American Samizdat

Wednesday, March 31, 2004. *
this is not an April Fool's day joke...

Join tens of thousands of others across the country and world and wear a brown armband or ribbon to symbolize all the BS coming out of the White House.
posted by madamjujujive at 11:34 PM
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Japanese businessman, disturbed by landmine injuries, designs and donates three dozen mine-clearing vehicles to Asian and Latin American countries
"In 1995, Kiyoshi Amemiya, president of Yamanashi Hitachi Construction Machinery, set up a six-member project team within the company to begin the development of a mine clearing machine. The company is to ship the new machine to Afghanistan at the end of {March} and Amemiya is scheduled to visit the country in June to instruct Afghan mine clearers in using it.

An estimated five to seven million mines are scattered throughout Afghanistan, according to the United Nations -- while an estimated 110 million landmines are strewn in more than 70 countries, killing and maiming 20,000 each year.

"For Afghanistan, we made the blades strong enough to resist sand and rocks while in Nicaragua we had to adjust the blades so that they could work in mud."

The machine has a one-man cab, protected by special tempered glass but it can also be operated by remote control. After the mine explodes, the metal fragments are collected with a magnet. The machine can also plow the ground and even sprinkle fertilizer.

The mine clearer's reputation for doing its vital task well eventually reached the Indian Defense Ministry, which asked to buy it, with the US Defense Department also inquiring about it.

But Amemiya rejected both offers. "I have no business with the military," he said.

While searching for some supporting links, I found out about Kohei Minato's magnetic/electric motor, which consumes 20% of the energy needed by conventional motors.
posted by mr damon at 10:20 PM
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"No one died because of the abuses of power known as Watergate. Too many have died because of the abuses of power by this presidency."
"The short summary of what is really a thread that runs through [Worse than Watergate] is that when you have a presidency that has no regard for human life, that develops and implements all (not just national security) policy in secrecy, and is driven by political motives and a radical philosophy, it is impossible not to conclude that they will overreact -- and at the expense of our constitutional safeguards. Bush and Cheney enjoy using power to make and wield swords, not ploughs. They prefer to rule by fear. We've had three years to take the measure of these men. I've done so and reported what I found in a book I never planned to write, but because others were not talking about these issues, I believed they needed to be placed on the table.

"Bush and Cheney have exploited terrorism ever since 9/11. Now they are exploiting it to get reelected. Should there be an even more serious threat, they have found that when Americans are frightened they can be governed like sheep, which suits Bush and Cheney perfectly. Rather than taking the terror out of terrorism by educating and informing Americans, they have sought to make terrorism as frightening as possible -- using terrorism to launch a war of aggression that is breeding a new generation of terrorists and getting the Congress to pass the most repressive new laws imaginable and calling it an act of patriotism."

--John Dean, White House Counsel to Richard Nixon
posted by mr damon at 6:15 PM
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Liberal Talk Radio:
AirAmerica launches today
Here's their schedule:
  • 6 a.m.-9 a.m. -- "Morning Sedition"
    Marc Maron, Sue Ellicott and Mark Riley

  • 9 a.m.-Noon -- "Unfiltered"
    Lizz Winstead, Chuck D and Rachel Maddow

  • Noon-3 p.m. -- "The O'Franken Factor"
    Al Franken and Katherine Lanpher

  • 3 p.m.-7 p.m. -- "The Randi Rhodes Show"
    Randi's website provides daily links
    that can be used to fact check all
    claims she makes during her program.

  • 7 p.m.-8 p.m. -- "So What Else is News"
    Marty Kaplan

  • 8 p.m.-11 p.m. -- "The Majority Report"
    Janeane Garofalo and Sam Seder
The weekend lineup includes Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Mike Papatanio's "Champions of Justice," as well as some best-of compilations and other shows to be announced.
Here's how to get them:

     On the radio:
  • New York - WLIB 1190 AM
  • Los Angeles - KBLA 1580 AM
    (Reaches San Diego)
  • Chicago - WNTD 950 AM
  • Portland, OR - KPOJ 620 AM
  • Inland Empire, CA- KCAA 1050 AM
  • Minneapolis MN - WMNN 1330 AM
  • XM Satellite Radio - Channel 167
San Francisco, Boston, and Philadelphia are coming soon.

     On the Internet:
Note that the RealPlayer stream is getting maxxed out currently (good for AirAmerica, they are working on the problem), and so these other feeds can get around that problem. Also, RealPlayer seems to have a problem if you are trying to listen to two streams at once (e.g., Franken and Thom Hartmann, on during the same time slot), but the Liquid Compass stream allows this.
Listen in. These web streams work fine even with dial-up (though I wouldn't try the multiple stream trick without a high speed connection).
posted by Mischa Peyton at 3:07 PM
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No one wins here.
"The steadily deteriorating security situation in the Falluja area, west of Baghdad, has become so dangerous that no American soldiers or Iraqi security staff responded to the attack against the contractors. [Just read: "The four Americans killed in Fallujah were civilians who worked for a private company named Blackwater Security Consulting based in Moyock, North Carolina."]

There are a number of police stations in Falluja and a base of more than 4,000 marines nearby. But even while the two vehicles burned, sending plumes of inky smoke over the closed shops of the city, there were no ambulances, no fire engines and no security.

Instead, Falluja's streets were thick with men and boys and chaos."

There's nothing to celebrate, no one to blame or counterattack. This is simply a terrible manifestation -- a collision -- of exploitation and resentment, fear and distress. None of these people needed to put into this situation. This is a complete degradation of humanity, and I want people to see that this is a crisis to which we are all bound.

from Major Barbara's Arms and The Man:

"More than 15,000 contractors work in Iraq -- about one for every 10 U.S. soldiers, {the Brookings Institution's Peter} Singer estimated. "More than $20 billion, one-third of the U.S. Army's operating budget in Iraq and Afghanistan, goes toward contractors, he said.

""They are playing a whole range of mission-critical roles," Singer said. "That's in spite of our doctrine which says you don't turn over mission-critical roles to private contractors."

"The Pentagon does not track the exact number of contractors or their casualties. Singer estimates at least 30 have been killed in Iraq, and about 180 have been wounded. That total does not include missionaries or contractors handling reconstruction projects.

""They are very clearly going after civilian contractors, and today is absolutely tragic," said Singer. "It's chilling."
posted by mr damon at 10:29 AM
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President Bill Clinton's administration knew Rwanda was being engulfed by genocide in April 1994 but buried the information to justify its inaction, according to classified documents made available for the first time.

Senior officials privately used the word genocide within 16 days of the start of the killings, but chose not to do so publicly because the president had already decided not to intervene.

Intelligence reports obtained using the US Freedom of Information Act show the cabinet and almost certainly the president had been told of a planned "final solution to eliminate all Tutsis" before the slaughter reached its peak.

It took Hutu death squads three months from April 6 to murder an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus and at each stage accurate, detailed reports were reaching Washington's top policymakers.
posted by A.Q. at 10:12 AM
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"Two and a half years into the 'war on terror' it is apparent that the winners are the terrorists -- while Al Qaeda's finances are still intact, the US is running the highest budget deficit in history. What can be done? Start by treating terrorism for what it is: a global business. Force our Muslim allies to act immediately to curb terror funding and concentrate our efforts to hunt terror money in our countries, even if that implies putting under investigation the strongholds of Western capitalism: Wall Street, the City of London and the thousand offshore centres linked to them."

--Loretta Napoleoni is an economist who has worked for banks and international organizations in Europe and the US. She developed the idea to research and write a book on the economics of terrorism while interviewing the leaders of the Red Brigades. Napoleoni's latest book, published September 2003, is Modern Jihad: Tracing the Dollars Behind the Terror Networks

On April 19, I added:

"Despite the war on terror, the US government has turned a blind eye when big business has supported the enemy, according to the Sierra Club."
posted by mr damon at 9:22 AM
Anonymous Anonymous said...
same goes for cancer the drug war you name it, if there's money to be made than someone some ware (government or corporation)wants to keep making it happen.
4:54 PM  
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Tuesday, March 30, 2004. *
There is no "war on terror," says Mike Whitney. It's really "just a shabby public relations ploy to achieve an alternate political objective."
posted by Bill at 11:07 PM
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Today, gunboat diplomacy seems like a phrase from some antiquated imperial past (despite our thirteen aircraft carrier task forces that travel the world making "friendly" house calls from time to time). But if you stop thinking about literal gunboats and try to imagine how we carry out "armed diplomacy" -- and, as we all know, under the Bush administration the Pentagon has taken over much that might once have been labeled "diplomacy" -- then you can begin to conjure up our own twenty-first century version of gunboat diplomacy. But first, you have to consider exactly what the "platforms" are upon which we "export force," upon which we mount our "cannons."

