Saturday, July 03, 2004

The First Thing We Do, Let's Kill All the Lawyers 

Via Zemblan patriots J.M. and J.D.: Man, those Iraqis are letting freedom reign in ways that our own administration can only dream of. From the AP wire:
A team of lawyers claiming to represent Saddam Hussein today postponed a visit to Baghdad, hours after saying its representative would defy death threats to meet with the deposed Iraqi dictator . . . .

"We are trying to move for the defense of Mr. President Saddam Hussein, despite our concern for the safety of our colleague," Rashdan said earlier. "The trial began, and the president has been denied his legal right to a lawyer, which is in violation of international law and the due process."

On Thursday, Issam Ghazawi, one of the lawyers, said he had received a telephone call from Iraqi Justice Minister Malek Dohan al-Hassan, who allegedly threatened that if the lawyers made it to Baghdad, they "will not only be killed, but cut into pieces."

Another lawyer, Ziad al-Khasawneh, said al-Hassan has told him to go visit mass graves that Saddam is responsible for "instead of defending him."
And, lest you fear the trial might degenerate into a circus . . . .
On Friday, the defense team announced that the daughter of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi will join Saddam's defense team, which already includes lawyers from Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia and Western countries such as the United States, Britain, France and Belgium, to fight the war crimes charges the former Iraqi leader is facing.

Aicha Moammar Gadhafi, a law professor in her late 20s, will form a team of Libyan legal experts to help in the defense, al-Khasawneh told AP.

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From the Santa Clarita Signal (courtesy of Lambert at Corrente): Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, embattled former head of Abu Ghraib prison, is making bee-youtiful music. And our first dedication tonight goes out to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld:
Signal: Are there documents showing Donald Rumsfeld also approved particular interrogation techniques for Abu Ghraib?

Karpinski: I did not see it personally (at the time), but since all of this has come out, I have not only seen, but I've been asked about some of those documents, that he signed and agreed to.

Signal: About Abu Ghraib?

Karpinski: Yes. About using the same techniques that were successful in Guantanamo Bay, at Abu Ghraib.

Signal: Those documents have not been released yet?

Karpinski: No.

A Pentagon spokesman said Rumsfeld was never asked by the chain of command in Iraq to approve coercive interrogation techniques.
A two-hour "Newsmaker of the Week" interview with Karpinski will be shown today (Saturday) at 5 p.m. on Channel 20 in the Santa Clarita (CA) area. The full transcript is already up, however, and it's full of staggering stuff -- note especially Karpinski's dialogue with the fellow who introduces himself as an Israeli interrogator:
Signal: During or after Gen. Miller's visit, what was your understanding of what he expected the MPs to do with regard to interrogations? And since he's not in your chain of command, how did you take his — what would you call it, advice?

Karpinski: Well, I couldn't even call it advice, because he was dictating that there were going to be changes made at Abu Ghraib. First, he told me he was going to take Abu Ghraib, and I told him that Abu Ghraib was not mine to give him. And he cleared the room and he told me that we could do it his way, or we could do it the hard way. And I said to him, "Sir, I'm not being difficult; I am telling you, Abu Ghraib is not mine to give you. It belongs to the CPA, the Coalition Provisional Authority. If Ambassador Bremer relinquishes control of that facility to you" — he said, "Rick Sanchez said I could have whatever facility I wanted, and I want Abu Ghraib, and we're going to train the MPs to work with the interrogators."

I said, "Sir, the MPs have never worked interrogation missions. It is not like it is down at Guantanamo Bay." I said, "I've been down there" — I visited one time — "and you have 640 prisoners and 800 military police personnel." Two MPs escort every detainee when they leave the cell. They're in leg irons and hand irons and a belly chain. I said, "We don't use leg irons and hand irons and belly chains. The MPs don't feel that it's necessary to move our prisoners around that way."

He said — you know, again, he's waving his arms at me, as if he is dismissing me — and he is saying, "It's not going to be your concern. I'm leaving a CD, a compact disk, with training information, and I'm leaving printed material. They're going to get all the training they need, we're going to select the MPs who can do this, and they're going to work specifically with the interrogation team."

Karpinski: One of the members of [Miller's Guantanamo] team was a JAG officer, a lawyer from down there. And I said to her — she was a lieutenant colonel, I believe — and I said to her, "You know, we're having problems with releasing some of these prisoners. What are you doing?" And she said, "Oh, we're not releasing anybody." And I said, "What's going to be the end state?" And she said, "Most of these prisoners will never leave Guantanamo Bay. They'll spend the rest of their lives in detention." And I said, "How do they get visits from home?" She said, "These are terrorists, ma'am. They're not entitled to visitors from home."

I was stunned. I thought, we'll never get out of Iraq at this rate.

Signal: Did you have any knowledge of third-country nationals around the interrogation process at Abu Ghraib?

Karpinski: No. Because — I knew that there were third-country nationals out there, and we had contactors coming out to Abu Ghraib to do a lot of work, and then — I mean, the MPs were vigilant in keeping them away from the detainees. But occasionally a detainee would slip a note out to one of them, or put it in the food bucket as it was being returned to the contractor or whatever it was. But there were literally hundreds of contractors out there, third-country nationals.

Now, the ones that were around the interrogation? I don't know. I was visiting an interrogation facility one time — not under my control, but I was escorting a four-star. And he wanted to go back and observe an interrogation that was taking place. They asked me if I wanted to go and I said no. So I was standing there and, you know, the usual conversation, just kind of chit-chat, there (were) three individuals there and two of them had DCU pants on, one had a pair of blue jeans on, but they all had T-shirts on. They did not appear to be military people. And I said to one of the — one of them asked me, "So what's new?" Or, "What's challenging about being a female general officer over here?" And I said, "Oh! Too long a story, but it's all fun." And I said to this guy who was sitting up on the counter, I said to him, "Are you local?" Because he looked like he was Kuwaiti. I said, "Are you an interpreter?" He said, "No, I'm an interrogator." And I said, "Oh, are you from here?" And he said, "No, actually, I'm from Israel." And I was kind of shocked. And I think I laughed. And I said, "No, really?" And he said, "No, really, I am." And — but it was — I didn't pursue it, I just said, "Oh, I visited your country a couple of years ago and I was amazed that there's so little difference between the appearance of Israelis and Americans," and — I really was just kind of making chit-chat at that point.

But it didn't strike me as unusual, I guess, until after the fact. And I remember making a comment to him, I said, "Wow, that's kind of unusual." And he said, "No, not really." Like that.

So — I do know for a fact that at least in that one case — now, I didn't ask him for identity papers or anything. It was none of my business. But that's what he said.

Signal: And that was an interrogator at —

Karpinski: At an interrogation facility, yes.

Signal: He said he was from Israel.

Karpinski: Right.

Signal: Who is — who are the responsible parties for the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib?

Karpinski: I don't know. I could tell you that — you want my opinion?

Signal: Yes.

Karpinski: Gen. Miller. Gen. Fast. Gen. Sanchez. (Defense Undersecretary Stephen A.) Cambone. I don't know if it stops at Cambone, but I believe that he was orchestrating it, he was directing. And Gen. Karpinski. Because she didn't yell loud enough. She didn't object enough.

So — I — those soldiers are mine. I have an obligation to protect them, and I have an obligation to support them, and I have an obligation to make sure that there is not a miscarriage of justice.

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That Ever-lovin' Evildoer Bounce 

Of course the Hajis are fully autonomous and whatnot, but after all we've done for them is there any reason why they shouldn't go to bat for the Great White Liberator and his re-election campaign? From the NY Daily News, via No More Mr. Nice Blog:
Republicans are pushing to put Saddam Hussein on trial before November, hoping an evildoer bounce in the polls carries President Bush to reelection, GOP sources said yesterday.

With the election shaping up as a referendum on Iraq, the officials said the televised spectacle of an arrogant Saddam in the dock would offset the Democrats' jibes at the failure to find weapons of mass destruction or prove a 9/11 link . . . .

The current timetable for the new Iraqi government would put Saddam on trial sometime next year, but Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) discussed with President Bush and Vice President Cheney last week moving up the schedule to late next month.

Specter described the reaction of Bush and Cheney to his proposal as "just listening," but he has prepared a Senate resolution calling for a speedier trial to be introduced when Congress returns from recess later this month.

"To try Saddam would put a lot of other issues in perspective," Specter said, and let Republicans argue the war was fought mainly to topple a hated dictator and free the Iraqi people.
There is apparently no truth to the rumor that several of our allies have passed binding resolutions calling for the U.S. Presidential election to be held right now, this minute, muy pronto, and what the hell are you waiting for?

UPDATE (via Atrios): Now that the L.A. Times has confirmed what we already knew about the famous tractor-pull in Firdos Square --
It was a Marine colonel — not joyous Iraqi civilians, as was widely assumed from the TV images — who decided to topple the statue, the Army report said. And it was a quick-thinking Army psychological operations team that made it appear to be a spontaneous Iraqi undertaking.

After the colonel — who was not named in the report — selected the statue as a "target of opportunity," the psychological team used loudspeakers to encourage Iraqi civilians to assist, according to an account by a unit member.

