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Monday, June 07, 2004

The Right Man For The Job

Demosthenes posits the theory that the executive power grab revealed by the WSJ yesterday is surprising only in the fact that it hasn't happened before. He says it's related to the weakness in our system that holds the head of government and the head of state in the same office.

When crises arise, then, there is both the opportunity and, lets face it, a clear desire for the head of state to "take charge and lead the people". If the problems of politics get in the way, then the president has a nearly irresistable opportunity to sweep those "problems" away, which usually means "emergency powers" of some sort. Once gained, these powers are very rarely given up, as there are always new "crises" to exploit to retain them.

These sorts of events are incredibly common. In fact, they're so common that the fact that the United States has never had this happen has baffled political scientists since the phenomenon was noticed. There are a number of theories as to why, but my own favorite stems from an American military tradition, which is that soldiers swear loyalty to the Constitution, not the president, despite being their "commander in chief". One of the most treasured aspects of the American system is its balance of power between judiciary, executive and legislature; while its effectiveness can sometimes be questioned, it's important in that it enshrines the idea that the United States is a country where the laws stand above the president; that the symbolic power of a head of state will never confer absolute power upon him. "L'etat c'est moi" does not apply. It is, perhaps, the only way in which one can have a powerful president without having the system fly apart in the face of crisis.

Perhaps this weakness in our system is only likely to be exploited by a special kind of chief executive, the kind who takes office in an anomolous fashion and then governs radically without a mandate from the people; the kind who sees his legitimacy stemming from God rather than the ballot box; the kind who is convinced that he is leading a great crusade rather than running a democracy on behalf of it's citizens.

Perhaps it took the unique combination of an attack on the country and a president of limited intellect and legitimacy to go that extra mile.

Spoiled Jerk

Bush bonds with leaders who see the world as he does, who in his view "get" the war on terrorism, who talk simply and straightforwardly and do not break any private commitments and understandings, officials said. Leaders who are willing to accept his point of view may be able to modify it somewhat, or gain something in return, but those looking for real negotiations or give-and-take are liable to come away disappointed, officials and diplomats say.

According to one former White House official, Bush appears to have a simple test for evaluating his fellow leaders: Good people or bad people? Do they have a vision for their countries or not?

"Whenever he talked about leaders, these were the categories he used," said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. He said a CIA official who regularly attended the president's daily intelligence briefings first pointed out to him Bush's use of these terms, which was then confirmed by his own experience as a senior policymaker in the White House.


Bush puts a lot of stock in his gut-level assessments of his fellow leaders. The fact that Russian President Vladimir Putin treasures a cross given by his mother -- and had it blessed in Israel -- convinced Bush he could deal with the former KGB operative. As a result, Bush declared after their first meeting that Putin was "very straightforward and trustworthy" and he was able to "get a sense of his soul."

Since then, Bush has continued to have close relations with Putin, who also will attend the summit, even as questions have arisen about whether Putin was smothering Russia's fragile democracy. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice said yesterday that the relationship is "so broad and deep, the presidents could talk about anything on the map" when they meet at the summit.

Jayzuz. I cringe every time I think of this silly little man making judgments based on his "gut" reaction. What possible qualification does his "gut" have to do anything but digest peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? It's not as if his instincts ever led him to any success at anything until they bought him a governorship in 1994.

Read the whole sickening article, which outlines his "relationship" with various world leaders. He comes off as if he sees the world as high school and he's the BMOC dumb jock -- throwing his weight around, disrespectful of anybody who doesn't see things his way, stupid, crude and thuggish. (Another contrast with Reagan. Reagan didn't show disgusting manners in foreign countries. For such a blue blood, Bush is a real pig.)

And for someone who apparently judges leaders on their "vision" for their countries, does anybody know what Bush's is for this country? World domination? The Rapture? Hell in a handbasket?

Getting Old

Jesse says, " I know (from personal experience) that conservatives tend to take the elitist attitude that if you disagree with them, it's because you're either young or immature."

Jesse, you are obviously to young and immature to know what you are talking about.

Actually, you know exactly what you are talking about, but you will find that conservatives come up with something even more insulting as you get older. They simply say that you are ill informed and stupid. Everything becomes an epistomological knife fight because you can't possible know what you claim to know because you aren't reading, watching, mind-melding the right things. And if, perchance, you are a complete freak like me and actually read, watch and mind meld that right wing drivel, unless you completely eschew any other type of drivel you are being brainwashed and cannot be relied upon to know reality from never-never land.

This argument is the basis for the Right Wingnut mantras "youcontinuetoignoretheFACTS", "youcan'tstandtolookattheFACTS", "thesearetheFACTSprovemewrong."

And, what's worse is that when you get older they haul out the "if you're not a liberal when you're young you have no heart, but if you're not a conservative when you're old you have no head" chestnut. (To which I usually think, "no, if you're a conservative, young or old, you get no head," which I'm quite sure must be true judging from their hysterical reaction to Clinton's little hallway forays.)

In any case, conservatives remain condescending and rude throughout your life. Growing older won't cure it.

The Third Degree

It's interesting that the crack lawyers who devised this new immunity from war crimes evoked the Nuremberg defense. Aside from the obvious fact that the Nuremberg defense failed spectacularly, it is also interesting because one of the war crimes the Nuremberg defendents, which included the SS, SA and the Gestapo as well as individuals, were tried and convicted of were using what they believed to be a legally prescribed interrogation method they called "the third degree." I'm sure you've all heard of it:

The GESTAPO and SD conducted third degree interrogations. On 26 October 1939 an order to all GESTAPO offices from the RSHA signed Mueller, "by order," in referring to execution of protective custody during the war, stated in part:

"In certain cases, the Reichsfuehrer SS and Chief of the German Police will order flogging in addition to detention in a concentration camp. Orders of this kind will, in the future, also be transmitted to the State Police District Office concerned. In this case, too, there is no objection to spreading the rumour of this increased punishment. ***" (1531-PS)

On 12 June 1942 the Chief of the Security Police and SD, through Mueller, published an order authorizing the use of third degree methods in interrogating where preliminary investigation indicates that the prisoner could give information on important facts such as subversive activities, but not to extort confessions of the prisoner's own crimes. The order stated in part:

"*** 2. Third degree may, under this supposition, only be employed against Communists, Marxists, Jehovah's Witnesses, saboteurs, terrorists, members of resistance movements, parachute agents, anti-social elements, Polish or Soviet-Russian loafers or tramps. In all other cases, my permission must first be obtained.
"*** 4. Third degree can, according to the circumstances, consist amongst other methods, of:

very simple diet (bread and water)
hard bunk
dark cell
deprivation of sleep
exhaustive drilling also in flogging (for more than 20 strokes a doctor must be consulted)." (1531-PS)

George W. Bush has been making comparisons between the "War On Terrorism" and WWII. I didn't realize that in this sequel we were the Germans.

Update: Just in case Rummy's lawyers need a head start on a Nuremberg defense for third degree interrogation war crimes, here's the one the German defense lawyers used. I think they may actually be familiar with it already:

The prosecution accuses the Gestapo of having employed the third degree method of interrogation. I had already spoken about this when I discussed the question whether the methods employed by the Gestapo were criminal. At this point I have the following to say with reference to this accusation:

The documents submitted by the prosecution made it perfectly clear that it was only permissible to employ third degree methods of interrogation in exceptional cases, only with the observance of certain protective guarantees and only by order of higher authorities. Furthermore, it was not permissible to use these methods in order to force a confession; they could only be employed in the case of a refusal to give information vital to the interests of the State, and finally, only in the event of certain factual evidence.

Entire sections of the Gestapo, such as the counter- intelligence police and frontier police, have never carried out third degree interrogations. In the occupied territories, where occupation personnel were daily threatened by attempts on their lives, more severe methods of interrogation were permitted, if it was thought that in this manner the lives of German soldiers and officials might be protected against such threatened attempts. Torture of any kind was never officially condoned. It can be gathered from the affidavits submitted, for instance, numbers 2, 3, 4, 61, and 63, and from the testimonies of witnesses Knochen, Hermann, Straub, Albath, and Best, that the officials of the Gestapo were continuously instructed during training courses and at regular intervals, to the effect that any ill-treatment during interrogations, in fact any ill-treatment of detainees in general, was prohibited.

See? The Germans didn't believe in ill-treatment of "detainees," either. But, sometimes they just had to use harsher measures when the security of the state was at stake. Surely, anyone can understand that.

Not that they didn't have a few bad apples who took things too far from time to time. Doesn't everybody?

