Wednesday, March 31, 2004

The left wing media is at it again.

What is up with CNN? Atrios has 'em dead to rights here and here.

All this bullshit is even politicizing the assiduously non-political David Letterman.

Last night we showed a clip of the President giving a speech. Behind him stood a lad who was obviously bored silly. The 14-year-old or so yawned, scratched, yawned, yawned, checked his watch, bent over, stared at the ceiling, and then fell asleep during the President's speech. It was very funny. So funny, in fact, that CNN replayed the clip Tuesday during their broadcasts. But, but, but, the first time is was shown, CNN anchorwoman Daryn Kagan reported that the White House said the clip was a total fake, it was merely the Late Show having fun with their ability to edit and do TV tricks. Dave says what the CNN reporter said was an out and out 100% lie. A couple hours later, CNN anchor person Kyra Phillips reported that the kid was at the speech but not where the Late Show had him. Dave again makes the claim, "That's an out and out absolute 100% lie. That kid was exactly where we said he was." It's true. The speech was at a Florida Rally on March 20th at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. Dave is irked that the White House was trying to make him look like a jerk. But he's glad he got his side of the story out in the open.

Thanks to Atrios for following-up.

Neil Young "rolls with the muse"

Terrie Gross on "Fresh Air" conducted a two-part interview with Neil Young in the past week.

Both parts of this amazing interview are archived. The first, broadcast on March 25, is about his remarkable "Greendale" project (a couple of weeks ago, Madam Cura and I were blown away by the fantastic live show at legendary Radio City Music Hall, and I whole-heartedly recommend the if for no other reason than to get the DVD* of Neil performing the songs solo and acoustic at a club in Dublin which comes as a bonus). In the second interview, aired on March 30, he talks about how his two autistic sons have affected him, he and his wife's work with the Bridge School, and how his voice, guitar style, and approach to his music -- how he "rolls with the muse" -- developed over the past 40 years.

Both are worth a listen.

And I apologize for the rampant use of adjectives in this post.

* Neil issued a "second edition" of the Greendale CD; the CD is identical to the original, but the "bonus DVD" is different. The reviews on Amazon take him to task for this -- a marketing ploy -- but I think it's because he really, really loves this project and wants to give anyone who wants to the opportunity to dig the whole process with him.

No end to the politics

Back in 2000, when arguing with people leaning towards Bush 'cause he seemed more "likeable" (whatever that is), I tried to explain that it's not just Bush or Gore, it's all the political operatives they bring with them, the political appointees who influence policy, decide which rules are enforced, choose whose ideas get listened to. But historically, at least during the modern era of the Washington bureaucracy, the non-appointed civil service worker bees were generally allowed to do their jobs without overt political pressure. And the vast power of the government wasn't overtly used to help the incumbent. That's what enables continuity despite a change of leadership every four or eight years.

That has changed with Bush II and it's impossible to see what effect that will have on our government. The Bush administration and the GOP as a whole continue to inject politics into every action, every level of every department, as the WSJ reports today [subscription required].

WASHINGTON -- The Treasury tapped civil servants to calculate the cost of Sen. John Kerry's tax plan and then posted the analysis on the Treasury Web site. A federal law bars career government officials from working on political campaigns.

The Treasury analysis doesn't mention Mr. Kerry by name. Rather it sketches out the potential cost of a tax plan that rolls back tax reductions for taxpayers with incomes above $200,000 -- the nub of the Democratic presidential candidate's plan. The result, the Treasury said in the analysis posted March 22, would be a tax increase of as much as $477 billion over 10 years on "hardworking individuals and married couples." The same day, the Republican National Committee issued a press release in which it unveiled what it called its "John Kerry $pendometer," and cited the same $477 billion figure as the cost of "raising taxes on the top income bracket."

Scrutiny of government actions is always higher during election campaigns, and similar controversies involving Treasury tax estimators have occurred in recent administrations, both Republican and Democratic. Still the current incident could raise questions at a time when the Bush administration is already embroiled in controversy over whether it is improperly pressuring government officials.

John "Buck" Chapoton, who headed Treasury's tax office under Ronald Reagan, said career tax officials "are supposed to be objective. It's important that they are thought of as not being influenced or used for political purposes."

Eugene Steuerle, another Treasury tax official during the Reagan administration, said that using the analysis of the Kerry plan for political purposes "stepped over the line" that's supposed to protect career officials from political influence. "This type of release tends to reduce the reputation of the department as a fair and neutral arbiter of what constitutes good tax policy," Mr. Steuerle said. Messrs. Chapoton and Steuerle were Treasury political appointees during the Reagan years.

Former Clinton officials said that Treasury tax estimators analyzed tax proposals of Mr. Clinton's opponent Bob Dole and Vice President Al Gore's opponent George W. Bush. However, the former officials are adamant that those analyses weren't shared with political officials and weren't used in the campaign. The Treasury's office of tax analysis "shouldn't be used for purposes of a political campaign," said former Clinton Treasury official Les Samuels. "Where you cross the line is when you use the information for campaign purposes."

One reason, Mr. Samuels said, Clinton officials trod carefully is that the first Bush administration was accused of using tax estimators for political purposes. In 1992, Fred Goldberg, then the Bush Treasury's top tax official, stirred controversy when he told reporters that Treasury calculations showed that candidate Clinton's proposals could increase taxes for moderate-income Americans.

Many prominent politicians, reporters, and commentators were seriously audited by the IRS in the early 1970s. Later, many of these same people would find that they had been on Richard M. Nixon's "enemies list." But even Nixon had enough -- barely -- consideration for the propriety of the federal government to try to do these things secretly.

Not Bush/Cheney.

Dick Cheney's energy task force is a secret. But hijacking the federal government for political ends, they do that right out in the open.

Refined emotion

I spit out the gulp of coffee I'd just taken when I read this.

And scroll down -- the Bush administration will get the last on the 9-11 commission. There will be no opportunity to recall witnesses to counter Rice's testimony or the Bush/Cheney ventriloquist act.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Freedom fighter

On last night's Daily Show, Jon Stewart noting Robert Novak's claim that Richard Clarke was driven to make his criticism of the Bush administration weak approach to terrorism because Clarke didn't want to work for "a black woman." Stewart, impressed by Novak's support for civil rights, called the esteemed Robert (approvingly I think), "a douchebag for freedom."

When a reporter has an agenda

The Jack Kelley story has gotten very little play, probably because what little it's gotten has focused primarily on the "yet another reporter too lazy to write his own stories."

And since it's not the Times, and doesn't appear to be about affirmative action gone bad, then it just doesn't get the self-appointed protectors of the press -- Kaus, Kurtz, et cetera -- in a lather.

I wasn't paying attention, myself, until I heard the specifics of what he had actually done on "On the Media" this past weekend.

The guy didn't simply "borrow" from other reporters work, or just get a little creative with character creation and his expense account. He created vicious stereotypes intended to inflame his audience. Whether it was Isreali settlers randomly targeting Palestinian taxi drivers, or conversely a student at a madrassah holding up a photo of the Sears tower saying, "this one's mind," Kelley was adding more than local color. Remarkably, that last story is still available on USA Today's website. And a PDF is available here.

And he knew what he was doing. Kelley was an evangelical Christian (a fact that, like Blair's exploitation of race at the Times, Kelley was able to use to elude his editors and fellow reporters when they grew suspicious at the, shall we say, his level of detail), who often spoke of his "adventures" in the middle east to audiences at churches around the country. Tim "I wanna believe" Russert mentioned the madrassah story on "Press the Meat."

This reporter for one of the largest circulation papers in the world, nominated for a Pulitzer five times by his easily persuaded editors, had an agenda. Many fundamentalist Christians support the Likud party and oppose an Isreali/Palestinian peace because they devoutly believe that Isreal -- specifically its destruction -- is a key element in bringing on the end times.

And it says a lot about the times we're in that his readers, fellow reporters, bloviaters, and of course his editors, were so ready to believe his crude fictions.

The best they can do

Times headline this morning: "Colleague of Ex-Official Disputes Part of Account"

While the subsequent story does indicate that the colleague, Franklin Miller, did disagree with some of the quotes Richard Clarke attributes to him and others while working in the Situation Room during the chaos of the morning of September 11, 2001, nothing he says "disputes" Clarke's main assertions in "Against All Enemies."

Focusing only on the first chapter (which I read last night and which held some interesting factoids that I hadn't known and will be posting on in the days to come), Miller says, "that almost none of the conversations that Mr. Clarke, who was the counterterrorism chief, recounts in the first chapter of his book, 'Against All Enemies,' match Mr. Miller's recollection of events."


