As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, May 21, 2004

Just look over your shoulders, baby!

Barack Obama, the Democratic Senate candidate from Illinois (who has a pretty cool blog) has a private investigator tailing him. Okay, not really a private one. In a new low in GOP dirty tricks, his opponent Jack Ryan has a staff member following Obama around with a camera everywhere he goes. Everywhere. It's like The Osbournes, only unwanted and evil! The Sun-Times has the details:

SPRINGFIELD -- For the past 10 days, U.S. Senate candidate Barack Obama hasn't been able to go to the bathroom or talk to his wife on his cell phone without having a camera-toting political gofer from his Republican rival filming a few feet away.

...Justin Warfel, armed with a handheld Panasonic digital camcorder, follows Obama to the bathroom door and waits outside. Warfel follows Obama as he moves from meeting to meeting in the Capitol. And it means Warfel tails Obama when he drives to his campaign office.

"It's standard procedure to record public speeches and things like that," Obama told reporters as the bald, 20-something operative filmed away. "But to have someone who's literally following you a foot and a half away, everywhere you go, going into the restrooms, standing outside my office, sitting outside of my office asking my secretary where I am, seems to be getting a little carried away."

Warfel interrupted Obama several times with heckling questions, but wouldn't respond when reporters asked him about who he was and why he was filming Obama's every move.

"You'll have to speak to the campaign office," Warfel said tartly to practically every inquiry.

This sounds like a Chris Farley movie in the making. Read this too, this is Jack Ryan's campaign manager somehow trying to rationalize this as standard practice:

But Jason Miller, Ryan's campaign manager, insisted Obama's public movements are fair game and the point is to make sure Obama doesn't contradict himself with his public statements.

"If he's having a phone conversation, then Justin is not trying to tap into the conversation or record what he is saying or something like that," Miller said. "He's monitoring because you never know when ... a reporter comes up and starts asking questions."

Hey, he's not tapping Obama's phone! Following him everywhere may be creepy, but it's not illegal! This is what happens when you give a bunch of brainless paranoids a whole lot of money and a chance at power. Come to think of it, John Kerry better look over his shoulders too, maybe for a little bald guy with an ID that says "Barl Bove".


Thursday, May 20, 2004


GOP gay group booted from N.C. convention

(CNN) -- Gay Republicans in North Carolina said state party officials told them their group isn't welcome at a convention this weekend because "homosexuality is not normal" and their agenda is "counterproductive to the Republican agenda."

Just read the whole story, it's depressing as hell. You know, half the gay people I know would happily be Republicans if it weren't for this bullshit. The values they're seeking in Massachusetts and elsewhere are Republican core family values. But I don't understand how Log Cabin Republicans can continue to support a party that slaps them in the face over and over.

Also, it seems like a good idea in a tight election to go out of your way to alienate constituents. These are Republicans being banned from a Republican convention! Such smart cookies over there in GoOPer land.


Friends and Enemies

I don't know what to make of today's raid of Ahmad Chalabi's home and offices today by U.S. troops. This was the guy who did more than anyone else to stoke the war fires among the neocons, who was on the Pentagon's payroll for years, and who everyone fully expected would become the President of Iraq once we handed over power. And we put a gun to his head and ransacked his house?

No foreigner bears more responsibility for the mess in Iraq that Chalabi. He is the author of the infamous claim that we would be welcomed as liberators by the Iraqi people, with candy and flowers in the streets. He was the main voice claiming knowledge of WMD in Baghdad. He conned the administration into thinking he was a respected figure in Iraq, despite the fact that he hadn't set foot in the country for four decades.

So basically, he's public liar #1. Is it as easy as that? We feel burned and we're going to make his life miserable? It seems like this government doesn't throw loyal allies under the bus this easily. The more you look at this story, however, the more you realize how FUBAR this war truly is.

The excellent and prescient Salon article from May 4, which opens with a big ol' picture of Chalabi gladhanding President Mohammed Khatami of Axis of Evil member-in-good-standing Iran...