But Marines had draped an American flag over the statue's face.

"God bless them, but we were thinking … that this was just bad news," the member of the psychological unit said. "We didn't want to look like an occupation force, and some of the Iraqis were saying, 'No, we want an Iraqi flag!' "

Someone produced an Iraqi flag, and a sergeant in the psychological operations unit quickly replaced the American flag.

Ultimately, a Marine recovery vehicle toppled the statue with a chain, but the effort appeared to be Iraqi-inspired because the psychological team had managed to pack the vehicle with cheering Iraqi children.
-- can someone please explain why we don't just drag Saddam outside, prop him up against a wall, and shoot him full of holes? Only film it to look like some grateful, freedom-loving, Dondi-eyed Hajis did it?

Maybe show 'em having a beer blast afterward, setting off fireworks and shouting "Democracy Whiskey Sexy" for the cameras?

Around the last week in October, maybe?

The beauty part is, you wouldn't even have to film it in Iraq.

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One Big Swamp 

The Florida Division of Elections' felon purge list has been available for public viewing for just over a day now, and the Miami Herald has already identified a minimum of 2,119 voters whose names are not supposed to be on it:
More than 2,100 Florida voters -- many of them black Democrats -- could be wrongly barred from voting in November because Tallahassee elections officials included them on a list of felons potentially ineligible to vote, a Herald investigation has found.

A Florida Division of Elections database lists more than 47,000 people the department said may be ineligible to vote because of felony records. The state is directing local elections offices to check the list and scrub felons from voter rolls.

But a Herald review shows that at least 2,119 of those names -- including 547 in South Florida -- shouldn't be on the list because their rights to vote were formally restored through the state's clemency process . . . .

State elections officials acknowledge there may be mistakes on the list but insist they have built in safeguards to make sure eligible voters are not removed by local election offices. They say they have warned election offices to be diligent before eliminating voters, and have flagged possible cases in which voters on the list may have regained their rights.

''We have been very clear that this database is not to be considered the final word,'' Paul Craft, chief of the division's bureau of voting systems, said Thursday. ``We have told the local supervisors they need to be very careful with it.''

Yet local officials, already overburdened preparing for the election, say shifting the burden to them is opening the door for major problems.

''I have never seen such an incompetent program implemented by the DOE,'' said Leon County elections chief Ion Sancho . . . .

All county elections supervisors are required to investigate each voter on the list, verify whether or not he or she is eligible to vote, then notify by mail suspected felons who have not had their civil rights restored.

The certified letter is supposed to name a time and place voters can appear to explain why they should remain on the rolls.

If supervisors suspect the letters were not received, they're supposed to publish at least one notice in the local newspaper.

If there's no response within 30 days, supervisors must remove the person from the rolls.

No one interviewed by The Herald -- including 53-year-old Walter Gibbons of Miami Gardens, a Vietnam veteran convicted of drug possession in 1973 -- had yet received a letter.
The Herald's speedy action demonstrates why Florida's Republican-controlled legislature in 2001 saw the need to pass a law allowing "only politicians, political action committees, political parties and government officials to obtain copies. Anyone else can view the list, but cannot make copies or take notes while doing so." That law, just struck down by a Florida judge, relied on a perverse reading of the state constitution, which gives every citizen the right to "inspect or copy" public documents. The "or," legislators argued, meant that individuals did not have the right to inspect and copy.

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Friday, July 02, 2004

Our Bastards Pt. CCLXXVII 

Following in the footsteps of our distinguished colleague the Yorkshire Ranter, Laura Rozen is working on a story in which she'll attempt to explain why the U.S. government maintains its ties with two men who "not only [have] an extraordinary amount of blood on their hands, but who have also helped fund al Qaeda through the blood diamond trade" -- former Liberian president Charles Taylor and Russian gun-runner Viktor Bout.

Bout has been providing services to the occupation forces in Iraq for some time now. And the Financial Times recently published allegations that Taylor was on the CIA payroll as late as 2001 -- although, Rozen notes, the relevant quotes have mysteriously disappeared from the FT website.

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Local Color 

Headlines from here and there, culled from Google News:There's plenty more, but you get the idea.

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Controversial New Law Would Require President to Obey "Supreme Law of the Land" 

Sounds rather Draconian to us. From the Op/Ed page of the NY Times:
In a recent late-evening session noted mostly for Republican grousing about Democratic senators who had attended a screening of "Fahrenheit 9/11," the Senate considered an amendment to the Pentagon budget bill that would require the president to abide by the Geneva Conventions. It was passed, with the support of five Republicans who resisted frantic arm-twisting from the administration. Now we'll see whether the House can muster the political courage to follow suit.

The amendment, by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, calls on the administration to account for all foreign prisoners who have been denied P.O.W. status. It also requires the government to "expeditiously prosecute" cases of terrorism to avoid "the indefinite detention of prisoners," to say who is in the Guantánamo Bay lockup and to account for those who are unlikely to face legal proceedings in the next six months. Finally, it requires the Pentagon to turn over the Red Cross reports on American military prisons it has been withholding.

The administration bombarded Republican senators with arguments that ranged from disingenuous to downright silly. Defense Department lawyers complained that the amendment did not offer clear enough standards for the treatment of prisoners — an astonishing argument for an agency that has not been able to explain exactly what standards it was following in Abu Ghraib. It also said that requiring an accounting of the handling of prisoners "inappropriately intrudes" into the president's powers. Intrudes? Yes. Inappropriately? No.
Michael Froomkin of Discourse.net explains why the Leahy amendment is no cause for celebration here.

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There's Gas, and Then There's Gas 

Why aren't you hearing more about the sarin shells that were discovered in Iraq not long ago, prompting widespread speculation that maybe Saddam had been sitting on a big fat cache of WMD's after all? The Rev. Moon's news organ explains:
The Polish military has said shells containing a chemical weapons agent found in Iraq date back to the Iran-Iraq war, Polish radio reported Friday.

Polish radio said 17 rocket shells and two mortar shells had been found by Polish forces in late June. Some are said to contain a chemical agent called cyclosarin, a substance several times more potent than sarin.

The report said the shells dated back to the 1980-88 period and were of a type that had been used against both Kurdish separatists and the Iranians.
Laura Rozen of War & Piece has the bad taste to mention that the sarin shells are best not discussed because they appear to date from a period when Donald Rumsfeld was a welcome guest in Baghdad . . .
. . . despite US knowledge that Hussein was using chemical weapons on the Iranians. The National Security Archive has put together a useful summary of the US tilt towards Saddam from 1980 to 1984, based on recently declassified US documents, here:
By the summer of 1983 Iran had been reporting Iraqi use of using chemical weapons for some time. The Geneva protocol requires that the international community respond to chemical warfare, but a diplomatically isolated Iran received only a muted response to its complaints...It intensified its accusations in October 1983, however, and in November asked for a United Nations Security Council investigation.

The U.S., which followed developments in the Iran-Iraq war with extraordinary intensity, had intelligence confirming Iran's accusations, and describing Iraq's "almost daily" use of chemical weapons, concurrent with its policy review and decision to support Iraq in the war [Document 24]. The intelligence indicated that Iraq used chemical weapons against Iranian forces, and, according to a November 1983 memo, against "Kurdish insurgents" as well [Document 25] . . . .

During the spring of 1984 the U.S. reconsidered policy for the sale of dual-use equipment to Iraq's nuclear program, and its "preliminary results favor[ed] expanding such trade to include Iraqi nuclear entities" [Document 57].
UPDATE (via Digby):The AFP wire has further details on the latest embarrassingly-discredited casus belli:
Multinational forces in Iraq said that more than a dozen missile warheads said to contain mustard gas or sarin have tested negative for chemical agents.

Washington had announced the find by Polish troops on Thursday, which was later confirmed by Warsaw . . . .

But the 122mm warheads, found in late June, have been found not to contain the deadly chemicals, a statement from multinational forces here said.

"Those 16 rounds were all empty and tested negative for any type of chemicals," it said.

Two other warheads found in mid-June were found to contain an insignificant amount of sarin gas. The armaments were left over from the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, the statement said.

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Papistry and Sophistry All Rolled Into One 

Although your genial hosts at King of Zembla hope only to ensure that a jolly time is had by all and therefore studiously avoid any discussion of politics or religion, you have perhaps read elsewhere that two Catholic prelates recently recommended withholding the Eucharist not only from John Kerry (a Catholic politician who supports abortion rights), but also from any practicing Catholic who might cast a vote for John Kerry (a Catholic politician who supports abortion rights); the notoriously liberal mainstream press has made sure that the opinions of these distinguished mullahs, if that's the word I want, were widely disseminated, if that's the word I want. But our esteemed colleague Michael of Musing's Musings has done us the radical service of tracking down the consensus opinion of the U.S. Catholic bishops on the subject, as delivered at their conference in June:
Based on our consultation process, there is significant concern about the perception that the sacred nature of the Eucharist could be trivialized and might be turned into a partisan political battleground. Expecting a minister of Holy Communion to make these judgments would create great pastoral difficulties. We do not want to encourage confrontations at the altar rail with the Sacred Body of the Lord Jesus in our hands. This could create unmanageable burdens for our priests and those who assist them and could turn the Eucharist into a perceived source of political combat.
-- And what about the plight of those unfortunate Catholics who elect to support the death penalty, the war in Iraq, torture, etc., in express defiance of the Pope's stated doctrines?

