Weblog 2004

Rumsfeld takes some heat from within the NeoCon ranks
Bill Kristol, arch conservative and member of the much maligned (by liberals) neoconservatives, writes a scathing rebuke of fellow neocon Donald Rumsfeld in the Washington post on 12/15/2004. Andrew Sullivan mentioned this article on his blog with the note that conservatives said "they'd voice their real criticisms once the election was over." Wow, thanks a bunch.

The Defense Secretary We Have

By William Kristol

Washington Post, Wednesday, December 15, 2004

"As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. They're not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time." -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, in a town hall meeting with soldiers at Camp Buehring in Kuwait, Dec. 8.

Actually, we have a pretty terrific Army. It's performed a lot better in this war than the secretary of defense has. President Bush has nonetheless decided to stick for now with the defense secretary we have, perhaps because he doesn't want to make a change until after the Jan. 30 Iraqi elections. But surely Don Rumsfeld is not the defense secretary Bush should want to have for the remainder of his second term.

Contrast the magnificent performance of our soldiers with the arrogant buck-passing of Rumsfeld. Begin with the rest of his answer to Spec. Thomas Wilson of the Tennessee Army National Guard:

"Since the Iraq conflict began, the Army has been pressing ahead to produce the armor necessary at a rate that they believe -- it's a greatly expanded rate from what existed previously, but a rate that they believe is the rate that is all that can be accomplished at this moment. I can assure you that General Schoomaker and the leadership in the Army and certainly General Whitcomb are sensitive to the fact that not every vehicle has the degree of armor that would be desirable for it to have, but that they're working at it at a good clip."

So the Army is in charge. "They" are working at it. Rumsfeld? He happens to hang out in the same building: "I've talked a great deal about this with a team of people who've been working on it hard at the Pentagon. . . . And that is what the Army has been working on." Not "that is what we have been working on." Rather, "that is what the Army has been working on." The buck stops with the Army.

At least the topic of those conversations in the Pentagon isn't boring. Indeed, Rumsfeld assured the troops who have been cobbling together their own armor, "It's interesting." In fact, "if you think about it, you can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can be blown up. And you can have an up-armored humvee and it can be blown up." Good point. Why have armor at all? Incidentally, can you imagine if John Kerry had made such a statement a couple of months ago? It would have been (rightly) a topic of scorn and derision among my fellow conservatives, and not just among conservatives.

Perhaps Rumsfeld simply had a bad day. But then, what about his statement earlier last week, when asked about troop levels? "The big debate about the number of troops is one of those things that's really out of my control." Really? Well, "the number of troops we had for the invasion was the number of troops that General Franks and General Abizaid wanted."

Leave aside the fact that the issue is not "the number of troops we had for the invasion" but rather the number of troops we have had for postwar stabilization. Leave aside the fact that Gen. Tommy Franks had projected that he would need a quarter-million troops on the ground for that task -- and that his civilian superiors had mistakenly promised him that tens of thousands of international troops would be available. Leave aside the fact that Rumsfeld has only grudgingly and belatedly been willing to adjust even a little bit to realities on the ground since April 2003. And leave aside the fact that if our generals have been under pressure not to request more troops in Iraq for fear of stretching the military too thin, this is a consequence of Rumsfeld's refusal to increase the size of the military after Sept. 11.

In any case, decisions on troop levels in the American system of government are not made by any general or set of generals but by the civilian leadership of the war effort. Rumsfeld acknowledged this last week, after a fashion: "I mean, everyone likes to assign responsibility to the top person and I guess that's fine." Except he fails to take responsibility.

All defense secretaries in wartime have, needless to say, made misjudgments. Some have stubbornly persisted in their misjudgments. But have any so breezily dodged responsibility and so glibly passed the buck?

In Sunday's New York Times, John F. Burns quoted from the weekly letter to the families of his troops by Lt. Col. Mark A. Smith, an Indiana state trooper who now commands the 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, stationed just south of Baghdad:

"Ask yourself, how in a land of extremes, during times of insanity, constantly barraged by violence, and living in conditions comparable to the stone ages, your marines can maintain their positive attitude, their high spirit, and their abundance of compassion?" Col. Smith's answer: "They defend a nation unique in all of history: One of principle, not personality; one of the rule of law, not landed gentry; one where rights matter, not privilege or religion or color or creed. . . . They are United States Marines, representing all that is best in soldierly virtues."

These soldiers deserve a better defense secretary than the one we have.

