Saturday, July 03, 2004

Getting Around to an LC Blogaround 

And about time too! Finally caught up with y'all, and my long Liberal Coalition blogaround can be found on my blog today!

Patrick's Fate - 848
A Tribute to Patrick McCaffrey

He's just a number to the ones
Who sent beloved daughters and sons
To a land they ne'er needed be
A land of sadness 'cross the sea

A California girl and boy
Will not again possess the joy
To see a colored glaring sky
On this or any Fourth of July

While holding father's loving hand
He was lost to them upon the sand
Caring for friends until the last
When swept away by bullets' blast

His mother cries unto the day
T'was Bush who took her boy away
To only have his sacrifice hid
With no lens to spy his coffin lid

Heed mother's warning before too late
Imagine Patrick's number--848
And all the troops who came before
To die in Bush's needless war.



Read Patrick's story:

The son who came home for the Fourth of July

Last week Nadia McCaffrey defied President Bush by allowing the media to view the coffin of her son, Patrick, killed in action in Iraq. Writer Andrew Buncombe was invited to attend his funeral in Tracy, California.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Book's Facts Reveal America's Shame 

Book Review
SECRETS AND LIES--Operation "Iraqi Freedom" and After
By Dilip Hiro
(Nation Books, 2004), 468 pp.
Reviewed by Jake Lowrey, SoonerThought Book Editor

With meticulous research and documentation Dilip Hiro has laid out in black and white what many Progressives have felt all along – the Iraq war was based on calculated lies.

Using detailed maps and numerous eyewitness accounts, Hiro details the lead-up to the war, the war itself and the aftermath. His book contains information not reported by American media, who abandoned their traditional unbiased role, and who must now share the guilt for the destruction and misery caused by this unnecessary war.

But Hiro’s latest is much more than an expose of the abuses of power by American and British governmental leaders. It is also much more than a chronological history of what will be known as the world’s most infamous war.

Interspersed throughout the book are excerpts from a diary written by a seventeen-year-old Iraqi schoolgirl, Thuraya al Kaissi. She began her writing at the request of London’s Sunday Mirror with these words: “I am not worried about dying. But I am worried that I will live and my family will die.”

Thuraya, who was five at the time of the first Gulf war, tells of being awakened by the start of the bombing of Baghdad in 2003 and of dreams of American rockets chasing her down the street. No 17-year-old should ever have to experience this kind of terror.

Regardless of which side one sits, it is impossible to read this account and not come away changed. All of us should be ashamed we allowed ourselves to be duped into this atrocity.

Common Ground 

saddam.court.jpg So Saddam Hussein is being tried for crimes against humanity by the Iraqi people. That's the good news. The bad news: To the chagrin of some European leaders and decent humans everywhere, Iraq's new interim government has reinstituted its death penalty, thereby reducing the Iraqi people by proxy to Hussein's level.

The hearing showed that despite his time in prison, the Butcher of Baghdad is not a broken man.

From CNN:

Saddam Hussein stepped into an Iraqi court on Thursday and entered a new chapter in Iraq's history, hearing preliminary charges against him that included the gassing of Kurds and the invasion of Kuwait.

Appearing before a judge in a 30-minute hearing, Saddam looked thin and downcast, but became animated and at times combative as proceedings unfolded.

Yes, Hussein, after seven months in captivity, showed the world a defiant face, insisting that he is the president and commander-in-chief of his nation's armed forces.

Sounds like another "president" I know.

The murderous dictator and master of old-school Iraqi rape rooms defended his invasion of Kuwait, saying he was doing what was best for his constituents.

Sounds very much like another "president" I know; he invaded another sovereign nation too.

Hussein also called Dubya Bush a criminal. He is right about that. I suppose it takes one to know one.

Doubtless, Hussein deserves justice -- the rest of his life behind bars.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Why we went to Iraq 

On this side of the aisle we take a great deal of bitter amusement keeping track of all of the official reasons and “real” reasons we invaded Iraq. It was to disarm Saddam. No, it was to keep him from giving away his WMDs. No, it was to keep him from getting WMDs in the first place. No, it was to avenge 9/11. No, it was to get their oil. No, it was to demonstrate our resolve in carrying out the Bush Doctrine. No, it was to annoy the French. No, was to avenge the Kurds and Shiites he massacred over ten years ago. No, it was to avenge Bush’s daddy. No, it was to show up Bush’s daddy. No, it was to close down the torture and rape rooms. No, it was to spread democracy. No, it was to get rid of a bad person. No, it was to stabilize the region. No, it was to protect Israel. No, it was to rebuild Babylon and hurry up the apocalypse. No, it was to give lucrative contracts to Cheney’s business buddies. Okay, maybe those last few weren’t put forward as official reasons.

But the real “real” reason has been right in front of us all along. It’s mentioned in every dispatch measuring our success. Whenever conservatives chastise us for our negativity they mention the real reason.

