The Beltway Bandit

An online journal of politics, culture, and sports

Saturday, June 28, 2003

KERRY PICKS UP NEW ENDORSEMENT -- William Perry, Secretary of Defense from 1994-1997, has endorsed Senator John Kerry's [D-MA] campaign for the Democratic nomination for president.
Perry decided to support the Massachusetts Democrat based on Kerry's experience in the military and his support for defense in the Senate. ''The deciding factor for me was his very strong role in national security,'' he said.
That's a big reason I'm supporting Senator Kerry, too.

Friday, June 27, 2003

MORE ATTACKS IN IRAQ -- One more American has died in Iraq today, killed in an ambush in Baghdad.
Witnesses said a gunman shot a U.S. soldier shopping for video compact discs on a sidewalk in northwest Baghdad. Ammar Saad, a 44-year-old vendor, said the soldier was shot in the neck at close range and appeared to have been killed. U.S. military spokesmen in Baghdad said they had heard of the incident but were unable to confirm it.

Saad and another witness, 20-year-old porter Jassem Obeid, said the assailant escaped into crowds at a nearby market.

At least three U.S. military personnel have been killed in Iraq since Thursday, two of them in ambushes against U.S.-led occupation forces.

Just northwest of Baghdad on Friday morning, a U.S. Army truck struck an explosive device on a dirt road. A U.S. soldier and a witness said wounded Americans were evacuated by helicopter.

The U.S. soldier said on condition of anonymity that the Americans were driving to Baghdad to make telephone calls to their families when the explosion occurred.
Drip drip drip.

I GOTTA GET ON -- this list.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

1-900-CHEATER -- Now this is a pretty stupid and embarrassing way to get caught.

MORE AMERICAN SOLDIERS DIE IN IRAQ -- Two more American soldiers were killed in Iraq today and two other are missing, as a result of attacks from anti-American forces in the country.
In the latest reported attack, a member of a U.S. special operations force was killed and eight were injured Thursday morning by hostile fire southwest of Baghdad, the U.S. military said, giving no further details.

Also Thursday, a bomb exploded on the airport road, killing a U.S. soldier and injuring another, the U.S. military said. The road — heavily used by U.S. forces — has been the scene of several attacks using trip wires dangling from overpasses or grenades tossed from bridges.

In another ambush, assailants threw grenades at a U.S. and Iraqi civilian convoy in west Baghdad, killing two Iraqi employees of the national electricity authority, U.S. soldiers and Iraqi police said. The convoy had U.S. Humvees at the front and the back and two Iraqi civilian vehicles in the middle. The victims were traveling in the same car.

The fresh violence came a day after a U.S. Marine was killed while responding to an ambush in which three other Americans were wounded.
And who is responsible for these attacks? The Bush regime is blaming remnants of Saddam's Baath party, but it appears to be far more complicated than that. Callers to Al Jazeera claiming to represent two previously unknown groups are taking credit for the recent attacks and promising more.
One, by a group calling itself the Mujahedeen of the Victorious Sect, claimed responsibility for recent attacks and promised more. The other, by the Popular Resistance for the Liberation of Iraq, called in intellectuals, explosive experts and others to take "revenge" against America.
I suspect that by the summer of 2004 Mr Bush's re-election team will have a hard time calling the Iraq War one of Mr Bush's great successes. We'll see. In the meantime...

Drip drip drip.

WHITE HOUSE CONCEALING MEDICARE DATA -- The White House is refusing to release critical data about how many millions of senior citizens would be affected by a Republican plan to inject private managed care into the Medicare system.
An earlier analysis suggested that a Republican plan to inject market forces into Medicare could increase premiums for those who stay in traditional programs by as much as 25 percent. If that's still the case, it could help Democrats who argue that the GOP plan is risky for those who want to stay in traditional Medicare, where they can pick any doctor, rather than move to a managed care plan.

The administration's Medicare chief threatened to fire his top actuary, Rick Foster, if Foster released his calculations to Capitol Hill Democrats who requested the analysis, officials said.
...
Scully said he would release the analysis "if I feel like it."
What are these people trying to hide? Oh, yeah. The truth.

THE RESPECTED TRIBUNES OF FOLLY -- Fred Kaplan has a great piece in Slate today about the folly of the neocon world view. In addition to providing an astute historical examination of the dangers of American empire, Mr Kaplan also draws attention to the testimony of William Kristol, editor-in-chief of The Weekly Standard and the arch-neocon. To wit, Mr Kristol makes these statements in his 2002 testimony to Congress:
"American policy must be to change the North Korean regime, not simply to contain it and coexist with it.
...
"American and alliance forces will be welcomed in Baghdad as liberators. Indeed, reconstructing Iraq may prove to be a less difficult task than the challenge of building a viable state in Afghanistan.
Considering the Bush regime's record in post-Saddam Iraq, Mr Kristol's testimony seems all the more arrogant and foolhardy. When will the media stop taking these people seriously?

