Sunday, October 31, 2004

Ugliness in Columbus

Salon's Michelle Goldberg was on hand for the Bush/Ahhhnold rally Friday in Columbus. Needless to say, the Repugs as usual did not cover themselves with glory:

Lisa Dupler, a 33-year-old from Columbus, held up a rainbow-striped John Kerry sign outside the Nationwide Arena on Friday, as Republicans streamed out after being rallied by George W. Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger. A thickset woman with very short, dark hair, Dupler was silent and barely flinched as people passing her hissed "faggot" into her ear. An old lady looked at her and said, "You people are sick!" A kid who looked to be about 10 or 11 affected a limp wrist and mincing voice and said, "Oh, I'm gay." Rather than restraining him, his squat mother guffawed and then turned to Dupler and sneered, "Why don't you go marry your girlfriend?" Encouraged, her son yelled, "We don't want faggots in the White House!"

The throngs of Republicans were pumped after seeing the president and the action hero. But there was an angry edge to their elation. They shrieked at the dozen or so protesters standing on the concrete plaza outside the auditorium. "Kerry's a terrorist!" yelled a stocky kid in baggy jeans and braces. "Communists for Kerry! Go back to Russia," someone else screamed. Many of them took up the chant "Kerry sucks"; old women and teenage boys shouting with equal ferocity.

Who are these people? Who is stupid enough to vote for the Shrub? What does it take to shut down your brain and choke down any pride you might have to vote for a stupid, drooling, draft dodger who sat reading "My Pet Goat" to children while 3,000 people were being incinerated? The fool who started a war for no good reason that has cost over 1,100 American lives and over 100,000 Iraqi lives? Who is voting for this ass? Well, we had a pretty good view of them in Columbus, and so did Goldberg:

...the Republicans I met at the Ohio rally spoke in language almost identical to that of the most addled Bush-hater, although often several steps further removed from reality.

Dave, a 54-year-old electronic technician, said that if Kerry wins, "I'm going to leave the country and go to a Third World nation and start a ranch." His wife, Jenny, laughed and accused him of hyperbole, but he insisted he's been studying Portuguese, the language of Brazil, "so we'll have an escape route." Sitting near him was Greg Swalley, a blond electrical contractor. "I think Kerry is the anti-Christ," he said, only half-joking. "He scares me."

We were sitting outside the Nationwide Arena watching the adoring crowd on a massive elevated monitor. Swalley and the others had tickets and I had press credentials. But by the time we arrived, 40 minutes before the rally was scheduled to start, security had closed off the area and no more people were being let in. So dozens waited outside and watched their heroes on the screen. The monitor showed a huge W. and then the words, "Let's Roll." When Bush, his wife and Schwarzenegger appeared, wild cheering echoed outside the building.

Inside, Schwarzenegger tried to strike a sunny, moderate note. "There is optimism in Ohio," he said. "There is optimism all over the country because President Bush is leading the way. He's fighting for all of us.

"President Bush knows you can't reason with people that are blinded by hate," Schwarzenegger said. "But let me tell you something: Their hate is no match for our decency, their hate is no match for America's decency, and it is no match for the leadership and the resolve of George W. Bush."

Outside, though, I didn't see much American decency among Bush's followers. The conservative movement has long been fueled by anger and resentment. But here the negativity was at an especially high pitch, perhaps because some were starting to realize they might lose -- and that seemed like the end of the world.

Looking at the small knot of protesters, many of whom were chanting, "Four more days," 22-year-old Nick Karnes, wearing a knit ski cap and baggy jeans, yelled, "Shut up!" Then he turned to his friend and said, "We can take 'em."

"I'm definitely gonna vote for him," Karnes said of Bush. "Because he's been the president for four years and nothing bad has happened since Sept. 11. He's kept me alive for four years." If Kerry becomes president, he said, "We'll be dead within a year."

Karnes told me that most of his friends are voting for Bush, too, but a couple are voting for Kerry. "I'm not speaking to them right now," he said.

When the crowd came pouring out of the arena, the vitriol only increased. One clean-cut man, holding his son by the hand, yelled "coward!" at one of the protesters. I asked him what made him say that, and he said, "Because he's demeaning our troops by saying they are fighting a lost cause."

"Jesus! Jesus!" screamed 26-year-old Joe Robles, pointing to his Bush-Cheney sign. "The man stands for God," he said of the president. "We want somebody who stands for Jesus. I always vote my Christian morals." Robles, a student at Ohio State University, told me that Kerry's daughter is a lesbian. I said I thought that was Dick Cheney's daughter, but he shook his head no with confidence.

Robles said that Kerry would make it illegal for preachers to say that marriage should only be between a man and a woman. In California, he informed me gravely, such preaching has been deemed a hate crime, and pastors who indulge in it are fined $25,000, which "goes to lesbians."

A few of the protesters, meanwhile, were red-faced from yelling at their antagonists about homophobia and budget deficits and a senseless war. Republicans were incensed. A blond woman dragged her young redheaded son toward the protesters, pointed to them, and said, "These are the Democrats," speaking as if she was revealing an awful reality that he was finally old enough to face. As she walked away with a group of other mothers and children, she was so angry she could barely speak. A friend consoled her by promising her that Bush would win. After all, she pointed out, "Look how many more Bush supporters there were on the street!"

That calmed the angry blond woman down a little. But she was still mad. "We," she said, stammering and gesturing contemptuously at the demonstrators, "we are the way it should be!"

We are the way it should be.

Let us hear them sing:

Flag high, ranks closed,
The S.A. marches with silent solid steps.
Comrades shot by the red front and reaction
march in spirit with us in our ranks.

The street free for the brown battalions,
The street free for the Storm Troopers.
Millions, full of hope, look up at the swastika;
The day breaks for freedom and for bread.

For the last time the call will now be blown;
For the struggle now we all stand ready.
Soon will fly Hitler-flags over every street;
Slavery will last only a short time longer.

Flag high, ranks closed,
The S.A. marches with silent solid steps.
Comrades shot by the red front and reaction
march in spirit with us in our ranks.


I wish I were exaggerating. I don't think I am. Expect things, no matter who wins, to get really, really ugly on Wednesday.


The Queen Observes Global Warming

After observing the effects of global warming at Balmoral, her estate in Scotland, and Sandringham, her estate in Norfolk, the Queen has gone to Tony Blair to lobby personally for cracking down on the Shrub's mindless ignorance:

The Queen has made a rare intervention in world politics to warn Tony Blair of her grave concerns over the White House's stance on global warming.
...
Further evidence of the Queen's views on global warming will be seen this week when she opens one of the most high-profile conferences ever staged in Europe on the issue. She is keen for this to be interpreted as a symbolic and political statement.

The Berlin summit will come a day after the US presidential elections and its outcome will dictate the tone of key climate talks. George Bush's administration has remained hostile to international attempts to reduce emissions of climate change gases.

'There has been dialogue between Downing Street and Buckingham Palace on all issues relating to climate change including the US position and the latest science. She is very keen to get involved,' said one of the UK's most eminent experts on climate change, who agreed to speak to The Observer on condition of anonymity.

He added: 'From her own observations on the climate she has become worried like the rest of us. She has made it clear she wants to raise the importance of the issue.'

Now I'm a bit younger than the Queen, but I too have noticed changes in climate over my own 45 year lifetime. Here in Ohio, we get about a month and a half more of decent weather every year than we did when I was young. It now gets warm at the beginning of April, and cools down at the beginning of November. Every Easter in recent years has been warm; I can remember only one Easter when I was a child when I could wear my Easter dress to church without a coat (and it was a bit chilly even so).

God bless the Queen for getting involved in this important effort. The British royals have little connection to politics anymore, and this is one place where she can really lay down a legacy.

The Vilest Campaign

If you don't live in or near Southern Ohio, you've missed what is probably the vilest, foulest campaign in the smoking remains of the United States: incumbant Repug State Senator Joy Padgett has been spraying shit, and I use that word advisedly, all over Democratic contender Terry Anderson.

You may recognize Anderson's name, but I'll refresh your memory. In 1985 Anderson, then a correspondent for the Associated Press, was kidnapped by Hezbollah in Lebanon. He was then held hostage for seven agonizing years. After his return from captivity, Anderson moved to Ohio, became a professor at Ohio University, and now has entered politics, only to find his patriotism shat upon by the useless Repug Ann Coulter clone now wasting that state senate seat. Here's an example of her lovely campaign:

To counter Mr. Anderson's celebrity, Republican incumbent Sen. Joy Padgett has accused him of anti-American behavior. Her specific charge, ironically, is that he is soft on terrorists.

Senator Padgett, also 57, sent out campaign mailings this month showing Mr. Anderson with a Hezbollah terrorist leader. She called Mr. Anderson "part of the 'Blame America' crowd" that is sympathetic to Mideast thugs intent on hurting Americans.

To support her claim, she mentioned a comment Mr. Anderson made during a seminar at Ohio University soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Then a university professor, Mr. Anderson asked students whether U.S. policies might have ignited hatred in the Arab world. His comment, printed in the campus newspaper three years ago, has become a centerpiece of Ms. Padgett's attacks on him.

