K Marx
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K Marx The Spot

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30 May 2004

Drudge Can't Handle the Truth

Last Thursday, Michael Moore confirmed that he had footage of Nicholas Berg—shot for his film "Fahrenheit 9/11"—and stated that he would share it only with Berg's family. As of this morning, Drudge still has posted to his website the following link: "Berg Sister 'Very Skeptical' of Michael Moore video . . ." The majority of comments to a Free Republic link to Drudge's post question Moore's motives and accuse him of trying to profit from the use of Berg's name. The Lunatic Fringe on Free Republic appear to believe that the existence of such an interview is clear evidence that Moore was involved in Berg's death and has ties to Islamic terrorists.

The truth, of course, was not to be found on Drudge or on Free Republic. It appears that Moore's crew shot the 16-minute interview with Nicholas Berg during an Iraqi business conference in Arlington, Virginia, on December 4. Moore sent copies of the footage to Berg's brother, David Berg, and sister, Sara Berg. Their parents will see the video after returning home from vacation.

Sara Berg said her brother told Moore's crew he was nervous about his safety in Iraq and seemed enthusiastic in the footage. During the interview, Berg also talks about humanitarian work he did in Uganda and Kenya.

David Berg said Moore handled the situation with "dignity, respect and discipline."

"Michael Moore has really been a total class act with this whole thing," David Berg said. "He could have sold this to the media or stuck it in his movie."

Sara Berg said she saw the video footage as a "gift."

It is unusual for Drudge to leave links up on his site for three days. When he does it is often in connection with hit pieces on Democrats or individuals that support Democrats. Now that the truth is out how will Drudge and the Freepers respond? Unapologetic, in denial, or both.

Posted by PAUL at 5/30/2004 06:43:00 AM

29 May 2004

Get This Man a Blog

Yes, I know, even your dog has a blog, but Charlie Pierce somehow doesn't. Sure, he writes very worthy pieces for the American Prospect web site, and his articles for the Boston Globe Magazine are available for a few milliseconds before the scions of Morrissey Boulevard decide that one must pay $2.95 to read them.

But Charlie Pierce is the best reason to read Eric Alterman's weblog, Altercation. I don't mean to imply that Altercation isn't worth reading without Pierce's contributions; rather, Pierce is just the best part. Here, for example, was his take on Friday about Bill O'Reilly, who worked in Boston local television not so long ago:

Yesterday, prior to watching the Sox get vivisected by Oakland at Fenway last night, I was listening to The Radio Factor on my way home from work. Now, I've followed Bill O'Reilly's career since he was just a baby megalomaniac on Boston TV. It would not now surprise me in the least if, one night on TV, right there during The Memo, O'Reilly declared himself to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia. So, I was not entirely shocked to hear him declare to a caller that he'd "destroyed" three institutions: Jesse Jackson's political operation, the ACLU, and rap music.

Well, I can't say as I've ever seen the books on Operation PUSH. But I seem to recall that the ACLU now has about 400,000 members, and that it picked up 50,000 of them right after Sept. 11. And I also note that, according to the Nielsen folk, the best-selling album of 2003 was recorded by 50 Cent, and that it sold almost 7 million units and, as far as I know, 50 Cent is rarely confused with Bobby Short. So, what can I say, except, destroy me like you did them, Big Guy. I can use the money.

Posted by Tim W at 5/29/2004 01:34:00 AM

26 May 2004

Not Even Useful Idiocy

If Jeff Jacoby's journalistic career did not exist, then there would be no need at all to invent it. The Boston area surely has hundreds, even thousands, of thoughtful conservative writers that the Boston Globe could use for its op-ed page. And the Globe keeps sticking with him. His latest screed, on the Globe website but not its pages, deals with the horrors of the treatment of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. The problem, it seems, is not the torture, or the torturers, or the torturers' superiors. The problem was Ted Kennedy. I am not making this up.

Speaking in the Senate on May 10, Kennedy had this to say about the Abu Ghraib prison scandal:

"On March 19, 2004, President Bush asked, 'Who would prefer that Saddam's torture chambers still be open?' Shamefully, we now learn that Saddam's torture chambers reopened under new management—US management."

This was not a blurted, off-the-cuff comment—Kennedy was reading from a prepared text. It was not a shocked first reaction to the abuses at Abu Ghraib—the story had broken more than a week earlier. Incredibly, the senior senator from Massachusetts really was equating the disgraceful mistreatment of a few Iraqi prisoners by a few American troops with the unspeakable sadism, rape, and mass murder that had been routine under Saddam Hussein.

Kennedy's vile calumny should have triggered outrage. Here was the most prominent liberal politician in America accusing his own government of the very savagery it said it had gone to war to uproot. It was the worst kind of anti-American poison, and it was coming not from a crackpot with no following but from one of the most powerful Democrats in Congress. It should have unleashed an uproar.

It unleashed nothing....

