2005/10/23

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.
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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.

2005/10/22

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.

2005/10/19

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.

2005/10/15

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.


2005/10/11

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"

2005/10/10

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.

UPDATE:
"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."

2005/10/07

Seriously pathetic!

Oh, this is ridiculous! Pack it in, give it up and let's get all of our troops home!


Baghdad - US-led forces have bombed eight bridges on the Euphrates River in western Iraq to stop insurgents using them, US military spokesperson Major General Rick Lynch said Thursday.

"We have been taking out portions of bridges with precision strikes," he told a news conference.

Of 12 bridges between the Syrian border and Ramadi, 110km west Baghdad, "four remain under control of the coalition forces and Iraqi forces after precision strikes on the others," he said.

"One of the vulnerabilities of this insurgency is freedom of movement," he added.

"We took out portions of these bridges to deny terrorists, foreign fighters and insurgents the capability to cross north to south or south to north across the Euphrates River."

The comments on the News Blog indicate people are just flabbergasted. Blowing bridges is the last desperate thing an army does before it retreats from an area forever and never returns. Defending bridges is something people do in old World War II movies all the time. There's a reason for that. That's not hyperbole. Bridges are how you move troops around the country. The country can probably get by without a few bridges for awhile, but there's usually an economic reason that a bridge is built in a particular place.

More on Bush's speech

Pandagon makes several good points about Bush's speech. What really strikes me about this speech and about the Chris Hitchens piece they quote is the inordinate amount of mind-reading that's going on here. This whole idea of “I know everything there is to know about these folks and I'll tell you exactly what they're thinking” is the same crap we've heard for years. What Bush gives us in the speech is entirely unproven and there's no way to check on anything he says. Bush claims that the US has disrupted 10 terrorist attacks. Evidence? Well, eight of the ten are classified, meaning we'll never know anything about them. Two of the ten are Jose Padilla and a fellow who was thinking of driving a truck-bomb into something. In neither case was there any indication that anything bad would have happened in the absence of US action. In neither case has any evidence been found that either man made a serious attempt or that he could have or would have actually carried anything out.

Slight correction: Actually, we do indeed have a way to check on a claim that Bush makes. As a person from TownHall.com claims “First, [Bush] made the point that Iraq is the central front in the War on Terror by quoting bin Laden saying as much.” I considered this to be an ineresting statement and did a search and only found a statement quoted by DailyKos saying something sort of vaguely similar:


OSAMA BIN LADEN (Translated): I now address my speech to the whole of the Islamic nation: Listen and understand. The issue is big and the misfortune is momentous. The most important and serious issue today for the whole world is this Third World War, which the Crusader-Zionist coalition began against the Islamic nation. It is raging in the land of the two rivers. The world's millstone and pillar is in Baghdad, the capital of the caliphate.
The whole world is watching this war and the two adversaries; the Islamic nation, on the one hand, and the United States and its allies on the other. It is either victory and glory or misery and humiliation. The nation today has a very rare opportunity to come out of the subservience and enslavement to the West and to smash the chains with which the Crusaders have fettered it.



Kinda close, but nowhere near what Bush actually cited. Obviously, bin Laden is not going to use terms like "War on Terror" or "central front", but even allowing for that, it's not at all clear that bin Laden is identifying Iraq as any sort of schwerpunkt (German for concentration of effort). "It is either victory and glory or misery and humiliation." sort of comes close, but in practical terms, a guerrilla army wins as long as it does not lose. The "misery and humiliation" is far more likely to apply to the US than to the "Islamic nation". So, as usual, when Bush “quotes” a liberal or a national enemy or any other sort of opponent, he doesn't take much care to see that he's quoting the other guy correctly.

UPDATE: LeftI acknowledges that the Bush Administration has put out a sketchy list of alleged disruptions of terrorist activities, but notes that convincing details are lacking and that Bush's whole presentation depends very, very heavily on faith that he's right.

FURTHER UPDATE: LA Times article reprinted demonstrates skepticism about alleged foiled plots runs wide and deep.

