April 30, 2003

Whitehouse.org's You're Next Poster

From the fine people at whitehouse.org, an updated propaganda poster depicting dubya leading the way into Syria, Iran, and North Korea. Nicely done, though I think I prefer ymatt's Rumsfeld version. (Bias? What bias?)

Posted by jbc at 09:09 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thoughts on Lies.com

I've been catching some criticism in the comments lately, which is nothing new, but these criticisms have been different, in that they've actually hit home. Specifically, people have been complaining about the one-sided nature of the stuff I've been posting, criticizing my far-left, anti-war, anti-Bush slant, and doing so in fairly thoughtful terms, not just repeating things from a right-wing talk show.

While I don't plan to abandon my views just because some people disagree with them, I do think it would be interesting to have more points of view represented here. In pursuit of that, I've emailed invitations to a few of the people who've been offering up criticism in the comments, as well as to The Web Walker, who had a history of contributing his own decidedly not-mine views back in the site's early days.

So we'll see what comes of that. In the meantime, if you disagree with some or all of the views I express here, and you think you could offer an additional perspective that would help the site do a better job of being whatever it is that it seems to be becoming, let me know, and I'll think about adding you to the list of people who can post stories on the site. Thanks.

Oh, and I'm also going to try to cut down on the extensive blockquoting within the items I post. If I'm posting it, it's because I think the whole thing is worth reading. If I feel like commenting on specific aspects of it, I'll just comment on them, without necessarily duplicating the material inline. I think that works better from a reader's point of view, even if it does mean some references are going to get pretty obscure as the linked-to items fall prey to link rot.

Posted by jbc at 12:17 PM | view/comment (5) | TrackBack (0)

Goddard on Ali Ismail Abbas

From Australian newspaper The Age comes this piece by Chris Goddard: Look into the eyes of Ali Ismail Abbas: what do you see? Ali, you'll recall, is the symbolic representative of the war-ravaged children of Iraq that even the US media was willing, however briefly, to put on TV. Goddard has some interesting things to say about what it is that he actually symbolizes.

Posted by jbc at 11:51 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Uppity Women on the Media

Let us all give thanks for people like Janeane Garofalo and Ashleigh Banfield (an interview with the former, a speech by the latter). Or not. But I will, anyway. Lots of good stuff here on the nature of public debate in this country, and the way the war has been presented in the media.

Posted by jbc at 11:45 AM | view/comment (11) | TrackBack (0)

April 29, 2003

Putin Wants WMD Clarification Before Lifting Iraq Sanctions

The Washington Post has an article today that puts an interesting twist on things: Putin opposes US, Britain on lifting Iraqi sanctions. It seems the Russian president is taking the position that UN sanctions on Iraq can be lifted only when the country no longer has weapons of mass destruction. Which actually sounds somewhat reasonable, since it was the possession of those WMDs that the original sanctions were based on. So now Bush and Blair are in something of a Catch-22: They want the sanctions lifted, so they can begin exporting more Iraqi oil than is allowed under the oil-for-food program. But they can't produce Iraqi WMDs and destroy them, since they haven't been able to find any. So the only way to get the sanctions lifted would be to argue that the WMDs weren't actually there in the first place. But that, of course, would constitute an admission that the justification for the invasion, as presented to the UN, was itself a lie.

D'oh!

Posted by jbc at 01:02 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

Reid on the Dixie Chicks

Here's a nice opinion piece from CommonDreams.org focusing on the whole Dixie Chicks thing. By Joy-Ann Lomena Reid: Whistling Dixie. She has a lot of good things to say about the importance of allowing criticism of the president during wartime, including this quotation from Teddy Roosevelt:

The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.
There's also this passage, where Reid hits the nail on the head, at least as far as I'm concerned:
And then there was the hour-long, televised rebuke of the women Thursday night, in which ABC News correspondent Diane Sawyer repeatedly pressed, in tisking, school-marm fashion, for just one more apology to Bush. Maines heroically resisted the attempts to reduce her to a wicked child, who surely must realize that it isn't nice to criticize her betters, but the interview ought to go down in history with the House Committee on Un-American Affairs hearings for its daring presumption of guilt. What many of the rest of us still don't get, is just what Maines is guilty of: Feeling ashamed? Being from Texas? Or speaking her mind?
Really. What exactly is Natalie Maines guilty of? Because whatever it is, there's a whole bunch of us who are just as guilty.

Posted by jbc at 11:53 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

Jason Halperin, Domestic Security Risk

From AlterNet comes this interesting account by Jason Halperin of being in the wrong place at the wrong time: Patriot raid. Halperin was sitting with a friend in an Indian restaurant in New York City, eating dinner.

All of a sudden, there was a terrible commotion and five NYPD in bulletproof vests stormed down the stairs. They had their guns drawn and were pointing them indiscriminately at the restaurant staff and at us.

"Go to the back, go to the back of the restaurant," they yelled.

I hesitated, lost in my own panic.

"Did you not hear me, go to the back and sit down," they demanded.

I complied and looked around at the other patrons. There were eight men including the waiter, all of South Asian descent and ranging in age from late-teens to senior citizen. One of the policemen pointed his gun point-blank in the face of the waiter and shouted: "Is there anyone else in the restaurant?" The waiter, terrified, gestured to the kitchen.

It goes on from there. Over 90 minutes, Halperin and the other patrons and workers in the restaurant were threatened and intiimidated by federal and local agents, acting, they were told, under the authority of the US Patriot Act.
When I asked to speak to a lawyer, the INS official informed me that I do have the right to a lawyer but I would have to be brought down to the station and await security clearance before being granted one. When I asked how long that would take, he replied with a coy smile: "Maybe a day, maybe a week, maybe a month."
I know the 9/11 attacks were freaky, and constituted a rude awakening not only for ordinary citizens like you and me, but also for law enforcement types, all the way up to Attorney General John Ashcroft, who, prior to 9/11, was explicitly not interested in the warnings coming from the previous administration about this al Qaeda thing, having his hands much too full pursuing important goals like cracking down on Interent smut. In that context, I can see how it was politically expedient to railroad through some dramatic expansions in police powers.

But now is not then. With the passage of time, we have a much clearer picture of the threats we face, not only from terrorists, but also from people willing to trade away our freedoms in pursuit of security. It's time to take a serious look at what we're giving up in our efforts to stay safe, and this experience of Halperin's provides a nice illustration of that.

Posted by jbc at 11:47 AM | view/comment (5) | TrackBack (0)

Ebert Interview

Something I missed when it first appeared is a really fabulous interview with Roger Ebert over at AlterNet. He talks about Michael Moore's Academy Awards speech, actors and musicians who criticize the war, and whether movies can make us better people. An excerpt:

Q: What do you make of the criticism of Hollywood celebrities for speaking out against the war the Sean Penns, the Susan Sarandons?

Ebert: It's just ignorant; it's just ignorant.

Q: Why do you say that?

Ebert: I begin to feel like I was in the last generation of Americans who took a civics class. I begin to feel like most Americans don't understand the First Amendment, don't understand the idea of freedom of speech, and don't understand that it's the responsibility of the citizen to speak out. If Hollywood stars speak out, so do all sorts of other people. Now Hollywood stars can get a better hearing. Oddly enough, the people who mostly seem to hear them are the right wing, so that Fox News can put on its ticker tape in Times Square a vile attack on Michael Moore, and Susan Sarandon is a punchline. These are people who are responsible and are saying what they believe. And there are people on the other side who also speak out, and it's the way our country works.

There's lots more good stuff there. Definitely worth checking out, if you haven't seen it already.

Posted by jbc at 09:21 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

More Bitching About WMD Lies

Ho, hum. Another day, another round of criticism of Bush's willingness to justify the Iraq invasion with lies. First, from the normally-quite-staid LA Times editorial writers: Tell the truth on weapons (login required, cypherpunk98/cypherpunk works).

"We were not lying," one administration official told ABC News on Friday. "But it was just a matter of emphasis." No, it wasn't. Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction is central to the legitimacy of the war.

If it turns out that the administration did mislead the world, the only way to mitigate long-term damage to U.S. credibility is to come clean. Fast.

Next up, Robert Scheer's latest column: Are we numb or dumb?
It is expected that despots can force the blind allegiance of their people to falsehoods. But it is frightening in the extreme when lying matters not at all to a free people. The only plausible explanation is that the tragedy of Sept. 11 so traumatized us that we are no longer capable of the outrage expected of a patently deceived citizenry. The case for connecting Saddam Hussein with that tragedy is increasingly revealed as false, but it seems to matter not to a populace numbed by incessant government propaganda.
Finally, let's give the floor to New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, writing in his latest piece, Matters of emphasis:
One wonders whether most of the public will ever learn that the original case for war has turned out to be false. In fact, my guess is that most Americans believe that we have found W.M.D.'s. Each potential find gets blaring coverage on TV; how many people catch the later announcement -- if it is ever announced -- that it was a false alarm? It's a pattern of misinformation that recapitulates the way the war was sold in the first place. Each administration charge against Iraq received prominent coverage; the subsequent debunking did not.

Did the news media feel that it was unpatriotic to question the administration's credibility? Some strange things certainly happened. For example, in September Mr. Bush cited an International Atomic Energy Agency report that he said showed that Saddam was only months from having nuclear weapons. "I don't know what more evidence we need," he said. In fact, the report said no such thing -- and for a few hours the lead story on MSNBC's Web site bore the headline "White House: Bush Misstated Report on Iraq." Then the story vanished -- not just from the top of the page, but from the site.

Thanks to this pattern of loud assertions and muted or suppressed retractions, the American public probably believes that we went to war to avert an immediate threat -- just as it believes that Saddam had something to do with Sept. 11.

Now it's true that the war removed an evil tyrant. But a democracy's decisions, right or wrong, are supposed to take place with the informed consent of its citizens. That didn't happen this time. And we are a democracy -- aren't we?

I guess that has become an empirical question. If we are a democracy, a healthy one, with the kind of well-developed immune system that can successfully fight off an infection by anti-democratic forces, then events between now and November of next year will demonstrate that.

Posted by jbc at 07:07 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

April 28, 2003

UnHoly Army of Catholic School Girls

Sometimes, no matter what you do (or don't do) you have one of *those* days. I've recently discovered that on days like that, playing dress up with naughty cartoon catholic school girls is oddly soothing. There is an alternative version for people who use different web browsers then I.

(Your mileage may vary on the whole "soothing" thing.)

Posted by hossman at 06:05 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Springsteen Supports Dixie Chicks

ymatt pointed me to this story, about how Bruce Springsteen is standing up for the Dixie Chicks: Springsteen backs under-fire Dixies. Even better, the story included a small screenshot of the nude-Dixie-Chicks cover of Entertainment Weekly, which reminded me that I'd wanted to see that (for journalistic reasons only, you understand), which led me to track down a bigger version of it here.

Cheesecake factor aside, it's a pretty cool image. I give Natalie Maines credit for standing up, Bush-like, to her detractors, rather than running off and hiding. Must be a Texas thing. And mad props to Martie Maguire and Emily Robison for standing by Maines, too.

Posted by jbc at 10:31 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Campbell: Holding Bush Accountable

From The Smirking Chimp comes word of this opinion piece by Don Campbell: Pause the postwar glee to ask: Were supporters misled? It's yet another example of the "Hey, did Bush lie to us about Iraqi WMDs to justify the war?" talk going around, and I find it especially significant because Campbell describes himself as previously having supported the war based mainly on the WMD assertions. This is your prototypical swing voter talking here, from the pages of the can't-get-more-mainstream USA Today:

If the weapons are found and their authenticity confirmed, Bush will have the I-told-you-so moment of his presidency. He'll deserve to be rewarded politically for staring down the Nervous Nellies and defending the nation against weapons controlled by a mad man.

If the weapons are not found, the most charitable explanation is that they were moved out of Iraq while we were bombing our way to Baghdad -- or that we had rotten intelligence to begin with. Either illustrates incompetence.

The more ominous conclusion is that Bush deliberately misled Americans to gather support for the Iraqi invasion -- or unwittingly was misled himself by gung-ho advisers, none of whom wear uniforms. I don't know which of the two is worse, but either should carry a heavy political price.

Posted by jbc at 07:26 AM | view/comment (6) | TrackBack (0)

April 27, 2003

Sunday Photo Phun

Here are a pair of fun images that have come my way today. First, from Immy2G via email, with the subject line, "Proof that Iraq has biological weapons":

And from ymatt, by request, a juxtaposition of Bush the cut-up with Bush the sober statesman, from the White House Correspondents' Dinner. My hope here was for something akin to that comedy/tragedy symbol, with the masks. (What do they call that thing, anyway? It must have a name.) Anyway:

Posted by jbc at 05:28 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Things I Like About George W. Bush

Obviously, I'm not much of a fan of George W. Bush. But that doesn't mean I think he's all bad. After catching some flak in the comments for having portrayed him as stupid, I feel that I should go on record with some of my thoughts on dubya, minus the sarcasm.

