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Only 42 percent [22 Jan 2005|11:04am]
For those of us despairing about this week’s re-coronation of Dubya, a survey was released that will -- supposedly -- make us feel a little better.

According to the Results for America-sponsored survey, 42 percent of Americans support invading Iran to halt its alleged nuclear ambitions. I learned about the survey via a press release from a liberal outfit trumpeting the fact that “only” 42 percent of Americans favored rolling our tanks through Tehran. Presumably, we should be pleased the number is “only” four out of 10 of us.

Let’s pause for a moment, shall we? Iran has done ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to the United States (at least recently). If the Bushies really want to invade, they haven’t yet started a full-on innuendo campaign tying Iran to Osama, 9/11 or WMDs landing in Toledo. And yet 42 PERCENT OF US are already willing to invade? I worry that it won’t take much to nudge that number higher, giving Dubya a mandate to spread democracy blah blah blah to Iran. You know the pattern as well as I do.

You can read more about the survey here and here (as long as you can stomach the pro-Bush ads).

To step out of incredulous and offended mode for a moment, the survey had a few legitimate bright spots: only 7 percent of Americans think our top international goal should be “democracy building” overseas; 71 percent think that U.S. unilateralism and our policy in Iraq have made us more vulnerable to terrorist attacks; three-quarters of Americans oppose the use of torture, even in cases of terrorism (sorry, Jack Bauer). Such statistics suggest I should take heart that the American public hasn’t gone completely around the neoconservative bend. They also make me wonder how the hell this nation re-elected a guy whose top goal is “democracy building,” whose party savages anyone suggesting that U.S. policy has made us a bigger terrorist target, and whose administration spat on the Geneva Conventions.
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Dumb jokes, dumber media [15 Jul 2004|01:53pm]
(NOTE: Numbers in this entry updated and corrected 7/18/04.)

As you've probably heard, comedian Whoopi Goldberg made some sexual jokes at President Bush's expense at a private John Kerry fund-raiser in New York City last week. I'm not sure exactly what was said, since it was a private event and there doesn't seem to be a transcript. But c'mon, his name is "Bush," making him an easy target for dumb and unfunny puns about genitalia.

Afterwards, the Republicans raised hell about what Whoopi and other Hollywood celebs said at the fund-raiser and Whoopi was dumped from her job as a spokeswoman for Slim-Fast. The flap has gotten lots of media attention: a search of Google News turns up 590 related items.

Meanwhile, another washed-up comedian, Dennis Miller, has been stumping for President Bush. On Wednesday, he made a sexual joke about Kerry and running mate John Edwards at a Bush campaign visit to Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin. Since the event was public, we know exactly what he said. Referring to the hugging and other physical contact that went on between the Democratic running mates last week, he said, according to The Washington Times: "Those two cannot keep their hands off each other. I have an idea for a new campaign slogan: 'Hey, get a room!' "

As with Whoopi's "humor," this joke isn't really funny. However, in a way it's even more offensive: Considering the right-wing audience, quipping that Kerry and Edwards are a gay couple is tantamount to saying they're evil, hell-bound abominations unto God. It's also (I would imagine) offensive to gay people who'd rather not see gay affection as something to laugh at. In addition, it's offensive to any open-minded person to suggest that touching a member of the same gender is somehow deviant.

Of course, since the media has such a left-wing, they must have jumped all over Dennis Miller by now, right? Nope. In fact, his comment has received scant attention, as far as I can tell. A Google News search reveals only six specific references to the joke. Let me emphasize: Liberal comedian throws sexual insult at Republican candidate and generates 590 news items. Conservative comedian throws sexual insult at Democratic candidate and generates six news items.

Should we really be surprised? It's just another nail in the coffin of the so-called liberal media.
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First choice? [12 Jul 2004|06:17pm]
Before John Kerry picked John Edwards as his running mate last week, there was plenty of discussion about who would get Kerry’s VP nod. Dick Gephardt? Tom Vilsack? Bill Richardson? Hillary Clinton? For a while there was wild speculation that Kerry might choose his friend and fellow Vietnam War veteran, John McCain. And even though McCain is a Republican – and usually a conservative one at that – he’s gained the respect of many Democrats for pushing for campaign finance reform and badmouthing President Bush on occasion. McCain even gave the rumor some legs when he said he would entertain such an offer.