What should immediately come to mind are our military bases, liberally scattered like so many vast immobile vessels over the lands of the Earth. This has been especially true since the neocons of the Bush administration grabbed the reins of power at the Pentagon and set about reconceiving basing policy globally; set about, that is, creating more "mobile" versions of the military base, ever more stripped down for action, ever closer to what they've come to call the "arc of instability," a vast swath of lands extending from the former Yugoslavia and the former SSRs of Eastern Europe down deep into Northern Africa and all the way to the Chinese border. These are areas that represent, not surprisingly, the future energy heartland of the planet. What the Pentagon refers to as its "lily pads" strategy is meant to encircle and nail down control of this vast set of interlocking regions -- the thought being that, if the occasion arises, the American frogs can leap agilely from one prepositioned pad to another, knocking off the "flies" as they go. [more]
posted by Bill at 3:31 PM
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There are nearly 150 dead zones across the globe, they are increasing, and they pose as big a threat to fish stocks as over-fishing, the United Nations Environment Program (Unep) said in its Global Environment Outlook Year Book 2003, released at a meeting of environment ministers in Korea.
posted by A.Q. at 1:17 PM
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Palestinians in Israel and the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip have marked the 28th anniversary of Land Day with renewed demands for equality and an end to Israel’s occupation.

Land Day marks the 1976 Israeli killing of six Palestinians in northern Israel as they protested the confiscation of large swathes of Arab land.

The Arab community in Israel has always been subjected to de-facto discrimination since the creation of Israel in 1948. They are in many respects subjected to the same discrimination and brutal treatment experienced by their brethren across the Green Line since 1967.

This includes excessive land confiscation, rampant home demolitions, violent repression of peaceful demonstrations and arbitrary arrests. According to the Israeli Arab Centre Musawa, the Israeli authorities demolished as many as 340 Arab homes throughout Israel in 2003 and another 72 in the Negev region and 269 in the Triangle and Galilee regions.

A few weeks ago, Israeli planes sprayed large areas of Arab crops with pesticide, a recurrent measure aimed at driving farmers away from their land.
posted by A.Q. at 12:13 PM
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Gun battles and bombings continued for a third straight day in the Uzbek capital Tashkent. [For background see the EurasiaNet insight archive]. The broad scope of the violence, the full extent of which is difficult to determine due to government press restrictions, suggests that the episode may be a home-grown insurgency, rather than a strike by international terrorists. Casualty figures for the clashes on March 30 were not immediately available, but it is clear that there are significant casualties among both insurgents and state security forces, along with civilians caught in the crossfire.

The government has claimed that Islamic radicals, with international terrorist connections, are behind the violence. Radical groups operating in Uzbekistan, including Hizb-ut-Tahrir, have not claimed responsibility. Scattered bits of information coming to light raise questions about an international terrorist connection, lending credence to the notion that the violence is a popular reaction to government repression.
posted by A.Q. at 11:41 AM
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Do they believe what they're suggesting?
"President Bush and Ms Rice said that her appearance would contravene the constitutional separation of powers. The offer has been made on condition that it would set no precedent."

What?! Man, as soon as she enters that hearing room, the precedent (for her and anyone else in the administration) will be set! This is like the posturing I'd watch first-graders pull in Seattle: "We're just playing a game right now, so we'll pretend that I'm doing this for you or that I'll treat you a certain way."

"Rice's Big Reversal"

"Just last week Condoleezza Rice told Sean Hannity that her decision not to testify in public before the committee was "not a matter of preference. It is a matter of long-standing constitutional principle." She repeated the claim two days ago on CBS 60 minutes. But her statements turned out to be false, with no basis in legal reality. Facing a political firestorm over her refusal, it is now the preference of the White House to have her testify publicly under oath -– and she will do so.

"Her appearance is "conditioned on the Bush administration receiving assurances in writing from the commission that such a step does not set a precedent." But, of course, obtaining such an assurance was always an option. Moreover, no [new] precedent will be set -- national security advisors have already appeared before Congress and the 9/11 commission is an independent committee, whose chairman was appointed by the President, not a congressional committee."

And then on Wednesday:

Fmr. FBI Translator: White House Had Intel On Possible Airplane Attack Pre-9/11

FBI informant revealed 9-11 plot in April 2001-- 2 D.C. agents filed report that al-Qaida planned suicide attacks involving planes

Senator demands hearings on translator crisis at FBI -- Leahy warns al-Qaida wiretaps piling up, asks bureau for full audit of backlogs
posted by mr damon at 10:48 AM
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posted by Dr. Menlo at 10:39 AM
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The View from Benedict

Dr. Richard Valelly of Swarthmore College, a Harvard-trained political scientist who is expert in American party politics and elections, has said, "In our elections, we don't count everything well. We have a lot of error." This, I think, is a key factor in our sometimes inability to communicate our eVoting concerns to elections officials (and others). The fact of the matter is that these people are in an environment where they have gotten used to significant error rates, and so when the new DRE machines suddenly produce similar or even lower error rates, that is OK because these officials are used to seeing these.

Yet this is not what computers do. Computers don't care if they add two numbers together or if they add two million numbers together. They don't get bored, they don't get tired, and, properly programmed, the don't make mistakes.

Some argue that it's "impossible" to write a "perfect program", but even if this is true (and I reject it), it is easy to get pretty close, especially if the application is not that complex. Are these people then arguing that voting is a complex process? Compared to what? Your bank's accounting system? Your stockbroker's? A missile guidance system? Voting is trivial in comparison to these, and yet all of these systems, if not quite perfect, work with remarkable accuracy. Why? Because we demand that they do.

This is what we need to convey to our election officials. That the introduction of full computer automation in the voting process is an opportunity to almost eliminate completely these error rates to which they have become accustomed. That indeed computers are capable of doing this, that voting computers will do this if we demand it of them, and that to fail to implement them with this as a goal would indeed be a great mistake.

[This editorial originally appeared on Black Box Notes.]

posted by Mischa Peyton at 8:42 AM
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From yesterday's Guardian. Excerpts:
Little noticed in the west as yet, the Bush administration's latest Middle East adventure has been making furious waves in the Arab world. Dubbed the Greater Middle East initiative, the plan aims to press democracy on one of the world's least democratic regions . . .

The initiative is a neo-conservative brainchild, a follow-up to the toppling of Saddam Hussein by force, and an effort to use his removal as the first in a line of Middle Eastern dominoes. The notion of pressing reform on the Arab world has wide support in Washington. As long as it is predicated on generational change which is accepted by Arab rulers themselves, rather than being hastily imposed by sanctions or military might, its fans include the secretary of state, Colin Powell, as well as Democratic party liberals such as John Kerry . . .

The rejectionist camp is led by Egypt and Saudi Arabia. "If we open the door completely before the people, there will be chaos," Mubarak put it recently. But these two states' leaders are being careful not to confront the United States outright. They claim to agree that domestic reforms are needed, but say these should be home-grown.

They put forward their own reform agendas with vague calls for people to have a greater say in running their political, social and economic affairs. It offers no specifics on opening up authoritarian political systems or women's rights, the two most glaring gaps in Arab public life.
Ah, yes .. . neoliberalism marches on, bolstered by the neoconservative "successes" in Afghanistan and Iraq.
posted by total at 7:20 AM
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Yeah, whenever Bush Party Loyalists like James Lileks spout on about how we're uh, giving Iraq FREEDOM (cue your own version of his flowery, flatuatory gusts of 'freedom' paens here replete with hyperlink nods to pro-ethnic cleansers like LGF) just remember stories like these about the US shutting down Iraqi papers. For what? For LIES? Hm, so by this standard wouldn't the New York Times itself be shut down for all it's shameless Chalabi tall-tales-passed-off-as-stories, it's Bush admin tall-tales-passed-off-as-stories, and so on? (Here Lileks trots out some photo of a protestor at some rally holding up a retarded sign--"See! See! This is the 'Peace Movement' right here! Let's just look at this, and expound upon this, and forget everything else shall we! Look, ma, verbal hula-hoos!")

Yea, what the fuck ever Jimmy.

id: drmenlo
password: samizdat

posted by Dr. Menlo at 12:24 AM
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Monday, March 29, 2004. *
Opposite ends of the soldiering spectrum:
Mercenaries and troops at medical risk
"Thousands of former soldiers and police officers from Britain, the US, Australia and South Africa are earning wages as high as 600 pounds a day to protect Western officials, oil company executives and construction firm bosses in Iraq."

