MATRIX - Worst Movies of the Year

Ahhh. Movie City has a collection of the "worst movies of the year" lists. How do the two Matrix sequels fare? Better than I would have hoped... Here's the run-down.

Out of forty lists, Reloaded is listed on five of them, and Revolutions on seven.

Not too shabby. I expected it to receive a bit more hate, but I guess it was a crowded field this year:

Gigli hit twenty lists.
Cat in the Hat made sixteen lists.

Somehow, LXG only made two lists, while Kill Bill made three.

And Life of David Gale? It made four lists. Heh.


Wow. Some more exciting music news. William Shatner is recording a new album. I wish that I could come up with some appropriate Star Trek quip, but they all escape me right now.

Via Ananova

William Shatner has recorded a new album featuring a guest appearance by US punk legend Henry Rollins.

Shatner, who played Captain James T Kirk in the original TV series of Star Trek, has also enlisted Joe Jackson and US country star Brad Paisley to guest on the album.

The album will be produced by Ben Folds, leader of the Ben Folds Five, reports the New York Post.

Shatner is generally acknowledged as having recorded the worst ever version of a Beatles' song.

He released his spoken word cover of Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds in 1968.

Kirk, Bones, and Spock are also remembered for butchering "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" in one of the Star Trek movies... I believe it was #5.

MUSIC - Mohammed Jackson?

Just when the Jackson case couldn't get any sadder, now we find out that he's probably being exploited by the Nation of Islam... Nobody, not even pedophiles, deserves that.

From the NYTimes:

Officials from the Nation of Islam, a separatist African-American Muslim group, have moved in with Michael Jackson and are asserting control over the singer's business affairs, friends, employees and business associates of Mr. Jackson said.

Initially invited to the Neverland Ranch several weeks ago to provide security for Mr. Jackson, members of the Nation of Islam are now restricting access to him and have begun making decisions for him related to the news media, his business affairs and even his legal strategy, some of Mr. Jackson's friends and associates said. Mr. Jackson faces charges of child molesting in Santa Barbara and recently moved into a rented house in Los Angeles, where Nation of Islam officials have accompanied him.

"The Nation of Islam and Louis Farrakhan's son-in-law have taken over completely and are in full and total charge," said one senior Jackson employee, speaking on condition of anonymity. "They have gone in and taken over control of the finances in terms of who's getting paid, how much," the employee added. "They're approving all funds and have decided they have control of the business manager and accountant, without signing authority or power of attorney. They are working out of Geragos's office; in essence they're telling him what to do."

A business associate of Mr. Jackson who was accustomed to speaking to the singer daily said there were about a half-dozen Nation of Islam members around the singer constantly, whether at Neverland or in Los Angeles. "These people are basically brainwashing him," said the associate, who is also a friend of Mr. Jackson's. "They tried to do the same thing to Whitney Houston. They offer a false sense that they can control everything. Everyone is scared of them. They pretty much keep Michael semi-captive."

Another Jackson employee said: "They're negotiating business deals with him. They're negotiating media deals, who can talk, how much. You've got a lawyer who's scared to throw them out. Michael doesn't know what to do with them."

We can only hope that Michael is as strong as Whitney. Of course, he doesn't have a real man like Bobby to stand by him... Only Macauley.


POLITICS - Fuel for the Fire

So this is the best that America can do? The justification for not having a post-war plan is the fact that the Bush Administration is too inept and ineffective, its pointless for them to even try to come up with a plan? And now, after the miserable failure of an occupation, our only goal is to not get killed and hope that we leave something that hopefully resembles a government?

How much lower can we set our national standards now? How can this even be close to acceptable, much less supported by a majority? Can't the Democrats come up with a message that says, "We can do better than this."?

1) Because of that legacy, we stink at social engineering. Our government couldn't even come up with a plan for postwar Iraq — thank goodness, too, because any "plan" hatched by technocrats in Washington would have been unfit for Iraqi reality. - David Brooks / NYTimes

2) Some in the administration "want to get Iraq right, and that group [needs] a longer time frame," said Brent Scowcroft, who served as national security advisor to former President George H.W. Bush. "At the other extreme, there are some whose goal is to get Iraq off the front pages by August."
Bremer's strategy, one U.S. official said, is to "just keep telling people, 'We're going to be gone by June 30 and although you are enthused about that idea, just think about what you're going to do on July 1.'
Said one person close to the process: "If we have something that vaguely looks like a government, and we don't have Americans dying every day, that would be a wild success."
- LA Times


MOVIES - Complaint for a King

While watching Return of the King, I couldn't help but think, "What does this movie need?"