Mr Kristol then goes on to reveal the real motivation for the invasion and occupation of Iraq: Not weapons of mass destruction or the oppression of the Iraqi people, but the fundamental reconstruction of the entire Middle East along lines more amenable to Republican policymakers in Washington.
"The political, strategic and moral rewards would also be even greater. A friendly, free, and oil-producing Iraq would leave Iran isolated and Syria cowed; the Palestinians more willing to negotiate seriously with Israel; and Saudi Arabia with less leverage over policymakers here and in Europe. Removing Saddam Hussein and his henchmen from power presents a genuine opportunity, one President Bush sees clearly, to transform the political landscape of the Middle East."
There you have it, folks. It's not about chemical weapons or opening Saddam Hussein's political prisons. It's about establishing an American empire in the Middle East.

SCALIA MAKES AN ASS OF HIMSELF...AGAIN -- In today's Supreme Court decision overturning Bowers v. Hardwick, Justice Scalia, writing for the dissent, revealed what a rotten cretin he is.
"The court has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda," Scalia wrote for the three. He took the unusual step of reading his dissent from the bench.

"The court has taken sides in the culture war," Scalia said, adding that he has "nothing against homosexuals."
Of course you don't, Tony. Of course. Soon enough, of course, Scalia gives us another peek at his agenda.
Although the majority opinion said the case did not "involve whether the government must give formal recognition to any relationship that homosexual persons seek to enter," Scalia said the ruling invites laws allowing gay marriage.


"This reasoning leaves on shaky, pretty shaky grounds, state laws limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples," Scalia wrote.
Actually, I don't see that gay marriage naturally flows from this decision, though legalizing gay marriage, as Canada is about to do, is long overdue. Nevertheless, it is all a slippery slope to reactionaries like Justice Scalia. Gives these gays a few rights and pretty much they'll demand to be treated like human beings. God forbid!

YOUR DAILY DOONESBURY -- Keep the garbage in.

U.S. OFFICIAL: BUSH REGIME UNPREPARED FOR IRAQ -- A U.S. diplomat, most recently working for the reconstruction effort in Iraq, has harshly criticized the Bush regime's failure to pacify post-Saddam Iraq.
Timothy Carney, a former U.S. ambassador who until recently had been overseeing Iraq's Industry Ministry, said most of the focus was placed on the military campaign and very little on the security and political problems that could ensue.

"What we didn't understand was the lack of resources and priority that would be assigned to our efforts," Carney told BBC Radio in Washington.

"Those military officers simply did not understand or give enough priority to the transition from their military mission to the political military mission," added Carney, who had been working with the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA) in Iraq.

Asked whether the White House had thought through the post-conflict situation, he answered: "Clearly not. I'm not aware of any discussion of post-conflict Iraq taking place before November or December of last year."
...
"There is a lack of...doctrine on how to do such political military missions and that has caused many of the problems," he said, adding: "There was a great gap in our knowledge of what Iraq was like."
Pretty damning testimonial from someone in a position to know such things. The USA Today newspaper, not exactly a haven of left-wing subversives, tends to agree:
Nearly two months after President Bush (news - web sites) declared major combat operations over, the picture in Iraq is disturbing. Since Bush's moment of triumph aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, steady attacks have left 19 U.S. troops dead.

On Tuesday, British forces suffered six casualties in southern Iraq, which had been a haven of calm. The sabotage of oil pipelines and electricity grids is setting back reconstruction efforts. Angry demonstrators vent grievances ranging from a lack of work to anti-U.S. resentment.

Increasingly, the treacherous job of restoring peace to Iraq is making the war itself look like the easier task.

Clearly, military planners failed to anticipate the need to quickly replace soldiers with experienced U.S. civilians who could establish security, form a rudimentary system of justice and provide basic jobs. U.S. civilian administrator Paul Bremer recognized as much in his move this week to set up an Iraqi military force to root out resistance fighters still loyal to Saddam Hussein.
Many of us who opposed the war did so for precisely these reasons. We're not pacifists and we're not Saddam-coddlers, though we were unfairly tarred as appeasers and even traitors. Our concern was that the threat from Sadddam Hussein was not imminent and therefore could be handled in a different fashion and that Mr Bush's plan to remake the Middle East by invading and occupying Iraq would turn into a gigantic disaster. We're not there yet, but we're clearly marching down that path.

SUPREME COURT STRIKES DOWN ANTI-SODOMY LAWS -- It's a great day already. The Supreme Court has decided in a 6-3 ruling that Texas' anti-sodomy law is unconstitutional.
The law "demeans the lives of homosexual persons," Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority.
Justices Breyer, Stevens, Souter, and Ginsburg joined Stevens in his written opinion. Justice O'Connor concurred with the outcome, but not all of Kennedy's opinion. Arch-reactionary Justices Scalia and Thomas, as well as Chief Justice Rehnquist, naturally dissented.

This appears to be the end for Bowers v. Hardwick, one of the worst decisions in American jurisprudence. Expect more lawsuits filed in the near future to invalidate all of America's anti-sodomy laws, which still persist in parts of the South and Mountain states.

MOONIES: FRIENDS TO THUGS EVERYWHERE -- If you thought The Washington Times was a great foe of Saddam Hussein, you better think again. Just imagine if The New York Times had done something like this.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

SUMMER, DAHLING -- Anyone who has ever seen Nigella Lawson on her show "Nigella Bites" [on The Style Network here in the States] will love this brilliant send-up of the too-too-fabulous cuisine goddess. My favorite: Chinese Toboggan Salad.
Summery Chinese Toboggan Salad

1 can bamboo shoots
1/2 c. sesame oil
4 stalks celery, chopped
Juice and zest of 3 lemons
1 wooden toboggan

Put the toboggan in a food processor and pulse for ten seconds on Eviscerate. Remove the splinters from the processor and toss with other ingredients. Arrange on a plate with your bare hands, letting your fingers burrow into the mixture as they do when encountering the rich loam of the earth. Strike your gong.
Mmmmm. Make two for me, baby!

