The United States on Friday ordered a freeze on assets of the militant group led by Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, which has claimed responsibility for a series of bombings, kidnappings and beheadings in Iraq.
The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control added Zarqawi's Tawhid and Jihad group to its list of suspected terrorists and terrorism financiers.
...as Atrios and Ezra and everyone not drunk on the GOP kool-aid: We're only just getting around to doing this?!
Tell me again why we're supposed to take Bush's war on terror seriously?
It's been a solid month since I've posted a review at Destroy All Monsters -- one I've written, anyway -- but at last, I've just posted my review of the direct-to-vido Japanese production High School Ghosthustlers, starring model Senna Matsuda.
The president explicitly refuses "to pass some international truth standard." Because evidence is the fundamental test applied in France as well as in the United States, Bush thinks he shouldn't have to back up his claims or decisions with evidence.
...This is the second time Kerry has defined the test. Each time, he has made clear that it's a test of evidence, not opinion, and that Americans, "your own countrypeople," are the first people to whom the evidence must be shown.
When Bush replied last night that he refuses to pass this "truth standard," there's really no other way to interpret his position. He's saying that he doesn't have to show you any evidence, because evidence is the sort of thing a Frenchman would ask for.
I know I've been hard on the president lately. I'd like to say something nice about him. I'd like to be "fair and balanced." But my first responsibility as a reporter is to the truth. When one candidate tells half the truth, and the other says the truth doesn't matter, it becomes irresponsible for me or any other journalist not to report that by that standard—the standard of respecting the truth standard—one candidate is head and shoulders above the other.
I wonder if the number of pundits -- aside from Paul Krugman -- willing to call Bush on his spectacular prevarications is a sign that some see the writing on the wall and aren't that worried about retaliation from the Bush Administration come January?
President Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, testified Friday before a federal grand jury trying to determine who leaked the name of an undercover CIA officer.
Rove spent more than two hours testifying before the panel, according to an administration official who spoke only on condition of anonymity because such proceedings are secret.
Rove has been interviewed at least once previously by investigators in the leak case, as have Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell and other senior administration officials.
White House spokesman Trent Duffy referred questions to the Justice Department.
Bush's failure to secure Iraq is truly a strategic blunder -- an unforgivable error that undermines whatever benefits may have sprung from his invasion and diminishes national security. On top of that, Bush's failure to secure the Green Zone is ineptitude of the first order.
Insurgents penetrated Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone and set off bombs at a market and a popular cafe Thursday, killing five people, including three Americans, the U.S. military said, in a bold attack on the compound housing the U.S. and Iraqi government headquarters.
The U.S. military said the bombs appeared to have been "hand-carried" into the zone. If so, it would be the first time insurgents have successfully infiltrated and set off bombs in the heart of the U.S.-Iraqi leadership of the country.
...The 1st Cavalry Division, which is in charge of Green Zone security, said five people were killed in the two blasts, including three Americans. The statement revised an earlier count of seven dead. It said 18 people were wounded, including four Americans.
The attack raised fears over security in the compound and underscored militants' ability to strike in the capital even as U.S.-Iraqi forces are carrying out a new offensive to suppress them in other parts of the country ahead of January elections.
The Green Zone is a four square-mile district of central Baghdad surrounded by barricades and checkpoints that houses the Iraqi government, the U.S. Embassy, and residences, restaurants and entertainment facilities for the hundreds of Americans working there. It is also home to some 10,000 Iraqis, who need IDs to move in and out of the area.
I'm no believer in Bush's competence, but even I could not have imagined that more than a year after Bush's bogus "Mission Accomplished" stunt, that his ineptitude could have resulted in such an egregious security failure.
What's worse, if Bush's incompetence leads to such deteriorating security in the conflict that Bush calls a central front in the War on Terror, how can we possibly trust him to secure the homeland?
And now the game gets dirty. This is going to be the most critical, most hard-fought, and, without doubt, slimiest portion of the campaign. Rove isn't going to hope that Republican turnout skyrockets, he's going to try and emasculate John Kerry so Democratic voters stay home. And it'll thus be this stretch when the rapid response and organizing capabilities of the blogs will be most crucial (Sinclair, anyone?) and the unrelenting, unceasing passion of our base most needed. This weekend I'll be in Nevada working for ACT, but other than that, we're going to go straight through to the finish line, when I expect us bleary-eyed from fact-checking and exhausted from pounding out rebuttals.
