Saturday, August 27, 2005

Prepare for floating balls of ants! 

Normally I feel invulnerable to hurricanes because I'm equipped with unsurpassed survival gear. However, this time prudence dictates that Lovely, Pearlgirl and I head outta state. People who don't normally freak out and leave are, well, freaking out and leaving. Like Richard says, it feels "different" this time.

Katrina and her Waves scare me.

I'll also just note that unlike her predecessor, Gov. Blanco decided to take a *gasp* expensive helicopter trip to New Orleans to stand with local officials making a statement on TV. I, for one, appreciated that.

Louisiana is in a state of emergency, and New Orleans has a voluntary evacuation going. Interstates around the city have been configured for "contraflow", so traffic can only go outbound.

It's sobering to think that Monday could be the end of something precious here. Below are a couple of "pre-hurricane" pictures looking down my street, during tonight's sunset:

Click pics to enlarge... and tax that dog behind the tree!

"The worst-case scenario for New Orleans -- a direct strike by a full-strength [hurricane]-- could submerge much of this historic city treetop-deep in a stew of sewage, industrial chemicals and fire ants, and the inundation could last for weeks, experts say."
Greg understands.
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Selfless commitment to education update 

PGR has the story.
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Friday, August 26, 2005

I immensely enjoyed this NYT op-ed titled "Grasping the Depth of Time as a First Step in Understanding Evolution". It's really good, as is Singularity's commentary on it. Here's one of many great passages from the article:

Accepting the fact of evolution does not necessarily mean discarding a personal faith in God. But accepting intelligent design means discarding science. Much has been made of a 2004 poll showing that some 45 percent of Americans believe that the Earth - and humans with it - was created as described in the book of Genesis, and within the past 10,000 years. This isn't a triumph of faith. It's a failure of education.

The purpose of the campaign for intelligent design is to deepen that failure.

If you have read something better than this recently, please offer a link in the comments. And if you're not quite as impressed as I was by the piece, and thought it sometimes had too much of a Moby "we're all made of stars" vibe, then Richard has a project for you.

Over at The Talent Show, Greg innocently wonders:

If people evolved from monkeys, why don't humans sometimes give birth to monkeys?

Great question! See if you can help explain it to him. But remember: using disrespectful counterexamples is neither encouraged nor endorsed by the YRHT staff.
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Friday Music Playlist 

  1. "Ana Ng" by They Might Be Giants
  2. "Ana Ng" by They Might Be Giants
  3. "Ana Ng" by They Might Be Giants
  4. "Ana Ng" by They Might Be Giants
  5. "Ana Ng" by They Might Be Giants
  6. "Ana Ng" by They Might Be Giants
  7. "Ana Ng" by They Might Be Giants
  8. "Ana Ng" by They Might Be Giants
  9. "Ana Ng" by They Might Be Giants
  10. "Ana Ng" by They Might Be Giants

Whoops, I hit "repeat" instead of "shuffle". Sorry.
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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Fool us once... won't get fooled again 

Here's the Times-Pic's article on the new America's Wetlands "Write Now" initiative I wrote about yesterday. Note the highlited portion from the first sentences of the story:

Louisiana is in good financial shape to begin the job of rebuilding its disappearing coastline, Gov. Kathleen Blanco said Wednesday, although there are nagging concerns about how the state can spend $540 million in federal money included in the energy appropriations bill approved in July.

"The energy money is still a little bit of a question mark, " Blanco said...

"Nagging concerns", eh? "Question marks", too. Wow, that's just a huge surprise.

Let's review the evolution of these worrisome grey areas, shall we?

It all started August 2nd, when President Bush conversed with a small group of journalists, including some from the Times-Picayune. This is when Bush decided he was for saving Southern Louisiana after he'd already been against it. He declared:

I strongly believe there needs to be a federal-state relationship in solving this problem of the disappearing lands, of Louisiana's coast.

After displaying the patented off-the-cuff brilliance he's known for, Bush felt the need to elaborate further (perhaps due to some excellent follow-up queries from Da Paper) . But since he couldn't give a damn about the top issue facing this state, he "winged it", with predictably messy results:

Bush said Louisiana officials should use the money to attract more federal financing.

"I strongly urge the state of Louisiana to use the money that will be coming to them toward matching federal commitments for saving the lands," Bush said.

