Friday, September 17, 2004
There are no links for this, because it's from I guess is technically "a source." More accurately, a friend who has connecitons at the Pentagon and Quantico.
After the four security advisors were killed in Fallujah, the White House ordered the Marines to attack Fallujah in retaliation. The Marines, from sergeants on the ground to the Commandant himself, said "Bad idea. We need more equipment." They were ordered in anyway due to political considerations.
When the Commandant of the Marines is opposed to an idea, there are only two people who can override him: The Secretary of Defense or the President. So either Rumsfeld or Bush overrode the concerns of the Marines and sent them into Fallujah under-equipped.
So they went. And they kicked ass. In fact, the Marines kicked so much ass that three days later they received another order to pull back. Again, due to political considerations. It was too violent and looked too bad press-wise for the White House to stomach.
So the President and his staff are interfering with miltary decisions on the ground. Gosh, that isn't anything like Vietnam...
So there is that. And apparently, there are shouting matches almost daily at the Pentagon between the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Rumsfeld. The JCS and the White House are at odds at how to proceed in Iraq. The JCS are advising to "abandon the cause," (i.e., pull out) because they simply are not getting proper support. Of course, the White House disagrees with this
And oh yes, apparently we are running out of troops. So how will we find the men to continue the occupation.... (*cough* draft *cough*)
And, as an amateur military historian, what I found most disturbing, was that two words are getting a lot of play these days in the Pentagon: "Germany" and "Russia". If you don't know much about World War Two, read up on the Wehrmacht's invasion of Russia in 1941. It's sobering to hear that comparison, especially since we are the "Germany" in this scenario. But man, is it ever apt.
So this is what Iraq is devolving into. Insurgents control entire regions of Iraq. Reconstruction money isn't being spent at all. The White House is micro-managing military decisions, when they aren't ignoring them completely. Our troops levels are nearly maxed out.
THIS is the war on terror, Mr. President? The hell it is! It's a boondoggle, a quagmire, a hellhole and a disaster. You are sacrificing the brave men and women who have made the choice to put country ahead of self on the altar of your self-delusion. Our best and bravest are dying in the desert for what? A Neo-Con holy war?
You had this thing won in Afgahnistan! Bin Laden was cornered, al Qaeda was in shambles, Zaquari was stuck in Pakistan. And you chucked it out the window to pursue a shadow.
You are a farce and a fraud, Mr. President. And if there is a God in heaven, you will lose this November.
Thursday, September 16, 2004
Okay, so I want to get this straight. CBS, in their "statement" yesterday, basically did this:
- Essentially called the two authenticators who disagreed with them liars
- Continued to say that Matley believes that all documents are authentic, even though he said in a LA Times piece that he only judged one memo.
And I find it hard to believe that Matley was comfortable in making these authentications: From a 2002 article he wrote in The Practical Litigator: "In fact, modern copiers and computer printers are so good that they permit easy fabrication of quality forgeries. From a copy, the document examiner cannot authenticate the unseen original but may well be able to determine that the unseen original is false. Further, a definite finding of authenticity for a signature is not possible from a photocopy, while a definite finding of falsity is possible. (emphasis mine)
- Basically admits after all this that they STILL don't know if the documents are real, but it doesn't matter because the story is true.
Guess what, boys? It does matter. It's not about the story anymore. It's about the fact you took questionable documents, and didn't research them properly. Your own experts warned you not to run the docs and yet you threw them on the air anyway to get a story that reflected negatively against a man that Dan Rather doesn't like. Now that you've been caught, you're in "stonewall mode", admitting nothing and pretending it's all fluff. Sorry, but it doesn't work that way.
I don't think it takes a genius to realize that Bush had help getting into the ANG. But that ceased to be the important issue here once CBS disregarded proper journalistic procedure in publicising these documents. Sorry, COPIES of documents. They've never seen "the originals." Which makes it even harder to comprehend how these got on the air.
CBS let their animus towards Bush (Rather did, anyway) trump their responsibility as journalists. THAT'S the issue here and that is why Rather has to step down.
As seems to be the standard on my blog, I leave the last word to Andrew Sullivan. Again, his blog in excellent. Visit it.
So what possessed Rather? I think he loathes this president so much that he couldn't bring himself to see the fakes in front of him. That's bad enough. But to keep digging in and to try the rescue the story by further reporting is a far worse offense. He's got to go.
