Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Boy, that bounce didn't last long.

Bush job approval rating in the CBS News poll:

4/2-3/03: 67%

4/11-13/03: 73%

4/26-27/03: 67%

Bush job approval rating in the Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll:

3/25-26/03: 66%


4/22-23/03: 65%

(Per Polling Report.)
Gas prices in Dallas are at a six-month low, the folks at Free Republic remind us.

So I guess blowing off Ali's arms was worth it.

Hey! Guess what? People who want to protest President Bush peacefully are often limited to "protest zones" far away from the object of their protest! Wow! That's amazing! That's un-American! Did you know about it?

Until a couple of days ago, Andrew Sullivan didn't.

Oh, but let's not be too hard on the widely published political commentator and former editor of The New Republic for not knowing this -- it's only been going on for at least two years.

And besides, Sully's sure Clinton must have done it too, so it's not Saint George's fault.

"We ought to be beating our chests every day. We ought to look in a mirror and get proud and stick out our chests and suck in our bellies and say: 'Damn, we're Americans!'," Jay Garner told reporters, saying that Iraq's oil fields and other infrastructure survived the war almost intact.


Did he really say it like that? "Go nuts, people! We saved the oil!"? I'm trying to find a full transcript.
The Supreme Court cleared the way Monday for health authorities in South Carolina to collect names, addresses and other information about women seeking abortions, a power doctors say violates a fundamental duty to protect patient privacy.

The high court rejected a challenge to the state's plan to catalog medical records from clinics and abortion doctors. The court's action, taken without comment, ends a lengthy legal challenge that had kept the law on hold.

South Carolina is the only state whose law allows regulators to see, copy and store abortion patients' medical records without stiff requirements that the information be kept confidential, lawyers representing the clinic and outside medical organizations said....

The Greenville clinic argued there was no guarantee the abortion information would remain confidential once it was in the state's hands and there was no penalty to the state or its employees for public disclosure.

The clinic also contended the regulation would allow release of patient records, apparently including names and addresses, when a clinic or its staff is under investigation by state licensing authorities.

Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association and former health secretary in Maryland, said states can have legitimate reasons for data collection. But he said South Carolina's practice is worrisome. "Once you photocopy a record, you never know where it's going," he said....


I always thought the right's agenda led in directions like this, but right-wingers always told me I was being silly -- that conservatism was all about "freedom."

Now, I think conservatives should be honest and embrace this stuff. Pickup trucks in the South should have bumper stickers that say "REGISTER UTERUSES -- NOT GUNS." Web sites and blogs run by Republican small-government advocates should have banners that say, "I Love My Country, but I Fear My Government -- Except When It's Compiling Information About Sluts!" And maybe the companies doing reconstruction business in Iraq right now can help states skip the paperwork altogether -- maybe they can devise some sort of Womb EZPass system, a tracking device that will make it possible to keep tabs on filthy baby-killing liberals around the clock.
Another shooting incident, per CentCom today:

Coalition civil engineers were shot at today while working in a gas-oil separation plant in the Ramaila oilfields. Three occupants in a white-pickup truck drove by and reportedly opened fire on the engineers. There were no injuries.
Coalition soldiers as part of the security force were in the area at the time, but did not return fire.

Boy, I sure hope we de-Baathify Iraq a little bit better than we're de-Talibanizing Afghanistan....

Khost is not the only province with former Taliban officials in government positions - under a general amnesty, all but top Taliban officials have been allowed to reenter society. But Khost is of special concern, says Colonel King, because it appears to be a major transit point for Al Qaeda supporters entering Afghanistan from Pakistan.

That's from a now-it-can-be-told story in the Christian Science Monitor about Hazratuddin Habibi, who was a member of the Taliban and was subsequently appointed intelligence chief in Khost by Hamid Karzai:

... colleagues [of Hazratuddin] in the central government's intelligence agency, Amniat, and in other military departments began to notice that raids on Taliban hideouts were coming up empty. Arrests of Al Qaeda suspects went awry. It occurred to local political leaders as well as intelligence and military officials that Hazratuddin may be a double agent.

...US and Afghan military officials agree that the entire Afghan intelligence operation in Khost has been compromised: Afghan military officials in Khost say crucial files and documents are missing. And a copy of a list of intelligence agents appears to have been given to Taliban supporters in Pakistan.

Hazratuddin was removed from office in March, along with other government officials.

"It's definitely proven that [Hazratuddin] has links with Al Qaeda," says Gen. Khial Baz Sherzai, military chief of Khost. "He had 15 men from the Taliban working with him. And even now, after Hazratuddin is gone, about 60 percent of the people in the intelligence department are still committed to Hizb-i Islami (a radical Afghan Islamist party allied to Al Qaeda)."

"Several times we have requested the central government to fire him," says General Sherzai, military commander of Khost during communist times. "As you know, Hazratuddin was a very rich man, and every time he was struck from his job, he would go to Kabul and give some money, and he would be reappointed."

Hazratuddin, for his part, claims it's his enemies who have ties to Al Qaeda.

A year or so from now, I'm sure similar things will be happening in Iraq -- and I'm sure they'll get about as much attention in the U.S. media as this is getting.
For the second time in 48 hours, U.S. soldiers fired on Iraqi civilians in Fallujah and some civilians were killed. This is big news, but for some reason it's not seen by the American media as really big news -- leads with Donald Rumsfeld's Iraq photo op, ABC and Fox lead with the suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, and the Fallujah story doesn't appear at all on's front page. The top story in the print New York Times today is not the first Fallujah incident but the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Saudi Arabia, and the big splash picture above the fold is Rumsfeld on an aircraft surrounded by servicemen and trying, as usual, to supress a shit-eating smirk. (The Times Web site does, however, now lead with the second Fallujah incident.)

I can't help thinking that the protesters are going to have to set up an entire media operation -- expensively designed briefing area, daily press conference timed so it can appear live on Good Morning America and Fox and Friends, you know the drill.

A few weeks ago, that Columbia professor notoriously declared his wish for "a million Mogadishus" to humble the United States. At this point, if there were a million Mogadishus, I'm not sure reporters would portray them as a humiliation -- especially if CentCom briefers directed their attention elsewhere.


Oh, and did you catch this? It wasn't just Fallujah. This is from the Times:

In the northern city of Mosul, meanwhile, 9 people were killed and 29 were injured as residents celebrated Mr. Hussein's birthday by firing guns into the air, hospital officials said. Doctors said the majority were killed by celebratory gunfire, but they said American soldiers had apparently shot several Iraqis after they mistook celebratory gunfire shots for attacks.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

OK, one more thing about Rick Santorum, if you'll bear with me:

Yesterday BuzzFlash linked an article Santorum wrote for Catholic Online in July 2002, when sexual abuse by priests was page-one news. Read the entire article, by all means, if you want to be reminded that pleasure-abhorring theocrats are roughly similar the world over, whether they wear turbans or crucifixes -- but I want to point out one sentence that stuck in my craw:

While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm.

This is a disgusting distortion of the truth.

The New York Times reported two and a half months before Santorum's column appeared that there really wasn't a "center" of this scandal:

At least 177 priests suspected of molesting minors have either resigned or been taken off duty in 28 states and the District of Columbia since the clerical sex scandal erupted in January, a nationwide review of Roman Catholic dioceses by The Associated Press found.

The review also showed that in 18 other states, where priests have not been taken off the job, dioceses still have responded to the crisis in a variety of ways. They include turning over allegations to prosecutors, scouring personnel records to see whether old claims were properly handled, and reviewing and publicizing policies for handling complaints.

In the end, the review found only four states -- Arkansas, Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming -- where the scandal seems to have had no impact on the way the church operates.

"Priest Scandals Expand Nationwide" was the headline of a Cincinnati Enquirer article at about the same time.

Boston wasn't the epicenter of the problem. Boston was the epicenter of the response to the problem.

And it wasn't the conservative Boston Herald or right-wing talk radio that exposed sexual abuse by priests -- as I noted a few days ago, at least one Herald columnist (quoted here) flogged the right-wing's line that most of the abuse wasn't really pedophilia because it involved post-pubescent boys. No -- it was the liberal-leaning Boston Globe, a paper detested by conservatives, that forced the issue of sexual abuse by priests onto the national agenda.

