blogenlust
8.31.2004

Flip-Floppery


From a political standpoint, I understand why the Republicans want to mention the fact that Kerry has flip-flopped on X issue as many times as possible. It is true that if you say it enough times, even if its not true, people will buy into it. The thing I don't understand is how normally intelligent people can honestly use this as an excuse oo not vote for Kerry. I am surprised at how many people tell me they can't vote for Kerry because he is a flip-flopper. For some reason, it is beyond their comprehension that someone could support the idea of a war before it happened, but then change his mind after seeing how poorly the war was executed. Fine. Maybe it's a little too nuanced for them, but how is that any different than any other politician? The truth is, it's not. Two examples worth noting are President Bush and Zell Miller. Why isn't it flip-flop-worthy news that Zell Miller, who introduced President Clinton at the '92 Convention, switched his previous beliefs and is now supporting President Bush? Kerry is ridiculed by the Republicans, through the media, for being against the First Gulf War and for the Second Gulf War, even though there were 12 years between the events. On the other hand, in the same period of time, Miller switches his allegiance (but not party), and it's almost treated as a principled decision. Why don't the Republicans (or the media) denounce Miller for his "inconsistency"? President Bush has too many political flip flops to even mention, but you can find a list at the link above. His most recent flop occurred over his reconsideration that we might not be able to win the war on terrorism. Of course, instead of decrying that he is unfit for command, the media lets him explain that it was all just a "misunderestimation" (warning: link goes to Rush). How could we possibly have thought that we can't defeat a noun? Silly us. I don't really care if a politician changes his mind about an issue. To me, it is often (but not always) a sign of an open-minded individual, who is humble enough to admit that he or she was wrong when they first thought about an issue. However, when it comes to the media, it is unacceptable to treat John Kerry as though he were the person to invent the "flip-flop." If the media wants to talk about flip-flops, they sure as hell better point out everybody's flip flops. And for those too lazy to identify a real reason not to vote for Kerry, try harder.

Red Sox


Sheesh. When you switch coasts, its hard to keep up with what's happening on "the other side." Looks like the Red Sox are making a season of it. And the Yankees suck. Sometime soon I'll discuss my feelings that the Yankees = the GOP.

Laura Bush


I just heard on NPR that Laura Bush has a 72% approval rating. Why? I've never gotten America's love affair with her. Is it some type of longing for the 1950s? I dunno. I loved her in this, though.

ADD


Sometimes I have ADD with my blog. Today, for instance, I did some job searching, made some phone calls, followed up on some resumes, and then decided to try and give Blogenlust a non-Blogger feel. Four hours later and this is where I am. Feel free to tell me how it looks in your browser..i've tried it in mozilla, opera, and safari. Unfortunately, safari users won't be able to enjoy the flashing "blogenlust" title.

Supporting The Troops


This is pathetic. Support our troopes. eh. Ironically, I'm listening to Bush speak to a veterans' group about how much he's done for our vets. via atrios update: Hesiod has a nice picture.
8.30.2004

I Like It Here Already


I Like It Here Already
I Like It Here Already,
originally uploaded by blogenlust.
GOP Strives To Pitch a Bigger Tent

Thoughts on the RNC


So I caught the last 45 minutes of Guiliani's speech at the RNC on the radio. I guess when the Republicans talk about how this convention will lay out their plan for the future, what that really means is they will spend a lot of time belittling President Kerry in the next four years. I found it a little strange that Guiliani would disagree with the bipartisan 9/11 Commission, and suggest that Saddam Hussein was "a pillar of global terrorism." The Republicans will try to lump Iraq into the War on Terror, even though evidence suggests that such a link is grossly negligent. They would like to convince the American people that Bush's Iraq misadventure was standing up to the threat of Al Qaeda. Unfortunately, 1000 Americans have died for this misconception, yet we have Guiliani, McCain, and the rest of the GOP creating bullshit excuses for their deaths. I also found it funny that Guiliani, in providing examples throughout history where terrorists were appeased, failed to mention the truck bombing which killed over 200 Marines in Lebanon, without any response from Reagan (except invading Grenada). Its funny because he didn't forget the bombing of the USS Cole, which happened under Clinton. Anyway, "Thank God George Bush and Dick Cheney are in charge!" I haven't yet read McCain's speech, but I'm sure its more of the same. Sure, McCain is a principled politician, which makes him a Republican I can respect. On the other hand, I think his continuous defence of the Iraq War, despite the Abu Grhaib incident, is downright delusional. Finally, I'm so goddamn sick of Republicans saying that John Kerry would be the worst thing for this country in dealing with the War on Terror. It is like when after 9/11, people used to say, "Could you imagine if Al Gore was President??" Yes, I can. He would have acted in much the same way that Bush did, although he wouldn't have invaded Iraq and we would be better off for it. This idea that we can only defeat terrorists by going on the offensive, which in Republican parlance means invade and conquer, is complete lunacy. There are other ways of undermining terrorism, one of which involves brokering a peace deal between Israel and Palestine, or at the very least trying to appear objective in the dispute. Another radical approach to fighting terrorism is finding the guy responsible for killing 3,000 Americans. I know, it sounds crazy. The Republicans want us to forget that Bush asked for OBL "dead or alive." They will try to confuse us by changing the subject to Saddam Hussein, who "was an evil, dangerous dictator, who no longer can torture his own people." Don't be fooled. Despite whatever the Republicans trot out this week, the fact of the matter is that there is a big fucking white elephant in Madison Square Garden, and his name is Osama bin Laden.

Bush Admits We Can't Defeat Pesty Nouns


I am happy to hear that the President has finally acknowledged that the war on terror "probably can't be won."
“You cannot show weakness in this world today because the enemy will exploit that weakness,” he said. “It will embolden them and make the world a more dangerous place.” When asked “Can we win?” the war on terror, Bush said, “I don’t think you can win it. But I think you can create conditions so that the — those who use terror as a tool are — less acceptable in parts of the world.”
This should have been clear from the start. Like its cousins, The War on Drugs and The War on Poverty, The War on Terror will never be successful as long as you frame victory as achieving the end of terrorism. Terrorism has been around forever and it isn't going away, no matter how many governments we overthrow. If this premise was accepted from the beginning, we may not have invaded Iraq under the guise of fighting terrorism. I wish the President would realize that his war on Iraq has done nothing remotely close to "creating the conditions so that--those who use terror as a tool are--less acceptable in parts of the world." In fact, most evidence suggests that Bush's war has made Iraqis more susceptible to resort to terrorism as an acceptable means of expression. Of course, this could have been avoided had he not miscalculated the aftermath of the war. I think it is too little too late for Bush. The fact that he has had to admit that he miscalculated on Iraq and that the war on terrorism is not possible to win, means he knows he is in deep shit. update: Josh Marshall has more on "the Bush retreat."
8.29.2004

Bob Dole


Bob Dole, who I used to respect, has recently been on the airwaves attacking John Kerry, using the Swift With The Truth Vets as a cover. How a decorated war hero, like Dole, could stoop to this level all in the name of George W. Bush is so beyond me, that I have stopped trying to understand it. However, Slate shows that there is more to Dole than meets the eye. Make sure you watch the video, too. Who knows, maybe the Viagra has had an adverse effect on Dole, causing all the blood to rush from his head to his other head. I don't know, but one thing is for sure, he's a real dickhead. update: I actually met Bob Dole once. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, during my freshman year of college, I was in College Republicans. I don't really have an excuse, other than complete ignorance. I think I probably picked up Republicanism from my father and grandfather, without really thinking about what it meant. Anyway, I was young and stupid. The point of the story is that I went to go see Dole speak in Des Moines, Iowa my freshman year of college. Afterwards, me and the guy I went with (more on him later) tried to get our picture taken with Dole. We were successful in taking the picture, but in what I now consider a sign from God, the film was ruined and we never got the picture. I didn't really care, but this other guy, who considered John Ashcroft to be the bees knees, was completely devastated. Now that I've written about that which I've tried to forget, I should tell the whole story. I was actually the Treasurer of College Republicans after my freshman year of college. It was the term before the 2000 Iowa Caucus, so all the Republicans running for President were hitting up Iowa. It was a good time to be a political junkie in college. I wasn't particularly thrilled with any of the candidates at the time, but was leaning towards McCain. I couldn't stand Bush, and thought he was a prick, even then. Unfortunately, the CR's were really into him and it was because of that I began to really question my politics for the first time. The final straw was attending a Polk County Republican meeting with the President of the CRs at my school, who just happened to be the Ashcroft freak from the Dole event. This guy was a big social conservative, came from Missouri and was also really quiet. He was to speak at this Polk County event, in an attempt to raise money for our organization. When it was his time to speak, he got up in front of about 100 Republicans and proceeded to give the most hate-filled, bigoted, racist, and obscene speech about the "liberal freaks" at our school. When he was finished, everyone stood up and applauded. I was completely embarrased and shocked that this quiet guy had all this in him. Anyway, it was an epiphany for me. I resigned from the organization the next day and told him I couldn't believe I was ever involved. Haven't looked back since.

Polls, sllop, Polls.


