Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Sorry to say this Virginia, there are limits to American power.
As the global arms race ends with the United States so far ahead no other nation even tries to be America's rival, the result may be a world in which Washington has historically unparalleled power, but often cannot use it.

Dean is right. If the US can't play well with others there will no point to playing at all.
From AlterNet.
the US government's strategy for disease prevention was hardly in tune with the philosophy that has taken root around the world – and so masterfully expressed by the Brits: Give people accurate, comprehensive information and services, and they are more likely to stay healthy. Instead of finding similarly clever ways to disseminate such information to the American public, the Bush administration was actively trying to censor it.

The most blatant attack was the severe gutting of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) fact sheet on condoms, which had been disappeared from the website in July 2001 and replaced, with significant battle scars, in December 2002. Pre-Bush, the fact sheet had encouraged consistent condom use, advice supported by vast bodies of scientific research that show condoms to be 98-100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. "The primary reason that condoms sometimes fail," read the original fact sheet, "is incorrect or inconsistent use, not failure of the condoms itself." Following that statement was user-friendly guidance on proper use.

Now, according to the once nonpartisan CDC, abstinence is the "surest way to avoid transmission of sexually transmitted diseases." Along with the condom "how to," the CDC removed the "Programs that Work" section, which summarized several large studies of teenagers that found no increase or hastening of sexual activity among those who were taught about condoms.

It's bad enough that fundamentalists want fable to replace truth in our educational system. Tragic really. It is also tragic that fable has taken over the CDC. The diseases that plague our nation will go on longer and more lives will be sacrificed on the altar of primitive religious ideology. While removing the Taliban from Kandahar we seem to have given them a new home in Washington and Atlanta.
A question of law. Or rather the jurisdiction of laws. The fifth amendment states that "No person deprived of life, liberty, or property without the due process of law". I understand that our laws grant some extraordinary judicial powers to the INS. But it seems to me that the exercise of those powers should still be limited by our constition. When the exercise of judicial powers by the executive branch (such as John Ashcroft and his direction to the INS) clearly violate the constitution they to be stopped. Constititutional protections don't apply only to citizens the way I read it. It says "no person" by which I take it to mean no person under the jurisdiction of the US government. Immigrants are being denied due process and are being incarcerated by our "Justice" Department. The judiciary seem to be allowing this to happen. Folks, our Constitution and our protections have been broken. Who is going to be next after the immigrants? Homosexuals? Muslims? Mormons? Methodists?
In the pundit wars over post-mortems of how recent events were anticipated the discussion often centers around who was right in their prognostications and who was wrong. This isn't bad because it gives us a scorecard on the forecasting acumen of the voices that are prognosticating today. We learn who is credible and who is not. But we need to be cautious in taking the scorecards too seriously. I see the role of punditry as something more than pissing match over who is smarter or a better predictor of events. Sometimes the role is nothing more than to challenge conventional wisdom with as many alternatives as possible. History has a way of turning on unanticipated occurrances. By giving voice to a range of possible outcomes we are better prepared to handle the unanticipated realities. I would be very afraid of the day when most of the pundits really agreed about something.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Monday, April 28, 2003

"Clinton's War" by Sidney Blumenthal

The Atlantic Monthly excerpt. The comparison of then versus now is remarkable. The current regime is almost a study in how NOT to run a free country.
A prominent Republican fund-raiser who once said former President Bill Clinton was "a lawbreaker and a terrible example to our nation's young people" pleaded guilty yesterday in Baltimore Circuit Court to production of child pornography.

Note to bloggers: One needs to be careful about criticizing the personal morality of public figures. Someday your own personal morality may become public fare.
Jebbush thanks NRA for helping make Bush president. And the majority of the voters have the NRA to blame.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

An alternative to Bush's (not so)Clear Skies initiative. Introducing a doable middle path for controlling greenhouse emissions and other air pollutants.
Here's some interesting news for one of my local industries that have been struggling of late--plutonium production.
With thanks to CalPundit, the Dept. of (in)Justice drops probe of Darwinist teacher. He wiggles a little so they can bail on a pursuit that can't be won.
Yet another reason to turn out the current administration. Basic research in the social sciences is being hindered and suppressed by ideologues.

Political suppression of sex science is nothing new. What is new is the dimension of such suppression. It is hardly surprising that lawmakers have not embraced a legalization of pornography, or a more lenient approarch toward the issue of child sexual abuse. The Clinton dismissal/resignation of Jocelyn Elders was already a new level, as conservative Reagan-appointee C. Everett Koop had previously taken a similarly liberal stance on teenage sex, seeing condom distribution as a safe defense against AIDS.