Rick Santorum could have acknowedged that. He didn't, of course -- bashing liberal coastal cities is considered an exquisite pleasure on the right, and, naturally, he couldn't resist (though I'm sure it was deeply disappointing to him that the most thorough exposure of pedophile priests didn't take place in New York, Hollywood, San Francisco, or Washington, D.C., the cities that are the most enjoyable targets of right-wing contempt).

Among members of the UN security council, the principal victim of Washington's displeasure has been Chile, which had been about to sign a free trade agreement with the US.

The deal had been bundled with a similar pact for Singapore, but has since been "unbundled". Singapore's prime minister, Goh Chok Tong, who supported the war, has been asked to the White House to sign his deal next week. Chile is still seeking a date, and the US trade representative, Robert Zoellick, has mused publicly on America's "disappointment" with Chile's attitude in its time of need.

Canada has also been on the receiving end of White House anger. A visit to Ottawa next week has been cancelled, because Mr Bush is too busy. However, time has been found to host Australia's prime minister, John Howard, an enthusiast for the war, at the presidential ranch in Texas.

Tony Garza, US ambassador to Mexico, another security council member that opposed the war, promised his hosts there would be no direct economic reprisals. But, he added: "The fallout will be that things won't happen as quickly as Mexico would like." And this year's Mexican Cinco de Mayo holiday, previously marked by the Bush White House, will be toned down or not held at all.

--Guardian; link via the Rational Enquirer
Tom at Thinking It Through points out this story, which notes that among the dead in Fallujah are "three boys under 11 years old."

The Guardian has this explanation of the demonstration:

A local Sunni Muslim cleric, Kamal Shaker Mahmoud, told Reuters that the demonstrators had gone to a school occupied by US troops to ask them to leave.

"They were asking the Americans to leave the school so they could use it," he said.

TBOGG looks at the shooting of civilians at Fallujah and responds with what, in a more cynical time, we used to call black humor:

Remember that old line about setting someone free, and if they didn't come back to you, hunting them down and killing them?

Apparently that's our policy in Iraq.

If this, from the CNN story on the shooting of civilians at Fallujah, doesn't send a chill down your spine, you have no human feelings:

One U.S. Army sergeant said he shot at what he saw, "and what I saw was targets. Targets with weapons, and they were going to harm me."

"It's either them or me, and I took the shot, sir, and I'm still here talking to you," he said.

"Duh!" headline of the moment, from the CNN title screen, regarding the shooting of civilians in Fallujah:

Killings Spark Iraqi Anger
The stories coming out of postwar Iraq are starting to remind me of the news out of inner cities in America in the 1980s and 1990s. I was struck on Sunday by this sentence from a front-page New York Times story:

As some of soldiers from the Army's Third Infantry Division tried to provide medical assistance immediately after the explosions, they were fired on by angry residents, officials said.

This is awfully similar to one of the things urban American firefighters, in particular, complained about in the '80s and '90s -- having to duck rocks and even bullets when rushing to fires.

Of course, this is what can happen when people are poor, hopeless, desperate, and angry, when they don't see any hope for a turnaround, and when they're surrounded by what seems to be an occupying force more concerned with containing them than helping them, a force largely made up of young armed men who don't always have enough patience, maturity, skill, or experience to know when to hold fire -- if the civilians have weapons at their disposal, even just rocks, they lash out. (It should be noted that the incident mentioned above happened after civilians were killed at a blast a Baghdad arms dump that was being guarded by American troops -- it's not hard to understand the anger.)

And now we have the deaths of 12 civilians in Fallujah. U.S. news reports emphasize that U.S. soldiers say people in the crowd fired first. The Guardian, by contrast, says:

US central command in Qatar said troops had shot at armed Iraqis who had fired on the soldiers. Witnesses said that the demonstrators, who had been protesting at a local school, had not been armed. They said that the protest had been peaceful.

Back in the '80s and '90s, stories of inner-city violence between the police and residents were invariably like that -- the cops insisted they'd responded to violent provocation and the residents insisted there'd been no provoking violence.

After Rodney King, Amadou Diallo, and others made front pages, America's police offers learned more restraint. A rising economic tide that briefly lifted most economic boats in the Clinton years reduced tensions as well. I wonder if anything similar could possibly happen in Iraq during our occupation.

This, of course, poses a problem for the American pro-war right. It was easy for rightists to dismiss the concerns of inner-city nonwhites in the '80s and '90s -- either they said (or implied via code words) that nonwhites were inherently uncivilized or they blamed Democrats and "the welfare state" for urban problems. But the rightists are in charge in Iraq now -- no New Dealers or Great Society types or Eurosocialists need apply. And this war was fought to liberate the Iraqi people, so rightists can't blame the Iraqis themselves.

Or can they? I wonder when right-wingers will drop the "noble Iraqi people" line and start saying that those damn ingrates are just, you know, like that, that they're just culturally predisposed to insolence toward even the most virtuous Westerners.

Monday, April 28, 2003

If you're following their story, you've probably heard different things about how Natalie Maines's insult of President Bush has affected sales of Dixie Chicks CDs. Entertainment Weekly has the sales totals, and there's been a fairly steep drop.

Pre-Bush insult:

week ending February 9: 114,159

week ending February 16: 170,603 (up after a Saturday Night Live appearance)

week ending February 23: 26,096

week ending March 2: 202,350 (after winning some Grammys)

week ending March 9: 145,788

week ending March 16: 123,952

Post-Bush insult:

week ending March 23: 71,732

week ending March 30: 51,739

week ending April 6: 41,554

week ending April 13: 33,127

week ending April 20: 43,000

So the boycott is working -- though most musicians never sell 30,000 copies of any CD over a lifetime, much less in a week.

(Stats are from the print edition of Entertainment Weekly -- EW's content isn't available online to nonsubscribers.)


Oh, and the Daily Howler asks -- quite properly -- why the Dixie Chicks have to answer for a mild insult of Bush when Jerry Falwell has never been asked to explain why he called Clinton a murderer.
Oh, dear ... please tell me he's joking:

According to [Steve] Ross, the idea for Crown Forum [Ross's new all-conservative book imprint, distributed by Random House] grew out of his relationship with one of the group's stars, Ann Coulter, whose "Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right" spent 20 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and sold more than 400,000 copies.

"Ann and I began talking while I was working with her on 'Slander,' which posits the existence of a liberal slant so organic to so many of our American institutions that we don't even recognize it as such," Ross said. "In working with her and thinking about

-- I hope you're sitting down for this --

the meticulous way she made her case, I came to recognize that what she was saying is fundamentally true with regard to book publishing...."

"Meticulous"? "Meticulous"?? Er, I don't think so.

The quote comes from an L.A. Times article about the new imprint (which is called Crown Forum because, I guess, He-Man Liberal-Haters' Club wouldn't fit on the spines of the books). The article gets one or two facts wrong (Free Press is still going strong, as an ideology-free imprint of Simon & Schuster, and was never exclusively conservative -- even in its heyday it published the loony but left-wing Andrea Dworkin). It leaves unchallenged Ross's erroneous statement "Most mainstream houses don't publish any conservative titles at all" (Rush Limbaugh's books were published by a Simon & Schuster imprint; William Bennett has been published by Simon & Schuster, Free Press, and Doubleday; Sean Hannity is a HarperCollins author; David Frum is published by Random House; Peggy Noonan has past or forthcoming books from HarperCollins, Viking Penguin, Random House, and Free Press; Laura Ingraham's Hillary Clinton book was first published by ABC/Disney's Hyperion; etc., etc.). But it does provide this fascinating tidbit, from a book written by Tammy Bruce and published by an earlier iteration of Crown Forum, Forum Prima:

There are all sorts of nasty elites in Bruce's moral schema, including black ones, academic ones and an entertainment one whose "moral depravity is beyond measure." Ozzy Osbourne, by the way, is "a moral terrorist."

Un -f@%&*ing -believable.
This doesn't surprise me:

More civilians are being injured or killed in northern Iraq now than during the war, largely due to the breakdown of law and order and the dangers of abandoned caches of Iraqi arms, a human rights group said Sunday.

