Friday, April 30, 2004

Keep the Right away from baseball

Madame Cura suggested I was becoming too predictable. That by listening to the echo chamber of lefty blogs and Air America, I was just joining the din and becoming a caricature. Moi?

So I took her advice and searched out some righty blogs. And what do I find? Things like this:

"Selig, in my opinion, has done an awful job. A strong commissioner would've settled the egregious state of limbo that the Montreal Expos exist in by now, whether the team is moved to D.C., Monterey (my choice), or Puerto Rico. The crippling 1994 strike, a season in which the World Series was cancelled, is on his watch. So was the politically correct punishment of then-Atlanta Brave John Rocker, who made the mistake of making offensive remarks about New York City to an eager Sports Illustrated reporter. Rocker, at the time a dominant relief pitcher, was forced to attend sensitivity training sessions and became a whipping boy for elitists in the Northeast and California. His career was ruined."

While I agree with New Partisan that Selig has been a terrible comiss. and that Wills would be an even worse one (add pomposity to an innate ability to consistently do what's wrong for baseball), bringing John Rocker in to it is a typically false argument the Right uses to combine two disparate issues.

Just so's I'm clear, was it the sensitivity training or the elites who ruined his career?

For the record. Rocker was not driven from baseball because he was a racist jerk. Baseball is famous for successful jerks. Does Ty Cobb ring a bell? How about Pete Rose? Granted his teammates didn't like him, but if he could continue to get guys out in key situations I think they'd have gotten over that. No, this is why John Rocker is no longer pitching in the major leagues.

2000 IP: 53
2000 era: 2.89

2001 IP: 67
2001 era: 4.32

2002 IP: 24
2002 era: 6.66 (appropriately)

2003 IP: 1
2003 era: 9.00

The guy was a closer who lost command of, first his mouth, then his emotions, then his sanity, then his fastball.

Closers who lose that kind of command don't last long.

Our "Big Tent" president

That's our boy, churlish and childish at the same time. I guess Patrick Swayze in Hughes is definitely back writing the Sound Bite of the Day for the Preznit.

"There's a lot of people in the world who don't believe that people whose skin color may not be the same as ours can be free and self-govern. I reject that. I reject that strongly. I believe that people who practice the Muslim faith can self-govern. I believe that people whose skins aren't necessarily -- are a different color than white can self-govern."

Josh Marshall comments on the several layers of weirdness inherent in Bush's statement. "Our" skin color. Meaning...? Oh, I forgot, we live in a country where white people are free to support President Bush's compassionate agenda.

Apparently, though, Bush's high-mindedness didn't get in his way of wanting to decide which elected political leaders should govern Venezuala and Haiti.


It's good to know that the administration continues its vigilance in protecting this country...against Cuban tourism.

"'This is really astounding,' Dorgan said. 'I hope somebody in the administration will soon come to his or her senses and start directing our resources where they are needed. Politics is clearly diverting precious time, money and manpower away from the war on terrorism here.'''

Thursday, April 29, 2004

The Triple Crown of Hackery

I'm glad Roger Ailes took care of this, because I just can't even read Mickey Maus any more. I search the site in vain every morning to find a way to write to the editors of Slate to explain that he cheapens their otherwise great zine.

Anyway, Crooked Timber debunks another Kaus cheap shot at Kerry.

And, yes, I think Atrios is on to something here, though I think more highly of goats than that.

The thing that baffles me about Kaus is the vapidness of his attacks on Kerry. There's plenty to go after in terms of policy, consistency, etc. But at a time when we are truly at a political crossroads in this country, when decisions made now could have repurcussions for years to come, attacking Kerry's hair, for instance, is insane. And because Kaus has gone so far over the line in his hatred for Kerry, his posts aren't even amusing anymore.

Maureen Dowd is a similar case, but she's a lot hotter looking than Kaus. And funnier.

But, nevertheless, her columns on the moral equivalencies of Bush and Clinton, or Bush and Gore, or Bush and Kerry, are ridiculous.

So let's see. What's our swell choice here?

A guy who mimed being a fighter pilot on a carrier versus a guy who mimed throwing his medals over a fence?

An incumbent who sticks with the wrong decisions based on the wrong facts versus a challenger who seems unable to stick to one side of any decision, right or wrong?

A Republican who's a world-class optimist, despite making the world more dangerous and virulently anti-American, versus a Democrat who looks like a world-weary loner, even as he pledges to make the world safer and more pro-American?

A president who can't go anywhere without his vice president to give him the answers versus a candidate who can't go anywhere without his campaign butler/buddy to give him peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?

Bush campaign strategists don't seem worried that every positive development the administration predicted would happen if we invaded Iraq has soured into the opposite.

...Bush strategists seem to believe that the worse Mr. Bush makes things, the better off he is, because nervous Americans will cling to the obstinate president they know over the vacillating challenger they don't know.

Senator Kerry's talent for turning a winning proposition into a losing one is disturbingly reminiscent of Al Gore, who somehow managed to lose an election he won. So is Mr. Kerry's sometimes supercilious manner, and his habit of exacerbating a small thing with an answer that is not quite straight.

Um, Maureen, I think the choice is a pretty easy one to make.

"Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss."

In one sense I'm relieved that U.S. Marines will be able to stand down in Fallujah and avoid an ugly and telegenic crushing of the insurgents in the city.

But what will the Iraqi people think -- particularly those in the south and north of the country who have seen this movie before -- when they see Saddam's former military leaders and members of his "respected" army doing the crushing?

And I was under the impression from our own Pentagon that former members of Saddam's army comprised much of the insurgent activity. I am as confused as the proconsul of Iraq, Paul Bremmer.

I thought Bremmer's disbanding of the military in such a disorganized fashion (and eliminating pay and benefits at the same time) just as looters were stripping the country bare was a mistake of historic proportions. But I'm not sure this reactionary reinstatement of the military to put down a revolt is such a great idea either.

"One Marine commander saw the arrangement as a way to enfranchise the Sunnis' who had lost their favored position with the fall of Saddam Hussein. In addition, he said, it could be a way to pacify the city 'without the butcher's bill of having to clear it block by block.'

"However, it is unclear how much power the new Iraqi force will be able to exert over the embattled insurgents, who have shown some military skill and are said to include foreign fighters among their ranks."

Like I said, I'm relieved to get our Marine's out of harm's way for the time being. But each day leaves me with the growing sense that we're preparing to declare victory, go home, and leave the Iraqis to their own civil war.

Polls like this one could hasten that declaration.

No confidence

Commenting on the 52 former British foreign service professionals who recently criticized the Blair government for the ongoing "Mess-o-potamia," that lefy rag, the Financial Times, is blunt in its criticism of Tony Blair's inability to trade support for the war with an agreement by Bush to forge a more sane path in the Middle East. By backing Bush's policies, Blair is hurting British, nay Western, interests, writes the ambassadors. The FT agrees, saying that British military commanders are also exasperated with the U.S. conduct of the war in Iraq.

"In any case, the notion that so-called Arabists - expert in the language, culture and politics of Arab countries -should be excluded from policy because of their alleged predilection to "go native" should be discredited by the way the Pentagon, which shut out anyone with actual knowledge of Iraq, has serially bungled the occupation."

According to a fistful of euros, Blair ignores these professionals at his political peril.

Are you keeping score? How many political leaders have seen their popularity go south for supporting Bush (UK, Spain) and how many have been elected or reelected as a result of opposing Bush (South Korea, Germany, Spain).

I don't think even Ronald Reagan had that kind of ability to shape allied politics around the our detriment.

Reminds me of a bit they do each day on Air America's "O'Franken Report." It's called "Rightwing 'Non-Lie' of the Day." Today's was none other than George W. Bush saying "We're changing the world."

Names of the dead -- "Not in the public interest"

This is really amazing. Sinclair Broadcast Group has ordered its eight ABC affiliates not to air tomorrow's Nightline program, in which the names of soldiers killed in action in Iraq will be read. Thanks to Atrios who also provides a phone number for this fine company.

UPDATE at 5:09: TAPPED has more on this.

What "it" looks like

How you feel about the indefinite military detentions of Yaser Esam Hamdi and Jose Padilla will turn largely on what you think life will look like when it starts. By "it," I mean the moment at which fundamental liberties are curtailed by well-meaning governments and the legal system becomes unable to offer relief. Never having seen "it" happen in my lifetime, I'm hardly an expert. German Jews who survived the Holocaust will tell you that it's hard to know at exactly which instant you've crossed the line into "it." Fred Korematsu, a Japanese American detained during World War II, knows what "it" looks like, and he says it looks a bit like this. Professor Jennifer Martinez, Padilla's oral advocate at the Supreme Court this morning, says we are at the line separating "it" from "not it" right now, today—as the court stands poised to decide whether "the government can take citizens off the street and lock them up in jail forever."

The always engaging, enlightening, and entertaining Dahlia Lithwick deconstructs the oral arguments in the Hamdi and Padilla cases before the Supreme Court yesterday.

I think we are on the verge of "it," as the Court seems less inclined to worry about a decision that will undercut key provisions of the Magna Carta and the U.S. Constitution -- in fact, key reasons for the very existence of those documents -- than proscribing the Executive branch's powers in war time. The justices simply seem troubled by granting those powers "forever."

But here's my favorite bit.