Her campaign flyer suggests that only a man out of touch with Ohio values would mingle with a terrorist and question U.S. foreign policy.

Missing from Ms. Padgett's advertisement was any mention that the terrorist pictured with Mr. Anderson was the secretary general of Hezbollah, the group that abducted him in 1985. Mr. Anderson confronted and interviewed the terrorist leader for a television documentary years after he was freed.

"He and his brothers were the ones who kidnapped me, chained me, blindfolded me, and beat me," Mr. Anderson said. "My political opponent uses a picture of that interview to try to win an election."

Polls show this race close. Let's hope Southern Ohio voters are smart enough to see Padgett's vile campaign for what it is.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Help Defend Ohio's Vote

I've been invited to join a blog covering attempts at vote suppression here in Ohio along with some more distinguished Ohio bloggers, and I invite any of my Ohio readers to let me know what's going on in your area so I can post it for the edification of all. Let's keep Ohio from being the Florida of 2004!

Eight More

Eight Marines dead. Does Bush even notice? Hell no.

They Behave Like Fascists

The Repugs are getting more and egregious in their efforts to block Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters from the polls. The NYT comments:

With little notice or discussion, Senator Christopher Bond of Missouri allowed a provision into a Senate appropriations bill that could ban even nonpartisan voter registration efforts in public housing developments all over the country. This is an example of the unfortunate impulse now afflicting some parts of the Republican Party: a desire to suppress voting in poor and minority neighborhoods. Mr. Bond's proposal runs contrary to both the spirit of democracy and federal law, which in recent years has moved increasingly toward broadening ballot access. The National Voter Registration Act - commonly known as the Motor Voter Act - actually requires state agencies, including those that issue welfare benefits and drivers' licenses, to offer voter registration materials to the people they serve.

The proposed Senate legislation comes on top of recent G.O.P. maneuvers in Ohio, where Republicans challenged the registrations of more than 30,000 voters, many of them impoverished. Federal courts have stepped in to halt such challenges for now, but more are expected at the polls.

The same impulse to discourage voters was on display over the last several months in New Mexico, where the Indian Health Service of the Health and Human Services Department suspended voter registration efforts for several months at some medical centers and clinics serving Native Americans. Earlier this month, the Indian Health Service issued a memorandum effectively ending the ban, but only after untold numbers of Native Americans had missed the opportunity to register to vote in the coming election.

Mr. Bond's argument - that housing built with public money should be used only for housing, not voter registration - makes no sense on its face. It is even more ridiculous given the universal support for voter registration on military bases around the world. Military voters tend to favor Republicans, and public housing residents tend to favor Democrats. It would be nice if everyone could agree that both groups should be encouraged to vote.

The Democrats need to stand up and address this. No more cringing. The Democrats need to paint themselves as the party of universal access to the polls, and they need to paint the Repugs as what they are rapidly becoming - fascists.

Remember, They Want to Run This Retard for President

Here in Columbus yesterday we were faced with the usual hassle of the Shrub blocking rush hour traffic, but this time, he brought along Ahhhnold. And Columbus yesterday was faced with this stupid buffoon barking out lines from his (bad) movies.

It's incredible that Californians were so foolish as to elect this man governor. The Repugs dearly want to run him for President and are attempting to get a Constitutional amendment underway to change the native birth requirement in order to do so. I have heard more than a few Democrats support this on a basis of "fairness." Don't be fooled. Oppose this with all your strength. It's not a "fairness" thing. It's an "end of the Republic" thing.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Good Dog!

Give this dog a treat:

Faith, a 4-year-old Rottweiler, phoned 911 when Beasley fell out of her wheelchair and barked urgently into the receiver until a dispatcher sent help. Then the service dog unlocked the front door for the police officer.

"I sensed there was a problem on the other end of the 911 call," said dispatcher Jenny Buchanan. "The dog was too persistent in barking directly into the phone receiver. I knew she was trying to tell me something."

Faith is trained to summon help by pushing a speed-dial button on the phone with her nose after taking the receiver off the hook, said her owner, Beasley, 45, who suffers grand mal seizures.

Dogs; still our best friend.

Great Pics

Jo Fish was at the Kerry rally at OSU last night and has some great pics of Kerry, Bruce, and John Glenn here. Check 'em out!

NASA Scientist Reveals the Gadget Under Bush's Suit Coat

NASA scientist Dr. Robert Nelson knows he could well lose his job if Bush resteals and the egregious Sean O'Keefe remains NASA administrator, but he's applied common Photoshop techniques to the "Bush Bulge" photos and guess what; it's not a "crease."

George W. Bush tried to laugh off the bulge. "I don't know what that is," he said on "Good Morning America" on Wednesday, referring to the infamous protrusion beneath his jacket during the presidential debates. "I'm embarrassed to say it's a poorly tailored shirt."

Dr. Robert M. Nelson, however, was not laughing. He knew the president was not telling the truth. And Nelson is neither conspiracy theorist nor midnight blogger. He's a senior research scientist for NASA and for Caltech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and an international authority on image analysis. Currently he's engrossed in analyzing digital photos of Saturn's moon Titan, determining its shape, whether it contains craters or canyons.

For the past week, while at home, using his own computers, and off the clock at Caltech and NASA, Nelson has been analyzing images of the president's back during the debates. A professional physicist and photo analyst for more than 30 years, he speaks earnestly and thoughtfully about his subject. "I am willing to stake my scientific reputation to the statement that Bush was wearing something under his jacket during the debate," he says. "This is not about a bad suit. And there's no way the bulge can be described as a wrinkled shirt."

Nelson stresses that he's not certain what lies beneath the president's jacket. He offers, though, "that it could be some type of electronic device -- it's consistent with the appearance of an electronic device worn in that manner." The image of lines coursing up and down the president's back, Nelson adds, is "consistent with a wire or a tube."

Nelson used the computer software program Photoshop to enhance the texture in Bush's jacket. The process in no way alters the image but sharpens its edges and accents the creases and wrinkles. You've seen the process performed a hundred times on "CSI": pixelated images are magnified to reveal a clear definition of their shape.

Bruce Hapke, professor emeritus of planetary science in the department of geology and planetary science at the University of Pittsburgh, reviewed the Bush images employed by Nelson, whom he calls "a very highly respected scientist in his field." Hapke says Nelson's process of analyzing the images are the "exact same methods we use to analyze images taken by spacecraft of planetary surfaces. It does not introduce any artifacts into the picture in any way."

How can Nelson be certain there's some kind of mechanical device beneath Bush's jacket? It's all about light and shadows, he says. The angles at which the light in the studio hit Bush's jacket expose contours that fit no one's picture of human anatomy and wrinkled shirts. And Nelson compared the images to anatomy texts. He also experimented with wrinkling shirts in various configurations, wore them under his jacket under his bathroom light, and couldn't produce anything close to the Bush bulge.

It's worth sitting through the ad to get a daypass if you're not a Salon subscriber; the pictures are damning. (via)

Butchering People to Liberate Them

The Bushies claim that they just don't do casualty figures. The British medical journal the Lancet therefore does it for them, and we learn we have butchered 100,000 civilians, mostly in airstrikes, to "free" them, a toll Saddam might very well envy.

About 100,000 Iraqi civilians - half of them women and children - have died in Iraq since the invasion, mostly as a result of airstrikes by coalition forces, according to the first reliable study of the death toll from Iraqi and US public health experts.
The study, which was carried out in 33 randomly-chosen neighbourhoods of Iraq representative of the entire population, shows that violence is now the leading cause of death in Iraq. Before the invasion, most people died of heart attacks, stroke and chronic illness. The risk of a violent death is now 58 times higher than it was before the invasion.

Last night the Lancet medical journal fast-tracked the survey to publication on its website after rapid, but extensive peer review and editing because, said Lancet editor Richard Horton, "of its importance to the evolving security situation in Iraq". But the findings raised important questions also for the governments of the United Sates and Britain who, said Dr Horton in a commentary, "must have considered the likely effects of their actions for civilians".

The research was led by Les Roberts of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. Five of the six Iraqi interviewers who went to the 988 households in the survey were doctors and all those involved in the research on the ground, says the paper, risked their lives to collect the data. Householders were asked about births and deaths in the 14.6 months before the March 2003 invasion, and births and deaths in the 17.8 months afterwards.

When death certificates were not available, there were good reasons, say the authors. "We think it is unlikely that deaths were falsely recorded. Interviewers also believed that in the Iraqi culture it was unlikely for respondents to fabricate deaths," they write.

They found an increase in infant mortality from 29 to 57 deaths per 1,000 live births, which is consistent with the pattern in wars, where women are unable or unwilling to get to hospital to deliver babies, they say. The other increase was in violent death, which was reported in 15 of the 33 clusters studied and which was mostly attributed to airstrikes.

"Despite widespread Iraqi casualties, household interview data do not show evidence of widespread wrongdoing on the part of individual soldiers on the ground," write the researchers. Only three of the 61 deaths involved coalition soldiers killing Iraqis with small arms fire. In one case, a 56-year-old man might have been a combatant, they say, in the second a 72-year-old man was shot at a checkpoint and in the third, an armed guard was mistaken for a combatant and shot during a skirmish. In the second two cases, American soldiers apologised to the families.

