Sunday, March 28, 2004

Lagniappe: PETA Terrorists Planning Next Strike - Well, it looks like PETA is up to no good again. Their next target is apparently KFC, and their "protest" strategy of course involves lots of fake blood and unsuspecting children. The Times-Picayune of New Orleans has a great, short editorial on this latest PETA nonsense; and I agree with the editors' sentiments completely. How can any group of people who supposedly care for animals go to such conscious extremes to terrorize children?

Liberal Lighthouse: The "Imminent Threat" Meme and Rumsfeld Caught with His Pants Down - For a long time, the Bush Administration has claimed that it never made statements or even implications to the effect that the Saddam Hussein regime posed an "imminent threat" to the security of the United States as one of its justification for engaging in a preemptive war against Saddam's Iraq. And even though the entire world knows that the Bush Administration MEANT this, regardless of the words it used, the Bushies continue to insist that precise language matters, and that it never used the "imminent threat" meme.

Well, as The New Republic reports in the "Notebook" section of its March 29, 2004, issue (Pages 10-11):


For months, the Bush administration has insisted it never said the threat from Iraq was imminent. So we were gratified to see Donald Rumsfeld stumble and fall when confronted by Bob Schieffer and Thomas Friedman on “Face the Nation” this Sunday. In response to a straightforward question—Schieffer asked, “If [Iraq] did not have these weapons of mass destruction, though, . . . why then did they pose an immediate threat to us, to this country?”—Rumsfeld said:
Well, you’re the—you and a few other critics are the only people I’ve heard use the phrase ‘immediate threat.’ I didn’t. The president didn’t. And it’s become kind of folklore that that’s—that’s what’s happened. . . . If you have any citations, I’d like to see ’em.
Then, like a gift from the Gods of Nex-is, Friedman produced such a citation:
Friedman: We have one here. It says “some have argued that the nu”—this is you speaking—“that the nuclear threat from Iraq is not imminent, that Saddam is at least five to seven years away from having nuclear weapons. I would not be so certain.”

Rumsfeld: And—and—

Friedman: It was close to imminent.

Rumsfeld: Well, I’ve—I’ve tried to be precise, and I’ve tried to be accurate. I’m s—suppose I’ve—

Friedman: “No terrorist state poses a greater or more immediate threat to the security of our people and the stability of the world than the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.”

Rumsfeld: Mm-hmm. It—my view of—of the situation was that he—he had—we—we believe, the best intelligence that we had and other countries had and that—that we believed and we still do not know—we will know.
Perhaps that will put the “imminence” debate to rest—once and for all.
[NOTE: Full transcript of the Rumsfeld appearance on Face the Nation on March 14, 2004, can be found here]

Ahem ... conservative defenders of Bush and Rummy ... do you have anything to say about this? Andrew Sullivan? Right Wing News? JunkYardBlog? ... The silence is deafening.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Lagniappe: WoT Bush Watch - From President Bush's Jan. 26, 2004, speech in Little Rock, Arkansas, on Medical Liability Reform. Bush opens with:

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thanks for coming. Thanks for having me. Thanks for the warm welcome. I appreciate the fact that a Texan is being treated so well here in Arkansas. (Laughter.) It's nice to be -- it's nice to be in this part of the world again. Arkansas is full of really good people, decent, caring people. And so is this hospital. I'm honored that you would have allowed me and my rather significant entourage -- (laughter) -- to come to Baptist Health Medical Center.

I'm here to talk about health issues. I'm here to talk about one of the reasons why health care costs are going up. And that's the fact that we've got too many darn lawsuits, too many frivolous and junk lawsuits that are affecting people. (Applause). I'm here to make sure that we talk in a way that says to the people of Arkansas and America that we need medical liability reform to make sure that medicine is affordable and available.
Six paragraphs later ...
Before I get into the issue of health, I do want to remind you that our country still faces big challenges. And we're rising to meet the challenges. The most important job of my administration is to protect the American people; is to chase down those who would do us harm and bring them to justice; is to never forget the lessons of September the 11th; is to stay on the offensive -- and that's what we're doing. (Applause.)

