Friday, April 30, 2004

I guess he thinks he deserves a gold star

Bush and Cheney Tell 9/11 Panel of '01 Warnings
. . . Mr. Bush appeared before reporters in the Rose Garden and described the question-and-answer session with the 10 members of the bipartisan commission as 'very cordial.' He said he 'answered every question that they asked.'"
Nice to see what a chummy time Bush and Cheney had with the 9.11 commissioners. Typically, at the press conference afterwards, both he and the media were totally focused on how he felt about the experience and how many questions he answered -- no solemn reference at all to the tragedy of 9.11 itself.
And I got a chuckle out of how proud Bush was about answering all the questions. What did he think, that the commission would ask him something that Gonzales would advise him not to answer on the grounds of self-incrimination? Like -- why did you freeze and sit in the school for seven minutes after being told that the nation was under attack?

Giving Fallujah to a man with a mustache

Marines Plan Handoff To Militia in Fallujah
So they're actually doing it, they're declaring victory and leaving.
And they are putting in charge one of the generals who fought against them just a year ago. Unacknowledged in the article is the fact that once the Americans are gone, the insurgency will end anyway.
So it this one works, I wonder if the whole of Iraq will be turned over to some man with a mustache on June 30.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

The last word on the medals thing

Watch Did John Kerry throw something over a fence 30 years ago? The public needs to know" -- I particularly liked the bit on how Bush's certificate in the national guard mile high club compares to Kerry's bronze star, silver star and three purple hearts.

Media Clowns

Daily Howler hits the nail right on the head in his column today about the press corps coverage of Kerry's medals thing and the peanut butter thing, not to mention previous mentions of the botox thing, the hairstyle thing, etc etc
Their focus on trivia is an addiction --a raging, millionaire's mental illness. Their opinion leaders are multimillionaires, and they do behave like a perfumed court- like Marie Antoinette's inner circle. As they've long shown, they are impervious to serious thought, as their class has always been. And they continue to clown at a dangerous time, at a time that imperils the world."
On Hardball last night, Matthews asked Bill Mayer about the medals thing and Mayer responded "Why are you covering this?" Matthews' face showed he was taken aback at first, he thought Mayer was joking. When he realized that Mayer was serious, he didn't have any defense. Here's the somewhat-edited transcript:
MATTHEWS: Bill Maher, what do you make of this fight over whether he threw ribbons or medals in 1971, a third of a century ago?
BILL MAHER, HOST, “REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER”: Why are you covering this? Why are you taking this bait, seriously? Why are you even letting them bait you into covering this complete nonissue? This guy has medals. This guy has ribbons. The other guy didn‘t go. That‘s the whole story.
The other guy is a draft dodger. They were both rich kids in the ‘60s. One of them went to where the bullets were flying and one of them found a way not to go and then he lied about that. Stop covering the medals.
MATTHEWS: All right, I did have to cover it because he had a lot to say last night. Apparently, John Kerry wanted to go on and make clear something where he—maybe he should have shut up about it, but he wanted to make clear that he was being truthful because he said medals and ribbons mean the same to a guy who actually served in the military.
MAHER: Look, one guy went into the National Guard, which back then was a way of getting out of it. .. .
MATTHEWS: Well, he did say in a recent press conference with everyone watching—apparently, 30 million people watched this press conference recently—the president was asked if he ever made any mistakes, and he said he hadn‘t made any.
MAHER: He was drunk until he was 40. That‘s not a mistake?. . .
MATTHEWS: Well, why is he going up in the polls? We got a Pew Research poll. We could show you any poll. They all show him moving up, where he was behind. So what is President Bush doing the last month that‘s so good and what‘s so bad, I guess you would have to say, about John Kerry‘s performance the last month or so? What‘s going on?
MAHER: Well, for one thing, he‘s getting the media to cover this nonsense about John Kerry‘s medals. So Joe Public, as President Bush would call him, sits home and goes, well, gosh, there was a controversy with Bush‘s military history and now there‘s a controversy with John Kerry‘s military history. I don‘t know who to vote for. It‘s nonsense. It is nonsense. One guy actually has honor and integrity, although I will admit that John Kerry certainly is not burdened with charisma, and the other guy only has the words honor and integrity. He‘s never connected them to anything. And he never connects anything
MATTHEWS: What can John Kerry do? Life is unfair, as Jack Kennedy once said, but what happens when you have got a guy like George Bush who may be a swell, who may have gotten breaks to get into Yale, breaks certainly to get into the National Guard, all his life were breaks, maybe to make a ton of money with a baseball team? But he comes off, fairly or not, as sort of a regular guy, whereas John Kerry, who was the balls-out guy, went to war, did the job for the country, won the three—earned, you would have to say, the three Purple Hearts, the Bronze Star, the Silver Star, saved lives, killed the enemy, he comes off as kind of cold. And then the American people are like thermometers. If the guy is warm, they like him. If he‘s cold, they don‘t. Is that fair?
MAHER: And, also, this is something I said before, but I think it bears repeating in this instance to your question. The true axis of evil in America is the brilliance of our marketing combined with the stupidity of our people.
George Bush has $180 million to spend. With that kind of money, he could convince Americans to drink paint, and he probably will.
. . . I‘m just saying, with enough money, you can convince people of anything. And that is what George Bush does. He is one of the most cynical presidents we‘ve ever had, I believe, because with that kind of money, he plays on people‘s fears, he plays on people‘s ignorance, and he plays on people‘s shortsightedness . . . you know, in the days before television, people didn‘t judge presidents on whether he was sunny or warm or likable. They judged on whether he was the best man for the job. I would like to bring that criteria back now that we‘re at war.
MATTHEWS: It must be great not to have to be fair and balanced, Bill.
Thank you very much, Bill Maher. Good luck.

Notice that Matthews really does know the difference between the Bush record and the Kerry record, but then recoils from where this leads by talking about how people "like" Bush -- actually, millions of Americans distrust him and dislike him intensely, which is why democratic turnout at the primaries was over the top. Then right at the end, he gave Maher a little dig, implying that RNC talking points need to be given airtime so that the media can prove it is "fair and balanced".

How comforting to blame it all on Saddam

Hussein's Agents Are Behind Attacks in Iraq, Pentagon Finds
Do they actually believe this? Its both simplistic and stupid, but the headline and the article both state this as though these are proven facts, rather than wishful thinking.
I don't doubt that the Iraq army is now active in the resistance, but I think this report is actually aimed at giving Bush and Rumsfield and Cheny a set of talking points for the increasing numbers of American journalists and citizens who are questioning the war.
Here's the key paragraph:
The report also illustrates how Hussein loyalists are manipulating dissatisfaction with the occupation and cultivating a climate of fear that did not vanish with Mr. Hussein's capture. Policy makers who have read the document say it underscores their concerns that a pervasive fear that allowed Mr. Hussein to rule his nation is, even today, deterring millions of Iraqis from supporting the American-led occupation. The pacification of Iraq cannot succeed without the consent and participation of a larger number of Iraqis, according to officials on Capitol Hill and within the administration.
So the American people can rest easy that the failure of Iraq is not the fault of anyone in Washington, or the inept management of the occupation by the Pentagon, or understaffing in the army, or torture by troops in the prisons, or the destruction of Iraq's economy, or US inability to get the electricity running, or the overall disrespect shown to the Iraq people -- no, no, its really all Hussein's fault, you see, and that's why things are going so badly!

