Saturday, August 28, 2004

Bumiller gets the goods ... but still falls on her bum 
In a NY Times article yesterday by David Sanger and Elisabeth Bumiller, George Bush finally admitted that 'he made a "miscalculation of what the conditions would be'' in postwar Iraq.'

This is seemingly the first time that Bush has admitted to any errors at all during his residency in the White House, but for Bumiller, Sanger, and their NY Times editors, it didn't merit a mention until the fifth paragraph. Talk about burying the lede... They were more interested in flogging that dead horse of a story, the Swift Boat Liars Against America.

In any event, Bush did say it and, however ineptly, the Times reported it. The article continues (in grafs 5, 6 and 7):
...he insisted that the 17-month-long insurgency that has upended the administration's plans for the country was the unintended by-product of a "swift victory'' against Saddam Hussein's military, which fled and then disappeared into the cities, enabling them to mount a rebellion against the American forces far faster than Mr. Bush and his aides had anticipated.

He insisted that his strategy had been "flexible enough'' to respond, and said that even now "we're adjusting to our conditions'' in places like Najaf, where American forces have been battling one of the most militant of the Shiite groups opposing the American-installed government.

Mr. Bush deflected efforts to inquire further into what went wrong with the occupation, suggesting that such questions should be left to historians, and insisting, as his father used to, that he would resist going "on the couch'' to rethink decisions.

Now good ol' Digby is on the case, with some cogent advice for the Kerry campaign.
...the bigger advantage is that he's now simultaneously admitted that he screwed up big time on the single most important issue a president ever faces, while also saying that he has no intention of trying to figure out what went wrong.

. . . Iraq is a massive failure and the president has just opened the door to his own culpability on that.

Kerry should go for the jugular --- this argument is on his turf. Bush isn't talking about the decision to go to war anymore, he's talking about his execution of that war and the decisions he made all by his lonesome. These mistakes are at the heart of Kerry's criticism of Bush on the war.

The contrast is stark. John Kerry believes in planning for contingencies and evaluating what works and what doesn't. George Bush admits he is a poor planner and wants to leave it to historians to figure out where he went wrong. But it will be too late by then. People are dying today. We need new leadership.
I sure hope someone at Kerry HQ is paying attention.

Double Agents? or Double Standards? 
The Federal Bureau of Investigation believes an Israeli spy has infiltrated the highest level of the Pentagon and may have tried to influence United States policy towards Iran and Iraq, it emerged last night.

The FBI has launched a wide-ranging investigation into a suspected mole with ties to top Pentagon officials who is thought to have supplied Israel with classified material that included secret White House deliberations on Iran, the CBS News network reported.

from The Guardian
While Rumsfeld, Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith & Co. give away the store to self-serving Iranian agent Ahmed Chalabi, the FBI seems more worried about an Israeli spy in the Pentagon. I'm not so happy about anyone spying on us, but at least the Israelis are our allies. When does Chalabi get the Jonathan Pollard treatment?

From Tom Tommorow, via one of my daily reads, Avedon Carol's The Sideshow

Friday, August 27, 2004

Monkeys with typewriters 
Why does the US news media hire reporters at all? For all the intelligence their reporters put into their work, it would be much more cost-effective just to send out a single pool camera/audio person. Zachary Roth of The Columbia Journalism Review travelled with the reporters covering Dick Cheney's campaign tour the other day:
. . . Marc Levy of the AP was talking to his editor, summarizing the gist of Cheney's comments: that we need a new national security strategy to confront the challenges of a new era, and to replace the cold war strategy of containment.

Levy read quotes from Cheney down the phone to his editor, including the following: "John Kerry said as much in his convention speech, that he wanted to go back to the way things used to be, and that America would resort to military force only when attacked." In reality, Cheney was being disingenuous: Kerry has not said this, and his foreign policy advisers have specifically kept the door open for the use of pre-emptive attacks. But in talking to his editor, Levy didn't offer any hint that Cheney had it wrong, and his editor didn't raise that issue either. (Indeed, not once all day did I hear a reporter attempt to assess the accuracy of anything Cheney said. They were concerned only with accurately transcribing his words and actions, and with assessing the strategic purpose of the trip. Fact-checking the vice president's assertions didn't appear to be on the agenda.) The quote about military force appears in Levy's write-up of Cheney's day, which ran in papers Thursday.