"In Mr. Clarke's account, in a chapter called 'Evacuate the White House,' he heads into the Situation Room at the first word of attack and begins issuing orders to close embassies and put military bases on a higher level of alert — not the kind of operational details usually handled by the National Security Council staff. He describes how Mr. Miller came into the room, squeezed Mr. Clarke's bicep, and said, 'Guess I'm working for you today. What can I do?'

"'I wouldn't say that,' Mr. Miller said Monday. I might say, `How can I help.'

"Mr. Miller disputes Mr. Clarke's recollection that the Secret Service asked for fighter escorts to protect Air Force One after it lifted off from Sarasota, Fla., where President Bush was visiting an elementary school. A young aide in the Situation Room made that suggestion to Mr. Miller, he said, who recalls telling the aide he had seen too many movies. A moment later, reconsidering, Mr. Miller asked Ms. Rice whether to call up fighter support, and she told him to go ahead, he recalled."

Well, that clearly shows Clarke is a lying, degenerate, political hack.

Your ad here

Like King Kaufman, I dared to be a fan and woke up to the voice of Yankee announcer John Sterling saying, "It's a 1-0 to Giambi. Matsui leads off second. Zambrano delivers, Giambi swings, AND IT IS HIGH, IT IS LONG, IT IS ..." and the feed from Japan broke up... "THE GIAMBINO!"

Sadly, things turned foul from then on.

But as bad as the Yankees played, they looked worse, with "RICOH" plastered on the side of their helmets and on their right sleeves. Sheesh.

A-Rod made some sweet plays at third and Jeter, whom I am told is a lousy SS, looked pretty good to me.

And a loss was a better outcome than last year's opening day, in which Jeter dislocated his shoulder grabbing an extra base at third.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Opening Day

It has been said that we're about to embark on the dawn of the "A-Rod Era," but I didn't think they really meant it would occur, literally, at dawn. The Yankee/Tampa Bay opener is tomorrow at 5:07 AM, New York-time.

According to Jayson Stark, this apparently helps to level the playing field for the rest of the league (except the Devil Rays, of course).

And more reasons to worry. Although Yankee fans can never be confused with Red Sox fans who, with their team in the lead, grow deathly quiet waiting for disaster to strike, we are carefully not to become cocky, arrogant, or complaisant. We're always a couple of injuries away from, well, not winning it all. So Alex Belth's confidence is disturbing.

He's our God and you can't have him!

The Bush campaign blasts Kerry for invoking a church.

Of course, when I see the theological sophistication of the Christian-right, I really must worry when they invoke God.

CIA Faces a Budget Squeeze

From today's WSJ, print edition:

"WASHINGTON--The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency is facing a budget crunch in Iraq as a result of contradictory provisions in two related bills, approved by the Republican-controlled Congress and signed by President George W. Bush within months of each other last year.

"The first measure, providing $368.7 billion in appropriations for the Pentagon and intelligence agencies, was enacted in September. Then before Christmas, Mr. Bush signed a second intelligence bill authorizing expenditures and instructing how money is to be spent. It curtails the CIA's ability to use a significant portion of the appropriations intended for agency operations in Iraq. It isn't clear why lawmakers issued such instructions.

"'No one has called me yet,' said House Intelligence Committe Chairman Porter Gross (R., Fla.), who was part of negotiations on the second bill. But the previously secret mishap has riled the CIA leadership, which saw the problem coming before the bill signing and now is seeking a legislative fix, intelligence officials say."

To paraphrase Brad DeLong, why oh why are we ruled by these idiots?

Being Richard Clarke

Kevin Drum has read the book (I'm planning to, but, well, you know...)!

He details what turned Clarke from a fairly non-partisan bureaucrat into enemy no. 1 of the GOP.

"Gone in 60 Minutes"

Condaleeza Rice's performance on "60 Minutes" was so poor, so not credible, it boggles the mind. Madam Cura thought she sounded as if she didn't believe half of what she was saying. And her "facts" were so easily disputed, the Center for American Progress issued an email refuting her claims by 7:41 PM last night. Here's a web page version of the email.

As I said last week, the NSC spent three months with this book. It had to be known at the highest circles of the White House that the book was going to be explosive, and yet their response just continues to look more and more pathetic. Josh Marshall thinks it's because of the insularity of this administration, but I also think it's because Clarke does seem to have them dead to rights and they simply can't figure out how to handle it.

Scroll down Marshall's site and read his view on Rice's legalistic language regarding why she won't testify "on policy" under oath before the commission. Nevertheless, I'd place even money that Bush, Cheney, and Rice will get over their "principles" and have her appear before the commission.

"Republican commissioner John F. Lehman, who has written extensively on separation-of-power issues, said that 'the White House is making a huge mistake' by blocking Rice's testimony and decried it as 'a legalistic approach.'

"The White House is being run by a kind of strict construction of interpretation of the powers of the president,' he said on ABC's 'This Week.' 'There are plenty of precedents that the White House could use if they wanted to do this.'"

Meanwhile, Bill Frist -- who is appalled that Clarke would write a book capitalizing on the Sept. 11 attacks, yet showed no such reticence himself in the weeks after the still unsolved anthrax attacks in 2001 (read the boffo reviews -- seems to have stepped in it when it comes to demanding that Clarke's congressional testimony be declassified.

From the Washington Post story, "Clarke said he would support declassifying the earlier testimony as long as it was not done selectively. Clarke, appearing on NBC's 'Meet the Press,' also said Rice's testimony before the commission should be declassified, as well as a key memo he gave Rice on Jan. 25, 2001, the national security directive on al Qaeda developed eight months later, and all e-mails Clarke sent to Rice and her deputy."

A bad week for the Pres. and the GOP. A week in which intimidation, bluster, and simply refusing to own up to mistakes just weren't adequate to the job of silencing critics. Hopefully this is the beginning of an encouraging trend.

Friday, March 26, 2004

A war hero becomes a victim of the war on drugs

Phil Carter goes too easy on the military on this one.

The smile he beamed at the medal ceremony masked months of problems he says he had since returning home with battle wounds: a suicide attempt along with flashbacks and nightmares so bad he resorted to binge drinking to fall asleep.

"I kind of felt like I was blowing in the wind pretty much," said Turner, 23, of Indianapolis, who was an Army medic.

After going AWOL for two days and smoking marijuana while drunk, he said he got a general discharge from the Army rather than an honorable discharge.

That means he is not eligible for at least $40,000 in college funding he expected to receive. The Army also demoted him from specialist to private before his discharge.

Phil, smoking pot is a far cry from "drug use." And doing it stateside hardly puts his "buddies at risk."

They should be supplying marijuana to any soldier returning from Iraq who wants it, since the alternatives are the Big Pharma drugs they're giving the vets -- the very drugs that are in many cases the likely cause of sleeplessness, anxiety, and paranoi that the vets are suffering upon returning.


1,400 or so of them, in fact. I simply cannot make this stuff up.

Redeploying the troops -- a year too late

"WASHINGTON, March 25 ? As many as 2,000 marines now aboard ships in the Persian Gulf will be sent to Afghanistan in the coming weeks to reinforce the American-led operation there to combat fighters of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, Pentagon officials said Thursday.

"American commanders have not yet decided how many marines from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Lejeuene, N.C., will ultimately be deployed to Afghanistan. A senior Pentagon official said 'it will be most of them,' while a defense official said that "some of the marines" would be sent but that conditions in the field would dictate the number.

"The United States now has about 13,000 troops in Afghanistan, including 2,000 marines. The additional marines ? about 2,000 to 2,200 are now aboard three ships in the gulf ? would add significant reinforcements at a pivotal moment in the running battle along the Afghan-Pakistani border."

The name "Iraq" is not mentioned in the story, but from where else could they have been deployed?

And from the sound of things, I'd say they're getting out just in time.

Because according to proconsul Bremer, the troops are going to be there for a while -- and elections or no, we're going to be calling the shots.

Top aides to Mr. Bremer have said in recent days that the American troops will act as the most important guarantor of American influence. In addition, they said, the $18.4 billion voted for Iraqi reconstruction last fall by the United States Congress ? including more than $2 billion for the new Iraqi forces ? will give the Americans a decisive voice.

The American determination to retain military control was clear from a document released by the occupation authority on Thursday summarizing Mr. Bremer's executive order on the Iraqi forces.

The order provided for the establishment of an Iraqi Defense Ministry to be headed by an as-yet unnamed civilian, which will oversee the new 40,000-soldier Iraqi Army the Americans expect to have trained by this fall. The Defense Ministry will also control the Iraqi civil defense force, which will also be 40,000-strong. Mr. Hussein's army, disbanded by Mr. Bremer last summer, had 715,000 men.