"The remaining 58 killings (all attributed to US forces by interviewees) were caused by helicopter gunships, rockets or other forms of aerial weaponry," they write.

They love us, huh? Expect this to come back to haunt us - soon.


Bush Lied: Americans Will Die

Well, in spite of the screeching and whining and lying coming from the right wing, it turns out that there is both photographic and GPS evidence that the arms dump at Al QaQaa was intact, with IAEA seals still in place, when captured by US forces in April 2003. Only later did hundreds of tons of high explosives grow legs and wander off, to kill our soldiers, and in future, perhaps trigger a nuclear weapon.

A videotape made by a television crew with American troops when they opened bunkers at a sprawling Iraqi munitions complex south of Baghdad shows a huge supply of explosives still there nine days after the fall of Saddam Hussein, apparently including some sealed earlier by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The tape, broadcast on Wednesday night by the ABC affiliate in Minneapolis, appeared to confirm a warning given earlier this month to the agency by Iraqi officials, who said that hundreds of tons of high-grade explosives, powerful enough to bring down buildings or detonate nuclear weapons, had vanished from the site after the invasion of Iraq.

The question of whether the material was removed by Mr. Hussein's forces in the days before the invasion, or looted later because it was unguarded, has become a heated dispute on the campaign trail, with Senator John Kerry accusing President Bush of incompetence, and Mr. Bush saying it is unclear when the material disappeared and rejecting what he calls Mr. Kerry's "wild charges."

Weapons experts familiar with the work of the international inspectors in Iraq say the videotape appears identical to photographs that the inspectors took of the explosives, which were put under seal before the war. One frame shows what the experts say is a seal, with narrow wires that would have to be broken if anyone entered through the main door of the bunker.

The agency said that when it left Iraq in mid-March, only days before the war began, the only bunkers bearing its seals at the huge complex contained the explosive known as HMX, which the agency had monitored because it could be used in a nuclear weapons program. It is now clear that program had ground to a halt.

Everything Bush does is a cheat and a lie. He is a stupid man surrounded by evil men. The evil bastards suggest that these weapons are very like other weapons in Iraq that they didn't trouble to secure. Wrong. There is a great difference between explosives such as were stored here and conventional military explosives. This is the kind of thing that brought down Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie; these are the kind of very high explosives needed to trigger plutonium-fueled nuclear weapons. This latest cockup is an order of several magnitudes worse than most of the other stupidities committed by Caligula and his minions.

Reelect this fool, get more of the same. Kick him out, and we can plant his ass in prison.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

This Doesn't Help

There may have been government foreknowledge of 9/11 - I for one am suspicious and always have been about Bush's sudden decision to go "read to children" on the morning of 9/11 and the fact that most of the cabinet was apparently out of town - but idiots yapping about bombs in the World Trade Center or screeching that something else, not an airliner, hit the Pentagon, are just bloody fools.

Let me very briefly take on their claim that a small plane hit the Pentagon, not an airliner. They argue that the hole in the building was too small to have been created by an airplane with a 175 foot wingspan. What these nitwits don't realize is this:

1. The Pentagon is an exceptionally well-built building. In fact, it's overbuilt. The military doubted they'd need that much office space after World War II (!), and the building was designed to be easily converted to a warehouse. It's heavily constructed of steel-reinforced concrete.

2. An airplane - any airplane - is basically about as strong as a pop can. It's an aluminum tube. Go ahead, step on a popcan. If you're a guy or a woman with strong hands, crush it in your fist. Not very strong, is it? Now smash a popcan into a strongly-built building at over 400 miles per hour. Then, burn it with jetfuel. Not much of a hole, and very little wreckage left because aluminum burns rather nicely in a kerosene fire.

There are unknowns about 9/11. The stuff these nitwits are recycling are not among them, and it does not help the dialogue.

Friday Catblogging

Even the august NYT has come to recognize the glorious tradition of Friday catblogging:

"It brings people together," said Kevin Drum, who began the cat spotlight last year on his own blog, Calpundit (www.calpundit.com). "Both Atrios and Instapundit have done Friday catblogging. It goes to show you can agree on at least a few things."

Mr. Drum has moved on to write a blog for The Washington Monthly called Political Animal, which, despite its name, features no cats. But for him, watching bloggers step back from partisanship in favor of the warmth of cat pictures is a reminder of the March 2003 day when he discovered that his cats offered an antidote to stressful blogging.

"I'd just blogged a whole bunch of stuff about what was wrong with the world," Mr. Drum said. "And I turned around and I looked out the window, and there was one of my cats, just plonked out, looking like nothing was wrong with the world at all."

Grabbing his camera, Mr. Drum photographed his cat, Inkblot, and posted the picture (calpundit.com/archives/000597.html). He soon began doing it each Friday, attracting fans who just wanted to see the felines.

"I had a lot of people who were looking forward to it," he said. "I started getting e-mails on Friday mornings where people were like, 'Where's catblogging? What's going on?' "

As often happens in the blogosphere, other people latched onto the idea and ran with it.

These days, all kinds of bloggers are Friday catblogging, often playing around with the concept, even as Mr. Drum has stopped.

Cosma Shalizi is one of them. A postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan, Dr. Shalizi sometimes devotes Fridays on his blog, Three-Toed Sloth (www.cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/weblog), to what he calls "Friday Cat Blogging (Science Geek Edition)."

In those entries, interspersed among his thoughts on various academic disciplines, Dr. Shalizi ventures into scientific discussions related at least peripherally to cats.

On another blog, Spocko's Brain (s88172659.onlinehome.us/spockosbrain.html), the author wrote in one Friday posting: "I'm new to this blogging stuff, but from what I understand all the really cool kids post pictures of their cats on Fridays. Here's mine."

It was a giant Caterpillar tractor.

Even NASA has played along, posting a picture one recent Friday of the Cat's Eye nebula (antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap040910.html).

Indeed, and there are spinoffs, like South Knox Bubba's Friday bird blogging. It's a peaceful and vaguely wacky bloggish tradition.

Al Ca Ca

Bush has begun lying frantically about the Al QaQaa munitions dump revelations, now claiming hysterically that the tons of explosives were gone before American troops arrived. Oh, really?

Looters stormed the weapons site at Al Qaqaa in the days after American troops swept through the area in early April 2003 on their way to Baghdad, gutting office buildings, carrying off munitions and even dismantling heavy machinery, three Iraqi witnesses and a regional security chief said Wednesday.

The Iraqis described an orgy of theft so extensive that enterprising residents rented their trucks to looters. But some looting was clearly indiscriminate, with people grabbing anything they could find and later heaving unwanted items off the trucks.

Two witnesses were employees of Al Qaqaa - one a chemical engineer and the other a mechanic - and the third was a former employee, a chemist, who had come back to retrieve his records, determined to keep them out of American hands. The mechanic, Ahmed Saleh Mezher, said employees asked the Americans to protect the site but were told this was not the soldiers' responsibility.

The accounts do not directly address the question of when 380 tons of powerful conventional explosives vanished from the site sometime after early March, the last time international inspectors checked the seals on the bunkers where the material was stored. It is possible that Iraqi forces removed some explosives before the invasion.

But the accounts make clear that what set off much if not all of the looting was the arrival and swift departure of American troops, who did not secure the site after inducing the Iraqi forces to abandon it.

"The looting started after the collapse of the regime," said Wathiq al-Dulaimi, a regional security chief, who was based nearby in Latifiya. But once it had begun, he said, the booty streamed toward Baghdad.

Earlier this month, on Oct. 10, the directorate of national monitoring at the Ministry of Science and Technology notified the International Atomic Energy Agency that the explosives, which are used in demolition and missiles and are the raw material for plastic explosives, were missing. The agency has monitored the explosives because they can also be used as the initiator of an atomic bomb.

Agency officials examined the explosives in January 2003 and noted in early March that their seals were still in place. On April 3, the Third Infantry Division arrived with the first American troops.

Really, it doesn't matter whether the explosives were looted before or after the arrival of the Third Infantry. What matters is that before Bush started his asinine war, the explosives were under international control. Now they are 700,000 Lockerbies waiting to happen.

Sox Win: Curse Lifted!

But hey, there are still the Cubbies and the Goat.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

It's Al CaCa Alright

Now the Bushies are claiming that the explosives at the wonderfully named Al QaQaa facility were mysteriously already gone when troops arrived there accompanied by a crew from NBC. But here, friends, is the money paragraph:

Prior to the Iraq war, the high-grade explosives at Al Qaqaa had been under the control of IAEA inspectors because the material could be used as a component in a nuclear weapon, IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said. IAEA and other U.N. inspectors left the country in March 2003 before the fighting began on March 19.

In other words, that stuff was safe before President Caligula launched the Mess in Mesopotamia. Mission Accomplished!!!

Monday, October 25, 2004

Where Were Our Troops?

Too busy protecting the Oil Ministry, of course, as a major Iraqi weapons center was looted of almost 400 tons of extremely high explosives. And, of course, the US government has covered this story up for over a year.

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry decried the missing explosives, after seeing The New York Times report in Monday's editions.