Political Wire has the latest poll information pertaining to the Biggest Election of All Time. Apparently, though, Bush is up in WI by 3%. This is absolutely unacceptable. I hope my Wisconsin readers understand what is at stake in November and get their head out of their ass and start talking to their neighbors about the election. What exactly has Bush done for Wisconsin anyway? I see that my Congressman, Paul Ryan, will be speaking at the RNC this week, too. I'm contemplating a run at his seat in two years.

Protesting the RNC


Looks like the RNC is off to a populated start in NYC. I have to say that I am quite worried about the potential for these protests to be used in favor of Bush. I'm afraid that a situation may be provoked that is reminiscent of '68 in Chicago. Certainly, there are enough protesters in the city to cause a considerable mess if such a provocation occurs. I'm not really into the whole protesting scene, anyway. I agree with this post by Matthew Yglesias; there are better ways of getting your point across. One of the problems I have with protesting is the way that it is often presented by the media. Usually, you will see only the weirdest and most extreme protesters in the media's depiction of events. In the fall of 2002, I went to an anti-Iraq War rally in Boston Common. One thing that struck me was how many "normal" people there were. In other words, you wouldn't expect to see "the girl next door" protesting the Iraq War in Boston Common, but she was. When I got home that day, the media only showed images of anarchists, who had 500 piercings and mohawks. The message was clear to the viewer at home who didn't attend the event: How can you take these protesters seriously when they look like this!?! This is not to say that I'm against free speech. I think protesting is an important aspect of democracy and should be taken seriously. Protesters just need to be more aware that their message is being filtered in a way that they sometimes encourage. I think if they were smarter in presenting their message, they might be more effective in persuading others.

Update


Juan Cole has more to add about the Israeli spy in the Pentagon. It looks like this thing is much bigger (and dangerous) than it first appeared. To think that a foreign political party was using the Pentagon as an agent of its own foreign policy objectives is serious, serious business. It will be interesting to see how this develops and whether or not it has any major fingerprints on it.

Meanwhile...


...in Iraq.
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Aug. 28 - While American troops have been battling Islamic militants to an uncertain outcome in Najaf, the Shiite holy city, events in two Sunni Muslim cities that stand astride the crucial western approaches to Baghdad have moved significantly against American plans to build a secular democracy in Iraq. Both of the cities, Falluja and Ramadi, and much of Anbar Province, are now controlled by fundamentalist militias, with American troops confined mainly to heavily protected forts on the desert's edge. What little influence the Americans have is asserted through wary forays in armored vehicles, and by laser-guided bombs that obliterate enemy safe houses identified by scouts who penetrate militant ranks. Even bombing raids appear to strengthen the fundamentalists, who blame the Americans for scores of civilian deaths. American efforts to build a government structure around former Baath Party stalwarts - officials of Saddam Hussein's army, police force and bureaucracy who were willing to work with the United States - have collapsed. Instead, the former Hussein loyalists, under threat of beheadings, kidnappings and humiliation, have mostly resigned or defected to the fundamentalists, or been killed. Enforcers for the old government, including former Republican Guard officers, have put themselves in the service of fundamentalist clerics they once tortured at Abu Ghraib."
This pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the article, which is a litany of examples of how the occupation is only technically an "occupation" in some parts of the country. Do people really still believe that this war was necessary and worth fighting when we did? If so, what are your reasons?
8.28.2004

Get Your War On


New Get Your War On. "That reminds me: How do you convince a Washington journalist that you're not slapping him in the face?" "I don't know. How?" "Tell him you aren't."

Cole on Israeli Spy


I highly recommend reading Juan Cole's take on the developing story that there is an Israeli spy high up in the Pentagon. As usual, Cole has a ton of information to process this story with, and his insights are extremely interesting.
8.27.2004

Arrived


I made it to SF on Wednesday afternoon and have been just trying to get settled the last few days. My living arrangments for the near future are going to be fairly fluid, with no stable place to call home until I find work. I had an interview yesterday with the SF NPR station. It was for a research internship on the daily show Forum. What is Forum? One problem with this position, if I am offered it, is that it is unpaid, only two days a week, and for only four months. However, it is the type of work I'm looking for and would be a great experience. I can always find some part time work for income, too. We'll see... I've got a few other leads that I'm working on, so hopefully sometime soon I will catch a break. Until then, though, or at least until I feel a little more situated, I'll probably be blogging sporadically.
8.24.2004

Day 3


Now in Reno, NV. We drove a lot today, but not as far as yesterday. Salt Lake City was a really interesting place, and the Mormon Temple area was really strange. It is true, as Heraldblog notes in comments, that it is not possible to go into the Temple without being Mormon. They quiz you on the Book Of Mormom, and if you cannot successfully answer three questions, they banish you from Utah. I got the first two, but missed the last (who knew the seagull was the state bird?!) Since I answered two correctly (Joseph Smith and Peanut Butter), I was able to go into the Tabernacle, where the Mormom Tabernacle Choir sings. Also, I was able to view a short three minute video where I learned that Jesus Christ, after his death in Jerusalem, visited Native Americans in Utah. Strangely, I did not learn this at Catholic grade school. In the video, Jesus shows up and all the Native Americans already knew who he was. I found this to be strange, but didn't ask Sister Di Carlo (who was from France) how the Native Americans knew who Jesus was before he appeared in front of them. After leaving Salt Lake City, we stopped to look at the Great Salt Lake because it looked beautiful from inside my car. Big mistake. If you ever have the chance to get out of your car to look at the Great Salt Lake, I strongly advise you to keep driving. The lake stinks like shit, and I can still taste it 8 hours later. Driving through Nevada is like driving through Nebraska, only with more mountains. It is pretty amazing how you can drive from the Midwest to California and see so few people. That reminds me, Kerry had a pretty big day in the Blogenlust Bumpersticker Poll of the USA west of Wisconsin and East of San Francisco. I left the exact numbers in the car, but Kerry made up some significant ground, and might be able to take the lead depending on how long we drive in California tomorrow. We might have to drive up and down the streets of Berkeley for a few hours to keep it close, though. Let me reiterate one point from yesterday. AM Talk Radio in this country is the most foul abuse of free speech I've ever experienced. I cannot stand to listen to these assholes complain that the Swift Boat Veteran story isn't getting any press, as I drive 900 miles and all I hear on the radio is dishonest BS about the story. Only 3.5 hours left to our destination.
8.23.2004

Day 2


We drove 900 miles today. Originally, we planned on driving from Des Moinesto Cheyenne, Wyoming, but when we got to Cheyenne at 4pm we realized thatthere is nothing to do in Cheyenne, and that we ought to keep driving untilwe can't drive no more. Thus, we ended up in Rock Springs, Wyoming, whichis approximately 180 miles east of Salt Lake City. The cool thing is thatwe drove 900 miles in 11 hours, which is an 81.81 with a line over it average. Not bad. I was shocked to not see one single Presidential bumpersticker during this 900 mile trek. I was a little disappointed until I realizedthat for 900 miles, the only bumper sticker everyone else saw was a Kerrysticker. Considering I drove through Nebraska and Wyoming, though, I amprobably lucky to have not been run off the road. Speaking of politics,I will be voting for Bush* in November. I don't know how I came to thisconclusion, but it might have to do with the fact that the only thing onthe radio all day was Rush, Hannity, O'Reilly, and Michael Reagan (in thatorder). Let me just say this: John Kerry is a lying, dishonorable, flip-flopping,Viet Cong loving, hippy lib.** In all seriousness, though, I actually agreedwith Bill O'Reilly, who was the only one of the aforementioned people toseriously cast doubt on the Swift Boat Vets. He actually informed a callerwho had not known that Kerry had saved someone else's life in Vietnam. Thiscaller had no idea and was speechless, since her whole reason for callinghad been swept from under her feet. The rest of these guys are just fuckingassholes.*** Tomorrow we will spend some time in Salt Lake City. Not sure if we will spend the night there, or whether or not we'll head to Nevada to find a hotel. I do know we'll be checking out the Mormon Temple, though. * This was a joke. ** This also was a joke. *** Not a joke.
8.22.2004

Day 1


Travelled approximately 400 miles to Des Moines, IA this afternoon, as we finished the first day of our move to the Bay Area. Stopped in the Amish part of Iowa, which was really interesting. It really is like going back in time when you see them riding around on their horse buggies. Also, we found them very friendly, always waving at us when we passed by. We've also been conducting a poll trying to get a picture of the current Presidential race by counting the number of pro-candidate bumper stickers we see along the way. So far, the results are not good for Kerry. The tally is Kerry 2 (me included) and Bush 6. Its early and we still have California, so I expect a huge finishing surge for Kerry. There was also one weird incident today. We were driving along I-80 in Iowa, and passed a car with two college-aged women from Virginia. They had strange Virginia plates, which had the motto "Fight Terrorism" below the numbers. On their back window, they had written in blue soap, "We Love President Bush." Naturally, after seeing our far less obnoxious Kerry bumper sticker, they tried to pass us so that we would notice their obnoxiousness. As the passed us, I realized that they had a camcorder and had been videoing us from behind, and then as they passed us. I didn't feel to happy about that, so we wrote down the plate numbers. Anybody know if that is legal to video tape the license of another car while it is driving? Tomorrow we're going to try and make it to Cheyenne, which means tomorrow is Nebraska Day! Yeah!
8.21.2004

