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Tuesday, June 22, 2004

If I Can Take It:

Rumsfeld scribbled a note on Haynes' memo that said, "However, I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours."

Gosh, while he stands is he also being interrogated naked, shackled, subject to "mild, non-injurious physical contact such as grabbing, poking in the chest with the finger and light pushing" with a vicious German Shepard trying to take a bite out of his privates? I had no idea that the culture at the pentagon was so like a concentration camp.

On the other hand, a similar note by Doug Feith was found questioning why prisoners shouldn't be required to wear women's underwear on their heads since he and Wolfowitz both wear teddies and garter belts underneath their Brooks Brothers.

See, it's all in how you look at it.

Update: corrected grammatical error
Zero Sum Politics

I urge all four of my readers to read this great article by Paul Glastris in The Washington Monthly:

It is a cliché to observe that the parties have drawn further apart, the center no longer holds, and partisans on both sides have withdrawn further into mutual loathing and ever more-homogenous and antagonistic groupings. Where the analysis goes wrong is in its assumption, either explicit or implicit, that both parties bear equal responsibility for this state of affairs. While partisanship may now be deeply entrenched among their voters and their elites, the truth is that the growing polarization of American politics results primarily from the growing radicalism of the Republican Party.

In what is mostly an admonition to the press to open its eyes to reality and report what is actually happening, he outlines the history of this new GOP political radicalism (which goes hand in hand with its ideological radicalism), shows how the Democratic Party has responded over the course of this long transition and proves that the polarization about which all the scribes wring their dainty little hands can be laid squarely at the feet of the Republicans.

Although I'm an unreconstructed liberal, I am by nature and temperament a believer in bipartisanship. I don't like the boot to the throat concept of governance, either as a member of the majority or the minority. I have a rather old fashioned belief that if everyone has a stake in decisions they tend to follow through and not hobble the process. To me, incremental progress doesn't seem like a bad idea if it means that a substantial majority are happy with it in the end and the minority isn't marginalized from the process. Government by consensus would always be my first choice.

However, that is simply not in the cards with the modern Republican party. As Glastris says, they see politics as a zero sum game and when you find yourself in a game like that you have to find a way to win outright or you don't survive.

I've been hearing a lot of rumbling from the activist grassroots, for more than a year, that after holding their noses in this election, any patience they may have had with compromise has worn completely thin. I think it's pretty clear that if Kerry wins he is not going to be given much slack from his left flank.

Therefore, there is little chance that Democratic centrists (which Glastris points out are pretty much the only centrists left) will have any room to maneuver in a close congress, whoever holds the majority, nor will Kerry be able to cut any deals. And, I doubt it's even worth trying with these radicals anyway. They just move the goalposts. But what this means, for the first time, is all out partisan war with no quarter given.

The question is, if that happens, can we win? I'm interested in hearing thoughts on this because I honestly don't know.

Start Making Sense

Lord Saletan tries to explain why his mishmash of a series on Kerry's so-called "caveats and curlicues" doesn't make sense to anyone. (Frankly, his explanation doesn't make any sense either, but whatever.)

What he fails to admit is that the series is an extremely lame attempt by Slate at being "fair and balanced." As seems to be the case across all of American journalism Slate apparently believes it is necessary that if one notices a certain politician doing something unusual --- George W. Bush speaking in Martian rather than English, for instance --- then it follows that in order to be fair, one must criticize his rival for the same thing.

The truth is that the "caveats and curliques" that Saletan finds so remarkable are the result of a political environment in which Kerry is required to speak in extremely precise terms because if he doesn't, Ed Gillespie and his coven of shrieking talk show harpies will blast their faxes directly up his ass. (Ask Al Gore about that.) Bush, on the other hand, whom everyone knows is a total idiot, is applauded if he is able to string more than 5 words together without drooling on his tie.

The Kerryism thing isn't working because Kerry just sounds like a hundred other Democrats who have to parse every single statement in order to avoid people like Saletan calling him a slippery, lying piece of shit (which Saletan calls him anyway.) Conversely, the Bushism series does work because it shows that the most powerful man in the world literally doesn't make sense about half the time and the press rarely even mentions it. Now, that is noteworthy.

Maybe Saletan could try a series on Kerry's hair or his eyebrows or his choice of athletic equipment. Oh wait. Kaus has already blown the lid off those scandals. Oh well. I'm sure he'll think of something. Wouldn't want to be unbalanced.

Update: The spelling of Saletan's name has been corrected.
I'm An Excellent Driver

Kevin says: Please, dear god, make it stop

Vice Squad

I'd just like to second Atrios's thoughts on the veepstakes. Almost nothing could be more inconsequential. Kerry will pick someone who can give him a couple of points in a battleground state, or someone who could benefit him slightly in terms of image. But, truthfully, it doesn't matter a whole lot unless the choice (like Dan Quayle) is someone who people simply cannot imagine being president or, as in the case of our current resident, when nobody trusts the guy in the top slot to be able to handle the job.

Candidates choose their running mates for a variety of very prosaic reasons, the primary one being some kind of regional balance. Clinton picked Gore, against conventional wisdom, because his biggest draw was the generational shift from the greatest generation leaders to the baby boomers. He and Gore together, both being southern New Democrats, neatly put that together. But, with the exception of Gore's family, nobody voted for that ticket because of Gore.

Gephardt is uninspiring, but he's got strong union backing and that is a huge consideration since turn-out is going to be incredibly important. Not to mention that Missouri is the ultimate battleground state. If Kerry believes that Gep can bring that one home for him, then I can see the formula. He's also more than qualified to be president if the worst should happen. Vilsack is from a state that Gore won narrowly last time and in which Bush is currently leading. It's probably as simple as that.

I don't think it's unreasonable for Kerry to look at this almost purely in terms of the electoral map, considering the state of play. I realize that we Democrats are starting to have visions of landslides dancing in our heads, but it would be decidedly foolish to plan accordingly. The GOP has more money than God to spend on GOTV and they are planning to spend it. Nader consistently polls enough to bring Kerry within the margin of error and with his picking Camejo yesterday, he may very well get the Green endorsement. So, it would be foolish to count on Nader voters. They are going to vote for their man. So be it. We have to win without them which means that Kerry still runs very narrowly ahead. That may change but why assume it? It would be as foolish to count on anything but a close election as it was for Bush and his cronies to count on Iraq being a cakewalk. Smart people plan for the worst not the best case scenario. The worst case scenario is a photo finish. If that happens, one or two points in a battleground state is crucial.

Besides, VP is a bullshit job. Look at the Dems who are currently out of work and picture them in the new Kerry administration doing something Real. Edwards at Justice reversing Ashcrofts tragic legacy. Clark and Holbrooke at State or CIA reforming the intelligence and diplomatic communities. Dean as head of the DNC reforming the party. Gep as Secretary of Labor. Or any other combination thereof. In other words, there is actual work to be done by talented energetic people. The VP slot is terrific and all, because we'd get to watch our favorite candidate campaign again, but it's only one of many jobs that are going to have to be filled in a Kerry administration.

I remember the disappointment I felt when Gore picked Lieberman. I wondered how I'd get through the campaign having to listen to his hectoring moan day in and day out. But, by the end he was just part of the scenery and even somewhat entertaining at times with his rather droll sense of humor. I loathed that guy but I adjusted. So will we all --- even if Kerry picks someone without eyebrows or with a name that has the word "sack" in it.

Monday, June 21, 2004

The Price Is Right

The Howler today has a spectacular takedown of Wilgoren and Pickler's latest Karl Rove "around the world" special: John Kerry's wealthy. Ewwww.

Wilgoren runs behind Kerry on his Nantucket vacation tabulating the cost of sand dabs and wind-surfing equipment like she's a contestant on the Price Is Right (which she is, only it's a little different game, if you know what I mean.)

Mr. Kerry has been coming here regularly since at least 1995, when he married the ketchup heiress Teresa Heinz at the three-story, five-bedroom house she owns on Brant Point, where the clothing designer Tommy Hilfiger also has a home and H. Wayne Huizenga, the owner of the Miami Dolphins, recently sold one. Valued at $9 million in 1995, the house...has a large screened-in porch, decorative columns, and a green-and-white love-seat swing on its sandy front lawn.

Oh, the rich bastard. At least our up-by-his-bootstraps- president doesn't spend his time in rich playgrounds. He works and sweats when he goes on vacation.

The weekend was Mr. Kerry’s first real holiday since the week he spent at his wife’s Sun Valley, Idaho, home in March, where he was widely photographed snowboarding. It was reminiscent of President Bill Clinton’s vacations in borrowed houses on nearby Martha’s Vineyard, and a sharp contrast to President Bush's frequent brush-clearing forays on his sweltering ranch in Crawford, Tex.

Pickler as all right thinking Americans do, agrees:

Like Kerry, President Bush is a Yale graduate who has benefited from his wealth and family connections. But Bush spends his down time trying to be more of an everyman, preferring to spend vacations at his Texas ranch clearing brush.

