Monday, November 29, 2004

Iraqi Torture Victims Are Shrill!

You know, some people just can't take a fraternity prank. A group of totally humorless Iraqi torture victims have decided to take their captors to court. Who's named in the suit? A few minor players such as:

  • Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
  • Former CIA Director George Tenet
  • Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Dr. Steven Cambone
  • Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez
  • Major General Walter Wojdakowski
  • Major General Geoffrey Miller
  • Brigadier General Janis L. Karpinski

We here at The Order feel sure that the Bush administration will quickly identify this suit as the politically motivated witch hunt it so obviously is. Like that DeLay thing down in Texas, for instance.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Tom Friedman: Heisenberg of the Shrill

We students of The Order are, on occasion, blessed with a screed so truly shrill that it causes little tingles up and down our hermetic spines. Thanksgiving was such a day as Tom Friedman delivered a family-sized serving of sardonic wit:

In my next life, I want to be Tom DeLay, the House majority leader.

Yes, I want to get almost the entire Republican side of the House of Representatives to bend its ethics rules just for me. I want to be able to twist the arms of House Republicans to repeal a rule that automatically requires party leaders to step down if they are indicted on a felony charge - something a Texas prosecutor is considering doing to DeLay because of corruption allegations.

But most of all, I want to have the gall to sully American democracy at a time when young American soldiers are fighting in Iraq so we can enjoy a law-based society here and, maybe, extend it to others. Yes, I want to be Tom DeLay. I want to wear a little American flag on my lapel in solidarity with the troops, while I besmirch every value they are dying for.

If I can't be Tom DeLay, then I want to be one of the gutless Republican House members who voted to twist the rules for DeLay out of fear that "the Hammer," as they call him, might retaliate by taking away a coveted committee position or maybe a parking place.

Yes, I want to be a Republican House member. At a time when 180 of the 211 members of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit in Iraq who have been wounded in combat have insisted on returning to duty, I want to look my constituents and my kids in the eye and tell them that I voted to empty the House ethics rules because I was afraid of Tom DeLay.

If I can't be a Republican House member, I want to be Latrell Sprewell, the guard for the Minnesota Timberwolves. I want to say with a straight face that if my owner will only give me a three-year contract extension for a meager $21 million, then he's not worth working for, because "I've got my family to feed."

Yes, I want to be Latrell Sprewell. At a time when N.B.A. games are priced beyond the reach of most American families, when half the country can't afford health care, when some reservists in Iraq are separated from their families for a year, including this Thanksgiving, I want to be like Latrell. I want to make sure everyone knows that I'm looking out for my family - and no one else's.

If I can't be Latrell Sprewell, I want to be any American college or professional athlete. For a mere dunk of the basketball or first-down run, I want to be able to dance a jig, as if I'd just broken every record by Michael Jordan or Johnny Unitas. For the smallest, most routine bit of success in my sport, I want to be able to get in your face - I want to know who's your daddy, I want to be able to high-five, low-five, thump my chest and dance on your grave. You talkin' to me?

I want to be able to fight on the court, off the court, in the stands and on the sidelines. I want to respect no boundaries and no norms. And when I make your kids cry, I want to be able to tell you to just "chill" - that my coach says "stuff happens" and that my union rep is appealing my punishment in the name of the Bill of Rights and the Magna Carta. Yes, in my next life, I want to be The Man.

If I can't be The Man, then I at least want to be the owner of a Hummer - with American flag decals all over the back bumper, because Hummer owners are, on average, a little more patriotic than you and me.

Yes, I want to drive the mother of all gas-guzzlers that gets so little mileage you have to drive from gas station to gas station. Yes, I want to drive my Hummer and never have to think that by consuming so much oil, I am making transfer payments to the worst Arab regimes that transfer money to Islamic charities that transfer money to madrassas that teach children intolerance, antipluralism and how to hate the infidels.

And when one day one of those madrassa graduates goes off and joins the jihad in Falluja and kills my neighbor's son, who is in the U.S. Army Rangers, I want to drive to his funeral in my Hummer. Yes, I want to curse his killers in front of his mother and wail aloud, "If there was only something I could do ..." And then I want to drive home in my Hummer, stopping at two gas stations along the way.

If I can't be any of these, then I want to be just a simple blue-state red-state American. I want to take time on this Thanksgiving to thank God I live in a country where, despite so much rampant selfishness, the public schools still manage to produce young men and women ready to voluntarily risk their lives in places like Iraq and Afghanistan to spread the opportunity of freedom and to protect my own. And I want to thank them for doing this, even though on so many days in so many ways we really don't deserve them.

I want to be Tom Friedman!

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Time's Baghdad Bureau Chief Is Super-Shrill

Senior Bat-Winged Horror Eric Umansky listens to NPR and reports:

Eric Umansky: Michael Ware is Super-Shrill: Time's Baghdad bureau chief is on my local NPR  (WNYC)  right now and he's taking some serious swings: 


On the elections: "You can set any Disneyland date you want. It will look like an election, it will sound like an election, but it won't  be anything other than a sham."


Other broadsides:


"Honestly, I see day by day as we add to the ranks of the insurgency. I've seen civilians atomized before my eyes by the military. That's not meant to be a criticism of the individual soldiers or the military...."


Asked whether there are going to be other Fallujah like situations, he said, "Absolutely. Fallujah was a spectacular act of defiance for the insurgents. But there will be similar acts here, there, everywhere.  This doesn't feel like victory for me."


"We are giving the birth to the next generation of jihadists. 9/11 was a pandora's box. Bin Laden was then hoping for a platform to propel the cause...and we gave it to him."


"Insurgents used to say to me, 'I'm fighting to get the U.S. out of Iraq--Iraq for Iraqis.' Now they say, 'I'm fighting for Islam.' We've created the next Bin Laden, Zarqawi. He was a marginal figure before the war, and now,  he's actually competing with him for primacy."

Monday, November 22, 2004

Administrators at Baghdad’s Central Teaching Hospital for Pediatrics Are Srhill

We've spent $10,000 per Iraqi on the war, and we can't even get Iraqi children fed:

Crooked Timber: Child malnutrition in Iraq : One of the points made most insistently by critics of the Lancet study was that they disbelieved the claim that infant mortality had increased since the war. Heiko, a contributor to one of Dsquared’s threads , wrote: “I do believe infant mortality may have dropped (though maybe not halved as yet), because a lot of things are available now that weren’t before the war.” The Washington Post has now published an article suggesting that there has been a dramatic rise in child malnutrition since the war:

Acute malnutrition among young children in Iraq has nearly doubled since the United States led an invasion of the country 20 months ago, according to surveys by the United Nations, aid agencies and the interim Iraqi government.

After the rate of acute malnutrition among children younger than 5 steadily declined to 4 percent two years ago, it shot up to 7.7 percent this year, according to a study conducted by Iraq’s Health Ministry in cooperation with Norway’s Institute for Applied International Studies and the U.N. Development Program. The new figure translates to roughly 400,000 Iraqi children suffering from “wasting,” a condition characterized by chronic diarrhea and dangerous deficiencies of protein.

The article makes grim reading for anyone concerned about winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people:

“Believe me, we thought a magic thing would happen” with the fall of Hussein and the start of the U.S.-led occupation, said an administrator at Baghdad’s Central Teaching Hospital for Pediatrics. “So we’re surprised that nothing has been done. And people talk now about how the days of Saddam were very nice,” the official said.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Juan Cole Is Shrill

The news from Fallujah is not good:

Informed Comment : Heavy fighting continued in Fallujah on Monday, according to Reuters, as some guerrillas there demonstrated that they would fight to the death.

Meanwhile, police stations were attacked in Baqubah and Buhriz in the east, and in Suwairah south of Baghdad. The fighting in Baqubah was so heavy that the US at one point dropped two 500 pound bombs on the guerrillas. Hundreds of people gathered in northeast Baqubah to protest the continued US presence in Iraq, demanding that the foreign troops go home.

