The Beltway Bandit

An online journal of politics, culture, and sports

Friday, August 15, 2003

HOW TO DEAL WITH A BLACKOUT --The Iraqis have been dealing with this problem since the invasion and they've got a few ideas on how to deal with a blackout.
--10: SLEEP ON THE ROOF. Without power -- and hence without air conditioning -- Iraqis have taken to climbing up stairs in the hot nights. Some install metal bed frames on rooftops, while others simply stretch out on thin mattresses. ``We sleep on the roof,'' said Hadia Zeydan Khalaf, 38, wearing a black head-to-toe abaya in the hot sun. ``It's cooler there.''

--9: SIT IN THE SHADE. Many Iraqis go outside when the power's off. ``We sit in the shade,'' said George Ruweid, 27, playing cards with friends on the sidewalk. Of the U.S. blackout, he said: ``I hope it lasts for 20 years. Let them feel our suffering.''

--8: HEAD FOR THE WATER. ``We go to the river, just like in the old days,'' said Saleh Moayet, 53. Several people said they had seen American beaches on television, and suggested they might be a good place to sit out the blackout. ``They have so many beautiful beaches,'' said Hamid Khelil, 44. ``They should go where it isn't so hot.''

--7: SHOWER FREQUENTLY. ``I take showers all day,'' said Raed Ali, 33. ``Before I go up to the roof to sleep, I take a shower and I'm cooler.''

--6: BUY BLOCKS OF ICE. When refrigerators shut down, there's no better way to keep food cool. Mohammed Abdul Zahara, 24, sells about 20 a day from a roadside table. ``When it's hot people buy a lot of ice,'' he said.

--5: CHECK FOR BITTER-ENDERS. ``They should go to the power stations and see what the problem is,'' suggested Ahmed Abdul Hussein, 21. ``Maybe there are followers of Saddam Hussein who are sabotaging their power stations. That's what happens here.''

--4: GET A GENERATOR. Abbas Abdul al-Amir, 53, has one of a long row of shops selling generators in Baghdad's Karadah shopping street. When the power goes out, sales go up. ``I sell about 30 generators a day,'' he said. ``When the shutdown lasts I can sell even more.''

--3: CALL IN THE IRAQIS. Some suggested the Americans ask the Iraqis how to get the power going again. ``Let them take experts from Iraq,'' said Alaa Hussein, 32, waiting in a long line for gas because there was no electricity for the pumps. ``Our experts have a lot of experience in these matters.''

--2: USE FOUL LANGUAGE. ``When the power goes out, I curse everybody,'' said Emad Helawi, a 63-year-old accountant. ``I curse God. I curse Saddam Hussein. And I curse the Americans.''

--And the No. 1 suggestion among Iraqis for Americans suffering without power: TAKE TO THE STREETS. Some said demonstrations can be effective in persuading authorities to turn on the switch. ``We held protests. After that we had fewer blackouts,'' Ahmed Abdul Hussein said without even a hint of sarcasm. ``I'd suggest Americans go out and demonstrate.''
Thanks, guys and gals. All ideas are appreciated, I'm sure.

KRUGMAN ON JOBS -- Once again, New York Times columnist and Princeton University professor Paul Krugman tells it like it is. Recent optimistic reports about the economy overlook the fact that we're not creating nearly enough jobs to spur anything like the economic recovery we need. In true Krugman fashion, he lays the blame right where it belongs.

YOUR DAILY DOONESBURY -- A month of Sundays.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

THIS TAKES THE TACO! -- The Pentagon and Bush regime wants to force our troops in Iraq to take a pay cut.
The Pentagon wants to cut the pay of its 148,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, who are already contending with guerrilla-style attacks, homesickness and 120-degree-plus heat.

Unless Congress and President Bush take quick action when Congress returns after Labor Day, the uniformed Americans in Iraq and the 9,000 in Afghanistan will lose a pay increase approved last April of $75 a month in "imminent danger pay" and $150 a month in "family separation allowances."

The Defense Department supports the cuts, saying its budget can't sustain the higher payments amid a host of other priorities. But the proposed cuts have stirred anger among military families and veterans' groups and even prompted an editorial attack in the Army Times, a weekly newspaper for military personnel and their families that is seldom so outspoken.
Susan Schuman of Shelburne Falls, Mass., said her son, Army National Guard Sgt. Justin Schuman, had told her "it's really scary" serving in Samarra, a town about 20 miles from Saddam Hussein's ancestral hometown of Tikrit.

