Friday, April 11, 2003

DAILY KOS WANTS CLARK -- Those of you who are faithful readers of the Daily Kos will know of his admiration for General Wesley Clark. (An affection I share.) Well, Kos has decided to put his views to good effect by crafting a Draft Clark website, urging General Clark to seek the Democratic nomination for president. Have a look.
ANOTHER NUTCASE TO THE BENCH -- Democrats are trying to fight confirmation of yet another of Mr Bush's handpicked right-wing extremists to the federal bench. Yes, you guessed it: It's another small-minded bigot obsessed with women's libbers, gays, and abortion.

One example the Democrats cited was a 1997 article that Dr. Holmes and his wife, Susan, wrote for a newspaper, Arkansas Catholic, about men, women and Roman Catholicism. The article said that "the wife is to subordinate herself to her husband" and that "the woman is to place herself under the authority of the man" in the same way that "the church is to place herself under the protection of Christ."

The same article went on to say, "It is not a coincidence that the feminist movement brought with it artificial contraception and abortion on demand, with recognition of homosexual liaisons soon to follow."

In 1980, Dr. Holmes, who would soon become a leader in the anti-abortion movement in Arkansas, minimized concerns about the effect on rape victims of a proposed constitutional amendment banning abortion. "Concern for rape victims is a red herring because conceptions from rape occur with approximately the same frequency as snowfall in Miami," he wrote in a letter to the editor of a newspaper then.

And in an article he wrote in 1982, Dr. Holmes, assessing societal problems and responses to them, compared the abortion rights movement to the Nazis. "The pro-abortionists counsel us to respond to these problems by abandoning what little morality our society still recognizes," he wrote. "This was attempted by one highly sophisticated, historically Christian nation in our century — Nazi Germany."
OH, FOR THE DAYS OF THE GIPPER -- After more than two years of George W. Bush, Harold Meyerson of The American Prospect misses Ronald Reagan. I know just what he means.

Policies that were but twinkles in the Reaganites' eyes -- a war on the mixed economy and the multilateral world order -- have reappeared fully grown in Bush's presidency.

What Bush seems determined to extirpate are the basic forms of common security in America. His particular targets seem disproportionately the handiwork of years ending in "5." From 1965, there's Medicare, which he seeks to subordinate to the pay-as-you-can calculus of HMOs; from 1945, there's the United Nations and the whole structure of postwar alliances, which he seeks to subordinate to an imperial America freed from international laws and treaties; from 1935, there's Social Security, which he still seeks to privatize, and the Wagner Act, whose pro-labor tilt he seeks to obliterate in his tax policy.

Struggling to find someone another president comparable to the awful Mr Bush, Mr Meyerson finally settles on the most appropriate, and disturbing candidate:

He, too, had a relentlessly regional perspective, and a clear sense of estrangement from that part of America that did not support him. He was not much impressed with the claims of wage labor. His values were militaristic. He had dreams of building an empire at gunpoint. And he was willing to tear up the larger political order, which had worked reasonably well for about 60 years, to advance his factional cause. The American president -- though not of the United States -- whom George W. Bush most nearly resembles is the Confederacy's Jefferson Davis.

Yes, I know: Bush is no racist, and certainly no proponent of slavery. He is not grotesque; he is merely disgraceful. But, as with Davis, obtaining Bush's defeat is an urgent matter of national security -- and national honor.
KERRY WILL PROTECT RIGHT TO CHOOSE -- Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry said Tuesday as president he would only appoint judges to the U.S. Supreme Court who support the landmark abortion rights case Roe vs. Wade.

Speaking before a group of Democratic women in Des Moines, Kerry said he would break with the tradition that judicial candidates shouldn't be disqualified because of their position on a single issue.

"I don't want to get into an argument about litmus tests. The focus is on the constitutional right that Roe established in America. I want jurists to agree, who swear to uphold the Constitution," the U.S. senator from Massachusetts said in an interview afterwards. "I want jurists who understand the Constitution that way."
AND NOW, ON THE LIGHTER SIDE -- A couple face charges after they started making love on a freezing platform at Munich railway station.

Theresa Plavel, 21, from Germany and Michael Ladovic, 19, from the former Yugoslavia, were saying goodbye in a waiting room.

