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Friday, March 14, 2003

Saddam Hussein is a bad man. He is a dictator, who brutalizes people who oppose him, he occasionally attacks his neighbors when he feels threatened, and it would be really great to see him gone, and a democracy installed in Iraq.

Of course, whether or not we should go to war against Iraq has nothing to do with the above. Guess it has to do with your perspective, eh? So, what is the proper perspective? Well, he was a dictator for years before we finally decided to give a shit in 1991, and he's actually been less of a pain in the ass since the Gulf War, and especially since Clinton bombed the hell out of Iraq back in 1998. (BTW, wasn't it the same Republicans who are four-square in support of Bush now who were most vocal in their condemnation of Clinton back then?) The people he has always been most brutal toward are the Kurds, but it's funny; back when he was gassing them, we didn't seem to care about that. It's been 12 years since he gassed his last Kurd, and because of the no-fly zones in effect, the Kurds have created a nice little society for themselves. Wonder how long that will last under a "democratic" Iraq, if indeed the Bushies succeed in their Quixotic quest? In a "democratic country" in which 60% of the populatiuon is an Arab Shi'ite Muslim, it's hard to argue they'll be better off. And the Turks won't be too happy if we "allow" the Kurds to set up their own little nation. Ah, well, details...

In short, nothing about this makes any sense at all. Currently, Saddam is toothless. He has no mechanisms for attacking anyone else, he only has control over about 1/3 of Iraq and basically, if he does have a few chemical or biological weapons, he's likely to only use them when cornered. So, why are we cornering him again?

Ah, well, it looks like it's going to happen, come hell or high water, so say a prayer, or keep hope alive -- whatever you have to do to keep the men and women in Iraq alive to the extent possible, and get our military men and women home safely.
The man they love to hate

The doubly-malnamed RealClearPolitics appears to have decided Paul Krugman needs a thrashing for his latest column. J. McIntyre, evidently thinking something must be done to counter Krugman's influence, claims:

On the eve of war, when we have over 200,000 young men and women about to go into battle and risk their lives for our freedom; Krugman uses his national platform to suggest the Commander in Chief "has lost touch with reality." This is reckless. This is wrong. And this is a LIE.

So Mr. McIntyre feels that it is "reckless" for Krugman to say he thinks Bush is losing it (technically, he was reporting the opinions of "fair number of people in the Treasury Department, the State Department and, yes, the Pentagon"). He goes so far as to claim, without evidence, that it is a lie. Yet, it is not an unreasonable speculation: Bush seems utterly obsessed with Iraq, despite the fact that most Americans feel North Korea and al Qaeda are greater threats, and despite the fact that the non-forged evidence regarding Iraqi intransigence points to a country that is a distraction, rather than an appropriate focus for a superpower at this time. Furthermore, Bush's weird tax cut proposal has even the Wall Street Journal shaking its head.

With virtually all normal presidential concerns (including an American economy critically near recession and nuclear threats from North Korea) seemingly relegated to irrelevance or worse, and the rationales for Bush's aims in Iraq changing day-to-day, supposition that Bush has lost touch with reality is not unreasonable. Clearly, Krugman was making this statement not just in the context of the wisdom of an attack on Iraq, but based upon bizarre Bush performance in numerous areas.

Moreover, Krugman is not a member of the military, nor is he writing in military circles. McIntyre fails to make a case for why Krugman's opinion should be considered "reckless". In truth, his argument is really just an attempt to put a new spin on the same tired right-wing claims that criticism of Bush is unAmerican.

For the record, McIntyre's ideas may stem from an incorrect assumption: he also claims that the debate over the wisdom of this war is already done with (as though that alone means Krugman should stop criticizing Bush). As Calpundit points out today, this is an incorrect reading of the latest poll information. While the percent of Americans who think we should get this war over with has been growing, the latest Democracy Corps analysis of polling data finds:

Solid majorities in every poll support military action in Iraq, and support has solidified as war has become increasingly likely, but Americans express a wide array of doubts about the reasons for war, the effectiveness of war in increasing American security, the failure to secure broad international support, and the Bush Administration’s motives. This week’s polls demonstrate that public support for military action in Iraq is not given without significant reservations, and even a decisive military victory in Iraq is not likely to erase the doubts created in the buildup to war.