"With the casualty toll ticking ever upward and troops stretched thin on the ground, the Bush administration is looking to mercenaries to help control Iraq. These soldiers-for-hire are veterans of some of the most repressive military forces in the world, including that of the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and South Africa's apartheid regime.

"The rate of growth in the security industry is phenomenal," said Deborah Avant, a professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University in Washington. "If you had asked a year ago whether there would be 15,000 private security in Iraq, everyone would have said you're nuts."

(The author notes that because these "agents" are employed by private firms, their injuries and deaths are not subject to release. The same could be said about their deployment and tactics.)

"In February, Blackwater USA, a North Carolina-based Pentagon contractor, began hiring former combat personnel in Chile, offering them up to $4,000 a month to guard oil wells in Iraq. The company flew the first batch of 60 former commandos to a training camp in North Carolina. These recruits will eventually wind up in Iraq where they will spend six months to a year.

"We scour the ends of the earth to find professionals -- the Chilean commandos are very, very professional and they fit within the Blackwater system," Gary Jackson, the president of Blackwater USA, told the Guardian."

I read this story about worldwide US troop deployment in Sunday's Plain Dealer: "The US has more than 150,000 soldiers and Marines either on combat or other high-risk duty in the far-flung tinderboxes of Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti and the Balkans. Overall, the US military has about 2.7 million active-duty and reserve troops with more than 400,000 of them deployed in various concentrations in 135 countries...

"A wholesale rotation is under way in Iraq, with 100,000-plus U.S. troops leaving while others are rolling in to replace them. As best can be determined the U.S. force in Iraq and environs in coming weeks will total at least 120,000. Unlike the current makeup, which consists overwhelmingly of active-duty GIs, the new force will comprise about 40 percent reserve and National Guard troops."

That last sentence hit me for some reason. Perhaps it was the story I had read in the Cleveland Free Times about the controversial deaths of two Ohio Guardsmen in December. Perhaps it reminded me of the restrained emotion and tears at a farewell dinner for a 40-some-year-old King County Metro driver who was about to ship out to Iraq in November. Or maybe it was a line I read somewhere about how the influx of so many unexperienced reservists could result in higher casualties.

In any case, as I searched for the Scripps story above, I found this one in the SeaTimes: "To meet the demand for troops in Iraq, the military has been deploying some National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers who aren't fit for combat. More than a dozen members of the Guard and reserves said they were shipped off to battle with little attention paid to their medical histories...

"How many soldiers are unfit is unclear. Each soldier interviewed said he or she knew of others who -- like themselves -- were sent to Iraq despite health problems ranging from allergies requiring refrigerated medications to heart disease.

[A medical command] memo said the problem was a "KEY medical issue" and went on to say, "Frankly, we are burning out a lot of time and effort on shipping back folks who never should have come in the first place. Also runs a high risk of damaging folks."

Also: "More than two dozen suicides by U.S. troops in Iraq, and hundreds of medical evacuations for psychiatric problems, have raised concerns about the mental health of soldiers in Operation Iraqi Freedom. An Army Medical Department after-action report obtained by UPI suggests that the Army sent some soldiers to war who were mentally unfit in the first place."

There are so many other ways in which human energy and material resources can be used... and so many human needs that go unmet. This situation in Iraq will not bring more peace or happiness or democracy into the world. We have to be the agents of such change.
posted by mr damon at 11:56 PM
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Iraqi journalists killed and threatened
from Al Jazeera
"On [Mar 29], a US military official said an investigation into the deaths [of two Al-Arabiya reporters] showed troops were responsible, but they had acted 'within the rules of engagement.'

US soldiers were aiming at a different car, a white Volvo that had driven through the checkpoint at high speed, the investigation said. Al-Arabiya's grey Kia car was 50 to 150 metres down the road, trying to turn when it was accidentally hit, the military said.

Al-Arabiya cameraman Ali Abd al-Aziz died on 18 March from a gunshot wound to the head. Correspondent Ali al-Khatib died from his wounds in hospital the next day. Both were Iraqis."

from Alternet
"While he was interviewing people at the scene, U.S. troops who had previously taken photographs of [Salah] Hassan at other events arrested him, took him to a police station, interrogated him and repeatedly accused the cameraman of knowing in advance about the bomb attack and of lying in wait to get footage. "I told them to review my tapes, that it was clear I had arrived thirty or forty minutes after the blast. They told me I was a liar," says Hassan.

From Baquba, Hassan says he was taken to the military base at Baghdad International Airport, held in a bathroom for two days, then flown hooded and bound to Tikrit. After two more days in another bathroom, he was loaded onto a five-truck convoy of detainees and shipped south to Abu Ghraib, a Saddam-built prison that now serves as the American military's main detention center and holds about 13,000 captives.

Once inside the sprawling prison, Hassan says, he was greeted by U.S. soldiers who sang "Happy Birthday" to him through his tight plastic hood, stripped him naked and addressed him only as "Al Jazeera," "boy" or "bitch." He was forced to stand hooded, bound and naked for eleven hours in the bitter autumn night air; when he fell, soldiers kicked his legs to get him up again. In the morning, Hassan says, he was made to wear a dirty red jumpsuit that was covered with someone else's fresh vomit, and interrogated by two Americans in civilian clothes. They made the usual accusations that Hassan and Al Jazeera were in cahoots with "terrorists."

While most Abu Ghraib prisoners are held in large barracks-like tents in open-air compounds surrounded by razor wire, Hassan says he was locked in a high-security isolation unit of tiny cells. Down the tier from him was an old woman who sobbed incessantly and a mentally deranged 13-year-old girl who would scream and shriek until the American guards released her into the hall, where she would run up and down; exhausted, she would eventually return to her cell voluntarily. Hassan says that all other prisoners in the unit, mostly men, were ordered to remain silent or risk being punished with denial of food, water and light."

from Reporters Without Borders
Reporters Without Borders has called on the US Army to open an immediate investigation into the death of Iraqi cameraman Bourhan Mohammad al-Louhaybi, who was shot in the head while working for the American ABC television network. The cameraman was killed while covering clashes between US forces and groups of armed Iraqis in Falluja, 50 kilometres west of Baghdad on 26 March.

ABC News confirmed the death of al-Louhaybi, 34, on its website. The cameraman had reportedly wanted to go on filming the clashes against the advice of some of his colleagues. Four other Iraqis were killed during the combat...

Elsewhere, the US weekly Time Magazine has confirmed the death of one of its Iraqi interpreters, Omar Hashim Kamal, who died in Baghdad on 26 March after being shot in circumstances that are still unclear."

Eight of 16 media professionals killed this (short) year lost their lives in Iraq. Most if not all were Iraqis who were documenting their country's U.S.-managed freedom/occupation. Will it be a surprise if resistance and anger toward Westerners increases, not just in Iraq, but in some of the places where the work of these reporters was distributed?
posted by mr damon at 9:55 PM
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"Protesters poured out of one school bus after another, piercing an otherwise quiet, peaceful Sunday in Rove's Palisades neighborhood in Northwest D.C., chanting, "Karl, Karl, come on out! See what the DREAM Act is all about!"

Rove obliged their first request and opened his door long enough to say, "Get off my property."

...After about 30 minutes of goading by protesters in English and Spanish, Rove agreed to meet with two members of the coalition [National People's Action] on the condition that the rest of the protesters board their buses and leave his street. The group obliged.

Rove opened his garage door and allowed Palacios and Inez Killingsworth to enter. The meeting lasted two minutes and ended with Rove closing the garage door on Palacios while she was still talking. Palacios said that Rove was "very upset" and was "yelling in our faces" and that Rove told them "he hoped we were proud to make his 14-year-old and 10-year-old cry." A White House spokesman said one of the children was a neighbor.

Palacios, trembling and in tears herself, said, "He is very offended because we dared to come here. We dared to come here because he dared to ignore us. I'm sorry we disturbed his children, but our children are disturbed every day.

"He also said, 'Don't ever dare to come back,' " Palacios said. "We will, if he continues to ignore us."
posted by mr damon at 3:52 PM
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Levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have jumped abruptly, raising fears that global warming may be accelerating out of control.

Measurements by US government scientists show that concentrations of the gas, the main cause of the climate exchange, rose by a record amount over the past 12 months. It is the third successive year in which they have increased sharply, marking an unprecedented triennial surge.

Scientists are at a loss to explain why the rapid rise has taken place, but fear that it could show the first signs that global warming is feeding on itself, with rising temperatures causing increases in carbon dioxide, which then go on to drive the thermometer even higher. That would be a deeply alarming development, suggesting that this self-reinforcing heating could spiral upwards beyond the reach of any attempts to combat it. [more]
posted by Dr. Menlo at 1:53 PM
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FBI documents about FBI surveillance of John Kerry in the early 1970s have been stolen, according to their owner, a historian who lives near San Francisco, California.

