September 12, 2006
There is a new book out on the propaganda campaign that led us into the Iraq War – The Best War Ever: Lies, Damned Lies and the Mess in Iraq.
Youtube.com has a promo for it, of course:
September 8, 2006
From San Francisco Bay Guardian:
1. THE FEDS AND THE MEDIA MUDDY THE DEBATE OVER INTERNET FREEDOM
2. HALLIBURTON CHARGED WITH SELLING NUCLEAR TECHNOLOGY TO IRAN
3. WORLD OCEANS IN EXTREME DANGER
4. HUNGER AND HOMELESSNESS INCREASING IN THE UNITED STATES
5. HIGH-TECH GENOCIDE IN CONGO
6. FEDERAL WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTION IN JEOPARDY
7. US OPERATIVES TORTURE DETAINEES TO DEATH IN AFGHANISTAN AND IRAQ
8. PENTAGON EXEMPT FROM FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT
9. WORLD BANK FUNDS ISRAEL-PALESTINE WALL
10. EXPANDED AIR WAR IN IRAQ KILLS MORE CIVILIANS
Read the details: CENSORED!
September 2, 2006
What Washington is talking about this week.
By Dana Milbank
Posted Saturday, Sept. 2, 2006, at 8:18 AM ET
Sadr But Wiser
Iraq. Many in the capital wonder about Sir Winston Rumsfeld’s state of mind after he says that those who disagree with him on Iraq are trying to appease fascists. The unfailingly upbeat Gen. George W. Casey Jr. issues a new statement of optimism, which is quickly disqualified by a gloomy Pentagon report to Congress. Iraq’s parliament, emulating Congress, wraps up a month-long recess.
Bringing Down the House
Democrats. GOP eyes open as wide as Nancy Pelosi’s when Stuart Rothenberg predicts that Democrats will gain control of the House in November. Rothenberg and Charlie Cook, the Burger King and McDonald’s of political forecasting, have now both switched to Democrat-takeover predictions. Senate still remains Republican in every scenario but Democratic campaign Chairman Chuck Schumer’s.
What If Brit Hume Moderates?
Iran. Trying to divert attention from his country’s refusal to meet U.N. nuclear demands, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad challenges Bush to a televised debate. The administration, worried that the Iranian might sigh like Al Gore, declines the challenge, opting instead for sanctions.
Scandal. Valerie Plame leak scandal fizzles out. Newsweek confirms that columnist Bob Novak’s first source to unmask the CIA operative was the State Department’s Richard Armitage, who was just gossiping. Scandal seekers must look west for sustenance: Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs is caught in Nevada in a Cadillac with three wigs, 15 cell phones, and one of his many wives.
Fourth and Long
Sports. Redskins owner Dan Snyder, his team performing woefully in preseason and in need of a punter, hires out-of-work Tom Cruise. The partnership, First and Goal LLC, will give the Scientologist actor up to $10 million a year for expenses such as couch repair and replacement.
Who Needs Terrorists?
Homeland Security. As polls show Americans abandoning the administration line that Iraq is part of the war on terror, Bush prepares a round of speeches to reinforce the point while planning much activity for the fifth anniversary of 9/11. Incompetence proves deadlier than terrorism as Comair flight crashes on wrong runway in Kentucky when lone worker in undermanned control tower isn’t looking.
Weather. Hurricane Ernesto is a washout, and coverage of Katrina anniversary quickly reaches saturation. This compounds misery for cable news after charges are dropped against JonBenet confessor/hoaxster John Mark Karr. CNN’s solution: narrating a Bush speech with audio of anchor Kyra Phillips using the toilet and dishing on her sister-in-law.
Elders of Zion
Middle East. Israel won’t lift its blockade of Lebanon. Hezbollah won’t release the kidnapped Israeli soldiers. U.N. won’t send enough troops to enforce a cease-fire. Kofi Annan won’t stop whining. Meantime, Harvard’s Stephen Walt and the University of Chicago’s John Mearsheimer come to town, guests of a Muslim group, to blame everything on American Jews and Israel.
The Road More Traveled
Economy. Census Bureau finds that Washington area has the nation’s three wealthiest counties, which can be conveniently accessed by driving through the nation’s second-worst traffic. From their Leesburg McMansions and Lexuses snarled on I-66, political Washingtonians have little worry of encountering the 46.6 million Americans without health insurance or the 37 million in poverty.