The writer is editor of the Weekly Standard.

Without a Doubt
Ron Suskind writes in the NYT Magazine about Bush's certainty and how it affects his decisions.

How the New York Times, and America, was Duped on WMD
The New York Times has a long tradition as America's leading newspaper and is known for journalistic excellence.  The editors of the NYT have recently revealed that, concerning their reporting leading up to the Iraq war, they "have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been."  They cite numerous examples of "Iraqi informants, defectors and exiles" providing misleading information about WMD and other dangers.  Slate.com reports that much of this reporting came from "Judith Miller, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and authority on the Middle East."  One of Miller's primary sources was Ahmed Chalabi, formerly the Bush Administration's favorite pet exile.  Miller would source administration officials as corroborators of the Chalabi's intelligence, who just happened to be the administration's source as well.  This is a bad sign. We need an independent and skeptical press to balance the government's propaganda.

Is Soy Bad for You?
The wonderful, edible, high-protein, low fat, cheap, non-animal and ubiquitous soy bean is apparently not as healthful as the big agro companies would like us to believeRecent research that is getting very little mainstream press warns that eating soy, at the level that most Americans are consuming it, can be very detrimental to men, women and children.  Soy has been linked to shrinking brains, male breasts, breast cancer, hypothyroidism, lower libido and more.   Soy-based formulas for infants are especially dangerous.  Soy contains isoflavones, which are phytoestrogens that mimic estrogen and have been shown to promote early puberty in girls and late maturation in boys. I first heard about this in Mothering Magazine.

The Bush Administration's Top 40 Lies about War and Terrorism
Many of these points can be argued against, but the overwhelming evidence leads me to believe that the Bush Administration has purposely misled the world, and that this has done America great harm. IMHO.

A Universe Hacked

Probably the most asked question in human history is: Why are we here?  The natural follow-up question is: How are we here?  I don't think these questions are fully answerable, but it sure is fun supposing.  Maybe our universe was created in a lab by a physicist hacker.  A famous Stanford physicist, Andrei Linde, (who came up with the chaotic inflation theory of the Big Bang that was later supported by pictures of the Big Bang), says it is theoretically possible to create a universe in a laboratory with a minute piece of matter. Furthermore, he thinks that it is possible for the "creator" to pre-determine certain physical characteristics of his creation, thereby building into the very nature of the new universe creationary clues for the eventual inhabitants to discover.  Our own universe has weird properties, spooky anthropic coincidences, that seem necessary to allow for carbon and other essential elements of life as we know it.  Careful, there is a huge logical leap from these necessities of carbon-based life to proof of intelligent creation (a jump many are willing to take).  Maybe our universe is just a beta version. How else do you account for male nipples?


The Gray Zone
Another controversial article by SEYMOUR M. HERSH in the New Yorker on "How a secret Pentagon program came to Abu Ghraib" and influenced the way Iraqi prisoners where interrogated.

Dancing Alone

May 13, 2004

It is time to ask this question: Do we have any chance of succeeding at regime change in Iraq without regime change here at home?

"Hey, Friedman, why are you bringing politics into this all of a sudden? You're the guy who always said that producing a decent outcome in Iraq was of such overriding importance to the country that it had to be kept above politics."

Yes, that's true. I still believe that. My mistake was thinking that the Bush team believed it, too. I thought the administration would have to do the right things in Iraq — from prewar planning and putting in enough troops to dismissing the secretary of defense for incompetence — because surely this was the most important thing for the president and the country. But I was wrong. There is something even more important to the Bush crowd than getting Iraq right, and that's getting re-elected and staying loyal to the conservative base to do so. It has always been more important for the Bush folks to defeat liberals at home than Baathists abroad. That's why they spent more time studying U.S. polls than Iraqi history. That is why, I'll bet, Karl Rove has had more sway over this war than Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Bill Burns. Mr. Burns knew only what would play in the Middle East. Mr. Rove knew what would play in the Middle West.

I admit, I'm a little slow. Because I tried to think about something as deadly serious as Iraq, and the post- 9/11 world, in a nonpartisan fashion — as Joe Biden, John McCain and Dick Lugar did — I assumed the Bush officials were doing the same. I was wrong. They were always so slow to change course because confronting their mistakes didn't just involve confronting reality, but their own politics.