When Gandalf high sticks Denethor, I thought "I gotta have more cowbell, baby!"

When Sam carries Frodo like a new bride up the side of Mount Doom, I said, "Guess what? I got a fever! And the only prescription... is more cowbell!"

(Download the Cowbell sketch here.)

MOVIES - Reviews of the King

Here are some less than enthusiastic reviews of Return of the King

Peter Price
Some scenes are just laughable. Take Arwen's future-dream sequence, for example. Here, she observes her brat son, who's supposedly the future King of Gondor, Eldarion, running around the woods. I mean, is that REALLY necessary? There are dream sequences enough, without having to swoop to new lows with yet more tacky, unsubtle and highly cheesy moments such as this. And how come Elrond manages to ride from Imladris to Dunharrow in what seems less than days, when it took the Fellowship weeks at the very least, if not months, to reach the Southern lands? Its almost as if all the toils of FotR were for nothing, just filling out a few hours of movie-time. Such decisions by PJ are terribly wayward, inconsistent, and fallible. Where was Saruman? Where was Wormtongue? Where were the Sons of Elrond, and the Rangers of the North?
Where was the rest of the nation of Gondor? Does PJ expect us to believe that the great country that Boromir wanted to save so much consisted solely of Minas Tirith and a few hundred men in and around ruined Osgiliath? Where is the true size and scope of the "Battle to end all battles" the end of the Third Age? Between Minas Tirith and Mordor itself, there is supposedly the whole city of Osgiliath and the great wooded province of Ithilen, as well as the great field of the Pelennor. In the book, this landmass stretches for approximately 50 miles, yet in the movie, they look literally on each others doorsteps, as if there's only a couple of miles between them.

Johnny Dark

What this movie seems to be about is defending white people against black people. Because it is a fantasy, all the black folks are ugly and, like African cannibals, try to eat each other when they get pissed.

Tinfang Gelion

How is it possible? Arwen's life tied to the Ring? A dead tree that has flowers? No Black Breath? No Mouth of Sauron? Elrond comes to Dunharrow in a flash, and it took the Fellowship how long to get to the point of Boromir's death. Where is the Stone of Erech? No knights from Dol Amroth? No Crossroads for Frodo & Sam? Frodo & Sam don't actually spend days walking across the Gorgoroth? What happened with the Watchers at the Tower of Cirith Ungol? Why did Theoden question even going to Gondor's aid and then suddenly some burning wood changes his mind? No Red Arrow. No Ghan-buri-ghan. No sons of Elrond, no Rangers of the North. No finding the sapling on the mountainside.
And on, and on, and on....

Chip Douglas

At the end or TTT Gandalf proclaimed the beginning of the battle for middle earth and Gollum mentioned "Her". In ROTJ they spent at least half an hour pondering what to do next and "She" does not appear for another hour after that. Shelob does get another mention when Gollum does a watered down version of everybody's favorite Oscar clip from TTT, but like the totally unnecessary Galadriel montage in the second part, this riverbank exchange between Gollum and Smeagol only serves to remind the audience of what has gone before, instead of pushing the story further. I was also sligtly dissapointed in the long awaited Gollum origin prologue. The effect of Smeagol transforming into Gollum was not very convincing and should perhaps have been kept as a deleted scene. Oh. I forgot. There are no deleted scenes on LOTR dvds, only reenstated ones.

The omission of Saruman after building him up as the only phycical bad guy is simply inexcusable. Especialy since he is just left up in his tower guarded by Treebeard while everybody goes off to live happily ever after. I noticed Peter Jackson's customary cameo and his very cute children did not end up on the cutting room floor! And dont tell me Saruman will be on the Extended Cut, because if you insist the longer versions are better that would mean Jackson couldt do it right in a mere three hour plus theatrical cut. He managed to do it in The Fellowship, clearly the longest part of the Lord of the Rings, so why not on the other two? Furthermore, the extended version of TTT in which Merry and Pippin drank from the the Entwash did not have any effect on ROTK, where they had not grown an inch!