Schuman, who like Syverson has become active in a group of military families that want service personnel pulled out of Iraq, said the pay cut possibility didn't surprise her.

"It's all part of the lie of the Bush administration, that they say they support our troops," she said.

It's rare for the independent Army Times, which is distributed widely among Army personnel, to blast the Pentagon, the White House and the Congress. But in this instance, the paper has said in recent editorials that Congress was wrong to make the pay raises temporary, and the Pentagon is wrong to call for a rollback.

"The bottom line: If the Bush administration felt in April that conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan warranted increases in danger pay and family separation allowances, it cannot plausibly argue that the higher rates are not still warranted today," the paper said in an editorial in its current edition.
It's not enough the Bush regime forced these poor kids into an untenable situation in a blazing hot country filled with a suspicious population and plagued by a persistent and worsening guerrilla war. Now they want them to do it on starvation wages? Goddamned bastards!

ARNOLD SPEAKS! -- What follows is the wit and wisdom of Arnold Schwarzenneger. Enjoy.
"It's the most difficult [decision] I've made in my entire life, except the one I made in 1978 when I decided to get a bikini wax."
--announcing his gubernatorial candidacy on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno"

"I can promise you that when I go to Sacramento, I will pump up Sacramento."
--on "The Tonight Show"

"This is really embarrassing. I just forgot our state governor's name, but I know that you will help me recall him."
--speaking to a taxpayer advocacy group

"As much as when you see a blonde with great tits and a great ass, you say to yourself, 'Hey, she must be stupid or must have nothing else to offer,' which maybe is the case many times. But then again there is the one that is as smart as her breasts look, great as her face looks, beautiful as her whole body looks gorgeous, you know, so people are shocked."
--in an interview with Esquire magazine

"The best activitities for your health are pumping and humping."

"Having a pump is like having sex. I train two, sometimes three times a day. Each time I get a pump. It's great. I feel like I'm coming all day."

"When it comes to sex, I don't give a s-- what anyone's trip is."
--on homosexuality

"Milk is for babies. When you grow up you have to drink beer."

"My friends don't want me to mention Kurt's name, because of all the recent Nazi stuff and the U.N. controversy, but I love him and Maria does too, and so thank you, Kurt."
--on his friend and fellow Austrian Kurt Waldheim, a Nazi war criminal

"I was always dreaming about very powerful people - dictators and things like that. I was just always impressed by people who could be remembered for hundreds of years, or even, like Jesus, be for thousands of years remembered."
--in the 1977 film "Pumping Iron"
I can't decide which is my favorite.

YOUR DAILY DOONESBURY -- Fortunate sons.

PUBLIC THUMBS DOWN ON BUSH ECONOMY -- When the public is not distracted by a war, Mr Bush's favorability ratings are doing what they always do during times of relative peace: they're dropping. The latest evidence is a poll showing widespread public dissatisfaction with Mr Bush's handling of economic matters.
The public's view on President Bush's handling of the economy is slipping, says a poll that found only 36 percent of those surveyed approve of his economic performance and more than half - 52 percent - disapprove. The CBS News poll also found six in 10 think the economy is in bad shape. That is the highest percentage in 10 years.

The poll was released Wednesday, the same day Bush met with economic advisers at his Texas ranch to discuss ways to create jobs and boost the economy.

The poll found 70 percent of respondents believe the president is not paying enough attention to the economy. Even among Republicans, one-half felt Bush needs to pay more attention to the economy.
I wonder why people think our economy is in bad shape? Could it be the high unemployment? Could it be the slow growth? Could it be the swelling national debt or the world-record budget deficits? Could it be all of that?

Could be.

MORE NEWS ON MOUTH-BREATHERS -- The Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court thinks he is above the law. An odd decision for a judge to make, you might think, but not so odd when you consider why he thinks the law does not apply to him: Because he ascribes to a higher law. What could possibly be a higher law than the law of the United States of America? The law of God--at least as interpreted by right-wing religious fundamentalists. The Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court has refused a U.S. Supreme Court order to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments from his courtroom. [Does that mean the people of Alabama may disregard decisions by the Alabama Supreme Court? Somehow, I think the Chief Justice wouldn't agree with that.] The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the Ten Commandments are largely a religious and sacred text and therefore locating them in or on public property amounts to an impermissible mix of state and church.
Proponents describe the Commandments as an important but benign acknowledgement of the origins of universal law. But a close reading suggests they're largely concerned with religion:

The First Commandment to most Christians and the Second to Jews is "thou shalt have no other God before me," a religious doctrine subscribed to by many Americans, but certainly not all.