AND YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Juan Cole does a "fisking" (Detailed, almost line-by-line or paragraph-by-paragraph analysis) of Bush's speech. Well worth reading.

2005/10/06

Latest speech from Bush

Bush re-e-e-ally pushes the ol' fear buttons today! Think Progress has a version of the speech which highlights all the phrases designed to give people nightmares. Here are some selections, in no particular order and emphases are from Think Progress:

Evil men who want to use horrendous weapons against us are working in deadly earnest to gain them.

They seek to end dissent in every form and to control every aspect of life and to rule the soul itself.

the killers choose their victims indiscriminately

The provocations for writing this post, though is this:

No act of ours invited the rage of the killers, and no concession, bribe or act of appeasement would change or limit their plans for murder.

Really? Bush includes in his list of "terrorists", the people who are combatting American occupiers of Iraq, a country that America invaded without provocation. Remember, there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction, the Plame case makes it quite clear that the Bush Administration simply made this threat up out of thin air. One could perhaps claim that there were other threats that the US did have evidence for, but no one has shown that any such evidence ever existed. People going through warnings delivered by the CIA have found those reports absolutely chock-full of words like "if", "but", "considering", "perhaps", "it might be argued that...", etc, etc. Besides, had any such evidence ever existed, why would the Bush Administration have made anything up in the first place? Had there been any serious evidence, why didn't the Bush Administration simply use that? Had there been any true threat from Iraq, there would have been no need for the Plame case ever to have happened.

Bush's latest speech slides over into sheer hysteria. He's obviously gettng desperate to shore up support for the Iraq War. Too bad that over two years into the war, he can't show the American People any genuine progress in that war.

Additionally, Uggabugga points out that:

From Bush's speech:
  • "evil" mentioned 6 times
  • "terror" (& variants) mentioned 31 times
  • "kill" (& variants) mentioned 13 times
  • "radical" (& variants) mentioned 23 times
  • "Bin Laden" mentioned 5 times
That has nothing to do with the present Sunni/Shia/Kurd logjam. Who is buying this nonsense? Limbaugh was full of praise this morning for Bush's "leadership" but a caller to O'Reilly had had enough. She said that Bush misleads, we're stuck in Iraq, that it's a waste of time, money, and men. (O'Reilly noncommital except to bitch about liberals).

Bush:
"The militants believe that controlling one country will rally the Muslim masses, enabling them to overthrow all moderate governments in the region and establish a radical Islamic empire that expands from Spain to Indonesia."
This is unreal. Does Bush's speech reflect the opinion of anybody in the administration?
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I should mention that when I say "hysterical", I don't mean "funny", I mean running down the hallway naked and screaming, arms upraised and blabbering. That's the kind of hysteria Bush is engaging in.

2005/10/05

Avian Flu resources

As a continuation of Avian Flu Awareness Week, here are some blogs and other resources on Avian Flu.

Bush had an interesting comment on the problem: "I take this issue very seriously, The people of the country ought to rest assured that we're doing everything we can." We ought to "rest assured"?!?!? In other words, "Sit down, shut up and daddy will take care of everything!" Problem with that idea is that the blog Bump in the Beltway estimates we're about three years behind in planning for how to deal with it. Fortunately, regular people, scientists and Democrats are raising a stink based on their review of how effectively the government dealt with Hurricane Katrina.

