Friday, January 28, 2005

Bahgdad Burning

They don't seem to be enjoying their "freedom" very much in Bahgdad:

E. was the first to hear it. We were sitting in the living room and he suddenly jumped up, alert, "Do you hear that?" He asked. I strained my ears for either the sound of a plane or helicopter or gun shots. Nothing... except, wait... something... like a small stream of... water? Could it be? Was it back? We both ran into the bathroom where we had the faucets turned on for the last eight days in anticipation of water. Sure enough, there it was- a little stream of water that kept coming and going as if undecided.


E. and I rose early this morning because we decided last night that should the water continue to flow, we'd attempt to fill up the big water tank on the roof. The water from this tank goes directly to the electric water heater but since we haven't been using that for a while now, we decided to close up the tank and use it as a sort of secondary storage. We cannot get caught off-guard again. Drinking water rose to almost 1,000 Dinars a liter this last week.

(Side note: that's about $1 per liter in our terms. That doesn't sound bad, until you remember that they have no other running water. Imagine having to buy bottled water for all your daily uses - washing, cooking, etc. I'd guess that would probably run to....what? 5-10 gallons per day? So, at most $300/month (equal to 1/10th of the average annual iraqi income) for everyday water?)

Unfortunately, the electricity situation has deteriorated. We're getting about four hours for every twenty hours in our area- I'm not quite sure what's going on in the other areas. It feels like we're almost cut off from each other. Baghdad has been unstable these last few days. We had several explosions this last week and although the number of explosions wasn't surprising, the force of a couple of them had us wincing. There's a real fear of the coming elections and what they might bring. I don't like the idea that they've selected schools as election sites. School is out right now, but the security threat is obvious- elections sites are most likely going to be bombed. Schools are having a difficult time as it is getting things fixed and replaced, they don't need the added trauma of an explosion. It's just a bad idea.


Almost everyone is trapped at home because the security situation is quite bad and no one wants to be caught in an area where an explosion might occur. If the bomb doesn't kill you, the Iraqi security forces or the Americans might and if no one kills you then you risk getting a bag over the head and a trip to Abu Ghraib. There's an almost palpable anxiety in the air these last couple of weeks and it's beginning to wear on people- fuel shortages, water shortages and a lack of electricity. It's like the first days of the war all over again.

These are the people we "rescued from Saddam". The people we expected would be showering us with flowers, greeting us as liberators. Should we not be surprised if they are a little less than enthusiastic about our presence?

Also, where is the state of Iraq, the plight of it's civilians ever reported in the media? Most Americans probably think that things are just great in iraq right now, freedom is on the march, we're building schools, handing out candy, money, and cigarettes to happy smiling Iraqis. The reality is that we can't even supply them with heat, electricity, water, or working phones. How screwed up would our lives be if we had to go without those things not for days or weeks, but months at a time.


Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Debt? Who Cares!

Deficit continues to grow, while GOP continues to ignore it:

The Congressional Budget Office predicted this morning that the federal government will run a deficit of $368 billion this year, a figure that does not include a request that administration officials are preparing for $80 billion more in funds for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The figure also does not include the cost or savings from any of the proposals President Bush is expected to make in the budget he will submit to Congress shortly.
The deficit for the 2004 budget year was $412 billion.


Representative John Spratt of South Carolina, a member of the House Budget Committee, issued a statement today deriding President Bush's assertion that he would cut the deficit in half.
"Republicans control the House, the Senate and the White House, but they can't control the budget, and they can't escape responsibility for its dismal condition," he said.

But Brian Reidl, a budget analyst with the conservative Heritage Foundation, said the figures were much less alarming when measured against the size of the economy.
"In terms of the effect on the economy, the deficit is not as important as the size of the federal debt" as a percentage of the gross domestic product, Mr. Reidl said.


"It's the same as in a family," Mr. Reidl said. "What matters is how much you owe as a percentage of your income."

This is what the Bush administration is going to do about the debt...........nothing. Absolutely nothing. Just ignore it, and let another (preferably Democratic) administration deal with it.

This is the great brain trust that is running our country. Even the G7 countries are pushing for us to do something about our account deficits.