The man has focus, and determination. See this interesting article from the Washginton Post's On Politics, for example: Close look at a focused president. Bush goes his own way, even in the face of criticism. Setting aside for the moment the question of whether that way is a way I think the country should be headed, you have to give the guy credit for sticking to his guns.

Also, I give Bush high marks for personal honesty. I know that sounds crazy, given that I also think he has led a sustained effort to lie to the world and to the American people about his justification for going to war with Iraq. In terms of the severity of its consequences, that's a pretty serious lie. As I've mentioned before, it's much worse in that sense than the lies Clinton told about Lewinsky.

But in a way, what Bush is doing with this Iraq war justification isn't really lying. Clinton's Monica lies were just outright whoppers, pure and simple. With Bush, the lies are fuzzier. They're down there in the clutter of details that he simply doesn't pay a whole lot of attention to. Clinton, I'm sure, had no illusions about whether he was lying or not when he waggled his finger at the camera and asserted that he'd never had sexual relations with "that woman, Miss Lewinsky." Bush, though, with his west-Texas anti-intellectualism, views "facts" with suspicion. Facts are things that propeller-headed Poindexters worry about. A real man like him pays more attention to his gut. His gut told him that Saddam was a bad man, and that "taking him out" was an appropriate response to the 9/11 attacks. Once he'd arrived at that decision, the hooey he fed the public was a secondary issue. He was acting on the basis of Truth with a big "T", and he wasn't going to let truth with a little "t" get in his way.

Bush really is like those country fans singing along with Darryl Worley and Toby Keith. He just doesn't discriminate that finely. From his perspective, the differences between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein are much less important than the things they have in common. They both come from a part of the world he'd never paid much attention to before being not-quite-elected president. They both speak Arabic, are at least nominally Islamic, and don't like the United States. And that's good enough for him.

It's not that he's stupid, as much as ignorant, and (especially) possessed of bad judgement in his refusal to look carefully at the consequences he's committing us all to before deciding to follow his gut. Here's how I put it in responding to a user's comment on the Dare to be (not) stupid piece the other day:

I don't think George Bush is all that stupid. I don't think he's all that smart, either, but I don't think that disqualifies him for the presidency. What I think disqualifies him for the presidency is his poor judgement.

A stupid person could be a decent president, I think, as long as he was aware of his limitations, had a solid emotional foundation, and used good judgement in evaluating the advice he received from those around him. He'd have to be able to make his decisions based on the right reasons, rather than letting his emotions and the darker side of his personality push him to do stupid things that "felt" right at the time, but really weren't.

That's what I think Bush is doing, in particular with his reaction to 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq. I don't blame him for being out of his depth; I think any president, no matter how intelligent, would have been out of his depth faced with the events of 9/11. I blame him for picking the wrong people to listen to in deciding what to do about it, for letting himself be manipulated, and for letting his emotions lead him into taking the country down a path that will only make the problem worse in the long run.

If someone injures you, but doesn't stick around to let you hit back at them, you're going to feel a lot of bottled up aggression. You're going to want to use that aggression on somebody. Whether or not you indulge that desire by beating up on a bunch of people who have no connection with the person who initially injured you has more to do with personality and judgement, I think, than raw intelligence.

There's a level on which George Bush is more honest, more trustworthy, than someone like Clinton. Clinton would tell you black was white, and be completely convincing about it, if he thought it would help him politically. With Bush, what you see is what you get. As frightening as he is to me, as bad a president as I think he is, I have to give him credit for that.

Posted by jbc at 08:26 AM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

Antron Singleton Is Bad. Really Bad.

As commented upon interestingly by Sungo at Sungo's Journal, check out the story of Antron Singleton, rap artist, aspirer after fame, and cannibal.

Posted by jbc at 08:09 AM | view/comment (7) | TrackBack (0)

More on WMDs

From the NYT comes this piece on how the Bush administration is doubling the number of people it has searching for WMDs in Iraq: US plans to add to teams to hunt for Iraqi weapons. An excerpt:

One official, discussing the American plans, said that despite some polls indicating that Americans do not care very much whether the weapons are found, White House officials are pressing the United States Central Command to step up the search for them because of worldwide skepticism that the main American rationale for the war was not proving to be true. "There's just a lot of pressure coming from the White House on this," an administration official said. "But Centcom is pushing back because they have other things to do — like securing the country and guarding its antiquities."

Meanwhile, here's a piece from The Independent that gives a nice summary of that "worldwide skepticism": Revealed: How the road to war was paved with lies.

Posted by jbc at 07:51 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Bobby Burgess Talks About Michelle

I remember the first time I read a real diary on the Web. It was Bryon Sutherland's The Semi-Existence of Bryon, and it must have been in 1995 or so. Wow, I thought. The Web is even cooler than I thought.

I was reminded of that this morning when I followed a link from Adam's Words Mean Things to Bobby Burgess's a gray box with words inside, where you can read Burgess's thoughts about his girlfriend, Michelle.

Posted by jbc at 07:45 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 26, 2003

I Dare You To Print This Email

From the good people at Foreign Policy in Focus comes this cute item in their weekly newsletter:

Why don't you simply acknowledge that you are a communist/socialist organization? From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs, right? You may think that you are clever in disguising your objectives with elaborate oratory, but rest assured, knowledgeable Americans can see through your veil of "progressive activism". Of course, we're not your core constituency, are we? You prey on the ill-informed and weak, like a pack of hyenas. You will fail, as your comrades have in the past.

Too many millions have suffered and died at the hands of the likes of you to allow socialism to re-emerge as a valid socio-political alternative.

We are watching you. As for your question, "May we publicize your comments?" I dare you.

- Charles Taylor <cgbanker@hotmail.com>

Well, he sure told them, didn't he?

Posted by jbc at 09:17 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Did US Cut a Deal with Saddam?

As you've no doubt figured out by now, I love conspiracy theories. I give this one only a 10% - 20% chance of actually being true, but it still makes for an interesting thought experiment.

As described in an opinion piece by the Detroit Times' Jack Lessenberry, the idea is this: that the US might have secretly entered into a deal with Saddam to let him take the money and run, setting himself up in some out-of-the-way place in return for a promise from us not to look for him too hard.

The reason I don't think it's especially likely to be true is that it doesn't fit with the image of Bush as having a personal vendetta against Saddam, being annoyed about that whole "he tried to kill my daddy" thing, wanting to "fuck" him by "taking him out," and so on.

But, as Lessenberry points out, there are aspects of the theory that fit the known facts pretty well, especially the sudden disinterest on the part of the powers that be in Saddam's location after the (staged?) decapitation strike on the restaurant. And it would make all kinds of sense in terms of the overall war plan, what with its emphasis on toppling the regime with a minimum of bloody Baghdad street fighting.

Anyway, make of it what you will.

Posted by jbc at 07:42 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

*SUPER* Sugar-Coated Cluster Bombs

General Myers, true to has word, looked into the reports of all those Iraqi civilians being killed by US cluster munitions, and got back to the press yesterday with the results: Head of Joint Chiefs defends use of cluster bombs in Iraq. Only 26 of the 1,500 or so cluster bombs we dropped in Iraq were dropped on civilian areas, according to Myers, and that was Saddam's fault anyway, for locating military targets in civilian areas. According to Myers, there was only one (1) case of death or injury to a noncombatant due to a US cluster bomb.

Thankfully, LA Times reporter Greg Miller provides some context for readers who bother to read the whole article:

Myers' assertions were challenged by human rights organizations, which said they had learned Friday of new injuries to civilians in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities.

Weapons experts also said Myers' remarks are somewhat misleading because his account of the U.S. military's use of cluster bombs does not cover similar weapons dispersed by rockets and ground artillery.

Because they are not dropped from airplanes, those weapons are not considered "cluster bombs" in Pentagon parlance, the experts said. Even so, they added, the weapons have a similar effect and, in many cases, higher "dud rates."

"I'm hearing about a lot of surface-delivered cluster munitions in the suburbs," said Mark Hiznay, senior researcher in the arms division of Human Rights Watch in Washington. "They're hanging in the trees. They're sitting on the ground."

Human Rights Watch and other organizations, as well as doctors in Baghdad, have reported hundreds of casualties from cluster bombs or similar devices.

Posted by jbc at 07:25 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 25, 2003

Kuttner: Will the Right Sink GOP's Election Hopes?

Columnist Robert Kuttner writes in the Boston Globe on the various ways in which the far right may be letting the victory in Iraq go to its head: Far right greases skids for GOP fall. Personally, I think it's kind of early to start celebrating, but it's a nice thought. Kuttner talks about Newt's attack on Colin Powell, invokes the shade of Jim Jeffords in discussing the pressure the administration is putting on moderate Republicans over the tax cut, and then mentions Santorum's anti-gay crusade. He concludes:

To win elections, you need swing voters. The hard-core, partisan Republican vote is around 40 percent of the electorate; and the government-bashing, Bible-thumping, nuke-'em far-right electorate is substantially less than that.

In the past, moderate Republicans saved this radical administration from itself - on tax and budget issues, on military adventures, and on tolerance issues. Now, the radicals want nothing less than total victory. They are inviting electoral defeat.

Posted by jbc at 12:53 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Kos on Bush's Iraq Lies

So, the time has come to rewrite the why-we-needed-to-invade-Iraq storyline once again. With Bush having all but admitted yesterday that the WMDs were a smokescreen, Administration officials are busy pencilling in a new, ex post facto justification: We wanted to make an object lesson of Iraq, because we believed it would serve to magically ward off future 9/11 attacks.

Conveniently, I don't have to rant about this, because Kos has already done so: Liars.

Posted by jbc at 12:34 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 24, 2003

Dare To Be (Not) Stupid

Some interesing stories drifting past my tiny little mind today, many of them having to do with intelligence and our national news and entertainment media.

First, from today's craptastic-user-login-required LA Times Business section comes this story: Those flag-waving hits fly with DreamWorks (you can login with cypherpunk98/cypherpunk, at least at the moment). It seems that good liberals Spielberg, Katzenberg, and Geffen have no problem celebrating the major green they're pulling in from chart-topping patriotic country songs like Darryl Worley's Have you forgotten? and Toby Keith's Angry American, both of which are functioning as unifying anthems for the crowd that believes our invasion of Iraq was a logical, appropriate response to the 9/11 attacks.

I'm not saying those songs shouldn't be recorded, or that people who tend not to think too deeply about international events shouldn't be free to hoist a few Budweisers and feel a surge of patriotic pride while singing along. The freedom to be stupid is, after all, one of the freedoms we hold dear in this country.

But in order for our country to function properly, there need to be some not-stupids participating in the national debate, too. People who realize that this invasion of Iraq was a huge gift to Osama bin Laden, since it a) distracted the US from pursuing him, b) toppled a secular, Socialist Arab dictator who was a hated, entrenched rival, c) paved the way for the rise of a fundamentalist state in Iraq that will be more sympathetic to him and more hostile to the US, d) united the Arab world in opposition to US imperialism, e) indoctrinated a whole new generation of young Arabs in the glory of martyrdom in opposition to the Great Satan, and f) weakened and isolated the US with virtually all its global allies in terms of pursuing the international law-enforcement effort that is the biggest threat to al Qaeda.

On some level what the folks at Dreamworks are doing is just good business, I know, but on another level they're helping to dilute the national IQ when they push music like this. I see it having an impact on the debate at every level, and that concerns me.

Another angle on this is the speech that NPR host Bob Edwards gave at the University of Kentucky recently: The press and freedom: some disturbing trends. Among lots of really great comments about the intelligence (or lack thereof) in the messages being delivered by our news media, he had this interesting observation about the flap surrounding Natalie Maines' remark about being embarrassed Bush was from Texas:

The backlash against the Chicks for making that remark is fine if it comes from ex-fans who say they won't buy any more records by the Dixie Chicks. The marketplace is a respectable forum for freedom of expression. The Chicks have a right to their opinions. Music fans have a right to tell the chicks to go to hell and to boycott their concerts and refuse to buy their records. Free speech is never really free -- it always costs something. But here's what's wrong with this picture. The backlash against the Chicks is spearheaded not by fans, but by Clear Channel Radio, owner of 1,250 radio stations. Clear Channel is based in Texas. Clear Channel loves George W. Bush. Clear Channel would like the administration of George W. Bush to remove all remaining restrictions on the ownership of media properties. That is exactly what the Bush administration is considering. The Federal Communications Commission, chaired by Mike Powell, the son of Secretary of State Colin Powell, is reviewing the last remaining rules restricting media ownership. Before he became FCC chairman, Mike Powell was a communications lawyer, making fabulous sums of money lobbying on behalf of the broadcast industry -- the industry he's now supposed to be regulating. When he is finished regulating the broadcasting industry, Mike Powell will return to -- the broadcasting industry. Now how tenacious is Mike Powell going to be in regulating the broadcasting industry while he is on this temporary hiatus from the broadcasting industry?