The document was unequivocal on the ultimate control of the Iraqi forces. "All trained elements of the Iraqi armed forces shall at all times be under the operational control of the commander of coalition forces for the purpose of conducting combined operations," it said.

The document also outlined plans for Mr. Bremer to appoint an Iraqi forces chief of staff and a national security adviser for three-year terms, and an inspector-general with a five-year term.

The "agreeable" Dr. Rice

While it is certainly no match for the NY Post's "Headless Body Found in Topless Bar," this New York Times headline is unmatched in its irony and understatedness.

Dr. Rice demands an opportunity to rebut Clarke's sworn testimony, but finds it perhaps "disagreeable" to do so under oath and in public. Wonder why.

And as the SS Condoleeza finds "agreeable" the idea of a very private opportunity to stick a shiv into Clarke, Dr. Frist has no compunction in declassifying Clarke's 2002 classified testimony to the Senate. This should further endear the intelligence community to the GOP leadership.

As as dailyKos notes, Frist is willing to potentially compromise national security even though he doesn't know what's in the classified testimony.

More evidence that when it comes to character, national security, and building a stronger, safer America, President Bush and GOP leadership stand tall.

Meanwhile, the Center for American Progress looks at Clarke's claims and substantiates them.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

"Do you swear to tell the whole truth..."

The SS Condoleeza is listing badly, taking on water, beginning to leak her copious haul of oil.

She agrees to "talk" -- again. But there is no mention in the story about testifying under oath. Now, I don't want to impugn Dean Rice's integrity, but wouldn't that be somewhat significant?

Of course (this being the Bush administration in spin cycle), it gets strange:

"In indicating her desire to return, the White House said she wanted to rebut statements made in this week's public testimony before the panel. In particular, Gonzales said Rice wanted the chance to argue that she was not inaccurate when she wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece this week that the administration's post-Sept. 11 plan called for military options to strike al-Qaida and the Taliban."


If I recall correctly, post-Sept. 11, we in fact took "military options to strike al-Qaida and the Taliban."

In Afghanistan.

If this is a rebuttal to the consistent accusations that Bush & Co. were fixated on Iraq prior to Sept. 11 and planned to use the Sept. 11 attacks as pretext to overthrow Hussein, then it's pretty pathetic.

The trial of Richard Clarke

"To the loved ones of the victims of 9/11, to them who are here in the room, to those who are watching on television, your government failed you," he said. "Those entrusted with protecting you failed you. And I failed you. We tried hard, but that doesn't matter, because we failed. And for that failure, I would ask, once all the facts are out, for your understanding and for your forgiveness."

With a mixture of sincerity and shrewdness, Richard Clarke became the first Bush administration official to admit any level of failure in the face of the September 11 attacks.

His testimony -- and the partisan rancor that maked the panel's questions to him -- was a reminder of why the Bush administration tried so hard to see that the 9-11 commission never came into being and worked so hard to stonewall it at every juncture (and continues to do so).

The very minister of stonewalling, Condi Rice, had this to say (though, not to the commission to whom she refuses to under oath), "This story has so many twists and turns now that I think he needs to get this story straight."

Of course, it's the administration that is having trouble getting its story straight.

Fred Kaplan reviews Clarke's devastating performance.

There's another great review on Slate, Dahlia Lithwick's appraisal of Michael Newdon's impassioned -- and effective -- argument to the Supreme Court yesterday.

Justice Stephen Breyer argues that neutral words like "Supreme Being" or "God" attempt to reach out and include believers in everything, and that, "maybe it even includes you." Newdow says he can't see how "under God" could mean "no God," and that the "government needs to stay out of this business altogether." Several times today Newdow seems poised to call an argument or question "stupid." You can almost feel him biting his tongue, then substituting "questionable."

Souter agrees that the pledge is an "affirmation," but wonders whether it's "so tepid, so diluted ... that it should be under the constitutional radar." He uses that wonderful phrase "ceremonial deism," a legal term of art for the "God of the Hallmark cards"—utterly devoid of spiritual significance. He says that whatever religious significance there is to "under God" in the pledge is lost, or "close to disappearing."

Newdow disagrees; for him, hearing it is like "getting slapped in the face every time." He offers this burst of fatherly pride to his daughter: "Go to church with your mother. I love the idea of her being exposed to everything. But I want my religion to be taken into account." For a guy trying singlehandedly to dismantle an American institution, it sounds almost reasonable.

Breyer says that the pledge serves the purpose of unification at the price of offending only a few. Newdow says that "for 62 years [before it was amended in 1954] the pledge did serve the purpose of unification ... it got us through two world wars and a depression." But he adds that the idea that if adding in "under God" is not divisive, why did the country go "berserk" when the 9th Circuit opinion came down? Rehnquist asks what the vote was in 1954, when it was amended. Newdow says it was unanimous. Rehnquist queries how that reveals divisiveness.

Newdow: "It doesn't sound divisive? That's only because no atheist can get elected to Congress." Here is where people actually applaud like it's a ball game. And here is where Rehnquist, who may be feeling the sting of Newdow's comeback, threatens to clear the court. Stevens asks Newdow the same question he asked Olson: whether the words "under God" have the same meaning today as they did when the pledge was amended. Newdow replies that 99 out of 99 senators stopped everything to stand on the steps of the Capitol when the 9th Circuit decision came down. He adds that the words "under God" reference the Christian God, observing that at the ceremony celebrating the addition of the words to the pledge, "Onward Christian Soldiers" was played. He closes with the words of the pledge, as originally written, without the words "under God." And I confess, it sounds pretty good.

Stay tuned. With Scalia recusing himself (Newdon having done something the Sierra Club has been unable to do), the case could result in a tie, upholding the 9th Circuit's decision. The bloviating of the president, congress, and the religious right in response will likely contribute to global warming.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

More spin than a Pakistani centrifuge

Brad DeLong links to a site that has painstakingly reviewed all the denials and attacks on Richard Clarke in the last few days. Brad likens it to a circular firing squad as the contradictions among the White House attack dogs are impressive in their scope.

I just hope they don't miss, but I fear the public is tuning out the specific charges (I think that's the WH strategy or whatever you'd call it), and just catching the overall din. The bald faced lies members of this administration tell on a daily basis, on every single policy or action, illustrate to me that they don't believe that when the lies are exposed enough voters care to matter.

For instance, Bush is now claiming that he did not underestimate the threat al Qaeda posed prior to the attacks, but in the weeks following the attacks he admitted something quite different (the fact that Bush or any member of his administration admitted a mistake is in itself a remarkable occurrence).

Wolfie outfoxes the 9-11 Commission

TAPPED quotes a remarkable exchange at yesterday's hearing. Wolfowitz is asked directly if he had argued that Iraq should be attacked in response to the September 11 attacks. Not wanting to perjure himself, and explaining that he hadn't had a chance to read Richard Clarke's book, he proceeds to go on a circuitous riff on bin Laden, Hitler, Mein Kampf...and the clock ran out on the commissioner who had asked the question.

Looking skyward, the commissioner exclaimed, "Damn you, Paul Wolfowitz!"

Dude, where's my plan?

Just caught a snippet of the 9-11 Panel. I'm paraphrasing, but Bob Kerrey stated for the record how frustrated he is that Rice won't testify regarding the so-called "plan" the Bush administration keeps touting, the one that was supposed to be more comprehensive than the Clinton administration's "swatting at flies." According to Kerrey (again, paraphrasing), "I was able to look at their plan, and they're lucky it's classified. Because there's nothing in it. More diplomacy [gasp] and some vague plans to get Mullah Omar to turn over bin Laden."

Fred Kaplan and William Saleten at Slate support Clarke's credibility and point out Bush's failure.

"Swatting at flies" can be frustrating. But what if the DoJ had swatted some of the flies who flew two commercial jets into the World Trade Center?

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Summer of George

From Condi's op ed piece yesterday:

During the transition, President-elect Bush's national security team was briefed on the Clinton administration's efforts to deal with al Qaeda. The seriousness of the threat was well understood by the president and his national security principals. In response to my request for a presidential initiative, the counterterrorism team, which we had held over from the Clinton administration, suggested several ideas, some of which had been around since 1998 but had not been adopted. No al Qaeda plan was turned over to the new administration.


Let us be clear. Even their most ardent advocates did not contend that these ideas, even taken together, would have destroyed al Qaeda. We judged that the collection of ideas presented to us were insufficient for the strategy President Bush sought. The president wanted more than a laundry list of ideas simply to contain al Qaeda or "roll back" the threat. Once in office, we quickly began crafting a comprehensive new strategy to "eliminate" the al Qaeda network. The president wanted more than occasional, retaliatory cruise missile strikes. He told me he was "tired of swatting flies."
[emphasis added]

Evidently, the president had the most forethought and the most nimble thinking of all of the various anti-terrorist experts surrounding him.