TAKE THAT, TONY! -- UK PM Tony Blair's poll ratings have taken quite a hit lately.
An ICM poll commissioned by the Guardian gives him a personal rating of minus 13, compared to plus 8 during the hostilities.

The failure to provide evidence of Iraq's weapons, the controversial Cabinet reshuffle and the recent row over taxes are all given as factors.
...
The poll puts Labour on 38%, down three points since last month and just four points ahead of the Conservatives, who moved ahead five points from 29% to 34%.

The Liberal Democrats were unchanged on 21%.

Labour enjoyed a 12-point lead over Iain Duncan Smith's party in the same poll a month ago.
Good. Couldn't happen to a more deserving guy--aside from Mr Bush himself, of course. Tony Blair is a liar--and a pretty shameless one, at that. The American people might be too obtuse to punish George W Bush right now, but the Brits have obviously not lost their heads over a smooth-talking liar. Well done, Brits. Punish Tony some more. He has it coming.

WHO IS JUDITH MILLER WORKING FOR? -- Howard "Conflict" Kurtz has an amusing and embarrasing article about the close ties between Judith Miller and the Bush regime and its Iraqi allies. You remember Judith Miller, right? She is The New York Times correspondent covering Iraq and she has provided numerous frontpage stories on the subject. Most of these stories uncritically presented the viewpoint of the Bush regime and its favored Iraqi exiles, like Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi, with whom Ms Miller has enjoyed an unusually close relationship. I'll let her sum it up, as she did in an e-mail to a New York Times colleague earlier this year: "I've been covering Chalabi for about 10 years, and have done most of the stories about him for our paper. . . . He has provided most of the front page exclusives on WMD to our paper."

Of course, it is now emerging that Mr Chalabi is full of crap. He's been feeding Ms Miller and a few other favored reporters a line of bull about the extent of Saddam Hussein's chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs. Mr Chalabi mentioned various site where evidence of the existence of these weapons could be found, he claimed. Needless to say, every single one of those sites has come up empty. In other words, Ms Miller has, by her own proud admission, constantly relied on the word of a man who has been shown to be unreliable and motivated by a desire to have the U.S. forcibly eject Saddam Hussein so he, Ahmed Chalabi, could get back into Iraq and hopefully assume a leadership role there.

Anyway, apparently Ms Miller assumed a position of leadership herself--in the military unit with which she was embedded.
New York Times reporter Judith Miller played a highly unusual role in an Army unit assigned to search for dangerous Iraqi weapons, according to U.S. military officials, prompting criticism that the unit was turned into what one official called a "rogue operation."

More than a half-dozen military officers said that Miller acted as a middleman between the Army unit with which she was embedded and Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi, on one occasion accompanying Army officers to Chalabi's headquarters, where they took custody of Saddam Hussein's son-in-law. She also sat in on the initial debriefing of the son-in-law, these sources say.

Since interrogating Iraqis was not the mission of the unit, these officials said, it became a "Judith Miller team," in the words of one officer close to the situation.

In April, Miller wrote a letter objecting to an Army commander's order to withdraw the unit, Mobile Exploitation Team Alpha, from the field. She said this would be a "waste" of time and suggested that she would write about it unfavorably in the Times. After Miller took up the matter with a two-star general, the pullback order was dropped.
...
The MET Alpha team was charged with examining potential Iraqi weapon sites in the war's aftermath. Military officers critical of the unit's conduct say its members were not trained in the art of human intelligence -- that is, eliciting information from prisoners and potential defectors. Specialists in such interrogations say the initial hours of questioning are crucial, and several Army and Pentagon officials were upset that MET Alpha officers were debriefing Hussein son-in-law Jamal Sultan Tikriti.

"This was totally out of their lane, getting involved with human intelligence," said one military officer who, like several others interviewed, declined to be named because he is not an authorized spokesman. But, the officer said of Miller, "this woman came in with a plan. She was leading them. . . . She ended up almost hijacking the mission."

Said a senior staff officer of the 75th Exploitation Task Force, of which MET Alpha is a part: "It's impossible to exaggerate the impact she had on the mission of this unit, and not for the better." Three weapons specialists were reassigned as the unit changed its approach, according to officers with the task force.
...
One military officer, who says that Miller sometimes "intimidated" Army soldiers by invoking Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld or Undersecretary Douglas Feith, was sharply critical of the note. "Essentially, she threatened them," the officer said, describing the threat as that "she would publish a negative story."

An Army officer, who regarded Miller's presence as "detrimental," said: "Judith was always issuing threats of either going to the New York Times or to the secretary of defense. There was nothing veiled about that threat," this person said, and MET Alpha "was allowed to bend the rules."
Of course, The New York Times could very easily write similar things about Walter Pincus of The Washington Post, who swallowed the neocon line on Iraq in its ugly entirety. In fact, the editorial position of The Post was to loyally support Mr Bush's war in Iraq and not to question the increasingly preposterous nature of the intelligence used to justify the invasion. I hope The Times will write those columns about The Post. They both deserve it.