Depressing Poll


I saw this on the plane yesterday morning and couldn't believe my eyes. I think it is absolutely unacceptable that half of the country still believes this stuff:
More than half of Americans, 54 percent, continue to believe Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or a program to develop them before the United States invaded last year, according to a poll released Friday. Evidence of such weapons has not been found. Half believe Iraq was either closely linked with al-Qaida before the war (35 percent) or was directly involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on this country (15 percent). The poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland found the numbers on both questions have dropped in the face of evidence that both pre-war claims may have been false.
Then there is this:
Seven in 10 in the poll say they believe the United States went to war in Iraq based on false assumptions. A similar number say the war in Iraq has given the United States a worse image in the world. A majority, 55 percent, say they don't think the war in Iraq will result in greater peace and stability in the Mideast. In various polls, people have been evenly split on whether the war in Iraq was the right or wrong thing to do - a sharp drop from last winter. The poll of 733 adults was conducted by Knowledge Networks from Aug. 5-11 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
So half the polling group thinks that Iraq had WMD and legitimate ties to Al Qaeda, but 70% believe the US went to war based on false assumptions???!! That makes my head hurt. There will always be 10% to 20% of the population completely out of touch with the reality of the situation, but there is no way that 50% should still be completely wrong this far after the war! Straight from the horses mouth.
8.20.2004

Foreign Policy Resource


You might find this to be a helpful resource. It is a one stop resource for the candidates' position on foreign policy, produced by the Council on Foreign Relations.
8.19.2004

Racism: Alive and Kicking


This is what happens when you rely on Limbaugh and other hate-mongers to shape your worldview. Note the title of the post. Racism is truly alive and well in this country.

Busy Day


I'm finishing up packing, and enjoying my last day in Boston. Here are some interesting things I've read this morning... * Dahlia Lithwick on why characterizations of Bush being child-like are silly and dangerous. * Two Greek sprinters have withdrawn from the Olympics, thus avoiding expulsion. They have missed four drug tests, which is absolutely unexcusable in track and field. Good riddance. * Najaf continues to be a mess...it seems that twice a day the situation changes from "imminent destruction" to "shred of hope." It looks like this morning we are at "imminent destruction." Regardless of what happens, I'm sure this site will have to be updated. Does anyone care anymore that August is on pace to be the bloodiest and deadliest month for US troops since the beginning of the war? * A retiring Republican congressman, who voted for the war, has now come out with strong language against it. * Good question! It seems that ice is priced exorbitantly even without hurricanes. * This story is sort of like reading an article about another guy courting your girlfriend. * Why isn't Lance in the Olympics? * The race is getting closer...
8.18.2004

Olympics


I'm all Phelped out and its only Wednesday. Don't get me wrong, the guy is a fucking dolphin. Its just the constant coverage and commercial tandem that is getting to me. At least he is a nice guy. Why is Dominique Dawes doing a Chillies commercial? And does she have to say, "I want my baby back-baby-back baby-back ribs...?" I got the corny chills. Finally, where would athletics in this country be, if not for Wisconsin.

A good question...


I think Mark Kleiman asks an important question: "Does anyone have a theory about how announcing a plan to reduce troop levels in South Korea, without getting any sort of promise in return from the North Koreans, is supposed to be a good idea?" I'm not sure I understand that logic either. I saw Scwharzkopf on Hardball last night basically ask the same question. I think an argument can be made for some of the forces in Europe, but South Korea? Does anybody remember the vaunted Axis of Evil?? How about the nukes that North Korea has? The only thing between the DMZ and Seoul is about 30,000 US soldiers and the South Korean military (even that is not completely accurate since Seoul is within range of North Korean rockets and artillery), which in terms of numbers is far short of the massive Northern army. Considering that this realignment won't even begin for two years at the earliest, and will take a total of ten years, its probably unlikely that it will be fully implemented. If Kerry wins, I don't think he will continue this policy, although he might still realign some troops. I just get the feeling that this is more politics than any type of security calculation.

Into the Shrine?


So it looks like we are preparing an imminent raid on the Ali Iman Mosque in Najaf. The bold lead right under the headline of the CNN story says that "Iraqi forces are prepared to raid a Najaf mosque." Iraqi forces?? I highly suspect that these "Iraqi forces" will be the US Marines and a smaller group of Iraqi military personnel. Nowhere in the article does it even mention the US military, but as we all know, the Americans are heavily involved in this fight. I have a feeling this is a way of manipulating the story so that when the shit goes down, we have as few stains on us as possible. This article (via Juan Cole) not only describes the Marine's involvement with the siege of Najaf, but also points out this:
But in the battle in Najaf, at least, the Marines here say that they engaged al-Sadr's forces at the request of the local Iraqi police. They did not seek approval from more senior military commanders or from Iraqi political leaders, with the exception of the governor of Najaf. The governor, Adnan Al-Zurfi, an Allawi appointee, refuses to confirm having given the green light, although U.S. commanders in Baghdad cited his commands repeatedly as the political cover for the Marine attack.
Cole has more to say about this:
If Berenson and Burns are right, American Men on the Spot are making crucial policy decisions that have the potential to affect the lives of all Americans and all Muslims. The Marines in Najaf were acting like just another militia, engaging in a local turf war with Muqtada and his men, and giving no thought to the consequences of behaving barbarically in the holy city of Najaf. Readers sometimes complain to me that Muslims seem to have lots of holy cities and lots of mosques, so is Najaf really all that special? O.K., here are the holy cities in order of holiness: Mecca, Medinah, Jerusalem, Najaf, Karbala. Najaf and Karbala are especially holy to Shiites. There are other holy sites and cities, of course, but they are mostly sacred because of association with later saints. The five I just mentioned are sacred because of their direct association with the Prophet Muhammad, his son-in-law and vicar, Ali, and his grandson, Husain. The Shrine of Ali is a tomb, and although it has a mosque attached to it, it is not just a mosque. It is a Shrine. Like the shrine of the Prophet Muhammad in Medinah or the shrine of Imam Husain in Karbala, it is a sacred resting place of holy remains. A lot of mosques could be damaged with impunity. These shrines cannot. The ignoramus Marines in Najaf clearly don't know all this, and since they don't know it they don't have any business making military policy there. They have endangered all Americans profoundly by potentially spurring a whole new wave of Shiite terrorism against us, recalling the bad old days of the early to mid-1980s (when some of our present allies in Iraq, like al-Da`wa and SCIRI were attacking US targets like the embassy in Kuwait or helping take Americans captive in Beirut). (my emphasis)
I don't think "ignoramus" should be taken as harshly as it may sound. It just means they might not completely understand the implications of the situation they are in, and the actions they are taking. Hell, if I was in their position, it would be hard to keep the broader picture in mind, too. Just for the record, Cole is a Professor of Modern Middle East and South Asian History at the History Department of the University of Michigan, so he does have the legitimacy to be making these statements. update: Maybe this has been avoided.

Campaign Tones


Atrios links to a visual depiction of Kerry and Bush's campaign sites, to demonstrate the two different tones the candidates are taking in this campaign. I think there is a pretty big difference.

Forward: "Which of these men do you want leading our country?"


Football Originally uploaded by blogenlust.
I have these uncles who often send me disparaging forwards about John Kerry and Democrats, only to point out, "See! Bush is the best!" For instance, yesterday I got this: Usually, I just ignore them, but this one in particular was so stupid (and fake?) that I had to respond, if only because of the many photos from which I could choose. Like these:
bushdog bushdog, originally uploaded by blogenlust.
segway segway, originally uploaded by blogenlust.
salutes salutes, originally uploaded by blogenlust.
I'm sure there are many more to choose from, but you get the picture.
8.17.2004

Burundi Massacre


Have you heard about this?
WASHINGTON - The State Department on Monday condemned a massacre at a U.N.-run refugee camp in Burundi and called for a prompt U.N. investigation. At least 163 Congolese Tutsis were killed Friday at the camp at Gatumba. The State Department said the National Liberation Front of the Party for the Liberation of the Hutu People participated in the "vicious attack" on vulnerable refugees, many of them women and children. The department said authorities in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (news - web sites) should help identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice. Ethnic conflicts have killed millions of people over the past decade in central Africa.
Horrible.

