Saturday, November 01, 2003

AmCop Will Be Back on Tuesday 

AmCop has gone a huntin' for coprolites in the God fearin' hills of Western Pennsylvania. Back on Tuesday with lots of tasty treats!

Weird: it seems so...honest? 

Nothing to link to here, folks, cuz this is the whole article:
No Signs of Hussein Role, Powell Says
Published: November 1, 2003

WASHINGTON, Oct. 31 -- Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said on Friday that he saw no signs that Saddam Hussein was active in coordinating attacks on American forces in Iraq.

"I don't know where he is or what he's doing, but we really don't have the evidence to put together a claim that he is pulling all the strings among these remnants in Baghdad and other parts of the country that are causing us the difficulty," Mr. Powell said on the ABC News program "Nightline," according to a transcript.

He also cast doubt on reports that one of Mr. Hussein's deputies, Izzat Ibrahim, was behind the attacks, saying, "I see no evidence to support that."

On Friday, The New York Times quoted senior American officials as saying that Mr. Hussein might be playing a crucial role in coordinating attacks against United States forces.

Friday, October 31, 2003

News story: almost all of U.S. NOT attacked on 9/11!! 

An Eschaton reader makes the following remark, in reference to recent administration claims that aside from the problematic "Sunni Triangle," Iraq is doing great:
Yeah, I'm surprised that on 9/11 they didn't point out that except for New York and Washington, the country was unscathed.

I think that as long as future terrorist attacks are confined to the "New York-Washington-Los Angeles Triangle," the U.S. has nothing to worry about!

Flag blunder embarrasses Pentagon  

From the Guardian:
Shortly after the defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, confused Afghanistan with Iraq at a news conference, the US embassy in Bucharest had to apologise to the president of Romania, Ion Iliescu, for the Pentagon decorating his table with a Russian flag when he lunched with Mr Rumsfeld earlier this week.

Scheduled to join Nato in May next year and a member of the US-led coalition of the willing in Iraq, Romania is one of Washington's firmest European allies but in the past it was in Moscow's orbit.

Romanian officials moved quickly to play down the incident. "I don't believe that anyone can imagine that Mr Rumsfeld doesn't know who he is meeting," Mr Iliescu's spokeswoman told reporters.

In yesterday's gaffe, Mr Rumsfeld answered a question from a journalist on warlords in Afghanistan by talking about Kurdish peshmerga fighters in Iraq until it was pointed out that that was a different country.

"Oh, I'm sorry ... I was thinking of Iraq. No wonder I couldn't understand it," he explained.

He did however concede with a chuckle that the two countries were "close".

Study Shows Davis Could Have Prevented CA Fires By Replacing Himself With A GOP Governor Six Months Ago Instead of Selfishly "Remaining" in Office 

U.S. Rejected Davis on Aid to Clear Trees

FEMA spent six months studying the governor's request, then turned it down hours before fires began, saying state was already getting funds.

SACRAMENTO — The Bush administration took six months to evaluate Gov. Gray Davis' emergency request last spring for $430 million to clear dead trees from fire-prone areas of Southern California.

The request was finally denied Oct. 24, only hours before wildfires roared out of control in what has become the largest fire disaster in California history.

dawkins adds: I guess it makes sense, though. California didn't vote for him in 2000.

Condi blames Reagan, Bush Sr. for 9/11 

From dawkins:

It seems Condoleezza Rice has finally wearied of dodging blame on behalf of her boss for 9/11 and trying to pass it off solely on President Clinton. Now she's hoping her charges will stick to a new pair of scapegoats: Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr.

Said Rice last night in New York City:
"It is now undeniable that the terrorists declared war on America and on the civilized world many years before Sept. 11, 2001," she said in remarks delivered to the legal center at the Waldorf-Astoria. "The attack on the Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983, the hijacking of the Achille Lauro in 1985, the bombing of Pan Am 103 in 1988, the World Trade Center in 1993, the attacks on American installations in Saudi Arabia in 1995 and 1996, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole in 2000: These and other atrocities were part of a sustained, systematic campaign to spread devastation and chaos. Yet until Sept. 11, the terrorists faced no sustained, systematic and global response."

Much credit must be given to the New York Times' David Sanger for injecting factual information into his story that goes (wow!) beyond merely quoting what Condi had to say, and also pointing out stuff she didn't say.

Sez Sanger:
Ms. Rice's comments make no reference to what the Bush administration itself did between Mr. Bush's inauguration on Jan. 20, 2001, and the Sept. 11 attacks.

In the past she has said that a detailed plan to counter Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups was on her desk, approved, when the attacks occurred. That plan became the basis for the decision to drive Al Qaeda out of Afghanistan and topple the Taliban.

But Mr. Bush himself made little reference to the threat of Al Qaeda, the need to topple the Taliban or other terrorism-related issues prior to the Sept. 11 attacks.

Kind of an important point to make.
Similarly, asked in an interview with The New York Times the week before his inauguration whether Iraq had "bedeviled" his father's administration, he said. referring to Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi ruler: "I wouldn't say it bedeviled the past Bush administration. I think the past Bush administration dealt with it very firmly and left a regime in place that isolated Saddam."

