Saturday, January 29, 2005

Is this a new idea? Or simply a 'repackaged brand'?

I wish this was linked by the person who posted it here; it's sourced to the Inter Press News Service Agency. Note the date of the article; it's nearly a year old at least (which is perhaps why I could not find it at their site). It makes a point that I haven't heard much, but is beginning to be sounded out by those on the right :

Iraq under Saddam Hussein did not pose a threat to the United States but it did to Israel, which is one reason why Washington invaded the Arab country, according to a speech made by a member of a top-level White House intelligence group.

WASHINGTON, Mar 29 (IPS) - IPS uncovered the remarks by Philip Zelikow, who is now the executive director of the body set up to investigate the terrorist attacks on the United States in September 2001 -- the 9/11 commission -- in which he suggests a prime motive for the invasion just over one year ago was to eliminate a threat to Israel, a staunch U.S. ally in the Middle East.

Zelikow's casting of the attack on Iraq as one launched to protect Israel appears at odds with the public position of President George W. Bush and his administration, which has never overtly drawn the link between its war on the regime of former president Hussein and its concern for Israel's security.


”Why would Iraq attack America or use nuclear weapons against us? I'll tell you what I think the real threat (is) and actually has been since 1990 -- it's the threat against Israel,” Zelikow told a crowd at the University of Virginia on Sep. 10, 2002, speaking on a panel of foreign policy experts assessing the impact of 9/11 and the future of the war on the al-Qaeda terrorist organisation.

”And this is the threat that dare not speak its name, because the Europeans don't care deeply about that threat, I will tell you frankly. And the American government doesn't want to lean too hard on it rhetorically, because it is not a popular sell,” said Zelikow.

That post prompted this one (from one of that forum's staunchest conservatives, misspellings and inappropriate capitalizations included):

As a group, ignorance, hate and bigotry have no more blatant an exemplar than anti-semitism. Its a very sad - and idiotic - thing to transfer responsibility for one's own inadequacies and failings to the imagined nefarious deeds of an ethinicity. At root, The War On Terror is a war against anti-semitism, and will continue untill that despicable plague is excised from the human experience.

Asked for elaboration, the same fellow posted this:

It ain't our freedom that infuriates the militants, its our support for Israel that drives their antagonism toward us. To the mind of bin Laden and ilk, Israel stands only with US support; their intention is to cause the US sufficient inconvenience as to bring about a cessation of US support for Israel. While it will take time - a generation or two or three perhaps - having embarked on the endeavor, the militants have set in motion the machinery of their own doom. The expansion of democracy throughout the region is the single greatest threat to the aims of the militants, occasioning great desperation on their part. They - the militants - have fatally underestimated the resolve and fortitude of The US and her people, and draw false comfort from the partisan wranglin' brought on through the ridiculously misguided and thoroughly counter-productive efforts of The Democratic Party to reverse the decline it has brought on itself.

Breathtaking, isn't it?

So the first questions that come up for me are:

-- Does this mean George Bush was lying (again) when he said, "They hate us for our freedom"?

-- Or does it mean he's just dumb (again)?

Since I generally avoid exposing myself to ultra-right propaganda, I'm guessing this must be GOP Talking Point #57 (look, a Kerry reference!) in their ongoing attempt to find a rationalization justifying a war now nearly two years old. Like all the others, this one has probably been test-marketed in the right-wing blogosphere and served up through their media organs --the ones on the dole as well as the ones who aren't -- and is now being parroted by the poor saps at the bottom of the conservative food chain.

That ongoing ridiculousness aside, however, I have always gathered from what bin Laden has said that the religious fundamentalists on their end of the Holy Spectrum were incensed not so much by the nebulous tenets of 'democracy' and 'freedom' but by the general malicious influence (not to mention ubiquitous presence) of Americans and American culture on their world.

And it seems to me to be a very effective strategy thus far that Osama and his band of merry men have executed -- to gradually bleed the Great Satan white by fomenting insurgency in as many hot spots as possible.

That's what was done in Vietnam, after all, and in Afghanistan to the Soviet Union as well. Took a decade, both times.

(And I don't think it's unreasonable to assume that radical Muslims dream the same dream that radical Christians do: the vanquishing of all other religions to the exaltation of their own. I'm pretty sure without looking it up that Osama has expressed a bit of irritation at the Jewish state.)

I think all that has the ancillary purpose of weakening Israel, but I doubt that was their primary goal. The US has done much more to offend the Muslims in the past ten years than Israel has. And I think that's why we were attacked. By a crew of mostly Saudi zealots.

They could have flown planes into the Knesset, after all.

And in case no one's noticed, the Palestinians have a new leader who strongly advocates conciliation.