But you saw that man on stage tonight. He's a president we're going to be proud of. And when he takes the oath of office, on that glorious and long-awaited day, all the work, all the mud, all the nights sacrificed and time donated...it'll all be well worth it. I say this because I remember how hard it was to keep going during the SwiftVets, and I know the next round will be worse. But this time, I promise to keep slugging, and I hope you'll all be dug in on the front lines with me.
And remember, this is the end. This is the final stretch. No matter what happens, you'll want to do all you possibly could have done. Every door you can knock, every friend you can phone, every voter you can register, every dollar you can donate, it all makes a difference. And yes, that means you blue staters too.
As predicted, I missed the beginning of the debate. For the first time, I caught part of it on the radio on the way home from the gym. I was pleased to note that Kerry sounds as presidential as he looks.
I don't know if Kerry addressed Bush's, ah, misstatements in his opening remarks, but he did keep the debate focused on Bush's miserable failure of an administration. Although Bush managed to avoid the goofy faces, andgry outbursts and babbling incoherently, I suppose his performance would have to be judged the best of the three, but that's damning with faint praise. Once again, Bush played to his base, while independents and undecided voters saw that Kerry stacks up as more of a man than his opponent. Kerry is everything Bush pretends to be, and the contrast is obvious. Kerry's performance tonight should continue his momentum leading up to Election Day, and I like the way the trends are going (although not, of course, all of them).
From what I could see, Bush's big whopper of the night was his insistence that his tax cuts went to the middle class, which dovetails nicely with his continued dishonest insistence that Kerry has increased taxes 98 times.
One final word...after the debate, speaking on PBS, New Tork Times columnist David Brooks said, once again, that he didn't know who won. Don't worry, Dave; I'm sure you'll decide Bush won by your next deadline at that Times. Feh.
Update: Here's Keith Olbermann's scoring. And the local paper punts again, asserting that "the gulf between the two on everything from how to fight the war on terror to whether to reimport prescription drugs is strikingly broad and deep" and "voters have gained a much clearer picture of their choice" without opining on who won. (I would disagree with the editors' assertion that "ach played heavily to his political base during the final debate;" Bush certainly did, but Kerry's more moderate positions are likely to appeal to swing voters as well.)
The pundits have all been talking about Bush's brilliant strategy to make this election about Kerry's record, but what they rarely point out is that this is a campaign of desperation for any incumbent. Bush has no record to run on. A not very popular federal education law, a joint project with Senator Satan Kennedy, and a moment with a bullhorn on top of a mass grave. That's it. [emphasis in the original]
Atrios also wonders about buzzwords like "litmus tests," but I see it as further evidence that, less than three weeks before the election, Bush is still laboring to shore up his base, even as Kerry is inviting more and more undecideds to join the bandwagon, simply by demonstrating that Bush's Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt campaign was way off and it is indeed he, Kerry, who looks Presidential.
Daily Kos carries more on the "Bush inconsistency" meme, offering up the notion that the debates have shown Bush as the Pouter, the Shouter, and the Doubter.
Liveblogging the debate, Pandagon serves up a good summary:
Kerry's doing well by pointing out his plans and Bush's failures and while Bush is doing well by pretending his failures are successes and lying about Kerry's record.
I'm taking The Girls to Taekwondo class tonight (although Naomi is too young to participate yet), and so will likely miss the beginning of the debate. I plan to catch the latter half and post my comments.
Today's wallpaper is dedicated to the Dario Argento film Phenomena, released in heavily edited form in the US as Creepers, which stars a very young Jennifer Connelly in one of her first film roles, as well as horror film stalwart Donald Pleasance and a razor-wielding, laser-guided chimp. There's a review of the full version at Teleport City.
Ruy Teixeira has some encouraging analysis of the electoral trends, three weeks before Election Day.
The root of Bush's weak support in these terms was pretty simple: people still thought he was doing a lousy job running the country, especially in key areas like the economy, Iraq and health care. These indicators stubbornly refused to budge during the entire time Bush was maintaining a lead.
In sum, Bush was ahead before the first debate not because his campaign had succeeded in convincing voters that Bush was doing a great job, but rather because his campaign had managed to shift a significant amount of attention away from Bush's poor performance and onto Kerry's alleged character flaws. Therefore, Bush's lead was likely to dissipate as soon as voters' attention was drawn back to his actual performance in office and the concrete policy alternatives proposed by Kerry.
