Sunday, September 30, 2007

They're Wearing Me Out Today

image credit: The Smithsonian see Note 1

This is yet another reason that the people who are running this country shouldn't be. Here's Cliff Schecter quoting a Seymour Hersh interview on CNN today:

Dana Perino says we're taking diplomatic measures. But they are planning more limited surgical strikes with carefully drawn-up plans for attack. The Brits and Australia are more interested now. Israel wants us to go and go hit hard, to take out the Revolutionary Guard and the nuclear facilities.

Sy Hersh: The sales pitch on Iran has morphed from nukes to terrorism

Here's what Hersh had to say in the article he was referring to:

The revised bombing plan for a possible attack [on Iran], with its tightened focus on counterterrorism, is gathering support among generals and admirals in the Pentagon. The strategy calls for the use of sea-launched cruise missiles and more precisely targeted ground attacks and bombing strikes, including plans to destroy the most important Revolutionary Guard training camps, supply depots, and command and control facilities.

Annals of National Security: Shifting Targets

Here's what the Council on Foreign Relations has to say about the Republican Guards:

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or Pasdaran in Farsi, was formed by former Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini in the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. It was originally created as a “people’s army” similar to the U.S. National Guard; commanders report directly to the supreme leader, Iran’s top decision-maker. Iran’s president appoints military leaders of the guard but has little influence on day-to-day operations. Current forces consist of naval, air, and ground components, and total roughly 125,000 fighters.

Backgrounder: Iran’s Revolutionary Guards

[emphasis mine]

How in the world do they expect to take out a loosely-controlled group of "roughly 125,000 fighters" with air strikes? Are they planning on dropping a big block of cheese in the middle of Tehran and hope they all cluster around it? They can bomb every plane, ship, and motor scooter the Guards have in their inventory, and yet not affect the only thing the Guard possesses that can possibly hurt us: the knowledge and ability to support terrorism and insurgency that the Guards are supposed to posses. They can rebuild or replace most of the other stuff.

With the examples of Vietnam and President Clinton's campaign against Al Qaeda, you'd think we'd have learned that trying to stop insurgents and terrorists with air strikes is a fool's errand. Yet here we are, willing to give it another try.

Some days there's so much stupidity in the world you just can't keep up with it all.

(h/t Taylor Marsh, who found this craziness and a whole lot more.)

NOTE1: This is a picture of a gold-plated mousetrap. It's the perfect symbol for this subject. I love Google Images, because it keeps coming up with these gems.

Some Updates

The article Another Crappy Day has been cross-posted at

An update on the "To The Kingdom of Idiots, And Step On It", explaining what's happened since:

In the time since this article was written, the number of carrier groups in the Persian Gulf grew to three, then declined to one, led by Enterprise. According to this article, that number will soon climb to three again.

As I predicted, Senator Webb's proposed legislation has gone nowhere. To coin a phrase,sometimes I just hate it when I'm right.

In other words, little has changed.

Finally, people at have asked for an explanation of that "wanna be crook" label I put on Barack Obama. Fair enough.

Obama's actions in the MySpace incident and the implications of the Rezko deal, in which he got a break on a land deal with someone who is now under indictment for extortion, together with his having a reputation for throwing his weight around in his own interests, just strikes me as those of someone who loses track of his moral center. The Rezko deal wasn't illegal, Obama just benefitted from it, and the person he did that deal with has turned out to be a very unsavory one:

For more than five weeks during the brutal winter of 1997, tenants shivered without heat in a government-subsidized apartment building on Chicago's South Side.

It was just four years after the landlords -- Antoin "Tony'' Rezko and his partner Daniel Mahru -- had rehabbed the 31-unit building in Englewood with a loan from Chicago taxpayers.

Rezko and Mahru couldn't find money to get the heat back on.

But their company, Rezmar Corp., did come up with $1,000 to give to the political campaign fund of Barack Obama, the newly elected state senator whose district included the unheated building.

Obama and his Rezko ties

The article I'm quoting goes on to detail what the Chicago Sun-Times could find out about their relationship. The effect it's had on Illinois politics is unclear, but for a lawyer whose area of interest is low-income housing to have such a close relationship with such an individual raises serious concerns.

As the LA Times article notes, he's also gotten props for sponsoring or voting for a couple of pieces of anti-corruption legislation while he was in the Illinois Senate. It then goes on to note, however, an interesting tit-for-tat deal with former political foe Yesse B. Yehudah:

As a presidential candidate, Obama has been critical of the congressional system of doling out money for pet projects. But he is no stranger to pork-barrel politics and the practice of spreading government money around his district. In Springfield he once directed state funds to a nonprofit group headed by a Republican and former ballot foe, Yesse B. Yehudah.

Yehudah barely registered a ripple of meaningful opposition, drawing only 10% of the vote in his 1998 challenge of Obama.

The following year, a nonprofit run by Yehudah, a social services organization called Fulfilling Our Responsibility Unto Mankind, began seeking state support. At the same time, Obama was considering mounting an ambitious challenge to U.S. Rep. Bobby L. Rush, a fellow Democrat.

Former foe Yehudah stepped up early to help. In November 1999, five people who worked for the Republican's nonprofit organization each gave $1,000 checks to Obama's congressional campaign committee. Yehudah makes no secret of his goal.

"We want [politicians] to know that when we sit down, we're serious," Yehudah said. "They know it when a $1,000 check comes in."

Obama lost his congressional bid. President Clinton backed incumbent Rush, who received twice as many primary votes as Obama. Obama was left with a $40,000 debt.

Later that year, Yehudah associates pitched in an additional $5,000 to help retire Obama's debt. The contributions were recorded on Oct. 7, 2000, three days after the Illinois Senate, at Obama's behest, approved a $75,000 state grant to Yehudah's nonprofit, state records show.

Obama: a fresh face or an old-school tactician?

Yehuda has had his own legal problems. Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan filed a civil action against Yehuda's FORUM in 2002, alleging misuse of the charity's funds. I can't find any references to that case, so I don't know how it turned out.

Obama's never crossed the line from questionable to illegal acts as far as I'm aware, and may never, but there are troubling signs. Part of that impression comes from the fact that he's succeeded in Illinois politics - not the best place to keep one's reputation intact.

"Wanna be crook" may not be the best description of such a person, but ethically he just strikes me as a high-wire act. He brings to mind an image of one of those young guys hanging around with the bad crowd, but never quite being a part of it.

