Saturday, October 30, 2004

Bush on bin Laden

Osama bin Laden put out a videotape yesterday: "Your security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or al Qaeda. Your security is in your own hands. Any nation that does not attack us will not be attacked."

"In less than 72 hours, the American people will be voting and the decision comes down to: Who do you trust?" Pres. Bush, 10/30/04.

Well, let's just look at the facts here. The guy who was in charge of 9-11 released a videotape, where he looked healthy (despite long-held rumors of kidney disease). What has Bush's position on him been?

"And there's an old poster out West that says, Wanted: Dead or Alive." Pres. Bush, 9-17-01.

"Gosh, I just don't think I ever said I'm not worried about Osama bin Laden. It's kind of one of those exaggerations." Pres. Bush, 10-13-04.

"And, again, I don't know where he is. I -- I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him." Pres. Bush, 3-13-02.

"And you say we shouldn't worry about bin Laden. Have you forgotten?" Daryl Worley, who appeared at the RNC, and evidently has no idea of the views of the candidate he supports.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Response to Chicago Tribune Editorial

CNB is not normally in the business of writing letters to the editor. However, the normally venerable Chicago Tribune has seen fit to unleash another one of its half-reasoned editorials. You may recall the CNB taking issue with the Tribune's endorsement of Pres. Bush, not for its conclusion, but for its lack of independent analysis of the candidates. It was merely a recital of Bush campaign rhetoric, which is of no use to readers of the Tribune.

Today, the Tribune provided another editorial today on the Duelfer report (see the prior CNB post) that was just as poorly thought-out. CNB has no bones with the Tribune being conservative, but telling readers that the report "makes ideal reading for any voter's election eve" while providing an incomplete analysis (that shows you did not fully read it yourself) is irresponsible and lazy. Those are not qualities you'd think a major paper would seek in its editorial board. Below you will find the CNB letter to the editor.

The Tribune Editorial Board has done it again. I believed their recent endorsement of President Bush was impossible to equal, with its intellectually lazy rehash of the Bush campaign talking points (endorse whomever you want, but use your own logic, not theirs). However, the editorial today, concerning the report recently issued by the Iraq Survey Group that was headed by Charles A. Duelfer, did just that. Despite its quasi-challenge to voters to "consider" the Duelfer report before voting, this editorial failed to show that it had done so, instead focusing upon certain portions of this complex report while completely ignoring others. In doing so, the Editorial Board fails to achieve the public service of fully informing the public, for which this editorial was clearly aimed.

The Board points out that Hussein aimed to become a nuclear power, and sought to begin a WMD program if UN sanctions were lifted. The editorial further notes a recent op-ed piece by an Iraqi scientist claiming that Hussein would have been able to get a nuclear program up and running in a three-year time period.

Unfortunately, the editorial ignores critical portions of the Duelfer report: "The former regime had no formal written strategy or plan for the revival of WMD after sanctions. Neither was there an identifiable group of WMD policy makers or planners separate from Saddam." The report went on to state that the investigation "uncovered no indication that Iraq had resumed fissile material or nuclear weapons research and development activities since 1991." This conflicts with the Editorial Board's citation of the Iraqi scientist, which would seemingly prompt further analysis. Alas, no such comparative discussion was provided by this editorial. Nor does the editorial note that, as stated in the Key Findings of the Duelfer Report, "Iran was the pre-eminent motivator" of Hussien's desire to develop WMD.

In short, this editorial placed more emphasis on the portions of the Duelfer report concerning the desires of Hussein as opposed to his actual ability to bring those desires to fruition, or what threat this actually proved to the United States.

A fair reading of the Duelfer report neither fully maligns nor exonerates the arguments for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. However, this letter is neither offered to dispute the reasoning provided by the Bush Administration for the invasion of Iraq, nor to dispute the unmistakable ideological viewpoint of the Editorial Board. This letter is merely an attempt to ensure that the Tribune Editorial Board actually uses the skills of journalistic investigation and thorough analysis that one would expect of such a prominent newspaper. This would seem to be a priority, especially when the Editorial Board goes to such lengths as to suggest that the subject of its editorial, the Duelfer Report, is "ideal reading for any voter's election eve." It certainly seems that the Editorial Board should take its own advice -- read the entire report.

