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Between the Lines

December 24, 2003

Blog-free holidays

I’ll be enjoying a few days with my family from Christmas Day through Jan. 4 and won’t be blogging. See you in the new year!

Posted by tbrown at 11:55 AM


Oh, Christmas tree, fake Christmas tree

Some 70 percent of Christmas trees are now artificial, the L.A. Times reports.

Fake-tree buyers cite all sorts of reasons for abandoning the fresh-cut tradition: Real trees are too expensive, too heavy, too messy. They're dangerous. They're wasteful. They make guests sneeze.

“Plus, the pre-lighted, fiber-optic, flame-retardant, hypoallergenic, full-warranty synthetic models now available look so wonderfully … real.”

The real-tree industry is planning a counterattack for next year.

Posted by tbrown at 11:54 AM


The long road to Baghdad

There are some excellent perspective pieces available now on the twisted, thorny path we followed to Baghdad, and the continuing ideological war between the foreign-policy “realists” and administration neoconservatives over the meaning of the so-called war on terror how to pursue it from here.

Thomas Ricks of the Washington Post has profiles of retired Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni, who to his surprise has become one of the chief critics of the administration’s Iraq policies, and of Deputy Secretary of State Paul Wolfowitz, the author of many of those policies.

Zinni is a realist, who advocated containing an already defeated Saddam Hussein and questioned the rationale for war: "What I don't understand is that the bill of goods the neocons sold him has been proven false, yet heads haven't rolled. Where is the accountability? I think some fairly senior people at the Pentagon ought to go."

Wolfowitz is a neoconservative who provided much of the intellectual underpinning for the conflict: "We learned in the last century that democracies cannot live peacefully and undisturbed in a world where evil people control whole nations and seek to expand their bloody rule.We may have forgotten that lesson in the euphoria over the end of the Cold War."

The redoubtable Billmon adds to the mix a lengthy post examining where the neocons came from (they’re ex-Democrats), how they gradually gained credence in the GOP and their prospects as Bush enters the last year of his term. I’d forgotten some of the history he reconstructs here and I lived though all of it.

“Providing ideological world views to the ignorant is how the neocons have made their way in the world. And their new customers are the modern center of gravity of the Republican Party. They're the leaders of The Base -- that mystical block of true believers the Bush II administration feels it cannot afford to offend in any way.

Which suggests to me the neocons won't remain in the twilight for long. The realists are the ones who don't seem to have much of a future in the GOP. Who knows? Maybe in time they'll defect to the Democratic Party, to become the intellectual mentors to a rising generation of moderately hawkish Democrats, in search of a world view.

“After all, it's happened before.”

All in all, some chewy reading for the holidays.

Posted by tbrown at 11:53 AM


When cows go mad

As the world knows by now, a cow from a dairy farm near Yakima, slaughtered earlier this month, appears to have had mad cow disease. The Seattle Times coverage is here.

Earlier this year, after a similar discovery in Alberta, the Seattle alternative newspaper The Stranger ran this piece, which explores in considerable depth some of the less pleasant aspects of the relationship between industrial meat production and mad cow disease.

I’m breaking out my bumper sticker that says: “Eat possum, the other white meat.”

Posted by tbrown at 11:49 AM


December 23, 2003

Mad cow disease: it's here now

The U.S. now has its first official case of mad cow disease. The sick animal, slaughtered this month, was from a farm in Mabton, Wash., not far from Yakima.

Some meat from the animal was shipped to two packing plants in the state. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman claims, nonetheless, that she has complete confidence in the safety of the U.S. food supply.

Mad cow disease, also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, eats holes in the brains of sick cows -- and in the brains of humans who consume meat from diseased animals. There is no treatment for beast or man and death is inevitable.

The USDA has been testing suspect animals since 1990, after an epidemic of mad cow killed more than 150 people in Britain and continental Europe. Veneman said 20,526 animals were tested this year.

Posted by tbrown at 04:30 PM


Looks like Howard Dean was right after all

The Democratic presidential hopeful took grief from every Republican hack and brain-dead editorial writer (I hate to be redundant here) from D.C. to the California shore for saying that the capture of Saddam Hussein did nothing to make us safer. Well, Dean was right. Saddam’s apprehension was, obviously, a good thing. He’s one of modern history’s worst thugs and he should be tried by the Iraqis for his depredations against his fellow citizens. Maybe we’ll even let that happen.

But let’s be clear: Saddam’s apprehension did nothing to make us any safer. Saddam already had been on the run for months and had been, apparently, splitting time between a hut and a hole in the ground. If he ever had been a threat to the U.S., he certainly wasn’t when he was captured.

Meanwhile, back here on the home front, the Department of Homeland Security has upped the security-alert level to Orange and government officials are considering extending the alert into next year. Why? Officials are quite concerned that Al-Qaida operatives will hijack more planes or use other means to, as White House spokesman Scott McClellan put it, launch attacks that could “rival or exceed the scope and impact of those we experienced on Sept. 11.”

“While officials would not discuss specific information that led the administration to raise the threat level, they said not only that it was considered credible but also that the volume of it picked up by both electronic intercepts and human intelligence had increased significantly in recent days and weeks. The source of that intelligence is largely overseas, officials said.”

Have a vigilant holiday – and remember, the talking heads say we’re safer now.

Posted by tbrown at 11:36 AM


And by the way – where is Osama?

Capturing him might actually contribute something to making us safer. It was, after all at his bidding – not that of Saddam – that those 19 terrorists crashed airliners into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and that muddy field in Pennsylvania. And it was him against whom the “war on terror” was launched. Remember?

Here’s a thumb-sucker from Newsweek that reports Osama is still alive (though some say his health may be failing) and still dodging U.S. pursuers (we now have about 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, the original front in the terror war, compared with about 130,000 in Iraq). He’s also vowing to take the offensive by bringing more terror attacks against the U.S. and its allies in Iraq, Turkey and elsewhere in the Middle East.

And, perhaps, in the U.S. itself, if our Department of Homeland Security is right.

Here’s a question Democratic candidates might try on audiences, though I seriously doubt any of them, with the possible exceptions of Dean and Wesley Clark have the moxie to pull it off: “Do you feel safer now than you did two years ago?”

Posted by tbrown at 11:33 AM


The official memory hole grows …

The Bush administration, which since day one has established itself as one of the most secretive in the nation’s history, is seizing every opportunity to conceal as much government information as possible, even stuff that under no circumstances could be considered important to national security.

“Steven Aftergood, who directs the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy, says it is nothing less than a ‘mutation in American politics’ away from open government. ‘There is an unwholesome change in the deliberative process unfolding before our eyes,’ he said. ‘These are not technicalities. These are fundamental issues of American government that are now up for grabs.’ "

Read it all here.

Posted by tbrown at 11:30 AM


… and so does the unofficial one

Meanwhile, our good friend the FCC, which has never seen a proposal for media monopoly that it doesn’t enthusiastically welcome, has approved the $6.6 billion merger of Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. with DirecTV, swelling his elephantine viewership by another 11 million. This is particularly troubling from the standpoint of political speech, as News Corp. owns “fair and balanced” Fox News, which is little more than an ill-mannered extension of the White House flack staff. Murdoch’s “news” operations can be reliably depended upon to hastily dispose of any news inimical to the interests of the Bush administration

Ah, yes. It’s Rupert’s world. We just have to watch it.