And the best time management. Despite all of that deep thinking, for which the current resident of the White House is well known, he was able to set aside time for himself in August 2001 to recharge physically and mentally to prepare for what he must have known was an imminent attack that his predecessor did nothing to avert.


Brad DeLong is puzzled by the choice of lies the administration keeps making.

"MR. McCLELLAN: Let's just step backwards -- regardless, regardless, put that aside. There's no record of the President being in the Situation Room on that day that it was alleged to have happened, on the day of September the 12th. When the President is in the Situation Room, we keep track of that."

The commander-in-chief couldn't be bothered to check in on the "situation" the day following the worst terrorist attack on American soil?

At least one hopes he's lying.

Duck and Cover

The ad hominem attacks on Richard Clarke are not surprising. Dick Cheney going on the Big, Fat Idiot's show and saying that Clarke, the administration's senior anti-terrorism guy was "not in the loop," merely underscores how disfunctional the Bush White House must be. And how pathetic and desperate the administration's response to Clarke's accusations are.

What is interesting, though, is the GOP response. Or lack thereof.

"Although some Republican leaders defended the White House and joined in denouncing Clarke, others expressed concern that the former aide's accusations would compound a recent fall in Americans' perception of Bush's honesty that began with the flawed charges about Iraq's weapons and the understatement of the costs of Bush's prescription drug initiative.

"Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) said he believes the White House has to respond directly to Clarke's allegations rather than question his credibility. 'This is a serious book written by a serious professional who's made serious charges, and the White House must respond to these charges,' he said."

Unfortunately, not entirely silent. Bob Nickles was full of oratorical flourishes.

"Although many Republican lawmakers were conspicuously silent on the matter yesterday, Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.) took the Senate floor to defend Bush and criticize Clarke. 'Maybe, for whatever reason, he has a vendetta against the current president. . . . I'm not sure if he wants to sell books or he's looking for a job or what his efforts are,' Nickles said."

Par for the course. Lie and prevaricate. Blame someone else for the problem. Attack when cornered. Learn nothing. That's the Bush prescription for successful governance.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Markets down on terrorism fears

We all know the bin Laden is intent on fomenting terrorist attacks that will, in addition to the loss of life, wreck the U.S. economy. Little did we know that Ariel Sharon had similar plans.

I am baffled by Sharon's logic in authorizing the assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.

"Paz believes that Yassin's death will not hamper the Hamas capability as he was not responsible for the movement's operational military activities but rather dictated policy and issued instructions.
According to Paz, Yassin's demise could mark the end of Ahmed Qurei's career as PA prime minister, and he will fall by the wayside the same as his predecessor Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). 'While there has not been much of a dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, there has been some activity in the background. Now Qurei cannot allow himself to enter any dialogue, support for Hamas will increase greatly and at the same time the Palestinian Authority will lose its power. I also fear for Muhammad Dahlan's career. In Gaza he is perceived as trying to protect Israel rather then the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip,' Paz added."

Ironic, the Times' book review this morning. The "grizzly lottery" indeed.

Scott McClellan being all that he can be

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let's look at the facts. Let's look at the timing. It's important to look at all those aspects. Let's look at his history there. This was someone who is now saying he was against the Department of Homeland Security, but we know that he actually sought to be the number two person at the Department of Homeland Security. He wanted to be the deputy secretary of the Homeland Security Department after it was created. The fact of the matter is just a few months after that, he left the administration. He did not get that position, someone else was appointed to it. And now, all of a sudden, he's saying he's against the Department of Homeland Security.

And if someone is going to make these kind of serious allegations, it's important to look back at his past comments and his past actions, and compare that with what his current rhetoric is. It's also important to keep in mind -- I think Newsweek pointed this out this week -- who his best friend is. His best friend is Rand Beers, who is the principal advisor to the Kerry campaign. It's also important to keep in context -- we're in the heat of a presidential campaign right now and, all of a sudden, he comes out with a book that he is seeking to promote. He is actively going out there and putting himself on prime-time news shows and morning shows to promote this book. And he is making charges that simply did not happen.

Look back at the facts. To suggest that Iraq was the immediate priority in the aftermath of September 11th, that's just not the case. This President was focused on reassuring the American people; on making sure that there wasn't a follow-on attack that was coming; on making sure that we got our airlines back up and running in a secure fashion. There were a lot of immediate focuses -- focus that this administration had in the aftermath of September 11th.

The President also was focused on going in and taking the fight to the terrorists, going on the offensive, because September 11th taught us a lot of important lessons. And this President learned those lessons by the actions that we took, by implementing the Patriot Act to provide law enforcement with new tools to combat terrorism at home; by working on all fronts to go after the terrorists -- the military front, the diplomatic front, the financial front, the law enforcement and the intelligence fronts.

Q But, Scott, Dr. Rice said this morning the reason he was kept on was because he was so valuable in his counterterrorism expertise. Why is it that this administration and previous Republican administrations would keep him on if he didn't have any credibility, if he was just a partisan player?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think Dr. Rice said earlier that, obviously, he had been around for quite some time. Like I said, he had been around for some eight years before the September 11th attacks. This administration had been in place for some 230 days. Again, these threats did not develop overnight. They had been building for quite some time. And I think that's important to keep in perspective when we're having this discussion. But certainly al Qaeda was a top priority. We made that determination during the transition and immediately began acting on that priority when we came into office. And it was important to continue some of those policies until we were able to develop a new, comprehensive strategy to eliminate al Qaeda -- not roll it back, like was the previous policy.

Well, gosh. Richard Clarke's book was no secret bombshell blindsiding the administration -- every page had to be vetted by the NSC. And CBS has been hyping the 60 Minutes interview at every 30-second timeout of the NCAA tournament.

And this is the best response they can give? Clarke is just angry he wasn't made head of Fatherland Security. He is best friends with Kerry security advisor so nothing he says can be true.

The blogosphere has been parsing the interview all day, so I won't add to the steamy air. Josh Marshall has good stuff, particularly on the Times coverage. Not only did the Times, as Marshall notes, cover the story with the only reporter besides Jayson Blaire with less credibility on this issue, but they buried the story on page 18.

Of course, USA Today put the story on the front page, but ended the story thusly: "Clarke did acknowledge, 'There's a lot of blame to go around, and I probably deserve some blame, too.'"

Huh. I turned the paper over looking for the rest of the quote. It didn't come. Here's the full quote:.

"There's a lot of blame to go around, and I probably deserve some blame, too. But on January 24th, 2001, I wrote a memo to Condoleezza Rice asking for, urgently -- underlined urgently -- a Cabinet-level meeting to deal with the impending al Qaeda attack. And that urgent memo-- wasn't acted on.

"I blame the entire Bush leadership for continuing to work on Cold War issues when they back in power in 2001. It was as though they were preserved in amber from when they left office eight years earlier. They came back. They wanted to work on the same issues right away: Iraq, Star Wars. Not new issues, the new threats that had developed over the preceding eight years."

As I said, there is some really excellent commentary on the interview and subsequent "rebuttal" on behalf of the administration. Atrios is very good.

As is Kevin Drum who espies the confused response from the meat eaters on the right.

But particularly devastating is Phil Carter at Intel Dump. He's no rabid liberal and was a supporter of the war in Iraq.

"Economists like to talk about 'marginal costs' and 'marginal benefits' when discussing the pro's and con's (in economic terms) of a given decision by a rational actor. It is becoming increasingly clear, one year after the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom, that the marginal cost of our Iraqi operation outweighs the marginal benefit. And more importantly, that the U.S. may have bought more for its buck by putting the billions spent on OIF into other endeavors. Imagine the marginal benefit earned for every dollar spent if we put $87 billion into cooperative threat reduction, or into the Department of Homeland Security, or CBRNE training for local first responders, or any number of other anti-terrorism/counter-terrorism initiatives. I know enough about the appropriations process to know that federal money isn't entirely fungible, but I think this is a valid question because of the enormous debt we have taken on in order to liberate Iraq. It can still be argued that Saddam was a bad guy, and that OIF was a good thing for the people of Iraq and the region. But given America's finite resources, and the need to combat other threats in the world, I'm not sure that it can be argued that Operation Iraqi Freedom was the right choice at the right time for America.

"Mr. Clarke's book paints some of these choices in stark relief, and I look forward to reading it."

