Saturday, May 29, 2004

If only we knew...
An excerpt from Jonathan Chait's TNR article in 1998 on the budget surplus:

The shocking disappearance of the federal budget deficit has transformed the political climate overnight. Washington spent 15 years locked in venomous finger-pointing over who deserves the blame for trillions of dollars in crippling red ink. And now that the budget deficit is gone, you would expect another round of rancorous partisan chest-thumping over who deserves credit. Yet the predictable acrimony has--at least for the moment--become subsumed in a pleasant, wonky national symposium on how we can best share our newfound bounty.

All this pleasantness is a big mistake. We have at least a decade of fiscal abundance to ponder productive uses for the budget surplus.

Oh, how ignorant we were...

The definition of irony
The Vatican, which is wealthier per square mile than any other country in the world, primarily due to the fact that it is covered in marble and expensive statues and stained warning against American materialism. Give me a break.

How not to interrogate
Noam Scheiber has an excellent post on the reports on the effectiveness of the torture at Abu Ghraib at extracting valuable information.

David Limbaugh on the right on gay marriage
As much as they scream about public opinion being on their side on the issue, it is becoming clearer and clearer that there are some sizable rifts on the right regarding gay marriage. Perhaps it's the steady enlightening of the public as the debate continues...or perhaps it's because the right doesn't have a legitimate argument. Who knows?

Friday, May 28, 2004

KtL report
Today I will be headed out to the always exciting local Six Flags park, so posting will be sparse. However, as I have absolutely nothing to do tomorrow, expect some rabid posting.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Anti-malaria drug redux
So it turns out an anti-malaria drug given to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan has been causing permanent brain damage. Well then, I guess it shouldn't be used anymore, right? But, wait, is this the same drug that caused a few soldiers to KILL THEIR WIVES a couple years ago? Why, yes it is.

Bush budget cuts education/veterans' benefits
Surprise, surprise:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Bush administration has told officials who oversee federal education, domestic security, veterans and other programs to prepare preliminary 2006 budgets that would cut spending after the presidential election, according to White House documents.
The programs facing reductions — should President Bush be re-elected in November — would also include the National Institutes of Health, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department.

Many of the targeted programs are widely popular. Cuts could carry a political price for a president who has touted his support for schools, the environment and other domestic initiatives.

Public doesn't support torture
Surprise! Americans are humane:

Most Americans reject torture as a technique to force suspected terrorists to answer questions about possible future attacks but are divided on whether less harsh forms of physical abuse should be allowed to compel uncooperative suspects to reveal information that could save lives, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

More than six in 10 -- 63 percent -- of the public say torture is never acceptable, even in cases in which a suspect is believed to have knowledge of an upcoming terrorist attack. Slightly more than one in three say torture can be used in some cases.

Ross Mackenzie spouts the GOP line
This is starting to get to me:

First, recall these things:

In the Afghan and Iraqi conflicts, battlefield successes cast as mistakes. Genuine mistakes - Abu Ghraib, under-manning, underestimation of Iraqi (and Afghan) readiness for self-government, insufficient rhetorical rallying of the American people - played up. Defeatism. Doubts about the mission and whether the reasons for it (e.g., WMDs) were genuine or bogus. Doubts about the reliability of post-Saddam Iraqi forces. The curiously short shelf-lives of the grim deaths of Mike Spann, Daniel Pearl and Nick Berg; a sarin-filled rocket; the Chalabi betrayal; Saddam's mass graves.

There is so much talk about how while Nick Berg was murdered brutally, Abu Ghraib has gotten all the coverage. Why is this? Well, there are a few reasons. First, the Abu Ghraib situation has a lot more to it: what are we going to do to the offenders, is Rumsfeld guilty/should he resign, who knew about this and when, and whether or not it is just if we are getting information from the detainees. The Nick Berg story is this deep: Nick Berg was beheaded by some huge assholes. That's pretty much it. Aside from tin-foil hat theories coming up from the left about inconsistencies in the video, there's not much to it. There is another reason, and it also applies to situations like the killing of the four military contracters whose bodies were put on display. It's a matter of expectations. When we see al Qaeda members kill someone, that's expected. They aren't good people. We knew that a lot of Iraqis hate our presence, and since they have witnessed brutal treatment as a form of punishment for decades, seeing them do these kinds of things is expected. However, watching United States soldiers, who many of us admire in many ways, degrade other people, essentially sinking to levels we hold ourselves above, it causes an uproar in people's minds. Is it embarassing? Brutal? Necessary? With so many arguments and new pictures and stories coming out every few days, how can you not expect a media frenzy?