So by this rediscovered conservative logic, my question is:

Will the war on terror subsequently come to an end if the Palestinians and the Israelis declare peace on each other?

Friday, January 28, 2005

The sheople need to be made nervous again, apparently

Did Tom "Duct Tape" Ridge just blab himself out of a Presidential Medal of Freedom? Oh well, he's probably still in line for that seven-figure consultancy with Carlyle:

Departing Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said on Friday he believed another attack on the United States was inevitable, and warned that America should not focus just on al Qaeda, but also on similar groups that could carry out attacks.

"I have accepted the inevitability of another attack or attacks," Ridge said in an interview on the eve of his departure from the department launched two years ago to guard against another attack like that of Sept. 11, 2001.

"It could be al Qaeda or it could be al Qaeda-like organizations," said Ridge, who departs on Feb. 1. "I do think, when we talk about global terrorism, (it is) better ... that America doesn't focus just on al Qaeda."

"There are a lot of al Qaeda-like organizations and there are quite a few (Osama) bin Laden wannabes out there -- you've got one of them operating in Iraq right now," he said, referring to al Qaeda's leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
First of all, I thought we were only to be attacked if John Kerry was elected.

Secondly, I would like to know what steps Ridge has taken to protect his own family in the face of this inevitability, especially since he has been privy to the most sensitive national security intelligence. Does the Ridge household have sufficient plastic sheeting for the windows, doors, and fireplace? How about a five-tier, color-coded terror alert warning system electronic light bar in the kitchen? Is there breathing apparati readily available -- meaning upstairs and down -- for all family members? A helipad out back for rapid evac?

This isn't quite as dumb as Tommy Thompson giving our enemies suggestions on what to attack next, but it is in keeping wih the Bush administration's desire to keep the sheople scared.

Do you think it's working?

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

No on Gonzales

Let's be clear: His tortured legalese resulting in the atrocities at Abu Ghraib ought to be reason enough for the Senate to reject the nomination of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General.

But now comes word that he pulled strings for then-Governor Bush at a voir dire so that Bush could avoid disclosing his own DUI conviction -- and has subsequently prevaricated about it, under oath, before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

I am reminded of attorney Tom Hagen's line in the opening scene of "The Godfather", where he explained to the movie mogul: "I have a very special practice. I represent one client."

Throughout his career as consigliere to Dubya, the task of Al Gonzales -- indeed his mission -- has been to find, or absent that, invent the justification for whatever it is that needed doing. Questionable or not, shady or not, legal or not. You can almost hear Bush saying "Git it done, Al," spoken with his trademark smirk, through the years.

Can't have the Guvna answer no questions about drinkin' and drivin'? Call in a chit wit' the judge. Got a death row inmate that needs killin'? Gloss over the fact that the condemned man's lawyer fell asleep during his trial. Need to make some camel jockeys -- errr, terrists -- spill their guts? Hell, that Geneva Convention's not only sixty years old, it's for pussies.

Conservatives get apoplectic when the Bush administration is called thugs, gangsters, or God forbid, a multinational corporation. When they do, we should simply open a page from any one of the law books in Alberto Gonzales' library. They all say the same thing.

"Git it done, Al."

To vote to confirm this man as attorney general goes against seemingly every concept of freedom, liberty, and democracy mouthed by the President last Thursday and espoused in the Constitution. Not that that sort of thing matters much.

The Senate should reject this nominee.

Sorry, been sick

And more than a little beesy.

Will now get right back to reporting.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Remember when Bush first came into office, he made a lot of the fact that he was the first president with an MBA, and who had no previous experience with the way things are done in Washington? I distinctly remember one of his weekly addresses, given sometime between January 20 and September 11 2001, where he announced that he would use his business skills to make government more efficient and more responsive.

Problem is, if you think of government as a business and the president as its CEO, you will also see things like, oh, international law as just another annoying impediment to your freedom to make decisions -- much like a CEO may think of the tax code and all those other tedious regulations they have to deal with, like worker safety and environmental protections. You won't think of governing as a solemn obligation; that you have a duty to uphold, and that maybe you should occasionally exceed its literal requirements to create goodwill. Instead, you will tell the government's legal experts that they are now the equivalent of corporate lawyers, that it is now their job to probe for loopholes in the law, and then exploit them as best they can.

Strange as it seems, there are some things that traditional Washington insiders do right, and maverick MBAs don't get. More generally, you don't necessarily improve government by pretending it's a business.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Zero, zip, nada, f*ck all

So today we read that, apart from the centrifuge buried in someone's backyard for a decade, no WMDs have been discovered in Iraq, and BushCo is finally admitting it.

Since 51% of Americans voted for Bush despite coming to this realization long before the election, it should be obvious to "everybody" that "nobody" (that would be 100% of everybody -- or 100% of nobody if you wish to use the prevailing conservative logic) cares.