A real "page-turner"

"Shortly after a passenger jet crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, Air Force Gen. Richard Myers raced back to the military headquarters from a meeting on Capitol Hill. The four-star general, acting head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that day, went directly to the Pentagon's command center. With smoke spreading into the cavernous room, he ordered the officer in charge, Maj. Gen. W. Montague Winfield, to raise the military's alert status to Defcon III, the highest state of readiness since the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.

"That account is based on interviews with Gen. Winfield and a former White House official. In the months after Sept. 11, President Bush had a different public explanation about who put the military on high alert. The president said publicly at least twice that he gave the order. During a town-hall meeting in Orlando on Dec. 4, 2001, Mr. Bush said that after the attacks, 'one of the first acts I did was to put our military on alert.'"

There isn't much that wasn't already public in this Wall Street Journal story, written by Scott Paltrow, but it puts the lie to the hagiography that has been erected around Bush. We have been hearing, increasingly, that Bush's "performance on that day" showed leadership and bravery, and "helped unite the country." In fact, although Bush did recover his composure within a few days, on "that day" he was confused, hesitant (like most of us), but also bizarrely more interested in reading a children's book than in responding to the news that a second plane had hit the World Trade Center.

"In a CNBC television interview almost a year later, Mr. Card said that after he alerted Mr. Bush, 'I pulled away from the president, and not that many seconds later, the president excused himself from the classroom, and we gathered in the holding room and talked about the situation.'

"But uncut videotape of the classroom visit obtained from the local cable-TV station director who shot it, and interviews with the teacher and principal, show that Mr. Bush remained in the classroom not for mere seconds, but for at least seven additional minutes. He followed along for five minutes as children read aloud a story about a pet goat. Then he stayed for at least another two minutes, asking the children questions and explaining to Ms. Rigell that he would have to leave more quickly than planned."

The story also contains some bizarre factoids:

"At the Dec. 4, 2001, town-hall meeting in Orlando, Mr. Bush said, 'I was sitting outside the classroom, waiting to go in, and I saw an airplane hit the tower -- the TV was obviously on. And I used to fly myself, and I said, 'Well, there's one terrible pilot.' Several weeks later, he said essentially the same thing at another public event in Ontario, Calif."

Of course, there was no real-time footage of the jets hitting the towers so this is not true. And it seems weird to me on a couple of levels. First, after nearly three months, didn't the president have enough self-awareness to think about what he saw and what he didn't on that day, and even if he's too unconcerned, hadn't his staff developed a timeline for his actions? Secondly, isn't that a really strange thing to say? Having just seen (or thought he remembered seeing) a jet hit the north tower in a brilliantly clear day, causing a tremendous fiery explosion, he says to himself (or thinks he did), "Well, there's one terrible pilot." Not, "Oh my God," or "Oh, those poor people," or even "Oh, shit."

And then again, there's the Minister of Misinformation:

"Although in the days after Sept. 11, Mr. Cheney and other administration officials recounted that a threat had been received against Air Force One, Mr. Bartlett said in a recent interview that there hadn't been any actual threat. Word of a threat had resulted from confusion in the White House bunker, as multiple conversations went on simultaneously, he said. Many of these exchanges, he added, related to rumors that turned out to be false, such as reports of attacks on the president's ranch in Texas and the State Department. As for the Air Force One code name, Mr. Bartlett said, 'Somebody was using the word 'angel,' ' and 'that got interpreted as a threat based on the word 'angel.' ' (Former Secret Service officials said the code wasn't an official secret, but a radio shorthand designation that had been made public well before 2001.)

"The vice president's office gave an account differing from Mr. Bartlett's, saying it still couldn't rule out that a threat to Air Force One actually had been made." [emphasis added]

When in doubt, keep lying.

And keep stalling. Choosing a strange day to make this announcement, Minister of the Cold War, Condi Rice, declares she will not testify at the 9-11 Commission.

Over under sideways down

Over under sideways down,
Backwards forwards square and round.
Over under sideways down,
Backwards forwards square and round.
When will it end, when will it end,
When will it end, when will it end.

I often think of that Yardbirds' gem when pondering what can only be described as the quasi-reality of the Bush administration.

But today it seems that the Busheality is seeping out, affecting other parallel universes. For instance, what happens if the cheese eating surrender monkeys are the one's who capture America's Most Wanted?

In a cartoon world, where even Sparky can be Hannitized -- albeit by a falling toilet -- anything is possible.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

The mayor of Kabul

"The people of Afghanistan are a world away from the nightmare of the Taliban. Citizens of Afghanistan have adopted a new constitution, guaranteeing free elections and full participation by women. The new Afghan army is becoming a vital force of stability in that country. Businesses are opening, health care centers are being established, and the children of Afghanistan are back in school, boys and girls."

If Commander Clouseau were paying attention to Afghanistan, he'd be slightly less sanguine about what leaps forward the country is making. There have been no "free elections" and the status of women is by no means assured. The remainder of the country consists of fiefdoms run by well armed warlords. And, as Juan Cole points out, Hamdi Karzai is, essentially, the mayor of Kabul. Today's news is a timely reminder of our unfinished -- unremembered -- business in that country.

Bake sales

"If President Bush is a guy many people would like to join for a non-alcoholic beer, as political imagemakers like to say, Laura Bush's is seen as a woman with whom you could chat comfortably in the grocery checkout line, someone likely to offer you a coupon she's not going to use."

Wasting no time, the Tribune hurls another piece of #@%! [registration required] in the ongoing shorthand on "character." We'll be hearing this for the next eight months from the so-called liberal media (SCLM). Bush is the kind of guy you'd like to go to a B-B-Q with, Laura's a sweet-natured person with whom you could imagine joining a book club. And John Kerry and his wife? He's a brahmin with nothing but condescension for "real Americans," and she's, well, she's a weird rich foreigner.

But the Trib story is especially egregious (thanks, by the way, to Atrios for the link). It might as well have been written by Karl Rove, as it is so clearly structured to appeal to the base (she has no intention of "meddling" with policy or "sharing the limelight with her husband" -- the anti-Hillary), while at the same time shoring up collapsing support among women and independents (she's intellectually curious and much less conservative than her husband; she even -- gasp -- disagrees with her husband sometimes, but won't say about what.)

"When the president is asked about education and student testing, he riffs on 4-year-old talking points that include a dissertation on 'the soft bigotry of low expectations.' LauraBush can hit the talking points, but she also can detail a child's learning curve and the possibilities of successful intervention for illiterate middle-school children.

"During her time in the governor's mansion, she launched a book festival in Texas that continues today. She started a national book festival on the National Mall in Washington. While her husband courts the conservative Establishment, Bush on Monday is to play host to a White House salute to writer Truman Capote, a counterculture icon."

Hmmm, the screenwriter of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" is a "counterculture icon," huh? No, folks, that's code for "she even feels comfortable around gay people," so don't worry about her husband's plan to enshrine discrimination in the U.S. Constitution."

"Bush acknowledges that her politics sometimes diverge from her husband's conservative ideology, but she has no intention of pointing out where and how.

"...She defended her husband's call for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages, while acknowledging that she and her husband have gay friends. 'They ought to welcome the debate,' she said of gays who say the amendment would relegate them to second-class citizenship."

And, of course, she doesn't bake cookies. Seems to me when Ms. Clinton said something like that she was excoriated in the SCLM.

Prediction -- we're going to be seeing this story played over and over as the Bush/Cheney campaign drones on and on.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Medicare Fraud

Brad DeLong cynically suggests that Tommy Thompson and the Prevaricator in Chief are pulling a respective Claude Raines upon "learning" that a Medicare administrator had been threatened to withhold the drug benefit's true cost from Congress.

And the Grey Lady herself decides to cover the drug benefit vote bribery scandal that continues to grow more interesting (or, at least it would be interesting, until you realize how primordially craven the whole thing is).

The House ethics committee voted on Wednesday to start a formal investigation into accusations of bribery surrounding last November's vote on the Medicare prescription drug law, signaling that an initial fact-finding inquiry might have produced evidence of wrongdoing.

The panel, formally known as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, met behind closed doors. Afterward, it issued a statement saying it had established an investigative subcommittee to conduct "a full and complete inquiry" into the bribery claims. The accusations were made by Representative Nick Smith, Republican of Michigan.

Mr. Smith, who is retiring, voted against the Medicare bill. Immediately after the vote, he said some lawmakers and groups had tried to induce him into voting for the measure with promises of financial support for the House candidacy of his son. He said there had been no specific offer of money, but his remarks prompted the ethics panel to begin a fact-finding inquiry last month.

Mr. Smith issued a statement on Wednesday saying that he would "cooperate fully with the inquiry" and that he would make no further public comment.

This makes the Rep. from Sugarland very, very angry.

"Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, the majority leader, accused the Democrats of promoting an ethics investigation for political reasons.