Pope condemns torture

VATICAN CITY - Pope John Paul II condemned torture Thursday as an intolerable affront to human dignity, lamenting that reports of abuses "constantly arrive from all continents."

The pope made no mention of any countries or specific cases in his speech to seven new ambassadors to the Holy See.

On June 4, John Paul is scheduled to meet with President Bush, whose administration is under heavy criticism for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by the U.S. military at Abu Ghraib prison. Several Vatican cardinals have already assailed the abuse.

In his speech, the pope said that "disturbing news constantly arrives from all continents concerning the human rights situation, showing how men, women and children are tortured and how their dignity is profoundly offended, contrary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

So uh, are Defense officials going to be refused communion?

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

On hunger strikes, forced
&c caught quite the interesting term:

The article pretty much speaks for itself. But one minor thing stood out for me:

In another case, an autopsy found that a detainee, Muhammad Najem Abed, died of cardiac arrest complicated by diabetes, without noting, as the investigation summary does, that he died after "a self-motivated hunger strike."

Self-motivated hunger strike? Sounds a little ominous, no? Would we have to identify the hunger strike as "self-motivated" if there weren't some other kind?

KtL report
Sorry about the lack of posting today, I've loaded with work. But of course, bookmark me etc., in all likelihood I'll get this all done before the night is out and do some more posting.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

The Day After Tomorrow
An excerpt from Ryan Zempel's column:

So what will life be like this Saturday -- the day after "The Day After Tomorrow" opens?

Will Bush's reelection campaign be finished and John Kerry guaranteed the presidency, as the Guardian newspaper has predicted?

Will environmentalists seize their "teachable moment", harness a fearful and outraged public, and strongarm Congress into "seeing the light" and resuscitating the Kyoto Protocol?

In other words, will liberals get their fairy tale ending?

In a word: Nope.

What? Perhaps I'm the only liberal not in on this, but it's just a movie! With the exception of maybe a lone scientist and Al Gore, no liberals have really been making a fuss over this. Conservatives, on the other hand, who are convinced that any kind of movie/TV show will entirely alter the opinions of the weak, uneducated public, seem to be nervous. Go figure...

Iraqis have veto power over troops
This is undoubtedly one of the best recent political moves the administration could make, both domestically and abroad. For months Bush and company have been looking for a smooth way to get out of Iraq and dodge responsibility for the mess it has undeniably created. Finally, with the transition in sight, that loophole is gaping. Knowing full well that there is a good shot of Iraqis wanting the troops out (the only problem really is if the government doesn't follow the will of the people, who certainly want us out), the administration is taking steps to ensure that they get what they want - and that everyone will know that it's what they wanted. Then, come November, when Iraq is smoldering and we aren't there, Bush can say that it's what they wanted, and America will move on.

NPR: not so liberal

Despite a perception that National Public Radio is politically liberal, the majority of its sources are actually Republicans and conservatives, according to a survey released today by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, a left-leaning media watchdog.

"Republicans not only had a substantial partisan edge," according to a report accompanying the survey, "individual Republicans were NPR's most popular sources overall, taking the top seven spots in frequency of appearance." In addition, representatives of right-of-center think tanks outnumbered their leftist counterparts by more than four to one, FAIR reported.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Abu Ghraib demolished
Just broke on CNN. Right before the speech - nice move on Bush's part.


Watch 'em plummet
It's too big to post, but you can look at the graph of Bush's approval ratings since being sworn in here.

al-Sadr support plentiful in Iraq
Don't tell the White House:

In the survey, conducted by the year-old Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies, 32 percent of the respondents said they strongly support the fiercely anti-coalition Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr. Another 36 percent said they somewhat support the cleric, even though he is being sought by the coalition for his alleged involvement in the murder of a Shiite rival, who was killed last year.

The administration almost definitely won't confront these numbers with any large amount of spin, just say that polls mean nothing. However, it's becoming abundantly clear that the Iraqis do not support our cause - in fact, they dislike it enough to support the resistance. It's easy to say that those Iraqis don't really understand the transition and the benefits that they will receive. To an extent, that is true. However, convincing them of this in the meantime is no small task.

Thank God for big business
You'd be surprised at what corporations are getting government subsidies these days...