State of the Blog


I recommend that anyone who has a blog read this post at far_east. I really like this:
Now I have given that up; equating site hits with personal worth (which is the idea behind those hit counters, isn't it?) is awfully deflating. And I just can't affect the snark properly. Aren't there enough sites like that already? If this is truly the replacement for the old media, then we need diversity, not echoes. Which means that we need a style section, a living and arts section, sports, culture, and so on. Find your niche (it probably won't be the headlines -- those are too crowded already) and blog away. I personally find the most interesting sites to be the ones that are the most human, with the personal stories and reflections. That's just my own personal bias, I know.
I think it is difficult to publish a blog without mimicking to some extent the blogs that you regularly read. For myself, I began reading blogs for political discussions and viewpoints I couldn't find in other places. I happened upon kos and atrios in their early days. I think the first blog I ever read was Tom Tomorrow's This Modern World, and I only found that because I enjoyed his comics in the Des Moines Cityview. I was pretty content just reading blogs until this past spring when I decided to try and point out the things that I had been reading and found important to my friends and family. It was something I thought I could do in a small and insignificant way. This summer, I took a short break from blogging, but soon realized that it had become an important part of my emotional health--it provided an outlet for me to vent my frustrations on the state of the nation and the world. So I decided to start over, and if people read it, great. For me, though, its nice to get things off my chest, and read about other people's opinions on what I'm thinking. FYI: In the next week, I will be relocating to the other side of the country--Boston to the San Francisco Bay Area. I've been done with grad school for a few months, and have been looking for a job, with no luck yet. Hopefully, though, that luck will change in the next few weeks when I am actually settled in an area for an indefinite period of time (want my resume??) I'm going to be driving out to the Bay Area from the Midwest next week, so my blogging will be a little light, but hopefully I'll be able to document the trip with pictures and observations. I plan on stopping in the Amish country of Iowa for certain (yes, because of Amish in the City), but have no plans for anything else, nor any rush to get anywhere. Also, I will be commissioning the first and only Blogenlust International Bumper Sticker Poll, in which I will tally the numbers of pro-candidate or anti-opponent bumper stickers for Kerry and Bush, respectively. When I finish the trip, I should have a pretty accurate estimation of the Presidential race, which of course I will share.

No Bush For You!


Interesting.
Kathryn Mead wanted to see her first sitting president when George W. Bush visited the city. Instead, Bush campaign staffers tore up the 55-year-old social studies teacher's ticket and refused her admission because she sported a small sticker on her blouse that touted the Democratic ticket of John Kerry and John Edwards. "I had my ticket and photo identification, but they would not let me in because of this sticker," said Mead, a teacher at Traverse City West Senior High, who said she has seen Queen Elizabeth and Pope John Paul in person. "I have never found this kind of screening anywhere in my travels around the world. I can't imagine being denied access to hearing the president of the United States speak." Several people outside the campaign event tried to console Mead, who was visibly upset. "It really is comedic," said a man holding a Kerry/Edwards sign. "What absolute nonsense." [...] "I really, truly wanted to have the experience of having seen the president and hear him speak, which is very important to me as a social studies teacher," she said. "How can anyone in the United States deny someone entry? Isn't this a democracy?"
I think that Bush is probably one of the most isolated Presidents we've ever had. Of course, President's are famously isolated (Bush the First wasn't familiar with grocery check out procedures, and Clinton, after his Presidency, had never used an ATM...or so I've heard), but I think Bush is on a another level. Between he and Cheney, I'm not sure they've spoken to a live audience that wasn't completely sympathetic to their viewpoints. (Bush's speech to the UN and the State of the Union are a few examples that prove otherwise.) As a result, when Bush speaks to an audience, he is given soft-ball questions and never has to seriously defend any of his policies. Of course, I understand that this is politics, and that providing a situation which makes the candidate look good is the name of the game. But there is a difference between the way the Bush camp and the Kerry camp handle these events. See this post over at Kos for a visual depiction of the difference between the two campaign's styles. I think it says something that Bush is speaking to a more ideologically narrow crowd than Kerry. And like I said earlier, I think it is amazing that any candidate got 50,000 people to come and listen to a stump speech.

Krugman on EVMs


Today, Paul Krugman writes about that of which we shall not speak, mainly, the likelihood of election fraud this November.
How might the election result be suspect? Well, to take only one of several possibilities, suppose that Florida - where recent polls give John Kerry the lead - once again swings the election to George Bush. Much of Florida's vote will be counted by electronic voting machines with no paper trails. Independent computer scientists who have examined some of these machines' programming code are appalled at the security flaws. So there will be reasonable doubts about whether Florida's votes were properly counted, and no paper ballots to recount. The public will have to take the result on faith. Yet the behavior of Gov. Jeb Bush's officials with regard to other election-related matters offers no justification for such faith. First there was the affair of the felon list. Florida law denies the vote to convicted felons. But in 2000 many innocent people, a great number of them black, couldn't vote because they were erroneously put on a list of felons; these wrongful exclusions may have put Governor Bush's brother in the White House. This year, Florida again drew up a felon list, and tried to keep it secret. When a judge forced the list's release, it turned out that it once again wrongly disenfranchised many people - again, largely African-American - while including almost no Hispanics.
He goes on to mention Herbert's article in yesterday's paper about some Florida police's use of intimidation against elderly black citizens. I think this will be a serious issue this election, regardless of who wins. We are suppossed to be the strongest democracy in the world, but the fact that we even have to discuss the possibility of large scale voter fraud is certainly problematic. I plan on voting absentee if I end up voting in a district that has electronic paperless voting. I have never understood why the makers of these electronic voting machines didn't provide a paper trail in the first place. It is just inviting criticism and doubt, not to mention conspiracy theorists. It is a simple step to take, and should be mandatory for all future EVMs.

Rasta Peanut Butter


Have you seen this commercial? I have to agree with Stevenson:
I am at a loss. I'm not saying it's a bad commercial. I'm just saying it leaves me … puzzled. What are we to make of these computer-animated, 3-D, Rastafarian elephants?

Harkin: Cheney=Coward


After spending four years in the state of Iowa, I came to really respect Senator Tom Harkin. You can't really underestimate how popular the guy is in that state. So I was happy to read that he's not taking any of Cheney's bullshit.
"It just outrages me that someone who got five deferments during Vietnam and said he had 'other priorities' at that time would say that," said the Iowa Democrat, a former Navy fighter pilot. Harkin said he had seen clips of the vice president saying in Iowa last week that Kerry lacks a basic understanding of the war on terrorism. He accused President Bush and his vice president of "resorting to dirty attacks on John Kerry's war record." [...] Harkin, a 20-year veteran of the Senate, was a Navy flier from 1962-67, including stints at Atsugi Naval Air Station in Japan and Guantanamo Bay. He served 1968-74 in the Reserves. He said Cheney has little standing to question the war record of Kerry, who was repeatedly wounded and decorated while serving as a swift boat commander in Vietnam. [...] "When I hear this coming from Dick Cheney, who was a coward, who would not serve during the Vietnam War, it makes my blood boil," said Harkin. "He'll be tough, but he'll be tough with someone else's kid's blood," said Harkin.
I do not understand how people like Bush and Cheney can constantly project themselves as the toughest mofo's on national security this country has ever seen, yet when it was their time to serve, avoided combat like the plague. I don't necessarily have a problem with avoiding combat. I have a problem with avoiding combat, then acting like your Rambo, then smearing the honorable service of a guy who did serve in combat, but doesn't speak like Rambo.
8.16.2004

Old what's his face


Isn't it strange that George Bush has only publicly mentioned Osama bin Laden 10 times since the beginning of 2003? You would think that the guy responsible for killing 3,000 American's would be more prevalent in the President's rhetoric. Its not like he doesn't mention 9/11 in almost every speech. Dan Froomkin writes:
Although there are certainly lots of enemies out there, public enemy number one is obviously al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. But Bush didn't mention bin Laden -- who, just six days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks Bush said he wanted "dead or alive," and who, almost three years later, is still at large. [...] And what I found is that Bush treats bin Laden a lot like those wizards in the Harry Potter books treat He Who Must Not Be Named. Since the beginning of 2003, in fact, Bush has mentioned bin Laden's name on only 10 occasions. And on six of those occasions it was because he was asked a direct question. In addition, there were four times when Bush was asked about bin Laden directly but was able to answer without mentioning bin Laden's name himself. Not once during that period has he talked about bin Laden at any length, or said anything substantive. During the same period, for comparison purposes, Bush has mentioned former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein on approximately 300 occasions.
Interesting, considering Hussein had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11. I'd love to know how many times Bush has invoked 9/11 during this same period. (via daily kos)

Vernon Robinson is a racist tool


Would you believe that a Republican congressional candidate would stoop to this level?
A Pakistani man charged with immigration violations after being arrested after videotaping Charlotte skyscrapers is described as a "terrorist" in a new television ad from a North Carolina congressional candidate. Vernon Robinson, a Winston-Salem city council member, began airing the ads just days before his runoff election Tuesday in the Republican primary for the 5th District. Robinson faces state Sen. Virginia Foxx of Watauga County. [...] Robinson's ad shows a picture of Akhtar. In the ad, an announcer says: "This is Pakistani terrorist Kamran Akhtar. He got arrested videotaping targets in Charlotte, North Carolina. He came here illegally, across our Mexican border." Then Robinson speaks. "I'm Vernon Robinson and I approve this message because Akhtar didn't come here to live the American dream. He came here to kill you."
What a fucking idiot. Of course, what this ad fails to mention is that Tom Ridge doesn't think there is any evidence to link Akhtar to terrorism. Imagine that. Vernon Robinson is a racist tool. (via Political Wire)

Republican Switchers


Errol Morris, the acclaimed director of The Fog of War, has made a series of ads consisting of voters who previously voted for Bush in 2000, but have no intentions of doing so again. They are interesting ads, and the types of people interviewed range from normal citizens to former ambassadors and veterans. I think they certainly have the potential to be effective. You can see them here at MoveOn.org.
8.15.2004

Green Bay Packers


The Green Bay Packers open their defense of the 1997 Super Bowl tomorrow night against the Seattle Seahawks. I predict that the Packers will go 10-6 this season. They will make the Super Bowl, too, after a close battle with Philadelphia in the NFC Championship game.

