Friday, April 30, 2004

Guest blogger Ray Close (who knows a thing or two about the MidEast, having been former CIA Station Chief for Saudi Arabia) over at Juan Cole nails it:
Strangely, George W. Bush does not seem willing yet to acknowledge this obvious defeat for his policies. One cannot attribute this merely to bad advice from his mentors, unless one is to believe that the neocons have a complete monopoly on all in-put to his mental processes. That is not a credible explanation. It seems more likely that his stubborn adherence to simplistic explanations of all anti-American sentiments and actions is another sign of his worrisome inability to comprehend the subtleties of this and other similar international challenges falling within the broad title of "the war on terror". Perhaps his intellectual mind-set ("there is no common ground between freedom and terrorism") simply makes it impossible for him to see the world as anything other than a zero-sum conflict between good and evil. That is very troubling quality, especially in the leader of a superpower.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Looking for a reason not to vote for Smirky and the Boys this Fall? Here are a thousand+ good ones.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

This is just sad:
WASHINGTON - President Bush said Wednesday he believes most parts of Fallujah are returning to "normal" despite three days of battles with insurgents. Fighting and instability in Iraq will not force a delay in the June 30 transfer of power, he said.

"There are pockets of resistance and our military along with Iraqis will make sure it's secure," Bush told reporters in the Oval Office after a meeting with the prime minister of Sweden.

A series of explosions and gunfire rocked Fallujah, a city near Baghdad, in new fighting on Wednesday, a day after a heavy battle on Tuesday in which U.S. planes and artillery pounded the city in a show of force against insurgents holed up in a slum.

Still Bush insisted: "Most of Fallujah is returning to normal."

I guess it depends what your definition of "normal" is.

It's not as if we needed more proof of Dear Leader's frightening and ongoing Reality Gap:

Now I'm not a big believer in polls, afterall we're still 6+ months away from the November to Remember, and anything can happen between then and now. However, CBS released a poll today that got my attention:
One year after the declared end of major combat in Iraq, Americans have new doubts about the war and doubts about what the Bush Administration has said about it.

Just 32 percent, the lowest number ever, say Iraq was a threat that required immediate military action a year ago.

Less than half, 47 percent, now say the U.S. did the right thing taking military action in Iraq, the lowest support recorded in CBS News/New York Times Polls since the war began.

There are growing concerns about the long-term impact of the war.

--41 percent now think the war increased the threat of terrorism against the U.S.
--71 percent say the Administration’s policies have worsened the U.S.’s image in the Arab world.


e public’s assessments of the Bush Administration’s decision-making before (and after) the war are also negative.

Seven in ten don’t believe the Administration claims that the decision to go to war was made in March 2003, and say the Bush Administration had decided to go to war earlier than that.

61 percent believe the Administration did not try hard enough to reach a diplomatic solution before going to war in Iraq -- a reversal of the public’s belief last year during the war.

For now, only 31 percent believe the Administration has a clear plan to turn over power in Iraq; 32 percent say it has a clear plan to rebuild the country.

The struggles in Iraq appear to have hurt assessments of the President.

--His overall approval rating (46 percent)
--His rating on handling Iraq (41 percent)
--His rating on handling foreign policy (40 percent) are at the lowest points ever in this Administration. In each case, more disapprove than approve.
--53 percent of voters are uneasy about Bush’s handling of international crisis, figures unmatched since before 9/11.



Right thing
Now 47%
Last month 58%
3/2003 - 69%

Stayed out
Now 46%
Last month 37%
3/2003 - 25%

There's a bunch of other numbers too. While I don't put a whole lot of stock in these early polls, it's good to see that maybe JUST MAYBE the public is waking up to the fact that this country is headed in the wrong direction.

UPDATE: Not hard to see why BushCo's numbers are headed south:
Ten U.S. Soldiers Killed in Spate of Attacks in Iraq

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Ten U.S. soldiers were killed in attacks around Baghdad on Thursday, eight of them in an apparent suicide car bombing just south of the capital, the U.S. military said.

The deaths took to 534 the number of U.S. soldiers killed in action since U.S.-led forces invaded Iraq 13 months ago. About 125 of them have been killed in April, the bloodiest month for U.S. forces in Iraq since the invasion.

The car bomb went off just south of Baghdad near Mahmudia at about 11:30 a.m., the U.S. military said in a statement.

"A driver in a station wagon approached the task force. Once he was close enough to inflict injury he detonated the explosive device," it said a statement, which did not make clear whether the driver was in the vehicle when it exploded.

The soldiers, who were searching for roadside bombs which are a favorite insurgent weapon, were all from the 1st Armored Division and the wounded were flown to a Baghdad military hospital by helicopter, it said.

Shortly before dawn, a U.S. soldier was killed in a rocket-propelled grenade attack in eastern Baghdad, a separate statement said.

At around 10 a.m., a roadside bomb killed a U.S. soldier and wounded another in the town of Baquba, 40 miles north of Baghdad. Iraqi police said an Iraqi civilian was also killed in the attack.

With just weeks to go before the United States hands over sovereignty to Iraqis on June 30, U.S.-led forces face a growing insurgency.

New polls showed Iraqi civilian deaths combined with heavy U.S. losses this month have eroded support for President Bush's war plan both among Iraqis and among the Americans who will vote on his re-election in November.