What exactly did we get instead of Saruman at the beginning? A celebration in Rohan (not in the book) where Merry and Pippin are dancing on a table and some unnesisary FOTR flashbacks (Was this just an excuse to put Sean Bean back in the credits?). At least there were no Dwarf tossing jokes and only one squence with Arwen and Elrond this time, more or less needed to tie up loose ends from TTT (unlike Saruman ofcourse). We find out that both of them can look into the future, and Arwen is dying because she is somehow connected to the fate of the ring. The rest of this subpplot will probably be seen on that extended cut, because after Elrond tells Aragorn about it, he takes his sword and forgets all about his dying love for the rest of the film! Even after his coronation he immediatly heads for the first blonde in a dress, in that case Legolas.


The worst flaw has to be Denethor's portrayal, because it robs the Steward of his dignity. John Noble is not to blame; rather, the Monty Python-esque level to which the script has consigned him. When Gandalf unceremoniously clouts Denethor, many unenlightened kids in our audience laughed. One even called for the wizard to 'do it again!'

Is this the kind of audience Tolkien would have wanted?

Without the Mouth of Sauron, Aragorn's confrontation with Sauron lacks palpable punch. It becomes a lame contrast with the 'Fellowship' prologue; the rumored 'return' of Sauron would have overcompensated for a missing scene.

The hobbits return to the Shire, replete with recycled shots from 'Fellowship.' Frodo's illness generates very little tension; the four hobbits seem poised to order a mushroom pizza from the Green Dragon. Even the vaunted conclusion lacks dramatic focus -- Ian Holm's make-up is more frightening than the orcs! We never learn what befalls the remaining Fellowship members afterward.

The only scenes that genuinely moved me were Faramir's painful rejection by Denethor and Eowyn's gentle rebuff from Aragorn. These actually brought tears to my eyes.


Nothing is explained. There is absolutely NO foreshadowing for The Paths of the Dead, who appeared to be nothing more than a giant street-sweeper or a tidal wave. So incredibly disappointing, and so incredibly GREEN. It would have been so much more effective if they had been rendered a little more ambiguously and not so goofy looking....more like a living human being. Could have been much scarier, but instead felt like Diz-nee ghosts.

Should I even mention Denethor. I think I will. Now......why on middle earth would you have an "already unlikeable character" such as Denethor, although noble, evolve into a food-slobbering pig? What purpose does it serve? Can someone please tell me? Why does Shadowfax have to be the one to kick him into the fire?? And why does he have to jump off the Top Level of Misis Tirith...because that way, it takes away his nobility, insults our intelligence, and Hollywood-izes Denethor's death all at the same time. How AWESOME would it have been to see Denethor set himself on fire and die a noble death???

Seriously, Tolkien wrote things down for a reason. Is it that hard to follow. How much MORE time and effort did it take to create this "alternate" Denethor as opposed to the original Denethor? Waste.


Was 9/11 Preventable?

Some of the latest press about the 9/11 Commission Investigation reveals that the committee currently believes that the tragedy could and should have been prevented. Here's some of the story:

For the first time, the chairman of the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks is saying publicly that 9/11 could have and should have been prevented, reports CBS News Correspondent Randall Pinkston.

"This is a very, very important part of history and we've got to tell it right," said Thomas Kean.

"As you read the report, you're going to have a pretty clear idea what wasn't done and what should have been done," he said. "This was not something that had to happen."

Appointed by the Bush administration, Kean, a former Republican governor of New Jersey, is now pointing fingers inside the administration and laying blame.

"There are people that, if I was doing the job, would certainly not be in the position they were in at that time because they failed. They simply failed," Kean said.

To find out who failed and why, the commission has navigated a political landmine, threatening a subpoena to gain access to the president's top-secret daily briefs. Those documents may shed light on one of the most controversial assertions of the Bush administration – that there was never any thought given to the idea that terrorists might fly an airplane into a building.

"I don't think anybody could have predicted that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile," said national security adviser Condoleeza Rice on May 16, 2002.