Gerald Nicosia, who spent more than a decade collecting the information, said three of 14 boxes of documents plus a number of loose folders containing hundreds of pages were stolen from his home Thursday afternoon.

Nicosia reported the theft Friday to the Twin Cities Police Department, which covers Larkspur and Corte Madera in Marin County, where he lives. The police report found no sign of forced entry.

"It was a very clean burglary. They didn't break any glass. They didn't take anything like cameras sitting by. It was a very professional job," Nicosia said.

"Was it a thrill-seeker who wanted a piece of history? It could be," Nicosia said. "You'd think there was a very strong political motivation for taking those files. The odds are in favor of that." [more]
posted by Dr. Menlo at 1:32 PM
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"Meet the Press" Transcript:
Richard Clarke
If you missed it, ... Don't!

[Back-Up Link]

Also available: 9/11 Commission Hearings
posted by Mischa Peyton at 1:07 PM
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Our only deliciously guilty evangelical trait is spreading the gospel of Brother Void, otherwise known to savvy connoisseurs of pop-internet-anti-self-help-gurus as Andrew Boyd of the adroit

Boyd recently dragged down from the mount this current post on why politics matters....

Visualizing the Worst Possible World—A Guided Meditation

    "Learn to hate your enemy well." --John Heartfield

Many of us are alienated from politics. It seems like a big ugly mess and you wonder why you should care. When you're feeling this way, it can help to visualize the worst possible world.

Identify the politician who represents the extreme opposite of what you believe. Now use your imagination to transform the world according to his agenda. Acknowledge any stunned disgust or violent repulsion that arises. Imagine your loved ones caught in such a nightmare. Deepen and accelerate these feelings until the full horror of what could befall everything you cherish appears plainly before you.

As you play out these monstrous visions of dystopia and apocalypse, cultivate a fine-grained hatred for the barbaric world your nemesis wishes to bring into being. Feel it seething around you, menacing you, as you wonder why you should care.

    "My enemy's monstrous nightmares remind me why politics matters."
posted by jon at 12:25 PM
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Sunday, March 28, 2004. *
"Afghanistan housed Al Qaeda, and thus it was crucial to attack the country. But that was less a case of a state's sponsoring a terror group and more one of a terror group's sponsoring a state. Consider the situation today. Al Qaeda has lost its base in Afghanistan, two thirds of its leaders have been captured or killed, its funds are being frozen. And yet terror attacks mount from Indonesia to Casablanca to Spain. "These attacks are not being directed by Al Qaeda. They are being inspired by it," the official told me. "I'm not even sure it makes sense to speak of Al Qaeda because it conveys the image of a single, if decentralized, group. In fact, these are all different, local groups that have in common only ideology and enemies."

"This is the new face of terror: dozens of local groups across the world connected by a global ideology. Next week [Fareed Zakaria] will explain how best to tackle this threat. But first we need to see it for what it is."

from MeFi
posted by mr damon at 3:04 PM
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From Black Box Notes:
The View from Benedict
After a week away from the black box circuit, Benedict returns to find his In-Box stuffed. Some personal comments on the discovery, and over three dozen new articles.
posted by Mischa Peyton at 1:44 PM
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eye on amsam 28 march 2004
Big thanks to new Harbingers!!! (in order of acceptance): Citizen Daryl of This Is The Shit, Joe Leftist of American Leftist, John Walz of Jon's Mind, Tim of Misplaced Aggression, and Damon Taylor of! Thank you all!
posted by Dr. Menlo at 1:22 PM
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Richard Clarke got the full hour with Tim Russert this morning, and I'm sure that many eyes from the administration were on this interview. If they weren't too happy yesterday, you can bet that their humor has not improved today. Clarke kicked some serious butt.
posted by Mischa Peyton at 7:05 AM
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Saturday, March 27, 2004. *
The central allegation - that Mr Bush was so obsessed with going after Saddam Hussein that he openly challenged his counter-terrorism adviser to find a link between September 11 and Iraq the day after the attacks took place - is serious.


The White House did not let a single news cycle go by before questioning that the alleged encounter between the president and Clarke had ever taken place, assigning dark motives to a man who has served four presidents, three of them Republicans.

  But you don't have to be Bob Woodward to check Clarke's story out. There were other witnesses to this meeting, one of whom spoke to me.

  "The conversation absolutely took place. I was there, but you can't name me," the witness said. "I was one of several people present. There was no doubt in anyone's mind that the president had Iraq on his mind, first and foremost."

  This former national security council official was too terrified to go on the record - he knows how vengeful this administration can be.

  He remembers the late night phone call former treasury secretary Paul O'Neill received just before he published The Price of Loyalty, his account of how the Bush White House set its sights on Iraq from day one. He was about to discover the price of disloyalty to this administration.
posted by Norm at 10:46 PM
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Big Bush Lies -- New Anti-Bush Book

Congratulations to the brilliant Jerry "Politex" Barrett of BushWatch fame, creator and editor of the soon to be published (May 1, 2004) Big Bush Lies: 20 Essays and a List of the 50 Most Telling Lies of George W. Bush. (Full Disclosure: I'm proud to be one of the book's 19 contributors, having used the lawyer side of my recovering lawyer brain, to write the education lies chapter.)

As you can see from Big Bush Lies' front and back covers, it features twenty original essays by academics, activists, legal experts, financial leaders, and journalists. The essays document Bush lies and inconsistencies about Iraq and WMD's, foreign policy, the environment, energy, health and science, religion, education, women and minority policies, national security, 9/11, campaign lies, and other topics.

I've posted links to all the contributors here.

posted by Mad Kane at 9:44 PM
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America is in danger of someday not being at war. Neo-conservatives have criticized the incoherent restrictions placed upon the ruling class by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They have also resisted civil libertarian and peacemaking impulses from within their own ranks. But neo-conservatives have not confidently advanced a strategic vision for corporate and military dominion over the world. They have not set forth guiding principles for shifting arguments. They have allowed differences over tactics to obscure potential agreement on crying havoc and let slip the dogs of war. And they have not fought for a Death Star that would enable America to destroy Alderaan and crush the Rebel Alliance once and for all. [more]

. . . via Wiley Wiggins
posted by Dr. Menlo at 6:20 PM
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Friday, March 26, 2004. *
No matter how reckless or lunatic their policies ...Chris Floyd:
"I have a strategy. You're not in it."
-- Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Operation Anal Cover began in 1981, after affable frontman Ronald Reagan and CIA headman George H.W. Bush took office. The Reagan-Bush team immediately began serious preparations for nuclear war with the Soviet Union, including a first-strike "decapitation" plan to take out the Kremlin leadership in one swift blow. Naturally, they feared the Red dastards were thinking along similar lines, hoping to turn the fabulous Ron into a little spot of hair dye and rouge on the Oval Office carpet.

Thus was born an elaborate scheme to set up a secret government, hidden in hardened bunkers, capable of waging war and controlling the civilian populace -- without any fussy bother from Congress or other elected representatives of the suckers out there. Instead, three separate teams of insiders were formed, each with a figurehead Cabinet member -- placemen like the Agriculture Secretary -- who would be "guided" by an all-powerful chief of staff. Dispersed around the country, the teams would use special communications links to rule the nation, for as long as the appointed ßber-chiefs saw fit.

No matter how reckless or lunatic their policies -- first strikes, illegal wars, targeted assassinations -- the bunkered elites will be safe from the burning and howling they provoke.
posted by Mischa Peyton at 8:20 AM
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Alan Bisbort:
Too Bad to Be True
Alan Bisbort finally solves the problem of why so many people (and the press) keep giving Bush the pass: the "Too Bad to Be True" syndrome. People simply can't believe anyone, or any government, could be this bad.
Bush is too bad to be true on EVERY SINGLE ISSUE. Or, rather, he is too bad to be believable but his badness is indeed true. Can you think of any on which he is not wretchedly bad?

Are you better off financially under Bush? Are you safer? Are your skies and waters and food supply cleaner, or even free of arsenic, mercury, carbon dioxide, carcinogens and mad cow disease prions? Are your civil liberties more secure? Are taxes even going down, the mantra that serves as the fig leaf for this obscene neo-conservative beast? Is there even a clearly defined vision for the next four years, let alone next four weeks or days, which we can examine?

No, to all of these things.