It's understandable that right-wingers don't like Krugman: he's willing to call a spade a spade. But it would be nice if they would keep their criticisms fair, and not use counterfactual assumptions when making them.
All his own

As the Weasels have been saying for months now, the economy is stagnating, and even the official view (which, up until recently, appears to have been ignoring sentiment over corporate corruption, sinking consumer confidence, declining employment rolls, decreased consumer spending and an administration utterly out of its depth on economic policy out of a sense of Republican loyalty, perhaps) now appears to be that we are heading for a "W" - shaped double-dip recession.

It was always difficult for Dubya to blame the stagnant economy on the previous administration; it will be very difficult to do so with a second recession that falls squarely on the Bushies' watch.
On the lookout

According to this Washington Post article, groups backing Bush are marauding online (big shocker, that -- we Weasels have been dealing with the right-wing presence online for the better part of a decade). Many of them appear to have very misguided (or mendacious) points-of-view regarding dissent and patriotism.

"As our nation prepares to battle terror, one group calling themselves NION and claiming thousands of supporters including, Jane Fonda, Oliver Stone, Al Sharpton, have openly attacked the president and his desires to free the world from the grip of terror. Their anti-war, anti-American rhetoric is gaining momentum" (quoted from grassfire.net, an organization originally founded to express approval for the Boy Scouts' homophobic policies).

Setting aside the idiocy of claiming we're fighting terrorism when we attack a country that--by all accounts--is not involved with al Qaeda in lieu of actually attacking al Qaeda, such sentiments are themselves wholly unAmerican.

These people would have called Voltaire a traitor. Remember his sentiment? It was paraphrased by Beatrice Hall after his death thusly:

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

It's truly frightening that we should need a reminder regarding that fact. Some of us, though, seem to have lost touch with what it means to be an American. It takes courage to countenance an opposing point-of-view. And if anything, the right-wing is about cowardace and fear. Do we want to live their vision for our lives, or face the future with a spine?


Tallying the damage
A recent CBO report found that the President's proposed budget is going to result in 10-year deficits of more than $1.8 trillion. A Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis of the CBO report, which factored in several additional Bush administration proposals, found that the total was closer to $3 trillion. With Congressional Republicans like Jim Nussle (R-IA) claiming we can spending-cut our way out of the projected deficits while indulging in the tax cuts Dubya wants, it's worthwhile to take a look at just how much "waste, fraud and abuse" we'd have to cut to balance the budget and still keep the GOP's tax giveaways to their rich buddies.

The CBO projects total government outflows over the next 10 years to be $28.225 trillion. Cutting $3 trillion from this budget would amount to 10.63% of the federal budget. This amount is equal to 64% of the defense budget, or more than the entire budgets of the Departments of State, Homeland Security, Justice, Energy, Transportation, Commerce, Education, Interior, Corp of Engineers and the Federal Judiciary combined (using projected 2003 shares of the budget).

Of course, I'm sure those departments won't have to be eliminated completely. After all, the service-cutters are proposing to focus heavily on programs that no one really needs, like Medicare, Medicaid and veterans' health care.

Remember the GOP's priorities in 2004, folks.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Still here!

Yep, we're still alive. Just overwhelmed with other things. We'll try to post more Weasel-ly thoughts tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

What to make of it?

The most recent New York Times/CBS poll is finding that more Americans seem to be losing patience with the UN. At least, that's the interpretation -- those favoring going ahead with war soon without UN approval are up 9 points to 44%.

I have another interpretation, though: many Americans feel the longer this drags out, the worse we look. They rightfully recognize the bumbling of Dubya, and just want the damn thing over with in the way that makes us look the least foolish. Like it or not, that's war.

Unfortunately, fully half of respondents still see Iraq as a threat that must be addressed militarily. Only 5% (correctly, IMHO) deduce that Iraq is not a threat to us using any reasonable meaning of the term.