A banana for the gorilla

Martin will sign U.S. missile-warning program Maybe I could be accused of a cynical approach, but personally, I have no problem with this. Its smoke and mirrors -- the missile defense system doesn't work and isn't likely to improve much in the future. But, in the meantime, it gives us an opportunity to cooperate with the Bush Administration on something that is near and dear to their hearts. Tthe 400-lb gorilla next door has to be thrown the occasional banana.

Revisionist present

Gadhafi has remade himself and revised his presence in the world. Gadhafi wraps up landmark trip Twenty years ago, Gadhafi was the Great Evil One; now he is the new golden boy of the Middle East. Maybe he has changed, I don't know -- but maybe he looked at what happened when Hussein was identified as the Great Evil One. And maybe he decided that with Hussein out of the picture, the Middle East was due for a new leader, and it might as well be him. And maybe he realized that he could take over from Egypt as the power broker in the region, and also in Africa, if he made nice with the Europeans, also with the benefit of making some money through international investment. And look how eager everyone has been to believe him now. Its an instructive transformation, but I wonder how trustworthy.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Kerry fights back

Two great posts on LiberalOasis "Beltway Dems: Shut Up" and "It has been brung" -- about how well Kerry is responding to the RNC attacks, and how his jobs message is going over in Ohio. Great stuff!

Monday, April 26, 2004

Greedy buggers

CNEWS - Canada: Three new suits against widow of Quebec pilot who crashed into tower
This is pathetic -- so one lawyer has this billiant idea to sue this poor woman, then everyone else piles on so they don't get left out of the windfall. Look guys, you build a huge tower like this in the middle of nowhere, and the risk of someone flying into it is just the risk you take, like being hit by lightening. But because she got a $1 million insurance policy, which at today's interest rates will generate an income for her of maybe $3,000 a month, you think you can squeeze more blood from this stone.
She should countersue the bunch of you, for putting the tower in a place where her husband's plane would hit it! I cannot think of a judge who wouldn't be sympathetic to her.

Thanks but really, you shouldn't have

Globe and Mail: Clark slams Harper So, let's see -- Mulroney has endorsed Harper, and Joe Clark has endorsed Martin. I'll bet both Paul and Steven are so grateful! Personally, I think both Mulroney and Clark are OK, but so many Canadians dislike both of them that the endorsements could turn out to be poison pills. For Harper, its like being endorsed by the mafia; as for Martin, I'll bet he'd rather kiss a duck than say thanks to Clark. A sincere "you really shouldn't have" is the honest response.

First Law of Holes

Thanks to Information Clearing House for this great article William Rivers Pitt: Falluja, Najaf and the First Law of Holes
Pitt writes "Anyone who thinks Iraq is a bad situation now should reserve judgment until the end of this week. George W. Bush and his crew have clearly forgotten the First Law of Holes: When you find yourself deep in a hole, stop digging. If this is what Bush meant when he talked about 'changing the world' in his recent prime-time press conference, we are all in a great deal of trouble."

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Fantasy world

As referenced by TPM, Juan Cole writes about the recent poll which found that 57 out of 100 Americans believe Hussein and Bin Laden were allies, and 45 out of 100 still believe that Hussein had WMDs before the war.
Why would so many Americans cling to patently false beliefs? One can only speculate of course. But I would suggest that the two-party system in the US has produced a two-party epistemology. Epistemology is the study of how we know what we know. If it were accepted that Saddam had virtually nothing to do with al-Qaeda, that he had no weapons of mass destruction (nor any significant programs for producing them), and that no evidence for such things has been uncovered after the US and its allies have had a year to comb through Baath documents-- if all that is accepted, then President Bush's credibility would suffer. For his partisans, it is absolutely crucial that the president retain his credibility. Therefore, rather than face reality, they re-jigger it to create a fantasy world in which Saddam and Usamah are buddies . . . and in which David Kay . . . never recanted his earlier belief that the WMD was there somewhere. Of those who maintain that Iraq actually did have WMD, 72% say they are going to vote for Bush.
So no wonder Bush refuses to admit making any mistakes, when so many people still believe that such a straight-talking President would tell them only the truth.

US has shot itself in the foot, internationally-speaking

Peter Galbraith's article How to Get Out of Iraq points out how a three-state federal system in Iraq is likely the only workable form of government for this country (as I talked about a couple of weeks ago, too.) Galbraith goes on to talk about the importance of internationalizing the effort.
Only with his conclusion do I have a problem. He writes thatIraq demonstrates all too clearly the folly of the preventive war doctrine and of unilateralism. Of course the United States must reserve the right to act alone when the country is under attack or in imminent danger of attack. But these are also precisely the circumstances when the United States does not need to act alone and he goes on to talk about the continuing worldwide support for the war in Afganistan.
But Afganistan was before Iraq, and before a host of other American foreign-policy blunders -- ham-handed favouritsm for Sharon, self-serving tolerance for Pakistan's nuclear proliferation, clumsy feints with North Korea, confusion over Taiwan/China issues, and stunningly poor WMD intellegence. No other nation now would actually believe any claim by the Bush Administration about an imminent threat, nor would we trust the US to lead any international effort again. So the US is truely on its own now.

Crazy like a fox

Buzzflash thinks Kerry should take the offensive on the smear campaign Editorial: Galling smears But I think Kerry is running a Matrix campaign -- he is letting his opponents exhaust themselves, and, by their increasingly bizarre smear campaigns, make themselves look ridiculous. I think Kerry knows its a long, long time to November, and the majority of the American public won't really be paying a lot of attention to politics until mid-September.
By then, I think it is likely that Bush will be defeating himself:
- the situation in Iraq will likely have continued to deteriorate, with another 200 to 300 soldiers dead, more cities declaring themselves "free", more car bombs, more pipeline fires, more talk of a military draft, etc, and Bush will have been forced to go to Congress for more money for Iraq and Afganistan
- the 9/11 Commission report will produce a public howl for high-profile resignations at the FBI and the CIA
- the Phlame investigation will do likewise to Cheney's staff
- interest rates will have risen enough to endanger any economic recovery, there will be another few million unemployed, and the housing market in the States will begin a freefall.
- the lack of progress on any of the Bush "initiatives" like the gay marriage amendment, the Mexican immigration plan, the trip to Mars etc will be even more glaringly obvious
- And Bush will continue to try to run as the "war president", a position which may become increasingly hollow when he is no longer technically "in charge" in Iraq. And I'll bet Kerry is hoping that Bush succeeds in capturing Bin Laden, which would further undercut the "war president" image -- the public will ask who he is still "at war" against once Bin Laden is gone.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Blame the victim

Bush's Decision on Possible Attack on Falluja Seems Near
This worries me -- "Mr. Bremer . . . [warned] on Friday that 'Iraq faces a choice.' His message was that the country could miss its best chance to establish a democratic government, and he used a starkly grimmer tone than his usual upbeat message about life returning to normal."
Does this foreshadow a new talking point, that the bloody mess in Fallujah and the subsequent failure to establish a democracy in Iraq is going to be blamed on Iraqis, rather than on the Bush administration?

