Bob's Links and Rants
Saturday, May 08, 2004
Bringing American-style "Democracy" to Iraq
From the NY Times:
In a 1999 opinion, Judge Justice wrote of the situation in Texas, "Many inmates credibly testified to the existence of violence, rape and extortion in the prison system and about their own suffering from such abysmal conditions."

In a case that began in 2000, a prisoner at the Allred Unit in Wichita Falls, Tex., said he was repeatedly raped by other inmates, even after he appealed to guards for help, and was allowed by prison staff to be treated like a slave, being bought and sold by various prison gangs in different parts of the prison. The inmate, Roderick Johnson, has filed suit against the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the case is now before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans, said Kara Gotsch, public policy coordinator for the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing Mr. Johnson.

Asked what Mr. Bush knew about abuse in Texas prisons while he was governor, Trent Duffy, a White House spokesman, said the problems in American prisons were not comparable to the abuses exposed at Abu Ghraib.

The doesn't explain, or Duffy didn't say, why they aren't comparable. Abu Ghraib's atrocities were worse? Better? One thing they have in common is that George W. Bush was ultimately responsible in both cases.

The atrocity that is the American penal system has been going on for a long time. Only rarely does it make the front page of the New York Times. If you're interested in why we have two million Americans in jail and why it is as bad as it is, read The Perpetual Prisoner Machine: How America Profits from Crime, by Joel Dyer. Like most of our other problems, including the war in Iraq, this one was caused in large part by the desire of the wealthy few who run our country to get even wealthier, at the expense of everyone else.
Friday, May 07, 2004
Joe Lieberman is Scum
To put it mildly. Here's what he said to Rumsfeld today:

"Mr. Secretary, the behavior by Americans at the prison in Iraq is, as we all acknowledge, immoral, intolerable and un-American. It deserves the apology that you have given today and that have been given by others in high positions in our government and our military. I cannot help but say, however, that those who were responsible for killing 3,000 Americans on September 11th, 2001, never apologized. Those who have killed hundreds of Americans in uniform in Iraq working to liberate Iraq and protect our security have never apologized. And those who murdered and burned and
humiliated four Americans in Fallujah a while ago never received an apology from anybody."

Not only is he boot-licking swine, still helping the Bushies link Iraq to 9/11 even after they've admitted there was no connection, but he also seems pretty confused. Who does he expect to apologize to the murderers and mutilators in Fallujah?

So What Are You Going to Do About It?
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld revealed Friday that videos and "a lot more pictures" exist of the abuse of Iraqis held at Abu Ghraib prison.

"If these are released to the public, obviously it's going to make matters worse," Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "I mean, I looked at them last night, and they're hard to believe."

"The American public needs to understand we're talking about rape and murder here. We're not just talking about giving people a humiliating experience," Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told reporters after Rumsfeld testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"We're talking about rape and murder -- and some very serious charges."

Are Rush and the other wingnuts still going to pretend this is just frat hazing, just GI's blowing off some steam? Claim that Rummy and Senator Graham (the bad Senator Graham) are just cheese-eating America-haters? Or are they going to leave that to total morons like Joe Lieberman?

By the way, I don't think all of the Bushies are the same. I think the Bush and Rice are basically clueless, willing to lie on the flimsiest of evidence, but more ignorant than deceitful (although plenty of both). Colin Powell is a polished, informed liar. Rummy and Wolfowitz have a whole lot of bad ideas and a very cavalier attitude towards human life, but I think they generally tell the truth (although that can be very hard to judge with Rummy, since he often talks a lot without saying anything). Cheney and Ashcroft are evil incarnate: Liars, murderers, you name it. The same category as Saddam.

So I think Rummy just didn't consider running a tight ship in the prisons to be a priority, and thought that bending the rules to get some actionable intelligence was okay. It probably never occurred to him how far it would go, and once he found out he probably was genuinely shocked, unlike Bush, who has no humanity at any level. Cheney and Ashcroft probably think the torture didn't go far enough.

Anyway, this is one more of dozens of statements in their own words, any one of which should have been sufficient to impeach and indict most of the administration long ago. Basically, any part of their administration which finally receives scrutiny reveals crimes of great magnitude. But they've ridden through all of them so far, and the traitor(s) in the White House who revealed Valerie Plame as a CIA agent is still there. Very slowly, however, the tide seems to be turning--a recent poll I believe showed more Americans now think the war was a mistake than don't. What a shame the Democrats have a candidate who only nips at the periphery of these crimes (because of his complicity), rather than attacking them at their rotten core.
For more prison abuses, go to Texas
From the Sydney Morning Herald:

Horrific abuses similar to those revealed in Iraq regularly occur in US prisons with little national attention or public outrage, human rights activists have said.

