Deal With It

The Bush administration likes to hand us "facts on the ground." They do what they need to do to create a situation the way THEY want it, and tell everyone to deal with the way things are now rather than concern themselves with how they got that way. As Chalabi said, when asked if he regrets helping to mislead us into war, "We are in Baghdad now." Deal with it.

And here we are. In Iraq, Militants issue threat on voting:
"The radical Ansar al-Sunna Army and two other insurgent groups issued a statement Thursday warning that democracy was un-Islamic. Democracy could lead to passing un-Islamic laws, such as permitting gay marriage, if the majority or people agreed to it, the statement said.

"Democracy is a Greek word meaning the rule of the people, which means that the people do what they see fit," said the statement. "This concept is considered apostasy and defies the belief in one God -- Muslims' doctrine."
Sounds remarkably similar to the views of America's Christian Right, no? And it also sounds notably similar to those of Bush's favorite Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia, who writes of the "tendency of democracy to obscure the divine authority behind government".

Meanwhile, Iraqi women are becoming afraid to go out in public without head covering:
This is the new reality for many women in Iraq, Muslims and Christians alike. As the months have passed since the U.S.-led invasion, fewer women are daring to venture out without wearing a traditional Muslim head scarf, called a hejab in Arabic. In Baghdad, moderate Muslim women used to feel they had a choice whether to wear the scarf, even as religious oppression under Saddam Hussein grew over the past decade. Now, in many neighborhoods, it is hard to find a woman outdoors without a head scarf.
We (America, us) have created a terrible situation in Iraq. Iraqis do not feel safe and secure, and this is entirely our fault. If we let things continue on their current path the resulting civil war and rise of theocratic Islamic government will mean misery and chaos for the people there, and means we will not be safe here at home.

Here is what I think: Bush is right, we are there now, and we have to deal with it. But things are not going the way Bush expected, and the "we broke it we own it" rule applies. So regardless of how we got into this mess, now we have an obligation to do whatever is necessary to secure Iraq and bring law, order and justice to their society. I am sure that MOST of the people there just want to have a normal government and a normal life, but the ethnic, religious, cultural and geopolitical fractures -- and armed theocrats -- that Bush has unleashed aren't going to allow that if they can get control. We should never have started this, but we did, and now we have to fix it. We have to deal with it.

We have to send enough troops to Iraq to secure the country, bring order and protect the people. We literally have to put armed forces on every streetcorner in the country until it is safe for anyone -- even women without headcoverings -- to go to school or shopping, be a policeman or a judge, etc. We have to make Iraq safe for everyone to express their opinion, vote, worship according to their OWN choices or not, etc. This means literally hundreds of thousands more troops and that probably means we need a draft, and soon. We owe it to the people there, we have an obligation to do this, and in the longer term it has to happen for our own protection. We can't just go over there, kill a lot of people, stir everyone up, and then have just enough troops there to be targets, but not enough to secure the country. But that is what we are doing.

It is only for domestic political reasons that the Republicans refuse to send enough troops to Iraq -- it would be an admission of the failure of their policies. And they know that a draft would drive home the effect of their policies now and harm their political agenda. Problems that show up later are not problems. Deficits are paid for by our children, wars by the volunteers, the falling dollar will cause inflation later --all allowing Republicans to use lies and short memories to hold power. Especially never mind real national security, and never mind what happens if something starts up somewhere else, like Korea -- the Republicans like to talk the national security talk, but they won't walk the walk. They won't increase taxes to pay for it and they won't increase troop levels to provide the needed numbers.

If we are not willing to provide security to Iraqis, then we must turn Iraq over to the UN. The rest of the world is not interested in participating in this nightmare as long as their entry must be on Bush's terms. We control the resources of Iraq and dictate its policies. We refuse to hand any of this over to others (including the Iraqis.) Our offer has been "come here and die so American corporations can benefit," and they see through this. For some reason they aren't taking that deal.

That's what I think. Deal with it.