Don't hold your breath

U.S., U.N. Seek New Leaders For Iraq: "The United States and the top U.N. envoy to Iraq have decided to exclude the majority of the Iraqi politicians the U.S.-led coalition has relied on over the past year when they select an Iraqi government to assume power on June 30, U.S. and U.N. officials said yesterday. "
Unless these unnamed officials were from the Pentagon, I predict this will not happen.
People have been predicting Chalabi's demise for the last year, and he's still there because the Pentagon, namely Wolfie, wants him. He's the only politician in Iraq who can be relied on to support the US, provided the bribe is high enough.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Guite knifes Martin

Martin's office tried to influence contracts: Guité So first we have this big story going on and on about how Paul Martin's office wanted research company Ernscliffe to get a chance to bid on a contract.
Finally, in the 32nd paragraph of this big story, we find this sentence: "Both inside and outside the committee meeting, MPs said they doubted much of what Mr. Guite was telling them." Well, duh!
This is Chretien-serving BS. The only improper phone calls Guite can remember are the ones nine years ago from Paul Martin's office? The bile and guile of the Chretien loyalists is amazing -- they won't be satisfied until Paul Martin looses the next election. This, they think, would force him to resign, so that they can belly up to the trough again.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

The "loser" is not quitting in Iraq

A war is not over until the loser quits Terrific summary by Jack MaAndrew on
"It is predicted by some experts that the United States and Great Britain will soon be left to soldier on alone in their battle to force democracy on the citizens of Iraq -- the war and the peace both lost to history, the "war on terror" having been hi-jacked to satisfy the inexplicable needs of Empire America. "

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Neo-fascism defined

Canuckistan - Bush: Neo-Fascist?: On Canukistan, Ian Gillespie writes a very insightful piece about the new style of fascism in the US.
I too have found it hard to define what is happening down there. Gillespie explains that the old definition of fascism doesn't exactly fit the Bush neo-conservatives. Instead, they are creating a new, faith-based definition:
"Movement conservatives are creating a manifest reality. Believing their ascent to be a triumph of virtue, they utilize their power to create a reality in which their ideals are indeed virtuous. They do so regardless of facts, regardless of whether their ideals were virtuous to begin with. Neo-conservatives don't believe that might makes right. They believe that the fact they have acquired might is a validation of the underlying righteousness of their beliefs -- and mandate to enforce them. They believe that ideology, with power, can forge reality."

The most important court case this Supreme Court will ever hear

MSNBC - Testy high court hearing on Guantanamo case
If the Supreme Court lets the president win on this one, they will not only doom the Guantanamo detainees and all future prisoners there to legally-sanctioned oblivion but they will also undermine US Constitution. The point, Justice Scalia, isn't whether Congress can enact a law changing the meaning of habeas corpus, but that the constitution imposes an obligation on government regardless of whether Congress chooses to act or not. It goes to the very heart of the role of the US Constitution in American democracy.
And that Bush let it get to this -- to the point where his cruel and unconscionable treatment of the Guantanamo prisoners has resulted in such a court case -- is a damning inditement of his leadership and his fitness to serve as a president.

Another insurgency victory in Najaf

United Press International: U.S. pulls troops back from brink in Najaf: "U.S. troops began to withdraw from a base near the city of Najaf Monday, signaling an unwillingness to enter the Shiite holy city in pursuit of radical cleric Moqtada Sadr, whose militia the U.S.-led coalition has vowed to crush..."

Insurgents appear to have won in Fallujah

Yahoo! News - US seals Fallujah deal...:
"After two weeks of fierce fighting around Fallujah, west of Baghdad, the US-led coalition said an agreement with local leaders allowed for joint patrols with Iraqi security forces, an amnesty for those who turned in heavy weapons and shorter curfew hours ... both sides promised to take steps toward a 'full and unbroken' ceasefire ...The US Marines announced a draft plan for more than 77 million dollars in US aid for Fallujah once the fighting draws to an end. About 500,000 dollars would be spent in the first 30 days after peace is restored..."
Hmmm - basically they're buying peace in Fallujah without capturing any of the people who killed the contractors, they're accepting that the city is not really under their control, and they're patrolling jointly in the hopes that insurgents will not continue to shoot at them.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Apologies matter

I have seen and heard several comments like this one -- Calgary Sun Columnist - Ezra Levant: Don't cry for Svend -- in the last several days. Not only dissing Svend and his apology, they also take the opportunity to slam "the liberal press" for supporting him. Levant compares the sympathy for Svend with the media's "contemptuous glee upon discovering Reform MP Jack Ramsay's criminal charges, or upon learning of George W. Bush's 20-year-old drunk driving charge."
The differences, folks, are two:
First, Svend stepped up -- he called a press conference and admitted his guilt and apologized, before the RCMP could bring any charges. Now, he may have been only hours ahead of them, but he admitted what he did it all the same, and didn't wait for a charge and a media circus and a trial before starting to talk about stress. Ramsay never admitted any guilt (though, in fact, there is plenty of reasonable doubt in this case, but it was the prosecutor's decision to lay charges, not the media) and Bush certainly has not been particularly straightforward about his past or present mistakes.
Second, Svend has never pretended to be a poster boy for "Christian values", the kind of politician who parades himself as God's avenger on Earth against all corruption, lewedness, pornography, thievery, fornication, etc. Both the Alliance here and the Republicans in the US have deliberately adopted this persona, and they have used their so-called moral purity to convince sincere Christians to vote for them. So when one of their poster boys screws up, its news.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

"You will have to live with that decision" Behind Diplomatic Moves, Military Plan Was Launched This excerpt from Woodward's new book is curiously flat -- it shows Bush in January 13 and 14, 2003 in a series of high-toned conversations, informing Rice, Powell, Rove, the Saudis and the Polish PM that he is intent on war with Iraq -- there is a lot of grave babble about "the inspections aren't working" and "we're going to have to go to war" and "we're with you, Mr. President". Bush is calm and resolute, the advisors are calm and wise, the foreign leaders are calm and supportive. Were these the words actually spoken by human beings or are we reading what people would have liked to have said? In either case, the kind of war described here is an abstraction, where the key decision point appears to be the importance of "American credibility" and the discussions are all about Bush's feelings. The priceless quote of the piece is Rice supposedly saying to Bush "If you're going to carry out coercive diplomacy, you have to live with that decision" -- so Bush has to live with it, but more than 600 Americans have died with it.
Meanwhile, in other news NOT mentioned in any of these conversations, Ari Fleischer was lying to reporters about American intentions in Iraq. And apparently no one was factoring in the impact of North Korea's withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which had been announced three days before, nor was anyone even discussing whether the IAEA report questioning American claims on Iraq nuclear capabilities, also of three days before, should be part of the Iraq decision.

Which is the lion and which the lamb?

Yahoo! News - Jackson Asked to Help Free U.S. Captive I guess politics makes for strange bedfellows -- "U.S. Sen. Trent Lott said Friday at a news conference in Tupelo he had talked with [Jesse] Jackson and helped the longtime civil rights advocate contact the Hamill family. "

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Declaring victory and leaving

This is interesting -- No way out
International affairs writer Doug Saunders argues that Bush has already actually admitted defeat. He describes the press conference:
For the next hour, George W. Bush gave one of the strangest and most opaque performances of his presidential career. At the time, for those of us watching, it seemed that he was stubbornly, blindly sticking to his guns, refusing to change his Iraq plans by an angstrom despite terrible failures on the ground. Since then, it has become apparent that something entirely different had happened: The speech was a complete reversal and admission of defeat.
Saunders argues that the most important news at the press conference was Bush's willingness to let the UN handle the post-June 30 government, and the reference to NATO sending troops. Not only that, but the number of American troops is also inreasing.
This is the pinch Mr. Bush finds himself in: The semi-autonomy of June 30 will be possible only if he accedes to both a humiliating handover of U.S. authority to those hated international bodies, and a dramatic increase in U.S troops, spending and deaths -- all only 18 weeks from election day.