But back to Clear Channel, which daily tells Bush and Powell that it loves them. Is Clear Channel's move on those Dixie Chicks an expression of patriotism or a business decision? Should Clear Channel have the right to ban the Chicks from its 1,250 stations? I think what individuals do is fine -- burn the CDs if you want. What industry does is another matter. Clear Channel can say the Dixie Chicks are tools of Saddam if it wants to, but it should not be allowed to kill the livelihood of any recording artist based on politics.

Oh. Side issue: As previously mentioned, I submitted a letter to the editor of the local weekly paper, griping about people lying in support of the war. They published my letter today. Woo! (It's about halfway down, under the Coastal View-supplied headline, "Show me the evidence," which isn't the emphasis I would have chosen to put on it, but at least they didn't introduce any spelling errors or anything.) So, my own tiny contribution to the local debate is on the record now; I'll let you know if anyone mentions it to me when I'm at Vons or picking my kid up at preschool or whatever.

Finally, here's an excerpt from a nice column by Charley Reese: Poor Sean Hannity.

There is a definitely a whiff of anti-intellectualism -- so characteristic of fascist states -- in the air. Beware of bully boys who worship the military and scoff at museums and libraries. Beware of people whose limited brains see everyone as either an ally or an enemy. Beware of people who can't tell the difference between patriotism and military conquest. Beware of people so stupid and ignorant that they accept anything and everything the political and the media demagogues tell them.

Thomas Jefferson, who would have been outraged by the loss of the museum and the library, said, "Those who expect to be ignorant and free expect what never was and never will be." Amen cubed.

I'm no longer concerned about liberals or conservatives, leftists or rightists. I just pray to God for a non-ideologue with a three-digit IQ. If we don't elevate the level of intelligence and integrity of our government, we are going to end up floating on the cesspool of history.

Posted by jbc at 01:08 PM | view/comment (5) | TrackBack (0)

12 Year Old Boy Rapes 46 Year Old Woman

I don't even know what to say about this ... it's pretty messed up: 12-year-old accused in sex assault -- Boy is charged with attacking woman on Richmond hiking trail .

Posted by hossman at 11:57 AM | view/comment (5) | TrackBack (0)

Piling on Newt

From The Smirking Chimp come links to a couple of derisive followups on the Newt Gingrich story. First, from the LA Weekly's Harold Meyerson: Neocons run amok! And from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jay Bookman: Loose cannon Gingrich finds a new target.

Posted by jbc at 10:22 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 23, 2003

Nothin' like a little "Man on Dog" action

If you haven't heard about Sen. Rick Santorum's AP Interview from earlier this month, you should really check out the transcript. The overall feel of the interview can best be summarized by a comment the interviewer made in the middle: "I didn't think I was going to talk about "man on dog" with a United States senator, it's sort of freaking me out."

And just for the record, I love news.google.com so much, I want to marry it and have it's babies -- I was searching to see if I could find any longer transcripts of the interview, and I found several superb opinions on the whole incident (from various sides of the US Political Machine).

Posted by hossman at 06:41 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Kristol, Gingrich: It's All Colin Powell's Fault

Here's a story that was starting to make me angry, until I just collapsed in giggles. I know; I need to take these guys seriously; they currently control the white house, and have a pretty good headlock on the legislative and judicial branches, too, but still, it's awfully funny.

For the full humor value, go thou and link unto Fox News: Gingrich slams Powell for failed diplomacy. Among the things I find funny here:

  • Newt's back! Yay!
  • Consider the irony: According to Gingrich, the war happened because of Colin Powell's "failed diplomacy." What sort of diplomacy does Newt think would have succeeded? Given that Bush was already sold on the chickenhawk plan of going to war as early as March of 2002, when he made the "Fuck Saddam. We're taking him out" pronouncement.
  • I love the idea of bringing in reigning ideological champion William Kristol at the end of the piece to tell us what to think. Gee, thanks, Fox News! I was getting so confused there, what with those bad people disagreeing with the smart neocons.
  • How scary is it when the voice of reason is represented by Ari Fleischer?
  • Finally, it's quite the incestuous little club they've got going there, isn't it? Everyone they quote (except for Ari and that Very Bad Man at the State Department) is a paid commentator for... Fox News! How convenient to have all the smart people working for the same organization.
Anyway, not to get lost in the absurdity of the messenger, the message itself is still pretty interesting. It's a perfect Catch-22 they've got Powell in. See, we opposed you every step of the way, forced you to knuckle under and play a weak diplomatic hand in support of the pre-ordained war decision, and now, when the aftermath of the war is turning into the clusterfuck you predicted from the beginning, we're going to turn around and blame you for it.

Truly, these people have no shame. And no honor. Colin, wake up and smell the coffee.

Posted by jbc at 06:58 AM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

April 22, 2003

Sattar's Story

Kathy Kelly has a really interesting entry in the Iraq Diaries project at Electronic Iraq: This is your country now. It tells the story of Sattar, a Baghdad resident, providing what feels to me like a more authentic look at the perceptions and mindset of the typical Iraqi-in-the-street than we've been getting lately from the mainstream media.

Posted by jbc at 03:17 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Carroll Thinks Deeply About the War

Here's an opinion piece from James Carroll, as published in the Boston Globe: A nation lost. There's some really good, deep thinking here about what's going on with our country these days. His conclusion:

Photographic celebrations of our young warriors, glorifications of released American prisoners, heroic rituals of the war dead all take on the character of crass exploitation of the men and women in uniform. First they were forced into a dubious circumstance, and now they are themselves being mythologized as its main post-facto justification -- as if the United States went to Iraq not to seize Saddam (disappeared), or to dispose of weapons of mass destruction (missing), or to save the Iraqi people (chaos), but ''to support the troops.'' War thus becomes its own justification. Such confusion on this grave point, as on the others, signifies a nation lost.

Posted by jbc at 02:51 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Scheer: Did Bush Lie to Us On Purpose?

Robert Scheer's latest column isn't the best work I've ever read from him, but it seemed like the kind of thing people would keep suggesting to me if I didn't post it, so here you go: Did Bush deceive us in his rush to war? Nothing really new here, but a decent summing up. Here's the money quote from the end of the piece:

Did our president knowingly deceive us in his rush to war?

If he did, and we are truly concerned about our own democracy, we would have to acknowledge that such an egregious abuse of power rises to the status of an impeachable offense.

I think impeachment talk is a distraction at this point. Yeah, on some level I'd agree that launching a war under false pretenses really ought to be considered a vastly more serious offense than, say, lying under oath about whether you got a blowjob from an intern in the Oval Office.

But precisely because it's so much more serious an offense, I think we need to stay focused in terms of our response. We shouldn't waste our time, energy, and credibility pushing for an impeachment that, realistically, is never going to happen. Instead, we need to be talking about how we're going to defeat Bush in the 2004 election.

Posted by jbc at 02:32 PM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

Estabrook: Call It What It Is

Carl Estabrook has a powerful, if disturbing, piece currently running at CounterPunch: Support our euphemism. An excerpt:

The "pro-troops" line echoes what is perhaps the most successful rhetorical strategy in modern politics, "pro-choice." In each case attention is shifted away from a questionable action toward the actor, for whom sympathy is solicited. But everyone knows that "pro-troops" is an assertion of the legitimacy of the war, just as "pro-choice" is a contention that abortion is ethical. In neither case does the argument have to be made explicit. Both involve ending human life (obvious in the case of war, but rejected as a description of abortion by some of its defenders; others however admit that abortion ends human life but is nevertheless justified, and their position is closer to the "pro-troops" position).

There's another similarity. Noting that many of the invading US troops cannot legally buy an alcoholic drink in the US, one commentator has spoken of Bush administration plans' being carried out by "brutalized 19-year-olds." (It's true that the American sniper quoted last week as saying he killed a female civilian because "...the chick was in the way," was a 28-year old Marine sergeant.) The presumed beneficiaries of pro-choice policies could also often be described that way. Most people considering abortion feel that they have little "choice" -- the decision seems necessary in a society that doesn't provide medical care, education, housing or income. In the same way "our troops" are often constrained by economic necessity. Nineteen-year-old Pfc. Jessica Lynch from West Virginia was celebrated throughout the media after her rescue; her father was quoted as saying, when he first heard that she had been captured, that she had enlisted only because there were no jobs for 19-year-olds, even at McDonald's...

It's a vicious society that offers abortion and enlistment as palliatives for poverty. To force people young and old into situations in which they have no choice but to stain their consciences with the deaths of others is a great crime, one that can't be covered with euphemisms. The beginning of wisdom is often to call things by their right name.

Posted by jbc at 07:05 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sugar-Coated Cluster Bombs

Joint Chiefs Chairman Richard Myers sounded particularly lame during yesterday's Pentagon briefing, as he tried to deflect criticism about the thousands of unexploded cluster bomblets we've recently distributed throughout Iraq. From a State Department transcript of the briefing:

Q: Mr. Secretary, prior to the conflict, human rights groups complained about the use of cluster bombs by the United States. Now that the major combat phase is over, we're seeing the evidence that this, in fact, is a weapon that can continue to kill after the hostilities are over. There've been a small but significant number of people maimed or killed, including some children and some American forces as well. Would you consider limiting the use of cluster bombs in the future, or perhaps even eliminating them from the U.S. arsenal in response to this kind of -- type of criticism?

Myers: I think it gets back to -- well, first of all, cluster bombs are not like mines, completely different subject. Cluster bombs are set to go off when they strike their target or whatever they do, so they're not like a mine that lies there until it's activated.

I have not heard of injuries due to cluster bombs, but we'll look into it. It's possible, of course, but we'll have to look into it.

You do that, General Myers. See what you can turn up. Here are some links to get you started. From Newsday: Clusters of death: Bomblets wreak havoc long after their initial deployment. Or from the Dallas Morning News (as reprinted in the Billings Gazette): Toy-like bombs dropped by U.S. kill, maim kids. Or maybe Myers is a Beatles fan? McCartney wants cluster bomb ban.

Posted by jbc at 06:47 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

April 21, 2003

Children Taken from Couple Over Breast-Feeding Photo

Hiro brought this one to my attention. A couple living in a Dallas suburb have had their children taken away from them because they took a snapshot of one of the children breastfeeding with the mother. It really boggles the mind: 1-hour arrest.

Posted by jbc at 01:28 AM | view/comment (6) | TrackBack (0)

My Coastal View Letter

Here's the letter I'm planning to drop off at my local weekly paper, The Coastal View, tomorrow (actually, today, now):

Two recent letters in the Coastal View bothered me. One said that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. The other said our troops have found evidence that proves Iraq has been developing weapons of mass destruction. These statements bother me because as far as I can tell, neither of them is true.

We owe the troops more than yellow ribbons. We owe them the careful, thoughtful performance of our duties as voters. That's the only way to make sure we elect leaders who won't go to war for the wrong reasons.

While this war debate has sometimes been unpleasant, we need to have it, and we need to base the discussion on facts, not propaganda. We owe it to the troops.

Posted by jbc at 12:56 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

April 19, 2003

Media Coverage and the War at Home

I'm thinking this morning about the way the war is being portrayed, and the way people's perceptions are shaped by their biases, and what this all means in terms of the next presidential election, which I'm more or less convinced is going to end up being a referendum on the war.

It's a concern. I believe that a majority of voters in this country, if they have access to a reasonably full, balanced account of what's been happening, will choose to take a step back from the cliff Bush is doggedly determined to march us over. But the chance of their getting that sort of account seems to be diminishing.

A nice article on this, published in American Reporter and pointed to by The Smirking Chimp, is Randolph T. Holhut's The war I saw.

According to the Los Angeles Times, nearly 70 percent of people the paper polled said they got most of their information from the all-news cable channels such as CNN, Fox and MSNBC. But the coverage these people got sounded suspiciously like NBC's coverage of the Olympics, where the United States is the only country that gets covered and the other nations are bit players in a red, white and blue melodrama.

The New York Times is already talking about a "Fox Effect" on television news - what reporter Jim Rutenberg called "a new sort of tv journalism that casts aside traditional notions of objectivity, holds contempt for dissent and eschews the skepticism of government at mainstream journalism's core."

Holhut himself listened to the BBC World Service via public radio. Another good alternative would be the sampling of an array of non-US news sources via the Internet, which is the approach that I, and probably most of you, used to keep informed about all this.

But what about that nearly 70% of US citizens that are getting their news from the cable news channels? It gets worse with the hard-core fans of right-wing talk radio; these people get a non-stop stream of fantasy entertainment, and a lot of them actually believe it, with scary consequences.

Like the consequences seen by John Fleming, as recounted by the Denver Post's Reggie Rivers (again, via The Smirking Chimp): Protests are fine; just not here. Fleming hung an upside-down US flag in his store's front window as a protest against the war; shortly thereafter he received a visit from the local chief of police, along with two other armed officers, who told him the display was illegal, and that he'd have to take it down. Which was, of course, thoroughly untrue, but the police chief still asserted it, and the display still came down.

