Bernard Weiner's Blog -- Summer, 2004
July 2, 2004
There's a New Yorker cartoon that's been hanging over my desk for years now.
It shows two bearded gurus sitting in lotus-position on top the great
mountain. One guru leans over and says: "Sometimes I think we know too much
for our own damn good."
That's the way I felt the other night when I saw "Fahrenheit 9/11." Like a
good many readers of this blog, I was acquainted with virtually all the
points being made by Michael Moore in his film. And yet, even though we
politically-aware viewers know "too much for our own damn good," it's still
hard not to be moved and angered by the movie's revelations.
Since Moore is being bashed by rightwing commentators because the film isn't
a traditional "documentary," it's imporant to note that "F-9/11" doesn't
even pretend to be an objective documentary. It's clear from the opening
narration that this is one man's highly idiosyncratic, subjective take on
Bush and the reckless, deadly policies he's led the country into.
This is true free-speech moviemaking -- and, in a sense, is a perfect
example of traditional Republican values of entrepreneurship: A guy with
something to say figures out a clever way of saying it -- and, most
importantly, marketing it -- and makes a lot of money doing so.
Moore couldn't be happier that the rightwing is denouncing his film, thus
guaranteeing full houses everywhere. Already, the Cannes Film Festival
first-prize winner has moved into the rarefied list of all-time box-office
successes, and may well influence the presidential election -- which, of
course, is the filmmaker's goal.
THE EMOTIONAL IMPACT
The film contains a lot of facts (maybe too many, actually), and those
coming to these issues for the first time will receive a wide-ranging,
wake-up-call education. But the movie's cumulative effect lies less in the
details and more in its overall emotional impact.
In this regard, how Moore utilizes the story-within-the-story of Lila
Lipscombe is at the heart of the film's success. When we first meet
Lipscombe two-thirds of the way through the film, the impression we get is
of a self-described "conservative Democrat" housewife and mother who was
proud to encourage her daughter to join the military and fight in the first
Gulf War, and her son to sign up and fight in the current Iraq war. She
comes from a long military family and is a gung-ho patriot.
Like so many lower-middle class parents, she and her husband saw the
military as an honorable and effective way to climb the ladder of success --
a sentiment the military counts on for recruiting purposes that target 18-
and 19-year-old kids from the economically-depressed rural areas and the
Lipscombe's daughter served honorably in the Gulf War and returned in one
piece. Her son died in the Iraq desert, when his helicoper crashed after
We watch this agonizing mother try to deal with the reality of that grief,
and with her own anger -- at herself, for urging her son to enlist, and at
the political system that sent him there for suspect reasons. As she
approaches the outside of the White House, to express her rage and hurt and
anger, and nearly falls to the earth crying out for her lost son, there
isn't a dry eye in the house.
Typically, a Republican operative, patrolling the outskirts of the White
House, denounces her as a staged plant -- presumably to make Bush look bad
-- but then, when she comes face to face with the exploding heart of
Lipscombe lamenting the loss of her very real, dead son, the Bushie doesn't
quite know how to respond.
These later scenes with Lipscombe are among the most powerful moments in a
most powerful film, one where Moore wisely chose to keep his mouth shut and
simply keep the camera running.
BUSH AND THE GOAT STORY
The honest grief and the anger welling from the center of Lipscombe's being
are testaments to truths unfolded by Moore earlier in the film: the various
oil-related scandals involving Bush (and often the bin Laden family), Bush's
kowtowing to the corporate interests that have backed him and groomed him
all his life, the endless lies Bush&Co. used to manipulate the Congress and
the American people into a war-of-choice against Iraq, Bush's mythologizing
the American soldier in the field and then the cheap, humiliating treatment
they receive when they come back home wounded, and on and on.
Bush comes off, as he's supposed to, as a pampered elitist child, unfamiliar
with how ordinary people live; totally over his head in the presidency (the
footage of Bush on 9/11 listening to pupils read about a goat for seven
agonizingly long minutes, devoid of advisors to tell him what to do, is
devastating); a willing tool of corporate and religious forces that have
their own agendas that are not always in America's best interests.
The film has many faults and flaws -- not the least of which is spending too
much time on the Saudis, with nary a mention of Israeli-Palestinian issues
that inflame the Middle East and help drive U.S. foreign policy -- but it's
a must-see: a brilliantly edited (and often quite satirical) political
pilloring of a leader. The film reminds us of our duties as citizens to
correct this awful ituation, by driving the extremist Bush crowd from the
reins of power.
Enough from me. As you enjoy your 4th of July picnics and parades on Sunday
-- celebrating the brave men and women who birthed our nation more than two
centuries ago -- reflect on how far we've come from a period in American
history when patriots were willing to fight and die for the right to
criticize their ruler, and to overthrow the police-state system established
by King George when his authoritarian misdeeds no longer could be tolerated.
Read the bloggers below for instances that will help remind us how far we've
come from those days.
Josh Marshall has a few
such ethical and democratic lapses worth considering: ..Everyone is
waiting with frenzied expectation to see what's going to be contained in
that soon-to-be-released Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on
Iraq intelligence failures.
Here's one thing I suspect
we'll hear about.
Remember those aluminum tubes?
Those were the tubes imported by Iraq which were so precisely and finely
manufactured that they could only have been intended for use in gas
centrifuges to enrich uranium. That was the story at least -- the tubes that
launched a thousand ships in the tragicomic Dubyiad.
There were always doubters, of course. And some rather important ones,
particularly the experts at the Department of the Energy -- the folks in the
US government who actually have real experience in enriching uranium and
making nuclear weapons, a rather potent credential.
They didn't think the aluminum tubes were for nukes.
Yet that seemingly qualified verdict was overruled by contending voices at
the CIA, particularly one analyst who took up the tubes case aggressively.
David Albright wrote in March 2003, "For over a year and a half, an
analyst at the CIA has been pushing the aluminum tube story, despite
consistent disagreement by a wide range of experts in the United States and
abroad. His opinion, however, obtained traction in the summer of 2002 with
senior members of the Bush Administration, including the President."
In any case, who did the actual technical analysis of the tubes for the CIA?
apparently they hired an outside consultant/contractor -- given the US
government's expertise in the production of nuclear weapons, a rather
dubious instance of outsourcing. And that contractor came back with the
thumbs up on the nuclear verdict.
But the thumb, it seems, didn't start out up. It needed help.
Apparently, the first time they came back with their judgment it was either
ambiguous or negative on whether these tubes seemed likely to be destined
for an Iraqi nuclear program.
Only that wasn't the answer the tube-master at the CIA wanted. And they were
told so in no uncertain terms.
Getting the thumbs-up apparently required a bit of coaching, a clear message
that the initial thumbs-down (or perhaps thumbs-sideways) wasn't the right
Verdict number two, I'm told, came back on the mark, with an answer finely
tuned to meet the required specifications.
"Send your Church
Directory to your State Bush-Cheney '04 Headquarters or give to a BC04
Field Rep. ... Identify another conservative church in your community who
we can organize for Bush ... Receive a list from you [sic] County Chair of
all non-registered church members and Pro-Bush Conservatives ... place
reminder bulletin about all Christian citizens needing to vote in Sunday
program or on a board near the church entrance."
Just a few of the "duties"
of Bush-Cheney campaign Church coordinators, as outlined by this
Bush-Cheney campaign document obtained by the Washington Post.
Imagine that. Back a year and a half ago, we here at TPM went on for several
days telling you about the case of Allen Raymond, once head of GOP
Marketplace LLC, a phone bank operation, and all-around GOP
As we reported back then, the New Hampshire GOP had hired him to
do phone banking work on election day 2002 when Senator John Sununu pulled
off his close-call victory over out-going Governor Jeanne Shaheen.
Somehow, though -- and it's always amazing how these things happen -- that
innocent effort turned into a campaign to jam the phone lines of the
Democrats' get-out-the-vote operation on election day, with a phone bank out
in Idaho making countless five-second hang-up calls to phone numbers of the
Democratic coordinated campaign offices as well as the offices of the
Manchester firefighters union, which was also doing get-out-the-vote work
...We did our own bit of sleuthing and found out that Raymond was also the
Executive Director of the Republican Leadership Council -- an outfit run by
a long list of Republican worthies -- and that his company had done
phone banking for them on election day too. And Steve Kornacki of
PoliticsNJ.com found out that Raymond also seemed to be behind another phone
banking scandal in New Jersey.
..In any case, as you might expect, Raymond denied the whole thing. Until
today that is, when he
copped a plea in U.S. District Court in Concord.
In a statement out today, the Executive Director of the state Democrats,
says, "While Allen Raymond of GOP Marketplace was charged in this case, the
US Attorney makes it clear that there are co-conspirators, both known and
unknown. We urge the U.S. Attorney to continue working to bring all of the
people involved in this matter to justice."
Corrente adds some
important info to the Raymond case:
The Republicans stop at nothing, as we already know from Florida 2000. But
they were up to the same dirty tricks in 2002. And one of them got caught.
This looks like good news, but look at the detail:
The former head a
Republican consulting group pleaded guilty to jamming Democratic telephone
lines in several New Hampshire cities during the 2002 general election.
Allen Raymond, former president of the Alexandria, Va.-based GOP
Marketplace LLC, waived indictment...
Hmmm... Wonder what they
didn't want to come out in court? Of course, if this
were a crime family, instead of the Republican party, I'm sure that Raymond
would be confident of being well taken care of in exchange for keeping his
... and pleaded guilty
in U.S. District Court in Concord on Wednesday. Judge Joseph A.
DiClerico Jr. released Raymond on his own recognizance pending
sentencing in November.
Meanwhile, the Justice Department, which prosecuted the case, said an
investigation into the telephone jamming continues.
According to court papers, Raymond plotted with unidentified
Well, well. I wonder who?
... to jam Democratic
Party telephone lines established so voters could call for rides to the
polls in Manchester, Nashua, Rochester and Claremont. Manchester
firefighters' union phone lines also were affected. (via
I wonder if the DOJ will
have a result from their continuing investigation in
time for November 2004?
Finally, let's close with
some good news, reported from Atrios,
quoting from Marie Coco's Newsday column:
Wow. Bush has lost one of strongest media-manufactured characteristics - his
reputation as a
New surveys by The New
York Times and the Washington Post reveal a perilous plunge in the
commander-in-chief's credibility. The Times found that 79 percent of the
public thinks Bush either is hiding something about Iraq, or worse, is
"mostly lying" about it. The Post asked whether Bush or Kerry is "honest
and trustworthy," and the president was judged to be honest by 39 percent.
Kerry came in at 52 percent.
July 6, 2004
Good Signs in Smalltown America
On the road again. Here in the San Geronimo Valley in West Marin (with San
Francisco a long drive away), one feels swept up into small-town Americana,
anchored to tradition, but, in the face of 21st-century realities, open to
new ways of looking at the world.
We witnessed two 4th of July parades Sunday, in separate small communities,
and both were considerably different from those of years' past. Those
previous parades were like dipping into a Norman Rockwell world of America
as it once was, when celebrating the country's birth never varied:
red-white-and-blue flags and bunting everywhere, fire engines, police cars
and horses, local politicos waving, families and small businesses creating
floats, flatbed trucks with musicians playing patriotic songs, kids on
bicycles festooned with ribbons, paens to war and duty.
But this year was different. In both smalltown parades, it was a pleasant
surprise to see and hear that there were contingents of neighbors and
friends with signs denouncing Bush and the way he got us into war in Iraq
and the bumbling way he's handled the situation since then. There also were
young people working the large crowds, registering new voters for the
upcoming November election.
The antiwar message was not flamboyant and insulting, and was by no means
the majority point of view, but just the fact that those protesters were
part of the festivities gave hope that our flag was still there, besmirched
though it may be by our leaders. Such action is the best demonstration of
our country's heritage -- speaking out as citizens of a free land created by
our own hands and courage.
THE FIRST KING GEORGE
Let us not forget, after all, how our country came to be. A king named
George was behaving irrationally and vindictively toward England's colonists
in America, and responded with violence and increased burdensome taxes when
the colonists complained of their treatment. Many of the American colonists
didn't appreciate their money and young men being taken to fight on behalf
of England's desire for empire. They petitioned, and complained, and
agitated, but King George -- stubborn and not too bright, maybe even a bit
mad -- would have none of it. He poured it on the colonists.
Eventually, they'd had enough and in 1776 drafted and made public the
Declaration of Independence, one of the most extraordinary documents ever
created in the history of government, written by some of the most
intelligent and bravest men who ever lived. In no uncertain terms, and at
great personal risk of their lives, they laid out their bill of particulars
against George's tyrannical rule, and the War for Independence began.
In the main, the Declaration and the later Constitution with the Bill of
Rights attached were quite clear in what they didn't want -- the kinds of
oppressive actions George and other European leaders visited upon them in
the past -- and were equally clear what it was they did want in the way of
What they didn't want was government running roughshod over their lives. And
so they did away with their relationship to the king, and established a
system of rule that made it very difficult for governments to do anything.
In short, they put all sorts of checks-and-balances roadblocks in front of
their rulers, and factions, to prevent tyranny from ever raising its head
They made sure to separate government from religion, so that the state could
never intrude on their individual belief systems. They built in a protection
of their right of privacy (although they never used that word, "privacy,"
which, in those days, referred to toilet matters) against a snooping
government. They made sure that those suspected of offenses had legal
weapons to protect themselves against government control. In short, they
were damn tired of oppressive government and they didn't want to have to go
to war against one again.
And, in their genius, lo and behold, the system worked, and, if left alone,
continues to work 228 years after the Declaration.
KING GEORGE THE LATTER
But something has happened since the beginning of the reign of our latest
George and the tight circle around him: they have hijacked the government
and moved it toward extremist behaviors, have given short shrift to the
Constitution and Bill of Rights, engaged in war adventures abroad (using a
mercenary army, and outside "contractors"), endangered our relations and
long-term national interests in the world, ruined our economy, laid
burdensome debt onto our children's future, carried out policies that have
stimulated the growth of terrorism, wrecked our moral stature at home and
abroad (and approving torture is just the tip of the iceberg), increased the
pollution of the air we breathe and the water we drink by letting the
polluters write the environmental and energy rules, cut public services to
the poor and middle-class while handing out favors to the already-wealthy,
and on and on.
In short, we've got a stubborn king -- one who has, on at least three
occasions, jokingly affirmed that he would like to be a dictator. He and his
extremist handlers are ruining our country, and the institutions that have
served us so well for more than two-and-a-quarter centuries.
When in the course of human events it becomes necessary to free ourselves
from this ruinous behavior at the hands of a would-be despot, and his
authoritarian-minded friends, we must consider seriously how to extricate
ourselves from this sad state of affairs.
Impeachment, resignation from office, being forced from power as a result of
a fair and honest election -- these are our legal remedies. For the moment,
we will leave unsaid the extralegal. Using hope and energy as our fuel, we
will drive these greedy, mean-spirited ideologues from the halls of power.
On this 4th of July weekend, we thank you, Paine and Jefferson and Madison
and all the rest of the patriots that provided us with our institutions of
Along those lines, blogger
Steve Gilliard has selected these quotes from Tom Paine, the
intellectual patron-saint of The Crisis Papers (our very name is
taken from Paine's writings). Read them and weep at where the current
administration has taken our country:
A few words from Thomas Paine. While other founding fathers usually get the
attention on the 4th of July, it was Paine and his pen which launched the
break with England. There would have been no Declaration of Independence
without his words and his ideas. Thomas Paine was the most revolutionary of
the revolutionaries. He wasn't a titled man, or a man of property, like
those who signed the Declaration. But it was his ideas which launched the
These are selections from...the first and last American Crisis. While
publishing the American Crisis, Paine served as a soldier in the Continental
Army as well during this time. Paine was not an easy man to deal with but
his ideas made America. He saw a future where individuals had rights and
didn't need kings. Which isn't bad for a tax collector who was on the run
The first American Crisis was read to the Continental Army before the battle
of Trenton, which Paine fought in. It is one of the few documents in
American history which can be quoted by people from memory. His words, and
his ideas are among the most important ever produced by an American and his
legacy is one of the finest that the US has ever produced...
December 23, 1776
THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the
sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their
country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man
and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this
consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the
triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness
only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper
price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an
article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.
Britain, with an army to enforce her tyranny, has declared that she has a
right (not only to TAX) but "to BIND us in ALL CASES WHATSOEVER" and if
being bound in that manner, is not slavery, then is there not such a thing
as slavery upon earth. Even the expression is impious; for so unlimited a
power can belong only to God.
Whether the independence of the continent was declared too soon, or
delayed too long, I will not now enter into as an argument; my own simple
opinion is, that had it been eight months earlier, it would have been much
better. We did not make a proper use of last winter, neither could we,
while we were in a dependent state. However, the fault, if it were one,
was all our own; we have none to blame but ourselves. But no great deal is
lost yet. All that Howe has been doing for this month past, is rather a
ravage than a conquest, which the spirit of the Jerseys, a year ago, would
have quickly repulsed, and which time and a little resolution will soon
I have as little superstition in me as any man living, but my secret
opinion has ever been, and still is, that God Almighty will not give up a
people to military destruction, or leave them unsupportedly to perish, who
have so earnestly and so repeatedly sought to avoid the calamities of war,
by every decent method which wisdom could invent. Neither have I so much
of the infidel in me, as to suppose that He has relinquished the
government of the world, and given us up to the care of devils; and as I
do not, I cannot see on what grounds the king of Britain can look up to
heaven for help against us: a common murderer, a highwayman, or a
house-breaker, has as good a pretence as he.
Philadelphia, April 19, 1783
THOUGHTS ON THE PEACE, AND THE PROBABLE
THESE are times that tried men's souls, and they are over -- and the
greatest and completest revolution the world ever knew, gloriously and
happily accomplished. But to pass from the extremes of danger to safety --
from the tumult of war to the tranquility of peace, though sweet in
contemplation, requires a gradual composure of the senses to receive it.
Even calmness has the power of stunning, when it opens too instantly upon
us. The long and raging hurricane that should cease in a moment, would
leave us in a state rather of wonder than enjoyment; and some moments of
recollection must pass, before we could be capable of tasting the felicity
of repose. There are but few instances, in which the mind is fitted for
sudden transitions: it takes in its pleasures by reflection and comparison
and those must have time to act, before the relish for new scenes is
In the present case -- the mighty magnitude of the object -- the various
uncertainties of fate it has undergone -- the numerous and complicated
dangers we have suffered or escaped -- the eminence we now stand on, and
the vast prospect before us, must all conspire to impress us with
To see it in our power to make a world happy -- to teach mankind the art
of being so- to exhibit, on the theatre of the universe a character
hitherto unknown -- and to have, as it were, a new creation entrusted to
our hands, are honors that command reflection, and can neither be too
highly estimated, nor too gratefully received.
In this pause then of recollection -- while the storm is ceasing, and the
long agitated mind vibrating to a rest, let us look back on the scenes we
have passed, and learn from experience what is yet to be done.
Never, I say, had a country so many openings to happiness as this. Her
setting out in life, like the rising of a fair morning, was unclouded and
promising. Her cause was good. Her principles just and liberal. Her temper
serene and firm. Her conduct regulated by the nicest steps, and everything
about her wore the mark of honor. It is not every country (perhaps there
is not another in the world) that can boast so fair an origin. Even the
first settlement of America corresponds with the character of the
revolution. Rome, once the proud mistress of the universe, was originally
a band of ruffians. Plunder and rapine made her rich, and her oppression
of millions made her great. But America need never be ashamed to tell her
birth, nor relate the stages by which she rose to empire.
The remembrance, then, of what is past, if it operates rightly, must
inspire her with the most laudable of all ambition, that of adding to the
fair fame she began with. The world has seen her great in adversity;
struggling, without a thought of yielding, beneath accumulated
difficulties, bravely, nay proudly, encountering distress, and rising in
resolution as the storm increased. All this is justly due to her, for her
fortitude has merited the character. Let, then, the world see that she can
bear prosperity: and that her honest virtue in time of peace, is equal to
the bravest virtue in time of war.
She is now descending to the scenes of quiet and domestic life. Not
beneath the cypress shade of disappointment, but to enjoy in her own land,
and under her own vine, the sweet of her labors, and the reward of her
toil. -- In this situation, may she never forget that a fair national
reputation is of as much importance as independence. That it possesses a
charm that wins upon the world, and makes even enemies civil. That it
gives a dignity which is often superior to power, and commands reverence
where pomp and splendor fail.
It would be a circumstance ever to be lamented and never to be forgotten,
were a single blot, from any cause whatever, suffered to fall on a
revolution, which to the end of time must be an honor to the age that
accomplished it: and which has contributed more to enlighten the world,
and diffuse a spirit of freedom and liberality among mankind, than any
human event (if this may be called one) that ever preceded it.
It is not among the least of the calamities of a long continued war, that
it unhinges the mind from those nice sensations which at other times
appear so amiable. The continual spectacle of woe blunts the finer
feelings, and the necessity of bearing with the sight, renders it
familiar. In like manner, are many of the moral obligations of society
weakened, till the custom of acting by necessity becomes an apology, where
it is truly a crime. Yet let but a nation conceive rightly of its
character, and it will be chastely just in protecting it. None ever began
with a fairer than America and none can be under a greater obligation to
The debt which America has contracted, compared with the cause she has
gained, and the advantages to flow from it, ought scarcely to be
mentioned. She has it in her choice to do, and to live as happily as she
pleases. The world is in her hands. She has no foreign power to monopolize
her commerce, perplex her legislation, or control her prosperity. The
struggle is over, which must one day have happened, and, perhaps, never
could have happened at a better time. And instead of a domineering master,
she has gained an ally whose exemplary greatness, and universal
liberality, have extorted a confession even from her enemies.
July 9, 2004
Edwards to Lay to Rove: Connect the Dots
Let's take a look at the three big stories of the week: John Edwards joins
the ticket, Ken Lay gets busted, Karl Rove orders a major Al Qaida arrest to
coincide with the Democratic Convention, if possible, but definitely before
And, of course, as in most matters political, all three of those stories are
KERRY EXPANDS THE CENTER
The news behind Edwards ascension to the ticket, and why it took so long for
Kerry to make the obvious choice, is that the Kerry campaign had to see if
BushCheney were imploding on their own, or whether he'd have to jog
considerably to the right in his Veep choice.
During the months when Kerry was vetting the contenders, Iraq went from
worse to disastrous, the torture scandals revealed so gross an overreaching
into legislative and judicial prerogatives that even the U.S. Supreme Court
slapped them down, the job figures weren't rising fast enough, Bush was
questioned for 70 minutes by the prosecutor in the Plame, spy-outing case --
in short, Kerry could look around and see that BushCheney were in big
trouble and weren't going to find an easy way to climb out.
So, he went with Edwards, who brings few negatives and a lot of positives,
to the campaign. The biggest negative is his lack of foreign policy
experience, but Bush had zip when he ran in 2000, and that was for the
presidency, not the vice presidential job. (See Juan Cole's take on this
In sum, Kerry can expand his run from the center-right to the liberal left,
instead of having to stick too close to the center-right and risk losing a
vital share of his liberal/progressive base by doing so. And Edwards will
help bring in the few remaining independents who haven't made up their
The indictment of Ken Lay (the close family friend, and major contributor to
Bush's political career from his Texas days up to and including the 2000
race) helps Bush in some ways, and harms him in others. (Bush, of course, is
still pretending he
doesn't have a relationship with "that man.")
Lay's arrest helps in shifting the focus away from the bad Iraq and
electoral news; now the press can hype the Lay/Enron brouhaha, and downplay
the more meaningful stories. But by putting Lay front and center, the old
relationship between Kenny-Boy and Georgie-Boy will generate lots of stories
about Lay's enormous influence over Bush Administration energy policy,
remind folks of the accounting and other corporate scandals that occurred on
Bush's watch, and add more fuel to the interest in finding out how closely
Lay was involved in Cheney's secret energy-policy meetings and in the
creation of that policy.
One can guess that Lay will keep his mouth shut about his BushCheney ties
and what he knows of the inner workings of U.S. energy policy, and gamble
that the prosecution will blow the case in the courts. If the worst happens
and he's convicted on some counts, Lay probably figures he can rely on a
presidential pardon somewhere down the line.
ROVE DIPS INTO THE OPTIONS BAG
Karl Rove, the power behind the Bush throne, is cranking up the
get-the-Democrats machine big time. The character-assassination and negative
campaigning has begun, but, given his candidate's slide in the polls, the
deteriorating situation in Iraq, the various torture/Plame and other
scandals erupting, the revelations in "Fahrenheit 9/11," etc., Rove knows
he's got to come up with something really big to regain the momentum.
1. To cover its butt and heighten the fright factor in the population, he
Administration is already preparing the public for a massive
Al Qaida attack within the next four months. No doubt, it's
already devising plans for how to take advantage of that terrorism if and
when it occurs, a la the original 9/11 terrorism (even though last time,
they knew a major attack was coming and didn't warn the citizenry, or anyone
else for that matter.)
2. There's always the option of initiating another war somewhere, or at
least the threat of such, maybe against Cuba or Syria or Iran --
anticipating a the rally-'round-the-President effect. But there's no
guarantee the military would go along without an enormous internal struggle
that no doubt would leak to the public; and there's no certainty that the
American public would buy another war just before the election.
3. The best, and least-politically costly, alternative would be to capture
Osama bin Laden or other top al-Qaida/Taliban leaders, and thus demonstrate
how effective the Bush Administration is on waging the "war on terror." (Of
course, they could have gone after Osama full-time during the past two-plus
years when they were obsessed with invading Iraq, but better late than
To that end, the U.S. more or less has commanded the Pakistani government to
launch a major offensive in the mountainous zone on the Pakistan/Afghanistan
border where Osama and his lieutenants are thought to be hiding. Here are
the key quotes from the dynamite story in
Republic by respected journalists John Judis and Spencer Ackerman, with
Pakistani reporter Massoud Ansari:
BRING ME THE HEAD OF OSAMA BIN LADEN
"This public pressure would be appropriate, even laudable, had it not been
accompanied by an unseemly private insistence that the Pakistanis deliver
these high-value targets (HVTs) before Americans go to the polls in
November. The Bush administration denies it has geared the war on terrorism
to the electoral calendar. 'Our attitude and actions have been the same
since September 11 in terms of getting high-value targets off the street,
and that doesn't change because of an election,' says National Security
Council spokesman Sean McCormack. But The New Republic has learned that
Pakistani security officials have been told they must produce HVTs by the
"...According to this ISI [Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence] official,
a White House aide told ul-Haq [ISI's director] last spring that 'it would
be best if the arrest or killing of [any] HVT were announced on twenty-six,
twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July' -- the first three days of the
Democratic National Convention in Boston."
Can politics get more crass and under-the-rocks slimy than this? The Bush
Administration had nearly three years to get these guys -- instead they were
mostly preparing for and then going off on their cockamamie invasion of
Iraq, a country that was incapable of threatening or attacking anybody,
certainly not the U.S. -- and now they want to have the bad guys served up
on a platter to detract from, and they hope destroy, the Democratic
Shameful! But not all that surprising. As many of us have said many times,
these guys will do just about ANYTHING to stay in power.
Note: If you're interested in having some fun with the Lay-Bush
relationship, you might like these two older satires of mine: "Inside Bush's
Bobbin' and Weavin' Over Enron" (January 29, 2002), and, also from
"Confidential Memo from Kenny Boy to Georgie Boy: 'Welcome to the Club!'"
(May 24, 2002).
Now on to further thoughts on some of these matters by a number of fellow
Some interesting little items over at
Still Holding at Level Big Bird
Posted by Tena
Can someone tell me, please, what Tom Ridge actually does?
BBC News is
reporting that Ridge has warned that there have been "credible reports" that
Al Qaeda is planning to try to undermine the November 2 election by staging
an attack. But Ridge said that the U.S. has no plans to raise the alert
Then why bother to tell anyone about the so-called "credible reports" that
there is going to be an attack? What the hell is the Department of Homeland
Security trying to do?
Today on Holden's Obsession with the Gaggle
Posted by Holden
Dang, I wish I could get my mitts on a transcript of Chimpy's little
dust-up, but all I have is
Scottie [Press Secretary Scott McClellan].
Still, there were some interesting Lay-related questions:
Q But this particular alleged corporate wrongdoer was a personal friend
of the President's, who the President addressed as "Kenny, boy," who
raised a lot of money for the President in the 2000 election cycle, who
offered corporate jets to the President for travel in Texas. He did know
him well. Does he --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you seem to want to be fairly selective there,
because let me point out that he was someone who supported Democrats and
Republicans, alike, including the President, as you pointed out.
Q Well, is that all the President had to say?
MR. McCLELLAN: That's how I would describe the relationship, and I think
it's an accurate way to describe the relationship.
Q Does President Bush consider Ken Lay a personal friend? And did the
White House have any communication with the Justice Department leading up
to the indictment?
MR. McCLELLAN: No. This is a Justice Department matter, and we expect the
Justice Department to do their job when it comes to cracking down on
corporate wrongdoing. In terms of the question you asked about Mr. Lay,
the President has already addressed that, and he described it the way I
did, as well.
And what about Lay's role in Cheney's Energy Task Force? The questions say
Q Scott, could you say whether Ken Lay had any input into formulation of a
Bush energy policy?...
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I realize that. But wouldn't it be -- given the
indictment now, wouldn't it be in the interest of assuring the public of
the integrity of the process by which you came to the formulation of the
policy -- ...
Q Yes, I realize that, Scott. But wouldn't it be politically appropriate
to at least indicate what advice, if any, Mr. Lay had given, given that
Juan Cole takes up the Edwards'
"lack of experience" issue:
George W. Bush alleged Thursday that John Edwards lacks the experience
necessary to be president.
The problem with this argument is that Bush lacked the experience necessary
to be president when he ran in 2000, so this sort of cheap shot just hoists
him by his own petard. Let's just remember a seminal Bush moment in 1999:
' Bush fails reporter's pop quiz on international leaders
November 5, 1999
Web posted at: 3:29 p.m. EST (2029 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Texas Gov. George W. Bush is enduring sharp
criticism for being unable to name the leaders of four current world hot
spots, but President Bill Clinton says Bush "should, and probably will,
pick up" those names.
The front-runner for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination faltered
Thursday in an international affairs pop quiz posed by Andy Hiller, a
political reporter for WHDH-TV in Boston.
Hiller asked Bush to name the leaders of Chechnya, Taiwan, India and
Pakistan. Bush was only able to give a partial response to the query on
the leader of Taiwan, referring to Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui simply
as "Lee." He could not name the others.
"Can you name the general who is in charge of Pakistan?" Hiller asked,
inquiring about Gen. Pervaiz Musharraf, who seized control of the country
"Wait, wait, is this 50 questions?" asked Bush.
Hiller replied: "No, it's four questions of four leaders in four hot
spots." . . .
Bush, in answering the question about the leader of Pakistan, also said:
"The new Pakistani general, he's just been elected -- not elected, this
guy took over office. It appears this guy is going to bring stability to
the country and I think that's good news for the subcontinent."
Gore released a statement Friday taking Bush to task for his comments on
Pakistan's recent coup.
"I find it troubling that a candidate for president in our country -- the
world's oldest democracy -- would characterize the military takeover as
"good news," Gore said. "Further, I find it even more disturbing that he
made these comments about a nation that just last year tested nuclear
weapons -- shortly after voicing his public opposition to the
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
A spokesman for President Clinton also criticized Bush's comments.
"It is very dangerous for this country to condone the overthrow of
democratically elected governments," said David Leavy, spokesman for the
National Security Council.
Not only did Bush not know who General Pervez Musharraf was, he seems to
have confused coup-making with "taking office," and moreover went on to
suggest that the overthrow of an elected prime minister and the installation
in power of the Pakistan military, then the world's strongest supporter of
the Taliban, would bring "stability!" Musharraf made his coup in part
because of the military's anger over Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's
willingness to back down from confronting India over Kashmir, so that he
explicitly came to power as a warmonger.
I can't tell you how ominous I found Bush's performance in that interview. I
still remember him stuttering about "the General," unable to remember
Musharraf's name. He obviously had no idea what he was talking about, though
he demonstrated a number of ill-fated instincts. He obviously liked
authoritarian rule better than democracy, equating dictatorship with
"stability." And, he didn't think he needed to know anything about South
Asia, with its nuclear giants and radical religious politics--the latter a
dire security threat to the US. He couldn't tell when things were becoming
more unstable as opposed to less. Musharraf went on to play nuclear
brinkmanship with India in 2002, risking war twice that year. Although
Musharraf did turn against the Taliban after September 11, under extreme
duress from the US, elements of his military continued to support radical
Islamism and have recently been implicated in assassination attempts on
Musharraf himself. This was the body that Bush proclaimed was bringing
"stability" to the region in fall of 1999.
So, one answer to Bush's charge about Edwards is that if it had any merit,
Bush should have declined to run himself.
Another answer is that Edwards certainly knows far more about foreign
affairs now than Bush did then. Indeed, given how Bush has rampaged around
the world alienating allies and ignoring vital conflicts with the potential
to blow back on the US, one might well argue that Edwards knows more now
than Bush does.
This is what Edwards' campaign literature said about his positions: "Edwards
believes that the U.S. must be an active leader to help resolve conflicts,
from reducing tensions between India and Pakistan to the peace process in
Northern Ireland. Edwards is a strong supporter of Israel, and believes that
the U.S. has a vital role in promoting peace between the Israelis and the
I don't see Bush doing any of this.
Interesting postings at Corrente:
Looking Out for #1
Tucked away in Spencer Ackerman and John Judis' article on the
Administration enlisting the Pakistani military in its re-election campaign
hunt for al-Qaida leaders, there is this little nugget:
The Bush administration has matched this public and private pressure
with enticements and implicit threats. ...[Colin] Powell pointedly refused
to criticize Musharraf for pardoning nuclear physicist A.Q. Khan--who, the
previous month, had admitted exporting nuclear secrets to Iran, North
Korea, and Libya--declaring Khan's transgressions an "internal" Pakistani
So, for those keeping score: first Bush let al-Qaida's leadership escape
from Tora Bora rather than divert military assets from attacking Iraq,
then spared Abu Musab Zarqawi so we could falsely link Saddam to al-Qaida
as a pretext for attacking Iraq, and gives a pass to a country that
actively participates in the market for nuclear terrorism so we can catch
the al-Qaida leadership we let get away 2 1/2 years ago. Meanwhile New
Yorkers and Californians get the least homeland security funding per
capita, Montanans the most.
Maybe someone with experience in NCAA playoffs could help, but from where
I sit the rankings going into the Self-Preservation Semifinals seem to be
something like this:
1. Bush and cronies
2. Rogue nuclear states
4. US citizens
So this is what they meant by "moral clarity."
Options for Kenny Boy: How about a tell-all book? Say, about how Enron
stole billions from California?
Certainly one way to pay off the lawyers! And the book practically writes
itself, doesn't it? Robert Bryce lifts up the Enron rock in Salon and finds
all kinds of crawly, squirmy things:
>>Lay could dish the dirt on several important topics: the  Karl
Rove-brokered push that resulted in Enron paying Christian conservative
turned super-lobbyist Ralph Reed $300,000;  Lay's dealings with
secretary of state turned super-lobbyist James Baker;  why Enron hired
Ed Gillespie, the man who now heads the Republican National Committee; 
the reason for Lay's decision to allow the Bushes to use Enron's fleet of
airplanes as their own;  what happened in those meetings with Dick
Cheney and his energy task force; and  what really happened with the
California energy crisis. (via
Of course, Lay would have to ask fast; the book would need to hit the
stands by, say, late October.... Anyhow, Bryce picks  as the hot topic:
The phony California energy "crisis" scam:
Or better still, what might Lay tell us about the California energy
crisis? Some may recall that Lay had a private meeting with Cheney on
April 17, 2001, to talk about the [California] energy markets, which were
reeling from skyrocketing power prices. During the meeting, Lay told
Cheney that the federal government should not impose any restrictions on
the markets. His memo to Cheney said that "the administration should
reject any attempt to re-regulate wholesale power markets by adopting
price caps." Even temporary price restrictions, the memo argued, "will be
detrimental to power markets and will discourage private investment."