Fighting broke out in Baiji, Ramadi and parts of Baghdad, as well. A Mosul oil installation was also attacked, and so was a US convoy near the city, and there appears to have been some fighting inside Mosul on Monday (a US general insisted that the situation there wasn't "desperate." OK.) In general the Sunni Arab regions of the country appear to be in virtual chaos.

Propaganda reared its ugly head on several occasions. US-installed CIA asset Iyad Allawi, the "prime minister," said he was sure there had been no civilian casualties in Fallujah. Allawi is gradually revealing himself as the pro-American twin of Muhammad Said al-Sahhaf, "Baghdad Bob," who used to deny that US troops were in Baghdad even though journalists could see the tanks over his shoulder. Now Allawi wants to deny that residents of a city that has been invaded and crushed managed to escape without a scratch unless they were active guerrillas. Col. Mike Shupp joined in this vaudeville act, denying that there was a humanitarian crisis in Fallujah or that there was a need for Red Crescent aid.

Let's say there were only 30,000 civilians left in Fallujah, out of 250,000 or so residents as of last year. Given the kind of aerial bombardment, tank and artillery fire the city has taken, it is impossible that there aren't civilian casualties, and probably quite substantial ones. In addition, some reports speak of Marines using heat detectors and shooting at any buildings they think inhabited. Eyewitnesses speak of bodies lying in the street everywhere.

The generally pro-American Saudi daily, Asharq al-Awsat, has a long piece on the sufferings of civilians in Fallujah, based on telephone interviews and eyewitness accounts by Iraqis. The article is extremely suspicious of American motives in having taken the Fallujah hospitals and in having kept the Red Crescent and other aid agencies away from the city. Do they want to get rid of all the bodies lying in the streets before anyone sees them, the article asks.

As for the apparent murder of a wounded guerrilla by a Marine, it was horrible. I fear that the attitude of the other troops, which wasn't exactly shock, suggests that these sorts of murders of prisoners are not uncommon. (But they are not universal, or else there wouldn't be 400 prisoners. There would be no prisoners.) It does concern me that the wounded and bleeding guerrillas were just stacked up in that mosque awaiting medical attention, apparently for days. If there are many prisoners treated that way, then there really is an issue here with regard to US military policy. And, what is the difference between letting them bleed to death and putting a bullet in their heads? Col. Shupp might want to reconsider his position that the Red Crescent is unneeded.

Ash-Sharq al-Awsat writes of Fallujah, and I paraphrase: Whatever the number of families that stayed in Fallujah, they are suffering now from lack of food, water, and aid. Although the US and Iraqi military authorities insist they have taken the city with the exception of some pockets of resistance, they refuse to allow Red Crescent aid trucks even into the areas they say they control. It is not known if the reason for this refusal is to prevent the "pockets of resistance" from getting hold of some food, or if it is because they want to get the bodies off the streets before the Red Crescent comes in, so as to avoid shocking the aid workers.

One man said in a telephone interview, from the Dubat Quarter, "Our situation is very bad . . . We have no food or water. My seven children al have bad diarrhea." He added, "there are corpses lying in the street." He said he knew of 6 families in a similar situation nearby, and broke into tears. "We are still fasting, even though the Eid came on Sunday. God is Great, God is Great." (This phrase pulls at the heartstrings among Muslims, given that the fasting month of Ramadan has a holy aura.)

The article describes a family that buried its 9-year-old son in a garden after he was shot and killed (implying that a lot of the dead cannot even be accounted for easily).

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Seven Retired Generals Are Shrill!

It is unbelievable. Completely unbelievable:

RollingStone.com: Politics - The Generals Speak: Gen. Merrill "Tony" McPeak, Air Force chief of staff, 1990-94, We have a force in Iraq that's much too small to stabilize the situation. It's about half the size, or maybe even a third, of what we need. As a consequence, the insurgency seems to be gathering momentum. We are losing people at a fairly steady rate of about two a day; wounded, about four or five times that, and perhaps half of these wounds are very serious. And we are also sustaining gunshot wounds, when, before, we'd mostly been seeing massive trauma from remotely detonated charges. This means the other side is standing and fighting in a way that describes a more dangerous phase of the conflict.


The people in control in the Pentagon and the White House live in a fantasy world. They actually thought everyone would just line up and vote for a new democracy and you would have a sort of Denmark with oil. I blame Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the people behind him -- Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary Douglas Feith. The vice president himself should probably be included; certainly his wife. These so-called neocons: These people have no real experience in life. They are utopian thinkers, idealists, very smart, and they have the courage of their convictions, so it makes them doubly dangerous.


The parallels between Iraq and Vietnam have been overblown, because we were in Vietnam for a decade and it cost us 58,000 troops. We've been in Iraq for nineteen months and we're still under 1,200 killed. But there is one sense in which the parallel with Vietnam is valid. The American people were told that to win the Cold War we had to win Vietnam. But we now know that Vietnam was not only a diversion from winning the Cold War but probably delayed our winning it and made it cost more to win. Iraq is a diversion to the war on terror in exactly the same way Vietnam was a diversion to the Cold War.


Adm. Stansfield Turner
NATO Allied commander for Southern Europe, 1975-77; CIA director, 1977-81
I think we are in a real mess. There are eighty-seven attacks on Americans every day, and our people in Baghdad can't even leave the International Zone without being heavily armored. I think we are in trouble because we were so slow in terms of reconstruction and reconstituting the military and police forces. We have lost the support of the Iraqi people who were glad to see Saddam go. But they are not glad to see an outside force come in and replace him without demonstrating we are going to provide them with security and rebuild their economy. I am very frustrated. Having a convincing rationale for going in gives our troops a sense of purpose. Whatever you call it, this is now an insurgency using the techniques of terrorism. With the borders poorly guarded, the terrorists come in. All in all, Iraq is a failure of monumental proportions.


Lt. Gen. William Odom
Director of the National Security Agency, 1985-88
It's a huge strategic disaster, and it will only get worse. The sooner we leave, the less the damage. In the months since the invasion, the U.S. forces have become involved in trying to repress a number of insurgency movements. This is the way we were fighting in Vietnam, and if we keep on fighting this way, this one is going to go on a long time too. The idea of creating a constitutional state in a short amount of time is a joke. It will take ten to fifteen years, and that is if we want to kill ten percent of the population.


Gen. Anthony Zinni
Commander in chief of the United States Central Command, 1997-2000
The first phase of the war in Iraq, the conventional phase, the major combat phase, was brilliantly done. Tommy Franks' approach to methodically move up and attack quickly probably saved a great humanitarian disaster. But the military was unprepared for the aftermath. Rumsfeld and others thought we would be greeted with roses and flowers.


When I was commander of CENTCOM, we had a plan for an invasion of Iraq, and it had specific numbers in it. We wanted to go in there with 350,000 to 380,000 troops. You didn't need that many people to defeat the Republican Guard, but you needed them for the aftermath. We knew that we would find ourselves in a situation where we had completely uprooted an authoritarian government and would need to freeze the situation: retain control, retain order, provide security, seal the borders to keep terrorists from coming in.


When I left in 2000, General Franks took over. Franks was my ground-component commander, so he was well aware of the plan. He had participated in it; those were the numbers he wanted. So what happened between him and Rumsfeld and why those numbers got altered, I don't know, because when we went in we used only 140,000 troops, even though General Eric Shinseki, the army commander, asked for the original number.


Did we have to do this? I saw the intelligence right up to the day of the war, and I did not see any imminent threat there. If anything, Saddam was coming apart. The sanctions were working. The containment was working. He had a hollow military, as we saw. If he had weapons of mass destruction, it was leftover stuff -- artillery shells and rocket rounds. He didn't have the delivery systems. We controlled the skies and seaports. We bombed him at will. All of this happened under U.N. authority. I mean, we had him by the throat. But the president was being convinced by the neocons that down the road we would regret not taking him out.


Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy
Army deputy chief of staff for intelligence, 1997-2000
From the beginning, i was asked which side I took, Shinseki's or Rumsfeld's. And I said Shinseki. I mean, Rumsfeld proudly announced that he had told General Franks to fight this war with different tactics in which they would bypass enemy strongholds and enemy resistance and keep on moving. But it was shocking to me that the secretary of defense would tell the Army how to fight. He doesn't know how to fight; he has no business telling them. It's completely within civilian authority to tell you where to fight, what our major objective is, but it is absolutely no one's business but uniformed military to tell you how to do the job. To me, it was astonishing that Rumsfeld would presume to tell four-star generals, in the Army thirty-five years, how to do their jobs.


Now here's another thing that Rumsfeld did. As he was being briefed on the war plan, he was cherry-picking the units to go. In other words, he didn't just approve the deployment list, he went down the list and skipped certain units that were at a higher degree of readiness to go and picked units that were lower on the list -- for reasons we don't know. But here's the impact: Recently, at an event, a mother told me how her son had been recruited and trained as a cook. Three weeks before he deployed to Iraq, he was told he was now a gunner. And they gave him training for three weeks, and then off he went.


Rumsfeld was profoundly in the dark. I think he really didn't understand what he was doing. He miscalculated the kind of war it was and he miscalculated the interpretation of U.S. behavior by the Iraqi people. They felt they had been invaded. They did not see this as a liberation.


As for the recent news about the 380 tons of explosives that disappeared, it's irrelevant when they disappeared. This was known by the International Atomic Energy Agency as a site to be watched. Here is the issue: Bush tried to turn this into a political matter instead of answering questions about why he didn't follow the warnings of the IAEA. It was another example of Bush being a cheerleader instead of a leader. Nothing in Iraq was guarded except for the oil fields, which tells you why we were there. There are any number of indications that with a larger troop strength we would have been able to deal with such sites. Here is my other concern: The IAEA gave us a list of sites to be watched, so there may have been other dumps that were looted. After all, you don't just put one item on a list.


So what do we do? I think it would be very irresponsible for us to simply pull out. It sounds like a very simple solution, but it would have some complexity and danger attached. Still, Iraq is a blood bath, and we need to be dealing with this in a much more sophisticated way than the cowboy named Bush.


Gen. Wesley Clark
NATO supreme Allied commander for Europe, 1997-2000
Troop strength was not the only problem. We got into this mess because the Bush administration decided what they really wanted to do was to invade Iraq, and then the only question was, for what reason? They developed two or three different reasons. It wasn't until the last minute that they came up and said, "Hey, by the way, we are going to create a wave of democracy across the Middle East." That was February of 2003, and by that time they hadn't planned anything. In October of 2003, Donald Rumsfeld wrote a memo asking questions that should have been asked in 2001: Do we have an overall strategy to win the war on terror? Do we have the right organization to win the war on terror? How are we going to know if we are not winning the war on terror? As it has turned out, the guys on the ground are doing what they are told to do. But let's ask this question: Have you seen an American strategic blunder this large? The answer is: not in fifty years. I can't imagine when the last one was. And it's not just about troop strength. I mean, you will fail if you don't have enough troops, but simply adding troops won't make you succeed.


Adm. William Crowe
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1985-89
We screwed up. we were intent on a quick victory with smaller forces, and we felt if we had a military victory everything else would fall in place. We would be viewed not as occupiers but as victors. We would draw down to 30,000 people within the first sixty days.


All of this was sheer nonsense.They thought that once Iraq fell we'd have a similar effect throughout the Middle East and terrorism would evaporate, blah, blah, blah. All of these were terrible assumptions. A State Department study advising otherwise was sent to Rumsfeld, but he threw it in the wastebasket. He overrode the military and was just plain stubborn on numbers. Finally the military said OK, and they totally underestimated the impact the desert had on our equipment and the kind of troops we would need for peacekeeping. They ignored Shinseki. The Marines were advising the same way. But the military can only go so far. Once the civilian leadership decides otherwise, the military is obliged.


There is not a very good answer for what to do next. We've pulled out of several places without achieving our objectives, and every time we predicted the end of Western civilization, which it was not. We left Korea after not achieving anything we wanted to do, and it didn't hurt us very much. We left Vietnam -- took us ten years to come around to doing it -- but we didn't achieve what we wanted. Everyone said it would set back our foreign policy in East Asia for ten years. It set it back about two months. Our allies thought we were crazy to be in Vietnam.


We could have the same thing happen this time in Iraq. If we walk away, we are still the number-one superpower in the world. There will be turmoil in Iraq, and how that will affect our oil supply, I don't know. But the question to ask is: Is what we are achieving in Iraq worth what we're paying? Weighing the good against the bad, we have got to get out.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Thing Gettin' Shrill At The CIA

Bush appoints Goss. Goss brings in right-wing staffers. Right-wing staffers go nuts. CIA begins meltdown procedures as directors resign including the chief all overseas anti-terror efforts:

Yesterday, the agency official who oversees foreign operations, Deputy Director of Operations Stephen R. Kappes, tendered his resignation after a confrontation with Murray. Goss and the White House pleaded with Kappes to reconsider and he agreed to delay his decision until Monday, the officials said.

Several other senior clandestine service officers are threatening to leave, current and former agency officials said.

The disruption comes as the CIA is trying to stay abreast of a worldwide terrorist threat from al Qaeda, a growing insurgency in Iraq, the return of the Taliban in Afghanistan and congressional proposals to reorganize the intelligence agencies. The agency also has been criticized for not preventing the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and not accurately assessing Saddam Hussein's ability to produce weapons of mass destruction.

"It's the worst roiling I've ever heard of," said one former senior official with knowledge of the events. "There's confusion throughout the ranks and an extraordinary loss of morale and incentive."

Looking forward to another 'Mission Accomplished' banner any day now.

Brent Scowcroft Is Shriller Than Ever!

Aaaiii! Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Scowcroft R'lyeh wagn'nagl fhtagn! Aaaiii!!!

washingtonpost.com: A Middle East Opening: By Brent Scowcroft Friday, November 12, 2004; Page A25: The region has been changed forever by the decision to go into Iraq. The debate about the timing and rationale for the war is behind us.... Iraq, Israel-Palestine, Iran and terrorism are parts of a whole and can only be satisfactorily engaged as such. To cut through this Gordian knot will require not only a new approach but the deep, sustained commitment of the United States and a significant investment of the president's attention. But American resolve will not suffice without the willing engagement of other states, especially those of Europe and the region itself....

The goal we seek in Iraq is to create a secure environment... providing such an environment in a reasonable time frame will require a larger coalition force.... This force increment must come either from our own already stretched military or from our friends and allies.... The leaders of Europe and the Arab world surely recognize -- even if their publics may not -- that a failed Iraq would affect their countries every bit as seriously as it would the United States.... European willingness to provide even a modest nucleus of troops could provide inducement and cover for other states, especially Muslim ones, to make militarily meaningful contributions....

This essential step in Iraq needs to be accompanied by a U.S. undertaking to revitalize the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.... The president should add substance to his commitment to an independent Palestinian state... free from the crushing presence of Israeli troops. The United States should insist that Israel stop construction of its wall... mirror its withdrawal from Gaza with the evacuation of the West Bank....

The "road map" plan... should be revived.... The outlines of such a settlement have... become much less contested. A unified Jerusalem would serve as capital to both peoples. While the "right of return" could be left as a principle, the reality is that most Palestinian refugees will remain outside Israel, just as most Jewish settlers will return to Israel. A donor pool may need to be organized to provide compensation for both groups. Border rectifications would be necessary to compensate for the settlement solution and would complete the package.

