super hanc petram

Thursday, March 18

Iraqi Profile  

KnightRidder profiles an Iraqi family one year after invasion. Their income has risen from about $2 a day to about $19 a day. That's the good news. In their opinion, though, there are more negatives to life now than there are positives.
To understand their disillusionment, Mohammed said, consider that in the last month, 20 children have been kidnapped for ransom from the school where she teaches. This isn't a new story: Kidnapping is a growth industry in postwar Iraq. Most victims never report the crime to police - they simply pay anywhere from $3,000 to $50,000, depending on their means. And then there are the explosions. A few months ago, Hameed was cut in the head by flying glass when a police station near his school was bombed. A few days ago, bombers struck a Shiite mosque near their younger children's school, forcing the school to close for a week while the windows are replaced. Polls show most Iraqis believe crime has declined since the chaotic months after the war. But they still cite a lack of security as their top concern. Rapes, robberies, carjackings and murders remain epidemic. So, too, does a widespread feeling of lawlessness that can be almost as corrosive as the quiet terror once sown by Saddam's secret police.
The extra income comes from the family's two government jobs; those pay raises are a result, "of seized assets, oil revenue and U.S. aid." What isn't factored in here are Iraq's debts. Also even though corruption seems to be running high at the moment, the US is still in control of the finances of the country. Does anyone believe that if Chalabi & his ilk get the reins of power they will continue to pour money into government salaries? Of the resistance, if Mohammed's opinion is held by the majority of Iraqis, it's not clear that US troops will ever be welcome in Iraq.
They are ambivalent about the presence of U.S. troops. Mohammed says she thinks U.S. troops are needed to keep the country from slipping further into anarchy and sectarian violence, but Saad says attacks against U.S. troops are justifiable.
Happy that Saddam is gone, believe that the US keeps what little security there is, but still feel that attacking US troops is okay. If that opinion is held by most of the population, that's a tough bind for an occupying power. I don't know that handing power of to another titular entity will change Mohammed's mind. I wonder if his opinion will change at all as long as US troops still patrol parts of the country.


On the Record -- 3/18  

Yesterday, Josh Marshall posted a snippet from W's speech on March 17, 2003. That got me wondering how many other statements like that one there are on the record from this administration. Certainly Rumsfeld was publicly embarassed this past Sunday when he asked for "any citations." Could there be one for each calendar day from now until the election?I want to confine the issue to major administration players. To that end, Wolfowitz would count, but not Perle. Today we have a snippet from old George himself. On March 18, 2002, he was in Missouri to talk about economic recovery:
One way to make sure America is strong is to rally the compassion. Another way is to make sure that our economy is strong. I want to tell you right up front that I do not think the role of government is to try to create wealth. That's not the role of government. The role of government is to create an environment in which people are willing to take risk. (Applause.) The role of government is to create an economic climate in which the Rolf's of the world say, gosh, I've got a good idea, I want to take a risk. And, therefore, employ people. That's really what I view my job is. If there's roadblocks, to eliminate them. And if there's ways to make the environment better, do so. I wanted to talk a little bit about that. High taxes is a road block. (Applause.) High tax rates discourage investment. And when you discourage investment, you discourage job creation. And, therefore, working with people in Congress, both the House and the Senate, we worked to reduce the tax burden on working people in America. And it came at exactly the right time. Tax relief was vital. (Applause.) It was vital for our economic future, because when you give people more of their own money to spend, they demand. And when they demand, somebody produces. And when somebody produces, somebody gets to work. (Applause.) But the other thing that was important about tax relief is that it is -- recognizes the importance of small business, because many small businesses are unincorporated. Many small businesses are sole proprietors, or are limited partnerships. And by cutting the personal rates, all personal rates, what we are in effect doing for the small business community was encouraging cash flow. And more cash flow on small business owners means more jobs. And so one of the crucial things we've done to address the economic recession and its slowdown, and the effects it caused on working people, was to say, let's give people their own money back. (Applause.) For a while they were talking about taking away that tax relief -- "they" being some people in Washington, D.C. I couldn't imagine anybody saying in the midst of a recession, we're going to raise taxes. They were reading the wrong textbook, Senator. (Laughter.) Anybody in their right mind knows that if you're interested in making the economy more vital, you let people keep more of their own money. I don't hear much of that talk anymore now that the plan looks like it's working.
This snapshot from the Economic Policy Institute shows W's miserable performance on job creation from March 2001 forward.
The number of payroll jobs reached a low point six months ago, in August 2003. Job growth has averaged only 61,000 a month in the last six months—far less than the 137,000 jobs a month now required to keep the jobs gap from widening. As a result, despite positive job gains, the jobs gap has grown from 6.6 million last August to 7.1 million in February 2004.