On this same rationale you will see a federal budget that freezes or slashes spending on every single government program except defense and homeland security. Not even COLAs will happen, meaning that spending won't keep up with inflation.

You will see the administration attempt to ram through judicial nominees that were previously turned down by changing Senate rules that have been in place since the Founders' signatures on the Constitution were still wet.

And you'll see the majority party continue to whine, bitch, and cry about how the minority is "obstructing" them.

They will do -- or attempt to do, based on how hard the Democrats choose to fight back -- all of this in the name of that 51% "mandate" they claim.

Audacity just simply does not begin to describe it.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Astros season already swirling the drain?

Well, we lost him.


After calculating the effect of New York's state income tax (and the corresponding increase in federal income tax) I figured that either Empire State team would have to pay an extra $15 million over the 'Stros' offer just for Carlos to break even. This, I speculated, kept us strongly in the running for the services of the talented Mr. Beltran.

Maybe Scott Boras had his bluff called (and his client will wind up with less net jack from the Mets with the hometowners folding and the Yankees already overspent), maybe Tim Purpura messed up (when he blurted that the Astros had made their final offer a couple of days ago), maybe Uncle Drayton blinked at the price tag (though you'd never suspect based on the spin coming from the Chronic today).

Maybe it really was a fumble:

"It slipped through our fingers in the last, last few minutes," McClain said. "It was just some sticking point. It should never, never have gotten to this."

Who's it sound like he's blaming? Maybe it was a no-trade clause. Whatever, if it was just a few million dollars, we could all be really, really upset.

It's too late for the Astros to make smart upgrades with Beltran's former money, as most of the desirable free agents on the market have committed. They don't have lots of good prospects to trade, and the only free agent that should interest them is Magglio Ordonez, who's just beginning to work out after offseason surgery.

Five-to-one Clemens decides he's done now.

The good news is Chris Burke and Jason Lane get onstage. The bad news is Berkman will be a month late (as he rehabs his busted knee until May), Biggio may be reduced to the role of supersub, Bagwell still can't throw the ball from first to home on the fly, the rotation has to replace Wade Miller and the bullpen has to replace, well, everyone except Lidge.

Despite my rather negative header, let's reserve judgment a bit longer and see if they have a free-agent trick or two up their sleeve.

I'll have the rest of the winter, spring, summer, and fall to blast them otherwise.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

This woman simply has one of the best blogs around.

I first started chatting with Bean back in the late Nineties on a discussion forum named Abuzz, which was run by the New York Times. When they pulled the plug on it, most of the membership (that wasn't trolls) migrated over to another site I won't name (since they don't reciprocate linkage).

Bean finally got tired of the moderated thing and started blogging. The rest is history, as they say.

Prairie Weather belongs in your bookmarks.

The Bush Black Market

One of my favorite blogs lately is Deaf, Dumb, and Blind, and he's got a post up about Armstrong "I'm just tryin' to make my way in the world" Williams:

In an attempt to "sell" its No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program, the Bush Administration, it was revealed, paid prominent black guy and TV host Armstrong Williams $240,000 to promote the program and urge other prominent black guys to do the same. Armstrong was also hired to conduct and air interview spots with fellow prominent black guy and soon-to-be-ex-Secretary of Education Rod "The NEA is a Terrorist Group" Paige. Williams, 45, host of the syndicated The Right Side, is also a former clerk for prominent black guy and Supreme Court Justice and Number-One-Porn-Fan Clarence Thomas.
Who says a brother can't catch a break under Bush?

Friday, January 07, 2005

No Vo?

A well-connected blogger reports that the Texas House will next week overturn the victory of Hubert Vo, the Vietnamese-American who won the 149th district race in southwest Houston by less than 50 votes, and will instead seat the incumbent Republican Talmadge Heflin he defeated on November 2nd, and in a subsequent recount.

Why, you say? Because they can:

Sound far-fetched? Think for a moment about what the GOP, at both the state and federal level, has had the audacity to do in the last couple of years -- redistricting, ethics changes, now trying to eliminate the filibuster from the U.S. Senate, etc -- and you may reach the same conclusion the state senator has. "These guys just don't give a sh*t." Bad press? Who cares. Public outrage? They'll get over it. Politically dangerous? Not a chance -- all we have to do is win a GOP primary anyway. Democratic retribution? (After several moments of laughter) Who?
If they dare do this, there must be an outrage expressed so loud and so long that the GOP will be forced to relent. There will have to be thousands of Texans on the Capitol steps demanding that the Republicans follow the expressed will of the people and not their greedy lust for ever more power.

We'll have to scare the nasty bastards into changing their mind. It wouldn't hurt if we started letting them know how we feel right now.