The New York-based group Human Rights Watch said it studied civilian injuries and deaths at five hospitals and morgues in the northern cities of Kirkuk and Mosul. Health workers reported daily weapons-related injuries, both intentional and accidental, and many of the victims were children who played with unexploded ordnance, it said.

"In some ways, the peace has proved more lethal than the war," Hania Mufti, the group's London-based Middle East director, said in a statement....

“It was liberating to take our Republican message -- to take our fight into the belly of the beast,” said Jessica Ochoa, a college Republican from California State University at Long Beach. “Like the Marines rolled into Baghdad a few weeks ago to liberate the city, we rolled into Berkeley ready for a fight.”

--young GOP protester from California quoted after a pro-war demonstration

Yeah, I bet the families of these folks would consider that a really apt comparison.
Two governors, one a centrist Democrat, the other an increasingly conservative Republican, both with ballooning deficits and plummeting poll ratings -- yesterday's New York Times had articles about both. In which article was the opening sentence "It is a matter of debate among elected officials and political scientists whether [unpopular governor] is a great leader or merely a great politician"?

Surprise, surprise: It wasn't the article about Gray Davis of California.

Then again, why shouldn't the Times praise the ever-more-Bush-like George Pataki? After all, last November it endorsed him.

Oh, that liberal media....

I never got around to reading Paul Berman when he was a real lefty, so it doesn't really bother me that he's now a pro-U.S.-intervention liberal-basher -- he has a much more civil tongue in his head than, say, Christopher Hitchens, and it seemed to me that even as he advocated war by rightists, he wasn't really falling for their demagoguery. Then I read his review of two books on terror in yesterday's New York Times Book Review, one of which, Jean Bethke Elshtain's Just War Against Terror, he praises fulsomely. Why is he falling for crap like this in Elshtain's book?

[Elshtain] notes an inability to listen. Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda have openly expressed their hatred of Christians, Jews and Americans, and their desire for random murder. And yet, in her estimation, all too many people in the universities and in the pulpits profess to be in the dark about Al Qaeda's true intentions, or pretend to know the real reason behind the attack -- some modest, real-world complaint about American or Israeli policies....

She points to the modern reluctance to discuss or even to think about religious motivations. This reluctance, she figures, has made it nearly impossible for many people to take bin Laden and his comrades at their word. The same reluctance in a different version -- the reluctance to think lucidly and carefully about religious motivations -- has contributed, she thinks, to a certain kind of mush-headed sentimentality in antiwar opinion.

I've snipped out two paragraphs and part of a third in what I've quoted above, but go read the full review if you doubt that Berman slides effortlessly, almost unconsciously, from "people in the universities and in the pulpits" to "many [antiwar] people" -- as if lots of people on the left as a whole share the (alleged) tics of academic leftism, specifically an inability to think that Osama bin Laden is an evil guy, or a hater or Jews, or a hater of Americans. I don't hang out with lefty preachers and I know only one or two lefty academics, but I don't know anyone who thinks bin Laden is a nice guy, or who thinks he doesn't hate Americans, or Jews. Do you know anyone that naive?

Berman is easily impressed. Here's his lead:

On Sept. 16, 2001, the first Sunday after the terrorist attacks, Jean Bethke Elshtain listened aghast as a minister instructed his flock: ''It has been a terrible week. But that is no reason to lose your personal dreams! We need to hold on to our own dreams.'' In ''Just War Against Terror,'' she says: ''Thousands dead in Lower Manhattan and at the Pentagon, and this was the best the minister could muster? The disconnect between the words of the sermon and the reality of Ground Zero was stunning.''

I suppose this is jarringly upbeat, but what is leftist or anti-American about it? It seems like a traditional invocation of Positive Mental Attitude -- the sort of thing you heard all the time in the Reagan years. Elshtain might just as easily have expressed horror at this, from a speech made less than two weeks after 9/11:

I ask your continued participation and confidence in the American economy. Terrorists attacked a symbol of American prosperity. They did not touch its source. America is successful because of the hard work, and creativity, and enterprise of our people. These were the true strengths of our economy before September eleventh, and they are our strengths today.

These words are from that noted leftist George W. Bush -- specifically, his September 20, 2001, address to Congress. (Yes, they're very much out of context. I bet the preacher's words are as well.)

I'd need to read Elshtain's book to know how much she does this -- how much she takes out-of-context and unrepresentative words and describes them as representative, how much she hangs the thoughts of an America-bashing few around the necks of everyone else on the left. It's clear from Berman's review, though, that he thinks the worst represent everyone.

By the way, I don't know a lot about Jean Bethke Elshtain, but here's some of the company she keeps: She's on the board of directors of the Women's Freedom Network, where her colleagues include Mona Charen, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Virginia Postrel, Cathy Young, Christina Hoff Sommers, and Abigail Thernstrom. These aren't right-centrists. This is part of the brainiac wing of the far right.
SANTORUM: ...In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing. And when you destroy that you have a dramatic impact on the quality --

AP: I'm sorry, I didn't think I was going to talk about "man on dog" with a United States senator, it's sort of freaking me out.

--exchange in Rick Santorum's recent AP interview

Have you been wondering why, when homosexuality was brought up, Senator Santorum's thoughts quickly turned to interspecies sex? Maybe he's been reading Dinesh D'Souza:

Letters to a Young Conservative takes the form of an epistolary exchange, a la Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet or C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters. Each chapter is formulated as a response to a curious young man, Chris, whose nascent conservative ideology is being regularly tested by the forces of liberalism and relativism infecting his university....

Faced with a smoothly articulate gay-marriage proponent? Simply flip to Chapter 23, and watch your adversary slink away to his den of iniquity when you show him how the official sanction of same-sex unions would inevitably lead us down the slippery slope toward legally recognized polygamy, incest and bestiality.

--review of Dinesh D'Souza's most recent book

When you look into it, it appears that D'Souza is rather obsessed with this subject; it almost seems that every time intimacy crosses his mind, the familiar laundry list of transgressions, animal love notably included, floods his synapses, like cusswords on a Touretter's tongue. This is from a snotty article D'Souza wrote for National Review last November, "A Solution for the Democrats: How to Win Next Time":

But what is the need for this coyness? The Democrats should stop hiding behind "freedom of choice" and become blatant advocates for divorce, illegitimacy, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, and pornography.

Of course, D'Souza virtually made his name invoking man-on-beast love. As Kevin Powers wrote recently in the right-wing newspaper The Minuteman,

While Dinesh D’Souza attended Dartmouth College, he started the Dartmouth Bestiality Club in response to a homosexual club that was formed and funded by the college.

Strange guy.

Sunday, April 27, 2003


Some small



some small


Talent always

creates some


--Jean-Marie Le Pen dismissing criticism of his decision to make his daughter a vice president in his party, as quoted in The New York Times, 4/27/03

Friday, April 25, 2003

Last week there was a Field poll showing that if the '04 election were held now, Bush would win California; this week there's a Quinnipiac poll showing that if the '04 election were held now, Bush would win New York.


I know I'm not supposed to worry -- Shrub's approval rating is nearly twenty points lower than Poppy's after Gulf War I, and Poppy lost in '92. I wish that reassured me, but it doesn't. Gulf War I was a one-shot deal -- afterward we were supposed to be at peace, and peace is what Poppy couldn't manage. Now, by contrast, we're in a state of permanent war, or we think we are; all domestic woes can be blamed on 9/11 and the ever-lengthening list of Antichrist states (one of which, I firmly believe, will monopolize all political talk throughout the '04 campaign, after the Bushies move this state -- whichever one it is -- to the top of the agenda, while demonizing all skeptics who dare to suggest that it's not a clear and present danger). I just don't see a way past this by '04. (I'm looking ahead to '06 -- by that time it will probably seem as if we've been at war, and in recession and debt, forever. Bush Fatigue may really set in with a vengeance.)
The real shadow government -- the one that hides in plain sight and is made up of current and former Defense Policy Board honchos, not the one we were worried about last year, which was probably just made up of midlevel bureaucrats -- has reared its ugly head again: Earlier this week it was Newt Gingrich sniping at the State Department; now it's Richard Perle yet again holding forth as if he's the secretary of state, defense secretary, national security adviser and commander-in-chief all rolled into one:

Pentagon adviser Richard Perle, a key architect of the U.S.-led drive to topple Saddam Hussein, was quoted on Friday as saying Washington would pursue other states in its crackdown on global terrorism.