Since federal officials had told LA it couldn't match those funds, W's uninformed slip was potentially big news. To the paper's credit, they got quotes from everyone imaginable on this highly-fortuitous apparent change of policy. As Greg depicted in his comic from that week,
our state leaders received Bush's statement with a hilariously naive exuberance. No one really seemed to consider (at least publically) the likely possibility that Bush might've just been talking out his butt on a topic he doesn't understand. It's happened before, so I've been told...

OR... or... Perhaps the paper and the local pols understood that splashing Bush's comment in a front page story-- coupled with positive bipartisan reaction-- would make Bush's blunder much more difficult to later undo. The administration would be in the politically uncomfortable position of having to renege on Bush's "strongly urged" suggestion to the 'gret stet'. That would lead to more front page stories, and more critical editorials in Louisiana's largest newspaper. So maybe we witnessed some extremely crafty gamesmanship on the part of Da Paper and the congressional delegation. I'd love to think so, but perhaps that's giving everyone too much credit. To the extent it was done, if it was done, I commend it in toto. Very well played!

So, now, obviously, D.C. has murmured some noncommital things to Blanco about the matching funds issue. One would expect the feds to try and weasel out of the President's commitment, but, whether intentionally or not, Da Paper has set this up beautifully. Basically, it comes down to this: Is a new round of negative press in a red state worth half a billion to the administration? Probably; but once again Jindal and Vitter would be forced to register their disappointment with the President, and explain why Bush continues to hate Louisiana... or something like that.

Peruse the archives on "coastal restoration" and "wetlands" if you need a refresher on Bush's consistent opposition to the state's coastal efforts. It's one of the reasons I viewed this as a "slip up" on his part from day one. A final quote from today's article strengthens that interpretation, in my view:

Blanco is also concerned about Bush's insistence that the state must be responsible for 50 percent of the cost of the coastal restoration projects. Past Water Resources Development projects have required only a 35 percent match from the state.

"I frankly find that a little insulting, that he's asking for a 50-50 split when it's never been asked for before," she said.

It's more than a "little" insulting, I'd say.

Keep an eye on this issue, and raise a big stink if Bush tries to crawfish away from his explicit directive to our state's leadership. There's a lot at stake here.

One more thing. It's wonderful to see various bloggers celebrating the restoration of marshes in southern Iraq. Rightfully so. I look forward to their support for Louisiana's coastal restoration, as well.
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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Speaking of Stormfronts.... 

Let's all hope the Katrina and the Waves tour doesn't stop in Florida, and meanders harmlessly away into colder waters. Goodness knows FLA has taken enough punishment for the Gulf Coast States "team" in recent years.

Maybe the forecasts are incorrect this time, and everyone will be walkin' on sunshine.
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"In your all-white prism, with your prejudism... " 

The Gambit has reprinted an SPLC article on Stormfront, the largest white power hate site on the net. The founder is a Klan leader from Alabama, who, three years ago, tagged Jamie Kelso to be the forum's senior moderator. The article describes Kelso sitting in front of a bank of computers at David Duke's Mandeville mansion, monitoring the site's comments and traffic.

(Apparently, Time magazine once described Kelso as a "near-genius". Then last year Time named Powerline "Blog of the Year".... really far-sighted journalism, Time, way to go!)

Anyway, the article focuses on the surprising and rapid growth of Stormfront under Kelso's internet leadership, and the "soft", friendly tactics that are used to increase and sustain membership. Today's racists are more savvy about tapping into the mainstream. For example, the Stormforont community prefers the term "pro-white" to some of the uglier alternatives. Kelso also successfully drafted other racist luminaries to "guest post" at the site:

When Jamie Kelso joined Stormfront about three years ago, he successfully began pushing for leading movement writers -- men like Sam Dickson, a leader of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens, and Willis Carto, publisher of the Holocaust-denying journal The Barnes Review -- to start posting.

Along these lines, Stormfront recently had a huge, open strategy session on how best to infiltrate The Free Republic. Over a week ago, Shannon noted a quote from this Stormfront thread which asked:

How do we penetrate Free Republic?
That forum is just too damned popular and packed full of our target audience to ignore.