Asked about what could be done to induce the United States to take steps to stem the slide of the dollar, Noyer said: "There is an overall vision that we are soon going to re-affirm in London and which is consensual.
"The task now is to put it into practice, which is always complicated."
"Each country has reforms or improvements to carry out in its own domain, in its own economy," the French central bank governor said.
Economists have repeatedly warned that the United States cannot maintain its huge budget and current account deficits, which make foreign investors uneasy and reluctant to support the dollar.
"The United States cannot continue with such a deficit, it must work to balance savings and investment," Noyer argued.

The risk is that if the US continues to expect everyone else to prop up our economy, eventually they will give up and leave us to sink in our own debt. What then?

Thursday, January 20, 2005

"What If" Wolfowitz

What If.....?

The deputy defense secretary also suggested that the US decision to go to war with Iraq was motivated in part by a willingness to ward off criticism of the Bush administration in case of a new terrorist attack against the United States with weapons of mass destruction.

"If we had been wrong the other way and if the threat had really been imminent and we had been hit with an anthrax attack here that was tied to Iraq and the president had done nothing about it, what would people then say?" he retorted when asked to comment about unfound weapons of mass destruction.

"I mean, it would make the criticism of failure to prevent 9/11 just look like child's play."

Ah, the what-if game. How about this one? What if we went to war against a country that we thought supported terrorists and had WMD's that they were going to use against us? What if the war resulted in over 1,000 dead Americans, 10,000 wounded Americans, and the loss of life of over 100,000 civilians? What if that country's people were now so pissed off at us for killing their families and blowing up their homes that they would support any terrorist cause aimed at attacking the US?

And, what if, years later, we learned that we were led into this war on the basis of nothing but a pack of lies? What if all of the loss of life, limb, money and civilians could have all been avoided without any compromise to the security of the US?

What if?

Monday, January 17, 2005

Indoctrination By Way Of Anti-Indoctrination

Student writes essay for class. Essay sucks (I mean, c'mon! Just the grammatical errors alone are enough to put this one in the round-file). Student gets a bad grade, then complains that the bad grade was due to liberal biased professor. Student then becomes a cause célèbre showing the overwhelming discrimination against conservative students on college campuses.

Check out the website where all this so-called educational anti-indoctrination is coming from. They even have a K-12 site.

I went to a midwestern liberal arts college in the '80s, and I just don't recall any "liberal indoctrination" taking place. Quite frankly, I would be willing to bet that, if surveyed today, the majority of my graduating class would probably be fairly Republican-oriented. This has nothing to do with any indoctrination that took place in school (certainly not in the K-12 years, anyone who talked about politics then would probably be branded a nerd or freak and subsequently packed into the nearest gym locker).

So, Students for academic Freedom is created for the express intent of helping the poor oppressed conservative student from getting trod on by "The Man". "The Man", in this case, being some liberal, wine-sipping, Brie-cheese eating, commie professor who is out to subvert the student population with his/her America-hating values.

(Note: anything italicized in this post is to be considered unadulterated crap.)

What these type of organizations are trying to do is build the conservative agenda in the educational system in much the same way that conservative think tanks and foundations have subverted the mainstream media. Currently, the MSM is pushing the conservative message at the same time it is attacked by conservatives for having a liberal bias. It's a can't lose situation for the Right.

Now, they are attempting to use the same formula in the education system. Their goal will be an educational environment that discourages any so-called liberal teachings (evolution, anything in American history that makes white people look bad, anything that teaches alternate religions or questions Christian beliefs, etc.) and encourages conservative viewpoints. Regardless of conforming to their views, the educational system in our country would still be branded as a "bastion of liberals" in much the same way the SCLM is targeted by the Right today.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Social Security Shenanigans

Who said this?

"For too long, too many people dependent on Social Security have been cruelly frightened by individuals seeking political gain through demagoguery and outright falsehood, and this must stop," .... "The future of Social Security is much too important to be used as a political football."

Answer Here.