Posted by tbrown at 11:28 AM


Rush actually is just a linguini-spined wimp

The radio bully, it turns out, allegedly was blackmailed by his maid. Rush “I Take Full Responsibility for My Actions” Limbaugh -- blackmailed! Any Real American would have booted the maid and taken his chances with Truth, Justice and the American Way. Not Rush. He paid some $4 million in hush money, according to his shark (who no doubt will extract at least that much before this is over).

Now the lawyer, Roy Black, is talking to Palm Beach County officials about a plea bargain. Yes – a plea bargain for Rush “I Am Not a Hypocrite” Limbaugh.

Tsk, tsk. How sad. And how very predictable.

Update: When a blowhard the, uh, size of Limbaugh blows a gasket, it isn't pretty. His "statement" today, regarding a Florida judge's order that he open his medical records to prosecutors, is an all timer. Right up there with his Best OxyContin Moments.

Posted by tbrown at 11:26 AM


December 22, 2003

We never negotiate with evil … well, hardly ever

Except when it seems to serve our interests, as it does now in the case of Libya. That North African country, and its erratic tyrant, Col. Moammar Gadhafi, has been on our list of evil-doers for a long while now. You might remember that Libyan agents bombed a disco frequented by U.S. servicemen in Berlin and – Gadhafi's crowning terrorist act – blew up Pan-Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

The news that Gadhafi is willing to end his efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction is certainly a Good Thing. It is not, however, exclusively a vindication of President Bush’s policy of pre-emptive warfare, as Gadhafi has been trying to work his way back into at least minimal good graces with the West for some time now (turning over the Lockerby bombers for trial and agreeing to indemnify the families of Flight 103, for example). Years of UN sanctions played a large role in pushing him toward his new accommodative stance.Juan Cole, a Middle East scholar, has a good wrap up.

Posted by tbrown at 12:38 PM


At least Cheney doesn’t negotiate with evil

While his boss and British PM Tony Blair were wrapping up the agreement with Gadhafi, Vice Presidnet Dick Cheney was doing his best to scuttle any resumption of negotiations with North Korea over disposition of its nuclear weapons program.

"I have been charged by the President with making sure that none of the tyrannies in the world are negotiated with,” Cheney reportedly huffed at a meeting to consider a draft plan for an approach to the North. “We don't negotiate with evil; we defeat it."

Yeah, woof.

Bush subsequently telephoned Chinese President Hu Jintao over the weekend. What they said was undisclosed. But we can hope that Bush tried to patch up any Cheney-caused damage with China, which has been working hard to find a formula for getting North Korea, the U.S., Japan, China, Russia and South Korea back into six-way talks on the Korean standoff.

The Chinese news agency Xinhua quoted Hu as saying that China "will continue maintaining close contact with the relevant parties to facilitate the holding of the second Beijing six-party talks at an early date and enable the talks to yield positive results."

Good. Now maybe Bush could consider muzzling the veep and his fellow neoconservatives. Please.

Posted by tbrown at 12:36 PM


The Angry Right

We hear endlessly about the Angry Left and how wrong it is of them to be miffed about the quality of our national so-called leadership. Thanks to Matt Yglesias for keeping track of the histrionics of my favorite right-wing fruitcake, Tom Delay, the Texas Exterminator.

Posted by tbrown at 12:34 PM


Pakistan the proliferator

Pakistan has long been suspected of having helped the nuclear programs of Iran, North Korea and perhaps other rogue states. Now the issue is on the front burner following stories in The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Posted by tbrown at 12:33 PM


December 19, 2003

The search for Scott Speicher

At the beginning of the war, I briefly recounted the complicated and unresolved story of Lt. Cmdr. Scott Speicher, a Navy pilot. His F/A-18 Hornet was shot down on the first night of the Gulf War, Jan. 17., 1991. He was, and is, the only American officially unaccounted for in that conflict.

Because of continuing reports that indicated Speicher might be alive and held captive, Speicher’s status was changed twice by the Pentagon, from killed in action to missing in action in 2001 and from MIA to prisoner of war in 2002. The Pentagon said at the war’s outset that attempting to find Speicher, or his remains, would be a priority.

It looks like the government has stuck to its word. In his initial interrogation sessions, Saddam Hussein denied any knowledge of Speicher’s fate. This, and many other questions, no doubt will be revisited in the weeks and months ahead.

The only U.S. soldier unaccounted for in the current Iraq conflict is Spc. Todd M. Bates of Bellaire, Ohio. He was on a patrol on the Tigris River south of Baghdad, on December 10 when his squad leader fell overboard. Bates dived into the water and did not surface.

Posted by tbrown at 12:00 PM


Jerk

Ralph Nader is still thinking about “running” for president again. Looks like he’ll announce next month.

His “exploratory committee” also has an online poll on whether you want him to run or not (link via Joshua Marshall).

Update: I just noticed this at DailyKOS, which says Nader may not run if Dean is the Democratic candidate. He's still a jerk ("Wah! I want my Dean!")

Posted by tbrown at 11:57 AM


Why do mainstream Dems hate Dean so?

Eleanor Clift at Newsweek has a few suggestions, chief among which is that they fear him as a “militant secularist” who’ll undermine the Democrats’ power base (such as it is).

This is, unfortunately for Dean and the Dems, a real issue, and one that we’ll be addressing after the holidays.

Posted by tbrown at 11:55 AM


December 17, 2003

Listening to the Iraqis

The war in Iraq – or more specifically the way the Bush administration maneuvered us into it – has become so highly politicized that it’s easy for Americans to lose sight of what the capture of Saddam Hussein means to Iraqis. So today we’re going to take a break from talking heads and hear directly from some Iraqi bloggers. What they have to say is at one level quite predictable – most of them are overjoyed to see the hated tyrant dethroned. But some of them also address deeper, more ambiguous, and more interesting questions. They’re happy, yes – but also sometimes confused and sometimes sad. The sudden lifting of a lifetime burden of fear and anxiety can be disorienting in ways that most Americans can only imagine.

‘Why did he have to destroy Iraq? What did he gain from all this?’

Here’s Zeyad at Healing Iraq:

“I still haven't been able to get rid of this deep sadness that has overcome me the last two days. People have been emailing asking me to explain. I wish I could, but I simply can't.

“After going through the comments today I had some more thoughts. If you had lived all your life ruled by a tough dictator elevated to the level of a god and then suddenly without warning watched that dictator displayed to the public on TV as a 'man', you probably would have related with my position.

“The images were shocking. I couldn't make myself believe this was the same Saddam that slaughtered hundreds of thousands and plundered my country's wealth for decades. The humiliation I experienced was not out of nationalistic pride or Islamic notions of superiority or anything like that as some readers suggested. It was out of a feeling of impotence and helplessness. This was just one old disturbed man yet the whole country couldn't dispose of him. We needed a superpower from the other side of the ocean to come here and 'get him' for us. I was really confused that day I went out and almost got myself killed by those Fedayeen and angry teenagers in the Adhamiya district [of Baghdad, where some residents still support Saddam].