More than half of the Commandments' biblical text is about religious observance: no idolatry, no misuse of the Lord's name and no work on the Sabbath, for example.

The Supreme Court considers the matter settled: Three attempts to reopen the issue were turned away in the past three years.
That seems pretty clear to me and you, I suspect, but obviously things look very differently when you don't consider yourself bound by the laws of the United States. Maybe it is time this Alabama Chief Justice spent a little time in one of the jails he has no doubt filled with other people who regard laws as non-binding suggestions.

BAY CAT COMES BACK TO LIFE -- Thought to be virtually extinct, the Bay Cat of Malaysia has appeared on film in the jungles of that southeast Asian country.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

MAN FAIL, DOG PASS -- Stories like this one are why I love dogs.

O'REILLY PUT FOX UP TO IT -- Why did FOX lawyers file a suit they know they cannot win? According to Matt Drudge, they did it because blowhard Bill O'Reilly put them up to it. I love it. Idiots.

YOUR DAILY DOONESBURY -- Duck and cover.

AFGHANISTAN IN FLAMES -- Mr Bush decided to permit Al Qaeda and the Taliban to escape in 2002. Now they are back with a vengeance and large portions of Afghanistan are killing zones. The terrorists are moving back in and the country is slipping back into the 9th plane of Hell, where we found it in December 2001. Another great victory for Mr Bush.

CLARK FOR PRESIDENT? -- It's becoming more and more likely that retired General Wesley Clark intends to run for President as a Democrat. Apparently, he intends to "throw his stars into the ring" with a Labor Day announcement. My readers will know I favor this move enthusiastically. Though a fan of Senator John Kerry [D-MA], I'm willing to be persuaded by his fellow decorated veteran, General Clark. My dream scenario, of course, is a ticket that includes both of them.

BRITISH AIR SUSPENDS FLIGHTS TO SAUDI ARABIA -- Apparently, they have security concerns about the Kingdom affectionately known as "Taliban by the Gulf." There go my vacation plans.

CONAN THE DESERTER -- I don't think the Republican party wants to talk about this:
In any event, as with many kids, home was a place that Arnold was looking to escape. When his father died while Arnold was living in the U.S., he did not return for the funeral. He has said variously that he was too deep into his training or that he was hospitalized. He had long since made his escape from home by way of bodybuilding. At 19 he went AWOL from his Austrian army base to enter a competition that he won.
No wonder Mr Bush likes him so much.

2 MORE DEAD G.I.s -- Two more U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq after bomb attacks by Iraqi guerrillas.
In an attack Wednesday morning, one soldier was killed and another was wounded when their convoy hit a roadside bomb 15 miles south of Saddam's hometown of Tikrit, the military reported. The soldiers were in an armored personnel carrier in a four-vehicle convoy, Maj. Josslyn Aberle, spokeswoman for the 4th Infantry Division, said.

Also Wednesday the military reported a soldier killed and two wounded in a bomb attack near Taji the day before. The military press office had no other details, but the deaths were in the same region where there was a big oil pipeline fire Tuesday and at about the same time.

The deaths brought to 60 the number of U.S. troops killed in action since May 1, when President Bush declared major combat over.
Drip drip drip.

BLOWHARD IN THE DOCK -- Nasty ol' CNN morning anchor Jack Cafferty, who spent the first half of 2003 spitting poison at anyone who didn't want to invade Iraq, is a thug. It seems the crotchey Mr Cafferty
plead guilty in a May 14 hit-and-run accident. According to the criminal complaint, Cafferty was made an abrupt turn and hit bicyclist Billy Maldonado.

About five people tried to stop Cafferty by running after the car, according to the complaint, but the newsman continued through at least two red lights, while dragging the bicycle underneath the vehicle. Maldonado, 48, who was knocked to the ground, suffered bruises and some bone damage.

Cafferty was charged with leaving the scene of an accident, reckless driving, assault and harassment. He was allowed to plead guilty to a traffic violation: Operating a motor vehicle knowing or having cause to know property damage had been caused. He was sentenced to 70 hours of community service, with six months to complete it, and a $250 fine. He also made restitution.