That is, in fact, what has happened. The debates have allowed Kerry-Edwards to re-focus the campaign around Bush's record and Kerry's alternatives, thereby taking advantage of the weaknesses Bush never managed to fix in August-September. This was particularly true of the first debate where Kerry's strong performance put Bush on the defensive in what was supposed to be his area of strength: foreign policy.
...These debates, and the dynamic they set up, have transformed the race from a referendum on the challenger and his character to a referendum on the incumbent and his record. And, in the process, voters have received a lot of direct, unmediated exposure to John Kerry and his ideas that has been nothing but helpful to his candidacy, leading more voters to conclude that he is an acceptable alternative to a poorly-performing incumbent.
Digby points to an interesting portrayal of the campaign press corps at Rolling Stone.
Other reporters were just as dismissive. Kerry had gotten a series of impassioned standing ovations during his speech. But when Elisabeth Bumiller described the event in the New York Times, she said, referring to a moment when Kerry spoke an entire paragraph in flawless Spanish, "Kerry's audience . . . listened in startled silence, then broke out into cheers and applause when he made his way through [the paragraph]."
But to report on these events accurately would mean you had to say something unqualified and positive about Kerry. This is something his traveling press corps has been -- and still is -- loath to do. On the evening of September 21st, outside an auditorium in Orlando, where inside more than 7,500 people were screaming wildly as Kerry spoke, Candy Crowley stood next to the venue and reported on CNN that Kerry was "trying . . . to rev up the crowd." The implication was unmistakable: Kerry's supporters in Florida were resistant, even standoffish. Just to make sure Crowley was able to get away with downplaying the event as she was, CNN never showed a wide shot of the large, cheering crowd.
Digby points out -- as I and others have also said -- that if Kerry is able to covercome the Bush smear machine and its allies in the so-called "liberal media," it'll mean the hard work of overcoming media bias will not be ending, but only the beginning. And, of course, we can expect the right-wing smear machine to kick into overdrive. It promises to be an ugly four years, and only the prospect of four more years of George W. Bush could be uglier.
Paul Krugman, in a typically shrill New York Times column, goes so far as to predict the lies Bush will tell at Wednesday's debate. He makes the same point as Kevin Drum that deception is central to Bush's re-election effort.
It's not hard to predict what President Bush, who sounds increasingly desperate, will say tomorrow. Here are eight lies or distortions you'll hear, and the truth about each:
Mr. Bush will talk about the 1.7 million jobs created since the summer of 2003, and will say that the economy is "strong and getting stronger." That's like boasting about getting a D on your final exam, when you flunked the midterm and needed at least a C to pass the course.
Mr. Bush is the first president since Herbert Hoover to preside over a decline in payroll employment. That's worse than it sounds because the economy needs around 1.6 million new jobs each year just to keep up with population growth. The past year's job gains, while better news than earlier job losses, barely met this requirement, and they did little to close the huge gap between the number of jobs the country needs and the number actually available.
Mr. Bush will boast about the decline in the unemployment rate from its June 2003 peak. But the employed fraction of the population didn't rise at all; unemployment declined only because some of those without jobs stopped actively looking for work, and therefore dropped out of the unemployment statistics. The labor force participation rate - the fraction of the population either working or actively looking for work - has fallen sharply under Mr. Bush; if it had stayed at its January 2001 level, the official unemployment rate would be 7.4 percent.
Mr. Bush will claim that the recession and 9/11 caused record budget deficits. Congressional Budget Office estimates show that tax cuts caused about two-thirds of the 2004 deficit.
The tax cuts
Mr. Bush will claim that Senator John Kerry opposed "middle class" tax cuts. But budget office numbers show that most of Mr. Bush's tax cuts went to the best-off 10 percent of families, and more than a third went to the top 1 percent, whose average income is more than $1 million.
The Kerry tax plan
Mr. Bush will claim, once again, that Mr. Kerry plans to raise taxes on many small businesses. In fact, only a tiny percentage would be affected. Moreover, as Mr. Kerry correctly pointed out last week, the administration's definition of a small-business owner is so broad that in 2001 it included Mr. Bush, who does indeed have a stake in a timber company - a business he's so little involved with that he apparently forgot about it.