In the statement, Kerry senior adviser Joe Lockhart said: "The Bush administration must answer for what may be the most grave and catastrophic mistake in a tragic series of blunders in Iraq.

"How did they fail to secure nearly 380 tons of known, deadly explosives despite clear warnings from the International Atomic Energy Agency to do so? And why was this information unearthed by reporters -- and was it covered up by our national security officials?

"These explosives can be used to blow up airplanes, level buildings, attack our troops and detonate nuclear weapons. The Bush administration knew where this stockpile was, but took no action to secure the site."

Kerry criticized Bush for his "stunning incompetence."

There was no response from the Bush administration on the missing explosives.

Sure, folks. Go ahead and vote for the Chimp, and get four more years of, yes, stunning incompetence.

But Why Does it Work?

Bob Herbert points out today that there's a "perfect storm" of bad news battering Dubya as the election winds down to its close:

American troops have fought valiantly, but cracks in their resolve are beginning to show. "This is Vietnam," said Daniel Planalp, a 21-year-old Marine corporal from San Diego who was quoted in yesterday's New York Times. "I don't even know why we're over here fighting."

Here at home the stock market has tanked, in part because of record-high oil prices. The Dow Jones industrial average closed at its low for the year on Friday as world oil prices streaked ever higher. The cost of oil has jumped more than 75 percent in the past year. With the weather turning colder, the attention of homeowners - many of them voters - is being drawn to the price of home heating oil. What they're seeing is not pretty.

The Energy Department expects heating oil bills to increase nearly 30 percent this year, and that may be a conservative estimate. Thermostats across the country are heading down, down, down.

Republican campaign officials are worried about the dearth of good news. The flu vaccine shortage has led to price-gouging and long lines of sick and elderly patients, some of them on the verge of panic. Last week we learned that the index of leading economic indicators had moved lower in September, the fourth successive monthly decline, which could be an indication of a slowdown in economic growth.

The lead stories in The New York Times and The Washington Post on Friday were both about Iraq - and both were disheartening. The Times said senior American officials were assembling new information about the increasingly deadly Iraqi insurgency that showed "it has significantly more fighters and far greater financial resources than had been estimated."

The Post wrote that, according to a U.S.-financed poll, leaders of Iraq's religious parties are becoming the most popular politicians in the country, an extremely ominous development in the view of the Bush administration.

These are all stories with the potential to influence voters, and they are not being offset by other, more positive developments. The result has been high anxiety levels among Republican operatives.

Herbert concludes that the only possible Repug tactic is vote blocking and voter suppression. But my question continues to be this: the economy is in the shitcan - it always is when Republicans are in charge - , we're stuck in a war with no end that is a distraction from our real enemies, we have a president who believes that the Earth is flat, and yet the polls still show the race in a dead heat; why would anyone with a reasonably normal body temperature and an IQ over 80 vote for this man? That's the real question, and it may be one with a truly frightening answer.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Xinhua has a Scatological View of Eliot Spitzer!

Headline on Xinhua this morning:

Spitzer's iron wrist shits to music industry

But no, there's more! The article begins:

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's office now shits their attention to the music industry, particularly its practices for influencing what songs are heard on the public airwaves.

All I can say is that the shit is really going to hit the fan in Xinhua's English translation department. And what in Sam Hill is an "iron wrist?"

Dispatch Caves

Maintaining their usual record of conservative head-in-ass, the Columbus Dispatch endorsed the Chimperor today. After all, the rich must get richer, the poor must get poorer, the body bags need to continue flowing, and we need three or four more card-carrying Nazis on the Supreme Court.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

It Happened Before

It would be interesting to hear what the late Walter Karp, once a contributing editor to Harpers who died much too young in 1989, would think about our present pass. Here's an idea, as Karp writes about Woodrow Wilson, the Democrats, and World War One:

Deep as it was, the wound of war might have healed in time had Wilson and the war party rested content with their war. With that war alone, however, they were by no means content. Well before the war, the war party had made its aims clear. It looked forward to a new political order distinguished by "complete internal peace" and by the people's "consecration to the State." It wanted an electorate that looked upon "loyalty" to the powerful as the highest political virtue and the exercise of liberty as proof of "disloyalty." The war party wanted a free people made servile and a free republic made safe for oligarchy and privilege, for the few who ruled and the few who grew rich; in a word, for itself The goals had been announced in peacetime. They were to be achieved under cover of war. While American troops learned to survive in the trenches, Americans at home learned to live with repression and its odious creatures - with the government spy and the government burglar, with the neighborhood stool pigeon and the official vigilante, with the local tyranny of federal prosecutors and the lawlessness of bigoted judge's, with the midnight police raid and the dragnet arrest.

In this domestic war to make America safe for oligarchy, Woodrow Wilson forged all the main weapons. Cherisher of the "unified will" in peacetime, Wilson proved himself implacable in war. Despising in peacetime all who disturbed the "unity of our national counsel," Wilson in wartime wreaked vengeance on them all. Exalted by his global mission, the ex-Princeton professor, whom one party machine had groomed for high office and whom another had been protecting for years, esteemed himself above all men and their puling cavils. He could no longer tolerate, he was determined to silence, every impertinent voice of criticism, however small and however harmless. Nothing was to be said or read in America that Wilson himself might find disagreeable. Nothing was to be said or read in America that cast doubt on the nobility of Wilson's goals, the sublimity of his motives, or the efficacy of his statecraft. Wilson's self-elating catchphrases were to be on every man's lips or those lips would be sealed by a prison term. "He seemed determined that there should be no questioning of his will," wrote Frederick Howe after personally pleading with Wilson to relent. "I felt that he was eager for the punishment of men who differed from him, that there was something vindictive in his eyes as he spoke."

By the time Wilson reached Paris in December 1918, political liberty had been snuffed out in America. "One by one the right of freedom of speech, the right of assembly, the right to petition, the right to protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, the right against arbitrary arrest, the right to fair trial . . . the principle that guilt is personal, the principle that punishment should bear some proportion to the offense, had been sacrificed and ignored." So an eminent Harvard professor of law, Zechariah Chafee, reported in 1920. The war served merely as pretext. Of that there can be little doubt. In a searing civil conflict that threatened the very survival of the republic, Americans, under Lincoln, enjoyed every liberty that could possibly be spared. In a war safely fought three thousand miles from our shores, Americans, under Wilson, lost every liberty they could possibly be deprived of.

Under the Espionage Act of June 1917, it became a felony punishable by twenty years' imprisonment to say anything that might "postpone for a single moment," as one federal judge put it, an American victory in the struggle for democracy. With biased federal judges openly soliciting convictions from the bench and federal juries brazenly packed to ensure those convictions, Americans rotted in prison for advocating heavier taxation rather than the issuance of war bonds, for stating that conscription was unconstitutional, for saying that sinking armed merchantmen had not been illegal, for criticizing the Red Cross and the YMCA. A woman who wrote to her newspaper that "I am for the people and the government is for the profiteers" was tried, convicted, and sentenced to ten years in prison. The son of the chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court became a convicted felon for sending out a chain letter that said the Sussex Pledge had not been unconditional. Under the Espionage Act American history itself became outlawed. When a Hollywood filmmaker released his movie epic The Spirit of '76, federal agents seized it and arrested the producer: his portrayal of the American Revolution had cast British redcoats in an unfavorable light. The film, said the court, was criminally "calculated . . . to make us a little bit slack in our loyalty to Great Britain in this great catastrophe." A story that had nourished love of liberty and hatred of tyranny in the hearts of American schoolchildren had become a crime to retell in Wilson's America. The filmmaker was sentenced to ten years in prison for recalling the inconvenient past.

Fear and repression worked its way into every nook and cranny of ordinary life. Free speech was at hazard everywhere. Americans were arrested for remarks made at a boarding house table, in a hotel lobby, on a train, in a private club, during private conversations overheard by the government's spies. Almost every branch of Wilson's government sprouted its own "intelligence bureau" to snoop and threaten and arrest. By 1920 the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a swaddling fattened on war, had files on two million people and organizations deemed dangerously disloyal. At the Post Office Department, Albert Burleson set up a secret index of "illegal ideas"-such as criticizing Samuel Gompers, the patriotic union leader-and banned from the mails any publication guilty of expressing one. Even if an independent paper avoided an "illegal idea," it could still be banned from the mails for betraying an "audible undertone of disloyalty," as one Post Office censor put it, in otherwise non-felonious remarks. Under the tyranny of the Post Office, Socialist papers were suppressed outright and country editors sent to jail. Freedom of the press ceased to exist.

Nor did the administration rely on its own bureaucratic resources alone. To cast the net of repression wider and draw the mesh finer, the Justice Department called on the "preparedness" clubs, shock troops of the war party, for help. Authorized by the Justice Department to question anyone and detain them for arrest, the prepareders fell eagerly to their task of teaching "consecration to the State" by hounding free men into jail. Where the "preparedness" clubs were thin on the ground, the Justice Department recruited its own vigilante groups - the Minute Men and the American Protective League - to enforce with the police power "the unity of our national counsel." By August 1917 Attorney General Thomas Gregory boasted that he had "several hundred thousand private citizens" working for him, "most of them as members of patriotic bodies . . . keeping an eye on disloyal individuals and making reports of disloyal utterances, and seeing that the people of the country are not deceived."