Just a friendly reminder, as if....

John Kerry has gone cameltoe and has started to show some balls:
"If George Bush wants to ask me questions about that through his surrogates, he owes America an explanation about whether or not he showed up for duty in the National Guard. Prove it. That's what we ought to have. I'm not going to stand around and let them play games."-- John Kerry, NBC News, 4/26/04


"There was no special treatment." -- Then-Gov. George W. Bush (Dallas Morning News, 7/4/99)

-- FACT: With Family Connection, Bush Got Coveted Slot in Texas Guard Shortly After Graduating from College. A family friend of Bush's father pulled strings to secure Bush's spot; Bush joined the Texas Air National Guard after his student deferment ran out when he graduated from Yale in 1968. Before he graduated, Bush personally visited Col. Walter "Buck" Staudt (the commander of the Texas Air National Guard) to talk about the Guard. After Bush met with Staudt, he applied and was quickly accepted, despite a waiting list of over 150 applicants. Staudt recommended Bush for a direct appointment, which allowed Bush to become a second lieutenant right out of basic training without having to go though officer candidate school. The direct appointment also cleared the way for a position in pilot training school. (New York Times, 9/27/99; Houston Chronicle, 10/10/92; Los Angeles Times, 7/4/99)

-- FACT: Bush Scored in 25th Percentile on Pilot Aptitude Test. When Bush applied for the Guard, his score on the Air Force pilot aptitude section, one of five on the test, was in the 25th percentile, the lowest allowed for would-be fliers. (Dallas Morning News, 7/4/99)

-- FACT: No Shortage of Pilots in Texas Guard. Although a Bush spokesman claimed Bush was fast-tracked because the Guard needed pilots, Charles C. Shoemake, a chief of personnel in the Texas Guard from 1972 to 1980 remembered no such shortage. "We had so many people coming in who were super-qualified," Shoemake said Texas Guard Historian Tom Hail said there was no apparent need to fast-track applicants. "I've never heard of that," he said. "Generally they did that for doctors only, mostly because we needed extra flight surgeons." (Los Angeles Times, 7/4/99)

YES!!! FINALLY we're seeing the Presumptive One fighting back. Help JFKtoo keep the heat on by sending him some gas to throw on the fire. I give him $25 every Sunday. I feel damn good about it and I know it's money well spent.

Put up, or shut up...

Via DKos.
(Blazing Saddles reference) Howard Johnson is RIGHT!
Damn straight! Giblets for one is sick of these pampered Iraqi welfare moms and their "ohhh feed my family" and their "ohhh rebuild the infrastructure you blew up." Learn some gratitude, Iraqis! We come halfway around the world and take the time to give weapons to your dictator, start a war with him, crush your economy with sanctions, start another war, blow up your power plants and your cities and disband your police, and we did it all for you, so you could grow up to be as mature and developed a nation as we have become. And this is the thanks we get!

Freedom is not free, Iraqis! It has a price. And that price is being invaded crippled and occupied by a foreign military. If you cannot handle freedom we'll just have to hand you over to a "democracy-minded strongman." And this one might not be the sugar daddy that Saddam was.

Wake up, you ungrateful Iraqi-types! Don't you see we're trying to help the ones we don't kill?

Sarcasm by Fafblog, via Electrolite.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

If you were looking for pictures of Central Oregon (where, oddly, The Skeptic resides) you couldn't do much better than Emerald Bay Photography.

I hope Simone doesn't mind, but I'm gonna swipe one of her pix:

Mt. Bachelor

Thanks to fellow Bendite Utterly Boring for the link.
Now here's a nice letter addressed to the only friend that Chimpy has left...Tony Blair:
Dear Prime Minister,

We the undersigned former British ambassadors, high commissioners, governors and senior international officials, including some who have long experience of the Middle East and others whose experience is elsewhere, have watched with deepening concern the policies which you have followed on the Arab-Israel problem and Iraq, in close cooperation with the United States. Following the press conference in Washington at which you and President Bush restated these policies, we feel the time has come to make our anxieties public, in the hope that they will be addressed in parliament and will lead to a fundamental reassessment.

The decision by the US, the EU, Russia and the UN to launch a "road map" for the settlement of the Israel/Palestine conflict raised hopes that the major powers would at last make a determined and collective effort to resolve a problem which, more than any other, has for decades poisoned relations between the west and the Islamic and Arab worlds. The legal and political principles on which such a settlement would be based were well established: President Clinton had grappled with the problem during his presidency; the ingredients needed for a settlement were well understood and informal agreements on several of them had already been achieved. But the hopes were ill-founded. Nothing effective has been done either to move the negotiations forward or to curb the violence. Britain and the other sponsors of the road map merely waited on American leadership, but waited in vain.


We share your view that the British government has an interest in working as closely as possible with the US on both these related issues, and in exerting real influence as a loyal ally. We believe that the need for such influence is now a matter of the highest urgency. If that is unacceptable or unwelcome there is no case for supporting policies which are doomed to failure.

