Thursday, July 31, 2003

"The success of a free Iraq will also demonstrate to other countries in that region that national prosperity and dignity are found in representative government and free institutions. They are not found in tyranny, resentment and for support for terrorism..."

--From George W. Bush's press conference, July 30, 2003.

Who might he have been talking about?

Why does he even have press conferences? Or, more to point, does he actually have them, or do they trot out a robotic double that they can wind up and deliver the talking points:

"Q. Suddam Hussein's alleged ties to Al Qaeda were a key part of your justification for war, yet your own intelligence report, the N.I.E. [National Intelligence Estimate], defined it as, quote, low confidence that Saddam would give weapons to Al Qaeda. Were those links exaggerated to justify war?...

A. Yeah. I think, first of all -- remember, I just said we've been there for 90 days since the cessation of major military operations...

There is no doubt in my mind...that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the United States security and a threat to peace in the region...

Q. There's a sense here in this country and a feeling around the world that the U.S. has lost credibility by building the case for Iraq upon sometimes flimsy or, some people have complained, nonexistent evidence. I'm just wondering, sir, why did you choose to take the world to war in that way?

A. ...Saddam Hussein was a threat. The United Nations viewed him as a threat. That's why they passed 12 resolutions. Predecessors of mine viewed him as a threat. We gathered a lot of intelligence on which I made a decision. And in order to placate the critics and the cynics about intentions of the United States, we need to produce evidence."

To every question about taking their eye off the Al Qaeda ball, we're told by Bush that Saddam was a threat. Flimsy evidence? Saddam was a threat. Poor post-war planning? Saddam was a threat. Dovetails nicely with his answers to all questions economic. The tax cuts to the wealthy are actually designed to help the middle class.

"There's no place like home. There's no place like home." In Bush's head, if he says it over and over, it will just have to come true.

So, the Policy Analyst Market is dead, and so, apparently is Poindexter's job. James Surowiecki thinks the death of PAM -- as bizarre as it appears -- is a bad thing. I'm not sure I follow his logic 100%. I mean, sure orange juice futures may be better at forecasting Florida weather than the weather service, but there's a key difference here. There's nothing we can do to prevent winter freezes in Florida, so the market is efficient. What's the incentive to bid big on a terror attack on an embassy in Samoa, if the government is going to use that information to stop the attack?

But the bigger issue is not whether DARPA comes up with crazy or cool ideas. It's about the arrogance and lack of accountability in this administration. First, they hire Poindexter, a felon whose sentence was overturned only because Congress, in their haste to get the goods on Reagan and Bush I, gave immunity to some of the key players in return for their testimony (Oliver North did no time for the same reason). Then the guy comes up with some bizarre ideas, but his bosses deny any knowledge of what he's working on? Gimme a break.

Arrogance. Lack of accountability. Oh yeah, did I mention cynicism? Re-read this sentence: "And in order to placate the critics and the cynics about intentions of the United States, we need to produce evidence." "We need to produce evidence to placate our critics." Sure, that's going to help to restore our credibility.

Need more evidence of the deep-seated arrogance of this guy and his administration? How about this choice exchange yesterday:

"Q. Mr. President, with no opponent, how can you spend $170 million or more on your primary campaign?

"A. Just watch."

Eric Boehlert of Salon has an excellent piece on how the war in Iraq has left us even more vulnerable to terrorist attack.

Also on Salon is Tom the Dancing Bug and the game everyone is playing.


I love this time of year when the Red Sox/Yankees begin the real race for the pennant. But I will miss Robin Ventura, one of the slyest wits on a Yankees team that generally eschews personality.

Speaking of personality. While attending a game at PacBell Park (yeah, yeah, it's a nice park and the food's great, and the Giants made some stellar plays in both left and right fields...okay, it was neat. And did I mentione the Anchor Steam Beer?), I was asked what Yankee Stadium is like. I, misty-eyed, of course, said, "Why, it's the cathedral of baseball." Rob Neyer reminds me that it can be pretty un-cathedral like. He's right, I have to admit it. I hate "Cotton-eyed Joe" -- one of the reasons I often prefer to watch the game on TV and listen to the commercials rather than the Stadium sound system. Not everyone's as open-minded as me, though.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

After brief R&R on the West Coast -- land of the never-ending governor's election -- I'm back; mad as ever.

I suggest you watch this, before you read this.

"I share your shock at this kind of program," Mr. Wolfowitz told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "We'll find out about it, but it is being terminated."

Wait a second. You mean that a program as bizarre as this gets all the way to appropriations and this is the first the deputy defense secretary is hearing about it? As I recall, didn't Rumsfeld express the same kind of shock at "learning" about Total Information Awareness?

It's pretty clear that "Accountability" is a foreign concept to the Bush administration. Exaggerated intelligence gets into the State of the Union? George Tenet gets the blame. He shifts the blame to some deputy to Condi. Bush announces he has full confidence in the guy. Missile defense tests fail? Announce you're skipping further tests. Bush, of course, has full confidence that the system will work. It's learned that Moe, Larry, and Curly are in charge of the EPA? Bush announces he's got darned good environmental protection policies.

To mix my Shakespeare, there's something rotten in the District of Columbia. Methinks they protest too much.