Substantial, visible progress on the Palestinian issue would significantly improve the atmosphere in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East, including Iran, the third side of this triangle of tension and violence. The United States has three objectives with respect to Iran: a cessation of any moves toward nuclear proliferation; cooperation that contributes actively to stability in the Persian Gulf and in Iraq; and Iranian restraint on Hezbollah and other radical groups... the United States must... modify its attitude toward the British-French-German negotiations with Iran over its pursuit of uranium enrichment capabilities. We should actively embrace the European position... including the offer of an ensured supply of nuclear reactor fuel (low enriched uranium) at concessionary prices -- or even gratis -- in exchange for a comprehensive, verifiable freeze of Iran's uranium enrichment program.

Iran not only has strong interests in the future of Iraq but a powerful influence through its religious connections to the Shiite majority there. We should engage Iran about the future of Iraq, comparing our separate perspectives and emphasizing our joint interests.... Finally, the United States should indicate a willingness to modify its sanctions regime and thereby its relationship to Iran, were Iran willing to restrain Hezbollah and exercise its influence over other extremist groups. This would greatly minimize the risk that violence and other radical disruptions would hinder the Palestinian peace process.

The stakes are high. Progress in the region, in addition to being extremely critical for its own sake, holds the promise of making a substantial and lasting contribution to the war on terrorism....

Friday, November 12, 2004

John Ashcroft Says That Antonin Scalia Is Shrill!

John Ashcroft says that Antonin Scalia is shrill, an enemy of the state, an dhates America to boot. Senior Nameless Horror Jeffrey Dubner of The American Prospect reports:

TAPPED: November 2004 Archives: GET YOUR ROBES OUT OF OUR PRISONS! I just watched John Ashcroft's address to the Federalist Society. It's a gripping speech, and quite frightening. He devotes the greatest portion of it to challenging the Supreme Court's decisions in Rasul v. Bush, Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, and the other "enemy combatant" cases. A taste:<

...intrusive judicial oversight and second-guessing of presidential determinations in these critical areas of treaties can put at risk the very security of our nation at a time of war.

It's very much in the vein of "the ability to set aside the laws is inherent in the president." There's no transcript available just yet, and I expect there'll be analyses and critiques up by more qualified legal folks than I by the time we get back from the weekend. But I wonder how confined this constitutional theory is to Ashcroft, and whether it will in any way leave office with him. I highly doubt it.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Yale's Jack Balkin Is Shrill

The nomination of Alberto Gonzales to be Attorney General has driven Yale Law School professor Jack Balkin into shrill unholy madness:

Balkinization: Gonzales is not a doctrinaire conservative. He is a loyal servant and friend to the President. He is a team player. It is unclear what his deepest moral convictions are. But however fine a fellow he is, he has done something that is, in my mind, inexcusable. He commissioned and put his name on a series of despicable legal memos that justified torture and prisoner abuse and that tried to avoid America's obligations under international law. In ordinary times, this would in itself be disqualifying. But, alas, these are not ordinary times.

It is time for those who think the Bush Administration has gone too far to stand up to the President, to make the legal case against his Administration's policies and appointments. For years conservatives railed against judicial activism. It is time for liberals to start railing against government officials-- including judges-- who show disrespect for basic Rule of Law values, who flout basic protections of American constitutional law and international human rights law, and who seek to concentate ever greater power in an unaccountable executive.

Even if (and especially if) Gonzales is confirmed, it is vitally important to make these points loudly and often. Liberals must stand for something other than the correctness of Roe v. Wade. There are important constitutional, legal and democratic values at stake in the next four years. They have been repeatedly sacrificed by this Administation, in its fetish for secrecy and unaccountability and its endless thirst for unreviewable power. And the President seems to have taken from his victory at the polls the belief that he is entitled to seize even more power and cut even more corners. It is important to begin making the case before the American people that our Constitution, our democracy, and the Rule of Law itself have been placed in jeopardy-- not by the decisions of activist judges in Massachusetts, but by overweening and ambitious members of the Bush Administration-- and that the legal and constitutional values we hold dear must be preserved and defended vigorously or they will slowly but surely be dissipated. Daring to ask why a former judge who has defended the President's right to torture and mistreat prisoners in violation of international law should be made the nation's chief law enforcement officer is a good place to start.

Aaaiii! Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Balkin R'lyeh wagn'nagl fhtagn! Aaaiii!!!

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Adam Posen of the Institute for International Economics Is Shrill!

He writes:

FT.com / Comment & analysis / Comment - The economics of a second term : Ideological and partisan politicians know that elections are... about... taking the reins of power and using them to realign the balance of interests in society in their favour.... The "Bush II" agenda will not be constrained by bipartisanship, fiscal discipline or even economic reality, because the ultimate motivation is not economic but ideological - to shrink government and weaken Democratic opposition. The three big economic initiatives promised by Mr Bush should therefore be seen for the political thrusts they are.

First and most importantly will be the push for partial Social Security privatisation... to win over Wall Street - the one big business sector besides Hollywood that has continued contributing to Democrats as much as Republicans - by offering the fees that go with managing hundreds of billions of dollars in private accounts.... [T]he transition costs of such a programme will present a budget shortfall of 1.5-2 per cent of gross domestic product a year for 10 years. Some will claim this just moves to the balance sheet an off-balance sheet liability that would be reneged on in future. Try telling that to bond markets, which will be asked to absorb another $200bn (£108bn) a year in government paper on top of today's deficits.... Turning US debt into a new class of emerging market bonds may erode America's future, and its ability to fight terror, but it also offers profit opportunities to one-time political fence-sitters.

Second, the tax cuts of the Bush first term... will be made permanent... convince high-income voters that any shift away from Republican majorities will come at their expense....

The third initiative is the pursuit of tort reform.... Its political motivation, however, is the crassest: trial lawyers and their lobbies are the second largest contributors to the Democratic party after organised labour. Cut jury awards, and you cut funding for Democrats.

We should not, like Claude Rains' character in Casablanca, be "shocked" that politics is going on here. If Mr Bush's planned economic initiatives also promoted the general welfare, their dual use of locking in supporters would be welcome. However, the Bush administration is putting its political staying power ahead of economic responsibility.... Markets tend to assume that the US political system will prevent lasting extremist policies so, even now, observers discount the likelihood of the Bush administration fully pursuing - let alone passing - this economic agenda. If the thin blue line of Democrats and the responsible Republican moderates in the Senate bravely fulfil their constitutional role, perhaps the damage will be limited. If not, we can foresee the US economy following the path to extended decline of the British economy in the 1960s and 1970s and of Japan in the 1990s...

Zachary Roth Is Shrill!

From his perch at CJR Campaign Desk, he calls down the wrath of history on the Weekly Standard:

CJR Campaign Desk: Archives: As for The Weekly Standard, it's still all about the media. Stephen Hayes believes Bush won in spite of an organized effort by the news media to defeat him. He points to the ABC News "false equivalence" memo, the Dan Rather misstep, and the missing explosives story, among other instances of supposed liberal bias -- and even takes issue with the idea that reporters should act as "truth-squadders, toiling away on the gray margins of political debate to elucidate ... misstatements, exaggerations, and outright lies ..." Hayes thinks the media didn't hold the Kerry camp similarly accountable, but he must have missed all those painstakingly even-handed "fact-check" pieces that followed every debate. His real intention seems to be beat back the growing consensus that reporters should act as more than mere transcribers of campaign rhetoric. History will not judge him kindly.

The Order Confers Special Jury Prize For Shrillness

This thoughtful editorial has been recognized by The Order as an extrodinarily shrill missive and is reprinted here in its entirety:

Fuck the South. Fuck 'em. We should have let them go when they wanted to leave. But no, we had to kill half a million people so they'd stay part of our special Union. Fighting for the right to keep slaves - yeah, those are states we want to keep.

And now what do we get? We're the fucking Arrogant Northeast Liberal Elite? How about this for arrogant: the South is the Real America? The Authentic America. Really?

Cause we fucking founded this country, assholes. Those Founding Fathers you keep going on and on about? All that bullshit about what you think they meant by the Second Amendment giving you the right to keep your assault weapons in the glove compartment because you didn't bother to read the first half of the fucking sentence? Who do you think those wig-wearing lacy-shirt sporting revolutionaries were? They were fucking blue-staters, dickhead. Boston? Philadelphia? New York? Hello? Think there might be a reason all the fucking monuments are up here in our backyard?