Maybe its nothing, but...

I'm starting to wonder if something is medically wrong with Bush - garrulousness, grandiosity, sometimes anger . . .
Today I read this in Peggy Noonan's column:
I noticed once again at the news conference that Mr. Bush has turned garrulous. He has taken to speaking at great length in venues of his choosing, and more and more he chooses. A week ago I took part in a seminar on book writing at a gathering of Republicans in Georgia. The president spoke to the gathering later that night, at an informal dinner for a few hundred, and I stayed on to watch. Everyone knew his remarks would be brief, but they were not. After an hour the governor of Florida, sitting behind him on the small stage, shifted like someone who knew big brother was going on too long, and finally threw a dinner roll at his back to make the point. I made the last part up, but Jeb Bush looked like someone trying to throw his voice: Wrap it up, buddy. Eventually the president did, with what seemed reluctance, after an hour and 20 minutes of a tour of his horizons, a personal and at times startlingly blunt appraisal of other leaders and the realities they face. When I mentioned to a friend that I'd never heard of Mr. Bush speaking so long, the friend, who sees him often, said the president had recently spoken for more than an hour at a lunch, to the startlement of listeners who wound up furtively checking their watches. Another Washington denizen shared a similar story. This is unlike our president. I don't know what it means. She goes on to talk about how he is choosing the speaking venues where he is stongest etc etc.
But I wonder.
A few weeks ago, I posted some other stuff about odd behaviour:
'Dana Milbank's White House Notebook has an item about Bush's "pothole" joke, which he apparently uses every time he talks to a mayor.
Then there is the odd You remind me of my mother joke at a Texas fundraiser.
And his apparent slapping down of an AP reporter who addressed him as "sir" rather than "Mr. President"
And the "looking for WMD" banquet joke.

Tweety-bird's revenge

Cat survives monthlong crate trip That will teach the cat to leap into the birdcage crate! I'm a sucker for stories like this about extraordinary animals. But I wonder what happened to the second cat?

An apology, at last!

MSNBC - Rove regrets usingbanner declaring "Mission Accomplished"
Well, its a beginning -- at least SOMEONE in the Bush Administration has finally admitted regret about SOMETHING to do with the war in Iraq.

Shorter Fred Thompson

Campaigning on Defeat ( If we lose in Iraq, it will be because the war's opponents didn't develop a strategy to win the war.

Rice on Stewart

COMEDY CENTRAL TV Shows: The Daily Show with Jon Stewart website now has the Rice testimony videos -- "Mea Ain't Culpa" and the Corddry commentary. Stewart's reactions that hit the mark.
Don't miss Ed Helms on electronic voting, and Lewis Black on the summer olympics -- great stuff.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Hell's Bells

In the Globe and Mail, it is reported that American soldiers are playing rock music to irritate Iraqis: "In Fallujah's darkened, empty streets, U.S. troops blast AC/DC's “Hell's Bells” and other rock music full volume from a huge speaker, hoping to grate on the nerves of this Sunni Muslim city's gunmen and give a laugh to marines along the front line."
So I looked up the lyrics --
I'm a rolling thunder, a pouring rain
I'm comin' on like a hurricane
My lightning's flashing across the sky
You're only young but you're gonna die

I won't take no prisoners, won't spare no lives
Nobody's putting up a fight
I got my bell, I'm gonna take you to hell
I'm gonna get you, Satan get you

Hell's Bells
Yeah, Hell's Bells
You got me ringing Hell's Bells
My temperature's high, Hell's Bells

I'll give you black sensations up and down your spine
If you're into evil you're a friend of mine
See my white light flashing as I split the night
'Cause if GODS on the left, then I'm stickin' to the right

I won't take no prisoners, won't spare no lives
Nobody's puttin' up a fight
I got my bell, I'm gonna take you to hell
I'm gonna get you, Satan get you


Hell's Bells, Satan's comin' to you
Hell's Bells, he's ringing them now
Hell's Bells, the temperature's high
Hell's Bells, across the sky
Hell's Bells, they're takin' you down
Hell's Bells, they're draggin' you around
Hell's Bells, gonna split the night
Hell's Bells, there's no way to fight, yeah

Ow, ow, ow, ow

Hell's Bells

Does the United States REALLY want to piss off Muslims even more than they are already, by describing themselves as Satan? What happened to the Mission From God?

Thursday, April 15, 2004

powerpoint stuff

I love this - PDB Aug. 6, 2001 in powerpoint
It reminds me of this - Gettysburg Address powerpoint
And of this -- the essays about Powerpoint as good or evil. The author of the "evil" article, Edward Tufte, is an interesting guy with an interesting website. He has thought about and written about how to display information visually -- check out the poster page, with Minard's graphic of Napolean's march to Russia showing the destruction of the French army in this ill-fated venture. Fascinating.

Svend, we need you

The Globe and Mail - 'Something just snapped,' Svend Robinson says:
This is so sad -- "Star New Democrat MP Svend Robinson took a sudden and stunning leave from federal politics Thursday -- stepping down from the job he's had for 25 years after he admitting he stole jewellery last Friday." I hope with all my heart that he can get through this and will be able to get back to parliament. Canada needs him.

Kerry is right

Kerry Places Stability in Iraq Above a Democracy
Kerry is being realistic, and people are trashing him for it. What happened to all the avowals to support Kerry right or wrong because the goal is to beat Bush!
Anyway, Kerry says the US needs to "transition to stability that recognizes people's rights" -- and I'm sorry, folks, but that is absolutely the best that the US can do now. Counterpsin complains that this stance is unconscionable and wrong
But its not.
First of all, Kerry recognizes that the US has discredited itself by its arbitrary arrests, stealing money from people, shooting up mosques, corruption in contracts, etc If this is the way America has let its best and brightest behave, then why would Iraqis believe that America's democracy will benefit them? The US is part of the problem now in Iraq. It is not part of the solution anymore, if it ever was.
A federal-provincial system might work eventually in Iraq, like the Canadian system, where the three provinces (Kurd, Sunni, Shiite) have a great deal of local autonomy with the federal government having authority over areas like foreign policy. But there will be years of squabbling over resource revenues before such a system could be implemented, and the US cannot mediate such a dispute since its self-interest in Iraq oil revenues will discredit everything it says or does. Only the UN can help Iraqis work through these problems and eventually achieve a constitutional democracy that is workable. In the meantime, the best that can be achieved is a caretaker government, likely run by the imans and the tribal sheiks, with a charter that establishes human rights and a court system for administering its laws.
Heck, our Assembly of First Nations works this way -- the chiefs are elected or selected in some manner by each of the member bands or tribal councils, then the chiefs elect the National Chief and the other officers. There is some agitation now for direct election of the Chief, and eventually they will likely do that, but the system works for now.
Second, Kerry is right that no government of any kind can become established unless security is established first. It was the US invasion that screwed up Iraq's civil order, so ithe US has the primary responsibility to fix that. If the Pentagon would focus on this, it would help.
Bush promotes the idea that American deaths are justified in pursuit of a mythical democracy, because he is trying to rationalize his own grandiosity. But basically, like in Vietnam, America has to realize that there is no justification for the deaths of its sons and daughters in Iraq. I only hope that Iraq doesn't end with another scramble for the last helicopter out.