9/11 timeline


Heraldblog links to this flash animation of the timeline of events on the morning of 9/11, while Bush read in front of the classroom in Florida. It highlights some interesting inconsistencies, flip-flops, if you will, of the "official record" of that day. It asks the question, why didn't Bush respond sooner to the attacks? I think that is a valid question, for if the timeline is correct, he knew something wierd was going on in NYC before he got to the school. When Andy Card whispered in his ear, he sat for 7 more minutes with the foreknowledge that there was already an attack on the first tower. Now, I don't think you can expect the President to have stopped the attack, for it had pretty much unfolded by the time he could have done anything about it. But I think it is a valid question to ask why he sat there for seven minutes. Larry King asked him this Thursday night, to which Bush responded,
" Well, I had just been told by Andrew Card that America was under attack. And I was collecting my thoughts. And I was sitting with a bunch of young kids, and I made the decision there that we would let this part of the program finish, and then I would calmly stand up and thank the teacher and thank the children and go take care of business.
Now, it is unclear what knowledge Bush had of the events prior to Andy Card whispering in his ear, but it seems pretty clear that he knew something was going on. Given that, I don't think sitting in front of kids for a few extra minutes is as important as getting up and keeping up to date of the situation. He didn't have to save the world, all he had to do was get up and walk out of the room. I would love to see Kerry ask the President whether or not he would do that again.

Iraqi's won't fight


Again, was this not predictable?
Sunday's showdown in Najaf was troubled even before the fighting resumed. Several officials from the Iraqi defense ministry told Knight Ridder that more than 100 Iraqi national guardsmen and a battalion of Iraqi soldiers chose to quit rather than attack fellow Iraqis in a city that includes some of the holiest sites in Shiite Islam. Neither U.S. military officials nor Iraqi government officials would confirm the resignations. "We received a report that a whole battalion (in Najaf) threw down their rifles," said one high-ranking defense ministry official, who didn't want his name published because he's not an official spokesman. "We expected this, and we expect it again and again." [...] The officers, most of them decorated veterans from the former regime, shook their heads at the thought of Iraqis battling Iraqis on sacred soil. Several said they would resign immediately if senior officers ordered them to serve in Najaf. They asked to withhold their names for fear of reprimand. "I'm ready to fight for my country's independence and for my country's stability," one lieutenant colonel said. "But I won't fight my own people." "No way," added another officer, who said his brother - a colonel - quit the same day he received orders to serve in the field. "These are my people. Why should I fight someone just because he has a difference in opinion about the future of the country?"
I think there is a reason why we haven't been hearing a lot of information about what is going on in Najaf this week and last. The Iraqi army refuses to fight the insurgency, and who can blame them for not wanting to attack their own countrymen? In addition, Cole says that many popular ayatollah's are distancing themselves and turning against the American occupation. Throw in the fact that Najaf is one of the holiest cities in all of Islam, and you have all the ingredients for a disaster in the making.

New Favorite Sport


I'd have to say that women's beach volleyball is my new favorite sport to watch.

Passports vs No-Passports


Political Wire has the results of the new Zogby America poll. They show good news for Kerry who leads 47% to 43% over Bush when you factor in Nader and other small parties. In a two-way race, Kerry leads 50 to 43. Obviously, it is early, but good news nonetheless. What I wanted to draw attention to is the Presidential preferences for voters who have an active passport versus those without a passport. Passport-holding voters prefer Kerry 58% to 35%, while passport-less voters prefer Bush 48% to 39%. This makes sense to me, because anybody who has been out of the country during the past four years realizes two things: a) the media in our country presents the news with rose-colored glasses, and b) George W. Bush and his administration's policies are seriously disliked by the rest of the world. As a result, it doesn't surprise me that people who travel abroad would support Kerry. Going abroad for an American these days is an excercise in defending yourself from the image of a "Bush American." Or so it was for me.

Puerto Rico: 51st State?


The Puerto Rican basketball just made the most convincing argument for adding Puerto Rico to the United States that I've ever heard.

USA Olympic Basketball


My feelings are that the American's will have a hard time getting the Bronze in Olympic Basketball. As I'm sitting here watching them struggle against Puerto Rico, it occurs to me that the reason why we are struggling is because the USA doesn't play basketball anymore. American basketball is increasingly a "one on one" game and is beginning to resemble those old MTV Slam and Jam Celebrity games of the mid 1990s. When you play this type of game against technically sound, international teams, you're going to look stupid. Sure, we have the talent to play with anybody, but our problem is that all our players are programmed in the "Slam and Jam" style and not the Olympic style. Of course, the other problem is that our best players are prima dona pussies.


Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

IOC buckles down


This is a good sign that the powers that be are finally taking performance enhancing drugs seriously.
Two Greek sporting legends were last night suspended from the Athens Olympics amid suspicion they faked a motorcycle accident to cover up a missed drugs test. Sprinters Kostas Kederis and Ekaterini Thanou were removed temporarily by the Greek Olympic Committee amid growing anger their behaviour had brought scandal to the sporting showpiece. The suspension is set to be extended for the duration of the Games when the International Olympic Committee meets tomorrow to consider their behaviour. Sweden's Olympic team have threatened to pull out if the pair - long suspected of taking performance-enhancing substances - are not excluded. One of the most bizarre sagas in sporting history took another twist when Greek police said they were investigating the alleged crash but could find no evidence or witnesses to suggest it had actually occurred. The pair's coach claimed they had suffered a smash when speeding to the Olympic Village to give drug samples. The affair is a mixture of mystery, confusion, broken rules and high farce. Under IOC regulations, the test the runners missed last Thursday is likely to count as the same as passing a positive sample and could lead to them being banned for two years.
Kederis has been the most suspicious athlete in international track and field for four years, since he came out of nowhere to win the Gold Medal at the Sydney Games. This doesn't often happen in track and field. Usually, it is pretty easy to predict with some success who the top athletes are in each race. Kederis surprised everyone in Sydney, and to add to his suspicion, he has virtually not competed on the international circuit, save for a winning appearance at the World Championships. Other than that, he has mainly raced locally, which is a sure sign that something was up. You only compete locally because you know the "locals" are helping you out. Thanou is in a similar position, she took the Silver Medal in the 100m at Sydney.
The circumstances surround ing the two missing their tests, 24 hours before the opening ceremony, are still shrouded in confusion. There is a growing belief that the runners faked the smash to try to divert attention from the fact that they had deliberately avoided giving samples to the drug-testers. Kederis may now retire rather than fight disciplinary proceedings which look inevitable. Until last Thursday, he was Greece's most popular man. Now he, and Thanou, are seen as traitors. Greeks are united in contempt for the pair bringing such shame on their country at an event they hoped would mark its triumphant emergence as a modern European country. 'They should be strung up,' said Litsa Sarantou, a bee keeper. 'No,' added retired bank employee Nassos Kafezopoulos. 'They should be shot.' The Greek media is equally hostile. Kathemerini, a daily broadsheet, yesterday called the saga 'a debacle, a scandal, a fiasco' - which is even more embarrassing given that Greece had promised to thwart such abasement and organise the cleanest Games in modern history'. Both runners missed a previous drugs test, when they told testers they would be in Crete but went to Qatar, and Kederis failed to submit to a test recently in Chicago. The IOC has introduced the toughest drug-testing regime since the Olympics restarted, in Athens, in 1896.
I'm really happy to see that the Greeks are just as upset about this as I am. It is unfortunate that this had to happen to their Michael Jordan and at their Olympics, but a clean games will ultimately benefit the Greeks far more than a tainted games.

US Troop Realignment


The Financial Times is reporting that the US will announce Monday that it is pulling 70,000 troops out of Europe and Asia.
People briefed on the plan say two-thirds of the reductions will come in Europe, most of them military personnel stationed in Germany who will be sent back to US bases. An additional 100,000 support staff and military families worldwide will be part of the realignment. The changes are expected to be announced by President George W. Bush at a speech to the Convention of Veterans of Foreign Wars in Cinncinatti, Ohio, on Monday. [...] In Asia, the reduction is expected to include the 3,500-soldier brigade from South Korea, which was recently deployed to Iraq. There will also be a shift of some European command headquarters. The navy's European HQ, which has been in London since the second world war, will be moved to Naples.
I have been advocating that the US needs to send more troops into Iraq and Afghanistan if we intend to secure a viable stability in both countries. Although is says that many of the European forces will be sent to US bases, I can't imagine they will stay there very long. I would imagine they'll come home just in time for the political benefits of "bringing the boys home" to affect Bush. However, after the election, and it doesn't matter who wins, they'll be off to the Middle East and Central Asia. If Bush wins, they might be off to Tehran.
8.14.2004

FUBAR?