"We certainly see many of the same kinds of things here in the United States, including sexual assaults and the abuse of prisoners, against both men and women," said Kara Gotsch of the American Civil Liberties Union.

"This office has been involved in cases in which prisoners have been raped by guards and humiliated but we don't talk about it much in America and we certainly don't hear the president expressing outrage."

President George Bush has said he was disgusted by the abuse of Iraqi prisoners. Yet there were many cases of abuse in Texas when he was governor from 1995 to 2000.

In September 1996 guards at the Brazoria County jail staged a drug raid on inmates that was videotaped for training purposes. The tape showed several inmates forced to strip and lie on the ground.

Guards prodded prisoners with stun guns and forced them to crawl along the ground. Then they dragged injured inmates face down back to their cells.

In 1999 federal judge William Wayne Justice wrote of the situation in Texas state prisons: "Many inmates credibly testified to the existence of violence, rape and extortion in the prison system and about their own suffering from such abysmal conditions."


The people of Iraq ?must understand that what took place in that prison does not represent the America that I know,? Bush told Al-Hurra. -- from Wednesday

The only America Bush knows is those idiots yelling "Four more years!" at his bribe-collection appearances. He didn't know what was going on in Texas, he doesn't know what's going on in Iraq. He's an idiot.

Is it that hard to ask a decent question?
I guess I should remember that online polls are basically meaningless, but CNN frequently words them in a way that guarantees meaningless results. Today's question:

Will the Iraq prison abuse scandal affect your vote in November? (Yes/No)

Without noting who you were going to vote for before, what good is it? I can't vote twice, and it certainly hasn't made it easier for me to decide between the non-Bush candidates. My goal two weeks ago was to do whatever I can to tear Bush down so far that I can vote for whomever I want without having to fear four more wars of Bush, and that's still my goal.

Kerry is Such a Slimeball
Pandering to the rich Miami Cubans who apparently run this country, Kerry suggested that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is becoming a dictator on Univision TV Wednesday:

Upon being asked by reporter Jorge Ramos if he considered Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez a dictator, Kerry responded,

"Chavez is fast on the road of becoming exactly that. He is breaking the rules of democracy. I think it is very important for him to allow that referendum to take place and for this administration and others to put more visibility on what is happening so we can hold him accountable to international standards of behavior. Democracy is at risk."

Democracy is at risk, Senator, but not in Venezuela. It's at risk right here at home, where the "challenger" to the worst president in our history seems to agree with him on every part of his imperialist foreign policy, and is willing to sell out the well-being of millions of Venezuelans and norteamericanos just to appease a particularly nasty right-wing constituency.

Unlike his Washington counterpart, who as Left I would say is not worthy of shining his shoes, Chavez not only got more votes than his opponent when he was elected--he actually had a substantial majority. Unlike his Washington counterpart, Chavez faces a large and vigorous opposition with substantially different policies from his own.

There's only one president Kerry should be attacking, and he can just pick an issue. Bush is wrong on EVERYTHING, including his attempts at regime change in Venezuela.
Juan Cole Tells It Like It Is
Excerpts from his post today:
The Bush administration keeps talking about bringing democracy to the Middle East, but a key element in democracy is always the accountability of public officials to the public. That is why we have elections, that is why we have a division of powers, that is why Congress can impeach the executive and the Supreme Court could order Nixon to hand over his tape recordings. When high officials commit improprieties, they must resign. When they run a loose ship and it founders on the shoals of scandal, they must resign. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz must resign. It is the only way the United States can recover even a shred of credibility in the wider world, at a time when this country desperately needs the esteem and the cooperation of allies and friends.
When no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, no Bush administration official was asked to resign. The main purveyor of false intelligence on Iraqi WMD was Vice President Dick Cheney. He has not been asked to step down, even though he was largely responsible for taking the country to war based on a falsehood. Scooter Libby, David Wurmser and John Hannah were up to their necks in hyping bad intelligence on Iraqi WMD. None of them was asked to step down. They were supplied the bad intelligence by Undersecretary of Defense for Planning Douglas Feith and his rogue Office of Special Plans. No one associated with this scam has been asked to resign.
Democracy is about more than elections. Most Middle Eastern countries already have elections. Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, all of them hold regular elections. They have parliaments, parties, campaigns. Two things make them nevertheless not democracies. The first is that their presidents manipulate the elections so that there is never any doubt that they will win the election and that their party will dominate parliament (even if space is made for minority parties to win a few seats). Second, their regimes have no accountability to the public. No one in Hosni Mubarak's government has ever had to resign because he performed his duties poorly. He might have to resign because he fell out with the president. But if he is buddy buddy with the head of state, then he can do no wrong.