"Ginsburg asks whether the government has any justification for trying certain defendants (John Walker Lindh, Zacarias Moussaoui, James Ujaama) and locking up others. Clement replies that those terrorists had 'no intelligence value,' so it was fine to put them into the judicial system. (The notion that the government will learn more from interrogating Hamdi, a Taliban foot soldier, than Moussaoui, a man who ate ice cream with ranking al-Qaida members, is so preposterous that it cannot just be left on this page to die.)"

I have been wondering what the nearly 3,000 people dead in the attacks of Sept. 11. 2001 would have thought in knowing that their deaths resulted in the Bush administration granting itself dictatorial powers.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Rice: Union overtime rules are at fault for intelligence failures

Condi finally explains who's to blame.

"Yes, Mr. Tenet and his top deputies did receive a briefing paper labeled "Islamic Extremist Learns To Fly" in mid-August. Yes, an in-depth investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui might have led the government to the al-Qaeda cell in Germany that planned the Sept. 11 attacks, but the fact remains that we can never be sure. I believe that, during investigations such as this, it's important to stick with what we do know. Ladies and gentlemen: Had that lead been followed, a lot of people would've been working a lot of very long hours."

The Charlie McCarthy Hearings

George is crammin' really, really hard in preparation for tomorrow's appearance before the 9-11 Commission.

As you surely learned in 6th Grade Civics class, the Constitution requires the "buddy system" be used for safety purposes in these types of situations. My suggested question: "Mr. Vice-President, would you please take a drink of water as the President answers our next question?"

Via Kevin Drum, the road to surfdom explores the President's on-going embrace of the Commission.

Stick it to Bush

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

All is not lost. Spring may be here.

Outside tonight, sitting on the deck, wirelessly postin' in the gloamin'. Ahhhh.

If you spent this past winter in the Northeast, I think you understand.

Secrets & Lies. Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb.

Krugman, today, on the Bush administration's doctrine of "elected dictatorship." Krugman asks, why has the admin. spent the last three years doggedly battling the judicial branch by refusing to release Dick Cheney's energy task force records?

"One possibility is that there is some kind of incriminating evidence in the task force's records. Another is that the administration fears that full disclosure will highlight its chummy relationship with the energy industry. But there's a third possibility: that the administration is really taking a stand on principle. And that's what scares me."

But the secret that the administration is keeping that is the most frightening -- or, at least, one that most needs a public debate on -- is our very own Weapons of Mass Destruction. Nuclear Weapons have always -- at least in terms of public policy -- been a weapon of deterrence for U.S. presidents since Truman (with the possible exception of Ronald Reagan -- Nixon was only pretending...really). Hit us, so the plan goes, and we will reduce you, Soviet Union, to a bunch of smoldering ash pits once known as Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev, and Stalingrad.

Part of what makes the secret so frightening is that it's not really secret at all. It's an initiative that the admin. is doing in plain sight, albeit hidden in the minutiae and gov-speak of the U.S. Budget. Our government, apparently with the tacit approval of the Legislative Branch, has decided to develop nuclear weapons that are not meant for deterrence, but are tactical weapons that will be in our "standard" arsenal for dealing with threats. First Strike nuclear weapons.

Fred Kaplan's piece in Slate is essential reading.

"There is no nuclear arms race going on now. The world no longer offers many suitable nuclear targets. President Bush is trying to persuade other nations -- especially "rogue regimes" -- to forgo their nuclear ambitions. Yet he is shoveling money to U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories as if the Soviet Union still existed and the Cold War still raged.

"These are the findings of a virtually unnoticed report written by weapons analyst Christopher Paine, based on data from official budget documents, and released earlier this month by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

"The report raises anew a question that always springs to mind after a close look at the U.S. military budget: What the hell is going on here? Specifically: Do we really need to be spending this kind of money on nuclear weapons? What role do nuclear weapons play in 21st-century military policy? How many weapons do we need, to deter what sort of attack or to hit what sorts of targets, with what level of confidence, for what strategic and tactical purposes?

"These are questions that haven't been seriously addressed in this country for 30 years. It may be time for a new look."

Broken soldiers

"'We're saving more people than should be saved, probably,' Lt. Col. Robert Carroll said. 'We're saving severely injured people. Legs. Eyes. Part of the brain.'"

Via an outraged Atrios, MSNBC describes the work of the 31st Combat Support emergency hospital in Baghdad. The 31st has the lowest morale of troops stationed in Iraq. The hospital has the only neurology and ophthalmology surgical teams in Iraq, so any time there's an injury to the head or the eyes -- unprotected by body armor -- they go to the 31st.

"While waiting for what one senior officer wearily calls 'the flippin' helicopters,' the Baghdad medical staff studies photos of wounds they used to see once or twice in a military campaign but now treat every day. And they struggle with the implications of a system that can move a wounded soldier from a booby-trapped roadside to an operating room in less than an hour."

And Newsweek reports that the forces in Iraq have suffered far more casualties than "necessary" because the Bush administration and the Pentagon refuse to recognize that the troops need more armor (body armor, tanks, etc.).

"Soldiers in Iraq complain that Washington has been too slow to acknowledge that the Iraqi insurgency consists of more than 'dead-enders.' And even at the Pentagon many officers say Rumsfeld and his brass have been too reluctant to modify their long-term plans for a lighter military. On the battlefield, that has translated into a lack of armor. Perhaps the most telling example: a year ago the Pentagon had more than 400 main battle tanks in Iraq; as of recently, a senior Defense official told NEWSWEEK, there was barely a brigade's worth of operational tanks still there. (A brigade usually has about 70 tanks.)

"In continuing adherence to the Army's 'light is better' doctrine, even units recently rotated to Iraq have left most of their armor behind. These include the I Marine Expeditionary Force, which has paid dearly for that decision with an astonishing 30 percent-plus casualties (45 killed, more than 300 wounded) in Fallujah and Ar Ramadi. The Army's 1st Cavalry Division—which includes the unit in Sadr City—left five of every six of its tanks at home, and five of every six Bradleys.

"A breakdown of the casualty figures suggests that many U.S. deaths and wounds in Iraq simply did not need to occur. According to an unofficial study by a defense consultant that is now circulating through the Army, of a total of 789 Coalition deaths as of April 15 (686 of them Americans), 142 were killed by land mines or improvised explosive devices, while 48 others died in rocket-propelled-grenade attacks. Almost all those soldiers were killed while in unprotected vehicles, which means that perhaps one in four of those killed in combat in Iraq might be alive if they had had stronger armor around them, the study suggested. Thousands more who were unprotected have suffered grievous wounds, such as the loss of limbs."

Politics may be politics, but for the Bush admin. to attack Kerry for his votes to end the funding of Cold War military artifacts (votes which Cheney agreed with as Sec. of Defense at the time), while refusing to come clean with the American people regarding the true costs of this war, in terms of both blood and treasure, is simply shameful.

E.J. Dionne goes further, reprising, "Have you no sense of decency, sir?"

"It seems to be a habit. When Bush faces a Vietnam War hero in an election, a Vietnam veteran perfectly happy to trash his opponent always turns up. In the case of Ted Sampley, the same guy who did Bush's dirty work in going after Sen. John McCain in the 2000 Republican primaries is doing the job against Kerry this year. Sampley dared compare McCain, who spent five years as a Vietnam POW, with "the Manchurian Candidate." Now, Sampley says that Kerry "is not truthful and is not worthy of the support of U.S. veterans. . . . To us, he is 'Hanoi John.' " Is that where Sam Johnson got his line?

"One person who is outraged by the attacks on Kerry is McCain. When I reached the Arizona Republican, I found him deeply troubled over the reopening of wounds from the Vietnam era, 'the most divisive time since our Civil War.' He called Sampley 'one of the most despicable characters I've ever met.' McCain said he hoped that in the midst of a war in Iraq, politicians 'will confront the challenges facing us now, including the conflict we're presently engaged in, rather than refighting the one we were engaged in more than 30 years ago.'

"...Now that McCain has spoken, will Bush have the guts to endorse or condemn the attacks on Kerry's service? Or will he just sit by silently, hoping the assaults do their work while he evades responsibility? Once more, Welsh's words call out for an answer: 'Have you no sense of decency, sir?'"

Monday, April 26, 2004

There are apologies, and then there are something else altogether.

As explanation to why he threw his dog to the ground, began kicking it, and then thought it a good idea to shove it in his toolbox, William ("Big Bill the Butthole") Essex said, "What happened was my dog has been a butthole to me." He later added, "I felt so bad because he was my buddy, you know ... he was my dog."

The Kurds are yella?

The Iraqi National Congress is doing all they can to make Paul Bremer and the CPA look, by comparison, like they know what's going on. But I have a suspicion that the CPA, after perusing their long list of "to-dos," said to Chalabi and Pachachi, "Ah, here's something you guys should be able to do. Have a 'new flag contest.'"

Predictable results. There's some debate as to which is more offensive to Iraqis: that it resembles the Israeli flag, or the Swedish?

I need to confirm this, but I think that the flag described in the Washington Post as "the Iraqi flag design as it appeared under Saddam Hussein," actually predated him.


Josh Marshall takes note of a story on the ABC News website that originally claimed that Kerry "lied" about his medals. First, Marshall asks, "Can someone tell me the last time ABC used the 'L' word about President Bush? Or is it always 'exaggeration' when it's President Bush?"