I bolded "Unsticky" Rice's comments, because that seems to be the key question. Did the CIA, FBI, NSC, or any other intelligence agency ever provide intelligence that commercial airliners could be used as missiles by terrorists? Have any of President Bush's Daily Briefings carried this warning? John Dean, former White House Counsel, wrote about this a couple months ago (be sure to go read the rest and spend some time in his archive).

More specifically, the Joint Inquiry asked about the process by which the Daily Brief is prepared, and sought several specific Daily Brief items. In particular, it asked for information about the August 6, 2001 Daily Brief relating to Osama Bin Laden's terrorist threats against the United States, and other Daily Brief items regarding Bin Laden, Al Qaeda, and pre-September 11 terrorism threats.
Note again that Rice stated, in explaining the August 6, 2001 Daily Brief, that it addressed Bin Laden's "methods of operation from a historical perspective dating back to 1997."

What exactly did it say? We cannot know. But the Inquiry's 9/11 Report lays out all such threats, over that time period, in thirty-six bullet point summaries. It is only necessary to cite a few of these to see the problem:

In September 1998, the [Intelligence Community] obtained information that Bin Laden's next operation might involve flying an explosive-laden aircraft into a U.S. airport and detonating it. (Emphasis added.)
In the fall of 1998, the [Intelligence Community] obtained information concerning a Bin Laden plot involving aircraft in the New York and Washington, D.C. areas.
In March 2000, the [Intelligence Community] obtained information regarding the types of targets that operatives of Bin Laden's network might strike. The Statute of Liberty was specifically mentioned , as were skyscrapers, ports, airports, and nuclear power plans. (Emphasis added.)

In sum, the 9/11 Report of the Congressional Inquiry indicates that the intelligence community was very aware that Bin Laden might fly an airplane into an American skyscraper.

Given the fact that there had already been an attempt to bring down the twin towers of the World Trade Center with a bomb, how could Rice say what she did?

Certainly, someone could have predicted, contrary to Rice's claim that, among other possibilities, "these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon."

I can understand why the Bush administration wants to stonewall this report until after the election season.

Return of the Dean

This could actually make me vote for Nader or Bush. If only Richard Pryor could help us out and run his candidacy from Brewster's Millions, "Vote For None of the Above"



Not sure if this is an update, but I do want to expand on some of my ideas about the upcoming election. They are pretty common, but they might help establish some of my "diversions".

I do worry about the Democratic candidate trying to appeal too far to the left, or at least perceived by the general public as appealing to the far left. Of course, Howard Dean is the candidate at the front of my mind. Dean must be able to appeal to the swing voters who picked Nader (and Bush) in 2000, in addition to the moderates in the few southern states who could swing Democrat. Will the "extreme" left vote Nader again, or do they still feel the shame of thinking with their trees instead of their brains?

I think that the left is willing to coalesce under a single cause, with only one goal to remove George W. Bush from the Office of the President of the United States of America. This isn't the goal of some moderates, who only desire a relatively moral President with strong leadership abilities. I don't have a problem with candidates attempting to grab headlines during the primary season. I do hope that the national candidate (probably Dean) can keep the focus on the issues like 9/11 intelligence, WMD intelligence, education, and health care costs without resorting to statements that polarize the public like some of Dean's comments.

Josh Marshall touches on the subject of a closely divided nation with a quote from the current Cook Report:

The broader dynamics of the current situation strongly suggest this will be a close race. Witness a recent analysis by the Washington office of the investment research firm the ISI Group, pointing out that in Gallup polling one year before the general election, Bush enjoyed the third-highest job approval rating of any modern president among his own party members, trailing only former Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan. However, Bush had the lowest approval rating among members of the opposition party, even lower than former President Bill Clinton's year-out approval numbers among Republicans. The unusually strong approval numbers among his fellow Republicans builds Bush a very high floor, but the equally strong degree of opposition among Democrats constructs an unusually low ceiling. As a result, if Bush were a stock, he would have an extraordinarily narrow trading range. This, along with the equally divided nation, pushes the race toward a very competitive situation.

Juan Cole elaborates on that subject and references a Robert Sullivan Commonwealth article. It includes a very nifty map, and underscores my views about the necessity of the Dem candidate to appeal to the moderates more than the further edges of the playing field.

Robert David Sullivan, writing in The Commonwealth, has proposed a new political map of the US based on long-term county-specific voting patterns (there are about 3000 counties in the US), and divides the country into 10 regions on that basis. (Note that the map at his site is clickable and that version offers more details about the regions).