Yikes! Someone better warn the Freeps, before they're inundated by members with racially -insensitive viewpoints. It'd be a shame if such a prestigious forum were degraded by reckless outsiders....

The article goes on to say:
But one thing you won't normally find on Stormfront are racial slurs. In fact, new members are explicitly warned not to use such language, and also not to post violent threats or anything describing illegal activity. Black clearly has modeled his site on some of the tactics used by Duke, who famously urged his Klan followers to "get out of the cow pasture and into hotel meeting rooms."

Be that as it may, Stormfront welcomes African-American readers with a thread titled "For Black Visitors", which begins:
What are you doing here?

Do you realize that by being here... you are just being another "dumb nigger" for your masters?
[Snipping of several long, tortured pseudo-historical parsnips]
That's right, the people you hate are not the haters, they are not your enemies.

Your enemies are the jews who use you as their 'dumb niggers' to do their dirty work.

I want to echo the DK's, and say, "Nazi Punks F*ck Off!" but I'm not sure that would be useful. What's the best antidote to poisonous tribal "wisdom"? How can one engage and defuse a growing menace like this-- in our own backyards, no less?

Could be a job for Superman!

(H/T Shannon)
* title is a lyric from the Dead Horse song "Mindless Zombies"
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Write now, it's your tomorrow 

The Big Event and I decided to go see Governor Blanco, Hizzoner and Senator Landrieu (and bro) unveil the new "Write Now" America's Wetlands campaign down at the Aquarium. There were information booths, a band, a group of flag-waving schoolchildren and a small crowd that came out to see the VIP's speak.

Despite the blazing heat down by the river, the mood was triumphant. Everyone was pleased with the efforts of the LA delegation in getting funds for coastal restoration (despite the President's opposition). Mayor Nagin was a tad late, but made some fine-sounding remarks off the top of his shiny head. Mary Landrieu was exceedingly gracious and seemed to deflect credit to everyone else, including former Senators Johnston and Breaux. For someone who has led the charge for the past nine years on Louisiana's most important issue, I actually thought, if anything, Landrieu overly downplayed her role. You gotta admire that. What a very, very impressive display of teamwork Mary showed-- kudos! (Her steadfast commitment to protecting our coast is now reaping significant gains, and I think she should be thanked for her efforts.)

Gov. Blanco led the ceremonies with some fine prepared remarks on the importance of the coastal effort. She discussed the invitation she sent Bush to visit the state and see the coastal wetlands firsthand. Afterwards, all the officials signed a big mock postcard symbolizing the new mail effort to raise nationwide awareness of America's Wetlands. I hancocked "oyster YRHT" under Kathleen Babineaux Blanco's signature, which provided me a minor thrill. There were Wetland character mascots (a gull, a pelican and a gator) in fuzzy costumes who somehow managed to avoid heat stroke and provide a photo op for all the pols. I don't know how they did it.

This was clearly a media event first and foremost. There was little advance notice and very few regular New Orleanians attended, which was a pity, in my view.

The real news, though, was the BRAC's recommendation to not close the local military base. After the ceremony for the Wetlands, everyone went to a shaded tent where all the cameras and reporters grouped to ask about the breaking news. Blanco and company were positively beaming, and rightfully so, because through a unified effort they were able to convince the Realignment Commission that the base should be saved. Blanco waved a faxed letter of the news, and shared a story of how her staff found a long lost Louisiana beau whom a commissioner casually mentioned in conversation. Blanco's staff quickly tracked him down (on vacation) and asked if he would say "hi" to his old girlfriend, who happened to be on the commission. Both are happily married now, so this wasn't a Love Connection moment, but they were delighted to chat with one another after so long, and it surely didn't hurt the process. (Btw, the vote was 8-0 in favor.) I say it never hurts to pull out all the stops when a billion dollars of economic impact is at stake.

So there is a lot to celebrate in New Orleans today; a saved military base, and a coast that's one step closer to being "saved" as well. First, let's take a minute and write the president or congress a postcard about the important issue of coastal restoration.

Now, Let's Party!!

* I promise this is the first and final Van Haggar reference that I'll ever make.
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Political Science Diet for your Poodle 

From Singularity:

Tony Blair is expected to join one of the most exclusive groups of businessmen in the world after he leaves Downing Street.