Liberals really must do a better job of articulating that the United States is not in realistic danger from anything and everything around the world. Right-wingers are capitalizing on that fear, and until it abates, they will continue to be able to do so.
More from the main page

Please check out Milt Shook's current essay What are American Values? and Bridget Gibson's Point of No Return, on the main page of the Daily Weasel right now. Superb stuff.
Chipping away

A ban on a non-existent procedure is pretty much assured passage.

The so-called "partial-birth abortion" bill, authored by Pennsylvania Republican Rick Santorum is making its way through Congress and may serve as a wedge to undo Roe v. Wade later. Lovely.

But hey, at least the Senate can still defeat an amendment that would have expanded government health care for low-income pregnant women, and forced private insurance companies to support contraception more comprehensively.

Whew! There for a minute, I thought we had our priorities screwed up. Keep 'em pregnant and poor. Freakin' loons.

The right wing machine rolls on, thanks in part to liberals who stayed home during the last two elections because "it wouldn't make any difference". It's coming thick and fast, now. Something to think about...
By way of explanation
I suppose I should commit to electrons exactly where I stand on the Iraq war thing. Those who have been reading this blog over the last few days might be surprised to know that I'm not a die-hard peacenik.

Far from it. I can see a pretty good case for going after Saddam. No, not because he presents any sort of realistic threat to us -- Iraq is a fourth-rate power with World War II-level capability, whereas we've the most powerful military the planet has ever seen. Nor because he supports terrorists -- if we're really worried about al Qaeda getting WMD's (TM), then the logical thing to do is dismantle al Qaeda.

The rationale I can see for unseating Saddam is that 1) he and his family dynasty do present a realistic threat to stability in the region, 2) he's a brutal tyrant to his own people and 3) the arab world really needs to be made to catch up, one way or another, with the rest of the world, politically, economically and socially.

So why am I against this war? It comes down to three things: 1) Every bit of evidence I've seen indicates that Bush and his administration are completely out of their depth when it comes to a project such as this, if they're even truly concerned with improving Iraq in the first place, 2) any such project, thanks to the Bush administration's handling of things, will now come at enormous cost to us, economically and politically, and 3) it's not clear to me that even under the best of circumstances, a military invasion would be the best solution to the problem of Hussein. Too often, the analysis stops with "well, he's a bad guy, he's a danger to others, and we need to help Iraq". The unspoken assumption is that a military intervention will do the trick.

Now, mind you I'm not saying it couldn't work. But from everything I've seen thus far, I believe this war, conducted by this administration has very little chance of success in terms of addressing the concerns above, and may drastically increase the danger to Americans in the process. A lot of lives are on the line. Shouldn't we make damn sure the venture has the best chance of success before we even consider going through with it?

I must admit, there's one other reason I'm against the upcoming war: in part, this intervention has been sold on "pre-emption" grounds. Admittedly, that makes me want to oppose the war, period, for fear that failing to do so here will give the green light to further adventurism on the part of pre-emption advocates later.

Dropping like flies

Howard Fineman writes a good column today in which he speculates the normal regimented discipline of the Bush team will start to fracture soon into finger-pointing over the current Iraq/UN debacle. Perhaps. We can tell you that yet another career diplomat resigned his post yesterday, blasting Dubya in the process. Here's his complete letter of resignation:

To: Secretary of State Colin Powell

March 10, 2003

Dear Mr. Secretary:

I am joining my colleague John Brady Kiesling in submitting my resignation from the Foreign Service (effective immediately) because I cannot in good conscience support President Bush's war plans against Iraq.

The president has failed:

--To explain clearly why our brave men and women in uniform should be ready to sacrifice their lives in a war on Iraq at this time;

--To lay out the full ramifications of this war, including the extent of innocent civilian casualties;

--To specify the economic costs of the war for ordinary Americans;

--To clarify how the war would help rid the world of terror;

--To take international public opinion against the war into serious consideration.

Throughout the globe the United States is becoming associated with the unjustified use of force. The president's disregard for views in other nations, borne out by his neglect of public diplomacy, is giving birth to an anti-American century.

I joined the Foreign Service because I love our country. Respectfully, Mr. Secretary, I am now bringing this calling to a close, with a heavy heart but for the same reason that I embraced it.

Sincerely,

John H. Brown
Foreign Service Officer


Ouch.

