:: Skeptical Notion

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:: Friday, June 20, 2003 ::

New Additions to the Blogroll

I added Debitage, The Left Coaster, and Byzantium Shores to my blogroll. They're all excellent blogs. Go visit!
:: Morat 10:26 AM :: ::

:: Thursday, June 19, 2003 ::

Even the EPA....

It looks like it's not just the CIA that's started to leak when pressured by the White House. A former EPA official handed over the first drafts of a report on the environment to the New York Times. Included in the report were the changes sought by the White House, and the protests of EPA officials.
The Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to publish a draft report next week on the state of the environment, but after editing by the White House, a long section describing risks from rising global temperatures has been whittled to a few noncommittal paragraphs.
Among the deletions were conclusions about the likely human contribution to warming from a 2001 report on climate by the National Research Council that the White House had commissioned and that President Bush had endorsed in speeches that year. White House officials also deleted a reference to a 1999 study showing that global temperatures had risen sharply in the previous decade compared with the last 1,000 years. In its place, administration officials added a reference to a new study, partly financed by the American Petroleum Institute, questioning that conclusion.
See, that's the problem. It's not that the White House is constantly lying or covering up the truth or spinning inconvenient facts. It's the way they go about it. It's the fact that the lies are so obvious, so blatant....

I mean, using a Petroleum Institute study?

I think that we're seeing the first hints of the dam breaking. The Bush White House has been known for it's near total control of all aspects of the executive branch, it's penchant for absolute loyalty, and it's message discipline.

But not everyone working in the government is a Bush staffer, or a Bush loyalist. And after almost three years of constant pressure to "adjust" reports, "spin facts" or just plain lie...these people seem to be fed up.

And the more people that leak, and the more it gets reported, the more people will consider it. It started with the CIA, leaking in self-defense after being scapegoated by the White House. Now the EPA is leaking before it has to take the heat for political decisions.

If we're lucky, we're witnessing the beginning of a massive breakdown in the White House's draconian control, and a lot of truths will start flooding out. Free of White House spin, of White House control....

The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Well, maybe not that. But something a lot closer than what we have been getting.
:: Morat 2:50 PM :: ::

Tempting Fate

Let's talk a bit about motive. Specifically, why is Perry taking another swing at DeLay's redistricting scheme? For once, the answer is right there in the article. It's just that reporters don't seem to notice.
Susan Weddington, chairwoman of the Texas Republican Party, pointed out in a news release that 56 percent of the state's voters last year cast ballots for GOP congressional candidates and, therefore, it makes sense to have a map that would end the Democrats' edge. Republicans hold every statewide elective office and have majorities in both state houses.
Do you see it? It's right there in black and white. It's why Karl Rove is pushing this, it's why Tom DeLay is pushing this (although it's possible DeLay is just doing it because he's Tom DeLay. A scorpion and the frog affair) and it's why Perry is pushing this.

It's why the GOP is acting desperate. It's right there, in black and white. All you need is one tiny bit of information. This bit. Which is a breakdown, by US Congressional district of voting in Texas during 2002. I've got a nice table here of some of the more interesting results. The current breakdown in the House is 17 Democrats, 15 Republicans. Tom DeLay's plan (what he thinks is "fair" given Texas' partisan breakdown) is 20 GOP, 12 Democrat.

In 6 of the 17 districts, a Democrat was elected to the House despite the district voting for the GOP candidates for Senator, Governor and Lt. Governor. What would cause that? Unelectable GOP Candidates. Texas didn't send more Democrats to Congress because of gerrymandered districts, as DeLay and Perry would have you believe, but because the GOP candidates running in 6 House districts were such poor candidates that voters chose a Democrat instead...despite showing a clear preference for GOP politicians. Check the table. They're showing swings of up to twenty percent. How bad does your candidate have to be to lose twenty percent?

Tom DeLay and Karl Rove aren't just trying to get more Republicans in Congress. They're trying to rig Texas so that even the worst, the most unpopular GOP candidates can win.

Why? Because the GOP has a growing problem with unelectable candidates. Look at California's last election. Rove handpicked an electable, moderate Republican who should have been able to wipe the floor with Davis. And what happened? He lost in the primaries to an extremist and unelectable candidate.

The GOP's far right wing is apparently getting tired of empty promises and political calculation, and is starting to push candidates they can trust to enact their agenda. No more running to the right, only to move to the middle. They want candidates who will stay on the far right all the time. The only problem is the very extremism that wins them primaries kills them in the election. Independents won't vote for them. Even moderate Republicans are often scared off.

And so they lose elections. Which brings us to DeLay's and Rove's problem. They need a way to elect these extremists. Tom , because he's one of them himself and Rove, because the GOP base is getting antsy and appeasing them is absolutely critical to continued GOP control.

Which brings us to Tom's plan. In order to elect GOP extremists, you need heavily GOP districts. 60% isn't going to cut it, because 10 to 15% of that 60% simply can't be counted on to vote "the right way" for the more extreme candidates, and you can bet the other 40% is going to be voting Democratic out of sheer terror.

They're already losing Republican districts because their base is nominating more and more unelectable candidates. And so, in true Rove fashion, the solution isn't to nominate electable candidates, but to bend and break the rules to force those candidates in. Even if the majority of the populace is against it. It's all about power. Getting it, but more important this time, holding on.

:: Morat 11:14 AM :: ::

Redistricting Republicans

Well, it's official. Perry called the special session and the Texas Legislature goes back to work on June 30th to attempt an unprecedented second redistricting. Now, I've blogged about how this is unlikely to help Perry (or the GOP) win friends and influence people, but let me reiterate: It's a stupid political stunt that it more likely to burn Perry and the GOP than the Democrats. (Thanks to Tom Spencer for the link).

First off, the Democrats aren't going to let it pass. Period. Perry knows that. The Democrats know that. The GOP knows that. The Press knows that. Everyone knows that. This is the sort of thing where you hold the line. You don't let it happen. Because if you do, the rules that keep politics civil (and thus effective) go out the window. And so does effective politics.