Why do I feel like I'm being duped? The 9-11 investigation finally gets to the Saudi connection and, at the request of the administration, every word but "and" and "but" is blacked-out. The Saudis protest, claiming their honor is being impugned, and rush to the Oval Office to complain. Bush rejects their fervent "pleas" to declassify the information. The Saudi foreign minister goes on CNN to say what an ally the kingdom is to this country. The 27 Magic Marker pages remain inky. The Saudi connection to 9-11 -- and the Bush administration -- remain "classified."

It stinks alright.

Fred Kaplan dissects the report -- and its typical Washington proscription to simply build a bigger bureaucracy -- on Slate. Also on Slate, Timothy Noah asks why Louis Freeh hasn't been sent to Guantanamo Bay for his role in failing to prevent the attacks. Well, maybe he doesn't go that far.

Monday, July 21, 2003

The suspicions I voiced in my July 11 post -- that Bush was yanking our chain when he said he'd provide help in Liberia -- turns out to be untrue. Of course, he didn't say whom he'd help. Moral outrage. Strong words disguising vague promises. "Monitoring the situation." Inaction. That's basically been Washington's policy toward Africa since the end of the Cold War. And the consequence is always slaughter.

Should have known Bush was putting us on when he said the US would go in as part of a multinational force. "Multinational force." Where did that come from? Isn't that a reprehensible phrase to the ideologs in the White House? The idea that US forces would be standing side by side with UN blue helmets must have sent a shudder up the spine of Rumsfeld and sent Cheney running to the Red Phone in his secured location to tell his boss that that's not an option.

But, according to Fred Kaplan in Slate, they'd better get used to the idea -- and fast -- unless we want further decay in Iraq and eventual embarrassment. It will be interesting to see in the coming weeks how this plays out. When Rumsfeld's own team of investigators tells him that a UN force is vital and needed immediately, can he work past his own ideology to adapt to the idea?

Unlikely, I know. The worse the effect their policies are having, the more likely they are to dig in and declare victory. Whether it's the effect of carbon dioxide on the environment or the effect of tax cuts on a ballooning deficit, they represent the West Wing equivalent of the "Dead Parrot Sketch."

I too wondered what it is that she does.

Finally, someone who reminds the vega that it isn't a lonely voice in the wilderness. There are some on the left who are still able to direct the rage at practical solutions. Todd Gitlin, interviewed in Salon (it's worth the daypass -- go to Tom Tomorrow as a bonus reward), tells the Greens to get over it and the left in general to end the circular firing squads.


What un Tour!

Posts may be few and far between in the next week and a half as I leave gloomy New England for sunny California. I may even catch a couple of games at the Bonds Boardroom. I'll report back on the experience.

Friday, July 18, 2003

Well, I'm sure glad they told us. I mean, who knew?

This is typical Bush White House stuff. Make the administration as inaccessible as possible. I wonder where the "differing opinion" emails go. The garbage can? The ether? John Ashcroft?

The Iraq/Niger connection intel has provided an interesting diversion in recent days, and it certainly should do an effective job of giving people in the red states a taste of the venality and cynicism -- the end justifies the means -- of the Bush administration, by perhaps giving the press permission to start looking into more of the lies great and small that Bush's team foists on us to justify some new tax cut for the wealthy or sop to corporate supporters.

And it's been fun watching Condi, George, and Rummy off-message for a change, and it may curtail Rumsfeld's and Cheney's adventurism, at least for a short time.

But I don't think we should lose sight of the real issue that should be held up to close scrutiny: The post-war Iraq planning, or lack thereof.

Dean and Graham are barking up the wrong tree. Whatever one's opinion of the build-up to the war, few people seriously doubted that Saddam had serious weapons, why else play games with the inspections process (actually, I have a theory which may not be my own on that, more to follow)? Moreover, the war has happened, it's time to stop protesting it.

But what many of us suspected before the war and is now becoming painfully clear, is that there was no plan for dealing with what, predictably, is happening there right now. Michele Goldberg practically hyperventilates, but it's a good piece in Salon, as is this one on the intel manipulations. I'm not sure I buy into this golden age of CIA nonpartisanship, but it's pretty clear that things are not too happy in Langley right now.

What is particularly disturbing about the events in Iraq is the fact that Rumsfeld continues to waste time trying to make his fantasies real. He's still trying to create -- from fairy dust, apparently -- a coalition of the willing. Trouble is, writes Michael Gordon, is that how willing? And how able? We need a real peacekeeping force -- and fast -- before an understandably angry marine decides to get even the next time his buddy gets blown up trying to buy a soda. After a while, the Iraqis are going to all look the same to those beleaguered guys.

Phil Carter, I think, agrees, but with less hyperventilation. He also finds a choice piece of news from Iraq, showing the ingenuity of our Marine Corps.

He also has a worthwhile piece on judicial discretion when it comes to the Executive Branch's national security and foreign policy constitutional monopoly. Always good to reread the Constitution.


He seems happy. But for how long, Lord, how long?

Thursday, July 17, 2003

It's tough to blog outside. I mean, how does one generate the fine rage needed to fuel this when I'm sitting outside on a beautiful day, working with the Airport wireless connection. I can't imagine a happy blog would be much worth reading.