You really wonder whether the Bush plan to Americanize the Middle East isn't being turned on its head. We now have an unaccountable government not elected in accordance with the will of the majority of Americans, which victimizes critics like Joe Wilson and engages in torture. Bush and Co. are emulating the worst aspects of the military governments of Egypt and Yemen. They have no credibility to push the latter toward democracy.

Read the whole post!

BTW, Juan Cole will apparently be on Wolf Blitzer's show on CNN today between 5 and 6 PM.

From Mike Thompson.
Can education overcome heredity?
Jenna Bush is an English major at the University of Texas at Austin, while Barbara Bush is majoring in humanities at Yale University. -- CNN

They certainly wouldn't have had a head start in either field at home.
Thursday, May 06, 2004
"We are working for the day of freedom in Cuba," said Bush, speaking during a meeting with commission members in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. -- Washington Post

Cubans need only look at Guantanamo Bay to know that's a lie.
Cold Spell Hits Hell; Pigs Cleared for Takeoff
Bush Apologizes. Really!

President Bush told Jordan's King Abdullah Thursday that he was sorry for the humiliation suffered by Iraqi prisoners and their families because of abusive American jailers.

"I told him I was sorry for the humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners and the humiliation suffered by their families," the Republican president said during a Rose Garden appearance with the Jordanian monarch.

Of course, George will be George:

"I told him I was equally sorry that people that seen those pictures didn't understand the true nature and heart of America. I assured him that Americans like me didn't appreciate what we saw."
Good Ol' Girl
POINTING crudely at the genitals of a naked, hooded Iraqi, the petite brunette with a cigarette hanging from her lips epitomised America's shame over revelations US soldiers routinely tortured inmates at Abu Ghraib jail near Baghdad.

Lynndie England, 21, a rail worker's daughter, comes from a trailer park in Fort Ashby, West Virginia, which locals proudly call "a backwoods world".

She faces a court martial, but at home she is toasted as a hero.

At the dingy Corner Club Saloon they think she has done nothing wrong.

"A lot of people here think they ought to just blow up the whole of Iraq," Colleen Kesner said.

"To the country boys here, if you're a different nationality, a different race, you're sub-human. That's the way girls like Lynndie are raised.

"Tormenting Iraqis, in her mind, would be no different from shooting a turkey. Every season here you're hunting something. Over there, they're hunting Iraqis."
-- Daily Telegraph

I think Lynndie England and Jessica Lynch prove that women shouldn't be in the military. Men either.

(Please include BOTH sentences above if you quote me!)
Cluelessness, Part II
In our country, when there's an allegation of abuse -- more than an allegation in this case, actual abuse, we saw the pictures -- there will be a full investigation and justice will be delivered. We have a presumption of innocent until you're guilty in our system, but the system will be transparent, it will be open and people will see the results. -- aWol, speaking to Al Arabiya Television yesterday.

Does he know what his buds John Ashcroft and Ted Olsen have been doing to the constitution in the past three years? Has he even heard of Jose Padilla and Yaser Hamdi, U.S. citizens being held in secret, no presumption of innocence, no transparency, no openness, no results, seen or otherwise?
Taking Cluelessness to a Whole New Level
Iraqis are sick of foreign people coming in their country and trying to destabilize their country. And we will help them rid Iraq of these killers. -- aWol, speaking to Al Arabiya Television yesterday.

Does he have even the vaguest clue that American soldiers are "foreign people" in Iraq? And you can say lots of bad things about Saddam Hussein, most of them true. You can say good things about the occupation, a few of which may be true. But you'd have to be whacked out on Xanax to suggest that things are more stable in Iraq now than they were in February 2003. The "coalition" is the group of foreign people who have destabilized Iraq.
Quote du Jour
"I want the American soldier to return to his camp. What I want more is that he returns to the United States," General Muhammad Latif told Reuters in an interview.

"They should leave very quickly, very quickly or there will be problems. If they stay it will hurt the confidence and we have built confidence. They should leave so that there will be more calm."

Latif is the Iraqi general the Marines turned Fallujah over to last week. I hope the Marines follow his advice, for everyone's sake.
Another $86
That's the approximate per capita cost of aWol's latest $25 billion request to further cement America's image as a bunch of sadistic warmongers.

Dig that hole deeper, you Repuglican morons.
School Buses on Biodiesel
The St. Johns, Michigan school district switched their entire fleet of 31 school buses to B20 biodiesel (20% bio, 80% petrodiesel) in 2002. They've now put over one million miles on them, and report better mileage (8.8 mpg compared to 8.1 previously), cleaner exhaust, fewer oil changes needed, and fewer problems with fuel pumps.
One of the known knowns...
Is that Donald Rumsfeld is a sadistic creep with no regard for international law. The Washington Post, which should have known this long ago, finally gets around to ripping Rummy a new one. (Is it possible to rip one in one?)

