spook of the ozarks

unapologetic liberal

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

While W vacationed

Newsweek wants some answers:

[T]he Bush administration faces some immediate, urgent challenges—and serious questions about its response to the disaster. For all the president’s statements ahead of the hurricane, the region seemed woefully unprepared for the flooding of New Orleans—a catastrophe that has long been predicted by experts and politicians alike. There seems to have been no contingency planning for a total evacuation of the city, including the final refuges of the city’s Superdome and its hospitals. There were no supplies of food and water ready offshore—on Navy ships for instance—in the event of such flooding, even though government officials knew there were thousands of people stranded inside the sweltering and powerless city.
Then there’s the speed of the Bush administration’s response to such disasters. Just one week ago the White House declared that a major disaster existed in Louisiana, specifically most of the areas (such as Jefferson Parish) that are now under water. Was the White House psychic about the disaster ahead? Not exactly. In fact the major disaster referred to Tropical Storm Cindy, which struck the state a full seven weeks earlier. That announcement triggered federal aid for the stricken areas, where the cleanup had been on hold for almost two months while the White House chewed things over.
Now, faced with a far bigger and deadlier disaster, the Bush administration faces at least two difficult questions: Was it ready to deal with the long-predicted flooding of New Orleans? And is it ready to deal with the long-predicted terrorist attack that might some day strike another of our big cities?

Refugees from their refugee camp

Let's hope the next one doesn't hit Houston.

With much of New Orleans under floodwaters and power supplies deteriorating, relief officials have decided to move 25,000 people -- most of them being sheltered at the city's Superdome -- to the Astrodome in Houston, officials said Wednesday.

Wrecking FEMA

This doesn't inspire much optimism. The Bush junta's prime directive has been undoing everything the Clinton administration accomplished. From The Washington Post:

SEATTLE -- In the days to come, as the nation and the people along the Gulf Coast work to cope with the disastrous aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we will be reminded anew, how important it is to have a federal agency capable of dealing with natural catastrophes of this sort.
This is an immense human tragedy, one that will work hardship on millions of people. It is beyond the capabilities of state and local government to deal with. It requires a national response.
Which makes it all the more difficult to understand why, at this moment, the country's premier agency for dealing with such events -- FEMA -- is being, in effect, systematically downgraded and all but dismantled by the Department of Homeland Security.
Apparently homeland security now consists almost entirely of protection against terrorist acts. How else to explain why the Federal Emergency Management Agency will no longer be responsible for disaster preparedness? Given our country's long record of natural disasters, how much sense does this make?

Help the victims

Here is the place to give. And remember, hurricane season lasts through November.


It just gets worse. Hope he's wrong.

NEW ORLEANS - The mayor said Wednesday that Hurricane Katrina probably killed thousands of people in New Orleans.
"We know there is a significant number of dead bodies in the water," and others dead in attics, Mayor Ray Nagin said. Asked how many, he said: "Minimum, hundreds. Most likely, thousands."

No WMD, no Qaida ties

Freedom? Democracy? Not exactly. Why then?

"If Zarqawi and bin Laden gain control of Iraq, they would create a new training ground for future terrorist attacks; they'd seize oil fields to fund their ambitions; they could recruit more terrorists by claiming an historic victory over the United States and our coalition," W said.

This, too, dumbfounds

Almost. The Bush junta has turned Iraq into hell on earth. Saddam was a brutal dictator, but I don't recall Iraq having a significant problem with suicide bombings under his rule.

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Aug. 31 - In the highest one-day toll since the American invasion, more than 800 people died this morning after rumors of a suicide bomber led to a stampede in a vast procession of Shiite pilgrims as they crossed a bridge on their way to a shrine in northern Baghdad.
Most of the dead were crushed or suffocated, witnesses said, but many also fell or jumped into the Tigris River after the panicking crowd broke through the bridge's railings.
The pilgrims were among a throng of hundreds of thousands who had converged on the capital over the preceding day to mark the anniversary of the death of Imam Musa al-Kadhim, one of Shiite Islam's holiest figures.
Fear had begun spreading in the crowd an hour earlier, after insurgents fired rockets and mortars near the shrine, killing seven pilgrims and wounding two dozen, and leading to a counter-attack by American military helicopters.
But the stampede appears to have been caused by unfounded rumors of a man wearing a suicide belt in the crowd.
At least 841 people were killed and at least 323 were injured, an Interior Ministry official said early this evening in Baghdad, the greatest loss of life in 24 hours since the war began in March 2003.

Everybody out

What to say about this? The enormity such a catastrophe is tough to grasp. And it seems likely to continue worsening for the foreseeable future.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- The governor of Louisiana says everyone needs to leave New Orleans due to flooding from Hurricane Katrina. "We've sent buses in. We will be either loading them by boat, helicopter, anything that is necessary," Gov. Kathleen Blanco said. Army engineers trying to plug New Orleans' breached levees struggled to move giant sandbags and concrete barriers into place, and the governor said Wednesday the situation was growing more desperate and there was no choice but to abandon the flooded city.

Warwick Sabin has some thoughts.

Each Wednesday

Gene Lyons:

Don’t hold your breath, but Democrats may be showing signs of life in the national debate over Iraq.

For most of three years, including Sen. John Kerry’s presidential campaign, party leaders have appeared fearful of challenging George W. Bush’s belligerent bungling. They haven’t wanted voters to mistake them for George McGovern, the World War II bomber pilot and 1972 Democratic presidential candidate who made the mistake of being right about Vietnam too soon. Now that may be changing.

Three weeks

Channel 51 has resumed broadcasting over the airwaves.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Tapping the SPR

AP reported yesterday that W was leaning toward releasing some supplies from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to make up for production losses from Katrina. This will probably make up his mind for him.

