'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

The Empire Strikes Back 

Well, Salon just ran a piece by Eric Boehlert covering the persecution of Al Lorentz for his crime of ..um.. exercising his right to free speech. The story is that a career military man stationed in Iraq wrote an article making the case that the Iraq war is unwinnable, posted the article to a conservative website, and is now the target of a legal attack by the Pentagon. I believe this is the biggest news source that has touched this one so far. For those of you without Salon subscriptions here's a meaty excerpt:

The essay that sparked the military investigation is titled "Why We Cannot Win" and was posted Sept. 20 on the conservative antiwar Web site LewRockwell.com. Written by Al Lorentz, a non-commissioned officer from Texas with nearly 20 years in the Army who is serving in Iraq, the essay offers a bleak assessment of America's chances for success in Iraq.

"I have come to the conclusion that we cannot win here for a number of reasons. Ideology and idealism will never trump history and reality," wrote Lorentz, who gives four key reasons for the likely failure: a refusal to deal with reality, not understanding what motivates the enemy, an overabundance of guerrilla fighters, and the enemy's shorter line of supplies and communication.

[ ... ]

The essay prompted a swift response from Lorentz's commanders. In an e-mail this week to Salon, Lorentz, declining to comment further on his piece, noted, "Because of my article, I am under investigation at this time for very serious charges which carry up to a 20-year prison sentence." According to Lorentz, the investigation is looking into whether his writing constituted a disloyalty crime under both federal statute (Title 18, Section 2388, of the U.S. Code) and Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

According to the UCMJ, examples of punishable statements by military personnel "include praising the enemy, attacking the war aims of the United States, or denouncing our form of government with the intent to promote disloyalty or disaffection among members of the armed services. A declaration of personal belief can amount to a disloyal statement if it disavows allegiance owed to the United States by the declarant. The disloyalty involved for this offense must be to the United States as a political entity and not merely to a department or other agency that is a part of its administration."

I really can't get over this story ... what makes it really interesting is that Al Lorentz is deeply conservative; he's a member of the Constitution Party, the party that wanted to run Judge Roy Moore of ten commandment monument fame for president; they're like religious libertarians, I believe. Anyway, this guy is obviously the type of conservative-minded independent that Fat Karl wants to attract with his preaching to the base campaign. One wonders how Karl Rove feels about the Pentagon going after Lorentz. I think if this story gets any serious press it could be a big black eye for the Bushies, and I wouldn't be surprised if these charges are very quietly dropped. But we'll see ...

Update: Commondreams posted the whole article and the Christian Science Monitor mentioned the Salon piece.

Death Near Baghdad 

From a photo essay courtesy of Newsweek. The photo essay is by Robert King, a photographer riding with the 1st Cavalry quick-reaction force. King arrived at the scene just minutes after an improvised explosive device blew up a personnel carrier, killing two and wounding three near Baghdad.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Cheney's Disease 

Jon Stewart just interviewed Ralph Reed and asked him why the Bush adminstration invaded Iraq. Ralph Reed cited among other things page 66 of the 911 commission report flagging the following paragraph:

In mid-1998, the situation reversed; it was Iraq that reportedly took the initiative. In March 1998, after Bin Ladin's public fatwa against the United States, two al Qaeda members reportedly went to Iraq to meet with Iraqi intelligence. In July, an Iraqi delegation traveled to Afghanistan to meet first with the Taliban and then with Bin Ladin. Sources reported that one, or perhaps both, of these meetings was apparently arranged through Bin Ladin's Egyptian deputy, Zawahiri, who had ties of his own to the Iraqis. In 1998, Iraq was under intensifying U.S. pressure, which culminated in a series of large air attacks in December.

which is all fine and good. However, here is page 66 of the report and if one takes the trouble to read the whole page one finds that the very next paragraph after the above is