So, since everyone and their dog (except perhaps Tom DeLay, who is the sort to be blinded by wishful thinking and pure arrogance) know this isn't going to pass, why is Perry calling a 1.7 million dollar special session?

I don't know. Maybe he's stupid. Maybe he's got a lot of Tom DeLay in him. Maybe he lost a bet.

But it isn't passing. The bill won't even be considered in the Senate, unless Perry manages to force a rule change. (To consider the bill, the GOP needs every GOP vote plus one of the Democratic senators. Given that even some GOP senators wish this would go away quietly, they might have a problem even getting the GOP senators to all sign on).

If Perry forces the rule change, then the House Democrats will move back to Oklahoma for a few weeks. Or perhaps New Mexico this time. And, of course, as the only bill in the special session, they'll spend their time pointing out what a power grab this was, and how Perry had to change long standing Senate rules to even bring it up, and how this is a second redistricting, and how it's a waste of tax-payer money when Texas has a huge shortfall, and why are we wasting time with partisan nonsense when we have real problems?

It's going to bite Perry and the GOP hard. Again. Some people never learn.
:: Morat 10:30 AM :: ::

:: Wednesday, June 18, 2003 ::

Dividend Tax Cuts

Slate has a good article about who will end up benefiting from Bush's dividend tax cut, and it closes with something I've been saying for awhile, and never got a straight answer to.
President Bush and Congress have created a confusing dividend tax cut because they cut the dividend tax the wrong way. Making dividend payments tax-deductible for companies—and thus equalizing the tax treatment of interest payments and dividend payments—would have provided a direct incentive for companies to pay larger dividends and would have averted much of the accounting confusion. But that might have been viewed as an unwarranted sop to corporate America. The Republican Party usually makes no bones about behaving as if it is the legislative auxiliary of the Business Roundtable. Why, in a case when acting as a servant of corporate America would have been a good idea, did President Bush and Congress restrain themselves?
Why indeed? I'd wonder, offhand, how the difference in those two suggestions would play out in the various tax brackets. Because I'm cynical, I'd say that the difference between the two plans (and the sole reason for choosing such an odd way of going about it) is that the plan Bush picked benefits the upper brackets even more.

But it's not my field. I think I'll go pester a few other bloggers to look into it.
:: Morat 3:21 PM :: ::

It's nice they admitted it...

David Broder had an interesting piece today, talking about Grover Norquist's Op/Ed on Tax Reform. In it, Norquist talks quite bodly about Bush's tax cuts and how they are part of a long term plan to destroy popular social programs. What makes it worth reading is not the existance of such a plan, which has been floating around for years, but the fact that conservatives are finally openly admitting it.

The consequence of this -- not spelled out in his essay but clearly in his mind -- is a massive rollback in federal revenue and what he regards as a desirable shrinkage of federal services and benefits. In short, the goal is a system of government wiped clean, on both the revenue and spending side, of almost a century's accumulation of social programs designed to provide a safety net beneath the private economy.
I told Norquist that his op-ed had been the subject of many comments -- both favorable and critical -- from people in an online chat I'd done for washingtonpost.com, and that several Democratic operatives had discussed it in phone interviews. Did you think you were tipping off the opposition? I asked.

"No," he said, "I think the smart guys on the left have known for a long time they are in trouble -- and that we are going to dig out their whole structure of programs and power."

For once Norquist may have underestimated himself. The amount of talk his essay has engendered makes it clear it was as much an alarm bell to the Democrats as a rallying cry for the Republicans.
I enjoyed Lambert's take on it.
Student loans? "Wiped clean." Unemployment insurance? "Wiped clean"? School lunch for your kids? "Wiped clean." National parks? "Wiped clean." Your Mom's Medicare? "Wiped clean." Your Dad's Medicaid? "Wiped clean."

This better be a rallying cry. They just flat out admitted that their goal is to rid the US of Social Security, of Medicare, of Medicaid, of unemployment insurance, of school lunches, of federal education money, of college loans....of everything that isn't the military or subsidies for businesses.

It shouldn't just be a rallying cry for liberals, or Democrats...but moderates, the elderly, anyone who fell for 'compassionate conservative'. They're trying to eradicate programs most of America wants, and they've grown so arrogant they're not even trying to lie to you anymore.

So what are you going to do about it?
:: Morat 2:57 PM :: ::

Cover Art

Now, generally, the only time I mention Darrell Sweet is to badmouth him as the Evil Man Who Did Ruin the Cover of The Eye of the World (all the books of that series, actually. Although, it's not entirely his fault.), but I have to admit he has done good work on occasion. The image Byzantium Shores uses as a masthead, for instance. You should go check it out. Lovely image, good blog.

Still, Darrell Sweet can't hold a candle to Michael Whelan. I loved his cover for The Initiate Brother, a very good book in it's own right. I was thrilled to see he's doing the cover for the re-release of The Gunslinger. I picked up a copy of The Art of Michael Whelan a few years ago, and it's a great collection.
:: Morat 1:25 PM :: ::

MoveOn's Online Primary

MoveOn is having an online Democratic primary. To participate, you have to register here, ahead of time. (The primary will be the 24th of June).

Why should you register? Because this primary isn't another online poll. MoveOn is a PAC, and it's members raised 600,000 for Wellstone in a matter of days. And they're going to throw their support, and quite a bit of cash -- potentially millions -- behind the winning candidate.

It's grassroots, real grassroots. One of the most troubling trends of the last few decades has been the death of political activism, of the real grassroots in favor of astroturf and political triangulation.

This is your chance, our chance, to be active in the political process again. To help shape the future of our country. To make politics something other than a trip to the polls in November, and a choice between two evils.
:: Morat 12:43 PM :: ::

Read my lips...No WMDs!