THE HORRIFIC abuses by American interrogators and guards at the Abu Ghraib prison and at other facilities maintained by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan can be traced, in part, to policy decisions and public statements of Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld. Beginning more than two years ago, Mr. Rumsfeld decided to overturn decades of previous practice by the U.S. military in its handling of detainees in foreign countries. His Pentagon ruled that the United States would no longer be bound by the Geneva Conventions; that Army regulations on the interrogation of prisoners would not be observed; and that many detainees would be held incommunicado and without any independent mechanism of review. Abuses will take place in any prison system. But Mr. Rumsfeld's decisions helped create a lawless regime in which prisoners in both Iraq and Afghanistan have been humiliated, beaten, tortured and murdered -- and in which, until recently, no one has been held accountable. (more)

From David Horsey.

From Milt Priggee.

From Bill Schorr.

From Lalo Alcarez.

From Kirk Anderson.

From Nick Anderson.

From Gary Brookins.
Wednesday, May 05, 2004
Cyndy's Got It Right
It is NOT a SCANDAL as I keep hearing in the media. It is a WAR CRIME and the buck stops at the top, with the Commander in Chief.

I imagine she's talking about the torture in the prisons, although there are hundreds of other "scandals" which meet the definition of war crime and for which the Dissembler in Chief is ultimately (and mostly directly) responsible.
I couldn't wait!
After I got home from my soccer game tonight (we won, thank you!), I got in the VW Golf TDI and drove the 24 miles to Manchester, home of the closest (as far as I know) biodiesel dealer. I still had about half a tank of petrodiesel from the previous owner, but I topped it off with eight gallons of B100 biodiesel--that is, 100% of the new fuel was biodiesel, made from soybeans, not from 19-year-old soldiers in Iraq.

With about 50% biodiesel in the tank, I drove back home. The car ran just as smoothly and with just as much power as it had going out. Presumably, the exhaust was substantially less toxic as well.

The downside? The B100 is currently more expensive than petrodiesel or gasoline. I paid $2.71 per gallon. The B20 (20% bio, 80% petro) was $1.79, I think. That will probably be the better choice in the winter, since the B100 reportedly doesn't work well in cold weather. My guess is that biodiesel will come down in price while petrodiesel continues up along with gasoline, probably crossing over in the next year or two. If not, I'm still willing to pay more for cleaner, more sustainable fuel. I'm getting great mileage anyway!
Seeing the sights
Your U.S. Military gave journalists a tour of the Abu Ghraib prison today, hoping to convince them that things aren't really that bad. Apparently, they are:

"Where's the freedom Bush? Is this freedom?" shouted one man, waving a prosthetic leg over his head as he leaned on a crutch. Another read a message through a megaphone, protesting the abuse of Iraqis' "freedom, dignity and rights."

Dressed in an assortment of clothing, from shorts and t-shirts to traditional robes and headscarves, at least 10 of the prisoners were on crutches -- apparently wounded in a recent mortar bombardment of the prison which killed 22 detainees.

Some appeared to be in their early teens. Others were old and bearded and walked with the aide of sticks. One young man, who appeared to be blind, was escorted by a friend who desperately tried to point out his incapacity to journalists.

Journalists were not allowed to film, photograph or talk to the prisoners and their visit was tightly controlled, allowing them access only to the parts of the facility that U.S. forces wanted to show them.

Put George W. Bush in Prison
From Harvey Wasserman.

These outrages taint us all. As Americans, and there is just one way to redeem ourselves: get these murderous torturers out of the White House and into a prison of their own, where they belong.
Crude Oil Prices at 14-year high
My VW diesel, bicycle, bus pass, walking shoes, and I are just going to sit back and watch 'em go!

If it gets some of the behemoths off the road, convinces people that 40-mile commutes are NOT acceptable, and cuts down on pollution and traffic fatalities, wonderful. If it gets Bush and his criminal gang out of the White House, even better.

Go oil! Go higher, higher, higher!
Ya think?
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The State Department plans to delay the release of a human rights report due out on Wednesday partly because of sensitivities over the U.S. prison abuse scandal in Iraq, U.S. officials said.

One official who asked not to be identified said the release of the report, which describes actions taken by the U.S. government to encourage respect for human rights by other nations, could "make us look hypocritical."

It's fine to be hypocritical, I guess, as long as you don't look it.
The Economist calls for Regime Change in Venezuela
From the World Socialist Web Site. The WSWS attacks the Economist's imperialistic viewpoint, while blasting Chavez as well.

Moreover, as a member of OPEC, Venezuela has sought to drive up oil prices to $30 per barrel in an effort to shore up its international reserves.