For further reading, you may want to check out this bit of oppo research by a supporter of Hillary Clinton's. It's overly dramatic, to be sure, but follow the links.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

We're Livin' In the Future, and None of this Has Happened Yet

image credit: screenshot of YouTube video by Cujo359

Bruce Springsteen is one of rock and roll's great poets. His songs are stories that use the mundane images and events in our lives to tell profound truths about ourselves. In the terms a twenty year old man would think, "She's The One" says that of all the things young men find attractive about women, humanity is often the least of them. "Born In The USA" tells the story of a blue collar guy who got into trouble, was sent to Vietnam, and then returned to find little in the way of help or employment to illustrate how we treated both our returning veterans and our feelings about that war. Springsteen tells his stories using the simple language of rock. Rock and roll is no place for polysyllables, as nearly anyone but Neil Peart will tell you. For that reason, I think, there's a tendency among the faux-sophisticated to assume that Springsteen's songs are only about cars, girls, and rock and roll. If that's true, then opera is only about shrill fat women in helmets.

Taylor Marsh has the YouTube video and a description of Springsteen's appearance on the Today Show yesterday. In this song, the refrain of which is the title of this article, Springsteen uses the imagery of a fading relationship to symbolize our own fading relationship with our country, and our wish to forget the sins of the last few years and get back to being who we really are. In his introduction to the song, Springsteen says:

It's kinda about how the things we love about America - cheeseburgers, French fries, the Yankees battling Boston ... the Bill of Rights, trans fat and the Jersey Shore ... We love all those things ... But over the last six years we've had to add to the American picture rendition, illegal wiretapping, voter suppression, no habeas corpus, the neglect of our great city New Orleans and the people, and an attack on the Constitution, and the loss of our best young men and women in a tragic war. This is a song about things that shouldn't happen here happening here." And so right now we plan to do something about it, we plan to sing about it. I know it's early but it's late so come and join us.

[h/t Taylor Marsh, who transcribed much of this]

It's a speech, which is often a tiresome thing at a rock concert, but songs and the occasional line in a TV show is the only way we get to explain what's happening in this country nowadays. Do you think neocon spokesmodel Matt Lauer will be chatting with anyone who talks about these things? Not bloody likely.

And it's a Springsteen kind of speech, which sure beats a stammering, nonsensical George W. Bush speech any day.

UPDATE (Oct. 3): Here's a link to the lyrics of "Livin' In The Future".

Friday, September 28, 2007

Phony Intellectuals

image credit: U.S. Army

The caption reads:

Lt. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III (right), commander, XVIII Airborne Corps, Col. Jeffrey L. Bannister (center), commander, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and Iraqi Brig. Gen. Abdulah plan operations near Baghdad, Sept. 11. The Army is strained by six years of war and needs support, Gen. George W. Casey Jr. told Congress, Sept. 26.

One thing I've learned from looking at the sitemeter for this blog is that not many readers of an article check the links. You could say anything and get away with it as far as some folks are concerned. Of course, most writers use links to buttress their points. In rare cases, though, I think people count on the fact that very few will bother to click those links. I ran into such a thing today.

Defending Rush Limbaugh's indefensible slurs of "phony" soldiers who happen to disagree with him, phony intellectual Michael Goldfarb wrote this:

The folks on the Left are beside themselves today--thinking that by dint of a truncated quote, they will succeed in shutting down Rush Limbaugh and taking him off the air. Before lining up next to the folks from Crooks and Liars, FireDogLake, Media Matters, ThinkProgress, Huffington Post, and the rest, at least read the full transcript. In Limbaugh's comments after the exchange quoted by the left, he makes clear he is referring to people like Jesse MacBeth--a 'phony soldier' the left would understandably like to forget.

What Limbaugh Said

I left the link to Limbaughs' transcript embedded in the quote. Here's the quote from that very link. I've left in a good deal of irrelevant nonsense about WMDs and IEDs to show that this really isn't "truncated":

RUSH: There's a lot more than that that they don't understand. The next guy that calls here I'm going to ask them, "What is the imperative of pulling out? What's in it for the United States to pull out?" I don't think they have an answer for that other than, "When's he going to bring the troops home? Keep the troops safe," whatever.


RUSH: It's not possible intellectually to follow these people.

CALLER: No, it's not. And what's really funny is they never talk to real soldiers. They pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue and spout to the media.

RUSH: The phony soldiers.

CALLER: Phony soldiers. If you talk to any real soldier and they're proud to serve, they want to be over in Iraq, they understand their sacrifice and they're willing to sacrifice for the country.

RUSH: They joined to be in Iraq.

CALLER: A lot of people.

RUSH: You know where you're going these days, the last four years, if you sign up. The odds are you're going there or Afghanistan, or somewhere.

CALLER: Exactly, sir. My other comment, my original comment, was a retort to Jill about the fact we didn't find any weapons of mass destruction. Actually, we have found weapons of mass destruction in chemical agents that terrorists have been using against us for a while now. I've done two tours in Iraq, I just got back in June, and there are many instances of insurgents not knowing what they're using in their IEDs. They're using mustard artillery rounds, VX artillery rounds in their IEDs. Because they didn't know what they were using, they didn't do it right, and so it didn't really hurt anybody. But those munitions are over there. It's a huge desert. If they bury it somewhere, we're never going to find it.

How Long Is Too Long for Victory?

Limbaugh's caller is quite clearly referring to the soldiers (plural) who disagree with his opinions about Iraq. Limbaugh echoed that sentiment. He wasn't referring to Jesse Macbeth, who falsely claimed to be an Iraq veteran who had seen atrocities, because there was only one of him. It turns out Macbeth hadn't been anywhere near Iraq. In fact, he never finished his first enlistment. We remember Jesse Macbeth, Michael. We also know what association fallacy is, which seems to be more than Goldfarb's readers are capable of. We know when someone won't argue with the facts, and instead chooses to smear the people he disagrees with.

That, and we can click on those little bits of blue type.

The reason Goldfarb resorts to such guilt by association is that he wants you to forget about all of the soldiers and former soldiers who disagree with Limbaugh and Goldfarb. As a reminder, here are just a few of them, with quotes:

Patrick Murphy, who served in Iraq as a U.S. Army captain before being elected to Congress from Pennsylvania:

Mr. Speaker, an open-ended strategy that ends in more faceless road-side bombs in Baghdad and more street-corner memorials in America, is not one that I will support.

This is what Major General Richard Batiste (Ret.), who commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq, had to say:

The current ‘surge’ in Iraq is too little, too late. The so-called surge really amounts to nothing more than a minor reinforcement, a number which represents all that our military could muster.