George Bush on June 16th, 2003:
President Bush shot back Tuesday at those suggesting his administration inflated prewar intelligence data on Iraq's weapons program. He said the most important fact was that "the people of Iraq are free."
George Bush on March 17th, 2003 (two days before the war started):
The danger is clear: using chemical, biological or, one day, nuclear weapons, obtained with the help of Iraq, the terrorists could fulfill their stated ambitions and kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people in our country, or any other.

The United States and other nations did nothing to deserve or invite this threat. But we will do everything to defeat it. Instead of drifting along toward tragedy, we will set a course toward safety. Before the day of horror can come, before it is too late to act, this danger will be removed.

The United States of America has the sovereign authority to use force in assuring its own national security. That duty falls to me, as Commander-in-Chief, by the oath I have sworn, by the oath I will keep.

Recognizing the threat to our country, the United States Congress voted overwhelmingly last year to support the use of force against Iraq. America tried to work with the United Nations to address this threat because we wanted to resolve the issue peacefully. We believe in the mission of the United Nations. One reason the U.N. was founded after the second world war was to confront aggressive dictators, actively and early, before they can attack the innocent and destroy the peace.

Revisionist history indeed. Links via Altercation.
:: Morat 11:00 AM :: ::

William Pryor

Some background on Bush's latest nominee.
Pryor has called Roe v. Wade "the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history." He defended infamous Alabama state judge Roy Moore, who posted the Ten Commandments in his courtroom and had them engraved in a monument in the court building’s rotunda, where they stay, awaiting an appeal from a higher court. Pryor believes that accepting homosexuality and decriminalizing gay sex acts will lead to sex with human corpses, as well as assorted members of the animal kingdom.

"A constitutional right that protects ‘the choice of one’s partner’ and ‘whether and how to connect sexually,’" Pryor has written, "must logically extend to activities like prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, possession of child pornography and even incest and pedophilia (if the child should credibly claim to be ‘willing’)."
Pryor has instead let his opinions and his family life define him. The reason he’s letting it all hang out is because he’s got a record five miles long, and it would be ludicrous for him to try to backtrack or obscure his positions, as most Bush nominees do. This is a man who, after all, vigorously defended an attempt to ban "any device primarily designed or marketed as useful for the stimulation of human genital organs" in the state of Alabama. (Can’t you just see it now? With their father pushing a guy like this, it’s only a matter of time before the Bush twins are revealed to be using big black dildos and power drill-like vibrators.)
Apparently, even some of Bush’s staunchest apologists just can’t swallow this one down. The Log Cabin Republicans have done an "analysis" of Pryor’s positions and it seems they just cannot defend the guy–like they quite easily defended John Ashcroft back during his nomination hearings, though Ashcroft has been a vicious antigay crusader for years. Nor–to their credit, I suppose–do the Log Cabinites believe they think they can stay silent on this one either.

"An analysis of Mr. Pryor’s work finds compelling evidence that he would be a jurist incapable of fair-minded review of matters of concern to gay and lesbian Americans," the group opined.
Yep, this is the guy Bush wants on the 11th Circuit Court. Doesn't he sound great? (Thanks to Angry Bear for the link. I've been looking for a good synopsis.)
:: Morat 10:17 AM :: ::

Harry Potter and the Tight Security

Thieves have disrupted the magical world of the Harry Potter countdown. Thousands of copies of the new Harry Potter book have been snatched from a warehouse in England, potentially spoiling publishing’s most treasured — and guarded — secret. Booksellers, warehouse workers and others across the English-speaking world have been following strict security measures to ensure a smooth release of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” the latest adventure in the blockbuster series. The book goes on sale at midnight June 21.
See? This is what happens when you teach kids about dark, satanic magic. This was obviously the work of crazed 13 year-olds and their devil-inspired magic. I wouldn't be surprised to find Malfoy was involved.

I'm ordering my non-stolen copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix tonight. Rowling's books are excellent children's fantasy, almost as good as Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising Sequence or Lloyd Alexander's Pyrdain books (starting with The Book of Three).
:: Morat 10:04 AM :: ::

Orrin Hatch and Computers

Can you believe this? And this man is occasionally suggested as a GOP nominee to the Supreme Court.
Hatch asked technology executives about ways to damage computers involved in such file trading. Legal experts have said any such attack would violate federal anti-hacking laws.

"No one is interested in destroying anyone's computer," replied Randy Saaf of MediaDefender Inc., a secretive Los Angeles company that builds technology to disrupt music downloads. One technique deliberately downloads pirated material very slowly so other users can't.

"I'm interested," Hatch interrupted. He said damaging someone's computer "may be the only way you can teach somebody about copyrights."

The senator acknowledged Congress would have to enact an exemption for copyright owners from liability for damaging computers. He endorsed technology that would twice warn a computer user about illegal online behavior, "then destroy their computer."

"If we can find some way to do this without destroying their machines, we'd be interested in hearing about that," Hatch said. "If that's the only way, then I'm all for destroying their machines. If you have a few hundred thousand of those, I think people would realize" the seriousness of their actions, he said.

"There's no excuse for anyone violating copyright laws," Hatch said.
Offhand, I'm pretty sure that 'Hatch's Solution' would require changing about a zillion laws. If done by the government, it's unconstitutional in at least one way (due process, anyone?).

It's one of the stupidest things Orrin Hatch has said to date, and that's saying a lot.

I certainly hope his computers and websites have the best security. I'm guessing Orrin just made himself a target to a lot of technically savvy people.
:: Morat 9:43 AM :: ::

Dean on "Revisionist Historians"

However the Democratic primaries turn out, I hope the DNC keeps Dean in the news. We need people who can, and will, say things like this:
Yesterday, President Bush asserted that those who question the evidence he used to justify the pre-emptive war in Iraq are ‘revisionist historians.’ Yet it is President Bush who is rewriting history.