Well, except for the time he spends at the fucking family compound "Walkers Point" (as in "W") in Kennebunkport, Maine:

President Bush opened a long weekend of golf and fishing Friday by hooking his first drive into a riverbank. He found his stroke on his second try, cheered by his father, who proclaimed it a "good ball!"

President Bush and former President George Bush ride their golf cart to the first hole at the Cape Arundel Golf Course ["said to be" $150,000 initially and $8500.00 per year] in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Father and son left their family's coastal compound [valued at 8 million] just after dawn, taking a mini-motorcade to nearby Cape Arundel Golf Club, where they have been golfing for years. The first President Bush drove their golf cart up to the first tee, the current president riding shotgun with his feet up on the dash. "Good morning, everybody!" he said to a group of reporters.


Three generations of Bushes were spending Father's Day weekend at Walker's Point, the family's estate here along Atlantic coastline.

The president and his father climbed into the Fidelity II power boat [$135,000] later and fished the coastline, stopping to cast for about 10 minutes before moving on to another spot. Wearing fashionable, blue-tinted shades [$480.00], the son caught what appeared to be a foot-long striper, and gently placed it back in the water.


Arriving at the family's oceanside estate the younger Bush quickly shed the suit and tie for casual wear, grabbed a tennis racket [$700.00] and whacked an orange ball for dog Spot to fetch. The president was still clutching the racket when he boarded a Segway[$5,500], a standup, motorized scooter that resembles a push lawnmower.

The Segway went down [priceless] on Bush's first attempt, but he stayed on his feet with a flying leap over the machine. Undeterred, he got on again. His father climbed on a second Segway [another $5,500] and they cruised around the driveway at the estate at Walker's Point.

The president's twins, Jenna and Barbara, and former first lady Barbara Bush all took turns on the Segways. Earlier Thursday, first lady Laura Bush, the twins and the former president took a cruise in a white powerboat[$90,000.00].

The stay in Kennebunkport was only the most recent long weekend of relaxation Bush has taken since the Iraq war. He has had three long weekends at his Crawford, Texas, ranch [acquired in 1999 and valued at $3 million] since mid-April.

I believe that the family ate dinner later that evening at the Cape Arundale Inn where the Maine Lobster Stew with Truffle Oil drizzle runs about $42.00 a plate. It was, by all accounts delicious, at a mere $776.00.

Afterwards, the president went out and cleared some brush behind the golf course and pissed on the side of of the clubhouse. Cuz' he's just a reglar Murican like you 'n me.

Affirmative Action

I think that it's important for rank and file Democrats to begin to develop a positive, everyman water-cooler argument for Kerry's candidacy. Frankly, I think that ABB is going to propel us into the White House, but it's important, nonetheless, to develop some real support and belief in the man we are sending in. It is going to be very difficult to govern, the problems are enormous and I'm hopeful that the Democrats will have sharp enough memories of the horrors of the alternative that we'll at least give Kerry a chance before we set upon him like sharks for failing to be all things to all people --- as we always do.

Today,Tristero posts a very interesting e-mail from novelist Amy Tan in which she admits to being less passionately for John Kerry than passionately against George W. Bush. So, she asked her friend, lawyer and novelist Scott Turow, what the affirmative reasons for voting for Kerry are:

I could say the following without blushing: He is running against a man who was not fit for duty in 1968 and is not fit for duty today, a man who lacked the qualifications for the office when he was elected and has demonstrated it. We have been through a skein of national disasters, for which he accepts no blame, because he literally doesn't understand enough about the job to realize how a better President would have responded. John Kerry has been in public life for 35 years. He was a prosecutor when GWB was running an oil company into the ground. And he was already a seasoned United States Senator when GWB decided it was time to give up abusing substances. JK has a sharper grasp of foreign policy, and more experience with it, than any candidate for President in the last 50 years, with the possible exception of GHWB (see today's NYT). His dedication to the cause of our military and veterans is long established. And his commitment to economic and social justice for all Americans cannot be doubted. A man can't be the committed liberal Bush sometimes maintains Kerry is, and also the unprincipled waffler. Life and public service are complicated, as GWB doesn't understand. JK does. He has a sense of nuance, and the experience and values to improve the life of the country.

For another affirmative argument for Kerry, I [im]modestly submit this.
There are many to be made and I hope that we bloggers, at least, will continue to try to make them. He's out there making the speeches, developing the policies, taking the punches. The least we can do is try to make a citizens argument in his favor.

Gitmo Betta Blues

For the full FUBAR take on the Gitmo disaster, read this article in the NY Times today.

I am beginning to think that the throwaway line in David Rose's Gitmo article in Vanity Fair last December may actually be correct:

Guantanamo may even be "a bit of a front," designed to distract al-Qaeda, he says. "It takes everybody's attention away from locations where big fish are being held. The secrecy surrounding it makes everybody think that very serious stuff is going on there."

On the other hand, that is making an assumption that the Bush administration had a plan, which in no other instance in this war has been the case. So, it's probably just the usual FUBAR.

This alone will make your hair stand on end:

American and foreign officials have also grown increasingly concerned about the prospect that detainees who arrived at Guantánamo representing little threat to the United States may have since been radicalized by the conditions of their imprisonment and others held with them.

''Guantánamo is a huge problem for Americans,'' a senior Arab intelligence official familiar with its operations said. ''Even those who were not hard-core extremists have now been indoctrinated by the true believers. Like any other prison, they have been taught to hate. If they let these people go, these people will make trouble.''

How could such a thing happen?

In late summer 2002, a senior C.I.A. analyst with extensive experience in the Middle East spent about a week at the prison camp observing and interviewing dozens of detainees, said officials who read his detailed memorandum.

While the survey was anecdotal, those officials said the document, which contained about 15 pages, concluded that a substantial number of the detainees appeared to be low-level militants, aspiring holy warriors who had rushed to Afghanistan to defend the Taliban, or simply innocents in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Senior military officials now readily acknowledge that many members of the intelligence team initially sent to Guantánamo were poorly prepared to sort through the captives. During the first half of 2002, they said, almost none of the Army interrogators had any substantial background in terrorism, Al Qaeda or other relevant subjects.


In interviews, the officials said at least five prisoners released from Guantánamo since early 2003 had rejoined the Taliban and resumed attacks on American and Afghan government forces. Although two American officials said only one of the former detainees had turned out to be an important figure, Afghan officials said all five men were in fact commanders with close contacts to the Taliban leadership.

The most notorious of the former Guántanamo detainees, Mullah Shahzada, had been a lieutenant to a senior commander when he was first captured in the war, an American military intelligence official said. After his return to Afghanistan in March 2003, he emerged as a frontline Taliban commander, Afghan officials said, leading a series of attacks in which at least 13 people were killed, including 2 aid workers.

Senior Pentagon officials refused to explain how Mr. Shahzada had talked his way out of Guantánamo. But two other military officials with knowledge of the case said he had given a false name and portrayed himself as having been captured by mistake.

''He stuck to his story and was fairly calm about the whole thing,'' a military intelligence official said. ''He maintained over a period time that he was nothing but an innocent rug merchant who just got snatched up.''


Afghan officials blamed the United States for the return of the five men to the Taliban's ranks, saying neither American military officials nor the Kabul police, who briefly process the detainees when they are sent home, consult them about the detainees they free.

''There are lots of people who were innocent, and they are capturing them, just on anyone's information,'' said Dr. Laghmani, the chief of the National Security Directorate in Kandahar. ''And then they are releasing guilty people.''

Do you suppose there is another country to whom we can sub-contract the War on Terror? Because ours is obviously too incompetent to do the job right. At every single step of the way we are making things worse rather than better.

If we do find a country willing to take on such a complex challenge perhaps we could just write one little clause into the contract that could make a huge difference: they must be required to listen to people other than half-wit neocon Republicans, their sycophants and minions. That's all. If they do that alone, we will at least be in a position to make a damage assessment and try to figure out what the hell to do to get us out of this mess.

Seeing as nobody sane would touch this quagmire with a ten foot pole, let's just make sure that John Kerry wins and that he immediately embarks on a fact finding mission to root out every single wrong decision and action and put absolutely everything on the table. We are going to have to start from scratch. And, sadly, because they've screwed this up so royally, the United States may never be able to recover our credibility, no matter how hard we try.