Ms. Rice appears to have a slightly different take on history. She said it had been clear for 12 years that Mr. Hussein was killing his own people, setting up torture centers and posing a threat to the Middle East.

"Let us be clear," she said. "Saddam was not going to go away of his own accord. For 12 years, he gave every indication that he would never disarm and never comply with the Security Council's just demands. In fact, he mocked those demands and made every effort to circumvent them through a massive program of denial and deception."

A "massive program of denial and deception," huh?

Is this last line possibly the first blow in a new Bushie history-revision PR campaign?

I can hear it:

"No, we never alleged that Saddam had a massive program to manufacture WMDs. The justification for war as always to dismantle his massive program of denial and deception."

Maybe that's what Rumsfeld was helping Saddam set up back in '83.

Annular Flashback: November 1, 2002 

Sorry to kick off the Halloween weekend on such a sad, sad note...but hey, it's history, I didn't write it.

A letter from MoveOn.org:
Dear MoveOn members,

After Paul Wellstone's tragic death in a plane crash, his remaining
family turned to Walter Mondale. Paul's sons asked Mondale to
continue Paul's tradition in the Senate by running in his place.
Wednesday night, Mondale was officially named the Democratic
candidate in the Minnesota race.

Yesterday, the GOP went into full attack mode. The White House
announced that Vice President Dick Cheney, First Lady Laura Bush and
President Bush would make successive appearances in Minnesota,
beginning today, for Wellstone's opponent Norm Coleman.

We've been talking with the Mondale campaign, and they're emotionally
exhausted and besieged. Mondale has no staff, no media dollars, and
no web site. GOP attacks keep coming, and the money keeps rolling in
for Coleman -- the Republicans now see this as a winnable race.

Mondale and his volunteer staff are good people running under the
most difficult of personal and political conditions. We've just got
to help.

Donating to Bush campaign ---> Iraq and Afghanistan contracts 

dawkins writes:

Not much to say about this one. The New York Times does an excellent job of laying it right out:
Executives, employees and political action committees of the 70 companies that received government contracts for work in either Iraq or Afghanistan contributed slightly more than $500,000 to President Bush's 2000 election campaign, according to a comprehensive study of the contracts released on Tuesday.

The overwhelming majority of government contracts for billions of dollars of reconstruction work in Iraq and Afghanistan went to companies run by executives who were heavy political contributors to both political parties.

Though the employees contributed to both parties, their giving favored Republicans by a two-to-one margin. And they gave more money to Mr. Bush than any other politician in the last 12 years.

On a related note, I’m beginning to enjoy the Bush administration’s growing love affair with the “career” employees at various government agencies.

Recall that it was just over a year ago that Bush dismissed the report put out by his own EPA explaining that human activities caused global warming. Then, he sneered:
"I read the report put out by the bureaucracy."

Today, it’s career bureaucrats who are both saving his ass and taking the fall for his myriad criminal-esque schemes.

When the Justice Department wants to deflect criticism that there’s a conflict of interest when Ashcroft investigates his ol’ buddy Karl Rove on the Valerie Plame leaks, Justice pleads that it’s the “career” investigators who are doing all the work, not the political appointees.

And it’ll certainly be those hardworking “career” analysts at the CIA who get hung out to dry when the Bushies pin the pre-Iraq war “intelligence” shenanigans on them and their boss George Tenet, rather than on Wolfowitz and Perle and the White House boys who really cooked up the fake WMD “evidence.”

So now, when people start to say the Bushies chose those Iraq contracts based on (gasp!) campaign contributions and cronyism, we’re told again it’s really those “career” folks at the State Department who did it.
The State Department spokesman, Richard A. Boucher, told reporters on Thursday that "the reason that these companies get the contracts has nothing to do with who may have worked there before."

He added: "The decisions are made by career procurement officials. There's a separation, a wall, between them and political-level questions when they're doing the contracts."

Thank goodness for Bush he didn’t act on his instincts and fire every last non-political government employee he could when he had the chance. Where would his sorry hide be now without them?

Blicero adds: speaking of career government employees, we might take a wee peek at Krugman's NY Times column of 11/19/02, "Victors and Spoils":
Rule No. 1: Always have a cover story. The ostensible purpose of the Bush administration's plan to open up 850,000 federal jobs to private competition is to promote efficiency. Competitive vigor, we're told, will end bureaucratic sloth; costs will go down, and everyone — except for a handful of overpaid union members — will be better off.

A few months ago Mr. Rove compared his boss to Andrew Jackson. As some of us noted at the time, one of Jackson's key legacies was the "spoils system," under which federal jobs were reserved for political supporters. The federal civil service, with its careful protection of workers from political pressure, was created specifically to bring the spoils system to an end; but now the administration has found a way around those constraints.

We don't have to speculate about what will follow, because Jeb Bush has already blazed the trail. Florida's governor has been an aggressive privatizer, and as The Miami Herald put it after a careful study of state records, "his bold experiment has been a success — at least for him and the Republican Party, records show. The policy has spawned a network of contractors who have given him, other Republican politicians and the Florida G.O.P. millions of dollars in campaign donations."