Life Imitates Ali G
White House. Brilliantly timed with the release of the new Borat movie, Bush will welcome Kazakhstan’s autocratic president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, at the White House and in Kennebunkport. This appears to contradict Bush’s initiative to foil foreign corruption, but Americans are unlikely to read about it: New SAT results show the biggest drop in verbal scores in 31 years.
Dana Milbank writes the Washington Post‘s Washington Sketch column.
August 21, 2006
1,251 days – which is 7 days longer than the U.S. involvement in World War II.
August 18, 2006
From one of my favorite bloggers – Think Progress.
Today, the Congressional Budget Office released its budget projections, estimating the deficit will rise to $286 billion in fiscal 2007, up from this year’s $260 billion projected deficit. Moreover, the long-term outlook remains bleak; total deficits over the next decade are estimated at $1.7 trillion.
The CBO offers an analysis of the impact that the Iraq war will have on future deficit numbers based on different policy options we could pursue. The highlighted numbers in the chart below compare the impact on the deficit between a “stay the course” strategy and a phased withdrawal. The numbers make for a strong economic argument for redeployment.
A phased withdrawal would save $416 billion on the deficit over the next four years and $1.28 trillion over the next decade. On the other hand, a strategy of “stay the course” will increase the deficit by $313 billion over the next four years and $1.3 trillion over the next decade.
August 17, 2006
Nephew of Pensacolian Connie Acevedo:
Well, I’m sure glad I didn’t try to fly through London yesterday! I am flying to USA via Paris next week, and I am frickin’ ready to get the hell out of here. Very tempted to just show up at the Amman airport wearing only a loincloth and a smile, with no baggage whatsoever.
I am looking forward to getting back to the USA after 28 months in the Middle East, and being able to say ‘mission accomplished’! By that I don’t mean being able to say that I contributed to peace and stability in the Middle East. That s**t ain’t happening in our lifetimes. Cameron Diaz will return my phone calls and emails before that happens.
No sir, I am talking about realizing my objective of eating falafel in 7 different Middle Eastern countries. “Keep your goals simple and you’ll never be disappointed.” That’s what dad always taught me.
Just finished a few days in the ancient city of Petra with my Iraqi buddy. Petra is a fascinating spot (you have to walk through a steep, mile-long gorge just to reach it), and a very well-preserved place for an Arab country, where not much these days seems to be well-preserved.
My friend had completed many important projects in Iraq and he took a weeklong break from Baghdad to come here so I could show him around. He wanted to drink every night, and I guess I can’t blame him. He told me that the latest terrorist fad in Baghdad these days is killing ice vendors and barbers. The logic is that there was no ice in the time of Mohammed, and it is forbidden for men to cut their beards.
Bakers are also being targeted. Not sure what the logic is behind that though. Guess somebody is pissed off because there were no chocolate chip muffins in the time of Mohammed either.
He told me all about his one brother who studied engineering in Tulsa, Oklahoma for 4 years and his other brother who was a prisoner in Iran for 8 years during the Iran-Iraq war. And every bar we went to he asked the bartender to play Kenny Rogers. Surreal. I spent a lot of time trying to convince my friend to take his family and get the hell out of Iraq.
Also managed to squeeze in a 4-day trip to Jerusalem. Fascinating city, but a complicated history to be sure. Glad I got to see it before leaving this part of the world and they start pounding the crap out of each other again.
It really is humbling to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and so many other biblical and historical figures. I even found the Austrian Hospice with the awesome rooftop view and Viennese cafe with Apfelstrudel and Sachertorte, and beer brewed by Germans living in the West Bank. Weird.
Israeli security did not like my passport to say the least.
Ever been in a casino when somebody wins the jackpot? Bells, whistles, sirens, flashing lights, heads turning. That’s kind of what happened when I handed my passport to the border official at the Allenby Bridge, which marks the border between Israel and Jordan. All those funny stamps from Arab countries, not to mention the impeccable timing of my recent Lebanon/Syria trip. I had a lot of explaining to do.
Sweating profusely, I fumbled through my wallet and all my papers to find anything that would prove I was not delivering plastic explosives to Hamas. The only good thing I found was my Association of Graduates credit card which shows a photo of West Point cadets marching in a parade.
“I was in the US Army for 10 years, do I get any points for that?”