Cheney immediately began parroting Lay's argument. The day after the
meeting, Cheney mocked the idea of price caps during an interview with a
reporter from the Los Angeles Times, saying caps would provide only
"short-term political relief for the politicians." He also said they would
discourage investment, a matter Cheney called "the basic fundamental
Today we know [and Paul Krugman wrote at the time—Lambert] that one of
the fundamental problems with the California energy crisis was that traders
from Enron and other energy companies were manipulating power prices at
their whim -- and that they liked to joke about how they were taking money
from those "poor grandmothers in California." Lay could tell us when he
first learned that his traders were making huge profits by scamming
California's gas and electricity markets.
Oh, and those thieving traders? Faithful Republicans, every single one.
Let's watch Republican values in action. From the trading transcripts:
On the calls, traders openly and gleefully discussed creating
congestion on transmission lines, taking generating units offline to pump
up electricity prices and overall manipulation of the California power
They also kidded about Enron's hefty political contributions --
particularly to Bush's 2000 presidential campaign -- and how that could
translate into more opportunity for profit in California.
"I'd love to see Ken Lay be secretary of energy," one trader said,
referring to the now-disgraced former Enron chief executive whose ties to
the Bush administration have drawn criticism from Democrats.
In one transcript, a trader asks about "all the money you guys stole from
those poor grandmothers of California."
To which the Enron trader responds, "Yeah, Grandma Millie, man. But she's
the one who couldn't figure out how to (expletive) vote on the butterfly
ballot." (AP via the
Seattle Post Intelligencer)
Funny ha-ha, eh?
July 13, 2004
How to Win an Election: Cancel It
One of the Bush Administration's favorite techniques is to scattershot its
awfulness. Each week, it seems, three or five or ten new policy atrocities
are trundled out and the Democrats have to scatter their energies just to
keep up with them. But every so often, Bush&Co. come up with a single policy
so monumentally abhorrent that it takes your breath away. Here is this
Rove and his minions have seen the handwriting on the wall, as their poll
numbers continue to slide downward: They may very well lose the upcoming
November election, perhaps by a landslide. What to do? How about postponing
You think I jest? Take a look at this
"Election Day Worries," by Michael Isikoff in the latest, July 19th,
American counterterrorism officials, citing what they call "alarming"
intelligence about a possible Qaeda strike inside the United States this
fall, are reviewing a proposal that could allow for the postponement of
the November presidential election in the event of such an attack,
Newsweek has learned.
The prospect that Al Qaeda might seek to disrupt the U.S. election was a
major factor behind last week's terror warning by Homeland Security
Secretary Tom Ridge. Ridge and other counterterrorism officials concede
they have no intel about any specific plots. But the success of March's
Madrid railway bombings in influencing the Spanish elections-as well as
intercepted "chatter" among Qaeda operatives-has led analysts to conclude
"they want to interfere with the elections," says one official.
As a result, sources tell Newsweek, Ridge's department last week asked the
Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel to analyze what legal steps
would be needed to permit the postponement of the election were an attack
to take place. Justice was specifically asked to review a recent letter to
Ridge from DeForest B. Soaries Jr., chairman of the newly created U.S.
Election Assistance Commission. Soaries noted that, while a primary
election in New York on September 11, 2001, was quickly suspended by that
state's Board of Elections after the attacks that morning, "the federal
government has no agency that has the statutory authority to cancel and
reschedule a federal election."
Soaries, a Bush appointee who two years ago was an unsuccessful GOP
candidate for Congress, wants Ridge to seek emergency legislation from
Congress empowering his agency to make such a call. Homeland officials say
that as drastic as such proposals sound, they are taking them
seriously-along with other possible contingency plans in the event of an
election-eve or Election Day attack. "We are reviewing the issue to
determine what steps need to be taken to secure the election," says Brian
Roehrkasse, a Homeland spokesman.
"Secure the election" indeed.
The key question is: Could they get away with it? Would the Democrats rise
up? Would the people rise up?
You'd think so, but, given the fright factor -- and the relentless pounding
on that drum by Bush&Co. and their mass-media corporate supporters -- you
never know. Certainly, even though this story has been out there for only a
few days, there hasn't been much objection heard from politicos or
I'm with the sharp blogger Digby (see below), who writes:
Constitutionality aside, why would there be any need to do this? We
lived under the threat of nuclear war for decades --- real weapons of mass
destruction pointed at all of our major cities --- and nobody ever
contemplated suspending elections and devised no plans to do so. We have
held elections during every war, including the civil war, and didn't
contemplate suspending them in case of an attack.
This is absurd. Unless the terrorists are somehow able to prevent large
numbers of people from exercising their right to vote by bombing
individual polling places there can be absolutely no reason to postpone
Besides, if I recall correctly, the Bush administration made quite a case
a few years back that there should be no changing of the rules, even when
certain rules are contradictory, in election procedures. I remember that
deadlines, particularly, were sacrosanct. Indeed, the dates surrounding
election laws were seen as written in stone. Somehow, I have to believe
that if terrorists attack us around the election, Americans will crawl out
of the rubble on their hands and knees to vote. But then, that's obviously
what they're really afraid of, isn't it?
If Ridge (read: Rove) really tries to get a law passed to authorize such
electoral hanky-panky, I'd say the resolutions on impeachment shouldn't be
THE SENATE INTELLIGENCE WHITEWASH
The report issued by the Senate Intelligence Committee, basically laying the
blame for bad pre-war intelligence on the CIA, may snow a lot of folks in
the heartland red states into believing that the White House is exonerated
for the lousy intel on Iraq that got us into war.
But anybody knowing anything about how the "pressure" game is played in
Washington will immediately smell a whitewash -- one in which the Democrats
permitted themselves to be ensnared. (They were told to sign this report,
and there would be another one on how the White House used, or misused, that
CIA intel. Problem is that report, if it comes at all, will arrive only
AFTER the November election.)
When the President and Vice President and Secretary of Defense and the
Assistant Secretaries of Defense have already made the decision to launch a
war againt Iraq, and request the intelligence to back up their decision, any
CIA analyst knows by the very nature of that reverse process what kind of
intelligence is being requested. So they went to work and produced a whole
lot of possibly useful intel, but had enough backbone under Tenet to include
a whole lot of caveats that indicated how tenuous the intelligence was on a
number of key issues: WMD, nuclear weapons, drone planes, al-Qaida link,
The White House took that caveated intelligence and -- after no doubt
running the CIA's findings to Rumsfeld's Office of Special Plans (staffed by
neo-con ideologues under the direction of Doug Feith) -- and, surprise,
dropped out all the caveats.
Now they could go to the Congress and the United Nations with all this
assertive "intelligence" and "prove" all sorts of nefarious intent and
weaponry on the part of the Iraqis.
Why Kerry won't bring himself to say what Democratic
Sen. Jay Rockefeller admitted the other day -- that, had he known then
what he knows now about the phony intelligence, he would not have voted for
the resolution authorizing Bush to go to war -- continues to astound me.
Senator Kerry: You didn't make a mistake; you were snookered, along with
your fellow senators, and are much the wiser now, wise enough to know you
wouldn't have voted for that damn resolution, based as it was on lies and
Kerry works slowly; maybe he'll come to his senses before November 2 -- but,
at the very least, after November 2.
Enough from me. Here are some cogent thoughts on the election-postponement
issue from fellow bloggers:
Kos asks some pertinent
So, what do we have here? Is this merely a perfectly reasonable contingency
plan, preparation for one possible course of action if, say, a purloined
nuke hidden in a ship container takes out a 2-mile radius at the Port of
Long Beach or Seattle on October 29?
Or is it a trial balloon for a Cheney-Bush plan to call off the November
election for purely political reasons?
Would a terrorist attack - even an extremely serious attack on four or five
widely dispersed targets - actually offer enough rationale for calling off
Some people argue that such an attack so close to the elections might skew
the results, as they claim occurred in Spain after the 3/11 Madrid bombings.
Perhaps. But which way? Would Americans rally behind the incumbent out of
fear and a gut desire for unity after such an attack? Or would they be angry
because the attack proved that not enough and many of the wrong things had
been done to protect us against terrorism during the incumbent's term of
Short of a full-out nuclear exchange of the sort much discussed during the
Cold War, do you think there is any justification for calling off national
Corrente, we find
Department of "No! They would never do that!" Postponing the November
Funny how all that heavy sarcasm about "we're the government and we're here
to help you" melts away as soon as the Republicans start consolidating their
hold on power, isn't it?
From USA Today (funny how
Pravda on the Potomac and Isvestia
on the Hudson aren't following up on this):
Counterterrorism officials are looking into the possibility of
postponing the November presidential election if there is a terrorist
attack at election time, Newsweek reported Sunday.
Newsweek said DeForest Soaries, chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance
Commission, wants Ridge to ask Congress to pass legislation giving the
government power to cancel or reschedule a federal election. Soaries said
New York suspended primary elections on the day of the Sept. 11 attacks,
but the federal government does not appear to have that authority...
Seems to me, that in a democracy, we would want legislation to make sure
that elections were held no matter what. Since otherwise, the terrorists
have won, right? Wouldn't it be a shame if election 2000 turned out to be
our last free election, eh?
Digby razors right
in on the central issue:
Covering Their Bases
Tom Ridge wants John Ashcroft to look into the possibility of
election in case of a terrorist attack. Considering that Ashcroft and
company have believed that the GWOT justifies everything from unlimited
detention to torture it's going to be very surprising if they don't back the
idea that doing so would be constitutional.
But constitutionality aside, why would there be any need to do this? We
lived under the threat of nuclear war for decades --- real weapons of mass
destruction pointed at all of our major cities --- and nobody ever
contemplated suspending elections and devised no plans to do so. We have
held elections during every war, including the civil war, and didn't
contemplate suspending them in case of an attack.
This is absurd. Unless the terrorists are somehow able to prevent large
numbers of people from exercising their right to vote by bombing individual
polling places there can be absolutely no reason to postpone this election.
Besides, if I recall correctly, the Bush administration made quite a case a
few years back that there should be no changing of the rules, even when
certain rules are contradictory, in election procedures. I remember that
deadlines, particularly, were sacrosanct. Indeed, the dates surrounding
election laws were seen as written in stone. Somehow, I have to believe that
if terrorists attack us around the election, Americans will crawl out of the
rubble on their hands and knees to vote. But then, that's obviously what
they're really afraid of, isn't it?
And Corrente again, from an
Will we have an election?
The folks over at
wondering aloud if we're even going to have an election in November.
John Emerson (aka Zizka) even goes so far as to
posit that, if we have one and Kerry wins, we won't get our new
president "on time."
Hmmm. If W and the boys are really far behind and the "a vote for
Kerry-Edwards is a vote for Osama" argument doesn't work, would they
postpone the election? Worse yet, having lost the election, would W and the
boys let Kerry and Edwards have the White House?
As a historian, this is an interesting thing to ponder. Even the
Federalists, despite their hatred of Jefferson, eventually let him have the
election and the White House in 1800. (If you recall, the lame duck
Federalist-controlled congress had to decide who won the election because
Burr and Jefferson got the same number of electoral votes.) Many in the
world were quite surprised that there was a peaceful handover of the White
House in 1800....
As for my current opinion on the question, I'll put it this way: having
watched W and his administration reach unparalleled levels of public
mendacity for nearly four years now, there really isn't a damn thing that I
put past these guys.
July 16, 2004
Setting Up the Rigging Poles
This question may have occurred to you, too: Why would Bush&Co., with a
straight-face, still continue telling the most outrageous lies about Iraq --
especially about the alleged but non-existent "close ties" between Saddam
Hussein and al-Qaida -- even when they've been proven demonstrably false
time and time again?
Certainly, the Senate Intelligence Committee's report lowered the boom on
the Administration's intel failures (starting with the CIA). Even Tony
Blair, who used the same faulty intelligence to justify the war -- and
likewise got smacked around by the investigating panel's report just a few
days ago -- is backing away from some of his more outrageous claims.
Here are some possible answers with regard to the Bush Administration:
1. The Busheviks believe what they're saying.
2. Those claims are designed to distract their opposition from
focusing on other, perhaps more important issues.
3. Bush&Co. know they have to have a reason, some reason, ANY reason,
to justify the invasion, so, not knowing what else to say, they revert back
to what has worked for them earlier, before the truth became fully apparent
to the investigating bodies and the citizenry at large. If you tell whoppers
long enough, they may believe, those lies take on a life all their own and
many in the citizenry come to believe them. The art of agit-prop.
4. The modus operandi of Bush&Co. is to lie, obfuscate, distort,
deceive, manipulate. They're addicted to this technique. Lies are their
5. Those Bush&Co. lies are not aimed at folks more attuned to the
complex political situation. They are designed to help solidify the base in
the fundamentalist 30-35% of the population, some of whom are beginning to
wander away from the Bush fold. Also helps explain why the GOP regularly
throws that segment of the population hunks of red meat to chomp on -- the
attempt by GOP senators to pass an "anti-gay marriage" amendment, for
example. Doomed to defeat from the git-go, but a pot worth stirring in the
fundamentalist right's kitchen.
No doubt, there are other options that I haven't included, but let's examine
RATING THE REASONS
Number One: I don't really accept this one; Rove is vicious and
incompetent, but he knows exactly what he's doing. The Bushies may be dumb,
but they ain't stupid.
Number Two: They know how those lies enrage the left and critical
press, and that their opposition therefore will take after them big time,
focusing on those whoppers rather than on larger, more potentially damaging
scandals: the torture orders emanating from the top, the attempt to set up
an extra-constitutional dictatorship, the Plame case, Cheney's energy and
Halliburton scandals, Bush and Ken Lay, preparations for "legally" derailing
the elections, etc. etc.
Number Three is partially true: The Bush Administration hasn't yet
worked out the new approach to Iraq. They keep hoping Iraq miraculously will
turn around for them, and they won't have to step out on any limbs that
might indicate they've made mistakes, either in going to war or in the way
the Occupation has been conducted. So, in the meantime -- and it's a real
question how long they can continue hoping for a major change before the
truth socks them upside the head -- they'll keep spinning the old pre-war
web of lies and distortions.
Number Four is definitely true -- they do need help, won't admit that
they need help, and therefore the stress of maintaining these fictions, and
fighting off those who reveal their falseness, is taking them to the
emotional edge -- and therefore we citizens will have to help them out with
an electoral "intervention" on November 2.
THE BIG NUMBER FIVE
This mention of the upcoming election brings us to Number Five, which I
think has much merit. If, as a Bush campaign planner, you see Kerry surging,
and your candidate is not, you must win essentially with your base. That
means you've got to reduce the Democratic base of voters below yours, by
some strategem, in order to eke out enough victories in the toss-up states
to take the Electoral College prize.
Let's think of ways the GOP can keep that Democrat vote down:
a. Back Nader, to siphon off votes that otherwise might go to Kerry;
this already is happening in a number of states, with GOP funders pouring money into the Nader campaign, paying for petition drives
for him, etc.
b. Slime the Dem candidates, trying to convince wavering Dems
(especially progressives) and moderate Republicans who might be tempted, to
not vote for the Kerry-Edwards ticket. We're sure to see the crudest of
dirty-tricks campaigning in the next several months.
whatever toss-up states that are using touch-screen voting systems without
voter-verified safeguards, consider fiddling with the
software to remove some votes from Democrats and move them over into the
Republican column, enough to make for a Bush victory. It may have been done
in Georgia in 2002. It's
already been demonstrated how easy it is for this manipulation to be accomplished -- either by the
software technicians, by hackers from the outside, or by those companies
tabulating the votes -- without leaving a single trace that the tallies have
(Note: By and large, the companies who make and install the computer voting
machines -- several of the largest of which are owned by rabid Republican
supporters -- also tabulate the votes, in secret, and then report the
results to the election officials. Don't forget the promise by the
chairman of Diebold -- one of Bush's major "Pioneer" donors -- that he's
"committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president."
Think absentee ballots!
d. Keep new voters from registering Democratic,
especially recent immigrants who tend to vote more liberally. After a recent
swearing-in ceremony for new citizens, for example, voting registration
forms were supplied outside the hall by GOP operatives -- with the
already checked-off -- to
these eager new Americans, many of whom couldn't read English all that well
and had no idea they had signed up as Republicans and would be receiving all
the Bush propaganda in the mail and probably by visitors to their homes as
e. Keep many Democrats from going to the polls. The process already
has started. The Administration has been pounding away at the fright theme
with regard to the upcoming elections. Remove some likely Dem voter from the
rolls (see Florida for tips.) "Al-Qaida will try to disrupt our election
process" before or during the voting,
we are told Armed guards may have to be stationed outside polling stations. (Remember
Florida in 2000, when many black citizens in poor counties approached the
polling stations, to find armed police standing there, oftentimes
questioning their bone fides?) I've even heard speculation about taking
advantage of a supposed terrorist attack on the Democratic convention.
Anything to keep Dems from wanting to exercise their right to vote. Yet
another argument for voting by absentee ballot, but don't forget to check to
see how those votes will be counted.
f. Finally, if the pre-election poll numbers for BushCheney
(or Bush and whomever takes Cheney's place on the ballot
if he's indicted
by France and Nigeria in connection with Halliburton scandals) are too low
to permit even a corrupted election, there's always the option of "postponing" the
voting due to this expected terrorist attack and/or threat. The
"postponement," of course, would be couched as necessary in order to "defend
the right of every citizen to vote." Germany in the '30s, anyone?
In short, friends, organize, organize, ORGANIZE! And fasten your seat-belts;
it's going to be a VERY bumpy ride these next few months.
Enough from me; here are some relevant comments from fellow bloggers.
Matthew Yglesias examines the
question "Who's Helped by a Terrorist Attack":
asks the question of the hour -- who wins politically from a terrorist attack?
One thing that's interesting about this question is that it sort of
encourages each side's partisans to say it will help the other guy. After
all, if it becomes entrenched conventional wisdom that an attack will help
Bush, then if an attack happens it will seem like it was partially designed
to help re-elect Bush, which would hurt Bush. This is why GOP partisans have
been running around town darkly implying that an attack may be in the works
aimed at influencing the election "just like in Madrid." In other words,
terrorists love John Kerry.
So that's one complication to add to a complicated dynamic. Folks on both
sides of the aisle will be scrambling like hell to make the case that Osama
has endorsed candidate X or candidate Y. Most broadly, though, I think that
while the immediate impact of an attack would be to help Bush ("rally 'round
the flag," etc.) that pretty soon afterwards that bounce would fade and
Kerry would get the advantage. The reason is that a successful attack would
(a) reveal that we're still unsafe, and (b) reveal that Bush isn't doing
anything to try and make us any safer, he's busy fighting a
counterinsurgency in Iraq.
The president's not going to be able to go off on another three-year,
two-war sequence in response to a second attack, which is going to wind up
revealing the fact that there really isn't all that much "decisive
leadership" forthcoming from this gang. Kerry, meanwhile, will get to say
something vague about how this shows it's time for a new approached centered
on doing good things in smart ways, or whatever it is you say on a campaign
The question is -- how long would the bounce last? The post-Saddam bounce
lasted six weeks, which I'd say is a reasonable estimate for a terror bounce
as well. So starting in late-September, I think attacks help Bush, but until
then they wind up helping Kerry.
That means that if an attack comes soon, the terrorists want Kerry to win
and you should vote for Bush. If it comes later, they want Bush to win and
you should vote for Kerry. Or maybe they know that's what you'll think and
if they like Kerry they'll attack late and if they like Bush they'll attack
early. But what if they guessed that, too? Well, then. . . .
Juan Cole dissects Bush's reiterated lies in a recent
speech; here are the opening paragraphs:
President Bush gave a speech on Tuesday in which he made specific claims
about how the United States is safer as a result of his military action. I
dispute assertions about particular Middle Eastern or South Asian countries.
"The world is changing for the better because of American leadership.
America is safer today because we are leading the world. Afghanistan was
once the home of al-Qaeda. Now terror camps are closed, democracy is rising,
and the American people are safer," he said.
Cole: The Afghanistan war was the right war at the right time, and it did
break up the network of al-Qaeda training camps from which terrorists would
have gone on hitting the United States. But the fact is that Bush, Cheney
and Rumsfeld did not want to fight that war after September 11. Rumsfeld
sniffed that "there were no good targets" in Afghanistan. Bush, Rumsfeld and
Cheney all wanted to leave al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and attack Iraq first. At
first Wolfowitz was leaked as the proponent of this crazy idea, and although
he did back it, it is now clear from insider accounts like that of Richard
Clark that the three top leaders just mentioned wanted Iraq first.
The UK ambassador to the US maintains that it was Tony Blair who talked Bush
into going after al-Qaeda in Afghanistan first, with a promise that he would
later support an Iraq war. MI6 would have been briefing Tony about the dire
threat coming from Afghanistan, and he, unlike the Bush team, could see the
dangers of getting bogged down in an Iraq quagmire while al-Qaeda and the
Taliban were still in control of Afghanistan. (Can you imagine the full
scope of that disaster that Bush had planned for us?)
Even after Bush was dragged kicking and screaming into doing the right thing
by Blair, he did it half-heartedly. He let Bin Laden and al-Zawahir escape.
(I'll repeat that. He let Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri escape). Instead of
rebuilding and stabilizing Afghanistan, as he promised, he put almost
nothing into reconstruction for that country.
...So, no, Americans are not safer, Mr. Bush. They face the threat of
substantial narco-terrorism from Afghanistan. Iraq is a security nightmare
that could well blow back on the American homeland. Pakistan remains a
military dictatorship with a host of militant jihadi movements that had been
fomented by the hardline Pakistani military intelligence. Saudi Arabia is
witnessing increased al-Qaeda activity and attacks on Westerners. And the
Israeli-Palestine dispute is being left to fester and poison the world.
These are not achievements to be proud of. This is a string of disasters. We
are not safer. We face incredible danger because of the way the Bush
administration has grossly mishandled the Middle East.
(For more of
this extraordinary essay, you'll find it at
, July 14 listing .)
Bush, who doesn't like reading, sometimes pays the price for his had
habits. See this item at Corrente:
It's always the coverup that kills you, right? Only one day, and the
Republican CYA CIA strategy of blaming the Iraq WMD fiasco 100% on the CIA,
and 0% on Inerrant Boy is starting to fall apart: [Quotes from
Times story, "Bush
and C.I.A. Won't Release Paper on Prewar Intelligence"]
The White House and the Central Intelligence Agency have refused to give
the Senate Intelligence Committee a one-page summary of prewar intelligence
in Iraq prepared for President Bush that contains few of the qualifiers and
none of the dissents spelled out in longer intelligence reviews, according
to Congressional officials.
So, they gave Him the black and white, "don't do nuance" view that they knew
He wanted to hear, right?
Senate Democrats claim that the document could help clear up exactly what
intelligence agencies told Mr. Bush about Iraq's illicit weapons. The
administration and the C.I.A. say the White House is protected by executive
privilege, and Republicans on the committee dismissed the Democrats'
argument that the summary was significant
They would. Gee, it's funny how everything that makes Bush look good is
disclosed, and everything that makes Him look like what He is is suppressed,
The review, prepared for President Bush in October 2002, summarized the
findings of a classified, 90-page National Intelligence Estimate about
Iraq's illicit weapons. Congressional officials said that notes taken by
Senate staffers who were permitted to review the document show that it
eliminated references to dissent within the government about the National
Intelligence Estimate's conclusions. (via Times)
Oh, and the "yet again" part?
Bush has a habit of making life-and-death decisions based on sloppy one-page
memos written by his fluffers.
As we wrote back in December:
Think! What about [current WhiteWash House Counsel and torture
apologist] Alberto Gonzales pimping 56 easy kills for Bush in Texas,
detailed in The Texas Clemency Memos? What
kind of a man [Bush] signs a death warrant on the basis of "the most cursory
It really is a question of character, isn't it? Fool me once....
Bob Dreyfuss at Tom Paine has some interesting thoughts on war intelligence:
This weekend I read Anonymous' new book, Imperial Hubris, which reminds us
to remember Afghanistan. It also helps put in perspective some of the news we're getting.
Today's New York Times reports that the final
report of the 9/11 commission, due out in a week or so, will put the final
nail in the nail-filled coffin about Iraq's nonexistent ties to Al Qaeda:
The commission investigating the 9/11 attacks is nearing completion of a
final, probably unanimous report that will stand by the conclusions of the
panel's staff and largely dismiss White House theories both about a close
working relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda and about possible Iraqi
involvement in 9/11, commission officials said.
Okay, we've all known that. But for Mr. and Mrs. Man-in-Street, it's an
important punctuation mark, and it sets people thinking. (Actually, of
course, not only did Iraq not support Al Qaeda, it was probably the single
strongest Arab state opposed to Al Qaeda and to Islamic fundamentalism in
general. Pre-war Iraq was indeed, as Bush claimed, a "central front in the
War on Terror," not in precisely the opposite way that Bush meant. Pre-war
Iraq was a bulwark against Al Qaeda, bin Ladenism and Khomeinism. But no
Which brings me to Anonymous. His book makes the case, over and over again,
that the war in Afghanistan was an utter failure, that Al Qaeda and Osama
have regrouped, that Afghanistan itself will inevitably fall back under the
control of a Taliban-style regime backed by Pakistan and Islamic
fundamentalists, that pathetic President Karzai has little power and that
what remaining influence he does have will soon be gobbled up by fascist
militia from Afghanistan's countryside. It's a sobering read, in that it
comes from the CIA guy in charge of the Osama bin Laden task force....
Kevin Drum connects the U.K. dots, and then
places the responsibility for using the faulty intelligence where it belongs
-- at the top:
Over in London, Lord Butler has released yet another investigation of prewar
Iraq intelligence, and he comes to
the following conclusions:
* British intelligence reports were "seriously flawed."
* The 45-minute claim went to the "outer limits" of the available
intelligence — i.e., it was wrong.
* There was not, it turns out, even
enough evidence to justify claims that Iraq was in breach of United Nations
resolutions, let alone anything more.
* Tony Blair was one among several people who fooled the public into
thinking the evidence was considerably stronger than it really was.
But hey — that was all in the past! There was no "deliberate distortion,"
perish the thought, and neither Blair nor incoming intelligence chief John
Scarlett, who was responsible for much of the reporting, should be held
accountable. They've learned their lesson, right?
Michael O'Hanlon, in the course of an op-ed suggesting that the CIA
didn't screw up quite as badly as the Senate Intelligence Committee says it
did, points out that, after all, before the war it sure looked like Saddam
Let's face it, it would have taken an overwhelming body of evidence for
any reasonable person in 2002 to think that Saddam Hussein did not possess
stockpiles of chemical and biological agents
....The United Nations and most European and Middle Eastern intelligence
outfits had the same incorrect beliefs as our agencies, for the same
understandable reasons. Saddam Hussein had used chemical weapons in war and
against his own people in the 1980's. For more than a decade after the
Persian Gulf war, he obstructed international inspectors' efforts to find
and destroy such weapons, ensuring that United Nations sanctions that cost
his country more than $100 billion would remain in place. He had his
underlings confront the inspectors on several occasions in ways that led to
military strikes against his security organizations. It certainly looked as
if he valued chemical and biological agents a great deal, and was prepared
to do a lot to hold onto them.
This may — or may not — get the CIA off the hook, but the drumbeat
repetition of this argument (mostly by war supporters) deliberately obscures
a far more important point: by the time we invaded Iraq none of this
Remember, UN inspectors re-entered Iraq three months before the invasion and
found nothing there except a handful of missiles that violated UN limits by
a few miles. Saddam destroyed them.
The United States provided the inspectors with detailed intel on where to
find Iraq's WMD stockpiles. No dice: every single followup turned out to be
a wild goose chase.
Hans Blix's team searched everywhere, including Saddam's palaces. Nothing.
Before the invasion, France and several other countries made proposals for
even more intrusive inspections: thousand of inspectors backed up by
military units. George Bush turned them all down.
The fact is that by March 2003 we didn't have to rely on CIA estimates or on
the estimates of any other intelligence agency. We had been on the ground in
Iraq for months and there was nothing there. There was nothing there and
we knew it.
Did the CIA screw up? Probably. Did it matter? No. George Bush invaded Iraq
in March 2003 not because he was convinced Iraq had WMD, but because he was
becoming scared that Iraq didn't have WMD and that further inspections would
prove it beyond any doubt. Facts on the ground have never been allowed to
interfere with George Bush's worldview, and he wasn't about to take the
chance that they might interfere with his war.
Whatever faults the CIA has, let's not blame them for the war in Iraq. We
all know exactly whose mistake it was.
Finally, if you want to read something really sad, and disturbing, check out
Steve Gilliard's take on the embarrassing phone call
) Ralph Nader made to Salon about his GOP backers. Read the transcript and
Gilliard's annotated comments. A former hero of the left besmirches himself
This is a 70 year old man ranting like some hopped up high school junior
having just read the Communist Manifesto. No one is a fascist here, this
isn't a dictatorship, if it were, he'd be in jail or dead. Nader refuses to
abide by election laws and he's whining about them now. I mean he sounds
like a paranoid liar, and Talbot, who is not one of my favorite people, is
conciliatory, at worst. He's trying to reason with Nader and it just doesn't
get through. Nader is willfully blind to the effect his GOP "supporters" are
trying to have.
It's amazing Nader would say these unhinged things, but said them he did.
It's like seeing a mask revealed and it isn't pretty.
No one on the left wanted Nader to do this, to be so willfully
self-destructive and blind to the harm he's causing.
Once you read this, what choice do the Dems really have but to use the law
to crush his campaign? My God, I thought he was unsuited to be president
before, but now? He lies like Bush, for God's sake, and right in front of
you. What a truly scary and paranoid man.
July 19, 2004
Many HardRightists think that those of us who cherish civil liberties are
paranoid about the tone set by the Patriot Act and other such draconian
measures emanating from the Bush Administration. They tend to justify the
slicing away of Constitutional protections as necessary given the terrorist
threat to our national security.
But how can they possibly justify the infringement of free speech involved
when a couple wearing anti-Bush T-shirts were handcuffed and thrown out of a
public gathering where Bush was to address the crowd?
what happened to Nicole and Jeff Rank at a West Virginia rally on (of
all appropriate days) the 4th of July.
Another example: a local Wisconsin politico,
Jayson Nelson, was running late to attend a political speech by
Bush. He had just come from a Kerry rally and grabbed his heavy,
long-sleeved shirt and buttoned it all the way to the top. Someone tipped
off the Secret Service, or maybe spied the tiny bit of green t-shirt poking
above the highest button. He was unceremoniously ushered to the Secret
Service and ejected.
In both cases, ordinary citizens, had come to hear Mr. Bush speak, to hear
what he had to say. They caused no disruption, nor did they come there with
intent to. But they were denied the right to peaceably assemble with other
citizens, with whom they might or might not agree, to partake of a public
(not a private) event. But they were ejected anyway. The first pair were
handcuffed and taken to jail (a judge later dismissed their trespassing
charge); the second, Nelson, said: “I was told that no law was broken, but I
was nearly treated like a criminal for the terrible crime of wearing a
In both cases, when confronted, the Secret Service agreed that the citizens
had every constitutional right to be there, and the guards had no right to
throw them out. But they were ejected anyway. (Which action accomplished its
aim, to frighten others who witnessed the arrests from taking similar
action, keeping them docile.)
"WHO CARES WHAT YOU THINK?"
But these cases are not unique. There are scads of such reports, of visits
from the FBI because of statements opposed to Bush policies, of being
ejected from public gatherings, of being refused the right to fly, and so
One expects such behavior from Bush -- insecure at his core, he's
notoriously thin-skinned, and brooks no dissent. Let us not forget the
incident early in his tenure, when a citizen shook his hand when Bush came
to town and asked him a critical question about his policy, and Bush replied
cares what you think?" It's been the same ever since.
When Bush has to appear in a non-structured event -- that is, when he's not
speaking to groups of invited pro-Bush citizens: military troops, defense
contractors, neo-conservative gatherings, Christian Right congregations,
etc. -- he makes sure that all those who have contrary points of view are
segregated blocks, and often and miles, away from where he might have to see
or hear them. The police, with no attempt at irony, refers to these areas as
How would the Bushistas react, I often wonder, if the situations were
reversed -- if President Gore was appearing in their community and they
wished to silently express their displeasure at his policies by wearing
political-message T-shirts, and they got thrown out, or were forced to mill
about miles away in "free-speech" enclosures? Somehow, I don't think they'd
appreciate such heavy-handed approaches to their Constitutional right to
assemble and express themselves.
THE RULE OF THE RIGHTEOUS
On occasion, I have been able to ask several rightwing acquaintances this
very question. I'm sure you can guess the reaction I got: "Yeah, but you
guys are wrong, and potentially dangerous, and besides terrorists could be
In other words, ignoring the question while asserting their righteousness,
and your "wrong"-ness, which apparently is meant to justify the illegal
behavior of the police.
This attitude is greatly influenced by the tone, and disrespect for
democracy, that emanates from BushCheneyRove and their ilk. (See Digby's
commentary below.) Bush on at least three public occasions has expressed --
supposedly in jest, ha ha -- his desire to rule as a dictator. The way his
Republican congressional allies violate the rules and manhandle the rights
of the Democrat minority is likewise in the same vein.
THE GREAT SMITER OF NATIONS
The name of the game is winning, and using power as a weapon to get their
way. Bush claims that he gets his war
from God, ("God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them,
and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am
determined to solve the problem in the Middle East"; a few days ago, he
told an Amish
group that he believes "God speaks through me"), and thus
apparently doesn't feel he has to take other points of view into
Once upon a time, we looked on those who expressed such views as fanatic
zealots, or, if in extremis, in need of institutional care. Now they are
treated deferentially, as if such Talaban-like pronouncements are welcome in
a democratic republic, founded by wise men who knew firsthand the dangers of
Our democratic institutions are in grave danger of permanent erosion, if the
election results give this crew another four years to finish their
constitutional deconstruction project. The Patriot Act is bad enough,
permitting police agents to enter your home and computer, check them out,
and never have to tell you; read your emails; attorney-client privilege no
longer is sacrosanct; the FBI can find out what books you read, and your
librarian is forbidden by law to tell you they're doing it.
SNOOPS AND SNEAKS
But there are more recent atrocities: Their project to
into informers is still lying dormant; they have asked churches to
supply their congregation lists to the Bush Campaign; in
Minnesota, loyal GOP cadres are being asked to
supply information, obtained however they can, on the politics of their
neighbors; in New York, immigrant tenants asking for repairs to their shoddy
apartments are told by the landlords that they'll be
to the Homeland Security Administration unless they keep
silent; and on and on.
And that's just the domestic damage they are doing. Abroad, it's even
scarier, since thousands of people are being killed and maimed in the name
of America's desire to control Middle East energy sources, and to reshape
the geopolitics of that key area of the world -- one that doesn't really
seem to want to move, at the barrel of a gun, toward an American vision of
democracy and free-market capitalism.
The other Arab states in the area look at Iraq and wonder what kind of
"democracy" is being peddled. Iyad Allawi, the new prime minister of Iraq --
picked by us to lead his nation into democracy and respect for the rule of
law after we "liberated" the country from the brutality and lawlessness of
Saddam Hussein --
accused of taking out a pistol recently at an Iraqi jail and murdering
six suspected insurgents, devoid of charge or trial.
What hath we wrought?
Enough from me. Here are further thoughts on these and other matters from
fellow bloggers Digby and Steve Gilliard.
Digby takes a serious look at
how the Bush Administration views American democracy and its restraints on
They Don't Like Democracy
Charles Pierce gets to
of the argument:
There really is only one issue in this election. Since the Extended
Florida Unpleasantness, this has been an Administration utterly
unconcerned with any restraints, constitutional or otherwise, on its
power. It has been contemptuous of the idea of self-government, and
particularly of the notion that an informed populace is necessary to that
idea. It recognizes neither parliamentary rules nor constitutional
barriers. (Just for fun, imagine that the Senate had not authorized force
in Iraq. Do you think for one moment that C-Plus Augustus wouldn't have
launched the war anyway, and on some pretext that we'd only now be
discovering was counterfeit?) It does not accept the concept of principled
opposition, either inside the administration or outside of it. It refuses
to be bound by anything more than its political appetites. It wants what
it wants, and it does what it wants. It is, at its heart, and in the
strictest definition of the word, lawless. It has the perfect front men: a
president unable to admit a mistake because he's spent his entire life
being insulated from even the most minor of consequences, and a
vice-president who is viscerally furious at the notion that he is
accountable to anyone at all. They are abetted by a congressional majority
in which all of these un-American traits are amplified to an overwhelming
So, now we are faced with the question: Do you want to live in a country
where these people no longer feel even the vaporous restraints of having
another election to win?