To be sure, Kennedy has a long history of opposing American interests in the world. During the Cold War, he fought time and time again against US efforts to promote liberty and repel totalitarianism. From demanding the abandonment of South Vietnam and Cambodia in the 1970s to advocating a "nuclear freeze" in the 1980s to opposing the liberation of Kuwait in the 1990s, Kennedy has repeatedly raised his voice and cast his vote in support of some of the world's worst tyrants. His furious opposition to the current American campaign in Iraq is in keeping with that ignoble record.

But even for Kennedy, it crosses a line to claim that US forces in Iraq are no better than the monster they toppled. It suggests that his partisan hunger to defeat President Bush is so great that he would rather see America fail in Iraq than let Bush reap the benefit of success. Which is why the silence of the liberal establishment in the face of Kennedy's terrible falsehood is so ominous....

There is nothing wrong with political passion. Nor is there anything wrong with criticizing the administration's conduct of the war. But accusing the US Army of being no better than Ba'athist torturers is not constructive criticism. Shrugging when a formidable politician broadcasts such a terrible libel is not responsible citizenship. Those are forms of propaganda, and propaganda in wartime is a lethal weapon. To turn that weapon against the United States is to give aid and comfort to the enemy.

This is so repulsive that it is hard to know where to start. Jacoby apparently thinks that what was happening under an American aegis at Abu Ghraib was not torture—he accuses Kennedy of slander in his representation of what went on there. Kennedy did not, of course claim, that what happened at Abu Ghraib was identical to what happened there under Saddam Hussein: he merely stated what was obvious, that torture was still being practices there in 2003, except now it was being done by Iraq's self-proclaimed liberators. Americans should be ashamed of what went on there. We should be honest enough to call it torture. And we should man sure that the evildoers find justice—not just the men and women who did the vile deeds, but also the men and women who negligently allowed an evil culture to fester at Abu Ghraib and other prisons, and also the men and women who thought it a good idea to strip basic human rights from our "detainees" around the world.

It seems to me that Kennedy's opposition to our imperial adventures in the 1970s and our nuclear adventures in the 1980s have been supported by history. The dire claims of conservatives have proven to be bankrupt. Defeat in Vietnam did not start a domino of Communism anywhere, let alone throughout Southeast Asia. Today, Vietnam and Cambodia are both important trading partners of the United States. Serious arms control negotiations in the 1980s led to real detente between the Soviet Union and the United States. Today, the United States has far fewer nuclear weapons deployed that it did at the height of the nuclear freeze movement—and even conservative administrations have admitted that the United States has no military or other need for the thousands of nuclear weapons that have been destroyed in the interim.

Finally, criticism of our government's policies need not be "constructive" to be necessary. Dissent is vital to any polity, even a democratic one. Accusing a vocal dissenter of giving "aid and comfort to the enemy" isn't just wrong, or even just vile. It's idiotic and beneath serious consideration.

Posted by Tim W at 5/26/2004 07:20:00 AM

25 May 2004

Remarks by the President on Iraq and the "War on Terror"

Last night, Americans and the World were subjected to another speech by President Bush wherein he promises to stay the course. To date, "staying the course" has done tremendous damage to America and its standing in the world. Bush masks that failure by constantly telling us that we are fighting a "War on Terror." During the speech, Bush referenced "enemy" or "enemies" 13 times. He referenced "terrorist" (or a derivation thereof) 19 times. Bush got one thing right last night. We need to tear down the Abu Ghraib prison. Alas, that gesture would have meant much more after the initial invasion than it does now that we have turned it into a symbol of American torture. Similarly, it is time to remove from power the Bush administration and the neoconservatives who have hijacked America's foreign policy. It is four year too late but better late than never.


Posted by PAUL at 5/25/2004 07:23:00 AM

21 May 2004

Everyone's Favorite Low Octane Columnist

Jeff Jacoby notes in yesterday's Boston Globe that consumer outrage over high gasoline prices is misplaced. Adjusted for inflation, gasoline is cheaper than it was both 25 and 50 years ago.

Sure, the $2.03 being charged at the pump today seems high. But in actual financial terms, it's a lot less onerous than the $1.25 a gallon motorists were paying in 1980—a whopping $2.80 when translated into 2004 dollars. (Adjusted the other way, today's $2.03 pump price is equal to 89 cents in 1980 dollars.) When it comes to historical price comparisons, nominal dollar amounts signify little. It is the inflation-adjusted price that tells you whether the true cost of a product has increased, decreased, or stayed the same.

There's also the question of affordability. Adjusted for inflation, gasoline prices today are roughly where they were in the 1950s—but per-capita real income then was no more than half of what it is today. Which means that for a typical driver 50 years ago, gasoline was really twice as expensive, in terms of the bite it took out of his budget, as it is now. Only in the shallow sense of nominal pump price is gasoline today "setting record after record." In reality, it is much cheaper than it used to be.

To my great surprise, Jacoby and I are in near-total agreement on this point, the key part of his article. (After that, he heads off into cloud-cuckoo-land with his prediction that prices will fall quite a bit by mid-June. I think that prices will be higher by then, and will only fall later in the summer.)