Tony Blair goes to Washington. What was supposed to be a moment of glory for Blair has soured considerably. So much so, that the plans to award him a congressional medal have been postponed, saved for less turbulent times. So much so, that in his speech to congress, Blair states that the invasion of Iraq and the deposition of Hussein is "something that I am confident history will forgive." Forgive? Hardly a positive spin. Good speech, though, and at least he is self-conscious enough to feel some hubris right now.

Bush doesn't have a gene for that. But the cover of Time doesn't bode well for him. Finally the press has gotten off the couch and are probing the administration's assertions. The Time story will also bring the now unsteady reasons of war to the living rooms and barber shops in the red states.

It's especially devastating for Bush, as the credibility story is followed immediately in the magazine by a story on the death of Chris Coffin, 50. It's heart-rending, and a reminder of how badly the post-war was planned for by the civilians in the Pentagon.

Maybe the blow to Bush's credibility on this topic will now lead the press and public to put as much effort to cover his lies, mistatements, and dubious logic with as much intensity as they clung to every silly Gore claim.

Perhaps we're watching a turning point for the administration.

I continue to be truly impressed by the guys in uniform, though. Gen Abizaid's testimony to congress yesterday was impressive in the breadth of his knowledge, and the clarity and forthrightness of his statements. And Gen. Shinseki's prediction that was scoffed at by Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz are turning out to be right on target. The direct opposite of his bosses.

Trouble is, we don't have the troop strength to put more boots on the ground in Iraq. "Currently, 21 of the Army's 33 active-duty combat brigades are deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan, South Korea and the Balkans," the Wall St. Journal reports today. "Three more brigades are in the process of modernizing and can't be sent abroad. That leaves nine brigades -- or 45,000 troops -- to relieve all of the Army forces deployed around the world."

And three brigades are being held in reserve in case they're need on the Korean peninsula.

Which just keeps getting uglier. In a story I initially missed, North and South Korean soldiers traded gunfire inside the DMZ yesterday. A clear violation of the 50 year old armistice. Speculation is that the North started it, just to remind the world of the presence of their artillery aimed at Seoul.

Kim keeps acting out and Bush, like an embarassed parent with a screaming child in the walmart, just keeps shushing him, to no effect.

Nicholas Thompson in Salon takes John Kerry to task for passing up an opportunity to rip Bush on the false Iraq intel. Instead, Kerry -- on a stage with uniformed police and firefighters in New York -- talked about the fact that the Bush admin. has not focused on "homeland security," and we're no safer from massive terrorist attacks now than we were 18 months ago. I think Kerry's right to not dive too deeply into the State of the Union fraud -- let Bush and his minions flail away on that subject -- and instead focus on security right here rather than Iraq. The Democratic candidates need to convince voters that they care -- and have a plan -- for making the US safer. Sniping at Bush at this stage just reminds us all that they often do more whining than leading. Kerry has his bona fides on war.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Okay, I'll admit it, last night's All-Star game was a great, crisply played ballgame. And there does seem to be some validity in saying that there was a connection to the fact that "this time it counts!" Clearly, the managers were thinking a lot more about good match-ups late in the game rather than getting all the players in (six players sat the whole game for each team). And the Rocket threw a verbal bouquet to Bud Selig, saying that he accepted the extremely short-notice invitation to pitch only because it might help the Yanks in the fall.

And Jorge IV got to make another entrance.

Selig throws so much crap against the wall, of course every once in a while something's going to stick.

And I also have to admit that, in the last week of October, with the Yankees down 3 games to 2 against the Giants (this is a prediction, folks), I'll be thanking a rookie third basemen for the perennial loser Texas Rangers for letting 'em play games 6 and 7 in the Bronx.


I guess Gen. Abizaid didn't get the memo.

In the days prior to the war in Iraq, it appeared that the administration wasn't making serious plans for post-war contingencies and wasn't taking seriously the concerns of the uniformed guys in the Pentagon -- you know, the guys who have been nation-building quite a bit over the past 10 years. But it was just appearance, right? Nope, Knight-Ridder has a devastating story that the appearance was the appalling reality.

So now we're in a truly appalling reality. The casualties are starting to be less acceptable to the public, it seems. NPR's "Morning Edition" did a powerful obit of Edward Herrgott, a soldier from Minnesota, this morning (scroll down to find the audio link). At the end of the story, the man's aunt says, "Last week, President Bush said 'bring it on.' Well, they brought it on and now my nephew's dead."

But maybe they're learning that exaggeration can be politically dangerous (thanks to talking points memo for the link). Bolten, Cheney's mole in the State Dept., was going to make the case before Congress that now it's Syria who are pointing a nuclear gun at our temple. It seems that the rank and file at the CIA are now more emboldened to say bull*#$! to the Bushies, even as their boss, George Tenet, gets more and more malleable.

TAPPED has an interesting piece on why Howard Dean isn't going to help us kick the bums out. I just haven't figured out the appeal of Dean. A quick look at his record suggests that, beyond being pro-gay marriage and anti-war in Iraq, he's not all that liberal. I realize the McCain straight-talk approach is appealing and that, frankly, the other candidates have been a bit blurred, but I have a feeling that when Karl Rove reads about Dean he grins and rubs his hands together.