Update: Here are a couple of Washington Post pieces. The first details where the forgeries may have originated. The second piece deals with Rather's trying to escape blame for this folly.
The second piece is really enlightening, as it shows Rather's blatant disregard for the ethical issues involved with passing on the memos. Really good writing from the Post, which may be slowly surpassing the NY Times as the paper of record in the US.
In case you've been drinking the Bush Kool-Aid over Iraq (Everything is great...everything is great...), here's a wake-up call.
You know things aren't going well when the Marines tell you there is a problem. They aptly describe Fallujah as "a cancer" that could spread throughout Iraq.
It's at a point where the only way to bring it back under control would be a massive US military incursion - something that would tarnish the Alawi government and a move that the Bush Adm. doesn't have the balls to execute. Remember, the Marines were hell-bent for taking back Fallujah in April until Bush called a halt only three days into the battle, showing that LBJ has nothing on him. (That's a Vietnam reference. Get used to them, b/c it's slowly becoming an apt analogy).
And you know it's Bush and his Theo-Con boys holding the US back. Because the Marines want to settle this now. As Lt. General John Sattler said, "The status quo in Fallujah cannot stand...We could arm the 1,000-pound grizzly bear and take it into town." He gets it. We get it. Why doesn't Bush get it?
And sadly, many civilians will die in this re-taking. Civilians who wouldn't have to die if Bush had, oh, even remotely planned for the aftermath of the Iraq invasion. When his vision of "flowers and candy" didn't come to pass, he and the Theo-Cons were caught with their pants down, because they didn't have another plan.
And now, finally, some GOP members are standing up and giving Bush hell for it. At the Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting yesterday in which State Dept. officials wanted to divert $3.7 B from recosntruction to security, Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) laid into the Administration for their half-assed execution of this war. Some quotes:
Hagel: "[the pace of reconstruction] has been 'beyond pitiful. It's embarrassing. It is now in the zone of dangerous."
Lugar: "Now, the nonsense of all [the predictions] is apparent; the lack of planning is apparent..."
Hagel: "'You don't win the hearts and minds of the people at the end of a barrel of a gun. You do that through the process that we started here in the Congress appropriating $18.4 billion" (Hagel is a Vietnam vet.)
Hagel: (referring to the Admin. people who sold the war back in 2003) "Maybe we ought to have a hearing with the inventors of this, have them come back up, all these smart guys that got us in there and said, 'Don't worry.'"
Lugar: "...the slow pace of reconstruction spending means that we are failing to fully take advantage of one of our most potent tools to influence the direction of Iraq."
Well, two GOP senators get it. Will President Bush finally open his eyes and see what is really happening in Iraq?
Don't hold your breath.
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
At least by any reasonable definition. But to some, this should be standard procedure. And the GOP has passed a measure through the House to allow it.
Allowing pharmacists and health-care professional to opt-out of their duty under the law simply because THEY don't like doing it is abysmal. Already, some pharmacists are refusing to distribute the Pill. Not the morning-after pill. The BIRTH CONTROL pill. So, when these women are having children b/c they wouldn't do their job, will they help monetarily to raise the kids? Of course not.
And what effect will this have in rural areas where women do not have a wide choice of pharmacies? Well, they'll be subject to the whims of a person behind the counter who feels their personal belief trumps the legal rights of a woman to make choices about her health. Wow, sounds just like Iran!
And please don't tell me that this is a bullshit worry. It started because a pharmacist in Texas refused to fill an emergency contraception prescription for a rape victim. A RAPE VICTIM. So this guy felt his beliefs were more important than the psyche and health of a woman who may have been impregnated by a rapist. How very neanderthal of him.
Just another Theo-Con social step towards imposing their vision of what you should and shouldn't be allowed to do as an individual in America. And turning their back on the whole concept of individual freedom and liberty.
Well, with the lights going out on the World Cup of Hockey, the NHL ownership has officially locked out the players. So begins what will be the most acrimonious labor dispute in professional sports history, easily surpassing the NFL's 1987 lockout and the infamous baseball lockout of 1994, which spiked the World Series for the first time in 90 years.
The current estimate is that the entire 2004-2005 NHL season will be wash. That means not one single pre-season, season or post-season game will be played.