Multiply that by many thousand times, and you get a picture of what's going on all across the country. Bringing it home, again, to the smallish farming-cum-surfing community I live in, I already mentioned the flap that resulted when the wife of a local right-wing gadfly went around tying yellow plastic ribbons on every tree and lamppost, and a young woman of a different persuasion followed behind on her rollerblades, cutting them all down. The larger context is that going back a number of months, a group of local activists have been gathering for an orderly peace vigil on a downtown corner every Friday evening; since the outset of war they've been opposed by an increasingly large, noisy, and occasionally violent group of pro-war counter-protesters who gather on the opposite corner.

A dialog about the conflict is taking place in the letters to the editor of the local weekly paper. Last week's paper carried a letter from one of the regular counter-protesters that asserted the following:

Anybody who keeps saying that we have no reason for fighting in Iraq keeps refusing to see the facts. It has been stated time and time again Saddam Hussein was connected with 9/11, supporting terrorist groups and supplying them. They came and attacked us, killed our men, women and children in an act of war. There is and can never be a reason for doing such a cowardly and terrible act of murder.

Yes, Saddam has brought this war on himself. Thank God we have a president right now who saw what needed to be done and being a leader did the right thing.

I was momentarily outraged at the linking of Saddam with 9/11, and was close to sending in a reply, but I didn't. I figured that such an obvious lie would doubtless draw many such responses.

Well, it didn't. Or if it did, the paper chose not to publish them. Instead, this week's paper contains a new letter, from a different local right-winger, with a new lie:

Sadly, the true agenda of the "anti war" crowd is anti-Bush. Even with the phenomenal success of our military, they refer to our government officials in ways that I will not even dignify by quoting. Even as we find the "smoking guns" that prove the existence of weapons of mass destruction, they refuse to acknowledge the legitimate actions of our president.
Sigh. For our system of democracy to actually work the way it's supposed to, the people casting their ballots need a clear understanding of what's going on. I should have written a letter pointing out the lie in the first letter, and I should write one now pointing out the lie in this one. Not out of any delusion that I'll actually influence either of these letter-writers to question their sources of "information," but because left uncorrected, those lies are like a cancer that will spread through the minds of more open-minded people.

Those of us with access to better sources of information have an obligation to share that information. And not just with the other well-informed folk we interact with online, but with people in our own geographic community who don't have access to those sources.

Whew. That was a rant and a half, eh?

Posted by jbc at 08:30 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Ex-Spies Predict Planting of WMD 'Evidence'

Here's an interesting article, courtesy of the Smirking Chimp, and India's Sify News, and France's AFP: Ex-spies slam US over failure to find WMDs. It's based on a statement by a group called Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), apparently formed by former spies who object to the politicization of their profession at the hands of the Bush team. An excerpt:

Retired CIA intelligence analyst Ray McGovern told AFP: "Some of my colleagues are virtually certain that there will be some weapons of mass destruction found, even though they might have to be planted.

"I'm just as sure that some few will be found, but not in an amount that by any stretch would justify the charge of a threat against the US or anyone else."

He added: "Even if the planting was discovered by and by, they'll say, 'ok, the weapons were planted - fine.'"


Posted by jbc at 07:42 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 18, 2003

Dean, Krugman on Bush's Isolationism

Here are a pair of pieces looking at the fences our uniter-not-a-divider president is building between the US and the rest of the world. From the New York Times' Paul Krugman: Rejecting the world. And from Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean: Bush: It's not just his doctrine that's wrong.

Posted by jbc at 03:01 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Steele on the Ongoing Carnage

From the Guardian's Jonathan Steele comes this updated front-line report from the hospitals of Baghdad: Bombs silent, but the children still suffer.

At least six children were wounded by cluster bombs this week and taken to the Kadhimiya hospital because it is nearest to where they live. Clutching his mother's hand as he lay on a mattress, Ali Mustafa's head is half hidden by a bandage. He is a "post-war" victim. The five-year-old was playing with his brother and two friends earlier this week when he picked up an odd round object. It was an unexploded cluster bomb, one of thousands that lie around Baghdad. It exploded in his hands, blinding him. His legs, scarred with shrapnel, will heal but Ali Mustafa's sight will never return.
So, the horrible human cost of the war continues to mount. And why, again, was it that 5-year-old Ali had to pay this cost? To take away Saddam's weapons of mass destruction? To punish him for his involvement in 9/11?

Oh, wait. I remember. It was for freedom. Hear that, Ali? I know you're not having a good time at the moment, but guess what? You're free!

Gah. I can't joke about this. It's not funny.

I'm sorry, Ali.

Posted by jbc at 02:54 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Morford: Hail the Great Victory

From SFGate columnist Mark Morford comes this amusing piece of sarcasm: The warmongers were right!

Hail the great victor BushCo! Ha! The U.S. kicked ass! Who's your daddy, beeyatch? Thump thump thump on the manly chest of great liberator America! Liberals suck! Go, war! It's Miller Time.
I think I mostly like the fact that a major newspaper is running a column using the word "beeyatch." Heh.

Posted by jbc at 02:44 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Voices in the Wilderness Barred from Palestine Hotel

Here's a nice back-atcha from the enlightened military leadership currently charged with fixing the ongoing humanitarian disaster in Iraq: the folks in the Iraq Peace Team apparently are now barred from the Palestine Hotel, the location from which both the U.S. Civil Military Operations Center and the bulk of international journalists in Baghdad are currently working. Seems the powers that be didn't like the press release the peaceniks put out yesterday, in which they exposed the more or less total lack of clue on the part of the CMOC.

The respose is certainly consistent with the style of the commander in chief: Don't like the criticism you're hearing? Muzzle and/or ignore it, and keep right on doing whatever it was you were doing. Problem solved!

Posted by jbc at 02:37 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Cheney, Reagan Still Not Dead

You've doubtless heard of this already, but if not, it's worth a quick glance. CNN apparently turned off the password protection on some mocked-up obituary pages for various still-living notables; someone found them and told the folks at fark.com, and hilarity ensued for about 40 minutes. Some of them are archived at The Smoking Gun, so go knock yourself out.

Posted by jbc at 08:57 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 17, 2003

Van der Stockt's Account of Marines Killing Civilians

From an article by Michel Guerrin in Le Monde, as translated by Norman Madarasz and posted in CounterPunch: Embedded photographer: 'I saw Marines kill civilians'. It consists of the eyewitness account of Laurent Van der Stockt, an embedded photographer working for the New York Times Magazine, who travelled with US Marines into Baghdad.

On the morning of April 7, the Marines decided to cross the bridge. A shell fell onto an armored personnel carrier. Two marines were killed. The crossing took on a tragic aspect. The soldiers were stressed, febrile. They were shouting. The risk didn't appear to be that great, so I followed their advance. They were howling, shouting orders and positions to each other. It sounded like something in-between a phantasm, mythology and conditioning. The operation was transformed into crossing the bridge over the River Kwai.

Later, there was some open terrain. The Marines were advancing and taking up position, hiding behind mounds of earth. They were still really tense. A small blue van was moving towards the convoy. Three not-very-accurate warning shots were fired. The shots were supposed to make the van stop. The van kept on driving, made a U-turn, took shelter and then returned slowly. The Marines opened fire. All hell broke loose. They were firing all over the place. You could hear 'Stop firing' being shouted. The silence that set in was overwhelming. Two men and a woman had just been riddled with bullets. So this was the enemy, the threat.

A second vehicle drove up. The same scenario was repeated. Its passengers were killed on the spot. A grandfather was walking slowly with a cane on the sidewalk. They killed him too (SEE PHOTO IN LE MONDE). As with the old man, the Marines fired on a SUV driving along the river bank that was getting too close to them. Riddled with bullets, the vehicle rolled over. Two women and a child got out, miraculously still alive. They sought refuge in the wreckage. A few seconds later, it flew into bits as a tank lobbed a terse shot into it.

Marines are conditioned to reach their target at any cost, by staying alive and facing any type of enemy. They abusively make use of disproportionate firepower. These hardened troops, followed by tons of equipment, supported by extraordinary artillery power, protected by fighter jets and cutting-edge helicopters, were shooting on local inhabitants who understood absolutely nothing of what was going on.

With my own eyes I saw about fifteen civilians killed in two days. I've gone through enough wars to know that it's always dirty, that civilians are always the first victims. But the way it was happening here, it was insane.

At the roughest moment, the most humane of the troops was called Doug. He gave real warning shots. From 800 yards he could hit a tire and, if that wasn't enough, then the motor. He saved ten lives in two hours by driving back civilians who were coming towards us.

Distraught soldiers were saying: 'I ain't prepared for this, I didn't come here to shoot civilians.' The colonel countered that the Iraqis were using inhabitants to kill marines, that 'soldiers were being disguised as civilians, and that ambulances were perpetrating terrorist attacks.'

I drove away a girl who had had her humerus pierced by a bullet. Enrico was holding her in his arms. In the rear, the girl's father was protecting his young son, wounded in the torso and losing consciousness. The man spoke in gestures to the doctor at the back of the lines, pleading: "I don't understand, I was walking and holding my children's hands. Why didn't you shoot in the air? Or at least shoot me?"

You think they'll be covering this side of the war on Fox News?

Posted by jbc at 02:33 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Kysia: The US Military Is Clueless

Here's another really interesting piece from Ramzi Kysia of the Iraq Peace Team: Heavy-handed and hopeless, the U.S. military doesn't know what it's doing in Iraq. Kysia recounts being part of a meeting today between Voices in the Wilderness (the Iraq Peace Team's parent organizing body) and the US military's Civil Military Operations Center (CMOC) in Baghdad. Frighteningly, the CMOC comes off as not knowing its ass from its elbow.

CMOC reported that they did not yet have a plan for how to restore essential services in Baghdad, but are working on creating such a plan today. However, that information will not be publicly available for review, and will only be shared with organizations that agree to work with the U.S. military in Baghdad - cutting out any humanitarian agency that insists on maintaining neutrality.

CMOC also reported that they spent several days locating hospitals, power plants, and water & sanitation plants in order to do needs assessments. Apparently no one in the U.S. military thought to ask the United Nations, or other international organizations working in Iraq, for any of this information prior to, or even after, the fall of Baghdad. The World Health Organization and the Red Cross have been working in Iraq for years. The United Nations Development program has been working to assist Iraq in restoring electricity since 1996. Locations and assessments of civilian infrastructures are not secret information - except in the Pentagon's world. Why didn't anyone ask for this information? Why wasn't a plan for rehabilitation developed prior to the war?

When told that of rumors of a cholera outbreak in Hilla, CMOC even asked Voices in the Wilderness where that neighborhood was located in Baghdad - unaware that Hilla is a major Iraqi city located approximately 1 hour south of Baghdad!

Sigh. Make room for more innocent corpses on the altar of our glorious military victory.

Posted by jbc at 02:26 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Missing WMDs and the 2004 Election

Nice piece in the Boston Globe summing up the current state of the search for those "vast stockpiles" of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction: Pressure to find weapons mounts. (Update: And don't miss the Onion's new infographic.)

My wife and I had a long discussion last night about the 2004 election, and the chances that Bush would be able to get away with the exceedingly lame lies he used to justify the war. She was feeling depressed, and inclined toward the view that he would succeed. But I don't know. Bush's approval ratings shot up after the quick victory, it's true, but not to the 90%+ levels that his dad enjoyed after Gulf War I; currently I think he's hovering in the 60's or 70's. And even with his dad, those stratospheric approval ratings proved short-lived once a compelling case was made that he was ignoring people's pain on the economy. The current Bush is obviously way vulnerable in that area, too.

Anyway, I'm beginning to think Lincoln was right: you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but eventually a significant number of swing voters are going to call you on your bullshit. Flag-waving yellow-ribbon campaigns aside, I think most Americans have a real problem with the neocons' plans to remake the Middle East via the US military. Bush gets to play the 9/11 fear card only so many times. Eventually, he has to be able to produce some positive results, and uniting the rest of the world (and the rest of the global economy) in opposition to US interests seems like a really poor way to achieve that.

I think dubya's gonna be a one-termer. I hope so, at least, and I'm willing to roll up my sleeves and see what I can do to help make that prediction a reality. I think a lot of other people feel the same way, and that more will be coming around to that point of view in the months ahead.

This election is going to be interesting. For one thing, it seems like it might actually be about something. Cool.

Posted by jbc at 12:12 PM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

The New Onion Is Here! The New Onion Is Here!

I'm not sure why; maybe it's an indication that my midlife crisis is entering the acute stage. But the front page of the new Onion is really cracking me up this morning.

Like this story: 45 more legislators lose jobs to increased congressional automation:

WASHINGTON, DC -- Continuing a trend that began in the Senate last November, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) announced Monday that 45 members of the House of Representatives would be laid off and replaced by cost-efficient heavy legislating machinery.