Magic Phone Call

When they make the real movie about 9/11, (years from now, I hope) at which point many somnambulent Americans will find out what happened on that day for the first time, I hope that they make it very clear that our supposedly strong, resolute leader-who-knows-how-to-lead-cuz'-he's-led, sat in a second grade classroom waiting for instructions from his chief of staff while the secretary of defense --- next in line in the chain of command --- stood at his office podium at the pentagon, completely out of the loop. I hope the movie makes clear that the vice president, without the proper authority to do so, completely ran the (keystone kops) show, even ordering the military to shoot down commerical aircraft. And then he (and his little dog too) lied about it, under oath. Because, that is what happened:

The question of whether Vice President Dick Cheney followed proper procedures in ordering the shoot-down of U.S. airliners on September 11 is one of many new issues raised in the remarkably detailed, chilling account laid out in dramatic presentations last week by the 9-11 commission. Newsweek has learned that some on the commission staff were, in fact, highly skeptical of the vice president's account and made their views clearer in an earlier draft of their staff report, Washington Bureau Chief Daniel Klaidman and Senior Editor Michael Hirsh report in the June 28 issue of Newsweek.

The commission's detailed report notes that after two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center and combat patrols were in the air, a military aide asked for shoot-down authority, telling Cheney that a fourth plane was "80 miles out" from Washington. Cheney didn't flinch, the report said. "In about the time it takes a batter to decide to swing," he gave the order to shoot it down, telling others the president had "signed off on that concept" during a brief phone chat. When the plane was 60 miles out, Cheney was again informed and again he ordered: take it out.

But according to one knowledgeable source, some staffers "flat out didn't believe the call ever took place." Both Cheney and the president testified to the commission that the phone call took place. When the early draft conveying that skepticism was circulated to the administration, it provoked an angry reaction. In a letter from White House lawyers last Tuesday and a series of phone calls, the White House vigorously lobbied the commission to change the language in its report. "We didn't think it was written in a way that clearly reflected the accounting the president and vice president had given to the commission," White House spokesman Dan Bartlett tells Newsweek. Ultimately the chairman and vice chair of the commission, former New Jersey governor Thomas Kean and former Rep. Lee Hamilton -- both of whom have sought mightily to appear nonpartisan -- agreed to remove some of the offending language. The report "was watered down," groused one staffer.

It was always fairly obvious that Cheney installed himself as "Vice" President on the orders of the oil companies who created George W. Bush to be their spokesmodel. This latest revelation --- that, unauthorized, he ran the response on 9/11 --- (and predictably executed badly, I might add) seals it.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Subversive Journalism

(I like it.)

Insiders shape postwar Iraq:

[Ari's brother Michael] Fleischer said he wanted to serve in Iraq because he believes Bush had embarked on 'a noble path' in freeing and democratizing the country and he believed he had skills that would be helpful.

He said that from his Foreign Service stint [of 4 years in the 70's], he was already acquainted with Paul Bremer, the presidential envoy who heads the CPA.

With an assist from his brother, Ari, who 'got my resume to Bremer,' Fleischer landed interviews that led to his appointment.

Among Fleischer's key tasks was training more Iraqi businessmen in the ways of U.S.-style procurement so they can land part of the $18.4 billion in reconstruction aid the U.S. has earmarked for Iraq.

Competitive bidding "is a new world for the Iraqis," Fleischer said. Under Saddam Hussein, "it was all done by cronies. The only paradigm they know is cronyism. We are teaching them that there is an alternative system with built-in checks and built-in review."

3 points.

Inside Out

Billmon writes:

...the White House and its allies appear to have a backup strategy in case this particular up-is-down argument proves a little too upside down. It's the time-tested tactic of claiming that everything - including the 9/11 Commission itself - has been contaminated by partisan politics:

The panel has become "a tool for partisan politics," Rep. Eric I. Cantor (Va.), a member of the House Republican leadership, charged in an interview last week. "With the latest commission finding coming out that there were allegedly no ties between Hussein and al Qaeda, I think they are totally off their mission, and I think that's indicative of the political partisanship."

The RNC talking points on this must have gone out earlier last week, because Porter Goss, the intelligence committee chairman in our Chamber of People's Deputies, and Dennis Miller, the anti-intelligence chairman of late night televsion, have both been yammering about that same basic theme. But Cantor's quote is such a gem of non-logic, I'd like to look at it again more closely.

The 9/11 commission, Cantor argues, is partisan. Why? Because it went "off mission" by questioning the alleged relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda.

Now since the 9/11 commission was specifically instructed by Congress to "make a full and complete accounting of the circumstances surrounding the [9/11] attacks," and to "investigate relevant facts and circumstances ... including intelligence agencies ... diplomacy ... the flow of assets to terrorist organizations ... and other areas of the public and private sectors determined relevant by the commission," it's fairly ridiculous to argue the commission exceeded its mandate by reviewing the evidence regarding Bin Ladin's alleged contacts with Iraq. What Cantor is really arguing is that the commission went "off mission" by arriving at conclusions that were extremely embarrassing to the administration, and possibly damaging to the Bush-Cheney campaign.

I loved that one too.

Since Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, the commissioners were "off mission" by investigating any ties between al Qaeda, which did perpetrate the attacks and Iraq, which didn't. The fact that the commission was working on the assumption that the administration's repeated assertions of ties between the two were meaningful is evidence of its rabid left wing partisanship.

Civil Unrest

My darling, dear friend Julia points me to a piece in that biased Washington Post --- you know, the left wing newspaper where all of those liberal reporters rouse the rabble. Here, we have a staff writer, Phillip Kendicott (of the Palm Beach Kendicotts, I wonder?) exposing the shocking incivility displayed by that rabid leftist poet, Calvin Trillin. The man simply doesn't know how to behave, what what:

As a poet who specializes in skewering the right-wing, he works with both a poetic and a hunting license. And yet, as a poet, there's something basically reputable about him, no matter how mean he is, that distinguishes him from the psychotic bloggers, obsessive conspiracy theorists and self-appointed prophets of extreme talk radio. Lump him in with other middle-world figures, polemicists like filmmaker Michael Moore and late-night comedians who reduce politicians to pure caricature.

Reputable? Please, I can't even read the words "Michael Moore" without needing a good stiff Glenlivet colonic just to get through the day. Bastards, wogs and kaffirs one and all, don't you know. Why, I was just saying to Muffy yesterday how alarmingly disreputable the hoi polloi has become lately. She said "off with their heads," --- only joking, of course. But, would that we had the power to threaten such, I believe we could make a difference.

I find that you can say a lot, so long as it rhymes," says Trillin, from New York. For instance: Looking to rhyme the last name of former New York Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, Trillin came up with "sleaze-bag obbligato."

"You can't say that in prose," says Trillin. Nor can you breezily call Elliott Abrams (the National Security Council member who pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of misleading Congress during the Iran-contra scandal, and was later pardoned by George H.W. Bush) "a felon," or imply that the return to grace of John Poindexter (whose conviction on five felony charges after the same scandal was overturned) is a sign of the current administration's preference for criminals among its top ranks (High-level appointments now favor the guys / With rap sheets instead of CVs).

Really now, that is beyond the pale. After all, who hasn't committed a misdemeanor or two and been pardoned by a Bush family member? Why, Bushes of one sort or another have been pardoning members of my family for simply ages. How typically lowbrow this all is. Mr Trillin and his ilk are no better than they ought to be and someone should remind them of their place.

Trillin, 68, likes to call himself a "Deadline Poet," a title that emphasizes his essential poetic talent: speed. More bluntly put, he is a doggerelist, toiling in the service of the poor, maligned Left, countering by example its unmerited reputation for humorlessness.

(One thing we conservatives are is unroariously funny. Why, I was at the club just the other day and I heard a hilarious joke about a jew, a negro and a monkey walking into a (slovenly, I'm sure) tavern somewhere where they said all manner of disgraceful things and we all just laughed and laughed.)

And, I could not agree more with this:

Von Dreele's style, like his politics, contrasts sharply with Trillin's. Von Dreele, who is just shy of 80, belongs to the old guard of the National Review. He's a gracious relic of the magazine's good old days, when being conservative had less to do with attack-dog politics and religious fundamentalism, and was more about a wry pessimism when it came to the frailties of Man. When you talk to von Dreele, and read his verse, you imagine a world of blue blazers and crisply pressed khakis, a world where the sun hangs low over the golf course and darts of orange light glint on the surface of your glacially chilled martini.

Yes, I remember it well. Indeed I spent just last evening dressed in crisply pressed khakis watching the sun hang low over the golf course, sipping my glacially chilled martini as I pondered the frailties of man. One very special frail man. In a speedo.

The essence of a partisan worldview -- and we're all guilty -- is confidence about things that can't be proved: the motivations of other people, their psychological makeup, the dark truths about their lives for which there is as yet no smoking gun. These speculations are supported with a mix of facts, fantasy and the guiding power of our most basic, operating truths about the world.

Dear God, man. Never say I swim in that fetid swamp. My basic operating truths about the world are simple. Some of us are meant to lead while the rest are meant to follow. You know who you are.

It is the role of the Deadline Poet (and all the other denizens of the political middle-world) to articulate the simple thoughts widely held by half the polarized electorate -- e.g. Bush is a moron, Kerry is a snob -- yet can't be directly spoken in respectable journals. Coated with a sweet veneer of verbal virtuosity, these truths slip into the political bloodstream. The pleasure of the poet, and the reader, is seeing these mean little memes circulating freely, doing their damage, a leperous distilment poured into the porches of our ears.