Spiraling gas prices and continuing bloodshed in Iraq continue to take their toll on President Bush, whose standing with the public has sunk to an all-time low, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll.
The survey found Bush's overall job approval at 45 percent, down seven points since January and the lowest ever recorded in Post-ABC surveys. Fifty-three percent disapprove of the job Bush is doing.
The war has been a drag on Bush's presidency for many months, but his Iraq approval ratings in the new poll were little changed from two months ago, despite widespread violence, a rash of U.S. casualties, anti-war protests outside the president's Texas ranch and a growing debate about reducing U.S. troop levels.
What may have pushed Bush's overall ratings down in the latest poll is pervasive dissatisfaction over soaring gas prices. Two-thirds of those surveyed said gas prices are causing financial hardship to them or their families. Gas prices stand to go even higher in the wake of Hurricane Katrina's rampage through the oil-rich Gulf Coast.
More ominously for the president, six in 10 Americans said there were steps the administration could take to reduce gas prices. Slightly more than a third say the recent run-up has been due to factors beyond the administration's control.

But I'm not sure we have the refining capacity for it to do much good in the short term. In other words, we're all screwed.

We can all use some help

"Steal what you want," Kos says. OK, thanks.

A robot that recognises up to 10 faces and understands 10,000 words is to be offered to Japanese consumers looking for a high-tech helper in the house.
The one-metre tall humanoid Wakamaru robot is being marketed as a mechanical house-sitter and secretary.
Japanese manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries expects the first robots to go on sale in September.

... The Wakamaru weighs 30kg (66lb) and is expected to cost 1.58m yen (US$14,300).

Big Easy up for grabs

Every man for himself:

NEW ORLEANS — With much of the city flooded by Hurricane Katrina, looters floated garbage cans filled with clothing and jewelry down the street in a dash to grab what they could.
In some cases, looting today took place in full view of police and National Guard troops.

Take that, Darwinists

I detect the presence of an occult hand at work in this Times story:

The scientific quest to make artificial gecko feet has taken a leap forward.
Geckos, lizards that are notorious for their sticky feet, can run up walls and across ceilings, and hang tauntingly by one toe. They have no suction cups, hooks or glue on their feet, so how do they do it?
Five years ago, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley; Stanford; and Lewis and Clark College found the secret: 500,000 minute hairs cover the sole of each foot, and the tip of each hair splits into hundreds more. The hairs are so elastic that they can bend or squish to conform to microscopic nooks and crannies under the creature's feet, even on the glass walls of an aquarium.
As a result, the tiny hairs touch so much surface area so closely that weak forces of attraction between molecules in the hairs and in whatever surface the animal is walking on add up and become sufficient to let the gecko hang on. The connection breaks when the gecko shifts its foot enough to change the angle between the hairs and the surface.

Help is on the way

W makes what, for him, is the ultimate sacrifice. AP reports:

WASHINGTON -- President Bush decided to cancel the rest of his vacation to concentrate on federal relief efforts for victims of Hurricane Katrina as his top disaster relief official lamented "catastrophic" damage in three Southern states.


This is troubling. The Post reports:

NEW ORLEANS, Aug. 30 -- Hurricane Katrina and its rains have passed, but this city is filling with floodwaters.
The sense of relief that residents felt Monday morning when the city was not immediately inundated by a storm surge overflowing its protective levees was replaced late Monday night and Tuesday morning with dread because of a levee that was damaged by the hurricane.

Water flowing from the damaged levee near Lake Pontchartrain could have equally catastrophic effects, only unfolding more slowly.

'No Direction Home'

The New York Times has a lengthy review. Who among us doesn't love Dylan?

Has there ever been a rock star as contrary as Bob Dylan? When taken for a folk singer, interpreting traditional songs, he started to write his own. When taken for a topical songwriter who would dutifully put his music behind party-line messages, and praised as the spokesman for a generation, he became an ambiguous, visionary poet instead. And when taken for an acoustic-guitar troubadour who was supposed to cling to old, virtuous rural sounds, he plugged in his guitar, hired a band and sneered oracular electric blues.
That's the story told in two overlapping projects: the two-CD set "No Direction Home: The Soundtrack - The Bootleg Series Vol. 7" (Columbia/Legacy), to be released today, and "No Direction Home," a documentary directed by Martin Scorsese that will be released as two DVD's on Sept. 20 and broadcast on the PBS series "American Masters" on Sept. 26 and 27. (Despite the soundtrack designation on the CD's, versions of some songs differ between album and film.)
The CD's and the documentary both follow Mr. Dylan from his early years to his motorcycle accident in July 1966, and both focus on the two metamorphoses he made in the early 1960's: from Midwestern guitar strummer to Greenwich Village folk idol, and then, far more contentiously, from folk singer to electric rocker.


All the stuff in the sidebar moved to the bottom of the page. Weird.

All photos are Photoshopped

That's why newspapers have photo editors. My experience has been that pics that move on photo wires generally need to be lightened and sometimes sharpened a bit when toned. And sometimes they have a reddish or yellowish or blueish tone -- they move on the wire in RGB (red-green-blue) and must, for press purposes, be converted to CMYK (cyan-magenta-yellow-black). And they can differ between computer monitors. Kevin detects differences between Web sites. Look! They cropped them differently, too!

Knight Ridder Katrina coverage

KR always has some of the best hurricane coverage, led by the Miami Herald, Charlotte Observer and, in this case, Biloxi Sun Herald. Their mainbar, with a bunch of links, is here.

Haley Barbour was right

That wasn't easy. But 80 is "a lot."

Barbour said there were unconfirmed reports of up to 80 deaths in Harrison County -- which includes devastated Gulfport and Biloxi -- and the number was likely to rise. At least five other deaths across the Gulf Coast were blamed on Katrina.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Live TV

Lifting this from CJRDaily. They watch Fox News so I don't have to. Shepard Smith, in New Orleans, tries to interview a guy walking his dogs in the middle of a hurricane.

Smith: You're live on Fox News Channel, what are you doing?
Man: Walking my dogs.
Smith: Why are you still here? I'm just curious.
Man: None of your fucking business.
Smith: Oh that was a good answer, wasn't it? That was live on international television. Thanks so much for that. You know we apologize ...

