Friday, April 30, 2004

Poor John Doyle -- still going at it with Fox News

Apparently, last week wasn't the last run-in for the Globe and Mail's entertainment columnist John Doyle with Fox News -- the battle continues here.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

The Bush administration's idea of "unprecedented co-operation"

The next time you hear White House spokesweasel Scott McClellan spin about how this administration is just a terrific fan of the 9/11 commission and, like, totally supports them, you might want to re-read this little nugget.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

No, no ... get BACK in that closet

From an
online CNN article, we learn that gay high school student Jarred Gamwell is not allowed to use his sexual orientation as part of his campaign.

As the lede explains,

An openly gay student is fighting to campaign in his high school election with posters that read: "Gay Guys Know Everything!" and "Queer Guy for Hunt High."

So, apparently, Gamwell is having a bit of fun using his sexual orientation as a campaign issue. I imagine there might be arguments on either side of this issue, but the school administration's defense of having removed his posters leaves one absolutely (as Molly Ivins would put it) whomper-jawed:

"The language in the two campaign posters in question was determined to be disruptive to the educational process and to have no relevance to the student's qualifications for office," said Robert E. Kendall Jr., school district spokesman in Wilson County, 40 miles east of Raleigh.

Well, isn't that fascinating? The thought that Gamwell's homosexuality isn't relevant to his campaigning for what one might call "public offlce." Could it be any less relevant than, say, someone's religious beliefs, or the regularity with which they attend church? But don't expect any lessening of the frequency with which right-wing hypocrites insist on telling everyone how devout they are. After all, that's clearly a critical fact because ... well, because ... oh, hell, I got nothing.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

The myth of tort reform

You know how the political right is always whining about how tort reform (read, "drastically low caps on lawsuit damages") will be in everyone's benefit, will lower insurance rates, will save everyone gobs of cash, etc, etc, yadda yadda yadda.

It's crap.

And you can see the evidence here. Absolutely priceless is State Insurance Commissioner Jose Montemayor (read, "insurance industry whore") who, in March 2003, seemed to promise that reforms "would translate to a 17 percent to 19 percent reduction in rates".

When they did no such thing, Montemayor back-pedaled by claiming that, well, that letter wasn't really a promise or anything.

Next up: Montemayor promises that Iraq really had WMDs. OK, well, not really WMDs, maybe just intentions to have WMD-related program activities. Or something like that.
The political value of dead people

In defending the ban on photos of returning coffins from Iraq, we have White House spokesweasel Trent Duffy, ""In all of this, we must pay attention to the privacy and to the sensitivity of the families of the fallen . . . and that has to be the utmost concern."

Unless those "fallen" happen to be victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York, at which point they're perfectly fair game for exploiting in Republican campaign advertising. Apparently, it's not who you are that matters, as long as you happen to be dead and have some political value to this administration.
Whew, such language

If you need any hints about why John Kerry and the Dems are going to get their heads handed to them on a platter this November in the upcoming presidential elections, look no further than the spineless, milksop whining that passes for criticism from prominent Dems.

this article, we have Joe Biden:

The ban on showing coffins returning from the field of battle has quickly become a political issue. Joseph Biden, the ranking Democrat on the senate foreign relations committee, said: "These young men and women are heroes . . . The idea that they are essentially snuck back into the country under the cover of night so no one can see that their casket has arrived, I just think is wrong."

It's "wrong"? Whoa, dude, you sure you want to make that kind of bold, in-your-face type of smackdown? Others might call it "appalling", "offensive" or, hey, maybe even "reprehensible". But "wrong"? Man, talk about a tough crowd.
Atkins: the low-carb, high-stupidity diet

(Apologies to the Daily Show's Lewis Black for ripping off the title.)

A head-shaking article about how a couple on the Atkins diet got tossed from a buffet when the hubby went back for his twelfth (yes, you read that correctly -- twelfth) slice of roast beef.

Apparently, the idea behind the Atkins diet is that you forego the breadsticks, and replace them with four pounds of meat. Seems fair.
The NYT still pretty much a Republican mouthpiece

In an April 22 New York Times article entitled "White House Says Iraq Sovereignty Could Be Limited," reporter Steven R. Weisman writes, "Only 10 weeks from the scheduled transfer of sovereignty, the administration is still not sure exactly who will govern in Baghdad, or precisely how they will be selected." (emphasis added)

Not sure "exactly" ... or "precisely"? Isn't that cute? Sort of like the way someone says, "Well, I'm not totally sure where we are," when what they mean is, "We are completely and utterly freaking lost!"

And given that Weisman's very next sentence is, "A week ago, President Bush agreed to a recommendation by Mr. Brahimi to dismantle the existing Iraqi Governing Council, which was handpicked by the United States, and to replace it with a caretaker government whose makeup is to be decided next month," I think it's safe to say we can interpret Weisman's tap dancing pretty much the same way, no?

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Oh oh ... things getting out of hand in Saudi Arabia

It shouldn't come as any surprise to see terrorist attacks against Saudi Arabia, given the chummy ties between that kingdom and the Bush administration. I suspect we'll be seeing a lot more of this in the coming days.

There is a certain level of eye-rolling irony in Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah's words, "Your duty is our pride. God will help us to defeat these people," Abdullah told one of the injured. God is apparently a very busy beaver these days, what with helping the Bush administration's war on terror against the Iraqi insurgents, helping the Iraqi insurgents' war against American imperialism, and now helping the Saudis (the fun folks who had a major role in the 9/11 attacks, or had you forgotten?) in their struggle against the forces of evil.

Poor God. Constantly dragged into the conversation whether he likes it or not.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

A Canadian perspective on Fox News

Globe and Mail columnist John Doyle recently took a couple of light-hearted shots at all those "fair and balanced" folks at Fox News. The result is described here.

Apparently, Bill O'Reilly doesn't have much of a sense of humour. Gosh, there's a surprise.

Monday, April 19, 2004

You've got to be kidding

From Time magazine's web site, we have the special report link entitled, "Bush's Credibility Gap -- Does the country trust the President to tell the truth?"