Tsunami Blogs

American Street has Tsunami Blogs you can rely on and Tsunami Blogs you can rely on, Pt. 2.


The blogs are writing about today's Washington Post story comparing Democrat and Republican election tactics. Bloggers like Kos and MyDD wrote about how money received by Democratic consultants affected their ad-placement decisions.

The article also talked about how Republicans used a "data mining" technique "enabling Bush to identify and target potential voters with pinpoint precision." Alice at GOTV asks a good question in her post, The means determines the ends, TargetPoint Consulting:
"What do you think the chances are that politicians who are elected by such means are going to protect our privacy?"
Go read.

Think It Through

A Letter to the Editor in today's San Jose Mercury News (responding to a Pat Buchanan op-ed saying we should get out of Iraq) states the Bush position:
"Dinosaur Buchanan doesn't get it

Democracies don't commit aggression on others, and if they resort to force sometimes, even pre-emptively, it is only as a last recourse in legitimate self-defense or in defense of others, particularly the weak.

For example, Germany, Italy and Japan -- which in their history knew almost nothing about effective democracy before World War II -- haven't committed aggression against others since then. Therefore, and in the light of Sept. 11, democratizing Afghanistan and Iraq -- and eventually the rest of the Muslim world -- is America's best insurance against organized mass-murdering Islamist terrorism. The ultra-isolationist, dinosaur ortho-con (orthodox conservative) Patrick Buchanan can't see it."
Think this through. "Democracies don't commit aggression on others" therefore our aggression on Iraq is justified because (this week's) reason for attacking that country was to make them become a democracy.

Actually I agree with the premise that democracies do not commit aggression. But I would add to that. I would say that informed democracies don't commit aggression, and make rational decisions. The fact that America did commit aggression says more about what America has become than about anything else. We are no longer an informed democracy, which I think means we are no longer a democracy at all. America went to war because we were told that there was an imminent danger of an attack against us by Iraq. We were told that Iraq had nuclear and biological weapons and was ready to either use them against us or give them to al-Queda to use against us. This was a lie. It was a lie designed to get us to support war.

A simple test - ask 100 people why we went to war against Iraq and why we are there now, and you will get almost 100 different answers. We - the public - still do not know why we are at war. Think THAT through.

More Tsnami Aid

Google has set up a central Tsunami Aid and info page.

Tsunami Aid

From Oxfam America:
I am writing on behalf of the Asian Earthquake Response Team at Oxfam America. We are currently working around the clock to provide assistance and assess the needs of the affected regions. A brief and updated summary of our efforts can be found at: http://www.oxfamamerica.org/whatwedo/emergencies/asian_floods_2004

I wanted to ask if you would write or link to Oxfam’s relief efforts on your blog. Also, we are hoping for banner space donations to begin as soon as possible and run for the duration of the crisis. Raising money quickly is key to aiding these victims and preventing the death toll from rising needlessly.
Oxfam America

Click the banner to go directly to the donations page:



Are you on Seeing the Forest's comprehensive "blogroll"? If not, and you want to be, let me know. (Put Seeing the Forest on yours first.)

Do you want to get on my blogger e-mail list? This is the list of bloggers to whom I send notices of special STF postings. I don't do this very often. If you want to be on this list, send me an e-mail.

You can find out from where people are referred to your blog. Do all of your SiteMeter referrals say "unknown?" From SiteMeter's Help:
My reports do not show any data or only show "unknown" for the visitor referrals. What could be the problem?

You've probably added the non-javascript version of the Site Meter HTML to the pages of your site. You'll need to add the javascript version to your pages to track the referrals of your visitors. To get the javascript version of the Site Meter HTML, login to your account on Site Meter and select the "HTML Code" link from the MANAGER page of your account.
Non-bloggers, there are a lot of great blogs out there. Go click on some of the links in the left column.