From The Beginning

I posted a short piece last month about Rumsfeld approving extraordinary "interrogation techniques" from the LA Times. Looking at it now, the timing implies that this is the same shocking memo that the Wall Street Journal reported on in detail today.

What the Wall Street Journal Story doesn't say is that the permission to torture was sought by none other than our good friend General Geoff D. Ripper, the man currently in charge of cleaning up Abu Ghraib prison. From the earlier LA Times story:

Rumsfeld approved in April 2003 a request five months earlier by Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, who had arrived at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in November 2002 to oversee prisoners. Miller sought permission to use a broad range of extraordinary 'nondoctrinal' questioning techniques on an Al Qaeda detainee, a general with the Pentagon's Judge Advocate General's office said, speaking on condition of anonymity.


The effort to define how far interrogators can go in pressuring detainees for information without violating international law exposed the rift between interrogators and JAG lawyers, who considered some of the techniques Miller proposed to be illegal.

'You had intelligence officials that might have been pulling in a direction that was different from the lawyers,' Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita said. 'It's a competitive process.'


Rumsfeld trimmed the list of requested interrogation techniques by about one-third, and he insisted that he personally approve a 'handful' of techniques, the senior Pentagon lawyer and the JAG official said. Rumsfeld approved the revised proposal in April 2003."

I commented at the end of my earlier piece that if it is true that Rumsfeld himself signed off on specific acts of torture it was the kind of evidence that war crimes trials were made of. Silly me. Today's WSJ story reveals that the administration knew very well they were giving General Ripper explicit permission to commit war crimes and went to extraordinary lengths to fashion legal loopholes in order to set Don, Dick and Geoffrey's minds at ease that they couldn't be prosecuted. And they did it all under the newly discovered doctrine of Presidential Infallibillity.

To protect subordinates should they be charged with torture, the memo advised that Mr. Bush issue a "presidential directive or other writing" that could serve as evidence, since authority to set aside the laws is "inherent in the president."

Unbenownst to anyone up to now, the US Constitution is apparently the basis for a legal dictatorship. Very interesting indeed that such a radical new interpretation of presidential power should be "discovered" by an administration that was installed by a 5 to 4 vote by the Supreme Court, isn't it?

What's the old saying, "begin as you mean to go on?" They went on as they began, all right, using all levers of power in service of their desired goals regardless of legal precedent or constitutional legitimacy. We shouldn't be surprised. This is what people who pursue power for its own sake always do.

Hitch's Epiphany

Christopher Hitchens calls Reagan a senile old lizard, dumb as as a stump and worse. He compiles a list of Reagan's greatest hits from Iran Contra to greenlighting the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

But, then he remembers all the silly liberals who wished Democrats had been in power when the Soviets threw in the towel and has "been wondering ever since not just about the stupidity of American politics, but about the need of so many American intellectuals to prove themselves clever by showing that they are smarter than the latest idiot in power, or the latest Republican at any rate."

He used to be a pretty tough fellow but the inherent cognitive dissonance associated with Junior worship is making him soft and mushy. He's reduced to claiming repressed memories of the day he discovered that his intellectual superiority demanded that he embrace dumb luck as the guiding principle in the fight against totalitarianism. I think I finally understand why he became a drunk.

Con Artists In Arms

EMPHYRIO has all the goods on Chalabi's bosom pal and fellow INC flim flammer, Francis Brooke, the man who is now under indictment from the Iraqi police --- whatever that means.

What's truly creepy is that this guy seems to be some kind of avenging fundamentalist firebreather on top of everything else (or so he says):

Francis Brooke says he would support the elimination of Saddam, even if every single Iraqi were killed in the process. He means it. "I'm coming from a place different from you," he says in the soft southern drawl one hears from preachers and con men. "I believe in good and evil. That man is absolute evil and must be destroyed."

It has become clear to me that the neocon intellectual infrastructure was actually some kind of affirmative action program for right wing freaks of all stripes who didn't have any business connections. How else can you explain the absurdity of a fundamentalist Left Behinder becoming the errand boy to a cosmopolitan, muslim con artist like Chalabi?

I'm beginning to think that the smart thing to do rather than build a media message apparatus, would be to simply infiltrate the one the GOP has already funded and start using it for ourselves. How hard can it be to get a sinecure at one of these thinktankmedia operations? Clearly, you don't have to have any experience or track record --- look at Brooke. This could be the answer folks. They won't even know it's happened.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

I'm Shocked

Oh, what a big asshole I am for even suggesting that the Republicans would wrap Reagan's legacy around Junior like a mink coat on a WalMart greeter.

From the shores of Normandy to President Bush's campaign offices outside Washington, Mr. Bush and his political advisers embraced the legacy of Ronald Reagan on Sunday, suggesting that even in death, Mr. Reagan had one more campaign in him — this one at the side of Mr. Bush.

In France, Mr. Bush heralded the late president as a "gallant leader in the cause of freedom," and lionized him in an interview with Tom Brokaw. In Washington, Mr. Bush's aides said that it was Ronald Reagan as much as another president named Bush who was the role model for this president, and they talked of a campaign in which Mr. Reagan would be at least an inspirational presence

Mr. Bush's advisers said Sunday that the intense focus on Mr. Reagan's career that began upon the news of his death on Saturday would remind Americans of what Mr. Bush's supporters have long described as the similarities between the two men as straight-talking, ideologically driven leaders with swagger and a fixed idea of what they wanted to do with their office.

"Americans are going to be focused on President Reagan for the next week," said Ed Gillespie, the Republican national chairman. "The parallels are there. I don't know how you miss them."

Yes they are. Except Reagan, it turns out, had an excuse.

Other Republicans worry that Bush might not hold up so well by comparison:

Some Republicans said the images of a forceful Mr. Reagan giving dramatic speeches on television provided a less-than-welcome contrast with Mr. Bush's own appearances these days, and that it was not in Mr. Bush's interest to encourage such comparisons. That concern was illustrated on Sunday, one Republican said, by televised images of Mr. Reagan's riveting speech in Normandy commemorating D-Day in 1984, followed by Mr. Bush's address at a similar ceremony on Sunday.

"Reagan showed what high stature that a president can have — and my fear is that Bush will look diminished by comparison," said one Republican sympathetic to Mr. Bush, who did not want to be quoted by name criticizing the president.

No kidding. As I've been watching the mediawhore self-serving treacle marathon, I've been struck by just how good Reagan really was on television. He had tremendous confidence before the camera, as a professional actor would, and performed the role of president with humor and flair. Compared to him Junior is playing the second lead in the Midland Junior High version of "Grease." Let's face it, even when Bush was deep into his Top Gun phase, he looked more like a member of the Village People than the steely-eyed rocket man. He can't even ride a fucking horse, fergawdsake.

Reagan looked good in the costume. Bush always looks like he's swimming in suits a size too big. They're just not in the same league.

Whoopsie Daisy:

The United States and its allies are winning some battles in the terrorism war but may be losing the broader struggle against Islamic extremism that is terrorism's source, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Saturday.

The troubling unknown, he said, is whether the extremists -- whom he termed ''zealots and despots'' bent on destroying the global system of nation-states -- are turning out newly trained terrorists faster than the United States can capture or kill them.

''It's quite clear to me that we do not have a coherent approach to this,'' Rumsfeld said at an international security conference."

Should we put this quote on every campaign web-site, bumper sticker and campaign commercial going forward?

Heavens, yes.

The People's Choice

Here's The Hunting of the President Trailer.

The witchhunt was bullshit then, it is bullshit now and it will be bullshit in the history books. We were lucky to have a president in office who had such resiliance, intelligence and guts or they might very well have succeeded in fundamentally changing our system of government.

It will be a long time coming before anybody attempts a partisan impeachment again. It turns out the people didn't much like having a bunch of hypocritical Washington politicians and TV stars decide their choice for president wasn't acceptable, something which the Republicans refused to understand even after they were soundly slapped in 1998. So, they again manipulated the system to deny the citizens their choice as president in 2000, and this time it worked.

I suspect they will get another hard lesson in democracy this November. And once again, the question is whether they will heed it.

Those Incredible Neocons

Josh Marshall and others continue to be a bit gobsmacked that Chalabi defenders like Gingrich and Perle aren't getting the message from the neocons inside the administration that their boy did, in fact, do something very, very bad.

Today Josh asks around thinking that the insider neos might not be convinced themselves, but comes up once again with the news that everybody who has any info on this is convinced that Chalabi is guilty as sin. Clearly, they have let that be known to their fellow travellers.