However, the abstinence-only stance of the current administration, which it carries to an international level through the United Nations, is a reactionary program of unprecedented proportions in recent US history. Multi-million dollar abstinence propaganda in schools (usually accompanied by scare pictures of sexual diseases) and "faith-based" initiatives are contrasted with self-censorship in institutions like the NIH -- and not only regarding taboo topics like pornography and pedophilia but also concerning STDs and abortion. Most liberals will see these trends as slightly disturbing, but not much more. One is reminded of the tale of the boiling frog, who does not notice his own demise as the temperature increases little by little.

The clock is being turned back on social progress. Our children are going to pay a price for this right along with their higher taxes.
Finally. We may be able to wean ourselves off that problematic commodity from the troubled Middle East. This chemical process can turn just about anything into oil. And at a profit no less. 200 tons of turkey guts gets converted to 10 tons of burnable gas, 600 barrels of number 2 heating oil, and 11 tons of minerals. The cost of making the oil this way is about $15 a barrel.

Update: kuro5hin picked this up.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Calpundit on the future of the neocons.
So if Newt really is a neocon, it's nothing but bad news for neocons. Newt has always been intoxicated by ideas that are big and bold, but Newt's infatuations have also turned out to be almost universally unpalatable to the average American. If he's boarding the neocon express, it probably means that it's already on its way over the cliff.
Things continue to go poorly in Afghanistan.

Link via Hesiod.
Because of the late GOP convention and Alabama's election laws, Bush may not make Alabama's ballot. That would be a hoot.
I see where there have been calls for Santorum to resign his Senate leadership post. I think it makes sense for people to voice their criticism of him as strongly as possible. In a free speech country he is entitled to express his ignorance any way he wants. And the Republicans can keep him in his position for all I care because it demonstrates the stuff of which they are made for all the world to see.

Update: Joe Conason's take.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Kevin Drum makes some good points on what our tax policy should be. I think Howard Dean is the man that can do it. Of course it is pretty much the exact opposite of what the Bush regime is doing.
Dean on Santorum:
The silence with which President Bush and the Republican Party leadership have greeted Sen. Santorum’s remarks is deafening. It is the same silence that greeted Senator Lott’s offensive remarks in December. It is a silence that implicitly condones a policy of domestic divisiveness, a policy that seeks to divide Americans again and again on the basis of race, gender, class, and sexual orientation.

Monday, April 21, 2003

More of the real costs of war.

Collateral damage is far easier to bear for those who are responsible for it from afar -- from the cockpit of a B-1 bomber, from the command center of a Navy destroyer, from the rear positions of artillery crews. These warriors do not see the faces of the mothers and fathers they have killed. They do not see the blood and hear the screams and live with those memories for the rest of their lives. The grunts suffer this. The Third Battalion accomplished its mission of bringing military calamity upon the regime of Saddam Hussein; the statue of Saddam fell just a few minutes after the sniper and I spoke. But the sniper, and many other marines of the Third Battalion, could not feel as joyous as the officers in the rear, the generals in Qatar and the politicians in Washington.

The civilians who were killed -- a precise number is not and probably never will be available for the toll at Diyala bridge, or in the rest of Iraq -- paid the ultimate price. But a price was paid, too, by the men who were responsible for killing them. For these men, this was not a clean war of smart bombs and surgical strikes. It was war as it has always been, war at close range, war as Sherman described it, bloody and cruel.
From the New Democrats, Male Pattern Boldness by Bruce Reed

Bush doesn't understand that fiscal capital and political capital go hand in hand. As the president is about to learn, they call it "going for broke" for a reason.

There's a better name for the Bush approach: hubris. The Bush team makes hubris look like the state flower of Texas. That swagger has hurt Bush's -- and America's -- image in the world. If he keeps it up through the coming election, he will stumble badly here at home.
Josh Marshall on an article in the Post on exit planning.
It's hard to read this article and not get the sense that at least some big players in the administration had never really thought seriously about what they were getting us into. Or, if not that, that they're cynical almost beyond measure. I always feared that we'd get into Iraq on the sparkling vision of Paul Wolfowitz and then govern it with ethics of Richard Perle and the parsimony of Mitch Daniels.
I can sympathize with these words:

Leftist patriots believe that if your country is wrong, you make it right. If your government commits barbaric acts, you dissent. If your government trumps up a war of aggression on a rationale of untruths and spurious connections between unrelated evils, you protest. If your government lies to you, you object. If your country’s actions debase the ideals on which it was founded, you burn with the kind of shame and anger that prompts you to take down your flag.
KF is taking credit for a prediction that Saddam would destroy his WMD in order to make the Bush regime look bad. Saddam may have actually roped-this-dope.

I still contend that if Saddam had made a good show of destroying the weapons years ago he would not only still be in power but his nation would be a much stronger power in the region. Napoleon won at Austerlitz because he gave the opposition what they thought they wanted.