News aggregators and blogrolls

News blogs and daily commentary
  • Recombinomics
    Pointed daily commentaries by Dr. Henry L. Niman on technical aspects of breaking avian influenza news
  • Connotea: Avian flu
    Connotea is a social bookmarking service for scientists, where you can find news links and resources posted by Declan Butler, senior reporter at Nature magazine
  • Pharmaviews news and commentary by Dr. Lelang Teng, MD. Based in Seattle, WA.
  • PoultryMed a site with bird flu news maintained by Dr. Nati Elkin
Authoritative sources of background information
  • ProMED-mail Highly respected medical news source. The Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases is an electronic outbreak reporting system that monitors infectious diseases globally. The news on ProMED are selected and reviewed by health care professionals associated with the International Society for Infectious Diseases. Usually a day or so later than “breaking news” sources but with value added of moderator comments (perspectives vary with particular moderator on duty). The avian influenza news page on ProMED-mail is edited by, among others:
    • Lawrence C. Madoff, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School. Author of three articles in “Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine”
    • Peter Cowen (PC) Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, USA
    • Craig R. Pringle (CP) Emeritus Professor, University of Warwick. Formerly Secretary of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses.
    • Arnon Shimshony (AS) Associate Professor, Koret School of Veterinary Medicine, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
  • Nature: Warnings of a Flu Pandemic Nature Magazine’s 26 May, 2005 issue focusing on avian flu / pandemic. Contains a great number of articles by top experts (mostly on free access).
  • Foreign Affairs: Avian Flu A special section in Foreign Affairs’ July/August 2005 issue. Coverage in coordination with Nature Magazine. Articles by Laurie Garrett, Michael T. Osterholm, William B. Karesh and Robert A. Cook (on free access);
    “No one can truly be isolated from a pandemic” (Osterholm)
Maps and statistics
Please keep in mind this is a partial list and that I just picked out what seemed to me to be the most directly relevant items that newbies like myself might be interested in. Lots more where that came from.

2005/10/04

Jobs, responsibilities & Judith Miller

Back in the Navy, we had a decoration called an ESWS (pronounced eeswoss) that stood fof "Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist". Having one meant that you were well-enough briefed and trained on all the jobs that needed to be done on your ship that, if a mass-casualty event occured, you could fill in on any job well enough to keep things running until the ship made its way back to port. I never dedicated the time and effort necessary to get an ESWS designation myself, but many of my shipmates did and we greatly respected all of the people who did so.

The cultural meaning of the ESWS is that if a job needs doing and the person who normally does it is unable to do it, his or her shipmates will jump right in and get it done. However, if you want your job done for you, but you're perfectly capable of doing it yourself, you're going to earn a "#$%@ you, ya lazy piece-a &%$#!!!"

My uncle was an officer in the Navy and then went out to become a salesperson (I don't remember what he sold, let's just call them "widgets".) Well, my uncle was a very good salesperson and was racking up quite a few sales. The production department called him in. They told him that they couldn't keep up, they couldn't produce enough widgets to keep up wth all the widget contracts he was signing. Their situation was even more difficult because they had to pay him for every succesful sale, even if they hadn't produced the necessary widgets yet. My uncle listened carefully and then replied "We had a special term for that kind of thing back in the Navy. It's called your problem!" Their meeting was then over and he went back to selling and the production department eventually managed to solve their problem.

Concerning to Valerie Plame/Niger uranium/Joseph Wilson scandal:

It's not that [Vice-Presidential Chief of Staff Lewis] Libby didn't give [NY Times reporter Judith] Miller a waiver, he gave all the reporters he spoke to a waiver. Miller isn't sure the waiver isn't coerced.

"Judy's view is that any purported waiver she got from anyone was not on the face of it sufficiently broad, clear and uncoerced," [laywer Floyd] Abrams said.

But making sure that Libby's waiver was uncoerced was not Judith Miller's problem! Miller had absolutely zerobusiness worrying about whether Libby's waiver was coerced or voluntary. If she was given a waiver, spilled the beans and told Prosecutor Fitagerald what he needed to know and it turned out the waiver was insufficiently "broad, clear and uncoerced", then all she would had to do would have been to say "Oops! Sorry 'bout that." End of problem. She would have acted in good faith, based on the information that was available to her at the time.

So why did Miller spend 85 days in jail? Beats me, but it's not because her waiver was insufficiently "broad, clear and uncoerced"

BTW, an especially silly comment is by John Hindraker, who says:

It is widely believed that Miller went to prison in part to restore her credibility on the left, which was damaged by her Iraq war reporting.