Fred Kaplan has a piece in Slate that paints a pretty rough picture of the US's situation in Iraq. Pour yourself a drink and read it.
This is a terribly grim thing to say, but there might be no solution to the problem of Iraq. There might be nothing we can do to build a path to a stable, secure, let alone democratic regime. And there's no way we can just pull out without plunging the country, the region, and possibly beyond into still deeper disaster. [...] Meanwhile, the U.S. military—the only force in Iraq remotely capable of keeping the country from falling apart—finds itself in a maddening situation where tactical victories yield strategic setbacks. The Marines could readily defeat the insurgents in Najaf, but only at the great risk of inflaming Shiites—and sparking still larger insurgencies—elsewhere. In the Sadr City section of Baghdad, as U.S. commanders acknowledge, practically every resident is an insurgent. There are not enough U.S. and British troops now to create the conditions for order. Nor are there likely to be any time soon. John Kerry says that, if elected president, he'd persuade our allies—the ones Bush blew off—to come help (or bail) us out. Kerry would certainly be an abler diplomat than Bush; he would repair tattered alliances, and the benefits would likely be substantial in many aspects of international politics. But it's unclear how even Kerry would lure reluctant leaders to send significant numbers of combat troops into what they see as the quagmire of Iraq. Meanwhile, the Bush administration seems to be muddling through with neither a military strategy for beating the insurgents nor a political strategy for securing Iraq's stability. Bush seems to have gone into this war without any notion that he was popping the lid off a Jack-in-a-box—that toppling Saddam and destroying the Baath Party (however laudable) would also uncork decades of pent-up ethnic and tribal tensions. If his advisers were better briefed, they took no steps to quell the likely postwar conflicts. They didn't send more troops to keep order (either in defiance or in ignorance of historic precedent). More to the point here, they didn't seek out the various ethnic leaders or offer them incentives to join a new political order. They didn't, for that matter, formulate a new political order. (Perhaps they thought Ahmad Chalabi had that department under control.) [...] Historical analyses suggest that at least 300,000—possibly as many as 500,000—troops are needed to impose order in Iraq. Fewer than half that many U.S. and British troops are currently stationed there, and neither country has many armed forces to spare. Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the 101st Airborne, is training a new Iraqi army (much of which amounts to re-recruiting the less tainted members of the old Iraqi army), but that project will take a few years to bear fruit, and it's questionable, in any case, whether Iraqis would shoot their own. (Cole notes that, during last spring's aborted offensive in Fallujah, the local police chief told the U.S. Marines that his men would not attack the native insurgents. More recently, nearly all 4,000 Iraqi security forces in Najaf defected to Muqtada Sadr's army.) Even if our re-energized allies agreed to send more troops, they would be but a beginning, a holding action, and who knows how long they'd have to stay? What kind of country Iraq becomes, what kind of politics it practices, what kind of alliances it forms—all are mysteries. You don't hear Paul Wolfowitz waxing lyrical these days, as he did a year ago, over the universal truths of Alexis de Tocqueville. Even he must realize that the best we can hope for, at this point, is an Iraq that doesn't blow up and take the region with it. The dismaying, frightening thing is how imponderably difficult it will be simply to avoid catastrophe.
One thing I will never forgive this Administration for is their absolute screw-up of post-war Iraq. I do not understand why we didn't pour more troops into the country in the immediate aftermath of the war. That in itself is grounds for dismissal this November. This insurgency was predictable from the beginning. When you have a tyrant that has ruthlessly ruled over three distinct religious and ethnic groups for 25 years, and then suddenly the tyrant is taken out with no immediate replacement, you better expect some major expressions of will to power. There is no excuse why the White House and the Pentagon failed to take the necessary steps to prevent it, or respond to it.

50,000 people see Kerry in Portland, OR


It is pretty amazing that Kerry got 50,000 people to come out and listen to him speak in Portland, Oregon this week. Granted, Portland is (I think) a fairly liberal place, but the population is roughly 500,000 people. Considering that Oregon is a potential swing state, I'd say that the numbers at Kerry's event were particularly staggering.

Update: Sadr vs. Allawi


It appears that Muqtada Sadr is calling for the resignation of the Allawi government.
NAJAF: Radical cleric Moqtada Al Sadr last night urged Iraq's "dictatorial" interim government to resign and said his militia would fight US forces in the holy city of Najaf until death or victory, his spokesman said. The spokesman quoted Sadr as telling supporters at Imam Ali Mosque: "I advise the dictatorial, agent government to resign ... the whole Iraqi people demands the resignation of the government ... they replaced Saddam (Hussein) with a government worse than him. "I will not leave this holy city," the spokesman quoted Sadr as telling supporters who chanted "no, no to America". "We will remain here defending the holy shrines till victory or martyrdom." Sadr's Mehdi Army militia have been battling US and Iraqi government troops in Najaf for more than a week. He warned supporters that a truce in the city might be a ploy to trick his men into laying down their weapons. Sadr urged supporters in other cities in central and southern Iraq to continue their uprising, saying the truce was restricted to Najaf. A Sadr spokesman Al Shinabi said the cleric was wounded in the chest, arm and leg in the cemetery earlier in the day but Interior Minister Naqib denied Sadr was wounded and said a truce had been in force since last night.
Juan Cole (do I need to even mention anymore where this stuff comes from?) seems to think that "Allawi and the Americans have Muqtada right where he wants them." Seems like we have a habit of putting our selves in the exact position our adversaries want us(OBL and Iraq, anyone?) Cole also mentions the increasing number of Iraqi (and Iranian and Lebanese) cities that have witnessed large anti-occupation/American demonstrations in recent days.

Iranian Judokas Pulls Out of Olympics


Its sad that we live in a world where this is still possible. I had thought the Olympics were a time to put these types of differences aside for two weeks. Guess not.
IRANIAN world judo champion Arash Miresmaili, who carried his country's flag in today's Olympic Games opening ceremony, has pulled out of the tournament after refusing to fight an Israeli. The 23-year-old, twice a winner of the flyweight (under 66kg) world title, opted not to take on first round opponent Ehud Vaks, of Israel, as a gesture of support for Palestine. "Although I have trained for months and was in good shape I refused to fight my Israeli opponent to sympathise with the suffering of the people of Palestine and I do not feel upset at all," Miresmaili told the IRNA news agency. Student news agency ISNA quoted Iran's sports officials as saying Miresmaili still deserved the cash prize Iranian Olympic medal winners have been promised by the Physical Education organisation. "Miresmaili must receive a special prize as he was the prime candidate for a gold medal and I will do my best about it," said head of the judo federation, Mohammad Derakhshan. It is not the first time Iranian judokas have declined to fight against Israeli opponents.
What is even more strange is that the Iranians are going to try and pay him as if he still won a medal! There are serious differences between many groups of people in the world, and the nice thing about the Olympics is that it gives people the opportunity to meet and compete against types of people they otherwise would never meet. I have to wonder how many Jewish people this judo guy has ever met. Who knows, but its possible that he could have done away with some of his stereotypes after competing with his Israeli counterpart.
8.13.2004

Tax Cuts Favor Rich?!


Report finds tax cuts heavily favor the wealthy. In other news, today is Friday.
Fully one-third of President Bush's tax cuts in the last three years have gone to people with the top 1 percent of income, who have earned an average of $1.2 million annually, according to a report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office to be published Friday. The report calculated that households with incomes in that top 1 percent were receiving an average tax cut of $78,460 this year, while households in the middle 20 percent of earnings - averaging about $57,000 a year - were getting an average cut of only $1,090. The new estimates confirm what independent tax analysts have long said: that Mr. Bush's tax cuts have been heavily skewed to the very wealthiest taxpayers. Those are also the people, however, who pay a disproportionate share of federal income taxes. [...] William G. Gale, a longtime tax analyst at the Brookings Institution, said the new Congressional report was consistent with his own calculations on the distribution of benefits from Mr. Bush's tax cuts. "It's not just that lower-income people are getting smaller benefits,'' Dr. Gale said. "It's also that these tax cuts will eventually have to be paid for with either spending cuts or tax increases, and those are likely to be less progressive than the taxes they are paying now.'
The emphasized portion is my favorite part, because it is the aspect of Bush's tax cuts "of which we cannot speak."