Next, he notices Chris Vlasto's name as producer of the segment. Atrios has more on the curious behavior of Vlasto, a Ken Starr punk, here and here.

The Epistemology of Iraq

Juan Cole has a thoughtful piece in which he ruminates on why, in a recent poll, 57% of Americans still cling to the belief that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were in cahoots.

"Why would so many Americans cling to patently false beliefs? One can only speculate of course. But I would suggest that the two-party system in the US has produced a two-party epistemology. Epistemology is the study of how we know what we know. If it were accepted that Saddam had virtually nothing to do with al-Qaeda, that he had no weapons of mass destruction (nor any significant programs for producing them), and that no evidence for such things has been uncovered after the US and its allies have had a year to comb through Baath documents-- if all that is accepted, then President Bush's credibility would suffer. For his partisans, it is absolutely crucial that the president retain his credibility. Therefore, rather than face reality, they re-jigger it to create a fantasy world in which Saddam and Usamah are buddies (as in the Jimmy Fallon/ Horatio Sanz skits on the American comedy show, Saturday Night Live), and in which David Kay (of whom respondents say they've never heard) never recanted his earlier belief that the WMD was there somewhere."

This is dangerous, he believes, because by clinging to myths, the party in power is incapable of studying, understanding, and perhaps fixing the problems not only with our occupation of Iraq, but the battle against fundamentalist terrorists as well.

Worse, he sees the only people questioning these myths in the Senate are moderate Republicans, a breed with as much a future as white tigers. Democrats, Cole writes, have not crafted an effective critique of the Bush league approach to the "war on terror." This is especially damning since, if 57% of Americans believe this, then that means a not insignificant number of Democratic voters believe the Osama/Saddam connection as well.

Another myth that the neocons are suffering under is the myth that war stimulates the economy. James K. Galbraith, taking the long view, disagrees.

And it gets worse when you consider that as of 2003, foreign central banks now finance nearly 40% of the U.S. current account deficit. That benefits their country's by helping to keep the dollar strong and keeping the prices of the goods we import low. But what if one or more of those countries -- and we're talking primarily Japan and China -- decides to leverage that debt [subscription required]? Alan Greenspan says not to worry, but "'There is surely something odd about the world's greatest power being the world's greatest debtor,' Lawrence Summers, Harvard University president and former U.S. Treasury secretary, said in a recent speech. He calls it 'troubling' that the U.S. depends so much on 'inevitably political' entities to finance its foreign debts."

Sleeper cells

Who knew that Planned Parenthood offices are really recruitment centers for al Qaeda?

Apparently Karen Hughes does.

With Hughes back on the scene, at least we know what the campaign message is going to focus on, each and every day. "You're either with us or agin' us."

The Cult of the RNC


"Up close, what Bush is assembling on the local level looks less like a political campaign than what is known in business as a multilevel marketing scheme. In an MLM, like Mary Kay Cosmetics or Tupperware, each independent entrepreneur who joins the sales force -- a Betty Kitchen, say -- also becomes a recruiter who is responsible for bringing in several new entrepreneurs underneath her. The result is a pyramid-like sales structure that broadens to include more and more recruits with each descending level.

"The notion of translating the MLM concept into politics is visionary -- and also a little disquieting. Pyramid-based companies have proved amazingly successful at raising up armies of enterprising Americans; Amway, the world's most successful MLM, has more than 3.6 million distributors. But some MLM's thrive by imposing their own strange and insular cultures on their recruits, and while they offer the illusion of self-employment, those at the top of the pyramid often demand a rigid kind of uniformity and loyalty. Amway has often been compared to a cult -- so often, in fact, that on its own Web site the company feels the need to answer such frequently asked questions as 'I've heard rumors that Amway is a cult; is this true?' and 'Why do Amway meetings appear to some people like a cult?' When I met with Ken Mehlman, Bush's campaign manager, in suburban Washington, and suggested that the Bush campaign could fairly be compared to Amway in its approach, he agreed without hesitation. 'Amway, no question,' he said."

Then there's the Republican "frontier," wealthy exurbs of big SUVs and much bigger houses; Potemkin villages for the affluent:

"The clusters of new rental town houses going up in Franklin and Delaware counties, still fresh with the scent of painted lumber, have created for Republicans what the colonel, drawing on his military career, likes to call 'a target-rich environment.' Our first stop was a development called Times Square Apartments. As we approached the first set of doors, I mentioned to Ashenhurst that I was heartened to see quaint little stores thriving near the entrance, like Old Stuff Antiques and the Casual Gourmet.

"'Oh, those stores aren't real,' he said with a smile, and when I looked closer, I saw that he was right. They were merely decorative store windows, a few feet deep at most, designed to create for residents the warm aura of a bustling town center. Later, when we drove across the road to 'the Farms,' where Ashenhurst lives, I was surprised to find that the horses peering out over white picket fences were in fact not horses at all, but rusted re-creations. There was an inescapable political undertone to this new town-house culture. The developers had designed communities of white nostalgia -- theme parks for the conservative middle class."

Magic Numbers

Yeah, it was a bad weekend in the Bronx and the mightiest lineup in baseball is looking truly awful -- even Jeter's getting booed at The Stadium. But this is ridiculous. "After everything that happened over the winter, and everything that happened last October, and everything that's happened between these teams since 1920, it would be hard to script a better 10 days for the Red Sox. Citizens of Red Sox Nation -- and many were here over the weekend -- already are calculating the Sox' magic number and planning Yankee Elimination Day parties [my italics]."

Good. Remember when they painted the World Series logo on the Fenway field before play had commenced in Game Seven of the American League Champtionship Series?

Alex Belth has a post that I think pretty effectively describes the whole insanity that is a Red Sox/Yankees regular season game (and ironically enough, the Comments section does a neat job of underscoring Alex's point).

I have to say, though, I can remember going to Red Sox/Yankees at the stadium in the late 1980s (when the Yankees did, in fact, "suck"). The violence was far more predictable than it is nowadays and I don't think it's because the security has improved. But over the weekend I noticed an uptick -- the announcers were mentioning "disturbances in the upper deck" a lot more than I recall recently. I think that's because in both the late '80s and this weekend, the futility of the Yankees' game makes Yankee fans at The Stadium a lot less benign and understanding when they hear the Sox fans chanting.

Update at 5:03 PM: Shockingly, there are some in the sports press who aren't buying the Greatest Rivalry in Sports hype. Jim Caple even suggests that there might have even been other professional baseball games played west of the Hudson River over the weekend.

Friday, April 23, 2004


"Dr. Satoru Saito, a psychiatrist who examined the three former hostages twice since their return, said the stress they were enduring now was 'much heavier' than what they experienced during their captivity in Iraq. Asked to name their three most stressful moments, the former hostages told him, in ascending order: the moment when they were kidnapped on their way to Baghdad, the knife-wielding incident, and the moment they watched a television show the morning after their return here and realized Japan's anger with them.

"'Let's say the knife incident, which lasted about 10 minutes, ranks 10 on a stress level,' Dr. Saito said in an interview at his clinic on Thursday. 'After they came back to Japan and saw the morning news show, their stress level ranked 12.'

"To the angry Japanese, the first three hostages — Nahoko Takato, 34, who started a nonprofit organization to help Iraqi street children; Soichiro Koriyama, 32, a freelance photographer; and Noriaki Imai, 18, a freelance writer interested in the issue of depleted uranium munitions — had acted selfishly. Two others kidnapped and released in a separate incident — Junpei Yasuda, 30, a freelance journalist, and Nobutaka Watanabe, 36, a member of an anti-war group — were equally guilty."

Apparently, they violated "okami," or, "what is higher." In other words, put their individual aspirations ahead of the society at large. And the cost and trouble the Japanese government paid to get them out was unforgivable.

A plan

Josh Marshall writing in the NYTimes this morning.

"The danger for President Bush is clear: the public's patience is not unlimited, and eventual failure in Iraq will almost certainly sink his candidacy. (Sometimes the conventional wisdom is actually right.)

"For John Kerry, the risks are less obvious but no less real: running a campaign that focuses the voters' gaze solely on the president's manifest failures will probably run into resistance, especially with the voters he most needs to win over, those from the ambivalent middle. Mr. Kerry is far more likely to win if he has a plan to show how he — and thus the American people — can succeed rather than simply showing how President Bush — and thus they — have failed."

On a side note, Marshall is described in the Times as "a contributing writer at The Washington Monthly and a columnist for The Hill, a newspaper about Congress." Blogs get no respect in the pages of the Gray Lady.

More on those poll numbers.

Speaking of plans, according to John McCain, the current administration has none.

And then, of course, there's that little problem called the definition of sovereignty.

"The Bush administration's plans for a new caretaker government in Iraq would place severe limits on its sovereignty, including only partial command over its armed forces and no authority to enact new laws, administration officials said Thursday."

Pat Tillman killed in Afghanistan

A genuine hero dies in the real war against terrorism.

William Butler Yeats, in his poem that so effectively describes our times, wrote that "the best lack all convictions, while the worst are full of passionate intensity." That wasn't true of Pat Tillman, who along with his brother, walked away from a lucrative professional sports contract to join the Rangers in the battle against the perpetrators of the attacks of Sept. 11.