Yours faithfully,

52 former senior British diplomats

To which TonyTonyTony replied:

Thanks to Tristero for the link.
With the US military pounding Muslim temples in Falooja today compounding the already bad situation in Iraq, I thought it might be fun to take a look at the new US Ambassador in charge of overseeing this Clusterfuck with a capital "C". Meet John Negroponte, of Central America fame:
There is no question that Negroponte and the rest of the senior embassy personnel must have known about the disappearances and tortures of Honduran leftists since some of the most widely-distributed newspapers in the country carried at least 318 stories about such military abuses in 1982 alone. Negroponte also had direct contact with General Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, by then the chief of the Honduran armed forces and the secret head of Battalion 316. Negroponte himself has insisted that on occasion he requested the release of a torture victim when the story was close to breaking in the U.S. press. This happened in the 1982 case of the arrest and torture of journalist Oscar Reyes and his wife, Gloria. Clearly, Negroponte and the embassy knew enough about these cases to act appropriately on occasion and when compelled by circumstances to do so.

The replacement of Binns by Negroponte reflected a shifting foreign policy strategy for Central America, witnessed by the introduction of the Reagan administration’s hard-line policy and its implementation by Elliot Abrams; regarding Honduras, it was represented by the zealotry of the ambassador in Tegucigalpa, John Negroponte.

Negroponte’s objective in Honduras was eerily familiar to the Bush administration’s present goal in Iraq. The U.S. government, again, is attempting to implement a democratic format in a country that has not yet chosen to do it on its own, and not necessarily by democratic means. To implement this complex task will inevitably create a less than ideal situation for the ambassador to fulfill his instructions. But given Negroponte’s well-practiced M.O. of dark box chicanery, the spread of false information and outright lying, it is doubtful that he will be any less controversial or contrived in his task of successfully introducing democracy in Iraq than he was in Honduras, perhaps because “democracy” is not exactly his stigmata. John Negroponte is preeminently an-ends-justifies-the-means operator. He repeatedly in the past has proven that he is willing to employ practices which seem to be the antitheses of the definition of “democratic”, in democracy’s good name. Negroponte’s career has been one where in his professional life he has shown a willingness to use authoritarian means to professedly advance democracy.

He ought to fit right in over there. All who have possibly been a part of a war crime please raise your hand.


Monday, April 26, 2004

I'm sure these guys will have absolutely no problem with this:
The budget is busted; American soldiers need more armor; they're running out of supplies. Yet the Department of Energy is spending an astonishing $6.5 billion on nuclear weapons this year, and President Bush is requesting $6.8 billion more for next year and a total of $30 billion over the following four years. This does not include his much-cherished missile-defense program, by the way. This is simply for the maintenance, modernization, development, and production of nuclear bombs and warheads.

Measured in "real dollars" (that is, adjusting for inflation), this year's spending on nuclear activities is equal to what Ronald Reagan spent at the height of the U.S.-Soviet standoff. It exceeds by over 50 percent the average annual sum ($4.2 billion) that the United States spent—again, in real dollars—throughout the four and a half decades of the Cold War.

There is no nuclear arms race going on now. The world no longer offers many suitable nuclear targets. President Bush is trying to persuade other nations—especially "rogue regimes"—to forgo their nuclear ambitions. Yet he is shoveling money to U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories as if the Soviet Union still existed and the Cold War still raged.


The one aspect of this reorientation that's attracted some attention is the development of a "robust nuclear earth-penetrator" (RNEP)—a warhead that can burrow deep into the earth before exploding, in order to destroy underground bunkers. The U.S. Air Force currently has some non-nuclear earth-penetrators, but they can't burrow deeply enough or explode powerfully enough to destroy some known bunkers. There's a legitimate debate over whether we would need to destroy such bunkers or whether it would be good enough to disable them—a feat that the conventional bunker-busters could accomplish. There's a broader question still over whether an American president really would, or should, be the first to fire nuclear weapons in wartime, no matter how tempting the tactical advantage.

The point here, however, is that this new nuclear weapon is fast becoming a reality.

As chronicled in a recent report by the Congressional Research Service, when Bush started the RNEP program two years ago, it was labeled as strictly a research project. Its budget was a mere $6.1 million in Fiscal Year 2003 and $7.1 million for FY 04. Now, all of a sudden, the administration has posted a five-year plan for the program amounting, from FY 2005-09, to $485 million. The FY05 budget alone earmarks $27.5 million to begin "development ground tests" on "candidate weapon designs." This isn't research; it's a real weapon in the works.

Go read the whole thing. It will fill you with pride, and dread.

Thanks to Slyblog for the heads up.

I guess now is the time I should be buying one of these.


Saturday, April 24, 2004

In case you don't read The Exile, you should start....

Many news organizations across the country are mistakenly identifying the flag-draped caskets of the Space Shuttle Columbia's crew as those of war casualties from Iraq.

Editors are being asked to confirm that the images used in news reports are in fact those of American casualties and not those of the NASA astronauts who were killed Feb.1, 2003, in the Columbia tragedy.

An initial review of the images featured on the Internet site The Memory Hole shows that more than 18 rows of images from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware are actually photographs of honors rendered to Columbia's seven astronauts.

News organizations across the world have been publishing and distributing images featured on the web site.

And as Magpie at Pacific Views says, "It would have been nice if NASA had said which 18 rows.

Gotta love this title:

Flak for U.S. as Military Uniform Teddies Head to Iraq

I imagine every brave, All-American boy would be proud to head into battle wearing see-thru Kevlar:

Unfortunately, it's not as good as it sounds:
A row erupted today over a project to send Iraqi children teddy bears made out of old military uniforms.