BUSH-CHENEY UNLEASHED. Up or down? Yes or no?
There you have it.
Chait in The New Republic amplifies this theme:
Here we have a sample of the style of governance that has prevailed
under Bush's presidency. It's not the sort of thing you would find in a
civics textbook. Bush and his allies have been described as partisan or
bare-knuckled, but the problem is more fundamental than that. They have
routinely violated norms of political conduct, smothered information
necessary for informed public debate, and illegitimately exploited
government power to perpetuate their rule. These habits are not just mean
and nasty. They're undemocratic.
What does it mean to call the president "undemocratic"? It does not mean
Bush is an aspiring dictator. Despite descending from a former president
and telling confidants that God chose him to lead the country, he does not
claim divine right of rule. He is not going to cancel the election or rig
it with faulty ballots. (Well, almost certainly not.) But democracy can be
a matter of degree. Russia and the United States are both democracies, but
the United States is more democratic than Russia. The proper indictment of
the Bush administration is, therefore, not that he's abandoning American
democracy, but that he's weakening it. This administration is, in fact,
the least democratic in the modern history of the presidency.
I think it's very important to note that this is not something that's
confined to the Bush administration alone as if they are some sort of GOP
anomalies. The fact is that this is an ongoing, serious problem of the
modern Republican Party in general. They are congenitally opposed to
compromise which leads inevitably to rule by force.
Chait argues that the Bush administration is not destroying democracy but
rather weakening it. I would suggest that that adds up to the same thing.
They are unlikely, except in a desperate situation, to attempt a military
coup or do something dramatically attention grabbing like cancel the
election. They aren't that stupid. They can attain everything they want over
time by simply eroding democracy to the point at which it has all of the
trappings and none of the substance. That process has been going on for some
time now and escalating gradually to the point at which we now find
ourselves with a presidency (which has always been the repository of
Republican ruling fantasies) that quite blatantly declares that it has no
responsibility to uphold the laws if it deems them an impediment to national
But it's not the Bushies, it's the party. Removing Bush will not solve this
problem. Indeed, I'm sure the GOP congress would love to get back into
action and resume its natural investigative role which they have been shut
out of while Republicans are in the white house. Their egos demand a little
bit of the spotlight.
I'm sure there are many Republicans who simply don't see what is happening
and would be horrified if they did. Not even the Democrats who have been on
the receiving end of these undemocratic power plays seem to have been aware
until recently of what has been going on.
I have been repeating this "undemocratic" mantra since the mid 1990's. (You
can Google this blog for the word and you'll see that I've done my best to
bore everyone to tears with it.) It is a huge threat to this country --- one
that has been magnified a hundred fold by the events if 9/11. It's not
tin-foil kookiness and it's not partisan angst. It's real. And while I have
little doubt that many reasonable sorts (which, by the way, I am also) will
shake their heads sadly once again at my shrillness and hysteria for taking
this view, I'll continue to do it. The Emperor has no clothes. I see what I
see. I'm glad to have some company.
adds a warning addendum to the story referenced above about the GOP
activists asked to snoop on their neighbors' politics and report back to the
So when those names wind up in the Homeland Security database, it would be
It's one thing to report positives, but another to keep track of negatives.
This is the kind of thing which gets people sued.
July 23, 2004
Are You Better Off?
Years ago, I was friends with, and often exchanged long political letters
with, the late documentary filmmaker Emile de Antonio ("Point of Order," "In
the Year of the Pig," "Millhouse: A White Comedy," "Rush to Judgment,"
etc.). Given that he was a serious leftist, he shocked me one day at lunch
by pulling out the Wall Street Journal and flipping through the back pages.
I asked him what on earth he -- who liked to call himself a revolutionary --
thought he was doing subscribing to, and reading, the Wall Street Journal.
His answer was wise: "Anyone can read and quote from The Nation or New
Republic or Daily Worker, but when I want to know what's going on in the
economy or in politics, I read the Wall Street Journal. The little items in
the back of the paper, if you know how to read them, often tell me what's
really going on in the elite corridors of power in this country and the
world. Plus, it's always better to quote the rightwing publications; they
can't be dismissed as easily."
I learned a lot from "de" (pronounced "dee") over the years, and that
insight affected the way I learned to read newspapers. Obviously, I pay
attention to the big stories on the front pages, but it's often the
paragraphs buried inside those stories, sometimes at the very end of a long
piece, that contain the nuggets you need to know. I.F. Stone, another of my
journalistic heroes and role-models, operated along the same lines, always
ripping the smaller stories out of some newspaper or other and putting them
in his pocket for later use.
So, with that intro, here are the key paragraphs from this week's Wall
Street Journal story that needs to be read and folded into the presidential
campaign. Warning: Class warfare alert! Class warfare alert! (From the WSJ
no less! Thanks, de.)
With the U.S. economy expanding and the labor market improving, it
isn't clear how well the Democrats' message of a divided America will
resonate with voters this fall. But many economists believe the economic
recovery has indeed taken two tracks...
Upper-income families, who pay the most in taxes and reaped the largest
gains from the tax cuts President Bush championed, drove a surge of
consumer spending a year ago that helped to rev up the recovery. Wealthier
households also have been big beneficiaries of the stronger stock market,
higher corporate profits, bigger dividend payments and the boom in
Lower and middle-income households have benefited from some of these
trends, but not nearly as much. For them paychecks and day-to-day living
expenses have a much bigger effect. Many have been squeezed, with wages
under pressure and with gasoline and food prices higher. The resulting
two-tier recovery is showing up in vivid detail in the way Americans are
spending their money.
..."To date, the [recovery's] primary beneficiaries have been upper-income
households," concludes Dean Maki, a J.P. Morgan Chase (and former Federal
Reserve) economist who has studied the ways that changes in wealth affect
spending. In research he sent to clients this month, Mr. Maki said, "Two
of the main factors supporting spending over the past year, tax cuts and
increases in [stock] wealth, have sharply benefited upper income
households relative to others."
For more on this important story, see Billmon's long piece,
"Building a Bridge to the 19th Century,"
along with the story above it, "Minimum Wage."
SANDY BERGER/JOE WILSON FLAPS
How to interpret what's happening in Iraq, the controversies surrounding
Joseph Wilson, Sandy Berger, Martha Stewart, et al? Is there some fire there
or just a lot of Bush Campaign smoke?
It seems clear to me that in order to understand what's happening in all
these, and other, areas of politics, you have to peer through the lens of
November 2. Certainly, that's how Rove sees the world.
What I mean is that everything, EVERYTHING, done by the Bush Administration
these days is for one purpose and one purpose only: to get Bush back in the
White House for another term. If they're successful, they can revert back to
their normal modus operandi -- further amassing of police-power and slicing
away of Constitutional protections at home, and abroad moving toward "regime
change" in Syria and Iran and Cuba
But they can not begin to implement those aggressive agendas unless they win
the election. Ergo, go on the offensive, change the subject of discussion,
get the Bush-friendly mass media on board to snow the public.
* For example, the attempt to alter Iraq news to benefit Bush's campaign, by
"handing over" something termed "full sovereignty" to the U.S.-friendly
interim government. The entire object of that enterprise was to get the Iraq
mayhem off the front pages, or, if not that, have Iraqis dying and getting
maimed, not American troops. (As it turns out, more U.S. troops have died in
July already, AFTER the handover, than in all of June.)
* In the case of Berger and Wilson, it's important to harass and destroy the
reputations of these two guys because they have been damaging Bush&Co. on
9/11 pre-knowledge and the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame (Wilson's
Rove figures he can get a two-for-one by sliming Berger and Wilson, because
both are tied to the Kerry campaign, as foreign-policy consultants.
Berger, Clinton's National Security Advisor, told the incoming Bush
administration that their major security concern would be terrorism as
plotted by Osama bin Laden; the Bushies ignored the warning. If Berger can
be shown to be a liar and endangering "national security" himself, by having
taken classified documents home with him, Bush's pre-9/11 vulnerability can
be diminished. At least, that's their hope.
Likewise, if they can make Wilson out to be a liar, on any small detail of
his story, they hope they can take attention away from the felonious outing
of a covert CIA operative (by two "senior Administration officials") by
putting it on Wilson. It is especially important to do that now, just before
the indictments are issued in the Plame case.
Now, does this mean that Berger and Wilson -- and let's now bring Martha
Stewart into the mix as well -- are entirely innocent of any wrongdoing? No.
But let's keep our eyes on the ball here and not get distracted: Whatever
these folks did or didn't do is not what's at issue here; what IS at issue
are the crimes and misdemeanors of the Bush Administration in: outing a
covert CIA operative, in ignoring the clear-and-present-danger warnings
about a coming al-Qaida attack, in continuing to carry out a war against
Iraq based on lies and deception that is getting hundreds of troops and
Iraqi civilians slaughtered each week.
One can hope that seeing how Bush&Co. are trying to shift the focus of media
attack to their opponents, Democrats and those associated with Kerry will
take special care to keep their noses clean. Don't give the Bush forces any
opening, no matter how small, to change the subject away from Bush&Co's
incompetence, misrule, and reckless domestic and foreign policies.
Enough from me. Here's more on some of these topics by fellow bloggers
Corrente, Kos, Billmon, Kevin Drum, Juan Cole, and Josh Marshall.
Corrente, Lambert has
this take on the Berger affair:
Gee, I wonder if the whole Berger smear could be politically motivated?
President Bush on Wednesday described the federal inquiry into Clinton
White House national security adviser Sandy Berger's mishandling of
classified documents as "a very serious matter."
But a government official who asked not to be identified because of the
political sensitivity of the matter said that FBI agents did not regard
the Berger inquiry as "a front-burner-type of investigation."
(via USA Today).
The fish really does rot from the head, doesn't it?
skewers the rightwing obsession with the Berger case, noting how this
behavior differs from what they did -- nothing -- in the Plame case.
THAT WAS THEN, THIS IS NOW....Tom Davis is the Republican chairman of the
House Government Reform Committee. Among other things, this means he's the
point man for congressional investigations of governmental misdeeds.
Here is Tom Davis on his plans to open an investigation into the outing of
CIA agent Valerie Plame, which was first exposed by David Corn on July 16,
July 17, 2003: Nothing.
October 3, 2003: "I know [John] Ashcroft very well, and I'm sure he'll go
by the book." Um, OK. Nonetheless, he also said he was "gearing up" to
lead an investigation of the matter. "It's our obligation to do so. This
is something we can't tolerate."
January 23, 2004: "If they don't find it, we will. It will be looked at
and second-guessed. It's a troubling and serious violation." But we'll
still wait on gearing up that investigation.
July 21, 2004: Still gearing up. No investigation yet.
Two days ago, on July 19, 2004, AP reported that former NSA Sandy Berger
had removed some classified documents from the National Archives and is the
subject of an active FBI investigation. How does Davis feel about this?
July 21, 2004: Congress has "a constitutional responsibility to find
out what happened and why. At best, we're looking at tremendously
irresponsible handling of highly classified information." An investigation
Hey! Tom Davis can move mighty quickly when he puts his mind to it! I
wonder what the difference between these two cases is?
Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, who has been equally sanguine about the
FBI's ability to investigate the Plame case, is also deeply concerned.
Kos takes a long look:
I have admittedly ignored the Sandy Berger thing. Everything I read
indicated that he may have done something stupid, but if Ashcroft's Justice
Department wasn't interested in pursuing a case, it couldn't be anything
Of course, the GOP hysteria over the topic isn't really about anything
Berger did. It's about fear of the upcoming 9/11 report.
Stealing this from the Center for American Progress:
One day before the bipartisan 9/11 Commission is scheduled to release
its final report, Bush administration allies on Capitol Hill have put
their partisan spin machine into high-gear. Despite overwhelming evidence
that President Bush underfunded counter-terrorism, ignored repeated memos
warning of an imminent attack by Osama bin Laden, and took one of the
longest vacations in presidential history while the pre-9/11 security
threat boiled, Republicans are seeking to blame 9/11 on the Clinton
administration even before the Commission's report has been published.
Their current target: former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, who
in October 2003 acknowledged inadvertently losing two documents from the
National Archives. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, House Majority Leader Tom
DeLay and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist claimed Berger was trying to
deceive the 9/11 Commission. They failed to mention the Commission refuted
that charge, and that even the Bush Justice Department admits the incident
is so innocuous, that CBS News reports "law enforcement sources say they
don't expect any criminal charges will be filed."
REPUBLICANS ADMIT THE TIMING SMELLS: CBS News reported last night that
even Republicans "say the timing of the investigation's disclosure smells
like politics, leaked to the press just two days before the 9/11
Commission report comes out." Republican strategist
Eddie Mahe said, "somebody is manipulating the process." Why? Because,
as the WP reports, the final report by the commission concludes Iraq
"never established operational ties" with al Qaeda. In other words, the
Commission is about to formally conclude that one of the two major
justifications the administration gave for war in Iraq was a fraud. With
the WMD justification also proving false, the administration is desperate
to distract from polls that show a majority of Americans say the
war was a
mistake. Even more troubling for the White House, almost half
the public now says the White House
"deliberately misled" America about Iraq. It was this fear that the
Commission would embarrass the Bush administration that led the White
oppose its creation. And it is no surprise that yesterday
Commission Chairman Tom Kean admitted that some
wanted the 9/11 Commission to fail.
MOTIVE ACCUSATIONS JUST PLAIN SILLY: Reuters reports "Republicans accused
Berger of taking the documents so they could be used by the Kerry campaign
at a news conference on port security." Said Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA):
"Right after the documents were taken, John Kerry held a photo op and
attacked the president on port security. The documents that were taken may
have been utilized for that press conference." Although the timing in this
fable may be accurate, one thing is clear: neither Kerry nor any citizen
in America needs secret documents from the National Archives to know the
Bush administration and Republicans in Congress have dangerously
underfunded seaport and airport security. As American Progress fellow PJ
Crowley notes, while the Coast Guard has said it needs $7.5 billion for
key port security upgrades, the White House has requested just $45 million
this year. Similarly, as the Century Foundation reports, while "the
Transportation Security Administration estimates there is a 35% to 65%
chance that terrorists are planning to place a bomb in the cargo of a U.S.
passenger plane" the administration has only provided funding to make sure
that 5% of air cargo is screened.
WHERE IS THE LEAK OUTRAGE?: CBS News reports the controversy "was
triggered by a carefully orchestrated leak" about the FBI's investigation
of the matter. Yet, top administration officials and Republicans who have
previously expressed outrage about leaks were nowhere to be found. There
was no statement of outrage or call for an investigation from Attorney
General John Ashcroft who in 2001 said leaks "do substantial damage to the
security interests of the nation." Similarly, there was nothing from the
Chambliss, who one year ago said "leaks have always been a problem and
continue to be a problem." And it was all quiet at the Pentagon, despite
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld stating last year that leaks are
"disgraceful, they're unprofessional, they're dangerous."
NO SIMILAR OUTRAGE ABOUT BUSH RECORDS BEING DESTROYED: Even as Rush
Limbaugh and the GOP's congressional leadership insinuate without proof
that Berger was deliberately trying to destroy records, they have made
little mention about last week's disclosure that President Bush's key
military draft records were
destroyed by Pentagon officials. The documents in question would
have proven whether the President was lying about whether he fulfilled his
military service that allowed him to avoid going to Vietnam. The
destruction of the documents has forced the Associated Press to
copies of them, which are
legally required to exist in the Texas archives. Despite promises to
release all documents, the president has refused to release the Texas
Josh Marshall provides
more context for the whole affair:
Hmmm. Imagine that. Senior officials at the White House Counsel's Office
(perhaps understandable) and "several top aides to" the president (not so
understandable) were given a heads-up about the Berger investigation months
So says the
Meanwhile, the Post has a
tangled article about how Archives staffers allegedly became
suspicious of Berger while he was reviewing the documents and even started
monitoring him. Calling the piece 'tangled' isn't necessarily a criticism.
The reporters clearly have two very conflicting versions of events and are
trying to explain both -- and point out the ways they contradict. The piece
reads as if the authors' themselves are uncertain which version to credit.
What's also clear from the Post article is that not only law enforcement
officials but also one 'government source' are leaking like crazy about this
The story the leakers tell in the Post story certainly seems hard to
reconcile with inadvertence.
USA Today says that FBI agents involved in the case didn't think the
whole thing was particularly serious.
Finally a case President Bush is eager to see investigated. Bush on
Berger: "This is a very serious matter that will be fully investigated by
the Justice Department."
As we said earlier, desperate.
Winning campaigns don't put the candidate in the mud.
Apropos of my earlier post about Republican desperation, here's Charlie
Cook of the Cook Report on the state of the presidential race ...
Last week in this space, I discounted the widely held view that the
knotted polling numbers between Bush and Kerry meant that the race itself
was even. I argued that given the fact that well-known incumbents with a
defined record rarely get many undecided voters -- a quarter to a third at
an absolute maximum -- an incumbent in a very stable race essentially tied
at 45 percent was actually anything but in an even-money situation. "What
you see is what you get" is an old expression for an incumbent's trial
heat figures, meaning very few undecided voters fall that way.
......This is certainly not to predict that Bush is going to lose, that
this race is over or that other events and developments will not have an
enormous impact on this race. The point is that this race has settled into
a place that is not at all good for an incumbent, is remarkably stable,
and one that is terrifying many Republican lawmakers, operatives and
activists. But in a typically Republican fashion, they are too polite and
disciplined to talk about it much publicly.
From a Press Release just out from Speaker Hastert ...
Speaker Hastert on Congressional Investigation Regarding National
Security and Sandy Berger
(Washington D.C.) Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) today made
the following statement:
"Like many Americans concerned about our national security, I look forward
to learning more from the House Government Reform Committee's
investigation into the wayward actions by Sandy Berger. The American
people deserve to know why Mr. Berger apparently skirted the law and
removed highly classified terrorism documents, purportedly in his pants,
from a secure reading room at the National Archives and then proceeded to
lose or destroy some of them.
"How could President Clinton's former National Security Advisor be so
"Was Mr. Berger trying to cover-up key facts regarding intelligence
failures during his watch?
"What happened to those missing documents?
"Whose hands did they fall into?
"What kind of security risk does that pose to Americans today?
"I know Chairman Tom Davis (R-VA) will work to get the full truth of what
really happened and help all of us better understand why Sandy Berger, a
person who should fully understand the gravity and importance of sensitive
national security materials, would operate with such overt negligence and
apparent disregard for the law."
Any Democrat has to see red when reading those words -- in fact, I'm
tempted to say anyone with more than a bit of decency.
But I post them because critics of the administration, whatever their anger
or indignation over those comments, should actually greet all this with a
There's no doubt this Berger imbroglio has thrown the Dems seriously off
message for a couple days. And it's embarrassing. There's no denying it. But
Hastert's words are those of folks who are desperate -- real desperate.
Folks looking at November 2nd, not liking at all what they see, and casting
about for anything that will change the political lay of the land.
cornered, wounded animal time.
Juan Cole has a go at
aspects of the 9/11 Commission's final report:
The September 11 Panel will issue its findings on Thursday. It notes 10
points at which the US made key mistakes that might have stopped Bin Laden's
plot. Four of these were under Clinton and 6 under Bush.
Bush came out today and said that if he had known what was coming, he would
have expended every effort to stop it, and that so would have Clinton. This
statement is, despite its facade of fair-mindedness, so many weasel words.
Of course Bush would have tried to stop 9/11 if he had known it was coming.
The question is, "Should he have known it was coming?"
The answer is, "Yes!"
We now know that Bush and his administration came into office obsessed with
Iraq. Cheney was looking at maps of Iraq oil fields and muttering about
opportunities for US companies there, already in January or February of
Wolfowitz contradicted counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke when the latter
spoke of the al-Qaeda threat, insisting that the preeminent threat of
terrorism against the US came from Iraq, and indicating he accepted Laurie
Mylroie's crackpot conspiracy theory that Saddam was behind the 1993 World
Trade Towers bombing. If you believe crackpot theories instead of focusing
on the reality--that was an al-Qaeda operation mainly carried out by al-Gamaa
al-Islamiyyah, an Egyptian terrorist component allied with Bin Laden-- then
you will concentrate on the wrong threat.
Even after the attacks on September 11, Bush was obsessing about Iraq.
Wolfowitz lied to him and said that there was a 10 to 50% chance that Iraq
was behind them. (On what evidence? The hijackers were obviously al-Qaeda,
and no operational links between al-Qaeda and Iraq had ever been found).
Rumsfeld initially rejected an attack on al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan,
saying there were "no good targets" in Afghanistan. (What about 40 al-Qaeda
bases that had trained the 9/11 hijackers and other terrorists gunning for
the United States??) The Pentagon did not even have a plan for dealing with
Afghanistan or al-Qaeda that it could pull off the shelf, according to Bob
Bush did not have his eye on the ball. Neither did Cheney, Rumsfeld, or
Wolfowitz. They were playing Captain Ahab to Saddam's great white whale.
Imperial Hubris makes the case that lots of people in the CIA and
counter-terrorism divisions elsewhere in the US government knew all about
Bin Laden and the threat he posed. They were from all accounts marginalized
and not listened to. Bush demoted Dick Clarke, among the most vocal and
focused of the al-Qaeda experts, from his cabinet. Dick could never
thereafter get any real cooperation from the cabinet officers, who outranked
him, and he could not convince them to go to battle stations in the summer
of 2001 when George Tenet's hair was "on fire" about the excited chatter the
CIA was picking up from radical Islamist terrorists.
As for the Clinton administration, let me say one thing in its defense.
Clinton had worked out a deal with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in
summer of 1999 that would have allowed the US to send a Special Ops team in
after Bin Laden in Qandahar, based from Pakistan. I presume you need the
Pakistan base for rescue operations in case anything went wrong. You also
need Pakistani air space. The plan was all set and could have succeeded.
But in fall of 1999, Gen. Pervez Musharraf made a coup against Nawaz Sharif.
The Pakistani army was rife with elements protective of the Taliban, and the
new military government reneged on the deal. Musharraf told Clinton he
couldn't use Pakistani soil or air space to send the team in against Bin
Look at a map and you try to figure out how, in fall of 1999, you could
possibly pull off such an operation without Pakistani facilities. Of course,
you could just go in by main force. But for those of you tempted in that
direction, please look up Carter's Tabas operation. It should be easily
Clinton tried, and tried hard. The gods weren't with us on that one.
July 26, 2004
I was holding my mom's hand the other day in her care-facility ward (she's
93), when it hit me: In ways very similar to my mother's condition, America
is in such bad political and social shape because it, too, had contracted
Consider my mom's history: She has been consumed by fright in her later
years, a paranoia usually manifested in how enemies were going to kill her
or steal from her. She would explode in anger, or engage in non-sequitur
conversations, at odd moments. She retreated into a corrosive sort of
narcissism, which meant she was fairly isolated, since others didn't want
much to do with her, leaving her fairly friendless. Sometimes, she would
shout and strike out at others. Often, she would have vivid conversations in
her mind with strangers, or pick up newspaper headlines on the ceiling over
She lost her short-term memory, repeating phrases and thoughts she had just
uttered moments before. She lost her middle-range memory, of things that
happened recently or not too long ago. Then she lost her long-term memory,
of events from years and years back. When she was still able to walk, she'd
occasionally wander into neighbors' apartments and use their toilets,
frightening the hell out of them when they'd open the bathroom door. And so
And now the rough comparisons -- some referring to our culture as a whole,
many to actions and behaviors of the Bush Administration -- bold-faced where
* The neo-conservatives at the center of power in the Bush Administration --
Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, Khalidad, et al. -- have a supremely
negative view of the world, which, in shorthand, translates into a feeling
that the world is a place of constant dread and fright,
filled with those wishing to attack us and/or steal our goodies.
Therefore, do unto others before they do it unto you -- especially if
they're weak and can barely defend themselves.
* Other nations of the world have watched Bush&Co. lash out at its enemies,
real and imagined -- with thousands of innocent civilians dying in the
process -- and are wary of doing anything that could enrage the American
superpower into unleashing its anger.
* Bush constantly engages in non sequiturs
when talking, or in strange usages, or in made-up words.
* Under the neo-con theories dominating the Bush Administration, a dangerous
form of narcissism has resulted in
isolation of the U.S. from the rest of
the world. The U.S. engages in unilateral behaviors such as starting wars,
withdrawing from treaties, humiliating and insulting former allies, and then
has to face the truth that few foreign leaders or populations like America.
But Bush&Co. don't care: You're either with us or with the terrorists, so
* Bush and Cheney constantly repeat statements,
even though they bear no resemblance to reality.
Bush once admitted that Saddam had no connection to 9/11, for example, but
then apparently couldn't remember that he'd said that and continued to
suggest the connection. All the investigating bodies have made clear that
Saddam had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks of 9/11, but Bush and
Cheney and others continue to conflate the two. Likewise, the official
investigating bodies have determined that Al-Qaida and Iraq had minimal
contacts (and certainly no operational links) in the years leading up to
9/11 and the current Iraq War, but the Bush folks continue to suggest
otherwise. Bad short-term memory loss.
* Middle-term and long-term memory losses
continue in evidence as well. Bill Clinton and Sandy Berger spent hours
warning the incoming Bush Administration about Osama bin Laden and likely
attacks by al-Qaida directed at the U.S. But once they assumed power -- and
even when counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke and CIA Director George
Tenet were telling them an attack was imminent -- they ignored the advice
and set up their own commission to "study" the threat of terrorism. The
chairman of that group, someone named Dick Cheney, apparently forgot all
about that commission's mandate, since it never met.
* The U.S. war in Vietnam in the -'60s and '70s provided numerous lessons
for every administration since. Every President remembered those lessons,
and made sure not to make the same mistakes again. But one Administration
did forget that history. Even with
Vietnam veteran Colin Powell as Secretary of State, George W. Bush's
war-machine forgot that humiliating episode and proceeded to make the same
It attacked a country about which it knew very little, used a much-too-small
attack force, outfitted them poorly and with confusing battle plans,
antagonized the local citizenry (many of whom then joined the guerrillas),
and had no exit strategy in place. And, as in Vietnam, it thought its
overwhelming firepower eventually would rule the day, so no need to consider
negotiations or withdrawing its forces -- until the situation got totally
out of hand and it had to agree to terms it could have accepted years before
(thus saving many thousands of American lives and hundreds of thousands of
Vietnamese lives) and withdrew its forces and supporters in a humiliating,
* Bush admits that he
hears voices from the beyond, urging
him to smite the evildoers. "God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck
them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I
am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East," he
told leaders in the Middle East; More recently, he
told an Amish
group that he believes "God speaks through me."
* As with my mom, sometimes the Bush Administration
into someone's house or back yard and leaves a terrible, stinky mess there.
In Afghanistan and Iraq, for example. Others are expected to come along
after them, and pick up the excrement. These often are former allies, who
resent the shoveling task.
So you see, even though the parallels are not exact, when a country's
leaders contract Alzheimer's and forgets their nation's true and best values
-- and its history -- a lot of damage can be done, endangering so many
The people responsible for ruining the reputation of the United States
really need help. They bumble around, creating havoc wherever they go; they
need to be in a care-facility, with numerous assisted-living, and
assisted-thinking, aides. On November 2, we will be their care assistants,
telling them that they can no longer be permitted to drive the state, that
they will have to turn over their keys of power to others.
Give to the Alzheimer's Foundation, help us find a cure. But until that
time, we must ensure that more responsible leaders take over from those too
debilitated to carry on in a stable, helpful fashion. Our country and its
glorious institutions and history are too important to leave in the hands of
individuals whose erratic behavior threatens to take us all down with them.
THE 9/11 PANEL'S
The detailed facts are there in the 9/11 Commission's report -- ones
devastating to the lies and distortions of the Bush Administration -- but
the fix was in and so no blame is assigned to anybody by name. (For a host
of super articles on this topic, go to our new
Since he was not singled out for most of the 9/11 blame, Bush feels he is
insulated on the campaign trail from effective criticism. And he'll be right
if Kerry & Edwards play nice little campaigners and don't go for the exposed
jugulars of Bush & Cheney & Rumsfeld & Ashcroft.
The Democrats, bless their naive little hearts, permitted themselves to get
hustled big time by agreeing that the final part of the 9/11 Commission's
work -- the most important part of its job, reporting on how Bush&Co.
misused the corrupted and phony intelligence it did receive -- will be
issued only AFTER the election!
Talk about being snookered! It's almost like the Democrats want to lose the
election, still playing by the rules of legislative civility when the GOP
extremists long ago stomped all over that concept and dumped it in the Tidal
All Kerry-Edwards have to do is to use the facts published in its report --
asserting clearly that despite BushCheney's constant and continuing
suggestions to the contrary, there was no meaningful or operational
connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaida and no connection at all to
9/11 -- and let the voters decide.
We shall see. All indications are, as I write this on the day the Democratic
National Convention opens, that the conclave will be a feel-good affair,
with no heavy mortar rounds lobbed at the Bush Administration.
The campaign seems to be operating on the following game-plan: The vote is
going to be razor-close, especially if Nader hangs in there, and thus the
election will be decided by the very small slice of independent voters. So,
all comments will be aimed at getting those swing voters to like us, thus no
angry rhetoric and roundhouse rights aimed at the Republican candidates.
I see it differently. The momentum in state after state, especially in key
toss-up states -- such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Arizona, Nevada -- is
swinging more and more to Kerry. I think, if we keep expanding our base and
working our butts off for the next three months, Kerry may well win in an
Electoral College landslide.
So much depends on the acceptance speech Kerry delivers at the Convention.
Can he generate anything even resembling charisma? Can he deliver short,
pithy, punchy, sound-bite arguments? Will he evidence any desire to take off
the gloves and go for Bush's very vulnerable chin?
We shall see.
THE BLOGGERS AMONG US
A big media story at the Convention is the officially-sanctioned presence,
for the first time, of website political bloggers. Not much news will come
out of their convention blogs (remember, they are not trained as reporters;
they are opinionated political writers), but that's not why this is a story.
The reason this story is of interest is that it validates the influence and
impact of the internet -- much as Howard Dean's smooth, effective internet
presence did, especially in organizing folks around the country and raising
lots of money, quickly, for the campaign. Or the amazing impact of groups
such as MoveOn.org . (See Matt Bai's fascinating "Wiring
the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy").
These bloggers -- such as Josh Marshall, Steve Gilliard, Kos, Atrios,
Corrente, Digby, et al. -- are extremely influential in focusing on items
buried by the conglomerate-owned mass-media, reporting instantaneous
political happenings, cogently analyzing the events and spin of the day,
etc. In this, especially for the growing body of younger citizens who get
their political education via bloggers and Jon Stewart's "Daily Show," they
rival in some ways the traditional influence of veteran reporters and large
Finally, as Steve Gilliard writes below, we should look at bloggers'
presence at the DNC Convention as a tryout for them, a way of learning how
to maneuver away from their virtual desks in the actual political labyrinth
that is contemporary politics. Their mettle truly will be tested when they
blog next month from the Republican National Convention in New York, where
there will be real news inside the hall, and likely real violence outside on
Enough from me. Check out Steve Gilliard and Josh Marshall on the blogging
phenomenon, linked to below. And Robert Dreyfuss on one aspect of the 9/11
insightful piece on bloggers, "Blogging Boston Part II," about how and why
we do what we do, and what it means in terms of those covering the
conventions. Here's part of his conclusion:
If bloggers are going to
learn how to cover a spot news event, this is the place and time, a
relatively friendly event, lots of activity and a small city. Some folks
will shine, some will not, but that's the way it is with news. Will we
supplant the reporters? No. Because they will do what they do. Will there
be a fresh voice for the news? Not really, because this isn't really a
news event, so fresh is unlikely.
But, the reason people need to blog the DNC, and there are a lot more than
30 people going to cover this thing, is to learn what they can and cannot
do. This is a good way to break into the big time of reporting on things
and not just commenting on them. People shouldn't judge the DNC as a test
of bloggers, per se, but a training experience, one hopes more like
Taranto than Dieppe. There are a lot of smart, thoughtful people blogging,
but few who have ever covered spot news.
Because the RNC will be serious business. There won't be time to learn and
to figure things out. I expect serious confrontations and some open
hostility to the RNC and their delegates. People will have to know what
kind of risk they feel comfortable with, and things they can deal with. I
wouldn't send any inexperienced people into New York's streets in August.
It won't be smiles and pats on the back.
www.talkingpointsmemo.com is puzzled by the swiftness with which
blogging has gone mainstream, the dangers therein, and what their presence
at the DNC might mean:
When I see the mainest
of mainstream outfits buying into the [blog] concept or the model, I
really don't know what to think. The best way I can describe my reaction
is some mix of puzzlement and incredulity.
I've always thought of this as just a vehicle for writing -- a mix of
reporting and opinion journalism, done in a format that allows a maximum
degree of flexibility, not bound by limitations of space -- the need to
write long or short -- or any of the confining genre requirements that
define conventional journalism.
The whole thing is mystifying to me.
Over at Tom Paine.com,
Dreyfuss examines one aspect of the 9/11 Commission's Report:
Five Things Wrong With The 9/11 Report
I’m going to spend some time this week pointing out five things wrong with
the 9/11 Commission report—one each day. A thorough job could be, well, 567
pages long, which is the size of that bulky, now-a-best-seller tome. It has
some good stuff in it, mostly in the form of on-the-record documentation.
But there are many flaws, some of which are dangerous ones.
So what’s wrong?
Thing One. There is a scary rush to judgment about implementing the Big
Brother-like recommendations of the commission. You wouldn’t think that
officials and members of Congress would pay that much attention to the
opinion of a Republican governor of New Jersey et al. when it comes to
matters of reorganizing the intelligence community. But the politicians
don’t want to be accused of dragging their heels when it comes to
implementing all 567 pages, in case there is a pre-election terrorist
incident. Adding fuel to the fire are the families of the 9/11 victims.
Let’s be honest here—having endured the tragedy of a terrorist attack
doesn’t make you an expert in fighting terrorism. The commission’s proposal
for reorganizing intelligence is wrong-headed and scary. It would create a
Big Brother that even the authors of the USA PATRIOT Act wouldn’t have
First, the commission proposes the creation of a National Counterterrorism
Center (NCTC). It would have two functions: intelligence and operations. Of
its intelligence function, the commission says: “The NCTC should lead
strategic analysis, pooling all-source intelligence, foreign and domestic,
about transnational terrorist organizations of global reach.” Operationally,
“The NCTC should perform joint planning. The plans would assign operational
responsibilities to lead agencies, such as State, the CIA, the FBI, Defense
and its combatant commands, Homeland Security, and other agencies.”
According to the commission, the head of the NCTC “must have the right to
concur in the choices of personnel to lead the operating entities of
departments and agencies focused on counterterrorism, specifically to
include the head of the Counterterrorist Center, the head of the FBI’s
Counterterrorism Division, the commanders of the Defense Department’s
Special Operations Command and Northern Command, and the State Department’s
coordinator for counterterrorism."
Then the commission would couple this all-powerful new entity with the
creation of a National Intelligence Director. The NID would be an
intelligence czar, overseeing both foreign and domestic intelligence
collection and analysis. "The National Intelligence Director must be able to
directly oversee intelligence collection inside the United States.” The NID
would also have authority to “approve and submit nominations to the
president of the individuals who would lead the CIA, DIA, FBI Intelligence
Office, NSA, NGA, NRO, [parts of] Homeland Security and other national
intelligence capabilities.” And the NID would control their budgets. The NID
would also oversee covert operations. And: “The head of the NCTC would
report to the national intelligence director.”
In tandem, the NCTC and the NID would create an intelligence power of truly
awesome scope. Because terrorism is essentially a political crime, as the
ACLU reminds us constantly, counterterrorist investigations always involve
politics, dissidents and rebels. It’s not like investigating crimes, or like
intelligence on war-making capabilities of nations. Just as the Patriot Act
knocked down the “wall” between the CIA and the FBI, making it far easier to
conduct domestic spying operations against American citizens not suspected
of a crime, the NCTC-NID combination would concentrate the power to carry
out domestic spying in all-powerful nexus, located (where?) in the White
House. The NID would report directly to the president, or to the “POTUS,” in
the pompous wiring diagram in the commission report. Says the report: “The
intelligence entity inside the NCTC .. would sit there alongside the
operations management unit, … with both making up the NCTC, in the Executive
Office of the President.”