Can someone explain why we're even asking this question anymore? Mercifully, the link is broken. Perhaps that's just as well.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

And so it begins ...

or, more appropriately, and so it ends ... breaking news at CNN reports that

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, meanwhile, on Sunday said he will withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq "in the shortest time possible."

Zapatero, who was sworn into office Saturday, had previously vowed to bring home Spain's 1,300 troops if the United Nations did not have "political and military control" in Iraq by June 30.

In other words, it's over. Everyone else is bailing, and the Iraqi insurgents are getting ready to really "bring it on." There was no other way this could have ended.
It would be funny if it weren't so true

From a lengthy piece on the recent appalling U.S. concession to Israel on keeping large parts of the occupied West Bank, Michelle Goldberg writes:

'Seeking to demonstrate support for his plan, Sharon called a May 2 referendum of 200,000 Likud members, whose vote will decide the future of the pullout. One result of this has been to render everyone to the left of Sharon even more irrelevant than they have been for the last three and a half years, when the collapse of peace talks and the Al-Aqsa intifada pushed them to the margins of Israeli society. "As far as the Israeli media is concerned, all the debate is taking place on the right," says Levy. "It's as if America's Iraq policy was being decided by a referendum within the Republican Party."'

Uh ... yeah? Your point being?

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Can these people EVER stop lying?

From this online article, we have Bush braintrust Karl Rove kind of, sort of apologizing for the infamous "Mission Accomplished" banner that has since come back to haunt those military geniuses in the White House.

Sadly, Rove tries to minimize the embarrassment by claiming that "the phrase referred to the carrier's crew completing their 10-month mission, not the military completing its mission in Iraq."

Which is, of course, a blatant lie given that Chimpy McFlightSuit himself, George W., on that very occasion, referred to "one victory in the war on terrorism and an end to major combat operations in Iraq."

These people are absolutely pathological.
A Kerry campaign ad I'd like to see

A desk ... in a very posh office ... hey, it's the Oval Office, you can tell since there's a nameplate on the desk, "George W. Bush, President" ... and a disturbing pile of unattended memos, with frightening titles like "BIN LADEN DETERMINED TO STRIKE IN UNITED STATES", and "URGENT: TERRORISTS MIGHT USE AIRPLANES IN TERRORIST ATTACKS", and on and on ... and a calendar clearly showing August 2001 ... and a post-it note, reading, "Gone fishing. Back in September. George"
Deep, dark truthful mirror

Another must read on the subject of 9/11.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Oops ... how proofreaders earn their pay

From the online edition of The Globe and Mail, April 16, we have the article, "PM skeptical of U.S. move toward Israel":

OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Paul Martin says Canada is sticking with its Middle East policy despite Washington's major shift to recognize some Israeli settlements on the West Bank.

As Arab leaders seethed at President George W. Bush's tilt toward Israel, Mr. Martin said yesterday he is not convinced Washington's shift will ultimately lead to a negotiated peace...
(emphasis added)

The print edition, however, did not exactly refer to Washington's "shift" in that second instance. Use your imagination.

Sometimes, there really is justice in the world.
Just how non-literate can one human being be?

Over at Political Animal, Kevin Drum has a short note clarifying the beast that is known as the PDB, or Presidential Daily Briefing. According to former CIA officer Larry Johnson, the notorious Aug 6 2001 PDB was unusual in its length -- a whole page and a half -- given that the typical PDB was, perhaps, one or two paragraphs.

Nothing curious there, until you read Sidney Blumenthal here, where Blumenthal writes:

Bush, in fact, does not read his President's Daily Briefs, but has them orally summarised every morning by the CIA director, George Tenet. President Clinton, by contrast, read them closely and alone, preventing any aides from interpreting what he wanted to know first-hand. He extensively marked up his PDBs, demanding action on this or that, which is almost certainly the likely reason the Bush administration withheld his memoranda from the 9/11 commission.".

Jeezus, man, how illiterate do you have to be to need someone to summarize one to two paragraphs for you? Words fail me.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Irony is well and truly dead

The title of a short piece this morning on CNN Headline News, "Is Arabic Media Biased?" Pause for reflection that CNN could even ask the question. Apparently, one of the unforgivable sins of the Arabic media was their reference to coalition troops as "occupation forces."

Go figure.
Reality according to George Dubya

This piece by William Saletan is a must-read.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Don't blame me -- I was out of the loop

Josh Marshall over at TalkingPointsMemo has an interesting take on a recent Washington Post piece, but I'm not sure he hammers home hard enough the implications of something George W. Bush said in response to the now-notorious Aug 6 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing. According to the Post, Bush stated:

"I am satisfied that I never saw any intelligence that indicated there was going to be an attack on America -- at a time and a place, an attack ...

When you think about it, this is an amazing demonstration of CYA (covering one's posterior). Normally, you'd think that, if something as devastating as the terrorist attacks of 9/11 happened on your watch as president, you'd be pretty steamed. You'd probably be wandering the halls of the West Wing, in a foul mood, demanding to know whose heads should roll for this unforgivable lapse in national security. How the $#^@$@$ could this have happened, you'd be hollering. Get me Tenet! Get me Rice! Somebody is in serious crap here, and I'm going to find out who, by God!

But not George. Instead, by saying, "I am satisfied that I never saw any intelligence that indicated there was going to be an attack on America,", what he appears to be saying is, "Hey, I'm satisfied that I was so utterly and unspeakably ignorant of the gathering warnings of impending attacks that, well, come on, you can't hold me responsible."

This appears to represent a whole new standard in plausible deniability -- don't blame me, I'm way too stupid to have been able to do anything about it. And the scary thing is -- a lot of people are going to accept that.

Monday, April 12, 2004

All you really need to read

The lede from an article in April 12's Toronto Star:

"George W. Bush emerged briefly from his Texas seclusion yesterday ..."

I guess, if he sees his shadow, there's six more weeks of attacks on U.S. forces by Islamic insurgents? Is that how it works?

Sunday, April 11, 2004

OK, just what would it take?