Major General Paul D. Eaton (Ret.), who was responsible for reorganizing Iraqi security forces in 2003-2004, wrote this to President Bush:

Respectfully, as your former commander on the ground, your administration did not listen to our best advice. In fact, a number of my fellow Generals were forced out of their jobs, because they did not tell you what you wanted to hear -- most notably General Eric Shinseki, whose foresight regarding troop levels was advice you rejected, at our troops' peril.

In an extraordinary op-ed to the New York Times that was largely ignored by the likes of Goldfarb, seven enlisted men who were still serving in Iraq at the time wrote:

What matters is the experience of the local citizenry and the future of our counterinsurgency. When we take this view, we see that a vast majority of Iraqis feel increasingly insecure and view us as an occupation force that has failed to produce normalcy after four years and is increasingly unlikely to do so as we continue to arm each warring side.

One of those soldiers was wounded before the letter was published, and two others were killed in Iraq in a traffic accident.

They don't sound like phony soldiers to me. They sound like soldiers who disagree with the war they were sent to fight.

UPDATE (Sept. 29): Army of Dude delivers a wonderful satirical smackdown of Rush and the ditto heads.

UPDATE 2 (Sept. 29): Now I'm wishing I'd quoted even more of that Limbaugh transcript. The page was edited today (Sept. 29, 2007 1:45:45PM according to Firefox, and the byline now says Sept. 29, 2007, even though this conversation happened on Sept. 26), and all of a sudden we're being invited by wingnuts to view the transcript. There's a long speech by Limbaugh at the end, where he mentions Jesse Macbeth. I sure don't remember that from before. Seems to me it went on for some time about some other thing. Note how that section doesn't look like the rest of the transcript. It's at the bottom, by the way.

Even by this revised transcript, Limbaugh is clearly exaggerating, because he only names Macbeth, but claims multiple cases of "the left" lionizing fake soldiers. This guy is so full of shit that he can't even make up a logically consistent lie.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Another Crappy Day

image credit

Taking another step toward the Kingdom of Idiots, the Senate passed the Kyl-Lieberman amendment today. This amendment to the defense authorization bill has had much of its incendiary language removed but still refers to Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization:

The Kyl-Lieberman Iran amendment -- which ratchets up the confrontation with Iran by calling for the designation of its Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization responsible for killing U.S. troops -- just passed overwhelmingly, 76-22.


The bill's backers had tried to mollify its critics by taking out some of its most incendiary language, particularly the idea that "it should be the policy of the United States to combat, contain, and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, its foreign facilitators such as Lebanese Hezbollah, and its indigenous Iraqi proxies."

Kyl-Lieberman Iran Amendment Passes By Huge Margin

Officially, this thing is a resolution, which doesn't have the force of law, but it gives President Bush more rhetorical backing for his quest to get us involved in yet another war, this time with Iran.

Of the Democratic Presidential candidates, Senator Hillary Clinton voted for this piece of nonsense. Barack Obama missed the vote. Chris Dodd and Joe Biden voted against it. The guy who's coming in last among the serious candidates, and the guy who seems to have nothing to recommend him except his expertise in foreign policy, are the only ones who are willing to call this nonsense for what it is.

To say I'm not impressed with this field of candidates is an understatement. There may be some real leaders in the twenty-two Senators, including Dodd, who voted against this thing, but the ones who voted for it or abstained represent more of the same to me. Besides, two of the dissenters, Lugar and Hagel, are Republicans.

In fact, right now I'm really depressed by the possibilities seemingly presented in this election. Biden, despite his vote here, represents more of the same to me, as does Clinton. Obama is a wannabee crook, with an apparent tendency for narcissism. Edwards, Richardson, and Dodd can't seem to get their campaigns in gear, at least partly due to their own inability to manage a national campaign. I think anyone who's predicting that things will be much better six years from now thanks to our new President had better start getting his rationalizations in order now.

(h/t to SusanUnPC at NoQuarter, who covered this in the comments thread of that article.)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Greenwald On Dianne Feinstein

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

She represents one of the most liberal states in the country. She's been elected by substantial margins. Yet Senator Dianne Feinstein votes like a Republican. This habit earned her a share of Friday's "Roll Over and Beg" award. As Glenn Greenwald points out from behind the curtain at Salon:

[Feinstein] symbolizes a major imbalance in the Washington political system. The right-wing Republicans in Congress have an affinity with their base and share the same basic values. One saw that quite vividly in the recent immigration debate, where most Congressional Republicans -- particularly the "conservative" ones -- embraced rather than ran away from their angry, impassioned base by blocking enactment of the immigration bill which the GOP establishment favored but which the right-wing base hated.


By very stark contrast, most (though certainly not all) Democrats in Congress -- particularly the most influential and longest-serving ones in the Senate like Feinstein -- have contempt for their base and share virtually none of their values. In March of last year, I had an e-mail exchange with the spokesperson for a key Democratic Senator on the Intelligence Committee regarding how bloggers and their readers could work more closely with Democratic Senators to highlight the need for the NSA lawbreaking scandal to be investigated and taken more seriously. Ultimately, they made clear that they wanted nothing to do with actual citizens who were eager to bring that situation about, as I was told:

I think there is an opportunity for us to figure out a better way to work together. But, you have to understand, my ultimate goal is to help [the] Senator [] achieve his objective of real oversight on national security matters by the Intelligence Committee.

Even with the best of intentions, I'm not convinced that bloggers can help us meet that goal. In fact, I worry about it hurting our efforts given the increasingly partisan environment.

As Digby said yesterday of Senate Democrats: "it surely seems true that they loathe the Democratic base as much as the Republicans do."
Dianne Feinstein -- Symbol of the Worthless Beltway Democrat

[emphasis from original article]

I've suspected this for some time, but really didn't understand just how deep the sense of entitlement and disrespect for their constituents goes in some of our representatives in Washington. Some days I think they even resent some of the thoughtful, mild mannered criticism and discussion they receive from the folks who voted for them.

As Greenwald points out, Feinstein has none of the usual political motivations for voting the way she does. She represents California, one of the most liberal states in the country. She has a very secure position in Congress, and probably can't hope to run for President for various reasons. Thus, she has the freedom to vote pretty much as she wants. Yet she consistently votes against the wishes of her constituents.

Cases like Feinstein's were one of the inspirations for "The Price of Freedom". I have a hard time believing that if Californians knew how their Senator consistently voted against their wishes and interests that they would continue to send her there. Yet they do, probably assuming that since she's a Democrat she'll vote their way more often than not. Being uninformed about how your representatives vote is tantamount to allowing people like Feinstein to continue to screw things up in DC. As Greenwald observes:

Plainly, Feinstein does not do this out of political fear or "spinelessness," but because it is who she now is and what she believes. She and those like her are the reason why there is such a gaping disconnect between the Beltway political class and the political views of most Americans.