Open Mike Night on The Hill

Who knew that our honorable lawmakers have the congressional equivalent of "Open Mike Night?" You know, where comedy clubs give amateur comedians 15 minutes to hone their craft.

Turns out congress has the same thing, and a number of Republican congressmen used their 15 minutes of fame to express their fear and horror now that Kerry has tricked them into demanding he release his service records.

I don't know how all of this will turn out, frankly. On good days, I feel certain that the GOP's constant harping on Kerry's views of the war 35 years ago will only serve to remind us of what Dear Leader was doing in those halcyon days.

But on less good days, I fear that this constant "whispering campaign," associating Kerry with Jane Fonda, casting doubts on the severity of the wounds he received in Vietnam, and attacking his postwar statements will have the desired effect and weaken Kerry's obviously superior record. Their tactics worked, after all, against McCain and Max Cleland.

I mean, after all, more than half the country still thinks that there was an Iraq/al Qaeda connection, as the Center for American Progress notes:

"AMERICANS STILL MISLED: The effect of the administration's misleading and, at times, downright false assertions in the leadup to war in Iraq is still reverberating. According to a new PIPA/Knowledge Networks poll, 'a majority of Americans (57%) continue to believe that before the war Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda, including 20% who believe that Iraq was directly involved in the September 11 attacks. Forty-five percent believe that evidence that Iraq was supporting al Qaeda has been found. Sixty percent believe that just before the war Iraq either had weapons of mass destruction (38%) or a major program for developing them (22%).'"

Our only hope is that these types of polls simply show that people who don't have Caller ID are stoopid.

Photographing the fallen

Josh Marshall writes about the woman working for Maytag Aircraft who photographed the flag draped coffins of fallen U.S. soldiers being loaded on a cargo plane in Iraq. Her intent was to show the care and respect she and her team showed the dead. The photograph, sent to a friend, made it to the Seattle Times, was published. The woman -- and her husband who also works for Maytag -- were fired.

Adding insult to injury, today it's announced that the web site had won their freedom of information lawsuit against the Pentagon and over 300 photographs of flag draped coffins of fallen U.S. soldiers were released.

"Executives at news organizations, many of whom have protested the policy, said last night that they had not known that the Defense Department itself was taking photographs of the coffins arriving home, a fact that came to light only when Russ Kick, the operator of The Memory Hole, filed his request.

"'We were not aware at all that these photos were being taken,' said Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times.

"John Banner, the executive producer of ABC's 'World News Tonight,' said, 'We did not file a F.O.I.A. request ourselves, because this was the first we had known that the military was shooting these pictures.'"

The mainstream press didn't think to ask. Kind of sums up a lot about coverage of this war's causes and effects.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Hammerin' Hank

Jay Jaffe, the Futility Infielder, gives us a nice reminder of what an incredible feat Hank Aaron pulled off in his march to the record of 755 HRs that he set 30 years ago. He writes that he hopes Barry Bonds falls short of the mark, not because Bonds is insufferable or because he's so juiced it looks like his head's going to pop off, but because of the enormous obstacles Aaron had to overcome in his career. I didn't realize, for instance, that Aaron was the last Negro League player to join the major leagues. From the Indianapolis Clowns, no less.

On a personal note, as Aaron closed in on the record I became aware, probably for the first time in my sheltered life, of the pervasiveness of racism in this country (and in baseball -- one of the reasons the Yankees and the Red Sox went into decline in the 1960s was their foot dragging on integration) and the threat of violence that always seems to be waiting just below the surface of daily life. Much has been made of Maris' 61 in 1961 and how so many people thought his breaking Ruth's record was a betrayal of some kind. Aaron had to suffer through that, but also racist jeers and death threats as well. At least they didn't put an asterisk next to his total.


The Bush campaign is apparently resurrecting Nixon's Committee to Re-elect the President, known in 1972 by it's wonderfully apt acronym, CREEP. These days, Chuck Colson's hoping to capitalize on Bush's faith-based initiatives, G. Gordon Liddy is cleaning a weapon somewhere, Donald Sagretti -- I don't know where he is, but if 50 unwanted pizzas get delivered to Kerry headquarters, we'll know who called for them. And then there's this guy.

More on Kerry's, Bush's military records

Phil Carter looks at both men's records and explains why they matter.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

How Bush and Kerry spent the late '60s and early '70s

Passing the FoxNews studios this morning, the news scrawler outside the building said "Kerry reported to have killed 20 VC or NVAs. Highest recommendations according to released naval records." Nothing about that here, though.

Kos provides a public service by giving us a side-by-side comparison of how Bush and Kerry spent the years after leaving Yale.

Here's the documents on Kerry's web site. Warning: reading them makes you feel like a slacker.

Spoils of war

"Intense combat in Iraq is chewing up military hardware and consuming money at an unexpectedly rapid rate -- depleting military coffers, straining defense contractors and putting pressure on Bush administration officials to seek a major boost in war funding long before they had hoped."

But it appears the Bush administration has no plans to go to Congress for a supplement to the budget for the fiscal year that began last least not until January of 2005 -- well after the November elections.

"Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.), vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, charged that the president is playing political games by postponing further funding requests until after the election, to try to avoid reopening debate on the war's cost and future.

"Weldon described the administration's current defense budget request as 'outrageous' and 'immoral' and said that at least $10 billion is needed for Iraqi operations over the next five months.

"'There needs to be a supplemental, whether it's a presidential election year or not,' he said. 'The support of our troops has to be the number one priority of this country. . . . Somebody's got to get serious about this.'"

Yes, it's an election year. But this latest bit of stubbornness is certainly par for the Bush course in Iraq. Despite unexpected levels of violence, don't change plans. Changing plans, asking (directly) for more money, would only further underscore the mismanagement of this whole operation.

Here's a suggestion: clamp down on the CPA and rein in the graft, corruption, and crony capitalism that is now rife in Iraq. Marketplace has an excellent report.

Of course, this is an administration well-versed in the healthy benefits of greasing a palm or two.

Thinking too much

Whew. What a relief.

"Superstars don't think like everyone else," Fannin said. "The average person has 2,000 to 3,000 thoughts a day, and 60 percent of the average person's thoughts are in chaos. The superstar has 1,100 to 1,300 thoughts a day. They eliminate worry, envy, jealousy, embarrassment and anger. The superstar thinks a lot less and holds a thought longer."

But wasn't 0 for 16 on Rodriguez's mind?

"No, it's on your mind, it's on everybody else's mind," Fannin said. "It's not on his mind."

Wasn't he worried?

"You can only worry when your thoughts are anchored in the past, which causes you to imagine the future. Alex is fine, period."

"Come back, Shane!"

What was it Jon Stewart said the other night? "'The Coalition of the Willing' is becoming the 'The Duet of the Stubborn.'"

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Cleaner hot air

David Brooks. Ah, David Brooks. He works hard to sound like a meaningful moderate. A receptacle of reason. A font of fortitude.

When in reality he's a fulsome fool [ed. So foolish that he gets paid to spout off in the pages of the Times, while you, Snidely Whiplash, write dyspeptic diatribes in between dehumanizing tasks in a corporate office. So, who's the fool?]

But today Brooks has truly jumped the shark. Saying, basically, "Can't we all just get along" in the debate over environmental policy, he writes,

"The first thing to be said is that air pollution trends are unchanged under President Bush. For the past three decades, the quality of our air has steadily improved. Air pollution from the six major pollutants has decreased by 48 percent over that time, even though our economy has grown by 164 percent. If you look at the charts showing that decline, you can't tell when the Clinton era ended and the Bush era began."

Hmmm, for the past three decades, air quality has improved, but he can't see any change over the past three years. Um, David, that's because Bush has not yet succeeded in dismantling all of the provisions of the Clean Air Act, but he keeps trying. Give us four more years of Bush's compassionate conservatism and I suspect we'll see some changes in air quality.

He goes on,

"The Bush administration's biggest air pollution failure has been its inability to restart the global warming debate. There is ample evidence that we have a long-term global warming problem, and the sooner we address it the better. The old approach, the Kyoto treaty, was never going to be ratified by the Senate. But the administration could have moved aggressively to find another way forward. Instead it proposed a pitiable voluntary program, which has had no effect."

Woah, Nelly. Perhaps the reason the administration has failed to "restart" the global warming debate is because the administration has denied that humans are the cause of any such thing.

"The administration's biggest success has been its regulation of diesel fuels. In the face of fierce industry hostility, the Bush crowd decided that the benefits of diesel regulation far outweighed the costs. The Bush initiatives were applauded by even its most ardent critics. An official from the Natural Resources Defense Council called the diesel emissions regulations 'the most significant public health proposal in decades.'"

Ouch, I snorted coffee up my nose when I read that corker. As Kevin Drum recently rebutted another weak-minded attempt to throw sand in our eyes to defend the Bush administration's environmental record, those were Clinton-era regulations. All Bush did was to not act to rescind those regulations.

"This is yet another issue around which it would be easy to build a sensible majority if things were judged on their merits. Instead, we've got paralysis."

Oh, I get it. Bush would be cleaning our air and water, improving our gas mileage, and protecting all God's creatures if it weren't for a few obstructionist Senators who don't want him to accomplish anything that would burnish his already sterling environmental credentials.

This beggars belief. Where oh where has my New York Times gone? Safire may be a loon, but at least he's not a "Liar for Bush." (Shaking fist and looking heaven-ward) "Damn you, Bill Keller!"