I beg your pardon. Is he comparing one's ears to a porch? What kind of porch? And what "leperous distilment" does one pour on a porch? Or an ear's porch. Or a porches ears. I do believe I've been insulted. I may have to call him out, what what?

Do read darling Julia's pithy response to Mr. Kendicott as well. I do believe she puts him in his place.


I just noticed how much money Atrios has raised for Kerry, the DNC, DSCC and Joe Hoeffel for Senate --- well over a quarter of a million dollars! Wow.

Perhaps those stories of blog triumphalism aren't overblown after all. That is truly impressive.

Circle Jerk

Yglesias notices that the tittering panel on Meat The Press got all breathless and aroused talking about the Clinton book this morning.

"Oh goodie! A chance to talk about sex!" And it really was sex. Maybe someone, somewhere out there was really concerned with the penny-ante legal charges against Clinton, but these people -- quite obviously -- were interested in sex. So fun! So easy to speculate about Clinton's dick! So much more fun than looking into the intricacies of Bush's foreign policy deceptions or budget trickery. Look -- sex scandal!

This is how they got to be known as mediawhores. Day after day we watched this drooling, sophomoric obsession with Clinton's zipper and the hunk of manhood contained therein which they couldn't stop yammering about long enough to consider that they were making utter idiots of themselves on national television and fools of the entire country around the world. Not to mention their functioning as amenable tools for a right wing character assassination squad whose dark sexual proclivities we don't even want to think about.

One of the most popular cultural phenomena during the era was Beavis and Butthead. If anyone ever wanted to see what they might have become when they grew up, all they had to do was watch a couple of the middle aged men and women of the Washington press corps go on and on in great detail about Clinton's sexual issues, the psychology behind it and whether or not the country could survive such a serious assault on its morals. It was the journalistic equivalent of Beavis and Butthead's " heheh..heheh...heheh...she said 'hard'...heheh"

As Matt noticed, it was (and is) all about the sex. There is a psychology at work in the national press corps --- and in the congress at the time --- that is worth someone taking a long look at. The level of sexual immaturity the media consistently displayed in the way they talked about it speaks to some bizarre case of mass arrested development. It's just not normal for grown people to be so obsessive about public sex talk, particularly when the talk itself is so embarrassingly puerile.

It was a low point of low points for the media, at least until they deified Junior Bush in their own bizarre adherence to what they consider fair play. ("We were very hard on the last president, so we have to go really easy on this one. Wouldn't want anyone to think we're not fair and balanced.") Today's tribute to the "The Starr Report: Deep Throat Two" is par for the course.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of it all is the picture of Russert, Novak, Klein and Kay sitting around a waist high table, flushed, dewy and breathless, restlessly moving about on their chairs as they opine about how immoral and depraved Bill Clinton was for accepting the fellating gifts of a young woman. I don't want to speculate about what might be happening under that table. But, I would suggest that such a squalid public display of early adolescent sexuality might just be more inappropriate than the acts they so sternly decry.

And, lest we forget, the public was not impressed with their little game of spin the blowjob, either. Clinton left office with the highest job approval rating in history. The press, on the other hand, has never been held in lower esteem.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Cockeyed Adventure:

One outside adviser to the White House said the administration expected the debate over Iraq's ties to Al Qaeda to be "a regular feature" of the presidential campaign.

"They feel it's important to their long-term credibility on the issue of the decision to go to war," the adviser said. "It's important because it's part of the overall view that Iraq is part of the war on terror. If you discount the relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda, then you discount the proposition that it's part of the war on terror. If it's not part of the war on terror, then what is it --- some cockeyed adventure on the part of George W. Bush?"

You tell us. We'd really like to know.

They know they've got a couple of big fat loogies hanging out there. The lack of WMD is bad enough. They can get away with it, sort of, because a lot of people thought he had them. But, this al-Qaeda connection has always been the Tin-foil Mylroie crowds' special little fantasy. Clearly, they are afraid that this revelation will seriously damage them, so they are employing the always dignified "you can believe me or you can believe your lyin' eyes" defense.

Let's face it, for many people in this country (and probably the president himself) all the high flown phony rhetoric about "freedom and democracy" notwithstanding, this war is about killing arabs. For them,the terrorists were arabs therefore all arabs are terrorists. They couldn't care less about WMD or terrorist connections to Iraq.They wanted to make an example of somebody. It's pretty much nothing more than straight out bigotry.

As the salt of the earth, all American boy Bill O'Reilly put it:

O'REILLY: Because look ... when 2 percent of the population feels that you're doing them a favor, just forget it, you're not going to win. You're not going to win. And I don't have any respect by and large for the Iraqi people at all. I have no respect for them. I think that they're a prehistoric group that is -- yeah, there's excuses.

Sure, they're terrorized, they've never known freedom, all of that. There's excuses. I understand. But I don't have to respect them because you know when you have Americans dying trying to you know institute some kind of democracy there, and 2 percent of the people appreciate it, you know, it's time to -- time to wise up.

And this teaches us a big lesson, that we cannot intervene in the Muslim world ever again. What we can do is bomb the living daylights out of them, just like we did in the Balkans. Just as we did in the Balkans. Bomb the living daylights out of them. But no more ground troops, no more hearts and minds, ain't going to work.


They're just people who are primitive.

There you have it. In the eyes of this sophisticated John F Kennedy School of Government alum, the Iraqi people are prehistoric and primitive.

The problem for Bush is that the few sentient people who might vote for him may just demand a little bit more than that. Military people, for instance, who believed Bush's argument that you had to "take the fight to the terrorists" only to find out that our military is being uselessly killed and overburdened and we aren't even in the right country. And, I'm sure there are some decent religious types who would be disappointed to find out that the president led them to believe (and they know what he was saying) that Iraq had something to do with 9/11 and it wasn't true.

And then there's the monumental disaster of the occupation what with all the torture and imprisoning of the people we are supposed to be liberating. It's getting hard to think of any good reasons why we did this thing.

Republicans cannot win with just their racist base. Bush and his puppet masters have to keep trying to convince non-kool aid drinkers that he knows what he's doing. They have decided that in order to do that they have to flat out deny reality.

Update: Reading A1 examines the game being played between Kean and Hamilton and Dick Cheney on the front page of the NY Times. Strange days.

Kenny Boy's Got Troubles

Grandma Millie was quoted as saying, "Fuckin' A."

Glass Houses

The nation's Roman Catholic bishops approved a statement on Friday on "Catholics in Political Life" that brands politicians who support abortion rights as "cooperating in evil" and leaves the door open for bishops to deny communion to such lawmakers.


Between 100 and 200 Roman Catholic priests around the world were moved from country to country after they were accused of sex offenses against minors, according to an 18-month investigation by the Dallas Morning News.


"We have found a systematic practice of moving the most serious abuse cases on to other countries to protect the accused," Egerton said.

Egerton also said the newspaper found that some of the priests who were shuffled between countries spent long periods of time in the United States.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Don't Make Trouble

At a time when almost everything I read pisses me off, this really sent me into orbit:

Charles Pierce:

"Concern has started drifting in like a cold, noxious cloud over the past couple of weeks. There seems to be a storyline hardening among the Heathers that 'we' are really getting along just fine, and that all the obvious emotion of this political year is merely sound and fury -- good title for a book, by the way -- ginned up by our political elites, that 'Bush-hating' is out of control, and that the 'center' is reasserting itself, and so is 'civility.' An implicit track here is that, you know, maybe, it isn't such a good time to consider changing our current Strong Leadership.

You can see it in the reaction to Michael Moore's movie, in the immensely silly Michael Barone column comparing this election to the one in 1864 (and, therein, C-Plus Augustus to Abraham Lincoln), and in the amazing performance of Aaron Brown Thursday night on CNN, when he cited a new Pew poll in which 57 percent of Americans think things are going well in Iraq -- Oy! --and that Bush had edged slightly ahead of John Kerry for the moment. 'And, if you check the electoral map, you'll see he's doing a little better than that,' Brown concluded.

It wasn't so much what he said, but how he said it. An unmistakable tone of reassurance. That we maybe don't have to bother ourselves with the unruly business of self-government, especially those parts where people, you know, yell at each other. I fear that Kerry's people may be buying this nonsense, too.

The problem with this, other than the obvious one of 'It's June, and who the f**k is Aaron Brown, anyway?' is is that it leaves the "center" pushed way over on the right, and it consolidates the gains made by 25 years of rightist incivility. It began with those NCPAC campaigns run by that vicious closet-case Terry Dolan, proceeded through Lee Atwater and his lycanthropic brood (Hey, Karl!), and has emerged with renewed vigor already this year, and will continue to do so regardless of whether the Democratic party decides to play nice or not. This also, of course, was abetted by the endless herd of think-tank cowboys, endowment commandos, and honorarium-fattened hyenas that foul the national discourse, and also by a subculture of both actual and rhetorical violence -- the stuff that's limned bravely by David Neiwert here, in an invaluable post that takes Tucker Carlson down in the bargain.

