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

Saturday, August 14, 2004


I didn't want the week to go by without commenting on the resignation of New Jersey Governor James McGreevey, who came out as "a gay American" during his emotional press conference. I agree that it's a shame that the first gay governor in this country had to resign, at least in part, because of his sexuality. And if you don't think his outing was part of the resignation, look at Bill Clinton, who engaged in an adulterous affair and had a sexual harrassment lawsuit slapped against him (which is also a factor in the McGreevey case). However, that does not exonerate McGreevey for his apparent wrongdoing. I don't just mean adultery here, which is so prevalent in our society as to almost be amended from the Ten Commendments (or at least enhanced with an asterisk). I mean putting an inexperienced lover on the state payroll, and as a Homeland Security advisor, no less. That's wrong whether a man does it for a woman or another man. It's another example of a powerful individual using his power to advance his own motives at the expense of everybody else. I agree with Atrios (link's over on the right) that it's a tragedy that McGreevey felt (justifiably) that he had to closet himself in order to seek power in politics. But that doesn't excuse his behavior.

Not to mention the firestorm of criticism McGreevey was taking for accepting money and having corrupt staffers, all of which is par for the course in New Jersey politics. I say this as someone who's worked in the state, and lived 10 minutes from Trenton for the early part of my life. There was always another scandal, another example of mudslinging and dirty play, and this was on the Democrat and Republican side. It can be argued that McGreevey's decision not to resign until after the general election is another example, and the New Jersey GOP's criticism of this decision is hard to dispute. While McGreevey's coming out was the right thing to do (although it took him 47 years to do it), it undoubtedly had a political cast, a means of self-innoculation from the other charges, a misdirection attempt to cast himself as some sort of martyr. The criminal proceedings should be judged on their merits anyway, and any Democrat who denies this is a little too partisan, even for my blood.


Thursday, August 12, 2004

Sensitivity Training

Desperate for any opening to attack John Kerry, Bush-Cheney have now worked a new angle.  They're now starting to attack a quote Kerry made at last week's minority journalist conference (you remember, the one where Bush so helpfully explained to us the meaning of the word sovereignty).  This is what Kerry said:

"I believe I can fight a more effective, more thoughtful, more strategic, more proactive, more sensitive war on terror that reaches out to other nations and brings them to our side," he said.

Despite the fact that Kerry was obviously using sensitive in terms of dealing with our allies, Bush-Cheney decided to take the word completely out fo context and use it as a hammer:

DAYTON, Ohio (Reuters) - Vice President Dick Cheney mocked Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry on Thursday for pledging to wage a more "sensitive" war against terrorism.

"America has been in too many wars for any of our wishes, but not a one of them was won by being sensitive," Cheney said.

He accused the Massachusetts senator of having a "fundamental misunderstanding" of the world.

"Those that threaten us and kill innocents around the world do not need to be treated more sensitively, they need to be destroyed," he said.

He accented some form of the word "sensitive" a half-dozen times in his speech and drew laughter from the partisan crowd.

The Kerry camp quickly fought back, explaining (properly) that Cheney was taking the word "sensitive" completely out of context.  The reckless and arrogant foreign policy this Administration has charted over the last four years was the context of the "sensitive" comment, not that we should be asking terrorists about their feelings.

What the campaign has not pursued too much is the utter hypocrisy of bashing Kerry over using the word sensitive when Bush-Cheney has used it, in theory and practice, over the last four years.  There is one quote far down in the Reuters article that hints at this:

Kerry's campaign also pointed to previous remarks by Bush and Cheney that the United States had to be "sensitive" in its use of power.

But what about denying press outlets to show photographs of the coffins of soldiers coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan?  Wasn't the rationale that "we have to be sensitive to the families of the victims?"  I thought you couldn't be sensitive in war.  And what about what is going on right now, in Najaf, Iraq?  The US has launched major operations inside the city, but they will not strike the Imam Ali Mosque, one of the holiest Shiite sites in the country.  This is despite the fact that Medhi Army militia is apparently seeking refuge in the mosque, which under international laws concerning war and cultural heritage property, makes it perfectly legal for us to use it as a target.  For some insane reason, US forces are wary of using force against the mosque!  They aren't being... sensitive to Shiite cultural history, are they?  In fact, this Radio Free Europe report claims that...