Dumping Ann Coulter

The Arizona Daily Star has had enough:

[W]e've decided that syndicated columnist Ann Coulter has worn out her welcome. Many readers find her shrill, bombastic and mean-spirited. And those are the words used by readers who identified themselves as conservatives.

It's hard to believe anyone prints her crap.

'Prison Break'

Since "Antiques Roadshow" is a repeat and the NFL game includes Detroit and because this new show is supposed to be sort of modeled after "24," why not? Alessandra Stanley likes it. Tom Shales hates it. It's worth a tryout.

UPDATE: It's no "24," but it's pretty good. I'll keep watching.

Bush's 'ranch'

W, who is afraid of horses, bought his spread in Texas in 1999 so he could pretend he was a cowboy when he ran for president. The White House press corps must chafe at having to spend August baking in Crawford. Warren Vieth of the Los Angeles Times retaliates:

CRAWFORD, Texas — President Bush calls his Prairie Chapel Ranch "a slice of heaven," a special place where he can ride his mountain bike, fish his man-made pond and clear brush to his heart's content.
But is it really a ranch?
Here's a clue: The Secret Service agents now outnumber the cows.


Looks like New Orleans got lucky -- again. USA Today has a hurricane blog. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour reports hearing that "there are a lot of dead people down there," but of course, who believes anything he says. Here's AP:

There were no immediate reports of deaths or serious injuries as of midday, but emergency officials have not been able to reach some of the hardest-hit areas.

Wes Clark blogs

Our man is posting at TPMCafe this week. Engage him in dialogue. I think we can all agree with him on this:

[W's] strategy of selling a painless war has backfired, and we can see it in the poll numbers and recruiting numbers for the armed services.

Boo, hoo, hoo

I could do 55 days standing on my head.

The New York Times reporter Judith Miller has now been in jail longer for refusing to testify than any reporter working for a newspaper in America.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Bon soir, N'Orleans

I barely remember you. Looks grim.

Top stories

People who think like me, but write better

Eric Margolis, Toronto Sun columnist, on "Robertson's fatwa." Clever, that.

Reverend Pat Robertson took time off last week from promoting a new protein pancake mix and scourging "ungodly" sodomites, Muslims, and Democrats to suggest the U.S. should assassinate Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez.

Robert Parry of Consortium News on the stolen 2000 election (yes, still bitter), the media and the Iraq war.

Under traditional news judgment, the lead paragraph in American newspapers on the morning of Nov. 12, 2001, should have read something like: “If all legally cast votes in Florida were counted in Election 2000, Democrat Al Gore would have carried the state and thus won the White House, according to an unofficial tally of disputed ballots.”

Chickens roosting

The Washington Post, ignore the byline, has another long piece today about Jack Abramoff's lobbying shenanigans, this time involving one J. Stehen Griles, ex-No. 2 at Interior.

Indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff claimed in e-mails sent in 2002 that the deputy secretary of the interior had pledged to block an Indian casino that would compete with one of the lobbyist's tribal clients. Abramoff later told two associates that he was trying to hire the official.

A federal task force investigating Abramoff's activities has conducted interviews and obtained documents from Interior Department officials and Abramoff associates to determine whether conflict-of-interest laws were violated, according to people with knowledge of the probe. It can be a federal crime for government officials to negotiate for a job while being involved in decisions affecting the potential employer.
The two former Abramoff associates, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are under scrutiny in the investigation, said Abramoff told them in late 2003 that he was trying to arrange for his firm, Greenberg Traurig LLP, to hire J. Steven Griles, then deputy interior secretary. Federal investigators are interested in those discussions and in job negotiations Abramoff may have had with a second department official, according to sources.

For more on Griles, a transcript from an enlightening "NOW" segment on him is here. The people running our government are truly for sale to the highest bidder. With the titanic corruption of these megalomaniacs further revealed daily, one is forced to wonder how honest conservatives can vote for the kleptocrats who lead the Republican Party and then get up and look in the mirror the next day. It will take a generation to repair the damage these sociopaths are inflicting on my country.


Juan Cole is in particularly good form today. With a bonus: He catches Sully in an embarrassingly poor choice of words.


Can't we find someone else to criticize the conduct of this war? His argument is always, if the administration had taken my advice, this have been a much more successful enterprise. Refresh my memory, senator. Didn't you vote in 2002 to authorize W to go to war to oust Saddam? Yes, you did. Now shut the fuck up.


Go, read:

ANOTHER week in Iraq, another light at the end of the tunnel. On Monday President Bush saluted the Iraqis for "completing work on a democratic constitution" even as the process was breaking down yet again. But was anyone even listening to his latest premature celebration?
We have long since lost count of all the historic turning points and fast-evaporating victories hyped by this president. The toppling of Saddam's statue, "Mission Accomplished," the transfer of sovereignty and the purple fingers all blur into a hallucinatory loop of delusion. One such red-letter day, some may dimly recall, was the adoption of the previous, interim constitution in March 2004, also proclaimed a "historic milestone" by Mr. Bush. Within a month after that fabulous victory, the insurgency boiled over into the war we have today, taking, among many others, the life of Casey Sheehan.

Shorter W: To demonstrate the infallibility of my decision to conquer Iraq, more Americans must die.

Someone's lying

The New York Times has a he said/he said report today on the existence/non-existence of jihadi training camps in Pakistan. The spook's money is on existence. Musharraf can't subjugate the tribal areas, and these Pakistani fighters don't just materialize, self-taught, in Kashmir and Afghanistan.

Category 5

UPDATE: Via Kevin, who reminded me of this:

A direct hit from a powerful hurricane on New Orleans could furnish perhaps the largest natural catastrophe ever experienced on U.S. soil. Some estimates suggest that well over 25,000 non-evacuees could die. Many more would be stranded, and successful evacuees would have nowhere to return to. Damages could run as high as $100 billion. In the wake of such a tragedy, some may even question the wisdom of trying to rebuild the city at all.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Taibbi visits Crawford

On Thursdays, the spook looks for Matt Taibbi's column in the New York Press. This week it was missing, and now I know why. He was in Crawford writing about Cindy Sheehan for Rolling Stone.