“Depends. Were you Special Forces?”
“No, I was a tank officer.”
“Sorry, no extra points.”
As luck would have it, my interrogator had spent 3 months at West Point as a guest instructor in the 90’s, and when I told him I was a graduate he reached over the desk, shook my hand, and said with sincerity “It’s an honor to have you here.”
The young security guy who had been standing behind me the whole time relaxed somewhat and removed his hand from his holster. “I hope you understand our security concerns”. “No problem” I said, “I wouldn’t let me in either”.
They went through every page of my passport, and after I knew I was in the clear I showed them something suspicious they had overlooked.
“You guys missed this one.”
“Turkey, November 2003.”
(You could see the gears turning in their heads).
“I spend six weeks in the country, and two days after I leave Turkey for Rome, three bombs rip through the Istanbul financial district and a synagogue, killing 60 people including the British Consul General. Deadliest bombings in Turkish history.”
Taking a deep breath, I added: “Coincidence? I think not.”
Luckily, they had a good sense of humor. I was on a roll. I wanted to mention that my office in New York City was two blocks away from Ground Zero, and I happened to be on vacation in Europe during the 9/11 attacks. And to show them the page proving that I happened to be trekking in Nepal in 2001 when the entire Nepali Royal Family was assassinated and most of the country was placed under martial law. Better not push my luck, I thought.
“Will there be a sniper team waiting to take me out when I walk outside”, I asked as I got up to leave. “Not today” the security boss answered. “Stop in and say hello to us if you come back through here” he said with a smile.
I’d call me a liar if I hadn’t been there myself.
Took me 6 hours to get through there and they did everything except the triple body cavity search.
This whole situation in Lebanon, as well as the one in Iraq, is depressing to be sure and does not bode well for the future. I will be leaving the region with relief but also with sadness for the people I left behind.
Don’t feel bad if all this Middle East stuff sounds confusing. It is. Frequently I feel more ignorant now than before I got here. Trying to think of realistic solutions but I am no closer to the finish line than I was two years ago. If nothing else I have gained a better understanding of the human element. Lebanese, Iraqis, Syrians, Israelis and Palestinians are now actually real people and faces (and friends who I worry about) instead of just statistics on TV or in a newspaper. People who pretty much want the same things for their families and communities. People who, in virtually all cases, showed me heartfelt hospitality and extended the hand of friendship to me without caring about what country I was from, or what I did or didn’t believe in.
For all the talk about creating a “new Middle East”, long term success boils down to getting people to change the way they think, rather than just how they act. How long does that take? My guess is two generations, and maybe that is being generous.
Anyway, not many stateside plans so far: Go home, do laundry, eat barbecued ribs, then spend a little quality time with my two 90 year-old grandmas. It’s kind of sad: a 40 year-old man with no job, house, or car. Then again, it’s kind of cool too.
I will be staying with my parents in Florida for a while, or until I empty the fridge, whichever comes first.
Hope to link up with you guys somewhere in the months and years ahead.
Last call from the sandbox,
PS: Somebody asked me what was the most interesting thing I learned during my experiences here. I have to admit that I am more confused now than when I got here in 2004, but I do know this for a fact: Iraqis love pickles. No joke.
August 5, 2006
The Zeitgeist Checklist
What Washington is talking about this week.
By Michael Grunwald
Posted Saturday, Aug. 5, 2006, at 8:10 AM ET
Opportunity of a Lifetime!
Middle East. Fighting intensifies in Lebanon as dozens of innocents die, but President Bush senses a “moment of opportunity.” Linguists note that in Chinese, the character for “opportunity” also means “quagmire.” And “Hezbollah” means “Party of Mel Gibson.”
It’s Getting Hot in Here
Weather. Triple-digit temperatures bake the capital, straining the power grid and forcing Congress to dim its lights halfway. Policy experts ask: Why not all the way? The nationwide heat wave fires up the debate over global warming as climatologists blame the problem on carbon emissions. Mel Gibson blames the Jews.