"The military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq are part of efforts to fight against terrorism," Perle told the French newspaper Les Echos.

"We are not going to stop there. We shall continue to fight against countries who harbor terrorists and develop weapons of mass destruction."...

"We"? Excuse me, Richard, you don't work for the government anymore.

Do you?


A firefight near the Pakistan border in Afghanistan's Paktika province killed two U.S. soldiers Friday and wounded several others, including at least one Afghan soldier, U.S. Central Command said.

All the wounded have been transported to facilities in Bagram.

In a statement, Central Command said that a platoon-size group was investigating suspicious activity near a rocket launch site "previously used by enemy forces." ...

Bush is gay-inclusive, counting Northeastern liberal Republicans among his closest allies, installing a pro-gay moderate, Marc Racicot, as party chairman, and avoiding any difficult showdowns on the subject.

--gay conservative Andrew Sullivan, praising George W. Bush in The Sunday Times of London, 11/10/01

The White House said GOP Sen. Rick Santorum is doing a good job as party leader and is "an inclusive man," despite his controversial remarks on homosexuality.

"The president has confidence in the senator and believes he's doing a good job as senator" and in his No. 3 Senate GOP leadership post, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Friday.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Santorum compared homosexuality to bigamy, polygamy, incest and adultery. He also said the right to privacy does not exist in the Constitution.

"The president believes the senator is an inclusive man. And that's what he believes," Fleischer said.

--AP, late this morning

This is bizarre....

A planned Texas A&M University campus in the Middle Eastern nation of Qatar could open by the fall.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board on Thursday approved a regional A&M campus in the capital city of Doha that would award A&M engineering degrees to students from Middle Eastern countries.

Doha is the site of the U.S. Central Command in the war with Iraq.

The nonprofit Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, founded in 1995 by a decree of the Emir of Qatar, is funding the project. It has also covered A&M's costs for the preliminary discussions, including three trips to the Middle East for university officials, said David Prior, A&M's interim executive vice president and provost. A 10-year agreement could be signed in June, Prior said.

The Qatar Foundation first approached A&M in 2001....

--Austin American-Statesman

Maybe Qatar, not Iraq, is destined to be the 51st state -- or maybe Texas will just annex it.

I still have a sneaking suspicion that Qatar is going to be the friend-turned-foe that we, sadly, "have" to invade ten or fifteen years from now. Recall this, from The New York Times last February, about Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, an al-Qaeda operative cited in Colin Powell's presentation to the U.N.:

Mr. Powell withheld some critical details today, like the discovery by the intelligence agencies that a member of the royal family in Qatar, an important ally providing air bases and a command headquarters for the American military, operated a safe house for Mr. Zarqawi when he transited the country going in and out of Afghanistan.

The Qatari royal family member was Abdul Karim al-Thani, the coalition official said. The official added that Mr. al-Thani provided Qatari passports and more than $1 million in a special bank account to finance the network....

Private support from prominent Qataris to Al Qaeda is a sensitive issue that is said to infuriate George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence. After the Sept. 11 attacks, another senior Qaeda operative, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who may have been the principal planner of the assault on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, was said by Saudi intelligence officials to have spent two weeks in late 2001 hiding in Qatar, with the help of prominent patrons, after he escaped from Kuwait.

But with Qatar providing the United States military with its most significant air operations center for action against Iraq, the Pentagon has cautioned against a strong diplomatic response from Washington, American and coalition officials say.
Where's the anthrax? Where's the nerve gas? How will we ever find all that bad stuff? Maybe this will help....

(Thanks to Cursor for the link.)
Iraq, we keep hearing, is "getting back to normal." Here's what "getting back to normal" means in one Baghdad neighborhood, according to a reporter from The Guardian:

It was not a bad day for Saddam City, so far as it goes. A neighbourly dispute sent a bullet tearing through the gut and pelvic bones of a 12-year-old. A junior Shia cleric with a whisp of a beard roamed a hospital, hectoring female nurses and doctors to wear hijab while the director tried to find his way through an emergency that never came up at Baghdad Medical College -- should he use his last remaining cylinder of oxygen to operate on an eight-year-old boy, or wait to see what other miseries the morning would bring?

Outside, goats fed on mounds of rubbish, and gunfire crackled in the alleys between the low, mean houses. "Maybe they are celebrating because the electricity came back on," said a passer-by. "Maybe this is good shooting."

Good shooting, or bad shooting, it continues.

Two weeks after American troops took control of Baghdad and the world thought the war had ended, the gunfire goes on, and Iraqis get killed and injured at the rate of several dozen every day. When the lights came back to Saddam City for the first time in more than a fortnight, the hospital received seven gunshot victims. A woman in her late teens died from a bullet in the neck; a boy, about 12, and a girl, about 10, still had bullets lodged in their brains. Nobody recorded their names.

Somehow I think the fact that we're making our way through that frigging deck of evildoer cards is not going to help these people much.

(Link from the Rational Enquirer.)
From a New York Times article about Tom Brokaw's interview with President Bush, which will be broadcast on NBC tonight:

Mr. Bush ... said he had some initial concerns about the first blow of the war, his last-minute decision to bomb a home in Baghdad where an agent had reported that Mr. Hussein and his sons might be spending the night.

"I was hesitant at first, to be frank with you," Mr. Bush said, "because I was worried that the first pictures coming out of Iraq would be a wounded grandchild of Saddam Hussein."

Isn't that nice? He doesn't say he was worried that a child would be the first person injured by U.S. weapons. He says he worried that the world would see a child injured by U.S. weapons. He wasn't worried about who would be hurt. He was worried about how it would look.

Compassionate conservatism.

UPDATE: I've done some cleanup in the Opus Dei post below and added the second National Catholic Reporter link.
Arthur Silber points out that Rick Santorum hangs out with the folks at Opus Dei. Why am I not surprised?

According to the National Catholic Reporter, Santorum attended the congress in Rome that commemorated Opus Dei's 100th anniversary -- "Santorum told NCR he is not a member of Opus Dei, but an admirer of [the group's founder, Josemaria] Escriva."

I'm not sure this really means he's not a member. As Time, among others, has noted, the group is closed-mouthed about the identity of its members.

Escriva became a saint in 2002. Here's some background information from an article that appeared in The Guardian at the time of the canonization:

Escriva's ultra-conservative movement, which recruited many of its members from Spain's wealthy and powerful families, flourished under Franco and eventually provided ministers to his governments.

Opus Dei's 84,000 members around the world deny he actively supported Franco - though Escriva went into hiding to avoid anti-clerical factions in Republican Spain when the civil war broke out in 1936.

...former members have complained that Opus Dei, whose extreme members expiate sins by committing self-flagellation, exercises a cult-like control over followers.

Members are divided into two groups. Supernumerary followers can marry, have families and are expected to lead exemplary lives. A small number of members take vows of chastity, live in sex-segregated communities and give much of their income to Opus....

Jesus Ynfante, author of the critical Founding Saint of Opus Dei, says that [Escriva] was an unashamed fascist. "He had Madrid under his control, starting with the dictator. Under Franco the clerical fascism of Opus Dei won out over the true fascism of the Falange [political party]," he wrote....

Oh yeah, about that flagellation -- this is from another National Catholic Reporter article, one that's quite sympathetic to Escriva:

I read a new biography by Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli, Vatican writer for the local paper Il Giornale and someone with whom I’ve shared papal travel. He describes a moment in 1937, in Madrid during the Spanish civil war, when Escriva and his early band of followers were stuck in the city’s Honduran consulate (their previous hiding place from the Republican anti-clerical forces having been a madhouse). Typically, Tornielli writes, Escriva would ask for the use of the bedroom alone when it was time for his spiritual practices. Once, however, his chief aide, Fr. Alvaro del Portillo (who would later succeed Escriva as head of Opus Dei), was sick and could not leave the room. Escriva thus told Portillo to cover his head with his blanket. Portillo described what followed: “Soon I began to hear the forceful blows of his discipline. I will never forget the number: there were more than a thousand terrible blows, precisely timed, and always inflicted with the same force and the same rhythm. The floor was covered with blood, but he cleaned it up before the others came in.”