No, a thousand times over, in fact.

posted by Mischa Peyton at 6:43 AM
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Thursday, March 25, 2004. *
Mass hysteria is a phenomenon not confined to human beings; it may be seen in any gregarious species. I once saw a photograph of a large herd of wild elephants in Central Africa seeing an aeroplane for the first time, and all in a state of wild collective terror. The elephant, at most times, is a calm and sagacious beast, but this unprecidented phenomenon of a noisy, unknown animal in the sky had thrown the whole herd completely off its balance. Each separate animal was terrified, and its terror communicated itself to the others, causing a vast multiplication of panic. As, however, there were no journalists among them, the terror died down when the aeroplane was out of sight.
~ Bertrand Russell, 1951
posted by Mischa Peyton at 1:57 PM
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Burundi’s ethnic civil war is nearing a conclusion, according to the country’s president, Domitien Ndayizeye. Now entering its 11th year, the conflict has killed at least 300,000 people and forced more than 1 million to flee their homes.

Speaking to journalists in Paris on Jan. 16, Ndayizeye said his country has reached “the point of no return on the road to peace and security.” He heads a transitional, power-sharing government that comprises both the majority Hutu and the minority Tutsi people.
posted by A.Q. at 10:31 AM
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This AP report is worth reading in full to get an overall impression of just how much Iraqi "democracy" will be formulated under the auspices of American domination.
posted by Bill at 12:08 AM
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Wednesday, March 24, 2004. *
Chomsky . . .
now has a blog.
posted by New World at 7:25 PM
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American Family Voices:
 Daily Reality Check
Clarke Barred: Bush Team
Flubs Attack Response
As expected, the administration organized a rapid-fire assault on Clarke's character and credibility. But the Bush team has gone to the well one too many times with this type of ad hominem attack. The American public has watched it happen to former Ambassador Joseph Wilson when he spoke out against the yellowcake claim, former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill when he charged that the administration was putting too much focus on Iraq, and now Clarke. The pattern is clear: slime the opponent and wrap yourself in the American flag. At this point it is disturbingly obvious that the administration's quiver is out of arrows – Bush officials are reduced to making the talk show rounds armed only with the grownup equivalent of schoolyard taunts like, "I know you are, but what am I?"
posted by Mischa Peyton at 1:55 PM
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Howard Stern Presents:
Bad American Presidents: GWB
[ 1:14, 2.3 MB, MP3 ]
Here come those FCC fines again.
posted by Mischa Peyton at 1:40 PM
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Faltering Neo-Cons Still Dangerous
How They Might Influence the Election
By Bill Christison, Former CIA Analyst
Finally! A CIA analyst who agrees with
   me on who is and is not a Neocon!
To start with, let's spend a minute or two on definitions -- who's a neocon and who is not? Specifically, President George W. Bush and his very highest-level foreign policy advisers are not neocons. Bush himself, as well as Vice-President Richard Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, are all just plain conservatives and always have been, with nothing "neo" about them.
Of course, this article is not about re-affirming my beliefs about who the real Neocons are. But in recognizing them as he has, Christison is then free to connect the proper dots, and, to a quite great extent, they connect to Ariel Sharron's Lukid Party.
posted by Mischa Peyton at 1:27 PM
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Tuesday, March 23, 2004. *
What makes ex-USA Today reporter/fabulist Jack Kelley worse than other disgraced journalists is that he peddled the most divisive stereotypes imaginable -- and people believed him.

A Jewish settler named Avi Shapiro vows to eliminate the "sons of Arab whores." He dons his yarmulke and, along with 12 vigilantes, riddles a Palestinian taxi with bullets. A Pakistani youth unfurls a photo of the Sears Tower and sneers, like a villain in a Chuck Norris movie, "This one is mine."

Those are scenes that Jack Kelley, formerly a star reporter for USA Today (he quit in January), claimed to bear witness to in the Mideast. A devout Christian, he declared, "God has called me to proclaim truth." Last week his paper revealed him to be a fraud. That boy with dibs on the Sears Tower? Turns out he was a figment of Kelley's imagination. So was Avi Shapiro. Seven weeks into an ongoing investigation, it's clear that Kelley fabricated those characters and others in some of the world's least stable places, even writing scripts on his laptop computer so that his co-conspirators could help him fool fact-checkers.
posted by A.Q. at 10:30 AM
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Just this week Amnesty International said "this is not a situation where the central government has lost control. Men, women and children are being killed and villages are burnt and looted because the central government is allowing militias aligned to it to pursue what amounts to a strategy of forced displacement through the destruction of homes and livelihood of the farming populations of the region."
posted by A.Q. at 10:26 AM
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Israel's assassination of Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin reverberated Tuesday in Iraq as top Shiite clerics pledged allegiance to the Palestinians and angry Muslims took to the streets.

For excellent background on what this means to the US effort in Iraq, &c, please read this from Professor Juan Cole of the University of Michigan.
posted by A.Q. at 9:58 AM
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"The president's feet are not to touch the dirt."

Here's a pic via Counterspin Central:

What's that penned in on the side there giving Bush a wide berth--livestock? Oh, hah, no! That's the military! I wonder if they're allowed to get dirt on their shoes?

Bush is such a Macho Man, man! Tough guys don't walk on grass! Uh, except for the tough men and women actually doing the fighting and dying for the Carlyle Group--I mean, "Operation Iraqi Freedom"--they can walk on the grass, penned in at a safe distance from the King. Tough Kings Don't Walk On Grass!
posted by Dr. Menlo at 8:47 AM
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Monday, March 22, 2004. *
After more than 1 million votes went uncounted in the last presidential election, Athan Gibbs Sr. devoted his life to making sure voters in future elections would know their votes mattered.

The enterprising 57-year-old saw his invention of the TruVote vote-casting system as nothing less than the key to social justice and democracy in America.

As family members and business partners gathered at the TruVote office yesterday morning to mourn Mr. Gibbs' death, they vowed that his dream would not die with him.

Mr. Gibbs was killed about 10:30 a.m. Friday in a car crash on Interstate 65 near Eighth Avenue North as he drove from his north Nashville home to his downtown office at Tennessee State University's Business Incubation Center.

[ . . . ]

Mr. Gibbs was driven by his experiences growing up in Memphis in the 1950s and '60s, when minorities were struggling to exercise their right to vote. After a U.S. Commission on Civil Rights study of the 2000 presidential election showed that votes cast by African-Americans in Florida, a decisive state, were 10 times more likely to be rejected, Mr. Gibbs knew he had to take action. [more]
posted by Dr. Menlo at 10:40 PM
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Richard Clarke, who was counterterrorism coordinator for President Bill Clinton and President Bush, asserts in a new book that while neither president did enough to prevent the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Bush administration has undermined U.S. national security by using the attacks for political advantage and ignoring the threat of al Qaeda in order to invade Iraq.

Clarke, who has spent more than 30 years as a career civil servant in Republican and Democratic administrations, issues a highly critical assessment of the Bush White House in "Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror," which is being released today.
posted by A.Q. at 9:27 AM
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William Howell, 36, shot himself after following his wife around the yard with a handgun, according to the El Paso County Sheriff's Office. Howell served with the 10th Special Forces group in Iraq and returned to Fort Carson last month, according to the Army.

Another soldier who was attached to that unit in Iraq, Staff Sgt. Georg-Andreas Pogany, has claimed that the 10th Special Forces Group ignored him when he sought help with mental problems there, and then charged him with cowardice instead. Pogany, 32, also says the Army is ignoring the side effects of an anti-malaria drug called Lariam he took with the Special Forces, which has been linked to mental problems, aggression and suicides. [more]
posted by Dr. Menlo at 7:57 AM
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He said: "There was no reason for us to become involved in Iraq recently. That was a war based on lies and misinterpretations from London and from Washington, claiming falsely that Saddam Hussein was responsible for [the] 9/11 attacks, claiming falsely that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. And I think that President Bush and Prime Minister Blair probably knew that many of the allegations were based on uncertain intelligence ... a decision was made to go to war [then people said] 'Let's find a reason to do so'."

Before the war Mr Carter made clear his opposition to a unilateral attack and said the US did not have the authority to create a "Pax Americana". During his Nobel prize acceptance speech in December 2002 he warned of the danger of "uncontrollable violence" if countries sought to resolve problems without United Nations input.

His latest comments, made during an interview at the Carter Center in Atlanta, are notable for their condemnation of the two serving leaders. It is extremely rare for a former US president to criticize an incumbent, or a British prime minister. Mr Carter's comments will add to the mounting pressure on Mr Bush and Mr Blair. [more]
posted by Dr. Menlo at 7:44 AM
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Scientists have produced the first comprehensive evidence that the diversity of butterflies, birds and plants is in decline in the UK. They say their research supports the argument that mass extinction threatens life on Earth.