One of the passengers told German media: "It was getting out of hand and one of the women in the room left to call the authorities, and seconds later he stood up and just pulled down her loose fitting trousers just like that.

"They were really going for it, it's given a new meaning to 'one for the road'."
ACES HIGH -- The United States is releasing a deck of playing cards with the names and faces of the Iraqi Ba'ath regime's most wanted thugs and criminals printed on them. The jokes here are too obvious so I'll just let the story stand on its own.
IT AIN'T OVER WITH THE SHOOTING -- Those, like me, who opposed the Iraq War did not do so over concerns the United States would lose or suffer dramatic setbacks on the battlefield. When the combatants are a rich and mighty country like the United States (which spent $400 billion on defense last year) and poor and small Iraq (which spent $1.4 billion on defense last year), the outcome of the war would never be in doubt. However, as noted in previous posts today, the outcome of the aftermath is, as William Shakespeare might say, an undiscovered country. Michael Kinsely explains:

The serious case involved questions that are still unresolved. Factual questions: Is there a connection between Iraq and the perpetrators of 9/11? Is that connection really bigger than that of all the countries we're not invading? Does Iraq really have or almost have weapons of mass destruction that threaten the United States? Predictive questions: What will toppling Saddam ultimately cost in dollars and in lives (American, Iraqi, others)? Will the result be a stable Iraq and a blossoming of democracy in the Middle East or something less attractive? How many young Muslims and others will be turned against the United States, and what will they do about it?

Political questions: Should we be doing this despite the opposition of most of our traditional allies? Without the approval of the United Nations? Moral questions: Is it justified to make "pre-emptive" war on nations that may threaten us in the future? When do internal human rights, or the lack of them, justify a war? Is there a policy about pre-emption and human rights that we are prepared to apply consistently? Does consistency matter? Even etiquette questions: Before Bush begins trying to create a civil society in Iraq, wouldn't it be nice if he apologized to Bill Clinton and Al Gore for all the nasty, dismissive things he said about "nation-building" in the 2000 campaign?
U.S. FOREIGN POLICY IN SHAMBLES -- The chickenhawks consider this their moment of triumph, but they're wrong--and events will confirm that in the months and years ahead. Meanwhile, as the administration remains focused on its neocon obsessions, U.S. foreign policy in the rest of the world languishes. Jeffrey Sachs explains in The Financial Times:

The evidence is clear: the White House and State Department are now so completely disorganised and preoccupied that they are unable to process even the most basic foreign policy measures needed to help stabilise an allied country threatened with collapse as a result of a US-inspired drug eradication effort. The message of US policy failure will not be lost on countries all over the world caught up in drug trafficking - including Afghanistan, where opium production and exports are soaring to record levels. Meanwhile, the Latin America section of the State Department is obsessed solely with making anti-Castro propaganda in order to win votes for Mr Bush among anti-Castro Cubans in Florida in the 2004 election.

The world keeps searching for deeper meanings in current US foreign policy, without realising that US foreign policymaking groans under the weight of extremism, cynicism, ignorance and the obsession over Iraq. Not only Bolivia but also much of the rest of the world is in peril as a result.
WE'RE IN GOOD COMPANY -- At least 1,526 people were executed worldwide last year, with 80 percent of all known executions carried out in China, Iran and the United States, Amnesty International said on Friday...

"The top three executioner states were China -- with 1,060 executions in only one year -- Iran with 113 executions and the United States with 71 executions," said an Amnesty International spokeswoman.

STAGE-MANAGED CELEBRATIONS? -- It was, by any measure, an astonishing coincidence. As the biggest statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad was pulled down "spontaneously" in front of the world's media, the Stars and Stripes which flew on the Pentagon on 11 September was at hand to be draped over its face.

The US army denied that the toppling of the 20ft edifice by a tank tower was stage-managed. It was a coincidence, they said, that Lt Tim McLaughlin, the keeper of that flag, happened to be present.