Iraq. Army Gen. John Abizaid, the top U.S. military commander in the Middle East, says Iraq is on the brink of civil war. Abizaid also says the insurgency has “a lot of resiliency,” which linguists note is not a synonym for “in its last throes.” Meanwhile, International Crisis Group calls July “the grimmest month for conflict prevention around the world,” citing crises in North Korea, Somalia, and Sudan, as well as the Middle East. Mel Gibson’s publicist claims he meant to blame all this bloodshed on “the Druze.”The
Passion of the Schnook
Mel-tdown. Drunken-driver Mel Gibson offers provocative theory that “the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.” A brief furor erupts when it is revealed that police cleaned up the arresting officer’s report, particularly the part where Gibson elaborated on Jewish aggression in the Punic Wars, the War of Jenkins’ Ear, and the defeat of the Persians at Thermopylae, which Gibson claimed “involved a couple of guys named Goldfarb.” Still, Gibson insists he is not an anti-Semite, blaming his tirade on his struggles with alcoholism and depression, and also on his hatred of Jews.
Weekend at Fidel’s
Cuba. Fidel Castro fails to appear in public after surgery. The government says his condition is a state secret, but some Cuba watchers wonder whether that condition is “dead.” Other Cuba watchers are starting to suspect that Mel Gibson will join a minyan and memorize the Talmud before Fidel kicks the bucket.
Iran. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rejects a U.N. resolution calling on Iran to stop enriching uranium and warns that sanctions would only produce $200-a-barrel oil prices. But he says he’s still willing to talk. Why, just the other day he was chatting about the Holocaust with his pal Mel Gibson …
Quality Was Job One
Cars. Ford Motor Co. is outsold by Toyota for the first time, announces a $250 million loss, and recalls a million vehicles to prevent their engines from catching fire. Analysts say CEO Bill Ford Jr. needs to re-create Henry Ford’s culture of consistent excellence, just as he has done with the Detroit Lions. Mel Gibson says the company needs to re-create Henry Ford’s culture of anti-Semitism.
Losing His Mo-Joe?
Democrats. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., continues to fight for his political life before his primary, attacking a blogger who portrays him in blackface. Challenger Ned Lamont tries to stick to the issues, especially Lieberman’s staunch support for the war in Iraq. Mel Gibson says he’d like to comment, but really, really shouldn’t.
Republicans. GOP lawmakers finally agree to a $2 raise in the minimum wage, on the condition that Democrats accept huge cuts to the estate tax for millionaires. Republicans also agree to let the House cafeteria stop pretending its french fries are “freedom fries,” as long as Democrats accept more huge cuts to the estate tax for millionaires. Meanwhile, Republicans worry that they could face dramatic losses at the polls in November if Democrats gets their act together. Which could happen as soon as Mel Gibson is named grand rabbi of the Lubavitchers.
Not a Stumble—An Opportunity!
Pratfalls. In metaphorical news, during yet another tough week in his presidency, Bush nearly falls down the stairs of Air Force One. At least he doesn’t blame his problems on the “[expletive]-ing Jews.”
The Zeitgeist Checklist also appears in the Washington Post‘s Outlook section. Michael Grunwald, a staff reporter for the Washington Post, is the author of The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise.
August 3, 2006
Bobby Kennedy and Palast on why Saddam had to go.
“This war in Iraq has been the best thing in the world for Big Oil and OPEC. They’ve made the largest profits in the history of the world. The interesting thing about your book is you show how it was all planned from the beginning. The story is like a spy thriller.” — Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Listen to RFK and Greg Palast on Iraq, a 20-minute conversation about blood and oil, the podcast of ‘Ring of Fire’ from Air America.
July 30, 2006
Slate.com does a fantastic job of summaring the major daily newspaper:
today’s papers: A summary of what’s in the major U.S. newspapers.
Lieberman Cut Loose
By Roger McShane
Posted Sunday, July 30, 2006, at 6:09 AM ET
The Los Angeles Times alone leads with the continuing conflict in Lebanon. In an analysis piece, the Times says the fight between Israel and Hezbollah is part of a larger battle between America and Iran for influence in the region. The New York Times leads with the U.S. agency in charge of Iraq’s reconstruction hiding cost overruns and withholding information from Congress. The Washington Post leads with a lengthy report on the U.S. government’s secretive new research facility aimed at combating bioterror.
The LAT lead is one of a number of analysis pieces in the papers dealing with the battle between Israel and Hezbollah. The LAT says the administration’s focus on Iran is a major reason why it has not pressed for an early end to the fighting. But, actually, a more rapid cease-fire may be in the offing, as Condoleezza Rice returned to Israel on Saturday to press for an end to the hostilities. The NYT says that there is a sense in Israel that President Bush’s meeting with Tony Blair may have something to do with the increased pressure.