Protests Erupting in Iraq


Uh-oh.
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Mass protests against the U.S. assault on the sacred Shi'ite Muslim city of Najaf broke out in five Iraqi cities on Friday, with some demonstrators calling for interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi to step down. In one of the biggest protests, enraged Iraqis in the southern town of Diwaniya swarmed over the local office of his political party, ripping down signs and throwing rocks. A military offensive by U.S. and Iraqi forces against militiamen of radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has inflamed passions among Iraq (news - web sites)'s majority Shi'ites. Thousands also protested in central Baghdad, Kufa and Samawa. The military campaign infuriated residents of the Sunni-dominated town of Falluja, a hotbed of resistance. About 3 thousand demonstrators marched in the center of Falluja carrying pictures of Sadr and placards denouncing the U.S. bombing of Najaf, where the cleric and his followers are surrounded. "Long live Sadr. Falluja stands by Najaf against America," the demonstrators shouted.
When the Sunnis and the Shia get together to express their outrage at you, things aren't going well. It also appears that Muqtada Sadr has been injured in the fighting, although it is not clear to what extent.
NAJAF, Iraq (AFP) - Shiite militia leader Moqtada Sadr was reported wounded, urging partisans to fight on, as US and Iraqi forces closed in on his Najaf stronghold, and a British journalist was abducted in the south. "The injuries are in his chest, legs and arms. He was hurt in an attack while checking one of the fighting battalions," said spokesman Sheikh Ali Sumeisim on the ninth day of the battle in this Shiite Muslim pilgrimage city. In pain, Sadr pressed his Mehdi Army to "continue the jihad (holy war) even if he dies a martyr," said another spokesman at the Imam Ali shrine, a militia stronghold since its spring uprising against the US-led occupation of Iraq (news - web sites). "His condition is not known yet," added Sheikh Ahmed al-Shaibani, while another aide said the leader was wounded early Friday, at around 7:00 am (0300 GMT) inside the old city. Tense and glum fighters roamed the mausoleum area, torn between disbelief and anger that their leader had been hurt. "He is our leader and we would be lost without him as we were lost when his father died," said Faris al-Husseini, 27. "I hope he will heal very soon and that his injuries are minor."
Someone on the BBC commented last night that we need to take out Sadr and his militia in order to prevent Iran from gaining further control and influence in the Shia south. I am sure that Iranian influence is prominent throughout certain parts of Iraq, and I am sure this is an important task. I am a bit concerned, though, that we do not have the troop levels to both take out the militia and deal with the consequences. Given the election, I would assume it is more likely to pull everyone out than throw more troops in. update: Just got done reading my daily dose of Juan Cole. Has some very interesting thoughts on what is going on in Iraq these days.
Although Muqtada and his men are now under siege, Waco-style, it is not for sure that the Marines can capture or kill him. I suspect Najaf is crisscrossed by underground tunnels, which is how Muqtada and others used to evade Saddam's secret police. If he is trapped in the shrine, and the siege goes on very long, that in itself could inflame Shiite passions against the US. Remember that Waco was in the back of the mind of Timothy McVeigh, who later blew up a Federal building. My guess is that if Muqtada is killed, and maybe also if he is captured and imprisoned, that will tip the Sadr movement into conducting a long-term low-intensity guerrilla war, similar to what Sunni radicals and Arab nationalists have done in the Sunni heartland for the past 16 months. The south had been much quieter than the Sunni Arab areas, but I suspect that calm can no longer be taken for granted. The question is what happens to the Iraqi government if it faces two major guerrilla insurgencies going on at the same time.
The McVeigh analogy is particularly apt. I'm not sure how people can argue that the war in Iraq has made us safer when you consider the numbers of innocent people killed. Many of their friends and family, rightly or wrongly, will blame the Americans. If Sadr is killed or captured, it will be fuel to the hatred already raging in many Iraqis and Muslims throughout the world.
8.12.2004

Iraq over Portugal


This is pretty awesome.
PATRAS, Greece - In its first Olympic competition since its country was shattered by war, Iraq upset star-studded Portugal 4-2 on Thursday in a gritty, come-from-behind victory that set off cheers and celebrations among some 200 fans. “This victory will be received with happiness by my people, who have suffered through much,” said Iraqi coach Adnan Hamad, whose countrymen were already taking to the streets of Baghdad, lighting up the night sky with streaks of celebratory gunfire. The stunning victory over a team that made it to final of the recent Euro 2004 tournament brought a rare moment of joy for Iraqis plagued by violence, chaos and constant power outages. Across their homeland, they watched the game on television at home and at cafes. Even people at a Baghdad barbershop took time out of their late-night haircuts to celebrate the goals.
Beating Portugal is a very impressive feat. Beating Portugal under the circumstances in which they've lived is just awesome.

More sensitive war on terror?


John Kerry, August 5th, 2004:
"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 and lives up to American values in history."
Dick Cheney, August 12th, 2004:
"Senator Kerry has also said that if he were in charge he would fight a more sensitive war "on terror."
As John Stewart said tonight, "Wow, I really thought Cheney would have gone with proactive." George W. Bush, August 6th, 2004:
"Now, in terms of the balance between running down intelligence and bringing people to justice obviously is -- we need to be very sensitive on that."
Again, quoting John Stewart, "Dude, I think the Vice President just called you a pussy." It should be noted that both Kerry and Bush's comments were given at the UNITY, Journalists of Color Conference last week.

Bush on Larry King


The President of the USA is on Larry King right now. He just said that we could win the "War on Terror" by spreading freedom. He also refused to denounce the attacks on Kerry's military records, opting instead to call for an end to 527s. Also, I think that Laura Bush had a cameo in The Stepford Wives, not that this has anything to with anything.

More Kerry Heroics


First it was a Green Beret in 'Nam, then it was a pet hamster, now, a Republican Senator?:
Former U.S. Sen. Chic Hecht of Nevada is a staunch Republican, but he thanks his lucky stars for Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts. On July 12, 1988, Hecht was attending a weekly Republican luncheon when a piece of apple lodged firmly in his throat. Hecht stumbled out of the room, thinking he might vomit but not wanting to do it in front of his colleagues. Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., thumped his back, but Hecht quickly passed out in the hallway. Just then, Kerry stepped off an elevator, rushed to Hecht's side and gave him the Heimlich maneuver -- four times. The lifesaving incident made international news, and Dr. Henry Heimlich, who invented the maneuver in 1974, called Hecht to say that had Kerry intervened just 30 seconds later Hecht might have been in a vegetative state for life. "This man gave me my life," the 75-year-old Hecht said Thursday. Hecht said he was amazed that Kerry acted so quickly -- some people were assuming that he was having a heart attack. "He knew exactly what to do," he said. "But a lot of people know what to do. They just don't size up the situation immediately."
However, take this with a grain of salt. Senator Trent Lott (R-MS), who was in the Senate at the time, but not there to witness the incident, put out a press release this afternoon claiming that Hecht had already stood up by the time Kerry had gotten there. Moreover, Lott said, "Hecht wasn't really chocking, he just had a really bad cold. John Kerry, in performing the Heimlich maneuver on Senator Hecht, was merely acting out of self-interest for his yet-to-be-announced, but inevitable Presidential campaign in the indefinite future. This is nothing more than partisan politics on behalf of Senator Kerry." Additionally, Senator Lott has joined with Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) to form a group called "Senate Hacks for Truth," whose stated purpose is to bring out the truth of that fateful day back in July 1988.

Re-Examining WMDs, WashPost style


Via Atrios, is this article in today's Washington Post, entitled, "The Post on WMDs: An Inside Story." The article re-examines the Post's coverage of the run up to the war, particularly in light of the case for WMDs. Atrios has already vented on the piece, but I'd like to just point out something that he also noticed:
"People who were opposed to the war from the beginning and have been critical of the media's coverage in the period before the war have this belief that somehow the media should have crusaded against the war," Downie said. "They have the mistaken impression that somehow if the media's coverage had been different, there wouldn't have been a war."
This misses the point completely. I would have liked the media to be a little more objective, and not pound on the war drums as much as they did. Clearly, by reading this article, the Washington Post had numerous opportunities before the war started to cast a little doubt on the veracity of the WMD claims. They chose to either not run those stories, or bury them at the back of the paper. These are editorial decisions that effect the public's perceptions of the war, and even I know that if more doubt was cast in the run-up, we might not have gotten into this mess so quickly or in the way that we did.
8.11.2004

Kerry's One-Point Plan for America


In my last post, I failed to mention America's Finest News Source:
WICHITA, KS—Delivering the central speech of his 10-day "Solution For America" bus campaign tour Monday, Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry outlined his one-point plan for a better America: the removal of George W. Bush from the White House. "If I am elected in November, no inner-city child will have to live in an America where George Bush is president," Kerry said, addressing a packed Maize High School auditorium. "No senior citizen will lie awake at night, worrying about whether George Bush is still the chief executive of this country. And no American—regardless of gender, regardless of class, regardless of race—will be represented by George Bush in the world community." [...] Kerry also spoke on the subject of national security. "This country has embraced a new and dangerously ineffective disregard for the world," Kerry said. "In order to win the global war against terror, we must promote democracy, freedom, and opportunity around the world. My national-defense policy will be guided by one imperative: Don't be George Bush. As will my plans to create a strong economy, protect civil rights, develop a better healthcare system, and improve homeland security."
update: In other news, the US military finally cleared the A-Team.

Rhetorical Question...


Do you have to be a sensationalistic, tone-deaf screamer (did I mention blow hard?) to have a political talk show on cable? Pat Buchanan, Joe Scarborough, Bill O'Reilly, Chris Matthews, Sean Hannity, Wolf Blitzer, Tim Russert, Dennis Miller, John McEnroe...the list goes on. I won't even touch talk radio (Savage, Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Hannity). You watch this shit for ten minutes and you suddenly realize why nobody in this country knows what the fuck is going on in the world. You also realize why its impossible to have a political discussion with someone without it resulting in a screaming match. People learn how to talk about politics by watching Bill O'Reilly tell someone he doesn't like to "Shut up!"; People can't help interrupt another's viewpoint because they always see Chris Matthews and Buchanan interrupt to change the subject whenever someone proves them wrong; "Objective" analysis means having a representative of the Bush Administration argue with a representative of the Kerry campaign about any of the important issues of the day (stem-cell, gay marriage, terrorism, Iraq, etc). Cable television news channels are single-handedly responsible for the deterioration of public discourse in this country. Sometimes I get so frustrated at people I know who don't think things through or don't care about what is going on in the world, and I start to blame them for a second. Then I turn on MSNBC, CNN, or Fox News and realize that there is a reason why people don't understand that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. These channels and programs trivialize everything and provide no depth to any issue outside of whether or not Teresa Heinz Kerry is a bitch because she told a reporter to "Shove it!" The latest non-story is the group of Swift Boat Veterans (who served in Vietnam but not on the same boat as Kerry). All of a sudden, the fact that it is in a book makes it true and therefore doubt is cast on Kerry's fitness to be President. WTF? None of these guys served with Kerry on his swift boat. Every single soldier who actually served with him (except for the one dead soldier) vouches for his Presidential fitness. The author of the book, John E. O'Neill, started serving in Vietnam two months after John Kerry left. The doctor in the television ad who says he treated Kerry's wounds? His signature is nowhere to be found on Kerry's official military medical records. Now, you tell me where the story is? John Stewart and The Daily Show should not be the best anchor and news program on television...speaking of which, I have to go watch it now.

