The Beltway Bandit

An online journal of politics, culture, and sports

Saturday, April 17, 2004

NO MORE MR NICE GUY -- John Kerry has had enough of the attacks on his patriotism and willingness to defend America and now he is fighting back.
"I'm tired of Karl Rove and Dick Cheney and a bunch of people who went out of their way to avoid their chance to serve when they had the chance."

"I went," he added. "I'm not going to listen to them talk to me about patriotism and how asking questions about the direction of our country somehow challenges patriotism. Because asking questions about the direction of our country is patriotism."
...
The putative Democratic nominee has highlighted his naval record, which includes three purple hearts, a bronze star and a silver star, in appealing for votes. But until now, Kerry has not used it to counter his opponents so pointedly or so publicly.

Neither Cheney nor Rove served in the military during Vietnam, although they were old enough to have been drafted.
It's time to call these cretins what they are: Sissyboy chickenhawks. Get rough, John. They are. You better do the same. This is a good start.

Friday, April 16, 2004

THIS IS A RECOVERY? -- Industrial sector is down.
Production in U.S. factories, mines and utilities fell in March, the government said Friday, defying analysts' forecasts for growth as industrial demand struggles to recover from a prolonged slump.

Industrial production in March fell 0.2 percent after a revised 0.8 percent gain in February...
Let's see...Can't run on Iraq. Can't run on the economy. Well, at least Bush has got a gigantic money advantage. Oh, wait...[See below.]

BURN RATE -- In an attempt to deliver an early knockout blow to John Kerry, the Bush campaign embarked on a hugely expensive television ad blitz over the last month. One result is that the campaign has spent nearly half of its TV ad budget for the entire year. The other result is that it hasn't done much for Mr Bush's election hopes.
With the polls showing the president even or slightly behind John Kerry, it means that the Bush campaign's huge financial advantage has now all but disappeared.

Since early March, the Bush campaign has been advertising at a rate of $9 million a week. But the campaign is now cutting that in half after seeing the president's election message pushed aside by the attention around 9/11, and by the daily attacks on American troops in Iraq.
So, why hasn't it worked? Well, for a number of reasons. One is that many voters simply don't trust much of what Mr Bush says anymore. Secondly, Democrats and a chunk of independents are remarkably united in their desire to see Mr Bush back in Crawford, Texas full-time next year. Almost nothing the Bush campaign says to these people will make a difference. Finally, you may have noticed one or two bad news issues dominating the airwaves recently.
"The bad news is overwhelming them right now, and I think they've got a predicament," says former Dean campaign manager and MSNBC analyst Joe Trippi.
So what does that mean, money-wise?
The president raised a record $180 million, and half of that was budgeted for campaign operations, the other half for pre-convention advertising. But of the advertising budget, $90 million, the Bush campaign has already spent at least $40 million.
But all that money does not seem to have produced the results the Bush campaign wanted.
The huge imbalance only seems to have affected views about Kerry and taxes. Most voters think Kerry will raise taxes, but in the 18 states where the president has been attacking him, independent Democratic groups have been counterpunching with ads of their own ... and Kerry's favorability ratings remain steady.

Furthermore, a majority of battleground voters continue to say the president is taking the country in the wrong direction.
All this is happening just as Senator Kerry is preparing to begin a new ad blitz of his own, designed to introduce himself to millions of voters unfamiliar with his record of patriotism, sacrifice and public service. For the first time in a while, the Democrats might be fighting on a relatively even playing field.

THEY HATE FREEDOM

Dan Wasserman of The Boston Globe

KERRY WINNING ON COLLEGES -- A new Harvard survey of how college students plan to vote in November has good news for Senator John Kerry. Most college students are firmly anti-Bush and plan to vote for the Democratic challenger. Kerry currently leads among college students by a 48-38% margin. However, among likely voters, Kerry's lead is a gigantic 56-33% margin.

NOT HAPPY -- Consumer confidence slumped this month, amid continued employment concerns and increasing nervousness about the situation in Iraq.

SECRET WAR -- Less than two months after invading Afghanistan, Mr Bush ordered members of his national security team to draw up plans to attack Iraq, a plan he considered so secret he did not even share it with some members of that same national security team.
Bush feared that if news got out about the Iraq plan as U.S. forces were fighting another conflict, people would think he was too eager for war, journalist Bob Woodward writes in "Plan of Attack," a behind-the-scenes account of the 16 months leading to the Iraq invasion.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the book, which will be available in book stores next week.

"I knew what would happen if people thought we were developing a potential war plan for Iraq," Bush is quoted as telling Woodward. "It was such a high-stakes moment and ... it would look like that I was anxious to go to war. And I'm not anxious to go to war."