There was some suspicion that the crowd that jumped up and down on the metal carcass had been bused in from the Shia suburb of Saddam City. That was not the case, they were mostly local. But they were the same people who chanted "My blood, my spirit, I shall die for you O Saddam" – until the last day of the regime.
IRAQ TODAY: MURDER, LOOTING, CHAOS -- Amidst all the celebrations in Iraq (some of it stage-managed, no doubt, but most of it surely heartfelt) and the self-congratulation here at home, real and important questions about the future of Iraq and American involvement there remain. The Guardian is asking those questions, even if the U.S. media is not. After all, the outcome of the war against Saddam Hussein was never in doubt. Everything after that--the really important stuff--is very much in doubt.

Yesterday, a particularly bad sign was the killing, in Iraq's holiest Shia mosque, of Abdul Majid al-Khoei, a US-backed cleric who had been living in exile in London until last week. It is unclear whether his death was the work of Saddam Hussein loyalists or a rival Shia group but, either way, the implications are alarming.

Mr al-Khoei was the son of Ayatollah Sayed al-Qasim al-Khoei, the leader of much of the Shia world until 1992 when he died, under house arrest, in Najaf.

The importance of his murder may be difficult to appreciate in countries in which religious leaders carry little political weight, but the closest British parallel is probably with Thomas Becket, the Archishop of Canterbury who, 833 years ago, was assassinated for supporting the authority of the Pope over King Henry II.

Meanwhile, the nephew of an Iraqi cleric hacked to death by a mob in an Iraq mosque told The Washington Post that his uncle's murderers had killed a total of six people in the attack and taken control of the holy Muslim city of Najaf.

U.S. forces stationed nearby were doing nothing to restore order, he said, quoting residents of Najaf, which is some 100 miles south of Baghdad.

"The Americans are five kilometers (3.1 miles) from Najaf and do not want to interfere," said Jawad al-Khoei, a nephew of murdered cleric Abdul Majid al-Khoei.

"They (Khoei's killers) are in control of Najaf -- the city center and the mosque. The security situation is very bad."
SHOCKED AND AWED BY SONY -- Japanese electronics giant Sony has taken an extraordinary step to cash in on the war in Iraq by patenting the term "Shock and Awe" for a computer game.
YOU'RE SUCH A SMART LITTLE BROWN PERSON! -- William Saletan of Slate made what I think is a brilliant observation about the condescending way Mr Bush speaks about people he clearly holds in contempt. It's a manner of speech that is probably familiar to lots African-Americans, Hispanics, and Arabs--especially when the words are coming out of the mouths of right-wing, white Republicans who are filthy rich through no effort of their own. Read on...

Thursday morning, President Bush greeted the people of Iraq on their TV screens. "You are a good and gifted people," he told them as Arabic script appeared below his face. I don't know Arabic, but I'm sure the translation didn't convey what Bush means by "gifted." He doesn't mean exceptional. He means ethnic.

If you're black, Hispanic, or a member of some other group often stereotyped as incompetent, you may be familiar with this kind of condescension. It's the way polite white people express their surprise that you aren't stupid. They marvel at how "bright" and "articulate" you are. Instead of treating you the way they'd treat an equally competent white person—say, by ignoring you—they fuss over your every accomplishment. When James Baker and Brent Scowcroft do their jobs, it's a non-story. When Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice do the same jobs, it's a newsmagazine cover.

This is the seventh time Bush has used the word "gifted" during his presidency. Once he was reading from a script at an arts award ceremony. Two other times, he was referring to black people: Bill Cosby and Martin Luther King Sr. On the other four occasions, he was talking about Iraqis or Palestinians. All Iraqis and Palestinians. What, in Bush's eyes, makes Iraqis and Palestinians so gifted? The fact that they can run functioning societies.

Of course, if you're gifted, you're probably talented as well. In Bush's view, Iraqis are talented. So are Hispanics. Chinese are "talented, brilliant, and energetic." Russians have "entrepreneurial talent." Irish-Americans have "industry and talent." Cubans have "determination and talent." According to Vice President Dick Cheney, South Koreans are "a peaceful and talented people." Bush thinks there's "plenty of talent amongst the Palestinians"—so much, in fact, that "if we develop the institutions necessary for the development of a state, that talent will emerge." Maybe then they'll be able to read Bush's road map.