Again, I believe that the Editorial Board may endorse any candidate or viewpoint it chooses. However, before sending that final version to the printers, they may wish to proofread it first.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Perspectives on Iraq -- Cheney Expected to Ignore

Former diplomat Peter Galbraith wrote in yesterday's Boston Globe that, while he was in Baghdad in April 2003, he witnessed hordes of Iraqis looting the Iraqi equivalent of the Centers for Disease Control, carting away live HIV and black-fever viruses. Mr. Galbraith helped advance the case for an Iraq invasion at the request of Paul Wolfowitz. He said he'd told Wolfowitz about "the catastrophic aftermath of the invasion, the unchecked looting of every public institution in Baghdad, the devastation of Iraq's cultural heritage, the anger of ordinary Iraqis who couldn't understand why the world's only superpower was letting this happen.'' However, Galbraith noted that "[e]ven after my briefing, the Pentagon leaders did nothing to safeguard Iraq's nuclear sites."

Fred Kaplan writes in Slate that the biggest question facing historians will be whether the "Bush administration's fatal mistakes [were] due to bad thinking or to the sheer absence of thinking".

Tom Friedman writes in today's New York Times that "The real question is, What if we get a new Iraqi government but the same old Bush team incompetence? That would be a problem. Even an elected Iraqi government will see its legitimacy wane if we cannot help it provide basic security and jobs." He further writes,"If the Bush team wins re-election, unless it undergoes a policy lobotomy and changes course and tone, the breach between America and the rest of the world will only get larger. But all Mr. Bush and Dick Cheney have told us during this campaign is that they have made no mistakes and see no reason to change."

Proof of Mr. Friedman's last sentence (and the same sentiment voiced in CNB posts here and here), is a quote from VP Cheney in his debate with Sen. Edwards -- "What we did in Iraq was exactly the right thing to do. If I had it to recommend all over again, I would recommend exactly the same course of action. "

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

President Bush Argues Against His Reelection

"[A] political candidate who jumps to conclusions without knowing the facts is not a person you want as your commander in chief." Pres. Bush in a speech in Pennsylvania, 10-27-04.

Unless Bush is actually giving reasons to vote against him (who knows - he might be tired of all the "hard work" he kept complaining about in the first debate), CNB would think it helpful for him to actually open a copy of the Duelfer Report (Pres. Bush can see this earlier CNB post for explanation, or just read the freakin' news for once). Remember "Mission Accomplished"?

What does your campaign partner say about you?

Pres. Bush campaigned with Sen. Zell Miller (D-GA) today at Pennsylvania and Ohio events, in the recent effort to appeal to Democrats who aren’t sold on their own party’s nominee.

Zell Miller's notorious recent bout with insanity (take your pick -- his unbalanced keynote speech (SPITBALLS!!) at the RNC [filled with inaccuracies, as shown here], or his challenging Chris Matthews to a duel) would seem to make him an odd campaign tool, "tool" being the operative word. Was Yosemite Sam busy? Is Bush focusing upon the "angry and senile old coot" vote?

Sen. Kerry, on the other hand, was campaigning with Gen. Merrill "Tony" McPeak (Ret. - AF), a Bush supporter in 2000, who told a group of veterans yesterday that he would vote for John Kerry this year. "I made a big mistake. I've been trying to make up for it ever since." Retired Sen. Bill Bradley (D-NJ) has also been campaigning for Kerry.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Free Speech Under Fire (Guest entry for CNB)

This is a first for the CNB -- a guest entry. This comes from Mrs. CNB ("looseygoosey" in the comments), who is a staunch civil libertarian.

A parent at the Richland County,WI high school where George Bush appeared today reported the following: Students were told they could not wear any pro-Kerry clothing or buttons or protest in any manner, at the risk of expulsion. After a parent inquired, an alternative activity was provided. (The school secretary reportedly said that students had the choice of just staying home if they didn't want to attend the Bush rally, but the principal subsequently offered an alternative.)

Aside from being a blatant violation of the US Supreme Court's holding in Tinker v. Des Moines School District, in which the Court stated that students' First Amendment freedoms don't stop at the schoolhouse door (and went on to state that undifferentiated fear or apprehension of disturbance is not enough to overcome the right to freedom of expression and school authorities must accept " mere disturbances" when students exercise their First Amendment rights), this type of thing appears to be a pattern at the Bush/Cheney appearances. Many people, who purchased tickets to the event, have been "escorted" out by the Secret Service and placed under arrest for disturbing the peace. A student in Iowa reported that a Secret Service agent made threats because he was wearing a button endorsing John Kerry.

At another rally, the mother of a soldier who died in Iraq was arrested following her protest at a Laura Bush event. If you search Google, you can find reports of incidents like this all over the country. In most cases, I would imagine that no charges are ever actually filed, and that this is a ploy used by the Secret Service to get protestors out of Bush rallies. And let's not even begin to talk about the "loyalty oath" that those attending the rallies are forced to sign, swearing their allegiance to Bush/Cheney as well as their votes in the upcoming election.

