Pontificator: News and Commentary

Saturday, February 22, 2003 :::
Thank you, Ponti, for your unwavering, if ill-advised, trust in my abilities to maintain the high standards to which your paranoid rantings have always aspired. And, while I'm at it, thanks for the sissy nickname.

So, let me get this straight: now, Powell says that if Saddam Hussein will just take his ball and go home, there will be no war. Are we to assume that disarmament was never the issue, then? Perhaps the UN resolution could have included language stipulating that Saddam Hussein should, pretty please, go the hell away and stop dragging us down to his despotical level. Coming soon: if Saddam Hussein will shave his mustache, paint himself purple, and eat a bowl of live crickets, there will be no war.

And we have our newest addition to the language from the Bush White House: "relevation." No definition was provided but I’ll try to use it in a sentence: The President declared that, if the UN Security Council voted unanimously to approve the use of force in Iraq, it would be a relevation to him and would keep the body, in his words, "revelant."


::: posted by Pontificator at 10:09 PM

Friday, February 21, 2003 :::
Well, I'm heading off for a vacation to a place where there are no computers (thank God!). But don't despair, I've given the keys to the Blog to none other than Risdee, who will be your guest blogger for the week. Risdee, enjoy the blog, start slow, pretend it's driver's ed for a posting or two -- and then you can rev the engine and take some tight curves. But watch out -- this Blog has a tendency to veer to the left!!

Later. . .

::: posted by Pontificator at 1:49 PM

U.N. Inspectors call U.S. Intelligence tips "garbage."


U.N. sources have told CBS News that American tips have lead to one dead end after another.

Example: satellite photographs purporting to show new research buildings at Iraqi nuclear sites. When the U.N. went into the new buildings they found "nothing."

Example: Saddam's presidential palaces, where the inspectors went with specific coordinates supplied by the U.S. on where to look for incriminating evidence. Again, they found "nothing."

Example: Interviews with scientists about the aluminum tubes the U.S. says Iraq has imported for enriching uranium, but which the Iraqis say are for making rockets. Given the size and specification of the tubes, the U.N. calls the "Iraqi alibi air tight."

What's so odd here is that nobody serious disputes the fact that the Iraqis have weapons of mass destruction: I believe it, Bush believes it, the U.N. Inspectors believe it, etc. So the question is, why are we undermining that case by distributing faulty intelligence? In other words (as put by the cogent provacateur), why are we trying to frame a guilty subject? And why are we consequently undermining our reliability in the eyes of the world, a reliability which is essential for us to fight the war on terrorism?

My hunch -- Bush is pushing the intelligence agencies so hard to get the goods on Iraq, that they're giving him work product that wouldn't pass the smell test under ordinary circumstances, but, in light of the ideological pressure from the politicians, the agencies are turning over anyway. A corollary of that supposition is that the intelligence agencies simply don't have any good intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction -- which could mean we're screwed when the war starts.

::: posted by Pontificator at 11:25 AM

Thursday, February 20, 2003 :::
If you're wondering why Turkey is demanding a guarantee in writing from the United States for the promised $26 Billion in foreign aid (think about it -- $26 billion! But still a small price to pay to destabilize the region and increase the risk of global terrorism), just read Paul Krugman's latest.

Here's one of the best passages:

After all, look at our behavior in Afghanistan. In the beginning, money was no object; victory over the Taliban was as much a matter of bribes to warlords as it was of Special Forces and smart bombs. But President Bush promised that our interest wouldn't end once the war was won; this time we wouldn't forget about Afghanistan, we would stay to help rebuild the country and secure the peace. So how much money for Afghan reconstruction did the administration put in its 2004 budget?

None. The Bush team forgot about it. Embarrassed Congressional staff members had to write in $300 million to cover the lapse. You can see why the Turks, in addition to demanding even more money, want guarantees in writing. Administration officials are insulted when the Turks say that a personal assurance from Mr. Bush isn't enough. But the Turks know what happened in Afghanistan, and they also know that fine words about support for New York City, the firefighters and so on didn't translate into actual money once the cameras stopped rolling.


::: posted by Pontificator at 11:40 PM

Looks like Bush is about to add Turkey to the axis of evil. Or maybe the New York Post will add them to the axis of weasels. That "weasel" list is growing quite long, isn't it? But don't worry -- Romania still stands lock-step beside us!

As I've posted before, the worst thing we can do in a war on stateless terrorism is alienate allies. Unfortunately, it seems like every day Bush alienates a new ally. That's why Bush is the world's most dangerous democratically elected leader -- both to us and to the rest of the world.

::: posted by Pontificator at 4:36 PM

Wednesday, February 19, 2003 :::
Right wing blogger Glenn Reynolds has an article in the Guardian which, well which simply is a one-sided warblogger love-fest which completely ignores, Atrios, Talking Points Memo, Oliver Willis, and the whole left side of the blogosphere. Professor Reynolds seems to fancy himself as Blogworld's ambassador to off-line civilization. Well he may be a nice guy and a good law professor, but he sure as hell ain't my ambassador!

::: posted by Pontificator at 11:54 PM

James Carville and Tucker Carlson rip Bill O'Reilly a new one on Crossfire:

CARVILLE: Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly is a self-proclaimed straight talker. An enemy of spinning, lying, equivocating and pathetic excuse making. He holds himself out to be the foremost critic of any kind of double speak.

Well, "The Washington" report -- "The Washington Post" reports an example of just what a straight shooter O'Reilly is. He is, quote, "taken some heat for referring to Mexican smugglers as `wetbacks,' a term Many Mexican-Americans consider offensive."