While the Kerry campaign may have enjoyed the rumor – or perhaps even encouraged it – as an entertaining summer diversion, I highly doubt McCain was ever seriously considered for the job. Granted, he’s popular and choosing him would have shock value, but would Kerry want someone of another party who disagreed with him on most issues to step in as president if the unthinkable happened? I daresay not.

Anyway, within hours of Kerry’s announcement that he had picked Edwards, the Bush misinformation machine was ready with a TV ad titled “First Choice.” In the ad, McCain sings Bush’s praises. The title, of course, implies that McCain was actually Kerry’s first choice to be vice president, but instead decided to remain loyal to Bush – as, by implication, should all independent-minded Republicans who dislike Dubya.

There’s a big problem with this picture, however: McCain has categorically denied being offered the VP slot by Kerry. If McCain is to be believed, then the title – and the implication – of the Bush ad is at best misleading and at worst an outright lie.
Why? Well, if McCain is telling the truth that Kerry didn’t offer him the job, then the Bushies are lying when they say McCain was Kerry’s “first choice.” Conversely, if McCain really was Kerry’s “first choice,” then McCain was lying when he said he wasn’t offered the job. So, A) the Bush campaign is lying, or B) the campaign’s proxy, McCain, is lying. Either way, it's a lie.

Perhaps by taking part in the ad McCain is actually flip-flopping on whether or not he was the “first choice.” This last alternative would be the funniest: Isn’t that dastardly senator from Massachusetts the flip-flopper in this race?
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Is it over? [14 Jun 2004|05:32pm]
Has the wailing and gnashing of teeth ended? Can we remove the sackcloth and ashes and return to business casual? True, a famous, much-admired man has died.

I'm speaking, of course, of Ray Charles.

Thanks, I'll be here all week. Tip your waitresses!

Seriously, I'm suffering Reagan-is-dead-what-a-wonderful-man-who-ended-Communism fatigue. I'm sick of political cartoons in which he arrives in heaven toting jelly beans or demands that St. Peter "tear down" the pearly gates. Never mind some of his real achievements.

If I were the kind of person who watched a lot of TV, I'd be even sicker of the wall-to-wall coverage, I'm sure. This phenomenon has a name, according to Eric Boehlert of Salon.com: Reagan porn. And the soft-focus Reagan-loving fantasyland wasn't limited to the past week. It lasted through the 1980s:

Looking back, former Washington Post political columnist and historian Haynes Johnson says the press, in addition to genuinely liking Reagan as a man, was acutely aware of the charges by conservatives that it had a liberal, unpatriotic bias. And that defensiveness translated into deferential treatment. "The press wanted to bend over backward not to be seen as part of the liberal establishment agenda," says Johnson. "I was conscious of it myself."

(sarcasm mode on) Thank God the media is no longer afraid to be called unpatriotic and (gulp!) liberal if it criticizes a right-wing president! (sarcasm mode off)

And another thing, before Reagan slips gently into that good night: Don't forget how Reagan helped turn a small-time anti-Soviet "freedom fighter" named Osama bin Laden into a terrorist kingpin.

And while we're on the subject of that happy part of the world, check out the latest on the Abu Ghraib scandal, via DailyKos. It appears that the top U.S. military official in Iraq approved techniques pretty close to what you and I would call torture. And there are indications the blame goes even higher.

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He wants to be the one [10 Jun 2004|04:52pm]

Here in the United States, celebrities who run for political office are usually musclebound gropers or musclebound whiners. In Australia, apparently, celebrity politicians are more likely to be articulate, intelligent and passionate. Oh, and they rock:

The former lead singer of the Australian rock band Midnight Oil announced Thursday that he will run for parliament with the opposition Labour Party -— and party leaders said he could even become a government minister someday.

Peter Garrett, a committed environmental activist with a distinctive bald pate, had long used Midnight Oil as a forum for his political views. The band broke up in 2002 after 25 years.
"Politics is an imperfect game, we all know that," Garrett said. "We see it on television stations every night; and yet it’s the best game we have for making the country work better."

This move by Garrett --who happened to front one of my favorite bands -- isn’t really unexpected. Political rumors flew when he retired from the band in December 2002. He’d run for the Australian Senate 20 years ago on the Nuclear Disarmament Party ticket (he didn’t get a seat), was a member of the international board of Greenpeace, and until recently led the Australian Conservation Foundation. And, of course, for 25 years Midnight Oil used its music to eloquently discuss issues of social, economic and environmental justice, from land rights for indigenous people to preserving old-growth forests.