Campare that to what the Bush administration is doing now. From the NYTimes:

Over the objections of many of its own employees, the Social Security Administration is gearing up for a major effort to publicize the financial problems of Social Security and to convince the public that private accounts are needed as part of any solution.


Social Security officials say the agency is carrying out its mission to educate the public, including more than 47 million beneficiaries, and to support President Bush's agenda.


But agency employees have complained to Social Security officials that they are being conscripted into a political battle over the future of the program. They question the accuracy of recent statements by the agency, and they say that money from the Social Security trust fund should not be used for such advocacy. "Trust fund dollars should not be used to promote a political agenda," said Dana C. Duggins, a vice president of the Social Security Council of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents more than 50,000 of the agency's 64,000 workers and has opposed private accounts.

Forget the argument about whether Social Security is in crisis or not. The issue here is: since when is it ok for my FICA tax dollars to be spent by the governent on an ad campaign to convince me of an administration's domestic agenda? Isn't that well, WRONG?

Another thing - aren't there enough "Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, Concord Coalition, Social Security Veterans for Truth" think-tank dollars/whitepapers/talkingheads already out there to provide all the neccesary Social-Security-is-doomed talk for the SCLM to dutifully report on? Just how bad a shape is the Trust Fund in if the Administration has to start spending precious Trust Fund dollars to convince everyone that there is a shortage in those same dollars?

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Iraq - No WMD's, ya hear me? No--WMD's!

US gives up on search for nonexistent WMD's:

Bush's comments came as the White House said the US had quietly halted its search for Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) in Iraq, the key reason for going to war.

"Well, like you, I felt like we'd find weapons of mass destruction," Bush said, according to excerpts released from an ABC television interview.

"Or like many, many here in the United States, many around the world, the UN thought he had weapons of mass destruction, and so, therefore, one, we need to find out what went wrong in the intelligence gathering. Saddam was dangerous. And .. the world was safer without him in power," Bush commented.

Asked whether it was worth it to invade Iraq even without WMD found, Bush replied, "Oh, absolutely." Meanwhile, the White House confirmed the US has ended the physical search for WMDs in Iraq.

So, there was nothing. Bush just says "Gee, we thought he had something...". Just how sure of themselves were they back when they were selling us this garbage back in '03?

...Powell also showed satellite photos that he said indicated the presence of "active chemical munitions bunkers" that had been disguised.
Those were followed with photos he said illustrated the facilities had been "sanitized" before U.N. inspectors arrived....


Powell also gave the most detailed explanation yet of possible links between Baghdad and al Qaeda.
He said high-ranking Osama bin Laden lieutenant Abu Musab Zarqawi, who is an expert in chemical and biological weapons, led a terrorist network that had been operating freely in Iraq for more than eight months.

So, back in 2003, Saddam not only had active chemical weapons factories, but we knew where he had them. And, to boot, he had an Al Queda mastermind in country who was an expert on chemical and biological weapons.

Now, in 2005, we cannot find any chemical weapons, even in places we "knew he had them", and
Zarqawi has turned out to be an independent terrorist, who only recently declared his allegiance to Osama. And, by the way, has not used any of his supposedly extensive knowledge of WMD's in attacking US soldiers. Rather, he (and the rest of the insurgents) have been making great use of all the freely accessible munitions that were 'liberated' when we invaded.

Just how stupid does the Bush administration think the Ameri......oh, I get it.

Never Mind.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Iraq...Getting Better Or Worse?

I believe the numbers reveal a discouraging trend not widely reported:
Total Wounded
20-Oct-04 thru 26-Oct-04 ---134
27-Oct-04 thru 03-Nov-04 ---137
04-Nov-04 thru 09-Nov-04 ---171
10-Nov-04 thru 16-Nov-04---498
17-Nov-04 thru 23-Nov-04 ---370
24-Nov-04 thru 30-Nov-04 ---226
01-Dec-04 thru 07-Dec-04 ---214
08-Dec-04 thru 14-Dec-04 --- 78
15-Dec-04 thru 22-Dec-04 ---137
23-Dec-04 thru 04-Jan-05 ---271

Actually, the trend seems to be, well, an absense of a trend. The casualty rates seem to follow this also. While there is no steadily increasing rate of killed/wounded (thank God), there is no steady decline in the casualty rates either (thank Bush). What this seems to indicate is that while the US remains embedded in Iraq, we can expect the killing of at least one American platoon per month, and one to three regiments of American troops being wounded every week.