Mr. Bush will claim that Mr. Kerry proposes $2 trillion in new spending. That's a partisan number and is much higher than independent estimates. Meanwhile, as The Washington Post pointed out after the Republican convention, the administration's own numbers show that the cost of the agenda Mr. Bush laid out "is likely to be well in excess of $3 trillion" and "far eclipses that of the Kerry plan."
On Friday, Mr. Bush claimed that he had increased nondefense discretionary spending by only 1 percent per year. The actual number is 8 percent, even after adjusting for inflation. Mr. Bush seems to have confused his budget promises - which he keeps on breaking - with reality.
Mr. Bush will claim that Mr. Kerry wants to take medical decisions away from individuals. The Kerry plan would expand Medicaid (which works like Medicare), ensuring that children, in particular, have health insurance. It would protect everyone against catastrophic medical expenses, a particular help to the chronically ill. It would do nothing to restrict patients' choices.
By singling out Mr. Bush's lies and misrepresentations, am I saying that Mr. Kerry isn't equally at fault? Yes.
Mr. Kerry sometimes uses verbal shorthand that offers nitpickers things to complain about. He talks of 1.6 million lost jobs; that's the private-sector loss, partly offset by increased government employment. But the job record is indeed awful. He talks of the $200 billion cost of the Iraq war; actual spending is only $120 billion so far. But nobody doubts that the war will cost at least another $80 billion. The point is that Mr. Kerry can, at most, be accused of using loose language; the thrust of his statements is correct.
Mr. Bush's statements, on the other hand, are fundamentally dishonest. He is insisting that black is white, and that failure is success. Journalists who play it safe by spending equal time exposing his lies and parsing Mr. Kerry's choice of words are betraying their readers.
Obviously, the restriction on calling Bush on his mendacity imposed by that darn liberal paper have been lifted, and Krugman is at last free to call 'em -- shrilly, of course -- as he sees 'em.
Kevin Drum has an absolutely superb post up quantifying the candidates' statements during the last presidential debate. Brace yourselves for a shocker: Drum concludes that "deception seems to be central to George Bush's campaign while it's basically peripheral to John Kerry's."
Equipment and materials that could be used to make nuclear weapons are disappearing from Iraq but neither Baghdad nor Washington appears to have noticed, the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency reported on Monday.
Satellite imagery shows that entire buildings in Iraq have been dismantled. They once housed high-precision equipment that could help a government or terror group make nuclear bombs, the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a report to the U.N. Security Council.
Equipment and materials helpful in making bombs also have been removed from open storage areas in Iraq and disappeared without a trace, according to the satellite pictures, IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei said.
While some military goods that disappeared from Iraq after the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion, including missile engines, later turned up in scrap yards in the Middle East and Europe, none of the equipment or material known to the IAEA as potentially useful in making nuclear bombs has turned up yet, ElBaradei said.
The equipment -- including high-precision milling and turning machines and electron-beam welders -- and materials -- such as high-strength aluminum -- were tagged by the IAEA years ago, as part of the watchdog agency's shutdown of Iraq's nuclear program. U.N. inspectors then monitored the sites until their evacuation from Iraq just before the war.
The United States barred the inspectors' return after the war, preventing the IAEA from keeping tabs on the equipment and materials up to the present day.
...In the absence of any U.S. or Iraqi accounting, council diplomats said the satellite images could mean the gear had been moved to new sites inside Iraq or stolen. If stolen, it could end up in the hands of a government or terrorist group seeking nuclear weapons.
"We simply don't know, although we are trying to get the information," said one council diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. [emphasis added]
U.S. officials had no immediate comment on the report.
President Bush, locked in a tough reelection battle with Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, justified the war, in part, by saying that then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was on the brink of developing a nuclear bomb that he might use against the United States or give to terrorists.
Both men agreed during a Sept. 30 debate that nuclear proliferation is the most serious threat facing the United States.