“To justify the preemptive invasion of Iraq, the President claimed that the United States faced an imminent threat from Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and that the Iraqi regime had direct ties to Al Qaeda. Meanwhile, no reliable evidence has materialized to prove Iraqi support of Al Qaeda, and weapons of mass destruction have not been found.

“The American people shouldn't have to wait for the history books to be written to discover the truth. Did the President receive bad intelligence, or did his administration deliberately mislead Congress, the United Nations and the American people?

:: Morat 9:18 AM :: ::

More dead Americans

Visiting Daily Kos was depressing. We lost three American soldiers in two incidents today, and managed to shoot two protestors in another.

And Rumsfeld was shocked we weren't greeted with flowers and cheers.

In the first, troops opened fire on protesters after having their convoy pelted with rocks. The Protestors were chanting "Down USA" I might add. The military is claiming self defense, but as I've said before, the facts don't matter. It's impressions that count, and the Iraqis are going to believe that we shot at protestors because we didn't like what they said. Not something unusual in Iraq.

In another incident, a US soldier was shot and killed (and another wounded) in a drive-by at the gas station they were guarding. More guerilla assaults.

And not the only one. Apparently another two were killed by grenade guarding yet another gas station.

And Bremer thinks heavy-handed raids are going to fix this? When are they going to admit that this isn't the work of small pro-Saddam rebels? These "rebels" have the support of the Iraqi people. And the more protests we ignore, and the more protestors we shoot, the more rebels we'll have shooting at us.

It's only going to get worse. Welcome to the occupation.
:: Morat 8:39 AM :: ::

Fools Rush In

It appears that Gov. Perry, not content with the scandals that erupted the last time Texas Republicans tried to force through an unprecedented second redistricting, is going to call a special session of the Legislature to try again.

I'm at a loss to explain this. He doesn't have the 20 votes he needs to bring it up in the Senate (19 Republicans, 12 Democrats) under the normal rules for a special session. Rules that Lt. Gov. Dehurst indicates he plans to adhere to. Worse yet, not all of the Senate Republicans have committed to a vote to bring it up. A few of them, at least, don't want to deal with Tom DeLay's mess.

So he can't even bring it up for a vote in the Senate, much less protect it from a filibuster.

And even if he could, the House Democrats will simply relocate to Oklahoma again, with even less political fallout than before. After all, this time they won't be interrupting any other work, and they'll be able to get total public attention on the fact that this is a second redistricting, done for purely partisan reasons*. In fact, one House Democrat is already seeking a ruling on whether Craddick even has the authority to use DPS troopers to ensure a quorum.

So, other than looking stupid, petty, and ineffective, I can't imagine why Perry would do this....perhaps someone out there can explain. (Link via Talking Points Memo)

*Stupid partisan reasons. Tom DeLay's upset that Texas elected a majority GOP Legislature, but sent 17 Democrats and 15 Republicans to the House. He insinuates that it was because of gerrymandering. He's full of it. 5 of the Texas Democrats came from districts that voted Republican in statewide races. In other words, they voted a Democrat into Congress not because it's a gerrymandered Democratic district, but because the GOP ran such bad candidates that the Democrat was more popular in a GOP-leaning district.
:: Morat 8:23 AM :: ::

:: Tuesday, June 17, 2003 ::

It's the Economy, Stupid

George is officially worse for the economy than his father was. Given that a sour economy took down Elder Bush despite his 91% approval rating in Gulf War I, the fact that Junior Bush is facing a worse economy and only managed a 71% approval rating for Gulf War II has to be keeping Rove up at night.
Three out of four employers expect to cut jobs or hold off on hiring this summer, contributing to the worst employment market since the early 1990s, a new survey said Tuesday.

About two-thirds of employers said they don't expect to hire any additional workers and 9 percent plan to eliminate jobs during the July-to-September quarter, according to the survey by Manpower Inc.

:: Morat 12:14 PM :: ::

Democrats discover obvious! Much revelry!

Seriously, was this such a difficult political concept? It's only been the butt of jokes on late-night TV (and of course, The Daily Show, which should be required viewing for all political staffers) and wandered around the various blogs for the last year or so. However, better late than never.
A new report by the Democratic staff on the House Appropriations Committee this week asserts that Bush, by cutting about $200 million in the program that provides assistance to public schools serving military bases, would pare education funding disproportionately for children of soldiers who fought in Iraq. That adds to several complaints the staff has assembled: Bush's signature on the latest tax cut, which failed to extend a child tax credit to nearly 200,000 low-income military personnel; a $1.5 billion reduction in his 2004 budget, to $9.2 billion from $10.7 billion, for military housing and the like; and a cut of $14.6 billion over 10 years in benefits paid through the Veterans Administration.

"They're saying they unequivocally support the military, but then they make quite clear that the check is not in the mail," said Rep. David R. Obey (Wis.), the top Democrat on House Appropriations, referring to the administration. "They're taking actions that fly in the face of the support they profess for the military."

:: Morat 12:12 PM :: ::

You get what you pay for

Uggabugga has a chart comparing high school rankings, Bush v. Gore rankings and electoral votes. So, basically, quality of schools, political leanings, population.

While it's a neat idea, and I'd like to see a more thorough look at it, the way it's done now probably isn't worth too much. Take Texas, for example. Quiddity notes that Texas almost qualifies as "better than expected". However, Texas funds it's schools in a very particular way.

First off, Texas has no income tax. Schools are minimally funded by the state, but the bulk of their funding comes from local property taxes. It's scaled somewhat, so that the poorest districts receive somewhat more from the State, and there is a cap on local property taxes, but ultimately, it boils down to where in Texas you live.

I grew up near one of the better schools. It had a fairly low property tax rate, but the district was one of the richest in Texas because a good chunk of the property taxed were high-value pertrochemical industries. But there are schools in East Texas that spent a fraction as much per student as my high school, yet had property taxes pegged at maximum.

I recognized the bulk of the Texas schools on the MSNBC list. They're from high-value areas, which means that their per-student funding is going to be double or more the state average.

