Archive for March, 2005

March 13, 2005

That Checkpoint Shooting Again

JB writes:

Take the shooting of the Italian intelligence agent in context:
Our soldiers were not to blame. A speeding car

According to the Italian journalist and the surviving intelligent agent, their car was not speeding and was mocing at about 25 mph. Granted, this part of the story might strike those who have driven in Italy as dubious. Still: why would anyone speed up towards a checkpoint full of triggerhappy soldiers? No one would. The odds that they were speeding is probably about 10 to 1.

coming at a check point within an area where one of the major methods the insurgents use are suicide car bombs will cause a level of alarm in those soldiers manning the check point. The agent failed to make proper prior coordinations with the American unit and he failed to pass through the check point in the proper manner (actually in a manner completely devoid of common sense). I ran traffic control points and check points when I was in Mosul, and the only people who ever sped at the check point were either drunk or intended to due us harm. We never shot at the driver or passenger until the threat was confirmed (we would disable it first), but suicide car bombs were far less frequent then. Hold the agent accountable for his actions…for being a dumb ass.

Maybe. But Mosul is a much, much calmer city than Baghdad from the standpoint of US occupation troops. Could it be that Americans had less reason to be nervous there?

Liberal Elitists

Alex writes:

If liberals are open minded how come they are so adverse to anyone who thinks differently? You are one of many cartoonist happily indulging in group-think. I am a cartoonist myself, a republican and a new yorker. Any input as to why independent thinking is not encouraged by the liberal elite ivy leaguers such as yourself?

That’s so silly it doesn’t merit a response. But I thought you should see the kind of stuff people send me.

Ted Rall on Air America

I’ll be filling in for vacationing “Morning Sedition” co-host Marc Maron on Thursday, March 24, from 6 am to 9 am East Coast time. Check your local listings or livestream the show through airamericaradio.com.

The Terri Sciavo Case

Rick asks:

I don’t recall reading your thoughts on the Terri Schiavo case. Do you have an opinion? I myself have a living will, ordering no dramatic measures be taken in the event of my brain death. (I voted for Bush, so you probably think it’s too late). Schiavo’s parents say she is aware, smiles, and acknowledges contact and even uses some words. They accuse her husband of mis-treatment, and say they are denied proper access to her. They also say she is not allowed therapy, or the use of the outdoors. They make the point that people are arrested for starving a dog, yet they want to allow it against their daughter.
Normally, I would say pull the plug, but with her parents’ statement in mind, I am torn.
What say you, Ted?

This is one of a number of issues where I can’t come down strongly on one side or the other. I oppose euthenasia, largely because of its role leading to the Holocaust. On the other hand, if someone wants to kill herself, who can stop them? In the Schiavo case we really don’t know what happened and what’s true and false. In such cases I prefer to stand back and let the courts take their course.

Whenever I write about an issue where I feel torn, my readers are furious; many hated my column about eminent domain because I refused to take sides. Given the fact that there are so many issues where it’s easy to make the right call–torture, say–I tend to shy away from these. It’s too bad, because it leads many to believe that I only hold extreme positions about every issue, when in truth I only hold strong opinions about the issues I write and draw about. Moderation in the pursuit of interest, after all, is one hell of a vice.

Saddam Capture Faked?

UPI is asking whether the Saddam spiderhole story was just as phony as Bush’s thanksgiving turkey and the staged Saddam statue toppling party:

Ex-Marine Says Public Version of Saddam Capture Fiction

United Press International
03/08/05 – – Rochester NY – – A former U.S. Marine who participated in capturing ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein said the public version of his capture was fabricated.
Ex-Sgt. Nadim Abou Rabeh, of Lebanese descent, was quoted in the Saudi daily al-Medina Wednesday as saying Saddam was actually captured Friday, Dec. 12, 2003, and not the day after, as announced by the U.S. Army.
“I was among the 20-man unit, including eight of Arab descent, who searched for Saddam for three days in the area of Dour near Tikrit, and we found him in a modest home in a small village and not in a hole as announced,” Abou Rabeh said.
“We captured him after fierce resistance during which a Marine of Sudanese origin was killed,” he said.
He said Saddam himself fired at them with a gun from the window of a room on the second floor. Then they shouted at him in Arabic: “You have to surrender. … There is no point in resisting.”
“Later on, a military production team fabricated the film of Saddam’s capture in a hole, which was in fact a deserted well,” Abou Rabeh said.
Abou Rabeh was interviewed in Lebanon.

March 8, 2005

Remind Me Again, Why Dan Rather Lost His Job

I was astonished last night to watch CNN anchor Lou Dobbs last night, just after 6 pm East Coast time. In the midst of an alleged news story about the Italian journalist and intelligence officers shot by trigger-happy U.S. troops at a checkpoint in Baghdad, he decided to do a little editorializing about her newspaper’s political slant:

Well, the Italian journalist works for a communist newspaper that is highly critical of U.S. policy in Iraq. The shooting incident and the journalist’s remarks have sharply increased anti-American feelings in Italy. Italy, of course, is a key ally of this country in Iraq.

Kitty Pilgrim has the report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Italy, there was a full state funeral for the Italian secret service agent shot in Iraq. He used his body to shield the Italian journalist who had just been freed. Ten thousand people paid their respects, but some seek to turn the tragedy into a political statement, and protests have erupted.

NILE GARDINER, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: It is a great shame that the far left in Italy is seeking to exploit this recent human tragedy in order to try to build a wedge between Italy and the United States, two very close allies in Iraq and in the broader war on terror.