Which leads us to the obvious conclusion that Newt and Perle and the rest of the die-hards don't give a damn if Chalabi sold the country down the river to the Iranians, nor do they care about this silly concept of "credibility." Their experience is that there is no such thing. You hold your ground, keep pushing your position no matter what the circumstances or the facts may be, and eventually people will move on, forget the details and you will have lost nothing. Where there is no accountability there is no such thing as credibility.

Newt in particular is a master at this. He has said and done the most outrageous, radical, hypocritical things imaginable over his career, he has failed spectacularly, was forced to leave congress and yet he continues to be welcomed to the DOD, the White House, the GOP think tank apparatus and the media as an elder statesman and intellectual guiding light. Why would a small matter of espionage shake his belief in Chalabi's usefulness as a Republican tool?

On the other hand, one might also ask whether there is a more personal motive people might have for continuing to defend Chalabi in spite of what appears to be a universal acknowledgement within the administration of his guilt. Just how much classified information does the Defense Policy Board have access to, I wonder?

Update: Kevin quotes Danielle Pletka, one of Chalabi's most ardent cheerleaders, as now saying that Chalabi may have given secrets to Iran, but it's not that big of a deal because he isn't an American citizen and "owes us no fealty."

It is almost beyond comprehension that the ultra-patriots on the Right have the gall to say these things and even more shocking that they aren't called on it.

Dick Cheney wanted to put those Lackawanna boys down at Gitmo and throw away the key becaue they'd been to Afghanistan. Instead they were given 8 to 10 years in prison. Chalabi, a high level double agent for a member of the axis of evil, a man who was paid millions of dollars by US taxpayers and spent time in the salons and offices of the biggest Washington movers and shakers for the last ten years, is not prosecutable and presumably should be left to do as he pleases. Jayzuz. That's some moral clarity for ya.

The hell with that. If we're dragging poppy farmers out of caves in Afghanistan based on the word of some informant we've bribed with $5,000, I think we can "detain" Mr Chalabi and send him down to Gitmo for a little of that patented General Ripper interrogation. Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan --- it's all part of the GWOT, right?

Get Over Yourselves

Since I seem to have been linked numerous times to grieving websites as an example of the depravity of the left because of my alleged hateful comments, let me just point out one thing.

I made not one disparaging remark about Ronald Reagan in either one of my posts yesterday. All insults were directed at the followers who would exploit his death, mostly by using it (as they use everything) as a weapon against their political enemies and a media whose love of funeral porn is exceeded only by its love of celebrity scandal.

I have nothing but sympathy for his family. It's the rest of you who are the target of my disdain. Just so you know.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

RIP Ronnie

You were better than George W. Bush.

Bobo's Confused

Hey, I'm just curious, but did David Brooks have some sort of brain tumor or accident that gave him amnesia about the years 1992 to yesterday?

He seems to be having a lot of trouble understanding why the country is so polarized. The only way to explain this would be if he had been unconscious during the years that his party has spent lying, cheating, intimidating, bullying and harrassing the "liberals" as if they were some sort of sub-human species that had no right to participate in the political realm.

Perhaps someone should send Bobo a copy of this:


There can be no doubt that we live in one of the most tumultuous political climates of the nation's history, a climate where politicians can be toppled on a whim, election results disputed in the country's highest courts, and governors unceremoniously recalled. It's enough to leave even the most cynical voter asking, how did this happen?

Harry Thomason and Nickolas Perry's incendiary documentary, based on the best-selling book by Gene Lyons and Joe Conason, offers a glimpse at the genesis of these partisan vendettas and explores the myths and truths behind the nearly ten year campaign to systematically destroy the political legacy of the Clintons.

Using previously unreleased materials, interviews, and shocking revelations from both sides of the beltway, this probing work focuses on the smear campaign against Clinton from his gubernatorial days in Arkansas leading up to and including his impeachment trial. Kenneth Starr fans, beware.

Less of an advocacy film and more of an alarming treatise on the political power of the media and personal interests, The Hunting of the President offers us a gallery of defeated politicians, disappointed office seekers, right-wing pamphleteers, wealthy eccentrics, zany private detectives, religious fanatics and die-hard segregationists, all chiming in discord from the tops of their soapboxes.

It would make a nice summer double bill with Fahrenheit 911, don't you think?

Lettin' It Rip

Al Gore, continuing his stinging criticism of the Bush administration, denounced the war in Iraq and deplored the downturn in the U.S. economy.

The former Democratic vice president stopped short of reiterating his demands for the resignations of high-ranking officials in President Bush's cabinet.

Gore last week blamed Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and others for bungling the war in Iraq.

``We have a responsibility to set this right,'' Gore told a crowd of more than 1,500 supporters, ``Our standing in this world has been damaged very badly.''

Gore said U.S. voters still had a chance to help the country regain credibility on the global stage by removing the current administration and electing John Kerry, the leading Democratic for November's presidential election.

``If this nation in November should affirm this administration, then we would be saying that's us,'' Gore said.

I have always had a huge soft spot for Al Gore. There's something about the guy that always hit me as very human, earnest and real. I know that goes against all the CW, but that's how he's always seemed to me, even back in the 80's.

And, I think my instincts were actually right. What happened to Al Gore after that absurd election campaign he was forced to wage against a forked tongued wind-up doll(and I'm talking about Kit Seelye) and then the recount fiasco, is that he stepped back and decided to --- as he himself said --- let it rip. That is a very rare thing. Rather than stay in the game (the nomination was his if he'd wanted it) he decided to use his position as the "real" president, and all the press attention that receives, to just say what he really thinks.

And it's thrilling for those of us who feel like we are screaming into the ether. He's a blogger with giant megaphone who points out that the emperor has no clothes, just as we all have been doing in our small way for the last three years. I don't think it is calculated beyond the fact that he probably doesn't want to hurt Kerry's chances. But, he's not running for anything and he has no reason to do this except that he believes it's the right thing to do. (Even his media venture does not necessarily benefit from it, although it might. It certainly isn't the safe route.)

And there is something about the truth that Al Gore is speaking that scares the living hell out of the Right. It's the same with Soros. You can tell by the patented Fox-style coordinated hysterical reactions. Whenever they start foaming at the mouth in unison (and whenever the little presstarts start their ecstatic dance around the pyre) you know that somebody has hit a nerve. Remember, the Right only exists in two modes --- smug and rabid. And rabid is their defense mechanism.

So, here's to Gore and Soros and others who are outside of the political process but are willing to spend their capital and risk their personal prestige to shape the debate, spread some truth and take some hits in the process. It's the highest form of citizenship.

On the same subject, check out The Daily Howler's four part bitch slap to the assholes who said Gore was "crazy" "unhinged" "off his meds" and all the rest when he gave his prescient speech last year requesting that the administration lay out its post war plans for Iraq. It was brilliant, passionate and articulate but if you didn't see it and only saw the press reaction you would have thought it was well...a George W. Bush press conference --- ridiculous, embarrassing and dumb. But that's how things work in Junior's America. Black is white and up is down. Guys like Gore and Soros are out there pouring cold water down the rabbit hole and they don't like it.

Uh Oh

I've been worried about this. When Ronald Reagan dies, the Right and its media handmaidens are going to go into a fit of maudlin masturbation the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be non-stop GOP triumphalism from dawn to dusk. JFK's funeral will look like a trailer park trash $2,000 special compared to the spectacle we are going to endure for days on end. Lay in a supply of pepto-bismol. It's not in their DNA to handle this with any grace, restraint or class.

And, unfortunately, it will serve to reinforce the delusion that Republicans, even stupid ones, are the right people to lead us on the world stage. Reagan, after all, personally smote communism with one hand tied behind his back. Everybody knows that. And if they didn't before the impending canonization, they soon will. Unfortunately, he didn't have time to take out "evil" before he was forced to retire. Thank Gawd Crusader Codpiece is here to fulfill his legacy.

By the time we're done, The Reagan Cult headed by swami Grover Norquist, will have probably succeeded in renaming the country the Ronald Reagan States of America.

Friday, June 04, 2004


The Poor Man scours the internet for opinions about John Kerry's new slogan, and there are many. In the end he concludes:

I still think that my suggestion - '"My Name Is Prince (And I Am Funky)" - would be better, but it would require that Kerry change his name to "Prince". And, also, that he become funky. Perhaps a bit ambitious.

More Dem naysaying. John Kerry be straight up boo-yah, my brothah.

I Told The Iraqi People We're Good And I Expect 'Em To Believe It, Goddamit!

THE PRESIDENT: I'd love to go back to Iraq at some point in time, I really would. I'd like to be able to stand up and say, let me tell you something about America. America is a land that's willing to sacrifice on your behalf. We sent our sons and daughters here so you can be free. And not only that, we are a compassionate country. We want to help you rebuild your schools and your hospitals. I'd like to do that, I really would.