All this means is that you can't really extrapolate how good Texas schools are by the number of "Top" schools the state has. It's pretty meaningless, because state-level funding is minimal.

Of course, ever since our current school funding system was declared unconstitutional, things have been getting weird in the Texas school system. Quite a few of the richer districts are going bankrupt, since they can't raise taxes enough to offset the money they're forced to donate to lower-income schools, and they're running into limits on cutting spending.

The motto of this tale is: If you're going to attend public school in Texas, live in a rich neighborhood. Or next to refineries. Otherwise, you're screwed.

:: Morat 10:14 AM :: ::

Dereliction of Duty

Krugman is almost always a must read. Today is no different.
Last Thursday a House subcommittee met to finalize next year's homeland security appropriation. The ranking Democrat announced that he would introduce an amendment adding roughly $1 billion for areas like port security and border security that, according to just about every expert, have been severely neglected since Sept. 11. He proposed to pay for the additions by slightly scaling back tax cuts for people making more than $1 million per year.

The subcommittee's chairman promptly closed the meeting to the public, citing national security — though no classified material was under discussion. And the bill that emerged from the closed meeting did not contain the extra funding.
Some of this pattern of neglect involves penny-pinching. Back in February, even George W. Bush in effect admitted that not enough money had been allocated to domestic security — though (to the fury of Republican legislators) he blamed Congress. Yet according to Fred Kaplan in Slate, the administration's latest budget proposal for homeland security actually contains less money than was spent last year. Meanwhile, urgent priorities remain unmet. For example, port security, identified as a top concern from the very beginning, has so far received only one-tenth as much money as the Coast Guard says is needed.
Furthermore, even on the military front the administration has been weirdly reluctant to come to grips with terrorism. It refused to provide Afghanistan's new government with an adequate security umbrella, with the predictable result that warlords are running rampant and the Taliban are making a comeback. The squandered victory in Afghanistan was one reason people like myself had a bad feeling about the invasion of Iraq — and sure enough, the administration was bizarrely lackadaisical about providing postwar security. Even nuclear waste dumps were left unguarded for weeks.
After all, the supposed reasons for fighting that war have turned out to be false — there were no links to Al Qaeda, there wasn't a big arsenal of W.M.D.'s.

But never mind — we won, didn't we? Maybe not. About half of the U.S. Army's combat strength is now tied down in Iraq, facing what looks increasingly like a guerrilla war — and like a perfect recruiting device for Al Qaeda. Meanwhile, the real war on terror has been neglected, and we've antagonized the allies we need to fight that war. One of these days we'll end up paying the price.
Once more, for the record: Few of us doves were doves out of a sense of pacifism.

We were doves because we didn't think this war was a good idea. Why? Because George W. Bush showed every sign that he'd screw it up. And he did. In every conceivable way. And now half our Army is stuck in Iraq, with no end in sight, facing an increasingly angry populace by day and constant guerilla assaults by night.

And no one is going to offer more than token help.

And for what? A picture of Bush in a flight suit? Knocking off one of a hundred nasty tyrants? Revenge? Reelection?

It certainly wasn't for America.
:: Morat 9:24 AM :: ::

Desperate Man Talking

You know Bush is hurting on the WMD issue when he starts blasting questions about it as "revisionist history". I realize that Bush was a C student, but "history"? We're talking claims made by the current administration over the last 12 months, as well as their actions over the last six months and the affairs in Iraq over the last three.
President Bush (news - web sites) countered those questioning his justification for the invasion of Iraq (news - web sites) on Monday, dismissing "revisionist historians" and saying Washington acted to counter a persistent threat.

"Now there are some who would like to rewrite history; revisionist historians is what I like to call them," Bush said in a speech to New Jersey business leaders.

Referring to the ousted Iraqi president, Bush said, "Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) was a threat to America and the free world in '91, in '98, in 2003. He continually ignored the demands of the free world, so the United States and friends and allies acted."

The president did not mention Iraqi unconventional weapons in his remarks, although accusations Iraq had chemical and biological weapons were central to his prewar campaign to build support for an attack. No such weapons have yet been found.
I'm sorry, George, but it's not even "history" yet. It's still current events. And you're in it up to the hips. I realize that "revisionist history" is a long-time favorite of the GOP, used to blast anyone daring to disagree with their version of history, but it's not going to help you out this time. Your quotes and claims are public record. As is fact that those claims were utterly and completely false.

It's all public record, George. Cherrypicking the intel stream, using known forgeries, exaggerating evidence....even making it up out of whole cloth. It's all public record, George. It doesn't have to be revised. It's all there in black and white for anyone to see. And you look pretty damn bad in it.

Cheer up! I'm sure your single term will be thoroughly covered in any history book. Revisionist or not. (Thanks to Tom Spencer for the link...)
:: Morat 9:15 AM :: ::

:: Monday, June 16, 2003 ::

Lazy Inspections..

In an effort to further convince us that the war with Iraq was not about violations of UN resolutions, not a single American soldier has visited the largest missile company in Iraq.

Despite the fact that a simple trip would yield them the complete designs and test results for Iraqi's entire missile program. Something UN inspectors have wanted for quite some time.

But it's not even on our list of sites to visit. And with our "inspection" teams leaving the country or being assigned to other work, I somehow doubt we'll come running in the days ahead.

Looted nuclear storage sites, missile complexes uninspected...what a mess we've made of our reputation.
:: Morat 1:13 PM :: ::

Another Attack in Iraq

I don't know how long this has to continue until the truth finally penetrates the heads of our glorious leaders and their assorted minions.
Guerrillas ambushed a U.S. convoy in the hostile region north of Baghdad Sunday, wounding several soldiers, as a new U.S. mission was launched to hunt for Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) loyalists blamed for recent attacks.

A crippled U.S. truck smoldered on the highway south of the restive town of Balad after the ambush, its tires and canopy ablaze. Apache helicopters buzzed overhead, searching for the attackers. Tanks and armored vehicles surrounded the truck. Troops trained their guns at the fields around the road.