What's interesting about this network of contractors isn't just the way that big contributions are linked to big contracts; it's the end of the traditional practice in which businesses hedge their bets by giving to both parties. The big winners in Mr. Bush's Florida are companies that give little or nothing to Democrats. Strange, isn't it? It's as if firms seeking business with the state of Florida are subject to a loyalty test.

So am I saying that we are going back to the days of Boss Tweed and Mark Hanna? Gosh, no — those guys were pikers. One-party control of today's government offers opportunities to reward friends and punish enemies that the old machine politicians never dreamed of.

How far can the new spoils system be pushed? To what extent will it be used to lock in a permanent political advantage for the ruling party? Stay tuned; I'm sure we'll soon find out.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Let's Talk About Diebold 

All right. I now recognize that I've been subconsciously ignoring this story--which crops up from time to time--in order to attempt to preserve my own sanity. Because if this scandal is true (in any of its possible avatars, ranging from gigantic conspiracy to chaotic mess), it is almost too disturbing to contemplate. As it is, a scandal needs a simple, tangible storyline (He got blow-jobs in the Oval Office; He lied about the WMD; Enron stole people's money) for the public to grasp it enough to care about getting the truth out. But when you throw in technology--computer systems, software, code, "patches," remote PDF-format-whatever, etc.--you can pretty much forget about it.

But contemplate we must. I strongly suggest you read the whole article.

All the President's Votes?

[Published on Monday, October 13, 2003 by the lndependent/UK]

by Andrew Gumbel

Something very odd happened in the mid-term elections in Georgia last November. On the eve of the vote, opinion polls showed Roy Barnes, the incumbent Democratic governor, leading by between nine and 11 points. In a somewhat closer, keenly watched Senate race, polls indicated that Max Cleland, the popular Democrat up for re-election, was ahead by two to five points against his Republican challenger, Saxby Chambliss.

Those figures were more or less what political experts would have expected in state with a long tradition of electing Democrats to statewide office. But then the results came in, and all of Georgia appeared to have been turned upside down. Barnes lost the governorship to the Republican, Sonny Perdue, 46 per cent to 51 per cent, a swing of as much as 16 percentage points from the last opinion polls. Cleland lost to Chambliss 46 per cent to 53, a last-minute swing of 9 to 12 points.

Red-faced opinion pollsters suddenly had a lot of explaining to do and launched internal investigations. Political analysts credited the upset - part of a pattern of Republican successes around the country - to a huge campaigning push by President Bush in the final days of the race. They also said that Roy Barnes had lost because of a surge of "angry white men" punishing him for eradicating all but a vestige of the old confederate symbol from the state flag.

But something about these explanations did not make sense, and they have made even less sense over time. When the Georgia secretary of state's office published its demographic breakdown of the election earlier this year, it turned out there was no surge of angry white men; in fact, the only subgroup showing even a modest increase in turnout was black women.

There were also big, puzzling swings in partisan loyalties in different parts of the state. In 58 counties, the vote was broadly in line with the primary election. In 27 counties in Republican-dominated north Georgia, however, Max Cleland unaccountably scored 14 percentage points higher than he had in the primaries. And in 74 counties in the Democrat south, Saxby Chambliss garnered a whopping 22 points more for the Republicans than the party as a whole had won less than three months earlier.

Now, weird things like this do occasionally occur in elections, and the figures, on their own, are not proof of anything except statistical anomalies worthy of further study. But in Georgia there was an extra reason to be suspicious. Last November, the state became the first in the country to conduct an election entirely with touchscreen voting machines, after lavishing $54m (£33m) on a new system that promised to deliver the securest, most up-to-date, most voter-friendly election in the history of the republic. The machines, however, turned out to be anything but reliable. With academic studies showing the Georgia touchscreens to be poorly programmed, full of security holes and prone to tampering, and with thousands of similar machines from different companies being introduced at high speed across the country, computer voting may, in fact, be US democracy's own 21st-century nightmare.

Full Story.

The following info/advocacy sites are devoted entirely to the issue of computer vote tampering. Check 'em out:



Harmless political foibles 

This from dawkins:

You know how politicians sometimes orchestrate cynical photo-ops in the pursuit of crass political gain? What's interesting about this phenomenon is that both sides do it, Republicans and Democrats alike!

Thankfully, the New York Times editorial page puts it all into perspective for us:

Ya know what? It's not just the current president who does stuff like this!
Citizens who feel they are constantly being overspun by their elected officials can take comfort in the realization that teams of well-paid consultants can try to convey one thing through a picture and wind up saying the opposite.

Everyone remembers when George W. Bush was flown in on an airplane to that aircraft carrier, then used the United States Navy (and the souls of some 100 dead American servicemen) as a political backdrop to kick off his 2004 campaign?

That was practically the same thing as when Dukakis was running for president back in 1988 and he had his picture taken in a tank with an army helmet on.

Remember how "overspun" you felt back then? Well, you can "take comfort" in knowing that Dukakis's ride "was supposed to shout 'leadership,' but wound up saying 'dork.'"

Looks like the laugh's on Dukakis now! (And, thankfully, there's no "dork" in Dubya!)