Why, in the face of rampant looting in the war's aftermath, which dug us into such a deep and costly hole, wouldn't Mr. Rumsfeld put more troops into Iraq? Politics. First of all, Rummy wanted to crush once and for all the Powell doctrine, which says you fight a war like this only with overwhelming force. I know this is hard to believe, but the Pentagon crew hated Colin Powell, and wanted to see him humiliated 10 times more than Saddam. Second, Rummy wanted to prove to all those U.S. generals whose Army he was intent on downsizing that a small, mobile, high-tech force was all you needed today to take over a country. Third, the White House always knew this was a war of choice — its choice — so it made sure that average Americans never had to pay any price or bear any burden. Thus, it couldn't call up too many reservists, let alone have a draft. Yes, there was a contradiction between the Bush war on taxes and the Bush war on terrorism. But it was resolved: the Bush team decided to lower taxes rather than raise troop levels.

Why, in the face of the Abu Ghraib travesty, wouldn't the administration make some uniquely American gesture? Because these folks have no clue how to export hope. They would never think of saying, "Let's close this prison immediately and reopen it in a month as the Abu Ghraib Technical College for Computer Training — with all the equipment donated by Dell, H.P. and Microsoft." Why didn't the administration ever use 9/11 as a spur to launch a Manhattan project for energy independence and conservation, so we could break out of our addiction to crude oil, slowly disengage from this region and speak truth to fundamentalist regimes, such as Saudi Arabia? (Addicts never tell the truth to their pushers.) Because that might have required a gas tax or a confrontation with the administration's oil moneymen. Why did the administration always — rightly — bash Yasir Arafat, but never lift a finger or utter a word to stop Ariel Sharon's massive building of illegal settlements in the West Bank? Because while that might have earned America credibility in the Middle East, it might have cost the Bush campaign Jewish votes in Florida.

And, of course, why did the president praise Mr. Rumsfeld rather than fire him? Because Karl Rove says to hold the conservative base, you must always appear to be strong, decisive and loyal. It is more important that the president appear to be true to his team than that America appear to be true to its principles. (Here's the new Rummy Defense: "I am accountable. But the little guys were responsible. I was just giving orders.")

Add it all up, and you see how we got so off track in Iraq, why we are dancing alone in the world — and why our president, who has a strong moral vision, has no moral influence. 


Blind Into Baghdad
James Fallows writes in the Atlantic Monthly about the government's preparations for the war in Iraq, especially concerning the plans for post-Sadam occupation.  The Bush administration's insistence that the war and "liberation" of Iraq would be quick and cheap, ignoring history and the advise of nearly every knowledgeable person outside the administration, affected preparations for the aftermath.

King Karl
Ron Suskind, author of "The Price of Loyalty, George W. Bush, the White House and the Education of Paul O'Neill," wrote an article for Esquire magazine in January 2003 about the Bush administration's penchant for politics and aversion of policy, with chief political advisor Karl Rove as ring leader. Suskind sources John Dilulio, former Bush appointee and head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, the first in a growing line of former Bush staffers to publicly criticize the W administration.

"There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus," says DiIulio. "What you’ve got is everything—and I mean everything—being run by the political arm. It’s the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis." 


One Nation Under Christianity
The Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow, No. 02-1624, in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of Newdow. Michael Newdow, an atheist, sued to protect his daughter from having to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in her public school.  In 1954, in the heat of the Cold War, Congress unanimously added the phrase "under God" to the Pledge in reaction to "godless communism." Newdow contends that this phrase violates his rights because the government is telling his daughter that his beliefs are wrong.

In my mind, the phrase "under God" clearly a violates of the First Amendment's guarantee that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."  Under God is, in effect, state sponsorship of religion and of a particular religion. Pledging one's allegiance is not a meaningless exercise of ceremony, it matters, especially to kids who are extremely impressionable.

George H. W. Bush (the first) was staunchly anti-atheist, going so far as claiming that atheists should not be considered citizens or patriots, using the Pledge's "under God" statement as justification for religious bigotry.


Liquid Water on Mars?
The goal of the Mars Rover program is to find evidence that Mars once had liquid water.  JPL announced yesterday that the circumstantial evidence is strong that water did, in fact, flow across the surface. This has large implications including the strong possibility that Mars had a significant atmosphere and that life might have flourished on our planetary cousin.


The Lie Factory
By Robert Dreyfuss and Jason Vest

Only weeks after 9/11, the Bush administration set up a secret Pentagon unit to create the case for invading Iraq. Here is the inside story of how they pushed disinformation and bogus intelligence and led the nation to war.