Matthew Yglesias sums up:
Before the war Iraq's nuclear program was years away from bearing a usable weapon and, thanks to the sanctions regime, getting further away. Then, thanks to diplomacy and threats of force, IAEA inspectors returned to the country. These inspectors informed the U.S. government that its pre-war assessments of Iraq's nuclear program were off-base and that the threat was nowhere near as imminent as the administration had maintained. Nevertheless, the United States invaded, thus precipitating the evacuation of IAEA inspectors who'd been safeguarding the most advanced elements of the Iraqi nuclear program. After the war, the administration failed to provide enough manpower to secure the sites and, displaying its typical disdain for international institutions, wouldn't let the inspectors come back. As a result, instead of being under lock-and-key, bits and pieces of Saddam Hussein's nuclear program are now off God knows where. The war has totally undermined the security of Iraq's borders, has caused individuals with links to international terrorism to enter Iraq, and has led the individuals in question to acquire some supporters among the local population. In other words, the risk that Iraqi nuclear materials will make their way into the hands of members of a global terrorist network has been enhanced rather than reduced by the invasion that's cost tens of millions of dollars and over 1,000 American lives.
Over the past couple of weeks, the weather has definitely shifted to a more autumnal pattern. The nights have grown chilly, and it's been quite cool in the shade, even on days where the sunlight is still fairly warm. And, of course, the leaves have begun to turn, more rapidly now that we've had our first frost.
The local paper this morning ran a story and photo gallery about the beautiful fall foliage across Indiana. I'm greatly pleased that autumn is here; it remains my favorite season even apart from the onset of Halloween.
Josh Marshall explains it all about ABC News coming to the conclusion that it can't bend over backwards to pretend that John Kerry lies as much as George Bush.
The most noteworthy thing I've seen in the right-wing response is that there seems to be little effort to deny or engage the question of whether the Bush campaign is being qualitatively more dishonest than the Kerry campaign. All the whining is focused on the fact that any news organization would have the temerity to try to distinguish between them.
Which gets us to a key irony of the conservative assault on the concept of journalistic objectivity and claims of media bias. Though they attack the very notion that journalistic objectivity is practiced by the mainstream (i.e., non-Fox) media, they are most often -- and certainly in this case -- its great beneficiaries in as much as the failing of the current norm of objectivity is that it advantages liars. No surprise they'd want to maintain that advantage.
On the other hand, we have the Bush Administration up to the same taxpayer-funded propaganda shennanigans for its education policies as it tried with Medicare -- using the same faux "reporter," no less. And, of course, let's not forget Sinclair Broadcasting Group ordering its subsidiaries to air an anti-Kerry propaganda piece in the days before the election. Clearly, the definition of "liberal media" for the Bush Administration's lackeys is anything not a full-time member of the GOP's propaganda machine (which, of course, exempts Fox News).
Here's an exploitation movie just begging to be made, courtesy the Republican candidate for senator from Oklahoma:
You know, Josh Burkeen is our rep down here in the southeast area. He lives in Colgate and travels out of Atoka. He was telling me lesbianism is so rampant in some of the schools in southeast Oklahoma that they’ll only let one girl go to the bathroom. Now think about it. Think about that issue. How is it that that’s happened to us?" - Tom Coburn, 8/31/04
"Happened to us"? Personally, I think he's just cheesed off because he can't watch.
I'm saddened indeed to note the passing of actor Christopher Reeve, who will long be remembered both for his superb performance as the title role in Superman and for his bravery in the wake of a crippling riding accident. From the AP's obituary:
"Superman" actor Christopher Reeve, who turned personal tragedy into a public crusade and from his wheelchair became the nation's most recognizable spokesman for spinal cord research, has died. He was 52.
Reeve died Sunday of complications from an infection caused by a bedsore. He went into cardiac arrest Saturday, while at his Pound Ridge home, then fell into a coma and died Sunday at a hospital surrounded by his family, his publicist said.
In the last week Reeve had developed a serious systemic infection, a common problem for people living with paralysis who develop bedsores and depend on tubes and other medical devices needed for their care. He entered the hospital Saturday.
Dana Reeve thanked her husband's personal staff of nurses and aides, "as well as the millions of fans from around the world."
I was greatly impressed that, even after his accident, Reeve continued to act and direct. His participation in research led to some remarkable advances in the treatment of spinal cord injuries -- the fact that he regained some motion ability is nothing short of remarkable -- but the manner of his passing serves as a sobering reminder that despite Reeve's improvement, and the unflagging optimism with which he approached his condition, his injury was serious indeed and represented a constant threat to his life.
Planet Swank extends its condolences to Reeve's family, friends and fans.