Bush and his aides have denied accusations they were preoccupied with Iraq at the cost of paying attention to the al-Qaida terrorist threat before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. A commission investigating the attacks just concluded several weeks of extraordinary public testimony from high-ranking government officials. One of them, former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke, charged the Bush administration's determination to invade Iraq undermined the war on terror.

Woodward's account fleshes out the degree to which some members of the administration, particularly Vice President Dick Cheney, were focused on Saddam Hussein from the onset of Bush's presidency and even after the terrorist attacks made the destruction of al-Qaida the top priority.

Woodward says Bush pulled Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld aside Nov. 21, 2001 - when U.S. forces and allies were in control of about half of Afghanistan - and asked him what kind of war plan he had on Iraq. When Rumsfeld said it was outdated, Bush told him to get started on a fresh one.

The book says Bush told Rumsfeld to keep quiet about it and when the defense secretary asked to bring CIA Director George Tenet into the planning at some point, the president said not to do so yet.

Even Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, was apparently not fully briefed. Woodward said Bush told her that morning he was having Rumsfeld work on Iraq but did not give details.

In an interview two years later, Bush told Woodward that if the news had leaked, it would have caused "enormous international angst and domestic speculation."

The Bush administration's drive toward war with Iraq raised an international furor anyway, alienating long-time allies who did not believe the White House had made a sufficient case against Saddam. Saddam was toppled a year ago and taken into custody last December. But the central figure of al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden, remains at large and a threat to the west.

The book says Gen. Tommy Franks, who was in charge of the Afghan war as head of Central Command, uttered a string of obscenities when the Pentagon told him to come up with an Iraq war plan in the midst of fighting another conflict.
It's the ordinary soldiers in Iraq who are uttering those obscenities now, as they realize more and more that irresponsible chickenhawk civilians are using them as cannon fodder to realize their think tank dreams of empire.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

ASLEEP AT THE SWITCH IN IRAQ -- Iraq was no threat to spread dangerous materials before the Bush invasion, apparently, but that may no longer be true. According to the International Atomic Energy Association, the occupation is not safeguarding incredibly dangerous nuclear material in Iraq.
Some Iraqi nuclear facilities appear to be unguarded, and radioactive materials are being taken out of the country, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency reported after reviewing satellite images and equipment that has turned up in European scrapyards.

The International Atomic Energy Agency sent a letter to U.S. officials three weeks ago informing them of the findings. The information was also sent to the U.N. Security Council in a letter from its director, Mohamed ElBaradei, that was circulated Thursday.

The IAEA is waiting for a reply from the United States, which is leading the coalition administering Iraq, officials said.

The United Sattes has virtually cut off information-sharing with the IAEA since invading Iraq in March 2002 on the premise that the country was hiding weapons of mass destruction.

No such weapons have been found, and arms control officials now worry the war and its chaotic aftermath may have increased chances that terrorists could get their hands on materials used for unconventional weapons or that civilians may be unknowingly exposed to radioactive materials.

According to ElBaradei's letter, satellite imagery shows ``extensive removal of equipment and in some instances, removal of entire buildings,'' in Iraq.

In addition, ``large quanitities of scrap, some of it contaminated, have been transfered out of Iraq from sites'' previously monitored by the IAEA.

In January, the IAEA confirmed that Iraq was the likely source of radioactive material known as yellowcake that was found in a shipment of scrap metal at Rotterdam harbor.

Yellowcake, or uranium oxide, could be used to build a nuclear weapon, although it would take tons of the substance refined with sophisticated technology to harvest enough uranium for a single bomb.
And these are the clowns in charge of not just one country, but two! The whole point of invading Iraq in the first place was to prevent dangerous material from winding up in the wrong hands. Apparently, it did. Bush's hands. And now he's let it slip through his fingers. Who knows where it is now? I'm willing to bet Mr Bush doesn't know.

KEEPING UP WITH TARANTINO -- It isn't easy and there are no maps, but here's a hint: Go East, then come back West, then head to Europe, and then mix it all together. People tend to have strong opinions about Quentin Tarantino and I'm no exception. I think he's brilliant--the best filmmaker in the world right now. In addition to an encyclopedic knowlege of film, he's also a shrewd observer and analyst of pop culture over the last 30 years. He brings it all to his films and no one does it like him. I can't wait for "Kill Bill, Vol. 2" tomorrow.

OLIVER STONE IS A JACKASS -- And he proves it right here.

NASDAQ DROPS BELOW 2000 -- Is this what the so-called Bush recovery looks like?