In the past 20 years, according to a study in the US journal Science today, about 70% of all butterfly species in Britain have shown signs of decline. About 28% of plant species and 54% of bird species also declined in areas studied over long periods. The finding comes from government-funded scientists using data painstakingly amassed over the past 40 years by 20,000 skilled naturalists .

Sandra Knapp, a botanist at the Natural History Museum, said the UK survey gave a crucial message for the world: "The lesson and the warning are there for all to see. Britain, by virtue of its well-known and well-studied biodiversity, is the canary for the rest of the globe.

"This adds enormous strength to the hypothesis that the world is approaching its sixth major extinction event," said Jeremy Thomas of the Natural Environment Research Council, who led the study of butterfly populations. "The others appear to have been cosmic events, either from outer space coming in or some major perturbation - volcanos, whatever - within the Earth. So they are believed to be physical events.

"You could say this latest one is an organic event: that one form of life has become so dominant on Earth that through its over-exploitation and its wastes, it eats, destroys, or poisons the others." [more]

posted by Dr. Menlo at 7:31 AM
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Sunday, March 21, 2004. *
Yassin was by far the most senior Palestinian militant killed in more than three years of Israeli-Palestinian fighting. Since September 2000, 474 people — the majority of them Israelis — have been killed in 112 Palestinian suicide bombings. [more]

I would like to point your attention here not to any more details or comments on Yassin, Hamas, or Israel's official policy of murdering people it doesn't like--with reason or no--and the civilians that happen to be in the way, or even on the Hamas strategy of suicide bombing (which of course I emphatically condemn), but to a rather obvious omission that this paragraph begs: in this three years of Intifada, how many Palestinians were killed?

I see this a lot, it seems. The media--American, at least--will report the number of Israelis that were killed since Intifida, but most of the time the number of Palestinians killed in the same time period will go wholly unmentioned.

Well, I'll tell you. I'll give you the other half of the bookends to the number of 474 fatalities suffered on the Israeli side: according to the Palestine Red Crescent Society, as of this writing,

the total number of Palestinian deaths in West Bank & Gaza since Sept 29th, 2000 is: 2,780.

I think--what with my rather elementary grasp of the basic concepts of 'formal journalism'--that if you are going to mention the total casualties of one side in a war, that it is really only perfunctory, it would seem, that you also mention the casualties on the other side . . . don't you think?

Does only one side suffer in a war?

And here, dear reader, I would like to plead with you two things (and I am only addressing the compassionate among you): whenever you see any reports of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine in the media, I beseech you to look for two things:

1) When the number of Israeli deaths since Intifada are given, are the numbers for Palestinian deaths also given?

2) Since Intifada, how much land have the Israelis stolen from the Palestinians? And to be fair: how much land have the Palestinians stolen from Israel?
posted by Dr. Menlo at 10:01 PM
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Legendary reporter Carl Bernstein said he is deeply troubled by "the triumph of idiot culture" and put most of the blame on modern media outlets.
posted by m at 3:51 PM
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Washington Post - Letter to the Editor:
Smear on a Soldier for the Truth
Karen Kwiatkowski bitch slaps George Will for playing fast and loose in quoting her. (Here's George's article.)
Had Will bothered to read what I wrote, he would have recognized that I was listing one of many reported criticisms circulating in 2002. Also, Will -- by inserting his own words in a discussion of my writings -- intends to communicate that I am anti-Semitic. Will's abominable phrase, "those E-Ring Jews," is placed such that it seems as if I either wrote such a term or intended to. I did neither. Suggesting this is a vile, despicable smear.

I understand that my speaking out about what I saw in the Pentagon during the run-up to the Iraq war is disconcerting to people who support the Bush administration's foreign policy. I expected to be questioned on the merit and detail of my observations and memories. Surprisingly, not one defender or advocate of our actions in Iraq and associated propaganda has done that. Instead, people so in love with war without having spent a single minute in a military uniform attack me for standing up to be counted. Vituperative? Try cowardly.

Bad Georgie!
posted by Mischa Peyton at 1:26 PM
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Saturday, March 20, 2004. *

You're not going to believe what happened to this voter from SanDiego!

I signed in, cast my vote and gave them the card back. Before taking off to work, I asked the woman how safe this new voting system was. She said "Oh it's REALLY safe! Your vote goes into a microchip and is stored with all the other votes and then at the end of the day, we bring all the microchips to the sheriffs department and they gather them and bring them to the Registrar in San Diego". "But what about a paper trail? Is there a hard copy somewhere?" Said I. "Oh Yes!" She said, "There's a printer inside each machine that records the vote of each and every person on a strip of paper!" I guess I looked a bit skeptical because she said "Here! Let me show you!"

We walked over to one of the machines and she opened a little door in the front and there was the printer.... with NO PAPER." "GASP!" she says and then quickly moves to the next machine... no paper in the printer.

This is INCREDIBLE! As minimal an audit as these printers provide, it is the only hardcopy audit that these eVote machines provide. As such, these machines should be programmed to not even work without a functional printer with paper! [Yes, it is not only possible to program these machines to do this, it is a trivial couple of lines of code.]

O.K., but what does all this mean? Well, I downloaded the election procedures manual for San Diego County [133 pages, 12 MB, .PDF], and the "zero-sum" check (making sure that the PCM card that stores the votes is set to zero) required prior to the openning of polls can be done on the eVote screen itself. This differs from the Maryland procedure reported by Avi Rubin, where the zero-sum check is actually checked on the print-out from each terminal. Per the SanDiego elections manual, this screen check is sufficient, and clearly, this is why these San Diego poll workers were not aware that their machines did not in fact have any paper loaded in them.

But (and this is critical), according to San Diego's shut-down procedures (page 82 of the .PDF):

It is critical that three items are available for you to hand directly to the Collection Center staff:
  1. The sealed Official Ballot Pouch which contains the Zero & Summary Reports, the Ballot Memory Cards, Certification of Votes, & the Supervisor Cards.
In other words, for at least two eVote terminals from this precinct in San Diego, there was no zero-sum report produced, and what little audit that report provides was simply not available.

It is of course important to note that this voter only saw two eVote terminals, both without paper. But one must wonder: How many of the eVote terminals in San Diego did not have paper in their printers? It's almost rediculous to suggest that that this voter who witnessed only two saw the only two that did not have it.

What this all means of course is that even the most minimal audit checks in the San Diego primary vote were not performed. That this was not reported reaks of cover-up.

Look, I understand that no voting supervisor wants a spotlight on them like Teresa LaPore had back in 2000. But to gloss over eVote failures such as this merely to avoid that is a violation of the public trust.

This was a mistake, and nothing more than that. But it is important that all election officials around the country are aware of this problem. This is nothing that procedures cannot handle, and nothing that a sinple coding change cannot prevent. But our election officials need to be honest about the problems they have individually had so that all of them can mutually benefit from each of their own individual experiences. This cover-up is a disgrace to that.

This article originally appeared on Black Box Notes.

posted by Mischa Peyton at 5:53 PM
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The American public deserved — and deserves — to know more about the meaning and the effect of the president co-opting 9/11 and co-opting the patriotic, broad-based interest in responding to those terrorists through a War on Terror.

The reason Americans haven't understood the politically-motivated agenda has a lot to do with how they get their news. Public ignorance of what lies inside Bush’s Trojan Horse — his War on Terror — has a lot to do with how the U.S. media cover the presidency.
posted by Mike at 5:16 PM
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One Year Later, We Are All Victims of Bu$hCo's Groupthink
To set the stage, read this editorial, published in Sept. 2002, just months before the ill-fated war began.

Janis listed these as basic groupthink symptoms:

a.. illusions of invulnerability leading to the taking of extreme risks;

b.. collective efforts to rationalize, leading decision-makers to discount warnings that might otherwise force them to reconsider;

c.. stereotyped views of enemy leaders as too evil to warrant genuine attempts to negotiate, and as too weak or stupid to counter an attack against them, leading to miscalculations;

d.. an unquestioned belief in the group's inherent morality, inclining group members to ignore the ethical or moral consequences of their decisions;

e.. advocates of the consensus view, putting pressure on those who express strong arguments against any of the group's commitments, making clear that dissent is contrary to what is expected of all loyal members;

f.. self-appointed mind guards emerging to protect the group from advice, information and views that might shatter the shared complacency about the effectiveness or morality of their decisions;

g.. self-censorship by people with views deviating from the apparent group consensus, creating an illusion of unanimity within the group.