Soldiers said several casualties had been evacuated.
Much as we'd like to believe that these assaults are the work of a few dissidents, of a few Saddam sympathizers and some fanatics from other countries, it's simply not true.

These people wouldn't exist if large numbers of Iraqi's weren't sympathetic to their cause. We should consider ourselves lucky that many Iraqi's don't consider it bad enough to personally pick up one of the AK-47s or RPGs lying around and join in the fight.

But because we don't want to admit the painful truth, that our invasion of Iraq was an occupation, not a liberation, we continue to make all the wrong moves and do all the wrong things.

Your average Iraqi citizen might be thrilled Saddam is gone, but that doesn't mean he's happy we're there. And while we undoubtedly got some good will in the process, we're squandering it all on mass arrests, house-to-house searches, and the chaos and disorder that is our occupation.

And sooner or later, if we don't wise up and admit the truth, we're going to start pushing more and more citizens to pick up their rifles and grenades and join the resistance.
:: Morat 11:54 AM :: ::

An Open Letter to John McCain

John McCain had this to say about our failure to discover any of the weapons Bush claimed were in Iraqi hands.
Like many Americans, I am surprised that we have yet to locate the weapons of mass destruction that all of us, Republican and Democrat, expected to find immediately in Iraq. But do critics really believe that Saddam Hussein disposed of his weapons and dismantled weapons programs while fooling every major intelligence service on earth, generations of U.N. inspectors, three U.S. presidents and five secretaries of defense into believing he possessed them, in one of the most costly and irrational gambles in history?

Does anyone believe that the United States, the Iraqi people or the Arab world would be better off if Hussein were still in power, if 8-year-old children were still held in Iraqi prisons, if Hussein were still threatening his neighbors? Hussein alone was responsible for this war, and we need make no apologies for supporting the use of U.S. military force to rid the world of his murderous regime.

It is too early to declare final victory in Iraq. But we're well past the point of knowing that our war to liberate Iraq was right and just. The discovery of mass graves filled with the bodies of murdered children should have convinced even the greatest skeptic. We made America more secure, liberated millions from a reign of terror and helped create the prospect for the establishment of the first Arab democracy. That should make Americans proud -- and critics of the administration's decision to go to war a little more circumspect.
In response, I'd like to offer this:

Dear John,

I like you John. I have for a number of years. Hell, I'd even have voted for you last election, had you not gone down to some particularly nasty tricks. We haven't always seen eye-to-eye, and you're not exactly Mr. Perfect, but you're a cut above the usual in Washington.

So it's pretty sad to see you've sipped the Kool-Aide and bought the party line. You were lied to, John. They lied right to your face. And you, of all people, should have known better. They've lied about you, if you remember. They spent an awful lot of money slurring your reputation, stirring up bigoted fears and tarring you with everything they could dig up or make up. Come on, John. Was 1999 so long ago that you've forgotten?

They've done it to you again, John, only this time you're aiding and abetting it. You're helping do their dirty work. Helping them pool the wool over the eyes of the American public. A public I always believed you wanted to serve, even if we didn't always agree on what they needed.

John, of the three US Presidents who had to deal with Saddam as an enemy, not an ally, only one claimed he was a threat to the United States. George Bush Senior claimed he was a threat to Saudi Arabia, a lie of it's own, and certainly a threat to Kuwait. But not a threat to us. Not America.

Bill Clinton kept an eye on him, and a few times dropped a few bombs on something particularly worrisome. But he didn't claim Saddam was a threat to us. Our troops in Saudi or Kuwait, perhaps. To the surrounding region, perhaps. To peace in the Middle East, perhaps.

But Clinton knew the real threat: Osama Bin Laden. Clinton kept his eye on the ball. And I don't think I need to remind you, John, about who managed to hurt us on September 11th.

Dubya, on the other hand, never had his eye on the ball. On September 12th, he was already pushing to invade Iraq. He bombed Afghanistan (and we're already starting to talk to the Taliban again. History does repeat, doesn't it?) and then left it to it's own devices to prepare to invade Iraq.

And he justified this by lying. He lied to your very face. He lied to the American public. Doesn't that make you mad, John?

He told you, and us, and the world, that Saddam was dangerous to America. To the world. And to back up his bold words...he lied. He lied over and over. And they weren't even good lies, John. They were bad ones, utterly transparent. The whole world knew they were lies, which is why we are very much alone in Iraq right now. No one else wanted anything to do with Bush's lies and Bush's war. And even Britain doesn't want anything to do with Bush's mess this time.

So it falls to American troops to pay the price for George's lies, John. Our troops. They're dying. About one a day, since George stood proudly under his "Mission Accomplished" banner. They're dying because George lied to you. Because he lied to us. Because he lied to the world.

It's only going to get worse, John. And yet here you stand, defending the lie. George lied about the reasons, George lied about the length, George lied about the costs. Virtually everything about this war was a lie.

I don't have to trust Saddam, or Iraq, to believe George is a liar. All I have to do is look at the evidence in front of me. There aren't any weapons, John. Not a single one. Not a gallon of that 500 tons of anthrax. Not a single SCUD. Not even a mobile lab. Just a British trailer for making weather balloons. They're simply not there, John. Certainly not in the amounts George told us.

We didn't invade because Saddam might have these weapons. He's had them for two decades. We didn't invade because Saddam was getting to be a threat again. Everyone but George agreed that Saddam was far weaker now than he was in 1991. Everyone but George knew that the UN inspectors had destroyed the lion's share of Iraq's arsenal, and that US and British sorties had destroyed a good chunk of the rest. Everyone but Bush knew.

That's not exactly true. Bush knew too. But he lied about it. And he used every ounce of credibility as President of the US, as recipient of the best intelligence data in the world to sell that lie. To you, John. To us. To the world. He told us Saddam was more dangerous, even while the CIA and the UN contradicted that. He told us Saddam was a threat to us, even as the CIA contradicted that too. He told us Saddam worked with Osama Bin Laden, and the whole world knew that wasn't true.