Moreover, Easterbrook's and Brook's arguments are so similar as to feel...oh, I'm just getting paranoid. But I definitely sense talking points getting drafted by the RNC to make Bush look like he's the greenest Republican since Teddy Roosevelt.

The Bill of Rights and "Enemy Combatants"

David Cole, a constitutional scholar at Georgetown Univ., writes today in the Times about the case going before the Supreme Court. Specifically, do the "enemy combatants" locked up on Guantanamo Bay have the right to due process as do U.S. citizens and, according to the Geneva Convention, prisoners of war?

Yes, writes Cole.

"These suggestions that noncitizens have less right to be free than citizens are ill advised. Some provisions of the Constitution do explicitly limit their protections to United States citizens -- the right to vote and the right to run for Congress or president, for example. The Bill of Rights, however, does not distinguish between citizens and noncitizens. It extends its protections in universal language, to 'persons,' 'people' or 'the accused.' The framers considered these rights to be God-given natural rights, and God didn't give them only to persons holding American passports."

Cole has two points. First, that someone locked up under American authority has the right to due process, although the process may differ depending on the circumstances of the detention. Second and most chilling, that curtailing the rights of non-citizens have a long history of being extended to citizens. In fact, we're already seeing that in the Padilla case.

I think there's another important point to be made, and it's the reason that a number of retired military figures have been some of the biggest critics of the endless detention on Guantanamo. We are undermining the credibility, not only of the U.S., but of the Geneva Convention itself. That didn't bother Rumsfeld, Cheney, Olsen, et al, back in 2001/2. But today, with military convoys under attack in Iraq, where U.S. personnel -- both in uniform and out -- are being held captive, our nation's cavalier disregard for accepted conventions when it comes to prisoners of war may very well come back to haunt us.

Plausible deniability

I'd have to agree with Josh Marshall, Scott McClellan's failure to simply deny Woodward's claim that Bandar had told Bush that he would manipulate oil prices with an eye towards the November elections is dumbfounding.

If Bush can't deny the contents of a private conversation with a buddy (Bandar) whom Bush knows won't spill, than what can he deny? Certainly a new commitment to Truth can't be the reason. Moreover, the questions posed to McClellan were softballs (despite the obvious contempt the WH press corps clear feels towards McClellan and his Master). At one point, the question to McClellan is "So you have no knowledge of such a commitment [to manipulate oil prices to aid Bush]?" And McClellan won't respond to the question. That's very strange. I wouldn't expect McClellan to have any such knowledge. So why not say, "Yes, I have no such knowledge." But he won't.

There's more to come on this, I think.

Kerry on "Meet the Press"

Throughout the blogosphere there's been surprisingly little comment on Kerry's performance on "Press the Meat" on Sunday. I'm not sure why, there's certainly plenty in some of Russert's line of questioning to criticize, and although I didn't see it, Madam Cura did and says Kerry did pretty well. And based on the transcript, I'd have to agree; Kerry was certainly more coherent than was the Miserable Failure when Bush last appeared on the show. Here's a fairly characteristic exchange:

MR. RUSSERT: But the Republicans, Vice President Cheney included, have pointed out to a comment that you made during a Democratic debate which they think undercuts your support of the war on terrorism. "The war on terror is...occasionally military. ... But it's primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation that requires cooperation around the world."


MR. RUSSERT: You do not believe the war on terror is primarily a military operation, not a law


MR. RUSSERT: You don't.

SEN. KERRY: ...not primarily.

MR. RUSSERT: You don't.

SEN. KERRY: Not primarily.

MR. RUSSERT: You do not.

SEN. KERRY: Not primarily. Tim, Iraq had nothing to do with al-Qaeda. America really needs to stop and focus on the truth again. This administration--and we now know it from Bob Woodward's book. I mean, you can go through the series of events in August when the president was at the ranch taking the longest vacation in presidential history. During that time, the president was talking about Iraq more than he was talking about al-Qaeda. Andy Card came back and made an announcement that they didn't introduce a new product in August because that's not what you do in August. They introduced it in September. They came back and started down the Iraq road. They kept looking for a connection. George Tenet kept saying no connection. The intelligence people said no connection.

MR. RUSSERT: This is the war on terror, Senator.

SEN. KERRY: But let me just finish.

MR. RUSSERT: The war on terror is a law enforcement, not military...

SEN. KERRY: No. I said "primarily." And here's why. If you don't know--if you're going to fight an intelligent war on terror, you don't want to fight it here in America. You do want to fight it abroad. You want to fight it where the cells are originating. And in order to know who they are, where they are, what they're planning and be able to go get them before they get us, you need the best intelligence, best law enforcement cooperation in the world. Now, I've always said once you know where they are, will you use the Delta Force or SEALs or Rangers or Special Forces of some kind? Absolutely. And I will not hesitate to use those forces effectively.

In fact, this administration--I was the one who pointed out they failed to use our forces effectively in Afghanistan. We had Osama bin Laden cornered in the mountains of Tora Bora. Rather than deploy the 10th Mountain Division or the 101st Airborne or the Marines, rather than use the best military in the world to go kill the world's number-one terrorist, what did we do? This administration held them back. They sent the Afghans up into the mountains who a week earlier had been on the other side, and they let him escape.

I think that I can fight a far more effective war on terror. I will build alliances and ooperation. I will make America safer. But I will use our military when necessary, but it is not primarily a military operation. It's an intelligence gathering, law enforcement, public diplomacy effort, and we're putting far more money into the war on the battlefield than we are into the war of ideas. We need to get it straight.

I would have to say -- in my uniquely non-partisan way -- that Kerry got the better of the exchange. As he did here:

But you know what's interesting, Tim--I wish I had the power to press this button and put up on the screen what you said, because back in 1997, on November 9, you sat with Bill Clinton, and what you said to Bill Clinton is--you said, "Mr. President, by the year 2001 Medicare is going to be bankrupt and you're going to have to raise the retirement age. You're going to have to raise the premiums and you're going to have to cut the benefits." That's what you said. Guess what, Tim? He didn't do it. We didn't do it. And we made Medicare whole until the year 2029. We made Social Security whole until 2037.

And Russert missed a beat shortly thereafter when Kerry, after saying he now rejects means testing for Social Security later in the interview suggests that guys like himself and Russert, who probably won't need Social Security, shouldn't receive it. Sounds like means testing to me, but Russert didn't follow up.

All in all, I'd say a pretty good performance. Kerry clearly was prepared and he did a good job at learning the lessons of How to Beat Tim Russert.

But don't take my word for it. If Kerry had stumbled, looked weak or flip-floppery, we sure would have heard about it from Howie Kurtz or Mickey Maus. The latter, in fact, accuses Kerry of "dissembling" regarding releasing his military records, then gets "paranoid," thinking it's a clever strategic move.

Monday, April 19, 2004

US v Reynolds

The LATimes reports on the story behind the seminal case that gives the government absolute privilege to withhold information from litigants or defendants by invoking national security. The case puts judges in the position of having to rule blindly -- they can't rule on the facts of a case because the government says "the facts" are classified.

What was meant as a shield to protect national security, plaintiffs' lawyers started complaining, now was being used as a sword to kill litigation. At the least, one law professor observed, the interests of the administration in power sometimes seemed to get confused with the interests of the nation.

The use of Reynolds started slowly but grew: The government invoked the state secrets privilege only five times between 1953 and 1970, then 50 times between 1970 and 1994. The current Bush administration has formally invoked it at least three times.

The scope of what constitutes a state secret has also expanded, from military technology to all sorts of domestic intelligence operations. Even unclassified information has become subject to national security claims. Government lawyers argue that judges can't see the whole picture, can't tell when separate pieces of seemingly innocuous information might be gathered into a revealing "mosaic."

Over the years, the types of information protected by the state secrets privilege have included: alleged collusion between defense contractors; alleged malfeasance and incompetence by contractors; alleged civil rights violations by the FBI and CIA; the purchase, insurance and inspection records of a government mail truck involved in an accident; and an FBI file on a sixth-grade boy who received a large amount of mail from foreign countries because he was writing an encyclopedia of the world as a school project.

In 1975, a group of Vietnam War protesters claimed the FBI and CIA conducted intelligence operations against them, but they had to drop the lawsuit after a district court upheld the government's state secrets claim. In 1990, families of 37 crew members killed when Iraqi missiles struck the frigate Stark sued contractors responsible for the ship's antimissile system, but the United States again successfully invoked the state secrets privilege. In 2000, a similar claim of privilege stopped a gender discrimination lawsuit filed by a CIA employee. In early 2003, yet another claim killed a suit filed by a senior engineer who'd maintained that a defense contractor had submitted false test results on an antimissile vehicle.

Although these types of claims have multiplied, such direct invocations of the state secrets privilege are by no means the broadest legacy of Reynolds. Far more often, Reynolds is simply cited or referred to in courtroom arguments and legal briefs, producing what George Washington University law professor Peter Raven-Hansen calls an "atmospheric effect." By waving the Reynolds flag in the background, government lawyers have learned they can often gain a degree of judicial deference, especially since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Such deference allowed them to confine the "enemy combatants" Yaser Esam Hamdi and Jose Padilla for months without access to lawyers. It encouraged them to keep accused terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui from contacting other accused terrorists. And it permitted them to hold hundreds of detainees without charges or judicial review at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The Bush administration invokes it so often, it's become a rote response. Most insanely, Ashcroft has used "Reynolds" to classify whistleblowers' testimony regarding FBI failures prior to 9-11.

