Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The clown show

The Wall Street Journal today reports on who they're calling "Republicans' new best friend," boxing promoter Don King (unfortunately subscription required, and worse, mine was cancelled due to some snafu).

[King] is proving to be one of Mr. Bush's biggest supporters. He has donated more than $40,000 to the Republican National Committee. But more important, he is lending his name and sales acumen to the president's cause.

Calling himself a "Republocrat," the man with the antigravity hair is traveling the country with Ed Gillespie, chairman of the Republican Party, as part of an "Economic Empowerment" tour to drum up support among African-American voters. Mr. King's distinctive preacher-like voice even makes an appearance on a "Kerry vs. Kerry" fight on the Republican Party Web site, where visitors can watch the Massachusetts senator battle himself as he flip-flops through various issues.

Let's ignore, for a moment, the reporters' -- Greg Hitt and David Luhnow -- hackorama in advancing the flip-flop nonsense unquestionably. What makes my sides really hurt is the idea that this clown show -- King and chinless Ed can possibly think that they will drum up support among African-Americans. But the Journal has its finger on the pulse of that "community," so it must be true.

Funny thing, though, as recently as 2000, King gave $250,000 to the Democratic Party in its fight for control of the House. So what gives?

...Mr. King calls Mr. Bush "the man with the plan" and praises the president's decisiveness and rhetoric of inclusiveness. He says he is convinced that Mr. Bush is committed to reaching out to minorities.

'Cause of the "rhetoric."

Is it simply a coincidence, then, that Mr. King's full-throated support for the Republican Party coincides with increased efforts by the Republican-dominated Congress to regulate boxing? This past March, the U.S. Senate, ending years of deadlock, gave unanimous approval to a measure designed to close regulatory gaps in the sport -- gaps, critics say, that have helped promoters like the 70-year-old Mr. King profit handsomely.


"I think that these people that are using him cannot know anything about his record," says Mr. [John] McCain [one of the authors of the Senate bill], referring to the Republican Party. He says he is concerned that his own party's chiefs would lean so heavily on the promoter, who once served four years behind bars for beating to death a man who owed him money.

Oh, and he's been investigated for ties to organized crime. John, John. They know. They know.

It's a clown show. And some of the clowns are convicted felons.

Then there is that other master clown, Dennis Hastert.

Dennis Hastert... yesterday opened a second front. On "Fox News Sunday," the Illinois Republican insinuated that billionaire financier George Soros, who's funding an independent media campaign to dislodge President Bush, is getting his big bucks from shady sources. "You know, I don't know where George Soros gets his money. I don't know where - if it comes overseas or from drug groups or where it comes from," Hastert mused. An astonished Chris Wallace asked: "Excuse me?" The Speaker went on: "Well, that's what he's been for a number years - George Soros has been for legalizing drugs in this country. So, I mean, he's got a lot of ancillary interests out there." Wallace: "You think he may be getting money from the drug cartel?" Hastert: "I'm saying I don't know where groups - could be people who support this type of thing. I'm saying we don't know."

Can you say, "Defamation of Character?"* These guys and their shrill lies intended only to damage the reputation of those who disagree with them. It is necessary to get them out of power as quickly as possible. Don't get me started on this serial liar. America's mayor my ass. New Yorkers were tired of his schtick before 9-11, and they got freshly tired of it pretty soon after that day.

Oh, over there, there's another one.

Former President Bush said Mr. Kerry "served honorably," but added of the veterans attacking him, "I don't know enough about them to say they're all liars."

Mr. Bush said that President Bush had been "victimized" by independent political groups - like the Swift boat veterans - running attack advertisements against him. He cited the liberal group MoveOn.Org and also mentioned "this sloppy Michael Moore," the filmmaker.

"For months before the president started campaigning, he was attacked by all kinds of people," his father said.

The former president said that in his last campaign, in 1992, he was "very careful" not to attack his opponent, Bill Clinton, for avoiding service in Vietnam.

But at his own nominating convention that year, he drew a comparison between his service as a naval aviator in World War II and the record of Mr. Clinton, then governor of Arkansas. "Well, what about the leader of the Arkansas National Guard, the man who hopes to be commander in chief?" Mr. Bush asked in his speech accepting the nomination. "Well, while I bit the bullet, he bit his nails."

This, from the man who got his son a cushy assignment in the Texas Air National Guard. This, from the man who was not "the Father" that same son consulted before going to war in Iraq.

* Soros has seen a lot worse than Hastert, having lived through fascism and communism. I'm not sure he's a guy Hastert really wants to mess with.

Flip. Flop.

Our bipolar president can't decide if we can or cannot win his war on terror.

“In this different kind of war, we may never sit down at a peace table,” Mr. Bush told the American Legion delegates. “But make no mistake about it, we are winning and we will win.”

The president’s unambiguous remarks today differed from those in an interview with Matt Lauer of the NBC News program “Today.” When Mr. Lauer asked him about the war on terrorism, Mr. Bush replied, “I don’t think you can win it.” The president went on to say, “I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world.”

Wow, he sounded almost...French. And probably that's the closest to a clear-eyed view of the world from this preznit that we'll hear for a long time.

"Catastrophic Success"

Much has been made this week of Bush's use of the term "catastrophic success" -- an alert reader wondered if he'd misspoke, but then did a google search and found that Rumsfeld had also used the term. Yes, it's a nice, Rumsfeldian image -- the idea that our forces were just so successful at routing the Iraqi forces that disaster was inevitable.


Here's what Our Leader says in Time:

Had we had to do it over again, we would look at the consequences of catastrophic success -- being so successful so fast that an enemy that should have surrendered or been done in escaped and lived to fight another day. I couldn't have sat down and said to you, By the way, we're going to be so victorious so quickly that we'll end up having to fight another third of the Baathists over the next year in order to bring liberty to the country. There's an idea that you can chew on.

Yes, you can chew on that -- as, apparently, the Time reporters did -- or you can ask a follow-up question, such as, "But Mr. President, didn't your very own State Dept. foresee many of 'the consequences of catastrophic success'? I mean, they published an extensive, multi-volume report predicting much of the chaos that followed the fall of Baghdad. Why didn't your administration take their work seriously instead of allowing Rumsfeld to disregard it as well as disregarding Gen. Shinsekeli's estimate for troop requirements, an estimate, by the way, based on hard-fought experience in the Balkans?"

To echo Brad DeLong, why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

Monday, August 30, 2004

If someone comes at you with a loganberry, don't come crying to me!

Airtight security at the convention.

Police were busy confiscating cans, glass bottles, umbrellas, perfume, nail polish and even fruit. "Apples, oranges, bananas. They can be used as projectiles," explained one officer.

Thank goodness the police have been well-trained.

Colonel (Graham Chapman): get some discipline into those chaps, Sergeant Major!

Sargeant (John Cleese, shouting throughout): Right sir! Good evening, class.

All (mumbling): Good evening.

Sargeant: Where's all the others, then?

All: They're not here.

Sgt.: I can see that. What's the matter with them?

All: Dunno.

Chapman (member of class): Perhaps they've got 'flu.

Sgt.: Huh! 'Flu, eh? They should eat more fresh fruit. Ha. Right. Now, self-defence. Tonight I shall be carrying on from where we got to last week when I was showing you how to defend yourselves against anyone who attacks you with armed with a piece of fresh fruit.

(Grumbles from all)

Palin: Oh, you promised you wouldn't do fruit this week.

Sgt.: What do you mean?

Jones: We've done fruit the last nine weeks.

Sgt.: What's wrong with fruit? You think you know it all, eh?

Palin: Can't we do something else?

Idle (Welsh): Like someone who attacks you with a pointed stick?

Sgt.: Pointed stick? Oh, oh, oh. We want to learn how to defend ourselves against pointed sticks, do we? Getting all high and mighty, eh? Fresh fruit not good enough for you eh? Well I'll tell you something my lad. When you're walking home tonight and some great homicidal maniac comes after you with a bunch of loganberries, don't come crying to me! Now, the passion fruit. When your assailant lunges at you with a passion fruit...

Something worth fighting for

Samantha Powers has a powerful report on Darfur that both reflects the horror of what is happening there and provides history and context for the conflict.

Hilal agreed to meet with me because he wanted to clear up the impression in the West that he is a janjaweed. When I mentioned the word, Hilal, who sees himself in regal terms, scoffed at what he considers a grave insult. In Sudan, nobody ever calls himself a janjaweed. Although many Africans in Darfur apply the term to any Arab civilian who carries a gun, government officials and Darfur’s Arab-militia leaders, like Hilal, apply it only to the bandits—African and Arab—who have been hijacking and looting in Sudan’s remote areas for decades. Western diplomats use “janjaweed” more broadly, to describe the Arab militiamen who have carried out much of the pillaging, killing, and raping in Darfur. These men, who receive orders on Thuraya satellite phones, have joined up with the Sudanese Air Force and Army, killing as many as fifty thousand Darfurians and destroying nearly four hundred villages. More than a million and a half people have fled from their homes—fifty refugee camps have been established in Chad, and a hundred and fifty unofficial sites have sprung up in Sudan—but this hasn’t stopped the janjaweed. They continue to terrorize, murdering men and raping women who dare to venture outside the camps.