Even ol' "Silent" Cal Coolidge pulled a photo-op boner or two!

Sez the Times:
This heartening fallibility goes back at least as far as Calvin Coolidge, who was persuaded to don an Indian headdress in an effort to be really human and wound up looking really silly.

Ho ho! Bush in flight suit :: Dukakis in tank :: Coolidge in Indian garb.

Nice try, guys, but you all just look plain silly!
Right now, Mr. Bush's potential opponents may be enjoying the administration's current embarrassment, but they'll feel different the next time they're in Iowa and a staff member announces it's time for the portrait with the cow.

Whew, thank goodness the worst thing the Bushies are feeling now from their little stage-craft whoopsie-doo is embarrassment.

Democrats, you best not enjoy the Schadenfreude too much, 'cause:

Bush preening cynically in flight suit, gloating over deception-justified mayhem and murder :: John Kerry posing with a cow!


Annular Flashback: October 30, 2002 

Dear Media Whores Online,

I'm normally a big fan of KCRW's "To the Point," hosted by Warren Olney (I listen on New York's WNYC). After watching the Wellstone memorial service last night on C-Span (and then watching it again later in the night)--an event so powerful and so moving I found myself nearly bawling--I had all but forgotten my pre-memorial-annoyance, when to my chagrin I saw Lou Dobbs imploring a CNN reporter covering the service to "step back and have some perspective, some balance"--BALANCE!!--meaning that Dobbs was basically ordering the reporter to say that, well, after all, Paul Wellstone's family and campaign were playing "politics" just as much as Newt Gingrich et al bashing Mondale on the Sunday morning talk shows. (Dobbs: "After all, James Carville was on the program too...") And this before the memorial service had even begun!

At any rate, I turned on the radio today expecting to hear coverage of the astounding, rare image of 30,000+ people channeling their profound grief in the only meaningful way it could be channeled--into a massive, unified expression of hope and support for the legacy of Paul Wellstone to be continued, for the fight to go on. Wellstone was a man who LIVED politics--not "politics" as defined by Lou Dobbs and the rest of the media whores, but politics as a higher, nobler, more virtuous human pursuit--a pursuit for which Wellstone, in the final analysis, died. To me it made absolutely perfect sense that Wellstone's family, friends and campaign staff should connect with their audience in this way--and the response from the audience was the most genuine, heartfelt enthusiasm I've ever seen. Those 30,000 people were gathered for a purpose--to honor and remember Paul Wellstone and his life and mission--and every speaker at the memorial honored that purpose in the truest, most honest way imaginable.

So it was with something far angrier than chagrin that I heard Warren Olney giving free, uncritical reign to a woman described as a "Republican lobbyist" from Minnesota (her name escapes me) who blathered on in a shamefully condescending tone about how "over the top" the memorial service had been--about how "the first half was a lovely event," until Paul Wellstone's best friend, two sons, and Senator Harkin had the audacity, the impropriety, to take the podium and turn the service into...OH NO!...a POLITICAL rally! It was so political it drove Jesse Ventura's poor wife to tears! Imagine the horror! The program went on to discuss how naturally George W. Bush would have to be given "equal airtime" on his upcoming campaign visit for Norm Coleman. After all, that's balance, right? If 30,000+ mourners and celebrants and friends and activists and believers get the privilege of having their little partisan "rally" broadcast throughout the state, surely the millions of MN television viewers deserve the "balance" of seeing Bush's incoherent, spiteful nonsense broadcast over the same airwaves?

This "lobbyist" was joined on the show by some editor from the National Review, and Warren Olney listened patiently as the two of them discussed the expected "backlash" against Mondale after such an inappropriate, "over-the-top" display of "politics."

This waking nightmare only grew worse when I went to Media Whores Online and read about the "shocked" reaction of the TV media, no doubt shaking in their shoes upon realizing the wave of protest they'd be sure to receive from their bullying, loudmouthed overseers in the Republican hate establishment.

Republicans like the "lobbyist" on "To the Point" clearly have deadened souls, and I would expect nothing better from them. But to see the media whores--on the radio, in the major newspapers, on TV--eating up this gigantic pile of horseshit is just more than I can take. Did these people even WATCH the memorial service? Did they LISTEN? Do they even know who Paul Wellstone IS?

I can only hope that the people of Minnesota won't be fooled: that they know real grief, real love, and yes, real POLITICS when they see it--and that despite all the "balance" the media whores can shovel out, they will know what to do come election day.



Wednesday, October 29, 2003

GOP Senators Propose "Unorthodox" Solutions 

Some interesting ideas today from our Republican friends. Trent Lott offers a "comprehensive" strategy:
If we have to, we just mow the whole place down, see what happens. You're dealing with insane suicide bombers who are killing our people, and we need to be very aggressive in taking them out.

while Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) raises the point that news stories and polls are the problem:
The opposition, the terrorist groups, the Baathists read our media and read our public opinion polls, and are trying to play to the country's opinion, he said.

Put these two together: indiscriminate violence + news blackout = Victory in Iraq!

Forest Fires and Terrorists: Both "Consume Oxygen" 

Click here for a brief chuckle o' hoot. [Note: not a permanent link. Go to Archive for 10/29 cartoon.]