For many years, and even to this day, I've been a vocal critic of the pseudo-scientific swill known as "creation science", or "scientific creationism", or whatever you want to call it. I've been in my share of heated arguments, and have even been in a fairly high-profile debate. But there's one occasion in particular that has shaped the way I react these days when I hear the nonsense coming from the right regarding war, or taxes, or the economy, or just about anything.

It was many years ago when I was having at it with a typically ill-informed supporter of creationism, who was taking the position that there just weren't "enough" transitional forms of fossils for him to be convinced that evolution had occurred. Now, I will give him credit that he didn't say there were no transitional forms -- that would have been an unimaginably asinine thing to say and would have annihiliated his credibility on the spot. So he was reduced to saying that there just weren't enough for his liking, while leaving the word "enough" sufficiently vague to get him off the hook.

In frustration, I snapped back, "OK, what would be enough? Gimme a number." I hadn't really mapped out a strategy here, it was just what came to mind at the moment.

My conversation partner seemed suddenly flustered, and stammered and stuttered; "What do you mean, a number? What kind of question is that?"

Whoa, I thought, I'm definitely on to something here. "Give me a number that would be 'enough' for you," I pressed. "You just said that there aren't 'enough' transitional forms to convince you of evolution. So, what would it take? What would be enough? Give me a number." I started to realize I was really on to something since there were, realistically, only two kinds of answers I could get, and I could work with both kinds.

If he gave me a reasonable figure, I could probably produce that many examples straight out of my copy of "The Encyclopedia of Vertebrate Evolution." If he came back with a ridiculous value, I could accuse him of setting an impossibly high standard, and trash his credibility that way as well. Either way, I pretty much had him, as he dodged, weaved and tap danced every way he could to avoid giving me a number. I never did get a value out of him, but I had a whole new line of attack.

The line of attack can be summarized by asking, "OK, what would it take to convince you you're wrong? Give me a number." And it's easy to see how quickly you can apply this strategy.

As I recall, on more than one occasion, various members of the Bush administration have either said outright or implied that the U.S. military casualty rate in Iraq is acceptable, and that therefore military action will continue. (I vaguely recall a Republican politician, a congressman perhaps, whose name escapes me at the moment, who opined once upon a time that the death rate for U.S. servicemen was only two per day, perfectly acceptable. He got roasted for his callousness.)

But the instant someone made this kind of statement, wouldn't it be terrific if some bold member of the media were to suddenly ask, "Um, excuse me, but if the current casualty rate is what you consider 'acceptable,' what value would you consider unacceptable? Give us a number, please."

I think we all know what kind of response we'd get. First, there'd be some definite stuttering and stammering, almost certainly followed by feigned outrage like, "I find that question in extremely poor taste. I find it hard to believe that someone could ask such a thing." Etc, etc, dodge, weave, tap dance ... you get the idea.

But the reporter should stand his ground, with something like, "I'm sorry, but there's absolutely nothing inappropriate or insulting about my question. You clearly stated/implied that losing two soldiers per day is within the bounds of acceptable loss. By doing so, you've obviously acknowledged that you have a value that you consider 'acceptable'. By extension, there must be a point at which that casualty rate becomes 'unacceptable'. All I want to know is what that value is."

Knowing full well that the speaker is going to do everything not to have to come up with a number, it might be necessary to help him along. "As a starting point, would you agree that 1,000 casualties per day would be unacceptable?" You'd have to think that that value is definitely not going to be tolerated since, at that rate, the entire U.S. deployment to Iraq would be dead in four months. So what can the speaker do?

If he admits that, of course, 1000 dead per day is unacceptable, the reporter can bring it down and try again. 750? What about 500? It's simple bracketing. And it does no good for the speaker to try to weasel out by claiming that there's no way to know. After all, he's the one who started out with the "acceptable" value of two so, obviously, he must have some criteria for making that decision. Don't let him off the hook.

On the other hand, if the speaker refuses to answer, imagine the possible headline: "Administration mum on acceptability of 1,000 deaths of U.S. servicemen per day." Not the headline you really want. In short, the poor speaker is pretty much screwed either way. And this debating tactic doesn't stop with death tolls.

Recently, the Bush administration has, in the face of pretty dismal economic forecasts, staunchly maintained that things are headed in the right direction, and are on the right track. Which inspires the obvious question for White House spokesweasel Scott McClellan, "Uh, excuse me, Scott, but given that you think the unemployment figures suggest that this administration is on the right track, what figures would you have to see to admit that you're on the wrong track?"

Again, there would certainly be some furious spin, and a refusal to entertain such an outrageous question. But the reporter must be firm, and refuse to back down, which would put someone like Scott McClellan in a very uncomfortable position.

If he finally produces a reasonable value, he's now put the entire administration's credibility at risk, since he has to realize that whatever he came up with might actually happen, and he'll be just roasted by the Press Corps.

On the other hand, if he comes up with a totally absurd value (say, a loss of a million jobs a month), he'll just make the administration look rigid and inflexible.
And if he refuses to produce a value at all, well, reporters can write their own headlines.

This was just a very long-winded way of proposing a slightly different strategy for debate. Don't defend your position, or attack the opponent's. Instead, ask a very simple question: "What would it take for you to change your mind? Give me a number."

The lost art of apologizing

You've probably noticed that no one really apologizes anymore and, amazingly, no, I'm not talking about media icon Condi Rice, for whom the terrorist attacks of 9/11 were pretty much everyone else's fault but hers.

I'm talking about the ham-fisted members of the Mississippi state law enforcement who demanded that reporters erase their recordings of a speech by Supreme Court justice and unabashed duck murderer Antonin "Fat Tony" Scalia, which you can read about here.

According to all of the press accounts, no members of the media were warned beforehand that Scalia doesn't like his speeches recorded -- like just about everything else surrounding the Bush administration, this is apparently due to concerns with "national security".

While law enforcement officials want to claim that no one actually demanded that the reporters erase their recordings, the record shows otherwise: "The reporter, Denise Grones, initially resisted, but later showed the deputy how to erase the recording after the officer took the device from her." It's pretty hard to argue that you're not pressuring someone after you've simply taken their equipment.