After reading Suskind's book on Paul O'Niell's tenure as Treasury Secretary, The Price of Loyalty, I've become more convinced than ever that these groupthink symptoms characterize the Bu$hCo inner-circle, and very much characterized their approach to Iraq. Like O'Niell, I tend to view the process used in complex decision-making to be integral to the ultimate outcome. While a poor process may not guarantee disaster, it sure makes disaster (or short of that, a less-than-optimal outcome) more likely. One key to making sound decisions is to have as much relevant information as possible, and to include enough people representing a variety of perspectives to hash out that information and that information's implications. While that process may be a bit more time-consuming, and a bit more uncomfortable for all players involved (debate challenging one's pet assumptions can have that tendency), the resulting decision will be one that is empirically-driven as opposed to ideologically-driven. To me that distinction is critical. The former type of decision is likely to be one in which the players on the group have compromised and in which they have charted out a careful, cautious course of action. The latter type of decision, driven by ideology, is likely to be more extreme and more risky. The players are likely to be more confident in their outcome, although their confidence is likely more delusional.

So what happened a year ago? We saw an ideologically-driven decision put into play. The closest thing that Bu$hCo had to a genuine dissident, Colin Powell, probably engaged in a great deal of self-censorship (which has hurt his credibility in the war's aftermath), the group's mind guards (Cheney? Rove? Rumsfield?) have filtered out information contradictory to their pre-ordained conclusions, in which they have framed themselves as the forces of "good" and Hussein as "evil, stupid, and corrupt", in which they were extremely confident in the end result of their plan (the Iraqis would throw flowers to US soldiers; we'd be in and out in 60 days; ad nauseum), and in which dissidents were portrayed as disloyal, and in which the group discounted the warning signs that their plan would not go as planned.

What happened? Over 570 dead troops and thousands of injured troops along with the countless Iraqi civilians who've been killed and injured later, there's nothing tangible to show for the war and occupation. The WMDs are not to be found, and what we've read and heard from the intelligence community indicates that the scope of any WMD programs or actual WMDs was actually quite in doubt. Not only that, but any link between Hussein and terrorist groups has proven to be quite spurious (again as I understand it, that's something that the intelligence types were aware of, and which was roundly discounted by BU$hCo). The situation in Iraq is far from stable, contrary to last spring's hype. Certainly there have been some improvements, although much of those improvements have been limited to a small extremely affluent sub-set of Iraqis. Dissidents - both within the US and among the international community - rather than eat crow have instead been vindicated. The fall-out continues. Bu$hCo allies in Germany, Spain, and South Korea have been dealt set-backs and dissenters have seen their political fortunes rise. The US has become increasingly isolated in the international community. We're even seeing cracks in the once unified front at Bu$hCo, as the miserable failure in Iraq has become increasingly obvious, and those left trying to toe the line become self-parodies.

Those who marched on the streets of major cities worldwide, who voiced our dissent with our bodies, words, prayers, and so forth, can take some cold comfort in knowing that we were indeed right to call on Bush and Blair to stop the madness and let the UN weapons inspectors complete their work. I say cold comfort because the loss of life, limb and treasure has been entirely unacceptable.

The Iraq war will go down in history among other groupthink policy disasters: The Bay of Pigs (Kennedy), the escalation of the Vietnam War in the mid-1960s (Johnson), along with failures to read correctly the intelligence data regarding Japan (FDR) and potential Chinese involvement in the Korean war (Truman).

I'll have more to say on how to handle complex decisions, such as the ones comprising foreign policy, later. Suffice it to say, the short answer is this: look at the process used by Bu$hCo, and do the opposite.
posted by Don Durito at 3:29 PM
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Friday, March 19, 2004. *
The official merchandise Web site for President George W. Bush's re-election campaign has sold clothing made in Burma, whose goods were banned by Bush from the U.S. last year to punish its military dictatorship. [more]
posted by Dr. Menlo at 7:57 PM
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What are blogs good for?
tobias has a great post up about blogging. I don't take issue with the thesis of the post, but there's something there that I've been thinking about:

Blogs tend to not express or reflect on political action, taken or organised by the blogger; rather, the act of writing the blog is considered to be political and active in itself. Blogs are not reports. This is not a new position--it is the turf of the political writer (Voltaire, Rousseau, etc.).

This does indeed seem to be the position taken by many, probably most, political bloggers. However, I doubt that blogging is a particularly effective political act.

What has changed since the times of pamphlets is not just the speed of publication, but also the amount of information. I don't really see the web as a very effective tool for propaganda and persuasion, except for perhaps the very most popular of web sites.

I don't think indy Media or American Samizdat are going to win a lot of people over to progressive causes. Nor do I think Little Green Footballs is going to lure a lot of people over to neo-conservative views. But, what American Samizdat can do is serve as a medium for communication between "the converted." It's a great place to share information. The blogosphere in general serves as a way to share ideas and discuss them, but is limited to a fairly small audience. The real work of activism must come from other activities, and blogging is not an effective political act, and shouldn't kid ourselves about it. That doesn't make it any less worthwhile.

Did the Dean blog or Meetup really serve as ways to recruit new people to the Dean campaign? Maybe a few, but I think the real recruitment happened in the streets and in the big media. What meetup and the blogs did was organize, solidify, and inform the group. That is what blogs and the web in general are good for.
posted by Klintron at 11:20 AM
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Off the hook
Why do we label people who hate homosexuals "homophobic"? Doesn't that let them off the hook a little? Implying they don't hate homosexuals, they're just afraid of them. I can understand people being a little afraid of people who are different from them, who they don't understand. Being afraid implies ignorance. Hate is something else entirely. Maybe haters are phobes also, but not all people who are afraid hate. So what should be the proper nomenclature for people who hate homosexuals?
posted by Klintron at 11:17 AM
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Question authority says who?
This is a post in reference to this post and this article.

Although Vice has come out and said that the "hipster conservative movement" was a hoax, there are plenty of other examples of this trend. For instance, look at the Suicide Girls blog.

I went to Evergreen State College, one of the most left-wing schools in the nation, and also incidentally, the highest rated school in the Hipster Handbook. Before I went there, I spent 5 years living in Wyoming, one of the most conservative states in the nation. I was right out of high school and full of rebellion. Naturally, living in Wyoming I took on a left-anarchist way of thinking. But when I got out to Evergreen, and was surrounded by liberals, I couldn?t help but notice that a lot of these people were un-thinking liberals in the same way I?d been exposed to so many unthinking right-wingers. So I began to lean more to the right, though I tended more to the libertarian right than the neo-conservative right.

But eventually, with enough reading and enough travel back and forth between Olympia and Wyoming, settled into a progressive/social democratic way of thinking. And while I'm constantly interested in challenging my own views and thinking about different approaches to achieving liberal political goals, I definently identify as liberal.

Anyway, in my last year at Evergreen I definitely noticed some of the younger students falling into the same way of thinking I did when I first came out there: feeling that there was a lot of intellectually lazy leftists out there, and sort of rebelling against the same tendency. In McInnes's essay he says:

More than ever, there were young people responding with favor to a predominantly right-wing discussion. . . These were a new group of kids sick of how "intellectually lazy" (to quote the Hipublicans) the Left had become. They weren?t necessarily for invading Iraq. They just wanted to discuss the pros and cons in a rational and calm forum, without the liberal hyperbole of their peers. I felt like Dr. Frankenstein?"It's alive! IT'S ALIVE!"

Now McInnes is claiming all this to be a hoax, but it wouldn't surprise me much to see a large conservative movement within the youth culture, especially in areas like New York City and the Bay Area where progressive ideology reigns supreme. And I've thought for a while that right-wing libertarianism would become the dominate youth-culture politics. Essentially it's an anti-authoritarian political philosophy that still let's kids consume all they want and not feel bad about it. It's the market at work, right?

Of course I don't believe that libertarianism is about shunning responsibility. Quite the opposite. But it could very easily be interpreted that way, and it could very easily be used as an excuse by the young as a means to justify their every materialistic whim. And another disclaimer: I don't think that there's any reason why we should expect rebelious youth to become liberals instead of libertarians in the first place. I don't mean to suggest that everyone one thinks things through will end up being a social democrat or anything.

(more coming sometime about the racism aspect of all this)
posted by Klintron at 11:15 AM
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... led by fundamentalist sons of two financially linked elitist clans.Chris Floyd:
Now [the British Guantanimo detainees are] free, as the Regime flushes the most embarrassing cases out of the system before the Supreme Court rules on the "legality" of the Bush gulag this summer. The treatment of these three innocent men, chained and beaten for two years, is not just a crime, but also -- like that other crime, the invasion of Iraq -- an enormous waste of time and resources in the "war on terrorism." We saw the grim fruit of this waste in Madrid last week.