BUSH REGIME STRONGARMS NGOs -- The Bush regime is attempting to force non-governmental organizations that receive some funding from Uncle Sam to more obediently serve the interests of the U.S. government, especially its foreign policy.

A USAID official said on Tuesday that the Iraqi agreements were a separate issue but confirmed an NGO report that USAID administrator Andrew Natsios believes nongovernmental organizations should publicize the U.S. government financial contribution to their activities.

"This is an issue that we feel very strongly about," Jeffrey Grieco, a senior USAID official, told Reuters.

Natsios caused a stir last month when he told a closed meeting of NGO leaders that aid agencies in the field should identify themselves as recipients of U.S. funding to show a stronger link to American foreign policy.

"If this does not happen more often, Natsios threatened to personally tear up their contracts and find new partners," said the NGO consortium InterAction. "NGOs ... are an arm of the U.S. government," it quoted him as saying.
This is absurd. NGOs are not "an arm of the U.S. government," no matter what Mr Natsios believes. That's the whole point of being an NGO--non-government organization. If an NGO receives money from Uncle Sam, I see no problem with the U.S. government insisting that such contribution be noted, but I see no reason for any NGO to tailor its activities to meet the foreign policy requirements of the government. If the government objects to this arrangement, it should cut off the NGOs funding. Of course, this could lead to a hornet's nest of trouble and litigation. Presumably, the Bush regime knows this, which is why it is trying to bully the NGOs into cooperating.

Instapundit approves of the Bush regime's tactics, claiming "some adult supervision" is in order. That Mr Reynolds believes the Bush regime is capable of providing this adult supervision is amusing enough, but Mr Reynolds would like to see some "accountability" from these NGOs. What exactly is that supposed to mean? Well, in the context of the story, one can only presume Mr Reynolds equates accountability with obedience to the Bush regime's foreign policy. Fine, but why not come right out and write that, Mr Reynolds? If it is what you mean and you're not ashamed of it, then write it.

Finally, Mr Reynolds states NGOs (without naming a single one, of course) that may "tailor their agenda to ensure their 'viability' in thugocracies" deserve this treatment from the Bush regime. Well, perhaps, but there appears to be no such distinction drawn in the article. The Bush regime isn't picking on NGOs it thinks cooperated with Saddam Hussein or any other dictator. It is, without distinction, ordering all NGOs that receive money from Uncle Sam to fall in line with U.S. foreign policy.

Mr Reynolds is aghast at NGOs that "coddle" foreign tyrants. Of course, he never mentions taking a stand against any U.S. corporations that receive billions in tax breaks and government contracts from Uncle Sam, but also nuzzle up to thugs around the world.

Funny, that.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

DICK DON'T KNOW -- Congressman [and presidential aspirant] Dick Gephardt's devotion to affirmative action is laudable, but I'm not really sure what he's talking about when he says something like this:
"When I'm president, we'll do executive orders to overcome any wrong thing the Supreme Court does tomorrow or any other day."
Pardon? What the hell does that mean? Now, I only took ConLaw and ConLaw 2, but I did do pretty well in those classes and I'm fairly certain presidents don't get to simply invalidate Supreme Court decisions with a few strokes of a pen.

I don't happen to agree with the view of some of our more excitable conservative bloggers that Mr Gephardt's statement is worse than Senator Trent Lott's [R-MI] comment about how we'd all be better off living in Strom Thurmond's white fantasy America, but this is pretty silly. As noted above, it's impossible and would probably get a President Gephardt impeached inside his first year in office--an impressive feat for anyone. Of course, a President Gephardt wouldn't do any such thing. Even Mr Bush has not arrogated such broad powers to himself as this. Congressman Gephardt is merely pandering to the uglier side of interest group politics in the Democratic party. A few Democrats should take Mr Gephardt to task for this and I think a full apology and retraction is in order. What Senator Lott said reflected [and reflects] a genuine desire among some right-wing Whites in this country to bring back the days of racial separation and Jim Crow, at the very least. Those times and feelings are real. What Mr Gephardt proposed to do was blatantly unconstitutional, but it was also preposterous, impossible, and absurd. There is a clear qualitative difference between what the two men were getting at when they spoke [without thinking in Mr Gephardt's case and without ensuring no reporters were present in Mr Lott's case].

Should Mr Gephardt resign from Congress, as some righty bloggers suggest? [You must pardon me if I regard their outrage with something less than undiluted solemnity.] Not unless he wants to. What's important here is that Mr Gephardt not say such things again [better still--don't even think such things, Dick] and that no one else follow him down that road.

WHEN DOES GOD TELL YOU TO GO AWAY? -- If, like me, you occasionally wonder if Mr Bush is almost as nutty as he is dopey, this quote, from a story about the Israel/Palestine peace process won't do anything to dissuade you:
According to Abbas, immediately thereafter Bush said: "God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you help me I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them."
Gah.