PILGRIM: The left-wing accusations have gotten out of control. The communist paper the journalist worked for, “IL Manifesto,” ran headlines accusing U.S. forces of “assassinating” the Italian secret serviceman. Since the incident, the journalist has stepped up her verbal attack on U.S. forces.

As Pilgrim probably knows–and why is a CNN correspondent editorializing about “out of control left-wing accusations” anyway?–the word “assassinate” in Romance languages like Italian has a slightly different meaning than it does in English. A closer translation would be “murdered,” and unless you take the Pentagon at its word (!), it’s certainly a possibility.

MATTHEW FELLING, CTR. FOR MEDIA & PUBLIC AFFAIRS: If you look back at the reports that she filed, she’s called Americans criminals, and that what we’re doing in Iraq is nothing short of a massacre. So when someone steps forward like this and has some criticism for the American forces, you’re tempted not to give it 100 percent believability.

PILGRIM: Fantastically, some claim the United States forces fired on the car because Italy is said to have paid some $8 million in ransom money for the release of the woman, and that goes against state coalition policy, something the State Department denied today.

More editorializing: “fantastically”? What if it turns out to be true? After all, the United States started out the war on terror by deliberately dropping a 500-pound bomb on Al Jazeera’s Kabul bureau, supposedly because the attack killed a leading Al Qaeda figure who hung out there. As a wag at the New York Times wrote, the same man was killed again several weeks later. It may or may not be true that the U.S. deliberately tried to kill the Italians. Reporters should let the facts speak for themselves as they become available, not try to guess what they think may or may not have happened.

RICHARD BOUCHER, STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: There’s absolutely no shred of truth to the idea that we somehow we did this on purpose.

PILGRIM: Protesters are pressuring the Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, who has committed 3,000 troops on the ground in Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM: Now, a White House spokesman today called the incident an accident. A full U.S. investigation is under way in cooperation with Italian authorities. And in the meantime, Italian officials are not denying that a ransom was paid. That perhaps something they would not like investigated too closely — Lou.

DOBBS: Now, while this is a tragic shooting, it’s remarkable that there is not just a simple statement that is an idiotic charge by a communist newspaper that is obviously making great political capital, if you will, out of this tragedy.

“Idiotic charges”? Were you at that checkpoint, Lou? If not, shut the fuck up. You don’t know squat.

PILGRIM: They certainly have an agenda in making these statements, yes.

DOBBS: And interestingly enough, the national media in this country has not put in context “Il Manifesto,” the communist newspaper, nor its agenda.

PILGRIM: It’s not considered fully a journalistic vehicle.

DOBBS: It’s certainly considered fully a political vehicle.

PILGRIM: Right.

DOBBS: Kitty, thank you very much. Kitty Pilgrim.

Amazing. Just amazing. Il Manifesta is a communist newspaper, but it is nonetheless a mainstream, legitimate media outlet in Italy, where communism isn’t considered fringe.

But I’ll bite: from now on, CNN should adopt the Lou Dobbs school of bias revelation whenever it quotes any source, not just Italian commie newspapers. We should therefore be able to look forward to such tidbits as these on future broadcasts:

DOBBS: And interestingly enough, the national media in this country has not put in context “The Wall Street Journal,” the neoconservative newspaper, nor its agenda.

DOBBS: And interestingly enough, the national media in this country has not put in context “The Washington Times,” the Moonie newspaper, nor its agenda.

DOBBS: And interestingly enough, the national media in this country has not put in context “Fox News,” the neofascist television network, nor its agenda.

DOBBS: And interestingly enough, the national media in this country has not put in context “The Bush Administration,” the unelected junta, nor its agenda.

Right, Lou?

March 8, 2005

Who’s Worth More?

At least FRWC (Frequent Right-Wing Correspondent) Keith writes:

The fact that you believe the statements made by the Italian Journalist without even that the American
Soldiers might in fact be telling the truth shows your own bias.

Actually, I’m inclined to believe her account because it jives so nicely with other accounts as well as my personal experience of how American forces in Afghanistan man road blocks. The Third World is riddled with checkpoints, which range from the impromptu barrels with a stick across them to a full-fledged toll house. Checkpoints have troops or policemen on the side of the road, one to flag down motorists with a baton or stop sign, another to check documents and search vehicles. Motorists slow down as they approach to indicate their willingness to stop. Often a small bribe is paid to be allowed to proceed.

U.S. checkpoints, on the other hand, are often difficult to discern from the vantagepoint of a car until you’re right on top of them. There’s no soldier there to flag you down, nothing to indicate the checkpoint until bullets start hitting your car. This is particularly true in the dark; checkpoints should be brightly lit but survivors of U.S. checkpoints report getting shot at without warning, without lights. Most people, when shot at, assume that they’re being jacked up by bandits and hit the accelerator–fulfilling U.S. troops’ right to shoot them under their absurd Rules of Engagement. I don’t have to believe the Italian. What she says is obviously true. If her driver had seen the U.S. checkpoint, after all, would he have sped up towards it? Obviously not.

Sgrena is a noted anti-war critic who writes for a communist newspaper. Forgive me if I don’t just
believe anything she says out of hand.

I don’t know about that. If the last few years have proven anything, it’s that those who opposed the invasion of Iraq have been far more truthful than those who favored it.

What proof does she have or is she merely exploiting this as a further opportunity to try and embarrass America and enhance her own position?

The proof is the bullet wound in her shoulder.