Sullivan argues that of the ten demographic regions he identifies, 5 voted Republican and 5 Democrat in the last election, although only three have always voted Republican for 35 years. Clinton won 6 in each election, but Bush only won 5 (the right configuration of the right 5). Bush's challenger is unlikely to be able to win with 5, and needs six.

Any Democratic ticket will need to make inroads into at least one Republican-leaning area, as well as keeping what Gore got in 2000. Believe it or not, I think such a ticket has a shot in Appalachia. Not in the Southern Lowlands or Southern Comfort, of course, which would be laughable. But Appalachia is a different kettle of fish. My family is from there on my mother's side, and I can tell you that foreign adventurism and spending $166 billion on Iraq when there was no real threat (from a man in a spider hole) could be very unpopular there if the pitch is made right. Appalachians are patriotic and do not like Northeasterners putting on airs, so some Democratic candidates would fare better than others. But if one of them could connect with people about how they are being screwed over by Bush's giveaways to the New York financiers and by his expensive foreign adventures (there are lots of schools in Appalachia that need paint), then the Dems might just be able to get this region. Hint: Bringing someone on board the Democratic campaign team who has won elections in Appalachia would help.


Second, Dan Drezner recently commented about the subject of the Democrats and their willingness to go after Bush on tough policy issues. The post is actually a small list of caveats regarding his recent Slate article about the failure of Bush's foreign policy. One caveat about Dan Drezner, he is an associate professor at the University of Chicago, and was an unpaid foreign policy advisor to the Bush-Cheney 2000 Campaign. About Bush's policy, he says:

There are three ways to criticize the Bush administration's approach to foreign policy. The first way is both simple and simple-minded: Bush is the evil creature of corporate interests, pursuing militarized disputes merely to reward his cronies.
The second kind of criticism is more substantive. It holds that the costs of Bush's pre-emption doctrine—weakened international legitimacy, fraying alliances, increased global public hostility to the United States—are greater than the benefits.
A third criticism has slowly emerged over the past six months. It agrees with the logic of Bush's grand strategy, but questions whether the policy implementation has been up to snuff. This line of argumentation has less to do with substance and more to do with process. To sum it up, Bush's management of foreign policy has been too detached for his own good.

Go read the whole thing. Tough criticism from a Bush supporter. However, he posted his caveats on his weblog, and this is what he says about the Democrats and the current lack of success with criticizing the current administration.

Second, although I think the process critique is a powerful one, Democrats are unlikely to use this line of attack. Why? Process is boring. “Policy Coordination Needed” might not be as dull a headline as “Worthwhile Canadian Initiative,” but it’s close. In the primaries at least, the Democrats one would expect to adopt this approach – Joe Lieberman, John Kerry, John Edwards – haven’t gotten a ton of traction in the polls. Candidates and campaigns prefer a simple message to a complex one – and in choosing between attacking Bush’s foreign policy on substance or process, Democrats will opt for the former.

UPDAT'D part I

I've been gone for a couple days, but some of the popular bloggers have commented on some of the subjects that I have been thinking and blogging about.

First, about that memo the Telegraph reported about. I said that it sounded "too good to be true" (for some people), and Newsweek has debunked the fundamental assertions of the memo.

Coughlin's account was picked up by newspapers around the world and was cited the next day by New York Times columnist William Safire. But U.S. officials and a leading Iraqi document expert tell NEWSWEEK that the document is most likely a forgery—part of a thriving new trade in dubious Iraqi documents that has cropped up in the wake of the collapse of Saddam's regime.

"It's a lucrative business," says Hassan Mneimneh, codirector of an Iraqi exile research group reviewing millions of captured Iraqi government documents. "There's an active document trade taking place … You have fraudulent documents that are being fabricated and sold" for hundreds of dollars a piece.

My thoughts on the original post weren't predicated on the veracity of the memo, however. Saddam could still have some compelling skeletons left in his closet, and any of them could challenge some of the hard stances assumed by some of the candidates. It's well known that Saddam was connected to and supported Palestinian terrorists. Even though there's no available evidence that he provided material support to other terrorist organizations, I don't think that we should assume that it isn't possible.