His excuse was he was fumbling around for the word "coyote" which makes sense because wetback is the first word one thinks of when one is meaning to say coyote. Thank God O'Reilly's explained himself in a matter we can all understand. Fair and balanced? You decide.

CARLSON: Actually I feel for him, James. Just a second ago I said, "Bring me a cup of coffee," but instead of coffee I said "cheese-eating surrender monkey."

It's pathetic that Fox News allows O'Reilly to stay on television without apologizing. If Fox had any class, it would send toss him out on the sidewalk along with Jimmy the Greek.

::: posted by Pontificator at 5:13 PM

Tuesday, February 18, 2003 :::
I've been reading Richard Preston's book, the Demon in the Freezer, about smallpox. He makes a convincing case that Iraq has stocks of smallpox which it could release as a weapon.

The short version is as follows. In the early 1970's, Iraq had an active biological weapons program. At that same time, there was a smallpox outbreak in Iran that spread into Iraq before it was eradicated. Mr. Preston makes the case that Iraqi scientists could have taken the smallpox virus from Iraqi smallpox victims, stored it, and secretly kept it ever since.

Now, some would say that's an argument in favor of going to war in Iraq. I say the opposite. Smallpox is a poor tactical weapon because it is completely uncontrollable. It will wipe out your own people as well as those of your enemies. Therefore, it is most useful only as a weapon of last resort, when you can immunize yourself and a few of your closest bodyguards as the enemy moves in.

In other words, it would make no sense for Saddam to use a smallpox weapon in a regional war with Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, or Israel, because the virus will circle back and destroy Iraq as well as its enemy. The only scenario where it makes sense for Saddam to use smallpox is if his back is to the wall, his government is about to fall, and he needs to escape. In other words, our war with Iraq may be the only scenario where it make sense for Saddam to unleash the smallpox virus.

Let me say that again: If we attack Iraq, there is a good chance Saddam will release the smallpox virus. If we don't, the odds that he will are slim to none.

If you want to understand exactly what will happen once the smallpox virus is released, read Preston's book. The short version: It ain't pretty.

::: posted by Pontificator at 1:50 PM

Monday, February 17, 2003 :::
George W. Bush is putting us in danger. Why, you ask?

Because our enemy is Al Qaeda. Since Al Qaeda hides in the shadows, it cannot be drummed out of existence with bombs alone (as can lesser enemies like Saddam Hussein). Since Al Qaeda is everywhere, it must be fought everywhere.

In light of these characteristics, what we therefore need to defeat Al Qaeda is international cooperation on intelligence gathering, international cooperation on freezing assets, international cooperation on law-enforcement efforts, and international cooperation on military campaigns.

We cannot gather intelligence if those foreign countries mistrust us and won't share their intelligence. We cannot freeze assets if our ability to freeze them is limited to the United States -- to freeze assets effectively they must be frozen everywhere. We cannot arrest suspects overseas if foreign law enforcement distrusts our information and won't let our agents operate in their countries. We cannot use our military to take out Al Qaeda camps (if and when we find them) if foreign governments will not give us over-flight rights, will not allow us to station troops, and will not provide logistical support.

George W. Bush is systematically undermining our prestige in the world, systematically lowering our international credibility, and systematically alienating our friends and allies. Consequently, George W. Bush is putting us in danger because he is systematically destroying our best weapon against Al Qaeda -- international cooperation and support.

Simply put, George W. Bush is the world's most dangerous democratically elected leader -- and a clear and present danger to the citizens of the United States. Let's hope the voters throw him out before it's too late.

::: posted by Pontificator at 1:57 PM

Sunday, February 16, 2003 :::
Next time you hear a talking head on Fox news proclaim that the war with Iraq has nothing to do with oil, just remember he's contradicting his boss:

"Mr [Rupert] Murdoch was unequivocal about war with Iraq. 'We can't back down now. I think Bush is acting very morally, very correctly, and I think he is going to go on with it.'

He said the price of oil would be one of the war's main benefits. 'The greatest thing to come out of this for the world economy, if you could put it that way, would be $20 a barrel for oil. That's bigger than any tax cut in any country.'

Mr Murdoch's comments come just a week after he told Fortune magazine in the US that war could fuel an economic boom.

'Who knows what the future holds? I have a pretty optimistic medium and long-term view but things are going to be pretty sticky until we get Iraq behind us. But once it's behind us, the whole world will benefit from cheaper oil which will be a bigger stimulus than anything else,' he told Fortune.

Mr Murdoch believes there is no doubt that President Bush will be re-elected if he wins the war with Iraq and the US economy remains healthy.

'He will either go down in history as a very great president or he'll crash and burn. I'm optimistic it will be the former by a ratio of two to one.'"

So just remember, the President and CEO of News Corporation, which owns Fox News, thinks this is a war about oil, and Iraqi civilian casualities (as well as U.S. military casualities) are a small price to pay in exchange for $20 a barrel for oil.

::: posted by Pontificator at 6:38 PM

I'm watching Wesley Clark on Meet the Press right now. He is saying exactly the right thing -- the Bush Administration has failed to focus on Al Qaeda like a laser beam, and use the UN, but more importantly, NATO, as an international force to defeat it, with popular support from our allies. Instead, we've gotten off-track by ordering an unnecessary "elective surgery," -- war with Iraq, which has divided us from our allies and hurt our war on Al Qaeda.

Wesley Clark for President!!!

::: posted by Pontificator at 11:22 AM


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