Crawford, the home of President George W. Bush, is a sun-scorched hole of a backwater Texas town -- a single dreary railroad crossing surrounded on all sides by roasted earth the color of dried dog shit. There are scattered clumps of trees and brush, but all the foliage seems bent from the sun's rays and ready at any moment to burst into flames.
The moaning cattle along the lonely roads sound like they're begging for their lives. The downtown streets are empty. Just as the earth is home to natural bridges, this place is a natural dead end -- the perfect place to drink a bottle of Lysol, wind up in a bad marriage, have your neck ripped out by a vulture.
It is a very unlikely place for a peace movement to be born. But that's exactly what happened a few weeks ago, when an aggrieved war mom named Cindy Sheehan set up camp along the road to the president's ranch and demanded a meeting with the commander in chief.

'Doctor Who,' anyone?

Can't wait:

The BBC's TV channels will be made available on the internet, BBC Director General Mark Thompson has confirmed.
He announced plans for the MyBBCPlayer - which will allow viewers to legally download seven days of programmes - at the Edinburgh Television Festival.
He said he hoped the site would launch next year.

Monitoring the 'liberal media'

We are about to inundated with more attempts to link 9/11 with W's misguided misadventure in Iraq. Norman Solomon wonders if the media will once again be willing accomplices.

For a long time, the last refuge of scoundrels was "patriotism." Now it's "the war on terror."
President Bush and many of his vocal supporters aren't content to wrap themselves in the flag. It's not sufficient to posture as more patriotic than opponents of the Iraq war. The ultimate demagogic weapon is to exploit the memory of Sept. 11, 2001.
Next month, the fourth anniversary will provide the Bush administration with plenty of media opportunities to wrap itself in the 9/11 shroud and depict Iraq war critics as insufficiently committed to defending the United States. A renewed attempt to justify the war as a resolute stand against terrorism is well underway.

We'll be watching.

New Hendrix bio

The New York Times has a review, with an audio slideshow, of "Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix."

During one early gig attended by John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and others, the singer Terry Reid ran into Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones outside the bathroom. Jones told him it was all wet up front. What? ''It's wet from all the guitar players crying,'' Jones said.

Friday, August 26, 2005

FRIDAY CATFISH BLOGGING -- At 9 feet and 646 pounds, this catfish from the Mekong River in Thailand may be the largest freshwater fish on record. (NYTimes photo)

Must be nice

John Nichols of The Nation compares our president's vacationing habits with yours:

While Bush has been taking almost one week out of every month off since assuming the presidency, a substantial proportion of Americans are lucky if they get one week a year of paid vacation. And millions of workers get no compensated time off.
The United States, unlike other industrialized countries, fails to set a base standard for paid holidays. European countries have long required corporations to provide workers with three, four or even five weeks of paid vacation time. "Even developing countries often force companies to allow employees some time to recharge their batteries," the Financial Times notes. "El Salvador, Indonesia and Mongolia have all established a minimum of 10 to 15 days paid leave a year."
That's hardly a break at all when compared with Bush's annual average of almost ten weeks of vacation. But its a good deal more than most American workers will ever enjoy under the current system. Indeed, Americans are now working almost 500 more hours a year than their Dutch counterparts and thirty-seven hours--almost a full week--more than the average worker in the famously overworked country of Japan.
That's a radical reversal of the circumstance that existed in the 1950s and early '60s, when the Japanese and the Europeans worked more hours than Americans--and when Americans enjoyed greater prosperity and, if polls are to be believed, a greater sense of satisfaction with their lives.

Wes Clark's plan for Iraq

Wes Clark writes about Iraq in today's Washington Post:

In the old, familiar fashion, mounting U.S. casualties in Iraq have mobilized increasing public doubts about the war. More than half the American people now believe that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. They're right. But it would also be a mistake to pull out now, or to start pulling out or to set a date certain for pulling out. Instead we need a strategy to create a stable, democratizing and peaceful state in Iraq -- a strategy the administration has failed to develop and articulate.

He proceeds to articulate such a strategy, for what it's worth. Don't expect the Bush junta to try anything pragmatic. They're still feverish with neocon fantasies. On the other hand, they've previously dismissed Democrats' ideas only to adopt them as if they're their own (think 9/11 commission).

Thursday, August 25, 2005

W jokes

It predates this blog, I think, but then so does half the stuff in my refigerator. Anyhow, I remembered this from McSweeney's, which has something for everyone. "Although I like a good George W. Bush joke as much as the next guy, some of them seem gratuitous and mean-spirited," by Matt Alexander. Sample:

Who's there?
Under the Patriot Act, we don't have to tell you that.

High Noon

James Wolcott visits Peggy Noonan in the asylum:

The anniversary of September 11th approacheth, and you know what that means, buoys and gulls.
Yes, it's time for Peggy Noonan to give lyrical Jeanette Macdonald voice to her full blow dementia.
I hadn't read the Noon the Loon in a spell, which may explain how my brain cells had regained their lustrous shine. I'm going to ration my reading of her in the future to prevent a relapse, but her most recent column is too nutty to ignore.
"Think Dark" is the title, and when Noonan thinks dark, it's
a total eclipse.