Cafferty had no comment Tuesday but the criminal complaint said Cafferty told police he saw the bicyclist get off the ground but didn't realize he had hit him. "I am unaware I was in an accident," he said.
Yeah, that's pretty believable, Jack. Is that why you sped away from the scene of the crime, running several red lights?

Attorney Suzanne Holzberg, who represents Maldonado, expressed disappointment over the proceedings. "I think he got off pretty easy," she said. Maldonado, she said, still needs an operation on his right elbow.
Mr Cafferty needs an operation on his conscience.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

IT COULD BE TRUE -- More brilliance from The Onion:
Republicans Introduce Economic Equality Bill For Fun Of Shooting It Down
WASHINGTON, DC—Republicans in the House of Representatives proposed H.R. 2093: the Economic Equality Initiative, with the express purpose of shooting it down "just for kicks" Tuesday. "H.R. 2093 will level the economic playing field, spreading the wealth among the rich and poor," said Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-TX), visibly fighting back snickers. "We must pass this bill to stop the fat cats from getting fatter while the average Joe struggles to make ends meet. Also, I'm the Queen of Bavaria." Following 10 minutes of uproarious laughter, the congressmen stepped out of the chamber to smoke cigars lit with a bill that would allocate $115 million to clean up hazardous waste sites.
Uh, they're kidding, right?

YOUR DAILY DOONESBURY -- Watch what you say.

Monday, August 11, 2003

NEW KERRY BLOG -- The John Kerry for President campaign has a new campaign blog up on the website. I've added the blog to my blogroll at right. Check it out.

TERMINATOR SUPPORTED PROP 187 -- GOP candidate for Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger voted for Proposition 187, a controversial ballot supported by former Governor Pete Wilson [R-CA]. Proposition 187 denied health and public education benefits to illegal immigrants. It was struck down as unconstitutional, but it remains a hot button issue in California, especially with the state's large Hispanic population. Mr Schwarzenegger's campaign has suggested it will appeal strongly to Latinos because the candidate is an immigrant himself.
The Republican has promoted himself as the candidate in California's gubernatorial recall who can best appeal to the state's politically and ethnically diverse electorate. But Democrats were quick to jump on the disclosure as a chink in the action hero's armor.
Speaking on ABC's "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos, Art Torres, chairman of the California Democratic Party, slammed Schwarzenegger for his decision to appoint former Gov. Pete Wilson, the architect of Proposition 187, as chairman of his new campaign.

"There's a famous phrase in our community, and that is, judge a person by the friends that he keeps," Torres said. "And unfortunately, his new chairman, Governor Wilson, supported 187 furiously against immigrants and Latinos."
This won't hurt Mr Schwarzenegger with Republicans and many white moderates, but it will hurt him with Democrats and other liberals, as well as Latinos. Meanwhile, the Terminator has enough problems with his own base, as Rush Limbaugh is attacking Mr Schwarzenegger for his support for abortion rights, gun control, gay rights, and his opposition to the 1998 impeachment of President Bill Clinton.

BUILDING THEIR CASE OUT OF SAND -- The Bush regime tried repeatedly to make a case that Saddam Hussein's Iraq was attempting to build nuclear weapons, despite evidence to the contrary--evidence known then and now by the Bush regime itself.
An engineer-turned-CIA analyst, Joe had helped build the U.S. government case that Iraq posed a nuclear threat. He landed in Vienna on Jan. 22 and drove to the U.S. diplomatic mission downtown. In a conference room 32 floors above the Danube River, he told United Nations nuclear inspectors they were making a serious mistake.

At issue was Iraq's efforts to buy high-strength aluminum tubes. The U.S. government said those tubes were for centrifuges to enrich uranium for a nuclear bomb. But the IAEA, the world's nuclear watchdog, had uncovered strong evidence that Iraq was using them for conventional rockets.

Joe described the rocket story as a transparent Iraqi lie. According to people familiar with his presentation, which circulated before and afterward among government and outside specialists, Joe said the specialized aluminum in the tubes was "overspecified," "inappropriate" and "excessively strong." No one, he told the inspectors, would waste the costly alloy on a rocket.

In fact, there was just such a rocket. According to knowledgeable U.S. and overseas sources, experts from U.S. national laboratories reported in December to the Energy Department and U.S. intelligence analysts that Iraq was manufacturing copies of the Italian-made Medusa 81. Not only the Medusa's alloy, but also its dimensions, to the fraction of a millimeter, matched the disputed aluminum tubes.