All this concern erupted when the left started hitting back a little, and developing institutions and vehicles through which to do it. Well, for the moment, f**k civility. The center cannot be allowed to remain where it is. It has to be shoved back and shoved back hard. And if that means calling out ABC for criticizing Michael Moore's methodology while continuing to employ --nay, PROMOTE -- a corporate fabulist like John Stossel up through its news division, or if it means striking back at the people who go on television with their perpetual wounded victimhood and call people "Nazis," well, I'm sorry, Aaron, that's just the way politics is going to have to be for a while. Take a pill and go sit in a dark room until the vapors pass."

Yes, yes, yes.

I can see what he's talking about. The little sighs of "children, children" when Democrats get a little bit too uppity and turn the browbeating into a contest. The constant "reassurance" --- telling us not to worry, the republic is safe, no need to get excited, everything will be ok. They did this during the Florida recount, led docilely by GOP operatives who put little bugs in their ears about saving the country from civil war. Then the likes of Aaron Brown and Brian Williams, the synchronized swimmers of media Olympians, immediately adopted stentorian tones and began to seriously calm the nation --- most citizens of which were barely above comatose, thinking the recount was a really, really boring episode of The Real World with old, ugly people. The effect was, not surprisingly, to shut down protest against what was obviously an illegal and undemocratic power grab.

Now, in the middle of a war and a hard fought presidential campaign, the Heathers think it's time to stop shouting. How fucking convenient. Once again we see the press being fed pure political propaganda (and you can bet this "restoring civility" notion comes right out of Rove's shop) and not even knowing --- or caring --- that they're doing it.

What the media is really saying, on behalf of the GOP, is that we liberals should should be the punch line of a very old joke: "Two Jews are lined up against a wall to be shot. When one asks for a blindfold and a last cigarette, the other whispers to him, "Don't make trouble."

Fuggedaboudit. Aside from the obvious point that Pierce makes about capitulating at the zenith of right wing power so as to make the center of American politics somewhere to the right of the Third Reich for the next generation, we just have to be prepared for all out political war and we are going to have to be brave enough to take the heat. That goes whether Kerry wins or not --- in fact, it goes especially if Kerry wins.

Joe Conason points out today in Salon that the Clinton hating industry is already cranking up its machinery against JK. Indeed, I would imagine that a whole lot of these folks are actually hoping for a Kerry victory. They are, by nature, more comfortable being back bench fire breathers than real leaders with real responsibilities. They tend to implode whenever asked to actually govern. (see: Gingrich, Newt and Bush, Junior.) But, let's not forget the huge sums of money these character assassins made during the glory days. I have no doubt that they are betting on a Kerry win as their ticket back into the big time. Defending the Empty Codpiece is not nearly as profitable.

And, once again the mediawhores are on pace to help them in any way they can. Right now, all it takes is for them to adopt the "shrill" line against anybody who opposes Bush in anything but the most respectful terms and we have the conditions for them to trivialize the election one more time. Hopefully, the fact that thousands upon thousands of human beings lost their lives in this little foray into republican governance will draw them up short and prevent another round of "I love you long time, GOP source."

But, I doubt it.


Last week I wrote a post featuring Lt. Col Stephen Jordan and his testimony that the White House had been "impressed" with the "flow of information" coming out of Abu Ghraib. Today, Spencer Ackerman, pinch hitting for Josh Marshall at Talking Points, references this USA Today article about the same fellow, connecting many of the same dots and more.

There seems to be a great deal of emphasis placed on the numbers game. From the USA Today article:

Sergeant First Class Roger Brokaw, told the paper. "How many raids did you do last week? How many prisoners were arrested? How many interrogations were conducted? How many [intelligence] reports were written? It was incredibly frustrating."

From the Christian Science Monitor article I referenced in my earlier post:

Specialist Monath and others say they were frustrated by intense pressure from Colonel Pappas and his superiors - Lt. Gen Ricardo Sanchez and his intelligence officer, Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast - to churn out a high quantity of intelligence reports, regardless of the quality. "It was all about numbers. We needed to send out more intelligence documents whether they were finished or not just to get the numbers up," he said. Pappas was seen as demanding - waking up officers in the middle of the night to get information - but unfocused, ordering analysts to send out rough, uncorroborated interrogation notes. "We were scandalized," Monath said. "We all fought very hard to counter that pressure" including holding up reports in editing until the information could be vetted.

General Ripper, as well, seems to have been mighty impressed with the quantity of intelligence he got from prisoners in Guantanamo after he "took the gloves off." From January's issue of Vanity Fair:

According to General Miller, Gitmo's importance is growing with amazing rapidity: "Last month we gained six times as much intelligence as we did in January 2003. I'm talking about high-value intelligence here, distributed round the world."

Daily success or failure in guerilla wars is notoriously difficult to assess. Unlike a war for territory you cannot say that you took a certain hill or town. Political types are always looking for some measurement, some sign that they are succeeding (or failing.)

Billmon noted this back in October in an interesting post on Rumsfeld's angst at being unable to assess success or failure in the WOT:

Above all, Rumsfeld cries out for "metrics" that can be used to measure progress in such a war:

"Today, we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror," he wrote. "Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?"

Billmon makes the obvious comparison between Rummy and the most recent war criminal sec-def, Robert McNamara, concluding:

The same mindset also spawned McNamara's preferred metric: the infamous "body count." In that earlier, more naive, era, it hadn't yet occurred to management theorists that numeric targets can quickly become bureaucratic substitutes for real objectives, such as winning wars. So McNamara (and the military) had to learn it the hard way, as industrious field officers dispatched soldiers to count graves in Vietnamese civilian cemetaries in order to hit their weekly numbers.

I'm not sure what the equivalent might be today, although Rumsfeld's memo points in a possible direction when it suggests the creation of a private foundation that could fund "moderate" madrassas (Islamic schools) to counteract the radical ones. Perhaps someday we'll have a "moderate student count," in which hard-pressed CIA officers dispatch agents to count child laborers in Pakistani sweat shops in order to hit their weekly numbers.

It looks to me as if they found a simpler metric than that. Like the mediocre, hack bureaucrats they are, they decided that they would guage success or failure --- certainly they would report to the White House success or failure --- based upon the sheer numbers of raids, arrests, interrogations, reports, confessions and breakdowns achieved, regardless of whether any of it resulted in good intel or enhanced security anywhere.

This was the only metric they could conceive of and in order to get those numbers up they had to detain large numbers of innocent people and torture them for false information to fill the endless reports of success on the ground in Afghanistan, Gitmo and Iraq. They could hoist up a huge pile of paper in a meeting with their president and say, "look at how much intelligence we're getting. We're really getting somewhere."

McNamara quotes TS Eliot at the end of The Fog Of War:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time

Well, not everybody apparently. Thirty years after the hell of Vietnam, it's the same shit, different fools. Lyndon Johnson is laughing his ass off in hell.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

It's Here Already!

Take a look at the new Ronald Reagan stamp.

Spin Out

Commenter Ras_Nesta alerted me to some rather testy exchanges in this morning's gaggle.

Q Scott, you said there is a misperception of what the commission said on ties to terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, let me ask you this, did this administration commit any mistakes? Are you -- in other words, are you considered a perfect government?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry? Do you consider what?

Q A perfect government. I mean you are not accepting any --

MR. McCLELLAN: You're talking about the government in Iraq?

Q No, this government -- the government of President George W. Bush.

Q You're perfect.

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sure that there are mistakes that are made, but talking about Iraq and talking about the economy and those decisions, those policy decisions were the right decisions. Let's go to those issues. Just a general question about any mistakes --

Q As we're talking about Iraq --

MR. McCLELLAN: The decision to go into Iraq was the right decision. We stand firmly behind it because it made the world a safer and better place, and it's going to make America more secure.

Q You probably don't see the headlines around the world today --

MR. McCLELLAN: If you have a specific -- if you have a specific question, I'm glad to address it.

Q But you don't think the commission is right with its conclusion about there is any -- any ties between terrorism, al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, they talked about -- they talked about the ties. They talked about the contacts between al Qaeda and the regime in Iraq. And they pointed out some of those high-level contacts that occurred. We pointed out some of those high-level contacts that occurred through Secretary Powell, and through Director Tenet. It's perfectly consistent.

Q Scott, I've got a specific question. Who are the doom and gloomers to whom you are referring here on the economy? And by name?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think you hear from them. You know exactly who they are. They're those who try to talk down the economy when the economy is moving in the right direction. We have overcome significant challenges over the last few years. And the economy is shifting into a higher gear.

