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Spencer Blog Archives: 7-03

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this terrorist futures market fiasco is that Poindexter is gone.

Boy, you get the idea W and the boys were looking for any excuse to cut him loose, don't you?

I've been really busy today. Did I miss anything?

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Posted by Tom at 10:55 p.m. CDT


It's just another day for the Bush administration's constantly changing story about the reasons we went to war with Iraq, huh?

First of all, you remember all the hub-bub about the fellow who hid the centrifuge parts under his rosebush?

Well, hilariously, even he says the administration is wrong about those aluminum tubes:

The White House, for instance, has cited the case of nuclear scientist Mahdi Obeidi, who recently dug up plans and components for a gas centrifuge that he said he buried in 1991 at the end of the Persian Gulf War. The White House has pointed to the discovery as a sign of Hussein's continuing nuclear ambitions, but Obeidi told his interrogators that Iraq's nuclear program was dormant in the years before war began in March.

The sources said Obeidi also disputed evidence cited by the administration -- namely Iraq's purchase of aluminum tubes that various officials said were for a new centrifuge program to enrich uranium for nuclear bombs. Obeidi said the tubes were for rockets, as Iraq had said before the war.

CIA analysts do not believe he has told the whole truth, said one Bush administration official. Obeidi has left Iraq under CIA auspices after being arrested briefly by U.S. Army troops.

No wonder we haven't heard anything from the W propaganda machine about this guy recently. His story doesn't fit the administration's agenda now. In fact, the administration has found damn-near nothing in its interrogations of Iraqi scientists who, quite honestly, have no reason to lie to us now. I do hope something hasn't happened to this fellow in"protective CIA custody" since April. We all know just how careful the military and CIA are in interrogations these days, right?

Josh Marshall has a great post on this here.

While you're there, you really ought to read this post as well. It's a great one about how W and the administration is now trying to pretend this war wasn't about existing WMDs at all, it was all about discovering evidence that Saddam EVER HAD ANY weapons programs:

You can see where this is going, can't you? This is really great-moments-in-goal-post-moving. Saddam had a weapons program.

And how can you believe he didn't have a weapons program, when he actually used the weapons from his weapons programs, albeit fifteen years ago.

This isn't just a slip of the tongue or a Bushism. This is where we're going. As the White House now wants to define it, the question is whether Iraq ever had a weapons program. Or, to put it more precisely, whereas some people are foolish enough to believe that the standard is whether Saddam actually still had the weapons programs we know he once had, the real standard is whether Saddam actually once had the weapons programs we know he once had.

This is too silly to even talk about. Everybody knows that's not what we're talking about.

Indeed. Isn't it astonishing that these guys were telling us all only four short months ago that there were thousands of gallons of dangerous and deadly chemical and biological weapons in Iraq -- and now they're reduced to this level of silliness in order to justify the earlier story about the war?

I don't know. Maybe the average American will fall for this -- they've bought stories almost as ridiculous from this adminstration before -- but I seriously doubt it.

Nice try though.

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Posted by Tom at 9:26 a.m. CDT


of immorality.

We've tortured a couple of folks to death in Afghanistan.

Better yet, the administration lied about it when they first told the story back in December:

American military officials acknowledged that two prisoners captured in Afghanistan in December had been killed while under interrogation at Bagram air base north of Kabul – reviving concerns that the US is resorting to torture in its treatment of Taliban fighters and suspected al-Qa'ida operatives.

A spokesman for the air base confirmed that the official cause of death of the two men was"homicide", contradicting earlier accounts that one had died of a heart attack and the other from a pulmonary embolism.

The men's death certificates, made public earlier this week, showed that one captive, known only as Dilawar, 22, from the Khost region, died from"blunt force injuries to lower extremities complicating coronary artery disease" while another captive, Mullah Habibullah, 30, suffered from blood clot in the lung that was exacerbated by a"blunt force injury".

Great. Just great.

(And, yes, if you're a longtime reader, it's the same folks I blogged about in December here. If you want to review my view of torture (written in response to the reports we were torturing people in December), go here.)

What is this administration going to do next, invade a sovereign nation on a flimsy pretext, kill thousands of civilians while costing hundreds of American lives, and then, after it's all over, lie to us yet again, this time about exactly WHY it is we went to war?