Wednesday, March 17

Accountability = Appeasement  

Dennis Hastert, the 3rd most powerful man in the US, thinks that a vote for accountability is a vote for appeasement. It's important to highlight why this particular piece of rhetoric is being floated from the right at this point. No one knows if al Qaeda will attack on US soil between now and election day. If they do, though, the men whose responsibility it is to ensure this doesn't happen don't want you to blame them. If you do, they say, you will be handing al Qaeda a victory. That is, if you hold our leaders accountable for their jobs, you are aiding terrorists in their ambition. The goal is to set up a situation whereby if the US is not attacked, the Republican leadership should be rewarded and if the US is attacked, the Republican leadership should be rewarded. They have done the bare minimum to secure our borders and punish our enemies since 9/11 and they are petrified that they will actually be held accountable for this. Thus they want to guilt, shame, or scare you into voting for them.


More on Delusions  

David Kay attempts to smack some sense into Cheney. Cheney's willful disregard for facts is of a piece with Brooks's & Kagan's delusions.
What worries me about the vice president's statement is, I think people who hold out for a Hail-Mary pass—and lo and behold maybe we'll find that stockpile a year or two years out so everyone keeps searching—delay the inevitable looking back at what went wrong. I believe we have enough evidence now to say that the intelligence process, and the policy process that used that information, did not work at the level of effectiveness that we require in the age that we live in. It's a little like the analogy I sometimes use [of NASA's troubled and nearly fatal Apollo 13 mission to the moon]: in Apollo 13, if when the astronauts had said, "Houston, we have a problem," mission control had responded, "Well, you're only a third of the way to the moon. Why don't you keep going and we'll see how serious this problem is? And if and when you get there you don't make it, we'll investigate and we'll fix it for the next one." I mean, it is very hard for institutions to fix problems while they're in denial as to whether the problem really existed. And I am concerned that statements by the vice president and others—principally the vice president and the administration—really raise that issue.


Dangerously Confused  

David Brooks put together another beauty yesterday. The right is all up in arms over the people of Spain appeasing al Qaeda and turning Madrid into Munich. It's 1938 and Osama is Hitler. Spaniards gave into al Qaeda when they elected the man who made fighting terrorism a central piece of his platform. Spaniards gave into al Qaeda's demands when they ousted a liar whom they no longer trusted to protect them or to represent their will to the world. Confused yet? See to Brooks and Kagan, fighting terrorism and Mr. Bush's War are one and the same. Brooks: "The terrorists sought [Aznar's ouster] because they understand, even if many in Europe do not, that Iraq is a crucial battleground in the war on terror." Kagan: "Responsible heads in Europe must understand that anything that smacks of retreat in the aftermath of this latest attack could raise the likelihood of further attacks. Al Qaeda's list of demands doesn't end with Iraq." To me and many, many other people (including the majority of Spaniards) the fisaco in Iraq and destroying al Qaeda are two different fights. They require different personnel, tactics and arms. Mr. Bush's War has made it harder for the US to fight terrrorism. It has also made it harder for us to engage our allies in this fight. Spaniards seem to have felt that Aznar's approach to combating terrorism was tragically ineffective. So they want to give someone else a chance. For many on the right, toppling Saddam was step one in the great dream of reforming the middle east. 9/11 provided a nice way to prod Americans into supporting this dream. It was sold to us that toppling Saddam would be a great blow against al Qaeda. Many people thought this line of thinking was bullshit. The point was not that Saddam should have been allowed a free pass, but that we should have dealt with al Qaeda and its offshoots exclusively first. Brooks, et al. took great pains to obscure the lines between Saddam and terrorism. They twisted language and logic in their writing to such an extent that they no longer know what is al Qaeda and what is Iraq. It is all, the enemy. It is all Hitler, it is always 1938 and we are always in Munich. Can they see reality in their own heads? I don't know; but that they are so detatched from the world in their public musings is a danger to our national security. It is imperative that we vote out this administration that tracks so closely such specious reasoning.