“Rachel and Ali explained the Stockholm Syndrome in the comments section. I haven't heard about it before, but it did help me understand my contradicting feelings. I didn't want to see him humiliated as much as I loathed him. And that is why I was dissapointed with myself. I want to see him sit in an Iraqi court and explain himself to Iraqis. I want to hear him apologize to Iraqis. It won't help the dead, but I want to hear it anyway. He must be handed over to Iraqis. I don't care about legitimacy. He must be tried publicly in an Iraqi civil court by Iraqi judges. The rest of the Arab dictators should see it and learn from it.

“And I'm still wondering why? Why did he have to put himself into this? Why did he have to destroy Iraq? What did he gain from all of this?”

Chaos in the streets ...

The power was off in some areas of Baghdad when the news of Saddam’s capture broke. Riverbend captures the chaotic moment and the danger that still hovers in some Baghdad neighborhoods:

“Things are very frightening these days in Baghdad. Going from one area to another is like going from one city to another -- the feelings and emotions vary so drastically it feels like only a matter of time before we may see clashes ... "

Alaa at The Mesopotamian clarifies what the clashes may be about, if they come: the anti-Saddam majority acting to suppress the pro-Saddam minority:

“It is wrong that the 90% percent good Iraqis feel insecure and afraid to go out in the street. It should be the other way round. It is they that should be afraid to show their ugly faces.”

Chaotic emotions ...

Ays at Iraq the Model:

“I don’t know what to say… I am confused.. no … I am very happy.. I am very happy.. .. I am very happy.. .. I am very happy.. .. I am very happy.. .. I am very happy.. .. I am very happy..

“This is the end of tyranny.. congratulations .. a great day.. for Iraqi and all the good people.. share us our great day.. I can’t express my feelings.. thanks to the coalition forces and all the honest people who helped in that great operation ….thank you thank you thousand times.”

Finally, Hammorabi has a workmanlike roundup of how the news was received in different areas of the country.

Posted by tbrown at 12:57 PM


Do you have to be an idiot to be a Democratic presidential candidate?

No, but it certainly seems to help. I meant to post earlier this week on their generally feckless, whiny reactions to Saddam’s capture but didn’t get to it. So let’s do it now. Here they are, as compiled by The New York Times (free site registration required).

The only ones who sound like they might be worth voting for are Clark and Dean. What’s the matter with the rest of these people? Can’t they at least make a graceful bow to the capture of one of recent history’s most brutal thugs?

Posted by tbrown at 12:52 PM


Why do some of us think this administration has a wee credibility gap?

If anyone needed another reason, here it is. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, says he and about 75 other senators were told in a classified briefing in October 2002 that Iraq not only had weapons of mass destruction but drones capable of delivering them to the eastern seaboard of the U.S.

Here’s a photo of one of those dreaded drones of mass destruction. Just makes you tremble in your boots, doesn’t it? Especially since it was designed for reconnaisance.

And Bushies wonder why the unbrainwashed think they maybe fibbed just a little about their reasons for going to war.

Posted by tbrown at 12:51 PM


Halliburton watch

Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney's former employer, is charging $28 per day to feed each U.S. soldier in Iraq. Here’s what Pentagon inspectors had to say about some of the kitchens, including the one that hosted President Bush’s ballyhooed Thanksgiving visit:

The Pentagon reported finding ‘blood all over the floor, ‘dirty pans,’ ‘dirty grills,’ ‘dirty salad bars’ and ‘rotting meats ... and vegetables’ in four of the military messes the company operates in Iraq … “

NBC’s video report is available here.

Hey, let ‘em eat MREs.

Posted by tbrown at 12:49 PM


December 16, 2003

Poor Arnold. Such a short honeymoon

Looks like California Republicans are beginning to figure out that Governor Gropenator may not be a good-government genius after all. Especially the genius part. The Democrat-controlled Legislature appears to have taken Schwarzenegger to the cleaners on the plan restore California’s finances to something resembling sanity. Sacramento Bee blogger Dan Weintraub explains that part here.

What’s really frying the GOP’s bacon, though, is that Schwarzenegger cut this deal without including them. This has one writer for the National Review Online, comparing Ahnuld with – of course! – Bill Clinton.

“By virtue of Schwarzenegger's celebrity and leadership of our most-populous state, his actions matter a great deal to the Republican party and therefore conservatives nationally,” huffs Andrew Peyton Thomas, a Phoneix laywer who wrote a biography of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. “The principles at stake are momentous. Should runaway government spending be permanently curbed, or should we just write up a bill for the next generation of taxpayers and continue with business as usual? Should the voters care about such issues as character and the rule of law, or only when Democratic politicians are the gropers? Are there core principles that unite Republicans beyond the common desire to win elections? Such questions will be answered, one way or another, by the GOP's collective reaction to these events in the Golden State.”

Well, Schwarzenegger warned everyone that his administration wouldn’t be poltiics as usual. And dredging up the governor’s personal morality, or lack of it, at this late date is just laughable. I think there’s an old saying about pigs and mud that applies here.

And if all else fails, there’s always r-e-c-a-l-l.

Posted by tbrown at 12:26 PM


After Saddam, what?

If I knew I’d be happy to share. But it really does seem unlikely that his capture is going to change realities on the ground much in the short run. Attacks on U.S. troops and Iraqis who are working with coalition forces continue unabated.

And Newsweek has a thin, but unsettling piece that says Osama bin Laden is cutting his support for the Taliban in Afghanistan in order to shift more money and terrorists into Iraq.

Posted by tbrown at 12:20 PM


Dick Cheney says he’s still above the law

And the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to listen to his argument. At issue is whether the veep has to disclose which Big Energy insiders he met with, and how often, in developing the administration’s energy policy. "To allow further discovery into the advice provided by the president's closest advisers would upset the ability of the president and vice president to effectively develop strong national policy," Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo lamely contends. The Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision by June.

Posted by tbrown at 12:18 PM


December 15, 2003

Not with a bang, but a whimper

Have we actually cut the head of the snake or is he just an idiot hiding in a hole?
-- A U.S. intelligence official

Saddam Hussein looked more like a bum who’d been sleeping under a Tigris River bridge for the last six months than the psychopathic strongman whose depredations reduced the dreams of a once-proud nation to dust. But his capture closes one chapter of the war with Iraq. It’s too early to know the event’s real meaning. But it certainly is a moment to savor. And just about everywhere you turn, someone is doing some savoring. Here’s a roundup:

John Burns of the New York Times has the big picture:

"BAGHDAD, Iraq, Dec. 14 — As Iraqis struggled to grasp the impact of Saddam Hussein's humiliating capture in a darkened spider hole near Tikrit, it was the television images of the fallen leader that kept replaying in their minds throughout the day on Sunday, just like the images played on their television screens.

"The videotape taken by his American captors showed a disheveled old man, more like a hapless, disoriented vagrant than the tyrant whose quarter of a century in power bludgeoned 25 million people into cringing submission. A mythic strongman, so feared that his name set people trembling until only a few months ago, was suddenly reduced to piti able, mumbling impotence.

"On the streets of Baghdad, and across Iraq, people who danced out of their homes with paper American flags and raised their rifles for staccato bursts into the clear winter air paused to tell one another again and again what they had seen. They acted as if ceaseless repetition would make real what many called a dream, as if testing their sanity by checking that others had also experienced what they had seen.