And Opus Dei members practice "corporal mortification" to this day, as the Opus Dei Awareness Network notes. Some techniques:

Cilice : a spiked chain worn around the upper thigh for two hours each day, except for Church feast days, Sundays, and certain times of the year. This is perhaps the most shocking of the corporal mortifications, and generally Opus Dei members are extremely hesitant to admit that they use them. It is a painful mortification which leaves small prick holes in the flesh, and makes the Opus Dei members tentative about wearing swim suits wherever non-Opus Dei members may be.

Discipline : a cord-like whip which resembles macrame, used on the buttocks or back once a week. Opus Dei members must ask permission to use it more often, which many do. The story is often told in Opus Dei that the Founder was so zealous in using the discipline, he splattered the bathroom walls with streaks of blood.

Remember -- Rick Santorum thinks normal lovemaking between two men is weird, but this is OK.

(Thanks to Atrios for the first link.)

Thursday, April 24, 2003

I suggest anyone having a problem with this war go talk to the Iraqi's. Ask them if they prefer freedom (even at the price of, initially having what seems to be chaos), or if they prefer Saddam Hussein come back and reinstates the old ways.

I DARE anyone to say the Iraqi's were better off before, under Hussein.

--Gene Simmons of KISS, at, 4/17/03

"I want to say that we hate America," said Ahid Alah, a 39-year-old mother of five who had turned up with the throng at the Abu Hanifa mosque in the Adhmya quarter of Baghdad and expressly elbowed her way to an American journalist....

"When you see a U.S. Marine," I asked the mother, "what goes through your mind?"

"I cross the street and ask God to take America out of Iraq," she replied. "Saddam is better than the U.S. He is our president."

--report from Baghdad by Tish Durkin in the current New York Observer

Go ahead, Gene -- go to Baghdad and kick Ahid Alah's ass.

(Or maybe you can deal with her in the usual charming way you deal with women who disagree with you.)
The Anti-Antiphrasist (which now has links, by the way, and is now on my blogroll) points to the blog of Steve Bates, the Yellow Doggerel Democrat, who was recently called for jury service in a Texas capital-murder case and had to answer quite a few questions he found disturbing. Some -- the ones asking about relationships to lawyers, prosecutors, and psychiatrists -- seem familiar to me from jury duty here in New York; others strike me as rather intrusive:

* Would you consider yourself liberal, moderate or conservative?

* Do you have a political affiliation?

* Do you have any relationship with the ACLU?

* What is your religious affiliation?

* What political action groups do you belong to?

* What bumper stickers are on your car?

The questionnaire also asked,

* Have you, a relative or a close friend ever had an unpleasant experience with a black person?

Black jurors received a questionnaire with the same question.


The Anti-Antiphrasist also notes this analysis of an Iraq crowd photo from London's Evening Standard. Subtle, but I agree -- I think it was doctored.

One more Publishers Lunch announcement I should have mentioned yesterday in my "What liberal book business?" post: Plume, a division of the big U.S./U.K. publisher Penguin Putnam, will soon bring us

Slate's line of current events-oriented paperback originals, beginning with Christopher Hitchens' A LONG SHORT WAR: THE POSTPONED LIBERATION OF IRAQ, drawn from his Fighting Words columns and amplified with significant additional material, ... in June 2003

Oh boy. I can't wait.

This will be

followed by Will Saletan's FIELD GUIDE TO THE CANDIDATES, an irreverent, no-nonsense guide "for smart readers who want to know more about the candidates than the conventional media has seen fit to print" ....

I think some people think Saletan is a liberal. Saletan calls himself a "lifestyle conservative" -- whatever the hell that means. Priggishly, when he offered tempered praise for Maryland Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the first specific issue that came to mind for him was "She's against state-promoted gambling." Feh.
On Monday I cited a Financial Times story that said the "government" of Mohamed Mohsen al-Zubaidi, the self-declared mayor of Baghdad, was "backed by the Iraqi National Congress." Yesterday The Independent reported the following:

Zaab Sethna, an INC spokesman, said yesterday that Mr Zubaidi was not speaking or acting on behalf of the organisation. "He was a former intelligence operative with the INC and his work was very successful," Mr Sethna said. "He operated out of Lebanon and Syria and ran networks in Iraq. He penetrated the Iraqi government at many levels."

He added: "On 8 April he came to Baghdad and the next thing we heard he was making all these statements saying he was speaking for the INC. He came to see us yesterday and he was told to stop saying he was INC. He does not represent the INC."

I saw Zubaidi on ABC news last night. He was pressing the flesh like a veteran pol, and a lot of people were smiling back at him. At that point I started to think my post on Monday was wrong -- a guy who worked for the INC couldn't possibly be that popular in Iraq.

(Link via the Rational Enquirer.)
All liberal women are frumpy, humorless, hairy-legged prudes.


The Dixie Chicks definitely won this round.

(But is it true that National Review is going to respond by doing a version of this cover with Christopher Hitchens?)

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Good cartoon.

(Thanks to TBOGG for the link.)
When you and I heard about the priests who abused boys under the age of consent, we thought it was child molestation -- the work of predators. Senator Rick Santorum thought,

In this case, what we're talking about, basically, is priests who were having sexual relations with post-pubescent men. We're not talking about priests with 3-year-olds, or 5-year-olds. We're talking about a basic homosexual relationship.

Where did he get that idea? From people like National Review's Rod Dreher:

The media will strain to avoid making the connection, for fear of being accused of homophobia. But this scandal cannot be understood and honestly dealt with in its absence....what we're seeing with priests is not pedophilia, which is a deep-seated psychological illness. What we're seeing is gay men who cannot or will not keep their pants up around teenage boys. Not teenage girls. Teenage boys.

You cannot blame people for asking if there's something about the culture of homosexuality in the Catholic priesthood that fosters this phenomenon....

A March 6, 2002, column by Joe Fitzgerald in the right-wing Boston Herald (quoted here) makes the distinction more explicit. Fitzgerald recounts a suspiciously unconversational-sounding discussion he says he had with a priest:

“Thanks for returning my call,” he said. “I have a take on what’s happening now, something no one else seems anxious to get into, including the people in your business whom I’m angry at, too. The papers keep talking about pedophilia. That’s the wrong word. The real issue here is homosexuality. It’s usually heterosexuals who are pedophiles, which is a psychological disorder that has something to do with arrested development, sending them back to an age where they last felt comfortable, identifying with someone who reminds them of themselves.”

“Where are you getting this from?” he was asked.

“From friends who are psychologists. John Geoghan? Sure, he was a pedophile. But of all the guys whose names we’re reading now, no more than a couple were pedophiles, a percentage probably consistent with the general population. The majority of these victims were not prepubescent; they were young teens, so it had nothing to do with pedophilia. It’s technically called ephebophilia, which is almost exclusively homosexual, and it isn’t about comfort; it’s about sex. The media don’t like talking about this because, by and large, they have come down on the side of gay rights, the advancement of the gay agenda, so there would be an uncomfortability because, again and again, gays are saying, ‘We’re no threat to children; that’s why we should be Boy Scout leaders, why we should be teachers, why we should be able to adopt.’ That’s always their justification for interactions with young people.”

"Ephebophile" and "ephebophilia" are terms that were popularized by an academic named Philip Jenkins; these terms were seized on by those who didn't want the Catholic Church to take responsibility for the harm done by its priests. Garry Wills has been the most passionate debunker of Jenkins (unfortunately his New York Review of Books article "Priests and Boys" is not part of NYRB's free archive). On this issue, Andrew Sullivan is also on the right side; he wrote in his blog on May 28, 2002:

The use of the term ephebophilia has been insisted upon by some Church conservatives for several reasons, it seems to me. It can help make the scandal seem less appalling to the general public (so helping to exculpate the hierarchy); it can help shift the onus of responsibility away from the abusers and toward the victims (arguments like "those teenagers were complicit," etc.); and it is a way to insist that this scandal is not about the abuse of minors or the abuse of power to cover such assaults up, but is in fact a function of the dreaded homosexuals, "conspiring" ... to destroy the Church.

Sullivan, of course, doesn't associate homosexuals with liberalism. But Santorum does.
What liberal book business? This is from Publishers Lunch:

Yesterday afternoon the Penguin Group announced the formation of a currently unnamed "major new imprint" that will focus on "books of political opinion and dissent with a conservative perspective." ... They plan on publishing about 15 titles a year....