And what did the fine folks who serve and protect have to say when the firestorm hit? Pretty much anything that didn't resemble an apology.

Flowers said the fact no announcement was made regarding Scalia's wishes, ``could have possibly been a faux pas on our behalf.''

He added that ``It would have been handled, on hindsight, a little bit different.''

Ah. Possibly a faux pas. Perhaps handled differently in hindsight. And yet, we have U.S. marshal Nehemiah Flowers, who "defended the deputy's actions."

So, in short, we're maybe kinda, sorta sorry. But not sorry enough to actually say that we're sorry. Oh, hell, we're not sorry at all.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Jeebus, lady, how much time do you need?

It's fascinating to see how one of the defenses of Condi Rice's hopelessly incompetent stint as National Security Advisor is that, hey, they'd been in office only 233 days, I mean, come on, give 'em a break. It's amusing to see the reference to exactly, precisely "233 days". Kind of reminds you of the exactitude of those nasty "16 words" in the president's SOTU speech.

But if the Bush administration needed help getting up to speed, why didn't they take advantage of those fun folks who, within 24 hours, were accusing former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill of disclosing classified infomation on "60 Minutes"? Or the folks who didn't waste a lot of time savaging Joe Wilson or outing his wife as a CIA operative?

It's not like this administration doesn't already have its own rapid response team. Apparently, though, they use it only for the important stuff like political character assassination, and not this more mundane, unexciting stuff like, you know, national security.
You think they would have learned by now

In the midst of a lengthy, surprisingly critical piece in the New York Times, we find this depressing little nugget:

'The White House on Friday put off a decision on declassifying the document at the center of the debate — the Aug. 6 briefing, titled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States." But the administration appeared ready to release at least portions of the document publicly in the coming days.'

"... at least portions ..." In other words, this administration is once again going to carefully and selectively decide what will make them look good and what won't. And it remains to be seen whether anyone -- the press, the 9/11 commission, anyone -- will finally stiffen their spine and say, no, sorry, that's not good enough, we want the whole thing.

Well, OK, we know there's one group that won't put up with this, and that's the 9/11 widows. But anyone else? Anyone? Bueller?

UPDATE: Just so the inevitable dodging, weaving and tap dancing by this administration won't come as any surprise, you should read this piece from the New York Times.

The overly-optimistic title of that article is "U.S. to Declassify Bin Laden Memo" which, to the naive, untrained eye, might suggest that the U.S. is going to, well, you know, declassify the Aug. 6 bin Laden memo. But that's before one actually reads the article, where one reads that "White House officials were working Friday to declassify the document, a so-called presidential daily brief."

They were "working" at it? How hard can this be? "OK, it's declassified, here's your copy."

Moral of this story: Don't be holding your breath for this one.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Two perspectives on the current conflict in Iraq

The Bush administration -- government by tautology

Is anyone else just plain tired of the number of times members of the White House administration address an issue or answer a question with a totally (by definition) content-free tautology? The latest example is from Maureen Dowd's recent column, in which SecDef Donald Rumsfeld (Dr. Strangefeld), describes the deteriorating situation in Iraq with:

"We're trying to explain how things are going, and they are going as they are going,"

They are going as they are going. He said what he said. I mean what I mean. Does it get any more vacuous than that? Particularly in Rumsfeld's case, where he seems to think that nonsensical statements like this are somehow incredibly profound. Note to The Donald: there's a real difference between profound and inane.
At least he knows his audience

From an April 1 article by veteran Middle East reporter Robert Fisk:

"An emotional former President George H.W. Bush yesterday defended his son's invasion of Iraq and lashed out at White House critics.

In a speech to the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association annual convention ..."

Humanitarians and civil rights advocates, the lot of them, I'm sure.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

A blogger perspective on the Condi Rice show

You have absolutely got to read this. Trust me.
The Globe watch -- Condi worship, Canadian style

In honor of today's upcoming festivities, during which U.S. National Security Advisor Condi Rice will have to testify before the 9/11 commission, under oath (you know, promising to actually tell the truth, God forbid), we have yet another installment of the Globe Watch, in which we find that Condi worship doesn't stop at the border.

I refer to an April 8 column by columnist Margaret Wente, in which Condi worship is taken to absolutely nauseating levels.

Revel in the following excerpts: "the most powerful woman in the world", "one awesome babe", "the most important national security advisor since Henry Kissinger", "the only woman on a team of alpha-plus-plus males." And all within the first two paragraphs. (Careful, Margaret -- you don't want to run out of superlatives.)

Predictably, Wente also has to squeeze in the recent and annoying X Files-style Republican talking points, referring to Rice as an "enigma" and that the media "can't quite get a handle on her."

It continues in this gushing, sycophantic vein: "The Warrior Princess shatters all stereotypes of race and gender", "a creature who should not exist", and on and on and tediously on. Trust me, you get the idea.

It is a relief, I suppose, when Wente takes a short break from this idol worship, if only to take a thoroughly dishonest shot at Rice's most high profile critic these days, Richard Clarke. Wente writes of Clarke:

Was 9/11 preventable? Of course not. Even Condi's nemesis, Richard Clarke, admits to that.

Not surprisingly, Clarke has admitted nothing of the sort. Wente might be referring to an incident wonderfully eviscerated by blogger Bob Somerby here, where Somerby refers to a passage from a Charles Krauthammer column in the Washington Post, in which Krauthammer describes a short exchange at the 9/11 hearings:

KRAUTHAMMER: Former senator Slade Gorton: "Assuming that the recommendations that you made on January 25th of 2001…had all been adopted say on January 26th, year 2001, is there the remotest chance that it would have prevented 9/11?"

Clarke: "No."

Note carefully what Clarke is actually saying -- that a specific set of recommendations he made on a particular day would not have prevented the terrorist attacks. But Clarke is certainly not making the absurd suggestion that those attacks could not have been prevented at all, as he made clear during a 60 Minutes interview with Lesley Stahl, during which Clarke said:

CLARKE: Lesley, if we had put their picture on the CBS Evening News, if we had put their picture on Dan Rather, on USA Today, we could have caught those guys, and then we might have been able to pull that thread and-and get more of the conspiracy. I'm not saying we could have stopped 9/11, but we could have at least had a chance.