Similar meetings between Iraqi officials and Bin Ladin or his aides may have occurred in 1999 during a period of some reported strains with the Taliban.According to the reporting, Iraqi officials offered Bin Ladin a safe haven in Iraq. Bin Ladin declined, apparently judging that his circumstances in Afghanistan remained more favorable than the Iraqi alternative. The reports describe friendly contacts and indicate some common themes in both sides' hatred of the United States. But to date we have seen no evidence that these or the earlier contacts ever developed into a collaborative operational relationship. Nor have we seen evidence indicating that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States.

which, call me crazy, seems rather important to the point Reed was making. One wonders why he didn't mention it. Cheney seems to have an oddly specific form of dyslexia, or perhaps it's more a kind of aphasia, that renders him incapable of reading, comprehending, and retaining the information I emphasized in the above passage. Maybe Ralph Reed caught a case of this disorder from Dick? A communicable strain of Cheney's Disease would explain a lot.

What Ever Happened to Abu Ghraib? 

George Soros made a big speech to the National Press Club that spelled out for the millionth time the case against Bush ... the part I liked was

President Bush likes to insist that the terrorists hate us for what we are - a freedom loving people - not what we do. Well, he is wrong on that. He also claims that the torture scenes at Abu Graib prison were the work of a few bad apples. He is wrong on that too. They were part of a system of dealing with detainees put in place by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and our troops in Iraq are paying the price.

I like seeing an accepted mainstream source bring up Abu Ghraib in this context. Why isn't Kerry saying things like the above? Do the Kerry people think that the Abu Ghraib atrocities were such a repugnant downer that to even mention them tarnishes the messenger?

Anyway Soros is kicking off a big new tour and ad campaign ... here's the press release.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Perfectly Peaceful 

At his recent "media availability" after the meeting with Allawi, Rumsfeld assured us it's not necessary for Iraq to be peaceful or perfect much less peaceful and perfect ...

Although early on he said he recognizes "that a free and peaceful Iraq is a powerful blow to the extremists", he went on to say

If any implication that that place has to be peaceful and perfect before we can reduce coalition and U.S. forces I think would obviously be unwise, because it's never been peaceful and perfect and it isn't likely to be. It's a tough part of the world.

supporting Robert "Smiley" Novak's recent claim that BushCo is planning on cutting and running after the election. To me this sort of talk doesn't jive with the good old rock solid resolve and steadfast leadership in this time of uncertainty that I've grown to expect from the Bush administration but Rummy explained why it's okay. See, America is neither peaceful nor perfect so Iraq's non-peaceful and non-perfect-ness just makes it more like America, oh yeah, and also it's the media's fault:

We had something like 200 or 300 or 400 people killed in many of the major cities of America last year. Is it perfectly peaceful? No. What's the difference? We just didn't see each homicide in every major city in the United States on television every night. It happens here in this city, in every major city in the world. Across Europe, across the Middle East, people are being killed. People do bad things to each other. The idea that we'd have to stay there till that place was peaceful -- as I think you said, or something like that -- and everyone goes happily on their way, or whatever you said. We'll check the transcript.

If such statements are at odds with what the Boy King has been running around saying lately, like for instance in the Rose Garden appearance that preceded Rumsfeld's availability, ... well ... we'll just have to check the transcript.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

It Really Wasn't So Bad... 

Israeli soldiers raid a Palestinian home mortally wounding a wife and mother in the process of blasting down the door. The woman's husband begs the soldiers to send for an ambulance while her children look on in horror. The soldiers then get on with their business of ransacking the house looking for weapons, breaking down walls, and so forth.

Scenes like this are common occurrences in occupied Palestine.

It isn't a common occurrence, however, for the soldiers in question to be accompanied by an Israeli news team and for footage of the event to end up on Israel's channel two.

Here's a link to the footage as presented by the CBC's Neil MacDonald

The video was aired without the consent of the Israeli army, and is quite damning: one of the soldiers states on camera that he "approved of the operation and that it really wasn't so bad." etc. As Diane of Karmalised writes

It's unclear why Channel Two breached the arrangement shared between the three Israeli networks and the army not to air any footage that isn't pre-approved by the military. It would be reasonable to assume it was an act of protest. The alternative, that the media has grown so accustomed to the face of its country's racism they considered the film merely titillating, is too barbaric to contemplate, isn't it?