Dianne Feinstein -- Symbol of the Worthless Beltway Democrat

It's not the party affiliation that's important, it's the person. If you don't believe that, I suggest you wake up and smell the coffee.

UPDATE (July 9, 2008): Fixed the links to Glenn Greenwald's article. Finally.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Is Anyone Else Tired Of This?

Or am I the only one?

I hate traveling nowadays. No, I like being different places and seeing things that don't look like the inside of my house. That's great. It's getting there, or to be more precise, flying there that I hate. I hate being afraid.

I'm not afraid of flying. Flying is one of the safest forms of transportation, no matter how you measure it. I'm certainly not afraid of terrorism. What I'm afraid of is the airports, and this is an example of why:

Star Simpson, a 19-year-old MIT student, was arrested at gunpoint Friday morning at Boston's Logan Airport when officers suspected that a circuit board and battery she had pinned to her sweatshirt was a bomb. Indeed, every news outlet is now referring to the thing as a "fake bomb," and Simpson has been charged with possessing a "hoax device."

Is Star Simpson's "fake bomb" just an art jacket?

To answer the question in the title to Farhad Manjoo's article, I don't know if that jacket, pictured above with apologies to the AP, is a work of art. It is clearly, though, an experimenter's circuit board, usually called a "breadboard", with nine T-1 size LEDs and a battery just barely big enough to power them. (The Associated Press, incidentally, mislabeled it as a "computer circuit board"). The LEDs are arranged in a star shape, like as in "Star" Simpson, get it? A breadboard is a device electrical engineering students and hobbyists use to test out circuit designs. I'm not an ordinance expert, but that circuit doesn't look like anything I'd build to ignite explosives. Even though the connections are taped, it doesn't look anywhere near reliable enough for that sort of purpose. I know I could build a more convincing fake device - anyone wanting to scare people would make such a thing look like those devices you see on TV. What it looks like to me is a geek's idea of what art looks like.

A geek, as it turns out, is exactly who Star Simpson is. Here's what an acquaintance of hers had to say about her at Boing Boing:

Star was an intern at Squid Labs this summer, and is an all-around awesome geek who loves to build things. FYI, friends at MIT say she wears the hoodie on a regular basis- it's just unfortunate that she had it on while trying to pick a friend up at the airport. MIT students don't really do mornings, or worry about what they're wearing, so I can't imagine she'd even think about her clothes before heading out to pick up a friend at the airport before 8am.

MIT student arrested for entering Boston airport with "fake bomb"

Here's how she describes herself, according to Manjoo:

Simpson describes herself this way on the Web:

In a sentence, I'm an inventor, artist, engineer, and student, I love to build things and I love crazy ideas.

In a paragraph; I'm currently studying computers and how they work at MIT. I play at a student-run machine shop called MITERS. Before that, I lived for a long time in Hawaii, while traveling the world and saving the planet from evil villains with my delivered-just-in-time gadgets.

Is Star Simpson's "fake bomb" just an art jacket?

She sounds like a geek to me - not interested in fashion, very interested in building things, and prone to using language precisely. She's someone who uses her mind, and probably assumes that others do as well. She sounds just naive enough to forget that the world is full of paranoids, luddites, religious fanatics, and bigots. The sorts of raving morons who'd assume that a brown-skinned girl with a crewcut, a funny-looking wig, and some technological gizmo pinned to her black hooded sweatshirt simply must be up to no good. Welcome to the real world, Star.

Speaking of raving morons, here's what the Massachusetts State Police had to say on the matter:

"I'm shocked and appalled that somebody would wear this type of device to an airport," said State Police Maj. Scott Pare, the airport's commanding officer.

Lawyer: Fake Bomb Charge an Overreaction

Yep, shocked and appalled that anyone would wear something into an airport that she worked with all the time, and knew to be no more harmless than the stuff everyone else around her was wearing. It's shocking and appalling that there are people in this country who aren't yet so paranoid, obsessed, and frightened of terrorist incidents that happen once a decade or so that they forgot to check themselves for all the things that could get them killed by security people at the airport. Think I'm being overly dramatic? Here's Maj. Pare again:

"She was immediately told to stop, to raise her hands and not to make any movement, so we could observe all her movements to see if she was trying to trip any type of device," Pare said. "Had she not followed the protocol, we might have used deadly force."

He added, "She's lucky to be in a cell as opposed to the morgue."

Lawyer: Fake Bomb Charge an Overreaction

If she'd been deaf, or had poor vision or some other handicap that made assessing a situation quickly difficult, she could very well have been killed. Instead, she's up on ridiculous charges. Gosh, you'd think that a nineteen year old college student would have more sense, wouldn't you? You would if you didn't actually know any.

And this, folks, is why I'm frightened of airports. The odds of my being killed or injured in a terrorist attack are mind-bogglingly small. The odds of me being assaulted, or possibly killed, for some imaginary offense, while also small, seem much larger to me. Airport security, in other words, is more frightening than the problem they're trying to solve. No doubt the security people like it that way. After all, if we're all cowed into doing what they say, things will go much more smoothly in all those "security checks" where they try to figure out if passengers have enough toothpaste and hair gel to destroy an airplane. While there's truth to that, I think the disadvantages of that feeling may outweigh the advantages.

Consider this scenario - you're in an airport waiting for your flight. You see something suspicious for a moment. A moment is probably all you'll have, because I can't imagine that anyone who has planned a terrorist plot carefully is going to look suspicious for long. Let's further suppose that whatever you've seen was done by someone who doesn't look like he comes from the Middle East. Do you report it? Don't forget, it could turn out to be nothing at all. Making a false report is a crime, and while it may be obvious that you're not doing so to the people you report it to, it also might not. You could spend the night in jail for your troubles, and be charged with a patently false offense, just as Star Simpson was. If you're smart, you'll keep your mouth shut.

I certainly wouldn't trust the law enforcement people of Boston to make that call correctly.

Some readers may think that I'm suggesting that airport police shouldn't have taken Simpson's appearance seriously. That is not so. If they didn't know what she was wearing, but it looked suspicious, they should have investigated. Since what she was wearing looked, to someone not familiar with technology, like a detonator or some other potentially dangerous device, their use of deadly force wasn't out of bounds. What I'm suggesting is that after they realized that it wasn't either a threat or a terrorist act, they should have let her go. Not doing so only decreases the trust anyone might place in these security people. That trust is more important than the fear they seem determined to instill in us.