WESTAR AND DELAY COVER EACH OTHER IN SLEAZE -- The details of Westar's [the bankrupt energy company known as "The Enron of the Midwest"] attempt to purchase friendly legislation from an eager Tom DeLay keep coming out, with each new story providing a better glimpse into the sordid politcal dark room of Tom DeLay's machine.
When an executive of a Kansas energy company learned last year that his firm was about to make a $25,000 donation to a political committee associated with U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, the executive sent a colleague an e-mail: "DeLay is from TX. What is our connection?"

The response came moments later: For Westar Energy Inc., the connection was part of a plan to get a "strong position at the table" on federal utility legislation that would benefit company executives -- legislation a company memo said could not pass without DeLay's help.

For DeLay, the Westar donation to Texans for a Republican Majority was part of a $1.5 million campaign to help the GOP gain a majority in the Texas House of Representatives. DeLay's ultimate plan, still unfolding, is for that new Republican state House to draw Texas congressional districts that would solidify the GOP hold on the U.S. House.

At DeLay's urging, Gov. Rick Perry has called a June 30 special legislative session on congressional redistricting, a session that could cost Texas taxpayers as much as $1.7 million.

The Westar contribution was part of at least $433,000 that Texans for a Republican Majority raised from out-of-state corporations, lobbyists and federal contractors who stood to gain from friendly relations with the powerful majority leader.

"The donors' purpose was an interest in legislative issues in Congress. It was Tom DeLay who turned that money into a partisan tool in the Texas Legislature," said Craig McDonald of the advocacy group Texans for Public Justice.
There is no way on God's green Earth that Attorney General John Ashcroft is going to listen to public interest groups and Democrats on Capitol Hill and launch a formal federal investigation of this filth. However, Hill Democrats need to bring this up constantly, mentioning it to everyone who will listen. Meanwhile, Kansas and some Texas newspapers seem to have latched on to this important story--one that sums up perfectly the corrosive influence money has on legislation and the way Tom DeLay (R-TX) has turned this into electoral gold for his political party. Slowly but surely the facts seem to be coming out and the more we see the more repulsive it looks. Of course, we all know this sort of thing goes on all the time, especially with the Republicans in charge of Congress, but here we have a smoking gun, still warm to the touch. It must be pursued and the Democrats must use this issue for partisan political advantage. The Republicans in Congress must be punished and, most of all, Tom DeLay must be punished. His name should be mud. It's long past time the Democrats made it so.

BUSH LIES & RUNS ON 9/11 -- Despite his "solemn" pledge not to polticize the war on terror, Mr Bush is doing just that as he tramps around the country begging his wealthy political financiers for more more big checks.
Bush "has kicked off his special interest-fueled re-election campaign," said David Donnelly, director of the Reform Voter Project. "He is now sprinting around the country as if he's on a giant Monopoly board, scooping up checks as quick as the well-heeled can write them."

"Unfortunately, the administration's past record teaches us that the money they raise today puts them more in debt to special interests tomorrow," Donnelly said.
Meanwhile, have a look at these quotes from Mr Bush and other Republicans about their abhorrence of using the war on terror for partisan political purposes:

"I have no ambition whatsoever to use (the War on Terror) as a political issue. There is no daylight between the executive and the legislative branches."
- President Bush, 1/23/02 [Associated Press]

"Absolutely not. And as a Republican, I would deplore such tactics. I think that what we've got to do in a bipartisan way, as Americans, win this war."
- GOP Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) when asked if Republicans should use the war for political gain [CNN's Crossfire, 3/4/2002]

Vice President Dick Cheney said that making political hay of national security is "thoroughly irresponsible and totally unworthy of national leaders in a time of war."
- The Washington Times, 5/17/2002

"The President urges no one to politicize this [war] debate. This is a very serious matter, and it needs to be handled seriously by everybody. The country will benefit from a healthy and civil discussion of this."
- White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer, 9/27/02

Liars, liars, liars.

WATCH YOUR MOUTH -- "The Democratic Party, all the candidates from Washington, they all know each other, they all move in the same circles, and what I'm doing is breaking into the country club."
-- Howard Dean, as quoted in the Burlington Free Press. Dean's son was arrested for aiding a break-in at the Burlington Country Club last week.

Thanks to Political Wire for this one.

KERRY MAINTAINS LEAD IN NEW HAMPSHIRE -- A steady 9-10% point lead over anyone else seems right to me.

MORE ATTACKS IN IRAQ -- Iraqi guerrillas have stepped up their attacks on U.S. and British occupation forces in the last few days, leading to an increase in Allied deaths.
Six British soldiers died in southern Iraq on Tuesday, and an ambush on a patrol and a helicopter wounded at least eight others in one of the deadliest days for coalition forces since the fall of Saddam Hussein.
...
Officials at the Pentagon said insurgents were ratcheting up anti-U.S. attacks, staging 25 of them in the past day alone. American troops battled Iraqis at a checkpoint in Ramadi, west of Baghdad, on Tuesday, leaving three Iraqis dead and one American wounded.
Drip drip drip.

HOLD THE MAYO -- A great white shark has invaded a tuna pen containing 100 tuna for the purposes of research. So far, only two tuna missing, but the shark doesn't seem inclined to go anywhere.