Michael dissects the recent, bizarre heresy charge against Kerry in a separate but equally well-argued post here.

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Into the Gulag 

Who knew? It turns out that some of the terrorists and evildoers we've been holding at Guantanamo actually have names:
Human rights lawyers filed new appeals Friday on behalf of nine detainees at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, citing this week’s Supreme Court ruling and pressing the government to justify its detention of the terror suspects or let them go.

A federal court was urged to rule that the nine detainees were being unlawfully held at the military prison. They were the first appeals since the Supreme Court’s ruling this week that the prisoners may use U.S. courts to challenge their detentions.

“This is the beginning of trying to enforce precisely what the Supreme Court mandated as a way to obtain justice,” said Jeffrey Fogel, legal director of the New York Center for Constitutional Rights. “The first step is that the government has to respond.”

Appeals were filed on behalf of two British citizens, three French citizens, a German Turk, a Jordanian Palestinian refugee, an Iraqi refugee and a Canadian, Fogel said.

More appeals are expected on behalf of other prisoners. About 600 men from more than 40 countries are being held on suspicion of links to al-Qaida or the fallen Taliban regime of Afghanistan. Most of the detainees have been at the prison for more than 2½ years, with little or no contact with the outside world. Just four have had access to lawyers . . . .

The lawyers involved have not been able to meet with any detainees in Cuba, but Fogel said they had authorization from prisoners’ families. He said the detainees are:
  • British citizens Moazzem Begg, who was captured in Pakistan, and Feroz Abbasi.
  • Murat Kurnaz, a Turkish citizen with German residency captured in Pakistan.
  • French citizens Mourad Benchallali, Nizar Sassi and Ridouane Khalid, all captured in Pakistan.
  • Jamil El-Banna, a Jordanian/Palestinian refugee residing in the United Kingdom, captured in Gambia, and Bisher Al-Rawi, an Iraqi refugee residing in the United Kingdom, captured in Gambia.
  • Canadian Omar Khadr, who was 15 years old when captured two years ago in Afghanistan.
SIDEBAR (via Avedon Carol): John Emerson of Seeing the Forest enumerates the civil liberties that have been challenged, weakened, redefined, or eradicated by the current administration, and concludes that George IV is worse than George III:
In the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and in American common law, you will read about "star chamber proceedings", "cruel and unusual punishment", the refusal of habeus corpus, "bills of attainder" and the like as the crimes of George III which justified the American revolution. But our present ruler, George the Fourth, doesn't see what the fuss was all about.

P.S.: I keep repeating this, but it remains true. Libertarians who still are considering voting for George Bush are pornographic human units with no redeeming social value.

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The Temperature at Which Free Republic Bursts into Flame 

The media savants at FreeRepublic.com, who rarely make it down to the multiplex because -- let's face it -- Home Shopping Network is on 24 hours a day and it's free, are scratching their points over the massive grosses ($40 million and counting) for Fahrenheit 9/11. The posts mainly fall into two categories: A) bold predictions that the Michael Moore documentary will be dethroned from its perch atop the national box office by Spider-Man 2, proving it was just a flash in the pan; and B) plaintive variations on No -- no -- this can't be happening!!, such as:
My only question is do ticket sales equal butts in the seats? Inquiring minds want to know . . . .

I wonder if we'd even hear about it if Soros bought $20mil of those tickets . . . .

I read on another thread that block purchases can be tracked/noted/counted. Seems to me a fair question. As well if attendance equals ticket sales. That should be a no-brainer. Just ask cinema managers if they're holding sold-out screenings to empty seats . . . .
If you've been unable to score a ticket because George Soros got there first, be of good cheer: today the movie expands to over 1700 theatres, up from 868 last week. Which proves that right-wing intimidation campaigns are as nothing compared to the intoxicating scent of moolah.

(Thanks to Preston of Daily Kos for the link.)

UPDATE: And of course you have already read Krugman.

UPDATE II: Matt Yglesias shoots from hip, hits bullseye:
It's also noteworthy that while Moore has done us all a great service by bringing to light the footage of the president not reacting to the second WTC attack, he fails to make what I think is the most important point here: The President's own aides have such a low opinion of Bush's leadership capabilities that they didn't think it was immediately necessary -- or, perhaps, desirable -- for him to take charge of the situation right away.

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Boys on Film 

Two conundrums, courtesy of Zemblan patriot J.D.:

1) Who in the U.S. government ordered the footage of Saddam Hussein's historic hearing in Iraqi court censored -- and why did the media play along? From Variety (subscription-only):
U.S. news networks agreed to let the American military censor out certain images of Saddam Hussein's court hearing Thursday in Baghdad, one in a bizarre series of events surrounding coverage of the session.

American and Iraqi officials did not want any footage shown of Iraqi guards or court personnel, and they asked broadcast and cable news nets to honor this request.

But the situation took an unexpected turn even before the hearing began, when U.S. officials ordered CNN and Al-Jazeera, the pool camera crews, to disconnect their audio equipment. Officials said it was the wish of the Iraqi judge . . . .

As the silent footage of Hussein began to air on U.S. networks around 8:30 a.m. ET, CBS News anchor Dan Rather explained that the tapes had been "taken to another location, edited, and what you're seeing is in effect a censored version" of what happened in court earlier today.

"And whether you will hear what happened in court is yet to be determined. We know that Saddam Hussein challenged the whole legitimacy of the court," Rather said . . . .

Some news editors spent hours scouring the portion of the tape with audio for harsh words leveled at President Bush by Saddam, but could not find the quote reported by New York Times reporter John Burns, who was the pool print reporter in the courtroom and accompanied by a translator. Burns reported that Saddam said, "Everyone knows that this is a theatrical comedy by Bush, the criminal, in an attempt to win the election" . . . .

Except for NBC, all the U.S. broadcast news divisions and cable news nets broke into normal programming to air the footage of Saddam. NBC News' "Today" did not air the footage, a decision it later reversed for the West Coast feed. Instead, the East Coast edition of "Today" stuck to an interview with Robert Redford and, later, a shot of co-host Katie Couric playing badminton on Rockefeller Plaza.
2) The deeper mystery of the two: who in the U.S. government forgot to censor Colin Powell's historic dance number? From the AP wire:
JAKARTA, Indonesia -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell donned a hard hat and tucked a hammer in his belt Friday to perform a version of the Village People's hit "YMCA" at the conclusion of Asia's largest security meeting - which tradition says ends with a night of skit and song.

Powell danced alongside five other U.S. officials dressed in fancy dress and blasted out a version of the 1970s disco classic to the delight of foreign ministers from across the Asia-Pacific and Europe.

"President Bush, he said to me, Colin I need you to run the department of state. We are between a rock and a hard place," Powell and his colleagues sang to the tune of the disco classic.

The after-dinner show is an annual highlight of the ASEAN Regional Forum, a time for ministers to loosen up after discussing security issues. Footage of the closed-door event was obtained by Associated Press Television News.

The Russian delegation, headed by that country's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, sang a version of the Beatles "Yellow Submarine" as a women waving a Russian flag ran around the dinner tables.

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Shanghaied in Mosul 

A couple of months back we ran an item from an Indian news agency about Malayali workers lured by the false promise of jobs in Kuwait, who instead found themselves working as galley slaves for the occupation forces in Iraq -- until they escaped. Earlier this week, after India filed a formal complaint with the State Department, the Washington Post finally sat up, took notice, and followed the money back to its inevitable source. Are you shocked to learn that the indentured servants in these modern-day press-gangs are bought and paid for by a wholly-owned subsidiary of Halliburton?
The war in Iraq has been a windfall for Kellogg Brown & Root Inc., the company that has a multibillion-dollar contract to provide support services for U.S. troops. Its profits have come thanks to the hard work of people like Dharmapalan Ajayakumar, who until last month served as a kitchen helper at a military base.

But Ajayakumar, 29, a former carpenter's assistant from this coastal town, was not there by choice.

He said he was tricked into going to Iraq by a recruiting agent who told him the job was in Kuwait. Moreover, he alleged, the company skimped on expenses by not providing him and other workers with adequate drinking water, food, health care or security for part of their time in the war zone.

"I cursed my fate -- not having a feeling my life was secure, knowing I could not go back, and being treated like a kind of animal," said Ajayakumar, who worked for less than $7 a day . . . .

KBR -- which came to employ Ajayakumar and other Indian workers through five levels of subcontractors and employment agents and which employs 30,000 workers from 38 countries in support of the U.S. military -- said it had been unaware of the workers' concerns until recently. Spokeswoman Patrice Mingo said the company met with representatives of the Indian government to discuss the complaints. For now, there is "no substantiated proof on which to take action," Mingo said, but the company is open to discussing the matter further with current or former employees.

"KBR does not condone and will not tolerate any practice that unlawfully compels subcontract employees to perform work or remain in place against their will," Mingo said . . . .