We invaded Iraq so we could paint their schools.

Now that's a scary thought! 

The banks of slot machines that will confront me everywhere I turn the moment I step off the plane at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas in roughly two weeks' time are probably safer and more secure than the electronic voting machines that will be used in many places to determine the outcome of the crucial presidential election this fall. The key parts of the New York Times op-ed I link to above are these:

On a trip last week to the Nevada Gaming Control Board laboratory, in a state office building off the Las Vegas Strip, we found testing and enforcement mechanisms that go far beyond what is required for electronic voting. Among the ways gamblers are more protected than voters:

  1. The state has access to all gambling software. The Gaming Control Board has copies on file of every piece of gambling device software currently being used, and an archive going back years. It is illegal for casinos to use software not on file. Electronic voting machine makers, by contrast, say their software is a trade secret, and have resisted sharing it with the states that buy their machines.

  2. The software on gambling machines is constantly being spot-checked. Board inspectors show up unannounced at casinos with devices that let them compare the computer chip in a slot machine to the one on file. If there is a discrepancy, the machine is shut down, and investigated. This sort of spot-checking is not required for electronic voting. A surreptitious software change on a voting machine would be far less likely to be detected.

  3. There are meticulous, constantly updated standards for gambling machines. When we arrived at the Gaming Control Board lab, a man was firing a stun gun at a slot machine. The machine must work when subjected to a 20,000-volt shock, one of an array of rules intended to cover anything that can possibly go wrong. Nevada adopted new standards in May 2003, but to keep pace with fast-changing technology, it is adding new ones this month.

    Voting machine standards are out of date and inadequate. Machines are still tested with standards from 2002 that have gaping security holes. Nevertheless, election officials have rushed to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to buy them.

  4. Manufacturers are intensively scrutinized before they are licensed to sell gambling software or hardware. A company that wants to make slot machines must submit to a background check of six months or more, similar to the kind done on casino operators. It must register its employees with the Gaming Control Board, which investigates their backgrounds and criminal records.

    When it comes to voting machine manufacturers, all a company needs to do to enter the field is persuade an election official to buy its equipment. There is no way for voters to know that the software on their machines was not written by programmers with fraud convictions, or close ties to political parties or candidates.

  5. The lab that certifies gambling equipment has an arms-length relationship with the manufacturers it polices, and is open to inquiries from the public. The Nevada Gaming Control Board lab is a state agency, whose employees are paid by the taxpayers. The fees the lab takes in go to the state's general fund. It invites members of the public who have questions about its work to call or e-mail.

    The federal labs that certify voting equipment are profit-making companies. They are chosen and paid by voting machine companies, a glaring conflict of interest. The voters and their elected representatives have no way of knowing how the testing is done, or that the manufacturers are not applying undue pressure to have flawed equipment approved. Wyle Laboratories, one of the largest testers of voting machines, does not answer questions about its voting machine work.

  6. When there is a dispute about a machine, a gambler has a right to an immediate investigation. When a gambler believes a slot machine has cheated him, the casino is required to contact the Gaming Control Board, which has investigators on call around the clock. Investigators can open up machines to inspect their internal workings, and their records of recent gambling outcomes. If voters believe a voting machine has manipulated their votes, in most cases their only recourse is to call a board of elections number, which may well be busy, to lodge a complaint that may or may not be investigated.

Granted, the Gaming Control Board probably has a budget that would rival many federal agencies' appropriations, thanks to the simply ginormous revenues that gambling produces in Nevada. Nevertheless, I should think that the safety and the security and the accuracy of the elections that are fundamental to the democratic process would represent a higher priority for the federal government than, say, providing unwarranted tax relief for wealthy campaign contributors.

Congress did pass a law in the wake of the 2000 elections fiasco, the Help America Vote Act of 2002. Yet the National Institute of Standards, which was tasked to develop and certify standards for electronic voting, never got any money appropriated with which to carry out that mandate. The Board of Advisers and Standards to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission will have its first-ever meeting this week. The EAC itself, following the trend, has been grievously, egregiously underfunded by the Bushoviks.

It's sad to think that the quarter I might drop into an airport slot machine on a whim would provide me with a greater level of protection that the outcome of the transaction was honest and accurate than the vote I will cast on the first Tuesday after the first Monday this November. That just isn't right.

(Cross-posted from Musing's musings.)

Monday, June 28, 2004

SCOTUS Strikes Again 

By a vote of 6-3, the US Supreme Court ruled that Congress gave Dubya Bush the authority to hold an American citizen without charges or trial. What redress do these hapless detainees have? Well, they can take their complaints to court.

The justification the majority of justices used was the so-called War on Terror. The decision, however, leaves open questions surrounding the case of Yaser Esam Hamdi, who has been held by US authorities for more than two years and who was only recently allowed to see a lawyer.

As the Associated Press reports:

The administration had fought any suggestion that Hamdi or another U.S.-born terrorism suspect could go to court, saying that such a legal fight posed a threat to the president's power to wage war as he sees fit.