No wonder Bush gave the Iraqis a pep talk. They're underprivileged, at-risk, and challenged. They lack self-esteem. They need to be told that they're capable, despite what others may say. Even Tony Blair is patting them on the back. "You are an inventive, creative people," he told them in a televised message accompanying Bush's remarks. I wonder what the Arabic phrase is for "hand me the remote."
REPUBLICAN VULTURES CIRCLING IRAQ -- Halliburton, the firm Dick Cheney ran poorly from 1995-2000 (receiving $30 million in compensation) has been awarded a $7 billion contract to rebuild Iraq--without competition. That's right, it was a sole source contract and Halliburton did not even have to compete for it.

While accepting that the administration may have had valid reasons for giving the two-year contract to Kellogg Brown & Root for emergency work during the war, Congressman Waxman (D-CA) wrote, "It is harder to understand, however, what the rationale would be for a sole-source contract that has a multiyear duration and a multibillion-dollar price tag."

Apparently Congressman Waxman is not willing to take this lying down and neither is the European Union. The European Commission is examining contracts awarded by the US for reconstruction work in Iraq to find out whether they breach World Trade Organisation rules and discriminate unfairly against European companies.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

ARE DITTOHEADS REALLY THAT STUPID? -- Rush Limbaugh reported, tongue-in-cheek, this week that the Iraqi minister of information was bragging that Saddam Hussein's forces had invaded New York's Shea Stadium and were moving to Broadway to get tickets to hot shows. One of Rush's listeners called a N.Y. TV station to berate it for not reporting the "news." We think Orson Welles is turning over in his grave ...

From The Fix at Salon.
BUSH JOB APPROVAL SOARS -- Buoyed by the conquest of Baghdad, Mr Bush's job approval is up to 77% in the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll. This is a jump from 71% just six days earlier.
MARYLAND TO ALLOW SUNDAY HUNTING -- The state of Maryland, where I make my home, will soon break with hundreds of years of tradition and permit hunting on Sundays. The Human Society of the United States is asking people to send e-mails to Governor Robert Ehrlich (R) and to state legislators asking them to stop this mistake. I've sent my e-mails and I hope you will send yours. Sunday is a day when wildlife aficionados have been able to go into the woods to appreciate deer and other animals in Maryland. This new move to allow Sunday hunting is the product of an effective and organized hunting lobby, which represents only three percent of Maryland residents.
HALL OF SHAME -- Hall of Fame president Dale Petroskey, a former official in the Reagan administration, canceled a 15th anniversary celebration of Bull Durham because of anti-war criticism by co-stars Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon.

In a letter Mr Petroskey sent to Mr Robbins and Ms Sarandon, he wrote: "In a free country such as ours, every American has the right to his or her own opinions, and to express them. Public figures, such as you, have platforms much larger than the average American's, which provides you an extraordinary opportunity to have your views heard -- and an equally large obligation to act and speak responsibly."

"We believe your very public criticism of President Bush at this important -- and sensitive -- time in our nation's history helps undermine the U.S. position, which ultimately could put our troops in even more danger. As an institution, we stand behind our President and our troops in this conflict."

Mr Robbins says he plans to send a letter back to Mr Petroskey that will say, among other things: "You belong with the cowards and ideologues in a hall of infamy and shame."

"I am sorry that you have chosen to use baseball and your position at the Hall of Fame to make a political statement," Robbins wrote. "I know there are many baseball fans that disagree with you, and even more that will react with disgust to realize baseball is being politicized.

"To suggest that my criticism of the president put the troops in danger is absurd. ... I wish you had, in your letter, saved me the rhetoric and talked honestly about your ties to the Bush and Reagan administrations.

"You invoke patriotism and use words like 'freedom' in an attempt to intimidate and bully. In doing so, you dishonor the words 'patriotism' and 'freedom' and dishonor the men and women who have fought wars to keep this nation a place where one can freely express their opinions without fear of reprisal or punishment."

Robbins signed his letter with a reference to an old World Series champion.

"Long live democracy, free speech and the '69 Mets -- all improbable, glorious miracles that I have always believed in," he wrote.

Thanks to the great Daily Kos for alerting me to this revoltin' development. Daily Kos also writes that: "[y]ou can email the Hall of Fame at The phone number (which no one answered when I called), is (607)547-0215."
SCIENCE FOR DUMMIES AND SCOUNDRELS -- The Guardian has a good look at how right wing Republicans, Creationists, and anti-abortion fanatics pose a serious threat to the teaching and learning of science in America.
IDIOTS WITH VOCAL CHORDS -- From my brother John--via the office of Congressman David Obey (D-WI)--comes this compendium of the wit and wisdom of our Republican overlords. Hopefully, this will be an ongoing feature of The Daily Review, since there is no shortage of Republican morons. Enjoy.