As Farhad Manjoo put it:

Had it not been for the six years we've already lived through irrational, useless, annoying, psychologically defeating overeager airport security -- put in place to prevent an event that could have been solved by a single measure, locking the cockpit doors -- the prospect of a promising young student being killed by cops for wearing a battery on her back might come as a shock.

But now it elicits almost no surprise. What, police at a major airport were about to kill someone for the crime of wearing a circuit board? Yeah, what else is new.

Is Star Simpson's "fake bomb" just an art jacket?

I'm really, really tired of this.

UPDATE (Sept. 23): Quite a few of the comments about Farhad Manjoo's article have mentioned, in terms sometimes not very polite, that it seems silly that wearing such an obviously harmless device to an airport should be tantamount to committing suicide. I agree. If we're going to give people guns and have them patrol airport terminals that are full of people, they need to have an awareness of what constitutes a bomb or other dangerous device and what doesn't. Drawing a gun in a crowd is a serious action. It shouldn't be done for frivolous reasons. Better training would probably make that less likely.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Today's "Roll Over and Beg" Award Goes To ...

Today's "Roll Over And Beg" award, which will be awarded at random times to politicians whose pandering to absurd constituencies really honks me off, goes to the twenty-two Democratic Senators who voted for this piece of trash yesterday. You may remember this picture of a dog rolling over for a pat on the belly from my essay "It's The Weakness That Makes You Look Weak". In that spirit, here is the inaugural version of this award, which I suspect Democrats will earn frequently. Winners of the award are entitled to an extra large dog biscuit, procurement of and payment for which is the responsibility of the awardee.

A few weeks ago,, a liberal political organization, took out an ad (PDF) in the New York Times that referred to Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of the Iraq Multi-National Force, as "General Betray Us". The Washington Post reports:

In a conference call with MoveOn members last night, [executive director Eli] Pariser acknowledged that some of the group's members did not like the ad. But, he said, "MoveOn is going to be as strong as ever." He added, "We definitely will be putting pressure on Democrats, and especially those who voted against us, in the near future, and we are currently working on the best way to do that."

MoveOn Unmoved By Furor Over Ad Targeting Petraeus

I'm not sure if I'm a member of MoveOn or not. I occasionally get e-mail that says "Dear MoveOn member", but don't remember ever giving them money. Whether I'm a member or not, count me as one of those who think that this was a boneheaded move on MoveOn's part. A group of civilians, many of whom undoubtedly have never served in the military or risked their lives for anything not related to their own interests, calling a combat veteran "Betray Us" strikes me as disrespectful. Some have objected that his soldiers call him that. Of this I have little doubt. Soldiers are apt to be harsh when discussing commanders who seem to be working at making their lives miserable. Unfortunately, the ad never mentioned that fact, so to me it's irrelevant. It wasn't part of MoveOn's message, so most people wouldn't get the point.

I think much of middle America feels as I do about the ad's name-calling. All that headline was likely to do to them was turn them off from reading the rest of the message, or to not take it seriously if they did. Thus, it was also a stupid ad, because all it did was appeal to the already converted. Pariser claims it put pressure on Democrats in Congress, but I think all it did was make it harder for them to do what's right when it comes to Iraq.

Disrespectullness and stupidity are a rather common combination of traits these days, but there's no doubt of one thing - it was MoveOn's right to place this ad. As citizens of this country, they're allowed to criticize the government. General Petraeus gave political cover to the Bush Administration, and made himself a political figure as a result. That's how it works in America - high government officials get the good parking spaces, the free office space, and they get to schmooze with all those lobbyists. We citizens get to criticize them when they screw up. That's the deal, and those who don't like it should stay out of politics.

So, in addition to playing into the Republicans' hands on this issue, these Democrats violated one of the most basic principles of American government - the government doesn't get to criticize its citizens for criticizing it. That goes for MoveOn just as much as for Ann Coulter.

Playing into the Republicans' hands, you say? How's that? It's because without them, this worthless piece of crap wouldn't have passed, and the Republicans wouldn't have gotten to stand there acting like they are supporting our people in uniform when they quite clearly are not. I'm sure some of them thought this would give them political cover, but as usual, they were just being fools. Here's what President Bush had to say today at a press conference:

In response to a question at a news conference yesterday, the president said that few Democrats had condemned the ad, "which leads me to come to this conclusion: that most Democrats are afraid of irritating a left-wing group like, or more afraid of irritating them than they are of irritating the United States military."

MoveOn Unmoved By Furor Over Ad Targeting Petraeus

Even though almost half of the Democrats voted in favor of this resolution, Bush lumped them in with those who didn't. How's that political cover working for you guys? And I hope you enjoyed that kick in the crotch, because you richly deserved it. You forgot who works for whom in this country. I hope that you ponder that point while you're nursing that bruise, given to you by one of the folks who feel most entitled to avoid criticism.

Senator Barack Obama handled this the right way, as did many of the Democrats who either voted against the resolution or didn't vote:

Between the two measures, nearly every member of the Senate had repudiated MoveOn, including Democratic presidential contender Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Obama, who both voted for the Democratic version that did not include MoveOn's name but said there had been an "unwarranted personal attack" on Petraeus.

MoveOn Unmoved By Furor Over Ad Targeting Petraeus

Obama stated his opinion without resorting to an un-American resolution, as could the losers on this list had they chosen.

Courtesy of TPM Election Central, here is the list of awardees.

Max Baucus (MT)

Evan Bayh (IN)

Benjamin Cardin (MD)

Thomas Carper (DE)

Robert Casey (PA)

Kent Conrad (ND)

Byron Dorgan (ND)

Dianne Feinstein (CA)

Tim Johnson (SD)

Amy Klobuchar (MN)

Herb Kohl (WI)

Mary Landrieu (LA)

Patrick Leahy (VT)

Blanche Lincoln (AR)

Claire McCaskill (MO)

Barbara Mikulski (MD)

Bill Nelson (FL)

Ben Nelson (NE)

Mark Pryor (AR)

Ken Salazar (CO)

Jon Tester (MT)

James Webb (VA)

Ladies and gentlemen, enjoy your biscuits. I'm sure MoveOn appreciates how you've distorted the curve. Compared to you, they look like geniuses.

Incidentally, the official roll call seems to confirm this count. If anyone has reached this list in error, please let me know.