According to Neil MacDonald, the CBC journalist who compiled this report, when this footage aired people didn't like what they saw. One of the strongest reactions came from an Israeli official who criticised the media for not exercising self censorship.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Missing Hitchens 

The Independent just ran an oddly moving piece by Johann Hari about Christopher Hitchens getting turned by the dark side of the force in which Hitch informs us, I kid you not, that Wolfowitz is actually a big fucking liberal:

The thing that would most surprise people about Wolfowitz if they met him is that he's a real bleeding heart. He's from a Polish-Jewish immigrant family. You know the drill - Kennedy Democrats, some of the family got out of Poland in time and some didn't make it, civil rights marchers? He impressed me when he was speaking at a pro-Israel rally in Washington a few years ago and he made a point of talking about Palestinian suffering. He didn't have to do it - at all - and he was booed. He knew he would be booed, and he got it. I've taken time to find out what he thinks about these issues, and it's always interesting.

Yeah, no one sticks up for Palestinians like Paul Wolfowitz... Hitch also goes into a song and dance routine when Hari attempts to get Hitch on record about his current location in the political spectrum, which is somewhat amusing. To a direct question about his current political affiliation Hitchens responded, "I don't have a political allegiance now, and I doubt I ever will have again. I can no longer describe myself as a socialist. I miss it like a lost limb." Apparently he misses socialism like a lost limb that he likes to bitch about because he goes on to say

Often young people ask me for political advice, and when you are talking to the young, you mustn't bullshit. It's one thing when you are sitting with old comrades to talk about reviving the left, but you can't say that to somebody who is just starting out. And what could I say to these people? I had to ask myself - is there an international socialist movement worth the name? No. No, there is not. Okay - will it revive? No, it won't. Okay then - but is there at least a critique of capitalism that has a potential for replacing it? Not that I can identify

which is all fine and good but neglects to inform us whether or not Hitchens now believes that the best means of allocating resources in a large-scale industrial society is capitalism. If he does then one would think he would say so when discussing why he no longer applies the label "socialist" to himself.

Former Hitchens' associate Doug Ireland had the following to say about the Independent story:

Hitch's new friends, I find, range from the indigestible to the downright repugnant. Christopher and I have debated his support for Bush in print for the L.A. Weekly. However, he and I remain on affectionate personal terms (I suppose I have Forsterian notions of friendship--and then, Hitch can still turn out a piece that I can wholeheartedly agree with as well as admire for its polemical style, like Hitch's wonderfully acid dissection of Mel Gibson's incendiary Jesus film). He sends me tart and imperious notes when he thinks I'm off-base, I send notes back to him teasing him for the absurd posturings of some of his new neocon dinner partners (as when Hitch's mad chum Wolfie insisted, on the Jim Lehrer Newshour, that Iraq today was like France after World War II ! ) Every so often one of us picks up the phone and rings the other, for a friendly chinwag or a collegial exchange of precise information. Sometimes it's his wife, Carol--whom I invariably refer to as The Lady Blue--who picks up their second phone in the kitchen, where Hitch often takes refuge (and the secret number of which I wouldn't reveal even under torture). I'm always delighted when she does: Carol is delicious--intelligent, courageous, and witty. I'm quite fond of her, too.

But I miss the old Hitch. In yesterday's Independent, a former Hitchens protege, Johann Hari, interviews my friend Christopher about the bizarre political voyage he's been on for the last three years. It's a profile of Hitch written more in sorrow than in anger, very revealing and, for me, extraordinarily saddening. It made me nostalgic once again for the other Hitch, my comrade of yore. I could only agree with Hari's last line in this piece, when he wrote "Come home, Hitch - we need you." I think it unlikely, however, that Hitch will heed us...

I never really thought much of Hitchens even when he was a leftist. He always just seemed to be a kind of charlatan to me, applying the sort of posturing and preening that's common in academic discourse to political discourse, and not even a particularly good charlatan like Slavoj Zizek or someone. His old friends seem to miss him though, so what the hell do I know.