The PM is being lined up for a highly lucrative position with the Carlyle Group - an American-based investment giant with strong links to the White House and the defense industry.

Apparently even dog houses aren't safe from pesky bubbles:

The job could net Mr. Blair up to £500,000 a year for only a few days work a month giving speeches and making "networking" trips on behalf of the company.

The move comes after it emerged that the premier's financial affairs are in an increasingly perilous state His dream home has crashed in value by £700,000 in just seven months and he and Cherie have to find £13,000 a month for the mortgage.

The £3million loan the couple took out to buy the house in London's Connaught Square is 17 times Mr. Blair's current salary...
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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Our sympathies... 

Go out to Norbizness, whose post on the most Reverend Pat "grassy knoll" Robertson got a mention on CNN's "Situation Room" with Wolf Blitzer. Norb really needs our support right now during this most unwelcome spike. See if you can comfort him.

In much more heartening news, Michael's 2 millionth web log gets an extremely well-deserved mention at the King of Zembla.

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Congratulations to Kelly from your mom an' dem! She had a baby girl!

A big one, too. Go see, and send best wishes.

My gracious, it must have been a long, hot third trimester...
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Monday, August 22, 2005


Occasionally I read Jay Tea's posts over at the conservative blog Wizbang. I've responded to a few of them, but now I'm really not sure it's worth the effort. Witness some select quotes from Jay's recent post, especially in light of my "Pottery Barn" commentary from yesterday.

Osama Bin Laden is not THE enemy. He is not who we declared war against. He is not the be-all and end-all of our foes, and even if he were to surrender today, that would not put an end to the struggle.

Who's a bigger enemy than Osama bin Laden? Even if Congress didn't declare war against him (do we even bother to declare war anymore?) I sure as hell know he declared war on us. Osama is the enemy who ordered 9/11 and who at least inspired (if not ordered) the Madrid and London bombings, among many others. Basic justice demands his capture or liquidation. In October of 2003 OBL said "We reserve the right to retaliate at the appropriate time and place against all countries involved [in the Iraq War], especially Britain, Spain, Australia, Poland, Japan and Italy." A few months later Spain was hit, and then this year Britain was hit. Zawahiri, OBL's #2, recently warned Britain that more bombings were to come. (Remember, a second unsuccessful bombing was attempted in London. I'd hardly rule out the possibility of more.)

Obviously, the enemy is not one person. Any mouthbreather knows that. But if you had to choose one, it would be either Osama or Zawahiri. Sure, they've been displaced, but al Qaeda has also spread like a virus. Yet, is there an AQ cell in existence which would defy an order from OBL or Z? And does anyone have a greater worldwide influence over al Qaeda cells than OBL? No way!! If I'm wrong, please let me know who is ordering and inspiring the recent attacks, if not OBL and Z?

Like very many conservatives, Jay still thinks OBL is a gone pecan:
Personally, I thought Bin Laden had been reduced to a smear on a cave wall in Tora Bora a long time ago, but later released audio tapes indicated he survived that. I still think he's dead, and he made sure his body wouldn't be found so he could deny us that victory.

Either way, he's largely made himself irrelevant. He led one faction of the enemy, and that faction has been thoroughly stomped. And we're still stomping, and intend to keep stomping whenever necessary. But, thank heavens, we're not focusing on them single-mindedly.

Yes, god-forbid "single-minded" focus on Al-Qaeda leadership. We've been able to successfully avoid that trap since 9/12/01. Whew. Thank goodness worldwide terrorism hasn't risen dramatically since then.

And while I'm sure Jay's faith in OBL's death is very comforting to him, pardon me for making judgments based on evidence. Also, isn't this the crowd that constantly worries about what messages might do to the "morale" of Islamo-fanatics? Yet, they don't consider killing al-Qaeda leadership priority number one? .... Interesting.

After all, I suppose, we have a misadventure in Iraq to slog through. Jay concludes:

We've won the first campaign of this war, in Afghanistan. We're winning the second one, in Iraq -- they're no longer a sponsor and haven for terrorists, and we're working to make sure they stay that way....
.... we're doing a hell of a lot better than I thought possible.