Ajayakumar was thrilled when a recruiting agent came to him in June 2003 and offered to "sell" him a two-year work visa in Kuwait for a catering company job that would pay $200 a month -- five times what he was making at the carpenter's shop. He gladly paid the agent's $1,800 fee, borrowing from local loan sharks, calculating that he would still make out with significant profits . . . .

In Kuwait City, the workers were put on a bus and told they were going to "the border."

It didn't stop until they arrived at Q-West, a camp occupied by the 101st Airborne Division near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. There, the men became part of the largest civilian workforce supporting the U.S. military in history. Subhash Vijay had hired them to work for Gulf Catering Co. of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which was subcontracted to Alargan Group of Kuwait City, which was subcontracted to the Event Source of Salt Lake City, which in turn was subcontracted to KBR of Houston.
Link via Jo Fish of the consistently excellent Democratic Veteran, who wonders: "What do you suppose that KBR and it's parent CheneyBurton were billing us, the taxpayer for his services? I'm just ballparking here, but I'm willing to be it was far more than SEVEN dollars a day."

(And credit beloved entertainer TBogg with the assist.)

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Thursday, July 01, 2004

Sound Advice, Brent, But It's Two Years Too Late 

1. Brent Bozell doesn't like the press:
Conservatives across the country decry news coverage of the war as relentlessly and unfairly negative. Last week Brent Bozell, a conservative activist, launched a $2.8 million advertising and talk-radio campaign to discredit the "liberal news media."

Such complaints are escalating - and increasingly conveyed in e-mails to journalists, letters to the editor and even in social settings with news executives - a phenomenon that appears to have been aroused in part by the Republican Party, President Bush's campaign and leading conservatives on talk radio, the Internet and cable TV.

"The bias that's been there is now simply out of control," said Bozell, whose conservative Media Research Center is running newspaper and billboard ads accusing the press of lying. The ads show a stern-faced Uncle Sam warning: "Don't believe the liberal media!"
2. Matt Taibbi doesn't like the press (link courtesy of Zemblan patriot M.D.):
Courage is a willingness to face real risks—-your neck, or at the very least, your job. The journalist with courage would have threatened to resign rather than repeat George Bush's justifications for invasion before it began. I don't remember anyone resigning last winter. The journalist with courage would threaten to quit rather than do a magazine piece about an advertiser's product, his fad diet book or his magic-bullet baldness cure. It happens every day, and nobody ever quits over it . . . .

I'm off on this tangent because I'm enraged by the numerous attempts at verbose, pseudoliterary, "nuanced" criticism of Moore this week by the learned priests of our business. (And no, I'm not overlooking this newspaper.) Michael Moore may be an ass, and impossible to like as a public figure, and a little loose with the facts, and greedy, and a shameless panderer. But he wouldn't be necessary if even one percent of the rest of us had any balls at all.

If even one reporter had stood up during a pre-Iraq Bush press conference last year and shouted, "Bullshit!" it might have made a difference.

If even one network, instead of cheerily re-broadcasting Pentagon-generated aerial bomb footage, had risked its access to the government by saying to the Bush administration, "We're not covering the war unless we can shoot anything we want, without restrictions," that might have made a difference. It might have made this war look like what it is—pointless death and carnage that would have scared away every advertiser in the country—rather than a big fucking football game that you can sell Coke and Pepsi and Scott's Fertilizer to.

Where are the articles about the cowardice of those people? [Christopher] Hitchens in his [Slate] piece accuses Moore of errors by omission: How come he isn't writing about the CNN producers who every day show us gung-ho Army desert rats instead of legless malcontents in the early stages of a lifelong morphine addiction?

Yeah, well, we don't write about those people, because they're just doing their jobs, whatever that means. For some reason, we in the media can forgive that. We just can't forgive it when someone does our jobs for us. Say what you want about Moore, but he picked himself up and did something, something approximating the role journalism is supposed to play. The rest of us—let's face it—are just souped-up shoe salesmen with lit degrees. Who should shut their mouths in the presence of real people.

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Saddam in Court 

From the NY Times, an account of the opening of proceedings against Saddam and eleven of his associates, with a heavy emphasis on wardrobe:
"I am Saddam Hussein, president of the Republic of Iraq," Mr. Hussein declared when asked to identify himself after settling into the black leather chair behind the balustrade that served as a makeshift dock at the courtroom, specially built on this United States military base near Baghdad airport. After six months' imprisonment, his hair was unkempt, his beard gray and straggly, and his favored Italian hand-stitched suits replaced by cheap store-bought jacket and pants provided by the Americans for the occasion.

The 67-year-old former ruler seemed 15 to 20 pounds lighter than when he last appeared, after his capture by American troops in an underground bunker near Tikrit last Dec. 13. He began nervously, like a hunted man in alien terrain. His eyes swiveled back and forth, his voice was weak, and his fingers stroked his beard and touched his bushy eyebrows. But halfway into his 26-minute appearance he appeared to find his pitch, and he ended with a string of finger-wagging admonishments for the court's temerity in putting him on trial.

At the start, the young Iraqi investigative judge, his identity shielded from disclosure by Iraqi and American officials fearful of his assassination, stared straight back at Mr. Hussein, barely 10 feet away, and said plainly, "former president."

"No, present," Mr. Hussein said. "Current. It's the will of the people."

"Write down, in brackets, `former president,' " the judge told the court clerk . . . .

Once Mr. Hussein settled in, he became more his old self, speaking with a strengthening voice to declare Kuwait rightly a part of Iraq, to rebuke the judge, as an Iraqi, for daring to countenance charges that Kuwait was not Iraqi territory, and to describe Kuwait's rulers as "animals" who had tried to turn Iraqi women into "10-dinar prostitutes." He told the judge, "You know that this is all a theater by Bush, to help him win his election." He then refused to sign court papers and walked out brusquely, saying, "Khalas!"— an Arabic term meaning "finished."
From Juan Cole:
Since the US is no longer in international law the Occupying power, it has little right to continue to hold Saddam. Since the Americans do not, however, trust the Iraqis to guard him properly, their surrender of Saddam is just as much a sham as their surrender of sovereignty. A new opinion poll in Iraq suggested that over forty percent of Iraqis want him executed, while a similar proportion want him just to be let go. This sign of the extreme polarization of the Iraqi public over this issue is a very bad omen. By the way, it seems that Salem Chalabi, nephew of disgraced Iraqi politician Ahmad Chalabi, is still in charge of trying Saddam, according to the Arabic press. Salem has strong ties to Israeli interests, which may undermine his effectiveness in this role with the Iraqi public.

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That Monster, Custom 

Dept. of Where Do They Get Their Ideas: "We will hit these people and teach them a good lesson they won't forget. Americans and allied forces have certain restrictions we won't have . . . It's our country, it's our culture, and we have different laws than you do . . . We will cut off their hands and behead them." -- New Iraqi defense minister Hazim Shaalan. Via Digby, a Guardian report on Iraqi freedom, Week I, which suggests that a certain amount of fine tuning may still be necessary:
American military police yesterday raided a building belonging to the Iraqi ministry of the interior where prisoners were allegedly being physically abused by Iraqi interrogators.

The raid appeared to be a violation of the country's new sovereignty, leading to angry scenes inside the ministry between Iraqi policemen and US soldiers.

The military police, who had been told of abuse, seized an area known as the Guesthouse just outside the ministry's main building. They disarmed the Iraqi policemen and at one stage threatened to set free prisoners whose handcuffs they removed, according to Iraqi officials.

The arrival of a second group of US military police and a more senior officer led to an argument between the two groups of military policemen over who had command authority for the raid.

Iraqi ministry of interior officials admitted that around 150 prisoners taken during a raid four days before in the Betawain district of Baghdad had been physically abused during their arrest and subsequent questioning.

The men were captured in the first big Iraqi-led anti-crime and anti-terrorism operation, which took place a few days before the transfer of power, with US military police in support and using US satellite images.

Senior Iraqi officers described those captured as "first class murderers, kidnappers and terrorists with links to al-Ansar" - a militant group in the former Kurdish no-fly zone - who had all admitted to "at least 20 crimes while being questioned".

According to an al-Jazeera television crew, who had been filming the prisoners when the US military police conducted their raid, most of the detainees were blindfolded, with their hands cuffed behind their backs. One prisoner was so weak, from dehydration, that the US military policemen fitted an intravenous drip to rehydrate him . . . .

Nashwan Ali - who said his nickname was Big Man - said: "A US MP asked me this morning what police division I was in. I said I was in criminal intelligence.

"The American asked me why we had beaten the prisoners. I said we beat the prisoners because they are all bad people. But I told him we didn't strip them naked, photograph them or fuck them like you did."
Someone kindly explain to this godless savage: we had a memo.

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Go Ratfuck Yourself 

E-voting is enough to worry about, but -- as the denizens of Chicago can tell you at length -- there are plenty of low-tech ways to game an election as well. Josh Marshall has all the background on GOP dirty-trickster Allen Raymond, who yesterday pleaded guilty to sabotaging Democratic get-out-the-vote efforts in New Hampshire in 2002. Raymond's operation jammed the phone lines of the Demoratic party and the Manchester Firefighters' Union; both groups were offering voters free transportation to the polls. Republican John Sununu won the 2002 Senate race in a squeaker over outgoing governor Jeanne Shaheen.