Oh yeah. They already did that.

Never mind.

[Link via Atrios]

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Posted by Tom at 8:58 a.m. CDT


Boy, the wheels really are coming off this administration, aren't they?

In an apparent reversal of policy, the Transportation Security Administration will immediately begin scheduling air marshals back on cross-country and international flights, MSNBC.com has learned. The move comes less than 24 hours after MSNBC.com reported that air marshals were being pulled from those flights because of budget problems associated with the costs of overnight lodging for the marshals.

THE DEPARTMENT of Homeland Security on Wednesday blamed the confusion on a mixup in communication and said the department had been working with air marshal officials on Monday to correct the situation.

And if you believe what happened yesterday was the result of a"mixup," I've got some prime beachfront property with sugar white sand in St. Louie I'd love to show you.

The folks in the administration didn't think they were going to get caught pinching pennies in the air marshal program (in order to pay for the taxcut for the rich), so they thought they'd give it a try. Unfortunately for them, they got caught when the press got wind of it. Anyone could see what an idiotic idea that is -- except someone who thinks taxcuts for the rich are the first priority in all situations of course.

In other words, anyone except people who are at the upper echelons of this"tax cuts for the rich come first" administration.

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Posted by Tom at 7:35 p.m. CDT


Chuck Kuffner has a good update. So does Josh Marshall and Morat.

It is astonishing that New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson is having to warn Governor Goodhair not to hire bounty hunters to kidnap the Democrats, isn't it?

I'm really busy so I don't really have anything else to add right now.

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Posted by Tom at 12:46 p.m. CDT


I've been busy. What did I miss?

Anyway, here's Gene Lyons's latest!

Getting to Know the General

In a recent column urging Gen. Wesley Clark to run for president, I mentioned a friend who questioned his political skills. Because Clark failed to recognize her after a couple of meetings as David Pryor or Bill Clinton would have, she suspected he lacked the personal charm to which Arkansas voters respond. After it appeared, I got a call from a book publicist who'd helped Clark with his book Waging Modern War.

At every appearance, she said, many in the audience were veterans who'd served under Clark during his three decades as an Army officer. The general, she said, recognized every single one, greeting them by name. She'd never seen him hesitate.

Given that Clark's willpower and ambition have been recognized since he graduated first in his West Point class in 1966, this struck me as a telling anecdote. Not every military hero earns the affection and respect of his men. I had two uncles who served as infantry grunts under Gen. Douglas MacArthur in the Phillipines and in Korea. They thought him a vainglorious megalomaniac who'd sacrificed soldier's lives to win medals for himself--not necessarily history's judgement, but theirs.

Interestingly, it's a theme Clark himself discussed with the authors of two recent magazine profiles, by Tom Junod in the current Esquire (esquire.com/features/articles/2003/030801 mfe clark 1.html) and Duncan Murrell in the May/June Oxford American. Both are worth looking up for anybody intrigued with the idea of a Clark candidacy.

Clark told Murrell that Americans' current tendency to lionize the military is partly due to post-9/11 fear, partly to lack of experience with the real thing."We've been the beneficiaries of that lack of familiarity," he said, sentimentalizing soldiers as patriotic icons without feeling the necessity of serving. One result, as Murrell writes, is politicians who feel free"to use the military as a symbol, sending soldiers off to wars that don't affect most American families directly by putting their children in harm's way."

Hence the popularity of a manifest fraud like President Junior--who used his father's political connections to secure a cushy spot in the Texas Air National Guard, got himself grounded after finishing flight school, and appears never to have showed up in Alabama to complete his commitment--swaggering across an aircraft carrier deck in a flightsuit with"Commander in Chief" emblazoned on the front. An earlier generation would have laughed, but millions who resented Bill Clinton's artfully sidestepping Vietnam are thrilled by George W. Bush's"Top Gun" theatrics.

