking the US, with or without WMD."

No, the American People were urged to make these decisions by their Commander-in-Chief, a fellow named George W. Bush. The troops had nothing to do with that decision. I see nothing "anti-troops" about attacking the motivations behind the launching of the Iraq War.

Ryan fully deserves the title of "chickenhawk"


Iraqi Constitution

On 28 August, the new Iraqi constitution was approved after having been delayed twice. In a very bad sign for national unity, the BBC pointed out that:

All 15 of the Sunni representatives on the negotiating committee stayed away from Sunday's signing ceremony, refusing to be associated with a document they regard with deep suspicion.

The BBC article claimed that the Shiites of Iraq wanted to: "sweep away the remnants of the old regime." and to esssentially break up the country into three pieces, both ideas of which were and are vehemently opposed by the Sunnis. And now, with

One week before Iraqis vote on a constitution intended to remake their nation, U.S. and Arab diplomats are scrambling to broker last-minute concessions from Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish faction leaders that would persuade the Sunni Arab minority to drop its opposition to the proposed charter and defuse the country's Sunni-led insurgency.

As DailyKos points out, it's kinda late to be doing this. The whole constitutional project was done with an eye to American domestic political considerations, not towards anything in Iraq. Granted, it only took from May to September 1787 to write the American Constitution and several issues, notably slavery, were left to future generations to resolve. The "Law of Administration for the State of Iraq for the Transitional Period" started the clock for working out the Iraqi Constitution on 28 June 2004 to be completed by 15 August 2005. Nevertheless, several liberals complained that the process appered to be rushed and, sure enough the last-minute changes strongly indicate that the process was indeed seriously rushed. Juan Cole points that if the Costitution is rejected

...the Shiite majority will feel very, very cheated. They feel that since they won the Jan. 30 elections, they have a right to the constitution they want, and there is a danger of them becoming disillusioned altogether with democracy if the will of the majority is thwarted on this issue.

Earlier, he reported that:

Samawah in the southern Shiite province of Muthanna [was said by] the local population of some 500,000 [to be more] interested in electricity and clean water than in the constitutional referendum.

Sounds like a real mess to me.

"Iraq's electoral commission said Monday that it would delay announcing the results of the nation's constitutional referendum because of possible voting irregularities. In at least six provinces, the turnout to vote on the measure appears to have topped 95 percent, said Izzadin al-Mohammadi, a senior commission official."