Servicemen at the US airbase RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk have been making the soft toys out of scraps of discarded old uniforms.

But peace campaigners have criticised the move saying it is insensitive and that the use of camouflage could traumatise Iraqi children.

Annie Wimbush, of Suffolk 4 Peace, said that camouflage material was a powerful symbol of the military which could trigger a traumatic response in a child.

“When I first heard about it I was quite stunned. I thought it was either incredible naivety or wilful insensitivity,” she said.

The therapist from Bury St. Edmunds said: “I am concerned that thousands of children in Iraq are suffering from trauma and trauma is triggered by memories and associations.

“What good is a teddy made out of camouflage material going to do for a traumatised child in Iraq. If the air men at RAF Lakenheath really wanted to help they could not do better than send medical aid,” she said.

She said it was another example of American insensitivity.

“It’s as if they live in a bubble and are quite separate from the consequences of their presence in Iraq.

“They may be well meaning but they don’t seem to understand what the victims of a war zone require,” she said.

I wonder how a "Tickle Me Osama" plush would sell in NYC?
Thanks to Psalms From the City for the laugh this morning. It's funny because it's true:


Friday, April 16, 2004

A world turned upsidedown:

Thanks to Light From an Empty Fridge for the pic. My apologies to Pixar...

Thursday, April 15, 2004

New computer test...nothing to see here. Move along please....

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Tom Street over at Bad Attitudes says it all:
World's Worst Press Conference

Cutting through the crap and hubris of last night’s press conference, it has come down to this. According to George Bush, we must stay the course in Iraq because of the need to maintain American credibility.

He should have thought about that before he decided to run for the Presidency, before he decided to go into Iraq. The United States under George W. Bush has absolutely no credibility left. None!

I know he’s working on it, but it just can’t get any worse. We will begin to restore our credibility when John Kerry takes office in January of 2005 and not before. Whatever credibility we used to have has been totally, utterly destroyed.

George, find another reason to stay the course in Iraq. You have not only destroyed our credibility, you continue to endanger our security, which is what this war was supposed to be about.

And George, do yourself, the country and the world a favor. Don’t hold any more press conferences. You proved in your last one, that despite all your praying, God is not on your side. From now on, please just mail it in.

This one is just unbelievable, and it's not a joke either:
Some could argue that the noise is louder and meaner than ever. Some say President Bush has polarized this country instead of uniting it after the bitterly contested 2000 election ultimately decided by a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision.

But that's not how Karl Rove sees it.

"Take a look at the language of this president and how he has treated political opponents and compare it to previous administrations -- particularly his most immediate predecessor," says Rove, senior advisor to the president and the guy who runs Bush's political operation.

"You will find that he treats political opponents with dignity and respect," says Rove, who visited El Paso earlier this week for a Bush fund-raiser. "You will not see the kind of personal vindictiveness and vicious comments that came out of the previous administration."

When Bush needles a political opponent, he usually does so with "a bit of good humor," Rove says.

"He has definitely changed the tone in Washington," he says.

But we don't hear much anymore about Bush being a uniter -- not a divider.

"I would make the argument that it takes two to tango," Rove says. In Austin, when Bush was governor, Democrats Bob Bullock and Pete Laney, the lieutenant governor and the House speaker, "were able to put aside their partisan labels and work with the president."

Bush is willing to work with Democrats and share credit with them, Rove says.

But Rove blames Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for super-heated rhetoric -- such as Daschle's accusing Bush of subverting the Constitution with his recess judicial appointments and Pelosi's calling the president a liar.

But what about Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay contributing to the white-hot rhetoric and bitter partisanship?

"I'm sure there's blame enough to go around on all sides," Rove acknowledges.

Thanks to Sadly No! for the peek into the Parallel Universe.

I guess I'm not the only one who thinks BushCo has been a little off their game lately:
From proposing to go to Mars to the president's horrible Meet the Press interview; from the rush to propose the Federal Marriage Amendment without consulting Republicans in Congress to doubling back to now include civil unions in the language; from Bush's disappearing act until last night to his unpreparedness once he finally did appear for a prime-time press conference -- this White House's political affairs office has been way off its game, and for months. Indeed, as many Republican talking heads said in recent days, it was only after GOP insiders (not to mention the talking heads themselves) started clamoring for the White House to do something that Rove & Company decided to put Bush out there. You can understand their reluctance.

Throughout his charmed life, there has always been an easy route to life's easier paths (Andover, Yale, Texas Air National Guard, Harvard) for George W. Bush. But there is no presidency "lite." You gotta show up, even if rarely and sporadically. You'd think the president and his staff, even in these rarest moments, would at least be prepared to properly do what they had long done best: their politics.

But they haven't. Given that politics is their strong suit -- not to mention that Bush's re-election depends on doing well in such moments as last night -- why should we suppose he is performing any better in the real tasks of governing upon which our very survival and prosperity depend?

Here's all you need to know about the Chimp-in-Chief's press conference last night:
Q: Sir, what is the biggest mistake you’ve made as president and what lesson did you learn from it.

A [ACTUAL ANSWER]: Hmmm. I wish you'd have given me this written question ahead of time so I could plan for it. I'm sure historians will look back and say, Gosh, he could have done it better this way or that way. You know, I just ...