Such changes in our foreign and domestic spying capabilities cannot, and
should not, even be considered in the months before a presidential election,
with each party competing with the other to show how tough on terrorism they
are. I expect that normal bureaucratic resistance will happily block the
commission's radical plan this year, but you never know. One thing we do
know: If Osama bin Laden & Co. are planning some attack this year, the
commission's Big Brother plan won’t stop them—whether it’s enacted or not.
July 29, 2004
THE BARELY-HIDDEN RIFT AT THE DNC
How can one NOT talk about the Democratic National Convention? It's the best
show in town.
Sure, its outcome is known in advance, it's a whole lot of positioning and
spinning, it's a creaky ritual dance. But there also is high drama offstage
Our text today is the rift behind the Dems united front for Kerry. The
delegates, 95% of whom are adamantly opposed to the Iraq War, are trying to
follow the party line of not bashing Bush too openly on that disastrous
conflict -- even Dennis Kucinich and Howard Dean bent to that line -- and
instead are mostly talking about hope and health insurance, positive
programs and the like. (There were a few heart-warming exceptions that laid
some good wood on Bush over Iraq:
President Jimmy Carter,
Rev. Al Sharpton,
Teddy Kennedy, and, to a certain extent, the Big Dawg,
Bill Clinton's address).
The Dem delegates, and many of us on the outside looking in, are so
desperate to get rid of the Bush crowd, that we're willing to give Kerry a
free pass to do and say what he feels he has to do or say in order to win
the election. We sense in our hearts that the true policies of Kerry with
regard to Iraq, Israel-Palestine, and the use of America's sole-superpower
status in geopolitics -- which we trust are somewhat different than what he
is saying now -- will come to the fore after the November victory.
But there is a great deal of nervousness about Kerry's security-first
approach, about his unwillingness to take on Bush frontally over Iraq, on
9/11 pre-knowledge, on the torture scandal, and so on.
MAKING PROGRESSIVES ANXIOUS
Indeed, the nerve-wracking part of the Kerry Campaign's foreign policy -- at
least as described Tuesday night by keynoter
Barack Obama, and Wednesday night by
John Edwards and
General Shalikashvili -- was the apparent decision to attack Bush from
the right on Iraq rather than from the left: more stay-the-course language,
more military might and the willingness to use it (with our old allies) in
Iraq and elsewhere, more promise of security for Israel but not even a bone
thrown to the Palestinians in return, etc.
Now, maybe all that is just a daring campaign ploy, to throw Rove and the
rest of the Bushies into a tizzy, to out-hawk the hawks, but it makes me
nervous no end because part of me wonders whether Kerry really believes that
stuff. If so, and he were to win, the U.S. would be in for one long slide
downward in world affairs, and we'd better be prepared for more terrorism
emanating from the extreme Islamists in the Middle East and beyond.
Now, as I say, many of us supporting Kerry are hoping these extreme
positions, some of which out-Bush Bush, are derived of campaign strategy,
and will change drastically once the Dems come into power. (We may know more
after Kerry's acceptance speech on Thursday.) If all this talk is a campaign
ploy, let us hope that it works and that Kerry will not alienate the
anti-war base that is the heart of the Democratic Party. But, at heart, it's
a terribly risky and potentially self-destructive strategy -- and may be
even more insidious, if truly believed.
We'll work and vote for Kerry, to be sure -- the alternative, in foreign and
domestic policies, is too horrendous to do anything but work for Bush's
defeat -- but we progressives know we may have to redouble our efforts for
change in America's approach to the world after Election Day, regardless of
OTHERS ARE FRIGHTENED
As I say, I'm not the only one made nervous by the apparent Kerry
foreign-policy direction. Here's Tikkun's Michael Lerner, for example,
emailing from Boston:
The rhetorical thrust of the convention has been overwhelmingly
militaristic, insisting that Kerry will be strong by sending MORE troops,
giving better support to the army and to those returning from service, but
failing to give any serious respect to the majority of Democrats who have
served their country by NOT FIGHTING, by rejecting and demonstrating
against the war. The war-makers in both parties should rejoice, but the
peace forces are being isolated. All in the name of "winning."
..."Winning is everything--we've got to beat Bush." Yet to beat Bush there
needs to be a coherent vision that can speak to people in a way that makes
them believe that something can really be different.
This is what worries many of the delegates when you talk to them away from
the pandemonium of the convention hall. They want a winner, and for that
reason are willing to go with the Kerry strategy...Their great fear,
expressed constantly in small conversations, is that this big gamble may
not excite many of the increasing numbers of Americans who don't bother to
vote at all. Looking responsible and balanced to the editorial writers and
pundits may get the Democrats praise, but it may not produce the necessary
votes to replace the Bushites who are unlikely to be similarly polite or
restrained once the campaign heats up in the Fall--and who are not afraid
to stand for what they stand for.
...The irony is that the democratic process this past Winter and Spring
demonstrated that there are millions of Americans who resonate to this
broader vision. They are yearning for something very different--a turn
toward peace, social justice, and a whole new discourse of caring. Many of
these Americans realize that the rhetoric of American superiority,
exceptionalism, and our-needs-above-the-needs-of-everyone-else on the
planet--a rhetoric which seems to pop up even in the talks of those
thought to be most liberal or progressive in the Democratic party--is
precisely what undermines our capacity as a people to envision a world of
mutual interdependency. The spiritual vision of The Unity of All Being is
side-lined to tin-horn patriotism that ignores all that we've learned in
the past forty years.
Yet however powerful that yearning for a different world may be, it has at
least temporarily been silenced by the fear of Bush. The ultimate irony
may be that it is precisely allowing that vision of a different world--not
just the refining of the old liberal politics that have been so
uninspiring for the past thirty years--that might have been the most
effective way to actually beat Bush. It may yet turn out that this
Democratic Convention and the "Bush lite" strategy behind the Kerry
campaign may not really be so "realistic" after all.
For more on these Bush/Iraq issues, see also David Corn's "To Bash, or
Not Bash Bush? in
The Nation, and the Agence-France Press story, "Kerry,
Democrats Still Struggling With Iraq."
Digby first points
us to a rival, mainstream journalist blogging, the Washington Post's Harold
the American Prospect website for some news and analysis nuggets not
Then he discusses an AFL-CIO caucus plan:
"...on the afternoon and evening of George W. Bush’s speech to the
Republican convention -- Thursday, September 2 -- union activists will
knock on the doors of one million union households in the 16 battleground
states. I like it.
Also he mentions the likelihood of Bush calling Congress back into
session right after the Dem convention, to deal with the 9/11 intelligence
(Of course, this would also have the effect of shifting attention away
from the Kerry-Edwards ticket that will be nominated on Thursday.) The
Democrats have no intention of having this issue taken away from them,
however. [Congresswoman Jane] Harman said that tomorrow morning at 8:00
A.M., House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will convene a Democratic House
Caucus meeting here in Boston, which Harman will address, to make sure the
Democrats have the fullest possible proposal on the table before Bush
I'm sure you are all aware that the day after the convention is like the
afterglow day. The campaign found its big release the night before and
smoked its metaphorical cigarette and everybody's in love. For Bush to
burst through the bedroom door is pretty darned uncivil but predictable.
The Dems are all together and they should be able to formulate a counter
This is interesting stuff.
Then Digby focuses on
Salon article describing a veterans' caucus meeting where Wesley Clark,
Max Cleland and James Carville roused the assembled vets.
In a building riff that brought veterans to their feet, Clark said:
"That flag is our flag. We served under that flag. We got up and stood
reveille formation, we stood taps, we fought under that flag. We've seen
men die for that flag, and we've seen men buried under that flag. No Dick
Cheney or John Ashcroft or Tom DeLay is going to take that flag away from
Clark's fiery performance knocked the GOP-style stuffing out of the
veterans' event, turning it into a Bush-bashing barnburner. By the time
Carville reclaimed the stage he was in full sputtering ragin' Cajun mode.
"I know the Kerry people back there are having a heart attack," Carville
said. "They're saying, 'There goes Carville, the mad dog, the pit bull.'"
It seems to me that the Kerry campaign's public face of cheery optimism
barely holding back the furious grassroots is a pretty good strategy.
Everybody keeps parroting the party line like "positive" and "upbeat" when
they're talking to the celebcorps while even speakers like Jimmy Carter
(?) allude to Bush's national guard service and lying. You end up
wondering what they'd be saying if Kerry hadn't "given the word" to be
disciplined. He shows leadership and the Democrats look like they're ready
for a fight. The Republicans are frustrated because they want the
Democrats to make the mistake they made in 1992 and go over the top.
It's as if the Party has Jack Nicholson's smile.
Finally, Juan Cole has a super
instant-analysis blog deconstructing Bill Clinton's talk, "Clinton's Low-Key
Dissing of Bush." Here are some key paragraphs:
If Bush's world is Manichaean, characterized by a division of human beings
into Good and Evil, the Democrats' world is organic, capable of being molded
into a smoothly functioning whole. The Manichaean world-view implies
warfare, the vision of organic unity allows for peace.
Clinton contrasted the cooperative and idealistic vision of the Democrats
with what he depicted as a selfish and cynical opportunism among
"We Democrats want to build a world and an America of shared
responsibilities and shared benefits. We want a world with more global
cooperation where we act alone only when we absolutely have to. We think
the role of government should be to give people the tools to create the
conditions to make the most of their own lives. And we think everybody
should have that chance.
On the other hand, the Republicans in Washington believe that America
should be run by the right people — their people — in a world in which
America acts unilaterally when we can and cooperates when we have to . . ."
Clinton points to a moment of betrayal, when Bush failed to live up to
the expectations of national unity and altruism raised by September 11:
"The president had an amazing opportunity to bring the country together
under his slogan of compassionate conservatism and to unite the world in
the struggle against terror. Instead, he and his congressional allies made
a very different choice. They chose to use that moment of unity to try to
push the country too far to the right and to walk away from our allies,
not only in attacking Iraq before the weapons inspectors had finished
their work, but in withdrawing American support for the climate change
treaty and for the international court on war criminals and for the
anti-ballistic missile treaty and from the nuclear test ban treaty. Now,
now at a time when we're trying to get other people to give up nuclear and
biological and chemical weapons, they are trying to develop two new
nuclear weapons which they say we might use first."
The attack on Bush is not that he went to war against Iraq. It is that he
did so virtually unilaterally, "walking away from our allies." This is a
genteel way of saying that the Bush administration humiliated and demeaned
France, Germany and later Spain, for not going along with the war or for
later withdrawing from it in the case of Spain. Note that Clinton or his
speech writer keep the focus on Bush, not foregrounding the allies (France
is not popular). The crime is to "walk away" from old friends. Although
complaints about this abandonment of old Europe would have had no resonance
a year ago, by now it is obvious that it would be awfully nice to have a
division each from France and Germany in Iraq, and that the Bush
administration's gratuitous insults made it highly unlikely that such help
will be forthcoming.
Likewise, the timing of the war rather than the war itself is criticized.
The Bush administration orchestrated a UN resolution that put the weapons
inspectors back in Iraq, but then attacked "Iraq before the weapons
inspectors had finished their work." This impatient unilateralism also led,
Clinton said, to the repudiation of Kyoto and other important international
treaties. Bush is depicted as rash, hotheaded, impatient, and a dangerous
Now Clinton ties the foreign misadventure to the domestic economy: "At home,
the president and the Republican Congress have made equally fateful choices,
which they also deeply believe in. For the first time when America was in a
war footing in our whole history, they gave two huge tax cuts, nearly half
of which went to the top 1 percent of us."
Clinton is saying that you were cheated out of your fair share of the tax
break, a tax break that probably shouldn't have been given in the first
place because of the extra demands of the war that shouldn't have been
fought. The cumulative effect is to raise fears that a series of grave
policy errors has been committed and that, worse, it has deleteriously
affected you in the pocket book. It is one thing to have the US government
mucking things up overseas. It is another for it to cheat you out of your
fair share of a tax break.
I suspect that the Kerry-Edwards campaign will pick up on Clinton's themes.
Not the war but the rush to war and unilateralism will be critiqued. Not the
troops but the Bush administration officials will be faulted. The criticism
will be subtle rather than blunt, and the theme will be hope rather than
August 5, 2004
MOVIN' INTO THE ORANGE
Are the current heightened security alerts a total political scam, to
distract from the growing Kerry-Edwards momentum and to get the citizenry
once again in a frightened, support-the-government frame of mind? Or is
there really something to the four-year-old reports, bolstered by claimed
recent "evidence," that al Qaida is planning to unleash a major attack
inside America sometime soon?
With all the previous boy-crying-wolf alerts that have come before and
amounted to nothing, the American people are somewhat justified in
disregarding this one as more of the same political manipulation whenever
Bush&Co. need to create a headline and up the fright mode. Plus, in the same
period when New York supposedly is endangered by al-Qaida terrorists, the
Bush Administration re-opens the Statue of Liberty to public entry in New
York harbor. What's that all about?
Unlike many of my progressive colleagues, I happen to think a major
terrorist attack may well be in the final planning stages -- something, of
course, that the Bush Administration would not be unhappy to see transpire,
as they believe it would serve their electoral purposes.
But an attack could backfire on the GOP campaign, as Bush policies abroad --
in Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel-Palestine, the tortures and abuses, etc. --
have ensured that terrorists have more incentive to attack us, rather than
less. In that sense, the U.S. citizenry is less secure because of Bush's
disastrous, bumbling war in Iraq (and the attendant tortures and
humiliations of Muslim detainees) and his unconscionable pullback from
trying to arrange a viable Israel/Palestine peace settlement.
It's not America's freedoms and culture that are to blame for our current
polls in the Mideast indicate it's Bush's foreign/military policies that
create the overwhelming distrust and hatred of this country. If Kerry and
Edwards were smart, they'd try to separate themselves from those policies as
much and as quickly as they can, and start verbally attacking Bush big time.
But, in some key areas, they aren't, and Kerry-Edwards may pay an electoral
price for that.
BUSH'S PHONY INTEL REFORM
Follow the bouncing bullbleep. The 9/11 Commission issues a report calling
for a major overhaul of the entire intelligence structure, appointing a
Cabinet-level director in the White House to head it up, with power of the
purse-strings and hiring-and-firing authority; without that clout, the
Commission said, the director would be a figurehead.
Kerry immediately endorses the proposal. Bush hems and haws for a few days,
but, seeing that the issue is playing for Kerry, then says he agrees, and
the spin goes out that Bush has come around to the Commission's position and
will appoint such national intelligence director.
But Bush's proposal will not give the new director the clout-tools (budget
and hiring/firing authority), and would not be in the White House. Bush
would appoint the new director as a figurehead -- akin to adding a new,
large deck chair on the Titanic -- and make him or her dependent on the
political desires of the White House.
Also, it turns out, that if that person was in the White House, he or she
would need Senate approval, and would be privy to activities and
decision-formation that BushCheney wouldn't want made public, and that
In other words, the usual flip-flopping and manipulative-spin from the Bush
Administration. But it may not fly this time. If there is to be such a new
director, that person needs to be independent (a 10-year appointment? why
not a shared-directorate of a Democrat and a Republican?), and have the
political strength to get things done, which only comes with budgetary and
Go get 'em, John-John!
MORE REVELATIONS ON AWOL. SCANDAL
Paul Lukasiak, whose discoveries about Bush's AWOL scandal could well rock
the election campaign and wind up propelling John Kerry into the White
House, is one modest guy.
recent blog, where I quoted from "Bush AWOL: Bush Absent Without
Leave While Others Went to Their Deaths," in
Corrente,-- a story that detailed
Lukasiak's research into Bush's military records -- he emailed me. Lukasiak
was upset that I had called him an "expert on decoding old military
records," when he really was "just some guy from Philadelphia."
Usually, they wind up describing me as a "researcher" because I did the
research, and that is accurate enough. But "expert" goes a bit too far,
I do have some small amount of knowledge of punch card data structures
from 30 plus years ago---but just by looking at the data lines found in
the payroll records, there are obvious patterns that anyone could detect.
I spent a couple of months reading the statutes, DoD regulation, and Air
Force policies and procedures, and spent a great deal of time figuring out
the rest of the payroll records and "points records" themselves. Having
acquired a certain amount of knowledge, the nature and the meaning of the
pattern in the payroll data became self-evident.
In other words, all I did was what any reasonably intelligent person could
do. The only difference is that I'm the guy who did it. But that doesn't
make me an "expert", and I'm really afraid that people will think that I'm
presenting myself as something that I'm not."
I couldn't let that rest, so I wrote him back: "You have done what no
other journalist or investigator seems to have done -- or perhaps even was
capable of doing: dug deep into G.W. Bush's TANG records to form a
definitive conclusion on the central question of his service. For this,
America is much in your debt."
I asked if he'd mind responding to a few questions about his research and
conclusions. His illuminating answers are below.
1. I first inquired what military personnel with whom he'd shared his
research had to say about his revelations.
Lots of military personnel have read my stuff, and I get two general
reactions --- absolute approval, or complete condemnation ("You don't know
what you are talking about" kind of stuff.) With the latter group, I
politely write back asking them for specific examples of where I misstated
a fact. I've yet to hear back from any of them with such an example.
2. Corrente had posted quotes from Dr. Lawrence Korb, a Reagan-appointed
official in the Defense Department, saying that, if Lukasiak's conclusions
were correct, Bush would be in legal trouble as absent without leave. Korb
said he would look over the relevant documents. Has he yet?
Korb is less than enthusiastic about getting involved in this issue. I
have spoken with him, and he is desperately trying to find ways to avoid
saying that "bush was AWOL" or words to that effect --- although he
acknowledges that is what the records show. I am waiting to hear back from
Korb, because I do want to represent his views in a far less
sensationalized manner than appeared in RawStory in a footnote to
[From that footnote:] "According to Dr. Lawrence Korb (Assistant
Secretary of Defense for Manpower, Reserve Affairs, Installations and
Logistics during the Reagan administration) who examined the payroll
records, based on those records in fiscal year 1973, Bush failed to meet his
training requirements as established in law and Air Force policy. Dr Korb
also noted, however, that Bush had accumulated more than the required number
of training credits in fiscal year 1972. Although under Air Force
regulations training credits earned in one fiscal year could not be applied
toward training requirements in a subsequent fiscal year, Dr. Korb stressed
that as a practical matter, Guardsmen would on rare occasions be granted
permission by their commanders to accumulate Active Duty training credits in
advance in one fiscal year, and apply them to training requirements for the
next fiscal year. Dr. Korb also stated that advance permission was required
to accumulate these credits in order for this 'informal exception' to the
policy and procedures of the Air Force to be permitted.
"All of the points credited to Bush for training in fiscal year 1972 were
earned prior to April 17, 1972. According to every biographical account of
this year in Bush's life, he was not offered the position with the Blount
campaign until May of 1972. Thus, it is clear that even Dr. Korb's 'informal
exception' to the laws and policies governing Bush's training requirements
was not applicable to the issues that arise from his payroll records."
3. Even though it was unfair and a nearly-impossible task, I asked Lukasiak
to try to sum up his conclusions in one paragraph, "one that the American
citizenry immediately would grasp, and might be useful in considering
whether to vote for Mr. Bush in November." (I have broken up his one long
paragraph into more readable chunks; emphasis is supplied.)
One paragraph? Four months of research distilled to one paragraph? Here
An examination of U.S. Statutory Law, Department of Defense Regulations,
and Air Force policies and procedures from the early seventies proves
that the George W. Bush and his spokesmen have consistently misrepresented
the nature and extent of his obligations as a member of the United States
When considered within their proper legal and policy context,
records effective rebut the White House claim that Bush "fulfilled his
duty." When considered as a whole, these documents reveal that Bush
spent the last two years of his six-year Military Service Obligation in an
active effort to avoid fulfilling the obligations and commitments he
incurred upon entering the Texas Air National Guard.
They also show that while some Texas officials aided and abetted Bush's
efforts (and others apparently acquiesced to what was happening), there is
no reason to question the character of Alabama officials, or Air Reserve
Forces personnel as a whole. Finally, the only conclusion that can be
reached from an examination of Bush's records for the period after he quit
the Air National Guard is that the Air Force attempted to take punitive
measure against Bush, but that political pressure prevented those measures
from being carried out.
4. Did he receive any official or other reaction from the Bush
Administration or Republican Party?
No. Other than that weird noise in the telephone….but my aluminum hat
keeps me safe!
The man has a cool sense of humor, in addition to his amazing,
"just-some-guy-from-Philadelphia" research skills.
So, who will be the first mainstream journalist or newspaper/TV network to
have the courage to run with Lukasiak's updated findings, and thus put the
AWOL Scandal right back into the heart of the presidential campaign?
Place your bets, ladies and gentlemen. Will that journalist come from the
right: Bill O'Reilly at Fox? Not bloody likely. Or the right-center: Tom
Brokaw or Tim Russert at NBC, Dan Rather at CBS, Peter Jennings at ABC?
So where is the so-called "liberal media" that supposedly controls the
information flow in America? Why isn't this updated story on the front page
of the New York Times or Washington Post or Boston Globe or Los Angeles
Times? Or on "60 Minutes"? If one of those would run with this story, in a
major way, the Kerry Campaign might feel more emboldened to start raising
the AWOL issue frontally rather than just sniping away by implication.
The partial answer why the media giants haven't touched the Lukasiak
findings, is that we, the citizens, haven't demanded it, haven't clamored
for it, haven't taken the action that needs to be taken to get it.
But at least Paul Lukasiak is out there, digging in the minutiae of military
records to unearth the truth. Add Lukasiak to the pantheon of investigative
and analytical heroes that includes Daniel Ellsberg, John W. Dean, Paul
Krugman, E.J. Dionne Jr., Molly Ivins, Arianna Huffington, Jim Hightower,
Josh Marshall, William Rivers Pitt, and a host of others banging away for
truth inside and outside the establishment media circles.
Thanks to them, we might actually get our government back in November from
those reckless, incompetent ideologues that, unless they're stopped in
November, could take the country down with them.
Enough from me. There are so many great bloggers out there with so many
insightful commentaries. Too many to reference here this time. Go to our
Blogsite list, and check out some or all of these blogs, daily. Get in
the flow of the news, as it happens.
Then take your anger into the campaign arena and make sure Bush gets his
pink slip in November. Electorally outsourced.
August 3, 2004
BUSH'S AWOL SCANDAL ABOUT TO BLOW
There are lots of pressure-cooker pots building up steam on the Bush Scandal
Stove. I think the Democrats have figured out which one is about to blow
If I'm right, the Dems hyped their candidate's war-record at the Convention
not only to demonstrate that Kerry would make an effective
commander-in-chief, but also because they believe Bush's AWOL scandal is
about to explode big-time.
Check out this story by Lambert, "Bush AWOL: Bush Absent Without Leave While
Others Went to Their Deaths," in the July 31, 2004
Rove dumped a huge load of documents in recent months, which he was sure
would reveal nothing incriminating about Bush's National Guard service, and
besides none of the mainstream journalists know how to read the military
codes and jargon anyway. He didn't count on an internet investigator named
Paul Lukasiak, who is an expert on decoding
old military records.
The story documents how Lukasiak has come to the conclusion in the headline,
based upon a careful reading of Bush's own supposedly "cleansed" records.
When informed of the findings, Lawrence J. Korb -- Assistant Secretary of
Defense for Manpower, Reserve Affairs, Installations and Logistics under
Ronald Reagan from 1981-1985 --
Given proof that Bush
missed five months of Guard training sessions, [Korb] said that Bush would
be considered AWOL.
"If you don't show up, you're absent without leave, by definition," Korb
No more than ten percent of sessions could be missed without them being
made up, he asserted. He added that President Bush should have been
mandated to serve active duty if he missed even two months of service in a
fiscal year -- "24 months of active duty minus the amount of active duty
already served -- you would be put on active duty and sent wherever they
needed you," he said.
At the time Bush was serving in the Texas Air National Guard, Korb himself
was serving in the Naval Reserve, the Navy's equivalent of the National
Guard, where he served from 1966 to 1985. He dismisses suggestions that
the Guard was being lenient about service at the time.
"At that time they were very strict about [Guard/Reservists] fulfilling
their obligations -- and we don't like to say it, because this was a way
to avoid the draft and going to Vietnam."
He was unable to examine Bush's payroll records at his home on Friday, but
is expected to formally confirm that Bush had failed to complete his
required duty in 1972, therefore rendering him AWOL, at his office Monday.
A Reagan-official saying
this -- dynamite! As soon as this story hits the mainstream media outlets --
which one will have the guts to go first? -- a whole lot of something is
going to hit a mighty big fan.
And the Dem strategy at the convention will yield an enormous political
Xan at Corrente also posts a
fascinating story of the FBI once again (remember Coleen Rowley?) cracking
down on a whistleblower within its ranks. ("Too Homegrown to be a Terorrist?").
This agent, Mike German, told how the bureau squelched an investigation of
American militia-type terrorists, who might be forging an alliance with
foreign terrorists. Well worth reading.
insightful piece ("The Big Bounce") about a quickie survey taken in
Cincinatti by Republican pollster Frank Luntz. He polled 20 swing-voters in
a GOP focus group, 14 of whom had voted for Bush in 2002. After hearing
Kerry's convention speech, only four of those say they'll vote for Bush.
That's in Ohio -- Republican heartland country!
The momentum is swinging to Kerry, as more and more Republicans -- the elite
generals and former Reagan/Bush1 staffers, as well as ordinary rank-and-file
-- peel away from the corrupt, reckless, incompetent Bush&Co.
Over at ##Kos,
ToqueDeville has a must-read commentary, "Everyone Should Take Action on
Computerized Voting Machines," that states the case for the danger of
massive voting fraud in November, and what can be done about it.
Kerry's numbers won't
mean anything with computerized voting machines. Nor will those of dozens
of Democratic House and Senate candidates.
People steal elections. They will if they can. With computer voting, they
can and there's no way to stop it or prove that it happened.
WE MUST DEMAND A DECERTIFICATION OF COMPUTER VOTING MACHINES.
What will it take? Last night I saw Michael Moore and Bill Maher begging
Ralph Nader not to run. They should have been begging Tom Daschle and
Nancy Pelosi to get off their fucking asses and demand that these voting
machines be taken out.
Everyone, please. This is the November surprise: Bush is down 7 points in
Ohio. And yet somehow wins by 3. Compliments of ES&S and Diebold.
Keep raising money by all means. But for the sake of democracy itself,
it's time to raise hell on computerized voting machines.
And from [Ronnie Dugger's
article in] The Nation:
On November 2 millions
of Americans will cast their votes for President in computerized voting
systems that can be rigged by corporate or local-election insiders. Some
98 million citizens, five out of every six of the roughly 115 million who
will go to the polls, will consign their votes into computers that
unidentified computer programmers, working in the main for four private
corporations and the officials of 10,500 election jurisdictions, could
program to invisibly falsify the outcomes.
The result could be the failure of an American presidential election and
its collapse into suspicions, accusations and a civic fury that will make
Florida 2000 seem like a family spat in the kitchen. Robert Reich, Bill
Clinton's Labor Secretary, has written, "Automated voting machines will be
easily rigged, with no paper trails to document abuses." Senator John
Kerry told Florida Democrats last March, "I don't think we ought to have
any vote cast in America that cannot be traced and properly recounted."
Pointing out in a recent speech at the NAACP convention that "a million
African-Americans were disenfranchised in the last election," Kerry says
his campaign is readying 2,000 lawyers to "challenge any place in America
where you cannot trace the vote and count the votes" [see Greg Palast,
"Vanishing Votes," May 17].
For those who still
question whether Republicans will do ANYTHING to win an election, check out
this item, reproduced by ##Atrios.
If this was the Nixon crew then, what do you suppose Rove and the boys would
be capable of now?
The blog item reproduces the tale of the Nixon Plumbers -- White House hoods
led by G. Gordon Liddy to harm or even assassinate investigative journalist
Jack Anderson, who was regarded as much too nosy by the Nixon folks.
audio link to the conversation between investigative journalist Mark
Feldstein, who's written a book about Anderson, and NPR's Brian Naylor. And
here's the money quote:
They discussed various
ways they were going to kill him. First, they talked about putting LSD in
his drink. The trouble was as Mormon and a teetotaler, he didn't drink
alcohol. So that was out. So then they talked about making him crash in an
automobile accident, but they would have to go to the CIA and use a
special car for that. So finally G. Gordon Liddy volunteered to kill
Anderson himself personally by knifing him, slitting his throat, and
staging it as a mugging that would look like a Washington street crime. At
the last minute, this assassination plot was aborted, and a few weeks
later, the men were arrested in the Watergate break-in and never had a
chance to put their plan into operation.
Read the whole item, it
will scare the bejusus out of you, even knowing that Liddy and the other
Plumbers went to jail for other misdeeds in the Watergate Scandal. (Liddy,
by the way, had Watergate schemes to kidnap anti-Vietnam-war leaders
organizing outside the GOP convention, and even to drop them from
helicopters over the ocean.) Real nice, solid-Republican guys.
Check out Digby for commentary on this important,
doesn't-make-sense story by the Washington Post's Dafna Linzer,
"Administration Now Opposes Inspections as Part of Nuclear Treaty ."
Yeah, that's right. Nuclear weapons that could wind up in the hands of
terrorists would no longer be inspected under the Administration plan. You
figure it out. It's just nuts. Is Bush overdosing on his
Moving on to uranium,
Juan Cole briefly takes us through the history of the phony
Niger-yellowcake-uranium story, now that the Italian fraudster Rocco Martino
has admitted he is the source of the false stories and forged documents that
Bush and Blair used to hype the "nuclear threat" from Saddam's Iraq.
For even more on this important, convoluted story -- and its ties to the
Plamegate scandal, where "two senior Administration officials" outed a CIA
agent by name -- see the blog by
Josh Marshall who has been working on this story for the past six
Finally, after reading my
Papers essay, "Letter to European Friends: America's Weird Election
Dance," you shouldn't be surprised that I'm posting these comments by
Jonathan Schell, from his article "Strong and Wrong" in
"I will be a commander
in chief who will never mislead us into war. I will have a vice president
who will not conduct secret meetings with polluters to rewrite our
environmental laws. I will have a secretary of defense who will listen to
the best advice of the military leaders. And I will appoint an attorney
general who will uphold the Constitution of the United States."
I know, I know: It's essential to remove George W. Bush from the White
House, and Kerry is the instrument at hand. I fully share this sentiment.
But I am not running for anything, and my job is not to carry water for
any party but to stand as far apart from the magnetic field of power as I
can and tell the truth as I see it. And it's not too early to worry about
the dangers posed by the Democrats' strategy.
In the first place, they have staked their future and the country's on a
political calculation, but it may be wrong. By suffocating their own
passion, they may lose the energy that has brought them this far. They
have confronted Bush's policy of denial with a politics of avoidance. Bush
is adamant in error; they are feeble in dedication to truth. If strong and
wrong is really the winning formula, Bush may be the public's choice.
In the second place, if Kerry does win, he will inherit the war wedded to
a potentially disastrous strategy. If he tries to change course,
Republicans -- and hawkish Democrats (Senator Joe Lieberman has just
joined in a revival of the Committee on the Present Danger) -- will not
fail to remind him of his commitment to stay the course and renew the
charge of flip-flopping. But the course, as retired Gen. Anthony Zinni has
commented, may take the country over Niagara Falls. Then Kerry may wish
that he and his admirers at this year's convention had thought to place a
higher value on his service to his country when he opposed the Vietnam
August 12, 2004
It's only mid-August, but the election campaign is on for real. And there's
something about Karl Rove's political strategy that makes me nervous.
The national polls and those in state after state -- including several of
the toss-up states -- show Kerry either ahead, even with Bush, or moving up.
Yet the GOP is doing little more than solidifying its base. It doesn't seem
to feel, as do the Kerry folks, that their candidate needs to tack to the
middle in an attempt to pull in the more moderate, uncommitted voters.
It must be clear to Rove that the Republicans can't win the election by just
playing to and energizing their rock-hard base -- which might yield them
35-40% of the vote -- so why are they engaging in this seemingly
self-defeating strategy? That's what makes me so nervous.
Oh, I suppose one could say that they're just as incompetent in campaigning
as they are in running the war in Iraq -- however, Rove and his minions may
be dumb, but they ain't stupid.
No, what worries me is that, even though in some ways they seem more and
more desperate, their play-to-the-base strategy suggests that they have
something up their sleeve, something they figure will provide them the votes
they need without having to go out and court them.
What could those "surprises" be? Let's re-examine the major possibilities.
COUNTING THE VOTES
In most states, touch-screen voting machines will be used, with no
verified-voting backup in case there has to be a recount. It's long been
demonstrated that it's easy for programmers to fiddle with the computer
vote-counting software -- or hackers can do it -- and not be detected. This
might well have happened in the 2002 election.
As Stalin said, it's not who votes that count, but who counts the votes; in
most cases, the same companies that manufacture the computer-voting machines
(the three main ones are owned by arch-Republicans) tally the results.
Plus, voting rolls have been purged in several key areas of thousands of
minority voters who likely would go for the Democrats. Or tricks have been
employed to remove Democratic voters from the rolls, such as sending in
fictitious change-of-address forms to county registrars.
So maybe Rove&Co. figure they're set in those states that do not seem to
care about the integrity of the voting process -- where the voting
officials, believe it or not, also are major players in the BushCheney
campaign structure. Florida is one of several examples; remember Gov. Jeb
Bush and Katherine Harris in 2000?
REVVING UP THE SLIME MACHINE
Rove figures their surrogate dirty-tricks groups can slime Kerry big-time,
thus reducing the Democratic candidate's momentum. Take the so-called Swift
Boat Veterans for Truth, for example -- which should be renamed Swift Boat
Veterans Who-Never-Served-With-Kerry for Bush -- who are bought and paid for
by Republican bigwigs, to question Kerry's war heroism. (For a sharp
rebuttal, see Republican Jim Rassman's story, "Shame on the Swift Boat
Veterans for Bush" in the
Wall Street Journal.)
Rove is a great believer in the Big Lie Technique: doesn't matter how
outrageous it is, just keep telling it, just keep pounding it, and after
awhile, the citizenry begin to believe it -- or at least hear it so often
that they begin to wonder about the reality of the other candidate's honesty
Even Bush-supporting Senator John McCain, the Republican war-hero who spent
half a dozen years in Hanoi prison during the Vietnam War, couldn't stomach
those lying attacks by the Swift Boat vets, and said so in no uncertain
terms. He urged Bush to disavow such tactics, but (surprise!) Bush declined.
McCain said those slimy tactics were used on him by the Bush campaign in
2000, when he was moving up in the polls. So now -- you guessed it --
the slime machine is going after McCain, questioning his patriotism, his
war-record, and even his years as a POW.
This GOP sliming is par for the course. They have no scruples, and no shame.
They did it to Georgia Senator Max Cleland in the 2002 race (the Vietnam war
vet, who left three limbs in that country, lost after shameful GOP
advertising questioned his patriotism), they did it to Senator McCain in the
2000 campaign (and now again in 2004), and they're attempting to do it with
the Smear Boat Veterans for Bush in the current race.
Another plus for Rove: These slime attacks on Kerry, and Teresa Heinz Kerry,
force the Democrats to waste precious time, money and staff on combating the
smear, when those resources could be used in going after Bush's sorry record
domestically and overseas.
The negative for the GOP is that
it reminds voters of Bush's AWOL status -- see Paul Lukasiak's
voluminously-researched "Deserter" article -- during his Texas Air National Guard days. Which
may lie at the heart of the major slime attack on Kerry, hoping that by
tarnishing the Dem candidate's war record, the issue of military service
will be a wash for both candidates.
TERRORIZING THE MASSES
There may or may not be any actual al-Qaida plans for a major terrorist
attack between now and November, but Bush&Co. figure it's a win-win
regardless of what transpires.
If there is a major, 9/11-level attack -- and I, for one, believe it is
entirely possible -- Rove is poised to manipulate the citizenry's fear, as
was done after 9/11. Bush&Co. once again will urge Americans to rally around
their government as their best protection against more terrorism, and the
GOP will play the don't-change-horses-in-the-middle-of-a-war theme. Many
citizens, in their insecurity, may gravitate toward that position.
If there is no major al-Qaida attack (don't forget that the "intelligence"
that started the whole thing is nearly four years old) we'll hear Bush&Co.
bragging about how well they've protected us from the bad guys, so
don't-change-horses-in-the-middle-of...well, you get it.