My own bias forces me to believe the soldiers. In a combat situation the benefit of the doubt must rest
with the soldier. And your description of a road block is just a joke. You make it sound like the Americans were hiding on the side of the road shooting at any car that drove by.

Funny, that’s also how Iraqis describe them to the New York Times.

As an aside, the other reason I disagree with your description is because it places a larger probability
of harm on the American’s manning the road block. I would rather place the larger probability of harm on
the Iraqi citizen. If someone has to die, better an Iraqi then an American soldier.

Are you forgetting, Keith, whose country it is? Under normal circumstances, Iraqi lives are equal to American lives. When Americans are manning a roadblock as part of a hostile occupation force out to steal Iraq’s natural resources, oppress its people and turn the whole shebang over to a Shiite theocracy, their lives are worth less than Iraqi civilians they’re supposedly there to liberate. The best way to protect American troops, after all, is to deploy them only to places where America is being threatened. Iraq is not such a place, and we should get out now.

Those soldiers are there to defend America and American interests. And they are doing that. A large number terrorists, probably most of those who know which end of an AK-47 the bullets come out of, is
either on the way to Iraq or already there. The more of them we kill in Iraq the less of them we will have
to kill later and the fewer of them who can come here and try and kill us.

Are you high?

Every terrorist killed in Iraq whether foreign borne or Iraqi makes us safer. And that is why I support the war in Iraq and why the war makes us safer. Better to kill them over there than have them over here killing us.

I applaud Keith for his nativist honesty. Here, I’m afraid, is the attitude of many who support Bush and his wars.

March 6, 2005

Will CNN Rehire Eason Jordan Now?

CNN fired Eason Jordan for commenting, at a panel at Davos, Switzerland, that American forces have targeted and killed journalists in Afghanistan and Iraq, including 12 that he knew of. Right-wing bloggers went apeshit. How dare Jordan, they asked, as a producer at a supposedly impartial network like CNN, slander our beleagured, brave men and women in uniform?

In fact, there are numerous published, credible accounts of U.S. forces purposefully targeting journalists, beginning with the intentional bombing of Al Jazeera’s Kabul bureau, an incident in which the Pentagon admitted the targeting was intentional.

1. The Committee to Protect Journalists ascribes the death of Terry Lloyd, a correspondent for Britain’s ITN network, on March 22, 2003 near Al-Zubayr in Iraq to intentional American fire:

An investigative article published in The Wall Street Journal in May indicated that Lloyd’s SUV and another vehicle belonging to his colleagues came under fire from U.S. Marines. The article cited accounts from U.S. troops who recalled opening fire on cars marked “TV.”

2. On April 8, 2003, Al Jazeera reporter Tareq Ayyoub was killed in Baghdad “when a U.S. missile struck the station’s Baghdad bureau.”

Al-Jazeera…maintains that the night before the strike, al-Ali had received explicit assurances from U.S. State Department official Nabeel Khoury in Doha, Qatar, that the bureau was safe and would not be targeted. Abdullah told CPJ, “The coordinates were actually given four months in advance to the Pentagon, and we were assured that we would not be hit under any circumstances. … We would never be targeted, that was the assurance…Moments later, Abu Dhabi TV staff on the roof came under machine gun fire from a U.S. tank on the nearby Jumhuriyya Bridge, and one of their three unmanned cameras was struck by a shell, staff told CPJ. The three-story building was marked with a large banner labeled “Abu Dhabi TV.”

3.-4. U.S. troops were gunning for journalists on April 8. On the same day, José Couso, a cemaraman for Spanish TV station Telecinco, was killed in his room at the Palestine Hotel, internationally famous as the headquarters for all journalists covering Iraq:

At around 12 p.m., a shell hit two hotel balconies where several journalists were monitoring a battle in the vicinity. Taras Protsyuk, a Ukrainian cameraman for Reuters, was also killed in the attack. Agence France-Presse reported that Couso was hit in his jaw and right leg. He was taken to Saint Raphael Hospital, where he died during surgery. Couso was married with two children. Directly after the attack, Maj. Gen. Buford Blount, commander of the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, confirmed that a single shell had been fired at the hotel from a tank in response to what he said was rocket and small arms fire from the building. Journalists at the hotel deny that any gunfire had emanated from the building.

5. On August 17, 2003, Mazen Dana, a veteran combat reporter for Reuters, was shot by U.S. forces outside Baghdad:

Dana was struck in the torso while filming near Abu Ghraib Prison, outside Baghdad, in the afternoon. He had been reporting with a colleague near the prison after a mortar attack had killed six Iraqis there the previous night. The soldier in the tank who fired on Dana did so without warning, while the journalist filmed the vehicle approaching him from about 55 yards (50 meters).

U.S. military officials said the soldier who opened fire mistook Dana’s camera for a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launcher. There was no fighting taking place in the area, and the journalists had been operating in the vicinity of the prison with the knowledge of U.S. troops near the prison gates.

Dana’s soundman, Nael Shyioukhi, who witnessed the incident, told CPJ that he and Dana arrived at the prison with their driver, Munzer Abbas, in the late afternoon. According to Shyioukhi, several journalists were also in the area. Shyioukhi said that after a short while Dana suggested that they approach the prison gates to begin filming. At one point, Dana identified himself to a U.S. soldier as a journalist from Reuters and asked if a spokesman was available to comment on camera about the attack the previous night. The soldier replied that he could not comment, and no spokesmen were available. Dana then asked the soldier if he and Shyioukhi could film the prison from a nearby bridge. According to Shyioukhi, the soldier politely told them they were welcome to do so.