Truth and falsity were defined by the courts. According to judicial decisions, public statements were criminally false under the Espionage Act when they contradicted the President's April 2 war message, which became, at gunpoint, the national creed, the touchstone of loyalty, and the measure of "sedition," a crime that Wilson and the war party resuscitated 118 years after it had destroyed forever the old Federalist oligarchy. This time it did not destroy oligarchy. It helped destroy "the old America that was free and is now dead," as one civil libertarian was to put it in 1920. Under the Espionage Act no one was safe except espionage agents, for under the act not a single enemy spy was ever convicted.

The War Enemy Division of the Justice Department had more important war enemies in mind. Every element in the country that had ever disturbed the privileged or challenged the powerful Wilson and the war party were determined to crush. They were the enemy. "Both the old parties are in power," Lincoln Steffens wrote a friend during wartime. "They are the real traitors these days. They are using the emergency to get even with their enemies and fight for their cause." Radicals were ruthlessly persecuted. The International Workers of the World was virtually destroyed in September 1917 when Justice Department agents arrested 166 I.W.W. leaders for heading a strike the previous June. Eugene V. Debs, the Socialist Party's candidate for President, was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment for attributing the world war to economic interests in a speech before a Socialist gathering. Under the cloak of "patriotic bodies" and armed with the federal police power, reactionary local businessmen and machine politicians crushed local radicals and prewar insurgents. The wartime tyranny in Washington spawned and encouraged a thousand municipal tyrannies.

This is history you've never read, carefully papered over for more than 90 years and kept out of history books. Karp argued that both parties, Republican and Democrat, were two halves of a whole. In some ways he was right. Both parties are owned by the wealthy and powerful and bow to their interests, including the desire of the wealthy and powerful for profit-making war. Eventually this will have to be dealt with. At the moment, though, our choice is clear.

Leaf Blogging!

Check out some beautiful fall leaf blogging from South Knox Bubba here. A nice break from all the madness!

Couldn't Have Happened to a Nicer Asswipe

Repug asswipe almost wins Darwin Award trying to steal Kerry sign:

A Lakewood Republican stealing campaign signs late one night got nabbed when he ran across a low- hanging driveway chain, fell face first onto a pilfered sign and the concrete and knocked himself unconscious.

Randal Wagner, 50, was loaded into an ambulance, treated at Lutheran Medical Center for abrasions and facial cuts and issued a summons.

Wagner, who unsuccessfully tried to steal a "Dave Thomas" congressional sign that evening, had signs for other Democratic candidates in his Toyota pickup, Wheat Ridge police reported.

"I did a very stupid thing," Wagner said Monday, admitting theft of the signs. "I got caught up in the political passions of this highly contested election."

Wagner said that he and his wife, Jan, who was driving their pickup that night, "want to apologize to the people" they have offended.

"Everybody has a right to express their political opinions," Randal Wagner said.

Jan Wagner, who was not cited, said she did not want to discuss what happened. She also is a Republican.

What a pair of winners. Read the whole piece; they'd been reported to police earlier that evening for sign stealing.(via the ever-redoubtable David Neiwert)

Wolfpacks for Truth

This is funny.

When the camera crew showed up, we wondered
why they were all driving Hummers. Our agent
assured us it was a Greenpeace commercial and
they paid TWICE our hourly steak rate. Little did we
know we were being tricked into this vicious
campaign attack ad.

Check it out.

Send Turkee NOW

Here's an ad to support - one that looks like a potential winner. I know we've all given till it hurts this year, but find a little extra turkee in your pocket to get this thing aired.

Ohio GOP's "Operation Steal the Vote" Continues at Full Blast

Knowing that one sure way to keep Dubya in office for four more years of blood, death, and looting is to resteal the election, the Ohio GOP, led by Secretary of State J. Ken "I want to be the first black governor of Ohio" Blackwell, has been going full-blast in efforts, covert and otherwise, to make sure the vote in Ohio is stolen. Latest project: flood the polls with Repug pests:

Republican Party officials in Ohio took formal steps yesterday to place thousands of recruits inside polling places on Election Day to challenge the qualifications of voters they suspect are not eligible to cast ballots.

Party officials say their effort is necessary to guard against fraud arising from aggressive moves by the Democrats to register tens of thousands of new voters in Ohio, seen as one of the most pivotal battlegrounds in the Nov. 2 elections.

Knowing that the vast majority of new signups are either Democrats or independents, the Repugs have a plan: disrupt the election in Democratic precincts as much as necessary so as few people as possible actually vote by the time the polls close at 7:30.


Ohio election officials said they had never seen so large a drive to prepare for Election Day challenges. They said they were scrambling yesterday to be ready for disruptions in the voting process as well as alarm and complaints among voters. Some officials said they worried that the challenges could discourage or even frighten others waiting to vote.

Ohio Democrats were struggling to match the Republicans' move, which had been rumored for weeks. Both parties had until 4 p.m. to register people they had recruited to monitor the election. Republicans said they had enlisted 3,600 by the deadline, many in heavily Democratic urban neighborhoods of Cleveland, Dayton and other cities. Each recruit was to be paid $100.

The Democrats, who tend to benefit more than Republicans from large turnouts, said they had registered more than 2,000 recruits to try to protect legitimate voters rather than weed out ineligible ones.

Mobs of jackbooted Repug thugs at every Democratic precinct. I expect to see bunches at my precinct, and will report on election day as to what I see.

Republican officials said they had no intention of disrupting voting but were concerned about the possibility of fraud involving thousands of newly registered Democrats.

"The organized left's efforts to, quote unquote, register voters - I call them ringers - have created these problems," said James P. Trakas, a Republican co-chairman in Cuyahoga County.

To which I say, bullshit.

The Repugs even intend to threaten mentally challenged people:

The recruits will be trained next week, said Mr. Trakas, who added that he had not decided whether to open the training sessions to the public or reporters. Among other things, he said, the recruits will be taught how to challenge mentally disabled voters who are assisted by anyone other than their legal guardians.

Charming!

One thing is certain: if the election is stolen this time, we cannot - cannot - do an Al Gore and take it lying down. It's time for the tree of liberty to once again be refreshed with the blood of patriots, as Jefferson said. Mine too, if necessary.

Friday, October 22, 2004

The Clusterf**k Factor Decides it for Dan

Dan Drezner has made his mind up on who to vote for, and it's not the Chimp:

To put it crudely, my anger at Bush for the number of Mongolian cluster-f**ks this administration was discovered to have made in the planning process in the run-up to Iraq was compounded by the even greater number of cluster-f**ks the administration made in the six months after the invasion, topped off by George W. Bush's decision not to fire the clusterf**ks in the civilian DoD leadershop that insisted over the past two years that not a lot of troops were needed in the Iraqi theater of operations.

I don't believe any principled conservative - and Dan has just shown himself to be one - can vote for a man who believes he is an Emperor. Let's hope a lot more people like Dan come to the same conclusion, for it is they who will save their party and bring it back into the mainstream as the honored party of Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower, not the den of fascists and lunatics and Know Nothings it has become.

It Takes a Python

Former Monty Pythonite Terry Jones reveals God to Dubya:

"George?"
"Yes?"
"This is God here ..."
"Hi, God. What can I do for you?"
"I want you to stop this Iraq thing, George."
"But you told me to do it, God!"
"No I didn't, George ..."
"But you did! You spoke to me through Karl, Rumsey and Dick and all those other really clever guys!"
"How did you know it was me talking, George?"
"Instinct, God. I just knew it!"
"Do you really think I'd want you to unleash all this horror and bloodshed on another lot of human beings?"
"But they're Muslims! They don't believe in You, God!"
"But, George, they do believe in me. Jews, Christians and Moslems all worship the same Me! Didn't you do comparative theology at school, George?"
"No, of course not! You think I'm some sort of peace-waving dope-headed liberal faggot-lover, God?"
"No, of course not, George, but I expect you to know something about the people you're bombing."
"Oh, come on! I know it's right to bomb those oily rag-heads until there's not one left to wipe a wrench on!"
"How do you know that, George?"
"Cause You tell me that's what I should do, God."
"George, I do not tell you to do that!"
"But I hear You, God! You speak to me! You tell me what to do! You tell me what is Right and what is Wrong! That's why I don't need to listen to any soft-baked, mealy-mouthed liberal Kerry-pickers!"
"George, you're deluding yourself."

Check it out!

Stealing the Election in Columbus

The Columbus Dispatch (no link possible) reports that people here are getting phone calls claiming to be from the Board of Elections informing them that their precinct voting location has been changed - an obvious Repug ploy to get people to go to the wrong precincts that fits in suspiciously well with J. Kenneth "Uncle Tom" Blackwell's ambitious plan to block the provisional ballots expressly permitted by HAVA.

And still the polls are close. Why?

Update: Atrios discusses this as well here.