Also: it took me several glances to figure out that the cover of this week's New Yorker seems to actually depict a Halloween witch being "detained" as a possible terrorist. The drawing's title: "Code Orange." Pretty good.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Bush Lied Again; White House Made "Mission Accomplished" Banner 

White House pressed on 'mission accomplished' sign

Navy suggested it, White House made it, both sides say

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- What was once viewed as a premier presidential photo op continues to dog President Bush six months after he landed on an aircraft carrier to declare "one victory" in the war on terrorism and an end to major combat operations in Iraq.

Attention turned Tuesday to a giant "Mission Accomplished" sign that stood behind Bush aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln when he gave the speech May 1.

The president told reporters the sign was put up by the Navy, not the White House.

"I know it was attributed somehow to some ingenious advance man from my staff -- they weren't that ingenious, by the way," the president said Tuesday.

Now his statements are being parsed even further.

Navy and administration sources said that though the banner was the Navy's idea, the White House actually made it.

Bush offered the explanation after being asked whether his speech declaring an end to major combat in Iraq under the "Mission Accomplished" banner was premature, given that U.S. casualties in Iraq since then have surpassed those before it.

During the speech in May, Bush said, "The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September 11, 2001, and still goes on."

The speech and events surrounding it were widely publicized and served as the symbolic end to the war in Iraq.

At the time, it appeared that every detail of the day's events had been carefully planned, including the president's arrival in the co-pilot's seat of a Navy S-3B Viking after making two flybys of the carrier.

The exterior of the four-seat S-3B Viking was marked with "Navy 1" and "George W. Bush Commander in Chief."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan told CNN that in preparing for the speech, Navy officials on the carrier told Bush aides they wanted a "Mission Accomplished" banner, and the White House agreed to create it.

"We took care of the production of it," McClellan said. "We have people to do those things. But the Navy actually put it up."

Well, "attributed" is a pretty big word for Bush. Can the sign still be "attributed" to the White House even though the Navy "actually put it up"? Man, these people are utterly shameless.

So who forged those Niger documents, anyway? 

Many of us have been asking this question since Seymour Hersh raised some compelling hypotheses and suggested there might be much more to come.

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo is now potentially hot on this trail:
Let me touch gingerly on this topic: the forged Niger documents.

Who forged them? And why?

It’s one of the most intriguing and possibly one of most important questions surrounding the whole manipulated Iraq intelligence story. And yet it also seems to have generated the least curiosity.

I’ve picked up a few clues that tell me that could change awfully quickly. And in a pretty dramatic fashion.

Along those lines, let me suggest a couple questions worth asking.

Question #1

We know that everything got started when Dick Cheney brought up the Niger claims at a regularly scheduled CIA briefing in the early spring of 2002. Apparently, the briefer didn’t bring it up. Cheney did. There are various timing issues that come up here, which we’ll address in subsequent posts. But the basic question is, if Cheney didn’t hear about it from one of his intel briefings, where’d he hear about it? Specifically. Who put Cheney on to the Niger uranium story?

The answer to that question could prove very important. Especially when combined with the answer to question two.

Question #2

We know that the actual forged documents first surfaced months later in Italy when an informant offered them to an Italian journalist working for Panaroma . Let’s pick the story up from Sy Hersh’s current story in The New Yorker …

At that moment, in early October, 2002, a set of documents suddenly appeared that promised to provide solid evidence that Iraq was attempting to reconstitute its nuclear program. The first notice of the documents’ existence came when Elisabetta Burba, a reporter for Panorama, a glossy Italian weekly owned by the publishing empire of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, received a telephone call from an Italian businessman and security consultant whom she believed to have once been connected to Italian intelligence. He told her that he had information connecting Saddam Hussein to the purchase of uranium in Africa. She considered the informant credible. In 1995, when she worked for the magazine Epoca, he had provided her with detailed information, apparently from Western intelligence sources, for articles she published dealing with the peace process in Bosnia and with an Islamic charity that was linked to international terrorism. The information, some of it in English, proved to be accurate.

Who’s this “Italian businessman and security consultant”? Who’s he do his security consulting for? Any associations to any folks with names we know? Any connections to noteworthy figures in the United States?

More on this to come.

More Apparent "Language" Emitted From Pie-Hole 

dawkins writes:

Cool! Another Brooks column to be filed under, "What the fuck is this man talking about?"

Unless I'm completely daft, at the end of his column when Brooks refers to "fine young crusaders," he's talking about… Congressional Republicans!

It's close to impossible to believe that this guy can put words such as these to paper without laughing himself off his own chair and/or shitting himself so completely and thoroughly that his fingertips slip off the keys of his keyboard.

More broadly, this Republican majority is beginning to lose the idealism of youth and settle for the spoils of middle age. John Kasich used to rail against corporate welfare. Has that fire burned out entirely?

If this deal goes through, it will be a sign that all those fine young crusaders who campaign as fearless fighters against the ways of Washington are slowly but corrosively turning into the sort of creatures they despise.

Again: "This Republican majority is beginning to lose the idealism of youth and settle for the spoils of middle age."