Nothing like a month's vacation

Geez, Sully comes back from Provincetown or wherever he fritters away the month of August, and he's in a fighting mood.

P.S.: I loved Bush's comment yesterday about the smear-ad: "I can understand why Senator Kerry is upset with us. I wasn't so pleased with the ads that were run about me. And my call is get rid of them all, now." "Us"?? I thought Bush had nothing to do with it.

Did he spend the month contemplating on how Bush and his cronies despise him and his kind, how they use Republican social moderates as a beard to mask their loathing for people different from themselves, and how they are using the Federal Marriage Amendment has a piece of red meat for their base and as a way of changing the subject away from Najaf, Abu Ghraib, Afghanistan?


Or maybe this kind of thing has finally sent him over the edge.

There in spirit

Okay, okay, the Vega did not join in the festivities in NYC yesterday. No end of excuses: Madame Cura and I had already ventured into the city on Saturday to pick up a repaired iBook whose logic board had gone on the fritz (which might, for some, explain some recent postings); I was exhausted from a trip to Chicago and the usual nuttiness of trying to get out of O'Hare on a Friday night; the men's marathon was on in the morning (and I'm glad I didn't miss the weird ending) while the Yankees were playing in the afternoon; on and on.

Basically, it was just too damned hot (90 degrees) and humid (85% or higher) to even think about shuffling up seventh avenue. Props to those who suffered through it.

Alicublog did, and has one of the better summaries of what it was like, as well as a compendium of wingnut bloviation expressing their offence at the scruffy, unshaven protesters. Thanks to Digby for the link.

Further regression

I've posted about this in the past, and I'm sure I'll be posting about it in the future -- Bush's plan to do away with our progressive tax on wages and income in favor of a flat tax intended to shield all income on savings and investment from taxes.

Writing in The New Yorker, John Cassidy unveils the second term agenda you won't hear Bush or his supporters talking about this week in New York.

Most people already know that Bush’s tax cuts favored the rich, but the size of the giveaway was startling. Based on figures contained in a recent study from the Congressional Budget Office, it now appears that about two-thirds of the benefits went to households in the top fifth of the income distribution, and about one third went to households in the top one-hundredth of the distribution. To put it another way, families earning $1.2 million a year—that is, the richest one per cent in the country—received a tax break of roughly $78,500. Families earning $57,000 a year—middle-income families—got a tax cut of about $1,100.

Even these numbers, though, do not convey the full ambition of the Republicans’ agenda, which potentially involves a historic restructuring of the American system of government. Roughly two-thirds of taxable income is paid to workers in the form of wages and benefits. The other third goes to reward capital, or accumulated savings, in the form of corporate profits, dividends, and interest payments. If Bush’s economic agenda was fully enacted, the vast bulk of these payments wouldn’t be taxed at all, and labor would end up shouldering practically the entire burden of financing the federal government. In a new book, “Neoconomy: George Bush’s Revolutionary Gamble with America’s Future,” Daniel Altman, a former economics reporter for the Times and The Economist, describes what such a system might look like. “The fortunate and growing minority who managed to receive all their income from stocks, bonds and other securities would pay nothing—not a dime—for America’s cancer research, its international diplomacy, its military deterrent, the maintenance of the interstate highway system, the space program or almost anything else the federal government did.... Broadly speaking, that fortunate minority would be free-riders.”

It would seem outrageous that Bush would propose such a thing (then again, the Inheritence Tax was devised by a Republican; a century later, Republicans call it the "Death Tax"), and of course he won't. That would scare away any but the most profound supply-siders (maybe even David Brooks would get a clue). Instead, he plans to do this incrementally, a stealth reorganization of the tax code and a secret shifting of the tax burden to the middle class and working poor.


Brad DeLong has more on the bizarre Larry Franklin story. He wasn't spying for Israel. He was just trying to get the attention of the White House.

Weird. Just weird.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Getting away with murder


ONLY A FEW years ago, it seemed the slightest suggestion of malfea- sance by a presidential administration -- allegations of tampering with a minor administrative office, say, or indications that a cabinet secretary might have understated the amount of money given to a former girlfriend -- could trigger a formidable response from the other two branches of government: grand juries, special prosecutors, endless congressional hearings, even impeachment proceedings. Some of that auditing, especially during the Clinton administration, went too far. Yet now the country faces a frightening inversion of the problem. Though there is strong evidence of faulty and even criminal behavior by senior military commanders and members of President Bush's cabinet in the handling of foreign detainees, neither Congress nor the justice system is taking adequate steps to hold those officials accountable.


When the prisoner abuse allegations first became public in May, many members of Congress, including several senior Republicans, vowed to pursue the evidence up the chain of command and not to allow low-ranking reservists to be prosecuted while more senior officials escaped sanction. Yet, as matters now stand, Mr. Rumsfeld, Gen. Sanchez and other senior officials are poised to execute just such an escape. When the scandal began, these leaders told Congress they were prepared to accept responsibility for the wrongdoing. As it turns out, they didn't mean that in any substantive respect. Their dodge shames not only them but the legal and legislative bodies charged with enforcing accountability.

Atrios takes the Post to task for this editorial, taking the tack that the editors surely know by now that the party in charge of all three branches of government have no interest in anything but Power -- getting it and keeping it. For that reason they editors should not expect those self-same branches to investigate themselves -- that's now the job of the Post and other newspapers.

Iran Contra II?

The F.B.I. is in communication with a Pentagon official suspected of passing secrets to Israel and is seeking to gain his cooperation in their espionage investigation, government officials said.

The Pentagon official, Larry Franklin, a midlevel analyst who works in the policy office of the Defense Department, has been in contact with investigators with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, officials said. It could not be learned whether he was talking with the bureau directly or through a lawyer.

Government officials say they suspect that Mr. Franklin provided classified documents to officials at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a major pro-Israel lobbying group in Washington, and that the group in turn handed the materials over to Israeli intelligence. Both the lobbying group and the Israeli government have denied any misconduct.

Pardon my ignorance, but isn't "passing secrets" to another country a crime? And of a little bit more urgency than, "Let's get this guy's lawyer on the phone. And step on it?"

Much has been made in the initial reports over the Isreal-connection, but the real story here seems to be a Pentagon out of control and attempting to shape foreign policy without involvement by the State Dept.

The work done in the Pentagon's policy offices often involves regional strategic planning like deliberations on what stance the government should take in dealing with other countries. A little more than a year ago, one policy pushed from within the Pentagon would have relied on covert support for Iranian resistance groups to destabilize Iran's powerful clergy. In internal deliberations, some even raised the possibility of a military strike against an Iranian nuclear facility at Natanz. The ideas, reported in the news media at the time, came up in the context of developing a draft directive outlining the administration's overall policy toward the regime in Tehran.

American policy toward Iran is now of critical importance to Israel, which is increasingly concerned by evidence that Tehran has accelerated its program to develop a nuclear weapon. The Bush administration has become concerned that Israel might move militarily against Iran's nuclear complex.

Coincidentally, the Times story mentions Michael Ledeen, a "conservative scholar" from the American Enterprise Institute, "and a freind of Mr. Franklin," saying that he's shocked, shocked by the charges, which he calls "incoherent."

Ledeen plays a significantly more prominent actor in a remarkably well-timed piece in the Washington Monthly by Josh Marshall, Laura Rozen, and Paul Glastris that covers this in greater depth.

Franklin, along with another colleague from [Douglas] Feith's office, a polyglot Middle East expert named Harold Rhode, were the two officials involved in the back-channel, which involved on-going meetings and contacts with Iranian arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar and other Iranian exiles, dissidents and government officials. Ghorbanifar is a storied figure who played a key role in embroiling the Reagan administration in the Iran-Contra affair. The meetings were both a conduit for intelligence about Iran and Iraq and part of a bitter administration power-struggle pitting officials at DoD who have been pushing for a hard-line policy of "regime change" in Iran, against other officials at the State Department and the CIA who have been counseling a more cautious approach.

Reports of two of these meetings first surfaced a year ago in Newsday, and have since been the subject of an ongoing investigation by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Whether or how the meetings are connected to the alleged espionage remains unknown. But the FBI is now closely scrutinizing them.

While the FBI is looking at the meetings as part of its criminal investigation, to congressional investigators the Ghorbanifar back-channel typifies the out-of-control bureaucratic turf wars which have characterized and often hobbled Bush administration policy-making. And an investigation by The Washington Monthly -- including a rare interview with Ghorbanifar -- adds weight to those concerns. The meetings turn out to have been far more extensive and much less under White House control than originally reported. One of the meetings, which Pentagon officials have long characterized as merely a "chance encounter" seems in fact to have been planned long in advance by Rhode and Ghorbanifar. Another has never been reported in the American press. The administration's reluctance to disclose these details seems clear: the DoD-Ghorbanifar meetings suggest the possibility that a rogue faction at the Pentagon was trying to work outside normal US foreign policy channels to advance a "regime change" agenda not approved by the president's foreign policy principals or even the president himself.