We're spreading freedom, and as we do so, the world becomes more peaceful. Freedom is not America's gift to the world. Freedom is the Almighty's gift to each man and woman in the world. (Applause.)

I appreciate so very much the contribution of the Arkansas Guard. Over 4,000 troops are part of our effort to not only make America more secure, but to make the world more free. I know that the Governor informed me that these troops are ready to go. They understand the mission. They're proud to serve our country. I'm proud to call them -- I'm proud to be their Commander-in- Chief. And I want their families to know how much we are grateful for their sacrifice, as well. Arkansas ought to be proud of the men and women who wear the uniform. And they're going to make this nation proud and more secure in their sacrifices. (Applause.)

I told everybody the other night at the State of the Union that we're going to stay on the offensive against al Qaeda, and we're making good progress. We're on an international manhunt. We're in a different kind of war. It used to be in the old days, you could measure progress based upon the number of airplanes that the enemy had or the number of ships in a flotilla. And the big battles of the past were clashes of equipment that were visible for people to see. And this is the kind of war where sometimes you see action and sometimes you don't. Sometimes progress is being made and it's hard to tell it, because in order to dismantle the al Qaeda terrorists network, we've got to be on a manhunt, and we've got a lot of people on the manhunt.

Just yesterday -- not yesterday -- just last week, we made further progress in making America more secure when a fellow named Hassan Ghul was captured in Iraq. Hassan Ghul was a -- reported directly to Khalid Shaik Muhammad, who was the mastermind of the September the 11th attacks. He was a killer. He was moving money and messages around South Asia and the Middle East to other al Qaeda leaders. He was a part of this network of haters that we're dismantling.

Our intelligence officers did a good job. He was captured in Iraq where he was helping al Qaeda to put pressure on our troops. There is one less enemy we have to worry about with the capture of Hassan Ghul. Our people are doing great work. (Applause.)
And John Kerry supposedly replays ad nauseam his service in Vietnam? Health Liability reform and Hassan Ghul? Yeah. That connection is about as clear as the one between Saddam Hussein, Al Qaeda, and 9/11.

Lagniappe: WoT Bush Watch - From President Bush's remarks on health access. In usual fashion, Bush starts off like he always seems to -- telling us what the speech is going to be about:

THE PRESIDENT: Thanks for coming. Please be seated. Thanks for the warm welcome. What you're about to hear is a discussion about how to make sure America's economy continues to grow, and practical ways to help employers and employees to grow the economy, make the right decisions. That's what we're here to discuss. It's an economic lesson. But we're not using Ph.D.'s. Well, we're using Ph.D.'s in the sense that we're talking to entrepreneurs who are on the front lines of making capital decisions every day, and decisions of -- big decisions for each person they hire. That's what we're here to discuss.
So there we have it. What follows? Well, of course, some three paragraphs later, there's this:
And we've got a lot of small business owners here today and I want to thank you for following your dreams. I want to thank the local community leaders who are here. I hope you're as optimistic as I am about the future of this country. The reason I am is because I know what we've overcome. We've overcome a lot. We've overcome a recession. We've overcome an attack on our country, an attack which, by the way, not only affected our spirit, it affected our economy. They estimate over a million jobs were lost after the attacks of September the 11th. We overcame that, those attacks, because of the resolve of the American people. The American people refused to be intimidated by cold-blooded killers. We refused then to be intimidated; we refuse now to ever be intimidated by cold-blooded killers. ...

And then, as you know, I made a tough decision about keeping our word and about making this country secure and the world more peaceful. And we went to war. And I committed, along with other nations, brave sons and daughters of our respective countries to deal with the tyrant that refused to yield to the demands of the world. And now he sits in a jail cell, and Iraq is free.

We marched to war, which affected the economy. It's hard to be confident about the future when you look on your TV screens, and you see the banner, "March to War". As decision-makers and entrepreneurs, it had to be an unsettling time to plan for the future, when you've got a country marching to war. And now we're marching to peace. We're marching to peace. A free Iraq is going to help change the world. A free Afghanistan is changing the world. The world is becoming more peaceful. In other words, we've overcome a lot.
And then, some eleven paragraphs later:
And finally, to the point we're here to discuss. In order to make sure America remains a competitive place, in order to make sure that we can expand the job base, where people can find work, in order to make sure the entrepreneurial spirit remains strong, we need to address the issue of the cost of health care.
George Bush? Discussing the 9/11, the war in Iraq, and the war on terror in a speech about "health access"? No, it can't be. Can it? Not straight-shootin' Georgie, who NEVER mentions such things out of their proper context.