Monday, September 20, 2004

The Wit and Wisdom of Donald Rumsfeld 

Rumsfeld had the following to say at a recent appearance:

I’m very encouraged about it. I think that the United States and the coalition countries, of course unlike, other countries we have no desire to stay there or to be there at all other than to help that country get on it’s feet. We’re in the processing of doing that and they’re making good progress politically. They’re making progress economically. The schools are open. The hospitals are open. They have a stock market functioning. They sent some teams to the Olympics. They have a symphony and at the same time, amidst all those good things that are happening, people are being killed. Iraqis are being killed, as they were yesterday and the day before. At some point the Iraqis will get tired of getting killed and we’ll have enough of the Iraqi security forces that they can take over responsibility for governing that country and we’ll be able to pare down the coalition security forces in the country.

Um ... I'm pretty sure Iraqis are already tired of getting killed, but I could be wrong.

Furthermore, all jokiness aside, the claim that the US has "no desire to stay" in Iraq is an outright lie. Setting up permanent secure military bases near the world's biggest reserves of oil was one of the major actual motives for the Iraq adventure. For example CNN reported the following in April of 2003:

The Bush administration wants ongoing access to military bases in Iraq but acknowledges that any access agreement would have to be negotiated with whatever government emerges, a senior military official told CNN.

This development, first reported in The New York Times, is part of a larger expected administration and Pentagon review of future U.S. military presence in the region, the official said.

[ ... ]

All of this is likely to become part of a broader Defense Department and administration review of the U.S. military presence throughout the region. With the regime of Saddam Hussein gone and Iraq no longer a presumed threat to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, the U.S. military presence in those two countries likely would diminish.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

The Prince of Darkness vs. Lord Black 

A couple of weeks ago, Richard Breeden, former head of the SEC, published a scathing five-hundred-plus page report called The Hollinger Chronicles detailing, to quote the report, the "corporate kleptocracy" headed by Hollinger International’s ex-CEO and major shareholder, Lord Conrad Black. The report alleges that Black populated Hollinger's board with shills and lackeys who looked the other way as Black and friends plundered the company for $400 million.

Of particular interest to readers of this blog is the fact that Prince of Darkness and president of the Ahmed Chalabi fanclub, Richard Perle, was one of Black's shills. As Martin Kelly wrote in the Washington Dispatch:

Breeden blasts Perle for the lack of care he exhibited towards the interests of the wider shareholder democracy forming Hollinger International. Perle was not just a main board director; he was a member of the corporation’s executive committee. He should have been scrutinising the web of interlocking companies, the non-compete fees, the management fees and the asset sales and purchases that seem to have enabled Black and Radler get their hands on so much for so long. Either Perle wasn’t doing his job properly or he was looking the other way. Breeden proposes that the ultimate penalty be imposed on Perle for his consistent failure to perform. Black’s biographer Richard Siklos, writing in Hollinger’s former title The Sunday Telegraph of September 5, quotes Breeden thus --

"As a faithless fiduciary, Perle should be required to disgorge all compensation he received from the company".

Over the course of his involvement with the company, Perle was paid a total of 5 million dollars. If Perle is called upon to repay this sum, it will be very interesting to see who is backing him up.

I don't know about you, dear reader, but the above left me with an awful image of Richard Perle "disgorging".

The report alleges that Perle made a killing similarly to the way in which Black did, by syphoning Hollinger International's assets into personal ventures. Amusingly, Perle dipping his hand into the cookie jar annoyed Black because, you know, Black wasn't in on it: (from the Globe and Mail)

The Hollinger Digital investments show how Richard Perle, a long-time Hollinger International director and a friend of Lord Black's, was allowed to personally profit from his role at the company, the report alleges. Even Lord Black raised concerns about Mr. Perle's alleged attempts to divert Hollinger money to his own enterprise, according to the report. In an e-mail included in the report, Lord Black referred to Mr. Perle and another associate as trying to "smoke one past us" and added that they "should treat us as insiders with our hands cupped as the money flows down, and not as outsiders pouring in the money."

