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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

 
Confiding in Vic

It looks like DC is just crawling with wingnuts claiming to have spotted Elvis er... claiming that Joseph Wilson told them that his wife was CIA while they were waiting to go on one News show or another. Oddly, none of them ever came forward to support poor little Scooter and Karl during their ordeal. How selfish of them.

From last July, here's a friend of Victor Davis Hanson, regaling the Freepers with lurid stories of Wilson's crass materialism and bragging about his hot blonde wife in the make-up room:

Based upon a personal conversation (we were in a small group eating; it was NOT an "off the record") I had with eminent historian Victor Davis Hanson (we were at a luncheon table together during a trip to Europe), it appeared entirely possible that Joe Wilson himself was the (or one source, if not the original one) possible source in revealing his own wife's status as a CIA agent or employee.

Victor Davis Hanson (Wilson presumably knew Victor Davis Hanson wrote regularly for NRO (National Review Online), had done OpEds for the Wall street Journal, and other publications, and had his own Website with a widespread following) said he (VDH) & Joe Wilson were both in the same "Green Room" before a televised debate-discussion on Iraq, etc. and Joe first warned the TV make-up person not to get powder on his $14,000 Rolex watch, then he bragged to Victor about several things (possessions and trips to Aspen, etc.), like his expensive car (I think it was a Mercedes), and then bragged about his beautiful wife who, Joe Wilson said (braggingly) was a CIA operative.

I asked Victor Davis Hanson Why he didn't write up this account.(?) He replied that Joe Wilson would probably simply deny it, since only he (VDH) & Joe Wilson were in the Green Room together before the broadcast.


Fitzgerald is going to have to round up every wingnut in Washington. Seems they've all been holding out on him, allowing him to spend years investigating and hundreds of thousands of dollars and now he's going to have to start from scratch. After all, he is under the impression that Wilson's CIA status was classified and not known outside intelligence circles. Apparently, Wilson spilled his guts with uncommon frequency in the Green Rooms of television studios.

For those of you who need a primer on the hard, masculine, manliness of the brave Victor Dave, (who was evidently much too busy tucking into his terrine of duck confit whilst entertaining his little friends with insider tales of crass nouveau riches clods to step up and help out his pals Scoot and Turdblossom) here's James Wolcott on the subject.

By the way, did I ever tell you that I once heard Dick Cheney recite the codes to the nuclear football over tacos at Michael Ledeen's house? He did. And while he was doing it he was picking off the neighborhood cats with a bb gun and bragging about his three-way with Lynn and John Bolton. I never said anything before because he would just deny it. We were alone together in the bathroom at the time.


Crooks and Liars has a whole list of interesting links on the Valelly/McIntyre Swift boat smear.



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Whole Lotta Love

Wow. CNN is reporting that Trent Lott just said that the Washington Post leak was probably perpetrated by a Republican Senator! Apparently, the gulag was discussed at the Republican-Senator-only meeting last week in which Cheney begged them to back-off the anti-torture policy.

Lott said, "we have met the enemy and he is us." Man a majority leader scorned is fearsome creature, ain't he?

I do find it fascinating that Cheney was discussing this Gulag opernly in front of the GOP caucus after they had just recently voted 90-0 for the anti-torture amendment. Seems old Dick is a little slow on the uptake. He didn't learn a thing from his earlier leaking campaign, did he?

Update: Think Progress has the video.


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Losing On Defense

As Dear Leader would say, I think it's a "faahbulous" idea to hold hearings into how the Washington Post found out that we have established an illegal gulag (yes, a gulag) in countries around the world where we are holding and torturing prisoners indefinitely and with impugnity. I hope it creates headlines every single day for months as we explore this issue of how reporters found out that we are behaving in an illegal and immoral fashion along the lines of the Soviet Union. We need to get to the bottom of how such a thing happened and if it requires days and weeks of media coverage discussing how we torture and imprison people in foreign countries, so be it.

This Republican implosion is really becoming interesting to watch. These people lose their wits when they are forced to play defense. They think they are being clever and "turning the tables" on the Democrats by holding hearings into a leak but they apparently don't understand that they are playing right into the Democratic narrative about Republican secrecy, lies and incompetence.