But what struck me about this article was the completely opposite tack Jacoby took a few years ago when he discussed gasoline taxes. When taxes were concerned, he did not compare current prices to recent historical peaks or even the historical norms of a previous generation. To the contrary: taxes were just another form of price-gouging by immoral moguls of public enterprise. In his 7 May 1996 column (available for free to Boston Globe subscribers or for a pretty penny to everyone else), Jacoby lambasted the evil gougers of government:

Nothing is more responsible for inflating the price of gasoline than politicians like [Representative Ed Markey]. It isn't the cost of crude oil that accounts for the lion's share of gas prices. It isn't refining. It isn't marketing or distribution. All of those cost considerably less today (in real terms) than they did 15 years ago.

It's taxes.

In 1981, federal and state taxes made up just 12 percent of the retail price of gasoline. Last year, they accounted for 35 percent. The typical driver now pays 42 cents a gallon in taxes—in some states, far more. Rhode Island and California drivers pay 47 cents in taxes for each gallon they buy. Connecticut drivers, a whopping 53 cents. "The average US consumer," reports the Wall Street Journal, "is paying 72 percent more in gas taxes than a decade ago." Talk about colluding to squeeze more money out of American drivers! It's Congress and the state houses, not the oil companies, that have been ripping off motorists unmercifully.

Of course, Jacoby's current logic, about how even today's nominally high prices are much lower in real terms than the prices in 1980 or the 1950s, should have applied with even more force in 1996, when prices, including all of those evil taxes, were much lower. After all, if prices in 1996 in real terms were historically low, how bad could those gasoline taxes have been? For Jacoby, it made more sense then to scream about the big numbers—47 cents, 52 cents—of the gas taxes. But when the free market needs an apologist, the big nominal numbers disappear.

Jacoby could not even resist writing in 1996 about minute increases in federal gasoline taxes. trying to channel John Kerry on 9 April 1996, after his Senate campaign debate against William Weld, Jacoby wrote:

Then he hauls out my vote to raise the gas tax, and what do I say? "I voted for a 4.3-cent increase, absolutely, and I'm very proud of that vote." Oh, jeez, what was I thinking? Now I'm going to be hearing that sound bite in Weld commercials for the next seven months.

Strangely enough, Jacoby didn't give Kerry a pass on the 4.3-cent gas tax increase on the grounds that gas prices were still at historic lows, taking inflation into account.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that Jacoby feels no chagrin that high gas prices redound to the benefit of corrupt leaders in Saudi Arabia or Equatorial Guinea or elsewhere, or the titans of the petroleum industry. What really raises his hackles is the realization that the state and federal governments might get a few dimes out of each gallon of gasoline.

Posted by Tim W at 5/21/2004 01:38:00 AM

I Can't See the Forest With All This Bark In My Way

Greek Prime Minister Karamanlis met with President Bush at the White House yesterday, and they both spoke briefly before the press corps about the upcoming Olympic Games. Bush was pleased to announce that Greece will have its security arrangements all set:

I want to thank you for your very close cooperation, working together to make sure the Games are successful, that people are able to travel to your beautiful country in as secure an environment as possible. You're making very good progress, Mr. Prime Minister, and I appreciate your hard work. I know your intentions are to have this the best possible Games, and for that, I'm grateful.

Yes, it is indeed a good thing that the Greek Prime Minister wants to have the best possible Olympics, and it is indeed wonderful that the environment will be as secure as possible.

But what everyone in the sporting world is worried about is whether the Olympic venues will be ready and whether the basic infrastructure in Athens—not only transportation for spectators and athletes, but also such niceties as the electrical grid and the sewage system—will hold up under the strain.

Posted by Tim W at 5/21/2004 01:00:00 AM

20 May 2004

The Best American Political Journal That Never Was

The New York Review of Magazines explains why the American version of The Guardian never made it to your magazine stand or into your mailbox.

The idea of an American Guardian made sense. First of all, it could be the left-liberal equivalent of The Economist, one of the great Anglo-American publishing success stories. The Economist, owned by Pearson, has been slowly building up its North American circulation from about 58,000 since it was first printed here in 1981. Bucking a marketing trend that saw British magazines buttering up American readers with targeted content, The Economist filled a market gap by being what Richard Lambert, former editor of the Financial Times (also owned by Pearson), calls "an outsider with insider info." Today, with about 450,000 readers, North America makes up nearly half of The Economist's 900,000 global circulation. The Financial Times followed a similar strategy when it launched in 1997 with 30,000 subscribers and had to compete with The Wall Street Journal, whose circulation at the time was 1.8 million. The Financial Times survived and thrived by beating The Wall Street Journal on international coverage and today has a circulation of 141,000....