It's hard work, you know, when U.S. troops are used as flypaper in an emerging terrorism laboratory. But we're winning. Bush and Jay say we're winning, so we must be winning. That's good. Osama's dead or irrelevant, the campaign in Afghanistan has been "won", and Iraq is on the right track.

To think I was worried there for a second...
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Don't change horseman in mid-apocalypse 

Suspect Device has a great picture of the week. I think the wonderful proportions makes it so darn funny. Lot's of great caption opportunities there, too. Here's a couple that are a bit far-flung, and only sort of work, but perhaps you'll indulge me:

  • Dauphin-pony show!
  • It's not the bleat, it's the tumidity.

Greg's cartoon is typically hilarious and excellent, as well. (That's Saints owner Tom Benson, for you out-a-staters.)
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Sunday, August 21, 2005

Welcome to Pol-Pottery Barn. Please charge all broken items to your child's credit account. 

Prof Bainbridge:

It's time for us conservatives to face facts. George W. Bush has pissed away the conservative moment by pursuing a war of choice via policies that border on the criminally incompetent.

Recent opinions on Iraq from Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel:

"By any standard, when you analyze 2 1/2 years in Iraq ... we're not winning," he said.

But Hagel said even some [Nebraskans] who had previously backed Bush strongly on Iraq now felt deep unease.

"The feeling that I get back here, looking in the eyes of real people, where I knew where they were two years ago or a year ago -- they've changed," he said. "These aren't people who ebb and flow on issues. These are rock solid, conservative Republicans who love their country, support the troops and support the president."

The Corner (A. McCarthy-- his emphs):

For what it's worth, this is where I get off the bus.
Now, if several reports this weekend are accurate, we see the shocking ultimate destination of the democracy diversion. In the desperation to complete an Iraqi constitution-- which can be spun as a major step of progress on the march toward democratic nirvana-- the United States of America is pressuring competing factions to accept the supremacy of Islam and the fundamental principle no law may contradict Islamic principles.
The argument for today is: the American people were never asked whether they would commit their forces to overseas hostilities for the purpose of turning Iraq into a democracy... Like most Americans, I would like to see Iraq be an authentic democracy-- just as I would like to see Iran, Syria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, etc. be authentic democracies. But I would not sacrifice American lives to make it so.

But even if I suspended disbelief for a moment and agreed that the democracy project is a worthy casus belli, I am as certain as I am that I am breathing that the American people would not put their brave young men and women in harm's way for the purpose of establishing an Islamic government. Anyplace.

Iraqi Secular Kurdish politician quoted in Reuters:

"We understand the Americans have sided with the Shi'ites," he said. "It's shocking. It doesn't fit American values. They have spent so much blood and money here, only to back the creation of an Islamist state ... I can't believe that's what the Americans really want or what the American people want."

John Cole (referenced hyperlinks added by YRHT):

Although, after reading the first story, my initial reaction to the second piece is "Why bother? Just pull out and let the civil war start now rather than later." Of course we can't, but...

Gregory Djerejian at The Belgravia Dispatch:

...the intent of this post is not to ascribe blame, engage in polemics, or call for Don Rumsfeld's head. Rather, we must look forward and attempt to sketch out a convincing path to success.
do we have the staying power and the skill and the fortitude and, yes, the nuance--to navigate and comprehend and intelligently act given the immensely volatile and complex maze that is post-Saddam Iraq? I'm increasingly unsure.
I still believe this project can be made roughly right....Iraq is still at a tipping-point, it is not yet a hopeless cause.

Normally I'd let those quotes just sit there, elegantly twisting away, but the highlited portions of that Belgravia Dispatch excerpt prompted the following YRHT commentary:

There is a chorus of "sensible", "two-handed" chirpers on all sides who say things like "There's no use in arguing about past mistakes in Iraq. We're there now, let's remain focused on the future".

I simply disagree. It's absolutely useful to argue about the mistakes leading to the invasion of Iraq, if there is a chance of preventing future, similar strategic blunders.