Read the article here


Budgets of Mass Destruction

February 1, 2004

It should be clear to all by now that what we have in the Bush team is a faith-based administration. It launched a faith-based war in Iraq, on the basis of faith-based intelligence, with a faith-based plan for Iraqi reconstruction, supported by faith-based tax cuts to generate faith-based revenues. This group believes that what matters in politics and economics are conviction and will — not facts, social science or history.

Personally, I don't believe the Bush team will pay a long-term political price for its faith-based intelligence about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Too many Americans, including me, believe in their guts that removing Saddam was the right thing to do, even if the W.M.D. intel was wrong.

The Bush team's real vulnerability is its B.M.D. — Budgets of Mass Destruction, which have recklessly imperiled the nation's future, with crazy tax-cutting and out-of-control spending. The latest report from the Congressional Budget Office says the deficit is expected to total some $2.4 trillion over the next decade — almost $1 trillion more than the prediction of just five months ago. That is a failure of intelligence and common sense that threatens to make us all insecure — and people also feel that in their guts.

As Peter Peterson, the former Nixon commerce secretary and a longtime courageous advocate of fiscal responsibility, puts it in "Running on Empty," his forthcoming book: "In the 1980 election, Ronald Reagan galvanized the American electorate with that famous riff: `I want to ask every American: Are you better off now than you were four years ago?' Perhaps some future-oriented presidential candidate should rephrase this line as follows: `I want to ask every American, young people especially: Is your future better off now than it was four years ago — now that you are saddled with these large new liabilities and the higher taxes that must eventually accompany them?' "

While in his book Mr. Peterson equally indicts Democrats and Republicans as co-conspirators in the fiscal follies of our times, the Democrats should still follow his lead and make this their campaign mantra: "Is your future better off now than it was four years ago?" That's what's on people's minds. It should be coupled with the bumper sticker: "Read My Lips: No New Services. Bush Gave All the Money Away." And it should be backed up with a responsible Democratic alternative on both taxes and spending.

That is the only way to expose what the shameful coalition of Karl Rove-led cynics, who care only about winning the next election; voodoo economists preaching supply-side economics; and libertarian nuts who think that by cutting tax revenues you'll shrink the government — when all you do is balloon the deficit — is doing to our future. And please don't tell me the tax cuts are working. Of course they're working! If you put this much stimulus into our economy — three tax cuts, loose monetary policy and out-of-control spending — it will produce a boom. Eat 10 chocolate bars at once and you'll also get a rush. But at what long-term cost?

"Quite simply," argues Mr. Peterson, "those bell-bottomed young boomers of the 1960's have fully matured. The oldest of them, born in 1946, are only six years away from the median age of retirement on Social Security (63). As a result, our large pension and health care benefit programs will soon experience rapidly accelerating benefit outlays. . . . Thus, at a time when the federal government should be building up surpluses to prepare for the aging of the baby boom generation, it is engaged in another reckless experiment with large and permanent tax cuts. America cannot grow its way out of the kinds of long-term deficits we now face. . . . The odds are growing that today's ballooning trade and fiscal deficits, the so-called twin deficits, will someday trigger an explosion that causes the economy to sink — not rise."

The same Bush folks who assured us Saddam had W.M.D. now assure us these budgets of mass destruction don't matter. Sure. "During the Vietnam War," notes Mr. Peterson, "conservatives relentlessly pilloried Lyndon Johnson for his fiscal irresponsibility. But he only wanted guns and butter. Today, so-called conservatives are out-pandering L.B.J. They must have it all: guns, butter and tax cuts."

This is so irresponsible and it will end in tears. Remember, says Mr. Peterson, long-term tax cuts without long-term spending cuts are not tax cuts. They are "tax deferrals" — with the burden to be borne by your future or your kid's future.

If this isn't the election issue, I don't know what is.


Rover is man's best friend

Anatomy of a RoverThe Mars Exploration Rover Mission is just too cool!  PBS's Nova had a great show this month called Mars Dead or Alive that details JPL's efforts to get the rovers made and launched in time.  Mars and Earth are closest every 26 months and it was essential that the rover get launched to meet the window.  Hopefully Spirit's twin rover Opportunity will survive its arrival on January 24.  Now we waiting to hear President's Bush's announcement about a potential Mars/Moon program.  I hope his announcement has more effect than his father's plan back in 1989 that we'd put humans on Mars by 2019.



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