In a marginally-related development, Atrios reports that a Florida judge has ordered the board of elections to cough up the list of almost 50,000 potential felons it hopes to purge from the voter rolls this fall. CNN and other news organizations had sued for a copy of the list, but were blocked by a 2001 statute passed by the Republican-controlled legislature; under that law,
News organizations were allowed to inspect the list, but not make copies of it or take notes from it.

"The right to inspect without the right to copy is an empty right indeed," said Leon County Circuit Judge Nikki Clark, in her six-page order.
Voting-rights groups and the ACLU plan to scrutinize the list closely in hopes of preventing a reprise of the 2000 debacle that allowed George Bush to take office.

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The Credibility of the Credulous 

Via Cursor, a Douglas McCollum article from the Columbia Journalism Review on the pernicious influence of the Information Collection Program -- a (U.S.-funded) project of Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress that placed 108 mostly-bogus stories about Saddam's weapons programs and terrorist connections in such ostensibly respectable venues as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Time, Newsweek, Atlantic Monthly, 60 Minutes, USA Today, the New York Daily News, UPI, and Fox News. In a grotesque abdication of basic journalistic responsibility, newspapers, magazines, and broadcast organizations from points all along the ideological spectrum gladly played the chump to Chalabi (and the Bush administration) in the runup to war:
In all, I called or wrote to about forty reporters whose names appear on the list to ask about their contacts with the INC in general and their knowledge of the Information Collection Program in particular. Some, like The New York Times’s Judith Miller, who has become the poster child (somewhat unfairly, in my view) for all that was wrong with the press in the run-up to the Iraq war, did not call back. Most others were willing to talk about the list either on the record or on background. Some spoke at length — Hitchens treated me to a two-hour dissertation on Iraq, which covered everything from the importance of Ataturk to why radical Jihad was more like Nazism than Stalinism. Others were more terse and tetchy. Jim Hoagland at The Washington Post, who has championed the INC for years, abruptly hung up on me before calling back to apologize graciously. Almost all played down the INC’s role in influencing their stories and said they were aware of the group’s agenda of regime change, and included disclaimers to that effect in their work.

Nonetheless, a review of the list shows that the Information Collection Program succeeded in heavily influencing coverage in the Western press in the run-up to the war. A report issued by the Defense Intelligence Agency last fall concluded that almost all the information given to the government through the ICP and its roster of defectors before the war was useless — but nonetheless the information received prominent play in our leading newspapers, magazines, and television newscasts. When I asked Qanbar about the program’s influence on the media before the war, he shrugged and responded: “We did not provide information. We provided defectors. We take no position on them. It’s up to you reporters to decide if they are credible or not.”

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Wednesday, June 30, 2004

It's Like He Never Left 

Josh Marshall returns from vacation to discover that A) the sky is still blue, and B) William Safire has been peddling disinformation.

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By Sept. 25, They Are to "Crucify a Democrat or Three on the Front Lawn" 

Latest campaign strategies from the WWJT (Whom Would Jesus Torture?) crowd, as reported by the Washington Post:
The Bush-Cheney reelection campaign has sent a detailed plan of action to religious volunteers across the country asking them to turn over church directories to the campaign, distribute issue guides in their churches and persuade their pastors to hold voter registration drives . . . .

But tax experts said the campaign is walking a fine line between permissible activity by individual congregants and impermissible activity by congregations. Supporters of Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, charged that the Bush-Cheney campaign is luring churches into risking their tax status . . . .

The instruction sheet circulated by the Bush-Cheney campaign to religious volunteers lists 22 "duties" to be performed by specific dates. By July 31, for example, volunteers are to "send your Church Directory to your State Bush-Cheney '04 Headquarters or give [it] to a BC04 Field Rep" and "Talk to your Pastor about holding a Citizenship Sunday and Voter Registration Drive."

By Aug. 15, they are to "talk to your Church's seniors or 20-30 something group about Bush/Cheney '04" and "recruit 5 more people in your church to volunteer for the Bush Cheney campaign."

By Sept. 17, they are to host at least two campaign-related potluck dinners with church members, and in October they are to "finish calling all Pro-Bush members of your church," "finish distributing Voter Guides in your church" and place notices on church bulletin boards or in Sunday programs "about all Christian citizens needing to vote."

[T]he IRS on June 10 sent a strongly worded letter to both the Republican and Democratic national committees, reminding them that tax-exempt charitable groups "are prohibited from directly or indirectly participating or intervening in any political campaign on behalf of, or in opposition to, any candidate for public office."

That warning came one week after The Washington Post and other news media reported on a Bush-Cheney campaign e-mail that sought to identify 1,600 "friendly congregations" in Pennsylvania where Bush supporters "might gather on a regular basis."

The IRS letter noted that religious organizations are allowed to sponsor debates, distribute voter guides and conduct voter registration drives. But if those efforts show "a preference for or against a certain candidate or party . . . it becomes a prohibited activity," the letter said.

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Blood Money 

"I don't want to see a single war millionaire created in the United States as a result of this disaster." -- President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. From Lisa Myers of NBC News:
The Pentagon has already awarded Halliburton Co., the controversial military contractor, deals worth up to $18 billion for its work in Iraq. But now former Halliburton insiders have come forward with new allegations of massive waste of taxpayer money.

Marie deYoung, a former Army chaplain who worked for Halliburton, was so upset by attacks on the company she e-mailed the CEO in December with a strategy on how to fight the "political slurs." But today, after five months inside Halliburton's operation in Kuwait, deYoung has radically changed her opinion. "It�s just a gravy train," she said.

DeYoung audited accounts for Halliburton�s subsidiary KBR. She claims there was no effort to hold down costs because all costs were passed on directly to taxpayers. She repeatedly complained to superiors of waste and fraud. The company's response, according to deYoung was: "We can be as dumb and stupid as we want in the first year of a war, nobody�s going to care."

DeYoung produced documents detailing alleged waste even on routine services: $50,000 a month for soda, at $45 a case; $1 million a month to clean clothes � or $100 for each 15-pound bag of laundry.

"That money could have been used to take care of soldiers," she said.

DeYoung also claims people were paid to do nothing. Mike West says he was one of them. Paid $82,000 a year to be a labor foreman in Iraq, West claims he never had any laborers to supervise. "They said just log 12 hours a day and walk around and look busy," he said. "OK, so we did."

Both deYoung and West have since left the company.

 Posted by Hello
UPDATE (courtesy of Zemblan patriot M.F.): Awwwwww. Halliburton has just announced that it will take two second-quarter charges totalling $815 million, as a result of asbestos litigation and delays with an offshore construction project in Brazil:
The charges are another financial headache for the Houston oil-services and construction giant, which already faces potential liquidity problems stemming from its military-support work in Iraq.

Separately, Army officials have begun to bid out work on longer and often-cheaper terms to local Mideast companies, taking it away from Halliburton. Next on the list, Army officials said, may be dining and other work in Iraq, which Pentagon officials estimated cost the Army between $5 million and $7 million a month.

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Pooty, How'd We Git So Dumb? 

Until last Sunday we'd never heard of this Joe Bageant cat, but here it is Wednesday and damn! -- we are just about ready to bestow a Zemblan knighthood on his eloquent ass. In this new essay for the Smirking Chimp, Bageant visits his hometown of Winchester, WV -- "one of those slowly rotting East Coast burgs that makes passers-through think to themselves: 'What the hell is this? Mayberry USA on crack?'" -- and snuffles out the nature of Geo. W. Bush's appeal to the flat-broke, information-challenged clientele of Burt's Westside Tavern. Think Thomas Frank, only with flava:
Every customer at Burt's loves George Bush. Worships George Bush. One reason is because George Bush doesn't give a shit. When his detractors point out the complete fraud of WMDs, he doesn't give a shit. When newspapers worldwide suggest Bush may be the biggest international threat today, Bush does not give a shit. This gives him street cred among these people who for better or worse, I must call my own. Why should they give a shit about international opinion? After all, as presented by the media, the world outside is altogether nasty terrain---a news hour nether region from whence child suicide bombers swarm toward us in a tide that will only be stopped by a good old goddam American pounding with the biggest ball busting bombs we can muster. So Bush "sounds right" when he says, "We will not cut and run." And when George Bush sneers "Bring'em on!" he sounds even more right. Sounding right is everything when you don't know shit from Shinola. Here is their political universe, which I'm sure you've heard before but it's always best to keep horsecrap in one pile: ---Muslims are out to kill us all. So we need to kill them all first. ---Democrats, a party of liberal queers supported by ghetto blacks, Commie college professors and Mafia-backed unions, let 9/11 happen. ---The world hates us because we are rich. ---The snail-eating, wine-besotted French are a bunch of spiteful pussies, ungrateful that we saved their asses in World War II . . . .