Again, we can expect these rates to remain in effect as long as we retain significant troop presence in Iraq.

One of the justifications for fighting in Iraq, "The Flypaper Theory", seems to be working for the enemies cause as well. Part of reducing our troop presence (and casualties) hinges on the ability of the Iraq forces to police themselves. Small wonder that a large portion of the attacks have been for the purpose of demoralizing the Iraq forces that we have been trying to train. As a result, we are prevented from reducing troop numbers in Iraq. In essence, we are trapped in the same flypaper that we supposedly laid down to catch the enemy in.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

America The Beacon of Democracy and Freedom

Forget about the whole "they are just terrorists", "9/11 changed everything", "what, you care about them more than our American soldiers, you hippie-commie!?", etc.,etc., what ever happened to the idea that We Are The Good Guys, and Good Guys Do Things The Right Way?

Two years later, the frustration among F.B.I. agents had grown. Another agent sent a colleague an e-mail message saying he had seen reports that a general from Guantánamo had gone to Abu Ghraib to "Gitmo-ize" it. "If this refers to intell gathering as I suspect," he wrote, according to the documents, "it suggests he has continued to support interrogation strategies we not only advised against, but questioned in terms of effectiveness."


Two years later, the frustration among F.B.I. agents had grown. Another agent sent a colleague an e-mail message saying he had seen reports that a general from Guantánamo had gone to Abu Ghraib to "Gitmo-ize" it. "If this refers to intell gathering as I suspect," he wrote, according to the documents, "it suggests he has continued to support interrogation strategies we not only advised against, but questioned in terms of effectiveness."


An article in today's issue of The New England Journal of Medicine says that military medical personnel violated the Geneva Conventions by helping design coercive interrogation techniques based on detainee medical information. Some doctors told the journal that the military had instructed them not to discuss the deaths that occurred in detention.

Officials have defended some cases of harsh treatment by saying it was simply the cost of the so-called global war on terror. The Special Operations task force was assigned to track down terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan. But many of the detainees were not terrorists. In Iraq, 70 percent to 90 percent of those detained, according to military intelligence estimates reported by the International Committee of the Red Cross, "had been arrested by mistake." A military report on Iraqi prisons said that many detainees were held for several months for things like expressing "displeasure or ill will" toward the American occupying forces. (Emphasis mine)

The earliest abuses on record in Iraq apparently came in May 2003. On May 15, two marines in Karbala held a 9-millimeter pistol to the head of a bound detainee while a third took a picture. One marine, according to military records, then poured a glass of water on the detainee's head. In June 2003, according to records, a marine ordered four Iraqi children who had been detained for looting to stand next to a shallow ditch, then fired a pistol in a mock execution.

In August, a marine put a match to a puddle of hand sanitizer that had spilled in front of an Iraqi detainee, igniting a flame that severely burned the detainee's hands.

In April of 2004, marines shocked detainees with wires from an electric transformer - "the detainee 'danced' as he was shocked," an investigative report said.

The F.B.I. complaints began in December 2002, according to the documents. A year later, an agent complained that "these tactics have produced no intelligence of a threat neutralization nature to date." (Emphasis mine)

But agents struggled with what they could complain about, believing that, in some cases, tactics they considered harsh or abusive had high-level approval.

"This technique and all of those used in the scenarios was approved by the dep sec def," or deputy secretary of defense, one agent wrote from Guantánamo in January 2004.

So, when we talk about bringing freedom and democracy to Country X, is this the kind of freedom that we are exporting these days?

This reminded me of a speech given by Dick Gephardt last summer, a line that was also repeated by John Kerry. Mr. Gephardt's version as I remember it was as follows:

"Visiting this nation more than a hundred fifty years ago, Alexis De Tocqueville observed that America is great because Americans are good...I say to you, in addition, that if Americans cease to be good, America will cease to be great."