Plumbing new depths

As Jed Clampett (the TV character, not the musician) used to say, "lower than a snake's belly in a wagon rut." Fox News let this guy ID an innocent family's home as the home of a terrorist. How anyone mistakes these clowns for journalists escapes me. During the Iraq war, you know, the one Bush declared over on May 1, 2003, I remember multiple times when they reported the WMD had been found. Now this:

For the last 2 1/2 weeks, the lives of the couple and their three children have been plunged into an unsettling routine of drivers shouting profanities, stopping to photograph their house and — most recently — spray-painting a slogan on their property.
... In what Fox News officials concede was a mistake, John Loftus, a former U.S. prosecutor, gave out the address Aug. 7, saying it was the home of a Middle Eastern man, Iyad K. Hilal, who was the leader of a terrorist group with ties to those responsible for the July 7 bombings in London.
Hilal, whom Loftus identified by name during the broadcast, moved out of the house about three years ago. But the consequences were immediate for the Voricks.
Satellite photos of the house and directions to the residence were posted online. The Voricks told police, who arranged for the content to be taken down. Someone even removed the street sign where the Voricks live to provide some protection.

Compare and contrast

Sidney Blumenthal, writing in Salon (watch the ad), wants GOP senators to ask the Bush administration some questions.

In February 1966, Sen. J. William Fulbright, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, held the first hearings on the Vietnam War, which were televised nationally for six days. The public was riveted by the penetrating questioning of administration officials and the debates among the members of the committee. Fulbright had been a friend of President Lyndon Johnson for years. Johnson, after all, had been the Senate majority leader, and Fulbright was a fellow Southerner. But the escalation of the war and the absence of a clear strategy of resolution prompted Fulbright to call the hearings. ... Fulbright believed that it was his constitutional duty to exercise oversight of the executive.
No similar Senate hearings on the origins, conduct and strategy of the Iraq war have been held. During the Johnson period, the Democrats controlled both chambers of the Congress. But Fulbright did not feel that partisan discipline under the whip of the White House was a higher principle than performing as a check and balance. Fulbright was a Democrat raising pointed questions about the policy of a Democratic president. But no Republican Senate chairman has seen fit to follow the Fulbright example. The one-party Republican rule of the Congress has resulted in the stifling of inquiry. Abandoning its powers and duties, the Republican Senate as a body refuses to hold the executive accountable.
The Democrats, suffering the debilities of the minority, are a congressional party without authority to initiate committee hearings. They cannot set an agenda or command television cameras. Their Republican colleagues have shunted them to the sidelines; the White House is deaf to their entreaties. ...
The opposition party cries in the wilderness.

Some were not so fortunate

Because the girls who were electrocuted are, by definition, dead.

Fortunately for the girls, the study said electrocution hinders their learning ...

Chavez turns the other cheek

Robertson first denied he said "assassinate" before finally apologizing. The Bush administration stopped short of repudiating his fatwa.

President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela hit back vigorously at calls by an ally of President George Bush for his assassination by offering cheap petrol to the poor of the US at a time of soaring fuel prices.
In a typically robust response to remarks by the US televangelist Pat Robertson, Mr Chávez compared his detractors to the "rather mad dogs with rabies" from Cervantes' Don Quixote, and unveiled his plans to use Venezuela's energy reserves as a political tool.

... Jamaica yesterday became the first Caribbean country to reach an agreement with Venezuela for oil at below-market terms. The Petrocaribe initiative is a plan to offer oil at flexible rates to 13 Caribbean countries. Jamaica will pay $40 a barrel, against a market rate of more than $60.

One step forward ...

They don't like their neighbors, so they'll just build this Berlin Wall-like barrier across their neighbors' land. After all, those settlers who left Gaza can't be expected to resettle in, say, Israel, can they?

JERUSALEM, Aug. 24 - Israeli officials confirmed Wednesday that the government had issued orders to seize West Bank land needed to extend the separation barrier around the largest Jewish settlement, Maale Adumim, and link it to Jerusalem.
The Palestinian leadership said the developments confirmed its fears that Israel would try to use the Gaza withdrawal, and the international good will it has generated, to consolidate its hold on the large settlement blocs in the West Bank. Israel evacuated the last of nearly 9,000 Jewish settlers from Gaza on Monday, and cleared out two West Bank settlements on Tuesday.
"We wanted the day after the Gaza withdrawal to be a day of hope and of reviving the peace process," said Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator. "But this is a signal that Israel intends to pre-empt and prejudge issues that are supposed to be

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Don's a stand-up guy

Don Elkins has graciously responded to my e-mail inquiry. They'll be back on the air ASAP, and they don't like the status quo, either. The reason the spookhouse doesn't have cable: The spook spent too much time howling at the likes of Wolf and Rush's girlfriend.

Dead air

Still no Channel 51. Now the Fox affiliate is off the air, too, and has been for three-four days. What's going on here? 29/40 was off for a while yesterday afternoon. KFSM has gone dead at least twice in the past year -- during "CSI." I hope KPBI returns before "21" does. Not long ago, before the mass two+-hour power failure Saturday, I had been thinking about how the power goes off more in Little Rock than in Fayetteville. But I've never been anywhere where TV stations simply ceased broadcasting for such extended periods. Don't their licenses come with some sort of "public service" obligations? Don?


Josh Burek, in The Christian Science Monitor:

WASHINGTON – Since the start of his presidency, George W. Bush has taken heat for the perceived ease of his schedule: regular naps, two-hour breaks for exercise, and those long "working vacations" in Texas.
Even former Attorney General John Ashcroft - a serious loyalist - once quipped that the White House was committed to working "24/7 - 24 hours a week, seven months a year."

... "We're the hardest-working people in the world, and we have a president who seems to not only be working bankers' hours, but taking French bankers' vacation," says Rick Shenkman, a presidential historian.

Unintended consequences

Joe Conason:

Here’s an outstanding example of what conservatives like to call the law of unintended consequences, an axiom they often cite to mock liberal initiatives. In this case, the neoconservatives promised that military action would implant secular democracy, install a government friendly to the United States and Israel, and stabilize a region critical to Western economic security. All of this would be accomplished without spending an American dime—or so they claimed—because Iraqi oil would finance the entire project.
Hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of lives later, what we seem likelier to get in Baghdad sometime soon is an Islamist government, tied to the theocratic regime in Iran, divided by ethnicity, religion and province, and embroiled in a burgeoning civil war that could embroil Iraq’s neighbors and sink the region into turmoil.