As Terry at Nitpicker says:

If Republicans think this is a good idea for the political health of their party, they're stupider than I've ever thought they were. First, they're all but admitting to the world that we do have such sites, especially when someone on the Hill tells Drudge the leak "damaged national security."

More importantly, we're finally going to get to talk about issues that we should have been talking about all along. The Geneva Convention debate will be renewed. Dick Cheney's walk on the "dark side" will show. Eventually, leaders in countries that haven't avoided the International Criminal Court will go on trial and save their own asses by ratting out the Bushies.

We'll probably also get to see a real First Amendment debate, which will demonstrate just how ridiculous Judith Miller's claims of higher moral purpose were. The honesty of journalism "shield law" advocates like Sen. Dick Lugar and Rep. Mike Pence will likewise be tested.

This could be an all-out, to-the-mattresses fight over the values that we Americans truly hold dear and, in the process, we might even save our country's soul.

 
General Wacko and General Crackpot

Via Americablog: I see that the GOP attack machine is swift-boating Joe Wilson, saying that he casually spilled his wife's CIA status in the FOX greenroom back in 2002. I kid you not. They got two wingnut ex-generals to say that Wilson told them about his wife before they were about to go on television.

I suspect they might get a visit from the FBI about this because the last I heard, there was still an ongoing investigation into the matter of how reporters found out about Plame's employment. Patrick Fitzgerald might just be interested to know why these fellows haven't come forward before. After all, the story sounds a little bit wierd considering the fact that Joe never let it slip to his own friends and neighbors that Valerie was CIA, yet he supposedly blabbed to a couple of total strangers in the greenroom of a news network.

See, Fitz will wonder if after they heard this juicy little nugget about about a CIA spy married to an ex-Ambassador that they, in turn, told a FOX news reporter who might have then slipped it to Karl or Scooter sometime later. After all, both of those guys have very faulty memories and have said that they don't remember exactly where they heard about Plame.

I think somebody needs to get on the horn and let Pat Fitzgerald know that there are a couple of witnesses going around on right wing talk radio who could blow his case wide open. He needs to get the FBI out to talk to them right away.


Just in case anyone is wondering about these two guys' political orientation, here's an excerpt of the Publisher's Weekly review of these two patriots' Regnery book called "Endgame: The Blueprint For Victory in The War On Terror"

As the authors would have it, North Korea must dismantle its nuclear program or face U.S. invasion. Syria, unless it stops supporting terrorism and coughs up the Iraqi WMDs the authors say it’s hiding, should also be invaded. Saudi Arabia should be nudged toward a diversified economy and political reform, but if Islamic radicals take over, it too must be invaded. Iran, too big to invade, should be slapped with an embargo and naval blockade,[that view is no longer operative. Iran should now be tactically nuked -- ed] while Pakistan should be enticed with aid packages into curbing its nuclear proliferation and cracking down on the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The authors’ ambitious schedule of ultimatums and conquests leads them to focus almost exclusively on the U.S. military, for which they recommend the Rumsfeld doctrine of light, mobile forces, supplemented by additional weapons spending.
.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Considering what we know about Dick Cheney, it is not surprising that these two fellows would come to his defense. Let's consider General Paul Vallely, Fox news analyst and certified Strangelovian freakshow. From Newshounds November 2004:

Colmes questioned the wisdom of a Judeo/Christian holy war against Muslims. "That's what's going on," Vallely said. "If you don't understand that, then you don't get it."


But that's not General Vallely's claim to fame. He is known for a paper he wrote with a military intelligence officer named Michael Aquino in the late 1980's called From PSYOP to Mindwar: The Psychology of Victory. Aquino is also the founder of a Satanic cult called "The Temple of Set" which has had many run-ins with the law regarding satanic pedophile rings on military bases. I still kid you not. You can find a copy of this paper on the Temple web-site. He founded the cult in the mid-1970's more than a decade before he wrote this paper with our friend Vallely. I'm not big on guilt by association -- but really.