"My sons are 25 and 30. They are blond-haired and blue-eyed. One amendment
today said we could not sell guns to anybody under drug treatment. So does
that mean if you go into a black community, you cannot sell a gun to any
black person?"
--U.S. Rep. Barbara Cubin (R) [Congressional Record, 4/9/03]

"Nothing is more important in the face of a war than cutting taxes."
--House Majority Leader Tom DeLay [NY Times, 4/3/03, CongressDaily, 3/17/03]

"You know, and this can be misconstrued, but honest to goodness (husband) Ed
and I for years, for 20 years, have been saying, 'You know, look at who runs
all the convenience stores across the country.' Every little town you go
into, you know?"
--U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC), who as the Charlotte News and Observer
reported, "confided in a speech that she had been driving, worried, around
the country for decades fueled by suspicions about Arab and Arab-looking
convenience store owners." [2/7/03]

"They were an endangered species. For many of these Japanese Americans, it
wasn't safe for them to be on the street... "Some (Japanese Americans)
probably were intent on doing harm to us, just as some of these Arab
Americans are probably intent on doing harm to us."
--U.S. Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC), who according to the AP "agreed with the
World War II policy of confining Japanese -Americans to internment camps."
[AP, 2/5/03]

"I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president,
we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had
followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these
years, either."
--Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS), praising Strom Thurmond's
segregationist presidential campaign [12/5/02]

"If I see someone that comes in that has a diaper on his head and a fan belt
wrapped around the diaper on his head, that guy needs to be pulled over and
--U.S. Rep. John Cooksey (R-LA) [Cox News, 9/20/03]

"We should just turn the sheriff loose and have him arrest every Muslim that
crosses the state line."
--U.S. Rep. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) [Valdosta Daily Times, 11/20/01]

"It's a hell of a challenge."
--Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT) responding to the question "Conrad, how can
you live back there with all those niggers?" [AP, 10/20/94]
SUICIDE BOMBING INJURES 4 MARINES -- CNN is reporting that a suicide bombing in Baghdad has injured at least four Marines. I think we should probably look forward to more of this, especially once Osama Bin Laden can move more of his terrorists into Iraq.
U.S.-BACKED CLERIC MURDERED -- A Shiite cleric and opponent of the Saddam Hussein regime was murdered in the holy city of Najaf earlier today.

Abdul Majid al-Khoei, a Shiite cleric who had been living in exile in London for years was flown back to Najaf by the U.S. earlier this week, probably to get a jump on Ayatollah Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim, another, higher-ranking Shiite cleric who had been living in exile in Iran for many years. Hakim and Khoei were rivals for the leadership of Iraq's Shiite population, which accounts for 50-60% of the country's population. There is no evidence yet who, if anyone, was behind the murder of al-Khoei, but clearly Ayatollah al-Hakim had the most to gain from his death. Ayatollah al-Hakim is close to the Iranian government, which is also ruled by Shiite Muslims. Earlier this year, Ayatollah al-Hakim warned the U.S. that if American forces stayed in Iraq after destroying Saddam Hussein's regime, there would be a jihad--a holy war--against the occupying forces.
THE BLEEDING LANDS -- While the media has been preoccupied with violence and war in southeast Europe and the Persian Gulf, a far greater and more tragic bloodletting has been going on for years in Africa. The wars of Congo have taken about 3.3 million lives, a human tragedy unmatched since the days of World War Two.

"This is a humanitarian catastrophe of horrid and shocking proportions," said George Rupp, IRC's president. "The worst mortality projections in the event of a lengthy war in Iraq, and the death toll from all the recent wars in the Balkans don't even come close."

"Yet the crisis has received scant attention from international donors and the media," he added.
Of the more than three million people killed in the DRC, according to the IRC report, only about ten percent died violently; the rest were victims of starvation and disease resulting from the activities of the various armed groups, which, in addition to forces from Uganda and Rwanda, also included troops from Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Angola, as well as the DRC army, Rwandan Hutu rebel groups, and a variety of indigenous ethnic and political groups and militias.