BUSH, GOP SUPPORT DROPPING -- Support for Mr Bush continues to drop slowly and the public now prefers a Democratic Congress to a Republican one, according to the results of a new Ipsos/Cook Political Report poll for June. What one notices is that the more terror and war dominate the headlines, the better Mr Bush does in the polls. The more people are permitted to focus on the economy, Mr Bush and his administration almost immediately drop in the polls. Knowing this, look for Karl Rove to attempt to engineer a 2004 election about terror and war instead of pressing domestic concerns like health care, the deficit, unemployment, etc. The media will be on board for this task. We'll see if it works.

NOW LITTLE GIRLS ARE SHOOTING AT US -- The security situation in Iraq is continuing its downward spiral and U.S. troops are caught in the crossfire between Iraqi nationalism and the arrogance of the Bush regime. The latest depressing news: a 12-year-old girl opened fire on U.S. troops near Baghdad--just one incident in a rising tide of Iraqi violence against our soldiers.
The girl, whose name was not released, reportedly opened fire on patrolling U.S. soldiers in her hometown of Ramadi, west of Baghdad, on Sunday. No one was injured, but the shooting highlighted that even as international leaders were meeting at a Dead Sea resort to discuss the country's political way forward, the security situation on the ground remains unpredictable at best.
...
In Baghdad yesterday, foreign journalists watching a rehearsal of Iraq's national orchestra said three U.S. soldiers standing guard across the street were injured when a grenade was lobbed at them.

"Get me out of here," said one female U.S. soldier stationed in central Baghdad when told about the latest grenade attack. "This place is too dangerous."
...
By the end of the day yesterday, even political allies of the United States, such as the Pentagon-friendly Iraqi National Congress, were calling for U.S. troops to leave Iraq's cities.

In an interview, INC spokesman Entifadh Qanbar said the move would not only ease tension, it would make life safer for American soldiers.

"Right now, U.S. soldiers inside Iraqi cities are like sitting ducks for terrorists," he said.
Slowly but surely, quotes from U.S. troops in Iraq reflecting a considerable lack of enthusiasm for their mission are appearing in news stories. These sorts of quotes, along with rising death tolls, are most likely to generate a negative reaction in the United States. Watch this closely.

Monday, June 23, 2003

CONCERN OVER IRAQ RISING... -- ...and suport for the Bush regime's Iraq policy is falling:
While 51 percent of Americans in a new ABCNEWS/Washington Post poll call the current level of U.S. casualties "acceptable," that's down from 66 percent in early April, when Baghdad fell with little organized resistance. And the number calling casualties "unacceptable" has jumped by 16 points, to 44 percent.

While a yellow flag for policy-makers, rising concern about casualties hasn't greatly altered basic support for administration policy. Considering its costs vs. benefits, 64 percent say the war was worth fighting, down modestly from 70 percent at the end of April. And President Bush gets 67 percent approval for handling Iraq,” down from 75 percent when the main fighting ended, but still a sizable majority.
The numbers still favor the Bush regime, but that's almost meaningless. What's clear is that the Bush regime has gotten us sucked into the Iraqi abyss for some time to come and that time will be measured in years, not weeks or months. Two U.S. Senators, Richard Lugar [R-IN] and Joseph Biden [D-DEL] on a fact-finding mission in Iraq agree with that assessment.
The lawmakers, members of the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee on a bipartisan fact-finding visit to Iraq, urged President Bush to be more forthcoming about the breadth of the U.S. commitment and the cost of rebuilding Iraq.

"I think we're going to be here in a big way with forces and economic input for a minimum of three to five years," Sen. Joseph Biden, the committee's ranking Democrat, told reporters in Baghdad.

"There now needs to be real truth-telling by the president and by each of us," added Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, the committee's chairman.

Lugar and fellow panel Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel [R] of Nebraska agreed that five years was a realistic figure.
The longer the U.S. remains in Iraq the more Iraqis we will alienate--with an increasing percentage of those alienated Iraqis either participating in violence against U.S. forces or agreeing with such actions. That will lead to higher casualty rates among American troops in Iraq and then, with agonizing inevitability, to increasing levels of public opposition in this country to our occupation of Iraq.

It's inevitable. This is only the beginning.

FREEPERS TO ATTACK MOVE.ON VOTE -- There have been rumors of a planned right-wing attack on the Move.On primary, to skew the votes towards an unelectable candidate like Rev. Al Sharpton. Now, WyethWire unveils the truth of the matter. Move.On has promised to endorse whichever Democratic candidate wins the Internet poll and this is a pretty obvious attempt by wingnuts to throw a wrench into the entire effort.

BUSH QUIETLY BACKTRACKS ON WMD -- David Rennie, a Washington, D.C. correspondent for the conservative British broadsheet The Daily Telegraph correctly notes that during his weekly radio address
President George W Bush retreated from predictions that banned Iraqi weapons would be found, promising only to discover the "true extent" of Saddam Hussein's weapons programmes.
...
His comments contrast with earlier declarations. In March he said: "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."
I'll be watching to see if the Democrats permit Mr Bush to get away with this rhetorical sleight-of-hand. [It may be safely assumed, of course, that the mainstream U.S. media will pretend no such deception has taken place.] It is simply outrageous what the White House is trying to do here--defending their earlier indefensible statements about Iraqi WMD--and the Democrats, especially the presidential candidates, must speak out forcefully and often on the subject.

[Full disclosure: I am personally acquainted with Mr Rennie and like his work for The Daily Telegraph.]