Even more baffling is the left's love of Kucinich. I don't think a resume that includes race-baiting congressmen and helping to bankrupt Cleveland makes for an attractive candidate. Figures that Ralph Nadar, the Ross Perot of the Democratic Party, likes him.

The left always felt betrayed by Clinton (just as the righty wing nuts of the Republican party felt betrayed by Bush I), and they have been taking their revenge out on the DLC every since. Clinton, to them, was the epitome of Republicrat-ism, moving the party rightward. So they took it out on Gore in 2000 and they'll take it out on whoever wins the nomination next year, by supporting Nadar, or not voting, or whatever.

I don't care if the Democrats elect a talking monkey next summer in Boston. Bush simply must not be the POTUS anymore. Get with the program, already! After the right abandoned Bush I, the Republicans didn't respond with a right-wing firebrand. Eight years later they got Bush II, with his espousal of "compassionate conservatism." The right got what they wanted as he winked and grinned at them, but with a softer, more center right face. We now have an extremely rightwing administration as a result. The Democrats must relearn the lessons of Clinton and remember that we can't win on every issue, but we must win back power. And it's going to take better, more broadly appealing candidates than Dean or Kucinich to do that.

Funny thing, though. I recall writing a note to a friend back during Gulf War I in which I also said I'd vote for a talking monkey instead of G.H.W. Bush (when he looked invulnerable). And remember who turned up?

Defeating Bush is vital. Here are some reasons why.

Corrections: A devoted reader -- actually Mrs. Cura -- points out that I've been writing about Nigeria as the alleged source of the uranium referenced in Bush's SoU speech, when in fact it is Niger. Appreciate the note and I've corrected it.

Of course, it occurs to me that that's one defense the Bushies haven't tried: "We meant to say Nigeria, not Niger!"

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Isn't the Bush administration's evolving explanation for the State of the Union Niger connection further undercuttiing our erstwhile ally, Tony Blair? As Tony fights for his political life against an opposition (actually, his own party) and a press that are less docile than we seem to have here, the Bush administration is blithely saying that the British intel wasn't "accurate." The Bushies abandon friends and allies so quickly and abruptly, one wonders who they have left to talk to.

Now, comes the debate on what the meaning of "it" is.

This seems like a joke, but it isn't, as Josh Marshall explains.
According to Alan Murray in his "Political Capital" column in today's Wall St. Journal, a group of conservatives and liberals, such as C. Boyden Gray and the Brooking Institute's Stephen Cohen, have formed an ad hoc group calling itself the "Committee for the Republic." A manifesto they've written is circulating throughout Washington's email system that is intended, in Murray's words, to say, "Whoa, hold on a minute. Shouldn't we talk about this" whole empire thing we're getting into? The committee hopes to "educate Americans about the dangers of empire" and to douse the burning ardor neocons and Fox News have for all things imperial.

"A decade ago," writes Murray, "being against empire would have been like being against rape...'Empire' was a dirty word. Today it has re-emerged, newly laundered."

"Bush administration officials avoid the 'e' word, not so much because they disagree with those who use it, but because they recognize it as bad public relations. What they say, however, is less important than what they do."

Quoting the manifesto, Murray continues, "'The American Revolution was a nationalist revolt against the British Empire.'" Citing the classics, the Committee argues the first casualty of empire building abroad is liberty at home.

"While the draft was written before the latest flap over bad intelligence used in the State of the Union address, it also argues: 'To justify the high cost of maintaining rule over foreign territories and peoples, leaders are left with no choice but to deceive people.'"

Concludes Murray, "The Committee for the Republic thinks it is time to have a great national debate about America's role in the post-Cold War world. I say: Bring it on."

Trouble is, Bush hates the limp-wristedness of "nation-building." "Empire building," on the other hand, has a manly man's ring to it. But the rising casualty rate in Iraq, our seeming ADD in Afghanistan, and continued belligerent Rummy talk regarding Syria, may actually move Americans to care about this debate.

Speaking of mission creep, Hit & Run directs us to a story on Tom Ridge's determination that the "war on terrorism" isn't enough work for the Dept. of Homeland Security. Ridge wants to make sure only 100% American smut is getting through to our computers.

Apparently the House doesn't feel so strongly about the nation's meat supply, as they reject a food labeling bill that would have forced suppliers to say where the meat came from. According to the story in the Journal, the bill was supported by Great Plains senators, but opposed by the usual suspects of meat packers, supermarkets, and Texas cattle ranchers. Texas cattle ranchers? Does that mean when they say "Texas beef," they really mean "Mexican beef?"

Ari left just in time. The Niger question has the admin in a rare state of flummoxity. And Bush just adds to the confusion. Revisionist history?: "Defending the broader decision to go to war with Iraq, the president said the decision was made after he gave Saddam Hussein 'a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in.'" Hmmm, wasn't it the Bush admin. that said time was up for the inspectors and told them to leave Iraq?

It just gets uglier as the budget deficit can now be expected to reach a half a trillion dollars. "Nonetheless, in nominal terms the deficit for the 2003 fiscal year will be a record, easily eclipsing the $290 billion deficit recorded in 1992, when President Bush's father was president."