How much clearer could Clarke get? No, a specific set of recommendations would not have helped, but certainly a number of different approaches might have made a difference, if only the Bush administration had taken the threat more seriously -- a pretty unsubtle distinction apparently lost on scribes like Wente.

Perhaps the funniest part of Wente's column is the closing line, in which Wente writes:

... a close friend told The New Yorker. "[Rice is] always thought of as underqualified and in over her head, and she always kicks everyone's butt."

Pretty amusing given that, these days, it's pretty well settled that Rice really is, in fact, thoroughly unqualified for her post and that, at the moment, she's not kicking any butt, anywhere.

UPDATE: Just in case you needed any confirmation of Condi Rice's depressing failure as a National Security Advisor, check out this recent post from Josh Marshall over at TalkingPointsMemo. Marshall's right -- it's pretty clear that "few people across the ideological spectrum believe that Rice has been an effective National Security Advisor". Follow those links to see for yourself. I'm not making this stuff up. I don't have to.
Scott McClellan -- that fine line between spin and dishonesty

Despite his being a depressingly easy target, we'll have to take the occasional swing at White House spokesweasel Scott McClellan. And there's a seriously enlightening piece over at deadparrots.

In defending Condi Rice's previous stance not to testify in front of the 9/11 commission, McClellan said the following during a White House press briefing on March 9:

Dr. Rice -- you mentioned Dr. Rice -- Dr. Rice sat down, was scheduled for I believe a two-hour interview -- sat down for I think it was more than four hours that she actually visited with the commission. She was more than happy to visit with the commission. Only five members actually showed up, despite the fact that it was scheduled for the entire commission. You had another national security official under Dr. Rice who met with the commission and I think only four showed up.

The implication here is obvious -- clearly, those lazy-ass commissioners can't work up enough interest to even drag themselves in to talk to Rice. But at the time, I couldn't help thinking, were all of them even invited? Were all of them even allowed to be at those interviews?

And the answer appears to be, well, no. As deadparrots quotes from USA Today:

What McClellan didn't tell reporters was that on Nov. 21 - long before Rice met with the five commissioners in February - the White House counsel's office had sent the commission a letter saying no more than three commissioners could attend meetings with White House aides of Rice's rank.

Ooh ... busted.

UPDATE: As I thought more about this, it made me wonder, when McClellan made the original statement at that press briefing, why no reporter in attendance thought to ask the obvious question, "Uh, Scott, just to clarify ... were all members of the commission specifically invited to talk to Rice? I mean, they were all allowed to be there, right?"

After all, by the time this briefing took place in March, it was already well known how the White House was trying to control the interview process, making it as restrictive as possible. So it wouldn't have represented a great leap in deduction for someone to have asked what should have been an obvious question. After all, the thought of several commissioners just being too lazy or disinterested to want to talk to Condi Rice is clearly absurd on its face.

And now that McClellan's been busted, one wonders if anyone will pin him on this at an upcoming briefing. I mean, spin is one thing. But outright disinformation is quite another, and someone should take him to task for it.
The Globe Watch, April 8, 2004

This is our first installment of the Globe Watch -- what will be a regular examination of Canada's very own national newspaper, the Globe and Mail -- and one must be careful not to let it turn into a full-time pursuit, given the frequent quality of the Globe's journalism. Or lack thereof, as it were.

We'll start with a recent column by regular columnist Marcus Gee whose job, if recent work is any guide, is to act as a loyal pro-Bush stenographer. And with this column, Gee stays true to form, opening with:

"Washington's critics say that it is in trouble in Iraq because it is acting too much like an empire. In fact, it is in trouble because it is not acting enough like one."

Got that? Apparently, Washington's problem is, they're not acting empirical enough. But wait, it gets better.

Given the ongoing coverage over the last several weeks of increasing unrest and violence in Iraq, and the ever-tougher reactions of the U.S. military to try to keep the peace, try to imagine that Gee (or anyone, for that matter) could actually write the following:

"Because [the American people] believe in democracy, they want to hand over power as quickly as possible to Iraqis. Because they don't see themselves as an empire, they want to rule with the lightest possible hand."

Yup, despite the unprovoked invasion of a sovereign nation based on clearly fictitious claims of WMDs, the near-total destruction of that country's infrastructure, the deaths of several thousand (at least) Iraqi civilians, the installation of a blatantly pro-American puppet governing council, and the annexation of pretty much all of Iraq's natural resources, it's not like the U.S. has any aspirations of empire, or anything like that.

Mercifully, once you stop slapping your forehead, you realize that there are places where you can still get real news coverage. Case in point -- a recent article by Naomi Klein in The Nation. At the risk of abusing the notion of "fair use", I have to quote extensively from Klein's piece. As you read it, keep in mind Gee's description of a "well-meaning empire" that "wants to hand over power as quickly as possible," and that wants to rule with "the lightest possible hand".

Writes Klein:

As the June 30 "handover" approaches, Paul Bremer has unveiled a slew of new tricks to hold on to power long after "sovereignty" has been declared.

Some recent highlights: At the end of March, building on his Order 39 of last September, Bremer passed yet another law further opening up Iraq's economy to foreign ownership, a law that Iraq's next government is prohibited from changing under the terms of the interim constitution. Bremer also announced the establishment of several independent regulators, which will drastically reduce the power of Iraqi government ministries. For instance, the Financial Times reports that "officials of the Coalition Provisional Authority said the regulator would prevent communications minister Haider al-Abadi, a thorn in the side of the coalition, from carrying out his threat to cancel licenses the coalition awarded to foreign-managed consortia to operate three mobile networks and the national broadcaster."