JOHN KERRY ON INTERNATIONAL CRIME -- Senator John Kerry [D-MA] and Mr George W Bush have one thing in common: Senator Kerry has written a book, Mr Bush has heard of books. Senator Kerry's book, published in 1997, is an insightful look at the new breed of international criminals and what can be done about them. As ranking Democrat on the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics, and International Operations for ten years, this is a subject Senator Kerry knows well and has thought about quite a bit. Kirkus Review writes:
From one of the nation's top experts on international crime, Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), comes a fascinating overview of the newest generation of criminals and crimes that threaten America. When average Americans think of a crime syndicate, they probably think of the old-style Italian Mafia of movies like Donnie Brasco. That, plus declining homicide figures nationwide, threatens to lull us into a false sense of security. According to Kerry, who until this year was the chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics and International Operations, the menace of global crime is greater than ever before. In a richly anecdotal book drawn from his tenure as an insider in the war against crime, Kerry details the newest quintuplet of dangers, which he calls ``The Big Five'': the Italian Mafia, the Russian mobs, the Japanese Yakuza, the Chinese triads, and the Colombian drug cartels. He devotes chapters to each of these threats and explains their growing influence and the ominous signs of transcontinental cooperation among them.
I've got my copy. Go get yours.

AMERICANS HEARTLESS TOWARDS MARTHA STEWART -- A new Gallup poll reveals that most Americans are not exactly filled with goodwill and charity towards Martha Stewart these days, as there is widespread skepticism about her innocence in the ImClone insider trading scandal.
According to a June 9-10 Gallup survey, only 34% of Americans have any degree of sympathy for Stewart, which is about the same percentage holding a favorable view of her personally. Furthermore, most Americans tend to believe she obstructed the federal investigation into this stock trade.
I wonder how many of these people even know the company involved was called ImClone. Or what the company did. Or much of anything else about the case.

As for myself, I think she's probably guilty, but I don't feel too sure about that. It's pretty difficult to be certain about insider trading cases because there is so rarely a smoking gun, and that's true in this case, as well. All I do know for sure is that Martha Stewart can build a lovely summer cottage in the Hamptons out of pine needles and old corn stalks. That's a good thing.

PENTAGON MASTERS NEWSPEAK -- The U.S. Missile Defense Agency fired a test missile and the warhead missed its intended target. Failure, right? We'll you'd think so, but according to the Pentagon, you'd be wrong.
"I wouldn't call it a failed test, because the intercept was not the primary objective," said Chris Taylor, a spokesman for the MDA. "It's still considered a success in that we gained great engineering data. We just don't know why it didn't hit."
But it was a smashing success! A smashing success, dammit!

HILLARY CLINTON MAKES RIGHT-WING LOSERS FEEL VERY INSECURE -- Need more proof? Check out this. Where are all these moron right-wingers coming from? Are they grown in fields somewhere [as in "The Matrix"] or is there one couple in Indiana giving birth to all of them?

BARBIE AS SHE COULD BE -- The Barbie doll is one of the most popular toys in history and an enduring icon over several generations. It might be said [or written] that the impact Barbie has made on the young lives of millions of girls [and a few homosexual men--see this guy], is incalculable. However, there are numerous Barbie ideas that remain fertile areas for expansion--and yet remain curiously unexploited. Consider, for example, Marge Simpson Barbie or Bride of Frankenstein Barbie or Psychic Barbie or Nightmare Before Christmas Barbie or Neo-Nazi Barbie or, most obviously, Fembot Barbie. [I don't know how they could have missed that one!] But my favorite, I think, is Dominatrix Barbie, shown at right. [Click on the link to get a fuller view of her in all her glory.]

They, and others, can be found right here. Peruse and enjoy.

And whatever you do, don't forget Marilyn Manson Ken. I can't wait!

ANN COULTER'S NEW WEBLOG -- For those who truly do have too much time on their hands.

I JUST BELIEVE IN ME, BABY! -- Want to know which celebrities are atheists/agnostics? Here they are.

SADDAM TO SURRENDER? -- Reports have surfaced that Saddam Hussein has offered to surrender to U.S. forces in return for fair treatment.
Saddam passed the handwritten document to Abid Hamid Mahmud al-Tikriti shortly before the former aide was captured by US forces last week, it has been claimed.

In the letter Saddam called for "fair treatment" by the allied forces for himself and that his family be allowed safe passage from Iraq to another Arab country.

In return he promised order an end to the rebel attacks on the occupying American soldiers, which have claimed 40 lives since the official end of hostilities.
Anything like this coming out of Iraq now must be treated with extreme caution [how many assertions that WMD have been found have we heard?], but it would be a huge victory for the United States if it is true. More on this as the story develops.

AL QAEDA REGROUPS -- While the Bush regime fiddles in Iraq, our deadliest enemies, Osama Bin Laden's Al Qaeda, has quietly reconstituting itself, according to a new report from the United Nations. In case anyone wasn't aware of this, the recent bombings in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and Casablanca, Morocco should have made the point. The U.S. blew its chance to exterminate Al Qaeda when the Bush regime decided not to aggressively pursue them in the cave complex of Tora Bora in Afghanistan. Many knowledgeable senators, including John Kerry (D-MA) and Bob Graham (D-FL) have been harshly critical of the Bush regime's failure to focus on annihilating Al Qaeda. I'll be watching to see if this new report leads to increased criticism from Democrats--especially the presidential candidates--of the Bush regime's record against international terror.