No, No. Get the fuck out. We're not letting you visit the Liberty Bell and fucking Plymouth Rock anymore until you get over your real American selves and start respecting those other nine amendments. Who do you think those fucking stripes on the flag are for? Nine are for fucking blue states. And it would be 10 if those Vermonters had gotten their fucking Subarus together and broken off from New York a little earlier. Get it? We started this shit, so don't get all uppity about how real you are you Johnny-come-lately "Oooooh I've been a state for almost a hundred years" dickheads. Fuck off.

Arrogant? You wanna talk about us Northeasterners being fucking arrogant? What's more American than arrogance? Hmmm? Maybe horsies? I don't think so. Arrogance is the fucking cornerstone of what it means to be American. And I wouldn't be so fucking arrogant if I wasn't paying for your fucking bridges, bitch.

All those Federal taxes you love to hate? It all comes from us and goes to you, so shut up and enjoy your fucking Tennessee Valley Authority electricity and your fancy highways that we paid for. And the next time Florida gets hit by a hurricane you can come crying to us if you want to, but you're the ones who built on a fucking swamp. "Let the Spanish keep it, it’s a shithole," we said, but you had to have your fucking orange juice.

The next dickwad who says, "It’s your money, not the government's money" is gonna get their ass kicked. Nine of the ten states that get the most federal fucking dollars and pay the least... can you guess? Go on, guess. That’s right, motherfucker, they're red states. And eight of the ten states that receive the least and pay the most? It’s too easy, asshole, they’re blue states. It’s not your money, assholes, it’s fucking our money. What was that Real American Value you were spouting a minute ago? Self reliance? Try this for self reliance: buy your own fucking stop signs, assholes.

Let’s talk about those values for a fucking minute. You and your Southern values can bite my ass because the blue states got the values over you fucking Real Americans every day of the goddamn week. Which state do you think has the lowest divorce rate you marriage-hyping dickwads? Well? Can you guess? It’s fucking Massachusetts, the fucking center of the gay marriage universe. Yes, that’s right, the state you love to tie around the neck of anyone to the left of Strom Thurmond has the lowest divorce rate in the fucking nation. Think that’s just some aberration? How about this: 9 of the 10 lowest divorce rates are fucking blue states, asshole, and most are in the Northeast, where our values suck so bad. And where are the highest divorce rates? Care to fucking guess? 10 of the top 10 are fucking red-ass we're-so-fucking-moral states. And while Nevada is the worst, the Bible Belt is doing its fucking part.

But two guys making out is going to fucking ruin marriage for you? Yeah? Seems like you're ruining it pretty well on your own, you little bastards. Oh, but that's ok because you go to church, right? I mean you do, right? Cause we fucking get to hear about it every goddamn year at election time. Yes, we're fascinated by how you get up every Sunday morning and sing, and then you're fucking towers of moral superiority. Yeah, that's a workable formula. Maybe us fucking Northerners don't talk about religion as much as you because we're not so busy sinning, hmmm? Ever think of that, you self-righteous assholes? No, you're too busy erecting giant stone tablets of the Ten Commandments in buildings paid for by the fucking Northeast Liberal Elite. And who has the highest murder rates in the nation? It ain't us up here in the North, assholes.

Well this gravy train is fucking over. Take your liberal-bashing, federal-tax-leaching, confederate-flag-waving, holier-than-thou, hypocritical bullshit and shove it up your ass.

And no, you can't have your fucking convention in New York next time. Fuck off.

The preceeding was rated SL (Shrill Liberal) by the Shrill Rant Association of America.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Federal Judge Gets Shrill on Gitmo

Following the Supreme Court decision that prisoners at Guantanamo Bay have the right to challenge their incarceration as an 'enemy combatants' the Bush administration began a series of farce trials that did not allow the defendants the basic means to prove their innocence. Today, U.S. District Judge James Robertson called a spade a spade:

Robertson ruled that the military commissions, which Bush authorized the Pentagon to revive after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, are neither lawful nor proper. Under commission rules, the government could, for example, exclude people accused of terrorist acts from some commission sessions and deny them access to evidence, which the judge said would violate basic military law.

Robertson said the government should have held special hearings for detainees to determine whether they qualified for prisoner-of-war protections when they were captured, as required by the Geneva Conventions. Instead, the administration declared the captives "enemy combatants" and decided to afford them some of the protections spelled out by the Geneva accords.

Robertson ordered that until the government provides the hearing, it can prosecute the detainees only in courts-martial, under long-established military law.

Robertson issued his decision in the case of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a detainee captured in Afghanistan in late 2001 and accused of being a member of al Qaeda. Robertson's opinion is expected to set the standard for treatment of other detainees before military commissions. So far, four Guantanamo Bay detainees have been ordered to stand trial.

I wonder if Robertson is aware of the mandate? Apparently not.

Keith Olbermann Is Shriller Than Ever!!

Aaaiii! Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Keith Olbermann R'lyeh wagn'nagl fhtagn! Aaaiii!!! Yog-Sothoth! Shrub-Niggurath!! The Black Goat with a Thousand Young Who Hates America Is Here!!!!!!!

MSNBC - : This is mentioned because there is a small but blood-curdling set of news stories that right now exists somewhere between the world of investigative journalism, and the world of the Reynolds Wrap Hat. And while the group’s ultimate home remains unclear - so might our election of just a week ago.

Stories like these have filled the web since the tide turned against John Kerry late Tuesday night. But not until Friday did they begin to spill into the more conventional news media. That’s when the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that officials in Warren County, Ohio, had “locked down” its administration building to prevent anybody from observing the vote count there.

Suspicious enough on the face of it, the decision got more dubious still when County Commissioners confirmed that they were acting on the advice of their Emergency Services Director, Frank Young. Mr. Young had explained that he had been advised by the federal government to implement the measures for the sake of Homeland Security.

Gotcha. Tom Ridge thought Osama Bin Laden was planning to hit Caesar Creek State Park in Waynesville. During the vote count in Lebanon. Or maybe it was Kings Island Amusement Park that had gone Code-Orange without telling anybody. Al-Qaeda had selected Turtlecreek Township for its first foray into a Red State....

As I suggested, this is the first time one of the Fix stories has moved fully into the mainstream media.... [T]he majority of the media has yet to touch the other stories of Ohio (the amazing Bush Times Ten voting machine in Gahanna) or the sagas of Ohio South: huge margins for Bush in Florida counties in which registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans 2-1, places where the optical scanning of precinct totals seems to have turned results from perfect matches for the pro-Kerry exit poll data, to Bush sweeps.

We will be endeavoring to pull those stories, along with the Warren County farce, into the mainstream Monday and/or Tuesday nights on Countdown. That is, if we can wedge them in there among the news media’s main concerns since last Tuesday:

Who fixed the Exit Polls? Yes - you could deliberately skew a national series of post-vote questionnaires in favor of Kerry to discourage people from voting out west, where everything but New Mexico had been ceded to Kerry anyway, but you couldn’t alter key precinct votes in Ohio and/or Florida; and,

What will Bush do with his Mandate and his Political Capital? He got the highest vote total for a presidential candidate, you know. Did anybody notice who’s second on the list? A Mr. Kerry. Since when was the term “mandate” applied when 56 million people voted against a guy? And by the way, how about that Karl Rove and his Freudian slip on “Fox News Sunday”? Rove was asked if the electoral triumph would be as impactful on the balance of power between the parties as William McKinley’s in 1896 and he forgot his own talking points. The victories were “similarly narrow,” Rove began, and then, seemingly aghast at his forthrightness, corrected himself. “Not narrow; similarly structured.”

Gotta dash now. Some of us have to get to work on the Warren and Florida stories.

In the interim, Senator Kerry, kindly don’t leave the country.