After filming from the bridge, located between 330 and 660 yards (300 and 600 meters) from the prison, Dana and Shyioukhi, who were wearing jeans and T-shirts, packed their equipment in their car and began to head off for the Reuters office. As they approached the main road to the prison, Dana noticed a convoy of tanks approaching and told Abbas to stop so he could film it. According to Shyioukhi, he and Dana were not apprehensive because the area was calm, and it was apparent that U.S. troops were in complete control. Neither Dana nor Shyioukhi were wearing flak jackets, and their car was not marked press.

Dana exited the car and set up his blue, canvas-encased camera with a white microphone facing the tanks while Shyioukhi lit a cigarette. Shyioukhi said Dana filmed for about 10 seconds, when suddenly, without warning, several shots rang out from the lead tank, which was approximately 55 yards (50 meters) away.

U.S. military spokesman Col. Guy Shields called Dana’s death a “tragic incident” and promised to do everything to avoid a similar incident in the future. When questioned by London’s Independent about the rules of engagement for U.S. troops, Shields said, “I can’t give you details on the rules of engagement, but the enemy is not in formations, they are not wearing uniforms. During wartime firing a warning shot is not a necessity. There is no time for a warning shot if there is potential for an ambush.”

Some journalists at the scene questioned how troops could mistake the camera for a weapon. And according to experts who train war correspondents, although one might easily mistake a camera for an RPG launcher at a distance, a camera would be clearly visible from 55 to 110 yards (50 to 100 meters)—the distance at which Dana was hit.

6.-7. On March 18, 2004, Abdel Aziz and al-Khatib, a cameraman and reporter for the United Arab Emirates-based news channel al-Arabiya, were shot dead by triggerhappy U.S. soldiers manning a checkpoint in Baghdad:

The two journalists, along with a technician and a driver, were covering the aftermath of a rocket attack against the Burj al-Hayat Hotel, according to Al-Arabiya. The crew arrived at the scene in two vehicles and parked about 110 to 165 yards (100 to 150 meters) away from a checkpoint near the hotel. Technician Mohamed Abdel Hafez said that he, Abdel Aziz, and al-Khatib approached the soldiers on foot and spoke with them for a few minutes but were told they could not proceed.

As the three men prepared to depart, the electricity in the area went out and a car driven by an elderly man approached U.S. troops, crashing into a small metal barrier near a military vehicle at the checkpoint. Abdel Hafez said that as the crew pulled away from the scene, one of their vehicles was struck by gunfire from the direction of the U.S. troops. Abdel Hafez said he witnessed two or three U.S. soldiers firing but was not sure at whom they were firing. He said there had been no other gunfire in the area at the time. Bullets passed through the rear windshield of the car in which Abdel Aziz and al-Khatib were driving. Abdel Aziz died instantly of a bullet wound, or wounds, to the head, while al-Khatib died in a hospital the next day, also due to head wounds.

According to press reports, the U.S. military commander in Iraq at the time, Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, ordered an “urgent review” of the incident. On March 29, the U.S. military said it had completed its investigation and accepted responsibility for the deaths of the two journalists.

8. On March 26, 2004, ABC cameraman Burhan Mohamed Mazhour was shot by U.S. troops in Fallujah:

Agence France-Presse reported that Mazhour, who had been freelancing for ABC for nearly two months, was standing among a group of working journalists “when U.S. troops fired in their direction.”

9. Asaad Kadhim, correspondent for al-Iraqiya, a U.S.-funded collaborationist news channel, was shot along with his driver at a checkpoint near Samara:

Cameraman Jassem Kamel was [also] injured in the shooting. On April 20, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the deputy director of operations for coalition forces in Iraq, confirmed that U.S. troops had killed the journalist and his driver. According to media reports, Kimmitt said that coalition forces at the checkpoint warned the journalists’ vehicle to stop by firing several warning shots. When the vehicle ignored those shots, Kimmitt said, forces fired at the car. The Associated Press reported that Kimmitt said there were signs in the area indicating that filming was banned at both the base and the checkpoint. According to the AP, Kimmitt said the signs were designed to prevent Iraqi insurgents from canvassing the area.

Cameraman Kamel told the AP that no warning shots had been fired at their vehicle.

10. Mazen al-Tumeizi, a reporter for al-Arabiya TV, was shot “after a U.S. helicopter fired missiles and machine guns to destroy a disabled American vehicle”:

Seif Fouad, a camera operator for Reuters Television, and Ghaith Abdul Ahad, a freelance photographer working for Getty Images, were wounded in the strike.

That day at dawn, fighting erupted on Haifa Street in the center of Baghdad, a U.S. Bradley armored vehicle caught fire, and its four crew members were evacuated with minor injuries, according to news reports. As a crowd gathered, one or more U.S. helicopters opened fire. Video aired by Al-Arabiya showed that al-Tumeizi was preparing a report nearby when an explosion behind him caused him to double over and scream, “I’m dying, I’m dying.” He died moments later, the Dubai-based station reported.

Military spokesman Lt. Col. Steven Boylan told The Associated Press that a U.S. helicopter fired on the disabled Bradley vehicle to prevent looters from stripping it.

11. Dhia Najim, a freelance cameraman for Reuters, was shot by U.S. troops in Ramadi:

A November 2 statement from the 1st Marine Division of the I Marine Expeditionary Force said that U.S. forces “engaged several insurgents in a brief small arms firefight that killed an individual who was carrying a video camera.”