And then, to the disappointment of many, including Blumenthal, it didn't happen. What emerged from two dozen conversations from March to September was a ballpark guess that it would cost $50 million over five years before they reached the projected break-even point. It was called off in November, and on March 9, it was announced that, rather than investing millions in an American Guardian, Wenner would invest $200,000 in Salon.com and that Salon would open a Washington bureau with Blumenthal as senior vice president of editorial development and bureau chief. At the same time, Salon signed deals with the new liberal radio network, Air America, and with the Guardian, to carry their material. Patrick Hurley, senior vice president of business operations at Salon, says it is too early to know what or how much content will be posted from each. "We're going to work out the details in the coming weeks," he said. However, he said it has nothing to do with promoting the Guardian.

George Soros and Warren Buffett, are you listening?

Posted by Tim W at 5/20/2004 02:01:00 AM

Why Do Conservatives Hate Marriage?

The spectre of gay and lesbian couples coming to Massachusetts to get married has the knickers of Mitt Romney, Governor of the fair commonwealth, in an awful twist. Out of desparation, he has dusted off a 1913 statute that invalidates marriages for out-of-state couples if there marriages would be void in their home states. Never mind that the law was intended for one purpose, to prevent Massachusetts from being a haven for interracial marriage. Never mind that for two decades, official state policy was to tell city and town clerks to ignore the statute. Never mind that the State Senate just took a step, by a bvote of 28 to 3, to overturn the law.

Afterall, Romney must protect the state from the likes of what I saw in person at Arlington Town Hall on Monday morning. My three-year-old and I stopped there en route to his day care, and we saw five or so couples entering town hall to file their intentions of marriage. A small crowd cheered each couple upon both entrance and exit, and yet my own marriage somehow felt threatened not in the least.

The ministers from the nearby Unitarian and Congregationalist churches were there to cheer on members of their parishes. And, to no one's real surprise, no one made a march across the street to the Greek Orthodox church, or a few blocks away to the Catholic church, or to the Episcopal church, to demand a marriage ceremony. Certainly no one made a beeline to the Mormon temple. And that is as it should be, and will be. For all of the talk from social conservatives about the sacredness of marriage, no responsible person advocating same-sex marriage wants to force any religion to join in.

The underlying irony of the same-sex marriage debate is that so many conservatives who decry the decline in two-parent households and the erosion of the role of marriage in American life are so loathe to allow gays and lesbians to counteract those trends. Liberals find themselves in the odd position of defending a conservative institution against conservatives themselves.

Posted by Tim W at 5/20/2004 01:38:00 AM

Comical Larry

Remember when the Iraqi information minister was the laughingstock of the press corps for his bodacious whoppers about the Iraqi army? Well, Lawrence Ri Rita of the United States Department of Defense is trying to beat Comical Ali at the stupid press tricks game.

Joshua Micah Marshall of Talking Points Memo caught Di Rita making numerous revisions and extensions to his original statement about Seymour Hersh's lastest work in the New Yorker.

Originally, Di Rita issued the following statement, archived by the enormously useful GlobalSecurity.Org web site:

Assertions apparently being made in the latest New Yorker article on Abu Ghraib and the abuse of Iraqi detainees are outlandish, conspiratorial, and filled with error and anonymous conjecture.

The abuse evidenced in the videos and photos, and any similar abuse that may come to light in any of the ongoing half dozen investigations into this matter, has no basis in any sanctioned program, training manual, instruction, or order in the Department of Defense.

No responsible official of the Department of Defense approved any program that could conceivably have been intended to result in such abuses as witnessed in the recent photos and videos.

To correct one of the many errors in fact, Undersecretary Cambone has no responsibility, nor has he had any responsibility in the past, for detainee or interrogation programs in Afghanistan, Iraq, or anywhere else in the world.

This story seems to reflect the fevered insights of those with little, if any, connection to the activities in the Department of Defense.

And here is the version currently on the Department of Defense web site, with the same date and file number:

The article in this weeks[sic] New Yorker Magazine by Seymour Hersh is based on what appears to be a single anonymous source that makes dramatically false assertions. The burden of proof for these false claims rests upon the reporter.

These assertions on activities at Abu Ghraib, and the abuse of Iraqi detainees are outlandish, conspiratorial, and filled with error and anonymous conjecture.

The abuse evidenced in the videos and photos, and any similar abuse that may come to light in any of the ongoing half dozen investigations into this matter, has no basis in any sanctioned program, training manual, instruction, or order in the Department of Defense.

No responsible official of the Department of Defense approved any program that could conceivably have been intended to result in such abuses as witnessed in the recent photos and videos.

To correct one of the many errors in fact, Undersecretary Cambone has no responsibility, nor has he had any responsibility in the past, for detainee or interrogation programs in Afghanistan, Iraq, or anywhere else in the world.

This story seems to reflect the fevered insights of those with little, if any, connection to the activities in the Department of Defense.

With these false claims, the Magazine and the reporter have made themselves part of the story.

I wonder if this statement will be revised once again after testimony from court martial proceedings gets some airing.



Posted by Tim W at 5/20/2004 01:17:00 AM

Not Just the Opiate of the Masses

Religion is now officially the Opiate of the plutocrats as well. Rick Pearlstein of the Village Voice has found that fundamentalist Christian eschatology is helping to drive American foreign policy.