Our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity is finally over.


"Baseball is such a great game, Marvin Miller, the former executive director of the players association, once said, that try as they might, the officials who run the game can't ruin it.

"And yet those officials test that theory time and again."

"Allez, Tyler Hamilton the Warrior." In fifth place overall, no less. What plays through his head as he grips the handlebars through the mountains? Is he grinding down the caps on his teeth that were put there after he ground them down while finishing second in the Giro d'Italia, with a broken shoulder?

Monday, July 14, 2003

Let's see. Haven't found much in the way of WMD. Can't find Hussein or Bin Laden (or even their recording studios). After a quick round of monument toppling, the Iraqi people don't seem to be embracing the victorious troops. The returning Iraqi exiles don't seem to have much in the way of political support on the ground. And turns out Hussein probably didn't have the materials to launch a nuclear weapon in a year or two.

Yep. I'd have to say "darn good intelligence."

The Daily Howler parses condi speak. The Bushy discipline to stay "on message," even when the message is woebegotten, is impressive.

Maureen Dowd is right. Lying about sex in the Oval Office is pathetic. Lying about the reasons for going to war in which thousands will die, including 177 (to-date) US and British troops, is pathalogical.

But, of course, (and in honor of Ari's last day in the White House, I'll try to say this as he would), the president has said the he's moved on. And so the president has moved on. And I think so has the country outside of the press corps. Does anyone other than Helen have a question?

Our friends at The Sagency directed us to a speech Bill Moyers recently gave, comparing Bush's Karl Rove to McKinnley's Mark Hanna. An accurate comparison. Like Rove, Hanna had only two interests: Getting McKinnley elected and reelected, and making sure the monoplists were just as dependent on them as they were on the monopolists. Moyers hopes for a return of the Progressive movement that arose in reaction to the rapaciousness of industry and government at the time.

A great line in the speech. Referring to the Texas State Legislature, "If you think these guys are bad, you should see their constituents." Made me think about what kind of people live in Sugarland, TX.

Friday, July 11, 2003

Last week I wrote an item commending Dear Leader and his courage -- yeah, courage -- in speaking out about Liberia and vowing U.S. help.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I'm as much a rube as all those people who thought Iraqis, not Saudi Arabians, flew the jets on Sept. 11, 2001. Bush tells me something I want to hear and I believe it.

Well, today's Washington Wire in the Wall Street Journal has this little item by Jackie Calmes:

"Liberia Intervention splits administration, rankles conservatives."

Seems that Rumfeld "harbors misgivings," but that State and the White House still favor intercession on national-security grounds, and a "senior Pentagon official says" sending troops is a fait accomplie.

I don't know. The piece goes on to conclude with this:

"They cite humanitarian grounds -- as in Iraq, absent weapons discoveries there [ed. Interesting. 'Humanitarian grounds' are now the reasons we went into Iraq? Yup. Aren't you glad they clarified that?]. But conservatives are appalled. 'In Iraq, at least there was... [sic] a semblence that national security was at stake [ed. A semblence? Groan.],' says Cato Institute's Christopher Preble. Televangelist Pat Robertson, who has business in Liberia, blasts Bush for backing Muslim rebels over a Christian president."

Never mind that that Christian presides over an army of amputee-ing adolescents, exporting chaos throughout the region.

Well, thank goodness the administration is such a great supporter of the UN and multilateralism.

The familiar pattern continues: Talk nice to convince the Soccer Moms you're not a right wing nutcase, than quietly do something completely different.

How long can George Tenet hold the bag or keep his job? They're prevaricating. Big time, as Dick Cheney might say. The CIA did tell them to remove the sentence which indicated that Niger had shipped uranium to Iraq. The CIA knew the reports were false in 2002. The administration then changed the sentence so that it would indicate that "British intelligence said" there were reports that Nigeria had done so. That's what the CIA approved, which is in itself pretty pathetic, but it clearly indicates that senior White House officials knew before the State of the Union that the statement just wasn't true. So Tenet will have to either keep bending over or resign. It's amazing this Clinton-appointee has survived this long.

Josh Micah Marshall has a good series of pieces on this. Scroll down to see his transcript of Larry King's interview with Bob Woodward. What a shame. The former metro DC reporter who took a minor story on a break-in at DNC HQs into the biggest political scandal of our times, now finds that lying about dangers so imminent that we must launch a preemptive war RIGHT NOW is no big deal.

Slate chronicles Bush and Cos. serial lying and selective intelligence -- this time on the economy.


And the sports pages today are no relief either. Violence erupts in Milwaukee -- this could be bigger than the Black Sox Scandal! My favorite part of the story is the bloviating of Rick Schlesigner, the Brewer's executive v-p: "It's an insane act of a person whose conduct is unjustifiable. It sickened me to see it. I can't put into words the anger I feel and the sense of outrage I have." If I were a Brewers fan, I'd be sickened and outraged too -- at Schlesinger and the rest of the bozos who run the chronically crappy Brewers.

There is some solace in the sports pages, though. If you follow the Tour and the toughest cats in the world who compete in it, then read Samual Abt's consistently wonderful stories, day after gruelling, fantastic day.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

What would Christopher Hitchens say to this?

