Friday, September 26, 2003

See Billmon for your one-stop shop for Iraqi contractor horror stories -- White House insiders have stepped outside government to organize a new company set up for the sole purpose of collecting pork. Which seems to exist in remarkable amounts, to judge from a budget with line items like this:

...$100 million to build seven planned communities with a total of 3,258 houses, plus roads, an elementary school, two high schools, a clinic, a place of worship and a market for each; $10 million to finance 100 prison-building experts for six months, at $100,000 an expert; 40 garbage trucks at $50,000 each; $900 million to import petroleum products such as kerosene and diesel to a country with the world's second-largest oil reserves; and $20 million for a four-week business course, at $10,000 per pupil.

And it seems that you don't have to do much after collecting the money either -- Bechtel has the billion dollar contract to restore Iraqi power, but bedraggled Iraqis are doing the work on their own, and Bechtel refuses to even supply spare parts, claiming that's "beyond the scope" of the contract.

Combine this with the "privatization" initiatives that keep being floated -- which amount to selling off Iraqi government assets before there is a legitimate Iraqi government around to even haggle about the price -- and you get a policy which is morally indistinguishable from looting, of both Iraq and the US treasury, at pretty much the same time...

Well, it seems we Boston fans have now reached the point in the season where the Red Sox raise expectations, the better to dash them on the rocks in due course.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the standings sheet, the historic comparisons are running riot. The '62 Mets versus the '03 Tigers. The '62 Mets versus the '03 Mets.

What I, and thousands of TV viewers all across America, want to know is how any of these compare to a team that really doesn't have its act together -- the Morgan tribe on the current season of Survivor. (Speaking of which, might the Mets want to trade Mo Vaughn to the Morgan tribe for Osten? Hmmmm....)

The procedural pretrial maneuvering in the case of Zac Moussaoui drags on. To recall, this is the guy who was arrested before the war for making suspicious requests at a flight school, and who is now on trial as a Sept. 11th coconspirator, even though known coconspirators now in prison at Guantanamo claim he had nothing to do with it (apparently because they thought he wasn't trustworthy, though he admits to being in al Qaeda). Naturally, he'd like to call these guys as defense witnesses, but the government refuses to produce them.

The judge in the case has ordered the government to produce the witnesses. The government already tried to take this to an appeals court once, and the appeal got bounced back, in effect, for lousy lawyering -- the appellate judges told the prosecutors that until the trial judge imposed sanctions for violating her orders, they had no formal cause of action, so they'd better go back and get one. After mulling this over for a few freaking months, the prosecutors now say that they're willing to take a dismissal order from the trial judge, so they can go appeal it.

And if the appeal is denied?

Officials of the Bush administration have also made clear that if Mr. Moussaoui cannot be prosecuted in a civilian court because of the question of defense witnesses, he will be moved to a military tribunal, where he may have fewer rights to seek testimony from the captured terrorists.

Because everyone knows that an adequate defense, including their testimony, might lead to an acquittal, at least on charges of direct participation in the Sept. 11th conspiracy -- and goodness knows we can't have that...

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

The core of Dubya's justification for armed action on Iraq in particular (as opposed to numerous other states which also sponsor terrorism of some sort), from his speech:

The regime of Saddam Hussein cultivated ties to terror while it built weapons of mass destruction. It used those weapons in acts of mass murder and refused to account for them when confronted by the world.

The Security Council was right to be alarmed. The Security Council was right to demand that Iraq destroy its illegal weapons and prove that it had done so.

The Security Council was right to vow serious consequences if Iraq refused to comply. And because there were consequences, because a coalition of nations acted to defend the peace and the credibility of the United Nations, Iraq is free.

What did it mean that Saddam Hussein's regime "failed to comply"? They did supply hundreds of pages of documentation -- including documentation on the risible drone program and the al-Samood 2 missiles -- but claiming that preexisting WMD programs had been shut down, and the products destroyed. Before the war, Dubya and his crew claimed over and over that they were lying. And Dubya's new speech only makes any sense at all as a repetition of those claims -- if Saddam destroyed his weapons and accurately said so, what was the problem?

So, ummm... where are the weapons?

More: And, oh by the way, why was Colin Powell claiming, on Feb. 24, 2001, according to this official State department transcript, that:

[Saddam Hussein] has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors.

(He was defending sanctions at the time, attributing this success to that policy).

Via Atrios...

The problems of JetBlue airways continue. The airline was already under fire for releasing confidential passenger data to a DOD contractor, which was working on components of a new surveillance system. Now it's under investigation from two government agencies, including the Homeland Security department itself, whose chief privacy officer, Nuala O'Connor Kelly, is on the case. I'm sure she'll pursue the case with the exact same spirited zeal that she brought to her last gig, as chief apologist for notorious intenet ad snoops, Doubleclick...

Monday, September 22, 2003

So, Dubya apparently won't back off from saying that it's

the responsibility of other nations, including opponents of the Iraq action, to contribute to both security and reconstruction.

Someone's come along to bail him out every other time that he's gotten himself into trouble, so dammit, there's just got to be someone out there whose job it is to bail him out now. And to do it his way, too, without dropping even the merest hint that he, himself, might bear some responsibility for the mess:

According to the officials involved in drafting the speech ... Mr. Bush will acknowledge no mistakes in planning for postwar security and reconstruction in Iraq. ...

In the speech, Mr. Bush will repeat his call for nations — including those that opposed the Iraq action — to contribute to rebuilding the country, but he will offer no concessions to French demands that the major authority for running the country be turned over immediately to Iraqis.

As it has ever been for our man W. He seems to view his own life story, including his rise to power, as the expression of some divine plan, as in a speech at Yale where he said:

When I left here, I didn't have much in the way of a life plan. I knew some people who thought they did. But it turned out that we were all in for ups and downs, most of them unexpected. Life takes its own turns, makes its own demands, writes its own story. And along the way, we start to realize we are not the author.

George W. Bush is not the author of his own life story -- I think we can all agree on that much. But we may have to disagree on who is. Time and again, when he had gotten himself into trouble of all sorts, a way out was made to appear, from his last-minute acceptance in the Texas air national guard, leapfrogging more qualified candidates, to the serial bailouts of his failing oil ventures, to the credit he was allowed to collect for other peoples' work managing the Texas Rangers baseball team. And after all this time being rescued from failure after failure by a will not his own, he seems to have mistaken the friends of Dad for the hand of g-d...