These are the skilled and semi-skilled workers, people without a college degree, (in this town, nearly two fifths of working adults without even a high school degree) some thoughtful and self-educating, others not. They represent 55% of all voters. Many are the inexplicable self-screwing working folks who voted neo-conservative Republican in 2000. Never mind that Bush economic policies are why so many of them are drinking short beers tonight, or that his tax plan made them poorer and the rich much richer. They approved of it simply because it was called a tax "cut," and because many of them needed their $200 rebate scrap of that federal hog to pay off last winter's heating bill. By any realistic assessment, nearly everyone in Burt's is working poor. They would never admit it. Nor do government guidelines acknowledge them as such. But so long as the current administration infers that people like them are heroes (they identify heavily with the firemen, policemen of 911 and the soldiers in Iraq) they don't need no steenking economic justice. According to a recent Roper poll, 49% of Americans in this economic class will vote for George Bush in '04. Here in Burt's it is probably 100%. Obviously, I am making no pretense at liberal humility or sensitivity. So if you are not willing to call dumb dumb when you see it, you might want to quit reading right about here . . . .

What these folks really need is for someone to say out loud: "Now lookee here dammit! You are dumber than a sack of hammers and should'a got an education so you would have half a notion of what's going on." Someone once told me that and, along with the advice never to mix Mad Dog 20-20 with whiskey, it is the best I ever received. But no one in America is about to say such a thing out loud because it sounds elitist. It sounds un-American and undemocratic. It also might get your nose broken in certain venues. In an ersatz democracy maintaining the popular national fiction that everyone is equal, it is impermissible to say that, although we may all have equal constitutional rights, we are not equal. It takes at least some effort toward self-improvement just to get to the starting line of socioeconomic equality, plus an ongoing effort at being informed, if you want to function in America nowadays . . . .

Some of us were born sons of a toiling god, with the full understanding that life was never meant to be easy. But at least we could always believe that our kids had a chance for a better life. These days, it's harder to believe that. Allow me this simple observation from my own life: I am quite certain that if I were trying to get into college today with the mediocre grades I made, and no family "college fund," or family home to second mortgage, I would not have made it as far as I have. There were college scholarships, loans, and programs out the yin yang, and a high school education more or less prepared one for college. That is not to say the class divide was not a steep and ugly ditch back then. It was. But it is an absolute canyon now and growing deeper. All one has to do is look around at the un-funded No Child Left Behind program or the scam of "teacher-based accountability." When it became obvious that Johnny is now so damned dumb he can't pour piss out of a boot with the instructions on the bottom---assuming he could even read the instructions---the current regime was quick to get up a posse to lynch the school marm, then resume the theft of education funds on behalf of the rich. Neo-conservative leaders understand quite well that education has a liberalizing effect on a society. Presently they are devising methods to smuggle resources to those American madrasses, the Christian fundamentalist schools, a sure way to make the masses even more stupid if ever there was one. Is it any wonder the Gallup Poll tells us that 48 percent of Americans believe that God spit on his beefy paws and made the universe in seven days? Only 28 percent of Americans believe in evolution. It is no accident that number corresponds roughly to the number with college degrees. So intelligent liberals are advised to save their depression and the good booze for later, when things get worse.
And we left out the funny parts. If you still haven't clicked on the link above that takes you to the complete article, here it is again.

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Your Turn in the Hamster Cage 

If you win the lottery, of course, it's not a problem, but for the majority of us basic healthcare is increasingly expensive -- when it can be had at all. (And even the King is not immune: the royal insurance plan, for example, stopped paying for anti-psychotic medication four months ago. You are now reading the unfortunate result). Since the antiquated notion of the commonweal has no place in the market-driven, social-Darwinist paradise Grover Norquist and his soulmates are now erecting around us, political solutions remain elusive. But unless current trends are arrested, the disparity in health will soon rival the disparity in wealth, and the latter is already at Gilded-Age levels (ask Kevin Phillips). It is not at all difficult to envision a future in which access to medical treatment is, for Americans, anyway, the exclusive province of the rich:
Denver was the setting a few weeks ago, when more than 100 physicians from around the United States attended the first meeting of the American Society of Concierge Medicine. Concierge medicine is a special, high-end form of medical care that guarantees that if you need treatment you will get it, without a hassle, seven days a week-but only for an extra fee. If you can pay amounts that range from $20 to thousands of dollars a month, you can guarantee that your phone calls will be promptly returned by your doctor and that you'll get special attention whenever you're admitted to a hospital.

Now, one might wonder why it is necessary to pay a bounty to get a doctor to call you back, especially if you are already paying through the nose to belong to a managed care plan. The answer is that under the watchful eye of managed care and insurance companies, the quality of care has gotten so awful that doctors sneeringly refer to it as "hamster care." Only those patients who pay more are going to get treated by the "concierge" doctors who get off the daily treadmill and practice good medicine, providing the sort of attention and service that our parents and grandparents took for granted.

Think that giving the rich special access to health care is unfair? Consider what is going on at the same time in Tennessee.

It is making over its state Medicaid program known as TennCare. If this program gets implemented, many of the poor, elderly, children and disabled in Tennessee who rely on Medicaid will be told simply to get over it. And other hard-pressed states may well follow suit . . . .

Historically, decisions about what drugs or treatments a patient received were chosen by a standard of care known as "medical necessity." Doctors determined what was medically necessary based on local standards of medical practice, and if they did not practice according to this standard they could be found guilty of malpractice. TennCare does away with the established standard and replaces it with a new one - "adequate care." If a bureaucrat in the Tennessee department of health thinks a low-cost drug or treatment, or even no treatment at all, is "adequate," then that is what TennCare will provide.
What level of quality does the world's most expensive healthcare system deliver? In the Sunday NY Times, Bob Herbert asked Dr. Barbara Starfield of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and the answer was not encouraging. Compared to other industrialized nations, all of which provide their citizens with basic healthcare at less expense, America trails the pack in almost every category:
"The fact is that the U.S. population does not have anywhere near the best health in the world," she wrote. "Of 13 countries in a recent comparison, the United States ranks an average of 12th (second from the bottom) for 16 available health indicators."

She said the U.S. came in 13th, dead last, in terms of low birth weight percentages; 13th for neonatal mortality and infant mortality over all; 13th for years of potential life lost (excluding external causes); 11th for life expectancy at the age of 1 for females and 12th for males; and 10th for life expectancy at the age of 15 for females and 12th for males . . . .

"U.S. children are particularly disadvantaged," she said, adding, "But even the relatively advantaged position of elderly persons in the United States is slipping. The U.S. relative position for life expectancy in the oldest age group was better in the 1980's than in the 1990's" . . . .

To get a sense of just how backward we're becoming on these matters, consider that in places like Texas, Florida and Mississippi the politicians are dreaming up new ways to remove the protective cloak of health coverage from children, the elderly and the poor. Texas and Florida have been pulling the plug on coverage for low-income kids. And Mississippi recently approved the deepest cut in Medicaid eligibility for senior citizens and the disabled that has ever been approved anywhere in the U.S.

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'Anonymous' Outed 

According to Editor & Publisher, Jason Vest of the Boston Phoenix has revealed the name of "Anonymous," the intelligence veteran whose new book Imperial Hubris is reportedly quite good on the malady (the disastrously incompetent prosecution of Bush's "war on terrorism"), less so on the remedy (total war on Islam). So is Vest pulling a Robert Novak? Apparently not:
Vest in his article notes that "at issue here is not just the book's content, but why Anonymous is anonymous. After all, as the Times and others have reported, his situation is nothing like that of Valerie Plame, a covert operative whose ability to work active overseas cases was undermined when someone in the White House blew her cover to journalist Robert Novak in an apparent payback for an inconvenient weapons-of-mass-destruction intelligence report by her husband, Joseph Wilson. Anonymous, on the other hand, is, by the CIA's own admission, a Langley, Va.-bound analyst whose identity has never required secrecy.

"A Phoenix investigation has discovered that Anonymous does not, in fact, want to be anonymous at all -- and that his anonymity is neither enforced nor voluntarily assumed out of fear for his safety, but rather compelled by an arcane set of classified regulations that are arguably being abused in an attempt to spare the CIA possible political inconvenience. In the Phoenix's view, continued deference by the press to a bogus and unwanted standard of secrecy essentially amounts to colluding with the CIA in muzzling a civil servant -- a standard made more ridiculous by the ubiquity of Anonymous's name in both intelligence and journalistic circles."

When asked to confirm or deny his identity in an interview with the Phoenix, Anonymous declined to do either, explaining, "I've given my word I'm not going to tell anyone who I am, as the organization that employs me has bound me by my word."

Jonathan Turley, a national-security-law expert at George Washington University Law School, told Vest, "The requirement that someone publish anonymously is rare, almost unheard-of, particularly if the person is not in a covert position. It seems pretty obvious that the requirement he remain anonymous is motivated solely by political concerns, and ones that have more to do with the CIA."
Just the same, you'll have to click on the link above to find out his name.

Ray McGovern of VIPS (Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity) here describes the dilemma faced by longtime pros like Anonymous -- "let's call him Mike," says McGovern -- who run up against a wall of ideologically-motivated obtuseness:
Here is where Mike's understated outrage shows through most clearly. The undercurrent in both interviews is that his analysis was offered well before the war but, as he told NBC, "senior bureaucrats in the intelligence community (were unwilling) to take the full truth, an unvarnished truth to the president. Whatever danger was posed by Saddamwas almost irrelevant. The boost that (the war) would give to al-Qaeda was easily seen."