Now hear Clark, who despite being one of the first West Point cadets to ask"Why are we in Vietnam?" his instructors say, earned a Purple Heart and the Silver Star in combat there:"I think a time like this is an interesting point in American history. Many of the things that we've taken for granted, that have shaped our international strategy, our domestic environment--they're up for grabs right now. We got walloped on 9/11, and now Americans are asking themselves what's out there. They're saying 'Hey! Man, these people are supposed to like us! And what happened with Russia and the Soviet Union? Where is China?' Ordinary Americans are now much more interested in the world beyond. And in combination with the war on terror, you've got a sort of rollback to a sort of imperial presidency, a presidency that's much more private, and an investigatory service with greater authority to come after ordinary Americans. We thought we put that to rest after the excesses of the Nixon administration and Vietnam. I believed that when I fought in Vietnam I represented the right of all Americansto express their views. So I'm concerned."

As a CNN military analyst, Clark opposed the rush to substitute Saddam Hussein for Osama bin Laden as Public Enemy #1. Like many Army generals, he thought U.S. forces much too light on the ground--fearing precisely the chaos that's enveloped Iraq since Baghdad fell.The Bush administration, he warned in April, had"gloated much too soon."

The great theme of the post-Vietnam military reforms that transformed the U.S. Army, he explained to Esquire, was personal accountability."In the Navy, when a ship runs aground," he said"the commanding officer is relieved of duty, no matter what the reason. Now, I'm not saying we ought to hold politicians to that standard, but still..."

He didn't finish the thought, but he did say"the ultimate consideration for anyone running for president against George Bush [is] 'how much pain you can bear.'" My hope is that watching this administration of country club toughs stonewall a proper 9/11 investigation, deceive the American people about a non-existent Iraqi nuclear threat, then alibi that it's not Junior's fault because the president and his national security advisor failed to read the"National Intelligence Estimate," will convince Clark that his country needs him again.

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Posted by Tom at 12:20 p.m. CDT


And why the cutback? Why to pay for W's big taxcut for the rich of course!

It's official folks. W's big taxcut is now making us all less safe.

How's that for misplaced priorities?

Holy cow. Like I've said many times, you can safely blame W for the damage caused from next terrorist attack.

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Posted by Tom at 11:03 p.m. CDT


Boy, now we really know what's important to this administration, don't we? It's not the war on terror, is it?

In early 2002, the U.S. campaign against al-Qaida — “Operation Enduring Freedom” — was revving high. U.S. commandos readied themselves for lightning strikes in the dusty plains of Afghanistan or the deserts of Yemen; aerial drones buzzed the skies rigged with cameras and missiles, controlled by technicians on the ground; surveillance planes high overhead listened for electronic whispers of Taliban holdouts.

BUT, AS “Operation Enduring Freedom” kept al-Qaida on the run, the White House was already planning for war against Iraq. Sources say that in the spring of 2002, key weapons in the war against terror — such as the commandos, the drones and the high-tech surveillance planes — were rotated out of Afghanistan. Now experts tell NBC there was a clear tradeoff as the United States let up on al-Qaida to pursue regime change in Iraq.

A former national security official in the Bush administration tells NBC News Senior Investigative Correspondent Lisa Myers the White House was warned that the buildup against Saddam might provide a respite for Osama bin Laden and his henchmen. “There were decisions made,” says Flynt Leverett, a former director at the National Security Council in the Bush White House, “to take key assets, human assets, technical assets, out of theater in Afghanistan in order to position them for the campaign to unseat Saddam.”

Leverett, a former senior CIA analyst, talks with the professorial precision of an academic. “We see today,” he says, “that al-Qaida has been able to reconstitute leadership cells in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region and it would seem in Eastern Iran.”

So much for the War on Terror being the administration's top priority, huh? Now we're all in greater danger due to W's obsession with Saddam.

How many times do these guys have to demonstrate they're incompetent before Americans begin to hold them responsible for it?

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Posted by Tom at 7:50 p.m. CDT


In an excellent post today, Atrios writes about how the daily deaths of American soldiers is rapidly becoming just ho-hum stuff that doesn't even make the front page anymore.

Atrios also posts a comment from Christian Bauman, a novelist whose The Ice Beneath You I really must read soon, that is on the mark:

What's happening right now in Iraq, this constant-24/7-fear-of-being-shot-by-every-person-I-see was life as usual for American soldiers in Somalia, the beginning of Haiti, Bosnia... Half the time Americans didn't know we had troops there, and if they did, it was easily brushed off."Well, it's not a war, right?"

No. In some ways, psychologically, it's worse.