"We have no reason to doubt that courts, faced with these sensitive matters, will pay proper heed both to the matters of national security that might arise in an individual case and to the constitutional limitations safeguarding essential liberties that remain vibrant even in times of security concerns," Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote for the court.

O'Connor said that Hamdi "unquestionably has the right to access to counsel."

The court threw out a lower court ruling that supported the government's position fully, and Hamdi's case now returns to a lower court.

The careful opinion seemed deferential to the White House, but did not give the president everything he wanted.

O'Connor also wrote that the ruling "made clear that a state of war is not a blank check for the president when it comes to the rights of the nation's citizens."

Does it? Tell that to US-born prisoner Jose Padilla, who's being held along with Hamdi in South Carolina, and to the folks being held in Gitmo. The court's rulling does not address those cases.

I wonder if lawmakers realized that they were giving the White House the power to hold people at will and without explanation when they signed on to the Patriot Act. Oh, right: As Rep. John Conyers said in Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, most pols couldn't be bothered to actually read the legislation before they passed it. Let's hope the Shrub doesn't plan on labeling Moore -- or rank-and-file progressives -- as "enemy combatants."

from all facts and opinions

The Iraq Handover News Roundup 

The Nation of Iraq (A Halliburton Subsidiary) was handed over to the Puppet Government (leaders who were selected by people who were selected by Americans) two days ahead of schedule, and, like all Democracies, without the Iraqi Public's knowledge and with the caveat that they will probably be under Martial Law sometime later this afternoon. Bremer read a statement that said, "The Coalition Provisional Authority will cease to exist on June twenty-eighth. At that point, the occupation will end."

Here's some of what we all have to look forward to now that the "occupation has ended":

More than 130,000 U.S. troops will remain in the country with wide latitude to mount operations to combat an increasingly violent insurgency. A temporary constitution also limits the interim government's power to basic civil administration and preparations for national elections. While ordinary Iraqis regard the handover as symbolically important, it will not result in many immediate changes for them. U.S. forces will continue to conduct raids and house searches. Iraqi government ministries will operate in much the same way they did while under occupation.

Of course the "transfer of power" is really just the "transfer of responsibility for the inevitable onset of Martial Law", which Bush seems mighty proud of:

Asked whether he thought that imposing martial law was something an emerging government should do, particularly with American forces that will remain in Iraq, Mr. Bush said that Dr. Allawi "may decide he is going to have to take tough measures." America's job, he said, is to help the Iraqis "deal with these thugs."

It seems Iraqi enthusiasm could be more exuberant:

There were was no cathartic firing of AK-47's in to the air, as there had been just hours after the Americans announced the capture of Saddam Hussein in December, or even in the aftermath of soccer matches and weddings. Today, the streets were not filled with the cacophonous, celebratory honking of car horns, nor with crowds parading the Iraqi flag.

Probably the only people excited about this are FOX News and Bush Campaign Interns. Juan Cole reminds us that there is, in fact, some good news: Paul Bremer is out of Iraq. But Cole also writes:

Gwen Ifill said on US television on Sunday that she had talked to Condaleeza Rice, and that her hope was that when something went wrong in Iraq, the journalists would now grill Allawi about it rather than the Bush administration.

I'm not really looking forward to seeing Aaron Brown tonight. I don't know how pretty Iraq is going to get over the next 24 hours.

Another Two Cents on Fahrenheit 9/11 

f911.jpg No, you can't call Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 fair and balanced. You can call the documentary, which turns the heat up full-blast under George W. Bush and his cronies, a blistering attack that stirs the emotions and makes the case that the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. deserves an eviction notice.

Conservatives (and liberals such as Vanity Fair columnist Christopher Hitchens) are loudly condemning the film and its writer-producer-director. Moore is a liar, they say -- the information he provides is bogus, the film is not a true documentary and is wholly subjective, Moore's tactics for obtaining footage and information are underhanded and sleazy, his conclusions (and Moore himself) are insane, the way in which he depicts his "bad guys" is cruel, and -- oh yeah -- Moore is fat, slovenly, and lazy and should be silenced.

The conservatives and naysayers have one thing right: Fahrenheit 9/11 is anything but objective. But so what? The documentary -- and it is one -- presents facts that can not be refuted about a particular subject: the sins of the Bush gang, its violence, and its negative effects on the US and the world. And it does so masterfully.

read the rest at all facts and opinions

Sunday, June 27, 2004

My Two Cents on "Fahrenheit 9/11" 

Excerpt from SoonerThought:

Anyway, I'll spare you a review. If you want a detailed review, you can google one up pretty easily. I'll just say this: it was incredibly good--both as a film and propaganda. And I mean propaganda in that this is not an attempt to present a neutral view. This is advocacy for the Left and against Bush--which is fine by me. They get Fox "News", we get this movie.