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Thursday, October 28, 2004  
I see that optimism is high around the lefty blogs. No time for a bunch of links, but glance at this post from kos and the comments to this post to get an idea. Statements that there is "no way" Kerry will lose this or that swing state abound. Well, that kind of talk makes me mighty nervous.

Don't get me wrong, I am actually quite optimistic myself - I think Kerry's got a real shot, and I might just lose the twenty bucks I put on Bush last winter (a bet I will pay with a song in my heart).

But I remember a similar swell of optimism filling the leftward blogs as the 2002 midterms grew closer (captured neatly in this old Calpundit post). That one didn't work out too well, if I recall. Optimism gets you nothing but heartbreak, just ask any Red Sox fan.


Monday, October 25, 2004  
Thunderstruck, yet again. Once again I am in awe of the the depth of the raw blindness with which we entered this war:

Huge Cache of Explosives Vanished From Site in Iraq
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Oct. 24 - The Iraqi interim government has warned the United States and international nuclear inspectors that nearly 380 tons of powerful conventional explosives - used to demolish buildings, make missile warheads and detonate nuclear weapons - are missing from one of Iraq's most sensitive former military installations.

The huge facility, called Al Qaqaa, was supposed to be under American military control but is now a no man's land, still picked over by looters as recently as Sunday. United Nations weapons inspectors had monitored the explosives for many years, but White House and Pentagon officials acknowledge that the explosives vanished sometime after the American-led invasion last year.

The White House said President Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, was informed within the past month that the explosives were missing. It is unclear whether President Bush was informed. American officials have never publicly announced the disappearance, but beginning last week they answered questions about it posed by The New York Times and the CBS News program "60 Minutes."

Administration officials said Sunday that the Iraq Survey Group, the C.I.A. task force that searched for unconventional weapons, has been ordered to investigate the disappearance of the explosives.

American weapons experts say their immediate concern is that the explosives could be used in major bombing attacks against American or Iraqi forces: the explosives, mainly HMX and RDX, could produce bombs strong enough to shatter airplanes or tear apart buildings.

The bomb that brought down Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 used less than a pound of the same type of material, and larger amounts were apparently used in the bombing of a housing complex in November 2003 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and the blasts in a Moscow apartment complex in September 1999 that killed nearly 300 people.

The explosives could also be used to trigger a nuclear weapon, which was why international nuclear inspectors had kept a watch on the material, and even sealed and locked some of it. The other components of an atom bomb - the design and the radioactive fuel - are more difficult to obtain.

I don't have much to add, the story really does speak for itself. In their vanity and arrogance, the Bush war chiefs clung to the political expediencies of a light force, even when it became obvious that all the pre-war calculations were wrong. This facility was just left wide open. Even months after the risks presented by the insurgency were clear, nothing was done, no steps taken, just helpless shoulder shrugging, as these explosives made it into dozens of lethal roadside bombs. Just a massive terrorist's treasure hoard, forgotten in the middle of the desert. So forgotten that someone had sufficient time to run in and out with a convoy of heavy trucks, and cart off 380 tons of some of the most potent, concealable high explosive in the world. Experts say this may explain the extroardinary power of the roadside bombs that have been seen in Iraq. For a bit more perspective, the article quoted above points out that Pan Am Flight 103 was brought down over Lockerbie, Scotland with less than a pound of this type of explosive. There were 760,000 pounds looted from Al Qaqaa. Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings points to Juan Cole's blunt summary:
How bad a job Bush is doing is clear when we consider that we might well be relieved to know that this equipment went to Iran, since that means Bin Laden doesn't have it.

While remaining silent on this issue, the true believers at Redstate are trying to compensate by making a big deal out of this minor league gotcha story about Kerry at the UN (see Atrios for the shootdown). Sorry, fellas, but lethal malfeasance trumps semantic quibbling any day of the week. "But...but...he's got French hair! And he wants to gay-marry Saddam!" Yeah, yeah, go fuck yourself.


Tuesday, October 19, 2004  
It's all so clear to me now. Katherine of Obsidian Wings, in the comments to this post, in response to yet another back and forth about Iraq, kind of puts it all together:

I am so, so tired of arguing about this.