It was an e-mail we weren't meant to see. Not for our eyes were the notes that showed White House staffers taking two-hour meetings with Christian fundamentalists, where they passed off bogus social science on gay marriage as if it were holy writ and issued fiery warnings that "the Presidents [sic] Administration and current Government is engaged in cultural, economical, and social struggle on every level"—this to a group whose representative in Israel believed herself to have been attacked by witchcraft unleashed by proximity to a volume of Harry Potter. Most of all, apparently, we're not supposed to know the National Security Council's top Middle East aide consults with apocalyptic Christians eager to ensure American policy on Israel conforms with their sectarian doomsday scenarios.

But now we know.

"Everything that you're discussing is information you're not supposed to have," barked Pentecostal minister Robert G. Upton when asked about the off-the-record briefing his delegation received on March 25. Details of that meeting appear in a confidential memo signed by Upton and obtained by the Voice.

The e-mailed meeting summary reveals NSC Near East and North African Affairs director Elliott Abrams sitting down with the Apostolic Congress and massaging their theological concerns. Claiming to be "the Christian Voice in the Nation's Capital," the members vociferously oppose the idea of a Palestinian state. They fear an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza might enable just that, and they object on the grounds that all of Old Testament Israel belongs to the Jews. Until Israel is intact and David's temple rebuilt, they believe, Christ won't come back to earth.

Abrams attempted to assuage their concerns by stating that "the Gaza Strip had no significant Biblical influence such as Joseph's tomb or Rachel's tomb and therefore is a piece of land that can be sacrificed for the cause of peace."

Once upon a time, one could peg the foibles of American politicians on vanity or imperialist notions or even just vanity. Those days seem so innocent in retrospect. Nowadays, the same sort of fools—such as Elliott Abrams, former ringleader in the Iran-Contra affair—are running the show, but their underlying ideology is wackier than ever.

Basing our policies in Israel anbd the Gaza Strip on whether the places involved are mentioned in the Bible makes Lysenkoism appear reasonable by comparison.

Posted by Tim W at 5/20/2004 01:06:00 AM

18 May 2004

Breaking the Silence

Breaking the Silence, a film by John Pilger, is a view of America's actions in Afghanistan and Iraq not often found in the "liberal media."


Posted by PAUL at 5/18/2004 01:40:00 AM

17 May 2004

Wedlock and Barrel

In Massachusetts, gay and lesbian people can now marry their parters, and Jeff Jacoby, the house conservative of the Boston Globe, mourns for his beloved heterosexual privilege.

Those of us who think this week's revolution is a terrible mistake need to do a much better job of explaining that the core question is not "Why shouldn't any couple in love be able to marry?" but something more essential: "What is marriage for?" We need to convey that the fundamental purpose of marriage is to unite men and women so that any children they may create or adopt will have a mom and a dad.

Marriage expresses a public judgment that every child deserves a mom and a dad. Same-sex marriage, by contrast, says that the sexual and emotional desires of adults count for more than the needs of children. Which message do we want the next generation to receive?

Certainly one of the purposes of civil marriage is to benefit the children of a union. But it is hardly the fundamental reason. In Massachusetts, as in the other United States, this "fundamental" purpose is hardly fundamental in its application to straight people who want to be married. Impotence, sterility, and old age are not barriers to marriage. In fact, a man and a woman can be married even if they never intend to have sexual relations.

Jacoby goes on to note that "[s]ame-sex marriage...says that the sexual and emotional desires of adults count for more than the needs of children." I note that the Song of Solomon in the Old Testament of the Bible, one the most ancient of poems about love and marriage, mentions a host of sexual and emotional desires of adults, but says nary a word about the needs of children:

Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves' eyes within thy locks: thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from mount Gilead.

Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came up from the washing; whereof every one bear twins, and none is barren among them.

Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely: thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks.

Thy neck is like the tower of David builded for an armoury, whereon there hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men.

And there's more, lots more, where that came from. Perhaps marriage is more complicated than Jacoby wants to admit.

Jacoby also claims that "cultural elites" in the media have prevented the public from hearing rational opposition to gay marriage. By my count, Ronald Crews of the Massachusetts Family Institute has appeared some 54 times in the pages of the Boston Globe, all since the Goodridge case first drew attention in March 2003. Crews has appeared in other newspapers, on the radio, and on television. And now Crews is using his ubiquity to run for Congress this fall.

This complaint of Jacoby's is almost laughable. There are ample conservative voices in the Boston media, in print, or television, and on the radio. But most importantly, Jacoby writes his columns for the Boston Globe, the liberal voice of the Boston establishment. He was hired away from the Boston Herald, an unabashedly conservative paper (try finding a liberal columnist there). If social conservatives are failing to rally the populace, he needs to ask the newspaper columnist in his bathroom mirror the reasons why, not the "cultural elites."