Max Sawicky Is Shrill

He writes:

MaxSpeak, You Listen!: ILLEGITIMATE: For the record, I've got no proof, and I have no plans to go looking for any, but I just don't believe George Bush carried Ohio. And I don't have to. I've got my doubts about Florida too.

Yes, We Have a New Grand Heresiarch

By acclamation, John M. Ford is hereby elevated to the rank of Grand Heresiarch in the Ancient and Hermetic Order of the Shrill:

Making Light: John M. Ford: ...I refuse to use the word “fundamentalist,” or any of its variations, for their usual shorthand meaning these interesting times. The first reason is that it is an inaccurate term; these positions do not reflect the fundaments of either Christianity or Islam. They are old emergent strains within each, but the premise that these are the root principles, and everything else, like, oh, tolerance and compassion, are poisonings of the spring, is a lie and a slander.

Indeed, where exactly is the Christianity or Islam in either of these two debased ideologies? Apart from a handful of symbols and catch phrases (along with pastiches, like “The Rapture,” that baldly pretend to be authentic principles), there’s nothing of Jesus or Mohammed, or the long discussions of how we should then live that followed them.

To put it in very direct terms, what we are talking about here are psychotic death cults, of the sort we associate with horn-hatted fictional Norsemen and the Uruk-Hai, people for whom the entire material universe is a sort of sand-table exercise by the Creator, who tossed it together on a weekend to play Red Army and Blue Army for the merest blink in the eye of eternity, before putting the good pieces back in the box and tossing the bad pieces in the fireplace for not winning a rigged game. We are talking, further, about thermonuclear war as not a threat but a shining promise of victory. There are people out there who believe (that isn’t really the word I want, but it’ll have to do for now) that an entirely literal atomic conflict on the plains of Megiddo is a necessary precondition to the return of the Christ, who will come as a thief in the night with a bag of Molotov cocktails.

We know, as much as we can know any of this sort of thing, how Jesus responded to the loss of a single beloved one. John didn’t need many words to describe it.

Long may John M. Ford--driven into shrill unholy madness by viewing the works and deeds of those acolytes of the Bush administration who take the Patmosian revenge fantasies of John the Divine as their primary scripture--serve!

Hige Sceal þe Heardra, Heorte þe Cenre, Mod Sceal þe Mare þe Ure Maegen Lytlað!

Teresa Nielsen Hayden and Greg Rapawy have been driven so far into shrill unholy madness that they think they are Saxon huscarls:

Making Light: New times call for new t-shirts: Greg Rapawy writes in with a great suggestion (okay, a suggestion I like a lot): "[Y]ou wrote... that you’ve 'long had "Hige sceal þe heardra, heorte þe cenre, mod sceal þe mare þe ure maegen lytlað" buried in the template code for [your] weblog.' Any interest in making a CafePress shirt, or maybe a mug, with this phrase? It seems particularly appropriate to the next two to four years, and I suspect people would buy it. I know I want one." I’m now taking suggestions: archaic-looking type and background? Something more modern? If modern, yes or no, stars & stripes background? Other?

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Right Over to Canada

Remember when the joke was that Canada would become the 51st state in the US? The shrill (along with a goodly number who opposed President Bush prior to being driven into madness) now harbor fantasies of leaving for the land where flu shots are still possible:

Americans Flock to Canada's Immigration Web Site | The number of U.S. citizens visiting Canada's main immigration Web site has shot up six-fold as Americans flirt with the idea of abandoning their homeland after President George W. Bush's election win this week.
"When we looked at the first day after the election, Nov. 3, our Web site hit a new high, almost double the previous record high," immigration ministry spokeswoman Maria Iadinardi said on Friday.
On an average day some 20,000 people in the United States log onto the Web site, www.cic.gc.ca -- a figure which rocketed to 115,016 on Wednesday.
Aaaiii! Ph'nglui mglw'nafh, eh?

Friday, November 05, 2004

Eric Umansky and Human Rights Watch Are Shrill

Judges? You say that judges ought to be familiar with the law? What an interesting idea. That's not how we operate here under the Bush administration.

Aaaiii! Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Eric Umansky R'lyeh wagn'nagl fhtagn! Aaaiii!!! Yog-Sothoth! Yog-Sothoth!! YOG-SOTHOTH IS HERE!!!!!!!

Eric Umansky psychotically channels the shrill ululations of Human Rights Watch:

Eric Umansky: Gitmo Tribunal: We don't need no education: From Human Rights Watch:

(Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, November 6, 2004) – This week’s hearings at Guantanamo Bay highlighted serious deficiencies in the U.S. military commission members’ understanding of the laws of war and principles of criminal justice, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch, which has an observer at the hearings, once again called on the United States to end the use of ad hoc military commissions and instead to bring prosecutions before federal courts or courts-martial.

[...]
 
For three days, the commission’s three members grappled with the laws of war and international criminal justice. While resolving these issues would have been a difficult task even for veteran judges, it has been an impossible exercise for the commission given that two of the three members who are supposed to rule on matters of law have no legal training or experience. Unsurprisingly, the two members without legal training had difficulty understanding introductory principles of the law of war or criminal justice.

Robert X Cringely Is Shrill X Unbalanced

Robert X. Cringely writes about polling biases, the youth vote, and shrill unholy madness:

So I took a taxi to the front, introduced myself to the local commander, who had gone, as I recall, to Iowa State, and spent a couple days waiting for the impending human wave attack. That attack was to be conducted primarily with 11-and 12-year-old boys as troops, nearly all of them unarmed. There were several thousand kids and their job was to rise out of the trench, praising Allah, run across No Man's Land, be killed by the Iraqi machine gunners, then go directly to Paradise, do not pass GO, do not collect 200 dinars. And that's exactly what happened in a battle lasting less than 10 minutes. None of the kids fired a shot or made it all the way to the other side. And when I asked the purpose of this exercise, I was told it was to demoralize the cowardly Iraqi soldiers.

It was the most horrific event I have ever seen, and I once covered a cholera epidemic in Bangladesh that killed 40,000 people.

Waiting those two nights for the attack was surreal. Some kids acted as though nothing was wrong while others cried and puked. But when the time came to praise Allah and enter Paradise, not a single boy tried to stay behind.

Now put this in a current context. What effective limit is there to the number of Islamic kids willing to blow themselves to bits? There is no limit, which means that a Bush Doctrine can't really stand in that part of the world. But of course President Bush, who may think he pulled the switch on a couple hundred Death Row inmates in Texas, has probably never seen a combat death. He doesn't get it and he'll proudly NEVER get it.

Welcome to the New Morality.

We're glad to see Mr. Cringely join the Order, but we have to say that is possibly the most seriously Ph'nglui'd up embarassing personal anecdote we've heard from a member. Thanks, man. That whole sleeping well at night thing was getting boring.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Doctor George Lakoff to the Keening Blasphemy Wing, Stat!

Wonkette is driven into shrillness by David Frum. We have her in the Keening Blasphemy Wing, but need assistance. Sedation seems called for--or at least a close check on our precious bodily fluids:

David Frum's Straight Eye for the Queer Guy: David Frum is not afraid to speak ill of the near-dead: "Speaking of media bias, here’s a question you won’t hear in our big papers or on network TV: Does Yasser Arafat have AIDS?"

And you know what, he's right! You won't! That bias against insane conspiracy theories wins out every time! No matter that David has such strong anecdotal evidence, such as the fact that "Arafat chose to be treated in France rather in any of the fraternal Arab countries that supposedly support his movement." Of course. In fact, I think "treat me in France" has a whole other meaning on the out.com message boards.

It is a remarkable constellation of ideas: Arabs... terrorists... France... homosexuals... diseases... safeguard our precious bodily fluids...

We do need George Lakoff to make sense of it.

Another Patient for the Hastur Wing

Ogged says that apocalyptically terrified and enraged is the new shrill:

Unfogged: I spent yesterday in the slough of despond, but today, my liberal friends have thrown me into a pot of anger.