Evidence of terror connections or WMD-capability should be established by now, if not very soon. If all of the transitive evidence has proved false so far, I understand why so many people are ready to close the case. Diane Sawyer recently interviewed President Bush, and his justification for going to war and defense of claims of WMD were not convincing. The Dem candidate only has to pull these type of responses out of Bush during the debates, and he'll be a shoe-in.

(Transcript via Liberal Oasis, via Calpundit.) Go read the whole thing. It's a blast.

SAWYER: But, but again some, some of the critics have said this, combined with the failure to establish proof of elaborate terrorism contacts, has indicated that there’s just not precision, at best, and misleading, at worst. [sic]

BUSH: Y’know, uh, look (shakes head). What (chuckle) what we based our evidence on was a very sound National Intelligence Estimate.

SAWYER: Nothing should have been more precise?

BUSH: I – I – I – I made my decision based upon enough intelligence to tell me that the country was threatened with Saddam Hussein in power.

SAWYER: What would it take to convince you he didn’t have weapons of mass destruction?

BUSH: Saddam Hussein was a threat. And the fact that he is gone means America is a safer country.

(Pause, as both smile.)

SAWYER: And if he doesn’t have weapons of mass destruction --

BUSH: You can keep asking the question. I’m telling ya, I made the right decision for America.

Because Saddam Hussein used weapons of mass destruction, invaded Kuwait.

But the fact that he is not there, is uh, means America is a more secure country.



I caught the late re-run of Paula Zahn's CNN show last night, and one of her guests was Molly Ivins.

Molly gets it. She's one of the smart liberals that realizes the importance of success in Iraq.

When Zahn asked Ivins if the capture of Saddam was positive and made the world safer, Molly unequivocably said YES. It's a victory for the citizens of Iraq, the Middle East, and the world. When Zahn asked if the Bush Administration deserves credit for the Saddam grab, Ivins said yes.

And guess what? Molly's head didn't explode... The Democratic Party didn't spontaneously collapse... The free world as we know it still stands... I hope that other Democrats and Liberals can learn a lesson from Ms. Ivins here.

We're Pretty Damn Safe

Dr. Dean has this to say about Saddam's capture (via Washington Post):

"The capture of Saddam has not made America safer," Dean said in a speech here to the nonpartisan Pacific Council of International Policy. "The difficulties and tragedies we have faced in Iraq show the administration launched the war in the wrong way, at the wrong time, with inadequate planning, insufficient help and at extraordinary costs so far of $166 billion."

Eric Alterman elaborates:

"In any case, all I want to say this morning is that HOWARD DEAN IS ABSOLUTELY, UNARGUABLY CORRECT when he notes that the capture of Saddam makes America no safer. America was never threatened by Iraq. Every single one of the scare tactics employed by the administration in their game of bait and switch designed to exploit the trauma of 9/11 to deploy the neocons’ longtime plan to invade Iraq has proven an exaggeration, a chimera or a lie. There were no WMDs; no nukes, and no connections to Al Qaida. Saddam was being effectively contained at the moment George Bush chose to plunge the world into war."

I previously noted that the IGC claims to have found a memo that establishes a link between Saddam and Al Qaeda. While I am pessimistic, it is possible that Saddam may have recent contacts and/or connections with several terrorist organizations (outside of support to Palestinian groups). With or without these ties, I understand the Dean/Alterman position and generally agree with it. Islamic terrorism represents an ideological challenge, but I would hardly classify it as a true challenge to western civilization or democracy. We'll be fine, with only a statistical minority sustaining physical damage. The majority of us will ride out the next twenty years in relative luxury, enjoying a quality of life unmatched by any civilization in history.

However, I still don't like this public position from the Liberal establishment. I find myself drawn to liberalism because I do care about human rights issues. I didn't support Bush's invasion of Iraq, but mainly because I think that the administration chose the worst way to frame the issues. Even though most liberals don't like Bush (OK, they hate him), how could any self-respecting liberal be disappointed with the fall of the Hussein regime?

Human Rights watch previously reported in 2000 and 2001:

The Iraqi government continued to commit widespread and gross human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests of suspected political opponents, executions of prisoners, and forced expulsions of Kurds and Turkmen from Kirkuk and other districts. Known or suspected political opponents living abroad were reportedly frequently targeted and threatened by Iraqi government agents.

