Friday, August 13, 2004

O’Reilly wins?

You all may have noticed today the NYTimes front-page story by Susan Sach & Judith Miller on the Oil-for-food Scandal I’ll talk momentarily about the contents of the article, but the real story is why it’s there at all. For months now, O”Reilly, Safire, and all the bottom feeders on the right have been pushing this story as THE scandal, and complaining mightily that a left-leaning media have avoided it in their preoccupation with beating up the Bush administration for such things as lying to the nation about Iraq and torturing prisoners at Abu-Ghraib. O’Reilly has taken to mentioning “oil-for-food” when anyone so much as asks him the time of day, and when Russert had both him and Krugman on recently, O’Reliable Bullshit Bill brought it up by contrasting the number of articles the Times had run on Abu Ghraib vs. the number on oil-for-food. And so, voila, this story appeareth—ah capitulation, thy name is liberal media.

What’s the goal? First of all changing the subject by charging that the real corruption is not in the White House but in the UN. Equally important, though is discrediting the global antiwar effort in the run up to the election. France and Russia are deeply involved and what the Right has been charging all along is that the reluctance of so-called old Europe to back the war was based on nothing more than that these countries were profiting handsomely from kickbacks from Hussein. This is Bush’s grab for the moral high ground after pursuing and unnecessary and illegal war, and we shouldn’t forget that fact.

As for the story itself: Well, at present Paul Volcker, who’s chairing the panel that’s looking into the issue says that it’ll be at least a year before they determine whether the charges are justified (but that’s not going to matter if the Right gets to prosecute this in the press during the next twelve weeks). And from what’s been reported thus far, it’s pretty clear there were kickbacks galore, but all stemming ultimately from the ill-designed sanctions against Iraq after the first war, which were punishing the Iraqi people and not doing anything to oust Hussein’s regime. The “Oil-For-Food” program was a 1996 compromise, and who’s to say that it wasn’t working at some level given that Hussein appears to have given up his WMD and fewer Iraqi's may have starved than would have otherwise? Be that as it may, however, the real point is that since neither the first Gulf War nor the sanctions following it were part of our agenda, the only dog we have in this fight is the one that keeps biting at the administration for having unjustly led the nation into war

Thursday, August 12, 2004

I’m back, folks. I return triumphant. My waking nightmares of a cramped, windowless, New York existence have been wiped clean by a charming abode in Williamsburg complete with non-scary smart future roommate.

I did bring my laptop, meaning of course to find a cool hotspot from where which to blog but somehow it never happened. I ended up wandering around Chelsea and Greenwich Village just getting used to the layout and finding nice corners for coffee, lunch, and bubble tea.

I also got a taste of what life on “high alert” feels like. A couple of times on my rambles I was forced to turn back due to the fact that streets were blocked off while police investigated suspicious packages. On the Upper East Side there is a visible military presence because of all the embassies. It’s slightly surreal. Initially I felt a thrill of fear. What if it’s real? What then? But nothing did, and it’s hard to know what do with that stop-and-start of tension. This of course makes me dread moving during the week of the Republican National Convention. It’s all people are talking about; the protests, the security, the traffic, the security.

But I’m looking forward to it, particularly now that I’ve cleared the first hurdle of living space. I’ll be living in the city of great theatre, great food, great literature, and of course, Jon Stewart.

P.S. I almost had a chance to see the taping of Bill Clinton on The Daily Show but it fell through. Oh well.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Note to Senator Kerry

After reading this Boston Globe article about your Iraq vote, I started to wonder why you give those slimy bastards on the right more rope with which to hang you. I know you want to take an honorable stance and not let on that the current president of the USA can't be trusted to take the country around the block, much less to Iraq. But it's time to call a duck, a duck. I've come to agree with an alternative answer that a certain professor I know suggested you use the next time the question comes up:

If I had known then that the president and his advisors were going to handle the Iraq situation in such a boneheaded, hamhanded, incompetent way, then I wouldn't have voted to give the president authorization to go to war. I made my vote on the assumption that the president could be trusted to act responsibly. Obviously, I was mistaken.

It's short but sweet.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

If you had any suspicions that political motivations determined the timing of Tom Ridge's targeted Orange Alerts last week the AP story today about the handling of similar intelligence about Las Vegas casinos seems to confirm that the Bush administration has no consistent policy about how to keep the public informed about terror threats and tends to release information when it is to its advantage to do so. The decision about whether or not to go to an Orange Alert in 2002 when FBI officials informed Las Vegas authorities about threatening videotapes was left to local authorities, whose fears about liability and loss of tourist revenues led them to suppress the information. So much for protecting the nation. Any chance Bush & Ridge will face tough questions from the mainstream media?