Out of control.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Is Henry Kissinger Amish?

'Cause the good professor sure is tough to get a hold of despite all those modern conveniences I've heard of, like the telephone.

In the meeting, Admiral Guzzetti complained that his country's "main problem" was terrorism. "It is the first priority of the current government," he said, adding that the government sought, first and foremost, "to ensure the internal security of the country."

Mr. Kissinger responded: "We are aware you are in a difficult period. It is a curious time, when political, criminal and terrorist activities tend to merge without any clear separation. We understand you must establish authority."

Later, he said, "If there are things that have to be done, you should do them quickly. But you should get back quickly to normal procedures."

Theresa Cimino, an aide to Mr. Kissinger, said he was traveling and could not be reached for comment.

Maybe he's vacationing with Mullah Omar in the Tora Bora.

527s, 527s, 527s. Damn you, 527s! Or, Transcriptions with George

Ms. Bumiller: Do you think Senator Kerry lied about his war record?

THE PRESIDENT: I think Senator Kerry should be proud of his record.

Ms. Bumiller: But do you think he lied?

THE PRESIDENT: No, I don't think he lied, and I think that he ought to be proud of his record. Let me talk about a larger issue, and that is 527s. I spoke to John McCain today, and I think these ought to be outlawed. I thought they ought to be outlawed a year ago, when I — whenever I signed the bill. I think they're bad for the system. And when you've got people — you know, billionaires writing checks, large checks to try to influence the outcome of the election. And so I —

Ms. Bumiller: But Mr. President, if you don't think he lied, why can't you talk about this one ad, why can't you denounce it —

THE PRESIDENT: Elisabeth, 527s, 527s; the larger issue of 527s.

Ms. Bumiller: I'm talking about this smaller issue of this attack on Senator Kerry by Swift Boat Veterans —

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I understand how Senator Kerry feels — I have been attacked by 527s, too. I think it's a — the issue is, let's get rid of them all. That's where we ought to be — that's where this debate ought to be, how to get rid of this money that's flowing into the system.

Ms. Bumiller: Can I just try one more time? You don't want to address that specific advertisement. Will you condemn it?

THE PRESIDENT: All those ads ought to go, Elisabeth, every one of them, including the ads that have been run on me. Millions of dollars have poured into this system in an unregulated fashion. And for 12 months there was silence. And all of a sudden now, people are taking exception to unregulated soft money. And John and I are going to work together to try to — we're going to file a lawsuit trying to end the process, not only for the money being on TV, but for the money that's involved in other parts of the process. And I hope you join us.

So, he wanted them outlawed a year ago, when he signed the bill? Gawd.

Wait, there's more signs of the boy king's engagement on the issues:

Ms. Bumiller: Mr. President, why did your administration change its position on what causes global warming?

THE PRESIDENT: I don't think we did.

Ms. Bumiller: According to —

THE PRESIDENT: I don't think so, Elisabeth.

Ms. Bumiller: You said that it's almost certainly carbon monoxide — which you hadn't said in the past, carbon dioxide.

THE PRESIDENT: I think that was my position during the campaign, if I'm not mistaken.

Ms. Bumiller: It changed —

MR. McCLELLAN: You're talking about the National Academy of Science report?

Ms. Bumiller: Yes, yes.

MR. McCLELLAN: We've always talked about how that would - we'd be guided by their science on the issue, and that's why the President has done a lot in terms of climate change, advancing the science of climate change, and also doing more research —

THE PRESIDENT: Let me get back with you on that, because I think you might — I don't know why you said what you just said.

Ms. Bumiller: Well, we had a story in the paper this morning saying that you issued a report saying —

THE PRESIDENT: Oh, okay, well, that's got to be true.

What more is there to say?

Thursday, August 26, 2004

I think they're winning

Rumsfeld's self-appointed panel on the prisoner abuse decides that even though Rumsfeld has shown near complete incompetence, it would be a boon to terrorists everywhere were he to resign. It's logic like that that will win the War on Terrorism (or, WOT).

On NPR this morning, Sen. John Warner (R. Vir) called Rumsfeld the best Secty of Defense. Ever.

If even remotely intellectually honest people don't take a modicum of control over the country soon the lies, malfeasance, and basic incompetence of the Bush admin. may never come to light. Or, at least, not until it's too late.

We get mail

One of the Vega's fantastically attractive and remarkably well-informed readers writes:

dear vegacura man,

my wife gave some money to John Kerry's campaign and got an official glossy photo of him and Edwards in return.
help us settle a bet. The photo came inside an official looking folder with what looks like the seal of the usa on it, but when you look closer, the olive branches in the eagle's claw have been replaced with a small flag of the usa on a little flagpole(the arrows are still in the other claw, as is normal.) My wife says this is because it's campaign material, not something that's sent from the government, and that they're just trying to look as if they're the government already. I say Kerry's trying to show he's tough on defense, jettisoning those peacenik olive leaves lest he be accused of being anti-war, and it lets him capture the flag, too. Please help!

Credulous in Cambridge

Dear Cred Cam,

You are both correct. And both incorrect. And since you are from what Philip Gourevitch called, in the Aug. 23 issue of The New Yorker, "the echt-liberal enclave of Cambridge, Massachusetts," you should probably sit down.

Your wife is correct in that the official "seal" is usually a key component of the official "Presidential Seal," which figures pretty prominently on this site. Being the product of Swiss Boarding Schools, Big John would not be so bold as to presume.

And you, my dear Credulous, are correct in that if Kerry featured olive branches, he'd be derided as French. Or, perhaps more accurately, Spanish.

But you are both incorrect in that you think either of those explanations define the God of War's real motivation.

The Holder of Life and Death is finally unveiling his true self. You may have heard that a certain group, Swift Boat Veterans for Coordination with the Bush Campaign, have been running ads reminding Bush's base that, yes, indeed, Kerry is a blood-drenched maniac. Though perhaps undeserving of his THREE PURPLE HEARTS, TWO BRONZE STARS AND ONE SILVER STAR (and a Gold in archery, I think), they tell us, over and over, he was in the thick of it. He would be hit with shrapnel and not even bleed. He would, with cunning premeditation, leap from his boat and chase down some half-clothed, rocket-firing barbarian named Charlie and shoot him in the back. Rambo-like, he led secret missions to Cambodia that were seared in his memory, violating orders for which he could have -- nay, should have -- been court-martialled.

Yes, now that the Swift Boat Mouth Breathers for Busheney have let the proverbial cat out of the bag, the jig is up, the die is cast, the eagle has landed, the cliche is laden... In other words, you echt-liberal, the real John Kerry is emerging, and the NEW SEAL is illustrative of his new war persona emerging, Venus-like, from the foam in the wake of a passing Swift Boat.

As we now celebrate the War in Vietnam as the brilliant global strategy to liberate the victims of Ho Chi Minh's misguided nationalism, the Man Who Courts Death is making a statement. He will bomb you back to the Stone Age, or he will shower democracy on your undeserving ass. Who knows? All depends on what side of the bed mighty John gets out of that morning.

Hope that clears things up for you, but you may want to keep this information to yourself for the time being.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Hey Rube

How could it have escaped my attention that Hunter S. Thompson has been writing a column for espn.com for the past 3+ years? Here he mourns the passing of the powerful Yankees in "The Half-Inning That Will Live in Infamy."

When I woke up four hours later, the Yankees were leading 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth. My friends were laughing greedily and Omar was gone. I felt queasiness in my stomach, but I refused to cave in to it -- and just then the Yankees made a horrible error that put men on first and second with no outs. Yes, I thought, this dynasty is ready to fall. Princess Omin was weeping softly, but I tried to ignore her. The whole room understood that whatever happened next was going to be awkward.

There was no time to brood on it, however, because a Diamondback hitter had looped a single into left-center and the game was over. ... And that's how the story ends, folks. Omar's little sister is living with us now. She sleeps in the attic and never talks. We are trying to take the situation one day at a time. Anita has come to like her, and I have abandoned all hope of Omar ever paying off. But so what? At least he is gone from the neighborhood,and that is what really matters. He was an evil freak, and I hope he never comes back. Life can be strange in the wilderness, especially when foreigners wander in and say unfortunate things for no reason at all. The Yankees are dead, long live the Yankees.

These are times that were made for the Good Doctor. I'm glad he's back.

What Kerry said in 1971

As TAPPED notes, the Swift Boat Veterans for Bush were only the appetiser. The main course will be the focus on Kerry's actions following the war -- his opposition to what we now know was a truly heroic war to bring freedom and democracy to Southeast Asia.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), a veteran, said this line of attack is fair game. "What does offend me, and what I think is unconscionable, was when we had soldiers in the field and people who were prisoners of war, he labeled them all . . . as war criminals," he said. "I still get mad about that some 30 years later."