UPDATE: Corrected to say that Barack Obama handled this correctly. An earlier edition had mentioned that Hillary Clinton was the one who criticized MoveOn but didn't vote for the resolution. I found her handling of this satisfactory as well, but she wasn't the one to whom the quote belonged.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Webb Amendment Up For Vote Soon

The Webb Amendment to the defense authorization bill is up for a vote soon. If all that sounds familiar, you're right. It's been up for a vote before and been shadow-filibustered - as in the Republicans threatened to filibuster and the Senate leadership folded. If you live in the states of one of these Senators, please call their offices and ask them to vote in favor of it, and also vote in favor of cloture. They're thought to be considering support for the amendment:

Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) NAY
DC: 202-224-6665
Anchorage: 907-271-3735

George Voinovich (R-Ohio) NAY
DC: (202) 224-3353
Cleveland: (216) 522-7095

Elizabeth Dole (R-North Carolina) NAY
DC: 202-224-6342
Raleigh: 866-420-6083

John Warner (R-Virginia) NAY
DC: (202) 224-2023
Roanoke: (540) 857-2676

Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) NAY
DC: 202-224-2541
Louisville: 502-82-6304

Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania) NAY
DC: 202-224-4254
Harrisburg: (717) 782-3951

It might also be nice if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid heard from you. Once again, it's time to make the Republicans earn their filibuster.

The Firedoglake link has toll free phone numbers and other information.

UPDATE (Sept. 20): Never deviating from the pattern of rejecting laws that actually make this a fairer society, this Senate rejected the Webb amendment 56 to 44. I've updated this list above to show which of the "fence sitters" went over to the dark side. A "yea" vote means a vote to end cloture, which would have allowed the bill to be voted on. As you can see, all of them grabbed for their black capes and respirators.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Restore Habeas Corpus

Image credit: National Archives

I wrote this to one of my Senators today:

It's ironic that you have a subject line for international human rights, but not for domestic human rights. Until a few years ago, I would have thought the need for such a subject area laughable.

Unfortunately, we no longer live in those times. The right of habeas corpus was rescinded last year by the Military Commissions Act. This year, Sens. Dodd and Leahy are proposing an amendment to the defense bill, S2202, that will restore this right. Habeas Corpus is the most basic right. It isn't protection for terrorists, criminals, or other undesirables, as many charlatans would have you believe. It is protection for us from our own government. Please vote to restore it.

And here's a part of what I wrote the other Senator:

It's ironic that you have a subject line for terrorism, but not for human rights. I'm far more worried these days about the lawless behavior of my own government than I am about terrorism. The terrorists are mostly overseas. My government is right here, and it's much more powerful than any terrorist organization.

Please do whatever you can today to persuade your Senators to vote for this amendment, and more importantly, to vote for cloture on the bill. According to Christy Hardin Smith at Firedoglake, the vote may come as soon as tomorrow (Wednesday, Sept. 19). Christy also has a list of Senators who particularly need persuasion at this point. Rather than repeat it here, I'll just encourage you to click on the link and get the latest.

If you want some arguments to use, I'd suggest going here and reading. You can also read what I wrote to my Senators, because to me, that's the most basic point - habeas corpus protects us from our government. It's not protection for terrorists. It protects you so the government can't declare you're a terrorist, or whatever the undesirable character of the month is, and then throw you in jail for the rest of your life. Think that can't happen to you? I bet Jose Padilla did, too. The government kidnapped him and tortured him. Some psychologists assert that they destroyed his personality. At the very least, they kept him behind bars for three years, and then managed to convict him for a different terrorism-related offense where the jury was never informed of his treatment. If they had been, they probably would have wondered if the man could have conducted his own defense:

In his affidavit, Mr. [Andrew] Patel said, “I was told by members of the brig staff that Mr. Padilla’s temperament was so docile and inactive that his behavior was like that of ‘a piece of furniture.’ ”

Video Is a Window Into a Terror Suspect’s Isolation

I bet the prosecutors were proud of that conviction, eh? They should have tried him for kidnapping the Lindbergh baby while they were at it.

Compared to most of us, the federal government has almost infinite resources. Think of the cost of keeping a man for three years in a ten-cell block of prison cells, or of all the interrogations, "escorts" that sound more like a mugging than law enforcement, or any of the other indignities Padilla was subject to. The only protection we have from it is the rule of law, and habeas corpus.

UPDATE (Sept. 19): Looks like the cloture vote went 56-43, with Sen. Reid switching his vote at the last minute to table the vote for later. The roll call on that vote is now up (h/t CHS at Firedoglake). If we really had a "liberal media" in this country, it would be pointing out the obvious - that the Senate Democrats refused to filibuster the MCA and other horrendous acts when they came up, and the Republicans are happy to threaten a filibuster for them now.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Gosh, Thanks Senator Clinton

"Individual mandates". It's the new way for politicians to say that insurance companies count more than their constituents do.

Senator Hillary Clinton has just announced her (yawn) health plan:

"I believe everyone — every man, woman and child — should have quality, affordable health care in America," the New York senator told an audience in Iowa. She vowed to accomplish the goal in her first term.

Clinton unveils health care plan

Uh huh. So, you know what's coming next, right? Grab your wallet:

The centerpiece of Clinton's "American Health Choices Plan" is the so-called "individual mandate," requiring everyone to have health insurance — just as most states require drivers to purchase auto insurance. Rival John Edwards has also offered a plan that includes an individual mandate, while the proposal outlined by Barack Obama does not.

Clinton unveils health care plan

"Individual mandates", as far as I'm concerned, mean that health insurance providers still get to determine who gets health care, and they get to set the price. The insurance companies have a history of intimidating people who try to collect the money they are owed. And as Jane Hamsher pointed out not too long ago based on her own experiences, they aren't in the least bit shy about doing it to people who are sick. In fact, as PBS's Now showed not too long ago, that's become their policy in home insurance, and profits have soared. The government doesn't interfere, because political candidates love all that money they receive from insurance companies. That's one thing that no fault auto insurance should have taught us. And here's another fun thing - if your credit rating is low, like as in you're poor, insurance companies are allowed to charge you more. Don't believe me? Read the fine print on your next insurance bill.

So far, I'm not impressed by any of these plans. As NOW observed recently:

"Universal health care" has become the grand Democratic mantra, found on every campaign web site and repeated in every stump speech and debate. But the phrase itself is misleading—most often, it actually means "universal health insurance." While the plans do outline some modest and not altogether meaningless reforms, especially when it comes to care for children, most are designed to preserve—and even benefit—the twin scourges of the U.S. health care system: the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry. With the exception of the acknowledged mavericks Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Mike Gravel, no one has suggested anything resembling a single-payer national health care system (that is, one that is managed and administered by the federal government), which would boot out the rapacious middlemen of the insurance industry and reign in Big Pharma—the primary obstacles to quality, affordable health care in this country.