By now you've heard about this: UN Official Backs Down: Rich Nations Not 'Stingy'. Here's my take on it. You've got millions of screaming desperate people, and you've got one of the nastiest, most uncaring, petty, vengeful leaders in history in charge of the "wealthiest" (borrowed money) nation. Everyone knows he is entirely capable of withholding aid because of this one guy's remark.

So what do you do? You back down and hope that your honest "stingy" remark -- $40 million for aid, $50 million for his inaugural party -- doesn't keep him from helping all those people. It has to be about them. (That's not how Bush will see it. Maybe we can convince Bush this happened because God wants the world to see how great a leader Bush is... like 9/11. Maybe that would get him to do something to help.)

Ok, I don't like the guy. Sue me.

Meanwhile, Clinton is filling the leadership vacuum while Bush clears brush in Crawford.

Update - It turns out that the origin of reports that a UN representative said the U.S. was being "stingy" with relief aid was just a lie, made up by the Moonie newspaper, spread by Drudge and echoed through the right-wing media as part of their anti-UN strategic lie campaign. (Thanks to Atrios for the link.)


What we know

Frogs & Canaries

Go read Frogs & Canaries: When to worry about leaving the US. -- and take the poll.

What Happened to Tsunami Notice?

A French blogger, Philsland, who subscribes to the USGS earthquake notification system reports he received a notice of the earthquake 3 hours before the arrival of the tidal wave that engulfed 10 countries in Asia. The notice read:
"A great earthquake occurred at 00:58:49 (UTC) on Sunday, December 26, 2004. The magnitude 9.0 event has been located OFF THE WEST COAST OF NORTHERN SUMATRA. (This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.)"
A press affairs officer at the USGS center in Golden Colorado verified to me that they did detect the quake and that they notified the US Department of State. (The Tsunami Warning Center detected the earthquake under the Indian Ocean within minutes of its occurrence, but issued a limited warning because of their narrow jurisdiction, according to a report by Christopher Joyce on NPR.) Whether or not quick notice to the impacted nations was possible or could have saved lives we don?t know, but the incident raises several questions about the competency and priorities of the Bush Administration.

First, what happened to the notice sent to the State Department? As of noon today, press officials in the Deputy Secretary's office have not responded and officials at the East Asia and Pacific desk of the DOS were not able to determine if they received the notice, although USGS confirmed that it was sent to the Operations Center at DOS. If it did not reach decision-making levels of the DOS, why not? If it did reach decision makers and it was not immediately sent to consulates in the affected nations so they could contact the local authorities, this could have contributed to a catastrophe that will be felt for decades. Again, why not?

Second, why the low level of US response? Secretary of State Powell told ABC that initially the US would provide $15 million with another $10 million going to NGOs plus nine patrol planes and some C-130s carrying relief supplies. This was called ?stingy? on CNN Tuesday by Jan Egeland, the UN emergency relief coordinator, but he flip-flopped this morning under pressure, calling it ?generous?, especially after the DOS announced another $20 million, bringing the total to $45 million. This is $5 million less than the cost of the President?s inaugural, .03% of the current cost of the war in Iraq and about 2% of initial estimates of damage costs - which will surely rise. Why so little?

Third, where is the vision? The damage from the tsunami is estimated at $13 billion. We could pay for it several times over with the money being wasted on the unneeded and unworkable missile defense system boondoggle, among others. The tsunami offers the Administration an opportunity to use our nation?s wealth and expertise to lead a true coalition of wealthy nations in a regional rebuilding effort. (The State Bank of India set up a local effort the next day). The US could regain the respect of the world - not to mention of its own people - with a visionary plan of rebuilding villages, farms, water systems, schools, roads and homes in the flooded nations. That is the vision of a great leader. Instead Bush offers a few million dollars and a handful of planes carrying food. Where is the vision in this?

The world came to America's aid after 9/11. The tsunami offers us an opportunity to give back - and to get back our greatness. All that is necessary is that the Administration realize that the United States is a nation built on a vision of freedom, not a selfish collection of corporate self-interests uncomfortably in bed with religious zealots whose common goal is cut taxes and kill government. Commonwealth must trump wealth if the world is to survive. The tsunami offers the Administration an opportunity to rejoin the commonwealth of nations and ensure everyone's survival.