Aargh. Timing is everything in this blogging environment. I wrote the following post yesterday, only to find that had an "equipment problem" and couldn't accept any posts. Anyway, I still think it's an important story...

The blogosphere is in an uproar over the front page story in [yesterday's] Wall Street Journal over some guy's theory that Bob Dylan lifted a number of lyrics on "Love and Theft" from an obscure Japanese biography titled "Confessions of a Yakuza."

Maybe so. But it's weird how no one seems to be paying much attention to the other front page story in today's Journal, with the headline "Full Disclosure: White House Hurdles Delay 9/11 Commission Investigation." Can't give a link because the Journal charges a subscription.

It seems that the White House is doing everything it can to avoid turning over sensitive documents to the so-called 9/11 Commission and hampering the investigation at every turn. Two reasons: First, make sure that as little as possible evidence is found showing that the administration ignored warnings that al Qaeda was an imminent threat (a real one, unlike other threats), including Sandy Berger's discussion with Condi Rice, in which he told the dainty doctor that al Qaeda would prove to be her "biggest issue." Second, drag the thing out so as little as possible is found before the deadline in May of next year (Congress had asked for a two-year commission, which would have had the findings coming out in September 2004, just in time for the presidential election, but the administration insisted on an 18-month, rather than 24-month, investigation).

"…from the commission's inception…the White House has put obstacles in its way," writes Scot J. Paltrow in the Journal.

"At the White House's insistence, an adviser to Attorney General Ashcroft has been reviewing all of the commission's requests for documents and interviews sent to federal agencies. While the law establishing the commission requires it to build on a classified, nearly 900-page report of a Congressional inquiry into intelligence agencies, the White House blocked the commission's access to that report until two months ago.

"…President Bush successfully opposed the creation of the commission for more than a year. He said publicly that an independent investigation would distract leaders from his newly declared war on terrorism. After a joint House and Senate intelligence committee inquiry found that some information related to the Sept. 11 hijackers had been mishandled by the [FBI] and [CIA], Congressional support for a commission mushroomed. The White House then reversed itself and on Sept. 20, 2002, announced its 'strong support' for a commission.

They then haggled with Congress over the deadline, because "'The quicker we learn the information that can come from the commission, the better we can protect America from another 9/11,'" [according to an administration spokesman]. The White House doesn't want the commission's work to drag late into the presidential campaign, he adds, because 'the last thing we want is for the 9/11 commission to become politicized.'"


The commission is divided evenly, with five republicans and five democrats, but Bush demanded that he pick the chairman, originally choosing that great American, Henry Kissinger, then deciding upon former Jersey guv, Tom Keane, who has not proven to be very aggressive when dealing with the administration's obstacles.

To issue a subpoena, six of the 10 commissioners have to approve. Originally, the co-sponsors of the bill, McCain and Lieberman, want five to be sufficient. The White House would have none of that, ensuring that votes fall on party lines.

"The administration also decided that the commission would have to channel its requests to obtain documents and interview personnel from the justice department through Adam Ciongoli, counselor to the attorney general.

"…Commissioner Max Cleland, a former Democratic senator from Georgia, says that Mr. Ciongoli is acting as a political gatekeeper, 'cherry picking' the documents the White House wants to withhold. 'It's obvious that they're sifting the information to the 9/11 commission now,' he says. 'We're way, way late here. The picture is not encouraging."

The plot thickens as Ciongoli is leaving the DoJ to accept a job at AOL!

Meanwhile, the administration has been playing stupid budget tricks to hem the commission in, but was embarrassed by Congress into coming up with funds that had already been allocated.

And they're playing fast and loose on whether Bush would testify or not, if asked (Clinton's spokesman wouldn't comment). Don Bartlett, the White House spokesman, says "President Bush isn't likely to testify under oath but said 'we have not ruled out' some sort of interview. 'Our concern is that enemies who hate America do not get information which could help them attack America,' he says. 'Our goal is to remove politics from the process.'"

Let me parse that last statement for you: "Our concern is that enemies who hate Bush do not get information which could help them attack Bush. Our goal is to remove any political advantage the Dems may get from this process."

Meanwhile, the families who lost loved ones in the World Trade Towers wonder if they'll ever get any answers and also wonder if they'll have to witness another devastating attack, simply because the FBI and CIA - and the Bush administration - sweep the blame under the Oval Office carpet.

Today, of course, the administrion caught a break. They can now deflect criticism back to Clinton. What liberal bias in the media? The story leaves the impression that the DoD and DoJ are footdragging against Bush/Cheney wishes. I don't buy it. This administration is the most secret-obsessed since Nixon and Kissinger were hiding foreign affairs issues from their own Secty of State.

At least they might have to reveal one or two secrets, but I'm not all that hopeful, and if they do, it will probably be after the 2004 election. After all, the Bush/Cheney track record with the courts has been uniformly positive.

What liberal bias II? Michelle Norris's interview of Condi Rice on Monday's "All Things Considered" was maddening. Softball after softball is lobbed at Rice, and she lets Rice get the last word and change the direction about "no nukes" in Iraq, by saying that "everyone knew Saddam had WMD." The issue is, why did the administration knowingly use forged documents, disingenuously say that they were from "British intelligence," then rush us into a war to stop Hussein from developing a nuclear capability in one or two years? Why, knowing the Niger documents were bogus, did we have to weaken NATO, further alienate most of the western world, and ensure that we'd have virtually no international support in post-war Iraq?