So now here we are,"major combat over," and I fear this is happening again. Army families were fun to film 6 months ago, when they were all teary goodbyes. Now, it's just unpaid bills and small kids developing behavior problems and ulcers forming -- and none of that is very interesting to network TV news.

And this is exactly why I didn't want this war. I knew this would be what the aftermath was like. And I'm also damn tired of the"killed in combat" shell game the administration is playing and the media is going along with it. They talk about the number"killed in combat" and ignore the other 70 or so who were killed in other ways. Folks, these men were killed in Iraq, whether it was a car accident or a gunshot, they're no less dead and they wouldn't be there otherwise. I can assure you their families don't see it any differently.

But I've decided that Bush may be in bigger trouble over this war than he thought judging from a recent experience of mine. When we were discussing the early Cold War and the Marshall Plan in my survey class the other day, I had a student say to me in class"Why do we rebuild these countries? It sure is expensive!"

Now this student was asking this in a philosophical way, wanting to talk about the assumptions behind it. I like"teaching moments" like that so we spent a little while talking about it. We then had a discussion in which we talked about the reasons for reconstructing countries after a war. One student said we do it because"it's humane." I said"it's our responsibility to do it since we're responsible for the war and the destruction in the first place." We, of course, also eventually talked about the Treaty of Versailles and Afghanistan and how leaving a steaming pile of rubble can lead to some dangerous demagogic folks rising to power in a country and thus endangering us all. Eventually one of my students wanted to talk about how this administration hid the cost of the war until the war had essentially started so that Americans wouldn't object to the cost.

At this point, one student said,"Oh, it's all about oil. That's all it is." And, to my astonishment, the entire class agreed. I even talked with them a bit more seeing if I could change their minds and I couldn't. One student even said"Yeah. That's what all the death and destruction is all about. It's all for oil."

Now if my twenty-year-olds are already that cynical about the war (and college-age folks are often awfully disengaged and uninterested in current events), the president could indeed be in for, to use Krugman's words, a"terrible reckoning." My students are already talking about soldiers as if they are pawns in this big game for oil and power -- and they don't think there's really anything they can do about it.

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Posted by Tom at 9:53 a.m. CDT


Krugman's column is good today.

I think this passage is particularly on-target:

But while Mr. Bush's poll numbers have fallen back to prewar levels, he hasn't suffered a Blair-like collapse. Why?

One answer, surely, is the kid-gloves treatment Mr. Bush has always received from the news media, a treatment that became downright fawning after Sept. 11. There was a reason Mr. Blair's people made such a furious attack on the ever-skeptical BBC.

Another answer may be that in modern America, style trumps substance. Here's what Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, said in a speech last week:"To gauge just how out of touch the Democrat leadership is on the war on terror, just close your eyes and try to imagine Ted Kennedy landing that Navy jet on the deck of that aircraft carrier." To say the obvious, that remark reveals a powerful contempt for the public: Mr. DeLay apparently believes that the nation will trust a man, independent of the facts, because he looks good dressed up as a pilot. But it's possible that he's right.

What must worry the Bush administration, however, is a third possibility: that the American people gave Mr. Bush their trust because in the aftermath of Sept. 11, they desperately wanted to believe the best about their president. If that's all it was, Mr. Bush will eventually face a terrible reckoning.


Now go read the rest of it.

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Posted by Tom at 9:04 a.m. CDT

UH-OH 07-29-03

Judging from the comment boards, it appears I offended some with my wisecracks about engineers. For that I do apologize. I do have to say I have a great deal of experience with engineers and I'm just calling it like I see it. Honestly, folks, some of my better friends are engineers and we've talked about this. My wisecracks come from those conversations.

However, in light of this, I also can't help but enjoy this comment from the board about the brouhaha and, apparently, I need to add another symptom to this definition of"engineers disease": Can often lead one to become quite thin-skinned and therefore unable to take criticism.

Again, folks, in no way did I mean to offend. Please accept my apology. I just have noted this in my lifetime of experience. I'm guessing if what I said wasn't so close to the truth it wouldn't have made some folks so angry.

As I've noted many times in my life, some engineers have a rather high opinion of themselves after all.

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Posted by Tom at 8:35 a.m. CDT


Ah, the fun has started in Texas. As usual, my college buddy Chuck Kuffner has this morning's Killer D's update. I'd write something but Chuck really has it covered.