As we'll be learning ad nauseum in the days and weeks to come, Kerry told Congress that the soldiers in Vietnam were all a bunch of rapists and dog killers, including those serving in POW camps.

Trouble is, that's simply not what Kerry said, implied, hinted at, or even wordlessly thought to himself. Quite the contrary, and that is what makes the new attacks more vicious than the debunked claims that he didn't earn his medals. That's because the new attacks go to the very heart of what Kerry has dedicated much of his life to since returning from Vietnam -- supporting veterans, their rights, and their benefits.

I would like to talk, representing all those veterans, and say that several months ago in Detroit, we had an investigation at which over 150 honorably discharged and many very highly decorated veterans testified to war crimes committed in Southeast Asia, not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.

It is impossible to describe to you exactly what did happen in Detroit, the emotions in the room, the feelings of the men who were reliving their experiences in Vietnam, but they did. They relived the absolute horror of what this country, in a sense, made them do.

They told the stories at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, tape wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the country side of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country.

In other words, Kerry was speaking for soldiers who described their horror at what they felt they were forced to do and the trauma they brought home with them.

I would like to talk to you a little bit about what the result is of the feelings these men carry with them after coming back from Vietnam. The country doesn't know it yet, but it has created a monster, a monster in the form of millions of men who have been taught to deal and to trade in violence, and who are given the chance to die for the biggest nothing in history; men who have returned with a sense of anger and a sense of betrayal which no one has yet grasped.

As a veteran and one who feels this anger, I would like to talk about it. We are angry because we feel we have been used in the worst fashion by the administration of this country.
We are probably much more angry than that and I don't want to go into the foreign policy aspects because I am outclassed here. I know that all of you talk about every possible alternative of getting out of Vietnam. We understand that. We know you have considered the seriousness of the aspects to the utmost level and I am not going to try to dwell on that, but I want to relate to you the feeling that many of the men who have returned to this country express because we are probably angriest about all that we were told about Vietnam and about the mystical war against communism.

We found also that all too often American men were dying in those rice paddies for want of support from their allies. We saw first hand how money from American taxes was used for a corrupt dictatorial regime. We saw that many people in this country had a one-sided idea of who was kept free by our flag, as blacks provided the highest percentage of casualties. We saw Vietnam ravaged equally by American bombs as well as by search and destroy missions, as well as by Vietcong terrorism, and yet we listened while this country tried to blame all of the havoc on the Vietcong.

We rationalized destroying villages in order to save them. We saw America lose her sense of morality as she accepted very coolly a My Lai and refused to give up the image of American soldiers who hand out chocolate bars and chewing gum.

Each day to facilitate the process by which the United States washes her hands of Vietnam someone has to give up his life so that the United States doesn't have to admit something that the entire world already knows, so that we can't say that we have made a mistake. Someone has to dies so that President Nixon won't be, and these are his words, "the first President to lose a war."

We are asking Americans to think about that because how do you ask a man to be the last man to dies in Vietnam? How do ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

But the problem of veterans goes beyond this personal problem, because you think about a poster in this country with a picture of Uncle Sam and the picture says "I want you." And a young man comes out of high school and says, "That is fine. I am going to serve my country." And he goes to Vietnam and he shoots and he kills and he does his job or maybe he doesn't kill, maybe he just goes and he comes back, and when he gets back to this country he finds that he isn't really wanted, because the largest unemployment figure in the country- it varies depending on who you get it from, the VA Administration 15 percent, various other sources 22 percent. But the largest corps of unemployed in this country are veterans of this war, and of those veterans 33 percent of the unemployed are black. That means 1 out of every 10 of the Nation's unemployed is a veteran of Vietnam.

The hospitals across the country won't, or can't meet their demands. It is not a question of not trying. They don't have the appropriations. A man recently died after he had a tracheotomy in California, not because of the operation but because there weren't enough personnel to clean the mucous out of his tube and he suffocated to death.

Another young man just died in a New York VA hospital the other day. A friend of mine was lying in a bed two beds away and tried to help him, but he couldn't. He rang a bell and there was nobody there to service that man and so he died of convulsions.

I understand 57 percent of all those entering the VA hospitals talk about suicide. Some 27 percent have tried, and they try because they come back to this country and they have to face what they did in Vietnam, and then they come back and find the indifference of a country that doesn't really care, that doesn't really care.

As I said, for a man who has devoted a fair amount of his public life (that "weak record" Dick Cheney keeps talking about) to veterans affairs, to fighting for VA hospital appropriations, and to healing the wounds of the POW issue, the new attacks must be particularly painful.

Go read the whole thing. It's worth it.

Meanwhile, Kerry is getting stronger on the stump.

Later, at a fund-raiser in Philadelphia, Mr. Kerry called the attacks "so petty it is almost pathetic" but then responded to their substance more directly than he had. Noting that some have criticized him for staying in Vietnam for just four months, Mr. Kerry said: "Well, I was there longer than that, number one. Number two, I served two tours. Number three, they thought enough of my service to make me aide to an admiral.

"The Navy, 35 years ago, made the awards that they made under the normal process that they made, and I am proud of them," he continued. "And I am proud of my service, and I am proud that I stood up against the war when I came home, because it was the right thing to do."

As noted in the following post, Busheney may regret getting this guy riled up.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

John Kerry: God of War

Via Alas, a Blog, Ken Layne asks, "Who has Dubya Killed?"

"But," Tim sputtered, "Kerry clearly claimed he was in Cambodia several days before he was in Cambodia. It was seared--"

"Stop that," I said, poking his neck with the corkscrew worm. "Listen to yourself. What are you doing, again? That's right, you're reminding people that the other guy fought in Vietnam. Have you become so brain dead that you think this helps your girly boy Bush? Do you honestly believe the coward boy can beat the War Monster?"

Blair tried to shake the confusion from his head. Then his eyes brightened for a moment and he said, "Four months! Kerry was only in Vietnam for four months!"

"See? You did it again. You people can't stop reminding everybody that Kerry was in Vietnam, taking lives like your boy eats cookies. Killing people, saving people, holding Life & Death in his hands like a savage gift. He kills the Viet Cong or anybody else he chooses, he saves a U.S. sailor who fell out of the boat, he walks the halls of the Senate deciding who he'll kill or who he'll save. In Vietnam, Kerry is a death's head of gruesome power, while your Bush hides in Alabama, a scared little girl. And what did little Bush do in Texas?"

Blair grinned, foolishly thinking the ball was again in his court. "He killed many people in Texas. All those executions ...."

"Ha! Your girly Bush killed nobody. He signed off on lethal injections. He's a middle manager in a cubicle at the suburban branch of the Bank of Death, initialing memos he doesn't even know how to read. What kind of Texas oilman is your little girl? You ever see 'Dallas'?"

A must read. I guess my earlier criticism of Hitchy-boy was off-the-mark. The Dem's secret plan really is to tear down the Vietnam Memorial and erect a huge statue of a grinning GI standing on a pile of golden Charlie skulls!


This post was revised to fix the links. Damn you, Alas, a Blog!


Mark Clark, the spokesman for the Iraqi Olympic squad in Athens, accused journalists of taking advantage of the players. "They are not very sophisticated politically. Whoever posed these questions knew the answers would be negative. It is possible something was lost in translation. The players are entitled to their opinions but we are disappointed," he said.

"Mark Clark" is the spokesman for the Iraqi Olympic squad? That tells you just 'bout all you need to know. Everything is about Bush administration PR. If only we could better stage manage the occupation.

But in the bigger scheme of things, the reaction of the football players paints a disturbing picture for our hopes for a successful occupation, as Matt Yglesias points out.

More depressing thoughts via Brad DeLong -- an email exchange between a young North African woman and a marketing professor here in the U.S. The freepers burst blood vessels when they hear "otherwise" educated young people in North African countries speak of their hatred for America. Yeah, their TV coverage is easy on their corrupt governments and blame American policy toward Israel for everything from terrorism to premature male baldness. It may be "wrong-headed" to conflate George W. Bush with Saddam Hussein. But the feelings are real. And they indicate many more troubles for us in years to come unless we can begin to deal with these issues with something more than Air Cav.

Speaking of ingrates, that British bastard won't take our Congressional Medal of Honour [sic]!

Where are the "TANG Pilots for Truth"

Suburba Guerillawonders why, with so many people claiming to have seen Kerry in Vietnam -- or been the victim of his personal undermining of the war effort (which we would have won if not for those shaggy-haired, no count veterans), no one has stepped forward to say he flew with George?

Hitchens and his straw man

Over at Slate, while Fred Kaplan debunks yet another of the Swift Boat creeps' claims, that Kerry wasn't in Cambodia when he said he was (can you think of a stupider way to attack the guy?), they let that Knight of the Keyboard, brave Chris Hitchens, bloviate on why Kerry's service in Vietnam makes him unfit to be president.

It's a classic Hitch piece. He leads off with a paragraph invoking George Orwell that has absolutely nothing to do with the ensuing argument. But Chris Hitchens must mention Orwell. Every time he writes.