Or this one: Saddam proud he still killed more Iraqi civilians than US:

"I recently heard a critic of President Bush say he is a dictator," Saddam said. "That made me laugh. George Bush, a dictator! My sons Uday and Qusay showed more viciousness at 10 years of age."

"Bush has a long way to go before he can match me," Saddam added. "My hands are red with the blood of the innocent. His are merely a light pink."

There's lot's more great stuff there. But I think my favorite story is this one, from the News in Brief section: "Fisherman's 4-year-old son liberates bait."

INTERNATIONAL FALLS, MN -- During a fishing trip Monday, Jason Jorgensen, the 4-year-old son of International Falls fisherman Bill Jorgensen, liberated an entire styrofoam container of nightcrawlers, throwing the bait into Rainy Lake. "Run, wormies, run!" said Jorgensen as he gave the former bait its first-ever taste of sweet freedom.

RTFL!! RTFLMAO!!!

Oh, and on that note. Beck, who clued me into the existence of the new Onion, also shared with me the other day the punchline from his favorite-ever quote in bash.org's QDB: <GrandCow> MOM?!?!?!?! MWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

Okay. I think I'm done now. Back to work.

Posted by jbc at 10:48 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Felten Interview on Slashdot

I've made it a rule to avoid linking to stories if those stories have already been linked to by Slashdot; I guess I figure that everybody reads Slashdot already, so what would be the point?

But in fact I've become kind of spotty in my own visitations to Slashdot lately, so, paradoxically, I guess I'm feeling more free to duplicate their links. This would kind of be a special case, anyway, since it's not a link they're running that I want to point to, but their own content. Specfically, their interview with Prof. Edward Felten. Felten's remarks on (mostly) how to deal with Washington in avoiding stupid legislation like the DMCA are actually really good, and resonate with me as I become increasingly interested in how to deal with Washington in general, not just on stupid tech laws.

Posted by jbc at 10:28 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Berkowitz on Afghanistan

An update on where things currently stand in our previous toppled regime is available from WorkingForChange's Bill Berkowitz: Report card Afghanistan. Among the points he makes:

  • US troops are still engaged in sporadic fighting.
  • Our installed government under Hamid Karzai is essentially only in charge of Kabul.
  • The much-hailed liberation of Afghanistan's women is being steadily rolled back to a Taliban-esque repression.
  • Opium cultivation has exploded. According to the State Department Afghanistan is now the world's leading producer of heroin, with roughly 20 times as much land being used for opium cultivation as was used in 2001.
So, the bottom line is that the current team running things in Washington, while they've got this whole bombing and invading thing down cold, clearly suck ass when it comes to putting things back together afterward. Expect more of the same in Iraq.

Posted by jbc at 07:07 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

Kos on Syria

Nice piece at Daily Kos: Syria countermoves, scores against US. It lists some of the advantages Syria enjoys (compared with Iraq) in the current confrontation with the US, and goes on to discuss Syria's recent move to introduce a resolution in the UN Security Council banning all weapons of mass destruction throughout the middle east. Kos calls the move "nothing short of genius."

If the US is truly serious about ridding the Middle East of WMDs, it should have no problem endorsing a resolution that would compell Syria to disarm. Right?

Wrong. The resolution would have the (intentional) effect of forcing Israel to surrender its nuclear arsenal -- a course of action Israel would never accept. And the US, Israel's most loyal ally, will thus be forced to veto the resolution.

So picture this -- the US vetoing a resolution calling for the banning of all WMDs from the Middle East. In one fell swoop, Syria has negated the charges of WMDs against it, exposed the US's hypocrisy on WMDs (our allies can have them, everyone else can't), solidified its leadership of the Arab world, and forced the US to veto a seemingly common sense resolution, after blasting France and Russia for threatening vetoes on Iraq.

It's clear that this administration has zero ability to wage a competent foreign policy. We may be able to wage war, but even that has its limits.

Posted by jbc at 06:35 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tell the FCC where to stick it.

This is a post with two purposes. The first is to point out that the the FCC's Policies on limiting Media Ownership (ie: limits on the number of media outlets that a corporation can own in a single market) are currently up for review, and the FCC is seeking comments from the public. This is an issue that I've all-ways thought was a big deal (especially when I travel and hear the exact same play-lists nation wide on Yet-Another-Clear-Channel-Station), and I'd like to encourage everyone to check out some of the press and info resources on the subject and think about it. (PBS in particular has some good coverage)

The second purpose is to draw attention to the FCCs web site, particular their "Electronic Comment File System". To me, this is a good example of what governments should do more of -- It's a tool available to let people search, read, and post comments about issues that fall under the FCCs charter. Click around, you might find something you have an opinion on ... they're listening.

Posted by hossman at 12:16 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 16, 2003

Robbins at the National Press Club

Tim Robbins spoke to the National Press Club on Tuesday; here's a transcript of his remarks.

Too bad we don't have any actual government leaders who talk like this anymore.

Posted by jbc at 06:13 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Lind's Neocon Primer

Some strange radio-show host I've never heard of named Jeff Rense has apparently stolen and posted for public consumption an article that appeared recently in New Statesman, a progressive British publication that seems curiously non-progressive when it comes to unleashing its content on the Web, since you have to pay and log in to read that content.

But none of that's important. What is important is the article, by Michael Lind: The weird men behind George W. Bush's war. It's great stuff on just why it is that the US is suddenly going berserk, foreign-policy wise. Lind mentions, and dismisses, explanations that focus on political economics ("it's the oil, right?") and the essentially warlike US nature. Neither of these explanations is correct, he says.

Both the economic-determinist theory and the clash-of-cultures theory are reassuring: they assume that the recent revolution in US foreign policy is the result of obscure but understandable forces in an orderly world. The truth is more alarming. As a result of several bizarre and unforeseeable contingencies - such as the selection rather than election of George W Bush, and 11 September - the foreign policy of the world's only global power is being made by a small clique that is unrepresentative of either the US population or the mainstream foreign policy establishment.
Lind goes on to describe just who these people are. And boy, is it scary.

Posted by jbc at 02:32 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Good Politics, Bad Science

From the Guardian comes this lengthy, but really informative, piece about how the Bush administration in particular, and the US religious right in general, has been making headway against those evil scientists who want to do unChristian things like teach children the theory of evolution, promote condom-use to fight AIDS, and find ways to use cloned embryonic stem cells to cure disease: The battle for American science. The latest technique, apparently, is to use stealth campaigns like the "Intelligent Design" movement, in which fringe science is portrayed as a viable contender against the more-established (but less popular with fundamentalists) theories favored by actual scientists.

Posted by jbc at 09:31 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Stop Affleck and J-Lo from Remaking Casablanca

From Daypop comes word of this online petition, which seeks to derail the reported Casablanca remake starring Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez: Stop them before they film again.

Posted by jbc at 09:21 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

Wolff: I Was the Wise-Ass of the War

From The Guardian comes this really cool account by journalist Michael Wolff on how he became a temporary hero with his fellow reporters (and got into hot water with about 20 million dittoheads) for daring to question the value of those daily Centcom press briefings: I was only asking.

Posted by jbc at 09:18 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

WWN: Saddam Starred in Gay Porn Films

There's something fairly delicious in having the Weekly World News included in the list of publications available from Yahoo! Entertainment. Because, for example, it allows me to link to stories like this: Saddam starred in gay porn films!

Gasp!

In the newly uncovered 86-minute prison flick, Saddam, then just 34, plays a naive young peasant who is wrongly convicted and sent to jail. He is initiated into homosexuality by a series of older and more experienced cons.

"Saddam's acting in the picture is actually quite good," al-Sabah notes. "One scene, in which he buries his face in a pillow and cries, is so touching you almost can forget you're watching a low-budget sexploitation film."

Posted by jbc at 09:06 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Current Thoughts, Next Steps for War Dissenters

Here are a couple of interesting opinion pieces. First, from Robert Steinbeck, as published in the Miami Herald, A dissenter looks at war's consequences. And for those who'd like a way to channel their war concerns into action, Elizabeth Ready and John Moyers at TomPaine.com have a suggestion: Ballots can keep bullets from flying.

Posted by jbc at 08:19 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 15, 2003

Review of Rove Biographies

From the New York Review of Books comes this interesting review of a pair of biographies about someone I've never bothered to pay much attention to: Karl Rove. The review is by Elizabeth Drew: The enforcer. Fun, albeit scary, stuff. I guess the kumbaya/give peace a chance/can't we all just get along approach isn't necessarily going to solve this particular problem, at least not anytime soon, with someone as furiously competitive and dirty-tricks-prone as that standing behind the throne.

Oh well.

Posted by jbc at 04:22 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Photos of Flowers and Baby Birds

For no especially good reason, except I was depressed about my indulging in that whining about polarization earlier, and wanted to send something uplifting to Adam at Words Mean Things, I took a break just now and snapped some photos in the yard. Specifically, some photos of the roses bloooming outside my bedroom/office window, and a nestful of baby house finches in the jasmine by the front door. Follow the link below, or scroll down, if you enjoy such things. Peace, y'all.

more...

Posted by jbc at 02:55 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Krugman: The 'Fiscal Dance of the Seven Veils'

From the New York Times' Paul Krugman comes yet another excellent opinion piece: Behind our backs. It describes how the Bush administration's agenda to gut the country's social programs and reward the rich on the backs of the middle class is becoming increasingly clear -- and how the emerging War Without End may well provide sufficient political cover to let them get away with it. An excerpt:

But back to the amazing spectacle of the war's opening, when the House voted to cut the benefits of the men and women it praised a few minutes earlier. What that scene demonstrated was the belief of the Republican leadership that if it wraps itself in the flag, and denounces critics as unpatriotic, it can get away with just about anything. And the scary thing is that this belief may be justified.

For the overwhelming political lesson of the last year is that war works -- that is, it's an excellent cover for the Republican Party's domestic political agenda. In fact, war works in two ways. The public rallies around the flag, which means the President and his party; and the public's attention is diverted from other issues.

As long as the nation is at war, then, it will be hard to get the public to notice what the flagwavers are doing behind our backs. And it just so happens that the "Bush doctrine," which calls for preventive war against countries that may someday pose a threat, offers the possibility of a series of wars against nasty regimes with weak armies.

Someday the public will figure all this out. But it may be a very long wait.

Posted by jbc at 09:55 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Prados on the Eroding Power of the State Department

An interesting analysis by John Prados is running at TomPaine.com: Affairs of State - and Pentagon. Prados describes how Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleeza Rice are systematically gaining power in Washington, while Colin Powell and the State Department are steadily losing ground. From his conclusion:

This evolution is disturbing. Rumsfeld and Rice, while ambitious planners, exhibit a peculiar myopia. With Iraq collapsing into chaos and looters trashing Baghdad and other cities, Rumsfeld complained at his press conferences not of these brutal facts, but of the media's reporting of them. In fact, the administration talked as if the chaos would disappear on its own after a day or two, as if it carried no responsibility for order in a post-Saddam Iraq it had itself created.

As we move into the reconstruction period in post-war Iraq and toward a looming conflict with Syria, the seamless transfer of powers from the State Department to the Pentagon should alarm us. Are we to understand that the Bush administration now views U.S. "diplomatic" efforts in the Middle East as a solely military effort?

Posted by jbc at 09:49 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Supporting the Troops in the Second America

A really nice piece from Mary Sojourner is running at populist.com: Support the troops: Catch phrase or cop-out. She reports her experience of going to a local city council meeting where a resolution to "support our troops" somehow slipped into being a resolution to support the war, thereby allowing right-thinking folks to more-easily identify those pink monkeys in our midst who harbor dangerously heterodox thoughts.

It's going on all over. Even in my own laid-back neck of the woods, where the city manager gave in to a woman's request to put up yellow ribbons all over town, and then, as she was doing so, another woman decided to follow behind on her rollerblades, cutting them all down. The subtext is that the woman putting up the ribbons is actually the wife of one of the most rabid right-wingers on the local political scene, a man who, to my way of thinking, is at least as interested in dividing the community and exposing those who don't adhere to his "support our country, right or wrong" views as he is in sending any particular message to the troops overseas. From the LA Times: Town finds skater out of line.

It's very reminiscent to me of the "horizontal prayer" Roger Ebert wrote about in the Chicago Sun-Times column I previously linked to (since removed, but available on the Interesting-People mailing list archive).

These yellow-ribbon campaigns are like Ebert's horizontal prayer in the sense that they don't merely represent a desire to communicate a feel-good sentiment to the men and women overseas. They're also meant to put those who have the gall to oppose Fearless Leader on the defensive, to marginalize them, to exclude them. See: We all support the war. We even decorate our public spaces with symbolic speech to that effect. What's wrong with you peaceniks, anyway? Why don't you all go back to France?