Yessiree. The Iraqi people need to hear what's going on from me personally so they'll know it's true. Then maybe they'll understand that this war isn't about them. This war's about us 'n our goodness. See, that's what they don't understand. We give and we give and we give and we give...


Quote Via The Road To Surfdom, which you must read to catch up with Junior's little sandbox mate, Australian Prime Minister Howard. Hilarious.

Deadlines Schmeadlines

Republicans are very, very strict about following the law to the letter, even when it doesn't make sense. And they are even more strict about adhering to arbitrary deadlines, regardless of the principle that underlies the issue at hand. In fact, Republicans believe that arbitrary deadlines in election contests are the very lifesblood of democracy. Where would we be if you can just change the rules as you go along?

Or, at least they did during the Florida recount in 2000. The initial issue, if you recall, was the fact that while Gore was following the process laid out by the legislature (and which had been used without controversy in past statewide races) by requesting recounts in certain districts, the deadline for the recount to be submitted to Kathryn Harris' office was physically impossible to meet. The legal issue was whether or not the statute, under the state's constitutional requirement to determine the will of the voters, required Harris to extend the certification deadline.

The Republicans argued vociferously that hand counts were unreliable in the first place, but more importantly arbitrary deadlines were the very foundation upon which our legal system rested and for the courts to change them under some constitutional flim flam like "every vote must be counted" was judicial activism at its worst. Deadlines are sacrosanct or the rule of law is nothing but toilet paper.

I guess its toilet paper.

What was once a fundamental threat to our system of government is now a "glitch."

For want of a small change to the Illinois election law, President Bush's name is not supposed to be on the state's November ballot, but officials said one way or another, it will be there.

The glitch arose because the Illinois legislature adjourned earlier this week without extending the Aug. 30 deadline for presidential candidates to be certified by the state elections board and qualify for the Nov. 2 ballot.

The relatively late dates of this year's Republican Party convention, running Aug. 30 to Sept. 2, mean that Bush will not be the official nominee until after the deadline set in state law. Eight other states had the same problem but fixed the date. As a result Illinois, is the only state where Bush could be left off the ballot.

But Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat, indicated the problem must be fixed somehow. ``President Bush has to be on the ballot,'' he said.

Illinois' Democratic-majority legislature is expected to hold an overtime session soon that will require a three-fifths majority to enact any legislation -- including a change in the ballot rule.

``We're confident he is going to be on the ballot,'' said Illinois Republican Party spokesman Jason Gerwig. ``There are plenty of options out there to ensure that he is. This isn't a last-ditch effort.''

Gerwig said that if the legislature fails to act, the party is prepared to appeal to the elections board, the state attorney general and, finally, the federal courts.

If anyone has the kind of free time that allows for it, they should go back and read the Republican oral arguments to the Florida Supreme Court on the necessity of strict deadlines, respect for the legislative process and the need to set standards. It's a great reminder of just how full of shit they were then and still are today. By their own measure there is no way that Bush should be allowed on that ballot. I would love to see the Democrats make them argue for why he should be. You can bet that if the shoe were on the other foot, Kerry would be forced to take it all the way to the Supreme Court.

Update: No surprise here, but Florida voting is still amazingly screwed up. I hope that the DNC is planning to have many, many precinct watchers present with cell phones and digital cameras (and security guards...)

Thanks Donkey

Meme Vaccine

Before the meme spreads, let's try to knock it out with a good dose of pre-emptive truth.

George Tenet is not responsible for the fact that the administration's claims that Saddam's WMD and terrorist ties were bogus --- the president, vice president and secretary of defense are. George Tenet is personally responsible to the extent that he was a good little soldier instead of resigning as he should have when he realized that they were just making shit up. That particular form of integrity seems to be as out of fashion as firing people for incompetence.

People note that according to Bob Woodward, Tenet responded to the "skeptical" president that the WMD was a "slam dunk," which is taken as some sort of proof that Bush was hoodwinked against his own better instincts. This is nonsense. As Bob Sommerby has pointed out, this conversation took place in December of 2002, three months after Bush had begun riding his white charger all over the country proclaiming that we had to "disarm Saddam Hussein." He rode that horse to a narrow midterm victory for the GOP, flanked by flags and teary eyed country troubadours to great effect. If he wasn't sure of the evidence, he certainly didn't show any sign of it when he was calling the Democrats a bunch of cowards who didn't care about national security and warning them that they would be punished by the voters if they didn't vote for war.

If anything, Bush should be heavily criticized for not asking that question before he embarked on his crusade instead of waiting until we were poised to invade. That Tenet erroneously validated Bush's obvious wish to believe is no testament to his courage. But, if he hadn't said "it's a slam dunk" it's hardly believable that Bush would have pulled the country back from war at that point. The marketing roll out had long since begun and there was no going back.

However, let's be clear. The CIA never claimed that Saddam had nukes or terrorist ties. What they believed was that Saddam had a cache of chemical and bio weapons. Indeed, Tenet testified before congress that the most likely scenario in which Saddam might use those weapons was an American invasion of Iraq. (That was a very confusing addition to the debate and one which was simply swept under the carpet.)

So, I'm not defending the unbelievably lousy intelligence on Iraq. Clearly, we have some very serious problems. Before Gulf War I we were apparently clueless that Saddam had been quite far along with a nuclear program. So, in response we apparently assumed that he had super human talents and overestimated his abilities from that point forward. There is little doubt that the CIA is less James Bond than Inspector Clouseau. (It's a shame that Bush and company felt it necessary to be transparent about this aspect of our government at a time when terrorists are trying to kill us. But, that's our lil' Crusader Codpiece -- pretty much doing the exact opposite of the smart thing every single time.)

Having said that, the neocons have always been even more wrong than the CIA. For a quarter century they have have been screaming that the sky is falling, from the grossly incorrect Team B in the 1970's to the Office of Special Plans fantasy camp in the pentagon post 9/11. They have consistently overestimated the military strength and super-villainous intentions of our enemies to the point at which one could conclude that we should invade and occupy the entire world, just to be on the safe side. In fact, that is the underlying premise of "Rebuilding America's Defenses."

The war was sold on the nuclear and terrorist threat and the grand delusion of a reverse domino theory in the region. All of that was bullshit. George Tenet is guilty of attaching his personal prestige as the director of the CIA to that disinformation program. But, let's not let the neocons get away with pinning the entire Iraq cock-up on him. This was a neocon program from day one.

For more:

Center For American Progress Talking Points

Thursday, June 03, 2004

More Than Meets The Eye

I think Kevin at The American Street has the right idea about this latest navel gazing about blogosphere demographics with his post called 73% of bloggers are human. Check it out. He's definitely one of the 73%.

Also check out his nice round-up of the latest polls on the battleground states.

Little Big Man

If you take out the Indian reservation, we would have won," said Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), former chairman of the NRCC.

On the other hand, if you take out the assholes, Herseth would have won in a landslide.

The Fall Of Western Civilization

From Geraldine Sealey of Salon's War Room '04,

Lou Sheldon's Traditional Values Coalition is alerting parents to yet another danger lurking in children's entertainment. This time, the offender is a supposedly 'transgender' bartender in Shrek 2. This bartender has stubble yet wears a dress and has 'female breasts,' the TVC alert warns. Confusing matters further, the bartender's voice is that of Larry King.

The Delicate Arts

TBogg links to Peggy Nooners latest presription drug induced column, in which she writes something quite startling:

The rise of England's acting class the past century seems to coincide perfectly with the fall of its power as a wealthy and powerful nation that made a difference in the world--an exploring nation, a conquering one.

I wondered if the loss of a kind of national manliness, or force, tends to coincide in modern nations with a rise in expertise in the delicate arts. Then I thought: I wonder if in general one can say of Western nations that the loss of one tends to be accompanied by a rise in the other. In the case of England I think that is so.

But, what do you suppose it means when the national manliness, or "force" is embodied by someone who, although he has a lovely foot and makes the dolphins sing with joy, was a practitioner of the delicate art for more than 40 years?

Can it be that it was Ronald Reagan's terrible acting that actually led to the end of the cold war?

Food for thought, Peg. (Pass me one of those little blue babies while you're at it.)

Working The Refs

Robert Parry walked the walk as a journalist who reported on Iran Contra in the 80's and got punished for it.

He says that The New York Times WMD scandal (shall we call it Millergate?) is indicative of a subtle and not so subtle conservative coercion over the last 25 years.