Oh yeah

Monday night, I got a prompt telling me a virus had been detected and deleted. Half right. Tuesday morning, the SBC/Yahoo browser refused to open; ditto the anti-virus program. Fortunately, Internet Explorer still worked, so I was able to reinstall both. The ensuing virus scan took hours. (250,000 cookies -- huh?)
Upshot: light posting. So I forgot to link to this rant where David Koon, Arkansas Times media writer, goes all Rude Pundit on a Demo-zette editorial cartoonist:

I've just got to say to David Cox, one of the editorial cartoonists at the D-G: Dave, you're living up to your name with that cartoon today, buddy.

You know what to do.

Meth freaks collect arrowheads

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Opposition weighs in on newspaper deal

Doug Thompson, columnist for these guys, sorts this out:

The biggest difference between the newspaper war in Little Rock and the newspaper war in Northwest Arkansas is that everybody in Little Rock knew that either the Gazette or the Democrat was going to die. Nobody in Little Rock was fooled when the Democrat started calling itself the Democrat-Gazette.
Here, the Democrat-Gazette kills a paper, then props up the corpse. And it works.

Mullah Robertson issues fatwah

Criminally insane televangelist advocates hit on Venezuela President Hugo Chavez:

"[I]f he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war. ... We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."

The link is to Media Matters' home page, where this should stay for a while.

Credit where credit's due

Fayetteville's a pretty progressive city, with the university and all. But like everyplace, we've got our fair share of wingnuts. Exhibit A: Laurie Taylor. The spook hasn't weighed in on this local controversy because the absence of any little caspers in the spookhouse prevents me from caring much. Cue the Demo-zette editorial page:

LAURIE TAYLOR is focused on words. She’s the Fayetteville parent who’s been leading the campaign to restrict access to books in school libraries. She finds objectionable words—along with pictures and attitudes—in some of the books in Fayetteville’s school libraries. She’s already persuaded the school board to put three books on restricted access. Now they’re only available to kids who have parental permission to read them. She’s formally challenged another book, and she says she’s got a list of about 70 others she wants reviewed for possible restrictions. Ms. Taylor has publicized excerpts from the books. They can be shocking. And often on the basis of those inflammatory excerpts, she’s rallied support from others with concerns that mirror hers. In the name of protecting her kids from books she finds distasteful, she’s unavoidably created obstacles for others who don’t feel the way she does.

As bloggers are wont to say, read the whole thing. It's one of the few things (maybe the only) on that page I've ever agreed with, but they got this one right.
Hat tip to this guy.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Drinking Liberally

How come Fayetteville's not on this map?

What he said

You've got your conservative wankers, and then you've got your liberal wonks. Matthew Yglesias at TAPPED is among the most thoughtful (and prolific) in the latter category. Today he tries to answer a military officer's questions about Bush's Iraq policy.

The Golden Winger Award

OK, this is a spoiler. So go here first to learn who was the wingnuttiest wanker of them all this week.
First link via these intrepid journalists.

Hospital sends 'Piano Man' home

The spook found this story fascinating.

LONDON (AP) -- A mysterious patient at a British hospital who did not speak to doctors and nurses for months but loved to play the piano has been discharged, health officials said Monday.

UPDATE: The Mirror appears to have the scoop.

RIP Robert Moog

Times obit here. Whatever happened to Tangerine Dream? Click the link.

Robert Moog, the creator of the electronic music synthesizer that bears his name and that became ubiquitous among both experimental composers and rock musicians in the 1960's and 1970's, died on Sunday at his home in Ashville, N.C. He was 71.
The cause of death was a brain tumor, according to his daughter Michelle Moog-Koussa.
At the height of his synthesizer's popularity, when progressive rock bands like Yes, Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, and Emerson, Lake and Palmer built their sounds around the assertive, bouncy, exotically wheezy and occasionally explosive timbres of Mr. Moog's instruments, his name (which rhymes with vogue) became so closely associated with electronic sound that it was often used generically, if incorrectly, to describe synthesizers of all kinds.

Speaking of explosive, Dr. Thompson's funeral, here.

Last settlers leave Gaza

This is good, for Israel, the Palestinians and for regional stability.

NETZARIM, Gaza Strip - After nearly 40 years of occupation, Israel pulled its last settlers out of Gaza today, leaving this symbolic and devout settlement, surrounded on three sides by Palestinians, to the end.
Under an agreement with the army and the government, the roughly 1,000 residents here, plus another 300 or so who had come to support them, left their homes without resistance. After a prayer service and ceremony at the synagogue, the residents said they would go to Jerusalem, to pray at the Western Wall, and then move all together to the empty college dormitories of the University of Judea and Samaria, in Ariel, another Jewish settlement on the West Bank.

The Israelis will now bulldoze the settlers' ex-homes in Gaza. Initially, it seemed like just meanness not to leave them for the Palestinians. But the Palestinians said they didn't want them. Anyhow, now that the 9,000 settlers have left Gaza, that still leaves a quarter-million occupying Palestinian land in the West Bank. But a small step in the right direction.

How to get out of Iraq

Juan Cole, who, unlike our political leaders, is an expert on the region and its history, outlines a ten-step exit strategy that might "allow us to get the ground troops out without risking a big civil war or a destabilization of the Middle East."

Progress Report

The Center for American Progress newsletter is a valuable daily political round-up. Sign up to receive it by e-mail at the link. Today it plumbs high energy prices and Iraq.

2000 election revisited

Krugman's conclusion:

[T]he story of the 2000 election remains deeply disturbing - not just the fact that a man the voters tried to reject ended up as president, but the ugliness of the fight itself. There was an understandable urge to put the story behind us.
But we aren't doing the country a favor when we present recent history in a way that makes our system look better than it is. Sometimes the public needs to hear unpleasant truths, even if those truths make them feel worse about their country.
Not to be coy: election 2000 may be receding into the past, but the Iraq war isn't. As the truth about the origins of that war comes out, there may be a temptation, once again, to prettify the story. The American people deserve better.