In either case, they've ratcheted up the population's fear level -- a
technique they've been using for years now. You can actually
the terror alerts by going to the dips in Bush's poll numbers: major
slippage, Ridge or Ashcroft emerge to issue another non-specific terror
alert; Bush doing better in the polls, no terror alerts. Amazing how that
What Kerry might be able to count on is the citizenry's suspicion that they
are being manipulated endlessly by the boy-who-cried-wolf gang at the White
House. And, if there is an al-Qaida attack, voters may well realize that
Bush's reckless foreign policies in the Middle East -- and by his war of
choice in invading and occupying Iraq -- have made America less secure, not
more secure, and aided al-Qaida in recruiting more suicidists willing to
attack American interests abroad and targets inside the U.S.
OSAMA-MAN TO THE RESCUE
As a New
Republic story made clear last month, the Pakistanis have been put on
notice by the U.S. that they are to produce bin Laden or some of his
high-ranking lieutenants before the election. The U.S. wanted someone major
caught before or during the Democratic National Convention; sure enough, the
Pakistanis produced a wanted al-Qaida operative right on schedule, just
before Kerry's acceptance speech.
Rove seems to feel that producing Osama or his key aides will indicate to
the public that the "war on terrorism" is being won under Bush's leadership,
so why change horses in...you know the drill.
The negative for the Bush Campaign is that we're all a bit wiser now. The
war in Iraq became even more of a disaster AFTER Saddam Hussein's capture
than it was before, so getting the top honcho doesn't guarantee anything.
The U.S. keeps killing or capturing al-Qaida and other terrorist
organization's agents and leaders, but it doesn't seem to stop the groups
from reforming and carrying out major bombings and assassinations.
Producing Osama or some of his top aides just before the election might well
make voters ask why if it could be done now, why couldn't it have been done
a lot easier when the U.S. was chasing al-Qaida and Taliban forces in
Afghanistan? The big hunt was on and then, suddenly, the U.S. forces were
ordered to prepare to attack Iraq, a country with no ties to 9/11 and one
that posed no immediate threat to its neighbors or to the U.S.
In short, the capturing or killing of Osama would smack of pre-election
manipulation, and might well remind many Americans of the incompetency of
Bush's handling of the so-called "war on terror."
A WEE POSTPONEMENT
We know that Ridge and Ashcroft have been asked to begin researching the
election in the event of major terrorist attacks.
If Bush's numbers keep falling, and/or the Plame indictments hit high up the
White House ladder, and/or the jobless "recovery" continues to wreak its
havoc on the economy, and/or Bush's AWOL history will finally resonate with
the press and public, and/or the Torture memos asserting Bush's right to
rule by decree reveal even more White House horrors, and/or the Iraq
situation sinks even further into the disaster category, and/or...(take your
pick as to which other scandal will surface) -- if all or some of those
bubbling vats explode, RoveCheneyBush and the rest of the group may just
decide that having an election on November 2 may not be such a good idea
Using terrorism, or the "severe threat" of terrorism, as a justification,
the Bush Administration might attempt to invoke martial law, indefinitely
postpone the election (maybe until the never-ending "war on terror" is
over), and Bush&Co. would continue to rule.
Hard to believe that the American people -- even the military -- would go
along with this fascist blueprint, but you never know how desperate the
Bushies are to hang onto power and whether they'd be willing to risk the
public insurrection that would follow. Certainly, by their actions, we know
THEY have thought about the possibility of postponing the vote.
Just typing those five possible Rove "surprises" got my heart racing. What
may save us is the growing anger and activism of the American people --
Democrats, Independents, even many solid conservative Republicans. Let us
continue to build that unshakeable desire and momentum, and get this country
For some top-flight stories on the ill-advised Bush decision to appoint
Porter Goss as the new head of the CIA -- who, even if he were the right
person for the job, might well serve only for few months, at a time when the
intelligence community already is in turmoil -- check out: Fred Kaplan's
"Spies Like Goss: How Much of a
Hack Is Bush's CIA Nominee?, Ray McGovern's
"Cheney's Cat's Paw, Porter Goss, As CIA Director?", and David Corn's
"A Soft Scold from Goss."
August 17, 2004
WHY U.S. ATTACKED NAJAF
Despite all of Bush&Co.'s attempts to change the subject, to get the
American people distracted from the unfolding disaster in Iraq, events on
the ground inevitably bring us back to that country. Any day that happens is
not a good day for George W. Bush.
And it doesn't look like it's going to be a good election campaign in that
regard for him either.
Kerry can snipe from the outside about the war-plan and the incompetence of
the Administration and its generals, but Bush actually has to produce enough
victories to convince the American voters that the U.S. has "turned the
corner" in Iraq.
If what's happening in Najaf these days is any indication, that ain't gonna
Per usual, the U.S. has clubfooted itself into a horrific situation. They
may kill a huge number of insurgents in Najaf -- and their supporters in
other cities and towns in Iraq -- but by launching a major assault on this
most holy city in Shi'ite Islam, they have succeeded in uniting most of
Iraq's Muslims against them. When nationalism joins with religious fervor,
the end game is near.
The U.S. and its interim Iraqi force has attacked inside the huge Valley of
Peace Cemetery -- the sacred ground in which Shi'ite Muslims want to be
placed after death -- ruining large parts of it, thus desecrating a holy
site. (Analogy: Imagine how Americans might feel if the Arlington National
Cemetery was bombed by attacking, occupying forces.)
As of this writing late-Monday, the U.S. has not yet attacked inside the
Imam Ali Mosque, one of the holiest of shrines in all of Islam, but it's
only a matter of time before major damage is done there. (Interim Iraq Prime
Minister Allawi says he won't sent Iraq troops into the mosque either, but I
wouldn't count on that. Someone is going in there to take control of that
sanctuary from the insurgents.) What that happens, it's likely that
virtually all of world Islam will be lined up behind the nationalist
struggle in Iraq, which is battling, as they see it, to free their country
from the occupying Western Christian defilers.
So why, then, did the U.S. take this seemingly self-destructive step? I'm no
expert on the Arab world, but I can offer some educated guesses. If you want
deep, daily insight on what's happening in Iraq -- from a longtime expert in
the Middle East, well connected and well-versed in Arabic -- be sure to
check in regularly with Juan Cole.
See also Gary Leupp's article,
"The Attack on
Najaf: The Ultimate Stupidity".
THE KEY IS IN AMERICA, NOT IRAQ
The first supposition is that the attack derives, as with everything in Iraq
these days, from the presidential campaign in America. Short version: Better
now than two months from now, as U.S. voters are making their final
Expanded version: Bush&Co. must stabilize the security situation in Iraq, so
as to give the appearance to U.S. voters that things are "under control" in
that country. In order to do that, Allawi, our man in Baghdad, must appear
to be fully in charge of his people. Ergo, Muqtada al-Sadr must be wiped
out, both as a military force and as a political force.
The problem is that you can't have both. The more Sadr's militant militia is
attacked, the more popular the Sadr movement becomes as a political force --
the only one with any organized armed forces willing to stand up, openly, to
the military behemoth that is America. (And if Sadr is killed, he will be
regarded as a martyr by the faithful, and his movement will grow even larger
and more determined.)
But Bush&Co. apparently believe that it's worth taking the political heat --
and the American troops' deaths and maimings -- now, rather than closer to
the November election. If their gamble pays off, they figure, nobody will
remember what happened in the dog days of August.
GAMBLING BIG-TIME FOR HIGH STAKES
Make no mistake about it, the Bush Administration is rolling the dice here,
and the stakes are enormous: the future of Iraq, who will speak for Shi'ite
Islam in that country, the viability of the U.S.-friendly interim
government, Iran's growing role in the region, the American election.
Will the gamble work? Conceivably, it could -- enormous firepower
slaughtering the heart of the Mahdi Militia. But my guess is not. The U.S.
has poked its bumbling military finger into the Islamist hornet's nest in
Iraq, and, one way or another, it is going to get stung badly, again and
again, by outraged Islamic nationalists, both Shi'ite and Sunni. They have
an unlimited supply of nationalist warriors, and great patience; the U.S. is
constrained by political realities, and hampered by the fact that, as in
Vietnam, its soldiers don't really know why they're there.
In short, it's possible that the U.S. military may win something in the
short run that they can call a victory in Najaf, and elsewhere, but they
will lose the larger war in and for Iraq. Because, as was the case in
Vietnam, this is not a military battle but a political one -- where the
opposition sees the fight as a war of national liberation for its own land
For Bush and his friends, it's about control, oil, a military foothold in
the region, altering the politics of the Middle East. It's losing hand for
the U.S. any way you look at modern nationalist history.
BUSH'S TROOP DEPLOYMENT PLOY
The scariest news these days is that the next wars are being slowly,
carefully, planned for.
How else to read the report that the U.S. is going to pull 100,000 of its
troops from Europe and elsewhere and send them home, for eventual
redeployment. Despite all the military denials that this is anything more
than good military planning, giving Pentagon officials more "flexibility" (
for what?), "in case of need" (where?), it seems clear that there is much
more here than meets the eye.
Let's be blunt. The U.S. military is stretched mighty thin these days, given
Rumsfeld's desire to keep the force lean and mean for rapid deployment to
hot spots around the globe. Iraq troop strength is insufficient, likewise in
Afghanistan; he's having to use the National Guard and Reserve troops as an
"unofficial draft," and is using "stop-loss" procedures to keep troops who
have served their time from going home. No wonder there aren't many re-ups
in the Guard and Reserves and among those who have served in Iraq.
The Pentagon needs bodies. It's activating more Guard troops; it's stepping
up its recruitment campaigns (great scenes of two such Marine recruiters
trolling for new recruits in "Fahrenheit 9/11"); it's calling up former
soldiers -- even some in their 60s; it's withdrawing 3500 troops from South
Korea and moving them to Iraq; and you can bet on it that, only AFTER the
election, the Selective Service System will be ready to administer a
re-activated draft of young men and women, perhaps as early as June of 2005.
TAKE THAT, GERHARDT!
That need for bodies partially explains Bush's plan to close numerous bases
in Europe -- plus doing so not-so-subtly "punishes" the Germans for not
supporting the war in Iraq -- and redeploy a good many of them to areas
closer to military flashpoints, such as Russia's former satellite states
near the Caucuses: good staging areas for South Asia. And, if the U.S. can
hang on to its bases in Iraq, it will have good staging areas for the Middle
In short, the U.S. will be well-positioned to "rapidly deploy" to wherever
the U.S. has growing geopolitical interests, that is to say where the oil
The neo-conservative ideologues, the same ones that got the U.S. into Iraq,
are keeping a low profile these days -- so as not to call attention to
themselves and their cockamamie imperialist ideas as the election campaign
heats up -- but they are still in powerful positions in the Pentagon, White
House and State Department, and their goals are still the same.
They're still set on remaking the geopolitical and strategic map of South
Asia and the Middle East -- to control the oil flow in those regions, to
protect the U.S.'s major Mideast ally Israel, to bring Bush's version of
"democracy" and "free-market capitalism" into "backward" Arabic and Caucuses
countries. This will be done, it is hoped, not by occupying those states, at
least not for long, but by setting up easy-to-influence, U.S.-friendly
governments that will do America's bidding.
To do that, America needs a credible threat of the use of force. Taking
100,000 troops out of Europe and having them ready for quick action in Iran
or Syria or Azerbaijan or Saudi Arabia or wherever is definitely helpful in
creating that credible threat. Stay tuned for the fireworks.
Question for the Day: Now that Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez survived
his recall election -- he got nearly 60% of the vote -- how many days do you
think will transpire before the Bush Administration initiates a covert
attempt to overthrow him in a "popular" coup? A clue: Venezuela has LOTS of
Enough from me. Some really good blogging going on. Check out our
No time left to do other than to suggest that you might well want to start
off with Digby, the
aforementioned Juan Cole ),
Steve Gilliard -- and
last but by no means least, Crisis Papers' own
August 20, 2004
IF A TREE FALLS IN THE FOREST...
When I first joined the San Francisco Chronicle, in the early 1970s, I found
myself drawn to the wire room. I enjoyed being in the presence of the
clickety-clakking teletype machines, spitting out real-time news from the
various wire services -- AP, UPI, New York Times, Washington Post, Agence-France
Press, Reuters and so on.
I got to read all the latest reports and commentaries on the disaster that
was the Vietnam War, the unfolding Watergate scandal, and so on. It was an
illuminating experience, but not just because I was on the "inside" of the
news industry, reading first what we were about to publish -- and, more
importantly, NOT publish -- in a few hours.
All this in the way of an introduction to today's opening point: What isn't
published -- especially what isn't published on the front pages, or don't
appear as lead items on TV newscasts -- often is much more revelatory of
what's really happening than what the editors and publishers decide the
citizens should see and hear.
Just one recent example, among many: John Kerry and George Bush were
campaigning in Portland last week. Kerry drew 50,000 to the shores of the
Willamette River to hear his talk. About 2000 cherry-picked guests got to
hear Bush speak. Guess what story got the big play in the national news that
evening? You guessed it.
Kerry appears at venues and events that are open to the public. Sure, his
campaign staff makes sure that there are lots of union folks and vets in the
audience, but anybody can come. Kerry is often faced with Bush-campaign
hecklers, trying to drown him out.
Bush appears only at events where no spontaneity is possible, since those in
attendance must sign "loyalty oaths" that they support his candidacy. Those
regarded as suspicious -- wearing a Kerry pin might do it -- are summarily
turned away. At the so-called "Ask the President" sessions that are included
in some of Bush's events, he gets puff-ball questions from the adoring
How many citizens who read their papers and watch the news are aware of the
numerical and partisan makeup of the crowds that attend their speeches?
Precious few, I would guess, based on how the conglomerate-owned media
slants the coverage.
Still, despite this media bias, and the vast amounts of slime and sleaze
emanating from Karl Rove's dirty-tricks department, Bush continues to slide
in the polls in many of the toss-up states, and Kerry continues slowly to
climb, actually leading in a good number of those states.
Glory be! The citizenry are finally coming around to an "enough-is-enough"
frame of mind.
For the rest of this column, here are some wonderful items from some of my
favorite fellow bloggers.
The Swift Boat Vets for Bush slime-campaign is imploding, thanks to the
over-the-top lies, the sleazy backgrounds of the leading spokesmen, the
Republican bigwigs who are financing their operation. You can read the dirty
details at the esteemed
Kerry, as his political history attests, is a scrapper. So, finally, he's
taking the gloves off and is starting to hit back. Check out
speech Thursday to the International Association of Fire Fighters; here
are the key relevant paragraphs:
Over the last week or so, a group called Swift Boat Veterans for
Truth has been attacking me. Of course, this group isn’t interested in the
truth – and they’re not telling the truth. They didn’t even exist until I
won the nomination for president.
But here’s what you really need to know about them. They’re funded by
hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Republican contributor out of
Texas. They’re a front for the Bush campaign. And the fact that the
President won’t denounce what they’re up to tells you everything you need
to know—he wants them to do his dirty work.
Thirty years ago, official Navy reports documented my service in Vietnam
and awarded me the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts.
Thirty years ago, this was the plain truth. It still is. And I still carry
the shrapnel in my leg from a wound in Vietnam.
As firefighters you risk your lives everyday. You know what it’s like to
see the truth in the moment. You’re proud of what you’ve done—and so am I.
Of course, the President keeps telling people he would never question my
service to our country. Instead, he watches as a Republican-funded attack
group does just that. Well, if he wants to have a debate about our service
in Vietnam, here is my answer: “Bring it on.”
I’m not going to let anyone question my commitment to defending
America—then, now, or ever. And I’m not going to let anyone attack the
sacrifice and courage of the men who saw battle with me.
Just a hunch on my part, but I think Xymphora may be a tad
angry at the media, especially over the recent "apologies" by the New
York Times and Washington Post for hyping the Administration's WMD bullbleep
prior to the Iraq invasion.
The problem with these newsprint confessions is not that they are
craven, insufficient and self-serving, which of course they are. The
problem is that, on the whole, they do not correct the pre-war mistakes,
but actually further them. The Post would have you believe that its
'failure' before the war was its inability/reluctance to punch holes in
Bush's WMD claims.
Right. I marched in Washington against the war in February 2003 with about
400,000 people, and I can pretty much guarantee that not more than a
handful of those people gave a shit about whether or not Saddam Hussein
had weapons of mass destruction. That's because we knew what the Post and
all of these other papers still refuse to admit - this whole thing was
never about weapons of mass destruction. Even a five-year-old, much less
the literate executive editor of the Washington Post, could have seen,
from watching Bush and his cronies make his war case, that they were going
For God's sake, Bush was up there in the fall of 2002, warning us that
unmanned Iraqi drones were going to spray poison gas on the continental
United States. The whole thing—the 'threat' of Iraqi attack, the link to
terrorism, the dire warnings about Saddam's intentions - it was all
bullshit on its face, as stupid, irrelevant and transparent as a cheating
husband's excuse. And I don't know a single educated person who didn't
think so at the time.
The story shouldn't have been, 'Are there WMDs?' The story should have
been, 'Why are they pulling this stunt? And why now?' That was the real
mystery. It still is."
We all knew. There were no weapons of mass destruction. It was always a
lie, and a supremely obvious lie. The Washington Post and the New York
Times didn't just report the lie, they participated in it. To put it in
legal terms, they aided and abetted the gross breach of international and
American law that the Bush Administration pulled on the American Congress
and people by tricking them into an unnecessary and disastrous attack on
Iraq. The apologies or explanations are self-serving and deceitful.
Neither Judith Miller nor the editors of the Times are as stupid as we are
supposed to think they are, and the editors of the Post just had to read
their own articles by Walter Pincus, published but hidden deep within the
paper, to see what was really going on.
... Bush has managed, with the help of his crooked 9-11 commission, to
portray the weapons fiasco as a problem of intelligence. This is nonsense,
as the intelligence was completely irrelevant.
...Bush was going to go to war regardless of what his intelligence said or
didn't say, and the Post and the Times knew it. Despite this, they
published article after article repeating and reinforcing the warmongering
lies of the Bush Administration. There are four real journalists in the
United States who wrote on this issue: Seymour Hersh, Walter Pincus,
Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay. Everyone else is either a traitor or
just a waste of space. If you think you get the truth reading either the
Washington Post or the New York Times, you are a fool.
GOP officials and secretaries of states around the country are moaning
and groaning that they simply aren't able to alter their recount policies
this close to the November election. So this August 18th story about the
recount going on now in Venezuela is instructive; from the
Corrente blog (scroll down to
"Dept. of Cheap Ironies"):
The referendum was carried out on touch-screen voting machines, which
produced a paper receipt of each vote, much like an ATM. Voters then
deposited the receipts into a ballot box. Amid charges that the electronic
machines were rigged, the monitors will be checking the results from the
machines against the paper ballots to make sure there are no major
discrepancies. The paper ballots will be checked at election offices while
votes recorded in the machines will be examined at an army base.
The Globe and Mail)
There are several moves afoot to try to head off the looming
computer-voting scandal. Given that the GOP controls the Congress, neither
is likely to pass, but they're worth discussing and moving on anyway.
The American public would not put up with another suspect, vote-counting
election in November, after the disputed one in 2000 -- and maybe some
Republicans might come over and join the call for a transparent vote-count.
One initiative involves
a bill that
will be submitted to Congress after the August vacation, entitled the
"Federal Paper Ballot Act of 2004 - Insist on Hand Counted Paper Ballots."
(1) All votes for federal offices shall be cast on paper ballots.
(2) All votes for federal offices shall be hand counted at the polling
places where the votes were cast, and the manual count shall constitute
the official count of the votes.
(3) Manually-tallied precinct totals for all federal offices shall be
prominently posted at the polling places before the ballots are
transported to the central facility.
(4) In any jurisdiction where votes for federal office are also counted by
machine, the machine totals for federal offices shall be posted at the
location where the votes are machine-counted.
(5) All absentee votes for federal offices shall be counted by hand, and
the totals shall be posted at the central election office.
(6) This act is effective on the date of enactment.
The other is a petition beginning to circulate that would bar the
Congress from certifying the electors from any state where there is no
voter-verified paper ballot trail. Here are the key paragraphs (by e-mail
from Nina Moliver, Moderator,
...A bill to require official paper trails for all electronic voting
has been held up in committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. Jeb
Bush, Governor of Florida and brother of the Republican presidential
candidate, has blocked all efforts to install a voter-verified paper trail
for Florida’s machines.
Even international monitors, film crews and teams of lawyers on Election
Day will be unable to prevent inaccurate electronic election results from
being sent to the state and certified.
As a result, we face the very real possibility that for the second
presidential election in a row, vote tampering and disenfranchisement will
stop the winner of the election from taking office.
We hereby call on all Senators and Congresspeople who support democracy to
PLEDGE to REJECT ELECTORS from ALL STATES where :
1. Votes have been cast and counted in a direct-recording electronic
voting system with no voter-verified paper ballot trail or with such a
trail that has not been counted and used to provide the official election
2. Where, with no verifiable recount done, the outcome of the vote tally
is either very close or is significantly different from that which was
reasonably expected on the basis of exit polls or the most recent public
For absolutely vital posts about the deteriorating situation in Najaf in
particular, and Iraq in general, check out:
Juan Cole's, "What Does Muqtata al-Sadr Want?", and Kos'
Understand Guerrilla War".
Pick Out the Flip-Flopper Department
Want to see an egregious Bush flip-flop? Check out David Sirota's
Bush & the Great Lakes:
Even though experts say "diverting any water from the Great Lakes region
sets a bad precedent" Bush "said he wants to talk to Canadian Prime Minister
Jean Chretien about piping water to parched states in the west and
southwest." He said, "A lot of people don't need [the water], but when you
head South and West, we do need it."
- AP, 7/19/01; Bush statement, 7/18/01
"We've got to use our resources wisely, like water. It starts with keeping
the Great Lakes water in the Great Lakes Basin. You might remember what my
opponent said earlier this year about Great Lakes water diversion. He said
it would be a delicate balancing act. It sounds just like him. My position
is clear: We're never going to allow diversion of Great Lakes water." -
Which Candidate Understands the Real Threat?
Check out Atrios' ##delicious
dissection of Bush, hell-bent for years for a missile defense shield,
while Kerry wanted and still wants to focus on terrorism and al-Qaeda
August 24, 2004
GOP Skulduggery, Slime, Spin and Sleaze
OK, after these opening paragraphs, this blog will be a Swift Boats-free
zone. Enough already. The point seems to be that the GOP's initial sliming
did its work, throwing outrageous charges into the air, just to see if some
of them would stick in the public mind. They did for a few days, but then it
turned out that the Kerry Campaign was able to locate even more eyewitnesses
to the senator's bravery in river-boat Vietnam action, and the Bush Campaign
found itself being denounced from the political left, right and center for
continuing its sleazy character-assassination. (For a trenchant summing up,
see Juan Cole's
"Bush's Superficial Wounds in the Vietnam Era").
So yesterday, Bush tried to call a halt to the whole issue. He didn't say
anything about the Swift Boat liars and order them to stop their mendacious
ads. Instead, he denounced all ads by all independent organizations
commenting on political issues. The ads coming from MoveOn.org and other
such liberal organizations really roast the Bush campaign, and Rove wants
them to go away. They won't. So prepare for even worse slime, sleaze and
spin from Rove and his surrogates. Especially since the poll numbers in more
toss-up states are falling again for Bush.
We won't know until probably October -- when the near-final polls come
out -- whether Bush&Co. are seriously going to follow through on their legal
preparations to "postpone" the election. Or, if Bush's electoral prospects
look truly bleak, whether they will move to "red alert" and initiate a
state-of-emergency in certain voting regions on Election Day.
They've already prepared a legal memorandum that, if the GOP-controlled
Congress approves, would give the Executive the power to "limit the
movement" of citizens under certain election-day scenarios -- that is,
voters might be permitted to cast votes in, say, Kansas, but not in
California. More significantly in this scenario, a candidate (guess which
one) could win the presidency on the basis of the votes cast.
In the meantime, there is the sticky issue of computer-voting machines
and the lack of a way to verify the tallies, since there is no
verified-voting paper trail provided by most of the machines.
But why would the companies who manufacture those touch-screen voting
machines not want to provide such a paper trail? Well...the major companies
are owned by rabid Republicans, and, often, they are the same companies
hired to tally the votes! And they refuse to let anyone examine their
software that counts the votes.
Now, according to
Corrente's Lambert, it turns out that the situation is even worse than
we thought. The companies that certify the voting technologies of those
machines also are Republican-leaning. According to Associated Press reporter
Bill Poovey, in a story entitled
"Secretive Testing Firms Certify Nation's Vote Count Machines":
A Colorado company under contract to ensure that the nation's
touch-screen voting machines are accurate has been a substantial
contributor to Republican candidates and groups.
At Greenwood Village-based CIBER, employees and some spouses have donated
more than $72,000 to GOP candidates and groups during the 2001-2002 and
2003-2004 election cycles, according to the Center for Responsive
Politics, a nonpartisan watchdog group.
Democratic donations linked to the firm were $3,000 during that time.
"What should raise eyebrows is that our U.S. government and state
governments allow this to happen," she said. "There's been nothing done to
dissuade the perception that there's partisan control over the voting
CIBER isn't the only company in the voting machine business at which
people are actively involved in politics. Walden O'Dell, chief executive
of Ohio-based Diebold Inc., the parent of electronic voting machine maker
Diebold Election Systems, has helped raise funds for President Bush.
O'Dell attracted attention last year after sending a letter to Ohio
Republicans to raise money for the GOP, noting his commitment to "helping
Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."
Douglas Weber, a researcher for the center, called CIBER's donations to
"They're not one of the major donors. But they do give a substantial
amount of money," he said.
The Center for Responsive Politics found $5,750 worth of campaign
contributions from Wyle Laboratories for this year's election. All of
[Wyle] money went to Republicans, including $1,500 to President Bush.
OK, now, [writes Lambert] let me see...
The voting machine manufacturers are Republicans...
The voting machine testers are Republicans...
The testing process is entirely secret....
The voting machine software is entirely secret...
Swing states Ohio (home of Diebold) and Florida (fraud in 2000, already) are
using electronic voting machines that are manufactured, tested, and run by
No! They would never do that!
another item from Corrente -- that estimable, six-person blogging
collective -- on the same topic:
The three companies that certify the nation's voting technologies
operate in secrecy, and refuse to discuss flaws in the ATM-like machines
to be used by nearly one in three voters in November.
Despite concerns over whether the so-called touchscreen machines can be
trusted, the testing companies won't say publicly if they have encountered
They say they are committed to secrecy in their contracts with the voting
machines' makers - even though tax money ultimately buys or leases the
"I find it grotesque that an organization charged with such a heavy
responsibility feels no obligation to explain to anyone what it is doing,"
Michael Shamos, a Carnegie Mellon computer scientist and electronic voting
expert, told lawmakers in Washington, D.C.
The system for "testing and certifying voting equipment in this country is
not only broken, but is virtually nonexistent," Shamos added.
Failures involving touchscreens during voting this year in Georgia,
Maryland and California and other states have prompted questions about the
machines' susceptibility to tampering and software bugs.
Also in question is their viability, given the lack of paper records, if
recounts are needed in what's shaping up to be a tightly contested
presidential race. Paper records of each vote were considered a vital
component of the electronic machines used in last week's referendum in
Venezuela on whether to recall President Hugo Chavez....
More than a decade ago, the Federal Election Commission authorized the
National Association of State Election Directors to choose the independent
On its Web site, the association says the three testing outfits "have
neither the staff nor the time to explain the process to the public, the
news media or jurisdictions." It directs inquiries a Houston-based
nonprofit organization, the Election Center, that assists election
officials. The center's executive director, Doug Lewis, did not return
telephone messages seeking comment.
The election directors' voting systems board chairman, former New York
State elections director Thomas Wilkey, said the testers' secrecy stems
from the FEC's refusal to take the lead in choosing them and the
government's unwillingness to pay for it.
He said that left election officials no choice but to find technology
companies willing to pay.
"When we first started this program it took us over a year to find a
company that was interested, then along came Wyle, then CIBER and then
SysTest," Wilkey said of he standards developed over five years and
adopted in 1990.
"Companies that do testing in this country have not flocked to the
prospect of testing voting machines," said U.S. Election Assistance
Commission chairman DeForest Soaries Jr., now the top federal overseer of
A 2002 law, the Help America Vote Act, created the four-member, bipartisan
headed by Soaries to oversee a change to easier and more secure voting.
Soaries said there should be more testers but the three firms are "doing a
fine job with what they have to work with."
Wilkey, meanwhile, predicted "big changes" in the testing process after
the November election.
I can imagine...[writes Lambert]
But critics led by Stanford University computer science professor David
Dill say it's an outrage that the world's most powerful democracy doesn't
already have an election system so transparent its citizens know it can be
"Suppose you had a situation where ballots were handed to a private
company that counted them behind a closed door and burned the results,"
said Dill, founder of VerifiedVoting.org. "Nobody but an idiot would
accept a system like that. We've got something that is almost as bad with
Is your hair on fire yet? [Lambert asks] If I had any, mine would be.
[Weiner here] All the more reason to get through to your legislators in
Congress, DEMANDING that this whole shoddy, shaky, possibly corrupt
computer-voting scheme be put in hold for at least this election. The only
way we'll have an honest, non-suspicious vote in November is to have paper
In any case, vote absentee in advance, by paper ballot. Keep your receipt.
Finally, back to the Middle East/East Asia scholar Juan Cole for his
Monday take on the
U.S. attack on Najaf. The entire piece, "Egyptian Mufti:
Volcano of Anger Over Najaf," is well worth the read; here are some key
...Some of my readers have suggested to me that it doesn't matter what
Americans do, since Muslims hate them anyway.
This statement is silly. Most Muslims never hated the United States per
se. In 2000, 75 percent of Indonesians rated the US highly favorably. The
U.S. was not as popular in the Arab world, because of its backing for
Israel against the Palestinians, but it still often had decent
favorability ratings in polls. But all those poll numbers for the US are
down dramatically since the invasion of Iraq and the mishandling of its
administration afterwards. Only 2 percent of Egyptians now has a favorable
view of the United States.
It doesn't have to be this way. The US is behaving in profoundly offensive
ways in Najaf. U.S. military leaders appear to have no idea what Najaf
represents. I saw one retired general on CNN saying that they used to have
to be careful of Buddhist temples in Vietnam, too. I almost wept. Islam is
not like Buddhism. It is a far tighter civilization. And the shrine of Ali
is not like some Buddhist temple in Vietnam that even most Buddhists have
never heard of.
I got some predictably angry mail at my earlier statement that the Marines
who provoked the current round of fighting in Najaf, apparently all on
their own and without orders from Washington, were behaving like
ignoramuses. Someone attempted to argue to me that the Marines were
Protecting me? The ones in Najaf are behaving in ways that are very likely
to get us all blown up. The US officials who encouraged the Mujahidin
against the Soviets were also trying to protect us, and they ended up
inadvertently creating the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Such protection, I don't
Radical Islamist terrorism is a form of vigilantism. Angry young Muslim
men see their own governments doing nothing about Israeli dispossession of
the Palestinians, and bowing to US adventures like Iraq, and they grow
disgusted. They have no hope of getting their governments to do anything
about what they see as profound injustices. So they form small groups of
engineers or other professionals and take matters into their own hands.
That is exactly the kind of phenomenon [Egyptian mufti] Gumaa is warning
against. He is right about the volcano of anger.
August 26, 2004
Big Lies, RNC Protests, Computer-Voting, and Najaf
It's still too early to tell how damaging the Smear Boat Vets lies will be
on Kerry's momentum. Maybe not at all, especially as the entire episode
seems to be imploding in Karl Rove's face as the GOP ties are revealed, the
testimony is retracted, more and more witnesses emerge to back up Kerry's
story, and the editorials from the right, left and center urge a halt to
But the Big Lie technique (which also will be on view at the upcoming
Republican National Convention) is not designed to do anything other than
muddy the waters and get voters to start wondering about the attacked
The hope was that Kerry's support would be significantly weakened by the
time Bush accepts the crown at the RNC Coronation -- I mean, Convention --
in New York City. And, as a corollary byproduct of the Smear Boat brouhaha,
the nation's voters would be distracted and therefore wouldn't be paying
much attention to the weakening economy and lack of new-job creation, to the
unfolding Abu Ghraib scandal (the reports
blaming everyone from Rumsfeld down to the local commanders), to
the change in the overtime law that
will hurt many
middle-class families, to the deteriorating situation in Iraq, and so
Finally, on the Smear Boat story -- and then we'll move on to the RNC
convention and other matters --
Scott Rosenberg, with some analysis of note:
Facts are nearly irrelevant here; this is about punching John Kerry and
seeing whether he punches back, and how hard. If he fails to punch back,
he's exposed as a sissy who's not tough enough to defend America. If he
does fight back, the Bushies simply point at him -- as they have already
begun to -- and claim that he's lost it, he's "wild-eyed" and unreliable
and unfit to be president.
It's exactly what every Democratic strategist knew was coming. It's
cunning, and inevitable, and low. And I think the only answer for the
Kerry campaign is to call Bush out, directly, on its lowness. The trouble,
of course, is that as long as you're responding to fraudulent Swift Boat
Veteran ads you're allowing Bush to dominate the agenda. You need to punch
back hard, and only then move on.
George Bush is acting like a latter-day Joseph McCarthy -- albeit one
smart enough to use shadowy surrogates for his dirty work and retain
semi-plausible deniability. So the best way to stop him, I'm convinced, is
to stand up and call out his campaign's slime for what it is. (The new
Kerry TV ad, "Old Tricks," begins to take on this job.)...
There will be at least two major stories coming out of New York when the
RNC opens. One is what is happening in the hall -- a stealth convention,
showcasing the more moderate elements, who have little say-so in Bush&Co.'s
actual policies, while hiding from view most of those extremists really in
charge -- and the other is what's happening outside, on the streets.
Inevitably among hundreds of thousands of protesters, there will be a few
violent, anarchist types out to make mischief, along with GOP provocateurs
in the crowd instructed to smash windows, attack police and so on. Rove
already has plans in place to use whatever violence ensues -- whether
provoked by the police and provocateurs or actual demonstrators -- as
ammunition with which to bash Kerry and the Democrats. ("See, these are the
pro-Kerry hoodlums who will take over and destroy your property and
peace-of-mind unless you vote for the law-and-order Bush/Cheney ticket.")
Lots of good articles and blogs around this very topic.
Voice essay, "Get Mad. Act Out. Re-Elect George Bush," has been getting
big play. In it, Perlstein raises a fascinating question: "If resistance
against Bush actually plays into Bush's hands, is it really resistance?"
In addition, Perlstein sees the basically formless demonstration as woefully
short-sighted, especially in its lack of a coherent political/communciations
If you leave questions of what you are communicating—to the cops, to
the watching public—entirely up in the air, you are not really doing
politics at all...
It would have taken all of [the Rev. Martin Luther] King's powers of
Christian love, I think, not to laugh in these people's faces. King would
never ever simply say, "We need to do what our conscience tells us is
important to do," and somehow leave it at that. King planned his
insurgencies with the strategic care of a military general, and with the
characteristic obsessions of a top-drawer publicist: no risk of arrest, of
violence—even when arrest or violence was welcomed, embraced for its
communicative power—was ever left to chance. (Today's protesters revel in
their embrace of improvisation, as if it were a good in itself.) And he
never left the field of battle satisfied with mere moral victory, that his
side had demonstrated more righteousness than the other. He always had a
concrete political goal, that concrete goal but a step toward his
continually evolving transcendent goals...
It is only inane arrogance that gives someone the confidence to pronounce
that, magically, "people will understand." They might not understand at
all. Instead, what they might understand is: "Bush is better than anarchy
in the streets." It ain't fair. But if it all goes down as unplanned,
there'll be a whole lot more unfairness coming down the pike in the next
DAYS OF SILENCE
Corrente, The Farmer, more or less agreeing with the Perlstein
thesis, offers an intriguing alternative to raucous mischief:
To be honest, if I had my way, if I were even remotely influential in
such matters, I'd call for a silent protest in New York. Absolute silence.
Let the GOP come to New York and wander around in a stone dead silence.
Blacken your windows New Yorkers. If you do go out on the streets wear
black arm bands. Don't go out at night to bars or shows or restaurants.
Boycott. It's your city and it's your money. Close your galleries and your
shops or hang a black flag in the window as a symbolic gesture. Declare a
day of mourning. Just stay home. It won't kill you.