Okrent’s critique on May 30 and the editors' correction on May 26 ignore the elephant sitting in the middle of the American journalistic living room: For a variety of reasons – including fear – major U.S. news outlets have given a conservative slant to the news, systematically, for much of the past quarter century. Mainstream journalists simply are afraid to go against how conservatives want the news presented. Otherwise, they risk getting denounced as "liberal" or even "anti-American" and seeing their careers suffer.

Working journalists recognize that there is far less pressure from the left, certainly nothing that would endanger their careers. Plus, they know that many of their senior editors and corporate executives personally favor Republican positions, especially in international affairs.

So, out of self-interest and self-protection, journalists tilt their reporting to the right, all the better to pay their mortgages, put their kids through school, and get invited to some nifty Washington parties. Especially on national security issues, no one wants to get labeled a “blame-America-firster,” in Jeane Kirkpatrick’s memorable phrase, or in the case of Iraq, “a Saddam sympathizer.”

This is someone who's been in those trenches and he should know. His advice sounds right to me too:

Some Americans who agree that the U.S. news media operates with a pro-conservative bias have told me that the answer should simply be to demand that journalists live up to their professional duties, even if that means losing their jobs. While correct on an ethical level, that approach has practical shortcomings since the ousted honest journalists would simply become object lessons for the reporters left behind, much as Bonner was in the 1980s and Webb in the 1990s. The fear of standing up to the right-wing attack groups would only grow.

A different strategy would call for major investments in independent journalism, which could generate good stories, provide jobs for honest reporters, and create new media outlets that can resist conservative pressure. The Air America talk-radio network offers an example of how that media might take shape, despite its early financial troubles.

Independent journalistic outlets must reach out to mainstream Americans with reliable information that, in turn, can put competitive pressure on the New York Times and other publications to keep pace with good journalism, not succumb to conservative political pressure. The mainstream press will only change its ways when it realizes the American people won't stand for anything else.

And we can also support online efforts like Parry's ConsortiumNews, which is always excellent --- expertly researched and extremely interesting.

Incandescent With Horror

Howell Raines says that a lot of us Democrats are pining for the exuberant days and clarity of Bill Clinton's campaign message. I know I greatly miss Howell's exuberant obsession with David Bossie's bait shop gossip and Clinton's manly member and I'm sure he does too.

Yes, it was an innocent time, a time before people like Raines aided and abetted partisan witch hunts that led to impeachment for blowjobs, a time before electoral legitimacy was conferred by cronies instead of votes, a time before a president was allowed to walk the streets naked as powerful media figures like Raines exuberantly described the three piece suit he wasn't wearing. It was a time before the country's credibility had been shattered, the magnificent might of our military and intelligence strength had been exposed as a paper tiger and our allies and enemies alike hated us with an unmatched fervor. In fact, the only thing that can be compared to that time is the huge job losses and enormous budget deficits of both Bush presidencies.

Yes, it is indeed a new day. But as far as Howell is concerned Kerry is blowing it big time. And the thing is that he sounds like he cares deeply that Kerry wins. Howell, you see, a southern liberal of the new school, is just offering his heartfelt good advice to the campaign. As the former editorial page editor and then editor of The NY Times, he surely knows what he's talking about. This was once the most powerful opinion leader in the liberal media.

First, he informs us that Bush and the Republicans are masters at "hammer-and-chisel" politics and shouldn't be underestimated. Who can argue? I don't recall ever reading anything like that during the 2000 election when Bush was receiving adoring front page profiles about how he fed his dogs and cats in the morning and travelled with his pillow, but I understand. Compared to the degenerate, corrupt treasonous incubus Bill Clinton and his sidekick, the mentally unstable Al Gore, Bush was a breath of fresh air.

Howell also informs us that despite Bush's poll numbers, the news is really quite good for him and the Democrats ought to be shaking things up. Keep in mind that this is the analysis of one of the most powerful political opinion leaders in the country for the last decade:

While Bush's poll figures look sickly to the unschooled eye, his 40% support level does contain some good news for him. It shows that his base of cultural and political conservatives is holding together - so far. White House strategists are betting that leaving Iraq in 30 days - no matter what chaos ensues in that country - will leave them time to revise history between now and election day and, more importantly, get on with the work of destroying Kerry's image.

To the schooled or unschooled or homeschooled eye, a 40% approval rating for an incumbent president is sickly.

But, more importantly, when did the president announce that we are leaving Iraq in 30 days? Wow, what a scoop! When Johnny comes marching home, you just know that Bush is getting a big lift in the polls --- and then they get on with the work of destroying Kerry's image.

Frankly, I don't see why they would bother. With good "liberals" like Raines around, it isn't going to be necessary. For the rest of the article, Howell fills his British audience in on all of John Kerry's hideous faults, faults which are so huge that even the fact that the incumbent is running at 40%, is barely hanging on to his base, has presided over more job losses than anyone since Hoover, and has single handedly destroyed this country's hard won credibility, prestige and leadership around the globe --- even despite all that, Kerry's flaws are so huge that he will lose:

"...he rounded up a series of experienced hair-splitters from the Clinton years - Richard C Holbrooke, James Rubin, Sandy Berger - and they produced a script that would have played very well before the Council on Foreign Relations.


Every time I talk to a reporter who has covered him, new doubts creep in about his ability to connect with voters.


...he's pompous in a way that Gore is not. With Gore, you feel that if he could choose, he would have been born poor and cool. Kerry radiates the feeling that he is entitled to his sense of entitlement. Probably that comes from spending too much time with Teddy Kennedy, but it's a problem.

The TV camera is an x-ray for picking up attitudinal truths, and Kerry's lantern jaw and Addams Family face somehow reinforce the message that this guy has passed from ponderous to pompous and is so accustomed to privilege that he doesn't have to worry about looking goofy.

It's as if Lurch had gone to Choate

Has anyone ever seen Mary Matalin and Howell Raines in the same room together? Just wondering.

And here's a piece of political advice so bad, I can't even caricature it:

Here's what Kerry has to face up to and build upon. The difference between him and Bush is that Kerry represents the liberal, charitable wing of the Privilege party and George W represents the conservative, greedy wing of the Privilege party.

Reminder: For the last decade this man was the leading opinion maker of the "liberal" media.

Then Raines says that Kerry whiffed on Meat The Press because he didn't stand behind his 1972 statement that some of the promoters of the Vietnam war should be viewed as war criminals

Kerry started crawfishing right away. The pity is, he was right. He could have named people starting with Robert MacNamara and McGeorge Bundy, and everybody in the country would have understood the point. That does not, I hasten to add, mean that he should have named those worthies.

Another excellent piece of advice from Howell. Kerry should have emphasized his past condemnation of the US as being war criminals. That's a message that the NASCAR Dads who are so turned off by his plummy, Brahmin elitism will respond to.

Here's what he should have done instead of apologising for the extremity of his language when in fact his language was common parlance at that time. He should have said: "Tim, what you see in that video clip is a young man fresh from the battlefield and incandescent with the horror he saw. I mourned deeply for my comrades who were killed and maimed. I felt moral conflict, as many of our soldiers and sailors did, about the civilian casualties all around us. I felt angry that our national leaders had put us into a war without an exit strategy or a way of defining victory.

"Those are the feelings aroused in me today when I see our young men and women dying in Iraq. I am older and I hope wiser and as the nominee of my party I have an obligation to use less colourful language. But my desire for a government that is both strong and wise in the use of that strength - that calls upon its young for necessary sacrifice, but does not gamble needlessly with their lives - is as deep today as it was then. I have seen the face of battle when it was my duty. That will make me a president who understands the cost of conflict, the need for judgment that balances our military power, the need for honesty with the American people about what we know and don't know about where and when to go after terrorists ..." And so on and so on.

Nothing pompous about that. The steelworkers in Pennsylvania are surely going to high five all the way down the bar when they hear the phrase "incandescent with horror." That's the message we've been looking for folks.

And, anyway, Kerry had already said earlier in response to a "gotcha" about his 1972 statement, "I'd like to see our troops dispersed through the world only at the directive of the United Nations."

SEN. KERRY: That's one of those stupid things that a 27-year-old kid says when you're fresh back from Vietnam and angry about it. I have never, ever, ever, in any vote, in any policy, in any speech, in any public statement advocated any such thing in all of the years I've been in elected office. In fact, I say the following and I say it very clearly, I will never cede the security of the United States to any institution and I will never cede our security to any other country. No country will have a veto over what we need to do to protect ourselves. But, that said, I will be a president who understands, as every president of the last century did, Tim, that multilaterism is not weakness, it is strength, and we need a president who understands how to reach out to other countries, build alliances. His father did a brilliant job of it. We need to do the kind of alliance-building that we have done traditionally.

You tell me which statement the "electorate schooled to respond to simple messages" is going to relate to.