On November 3, The New York Times reported that the Marine Corps had opened an investigation. “‘We did kill him,” an unnamed military official told The Times. “‘He was out with the bad guys. He was there with them, they attacked, and we fired back and hit him.”

Reuters rejected the military’s implication that Najim was working as part of an insurgent group. The agency reported that video footage showed no signs of fighting in the vicinity and noted that Najim had “filmed heavy clashes between Marines and insurgents earlier in the day but that fighting had subsided.”

Honorary #12 (not a death, but still!):

Tuesday January 13, 2004
The Guardian
The international news agency Reuters has made a formal complaint to the Pentagon following the “wrongful” arrest and apparent “brutalisation” of three of its staff this month by US troops in Iraq.
The complaint followed an incident in the town of Falluja when American soldiers fired at two Iraqi cameramen and a driver from the agency while they were filming the scene of a helicopter crash.
The US military initially claimed that the Reuters journalists were “enemy personnel” who had opened fire on US troops and refused to release them for 72 hours.
Although Reuters has not commented publicly, it is understood that the journalists were “brutalised and intimidated” by US soldiers, who put bags over their heads, told them they would be sent to Guantanamo Bay, and whispered: “Let’s have sex.”
At one point during the interrogation, according to the family of one of the staff members, a US soldier shoved a shoe into the mouth one of the Iraqis.
The US troops, from the 82nd Airborne Division, based in Falluja, also made the blindfolded journalists stand for hours with their arms raised and their palms pressed against the cell wall.
“They were brutalised, terrified and humiliated for three days,” one source said. “It was pretty grim stuff. There was mental and physical abuse.”
He added: “It makes you wonder what happens to ordinary Iraqis.”
The journalists were all wearing bulletproof jackets clearly marked “press”. They drove off after US soldiers who were securing the scene opened fire on their Mercedes, but were arrested shortly afterwards.
The soldiers also detained a fourth Iraqi, working for the American network NBC. No weapons were found, the US military admitted.
Last night the nephew of veteran Reuters driver and latterly cameraman Mr Ureibi said that US troops had forced his uncle to strip naked and had ordered him to put his shoe in his mouth.
“He protested that he was a journalist but they stuck a shoe in his mouth anyway. They also hurt his leg. One of the soldiers told him: ‘If you don’t shut up we’ll fuck you.'”
He added: “His treatment was very shameful. He’s very sad. He has also had hospital treatment because of his leg.”

So. The United States DOES target journalists in Iraq. Eason Jordan was right. Does he get his job back, or do those fucking loud mouth lying bloggers win again?

March 6, 2005

Italian Journalist Confirms: Americans are Liars

The Italian journalist rescued by Italian intelligence operatives says that, contrary to repeated American assertions. The AP reports:

The U.S. military has said the car Sgrena was riding in was speeding, and Americans used hand and arm signals, flashing white lights and warning shots to get it to stop at the roadblock.
But in an interview with Italian La 7 TV, Sgrena said, ”There was no bright light, no signal.” She also said the car was traveling at ”regular speed.”

This is just the latest of numerous incidents in which American troops manning checkpoints in US-occupied Iraq shot at cars, supposedly to get them to stop, killing innocent people.

Newsflash to Pentagon dildos: When someone fires at your car in Iraq, you think you’re being ambushed by robbers. The last thing you’re gonna do is stop. You’re gonna floor that sucker to get the hell out of there. The way you man roadblocks, dildos, is to stand out in the middle of the street with a big stop sign and flag people down. What’s that? A suicide bomber could blow up your asses if you didn’t shoot first and ask questions later? That’s damned right. Occupying countries requires risks. Sometimes resistance fighters blow you up. Don’t like it? Get out. Why is this so damned difficult for these morons to understand?

March 6, 2005

Bush Lies Again

During the fall of 2002, six months before the US invasion of Iraq, the Bush Administration was dismayed by polls showing that very few Americans favored a preemptive strike against Iraq over the possibility that that country possessed weapons of mass destruction. So Bush, Cheney, etc. decided to tell Americans what they wanted to hear to make them change their minds: that they were certain that Iraq had WMDs. That certainty, of course, was the Big Lie: and it worked. To make things interesting, they even claimed that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11. Support for an Iraq invasion shot up, nearly doubling before the late March 2003 incursion that begun a war with no end in sight.

Now they’re at it again.

Republican lawmakers returned from their winter recess shocked by the reaction of even their Republican supporters to Bush’s proposed Social Security reform package. Their message, as a friend summarized the other day, was simple: we want our shit. Don’t take away our shit.

Stupidass Congressional Democrats ought to hold tight against any GOP plan on Social Security, since the party’s obvious intention is to begin a process that would ultimately lead to the system’s elimination. But where there are Democrats there are suck-ups and compromisers, and this debate–a sure winner for Dems if they could maintain solidarity–is no exception. Lifting my (sarcastic) suggestion from the Rallblog a few weeks back, they’re proposing “add on” personal accounts. In other words, Social Security would remain unaffected, but people could also open tax-free personal investment accounts (like IRAs) that they could invest in equities and other securities. The Republican plan for personal accounts would take away 4 percent of current benefits and replace them with personal accounts.

Bush’s plan is unpopular. No one wants to replace a 100 percent sure thing with a 96 percent sure thing and a 4 percent casino chip. Moreover, once this process starts it won’t be 4 percent. It’ll soon be 10, 20, 50, 100 and–poof!–the last major middle-class entitlement program will be gone, just like that.

So what does Bush do when the facts don’t work in his favor? He lies, like he did to con us into Iraq. At a forum pimping his Social Security plan, the New York Times reports, he said: “See, personal accounts is an add-on to that which the government is going to pay you. It doesn’t replace the Social Security system.”