A CIA spokesman asked that Joe's last name be withheld for his safety, and said he would not be made available for an interview. The spokesman said the tubes in question "are not the same as the Medusa 81" but would not identify what distinguishes them. In an interview, CIA Director George J. Tenet said several different U.S. intelligence agencies believed the tubes could be used to build gas centrifuges for a uranium enrichment program.

The Vienna briefing was one among many private and public forums in which the Bush administration portrayed a menacing Iraqi nuclear threat, even as important features of its evidence were being undermined. There were other White House assertions about forbidden weapons programs, including biological and chemical arms, for which there was consensus among analysts. But the danger of a nuclear-armed Saddam Hussein, more potent as an argument for war, began with weaker evidence and grew weaker still in the three months before war.
The new information indicates a pattern in which President Bush, Vice President Cheney and their subordinates -- in public and behind the scenes -- made allegations depicting Iraq's nuclear weapons program as more active, more certain and more imminent in its threat than the data they had would support. On occasion administration advocates withheld evidence that did not conform to their views. The White House seldom corrected misstatements or acknowledged loss of confidence in information upon which it had previously relied:

• Bush and others often alleged that President Hussein held numerous meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists, but did not disclose that the known work of the scientists was largely benign. Iraq's three top gas centrifuge experts, for example, ran a copper factory, an operation to extract graphite from oil and a mechanical engineering design center at Rashidiya.

• The National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of October 2002 cited new construction at facilities once associated with Iraq's nuclear program, but analysts had no reliable information at the time about what was happening under the roofs. By February, a month before the war, U.S. government specialists on the ground in Iraq had seen for themselves that there were no forbidden activities at the sites.

• Gas centrifuge experts consulted by the U.S. government said repeatedly for more than a year that the aluminum tubes were not suitable or intended for uranium enrichment. By December 2002, the experts said new evidence had further undermined the government's assertion. The Bush administration portrayed the scientists as a minority and emphasized that the experts did not describe the centrifuge theory as impossible.

• In the weeks and months following Joe's Vienna briefing, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and others continued to describe the use of such tubes for rockets as an implausible hypothesis, even after U.S. analysts collected and photographed in Iraq a virtually identical tube marked with the logo of the Medusa's Italian manufacturer and the words, in English, "81mm rocket."

• The escalation of nuclear rhetoric a year ago, including the introduction of the term "mushroom cloud" into the debate, coincided with the formation of a White House Iraq Group, or WHIG, a task force assigned to "educate the public" about the threat from Hussein, as a participant put it.

Two senior policymakers, who supported the war, said in unauthorized interviews that the administration greatly overstated Iraq's near-term nuclear potential.
It's a damning article and one that must have been very difficult for The Post to print, considering the increasingly hysterical nature of the Editorial Page's attacks on those who doubt the Bush regime's case for war.

NEW ANTI-U.S. ALLIANCE -- Mr Bush appears to have done what Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein could not do together: draw Al Qaeda and former Iraqi government agents together in an unhold alliance aimed at the murder of American soliders occupying Iraq.
Al-Qaeda terrorists who have infiltrated Iraq from Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries have formed a deadly alliance with former intelligence agents of Saddam Hussein to fight their common enemy, the U.S. forces.

The alliance, known as Jaish Muhammad -- the army of the prophet Muhammad -- is believed to be responsible for increasingly sophisticated attacks on U.S. soldiers.

In the past four months, it has smuggled millions of dollars, weapons and hundreds of Arab fighters across the desert border with Saudi Arabia.
Yet another screw-up by the Bush regime will be facilitating the construction of a pan-Islamic anti-American terrorist threat which will be far more difficult to deal with than any transnational entity the United States has ever encountered.

NOT REALLY A JOKE -- A man died and went to heaven. As he stood in front of St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, he saw a huge wall of clocks behind him. He asked, "What are all those clocks?"

St. Peter answered, "Those are Lie-Clocks. Everyone on Earth has a Lie-Clock. Every time you lie the hands on your clock will move."

"Oh," said the man, "whose clock is that?"

"That's Mother Teresa's. The hands have never moved, indicating that she never told a lie."

"Incredible," said the man. "And whose clock is that one?"

St. Peter responded, "That's Abraham Lincoln's clock. The hands have moved twice, telling us that Abe told only two lies in his entire life."

"Where's Bush's clock?" asked the man.

"Bush's clock is in Jesus' office. He's using it as a ceiling a fan.