If John Kerry, Purple Heart winner, can't take that set of [chickenhawk] facts and handle Russert as well as Messrs Bush and Cheney do, he's not likely to cause enough defections in the Christian bloc to defeat them.

First, what is this business where Raines thinks that Kerry has to get some defections from Bush's Christian "bloc" to win? WTF is he smoking?

Second, I have to catch my breath at the idea that Bush "handles" Russert well. He is barely conscious and Russert simply doesn't call him on it, that's all. Cheney lies with impunity. If that's "handling" Russert, then Kerry needs to get very,very stupid and start lying his ass off.

Which is exactly what Raines says he should do:

Kerry has to understand that when a cure is impossible, the doctor must enter the world of the deluded.

(That's so weird I don't even want to think about it. Read the piece to get the context, but it won't help.)

What does this mean in terms of campaign message? It means that he must appeal to the same emotions that attract voters to Republicans - ie greed and the desire to fix the crap-shoot in their favour.


Using that promise as disinformation, he must now figure out a creative way to become a redistributionist Democrat.


...greed will make folks vote for Democrats if it's properly packaged, just as it now makes them vote Republican, and in terms of the kind of voters Kerry must win away from Bush, I think the pot-of-gold retirement strategy is a way to work. Forget a chicken in every pot. It's time for a Winnebago in every driveway.

This is quite the cynical worldview coming from the man who thundered from the editorial pages of the "liberal" New York Times against the venality and cravenness of Hilary Clinton's 1978 cattle futures trades. The same man who almost single handedly enabled the destruction of a Democratic president because of his alleged dishonesty and personal corruption.

And this sage advice to fool the greedy rubes into voting Democratic comes from the man who in this very same column derides John Kerry for his sense of "entitlement."

Howell Raines is the perfect representative of everything that is wrong with the SCLM. They aren't really liberal and they aren't really conservative. They are shallow, bitchy elitists. Suffice to say, any advice from this guy should be taken as a sign to do the opposite. Compared to pompous ass Howell Raines, John Kerry is Elvis Presley.

Thanks for the tip, Diane

Corrected for various spelling and other mistakes. Caffeine shortage this morning.

I Can't Wait

Fahrenheit 9/11 Trailer

Via Suburban Guerrilla

Wednesday, June 02, 2004


Democrats lose even when they win, apparently. Here's the headline on the NY Times article about Herseth's win:

Could Herseth's Victory in South Dakota Hurt Daschle?

Yeah. It was a huge mistake winning that seat. Silly Democrats.

The Abu Ghraib Scandal Cover-Up?:

Strong Leadership

...the White House seems to be constructing a legal moat around the president. Its argument is that Bush's orders were simply disobeyed. Rice told the human-rights lawyers last week that the president's clear directives on observing the Geneva Conventions and anti-torture laws were not followed

Ministry Of Fear

Defense Under Secretary Douglas Feith, who is in charge of setting policy on prisoners and detainees in occupied Iraq, has banned any discussion of the still-classified report on Abu Ghraib written by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, which has circulated around the world. Shortly after the Taguba report leaked in early May, Feith subordinates sent an "urgent" e-mail around the Pentagon warning officials not to read the report, even though it was on Fox News. In the e-mail, a copy of which was obtained by NEWSWEEK, officials in Feith's office warn that the leak is being investigated for "criminal prosecution" and that no one should mention the Taguba report to anybody, even to family members. Feith has turned his office into a "ministry of fear," says one military lawyer. A spokesman for Feith, Maj. Paul Swiergosz, says the e-mail warning was intended to prevent employees from downloading a classified report onto unclassified computers.

Pressure pushing down on me
Pressing down on you no man ask for
Under pressure
That burns a building down
Splits a family in two
Puts people on streets

That’s o-kay!
It’s the terror of knowing
What this world is about
Watching some good friends
Screaming let me out!
Pray tomorrow takes me higher
Pressure on people
People on streets

It's Showtime

The Iraqi exile group headed by Ahmad Chalabi --- formerly a key ally of the Bush administration --- is suspected of leaking confidential information about U.S. war plans for Iraq to the government of Iran before last year's invasion to oust Saddam Hussein, government sources told NEWSWEEK

Somebody's got a problem.

The article doesn't go into any further detail on that, but it does feature a bunch of neocons (called here "political activists" which cracks me up) in high dudgeon screaming about "witch hunts."

People might be able to chalk up all this espionage, treason type talk as partisanship or business as usual in the nation's capital, except it's got nothing to do with the Democrats!! This is a Republican show all the way and all we have to do is bring the popcorn.

Oh, and by the way:

President Bush also distanced himself from Chalabi, saying he had only met the Iraqi very briefly a few times.

Who is this Chalabi you speak of?

If that's on camera, it would make a nice video companion to his notorious "I believe I met Mr Lay when he was working for my opponent."

And I think the more pertinent question is how many times did President Cheney meet with Mr Chalabi, anyway.

Josh Marshall points out the ultimate paragraph of this piece which is a real killer:

One Bush administration official said that in addition to harboring suspicions that Chalabi had been leaking sensitive U.S. information to Iran both before and after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, some U.S. officials also believe that Chalabi had collected and maintained files of potentially damaging information on U.S. officials with whom he had or was going to interact for the purpose of influencing them. Some officials said that when Iraqi authorities raided Chalabi’s offices, one of the things American officials hoped they would look for was Chalabi’s cache of information he had gathered on Americans.

I'm having milk duds too. This is going to be good.

Via Atrios, the actual Bush comments from yesterday:

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. Chalabi is an Iraqi leader that's fallen out of favor within your administration. I'm wondering if you feel that he provided any false information, or are you particularly --


Q Yes, with Chalabi.

THE PRESIDENT: My meetings with him were very brief. I mean, I think I met with him at the State of the Union and just kind of working through the rope line, and he might have come with a group of leaders. But I haven't had any extensive conversations with him.

Q I guess I'm asking, do you feel like he misled your administration, in terms of what the expectations were going to be going into Iraq?

THE PRESIDENT: I don't remember anybody walking into my office saying, Chalabi says this is the way it's going to be in Iraq.

If you haven't already seen it, go read the patented Eschaton takedown of this obvious lie.

Woolcott on Bush's Women

Vanity Fair's James Wolcott gives the women closest to President Bush a very rough going-over in the latest issue - portraying mom Barbara Bush as a nasty piece of work, wife Laura as timid and ineffectual, former Bush aide Karen Hughes as a wacko and a liar and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice as a weirdly worshipful "professional wife." But, surprisingly, Wolcott concludes with a backhanded compliment for daughters Jenna and Barbara: "I've come to have a grudging regard for the Bush twins. Jenna and Barbara may be spoiled brats - tarty party girls - but at least they're not perpetuating false pretenses, being used as attractive props and tweeting noises they don't believe."

I agree with this, actually. Those two girls may be spoiled little Paris Hilton wannabes but you have to give them credit for not buying into the phony sanctimony of their religious-right pander patsy of a father. They told him to go to hell. I'm not sure they're Republicans.

Via the great Catch.com


Chalabi, he pointedly noted, wasn't the only Iraqi exile with White House connections. He added that the administration has "had relations with a number of groups previously that were intent on seeing Saddam Hussein's regime removed from power."

And he never asked anyone to lie. Not one time.

Just In Case

Bush Consults Lawyer in CIA Leak Case

President Bush has consulted an outside lawyer in case he needs to retain him in the grand jury investigation of who leaked the name of a covert CIA operative last year, the White House said Wednesday.

There was no indication that Bush is a target of the leak investigation, but the president has decided that in the event he needs an attorney's advice, "he would retain him," White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said.

The lawyer is Jim Sharp, Buchan said, confirming a report by CBS News.

"The president has said that everyone should cooperate in this matter and that would include himself," the spokeswoman said.

She deflected questions about whether Bush had been asked to appear before a grand jury in the case.

If he's called before the grand jury can he take Cheney with him?

Bremer's Gone Mad!

Little Mikey on the big raid:

The early-morning raid on the home and office of Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi in Baghdad sends "the wrong message" to America's would-be allies in the Arab world, former Pentagon official Michael Rubin tells Insight.

"This is a huge blow to America's prestige," he said. "The message we've just sent is that we do not stand by our allies, that the United States can't be trusted. We've just told Arab liberals and democrats that it's just plain crazy to work with America."

Rubin, who served as an aide to Deputy Undersecretary of Defense William Luti, spoke with Sunni clerics, Shiite professionals and independent Kurdish businessmen in Iraq in the hours immediately after the Baghdad raid Thursday.