(UNESCO official) Del Corral says UNESCO gave the U.S.-led coalition a list of sensitive sites prior to the start of war in March 2003, including the Imam Ali Mosque. With the exception of the unchecked looting at Iraqi museums last year, she says the coalition has taken "maximum care" to protect important cultural sites: "Of course, in a conflict like that you cannot pretend that everything will be untouched but [the coalition] asked and obtained the necessary information, and they tried to respect it the best they could."

But that doesn't make sense!  The Bush-Cheney team doesn't fight wars using sensitivity!  "President Lincoln and General Grant did not wage sensitive warfare, nor did President Roosevelt, nor Generals Eisenhower and MacArthur," Cheney said.  Then why aren't you blowing up the Imam Ali Mosque?  Isn't that where these insurgents are hiding?  Isn't it a base of operations?

Every time this Administration finds an attack point in this election campaign, they prove their own ignorance of history, foreign policy, even themselves.


Supporting the troops, except for John Kerry

This business over smearing John Kerry's service record is simply disgusting. It's disgusting not only because the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth coalition is headed by partisan hack John O'Neill, who has been on the anti-Kerry brigade so long that he met with Nixon about how to damage his credibility. It's disgusting not only because all of the voices represented in the SBVfT attack ad were soldiers who never served with John Kerry, unless you count them being in the same country as Kerry as "serving" with him. It's disgusting not only because the doctor in the ad who claimed to have seen Kerry's war wounds is not listed among the doctors who treated him. It's disgusting because the war record smear doesn't stop with a bunch of partisan veterans who can't get over Kerry's antiwar protesting.

As Atrios sagely notes, the US media has subtly discounted Kerry's service record by confining it to "four months" of service that he ditched at the earliest opportunity. In fact, he served two tours of active duty, which included training, serving on a frigate in coastal waters, and finally the Swift Boat duty. It adds up to multiple years of service in the Navy, and the "four months" claim, parroted by countless news outlets, undermines this service. It also shows how the expectations bar is set so high for Kerry and so low for Bush, which plays right into GOP hands. As DC Democrat put it on Kos:

Subject: I can't say this often enough
Why is it that the guy who volunteers to go to Vietnam and incontrovertibly could have been killed in action is the no account low life while the drug addict alcoholic who can't even show up for National Guard duty in Alabama is the one who did his duty to country?

OK, he didn't have to go all to way to the "drug addict alcoholic" thing to make his point, but it is well taken. Somehow, it's okay to smear a Naval veteran while giving a free pass to a National Guard deserter, who frolicked in swimming pools with ambitious secretaries while the Naval vet was busy getting shot at by the Viet Cong. Furthermore, the people that are doing this smear job inexplicably see themselves as the party for veterans and the military. Well, as long as they're Republican veterans and the Republican military.


Wednesday, August 11, 2004


The Bush-Cheney team, increasingly feeling unnerved by the sneaking suspicion that they're about to lose their grip on this Presidency, is pulling out all the stops. We remember that in April, Bob Woodward reported in his "Plan of Attack" book that Prince Bandar (aka "Bandar Bush," if you saw Fahrenheit 9/11) promised the President that the Saudis would increase oil production in October to prop up the US economy on the eve of the election. Well, I guess they decided to do it early:

RIYADH — Saudi Arabia sought to soothe oil markets Wednesday by saying it could immediately pump an extra 1.3-million barrels of oil a day, though traders said the comments would not have a huge impact.

Saudi Oil Minister Ali Naimi said the world's largest producer was “prepared to meet all the requirements of the international oil companies if they need additional volumes, relying on the surplus production capacity of more than 1.3-million barrels daily, which could be used immediately if required,” the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

Hey, I wonder if this lowered oil prices any...

By midday Wednesday, prices were down 57 cents at $43.95 in Nymex trading.