THE NUMBERS GAME The real Vietnam Syndrome is amnesia. By Matt Taibbi :
"If anyone needs a hint as to why the rest of the world hates us so much, this is why. Thirty years after the fact, America still insists on looking at Vietnam as 'our national tragedy,' the tragedy apparently being 58,000 dead, a regrettable loss of public confidence in the institution of the presidency, a brief period of political turmoil on American campuses, an enduring hesitancy to use military force. . . . Right. That's the tragedy. Not the indiscriminate murder of one-sixth of Laos. Not the saturation bombing of wide swaths of rural Indochina. Not the turning of ancient cultures into moonscapes. Not the napalming of children or the dropping of mines and CBUs into civilian villages for scare value.
"This process is starting all over again. With 58,000 looming in the background, we are starting a new count, which is up to about 640 as of this writing. Do we even count the number of Iraqi dead? Maybe in the daily battle reports, but you have to really look for a running total. I've seen numbers ranging from 10,000 to 15,000, but it's never anything like the concrete numbers we grimly and tearfully assign to coalition deaths. As in the past, we're content to let that other figure drift off into an estimate.
"When this whole mess is over, I'm sure we can expect more of the same. With half of Mesopotamia turned to glass, we will build a sunken wall to our boys and give an Oscar to the first director with enough balls to do Saving Private Lynch."

Delay long enough, and Martin will win

Sponsorship panel needs more work before tabling report, says chairman: "The parliamentary committee investigating the sponsorship scandal is nowhere near ready to start assessing blame for what went wrong, says chairman John Williams." Why not? What's so difficult about recommending that civil servants and government ministers should obey the rules, and listing the people who didn't? This isn't rocket science.
So get cracking, folks -- there is no merit in delay -- unless this really is a partisan ploy of Conservatives trying to postpone an election in the mistaken belief that this will help them. They will shoot themselves in the foot, as Conservatives are prone to do, if they keep dragging them.
Harper is rapidly running out of things to talk trash about, and the more time Martin has to tour around the country, the better people like him.
Harper, we know already -- he created a previously-unseen level of excitement during the leadership race, but has since returned to his ordinary boring, obscure self. Martin we are just getting to know -- he doesn't come across all that well on TV -- the hurly-burly of the Commons isn't his natural element as it was Chretien's -- but Ottawa doesn't realize the impact Martin is having on his tours across the country, to places like here in Saskatoon. We usually never see a Prime Minister in the flesh, so to speak. doing radio talk shows and talking to ordinary people. At this level, he comes across as honest, concerned, willing to think about our problems and follow through with solutions -- someone that people will decide to vote for.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

I see dead people

So Bush reverses 40 years of American policy today - Bush Endorses Sharon's Withdrawal Plan - but didn't get around to mentioning this as last night's press conference.
Billmon has a lengthy, informative post on what this means for the future of the Middle East -- in brief, more war.
Meanwhile, what Bush did make clear was that the US is stepping up the level of force in Iraq, apparently abandoning the Iranian negotiations with AlSadr and bringing in the tanks and helicopters again. Al Sadr is the new Evil One, I guess, and perhaps Bush and his politial advisors are making sure that Bush continues to be a "war president" for at least the next six months.
But I also wonder whether the sudden policy reversal about Israel means the neocons in Washington were starting to fear that Bush might lose in November, so they wanted to make sure that Sharon gets what he wants before this happens. Billmon points out that now that US policy has been changed, it will be virtually impossible for any subsequent president to change it back.

"Decisive Force"

Rapid Decisive Operations (RDO):
Bush said in his speech tonight that he had authorized "decisive force" in Iraq. This term had a military flavour so I looked it up.
Here is what it means:
"Rapid Decisive Operations (RDO) . . . An RDO campaign typically will be characterized by immediate, continuous, and overwhelming operations to shock and paralyze the adversary, destroy their ability to coordinate offensive and defensive operations, fragment their capabilities, and foreclose their most dangerous options." The doctrine of decisive force is basically the Powell Doctrine revisited.
How many deaths will it take til we know that too many people have died?

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

The CfromC Awards

President responds to questions The CathiefromCanada award-winning moments from the press conference tonight:
Best inadvertent Admission - ". . . prior to 9/11, the country really wasn't on a war footing. And the, frankly, mood of the world would have been astounded had the United States acted unilaterally in trying to deal with al-Qaida in that part of the world [Afghanistan]. It would have been awfully hard to do, as well, by the way. . . . we hadn't got our relationship right with Pakistan yet. The Caucus area would have been very difficult from which to base. It just seemed an impractical strategy at the time. And, frankly, I didn't contemplate it." So much for Hill Republicans trying to blame Clinton for not acting against Afghanistan before 2000.
Runner-up - "In order to secure the country, we must do everything in our power to find these killers and bring them to justice before they hurt us again." Oh, so the much-criticized law enforcement approach is really the right one after all?
Shortest Non-Answer - Asked twice why is he bringing Cheney with him to the 9.11 commission, he replied "Because it's a good chance for both of us to answer questions that the 9/11 commission is looking forward to asking us. And I'm looking forward to answering them."
Understatement of the Night - "Nobody likes to see dead people on their television screens"
Most Astounding Bald-Faced Lie - "if I tried to fine-tune my messages based upon polls, I think I'd be pretty ineffective"
Runner-up - "It's easy for a president to stand up and say, now that I know what happened, it would have been nice if there were certain things in place. For example, a Homeland Security Department." Ah, yes, the department the Hart commission began promoting in January 2001, which you and Cheney resisted for more than a year AFTER 9.11?
The Blues Brothers 'We're On A Mission From God' Statement - "I also have this belief, strong belief, that freedom . . . is the Almighty's gift to every man and woman in this world. And as the greatest power on the face of the earth, we have an obligation to help the spread of freedom. . . . And we have an obligation to work toward a more free world. That's our obligation. That is what we have been called to do, as far as I'm concerned."
Up-is-Downism Statement - "When I say something, I mean it." Well, except for the Latino immigration initiative, and the steel tariffs, and the Mars landing, and the cost of the drug benefit, and the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act and a few dozen other things announced but not followed up on.
The Daily Show Moment - "I don't want to sound like I have made no mistakes. I'm confident I have." And so are we all. Thank you, Mr. President.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Forget Tet, this is turning into Stalingrad

Images of civilian dead, wounded in Fallujah become anti-American rallying point:
Knight Rider reporter Matthew Schofield writes "In this one week, Fallujah has come to symbolize for Iraqis everything that is wrong with the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq. 'When the four Americans were murdered, almost all Iraqis were horrified, and understood that the reaction must be strong,' said Iraqi journalist Dhrgam Mohammed Ali, referring to the killing March 31 of four private security guards whose bodies were then mutilated, dragged through Fallujah and hung from a bridge. 'But now, we see women and children dying, trying to escape and not being allowed to, and many stop remembering the dead Americans. Instead, they wonder why four dead Americans are worth so much, while hundreds of dead Iraqis are worth so little.' "
I've read comparisons of Fallujah to the Tet Offensive in the Vietnam War, when Americans first realized they were losing.
But this is starting to remind me more of Stalingrad.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Where was James Bond when we needed him?