Let the confetti pumped from the RNC shredder machine blow through the
streets like so many leaves tumbling along the mainstreet of a plague bit
ghostown. If drunken herds of fly-by-night goobers in cowboy hats and
Free-Republic tee shirts want to stumble up and down Broadway or the lower
east side at two am so be it. Let em do it all by themselves. Chill them
with the sounds of silence. That would be the spookiest most powerful
message I think New Yorkers and political activists could deliver. If the
noisiest city in the world went stone cold quiet - well, you get my drift.
Unfortunately I know thats way too much to hope for (especially at this
point) and especially after reading what RP has to say.
And unfortunately the minute one single storefront window is broken or one
single limousine leaving Rockefeller Plaza is delayed in traffic by a
die-in, the bow-wow-wowsers and clangor horns and high steppers of
television "news" theater cabaret will go into gran-mal seizures of
seismic propotions. A bellowing whooping deafening squall. Red Meat! And
you know that's exactly what they want. And you all know whose butchered
rosy flanks will be served up at their cheery little corporate TV media
HAYDEN SAYS LET IT RIP
Over on the other end of the spectrum, there's old leftie
urging protesters to let it rip. In his "Dissent Must Come Alive in New
York," Hayden concludes that a rip-roaring protest might convince those who
like order above all that this is what America might look like everyday if
Bush gets another term.
Adding to the preconvention tension is the floating rumor that Karl
Rove, President George W. Bush's campaign strategist, is laying a trap for
the protesters, counting on the very fact of disorder to bolster the
president's image as a strongman. In this view, protesters are supposed to
behave themselves lest they throw the election to Bush.
I say Karl Rove is overrated. Despite untold campaign funds, he couldn't
win a majority for Bush in 2000. His script for Iraq called for an easy
"mission accomplished." His tax cuts were supposed to generate a jobs
boom. Social issues like gay-lesbian marriage were to fuel a permanent
Republican majority in Congress. Nominating Bush in September, uptown from
Ground Zero, was to be as triumphal as entering the new Baghdad. Clearly,
Rove's script is in tatters.
Defending the GOP convention as if it is the Green Zone in Baghdad may not
instill national confidence in the commander in chief. A confrontation in
New York could be a sign that four more years of this president's policies
will destabilize our country as needlessly as his Iraq adventure and
trillion-dollar tax cuts for the wealthy. Many voters could conclude that
Bush, if he wins in 2004, will plunge the country into strife not seen
since the '60s.
ALL OF N.Y. WILL BE DEMONSTRATING
Steve Gilliard, who will be out in the streets of "Angertown" covering
the protests, provides a different perspective, concentrating on the massive
demonstrations that will be organized by labor and non-violent groups. Here
he talks directly to Perlstein about his article:
Cops and firefighters are likely to be out in the streets protesting as
well. There is much less of a challenge to authority than what was going
on in Chicago, 1968. Also, many people [then] were spoiling for a fight,
on both sides.
Now, if it was the kids running the show, as it was in 1968, bad things
might happen. But the people running the protests here are a lot older and
a little smarter.
If the A31 [anarchist] people want to get arrested, fine. Who takes them
seriously. After all, Rove has been using that Hitler entry on Move On for
months. He wants to use them, fine. The problem for Rove is the Union
protests, the organized stuff coming from the black church, NOW, NARAL and
the serious people, not rich kids from the burbs. They will just get
abused from New Yorkers and laughed at as they go to jail.
The people you quoted can barely shave and bathe, much less organize some
kind of protest. Besides, their ranks have cops all over them.
If you had some serious protest planned, would you be in the papers
bragging about it? I wouldn't.
Also, as the Yahoo article indicates, the hostility is not just limited to
goofy kids with bad fashion sense. It's widespread, from the pages of the
New Yorker to people in the street. A sense of betrayal lingers in the
air, even if people can't nail it down specifically.
There's a feeling that the convention is the reason to let people know
exactly how much we don't really like Bush. Some may see this as
ingratitude, but it's really anger at being screwed like a plank of wood
on This Old House. It's not just angry kids. It's much of the city, and
the reasons are hardly obscure. Wayne Barrett lists
10 ways Bush
has screwed New York.
COMPARING N.Y. & CHICAGO
Digby's tack is somewhere in the middle, and predicts how the mass-media
will play the protests if violence gets out of hand:
"I'm all for protesting as a tactic if it's organized to make a
political point. As emotional catharsis or an exercise of tribal identity
it only hurts the ball club. I'm hoping that the NYC protest story is one
entertaining and pointed "Billionaires For Bush" style political theatre,
not anarchy in the streets.
If the worst happens, it should be noted, however, that one of the reasons
that the 1968 [Democratic] convention anarchy was helpful to Nixon was
that there had been a succession of real riots in various cities. There
had been huge protests in the streets and on campus. There was tangible
social upheaval in the country that made the confrontation with police at
a political convention all the more dramatic. Nothing like that kind of
civil unrest exists today (yet) so the backdrop that made the convention
protests such a powerful image for Nixon to exploit as the "law and order"
candidate isn't there.
The best Bush can hope for is to make it a matter of "values." I don't
know how much punch that really has, but it is true that the media loves
to go all Claude Rains on us whenever there's the tiniest hint of
resistance to the bourgeois values that everybody pretends to hold (while
they watch porn and pop prescription drugs.) If violence breaks out or
someone does something too edgy you can bet that we'll be treated to
another huge dose of phony sanctimony from the millionaire celebrity press
CREATIVE LEVEL OF PROTESTS
As for me here at The Crisis Papers, I hope and pray for mammoth
demonstrations and protests, those that by their creativity and determined
wit will garner widespread media attention to the issues behind public
revulsion at Bush&Co.'s high crimes and misdemeanors.
Widespread violence would permit the GOP-friendly mass media to focus there,
rather than on the issues, and could influence key middle-class swing voters
in the toss-up states.
I hope for the former, but I've participated in enough demonstrations to
know two things: there are crazies in any political demo just itching to
provoke and battle the cops; and, there often are, and there certainly will
be in New York, provocateurs in the employ of reactionary forces (read:
Rove), anxious to make the nightly news-focus the violence and not the
Two final items:
1. The siege of Najaf appears to be winding down with a seeming "victory"
for U.S. policy. Here's
Juan Cole's wise analysis on the battle itself -- a militarily
unwise one for al-Sadr's militia to have initiated and in the way it was
fought -- and on Sadr's future as a key Iraqi leader.
...Muqtada and his main aides have disappeared from the shrine, as I
had predicted they would. As I suggested, there are probably underground
tunnels. Muqtada has plenty of safe houses in Iraq, since he eluded Saddam
for four years, and he won't be easy to find if he doesn't want to be
My guess is that the Sadr Movement will now go into an active, long term
guerrilla resistance. They will hope that bombings and assassinations will
give heart to the public and provide a model for resisting what they see
as the occupation. They will hope for an Algeria-style end game, in which
the Americans and British are tossed out of Iraq. The drawback for the
Mahdi Army is that they are just untrained Shiite ghetto youth, with
perhaps a few older vets among them, and their ability to wage an
effective guerrilla struggle is untested. So far they have fought far more
stupidly than the resistance fighters in the Sunni Arab areas, attempting
to take and hold territory and behaving like a mainstream army but without
the necessary skill set.
If they move in this direction, they will at least have moral support of a
wide range of Sunni and Shiite clerics, who jointly called for all Muslims
to support the resistance to what they call the US occupation of Iraq. The
signatories include prominent figures in the Sunni Egyptian Muslim
Brotherhood, in Lebanon's Shiite Hizbullah, and in Yemen's Sunni
fundamentalist movement. Most of the clerics signing the call want an
Islamic state in their country, with Islamic law the law of the land, and
so can be called fundamentalists.
But most of them are not radicals in the sense of wanting a violent and
immediate revolution. Some, like Yusuf Qaradawi, explicitly permitted
Muslims to fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan in the US military or
alongside it. But Qaradawi and the others see Iraq in a different light,
as an Arab, Muslim society that has been colonized by an outside force,
The low intensity guerrilla fighting in Amara against the British base,
which left at least 12 dead and 54 wounded there, may be a sign of things
to come. There were also clashes in the southern oil port of Basra.
"SUM OF A GLITCH"
Here, almost lost in the fog from the Swifties and the Olympics, are two
other important articles that should be receiving widespread attention:
1. Citizen resistance to voting on easily corruptible computer-voting
machines, those with no verified paper trail for accurate re-counts, have
won victories in a number of large states, among them Ohio and California.
But most citizens in most states will wind up casting their ballots by those
machines, and therein lies the opportunity for Rovian mischief in counting
of a Glitch," a new article by Black Box Voting's Bev Harris -- one of
the leading activists and researchers on the whole touch-screen voting issue
-- in In These Times.
In the Alabama 2002 general election, machines made by Election Systems
and Software (ES&S) flipped the governor’s race. Six thousand three
hundred Baldwin County electronic votes mysteriously disappeared after the
polls had closed and everyone had gone home. Democrat Don Siegelman’s
victory was handed to Republican Bob Riley, and the recount Siegelman
requested was denied. Three months after the election, the vendor
shrugged. “Something happened. I don’t have enough intelligence to say
exactly what,” said Mark Kelley of ES&S.
When I began researching this story in October 2002, the media was
reporting that electronic voting machines are fun and speedy, but I looked
in vain for articles reporting that they are accurate. I discovered four
magic words, “voting machines and glitch,” which, when entered into a
search engine, yielded a shocking result: A staggering pile of miscounts
was accumulating. These were reported locally but had never been compiled
in a single place, so reporters were missing a disturbing pattern.
I published a compendium of 56 documented cases in which voting machines
got it wrong.
How do voting-machine makers respond to these reports? With shrugs. They
indicate that their miscounts are nothing to be concerned about. One of
their favorite phrases is: “It didn’t change the result.”
Except, of course, when it did
Harris then meticulously documents some of the most egregious errors.
NAJAF AND AL-SADR'S FUTURE
2. The situation in Najaf seems to be resolving, with what can be played by
Bush&Co. as a seeming "victory." Here's
Juan Cole, with a more sanguine view of what transpired there, how the
al-Sadr militia made a politically unwise decision to take on the U.S.
frontally in Najaf, and what major role Sadr will play in the guerrilla war
against U.S. occupation.
...Muqtada and his main aides have disappeared from the shrine, as I
had predicted they would. As I suggested, there are probably underground
tunnels. Muqtada has plenty of safe houses in Iraq, since he eluded Saddam
for four years, and he won't be easy to find if he doesn't want to be
My guess is that the Sadr Movement will now go into an active, long term
guerrilla resistance. They will hope that bombings and assassinations will
give heart to the public and provide a model for resisting what they see
as the occupation. They will hope for an Algeria-style end game, in which
the Americans and British are tossed out of Iraq. The drawback for the
Mahdi Army is that they are just untrained Shiite ghetto youth, with
perhaps a few older vets among them, and their ability to wage an
effective guerrilla struggle is untested. So far they have fought far more
stupidly than the resistance fighters in the Sunni Arab areas, attempting
to take and hold territory and behaving like a mainstream army but without
the necessary skill set.
If they move in this direction, they will at least have moral support of a
wide range of Sunni and Shiite clerics, who jointly called for all Muslims
to support the resistance to what they call the US occupation of Iraq. The
signatories include prominent figures in the Sunni Egyptian Muslim
Brotherhood, in Lebanon's Shiite Hizbullah, and in Yemen's Sunni
fundamentalist movement. Most of the clerics signing the call want an
Islamic state in their country, with Islamic law the law of the land, and
so can be called fundamentalists. But most of them are not radicals in the
sense of wanting a violent and immediate revolution. Some, like Yusuf
Qaradawi, explicitly permitted Muslims to fight against the Taliban in
Afghanistan in the US military or alongside it. But Qaradawi and the
others see Iraq in a different light, as an Arab, Muslim society that has
been colonized by an outside force, the US.
The low intensity guerrilla fighting in Amara against the British base,
which left at least 12 dead and 54 wounded there, may be a sign of things
to come. There were also clashes in the southern oil port of Basra.
BUSH'S "START VALUE"
Charles Pierce at
The American Prospect has a marvelous article
that borrows from the Olympics gymnastics competition to make a powerful,
satiric point about George W. Bush.
Due to an error by those mysterious folks in blazers who sit there like
the politburo used to sit, Yang was given a start value that was too low.
Great huffing and blowing ensued, and Trautwig -- who assuredly has a job
at FOX whenever he needs it -- made sure to give the Korean an I-told-ya-so
kick two nights later when Yang screwed up in the high-bar competition
Anyway, I like the start value. I think it's an interesting, charmingly
egalitarian concept. For example, let's say you want to stay president of
the United States. For most of the first 40 years of your life, you're a
conspicuous ne'er-do-well, even in a family notable for them....
You are backed in several business ventures, all of which crater, but out
of which you are helped from the wreckage by many of the people who were
your stake horses to begin with. You do well selling your percentage of a
baseball team to one of your family's best friends. You become governor of
Texas and then, despite receiving half a million votes less than the other
guy, you become president of the United States after nearly a decade of
relative peace and prosperity.
For a year or so, you serve no apparent function in the office. However, a
really bad thing happens, and the country and the world rally to your
cause. Over the next three years, you squander almost all of that
goodwill. A war into which you had to euchre the nation goes terribly bad.
The economy remains narcoleptic. And then it's time to run for president
again. You don't exactly stick the landing, but you throw your arms in the
air and give the judges your best and biggest smile. But you know you have
Start value on the life was only a 9.315. All that money. All that
influence. Not a very complicated routine at all.
Start value on the business career was only about a 9.175. There's no such
thing as a high-risk maneuver if you're not going to be allowed to fail.
Start value on the political career was a little higher, 9.58, but only
because you never showed you wanted to do the routine at all. Still,
though, low risk. You blew the landing in 2000, but the other guy did
Start value on the presidency, well, here's where it gets tricky. The
original one -- based on that decade of peace and prosperity -- was about
a 9.0. Then the really bad thing happened, and the judges ratcheted it up
to a 9.7, which came down gradually as almost everyone got behind you, and
the judges adjusted it again to a 9.5. But the routine came apart in
midair, and there's some ungainly flailing right now as the routine
reaches its most critical elements, next week in New York, where an awful
lot of people are going to wonder when in the hell all the plates fell off
August 31, 2004
PARSING THE PENTAGON'S SPY SCANDAL
The big stories of the past few days, as usual, are all related: the spy-mole(s?)
inside Donald Rumsfeld's inner circle, the Republican National Convention,
and Bush's continuing AWOL saga while his surrogates attempt to smear Kerry
for his war and protest record.
On the spy-mole story, I have a confession. I don't know what to make of it.
We are only a few days into this complex tale, so it's difficult to get
perspective on how far and wide this scandal goes. (For some introductory
sources, see below.)
Three key points strike me:
It's not even clear what the issue is here. Is the scandal that one of the
DoD's high-up analysts, with influence in the shaping of Iraq and Iran
policy, might have passed top-secret information to the Israeli government?
(Although why that route would have been taken, when the Mossad has a firm
relationship with American intelligence, remains a mystery.)
Or, as the investigation proceeds, are we heading in a deeper direction?
Could it be that the FBI is closing in on a whole rat's nest of
off-the-books, neo-con foreign policy initiatives that involve key elements
in the Middle East puzzle? Could the operation involve the same players
that, in effect, got the U.S. into a war with Iraq, and want to get us into
an attack on Iran, for motives that benefit other countries in that area of
the world, with American soldiers serving as spearpoints ?
Not clear. This is like opening an onion, with lots of layers. Stay tuned.
BEWARE OF FOREIGN "FRIENDS"
The old proverb -- "Whether the stone hits the pitcher or the pitcher hits
the stone, it isn't good for the pitcher" -- is apt. Bush&Co. is going to
take a big hit here as this scandal unfolds. The "war-on-terror"
administration not only can't capture -- and up until recently didn't seem
all that interested in -- Osama bin Laden, the terrorist leader responsible
for 9/11, but it's got classified information leaking to foreign powers from
the office of the third highest civilian official in Rumsfeld's Defense
If the heat gets too intense, I'd look for Doug Feith's quick resignation,
and maybe even Rumsfeld's. Feith, the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy,
ran the PNAC-dominated Office of Special Plans (OSP) -- which cooked the
"intelligence" that provided the phony justifications for invading Iraq.
During that same time, apparently, at least one and maybe more underlings
were passing on classified information on Iran to Israel. And possibly to
Ahmed Chalabi, the sleazy leader of the Iraqi exiles who may well have been
a double-agent for Iran.
Lieutenant Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski, who worked with the OSP -- and who
resigned, appalled at the lax controls there and by the heavily politicized
"intelligence" work being done under Feith's direction --
has reported that Israeli officials often would be invited into Feith's
offices, without having gone through any of the required sign-in procedures.
It was no secret that Iraqi exiles apparently also had easy access, foremost
among them Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress.
This Administration was very big on buttering up those whom it considered
its allies in the South Asia/Middle East region. Let us not forget that the
Saudi Arabian ambassador, two months before the Iraq invasion was launched,
shown the top-secret war maps. Bob Woodward reports that the map's
classification was "TOP SECRET NOFORN. The NOFORN meant NO FOREIGN --
classified material not to be seen by any foreign nation."
Bush&Co. are total incompetents, as the above examples make clear, and may
well have done immeasurable damage to America's national security. I suspect
the spy/mole scandal at the Pentagon is only the tip of a very large and
Question: Will the Kerry Campaign drop the ball again, or will they finally
pick up this one and run with it? You'd think they'd go for the jugular
here, since Bush is campaigning on who can best protect America's national
security. Go, John!
(Note: Few of the leading media outlets played this story big on Monday. Not
a good sign. Surely, this story has legs. Doesn't it?)
WHO DONE IT? WHY NOW?
Final point. Since these days everything that happens is connected, in some
fashion, to the election campaign (such as the "compromise" solution in
Najaf that permitted the Mahdi Army to walk away with weapons, in order to
get Iraq fighting off the front pages before the Republican Convention
started), we have to ask: Who initiated the probe? And why is it coming to a
The initiators might have been elements within the CIA -- seeking revenge on
Bush&Co. for the outing of one of their own agents (Valerie Plame) by White
House officials, and for having to take the bad-intel blame for the OSP's
shoddy work. Maybe that's true. Too early to tell.
But the timing question may also provide a clue. Maybe Rove knew that this
huge spy-mole story was about to pop, and decided to: 1) cut it off at the
knees, before all the links to the Israelis and Iranians could be tied down;
and/or, 2) get the dirt out now, and hope it would have blown over long
before Election Day. Better than having the whole scandal erupt in
Again, not clear.
All of the above is conjectural analysis, based on the little that's out
there in the way of clear, verified information. Make up your own mind. To
get a better sense of what's going on, and what it may all be about, I
recommend the following sources:
A ROGUE OPERATION?
A rich take-off spot is Juan Cole's
"Pentagon/Israel Spying Case Expands: Fomenting a War on Iran.". Cole,
who has deep contacts throughout the Middle East and South Asia, sees the
scandal as "an echo of the one-two punch secretly planned by the pro-Likud
[neo-con] faction in the Department of Defense. First, Iraq would be taken
out by the United States, and then Iran... Fighting elective wars on behalf
of Tel Aviv."
For an important sidebar, check out "Iran-Contra II? Fresh Scrutiny on a
Rogue Pentagon Operation" in the current
Three well-connected reporters -- Josh Marshall, Laura Rozen, Paul Glastis
-- spent six months working on this convoluted, shadowy tale. It involves
intrigue, double-dealing and shady participants. "In particular," they
write, "the FBI is looking with renewed interest at an unauthorized
back-channel between Iranian dissidents and advisers in Feith's office,
which more-senior administration officials first tried in vain to shut down
and then later attempted to cover up." In short, a rogue operation of
Also, check out
Digby's "Rogue Elements":
Once again we see a marked "impatience" with the unfortunately
cumbersome working of democratic government. That this may have happened
for the second time in twenty years featuring many of the same people
[from the Iran-Contra scandal] is a pretty clear indication that letting
bygones be bygones will not do when dealing with this sort of traitorous,
undemocratic behavior. The stakes are a hell of a lot higher now that they
are crashing airplanes into NYC skyscrapers.
If there is an immediate lesson to be gleaned by the people, perhaps the
simplest is that when you have a stupid and easily manipulated man at the
head of the government, his minions and courtiers spend all their time
jockeying for position and finding shortcuts to get their way. If Kerry
happens to win, he really must bite the bullet and see that this is
investigated and people are brought up on charges. It's completely
unbelievable that these same players came back into government and ran
their game all over again. Unbelievable.
See also the New York Times piece,
Say Publicity Derailed Secrets Inquiry," by David Johnston and Eric
Schmitt, about one version of the timing question.
SPIES AND SLIME
In short, this Pentagon scandal is big stuff, and could drag BushCheney down
into the political vortex -- unless they decide immediately to cut their
losses, sacrifice whoever needs to take the fall (pardon them later), and
hope it all dies down. Get on this, John! The media might not do it for you.
To counter the Bush AWOL and spy scandals, we surely can expect that as more
such bad stuff hits the Bush fan, there is going to be much more slime and
smear (from the Swift Boat crew, and other 527 outfits loaded with cash and
a host of talking-point lies) headed Kerry's way. The GOP thinking may be:
If we're going to go down, we're going to take him down with us. Then we'll
both be covered in filth, and maybe they'll stick with the devil they know
than risk going with the new guy.
That seems to be the level of Hell that Rove is comfortable with in this
campaign. God help us!
September 2, 2004
PENTAGON PROBE WIDENING & DEEPENING
It's no longer just speculation. The spy/mole-in-the-Pentagon investigation
is much, much bigger than one guy passing some classified info to an Israeli
contact. They could be even more potentially treasonous -- and thus VERY
harmful to Bush's campaign. Read these two excerpts from
Juan Cole's assessment:
argues that the FBI investigation that caught up Pentagon Iran expert
Lawrence Franklin is much wider than initially thought, and focuses on the
unauthorized transfer to Israel of highly sophisticated military software
and designs. Since many Israeli arms merchants connected to the government
in Tel Aviv sell to the black market, some of this military technology has
ended up in the hands of countries that have poor relations with the US,
and some may have ultimately been resold to al-Qaeda.
And, quoting the
Senate Intelligence and House Judiciary Committee staff members say
inquiries into the Near East and South Asia Affairs division have found
preliminary evidence that some officials gathered questionable information
on weapons of mass destruction from Iraqi exiles such as Ahmed Chalabi
without proper authorization, which helped build President Bush's case for
an invasion last year.
The investigators are also looking into a more serious concern: whether
the office engaged in illegal activity by holding unauthorized meetings
with foreign nationals to destablize Syria and Iran without the
presidential approval required for covert operations, said one senior
congressional investigator who has longtime experience in intelligence
Cole continues: A pattern of illegal payments for such information is also
at issue. Laura
Rozen says she has evidence that Pentagon officials paid Manuchehr
Ghorbanifar for documents he provided.
CHOOSE THE LEAKER
In my previous blog on this subject, I speculated that the timing for last
weekend's Pentagon-spy leak may have originated in the Bush inner circles.
More and more, such appears to be the case. Franklin -- the original subject
of the year-long FBI investigation, a key Iran analyst in Doug Feith's
Office of Special Plans -- had been cooperating recently with the FBI,
leading them into the wider circles of the scandal to contacts in Israel and
Suddenly, somebody leaks the investigation to CBS News (let's play whose
office it originated in: Rove? Cheney? Rumsfeld?), and one can surmise that
the investigatory balloon then popped. Blogger
Xymphora is perhaps the most cynical:
Already the story is being polished, with Franklin being described as
'naive' and 'strange'. His role in the Pentagon, and even his competence
at his job, is also being denigrated. The spin will be that his stupidity
may have led him to inadvertently disclose to AIPAC officials information
which he did not realize was sensitive. The AIPAC officials will be said
to have received this information innocently, and the whole incident will
be shelved. As the FBI operation has been 'blown', any investigation of
the deep issues will be dropped, with the added bonus that there will be
no more wiretaps of AIPAC (I'd like to know which FBI official has such
enormous balls that he would approve the surveillance of AIPAC in the
political climate in the United States today). The investigation of the
Office of Special Plans will be hobbled until Bush wins the election (the
FBI is already "wrapping this thing up"), at which point it will quietly
disappear. Franklin probably won't even be indited, and certainly nobody
at AIPAC will feel the slightest pressure (an apology to AIPAC and to
Israel is probably in the works). All in all, a very successful leak.
Stay tuned. This one ain't goin' away.
LET'S CALM DOWN, FOLKS
There is a lot of Democratic gnashing of teeth that the Kerry Campaign is
blowing it right now, and that the momentum is swinging way over to the Bush
side. See Josh Marshall's blog:
To summarize the well-connected, level-headed Washington insider: there's
room for worry, but not panic:
If you're a regular reader of this column, you'll know I've been very
critical of the rapid-response from the Kerry campaign (wherever it may
have gone to) as well as their seeming disinclination to go on the
offensive and stay there.
But the difference between the race today and where it was two, three or
four weeks ago is still very small. The difference in the national polls
is very slight. The last nine major national polls have ABC (tied), ICR
(+3 Kerry), Time (+2 Bush), Fox (+1 Kerry), CNN (+2 Bush), NBC/WSJ (+2
Bush), LAT (+2 Bush), NPR (+4 Kerry), IBD/CSM (tied)...
Let me be clear: Those polls tell me the momentum of the race has clearly
moved in the president's direction. And some of the state-by-state numbers
(like PA, for instance) show that even more clearly. For all that, though,
it is difficult to say that Kerry has lost the race when it's not even
clear that he's behind.
Again, this is not a Pollyannaish post. The Kerry campaign needs to get
control of the debate back from the president. And they need to start
hitting much harder. But Democrats themselves need to be a lot tougher and
hardier about the cycles campaigns go through. And that applies to
self-serving Democratic 'insiders' too. Discipline pays rewards.
I share the general Dem frustration that the Kerry Campaign took much too
long to respond to the lies of the Smear Boat vets. They should have seen
what was coming -- that Rove always slimes and always goes for an opponent's
strength -- and should have been ready to punch back immediately, not five
or six days later.
But they eventually got their act together and the polls indicate that most
voters realize the Smear Boat attacks are partisan and originated in the
White House, so the belated damage-control worked. (But they'd better be
ready for Round 2: attacks on Kerry's anti-Vietnam War statements, and more
on his service record.)
OFFENSE ALWAYS BEATS DEFENSE
The broader point apparently missed by the Kerry Campaign is that they can't
let Rove keep setting the agenda. Fighting defense is a losing proposition.
Kerry-Edwards need to go on the attack, where Bush is most vulnerable:
* The growing spy-scandal in the Pentagon.
* Bush's de facto status as a military deserter in the early-'70s, when all
signs lead one to only one conclusion: when he was supposed to be finishing
out his National Guard duty in Alabama, he was AWOL. For the mountain of
evidence, see Paul Lukasiak's voluminous research in his article
"Deserter," and on
his website ( http://www.glcq.com.
* The growing disaster in Iraq.
* The stagnant, sliding economy -- and, as a corollary, the jobless
There are eight weeks to go, and Kerry should have finished off Bush long
ago with a few roundhouse rights. Instead, he seems content to jab, strike a
few glancing blows, and move on. It this rope-a-dope or is this just plain
Still, Kerry has a good shot at taking Bush down in many of the big swing
states. So many conservatives just can't bring themselves to vote for Bush
and his incompetent, extremist crew. They may not vote for Kerry, but may
well stay home on voting day, which is just as good.
But Kerry can't count on that help from traditional conservative
Republicans. Nor should he count on the corporate media doing anything to
help. The energy and momentum has to come from Kerry & Edwards -- thus
re-energizing the base -- and it has to come now. Later may be too late.
HASTERT: SOROS A DRUG-CARTEL CONDUIT?
We know how anxious Rove is to drive the Smear Boat lies stake into the
heart of Kerry's campaign. So good ol' loyal Republican icon Bob Dole is
hauled out to underline the Vietnam lies, and then former President Bush
Sr., without ever directly endorsing the Smear Boat lies, says he goes along
with Dole's statements since Dole would never smear anyone. Disgraceful!
But here's an even better example of how desperate Bush&Co. are getting.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert went ballistic on Fox News Sunday and insinuated
that Dem backer George Soros may be getting his money from illegal drugs.
"You know, I don't know where George Soros gets his money. I don't know
where - if it comes overseas or from drug groups or where it comes from,"
Hastert mused. An astonished Chris Wallace asked: "Excuse me?" The Speaker
went on: "Well, that's what he's been for a number years - George Soros
has been for legalizing drugs in this country. So, I mean, he's got a lot
of ancillary interests out there." Wallace: "You think he may be getting
money from the drug cartel?" Hastert: "I'm saying I don't know where
groups - could be people who support this type of thing. I'm saying we
Maybe saying something that stupid might make a certain sense a day or
two before Election Day -- when it would be too late for Soros to do
anything about such slander -- but doing it now, eight weeks out? To borrow
a Republican phrase from the Watergate days, if he keeps going after Soros,
a man not without resources and connections, he's liable to wind up with his
tit in a wringer.
Plus, behaving in such bullying fashion may send a chilling message to other
corporate CEOs: If Bush&Co. are crazy enough to do that to a billionaire
like Soros, what might they do to me? Maybe these guys ARE too extreme,
Update: Soros has sent Hastert a letter demanding a retraction and apology.
Hastert is trying like crazy to slide out from this one, by "clarifying"
what everyone heard him say, but he's doing so in a way that continues the
slime attack on Soros. What a creep -- two heartbeats from the presidency.
And how truly desperate these guys are to remain in power.
SHORT TAKES: THOMPSON AND REDACTION
Atrios quotes Bush's Secretary of Health & Human Services Tommy Thompson
on CNN making this wonderful slip-of-the-truth:
I think Arnold Schwarzenegger's, Governor Schwarzenegger's, speech last
night was one of the finest I've ever seen at a convention, and I've been
going to conventions for 28 years. His speech was outstanding, he gave a
portrayal, he painted a picture of why people should be a Democrat, better
and more ably than any person I've ever heard before.
[Says Atrios:] Indeed he did.
Memory Hole -- also commented on by
David Neiwert -- has come up with a classic example of the Bush
Administration's absurd dedication to hiding that which could embarrass it:
Anybody who has read many official documents—including those makiing
headlines in the last year or more—has seen plenty of redactions (those
portions that are blacked out or otherwise made unreadable). This, we're
told, is for legitimate reasons, such as "national security" or
"protecting intelligence sources and methods." But now we have absolute,
incontrovertible proof that the government also censors completely
innocuous material simply because they don't like it.
The Justice Department tipped its hand in its ongoing legal war with the
ACLU over the Patriot Act. Because the matter is so sensitive, the Justice
Dept is allowed to black out those passages in the ACLU's court filings
that it feels should not be publicly released.
Ostensibly, they would use their powers of censorship only to remove
material that truly could jeopardize US operations. But in reality, what
did they do? THEY BLACKED OUT A QUOTATION FROM A SUPREME COURT DECISION:
"The danger to political dissent is acute where the Government attempts to
act under so vague a concept as the power to protect 'domestic security.'
Given the difficulty of defining the domestic security interest, the
danger of abuse in acting to protect that interest becomes apparent."
The mind reels at such a blatant abuse of power (and at the sheer chutzpah
of using national security as an excuse to censor a quotation about using
national security as an excuse to stifle dissent).
It's hard to imagine a more public, open document than a decision written
by the Supreme Court. It is incontestably public property: widely
reprinted online and on paper; poured over by generations of judges,
attorneys, prosecutors, and law students; quoted for centuries to come in
court cases and political essays.
Yet the Justice Department had the incomprehensible arrogance and gall to
strip this quotation from a court document, as if it represented a grave
threat to the republic. Luckily, the court slapped down this redaction and
several others. If it hadn't, we would've been left with the impression
that this was a legitimate redaction, that whatever was underneath the
thick black ink was something so incredibly sensitive and damaging that it
must be kept from our eyes.
Now we know the truth. Think about this the next time you see a black mark
on a public document.
September 7, 2004
READING & LEARNING (OR NOT)
As those who've read my essays and blogs over the past several years are
quite aware, my attacks on Bush&Co. have been fairly intense and constant.
As a result, I often hear from friends and others who say: "It can't be that
The answer is that it's even badder -- worse than you could even imagine in
your nightmares. You want specifics? Because the corporate-owned mass-media
don't provide those details, it is left to book-authors (and us internet
writers) to get the required specifics out to the public.
There are so many good, solid books out there -- with more to come, such as
Sy Hersh's Iraq tortures/war blockbuster, due out next week -- but I'll just
mention a few here that I've found most useful and informative, filled with
specific details of the high crimes and misdemeanors of Bush&Co. (Aside from
the just-released Miller book, I've cribbed excerpts from my earlier reviews
of the other tomes.)
I even know a few conservatives who have left the Dark Side and decided not
to vote for Bush as a result of reading some of the books discussed below.
So, if you want to get some solid information into the hands of your
moderate-Republican (or Naderite) friends, here are five highy recommended
MARK CRISPIN MILLER'S CRUEL AND UNUSUAL
In "Cruel and Unusual: Bush/Cheney's New World Order," by Mark Crispin
Miller, author of the invaluable "The Bush Dyslexicon," the author doesn't
pull any punches. He lays it all out, almost more in sorrow than in anger.
He's a strong, clear writer, and the case he makes is a compelling one that
Bush&Co. have taken us well down the road to a reckless imperialist foreign
policy abroad and a kind of American fascism at home.
Think those terms are too strong? Read the narrative and see how Miller came
to those conclusions. Lots of facts, footnotes, references, many from
Bush&Co. leaders themselves.
There is so much to quote from in "Cruel and Unusual," but I was especially
impressed by this long section (which I've broken up into shorter
paragraphs), since it reveals an underlying problem in Bush's way of
assessing reality, and why therefore the country is in such horrendous
situations domestically and abroad:
This simple doctrine of the iron mind is Bush's managerial credo. "A
president has got to be the calcium in the backbone," he told Bob Woodward
in August of 2002. "If it weakens, the whole team weakens. If I'm
doubtful, I can assure you there will be a lot of doubt."
Of all our presidents, this Bush is certainly the only one who would thus
cast himself as a hard mineral with a primitive cohesive function. His
metaphor suggests not wordly leadership of either the civilian or the
military kind, for heads of thriving states and winning armies must alike
be capable of improvising, innovating, changing course as circumstances
change. They have to think.
On the other hand, Bush sees himself not as a mind, or even as one part of
a collective mind atop the goverment, but only as an ossifying agent,
rather like cement or starch. In his command there is no flexibility, no
openness, only fear of weakness -- which the president apparently
associates with thought itself: "If I'm doubtful, I can assure you there
will be a lot of doubt." In Bush's moral universe, doubt is the bad
opposite of godly zeal. The latter he must endlessly and vividly -- and,
necessarily, unthinkingly -- exude, as the inspiring figurehead of a
Doubt, on the other hand, he must avoid as if were the plague. To raise
questions, study every option, call on expertise outside the leader's
inner circle, would be a sign of insufficient faith. Bush regards it as
perhaps his greatest virtue that he has his mind made up and tightly
closed. "I believe what I believe is right,' as he put it to a pack of
unbelieving journalists in Rome in the summer of 2001.
His presidency is, in short, a radical faith-based initiative [as opposed
to the Jeffersonian ideal of learning]... Bush/Cheney, on the other hand,
do not believe in anybody learning anything: not the people, whom they
prefer to keep completely in the dark; and not themselves, as they believe
they know it all already. Certainly the people still can learn, despite
the vast impediments thrown up by this regime, but the regime itself just
does not want to know, and therefore has learned -- can learn, will learn
-- nothing. (pp.46-47)
This strange attitude of Bush&Co. helped me understand the deeper meaning
recent comment by Andrew Card, Bush's Chief of Staff. Card, on the
campaign trail, said:
"This president sees America as we think about a 10-year-old child.
I know as a parent I would sacrifice all for my children."
In short, we citizens are but children, watched over by the wise daddy,
who acts in our stead, without consulting us, since we are but ignorant,
unshaped kids. When we deign to ask questions or demur, we are in violation
of the sacrosanct order of things, and therefore must be brought back into
the fold and educated, or dealt with harshly as ungrateful apostates.