...explains how it was Chalabi's idea to de-Baathify the Iraqi army, which was an early source of chaos in the occupation, as it put hundreds of thousands of experienced gun-owners out of work (never a good thing). According to Chalabi, it was these very Baathists, reinstated into the army in recent weeks, who led the charge to raid his house today. Also, the article raises some of the first public cracks in Chalabi's love-fest with the neocons in the Pentagon:

"Ahmed Chalabi is a treacherous, spineless turncoat," says L. Marc Zell, a former law partner of Douglas Feith, now the undersecretary of defense for policy, and a former friend and supporter of Chalabi and his aspirations to lead Iraq. "He had one set of friends before he was in power, and now he's got another."

We desperately wanted to believe Chalabi because he said he'd open diplomatic relations with Israel. As soon as he started cozying up to Shiites in Iran (presumably to save his political backside in Baghdad), that was it. It might as well have been the Mossad that burst into his house. While around the world, protesters were chanting "No War for Oil," it's become clear that this was a war for Israel, to give them a strategic partner in the region, to eliminate a possible threat TO THEM (not us), to keep THEM safe (not us), to improve THEIR economy (not ours). There was ample evidence to show that Chalabi was only out for a power grab, and would say anything to anyone (including "Israel is my friend!") to get it. And now, we're in the ridiculous position of turning our back on the only Iraqi who we believed before the war.

This is why the Governing Council in Iraq won't have any power come June 30, because Chalabi is the finance minister of it. So because of a grudge, because we believed a con man and now we're hurt, we will not hand over power to the only governing body in the country. There are less than six weeks to June 30, and we have NO FUCKING PLAN.

Maybe this is why Pentagon insiders are speaking that which has no name:

"I believe we are absolutely on the brink of failure. We are looking into the abyss," General Joseph Hoar, a former commander in chief of US central command, told the Senate foreign relations committee.

Larry Diamond, an analyst at the conservative Hoover Institution, said: "I think it's clear that the United States now faces a perilous situation in Iraq.

"We have failed to come anywhere near meeting the post-war expectations of Iraqis for security and post-war reconstruction.

"There is only one word for a situation in which you cannot win and you cannot withdraw - quagmire."

Uh, whoops.


Not an Advertisement

Congress' General Accounting Office charged the Bush administration with using public money for propaganda on Wednesday. The Associated Press reported that videos created by the administration to promote the new Medicare law were styled as news reports- but without any disclaimers that they were, indeed, dramatized. The The English-language version of the video, which aired on about 40 different television stations in March, ends with an actor stating "In Washington, I'm Karen Ryan reporting."

Although Bill Pierce, spokesman for Health and Human Services (the producers of the videos) blamed the TV stations for not identifying the source of the materials, his boss, Kevin Keane, thought differently. Keane said the videos should have been clearly identified as to the source. When officials met with the press in March, Clinton administration videos were shown, which came with a clear disclaimer that HHS was the producer.

Earlier this month, the Congressional Research Service declared that the administration probably violated federal law in its efforts to keep the estimates of the costs of the Medicare bill from the Democrats.


Wednesday, May 19, 2004

US kills 40+ at a wedding party in Iraq

It gets worse and worse every day:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A U.S. helicopter fired on a wedding party Wednesday in western Iraq, killing more than 40 people, Iraqi officials said. The U.S. military said it could not confirm the report and was investigating.

Lt. Col Ziyad al-Jbouri, deputy police chief of Ramadi, said between 42 and 45 people were killed in the attack, which took place about 2:45 a.m. in a remote desert area near the border with Syria and Jordan. He said the dead included 15 children and 10 women.

Associated Press Television News obtained videotape showing a truck containing bodies of people who were allegedly killed in the incident. Most of the bodies were wrapped in blankets and other cloths, but the footage showed at least eight uncovered, bloody bodies, several of them children. One of the children was headless.

Iraqis interviewed on the videotape said partygoers were firing in the air in traditional wedding celebration. American troops have sometimes mistaken celebratory gunfire for hostile fire.