"'I think what they are doing is very, very dangerous,' Mr. DeLay said then."

Stay tuned to this Bat Station to find out what "The Hammer" means by that.

Enter the Dragon

And I thought this site only featured fictional content?

It's a good thing.

"There have been disagreements in this matter, among old and valued friends. Those differences belong to the past. All of us can now agree that the fall of the Iraqi dictator has removed a source of violence, aggression, and instability in the Middle East. It's a good thing that the demands of the United Nations were enforced, not ignored with impunity. It is a good thing that years of illicit weapons development by the dictator have come to the end. It is a good thing that the Iraqi people are now receiving aid, instead of suffering under sanctions. And it is a good thing that the men and women across the Middle East, looking to Iraq, are getting a glimpse of what life in a free country can be like." [emphasis added]

"President Bush Reaffirms Resolve to War on Terror, Iraq and Afghanistan

Bush made no mention of the cost for not having a plan past the taking of Baghdad a year ago.

"On April 23, 2003, Andrew S. Natsios, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, laid out in a televised interview the costs to U.S. taxpayers of rebuilding Iraq. 'The American part of this will be $1.7 billion,' he said. 'We have no plans for any further-on funding for this.'

"That turned out to be off by orders of magnitude. The administration, which asked Congress for another $20 billion for Iraq reconstruction five months after Natsios made his assertion, has said it expects overall Iraqi reconstruction costs to be as much as $75 billion this year alone.

"The transcript of that interview has been pulled from the USAID Web site, the agency said, 'to reflect current statements and testimony on Iraq reconstruction.' The earlier $1.7 billion figure was 'the best estimate available at the time, based on very limited information about the conditions inside of Iraq.'"

And that's just the cost in dollars.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, has the bastard slipped the net?

Thursday, March 18, 2004


They pithy witticisms of graffiti in Baghdad. Fascinating.

Constitution? We don't need no stinkin' Constitution

Over at Slate, Dahlia Lithwick, apologizing for bringing attention to a shameless piece of demagoguery, points out another instance of the Right's ignorance of, and complete indifference to, our Constitutional separation of powers.

"This one may have escaped your notice: Last week, a Kentucky Republican introduced a new House bill, HR 3920, to allow Congress to override Supreme Court decisions. No, seriously. Ron Lewis' bill, cheerfully titled, "The Congressional Accountability for Judicial Activism Act of 2004," was introduced without much fanfare, perhaps because it's one of the dumbest ideas ever."


"Congressman Lewis' bill shouldn't be made into more than it is: a silly little piece of shucking and jiving to polarize voters and get his name in print. I hereby kick myself for putting it in print. But this legislation represents the crossing over of a line—from contempt for any judge who doesn't see things Lewis' way—to contempt for the bench as a whole. And that shouldn't go unnoted."

Why do Republicans hate America so?

But what will we call tapas? Freedom snacks?

Tom Friedman takes a break from extolling the virtues of outsourcing tech jobs to India to pen a seriously stupid attack on the results of Spanish democracy. Kevin Drum (at his new digs) points out the fallacy of his argument.

"The new Spanish government's decision to respond to the attack by Al Qaeda by going ahead with plans to pull its troops from Iraq constitutes the most dangerous moment we've faced since 9/11. It's what happens when the Axis of Evil intersects with the Axis of Appeasement and the Axis of Incompetence.

"Let's start with the Axis of Evil. We are up against a terrible nihilistic enemy. Think about what the Islamist terrorists are doing: they are trying to kill as many people in Iraq and elsewhere as possible so the U.S. fails in Iraq, so Iraq collapses into civil war, so even a glimmer of democracy never takes root in the Arab world and so America is weakened.

"But if they are so bad, why aren't we doing better? It has to do with the pigheadedness of the Bush team and the softheadedness of many allies. Regarding the Bush team, let me say yet again: We do not have enough troops in Iraq, and we never did. From the outset, the Bush Pentagon has treated Iraq as a lab test to prove that it can win a war with a small, mobile high-tech Army. Well, maybe you can defeat Saddam that way, but you can't build a new Iraq -- and control its borders to prevent foreign terrorists from coming in -- with so few troops, especially when you disband the Iraqi Army on top of it."

So, let me get this straight. The Spanish are appeasing al Qaeda because they voted out a government that had lied to them by denying that al Qaeda had launched an attack on the country. They're appeasing al Qaeda because they voted in a government that had opposed joining the Bush coalition -- which the majority of voters had also opposed from the beginning. They're appeasing al Qaeda for deciding to pull out of an occupation the Socialists refer to as a "fiasco." They're appeasing al Qaeda for pulling out of an occupation that is, indeed, a fiasco. They're appeasing al Qaeda for distancing themselves from a Bush administration that is, indeed, pig-headedly screwing up.

The unfortunate aspect of this is that there does not seem to be any attempt on the part of Colin Powell or anyone else in the Bush administration to use diplomacy to convince the Spanish that now is not the time to pull out of Iraq. Only bluster, shocked indignation, and self-righteousness.

Oh, I forgot, those are the three pillars of the Bush foreign policy stool (and "stool" it is).

What's been lost in all of this are the actual words of the Spanish prime minister. He said that they would pull out Spanish troops (and let's keep in mind we're talking 1,500 when we need an additional 100,000) if the UN wasn't put in control of the occupation by June. Isn't that what the Iraqis want, our friend Ahmad Chalabi notwithstanding?

We'll know for sure in November, but at this point in the fiasco, isn't that what the majority of U.S. voters want as well?

Meanwhile, via Eschaton, Spain's al Qaeda cell has endorsed Bush for reelection. It is as yet unclear if the global al Qaeda organization will throw their organizational strength and ability to get out the vote behind the Bush campaign.

Why do Bush administration officials hate America so?

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Bon mots

Here's some happy talk from some of leading conservative thinkers. Read one-a-day as a reminder of why these people must be kept far, far away from the levers of power. In fact, the levers of anything.

Here's a sampler:

  "Chelsea is a Clinton. She bears the taint; and though not prosecutable in law, in custom and nature the taint cannot be ignored. All the great despotisms of the past - I'm not arguing for despotism as a principle, but they sure knew how to deal with potential trouble - recognized that the families of objectionable citizens were a continuing threat. In Stalin's penal code it was a crime to be the wife or child of an 'enemy of the people.' The Nazis used the same principle, which they called Sippenhaft, 'clan liability.' In Imperial China, enemies of the state were punished 'to the ninth degree': that is, everyone in the offender's own generation would be killed and everyone related via four generations up, to the great-great-grandparents, and four generations down, to the great-great-grandchildren, would also be killed."

     - John Derbyshire, National Review, 02-15-01

Thanks to Will Carroll.

In denial

Mr. FRIEDMAN: Mr. Secretary, do you have any independent information or have you heard from the Spanish government any kind of conf--that would lead to any kind of confirmation that al-Qaida or al-Qaida sympathizers were behind the attacks in Madrid?

Sec. RUMSFELD: Well, first, Tom, let me just say the--how tragic that attack was in Spain. The 200 people that were killed, that are known to have been killed--my condolences to their families and--and their loved ones. It's a--it's a tragic event. We've seen terrorism strike in--in not just Spain or the United States, but obviously in--in--in Saudi Arabia and Indonesia and--and Turkey and--and so many other countries across the globe. And it's always a sad thing when it happens.

No, I don't have any intelligence that would give cl--clarity. It's so recent. The--the one thing I would say is there seem to be growing connections between terrorist organizations. And Spain has been fighting terrorists for many, many, many years, and they have demostrated leadership in the global war on terror. And terrorists attack leaders. And it takes courage to be a leader. And--and God bless the Spanish people and the Spanish government for the strength and the courage they've shown and--and we all wish them well as they sort through the--the terrible carnage they're experiencing.

-- CBS "Face the Nation," March 14, 2004

Isn't it amazing that Rumsfeld, proxy for the administration, is so uncertain when it comes to an al-Qaeda connection to the bombings in Spain, yet, even today, so certain that the dubious links to an Saddam Hussein-al-Qaeda connection are true?

That's the perspective and attitude that underscores the administration's failure to combat Islamic fundamentalist terrorism. They see the "war on terrorism" as a state-based problem -- that is, go out and attack a country in the "axis of evil" -- rather than as a battle against a loose network of criminal cells.

And that's the attitude, as evinced by Spanish leadership last week, that led to their downfall on Sunday. It wasn't acquiescing to terrorism, as David Brooks so moronically chirps, it was anger at how the truth is used and manipulated by Aznar -- and Bush -- to cynically propel their policies.