But wait -- there's more. Publishers Lunch also points out that Random House's Crown division is upgrading its Forum imprint:

...The first title comes from Ann Coulter, who was of course already a general Crown author, and the line incorporates other previously announced titles like their joint venture with magazine and web site NewsMax. Steve Ross, who will oversee the line, has also acquired radio host Michael Medved’s RIGHT TURN and journalist Robert Novak’s memoir.

This is in case you're still not getting enough conservatism from Regnery, WND Books, Encounter Books, and the ever-more-accommodating big publishers in New York (who, of course, were always a lot more receptive to conservatives than conservatives wanted you to believe).

Oh, and there's this forthcoming title, also announced by Publishers Lunch this week:

Former US Representative and House Majority Leader Dick Armey's ARMEY'S AXIOMS: 40 Hard-earned Truths from Politics, Faith and Life, with a foreword from Sean Hannity, a collection of pithy lessons on politics, power, the role of government and world of work and life in general, interspersed with anecdotes from his own years on the Hill, to [be published by] Wiley, ... for publication in October 2003....

Can't wait for that one.

This, from The Guardian about two hours ago, doesn't look good....

KUT, Iraq (AP) - Dozens of protesters blocked U.S. Marines trying to cross the main bridge over the Tigris River in this southern Iraqi city Wednesday - a more than four-hour standoff sparked by the detentions of two Iraqis.

The incident came after a rock-throwing crowd protesting the American presence here slightly injured a local man working as an interpreter for U.S. civil affairs troops.

The rocks shattered the windshields of at least three Marine vehicles - including trucks carrying medical supplies for local hospitals. Marines fired several warning shots to turn back the demonstrators.

The incidents caused Marines to postpone plans to start foot patrols side-by-side with local police in Kut, about 100 miles southeast of Baghdad. Marines had seized a police station in Kut earlier in the day.

Theocracy? Did someone say theocracy?

Marines from Task Force Tarawa entered Kut more than a week ago without opposition, only to find a local Shiite cleric, Said Abbas, had occupied City Hall and claimed control.

U.S. forces say he has links to Iranian groups pushing for Islamic rule, but have abandoned plans to forcibly eject him. Instead they are ignoring him.

But Iraqis love us for liberating them!

As the protest disbanded, one Iraqi man hysterically called out to U.S. troops, telling them ``Leave!'' and saying ``We need freedom!'' Another man rubbed his index fingers together and shouted ``Saddam and U.S.A. - they're friends!''

And there's this:

In a separate incident near Kut on Tuesday, three Marines were killed and seven injured while they were handling a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.

U.S. Central Command said the Marines with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force were firing the weapon - commonly used by paramilitary groups that have threatened U.S. and British forces - to familiarize themselves with it. The launcher malfunctioned.

I guess this is probably a coincidence -- right?
Talking about the Catholic Church's sex-abuse scandal, Senator Rick Santorum said:

In this case, what we're talking about, basically, is priests who were having sexual relations with post-pubescent men.


In the portion of The Boston Globe's Web site devoted to its Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the scandals, one page singles out four priests the Globe calls "predators" -- four priests whose abuses are especially striking. What did these priests do?

John Geoghan:

Geoghan, 66, was found guilty in the first of three criminal cases brought against him. He could be sentenced for up to 10 years for touching a 10-year-old Waltham boy inside his bathing suit in a swimming pool a decade ago, though he probably will not receive the maximum sentence because he has no prior conviction.

In late February, Geoghan will go on trial on charges that he raped a 7-year-old boy in the basement of the defrocked priest's home in West Roxbury.

--Globe, 1/20/02

Joseph Birmingham:

The boys were only 10, 11, or 12, but already they knew the routine: "Father B." would get them into his car, take them for ice cream, to the beach, or to a ballgame. But the outings would inevitably evolve into something more. The last one to be dropped off -- "the last one out," the boys called it -- would be the unlucky one.

"At first, the car trips were fun," recalls McDaid. "But then a pattern developed. The last boy out of the car would get fondled and rubbed and assaulted, and Father B. would ask, `Does that feel good? Don't you think you might like boys?' And you'd say, `No, Father. I like girls, Father.' "

--Globe, 5/15/02

Paul Shanley:

One of Shanley's victims, now 42, met him when he was 15 to discuss his difficult family life. The man, who asked not to be identified, said the session ended in a strip poker game - ''to help you feel comfortable with your body,'' he said Shanley told him - that led to sex.

--Globe, 1/31/02

Ronald Paquin:

According to Regan, Paquin abused his son from roughly 1974 to 1977, beginning when he was 11 and continuing until he was about 14. When his son turned 18, he became suicidal and voluntarily admitted himself to to a psychiatric hospital in New Hampshire, Regan said.

--Globe, 1/26/02

"Men." Yeah, right, Senator.

(Note: I see Atrios has focused on the same point.)
As Iraqi Shiite demands for a dominant role in Iraq's future mount, Bush administration officials say they underestimated the Shiites' organizational strength and are unprepared to prevent the rise of an anti-American, Islamic fundamentalist government in the country.

As the administration plotted to overthrow Hussein's government, U.S. officials said this week, it failed to fully appreciate the force of Shiite aspirations and is now concerned that those sentiments could coalesce into a fundamentalist government....

That's from today's Washington Post. The New York Times, meanwhile, reports that "Iranian-trained agents have crossed into southern Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein and are working in the cities of Najaf, Karbala and Basra to promote friendly Shiite clerics and advance Iranian interests." Dilip Hiro says in a Times op-ed that the current power vacuum in Iraq

is reminiscent of what happened in Iran in February 1979. The 440,000-strong military of the pro-American shah disintegrated quickly, as did the police force and the Savak, the notorious secret police. Into that vacuum stepped the Islamic Revolutionary Komitehs, run by Shiite clerics operating from the local mosques. The Komitehs took over not only law enforcement but also such essential chores as distributing heating oil to households in wintry Tehran. Many groups took part in toppling the shah; but it was the nationwide religious network and the unified actions of the mullahs that enabled them to to become his successor.

Why was religious fervor in Iraq so unimaginable, to this of all administrations? When David Koresh's compound went up in flames, I found it hard to understand how an administration with a president, vice president, and attorney general all from the South, the epicenter of fire and brimstone, could fail to grasp that a fervidly religious guy might really mean it when he suggested that he was willing to go up in flames. Maybe the fact that Clinton, Gore, and Reno were all fairly secular in outlook explains this. But what excuse is there for the Bushies, with their White House Bible studies and other great shows of religiosity? Why couldn't they read intelligence reports and recognize that a lot of Iraqis would press for a future that was rather, shall we say, faith-based?

Perhaps, to the Bushies, religion has less to do with fervor and spirit than with being an effective manager; maybe those Bible studies are just God-bothering Rotary Clubs, places where like-minded men gather to do business, secure in the knowledge that God wants them to prosper.

Of course, the Bushies also seem to have overlooked Shi'ite fervor because they thought their boy Ahmed Chalabi would suffice. As the Washington Post story notes:

"They really did believe he is a Shiite leader," although he had been out of the country for 45 years, a U.S. official said. "They thought, 'We're set, we've got a Shiite -- check the box here.' "

For a sign of just how much the U.S. is counting on Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress, read what Joshua Micah Marshall has to say today.
I've had some italic problems since last night. Everything's fixed now, I think.
Oh boy -- here comes the cholera...

Baghdad today celebrated the beginning of the end of a devastating three-week-long power outage.

But more than 80 per cent of the city remained in darkness - and doctors reported the first suspected cases of feared epidemics of cholera and typhoid, with no clean water yet running.

Between 50 and 60 per cent of the children brought in for treatment at the city's Al-Iskan children's hospital were suffering from dehydration and diarrhoea caused by bad sanitation and water, said Dr Ahmed Abdul Fattah, the hospital's assistant director....

At al-Iskan children's hospital, doctors were praying for their overworked cluster of generators to hold on.

"Without them, these babies, 100 per cent, would face death," Fattah said of premature infants in incubators.