Health Care and the Horse Race

As Taylor Marsh has observed, Clinton's plan is rich in details. Yet, you can provide details out the wazoo and still be spectacularly and utterly wrong if you start with wrong assumptions. That's what Clinton and John Edwards have both done. Obama's plan hasn't really been fleshed out yet, but I suspect it will have similar flaws, minus "individual mandates".

They need to do better.

UPDATE: One difference I'm seeing between Clinton's health plan and John Edwards' (PDF) is that the latter clearly states that individual mandates don't start until the rest of the plan has kicked in and lowered health costs:

Finally: Individual Responsibility. Once insurance is affordable, everyone will be expected to take responsibility for themselves and their families by obtaining health coverage. Some Americans will obtain coverage from public programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP and others will get coverage through their jobs. Other families can buy insurance through the regional Health Care Markets. Special exemptions will be available in cases of extreme financial hardship or religious beliefs.

Universal Health Care Through Shared Responsibility

I find this an optimistic feature, but at least it moves the burden to where it should be - after costs have been reduced.

UPDATE 2 (Sept. 18): Since a giveaway to the insurance industry seemed to be daft enough, I didn't even touch on other issues. One is Clinton's proposed tax break for medical expenses. Not only is there already such a tax break, this is obviously, to anyone who's been in this situation, almost no help at all. Suppose you're earning $30K a year and have $100K in medical expenses that your insurance doesn't cover. This situation isn't at all unusual. How much good is the $8K a year (maximum) that you'd see from this tax break? I suppose after you've sold your house and all your other assets, you can use that $8K to put an addition on your refrigerator box.

Friday, September 14, 2007

I Like Chris Dodd

Image credit:, reduced by Cujo359

Chris Dodd is one of my favorite Presidential candidates at this point. Here are some of the reasons. It's written by a supporter of Dodd's, but it's true nonetheless.

Dodd's been behaving like a leader for quite a while now. He was one of the first to support Ned Lamont against fellow Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman after Lamont won the Democratic primary. The two front-running Democratic Presidential hopefuls never did take a real stand. He's been front and center on both trying to get us extricated from Iraq and trying to restore our Constitution.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Two "War As We Saw It" Authors Killed in Iraq

image credit: U.S. Army Central Command, reduced by Cujo359

Caption: BARWANAH, Iraq (November 7, 2006) - U.S. Marines gather around the boots, helmet and rifle to pay homage to a fallen Marine during a memorial service in Barwanah, Iraq, on Oct. 25, 2006. Photo by Sgt. Jason L. Jensen, U.S. Marine Corps.

Two of the seven enlisted soldiers who wrote the extraordinary op-ed to the New York Times have died in Iraq:

Sgt. Omar Mora and Sgt. Yance T. Gray died Monday in a vehicle accident in western Baghdad, two of seven U.S. troops killed in the incident which was reported just as Gen. David Petraeus was about to report to Congress on progress in the "surge." The names have just been released.


Mora, 28, hailed from Texas City, Texas, and was a native of Ecuador, who had just become a U.S. citizen. He was due to leave Iraq in November and leaves behind a wife and daughter. Gray, 26, had lived in Ismay, Montana, and is also survived by a wife and infant daughter.

Two of Seven Soldiers Who Wrote 'NYT' Op-Ed Die in Iraq

As I noted previously, one of the soldiers, Jeremy Murphy, had been wounded before the article was published.

To me, this is symbolic of our experience in Iraq. We're losing some of our best people over there, and hurting many more in a vain effort to make something of our tragic decision to invade the country.

(h/t Taylor Marsh)

UPDATE: Over at TPM, Greg Sargent has a postscript of sorts, coverage of an interview with one of the dead soldier's mother in the Galveston paper. The inner quotes are from the interview itself:

For instance, Mora's 15-month deployment was nearing its end. His tour of duty was marked with some horrific moments:

The Capetillos last saw their son in April, when he was on leave after a roadside bomb damaged his ears and left one of his friends without an arm. He eventually redeployed, and in August saw another friend shot in the head, a wound that later killed him, the Capetillos said.

Mora apparently undertook to write the Op-ed out of despair with the way things were going in Iraq:

Olga Capetillo said that by the time Mora submitted the editorial, he had grown increasingly depressed.

“I told him God is going to take care of him and take him home,” she said. “But yesterday is the darkest day for me.”

Mora also felt that the Op-ed had been misunderstood as a call for withdrawal by some antiwar people, though in the Op-ed he and his fellow soldiers wrote that the war had become the "pursuit of incompatible policies to absurd ends."

Mom Of One Of Dead Soldiers Who Penned Critical Op-Ed Speaks Out

While I can't speak for the state of mind of others, I take my own lessons from what I see, hear, and read. Whether Sgt. Mora meant it to be so or not, I took his op-ed as more proof that things are going very badly in Iraq, and are beyond the capacities of our forces there to fix. Sgt. Mora and his comrades clearly were dissatisfied with the course of the war, and spoke up in the hopes of changing things. Their action was heroic, because it clearly was not going to be taken lightly by their superiors.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

"Maverick" Folding His Cards

The New York Times reports:

Senator Chuck Hagel, the Nebraska Republican and outspoken critic of the Iraq war who had been mulling a run for president, will retire at the end of his term in early 2009 and will not run for the White House, aides said on Saturday.

Hagel Will Not Seek Re-Election to His Senate Seat

I've discussed Hagel's outspokenness before. As we say here at SnS, actions trump words, and Hagel's supported the Bush Administration's policies with nearly every vote.

So what brought this on? As the quote states, he's not going to run for President. Perhaps he's contemplating a run in 2012, but challenging a sitting President is usually an uphill battle. In my lifetime, only Ronald Reagan managed to pull it off. So you have to wonder.

The news isn't all that good for progressives, though. Bob Kerrey has announced he'll run for the now-open seat:

Former Senator Bob Kerrey, a Nebraska Democrat, who has been president of The New School University in New York City since leaving office in 2001, has said that he might return to Nebraska to run for office again. Mr. Kerrey is also a former governor of Nebraska.

Hagel Will Not Seek Re-Election to His Senate Seat

I'm not sure how I feel about that. As this article shows, Kerrey hasn't given the military a blank check in the past. As politicaljunkie2008 points out at DailyKos, he is fairly progressive by Nebraska standards. Still, there's lots to be concerned about. His selection of Senator John McCain to be the commencement speaker last year would seem to demonstrate that he's out of touch with the country's feelings on Iraq. Here's a quote from Kerrey's recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal:

With these facts on the scales, what does your conscience tell you to do? If the answer is nothing, that it is not our responsibility or that this is all about oil, then no wonder today we Democrats are not trusted with the reins of power. American lawmakers who are watching public opinion tell them to move away from Iraq as quickly as possible should remember this: Concessions will not work with either al Qaeda or other foreign fighters who will not rest until they have killed or driven into exile the last remaining Iraqi who favors democracy.