[Crickets chirp.]

[Tumbleweed blows by.]

...I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference with all the pressure of trying to come up with an answer, but it hadn't yet. You know, I hope I don't want to sound like I've made no mistakes. I'm confident I have. I just haven't — you just put me under the spot here and maybe I'm not quick, as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one.

Articulate, no?

Monday, April 12, 2004

Adam at BlueGrassRoots pens a little love note to Chimpy:
Dear W:

What the hell are we going to do now?

I mean seriously man, this is what it comes down to: A pile of bullshit.

You made up a bunch of bullshit so that we'd all go along with you and invade Iraq. Yes Saddam was a bad man. Yes he killed a lot of people. (For more information on how he got to be such a bad guy, ask your dad and Donald Rumsfeld). Yes I think we'd all agree that we'd rather not have him around. But the fact remains that you lied and now you're covering it up. How can you keep a straight face when you talk about this?

I don't know what your motivations truly were. Maybe you truly wanted to help the people of Iraq. Maybe you wanted to expand American access to Iraqi oil-fields and got caught up with all of those neo-con Washington folks who seriously thought that if we invaded Iraq, the people would welcome us as liberators, immediately embrace democracy and there'd be a domino effect in the middle east. Maybe you we're just pissed off that Saddam tried to kill your dad.

Honestly, I think it was a mix of all three. But you shouldn't have lied about it to get us there. And you shouldn't be so pissed off now that we're all finding out about it. It's not your God-given right to be president. You serve us - and only as long as we tell you you can.

When all this crap is said and done it isn't going to be your children dead in the ground and it isn't going to be your children who are unemployed and suffering under the tremendous weight of trillions of dollars in debt. You'll go back to Texas to consult for some oil companies and run a couple more businesses into the ground. Yeah I'm really sorry for that Iraq thing. My mistake. Ooops, gotta run, it's tee time.

Our form of government is designed the way it is specifically because we don't trust our leaders. We don't trust our leaders when they say "trust me because I know best." Why? Because history has shown that leaders who say that are usually using taxpayer money in a way we wouldn't approve of: Reagan (contras), Numerous presidents (vietnam)...

You lied to get us there because you were so freaking sure that you knew what you were doing. All your oil-exec insiders were telling you that this was a great idea. The fact is - you were wrong and no amount of lies or bullshit will get you out of this one.

But that brings me back to my original point: What the hell are we going to do now?

We've already lost 600 soldiers. We've killed God knows how many Iraqis. We've spent well over $100 billion, and there's no way that we can pull out anytime soon without 1) looking really stupid 2) leaving Iraq to civil war. You've already managed to convince the world's Muslim population that we're out to get them.

Thanks dumbass.

Now we've got the Shiites - the very people you said would love to be liberated by us - and the Sunni's - the people you say 'just don't get it' all fighting us on the streets. One group is motivated by religious fervor, the other pissed because we locked up sugar-daddy.

How do you propose to get us out of this one? Honestly I don't know what the hell we can do.

I think we're stuck there. We've got a responsibility to get the place onto its feet and it's going to take thousands of American lives and billions more American dollars to do it. The world isn't going to help us with this one.

Why? Because they knew enough to say "hell no." They didn't believe your pile of lies.

Thanks W...

Everybody has a website nowadays, even our Great Islamic Hope - Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Husaini Sistani:

He goes right onto my blogroll. BLOG ON!!!
Now for something completely different:
A Belgian motorist was left stunned after authorities sent him a speeding ticket for travelling in his Mini at three times the speed of sound.

The ticket claimed the man had been caught driving at 3380 kph (2,100 mph) - or Mach 3 speed - in a Brussels suburb, a Belgian newspaper reported.

However, police later admitted that a faulty radar had been responsible for the Mini's incredible feat.

The police have since apologised to the man and promised to fix the radar.

The incident took place in December, but only came to light when Belgian prosecutors were asked to follow up the unpaid fine.

"We called the local police to find out what height the plane caught speeding along the Boulevard Lambermont was flying at," a member of the Brussels public prosecutor's office joked to Belgium's La Derniere Heure newspaper.

Police also said they had made a mistake in still sending out the ticket, given that it was impossible - even for a doughty little Mini - for a car to have travelled so fast.

Well, duh....

Thanks to Amygdala for the link.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

The Private Intellectual seems a tad perplexed over Sully's latest:
I had some hope that Sullivan might start re-examining his views rather than join the "kill 'em all" faction that is growing at a hearty clip on the Right. To be fair, though, the frankly genocidal tendencies now on display are at least coherent in an evil sort of way, whereas this is demented. For Sullivan, it's always 1917 (or 1939) and every enemy is Lenin (or Hitler). The idea that there is a context of legitimate grievance, however badly understood or poorly acted upon, the idea that Iraqi attitudes are in some small way expressed in reaction to things we do, or that our GOP-dominated CPA and its hand-picked Iraqi Governing Council may appear as less than vanguards of freedom and stability to the Iraqis--none of these possibilities has ever gained the least purchase in Sullivan's mind.