Iraqi intelligence agents targeted political opponents who had fled Iraq, threatening and intimidating them or arresting and torturing family members still in the country. On June 7, Staff Lieut. Gen. Najib al-Salihi, former chief of staff of the Iraqi army's Sixth Armoured Division who had fled to Jordan in 1995, received a videotape showing the rape of a female relative by intelligence personnel. The rape or threat of rape has long been used in Iraq as a punitive measure against opponents to extract confessions or information or to pressure them into desisting from anti-government activities. Shortly afterwards, Salihi received a telephone call from his brother in Baghdad, asking him to cease all opposition activity.

In November 2000, a former Iraqi intelligence officer who fled to Jordan in June 1999 disclosed the existence of a government "prison cleansing" campaign. Captain Khalid Sajed al-Janabi, an intelligence operative from 1979 to 1999, said a March 15, 1998 directive from the Office of the President had authorized the establishment of supervisory committees to "clean up Iraqi prisons" and that he had been appointed to the Abu Ghraib prison committee. The "cleansing" operations, he said, resulted in the execution of some 2,000 detainees and sentenced prisoners on one day, April 27, 1998. He reported too that prison authorities forced doctors to inject some detainees with poison and then issue death certificates attributing their deaths to natural causes.

A preliminary survey carried out in northern Iraq by the U.N. Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) estimated the number of internally displaced persons at 805,000 by the end of October 2000, comprising 23 percent of the population. On December 4, the executive director of the U.N. Office of the Iraq Program (OIP) told the Security Council he was "greatly concerned with the increasing number of internally displaced persons," whose living conditions in some cases were "abominable." A major factor in the rising number of internally displaced persons was the government's continued expulsion of Kurds and Turkmen from their homes in Kirkuk, Tuz Khormatu, Khaniqin, and other districts as part of its "Arabization" program.

Saddam Hussein's record of abuse is extraordinary, and is more than enough for several thousand war crime trials. Bush (or the Democrats) could have argued that Saddam be held accountable for the crimes that we can undoubtedly prove in a recognized court of law. It appears that these are the type of crimes for which he'll be prosecuted, and there has been no argument that he isn't responsible. But that's not the point here (actually, I rarely make points here...)...

Saddam is a criminal, the type that any archetypical liberal must stand against. The type of criminal that a liberal should be fundamentally happy to see go down in a pathetic whimper in a worm's tunnel. I hope that the Liberal establishment can find some way to communicate the inherent joy and satisfaction of seeing the complete end of this regime, because there are more battles to be fought in the upcoming election. Bush is weak on several fronts, including national security and the war on terror. Fight these battles, but do not forget our base core beliefs. I may not agree with America's record of violence, but I can take pride in the fact that some of these countries are now much stronger and democratic, with our assistance.

The next dozen months in Iraq will be rough, but it will eventually be something unique that we both sides will appreciate. Without our intervention, Iraq may have eventually fallen under the power of the sons, Uday and Qusay, repeating a cycle of violence that seems unending in the region's history. A catalyst for progress has been introduced to the system, whether or not individual Americans supported it or not. What's important now is to establish a democracy while maintaining a balance between the majority and the religious and ethnic minorities. This is an ideal shared by both conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats.

Yeah, I'm pissed that we went to war, too, but I'm growing equally pissed with the rhetoric coming from the Democratic candidates (and the media spin on the candidate's rhetoric). Go ahead and celebrate the fall of this brutal regime. The brief euphoria of Saddam's capture will be gone by election time, and there is much more political hay to be reaped beyond Iraq's oil fields. But the Democrats have to begin laying down the context of the next election, and prepare to control the language of the debates and rhetoric. That is the key to beating an incumbent. Control the language, and force Bush to be accountable for 9/11 secrecy, WMD intelligence snafus, Valerie Plame affair, Turkeygate, resurgence of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, failure to secure domestic ports and power facilities, the many children left behind, etc., etc.

America may not be apparently safer without Saddam, but it sure isn't hurt by it. Hell, we may have saved ourselves from a biochemical fallout two decades from now. Or we may have invited one. Who knows. But I'd like to see Democrats and Liberals quit using Iraq as a political pawn, because it alienates some moderate voters, and it could really end up backfiring if WMD or Al Qaeda links are found. Let's take the upper hand and move the focus back towards areas that Bush has tried to cover. Massive unemployment, education, national security. There won't be any real good news on those topics, but the Democrats have to start maneuvering now in order to get them on the national radar.