BBC correspondent Dusan Neumann was one of the reporters on that Cheney tour. Of Neumann, Roth says "Like many observers, especially foreign ones, he can't understand the obsession with trivia, and believes the press does a poor job at informing the public about the pressing issues of the day." Unlike the AP's Levy and his American reporter colleagues who seem to think they're actually stenographers, Neumann took his journalist's job seriously and wrote in his lede:
Whilst U.S. Marines, cavalry, Air Force and Iraq's security forces were tightening a noose around al-Sadr Mahdi militia and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani was hustled to Najaf, the cream of the national press core was counting apples, tomatoes, green peppers and ears of corn.
Say, whatever happened to that talk of The Guardian starting an American edition?

Is Alan Greenspan Grover Norquist's bastard son? 
Back in February and March of this year, Alan Greenspan was telling anyone who'd listen that Social Security and Medicare benefits would need to be cut back severely because the cupboard was bare - the government doesn't have the money to pay out. He's saying it again.

He seems conveniently to have forgotten a couple of things. First, that the Bush tax cuts are the reason for the revenue shortfalls - tax cuts that he vetted and approved because the Bill Clinton budget surpluses were excessive. And second, that he himself was co-chair of the commision that revamped Social Security to prevent this very type of shortfall from occuring.

So we have the US' head banker telling us that pouring hundreds of billions of borrowed dollars into Iraq - with no revenue in sight to pay it back - and eschewing hundreds of billions more a year to tax cuts that have yet to produced any job growth - are good things. But oh by the way, Boomers, forget about that pension fund you've already been paying in to for the past 30-40 years - the money's not there for you.

It's a potent combination of "Soylent Green" and the neutron bomb as applied to economics - people are disposable, so we can kill 'em off when they reach retirement age, but the business infrastructure must be left standing so the next generation of proles can take their turn on the assembly line.

Bob's big boy 
Re Bob Dole's weighing in with his predictably nasty Swift Vet comments, Mark Kleiman notes:
You know, I think Viagra really is a wonder drug: it seems to have made Bob Dole an even bigger prick than he used to be.

via Leah at corrente

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Expect to hear more about this at the Publican convention 
Judge Strikes Down Partial Birth Abortion Ban (Reuters)

Today, in Federal District Court in New York.

Alice doesn't live here anymore 
Avid golfer and one-time third-tier celebrity Alice Cooper says:
If you are listening to a rock star in order to get your voting information on who to vote for, you are a bigger moron than they are. Why are we rock stars? Because we're morons.
Amazing how Alice managed to prove his statement true (in one case, anyway), just by making it. While Steve Earle and Bruce Springsteen are out educating people, Alice can hang out and exchange makeup tips with Gene Simmons. Maybe they can sit in adjacent boxes on The Hollywood Squares.

OMG! Stop The Presses! The AP draws a conclusion! 
Swift Boat Writer Lied on Cambodia Claim

via The Campaign Desk

Wait'll he sees what the property tax bill's gonna be! 
For years I've wondered why, despite my income being well into the top quartile nationally, I've never felt at all well-to-do. It looks like I'm not the only one.

Joseph Hartnett is the Township Manager of Montclair, he makes $120,000 a year, and he can't find a home he can afford to buy there. Montclair has decided it needs to kick in a housing allowance to help him out. Maybe it'll help him edge somebody out in a bidding war. Welcome to Essex County, Joe.

Guess he needs to look for a house with a Winnebago in the driveway.

Guess we'll just have to watch Olympic Beach Volleyball 
Maplewood succeeds in evicting porn shop
The Star-Ledger - Thursday, August 26, 2004

Maplewood Mayor Fred Profeta announced yesterday that a porn shop, which has been the target of criticism in town, has been evicted from its building.