Vallely and Aquino's views are a bit eccentric, to say the least:


In its strategic context, MindWar must reach out to friends, enemies, and neutrals alike across the globe - neither through primitive "battlefield" leaflets and loudspeakers of PSYOP nor through the weak, imprecise, and narrow effort of psychotronics - but through the media possessed by the United States which have the capabilities to reach virtually all people on the face of the Earth. These media are, of course, the electronic media -- television and radio. State of the art developments in satellite communication, video recording techniques, and laser and optical transmission of broadcasts made possible a penetration of the minds of the worlds such as would have been inconceivable just a few years ago. Like the sword Excalibur, we have but to reach out and seize this tool; and it can transform the world for us if we have the courage and the integrity to civilization with it. If we do not accept Excalibur, then we relinquish our ability to inspire foreign cultures with our morality. If they then desire moralities unsatisfactory to us, we have no choice but to fight them on a more brutish level.

[...]

Unlike PSYOP, MindWar has nothing to do with deception or even with "selected" - and therefore misleading - truth. Rather it states a whole truth that, if it does not now exist, will be forced into existence by the will of the United States. The examples of Kennedy's ultimatum to Khrushchev during the Cuban Missile Crisis and Hitler's stance at Munich might be cited. A MindWar message does not have to fit conditions of abstract credibility as do PSYOP there; its source makes it credible.

[...]

"MindWar must target all participants to be effective. It must not only weaken the enemy; it must strengthen the United States. It strengthens the United States by denying enemy propaganda access to our people, and by explaining and emphasizing to our people the rationale for our national interest in a specific war."


As Rigorous Intuition notes here, that sounds remarkably like the comment made to journalist Ron Susskind about "creating reality:"

We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality - judiciously, as you will - we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.


This "Mindwar" paper evidently made the rounds in the military when it was published and informed a lot of wingnut thinking. What are the odds that Sec Def Cheney wasn't impressed? He's the guy who wanted to use tactical nukes use during Gulf War One, after all.

Mcinerney is only slightly less kooky than Vallely. He is heavily involved in neocon circles, particularly the Iran Policy Group with more famous notables like Gaffney, Ledeen and Pipes. He is also an influential board member of NetStar, a very interesting global communications company. Jim Stanton at the Agonist reported:

At the Intelcon blast held this past February, McInerney chaired a panel on Securing Intelligence Networks. As a director of NetStar Systems, that subject matter is an important part of his job. According to NetStar's website, it is "a fast-growing Virginia corporation with headquarters in Vienna, Virginia. It was founded in 1998 and most of our employees are cleared at the Top Secret or higher levels. NetStar is growing rapidly in the Intel and DOD sectors and has provided numerous solutions and staff to many of the Intelligence agencies in the DC metro area." Clients include the NSA, CIA, DIA, FBI, DHS and the Office of Naval Intelligence. NetStar is a member of the National Military Intelligence Association (NMIA). Most of NetStar's clients were at Intelcon 2005 including General Jim Williams, USA (Ret.), former director of DIA, and NMIA's current director.

[...]

"He [Bush] doesn't have any choice [but to attack Iran because] he understands [the Iranians] are the king of terror right now. They are striving for nuclear weapons that can get into the hands of terrorists and then it's too late. B-2 stealth bombers, armed with the huge penetrating bombs commonly called bunker busters, would be able to pierce Iran's aging air defenses and hit 20 or more sites. They have not updated that very, very old air defense system. McInerney said that as a colonel in 1977 he went to Iran and conducted a war exercise against various Iranian targets during the rule of the United States' ally, the Shah of Iran. They were not very good then, and they have clearly just gotten worse...I can tell you from my personal experience we would have no problem there."


Vallely is also a major neocon player. He was quoted back in February saying:


"Negotiations will not work," said Maj. Gen. (ret.) Paul Vallely, chairman of the military committee of the neoconservative Center for Security Policy, who described the Iranian regime as a "house of cards."


And who else but Dick Cheney was right in the middle of all this:

... the voices in favor of an "engagement" policy are being drowned out by crescendo of calls to adopt "regime change" as U.S. policy.

The latest such urging was released here Thursday by the Iran Policy Committee (IPC), a group headed by a former National Security Council staffer Ray Tanter, several retired senior military officers, and a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

The 30-page document, "U.S. Policy Options for Iran" by former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer Clare Lopez, appears to reflect the views of the administration's most radical hawks among the Pentagon's civilian leadership and in the office of Vice President Dick Cheney.

It was Cheney who launched the latest bout of saber-rattling when he told a radio interviewer last month that Tehran was "right at the top of the list" of the world's trouble spots and that Israel may strike at suspected Iranian nuclear sites even before the U.S.