Posted by Tim W at 5/17/2004 02:15:00 AM

15 May 2004

Killing Innocents

The war and occupation of Iraq is soaked in death. Waged in pseudo justification of both the defense of the American homeland and as retaliation for the inhuman slaughter of over 3,000 on September 11, 2001, the war brings not peace nor peace of mind. Killing the innocent in the name of God, the God of Christianity as well as Islam, must stop.

The goodwill people throughout the world felt for the United States after September 11 has been squandered. The United States will invest upward to $300 billion in the war and occupation of Iraq with the risk that it will not only be squandered, but that it will also make Americans at home and abroad less safe. The hooded cowards that savagely murdered Nicholas Berg are solely responsible for his death but the Bush administration shares in the negligence that made America and Berg a target. What kind of hellish world do we live in when a fine young man can be butchered in biblical fashion, not for his own actions but because he has a Jewish surname, had traveled to Israel, and was an American. We should all be on our knees weeping with his father at the horror.

I hope that Nick Berg's death will not be in vain. I hope that it will shine a light on the horror, murder, torture, and twisted policies that have at their core the belief that hatred and violence can bring about freedom and security. Alas, Berg was not granted safe passage out of Iraq. Maybe, just maybe, his death can bring the world together just as September 11 brought the world together. Let us not retaliate in the name of Nick Berg. Let us not kill in the name of Nick Berg. Let us lay down our arms in the name of Nick Berg.

Posted by PAUL at 5/15/2004 09:38:00 PM

14 May 2004

Khartoum Physics

Earlier this month, most commentators epressed outrage that Sudan, whose government notoriously violates human rights, had won re-election to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. Indeed, it never augurs well for human rights when that Commission has among its members countries like Sudan, and it seems curious that Sudan would have such sway in Africa that it would win renomination for a seat on the commission.

I remembered similar outrage in 2001, when Sudan won a seat and the United States did not. At the time, I wrote that the outcome was a sad reflection on the Bush administration and its lack of influence at the United Nations:

Recent actions and inactions of the Bush administration probably hurt the chances of the United States to retain its seat on the commission. First, the United States failed to nominate a new ambassador to the United Nations until just before the vote, and its choice, John Negroponte, was a key player in our meddling actions in Central America during the Reagan Administration. Second, earlier this year, the United States stopped actions by European nations in the Human Rights Commission to condemn the death penalty. Third, the Bush administration has embarked on a staunchly unilateralist foreign policy marked by supplanting collective defense with an American missile defense (Star Wars Episode II); speaking out against a treaty establishing an International Criminal Court; and withdrawing its support for the Kyoto Protocol to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Fourth, George Bush explained during his campaign that Africa would not be a priority of his administration's foreign policy, and his administration's actions have brought that seed to fruition.

While the Bush administration is justifiably upset that it lost a fair election, it is unjustifiably upset at Sudan's appointment to the commission. The administration knew that Sudan was one of exactly four contenders for the seats from Africa. If Sudan's election were truly undesirable, then the proper course of action would be to encourage a fifth candidate for the election. The administration either did not encourage additional candidates, or its efforts were wholly unsuccessful. The former implies that the administration cares more about its seat on the commission than the work that the commission does. The latter implies that the administration has no clout in Africa whatsoever.

What is striking about the recent election is that the Sudanese government managed to outwit the Americans again, by playing the exact same game! As CNN reported, the African regional group at the United Nations ensured that the election for the four seats from Africa would be a walkover.

The African group waited until late last week to present its list of four candidates for four seats—guaranteeing election for Kenya, Sudan, Guinea and Togo.

The United States scrambled to get another African nation to apply in an effort to make it a contested race and unseat Sudan. But with so little time it was unsuccessful, U.N. diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity.


"This last-minute announcement that Sudan will be unchallenged by another African country is extremely disappointing to all involved," said Richard Grenell, spokesman for U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte.

If the Bush administration were indeed gravely concerned about Sudan's membership on the Human Rights Commission, then it should have been very observant about the 2004 election for the four African seats. It would want to know which of the 2001 winners—Sierra Leone, Sudan, Togo, and Uganda—were planning to apply for re-election. It would have been extremely eager to get a fifth country nominated in case Sudan ran again. Instead, the effort to get an opponent for Sudan did not get started until a few days before the election.

By contrast, the Bush administration has sent American armed forces into a number of African countries—including Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Chad, and Senegal— to train and outfit those countries' armies for possible actions against al-Qaeda. Mauritania is already on the Human Rights Commission, but the other four countries aren't.

The dilemma in 2004 is a cruel one. Perhaps the Bush administration, and its ambassador to the United Nations, John Negroponte, have been so ineffectual that even our military allies would not prevent both embarassment of the United States and perversion of the cause of human rights. Or perhaps the Bush administration and its ambassador care so little about the Human Rights Commission that they made only token efforts to prevent Sudan from not just election, but re-election to the Human Rights Commission.