By the same token, if the Palestinians and their supporters were to effectively renounce violence they could really strike a damaging blow to Israel. Both within Israel and without Sharon would be seriously discredited.
It seems the so-called Patriot Act is beginning to stimulate some rebellion on the home front.
Recent research explains the phenomenum of religious visions. But the Seventh Day Adventists are not convinced. If Jody doesn't pick up on this one on his own, I'll point it out to him.

Friday, April 18, 2003

Digby makes some good points.

The Bush administration, then, really is the political equivalent of Enron. Ken Lay and George W. Bush and Karl Rove and Andrew Fastow and Jeff Skilling and Dick Cheney are all cut from the same cloth.
They danced as fast as they could but inevitably all the fuzzy math and all the false bravado and all the secrecy and all the backroom dealmaking eventually caused the company to cave in on itself. There was nothing left but a bunch of theories that never worked and a crippling amount of debt.

The Democrats’ job is to prevent this from happening to the country. As taxpayers and citizens we are all shareholders in U.S. Inc. and if George W. Bush gets 4 more years I have no doubt that the results of his erratic decision making, his lack of transparency, his trust in radical ideologues and his reliance on sophisticated public relations to mislead the public will crash into reality. But, by that point the country will have been so seriously damaged that we may never quite recognize it again.

If that doesn't put you on focus, I don't know what will!
Be sure to get your Krugman.
As we begin to put Iraq back together and bring our soldiers home, we had better be sure that we that we do justice to the memories and sacrifices of those whom we sent on this mission. Regardless of what 20/20 hindsight tells us about the worthwhileness of this particular war we owe it to those who fought it to think long and hard before we ever do such a thing again. War is a beast that consumes those who think they can master it.
To the Bush Fedayeen you can now add the Patriot Police
Howard Dean: Bush: It's Not Just His Doctrine That's Wrong
Hesiod speaks of the Bush Fedayeen. Having liberated Afghanistan from a fundamental oppression, America nonetheless also has its Bush Taliban.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Digby lays out the current state of American foreign policy.

The lesson of Iraq is that the United States is going to do what it wants to do without regard to international law or any nation’s good faith effort to cooperate. If they have decided to take military action against you it is a fait accompli. “Aggressive engagement” looks suspiciously like the “Decade of Defiance and Deception” public relations package that sold the war to the American public. No world leader is now under the misapprehension that complying with American demands necessarily guarantees that he will not be invaded and deposed anyway. There is no value in face saving or compromise because the US has proved that it will change its goals and create new rationales at will. So, the only question for any leader in this situation is whether to surrender without bloodshed or go down fighting. All moral authority is vested in America's willingness to deploy its military.

The lesson of Iraq for the US is that the United States had better be prepared to invade any country it “aggressively engages” from now on because it proved to leaders everywhere that capitulating to its “demands” guarantees them nothing. US power now rests entirely on force – it can no longer use diplomacy or any kind of positive reward for good behavior because the lesson of Iraq is that the US cannot be trusted to negotiate in good faith. Any threats short of war are useless because foreign leaders can no longer count on the US to keep its word not to invade if certain conditions have been met.
They serve with integrity, perserverance and honor and we still treat them like this and this.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

You go Kevin!
So how about we knock off the tedious arguments about "moral clarity" that seemingly apply only to countries that annoy us at the moment, and instead discuss a comprehensive foreign policy based on intelligent use of force, respect for international alliances and multinational institutions, and a realistic view of how much can actually be accomplished on the ground. The goal should be progress toward safety and stability, not juvenile debating points.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Words from a master of Middle Eastern realities

We would do well to keep in mind that -- with the technologically and economically dispossessed, the militant religious sects, and the terrorists who act from the age-old truth that when there is no future, nothing is forbidden -- we are entering an age of global crisis and we should choose our weapons carefully. As Lawrence wryly remarks,

"War upon rebellion is messy and slow, like eating soup with a knife."
Lisa English:
Well, how's about that? Neil Bush in violation of SEC regulations. Whodda thunk it?
The Empire has risen.

Once Bush had chosen the site, there was virtually nothing the Iraqi government could do to avoid war, short of total capitulation. As a demonstration of both America’s military might and his own itchy trigger finger, Bush had decided to make Iraq his Alderaan, the hapless planet in the original Star Wars movie that was picked to show off the power of the Death Star.
Michael Kinsley re-lists all the questions about the Bush War that have yet to be answered.

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?

Monday, April 14, 2003

Wonderful 'toon from Tom Tomorrow.
More shortsighted, screw-future-taxpayer policies from this White House.
Daniel Gross:
For while it appears to relieve the Postal Service of certain burdens, it adds to the burgeoning federal deficit. And the bargain ignores a larger problem with the Postal Service's retirement planning that will require either vast rate increases or a taxpayer bailout in years to come.
Justice Kennedy actually speaks out on judicial confirmation deadlock. He seems to be blaming the Senate. The problem used to be the Republican Senate that was blocking practically all nominations. Now the problem is a White House that is unable to nominate anyone that isn't on the radical right end of the spectrum. If the White House began sending in truly moderate nominations this crisis would evaporate.