The Times continues its report:

In fact, the personal accounts would offset a portion of the existing Social Security benefit and, its proponents argue, enhance it. Mr. Bush has proposed letting younger workers divert up to 4 percent of their taxable income into personal accounts – a move that detractors say would cost trillions in transition costs and ruin the underpinnings of the system.

This kind of writing is what drives thinking Americans crazy. In fact, it’s not only “detractors” who say transition costs would run into the trillions. The White House says they will. There’s no dispute on this point. At least they call Bush on lying about add-ons–but the “in fact” is a little too subtle for my tastes, or for most readers to notice while skimming the piece over their morning coffee.

Trent Duffy, a White House spokesman, said Mr. Bush was not embracing the alternate plan, which he said would amount to creating an entirely new program outside Social Security. Instead, Mr. Duffy said the president used the term “add-on” to describe his own proposal. “Social Security is facing its own problems and the president’s mission is to save Social Security,” Mr. Duffy said.

In other words, Duffy says, Bush is using the term add-on, which is gaining some traction, to describe his own original proposal–one to which add-ons were conceived as a counterproposal. If treasonous columnist Robert Novak is correct, however, Bush’s attack on Social Security is doomed in the Senate. The sad thing about this fiasco is that Social Security really does have long-term structural issues to address. By stooping to his usual ghetto tactics of working to further enrich his wealthy investment banker pals, he has made it harder for some future president to fix the program.

Another Bush Voter Shows His Stripes

Yesterday’s hate mailer SirRosis675@aol.com is back:

Scum,
If you want a clash, please be my guest. I’m a Nihilistic misanthrope who has no soul. So if you think siccing your minions on me will cause me any anxiety,you are very wrong. I don’t have feelings,remorse or any conscience to speak of. So tell your followers to keep the e-mails coming to me…it’s only more fuel for the fire.I don’t solicit them,so I consider them a nuisance…my response will be directed the proper party,not the peons.
Where were you on June 18,1984? A beautiful Monday for America
How about November 3,1979 or May 4,1970…great days indeed.
Your Pal,
Sir Rosis

May 4, 1970 was the Kent State Massacre. That one I know off the bat.
Oh, and: dude, you know the email rules here. Send me shit like you did yesterday and you’ll have to share it with the world. Find some other squishy liberal to use as your personal punching bag.

then he sent this:

Son of a French Cunt,

Wow, Scarborough? Holy mother of shit you are desperate! You gotta be kidding me if you go on a flyweight show like that. MSNBC has test pattern ratings,but for good enough for your low ambitions. No wonder your father split…first,he knocked up a frog cunt(if you’re gonna fuck a French hole cover your pecker,you never know what viri French cunts carry) and secondly he must have had ESP to see what a load of vomit you would turn into. Keith Haring would be proud. He’s probably in Hades right now blowing a Haitian…just like he did when alive. Hey Liberace,go draw your silly cartoons. You probably are a card carrying NAMBLA member who goes to comic book conventions looking for 8 year old weenis. Wake up..you’re a homo. Hope the new and improved HIV gets ya…Millions of dead fags can’t be wrong!

And he probably has a flag on his bumper.

Apparently he’s also been sending similar missives to those FORs who wrote him:

Ted:

This guy is a racist. He claims he is not white supremicist, but he was hateful and spiteful.
Quick question:
One of his e-mails said “Warriors…come out and play” and referred to a comment I made at IMDB which gave my city location. Should I be concerned?

I dunno. The early 1970s film reference could be interpreted any number of ways. Death threats should always be taken seriously, even though few of them are ever acted out upon. It only takes one nut, after all.

BTW, I was not initially insulting. I simply sent him Michael Ventura’s article on America by the numbers. That was when he shot back with the racist insults.

I have blocked him, and unfortunately, I accidently erased the e-mails, so I have nothing on him. My usual feeling is such people are more hot air than anything, but as you have dealt with death threats far more than I have, I thought I would ask. Non of his e-mails suggest a death threat. That subject line seemed to imply some sort of threat.

Sorry to bother with such triviality. I just thought I would try something to support you.

Blocking him was the right thing to do, and thanks for the reminder. I’ll do that right now. You should know this, however: he has an AOL account and is therefore totally traceable should he decide to do anything stupid. This is yet another reason that online anonymity should be proscribed: it has been repeatedly abused by phishers, violent emailers, etc. I hate to have to come to this conclusion, since online privacy would be the ideal situation in a perfect world. Unfortunately too many people have turned the Internet into the Wild West.

March 5, 2005

Attitude Presents: Neil Swaab!

The new Attitude series brings out its second tome in the series dedicated to up-and-coming cartoonists whose work deserves wider exposure because it’s so much better than almost everything else in print: this time it’s
Attitude Presents: Neil Swaab’s “Rehabilitating Mr. Wiggles”. “Rehabilitating Mr. Wiggles” features the demented adventures and observations of a murderous pedophile who happens to be a sweet, cuddly teddy bear, and his sidekick who bears a startling resemblance to a certain cartoonist. It’s the kind of strip that makes you nervous as hell because its humor is so daring and out there, but I have yet to meet anyone who didn’t find it hilarious. Click on the link above to order your advance copy (publication date is officially in August, though there should be books in July); I personally guarantee that you won’t go wrong.

Third in the “Attitude Presents” series will be one of cartooning’s best-kept secrets, brilliant political cartoonist Stephanie McMillan.