Um, if that's the case, I'm afraid I have some really bad news for our friend John. Miller's going to prison did nothing for her credibility with the left. We on the left regarded her as a criminal who was covering for other criminals, probably Bush and Cheney themselves, as Stephanopoulos hinted on This Week:

Then came the surprise revelation from George Stephanopoulos that is guaranteed to make waves — and headlines on tonight's network news shows: "I wonder, George Will, do you think it’s a manageable one for the White House, especially if we don’t know whether Fitzgerald is going to write a report or have indictments, but if he is able to show — as a source close to this told me this week — that President Bush and Vice President Cheney were actually involved in some of these discussions?"

George Will sat there looking utterly impassive during this so if one wasn't paying close attention, it would've flown right by one. I only caught it because had taped it and read about the revelation before viewing it.

BWAH-HA-HA-HA

From a conservative, talking about the Meirs nomination:

I guess W is as clueless as the left has said he is.

Enlightenment dawns!

Can world avoid flu pandemic?

Kerry Fehr-Snyder
The Arizona Republic
Oct. 4, 2005 12:00 AM

Infectious-disease specialists in Arizona and around the world are planning for a flu pandemic they call inevitable - if not this year, then soon.

But whether their plans can stem a worldwide flu outbreak is doubtful, critics say.

The reasons:

• A tiny national stockpile of anti-viral medication to treat those already sick or exposed to a pandemic flu strain.

• An insufficient supply of effective vaccines.

• A lack of capacity at Arizona hospitals to handle a big surge of critically ill patients.

Estimates of the potential worldwide death toll from a flu pandemic today range from 5 million to 150 million, according to the United Nations. In the United States, a pandemic could kill 89,000 to 207,000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

The most likely source of a pandemic flu now is a virulent bird flu that has killed dozens in Asia who handled infected birds.

State officials have been working on a pandemic flu response for five years, but their plan, like the federal draft plan so far, is skimpy on details. However, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is finishing a more detailed plan to be unveiled as early as this week. It may request billions of dollars more from Congress.

Scientists fear the lack of a thorough plan will leave officials and citizens as ill-prepared as the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

"We're way off where anyone thinks we need to be," said Kim Elliott, deputy director of the Trust for America's Health, a non-profit group based in Washington, D.C.

In Arizona, for example, health officials have not stockpiled anti-viral medication because of the cost.

"We don't have the budget or the capacity to have a stockpile of such medication in the state," state epidemiologist David Engelthaler said.

In the event of an outbreak, vaccine and anti-viral medication would be allocated on a priority basis, according to Arizona's draft plan. But the plan doesn't detail criteria.

Among its few specifics, the plan cites several strategies to detect and control a flu pandemic, including:

• Discharging all but critically ill hospital patients to make room for flu patients.


• Expanding mortuary services to handle the dead.

• Ramping up state health lab testing to identify flu pandemic strains.

• Isolating and quarantining residents who are exposed to the virus or are ill from it.

State health officials say they're doing the best they can but may need to ration resources.

"There's a lot of discussions about the ethical use of public health resources during an emergency," said Engelthaler, who helped engineer the state pandemic flu plan.

Setting priorities ahead of time is difficult, especially for the distribution of anti-viral medication and vaccines, said Will Humble, the Arizona Department of Health Services' chief of public health preparedness.

"The whole key to this thing is, it's just like a forest fire. You've got to put it out quickly," Humble said. "Pandemic flu is always an A-list thing with us as far as public health preparedness because viruses from the beginning of time have been nature's Number 1 terrorist."

Don't panic, plan. There are a lot of things you can do to protect your family from this lurking killer. Flu Wiki is the place to start and the place to share your wisdom. Working together makes us stronger. Collaborating means we won't just survive, we'll thrive.

I'm keeping this post on the top of the site for the day. Scroll down for new content.

Posted by Melanie (Bump in the Beltway) at 10:00 PM

2005/10/01

Karen Hughes tours the Mideast

Karen Hughes, under secretary for public diplomacy and a close friend of President George W. Bush, spent several months between announcing that she would fill her position and actually assumng that position. What is apparent is that she did not spend the tme studyig up.