A TARGET-RICH ENVIRONMENT -- Senator John Kerry has made attacking George W. Bush's integrity and credibility a key component of his campaign. As anyone who has been paying attention would know, that's like shooting fish in a barrel.
Stopping just short of calling the president a liar, Kerry routinely accuses Bush of "running up a truth deficit" and compiling "a long list of broken promises."

"The American people have a right to the truth," Kerry said Wednesday, in a characteristic jab at a town hall meeting in New York City. Afterward, he questioned Bush's candor during Tuesday's prime-time news conference, which was dominated by discussion of Iraq.

"The American people are owed a directness and an honesty about how we protect our troops and how we stand up for our interests,'' Kerry told reporters.
The article asserts this is a risky strategy for Senator Kerry since it invites scrutiny of his own words. That's fine, but the point is idiotic. Of course Senator Kerry's words will be parsed meticulously and endlessly during the campaign. Mr Bush's disinformation squads will accuse Senator Kerry of lying about everything from taxes to his date of birth and choice of breakfast cereal. They've already begun doing that. What should Senator Kerry do--remain silent? Not fight back? Or perhaps he should merely defend himself, but not return fire? Of course not. Mr Bush is a liar. What's more, he lies about the most important issues in the world--war and death. If Senator Kerry did not draw frequent attention to the constant mendacity of the Bush White House he would be guilty of negligence and sabotaging his own campaign.

NO DEAL, PUNK -- Our allies in "Old Europe" give Osama the finger. Good on 'em.

DIVORCED FROM REALITY -- William Saletan of Slate has a good piece on Bush's world v. the real world. Here's a taste:
Outside Bush's head, his statements keep crashing into reality. Tuesday night, ABC's Terry Moran reminded him, "Mr. President, before the war, you and members of your administration made several claims about Iraq: that U.S. troops would be greeted as liberators with sweets and flowers; that Iraqi oil revenue would pay for most of the reconstruction; and that Iraq not only had weapons of mass destruction but, as Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said, 'We know where they are.' How do you explain to Americans how you got that so wrong?"

Inside Bush's head, however, all is peaceful. "The oil revenues, they're bigger than we thought they would be," Bush boasted to Moran, evidently unaware that this heightened the mystery of why the revenues weren't covering the reconstruction. As to the WMD, Bush said the chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq had confirmed that Iraq was "hiding things. A country that hides something is a country that is afraid of getting caught." See the logic? A country that hides something must be afraid of getting caught, and a country afraid of getting caught must be hiding something. Each statement validates the other, sparing Bush the need to find the WMD.
But read it all.

OUT OF TOUCH -- Fred Kaplan delivers required reading:
In an otherwise dry day of hearings before the 9/11 commission, one brief bit of dialogue set off a sudden flash of clarity on the basic question of how our government let disaster happen.

The revelation came this morning, when CIA Director George Tenet was on the stand. Timothy Roemer, a former Democratic congressman, asked him when he first found out about the report from the FBI's Minnesota field office that Zacarias Moussaoui, an Islamic jihadist, had been taking lessons on how to fly a 747. Tenet replied that he was briefed about the case on Aug. 23 or 24, 2001.

Roemer then asked Tenet if he mentioned Moussaoui to President Bush at one of their frequent morning briefings. Tenet replied, "I was not in briefings at this time." Bush, he noted, "was on vacation." He added that he didn't see the president at all in August 2001. During the entire month, Bush was at his ranch in Texas. "You never talked with him?" Roemer asked. "No," Tenet replied. By the way, for much of August, Tenet too was, as he put it, "on leave."

And there you have it. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice has made a big point of the fact that Tenet briefed the president nearly every day. Yet at the peak moment of threat, the two didn't talk at all. At a time when action was needed, and orders for action had to come from the top, the man at the top was resting undisturbed.

Throughout that summer, we now well know, Tenet, Richard Clarke, and several other officials were running around with their "hair on fire," warning that al-Qaida was about to unleash a monumental attack. On Aug. 6, Bush was given the now-famous President's Daily Brief (by one of Tenet's underlings), warning that this attack might take place "inside the United States." For the previous few years—as Philip Zelikow, the commission's staff director, revealed this morning—the CIA had issued several warnings that terrorists might fly commercial airplanes into buildings or cities.