"Long into the night, the images replayed on televisions at kebab houses and grocery stores, in homes and hospitals. They showed the captured dictator opening his mouth obediently to an American doctor's beam, sitting passively as his unkempt hair was searched for lice, patting his face as if to identify an aching jaw or troublesome teeth, pulling on his straggly beard as if pondering his fate.

"As the mocking shouts grew louder in a thousand Baghdad streets, and across almost all Iraqi towns outside the sullen precincts like Tikrit that are still loyal to Mr. Hussein, it was possible to believe that Iraq's nightmare had finally ended."

Saddam: disoriented and foul-mouthed:

Four members of the U.S.-installed Iraqi Governing Council visited Saddam’s cell to verify that the man there was, indeed, the dictator.

"The world is crazy," said Mowaffak al-Rubaie, a Governing Council member in the room on Sunday after Mr. Hussein was captured near his hometown, Tikrit. "I was in his torture chamber in 1979, and now he was sitting there, powerless in front of me without anybody stopping me from doing anything to him. Just imagine. We were arguing, and he was using very foul language."

Saddam’s arrest leads to others

When Saddam was arrested, U.S. soldiers also seized a briefcase containing information on some fromer members of his regime, who may have been involved in anti-coalition bombings. Some of them have been arrested.

‘ … a tramp getting a physical’

Baghdad blogger Salam Pax says Saddam “ … looked like a tramp getting a physical and for some reason you expected him to bite that soldier's finger a la Hanibal Lecter. But he just sat there.”

But for decades, he was a horrific despot

Juan Cole reminds us of the monster Saddam is:

“… I remembered the innocent Jews brutally hung in downtown Baghdad when the Baath came to power in 1968; the fencing with the Shah and the Kurds in the early 1970s; the vicious repression of the Shiites of East Baghdad, Najaf and Karbala in 1977-1980; the internal Baath putsch of 1979, when perhaps a third of the party's high officials were taken out and shot, so that Saddam could become president; the bloody invasion of Iran in 1980 and the destruction of a whole generation of Iraqi and Iranian young men in the 1980s (at least 500,000 dead, perhaps even more); the Anfal poison gas campaign against the Kurds in 1987-88; Halabja, a city of 70,000 where 5,000 died where they stood, their blood boiling with toxic gases, little children lying in heaps in the street; the rape of Kuwait in 1990-91; the genocide against the Shiites that began in spring of 1991 and continued intermittently thereafter; the destruction of the Marsh Arabs; the assassinations, the black marias, the Fedayee Saddam.”

The impact on U.S. politics

It’s also too soon to know the impact of Saddam’s capture on U.S. politics – but that certainly hasn’t hindered the assertion and speculation.

At the National Review Online, Mac Owen says this is bad news for the “pro-Saddam wing of the Democratic party” – whoever that is. Owens really ought to stick to military affairs, which he knows something about.

Also at NRO, James Robbins thinks that though Saddam did not go down shooting when U.S. soldiers uncovered his rat hole, he will at this trial:

He thinks he has a chance to come out of this alive. Slim, certainly, but he is a fighter, he will give it his best shot. The trial is just another arena for him, another chance granted by providence to work his will upon events, another opportunity, perhaps his last, to bend the world to his intractable ego.”

Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard says Saddam’s capture is great news for Bush and bad news for Howard Dean. “No one is boosted more than President Bush, the beneficiary of so much good news this fall (surging economy, 10,000 Dow, Medicare drug benefit). For him, only one more thing has to fall into place to assure re-election. That's a sharp turn for the better in the twilight war against the Baathist diehards and their motley allies in the Sunni triangle of Iraq.”

Could Saddam have been a prisoner?

Of course, no event of this magnitude would be complete without conspiracy theories. The Israeli site, DEBKAfile, known for trial balloons and disinformation from Israeli security -- and sometimes for breaking big stories -- posits the interesting theory that Saddam has, in fact, been a prisoner for some time.

In this connection, it’s worth remembering that a couple of weeks ago, a Louisiana congressman, who’s a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told a local newspaper that Saddam’s capture was imminent.

Asked if he knew something the rest of us didn’t, Rep. Ray LaHood said, “Yes.”

Posted by tbrown at 11:54 AM


December 12, 2003

It’s still the economy, stupid

Bad news for U.S. workers this week: Initial claims for unemployment were up 13,000 over the previous week to 378,000. This was the second consecutive weekly increase after a month of encouraging weekly declines.

More bad news for U.S. workers: The Republican congressional leadership has refused to extend unemployment benefits for 2 million workers who have been jobless for six months or longer. So they’re off the rolls as of yearend. Merry Christmas, folks! Happy New Year!

Bad news for the Bush administration: Consumer sentiment slumped to 89.6, down from 93.7 in November and far short of the expected level of 96.

Finally, more bad news for both U.S. workers and the Bushies: The Federal Reserve expects tortoise-like job growth as far out as the eye can see.

Note: The Dow Jones Industrial Average pushed through 10,000 this week for the first time in a year and a half and closed today at 10,042. So, does Mr. Market know something about the future that the rest of us don't? Maybe. But this is a seasonally favorable period for stocks (a.ka. "Santa Claus rally" time). And we can expect the big institutions to do whatever they can to keep the Dow above the psychologically significant 10,000 level through yearend.

Posted by tbrown at 12:09 PM


None dare call it influence peddling

I wonder who this guy’s role model was.

Couldn’t have been his elder brother, could it?

But, then, Neil knows this guy, too.

A tip of the hat to the Center for American Progress for dogging these. If you want some insight into the behind-the-scenes activities of this administration, pay a visit.

Posted by tbrown at 12:06 PM


December 11, 2003

Democracy: It’s messy, it's not simple and we need to support it

President Bush has painted himself into a tight little ideological corner. He supports democracy for Iraq, which is unlikely to have one for years, if ever. But he delivers a brutal slapdown to Taiwan, which has a thriving, obstreperous, young democracy, and sides with Communist heirs of Mao Tse-tung and Deng Xiaoping in China. What’s up with this?

Partly, it’s blundering by both Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian and Bush. There are few international relationships more nuanced than the one among Washington, Beijing and Taiwan, where Chiang Kai-shek and his Kuomintang party set up shop after being ousted from the Chinese mainland by Mao in 1949.

Beijing maintains that Taiwan is a renegate province, though it was never ruled by the Communist government and was a Japanese colony from 1895-1945. The U.S. signed onto this "one China" policy in conjunction with Richard Nixon’s breakthrough trip to China in 1972 and since then the three capitals have attempted the diplomatic equivalent of a threesome trying a Viennese waltz. The tempo has increased in recent years as the Taiwanese have asserted their de facto independence and have vigorously debated actually declaring it, which China says would mean war. When one party misses a step in this dance the results aren’t pretty and when two do there are slippers and rears all over the floor.

Which is where we are today.

Chen, who’s up for re-election in March, is embroiled in both factional infighting and a possible sex scandal (as with many things in Taiwan, it’s hard to tell if this is just another soap opera or something more substantial). Over on the mainland, Chen wouldn’t have this problem since he'd be the only guy on the ballot. But he’s not. So he’s doing what any good politician would, playing to his political base by proposing a referendum that would call on China to remove the estimated 500 missiles it has aimed across the 100-mile-wide Taiwan Strait at the island and to renounce the use of force. But pushing this idea too brusquely was where Chen slipped.

