Archive for August, 2005

We’ve Found the Iraqi WMD! We’ve Found the Iraqi WMD!

Thursday, August 18th, 2005

As someone who’s made much of the Bush administration’s lies (and yeah, that’s what they were) about Iraqi WMD in the run-up to the invasion, I would be remiss if I didn’t link to this story in the Washington Post from last week: Iraqi chemical stash uncovered.

BAGHDAD, Aug. 13 — U.S. troops raiding a warehouse in the northern city of Mosul uncovered a suspected chemical weapons factory containing 1,500 gallons of chemicals believed destined for attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces and civilians, military officials said Saturday.

Oh my gosh. But don’t you see? This proves Bush was telling the truth all along! Saddam was stockpiling dangerous weapons of mass murder. Okay, maybe not nukes, but still.

Except for one small detail:

[Military spokesman Lt. Col. Steven A.] Boylan said the suspected lab was new, dating from some time after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Oops.

You know, we still have Saddam on ice. We could put him back in charge and have the old Iraq back again, the Iraq that was only a make-believe threat to our security, rather than a real one.

Bush Then, Now (Part 2)

Thursday, August 18th, 2005

From Faiz at Think Progress, here’s another fun example of what a difference a few years make, at least when it comes to the public positions taken by our current Flip-Flopper in Chief: In 1999, Bush demanded a timetable.

Bush on Kosovo (you know, that place where the US waded into a civil war and worked with allies to craft a peaceful resolution, without it turning into a bloody quagmire), as quoted in the Houston Chronicle on April 9, 1999:

“Victory means exit strategy, and it’s important for the president to explain to us what the exit strategy is.”

And here’s Bush quoted in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on June 5, 1999:

“I think it’s also important for the president to lay out a timetable as to how long they will be involved and when they will be withdrawn.”

Fast forward to June 24, 2005, as Bush answers reporters’ questions at a White House ceremony with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari:

“It doesn’t make any sense to have a timetable. You know, if you give a timetable, you’re — you’re conceding too much to the enemy.”

Carpetbagger (and Waas, and LAT) on the Latest Plame Scuttlebutt

Monday, August 15th, 2005

The Carpetbagger does a good job of tying together several recent items (by Murray Waas, in the Villlage Voice and on his ‘whatever already!’ weblog, and by Richard B. Schmitt in the LA Times) that speculate on what’s happening behind the scenes in the Plame-outing investigation. I’d intended to link to all of them, but now I can just link to the Carpetbagger: Rove and Ashcroft and Fitzgerald… oh my.

One thing he didn’t quote from Waas’ Village Voice piece is this part, near the end, which discusses the current status of James B. Comey, the deputy attorney general who has been in charge of Fitzgerald since John Ashcroft recused himself:

Comey, then only recently named deputy attorney general, called a press conference and dramatically announced: “Effective today, the attorney general has recused himself . . . from further involvement in these matters.”

He also said he was naming Patrick J. Fitzgerald, who also serves as U.S. attorney in Chicago, as special prosecutor to take over the case. To further assure his independence, Comey also announced that he personally would serve as “acting Attorney General for purposes of this matter.”

Last week, however, Comey announced he was leaving the Justice Department to become the general counsel of the defense contractor Lockheed Martin. In his absence, Associate Attorney General Robert McCallum is the most likely choice to be named as the acting deputy attorney general, and thus the man overseeing Fitzgerald’s work. But McCallum has been a close personal friend of President Bush. Justice Department officials are once more grappling as to how to best assure independence for investigators. And Democrats on Capitol Hill are unlikely not to question any role in the leak probe by McCallum.

This sends a bit of a chill down my spine. It would be just like the Bush/Rove political juggernaut — or at least just like my paranoid nightmares of their Machiavellian omnipotence — for them to have manipulated things behind the scenes to put their own man in charge of the investigation just as Fitzgerald is nearing the point of announcing indictments, and to have the whole thing then just go poof! and disappear.

I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

Rich: Tell Bush the War is Over

Sunday, August 14th, 2005

Frank Rich’s op-ed piece in the New York Times does a compelling job of tying together the various themes floating around these days: Someone tell the president the war is over. His conclusion:

WHAT lies ahead now in Iraq instead is not victory, which Mr. Bush has never clearly defined anyway, but an exit (or triage) strategy that may echo Johnson’s March 1968 plan for retreat from Vietnam: some kind of negotiations (in this case, with Sunni elements of the insurgency), followed by more inflated claims about the readiness of the local troops-in-training, whom we’ll then throw to the wolves. Such an outcome may lead to even greater disaster, but this administration long ago squandered the credibility needed to make the difficult case that more human and financial resources might prevent Iraq from continuing its descent into civil war and its devolution into jihad central.