Millions were forced to flee from their homes and live in the wild, with no access to medical care or regular food or cooking supplies. The vast majority perished from easily treatable diseases and malnutrition; young children were the least likely to survive. In three of ten health zones visited by IRC research teams, more than half the children had died before reaching the age of two.
BARBARA BUSH: HUMANIST, PHILOSOPHER -- "But why should we hear about body bags and deaths and how many, what day it's going to happen, and how many this or what do you suppose? Oh, I mean, it's, not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?"

Scroll down to the final paragraph.
ARABS REACT WITH DISBELIEF -- Arab reactions to the swift US/UK/AZ conquest of Baghdad were a mixture of shame, anger, and even hope.

"I don't like the idea of having the Americans here, but we asked for it," he said. "Why don't we see the Americans going to Finland, for example? They come here because our area is filled with dictatorships like Saddam's."

Meanwhile, our "allies" in Saudi Arabia...

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud, looking upset at a news conference, called for a quick end to Iraq's "occupation." In a rare departure from diplomacy, Saud responded to a question about Arab anger toward the United States with: "I don't want to talk about anger if you don't mind today."

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

REPUBLICAN TRAITOR -- A retired FBI agent who allegedly had an affair with a suspected Chinese double agent while he was in charge of the FBI's Chinese counterintelligence operation in California is under arrest, charged with gross negligence, federal officials said.

The former agent, identified as James Smith, allegedly had a sexual relationship with Katrina Leung, a Republican Party activist in California, sources said.

But the court documents also said Smith knew Leung had inappropriate contact with representatives of the People's Republic of China, but nevertheless continued the relationship.

During his time in the FBI, Smith's office played a major role investigating Clinton-era campaign finance allegations, which centered on suspicions that the Clinton White House accepted political contributions from foreign governments, particularly China.
WALL STREET WAKES UP -- Earlier today I blogged about a bump in the market immediately after news that Baghdad had fallen. Now, it seems, Wall Street has remembered that this economy has problems that have nothing to do with war in Iraq. Dreams are nice, the reality--not so much.

"People are not dancing on Wall Street," said Al Kugel, senior investment strategist at Stein Roe Investment Counsel. "There are people saying now that the war is over, we need to look at the economy and it looks pretty sick."
NAUSEATING QUOTE OF THE DAY -- "All things equal, I would prefer to have a child in a school that has a strong appreciation for the values of the Christian community, where a child is taught to have a strong faith...The reason that Christian schools and Christian universities are growing is a result of a strong value system. In a religious environment the value system is set. That's not the case in a public school where there are so many different kids with different kinds of values."
-- U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige [Washington Post, 4/9/03], who oversees the federal department charged with improving public school and public education
THE NEW KING OF IRAQ -- A Colorado Libertarian politician named Biff Baker has made allegations of corruption against retired General Jay Garner, the man the Bush regime has tapped to run Iraq after the Ba'athists are toppled. Mr Baker's allegations of corruption against General Garner got him fired and General Garner's company sued Mr Baker for "tortious interference."

Baker said he soon became aware of “questionable practices” -- including the fact that retired three-star General Jay Garner and his company, SY Technology, had been awarded $100 million in contracts on a sole-source basis. Federal law requires most contracts to be awarded on a competitive bidding basis.

Federal law also prohibits retired military officers from soliciting business from their former commands. Before retiring, Garner had been the head of the Space and Missile Defense Command outside Washington, DC.

Baker reported the apparent violations to the Missile Defense Agency headquarters and to a high-ranking officer in the agency. Shortly after, he was fired from his job with COLSA Corporation.
NOT ALL THE NEWS IS GOOD TODAY -- We killed 11 innocent Afghans in an airstrike.
U.S. WARNS OTHER NATIONS TO LEARN FROM INVASION -- The United States on Wednesday warned countries it has accused of pursuing weapons of mass destruction, including Iran, Syria and North Korea, to "draw the appropriate lesson from Iraq".
NOW COMES THE HARD PART -- Saddam is on the run and may not be alive or at liberty much longer. So what he built is gone. But what is left and what does the future hold for Iraq?