I really like that bit about treating Black's group as "insiders with [their] hands cupped as the money flows down" rather than the money pourers -- these guys really have to learn to stop using email to manage their kleptocracies. One hopes Black and his boys withdraw their cupped hands before Richard Perle disgorges -- or maybe not.

Interestingly, rather than demonstrating the crazy loyalty we're used to seeing from Perle towards Chalabi, Perle is already turning on Black: (from the Times)

Now, their relationship, which has come under scrutiny by federal regulators and investors, has decidedly changed.

In the face of federal investigations and a scathing internal report for Hollinger by Richard C. Breeden, a former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Mr. Perle has broken ranks and turned on Lord Black.

[ ... ]

From his vacation home in southern France late Friday, issuing the outlines of his legal defense for the first time, Mr. Perle said that he was misled.

"The special committee has concluded that Lord Black and other members of the Ravelston Management Group misled the directors of Hollinger, including me, concerning the scope of their compensation, the payment of noncompete payments and the related-party nature of several transactions," Mr. Perle said, referring to the holding company run by Lord Black that effectively controlled Hollinger. "As the report shows, critical information was either not revealed or obscured as matters were presented to the audit and executive committees and the full board of directors.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Live from Baghdad 

From "TV reporter killed by US fire during live Baghdad broadcast", Telegraph UK:

A television journalist was shot dead as he made a live broadcast from Baghdad yesterday when United States helicopters fired on a crowd that had gathered round the burning wreckage of an American armoured vehicle.

Mazen al-Tumeizi, a Palestinian working for Al-Arabiya, one of the main Arab satellite television channels, was among 12 people - all believed to be civilians - killed in the incident on Haifa Street.

Update: Here is some footage from al-Tumeizi's last broadcast, via The Sydney Morning Herald.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Chez Che 

Che's ghost has been fairly busy lately.

Walter Salles' take on The Motorcycle Diaries is going to hit the screens on the 24th of this month, and Che's family has nothing but good things to say about it. If The Motocycle Diaries turns out to be too schmaltzy, Steven Soderbergh is reportedly working on a full Che biopic due out in 2005.

In order to capitalize on the movie or perhaps in an attempt to use up the last of the world's dwindling irony reserves, a US company that, according to Utne, probably uses Latin American sweatshop labor claims now to own the iconic Che image and is suing another T-shirt vendor for producing Che shirts: (from Utne)

Cuban photographer Alberto Korda took the famous picture at a funeral in 1960 and gave a print to an Italian journalist in 1967. After Guevara's death in 1968 the photo was distributed widely in Italy, and then the rest of the world. It has been duplicated by like-minded progressives ever since. Scott Cramer's Northern Sun Merchandising of Minneapolis has been selling the Che Guevara image on t-shirts and posters for nearly 25 years. Atlanta-based Fashion Victim is threatening to sue Cramer on the grounds that it bought the North American rights to the image in 2002.

Also, via The Hey! Weblog, Che chic is growing in Argentina. Or at least Argentina wants Che's body: (from here)

If a small but growing group of Argentine legislators has its way, the remains of Che Guevara will come back home one day--back, that is, to a home that many people do not know he had.

Ernesto Guevara de la Serna was born and raised in Argentina, the son of a rich man. But it was with Fidel Castro's revolution that Guevara won fame and infamy. It is with Cuba that his iconic image is associated. And it is in Cuba that Guevara is interred.

The Argentines don't expect to change all that. They just want the world to know that Guevara was one of theirs.

"Some people may be in favor of his ideas, and some may be against, but all agree that Che was a figure of noble causes," said Ines Perez Suarez, a congresswoman from Buenos Aires who wants the government to ask the Castro regime to repatriate Guevara's remains. "Che is admired all over the world, and the Argentine people deserve to have him back."

Given Argentina's current status as a poster child for the neoliberal god that failed, American Leftist suggests that Argentine legislators would be better off importing from Cuba some of Che Guevara's ideas rather than his corpse.

Friday, September 10, 2004

The CBS Memo Forgery Thing 

As far as I know, CBS is standing by the documents, at this point. Does anyone know from where CBS got the memos?