Who decides troop levels?


Hmmm...
Military commanders should be deciding troop levels, Bush said. "I know what I'm doing when it comes to winning this war, and I'm not going to be sending mixed signals," he said.
Compare Bush's statement with this post by Kevin Drum.
So the Army Chief of Staff, Eric Shinseki, thought we'd need "several hundred thousand troops," and the CENTCOM commander on the ground estimated 250,000 troops. But we went in with about 150,000. And as Spencer points out, Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz have insisted ever since that this number was exactly what the military commanders advised — no more, no less. I know we're not allowed to say that anybody in the Bush administration lies, but Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz sure seem to have a creative way with numbers, don't they?
Now if I was running Kerry's campaign I'd make it a point to ask the President about this apparent contradiction.

Kristof: An American Hiroshima


In today's Times, Nick Kristof has a sobering piece on nuclear terrorism:
Graham Allison, a Harvard professor whose terrifying new book, "Nuclear Terrorism," offers the example cited above, notes that he did not pluck it from thin air. He writes that on Oct. 11, 2001, exactly a month after 9/11, aides told President Bush that a C.I.A. source code-named Dragonfire had reported that Al Qaeda had obtained a 10-kiloton nuclear weapon and smuggled it into New York City. The C.I.A. found the report plausible. The weapon had supposedly been stolen from Russia, which indeed has many 10-kiloton weapons. Russia is reported to have lost some of its nuclear materials, and Al Qaeda has mounted a determined effort to get or make such a weapon. And the C.I.A. had picked up Al Qaeda chatter about an "American Hiroshima." [...] Professor Allison offers a standing bet at 51-to-49 odds that, barring radical new antiproliferation steps, a terrorist nuclear strike will occur somewhere in the world in the next 10 years. So I took his bet. If there is no such nuclear attack by August 2014, he owes me $5.10. If there is an attack, I owe him $4.90. [...] Unfortunately, plenty of smart people think I've made a bad bet. William Perry, the former secretary of defense, says there is an even chance of a nuclear terror strike within this decade - that is, in the next six years. "We're racing toward unprecedented catastrophe," Mr. Perry warns. "This is preventable, but we're not doing the things that could prevent it." That is what I find baffling: an utter failure of the political process. The Bush administration responded aggressively on military fronts after 9/11, and in November 2003, Mr. Bush observed, "The greatest threat of our age is nuclear, chemical or biological weapons in the hands of terrorists, and the dictators who aid them." But the White House has insisted on tackling the most peripheral elements of the W.M.D. threat, like Iraq, while largely ignoring the central threat, nuclear proliferation. The upshot is that the risk that a nuclear explosion will devastate an American city is greater now than it was during the cold war, and it's growing.
This is something I've been concerned about for years. I once saw a Frontline episode entitled "Loose Nukes," where the journalist actually walked into a former Soviet weapons lab, no questions asked. I wouldn't take the bet that Kristof did, and I've been thinking what Perry has been thinking even before 9/11. I don't think it is a matter of if, but when. Unfortunately, we have not done nearly enough in anti-proliferation efforts. Fortunately, Kerry has an agenda for this problem:
[Kerry gave a] speech outlining proposals on preventing a terrorist attack using nuclear and biological weapons, which include creating a high-level White House coordinator to oversee his plan to secure nuclear material around the world and accelerating efforts to secure such materials in the former Soviet Union. On Thursday, Kerry will present his proposals for restructuring the armed forces.
Unfortunately, any such plan put forth by Bush is too little, too late. As the incubment, it was his responsibility to get on this from the beginning, and especially more forcefully after 9/11. As Kristof notes, Bush took his chances with finding WMD in Iraq. What Kristof doesn't mention is that the war might have made our security situation even worse.

Damn You, Michael Moore!!


Via mattgunn.com, is this gem from the outtakes of Fahrenheit 9/11, in which DCI-nominee Porter Goss was interviewed:
Just as I sat down last night to offer you my opinion on whether or not Bush's appointment for CIA director, Rep. Porter Goss, was a good choice, I was given access to this transcript of outtakes from Fahrenheit 9/11: INTERVIEWER:  [Y]ou come from intelligence. This is what you did, this is what you know. REP. GOSS:  Uh, that was, uh, 35 years ago. INTERVIEWER:   Okay. REP. GOSS:  It is true I was in CIA from approximately the late 50’s to approximately the early 70’s. And it's true I was a case officer, clandestine services officer and yes, I do understand the core mission of the business. I couldn't get a job with CIA today. I am not qualified. I don't have the language skills. I, you know, my language skills were romance languages and stuff. We're looking for Arabists today. I don't have the cultural background probably. And I certainly don't have the technical skills, uh, as my children remind me every day, 'Dad you got to get better on your computer.’ Uh, so, the things that you need to have, I don't have. – Rep. Porter Goss, March 3, 2004, Washington, DC Let's review: Goss asserts he lacks the language skills, the cultural background, the technical skills – "the things that you need to have" – to even get a job with the CIA, much less lead it. I defer to his judgment.
As matt says in an update to this post, Goss is clearly talking about a clandestine job with the CIA. However, admitting to being culturally deficient, is, I think, a serious problem. My personal opinion is that the terrorist threat we know today has its roots in our inability to fully understand the culture from which it arises. in this way, I think it is imperative that we have a DCI that is not culturally deficient in Arab and Islamic culture. At least he'll only be on the job for a few months:)

Into Najaf?


I don't think this is going to end well:
US marines said on Wednesday they were preparing a final assault on Iraqi Shi’ite militia in the holy city of Najaf, after a radical cleric urged his men to keep fighting even if he was killed. The warning came as sporadic clashes between U.S. troops and militia loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr echoed from the heart of Najaf, where hundreds have been killed or wounded in the past week around some of Iraq’s holiest Shi’ite Muslim sites. “Iraqi and U.S. forces are making final preparations as we get ready to finish this fight that the Moqtada militia started,” Colonel Anthony Haslam, commanding officer of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit in Najaf, said in a statement. Haslam gave few details, but his threats and Sadr’s defiance have raised the stakes in a battle that is the toughest test yet for the 6-week-old government of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. In a sign of the growing anger against Allawi and the military action in Najaf, thousands of demonstrators in the southern city of Nassiriya called for him to step down and set fire to the local office of his political party. Most of Sadr’s men and the young cleric himself are holed up around Najaf’s ancient Shi’ite cemetery or the adjoining Imam Ali Shrine. Storming such holy symbols could touch off a firestorm among Iraq’s majority Shi’ite community.
The Iraqi population is 60% Shiite. I can't imagine how storming Shiite holy shrines will end well. I've seen reports in recent days that illustrate how the number of insurgents against the US has risen as the number of troops in Iraq have fallen. This is not a good situation for the US, and it is useful to point to this post by Kevin Drum, which re-examines the debate about the required troop levels to hold the peace after the war. I have to wonder whether or not this renewed interest in going after Sadr has anything to do with taking out potential political threats to the Allawi government. You can see the recent problems of Ahmed Chalabi in this light, as well. I don't have a good feeling about sieging Najaf and killing Sadr. I don't think it should be the US to lead this force, and I certainly don't think we have the troop levels to combat the likely increase in the insurgency, which will result from a Sadr martyrdom or the destruction of these Shiite holy shrines. Update: Pre-mature blogging:
After spending today preparing for a major attack against insurgents loyal to the rebel Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sar, American forces called off the attack as it was about to begin. Officers here described the reversal as a postponement and said the attack could still be carried out at any time. The abrupt reversal came after a day of hawkish announcements by American officers here. American forces have been close to capturing or killing Mr. Sadr before, but have repeatedly backed off. This time American commanders had vowed to crush his guerrillas, known as the Mahdi Army. [...] But a known concern of the American military is that fighting in Najaf's old city, where many of Mr. Sadr's guerrillas are hiding, could damage the shrine of Imam Ali, one of the holiest sites in Shia Islam. Damage to the mosque by either side could provoke immense anger among Iraq's 15 million Shiites, and marines and soldiers have been told that the consequences could be catastrophic. Any attack must still be approved by Ayad Allawi, Iraq's prime minister. Officers said they could not disclose whether Mr. Allawi had delayed the attack.