You'll note that the Texas DPS and Homeland Security will NOT be involved this time.

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Posted by Tom at 8:19 a.m. CDT

AH, THE INTELLECT... 07-28-03

of the average engineer. Isn't it a treat to behold?

Engineers are generally of significantly above-average intelligence, but they're generally a pretty incurious and conservative lot. Heck, most engineers will freely admit they majored in engineering because it paid well and only required four years in school. I've taught many of them in my time and have had many friends (past and present) who are engineers.

God bless them, they're usually very bright but often astonishingly ignorant folks. That means that often their arguments about non-engineering subjects consist of little more than the repeating of tired cliches. Den Beste is certainly exhibit A at the moment.

I guess it's all that coursework in which they're told there's only ONE right answer to every question -- or something.

I'm not really sure it's their fault ultimately (I honestly think they're a strange sort of"engineering culture" that is to blame) but I pass along these observations anyway.

If you want to read Joe Conason's devastating analysis of Den Beste's column, go here.

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Posted by Tom at 9:28 p.m. CDT


As predicted here a couple of days ago, Democrats in the Texas Senate have flown the coop.

They've headed to Albuquerque to wait out Governor Goodhair's second special session on redistricting.

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Posted by Tom at 8:15 p.m. CDT

THANKS AGAIN! 07-28-03

A few hours ago, I had my 320,000th visitor. I don't know where the link came from because I was otherwise occupied (working on the kitchen staff at my church's Vacation Bible School) at the time. It's been about a week since I had my 310,000th visitor.

I've also had more than 457,000 hits since I installed my hit counter on September 18th of last year. You know, that's a lot of hits!

As always, folks, I do appreciate your coming by for a visit. I know you have a choice when you read blogs and I'm glad one of your choices is me. I hope to give you good reasons to come on back for a return visit.

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Posted by Tom at 8:03 p.m. CDT

DR. KLEIMAN... 07-28-03

is this going to be on the test?

Are we doing anything important in class tomorrow?

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Posted by Tom at 7:53 p.m. CDT


Terry at Nitpicker points us to the most ridiculous column ever by pater-plagiarist Bill Kristol. Bill is claiming W ordered his staff to look like morons the last few weeks. It was all part of his cunning plan after all.

Terry's right. This is pretty damned desperate.

I'm pretty sure that a good plan probably wouldn't involve your administration getting mired in a scandal that would result in your approval ratings dropping 10-15 points to nearly 50% and the majority of Americans deeming you untrustworthy, would it?

I don't know. I could be wrong I guess.

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Posted by Tom at 3:15 p.m. CDT


Col. David Hogg, commander of the 2nd Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division, said tougher methods are being used to gather the intelligence. On Wednesday night, he said, his troops picked up the wife and daughter of an Iraqi lieutenant general. They left a note:"If you want your family released, turn yourself in." Such tactics are justified, he said, because,"It's an intelligence operation with detainees, and these people have info." They would have been released in due course, he added later.
My goodness. I'm speechless.

How far down in the mud do W and the boys plan to drag the name of this great nation, anyway?

[Link via Atrios]

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Posted by Tom at 1:11 p.m. CDT


No I'm not writing about our recently-outted-for-lying-former-moral-czar in this post but about the Wilson-Plame affair. Mark Kleiman had an excellent post over the weekend about the"eerie silence" that surrounds this story:

And the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Instapundit, Volokh Conspiracy, and Kausfiles are all eerily silent. What are they waiting for? Anyone who still believes in the mythical liberal media is invited to imagine what the state of play of this story two weeks in would have been under the Clinton Administration or under a hypothetical Gore Administration.
I mentioned Insty's silence on this story a few days ago. It is interesting to see just how selective the righties are in their moral outrage these days, isn't it? Can you imagine the thunderous denunciations we'd be hearing of Clinton's or a Gore administration? Why we'd be hearing a call for an immediate impeachment of the president and vice president! I think Republicans would be trying to schedule the trial for next week sometime.

I repeat, for emphasis, this is not some suggestion of a potential felony by someone at the White House, this clearly is one. If you read the law there's no wiggle room on this at all. Furthermore, this insidious act also damaged our national security and endangered the lives, potentially, of as many as a hundred people.