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Why Didn't They Put in a Footnote That Asserts Bush Is a Brave and Noble Leader Who Singlehandedly Defended America From a Terrorist Attack? 

Pretty good gaggle today. The poodles are little bit more bity than normal. Here's my favorite part in which we learn that "These are the same old recycled attacks" is Scottie-ese for "Because he knew he would ultimately be successful in weaseling out of having to fulfill his military commitment -- so why should he waste his time getting felt up by some cracker doctor?":

Q Why did the President defy a direct order to get a physical in 1972?

MR. McCLELLAN: Scott, these are the same old recycled attacks that we see every time the President is up for election. It's not surprising that you see a coordinated effort by Democrats to attack the President when Senator Kerry is falling behind in the polls. And we had a very successful convention, and that's what this is about. It was well known that the President was going to work in Alabama and seeking a transfer to perform equivalent duty in a non-flying status. And that's what he was doing.

Q Did he decline to take it because he was moving to Alabama?

MR. McCLELLAN: He was transferring to a unit in Alabama to perform equivalent duty in a non-flying status. That is nothing new.

Q This was a direct order he defied, right? I mean, he did have a direct order that he defied?*

MR. McCLELLAN: John, these issues have come up every year. This was all part of the records -- that he was seeking to transfer to a unit in Alabama because he was going there to work in a civilian capacity. And he was granted permission to do so. And he was proud of his service and he was honorably discharged in October '73, after meeting his obligations.

*The memos that were released, in fact, show the President was working with his commanders to comply with the order.

[ ... ]

Q Scott, I'm just wondering, even if these were old charges, and even if the President was honorably discharged, did he or did he not defy an order to get that physical?

MR. McCLELLAN: Holly, again, these are the same kind of recycled attacks that the Democrats are trying to engage in. The President fulfilled all his obligations, and that is why he was honorably discharged from the National Guard in October, 1973. He was given permission to perform equivalent duty in Alabama, and he met his obligations, and he met his obligations when he returned to Texas. And he met his obligations when he was in Texas, prior to going to Alabama.

As indicated above, I also really enjoyed an editorial comment in the form of a footnote showing up in the official public transcript of a White House press briefing. American Leftist wonders why doesn't the editorialist/transcriptionist cut this paratextual crap and just distort the body of the transcription? It would much easier and a lot of fun. I envision something like this:

Q: Scottie, why would anyone question the president's military service given that it's obvious that these are just the same recycled attacks?

A: Good question, John. I think there are three factors: because Kerry is down in the polls, because we had a very successful convention, and because these are in fact the same recycled attacks that come up every year.

Q: Are these just the same recycled attacks we see every time the president is up for election?

A: Yes, Holly, they are. They are in fact the very same recycled attacks and they are also the same old charges.

For the record, of course, the footnote is not only false but kind of stupid and not particularly flattering to the White House. Look, I ask you press briefing footnote writer if you're out there, oh great gaggle transcript editorialist, it's not like Bush was directly ordered to assassinate Castro or something, what exactly was there to "[work out] with his commanders" about getting a fucking physical? Even if the paper trail did indeed document Bush "working with his commanders to comply" with a direct order, is that really a view of your boy that you want in the official record? I think most guardsmen who aren't the sons of senators got their physicals without working anything out with anyone. Perhaps there's some other memos about Bush working out with his commanders some means of showing up for duty on time?

One assumes the footnote refers to the Col. Jerry Killian memos. Here's how CBS News summarized their contents:

The first memo is a direct order to take "an annual physical examination" -- a requirement for all pilots.

Another memo refers to a phone call from the lieutenant in which he and his commander "discussed options of how Bush can get out of coming to drill from now through November." And that due to other commitments "he may not have time."

On August 1, 1972, Col. Killian grounded Lt. Bush for failure to perform to U.S. Air Force/Texas Air National Guard standards and for failure to take his annual physical as ordered.

A year after Lt. Bush's suspension from flying, Killian was asked to write another assessment.