"...interviews with scores of Spaniards of both parties indicated that a number of things happened after the attacks that shifted the balance to the Socialists. Voters flooded the polls on Sunday in record numbers, especially young people who had not planned to vote. In interviews, they said they did so not so much out of fear of terror as out of anger against a government they saw as increasingly authoritarian, arrogant and stubborn. The government, they said, mishandled the crisis in the emotional days after the attacks.

"Voters said they were enraged not only by the government's insistence that the Basque separatist group ETA was responsible, despite mounting evidence to the contrary, but they also resented its clumsy attempts to quell antigovernment sentiment.

"For example, the main television channel TVE, which is state-owned, showed scant and selective scenes of antigovernment demonstrations on Saturday night, just as it ran very little coverage of the large demonstrations against the war in Iraq last year. It also suddenly changed its regular programming to air a documentary on the horrors of ETA.

"That was the last straw for some Spaniards, who said it evoked the nightmare of censorship during the Franco dictatorship little more than a quarter of a century ago."

To David Brooks, perhaps if Aznar had come out forcefully and said that it was al-Qaeda and that this requires even more resolve in response, instead of shamefully hiding behind the black cloaks of ETA, he could have diffused the anger of the Spanish electorate.

And the connection to Franco's fascist propaganda machine cannot be discounted.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004


Apologies to regular readers for the meager pickings here over the last couple of days, but we've been in mourning since early Monday morning. I don't speak of the personal here much because, well, why should you care? But I will mention, for posterity, the passing of Leto, the shepherd mix who has been the steadfast companion of the Vega Cura and Madam Cura for the past 13 years. Leto chose us all those years ago, limping over to us in a crowded park and making clear that she wanted us to take her home. Since that day, we saved her life when she suffered gastrointestinal bleeding and she saved ours by waking us up one night when we'd left the gas on. And in ailing health over the past year and half, she taught us patience, humility, and the fragile line between healthfulness and vitality and vulnerability and dependence. She'll be missed, joining the pantheon with our other great dog, the late, lamented terrier, "Jack Dempsey."

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Congress on Steroids

As regular reader(s) know, I'm kinda ambivalent on the baseball/steroids issue. But when it actually falls into my wheelhouse, an actual convergence of baseball and politics, I get pretty juiced myself, if you'll pardon the pun.

And when I listen to the pontifications of Senators on the issue, I find myself taking sides -- the side of Donald Fehr and the Players Union.

"This is a values issue" sayeth Sen. Joseph Biden [D. Delaware]

As Biden and McCain bipartisanly bloviate and threaten to personally hold the plastic cup, it's good to remember that there is a fourth amendment, as Fehr rightly pointed out to the luminaries.

Alex Belth and his cronies discuss.

What a week in Washington. Brave stances on steroids and decency.

Congress in action. What other hallowed assemblage can make Gary Sheffield and Howard Stern look like freedom fighters.

Socialists win in Spain

It appears that the Socialists have won in Spanish elections, with nearly 40 seats going from Prime Minister Aznar's Popular party to the Socialists, giving the latter the majority of seats. Like most Americans, I wasn't paying much attention to the elections there prior to the bombing, which looks more and more likely to be the work of a group or groups with ties to al Qaeda.

Now I am paying attention, though. From what little I did know in the run-up to today's vote, it seemed as though the conservatives were coasting to a victory, albeit a close one. But a combination of voter's anger over the government's rush to blame ETA for the bombings and their anger at finding themselves the target of Islamic fundamentalists because of Aznar's alliance with the U.S. in Iraq appears to have turned the tide, with an extremely high turn-out at the polls.

It's hard to say how U.S. voters would respond to a deadly attack days before the election in November. Or, more to the point, how would the eight percent, or whatever it is, of undecided likely voters will react.

But as Red Square burns and another deadly attack in Israel, the news is beyond the control of the Democrats and Republicans. For that reason, it is vital that Kerry begin to make clear his defense qualifications. As Josh Marshall writes, Bush can't win on the economy -- at least not at the moment and the clock is running out on a positive swing -- but he can convince enough voters that he's more likely to protect them. Yes, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Because, we're going to get eight months of this stupid nonsense.

"Now I must admit, as nasty and cynical as my childish id can be at times, it never would have occured to me to rig up a push poll designed to make the opposing nominee look like an Al Qaeda fusion candidate. Guess that's why I'm not gainfully employed in the world of big-time politics.

"It's probably the kind of thing that only a couple of redneck GOP patronage hacks could dream up. And lo and behold, when we take a peak in the cage over at Andres McKenna Research, that's what we find..."

Billmon thoughtfully provides the email addresses for the two scholars behind the clever polling question. Go ahead, you know what to do.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Mr. October...gagged

Exactly what the man who would be commissioner was afeared of.

In his published comments, Jackson — who hit 563 home runs in his career — made several references to Barry Bonds, whose personal trainer, Greg Anderson, was indicted Feb. 12 on charges of illegally distributing anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.

"Somebody definitely is guilty of taking steroids," Jackson said in The Journal-Constitution. "You can't be breaking records hitting 200 home runs in three or four seasons. The greatest hitters in the history of the game didn't do that."

Jackson also alluded to Bonds in comments about Hank Aaron, the career home run leader. "Henry Aaron never hit 50 home runs in a season, so you're going to tell me that you're a greater hitter than Henry Aaron?" Jackson said in the article. "Bonds hit 73 and he would have hit 100 if they would have pitched to him. I mean, come on, now. There is no way you can outperform Aaron and Ruth and Mays at that level."

Jackson said players used to compete on fairly even terms physically. "It was the same for everybody," he said. "Now, all of a sudden, you're hitting 50 home runs when you're 40."

Bonds, who will be 40 in July, hit 45 home runs last season. He was 37 when he hit 73. With 658 home runs, he is two away from tying Mays for third place on the career list.

Jackson was told that as a club official of the New York Yankees, Selig's gag order applied to him.

The calls to put an asterisk next to Bonds' single season mark is growing. Jackson likely speaks for a lot of Hall of Famers who aren't buying some of the superhuman feats we've seen recently.

$10.2 billion for what?!

"Weapons experts outside the Pentagon have argued that there is no imminent threat that would justify the program's huge expenditures, up $1.2 billion from the previous year, and the deployment of a system whose capabilities are unknown. Some critics say they see only one thing on the horizon that could be driving such a breakneck schedule: a presidential election season."

Simply unbelievable. Like his tax cut created when there was a huge surplus and to which he doggedly clings to even as the economy stagnates and deficits rise, the scruffy little dog that is our president won't let go of his missile defense toy.

Forget for a moment that the want to build it, but have no idea if the system does what it's supposed to do. It becomes even more unbelievable in the wake of yesterday's attacks. The Bushies simply don't understand what we are facing. Al Qaeda isn't going to lob an ICBM launched from a cave in Afghanistan, heading for Chicago.

They are going to blow up a train. And John Kerry should ask, each and every day, what is Bush doing about real threats?

The Bush algorithm:

Surplus: Tax cut
Deficits: Tax cut
Employment stagnation: Tax cut
Declining consumer confidence: Tax cut

Terrorism: Iraq
Terrorism: Missile Defense

Practically a Guarantee

Yes, there are many in the tinfoil hat brigade who think that the Bush admin. will engineer another massive terrorist attack in the U.S. in the run-up to the election in November, a la the Reichstag fire in 1933. Billmon has views on that.

I don't share that conspiracy theorist view, but I do believe that the Bush administration and in particular the DoJ and FBI are probably blowing it. Until today, I really didn't have any firm evidence to back that view up, but then I read this.

"During the run-up to the Iraqi war, American officials became increasingly concerned about the possibility that Iraqi-Americans in the United States and others might have been secretly aiding the Hussein government. The desire to root out possible spies and conspirators led the F.B.I to interview some 11,000 Iraqis in the United States during the war."

As TAPPED wonders, isn't that a huge number? Wouldn't those interviewers been better used in tracking down potential terrorists? And what exactly did "American officials (whoever they are)" fear that the Iraqis going to spy on?

Perhaps they thought Iraqi spies were infiltrating the peace movement, sapping our strength like fluoride in our water.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Help Wanted

"U.S. Generals plead for help in securing vast Iraq border region."

"The commander of U.S. forces in western Iraq told Pentagon reporters by video-conference Wednesday that field units are pressing for more men and vehicles to cover huge, sparsely populated regions where small terrorist cells of five to eight people each may be infiltrating on their way to Iraqi cities."


"Swannack, who said he had to order body armor, radios and vehicles out of his own unit's budget because of bureaucratic delays, said Iraqi forces taking over border control need SUVs to cover the many unofficial crossing points into Iraq from Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria. These are routes that have been used by smugglers and nomads for 2,000 years."