The U.S. Treasury had to learn the addresses of the Baghdad branches of the Bank for Iraq, the central bank, from the Central Intelligence Agency. Treasury officials then lobbied the Pentagon to exclude the banks from its target list because Treasury fretted that without those records, it might be impossible to figure out the actual size of Iraq's gargantuan foreign debt. It's unclear whether any of the bank's facilities have been hit, although the U.S. has battered and burned Iraq's Ministry of Planning, a repository of many economic statistics.

Under Mr. Hussein, an admirer of Stalin, the Iraqi economy was marked by central planning, fixed prices and wages, informal payments to regime cronies and nationalization of health, education and many other services. But while the broad framework is well-known, details remain scarce.

Unless the U.S. knows wages and prices around Iraq, it risks setting off a round of hyperinflation when wages are no longer fixed. Without knowledge of Iraq's total debt, the U.S. can't begin critical negotiations to write off a portion of it. Without an assessment of Iraq's infrastructure, the U.S. can't accurately gauge how much it needs to budget for Iraqi aid or try to raise from foreign donors.

And that's just the economy. Stitching together the fractious ethnic and religious combustion that is Iraq will prove even more problematic than rebuilding the Iraqi economy. Getting rid of Saddam was a foregone conclusion once Mr Bush decided to invade Iraq. That was the easy part.

State of the Nation
George W. Bush Approval Rating
Most Recent Rating: 2003 Apr 5-6
70% Approve
27% Disapprove

"State of the Country" Satisfaction Rating
Most Recent: 2003 Mar 22-23
60% Satisfied
38% Dissatisfied

Economic Confidence Ratings
Most Recent: 2003 Mar 29-30
26% Excellent/Good
74% Only fair/Poor
MR INDISPENSABLE -- Once again, Paul Krugman writes what must be written... and read:

Last week John Kerry told an audience that "what we need now is not just a regime change in Saddam Hussein and Iraq, but we need a regime change in the United States." Republicans immediately sought to portray this remark as little short of treason. "Senator Kerry crossed a grave line when he dared to suggest the replacement of America's commander in chief at a time when America is at war," declared Marc Racicot, chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Notice that Mr. Racicot wasn't criticizing Mr. Kerry's choice of words. Instead, he denounced Mr. Kerry because he "dared to suggest the replacement of America's commander in chief" — knowing full well that Mr. Kerry was simply talking about the next election. Mr. Racicot, not Mr. Kerry, is the one who crossed a grave line; never in our nation's history has it been considered unpatriotic to oppose an incumbent's re-election.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

MR REYNOLDS MAKE A FOOL OF HIMSELF -- Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit) thinks a poster comparing the European Union to the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany is "pretty powerful." If, by "pretty powerful," you mean "pretty stupid," I'm in complete agreement with you, Mr Reynolds. Otherwise, you're a dope.
AIPAC AND CHENEY'S IRAQIS -- Israeli newspaper Haaretz has got the goods on the quiet, but substantial links between pro-Israel groups in the United States and Israel and the Iraqi exile leadership favored by the White House. This is the sort of topic most U.S. media is afraid to cover so you'll have to go all the way to Israel (metaphorically speaking) to find it. Ironic, don't you think? <
KERRY CAMPAIGN RESPONDS TO GOP ATTACKS -- Unlike some other Demcratic candidates for president, Senator John Kerry (D-MA) does not intend to cede the issue of patriotism and national service to the Republicans--especially those who skipped out on their chance to serve the country in combat. After demanding "regime change" here in America, Senator Kerry was attacked by Mr Bush's Congressional henchmen, such as Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill) and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX). The Kerry campaign responds:

Kerry campaign spokesperson Robert Gibbs said, “Clearly, Senator Kerry intended no disrespect or lack of support for our commander-in-chief during wartime, but the point of this campaign is, obviously, to change the administration of this government. And unlike many of his Republican critics, Senator Kerry has worn the uniform, served his country, seen combat, so he’d just as soon skip their lectures about supporting our troops.

“There is simply nothing that Tom Delay can teach John Kerry about patriotism or service to country. The Republican right wing, particularly those who have never worn the uniform, are picking the wrong fight with the wrong democrat.
ANOTHER DOPE SPOUTS OFF -- National Review has a hilarious article online about how evil lefties are planning to replace liberal western democracy with something called "transnational progressivism", which author Candace de Russy claims "is gaining prominence in law schools, for example, at Princeton and Rutgers." Well, I don't know too much about "transnational progressivism"--whatever that is, but I do know a thing or two about law schools. One of those things I know is that Princeton does not have a law school.