And moreover, his "where is the Czar?" routine with Bush is at this point comical. Bush is not here because, in the unlikely event that he's been given anything close to an accurate picture of the situation in Iraq (remember, he likes to bypass the media "filter"), he has no idea and no plan. Andy, like the Oxbloggers and so many others, is really enamoured of Bush's speechwriting budget rather than Bush himself, whose embarrasing absence now could have been easily predicted by anyone with eyes to see.
This seems to be a story the US press is trying mighty hard not to report:
The sensational story of Sibel Edmonds illuminates the world of difference between the international online media and the U.S. press.

Edmonds is a 33-year-old former FBI translator whose February allegations to the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks directly challenge the credibility of the commission's star witness, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. In an April 2 interview with the Independent of London, Edmonds said she read intelligence reports from the summer of 2001 that al Qaeda operatives planned to fly hijacked airplanes into U.S. skyscrapers.

"There was general information about the time-frame, about methods to be used but not specifically about how they would be used and about people being in place and who was ordering these sorts of terror attacks," she said. She added that specific cities with skyscrapers were mentioned.

Edmonds said that she had provided the commission's staff with "specific dates, specific target information, specific managers in charge of the investigation. I gave them everything so that they could go back and follow up. This is not hearsay. These are things that are documented. These things can be established very easily."

Edmonds took issue with Rice's assertion in a March 22 Washington Post Op-Ed piece that the United States had no intelligence warning of al Qaeda's tactics. "That is impossible," she said.


Edmonds's story has been almost uniformly ignored in the U.S. daily press. Her allegations have been detailed in the online magazine Salon and several liberal sites are playing them up. The Independent's story was mentioned briefly on Monday in Dan Froomkin's White House Briefing blog on Tim Russert briefly quizzed the Republican and Democratic heads of the 9/11 commission about Edmonds during Sunday's "Meet the Press" program on NBC. Former Clinton White House aide Paul Begala mentioned it last week on CNN's "Crossfire." But the only U.S. newspaper to give Edmonds any extended coverage was the Washington Times. In January, a page-one New York Observer article on Edmonds's complaints about lax security in the FBI's translation office did not include the allegations that first appeared in the Independent.

Link via the always entertaining American Leftist.
Someone must have pissed in that terrrist coddling, freedom hater Sadly No!'s cornflakes this morning:
Anyone serious about discussing racism beyond buzz phrases can see that the timing and tone of these events with MLK observances are no accident, but the kind of direct wink and a nod to God-fearing cross-burning hood-wearing bigots that Reagan continually employed during campaigns and while in office. It's the kind of unapologetically racist fuck-you Bush used during his AWOL period, when part of his job on the Blount campaign was to "smear" the opposition by painting him as someone who'd ruin white schools by busing in black children.

Much has been made of Bush's vaunted Moral Clarity™. Once the First Gut forms its impressions, it doesn't need the guidance of a moral compass, or to be checked against reality with elitist crap like facts, disagreeable intel or even newspapers. Bush intentionally surrounds himself with sycophants who find creative ways to corroborate what the God-endorsed First Gut "feels" about complex situations. The ones who can no longer do so without becoming unethical or wilfully incompetent are termed "disloyal" and thrown to the fire-breathing BushCo attack machine. For all their concern about cultural decency, isn't it remarkable that this morally perfected administration has such difficulty simply being decent to others? (I don't mean understanding or, Heaven forfend, kind -- just not behaving like mindlessly vicious jerks.)

Any criticism or "disloyalty" to the First Gut, when taken outside the inner circle to threaten the sacred Presidential Image, mobilizes every skill and resource the administration can muster faster than news of, say, impending terrorist attacks. (Contrast how BushCo flopped around like uncoordinated buffoons for months when it was a mere case of terror warnings, but coalesced into an efficient well-oiled machine when Job One was tearing down rogue critics like Paul O'Neill, Joseph Wilson or Richard Clarke, among others.) Maintaining image is something they know and respect. Objectively weighing intelligence ... not so much.

The Preznit's vaunted Moral Clarity™ is largely smoke and mirrors. It's the work of more resources applied towards image than real leadership and governance, exaggerated by an echo chamber that attaches heroism to distinctly unheroic qualities: disengagement, lack of objective analysis, an almost comical inability to accept responsibility or be accountable for his and their actions, and a con man's slippery avoidance of unscripted, unchoreographed public appearances.

As Easter Week coincides with many other traditions' time of moral reckoning and this being Good Friday, billions the world over do recalibrate their moral compasses by weighing their shortcomings and repenting.

Except George.

He doesn't apologize for stuff because Moral Clarity™ means never having to say you're sorry. If you support him, you don't have to apologize either. Republican politicians or pundits bust their buttons with pride when the Preznit "doesn't back down", sticks to a reckless self-defeating course, or "isn't apologizing", especially when insulting the UN or dealing with those effete Frenchies. Despite badly needing international help in Iraq and on his own War on Terror and Stuff, the more shabbily he treated real allies who doubted The Word of George -- sorry, Eritrea but I'm thinking outside the fig leaf -- the more his boorish base liked it. The mainstream media dutifully cooperates with maintaining this horrifying approach to complex issues. The President isn't backing down ... the President isn't apologizing ... the President is resolute ... The President is sticking to his guns. (Note how the First Flip Flopper's recent slink back to France and the UN for desperately needed help in Iraq was paralleled by the same slinking motion of the story onto the media radar. I didn't see any banner headlines screaming phrases like Massive Prezzie Flip Flop on U.N.-France Aid Shocks Media, Nation, World!)