As you may guess, I'm pretty excited about Peter’s foray into politics. It's not without its perils, though, and he’s already getting flak. As the above article points out, Peter's voting record has come under scrutiny. This is particularly important since voting is mandatory in Australia. Records apparently show he didn't vote in recent elections, though he claims he did. (Interestingly enough, I just finished reading Midnight Oil drummer Rob Hirst's book, Willie's Bar and Grill, which backs Peter up: Rob writes of how band members voted by absentee ballot at the Australian Embassy while on tour in the U.S. in 2002.)

Secondly, he's already apparently committed a flip-flop, a near-deadly political move on this side of the Pacific, where changing your mind when faced with new circumstances or evidence is seen as a weakness. Back in the 1980s, Pete and the Oils railed against Pine Gap, a joint U.S.-Australian military listening post in the Outback. (Pine Gap was mentioned in the quintessential Oils tune, "Power and the Passion," thus spawning my screen name.) Now Peter thinks Pine Gap isn’t so bad because it's important in gathering anti-terrorist intelligence. Of course, this doesn't stop opponents from saying a Garrett victory would harm U.S.-Australian relations because of his previous stance. Presumably "Diesel and Dust" isn't in heavy rotation on President Bush's CD player.

Pity the poor man who goes from arenas full of screaming fans to an arena full of bitter rivals and cynical journalists. Welcome to politics, Pete.
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Does this qualify as irony? [02 Jun 2004|10:15am]
Yes, I know I've been very lazy and haven't posted here in more than six months. To make up for my absence, I thought I'd reintroduce myself with something funny. Here's a pop-up ad I spied on the Internet recently.

Please take note of the prize. Let me get this straight: This "survey" is asking people about their opinions on a scandal involving digital photos and the prize is a digital camera? Apparently I haven't been giving enough credit to the creators of pop-up ads for their subversive political humor!

Anyway, my brain is bubbling over with ideas: the importance of the presidential election, the successful al-Qaida recruitment project known as the Iraq war, how our Iraqi golden boy turned out to be an Iranian spy, etc. I'm just worried that too much time has passed for me to sneak in cheap jokes about Janet Jackson's nipple.

See you soon.
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Shooting (or slapping?) the candidates [04 Nov 2003|04:57pm]
My jaw dropped when I read the following by syndicated Orlando Sentinel columnist Kathleen Parker:

Here’s a note I got recently from a friend and former Delta Force member, who has been observing American politics from the trenches: “These bastards like Clark and Kerry and that incipient ass, Dean, and Gephardt and Kucinich and that absolute mental midget Sharpton, race baiter, should all be lined up and shot.”

Obviously I was surprised that someone would advocate summary execution for Democratic candidates, and that a widely syndicated columnist would see fit to repeat the suggestion. (Parker excuses her friend as “a little emotional” because a former military comrade had just died in Afghanistan. I’m not sure how this is the Democrats’ fault, but whatever.) However, I was also surprised at the quote given that Parker offered this as her column’s central point: “Americans are willing to entertain legitimate criticism and discussion, but not bile and invective driven by the politics of self-promotion.”

If I understand Parker right, Democratic criticisms of Bush and his war should be filed under “bile and invective,” while declarations that those critics should be “lined up and shot” fall under the heading of “legitimate criticism and discussion.”

Accepting this classification scheme, I had to laugh when Parker wrote this:

“56 percent of Americans ... are sticking with him despite imperfections, such as that prewar intelligence was weak to wrong, depending on the item; postwar planning was inadequate; American soldiers’ falling to snipers and suicide bombers is distressing and apparently unexpected.”

In the next paragraph, Parker added that she finds “reprehensible the administration’s policy of concealing our military dead.” Let me get this straight, Ms. Parker: Bush backs a “reprehensible” policy, used lousy intelligence, planned for a war poorly and created a situation where U.S. troops are being killed daily. Somehow this criticism is OK coming from you, but it’s “bile and invective” worthy of capital punishment when the other side says it?

There’s an interesting side issue with the column as well. You’ll notice the quote above suggests Dems should be “shot.” However, if you check the text of the column (here or here, for example), you’ll notice the suggestion has been softened to “slapped.” Which version is correct? The following notation was sent to publications that runs the Parker column:

ATTENTION EDITORS: There is a correction in Kathleen Parker’s column. In the last line of the third paragraph, the Delta Force member has changed his quote from “shot” to “slapped.” Please used this version.