What makes it impossible is the inconsistency. The Iraq war is justified even though all Saddam did was lust for WMD in his heart, because after 9/11 we cannot wait until the threat is imminent or even real--but this does not apply to North Korea at all, and will apply to Iran only when the President tells us it applies. In Iraq, which had no nuclear program, we had to invade to prevent the smoking gun from being a mushroom cloud, but we won't need a draft because in Iran, which does have a nuclear program, bombing the reactor or letting Israel bomb the reactor will be sufficient. The war in Iraq was justified because Saddam Hussein used to pay $25,000 to Israeli suicide bombers, but are we going to invade Syria and Iran for supporting Hezbollah or help Israel crack down on the West Bank? Again, only if President Bush tells us to. We need to spend billions on a missile defense program that won't work, and hundreds of billions to invade Iraq to prevent WMD from getting to terrorists, but spending the same amount of money on securing loose nuclear material and weapons in the former Soviet USSR and elsewhere--weapons which actually exist, today!--is "throwing money at the problem." The only way to win the war on terror is to spread freedom, but Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and the torture memos and extraordinary rendition are justified or forgivable because we are at war. The Iraq war was needed because we had to get troops out of Saudi Arabia because they were inflaming hatred of the U.S.--but it doesn't matter that all available public opinion polls show that the Muslim world has turned against us because of the war; they already hate us as much as they possibly could. President Bush was justified in rejecting Muslim troops to aid in Iraq because we can't trust the Pakistani army because it is rife with Islamic extremism--but Iraq, where a dictator lusted in his heart for nuclear weapons, is more dangerous than Pakistan, which has nuclear weapons, participated in a nuclear black market, and has Islamic extremists with REAL ties to Al Qaeda in its army and nuclear programs, and so Bush was right to invade Iraq, and it is all right that he opted out of interviewing A.Q. Khan. We knew all along that the occupation of Iraq would be difficult so liberals should not panic about it now--and we'll just never answer the questions about what it says about Bush et. al that not only did they think they would be greeted as liberators and face no real insurgency, but they actually planned to turn the country over to Chalabi and leave in six months.*

The first principle--for both Bush, and too many of his supporters who should know better--is that the President cannot be wrong and can never have been wrong.

Well, it's an election year. But you guys had just better cut it out on November 4. He will never, ever, ever listen to any Democrat about the real dangers of nuclear proliferation. It will be on you to make him take it seriously, and you can't do it by pretending his record up to now has been perfect or even good.

What can I say? Amen, and good night! The post itself is excellent, and the rest of the comments are quite good from both sides, but Katherine's explosive summary crystallized it nicely for me.

*While Katherine's excellent comment had no cites (it was obviously a bit of a heated rant), it doesn't really need them, as none of her facts are disputed "tinfoil hat" material. The one exception is, perhaps, this last one ("they actually planned to turn the country over to Chalabi and leave in six months"). However, as noted here, here, and here, this last one looks like it's probably true, too.


Monday, October 18, 2004  
Jon Stewart among the savages. The Daily Show's Jon Stewart made a solo appearance (video link) on CNN's Crossfire last week, and while Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala expected to have a half hour of featherweight barbs about french hair and low IQ's, what they got was a direct, personal critique of the superficial and poisonous atmosphere created by the contemporary media, and the abysmal journalistic ethics that allow modern pundits and talking heads to perpetuate that atmosphere. Stewart was not only speaking generally, but was specifically accusing the two individuals seated at the table with him of being dangerous liars. "What you do is not honest," Stewart said. "What you do is partisan hackery."

Given the huge recent play that the media has given the entirely manufactured umbrage evinced by the Cheneys that John Kerry would mention the fact that their daughter, an out-of-the-closet, avowed lesbian is (gasp!) a lesbian, Stewart's comments are particularly relevant.*

In any case, I imagine this was the first time these two (or any of their ilk) have been confronted by such a relentless and unexpected attack on their home turf. Stung by Stewart's obvious dislike for both him and Begala, Carlson's plummy smirk grew strained, and Carlson himself became more and more peevish and juvenile. Eventually, Carlson whined that Stewart had been Kerry's "butt boy" because he asked Kerry softball questions during Kerry's recent appearance on "The Daily Show". Stewart responded:

You know, it's interesting to hear you talk about my responsibility. I didn't realize that -- and maybe this explains quite a bit -- that the news organizations look to Comedy Central for their cues on integrity . . . You're on CNN. The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls. What is wrong with you?