The store on Springfield Avenue is adjacent to a property that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints is in the process of building on.

"It's a problem in that it has not been an incentive for making that a pedestrian-friendly area," said Profeta. "There have been a whole lot of people who hate it."

The township asked the owners of the building to evict the porn shop in exchange for approvals for renovations on the property.

Olympic wanking? 
Zach Braff, he of South Orange, TV ("Scrubs") and film ("Garden State") fame, has a blog. Much of it is about "Garden State" - no surprise there. But he has a funny take on one of the new Olympic sports:
Now onto Women's Beach Volleyball:

How come no one has told me about this sport before?! This is amazing! I'm not very into sports, but this is a sport I could get into. I mean like I would tailgate and shit. I would make signs on poster board and buy a giant foam hand for this sport. Don't tell NBC, let's just keep it between us, but: These women aren't wearing any clothes! And as if that wasn't enough, they added cheerleaders! It's like watching Olympic Pole Dancing. I kept feeling like I should be feeding singles into my cable box.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

World Peacekeepers indeed... 
I saw this "toy" about a month ago in a store at The Mall of America in Minneapolis. I'm sure the irony is lost on the usual Kay-Bee browsers - and probably most of their parents. Sigh...

Teach your children well,
Their father's hell did slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they pick, the one you'll know by.

Don't you ever ask them why, if they told you, you will cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.

Looks like Haloscan, the provider of our commenting service, is down right now. Apologies. I hope they'll be back up soon.

12:45 PM EDT: Looks like Haloscan is back.
As you were...

Want a better price for your home? 
Rent an expensive sports car and ask your next-door-neighbor to park it in his driveway.

A survey done in the United Kingdom found that "p
remier sports cars top the league for snob appeal, raising house prices in the street by around 12% by making the area appear affluent. These are followed by executive cars, such as a Lexus, Mercedes or BMW, which can add 11% to property prices, as they are seen as the status symbols of high earners."

Tee hee. Beats re-tiling the bath.

By contrast, see if you can persuade neighbors who drive motorcycles, handyman vans or -- heaven forfend -- campers to keep them well out of sight. Such vehicles "lower the tone" of a neighborhood and depress house prices by as much as 12 percent.

Our "Objective" press 
Senior Kerry advisor Tad Devine is on the right track, but chastises Little Russ for the wrong things.
MR. DEVINE: The general and the admiral, who served, have the right to speak out on this issue. Senator Kerry wants to focus on the real issues of this campaign, but when he is attacked by lies, by people like the authors, for example, of this book, who have been demonstrated to be both liars and bigots, he will stand up and he will speak out. And that's what's going on right now.

MR. RUSSERT: But do they have a right to speak out just like Turner and Clark?

MR. DEVINE: Sure, but they don't have a right to lie, Tim. And that's what's going on right now. They are lying to the American people. And we will send the truth to the American people. And let me tell you something, John Kerry is not going to allow to happen to him what these guys did to John McCain four years ago.

via (the other) Roger Ailes
It's not that liars have no right to speak - they can say whatever the hell they want. It's that outlets like Russert's NBC have no obligation to give airtime to liars. In fact they have an active obligation NOT to give equal weight to "both sides" when they know that one of the sides is lying.

The buck stops ... ummm ... over there, somewhere 
"There was chaos at Abu Ghraib," Schlesinger said at a news conference at the Pentagon that was called to release the report, one of several investigations launched after photographs of prisoner abuse surfaced last spring, stunning the world.

Though Schlesinger said the interrogators and prison guards were "directly responsible" for the abuse, the report, for the first time, directly blames senior Defense Department management for problems at Abu Ghraib.

The panel faulted top generals, including Sanchez, for misinterpreting higher orders and issuing a series of contradictory and confusing interrogation policies. And it criticized Rumsfeld for failing to adequately assemble legal and military experts to set interrogation parameters early in the Iraq occupation.