These are all extremely creepy people involved in all kinds of neocon cloak and dagger fantasies. Just like Dick Cheney, whose idea of military leadership was gleaned from watching movies and TV series. They are part of the crackpot Cheney cabal.

These two men specifically are Jack D. Ripper and Buck Turgidson come to life. I think Pat Fitzgerald needs to talk to them. Immediately.



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Sickening

Reuters:.
U.S. forces in Iraq have used incendiary white phosphorus against civilians and a firebomb similar to napalm against military targets, Italian state-run broadcaster RAI reported on Tuesday.

A RAI documentary showed images of bodies recovered after a November 2004 offensive by U.S. troops on the town of Falluja, which it said proved the use of white phosphorus against men, women and children who were burned to the bone.

"I do know that white phosphorus was used," said Jeff Englehart in the RAI documentary, which identified him as a former soldier in the U.S. 1st Infantry Division in Iraq.

The U.S. military says white phosphorus is a conventional weapon and says it does not use any chemical arms.

"Burned bodies. Burned children and burned women," said Englehart, who RAI said had taken part in the Falluja offensive. "White phosphorus kills indiscriminately."

A U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad said he did not recall white phosphorus being used in Falluja. "I do not recall the use of white phosphorus during the offensive operations in Falluja in the fall of 2004," Lieutenant Colonel Steven Boylan said.

An incendiary device, white phosphorus is used by the military to conceal troop movements with smoke, mark targets or light up combat areas. The use of incendiary weapons against civilians has been banned by the Geneva Convention since 1980.

The United States did not sign the relevant protocol to the convention, a U.N. official in New York said.
This report may be wrong, or a malicious attempt to make the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld military look truly monstrous.* But given everything else that we know about - Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram, the black sites, the murders and "renditions" and refusal to abide by any law other than the president's will - I can only assume this is probably true. And note: white phosphorous, an incendiary, is classified as a conventional, ie non-chemical, weapon. Well, since ketchup's been a vegetable since the Reagan administration, I suppose napalm-like substances can be classified as little worse than rubber darts.

What will it take to stop these horrors? When will this country demand, with one voice, that torture and atrocities committed by the US stop, and stop, now, today?


*For the benefit of the rightwingers amongst us, who assume that those of us opposed to Bush/Iraq hate the military and think all soldiers are sadistic beasts, I don't believe the majority of American soldiers behave like the Abu Ghraib torturers. Obviosuly.

But I do believe that soldiers must follow orders from their higher ups and are often in no position to question what may be morally questionable orders. The sadistic beasts are the ones who condoned and ordered atrocities, not the soldiers who have been placed in an untenable position and cannot refuse without risking court martial or perhaps even summary execution.
 
Is Crucifixion Legal Under Bush And Cheney?

Jane Mayer, who along with Jill Abramson wrote Strange Justice, a definitive account of how Anita Hill was smeared and ridiculed during the Clarence Thomas hearing, has written a searing account of the death of a prisoner in Iraq.
Jamadi’s bruises, [a forensic pathologist who examined the case records] said, were no doubt painful, but they were not life-threatening. Baden went on, “He also had injuries to his ribs. You don’t die from broken ribs. But if he had been hung up in this way [with his hands tied behind him in a painful position known as a "Palestinian Hanging"] and had broken ribs, that’s different.” In his judgment, “asphyxia is what he died from—as in a crucifixion.”
As in a crucifixion. At the hands of Americans. And it may not be against the law anymore:
The Bush Administration has resisted disclosing the contents of two Justice Department memos that established a detailed interrogation policy for the Pentagon and the C.I.A. A March, 2003, classified memo was “breathtaking,” the same source said. The document dismissed virtually all national and international laws regulating the treatment of prisoners, including war-crimes and assault statutes, and it was radical in its view that in wartime the President can fight enemies by whatever means he sees fit. According to the memo, Congress has no constitutional right to interfere with the President in his role as Commander-in-Chief, including making laws that limit the ways in which prisoners may be interrogated. Another classified Justice Department memo, issued in August, 2002, is said to authorize numerous “enhanced” interrogation techniques for the C.I.A. These two memos sanction such extreme measures that, even if the agency wanted to discipline or prosecute agents who stray beyond its own comfort level, the legal tools to do so may no longer exist.
So, is the "right to crucify" behind the objections of the Bush administration to McCain's bill banning torture overseas? Someone should ask Scott McClellan. Today.