JOHN W. DEAN'S WORSE THAN WATERGATE
The full title --
"Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush" --
indicates how bad the situation is. For those who've forgotten, Watergate
was the Nixon-era umbrella term that represented the felonies and other
crimes committed by that administration in an effort to gain and stay in
power -- everything from setting up a secret police unit inside the White
House to "get" the president's enemies, to breaking-and-entering to bribery
to burglary to dirty election tricks to a massive cover-up to hide all these
nefarious activities from the public.
So when John W. Dean says that the Bush Administration is "worse than
Watergate," you know we're dealing with real "worstness" here, not merely a
repetition of the Nixon-like felonies, which look almost quaint in
comparison. With Bush&Co, we're talking about acts that have resulted in
thousands of deaths, among many other high crimes and misdemeanors.
In the few excerpts that follow, Dean gives the general flavor of his
argument against the "shared presidency" of Bush/Cheney, all well-sourced
and with footnoted factual evidence.
Their secrecy is extreme -- not merely unjustified and excessive but
obsessive...It has given us a presidency that operates on hidden agendas.
To protect their secrets, Bush and Cheney dissemble as a matter of
policy...Cheney openly declares that he wants to turn the clock back to
the pre-Watergate years -- a time of an unaccountable and
extra-constitutional imperial presidency. To say that their secret
presidency is undemocratic is an understatement.
Cheney formed what is, in effect, a shadow NSC [National Security
Council]...It is a secret government -- beyond the reach of Congress, and
everyone else as well...Cheney knew that terrorism was the perfect excuse,
an ideal raison d'etre, for his 'let's rule the world' philosophy.
Politically, it would be much easier to be seen as shooting back instead
of shooting first, given the caliber of weapon Cheney sought to wield. But
he and his team did far worse than simply waiting for an attack that would
kill a sufficient number of Americans...It is reasonable to believe that
they planned to exploit terrorism before 9/11 handed them the issue
ready-made for exploitation -- a fact they obviously want to keep buried.
Not since Lyndon Johnson hoodwinked Congress into issuing the Gulf of
Tonkin Resolution, which authorizes sending American troops to Vietnam,
has a president so deceived Congress about a matter of such grave national
importance...Bush and Cheney took this nation to war on <i>their<-i>
hunches, their unreliable beliefs, and their unsubstantiated intelligence
-- and used deception with Congress both before and after launching the
war....The evidence is overwhelming, certainly sufficient for a prima
facie case, that George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney have engaged in
deceit and deception over going to war in Iraq. This is an impeachable
The Bush-Cheney secrecy and style of governing carries with it potential
consequences that are far worse than any political scandal. Their secret
presidency is a dangerous threat to democracy in an age of
terrorism...Bush and Cheney have picked up where Nixon left presidential
power. They seek to free the presidency of all restraints. They want to
implement their policies -- a radical wisdom they believe serves the
greater good -- unencumbered by those who view the world differently.
DAVID BROCK'S BLINDED BY THE RIGHT
Remember how the conservative press -- indeed, virtually all the pundits,
regardless of political stripe -- jumped all over Hillary Clinton when she
said that a "vast rightwing conspiracy" had been out to get Bill Clinton for
a long time before the impeachment drive?
Ha ha, another conspiracy theoris -- Hillary would say anything to deflect
attention from her husband, the talk-show pundits proclaimed. Nothing to see
here. Just move along, folks.
Well, it turns out she was right on the button. And David Brock's
"Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative" is by a
former card-carrying member of that "vast rightwing conspiracy."
Brock, before he realized what was happening to his soul and got out, was a
hired-gun writer who specialized in smearing those who got in the way of the
HardRight agenda. He did a sleaze job on Anita Hill, in the Clarence Thomas
episode, and he's the journalist who got the Paula Jones/Bill Clinton story
started. In short, Brock was a scumbag who took the dirty money and did the
Eventually, appalled by the hypocrisy and political immorality of the folks
he was working for and with, Brock couldn't take any more. His coming-out
party was "Blinded by the Right."
In the book, he apologizes to those whose reputations he ruined. And he
names names and dates and places where he, and other, HardRight
conspiracists did their slimy work. Brock was privy to the highest echelons
of that network, funded by the likes of media mogul Richard Mellon Scaife
and other dirt-obsessed rightwing highrollers. He knows where the bodies are
buried and isn't afraid to show us the maps.
That inside knowledge is now being put to good use in the important
progressive website that Brock founded and edits,
Media Matters for America. Check
it out. Go get 'em, Brock!
This book, written in the '30s by a law student in Germany, would seem to be
about old history, unconnected to our own time. But Haffner reveals how easy
it was for good, Christian Germans like him to slide into fascism and
brutality. (Excerpts from my review follow:)
What distinguishes "Defying Hitler," in addition to its superb writing,
is that Haffner focuses on "little people" like himself, rather than on
the machinations of leaders. He wants to explore how ordinary Germans,
especially non-Nazi and anti-Nazi Germans, permitted themselves to be
swallowed whole into the Hitlerian maw.
Haffner tries to solve the riddle of the easy acceptance of fascism in
Hitler's Third Reich. In March of 1933, a majority of German citizens did
not vote for Hitler. "What happened to that majority? Did they die? Did
they disappear from the face of the earth? Did they become Nazis at this
late stage? How was it possible that there was not the slightest visible
reaction from them" as Hitler, installed by the authorities as Chancellor,
began slowly and then more quickly consolidating power and moving Germany
from a democratic state to a totalitarian one?
All along the way, Hitler would propose or actually promulgate regulations
that sliced away at German citizens' freedoms -- usually aimed at small,
vulnerable sectors of society (labor unionists, communists, Jews, mental
defectives, et al.) -- and few said or did anything to indicate serious
displeasure. In the early days, on those rare occasions when there was
concerted negative reaction, Hitler would back off a bit. And so the Nazis
grew bolder and more voracious as they continued slicing away at civil
society. Many Germans (including some of Hitler's original corporate
backers) were convinced Nazism would collapse as it became more and more
extreme; others chose denial. It was easier to look the other way.
Nazi propaganda, policies and terror had broken down traditional
support-networks. You couldn't be sure whom to trust. Everyone could be on
the government payroll, or could turn into informants to save their skins.
And so arms went out in Nazi salutes, militarist songs were sung at
rallies and on the streets, "each one of us the Gestapo of the others." In
fear, individualism was crushed, leaving most citizens to relate only to
The Leader, or to their military units, the comradeship offered by
When Hitler's in-your-face brand of "beyond" power -- with its meanness
and arrogance and menace, throwing opponents in jail, beating them, even
killing them -- met the traditional democratic culture, those on the other
end often had no tools at their disposal to combat the new hardball
politics: "It was then that the real mystery of the Hitler phenomenon
began to show itself: the strange befuddlement and numbness of his
opponents, who could not cope with his behavior and found themselves
transfixed by the gaze of the basilisk, unable to see that it was hell
personified that challenged them."
And so it becomes easier to simply permit oneself to sink, ever so slowly
into this collective illness, into accommodation with the ruling party,
even though the police-state is constantly violating citizens' privacy.
"We were pursued into the farthest corners of our private lives; in all
areas of life there was rout, panic, and flight. No one could tell where
it would end. At the same time we were called upon, not to surrender, but
to renege. Just a little pact with the devil -- and you were no longer one
of the captured quarry. Instead you were one of the victorious hunters."
Certainly, Haffner and others like him felt their own slide toward
complicity with the Nazis, as their sense of self faded. "Things were
quite deliberately arranged so that the individual had no room to
maneuver. What one represented, what one's opinions were in 'private' and
'actually,' were of no concern and set aside, put on ice, as it were. On
the other hand, in moments when one had the leisure to think of one's
individuality... one had the feeling that what was actually happening, in
which one participated mechanically, had no real existence or validity. It
was only in these hours that one could attempt to call oneself morally to
account and prepare a last position of defense for one's inner self."
Haffner was approaching decision time about his future if he stayed in the
Third Reich. But it's clear which way he was leaning, as his analyses got
darker and darker. "It is said that the Germans are subjugated. That is
only half true. They are also something else, something worse, for which
there is no word: they are 'comraded,' a dreadfully dangerous condition.
They are under a spell. They live a drugged life in a dream world. They
are terribly happy, but terribly demeaned; so self-satisified, but so
boundlessly loathsome; so proud and yet so despicable and inhuman. They
think they are scaling high mountains, when in reality they are crawling
through a swamp. As long as the spell lasts, there is almost no antidote."
Get the picture?
DANIEL ELLSBERG'S SECRETS
Similar to Haffner's book, Ellsberg's
"Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers," concentrates on
times past -- here Ellsberg's decision to release the so-called Pentagon
Papers to the press -- as a way of helping stop the immoral, unwinnable,
stalemated Vietnam War.
But, again, there are lessons to be learned for our own situation as the
United States is once again fighting nationalist guerrillas as an occupation
force in a very foreign country, and facing a similar stalemated future.
[Here are some review excerpts:]
The common wisdom is that "you can't keep secrets in Washington," and
that someone always deliberately leaks or inadvertently blabs. But, says
Ellsberg, who was privy to some of the most top-secret material for years,
"the fact is that the overwhelming majority of secrets do not leak to the
This is true even when the information withheld is well known to an enemy
and when it is clearly essential to the functioning of the congressional
war power and to any democratic control of foreign policy...Secrets that
would be of the greatest importance to many of them can be kept from them
reliably for decades by the Executive Branch, even though they are known
to thousands of insiders."
And who is in charge of the current government's secrets today? The
Hard-Rightists who control American policy and who have made the Bush
Administration the most secretive, closed shop -- isolated from the real
world in which most of us live -- of any administration in modern times.
(Senator Patrick J. Leahy, the Vermont Democrat first elected in 1974,
said, "Since I've been here, I have never known an administration that is
more difficult to get information from." Senator Charles E. Grassley,
Republican of Iowa, said things are getting worse, and "it seems like in
the last month or two I've been running into more and more stonewalls.")
In those days, citizens tended to believe what their officials told them
and so the untruths rarely were caught. Again, the similarities to
contemporary times are instructive: An administration needs an enemy,
needs a war, in order to carry out its hidden agenda with the support of
the American people, and so the true motives are concealed and lies are
dispensed. Not quite as many citizens are inclined these days to believe
everything they're told by their government leaders, but the pattern is
still there. And still works. As Ellsberg says of Vietnam but which can
apply to our current situation as well: "The President was determined to
mislead the public... to conceal that he was taking the country into a
major, prolonged war."
Underlying U.S. policy at that time was a belief that America knew what
was best for other countries. "To presume to judge what was best for them,
with life and death at stake, was the height of imperial arrogance, the
'arrogance of power,' as Senator Fulbright later called it." This
observation has a certain ring of familiarity about it, as the Bush
Administration arrogantly moves around the globe today like a big bully,
informing other countries and their leaders what should be done and if
they won't do it voluntarily, the U.S. will make sure it happens, one way
Five Presidents were tragically wrong with regard to Vietnam; and our
current resident in the White House is wrong with regard to his secretive
war policies. The lock on secrets must be broken once again, before we
become permanently engaged in an imperial foreign policy that will bring
death and destruction down upon the world and that will leave our own
society morally adrift and, as in the Vietnam era, close to a political
civil-war. Let us learn from history and stop our leaders before it's too
late. We must all become Ellsbergs.
George W. Bush doesn't read books -- other than ones with lots of
pictures, especially if they involve pet goats. If his mean-spirited
education policies continue, a lot of young people coming up aren't going to
be able to read books either -- which may be part of the plan. Check out
this blog by
Kevin Drum: EVERY SCHOOL A FAILURE....,
Via Mark Kleiman.
The New York Times has a story about some unexpected consequences of the
No Child Left Behind Act. It turns out that
an awful lot of schools are getting failing grades:
In North Carolina, which pioneered one of the nation's most
sophisticated accountability systems, more than 32 schools ranked as
excellent by the state failed to meet Washington's criteria for academic
progress. In California, 317 schools showed tremendous academic growth on
the state's performance index, yet the federal law labeled them
....In Florida, Gov. Jeb Bush announced that the state had rated more than
two-thirds of Florida's 3,100 schools as high-performing. But
three-quarters were rated as low-performing under the federal law.
"We have a school down here that is absolutely extraordinary — all the
kids take Advanced Placement courses,'' said Jane Gallucci, chairwoman of
the Pinellas County School Board and a past president of the Florida
School Boards Association, "and the feds called it a failing school. Now
Later on the story quotes some suburban parents who are concerned that
labeling their local school a failure will cause their property values to
fall. This might actually be amusing if it weren't for the fact that
labeling schools as failures isn't an unexpected consequence of NCLB. In
fact, it's precisely the point of NCLB — at least for some people.
As I mentioned last year, NCLB mandates that each state has to set standards
for student achievement, and by 2014 every single student must meet those
standards. Any school with less than 100% success is deemed to be failing.
What's more, even in the period between now and 2014, while pass rates are
"only" 80 or 90 percent and we're still working our way toward the El Dorado
of 100%, there's an absurd concoction of thinly sliced categories mandated
by the act, and failure in any one category marks the offending school as a
failure. It's pretty obvious that there are a suspiciously large number of
ways to fail, and as the years go by the number of "failing" schools will
slowly increase to 100%.
I suspect that a lot of people who supported the worthier goals of NCLB
simply didn't realize they were getting snookered: the fact is that the Bush
administration wants to see lots of public schools labeled as failures. It's
basically a long-term plan to erode the public's faith in public schools and
thereby increase support for private schools and vouchers.
This is part of a pattern from conservatives, who realize that their
domestic agenda is actually pretty unpopular and can be passed only if
people don't realize what they're getting. NCLB is an example of this kind
of stealth legislation, and both last year's Medicare bill and this year's
"ownership society" are additional examples. In the end, though, NCLB may
turn out to have been too clever by half, as parents rebel against being
labeled failures instead of meekly accepting the verdict of the federal
Of course, that's not the only surprise the Bush administration has in store
— surprises that they're hoping nobody will notice until they're either
safely reelected or out of office.
For some other lively blogging commentary, check out our
those this week by Juan Cole, Josh Marshall, Kos, Corrente, Digby, Steve
Gilliard, Kevin Drum, Atrios, Scott Rosenberg, David Neiwert.
September 21, 2004
DANGERS OF POLITICAL DODGEBALL: ASK DAN RATHER
Politics is dodgeball. Sometimes you get hit by the ball -- thrown at great
velocity toward your head or stomach -- and sometimes you get to hit the
Sometimes, both hits seem to happen at the same time. Take the "CBS Memos"
story, which continues to grow more convoluted each day. (I'm writing this
late-Monday; no telling how the story will shift by Tuesday, when this blog
Even though the Kerry Campaign apparently had nothing to do with CBS'
judgment to reveal the controversial "Killian Memos" on its 60 Minutes show
-- memos from Bush's commander Jerry Killian ordering Bush to take his
flight physical (which he never did), and had Killian talking about being
pressured from on high to "sugar coat" Bush's performance ratings -- nothing
but bad news will accrue to Kerry as a result of that poorly vetted
decision. The entire episode gives off a foul odor. It's happened to
rightwing journalists and now it's happening to a mainstream one. Bad form.
But, hold on. Nobody has proven that the CONTENT of those memos -- whether
real or facsimiles -- is false. As it turns out, those memos merely
corroborated what already was known -- see here and
about Bush's cavalier treatment of his National Guard duties and the missing
chapters in that sorry little saga. Killian's secretary recently reported
that the content of those memos was what her boss was saying about Bush at
the time, though she didn't type those particular documents.
Not even the White House has chosen to question the truth of the content of
those memos, leading one to believe that Rove&Co. are frightened to do so,
because they suspect the original Killian documents are out there somewhere
and could be placed into the public record the minute they make the forgery
So, here's where we are on this story. Dan Rather has a black eye for
improperly relying on assertions as to the memos' source, and not doing his
own due-diligence to verify. Bill Burkett -- the person who turned over
copies of the alleged memos, and who some years back stated that he was
privy to the destruction of many of Bush's Guard records when Bush was going
to run for governor -- claims now that he won't reveal the original source
of the memos because to do so would put that person at risk. Truth or
fiction? Was Burkett the source? Could it be from a Karl Rove operative?
Still to be determined.
Seems like a stalemate favoring Bush. Except -- that even without the
missing original documents (either destroyed, as Burkett suggests, or
withheld by the White House because they reveal too much of what they don't
want known), the evidence is out there for all to see that Bush flipped off
his Guard duty and, essentially, went AWOL, counting on his daddy's friends
to get him his honorable discharge. (Also check out the
new story at Blue Lemur
about possible criminal tampering with Bush's official Guard records. )
If you want to read the best summing-up article about this whole sorry
episode -- which rests to a large degree upon the
meticulous research of Paul Lukasiak --
check out Eric Boehlert's
"Bush in the National Guard: A Primer". It's a compact eye-opener.
And, for timely blogging on the subject of CBS, Dan Rather, the Killian
memos, the role perhaps played by Karl Rove in suckering CBS, etc., check
"OxyMorons for Truth", and
"More on Bloggergate").
IT'S IRAQ, STUPID!
It's tempting to get deeply involved in the byways of the Killian Memos/AWOL
puzzles -- it's like a good political thriller -- but nobody is quite sure
how interested voters are in the whole issue of what Bush and Kerry did 30+
But we do know that they are vitally interested in what's happening right
now in Iraq, and how this will affect them, their draft-age children,
stateside Guard and Reserve units who may be sent to Iraq, on the faltering
economy as more and more billions are siphoned from the budget and spent
instead on war and reconstruction corruption, on the possibility of
engendering more terrorist attacks on Americans here and abroad, etc.
John Kerry, in case you missed it, is finally taking off the gloves -- he's
about six months late, but better late than never -- and is attacking Bush
frontally on his war policies, both in how he took the U.S. into war under
false pretenses and how he's waging it now. Go, John!
Check out his major
speech Monday on Iraq. Here are some sample quotes:
KERRY'S TOUGH TALK ON IRAQ
In June, the President declared, "The Iraqi people have their
country back." Just last week, he told us:
"This country is headed toward democracy… Freedom is on the march."
But the administration's own official intelligence estimate, given to the
President last July, tells a very different story.
According to press reports, the intelligence estimate totally contradicts
what the President is saying to the American people.
So do the facts on the ground.
Security is deteriorating, for us and for the Iraqis.
42 Americans died in Iraq in June -- the month before the handover.
But 54 died in July…66 in August… and already 54 halfway through Se
And more than 1,100 Americans were wounded in August -- more than in any
other month since the invasion.
We are fighting a growing insurgency in an ever widening war-zone.
In March, insurgents attacked our forces 700 times. In August, they
attacked 2,700 times ? a 400% increase. Falluja…Ramadi… Samarra …
even parts of Baghdad are now no go zones … breeding grounds
for terrorists who are free to plot and launch attacks against our
soldiers. The radical Shia cleric, Moktada al-Sadr, who's accused of
complicity in the murder of Americans, holds more sway in the suburbs of
Violence against Iraqis… from bombings to kidnappings to intimidation … is
on the rise.
Basic living conditions are also deteriorating.
Residents of Baghdad are suffering electricity blackouts lasting up to 14
hours a day.
Raw sewage fills the streets, rising above the hubcaps of our Humvees.
Children wade through garbage on their way to school.
Unemployment is over 50 percent. Insurgents are able to find plenty
of people willing to take $150 for tossing grenades at passing U.S.
Yes, there has been some progress, thanks to the extraordinary efforts of
our soldiers and civilians in Iraq. Schools, shops and hospitals
have been opened. In parts of Iraq, normalcy actually prevails.
But most Iraqis have lost faith in our ability to deliver meaningful
improvements to their lives. So they're sitting on the fence…
instead of siding with us against the insurgents.
That is the truth. The truth that the Commander in Chief owes to our
troops and the American people.
It is never easy to discuss what has gone wrong while our troops are in
constant danger. But it's essential if we want to correct our course
and do what's right for our troops instead of repeating the same mistakes
over and over again....
The President has said that he miscalculated € in Iraq and that it
was a catastrophic success. € In fact, the President has
made a series of catastrophic decisions … from the beginning … in Iraq.
At every fork in the road, he has taken the wrong turn and led us in the
The first and most fundamental mistake was the President's failure to tell
the truth to the American people.
He failed to tell the truth about the rationale for going to war.
And he failed to tell the truth about the burden this war would impose on
our soldiers and our citizens.
By one count, the President offered 23 different rationales for this war.
If his purpose was to confuse and mislead the American people, he
His two main rationales -- weapons of mass destruction and the Al
Qaeda/September 11 connection -- have been proved false… by the
President's own weapons inspectors… and by the 9/11 Commission. Just
last week, Secretary of State Powell acknowledged the facts. Only
Vice President Cheney still insists that the earth is flat.
The President also failed to level with the American people about what it
would take to prevail in Iraq.
He didn't tell us that well over 100,000 troops would be needed, for
years, not months. He didn't tell us that he wouldn't take the
time to assemble a broad and strong coalition of allies. He didn't
tell us that the cost would exceed $200 billion. He didn't tell us
that even after paying such a heavy price, success was far from assured.
And America will pay an even heavier price for the President's lack of
At home, the American people are less likely to trust this administration
if it needs to summon their support to meet real and pressing threats to
Abroad, other countries will be reluctant to follow America when we seek
to rally them against a common menace -- as they are today.
Our credibility in the world has plummeted.
FLOATING A TRIAL BALLOON
Rightwing columnist Robert Novak can always be counted on to serve as a
conduit for Karl Rove and his minions at the White House. Novak did so
notoriously, of course, when he outed covert CIA agent Valerie Plame at the
behest of "two senior Administration officials," and now he's floating a
story, "Quick Exit from Iraq Is Likely" that the White House wants out there
The story is that Bush may be willing to cut-and-run in Iraq after the
election -- the same charge Bush is leveling at Kerry.
Passing on this rumor does not even come close to passing the smell test.
Clearly, it's designed as a way for Bush to have it both ways in trying to
lure more voters into his camp. Publicly, Bush is a hard-liner on the Iraq
issue -- all is going swimmingly, we'll have democracy there shortly, the
insurgents are "terrorists" and we'll wipe them out -- but he can feel the
heat not only from the
intelligence community, which gave him the Iraq-as-disaster news months
ago, but also from fellow Republicans who are telling him to wake up and
smell the reality-coffee in Iraq, that the war is a catastrophe and is only
going to get worse. See what prestigious
Republican Senators said
over the weekend. Tough comments.
By floating the trial balloon, Rove can intimate that Bush will announce his
"secret plan" to withdraw from Iraq after the election. Of course, there is
no such plan. The only plan is to somehow slide by in Iraq until the
November 2 voting; if Bush wins, he doesn't have to pay anybody any mind.
He'll just increase the war effort -- already Marines have been told to
prepare for major assaults on Fallujah and Samara and other
insurgent-dominated cities before the end of the year -- and continue his
utopian scheme to beat Iraq to a pulp as a warning to Syria and Iran that
they could be next, unless they get on board.
For more on this Novak subject, see
Josh Marshall's blog
"Getting Out", and
Kevin Drum's "Reading the Tea Leaves").
OSAMA'S CHOICE FOR PRESIDENT
Finally, some remarks on the unconscionable statements by Dick Cheney and
Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, desperate enough to declare that Osama
Bin Laden prefers John Kerry over Bush. Juan Cole in "Bin
Laden Doesn't Care Who Wins" says it much better than I could:
The remark of Speaker of the House Denis Hastert that al-Qaeda would
like to manipulate the US election with a terrorist bombing and would be
happier with Kerry as president is simply wrong. The Democrats are correct
that such comments are a form of fear-mongering aimed at stampeding the
American public into voting for Bush out of terror. Indeed, if the US
public votes for any candidate because of concern for Bin Laden, then Bin
Laden has been handed precisely the victory that Hastert professed to
But Hastert is just wrong. Al-Qaeda does not care who wins the elections.
If the US withdraws from Iraq (which could happen willy-nilly under Bush
as easily as under Kerry), that would be seen as a victory by al-Qaeda. If
the US remains in Iraq for years, bleeding at the hands of an ongoing
guerrilla insurgency, then that is also a victory for al-Qaeda from their
point of view. They therefore just don't care which candidate wins. They
hate general US policy in the Middle East, which would not change
drastically under Kerry. To any extent that al-Qaeda is giving serious
thought to the US elections, it would see no significant difference
between the candidates. But given its goal of creating more polarization
between the US and the Muslim World, it is entirely possible that the
al-Qaeda leadership would prefer Bush, since they want to "sharpen the
September 13, 2004
SHOVE IRAQ AND THE ECONOMY DOWN BUSH'S THROAT
The Kerry Campaign, knowing Karl Rove's tendency to go on the attack with
slime and sleaze, should have been at least somewhat prepared for slime and
sleaze. And yet they seemed to be caught totally off-guard by the
Rove-organized Smear Boat assault on Kerry's Vietnam war record, went into
shock for a few days, and only after about a week managed to mount a
(Coming out of the Dem convention, what Kerry could have said, and should
have said, was something like: "Just want you to be aware that, if the Bush
Campaign continues its long tradition, there will be a lot of smear and dirt
and distortion coming at me -- the intent being to throw a lot of smoke in
your face, in hope you'll wonder if maybe there's fire there -- so be
prepared to be skeptical and to keep your attention on the key issues in the
campaign: Bush's atrocious policies in Iraq, on the economy, on education
and pollution....etc." That might have taken some of the sting out in
During that Smear Boat week, Kerry lost traction, and was forced to divert
his attention from the items on his agenda -- attacking Bush's domestic and
economic policies -- in order to do damage control.
Things seem to be much better now -- and a few of the old Clinton hands are
now on board to help focus the Kerry Campaign -- but in a race this tight in
several toss-up states, losing traction and control of the agenda for even a
few days is dangerous.
Add the rightwing media -- and a few over-the-top, pro-Bush polls into the
mix -- and the impression given is that Kerry is way behind, better jump on
board that Bush bandwagon while you still can. As it turns out, Kerry is not
that far behind nationally -- and in many key states is still ahead or dead
even -- but if the Dems don't start to move the numbers, regain the
momentum, focus attention on Bush's weaknesses, it might be difficult to
finish the race strong. (The daily Rasmussen polls are showing a steady climb back for Kerry.)
Counting on Kerry to wipe Bush all over the floor in the two debates -- or
maybe just one, as Bush seems to be backing away from the second one --
would be a big mistake. Bush is no debating slacker when properly primed,
and you can bet that he'll be loaded with attack phrases and snappy talking
points. Unless Kerry is likewise prepared, it could be a wash. Kerry needs a
smashing success, not an ordinary performance, to "win" the debates. (Also,
the debates will turn on which journalists are chosen and how friendly they
are to Bush, sending him puffball questions, while flinging tough dart-like
queries at Kerry.)
While we're waiting for the debates to start, Kerry, it seems to me, needs
to remember where Bush is most vulnerable and go for the jugular in those
areas. I'll just mention two here; there are plenty of others. (You'll
notice that I'm not even listing Bush's AWOL problem; I think Kerry should
slip that zinger in at the right moment and move on to issues that seem to
resonate more with voters today.)
IRAQ WAR NOT BENEATH THE RADAR
Rove's entire aim in Iraq was to turn over "full sovereignty" (NOT!) to the
interim government and its troops in order to significantly reduce the
number of U.S. dead and wounded, thus making this a war beneath the radar
for American voters. The truth is that the insurgency is so strong, and
seemingly growing stronger, that the dead and wounded figures remain about
where they were before the "handover," and, in some areas, are even worse.
(Question: Why does the media not question the 1000+ figure of U.S. dead in
Iraq? And the supposed 6000+ wounded? These are Bush figures, which means we
should be very skeptical of their validity. I've seen figures as high as
The RoveCheney campaign is still trying anything to make the American voters
forget Iraq as an issue -- including effectively turning over key cities and
areas of the country to the insurgents, anything to keep the U.S. troops
from having to engage -- but nothing seems to work. Kerry has an opening.
The war is totally FUBAR, a disaster. Kerry is staying away from having to
make any specific suggestions for how to make it better, because in truth
there aren't any. So badly has the Bush Administration made a mess of it
there that the options are limited to two and they are reminiscent of the
mess in Vietnam: get out as quickly as possible, or pour more troops and
money down the rathole and have to get out later. (Bush, obviously, is
choosing the latter option.)
Bush has made one major misstep after another, starting with the decision to
rush into war on the basis of phony rationalizations, then not recognizing
when the Iraqi army didn't engage that the U.S. military was being set up
for urban guerrilla war, then not having enough troops with the correct
equipment and plan, then not keeping the Iraqi soldiers as an on-salary
defanged military force, then not letting the Iraqis rebuild their own
society but turning over the reconstruction to outside corporations who
don't know what they are doing and don't care (since they're making billions
in any event), then authorizing policies that led directly to torture and
rape of Iraqi male and female and children detainees, and on and on.
Kerry needs to bring the issue of Iraq -- the way Bush got the U.S. into
that war, and his incompetent handling ever since -- front and center and
keep pounding on it, the absolute waste of American lives sent into harm's
way for no good reason.
Kerry also has an opening for attacking Bush and Cheney for the shameless
way they are continuing -- in the face of overwhelming evidence and
admission that it's not true -- to
attempt to link Saddam Hussein and 9/11. This lie is all the
Administration has left as a reason for war -- all the other supposed
reasons have not panned out (WMD, imminent threat, "mushroom clouds," etc.)
-- but it doesn't pass the smell test in the slightest.
In sum, if Bush wants to run proudly as the "war president," make sure the
American electorate realizes that if they vote for Bush, they're going to
get four more years of unnecessary wars, heavy casualties, incompetent
tactics and strategies, and more terrorist attacks aimed at us. Since polls
for the past several months have shown nearly more than half of the
population (and growing) think it was
a mistake to go into Iraq, Kerry definitely has a wedge opening
and a good question to ask American citizens: How much FUBAR are they
willing to put up with? Better to get a new commander-in-chief in there and
THE FAILING ECONOMY & JOBS SITUATION
My degrees are in government and international relations, but even I know --
and I know very little about economics -- there is something very wrong with
our economy. The middle-class is being squeezed badly, while the wealthy are
provided by Bush with more tax breaks and more opportunities to make lots
more money at the expense of those beneath them. (See
John Cassidy's important New Yorker article, "Tax Code.")
In addition, even though Bush brags about the occasional miniscule rise in
monthly employment numbers, those jobs tend to be low-paying ones, with few
benefits. The good new jobs, ones that pay a decent salary and that come
with benefits, are few and far between. There's a net loss of about one
million such good jobs since Bush was installed in the White House -- and,
worst of all, it doesn't look like those jobs are coming back any time soon.
(Many are off-shored to countries where the pay is minimal.)
Bush is keeping fairly quiet about our slumping/stagnant economy, in hopes
nobody will notice how bad things really are. Kerry occasionally makes
noises about Bush's faulty stewardship of the economy, but not in a
passionate, concerted way that will resonate with lots of voters. He needs
to kick it up a notch -- and, more importantly, continue to hammer away at
the direct connection between the $200+ billion (with a B, John!) being
spent in the disastrous Iraq adventure and the weak economy at home.
If Bush manages to win in November, the gloves will be off and his program
for the economy will bring ruin to entire segments of our society, as he
pushes privatization of more and more facets of government programs,
starting with Social Security and Medicare and phony drug "discounts" for
the elderly. All this will be pushed under the rubric of the "ownership"
society. As columnist Matt Miller has written, Bush and his cohorts, who
know nothing about how real people have to struggle just to get by, are
them own cake."
BLOGGERS SPEAK OUT ON THE IRAQ DEBACLE
For some superior blogs on aspects of the Iraq War and how it could affect
the presidential race, check out:
Josh Marshall: It's a super analysis; here are a few sample excerpts:
"Iraq has quite simply become a disaster for the United States. And
while people disagree over why this has happened, no thinking person can
now fail to see that it has happened. In the last two months, all of this
has been pushed to the side of the election debate -- either by rhetorical
tangles over 9/11 and terrorism, or attack politics centered on the two
men's war records or lack thereof. That is the reason for the president's
resurgence in the polls. It's really that simple. There's another
point that worth noting here too. And it's at least played a role in
pushing Iraq out of the political debate. That is, that President Bush has
been able to mobilize his manifest failure as a political asset, and the
Kerry campaign has allowed him to do so."
"...Politically, Kerry needs to ignore the commentators who will press him
to come up with a twenty point plan that will immediately rectify the
situation in Iraq. Yes, he needs to give an idea of what he'll do if and
when he takes over. But the emphasis should be on the undeniable fact that
though the way forward may be murky, the last person you want to lead the
country down that foggy path is the guy who screwed everything up so badly
in the first place."
Atrios spots political micromanaging all over the U.S. policy in
attacking and then not attacking in Fallujah. Some sample quotes:
"So, it's pretty much the case that we went into Fallujah because some
warbloggers got excited about the video of the desecration of the dead
civilian contractors. And, apparently the White House ordered it so
they could look tough."
He [Marine Lt. General James T. Conway, in charge of Western Iraq]
echoed an argument made by many Iraqi politicians and American analysts --
that the U.S. attack further radicalized a restive city, leading many
residents to support the insurgents. "When we were told to attack Fallujah,
I think we certainly increased the level of animosity that existed,"
He would not say where the order to attack originated, only that he
received an order from his superior at the time, Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo
Sanchez, the overall commander of U.S. forces in Iraq. Some senior U.S.
officials in Iraq have said the command originated in the White House.
"And, here's what Bush told
Russert in February:"
The thing about the Vietnam War that troubles me as I look back was it
was a political war. We had politicians making military decisions, and it
is lessons that any president must learn, and that is to the set the goal
and the objective and allow the military to come up with the plans to
achieve that objective. And those are essential lessons to be learned from
the Vietnam War.
summarizes Newsweek's story ( www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5973272/site/newsweek on the
"There's widespread agreement that Washington needs to rethink its
objectives, and quickly. 'We're dealing with a population that hovers
between bare tolerance and outright hostility,' says a senior U.S.
diplomat in Baghdad. 'This idea of a functioning democracy here is crazy.
We thought that there would be a reprieve after sovereignty, but all hell
is breaking loose.'
"No rational person thought there would be 'a reprieve after sovereignty',
given that Iraq doesn't have true sovereignty. But whatever, the war is
"Force Bush to defend his 'war presidency.' He's got nothing to brag
Gilliard quotes huge chunks of a Progress Report study by David Sirota/Christy
Harvey/Judd Legum/Jonathan Baskin about the enormous mess the Bush
Administration has created in Iraq:
The Bush White House is blithely insisting elections will occur in
January as planned. Security concerns, however, have left others less
confident. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stated this
weekend on Meet the Press that "It would be lovely if they took place in
January, but I sure don't see it." Iraqi officials are also increasingly
skeptical. One senior Iraqi official told Newsweek, "I'm convinced that
it's not going to happen. It's just not realistic. How is it going to
happen?" Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari echoed that thought, saying, "The
timetable really depends at the end of the day on the security situation."
Some worry that the Bush administration, desperate to avoid the appearance
of yet another setback, will stick to the schedule despite ongoing
problems. Ghassan Atiyya, director of the independent Iraq Foundation for
Development and Democracy, warns, "Badly prepared elections, rather than
healing wounds, will open them."
Let's close with some choice words from a choice
editorial "It's Time to Cream Him, John":
This is not business as usual. This is not just politics. John Kerry is
running against a political criminal enterprise. If that statement shocks
you, than you don't understand the dire straits that we are in, not even
Since the Republican Party was taken over by the Radical Right Wing --
beginning with the Nixon administration (in which Rumsfeld and Cheney
began their ascent -- and remember that Cheney is our President for
International Affairs, with Karl Rove his aide de camp for domestic
affairs) -- the GOP has run campaigns and the country with three basic
tools: demagoguery, the creation of manufactured images of leadership, and
the criminal abuse of our justice department and legislative process.
...The good news is that it is not too late. Kerry is within striking
distance -- especially in the crucial battleground electoral states. In
fact, some polls show him currently ahead in likely electoral votes.
But he won't win by adopting a de facto air that Bush is somehow a
legitimate leader, or that Iraq was a reasonable war. You can't win by
subliminally reinforcing the facade that is created by your opposition.
The only way to win against the right wing thugs who stole the American
government is to cream them, rip off their masks and put them on the
defensive through Election Day. Then, after you win, put them in the
hands of the Department of Justice. It won't be long before they are
...In this age of television news: form is content. Bush gets off being a
leader when he is a bungling failure, who ruins the nation, not runs it.