Saddam and Al Qaeda

The Telegraph recently reported on a memo that the Iraq Governing Council "found" that indicates a clear connection between Saddam's regime and Al Qaeda. The contents of the memo are two paragraphs, detailed here in brief:

The first paragraph states that "Mohammed Atta, an Egyptian national, came with Abu Ammer (an Arabic nom-de-guerre - his real identity is unknown) and we hosted him in Abu Nidal's house at al-Dora under our direct supervision.

"We arranged a work programme for him for three days with a team dedicated to working with him . . . He displayed extraordinary effort and showed a firm commitment to lead the team which will be responsible for attacking the targets that we have agreed to destroy."

There is nothing in the document that provides any clue to the identity of the "targets", although Iraqi officials say it is a coded reference to the September 11 attacks.

The second item contains a report of how Iraqi intelligence, helped by "a small team from the al-Qaeda organisation", arranged for an (unspecified) shipment from Niger to reach Baghdad by way of Libya and Syria.

Iraqi officials believe this is a reference to the controversial shipments of uranium ore Iraq acquired from Niger to aid Saddam in his efforts to develop an atom bomb, although there is no explicit reference in the document to this.

The information in this memo is nearly "too good to be true", and seems questionable considering the second item about Nigerian uranium. Putting the veracity of the memo aside, this type of confirmation of a recent link between Saddam and Al Qaeda would certainly hurt the 2004 Democrat Candidate. Especially Dean. It's possible that this memo could be fake, but the link could be entirely plausible, if not probable. Each passing day could provide either the definitive proof of such a link, or even the capture of Osama bin Laden. Either will be devastating for the Democratic candidate if he isn't prepared. (I hope Dean and Clark Campaigns have worked on sound bites for both of these scenarios.)

Looking For Osama

Much has been said about the capture of Saddam, but how different is the search for Osama?

India News provides some commentary:

Officials here say that one of the main reason that Osama has yet not been caught is because, unlike Saddam, the 9/11 mastermind has the infrastructure of a nation working with him. This isn’t just an Indian claim to bash its neighbor in the international forum to gain some brownie points vis-à-vis the USA. Several reports in the recent past have vouched that Pakistan has established official links with the al-Qaeda, which has made the task of tracking Osama that much difficult.

Indeed, experts say, that it is in the interest of the Pakistan military establishment to keep the ghost of Osama as well as the al-Qaeda alive, as it gives them that much more leverage to be seen on the side of the US in its fight against global terror as well as justify its own existence.

"It is a double edged weapon", says a government official, "By taking a public posture of gunning for the al-Qaeda, Pakistan keeps the interest of the US on its side and at the same time nurturing and keeping the al-Qaeda alive becomes one of the strong reasons of its existence as the US feels it could do with some help from the Pakistan military."

Reuters carried this interview with a Pakistani cleric:

Saddam Hussein's capture leaves two household names on the U.S. "terror" wanted list. But unlike Saddam, neither al-Qaida mastermind Osama bin Laden nor Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar is likely to be taken alive, a top Pakistani cleric with close ties to Afghanistan's ousted Taliban regime warned.

And even if either were to be captured, it would do little to stem violence blamed on the groups, said Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai, who knew Omar and called for a jihad, or holy war, against the United States during the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"From what I know about these people you cannot arrest them alive," Shamzai told Reuters in an interview late on Monday in Karachi.


Baptism By Fiber

What would Jesus do? Speak softly and carry a big stick, I guess...

From the Austin American Statesman:

A defense attorney Thursday asked a Travis County jury for probation for an Austin preacher and his twin brother convicted of beating a boy with a tree branch for goofing off in a summer program.

Jurors on Wednesday found 23-year-old twins Joshua and Caleb Thompson guilty of felony injury to a child and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in the beating of 11-year-old Louie Guerrero. Prosecutors said the brothers beat Guerrero so badly in July 2002 that he spent a week in intensive care under the threat of kidney failure and needed a blood transfusion.


Some Dean Articles