Update 2: And David Neiwert has an important report here.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Fascism on the March

David Neiwert has been doing a yeoman's job keeping track of the Bush Fascism Special as it roars through America. Here's his latest update:

We've always known, of course, that Bush positively dislikes having to even think about, let alone confront, people who might disagree with him or vote against him or -- horrors! -- protest his policies. Remember the fellow who, back in the summer of 2001, told Bush he was disappointed in his work? The response: "Who cares what you think?"

One of the secondary, and less noticed, ways that Bush has managed to avoid all those disagreeable dissidents is to make his public appearances strictly in friendly locales. When he comes to Washington state, for instance, Bush doesn't appear in public, and he doesn't visit Seattle proper -- he visits the wealthy Republican suburbs, GOP-dominated Spokane, and the Fort Lewis military base.

His recent swing into Oregon was much the same way. Rather than visit Portland -- easily the state's largest city -- or other population centers, he's mainly appeared in heavily conservative rural areas.

But even then, the plague of dissent has wormed its way into his presence. Or tried to. And we know what that means.

Shut them up. Beat them up. Arrest them. After all, who cares what they think?

The ludicrous nadir of this style of public interaction came during an appearance in the small town of Central Point, where three schoolteachers were threatened and tossed out of a Bush event for wearing T-shirts that read:

Protect Our Civil Liberties


That's right. There was nothing explicitly anti-Bush about the shirts. Indeed, one has to wonder just what it was about the message that Republicans found so offensive. But one of the GOP staffers at the event found it so:


Voorhies said the three made it through all three checkpoints and assured volunteers who questioned them that they would not disrupt the event. But when Voorhies was on her way to the bathroom, she was stopped by a volunteer who told her she wasn't welcome.

She said this volunteer pointed to her shirt and said it was "obscene."


Well, I guess civil liberties are obscene when your best friend is the budding dictator Vladimir Putin and when you yourself - President of the United States and heir to the one successful revolution - says that a dictatorship would be "easier."

It gets worse. Read the entire piece.

Bush's "Faith"

There's been a lot of discussion the past few days about Bush's "faith" or lack thereof, with Ayelish McGarvey arguing that he's just a fake:

...when judged by his deeds, an entirely different picture emerges: Bush does not demonstrate a life of faith by his actions, and neither Methodists, evangelicals, nor fundamentalists can rightly call him brother. In fact, the available evidence raises serious questions about whether Bush is really a Christian at all.

But what McGarvey and others are missing here is that, by Fundamentalist standards, all Bush has to do is acknowledge that Jesus is Lord. That is their test of faith, and their only test of faith. Fundamentalist Christianity neither acknowledges nor requires works. As here:

Have you ever heard of someone going to heaven because they fed the poor, volunteer in the soup kitchens, travels the world to preach the gospel, attends church 24/7, is kind to little children, or helps build missionary buildings? I never have! Why, you ask? Doesn't the Bible say that it's godly to possess charity? Yes (Matthew 5:7-9), but if you doubt and haven't accepted the Lord into your life, then your good works are pathetic (meaning that they will not get you into the kingdom). A relationship with Christ isn't based solely on what you do for Him, but rather on how much you believe.

Hie thee from that soup kitchen! Cease your pathetic good works!

A lot of evangelistic Christians believe this way. Remember, Martin Luther was so absorbed by the idea that faith alone saves that he wanted to cut the Epistle of James out of the Bible because it contradicted the doctrine that only faith saves.

Bush believes he is saved. He believes he doesn't need works. He's not a hypocrite. Just an idiot.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Even Terrorists use Google!

It's fun to "Google" your own or a friend's name and see what you come up with, but in this case, Google saved a man's life!

Iraqi militants who kidnapped and threatened to kill an Australian journalist "Googled" his name on the internet to check his work before releasing him unharmed.

John Martinkus, a veteran freelancer who has covered conflicts from East Timor to Iraq, was released a day after he was taken hostage by four Sunni militants and ex-Iraqi army officers.

Mr Martinkus was filming a report for SBS's Dateline program and was preparing to leave Iraq when he was grabbed about 5pm (AEST) on Saturday outside a hotel popular with foreign correspondents.

SBS executive producer Mike Carey said the journalist's captors had investigated his background online and saw he was harmless.

"They Googled him, they checked him out on a popular search engine and got onto his own website or his publisher's website and saw he was a writer and journalist," Mr Carey told AAP.

"They had thought he was working for the Americans as an informer."

Wired militants! Who would have thunk it? (via)

Apple "Service"

NASA Watch's Keith Cowing reports on a recent incident that has him and his business partner rethinking their attachment to Apple:

I love my Mac computers - all of them. Lots of people at NASA love them too. My business partner Marc recently converted to Mac for his day to day chores. As great as these computers are, Apple's customer service leaves a lot to be desired. Marc recently purchased a dual processor G5 and has had a string of headaches involving hardware and software - all exacerbated (not resolved) by Apple personnel. But I will let Marc tell that story.

My story concerns my new 17" Powerbook laptop which I bought exactly one month ago. Yesterday, my wife and I were staying in a hotel in Pennsylvania. As I went to close my computer I noticed that the cover would not close all the way. I opened it to see if there was something obstructing it. Not noticing anything I opened it further. This time a new sort of obstruction became evident and caused the top to open in an odd way. The hinge felt rather weird.

Rotating the computer I could see that a small screw had come loose from the lower left hand side of the display. It had wedged one way - causing the lid not to close - and then another as I opened and tried to close the cover. In the process, the screw had acted like a wedge and had dented the corresponding rear corner of the computer. It also caused a slight buckling in a thin strip of metal around the side of the computer. My wife and I eventually managed to get the screw out with some tweezers and close the computer.

When I took the computer to the "Genius Bar" at the Tyson’s Corner Apple store this evening, the first woman to help me told me that I had violated my warranty and had "dropped the computer" before she would discuss anything else. Nonsense.

Background: I have babied this machine since I got it - wrapping it in material to keep it free from scratches and adding extra padding to protect it. This machine has never been dropped. Indeed, only an idiot would drop a computer and then take it into a store of experts and say "I dunno what happened".

After trying in vain to explain what happened to her I asked for a manager. The woman who managed the store then came out. She listened to my story and said she thought I had dropped it and the warranty was violated. Neither woman, however, would discount the possibility that a screw came loose - for an unknown reason - and damaged the computer. The store manager, now sporting a snicker on her face, took the machine in the back room and came back a rather short period of time later to tell me that they did not understand what happened but that they thought I had dropped it.

In summary: a screw comes loose from my one month old computer and causes damage. Apple then cites the damage as violation of my warranty - even though a flaw in the machine caused the damage in the first place. Neat trick.

Now Marc and I are pondering a Apple Xserve purchase. Given the crappy customer service Apple has been providing, we may re-evaluate that decision.

Lesson learned: Like I said, I love my Macs, but when Apple can find a way to get out of a warranty situation - however slimy - they will do so. As such I would caution anyone owning a 17" Powerbook (and all other recent Powerbooks) to pay careful attention to the screws on the lower part of their display. If they are loose take the computer to an Apple store - but do not touch anything - otherwise Apple will tell you that your warranty has been voided. Indeed, since these machines had display problems last year, it might be wise to pass on them until Apple gets all the bugs ironed out. NASA's ODIN computer support group would be similarly advised to be careful about these laptops.

Apple used to be a paragon of customer service excellence. Not any more. Indeed when they do something like this to a long time Mac user (or any computer customer) you have to wonder whether they care for Mac users any more - and worry more about iPod users instead.

I am still hopeful that they will restore my confidence in their interest in making their customers happy - however, given our recent experience, I am not really expecting them to do anything.

If you think that's crappy, listen to this NASA Watch reader:

My personal laptop is a G3 powerbook. I am on my 5th power supply. The problem with every power supply has been that sparks begin to appear in the shielding inside the cable and the power supply eventually burns out. I explained this to the technical support staff over the phone and the "highly qualified" staff said this was normal. "Sparks are normal when you plug something into the wall." When I explained that the sparks were actually inside the cable and charring the plastic he just couldn't understand. I searched the online tech pages and found many similar stories. I posted my own and checked back often only to see my posting and all others on the topic removed. This was not the recalled power supply but the newer "UFO" shaped model. With the latest failure they told me that they have long since stopped supporting this computer and they will not even sell me a new one if this one fails. Basically saying this will be the last power supply I ever get from them. Their recommendation is to buy a new one, "we can transfer you to sales if you like".

This is pathetic. When I worked for Micro Center, Apple was the class of the field in every way - hardware, software, training, support. Not any more. Considering the premium you pay for their equipment, that's a mistake - a fatal mistake.


Angry Marines

When the normally stolid US Marines start getting pissed off, it's time to take notice:

"We are losing guys left and right," says Cpl. Cody King, 20, of Phoenix, not hiding his anger. "All we are doing around here is getting blown up."

Most of the incidents these days, in this land of endless desert, dried-up river beds and winding dirt roads, include 155 mm artillery shells, mines and other sorts of crude homemade bombs. They make the Marines' enemy faceless and only heighten the feeling of vulnerability. The armor at their disposal is in short supply.

King and his fellow Marines from the weapons company of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, spoke between patrols, huddled together and sifting through their log book, venting their anger and frustration. They never talked of fear.