But of course, the Pentagon Archipelago wasn't designed to fight terrorism; it's designed to advance terrorism -- state terrorism. Its purpose is to establish the principle of arbitrary rule -- in the name of "military necessity" -- above the rule of law, in America and around the world. It's part of an overarching system of terror -- aggressive war, assassination, indefinite detention, torture -- employed to achieve the Regime's openly stated ideological goal: "full-spectrum dominance" of global politics and resources, particularly energy resources. Al-Qaida has the same goal, and uses the same methods, albeit on a smaller, "asymmetrical" scale.

Now we are all at the mercy of these entwined terrorist factions -- both led by fundamentalist sons of two financially linked elitist clans. We will see more Guananamos, more Madrids, before this long, dark night is over.
posted by Mischa Peyton at 6:38 AM
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Thursday, March 18, 2004. *
The American apparat of the far right can be viewed as a variant of the Soviet model - amorphous in overlapping functions at the top but monolithic in its aims. It is an external government that guides the federal government. In a stunning sense, it is counter-revolutionary and anti-Constitutional. [more]
posted by Bill at 10:29 PM
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Thanks Michael
posted by Klintron at 8:58 PM
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About 6,000 interviews were carried out in total, half in Autumn last year and half this Spring, in a project run by Oxford Research International.

Seventy per cent of people said that things were going well or quite well in their lives, while only 29% felt things were bad.

And 56% said that things were better now than they were before the war.
posted by A.Q. at 3:49 PM
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"Where are the leaders of our country?"
The Courage to Do What's Right for America
This is an awesome video (11:40, streamed) from the Kerry campaign. Sure, it's a "best light" video, but if he can carry this type of stuff through to the election, BushCo will have to steal it again.

Windows MediaReal Player
posted by Mischa Peyton at 1:07 PM
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WARSAW (AFP) - Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski said that his country had been "taken for a ride" about the alleged existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

"That they deceived us about the weapons of mass destruction, that's true. We were taken for a ride," Kawsniewski said Thursday.

He argued however that it made no sense to pull US-led coalition troops out of Iraq.

Poland heads up a 9,000-strong multinational force patrolling a swathe of Iraq south of Baghdad.

posted by Mischa Peyton at 12:14 PM
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Examples of Baghdad Graffitti

And underneath is written:



And underneath is written:

And underneath is written:

posted by A.Q. at 11:00 AM
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So didn't Kerry recently challenge Bush to monthly debates? And hasn't Bush, so far as I know, refused said debates like a cowardly dog? So would Bush acting like the cowardly dog that he is . . . would that also be a 'taste of the Bush campaign'?
posted by Dr. Menlo at 8:10 AM
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April 1, 2004:
Are you embarrassed by the arrogance, greed, shortsightedness, selfishness, and outright lies told by George W. Bush?

Join tens of thousands of others across the country and world and wear a brown armband or ribbon to symbolize all the BS coming out of the White House.

posted by Mischa Peyton at 8:07 AM
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From the web resource "Iraq On The Record: The Bush Administration's Public Statements On Iraq", presented By Rep. Henry Waxman:
The Iraq on the Record Report, prepared at the request of Rep. Henry A. Waxman, is a comprehensive examination of the statements made by the five Administration officials most responsible for providing public information and shaping public opinion on Iraq: President George W. Bush, Vice President Richard Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.

This database identifies 237 specific misleading statements about the threat posed by Iraq made by these five officials in 125 public appearances in the time leading up to and after the commencement of hostilities in Iraq. The search options on the left can be used to find statements by any combination of speaker, subject, keyword, or date.
posted by m at 7:48 AM
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Wednesday, March 17, 2004. *
Mr Bush knew that the Medicare bill strongarmed through Congress would cost more than the GOP sponsors let on, more than a billion dollars more than the 395 billion dollar price tag it was touted as costing. He was aware that 14 conservative Republicans would vote against the bill if it cost over 400 billion dollars over the next 10 years. So he lied to his own party as well as the rest of Americans. The bill passed 220 to 215 amid allegations of Republican vote buying, 54 to 44 in the Senate.

The Whitehouse threatened to fire it's own Medicare actuary, Richard Foster, if he told the truth that his figures showed the program to cost 551 billion. documents this all this underhandedness.

On January 30th Scott McCllelan, in light of what we know now, lied about what the President knew, and when.
Q Scott, to follow on that, are you telling us, on the day the President signed it and presented it to the American people, made it law, he either thought it was going to cost $400 billion over 10 years, or he didn't know how much it was going to cost and he didn't care?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, the President -- in fact, you just heard from the President -- we've been going through our budget process; the budget will be released on Monday. The President was briefed just, I believe it was two weeks ago today when he was briefed on this aspect of the budget and was informed about the new -- or I guess this was the first estimate -- that we put forward the estimate that the HHS actuaries came up with in that budget process.
emphasis mine

The fellow that Richard Foster said threatened to fire him, Tom Scully, left his position a week after the Medicare bill he helped craft was passed; to join the healthcare lobbying firm Alston and Bird. HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson supplied Scully with a code of ethics waiver (askance Federal regulations and Health and Human Services code) in May 2003 to negotiate with healthcare related firms, firms with "substantial interests in matters pending" concerning Scully's post as Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Federal agencies have been ordered to stop issueing ethics waivers in light of this case. Now only the White House can approve such waivers.

Representitive Billy Tauzin, who wrote the Medicare bill reportedly recieved a 2 million dollar job offer from PhRMA the lobbying giant for the pharmaceutical industry.

In the 2000 election cycle Republicans gleaned 69 percent of pharmaceutical industry connected giving totaling 26,707,861 dollars. 2002's election cycle saw 29,366,851 dollars contributed, 74 percent to Republicans. So far in 2004 $6,246,964 dollars have been contributed, 67percent to Republicans.


But it gets worse. The Federal Government supplied news outlets with tapes purporting to show reporters Karen Ryan
and in the spanish language version Alberto Garcia heaping praise on the new Medicare law. The trouble is, they are paid actors reading government scripts, not journalists. A couple of the videos end with a woman's saying "In Washington, I'm Karen Ryan reporting."

Kevin Keane, HHS assistant secretary for public affairs says that Ryan is a freelance journalist, not merely an actor.
It seems clear that if the woman is reading a prepared script she is an actor. She was paid with taxpayer money- to deceive taxpayers.

The Bush administration plans to spend 80 million dollars on advertising the Medicare plan "$12.6 million for advertising this winter..."

Your tax dollars at work.
posted by m at 6:52 PM
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Truce with Spain, but . . .
Al Qaeda Endorses Bush !
I kid you not. If you haven't heard, a letter claiming to be from Al Qeada has promised to stop all actions against Spain while it waits to determine if Spain's promise to withdraw from Iraq is genuine. But if you'll read down, there's also this:
The statement said it supported President Bush in his reelection campaign, and would prefer him to win in November rather than the Democratic candidate John Kerry, as it was not possible to find a leader "more foolish than you (Bush), who deals with matters by force rather than with wisdom."

In comments addressed to Bush, the group said:

"Kerry will kill our nation while it sleeps because he and the Democrats have the cunning to embellish blasphemy and present it to the Arab and Muslim nation as civilization."

"Because of this we desire you (Bush) to be elected."

The group said its cells were ready for another attack and time was running out for allies of the United States.

"Whose turn is it next? Will it be Japan or America, or Italy, Britain or Oslo or Australia?" the statement said, adding Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were also targets.

And I thought Kerry got all of the foreign endorsements. Silly me.
posted by Mischa Peyton at 5:03 PM
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Karen Kwiatkowski:
Election Year Predictions
"You cannot step twice into the same river."
Some election watchers remember past vicious presidential campaigns and look for signs. Others wonder about third-party effects, or targeted mini-campaigns for a small number of electoral votes in single-issue districts. Still others read the tea leaves of national economic and battlefield woes to determine whether an incumbent will be asked to stay on. Some may wonder how another terrorist attack on us, or another US attack on a third country might affect the election outcome.

But as Heraclitus observed, you can’t step into the same river twice. The next major terrorist attack on the US, at home or abroad, will not be 9-11. Even if every aspect of it were identical, it will be a different attack, against a wiser nation, a changed President, and by an evolved group of attackers. This means that the national political reaction to 9-11 won’t be duplicated after the next attack, if there is a next attack.

In the same way, any retaliatory attack on another country by the Bush Administration will be seen in the light of the discoveries by average Americans, soldiers and marines, and the U.S. Congress of what Bush’s last attacks were all about, or not about, as the case may have been.

posted by Mischa Peyton at 2:10 PM
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