The Media and You
This kind of crap gets to me:

Mr. Bush, who is widely ridiculed by liberals and Democrats as dumb and incompetent, suffered "minor abrasions and scratches" in the accident, which came near the end of a 17-mile mountain bike ride on his Texas ranch Saturday.

What? Are you fucking kidding me? Where is the outrage at this comment? If the NYT published an article in which such a comment was made about right-wing opinion, conservatives would fume over how these things go under the public radar in the debate over the tilt of the media. But when a publication like the Washington Times does this, it's acceptable. Why? Well, because everyone knows they're conservative. When we point out that Fox News, the radio, the Washington Times etc. do unfair reporting, they simply respond "Well yeah, THEY'RE right wing, but what about the REST of the media?" Well, that isn't the point. Ideally, every station and publication would be objective. But of course, if a few are conservative, that's just fine. As long as those nosey liberals don't get in the way.

New spin on wedding party attack

BAGHDAD – The U.S. military insisted on Monday that it hit a legitimate target in an air and ground strike in western Iraq last week, despite evidence that many of those who died in the attack were part of a wedding party.

"We still don't believe that there was a wedding or a wedding party going on when we hit in the early hours of the morning," a senior military official told reporters.

"Could there have been some sort of celebration going on earlier? Certainly. It could be that there was a wedding party and that could have broken up by about 1800 (1400 GMT) that evening," said the official, who declined to be identified.

"There are still a lot of inconsistencies that still need to be worked out and that is why we're doing an investigation and we're going to take a hard look at this. We haven't denied anything. We're open to whatever evidence may come forward."

First of all, they haven't denied anything? Ease up on the comedy, boys.

Second, an earlier celebration? Is this the new spin, despite the video showing headless children on the ground? So the kids were there for the wedding, but stayed around for the gathering of terrorists (along with the wedding singer and wedding cameraman)? And this terror gathering happened to be in the SAME EXACT place the wedding was, despite being seemingly randomly placed in the desert? Perhaps I should get a job as a spinmeister at the Pentagon, because I can bullshit better than these guys.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Alabama Dem wants pot
Oh my:

WASHINGTON -- Wayne Sowell isn't widely known in Alabama, yet he is making history as a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate this year. The Birmingham resident is the first black Alabamian to run for the Senate on a major-party ticket. He also is one of the few major-party candidates anywhere in recent years for whom marijuana laws are an important concern. On a campaign Web site, Sowell lauds marijuana as "God's perfect plant," urges legalization for everyone 21 and older, and suggests that members of Congress take heed of the "pot vote."

"We Hempsters pray for God's continued guidance and leadership in this fight," Sowell concludes. "We will fight for our Hemp rights!!"

Sowell, who says he is on leave from his job with the Social Security Administration, has drawn few votes in several other runs for state and federal offices.

After a state Democratic panel disqualified a would-be rival last month, he became the party's impromptu standard-bearer this November against three-term Republican incumbent Sen. Richard Shelby.

While my first inclination is to say that any decent politician could rip him a new one for these comments, my second inclination is to say "Hell yes!" Keep fightin'!

Just in case you haven't seen
I didn't realize how badly Bush got fucked up by his little bike spill:

Kimmitt's lie exposed

"There was no evidence of a wedding: no decorations, no musical instruments found, no large quantities of food or leftover servings one would expect from a wedding celebration," Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said Saturday. "There may have been some kind of celebration. Bad people have celebrations, too."

Except - oops - they found a video. In fact, video shot the next day shows fragments of musical instruments. Yes, bad people have celebrations. But so do good people, and killing them won't get you far.

5000 civs killed in occupation
While the right may say we're aiding the terrorists, I think this is worth some consideration. The conclusions are obvious, but the idea of weighing human life against a potential democracy that could flourish (but, mind you, probably won't) isn't so easy.

Rift between US and allies
A leaked memo indicates that the UK called U.S. tactics "heavy-handed."

The concept that Blair and the British - one of our consistent backers - might be turning against our tactics (if not yet our objectives) is quite the turn of events for the White House.

Beating that dead horse
Respectful of Otters has a bit more on the Abu Ghraib issue, elaborating on attempted justifications.

Conservatives smirk at Nader issue
When George Will writes about the effectiveness of Ralph Nader in stealing Kerry votes, we might have a problem.