Among other things their green leather bound book lists are the number of times their company has been hit by homemade bombs since they arrived in the country two months ago. Also listed in book, in fine, careful print, are the names of those who were killed or wounded during those incidents.

On Sept. 3, a thunderous blast from a homemade bomb ripped through a group of Marines providing security for engineers repairing a bridge over the Euphrates River, near the town of Ubayd.

Four were killed and three were wounded. King escaped unscathed.

In recent months, Marine fatalities have exceeded Army deaths -- even though the Army has at least three times as many troops in Iraq.

It is difficult to pinpoint the reasons for the unusually high death toll for the Marines because they limit details on the circumstances of battle deaths to either "enemy action" or "non-combat related." The Army specifies the type of weapon that caused the death as well as the city where it happened.

"After you lose so many Marines, you just keep fighting to stay alive," says King, the son of a Vietnam veteran.

But for some of the Marines, lack of armor, few vehicles and too restrictive rules of engagement are partly to blame.

"We need more armor, more vehicles and more bodies," says King.

Gunnery Sgt. Jason Berold says the rules, as they are now, are frustrating. Unless they see insurgents shooting at them or have what they call positive identification, there's little that the Marines can do.

"It is very frustrating," says Berold, 38, of Los Angeles.

"All we are doing is getting Americans killed and we cannot do much about it," says King. The other marines in the room nod in approval.

"None of us are scared of going out ... as long as you get one bad guy."

"More armor, more vehicles and more bodies." Is Washington listening?

Fascism Rising

David Neiwert continues his excellent series titled The Rise of Pseudo Fascism over at Orcinus:

Americans, particularly fundamentalist Christians, have always had a certain predilection for apocalyptic beliefs. How many times, after all, have you heard that the world was coming to an end soon in the years you've been alive? If you're typical, it's been a lot.

A lot of these beliefs have been bubbling to the surface in large numbers in recent years, particularly as we approached the millennium. Remember all the fears about Y2K? Remember all the conspiracy theories by right-wing extremists that President Clinton intended to use the "Y2K meltdown" to install martial law? Remember the "Y2K survival kits" being sold by Patriot movement types, and the stores of generators and large bags of beans, rice and canned goods that turned out not to be needed?

Most of these fears receded to just below the surface after Y2K turned out not to be the apocalypse after all. But then came the advent of the "war on terror" on Sept. 11, 2001.

The scenes that played out on our television screens that day, and in the ensuing weeks, were like something out of an end-of-the-world movie. They were so intense in nature that at times they seemed surreal. It is almost natural, really, that they inspired a fresh wave of apocalypticism.

In truth, the scenes constituted a real psychological trauma for nearly all Americans. Trauma produces real vulnerability, especially to manipulation.

And the conservative movement, reveling in a tidal wave of apocalyptic fears, proved adept at manipulating the public in a way that stoked their fears and made them positively eager to participate in an ultimately totalitarian agenda. Indeed, the exploitation in many ways bears all the earmarks of psychological warfare -- waged, in fact, against the American public.

Necessary reading. Check it out. And yes, it can happen here. I believe it is happening here.

Crashcart to Columbus Came

Dick Cheney, grumpy, glowering VP to our drooling, suspiciously lumpy President, blocked traffic in Columbus yesterday for the sole reason of going to Fairfield County in a phony bus convoy and calling Senator John Kerry a pig in front of a carefully selected group of dumb yokels. His not over-bright wife used exactly the same line in front of an audience of carefully selected dumb yokels in Pennsylvania:

There was a saying in her home state of Wyoming for people like Kerry, she told a crowd of Republicans in Pennsylvania who had just watched the third presidential debate in a dimly lit hotel ballroom. 'When you keep trying to make something look good and it is not so good, you call it putting lipstick on a pig,' she snarled to the crowd's raucous laughter.

Funny, aren't they?

Send them home.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Gosh, Hack Sounds a Little Like John Kerry!

Retired Colonel David H. Hackworth has some suggestions for the unnamed "President Elect" on what to do after the election:

Immediately fire SecDef Donald Rumsfeld, all of his Pentagon senior civilian assistants and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers.

Replace Rumsfeld with retired Gen. Anthony Zinni and give this tough, smart, proven leader a free hand to bring in the best people to reshape and streamline our armed forces for the long counterinsurgency fight ahead.

Fire National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and replace her with retired Gens. Wes Clark or John Sheehan.
...
Force our coalition partners in Iraq to either move out of the safety of their forts and start participating in the campaign or go home. So far, they’ve added little to the fight except providing an opportunity for politicos to crow about the unity of a coalition in which we’re doing almost all the heavy lifting.

Replace our conventional-thinking generals in Iraq and in other hot spots with leaders – preferably Special Forces – who understand the nature of insurgency, and leave them in place until we execute our exit plan.

Double and then triple the size of our forces in Afghanistan – or we’ll soon be following in the Soviets’ loser boot-steps. This is one of the main events in our global fight with insurgents and should receive top priority.
...
Make every military leader from buck sergeant to four-star memorize Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, and Imperial Hubris, by “Anonymous.”

Check it out. Hack makes a lot of good points. None of which, mind you, would be carried out by Bush.

Everything GREAT in Iraq

Major casualties in a mortar attack on an Iraqi National Guard HQ today:

There is so far no clear breakdown on the number of dead, but more than 100 people are believed to have been killed or injured, the officials said.

Six mortar rounds fell on the building in Mashahidan, 40km (25 miles) from the Iraqi capital, AP news agency said.

Two American field hospitals are treating the wounded.

US Blackhawk helicopters are also helping to evacuated the injured, AP reported.

And that's not all. In other developments today in the Mess in Mesopotamia:

A senior aid worker is kidnapped in Baghdad

A US contractor is killed and several people wounded in a mortar attack on a US army compound in central Baghdad, the US military says

A key oil pipeline in northern Iraq is attacked and set on fire

Clashes are reported in Ramadi between militants and US troops

Go on. Vote for Bush. I dare ya.

Veterans Dishonor Themselves

Medal of Honor recipient Bud Day should know better than to get sucked into the whirlpool of dishonor that is the Swift Boat Stupids. An embarrassing tag in the twilight of his life.

WHAT a Surprise

Budding Russian dictator Vladimir Putin - "Vladimir," as Dubya calls him - has endorsed budding American dictator George W. Bush.

Vladimir Putin waded into the American election campaign in support of George Bush yesterday, declaring that if the president lost, it would lead to the "spread of terrorism" around the world.
The endorsement was a significant boost for Mr Bush who has been under fire from John Kerry for failing to maintain international support for the US "war on terror".

"International terrorists have set as their goal inflicting the maximum damage to Bush, to prevent his election to a second term," the Russian president said at a central Asian summit in Tajikistan.

Kind of like an endorsement from Dr. Evil. Rrrrriiiiigghhhtttt.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Another NASA Craptacular

Turns out the Genesis probe crashed because, get this, the engineering drawings were wrong.

Five years ago, after two NASA missions to Mars were doomed by elementary mistakes - a software glitch and a mix-up between English and metric units - the space agency devised more elaborate pre-launching review procedures to safeguard future missions. Now the agency is trying to figure out how an equally embarrassing error eluded the review process, apparently resulting in the crash of the Genesis space capsule in the Utah desert last month.

In this case, four switches that were to deploy the capsule's parachutes were installed upside down, the parachutes never opened and the capsule plunged to the ground at nearly 200 miles an hour. NASA scientists are now trying to salvage the solar particles it gathered in its three-year, $264 million mission.

"One of the questions we have to answer is, How did we not catch this?" Dr. Michael G. Ryschkewitsch, chairman of the NASA board investigating the accident, said in a telephone news conference yesterday. "Since Genesis was being assembled around the time of the Mars failures, there were a number of additional reviews. We are trying to understand in detail what was looked at and exactly what happened there. We're not yet prepared to comment on that."

The switches were simple devices consisting of weights attached to springs. The force of deceleration as the capsule re-entered the atmosphere was to stretch the springs and close an electric circuit. When the deceleration slowed, the switch was to have reopened, a signal that should have told the capsule to begin the landing process. A small initial parachute was to have popped out at 108,000 feet and six minutes later, a 35-foot-wide parafoil.

But because of the upside-down installation of the switches, the switches did not close, just as a bathroom scale does not work if flipped.

What a bunch of idiots.

Hate Crimes

David Neiwert casts his incisive view on hate crimes, "values voters," and the fake controversy over Mary Cheney:

Tens of thousands of hate crimes that go unreported and uninvestigated, and no end in sight. This problem is especially acute among gays and lesbians, most particularly in rural areas, where their quite reasonable fears of being outed often prevent them from even reporting such crimes. And of course, those same rural areas are nearly uniformly Republican; the coalescence of attitudes with top-down political leadership is hardly accidental.

In other words, Republicans' actions directly make lives more miserable for gays and lesbians and their families, all of whom have to deal with the trauma and tragedy that inevitably results from the violence and intimidation that is the essence of hate crimes.

Whatever embarassment people like the Cheneys may feel from having their daughter's orientation mentioned on television (and it can't be too great, since they've brought it up themselves) is nothing compared to trying to heal a child who's been brutally beaten by redneck thugs -- if they survived.