Cuaderno Latinoamericano: Another Bush Lie Revealed - In a bit of ironic honesty, Andres Oppenheimer catches the Bush Administration in its lie about the importance of Latin America to U.S. foreign policy. Oppenheimer writes:

You may remember that, during the 2000 presidential campaign, President Bush said, ''Should I become president, I will look south, not as an afterthought, but as a fundamental commitment of my presidency.'' And as recently as Sept. 9, Powell stated, ``There is no region on Earth that is more important to the American people than the Western hemisphere.''

But the fact is that Latin America is the only region in the world that will suffer foreign aid cuts in Bush's proposed 2005 fiscal year budget. While planned U.S. aid for Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia will be either increased or maintained at current levels, economic aid to Latin America will drop from $757 million in 2004 to $721 million in 2005.

'So much for being a `buen amigo,' '' Rep. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., the ranking democrat on the House Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, said in a telephone interview Friday. ``It is shocking that these cuts have been made at a time when Latin American democracies are threatened, and extreme poverty is growing.''
Latin America never was as important to the Bush Administration as Bush led on; but what's new about that? I guess Bush should get a pass on this lie, because it seems to have been the same story under all U.S. Presidents, Democrat and Republican alike. What a shame.

Cuaderno Latinoamericano: Jorge G. Castaneda Enters Mexico's 2006 Presidential Race as an Outsider - Andres Oppenheimer has a good piece on the likely success of Castaneda's quest for the Mexican Presidency as an independent candidate without any formal ties to Mexico's three main political parties. My thinking is that Castaneda can win. He is articulate, smart, and experienced. He will also be entering the race at a time when popular disillusionment with traditional parties is at an all-time high. Regardless, I agree with Oppenheimer that Castaneda's candidacy will bring another breath of good, clean, fresh air to Mexico's ever-more-consolidating democracy.

Lagniappe: WoT Bush Watch - Let's see what GW had to say in his Conversation on Homeownership. [For an exact copy of this speech from the White House website, click here.] ...

First, GW starts by telling his audience what he's going to be talking about. He says:

THE PRESIDENT: Thanks for the warm welcome. Thanks for coming today. You're probably wondering what we're doing here. I'll tell you what we're going to do, we're going to talk about one of the most exciting things that can happen to a person, and that is the purchase of a home. That's what we're here to discuss: homeownership and how best to help people buy a home; and what is it like to be someone who wonders about homeownership and the struggles of trying to figure out all the fine print and how to get something done. That's what we're really here to talk about.
But, before Bush ever gets to the questions of Homeownership, what do you think he feels the need to mention? Well, let's see, after recognizing a few dignitaries, fellow politicians, and personal friends in attendance, Bush says (and remember, this is supposedly about Homeownership) ...
I hope you can tell that I'm an optimistic fellow, because-and one reason why is because I've seen what this country has been through. We went through a recession and a stock market decline, we went through an attack. We got attacked by a bunch of cold-blooded killers. And the attack hurt. It hurt our psyche because we thought oceans could protect us. It hurt the fact-we lost a million jobs after September the 11th. ...

And then, as you know, I made a very difficult decision, but the right decision, to secure our country by holding Saddam Hussein to account. But nevertheless, we had the-if you remember, we had on our TV screens the phrase, "March to war." Any time a nation is marching to war, it's not conducive for confident thinking. Nobody wants to march to war. It's a negative thought. Now we're marching to peace, by the way. We're on our way to --(applause.) ...

One thing we're not going to do is get ourselves isolated from the world. I will fight off economic isolationism, which would be bad for job creation here in the state of Pennsylvania. But we've overcome a lot. And that's why I'm optimistic. We've overcome a lot because we've got people who refuse to be intimidated by terrorists. We've overcome a lot because of a tax policy that left money, more money in the hands of the people that earned it.
Hmmm ... now can anyone tell me what in the world any of these references to 9/11, the war in Iraq, and the war on terror have anything at all to do with "Homeownership?"