Kerry economic advisor Gene Sperling knocked this one right out of the park, leaving it to pundits to speculate about the "dirty tricks" aspect of this announcement, and preferring to discuss our continued reliance on foreign oil, and the rise in the "uncertainty premium" in the price of oil (extra mnoney that is added due to uncertainty in the Middle East region) that could be reduced by a more stable foreign policy. And these are the right things to say. But first the "July surprise" of capturing a high-value terrorist target during the Democratic Convention comes true, and now this. That's the work of a desperate incumbent, trying anything and everything to forestall the inevitable.


Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Meet the new boss...

CNN's Aaron Brown tonight went national with a story that appeared in The Oregonian on Sunday, courtesy reporter Mike Francis. On the day the US turned over sovereignty to Iraq (and if you don't know what sovereignty means, ask President Bush), members of the Oregon National Guard watched as Iraqi plainclothes officers beat blindfolded and bound prisoners with batons, and in at least one case shot a prisoner in the leg, in the enclosed grounds of the Iraqi Interior Ministry. The Guardsmen initially moved in to stop the beatings, but received a different order from high command:

The soldiers disarmed the Iraqi jailers, moved the prisoners into the shade, released their handcuffs and administered first aid. Lt. Col. Daniel Hendrickson of Albany, Ore., the highest ranking American at the scene, radioed for instructions.

But in a move that frustrated and infuriated the guardsmen, Hendrickson's superior officers told him to return the prisoners to their abusers and immediately withdraw. It was June 29 -- Iraq's first official day as a sovereign country since the U.S.-led invasion.

Not only have American officers looked the other way as American prison guards tortured Iraqis, but they have now the policy of looking the other way as Iraqi prison guards torture Iraqis. Later in the article, an American Enterprise Institute (right-wing think tank) scholar admits that "We did not generally put good people in." In a situation as profoundly broken as Iraq, the Bush Administration obviously felt that the only way to restore order is to fight fire with fire: install thugs and butchers at the heart of power to combat the perceived thugs and butchers of the insurgency. This Oregonian report dovetails nicely with the rumors that Iraq's Prime Minister Iyad Allawi shot six insurgents in the head a few days before the power handover. Inexplicably, Bush and his surrogates continue to insist that Iraqis are better off without Saddam Hussein in power, when it's clear that in effect, he still IS in power, or at the very least, his ruling style of intimidation, brutality and suppression is still very much alive.

In addition, the Oregon soldiers had the right idea, and actually were acting under the law in trying to stop the abuse.

The (Iraqi) embassy, in a written statement, said U.S. soldiers are "compelled by the law of land warfare and core values to stop willful and unnecessary use of physical violence on prisoners."

This is pretty cut and dried stuff here. In the aftermath of the occupation, our rules of engagement are confused and bound with conflicting guilt, whether to meddle in Iraq's internal affairs and treat their government as a satellite to US policy, or to do nothing and be blamed for anything negative that comes out of the region. Meanwhile, the US has no problem blowing much of Iraq's more troublesome cities to bits, and they appear poised to do so in Najaf: This Bloomberg story reads like a nightmare, with almost every bad consequence of this failed policy in Iraq coming to bear in a few short paragraphs:

Aug. 10 (Bloomberg) -- U.S.-led coalition forces in Najaf clashed with insurgents loyal to Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada al- Sadr for a sixth day, the military said in a statement e-mailed from Baghdad.

A U.S. military spokesman said yesterday by telephone from Baghdad that at least 360 militiamen and four U.S. soldiers have been killed in Najaf, the site of Iraq's holiest Shiite shrine, since Thursday.

Insurgents across Iraq have targeted coalition forces and Iraqi officials since the U.S. on June 28 handed over sovereignty to an interim administration led by Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. The violence has hampered the country's oil industry and yesterday led the Southern Oil Co. to stop output of crude oil, Agence France-Presse reported.

Disrupted Iraqi oil shipments helped to push crude oil prices close to a record today. Earlier, crude oil for September delivery hit a record $44.99 a barrel in after-hours electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Southern Oil is the only outlet for oil in Iraq, the Middle East's fifth-largest producer, after attacks on the country's northern export pipeline.