Whatever. Hitchens claim is that Kerry was right to invoke his service when he opposed the war in the early '70s, but wrong to invoke it now. Why?

On that previous occasion, though, Kerry was using his service as a warrior to acquire credentials as an antiwarrior. Now, he is cashing in the same credentials to propose himself as alliance-builder and commander in chief. This is not a distinction without a difference.

Perhaps not, but what's your point?

Not sure, because he then goes on a lengthy ramble about his brave vote to oust Bob Kerrey as president of the New School because of revelations that he may have committed atrocities during his stint in Vietnam. He compares John Kerry's killing of a Viet Cong soldier -- who had just been firing rockets at his boat -- probably shooting him in the back, to the Kerrey' accusations in which he was accused of killing old women and children.

Straw man #1.

Then we get to what really provokes crazy Chris' ire:

Meanwhile, even odder things are happening to Kerry's "left." Michael Moore, whose film Kerry's people have drawn upon in making cracks about the president and the My Pet Goat moment, repeatedly says that you can't comment on the Iraq war—or at least not in favor of it—if you haven't shown a willingness to send a son to die there.

By the way, it's "The Pet Goat," but no matter. What has Michael Moore have to do with Kerry's service? I know of no instance in which any of "Kerry's people" have suggested that you can't comment on the war unless you're will to do the Abraham and Isaac thing. Certainly Kerry has not asked Vanessa or Alexandra to serve.

Straw man #2.

Then, of course, comes the classic Hitchens conclusion. It's all about Henry Kissinger.

The Democrats have made a rod for their own backs in uncritically applauding their candidate's ramrod-and-salute posture. They have also implicitly subverted one of the most important principles of the republic, which is civilian control over military decisions. And more than that, they have done something eye-rubbingly unprincipled, doing what Reagan and Kissinger could not do: rehabilitating the notion of the Vietnam horror as "a noble cause."

What Reagan has to do with any of this, I'm unclear. But I know of no Democrat who has tried to rehabilitate the war. What they have tried to do is to use Kerry's military service as a prop for building recognition of the man, preempting the inevitable attacks by the GOP that Kerry is a weak-kneed liberal, and supporting the Dems' creds for securing the nation. Hitchens' argument is simply nonsense.

Let's get this straight:

Kerry, holding strong doubts about the war, nonetheless volunteered to serve. He chose what he thought would be relatively safe duty, commanding a swift boat covering the Vietnam shoreline. But then the decision by Zumwalt was made to use the swift boats for highly dangerous "brown water" duty. He did his duty, apparently (according to extensive naval records) with some valor. Having received three Purple Hearts he returned to the U.S. and became a leader of veterans against the war, and testified to the poor leadership in the war, the dishonesty of political and military leaders, and the basic inanity of the war itself. he then went on to a fairly distinguised career as a district attorney and then a senator who, while not reknowned, was effective, particularly in leading the Iran-Contra investigation and then, with John McCain, addressing the long-festering POW issue, which resulted in thawing of relations with Vietnam.

Bush, as far as we know, supported the war -- its aims and conduct -- but used his dad's connections to vault over a long waiting list to get an assignment defending Texas against the Mexican airforce. Apparently (according to not so extensive TANG records), he did not even fulfill that light duty and lost his wings. He then went on to an undistinguished career as a failed political candidate, a failed businessman repeatedly bailed out by Dad's cronies, then a governor in a state where the governor has, essentially, no power -- not even to stop executions in the state if you buy his repeated argument.

Character matters. As Josh Marshall argues today, Bush's entire adult life has been a long example of moral cowardice, Kerry's has been the exact opposite.

Kerry, when invoking his service, isn't saying that only vets have the right to make the decision to go to war. He is saying that, as a vet, he understands what it means to send young Americans off to serve as cannon fodder, and that he will not make that decision unless he is absolutely sure it is the right thing to do.

Bush didn't care if it was the right thing to do or whether we are doing it the right way.

As for Hitch, he can go Cheney himself.

Breaking news: Yankees lose 6 of 7, George's head does not explode.


"I'm not panicking at all," Steinbrenner said in a statement. "We've been down this road before and I have tremendous faith in my players, my manager and the leadership of the team. We will be O.K."

As Murray Chass writes today, such a comment from George Steinbrenner is unprecedented, "remarkable for its mellow tone and its absence of threats. It is remarkable for the calmness and serenity it projects.

Monday, August 23, 2004

"Damn you, free speech"

"Shorter George Bush:

'I'll ask my friends to stop lying about John Kerry, if he will ask his friends to stop telling the truth about me.'"

Regressive is as regressive does

Yes, learning more each day what George Bush means (or, at least the people who tell him what to say mean) when he says he wants the country to assume a "culture of ownership."

Wage income would be taxed at something close to a flat rate instead of today's graduated rates. Investment income would be largely tax-free. And individuals would shoulder more of the risk for their retirement, in return for potentially greater rewards.

Um, that is called completely redistributing the tax burden to the working poor and middle class, and away from the "owner class." Add to that a national sales tax and we are, seems to me, on the road to serfdom.

And if you doubted that redistribution was already taking place, than just ask Bush's former chief economist for the White Counceil of Economic Advisors, who now runs the Congressional Budget Office.

Within weeks of taking office, Mr. Holtz-Eakin dealt a big blow to Republicans. Analyzing the impact of Mr. Bush's spending and tax plans together, he concluded they would do little or nothing to stimulate long-term growth or make the deficit any smaller than it would be otherwise.

Last week, responding to questions posed by Democratic lawmakers, the Congressional Budget Office released a report showing that Mr. Bush's tax cuts were skewed very heavily to the very top income earners.

Never fear, my Republican friends, the report was quickly rebuffed by the brilliant counter-thesis of a certain well known, Nobel-winning economist [who also happens to -- still -- not be in an orange jumpsuit]:

Robert Novak, the conservative newspaper columnist, bitterly accused Mr. Holtz-Eakin of being a pawn for Democrats.

"Thanks to the C.B.O., Kerry can now accuse Bush of trying to destroy the middle class based on a nonpartisan report authored by a former Bush aide," Mr. Novak fumed, in a column published on Thursday.

Uh, yep, that's about right, Bob.

Holiday in Cambodia

Fact-checking the fact-checkers regarding Kerry's "alleged" trip to Cambodia in 1968/69.

Lest we forget

While the GOP continue to smear veterans of a disastrous war from half a century ago, there is still a disastrous war going on in Iraq. Five more U.S. soldiers dead there.

And, via Eschaton, another dead soldier closer to home.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Campaign strategies say a lot about the candidates

Ron Brownstein, writing today in the LA Times, notes that the two presidential campaigns have decidedly different strategies. The Kerry campaign, certain of their base's loathing for Bush, reaches out to moderates and centrists -- swing voters -- both in terms of ad spending and appearances. Bush, on the other hand, has given up on the swingers, he's focusing almost exclusively on whipping up his base.

Curious, that pretty much describes Bush's policies over the last three year and a half years.

Bush strategist Dowd says the campaign is also anticipating a turnout increase, but only to about 112 million voters. And he's less certain than Democrats that the remaining undecided and persuadable voters will decide the result.

He noted that even though polls show most persuadable voters expressing pessimism about the country's direction, many of them are whites who regularly attend church — a group that strongly backed Bush in the 2000 election.

Gawd, these people will try to spin anything. The voters expressing the most pessimism about Bush were the same ones who were most likely to have voted for him in 2000 is a good thing? Hmmm.

Well, a good thing for the good guys, I think. Very reassuring.

On lying down with dogs and the fleas who love them

This is just depressing.

Bob Dole always struck me as one of the class acts of Washington, but apparently he too must serve as attack dog for the Bush campaign, jumping into the fray mouthing the scurrilous lies he's been given in the script. It shouldn't surprise me, though. Everything and everyone that comes into contact with GW Bush turns to shit.

Meanwhile, Maureen Dowd is shrill. Maybe her best column of the year.

It makes sense for W. to use surrogates to do his fighting, just as he did when he slid out of Vietnam and just as he did when he sent our troops to fight his administration's misbegotten vanity war in Iraq.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Liars and how they can shape a campaign

If the Right thought we hated GW Bush previously, I can assure them that they've seen nothing yet. The Swift Boat Veterans for Revenge attacks on Kerry have know been totally debunked. And still no statement from our fearless leader condemning the ads which his Texas buddies are paying for.

Today, William Rood, an editor at the Chicago Tribune and a participant in the events that led to the bronze star the lying swift boat veterans claim was undeserved, has broken his long silence to say that Kerry's critics are dead wrong.

William Rood, an editor on the Chicago Tribune's metropolitan desk, said he broke 35 years of silence about the Feb. 28, 1969, mission that resulted in Kerry's receiving a Silver Star because recent portrayals of Kerry's actions published in the best-selling book "Unfit for Command" are wrong and smear the reputations of veterans who served with Kerry.