Thus the president’s claim on Thursday that “no decision has been made yet” about withdrawing troops from Iraq can be taken exactly as seriously as the vice president’s preceding fantasy that the insurgency is in its “last throes.” The country has already made the decision for Mr. Bush. We’re outta there. Now comes the hard task of identifying the leaders who can pick up the pieces of the fiasco that has made us more vulnerable, not less, to the terrorists who struck us four years ago next month.

BAGnewsNotes on Sheehan vs. Roberts and Bush

Sunday, August 14th, 2005

Here are some more-than-usually fascinating comments (usual caveat applies) by BAGNewsNotes on some recent images of John Roberts, Cindy Sheehan, and George Bush: Finding the love in Crawford.

Update from the Clusterfuck

Sunday, August 14th, 2005

Some items from the last few days, on how bad things are going in Iraq:

From the NY Times: A nation in blood and ink.

Baghdad seems a city transported from the Middle Ages: a scattering of high-walled fortresses, each protected by a group of armed men. The area between the forts is a lawless no man’s land, menaced by bandits and brigands. With the daytime temperatures here hovering at around 115 degrees, the electricity in much of the city flows for only about four hours a day.

Things are going really, really badly. Not just in the ways they’ve been going badly; they’re going badly in new and different ways. And the Bush team’s faith-based cheerleading for our inevitable victory is gradually, grudgingly, giving way to more-realistic assessments.

From the Washington Post, a couple of days ago: No clear finish line in Iraq.

Administration officials have all but given up any hope of militarily defeating the insurgents with U.S. forces, instead aiming only to train and equip enough Iraqi security forces to take over the fight themselves. At the same time, they believe that the mission depends on building a new political infrastructure, a project facing its most decisive test in the next three days as deeply divided Iraqis struggle to draft a constitution by a Monday deadline.

In the face of all that, Bush is trying to buy time. After meeting with his national security team at his ranch near Crawford, Tex., yesterday, Bush again beseeched the public to stick with his strategy despite continuing mayhem on the ground, exemplified most recently by the deaths of 16 Marines from the same Ohio-based unit in the past two weeks. Overall, more than 1,800 U.S. troops have died.

[snip]

At his meeting with his war cabinet yesterday, Bush reviewed the latest developments but reported no new direction. The administration has set up seven interagency groups focused on its main priorities in Iraq. These are providing security and training Iraqi forces, building national political institutions, restoring energy and other services, tackling economic problems, establishing rule of law, enlisting international help, and improving strategic communications.

Setting up committees like this might have helped three years ago, when the invasion was in the planning stages. They’re not likely to do much good now. And there are growing signs that this reality isn’t lost on the Bush team. An article from today’s Washington Post has some really choice quotes from anonymous source to that effect: US lowers sights on what can be achieved in Iraq.

“What we expected to achieve was never realistic given the timetable or what unfolded on the ground,” said a senior official involved in policy since the 2003 invasion. “We are in a process of absorbing the factors of the situation we’re in and shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning.”

[snip]

U.S. officials say no turning point forced a reassessment. “It happened rather gradually,” said the senior official, triggered by everything from the insurgency to shifting budgets to U.S. personnel changes in Baghdad.

The ferocious debate over a new constitution has particularly driven home the gap between the original U.S. goals and the realities after almost 28 months. The U.S. decision to invade Iraq was justified in part by the goal of establishing a secular and modern Iraq that honors human rights and unites disparate ethnic and religious communities.

But whatever the outcome on specific disputes, the document on which Iraq’s future is to be built will require laws to be compliant with Islam. Kurds and Shiites are expecting de facto long-term political privileges. And women’s rights will not be as firmly entrenched as Washington has tried to insist, U.S. officials and Iraq analysts say.

“We set out to establish a democracy, but we’re slowly realizing we will have some form of Islamic republic,” said another U.S. official familiar with policymaking from the beginning, who like some others interviewed would speak candidly only on the condition of anonymity. “That process is being repeated all over.”

[snip]

Washington now does not expect to fully defeat the insurgency before departing, but instead to diminish it, officials and analysts said. There is also growing talk of turning over security responsibilities to the Iraqi forces even if they are not fully up to original U.S. expectations, in part because they have local legitimacy that U.S. troops often do not.