And not just lies, John. He exploited our fears and biases as well. You should be familiar with that, John. You were so angry when he did that to you. And now he's doing it again. And you're helping.

He managed to convince the American public that Iraq had something to do with 9/11. Don't believe me? Check his own speeches. He never missed a chance to utter "Iraq" and "terrorism" together. Better yet, check the polls. Too many Americans believe Osama and Saddam worked together, instead of being bitter enemies. Too many Americans believe Iraqis were on those planes in September. Too many Americans believe George's lies. And you're helping him.

You're trying to rationalize the lies. You're trying to help George justify the dead Americans, the dead Iraqis. Yes, Saddam was a nasty person. But you know what? So are a lot of leaders. One of our putative allies tends to boil dissidents. I don't see George trying to invade him.

Yes, Saddam was a nasty man. But we didn't invade to free Iraq, or to rid them of an evil dictator. If we had, John, we'd have been prepared to actually help them. Instead, they're dying in numbers over there. Their biggest city, home to millions and millions, still lacks power and water. Their hospitals are looted, their cultural history gone. 3500 of them, minimum, are dead from our bombs.

And we kill more everyday. Not evildoers, John. Civilians. The innocent. Guilty of nothing. And all the remorse in the world isn't going to bring them back. And all the justifications in the world aren't going to change the fact that helping these people was the last thing on George's mind.

Our soldiers are dying, John. They're going to continue to die over there. We're not helping the Iraqi people either. They don't have water, or power, or decent medical care anymore. They're living in anarchy and chaos,shot at by US troops chasing rebels, and sitting on the brink of civil war.

What are you going to do, John, about fundamentalists Shia clerics pushing for an Islamic state? Is your idea of "helping" the Iraqi people mean helping them into a fundamentalist state where at least half the population is going to lose most of their rights?

George lied to you, John. He lied to all of us. And his lies are killing Americans every day. And as long as you're helping him, so are you.

Whatever good reasons existed to invade Iraq and dispose Saddam, George Bush didn't have them. Look at Iraq and tell me George Bush cared at all about the plight of the Iraqi people. Because he lied to us, we were robbed of our chance to insist that any invasion be done for the right reasons. We were robbed of our chance to actually help Iraq.

He lied to you, John. Just like he lied in 1999. Just like he's lying to you now. When are you going to stand up to him? When are you going to demand the truth?
:: Morat 10:21 AM :: ::

Footshooting, Texas-Style...

It looks like Tom DeLay might be shooting the GOP in the foot over the child Tax-Credit issue. The White House is pushing this hard, for the simple reason that the current situation is horrible politics for Bush and his "compassionate conservatism". After all, it was made crystal clear that the tax credits for low-income families were dropped, very specifically, in favor of increased rebates to the upper brackets.

No one likes Scrooge, and "cutting taxes on the rich, and shafting the poor" doesn't appeal to any Americans outside the WSJ's editorial pages.

So the White House is quite eager to rectify this mistake. It appears, however, that Tom DeLay is not interested in cutting the taxes of people who "don't pay income tax". (The fact that they pay 7% of their horribly small income on payroll taxes is a point DeLay can't be bothered with). More to the point. Tom DeLay was quite dismissive of White House requests to pass the tax-credit.

At least pass it without even more tax cuts. At the moment, it's at an impasse. The Senate added the child tax credits in, offsetting the amount by raising customs fees. It's the only way it would pass the Senate. The House added it in, along with 70-odd billion in other tax cuts.

The Senate is refusing to pass any more tax cuts without corresponding increases in revenues, and the House is refusing to pass anything that raises revenues. So no real compromise is possible.

Which means that Tom DeLay is giving the Democrats political gold. Claiming that the GOP is cutting taxes for the rich on the backs of the poor and working class is an old line, but such clear-cut examples make it sound brand-new.

So my hat's off to Tom DeLay. Keep firing your gun, Tom. Like Newt, you're hitting the best possible targets. (Link via The Left Coaster)
:: Morat 9:39 AM :: ::

The Dog Ate My WMDs

A must-read editorial from Truthout.
After roughly 280 days worth of fearful descriptions of the formidable Iraqi arsenal, coming on the heels of seven years of UNSCOM weapons inspections, four years of surveillance, months of UNMOVIC weapons inspections, the investiture of an entire nation by American and British forces, after which said forces searched "everywhere" per the words of the Marine commander over there and "found nothing," after interrogating dozens of the scientists and officers who have nothing to hide anymore because Hussein is gone, after finding out that the dreaded 'mobile labs' were weather balloon platforms sold to Iraq by the British, George W. Bush and his people suddenly have a few things to answer for.
George W. Bush and his people used the fear and terror that still roils within the American people in the aftermath of September 11 to fob off an unnerving fiction about a faraway nation, and then used that fiction to justify a war that killed thousands and thousands of people.

Latter-day justifications about 'liberating' the Iraqi people or demonstrating the strength of America to the world do not obscure this fact. They lied us into a war that, beyond the death toll, served as the greatest Al Qaeda recruiting drive in the history of the world. They lied about a war that cost billions of dollars which could have been better used to bolster America's amazingly substandard anti-terror defenses. They are attempting, in the aftermath, to misuse the CIA by blaming them for all of it.

Blaming the CIA will not solve this problem, for the CIA is well able to defend itself. Quashing investigations in the House will not stem the questions that come now at a fast and furious clip.

They lied. Period. Trust a teacher on this. We can spot liars who have not done their homework a mile away.
It was heartening to see that 35 House Republicans signed onto Resolution 260, which is a demand "That the President is requested to transmit to the House of Representatives not later than 4 days after the date of the adoption of this resolution documents or other materials in the President's possession that provides specific evidence for the following claims relating to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction" and goes on to list ten claims made about the existance of banned Iraqi chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons and programs.