For example, in an interview with al-Jazeera, the Arabic television network that has been criticised by the administration for its perceived anti-American bias, Mrs Hughes said: “President Bush is the first president in the history of America to say we believe the Palestinians should have a state, living side by side in peace with Israel.” Yet, on January 7 2001, in a policy speech in New York then President Bill Clinton laid out what were known as the “Clinton parameters” and declared: “First, I think there can be no genuine resolution to the conflict without a sovereign, viable Palestinian state that accommodates Israel's security requirements and the demographic realities.”

Mr Clinton's speech, which summed up several months of ultimately fruitless negotiations with both parties, is widely available on official US websites.

A spokesman for Mrs Hughes, asked to verify her assertions, looked surprised and said he would come back later with comment.

So much for studying even widely-available American history!

Defending the 2003 invasion of Iraq, part of Mrs Hughes' argument is that Saddam Hussein's forces fired on US aircraft that she said were enforcing sanctions.

This was entirely true, but as was pointed out at the time, the imposition of the no-fly zone was an entirely unilateral action taken by the US and Britain that lacked the force of international law by means of a UN sanction. Iraq was entirely within it's rights to fire upon aircraft overflying it's territory. In fact:

Kofi Annan, UN secretary general, at the time also joined Russia, China and others in challenging US assertions that Iraq had violated Resolution 1441 by firing on US and British aircraft enforcing the no-fly zones.

Then:

[Hughes] meets with a group of Turkish women—hand-picked by an outfit that supports women running for political office—who brusquely tell her she has no credibility as long as U.S. troops occupy Iraq.

Many in this region say they resent the American assumption that, given the chance, everyone would live like Americans.

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The main task of this posting is to improve America's image in the Muslim world. Let us stipulate for a moment that Hughes is ideally suited for the job—that she can figure out how to spin sheiks, imams, and "the Arab street" as agilely as she spun the White House press corps in her days as Bush's communications director.

Even if that were so, why would anybody assume that she is the one to do the face-to-face spinning? Wouldn't it be better to find someone who—oh, I don't know—speaks the language, knows the culture, lived there for a while, was maybe born there?

Put the shoe on the other foot. Let's say some Muslim leader wanted to improve Americans' image of Islam. It's doubtful that he would send as his emissary a woman in a black chador who had spent no time in the United States, possessed no knowledge of our history or movies or pop music, and spoke no English beyond a heavily accented "Good morning." Yet this would be the clueless counterpart to Karen Hughes, with her lame attempts at bonding ("I'm a working mom") and her tin-eared assurances that President Bush is a man of God (you can almost hear the Muslim women thinking, "Yes, we know, that's why he's relaunched the Crusades").

And on a tour of Turkey:

War makes the rights of women completely erased, and poverty comes after war -- and women pay the price," said Fatma Nevin Vargun, a Kurdish women's rights activist. Vargun denounced the arrest of Cindy Sheehan, the mother of an American soldier killed in Iraq, in front of the White House this week.

Hughes, who became increasingly subdued during the session, defended the decision to invade Iraq as a difficult and wrenching moment for Bush, but necessary to protect the United States.

And, finally, the Guardian opines:

With these well-meaning arguments, Hughes has provided the exact proofs for Bin Laden's claims about American motives. "It is stunning to the extent Hughes is helping bin Laden," says Robert Pape, a University of Chicago political scientist who has conducted extensive research into the motives of suicide terrorists and is the author of Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. "If you set out to help bin Laden," he says, "you could not have done it better than Hughes."

Lookin' an awful lot like Hughes' tour of the Mideat is a bust. Reports indicate that she's willing to listen, but it's clear that she doesn't know anything to start with.

UPDATE: The reviews are now in:

"Preachy, culturally insensitive, superficial PR blitz." -- USA Today.

"Faux Pas Trifecta; saying too much, saying the wrong thing, saying anything at all." -- the Washington Times op-ed page.

"Non-answers, canned message, macabre." -- the Los Angeles Times.

"Fiasco, lame attempt at bonding." -- Slate.com

"Painfully clueless . . . pedestrian . . . vapid . . . gushy." -- Arab News ("The Middle East's Leading English Language Daily")

"The marquee clown [in] America's circus diplomacy . . . total ineptitude . . . total disconnect." Al-Jazeerah.