[ ... ]

"They did look at history books," Schlesinger said. "Unfortunately, it was the wrong history."

[ ... ]

But he stopped well short of calling for Rumsfeld's removal, saying it "would be a boon to all of America's enemies, and consequently I think it would be a misfortune if it were to take place." Schlesinger said that although commanders were not "focused" on detention operations, "we do not think it was a sufficient error to call for senior resignations."

I'll bet they all write in passive voice, too ... no one "does" these things, they just happen.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

His fingers never leave his hands 
Following on rabbit.ears' post, I did a little Googling to see just what else Cheney had to say about same-sex marriages.

He is on record, during the 2000 presidential campaign, as having said "People should be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to enter into. It's really no one else's business, in terms of trying to regulate or prohibit behavior in that regard."

On the other hand, he recently said that he would support Bush's position in promoting the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would enshrine ant-gay discrimination in the US Constitution. He's also recently indicated that
...like Bush, the vice president is concerned that the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act -- which defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman -- is under attack because of actions by officials in certain states.
In other words, gays should forget about it - states rights only extend as far as the religious right will let them, and gay marriage is waaay too far to go.

So don't get fooled ... like charlatans everywhere, the sneaky bits will be going on while you're paying attention to the patter.

Does Dick Cheney Have a Heart? 
The Bush campaign seems to be groping to the left, trying to get out ahead of John Kerry on liberal issues. Perhaps the most cynical gambit to date is Dick Cheney's use of his own lesbian daughter's right to marry -- a right President Bush would deny -- to send signals to the left that the Bush Administration is not uniformly constituted of the knuckle-dragging, low-forehead oafs they appear to (almost) all the world to be.

"Lynne and I have a gay daughter, so it's an issue our family is very familiar with," Cheney told an audience that included his daughter. "With the respect to the question of relationships, my general view is freedom means freedom for everyone ... People ought to be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to.

"The question that comes up with the issue of marriage is what kind of official sanction or approval is going to be granted by government? Historically, that's been a relationship that has been handled by the states. The states have made that fundamental decision of what constitutes a marriage," he said.

It's not that he doesn't love his daughter, you see. It's just that he loves states' rights more.

Freddie Goes Home At Last

Freddie MercuryThe sale of Western rock albums isn't allowed in Iran, let alone rock albums sung by gays. But whatever you think of the music, admit it: There never was any suppressing Mr. Fahrenheit. A compilation of Queen's greatest hits (minus a few love songs) is selling like hot pistachios in Iran. Bismallah Bless Freddie.

Time to quit, Henry 
Henry Hamel was one of the foot-soldiers in Fred Profeta's takeover of the Maplewood Democratic Party organization 2 years ago. He was subsequently appointed as a party District Leader when the position in his district went vacant last summer, and then won a 2-year term in this year's primary. By accepting the appointment and then running for election he tacitly accepted the duties associated with the position.

The job of District Leader is not onerous. They are expected to support and campaign for all Democratic Party candidates. The bylaws of the Maplewood Democratic Committee list the duties of members. Among those duties, District Leaders are expected to:
  • register to vote any new residents who move into the member's district.
  • encourage residents in their district to support Democrats in the general elections.
  • provide active assistance to local Democratic candidates who have won the Democratic primary election for the position of Township Committee person.
  • work for the election of Democratic candidates on the Local, County, State, and National level in the general election.
In some ways, Hamel has done those things - he's certainly been effective in getting out the vote for his candidates when that suited him, as it did the last two years. But not this year.

Hamel is an active participant on the Maplewood Online discussion boards under several identities, most notably (as he made known to several of us who attended the very first MOL face-to-face get together in spring 2001) as user Dytunck. It is as Dytunck that he is doing exactly the opposite of what is expected of a District Leader. In one of the catfights that passes for discussion on the MOL Soapbox these days, re: the Bette White/Police HQ/Polling controversy, Hamel (as Dytunck) wrote of Democratic candidate for Maplewood Township Committee (and current Vice-Mayor) David Huemer:
This is not the first time Dave Huemer has lied to people for his own political gain. The minute Huemer smells a potential controversy for Profeta, he seizes the opportunity to make waves.