Q We've already heard you say that. But I'm just wondering, you and your associates sitting over here like to lecture us about, who are you referring to when you mention critics or observers or whatever, so we're asking you: Who are these pessimists?

MR. McCLELLAN: Peter --

Q I'm talking specifics. What are specific names?

MR. McCLELLAN: And, Peter, these people are well known. All you have to go is go and look and read the paper, or watch the news.

Q Well, give us a name here, Scott.

Does anyone know who Peter is? I'd like to buy the man a drink.

Flounder (as Susan calls him) went on to repeat the new mantra:

R. McCLELLAN: The President is going to continue to talk about his optimistic, positive vision for this country and how we can build upon the policies that we have implemented to get our economy growing stronger. Our economy is growing stronger every day. New jobs are being created. This administration acted decisively to get our economy out of a recession and get it growing stronger. And all you have to do is look at the news, and you'll see who those individuals are.

Don't worry, be happy.

Is this is some lameass, obvious, "morning in America" bullshit, or what? The best they can come up with is some warmed over 20 year old bullshit from a dead man and it isn't even half true. Why not "chicken in every pot," it's more fitting.

An entire week of wall to wall slurpy Republican soul kissing and the best Bush could pull out of it was a 3 point bounce? Let's not kid ourselves, it may be 1984 again, but it's Orwell's version this time, not Ronnie's.

Fool Me 2,653 Times...

Peter Beinert has some second thoughts about trusting Republicans.

In the run-up to the Iraq war, I tried hard not to be partisan. I distrusted the Bush administration and feared it would be politically empowered by the war. But such thoughts felt petty and limited at such an important time. And so I evaluated the arguments for war on their merits, irrespective of my feelings about the people making them. Doing so made me feel superior to the Democrats, who, I suspected, would have supported an Iraq war waged by Al Gore, and to the Republicans, who had opposed the Kosovo war because it was waged by Bill Clinton.

But, in retrospect, my efforts not to be limited proved limiting. Partisanship, it turned out, was an extremely useful analytical tool in understanding the Iraq war. Had I not tried so hard to cleanse myself of it, I might have seen some of the war's problems earlier than I did.

This was a partisan war. By partisan, I don't mean that it was led by Republicans. It was partisan in the sense that the people who formulated it prized group loyalty above all else. They divided the world, the country, and even their own administration into people who could be trusted and people who could not. And, unfortunately, the people who could be trusted knew much less about how to build democracy in Iraq than the people who could not.


For conservatives, the right lesson of Iraq is that, if you apply a loyalty test to this country's best sources of knowledge--the academy, the press, and the government itself--you'll lose the war on terrorism through sheer ignorance. For liberals, the lesson is to see conservatives as they are, not as you'd like them to be. I'll try to remember it next time.

For some of us, it was enough to watch the "conservatives" engage in a decade long smear campaign, impeach a president over a private sexual matter and then steal an election to prove that they are "not as we'd like them to be." But, those were such fun times for the press, when they all got to pretend like they were happenin'--- talkin' 'bout the nasty 'n shit, all the while cluck clucking like a bunch of women's temperence workers over the horrors of sexual incontinence. They just couldn't bear to see the party end. The deification of Bush after 9/11 was just the latest chapter in their lazy acceptance of GOP political propaganda.

It was, in fact, another example of that which Beinert finally realized perpetuated the failure in Iraq --- myopic, group loyalty so profoundly disdainful of anyone outside of it that they cannot be trusted to even carry out their own plans successfully. The modern GOP lives in a little world of its own, made even more parochial by the advent of its own media infrastructure. The people who are in charge are second rate thinkers who rose to the top because the pool was so small to begin with.

In America today, there is no such thing as bipartisanship. It didn't have to be this way, but it is. The Democrats compromised with the other side until they came this close to selling their souls and got nothing but the boot on the neck in return. They can go no further.

And the press actually did sell its soul for some cheap, tabloid thrills and a puerile story line about Democratic weakness and Republican strength. It's way past time for them to rub the cobwebs from their eyes and recognize their snooty superiority is simply an excuse for applying a lazy "he said she said" journalistic ethic so they could go home early and chatter about the perfidy of politicians --- who are, in their minds, all alike.

After the last decade, it's quite obvious they are not.

Another Snootfull 'O Freedom

A suicide car bomb in central Baghdad ripped into a throng of men waiting at a recruiting station to sign up for the new Iraqi army today, killing at least 35 people and wounding at least 138, hospital officials said.


The explosion at the army recruiting station in Baghdad caused by artillery shells packed into a car raised questions about whether the Americans and Iraqi security forces could even protect men willing to sign up.

Saddam was a madman who tortured and gassed his own people and all, but nobody ever said he didn't have some good ideas:

Iraq's new defense minister, Hazim al-Shaalan, promised a bloody crackdown on the insurgents. "We will cut off their hands and behead them," he said.

The deputy United States defense secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, who is visiting Iraq, suggested that Iraq's security forces were still far from being able to patrol the country alone and would need "substantial help" for some time, Reuters reported.

Much more "help" from us and Iraq is going to look like the set of a Mad Max movie.

Would mayhem be considered as severely painful as organ failure, I wonder? That wasn't discussed specifically in the torture memos so we can't really be sure. But, it would certainly be justified under the "necessity" clause of Iraq's new constitution (modeled after ours, of course) in which the president can do whatever he wants whenever he thinks it's necessary. Maybe a few of those bad insurgency apples would think twice about doing this kind of thing if they lost a hand or two.

Saddam, after all, had great success with the cutting off of ears.

Draft Bruce !!!

What a great way to counterprogram the be-tokened,"up-with-jackboots" FUBAR convention. Sign the petition.

What Code Red?

AMERICAblog reports that the military unfortunately seems to have recorded over the tape (they originally denied existed) of the American soldier beaten to a pulp in Guantanamo. I hate when that happens.

Divorce #3

...and it's not hard to figure out why.

Ladies, this will make your blood boil:

LIMBAUGH: I remember way, way back in the '80s, at -- at one of the fractious moments when the militant feminists were ruling the roost and defining a lot of the national debate. ... The NAGs would have a press conference. Six NAGs would show up somewhere -- National Association of Gals -- don't misunderstand this, my pet name for the NOW gang. ... The NAGs don't represent the majority of female thought in this country, and they aren't -- they aren't determining who wins elections. White men are. And this is -- I'm not being sexist. This is just pure demographics.

I guess it's a good thing he's so charming and handsome or he might have trouble getting a date now that he's back on the market.

The Poorman knows a very hot Republican babe who is definitely interested. Not only is she brilliant but if you scroll down the entry, you can see that she's just the kind of gal Rush has been dreaming of (as he "investigates" those pay porn sites he keeps talking about ...breathlessly...holding back a slight moan ... whenever the topic of that girl with the leash comes up....)

Neocon Worms

The call for President Bush's defeat in a statement released Wednesday by a group of former diplomats and military officials highlighted the stark divide that has opened among foreign policy experts over the administration's national security strategy.


The statement suggests how much certain parts of Bush's foreign policy do mark a break with the establishment," said Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard and a leading conservative theorist. "The simplest way to put it is that Bush thinks 9/11 was a fundamental break and we needed a new doctrine after that, and the foreign policy establishment doesn't believe that."

Bullshit. 9/11 had nothing to do with it and Kristol, of all people, knows that. His PNAC plans, adopted wholesale by Crusader Codpiece, were laid out long before 9/11 and should have been rendered irrelevant afterward. It was the neocons, not the foreign policy establishment who twisted the attacks to their own use without regard for the changed circumstances that 9/11 wrought. If you look at their record, they never considered terrorism a serious threat and 9/11 didn't change that.

Just as the Bush administration argued for tax cuts for the rich, no matter the circumstances --- surplus or deficit --- so too have the neocons argued for unilateralisam, global military dominance and the invasion of Iraq. It made little sense before 9/11 and even less afterwards. The neocons adopting the "9/11 changed everything" mantra is chutzpah of the highest order. For them it changed absolutely nothing.

It's not the ossified old foreign policy establishment that's rigid and unyielding to new ideas, it's the starry-eyed neocons and their ivory tower vision of a Pax Americana forced on the world at the end of a gun that's out of step with the new reality.

The result of these tremors may be the most turbulence in the foreign policy landscape since the late 1970s, when a flight of hawkish Democratic thinkers known as neoconservatives migrated to the GOP in reaction to the dovish post-Vietnam foreign policy embraced by most Democratic politicians.

"I don't know where it ends up, but clearly it is a very fluid moment like the late 1970s," Kristol said.

Those signing the sharply worded statement included Arthur A. Hartman, ambassador to the Soviet Union for President Reagan; and Jack F. Matlock, who assumed that post toward the end of Reagan's second term and held it under President George H.W. Bush. Others were William Harrop, the elder Bush's ambassador to Israel; retired Gen. Merrill A. McPeak, the Air Force chief of staff during the Persian Gulf War; retired Adm. William J. Crowe, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman under Reagan; and Donald McHenry, the U.N. ambassador under President Carter.