It should be noted that John Brown was a 22-year veteran and a senior member of the Foreign Service.
From the front page

If you haven't already, I urge you to check out the Gunloons on Parade and Civil Rights Watch sections of the Daily Weasel homepage.
Don't bring me down...

Stocks just keep dropping like a rock, the economy continues to tank and Congress is set to enable unnecessary drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, yet all eyes remain focused on Iraq and nothing but Iraq.

It's all about fear, folks. To paraphrase Michael Douglas in "The American President", right-wingers are concerned with two things: making you afraid, and telling you who's to blame for it. As long as America holds on to an irrational fear that 9/11 proves anyone can and will kill us all at will, Bush will continue to use that fear to drive through utterly irresponsible, extremist policies.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Size matters

In an evident attempt to prove that "ours is bigger", the Pentagon tested a massive 21,000-lb bomb today to be used for "psyops".

Called the "Mother Of All Bombs" (MOAB), the "more daisycutter than daisycutter" maxi-bomb was tested very publicly today in an apparent attempt to shake up the Iraqis. As though unleashing 3000 precision-guided bombs and missiles in the first hours of an attack wouldn't have done the trick...kinda makes you wonder when we're all going to start feeling adequate in the military strength department.
From the Very Big Deal department

According to this CBS News story, Britain may be forced to back out of any attack on Iraq, due to overwhelming opposition at home. Ouch -- guess it's time to rename it "Freedom Toffee".

Of course, I'm sure Right-Wingers will still be quick to point out that an attack on Iraq still won't be "unilateral" -- after all, we still have Angola, right? Nonetheless, our "Coalition of the Bribable" is looking pretty lonely.
Impeachment alert
Joanne Mariner has an excellent legal analysis on Patriot Act II, King George the Lesser's latest assault on Constitutional rights. In the opinion of the Weasels, simply considering proposing this legislation is an impeachable offense and a breach of the Bushies' oath of office.

Also, today we have a story by the highly-esteemed Dana Milbank of the Washington Post on the fact that the Dubya dictatorship, evidently attempting once again to avoid public scrutiny for its actions, is stopping publication of the primary resource states use to see the money available to the states.

Remember, folks, this situation isn't hopeless. We can do something about this -- vote the undemocratic bastards out in 2004! Liberals must unite!
Whoa!

The Daily Weasel today points to a story that says the Pentagon is threatening to fire on any satellite uplinks during war with Iraq, regardless of whose. Can anyone enlighten us as to why they would do this, except to shut down reporting of the war?

Monday, March 10, 2003

Lock in your rates

The Prince of Economists Paul Krugman just isn't making a lot of positive noise these days, and frankly, it's scarier and scarier. His latest column is no exception:

Even though the business community is starting to get scared -- the ultra-establishment Committee for Economic Development now warns that "a fiscal crisis threatens our future standard of living" -- investors still can't believe that the leaders of the United States are acting like the rulers of a banana republic.

It just doesn't get any more straightforward than this, folks. The incompetence and extremism of the Dubya admin will be the stuff of legends for centuries to come. Think I'm kidding? Ever heard of Nero?
Call to activism: pass this email on

Subj: Petition to our Democratic Representatives
Date: 3/7/03 11:15:40 AM Eastern Standard Time
Please copy this letter to a new email message, sign the letter and then send it to as many people as possible.

If yours is the 50th, 100th, 150th, etc. name on the signature list, please also forward the letter to Dasha68@aol.com and jyarrow@seanet.com , so that as signatures accumulate, this letter can be sent to all Democratic Senators and Representatives and reprinted wherever possible. Thank you.

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE SILENT DEMOCRATS

We stand at a pivotal moment in history. Millions of Americans are proclaiming their opposition to President Bush's proposed unilateral invasion of Iraq as are millions more across the globe. This past weekend saw massive rallies all across the land, the largest preemptive antiwar movement in history. Yet only a handful of voices in the Democratic Party have dared to speak out in a way that represents our deepest concern. Many of us voted for you as an alternative to the arrogant militarism of the Bush Administration, only to be disappointed and angered by your unwillingness to stand up to and challenge this President, who is hell bent on war no matter the cost.