I'd hardly call that support and active assistance of his party's TC candidate - it sounds more like a political hatchet-job.

If it were merely an issue of his personal animosity towards Mr. Huemer, keeping his opinion to himself might be sufficient restraint on Hamel's part. Party loyalty doesn't preclude a distaste for the party's chosen candidates. If Hamel is unable to muster any enthusiasm for the nominee, he should make his excuses to his party colleagues, in private, and leave it at that.

Unfortunately for the Maplewood Democratic Committee and his Party constituents, Hamel does NOT leave it at that. Besides his public disrespect for the candidate he is pledged to support, he also seems uninterested in fulfilling another of a District Leader's few responsibilities: encouraging new and/or otherwise unregistered voters to register and participate in elections. Again, in Hamel's words:
People choosing not to register are voting with their feet. If they want a stake . . . shouldn't they bother to voice their opinion as to who makes up the TC in the first place? By choosing to not register, they certainly must realize they're abdicating their stake.

It's a district leader's obligation to identify unregistered voters, seek them out, and assist them in registering - NOT to publicly criticize them and deny them a voice in civic decision-making.

Since Hamel seems so intent on trashing Mr. Huemer and so happy to limit voter participation in elections, I'd suggest that his unwillingness to fulfill his party duties, even passively, makes him ineligible to hold his District Leader position. His actions may constitute "Leadership" but, if so, he's leading his district's Democrats in the wrong direction.

In the United States, private citizens are entitled to say pretty much anything they want - but, as officials of the Democratic Committee, District Leaders are obliged not to say certain things in public. As a lifelong Democrat, I find Hamel's statements and attitude to be offensive. I may not be a member of the Democratic Committee anymore, but it's still my party. I'm not really sure it's Hamel's. MDC Chairman Doug Bland should demand Mr. Hamel's resignation and find someone who is able and, more importantly, willing to fulfill the obligations of the job.

Fair is fair 
Scott McClellan says "We've called on Senator Kerry to join us and call for an end to all of this unregulated soft money activity."

Fine, Scotty - and we call on Mr. Bush to cancel all public appearances other than paid campaign advertising between now and election day.

What's good for the goose and all that...

Editors and reporters still being led around by their noses  
There has been an unbearable amount of coverage of the Swift Boat hoohah this past week, and none of it has shed one bit of light on John Kerry's fitness for anything. It's just an irrelevancy, albeit one that, no matter how it plays out, is to George Bush's benefit. By concentrating on Kerry's Vietnam record, the Bushistas win no matter what, just by deflecting attention from their own abysmal record at everything they've turned their hands to. Part of the problem, of course, is that the Kerry campaign walked right into this, by so emphasizing Kerry's military service in the run-up to and during the Democratic convention, culminating is Kerry's acceptance-speech-opening salute to the delegates. Instead of defining Kerry the longtime Senator, the most vivid picture they left us with was of Lt. Kerry, war hero. It was like a gold-engraved invitation to Karl Rove.

The facts that Kerry volunteered for 2 tours in Vietnam, that he received 5 combat decorations, are disputed by no one, not even John O'Neill and Larry Thurlow. That George Bush has a much less stellar military record is also not in doubt. What we know less about is what Senator Kerry's positions are. For that matter, we're not getting a whole lot about Bush's plans for a second term, either. It's all Saigon, all the time. And, not to put too fine a point on it, the whole thing is bullshit. No respectable news outlet should waste one more inch of copy on it.


Hey, sorry about the silence of the last week - until I'm independently wealthy, gainful employment will trump idle opinion-mongering any day.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

The face of war never changes, never ages, never gets any less ugly 
Children peer out from a house in Najaf

Frightened children in Najaf.

Boy in a refugee camp in Sudan
More than 1.2 million people have fled their homes in Darfur.

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