February 24, 2005

From the Department of Irony

Who's joining the federal privacy board? The CEO of an adware program. Ooohh, Department of Homeland Security, you never fail to amuse. CNET:

The Department of Homeland Security has named Claria, an adware maker that online publishers once dubbed a "parasite," to a federal privacy advisory board.

An executive from Claria, formerly called Gator, will be one of 20 members of the committee, the department said Wednesday.

"This committee will provide the department with important recommendations on how to further the department's mission while protecting the privacy of personally identifiable information of citizens and visitors of the United States," Nuala O'Connor Kelly, the department's chief privacy officer, said in a statement.

Claria bundles its pop-up advertising software with ad-supported networks such as Kazaa. Recently, the privately held company has been trying to seek credibility by following stricter privacy guidelines and offering behavioral profiling services to its partners.

More on Claria.

Posted by Eric at 02:11 PM | Comments (6)

February 01, 2005

No Free Lunch

SALON: Insult to injury: Some wounded soldiers back from Iraq are having to pay for meals at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Veterans' groups say it's another symptom of fighting a costly war on the cheap.

Posted by Eric at 12:56 PM | Comments (5)

December 20, 2004

Should Rummy Stay?

Looking at the other side of the argument, Ehsan Ahrari in the Asia Times:

Rumsfeld was one of the foremost US officials who should be blamed for the entire Iraqi quagmire, but not any more than George Bush. But the American people last month re-elected Bush for four more years. Why go after Rumsfeld, especially when the chief architect of that policy will not only remain in the White House for four more years, but will unabashedly pursue that failed policy, without any regard to its cost to the global prestige of the United States and to its most precious asset, its youth?

Iraq is a failure in the making. The upcoming elections there are not likely to make that much of a difference, especially if the Sunnis don't participate, either on their own or as a result of insurgents' attempts to create conditions aimed at bringing about their exclusion.

The Republican senators who are criticizing Rumsfeld, or wanting his resignation are right about criticizing him, but are wrong in putting the entire blame on him. He, in the final analysis, is only an implementer of a policy made in the White House. The neo-cons want him to resign because they currently envisage their contentious notion of Pax Americana as a doomed proposition.

Rumsfeld should stay put, and play a major role in paving conditions for America's eventual withdrawal from Iraq. Hounding him out of office is likely to create a bitter debate - if Iraq indeed ends up as a failure of America's foreign policy - that such a reality emerged largely because Rummy was not allowed to remain in office and finish his job.

Posted by Eric at 05:33 PM | Comments (3)

Best Equipped Army?

From Mark Shields in the Washington Post:

Only 5,910 of the 19,584 Humvees that U.S. troops in Iraq depend on are protected with factory-installed armor.

• More than 8,000 of the 9,128 medium and heavyweight trucks transporting soldiers and supplies in that war zone are without armor.

Because of the incompetence or indifference of this nation's civilian leadership of the war, Americans in Iraq are living with an increased risk of death.

All the official transcripts of White House signing ceremonies for every defense spending bill, all the presidential proclamations for Veterans Day and every prepared statement by the secretary of defense before a congressional committee include the same stock phrase. U.S. troops are invariably referred to as "the best trained, best equipped" ever. Best equipped? To call today's American troops in Iraq the "best equipped" is more than an exaggeration; it is bilge, baloney and cruel.

An America coming out of the Great Depression somehow found the leadership and the will to build and deploy around the globe 2.5 million trucks in the same period of time that the incumbent U.S. government has failed to get 30,000 fully armored vehicles to Iraq.

The Bush administration has appropriated $34.3 billion on a theoretical missile defense system -- which proved again this week to be an expensive dud in its first test in two years, when the "kill vehicle" never got off the ground to intercept the target missile carrying a mock warhead -- but has been able up to now, according to congressional budget authorities, to spend just $2 billion to armor the vehicles of Americans under fire.

Posted by Eric at 02:52 PM | Comments (9)

Robo Rummy

In the New York Daily News, "The grieving families of New York soldiers killed in Iraq blasted Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld yesterday for letting a machine sign his name to condolence letters they got in the mail."

The least he could have done was pick up a pen and sign the six-sentence letters himself, Brooklyn widow Miriam Behnke told the Daily News.

"The soldiers out there aren't machines, they're human beings," said Behnke, whose husband, Joseph Behnke, died Dec.4 when he was thrown from a Humvee south of Baghdad.

"My husband believed in doing what he had to do for his country, and [Rumsfeld] should do the same and sign the letters himself," she said.

"It makes me feel awful and sad," said Brooklyn mom Fizoon Ashraf, whose Army specialist son, Rasheed Sahib, was killed in May 2003. "So many families out there have lost their kids, and he couldn't sign to show how much he cares?"

Posted by Eric at 06:08 AM | Comments (6)

December 19, 2004

Another Rummy Folly

From the AP, "Rumsfeld criticized for having machine sign condolence letters to troops killed in action." Ya think?

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has decided to personally sign condolence letters to the family members of U.S. troops killed in action rather than letting a machine affix his signature.

Republican and Democratic members of Congress criticized the embattled Pentagon chief on Sunday for not signing the letters himself all along.

"My goodness, that's the least that we could expect of the secretary of defense, is having some personal attention paid by him," said Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., noting that President Bush signs such letters himself.

"If the president of the United States can find time to do that, why can't the Secretary of Defense?" Hagel, a Vietnam veteran, asked on CBS' "Face the Nation."