It's worth remembering, too, that not only are gays and lesbians the second-most common target of hate crimes, gay-bashing bias crimes are particularly noteworthy for the exceptional levels of violence associated with them. Many studies have observed that gay bashing stands out even among hate crimes (which themselves have an abnormally high violence quotient) for the brutality and viciousness of the crimes, often reaching real "overkill" that includes genital mutilation and extreme forms of pain.

Republicans like to defend their actions with a variety of excuses, particularly by promoting (largely bogus) arguments that do not touch on the matter of sexual orientation -- but instead militate against the entire concept of hate crimes. The most telling of these arguments is the claim that hate-crime laws are an attempt to control "free speech" -- as though an assault or killing were somehow protected speech.

Necessary reading, as always, especially for any "Log Cabin Republican" cretins.

Charming Letters from Amerika

Last week the Guardian suggested that readers write letters to Ohio urging Ohioans to use their half a brain to vote for Kerry. Needless to say, they received a lot of charming, xenophobic, moronic replies like this one:

Have you not noticed that Americans don't give two shits what Europeans think of us? Each email someone gets from some arrogant Brit telling us why to NOT vote for George Bush is going to backfire, you stupid, yellow-toothed pansies ... I don't give a rat's ass if our election is going to have an effect on your worthless little life. I really don't. If you want to have a meaningful election in your crappy little island full of shitty food and yellow teeth, then maybe you should try not to sell your sovereignty out to Brussels and Berlin, dipshit. Oh, yeah - and brush your goddamned teeth, you filthy animals.

More of the same from the same kind of morons here. Wave the flag and be proud to be an Amerikan.

One Good Reason to Vote Against Bush

There are a number of good reasons to vote against Dubya this year - in fact the reasons are almost numberless - but one of the best is the terrifying specter of a Bush-controlled Supreme Court. Adam Cohen points out this morning in the NYT:

Abortion might be a crime in most states. Gay people could be thrown in prison for having sex in their homes. States might be free to become mini-theocracies, endorsing Christianity and using tax money to help spread the gospel. The Constitution might no longer protect inmates from being brutalized by prison guards. Family and medical leave and environmental protections could disappear.

It hardly sounds like a winning platform, and of course President Bush isn't openly espousing these positions. But he did say in his last campaign that his favorite Supreme Court justices were Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, and the nominations he has made to the lower courts bear that out. Justices Scalia and Thomas are often called "conservative," but that does not begin to capture their philosophies. Both vehemently reject many of the core tenets of modern constitutional law.

For years, Justices Scalia and Thomas have been lobbing their judicial Molotov cocktails from the sidelines, while the court proceeded on its moderate-conservative path. But given the ages and inclinations of the current justices, it is quite possible that if Mr. Bush is re-elected, he will get three appointments, enough to forge a new majority that would turn the extreme Scalia-Thomas worldview into the law of the land.

There is every reason to believe Roe v. Wade would quickly be overturned. Mr. Bush ducked a question about his views on Roe in the third debate. But he sent his base a coded message in the second debate, with an odd reference to the Dred Scott case. Dred Scott, an 1857 decision upholding slavery, is rarely mentioned today, except in right-wing legal circles, where it is often likened to Roe. (Anti-abortion theorists say that the court refused to see blacks as human in Dred Scott and that the same thing happened to fetuses in Roe.) For more than a decade, Justices Scalia and Thomas have urged their colleagues to reverse Roe and "get out of this area, where we have no right to be."

If Roe is lost, the Center for Reproductive Rights warns, there's a good chance that 30 states, home to more than 70 million women, will outlaw abortions within a year; some states may take only weeks. Criminalization will sweep well beyond the Bible Belt: Ohio could be among the first to drive young women to back-alley abortions and prosecute doctors.
....
They were just as indifferent to the plight of "M.L.B.," a poor mother of two from Mississippi. When her parental rights were terminated, she wanted to appeal, but Mississippi would not let her because she could not afford a court fee of $2,352.36. The Supreme Court held that she had a constitutional right to appeal. But Justices Scalia and Thomas dissented, arguing that if M.L.B. didn't have the money, her children would have to be put up for adoption.

That sort of cruelty is a theme running through many Scalia-Thomas opinions. A Louisiana inmate sued after he was shackled and then punched and kicked by two prison guards while a supervisor looked on. The court ruled that the beating, which left the inmate with a swollen face, loosened teeth and a cracked dental plate, violated the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. But Justices Scalia and Thomas insisted that the Eighth Amendment was not violated by the "insignificant" harm the inmate suffered.

This year, the court heard the case of a man with a court appearance in rural Tennessee who was forced to either crawl out of his wheelchair and up to the second floor or be carried up by court officers he worried would drop him. The man crawled up once, but when he refused to do it again, he was arrested. The court ruled that Tennessee violated the Americans With Disabilities Act by not providing an accessible courtroom, but Justices Scalia and Thomas said it didn't have to.

If you get off on the idea of an America that looks a lot like a proto-Nazi Germany, go ahead and vote for the drooling, drooping moron who stole the presidency last time. If you're interested in anything resembling freedom, you'll vote for John Kerry.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

If They're Deploying Training Units, the Draft is Coming

The knowledgeable Phil Carter views with disbelief the dispatch of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment to Iraq:

The Los Angeles Times provides a long report in Sunday's paper on the deployment of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, dubbed "Blackhorse" for the stallion on its shoulder patch, to Iraq for a year of combat duty. The regiment has long served as as the opposing force, or "OPFOR", for units from other installations coming to train at the Army's National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. Now, with the Army stretched to practically its breaking point over the Iraq and Afghanistan missions, the Army has turned to the Blackhorse regiment for help.
...
The article misses the most important point: deploying the OPFOR is like eating your seed corn. This unit is responsible for training other units and raising their level of expertise and combat readiness. The 11th ACR is being replaced by a National Guard unit. That's like replacing the Dodgers with a high school baseball team. Sure, they can both play baseball and wear the uniform — but one is a whole lot more proficient and experienced at its job. The OPFOR has a reputation as a tough enemy, and that's a good thing because it forces units training at the NTC to become better themselves. By replacing this unit with National Guard troops, the Army has hurt its ability to produce good units for Iraq in the future. Suffice to say, National Guard and active units that go through Fort Irwin aren't going to get the same tough experience they would have with the Blackhorse regiment as OPFOR — and that means they'll be less ready for combat when they get to Iraq. This is a desperation measure, and I think the Army will come to regret it.

This is brutal proof of how badly Dubya's stupid, ill-advised, unnecessary war has damaged the military. While units in Iraq are beginning to mutiny, elite training units are sent in. To me this suggests very strongly that if Bush is reelected, there will be a draft, because he clearly has plans for Iran and possibly Syria.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Faith Based Bush

Ron Suskind has a piece in the NYT Magazine tomorrow that's necessary reading. Update: here's a link that doesn't require registration.

Bruce Bartlett, a domestic policy adviser to Ronald Reagan and a treasury official for the first President Bush, told me recently that ''if Bush wins, there will be a civil war in the Republican Party starting on Nov. 3.'' The nature of that conflict, as Bartlett sees it? Essentially, the same as the one raging across much of the world: a battle between modernists and fundamentalists, pragmatists and true believers, reason and religion.

''Just in the past few months,'' Bartlett said, ''I think a light has gone off for people who've spent time up close to Bush: that this instinct he's always talking about is this sort of weird, Messianic idea of what he thinks God has told him to do.'' Bartlett, a 53-year-old columnist and self-described libertarian Republican who has lately been a champion for traditional Republicans concerned about Bush's governance, went on to say: ''This is why George W. Bush is so clear-eyed about Al Qaeda and the Islamic fundamentalist enemy. He believes you have to kill them all. They can't be persuaded, that they're extremists, driven by a dark vision. He understands them, because he's just like them. . . .

''This is why he dispenses with people who confront him with inconvenient facts,'' Bartlett went on to say. ''He truly believes he's on a mission from God. Absolute faith like that overwhelms a need for analysis. The whole thing about faith is to believe things for which there is no empirical evidence.'' Bartlett paused, then said, ''But you can't run the world on faith.''


Forty democratic senators were gathered for a lunch in March just off the Senate floor. I was there as a guest speaker. Joe Biden was telling a story, a story about the president. ''I was in the Oval Office a few months after we swept into Baghdad,'' he began, ''and I was telling the president of my many concerns'' -- concerns about growing problems winning the peace, the explosive mix of Shiite and Sunni, the disbanding of the Iraqi Army and problems securing the oil fields. Bush, Biden recalled, just looked at him, unflappably sure that the United States was on the right course and that all was well. '''Mr. President,' I finally said, 'How can you be so sure when you know you don't know the facts?'''

Biden said that Bush stood up and put his hand on the senator's shoulder. ''My instincts,'' he said. ''My instincts.''

Biden paused and shook his head, recalling it all as the room grew quiet. ''I said, 'Mr. President, your instincts aren't good enough!'''

This is vital reading from the author of The Price of Loyalty. Pass it along to your friends as well.