Talking Points Memo has a string of interesting posts on this evolving story.

What liberal bias III: Eric Alterman catches this story in today's Times. I was struck by the same thing. Suddenly, the Saddam-9/11 connection is taken as confirmed reality by the press, when it's been the subject of intense debate for two years?


As good as the Red Sox are offensively, they are psychologically not in a great place, letting Steinbrenner rattle them no less. They seemed totally dispirited after a weekend in which they blew the Yankees away in two games, then got beat by two amazing pitching performances by Pettite and Mussina. Geez, guys, if the results had been reversed, I'm betting the Yankees would have said they were disappointed in not winning 3 of 4, but all-in-all, not a bad weekend.

Alex Belth finds a story that Alan Barra's been fired by the Times. Only the New York Times can manage to make their sports section controversial. Too bad he got caught in the Raines cross-fire. His columns were usually pretty interesting.

Monday, July 07, 2003

Before we get to the trivial and inconsequential events of the day, a word about the Boston Red Sox/New York Yankee series playing out in the Bronx over the weekend.


And it's not even over, as Pedro Martinez and "Moose" go at it today (think I'll be eating lunch in the car).

Who would have thought that the Sox, after a couple of dispiriting losses to the Devil Rays, would win the first two games in New York by a combined score of 20-5? Writing in the Globe, Dan Shaunessy explains the feelings of a blissed-out Sox fan in New York this weekend (thanks to the Bambino's Curse for the link):

"The first two days here were two of the greatest days of your life, right up there with the birth of your children and the day you got your driver's license. You walked around Yankee Stadium in your Sox garb and hardly anyone bothered you. It was like you'd been granted immunity from pinstripe harassment. You were even able to start a 'Let's Go Red Sox' chant -- without inciting a beer-drenched brawl. You were able to do what you've done in Baltimore, St. Petersburg, Montreal, Toronto, and Oakland. You were able to take over an enemy yard and make your Sox feel almost like they were playing at Fenway Park. It was a first at Yankee Stadium."

The "day you got your driver's license?" Isn't that going a bit too far?

Fortunately, on Sunday, Andy Pettite pitched a masterpiece to stop the Yankee hemorrhaging. And the chants of "1918" would again be heard in The Stadium.

Regardless of the outcome of today's game, for Yankee fans this Boston organization is a scary threat to our team's hegemony. With Bill James as advisor, Theo Epstein is building an offensive force based on the example of Billy Beane in Oakland, as described in the fantastic book, "Moneyball," by Michael Lewis (highly recommended, if only for the way it makes Joe Morgan sound like the idiot blowhard that he is). Look for guys that are patient at the plate, work the pitcher until his arm falls off (if there's one truism in baseball, it's that relievers are not starters for a reason -- they're not as good), work a walk, don't waste the baserunner getting caught stealing, etc. That, along with the unstated secret weapon -- wait for the three run blast -- and you pretty much have the Boston roster.

Look at some of these OPS numbers (On-Base + Slugging average):

David Ortiz, 940
Nomar Garciaparra, 955
Manny Ramirez, 996
Trot Nixon, 975

And that's just the four best on the team. The rest of the usual starters are not far off that pace. These guys simply don't make outs easily, and that's the point of the game. By comparison, only Jason Giambi (despite an iron-deficient .266 BA), has a 900+ OPS (955) for the Yankees.

Fortunately, they have only one Pedro.

But they will fix the pitching problem eventually. Maybe they'll patch it up before the trading deadline this year, maybe they'll overhaul it before the start of next season.

Then we'll have a pennant race. And as the only team in New England, with an incredibly lucrative cable contract, they have the money to compete with the Yankees.


Tom Tomorrow, once again, sums it all up (it's worth the daypass).

Does Ari actually tell the truth and concede that Bush was using incorrect information in the State of the Union address? It's really hard to tell. Fleischer is teaching a master class on spinning the white house press corp.

Scroll down the site. TPM conducts a post-Iraq war interview with Ken Pollack, whose book "The Gathering Storm" and his op-ed pieces were influential in convincing a lot of us liberal "I can't believe I'm a hawk" to support the Iraq invasion. Pollack makes an interesting point. The Bush administration can't be faulted for postwar intelligence showing little in the way of chemical or biological weapons, since pretty much everyone figured Saddam was still capable of developing WMD. What we can and must study is the fact that the administration was pushing an "imminent threat" on the U.S. public that simply wasn't there. And they knew it:

"But in some ways it's unfair to use the evidence that we've found since April 1st against the administration, because that was unknown. All the administration really had to go on were the intelligence estimates. And that's why in my New York Times piece the point that I made was that, not that I felt that what we've found since was an indictment of the administration. As I say, it wasn't fair to hold the administration accountable for that because the fact is that the intelligence community did believe that there was an active program. What I think it is fair to hold against the administration is that they stressed continuously the imminence of a threat which in fact the intelligence community felt was much more distant. Even at the time, even before the war."