It is this oil policy reform, now entering its fourth year, that has the Economist up in arms. Chavez, whose main constituency is the urban and rural poor and the impoverished peasantry, has had to balance his appeasement of international capital with populist measures—by “shunting PDVSA income into government agriculture, housing and ‘social’ programmes, a transfer that may well violate Venezuela’s constitution,” bristles the Economist.

Yet, the most notable facets of the programs initiated by Chavez are the backward-looking, petty bourgeois economic conception that underlies them and the preponderance of the military in these operations.

The ex-colonel has enlarged the role of the armed forces to such a degree that they are now incorporated into every sector of the state. He has mobilised troops and the National Guard with added frequency.

Canadian citizen says he was tortured in Iraq
Portland, Ore. ? A Canadian civilian says in a lawsuit that he was tortured by U.S. troops in Iraq and saw Iraqi prisoners suffer even worse mistreatment ? the latest allegations of human rights abuses to surface against coalition soldiers.

Hossam Shaltout, 57, claims in a suit filed with the U.S. Army Claims Office on April 30 that he was beaten after being taken to the Camp Bucca detention centre shortly after the launch of the U.S.-led invasion.

"I saw Iraqis tortured more than I was. They did unspeakable things to Iraqis," Mr. Shaltout said Monday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
-- Globe and Mail

Billmon will probably do it better
But the juxtaposition of the two headlines on the NY Times web page is ironic, to say the least:

Bush Tells Arab World That Prisoner Abuse Was 'Abhorrent'

"First, the people in Iraq must understand that I view those practices as abhorrent," Mr. Bush told Al Hurra, in one of two interviews in which he appealed to the Arab peoples, who have expressed deep outrage over the incidents in the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad.

"They must also understand that what took place in that prison does not represent America that I know," the president went on. "The America I know is a compassionate country that believes in freedom. The America I know cares about every individual. The America I know has sent troops into Iraq to promote freedom ? good, honorable citizens that are helping the Iraqis every day."

U.S. Begins First Major Assault on Iraqi Militia Led by Cleric

The American military launched its first major assault against insurgents led by Moktada al-Sadr, a rebel Shiite cleric, striking early this morning at militia enclaves in this holy Shiite city and in another city in southern Iraq in an effort to retake control of those areas.

About 450 soldiers in dozens of armored vehicles, including M-1 Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles, rumbled beneath a full moon through a neighborhood here controlled by armed supporters of Mr. Sadr.

The firepower on display was extraordinary. Polish and Bulgarian soldiers, Special Forces snipers, an Apache attack helicopter and an AC-130 Spectre gunship backed up the main strike force.

The operation, called Iron Saber, began at 11 p.m. on Tuesday (3 p.m. Tuesday Eastern time) and ran until dawn today. A similar battle took place at the same time in the city of Diwaniya, 60 miles southeast of here.

Tell Kerry what you want
I received this link to the People's Pledge from the Kucinich campaign. On that page, you pledge to volunteer for Kerry in the fall if one of your cherished planks makes it into the Democratic platform at the Boston convention in July. Although I'd pretty much like to see the whole list BE the platform, the way it's worded, the more you pick, the less it means.

I chose US out of Iraq in 90 days and withdrawal from NAFTA and the WTO as my deal makers. If either one is a part of the Democratic platform, I have pledged to hit the pavement for Kerry.

I'm not holding my breath, though.
I'm disowning my alma mater
Michigan State University is having Condiliar Rice speak at commencement this Friday.

You can register your displeasure by going to the MSU Alumni Association (you don't have to be alumni) and voting in their online poll (bottom right). You can also send e-mails to the following addresses (MSU administration): (President McPherson),,,,
0 for 3
The Bush adminstration's record on regime change/nation building, that is. We all know how bad Iraq is; even parts they had gotten under control have slipped out of it (not to mention that they had absolutely no business bringing any part of Iraq under control). They never had most of Afghanistan under control, even though their excuse for invading there was infinitesimally less illegal and that there may actually be people there who have actually attacked America.

And now, according to the NY Times, the overthrown of Aristide in Haiti and subsequent invasion have made that poorest western country even poorer:

Difficult as it may be to believe, people here say, life in the poorest nation in the hemisphere has gotten worse in the past two months.

Mounds of garbage choke the streets. Electricity in the capital has been scarce for weeks. The police force has fallen deeper into disarray, and crime has spiked, including a rash of kidnappings aimed at wealthy businesspeople. The price of rice, the Haitian staple, has doubled in some parts of the country.

Fascism 911
Disney blocks distribution of Michael Moore's new film, Fahrenheit 911.

The Walt Disney Company is blocking its Miramax division from distributing a new documentary by Michael Moore that harshly criticizes President Bush, executives at both Disney and Miramax said Tuesday.