In a statement Friday, Rumsfeld announced the change in policy and said more than 1,000 condolence letters had gone out to relatives of Americans killed in military action during the global fight against terrorism.

Posted by Eric at 05:25 PM | Comments (5)

December 17, 2004

Unscientific Online Poll Results

From ArmyTimes.com. Again, online polls are not scientific, but given that most users of the website are likely military-based, it might indicate something about the concerns; link via Al Franken Blog:

If the Defense Department uparmored vehicles in Iraq more quickly, how much do you think that would help reduce U.S. casualties?

A lot. 40.02 % (672)
Somewhat. 40.86 % (686)
Not much. 17.93 % (301)
Don't know/No opinion. 1.19 % (20)
Total votes: 1679

The Defense Department recently announced that troop strength in Iraq would increase to 150,000, up from about 138,000. Is this sufficient?

Yes. 22.34 % (668)
No. 62.58 % (1,871)
I don't know. 15.08 % (451)
Total votes: 2990

Do you think the Department of Veterans Affairs is ready to handle the expected sharp increase in requests for medical care from veterans of the war on terrorism?

Yes. 7.24 % (250)
No. 85.64 % (2,957)
I don't know.

What effect will President Bush’s re-election have on the war in Iraq?

It will last longer. 54.03 % (5,835)
It will end sooner. 29.38 % (3,173)
I don't know. 16.59 % (1,792)
Total votes: 10800

Posted by Eric at 02:35 AM | Comments (3)

December 15, 2004

Sources: Lieberman rejects White House overtures

According to CNN, "Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman has twice in recent days said "no" when approached about the possibility of a major job in the second Bush administration Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman has twice in recent days said "no" when approached about the possibility of a major job in the second Bush administration, CNN has learned. The Cabinet vacancy at the Department of Homeland Security was the subject of the latest overture, according to congressional and other government sources. Those sources said the earlier overture was to see whether Lieberman might be interested in becoming the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations."

Posted by Eric at 10:13 AM | Comments (4)

December 10, 2004

Who Is Bernard Kerik?

The Center for American Progress has the goods on the new Secretary of Homeland Security.

Update: Kerik, as you likely heard, has resigned.

Posted by Eric at 01:39 PM | Comments (14)

December 09, 2004

Hackworth: Military Recruiting in Trouble

The "soldier-author-columnist" says the military isn't living up to its recruiting goals; gee, wonder why? (linnk via Kos)

Regular Army Volume (all RA contracts):
Mission: 25,322
Achieved: 12,703 (50.17 percent)

Army Reserve Volume:
Mission: 7,373
Achieved: 3,206 (43.48 percent)."

The Army National Guard is faring no better. A Guard retention NCO says: "The word is out on the streets of Washington, D.C. `Do not join the Guard.' I see these words echoing right across the U.S.A."

By the end of this recruiting year, the Regular Army, Reserves and Guard could fall short more than 50 percent of its projected requirement, or about 60,000 new soldiers. And according to many recruiters, quality recruits are giving way to mental midgets who have a hard time telling their left foot from their right.

Shades of our last years in Vietnam.

Posted by Eric at 03:09 AM | Comments (58)

November 16, 2004

Let's Reward Failure

E.g. in the case of Condi Rice and her wonderful record:

INATTENTION TO TERRORISM: According to the 9/11 Commission report, chief White House expert on terrorism Richard Clarke sent Rice an urgent memo just days after she took office, stressing the severity of the terrorist threat. She did not respond, and although the national security leadership "met formally nearly 100 times in the months prior to the Sept. 11 attacks…terrorism was the topic during only two of those sessions." The first meeting on al Qaeda did not occur until 9/4/01.

MISLEADING STATEMENTS PRE-WAR: Rice was one of the primary perpetrators of misinformation in the push for war with Iraq. In September 2002, she claimed, "We do know that [Saddam] is actively pursuing a nuclear weapon." Weapons inspector David Kay and his successor, Charles Duelfer, debunked that outright, saying Saddam had no nuclear program. Rice also pushed the phantom nuclear threat by charging that certain aluminum tubes Saddam sought were "only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs." A 10/3/04 New York Times article exposed that as false.

RICE GIVEN LEADERSHIP ROLE IN IRAQ, FIZZLES: In October 2003, President Bush announced he was "giving his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, the authority to manage postwar Iraq." With great fanfare, Rice was put in charge of the "Iraq Stabilization Group." Seven months later, the Washington Post reported "the four original leaders of the Stabilization Group have taken on new roles, and only one remains concerned primarily with Iraq." Even within the White House, "the destabilized Stabilization Group is a metaphor for an Iraq policy that is adrift." According to the White House website, the Iraq stabilization group hasn't been publicly mentioned for more than a year.

MISLEADING STATEMENTS POST-WAR: Even after the invasion of Iraq failed to turn up any evidence of weapons of mass destruction, Rice continued a calculated effort to keep the nonexistent threat in the public eye. On 9/7/03, she ominously warned, "we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud." On 3/18/04, Rice said that "It's not as if anybody believes that Saddam Hussein was without weapons of mass destruction." In fact, the administration's handpicked weapons inspector, David Kay, had publicly said – two months earlier – that he didn't believe Saddam had WMD before the March 2003 invasion. When Kay resigned in January he said "he did not believe banned stockpiles existed before the invasion" and that pre-war intelligence that said Iraq possessed WMD was probably "all wrong."

See a video of Condi's brilliance.

Posted by Eric at 01:26 PM | Comments (9)