Can whoever borrowed my Norman Mailer decoder ring please return it so I can decipher this thing? However, Norm is spot on in his final paragraph:

"Democracy, more than any other political system, depends on a modicum of honesty. Ultimately, it is much at the mercy of a leader who has never been embarrassed by himself. What is to be said of a man who spent two years in the Air Force of the National Guard (as a way of not having to go to Vietnam) and proceeded—like many another spoiled and wealthy father's son—not to bother to show up for duty in his second year of service? Most of us have episodes in our youth that can cause us shame on reflection. It is a mark of maturation that we do not try to profit from our early lacks and vices but do our best to learn from them. Bush proceeded, however, to turn his declaration of the Iraqi campaign's end into a mighty fashion show. He chose—this overnight clone of Honest Abe—to arrive on the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln on an S-3B Viking jet that came in with a dramatic tail-hook landing. The carrier was easily within helicopter range of San Diego but G.W. would not have been able to show himself in flight regalia, and so would not have been able to demonstrate how well he wore the uniform he had not honored. Jack Kennedy, a war hero, was always in civvies while he was commander in chief. So was General Eisenhower. George W. Bush, who might, if he had been entirely on his own, have made a world-class male model (since he never takes an awkward photograph), proceeded to tote the flight helmet and sport the flight suit. There he was for the photo-op looking like one more great guy among the great guys. Let us hope that our democracy will survive these nonstop foulings of the nest."

Well, except for the "never takes an awkward photograph"

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Maybe in this universe, Al Gore is president.

From a Texas Monthly interview with George H.W. Bush quoted in today's Wall St. Journal:

"I don't try to be this old, senior former president who's giving a lot of free advice. I don't have all the information to start with, and I don't have the 'need to know' for that highly selected intelligence. And so if I don't know, why the heck should I pop off? I'll leave that to Newt Gingrich."

Andrew Sullivan makes the point that "bring 'em on" "isn't just rhetoric." Now, even moving beyond what "isn't just rhetoric" is supposed to mean (Andy needs an editor and a spellchecker), he does have a point. It does seem that there's a lot of non-Iraqi fighters involved in the ongoing guerilla attacks. But if Sullivan is implying that this was all part of Rummy's grand plan, he's nuts. For one thing, there's surely more where they came from. And I certainly don't think our soldiers went there planning to act as decoys for Arab terrorists.

Must give credit where credit is due. If Bush does send troops -- even a limited force -- into Liberia he will have done a good thing. U.S. Presidents generally don't get much political value out of sending military personnel to Africa. Perhaps Bush will put and end to the Somalia Syndrom. Maybe Colin Powell's star is on the rise these days and gaining some influence on Bush as the neocons' stars fade in The Case of the Missing WMDs.

One reason he may get no political benefit is the jobless rate that continues to rise. Now at 6.4% In New York it's up to 8%. Highest in nine years. As David Leonhardt writes in today's NY Times, comparisons are being made that are not happy ones for him.

Speaking of the dismal science that gets more dismal every day, James Surowiecki has an interesting explanation in this week's New Yorker about why so many industry sectors are suffering from disinflation while others, like your kid's education and the cable TV bill, keep getting more and more costly. Turns out it's the phenomenon of "Baumol's cost disease."

The Times they are a-changin'. Jack Shafer asks an interesting question in Slate: Why have the NYT-bashers suddenly gone all silent on the Times and their treatment of Judith Miller? After all, she's been acting as a dupe-conduit between the Iraqi exiles/Pentagon and the Times, with embarassing effects on the paper. And certainly had a potentially more serious effect on journalism than Jayson Blair. Josh Micah Marshall has a suspicion for why the subdued response.


A three day weekend. Hot, steamy weather in the forecast. The Red Sox coming to The Stadium for four. It really doesn't get any better.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Where's the Coalition of the Willing when we need them? The best thing about the story is the overwhelmingly delusionary thinking that constantly seems to eminate from the DoD. Pretty soon, Rumsfeld, who likes to refer to Iraq as "a country the size of California," will be comparing what's going on there to what happens when the Lakers win a championship.

Meanwhile, they close the door on the place where they're supposed to learn about this stuff.

And more on deluded leaders in Time this week:

"President Bush skipped quickly past the niceties and went straight to his chief political obsession: Where are the weapons of mass destruction? Turning to his Baghdad proconsul, Paul Bremer, Bush asked, 'Are you in charge of finding WMD?' Bremer said no, he was not. Bush then put the same question to his military commander, General Tommy Franks. But Franks said it wasn't his job either. A little exasperated, Bush asked, So who is in charge of finding WMD? After aides conferred for a moment, someone volunteered the name of Stephen Cambone, a little-known deputy to Donald Rumsfeld, back in Washington. Pause. 'Who?' Bush asked."

Okay, then, who's job is it to find Osama Bin Laden? We suspected he was part of the Saudi Royal Family, but it turns out he's a member of the House of Windsor?


A brief moment of sunshine in a season of dark clouds -- literally and figuratively -- for all of my friends who have the unfortunate habit of rooting for the hapless New York Metropolitans (you cannot write about the Mets in the sports section of any New York paper without using the word "hapless").
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