Monday, November 07, 2005

 
This is Not A Good Man

Kevin Drum says:

As a wise man said back in January 2003 regarding Cheney and his curiously enduring reputation for competence even in the face of mountains of contrary evidence, "his terrible judgment will, at some point, become impossible even for the Beltway crowd not to see." Looking back, perhaps historians will say that November 2005 was when they finally saw it.


I agree. It's finally coming into focus that every single one of this administration's so-called grown-ups are idiots. There were people who knew that the avuncular Dick Cheney was something of a nut, but nobody believed them. He just seemed so darned competent compared to the callow Junior, there was no need to look any further.

Frances Fitzgerald pointed out back in 2002 that Cheney was a bit of freak, in her fascinating article in the New York review of Books called "Bush and the World:"

In “A World Transformed,” the memoir that he and Bush senior published in 1998, [Brent] Scowcroft makes it clear that while all Bush senior's top advisers had different perspectives, the fundamental division lay between Defense Secretary Richard Cheney and everyone else. By his account, and by those of others in the administration, Cheney never trusted Gorbachev. In 1989 Cheney maintained that Gorbachev's reforms were largely cosmetic and that, rather than engage with the Soviet leader, the US should stand firm and keep up cold war pressures. In September 1991 Cheney argued that the administration should take measures to speed the breakup of the Soviet Union—even at the risk of encouraging violence and incurring long-term Russian hostility. He opposed the idea, which originated with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Colin Powell, that the US should withdraw its tactical nuclear weapons from Europe and South Korea. As a part of the preparations for the Gulf War he asked Powell for a study on how small nuclear weapons might be used against Iraqi troops in the desert.


The man is clearly a fool and always has been. Larry Johnson wrote about Cheney and torture today over on TPM cafe and mentions that the real CIA guys aren't all that into torture because it doesn't work. He suggests that Cheney and his minions got their ideas about all this from the movies.

That certainly does ring true to me. Here's an old favorite, that's amazingly illustrative of the incredible shallowness of Big Time, the man who was supposed to help little Junior get over his lack of foreign policy sophistication:


Following one White House meeting at which he'd asked for more time and more troops, Stormin' Norman reports; Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin Powell called to warn the Desert Storm commander that he was being loudly compared, by a top administration official, to George McClellan. "My God," the official supposedly complained. "He's got all the force he needs. Why won't he just attack?" Schwarzkopf notes that the unnamed official who'd made the comment "was a civilian who knew next to nothing about military affairs, but he'd been watching the Civil War documentary on public television and was now an expert."

And then, twenty pages later, Schwarzkopf casually drops the information that he got an inspirational gift from Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney right before the air war finally got under way. Cheney was presenting a gift to a military man, and he chose something with an appropriate theme: "(A) complete set of videotapes of Ken Burns's PBS series, The Civil War."

But that wasn't the only gift that Dick Cheney had for Norman Schwarzkopf. Having figured out that the general was being too cautious with his fourth combat command in three decades of soldiering, Cheney got his staff busy and began presenting Schwarzkopf with his own ideas about how to fight the Iraqis: What if we parachute the 82nd Airborne into the far western part of Iraq, hundreds of miles from Kuwait and totally cut off from any kind of support, and seize a couple of missile sites, then line up along the highway and drive for Baghdad? Schwarzkopf charitably describes the plan as being "as bad as it could possibly be... But despite our criticism, the western excursion wouldn't die: three times in that week alone Powell called with new variations from Cheney's staff. The most bizarre involved capturing a town in western Iraq and offering it to Saddam in exchange for Kuwait." (Throw in a Pete Rose rookie card?) None of this Walter Mitty posturing especially surprised Schwarzkopf, who points out that he'd already known Cheney as "one of the fiercest cold warriors in Congress.


Remember the adoring crowds and nearly hysterical screaming for this kook during last years election? What in gawd's name were those people drinking?



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Ever Rightward

It is a wierd goddam day when Elliott "El Mozote" Abrams turns out to be the dove in the administration. (Check out Elliott's link there if you aren't familiar with his litany of crimes.) In fact, I can hardly believe it. It's either a testimony to how radical Bush and Cheney really are or how mellow and peaceful Abrams has become. I'm pretty confident it's the former.