In fact, in the original case, there was nothing secret to hide, only negligence on the part of the Air Force.

It took years, but the daughter of one of the victims of the 1953 B-29 crash that led to "Reynolds" finally got a hand on the accident report that the government had told the Supreme Court was secret fifty years ago. Last year, she and others who'd lost fathers in the crash appealed the case to today's Court, armed with the fact that the government had lied to their predecessors. In a one word statement, the Court denied their petition.

The emperor's new cowboy boots

Is the preznit wearing any clothes? Sadly, no! A must read.

A new tactic in Iraq

Well, we've tried just about everything in Iraq. This new plan is either Bush's plan to convey Ironic Detachment over what's going on over there, or he really does think that what the world needs now is more death squads:


"'John Negroponte is a man of enormous experience and skill' and 'has done a really good job of speaking for the United States to the world about our intentions to spread freedom and peace,' said Bush."

It just gets better and better.

[Update: Honduras is pulling out of Iraq. Coincidence?]

The NYT or the RNC?

Paul Waldman, over at The Gadflyer, concedes it's early, but senses that the New York Times chief reporter covering the Kerry campaign is throwing flak for Bush...just as her predecessor covering the Gore campaign did.

I read the story and felt the same way. In Russert's hour long interview with Kerry, Jodi Wilgoren decides not to focus on anything policy-related, or Kerry's plans for the future. Instead she focuses on Kerry's words from 33 years ago (words that Kerry is probably right to distance himself from now, but, as Billmon points out, weren't all that innacurate).

The part of the piece that made me yell at my newspaper was the end of the piece in which Wilgoren obsesses on Kerry's appearance:

"The most awkward moment came after the Vietnam-era videotape, Mr. Kerry's 'Meet the Press' debut, with the candidate watching his younger self use grave and graphic words to describe the Vietnam War.

"'Where did all the dark hair go, Tim?' Mr. Kerry tried, wearing an odd grin [my italics]. 'That's a big question for me.'"

What was odd about the grin? Did it look, dare I say it, French? We'll never know, but I suspect it's another case of reporters drinking the RNC spin that Kerry is an elite who isn't comfortable "relating to people." So when Kerry tells a joke, it's "strained," and his smiles are "odd." Meanwhile, Bush's smirk is a sign to campaign reporters that the American public like him, that he'd be a good guy to invite to the B-B-Q (never mind the fact that Bush would likely pour lighter fluid all over the burning burgers).

I didn't see the interview, but that seemed like a pretty good way to difuse a tense moment. But, then again, I'm not a political reporter for the New York Times.

And speaking of flak, Douglas Brinkley defends Kerry against the charge that his Purple Hearts were underserved.

The common line of attack against Kerry throughout the next (gawd) seven months will be to focus on Kerry's anti-war stance while undercutting his bravery during the war. This they think will deflect focus on George Bush's valiant defence of Texas while failing to go in for a physical to continue his flight training (was he practicing too much on making straight white lines on mirrors that summer?).

Kill Bill kills

A low boil

Last night's interview with Bob Woodward on "60 Minutes" induced more "Wows" from me than did the Richard Clarke interview. And that's saying a lot.

“And there's this low boil on Iraq until the day before Thanksgiving, Nov. 21, 2001. This is 72 days after 9/11. This is part of this secret history. President Bush, after a National Security Council meeting, takes Don Rumsfeld aside, collars him physically, and takes him into a little cubbyhole room and closes the door and says, ‘What have you got in terms of plans for Iraq? What is the status of the war plan? I want you to get on it. I want you to keep it secret.’"

Woodward says immediately after that, Rumsfeld told Gen. Tommy Franks to develop a war plan to invade Iraq and remove Saddam - and that Rumsfeld gave Franks a blank check.

”Rumsfeld and Franks work out a deal essentially where Franks can spend any money he needs. And so he starts building runways and pipelines and doing all the preparations in Kuwait, specifically to make war possible,” says Woodward.

“Gets to a point where in July, the end of July 2002, they need $700 million, a large amount of money for all these tasks. And the president approves it. But Congress doesn't know and it is done. They get the money from a supplemental appropriation for the Afghan War, which Congress has approved. …Some people are gonna look at a document called the Constitution which says that no money will be drawn from the Treasury unless appropriated by Congress. Congress was totally in the dark on this."

How long do we have to take this?

Atrios is right, where was the outrage at Ashcroft's behavior before the 9-11 commission, specifically his sudden declassification of Jamie Gorelick's memo regarding "the wall" between intelligence agencies.

Here's Gorelick's response, showing that she didn't build the wall, Reagan appointees did. Moreover, here memo was actually intended to "lower the wall" for the investigation of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. In fact, Ashcroft's DoJ reaffirmed the need for strict interpretation of the statute.

"Fourth, the memo I wrote in March 1995 -- which concerns information-sharing in two particular cases, including the original World Trade Center bombing -- permits freer coordination between intelligence and criminal investigators than was subsequently permitted by the 1995 guidelines or the 2001 Thompson memo. The purpose of my memo was to resolve a problem presented to me: facilitating investigations on both the intelligence side and criminal side at the same time. My memo directed agents on both sides to share information -- and, in particular, directed one agent to work on both the criminal and intelligence investigations -- to ensure the flow of information 'over the wall.' We set up special procedures because of the extraordinary circumstances and the necessity to prevent a court from throwing out any conviction in those cases. Had my memo been in place in August 2001 -- when, as Ashcroft said, FBI officials rejected a criminal warrant of Moussaoui because they feared 'breaching the wall' -- it would have allowed those agents to obtain a criminal warrant without fear of jeopardizing an intelligence investigation."

Isn't it time that the mainstream press start scrutinizing the Bush administration's reluctance to share information necessary for a free and informed public, such as Cheney's dialogs with energy executives, while at the same time whimsically declassifying information intended to smear -- or endanger -- their enemies?

Ashcroft's decision to try to save his ass by diverting attention to a nine-year old memo led to the usual bloviating by the right, particularly the big fat drug addict. It has also led to death threats against Gorelick.

Taxing the Treasury

Slate's Timonthy Noah looks at why the Treasury Dept., so quick to partisanly analyze candidate Kerry's tax plan (look especially at their new practice of inserting campaign slogans into department press releases), hasn't performed a similar "public service" on his proposal to eliminate the tax advantage for corporations that outsource jobs.

Why such rare restraint from Bush administration political appointees? Because Kerry's plan makes sense and is both politically and fiscally smart. Writes Noah:

"The most attractive aspect of Kerry's plan is that it harnesses some crowd-pleasing protectionist rhetoric that Kerry has indulged in—initially to counter Howard Dean—to an unexpectedly reasonable reform. "From cars to computer software to call centers, millions of Americans have seen their jobs shipped overseas," Kerry likes to say. But Kerry doesn't propose that tariffs be hiked, import quotas be imposed, or anything like that. He simply says that the government should stop giving corporations an incentive to ship jobs overseas. Rather than tamper with market imperatives, he wants to restore them.

"When an American company shifts production or services overseas, it's mainly so it can pay its workers less. But the company also, gallingly, pays lower taxes. There are two reasons for this:

"1) Foreign corporate income is not subject to the United States corporate income tax until the money is brought back into the United States. If the tax-deferred income is "repatriated," the company may reduce its domestic tax bill by whatever amount it has already paid in taxes overseas.

"2) The foreign tax is almost never as high as the domestic tax. On average, it's one-third as large. These are countries, after all, that are desperate for American jobs. Since it's fairly easy for American corporations to set up their bookkeeping in a way that keeps foreign profits abroad—at least on paper—the practical result is that, in outsourcing jobs to another country, the company enjoys a substantial tax cut.

"Everybody agrees that this makes no sense."

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Twilight of the Liberal Hawks

I feel much the same as Matt Yglesias these days. Commenting on David Brooks, "I was right, but I was wrong," column this morning, he writes,

"In the interests of full candor, let it be said that I did something very similar. The difference here being that, as I will now admit, I was wrong. Neither the policies being advocated by Bush nor the policies being advocated by the anti-war movement (even at its most mainstream) were the correct ones. What I wanted to see happen wasn't going to happen. I had to throw in with one side or another. I threw in with the wrong side. The bad consequences of the bad policy I got behind are significantly worse than the consequences of the bad policy advocated by the other side would have been. I blame, frankly, vanity. "Bush is right to say we should invade Iraq, but he's going about it the wrong way, here is my nuanced wonderfullness" sounds much more intelligent than some kind of chant at an anti-war rally. In fact, however, it was less intelligent. I got off the bandwagon right before the shooting started, but by then it was far too late -- this was more a case of CYA than a case of efficacious political dissent.

"Now I am not an important person, and at the time I was even less important. Nevertheless, the block of opinion of which I was a part included some very influential people. In the aggregate, we were never a very large block of public opinion. We were, however, the all-important swing group. Some of us (represented in the blogosphere by me, Kevin, Josh, etc.) swung too late. Some of us never swung at all. If we had swung earlier (not just the bloggers and the journalists and hawkish Clinton administration veterans, but also the regular folks who had similar opinions) there probably would have been no war. We should have swung earlier."