Lagniappe: The George WoT Bush Watch - Lots of folks on the right who are critical of Kerry, like to think that John Kerry cannot speak about any subject without mentioning his Vietnam service. Take, for instance, Conservative Blogger Bryan Preston of JunkYardBlog. In one of his posts entitled PSSSSSST, Preston writes:

Did you know that he served in Vietnam?

No lie--he's a decorated veteran. Oh, he's too modest to tell you about it himself. Unless you ask. And then he'll sit you right down and talk your ear off about it. He's got a million stories from his 120 days in country. He'll even show you home movies he shot during his arduous four months preliving Apocalypse Now on his swift boat.

In fact, he'll tell you all about it even if you don't ask. Ask him about health care--he'll tell you about Vietnam. Ask him about taxes--he'll tell you about Vietnam. Ask him the air speed velocity of a laden swallow--he'll tell you about Vietnam. Modest chap, that John Kerry, so reluctant to tell you what a hero he is. Unless you ask him any conceivable question about any topic.

So the secret is--John Kerry has done nothing with his time in the Senate that qualifies him for the presidency. So ask him any question about anything under the sun--and he'll tell you about Vietnam. Because that's all he's got.
Of course, this is all nonsense. I tried to call Bryan on this silliness by making a similar kind of exaggerated claim in the very same spirit about Bush's constant references in his speeches and interviews to the war on terrorism/war in Iraq. For instance, in the comment board to this post at the JYB, I wrote:
Here’s another little secret. Ask Bush about education, and he’ll tell you about terrorism. Ask him about jobs, and he’ll talk your ear off about Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Ask him about trade, and he’ll tell you about the atrocities of Udai and Qusai. Ask him about pretzels and he’ll tell you about Al Qaeda’s continuing threat to world peace and the everlasting war on terror. What differentiates Bush from Kerry, though, is that Bush doesn’t have to wait for the obligatory question — he will talk your ear off about this even when you just want, for once since 9/11, to eat your dinner in peace.
What was Bryan's response? Well, he called me a liar about Bush. Now, I admit to a bit of exaggeration about Bush, but the gist of the subsequent exchanges we had on his blog posting comment board is that Bryan really believes all Kerry talks about is his Vietnam service, and that Bush never talks about the war on terror out of context.

So, I've decided to take Bryan's whine as a challenge. Let's see how frequently Bush talks about the war on terror in his speeces and interviews, and let's see specifically how often Bush does so out of context. I'll start tracking all of Bush's speeches and interviews (or as many as I can) as part of my George WoT Bush Watch. I think you'll find that Bush is more of a single issue campaigner with the War on Terror than Kerry ever could possibly be on his Vietnam service record. First up, George Bush's recent Conversation on Homeownership. I'll be back soon with a detailed breakdown of this speech; but first I've got to feed the kids. Stay tuned!

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Lagniappe: Georgie's Resolve - GW, as part of a speech supposedly on the retraining of laid-off workers, couldn't stay away from his favorite subject ... drum roll ... the war on terror. In this speech, GW huffed and puffed and blustered the following: "Had I known that the enemy was going to use airplanes to strike America, to attack us, I would have used every resource, every asset, every power of this government to protect the American people." Of course, Georgie ... Who in his right mind wouldn't have done likewise? The issue is not whether you knew about the attacks beforehand, Georgie, but rather WHY you didn't know about them.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Lagniappe: The TRUE Christian Values and Liberty-Loving Patriotism of the Religious Right - My wife received this choice little email from her ultra-conservative, Christian Coalition, Southern Baptist father and step-mother. It speaks volumes about the hypocrisy of the so-called tolerance and charity of "devout" Christians and "patriotic, freedom-loving" Americans:

I was asked to send this on if I agree or delete if I don't.
Forward if U agree, if not, delete

It is said that 86% of Americans believe in God. Therefore I have a
very hard time understanding why there is such a mess about having
"In God We Trust" on our money and having God in the Pledge of
Allegiance. Why don't we just tell the 14% to Sit Down and SHUT UP!!!