Poland, citing a ``deteriorated security situation,'' yesterday handed control of An-Najaf and Al-Qadisiyah provinces to the U.S. Marines, according to a statement posted on the Polish military command's Web site. Poland will remain in control in Babil, Karbala and Wasit provinces, the military said in the statement.

The eastern European nation, which commands a nine-country division of 6,200 soldiers stationed in southern Iraq, yesterday discussed with the U.S. how the Polish contingent in Iraq will be reduced when the Iraqi government has control in the country, Poland's Prime Minister Marek Belka said after meeting U.S. President George W. Bush.

The U.S. military today urged civilians in Najaf to evacuate the combat zone, AFP said. Soldiers in military vehicles drove around the city urging civilians to flee the area, AFP said.

Al-Sadr said yesterday he would defend Najaf ``until my last drop of blood,'' AFP reported.

OK, but what's the bad news? We're only about to blow up the holiest city in the country, kill one of its most popular leaders (made popular by his opposition to the occupation), while in the meantime oil production has ground to a halt, and our staunchest non-English-speaking ally wants out. What's the problem?

All of this tlak about John Kerry ceding territory to the GOP by saying he would have authorized the war anyway and he doesn't regret his vote is meaningless, in my opinion. Iraq is Bush's mess, and it's on Iraq which he will ultimately be judged.


I'll admit...

To knowing very little about Porter Goss, the Florida congressman who was tapped today to run the CIA. What I've seen and read today, however, like his stances on the issues, show that he's just another partisan mimic, a Republican who wants nothing more than to keep Republicans in power. See Digby for this telling quote about the Valerie Plame case:

"I would say there's a much larger dose of partisan politics going on right now than there is worry about national security... Somebody sends me a blue dress and some DNA, I'll have an investigation," Goss said.

Nice guy. Looks like the CIA agents he'll employ better read this, because their Director won't have their back. Interesting to see what The New Republic had to say about Goss before the nomination:

Bottom line: If Bush is looking to pick a protracted political fight--and it wouldn't be the first time--Porter Goss is his man.


Monday, August 09, 2004

Taking a bullet for the Prez...

The good general falls on his sword:

WASHINGTON -- Retired Gen. Tommy Franks tried to take the blame Monday for President Bush's much-criticized comments declaring an end to major combat in Iraq more than a year ago.

"That's my fault, that George W. Bush said what he said on the first of May of last year, just because I asked him to," said Franks, former commander of forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I wanted to get the phase of military operation over as quickly as I could, because a lot of countries on this planet had said as soon as that major stuff is over, we'll come in and help with all of the peacekeeping," Franks said.

"On the first of May when Bush did what he did, I was proud of him because he did what I, as the commander, had asked him to do," Franks said in an appearance at the National Press Club. "So if there's a mistake there, it's mine, not a plot. So I thought I'd share that with you. "

Yeah, and after the "Mission Accomplished" stunt, those other countries sure came rolling in, didn't they?

So who's going to take the blame for the flight suit? Powell? Richard Myers? Lynndie England?


3rd-grade book report

There's a lot of serious shit going down today, like the indictment of Ahmad Chalabi (the neocons' favorite) for counterfeiting Iraqi dinars, or the Bush Administration's accidental (?) outing of a al-Qaeda double agent, or Alan Keyes' entry into the Illinois Senate race by intoning "the victory is for God!" But there's this one hilarious item that somehow missed the evening newscasts that I think you've got to hear. Here's a transcript of President Bush, in front of a group of minority journalists, dropping the knowledge about sovereignty:

Question: What do you think tribal sovereignty means in the 21st century, and how do we resolve conflicts between tribes and the federal and state governments?

Bush: Yeah. Tribal sovereignty means that, sovereign. You're a... you're a... you've been given sovereignty, and you're viewed as a sovereign entity. (pause for the assembly to laugh right in his face) And therefore the relationship between the federal government and tribes is one between sovereign entities.

Upon receipt of this transcript, Yale has been thrown out of the Ivy League. That sounds like the kid in the back of class that didn't read The Scarlet Letter that, when forced, claims that the letter represents "scarlet-ness". The fun thing about Bush campaigning so heavily is that we're going to get one of these every other day.