Clearly, Brooks is a demented madman. While I applaud the New York Times' effort to lift a sick person off the street and give him an opportunity to earn a living, I think it's time to terminate the experiment.

(I mean, how many of those Wesley Willis albums could you listen to, in uncomfortable giggling awe, before the grotesqueness of his lamentable sickness became unbearable?)

Though is Brooks is a little cagier than we initially give him credit for?

He never says that "all those fine young crusaders" actually fought against "the ways of Washington," only that they campaigned against those "ways."

And when he cites Kasich, he admits that the former Congressman never actually did anything about corporate welfare, only that he "used to rail" against it.

And though his use of the term "young" to refer to Congressional Republicans might strike some as a bit odd, he's actually being consistent with the use of that term among the cohort he describes. (One will recall, of course, Clinton-impeacher Henry Hyde, who acknowledged amidst the Monica-blowjob fallout that his own years of adultery, which he conducted after the age of 40, were a "youthful indiscretion.")

Brooks asks: can it really be that "all those fine young crusaders… are turning into the sort of creatures they despise?"

Can it really be that Hyde and DeLay and Armey and all the other idealistic, crusading young scamps are turning into…


It's a little cheap to take shots at Brooks in writing rather than in person. I was about to talk to him, I really was. He was the guy I saw on the subway this morning, screaming "Bitch you!!!" and swatting at a swarm of eight-legged vampire bats swirling around his head. I didn't want to interrupt the creative process.

First Down Was Up; Then Night Was Day; And Now... 

Bush Says Attacks Are Reflection of U.S. Gains

"The more successful we are on the ground, the more these killers will react," Bush said as he sat in the Oval Office with L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator in Iraq. He added: "The more progress we make on the ground, the more free the Iraqis become, the more electricity is available, the more jobs are available, the more kids that are going to school, the more desperate these killers become, because they can't stand the thought of a free society."

Great! Finally we have a litmus test for success! As soon as all of Iraq is consumed in an apocalyptic nuclear firecloud, we'll know the Iraqi people have reached the pinnacle of free, liberal, capitalist, constitutional democracy!

Also: incredibly, this story's front-page headline on the web version of the WaPo reads "U.S. Seeks to Thwart Uprising." And the first paragraph refers to the "anti-American rebellion in Iraq." "Uprising"? "Anti-American rebellion"? Am I reading correctly? If the White House doesn't manage to get this language deleted by mid-morning, we will have truly crossed a new threshold...

But wait...what about Air Force One, then? 

Maybe our national 9/11 commission should start bringing some of these European magazines on board--it seems like they've got more info than our congresspeople do...
Report: Capitol Was Sept. 11 Attackers Fourth Goal
Sun October 26, 2003 11:37 AM ET

BERLIN (Reuters) - The U.S. Capitol Building, not the White House, was the fourth target of the Sept. 11 attackers, a German magazine reported Sunday citing results of interrogations of suspected al Qaeda leaders.

Der Spiegel said also planning for the attacks on New York and Washington in 2001 began as early as 1996, but plans hatched in 1999 to use four planes in the attacks were temporarily halted because only two pilots could then obtain U.S. visas. The operation, code-named "Porsche 911" by its perpetrators, was finalized in July 2001, the magazine said.

Krugman: "a new, post 9/11 version of political correctness"  

Doesn't it seem of late as though some journalists are starting to ask questions about the possible connection between the Bush administration's deep beholdenness to the evangelical Christian Right, and its increasingly crazy-looking and hard-to-explain foreign policy behavior? Supposedly 40% of the people who voted for Bush are "evangelicals." Now that's a frighteningly high number--but mightn't the Democrats want to think about how exposing the reality of that 40%--and the nature of the influence they wield--might help change the minds of some of the 60% non-evangelicals come election time? Why not go after the GOP where they're potentially quite vulnerable: maintaining the deceptions necessary to hold together this weird coalition of crazy theocrats and somewhat more mainstream people?
A Willful Ignorance

But there's something broader going on: a sort of willful ignorance, supposedly driven by moral concerns but actually reflecting domestic politics. Surely it's important to understand how others see us, but a new, post 9/11 version of political correctness has made it difficult even to discuss their points of view. Any American who tries to go beyond "America good, terrorists evil," who tries to understand — not condone — the growing world backlash against the United States, faces furious attacks delivered in a tone of high moral indignation. The attackers claim to be standing up for moral clarity, and some of them may even believe it. But they are really being used in a domestic political struggle.

Muslims are completely wrong to think that the U.S. is engaged in a war against Islam. But that misperception flourishes in part because the domestic political strategy of the Bush administration — no longer able to claim the Iraq war was a triumph, and with little but red ink to show for its economic plans — looks more and more like a crusade. "Election Boils Down to a Culture War" was the title of Mr. Fineman's column. But the analysis was all about abortion and euthanasia, and now we hear that opposition to gay marriage will be a major campaign theme. This isn't a culture war — it's a religious war.