On the ground in Lebanon, Israel withdrew troops from the town of Bint Jbail, prompting Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah to declare victory. But Israeli warplanes continued to shell targets across Lebanon. One airstrike on Sunday morning killed dozens of civilians in the village of Qana, possibly setting back the efforts at achieving peace. Another attack cut off the main highway linking Beirut and Damascus. Hezbollah, meanwhile, fired 90 rockets into northern Israel on Saturday, injuring five people.
The NYT lead is based on the federal audit of a project to build a children’s hospital in Basra. The WP reported on the audit yesterday, focusing on the long-delayed hospital project, but the Times sees a bigger story: the U.S. Agency for International Development’s widespread use of fuzzy accounting in Iraq. According to the audit, the hospital project is one of several where the agency hid higher-than-expected construction costs by reclassifying them as overhead or administrative costs. In the case of a power station project in Musayyib, the agency put the direct construction cost at $6.6 million, while overhead costs ran a cool $27.6 million.
The audit also found that USAID lied to Congress about delays in construction. Although the agency knew the hospital project was nearly a year behind schedule, it told Congress that there were “no problems with the project schedule.” The Post may have missed the bigger story, but it did catch an interesting tidbit that helps explain the situation: “USAID relies on one contracting officer and one technical officer to oversee 20 projects across Iraq that together are worth $1.4 billion.”
Continuing with Iraq, the NYT says scholars and pollsters believe the war is the most divisive military conflict in modern times, exceeding Vietnam. Three-fourths of Republicans believe the U.S. was right to take military action against Iraq, compared with 24 percent of Democrats. Lately independents have been siding with the Democrats.
Perhaps that is why a Senate report on prewar intelligence on Iraq is conveniently running behind schedule. Sen. Pat Roberts said the report was almost complete about nine months ago. But it appears that the section on the administration’s use of intelligence will not be ready until after the November election.
The WP lead focuses on the administration’s creation of a “massive biodefense laboratory unlike any seen since biological weapons were banned 34 years ago.” Scientists at the new super-secret lab, located at Fort Detrick in Maryland, will simulate attacks using real biological weapons. Some arms-control experts say the research runs afoul of a 1972 treaty outlawing the manufacture of biological weapons. But administration officials, in a delayed signing statement of sorts, interpret the treaty as allowing the creation of small amounts of pathogens for research purposes aimed at defense.
The NYT fronts Joe Lieberman finally waking up to the possibility that he might lose next week’s Democratic primary to challenger Ned Lamont. Lieberman is scrambling across the state, as polls show Lamont ahead. The campaign is even considering running an advertisement acknowledging concerns among Democrats over the senator’s support for the Iraq war and his friendly relations with President Bush. The WP goes inside with Lieberman’s decline, describing it as “a cautionary tale of how quickly a political career can unravel.”
The biggest news in the NYT‘s Lieberman story is the paper’s own decision to endorse Lamont. In an editorial, the Times condemns Lieberman’s “warped version of bipartisanship, in which the never-ending war on terror becomes an excuse for silence and inaction.” Lieberman, says the NYT, has become an “enabler” of Bush’s executive overreach.
The House approved a $2.10 increase in the minimum wage on Saturday, but tied it to a cut in the estate tax. A tougher fight is expected in the Senate.
The Passion of the Mel … The LAT fronts the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department investigating whether Mel Gibson was given special treatment following an arrest on suspicion of drunk driving. Officers are suspected of covering up an anti-Semitic rant by the Oscar-winning actor/director/Saddam Hussein look-alike. The original police report says a belligerent Gibson, after trying to flee back to his car, said, among other things, that “the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.” On Friday, a Sheriff’s Department spokesman told reporters that Gibson had been arrested “without incident.”
July 30, 2006
132,000 & 52%
132,000 Number of U.S. troops in Iraq, up from 127,000 last week. The Financial Times reports, “The US administration has quietly reversed its goal from whittling down troop numbers in Iraq before the mid-term congressional elections in November.”
52% Percentage of Americans who want all U.S. troops withdrawn from Iraq within 12 months, according to a new Gallup Poll. In the summer of 1970, a Gallup Poll found 48% of Americans wanted all U.S. troops withdrawn from Vietnam within 12 months.