Tuesday, March 16

Perhaps That's the Problem  

"Now he is a political candidate and I'm secretary of state, and I don't do politics." Colin Powell doesn't do politics. Perhaps this is why the US is now totally alienated from other like-minded countries around the world. Our own Sec. of State doesn't understand his own job. If Powell doesn't do politics, why is he at State in the first place? This is perhaps Powell's most obtuse statement yet. The entire purpose of his office is political. When he goes abroad he meets foreign leaders; who are politicians. When he meets at the UN with the Security Council, he meets with politicians engaged in political negotiations over how to deal with the world's problems. Why does America's chief liason to the world think he doesn't do politics? Does anyone in this administration know what he's doing?


Disinformation Campaign  

"As far as we're concerned we've been entirely successful. That tyrant Saddam is gone and the Americans are in Baghdad. What was said before is not important." Thus spake Chalabi. Knight-Ridder, which is making the rest of the major media outlets look like pikers, has an expose today of the INC's disinformation campaign. While what was said before is not important to Chalabi, it is extremely important that we all examine the various nefarious elements that got us into Iraq. Here is the list of the 100 articles for which the INC provided disinformation. The timeframe is October 2001 to May 2002. I would love to see a list covering June 2002 to March 2003. Note that the first article comes from a WaPo editorial one month after 9/11. Here, then, is a corrupt exile group bragging to the Senate Appropriations Committee that it was feeding information (which we now know to be false) to the major media outlets (including Knight-Ridder) one month after al-Qaeda attacked the U.S.; information that played no small part in convincing the American people that invasion was the best course of action against Saddam. Chalabi continues to be the benefactor of American tax dollars even after his Information Collection Program has been shown to be a total farce. One would think that an administration that had been duped so badly by a man, who is now bragging about it and laughing all the way to the bank with his $4m in US taxpayer money, would seek some retribution or at least restitution; one would think. The gutless sops in the administration aside, it is important that Americans in general follow this story carefully because it is part and parcel with how this administration conducts business. So blinded are they by their own ideology and self-rightousness that they will defy all logic, evidence and even public humiliation to continue their self-appointed mission of world reconfiguration. This is true on the domestic front as well as the foreign one. From the WaPo editorial:
Take Sabah Khalifa Khodada Alami, a 47-year-old former Iraqi army captain who from 1994 until 1998 was a military instructor in the elite militia known as Saddam's Fighters. He escaped with his family into Iraqi Kurdistan and then to Turkey in 1999 and received U.S. permission to settle as a refugee in Fort Worth last May. Alami, a soft-spoken man with the engaging quiet smile endemic to the Tigris and Euphrates delta, guardedly outlined to me here Wednesday details of the training given for airliner hijacking and assassinations in the Salman Pak area of Baghdad while he was there. The Iraqi National Congress had tracked Alami to Fort Worth and made him available for an interview here while he sought a meeting with the FBI. Discussing Iraq's links to terrorism with an American was a novel experience, Alami said. The Immigration and Naturalization Service official who interviewed him in Turkey for his refugee visa did not probe his military specialties. More surprising: An Iraqi ex-intelligence officer who has told the Iraqi National Congress of specific sightings of "Islamicists" training on a Boeing 707 parked in Salman Pak as recently as September 2000 says he was treated dismissively by CIA officers in Ankara this week. They reportedly showed no interest in pursuing a possible Iraq connection to Sept. 11.
From today's KR piece:
Many of the articles relied on interviews with the same defectors, who appeared to change facts with each telling. For instance, one defector first appeared in several stories as an Iraqi army former captain, but a later story said he was a major. Another defector told one interviewer that the aircraft fuselage on which Islamic extremists received training in hijacking belonged to a Boeing 707 and was quoted in a later story as saying that it came from a Russian-made Tupolev. Intelligence debriefers look for such differences when trying to determine the reliability of defectors, who sometimes exaggerate their importance or try to tell interviewers what they think the interviewers want to hear. The Information Collection Program (ICP) was financed out of the more than $18 million that Congress approved for the Iraqi National Congress, led by Chalabi, now a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, between 1999 and 2003. The group remains on the Pentagon's payroll.