Annular Flashback: October 28, 2002 

This old gem from the Washington Post shines even brighter than it did a year ago:
Misleading the Nation About War
Monday, October 28, 2002; Page A18

I know something about defending a president who's been caught lying. Let me tell my friend Ari Fleischer that he's only making things worse for President Bush. After The Post reported on Mr. Bush's many fabrications regarding Iraq and homeland security, Mr. Fleischer sent a letter to the editor in which he refers to President Clinton's false denial of an affair as a "crime that shook the nation" [Oct. 24].

The lawyer in me is compelled to point out that President Clinton has never been charged with nor convicted of a crime. The same cannot be said of President George W. Bush who, of course, was convicted of drunken driving many years ago. To his shame, in the 2000 campaign Mr. Bush falsely denied ever having been convicted of a crime.

The political veteran in me knows that lying about a long-past drunken driving conviction -- or an affair -- is understandable, if not excusable. What is not excusable is misleading the country -- repeatedly, as The Post and others have noted -- about going to war. There is something odd about a White House that thinks misleading people about sex is a crime, but misleading us about war is good public policy.



A Leaker Theory 

dawkins writes:

Here's a weird thought that just occurred to me while reading the Washington Post article about the investigation into the Plame leakers.

Novak said his source was two senior administration officials. One presumes by now that the White House did the leaking/smearing/intimidating intentionally. One would also assume that, in doing so, they'd be cagey enough not to leave any paper trails through the White House. One might presume that Novak was/is/might have been along for this tricky-leaking mission.

They've already said it's not Rove. They've said it's not Libby.

What about "senior administration officials" who are not Rove and Libby and who would not get caught up in a White House paper sweep, but who are still "senior" and involved enough to have been up on what's going on?

Is there any chance that our dearly departed pals Ari Fleischer or Karen Hughes -- presumably knowledgeable about the Wilson predicament, interested in the affairs of the White House, but not actually on the premises -- could be part of this?

Am I just stupid/crazy/grasping at straws?

Blicero adds: I've heard crazier.

Bush Courageously Refuses to Release 9/11 Documents, Compromise National Security 

dawkins writes:

Indeed, remember well this article about the White House trying to run the clock out on the independent 9/11 investigation headed by Thomas Keane.

And what will Bush say when May comes and the investigation isn't nearly complete?

"I welcome the investigation, getting to the bottom of 9/11, but the commission simply didn't complete its work in time. We've been very candid and forthcoming in our help, but it's been costing taxpayer dollars, and now it's time to move on, for the sake of the families..."

...and cue Republican convention at Ground Zero three months after that...

Blicero adds:

From the follow-up article:
In subsequent comments, the White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, turned aside questions of whether the White House would make the documents available.

"There are a lot of ways to provide information to the commission," Mr. McClellan said.

Translation: There may yet be a way to not provide information to the commission, while saying we are providing information to the commission.
"We will continue working with them to make sure they have the information they need

Translation: We will continue working against them to make sure they don't get the information they need
to complete their work and meet the deadline that Congress created."

Translation: and so remain unable to complete their work, thereby failing to meet the deadline that Congress created.

Oh, and:
Bush administration officials said that the White House was wary of turning over the documents for several reasons, including concerns over leaking national security information through the documents.

Heaven forbid the White House should take any actions that might result in the leaking of national security information!

Monday, October 27, 2003

Last Night's Debate 

A few notes on the Dem candidates' debate in Detroit:

I'm not going to waste my time bitching about the questioners (partly
because I spent almost all of Saturday doing that, mainly because almost
anything is better than the Unholy Trinity of Woodruff/Greenfield/Crowley, so there's a lot less to bitch about) but I would like to single out the oft-whorish Gwen Iffel for one well-earned point of utter disdain: her "conventional wisdom" round of questioning, during which she confronted each candidate with a reductio of the most mindless shreds of stereotypical
Beltway nonsense about their various personal "flaws" and "weaknesses," and asked them to respond. So like: "Senator Edwards, you've pretty much blown everybody's high expectations..."; "General Clark, since everyone in the military hates you..."; "Senator Kerry, since you look so unpleasantly French..."

I mean, if there were some point to it all--some self-conscious
acknowledgment of the absurdity of the whole "conventional wisdom"
premise--something, I don't know...but Iffel was a real bitch about it, and
came across as simply throwing out a barrage of serial insults. It was
obvious that the crowd recognized this, and at least a couple of Iffel's
"questions" drew loud boos from the audience.

Speaking of boos, Lieberman got some too, and deservedly. What the HELL is wrong with that idiot? He really is suffering under the dangerous delusion that he can win--I'm sure he realizes there's no way in hell any nominee would have him as a running-mate--so he continues to conduct this pyrrhic strategy of attack-and-bad-joke. The man is a horrendous embarrassment.

In fact, I took a small measure of comfort from the fact that the
audience--a loud, raucous, "lively" audience, which I thought was
great--DID boo when they thought someone (i.e., Lieberman or Iffel) was
being mean. Now here's an idea--what if a kind of grassroots audience
could be organized and implemented, whereby if a candidate
attacked a fellow candidate, or the questioner was asking blatantly
disrespectful "questions," the audience would ALWAYS boo loudly? It
wouldn't stop the questioners, I know, but I can guarantee you Lieberman
(and others) would seriously think twice before pulling that shit, and it
would show great solidarity among people who care about a Democratic victory.