Killian's memo, titled 'CYA' reads he is being pressured by higher-ups to give the young pilot a favorable yearly evaluation; to, in effect, sugarcoat his review. He refuses, saying, "I'm having trouble running interference and doing my job."

If one insists on characterizing the above as "working with his commanders to comply" with a direct order, I would suggest it might be more beneficial to the ends implied by such a charazterization to instead paint the above as the same old recycled attacks.

A Little Irony 

Here's a bit of a news I found simultaneously quite sad and darkly funny:

Dozens of international aid agencies considered quitting Iraq on Wednesday following the abduction of two Italian women, and as the U.S. military death toll rose above 1,000.

A coordinator for foreign aid groups said that he expected most of the remaining 50 or so organizations to pull out following the kidnapping of the Italians, in Iraq to help child victims of war, from their Baghdad office on Tuesday.

Aid groups met to discuss the issue on Wednesday but broke off the meeting early for security reasons. Jean-Dominique Bunel, a French aid worker, said all organizations were reviewing their security and considering withdrawing.

Yes, you read that right. Every remaining NGO in Iraq is about to pull out because of security concerns. The NGOs got together to discuss this fact but they had to cut the meeting short because of security concerns. You have to work hard to produce such a perfect cluster-fuck as the United States' occupation of Iraq. The neoconservatives should be very proud.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004


Here's part of Bush's comment on the American casualties in Iraq reaching a thousand:

... And that's why we appreciate the sacrifice of the men and women who wear the uniform. They're serving a great cause. We mourn every loss of life. We'll honor their memories by completing the mission."

Hear, Hear! Bush appreciates the thousand's sacrifice and mourns the loss of the thousand. In fact, he did such a good job of appreciating and mourning that he didn't even need to attend any of those one thousand funerals.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Loving Women Dubya-Style 

From the you-can't-make-this-shit-up file: ("Bush unfazed by 'loving women' gaffe", Reuters/AAP)

US President George W. Bush offered an unexpected reason today for cracking down on frivolous medical lawsuits.

"Too many OB-GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country," he said.

It was unclear what he meant but the Republican president, long known for verbal and grammatical lapses, included the anecdote about obstetrician gynaecologists in a speech attacking Democratic presidential rival Senator John Kerry and his running mate, Senator John Edwards, a former trial lawyer.

At a rally of cheering supporters in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, Bush made his usual pitch for limiting "frivolous lawsuits" that drive up the cost of health care and run doctors out of business.

But then he added: "We've got an issue in America. Too many good docs are getting out of business. Too many OB-GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country."

What a Coincidence 

Does anyone else remember that last April Bob Woodward told "60 Minutes" that the Saudis had promised Bush they'd cut oil prices before the US election? Here's a memory aid: (Woodward speaking)

They're (oil prices) high. And they could go down very quickly. That's the Saudi pledge. Certainly over the summer, or as we get closer to the election, they could increase production several million barrels a day and the price would drop significantly.

Did anyone notice that the Saudis are keeping their promise? From Reuters today:

U.S. oil prices fell on Tuesday after top exporter Saudi Arabia deeply cut prices for its crude sales to Europe and the United States to shift the large volumes it is offering to cool world markets.

However, last month as oil prices reached record levels, Prince Abdullah called Woodward's allegation of a secret agreement with the White House "pure fiction" so the price cuts' pre-election timing must just be a coincidence. Of course, if the timing wasn't a coincidence, such loyalty to Bush supports the veracity of an old story Senator Graham has been bringing up a lot lately...

Friday, September 03, 2004

Not Very Surprising 

I hadn't heard about this: (from E&P)

Security guards at the Republican National Convention overreacted when USA Today guest columnist Michael Moore entered Madison Square Garden Monday night and were responsible for a disruption that made it difficult for several members of the press, including Moore, to cover the proceedings, said the U.S. House Daily Press Gallery, which oversees press credentials for the convention.

The gallery conducted a review of the Monday incident, which it calls the worst case of police media control since the 1968 Chicago convention.

"It was heavy-handed. They were very highly over-reactive," said Jerry Gallegos, superintendent of the gallery. "That is what made the whole situation far worse than it needed to be."