No, “slapped” wasn’t a typo; it was just a conservative changing his mind to suit the situation, a la Bush. (The original version of the column is here.)
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Dean and the "Stars and Bars" [03 Nov 2003|04:15pm]
Over the weekend, the Democratic candidates for president were falling all over themselves to condemn Howard Dean for using the Confederate flag as a political metaphor for disaffected Southern voters the Dems need to beat Bush. The quote in question:

“I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks,” he told the (Des Moines) Register. “We can’t beat George Bush unless we appeal to a broad cross section of Democrats.”

The flurry came quickly, according to
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Over the weekend, the Democratic candidates for president were <a href=“http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A50831-2003Nov1.html”>falling all over themselves</a> to condemn Howard Dean for using the Confederate flag as a political metaphor for disaffected Southern voters the Dems need to beat Bush. The quote in question:
“I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks,” he told the (Des Moines) Register. “We can’t beat George Bush unless we appeal to a broad cross section of Democrats.”
The flurry came quickly, according to <a href=“ http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20031102/ap_on_el_pr/democrats_2004_8”>the AP</a>:
Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri, who shares the lead in Iowa with Dean, accused Dean of making a blatant move to win the votes of people “who disagree with us on bedrock Democratic values like civil rights.” …<BR>
Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts contended that Dean’s “pandering” to the National Rifle Association gave him an inroad to “pander to lovers of the Confederate flag.” …<BR>
Candidate and civil rights activist Al Sharpton — who has accused Dean of having an “anti-black agenda” — said he was “surprised and disturbed” by the Confederate flag remark.
What surprises me isn’t that everyone would gang up on Dean (he’s the frontrunner) or even that they’d try to suggest Dean is a racist (again, he’s the frontrunner). I am surprised, however, that this would suddenly become an issue. Dean’s been using variations on the Confederate flag phrase since at least early this year. For example, while stumping in South Carolina in February, he said: “There’s no reason why white guys who have a Confederate flag in the back of their pickup truck shouldn’t be walking side-by-side with blacks, because they don’t have health insurance, either.” As it happens Sharpton was in South Carolina the same day. If he’s “surprised and disturbed” now, how did he feel nine months ago when he likely heard the phrase the first time?
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About damn time [17 Sep 2003|10:09am]
Yes, it's about damn time I made an entry. However, the subject line actually refers to this AP story, titled "Rumsfeld Sees No Link Between Iraq, 9/11." It's about damn time the administration admitted this, though apparently Cheney and Rice and still spouting the party-line innuendo that implies Iraq was ground zero for the ones who created ground zero. According to the article:

WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Tuesday he had no reason to believe that Iraq's Saddam Hussein had a hand in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

At a Pentagon news conference, Rumsfeld was asked about a poll that indicated nearly 70 percent of respondents believed the Iraqi leader probably was personally involved.

"I've not seen any indication that would lead me to believe that I could say that," Rumsfeld said.

But what could've given 70 percent of the public the mistaken idea that Iraq was involved in the terror attacks? I can't imagine. I mean, invading Iraq was always about, um, liberation and stuff. Remember when they, like, knocked down that stutue of Saddam? That was awesome. Bush, Rummy, Cheney, Rice & Co. never whispered a word about ties to Sept. 11. Or about possession weapons of mass destruction, for that matter. Say, whatever happened to those? The clock is still ticking, fellas.
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Short takes [27 Jul 2003|03:32pm]
It's been a while since I've posted here and rants have been piling up in my head. Iraq is becoming more and more of a quagmire every day, which shouldn't surprise anyone with any common sense. The stupidity of President Bush and Co. continues unabated. This shouldn't surprise anyone, either, though the incidents that have cropped up in recent weeks are particularly bizarre, even laughable. Here are a few of them:

  • Proving either that he's a complete liar or has a Reaganesque memory, Bush claimed recently that one of the reasons we went to war was that Saddam refused to let weapons inspectors into Iraq. (As Dave Barry says, I am not making this up.) Apparently those U.N. guys who didn't find any weapons of mass destruction last spring were just sightseeing, not inspecting. (BTW, check out my handy WMD clock here.)

  • Not only are anti-Bush folks being harassed (read about the protester in South Carolina facing charges fly in the face of the First Amendment) for "endangering" the president, but so are pro-Bushies, like this cartoonist.

  • Trying to put a happy face on the recession -- because, Lord knows, Bush's tax cuts won't help -- Treasury Secretary John Snow said last week that the death of Saddam's sons will help the economy. As the Monster Limo Weblog quipped: "Yeah, great. I feel less broke with each death in Iraq. Create some jobs, jackass."