Bush Says Memo Said 'Nothing About an Attack on America'
What they wanted was that Bin Laden should telephone Washington to issue a declaration of war, like evil genuises always do, like Dr. No did, or Goldfinger.
And then they wanted James Bond to find a Treasure Map showing little airplanes at Boston and Newark, with little dotted lines ending in New York and Washington, with a little legend (written conveniently in English of course) saying "WTC - boom!" and "Pentagon - boom!" and 'White House - boom!" And a sprawl across the bottom "OK for am on Sept. 11. Best of luck! (signed) Osama"
Then, of course, they would definitely have done something.

No news here, folks, move along, move along

Reeves notes about the PDB on Bin Laden: "The title, by the way, was published a year ago in The Washington Post, but no one noticed -- as no one noticed a front-page story in The New York Times revealing the secret bombing of Cambodia more than 30 years ago. An institutional flaw of the press is that it says things only once, and if the timing is wrong, no one notices."
I tried to post about this yesterday (Blogger was down) -- I think there is more of a pattern here than Reeves realizes.
The May, 2002 Washington Post story Reeves is talking about is here.
Note that it was written by Bob Woodward, who was at the time talking to Bush for his fawning book to be published in November of that year.
Note also the tone of the story -- poor Bush, he really didn't have the right information.
This is a frequent technique we have seen in the Bush campaign and administration for the last four years. A story starts to heat up, media start to circle. Then a high-profile reporter publishes a page one story quoting unnamed but obviously authorative sources which appears to wrap everything up -- there is nowhere else to go, everything is settled. You can almost hear the patrolman at the crime scene saying "Nothing to see here, folks, no news here, just move along, move along."
Reeves says its a story that no one notices -- but in fact its a story that everyone notices -- this one was on page one of the Post -- but it creates the impression that the issue is all wrapped up, that there is no more news here.
And sure enough, in a few weeks after this, the media had moved on to quoting their unnamed confidential sources about how successful the US would be in a war with Iraq.

Failure of will

Eschaton Atrios nails it: "The issue isn't, of course, that Bush failed to stop 9/11 - it's that he apparently failed to do anything to try and stop 9/11. "

Saturday, April 10, 2004

The true test of Paul Martin's leadership

The Village Voice: Features: Soldiers Choose Canada by Alisa Solomon
Forget the sponsorship scandal, the nominations battles, committee chairmanships, that steamship line -- the true test of Paul Martin's leadership will be how he handles these deserting soldiers.
He needs to signal clearly that Canada will accept US soldiers as refugees. This will be an extremely difficult path to take, because it will totally infuriate the United States government. Quite likely, such a decision wouldl lead to tit-for-tat revenge that will deeply affect our economy, because the US government would do things like fingerprinting Canadians at the border, refusing to reopen the border to Canadian beef, imposing more lumber tarrifs, etc. Thus, it will be deeply controversial position, and Martin will need all his leadership skills to talk Canadians into supporting such a position based solely on moral principle. It will be expensive, both in political and economic capital -- opposition politicians (the ones who would have got us into the Iraq war a year ago) will pounce all over him, Canadian travellers will be howling at the even longer border delays, Canadian exporters and farmers will bear a disproportionate share of the economic fallout.
But the alternative -- either to reject them as refugees or to just sit back and say its all up to individual refugee boards -- would condemn Canada in the eyes of the rest of the world as a morally bankrupt nation. If we refuse to protect these boys from the facists now in charge in the US, we will have abandoned our deepest national principles. History will not forgive us.

Friday, April 09, 2004

WestJet vs Air Canada

WestJet puts analyst, co-founder on leave "Mr. Brewer . . . claims the [illegally obtained] information has helped WestJet increase its market share from 10 per cent to 30 per cent since 2000."
I don't know anything about the merits of this lawsuit, but this line in the news story struck me -- how comforting for Air Canada to believe that Westjet is so successful because of illegally-obtained data -- it couldn't possibly be that the Westjet staff are friendlier or their check-ins quicker or their flights more reliable or that Air Canada is just an all-around pain in the Canadian neck with frequent descents to being a pain in the ass, could it?

Silver bullets and the Lone Ranger

Clarke: Rice Testimony Bolstered My Claims In responding to Condi Rice's testimony, Clark said "The problem was that there was information buried in FBI and the CIA that wasn't shaken out. And by having the Cabinet members come to the White House every day in crisis mode and then go back to their departments and look for anything that is anywhere in the departments in December 1999, we were able to get the kind of information we needed to stop the attacks. You know, there may be structural problems within those agencies, but the way you overcome them ... is by having the leaders of the agencies get together in the White House as a team in crisis mode. "
This is exactly right, as anyone who works in a bureaucracy would agree.
The "structural problem" of CIA vs FBI has been in existence for 60 years, so its not going to get resolved in six months, or maybe never. The "task force" is a common and effective technique to get around bureaucratic barriers and allow an organization to focus on specific problems.
But its basically an incremental approach, an iteritive process, a methodology that doesn't know where its going until it gets there. The Bush administration prefers the "single unified theory" approach. As Condi's testimony unwittingly revealed, it looks for "silver bullet" solutions -- the one grand plan, the simple elegant answer, that can be presented with a flourish -- there you go, problem solved.
This has been their approach to education (No Child Left Behind), the economy (tax cuts), health care (prescription drug benefit), the deficit (when tax cuts have improved the economy, the deficit will cure itself), gay marriage (constitutional ammendment), terrorism (The Patriot Act), the war on terrorism (preemptive war), the Middle East (road map), the war in Iraq (get to Baghdad). And once a problem is "solved" their attention turns to something else.
Nothing is inter-connected, nothing is complicated, nothing is nuanced or long-term, and the people who argue that things aren't so simple are scorned or ignored with a blank, puzzled stare.
As Salon points out, the overriding White House issue in the summer of 2001 was stem cell research. It was all Bush could think about, he absolutely had to find the answer -- and as soon as he did, he went on what he considered to be a well-earned vacation.
The belief in the silver bullet is why they are in trouble now, on so many fronts. Once they have solved a problem, they move on. If it rears its ugly head again, they cannot understand why -- it must be the fault of those partisan Democrats who keep trying to mess things up -- and so they keep trying to swat it down again with the same rhetoric, the same talking points, the same solution.
Its a Lone Ranger view of reality where everything is black or white, you're either for us or against us, we're the good guys so everything can be wrapped up in half an hour. Hi Ho Silver!

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Humanitarian crisis coming

Battles rage at two Iraqi mosques: "Iraqi insurgents fought U.S. troops at two mosques in Fallujah and held sway over all or part of three cities in southern Iraq in the worst chaos and violence since Baghdad fell a year ago Friday. "
And remember that "humanitarian crisis" which didn't happen last April? Well, stay tuned.
My analysis is that Iraqis have had enough and they will keep fighting now as long as their ammunition holds out because they want to push the troops out of their cities.
But the flow of food and medicine into these cities will stop as a result. Last spring, there was no humanitarian crisis because Saddam had distributed three months food from the Oil for Food program, and the war bypassed the cities to a large extent in the push for Bagdad.
But as this rebellion continues, people will have to gather their families and try to escape the fighting by moving into the country or by trying to cross the borders into Kuwait or Jordon or Syria or Iran. This will be a disaster.