“We’ve said we won’t leave a day before it’s necessary. But necessary is the key word — necessary for them or for us? When we finally depart, it will probably be for us,” a U.S. official said.

The realization continues to spread: Bush’s war of choice in Iraq was a huge mistake, with costs that we’ll be paying for many years to come.

Cindy Sheehan

Sunday, August 14th, 2005

I haven’t mentioned the Cindy Sheehan protest going on outside the Bush ranch; haven’t really had time to pay much attention, and I don’t watch much TV, where it seems to have been happening in a big way. But in coming across these collected news photos from cryptome.org, I got an idea of what a big deal this is turning into: Eyeballing the Bush ranch protest. And see this video of Cindy Sheehan talking (virtually) to Bush, if you’ve managed to miss it so far, for the full effect: QuickTime video.

I also liked this thoughtful item from Jeanne of Body and Soul: Claudette Colvin, Cindy Sheehan, and us.

Ebert Trashes Deuce Bigalow 2

Saturday, August 13th, 2005

Not that I had any interest at all in seeing the movie, but the following Roger Ebert review is not to be missed: Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo.

Huffington on the Bizarro Rumsfeld Pentagon

Saturday, August 13th, 2005

From Arianna Huffington: At Rummy’s bizarro Pentagon, torture is rewarded while sex is a firing offense.

There really is a hideous perversion of the normal order of how a government (or any organization) should be run in the Bush administration, and Huffington gets to the heart of it.

Schwarz Makes It Clear

Saturday, August 13th, 2005

Per Jonathon Schwarz of A Tiny Revolution: George Bush makes it clear.

Our mission is clear in Iraq. Should we have to go in, our mission is very clear: disarmament…. it’s very clear what we intend to do. And our mission won’t change. Our mission is precisely what I just stated. — George W. Bush, March 6, 2003

Our mission in Iraq is clear. We’re hunting down the terrorists. We’re helping Iraqis build a free nation that is an ally in the war on terror. We’re advancing freedom in the broader Middle East. We are removing a source of violence and instability, and laying the foundation of peace for our children and our grandchildren. — George W. Bush, June 28, 2005

If there’s one thing Bush knows, it’s clarity.

The Guardian on Bremer’s Missing $8.8 Billion

Saturday, August 13th, 2005

Anyone who’s read Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 will remember Milo Minderbinder, the entrepreneurial genius who found, in the chaos and the massive scale of war, the perfect opportunity to become very, very rich. With all that money flying around, and no one really in charge of keeping track of it, making large amounts of it flow in a particular direction turns out to be not so hard (at least for someone like Minderbinder).

It sounds like a lot of the same thing was going on in Iraq in the early days of the US occupation. This article is fairly old, but I found it interesting: From The Guardian: So, Mr Bremer, where did all the money go?

Fully Informed Jury

Thursday, August 11th, 2005

I was in Top Dog the other day, waiting for my dog and purusing the social comentary on the walls (looking for something I hadn’t seen before) when a leaflet I had seen before (but never read) caught my eye: “A Primer For Prospective Jurors“. My recently recieved jury duty summons is probably what motivated me to read it while I ate — and I found it fairly interesting…

Once on a jury, must I use the law as given by the judge, even if I think it’s a bad law, or wrongly applied?
No. You are free to vote on the verdict according to your conscience. You may not increase the charges, but you may choose to vote to acquit, even when the evidence proves that the defendant “did it”, if your conscience so dictates. And if you think the charges are too high, you can ask the judge to tell you about any reduced charges of which you might, in good conscience, be willing to find the defendant guilty. The same options apply if you learn that the evidence, though true, was gathered in a way that violated the rights of the accused, or if you believe that the government is just trying to flex its muscle by making an example out of the defendant or feel that you were not allowed access to some of the facts of the case, or that victimless crimes should not be punished-or for any other reason you believe that justice will not be served by finding the defendant guilty or liable as charged. You have the power to render a conscientious verdict.

This power to “do the right thing” and bring in a conscientious verdict, even when the defendant is — by the letter of the law — guilty or liable, is the very backbone of our jury system.

It lead me to the “The American Jury Institute and Fully Informed Jury Association” website(s), which then lead me to another interesting read: Jurors’ Handbook: A Citizens Guide to Jury Duty.