You are a natural leader for the times, but need to project that in a
television age. Dramatic gestures count. Modern politics is like a
sporting event. You don't win playing defense -- and image, unfortunately,
Now is the time to kick him in the balls and win.
If that sounds too nasty, your opponent wouldn't have it any other way,
John. That is HIS politics.
Remember, this is not just an election that you and John Edwards win or
lose against Cheney and Bush.
This is an election that will determine, perhaps, whether the American
democracy founded in 1776 continues to exist.
September 23, 2004
We Once Were Lost, Now Getting Found
Last week, a play of mine about the Israel/Palestine struggle, entitled
"Playing for Peace," was performed as part of a "Writers With Attitude"
festival of socially-relevant works in the San Francisco Bay Area. Seven
short plays were presented, all dealing with fairly heavy topics -- ranging
from Iraq to the homeless -- and yet the large, sold-out audience was
attentive throughout the long program, and expressed deep appreciation for
the evening in their comments and applause.
In recent weeks, I've attended a number of events sponsored by MoveOn.org,
the Kerry-Edwards Campaign, environmental organizations, etc. The same deep
interest and concern evident at the "Writers With Attitude" program was
manifest at these political fund-raisers.
What is obvious from the above, and from similar reports all around the
country, is that -- thanks to the Bush Administration's reckless policies
and thorough incompetence -- there is a renewed surge of involvement in the
political process. Not only about the vote on November 2 -- though that, of
course, is the main focus --but, more importantly, in trying to restore the
energy in and behind our democratic institutions.
We liberals have been far too complacent for decades, figuring that our
democratic institutions were stable and working just fine, so no need for us
to get our hands dirty doing the political maintenance work. We failed to
notice other, less-benign forces that were aiming to replace democracy with
some sort of Darwinesque elitism, which now has morphed over the years into
one-party authoritarianism and which threatens to become an American kind of
The result of that lapse in our attention was to permit the well-financed
forces of conservatism and reaction -- and then BushCheney extremism -- to
build an entire superstructure in government, the media, and academia/think
tanks. While that was going on, we were in denial about the erosion and rot
in our own liberal, pro-democracy institutions and mind-set.
Given this semi-slumber, we were shocked by what appeared to be the "sudden"
emergence of HardRight conservatism as the driving force left of center, and
thus were ill-equipped politically to deal with the hardball,
go-for-the-jugular politics those folks practiced.
MAKING POSITIVES FROM NEGATIVES
The threat of four more years of even more extreme policy-making by those
HardRight forces FINALLY! has awakened much of the liberal/progressive Left
all around the country -- and also awakened traditional conservative forces,
appalled at the way their party has been hijacked by radicals and how all
sorts of conservative principles are being violated in the process -- and we
are beginning to see the enormous positive force of united re-commitment to
our democratic institutions.
Organizations like MoveOn.org and the emergence of Air America on the radio
and think-tanks like the Center for American Progress -- and an alternative
press that reaches millions daily, on the internet -- these are all hopeful
signs. Small moves in the correct direction, but at least movement that
suggests pre-thought and a strategy -- and that can be cultivated and
strengthened in the post-November 2 period.
Whether we've awakened in enough time to defeat the extreme Right on
Election Day is still up in the air. The Kerry Campaign is battling mightily
in the home stretch (after some amateurish delays and uncertainties), facing
not only a mass-media aligned with BushCheney but also an onslaught of
dirty-tricks being rolled out in massive proportions. Slime, sleaze, sludge,
intimidation, "suppressing" the minority vote, you name it.
But, even with those obstacles, I continue to believe -- based on my reading
of the political tea leaves, correspondence with voters all over the country
(especially traditional conservative Republicans), and my travels around
America over the past year or so -- that the chances are good for a Kerry
victory in November.
There is a groundswell of opposition to Bush coming from both the left,
middle and, yes, the traditional right that is not always evident in the
pro-Bush polls. Just take one example: most polls are conducted by
telephone. Hundreds of registered voters are called. Those that choose to
respond to having their dinner or TV-watching interrupted -- it's estimated
that only 10% these days talk to the pollsters -- are reached by land-line
phones. Polling organizations do not call cell-phone numbers.
Does that tell you anything? Most younger citizens operate from their
cell-phones. An entire demographic slice of the population is not being
polled. Younger types tend to be more liberal. You get the picture.
Even with such polling errors, and with several of the key polling
organizations leaning to the GOP in the way they phrase their questions and
in whom they call (read: over-weighted with Republicans), the national
figures indicate a neck-and-neck race. In the tossup states, Kerry is doing
quite well. In fact, some polls indicate that Kerry is considerably ahead in
many of those key states.
That should not make us complacent. Karl Rove no doubt has even more dirty
tricks up his sleeve, just waiting to be unleashed in the final weeks of the
campaign, when it will be difficult to counter them effectively -- and, who
knows?, the massive terrorist attack the Bush folks have been warning us
about, and almost inviting, could happen just prior to Voting Day.
In short, we need to redouble our efforts in these final weeks of the
campaign, to build up the popular vote totals nationwide and in the various
states -- to make it more difficult for computer-voting manipulations to do
their dirty work unnoticed -- and to bear down in the swing states to ensure
a Kerry victory big time. A landslide defeat of Bush is what's really needed
to begin to get this country back onto a more sane centrist/progressive
track. Money, support, activism, getting out the vote, talking up your
friends and neighbors and colleagues -- let's do it!
WHO IS BEHIND THE MEMOS SCAM?
It's still a bit early to see if the CBS/Killian Memos brouhaha will impact
Kerry's growing momentum. And it's still early to make definitive statements
about how this whole episode unfolded.
This much we do know: Dan Rather did not properly vet the source of the
documents presented to him by Bill Burkett. At first, Burkett said he'd
received them from a fellow National Guard officer; now he claims the
genesis was a phone call from one "Lucy Ramirez" who said she'd pass him the
documents in Houston.
When he got to the pickup spot, Burkett reports, a man said he would do the
honors instead of "Lucy Ramirez," and gave him the documents. Apparently, in
a classic demonstration of poor journalistic practice, Rather did not
contact the officer Burkett first named; had he done so, that person would
have indicated he knew nothing about such documents.
Is Burkett telling the truth now? Or trying to divert attention away from
himself? If he's lying, and carried out all by himself, the damage is bad --
CBS still has to take its well-deserved punishment -- but can be dealt with.
(This assumes that the Kerry Campaign had no hand in any of this, which
appears to be the case.)
If Burkett is telling the truth, who set him up with documents that could
easily be regarded with suspicion? (Note: The internet attack on the
validity of these memos, in great typographical detail, began mere minutes
after CBS displayed the documents on 60 Minutes. The instantaneous timing,
with such detailed accusations, seems a bit suspicious on its face.)
WHO GAINS? AND WHO IS ROGER STONE?
So, who would stand to gain by such a scam? Not Kerry, for sure. Not CBS New
s, for sure. That leaves only one party that benefits: the Bush Campaign.
The rumor going around political circles as I write this late-Wednesday (all
of which could change by Thursday -- this story is fast-unfolding) is that
the Rove operative behind the entire affair may be Roger Stone, a famous GOP
dirty-trickster from the Nixon Era, currently working for anti-Kerry forces.
Stone was deeply involved in the phony "riot" outside the vote-counting room
in Florida in 2000.
(In case you've forgotten: Supposedly angry Florida citizens were banging on
the doors demanding that the recount be halted; those folks, it turned out,
were paid employees of various right wing congressmen, flown in from out of
state precisely to provide anonymous bodies to yell and scream and
intimidate the voting officials. Roger Stone organized all that.)
But, assuming Burkett's story is valid, unless some forensic proof is
obtained, or somebody talks, it's difficult to see how to tie Burkett to the
mysterious "Lucy Ramirez" to the unknown man to Roger Stone to the Bush
Campaign. Some enterprising investigative reporter might be able to discover
the connections, but we shouldn't count on that.
CENTRAL GUARD FINDINGS STILL VALID
The other thing that is known -- though you wouldn't know if from reading
the mass media -- is that the truth in the "Killian memos" was documented
see here and
here long before the 60
Minutes story aired: Bush was given a direct order to take a flight
physical, but did not do so. And he was prohibited from flying because of
that and "failure to perform" to USAF and National Guard standards.
Rather, in his apology on CBS, unaccountably did not mention that the
CONTENT of the memos remains true, even if the papers passed on by unknown
sources are questionable. The White House has not addressed itself to the
truth or falsity of the content -- one would guess because they know, or
suspect, that the original Killian memos may be out there somewhere. If they
question the truth of the memos, they may have to face the prospect that
someone will step forward and produce the actual documents -- and that would
be disastrous for their campaign.
Oh, it's all so convoluted -- and detracts from the major news that,
finally!, John Kerry is addressing these days: Bush's war in Iraq -- how we
were lied into it, and how the incompetent way it's being managed is harming
our national security. See
Kerry's important speech on the war, delivered at NYU.
COMPARE AND CONTRAST
You know the previous comparison: Bill Clinton lied and embarrassed himself;
George Bush lied and at least 25,000 people have died. Now comes another
this one by
Dan Rather, CBS News Anchor
1. given documents he thought were true 2. failed to thoroughly
investigate the facts 3. reported documents to the American people as true
to make his case 4. when confronted with the facts, apologized and
launched an investigation 5. number of Americans dead: 0 6. should be
fired as CBS News Anchor
George W. Bush, President of the United States
1. given documents he thought were true 2. failed to thoroughly
investigate the facts 3. reported documents to the American people as true
to make his case 4. when confronted with the facts, continued to report
untruth and stonewalled an investigation 5. number of Americans dead: 1100
6. should be given four more years as President of the United States.
THE GLORY OF JUAN COLE'S MIND
Juan Cole is a national treasure. The
university professor is best known as perhaps this country's leading expert
on all things Arabic, and his reports on the deteriorating situation in Iraq
and the rest of the Middle East are absolutely essential to understanding
that complex region.
But his blogs on the American political situation are equally as sharp and
trenchant. Check out this one,
"Bush Taunts Kerry":
I just heard President Bush taunt John Kerry for suggesting that the US
was not safer because Saddam Hussein was deposed, and for saying that the
US was in fact less safe because of the chaos in Iraq.
Bush attempted to turn this statement around and suggest that Kerry was
preferring dictatorship to democracy.
Iraq, however, does not have a democracy, and cannot possibly have a
democracy any time soon because of events such as those described below
(and they are only 24 hours' worth) -- that is, because of a failed state
and a hot guerrilla war.
Moreover, if Mr. Bush abhors dictatorships so much, why hasn't he
overthrown that in China? North Korea? Zimbabwe? Or, say, Egypt? There are
enormous numbers of dictatorships in the world. Is the US to overthrow
them all? Putin's decision to appoint provincial governors rather than
allowing them to be elected (as though Bush should appoint the governors
of US states) is a step toward dictatorship. Shall we have a war with
Russia over it?
Surely the conditions under which the Palestinians live in the West Bank
are a form of dictatorship (they haven't voted for their Israeli military
rulers). Why not invade the West Bank and liberate the Palestinians?
Obviously, what was obnoxious to the American people about Saddam Hussein
was not that he was a dictator. Those are a dime a dozen and not usually
worth $200 billion and thousands of lives. It is that he was supposedly
dangerous to the US because, as Bush alleged, he was trying to develop an
But whatever nuclear program he had was so primitive as not to be worth
mentioning, and there is no evidence that Saddam posed any threat at all
to the United States' homeland, or would have in his lifetime.
I have a sinking feeling that the American public may like Bush's cynical
misuse of Wilsonian idealism precisely because it covers the embarrassment
of their having gone to war, killed perhaps 25,000 people, and made a
perfect mess of the Persian Gulf region, all out of a kind of paranoia fed
by dirty tricks and bad intelligence. And, maybe they have to vote for
Bush to cover the embarrassment of having elected him in the first place.
How deep a hole are they going to dig themselves in order to get out of
the bright sunlight of so much embarrassment?
Here's another, longer essay by Cole that is essential reading:
"If America Were Iraq, What Would It Be Like? Here's a sample;
read the whole thing:
What would America look like if it were in Iraq's current situation?
The population of the US is over 11 times that of Iraq, so a lot of
statistics would have to be multiplied by that number.
Thus, violence killed 300 Iraqis last week, the equivalent proportionately
of 3,300 Americans. What if 3,300 Americans had died in car bombings,
grenade and rocket attacks, machine gun spray, and aerial bombardment in
the last week? That is a number greater than the deaths on September 11,
and if America were Iraq, it would be an ongoing, weekly or monthly toll.
BUSH'S LOST YEAR: NO, NOT THAT ONE
Lambert at Corrente quotes from a long piece, "Bush's Lost Year: How the
War in Iraq Undermined the War on Terror," by James Fallows in the October
Atlantic Monthly, not yet online. Well worth a read. Here's a brief sample:
"Let me tell you my gut feeling," a senior figure at one of America's
military-sponsored think tanks told me recently, after we had talked for
twenty minutes about details of the campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. "If
I can be blunt, the Administration is full of shit. In my view we are
much, much worse off than we were than we went into Iraq. This is not a
partisan position. I voted for these guys. But I think they are
incompetent. Whatever tactical victories we may gain along the way, this
will prove to be a strategic blunder."
This man will not let me use his name, because he is still involved in
military policy. He cited the experiences of Joseph Wilson, Richard
Clarke, and Generals Eric Shinseki and Anthony Zinni to illustrate the
personal risks of openly expressing his dissenting view. But I am quoting
him anonymously” as I will quote some others—because his words are
representative of what one hears at the working level.
Professionals argue that by the end of 2002 the decisions the
Administration had made—and avoided making—through the course of the year
had left the nation less safe, with fewer positive options. Step by step
through 2002 America's war on terror became little more than preparation
for war in Iraq.
September 28, 2004
How Much "Success" Can We Take in Iraq?
As we approach D-Day on Thursday, here are some thoughts about what will
be the main topic for the evening's debate: the absolute disaster that is
U.S. policy in Iraq.
Bush seemed to be implying the other day that the U.S. problems in Iraq
added up to a great success in the sense of diverting terrorists from doing
damage in the United States. In other words, by messing up royally in the
"post-invasion" phase of the war, the U.S. created a magnet effect for
terrorists from all over the world. They were drawn like flies to honey in
wanting to fight the American Satan.
So, instead of planning attacks on the U.S. mainland and other major
American targets abroad, this tortured Bush logic goes, the terrorists have
fallen into our trap and are congregated in Iraq, where it's easier to kill
them en masse and one by one.
Never mind that this incoherent, ongoing war in Iraq also is breeding
thousands of more anti-American terrorists by the week. Bush&Co. really seem
to believe this new rationale (#27 in a long list) for why the
Administration invaded that hapless country.
Our plan all along, according to this revisionist Bush logic, was to appear
to be struggling in Iraq, so as to lure all the bad guys into the same
place. Then we'll wipe them out with our precision, bunker-busting missiles,
thus cleansing the world of those violent scum.
Talk about disconnecting from reality! By trying to keep American casualties
to a minimum in this election runup, the U.S. is relying almost totally
these days on air power. Bombing from the air is notoriously inefficient,
and a sign of weakness on the ground, not strength. Plus it engenders lots
of "collateral damage"; those increasing civilian deaths merely make the
situation even more tenuous for the U.S. military, and provide more reasons
for young, unemployed Muslim men to join the insurgency against the American
The insurgent guerrillas are swimming in the sea of the citizenry and, for
the most part, are not being reported to the authorities. Some of that
silence comes from fear of these violent rebels, but a lot is simply
nationalist hatred toward the occupying power and desire to see the U.S.
leave as quickly as possible. Continued chaos and destruction is more to be
feared among many Iraqis than somebody, anybody, stabilizing things and
The U.S. has proven it can't do it, even with all its might and technology
and money. The non-elected Allawi interim government, a U.S. puppet, can't
do it. Bush can't do it, given his single-minded focus on tough-love
destruction. Were Kerry to be elected, it's probable he couldn't do it,
especially if he thinks the best policy is to stay and tough it out.
The Iraqis themselves don't know what the solution is -- maybe they'll just
have to fight amongst themselves to determine who can control the situation.
The hope for a democratically-elected government that will come in and turn
things around probably is an illusion a well. See next item.
PARTIAL ELECTION IN IRAQ
said the upcoming "democratic" election in Iraq might have to be a
partial one. ( ) That is, since some key areas and cities are too risky for
election officials to enter, we'll skip those and hold the vote in the areas
that are under control. The winner of the partial vote -- maybe held in
three-quarters of the country -- will assume "full sovereignty."
Two things: 1. It would appear that all the talk of an Iraqi election in
January is so much hot air, an illusion to convince America before our own
election in November that things are progressing just fine toward democracy
and free markets in Iraq, not to worry, just move along, folks, nothing to
In reality, there is precious little chance there will be a free and fair
election in Iraq in the near future. The situation there simply is too
dangerous and insecure for even the election framework to be established.
(Contradicting his boss's rosy pronouncements, Secretary Powell said the
other day that
situation is "getting worse," not better). The United Nations,
which is supposed to set up the election process, is barely on the ground
with a few officials, and probably will be attacked again and then decide
it's unwise to carry on further.
Also, even if the election were to proceed, and it was relegated to the
"safe" areas -- the Kurdish region, Basra and a few other provinces --
entire ethnic and political sectors of Iraqi society would be
disenfranchised, especially the Sunnis and many Shias as well. There is no
way, given that scenario, that the "winning" candidate would be thought of
as legitimately elected in a fair and full election. Civil war might be just
around the corner.
PARTIAL ELECTION IN U.S.?
2. When I heard Rumsfeld's partial-election scenario, a bell went off in my
head. Didn't the Bush Administration propose something like that for America as
Sure enough, Administration
lawyers have written legal memoranda asserting the possibility of
"postponing" the electoral process in certain locations of the country in
the event of a major terrorist attack or, presumably, the "credible" threat
of a major terrorist attack in certain threatened states. The election would
proceed in the rest of the country, and the winner would be based on the
totals amassed in that truncated vote.
In other words, in this scenario, Bush might declare a State of Emergency
around November 2 in, say, the Western coastal states (California, Oregon,
Washington) and some Eastern states (Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey) --
based, Ridge will tell us, on "highly credible" threats of a major
biochemical attack by Al Qaida. Voting will proceed in the rest of the
country, and the winner of that partial election would be certified as the
Now, true, these were only legal justifications for such action. Congress
would have to approve to put this extreme plan into force.
But, given the ease with which the Bush Administration was able to slide the
Patriot Act through a terrified Congress in the days after 9/11 and the
anthrax attacks, it is not outside the realm of possibility that, should a
major terrorist attack occur in the nation's capital, the Congress might be
equally scared and pass such emergency legislation, effectively turning over
the election process to one of the candidates in the running, to wit George
Bush and his cohorts.
We live in politically frightening times. Anything is possible. Not likely,
but possible. Stay alert.
CBS' COWARDLY SELF-CENSORSHIP
Here's how it works. CBS gets snookered into accepting memos about Bush's
incomplete National Guard duty without establishing the chain of provenance
-- i.e., where those memos came from and who handled them along the way --
and suddenly, CBS becomes the story rather than the well-documented running
of Bush the other way when it came to doing his duty in the Vietnam era.
We don't know who set up CBS, but certainly one key suspect -- the party
that stands to benefit the most -- is the Bush Campaign. And it smells very
much like similar scams
run by Karl Rove in the past. Whether we'll hear the truth about the CBS
scandal by Election Day is problematic.
What we won't see or hear is the story that was bumped by CBS' "Sixty
Minutes" show in order to run the memos "scoop." A delay in that bumped
story by a week or two wouldn't have been the end of the world, but it might
well have had an influence on the election. Now we'll never know.
That story dealt with how the Bush Administration came to include the
"Iraq-seeking-uranium-from-Africa" charge in Bush's State of the Union
speech in 2003, even though the CIA had warned the Administration that the
uranium story was shaky and based on forged documents. (Still unknown is the
identity of those forgers. Hmm.)
Again, delaying that story by a week or two would have been understandable.
But CBS, owned by conglomerate Viacom, is so gun-shy right now about doing
anything that looks "political" that it has gone deep into cowardly
self-censorship. It has announced that
will not run that uranium story or any other story that aims its
attention on Bush policies or scandals prior to the election.
In short, whether or not it was intended to turn out that way, CBS' memo
flap couldn't have worked out any better for Rove and his minions in the
Bush Campaign. We report the news, you decide.
"SUPPRESSING" DEMOCRAT VOTES
We've talked a lot in this space about the dangers of computer-voting, how
the ballot-tallying software can be manipulated without anybody being the
wiser. But the Republicans have a lot of other tactics at their disposal,
and they're pulling out all the stops in using them.
One is to scare voter with lies about the opposition candidate. The
Republican National Committee has admitted that it's been
sending out mail-flyers that claim a vote for Kerry might well result in
the Bible being "banned" and that married gays may move into your
neighborhood. Rove's Big Lie technique -- similar to the whisper campaign
against John McCain in 2000, that he was a bit loose upstairs and fathered a
black baby anyway, or suggesting a judge they didn't like was a pedophile --
except that this time they're not whispering. They're right out there in the
open, saying and doing these things, arrogantly asserting that it's OK to
say anything to win, even if it's pure bullbleep.
Another highly-effective tactic is to lop registered citizens off the voting
rolls, or make it very difficult to get on the voting rolls. Gov. Jeb Bush
had removed upwards of 50,000 such voters in Florida in 2000 -- most of them
Democrat-leaning African-Americans -- and tried to do something like that
again earlier this year, but had to back down when the word got out. (But
Carter, leading an international team of observers, says the situation
in Florida is likely to repeat its "irregularities" from 2000, since those
in charge exhibit "bias." Gee, I wonder towards whom.)
Now it's happening elsewhere as well: the Secretary of State of Ohio (a
Republican, of course)
rejected many thousands of voter registration forms, most from black
wards in the big cities, because they are on the "wrong" thickness of paper
stock, a technicality from an earlier era of technology. Whether the bulk of
those registrations can be re-done in enough time is problematic, since the
registration deadline is looming. Somebody should take Blackwell, the
secretary of state, into court for an immediate judgment; as
Atrios reminds us, Blackwell is violating the Federal Voting Rights Act
of 1971, which prohibits keeping someone from voting for "immaterial"
Another tactic is to place state and local police outside mainly rural
voting precincts and question minority citizens, especially older ones, when
they attempt to enter the voting area, sometimes demanding photo IDs, even
though doing so is often against the law. Clearly, these are intimidation
methods, to "suppress" the vote of Democrat-leaning minorities. That
"suppress" term was
used by a Republican lawmaker, urging such a practice against voters in
Detroit, who are overwhelmingly African-American.
SOME STERLING BLOGS
Finally, here are a few dynamite blogs you should check out.
On the Iraq situation:
1. Juan Cole's
"Bush Falsehoods About Iraq", which quotes liberally from the excellent
"Key Bush Assertions about Iraq in Dispute."
Xymphora's untitled September 27, 2004 blog.
On the question of allies and how to offend and keep them: Digby's
"You Can't Build an Alliance..."
On sage advice to Kerry for the debate: Scott Rosenberg's "Speaking
Unblinking Truth to Power"
September 30, 2004
Galluping Toward Vote Fraud?
Like a lot of political observers, I've been somewhat mystified by how far
off the norm Gallup and a few other pollsters have been. Most polls I've
seen have the race leaning slightly toward Bush, but within the margin of
error. But Gallup for the past few weeks has been WAY out there, and
currently is showing Bush with 13-point lead.
My original supposition was that the poll was artificially jacked up (by
adding more Republicans than Democrats into the polled-voter list) in order
to give the impression that Bush had the big momentum, and those sitting on
the fence better jump aboard the GOP bandwagon before it's too late. With
that big a lead indicated, the hope of the Bush Campaign was that many
Democrat voters would get discouraged and not even head for their precinct
on Election Day.
But there may be something even more nefarious going on. Short version: It's
possible we are being set up for tally-manipulation on Election Day.
This longer version takes a bit of explanation. Follow me on this one:
If the polls in a state indicated a slight lead for Kerry going into the
election, or a tied race, and Bush emerges the winner by a few percentage
points, there might well be immediate calls for recounting the ballots. But
if Bush is given, say, a 10-to-13-point cushion in the rigged polls, and he
wins by, say 2 or 3 points, this victory would not excite that much
suspicion, and the recount issue might not come into the picture.
("Recount," as you realize, is a meaningless term for those who cast their
ballots on touch-screen computer-voting machines that do not provide
verified-voting receipts. A "recount" merely would once again spit out the
same skewed numbers.)
The Gallup poll, and similar suspicious ones, thus give Rove the cushion he
needs to hide whatever electoral manipulations need to be carried out. You
remember that the proprietary software for counting the votes is controlled
by the Republican-supporting companies that manufacture the computer-voting
machines, and that the software can be diddled-with without leaving any
Some of the thinking above was hinted at in "Gallup
Polls: Conditioning the Public for Vote-Rigging?", by Stephen Crocket
and Al Lawrence of Democratic Talk Radio.
For more on the Gallup Organization, and how it works, check out Steve
Is At it Again -- Yesterday's National Poll Had 12% GOP Bias".
Also, be sure to see Ruy Teixeira's
"The "How Can Gallup........Game", where he uses Gallup's own
state-by-state figures to demonstrate the phony nature of the supposed 13%
FLIPPING THE FLOPPER
I'm writing this late-Wednesday, a day before the all-important synchronized
swimming event known as the "debate" -- where true confrontations and
spontaneity are kept to an absolute minimum. But surely, one of the key
charges on which Bush will rest his case is the "flip-flopper" one, trying
by constant repetition to convince voters that Kerry is simply not
consistent or strong enough to earn anybody's vote.
I think Kerry is prepared to deal with that one, in the same way he dealt
with enemy attackers along the river in Vietnam, when he turned his boat
toward them, powered onto the shore and went after the Viet Cong with guns
a-blazing. My guess in the debate is that Kerry will execute a ricochet.
Bush will make the charge and then Kerry will bounce the charge right back
at him, rolling out instance after instance when Bush flip-flopped on vital
social and military issues, ranging from Iraq to the 9/11 Commission to
Osama bin Laden and on and on. One can hope that Kerry's frontal attack will
take the sting out of this issue once and for all.
Along these lines, check out Mark Sandalow's important front-page San
Francisco Chronicle story on Bush's Iraq flip-flops,
"Record Shows Bush Shifting on Iraq War: President's Rationale for the
Invasion Continues to Evolve". Here are some key paragraphs:
"Mixed signals are the wrong signals,'' Bush said last week during a
campaign stop in Bangor, Maine. "I will continue to lead with clarity, and
when I say something, I'll mean what I say.''
Yet, heading into the first presidential debate Thursday, which will focus
on foreign affairs, there is much in the public record to suggest that
Bush's words on Iraq have evolved -- or, in the parlance his campaign
often uses to describe Kerry, flip-flopped.
An examination of more than 150 of Bush's speeches, radio addresses and
responses to reporters' questions reveal a steady progression of language,
mostly to reflect changing circumstances such as the failure to discover
weapons of mass destruction, the lack of ties between Iraq and the al
Qaeda terrorist network and the growing violence of Iraqi insurgents.
A war that was waged principally to overthrow a dictator who possessed
"some of the most lethal weapons ever devised'' has evolved into a mission
to rid Iraq of its "weapons-making capabilities'' and to offer democracy
and freedom to its 25 million residents.
The president no longer expounds upon deposed Iraqi strongman Saddam
Hussein's connections with al Qaeda, rarely mentions the rape and torture
rooms or the illicit weapons factories that he once warned posed a direct
threat to the United States.
In the fall of 2002, as Bush sought congressional support for the use of
force, he described the vote as a sign of solidarity that would strengthen
his ability to keep the peace. Today, his aides describe it unambiguously
as a vote to go to war.
Whether such shifts constitute a reasonable evolution of language to
reflect the progression of war, or an about-face to justify unmet
expectations, is a subjective judgment tinged by partisan prejudice.
Yet a close look at the record makes it difficult to support Bush
campaign chairman Ken Mehlman's description of the upcoming debate as a
"square-off between resolve and optimism versus vacillation and defeatism.''
Also, read Jim Hightower's
If you're a toad, don't try to call a frog ugly.
This refers to Bush's toadiness in trying to label John Kerry a
flip-flopper on a variety of issues. Kerry has indeed changed his
positions on several matters -- and thank goodness he has, since most
shifts were to a more progressive position!
But who is the flip-flopper-in-chief? His Georgeness, of course.
For example in his 2000 presidential run, Bush declared that gay marriage
was a matter for the states to decide -- now he's crying for a
Constitutional amendment to federalize and criminalize the issue. He also
promised in 2000 that he would put our nation's Social Security trust fund
in a lock box so politicians couldn't spend it on their pet projects --
but he has now totally looted that "lock box," having spent all the money
the trust fund will build up through the year 2013 on such pet projects as
his tax giveaways to the rich.
Then there's Osama bin Laden. Remember Bush's braggadocio after September
11, declaring that he'd get Osama "dead or alive?" Three years later,
Osama is still on the loose and George meekly says, "I don't know where he
is. ... I truly am not that concerned about him."
One of his most acrobatic flip-flops was on the need for a "Patients Bill
or Rights," se we can sue HMOs that wrongfully deny us medical treatment.
In his 2000 campaign, Bush loudly bragged that he had "delivered" such a
bill for Texans while he was governor of Texas. But this was a lie, for he
actually had vetoed the state legislation. Yet, in 2000, he promised a
national patients bill of rights. As president, however, Bush has done a
double flip-flop, threatening to veto a patients bill and adamantly
claiming in federal court that states cannot pass their own laws.
No one can beat George W when it comes to flip-flops. He does more
flipping than IHOP.
And, finally on this issue, see CBS News political writer David Paul
"Bush's Top Ten Flip-Flops".
WHICH REALITY DO YOU SEE?
Perhaps the major substantive topic for the first debate will be which
version of reality Bush and Kerry use as their prism for interpreting what
is happening in Iraq.
Bush will be the rosy-eyed optimist: There are a few problems, establishing
democracy isn't easy but we're making great progress, the people and
government of Iraq are behind us, we're mopping-up the few insurgents and
terrorists, we have to stop "them" (implication: al Qaida) there so as to
prevent them from attacking us here again, democratic elections in Iraq are
coming in January, don't change horses in the middle of a war -- you know
Kerry, if he's smart, will quote liberally from Bush's own Secretary of
State (Colin Powell said
are "getting worse" in Iraq, not better and
national-security experts) to back up his reading of the situation, that
Iraq is a disaster area. And that the catastrophe could have been prevented
had Bush and his neo-con advisers not taken one wrong step after another in
the way they lied us into the war, thoroughly botched the occupation, and on
(For more on the Iraq/reality question, check out Adam Entous' Reuters
"Key Bush Assertions About Iraq in Dispute", Robert Dreyfuss'
Iraq Worked, Right?", and Atrios'
"Reality As Presented").
In the debate, Kerry needs to look "presidential" and confident, to stay on
the offensive as much as he can, and self-effacingly humorous on occasion. I
think he'll do just fine, and by doing so will put into stark contrast the
reckless rote-reciter currently in charge of things.
Naturally, of course, no matter how badly Bush does and how well Kerry does,
Dubya will be declared the "winner" almost immediately by the
Bush-supporting pundits on the networks and cable. As a matter of fact, even
before the debates, those spinners are at work by lowering the expectations
for Bush; if he doesn't drool, stutter, and smirk too much, he'll obviously
be the "winner."
Should be fun. We'll have a full analysis roundup Monday here at The Crisis
W'S HOMETOWN PAPER ENDORSES KERRY
Finally, in case you haven't seen it, here are key excerpts from the
editorial endorsing Kerry from the Lone Star Iconocast, the paper in Bush's
hometown of Crawford that endorsed Bush in 2000.
Read the whole thing; it's a beaut:
Few Americans would have voted for George W. Bush four years ago if he
had promised that, as President, he would:
Empty the Social Security trust fund by $507 billion to help offset
fiscal irresponsibility and at the same time slash Social Security
Cut Medicare by 17 percent and reduce veterans' benefits and
Eliminate overtime pay for millions of Americans and raise oil
prices by 50 percent.
Give tax cuts to businesses that sent American jobs overseas, and,
in fact, by policy encourage their departure.
Give away billions of tax dollars in government contracts without
Involve this country in a deadly and highly questionable war, and
Take a budget surplus and turn it into the worst deficit in the
history of the United States, creating a debt in just four years that
will take generations to repay.
These were elements of a hidden agenda that surfaced only after he took
The publishers of The Iconoclast endorsed Bush four years ago, based on
the things he promised, not on this smoke-screened agenda.
Today, we are endorsing his opponent, John Kerry, based not only on the
things that Bush has delivered, but also on the vision of a return to
normality that Kerry says our country needs.
Four items trouble us the most about the Bush administration: his
initiatives to disable the Social Security system, the deteriorating state
of the American economy, a dangerous shift away from the basic freedoms
established by our founding fathers, and his continuous mistakes regarding
terrorism and Iraq.
...When he finally emerged from his hide-outs on remote military bases
well after the first crucial hours following the attack, he gave
sound-bytes instead of solutions.
He did not trust us to be ready to sacrifice, build up our public and
private security infrastructure, or cut down on our energy use to put
economic pressure on the enemy in all the nations where he hides. He
merely told us to shop, spend, and pretend nothing was wrong.
Rather than using the billions of dollars expended on the invasion of Iraq
to shore up our boundaries and go after Osama bin Laden and the Saudi
Arabian terrorists, the funds were used to initiate a war with what Bush
called a more immediate menace, Saddam Hussein, in oil-rich Iraq. After
all, Bush said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction trained on America. We
believed him, just as we believed it when he reported that Iraq was the
heart of terrorism. We trusted him.
...We presumed the President had solid proof of the existence of these
weapons, what and where they were, even as the search continued.
Otherwise, our troops would be in much greater danger and the premise for
a hurried-up invasion would be moot, allowing more time to solicit
assistance from our allies.
...Once and for all, George Bush was President of the United States on
that day. No one else. He had been President nine months, he had been
officially warned of just such an attack a full month before it happened.
As President, ultimately he and only he was responsible for our failure to
avert those attacks.
We should expect that a sitting President would vacation less, if at all,
and instead tend to the business of running the country, especially if he
is, as he likes to boast, a "wartime president." America is in service 365
days a year. We don't need a part-time President who does not show up for
duty as Commander-In-Chief until he is forced to, and who is in a constant
state of blameless denial when things don't get done.
What has evolved from the virtual go-it-alone conquest of Iraq is more
gruesome than a stain on a White House intern's dress. America's
reputation and influence in the world has diminished, leaving us with
brute force as our most persuasive voice.
Iraq is now a quagmire: no WMDs, no substantive link between Saddam and
Osama, and no workable plan for the withdrawal of our troops. We are asked
to go along on faith. But remember, blind patriotism can be a dangerous
thing and 'spin' will not bring back to life a dead soldier; certainly not
a thousand of them.
Kerry has remained true to his vote granting the President the authority
to use the threat of war to intimidate Saddam Hussein into allowing
weapons inspections. He believes President Bush rushed into war before the
inspectors finished their jobs.
Kerry also voted against President Bush's $87 billion for troop funding
because the bill promoted poor policy in Iraq, privileged Halliburton and
other corporate friends of the Bush administration to profiteer from the
war, and forced debt upon future generations of Americans.
...The publishers of the Iconoclast differ with Bush on other issues,
including the denial of stem cell research, shortchanging veterans
entitlements, cutting school programs and grants, dictating what our
children learn through a thought-controlling 'test' from Washington rather
than allowing local school boards and parents to decide how young people
should be taught, ignoring the environment, and creating extraneous
language in the Patriot Act that removes some of the very freedoms that
our founding fathers and generations of soldiers fought so hard to
...The re-election of George W. Bush would be a mandate to continue on our
present course of chaos. We cannot afford to double the debt that we
already have. We need to be moving in the opposite direction.
John Kerry has 30 years of experience looking out for the American people
and can navigate our country back to prosperity and re-instill in America
the dignity she so craves and deserves. He has served us well as a highly
decorated Vietnam veteran and has had a successful career as a district
attorney, lieutenant governor, and senator.
Kerry has a positive vision for America, plus the proven intelligence,
good sense, and guts to make it happen.
That's why The Iconoclast urges Texans not to rate the candidate by his
hometown or even his political party, but instead by where he intends to
take the country.
The Iconoclast wholeheartedly endorses John Kerry.
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