You'd think the press would find this worth their time to investigate wouldn't you? And, surely, Mark and others aren't right in their assertion that the press is going to overlook this because they're"sucking up to their sources." That would be amoral and it would, of course, demonstrate that Gene Lyons's"Clinton rules" really do exist.

Surely someone in Big Media is going to look into this, right?

Soon, right?

And let me add my voice to Kevin's, what about it Josh?

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Posted by Tom at 9:31 a.m. CDT


Roger Ailes (no, not the bald repulsive McCarthyistic one) has the details.

It's hilarious that the moral scold who went on and on about Clinton's white lies regarding a blowjob now has to admit he lied in his public statements about his gambling habits a couple of months back.

Roger also points out how Bennett is a first class hypocrite -- using Bennett's own words to hang him.

Bennett's done, huh? I hope he saved some of the millions of dollars he made the last decade. I don't think anyone will be buying any more books about morals from"Mr. Virtue."

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Posted by Tom at 3:46 p.m. CDT


Since the recall is on, you can see the long knives are coming out for Issa and Ahnuld Schwarzenegger judging from these two stories from an Orange County lefty publication.

I love the last article because it mentions Arnold's father's Nazi past but also mentions W's grandfather Prescott Bush's (treasonous) past with the Nazis as well. (If you want to know a bit more about this, go here.)

It's pretty pitiful that the Republicans have managed to get this recall and have no one worth a damn to run for the office, huh? I mean, heck, the three-time-indicted for car theft Issa and the action movie actor who often can't remember Davis's name don't exactly impress, do they? Of course, Republicans are always finding ways to short circuit democratic processes (impeachment, Florida 2000, Bush v. Gore and this recall effort to name the most recent examples) these days. It serves them right that now that they've actually got a shot at the California governor's race they don't really have anyone to run.

This is going to get awfully ugly folks. At least it will provide us a bit of entertainment for the next couple of months. And we can all thank our lucky stars that our state isn't so"lucky" as to have this sort of idiocy going on for the next couple of months.

Meanwhile, the California budget crisis isn't solving itself and Republicans are taking a genuine chance at a 1998-style impeachment backlash in the state in next year's elections for wasting time and state resources like this.

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Posted by Tom at 3:13 p.m. CDT


You requested it -- and I delivered. If you check the box over to the right above the blogroll, the links will open in a new window. If you don't, it will be as before.

Special thanks to Kriselda Jarnsaxa of Different Strings for sending me the code and instructions on how to make the check box dohicus work.

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Posted by Tom at 2:10 p.m. CDT


or is W's"Bring 'em on" comment looking unfathomably stupid right now?

I do think, ultimately, that comment may go down as possibly the lowest moment in presidential discourse. It was so amazingly irresponsible of W to bait the Iraqi resistance like that.

And, by the way, what idiot in this administration really believed killing Uday and Qusay would lessen the violence against our soldiers?

If the violence is being perpetrated by Baathist loyalists, killing Hussein's sons just made them more angry and more determined, not less.

I figured that out and I'm not being paid six figures by someone to serve as some sort of expert.

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Posted by Tom at 8:31 a.m. CDT


I agree with Hesiod, this interview with Uday's former bodyguard is fascinating.

Give it a look.

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Posted by Tom at 8:16 p.m. CDT


I'm pondering making a change in the way I code the links on this blog. I'm considering making the links in the blog entries open in new windows. It will make coding the links a little more difficult, but I'm willing to do it. If you didn't already know, I don't use blogging software. I write this blog directly into html. As Chuck Kuffner so elegantly put it, I"roll my own."

Now, I am told that the"new windows" thing annoys some readers. I'm not necessarily in the mood to annoy people. Therefore, since I'm not really committed one way or the other, dear readers, I thought I'd open the issue up to the floor.

What do you think?

Anyway, please leave your opinion on the matter on the comment board for this blog.

While we're at it, you should feel free to pass on any other suggestions or requests you might have about the blog. We aim to please here at HNN. It was, after all, in response to reader requests that you got the handy font select thingy at the top of the page.

(I'm sure"thingy" isn't the technical term for it but, come to think of it, the only things I know about html are from practice. I don't know what you call anything in html.)

Anyway, I await your opinions.

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