Many experienced intelligence analysts will find it easy to identify with Mike's frustration. Put on your analyst hat for a few minutes and put yourself in his place. You have studied the issue with painstaking professionalism for 17 years and have acquired an expert view of the forces at play and the likely result of this or that policy. You warn, you warn, and you warn, as Mike did. And yet, because of wooden-headedness, stupidity, or sycophancy, your superiors disregard your views and you are reduced to looking on helplessly as a calamitous course is set for the country.

Adding insult to injury, you hear Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld confess, as he did on June 6 in Singapore, that "The troubling unknown is whether the extremists are turning out newly trained terrorists faster than the United States can capture or kill them. It is quite clear to me that we do not have a coherent approach to this."

For self-confident analysts, all this creates powerful incentive to publish their own analysis. Once published there is always a chance it might have some resonance--perhaps even influence. In any event, they will be able to tell their grandchildren: Don't blame me; this is what I tried to get them to understand.
Thanks to Zemblan patriots J.M. and J.D. for the McGovern link.

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Hamdi, Padilla, Rasul, You 

Courtesy of Zemblan patriot M.D.: Elaine Cassel argues compellingly that, despite generally cheery media coverage of the Supreme Court's Monday rulings (or non-rulings) in the Hamdi, Rasul and Padilla cases, the Constitution -- and your civil liberties -- sustained a series of crippling body blows:
Forget what the media’s talking heads have told you about these three Supreme Court decisions that tested the power of George W. Bush. The President won far more than he lost, so administration “officials” who pronounce themselves victors are more on target than the press who tell you that the decisions represent a defeat for the Administration, or rein in its power. Taken together, the decisions are more important for what they did not do. Their significance for the future, particularly if Bush is reelected, cannot be underestimated . . . .

Reading the cases and placing them in the context of the “war on terror” supports a view that is admittedly contrary to what mainstream media are saying. But if you have been listening to them since September 11, you don’t know much about what has happened to the legal system in this country, all in the name of preserving liberty. In these three cases, the Supreme Court did not want to totally abrogate its responsibility (except for one Justice, Thomas, who, as a reluctant justice on a court he often expresses contempt for, not surprisingly wants to be left out of any judicial interference with the almighty President) or the Constitution so it threw a vote or two in the direction of the Constitution.

But it left plenty of room for this despotic President, and all who follow him (you think Kerry cares about civil liberties? You think he would not want the same power Bush is wielding?) to incarcerate Americans at whim, concoct a story about “fighting” against American, and dare you, just dare you, to try your luck at proving your innocence.

Oh, about that? Finally, we have the Supreme Court, in the Hamdi case, putting the lie to that myth. There is no presumption of innocence—not if you are Hamdi. There is no mercy—not if the government moves you around so you never know whom to sue. There is a cruel hint at mercy for the Guantanamo Bay prisoners—file your papers, but tell your family to abandon hope. You aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

Game, set, match to George Bush.

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In That Case It Was Worth It 

Although it's early in the day for an Article That Everyone Else Has Already Linked To, here's an Article That Everyone Else Has Already Linked To: "Iraq Is Worse Off Than Before the War Began, GAO Reports," by Seth Borenstein of Knight-Ridder.

Now that circumstances have forced the administration to abandon Official Rationales #1-5 for starting the war --
1) We are in danger of imminent attack from Saddam and his massive stores of WMD's;
2) Saddam has an active nuclear program;
3) Saddam was in cahoots with the 9/11 terrorists;
4) The democratic model we establish in Iraq will have a domino effect, diminishing the influence of fundamentalist Islam, causing theocracies and dictatorships all through the region to topple;
5) The oppressed people of Iraq were praying for a liberator, and will be forever grateful for our selfless humanitarian intervention;
-- how long will it be until we start to hear variations on:
6) Fuckin' ingrate Hajis had it coming?

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Charybdis Is Kinda Quiet Today. Let's Throw a Rock at Scylla 

Thank God Our Better Half was there; otherwise, we could have found ourselves bungling a two-front war. From the Telegraph, courtesy of Zemblan patriot M.U.:
America's military commander in Iraq ordered British troops to prepare a full-scale ground offensive against Iranian forces that had crossed the border and grabbed disputed territory, a senior officer has disclosed.

An attack would almost certainly have provoked open conflict with Iran. But the British chose instead to resolve the matter through diplomatic channels.

"If we had attacked the Iranian positions, all hell would have broken loose," a defence source said yesterday.

"We would have had the Iranians to our front and the Iraqi insurgents picking us off at the rear."

The incident was disclosed by a senior British officer at a conference in London last week and is reported in today's edition of Defence Analysis. The identity of the officer is not given . . . .

The incident began last July when Revolutionary Guards pushed about a kilometre into Iraq to the north and east of Basra in an apparent attempt to reoccupy territory which they claimed belonged to Iran.

Lt Gen Ricardo Sanchez then ordered the British to prepare to send in several thousand troops to attack the Revolutionary Guard positions.

The Revolutionary Guard Corps has 125,000 soldiers, making it 25 per cent larger than the entire British Army, and is equipped with 500 tanks, 600 armoured personnel carriers and 360 artillery weapons.

The incident is reminiscent of the exchange during the Kosovo conflict between the American general, Wesley Clark, the supreme allied commander Europe, and Gen Sir Mike Jackson, the British commander.

When Gen Clark told Gen Jackson to send British troops into Pristina airport to prevent Russian troops from taking control Gen Jackson refused. He was reported to have said: "I am not going to start World War Three for you."

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Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Big Media Smells Bush Defeat 

So much to do before the transfer of sovereignty. From the Chicago Tribune (via Xan at Corrente):
Convinced that Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael K. Powell will step down this winter, lobbyists for media and telecommunications companies are rushing to put their pet issues on the agency's agenda.

At least two other commissioners are pondering leaving the FCC. And that could significantly alter the political makeup of the five-member commission that regulates the nation's broadcasting and telecommunications industries.

The 41-year-old Powell denied that he had any immediate plans to leave. But the former Army officer and antitrust lawyer recently prepared a six-month strategy for resolving the controversial media ownership, indecency and telephone competition issues that have become hallmarks of his tenure . . . .

Another Washington lawyer, who represents television station owners and who asked not to be identified, said he had begun advising clients to wrap up any deals that might require FCC approval . . . .

FCC Chief of Staff Bryan Tramont said Powell "has no plans to leave after the president's reelection," disputing that the chairman would want to depart after a Bush victory. Tramont acknowledged, though, that Powell had done some thinking about wrapping things up in the event of a win by the presumed Democratic nominee, Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts.

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Asimov on Reagan 

Avedon Carol of The Sideshow directs your attention to an amusingly -- distressingly? -- prescient Isaac Asimov essay from 1981, "The Reagan Doctrine," here resurrected by Rantavision:
Some time ago, Ronald Reagan pointed out that one couldn't trust the Soviet government because the Soviets didn't believe in God or in an afterlife and therefore had no reason to behave honorably, but would be willing to lie and cheat and do all sorts of wicked things to aid their cause. Naturally, I firmly believe that the president of the United States knows what he is talking about, so I've done my very best to puzzle out the meaning of that statement.

It's a little depressing, if you come to think of it. By the Reagan Doctrine, there is no such thing as a person who keeps his word just because he has a sense of honor. No one tells the truth just because he thinks that it is the decent thing to do. No one is kind because he feels sympathy for others, or treats others decently because he likes the kind of world in which decency exists.

Instead, according to the Reagan Doctrine, anytime we meet someone who pays his debts, or hands in a wallet he found in the street, or stops to help a blind man cross the road, or tells a casual truth — he's just buying himself a ticket to heaven, or else canceling out a demerit that might send him to hell. It's all a matter of good, solid business practice; a matter of turning a spiritual profit and of responding prudently to spiritual blackmail.

Personally, I don't think that I — or you — or even president Reagan — would knock down an old lady and snatch her purse the next time we're short a few bucks. If only we were sure of that heavenly choir, or if only we were certain we wouldn't get into that people-fry down in hell. But by the Reagan Doctrine, if we didn't believe in God and in an afterlife, there would be nothing to stop us, so l guess we all would . . . .

Yet there are puzzles. Consider Iran. The Iranians are a god-fearing people and believe in an afterlife, and this is certainly true of the mullahs and ayatollahs who comprise their government. And yet we are reluctant to trust them for some reason. President Reagan himself has referred to the Iranian leaders as "barbarians" . . . .

For instance, the Iranians are Moslems and the Iraqis are Moslems. Both are certain that there is no god but Allah and that Mohammed is his prophet and believe it with all their hearts. And yet, at the moment, Iraq doesn't trust Iran worth a damn, and Iran trusts Iraq even less than that. In fact, Iran is convinced that Iraq is in the pay of the Great Satan (that's god-fearing America, in case you've forgotten) and Iraq counters with the accusation that it is Iran who is in the pay of the Great Satan. Neither side is accusing the godless Soviets of anything, which is a puzzle . . . .