Canadian aid worker kidnapped in Iraq

Canadian aid worker kidnapped in IraqThis is awful "A Canadian humanitarian aid worker was kidnapped in southern Iraq, the Foreign Affairs Department said today. Fadi Ihsan Fadel was taken hostage while doing work for the New York City-based International Rescue Committee, a non-governmental organization." My heart goes out to his family.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Knee-jerk right-wingism

Harper's Magazine for April 2004 contains a great article Lie Down for America, which asks why American mid-western working stiffs vote Republican when the Democrats actually care about them (minimum wage, unions, medicare) and the Republicans do not (globalization, deregulation). Author Thomas Frank discusses the stereotypes this creates and the impact this has on how the media analyzes elections.
It would take a PhD thesis to explain why this has happened over the last 40 years. Maybe its all a big corporate plot.
But I think one possible contributor is how we have all become used to what I term "knee-jerk right-wingism" when we are dealing with life's absurdities these days -- and Canadians are just as bad at doing this as Americans are.
How many times have you said "goddamn unions" when a stike inconveniences you?
Or "goddamn political correctness" when reading a news report of another 6-year-old expelled for bringing a butter knife to school.
Or "goddamn politicians" when a politician does something stupid.
Or "goddamn bureaucrats" when a government tells us we can't do something we want to do. Its a common but mindless reaction.
Do we ever hear a radio talk show host or a TV commentator or a newspaper columnist, even one not rabidly right-wing, who analyzes current events without falling into this well-worn groove?
Compare to whether the average person has EVER said, or heard, or even thought, "goddamn corporate greed" when a company corners the market in some essential service, or "goddamn incompetent management" when labour relations deteriorate to the point that a union is locked out, or "goddamn tax evader" when some lawyer or accountant promotes another scheme for people to avoid taxes.
My point is, the public discourse in our society now tends to generalize and demonize the left, while the right doesn't get the same treatment.
Maybe it would help if we could at least recognize knee-jerk right wingism when we hear it. And, maybe, think it through a little more.

The Final Exam (Iraq section) - Rumsfeld: Coalition faces test of will - Apr 7, 2004
Rummy says "We're facing a test of will, and we will meet that test."
So, because this is exam time now at the university I work for, this remark put me in mind of drawing up a general exam to test "will" in Iraq:
1. Philosophy: Why are the Americans in Iraq? Please list at least five reasons in your answer which have now been declared "inoperative".
2. Mathematics: Take the number of WMD found and divide by the number of Iraqis killed. Then multiply the answer by the cost of the war in billions to the American treasury, and add the number of soldiers killed and wounded. Discuss.
3. English: Write a poem which rhymes "Freedom Fries" with "lies."
4. Geography: In your desk you will find a map of the United States. Calculate the distance between Walter Reed Hospital and the White House, and compare to the flight schedule of Air Force One over the last 12 months. Explain why Bush has been too busy to visit the wounded.
5. History: Describe how the average Iraqi would think that their experience under the American occupation differs from the Palestinian experience. Please include discussion of prisons, POW camps, targetting of civilians, and targetting of religious leaders in your answer.
6. Biology. Describe how far up his ass Rumsfeld can go with this "test of will" analogy, and how far he can take the American people before they realize how dark it is in there.
When completed, please turn your test paper over on your desk and have a good cry. Final grades will be curved.
(with thanks to The Final Exam poster -- and look at this version, too)

One option

In Iraq, Withoout Options Great column by Harold Meyerson in the Washington Post:
". . . it's increasingly apparent that we've opted to privatize our force -- relying on private security guards to supplement our official force on the ground. The decision epitomizes much that's wrong with the Bush presidency -- in particular, its desire to evade responsibility and accountability for its actions. If the bodies of the security guards killed in Fallujah had not been mutilated, how many American voters would have noticed? One recent poll shows that near-plurality of Americans now favors our leaving Iraq. But precisely because this was not a war we had to fight, just up and leaving would be politically and morally duplicitous. We wrested control of Iraq when we did not have to, and leaving it to its own devices as sectarian violence grows worse would be a dismal end."
He continues "The only unequivocally good policy option before the American people is to dump the president who got us into this mess, who had no trouble sending our young people to Iraq but who cannot steel himself to face the Sept. 11 commission alone. [emphasis mine]"
Enough said.

Patriot games

LiberalOasis writes a great piece on how the administration is failing to handle the situation in Iraq and trying to play the patiotism card again.
They played the patriotism card in the fall of 2002, when the motion to endorse any action Bush wanted to take in Iraq was being debated in congress, and it worked then. It won't work now. There are too many soldier families joining the chorus asking why Americans are dying in and for Iraq, and the Democrats have spines now.
As the Bush administration sees the election abyss opening before it and all their hopes for a second Bush administration sliding into it, what will they do? Change the policies that got them into this mess? I doubt they are capable of that. They may start tossing people over the side to lighten the boat (bye, Condi and Colin).
I seem to be stuck on poetic images lately, but it occurs to me that they won't go gentle into that good night . . .

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Too many odd days

Bush seems to have his odd days, and maybe his even days. But he certainly seems to be having several odd days in a row.
'Dana Milbank's White House Notebook has an item about Bush's "pothole" joke, which he apparently uses every time he talks to a mayor.
Then there is the odd You remind me of my mother joke at a Texas fundraiser.
And his apparent slapping down of an AP reporter who addressed him as "sir" rather than "Mr. President"
And last week's "looking for WMD" banquet joke.
And many Bushisms before this. The worse was his "hitting the trifecta" line about how lucky he was that terrorism, war and national emergency meant he didn't have to balance the budget.

Come fly with me -- no thanks!

ACLU to Sue Government Over 'No-Fly' List "Federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies recommend to the TSA who gets put on the lists, but little else is known about them. The government does not disclose how many people are on the lists or how people qualify to get on or off, nor does it confirm any names on the lists. "
This issue has been in the news for almost three years now. So why should it take an ACUL lawsuit to get it fixed?
I guess everybody in the US government is so busy fighting terrorism that they can't be bothered to fix an incomprehensible bureaucratic system that not only wastes hundreds of thousands of dollars in needless airport screenings, but also terrifies innocent American citizens. Great stuff, George!

88 dead?

Health minister won't meet with doctor who blew the whistle at Saskatoon ERThis is a huge story here in Saskatoon now.
Dr. Jon Witt was head of emergency at Royal University Hospital. He'd been saying, internally, that medical staffing in the ER was dangerously low. So last fall, right around the time of the provincial election, he worked out a deal with the health minister and the health region to improve staffing. Then nothing happened. Then in January Wittt wrote to the health minister complaining that the region has reneged on the deal. Then the letter was made public somehow, not by Witt. Then the staffing probltem was fixed. Then Witt was fired by the region for supposed incompetence. Then the staff and other ER physicians got solidly behind Witt and began agitating for his reinstatement. Then the health region began to say Witt was exaggerating, after all the hospital's chief of medical staff said everything was fine.
Then it got even uglier -- Witt released 88 cases where he said the patients were not treated at emergency the way medical practice guidelines say they should have been and they died in hospital less than two days later.
Oops! Well, the health region wanted a body count, now they've got one.
So now they're investigating, they say.
Its predictable that this health region's next step will be to fingerpoint the whistleblower -- I wouldn't be surprised if they now try to blame these deaths on Witt himself, as though it was his fault all along that medical staffing in the ER was insufficient. "See, we told you he was incompetent"
This is the same health region which has adopted the practice of cancelling surgeries at the end of each fiscal year, so their books look a little better, but also gave a $100,000 grant to the university's sychrotron and tried to hide it. This is the region that switched the ER doctors onto a new pay system then didn't pay them for six weeks.
And instead of the health region really looking at what it is doing, and perhaps even questioning the quality of advice it is getting from its top medical staff, the whole thing will likely just end up in court as a wrongful dismissal suit. Oh well, just cancel a few more surgeries to pay for it!
Today Witt said "unless health-care workers have confidence in their administrative leadership, the system really breaks down and when the system breaks down, the patients suffer"
So what can we do if the patients don't have confidence in the administrative leadership either?