Posted by Tim W at 5/14/2004 01:10:00 AM

11 May 2004

Corrigan on Bush and Blair

Hot on the heels of his last missive on Fearless Leader, Paul Corrigan has yet again reminded readers on both sides of the Atlantic of the truth about George Bush. Again, the inimitable Financial Times saw fit to put it in its print edition. Again, my dear friend Paul is too modest to remind our dozens of readers of his publication. And again, alas, the Financial Times refuses to allow free access to its archives for but a handful of days. But fear not, dozens of readers, for here is the letter in its entirety:

Sir, There appears to be a familiar echo coming back to the US from across the Atlantic. UK prime minister Tony Blair has apologised for any abuse of Iraqi detainees by British troops. We have also read that the UK government admitted it had learned about the alleged abuse from the Red Cross as early as February.

To protect British troops in Iraq, the UK government waited for the publication of a series of pictures alluding to torture before addressing the situation publicly. The British people have also been assured that those responsible will be punished according to the army disciplinary rules. Of course, we rest assured that no senior officials in Mr Blair's government will be held responsible. We will try to remember that the activities of a few people who have brought shame to themselves and their country should not detract from the work done by the vast majority in the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Would it not be more efficient if Mr Blair just released press releases that simply stated: I second what President George W. Bush said.

Another one of these and someone is going to start thinking of submitting op-eds. Don't forget us little people!

Posted by Tim W at 5/11/2004 09:45:00 PM

09 May 2004

Who Knew and What Did They Do

The New York Times reports that Ivan Frederick, the father of an Army reservist turned prison guard in Iraq, worried that his son would not get a fair hearing in an investigation for mistreating prisoners, put in motion the events that led to last week's public disclosure of the graphic photographs and a crisis for the Bush administration. Frederick contacted his brother-in-law, William Lawson, who believed reservists like his nephew would end up taking the fall for what he considered command lapses. Lawson contacted David Hackworth, a retired colonel known for publicly taking on the military establishment. Lawson sent an e-mail message in March to Hackworth's Web site and got a call back within minutes. The response put Mr. Lawson in touch with the CBS News program "60 Minutes II," which would later go public with the story.

The Times rendition of the facts raises an interesting question that I have not seen discussed. In Lawson's March 23 e-mail message to Hackworth's Web site, he stated: "We have contacted the Red Cross, Congress, both parties, Bill O'Reilly and many others. Nobody wants to touch this." Has anyone followed up to identify who received the same information Hackworth's site received? What did they do when they received the information? Why did they not take action to confirm and disclose the information? And, if all of these groups and individuals knew, how could it be that Rumsfeld and Bush did not learn about it prior to the dates they have confirmed receiving the information?

Posted by PAUL at 5/09/2004 02:27:00 PM

Shock and Awe

Bush and Rumsfeld have given a whole new meaning to their marketing slogan for the Iraq War, "Shock and Awe." It now describes a campaign of terror and dread that left people across the world with a sense of moral outrage.


Posted by PAUL at 5/09/2004 12:33:00 PM

The Right Stuff

I wish that I had the time and the guts to pull this kind of stunt. Why just spoof the right wing with a ludicrous web site? Instead, go a conference sponsored by the Heritage Foundation and play the roles of Randoids in person. And nominating Edwin Meese (who was there in person) for president adds that special touch of creepiness. Yes, the Yes Men certainly do have the right stuff.

Posted by Tim W at 5/09/2004 01:41:00 AM

Acting Like Adults

The Bush administration came into Washington in 2001 with the message that the adults were finally running the government.

Adults are supposed to be responsible for their actions. Indeed, when the situation in Iraq looked rosy, the Bush administration was eager to take credit for everything that was going well—recall that "mission accomplished" banner on the U.S.S. Lincoln. But when things go badly, no one nominally in charge seems to be responsible.

Compared to the adults in the Bush administration, the moguls of the adult film industry are moral giants. After a performer was diagnosed with the virus that causes AIDS, much of the industry shut down:

At least 45 men and women were under voluntary quarantine because they had sex with the HIV-positive performers or their sex partners, said Sharon Mitchell of the nonprofit Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation.

The first performer to test positive, whom Mitchell declined to name, was "conscientious" about having HIV tests every three weeks, she said. On Friday he tested positive for HIV and a follow-up test on Monday confirmed it, Mitchell said....

A list of quarantined performers was placed on the Web site of the foundation, which screens about 1,200 adult movie performers a month for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

As of Thursday about a dozen adult movie companies had agreed to follow a voluntary moratorium on production until June 8, said Tim Connelly, publisher of the industry news magazine AVN.

The Bush administration could learn a couple of things from smut peddlers. Acknowledging truth, even when it's painful, is good. Acting quickly to protect other people is a good thing. And just covering your own butts doesn't do an iota for you in the long haul.

Posted by Tim W at 5/09/2004 01:28:00 AM

Gutless Wonders

By now, the graphic and sadistic depictions of the treatment of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib complex in Baghdad should have raised the hackles of someone at the highest levels of government.