Maybe I should stroll down Carpinteria Avenue, tying blood-red ribbons next to each of the yellow ones, to symbolize the innocent blood our bombs and bullets have been shedding. You think that would go over well? How about if I pick up some spare entrails from the local butcher, and tie those around the lampposts, to symbolize the horrific injuries one Iraqi 6-year-old sustained after an unexploded cluster bomblet went off in his Najaf schoolyard the other day?

Finally, a nice perspective on all this is the following piece from Mike Duncan at The Weekly Lowdown: The second America. Polarization, American-style, courtesy of the policies of our uniter, not a divider, in chief.

Posted by jbc at 07:15 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 14, 2003

Rumsfeld to Syria, Take 2

Good buddy ymatt was willing to have another crack at the update of the Jap... You're Next! poster, so here you go. My intention with the redone version was to be both more direct and more subtle, in the interest of encouraging both pros and antis to embrace the image as representative of their own particular point of view. Sort of like those sex-crazed frat boys at protestwarrior.com do with their counter-protest signs.

Or something. Mostly, though, I just really like the image, and wanted an excuse to float it past you all again. And, with stories like this in today's SFGate.com (Bush warns Syria not to harbor top Iraqi fugitives), it seems like it remains timely.

Click on it for a larger version. C'mon, people; share it with the world! I want to hear about it being on the wall of Rumsfeld's office.

Posted by jbc at 12:34 PM | view/comment (17) | TrackBack (0)

Superabundant Power vs. Realultimatepower.net

I'm not sure how it came about, but both these stories ended up in front of me at the same time, and they seem to share a certain ineffable something, so I'm posting them together. So there.

First, from Janus: the Reuters Oddly Enough story of "The Great Sasuke": Masked wrestler wins Japan assembly seat. Good stuff, especially the part about how "the wrestler said he now hopes to demonstrate his 'superabundant power' outside of the ring as well as in it."

Because who could hear about a Japanese wrestler-turned-politican wielding his "superabundant power" without immediately thinking of realultimatepower.net, the ninja-tribute site created by faux-12-year-old Robert Hamburger. I previously posted a lies.com item about the site; that item continues to be one of the top comment-getters here.

Including the recent comment from reader Jeremy, who pointed to a really excellent piece from Studio 360, the public radio show, featuring an interview with the site's creator. It's actually worth enduring the suck of Realplayer to listen to it; that guy Robert (the real Robert, not his 12-year-old alter ego) is so cool it makes my pee pee hurt.

Update: Be sure to check out http://www.internetmammogram.net/, which appears to be the work of the same subversive character. Thanks to Beck for the link.

Posted by jbc at 11:51 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Dyer on What to Expect Next

Gwynne Dyer, a Canadian-born historian whose War documentary series should be required viewing for any boy-soldier lacking actual military experience who wants to play commander in chief, has written the following informative column: White House hubris will end with the domino effect of Iraq war. He talks about the imminent danger of Turkey and Iran being pulled into fighting against or on behalf of Iraq's Kurdish and Shiite populations, respectively, then continues:

Above all, there is the fact that the United States, abetted by Britain and Australia, has launched an unprovoked attack on a sovereign state. That is why most other governments are deeply worried: The American attack on Iraq could be used as a precedent, using exactly the same arguments as President Bush, to justify an Indian attack on Pakistan or a North Korean attack on South Korea. The U.S. action in Iraq has fundamentally challenged the rule of law in the world, which is a problem no matter how happy most Iraqis are at the moment -- and Washington clearly meant to do just that.

Posted by jbc at 08:33 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sorenson on the History of US Involvement in the Mideast

Columnist and self-described "liberal iconoclast" Harley Sorensen has this nice little historical summing up in today's SFGate.com: Occupational hazard. A sample:

We won the war, but will we win the peace? If you believe George W. Bush, who is saying all the right things, we will. Bush is saying that Iraq's wealth belongs to Iraqis. And, he says, the U.S. will stay in Iraq "not a day longer than necessary," these words spoken by Bush's puppy dog, Tony Blair.

Unfortunately, Bush himself sometimes seems a bit dyslexic in his public statements. If he says Iraq's wealth belongs to Iraqis, what he really means is, the Iraqis will get what's left after we skim what we want. As for when we leave Iraq, "not a day longer than necessary" means, in Bush-speak, when hell freezes over.

Posted by jbc at 07:56 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Bush's Playing-Soldiers Salute

Bush salutes

Something I'd noticed myself wincing at lately, but hadn't seen mentioned as bothersome by anyone else, is the jaunty little salute Bush likes to give the uniformed military folk when getting on and off his helicopter. Well, it turns out it does bother someone else. Specifically, it bothers Hungarian-born historian John Lukacs, who has the following op/ed piece running in today's New York Times: A senseless salute.

Lukacs compares Bush with previous wartime presidents, including former generals who made a point of losing the trappings of their wartime service when performing the (nominally higher, in the constitution's view of things) civilian role of president. Apparently that changed with Ronald Reagan; beginning with him, all our presidents have gone in for the snappy salute delivered back to men and women in uniform (a salute that is, according to military etiquette, thoroughly wrong, since salutes even by people officially part of the military are to be delivered only when in uniform). Lukacs speculates about the motivations underlying this more visible tying of the civilian presidency to its military role, and concludes :

When the Roman republic gave way to empire, the new supreme ruler, Augustus chose to name himself not "rex," king, but "imperator," from which our words emperor and empire derive, even though its original meaning was more like commander in chief. Thereafter Roman emperors came to depend increasingly on their military. Will our future presidents? Let us doubt it. And yet . . .

Posted by jbc at 07:53 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 13, 2003

Washup.org's Handwashing Research

Some scary research into reported-vs.-actual handwashing behavior has been conducted by the American Society of Microbiology; you can check it out at http:///www.washup.org. In particular, see the Executive Summary:

  • There is a huge gap between self-reported handwashing behavior after using public restrooms and actual handwashing behavior - people are less likely to wash their hands after using public restrooms than they say they are. This is consistent with trend data collected four years ago.

    • More than nine in ten (95%) say they always wash their hands after using public restrooms. However, only slightly more than two-thirds (67%) are observed washing their hands after using public facilities.

  • Among males, nine in ten (92%) report that they always wash their hands after using public restrooms, but only 58% of those observed actually did. This represents a gap of 34%.

    • Interestingly, compared to actual handwashing behavior in 1996, men nowadays are significantly less likely to wash their hands after using public restrooms (58% actually washed their hands in Aug. 2000 vs. 61% in Aug. 1996).

  • Nearly all women (97%) surveyed report that they always wash their hands after using public restrooms, but only 75% observed actually did. This represents a gap of 22%.

  • Similar to 1996, women continue to be significantly more likely than men to say that they always wash their hands after using public facilities (97% vs. 92%).

Link courtesy of gnat's journal at Use Perl.

Posted by jbc at 06:07 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

The Wide-Angle Statue-Toppling Shot

I'd passed over this the first time I saw it, but I guess lies.com reader Will has a point; it deserves a mention on the site. So, without further ado: Information Clearing House's Tale of Two Photos.

Posted by jbc at 03:48 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Ramzi Kysia's War Reflections

Ramzi Kysia, a member of the Iraq Peace Team currently in Amman, Jordon, has a really nice piece at Electronic Iraq: Where now, America? It's a heartfelt look at what the war means, and where those opposed to war go next, in the big-picture sense. Highly recommended. From his conclusion:

If there is any hope at all, then we ourselves must overcome the institutions within our own society which further violence. We must overcome our own militarism, and the materialism that drives it. We must stop paying taxes, we must risk arrest, we must shut down a government in Washington D.C. that is illegitimate and absolutely out-of-control.

And we must overcome our anger at the mass killers of the world, the Saddam Husseins and George Bushes, even as we overcome their tyrannies. That anger is playing itself out today in the streets of Iraq - further wrecking lives already crushed by violence.

Please God, we must learn how to heal ourselves of all our delusions.

Posted by jbc at 01:43 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Gumbel on the WMD Shell Game

The Independent's Andrew Gumbel has a nice wrap-up on the current state of the Great Weapons-of-Mass-Destruction Hunt: America targeted 14,000 sites. So where are the weapons of mass destruction? The upshot: the WMDs aren't there. Breathless newsbreaks from Bush's Ministers of Information at Fox notwithstanding, there are no signs yet of anything other than the scattered debris of the pre-Gulf War I weapons program.

With rumors having surfaced (apparently courtesy the straight shooters in the Israeli intelligence community) that the WMDs have in fact been spirited away to Syria, Gumbel wonders how long it will be before this is trotted out as the justification for the next invasion:

Disarmament experts do not give the claim much credence. After all, any suspicious convoy or mobile laboratory would almost certainly be spotted by US planes or spy satellites and bombed long before it reached Syria.

But the notion does provide the hawks in Washington with a compelling plot device not unlike the McGuffin factor in Alfred Hitchcock's films – a catalyst that may or may not have significance in itself but that gets the suspense going and keeps the story rolling.

If the Bush administration should ever seek to turn its military wrath on Damascus, the weapons of mass destruction it is failing to find in Iraq might just provide the excuse once again.

I guess it's a good thing my tiny little mind couldn't keep track of what our actual stated reason for going to war was during those tumultuous days leading up to the invasion. Because if I had been able to keep track of that, I'd probably be getting pretty annoyed by now, as it becomes increasingly clear that the whole war was predicated on a lie.

Posted by jbc at 08:33 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

Fun and Games at Re-Code.com

I'm a sucker for sites like www.re-code.com. Not because I particularly want to go to the trouble of printing out bogus barcodes and then surreptitiously slapping them on similar but higher-priced items at the local Vons, but because I love it when a site takes pains to adopt a tone and appearance that leads you to believe it's something that it isn't. Or is it?

My favorite part about re-code.com is the way they scrupulously avoid the use of the word theft to describe the activity they are allegedly enabling. Instead, they couch the descriptions in the language of responsible consumerism. Like this:

Re-Code.com is built on two unique concepts known as Preshopping and Postshopping. Preshopping refers to visiting the Re-code.com website first finding a store in your area with prices that you want to pay. Many of our codes are from generic items which could easily be used to re-code brand name items. At stores which rely heavily on the barcode for your bill total, printed bar code stickers from this site could be used to relabel and re-code expensive products with cheaper prices. Rather than our competitors that allow you to compare apples to apples, we allow you the consumer to relabel dvd's with apple prices. You compare products based on packaging material and price. Postshopping is what makes Re-code.com a consumer's community. After purchasing items at their actual prices, we ask you to return to Re-code.com to upload information about the product including price and UPC number of legitimit purchases. Through Preshopping and Postshopping, you can help yourself and other's pay the prices you determine for the products you want!
Gee, thanks, Re-code.com!

They lessen the impact somewhat with the following disclaimer, which appears at the bottom of every page. But it's still fun.

* We in no way endorse the theft of products or services. Re-code.com was created as satire. We intend only to make aware the prevelance of barcodes and begin a critical discussion about what their pervasiveness means. This is not a product designed to be used in any malicious or illegal manner. Any such use is strictly prohibited. You should not use any of the barcodes available from this site for any illegal activity. They are here for your amusement only.

Link courtesy of Daypop.

Update: And now, just that fast, it's down, replaced by a copy of the nastygram sent to them by the lawyers for WalMart, or somesuch. Oh, well.

Later update: Oh, hey. The site is still there; you just have to click on the nastygram, and then click through a disclaimer, to get there. Cool. Dumb on their part, but still cool.

Posted by jbc at 08:10 AM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

April 12, 2003

Kermit on How to Roll a Joint

A little wise-ass knavery for your Saturday, courtesy of our good friends in Chile (as reported by Ananova, via Dave Barry's blog): Kermit rolls a joint in joke email.

Update: Still haven't been able to find a copy of the actual movie, dangit, but Hiro found this, which gets pretty close: Rana Gustavo. Hm. And now that I think of it, I wonder if that sequence of images actually is the "animated clip" that the Ananova article refers to. But whatever.

Posted by jbc at 11:20 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

April 11, 2003

Rumsfeld Gets Pissy

I caught some of the Defense Department briefing today, and boy, Rumsfeld was ready to snap. It's not every day that you see someone at that level of government laying on the sarcasm, openly mocking the reporters looking for his response to the (actually quite real, by all accounts) chaos in Baghdad.

The Reuters account of the briefing described it this way:

In Washington on Friday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld denied Iraq was falling into chaos, saying television images of isolated acts of looting and violence were being played "over and over again" for sensational effect.

"It's untidy. And freedom's untidy. And free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things," stormed Rumsfeld, his hand chopping the air for emphasis in response to reporters' questions at a Pentagon briefing.

"It is a fundamental misunderstanding to see those images over and over and over again of some boy walking out (of a building) with a vase and say 'Oh my goodness you didn't have a plan' -- That's nonsense," he told reporters.

Here's how the BBC's Nick Childs put it in their reporters' weblog:
It was an extraordinary combative performance by Donald Rumsfeld at the latest Pentagon briefing. Clearly exasperated by the new criticisms of US-led forces, the American defence secretary suggested that media reports of chaos and lawlessness in Iraq were exaggerated.