It bothers the heck out of me therefore that there's probably not a country in the world that doesn't think the United States, through the agency of the CIA and its supposedly underhanded methods, has upset governments in Guatemala, Chile, and Iran (among others), has tried to overthrow the Cuban government by a variety of economic, political, and even military methods, and so on. In every country, you'll find large numbers who claim that the United States fought a cruel and unjust war in Vietnam and that it is the most violent and crime-ridden nation in the world.

They don't seem to be impressed by the fact that we're god-fearing.

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The AWOL Project 

Paul Lukasiak is onto something interesting, as he explained this morning in a letter to Eric Alterman of Altercation:
For the past four months I’ve been examining Bush’s military records within the context provided by the relevant statutes, DoD regulations, and Air Force policies and procedures of that era. (I’ve scanned them and posted them here.)

I've finally started publishing my findings on Bush's military records.

My first piece is on what happened to Bush AFTER he left TXANG.

As it turns out, when you compare the records to the laws, regulations, policies and procedures of that era, there is only one conclusion to be drawn...

The Air Force itself designated Bush a deserter (technically, a "non-locatee", which is the term they used when, instead of court martialling someone who had a draft-deferment, they certified him for immediate induction through the selective service system).

This is the ONLY way to explain that AF 526 that shows that Bush was placed on "Inactive Status" effective September 15, 1973.
Here's a link to that first piece, entitled "Deserter":
After Bush quit TXANG, he still had nine months of his six-year military commitment left to serve. As a result, Bush became a member of the Air Force Reserves and was transferred to the authority of the Air Reserve Personnel Center (ARPC) in Denver, Colorado. Because this was supposed to be a temporary assignment, ARPC had to review Bush’s records to determine where he should ultimately be assigned. That examination would have led to three conclusions: That Bush had “failed to satisfactorily participate” as defined by United States law and Air Force policy, that TXANG could not account for Bush’s actions for an entire year, and that Bush’s medical records were not up to date. Regardless of what actions ARPC contemplated when reviewing Bush’s records, all options required that Bush be certified as physically fit to serve, or as unfit to serve. ARPC thus had to order Bush to get a physical examination, for which Bush did not show up. ARPC then designated Bush as AWOL and a “non-locatee” (i.e. a deserter) who had failed to satisfactorily participate in TXANG, and certified him for immediate induction through his local draft board. Once the Houston draft board got wind of the situation, strings were pulled; and documents were generated which directly contradict Air Force policy, and which were inconsistent with the rest of the records released by the White House.

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Shoulda Stuck With the Lunch Meat 

The USDA is reporting two new cases of what may be Mad Cow Disease.

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Endless Hitch 

From the AP wire, via Zemblan patriot J.D. (that child is en fuego today):
Digging deeper for help in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army is recalling to active duty about 5,600 people who recently left the service and still have a reserve obligation.

In a new sign of the strain the insurgency in Iraq has put on the U.S. military, Army officials said Tuesday the involuntary callups will begin in July and run through December. It is the first sizable activation of the Individual Ready Reserve since the 1991 Gulf War, though several hundred people have voluntarily returned to service since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Unlike members of the National Guard and Reserve, individual reservists do not perform regularly scheduled training and receive no pay unless they are called up. The Army is targeting its recall at those who recently left the service and thus have the most up-to-date skills . . . .

The Army is pinpointing certain skills in short supply, like medical specialists, military police, engineers, transportation specialists and logistics experts. Those selected for recall will be given at least 30 days' notice to report for training, an Army statement said.

Vietnam veteran Chuck Luczynski said in an interview Tuesday that he fears his son, Matt, who is getting out of the Army after four years, will be called back to active duty as part of the individual reserves. The son returned home in March after a one-year tour in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division, and he's planning to start a computer programming business.

"I think that's on everybody's mind right now, that they took their turn and they would hope everybody took a turn so that a few don't carry the many," said the elder Luczynski, of Omaha, Neb.

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However, if You Include Nader, Bush Is Actually Quite Competitive Within the Demographic 

Dept. of Shit You Couldn't Make Up If You Tried: Zemblan patriot J.D. forwards a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Larry L. Eastland, who maintains that legal abortion has given Republicans "a decided advantage in electoral politics, one that grows with each election" -- the reason being that most aborted fetuses would have grown up to vote Democratic:
The question arises: Who would these Missing Voters have been if they had reached voting age? What would their values have been? How would they have voted? What impact would they have had on the great debates in America, including the abortion debate? Here's what we know from several generations of social science research about children:

• They tend to absorb the values of their parents.

• They tend to have the same political views as their family (parents, siblings, immediate relatives) and share common views on political causes.

• They tend to develop the same lifestyle as their family.

I remember the guy at my 30th high school class reunion who looked over the people there and remarked, "I can't believe I came in person, while everyone else sent their parents!"
(This no doubt explains why politics are such a universally popular topic at the holiday dinner table. Yr. Mst. Hmbl. Monarch, for example, had close relatives who voted for George Wallace in '68; don't get me started. Don't even get me started.) Since, according to Eastland, "Democrats account for 30% more abortions than Republicans" and "the more ideologically Democratic the voters are (self-identified liberals), the more abortions they have," he calculates that:
• There are 19,748,000 Democrats who are not with us today. (49.37 percent of 40 million).

• There are 13,900,000 Republican who are not with us today. (34.75 percent of 40 million).

• By comparison, then, the Democrats have lost 5,848,000 more voters than the Republicans have.

In the actual popular vote for president in the 2000 general election in Florida, George W. Bush was declared the winner by 537 votes. But if the 260,962 Missing Voters of Florida had been present to vote, Al Gore would have won by 45,366 votes. Missing Voters--through decisions made in the 1970s and early 1980s, encouraged and emboldened by the feminist movement at the height of its power--altered the outcome of the U.S. presidency a generation later, in a way proponents of legal abortion could not have imagined.
I am not quite sure whether Mr. Eastland is exhorting Republicans to embrace abortion or Democrats to abjure it -- he's a tricky one! -- but his very stimulating argument makes me wonder: oughtn't we lefties, in light of the fact that the military skews heavily Republican, reconsider our knee-jerk opposition to war?

Hmm. I wonder which party eats the most luncheon meat.

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Think of All the Wasted Sperm That Could Have Grown Up to Vote Republican 

The GOP is coming! To New York, I mean. From the NY Daily News, courtesy of Suburban Guerilla:
With thousands of Republicans set to invade the city this summer, high-priced escorts and strippers are preparing for one grand old party.
Agencies are flying in extra call girls from around the globe to meet the expected demand during the Aug. 30-Sept. 2 gathering at Madison Square Garden.

"We have girls from London, Seattle, California, all coming in for that week," said a madam at a Manhattan escort service. "It's the week everyone wants to work."

"It's going to be big," agreed one operator at a midtown escort service . . . .

That's the hope among escort services expecting a windfall from randy Republicans.

At the 1996 Republican convention in San Diego, an escort service in search of delegate dollars changed its name to GOP: Good Old-Fashioned Pleasure.

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Erin Go Blecch 

From Mahablog (courtesy of Zemblan patriot J.D.). Posted by Hello

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The Road to Damascus 

E.J. Dionne surveys the electorate and is gratified to discover that the scales are falling from many an eye:
"I've never seen a time with so many Republicans expressing consternation about their party and a willingness to support the other party," said Rep. Brian Baird, a Democrat whose district, in Washington's southwest corner, went for Bush four years ago.

Baird, a psychologist who has worked with statistics, is also skeptical of making too much of anecdotes. But he is running across plenty of them on the anti-Bush side. "If you contrast this campaign to the campaign of four years ago, you saw George Bush stickers everywhere and very few Al Gore stickers," he said. "Now, it's at least 50-50" between Bush and Kerry. Baird speaks of a man in a health club wearing a John Kerry T-shirt who told him: "What you have to understand is that I am a lifelong Republican." And the congressman chuckles over a car he spotted that "had an American flag, an 'I'm the NRA' bumper sticker and a John Kerry bumper sticker."

[Rep. Jay] Inslee's metaphor of the 1994 Republican sweep piloted by former House speaker Newt Gingrich is intriguing because the Republican wave was not obvious in the polls at this moment in the campaign 10 years ago. A survey in mid-June 1994 by Republican pollster Richard Wirthlin, for example, found the Democrats with a three-point lead in the House races.

Yet many Republicans correctly argued that intense voter dissatisfaction with Congress, Bill Clinton and the status quo was moving the country decisively in the GOP's direction. Republicans then sensed that the energy on the Republican side could swamp Democrats by producing a turnout heavily tilted toward Republican candidates -- exactly what happened. Democrats feel a comparable energy could work for them this year . . . .

But there is one last bit of evidence suggesting that Inslee and Baird are on to something. In late August 2002, at the beginning of the buildup to the Iraq war, a Pew Research Center poll found that only 37 percent of Americans felt Bush had laid out a case for military action; 52 percent felt he had not.

In other words, millions of middle-of-the-road Americans had doubts about the war before it started. Many of those doubters eventually went along with the president but now question the war and the way the administration handled it. If Inslee is right about his tidal wave, the doubters will give it its power.

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