Which is too bad. Not for us, but for the game of hockey. Because they have decided to ignore a simple truth: most people don't care about hockey.
Now that is anathema to people like myself (grew up in New England) who are weaned on the sport from the time we can walk. But let's face facts:
- It's not nationally popular: A brutal truth to be sure, but an accurate one. As detailed here, the 2004 Conference Finals were out-drawn in tv viewership by the Indianapolis 500 time trials. Time trials! And it's not even NASCAR!
- Their TV contracts are lousy: The big money for team sports is found in the television contracts they put out for bid. The NFL TV deal brings each team around $80 million dollars per year in national contracts alone. The NHL? A measly $14.9 million per team. Why? No one watches.
- The rules are difficult for a causal viewer to follow:Offsides, icing, red lines, blue lines, sticks above the waist touching the puck. It's not a "newbie" friendly game.
- Hockey venues are limited in revenue generation: Maybe, if a team is lucky, they have 20,000 seats to fill for their 41 home games. Baseball stadiums have b/t 35,000 - 76,000 seats for 81 home games. True, basketball teams have similar demographics and NFL franchises have 60,000+ seat stadiums for only 8 home games. But these two sports have salary caps and other devices to preserve fiscal sanity.
- It's hard to build a fan base:Kids can easily grow up playing baseball, football and basketball. All you need is the ball, a minimal amount of equipment, and an open field (or one of the billion basketball courts found in every city and town). But hockey needs ice. And sticks. And pucks. And pads. And goals. It's an expensive game. If kids can't just play it when they want, it's going to be harder to draw them in and have them grow up with the game.
- Players are delusional over their salaries: This is the big one. Here is the stat you need to know: $2,300,000 - $1,830,126. The first number is the average salary for a baseball player. The second is the average salary of a hockey player. That is a difference of roughly $500,000. Baseball teams play twice as many home games in front of crowds easily twice the size of hockey crowds. There is no way that the average hockey salary should be that close. The vast difference in revenue generation demands it.
And that is the real problem. Yes, baseball salaries are out of control, and one day that will become an issue. But not today. The game schedule and seating provide adequate revenue growth, along with the luxury tax. But hockey? The sport as a whole lost $273 million in 2002-2003. Only six teams turned a profit, averaging a measly $6.4 million. Player salaries consume 75% of total league revenues. You simply cannot function in that manner.
And believe me, I am not letting the owners off the hook here. They have made some ludicrous bids for players (hello, Tom Hicks) that sent wages out of control.
But the players and their agents are equally to fault for that problem. The agents put one team against another to sign their player, who holds out for the most money. And without an artificial barrier to control the process, you end up with the fiscal disaster that is the NHL.
The fact is that this league needs a cap. No one seems to be able to control their lust for money. I am sure players look at the other leagues and wonder why they can't be paid the same. It's simple: your sport simply isn't popular enough to sustain that kind of spending. Deal with it. But we also need a cap to save the owners from themselves. Too often they preach fiscal control while spending hand over fist.
But that isn't enough. With only a cap, the inequity that currently exists would only reverse itself. Owners would pocket the vast majority of revenues and players would get the short end of the stick. Some other mechanism needs to be built in. Be it a "Larry Bird" exemption-type rule or the "franchise player" designation the NFL uses. Maybe a rule that would allow unlimited contracts for players who were originally drafted by the team, while traded players and free-agent signees must fit into the salary-cap structure.
Or maybe the pipe dream. Lower ticket prices so regular fans could attend hockey games once more without emptying their wallets. Sadly, there's a better chance of hockey being played in October than that happening.
But neither side will budge. And so we find ourselves on the verge of a hockey-free season.
The danger is that the owners and player may find out we don't really have a problem with that.
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
Kerry may suck, but Bush takes suck-itude to a new level. Brad at the Brad Blog lays down some knowledge for the masses.
Let's face it. If the two of us can agree that Bush is a disaster, then you know he's doing something wrong.
Okay, it's pretty obvious by now that those stunning "60 Minutes" Bush/Texas ANG documents are fradulent. Incorrect nomenclature. Formatting differences. People who CBS claimed "verified" the docs actually didn't. Matley is saying he couldn't prove them authentic. I mean, their "big gun" on the news was Bill Glennon, an IT consultant. He had to admit that he is not a document expert and couln't vouch for the authenticicty of the memos.