China, unsurprisingly, is alarmed by the prospect of Taiwan’s first island-wide referendum because a referendum undoubtedly would be used for any formal Taiwanese declaration of independence. Further, though they’d never admit it publicly, Taiwan scares the hell out of the Beijing strongmen because its peaceful transition from Chiang Kai-shek’s police state to a functioning democracy exposes the bankruptcy of rhetoric like this, from Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao: " ... China is such a huge country. It has a big population. It is very underdeveloped. So conditions are not ripe for direct elections at the higher levels." (The Chinese are, significantly, opening the political process at the neighborhood level.)

Thus, faced with the gnat-like threat of a popular vote in Taiwan (population 23 million, compared with China’s 1.2 billion) Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao warned in an interview last month that, "We will not sit by and do nothing when faced with provocative activities," and one of China’s top generals predicted an "abyss of war" if the referendum is held.

Faced with this totalitarian hogwash – only in this bizarre relationship could a simple expression of public sentiment be considered a cause for war -- Bush's keister thumped down resoundingly on the side of the dictators. "We oppose any unilateral decision by either China or Taiwan to change the status quo," Bush said. "And the comments and actions made by the leader of Taiwan indicate that he may be willing to make decisions unilaterally to change the status quo, which we oppose."

Why’d he do it? Because he really needs China’s help – in reducing the enormous U.S. trade deficit with China, in helping to corral the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and for assistance in the "war on terrorism" (China has its own Muslim unrest within and along its borders).

Bush’s dichotomous behavior outraged the neoconservative wing of the Republican party and its private-sector mouthpieces, who worked so assiduously to push us into the mess in Iraq (they’re accusing Bush of appeasement!). And, though it makes me nervous indeed to agree with people like Dick Cheney, Richard Perle and William Kristol, it doesn’t play well with me, either. It’s not so much what Bush said – though it was harsh – as the way he chose to say it, with Wen contentedly at his elbow after having been greeted by a 19-gun salute on the White House lawn. Symbolism is important everywhere, and especially in Asia.

We now face the possibility that the Chinese will, at some point, overplay their hand. In addition, we have to face the reality that we will be viewed as hypocrites of the worst kind – something Bush might want to consider the next time he’s tempted to recycle his messianic proclamations about how we’re going to democratize the entire Middle East. Eventually, Bush, too, will discover that international relations never have been simple and aren’t now. That is one thing the attacks of September 11 did not change.

But why does he have to be such a slow learner?

Posted by tbrown at 02:49 PM


December 10, 2003

Dealing with allies the neocon way

The trouble with allies is that you have to have relationships with them. And relationships are difficult to sustain when your position is that “you’re with us or against us.” But that’s our guiding policy these days. We’re right. You’re wrong. Shut up.

Hence, the pronouncement by Paul Wolfowitz, the Defense Department’s policy genius, that bars countries that didn’t support our march to Baghdad from bidding on $18 billion worth of postwar contracts. Among the banned: France, Germany, Russia and Canada. It had long been hinted that this would happen, so we can’t call it surprising. But we can call it stupid. These are the same countries we keep asking to chip in money or troops to help rebuild Iraq. So whatever our impulses to get even with folks who didn’t back us, this is incompetently counterproductive.

Now let’s consider how we treat allies who did support us in Iraq. Japan, for example, which has decided to send a couple of thousand noncombatants despite enormous domestic opposition.

Last Sunday, Dec. 7, a date which will live in infamy, President Bush for the first time in history issued a presidential proclamation commemorating the Pearl Harbor attack without saying who did it. I’m no Japan basher. Besides, the country that produced Ichiro can be forgiven a lot (yes, I’m being flip here). But isn’t it just a wee bit depressing that we’ll retell history for the sake of a few warm, foreign bodies?

I wonder what we’d do if France and Germany did decide to contribute money and troops. Would Bush congratulate the French on their valiant defense of the homeland in War 2? Would he visit a German cemetery containing the graves of Waffen SS troops as one former president did?

Somewhere between the ridiculous extremes of totally cutting off our European allies and rewriting history to soothe Toyko there's room for a policy. Will we ever find it?

Stay tuned.

Posted by tbrown at 01:30 PM


Speaking of contracts: Is Halliburton profiteering in Iraq?

The company – which, by the way, still pays its former CEO, Vice President Dick Cheney, more than $100,000 a year -- is charging U.S. taxpayers $2.64 a gallon to buy gasoline in Kuwait and truck it into Iraq for distribution. That’s more than twice what other distributors get. Halliburton whines that it’s expensive and dangerous to operate in Iraq. No doubt.

However, Phil Verleger, a California oil economist and president of a consulting firm, says: "I have never seen anything like this in my life. That's a monopoly premium — that's the only term to describe it. Every logistical firm or oil subsidiary in the United States and Europe would salivate to have that sort of contract." I guess it just pays to be a FOB (Friend of Bush).

The New York Times has the documents and the story (free registration required).

Posted by tbrown at 01:26 PM


There’s good reading today

-- Joshua Marshall on how the race for the Democratic presidential nomination may play out following Al Gore’s endorsement of Howard Dean.

It's likely, Marshall argues, that we’re probably looking at a two-man race: Dean vs. Wesley Clark. Some of the others are not toast yet. “But they're in the toaster. Snuggly.”

-- R.W. Apple on problems that Dean may face now that the insurgent outsider is the de facto front runner.

-- Billmon on how the sorry state of our domestic political discourse coupled with the forgotten lessons of Vietnam is opening the door to a possible victory by Islamic fanatics:

“Something at the core of the American spirit has been corrupted -- by wealth and power and the steady commercialization of just about everything. And we're a nation divided, more so than at any time since the Civil War, split into mutually hostile camps, secular and religious, liberal and conservative, casually cosmopolitan and reflexively, if not rabidly, nationalist. So the war on terrorism has become just another skirmish in the war between the cultures. And the causes and consequences of failures -- like 9/11 -- get swept under the rug by the party in power, while the party out of power is either silenced by its own ineffectuality, or simply tries to score points of its own in the endless PR game."

Sad – but we see it daily.

-- Seymour Hersh on how we’re adopting the failed Israeli policy of assassinating opposition leaders – with secret help from the Israelis.

“The only way we can win is to go unconventional," Hersh quotes one adviser to coalition forces as saying. "http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?031215fa_factWe’re going to have to play their game. Guerrilla versus guerrilla. Terrorism versus terrorism. We’ve got to scare the Iraqis into submission.”

War crimes soon. Wonderful.

Posted by tbrown at 01:24 PM


How Ozzy Osbourne is different from Rush Limbaugh

Now for some important news. The prescription drug problems of rocker and TV star Ozzy Osbourne and radio talking head Rush Limbaugh have been much reported. Until now, though, no one has bothered to point out the differences. So here are some ways Ozzy and Rush are not alike:

-- Ozzy is not under investigation for felony drug offenses.

-- Ozzy is not whining that his problems are “politically inspired.”

-- Ozzy didn’t buy drugs illegally from his maid. (1)

-- Ozzy didn’t launder money. (1)

-- Ozzy had one doctor prescribing too many pills; Rush had several. (1)

-- Ozzy didn’t describe Jerry Garcia as “just one more dead doper.”