1. It's just one election, we'll get 'em next time.


No. Remember all that jabber about the "most important election of our lives?" That was true, for two reasons.


We just had a referendum on Abu Ghraib and the disastrous conduct of the invasion of Iraq, and we endorsed both. We have slipped, in the eyes of the world, and in fact, from a war of ideals into a religious war--one in which no holds are barred. Remember when Bin Laden said that the people in the WTC weren't innocent because this is a democracy? Now it's true. There are no more innocents.


Second, at almost every point at which citizens interact with the government, it's not run by elected officials, but by career civil servants, and they are being replaced by ideological hacks whose terms don't expire with each administration. The state, that is, that part of the government that acts in our lives, is becoming an extension of one party--this was prevented in the past by vigorous opposition, and, even more, by a gentlemen's agreement that some parts of governance were beyond partisanship. Those safeguards are gone now.


Apocalyptic is the new shrill. People who manage to look at what's happening and deny that we're fast becoming a war-mongering theocracy will come around. It'll be too late, but they'll come around.


2. We have to try to understand the opposition.


Don't you know they hate your guts? Maybe the philosophy professors will like the Fallacy of Integrated Evil. The fact that you can have perfectly pleasant interactions with the great mass of your fellow citizens, the fact that they're basically upstanding and well-meaning, doesn't mean that they aren't also endorsing, with clear heads, evil policies.


And who will be your interlocutors? Surely you've talked to your fellow citizens. How many coherent arguments have you heard either on the Republican or Democratic side? Argument and understanding have nothing to do with it. A few people on either side set the terms and the agenda, and everyone else falls into line. The Republicans setting the agenda will be more than happy to talk to you, and while you go earnest and noble, you'll get rolled...again.

Ken Layne stares at Karl Rove and Goes Shrill

If we push the panic button now, we can have him restrained in the Hastur wing before he hurts himself:

KEN LAYNE: Well, what to say? Once again, it comes down to a single percentage point in a single state promised in advance to Mistah Bush.

Considering the "wartime" situation and all that, I thought the Dems did remarkably well with a second-rate candidate who only looked good compared to the incredible retardation known as the president. Sadly, even in that comparison he only looked good to 49% of the voters.

But that's not enough to overcome Jesusland. Back in the mid-1980s, I thought I was witnessing the peak of Jesusland and its hold on politics -- the time of Jerry Falwell, the Moral Majority, etc. That version of Jesusland did crumble under the weight of its own sins & scams, but the new Jesusland is even stronger, and totally decentralized -- these people don't even belong to a known religion, like the Catholics or the Methodists; they literally just make the shit up and call it a church. While there is no headquarters for Jesusland, all of its subjects do march at the command of the RNC and Karl Rove.

Rove's re-election strategy was elegantly simple: Scare the bejesus out of Jesusland. Faggots are headed your way! Satanic Muslims are hiding everywhere! That's all it took to get Jesusland to do the job. Intellectual conservatives like the National Review staff are flattering themselves if they honestly believe Jesusland cares about conservative thought. The "reality-based" folks are learning that Jesusland doesn't even care about jobs or the economy. In Jesusland, it's all the will of Jesus. No job? No money? Daughter got her clit pierced? Jesus is just fucking with you again, testing your faith. Got the cancer? Oh well. Soon you'll be with Jesus. Reality is no match for a mystical world in which an all-powerful god is constantly toying with every detail of your mundane life, just to see what you'll do about it. Keep praying and always keep your eye out for homosexuals and terrorists, and you will eventually be rewarded ... all you have to do is die, and then it's SuperJesusLand, where you will be a ghost floating in a magic cloud with all the other ghosts from Jesusland, with Jesus Himself presiding over an Eternal Church Service.

I've never had a problem with actual conservatives, because actual conservative thought -- as defined by William F. Buckley, Barry Goldwater, etc. -- is just a way of looking at the role of government. Hell, I've had a lot more trouble with True Believer Liberal Democrats, always telling me what to eat and oh that song is sexist and that's not funny. There just aren't that many actual conservatives. (If there were, Mr. TaxCut-and-Spend wouldn't be reading his Victory Prayer on teevee today.)

But I've got a big problem with Jesusland. If you want to worship the ghost of a jew from the Roman Empire, that's cool. Enjoy it! But when you people and your bizarre mystery cult claim the goddamned president as your prime convert who rules by the voices in his head, I call bullshit. I don't care so much about party politics, but I will fight long and hard to prevent this country from becoming a Complete Theocracy -- if you can call the intellectually vapid mishmash of evangelical Christianity a true Theology.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Four More Years of Yog-Sothoth!

All hail the Opener of the Way! All hail the Gatekeeper! All hail the Keymaster!

Four more years of Yog-Sothoth!!

We at Shrillblog will be with you for quite a while to come, as we continue to chronicle the words and deeds of those who have been driven into shrill unholy madness by the incompetence, malevolence, mendacity, and sheer disconnection from reality of the George W. Bush administration!!

Here in our headquarters in the steel-and-glass Hermetic Arts Tower of Miskatonic University, here in picturesque Arkham Massachusetts ("don't go to close to the water!") we are making preparations. We have doubled the number of beds-with-restraints in our Hastur wing. We have bulk-ordered more copies of the Krugmanomicon.

We are ready!

Budget Maven Stan Collender Is Shrill

He believes that Bush administration spokesmen talking about how the president's policies will have the deficit in five years are about to announce that their statements are "inoperative":

Budget Battles (11/02/2004): There usually isn't much budget news in the late fall. The work on the president's budget mostly happens behind the scenes as the White House works hard to keep its preliminary decisions for the coming year under wraps. Even if there is a lame-duck session, anything Congress does on the budget generally is either expected or not newsworthy. The Office of Management and Budget, Congressional Budget Office, and Treasury Department don't often issue new budget forecasts that might cause a stir. And there are seldom congressional hearings that provide opportunities for someone like the chairman of the Federal Reserve to make budget-related headlines.

As a result, anyone who analyzes, reports on, opines over or whose job otherwise depends on the federal budget usually makes vacation plans for this time of year knowing that they are not likely to be interrupted.

But this year will be different: It's only a matter of time before whoever is elected president announces that the budget situation is far worse than he had expected or been led to believe. And, make no mistake about it, it is worse. The emergency spending for hurricane and drought relief approved before Congress recessed for the election will mostly be spent in 2005. It was not included in either OMB's mid-session review or CBO's September update because both reports were published before the additional spending was enacted. In addition, there soon will be another supplemental appropriation for Iraq-related activities. There are now good indications that the Bush administration's original estimate of an additional $50 billion was far too low and that $70 billion or more may be required. Congress is also almost certain to appropriate more for a number of domestic programs in the lame-duck session than it was willing to do before Election Day. Given the history over the past few years of an 8 percent overall annual growth rate in discretionary spending, an additional $10 billion to $15 billion would not be a surprise.

The $413 billion actual fiscal 2004 deficit the White House spoke so proudly about because it was so much lower than what it forecast in February could easily come back to haunt the start of a second Bush administration. There is now a strong probability that the 2005 deficit will exceed the actual number for 2004 and, therefore, set a nominal record high for the third consecutive year. If history is any guide, a second Bush administration would not wait for its budget to be sent to Congress before getting the word out about the worsening budget picture. As it has done in the past, the White House is far more likely to leak the updated outlook in the next few weeks so that it is old news by the time its budget is released in February.

This would especially be the case if, as expected, Josh Bolten leaves his post as OMB director for either the private sector or some other position in a second Bush administration. Announcing the deteriorating outlook now would allow the next Bush budget director to avoid having to take any responsibility for the worsening outlook. In fact, as it did this past year, a Bush administration might very well decide to have Bolten overstate the magnitude of the deterioration. That would allow the president's next budget to show things getting better and for the next OMB director to look like he or she already has accomplished something...