I remember how dumb and scary I thought Reagan was. Compared to Junior, he was Einstein. What will they shove at us next?

What "compassionate conservative" are they going to foist on this country to take it even further to the right than we can imagine today? I'm thinking it has to be a Dobson or a Robertson Armageddonist. There's nowhere else to go.



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The Worst Of The Worst

Sen. Pat Roberts, the Kansas Republican who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, said his vote against the ban doesn't mean he favors torture. He rejected Durbin's comments as ''not really relevant to what we are trying to do to detain and interrogate the worst of the worst so that we can save American lives.''

Roberts said that success with detention and interrogation depends on the detainee's fear of the unknown. He suggested that passing a law and putting U.S. policies into a manual would tell detainees too much about what to expect.

''As long as you're following the Constitution and there's no torture and no inhumane treatment, I see nothing wrong with saying here is the worst of the worst. We know they have specific information to save American lives in terrorist attacks around the world. That's what we're talking about,'' Roberts said.


People like Pat Roberts make that fatuous argument all the time. They always say we only capture the "worst of the worst" whom soldiers and CIA agents KNOW beforehand have information that they stubbornly refuse to share (unless we make him sit on an exhaust pipe causing softball size blisters on their backside.) We don't need to apply any rules or laws because they deserve whatever they get. Of course, we don't torture and wouldn't dream of it and we always follow the constitution. But when we do it's only because they are the worst of the worst.

Once again I'm drawn to ponder why we have all this pesky due process here at home if it is possible to know before hand that someone is undoubtedly guilty so whatever punishment they are premptively given is only what they deserve. In the US, we have cops and prosecutors who investigate in scrupulous detail before somebody is tried. We go through a whole lot of gyrations weighing the evidence and making arguments according to laws that have been made to ensure we come as close an approximation of the truth as we can find. We do this because it turns out that sometimes all those cops and prosecutors make mistakes or are corrupt or are anxious to catch a fearsome killer so they get the wrong man.

It's quite cumbersome, but civilization determined some time ago that not only are torture and cruel and unusual punishment wrong --- and it has been millenia since anyone has argued that condoning the torture, punishment or imprisonment of an innocent man is anything but immoral. Yet, that is essentially what this argument does. It must condone the imprisonment and torture of innocent people. It is impossible that we are always capturing only the worst of the worst. In fact, we know that we aren't. Unless Senator Roberts is even dumber than he sounds, he has decided that torturing the occasional innocent person is just collateral damage.

The military code of justice, the Geneva conventions and the army code of conduct have all been designed to keep some sort of due process alive even in wartime so that we don't descend into depravity and chaos. They are designed to keep us moored to the idea of justice and morality in the midst of violence. It makes it possible for us to explain what we are doing -- to ourselves and others.

I recall during the great Clinton panty raid, the constant refrain about "what will we tell the children?" Everyone was concerned about the moral health of the next generation. How in the hell are people explaining to their children why we need a system of justice when we don't need it to figure out who is "the worst of the worst." How do you explain that torture is wrong except when it isn't?


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Republican Albatross

Laura Rozen calls out Pat Roberts and she tells quite a tale.

Still, I think it's important to remember that we are pursuing phase II of the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation for purely political purposes. We will get nothing substantive out of it as long as Senator Pat Roberts is the Chairman.

In Phase I you can see that whoever actually wrote the thing for the Republicans is quite skilled with language (perhaps they hired the romance novelist who penned the Starr report). In this case, it wasn't bodice ripping sexual adventure, it was a masterful work of subliminal innuendo. The Democrats were either too lazy or too weak to fight this word for the word they way they should have done. Without the underlying information on which the conclusions were based, there is no way to understand what the hell really went on.

This is from the main body of the report, not the separate Hatch, Bond, Roberts addendum hatchet job:

( )Some CPD officials could not recall how the office decided to contact the former ambassador, however, interviews and documents provided to the Committee indicate that his wife, a CPD employee, suggested his name for the trip. The CPD reports officer told Committee staff that the former ambassador's wife "offered up his name" and a memorandum to the Deputy Chief of the CPD on February 12, 2002, from the former ambassador's wife says, "my husband has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity." This was just one day before CPD sent a cable DELETED requesting concurrence with CPD's idea to send the former ambassador to Niger and requesting any additional information from the foreign government service on their uranium reports. The former ambassador's wife told Committee staff that when CPD decided it would like to send the former ambassador to Niger, she approached her husband on behalf of the CIA and told him "there's this crazy report" on a purported deal for Niger to sell uranium to Iraq.