Seriously, let's reflect on what's to stop the next blind march into a nation-building war of choice. It sure won't be those who wish to avoid "looking back" at the recent past. And as the reality in Iraq dawns on more and more conservatives (see above), criticism will continue to be heaped on Paul "Medal of Freedom" Bremer and current Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. But such criticisms only address how the war was waged and the handling of its immediate aftermath. That's far, far too narrow in scope, and it lets Bushco off the hook. The historical record must show that the war wasn't merely badly run. It must show that it was unnecessary and utterly tangential to the main terrorist threats to America's security. The only way Bush could generate enough Iraq war support was to relentlessly link Iraq to 9/11 and to hype Hussein's nonexistent WMD's. The Iraq war was a strategic blunder of the first magnitude. It will probably benefit Iran more than America in the long run, and that absurd result is why the genesis of this war deserves intensive, unrelenting study and debate.

Once more: An administration which subcontracted crucial portions of the war in Afghanistan to local warlords later decided the best way to fight terror was to spend hundreds of billions of tax dollars (and hundreds of millions of military man-hours) in Iraq. This administration was somehow re-elected. Discuss.

Those of us who foresaw an "immensely volatile and complex maze" as a probable eventuality in a post-Hussein Iraq cannot allow those who blithely overlooked such likelihoods to escape a political day of reckoning. So many intelligent folks like Greg D. seem shocked by how events are transpiring in Iraq-- their naivete profoundly disturbs me.

The administration's loathsome scare tactics and empty sloganeering (which continue to this day in different forms) should be meticulously connected to the pre-invasion build-up, and vigorously exposed and opposed. Otherwise, how in the world will this not happen again and again? Consider this: it's certainly possible those who led us into Iraq will try to sell us on a new misadventure... while American troops are still in Iraq!! Should this happen, the only restraining force will be those willing to argue about the so-called "past". American blood and treasure are too precious to entrust to those who wrongfully prioritized Iraq over Afghanistan (strategically if not chronologically).

Let's review: Liberated Kuwait is a monarchy. "Free" Afghanistan is a warlording Narco-State Islamic Republic.Those who scared America into Iraq ostensibly believed that the odds favored the creation of a viable democracy there, and they accused skeptics of racism and disloyalty when objections were raised. It will probably take a few more years to see how (badly) this all shakes out. Perhaps a miracle might occur, and everything will work out fine. But pardon me for not holding my breath in the interim. Instead, I think it's worth emphasizing that Bushco considered Iraq such a priority that they transferred Special Forces from Afghanistan to Kuwait in the Spring of 2002, so they could begin "softening up" Hussein's rather weak defenses. This inexcusable decision was based on the Bush administration's panglossian neo-con vision of the Middle East; a faith-based fantasy devoid of concrete risk assessments-- especially in regards to long-term unintended consequences.

After 9/11, bin Laden was laughing in Afghanistan and Hussein was "in his box" in Iraq. Four years later, bin Laden continues to laugh, and we now own a hideously expensive, nightmarish Pottery Barn writ large.

So, it's still very much worth arguing about these things, in order that we may avoid future nation-building expeditions into ethno/religious morasses. Don't you think? (Not that Americans will so eagerly approve the next misadventure, but still, why chance it?)

Or, to put all this another way: will it actually take a SECOND CATASTROPHIC ATTACK on our "homeland" before we do what candidate Wes Clark pledged to do and "move heaven and earth" to hunt down the architects of the terrorist strikes on NYC and DC? Would we ever, EVER again re-elect a president who (mere months after 9/11!) transferred Osama-hunting special forces from Afghanistan to Iraq so that grand plans for a risky war of choice could be accelerated? I shudder to think what it will take for these painful lessons to be seared into the consciousness of America's electorate. Exhortations to "Remember 9/11" are stupid. No one will forget 9/11. More useful would be to remember how Bushco falsely claimed that the "lessons of 9/11" applied directly and immediately to Iraq. Perhaps the best thing to say would be "Remember Afghanistan". Often overlooked, it's amazing how rarely war-supporters mention this ongoing front in the "War on Terror". And if you think the mission in Afghanistan was accomplished long ago, I invite you to review today's news summary.

Making the best of the current situation in Iraq is important. But preventing the strategic folly which led to "Iraq" (at the expense of Afghanistan) is even more so.

In sum, I believe that unlearned lessons from the (recent) past are always worth discussing. How 'bout you?

Other fine bloggers have similarly compiled many of these same quotes.
* Despite the title, I realize that Iraq has little in common with Cambodia during Khmer Rouge. I just couldn't resist the play. Treat "Pol" as short for "politico", if you wish.
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