To be fair, it was a gay wedding. We were just defending the Constitution!

...update: The Pentagon denies that this was a wedding party, and says they were fired upon first. Then again, their believability rate has gone, ahem, down somewhat.



We knew this, but the Denver Post has the most comprehensive review yet of the killing of Iraqi detainees:

Brutal interrogation techniques by U.S. military personnel are being investigated in connection with the deaths of at least five Iraqi prisoners in war-zone detention camps, Pentagon documents obtained by The Denver Post show.

The deaths include the killing in November of a high-level Iraqi general who was shoved into a sleeping bag and suffocated, according to the Pentagon report. The documents contradict an earlier Defense Department statement that said the general died "of natural causes" during an interrogation. Pentagon officials declined to comment on the new disclosure.

It's never about the action, it's always about the cover-up. This is a death by a thousand cuts for the administration, a never-ending trickle of revelations that might continue right through November. For example, here's some more proof that this is not isolated, but policy:

Internal records obtained by The Post point to wider problems beyond the Abu Ghraib prison and demonstrate that some coercive tactics used at Abu Ghraib have shown up in interrogations elsewhere in the war effort. The documents also show more than twice as many allegations of detainee abuse - 75 - are being investigated by the military than previously known. Twenty-seven of the abuse cases involve deaths; at least eight are believed to be homicides.

And here's another shining example from our boys in uniform:

Also under investigation are reports that soldiers in Iraq abused women and children. One April 2003 case, which is awaiting trial, involves a reservist who pointed a loaded pistol at an Iraqi child in front of witnesses, saying he should kill the youngster to "send a message" to other Iraqis.

You know, at some point, I think we're allowed to at least lay a little blame at the feet of soldiers. Obviously, the breadth of these allegations assumes some coordinated effort higher up the chain of command. But a private is, I think, still a human being. He can say "You know what, I'm not going to point a loaded gun at a child, how about that?" Obviously there's an enormous amount of pressure on these kids. But we've gotten so jingoistic and pro-troops in this country that we immediately bypass their abuses by saying "Oh, they were just following orders." Considering the orders in question are, let's see, AGAINST THE LAW, I have a harder time than most defending their actions.


Tuesday, May 18, 2004

The world came to an end yesterday

...when the first legal marriages in the US took place in Massachusetts. And yet somehow, we're all still coping, nay, LIVING, despite this destruction of the very fabric of our society. A quick study of shows NO major stories about same-sex marriage in the Northeast. Not on the front page, not in the U.S. section, not in the Northeast section. Hell, there's even a story about a $1,000 omelet, but nothing about the death of the world as we know it.

Could it be that people... just... don't... care? That the pictures coming out of burgs like Northampton and Brookline depict some of the most wantonly normal couples in America doing the most perfunctory thing two people in love can do, and that the rest of the country sees it as such? The extraordinary plainness of these couples damages the bigoted, homophobic agenda of the far right more than any logic or reason. And the more that folks see these simple expressions of adoration, the closer we get to realizing equal rights for all. It's fitting that the first marriages in Massachusetts occurred 50 years to the day of the landmark Brown v. the Board of Education to Topeka decision; it's exactly the same issue.

It amazes me that Republicans believe we have to preserve the sanctity of marriage, as if marriage in America isn't so ridiculously broken that these same-sex couplings may be the only chance to reverse that trend. Marriage isn't a sacred tradition anymore, it's something you do in Vegas when you're drunk. It's something you do with a complete stranger on television. Marriage came into being as an arranged proposition between families for property. It was about money, prestige, and allying oneself with powerful families. This is the sacred rite we're "saving" here? Tell you what, o bastions of family values, spend a little less time creating laws prohibiting people who WANT to get married from doing so, and spend a little more time eliminating the conditions whereby people HAVE to get married, like providing condoms to sexually active teenagers, for example, which might reduce unwanted pregnancy.