The transcript has been taken off of CNN's site, but its cached here. Don't bother, though - just watch the video. You really have to see it to understand how much Stewart was really not joking, and what a featherweight little asshole Tucker Carlson is (Begala's not much better, to be sure, but Carlson really seems like a arrogant prick).

*Yes, yes, I know, we do it too. For example, I don't think the Democrats have been too honest about the draft issue. I mean, the sponsor of the only real draft initiative out there is Charlie Rangel, for god's sake.


Wednesday, October 13, 2004  
We get letters! Yeah, I know, I was surprised, too. One reader has asked why I haven't written about the debates. Well, mainly because I only saw bits of them live, and the bulk of what I have seen since has been presented in the context of spin from one side or the other, so I can't honestly say what happened outside of what everyone else has said.

It seems pretty clear that Kerry helped himself quite a bit. I found it interesting that the characteristics that made Bush seem so uninformed and peevish are simply the flip side of Bush's greatest strength - his aura of complete certitude. When presented in a context of no contradiction (as in the so-called "major policy address" to a cheering hand-picked crowd that the Bush campaign rooked the networks into covering a week after the first debate) Bush seems almost visionary in his absolute conviction that his is the right, indeed the only path to success (in anything; the war, the economy, trade, whatever). When he is on the clock and taking strong right hand punches from an on-stage adversary, however, he seems deflated, unable to draw strength from breathing the fumes of his own righteousness. For Bush, unanimous adulation is like spinach to Popeye.

And seriously, I thought Bush was going to lunge at Charles Gibson at least twice.* What a touchy little tinfoil Napoleon is our President.

On a process note, Josh writes in to point out that the lyric I first posted under the picture of Johnny Cash is in fact from a Nine Inch Nails song which Cash covered on his last album American IV. Well, he's right, and since I'm not going to put a picture of this guy up on my site, I have changed the quote.

lastly, thoughtfully writes in to inform me about a new product to enhance various aspects of my anatomy. While I generally prefer correspondence discussing the contents of the site, it was quite thoughtful of Mr. Buggi to make sure I was aware of all the available options for "male enhancement." Thanks, Mr. B!

Use the link on the left, and keep the emails coming. Thanks for reading!

*Kerry apparently thought so too.


Monday, October 11, 2004  
On the other hand... Notwithstanding the angry tenor of today's other post, today is actually a banner day, and I am happy as a particularly happy clam. This afternoon my wife and I went to get a second sonogram (she's 35 weeks pregnant) and discovered that - it's a girl! And, she's big, healthy, normally proportioned, and currently riding in proper birth position! Sure, this has nothing to do with politics, but it's my site, and I'll do what I want!



Documenting the atrocities. Two particular standouts today.

FIRST, this from the LA Times:
The Bush administration will delay major assaults on rebel-held cities in Iraq until after U.S. elections in November, say administration officials, mindful that large-scale military offensives could affect the U.S. presidential race.

...."When this election's over, you'll see us move very vigorously," said one senior administration official involved in strategic planning, speaking on condition of anonymity.

....Any delay in pacifying Iraq's most troublesome cities, however, could alter the dynamics of a different election -- the one in January, when Iraqis are to elect members of a national assembly.

With only four months remaining, U.S. commanders are scrambling to enable voting in as many Iraqi cities as possible to shore up the poll's legitimacy.

U.S. officials point out that there have been no direct orders to commanders in the field to pause operations in the weeks before the Nov. 2 election. Top administration officials in Washington are simply reluctant to sign off on a major offensive in Iraq at the height of the political season.

As Kevin Drum points out, this is, um, somewhat at odds with Bush's swipes at Kerry during the debate:
What was it Bush said during last Friday's debate? Oh yeah: "I don't see how you can lead this country in a time of war, in a time of uncertainty, if you change your mind because of politics."