Rood, who commanded one of three swift boats during that 1969 mission, said Kerry came under rocket and automatic weapons fire from Viet Cong forces and that Kerry devised an aggressive attack strategy that was praised by their superiors. He called allegations that Kerry's accomplishments were "overblown" untrue.

"The critics have taken pains to say they're not trying to cast doubts on the merit of what others did, but their version of events has splashed doubt on all of us. It's gotten harder and harder for those of us who were there to listen to accounts we know to be untrue, especially when they come from people who were not there," Rood said in a 1,700-word first-person account published in Sunday's Tribune.

Rood's recollection of what happened on that day at the southern tip of South Vietnam was backed by key military documents, including his citation for a Bronze Star he earned in the battle and a glowing after-action report written by the Navy captain who commanded his and Kerry's task force, who is now a critic of the Democratic candidate.

According to Rood,

There were three swift boats on the river that day in Vietnam more than 35 years ago—three officers and 15 crew members. Only two of those officers remain to talk about what happened on February 28, 1969.

One is John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate who won a Silver Star for what happened on that date. I am the other.

For years, no one asked about those events. But now they are the focus of skirmishing in a presidential election with a group of swift boat veterans and others contending that Kerry didn't deserve the Silver Star for what he did on that day, or the Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts he was awarded for other actions.

Many of us wanted to put it all behind us—the rivers, the ambushes, the killing. Ever since that time, I have refused all requests for interviews about Kerry's service—even those from reporters at the Chicago Tribune, where I work.

But Kerry's critics, armed with stories I know to be untrue, have charged that the accounts of what happened were overblown. The critics have taken pains to say they're not trying to cast doubts on the merit of what others did, but their version of events has splashed doubt on all of us. It's gotten harder and harder for those of us who were there to listen to accounts we know to be untrue, especially when they come from people who were not there.

Even though Kerry's own crew members have backed him, the attacks have continued, and in recent days Kerry has called me and others who were with him in those days, asking that we go public with our accounts.

I can't pretend those calls had no effect on me, but that is not why I am writing this. What matters most to me is that this is hurting crewmen who are not public figures and who deserved to be honored for what they did. My intent is to tell the story here and to never again talk publicly about it.

I was part of the operation that led to Kerry's Silver Star. I have no firsthand knowledge of the events that resulted in his winning the Purple Hearts or the Bronze Star.

But on Feb. 28, 1969, I was officer in charge of PCF-23, one of three swift boats—including Kerry's PCF-94 and Lt. j.g. Donald Droz's PCF-43—that carried Vietnamese regional and Popular Force troops and a Navy demolition team up the Dong Cung, a narrow tributary of the Bay Hap River, to conduct a sweep in the area.

The approach of the noisy 50-foot aluminum boats, each driven by two huge 12-cylinder diesels and loaded down with six crew members, troops and gear, was no secret.

Ambushes were a virtual certainty, and that day was no exception.

Instructions from Kerry

The difference was that Kerry, who had tactical command of that particular operation, had talked to Droz and me beforehand about not responding the way the boats usually did to an ambush.

We agreed that if we were not crippled by the initial volley and had a clear fix on the location of the ambush, we would turn directly into it, focusing the boats' twin .50-caliber machine guns on the attackers and beaching the boats. We told our crews about the plan.

The Viet Cong in the area had come to expect that the heavily loaded boats would lumber on past an ambush, firing at the entrenched attackers, beaching upstream and putting troops ashore to sweep back down on the ambush site. Often, they were long gone by the time the troops got there.

The first time we took fire—the usual rockets and automatic weapons—Kerry ordered a "turn 90" and the three boats roared in on the ambush. It worked. We routed the ambush, killing three of the attackers. The troops, led by an Army adviser, jumped off the boats and began a sweep, which killed another half dozen VC, wounded or captured others and found weapons, blast masks and other supplies used to stage ambushes.

Meanwhile, Kerry ordered our boat to head upstream with his, leaving Droz's boat at the first site.

It happened again, another ambush. And again, Kerry ordered the turn maneuver, and again it worked. As we headed for the riverbank, I remember seeing a loaded B-40 launcher pointed at the boats. It wasn't fired as two men jumped up from their spider holes.

We called Droz's boat up to assist us, and Kerry, followed by one member of his crew, jumped ashore and chased a VC behind a hooch—a thatched hut—maybe 15 yards inland from the ambush site. Some who were there that day recall the man being wounded as he ran. Neither I nor Jerry Leeds, our boat's leading petty officer with whom I've checked my recollection of all these events, recalls that, which is no surprise. Recollections of those who go through experiences like that frequently differ.

With our troops involved in the sweep of the first ambush site, Richard Lamberson, a member of my crew, and I also went ashore to search the area. I was checking out the inside of the hooch when I heard gunfire nearby.

Not long after that, Kerry returned, reporting that he had killed the man he chased behind the hooch. He also had picked up a loaded B-40 rocket launcher, which we took back to our base in An Thoi after the operation.

John O'Neill, author of a highly critical account of Kerry's Vietnam service, describes the man Kerry chased as a "teenager" in a "loincloth." I have no idea how old the gunner Kerry chased that day was, but both Leeds and I recall that he was a grown man, dressed in the kind of garb the VC usually wore.

The man Kerry chased was not the "lone" attacker at that site, as O'Neill suggests. There were others who fled. There was also firing from the tree line well behind the spider holes and at one point, from the opposite riverbank as well. It was not the work of just one attacker.

Our initial reports of the day's action caused an immediate response from our task force headquarters in Cam Ranh Bay.

Congratulatory message

Known over radio circuits by the call sign "Latch," then-Capt. and now retired Rear Adm. Roy Hoffmann, the task force commander, fired off a message congratulating the three swift boats, saying at one point that the tactic of charging the ambushes was a "shining example of completely overwhelming the enemy" and that it "may be the most efficacious method of dealing with small numbers of ambushers."

Hoffmann has become a leading critic of Kerry's and now says that what the boats did on that day demonstrated Kerry's inclination to be impulsive to a fault.

Our decision to use that tactic under the right circumstances was not impulsive but was the result of discussions well beforehand and a mutual agreement of all three boat officers.

It was also well within the aggressive tradition that was embraced by the late Adm. Elmo Zumwalt, then commander of U.S. Naval Forces, Vietnam. Months before that day in February, a fellow boat officer, Michael Bernique, was summoned to Saigon to explain to top Navy commanders why he had made an unauthorized run up the Giang Thanh River, which runs along the Vietnam-Cambodia border. Bernique, who speaks French fluently, had been told by a source in Ha Tien at the mouth of the river that a VC tax collector was operating upstream.

Ignoring the prohibition against it, Bernique and his crew went upstream and routed the VC, pursuing and killing several.

Instead of facing disciplinary action as he had expected, Bernique was given the Silver Star, and Zumwalt ordered other swifts, which had largely patrolled coastal waters, into the rivers.

The decision sent a clear message, underscored repeatedly by Hoffmann's congratulatory messages, that aggressive patrolling was expected and that well-timed, if unconventional, tactics like Bernique's were encouraged.

What we did on Feb. 28, 1969, was well in line with the tone set by our top commanders.

Zumwalt made that clear when he flew down to our base at An Thoi off the southern tip of Vietnam to pin the Silver Star on Kerry and assorted Bronze Stars and commendation medals on the rest of us.


But I know that what some people are saying now is wrong. While they mean to hurt Kerry, what they're saying impugns others who are not in the public eye.

Men like Larry Lee, who was on our bow with an M-60 machine gun as we charged the riverbank, Kenneth Martin, who was in the .50-caliber gun tub atop our boat, and Benjamin Cueva, our engineman, who was at our aft gun mount suppressing the fire from the opposite bank.

Wayne Langhoffer and the other crewmen on Droz's boat went through even worse on April 12, 1969, when they saw Droz killed in a brutal ambush that left PCF-43 an abandoned pile of wreckage on the banks of the Duong Keo River. That was just a few months after the birth of his only child, Tracy.

The survivors of all these events are scattered across the country now.

Jerry Leeds lives in a tiny Kansas town where he built and sold a successful printing business. He owns a beautiful home with a lawn that sweeps to the edge of a small lake, which he also owns. Every year, flights of purple martins return to the stately birdhouses on the tall poles in his back yard.

Cueva, recently retired, has raised three daughters and is beloved by his neighbors for all the years he spent keeping their cars running. Lee is a senior computer programmer in Kentucky, and Lamberson finished a second military career in the Army.

With the debate over that long-ago day in February, they're all living that war another time.

It would be nice to think that that would put an end to it, but the ads attacking Kerry have already had an effect, and it is unlikely that the mainstream electronic media will stop giving these people a platform for their views

Nor even the print media. In their determination to be entirely even-handed they go out of their way to lend credence to a group whose issue with Kerry isn't really that he received a bronze star, but that he dared, after the war, to campaign against the war and to raise the specter of atrocities committed by American troops.