Editor & Publisher on the Challenge

Editor & Publisher magazine covers the postscript to the Right-Wing Challenge.

Speaking of blogs, Doug writes:

It seems to me you miss the point of bloggers entirely. Can you clarify and support your opinions by answering a few questions? Why is it when blogger question the establishment that is the mainstream media, they are like McCarthy? It seems your article casts you in the role of McCarthy as you find people who don’t think like you; believe opposite of you, and yet you have to disparage and discredit them. The Senator would be proud of you.

Hardly. I don’t have any problem with the conservative orientation of many bloggers; my critique concerns their methods, lack of accountability and intellectual dishonesty. Like their Lord Bush, they throw a lot of shit at the wall in the hope that some of it sticks. A search for the truth can be ideologically informed, but almost every right-wing blogger I’ve read ignores inconvenient truths while spinning the others out of context to make their side look better. The specific McCarthy reference relates to the desire of right-wingers not to engage their left-wing counterparts in constructive back-and-forth, but to shut them up, and even get them fired from their jobs, thus depriving the left of their spokespeople.

How can a champion of free speech like yourself look at blogs and say I thought blogs were good until I read them? Free speech is free speech is free speech. Every one has the right to say what they want if you don’t agree with it, tough. You get to spread your elitist message, they can spread there conservative message. It seems that what you a really rallying against is the fact that these folks make you work harder by forcing you to check facts (when and if you ever use them).

I check my facts in each and every column. Sometimes I make errors, and when I do I issue corrections and retractions. When do you see bloggers do that? If they did, every warblog would have to run 72-point type every day saying, “Oh, by the way, we were wrong. Bush did lie about WMDs.” But they don’t.

As an aside what do think that PETA activists were our throwing red paint of people in fur coats? Here’s an example of activists actually being violent, not just expressing the desire for violence. Do you condemn PETA as much as you condemn the right wing bloggers?

Um, no. Losing a fur coat never killed anyone. It’s just property, and ill-gotten property at that. But right-wing bloggers are cowing the media that is the cornerstone of our democratic system.

How do you know bloggers are uneducated?

Just read them. They have virtually zero knowledge of history, for example.

Do you have statistics of this? I doubt it. I read quite a bit, and what is interesting is in conservative books/blogs I read references to sources and supporting documents are common. In liberal literature however, it is rare to see any reference to supporting documentation. Why is this? If you make bold statements, back them up with real honest to gosh facts that can be verified. Even though you write an editorial, don’t you think you should back up your opinion with facts? Or are fact little things that just get in your way?

Please remember that my weekly opinion column is for newspapers, which don’t have links. If someone wants to pay me to produce a separate version with links, I would love to do so. Until then, this blog is all the free work I can stand. Besides, if you want to find my quotes, run them through Google. Odds are that they’ll turn up.

It seems you are failing to rise to the challenge the Red States are presenting you. Please challenge conservatives with ideas, logic and facts. Or are you not up to the challenge?

Oh, please. I’ve spilled hundreds of thousands of words of ideas, logic and facts since Bush stole his first election. It’s not up to me to repeat them.

Bush and Hitler, Redux

Alex adds:

2.) Hitler never smoked or drank.
4.) Hitler organized the Nazis personally.

But Jennifer subtracts:

sorry to nitpick on a theme you’re probably getting tired of, but I’d read before that Hitler wasn’t a vegetarian and just wanted to clarify before you get accused of spreading urban legends:
http://www.veg.ca/newsletr/mayjun96/hitler.html

Thankfully, FOR Alex saves the day:

Just a heads up, so that Rush Limbaugh doesn’t cite onelittle error and by inference conclude the rest of everything you’ve even written is completely wrong. Hitler wasn’t a vegetarian. That was propaganda. Thank God we don’t have propaganda in politics now.

A couple other Hitler comparisons you missed:

Hitler actually went to jail.

Hitler actually wrote (and could read) a book.

Hitler, just like Saddam, won elections back when you had to do the vote rigging by hand. None of these fancy computer tricks.

Hitler’s dad didn’t get his advisers to make Hitler dictator.

Hitler actually had to work for a living before he went into politics.

Hitler took a struggling country and brought it to the brink of global dominance. Bush took a robust economy and drove it into the ground.

When a group attacked Hitler, he wiped out their village, not the one three miles down the road that had nothing to do with it.

And Because You Dig the Hate Mail

SirRosis675@aol.com scrode:

Ted Rall is a cock-licking Commie who is outraged when the bloggers deviate from the Little Red Book. I hope this new wave of HIV wipes him out. Fist fucking liberals deserve the Belsen treatment. All the best, Sir Rosis

March 3, 2005

Why Bush Isn’t Like Hitler, Part VI

FOR Joe of Oakland contributes:

Stepping out of character for a moment, I’m gonna defend the President:
1) bush is no sissy vegetarian like hitler. The President is a carnivore.
2) bush is taller, 5′ 10″ or so to hitler’s 5′ 8 1/2 “.
3) in his youth hitler had dreams of being a wimpy architect. bush was a proud high school cheerleader.
4) hitlers’ drug habit persisted far later in life than bushs’ drug use.
5) bush speaks reasonably intelligible English. hitler spoke a foreign language.

Excellent. (But Bush isn’t president.)

March 2, 2005

We Have a Winner!

The Horowitz mystery pic comes from “Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher.” The copyright belongs either to the production company, which is CBS, or ABC, the broadcast network. Who wants to bet that Horowitz didn’t bother to pay for posting rights to these networks, or that they won’t be pleased to remind him about copyright law?