Kind of makes you wonder what else Ms de Russy got wrong, eh?
A ROAD MAP TO NOWHERE -- The New Republic has an interesting article online about why the peace plan for Israel and Palestine is dead on arrival. Depressing, but informative and much less one-sided than most TNR articles on the subject.

Monday, April 07, 2003

BUSH HYPOCRISY ON HUMAN RIGHTS -- A new blog called Demagogue has got the goods on the Bush regime's hypocrisy on citing human rights reports. When Amnesty International says something the Bush regime likes, the report is quoted at length by official spokespersons. But when a human rights organization makes an observation the Bush regime does not like...

Well, you know how it goes. Have a look.
SUPREME COURT: STATES MAY BAN FLAG BURNING -- The Supreme Court today overruled a lower court and decided laws banning cross burning do not violate the First Amendment. Noting that the right to free speech is not absolute, the justices ruled cross burning is a unique form of political expression designed to intentionally intimidate people. Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, the Court's only black member, dissented, writing that the First Amendment need not even be considered in this case because cross burning is a clear attempt at intimidation:
"Just as one cannot burn down someone's house to make a political point and then seek refuge in the First Amendment, those who hate cannot terrorize and intimidate to make their point," he wrote.

"In our culture, cross burning has almost invariably meant lawlessness and understandably instills in its victims well-grounded fear of physical violence," Thomas said.
REPORT: CHEMICAL WEAPONS FOUND IN IRAQ -- There are reports that U.S. forces have discovered sarin gas and missiles equipped with sarin and mustard gas in Iraq. If true, this is the smoking gun the Bush regime desperately needs.
AROUND THE POLLS -- According to a new Ipsos-Reid/Cook Political Report poll, 46% of Americans would definitely vote to re-elect Mr Bush right now and 30% will definitely vote for someone else. Another 20% will consider voting for someone other than Mr Bush. This is an improvement for Mr Bush, but still below the 50% mark and rather unusual for an incumbent in the middle of a popular war.

Meanwhile, Mr Bush's approval ratings continue to hover around 70%, which sounds about right for an incumbent in the middle of a popular war.

The public prefers United Nations rule in Iraq to United States rule in Iraq by a margin of 50% to 29%, but the public isn't going to win on that one. Post-war occupation and rule of Iraq by the United States is critical to the larger plan of attacking Syria and Iran. Speaking of Syria, the public is mostly divided on whether or not the U.S. should attack Syria if that country continues to allow aid to Saddam Hussein to slip through into Iraq.

As for Iran, the public favors attacking Iran to stop that country's nuclear weapons program by a margin of 50% to 36%, with 14% not sure.
REMEMBER AFGHANISTAN -- The Bush admin has been telling us the war in Afghanistan is over--that's why it is a good idea to move on to Iraq. But just as the Bush admin has left the job against Al Qaeda left undone, it has failed to close the deal in Afghanistan. The Taliban is back.

Before executing the International Red Cross worker, the Taliban gunmen made a satellite telephone call to their superior for instructions: Kill him?

Kill him, the order came back, and Ricardo Munguia, whose body was found with 20 bullet wounds last month, became the first foreign aid worker to die in Afghanistan since the Taliban's ouster from power 18 months ago.

The manner of his death suggests the Taliban is not only determined to remain a force in this country, but is reorganizing and reviving its command structure.

There is little to stop them. The soldiers and police who were supposed to be the bedrock of a stable postwar Afghanistan have gone unpaid for months and are drifting away.

At a time when the United States is promising a reconstructed democratic postwar Iraq, many Afghans are remembering hearing similar promises not long ago.

Instead, what they see is thieving warlords, murder on the roads, and a resurgence of Taliban vigilantism.

``It's like I am seeing the same movie twice and no one is trying to fix the problem,'' said Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of Afghanistan's president and his representative in southern Kandahar. ``What was promised to Afghans with the collapse of the Taliban was a new life of hope and change. But what was delivered? Nothing. Everyone is back in business.''