"Everyone in Iraq believes that because of U.S. actions, we are now heading for civil war," he says. "We have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory."

Deeply involved in planning for the Iraq war, Rubin tells Insight that he left the government in April out of a sense of frustration.

"This administration has been taking so many hits, many of them based on outright fabrications or on information from 'anonymous intelligence sources,' that I felt I could be more effective on the outside," he says.

Rubin now is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.


American news reports yesterday gave several variants of the alleged charges against the Chalabi aides, ranging from corruption, fraud and vehicle theft to intimidation and blackmail. But INC sources and Rubin believe there is no doubt that U.S. civil administrator L. Paul Bremer ordered the raid.

"The decision to "cut Chalabi down to size" was taken in Washington," Rubin said, "but the operation against Chalabi originated in Baghdad. There is no doubt that Bremer signed off on this. Basically, Bremer has gone mad. This raid shows the U.S. has not learned the lessons of Abu Ghraib, and is still trying to "humiliate" perceived opponents.

Attempts by Insight to reach Bremer for comment were unsuccessful.

At a press conference in Baghdad after the raids, Chalabi identified one of the individuals allegedly being sought as Aras Habib, his longtime security and intelligence chief. Before the U.S.-led invasion, Habib ran the INC's network of informants within Saddam's regime and identified defectors the INC ultimately helped to escape Iraq.

Chalabi's detractors claim the intelligence provided by those defectors relating to Iraqi weapons of mass destruction programs was false or fabricated. But in fact, says Rubin, the INC provided intelligence and human sources at a time when the CIA has no assets inside Iraq at all.

"The CIA hates Chalabi because he comes out with information they do not have and that later gets confirmed," Rubin says.


"The most virulent hatred of Chalabi comes from those who have never met him," he [Rubin] says. "Defense Intelligence Agency [DIA] and U.S. military commanders in Iraq who have worked with the INC have given them stellar reviews. They have used INC intelligence to stop operations by insurgents that were targeting Americans. They have caught insurgents red-handed because of information provided by Chalabi. [Secretary of State Colin] Powell and [Deputy Secretary of State Richard] Armitage appear to place greater value on winning bureaucratic battles in Washington than in saving American lives in Iraq."


In citing [ormer DIA analyst Pat] Lang as an expert on Iraq, neither CBS nor the Washington Post ever has mentioned that Lang has registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent for an Arab government.

"How can somebody working for an Arab government parade about as a neutral analyst?" asks Rubin.

What a good question.

Now, I ask you, does Rubin sound here like he might be a tippler? Or is just wired out of his mind on venti-quad-no-foam-lattes?

This article was written the day after the raid. Perhaps what seeps through here isn't booze or caffeine. It sounds more like panic.

Thank You Joe Conason

Intriguing as her personal history may be, however, Ms. Miller's troubles didn't arise from mere ambition or poor manners. Instead, they reflected the reluctance of her editors to recognize that she was motivated by an ideology shared with her sources. Such 'passions' are far more common among mainstream journalists than they like to admit; indeed, strong beliefs are characteristic of many of the nation's best journalists.

But by failing to exercise adequate control over Ms. Miller's urge to propagandize, those editors allowed The Times to become an instrument for her neoconservative patrons in and out of government, and for their agenda of 'regime change' in Iraq and possibly elsewhere in the Middle East.

Miller is one of the rare reporters whose ideology was evident to practically everyone, which is why her "errors" have been attacked so relentlessly. You didn't have to be a gernius to realize that this woman was pushing an agenda because she really didn't make any effort to hide it.

But the fact is that even without a full-on GOP operative working as a reporter, The Times long ago became a willing tool of the right wing when the story was juicy enough. I don't say that because I believe the editors sincerely want to promote right wing views. Some undoubtedly do, but most of these people are big city cosmopolitan types who probably hold fairly liberal beliefs in most areas. I think there is a much subtler and more sophisticated phenomenon at work.

We know about the "working the refs" angle. They have been affected subconsiously by the decades-long "liberal media" attack on their integrity and so they lend more and more credibility to right wing sources to achieve "balance."

But, more than that, they have become dependent on the easy, stimulating, tittilating tabloid inspired "scoops" that the right wing propaganda shops learned they liked. The breathless, uncritical style of reporting that Miller personified, and the screaming headlines that accompanied her stories, were very similar in tone to the Whitewater and Wen Ho Lee series'. These were BIG stories about southern gothic corruption, lethal Chinese espionage and "smoking guns as mushroom clouds." They were sensational. They had pulitzer written all over them if they panned out. But, they didn't. They were false trails, propaganda and manipulation by people with a political agenda.

The paper has yet to grapple with the fact that they were used by political players. This means that they will remain subject to the same inducements. And they are not alone. Look at a respected TV journalist like Tim Russert. He can be indicted on exactly the same charges as the Times' editors. He has accepted far too much information from right wing political operatives that turned out to be wrong to justify his continuing to use them. Yet, he obviously does and mostly uncritically. He uses their lies to confront the political opposition and force them to deny them without ever evidencing any qualms that he might be helping to spread falsehoods and wrong impressions by doing so.

The most important thing is for Democrats, particularly in Washington, to absorb the fact that they cannot count on these institutions to be objective. They must not give credence to stories just because they appear in The New York Times and they must not adhere to the "conventional wisdom" that often follows from those reports. As long as these bastions of "liberal media" are subject to right wing manipulation, belief in their credibility by Democrats perpetuates the Republicans' brilliant use of subliminal anti-liberal cant to demoralize and disillusion us.

It's a flavorless kind of kool-aid and we don't even know we're drinking it.


The Littlest Neocon

Just in case there's anyone who isn't getting the hint in Josh Marshall's post this morning about which of the numerous neocon chumps is the most likely suspect to have given Chalabi the Iranian code info, here's who I think he's talking about (lifted from my post last week on the subject):

Michael Rubin is one of the youngest neoconservative figures to gain prominence within the George W. Bush administration. A Yale graduate whose dissertation focused on modern Iran, Rubin has traveled extensively in Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Sudan.

Rubin, an AEI scholar, was involved in several meetings and conferences officiated by Douglas Feith and Harold Rhode at AEI as part of the Bush transition team. One of the objectives of these meetings was to reshape the top leadership at the Pentagon, sidelining or removing those who were regarded as moderates. Out of these discussions came the idea for the creation of the Office of Special Plans (OSP).

Between 2002 and 2004, Rubin worked as a staff adviser for Iran and Iraq in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, in which capacity he was seconded to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. Rubin was assigned to the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans, which was fold into the Northern Gulf Affairs Office after the unit was implicated in cooking intelligence information to justify the Iraq war and occupation.

In a National Review article, Rubin discusses sentiments expressed whenever Secretary of State Colin Powell and Special Envoy Anthony Zinni would visit Israel.

“While working at Hebrew University this past year, I took the bus to campus each day. Whenever U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell or Special Envoy Anthony Zinni was dispatched to Israel, colleagues would urge me to stay home until after the suicide bombing. Middle Easterners understand the lesson those in the U.S. and Europe are still learning: When governments engage dictators, civilians suffer.”

Yes. Europe knows nothing about engaging dictators and civilian suffering. Quite the brilliant insight, especially coming from somebody studying at Hebrew University. (I was going to mention that a Yale degree isn't quite what it used to be, but then I remembered our preznit, so never mind.)

Laura Rozen says that one of her contacts refutes the notion that this person had access to the info. All that means to me is that loose OSP lips sink INC ships. They're a tight little bunch of crazy mixed up kids. Anybody from Perle to Wolfowitz himself could have spilled those beans to lil' Mikey. At which point, it looks like Chalabi might have gotten Mikey all likkered up and he told old kindly Uncle Ahmad some things he shouldn't have.

Note: I posted this earlier and for reasons unknown it disappeared. So, here it is again...

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

A Hard-Fought War

Obviously, I believe that the unlawful enemy combatant designation is unconstitutional and unnecessary. I don't happen to think this terrorist threat is really a "war," as the word is commonly defined (outside of marketing circles anyway) so the whole thing is moot in my mind. However, even if I were to stipulate that it is a war then I would argue that we should officially declare it, then hold prisoners under the Geneva conventions and quit this nonsense that we will always be at war with Oceania...err...terrorism. It seems silly to have to point this out, but that is quintessential propaganda in case anybody's forgotten.

Nobody ever knows going in when a war will end, so this idea that this is unprecedented is nonsense. When the government starts using this "open-endedness" to justify circumventing the constitution, one should be just a little bit skeptical of its motives.