-- Ozzy never claimed he wasn’t a hypocrite.

-- Ozzy realized he had a drug problem.

-- Ozzy knows (or at least knew) the words to “Paranoid.” (2)

-- Ozzy may be big, fat and an idiot, but no one's ever called him that in a book title. (3)

-- Rush never snorted a line of red ants. (4)

-- Rush never bit off the head of a bat. At least as far as I know. (5)

Which one has better hair? Ozzy? Or Rush? You decide.

Have other comparisons? E-mail me at tbrown@seattltimes.com

(1) Attention dittoheads: Yes, I know these are allegations, not proved facts, as they relate to Rush.

(2) Hat tip to blogger Tom Bogg for this one.

(3) Hat tip to seattletimes.com colleague Mark Deichmiller.

(4) Hat tip to seattletimes.com colleague James Blethen.

(5) Hat tip to seattletimes.com colleague Joy Jernigan.

Posted by tbrown at 01:19 PM


December 09, 2003

Why Dean, why now?

The instant conventional wisdom flooding newspaper columns and the Internet says Al Gore’s support for Howard Dean has decided the Democratic presidential nomination before a single caucus or primary. Maybe – though Dean was well on his way to winning it anyway.

So, the questions. Why did Gore do it and why now?

First, Dean is beginning to break out in the polls nationally, but his lead is not yet insurmountable. By supporting him now, Gore might give Dean the edge he needs to win the Iowa caucuses (where he, and Rep. Dick Gephardt seem to be closely matched). Dean, a former governor of Vermont, is the clear favorite in another key early contest, the primary in neighboring New Hampshire, and victories in both of these venues could give him the momentum he needs to win it all. Gore could emerge looking like a king-maker.

Second, Dean seems to have worked hard for the last 15 months to win Gore’s endorsement, consulting with him regularly and seeking his advice on policy issues. Since Gore has ruled himself out this time around, he probably views Dean as the candidate closest to his own views, at least on Iraq. (Gore, let’s remember, warned last year, well before the start of hostilities, that invading Iraq would be a bad idea because it would distract the U.S. from the real war on terrorism against Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida).

Third, Gore no doubt is thinking about the 2008 nomination. If things go badly for Bush in a second term – and the president certainly has laid the groundwork for some monumental problems – then Gore will have cemented his position as the liberal who told us so. In contrast, Hillary Clinton, who is universally assumed to be seeking the ’08 nomination, will have the baggage associated with her current centrist position, which won’t look much different than Bush’s to the Democratic faithful.

Finally, Gore no doubt is hoping that a strong Dean campaign – even if it falls short of winning the White House – will give the former veep a stronger hand in the Democratic party’s future. He did, after all, announce his endorsement in Harlem. (Let’s see – which former president has his office there?)

Backing Dean may seem like a high-risk strategy for Gore. Dean is routinely dissed by detractors within his own party as being unelectable for any of several reasons (temper, arrogance, too liberal, you name it), and he could turn out to be the 21st Century McGovern that many mainstream Democrats fear. But any Democratic strategy is going to be high-risk this time around, and in reality Gore has little to lose. He can either play the cards he holds or fold into obscurity as that presidential footnote: The guy who beat Bush in the popular vote but never made it to the White House.

Seems to me he made the right choice.

Here are some links:

-- The Washington Post's coverage of the Gore endorsement

-- Post media reporter Howard Kurtz's roundup of Gore coverage

Posted by tbrown at 02:55 PM


December 08, 2003

The Boeing blowup: Condit was forced out, Business Week says

Business Week magazine says that, contrary to the public story line, Phil Condit did not quit willingly as Boeing CEO. Rather, he was forced out by a board that itself was finally forced to recognize his incompetence and do something about it.

Further – who woulda thunk it? – Business Week says that besides being out of his depth as CEO, Condit also was too much of a party animal, developing “a reputation as a womanizer, often with Boeing employees, and an appetite for the high life.”

At Slate, Douglas Gantenbein has another take on how “Boeing's stature as the world's leading manufacturer of commercial airliners—the Boeing 747 stands with Coca-Cola and the Golden Arches as the best-known American products around the globe—has collapsed in a mere half-decade.’

His answer: greed and hubris.

Posted by tbrown at 12:18 PM


December 05, 2003

Bribery on the House floor?

May have happened. As I noted here, Rep. Nick Smith of Minnesota claims business interests told him they’d donate $100,000 to the campaign of Smith’s son, who wants to succeed him in Congress, if he’d vote for the administration’s Medicare “reform.” Smith wouldn’t. So these same wonderful people told him his son was “dead meat.”

Sounds like bribery, doesn’t it?

Timothy Noah at Slate thought so, and urged Smith to name the miscreats: “So, Congressman. Enough with the guessing games. Who tried to bribe you?

Smith hasn’t complied yet.

Now the Democratic Party and a watchdog group are getting into the act, demanding that Attorney General John Ashcroft launch an investigation.

"Not only was this bribe offered to a member of Congress, it was offered on the floor of the House of Representatives by another member of Congress," DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe wrote Ashcroft.

Ashcroft spokesman Mark Corallo says the attorney general's office will review McAuliffe’s letter.

Norman Ornstein of the conservative American Enterprise Institute said, "I've never heard of anything like this on the floor. It just stains the speakership."
Ornstein said an inducement of campaign money "is by every standard a violation of the law." But he added, "Will anything be done about it? I'm very skeptical."

We’re with Ornstein on this one.

Posted by tbrown at 12:00 PM


Close encounters with Air Force One, v 3.0

The story on the supposed close encounter between Air Force One and another airplane off the coast of England, which supposedly almost blew security for the flight, is back again in new form. Now the plane is no longer from British Airways but from a "non-UK operator." And it still doesn’t make much sense.

Posted by tbrown at 11:56 AM


December 04, 2003

Scary news from the real ‘Old Europe’

You may not have noticed, but the U.S. dollar is in near freefall in world currency markets. It has lost about 40 percent of its value against the Euro in the last couple of years, and more than 20 percent against the Japanese yen. This is good news for U.S. manufacturers, agribusiness and service providers with overseas operations, as their products become much more competitive in foreign markets. But it causes great anxiety among the overseers of foreign economies.

Just how anxious the Europeans are becoming is revealed in this truly amazing disclosure that they’re thinking of resorting to currency controls if the dollar’s plunge continues.

The only economic “tool” of governments that I can think of that’s held in wider disrepute among economists than currency controls, which restrict the flow of money across national borders, is the central economic planning of the old Communist bloc, which failed everywhere it was tried. Currency controls were common among individual governments in Western Europe into the 1980s, and rarely achieved their stated goals. In today’s world we’d have to multiply this folly by orders of magnitude because the controls would, presumably, be binding on the entire European Union, an economy roughly the size of ours. The likely outcome would be market chaos followed by an economic contraction that would make our recent recession seem mild indeed.

So far, this is only jawboning by EU bureaucrats in Brussels. But let’s hope it gets the Bush administration’s attention before it gets out of hand.

Posted by tbrown at 01:58 PM


Here’s your weekend reading

In chaotic situations like the one in Iraq, the fog of daily events often obscures the real situation.