Moore, who entered the building at about 9 p.m., was stopped several times as he made his way through the convention to a press table, where guards surrounded him. Security guards then blocked access to several rows of press tables for an hour while he remained in the building.

Gallegos, who has overseen daily press credentials for each political convention since 1972, said the guards and New York City police had no authority to stop access for Moore, or close off a press area without proper cause. "Not since 1968 in Chicago did police get this involved in media access," Gallegos told E&P Thursday. "When you have the police force telling individuals what access they are

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Good Old Medea Benjamin, etc. 

I've been enjoying the RNC protests from afar but have felt something was missing. That something, I now realize, was Medea Benjamin getting tackled to the floor. Anyway, all is in balance now: (from Democracy Now)

During Schwarzenegger's address, peace activist and Code Pink founder Medea Benjamin was on the floor of the convention. As she was standing less than 20 feet away from Vice President Dick Cheney, she unfurled a pink banner that read "Pro-Life: Stop the Killing in Iraq." Security officials quickly approached her and told her to put it away. Medea responded by saying it was a pro-life banner. Minutes later, a Secret Service man came up and asked for her press credentials. She stalled for a few minutes cheering Schwarzenegger along with the Republican crowd.
She was soon surrounded by more security officials. When she realized she was being escorted off the convention floor. Medea Benjamin turned to Vice President Dick Cheney who was sitting 20 feet away and repeatedly yelled "Stop the killing in Iraq." Secret service members carried her upside down off the convention floor.

Here's more of the story:

Benjamin, of San Francisco, said she borrowed "a friend of a friend's" floor pass to gain access to the Garden.

She said the veep forced a smile as she yelled, "Mr. Cheney, how much money did Halliburton make in Iraq?"

Security staff then tackled her to the floor and took her to a basement room for questioning, first by NYPD detectives and then by the Secret Service.

Also according to truthout.org, Medea was briefly detained at the FOX News protest. So if you're playing the RNC Protest Drinking Game, I think you have to drink twice.

Cheney had another close encounter with Americans who haven't signed loyalty oaths when Thomas Frampton tried to introduce himself: (from Reuters)

A Yale University student was charged on Tuesday with assaulting Secret Service agents as he tried to climb into Vice President Dick Cheney's box seat at the Republican National Convention.

Thomas Frampton, shouting anti-war statements, came within 10 feet of Cheney before he was wrestled to the ground and handcuffed by Secret Service agents on the opening night of the convention on Monday, according to court papers.

Frampton, 21, posing as a volunteer at the convention, faces misdemeanor charges of assaulting federal officers and impeding the operation of the Secret Service. His attorney said the student was expressing his right to free speech.

According to the complaint filed in federal court, Secret Service agents spotted Frampton on a walkway near the vice president's seat carrying a "Bush-Cheney '04" sign.

When the agents asked Frampton to "move along," he nodded but quickly turned back toward Cheney and started shouting anti-Bush administration statements. He then attempted to climb over a small wall separating the box from the walkway.

Two Secret Service agents then attempted to restrain Frampton, but he swung his elbow at one and continued to shout at Cheney. After a brief struggle, Frampton was dragged away from the box and handcuffed, the court papers said.

It looks like there going to throw the book at him. Currently Frampton is out on bail: (from Newsday)

Frampton, a baby-faced junior at Yale University with a near-perfect GPA, was released on $50,000 bond yesterday after he was charged with two misdemeanors: interfering with Secret Service agents and assaulting agents.

Assistant Manhattan U.S. Attorney John Hillebrecht told U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Peck that Frampton managed to get into Madison Square Garden wearing the shirt and RNC accreditation given to convention volunteers working outside the Garden.

Hillebrecht, who noted that Frampton had two prior arrests for protesting, also asked that Frampton surrender his RNC pass and the RNC shirt he still sported in court. He also asked that Frampton be ordered to stay at least 100 feet from Cheney and President George W. Bush. Peck granted the requests and scheduled Frampton's next court appearance for Sept. 30.

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