And even if I were to agree that we have no choice but to throw out habeus corpus on an ad hoc basis at the discretion of the president, is there any reason to believe that the enemy combatant issue would be handled by this administration with more competence than they handle anything else? (This is the reason, of course, why you don't do this. Sometimes leaders bad and stupid --- not good and smart.)

This article from the April 26th Newsweek gives a little window into the professional approach they take in deciding who is and isn't an "enemy combatant." Let's just say it validates the concerns of Enlightenment thinkers about the rule of men vs the rule of law:

The Yemeni-born men from Lackawanna, N.Y., were accused of training at a camp in Afghanistan, where some had met Osama bin Laden. The president's men were divided. For Dick Cheney and his ally, Donald Rumsfeld, the answer was simple: the accused men should be locked up indefinitely as "enemy combatants," and thrown into a military brig with no right to trial or even to see a lawyer. That's what authorities had done with two other Americans, Yaser Hamdi and Jose Padilla. "They are the enemy, and they're right here in the country," Cheney argued, according to a participant. But others were hesitant to take the extraordinary step of stripping the men of their rights, especially because there was no evidence that they had actually carried out any terrorist acts. Instead, John Ashcroft insisted he could bring a tough criminal case against them for providing "material support" to Al Qaeda.

On that day, at least, the attorney general won the debate, and the Lackawanna Six eventually pleaded guilty. It wasn't the first time, or the last, that top Bush officials would spar over such weighty legal issues.


...the administration hadn't anticipated that U.S. citizens might occasionally turn up in the mix. In the months after 9/11 there were fierce debates—and even shouting matches—inside the White House over the treatment of Americans with suspected Qaeda ties.

On one side, Ashcroft, perhaps in part protecting his turf, argued in favor of letting the criminal-justice system work, and warned that the White House had to be mindful of public opinion and a potentially wary Supreme Court. On the other, Cheney and Rumsfeld argued that in time of war there are few limits on what a president can do to protect the country. "There have been some very intense disagreements," says a senior law-enforcement official. "It has been a hard-fought war."

It's far from over. Officials say they eventually settled on "informal" rules to decide whether a detained American should be thrown into the brig or brought to trial.

So, the policy is carried out by "informally" deciding between Cheney and Rumsfeld's omnicient talents as judge, jury and executioner or John Ashcroft's need to bask in the spotlight. Who needs that old relic, the rule 'o law, when you have a faultless sytem such as this? It's especially edifying that that politics never enter into any of this. It's always about keeping those babies safe:

In a speech earlier this year, White House counsel Alberto Gonzales tried to reassure critics, saying the White House had an "elaborate" and "painstaking" system to identify enemy combatants. But it didn't start out that way. In truth, the enemy combatants policy evolved in fits and starts. In the spring of 2002, U.S. soldiers discovered Hamdi, a Louisiana-born, Saudi-raised U.S. citizen, among the hundreds of ragtag Taliban fighters sent to Guantanamo. They realized they had a problem. The other detainees could be tried before military tribunals. But Bush's order authorizing the tribunals had exempted U.S. citizens a decision intended to disarm critics. Hamdi was flown to a naval brig in Norfolk, Va., while administration lawyers tried to figure out what to do with him. When a local public defender who read about Hamdi in the newspaper petitioned to meet with him, an assistant U.S. attorney made a novel argument in court: Hamdi was an "unlawful enemy combatant," and had no right to counsel.

Administration lawyers concede that there was a seat-of-the-pants quality to the way events unfolded. "There is a sense in which we were making this up as we went along," says one top government attorney. "You have to remember we were dealing with a completely new paradigm: an open-ended conflict, a stateless enemy and a borderless battlefield."

Yes. They were swimming in totally uncharted waters. Americans involved in terrorism was simply unprecedented. Nothing in our legal system could possibly deal with people who were involved in such an operation. (Well, except for the first World Trade Center bombers or Tim McVeigh or the Lackawanna Six or Lind and those guys in Oregon. But still...) If only we had the option of a charge like conspiracy to commit murder carrying life in prison or even the death penalty, maybe we could effectively deal with ruthless potential killers like Padilla. Our only choice was to have Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld and John Ashcroft hash it out among themselves. Our legal system just can't handle this sort of thing.

Before long, administration officials would extend the battlefield to Chicago's O'Hare airport, where agents picked up Jose Padilla on May 8, 2002. The Muslim convert was arrested while returning home from Pakistan, where he had allegedly met with a top Qaeda operative and planned to set off a dirty bomb in the United States. He was named a material witness and appointed a lawyer. But prosecutors soon realized they didn't have enough evidence to charge him with any crime.

Doesn't that seem odd? The evidence cited today certainly sounds chilling.

To avoid releasing him, Bush decreed on June 9 that Padilla, too, was an enemy combatant. He was sent to a military brig in South Carolina. At first, administration officials saw no problems with Padilla's treatment. But as the months wore on, Justice lawyers became increasingly uneasy about holding him indefinitely without counsel.

Again, why? If this guy is a huge danger and these people have all seen the evidence that makes that so, what is the problem? They're all signed on to the program, I assume. No, ACLU sissyboys in this bunch, right?

Solicitor General Ted Olson warned that the tough stand would probably be rejected by the courts. Administration lawyers went so far as to predict which Supreme Court justices would ultimately side for and against them.

Hey, there's nothing wrong with a little office betting pool. These guys needed to blow off some steam. (Consider how much worse that could have been.) And old Ted would never advise the administration to do anything for purely political reasons. He just doesn't think that way.

But the White House, backed strongly by Cheney, refused to budge. Instead, NEWSWEEK has learned, officials privately debated whether to name more Americans as enemy combatants—including a truck driver from Ohio and a group of men from Portland, Ore.

I know I feel a lot safer. I just worry that Cheney didn't get the last word on that truck driver. He's a man who knows a terrorist when he sees one.

Turkey In The Straw

I like this article by Dana Milbank about Bush's tendency to make straw man arguments. The problem is that Junior isn't really making straw man arguments. He's spouting lies and half truths that were spoon fed to him by his staff in small bites that he can understand and remember. By saying that Bush has any awareness of the concept of a logical fallacy serves only to make him seem to have some sort of mental agility when, in fact, he is barely sentient. If Laura circled this article in red crayon for him this morning and he had a look at it between counting the box scores on his fingers and toes, I have no doubt that his response was "Ya' mean like a scarecrow?"

Sacred Cows

I have finally come around to the administration's way of thinking on this unlawful combatant thing. Here we have an American who was trained to blow up apartment buildings and maybe set off dirty bombs, but the only way we could get the information that he was trained to blow up apartment buildings and maybe set off dirty bombs was by denying him his right to counsel and holding him until he confessed to those potential crimes --- which means we can't use that "confession" in court. We simply could not take even the smallest chance that an apartment or dirty bomber might not tell all by allowing him due process. Surely, everyone can understand that.

That whole fifth amerndment thing was only put there because back in the olden days we had kings who would falsely imprison people for political reasons. Needless to say, that could never happen now. Great americans like John Ashcroft and Dick Cheney would never take advantage of the American people's fears by saying that they have captured a dangerous terrorist soldier who was trying to kill them unless it were true. And they do not make mistakes about things like that. They are good people. There is no reason to fear the misuse of government power against its citizens so let's take that off the table right now.

All of which makes me wonder how much better off we'd be if we didn't have to deal with those inconvenient legal rights and due process to begin with? I know that potentially blowing up an apartment building is a heinous act of terrorism, but suppose we arrested a member of a criminal gang who was planning to blow up the very same apartment building for the insurance money? That would just be considered plain old murder so we'd have to let the guy speak to a lawyer and face a judge. But, the result would be exactly the same. A bunch of innocent people would potentially be dead and we would not have been able to stop this heinous mass murderer because our stupid constitution forced the government to allow him due process. Not to mention that we couldn't have sufficiently leaned on him to extract a confession in the first place! I'm hard pressed to see how the families of the victims would see the distinction between a normal old "crime" and terrorism.

Why should any potential murderer or informant be allowed to use this excuse of "due process" simply because he hasn't been to Afghanistan? Why should innocent people ever be put at risk?

If there's one thing the Jose Padilla case is teaching us is that it's long past time we started calling all criminal suspects what they really are --- unlawful combatants. All criminals disrupt our way of life and hurt innocent people for their own gain. Is that not the very definition of terrorism?

The founders obviously just didn't comprehend what problems they would cause when they wrote the bill of rights. Of course, they didn't have crime and terrorism in those days to deal with, so they couldn't have known how restrictive their naive little document was going to be on future generations. I'm just glad we finally have a government that's willing to show some moxie for once and ignore these outdated sacred cows in our constitution. I would imagine they'd have the founders deep respect for doing so.