LlEYTON HEWITT MAKES HISTORY...THE WRONG KIND -- Australian tennis star/all-around jerk Lleyton Hewitt has become the first reigning men's Wimbledon champ since 1967 to lose in the first round of the tournament the very next year. Good. Hewitt is a creep. This pleases me.

Making matters odder is that Mr Hewitt lost to a Croatian player I've never heard of, who just happens to be 6'10" tall--the most vertical player in Wimbledon history.

By the way, don't buy all this stuff about Wimbledon being so special. In terms of points, it is worth no more than the other Opens in Sydney, Paris, or New York. I do give the old boys at Wimbledon credit for marketing their rickety tournament very well and playing up all that "grand old tradition" nonsense that so many dimwitted Americans tend to buy into lock, stock, and barrel.

SUPREMES APPROVE FILTERING TECHNOLOGY -- In more Supreme Court news, the court upheld a federal law, the Children's Internet Protection Act, allowing Congress to force public libraries to use filtering technology to block access to pornographic web sites.
The blocking technology, intended to keep smut from children, does not violate the First Amendment even though it shuts off some legitimate, informational Web sites, the court held.

The court said because libraries can disable the filters for any patrons who ask, the system is not too burdensome. The 6-3 ruling reinstates a law that told libraries to install filters or surrender federal money. Four justices said the law was constitutional, and two others said it was allowable as long as patrons were not denied Internet access.
I'm not too bothered by this decision. I know many civil libertarians regard such publicly mandated use of filtering technology as censorship--and I suppose it is--but not all censorship is unconstitutional and not all censorship is equal, in my mind. The fact that users can request to have a website unblocked by the librarian is a good thing, naturally. Without that, this law and this decision could not have my support.

SUPREMES LIMIT BUT PRESERVE AFFIRMATIVE ACTION -- The Supreme Court ruled today that affirmative action programs at public institutions must be narrowly tailored to achieve diversity in order to pass constitutional muster.
Government has a compelling interest in promoting racial diversity on campus, but the undergraduate school's admissions policy is not the way to get there, the court majority said.

"The university's policy, which automatically distributes 20 points, or one-fifth of the points needed to guarantee admission, to every single underrepresented minority applicant solely because of race, is not narrowly tailored to achieve the interest in educational diversity," that Michigan claimed justified the policy, Rehnquist wrote.

The ruling affects tax-supported schools, and by extension private schools and other institutions, that have looked for ways to boost minority enrollment without violating the Constitution's guarantee against discrimination.

The University of Michigan cases are the most significant test of affirmative action to reach the court in a generation. At issue was whether racial preference programs unconstitutionally discriminate against white students.

The rulings follow the path the court set a generation ago, when it outlawed quotas but still left room for schools to improve the odds for minority applicants.

The two Michigan cases directly address only admissions at public, tax-supported institutions. But the court's rationale is expected to have a wide ripple through private colleges and universities, other government decision-making and the business world.
The University of Michigan's undergraduate program was ruled unconstitutional, while the more narrowly tailored University of Michigan law school program was permitted to stand.

As a law school graduate and supporter of most affirmative action, I'm fairly pleased by these decisions. Reserving 20% of admission criteria for race seems excessive to me, but the overcompensation of the University's undergraduate program should not be an excuse to assault affirmative action more generally. I think most people are like me on this issue. Affirmative action should exist where evidence of past and present discrimination is clear, but the solution used to compensate for discrimination against minorities must not become so onerous that it winds up discriminating unjustly against non-minorities seeking admission.

All in all, these are decisions that I, as a good liberal, can live with. They are bound to be attacked by some civil rights activists, but this will bring the law and the public closer together, I believe. That's a good thing.

WESLEY CLARK BOOMLET -- General Wesley Clark (Ret.) is in the middle of a media and political junkie boomlet right now, as he travels the country speaking--mostly about national security policy---and entertaining questions about a prospective run at the White House as a Democrat. After a spectacular performance on a recent edition of "Meet the Press," General Clark spoke to the New Democrats late last week.
He cited an unfinished undertaking in Afghanistan, with "a lot of Talibans still there." In Iraq, "it wasn't the welcome we expected," he said, "but we're there," and should now go to the United Nations and ask for help in the political and economic reconstruction of the occupied country. And in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and in North Korea, he said, the United States must be more engaged.

In all of this, Mr. Clark suggested, "the United States doesn't have a real national security strategy" as it did after World War II in committing the country to a bipartisan effort to stop Soviet expansionism. With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, he said, "we never came together as a nation to redefine what we were for" on a bipartisan basis, until the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

In what came closest to a direct criticism of Mr. Bush, Mr. Clark said, "The president has a right to strike pre-emptively to prevent a strike" against this country, "but he should be very reluctant" to do so, and "we're now seeing the ramifications." The general said he had not been "one of those anxious to get into Iraq," and had been "skeptical" about weapons of mass destruction posing an imminent threat.
If not for Senator John Kerry (D-MA), General Clark is the man I'd be urging to run for president. As it is, I'd love to see him as either Secretary of State or Vice President in the Kerry administration. Those two veterans would make a potent team.