The CPA has also confirmed that after June 30, the $18.4 billion the US government is spending on reconstruction will be administered by the US Embassy in Iraq. The money will be spent over five years and will fundamentally redesign Iraq's most basic infrastructure, including its electricity, water, oil and communications sectors, as well as its courts and police. Iraq's future governments will have no say in the construction of these core sectors of Iraqi society. Retired Rear Adm. David Nash, who heads the Project Management Office, which administers the funds, describes the $18.4 billion as "a gift from the American people to the people of Iraq." He appears to have forgotten the part about gifts being something you actually give up. And in the same eventful week, US engineers began construction on fourteen "enduring bases" in Iraq, capable of housing the 110,000 soldiers who will be posted here for at least two more years. Even though the bases are being built with no mandate from an Iraqi government, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy chief of operations in Iraq, called them "a blueprint for how we could operate in the Middle East."

The US occupation authority has also found a sneaky way to maintain control over Iraq's armed forces. Bremer has issued an executive order stating that even after the interim Iraqi government has been established, the Iraqi army will answer to US commander Lieut. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez. In order to pull this off, Washington is relying on a legalistic reading of a clause in UN Security Council Resolution 1511, which puts US forces in charge of Iraq's security until "the completion of the political process" in Iraq. Since the "political process" in Iraq is never-ending, so, it seems, is US military control.

In the same flurry of activity, the CPA announced that it would put further constraints on the Iraqi military by appointing a national security adviser for Iraq. This US appointee would have powers equivalent to those held by Condoleezza Rice and will stay in office for a five-year term, long after Iraq is scheduled to have made the transition to a democratically elected government.

Of course, none of this sort of thing generally disturbs stenos like Gee, who loyally rouse themselves from their slumber, sign their name to the latest Bush White House press release and fax it in. I mean, can you seriously imagine a real journalist penning the following:

It is, after all, quite obvious what Iraq needs: a federal system with a strong central government and an independent judiciary and constitution to settle disputes. The Americans are being so democratic about getting there that the goal of democracy itself is now in peril.

Yup, that's the Americans -- democratic to a fault. In a moment of unintentional hilarity, Gee closes his column with:

"... like it or not, the United States is an empire -- a well-meaning empire, but an empire all the same. It had better learn to act like one."

Oh, I don't think we have anything to worry about on that score, do we?

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

More good news from Iraq

"U.S. Hits Fallujah Mosque; 40 Said Killed", link here.

"FALLUJAH, Iraq - U.S. Marines in a fierce battle for this Sunni Muslim stronghold fired rockets that hit a mosque filled with people Wednesday, and witnesses said as many as 40 people were killed."

Oh, great. Now they're launching military assaults on mosques. That's going to win friends and influence people.
The Globe and Mail watch -- setting the table

While the focus of this blog will be primarily on American politics, since we're actually based in the Great White North (the home of socialized medicine and real beer), we will of course have to deal with the Canadian media, mostly in terms of just how atrocious they are. And what better place to start than with Canada's very own "national newspaper," the Globe and Mail? Or, as some like to call it, the Grope and Flail. Or Mope and Wail. Or Mop and Pail.

For those of you Yanks not familiar with the Globe, it's fair to say that Canada has two major "national" newspapers, the Globe and the National Post. By way of comparison, think of the Post as our equivalent of the Wall Street Journal -- hideously right wing. As a reference point, this is a paper that still runs columns by right-wing howler monkey Ann Coulter. More than that, do you really need to know?

The Globe, on the other hand, is more like the New York Times -- once upon a time a respectable paper but, like the Times, steadily lurching rightward over the last few years, with its own gaggle of grating neocon columnists indistinguishable from Times' writers like Bill Safire, William Krauthammer and so on.

That much sets the table for our first installment of the Globe Watch, coming shortly, in which one of the paper's regular columnists defends the efforts of the United States to install democracy in Iraq. No, I'm not joking. More shortly.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

And so it begins ...

Al-Sadr supporters take over Najaf. And just as U.S. marines are converging on Fallujah and, as the article describes, "coming under heavy fire from insurgents," supporters of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have taken over the holy city of Najaf.

In other words, the initial skirmish is long since over. The real battle has just begun.
Dear Mr. Bush:

As requested, we are "bringing it on."

Sincerely yours,
Some pissed off Iraqis

(Stolen shamelessly from the comments section over at Atrios.)

Monday, April 05, 2004

With friends like this ...

It's hard to believe the first few paragraphs of this online article, which is getting some serious links in the blogosphere.

It starts off tamely enough, describing yet another shooting match in Baghdad:

US Apache helicopters sprayed fire on the private army of radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr during fierce battles today in the western Baghdad district of Al-Showla, witnesses and an AFP correspondent said.

"Two Apaches opened fire on armed members of the Mehdi Army," said Showla resident Abbas Amid.

The fighting erupted when five trucks of US soldiers and the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps (ICDC) tried to enter the district and were attacked by Sadr supporters, Amid said.

Then, suddenly, the article lurches off into the surreal:

Coming under fire, the ICDC, a paramilitary force trained by the Americans, turned on the US soldiers and started to shoot at them, according to Amid.

Yes, the American-trained and accompanying ICDC soldiers turned and opened fire on their American partners.

The soldiers fled their vehicles and headed for cover and then began to battle both the Mehdi Army and the ICDC members, he said. Their vehicles were set ablaze.

This is what you would call in the journalistic world a "bad sign".
The Fallujah killings -- let the spin begin

It didn't take long for the spin to start regarding the recent Fallujah killings of four -- what shall we call them? -- "U.S. contractors". Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this entire story is how hard it's been to dig up the details of just what those "contractors" were doing in Fallujah in the first place. And what an interesting exercise in spin control it's been.

Some of the first news articles referred simply to the brutal murder of four "U.S. civilians," a description guaranteed to enrage just about everyone. After all, it's one thing for military personnel to come under fire, that's what they're there for. But innocent civilians? How dare they? Why, those amoral, cowardly savages! But, right from the start, there was something about this story that just smelled bad.

Given that Fallujah is widely recognized as a hotbed of anti-American sentiment, what on earth were American civilians doing there in the first place? More to the point, what were they doing, driving around the town in an SUV? It seems you had to wait a bit for the actual details to start trickling out, bit by bit.