Other wards held listless children with sunken eyes. Some suffered from stomach infections caused by unclean water, draining fluids from their bodies. "An epidemic," Fattah said.

"We suspect it's cholera, but can't test, because we have no lab facilities left," said acting director Dr Gassim Rahi Esa.

Doctors also were treating increasing cases of typhoid, the children's hospital said.

With clinics citywide depleted by looting, volunteers at both Sunni and Shi'ite Muslim mosques were treating typhoid and cholera cases out of clinics set up in mosque offices and wings.

With antibiotics for the infectious diseases running out, volunteer doctors at one Sunni mosque were routinely forced to split a single dose between two patients - saving their lives, but increasing the resistance of the bacteria, Dr Mosaab Abdul Wohab said....

--Herald Sun (Australia)

Yeah, I know -- to most Americans, Survivor: Iraq is over, Saddam has been voted off the island, the CNN cameras off the hotel balcony show lights on in Baghdad and now the news becomes C.S.I., with an infinite number of all-new episodes on Laci Peterson. I think things are a bit different in Iraq itself -- yes, even now.

Yesterday I mentioned country singer Clint Black's giddy paean to the joys of righteous indignation as an excuse to blow away swarthy people, "I Raq and Roll."

The Gunther Concept has more -- quite a bit more -- to say about the song.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Not only does Rick Santorum equate homosexuality between consenting adults with incest, not only does he (as Atrios and Kos point out) essentially call sex between priests and teens "consensual" (as a bizarre, backhanded way of attacking liberals), he also says that if he had his druthers it'd be okey-dokey if every state in the union voted to make birth control illegal:

SANTORUM: ...And if the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything. Does that undermine the fabric of our society? I would argue yes, it does. It all comes from, I would argue, this right to privacy that doesn't exist in my opinion in the United States Constitution, this right that was created, it was created in Griswold — Griswold was the contraceptive case — and abortion. And now we're just extending it out. And the further you extend it out, the more you — this freedom actually intervenes and affects the family. You say, well, it's my individual freedom. Yes, but it destroys the basic unit of our society because it condones behavior that's antithetical to strong, healthy families. Whether it's polygamy, whether it's adultery, where it's sodomy, all of those things, are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family....

AP: ...Would a President Santorum eliminate a right to privacy — you don't agree with it?

SANTORUM: I've been very clear about that. The right to privacy is a right that was created in a law that set forth a (ban on) rights to limit individual passions. And I don't agree with that. So I would make the argument that with President, or Senator or Congressman or whoever Santorum, I would put it back to where it is, the democratic process. If New York doesn't want sodomy laws, if the people of New York want abortion, fine. I mean, I wouldn't agree with it, but that's their right. But I don't agree with the Supreme Court coming in.

The Griswold case is like the outcome of the Civil War, or the outcome of the presidential elections of 1992 and 1996 -- something conservatives just can't accept. Robert Bork attacked it, and that's why he was rejected by a Senate in which a few Democrats still had spines.
Holy crap...

THE Pentagon has produced detailed plans to bomb North Korea's nuclear plant at Yongbyon if the communist rogue state goes ahead with reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel rods that would yield it enough plutonium for half a dozen nuclear weapons within six months.

According to well-informed Canberra sources close to US thinking, the elaborate Pentagon plan also involves a US strike against North Korean heavy artillery nestled into the hills above the border with South Korea. The artillery directly threatens the giant city of Seoul, as well as about 17,000 US troops stationed just south of the Demilitarised Zone....

The Pentagon hawks believe the precision strikes envisaged in the plan would not lead to North Korea's initiating a general war it would be certain to lose....

--The Australian

I don't think we'll really do this in Iraq. Even I'm not that cynical.

Syria? Iran? North Korea? Cuba? Well, maybe.

I could definitely imagine this for Cuba.
American officials tried to discredit the work of inspectors in Iraq to further their own case for war, the chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix has charged.

In an interview with the BBC, Mr Blix said American officials leaked suggestions that inspectors had deliberately suppressed information to the media in an attempt to undermine their work in Iraq....

Mr Blix said that in the run-up to war, the US had seized on his alleged failure to include details of a drone and cluster bomb found in Iraq in his oral presentations to the Council....

"It was not the case, and it was a bit unfair, and hurt us. [We] felt a little displeased about it."

He also reiterated his disquiet at how documents the International Atomic Energy Agency "had no great difficulty finding out were fake" managed to get through US and UK intelligence analysis....

--BBC News

That's from a story posted today. Don't forget -- charges that the U.S. was deliberately undermining the inspectors' work were also made before the war:

Senior [D]emocrats have accused the CIA of sabotaging weapons inspections in Iraq by refusing to co-operate fully with the UN and withholding crucial information about Saddam Hussein's arsenal.

Led by Senator Carl Levin, the Democrats accused the CIA of making an assessment that the inspections were unlikely to be a success and then ensuring they would not be. They have accused the CIA director of lying about what information on the suspected location of weapons of mass destruction had been passed on....

--The Independent (U.K.), 2/14/03

...U.N. sources have told CBS News that American tips have lead to one dead end after another.

* Example: satellite photographs purporting to show new research buildings at Iraqi nuclear sites. When the U.N. went into the new buildings they found "nothing."

* Example: Saddam's presidential palaces, where the inspectors went with specific coordinates supplied by the U.S. on where to look for incriminating evidence. Again, they found "nothing."

* Example: Interviews with scientists about the aluminum tubes the U.S. says Iraq has imported for enriching uranium, but which the Iraqis say are for making rockets. Given the size and specification of the tubes, the U.N. calls the "Iraqi alibi air tight."

...So frustrated have the inspectors become that one source has referred to the U.S. intelligence they've been getting as "garbage after garbage after garbage." ...

--CBS News, 2/20/03

(Thanks to the Rational Enquirer for the BBC link.)
No two snowflakes are alike.

Dumb, ham-fisted jokes are not snowflakes.

(UPDATE: But to give my close personal friend Lee his due, this really is incredibly dumb.)
Another song -- this one from Clint Black -- about how painful it is for a reluctant nation to go to war....


















Yeah, conservatives really hate war, don't they?

Download the song here. Sorrowfully, of course.

Oh -- and don't forget to buy the T-shirt. With great sadness.
Holding a memorial service for your dead preemie? Atrios points out that his state's junior senator, Rick Santorum (R - Sanctimony), did that after his wife had an emergency delivery in her 20th week of pregnancy -- but hey, that's not even original, and this guy went him one better:

Years ago, when [Allen] Quist's first wife died while nearly seven months pregnant, Quist had the fetus removed from her body and displayed in an open casket so his family could properly grieve for an unborn child. It was one of a series of revelations from the '94 campaign--another was Quist's assertion that men had a "genetic predisposition" to rule the household--that torpedoed his [gubernatorial] primary bid after he'd been endorsed at the last GOP convention. It also fueled the notion that he is unelectable in Minnesota.

--City Pages (Minneapolis-St. Paul), 6/24/98; emphasis mine

A 1994 Minneapolis Star-Tribune story points out that Quist remarried a mere six months after the death of his wife and prop ... er, fetus.

I grew up Catholic. Nobody I knew ever did anything like this.

(Meanwhile, it's nice to see that Santorum is catching flak for anti-gay remarks -- not that it will in any way deter him....)

Monday, April 21, 2003

Well, another blowhard entertainer has shot his mouth off about something he knows nothing about -- but this one's in favor of the war, so all the people who normally whine whenever a blowhard entertainer shoots his mouth off about something he knows nothing about are strangely silent.

The entertainer in question is aging skirt-chaser, B-list rock god, and sexual harasser of brainy androgynes Gene Simmons. He defends the war in the April 17 post at (A slightly bowdlerized version from Free Republic is here.)

"I could give a shit if there is or isn't a direct line [from 9/11] to Hussein. He had to go. Period. That regime wouldn't think twice about giving an extremist a suitcase filled with a dirty bomb," Simmons writes, neglecting to explain why soldiers in Iraq who were trying to kill Saddam and every last one of his lieutenants were not gassed or nuked by "that regime."

There's more, lots more.
The subscription-only Publishers Lunch is reporting that "former head of the Defense Policy Board Richard Perle and former Bush speechwriter David Frum's book on what's next in the war on terrorism" will be published by Random House in January 2004.