But the big thing was that CBS wouldn't give him copies to look at. He had to review the docs online.
Why is CBS so secretive over these "unimpeachable" documents? My guess: they never did proper due dilligence. They got them from a source and instead of doing the right thing (which would be making sure they were the goods and determining where they originated), they rushed them out into the public. And now they are paying for it.
So who gave CBS these documents? The first people that come to mind is the Kerry campaign. Now, this is pure speculation, but it would make sense. Give them to CBS, let them verify and bust the story open. It would also explain why CBS cannot/will not identify their source, even with all the doubts of the memos authenticity. Which is surprising b/c in the journalism field, it's understood that if a source screws you, you can give that guy up. But if it was the Kerry campaign...ya, I wouldn't want to admit that either.
So what went wrong? My opinion can be summed up in two words: Karl Rove.
I think this is one of the most underhanded-yet-brilliant oppo jobs in recent political history. By "leaking" these memos to the Kerry gang, he sets in motion a chain of events that:
- Keeps the news focused on events of 30 years ago rather than current events, which would kill Bush.
- Discredits Rather and CBS, a man and news organization that have never been kind to the Bush family, even as far back as 1988. Now any negative Bush news coming out of CBS is tainted.
- Throws blowback on Kerry. Even though there is no evidence that his people were involved, there will be voting Americans who automatically associate this mess with Kerry. That's unavoidable.
So Rove pulled off an impressive trifecta, IMO. Shame it's going to benefit such an incompetent boob like Bush. Would it kill the Democrats to find one person who knows what they are doing in politics? And no, Grasso, Carville and Belaga are not the answer.
My two-year-old son, when you ask him "Who is the best choice for America?", now answers "John Kerry!"
Any other year I'd wash his mouth out with soap. But this year, even a toddler knows what's at stake.
It continues to perplex me how George W. Bush has so thoroughly demolished what "conservative" used to mean. The latest example in his "damn-the-deficit", Big-Brother, "Half-ass support of the military" ways comes from a revealing piece in the Washington Post.
It analyzes the costs of W's domestic policies over a 10-year period. First up are the cost of making his tax cuts permanent and partial privatization of Social Security: $3 trillion over a 10-year period.
Now, I should say here I support lower taxes and the privatization of S.S.. And over a 10-year period, with judicious spending cuts and fiscal prudence, these two pieces of domestic legislation would be feasible. And would be a major accomplishment for any president, on a par with Reagan's reworking of the tax codes or Truman's passing of the Marshall Plan.
Unfortunately, this is only the tip of W's fiscal iceberg. There is also the following
- $4 billion a month for Iraq: Let's recap what we are getting for this money: A completely inept handling of the reconstruction of Iraq, blatant interference with combat operations on the ground (proving he is as bad as the Vietnam-era politicians), and a growing insurgency that is resulting in our soliders being attacked over an ever-widening area. Hardly the end of "combat operations".
Oh yes, he also isn't counting this expenditure in his budget. That's responsible...
- $422 billion: That's the federal budget deficit for this year. The highest ever.
- $2.3 trillion: That is the new debt we are expected to accumulate over the next ten years.
- $8 trillion to $12 trillion: That is the estimated real cost of W's prescription drug benefit as more people being to retire and use the benefit.
Not exactly chump change, is it? Nor is it the "small government" that Republicans used to stand for.
Bush refuses, flat-out, to talk about the deficit or how he will pay for any of these programs. To wit, a except from a stump-speech of his:
...[we have] explained how we're going to pay for it, and my opponent can't explain it because he doesn't want to tell you he's going to have to tax you.
Actually, George, Kerry has explained how he'll pay for it. It's called "pay-as-you-go." Basically what every household in America tries to do. What hasn't been explained is how YOU'LL pay for your expenses, George. How about discussing that? Or the deficit? Or the deteriorating situation in Iraq?
How about one comment, one statement, one sentence that shows you actually know what the hell is going on today? It's not 2000 anymore, Bush. Wake the f--- up and take a look at what is going on. The picture isn't pretty.
From Andrewsullivan.com (link at top of left column). Fellow disaffected/former Republicans, sing this one from the rooftops:
Mr president, you have the courage to launch vital wars; you just don't have the competence to win them. Get out of the way before we lose this battle - and make things even worse than before 9/11.