He agreed that US forces did have an obligation to help provide security and said that they were doing what they could to curb the looting where they saw it.

Mr Rumsfeld said no one condoned looting, but according to him much of the lawlessness was a natural pent up response by people to the end of a repressive regime. Any such transition was inevitably untidy, he said.

I find it interesting that even when the press was piling on Rumsfeld a week or so into the invasion, when he was getting all that criticism about the inadquate war plan, he wasn't this feisty. I guess he was confident then that subsequent events would vindicate him, which, in all honesty, they have, at least with respect to his having put sufficient forces in place to topple Saddam.

But now, he's really sounding stressed. I don't think he anticipated this: that having won this great victory, he would immediately get all this flak about the war's aftermath. And honestly, I don't think he has an answer. Which is a pretty scary notion, especially if you live in Iraq.

Posted by jbc at 06:43 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Arab News on Marines in Baghdad

Here's a short piece from Arab News with another street-level view of what it's like in Baghdad these days: 'We came, we saw, we conquered'. An excerpt:

The Marines appear to be very edgy, even terrified, following the human bombing on Thursday. And there are also those among them who are plain arrogant. When one discovered a bag of raisins in this reporter's carry-bag while conducting a body search, and was offered some of them, he replied: "If I want them, I'll take the whole bag. We came, we saw, we conquered."
A brief digression: I'm not posting this to be critical of the Marines. I actually buy into that whole "support the troops" stuff, as far as it goes. But it doesn't go as far as some would like to take it. Or maybe it's that I actually take it farther than some would like it taken.

These young men and women are wholly honorable. They are sacrificing their freedom, and in many cases their mental and physical health, even their lives, to defend this country, including me and my loved ones.

Marines don't have the luxury of questioning the motives and judgement of their leaders. They have to believe that their chain of command, all the way up to the commander in chief, is wise, thoughtful, and just. They have to believe that they are being sent in harm's way for the best of reasons, that their sacrifice is justified, that they are not having their lives thrown away for stupid reasons. They have to believe, because otherwise they couldn't do the things they do. And anyway, they have willingly surrendered that kind of questioning; that's not their job.

But it is the citizen's job. The people who founded this country knew that greedy, evil people, people without honor, would inevitably try to usurp the power of the military. It is the duty of every citizen to guard against that.

The Marines in Baghdad are paying a terrible price. They are paying that price willingly, out of a sense of honor and duty. In return, I owe them this: To play my own part, as a citizen, to make sure that this country's civilian leadership honors their commitment and sacrifice. To make sure we have leaders who will spend the lives of brave young men and women only when the nation is in the utmost need, when all other options have been exhausted. Leaders who will go to war reluctantly, somberly, after careful reflection, doing everything in their power to minimize the attendant horrors that war always brings.

In other words, leaders who are pretty much the opposite of George Bush.

Posted by jbc at 06:21 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

Krugman on Bush's Short Attention Span

A really nice editorial from the New York Times' Paul Krugman today: Conquest and neglect. A sample:

One has to admit that the Bush people are very good at conquest, military and political. They focus all their attention on an issue; they pull out all the stops; they don't worry about breaking the rules. This technique brought them victory in the Florida recount battle, the passage of the 2001 tax cut, the fall of Kabul, victory in the midterm elections, and the fall of Baghdad.

But after the triumph, when it comes time to take care of what they've won, their attention wanders, and things go to pot.

The piece goes on to tie together the Bush record on foreign adventures with his record on fixing the economy at home, and finds an identical pattern. Krugman's conclusion:

The scary thing is that this slash-and-burn approach to governing may continue to work for Mr. Bush's people because the initial triumphs get all the headlines. Unfortunately, the rest of the world has to live in the wreckage they leave behind.

Posted by jbc at 09:18 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Into the Hell of Baghdad

Here are a couple of on-the-ground reports from Baghdad to file alongside the administration back-thumping and high fives. From Cathy Breen, of the Iraq Peace Team: There will be no victors in this war. And from the Sydney Morning Herald's Paul McGeough: Descent into a charnel-house hospital hell. From the latter:

The traffic to and from the morgue is pitiable. Hospital orderlies wheel the dead in and families bring makeshift coffins to take the dead out.

And when a group of foreign cameraman moves in to film the scene, the four men charged with moving the bodies in and out of the morgue react badly, angrily chasing them away.

"Why are you taking photos? For Bush?" one of them yells, waving his arms. "Tell him to go to hell."

Posted by jbc at 09:07 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Gilliard on the Possibility of Civil War in Iraq

Here's an interesting artice by Steve Gilliard, writing for Daily Kos: How Iraq could devolve into civil war. This is the sort of stuff I love getting from the Web. It's thoughtful, informed, and unmediated. Maybe it's BS, but it makes sense to me. I'll take it over the predigested viewpoint of mainstream media any day. Well, actually, I'll take both, so I can compare the messages I receive from each of them.

Mark Twain pointed out that a man with one watch knows exactly what time it is, while a man with two is never sure. The subtext, of course, is that neither of them really knows, but one of them has a much better idea of the limits of his own knowledge.

The Web is our second watch.

Posted by jbc at 06:38 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 10, 2003

The Financial Times on Civilian Casualties

A nice summing-up of the current near-complete lack of information about how many Iraqis, armed or otherwise, we've killed and wounded so far is given in this piece from the Financial Times: Civilian casualty figures cause concern. Coming at the same issue from another perspective is this story from the same paper, giving a street-level view of some US marines' rules of engagement as applied in fighting today in Baghdad: Eyewitness: "The marines shot anything they considered a threat". An excerpt from the latter article:

We heard screaming from the alley. None of the US troops moved. If it had not been for Mohammed Fatnan, an Iraqi translator with the UK's Channel 4 News, the Americans would not have treated the casualties. Mr Fatnan crossed the road outside the palace under the guns of two marine armoured fighting vehicles and came back carrying a young girl, Zahra Abdel-Samii', bleeding from the head.

In the alley, a man who had run on to his balcony upon hearing gunfire had been shot dead. Men wailing "There is no God but God" were hauling him into the back seat of a car in a blanket.

Minutes later, the explosion of a rocket-propelled grenade thundered through the palace garden, then came bursts of heavy gunfire.

A white Mitsubishi van roared along the main road that runs beside the palace wall, the driver slumped over the wheel, unconscious or already dead. The van veered off the road into a wall.

Mr Fatnan and two marines ran across the road to help a woman injured in the arm and foot and a young man, her son, shot in the head.

The dead driver had not understood the warning shots meant to tell him to stop.

The marines had had enough of journalists filming. We walked slowly along the road outside the palace back to our van.

Posted by jbc at 04:18 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sarandon, Robbins Get Smackdown from Baseball Hall of Fame

Here's a wacky story. As pointed out by the fine people at Daily Kos: Robbins-Sarandon anti-war talk leads Hall to cancel celebration. Baseball Hall of Fame president Dale Petroskey, a former Reagan administration official, has apparently chosen to cancel a scheduled tribute to the movie Bull Durham, because the tribute would have involved participation by those dangerous peaceniks Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon. The story quotes from the letter Petroskey sent to Robbins announcing the cancellation:

"In a free country such as ours, every American has the right to his or her own opinions, and to express them. Public figures, such as you, have platforms much larger than the average American's, which provides you an extraordinary opportunity to have your views heard -- and an equally large obligation to act and speak responsibly," Petroskey wrote.

"We believe your very public criticism of President Bush at this important -- and sensitive -- time in our nation's history helps undermine the U.S. position, which ultimately could put our troops in even more danger. As an institution, we stand behind our President and our troops in this conflict."

The story quotes Robbins as replying that he didn't realize baseball was "a Republican sport." The story goes on to quote the following from Robbins' letter of reply:

"You invoke patriotism and use words like 'freedom' in an attempt to intimidate and bully. In doing so, you dishonor the words 'patriotism' and 'freedom' and dishonor the men and women who have fought wars to keep this nation a place where one can freely express their opinions without fear of reprisal or punishment."

Right on.

Posted by jbc at 10:31 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

Get Your War On Updated

The latest depressing fun from Get Your War On is up as of yesterday. Favorite quote: "I AM WITHOLDING MY ANALYSIS UNTIL I HEAR FROM THE IRAQI INFORMATION MINISTER."

Posted by jbc at 10:12 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thoughts on the 'End' of the War

I'm relieved at the thought that the open-warfare stage of the conflict is over, at least in Baghdad. But I can't celebrate along with the pro-war types; I don't see this as a particularly worthwhile achievement, and fear that the costs of the operation will end up far outweighing any good that we've achieved.

Also, the part about this that sickens me the most isn't even close to over. I can't shake the mental image of the hundreds of horribly injured Iraqi children spilling out of their hospitals, the thousands more destined to die in the weeks and months ahead in the aftermath of this stupid dick-size contest.

Anyway, for more on the less-pleasant aspects of our glorious achievement, here are summaries of recent reports by the UN: Humanitarian crisis looms in Iraq because of breakdown of law and order, and by the Red Cross: Humanitarian situation has dramatically worsened.

Posted by jbc at 09:43 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

Where'd They Go?

From the AP's Hans Greimel, in the Washington Post: Republican Guard a no-show in Baghdad.

One U.S. official involved in both military operations and intelligence said there are thousands of Iraqi troops unaccounted for.

"That's the scary part. We don't know where these guys went to. Did they just melt into the population? Are they planning to come back out as paramilitary? Are they laying in wait?" the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

It's not like I have any special insight that others don't, but I guess I'm inclined to think yeah, all of the above. Time will tell, though.

Posted by jbc at 09:15 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Watching Saddam Fall

From the New York Times' Alessandra Stanley, a description of the way yesterday's events in Baghdad were portrayed in various TV outlets: Amid the scenes of joy, a sight less welcome. I like her comment on Fox's reaction to the Marine draping a US flag over Saddam's head:

Even the Fox News Channel, the 24-hour cable news network that has been the most consistently ardent in celebrating the American show of force, seemed a bit nonplussed by the imagery. "You can understand these marines who have put their lives on the line, sweated with blood and guts for past three weeks wanting to show the Stars and Stripes in this moment of glory," David Asman said quietly as the flag went up. "It is understandable, but no doubt Al Jazeera and others will make hay with that."

Another version of the same story, from the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz: The shot seen round the world.

The problem, as Ted Koppel put it, was that he remembered seeing anti-Soviet crowds trying to bring down a statue of Lenin, and "it took them 17 hours."

Television wanted the pictures faster than that. And daylight would soon be gone.

As if sensing the impatience, some Marines brought in a tank to speed the statue's destruction. Then one of them clambered up the statue and threw an American flag over Saddam's head producing precisely the wrong image, that of a foreign occupying force.

"You had troops with specific orders no displays of any American flags," NBC's Jim Miklaszewski noted.

"This was not the picture the Pentagon wanted to see," said CNN's Barbara Starr.

Finally, from CNN.com, proof that where you sit really does make all the difference sometimes. Despite that fact that commentators the world over were clucking their tongues at Marine Corporal Edward Chin's bonehead mistake in draping the flag over the statue's head, that didn't stop his family in Brooklyn from going batshit over his 15 seconds of fame: Family cheers as 'their Marine' leads statue's destruction.

"I [am] so, so proud, so very proud," said an emotional Nai Koon Chin, the Marine's mother. "He used to play like GI Joe as a little boy. He always dreamed he would be a Marine."

Posted by jbc at 08:20 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

April 09, 2003

Rumsfeld's Message for Syria

Updating the Jap... You're Next! war bonds poster seemed like an obvious thing to do, so I did a (fairly lame) version of it, which in turn inspired ymatt to produce this much-more-awesome rendition (click for a larger image):

Heh.

And, in a less frivolous vein, this piece from Newsday: Hawks in US eyeing Syria as next target.

Update: And now, here's an updated version, with a new, simplified message to help it sneak in under the pro-war-types' radar:

Posted by jbc at 09:00 PM | view/comment (42) | TrackBack (0)

Republicans Want Civil Liberties Restrictions Made Permanent

Lest it get overlooked in all the excitement of at least one actual Baghdadi draping at least one actual flower on a US soldier, I feel compelled to link to this New York Times piece: Republicans want terror law made permanent. Seems those pesky sunset clauses that the few legislators with any spine managed to attach to the "emergency" suspension of our civil liberties in the wake of the 9/11 attacks are due for removal.

Which is only to be expected. There's a ratchet on that particular cog in the machine of government. It tightens down oh-so-easily, but turning it the other way is a real bitch.

Sigh.

Posted by jbc at 11:42 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

The War at Home: Yellow Ribbons and Election 2004

Here are a few interesting pieces that talk about what's going on inside the US these days. From the Lebanese Daily Star: Pockets of anti-war resistance in America. And from Geov Parrish: Picking a challenger, in which he handicaps likely 2004 presidential aspirants based on (what else?) their fundraising ability. "This is now how America chooses its presidents -- through money, media, polling, and more money. Actual voters are only invited at the very end." Democracy, American style.