Here's a new feature, the "end of the world" image of the day:


Here comes the draft

If you've ever served in the military and thought you were out, they're about to pull you back in:

The Army has begun screening about 17,000 inactive reservists to determine who would be available to be called to active duty if needed, a spokesman said.

The soldiers are members of the Individual Ready Reserve — reservists who are not formally attached to any specific unit.

What is the Individual Ready Reserve, you ask?

The Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) consists of over 118,000 trained Soldiers who may be called upon to fill vacancies in Army Reserve units and may replace Soldiers in Active and Reserve Units. Part of the Army's Ready Reserve, the IRR involves individuals who have had training, served previously in the Active Component or the Selected Reserve (such as a member of an Army Reserve unit), and may have some period of military service obligation remaining. Unlike new recruits, these are seasoned, experienced Soldiers who can contribute significantly to Army readiness. All Soldiers have a statutory eight-year military service obligation (MSO), which is established at the time of entry into military service (Active or Reserve).

In other words, anyone who's even sniffed the military at any time, ever. But these guys are scattered all over the country, and who knows what kind of records the Army keeps on those who have fulfilled their duty? So how are they going to find these reservists?

IRS May Help DOD Find Reservists

FORT WORTH, Texas - The Defense Department, strapped for troops for missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, has proposed to Congress that it tap the Internal Revenue Service to locate out-of-touch reservists.

The unusual measure, which the Pentagon said has been examined by lawyers, would allow the IRS to pass on addresses for tens of thousands of former military members who still face recall into the active duty.

For it to become practice, Congress and President Bush would have to approve the proposal, which would involve amending the tax code.

According to this article, the IRR numbers over 280,000 members. Basically, when you enlist, you unwittingly sign an unbreakable 8-year contract, and can be asked back involuntarily at any time in those 8 years. About 7,000 people have been recalled since 9-11.

Involuntary conscription? That sounds familiar... so does burning a draft card...


Monday, May 17, 2004

Zell Miller is an idiot

I wonder if, instead of a certain subliterate Senator from Georgia willfully changing his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican, the Party leaders can just vote him out by fiat. This would be a good time to do so:

Senator Zell Miller: "The two times I think I have been most humiliated in my life was standing in a big room, naked as a jaybird with about fifty others and they were checking us out, now that was humiliating. It was humiliating showering with sixty others in a public shower. It didn't kill us did it? No one ever died from humiliation."

I'm trying to think what other innocuous, completely unrelated incidents of adolescence these wingnuts can compare to torture. Snapping towels in gym class? Changing into swimsuits at a public pool? Summer camp? Playing stickball in the street?

Zelly has done double duty the last few days, also calling John Kerry "an out-of-touch, ultraliberal from Taxachusetts." Taxachusetts, ay? That's east of Taxifornia and north of New York (but with the word Tax in there somewhere). Atrios easily rips Miller's comments to shreds.

Zell Miller makes me long for those more reasonable days when Strom Thurmond was a Democrat. Seriously, can't we just throw him out of the Party? He's leaving in November anyway.


The Gray Zone

Seymour Hersh should be given his Pulitzer now:

The roots of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists but in a decision, approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to expand a highly secret operation, which had been focused on the hunt for Al Qaeda, to the interrogation of prisoners in Iraq.

According to interviews with several past and present American intelligence officials, the Pentagon’s operation, known inside the intelligence community by several code words, including Copper Green, encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in an effort to generate more intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq.

This should have been evident to anyone smart enough to realize that renegades in the military are few and far between. These guys followed orders.

Go read it and report back. It's a must.

P.S. This is unrelated, but I love the incidental music on CNN. They just played their "Brown v. The Board of Education of Topeka Tribute" opening, and it included the poignancy of overturning racial segregation with the reflection of asking how far we've really come. All in seven notes. That's the Behind the Music I want to see. The composers of CNN. "The challenge was to give the feeling of the war on terror with full respect for the troops, while valuing all sides of the debate. So I thought, OBOE!"