And now, we learn today, at this peak moment, Tenet hears about Moussaoui. Someone might have added 2 + 2 + 2 and possibly busted up the conspiracy. But the president was down on the ranch, taking it easy. Tenet wasn't with him. Tenet never talked with him. Rice—as she has testified—wasn't with Bush, either. He was on his own and, willfully, out of touch.
...
Larry Johnson, a former CIA officer and the State Department's counterterrorism chief from 1989-93, explained on MSNBC this afternoon, during a break in the hearings, why the PDB—let alone the Moussaoui finding—should have compelled everyone to rush back to Washington. In his CIA days, Johnson wrote "about 40" PDBs. They're usually dispassionate in tone, a mere paragraph or two. The PDB of Aug. 6 was a page and a half. "That's the intelligence-community equivalent of writing War and Peace," Johnson said. And the title—"Bin Laden Determined To Strike in US"—was clearly designed to set off alarm bells. Johnson told his interviewer that when he read the declassified document, "I said 'Holy smoke!' This is such a dead-on 'Mr. President, you've got to do something!' " (By the way, Johnson claimed he's a Republican who voted for Bush in 2000.)
A top priority? Riiiiiiiight.

ATROCITY -- Whoso sheddeth man's blood:
with their involvement in Iraq when one of four Italian hostages was murdered in reprisal for the prime minister's refusal to withdraw troops from the country.
The kidnappers, from a previously unknown group called the Green Battalion, threatened to kill the other three hostages if their demands were not met.

The Arab television station al-Jazeera told Reuters news agency last night it had received footage of the killing but would not broadcast it because it was "too bloody".

The US Fox network reported that the video showed a hooded man being killed by a shot to the head. The hood was then removed.
We must not let our principled and correct opposition to Mr Bush's invasion of Iraq to blind us to the evil of creatures such as this. Nothing can justify the cold-blooded murder of this innocent Italian. If these monstrous murderers are ever caught, I hope it is in a war zone.

KERRY TO DEFINE HIMSELF, DAMMIT! -- George W. Bush's $40 million ad campaign to smear John Kerry before Summer 2004 appears to have failed. Most Americans either have a positive view of Kerry or don't know much about him at all. Seeking to change that fact--for the better--John Kerry announced at a $2.5 million fundraiser yesterday that next week his campaign will launch an ad blitz to introduce himself to the American people.
"A lot of people don't really know who I am," Kerry said at a breakfast where he raised $2.5 million. "The level of communication we need to establish here is enormous."

Kerry has raised nearly $15 million this week. While he lags far behind the nearly $200 million President Bush has raised, the Massachusetts senator said he has managed to avoid allowing the president to use that financial edge to define him.

"We're just going to be coming right back at them," Kerry said.
This pleases me. I'm not one of those who are panicking because John Kerry isn't leading by 20 points right now--no Democratic presidential challenger in recent years has been in such a good position as Kerry this year--but I am glad to see that the campaign will soon get back on the airwaves in a big way. Kerry does not amaze people right out of the gate, that much is clear. He didn't do that in the Democratic primaries. But look who won just about every single contest in those primaries. John Kerry might not be the fastest starter, but he has consistently been the strongest finisher. A long line of broken rival candidacies stretching back more than 20 years is evidence of that.

CHENEY TERROR TASK FORCE NEVER MET... -- ...before the attacks of 9/11/01.
Vice President Dick Cheney was tasked to develop “a coordinated national effort” to protect the United States from terrorists in May 2001 but did not assemble its staff until after the al Qaeda attacks, according to former staff members, including the group’s director.

Retired Navy Adm. Charles S. Abbot, who Cheney recruited to be executive director of the so-called National Preparedness Review in June 2001, said in a telephone interview that he did not have a White House security pass until Sept. 10, 2001.

“I didn’t begin to work full time [on the project] until early September,” Abbot said.“I got my [security] pass to the White House complex on the 10th of September.”

President Bush had named Cheney to develop a national counterterrorism plan, particularly in regard to attacks using chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons, on May 8, 2001.
...
In late 2000, the Hart-Rudman Commission, formally named The U.S. Commission on National Security in the 21st Century and co-chaired by Gary Hart, the former Democratic senator from Colorado (1975-87), and Warren Rudman, the former Republican senator from New Hampshire (1979-88), issued a report that gravely warned of a terrorist threat to the United States and advocated the creation of a homeland security department.

Hart sought to brief the new administration on their findings and gained an audience with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice soon after she took office.

Two senior commission staff members requested a meeting and were rebuffed, they said on condition of anonymity.

“Neither the president nor the vice president would take a briefing” said the two staffers.

Hart said by telephone, “We were not successful in meeting with the vice president.” Asked why not, Hart replied, “I don’t know why not.”
You'd think that if terror was a top priority, as the Bush regime claims it was, Cheney would have managed to convene this task force at least once in eight months.