Friday, March 12

In Detroit or in Baghdad  

Wherever BushCo. goes, it hampers prosecutors who are driven by a desire to actually convict criminals rather than get headlines. Is Salem Chalabi a reliable source? I don't know, but his connection to his uncle Ahmad makes him very suspect. However, the facts of Salem Chalabi's complaint don't seem to be in dispute.
"The U.S. military just releases detainees without consulting with us. They are releasing people with valuable information on Saddam. They are undermining the process of putting him on trial," Salem Chalabi told Reuters. "Why should we bother?" Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of operations for the U.S. Army in Iraq, said the release of detainees from American custody did not preclude the Iraqi authorities from taking action against them. Chalabi said frustrations over the releases were growing in the U.S.-appointed Governing Council, with some members discussing putting on hold the special tribunal expected to try Saddam and his top aides if they were not consulted. "There is a feeling that it is a pointless exercise. Important figures are being released and we are not even consulted. These people are leaving the country."
While it's technically true that the Governing Council can act against these people, it has no powers of enforcement with which to detain them. The military doesn't dispute that it's releasing people or that they may indeed be criminals that deserve prosecution; it just doesn't want to hold on to them anymore.
"The Americans have released 15 detainees who would have been valuable to us. They are doing this because they arrested too many people and now they are compensating," he said. One important example, he said, was Saadoun Hammadi, a longtime Saddam ally who served as prime minister in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War. "At one point he was a senior member of the Baath party. He knows a lot of information," Chalabi said. U.S. officials say they have detained about 8,000 Iraqis suspected of being security risks.


Thursday, March 11

Beyond Parody  

It's just too easy: Kerry Not Sorry for Swipe at GOP Critics
3:10 PM -- As Republican congressional leaders criticized Kerry's proposals and called for him to stop name-calling and negative campaigning, Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., said they see Kerry as "Ted Kennedy on a South Beach diet."
Bush Unveils Negative Ads Vs. Kerry
4 PM -- Bush's toughest ad, titled "100 days," envisions Kerry's first three months in office. "John Kerry's plan: To pay for new government spending, raise taxes by at least $900 billion." "On the war on terror: Weaken the Patriot Act used to arrest terrorists and protect America. And he wanted to delay defending American until the United Nations approved."
As several other people have noted, there are 5 more months of this to go. Part of the law of unintended consequences, though, is that these attempts to label Kerry as a flip-flopper, big spender or other such nonsense has cause the blogosphere to start compiling the very real and very relevant flip-flops of W's that have had an effect on the health of the nation over the past 3 years. The best thus far are from Kos and Josh Marshall has two more here and here. Marshall also gets one for good measure from Senator Man on Dog.


Monday, March 8

Rallying the Base  

Part of his early effort to preempt any unfavorable comparisons between himself and Al Gore in 2000, John Kerry addressed voting issues in Florida today.
"Remember, George Bush ran as the great uniter, and he's become the great divider," Kerry said. "You'd think that somebody, remembering what happened here in this great state, who was finally put in office by the Supreme Court of the United States, would actually recognize the divisions in this country and try to reach out."
Kerry's currently up in the Florida polls, and it appears that if he has his boot on Bush's neck in one area, he's not going to let up. Long way to go until November, but Kerry's making good on his promise to run non-stop until election day.
Responding to a voter who asked, "What can you do to prevent them from stealing the election again?", Kerry, a lawyer and former Massachusetts prosecutor, said his campaign was assembling a legal team to examine districts which had problems. "We're going to pre-check it, we're going to have the legal team in place. ... We're going to take injunctions where necessary ahead of time. We'll pre-challenge if necessary," the four-term Massachusetts senator said.
This will play well with anyone that was disappointed with how the Gore team handled the recount situation.