Better than this.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

KNWA notwatch Day 11

During the spook's brief broadcasting career, dead air was a big deal. Not so much anymore, apparently. The Fayetteville NBC affiliate posted this on its Web site recently (edited):

Over-the-air signal will resume as soon as possible. A power surge caused a catastrophic failure at one of KNWA’s transmitters Aug. 10. Those viewers who have cable or receive KNWA’s signal via a satellite dish have not been affected. But we apologize to those who receive the KNWA signal by an antenna. Those viewers have not been able to watch KNWA programming for the past six days. KNWA engineers are working diligently to restore the signal. KNWA will resume over-the-air transmission as soon as possible.

Via DCG.

Defeating the insurgency

Apparently we're not even trying.

A three-day visit by a reporter working for the Guardian last week established what neither the Iraqi government nor the US military has admitted: Haditha, a farming town of 90,000 people by the Euphrates river, is an insurgent citadel.
That Islamist guerrillas were active in the area was no secret but only now has the extent of their control been revealed. They are the sole authority, running the town's security, administration and communications.
A three-hour drive north from Baghdad, under the nose of an American base, it is a miniature Taliban-like state. Insurgents decide who lives and dies, which salaries get paid, what people wear, what they watch and listen to.

His friend calls him 'Fisky'

He reports on the two Baghdads:

Friday night. In the heart of this vast and oven-like city stands the Green Zone, 10 square kilometres of barricaded, walled, sealed-off palaces, villas and gardens - once the Raj-like centre of Saddam's regime wherein now dwell the Iraqi government, the constitutional committee, the US embassy, the British embassy and many hundreds of Western mercenaries. Many of them never meet Iraqis. Women in shorts jog past the rose beds; armed men and women "contractors" lie by the pool. There were at least three restaurants - until one of them was blown up by suicide bombers. You can buy phone accessories in a local shop, newspapers, pornographic DVDs. For tactical reasons, the Americans were forced to include dozens of middle-class Iraqi homes inside the Green Zone, a decision that has outraged many of the householders. They often have to wait four hours to pass through the security checkpoints. Irony of ironies, the tomb of Michel Aflaq, founder of the Baath party that once included both Iraq and Syria, lies inside the Green Zone.
On Friday night, this crusader castle was bathed in its usual floodlights. I was looking up at the stars over the city when there was a dull sound and a flash of light from within the Green Zone. Somewhere not far from me, someone had launched a mortar at the illuminated fishbowl that has become the symbol of occupation for all Iraqis. Many ask what will become of it when the whole Western edifice here collapses. Some say it will become insurgent headquarters, others the next parliament. My guess is that whoever runs Iraq once the occupation collapses will turn the whole thing into a theme park. Or maybe just a museum.

Why we should leave Iraq

Robert Parry makes the case:

Washington’s conventional wisdom on the Iraq War is roughly divided into two camps: those who still think George W. Bush’s invasion was a good idea and want to “stay the course” – and those who opposed Bush on going to war but now say “we must get it right.”
Both sides – representing nearly the entire political spectrum in Washington – rule out a prompt U.S. military withdrawal because that supposedly would turn Iraq into a “failed state” and a “breeding ground for Islamic terrorism.” Therefore, the thinking goes, U.S. troops must remain while Iraq builds a democracy that can stop the extremists.
But there is a case to be made for U.S. withdrawal as the best option for both resolving the conflict and neutralizing the foreign Islamic extremists in Iraq. A corollary of this thinking holds that the continued U.S. military presence does more harm than good.

The soup chef and the reek tragedy

Only in Wally World.

Double-barrel blast

From The New York Times. First the editorial:

The Bush administration has announced plans for a Freedom Walk on Sept. 11, which will start at the Pentagon and end at the National Mall, and include a country music concert. The event is an ill-considered attempt to link the Iraq war to the terrorist attacks of 2001, and misguided in almost every conceivable way. It also badly misreads the public's mood. The American people are becoming increasingly skeptical about the war. They want answers to hard questions, not pageantry.

Then Frank Rich:

CINDY SHEEHAN couldn't have picked a more apt date to begin the vigil that ambushed a president: Aug. 6 was the fourth anniversary of that fateful 2001 Crawford vacation day when George W. Bush responded to an intelligence briefing titled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States" by going fishing. On this Aug. 6 the president was no less determined to shrug off bad news. Though 14 marine reservists had been killed days earlier by a roadside bomb in Haditha, his national radio address that morning made no mention of Iraq. Once again Mr. Bush was in his bubble, ensuring that he wouldn't see Ms. Sheehan coming. So it goes with a president who hasn't foreseen any of the setbacks in the war he fabricated against an enemy who did not attack inside the United States in 2001.

Neither Judith Miller nor her pre-war reporting are mentioned.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Four more years!

Thanks, American voters.

WASHINGTON -- The Army is planning for the possibility of keeping the current number of soldiers in Iraq -- well over 100,000 -- for four more years, the Army's top general said Saturday.

In an Associated Press interview, Gen. Peter Schoomaker said the Army is prepared for the "worst case" in terms of the required level of troops in Iraq. He said the number could be adjusted lower if called for by slowing the force rotation or by shortening tours for soldiers.

Good for Costas

CNN may be shameless, but Bob's got a reputation:

NEW YORK -- While some cable TV hosts are making their living off the Natalee Holloway case this summer, Bob Costas is having none of it.
Costas, hired by CNN as an occasional fill-in on "Larry King Live," refused to anchor Thursday's show because it was primarily about the Alabama teenager who went missing in Aruba.