The film, "Fahrenheit 911," links Mr. Bush and prominent Saudis — including the family of Osama bin Laden — and criticizes Mr. Bush's actions before and after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Mr. Moore's agent, Ari Emanuel, said Michael D. Eisner, Disney's chief executive, asked him last spring to pull out of the deal with Miramax. Mr. Emanuel said Mr. Eisner expressed particular concern that it would endanger tax breaks Disney receives for its theme park, hotels and other ventures in Florida, where Mr. Bush's brother, Jeb, is governor.

"Michael Eisner asked me not to sell this movie to Harvey Weinstein; that doesn't mean I listened to him," Mr. Emanuel said. "He definitely indicated there were tax incentives he was getting for the Disney corporation and that's why he didn't want me to sell it to Miramax. He didn't want a Disney company involved."

Sounds like the Bushies bought a lot of pro quo for some of our quid. Why in the world would Disney be getting tax breaks for Disney World, that immensely profitable cultural wasteland which brainwashes millions of children every year? Rhetorical question--The answer is in the paragraphs above.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004
My new car

I just bought this diesel-powered 2001 VW Golf GLS TDI. It's rated mileage in 42 city/48 highway, but what's really cool is that I can run it on biodiesel! I'm going to get a tank of biodiesel when it starts to run low in about 300 miles (the tank's about half full now).

Ideally, I'd rather be completely car-free, but that still puts a few too many walls around my life. So a high-mileage car running on renewable fuel seems like a great compromise--and it's a really cool little car, too!
Another Commie Pinko Liberal Calls for Pulling Out of Iraq
William Odom, a retired Army general who was director of the National Security Agency during the Reagan administration, said Iraqi public anger at the U.S. troop presence has spun irretrievably out of control. "The only question is how long we're going to wait to leave and what price we're going to have to pay if we try to stay," he said.

Odom, now a senior fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute, adds that the United Nations and Arab countries might be persuaded to send in peacekeepers to pick up the slack after the American withdrawal.

"But even if they don't, any continued U.S. troop presence is a losing proposition. Once you've done a stupid thing, you don't fix it by keeping doing it. Our troops are exposed; we're going to take more casualties without any capacity of destroying the enemy. That's a losing proposition."
-- From SF Gate.

Digging the hole deeper
The Pentagon is notifying about 10,000 active-duty Army and Marine Corps troops and about 37,000 National Guard and Reserve soldiers that they will be sent to Iraq this year as replacements for units that will have served there a year or longer, officials said Tuesday. -- NY Times

Can you imagine the awful feeling in the gut of those 47,000, especially the reservists, and their families? Two weekends a month becomes a year or more in hell, from which you may not return intact.
Who says Bush isn't creating jobs?
From the comments on Billmon:

CACI's Job Database

Interrogator/Intel Analyst Team Lead Asst.

(Requisition #BZSG308)
Clearance: TS

Assists the interrogation support program team lead to increase the effectiveness of dealing with Detainees, Persons of Interest, and Prisoners of War (POWs) that are in the custody of US/Coalition Forces in the CJTF 7 AOR, in terms of screening, interrogation, and debriefing of persons of intelligence value. Under minimal supervision, will assist the team lead in managing a multifaceted interrogation support cell consisting of database entry/intelligence research clerks, screeners, tactical/strategic interrogators, and intelligence analyst.

Position requires a bachelor's degree or equivalent and five to seven years of related experience, preferably in intelligence field. Requires a Top Secret Clearance. Strong writing and briefing skills, with competency in automation, research and basic software applications. Familiar with intelligence collection capabilities/planning, as well as analytical procedures.

Minimum of 5 years in intelligence field. Requires a Bachelor's degree or equivalent. Requires a Top Secret Clearance. Strong writing and briefing skills, with competency in automation, research and basic software applications. Familiar with intelligence collection capabilities/planning, as well as analytical procedures.

See the world! Move quickly into a position of authority! Satisfy your wildest sexual/sadistic fantasies!

CACI: Beating democracy into the world.

PS: Another commenter on Billmon questioned whether the job posting was real. It is. CACI is hiring interrogators and interrogator assistants. Or just search for your dream job!
And the most ridiculous cartoon of the week:

From Doug Marlette. There was another one, basically identical. Of course, a more accurate cartoon would have Bush supporters watching Fox News with signs saying "God Bless America."

From Randy Bish.

From Bruce Beattie.

From Bill Schorr.

From Mike Thompson.
Monday, May 03, 2004
I'm a great uncle!
I don't think my nephews and nieces would have argued with that before, but they can't now! My nephew Dan and his wife Kim (especially Kim) had a baby girl Sunday night: Audrey Grace Bickel. Pictures here!