So I guess my question is this: What does this kind of policy say about our President, who took an oath to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States?" If our President is not going to step in and defend American citizens who are merely practicing our most basic freedoms, Freedom of Expression, who will? Are only those who support the President entitled to Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Expression? Does the President really believe that only his supporters are entitled to attend his appearances and hear his speeched first hand. The last I checked, he was my President too, even though I disagree with just about everything he has done while in office.

I find these events to be a sad commentary on the President's view of civil liberties in this country and what it means to participate in the political process.

War Costs Increasing -- Neocons Noticeably Quiet

Pentagon and congressional officials said yesterday that, if reelected, the Bush administration intends to seek about $70 billion in emergency funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan early next year. Yale University economist William D. Nordhaus estimated that in inflation-adjusted terms, the Vietnam War cost about $500 billion from 1964 to 1972. The cost of the Iraq war could reach nearly half that number by next fall, 2 1/2 years after it began.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, 1/19/03: “Well, the Office of Management and Budget, has come up come up with a number that's something under $50 billion for the cost. How much of that would be the U.S. burden, and how much would be other countries, is an open question.”

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, before the House Committee on Appropriations Hearing on a Supplemental War Regulation, 3/27/03: “There’s a lot of money to pay for this that doesn’t have to be U.S. taxpayer money, and it starts with the assets of the Iraqi people…and on a rough recollection, the oil revenues of that country could bring between $50 and $100 billion over the course of the next two or three years…We’re dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.”

Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, in early 2003: "The one thing that is certain is Iraq is a wealthy nation."

Monday, October 25, 2004

Cheney to Reality: Go F*** Yourself, Again

In an interview with NBC's "Today" show ("hard-hitting" journalism wedged between updates on the "Today Wedding"), VP Cheney said "I don't think we were wrong. On the big issues, I think we got it right, as the president himself has said."

An excerpt from the transcript -- [this is pretty much the only actual tough question, which is likely why Cheney gives the answer that he does]:

Gangel: Right before the war, on “Meet the Press” you said, "We will be greeted as liberators." Were you wrong?
Cheney: Jamie, just because it's tough and because it's difficult and because force was required doesn't mean that it wasn't the right thing to do. And the Iraqis I've talked to, virtually to a man, all reiterate that gratitude they feel to the United States for what we did.

For those not paying attention, VP Cheney did not answer the question. Even providing a simple "no" would have been preferable to that answer.

Cheney: "[Kerry] said the other day in the New York Times that he wants to get terrorism back to a point where it's just a nuisance, like illegal gambling or prostitution. Those were his words. . . I think that's nuts.

So how does Cheney feel about his boss saying yesterday that whether the United States can ever be fully safe from terrorism was "up in the air"?

As previously noted by the CNB, Cheney's relationship with reality appears to be in need of repair.

Sen. Kerry also gave an interview to Today, but nothing new beyond the normal campaign rhetoric.

Rehnquist Hospitalized for Cancer -- Democrats Nervously Check Polls

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist (evidently the second oldest man ever to be chief justice of the Supreme Court at 80) was hospitalized with thyroid cancer over the weekend. He underwent a tracheotomy on Saturday, but expects to be back when the Supreme Court returns to work next Monday.

As many folks know, Rehnquist is frequently mentioned as a possible retirement prospect, although he has hired law clerks through June 2006, and has made no mention of stepping down. However, this sort of news puts political-types on notice, as the makeup of the Supreme Court will likely be affected by the results of this election (these folks are old, lemme tell you).

Democrats in particular are nervous about this, as there has been mention that Bush would like to replace Rehnquist with Justice Clarence Thomas. Apart from his alleged penchant for the films of a Mr. L.D. Silver (and talent for spotting pubic hair on soft drink cans), he is criticized by many for not abiding by the Supreme Court's tradition of stare decisis: that the Supreme Court will recognize prior court decisions and not disturb settled law without special justification.

In fact, Justice Antonin "Stop Calling Me Nino" Scalia said that Justice Thomas "doesn't believe in stare decisis, period." Scalia also said, "If a constitutional line of authority is wrong, he would say let's get it right. I wouldn't do that." Didn't Pres. Bush say (about a billion times) that he did not want "activist judges" on the Supreme Court?

Maybe it is not just Democrats who should be nervous . . .

Sunday, October 24, 2004

We have a war going on, but dammit, we HAVE to close the zoos!

Second in the CNB series on misplaced priorities, here you see some PETA members protesting zoos. That's right -- not war, not job loss, not even protesting Kerry (equal time, you know) -- these people have time to seek closure of zoos. Isn't there a homeless shelter at which they could volunteer? Now that would be helpful.

For a humorous, though factual, criticism of PETA, go here.