Like Eschaton, it just makes me furious.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Building a bridge to the 25th century

Fafblog, too, is on a roll. They get to the true heart of the matter in the debate over missile defense.

Namby-pamby suspiciously-French-lookin' Democrat John Kerry is plannin' to take money AWAY from this incredibly important overpriced boondoggle and send it towards expanding the military! Clearly John Kerry is not living in the future! He is stranded way back in the present, when we still needed "troop strength" and "special forces" to hunt down "terrorists"!

George Bush is more interested in the threats of tomorrow, which oddly enough look strangely like the threats of 1980: thousands of intercontinental missiles comin' across the sea from commie nations, possibly such as North Korea* and France. Our only defense against them? A missile shield that will one day, in the future, fail only about eighty to ninety percent of the time!

Meanwhile, the Bug Emperor sits on his throne beyond the asteroid belting, waiting for his chance to strike.

The gluten of the Christ

More on Bishop Smith and the Diocese of Trenton decision to invalidate a little girl's first communion because the wafer HAD NO WHEAT! In fact, we learn that Jesus, despite what you may have thought after watching Gibson's snuff film, was actually very similar to the Pillsbury Dough Boy, though much, much thinner.

Tragically, Giblets and Fafnir have learned that their attempt to bake a baby Jesus/Golem will all come to naught.

Raw Deal

Eschaton is right, Tapped is on a roll today. They fill in more of the backstory of Deal Hudson's actions at Fordham in 1994. It's even worse then I had understood it to be yesterday.

This ‘vulnerable freshman’ was not simply an overly impressionable 18-year-old, by the way. Cara Poppas was a ward of the state of Maine when she arrived to Fordham. The middle of nine children, she was the daughter of an alcoholic and a disabled Vietnam vet. Since the age of seven, she had bounced in and out of foster care. And the thrice-married, 45-year-old Prof. Deal Hudson knew all of this -- before he ever laid a hand on her. Hudson’s resignation essay would lead you to believe that his offense was committed as an unchurched wayward sinner who didn’t know any better. But the incident took place in 1994 -- twelve years after Hudson’s grand rebirth as an orthodox Catholic.

George W. Bush has so many upstanding supporters. Real men of faith and character.

Darfur delays

Sam Rosenfeld brings us up-to-date on the on-going foot-dragging by Europe and the UN regarding the situation in Sudan. He includes a pretty strong indictment of Europe's failure of leadership written by none other than that commie europhile, Howard Dean.

It is remarkable that a decade or so after all civilized people everywhere said "never again" following the horrors Rwanda, we're seeing a tragic replay, one that may even be institutionalized by the Sudanese government.

Human Rights Watch is also concerned with the United Nations "Plan of Action" whereby the Sudanese government would create "safe areas" in which displaced persons would be concentrated. The plan calls for these "safe areas" to be protected by Sudanese police and security forces.

However, the Sudanese government is now integrating members of the government-supported Janjaweed militias into police forces, and such militias have been responsible for atrocities in Darfur.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Catholic out-reach, literally

Too, too beautiful for words. Bush's advisor on all things Catholic, the ranting nut case, Deal Hudson, resigns because of his behavior at Fordham some years ago, in which Professor Hudson schtoopped an underage -- and drunk -- coed came to light.

I don't remember the Pope ok'ing that, but I probably just couldn't understand what the Pontiff was saying.

Jesus' General wonders what all the fuss is about.

Retiring Republican Congressman says war was a mistake

Wow. A devastating critique of the conduct of the war and, especially, it's aftermath.

The GOP response has been interesting. He hasn't been slimed, at least not yet. Does this indicate that they want it to quietly go away or that, to some extent, they respect the guy and know he's right?

The vega takes on Big Media

Writing to Time to complain about their flogging of the Cheney attack...

You shamelessly repeat Dick Cheney's cynical attack on John Kerry, and explain it by stating that Kerry promised "to fight a 'more sensitive' war on terrorism." Dick Cheney knows and, hopefully, the editors of Time magazine do as well, that's not what Kerry said. What John Kerry said was, "I believe I can fight a more effective, more thoughtful, more proactive, more sensitive war on terror that reaches out to other nations and brings them to our side..." Furthermore, later in Cheney's statement, he said "sensitivity" was needed in the battle of Najaf. But you don't mention that. By simply repeating Cheney's attacks, you act as a tool of the Bush campaign and fail to do one of journalism's most important duties -- to keep our politicians honest.

Stamford, CT

Dear Reader:

Thank you for writing. We welcome timely, insightful reactions to material we have published, and we can assure you that your observations found an attentive audience among the editors. Should your comments be selected for the column, you will be notified in advance of publication. Again, our thanks for letting us hear from you. We hope that you will write again should you discover something of particular interest in the news or in our reporting of it.

Best wishes.

TIME Letters

I'm not holding my breadth.

"The dog that did not bark"

Dr. Kay has finally raised publicly what many others outside of the administration have wondered, just how poorly has Condaleeza Rice done her job as head of the NSC?

A former Bush administration official who led the fruitless postwar effort to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq told Congress on Wednesday that the National Security Council led by Condoleezza Rice had botched intelligence information before the war and was "the dog that did not bark" over Iraq's weapons program.

In uncharacteristically caustic remarks about his former colleagues, the weapons inspector, David Kay, said the National Security Council had failed to protect President Bush from faulty prewar intelligence and had left Secretary of State Colin L. Powell "hanging out in the wind" when he tried to gather intelligence before the war about Iraq's weapons programs.

"Where was the N.S.C?" Dr. Kay asked, suggesting that the president had come to depend too heavily on information supplied by Ms. Rice, Mr. Bush's national security adviser, and that the president needed to reach out to others for national security information.


I think this goes to the heart of what Dahlia Lithwick writes today in the Times. We have to stop infantalizing GW Bush and arguing that he's a fool who needs to be kicked out of office. It's not that simple and turns the race into one of personality. The issue isn't simply Bush, some foolish man-child holding the levers of power. It's the so-called adults he has working for him. He relies on, and has been unbelievably loyal to, a crew of vain, self-important, and myopic bureaucrats who have formulated failed policies, while failing to develop any workable strategies for the middle east, terrorist threats, the economy, the environment...you name it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Kerry on Iraq -- no nuance here

Bob Somerby puts it succinctly,

KERRY’S POSITION: I voted to give President Bush the authority. Then President Bush f*cked it up.

Fareed Zakaria agrees, though he puts it a bit more artfully.

The more intelligent question is, given what we knew at the time, was toppling Saddam's regime a worthwhile objective? Bush's answer is yes, Howard Dean's is no. Kerry's answer is that it was a worthwhile objective but was disastrously executed. For this "nuance" Kerry has been attacked from both the right and the left. But it happens to be the most defensible position on the subject.


Bush's position is that if Kerry agrees with him that Saddam was a problem, then Kerry agrees with his Iraq policy. Doing something about Iraq meant doing what Bush did. But is that true? Did the United States have to go to war before the weapons inspectors had finished their job? Did it have to junk the United Nations' process? Did it have to invade with insufficient troops to provide order and stability in Iraq? Did it have to occupy a foreign country with no cover of legitimacy from the world community? Did it have to ignore completely the State Department's postwar planning? Did it have to pack the Governing Council with unpopular exiles, disband the Army and engage in radical de-Baathification? Did it have to spend a fraction of the money allocated for Iraqi reconstruction—and have that be mired in charges of corruption and favoritism? Was all this an inevitable consequence of dealing with the problem of Saddam?

Zakaria's answer is no, that, to quote IBM's Lou Gerstner, "strategy is execution." Other nation-building programs over the past decade -- better planned, less ideologically-driven, not managed by blindered neocons and cronies -- have been successful.

Kerry was right to give the president authority to wage war with Iraq (that does not mean he voted for Bush's war). It was the only way we could get the UN to pay attention, force more intrusive inspections, and force Hussein to comply to them. It was also important for a senator hoping to be president himself one day to make sure his future authority to use the nation's force is not circumscribed. But he didn't vote for the bungling ineptitude that Bush's headlong rush to war has led us to.

And his "nuanced" thinking may be the only chance we have of raising our endeavor there out of the chaos -- would quagmire by any other name still smell as rancid? -- in which we find ourselves.

But, can he spell "sovereign?"

I had heard this delightful little nugget the other day, via a link sent to me from one of my hordes of faithful readers. But the perceptive and fabulously attractive sender provided no context. Who, for instance, was laughing while the preznit was trying to appear, well, presidential? Now we have some context, via Kos.

Anarchists don't pay retail

NYC is giving protesters a choice: throw a trashcan through Crouch & Fitzgerald's window, or take 20% off all merchandise.

And don't forget to take $5 off the admission to the Museum of Sex, a perfect venue for the Republican convention.

Transubstantiation spotting

To hell, literally, with the digestive-challenged. Jesus' General rightly applauds the New Jersey archdiocese -- the same one that wants to excommunicate John Kerry -- for holding the line on non-wheat wafers. It is a slippery slope and the road to hell is paved with soy substitutes.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Looking for Ideas in all the wrong places

Alan Murray thinks [sorry, there's that damned subscription thing again] that all George W. Bush has to do is to communicate his Big Idea.