The April 2 edition of the local Globe and Mail opened with a front page article, "U.S. vows to pacify Fallujah", by describing the victims, not simply as civilians, but as "U.S. contractors". Aha, one thinks, that's a little more forthcoming, but still, what kind of contractors? Doing what? For who? Sadly, the rest of the article says absolutely nothing more, and we're left guessing.

However, in a second, front page but below the fold story, "Soldiers walk softly in an angry town," we read how "... insurgents gunned down four American security contractors as they drove past in their SUVs..." Aha, again! Now they're not just contractors, but security contractors. It's a painful process but, if we're determined, we can tease these details out given time. But this still leaves questions. Security for who? Protecting what? Surely, there's more to this story.

And then we come to a buried, A14, single column story, "Killings shed light on role of hired gun", by Julian Borger, which describes the business of Blackwater Security Consulting of North Carolina, which confirms that the victims were, in fact, private hired guns -- essentially, mercenaries -- and describes Blackwater as "founded in 1996 by a former U.S. Navy commando ... to provide military and police training, and to serve as bodyguards and bomb-disposal experts." Blackwater employees are described as "soldiers of fortune, who earn as much as $900 (U.S.) a day in a conflict zone, far more than normal troops."

Well! That certainly cleared things up, didn't it? So from an initial picture of hapless and harmless civilians wandering around Fallujah, we're now dealing with four, highly-trained, well-armed mercenaries. And doesn't that just change the whole social dynamic? Suddenly, I'm not feeling so sympathetic anymore. But here's where the story gets good.

Regardless of what kind of training and background the victims had, there's still a wide-open question -- if they were security contractors, what were they doing in Fallujah and what were they protecting? And here's where the spin starts.

It didn't take long before the story started to spread how these contractors had been assigned to guard a food convoy in the area. Now, that's a terrific cover story -- selfless American contractors, risking their lives to deliver food to needy Iraqis, spreading the principles of democracy and freedom, and being rewarded by being brutally murdered. But in my readings lately, I could swear I read that the food was destined, not for needy Iraqis but for U.S. troops in the area. I'm going to try to find that reference but, for now, just keep this niggling detail in the back of your mind as you read the rest of this piece.

You'd think that the destination of that food convoy would be an integral part of this whole story, but it's tough to actually find that described anywhere. In Borger's piece in the Globe and Mail, Blackwater Security confirms only that "the four [victims] had been in in Fallujah to provide protection for food convoys into the town."

"Into the town"? Why so vague? Surely, if the food had been meant for Iraqi civilians, that would have been a huge PR detail, and the fact that it's omitted is certainly cause for suspicion. Borger writes of the convoy, "The firm gave no further details." And I can imagine why. But it appears that this is now the new spin point -- don't actually say where the food was going, but imply as strongly as you can that it was for innocent civilians.

This spin point is repeated numerous times in a TownHall piece by columnist Kathleen Parker, here, in a column linked to from the popular blog But Atrios doesn't pick up on Parker's subtle (and not so subtle) misdirection.

Early on, Parker describes the Iraqis as "those zoo animals we witnessed gleefully jumping up and down after stomping, dragging, dismembering and hanging the charred remains of American civilians whose only crime was to try to help them." Note the clear implication that the contractors were trying to "help" the Iraqis, but the maddening vagueness about exactly how.

Further down, however, Parker gets more explicit when she describes the contractors as "members of a security team who escorted American convoys carrying food supplies to an ungrateful town." Now this is pretty clear; Parker is obviously claiming that the food was bound for the Iraqis which, as we've seen, is anything but clear.

And just to drive the point home, toward the end, Parker writes, "Until Tuesday, we couldn't imagine that people we're trying to feed would murder and mutilate us", again working in the now-approved spin point with no evidence to back it up.

And don't forget Blackwater's own description -- that the four contractors had been hired, according to Borger's article, to "provide protection for food convoys into the town. The firm gave no further details."

It's obvious there's some serious spin happening here, and I'm trying to track down the previous article that claimed that the convoy was destined, not for hungry civilians, but for locally-based U.S. troops, a story which, I might add, just makes far more sense on its face.

More details as they surface.

UPDATE: The more I google for details, the more I'm convinced that there is real spin here. As another data point, we have this online article, which reads in part (emphasis added):

"It was unclear why the American contractors were travelling unescorted in such a dangerous area. The four worked for Blackwater Security Consulting of Moyock, N.C., which provides training and guard services to customers around the world. Blackwater is a government subcontractor providing security for the delivery of food in the Fallujah area."

Once again, that suspiciously vague reference to food being delivered to "the Fallujah area." I'm convinced that, if the food had been meant for hungry Iraqis, everyone would be making that painfully clear.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

From the "What the heck was she thinking?" department

From an online article describing how hundreds of students at Southern University paid to have their grades raised, we have:

"... the yearlong investigation into the scandal began in March 2003, when a student enrolled in a Southern graduate program presented credentials showing she had earned a bachelor's degree from that department. The department had no record that the woman had ever graduated and alerted university auditors ..."

It's one thing to buy your way into good grades, hope you don't get caught, get your degree and hit the road.

It's another to take said degree and use it to re-apply to the same college and the same department. Either this woman is the bravest, most brazen huckster to come along in a while, or she's ... let me see, what's the word I'm looking for here? -- oh, right ... dumb.

Then again, she did have to buy her grades. You make the call.
More of that "compassionate conservatism"

From a recent "Tilting at Windmills" column in
Washington Monthly,

"Kari Rein is a Norwegian who is married to an American citizen. She and her husband have lived in Williams, Ore., for 15 years. They run a small business and have a 14-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old son.