Congrats to Kim and Dan!
War Sucks
So now you know. Thanks to prime-time television, you, the American people, understand that war is horrible. The mystery is why you didn't know before, why you are outraged now. Perhaps the answer is, if it's not on TV, it's not happening. So, credit to CBS's 60 Minutes II for finally showing part of the truth - that Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison have been undergoing the horrors of war at American hands. No credit to the US media for pulling the wool over your eyes about this war for so long. No credit to you for being appalled now - you should have known that this is what happens in any war, no matter whose side God is on. -- From an editorial in the Asia Times.
Go West, Young Man!
And die of thirst. Horace Greely gave (?) his famous advice over 150 years ago. But the west is out of water, and it doesn't look like it's going to get better any time soon.

I read a fascinating book a few months ago called Ecology of Fear : Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster. (Actually, it's only fascinating if you don't live in LA and don't know anyone who does. In those cases, the proper adjective is "terrifying.") Like the NY Times story, the book describes how the relative wetness of the past two centuries in the west is an historical abberation--extreme drought being the norm to which the west is now returning. Cadillac Desert is another fascinating book about how the west got to be the way it is. Probably the scariest thing is that it seems that not one thing has been done to stop or even slow the absurd growth of western cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix. It seems almost certain that in 50 years, probably much less, Las Vegas will have crapped out and Phoenix will have returned to the ashes--why do people keep moving to these ridiculously unsustainable places?
Scum of the Earth
Is probably a charitable description of Ahmed Chalabi, embezzler, liar, and Dick Cheney's favorite Iraqi. Exiled from Iraq from 1958 until last year, he was convicted of bank fraud in Jordan, provided most of the lies about weapons of mass destruction, and has provided an unknown and unloved face for the Iraq Governing Council to the Iraqi people.

Now, we find out that Chalabi has been feeding "sensitive information" to Iran. And Josh Marshall reports:

Then there's the matter of the bombing of the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad on August 7th, 2003. I'm told that the Jordanians have phone intercept intelligence, which they shared with the US government, showing that Chalabi had advance warning of the bombing, which he chose not to share with the Jordanians or the Americans.

In other words, Chalabi is the worst sort of scum. No wonder the Bushies love him.

Life Intimidates Art
A 15-year-old high school student in Prosser, Washington, was questioned last week by United States Secret Service agents after he turned in drawings for an art class. The assignment had been to keep a sketch journal depicting the war in Iraq, but apparently not to question it. When the student’s drawings called for an end to the war, school officials called the police.

One of the drawings shows a man in Middle Eastern dress with an AK-47 rifle and an oversized head of President Bush on a stick. Another depicts Bush as a devil firing rockets. A third showed the Bill of Rights and the Constitution in flames. A caption said, “End the War—on terrorism.”

While expressing a definite point of view in a straightforward fashion, there was nothing particularly disturbing about the cartoons. However, their voluntary submission to an art teacher immediately set off alarm bells all the way up from the school hierarchy to the state’s branch of the Secret Service.

Criticized for their excessive violence—this in a culture that routinely views multimillion dollar films and TV shows which are veritable orgies of killing—the cartoons have been treated as either an actual threat on President Bush’s life, or as symptomatic of a potential school-shooting psychopath.

Bush wars are made possible by the ignorance of the masses, especially the teenage cannon fodder in the schools. When some of the fodder starts to catch on, the Nazis move to repress immediately.

The hero-worship of fallen football-star-turned-soldier Pat Tillman is all a part of the brainwashing of youth. Ted Rall makes the point pretty bluntly in his latest cartoon, which is sure to make him this week's target of the right-wing hate machine:

Sunday, May 02, 2004
Venezuelan Journal
When you take a trip, there are a couple of ways to keep a record of it. You can 1) buy a notebook and a pen and take notes as the trip goes along, or 2) long before your trip, you start writing a blog, then announce your upcoming trip and invite readers to come along, hoping one of them will do the notebook/pen thing.

Approach 1 would appear, at first glance, to make more sense, but approach 2 worked for me! Fellow blogger Michelle signed up for the Venezuela trip, and she kept a journal, which you can read now!
Is the world really better off without Saddam?
(Reader Rick wanted an update on the comparison between the kill rate of Iraqis under Saddam with that under the coalition. This is my attempt at an answer. Obviously I don't have either complete information or the time to fully investigate the subject, but I'll try to summarize what I understand. A few months ago, Human Rights Watch wrote a report which investigated whether the war in Iraq was justifiable as a humanitarian intervention. Their conclusion was that it wasn't. I haven't read much of that report; for Rick and others looking for more than my conjectures below, I suggest turning to that report next.)

Is the world really better off without Saddam?

I would suggest that it clearly isn't. The threat of regional or even global war arising out of the illegal invasion of Iraq is growing. The threat of massive terrorist attacks is growing. International law is in a shambles, and America is detested throughout the world.