THIS IS UMA

UMA IS GOOD

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

THEY GOT IT WRONG -- Knowledgable people willing to condmen the Bush regime for its inexcusable failures in Iraq appear to be multiplying. The latest critique comes from an Army expert on war.
In a broadside fired at the conduct of the war in Iraq, a senior Army strategist has accused the Bush administration of seeking to win "quickly and on the cheap" while ignoring the more critical strategic aim of creating a stable, democratic nation.

While the United States easily won the initial battles that toppled Saddam Hussein a year ago, the administration "either misunderstood or, worse, wished away" the difficulties of transforming that victory into the larger political goal, Army Lt. Col. Antulio J. Echevarria of the U.S. Army War College writes in a new paper.
...
The military force that invaded Iraq a year ago "proved insufficient to provide the stabilization necessary for political and economic reconstruction to begin," he writes. As a result, "the successful accomplishment of the administration's goal of building a democratic government in Iraq, for example, is still in question, with an insurgency growing rapidly."
That seems like a fair criticism to me. The Bush regime made no attempt to game plan for anything but the rosiest scenario and when they didn't get that reality, they were unprepared. Since then they've been reacting to events, letting the initiative fall to others--especially radical Iraqis--and have no greater plan for dealing with the situation. Their current idea, it appears, is to hand over power [without actually doing anything of the kind] to an unelected body of Iraqis hand-picked by Bush regime neoconservatives and then hope for the best.

What's more,
the critique reflects frustration among some active-duty and retired officers about how Rumsfeld and his top advisers seized control of planning for and execution of the invasion and occupation. Indeed, Echevarria said the reaction to his paper from within the Army "has been pretty positive."

Many officers still are rankled by the treatment of former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki, who last spring was sharply criticized in public by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz for suggesting the occupation would require significantly more troops than the initial war. At Rumsfeld's direction, the number was whittled back, with Rumsfeld and other senior officials arguing that "shock and awe" would collapse any opposition and the Iraqi people, as Vice President Dick Cheney said in a March 16, 2003 interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," would greet U.S. troops "as liberators."
This is the sort of thing that really sticks in the craw of soldiers. Most fighting men don't like to hear a lot of rosy predictions from people who have never faced combat and probably faint at the sight of blood. The notion that these chickenhawks and armchair generals in the Bush regime sold the war to a credulous nation and are now permitting the grunts to bear the brunt of the enemy's wrath won't sit well with most people in the U.S. military. Nor will the fact that when the uniformed military tried to correct the Bush regime, the civilian ideologues often went out of their way to insult and humiliate these dissenters.

GOP SENATOR BACKS RICHARD CLARKE -- Via Atrios we learn that Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts [R-KS] has sharply contradicted Senator Bill Frist's [R-TN] attack on Richard Clarke, the counter-terror chief who has been highly critical of the Bush regime's war on terrorism.
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says former Bush counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke’s testimony before a joint congressional panel on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks did not contradict his later testimony before a presidentially appointed commission.

Roberts’s comments to The Hill contradict a stinging condemnation of Clarke by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) on the Senate floor after Clarke accused President Bush of failing to take Osama bin Laden seriously before Sept. 11.
...
Roberts said Frist did not consult him before making his floor speech, which has been criticized by Democrats. Roberts’s words make perjury charges against Clarke highly unlikely.
...
When asked if Clarke contradicted himself, Roberts said he did not.
...
He wished that Frist had consulted with him before making his floor statement.
That is most satisfactory. I'm sure Frist is steamed at Roberts right now, but I'm equally sure that Roberts has been annoyed with Frist for poking his nose into things he didn't know about--specifically, intelligence committee matters. This was a well-deserved smackdown of Bill Frist, who, by the way, disgraced himself on the Senate floor with his attack on Richard Clarke. Bill Frist owes Clarke and the nation an apology.

NO ANSWERS -- Mr Bush's prime time press conference last night was billed as an opportunity for him to explain his policies and views about Iraq, but anyone watching would have learned little from the lips of Mr Bush himself. Indeed, the entire exercise turned out to be little more than a sales campaign for someone who isn't really sure what he is selling anymore, aside from his own election.
But for Americans looking for an insight into what the president has learned from an occupation of Iraq that has been far bloodier and more difficult than the administration had suggested, or from the government's failure to prevent the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Bush had less to offer. He repeatedly did not answer pointed questions about his policies and was better at describing his vision of a democratic Iraq than in explaining how he will overcome the mounting obstacles to achieve that vision.
I can't see how many people, outside of his most diehard supporters, could have felt reassured after watching Mr Bush last night.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

CHENEY STILL BEING PAID... -- ...by Halliburton.
Vice President Dick Cheney received $178,437 in deferred pay last year from Halliburton, the Texas oil-field services company he once headed that has received billion-dollar government contracts in Iraq.
Jeebus, this is just shameless.