Recently, as she was returning from a vacation in Norway, Rein was stopped at the Seattle-Tacoma Airport by the Bureau of Immigration and Enforcement of the Department of Homeland Security. Officials told her they had to clear a few things up. "I thought they would let me go in an hour or two," she told Ashbel Green of the Portland Oregonian. Instead, her husband and children were ordered to return home, and she was put in jail. Why? It seems that she had a conviction on her record. Ten years ago, she had been found guilty of growing six marijuana plants. The judge in the case, having determined that she had grown the plants for personal use, and that she and her husband were good citizens, put her on probation. Before and after that episode, her record has been blameless. Her husband has managed to get her out on bail, but only after she'd been taken to court in handcuffs and shackles. The immigration service calls her "an aggravated felon" and still intends to deport her. "

You'd think that, when pretty much the entire rest of the world is not crazy about you, you'd at least make an effort to not trash the few people left who might still be on your side.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

The diminishing value of loyalty in the Bush White House

One of the things that I think has been overlooked lately is how the White House's capitulation to let Condoleezza Rice testify before the 9/11 commission represents a huge change in the value of loyalty in the Bush administration.

There's been more than enough written about what happens to anyone who turns on the White House. That list is long and growing -- John DiIulio, Larry Lindsey, Gen. Eric Shinseki and, most recently, Richard Clarke. The lesson for all of these folks and more was simple -- criticize the Bushies, and get stomped.

But this latest Condi Rice development changes all of this, and I mean big time. As numerous articles have pointed out, Rice has been nothing but fanatically loyal to her bosses, almost nauseatingly so, saying the most transparently idiotic and dishonest things in public as long as it protected the administration.

So it has to come as a bit of a shock for that same administration to suddenly announce that, sure, she'll testify -- under oath -- in front of the 9/11 commission after all. If Rice has any sense left, she'll realize that she's just been played for a complete patsy this whole time, and that all of her unswerving devotion didn't stop her from being pushed off the sled.

Others at the White House should start feeling really afraid right about now.

Supporting the troops, Republican style

Is this what they mean by "compassionate conservatism"?
The George W. Bush resume

Sure, it could use some updating, but it's still a funny read if you've been having a bad day. Click here.
Republican hypocrisy, part 5437

Senate majority leader Bill Frist, lamely castigating Richard Clarke on the floor of the Senate (emphasis added for maximum comedic effect):

"Notwithstanding Mr. Clarke's efforts to use his book first and foremost to shift blame and attention from himself, it is also clear that Mr. Clarke and his publishers adjusted the release date of his book in order to make maximum gain from the publicity around the 9-11 hearings. … I find this to be an appalling act of profiteering, trading on his insider access to highly classified information and capitalizing upon the tragedy that befell this nation on September 11, 2001."

And then there's this.

UPDATE: Nice to see I'm not the only one who thinks Bill Frist is about as reprehensible a human being as they come. Check out Richard Cohen's piece here.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Great minds think alike, fools seldom differ

It's always mildly amusing when two folks reach the same conclusions independently. From an
online piece by W. David Jenkins III discussing White House spokesweasel Scott McClellan:

"McClellan has been doing his level best through all of these challenges and, I have to admit, he's perfecting his skills at not answering questions posed by the press. He's really getting his rhythm down. Next time there's a press conference, count how many times Scott tells the reporters "I'm not going to answer that" or "You'll have to ask so and so" or - my personal favorite, "I've already answered that." That one always leaves me scratching my head though, because if he's already answered the questions then why not answer it again? Besides, some of the reporters might have been out sick the last time he answered, y'know?"

Then again, it's really kind of just belaboring the obvious, isn't it?
By the way, he's left-wing. Really.

In today's (April 2) Globe and Mail, in the midst of a lengthy piece entitled "Packaging news when the picture is not pretty" about the decorum involved in covering the killing and mutilation of four Americans in Fallujah, Iraq (more on that bit of journalistic dishonesty shortly), we have the following tasty little excerpt:

"In Britain, the most arresting front page belonged to The Independent, which ran a striking picture of a charred arm reaching out of a square of orange flames, over a secondhand account of the ambush stitched together by left-wing journalist Robert Fisk."

See, he's not just a journalist, he's a left-wing journalist. Which is clearly important to know because, ... um ... because ... hey, how 'bout them Leafs?

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Maureen Dowd redeeming herself (somewhat)

Every so often, NYT columnist Maureen Dowd rouses from her slumber to prove that she can still crank out something worth reading.

Sadly, I had to get to the fourth paragraph before I realized it was parody.
Scott McClellan, efficiency expert

It's amusing to watch current White House spokesweasel Scott McClellan not even try very hard these days to deflect the ever-aggressive questioning from the WH press corps.

Traditionally (in the vein of Jedi master Ari Fleischer), there have been three common strategies to blow off an embarrassing question.

First, reject the premise of the question outright, with something like, "I'm not sure I even agree with your premise," even when the question is based on something painfully obvious like, "Scott, the Iraqis seem a bit miffed about being occupied."

Second, suggest that the question would be more appropriately asked elsewhere. For example, even if the question is about the president's opinion on, say, Israel's relations with the Palestinians, the questioner is told to ask the Israelis.

And, finally, the surefire winner of just saying you've dealt with the question earlier, it's been addressed, and you're not going to deal with it again (this last strategy typically wasting several minutes of time when just answering the question in the first place would take far less time).

But it's really awe-inspiring when McClellan does all three at the same time, as in a recent WH gaggle, when he was asked about civil servants at the Treasury Department being asked to do partisan work for the Republicans (

McCLELLAN: I don't know if I agree with the characterization of your question. I think you ought to talk to the Treasury Department. I think they have addressed this matter.

OK, granted that that third sentence claims that someone else has already addressed the matter. But, really, does it get any better than this?
Looking where the light is better

Pretty much everyone had fun with SecDef Donald Rumsfeld's response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 that, by George, they were going to bomb Iraq instead of Afghanistan because, well, there were just no good targets in Afghanistan but there were plenty of targets in Iraq (you know, like the drunk who loses his keys down the street but is found looking for them around a lamppost because, you know, the light's better there.)

Sadly, this appears to be par for the course for this administration, based on an observation by Richard Clarke in a recent interview at,3604,1175790,00.html

JB: So what were all the principal's meetings about then?

RC: There were a lot of meetings on 'Star Wars'. We had a lot of meetings about Russia policy, because Condi is a Russian Specialist.

Translation: We would have talked about terrorism but we didn't know anything about it. But Russia! Hey, we knew about that.