Is Iraq better off without Saddam? That's a closer call, but it's not looking good right now. In addition to the ever-present possibility of being denounced by a neighbor or colleague and hauled off to be tortured or raped at the Abu Ghraib prison, something which hasn't changed, there's a greatly increased chance of being killed by stray bullets, RPGs, or 500-pound bombs. But how about looking strictly at deaths per day--are Iraqis being killed at a lower rate now than they were before the war? A very difficult question, since we have very poor information on both periods. Saddam apparently didn't count his victims as he dumped them into mass graves, and neither does Bush.

As for what went on before the war, here's an excerpt from a very anti-Saddam article in the NY Times last year:

DOING the arithmetic is an imprecise venture. The largest number of deaths attributable to Mr. Hussein's regime resulted from the war between Iraq and Iran between 1980 and 1988, which was launched by Mr. Hussein. Iraq says its own toll was 500,000, and Iran's reckoning ranges upward of 300,000. Then there are the casualties in the wake of Iraq's 1990 occupation of Kuwait. Iraq's official toll from American bombing in that war is 100,000 — surely a gross exaggeration — but nobody contests that thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians were killed in the American campaign to oust Mr. Hussein's forces from Kuwait. In addition, 1,000 Kuwaitis died during the fighting and occupation in their country.

Casualties from Iraq's gulag are harder to estimate. Accounts collected by Western human rights groups from Iraqi émigrés and defectors have suggested that the number of those who have "disappeared" into the hands of the secret police, never to be heard from again, could be 200,000. As long as Mr. Hussein remains in power, figures like these will be uncheckable, but the huge toll is palpable nonetheless.

As with other documents that I've seen claiming that Saddam was responsible for over one million deaths, this one has to include the death tolls on all sides of both the Iran-Iraq war and the 1991 Gulf war. Certainly Saddam deserves blame for much of this, but so do Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, various Iranian leaders, and many others. The U.S. encouraged Saddam to attack Iran, and received backing from the Reagan administration as he used his chemical weapons and otherwise prosecuted the war. He probably wasn't aware that the Reaganistas were also supplying weapons to Iran. Henry Kissinger openly stated that he hoped the Iranians and Iraqis would just keep killing each other, and though Kissinger wasn't a part of the Reagan administration, that seems to have been pretty much their official policy. This doesn't absolve Saddam, but giving him sole blame for the deaths of 300,000 Iranians and 500,000 Iraqis in this war obviously isn't correct.

Saddam's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 was largely bloodless. The tens or hundreds of thousands of deaths from the 1991 Gulf war seem to me to fall much
more on George H.W. Bush's shoulders than on Saddam's.

Whatever the proper assignment of blame for the deaths from these wars, we shouldn't forget that Saddam hadn't started a war in over twelve years when our invasion started last year. The war deaths were not an ongoing thing. So I think the key number to look at from the Times article is the 200,000 of "disappeared" Iraqis over the 20+ years of Saddam's rule, which the Times seems to suggest would be the high-end estimate. So up to 10,000 per year. A horrible number to be sure, but it's the lower accepted limit on the number of Iraqi civilian casualties in the year-plus of George W. Bush's Iraq war. And the estimates you almost never see are of the number of Iraqi soldiers killed in the "major combat operations" of March and April 2003, nor of the "insurgents" killed since then. One would have to believe that these numbers each also exceed 10,000.

So I would suggest that Iraqis are still subject to random arrests leading to indefinite detention, torture, and possibly death; that they have new fears for ongoing military action in their streets; and that they may be being killed at up to three times the rate that they were by Saddam in the 1990's.
Four more American soldiers killed...
But one American contractor who had been held hostage got away.

Congratulations to Thomas Hamill on his escape. But the NY Times has his escape as a major headline on their main web page, while the story about the soldiers being killed is a minor note. On, they've got a huge picture of Hamill, which is their main story. The deaths of the soldiers isn't mentioned on the main page.

I don't know if this means that the media is still covering up for Dickie and Georgie's monstrous screwup, or if it has just gotten so bad that the deaths are routine, but survival is exceptional.

I also see that the NY Times, or at least their Reuters feed, has gone back to using the smaller "enemy action" number of U.S. KIA's, currently 545, as opposed to the total who have died (including accidents, friendly fire, etc.), which I believe is at about 750. The media routinely did this for the first eight or ten months of the war, but it seemed as though they had come around to using the more accurate higher number in recent months. It's worrying to see them return to their old ways. Not that I like seeing high casualty numbers, but it should be clear to anyone with a brain by now that the only possible good that can come from these deaths is that they are used as lessons to prevent many more deaths in the future. By underplaying the numbers of dead and wounded, the true cost of the whole pointless exercise is hidden, meaning it may take longer before public opinion becomes so overwhelming as to force President Bush or President Kerry to withdraw.

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