  • The Democratic National Committee has been paying for TV ads in my home state calling for an independent investigation into Bush's use of false information in the State of the Union speech. The GOP, on the theory that seeking the truth is "false and misleading," threatened the stations. Three stations in Madison, Wis., aired the ads; one buckled and refused. Guess which network the latter station belongs to? (A clue: It begins with an "F" and ends with an "X.")

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Don't Write Dean Off (part 1) [10 Jul 2003|12:17pm]
Not long ago conventional political wisdom wrote off Howard Dean as an unknown, wild-eyed, far-left, antiwar candidate who had about as much chance of winning the Democratic presidential nomination as perennial conspiracy weirdo Lyndon LaRouche. Dean was -- and still is -- given even less chance of defeating our "victorious" president in 2004.

Case in point is a May 19 "Time" cover article by Joe Klein, "Why They Don’t Make Democrats Like They Used To (And How to Fix It)." Klein (most famous for writing the roman a clef "Primary Colors") describes Dean’s vocal opposition to the war on Iraq as "candid and bracing," pointing out it sets the party faithful on fire. However, he quickly dismisses this reaction as "no different from the Republican faithful’s wild enthusiasm for red-meat orators like Alan Keyes and Pat Buchanan in years past."

"Most Democrats do not have a death wish," he continues. "Ever since the George McGovern disaster in 1972, the party has routinely chosen technocratic moderates as standard-bearers. This doesn’t bode well for Dean, especially now that the war is over."

I hardly know where to begin in critiquing these statements. Yes, Dean scores points with Dems with some of his liberal views, which shouldn’t be a surprise; after all they’re SUPPOSED to be the liberal party. However, trying to paint him as a lefty version of Keyes and Buchanan is simplistic and even laughable. To go far enough left to balance those two wacky conservatives would send him past Ralph Nader and toward Fidel Castro. That’s clearly not the place for a fiscal conservative known for working well with Republicans.

It may be true that Democrats "do not have a death wish" and are still skittish since losing with an antiwar lefty in 1972. However, that was 31 years ago, and McGovern lost to Richard Friggin’ Nixon in an election fraught with dirty tricks. If Republicans were able to shake Nixon’s shame and win the White House back just six years after he resigned, then Dems should be able to get over the fallout of a loss three decades ago. Grow up folks!

And yes, Democrats have nominated a lot of technocratic moderates in the meantime, but it has been with little success (see Dukakis, Mondale and Gore under in the "L" column). Democrats won when the nominated charismatic men who didn’t fit into this mold, or at least transcended it: Carter and Clinton. Why can’t Dean be one of these?

And furthermore, Klein assumes Dean’s opposition to the war won’t matter now that the war’s over. Well, as we’ve seen in the nearly two months since Klein wrote the article, the war ISN’T over. The occupation is turning into a bloody mess. The White House admitted this week that Bush used false information on the supposed Iraqi threat in the State of the Union address (though it claims Bush didn’t know he was lying). Weapons of mass destruction are still as AWOL as First Lt. Bush in the Air National Guard. Add to all this the administration’s stonewalling of the Sept. 11 investigation, the fact that Bush has the worst job-creation record since Herbert Hoover, etc., etc., etc., and a guy who thought the war was a dumb idea (and wants to balance the budget to boot) may seem like a savior to informed voters, even if he’s some no-name lefty from Vermont.

(As a side note, Klein points out that Democrats have "excelled at futility for more than 30 years," having elected just two presidents in that time. However, they’ve won three presidential elections in that time, compared to four by the GOP. And if you consider the 2000 debacle a Gore victory, the balance shifts to 4-3 in the Dems’ favor. The Democrats also won four of the seven presidential elections before 1972, and seven of 10 if you go back to 1932. Hey, I like trivia, especially when it’s not trivial.)

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The doctor is in [15 Jun 2003|02:40pm]
Former Vermont governors are probably not used to getting the rock-star treatment. For that matter, former governors of any state -- unless they're Jesse Ventura -- aren't likely accustomed to celebrity status. The exception, at least here is Wisconsin, appears to be Howard Dean, a medical doctor, ex-governor and presidential candidate who lit up Democratic loyalists at the state party convention this weekend. He was mobbed by well-wishers and swooning autograph seekers. He's articulate, intelligent, proudly liberal and mad as hell at the current administration. To make an obligatory "Matrix" reference, many progressives think he's "The One."