Not that I disagree with any of this, ya understand. I do most of my best work when I'm really really pissed off too.


Stolen from My Stolen Nation

Friday, April 09, 2004

As if I needed another reason why Orcinus is on my daily read list, David comes up with a this great post:
Even more significant is the fact that -- just as the Aug. 6 Presidential Daily Briefing that is now the focus of the post-testimony controversy apparently suggests, according to 9/11 commissioners Bob Kerrey and Tim Roemer -- the same warning signs that had alerted officials to the Millennium Plot -- were replicating themselves.

As the Center for American Progress details in its rebuttal to Rice's testimony:

Page 204 of the Joint Congressional Inquiry into 9/11 noted that "In May 2001, the intelligence community obtained a report that Bin Laden supporters were planning to infiltrate the United States" to "carry out a terrorist operation using high explosives." The report "was included in an intelligence report for senior government officials in August [2001]." In the same month, the Pentagon "acquired and shared with other elements of the Intelligence Community information suggesting that seven persons associated with Bin Laden had departed various locations for Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States." [Sources: Joint Congressional Report, 12/02]

That wasn't all. Just as one of the key conspirators -- namely, Ahmed Ressam -- had been caught in 1999, leading Clarke, O'Neill and the counterterrorism team to break up the rest of the Millennium plot, so had one of the 9/11 conspirators evidently already been captured on Aug. 15: Zacarias Moussaoui.

Did Bush's counterterrorism team spring into action and catch the rest of his co-conspirators? Well, no. But then, we all knew the answer to that.


As Joe Conason put it in today's Salon:

The public testimony of Condoleezza Rice before the 9/11 commission had a strategy and a structure, to use terms that she favors. The obvious strategy was to swathe every answer to a challenging question from the commissioners in "context" that did more to obfuscate than clarify.

They keep saying, you know, that Sept. 11 was "the day that changed everything." I'm not so sure about that.

But there is one thing I know changed that day: The Bush administration's grotesque incompetence, and its devastating consequences, were laid bare for all the world to see. It's just taken this long for the smoke to clear -- and not even Condi Rice's fresh layer of fog can hide it any longer.

Beautifully put....

Things are falling apart in Iraq and the whole damn country is in an uproar over Condi Rice and Her Lies to the 9-11 Commission, so what's a proper President supposed to be doing? Why not go on Holiday!
Democrats criticized Bush for taking the Easter-week vacation while U.S. forces are struggling to put down an uprising in Iraq. Campaigning in Milwaukee, Sen. John F. Kerry, the presumed Democratic presidential nominee, said: "I notice President Bush is taking some days off down at Crawford, Texas, and I'm told that when he takes days off, you know, he totally relaxes: He doesn't watch television, he doesn't read the newspapers, he doesn't make long-term plans, doesn't worry about the economy. I thought about that for a moment. I said, sounds to me like it's just like life in Washington, doesn't it?"

White House communications director Dan Bartlett retorted that Bush is "not skiing" in Texas, as Kerry did on a recent vacation in Idaho. He said Bush remains in contact with his military advisers and is spending Easter weekend with his family. "Most Americans will understand that," Bartlett said.

This is Bush's 33rd visit to his ranch since becoming president. He has spent all or part of 233 days on his Texas ranch since taking office, according to a tally by CBS News. Adding his 78 visits to Camp David and his five visits to Kennebunkport, Maine, Bush has spent all or part of 500 days in office at one of his three retreats, or more than 40 percent of his presidency.

Well at least he's not skiing....

However, it's not all beer and skittles down in Texas these days:
The president and his White House aides have not changed their public claims that the uprising in Iraq is the work of a relatively small number of extremists who will inevitably be crushed. But, in private, Bush is apparently expressing a more grim view. According to the Kremlin, he placed a 20-minute call to Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday, and "serious distress was expressed" about the "escalation of violence." Bush aides refused to discuss the details of the conversation.

While the White House has been sanguine about the turmoil in Iraq, some of its allies are calling for a more frank acknowledgment of trouble. Kenneth L. Adelman, a Reagan administration official who is close to several Bush officials, said he is surprised that "it's a lot tougher slogging than I expected" in Iraq. He said Bush should make new overtures both to Democrats and to traditional allies urging them to condemn the violence. He should tell them that "now is not the time to say I told you so, and urge the allies to become more heavily involved," he said.

Might Dear Leader be finally waking up after his 3 1/2 year nap?

Things seem to be spinning completely out of control in Iraq today:

CAIRO ( -- In what may be a repeat of last week's mutilations of four dead U.S. mercenaries, foreign media is reporting that some Iraqis have taken to beating the unidentified corpses of the nine dead men in today's resistance attack on a U.S. convoy.

Reuters reported that one Iraqi man was beating the body of a dead man whose face was bloodied. "At the scene of the convoy attack, a dead foreigner lay on the road with a bloody head as an Iraqi beat him," reported Reuter's Alistair Lyon.

Reuters also reported that up to six foreigners were taken captive in Abu Ghraib. There are reports that two are Italian and the rest American. Iraqi sources said they found a cache of weapons, including a sniper rifle, in the six foreigners' possession.