Atrios says, "Precisely."

John Kerry's war

Steve Hayes, who served four years in the Navy and knew Kerry in Vietnam, puts Kerry's service in context in today's WaPost.

Meanwhile, Kerry is mad as hell and he isn't going to take it any longer.

Friday, April 16, 2004

A truce

I didn't think the bin Laden truce story was worth commenting on yesterday either, but then I learn, thanks to O'Franken, that we're again talking about cutting back our troop strength in Afghanistan and wonder, have we accepted the truce the Europeans rejected?

I exaggerate, but what is Gen. Meyers talking about?

"'We will see how events unfold. I think generally most of the country is pretty secure as a matter of fact,' he added."


"Violence in many parts of Afghanistan and huge logistical challenges forced President Hamid Karzai to postpone elections from June to September."

Everything I've read is that Hamid Karzai is effectively the Mayor of Baghdad, very few parts of the country are "secure," poppy-growing and heroin manufacture is at an all time high, and there's no sign of the really tall guy with the dialysis machine.

Liberators versus Conquerers

Kos links to a very angry "veteran defense policy analyst" who is disquieted by Gen. Abizaid's recent tone of voice (and the venue in which he's giving interviews).

I have been struck by the number of former U.S. military offices whose "hair is on fire" these days regarding the pre-planning and current conduct of the war in Iraq. Even Rumsfeld seems mystified.

"The troop extension affects many U.S. soldiers who have already been in Iraq for a year. Rumsfeld yesterday admitted the recent wave of U.S. casualties was unexpected, saying, 'I certainly would not have estimated that we would have had the number of individuals lost that we have had lost in the last week.'"

Calling Dr. Rice. Calling Dr. Rice.

Thank goodness Eschaton has figured out what role Condi Rice plays in the Bushworld.

Nothing is sacred

I had intended on posting to Dorothy Rabinowitz's op-ed in the Journal yesterday, bus was left speechless by the venom she directed at women who'd lost their husbands in the World Trade Center.

Even Kurtz is shocked -- but it's just another example that when the Right Wingnuts are cornered, they will lash out at anyone, anything.

The tragedy of Colin L. Powell

"Woodward describes a relationship between Cheney and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell -- never close despite years of working together -- that became so strained that Cheney and Powell are barely on speaking terms. Cheney engaged in a bitter and eventually winning struggle over Iraq with Powell, an opponent of war who believed Cheney was obsessed with trying to establish a connection between Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network and treated ambiguous intelligence as fact.

"Powell felt Cheney and his allies -- his chief aide, Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz and undersecretary of defense for policy Douglas Feith and what Powell called Feith's 'Gestapo' office -- had established what amounted to a separate government. The vice president, for his part, believed Powell was mainly concerned with his own popularity and told friends at a private dinner he hosted a year ago to celebrate the outcome of the war that Powell was a problem and 'always had major reservations about what we were trying to do.

"Before the war with Iraq, Powell bluntly told Bush that if he sent U.S. troops there 'you're going to be owning this place.' Powell and his deputy and closest friend, Richard L. Armitage, used to refer to what they called 'the Pottery Barn rule' on Iraq -- 'you break it, you own it,' according to Woodward.

"But, when asked personally by the president, Powell agreed to present the U.S. case against Hussein at the United Nations in February, 2003 -- a presentation described by White House communications director Dan Bartlett as 'the Powell buy-in.' Bush wanted someone with Powell's credibility to present the evidence that Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction -- a case the president had initially found less than convincing when presented to him by CIA deputy director John McLaughlin at a White House meeting on December 21, 2002."

The Passion of the Bride

Kill Bill Vol. 2 opens.

And Uma's joining forces with Howard Stern to register voters.

And so it begins

Game 8 of the 2003 ALCS begins tonight.

Not really, but game one of the 19 times the Sox and Yankees will meet this year is tonight. I know, I know, this is the most over-hyped rivalry in all of sports, but these meetings are always tense, intense, emotional deals. And unlike other rivalries, which are mainly press-fed, this one even the players recognize.

And these games really do matter. The Sox and the Yankees are the two best teams in the AL and are so evenly matched (and we can't expect the Sox's August swoon anymore), that they are likely to end up within a few games of each other in the standing.

Spring, and the baseball season, officially begin tonight.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Right of Florida

I'm still trying to study the pros and cons of Bush's decision to back Sharon's plan to withdraw from Gaza while retaining the larger settlements. And I generally stay away from what Billmon calls the "Death Valley of progressive politics." Billmon is on a roll these days, but I'm not sure I share his view on how this will make us more vulnerable to terrorism, I still believe that Hamas et al, will continue to direct their horrendous acts at Israelis, not the US because the nature of their grievance is different from Islamic fundamentalists (but surely Billmon is right if he means that it will just give said fundamentalists yet another talking point to stoke their deluded anger).

I just don't know enough to take a firm stand with confidence [ed., since when has your scarcity of knowledge stopped you?]

But when I see Ariel Sharon wearing a shit-eating grin when he appears with Bush before reporters, I realize he's gotten everything he wanted. More, probably, than he expected. And that makes me very nervous.

And why, oh why, now? I suspect Sharon has outfoxed Bush and Rove, forcing their hand to make a stand to impress the Christian Right, and force Kerry to swerve hard to the right to try to protect his flank with the "Jewish vote" (whatever that is, they seem pretty well dispersed to a wide variety of classes and political leanings).

In the midst of the worst month of fighting so far in Iraq (April is the cruelest month), why break with years of official US policy opposing the settlements and making the right of return a subject for negotiation between the two parties? Clearly Bush is right in saying that "facts on the ground" make these realities, but symbols matter and this doesn't seem the right time to take this unilateral (or duolateral) course.

And since when has "facts on the ground" driven Bush's decisions?

Planting the seeds of our own destruction

"'It is not clear whether the removal of these items has been the result of looting activities in the aftermath of the recent war in Iraq or as part of systematic efforts to rehabilitate some of their locations,' ElBaradei wrote to the council.

"The IAEA has been unable to investigate, monitor or protect Iraqi nuclear materials since the U.S. invaded the country in March 2003. The United States has refused to allow the IAEA or other U.N. weapons inspectors into the country, claiming that the coalition has taken over responsibility for illict weapons searches."

My god, it has been a year since Col. Flightsuit announced "Mission Accomplished." In that time they haven't been able to secure Iraq's nuclear sites?

Perhaps the suitcase dirty bomb is already packed and the story is related to this one.

The "Eastern White House"

In my previous post, I refer to Bush's ranch as the "Western White House." But, given the time Bush spends there, shouldn't "his" little bungalow on Pennsylvania Avenue be called the "Eastern White House."

Fred Kaplan has required reading on our Glorious Leader's "Endless Summer."

Larry Johnson, a former CIA officer and the State Department's counterterrorism chief from 1989-93, explained on MSNBC this afternoon, during a break in the hearings, why the PDB—let alone the Moussaoui finding—should have compelled everyone to rush back to Washington. In his CIA days, Johnson wrote "about 40" PDBs. They're usually dispassionate in tone, a mere paragraph or two. The PDB of Aug. 6 was a page and a half. "That's the intelligence-community equivalent of writing War and Peace," Johnson said. And the title—"Bin Laden Determined To Strike in US"—was clearly designed to set off alarm bells. Johnson told his interviewer that when he read the declassified document, "I said 'Holy smoke!' This is such a dead-on 'Mr. President, you've got to do something!' " (By the way, Johnson claimed he's a Republican who voted for Bush in 2000.)

Not only that, but now we learn that there had been numerous PDBs suggesting that terrorists were planning to hijack planes and fly them into buildings.

Now, of course, we are told that for all the 21st Century environmental features of Rancho Waco, it apparently doesn't have a telephone.

Meanwhile, Presnit makes his very first mistake. I wonder if it really was a turkey farm.

Man, they're good

Via Atrios, Digby is in high dudgeon over a front-page story in the NY Times that has GOP spin prints all over it.

But, really, that's nothing. The outrage of the morning was on that purveyor of liberal slime, NPR's Morning Edition. The "doyenne of dumb...I mean...dirt," Ketzel Levine, gushes over "Laura Bush, Naturalist." Touring the "Western White House," Laura plays the concerned naturalist, so lucky that they've been able to preserve the "nat'ral grasses" and wildflowers that adorn the 1,600 "surprisingly varied" spread.

Dear reader (I know you're out there), I felt my cornflakes rising in my gorge.

It could not have been better stage managed by the GOP to deflect from her husband's horrific environmental policies.

Freedom haters

What he said.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

A book report

I now join the rest of the blogosphere in having successfully completed Richard Clarke's Against All Enemies and I can say that it is a pretty good read, albeit a retelling of grim events and one in which you know how it ends and it's not happy.

Here's one of the livelier reviews I've read, though it comes on a trifle strong at the end.

A number of reader's have expressed surprised at the administration's violent reaction to it -- almost as if they'd been hired by Clarke's publisher to build interest in the book -- it doesn't really say that much that we didn't already know (and are learning in spades during the 9-11 commission testimony), but it's pretty obvious from last night's performance that the slightest hint that mistakes were made on his watch must be immediately suppressed.

Moreover, it not only illustrates their mistakes, it paints the Bush leaguers as slow on the uptake and really unpleasant people.