Dean's speech to the convention drew the most raucous reaction of anyone, including much-loved local boy Sen. Russ Feingold. In my opinion, he far outshined the other two presidential candidates who spoke: lefty U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and middle-of-the-road Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts. He wowed supporters with a barn-burning speech about the need for universal health care, the ridiculousness of the Bush tax cuts and the need for social justice (specifically the civil unions law he enacted in Vermont). He also vehemently bashed Bush for appealing to racism by using the word "quotas" when speaking of affirmative action. The fact that Dean virulently opposed the war against Iraq probably didn't hurt among the party faithful, either. At one point, a supporter hollered "Give 'em hell, Howard!" He grinned and replied by paraphrasing Harry S. Truman: "I just tell the truth, and they think it's hell."

Dean also cleaned up in an unofficial convention straw poll, apparently the first of its kind in the nation. He got a total of 203 votes to 50 for Kerry and 27 for Kucinich. (Right-leaning Joe Lieberman got a measly four votes.) Overall, Dean got 58 percent of the vote, pretty amazing considering there are nine candidates in the field.

Why do I care about this? Wisconsin is one of these "swing states" we hear so much about in election math (it narrowly went for Gore in 2000) so its electoral votes will be critical to ousting Bush in 2004. In addition, our primary has been moved up to Feb. 17 from April, so the state will actually play a role in deciding who the Democratic nominee is. With so much bad news recently (i.e. everything I've ranted about below and more) it's nice to have a bright spot for a change.

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Cognitive dissonance [10 Jun 2003|10:50am]
I always hate to make the blanket statement that people are stupid, but sometimes I'm driven to that conclusion, particularly by public opinion polls. I ran across some numbers today that make me want to hang my head. According to a poll about the Iraq war by the Program on International Policy Attitudes, 34 percent of Americans believe that the U.S. has found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Another 7 percent were unsure, meaning a full 41 percent of Americans aren’t aware that U.S. forces have found ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. (Except, of course, a few trailers that Bush says were mobile germ warfare labs but that very well may have been used for filling balloons.) The director of the group that conducted the poll had this to say:

"For some Americans, their desire to support the war may be leading them to screen out information that weapons of mass destruction have not been found. Given the intensive news coverage and high levels of public attention to the topic, this level of misinformation suggests that some Americans may be avoiding having an experience of cognitive dissonance. ... [T]here is also reason to believe that this misperception may be unconsciously motivated, as the mistaken belief is substantially greater among those who favored the war."

In other words, the warmongers among us are either uninformed, delusional or just plain stupid.

Another shocking statistic: Twenty-two percent of Americans think the Iraqis actually used weapons of mass destruction during the war. Let me repeat: Nearly a quarter of us think that our troops were actually hit with chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. Perhaps these folks just fell through a wormhole from the World War I era, when our troops actually faced chemical weapons in the muddy trenches of France. Or they're hung-over hippies remember the horrific effects the chemical Agent Orange had on U.S. troops. Or, and this in my opinion is the most likely option, they are STUPID.

However, the poll did generate a few (somewhat) hopeful statistics. Only 50 percent of Americans said that they were "somewhat" or "very" certain that the U.S. government wasn't being misleading when it gave its evidence for the war in Iraq. This means that half of us are in various levels of either disbelief or uncertainty about the administration’s claims. At a time like this -- when the poll says 68 percent of people approve of the decision to go to war -- I'll take any statistic I can get.

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From the “Fighting Fire With Fire” Department [21 May 2003|08:49am]
What’s the best way to get rid of chemical and biological weapons, the (apparently nonexistent) bogeymen of the war in Iraq? Is it stronger treaties cracking down on proliferation, better inspection and detection, or diplomatic efforts to foster peace? Nope, says the Pentagon. The answer is new nuclear weapons, of course!

Don’t worry, Rumsfeld says, we just want to study these weapons, not develop them. Besides, they’re just little bitty things. Hopefully, they’ll be suitcase-sized for the modern business traveler.

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Weapons of mass deception [08 May 2003|11:51am]
Remember those nasty WMDs that led us to war in Iraq? I thought you might. In case you didn't notice, we still haven't found any.

A few days ago I was playing around with HTML coding and I figured out how to "count-up" from a specific date. Click on this link to count the number of days which have passed without the discovery of WMDs in Iraq. The count begins on March 19, the first day of the war.

I'll leave this running until the discovery of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons in Iraq is confirmed. I'm not holding my breath.