Al Jazeerah confirmed that U.S. forces had indeed broken the ceasfire as an F-18 aerial bombardment preceded a U.S. Marine move into western entrance to Fallujah. Al Jazeerah TV showed a young boy with half his stomach torn out and several children wailing as doctors removed shrapnel from their heads.

Unable to cover the violations committed by their forces in Fallujah, U.S. General Kimmit accused Al Jazeerah of lying and claimed the F-18 fired on Fallujah in self-defense.

Al Jazeerah correspondent Ahmad Mansour claimed at 1pm EST that U.S. forces fired on his camera crew as they were filming events, forcing their retreat to safer quarters.

Thirty-three ambulances have arrived from Baghdad, Iraqi sources have said, but some came under U.S. sinper fire.

In Cairo, demonstrators chanted "America take your democracy and go to hell." Similar sentiments echoed in Palestine, Jordan, and Syria.

No other reports of US casulties, but I'm guessing the WaPo will be adding a few more names and pictures to it's list later today.....


Thursday, April 08, 2004

BushCo: Friend of the Environment
It happened in October of 2000, when 300 million gallons of coal slurry - thick pudding-like waste from mining operations - flooded land, polluted rivers and destroyed property in Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia. The slurry contained hazardous chemicals, including arsenic and mercury.

“It polluted 100 miles of stream, killed everything in the streams, all the way to the Ohio River,” says Spadaro, who was second in command of the team investigating the accident.

The slurry had been contained in an enormous reservoir, called an impoundment, which is owned by the Massey Energy Company. One night, the heavy liquid broke through the bottom of the reservoir, flooded the abandoned coalmines below it and roared out into the streams.

Spadaro says the investigators discovered the spill was more than an accident -- it was an accident waiting to happen.

During the investigation carried out by Spadaro and his colleagues, it came out that there had been a previous spill in 1994 at the same impoundment. The mining company claimed it had taken measures to make sure it wouldn't happen again, but an engineer working for the company said the problem had not been fixed, and that both he and the company knew another spill was virtually inevitable.

“He said, ‘We knew there would be another breakthrough,’” says Spadaro. “We knew. And I asked him how many people in the company knew and he said, ‘Well, at least five people.’"

So why didn’t they fix it? “It would have been expensive to find another site. And I think they were willing to take the risk … It was a certainty,” says Spadaro.

He says it was a certainty because there was only a very thin layer of rock at the bottom of the reservoir. But that's not what the mining company had told the government.

“They told the government that there was a solid coal barrier, at least 70 to 80 feet wide between the mine workings and the bottom of the reservoir,” says Spadaro of the barrier, which is less than 20 feet. “They were misrepresenting the facts … and they knew that. The company knew that and I'm sorry to say I believe some people within the government knew that.”

Davitt McAteer was Spadaro's boss when the disaster happened, and head of the MSHA. He says Spadaro is right, that his own regulators hadn't done their job: “I know they didn't do enough in terms of enforcement because the thing failed. That's the proof.”

“This was a catastrophic failure. By the grace of God only did we avoid fatalities,” says McAteer, who expected the report to be harsh. The investigators were going to cite the coal company for serious violations that would probably have led to large fines and even criminal charges.

But all that changed when the Bush administration took over and decided that the country needed more energy -- and less regulation of energy companies. The investigation into Massey Energy, a generous contributor to the Republican Party, was cut short.

“The Bush administration came in and the scope of our investigation was considerably shortened, and we were told to wrap it up in a few weeks,” says Spadaro.

“They cut it off. They did,” says Ellen Smith, who publishes the country’s only newsletter devoted entirely to mine safety and health. She's been writing about the mining industry for 16 years.

“People I spoke with, who were on the investigation team, told me that they believed it was absolutely cut short, that they had more work to do and they were told to wrap it up,” says Smith.

“It appeared to me they thought we were getting too close to issuing serious violations to the mining company,” says Spadaro.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Play us this day our daily Race Card:
Administration supporters expect Rice to be a highly effective witness in rebutting Clarke's accusations.

"The woman oozes expertise and sincerity," said former Republican National chairman Rich Bond. "I'm glad the White House came around to allow her to say publicly what she's already told the commission privately. The old adage is, 'Get it out, get it out, get it out.' If the Democrats want to slap around an African American woman, let them try."


"I think Condi Rice on her worst day is worth ten of Richard Clarke on his best day," Bond said. "The imagery of George Bush standing on the rubble of 9/11 overrides anything Clarke can say."


Monday, April 05, 2004

Ooooo a Howard Dean siting. It's the credibility, stupid:

Dean said he thought jobs, health insurance and economic security would be the biggest issues of the presidential election. But now, "the credibility of the president of the United States is the biggest issue of this race," he said.

Dean told a gathering of progressive Democrats that Bush failed to act on warnings from Richard Clarke, then Bush's counterterrorism chief, that al-Qaida posed a threat to the United States, and blamed Bush for the hundreds of U.S. soldiers killed and the thousands wounded in the Iraq war. "That is the legacy of this president who did not tell the truth to the American people".

Democrats need to "focus their message in a laser-like way," he said, to oust the Bush administration. "These are people who belong in Crawford, Texas, and not in the nation's capital," he said.

~sigh~ I kinda miss Howlin' Howard. His little grin, his anger, his sense of humor.....


Sunday, April 04, 2004

Have you hugged your candidate today?

Go give John Kerry $25. It will make you feel like a million.