A letter to both goes out today, and Andy M. from Wisconsin–first person to identify the photo’s source–gets the copy of GENERALISSIMO EL BUSHO.

March 2, 2005

Eminent Domain

Ryan writes:

Thank you for writing about this somewhat obscure topic. As an urban planner I appreciate it when a nationally syndicated columnist writes about a topic that I would normally only discuss with my colleges.

I also like that you don’t come to a firm conclusion on this topic. The increase in revenue that the City of New London would receive from the new development would go for schools, roads, sanitation and other services. All good by most standards (unless you’re Ann Coulter or someone like that). However, Wilhelmina Dery loses her home, which is bad.

The catch 22 described above is really a symptom of a bad system. If the City of New London could rely on money from the State of Connecticut and the Federal Government to help fund its schools. roads etc. It wouldn’t have to prostitute its powers of Eminent Domain to the highest bidder.

It can’t though and the reasons are obvious, tax cuts lead to spending reductions. The Federal government has abdicated its responsibility to the states through unfunded mandates like No Child Left Behind and Wellfare reform. Unfortunately, more and more municipalities will have to make the choices that New London has had to make. Unless of course the Supreme Court decides that the power of Eminent Domain is not an economic development tool and then we can expect schools, roads and services to go the way of the Dodo.

Read this carefully, people. Ryan is dead-on accurate.

Lucas, however, thought my nuanced stance sucked:

Ted, what a fantastic piece of waffling you did on this latest column. I love your work, all of it. I think you are dead on with everything you say but man, this column kinda sucked. There was nothing hard-hitting; you sat on a fence for 13 paragraphs. The t hing i find so confusing is that you clearly meant to do it. Why? Don’t you agree that your take is why people read your columns? I mean, you are an Op/Ed guy…where’s the f’n Op?
Keep up the Pat Tillman stuff: A fake hero for a fake liberation.

Maybe he’s right. Maybe not. Wait—there I go again.

More Reasons Bush Isn’t Like Hitler

From Ed:

More reasons why Bush isn’t like Hitler:
1. When Hitler serverd in his country’s military, he showed up.
2. … and actually saw combat.
3. Hitler had a moustache.

Speaking of Hitler, this came in anonymously:

Maybe this will help out the e-mailer that questioned Hitler’s legitimacy. In the presidential election of 1932, Hitler came in second to the incumbent Hindenburg, but later that year the Nazis came away with the largest number of seats, but not a majority, in parliamentary elections.

A right-wing coalition of parties in the Reichstag convinced Hindenburg to appoint Hitler chancellor, the German equivalent of prime minister, and bring the Nazis into the government, believing that they could control them.

They were obviously wrong, and although Hitler was not a member of the Reichstag and was never elected himself to anything, he was legally appointed by the Reich President and had the support of a majority of the elected Reichstag, many of them democratically elected Nazis.

So yes, Hitler did come to power in a constitutional, democratic manner, and only afterward used his position to force through dictatorial legislation consolidating all power in the cabinet, and, ultimately, himself.

See the Wikipedia article on Hitler, or most encyclopedia articles for that matter, for support.

and Robert gets more specific:

Yet another brilliant comic that cuts so precisely to the heart of the matter. As a historian, I have pointed out the differences between Herr Bush and Herr Hitler. The main one I like to emphasize is how Corporal Hitler served with honor during World War I. As a message runner, his was a most dangerous job. He was injured in the line of duty and awarded a medal for his actions above and beyond the call of duty. As I recall, Bush went AWOL and deserted his unit when America was engaged in a war in SE Asia. While Hitler was obviously a negative historical figure, he did perform on a much more honorable level in defending his country than Bush did. But while Hitler came from a working class background, Bush never met a day of work or responsibility in his life. Needless to say, both of them heralded the end of freedom and justice in their countries after taking power. While I hope we don’t end up with millions of dead freethinkers a la the Jews, I fear that Bush and his minions will do great damage to our civil liberties. So keep up the good work and I’ll see you in the gulag.

Democracy Sweeps the Middle East, Sort of

Matthew jibes:

“On the other hand, the street demonstrations may have been organized
by CIA or other US-funded cover agencies. ” Snu? Isn’t this the same CIA that got caught flatfooted by 9/11 and thought Saddam had WMD? Either the CIA is hopelessly incompetent or secret masterminds, but it can’t be both at the same time. A little internal consistency, please.

Of course, if all those demonstrators are in the pay of the CIA it does sort of explain the deficit, seeing as the conservative estimates say there’s tens of thousands of them. (How on earth would you raise a crowd of fake protestors that big? I couldn’t begin to imagine how to do it.)

Careful, Mr. Rall. You’re on the verge of a Strange Loop here. If a Secret Conspiracy taints everything the news reports, how can the evidence that Conspiracy exists be less suspect?

I love this standard method of conservative rhetoric, which Tom Tomorrow has attacked so well in a cartoon recently. First you set up a strawman: the CIA messed up 9/11. Then you cite a supposed inconsistency: the CIA is too dumb to carry off a conspiracy.

Actually, as my readers know, the CIA was the only government agency with its eye on the ball concerning Iraq: it repeatedly told Bush that it had no proof that they had weapons of mass destruction. Incredibly, the only agency that got it right got blamed for the faulty war. Moreover, there’s little doubt that the CIA has pulled off countless coups, including in Iran in 1953. They also make absurd blunders, like poisoning Fidel Castro’s cigars during the early 1960s. One does not contradict the other.