OK, let me venture a guess: Just in time for the Iowa caucuses, just as the Democrats are naively hoping that they'll be able to run a presidential campaign on domestic issues, along will come this book announcing the Bushies' war agenda for '04. (Yes, I realize that Frum and Perle are ex-employees. I don't think that matters.) The media will, as usual, act as the GOP's echo chamber. A perfect product rollout will take place, and we will talk about nothing but Evil Antichrist Assad or Evil Antichrist Kim or the Evil Antichrist Iranian mullahs from January through election day. Any attempt to change the subject to Social Security or deficits will be met with snickers.

Just a hunch.


And speaking of '04, tomorrow's New York Times is reporting this:

President Bush's advisers have drafted a re-election strategy built around staging the latest nominating convention in the party's history, allowing Mr. Bush to begin his formal campaign near the third anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks....

The convention, to be held in New York City, will be the latest since the Republican Party was founded in 1856, and Mr. Bush's advisers said they chose the date so the event would flow into the commemorations of the third anniversary of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.

...Mr. Bush's advisers said they were wary of being portrayed as exploiting the trauma of Sept. 11, a perception that might be particularly difficult to rebut as Mr. Bush shuttles between political events at Madison Square Garden and memorial services at ground zero....

I can say with absolute certainty that Wayne LaPierre and Charlton Heston are more of a danger to me than Saddam Hussein ever was. Even if Saddam had the desire to hurt me or the people around me, he seems never to have had the means to deliver death to my door. By contrast, murderers have what deserves to be called a terror network -- gun shops that are the source for a disproportionate percentage of crime guns, quite possibly because the owners don't really care who obtains their guns, even to the extent they're legally required to. And the gun lobby is determined to make sure that criminals can obtain crime guns from these dealers forever.

I know -- we've all gotten used to the gun lobby getting whatever the hell it wants, and to the self-righteous monomania of gun lovers, so it's hard to get angry. Well, sorry -- I got a little angry today reading in The New York Times today about the widow of a D.C. sniper victim who is suing Bull's Eye Shooter Supply in Tacoma, Washington, the source of the rifle used in the D.C. murders, and Bushmaster, the manufacturer. She's upset because the kind of suit she's filing may well be made illegal by the NRA's bootlickers in Congress. The damn Republicans refused to let her testify at a hearing on the bill.

As I mentioned last December, the owner of Bull's Eye has given two contradictory stories about how the gun used in the D.C. shootings got into the hands of John Muhammad and Lee Malvo. Neither was eligible to buy it from Bull's Eye legally; conversely, if it was stolen from Bull's Eye, the store had a legal obligation to report the theft. But Bull's Eye flouts the law repeatedly, and has done so for years. The feds know it, but punishment has been limited to wrist-slaps. And Bushmaster sold guns to Bull's Eye nonetheless.

At this point, I'd settle for no new gun laws, as long as there was a real effort to crack down bad dealers who make no effort to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. Who could object to that? Every member of the NRA, apparently.

If this is not evil, then evil has no meaning.

This Reuters story says the U.S. refuses to recognize that Mohammed Mohsen al-Zubaidi, an Iraqi exile, is now in charge in Baghdad, despite the fact that he seems to have appointed himself mayor of the city, at least temporarily.

But this Financial Times story says that something called the Co-ordinating Committee for the Oil Ministry ("which few of the employees had heard of") now controls the oil ministry of Iraq. And the committee, according to FT, "draws its authority from a self-declared local government led by Mohamed Mohsen al-Zubaidi," which in turn is "backed by the Iraqi National Congress" -- the exile organization led by Pentagon favorite Ahmed Chalabi.

So a Chalabi subordinate is, by fiat, in charge of Iraq's oil. Maybe.

In any case, it appears from the FT article that the oil ministry's old director general is still in charge, sort of -- which is fine by me, because I really like his attitude:

"I was a DG (director general) in the old administration, and no one has told me I'm not a DG anymore," he said....

...he lamented the whole US approach to dealing with post-war Iraq. "We have a lot of experience with
coups d'etat and this one is the worst," he said. "Any colonel in the Iraqi army will tell you that when he does a coup he goes to the broadcasting station with five announcements.

"The first one is long live this, down with that. The second one is your new government is this and that. The third is the list of the people to go on retirement. The fourth one, every other official is to report back to work tomorrow morning. The fifth is the curfew."

This is usually done within one hour, he added. "Now we are waiting more than a week and still we hear nothing from them."
Why does everyone hate us? Er, I think it's because of stuff like this:

An Associated Press report that the United States has been quietly buying up computerized data banks that contain the names, addresses, telephone listings and identity card numbers of hundreds of millions of people in 10 Latin American countries drew broad criticism and expressions of alarm throughout the region last week.

The company that collected the information and sold it to the United States government said the only goal was to improve control of immigration. But Latin Americans saw Big Brother-like purposes, and the governments of Mexico, Nicaragua and Costa Rica ordered investigations.

That's from an article on Latin American opposition to the Iraq war that was published in yesterday's New York Times Oh yeah -- as the article points out, reemploying many of the fine folks who brought you Reagan's El Salvador and Nicaragua policies doesn't exactly win hearts and minds, either.
Is Joshua Micah Marshall actually surprised that, according to an article in today's Washington Post, "senior officials" in the Bush administration are advocating "a quick exit" from Iraq? There have been hints of this for a couple of weeks. In a story filed on April 8 -- before the big statue fell -- R. W. Apple in The New York Times quoted the president hinting at a quick, hands-off transition to Iraqi self-government:

"I hear a lot of talk here about how, you know, we're going to impose this leader or that leader," the president declared, as he and Mr. Blair stood behind a pair of lecterns. "Forget it. From day one we have said the Iraqi people are capable of running their own country. That's what we believe. The position of the United States of America is, the Iraqis are plenty capable of running Iraq, and that's precisely what's going to happen."...

"People in Iraq will know we mean what we say when we talk about freedom."

At roughly the same time, Donald Rumsfeld was quoted as saying, "The United States is not going to stay in that country and occupy it."

And, of course, late last week, the neocons' favorite Iraqi, Ahmed Chalabi, predicted quite a rapid transition to Iraqi self-government:

Iraqi opposition leader Ahmad Chalabi, in his first public appearance in Baghdad, said Friday that he expects an Iraqi interim authority to take over most government functions from the U.S. military in "a matter of weeks rather than months."

...Chalabi said that once such an authority is established, the U.S. military will have three functions here: to eradicate any weapons of mass destruction, to dismantle the ousted regime's "apparatus of terror," and to disarm the previous regime's army.

Discussing the immediate future, Chalabi said he foresaw "first reconstruction of basic services, done by Jay Garner," the retired American general, designated to run the military administration. "I expect this stage to take a few weeks."

After that, he said, "an Iraqi interim authority will be chosen by Iraqis and take over the business of governing." ...

And, of course, as Cursor points out, the oft-repeated line from the administration is that U.S. troops will stay in the country "not one day longer" than necessary.

If the Bushies do cut and run, what would be the downside? A quick exit means they get to rebut charges that they're building a Middle East empire (even as U.S. firms get the rebuilding contracts and the U.S. military establishes long-term access to Iraqi military bases). More important, the sooner they get out, the easier it will be to avoid being associated with any Iraqi failure to build a thriving, prosperous democratic society -- instead, they'll get to blame any future problems on the Iraqis themselves. Worst case, we invade again. Nation-building would be the real quagmire -- it shouldn't surprise anyone that the Bushies would want to avoid it.
It doesn't seem to be anywhere on the Web site, but yesterday The New York Times gave over the entire back page of its "Nation at War" section to a chart headlined "In Perspective: America's Conflicts." Shown for the two world wars, Korea, Vietnam, and the two Iraq wars were:

* cost of the war in 2002 dollars

* a brief description of the war's technical advances

* precision-guided weapons as a percentage of total

* number of sorties flown

* number of sorties required to hit a 60- by 100-foot building

* total number of American soldiers killed in battle

* number of American soldiers killed per calendar month

That's it. Allied/"coalition" casualties? Enemy casualties? Civilian casualties? Apparently not important -- or certainly not as important as the number of sorties required to hit a 60- by 100-foot building.