Money Talks, Killer Walks

TalkLeft has a story about a Missouri Supreme Court ruling OK'ing a killer's family paying a victim's family $250,000 to keep the killer from getting the death penalty.

Verizon Ad at Drudge

This morning there was a big Verizon ad at Drudge. I'm on a two-year contract with them so there's little I can do about it. But if you're thinking of cell phone service...

... Just saw a Cingular ad there, too.

Maybe a call or two to the company...


Light Posting

It's light bogging I guess. In the past, whenever I posted that it led to a flurry of blogging activity. However I'm not sure Sudeep is going to allow that this week. So in the meantime check THE DAOU REPORT, too.


"Maybe you already knew this intuitively. Now you can know it to a scientific certainty. Drew Westen ... a professor of psychology at Emory University in Atlanta and author of a new and still-unpublished study test whether people make decisions based on bias or fact. Bias won hands down.

In a key scenario, respondents were led to believe a soldier was accused of torturing people at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The fictional soldier claimed to have been following orders from superiors who told him the Geneva Convention had been suspended. He supposedly wanted to subpoena President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to prove his case. Respondents were asked if he should have that right.

Some were presented with strong "evidence" corroborating the soldier's story. Others had only his word to go on.

But the strength or weakness of the evidence turned out to be immaterial. Researchers were able to predict people's opinion more than 80 percent of the time based simply on their opinions of the Bush administration, the GOP, the military and human rights groups. Those who had less affection for the president sided with the soldier even when the evidence was weak. And fans of the president tended to side with him even when the evidence was overwhelming.

We believe what we want, facts be damned."



The GOP machine understands this and that's why they almost always win.


Over at eRiposte, go read Fundamentalism in the United States: A Brief Summary of the Christian Right in the U.S. Court system ad let others know about it.

Update - In the comments Alice suggests forwarding this to your local education assn. Good idea. Schools, educators, school boards, teacher associations... let them know about eRiposte's work.

Lakoff Critique

Thomas has an interesting critique of Lakoff's book, "Don't Think of an Elephant" I don't agree with it, but it's worth discussing.


Warning - Avoid Crichton's New Book, "State of Fear"!

Crichton casts environmentalists as villains:
The odious villains who kill, maim and terrorize in Michael Crichton's new thriller are environmentalists, believers in global warming, proponents of the Kyoto Protocol. Their allies are the liberal media, trial lawyers, Hollywood celebrities, mainstream environmental groups (like the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society) and other blue-state apparatchiks.

[. . .] In Crichton's ham-handed novel, the dangers of global warming are nothing but a lot of hype: scare scenarios, promoted by shameless environmentalists eager to use bad science to raise money and draw attention to their cause. The ludicrous plot revolves around efforts by radical members of an environmental group called NERF (National Environmental Resource Fund) to trigger a series of natural disasters, including a giant tsunami that would hit California with 60-foot waves. These disasters would be timed to coincide with the group's big media conference, thereby awakening the public to the dangers of climate change wrought by global warming.

The radical leaders of the environmentalists -- including the head of NERF, Nicholas Drake, an ascetic Ralph Nader type -- are ruthless control freaks. Their followers are a bunch of bubbleheaded Hollywood types who drive sport utility vehicles while preaching the virtues of gasoline conservation.

[. . .] Half movie treatment, half ideological screed, "State of Fear'' careens between action set pieces (car chases, shootouts and narrow escapes from grisly ends) and talky disquisitions full of technical language and cherry-picked facts meant to hammer home the author's points. And Crichton does indeed have a message, as an afterword titled "Author's Message'' attests. "I blame environmental organizations every bit as much as developers and strip miners'' for current failures in wilderness management, he writes.
Don't give this guy any money. Don't help this book make the charts.