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Parsing the president [06 May 2003|04:15pm]
I ran across a curious quote attributed to President Bush in an Associated Press article from Saturday. When asked by a reporter about what information captive Iraqi officials like ex-Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz had provided, Bush had this to say (according to an official transcript):

Well, we're learning that, for example, that Tariq Aziz still doesn't know how to tell the truth. He didn't know how to tell the truth when he was in office. He doesn't know to tell the truth when he's been -- as a captive.

An ambiguous statement, to be sure, but it struck me as odd -- not because I’m wondering about what Aziz is hiding, but because I’m wondering what Bush might be hiding. Maybe the quote is simply an innocent example of the president's uneasy relationship with the English language. Or maybe -- just maybe -- there's a meaning hidden behind the dash that divides the last sentence, "He doesn't know to tell the truth when he's been -- as a captive."

When he's been "held" as a captive? "Interrogated" as a captive? "Had his toenails pulled out" as a captive? "Been shocked in the genitals" as a captive? One can only wonder if Bush's ungrammatical pause hid something he almost let slip out.
Of course, it's probably nothing, though it is interesting to note that the quote had been cleaned up in another AP story which reads, "He didn't know how to tell the truth when he was in office; he doesn't know how to tell the truth as a captive."

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Photos to ponder on a Friday afternoon [02 May 2003|05:02pm]

Doesn't the prez look like an 8-year-old skateboarder with an overprotective mother?

As the Monster Limo Weblog wrote about the above image, "Just keep repeating: It's not about oil, it's not about oil, it's not about oil ..."

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Sweet Jeebus! [01 May 2003|08:57pm]
Earlier today on a whim I emailed Tom Tomorrow with some of the information posted in the entry below (“Who's sheltering terrorists now?”) along with a link to my blog. Tom Tomorrow, in case you didn’t know, is the creative force behind an excellent blog and an even more excellent satirical comic called “This Modern World.”

Thinking that my email had likely ended up in his trash bin, I was flabbergasted a few hours later when I visited his blog and discovered he’d used my post! This is very cool, considering his blog was one of the things that inspired me to start one of my own. At the risk of sounding like a 14-year-old girl in the front row of a Justin Timberlake concert, this is really, really cool!

My next step is mailing policy advice to my pal Kofi.

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Who's sheltering terrorists now? [01 May 2003|10:20am]
One of the major justifications President Bush gave for the Iraq war was Saddam Hussein's alleged ties to terrorist organizations. The subtext to this message, of course, was that Iraq was connected somehow to the Sept. 11 attacks.

The "combat phase" of the war virtually ended weeks ago, but strong evidence of Saddam's terrorist ties -- particularly to al-Qaida -- has yet to surface. However, it looks like at least one participant in the war is harboring terrorists.

No, it's not some remnant of Saddam's regime that's protecting these baddies. It's the United States. The terrorist group in question is the Mujahedeen Khalq, also called the MEK or the National Liberation Army of Iran. The Associated Press had this to say the other day:

U.S. military officials also said Tuesday that the Mujahedeen Khalq, a terrorist group fighting to overthrow the Iranian government from bases in Iraq, will be allowed to keep its weapons and continue fighting the Tehran government under a cease-fire agreement signed with the United States.

The cease-fire, signed last month, doesn't require Mujahedeen fighters to capitulate or surrender to U.S.-led coalition forces -- at least for now, said a military official, who spoke on condition he not be identified.

The Mujahedeen Khalq, or Peoples Mujahedeen, "reserves the right of self-defense against the Iranian regime's attacks," the official said.

(NOTE: Here is a related AP story.)

Yes, suddenly disarming a terrorist army in the messy aftermath of a war is probably difficult. And yes, these guys are the enemies of our enemy -- Iran is part of the "axis of evil," remember? -- but I still question why the U.S. would allow them to continue to operate. After all, they're not exactly pro-American. In fact, a recent report points out that their main support came from the Iraqi regime and that their "history is studded with anti-Western attacks." The report continues:

During the 1970s, the MEK killed U.S. military personnel and U.S. civilians working on defense projects in Tehran and supported the takeover in 1979 of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. In 1981, the MEK detonated bombs in the head office of the Islamic Republic Party and the Premier's office, killing some 70 high-ranking Iranian officials, including chief Justice Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti, President Mohammad-Ali Rajaei, and Premier Mohammad-Javad Bahonar. Near the end of the 1980-88 war with Iran, Baghdad armed the MEK with military equipment and sent it into action against Iranian forces. In 1991, it assisted the Government of Iraq in suppressing the Shia and Kurdish uprisings in southern Iraq and the Kurdish uprisings in the north. Since then, the MEK has continued to perform internal security services for the Government of Iraq. In April 1992, the MEK conducted near-simultaneous attacks on Iranian Embassies and installations in 13 countries, demonstrating the group’s ability to mount large-scale operations overseas. In recent years, the MEK has targeted key military officers and assassinated the deputy chief of the Armed Forces General Staff in April 1999. ...