If you agree, pass this on, if not delete. . . I AGREE !!!

[NOTE: If the graphic doesn't show, you can check it out here.]

How Christian! How American! This is typical, mainstream right-wing behavior. It's abhorrent and sickening for its pure maliciousness and hypocrisy at so many levels. And right-wingers have the gall to complain about radical lefty protesters and their "anti-American" signs and slogans at relatively infrequent protest marches. All one needs to do to see right-wing anti-American signs and slogans is to check his email inbox.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Cuaderno Latinoamericano: Analysis of El Salvador's Presidential Election - Just having come back from a weeklong trip to El Salvador, I have been very interested in the results of that country's electoral process and its Presidential election, which just took place yesterday, Sunday, March 21. The results are in, and it seems as if the conservative ARENA party has handily won the race in what seems to have been a pretty fair election by procedural standards (i.e. minimal voting fraud or complaints of a tainted electoral process). The ARENA party has pretty much ruled the country since the 1980s and has been linked to right-wing death squads that were responsible for some of the worst human rights violations and war crimes during El Salvador's bloody civil war of the 70s and 80s. I must admit to some shock and disappointment at the showing of the leftist FMLN party. I really expected the race to be closer (and I think even internal Salvadoran polls showed as much until recently).

I have been wondering about how this election could have turned out so lopsided, and I think it is because of two reasons. First, Salvadorans are generally reluctant to turn to an unknown and untested party in the midst of economic uncertainty. As one voter put it (and I'm paraphrasing from memory): it's better to trust the devil you know, than the devil you don't know. So, the fear of change propels moderates to stay with ARENA. Understandable at one level. But the other reason is more bothersome and it is linked to the Damocles Sword hung over the heads of Salvadorans by the Bush Administration of the United States. There is no question that the conservative Bush Administration is partial to the ARENA. That is also understandable; but the degree to which the U.S. government exercised what I think is decisive influence over the elections does not bode well for the consolidation of a democratic political culture. The U.S. should have been as neutral as possible in this contest; but it wasn't. On any number of occasions, high-ranking members of the Bush State Department basically informed the Salvadoran electorate that an FMLN victory could translate into trouble for the Central American nation in its relations with the United States. There was even the question raised of how an FMLN government, openly critical of U.S. foreign policy, might influence the U.S. government to somehow put a clamp on Salvadoran migrant remittances from the U.S. back their families in El Salvador. Whether or not this is true, the ARENA party used the clear and public signals from the U.S. to instill a sense of fear in the Salvadoran populace of punitive U.S. action in case of an FMLN victory. There is no doubt in my mind that this international dimension of U.S. policy towards El Salvador and its preference for the ARENA played a role in convincing on-the-fence voters to swing into ARENA's corner. For a good summary of this election, Tim Weiner of the New York Times has a nice report on the initial returns and a fairly good, short analysis of the backdrop of this election.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Lagniappe: Back in the Saddle - Well, folks, I've been pulling a GW Bush and have not shown my face around this blog for a while. But people can vouch for me! I've still got opinions and haven't been shy about them! In any case, I'm back and plan to be a bit more regular since I've gotten my head above the water since I left for El Salvador. Lots to say about El Salvador, but I'll save it for another day.

First things first ... this past week, it appears that Al Qaeda terrorists struck a devastating and tragic blow in Spain. I don't think the timing was coincidental. It was election time in Spain, it was exactly 1000 days from 9/11, and it occurred on 3/11 instead of 9/11. It cost the pro-US, pro-Iraq war Conservative Regime in Spain its control over the country's machinery of state and thrust the Socialists back into power. Spain's new Socialist leader has promised to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq. He also sounds like a man leading his country out of "coalition of the willing." It seems as if the terrorists have scored a victory here. But it is also clear, to me at least, that the heavy hand of warmongering led by the U.S. is also partly responsible for this occurrence. GW's war in Iraq is coming home to roost. And my big fear is that Al Qaeda will do to the U.S. what it did to Spain. Remember, we too are in an election year; and though I want Bush out of office, I don't want to see his ouster come at the expense of American citizen lives. We've got to be on our guard this election year and people will be all jittery. It only promises to polarize this election even more.