The Editors of the New Republic Are Shrill

The last piece of legislation signed by George W. Bush before the election has driven the editors of the New Republic into shrill unholy madness:

The New Republic Online: Priceless: There is a simple way to understand economic policy-making under George W. Bush: Whichever pressure group has the strongest and most direct stake in an issue gets its way. Wealthy individuals and business owners have received large tax cuts; farmers have gotten lavish assistance; and insurance and drug companies won enormous subsidies in the Medicare prescription-drug bill. When steel firms lobbied for tariffs, Bush granted them. When automakers and other manufacturers later lobbied Bush to reverse course, complaining that those tariffs had raised the cost of the steel they buy, he began to back down. If there's a single prominent case where Bush offended a powerful corporate interest--except to benefit an even more powerful corporate interest--we have not come across it. 


It is therefore fitting that the final bill Bush has signed before voters have a chance to cast judgment on his term represents the apotheosis of this appalling tendency. With no public ceremony at all, Bush last week approved a grotesque and completely indefensible corporate tax bill. If anybody needs a final reminder of this administration's lack of concern for the national interest--indeed, the lack of a policy process that could even conceivably advance it--this is it. 


The latest installment of this revolting saga began in March, when the European Union began imposing new tariffs as retaliation for the U.S. refusal to repeal a $5 billion per year export subsidy that the World Trade Organization said violated fair trade practices. This prompted Congress to rescind the subsidy. So far, so good. Then, predictably, Congress decided that the savings from killing the subsidy could not be used to reduce the deficit. Instead, the money had to go to tax breaks. And, rather than using the money for broad-based tax breaks, Congress decided on specific tax breaks for manufacturers. Why is this dumb? Because economists across the political spectrum have long held that, if the government rewards one kind of economic activity over another, it distorts the economy. Worse, those who don't qualify for preferential treatment will press the government to be reclassified. 


That's exactly what happened. First, Congress redefined "manufacturing" to include engineering contractors (under pressure from Bechtel), companies involved in mineral extraction (for the benefit of Exxon Mobil), and virtually anybody else who hired a lobbyist. Later, the pretense of helping manufacturers was dropped entirely, and everybody from the importers of Chinese-made ceiling fans to foreign citizens who earn money gambling on American dogs and horses won special provisions. One lobbyist involved in drafting the bill confessed to The Washington Post that the whole thing represented "a new level of sleaze." In the end, the breaks given out will substantially exceed the cost of the rescinded subsidy, driving the deficit even higher. 


There is plenty of blame to go around. The GOP-run Congress utterly abdicated its responsibilities by allowing the bill to degenerate into a lobbying free-for-all. Only a few Democrats bothered to put up a fight, with most deciding it was best to hop aboard the gravy train themselves. Louisiana Democratic Senator John Breaux gave voice to unprincipled capitulation when he told The New York Times, "In the end, you need to get things done." (Breaux is retiring and reportedly entertaining lucrative offers to work as a lobbyist.) And John Kerry inexplicably failed to campaign against the bill, eliminating any pressure to oppose it. 


But the ultimate responsibility lies with the Bush administration. It is in Congress's nature to act like a pig at the trough. The reason this sort of spectacle is so rare is that most presidents have some sense of responsibility to the national interest. Conservatives, liberals, and moderates have all denounced this bill. (Conservatives recognize the "tax breaks" to be thinly disguised pork.) It is a naked payoff, and there's no principled reason, from any ideological perspective, to support it. 


That's why it is so emblematic of Bush's presidency. Previous presidents have done things that have alienated conservatives or moderates or liberals. But is there any president in recent memory who has enacted major legislation that is universally regarded, excepting its direct beneficiaries, as bad public policy? If so, there certainly can't be one who, like Bush, has done so over and over again. (We're referring here to the farm subsidies, the Medicare bill, and other giveaways listed above.) Some endorsements of Bush have expressed hope that, in a prospective second term, he will either moderate his views or hew more firmly to conservative principles. Both possibilities would constitute an improvement. Neither, alas, would be remotely plausible.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Membership Drive Update!

Lots of new members, and lots of work to do. We're exhausted, but will have a report after some rest. Happy shrieking!

Shrillblog Publishes the Right-Wing Lexicon

This handy pocket guide to Neo-Republican vernacular was discovered today at a polling place in Ohio and is published here for educational purposes only:

  • "Stealing the election" — Allow non-Republicans to vote
  • "Comitting fraud" — Minorities voting
  • "Preveting fraud" — Blocking minorities from voting
  • "Registration validation" — Voter intimidation
  • "Voter education" — Push polling or disinformation
  • "Ensure fairness" — Slowing voting to a crawl
  • "Disputed votes" — Kerry votes
  • "Disenfranchised voters" — Bush voters
  • "Get Out The Vote" — Get rid of minorities
  • "Tom Daschle" — Satan
  • "Shrillblog" — Wankers

Members of The Order risked life and limb to retrieve this information...

Order of the Shrill National Membership Drive

Today Only, American citizens who have registered to vote can join the Order at their local polling place. You know what to do.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Tony Blair Joins Order Of The Shrewd

It's leaking out that even Tony Blair, Bush's only significant international friend, has decided to back Kerry. Now if only he'd lend that sentiment some words in the fashion of his famous oratory--that'd be shrill for sure!

Knight-Ridder Is Shrill!

Knight-Ridder is shrill!

KR Washington Bureau | 10/30/2004 | Did U.S. mistakes let bin Laden escape from Afghanistan 3 years ago?: WASHINGTON - Osama bin Laden's reappearance on Friday in a videotape has revived the controversy over how the al Qaida leader and many of his fighters escaped from American troops and their local allies in Afghanistan three years ago.... Writing in The New York Times on Oct. 19, retired Army Gen. Tommy Franks, who led the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, said it isn't clear that bin Laden was in Tora Bora at the time and denied that the United States "outsourced" military action. "Afghans weren't left to do the job alone," Franks wrote. "Special forces from the United States and several other countries were there, providing tactical leadership and calling in air strikes."... Knight Ridder reporters Barry Schlachter of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Jonathan S. Landay and photographers Carl Juste and Peter Andrew Bosch of The Miami Herald were at Tora Bora during the battle, and photographer David Gilkey of the Detroit Free Press and reporter Drew Brown traveled there a year later, interviewed Afghan fighters, retraced al-Qaida escape routes and talked to Pakistani intelligence officers who were tracking al Qaida.

Their reporting found that Franks and other top officials ignored warnings from their own and allied military and intelligence officers that the combination of precision bombing, special operations forces and Afghan forces that had driven the Taliban from northern Afghanistan might not work in the heartland of the country's dominant Pashtun tribe. While more than 1,200 U.S. Marines sat at an abandoned air base in the desert 80 miles away, Franks and other commanders relied on three Afghan warlords and a small number of American, British and Australian special forces to stop al-Qaida and Taliban fighters from escaping across the mountains into Pakistan.... Military and intelligence officials had warned Franks and others that the two main Afghan commanders, Hazrat Ali and Haji Zaman, couldn't be trusted, and they proved to be correct. They were slow to move their troops into place and didn't attack until four days after American planes began bombing - leaving time for al-Qaida leaders to escape and leaving behind a rear guard of Arab, Chechen and Uzbek fighters.

"Ali and Zaman both assured our people that they had forces in blocking positions on the Spin Ghar (mountains) when there were, in fact, no people there," said a U.S. military official who played a key role in the campaign. "So besides taking Afghans at their word, we had no plans to bring up sufficient forces to make up for perfidy."... Zaman and Ali began trying to negotiate an al-Qaida surrender even before they began their ground attack. Then, on the second day of the attack, Zaman declared a cease-fire... left open an escape route through the Waziri Tangi valley.... 1,000 to 1,100 al-Qaida fighters, along with some of the group's top leaders, escaped the American dragnet at Tora Bora. A Pakistani official later told Knight Ridder that intelligence reports suggested that some 4,000 al-Qaida members escaped and that 50 to 80 top leaders paid Zaman or Ali as much as $40,000 apiece for safe passage out of Tora Bora....