Moving on...this whole race is in a weird situation. Trying to
handicap the "pros" and "cons" of having opposed the war, having opposed
the war but voted for the resolution, having voted for the resolution but
for/against the $87 billion, the meaningless refrain of
"consistency"...it's almost impossible to say how this is going to play
out. I know that last week Carville and others were touting that poll which
purported to show that a majority of Democrats favor a candidate who
approved of the war resolution but has subsequently been critical of Bush's
handling of it. That "finding" seems to me dubious at best, probably
meaningless, even if it offers some optimistic hope that voters can after
all handle "complexity" in a position, which I would like to believe is
true but am not keeping my fingers crossed.

Here are my main gut intuitions about the present scene:

1.) The Dean campaign has reached a turning point, where the surprise and excitement of his explosion have cooled not into a reversal of sentiment or backlash, but into a view of Dean's front-runner status as the actual new status-quo. That is, people are now recognizing that the default situation--unless someone takes some clear and dramatic action to change
it--is that Dean will be the nominee. It remains to be seen whether this realization will cause Dean-supporters to re-examine the substance of their support: whether everyone who sees Dean as a champion of a crucial turning point in the nationwide movement of anti-Bush energy will still be comfortable with Dean as the guy who's actually going to run against Bush. It would be silly to deny that there isn't some anxiety about this.

2.) The undeniable appeal of Edwards, even among those who support another candidate and/or don't believe Edwards can win the nomination. I watched this focus-group thing today on C-Span, conducted by the Annenberg Center, that attempted in that slightly absurd academic-type way to gauge
knowledge of the candidates and sentiment towards them among a group of very decidedly non-politically-savvy voters. I mean these people really did not know very much at all, and could barely attach names to the candidates' faces. But they did know the name Dean, and interestingly, the other name they seemed to know (more than Clark or Kerry) was Edwards. He was just somehow out there in the psyche, with some vague set of positive associations. My bet right now is on Edwards as the running-mate. Not only for the Southern thing, or the working-class thing, but because he seems
like someone who could actually be a running-mate without creating some monstrous collision of egos with the nominee.

3.) I don't know what the hell is going to happen with Clark. I still think
it would be fantastic if we all woke up tomorrow and the primaries were
over and Clark was just somehow the nominee...but man, I just really don't

4.) There is a new sense--a sense that was pretty much non-existent at the
beginning of the month--that Kerry may be the best nominee after all. Maybe it's the high-level, undeniably "serious" figures who have associated themselves with his campaign. Maybe it's that, after all this time, no serious criticism seems to have stuck to him. There's just the bullcrap
"aloofness" thing, which the press had a ball with way back like a year ago when Kerry was the presumptive front-runner. Now call me optimistic, but I'm getting the sense--what with shit blowing up in Iraq every day, the unpopular reality of the $87 billion figure, and the widespread turn against Bush on actual issues of substance--I'm getting the sense that the old soft-smear-based-on-some-mannerism trick just isn't going to fly this time around. And somehow I see Kerry as just less threatened by that kind of "character"-critique than Dean and Clark could be by attacks on their
respective personality issues. There's a "solidity" to Kerry (yes I'll play this game if I must) that has become more apparent over time.

5.) Here's an obvious one: the sooner Lieberman gets the hell out, the
better for everyone and everything.

6.) It would be SO, SO much better if by the time of the next debate (in
late November, I believe) there are five candidates instead of nine. Will
that happen? No.

7.) Kucinich will win the nomination. Ha--just kidding.

O.K., that's it.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Bush Getting Closer and Closer to "Hitting the Trifecta" 

1. 9/11 Commission Could Subpoena Oval Office Files
"Anything that has to do with 9/11, we have to see it — anything. There are a lot of theories about 9/11, and as long as there is any document out there that bears on any of those theories, we're going to leave questions unanswered. And we cannot leave questions unanswered."

While Mr. Kean said he was barred by an agreement with the White House from describing the Oval Office documents at issue in any detail — he said the White House was "quite nervous" about any public hint at their contents — other commission officials said they included the detailed daily intelligence reports that were provided to Mr. Bush in the weeks leading up to Sept. 11. The reports are known within the White House as the Presidential Daily Briefing.

2. Search in Iraq Fails to Find Nuclear Threat
No Evidence Uncovered Of Reconstituted Program

According to records made available to The Washington Post and interviews with arms investigators from the United States, Britain and Australia, it did not require a comprehensive survey to find the central assertions of the Bush administration's prewar nuclear case to be insubstantial or untrue. Although Hussein did not relinquish his nuclear ambitions or technical records, investigators said, it is now clear he had no active program to build a weapon, produce its key materials or obtain the technology he needed for either.

3. Bush's Press Aide, Rove Questioned in Leaks Probe
Although the interviews -- now numbering more than three dozen -- have included the CIA and the departments of Defense and State, the focus of the investigation has centered on the White House, the sources said. Those who have submitted to voluntary interviews include Karl Rove, President Bush's senior adviser, and Scott McClellan, the chief White House spokesman.

...and where she stops, nobody knows.


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