Hussman buys NW Arkansas papers

Offered without comment:

Walter Hussman Jr., who owns the statewide Democrat-Gazette, announced Friday that he had exercised an option in the alliance agreement to purchase the Times, which serves Fayetteville and Washington County, and the Benton County Daily Record, based in Bentonville, from Community Publishers Inc. The outright purchase also includes the biweekly Siloam Springs Herald Leader and seven weeklies: the Rogers Hometown News, Bella Vista Weekly Vista, Pea Ridge Times of Northeast Benton County, Gentry Courier Journal, Gravette News Herald, Decatur Herald and White River Valley News, which serves the Elkins area.

Read Media Matters?

You should. They monitor the right-wing hatemongers so you don't have to. Their weekly round-up:

Last week, Media Matters noted, "With her vigil outside President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, gaining more and more attention, Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed in Iraq, has become the latest target of the right wing." Little could we have known that the attacks and insults from the Angry Right would only get worse.

More Fisk

The Independent hides him behind a premium wall. ZNet delivers:

It makes you want to scream. I have been driving the dingy, dangerous, oven-like streets of Baghdad all week, ever more infested with insurgents and their informers, the American troops driving terrified over the traffic islands, turning their guns on all of us if we approach within 50 metres.
In the weird, space-ship isolation of Saddam’s old republican palace, the Kurds and the Shia have been tearing Iraq apart, refusing to sign up for a constitution lest it fail to give them the federations - and the oil wealth - they want. They miss their deadline - though I found no one in "real" Baghdad, no one outside the Green Zone bunker, who seemed to care.
And that evening, I turn on my television to hear President Bush praise the "courage" of the constitution negotiators whose deadline Bush himself had promised would be met.

We should hope so

Someone should at the very least lose their job, if not serve time, over this boneheaded, knee-jerk policy (mixed metaphor intended).

Britain's top police officers are reviewing the controversial shoot to kill policy after its first use ended in the gunning down of an innocent man, the Guardian has learned.

The trillion-dollar war

This op-ed in the NYTimes crunches the staggering numbers Bush's folly will cost you and your children:

THE human cost of the more than 2,000 American military personnel killed and 14,500 wounded so far in Iraq and Afghanistan is all too apparent. But the financial toll is still largely hidden from public view and, like the suffering of those who have lost loved ones, will persist long after the fighting is over.
The cost goes well beyond the more than $250 billion already spent on military operations and reconstruction. Basic running costs of the current conflicts are $6 billion a month - a figure that reflects the Pentagon's unprecedented reliance on expensive private contractors. Other factors keeping costs high include inducements for recruits and for military personnel serving second and third deployments, extra pay for reservists and members of the National Guard, as well as more than $2 billion a year in additional foreign aid to Jordan, Pakistan, Turkey and others to reward their cooperation in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bill for repairing and replacing military hardware is $20 billion a year, according to figures from the Congressional Budget Office.
But the biggest long-term costs are disability and health payments for returning troops, which will be incurred even if hostilities were to stop tomorrow. The United States currently pays more than $2 billion in disability claims per year for 159,000 veterans of the 1991 gulf war, even though that conflict lasted only five weeks, with 148 dead and 467 wounded. Even assuming that the 525,000 American troops who have so far served in Iraq and Afghanistan will require treatment only on the same scale as their predecessors from the gulf war, these payments are likely to run at $7 billion a year for the next 45 years.
All of this spending will need to be financed by adding to the federal debt.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Mission accomplished


It's taken just over four years for Bush to break the vacation record it took Reagan eight years to establish.
336 days.
Finally, Bush has an accomplishment to his name.


Some are even madder than "heck"

A couple of years ago, I prepaid $20 to gas up the spookmobile and had to go back in for change. Yesterday, a Jackson got me about half a tank. Knight Ridder reports:

WASHINGTON - Americans are mad as heck about soaring gas prices, and Democrats hope they'll take it out on the Republicans who control the federal government in next year's midterm elections.

ADDENDUM: Helpful Q&A explainer here.

A Guardian quiz

The spook loves these. Take the quiz.

Three quarters of UK bosses and almost 80% of their staff are concerned about "deadwood" colleagues who do not pull their weight, according to a new survey. Do they mean you?


Paul Krugman revisits the stolen 2000 presidential election:

In his recent book "Steal This Vote" - a very judicious work, despite its title - Andrew Gumbel, a U.S. correspondent for the British newspaper The Independent, provides the best overview I've seen of the 2000 Florida vote. And he documents the simple truth: "Al Gore won the 2000 presidential election."
Two different news media consortiums reviewed Florida's ballots; both found that a full manual recount would have given the election to Mr. Gore. This was true despite a host of efforts by state and local officials to suppress likely Gore votes, most notably Ms. Harris's "felon purge," which disenfranchised large numbers of valid voters.
But few Americans have heard these facts. Perhaps journalists have felt that it would be divisive to cast doubt on the Bush administration's legitimacy.

And perhaps that explains this (paraphrasing MWO) lying, blaring, still-uncorrected banner headline and story that appeared atop Page One of his own newspaper on Nov. 12, 2001.

Study of Disputed Florida Ballots Finds Justices Did Not Cast the Deciding Vote
George W. Bush would have won even if the Supreme Court had allowed the statewide manual recount that the Florida court had ordered to go forward.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Keyboard Kommando Komix

The Editors have a way with Photoshop.

The GOP, Social Security

Hey, young people. Think Social Security "won't be there" when it's your turn to collect benefits? Support Bush's crusade to "strengthen and preserve" the program? Want to know what Republicans really want to do? Click here.

That's easy

Michael Storey (no link):

Viewers will have to choose among "Alias" on ABC, "Survivor" on CBS, "Joey" and "Will & Grace" on NBC, "The O.C." on Fox, "Smallville" on the WB and the delightful new "Everybody Hates Chris" on UPN.

The spook loves "Alias" (and Jennifer Garner), and hates "Survivor." The latter requires the suspension of disbelief. You're expected to assume the cast (mostly arses) are stranded, and forget there is a huge crew, probably numbering in the scores, producing a slick TV show. The "tribes" and challenges (or whatever they call them) are dumb. And they call it "reality." The other shows I've never seen.