Maybe not even George can get away with this one....
:: Morat 8:57 AM :: ::

Even the White House is giving up on WMDs...

If the fact that Bush was trumpeting the discovery of trailers instead of anthrax or VX as proof of Iraq's weapons wasn't enough to convince you that even the White House is giving up, Steve Gilliard at Daily Kos has even more evidence.
Given the prominance that the WMD hunt has played in Bush Administration dogma, the shifting of repsonsibility from the DOD to the CIA means there will be no active WMD program found in Iraq. Rumsfeld is shifting responsivbility away from his Team B aides at DOD and dumping the mess in Tenet and Kay's lap. Neither man is particularly respected or liked by Rumsfeld and this political move clearly indicates he's trying to distance himself and the military from the issue.
I can't say I disagree, but then, I learned long ago that if George Bush is speaking, someone's about to lose their shirt.
:: Morat 8:48 AM :: ::

Today's Deepthroat...

Not that it matters, because the press isn't yet ready to admit that they fell for it again. I've been blogging about the press a lot lately (here and here) because I truly don't get them. They've been in love with George Bush since before he even admitted his Presidential aspirations. And they love him still, despite the abuse they take from the White House.

And even though there is no denying the fact that the media as a whole was manipulated and used during the Clinton Administration, they don't seem to be upset that it's happened again, by the exact same people. So don't expect the mere fact that a top tier counterterrorism advisor quit in disgust, and then signed on with a John Kerry to make much news.

Or rather, expect it to make news as the "partisan charges of a disgruntled ex-employee". An ex-employee who worked under Reagan, Bush Senior, Clinton and now Bush Junior. An employee with thirty years experience in intelligence. One who resigned after 35 years as a civil servant to take an unpaid position as Kerry's NSA. And what he has to say is troubling enough that if even a tenth is true, it should send shock waves through the electorate.
The administration wasn't matching its deeds to its words in the war on terrorism. They're making us less secure, not more secure," said Beers, who until now has remained largely silent about leaving his National Security Council job as special assistant to the president for combating terrorism. "As an insider, I saw the things that weren't being done. And the longer I sat and watched, the more concerned I became, until I got up and walked out."
After 35 years of issuing measured statements from inside intelligence circles, he speaks more like a public servant than a public figure. Much of what he knows is classified and cannot be discussed. Nevertheless, Beers will say that the administration is "underestimating the enemy." It has failed to address the root causes of terror, he said. "The difficult, long-term issues both at home and abroad have been avoided, neglected or shortchanged and generally underfunded."

The focus on Iraq has robbed domestic security of manpower, brainpower and money, he said. The Iraq war created fissures in the United States' counterterrorism alliances, he said, and could breed a new generation of al Qaeda recruits. Many of his government colleagues, he said, thought Iraq was an "ill-conceived and poorly executed strategy."

"I continue to be puzzled by it," said Beers, who did not oppose the war but thought it should have been fought with a broader coalition. "Why was it such a policy priority?" The official rationale was the search for weapons of mass destruction, he said, "although the evidence was pretty qualified, if you listened carefully."

He thinks the war in Afghanistan was a job begun, then abandoned. Rather than destroying al Qaeda terrorists, the fighting only dispersed them. The flow of aid has been slow and the U.S. military presence is too small, he said. "Terrorists move around the country with ease. We don't even know what's going on. Osama bin Laden could be almost anywhere in Afghanistan," he said.

As for the Saudis, he said, the administration has not pushed them hard enough to address their own problem with terrorism. Even last September, he said, "attacks in Saudi Arabia sounded like they were going to happen imminently."
Part of that stemmed from his frustration with the culture of the White House. He was loath to discuss it. His wife, Bonnie, a school administrator, was not: "It's a very closed, small, controlled group. This is an administration that determines what it thinks and then sets about to prove it. There's almost a religious kind of certainty. There's no curiosity about opposing points of view. It's very scary. There's kind of a ghost agenda."
At this point, I'm starting to feel a bit sorry for the GOP. George Bush is juggling hand grenades, and if one slips, they're all going to go off. And the end result could be the utter obliteration of the Republican party for years to come.
:: Morat 8:45 AM :: ::

:: Sunday, June 15, 2003 ::

Weapons of Mass Deception (and lies thereof)

Well, what do you know? The "mobile weapons labs", used as highly touted proof of an Iraqi Weapons program by none other than George W. Bush, leader of the free world and personal recipient of the best and most thorough intelligence in the world.....were, in fact, used to produce hydrogen gas for weather balloons. It's a sad, sad, day when Iraq is more often correct and truthful than the President of the USA.
An official British investigation into two trailers found in northern Iraq has concluded they are not mobile germ warfare labs, as was claimed by Tony Blair and President George Bush, but were for the production of hydrogen to fill artillery balloons, as the Iraqis have continued to insist.
The conclusion by biological weapons experts working for the British Government is an embarrassment for the Prime Minister, who has claimed that the discovery of the labs proved that Iraq retained weapons of mass destruction and justified the case for going to war against Saddam Hussein.

Instead, a British scientist and biological weapons expert, who has examined the trailers in Iraq, told The Observer last week: 'They are not mobile germ warfare laboratories. You could not use them for making biological weapons. They do not even look like them. They are exactly what the Iraqis said they were - facilities for the production of hydrogen gas to fill balloons.'
Now that, my friends, has got to hurt. And the icing on the cake?
The revelation that the mobile labs were to produce hydrogen for artillery balloons will also cause discomfort for the British authorities because the Iraqi army's original system was sold to it by the British company, Marconi Command & Control.
So the sole remaining claim of an Iraqi Weapons program (we've already stopped making claims about weapons) turns out to be, once again, something simple...and something we should have known better than to tout in the first place.

Analysis bending to political need indeed.
:: Morat 10:32 AM :: ::

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