A TOP PRIORITY? -- Since Richard Clarke's meticulously-detailed allegations against the Bush regime for not making anti-terror efforts a top priority, the White House has been at pains to declare how they "got it" before 9/11 and were always on the lookout for terror attacks, only they were let down by their intelligence agencies. Newsday demonstrates that simply is not so.
After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Justice Department hastily issued a replacement for the list of its top seven priorities in its budget proposal, adding at the top a new priority -- preventing terrorism.

Amid concerns already raised about President George W. Bush's sense of urgency about terrorism before the attacks, the initial omission of terrorism as a listed priority in Attorney General John Ashcroft's first budget proposal is expected to emerge as a heated issue in Tuesday's session of the 9/11 Commission.

Justice Department budget documents developed over the spring and summer of 2001 emphasize funding the fight against illegal drugs and cybercrime but propose cuts of $58 million in FBI counterterrorism programs and $65 million in counterterrorism equipment grants to state and local agencies.
...
A budget handout given to reporters pre-Sept. 11 also did not highlight counterterrorism among the seven priorities. Only after the attacks did Justice officials distribute a newly printed set of eight priorities, led by counterterrorism.
...
Among the budget reductions listed in the proposal was a $65-million cut to counterterrorism equipment grants to state and local agencies -- leaving just $44 million in that program.
This is not to suggest the Bush regime could have prevented the 9/11/01 attacks, but merely to point out that when the Bush regime propagandists say terror was a top priority for them they are lying.

BUSH KISSES OFF ELECTION CHANCES

KERRY ON IRAQ -- As fighting raged in Iraq the past week, John Kerry has been mostly silent, following the adage that you never try to politically kill someone who killing himself for you. In addition, I'm sure Senator Kerry did not want to be accused of piling on the administration while American kids are dying. Nevertheless, he has broken his silence and is starting to aim some significant criticisms of Mr Bush's Iraq policy--or lack thereof.
The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee said that when Bush decided to go to war with Iraq, there should have been three overriding priorities.

"Number one, maximizing the possibility of success; number two, minimizing the cost financially to the American people; number three, minimizing the risk to our soldiers, to our young men and women in uniform," Kerry said. "I believe the president did the reverse in all three. . . . We're now bearing the enormous burden of that misjudgment."

Kerry said that he "would be prepared to turn over to the U.N. the authority for the political transformation of Iraq and for the reconstruction of Iraq." He suggested that Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. envoy in Iraq working on the planned June 30 transfer of power to the Iraqis, would make an excellent successor to American L. Paul Bremer to oversee the transition to a democratic government.

Although he has been critical of the administration's decision to set a firm deadline for transferring power, Kerry said the date has taken on such significance in Iraq that the handover probably cannot be delayed. But he challenged the administration to explain more clearly the terms of the transfer.
Senator Kerry also penned an op-ed on the subject that appears in today's Washington Post.
In recent weeks the administration -- in effect acknowledging the failure of its own efforts -- has turned to U.N. representative Lakhdar Brahimi to develop a formula for an interim Iraqi government that each of the major Iraqi factions can accept. It is vital that Brahimi accomplish this mission, but the odds are long, because tensions have been allowed to build and distrust among the various Iraqi groups runs deep. The United States can bolster Brahimi's limited leverage by saying in advance that we will support any plan he proposes that gains the support of Iraqi leaders. Moving forward, the administration must make the United Nations a full partner responsible for developing Iraq's transition to a new constitution and government. We also need to renew our effort to attract international support in the form of boots on the ground to create a climate of security in Iraq. We need more troops and more people who can train Iraqi troops and assist Iraqi police.

We should urge NATO to create a new out-of-area operation for Iraq under the lead of a U.S. commander. This would help us obtain more troops from major powers. The events of the past week will make foreign governments extremely reluctant to put their citizens at risk. That is why international acceptance of responsibility for stabilizing Iraq must be matched by international authority for managing the remainder of the Iraqi transition. The United Nations, not the United States, should be the primary civilian partner in working with Iraqi leaders to hold elections, restore government services, rebuild the economy, and re-create a sense of hope and optimism among the Iraqi people. The primary responsibility for security must remain with the U.S. military, preferably helped by NATO until we have an Iraqi security force fully prepared to take responsibility.

Finally, we must level with our citizens. Increasingly, the American people are confused about our goals in Iraq, particularly why we are going it almost alone. The president must rally the country around a clear and credible goal.
America--and the world--needs John Kerry in the White House. Right now would be best, but I suppose we'll have to wait for next January.