All of which makes me a little sad that I allready check the “I am exempt because my obligation was satisified in the last 12 months” box on my summons.

More Photoshop Phun from Worth1000.com

Tuesday, August 9th, 2005

If you listened to the latest podcast, you know I’ve been obsessing about the credibility of online images lately. Here are a few examples of why, from Worth1000.com:

The last one actually took me a few minutes.

US Deaths for July, 2005

Tuesday, August 9th, 2005

US military deaths in Iraq fell in July, with 54 deaths (compared to the 78 deaths in June).

Again, I’m getting these figures from the advanced search tool at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund site, and from Lunaville’s page on Iraq coalition casualties. The figures are for the number of US dead per month, without regard to whether the deaths were combat-related.

The first graph shows the first 29 months of each war. (Click on any image for a larger version.)

Next, the same chart, with the Vietnam numbers extended out to cover the first four years of the war:

Finally, the chart that gives the US death toll for the entire Vietnam war:

Disclaimer: I’m aware that we have more troops in-theater in Iraq than we had during the corresponding parts of the Vietnam War graph. Vietnam didn’t get numbers of US troops comparable to the number currently in Iraq until shortly after Johnson won the 1964 election, some three-and-a-half years after the starting point of the Vietnam graphs above.

These graphs are not intended to show the relative lethality of the two conflicts on a per-soldier basis. I was just curious how the “death profile” of the two wars compared, and these graphs let me see that. You are free to draw your own conclusions.

Lies.com Podcast 6

Monday, August 8th, 2005

Just when you thought it was safe: Lies.com podcast 6.

I recorded this one in my car driving down for last Thursday’s Devo concert. No music or found audio; just me doing the stream-of-consciousness thing re:

  • the use of “random” as a pejorative term
  • the Bush administration’s visible elephant with the Plame outing
  • a few anecdotes from my history as a geeky Devo fanboy
  • skepticism and credulity re: bouncy balls and Art Lad
  • working the graveyard shift
  • offshore sailboat racing at odd hours

Enjoy!

An Iraq War Reader

Friday, August 5th, 2005

Here are a number of items on the current state of the Iraq war that have caught my eye in the last few days:

Robert Novak’s Head Explodes on CNN

Friday, August 5th, 2005

So, apparently Robert Novak, appearing with James Carville on a live CNN talking-heads show, decided to throw a mini-tantrum, calling some actually-pretty-mild-by-Carville-standards digs at Kathleen Harris “bullshit,” then storming out of the studio while the cameras rolled. The CNN moderator, Ed Henry, said at the end of the segment that he had been planning to ask Novak questions about the Plame outing, and had told Novak that before the program, so maybe that explains why Novak would act out in such a bizarre manner: it was an excuse to get out of the interview before he had to answer uncomfortable questions. It reminds me, in that sense, of Bill O’Reilly’s tantrum while being interviewed by Terry Gross.

Anyway, links:

* OneGoodMove has the priceless clip with Jon Stewart’s reaction: Novak flips out- Daily Show version.

* Crooks and Liars has more video, and a round-up of bloggy commentary: Novak freaks on the set!

* Particularly interesitng to me was the speculation at Joshua Micah Marshall’s TPM Cafe: Novak.

* From Fishbowl DC, on CNN’s putting Novak on hiatus post-outburst: ‘Time off’ for Novak after ‘bulllshit’.

Gelf’s Goldenberg on Mikey the Chimp

Friday, August 5th, 2005

A brief, but thoughtful, article on the use of juvenile chimpanzees in show business, from Gelf Magazine’s David Goldenberg: Meet Mikey, chimpanzee cover boy.

Improv Everywhere Gets Romantic

Friday, August 5th, 2005

I like this one. How’d they know I’m such a sucker for a meet-cute scene? I anticipate one of those somewhat painful moments when the cab driver, like Ghosts of Pasha and birthday “Ted” before him, finds out it was all a prank, but I think their heart is pretty much in the right place here. Anyway: Improv Everywhere mission: Romantic comedy cab.

DiFi Bitches at Roberts about Phase II of the Committee Report on Pre-war Intel

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2005

Once again quoting from Buckaroo Banzai (twice in one day), I’m glad someone on the Senate Intel Committee has the balls to face facts about Chairman Pat Roberts’ failure to live up to his promise to complete “Phase II” of the investigation. Specifically, those would be the balls possessed by the senior senator from California: Senator Feinstein urges progress in completion of investigation into pre-war intelligence.