Fortunately, there are antidotes. The best current reading is George Packer’s “Letter from Baghdad” in The New Yorker. It is long, but worth the time. What happens in Iraq is critically important, and Packer digs in for a gritty, detailed look at how we got where we are, what’s working and isn’t and why we need to have reasonable expectations about what we can accomplish.

After you’ve had another latte, take a look at these two excellent blog posts on the same subject:

Daniel Drezner

Belgravia Dispatch

Posted by tbrown at 01:51 PM


How lies reveal the truth

It’s old news that the Bush administration has a real hard time telling the truth. But the fundamental mendacity of this gang keeps popping up in the weirdest, most inexplicable and just plain dumbest ways.

The most recent example comes from President Bush’s visit to the troops in Baghdad. No sooner was everyone back in D.C. than head White House flack Dan Bartlett sought to extend the life of this story by asserting that the total secrecy essential for the trip was nearly blown when a British Airways jetliner spotted the presidential 747 off the west coast of the British Isles at dawn (a pretty picture, isn’t it?)

“Is that Air Force One?” the BA pilot supposedly asked.

After a few moments of silence, he received a message saying, “Jetstream 5.” That’s an executive jet a fraction of the size of a 747.

“Oh,” the bemused British Airways pilot said.

Now, just on the face of it there are problems with this story. Given the vertical and horizontal separation rules for airliners and their closing speeds, which are eyeblink quick unless they happen to be on the same course, it is unlikely that the BA pilot could have distinguished one 747 from another. Especially by dawn’s early light.

Unless there was a near-miss (now that would have been news).

Anyway, British Airways quickly expressed skepticism that the encounter ever happened. Then the White House changed its story. Then, British Airways said the new story never happened either:

"We've looked into it," a spokeswoman said. "It didn't happen."

Anyone should have been able to figure out they’d get caught at this. But they do it anyway. They can’t help themselves.

Joshua Marshall, who dissected this administration’s lying "style" in this piece in Washington Monthly, also has been tracking the progress of the Air Force One incident on his blog. His scorn for Mary Matalin, a former administration official who basically seems to think lies are useful to reveal the “truth” about the president, alone is worth the visit.

Posted by tbrown at 01:47 PM


December 03, 2003

Here’s a big reason we need to find an exit from Iraq ASAP

New York Times columnist David Brooks considers the challenges facing all those twenty-somethings we sent to Iraq:

Trained as trigger-pullers, many are also asked in theater to be consultants and aldermen. They are John Wayne, but also Jane Addams.

“Can anybody think of another time in history when a comparable group of young people was asked to be at once so brave, fierce and relentless, while also being so sympathetic, creative and forbearing?

“When you read the dispatches from Iraq, or the online diaries many soldiers keep, or the e-mail they send home, you quickly sense how hard it is to commute between these two universes. Yet the most important achievements seem to occur on the border between chaos and normalcy.”

Posted by tbrown at 12:32 PM


Don't ask. Don't tell. Don't translate

"Confronted with a shortage of Arabic interpreters and its policy banning openly gay service members, the Pentagon had a choice to make.

"Which is how former Spec. Glover came to be cleaning pools instead of sitting in the desert, translating Arabic for the U.S. government."
-- The Washington Post

In the last two years, the Defense Department has discharged 37 linguists from the Defense Language Institute for being gay.

Posted by tbrown at 12:26 PM


Ralph Nader is thinking of ‘running’ again

Apparently not content with getting George Bush elected once, Ralph Nader is considering playing the spoiler again.

Here’s an L.A. Times story.

Here’s a link to the web site for his “exploratory” committee.

Posted by tbrown at 12:24 PM


Rep. DeLay, report to your lifeboat station

Rep. Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, has abandoned his puzzling suggestion that members of Congress and their guests stay on a luxury cruise ship during next year’s Republican National Convention – because of blowback from labor unions! Read all about it (free registration at the New York Times site required).

Posted by tbrown at 12:21 PM


Checking in on Ahnuld

Schwarzenegger is finding that being governor is a little more difficult than he bargained for. Sacramento Bee blogger Daniel Weintraub has a string of posts that spell out how the Terminator plans to eliminate California’s staggering budget deficit. It’s not a pretty picture, and it’s one Schwarzenegger made even more dismal by his campaign pledge not to raise taxes.

Here in the liberal wonderland of Seattle we’ve never seen a tax we didn’t like, except the one on lattes (which was, indeed, a bad idea). Yet, according to a business think tank, we’re still spending ourselves into a hole that will require increasingly difficult choices the deeper we go.

Posted by tbrown at 12:20 PM


December 02, 2003

Boeing: from bad to worse?

For those of us who grew up in Boeing families and have been in the Seattle area long enough to have experienced the cyclical nature of the aerospace business several times, the decline in recent years of one of history’s great technology and manufacturing franchises has been dismaying and, in some respects, disgusting.

Boeing once was managed with flair, a willingness to take make-or-break decisions (and succeed) and – dare we say it? – genius. Now, as one seattletimes.com reader said, it’s "just another struggling company.”

It’s unfair to blame all of this on Phil Condit, but it did happen on his watch and even he recognized it was time to go. Unfortunately, installing Harry Stonecipher, who presided over the virtual destruction of the once-dominant McDonnell Douglas’ commercial airliner business, is unlikely to be a positive step. Seattle Times columnist Stephen Dunphy explains why here.

Besides what Steve says, it’s well to remember a lesson of history: once a company becomes No. 2 in the airliner business –- and Boeing will be second to Airbus in deliveries this year -- it’s not likely to regain its former leadership. It’s very similar to Ford’s problem with GM.

Yesterday, seattletimes.com asked readers to give us their thoughts on Condit’s legacy – and it’s not good news for Phil. Overwhelmingly, respondents – most of them Boeing workers, present or retired -- blamed Condit, at least in part, for the company’s misfortunes and expressed huge anxiety that Boeing will now desert the commercial airplane business is McDonnell Douglas did. Here are some representative comments:

Rob Robson, Seattle: “I think he will be remembered as the man who gave Boeing to McDonald Douglas. It seems like the same people that ran MM into the ground will now have the chance to do the same to Boeing.”

Tom Byrnes, Kent: “Phil ‘Vaporman’ Condit will be remembered as the man who sold Boeing down the river. … He has effectively turned the reins over to legacy McDonnell Douglas, both in stock holdings and management, so they can repeat their previous financial magic. … Look for Boeing to spiral into the ground over the next 5 years and for the parts to be sold off at bargain-basement prices. Can you say Wal-Mart Airplane Company?”

Raymond Victoria, Marysville: “ … The aftermath of his decision [to merge with McDonnell Douglas] will be the downfall of the Boeing Co.The new buisness plan that we will adopt through Harry [Stonecipher] will displace thousands of more workers while lining the pockets of former McDonald Douglas CEOs. Unfortunately our goverment will allow this to take place under the guise of global partnerships.”

Aaron Whiteman, Pullman: “What I will remember is how Boeing changed from being a Northwest staple to a faceless corporation. Once upon a time, Boeing was Seattle, and Seattle was the heart of Boeing. Under Condit, those ties were lost. Condit's legacy will be that he turned an icon into just another struggling corporation.”