Judiciary Dust Up  

Ted Kennedy has taken issue with Bush's recess appointment of William Pryor.
In a letter released Monday, Kennedy, a high-ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that "a serious question exists as to whether Judge Pryor's recess appointment is constitutional." He asked the court to determine the validity of the appointment, so as to not taint any decisions in which Pryor may be involved. Recess appointments can only come "at the end of a Congress or the recess between the annual sessions of Congress," Kennedy wrote. "No other Article III judge in the nation's history has ever received a recess appointment during a brief holiday period in the midst of a session of Congress," Kennedy added in a memo attached to the letter.
The White House feels that Kennedy doesn't understand the history at all.
"The president properly exercised the power granted to him by the U.S. Constitution," White House spokeswoman Erin Healy said. "Judge Pryor's appointment was thoroughly reviewed by the Department of Justice and is fully consistent with long standing practices of both Democrat and Republican administrations."
I guess it depends on what the definition of 'recess' is. This may be an indication that the Dems on the Judiciary intend to ratchet up their opposition to W's appointments during this election year. The Republicans are sweating with the computer theft report (large .pdf -- via Calpundit) out and any further investigations that could grow from its fertile ground. As Bush has decided that he will attempt to reignite the culture war this election year, the judiciary will become a central element in the argutments of both sides. Perhaps the senate Dems feel themselces on solid ground taking on old George this time.


Thursday, March 4

All Dead Not Politically Expedient  

Here's a question, why are the remains of 9/11 victims prominently displayed in W's first campaign ad and not the dead or wounded from Iraq? Why this? and not this? or this? Certainly the latter is a more direct result of W's leadership over these past 4 years than the former. Iraq is his legacy, not 9/11.


Wednesday, March 3


Why can W spare 80 minutes to talk with network news reporters about his re-election strategy but only 60 minutes talking to the 9/11 commission? Why are W's priorities so out of whack?
The Oval Office session was designed to show Bush as eager to campaign and fight back against Kerry, and to portray the president as engaged in the issues of the day. The meeting was supposed to run just half an hour, and Bush seemed to enjoy showing that he could handle whatever topics were fired at him, according to the accounts.
One would think he would be eager to show himself as dedicated to determining exactly what went wrong on and before 9/11 in an effort to do everything humanly possible to prevent such an attack from happening again. One would think.


Tuesday, March 2

With God on Our Side  

For some reason our baby boomer media hounds have yet to mention the utter comic irony of this question being asked of an American presidential candidate that both fought in Vietnam and later opposed that same war. Is God on America's side? With God on Our Side
Oh my name it is nothin' My age it means less The country I come from Is called the Midwest I's taught and brought up there The laws to abide And that land that I live in Has God on its side. Oh the history books tell it They tell it so well The cavalries charged The Indians fell The cavalries charged The Indians died Oh the country was young With God on its side. Oh the Spanish-American War had its day And the Civil War too Was soon laid away And the names of the heroes I's made to memorize With guns in their hands And God on their side. Oh the First World War, boys It closed out its fate The reason for fighting I never got straight But I learned to accept it Accept it with pride For you don't count the dead When God's on your side. When the Second World War Came to an end We forgave the Germans And we were friends Though they murdered six million In the ovens they fried The Germans now too Have God on their side. I've learned to hate Russians All through my whole life If another war starts It's them we must fight To hate them and fear them To run and to hide And accept it all bravely With God on my side. But now we got weapons Of the chemical dust If fire them we're forced to Then fire them we must One push of the button And a shot the world wide And you never ask questions When God's on your side. In a many dark hour I've been thinkin' about this That Jesus Christ Was betrayed by a kiss But I can't think for you You'll have to decide Whether Judas Iscariot Had God on his side. So now as I'm leavin' I'm weary as Hell The confusion I'm feelin' Ain't no tongue can tell The words fill my head And fall to the floor If God's on our side He'll stop the next war.
© 1963 -- Bob Dylan