April 9,2003 - fall of Bagdad; April 9, 2004 - fall of Fallujah, Najaf, Naziriyah,,,

Al-Sadr Loyalists Take Control of Najaf \And I read a few days ago on Jihad Unspun (which seems to be out of service now) where the Iraqi insurrgency is now describing Fallujah as a "free city".

Monday, April 05, 2004

Leno lines

Love this! Maybe Jay Leno is finally seeing the light -- when Kerry held a fund-raiser with Meg Ryan, Leonardo di Caprio, Jennifer Aniston and Barbra Streisand, Leno said 'That's the difference between Democrats and Republicans. The Democratic list of stars looks like the Oscars, the Republican list of stars looks like a bad episode of Hollywood Squares." And about the 9.11 commission "Actually, Bush & Cheney will make a joint appearance before the commission. They'll answer questions together ... and to make sure Bush is really answering they're going to make Cheney drink a glass of water while he talks."


Ralph Surette has some Advice for Paul Martin: In Washington, mumble and don't call him a moron.

The Second Coming

Robert Fisk writes "So come 30 June, dust off the flak jackets, lie low and - if you are a Westerner - stay off the streets and pray that American-paid Iraqis will protect you, along with the thousands of foreign mercenaries who have already been brought into the country."
Will this be The Second Coming

TURNING and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
by William Butler Yeats

86 days

The U.S. is sabotaging stability in Iraq - Naomi Klein
"With the so-called Sunni triangle in flames after the gruesome Fallujah attacks, why is Mr. Bremer pushing the comparatively calm Shia south into battle? Here's one possible answer: Washington has given up on its plans to hand over power to an interim Iraqi government on June 30, and is now creating the chaos it needs to declare the handover impossible."
With any other government, this might be a theory, but I don't think either Bush or Rumsfield or Bremner is capable of such long range thinking! The handover is supposed to happen in 86 days, which is a lifetime as far as these guys are concerned.

I used to have a mug

that said "GO, TEAM, GO (or at least don't embarass us!)" This story reminded me of that mug -- 7-0, guys! I'm embarassed -- and maybe I'm also a mug . . .

And now, your moment of Zen

My husband and I love The Daily Show with Jon Stewart We have often agreed that most Americans under 30 likely get all their political news from this show (I think the stats actually bear this out, to Jon Stewart's horror) -- but they could do worse. People who watch The Daily Show are likely better informed than anyone who watches Fox. Jon and the boys actually provide a fairly good review of everything important in the news, and the Bush administration gives them plenty of good targets to skewer every night. And then there are the bits like Samantha Bee's gay penquins . . .

No elections

In discussing the violence today in Iraq, Josh Marshall writes that the Shia are thinking "why not let their American and Sunni enemies bloody each other into exhaustion in the central Iraq and sit back and wait on the day -- not too distant, certainly -- when they would inherit the new Iraqi state? "
For once, I disagree with Josh. The Shia know, better than anyone, how unlikely it is that they will inherit Iraq -- they know they will have to fight for it. Chalabi or some other man with a mustache will take over as soon as the Americans let him. And because he know he could never be elected, he will find one reason after another to cancel any votes, until his milia (previously known as the Saddam Fedayeen) are strong enough for a military takeover.
My prediction -- there will never be actual elections (as we know the term) in Iraq. The only question is whether we will have a military dictatorship under Chalabi, or a theorcratic dictatorship under an iman.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

August 11?

Yahoo! News - Panel to Ask Rice How to Fix Intel Woes and, I presume, why they haven't been fixed already.
Anyway, the point of my posting is to make a prediction -- that the 9.11 commission report will be released on August 11 -- this is the same day as the Olympic Games start.

Quid pro quo

9/11 kin: W butting in
The full-court-press from Gonzales toward any criticism of Bush at the 9.11 Commission shows a lawyer doing everything he can to protect his client. Thus I am suspicious about the Gonzales letter on the Rice testimony -- it implied that her testimony and the Bush/Cheney testimony issue were only coincidentally being dealt with in the same letter. Maybe this wasn't a coincidence at all, but a quid pro quo.
Here is my argument:
With the 9.11 commission, for the first time in his presidency Bush would have to answer questions about what he actually did to protect Americans before, during and after 9.11. Some of those questions would come from democrats, specifically Bob Kerry.
For Bush, who postures as brave, resolute, etc, etc, some of the questions would undoubtedly expose his lack of focus before 9.11, his fear on that day, and his ineffectiveness in handling terrorism since. The endless minutes in the elementary school show a man who, when confronted with catastrophe, froze and did nothing. There is no explanation for this that doesn't involve basic character flaws of cowardice and indecisiveness.
Hence his initial insistence that he would only speak to the commission chairs, and only for an hour. But as the Rice controversy heated up, his own position was also becoming increasingly untenable. Maintaining this posture would pit him against the 9.11 families and all of New York and risk exposing his fear of testifying.
So the uproar about Rice became an opportunity to change the ground rules for his own testimony, without making this change into a central focus for news stories.
With Cheney accompanying him, the dangerous questions about why he did what he did on 9.11, and why his administration was unfocused on terrorism before and ineffective after, can be punted to Cheney. Cheney can talk for so long in replying that the commission members will have little opportunity for any follow-ups.
So the facade of cooperativeness can be maintained, but with less risk that any uncomfortable or damning revelations will be made.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

conspiracy theories

MSNBC - After delay, Sept. 11 panel to see Clinton papers: "A CBS News poll taken this week said seven in 10 Americans believe the Bush administration is either hiding something or lying about what it knew before the Sept. 11 attacks about possible terrorist attacks against the United States."
Its nice to see that all the White House bobbing and weaving over the 9.11 commission has done more than any conspiracy theory to convince the public that there is something fishy about 9.11.

Another one from Bolton

Cuba 'bioterror threat to US'Has John Bolton ever been right about anything?

Friday, April 02, 2004

Avoiding trouble

Steven Clemons: Land of the Free?: "The combination of these factors - an increase in the visa fee and the greater likelihood of rejection - has only strengthened the perception that America has become less hospitable to foreigners in the aftermath of 9/11. "
Perception? This is not a perception, its a reality. About once a month, some new horror story hits our newspapers about some poor soul, usually Arab but sometimes just someone who looks a little like an Arab or has an Arabic pr Persian or Turkish name, who gets trapped at the border, or jailed in the US, or deported to Syria to be tortured, because they made the mistake of leaving Canada and got embroiled in border guard paranoia. As I understand it, too, international organizations of all kinds, like medical conventions, are avoiding the US exactly for this reason -- why subject their members to the risk of humiliation or worse at the US border, when they can avoid the problem by scheduling their convention in Vancouver or Toronto instead. Personally, I will never travel to the United States again if I can help it, certainly not as long as Bush is around, and many other Canadians feel the same way.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Cheering Iraqis?

Yahoo! News - Bremer: Iraq Deaths Won't Go Unpunished
I don't think this is exactly what was meant when America was promised that its troops would be cheered by Iraqis.
For the boys in Iraq who were photographed cheering the deaths in Fallujah, the war has actually never ended -- this was just another battle, and this time they won.