SECOND, I thought this was a joke when I first read it, but apparently it is for real:

NEW YORK — The conservative-leaning Sinclair Broadcast Group, whose television outlets reach nearly a quarter of the nation's homes with TV, is ordering its stations to preempt regular programming just days before the Nov. 2 election to air a film that attacks Sen. John F. Kerry's activism against the Vietnam War, network and station executives familiar with the plan said Friday.

Sinclair's programming plan, communicated to executives in recent days and coming in the thick of a close and intense presidential race, is highly unusual even in a political season that has been marked by media controversies.

That's not just some random public access baseball card trading show being pre-empted there, folks, that's 20 FOX, 19 WB, 6 UPN, 8 ABC, 3 CBS, and 4 NBC stations. Just to add a little more oomph, Sinclair's ownership is especially concentrated in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida. In other words, swing-state viewers tuning in to see the O.C. and CSI will instead be treated to a 90-minute swift-boat-vets style smear job accusing John Kerry of treason. Via Josh Marshall, we see that Reed Hunt, head of the FCC under Clinton, has filed a letter of protest with Sinclair management, but I don't expect Clinton credentials cut much ice with the hardcore loyalists who are in charge over there.

The program, it has been reported, will essentially allege that Kerry's activism after the Vietnam War extended that war by weakening the will on the homefront, and directly contributed to extending the torment of many U.S. POW's. On their website, Sinclair has put up this pugnacious and unapologetic statement on its website:
We welcome your comments regarding the upcoming special news event featuring the topic of Americans held as prisoners of war in Vietnam. The program has not been videotaped and the exact format of this unscripted event has not been finalized. Characterizations regarding the content are premature and are based on ill-informed sources.

Massachusetts Senator John Kerry has been invited to participate. You can urge him to appear by calling his Washington, D.C. campaign headquarters at
(202) 712-3000.

So . . . it's not a Kerry hitpiece, but we felt obligated to invite him to participate to cover our asses. Having done so, we can level every scurrilious bottom-scraping lie we can dredge up someone to mouth, and in response, we can say "Sen. Kerry declined to respond to these allegations," and spin it like an admission.

Sometimes, "fuck you" just doesn't cover it.


Tuesday, October 05, 2004  
Three quick hits from behind the eightball.
Item the first: George Soros has a blog. It's just getting started, and no fireworks so far, but who knows? Soros is an interesting figure, so it may be worth a look.

Item the second: I know, I know, this quicktime mashup of the Republican convention speakers has been linked everywhere, but it really is worth watching. It's funny. Until you realize it really isn't. (Via Atrios, but it's all over the place.)

Item the third: The Republican congress is about to overturn the United States' committment to the Convention Against Torture by permitting extradition of detainees to countries that allow torture, unless the detainees can prove conclusively that they will be tortured; an impossible standard given the extremely curtailed deportee review procedures. The Republicans are throwing this in the bill because they know that Democrats can't afford to get kneecapped over a principled stand like they did over the anti-labor provisions of the Department of Homeland Security bill in 2002.

This is, of course, disgusting.

Such torture by proxy (known as "extroardinary rendition") is a fundamental change in the US stance against torture, in the obvious sense that it means we are no longer against torture. This action utterly shatters our credibility in addressing such abuses anywhere in the world (to the extent we had any in the wake of Abu Ghraib), as we are now taking explicit actions to make it easier for our government to derive advantages from torture, by using the information obtained by the third-party torturers.

This makes our moral stances seem vain and self-serving, easily dismissed as a matter of distaste rather than conviction, driven by squeamishness or arrogance rather than belief that torture is simply evil. And, in the case of the vile shitbags that are pushing this bill, such criticism is absolutely fucking spot-on. This is an issue that must be debated and put before the people; instead, it is being rammed down the throat of a chickenshit Democratic delegation terrified of seeming anything less than true blue on national defense. Katherine at Obsidian Wings has been covering this issue in great depth, and she has resources for communicating with your legislators to express your opinion on this issue, should you choose to do so.


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