Equally offensive to our moral leadership, Clarke reminds us that the vulnerabilities of the U.S. against terrorists began, not as a result of Mogadishu and a feckless Clinton administration, but during the shameful pullout of Beirut by Reagan who, remember, has been nominated for sainthood and a place on Mt. Rushmore by the GOP.

Oh, yeah, and Poppie looks pretty bad too. He fails to retailiate against the most devastating terrorist attack on U.S. citizens in history, he's controlled by James Baker, and, along with one Dick Cheney, an utter failure in not destroying Saddam and his Republican Guard at the end of the Gulf War.

If you plan to read it, stop here. Otherwise, here's some of my favorite bits.

Chapter 1 Evacuate the White House

We let 'em get away in '93, not unlike the disappearance of Saudi Nationals in Sept. 2001:

“Hey, don’t shoot the messenger, friend. CIA forgot to tell us about them.” Dale Watson was one of the good guys at FBI. He had been trying hard to get the Bureau to go after al Qaeda in the United States with limited success. “Dick, we need to make sure none of this gang escapes out of the country, like they did in ’93.” In 1993 many of the World Trade Center bombers had quickly flown abroad just before and after the attack.

“Okay, I’ve got that.” As we talked, we both saw on the monitors that WTC 2 was collapsing in a cloud of dust. “Oh dear God,” Dale whispered over the line.

“Dale, find out how many people were still inside.” I had often been in the World Trade Center and the number that popped into my head was 10,000. This was going from catastrophe to complete and total calamity.

“I’ll try, but you know one of them. John just called the New York Office from there.” John was John O’Neill, my closest friend in the bureau and a man determined to destroy al Qaeda until the Bureau had driven him out because he was too obsessed with al Qaeda until the bureau had driven him out because he was too obsessed with al Qaeda and didn’t mind breaking crockery in his drive to get Usama bin Laden. O’Neill did not fit the narrow little mold that Director Louis Freeh wanted for his agents. He was too aggressive, thought outside the box. O’Neill’s struggle with Freeh was a case study in why the FBI could not do the homeland protection mission. So, O’Neill retired from the FBI and had just become director of security for the World Trade Center complex the week before.

Pg. 13-14

Presciently, Clarke realized that if the U.S. had successfully targeted bin Laden during Clinton's administration, as they had fervently wanted to do, Clinton would have been blamed for the attacks which would have been seen as retaliation:

The meeting had finally happened exactly one week earlier, on September 4. Now, as I was telling Cressey, I thought the aggressive plan would be implemented.

“Well that’s fuckin’ great. Sounds like they’re finally going to do everything we wanted. Where the hell were they for the last eight months?” Cressey asked.

“Debating the fine points of the ABM Treat?” I answered, looking up at the sky for the fighter cover.

“They’ll probably deploy the armed Predator now too,” Cressey said, referring to his project to kill bin Laden with an unmanned aircraft. CIA had been blocking the deployment, refusing to be involved in running an armed version of the unmanned aircraft, to hunt and kill bin Laden. Roger Cressey was still fuming at their refusal. “If they had deployed an armed Predator when it was ready, we could have killed bin Laden before his happened.”

“Yeah, well, this attack would have happened anyway, Rog. In fact, if we had killed bin Laden in June with the Predator and this still happened, our friends at CIA would have blamed us, said the attack on New York was retribution, talked again about the overly zealous White House counterterrorism guys.”

Pg. 26-27

Chapter 2, Stumbling into the Muslim World

Swatting at flies, or a failure to?:

The Iranian-supported Hezbollah faction in Lebanon responded to the new American military presence by staging devastating car bomb attacks on the U.S. Marine barracks and twice on our embassy. In the attack on the Marine barracks alone, 278 Americans died.

There would be no similar loss of American lives in terrorism until the Libyan attack on Pan Am 103 six years later during the first Bush’s presidency. Those two acts stood as the most lethal acts of foreign terrorism against Americans until September 11. Nothing occurring during Clinton’s tenure approached either attack in terms of the numbers of Americans killed by foreign terrorism. Neither Ronald Reagan nor George H.W. Bush retaliated for those devastating attacks on Americans.

Pg. 40

Ch. 3, Unfinished Mission, Unintended Consequences

Like all personal memoirs, he’s the star and conversations are suspect:

Steve Simon met me at my house and we sat on the stoop and began to drain a bottle of Lagavulin. John Tritak, then a leading State Department analyst, joined us. I debriefed them on the meeting and we commiserated about the bureaucracy. As the second round was being poured, the telephone rang. John took it. “You have to go back in. The Deputies Committee is reconvening.”

“Why, so we can all agree not to do anything again?” I asked bitterly.

John shook his head and grinned: “No, actually, it seems like there really is an Iraqi T-72 in the parking lot…of the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait.”

Pg. 56

Cheney, showing that go-it-alone spirit:

In the months that followed, President Bush and Secretary Baker engaged in a diplomatic tour de force. They created a consensus coalition of over one hundred nations, many of which agreed to send forces to defend Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. My job was to coordinate the solicitations for military units and to find space for the immense Tower of Babel military force that was heading to the Gulf: French, Syrians, Egyptians, units from South and Central America, Africa and Asia. At one point when I told Cheney that the Australians had made a decision to send F-111 aircraft, he threw up his hands in frustration, “Dick, we do not have room for any more allies. Stop asking them.” Cheney’s attitude then foreshadowed his attitude twelve years later: we can deal with Iraq militarily by ourselves and everybody else is just more trouble than they are worth.
Pg. 61

I don't think Richard Clarke will be driving the Cigarette boat in Kennebunkport any time soon:

Faced with the prospect of renewed U.S. bombing, however, Secretary Baker returned to Washington and convinced President Bush to accept a negotiated settlement of the standoff. Baker held a strong influence over Bush. He had a dedicated telephone on his State Department desk that ran directly to the Oval Office. By my own observation, Baker did not hesitate to initiate calls on that line. In private, Baker did not treat Bush with all the deference a Secretary of State usually accords a President. Baker thought that he had made Bush the President, through Baker’s political maneuvering.

Baker also sometimes doubted Bush’s skills. At a NATO summit in London early in the administration, Baker had stunned me by coming to sit next to me in an auditorium, as I listened to President Bush’s press conference. As Bush batted the reporter’s [sic] questions, the Secretary of State provided me with a personal color commentary whispering in my ear: “Damn he flubbed that answer…I told him how to handle that one…Oh, no, he’ll never know how to deal with that…”
[all ellipses sic]

Chapter 5, The Almost War

Louis Freeh's priorities -- FUBAR:

During the two years of Sayegh’s detention in the United States, Freeh sought to understand from Prince Bandar why the FBI was not getting better cooperation from the Saudi government. I learned that Bandar had explained to Freeh that the White House did not want the Saudies to cooperate with Freeh. Clinton, Bandar claimed, did not want the evidence that Iran had bombed an American Air Force base; Clinton did not want to go to war with Iran. Freeh believed it. It fit with his own dim view of the President, the man to whom he owed his rapid elevation from a low-level federal job in New York. In the White House, we heard that Freeh began to repeat Bandar’s explanation for the failed Khobar investigation, telling Congressmen and reporters of the supposed Clinton cover-up.

Freeh should have been spending his time fixing the mess that the FBI had become, an organization of fifty-six princedoms (the fifty-six very independent field offices) without any modern information technology to support them. He might have spent some time hunting for terrorists in the United States, where al Qaeda and its affiliates had put down roots, where many terrorist organizations were illegally raising money. Instead, he reportedly chose to be chief investigator in high-profile cases like Khobar the Atlanta Olympics bombing, and the possible Chinese espionage at our nuclear labs. In all of those cases, his personal involvement appeared to contribute to the cases going down dark alleys, empty wells. His back channels to Republicans in Congress and to supporters in the media made it impossible for the President to dismiss him without running the risk of making him a martyr of the Republican Right and his firing a cause célèbre.

Pg. 116-117

Ch. 8, Delanda Est

Remember what it was like to have an intelligent president, with people working for him who were capable of nuanced thought? Sure wish they'd thought to bring the "Pol" part when they packed for Iraq:

Although he had approved the retaliatory bombing and the sanctions after the attacks on the African embassies, Clinton had also asked Berger for an overall plan to deal with al Qaeda. My team set out to develop what we had taken to calling a “Pol-Mil Plan.” A politico-military plan was something we had first invented to deal with Haiti. When General Shaliskashvili, Hugh Shelton’s predecessor, had presented Clinton with a military plan to invade Haiti, the President had been impressed by the detail, responsibilities being assigned, timelines, resources. Clinton asked for the civilian plan, saying, “Because the military will take over Haiti in a few hours. If they don’t, we sure have been wasting billions of dollars over there at the Pentagon. But after they do – then what? We need this kind of detail on what happens after the shooting.”
Pg. 197

Ch. 11, Right War, Wrong War

Clarke concludes (this paragraph alone probably did it for Dear Leader and his henchmen):

The nation needed thoughtful leadership to deal with the underlying problems September 11 reflected: a radical deviant Islamist ideology on the rise, real security vulnerabilities in the highly integrated global civilization. Instead, America got unthinking reactions, ham-handed responses, and a rejection of analysis in favor of received wisdom. It has left us less secure. We will pay the price for a long time.
Pg. 287
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