It seems clear that systems within the armed forces that were supposed to alert leaders to wrongdoing produced the sorts of reports, notably one from General Antonio Taguba that should have alerted Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the top military leaders in the Pentagon that something was dreadfully wrong inside Iraq's prisons. But the president of the United States—supposedly the commander in chief of the armed forces—and the Secretary of Defense claim ignorance of prior knowledge:

The White House said the president learned from media accounts that there were pictures of the prisoner abuse and a classified Pentagon report on the problem.

Senior officials said Rumsfeld also admitted he was unaware of certain information about the investigations —an issue certain to come up in his congressional appearances.

Perhaps Bush and Rumsfeld truly did not know of the Taguba report, or of complaints filed by the International Committee of the Red Cross, or know about the infamous photographs seen to date, or hear about the other photographs and videos that Rumsfeld admits exist. One would think, however, that two men so proud of their actions to rid Iraq of a sadistic dictator would have taken pains to learn as soon as possible of American forces doing the sorts of things, in Hussein's old prisons, no less, that would undermine what they claimed was their reason for going to war.

Or perhaps Rumsfeld and Bush knew full well what had happened, and hoped that somehow the truth would never get out. is there no point at which these gutless wonders will take some real responsibility for what has happened in Iraq?

One of the more bizarre attributes of the old Soviet Union in the early 1980s was its propensity for truly outlandish caricatures of the United States and its leaders. Pravda, Izvestiya, and the satirical and even occasionally funny magazine Krokodil were sure to have some nutty portrayal of Uncle Sam or Ronald Reagan as a truly devilish figure, full of duplicity, guile, and nuclear weaponry. Learning that the United States had put into place a prison system that trumped Saddam Hussein's system of torture—by having its guards photograph their worst deeds—defies rational explanation.

Posted by Tim W at 5/09/2004 01:15:00 AM

08 May 2004

Undisputed Facts

As the horror unfolds in Iraq, it may be helpful to look back at the chronology of what President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld told the American public leading up to the public disclosure of the Iraq prison scandal. An excellent chronology was published in Slate last week. Given the undisputed facts outlined in this chronology, how do Bush and Rumsfeld explain their repeated misrepresentation of these facts to the American people? They now tell us they hid the truth to protect the troops. That's telling us whopper. The same troops they sent to Iraq undermanned and under-trained. The same troops that they pay a pittance in comparison to what they pay "private contractors." The same troops from which the now draw scapegoats for a foreign policy not only run amok but exposed for barbarism. Not only does Bush not have the decency to leave the troops out of his lame excuse, he hides behind them.

In order to better position the president for the November elections, Bush and Rumsfeld did more than hide the truth. They repeatedly mouthed the spin about having ended the murder, rape and torture that existed under Saddam. They knew, or should have known, they had done no such thing. Worse, they had put in place a system of rounding up Iraq civilians in mass raids and subjecting them to torture in hopes of breaking the will of the opposition to the United States occupation. Exposed for being incompetent at best and more likely complicit, Rumsfeld then had the gall to tell the US Senate he would not step down due to political pressure. No past administration tied its political fortunes to war more than the Bush administration has done this election year. Bush and Rumsfeld should not only take responsibility for these acts, they should suffer the consequences.


Posted by PAUL at 5/08/2004 08:15:00 PM

03 May 2004

Now It All Makes Sense

Why was Dick Cheney so adamant for so long about the imminent threat of Saddam Hussein using his nonexistent weapons of mass destruction? We many now know.

The Washington Post noted that Vice President Cheney gave resounding endorsement of Fox News during a conference call with thousands of Republican supporters last week:

"It's easy to complain about the press—I've been doing it for a good part of my career," Cheney said. "It's part of what goes with a free society. What I do is try to focus upon those elements of the press that I think do an effective job and try to be accurate in their portrayal of events. For example, I end up spending a lot of time watching Fox News, because they're more accurate in my experience, in those events that I'm personally involved in, than many of the other outlets."

Our readers surely remember , though, that viewers of Fox news are more likely to hold to misperceptions about links between Iraq and al-Qaeda, about locating weapons of mass destruction, and about world opinion of the invasion of Iraq. And the more one watched Fox, the worse one's knowledge was:

While it would seem that misperceptions are derived from a failure to pay attention to the news, overall, those who pay greater attention to the news are no less likely to have misperceptions. Among those who primarily watch Fox, those who pay more attentin are more likely to have misperceptions. Only those who mostly get their news from print media, and to some extent those who porimarily watch CNN, have fewer misperceptions as they pay more attention.

Indeed, it is very, very telling that Dick Cheney spends "a lot of time watching Fox News."

Posted by Tim W at 5/03/2004 12:40:00 AM

02 May 2004

A Small, Satisfying Victory

There are legions, or at least phalanxes, of souls who will claim that some brokerage or some auction house or some store for books and the like is the ne plus ultra. As much as the internet has inspired some truly interesting web sites, I think that a web site to prevent needless user registrations is the best idea for a web site that I have seen in a long time. But don't take my word for it; go check it out and screw up the marketing for a few newspapers.

Posted by Tim W at 5/02/2004 08:44:00 PM

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