"METHANE COMETH FROM PIG..." -- I'm getting a "Beyond Thunderdome" flashback.
A University of Illinois research team is working on turning pig manure into a form of crude oil that could be refined to heat homes or generate electricity.

Years of research and fine-tuning are ahead before the idea could be commercially viable, but results so far indicate there might be big benefits for farmers and consumers, lead researcher Yanhui Zhang said.
Who run Bartertown?

GUN OWNERS AGAINST BUSH? -- Four years ago the NRA told its members that putting Mr Bush in the White House would put the NRA in the White House with him. Four years later the NRA is just as committed as ever to Mr Bush, but many gun owners are not.
some gun owners have grown so disenchanted with President Bush that they may cast a protest vote for a third-party candidate, stay away from the polls, or even back the likely Democratic nominee, gun-control advocate John F. Kerry.
...
Surprisingly, the issues that have most alienated many gun groups from the Bush administration have little to do with firearms, but rather with the Patriot Act and other homeland security measures instituted after Sept. 11. Opposition to such laws has aligned gun-rights activists with unlikely partners, such as liberal Democrats and the ACLU.

"It's not just gun rights for us, it's the Bill of Rights," said Angel Shamaya, executive director of KeepAndBearArms.com, which claims tens of thousands of supporters. "A lot of gun-rights advocates are from mildly upset to livid over President Bush and his administration."

The dilemma Bush faces is that although most gun-rights groups consider him far more friendly to their concerns than Kerry, he may have lost enough of their political support to keep them from becoming an energized and therefore influential voting bloc in a close election.

Bush has not engendered "enthusiasm" among gun-rights voters, said Larry Pratt, the longtime head of the Gun Owners of America, a political and lobbying organization. "Sometimes he's good and sometimes he's bad."
...
They deeply oppose new airline screening procedures, which they view as violations of search-and-seizure laws, the detaining of terrorism suspects without charging them with crimes, and especially the Patriot Act, which allows law enforcement to tap phones without a search warrant in some cases.
I'm not a gun owner myself so I feel a bit out of my depth commenting on this subject. However, I do know that gun enthusiasts and NRA members are critical to Mr Bush's election effort and if he cannot count on their loyal and prodigous support, he's in trouble.

KERRY FUNDRAISER BREAKS RECORD -- No Massachusetts political fundraiser has ever taken in $4 million for a candidate, but that's just what a Kerry for President fundraiser will do today.
Democrats, who were once nervous about their original goal of $1.5 million, say they have been caught off guard by a surge of donations in the last week. The event at the Sheraton Boston was sold out by the weekend.

The expected crowd, once set at 1,000, will reach almost 3,000.
The enthusiasm for the Kerry campaign--and for ejecting Mr Bush from the White House--is going strong.

Monday, April 12, 2004

OBAMA OVER RYAN -- It's a campaign poll, of course, but Barack Obama's [D] staff have released a poll showing him 19 points ahead of his GOP rival Jack Ryan. Illinois is a pick-up state for the Dems.

THE BUSH REGIME'S IDEA OF NEGOTIATION... -- ...looks something like this:
"The mission of U.S. forces is to kill or capture Moqtada al-Sadr," Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, commander of ground forces in Iraq, said in a video conference from Baghdad with correspondents in the United States.
This is the Tony Soprano School of Deal-Making.

CAN'T DO THAT ANYMORE -- Right-wing columnist and former Bush admin official James Pinkerton does not think the Bush campaign will be using any more images of September 11, 2001. He should be right.

SOMETIMES THE NEW REPUBLIC... -- ...is downright embarrassing.

DEMOCRATS ARE ENERGIZED... -- ...and focused on defeating George W. Bush.
People are working together as never before," said Jim Jordan, who was fired as Kerry's campaign manager last fall but now works as spokesman for several pro-Democrat groups supporting his campaign.

And last month, Kerry raised $38 million -- more than Al Gore raised for his entire primary campaign in 2000. At one Kerry fund-raiser in Beverly Hills, Calif., about 2,300 people turned up; 1,800 had been expected. If one thing is different about the current campaign compared with its recent predecessors, it is that the famously fractious Democrats are showing an almost-Republican unity of purpose. The singular goal: to defeat George W. Bush.

"Even people who have developed complaining to an art form, right now, they're willing to be 100 percent supportive," said Joe Grandmaison, the former chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, during a Kerry fund-raiser last Wednesday in Washington.
We'll need this energy to last all year.