It's long past time for the real conservatives to speak up. Their children have gone out of control and they need to rein them in. If they can't, then it's time to join the other side and we'll help put them in their place. We are dealing with serious stuff for serious people, now. It's time for the real Republican grown-ups to take a stand.

Hair On Fire

It's as if while we weren't looking John Kerry stepped into the phone booth as Clark Kent and emerged as Superman. Yes, at least for one day anyway, Kerry, master of convoluted context, numbingly nuanced non-answers, and perpetually polysyllabic pentameters, has, voila! turned into a smash-and-slash, take-no-prisoners stump speaker.

A startled political press took note of the transformation in its coverage today. The Washington Post's Lois Romano described Kerry's speech to 800 union members gathered in Atlantic City as "passionate" and "populist."

Romano cited this portion of Kerry's remarks: "I'm running for president to put America back to work...I'm running for president because health care is not a benefit just for the wealthy or the elected or the connected...I'm running for president because I know that we could be a hell of a lot stronger in the world if we were to secure our freedom..."

Both the Boston Globe's Glen Johnson and the New York Times' Robin Toner sat upright for another part of Kerry's sizzling New Jersey speech:

"Our tax code has gone from 14 pages to 17,000 pages. Any of you get your own page? Enron's got its own page. Exxon's got its own page. Looks to me like Halliburton's got its own chapter."

A sense of timing is a very important thing in life. I'm thinking Kerry's got one.

Also from the Globe article :

John F. Kerry said yesterday he would appoint a prominent, independent public figure such as John McCain or Bob Dole to investigate allegations of torture by US soldiers during the war on terror, abuse that he suggested was an outgrowth of the Bush administration's liberal interpretation of the Geneva Conventions.

The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, speaking with reporters for the first time in two weeks, said such an investigation is needed to assure the world that the United States remains committed to human rights and to protect its future prisoners of war from similar abuse.

"Torture is not acceptable. Period," Kerry said after his campaign charter touched down in Covington, Ky., so he could attend a fund-raiser across the Ohio River in Cincinnati.

"I think the president is underestimating the full impact of what has happened in the world to our reputation because of that prison scandal. The president himself gave a speech in which he said, 'Oh, it's just a few people.' But now, already, we've seen it's not just a few people, and there are serious questions about how high it goes," Kerry added. "I believe that it's vital for us to prove to the world that this is really not going to be swept under the rug; . . . we're going to prove to the world we're willing to show that we will hold people accountable."

Kerry suggested that the inquiry could be led by McCain, the Republican senator from Arizona and former prisoner of war, or Dole, another veteran and former Republican senator. He also mentioned Senator John Warner, Republican of Virginia, and former senators George J. Mitchell of Maine and Warren B. Rudman of New Hampshire as possible picks.

Kerry noted that the administration "took themselves outside of even the prisoner abuse law that was passed," which raises "very, very serious questions about the messages that went out to leadership within the military, and especially -- ultimately -- to the rank and file." Around the world, Kerry said, "our moral authority has been tarnished as a consequence of what's happened."

Steve Schmidt, a spokesman for President Bush's reelection committee, said the criticism, as well as comments Kerry made about the economy earlier in the day, reflected the "misery and pessimism" of the Democratic campaign. ''It's another example of John Kerry exploiting the war on terror and the prisoner abuse situation for political gain."

From the NY Times piece:

He ended his day at a rain-soaked outdoor rally in Columbus, which drew a large crowd of supporters as well as a scattering of abortion protesters, and some Bush supporters. The Republicans blasted the theme song from "Flipper'' for part of his speech to accuse him of flip-flopping on issues. As dusk fell, Mr. Kerry delivered his paean to the middle class, and the crowd held in a driving rain, cheering as he invoked the legacies of Presidents Clinton and Roosevelt.

The flipper thing is just sad. Kerry's talking about the president of the United States ordering torture and they're playing games.

I'm expecting to see Kerry start to ramp up the energy going into the convention where he will be introduced to the people who are only peripherally paying attention. If it's a good convention and Kerry hits the ground running, Bush may not be able to stop him. Like I said, a sense of timing is incredibly important. It's looking as if Kerry is a long distance runner with the instinct to know when to hang back and when to pull away from the pack.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Rumsfeld ordered prisoner held off the books

Pentagon officials tell NBC News that late last year, at the same time U.S. military police were allegedly abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ordered that one Iraqi prisoner be held "off the books" hidden entirely from the International Red Cross and anyone else in possible violation of international law.

It's the first direct link between Rumsfeld and questionable though not violent treatment of prisoners in Iraq.

The Iraqi prisoner was captured last July as deadly attacks on U.S. troops began to rise. He was identified as a member of the terrorist group Ansar al Islam, suspected in the attacks on coalition forces.


In the military's own investigation into prisoner abuse, Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba said efforts to hide prisoners from the Red Cross were "deceptive" and a "violation of international law."
Pentagon officials claim it's entirely lawful to hold prisoners in secret if they pose an immediate threat. But today, nearly one year after his capture, he's still being held incommunicado.

At the same time U.S. military police were allegedly abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ordered that one Iraqi prisoner be held off the books.

In fact, once the prisoner was returned to Iraq, the interrogations ceased because the prisoner was entirely lost in the system. [Can you believe it?]


Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch said, "If they thought he was such a threat that he could not get Red Cross visits, then how come such a threatening prisoner got lost in the system?"

Pentagon officials still insist Rumsfeld acted legally, but admit it all depends on how you interpret the law.


Angst and Anti-Americanism

Even if you have to sit through ad, I urge you to read this fascinating article in Salon called "America's blankness," which was originally a prepared speech by professor Stephen Holmes.

He explores the roots and reasons for the growth in anti-Americanism and asks if it matters. (It does.) He examines how it happened and what actions the US took that precipitated this surge of ill feeling toward us. And he suggests various ways in which we might turn some of this around in a new administration.

The way he sees it, the Europeans are freaked out by Bush, but will put it behind them if we kick him out and behave in a more civilized fashion. If Kerry wins, Holmes suggests that he may robustly renew the Atlantic alliance on the basis of the shared threats faced by both Americans and Europeans: nuclear proliferation and terrorist attacks on major cities. After Madrid, we should be able to enlist the Europeans, whose security agencies have much more experience with infiltration and intelligence gathering of terrorists than we do. It would be very helpful if we could all sincerely work together on this. It's a terrible failure of foreign policy and national security that Bush has poisoned this necessary relationship.

Anti-Americanism in the mid-east, on the other hand, has morphed into hatred. And the probable consequences of that are even worse than I thought. The most obvious result is that we are creating terrorists in exponentially greater numbers than we are killing them. That is not a winning strategy.

But, we have also succeeded in doing the precise opposite of what we intended with Bush's long term democratization strategy by strengthening autocratic regimes as they borrow our rhetoric on the WOT and crack down on their own people. The region is becoming less democratic rather than more and even those that are democratic hate our guts too. This Iraq project is a huge failure on all levels. Holmes's scenario of what is likely to happen in iraq is both depressing and scary. It was a mistake from the beginning, but the cock-up of the occupation and the lack of planning is simply unforgiveable.

On the grand global scale, we have destroyed the mystique of American power, a subject that Michael Lind explores in this very interesting piece and I discussed here some time back. Showing our weaknesses at this particular time makes it much more likely that our enemies will feel emboldened or will make a mistake. There are huge consequences to this sad performance in Iraq, but none are bigger than that. That it was done unnecessarily makes it a crime.

Clearly, anti-Americanism has increased hugely since 9/11 all over the globe. There is no good reason why that needed to happen. We were the victims and the entire world was in sympathy with us until the Bush administration began to behave irrationally.

The GOP has recently been using the orwellian argument that to vote for Kerry is to vote for the terrorists even though we are demonstrably less safe under Bush's policies. They've been trying to innoculate themselves from this glaring fact since 9/11 by silencing dissent and forcefeeding the nation a diet of fear and fantasy to hide the fact they have been screwing things up from the beginning.

The real argument is that a vote for Bush is to validate his failed policies and convince the rest of the world that we truly are nation of dangerous fools. This will not increase our safety, I'm afraid. In fact, nothing could help the terrorists more than to put this rogue administration back in office.

Tribal Leadership

Q: The Vice President, who I see standing over there, said yesterday that Saddam Hussein has long-established ties to al Qaeda. As you know, this is disputed within the U.S. intelligence community. Mr. President, would you add any qualifiers to that flat statement? And what do you think is the best evidence of it?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Zarqawi. Zarqawi is the best evidence of connection to al Qaeda affiliates and al Qaeda. He's the person who's still killing. He's the person -- and remember the email exchange between al Qaeda leadership and he, himself, about how to disrupt the progress toward freedom?