Remember General Shinseki?

The fears that many of us had -- that in the Bush administration's effort to do this on the cheap, and now, to get the hell out of Iraq as soon as possible -- may be coming true: we entered what had been a brutish, despotic state harboring thugs and we are now leaving a brutish, failed state harboring global terrorists.

Also in USA Today:

"Pfc. Matthew G. Milczark, 18, Kettle River, Minn.; died Monday from a non-combat-related gunshot wound at Camp Victory, Kuwait; 1st Marine Division."

"Non-combat-related gunshot wound" could mean he killed himself while cleaning his weapon. Or, simply, that he killed himself.

"The most crooked...lying bunch I've ever seen."

And they say Kerry is too vague, nuanced, indirect. Sounds pretty direct and succinct to me.

And absolutely correct, as Fred Kaplan's piece illustrates. And as for the miserable flip flopper, TAPPED and Brad DeLong are equally clear and succinct.

[Hmmm, seems the right wingnut machine has been working overtime in their peevishness, putting Michael Moore on top in the "Miserable Failure" sweepstakes.]

And DeLong also takes another look at how the press continues to let Bush get away with his nonsensical

So what is the upside to the article as it stands? Why pretend that the administration has created a new assistant secretaryship with associated staff to deal with these issues when everyone who reads Al Kamen has known different for six months? Why pretend that that administration's now-disavowed employment forecast was a third lower than it actually was?

"You've got to understand, Brad," said one journalism insider this morning, "The story is already strongly anti-Bush. The story is already astonishingly strongly anti-Bush for this millennium's Post. The story says that the Bush administration has been on the defensive over economic issues like the jobs forecast, and that the administration has panicked and is thinking about pulling Raimondo's nomination. If the story also said that Raimondo's job isn't even a new job just a renamed old job that the Bushies are trying to get everyone to think is a new job. If the story also said that the 2.6 million number they ran away from was already a big step away from their original real 3.8 million job growth forecast. Then the story wouldn't be 'Bush administration on the defensive on economic issues. It would be 'Bush administration ridiculously mendacious, ludicrously confused, and utterly incompetent on economic issues.'" Exactly. That is the
real story, after all.

What defines "an agent?"

On the face of it, this doesn't pass the smell test.

"In a press release, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, David N. Kelley, and FBI officials in New York and Baltimore said Lindauer acted as an unregistered agent of the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS), the foreign spying arm of the Hussein government. The statement said the service 'played a role in terrorist operations, including the attempted assassination of former President George H.W. Bush, and attempted bombings during Operation Desert Storm,' the first Gulf war in 1991. Bush was the target of an assassination attempt when he visited Kuwait after the war.

"The press release said the intelligence service also 'located, intimidated and killed Iraqi defectors and dissidents living abroad.'"

Scary stuff. But wait...

"The indictment did not charge Lindauer with involvement in any such operations, or with actual espionage, but said that she had prohibited dealings with several members of the IIS from October 1999 through March 2002 in visits to the Iraqi Mission to the United Nations in New York. It said she also traveled to Baghdad in early 2002 to meet with IIS officers and received about $10,000 for her services during this period. The indictment did not specify what information or services she allegedly provided."

The Post doesn't say, but the indictment also indicated that she reported her contacts to a "representative of the U.S. government." So, what defines "an unregistered agent" of a foreign government?

Attacks in Spain

Just sickening.

When I first heard the news about the attacks in Spain, I too assumed it was ETA. But as I thought about it throughout the morning, that just didn't ring true. Like the IRA, ETA is about fear, not necessarily carnage, and the modus operandi typically was to give a warning before the bomb was to go off, limiting, if not eliminating, casualties. ETA's targets tend to be government and security officials. That didn't happen today, and both the timing and the placement of the bombs were clearly meant to create the largest number of casualties possible.

And reminding myself that not only is Spain an outspoken ally in Iraq and that Islam carries a historical grudge with Spain stretching back to the 15th century, it seemed more and more likely to me that it was Islamic fundamentalists. That now seems to be the case.

To paraphrase Le Monde following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, today we are all Spaniards.

Caveat emptor

The Pentagon is paying $340,000 a month to Ahmad Chalabi's political organization for "intelligence collection" about Iraq. Nevermind that most of the information they've received to-date has been embellished, fabricated, or simply false.

Of course, it's not Chalabi's fault. The CIA and the Pentagon should be more discerning, according to our man in Baghdad.

"In a television interview broadcast Sunday by CBS on '60 Minutes,' Mr. Chalabi defended the quality of information provided by his group. He also said American agencies should have done a better job filtering out the good from the bad, and did not acknowledge personal responsibility for the incorrect information. He said he hoped to appear before the Senate intelligence committee to clear his name.

"'Intelligence people, who are supposed to do a better job for their country and their government, did not do such a good job,' Mr. Chalabi said."

And speaking of being more discerning, it was interesting reviewing the various reports on Tenet's testimony on Capital Hill. TAPPED and CalPundit both have angles on a story that illustrates more broadly the various ways our papers of record cover the White House.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Fatwa, we never knew ya

I would say that this is not encouraging.

And Fred Kaplan checks in on what Ahmad Chalabi's been doing lately. Going native, apparently.

And, on a note only tenuously related, check out Talkingpointsmemo, here, here, and especially here.

Repeat after me, Scott, "What would Ari do? What would Ari do?" Or, WWAD.

Dear reader, I have a day job, one which is, sadly, going to make posting an infrequent pursuit over the next couple of days. Please stay tuned.

[In my original post, the last paragraph stated, "Sadly, dear reader, I have a day job, one which is going to make posting an infrequent pursuit over the next couple of days. Please stay tuned." I made the change above for the obvious reason that these days, having a "day job" is not a sad thing.]

Monday, March 08, 2004

Commissioner Bush? The Untold Story

Elephants in Oakland engages [engage?] in pure speculation.

What won't he do?

Kevin Drum finds a story implicating a Bush administration so craven as to beggar belief.

"In other developments, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz decided not to withdraw troops from the Gaza Strip before U.S. presidential elections in November and will brief U.S. officials on his position during a trip to Washington next week, a security official said on condition of anonymity.

....Earlier this week, Dov Weisglass, a senior Sharon aide, discussed the proposed withdrawal with top U.S. officials. The Maariv daily said Friday that Weisglass was told the Bush administration would not like to see a withdrawal before the U.S. election because of concerns of growing instability in Gaza. However, Sharon adviser Assaf Shariv said Friday that no dates for a possible withdrawal were raised during the meetings with U.S. officials."

Running for reelection on the backs of the Palestinians. What won't the Bush administration do to keep their religious right base becalmed?

It is shocking that this story is getting almost no play in the U.S. or foreign press.

Homeschooling for George W. Bush

I don't recall a story that better illustrates the culture of insulation that is the flyboy's White House.

"As one of 12 siblings taught at home by their parents in St. Croix Falls, Wis., Abram Olmstead knew he would fit right in at Patrick Henry College, the first college primarily for evangelical Christian home-schoolers. But what really sold him was the school's pipeline into conservative politics.

"Of the nearly 100 interns working in the White House this semester, 7 are from the roughly 240 students enrolled in the four-year-old Patrick Henry College, in Purcellville. An eighth intern works for the president's re-election campaign. A former Patrick Henry intern now works on the paid staff of the president's top political adviser, Karl Rove. Over the last four years, 22 conservative members of Congress have employed one or more Patrick Henry interns in their offices or on their campaigns, according to the school's records."

Well, golly. If that don't beat all.

So, apparently these kids -- no doubt bright-eyed and earnest -- who have led lives sheltered from public school, kids unlike themselves, culture that hasn't been "approved" by their parents, ideas that their parents haven't thought of, professional science teachers, or anything else outside the sheltered confines of their suburban homes, parents, and 10 or 12 other siblings, are apparently so highly thought of by the Bush administration and other conservatives in Congress, they are sought after beyond all proportion (actually, it would be interesting to compare these numbers with say, graduates of the John F Kennedy School of Government).

Apparently, these folks, who retreated from the secular world now are eager to influence the public debate.

"Mingling in the corridors of the White House and Congress is also a long way from the sense of retreat at the heart of the Christian home-schooling movement. It began in the early 1980's as a few thousand evangelical Christians began teaching their children at home in disgust at what they considered the increasingly secular, relativistic and irreligious culture ascendant around them — exemplified by the ban on prayer, the teaching of evolution and the promotion of contraception in the public schools."

No to mention Janet Jackson.

Or "shock jocks," like that potty mouth, Sandra Tsing Loh.

Sandra, by the way, exacts her revenge tonight on "Marketplace."
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