DISSERVICE -- Right-wing columnist Bob Novak writes about the uniformed military's dissatisfaction with the Bush regime and its constant screw-ups.
The New York Times Book Review of last Sunday received unusual attention in the Pentagon's corridors this week. The review of In the Company of Soldiers by Washington Post war correspondent Rick Atkinson reveals the ridiculously low estimate made by the Pentagon's civilian leadership of troops needed in Iraq. Those words echoed eerily amid news of open fighting in Baghdad between U.S. troops and Shiite militia.

In the afterword following his brilliant account of the actual war, Atkinson wrote: ''Pentagon planners in early May had predicted that U.S. troop levels would be down to 30,000 by late summer [of 2003].'' That was the first time that prediction had been seen in print by startled readers at the Defense Department. The existing 125,000 troop level (currently at 135,000 because of replacements) is considered inadequate by the generals. Gen. John Abizaid, the regional commander-in-chief, has made clear he will ask for more troops if his subordinate commanders need them.

But Afghanistan also needs more troops. So where will they come from? Nobody knows, and that connotes an overcommitment by the United States and a miscalculation at the Defense Department. The uniformed military does not speak out publicly, but the generals are outraged. A former national security official considers the relationship at the Pentagon between civilians and the military as worse than at any time in his long career.

At the heart of this debate is the original belief by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's team that conquering U.S. troops would be welcomed by open arms in Iraq. In this highly political season, Democrats are replaying the debate of a year ago. Gen. Eric Shinseki, then about to leave as the Army's chief of staff, said ''several hundred thousand soldiers'' could be needed in Iraq. ''Way off the mark,'' retorted Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.
...
The problem of where to find these troops is not easily solved. There are simply no large units available and suitable for assignment. The 3rd Infantry Division was sent home early, but is now in the midst of Rumsfeld's ''transformation'' (from three brigades to five) and so is not ready to be inserted into combat. National Guard brigades could be activated, but the need for full training before going to war means they cannot help resolve the present crisis.
I think we know who wins up paying the price for the arrogance and incompetence of the Bush regime. First and foremost, it is our soldiers in the field.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

HOW HE SPENT HIS SUMMER VACATION -- What was Mr Bush doing while Al Qaeda was planning Armageddon?
President Bush was in an expansive mood on Aug. 7, 2001, when he ran into reporters while playing golf at the Ridgewood Country Club in Waco, Tex.

The day before, the president had received an intelligence briefing -- the contents of which were declassified by the White House Saturday night -- warning "Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US." But Bush seemed carefree as he spoke about the books he was reading, the work he was doing on his nearby ranch, his love of hot-weather jogging, his golf game and his 55th birthday.

"No mulligans, except on the first tee," he said to laughter. "That's just to loosen up. You see, most people get to hit practice balls, but as you know, I'm walking out here, I'm fixing to go hit. Tight back, older guy -- I hit the speed limit on July 6th."

National security adviser Condoleezza Rice, in her testimony Thursday to the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, spoke of a government on high alert for terrorism in the summer of 2001. "The president of the United States had us at battle stations during this period of time," she testified.
...
But if top officials were at battle stations, there was no sign of it on the surface. Bush spent most of August 2001 on his ranch here. His staff said at the time that by far the biggest issue on his agenda was his decision on federal funding of stem cell research, followed by education, immigration and the Social Security "lockbox."
...
During that month, Bush's top aides were concentrating on the president's political standing: His approval rating had slipped, his relations with Congress were tense, and Democrats had regained control of the Senate. The only time Bush mentioned terrorism publicly that month was in the context of violence in Israel.
If the results had not turned out to be so tragic, this whole thing would be almost comic. A disengaged White House desperately attempting to appear vigilant is not a dignified sight.

GOOD NEWS IN SUDAN -- A country that has produced precious little of it--ever. The Arab government and Christian/Animist rebels in the southern part of the country have negotiated a truce in Darfur, in the western part of the country. That's especially good news because that region has produced massive amounts of refugees and starvation. Hopefully, worse atrocities can be avoided. Nevertheless, the Arab government appears bent on tribal/religious cleansing in Sudan. Sooner or later, if they wish to keep their conscience, the West must do something about this.

BLEEDING IRAQ -- The anti-occupation insurgents in Iraq are proving consistently capable of inflicting casualties on our American forces.
Gunmen shot down a U.S. attack helicopter during fighting in western Baghdad on Sunday, killing its two crew members. Insurgents and Marines called a cease-fire in the besieged city of Fallujah, but the fragile peace was shaken by shootings that wounded two Americans.

Smoke rose on Baghdad's western edge where the AH-64 Apache helicopter was downed by ground fire in the morning. More helicopters circled overhead, while U.S. troops closed off the main highway — a key supply route into the capital.
Just in case you were wondering, there is no end in sight.