Friday, April 11, 2003

Christians run amok.
Franklin Graham's mission to Iraq will help convince the Arab world that America is out to convert Muslims to Christianity. What Graham is doing probably isn't illegal; it's merely immoral.
This business of the flag that was temporarily placed on the Saddam statue is so sad. It seems the flag was one that had been flying at the Pentagon on 9/11. Some misguided folks in our military seemed to think that it was fitting symbolism that the flag make an appearance on the soon-to-be destroyed statue. It's symbolism alright but it is pathetic symbolism. It symbolizes that the Bush regime has been effective in perpetrating the lie that Saddam had some sort of hand in the 9/11 attack. It shows that the many Americans can be suckered by accomplished spin doctors combined with their own innate jingoism. Sad. So sad. A truly dark day for this country of potential light.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Digby says it well. The Bush regime is running the risk of being caught with its pants down. I am confident that if the facts indeed expose them to be what many of us strongly suspect their days are just as numbered as that other regime.

So does Kevin Drum.
Josh has an idea of what to do with the Iraqi oil.

Monday, April 07, 2003

Friday, April 04, 2003

Something's up. Orbat reports:
Power cut off to Baghdad, US denies its responsible; satellite phones being confiscated; west and south exits blocked to residents; locals start to panic; residents tell CNN Iraqi authorities order civilians to start walking to Saddam IAP, some complying.

SRG may be planning to use the civilians of Baghdad as a massive human shield to recover the airport.
Jeanne D'Arc has some excellent comments on the mixing of military and humanitarian missions. People need to read this. (her permalinking doesn't seem to be working. Will make a better link when Blogger gets fixed.)

Thursday, April 03, 2003

Now that's a big squid.
When your head hits the windshield the denser cerebrospinal fluid forces the brain backwards. Therefore the first impact the brain feels is against the back of the skull. Then it rebounds and finally hits the front of the skull. This explains why the back of the brain often is more injured than the front in these types of accidents.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Interesting insight on what gays in the military mean in wartime.

With the war on, the military apparently needs every good man and woman it can get, no matter their sexual orientation - underscoring the hypocrisy of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Times have changed, and to many heterosexuals in the military open gays are fine as long as they do their jobs as well as everyone else.

More unintended consequences.
Vernon Loeb on why the Iraqi military is performing better than expected.

This ex-DIA official I was speaking to today was speculating that Saddam is injured and incapacitated, and for that reason the defense minister is actually running the war, and that's why it's going better than expected for Iraq.

Here's the law of unintended consequences at work. Take out Saddam and you end up with more capable people actually in command.
Gideon Rose lists the many rear guard exposures the current administration has made in its singleminded rush to war. These include, of course, the botched diplomacy with both Turkey and the UN. But also on the list are ignoring the judgement of the CIA, the professional recommendations of the armed forces, and the State Department.

All this, and not simply a few unexpected guerrilla attacks in Iraq, is the background to the soft support the administration's war management has received to date. The saddest part of the story is that it didn't have to be this way. A less cocky, less high-handed, and less deceptive approach to war might actually have won over many doubters, not simply forced them into temporary submission. But having given no quarter along the way, the Bush crowd should hardly be surprised now when they receive none in return.
Fred Kaplan points out that the Iraqi suicide bombers are not terrorists contrary to the American regime's comments about them. The distinction is that the targets are armed combatants. Such acts violate the Geneva Conventions but they are not terrorism.

Still, the Bush regime is trying to trump up a tie between al-Qaeda and Iraq that most likely does not exist. They have departed so far from any sort of good faith debate on this point that they share more and more characteristics with another regime whose fall is imminent.

Over the past 18 months, President Bush has uttered "Sept. 11" and "Iraq" in the same sentence so many times that a large percentage of the American public believes Iraq had something to do with the attack on the World Trade Center. Describing Iraqi battlefield tactics as "terrorist attacks" subtly, even subliminally, reinforces this message.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Even the WSJ finds bad tidings in tax far as the eye can see.
Read Krugman.
Bush administration isn't serious about protecting the homeland. Instead, it continues to subordinate U.S. security needs to its unchanged political agenda.
Once again the WSJ invents a liberal quote about which to be upset.
Tomorrow's news today.

The explosion in the market in Baghdad was from an errant American cruise missile. A Guardian reporter traces a fragment to Raytheon.

Inspectors are fighting over turf. Teams being put together by the US are upsetting to the UN inspection corps. Don't know where to land on this one. A UN team would have more international credibility but a US tteam would have more credibility among the US masses.