Posted by jbc at 11:29 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Total-War Fallout

Some interesting stuff this morning as journalists, especially, digest the lesson that even they are not immune to the with-us-or-against-us logic of the forces invading Baghdad. From Cox Newspapers' Craig Nelson: The killer attack journalists never saw coming.

There's been a fair amount of back and forth over just what circumstances caused the US tank's crew to fire on the hotel. Early reports said they saw a sniper in front of the hotel. Journalists have disputed that, saying there was no gunfire coming from their vicinity. Then more detail emerged: The tank crew said they saw binoculars watching them from the hotel, and wanted to take out someone who might have been spotting their location for a sniper located elsewhere.

Well, yeah. I mean, there were lots of lenses focused on them from that hotel, with live images probably being fed to a few million TV screens all over the world. And the rules of engagement for the US forces invading Iraq seem to have very much become "shoot whatever you want to, if it makes you feel safer." I could easily see a person in that tank feeling better if his precise position weren't being broadcast to anyone with a satellite TV receiver, and the ear of someone with an artillery piece a short distance away.

Again, this sort of thing shouldn't take anyone by surprise. Our side wanted a quick resolution. And I'm sure the argument will be made, many times over, that by being so ruthless towards the non-combatants in Baghdad we actually helped them, since we thereby avoided the wholesale blunt-instrument trauma that would have resulted from a more sedate approach to conquering the defending forces. See, for example, this story from the Washington Post: Military defends risks of aggressive tactics.

So go ahead and make that case, if you want to. But if you do, you have an obligation to look square in the face of those innocents whose lives are nevertheless being destroyed by our actions, and explain to them that their suffering is justified by the greater good. Like the maimed children described by Arab News' Essam Al-Ghalib: The evil of cluster bombs.

Posted by jbc at 11:14 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Kaplan on Toppled-Statue Symbolism

Slate's Michael Kaplan has this interesting realtime take on the much-reported toppling of the big Saddam statue today: Toppled: National styles of pulling down statues. Thanks to ymatt for the link.

Posted by jbc at 10:56 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 08, 2003

Krugman Calls Foul on Kerry-Bashing

One of the better responses to the flurry of Republican outrage over Sen. John Kerry's recent remark that we could use a little "regime change" in this country is this New York Times op-ed piece from Paul Krugman: The last refuge. His conclusion:

For years to come, then, this country may be, in some sense, at war. And all that time, if Mr. Racicot and his party are allowed to set the ground rules, nobody will be allowed to criticize the president or call for his electoral defeat. You know what? If that happens, we will have lost the war, whatever happens on the battlefield.

Posted by jbc at 12:49 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Vitello: Powell Should Step Down

This story, from Newsday, caught my attention mainly because it constitutes the most-prominent call that I've seen so far for Powell to step down as Secretary of State: Nation scarred by many wars.

Posted by jbc at 12:42 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Parry: Darth Bush

A really nice summing up of the march to war is this piece from Robert Parry: Bush's Alderaan. The best part is his comparison of Bush to Darth Vader:

Once Bush had chosen the site, there was virtually nothing the Iraqi government could do to avoid war, short of total capitulation. As a demonstration of both America's military might and his own itchy trigger finger, Bush had decided to make Iraq his Alderaan, the hapless planet in the original Star Wars movie that was picked to show off the power of the Death Star.

The piece contains nothing that will be news to anyone who's been paying attention, but again, it does a good job of assembling the pieces into a coherent (if scary) whole.

Posted by jbc at 12:15 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Iraqwar.ru Ceases Operations

No more Russian military spook briefings, apparently: Ramzaj discontinues operation. Bummer.

Posted by jbc at 11:51 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Expanding Circle of Baghdad Targets

Seeking that imminent regime collapse our leaders keep talking about, we appear to be taking the gloves off when it comes to blowing up civilians in Baghdad. There are lots of reports this morning about the dropping of four "bunker buster" bombs on a residential neighborhood (or a restaurant?) where Saddam was believed to be meeting with Baath party officials. Also much in the news are the missile attack on the al Jazeera (and Abu Dhabi TV?) offices in Baghdad, and the decision by a US tank commander to fire shells into a hotel containing journalists, killing two of them, based on his belief that a sniper was located in or around the building. This comes on top of several days' worth of stories about our more widespread bombardment of the city, and a number of "unfortunate" incidents in which carloads of civilians, including women and children, have been incinerated for the crime of failing to follow directions shouted at them by jumpy invaders. Likewise with the rolling incursions our armored columns have been making, in the course of which we seem to be prepared to blow away anything that moves, or anything behind which something might be moving.

Some good links: Al Jazeera: US warplanes bomb Al Jazeera office, kill journalist. Yahoo News/AP: Al Jazeera: Journalist killed in blast. Washington Post: Two journalists killed as new battlefield emerges. The Independent: US bomber attacks Saddam 'hide-out'. The Globe and Mail: U.S. flattens 'leadership target' in Baghdad.

Please note that I'm not surprised to see this. I think it's been more or less inevitable from the outset that we would reach this point, where we demonstrate that we are just as willing as Saddam's forces to rank the preservation of innocent civilians well below the preservation of our own skins, or at least the achievement of victory.

What bothers me more is the effort to portray this as an unfortunate necessity, brought about solely by Saddam's refusal to do what we told him to do. It was not a necessity. It was a choice, one exercised by George Bush, in the full knowledge of (or at least, as full a knowledge as his mind is capable of) the eventual consequences.

The other part of this that bothers me is the surge in support Bush's poll numbers are showing. We seem to have decided, as a people, that we know as much as we need to about this conflict. Just as we get to the part where the really horrible cost is being inflicted on the Iraqi people, we've apparently reached our saturation point, and can't be bothered with paying attention to what's going on. It has suddenly receeded into the "fog of war," or at least the fog of foreign events that are not as important to us as the season finales of the various TV shows we follow.

Sigh. Anyway, here's a nice piece from a member of the Iraq Peace Team, who has been on the ground in Baghdad throughout these events: Open letter to all Americans and our 'allies' the Brits.

Posted by jbc at 10:41 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 07, 2003

Bathe for Jesus

The Miami Herald has a short bit on an Army chaplain taking advantage of the current water shortage to increase the number of soldiers getting baptized. It's good to know that 500 gallons of water are being reserved for baptisms, while all of the soldiers who are loyal to their current faith (or lack there of) are being forced to go weeks without bathing.

Posted by hossman at 06:09 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Dubya's War Obsession: Is He Or Isn't He?

From the Philidelphia Inquirer's Dick Polman comes this interesting look at Bush's obsession (or non-obsession) with the war: Bush spin doctors flip between hands-on and hands-off image. There's no smoking gun here; just lots of examples of Ari saying one thing and someone else saying something completely different, as Bush's handlers struggle to portray him in the best possible light.

Posted by jbc at 03:16 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

The "Chin" gets time

After pulling off the ultimate lie for over 30 years, Vincent "The Chin" Gigante has finally admitted to faking his mental condition in a plea bargain that will get him off early. Gotta love it when somebody goes so far as to stand buck naked in a shower with an umbrella when being served by the FBI just to stay outta jail.

Posted by jaybird at 11:38 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

War Updates from Iraqwar.ru

As described in a piece by John Sutherland in The Guardian, the folks in the Russian GRU (the Russian military's espionage arm) are publishing un-spun analysis of just who's doing what in Iraq. The main place their reports are being published is iraqwar.ru, but as someone who doesn't know Russian I'm limited to the English translations available at the site for Venik's Aviation.

It's really fascinating stuff. And, as far as I can tell, it really does offer a much more objective picture of what's going on than you can get from either side's propaganda.

Posted by jbc at 09:58 AM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

Kos: Iraqi Army Hiding, Not Defeated

Forgive me for my behind-the-times-ed-ness, but I'm just getting caught up after my sojourn away from civilization. Anyway, here's a story I would have linked to when it appeared two days ago, except I was still trying to figure out what was going on. From Daily Kos: Raiding Baghdad. He basically makes the case that US claims notwithstanding, we haven't defeated the heart of Saddam's army. It's simply hiding. Talk of M1s rolling triumphantly through the streets of Baghdad, blowing up pickup trucks and withstanding small arms fire and RPG attacks, do not a defeated heavy armor division make.

Which begs the question: where is the Iraqi army? Apparently it's hidden away in a huge underground tunnel system, awaiting a time and place of Saddam's choosing to launch its counter-attack. From the Washington Post (again, from a few days ago): Closing in on Baghdad will push war underground, and from debka.com: Battle for Saddam's underground regime centers.

Posted by jbc at 09:29 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

McGovern: Bush's Symphony of Falsehood

From George McGovern, via The Nation, via The Smirking Chimp, comes this nice roundup of ways in which the Bush presidency sucks: The Reason Why.

Posted by jbc at 06:58 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 06, 2003

Edelstein on 'Three Kings'

From today's New York Times comes an interesting review of the 1999 movie on the aftermath of Gulf War I: One Film, Two Wars, 'Three Kings'. Reviewer David Edelstein is a big fan of the movie, which he describes as "the most caustic anti-war movie of this generation." He also quotes from a recent email he received from David O. Russel, the movie's writer and director, on how he'd like to believe that the American public is smarter today about the realities underlying our mideast war aims, "but I honestly don't think so... I mean, come on, it's a SCANDAL that Bush has pulled this off. It's mind-blowing."

Anyway, if you haven't seen the movie yet, you should rent it. Good performances by George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg, among others.

I'm not sure why, but I've found myself drawn to war movies lately. On some level I guess it's obvious: a steady diet of raw news from the front lines has left me wanting something a little more polished, something that puts all the technology and amoral strategic calculation into a more-human context.

I recently Tivo'd and re-watched Full Metal Jacket, mostly for Lee Ermey's Sergeant Hartman in the first half of the film, but as usual for a Kubrick movie, once I started watching it I was sucked in, hypnotized by his vision, and ended up watching the whole thing.

I also rented Saving Private Ryan last week, which really is an incredibly good war movie, as long as you skip the ham-handed opening and closing present-day sequences where Spielberg felt compelled to hammer us over the head with his message, just in case there were any five-year-olds in the audience who'd missed it.

Two war movies I've meant to see, but haven't gotten around to, are The Thin Red Line (with a pre-Two Towers performance by Miranda Otto!), and Tears of the Sun, which has that Bruce Willis thing going for it (assuming we're talking about the Bruce Willis who was smart enough to associate himself with The Fifth Element and Twelve Monkeys), which I'm hoping is enough to make up for the frighteningly twisted Hollywood premise of a war movie predicated on a Navy Seal officer's heroic decision to violate his orders in order to save a bunch of Third World civilians.

Anyway, get out there and get your war (movies) on.

Posted by jbc at 08:43 AM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

April 04, 2003

Haircut Bandit: CAUGHT!

It's not the sickest fetish you'll ever hear of, but the amusing part to focus on here is that it took the Los Angeles District Attorneys a while to figure out what charges they could file against a man who was sneaking up behind people to cut off their hair. Apparently "Hair is property like anything else, and it was taken by force, so that's robbery". That's why they make the big bucks ladies and gentlemen.

Posted by hossman at 07:46 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Lanchester's Square Law

I'd not been previously aware of "Lanchester's Square Law" prior to this article at abcnews.com: Assessing Military Edge. In an interesting application of math to war, it states that for two matched armies on a battlefield, doubling the size of one will kill the enemy four times faster. Or conversely, hitting four times better is the only way keep even odds while being outnumbered 2-to-1.

First proposed by F. W. Lanchester in his 1916 book "Aircraft in Warfare", these tactics have been taught in the military ever since.

This has interesting implications if US soldiers end up on foot in the streets of Baghdad without the ability to use precision guided bombs or tanks.

Posted by aaron at 04:14 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 03, 2003

Rumsfeld's free-speaking verse

slate.msn.com has a few choice ditties by Donald Rumsfeld from the past few years. It's the kind of list you could compile for just about anybody if enough source material is available ... but it's a humorous read none the less.

Posted by hossman at 05:35 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 01, 2003

Lies For Everyone

Were you prepared for that day of year again when the lies are a little more blatant than normal? No, we're not talking about election day; it's April 1st. From job offers in Iraq for African newspaper readers to new Internet standards requiring packets with "evil intent" to be labelled, pranksters have been keeping busy all over the world today.

Some hoaxes have been less well received, however. White powder in envelope handed to a teacher in New Zealand caused a school to be evacuated, and a web site proclaiming that all of Hong Kong would soon be quarantined prompted such a panic that the government had to denounce it.

With a selection of the top 100 hoaxes of all time, the Museum of Hoaxes offers an amusing look at the history of April Fools day.

Posted by aaron at 10:43 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)