George W. Bush has a big challenge at the Republican convention in New York. But he also has an opportunity.

The challenge is to change the dynamics of a presidential race that is running against him. Polls show voters are, at best, evenly divided between the two candidates. And the relatively few "undecided" voters are decidedly down on the president. Charlie Cook, one of the few truly independent analysts out there, says only a quarter of undecided voters approve of the job the president is doing. "Ugly numbers for an incumbent," Mr. Cook says. Pollster John Zogby thinks the numbers are even uglier, with just 16% of undecided voters approving of the president's performance.

The opportunity is to present a compelling agenda that establishes him as the candidate of ideas. His Democratic rival, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, passed up that chance in Boston, focusing instead on his biography. That leaves the field clear for the president. If he can give voters a strong sense of what he wants to do with a second term, he just might get one.

Right. Of course, if the Bushies hadn't spent $80 million trying to convince voters that Kerry was a lying spawn of the devil, than maybe he could have spent less time on his biography.

But I digress; what is that idea that young George is nurturing?

The president's call last week for a new era of ownership needs work from the marketing mavens. ("We want more people owning things in this country" isn't much of a rallying cry.) Still, it strikes me as a step in the right direction. The U.S. triumphed in the great struggle of the 20th century because it demonstrated a market-oriented economy with limited government could do more for the "masses" than either communism or the mixed and managed economies of Europe and Asia. For the U.S. to triumph in the great struggle of the 21st century, it needs to prove the point again. And the movement toward a kind of mass capitalism hinted at by President Bush last week could help do that.

Yes. Let's move the nation forward by venturing...back...to when only men of property were considered sufficiently worthwhile to vote or hold office.

...He will need to show his vision is truly capitalism for the masses, not just capitalism for his cronies. Americans don't like class warfare. But increasingly, they suspect President Bush may be waging it. There is a fine line between eliminating policies that penalize success and embracing policies that unduly benefit the successful. The president is listing over that line.

He will need to show he is willing to make the tough calls necessary to implement his vision. Telling people they can keep some of their payroll taxes in private accounts is easy; telling them the Social Security retirement age is going to rise and cost-of-living adjustments are going to be cut is harder. In his handling of Medicare during his first term, George Bush showed he was happy to give away the candy but had little stomach for administering the medicine. That approach will doom his ownership agenda.

George Bush likes to consider himself the candidate of big ideas. And the ownership agenda he has outlined is very big indeed. The New York convention gives him an opportunity to try and sell it [emphasis added].

Keep looking, Alan, I'm sure that Big Idea is somewhere around here.

But, wait a sec. I've reread Murray's column three times and I've yet to find the so-called "agenda" or even the "outline," other than the idea of "mass capitalism" Murray mentions, whatever that is. Now, if he means there will be an end to the "elite socialism" practiced in this country today, in the form of corporate welfare and the redistribution of wealth upward that we're seeing now, than I'm all for it, but I don't think that's what Murray has in mind. And Bush has no mind, so no fear there.

And, I am no political scientist, but I feel certain that Bush is not going to use the convention to explain to Americans the short-term pain they'll suffer in order to reach the promised land of private retirement accounts.

Inept + feckless x inarticulate and stooopid = Big Idea.

That doesnt add for me. To come up with a Big Idea (or even an "interesting" one), let alone communicate it, you need Intelligence. And that is something, as Matthew Yglesias lucidly explains in The American Prospect, Bush lacks.

Ann Coulter -- next in line for an ambassadorship

[Ed.: "Ambassadorship?" Is that a word?]

Anyway, the Brits get their first taste of Ann Coulter. Their food may never taste the same.

Dick Cheney -- beloved cowardly lion

Juan Cole has an interesting historical perspective on Cheney's sarcastic ridicule (oh, and misappropriation) of Kerry's use of the term "sensitive," when it comes to fighting wars.

And that is the big difference between Cheney and Bush as wartime leaders on the one hand, and on the other Roosevelt and Eisenhower. Cheney and Bush are diplomatically tone deaf, projecting nothing but arrogance and being all too willing to humiliate traditional allies. They have no sensitivity. And it is for that reason that they have the U.S. stuck in Iraq with only one really significant military ally, the U.K. (the Italians only have 3,000 troops there, and most countries just a few hundred, which makes their presence a token one). They have perhaps permanently alienated all the countries that might have lent the U.S. a hand.

And that pattern of arrogant, unilateral war-mongering worries me more than Cheney being a coward.

If the Bush/Cheney team gets back in, there will be further wars and massive disturbances to world peace and security, starting with Iran. Maybe the whole doctrine of pre-emptive war is a form of inferiority complex, impelling Cheney to be a strident war-monger to try to vindicate his uninvolved youth. If he was a coward, he may be endangering us all (and especially our teenagers) in a desperate ploy to regain his own manhood.

Ah, but Cheney turns out to be as sensitive as Marvin Gaye.

Department of Political Security

Members of the Dept. of Homeland Security meet with "Senior Administration officials" in the White House.

Trust us, Karl is only here because his warm, comforting, avuncular presence brings a steadying calm to important meetings where issues vital to our national interest are being discussed.

Move along, people. The show's over. Nothing more to see.

Monday, August 16, 2004

al Qaeda remains resilient

It seems to me that a bad combination of weak intelligence, a bungled occupation of Afghanistan (and, of course, Iraq), and politically-motivated but misguided claims of success have severely hampered our abilities to bring the terrorist network to heel. Or, at least, that's how I interpret this report in today's WSJ [sorry, subscription required].

The spate of arrests of terrorist suspects from Pakistan to Britain, while trumpeted as a sign of the progress in the war on terror, has set off a debate within the intelligence community about whether the al Qaeda command structure, thought to have been crippled, still is strong.

Despite three years of war, the extremist network created by Osama bin Laden is operating both within a traditional company, top-down command structure, as well as with free-lance franchisees, experts say, making it all the more difficult for the Bush administration to claim victory.

"Whatever hits al Qaeda has taken we can now see that the organization was conducting business as usual," says Bruce Hoffman, the acting director for Middle East policy at research organization Rand Corp. and an expert in terrorism and counterintelligence. "This points to a movement with much deeper benches than we imagined, that can build and replenish its leadership as it needs."

As recently as June, U.S. government officials were saying that because 70% of al Qaeda's top leadership had been killed or captured, those remaining on the run could do little more than encourage free-lancers or disembodied operatives in audio and video messages with target ideas. "What we see is that because of tremendous successes against the terrorist target, the command and control structure of al Qaeda has broken down," one senior intelligence official said at the time.

That view is being reassessed. The picture of al Qaeda emerging from the cache of information from computer files and documents seized in Pakistan last month and from interrogations is of an organization still on its feet. Although many of the groups' most experienced members have been caught or killed, the new operatives appear as committed to striking the U.S. but have fewer resources and are forced to operate much more furtively. Some have been in the organization for years; others have entered since 2001.


U.S. intelligence has maintained that al Qaeda, although wounded, still is dangerous, with plenty of trained cadres capable of carrying out terrorist attacks on the U.S. and determined to do so. Notwithstanding, the thinking about al Qaeda changed in the aftermath of the March bombings in Madrid, in which an Islamist group said to be "inspired" by al Qaeda, rather than a formal part of the organization, was responsible for the attack. This gave rise to new thinking among counterterrorism experts that al Qaeda franchises and wannabes had taken over as the main threat.

Dr. Hoffman of Rand Corp. says he understands why prominent analysts might have arrived at that conclusion, but he believes it was based on a fundamental misunderstanding of how al Qaeda operates. "There has never been an either/or with al Qaeda," he says. "It has always functioned from the top down and at the same time has encouraged free-lance activity and franchises to operate on their own. This is what makes them so flexible and resilient."

Part of the problem, according to terrorism experts, is that there is a tendency for U.S. intelligence and law enforcement to inflate the importance of the few breaks that they have made in recent months, skewing some of their analysis.

Another problem is increasing tension between the Bush administration, which appears eager to claim election-year success against al Qaeda, and its allies, such as Pakistan and Britain, who have complained that public disclosure of identities of suspected terrorists has alerted al Qaeda to what the U.S. was learning about its continuing operations
[emphasis added]. Even some U.S. officials say they have noticed an unusual willingness by the normally tight-lipped Bush administration to reveal details about last month's arrests.

A senior White House official denied last week that the U.S. had been responsible for leaking names of those arrested, saying the information initially came from overseas. The official added that, "When somebody's taken into custody at a senior level, it has a limited shelf life."

There also are indications that the Central Intelligence Agency and other members of the intelligence community were less than enthusiastic about making the information public. A senior Homeland Security official said the quick turnaround two weeks ago in making top-secret intelligence public was helpful in allowing local law enforcement to increase security, but made the intelligence community extremely uncomfortable.

Unlike President George W. Bush, I don't feel safer.
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