Conservative Poverty  

I remember some all night bull sessions in college where some friends and I would chew the fat on one issue or another in an attempt to arrive at a workable theory (if not a solution) on how to cope with one or another of the world's ills. Today's David Brooks column, in a return to the drivel that was fuelling his descent before his prior column, rails against liberals for wanting to assist the poor. In David's world any time a Democrat mentions assisting the poor he means welfare. And all Democrats have the same opinion. Try to follow his logic.
Edwards talks about poverty in economic terms. He vows to bring jobs back to poor areas and restrict trade to protect industries. He suggests that if we could take money from the rich and special interests, there'd be more for the underprivileged. This kind of talk is descended from Marxist theory, which holds that we live in the thrall of economic conditions. What the poor primarily need is more money, the theory goes. The core assumption is that economic forces determine culture and shape behavior. As William Julius Wilson wrote in "The Truly Disadvantaged," "If ghetto underclass minorities have limited aspirations, a hedonistic orientation toward life or lack of plans for the future, such outlooks ultimately are the result of restricted opportunities and feelings of resignation originating from bitter personal experiences and a bleak future."
John Edwards = Karl Marx = William Julius Wilson Does John Edwards agree with Prof. Williams? Who knows? I don't, and Brooks offers no evidence that he knows.
We've now had a 40-year experiment to determine which side is right, and while both arguments have merit, it's clear the conservatives have a more accurate view of poverty. For decades welfare programs funneled money to the disadvantaged, but families dissolved and poverty rates remained stubbornly high. Then the nation switched tack in the mid-1990's, embracing policies that demanded work. Many liberals made a series of horrifying predictions about what welfare reform would do to the poor. These predictions, based on the paleoliberal understanding of poverty, were extravagantly wrong.
Is that true? Did the Great Society programs fail to alleviate the suffering of the poor? Did poverty rates remain stubbornly high? Not according to the National Poverty Center.
In the late 1950s, the poverty rate for the total U.S. population was 22.4 percent, or approximately 39.5 million individuals. These numbers declined steadily throughout the 1960s, reaching a low of 12.1 percent, or 24.1 million individuals, by 1969. For the next decade, the poverty rate fluctuated between 11.1 and 12.6 percent, but began to rise steadily again in 1980. By 1983, the number of poor individuals had risen to 35.3 million individuals, or 15.2 percent of the population. For the next ten years, the poverty rate remained above 12.8 percent, and had climbed to 15.1 percent, or 39.3 million individuals, by 1993. The rate declined dramatically for the remainder of the decade, to 11.3 percent by 2000, before rising slightly in 2001, to 11.7 percent.
So it would seem that from the Great Society (I'll peg the start of that in 1964 with the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964) until 1980 we had pretty good luck getting the poverty rate down and keeping it there. Then with Ronald Reagan ("Welfare Queens") the poverty rate heads north and stays there until the late 1990's. So did the Great Society fail? Do conservatives have a more accurate view of poverty? The statistics don't seem to think so. Brooks then jumps through hoops trying to argue that it is behavior, not opportunity, that keeps all the poor in that state. If they just wanted it bad enough, they wouldn't be poor anymore. Of course, they don't seem to be able to do this. Brooks then back away from the behavior argument.
There are as many kinds of poverty as there are poor people. As David K. Shipler writes in his wonderfully observant new book, "The Working Poor," it takes emotional dexterity to climb out of poverty, as well as job skills. The poor often have "less agility to navigate around the pitfalls of a frenetic world driven by technology and competition."
Sounds to me like this wonderfully observant book is noting that the poor live, "in the thrall of economic conditions." Marxist pig. Brooks finally throws up his hands and says everyone's right.
While conservatives were right about the basic nature of poverty, liberals are right when they point out that simply getting people off welfare and into the world of work is not enough. Welfare reform means more single mothers are working, but they are having a hard time making progress into the middle class. We're going to need support programs to complete the successes of the 1990's.
Support programs? WTF? Brooks's whole argument is that liberals are wrong that the poor need support programs. What they need is a stiff upper lip. That's the way out of poverty! Conservatives have spent two decades poisoning (and draining) the well of support programs. Now Brooks wants them back? How did this guy get a gig writing for the NY Times? Honestly.


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