Probably the murkiest and most intriguing feature of this man of many mysteries is the question of Zarqawi's relations with Osama bin Laden. Though he met with bin Laden in Afghanistan several times, the Jordanian never joined al Qaeda. Militants have explained that Tawhid was "especially for Jordanians who did not want to join al Qaeda." A confessed Tawhid member even told his interrogators that Zarqawi was "against al Qaeda." Shortly after 9/11, a fleeing Ramzi bin al-Shibh, one of the main plotters of the attacks, appealed to Tawhid operatives for a forged visa. He could not come up with ready cash. Told that he did not belong to Tawhid, he was sent packing and eventually into the arms of the Americans.

Zarqawi and bin Laden also disagree over strategy. Zarqawi allegedly constructed his Tawhid network primarily to target Jews and Jordan. This choice reflected both Zarqawi's Palestinian heritage and his dissent from bin Laden's strategy of focusing on the "far enemy" -- the United States. In an audiotape released after the recent foiled gas attack in Amman, an individual claiming to be Zarqawi argued that the Jordanian Intelligence Services building was indeed the target, although no chemical attack was planned. Rather, he stated menacingly, "God knows, if we did possess [a chemical bomb], we wouldn't hesitate one second to use it to hit Israeli cities such as Eilat and Tel Aviv."


The slaughter of Shias touches on another Zarqawi beef with bin Laden. While both men follow the strict code of Salafi Islam, which reckons Shias as apostates, bin Laden prides himself on being a unifying figure and has made tactical alliances with Shia groups, meeting several times with Shia militants. Zarqawi, by contrast, favors butchering Shias, calling them "the most evil of mankind . . . the lurking snake, the crafty and malicious scorpion, the spying enemy, and the penetrating venom." American military officials hold Zarqawi responsible not only for assassinating Shia religious leaders in Iraq, but also for the multiple truck bombings of a Shia religious festival this past March, which killed 143 worshippers.

But though bin Laden and Zarqawi differ on strategy, Zarqawi too cloaks his plans for mass murder in the language of the religious zealot. To Zarqawi, "religion is more precious than anything and has priority over lives, wealth, and children." He considers Iraq ideal for jihad especially because "it is a stone's throw from the lands of the two Holy Precincts [Saudi Arabia] and the al Aqsa [mosque, in Jerusalem]. We know from God's religion that the true, decisive battle between infidelity and Islam is in this land [Greater Syria and its surroundings]. . . ." On the tape of the beheading of Nick Berg, entitled "Sheikh Abu Musab Zarqawi executes an American with his own hands and promises Bush more," Zarqawi rages, "Where is the compassion, where is the anger for God's religion, and where is the protection for Muslims' pride in the crusaders' jails? . . . The pride of all Muslim men and women in Abu Ghraib and other jails is worth blood and souls."

The CIA has verified that Zarqawi himself spoke on the tape and personally beheaded Berg. Similarly, the videotaped beheading of Daniel Pearl of the Wall Street Journal in February 2002 was carried out directly by another jihadi leader, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The latter, like Zarqawi, never swore allegiance to bin Laden. In this bloodthirsty crowd, it appears that slitting the throat of an American Jew wins laurels.

In January 2004, Iraqi Kurds captured a message from Zarqawi in Iraq to bin Laden. Zarqawi offered bin Laden a chance to expand al Qaeda's role in Iraq. Victory, Zarqawi instructed, meant fomenting sectarian war between Shiites and Sunnis. There are no indications that bin Laden responded, and there are now signs of cooperation between some Iraqi Shia and Sunni militants. Are bin Laden and Zarqawi running competing terrorist organizations in Iraq?


Zarqawi exemplifies Sunni terrorism after 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq, what some call "al Qaeda 2.0." The Western counteroffensive decimated al Qaeda's leadership, stripped the organization of safe havens and training camps, and disrupted its command and control. Former al Qaeda subsidiaries became franchises, receiving inspiration from bin Laden's occasional messages but operating independently. Historically speaking, the dynamic of revolutionary movements favors the most radical faction -- the Jacobins, not the Girondists, the Bolsheviks, not the Menshiviks. If this dynamic prevails in contemporary Sunni terrorism, Abu Musab al Zarqawi represents the future.

A very nasty customer indeed, if this is true and if he's still alive. And, of course, if he is let's not forget it will be no thanks to our president:

In June 2002, U.S. officials say intelligence had revealed that Zarqawi and members of al-Qaida had set up a weapons lab at Kirma, in northern Iraq, producing deadly ricin and cyanide.

The Pentagon quickly drafted plans to attack the camp with cruise missiles and airstrikes and sent it to the White House, where, according to U.S. government sources, the plan was debated to death in the National Security Council.

"Here we had targets, we had opportunities, we had a country willing to support casualties, or risk casualties after 9/11 and we still didn’t do it," said Michael O’Hanlon, military analyst with the Brookings Institution.

Four months later, intelligence showed Zarqawi was planning to use ricin in terrorist attacks in Europe.

The Pentagon drew up a second strike plan, and the White House again killed it. By then the administration had set its course for war with Iraq.

"People were more obsessed with developing the coalition to overthrow Saddam than to execute the president’s policy of preemption against terrorists," according to terrorism expert and former National Security Council member Roger Cressey.

I'm sure Junior believes that Zarkawi being in Iraq proves something about 9/11, al Qaeda and the GWOT, despite all the evidence to the contrary. He believes the same thing many of his supporters believe which is that that all arabs are pretty much the same and in his mind that includes Persians, Afghans, Indians (and probably Mexicans and Frenchmen too.) The subtleties are for pussies. His gut tells him that the arabs will only do what we tell them to do (in the name of freedom and democracy, of course) if we show them who is boss. He is, after all, famously "not into nuance."

I think that the distinctions between the various players in the mid-east are simply not relevant to him, and neither is it of interest to his supporters. "They" are different from "us," but "they" are all the same. He gave himself away with his little aside last month in which he said:

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

I think we know what we're really dealing with, don't we?

"My right hand hasn't seen my left hand in years"

Natasha at Pacific Views had an interesting little chat with one of the Republican conmen ... er, grassroots people's movement representatives who are protesting Fahrenheit 911.

Let's just say they aren't really the toppermost of the poppermost of the PR world, if this is the best they can do.

For information on how to combat the Drudge-enhanced smear campaign and boycott, go to PoliticalStrategy.org to get everything you need.

Beat Me Hurt Me

Let's see here. Do you want to run the table, or do you want to go eat lunch?

Hold on a second, I'll get you in a minute, please. A little patience in front of the President here.

How many questions? One question apiece. If we're going to stand out here in 100-degree temperature, let's just have one question.

You can pass your question on to some other person, and I might call on them. I'm not so sure I'm going to be so international this press conference. (Laughter.) The first question was about am I concerned about economic vitality? I'm pleased with -- what?

Go ahead, Terry. No, you've asked your question. Terry. Hold on for a second. Terry. Thank you, though

Which question do you want me to answer?

Q:Well, I think they're related; both --

No, they're not -- (laughter.)

Q Please, I'll say, please.

Look, it's very hot out here, we've got a President from a -- a respectful President here. Why don't you just ask one question, i f you don't mind? I don't mean to be telling you how to do your business. All right, I'll answer both. (Laughter.)

The second part was what? I forgot. It was so long ago that you asked it --

Q I know, I apologize, I was long-winded.

Okay, a couple more questions. Yes. Let me work my way through the TV readers.

Which one, you or Sanger?

I'm getting distracted over here, there seems to be some noise.

And then the naked emperor snapped his towel one more time at the cowering press corps and walked away as they all sang, "thank you sir, may I have another," in unison.

He was very clear on one thing. Between bouts of showing the press whose bitch they are, he repeatedly assured them that he's a leader who leading and the American people know he's leading because he's led. And, he's leading us in the fight against darkness and hatred by killing the terrorists on their own turf and then defeating the forces of evil wherever it may be, god-bless-us-everyone.

First, it's in our interests that we defeat terrorists there than fight them here. That's our short-term security interest.

Secondly, it's in our long-term interests that we work for free societies in parts of the world that are desperate for freedom. And the reason I keep saying that, Wendell, is because I know that a free society is a peaceful society. And America is interested in working with friends to promote the peace. And that's what we're doing. The short-term solution for our security problem is to find the terrorists and bring them to justice before they hurt Americans again; is to deny them training bases; is to deny them affiliates and allies in the war on terror. That's what we have done in Afghanistan and Iraq. The long-term solution is to promote free societies that are able to defeat the forces of pessimism, darkness, intolerance and hatred.

And then he went into his office and defeated the forces of pessimism by ordering up some torture of Afghan cab drivers right after he shined the light of freedom on the Geneva Conventions and declared them dead. After lunch he planned to end intolerance and hatred by holding thousands of innocent Iraqis in unlimited detention. He is the president of a free society, after all. He can legally set aside any laws he deems ... unfree.