As Senator Byrd stated so eloquently in his February 12th Senate Floor Speech, there is no debate, no discussion, nothing coming from most of you, only silence. Your silence amounts to acquiescence and that is not only unwise, it is dangerous at a time like this. Well, enough is enough! Put aside your fear of "unpatriotic" labels and take the real pulse of the American people. You will find that the majority of people who voted you in are against this war, and we ARE NOTICING THAT YOU ARE NOT REPRESENTING US!

Stand up and say that to preemptively strike out when an act of aggression has not been committed by our "enemy" is to set a dangerous precedent that is in direct opposition to what this country should stand for. Now is not the time to be silent. Now is the time to say that you have heard our voices: that the majority of your constituents want peace! It is the patriotic duty of every American to oppose the misguided policies of their government. And it is your duty too! Now is not the time to be silent. Now is the time to voice your opposition to a policy that is thrusting an already dangerous world into an even more dangerous crisis.

We need you, our elected representatives, to end your silence in the halls of the Senate and Congress and to convey the will of the people in a way that will make President Bush take heed. We need you to do what you were elected to do. Open your mouths and represent us!

Adamantly!

[Email list omitted here for privacy]

From the Weasel pop culture research dept.

As many of you no doubt know, last night's Simpsons episode ("Mr. Spritz Goes to Washington") included a debate between Krusty the Clown and an unnamed democratic contender on Fox News. The Simpsons parody of Fox News was hilarious, and included a news ticker along the bottom a la the one actually found on Fox News. For your enjoyment, here are the headlines (footlines?) depicted:

Pointless news crawls up 37%... Do Democrats cause cancer? Find out at foxnews.com... Rupert Murdoch: Terrific dancer... Dow down 5000 points... Study: 92% of Democrats are gay... Oil slicks keep seals young, supple... JFK posthumously joins the Republican Party... Dan Quayle: Awesome... Ashcroft declares breast of chicken sandwich "obscene"... Hillary Clinton embarrasses self, nation... Bible says Jesus favored capitol gains cut... Stay tuned for Hannity and Idiot... Only dorks watch CNN... Jimmy Carter: Old, wrinkly, useless... Brad Pitt + Albert Einstein = Dick Cheney... Study: Right wing of chicken healthier...

(Thanks to Ken Furie for the transcript)
Dropping like a rock

It's hard to remember the days of Dow Jones averages in the mid-7500's, isn't it? Well, it isn't too tough to remember, now, since they're back. The stock market lost another 2% today, thanks to war fears.

The conventional wisdom is that once the war with Iraq begins, everything will settle and business will start booming again. Maybe -- or perhaps the problems run a good deal deeper. I don't think it's unreasonable to conclude many people are starting to think Dubya is bad for business. His support for crony capitalism and nonsense policies has to be having an effect on several levels.

Not a good time to be out in the job market, as a few Weasels are right now.
You know, I agree that Fux News has the right to "publish" anything they wish. But they should also be forced to advertise themselves truthfully. "All right wingers, all bullshit, all the time..."

So much for O'Reilly claiming "no spin", eh?
Fox News claims in court the right to lie at will

In an astounding admission that's making the rounds of the blogs, Fox News won a court battle in mid-February by claiming they have every right to publish "false, distorted or slanted" stories as they please. Check it out here.

Yep, you got it right. FN defended themselves in court not by asserting the accuracy of their reporting, but by claiming their right to knowingly lie to the public.

It's nice of Fox News to lay out their journalistic ethics so bluntly, don't you think? It makes a Weasel's job so much easier. They distort, you decide...

Sunday, March 09, 2003

Bush administration says the world isn't dangerous enough

US officials, driven perhaps by boredom over a lack of challenges, are refusing to talk to North Korea directly. Evidently, the sense is that North Korea has more to lose than the United States by continuing on their current path. Perhaps (although the foreign policy calculations coming out of this administration aren't exactly inspiring great confidence these days). Of course, if you were in North Korea's shoes -- a regime with whom Bush severed ties, grouped into an "axis of evil", and implicitly threatened by starting wars with other "axis" members -- would it make more sense to bend over for the US or mass produce nuclear weapons with which to defend yourself? Would it make more sense to stop producing nukes or sell them for cash, thereby spreading the threat around at the same time?