The Left's Iraq Muddle

The title of this article is ironic, to say the least. In it, Kerrey presents a confused muddle of ideas straight out of the neocon book of paranoid delusions. What if, Kerrey asks while trying to defend his foolish support for the invasion, somehow Saddam Hussein had been overthrown by Shiite or Kurdish insurgents? What if, somehow, Al Qaeda had then taken over?

Well, gee, Senator, what if somehow some froth-mouthed idiot invaded the country without a plan for its aftermath, and then Al Qaeda took over? We can play far-fetched hypothetical games until the cows come home, but the important thing is the present situation, so why not discuss that and leave the silly "what ifs" to the idiots who created this mess in the first place? The plain fact is that Al Qaeda didn't have a presence in Iraq when Saddam was in charge, and it probably wouldn't have if there had been any stable government. The last thing we are likely to see in Iraq now, aside from 24 hours a day of electrical power, is a stable government. How about dealing with the reality?

So, on the whole, I don't see Kerrey replacing Hagel as a big plus. If we somehow manage to extricate ourselves from Iraq, and don't get ourselves into another mess thanks to ridiculous hypothetical thinking, Kerrey's a much more progressive presence than Hagel.

Ask me how I feel next November.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Riverbend Has Left Iraq

For those who don't know who Riverbend is, join the club. I know of her, but like most people who read her blog Baghdad Burning, I wouldn't know her if she was standing right next to me. That might be her picture on that book cover. Then again, it might not be for all I know. Nevertheless, like many of her readers, I felt some relief when I read this at Juan Cole's site:

Riverbend the most well-known Sunni Arab blogger of Baghdad , is no longer a Baghdadi. Like some 2 million other Iraqis, she is now a refugee in a neighboring country (she is in Syria, where there may now be 1.5 million Iraqis; there are some 800,000 in Jordan). Her family had decided that it was just too dangerous to remain in Baghdad, where Shiite militiamen have been ethnically cleansing them. Clearly, they were afraid of a home invasion by the Mahdi Army. She is lucky to have gotten out a couple of months ago. Syria just decided to tighten up visa requirements for Iraqis trying to flee there. Al-Hayat reports that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had been apprised of this decision earlier.

Fears of Sunni Arab Tribal Feuding in Diyala
Cheney, Rumsfeld blamed by Blunkett for Dissolving Iraqi Army

Riverbend's blog says this in the about box: "Girl Blog from Iraq... let's talk war, politics and occupation." A girl blog should be about favorite singers, boys, and nail polish, not death, mayhem, and the fear they engender. Yet that's what she's been describing from her point of view for the last four years.

When I was her age, I moved across the United States to where I live now. Leaving home was a hard thing, but it was my choice, and I knew I was headed somewhere better. I could drive across the country without being afraid that I'd run into roving bands of thieves and murderers. I also knew that I could visit where I grew up, and see the people I grew up with. Not so for Riverbend, I fear:

It was a tearful farewell as we left the house. One of my other aunts and an uncle came to say goodbye the morning of the trip. It was a solemn morning and I’d been preparing myself for the last two days not to cry. You won’t cry, I kept saying, because you’re coming back. You won’t cry because it’s just a little trip like the ones you used to take to Mosul or Basrah before the war. In spite of my assurances to myself of a safe and happy return, I spent several hours before leaving with a huge lump lodged firmly in my throat. My eyes burned and my nose ran in spite of me. I told myself it was an allergy.

Leaving Home...

I hope she gets to return someday, but I'm not betting on it.

NOTE: I, ahem, borrowed the image of Riverbend's book from No Quarter. If you're interested in the book, why not follow the link and click through from the site. I'm sure Larry and SusanUnPC will appreciate the support.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

On That Bread And Circuses Theme

image credit: Dept. of the Army

Photo caption:Katie Couric, anchor and managing editor of the CBS Evening News, speaks with Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander, Multinational Corps - Iraq and Col. Jeffrey Bannister, commander, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, during a visit with Soldiers in the Rusafa district of Baghdad, Sep. 2.

Media Matters has an interesting article up today concerning Katie Couric's decision to "report" from Iraq:

It's ironic because if CBS had simply aired more reporting from Iraq this summer instead of joining so many other news outlets in walking away from the story, then perhaps Couric wouldn't have had to travel 8,000 miles to find out the facts on the ground.

The Iraq news blackout: how the press spent its summer vacation

Eric Boehlert goes on to mention that they missed the "surge", which was the deadliest summer yet for U.S. forces in the Iraq. They also missed this:

Just recall the events of August 14.

That's when witnesses to the four synchronized suicide truck bombs that detonated in northern Iraq on that day described the collective devastation unleashed to being like an earthquake, or even the site of a nuclear bomb explosion; the destruction of one bomb site measured half a mile wide. A U.S. Army spokesman, after surveying the mass carnage from an attack that targeted Yazidis, an ancient religious community, called the event genocidal. Indeed, more than 500 Iraqis were killed, more than 1,500 were wounded, and 400 buildings were destroyed.

The Iraq news blackout: how the press spent its summer vacation

Of course, after a while they all start to run together, but this happened only three weeks ago. I don't remember reading or hearing much of anything. Creating that much havoc took some serious ordinance, not to mention planning and coordination.

The bombings in the towns of Tal al-Azizziyah and Sheikh Khadar marked the deadliest attack of the entire Iraq war. In fact, with a death toll topping 500, the mid-August bombing ranks as the second deadliest terror strike ever recorded in modern times. Only the coordinated attacks on 9-11 have claimed more innocent lives. Yet the press failed to put the story in context.

The Iraq news blackout: how the press spent its summer vacation

Yet, the Pentagon insists that the surge is going well, despite what the GAO says. Why would they do that, when it's pretty clear from this chart and many others show that such a conclusion is, at best, unwarranted? I think it's pretty clear they know they can count on the press to miss the point. As Taylor Marsh points out:

Many news organizations and anchors know less about the true reality in Iraq than you do. They haven't bothered to cover the war in any depth all summer. Bush's photo op in Iraq, however, now that was news. The unraveling of Iraq, not so much.

Couric Reporting for the Pentagon

It's no wonder that there are still people in this country who think that Saddam Hussein had something to do with the 9/11 attacks. With these bozos keeping them informed, it's a wonder they know anything at all.

UPDATE (Sep. 6): Corrected spelling of Eric Boehlert's name.