The only response to strongly support Condit came from David Kageyama of Seattle, whose two e-mails I’ve combined here:

“I'm a third generation Seattleite on both sides of my family - roots back to around 1910 in Seattle. As much as Boeing has for my life been the ‘face of Seattle,’ it's a whole new world now. Seattle needs to wake up to the fact we are players on a global stage. Microsoft -- global. PACCAR -- global. Weyerhaeuser -- global. Until a very short time ago Boeing was very much just Seattle.

“Condit had the unenviable job of trying to play ‘catch up’ by trying to quickly take Boeing global (his moving the HQ to Chicago a nod in that direction) in the face of perhaps the most wretched times in airline history.

“He led the company through some of its most challenging years - the beginnings of the ‘globalizaiton’ of The Boeing Company -- labor strife, worldwide economic downturns, threats from overseas competitors and demands from customer countries to share in the development and production of the planes they buy.

“[He was] an amazing leader in our local philanthropic community -- and my hope and every expectation is that Phil will continue to utilize his skills and resources to make our community one that we are proud to call our home.”

Now let’s take an intermission and see how Stonecipher does for a while. Who knows, he could surprise us (and I’m not being sarcastic).

Still, you can be certain that neither William Allen nor T.A. Wilson would have allowed a Boeing wing to be built in Japan (the wing after all is the airplane). But that's where the 7E7 wing is destined if it's ever built.

Posted by tbrown at 02:21 PM


Need to smear someone? Just make things up

Like James Taranto, editor of the Wall Street Journal’s Best of the Web. Here he is yesterday, in a posting criticizing former President Jimmy Carter’s stand on the war in Iraq:

The disgraced former president also says of Iraq, ‘I was strongly against going in unilaterally.’ "

Disgraced? Jimmy Carter? I must have been out of town that day. Richard Nixon was disgraced by his official actions. Bill Clinton was disgraced by his private actions. But Jimmy Carter was no more disgraced than, for example, President Bush’s father, George H.W. Both the elder Bush and Carter could be said to have had failed presidencies, as they were defeated for re-election. But disgraced? Oh well. If the facts don’t fit, make something up.

Posted by tbrown at 02:06 PM


December 01, 2003

2004 could produce some genuine political excitement

So argues commentator and author Kevin Phillips, who sees unusual potential for both the Democratic and Republican conventions.

This would be a Good Thing indeed. In recent decades, the conventions have been little more than exercises in finding new ways to drop balloons and lie more convincingly in candidate "biographies."

Phillips argues that the sheer number of Democratic candidates could lead to the first multi-ballot convention for the donkeys since 1952. Given the Democratic record in such circumstances – four losses in four occurrences – this probably would bode ill for the Democrats’ chances. However, Phillips, who seems to think the nomination is Howard Dean’s to win or lose, argues that a sharp Democratic contest until shortly before the convention in July could help keep the Dems on message against the GOP – and the money flowing to the candidates.

Should Dean lack the horsepower to push through at the convention, Phillips raises the notion that a deadlocked convention might turn back to – Al Gore! After all, he did beat Bush in the popular vote last time and he’s been sounding “increasingly feisty” lately.

Obviously, there will be no suspense about the Republican nominee. But the convention in New York City in September could be a different matter.

“In 2002, the idea of again draping the mantle of 9/11 around Bush at a 2004 nomination convention just a few miles from ‘ground zero’ must have seemed highly opportune to GOP strategists,” Phillips writes. Now, in face of a tough, continuing war (November produced the highest number of U.S. deaths since the invasion of Iraq), plus security concerns raised by a surge in Islamic terrorism, the Republicans may face some unwanted suspense when they gather in the Big Apple.

“Keep in mind that when Bush was in London recently, Al Qaeda or affiliated terrorists made it a point to bomb the British Consulate and a British bank in Istanbul, Turkey,” Phillips writes. “Even if no attempts are made on Manhattan, the probability of extreme security measures and possibly something approaching martial law in sections of the island could cast a long shadow over the convention. This potential embarrassment is another one of the extraordinary political uncertainties of 2004.”

Posted by tbrown at 12:16 PM


The adventures of First Brother

Let’s see. Neil Bush, the president’s younger brother, supposedly is being paid $400,000 a year by a Chinese semiconductor manufacturer to advise it on a business Bush admits he knows nothing about. Sound like influence-buying?

Bush says that while he doesn’t know anything about semiconductors he is a business expert – which I guess he proved by becoming a central figure in the savings and loan scandals a decade ago.

He also has a $60,000 a year contract with a company that wants to profit from contracts in postwar Iraq. Again, influence buying?

Then there’s the report – denied in Taiwan – that he was paid $1 million for agreeing to meet with Taiwan’s president while the latter was in the U.S. for a visit (high U.S. government officials rarely meet with their Taiwanese counterparts because of objections from China, which considers Taiwan a province).

All this would at the very least get a prominent Democrat on every nutbar radio show and most likely would lead to calls for appointment of a special prosecutor – and that’s without even considering the younger Bush’s anti-family-values stunts.

Somehow, though, I don’t expect Rush, O’Neill and the rest to spend much time on First Brother.

Posted by tbrown at 12:13 PM


George and Hillary go to Baghdad …

… and Glenn Reynolds has a wrapup of reactions from the blogosphere.

Posted by tbrown at 12:09 PM


Bloody November

November was the deadliest month of the Iraq war for U.S. troops. It was also marked by a major increase in attacks on U.S. allies. None of which bodes well for at least the short-term future.

Winds of Change has one of its periodic wrapups on events in Iraq. Of particular interest is a linked exchange on what the U.S. response would be should terrorists devise a way of making repeated attacks on the U.S. with weapons of mass destruction. Some real Armageddon talk there.

Be sure to add Juan Cole to your web favorites. His blog is the best one-stop place for updates on what’s happening in Iraq (he does his own translations of the Arab press).

Posted by tbrown at 12:08 PM


As expected, ‘The Reagans’ is a turkey

David Postman, chief political reporter for The Seattle Times, took the time to sit through the CBS miniseries, “The Reagans,” and not surprisingly found it wanting. Republican activists were successful in getting CBS to pull the two-parter from its network lineup, you’ll recall, but it did begin airing on CBS’ Showtime last night.

I still fail to see what the flap was all about. Hello? It's television.

Posted by tbrown at 12:06 PM




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The official memory hole grows …
… and so does the unofficial one
Rush actually is just a linguini-spined wimp

 LINKS

Blogs to watch

Abu Ardvark
Altercation
Andrew Sullivan
Antiwar.com
Atrios Eschaton
Best of the Web
DailyKOS
Defensetech
Drudge Report
GlobalSecurity.org
Instapundit
Joe Conason (subscription required)
Josh Marshall
Kaus files
No More Mr. Nice Blog
Real Clear Politics
Tapped
The Corner
The Volokh Conspiracy
The Whiskey Bar

Mideast blogs

Salam Pax (Iraq)
G. in Baghdad
L.T. Smash (U.S. military in Iraq)
Lady Sun (Iran)

City blogs

Gawker
L.A. Examiner

Africa blogs

AfricaPundit
Cathy Buckle

Media blogs

Romenesko
Dan Gillmor's eJournal
Media Whores Online

Newspapers

Newspapers online (guide to papers on the web)
International Herald Tribune
The Guardian U.K.
New York Times (free registration required)

Economy blogs

EconoPundit
Brad DeLong

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