This is a problem that is going to rapidly come to a head, and as I see it, North Korea's options, in order of preference, would be 1) talk directly with the US in some co-equal capacity, 2) produce and sell nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, and 3) give in to US demands and lose face. If I'm right, this does not bode well for our NK strategy (or world peace, for that matter).
Conservative consistency

Edward Lazarus wrote a nice column recently on critics of the Senate's cloture vote procedure (the 60-vote requirement to end a filibuster). Specifically, he noted George Will's flip-flop on the topic, seemingly dependent upon which way the political winds blow (Will's recently started opposing the rule, as Senate Democrats filibustered the Miguel Estrada nomination):

Obviously, conscientious commentators do change their views when they re-examine them and find them in error. I am no fan of a "foolish consistency" in such matters. But this kind of change of mind - without explanation or apology - is quite troubling.

Also troubling is the fact that Will's close analysis of the Constitution and the First Congress's proceedings, so important to him in 1993, is entirely missing here. And his venom - once directed at Cutler - now draws on Cutler (without attribution) instead. Only one conclusion seems possible: This is an exquisitely brazen example of intellectual flip-floppery that has nothing to do with law or the Constitution, or American history, and everything to do with conservative politics.

Of course, we Weasels are simply shocked at the suggestion that conservatives would resort to intellectual dishonesty to push an ideological agenda...

So, what kind of superpower do we want to be? Every major superpower in the world burned itself out because it tried to tell everyone else in the world what to do. We cannot allow that to happen. We should be the world's leader, not its boss or its daddy. We should lead by example. If we want other nations to treat people well, we should treat our own people well. If we want other countries to take care of their environments, we should take care of ours. And if we want terrorists to stop terrorizing, then we should stop terrorizing others, ourselves.

Respect is earned. The Bush Administratiion is an embarrassment because they aren't trying to earn respect; they're trying to demand it. They believe strongarming smaller, poorer countries is the way to go. Anyone who thinks this is a great idea, study the histories of the British and Roman Empires, as well as the Soviet Union for a clue...
More on Dubya in the deep end of the pool

Thomas Friedman has long been one of my favorite writers. He has a very deep understanding of middle east politics and situations, and an ability to convert that understanding into strategy. My high opinion of his writing has remained even as he's promoted the idea of using US intervention in Iraq to transform Iraq into a modern democracy and improve the lives of Iraqis, ideas that I've felt have ignored the gap between theoretical ideal and the cold reality of the Bush administration's incompetencies and ideological leanings.

Mr. Friedman made some excellent points on CNBC this evening regarding Iraq. First, he noted that to actually rebuild Iraq will require a deep committment and a measure of can-do, forward-looking optimism (a bit of "Bill Clinton", as Friedman put it) to make it work -- something he noted that seems to be completely lacking in the Bush administration. Second, he pointed out that the effort to manage Kosovo after the 1998 NATO intervention required 50,000 troops; Iraq has 10 times the population and a much larger area, and could conceivably require hundreds of thousands of troops to keep the strong order needed after a war. And the committment required will be long term: 5 to 10 years of intensive involvement.

Does anyone seriously think that Dubya intends to put forth that sort of effort, or even realizes it will be needed?
Sickening...

Questioning Terror Suspects in a Dark and Surreal World

This is being done in our name. Words can scarcely express my disgust at the deep cynicism of George W. Bush claiming to uphold the Constitution of the United States while his administration condones the torture of captives (to say nothing of gutting the Constitutionally-guaranteed rights of citizens). I think I speak for all the Weasels when I say those who have sanctioned and carried out these policies are war criminals in the true sense of the term. If Dubya knows about it, he's guilty of treason against the United States and the guiding principles for which it stands.

If our society cannot be saved without destroying its essence, then it's not worth saving.
Impure motives

With regard to the phony evidence on Iraq's nuclear program, now comes word that the Bushies knew the evidence was questionable but used it anyway. This is almost as damning as if they had forged the evidence themselves.

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