7% of Iraqis view us as liberators
This is very bad news:

BAGHDAD -- As the mishaps, mistakes and embarrassments pile up for U.S. forces in Iraq, what little faith existed in America's ability to resolve the country's worsening crises has all but vanished for ordinary Iraqis, with worrisome implications for the hand-over of sovereignty due in less than six weeks.

The graphic footage of mutilated children killed in what Iraqis say was a U.S. attack on a wedding party, the assassination of the Iraqi Governing Council president and the continued flow of photos depicting abuse of Iraqi prisoners have shredded America's already battered credibility in the eyes of many Iraqis.

According to a new public opinion poll conducted for the U.S. authority in Baghdad, 88 percent of Iraqis now say they regard the Americans as occupiers, and only 7 percent view them as liberators.

The Iraqis surveyed ranked the departure of U.S. forces as their third most important priority, behind security and jobs but ahead of democratization, the formation of a new government and reconstruction of the country's infrastructure, said Sadoun al Dulame, a pollster who heads the Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies. His group took the poll of 1,640 Iraqis, who were questioned in face-to-face interviews in seven cities two weeks ago, and says there is a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

Three months ago, before the disclosures of prisoner abuse and the bloody battle at Fallujah, the presence of foreign forces ranked behind all those issues.

So the Iraqis want us out...but they want security first. Well that seems logical, but what can we make of these polls? Mixed messages are pouring out of Iraq, and with all the possible solutions and answers pouring out of pundits' and politicians' mouths, one word seems to come to mind: quagmire.

TIME reports
Well this is all quite interesting:

The senate intelligence Committee is getting closer to delivering a scathing report on the CIA's prewar intelligence on Iraq. Sources tell Time that the assessment, which is nearing completion, is so tough that it is sowing doubt even among longtime fans of CIA Director George Tenet. One panel member dodged a question from Time about whether the member still had full confidence in the director, saying Tenet "has done incredible things" for the CIA but adding, "This is not going to be a happy report." Sources tell Time the committee's two ranking members interviewed Tenet secretly earlier this month at CIA headquarters. He submitted to the three-hour session willingly and was cooperative, sources said. But Tenet wouldn't confirm whether he told President Bush before the war that evidence of Saddam Hussein's weapons-of-mass-destruction arsenal was a "slam dunk," as reported in Bob Woodward's book Plan of Attack. The panel last week sent Tenet the several-hundred-page report—minus its conclusions—for a declassification review.

Well that's good news. But this is even more interesting:

Another big stack of pages is causing concern over at the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is investigating abuses at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. Committee aides discovered belatedly that their copy of the 6,000-page report on prison abuses produced by Major General Antonio M. Taguba might not be complete. The copy they got after Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's testimony on May 7 was a thick document with 106 annexes, and it was quickly arranged into separate binders. Only later did the committee stack up all the pages, compare them with a ream of 6,000 blank pages and decide that at least 2,000 pages were missing. "We'd certainly like to know why they're missing," said Republican Senator John McCain. Pentagon spokesman Larry Dirita insisted, "If there is some shortfall in what was provided, it was an oversight." Committee staff members haven't actually counted the pages. Chairman John Warner will investigate this week to see what is missing.

GOP ranks splitting

MEDFORD, Mass. - Republican Sen. Richard G. Lugar on Saturday said the United States isn't doing enough to stave off terrorism and chided President Bush for failing to offer solid plans for Iraq's future.

Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said "repairing and building alliances" is key to avoiding terrorism.

He also said it's still unclear how much control the Iraqi people will have over their nation's security when power is transferred to them June 30.

"I am very hopeful that the president and his administration will articulate precisely what is going to happen as much as they can, day by day, as opposed to a generalization," the Indiana senator said during an appearance at the Fletcher School at Tufts University.

Did Korea give Libyans uranium?

WASHINGTON, May 22 — International inspectors have discovered evidence that North Korea secretly provided Libya with nearly two tons of uranium in early 2001, which if confirmed would be the first known case in which the North Korean government has sold a key ingredient for manufacturing atomic weapons to another country, according to American officials and European diplomats familiar with the intelligence.

As recently as March, when the Bush administration invited reporters to a secure Y-12 nuclear facility in Tennessee to view the nuclear hardware turned over by Libya, a senior administration official said that Libya's uranium had likely come from Pakistan. American officials say they are now backing away from that statement, while they seek to verify the new evidence.

If only someone had warned us that North Korea was such a large threat!