MEK insurgent activities in Tehran constitute the biggest security concern for the Iranian leadership. In February 2000, for example, the MEK launched a mortar attack against the leadership complex in Tehran that houses the offices of the Supreme Leader and the President. ...

Several thousand fighters are scattered throughout Iraq, and most are organized in the MEK’s National Liberation Army (NLA). Some NLA units possess tanks, armored vehicles, and heavy artillery. The MEK also has an overseas support structure.

What's the source of this damning information about the group we're sheltering? It's none other that the U.S. State Department, in a report issued only yesterday. (Check out Appendix B.)

So let me get this straight: The MEK has a)killed American soldiers and civilians in the past, b)assassinated top foreign leaders, c)helped Saddam crack down on his opponents, d)has shown an "ability to mount large-scale operations overseas," and e) has thousands of fighters with tanks and other big weapons. Isn't this exactly the kind of group we're supposed to be wiping out in the "war on terrorism"? Isn't this exactly the kind of group that could quickly bite us in the ass? Frankly, to read the report, they sound more dangerous than al-Qaida.

My advice? Country music troubadours should start trying to find words that rhyme with "Khalq." They may need them for their flag-waving songs in a year or two.

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"They have become our sons as well" [25 Apr 2003|02:30pm]
Turkish soldier memorial

Fellow fans of my favorite band, Midnight Oil, reminded me this morning that today is Anzac Day. The holiday, marked by the people of Australia and New Zealand, is a commemoration similar to Veterans Day or Memorial Day in the United States. The only reason I know much about Anzac Day is because Midnight Oil -- a strenuously Australian and historically aware band -- makes several references to the Anzacs in its songs.

The acronym “Anzac” stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, a name given to the soldiers who landed on Turkey’s Gallipoli Peninsula on this date in 1915 during the early months of World War I. The fighting that ensued between the Anzacs and the Turks was among the most horrific of a war known for its horrors. Two thousand Anzacs were killed the first day after storming a beach that lay below cliffs filled with Turkish troops and guns.

In the ensuing months, the bloodshed continued. Nearly 2,300 Australians and 4,000 Turks fell on a piece of ground smaller than two soccer fields called Lone Pine. Three waves of Anzacs were annihilated at a place called The Nek within minutes of each other, none reaching the Turkish trenches they tried to storm. After the war, the bodies of 300 Anzacs were found piled in an area smaller than a tennis court at The Nek. Before the Anzacs withdrew in December 1915, over 8,000 of the 50,000 Australians who served in Gallipoli were dead. In total, about 43,000 Allies and 86,000 Turks had been killed in a military campaign that, as is so often the case in war, accomplished nothing.

Over the last several years, the final survivors of the Gallipoli campaign -- “The Last of the Diggers” as Midnight Oil called them in a song of the same name -- have died. As wise old men, however, they left behind a few quotes we should ponder in the face of our new world at war.

“I was brainless,” said late veteran Tom Epps, “but I’m not sorry I went. It taught me how stupid the politicians and military can be. They were boneheads.”

When Gallipoli survivor Ted Matthews died in 1997, he was honored by Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who said: “To those of us who lead nations, let us recall that it was Matthews who said: ‘Politicians make up the wars. They don’t go to them.’ ”

Upon reading these words, I found it odd that Howard was eager to join Bush and Blair in the coalition that made war on Iraq.

The greatest quote to emerge from Gallipoli, however, was spoken by Kemal Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey and one of the Turkish commanders in the campaign. His words were paraphrased in the Midnight Oil song “Blossom and Blood.” Written in 1934, they appear on monuments in both Australia and Turkey:

Those heroes that shed their blood
And lost their lives ...
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly Country.
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
Here in this country of ours ...
You, the mothers,
Who sent their sons front far away countries
Wipe away your tears,
Your sons are now lying in our bosom
And are in peace
After having lost their lives on this land
They have become our sons as well

We can only pray that the current conflict eventually brings such comforting words of peace between the combatants. I fear, however, that it won’t.

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