This sounds innocuous. However, when you read the report carefully you realize the only time that any person is directly quoted it's done to create a certain impression. In that paragraph we see that Wilson "offered up" her husband to investigate a "crazy report." This shows that she has an agenda. Here's another example:

An INR analyst's notes indicate that the meeting was "apparently convened by [the former ambassador's] wife who had the idea to dispatch [him] to use his contacts to sort out the Iraq-Niger uranium issue." The former ambassador's wife told Committee staff that she only attended the meeting to introduce her husband and left after about three minutes.


Notice they don't quote Valerie Wilson there, only the INR analyst. They do not reveal what she said about the "idea to dispatch him" in this passage, but leave it hanging there, unrefuted. There is plenty of information in the report itself and elsewhere from which to support a different view of events, but the report is subtly slanted throughout to give the impression that Plame sent her husband to Niger to knock down a claim that didn't fit with her pre-conceived beliefs. (Of course, even if that were true, she would have been right. The Iraq Survey Group report put that one to bed.)

It happens throughout the otherwise rather dry, difficult report. By using selective quotes to promote a certain point of view while dissents are buried in expository language, they cleverly give weight to their conclusions while pretending to be even-handed. We can expect more of this for Phase II. (I have little faith that Jay Rockefeller can deal with this any more effectively now than he did before.)

Pat Roberts is the worst possible choice to be the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee. He is a partisan first and last. His predecessor, Richard Shelby of Alabama was no moderate (and he has his own problems with disseminating classified information) but he operated independently of the White House and took his job seriously. In combination with Bob Graham on the Democratic side, they were able to maintain at least some bi-partisan integrity. There is no integrity on the Republican side of the Intelligence Committee at present.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't press for the second phase of the investigation and more. We are about to go into an election year in which it may be possible to take control of the congress if we play our cards right. A huge part of that is laying this cover-up at the feet of these congressional enablers as much as the White House. They have been covering for the Dick Cheney show for years now and it's time for the public to hold them responsible.

Here's an early example of Roberts doing a bang up job of congressional oversight, from March of 2003:

Sarah Ross, a spokeswoman for Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Pat Roberts, said the committee will look into the forgery, but Roberts believes it is inappropriate for the FBI to investigate at this point.

The documents indicated that Iraq tried to by uranium from Niger, the West African nation that is the third-largest producer of mined uranium, Niger's largest export. The documents had been provided to U.S. officials by a third country, which has not been identified.

A U.S. government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said it was unclear who first created the documents. The official said American suspicions remain about an Iraq-Niger uranium connection because of other, still-credible evidence that the official refused to specify.

In December, the State Department used the information to support its case that Iraq was lying about its weapons programs. But on March 7, Mohammed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told the U.N. Security Council that the documents were forgeries.

Rockefeller said U.S. worries about Iraqi nuclear weapons were not based primarily on the documents, but "there is a possibility that the fabrication of these documents may be part of a larger deception campaign aimed at manipulating public opinion and foreign policy regarding Iraq."


Then in November of 2003, look how they handled reports that the Democrats wanted to investigate how the White House used the intelligence. Frist had one of his patented hissy fits:

Angry about a leaked Democratic memo, the Republican leadership of the Senate yesterday took the unusual step of canceling all business of the committee investigating prewar intelligence on Iraq.

Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) called on the author of the memo -- which laid out a possible Democratic strategy to extend the investigation to include the White House and executive branch -- to "identify himself or herself . . . disavow this partisan attack in its entirety" and deliver "a personal apology" to Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence.

Only if those steps are taken, Frist said, "will it be possible for the committee to resume its work in an effective and bipartisan manner -- a manner deserving of the confidence of other members of the Senate and the executive branch."

Roberts followed Frist on the floor and said that unless the Democratic members "properly" address the issue, "I am afraid that it will be impossible to return to 'business as usual' in the committee."

A committee meeting scheduled for yesterday was canceled, and none has been scheduled for next week, according to a senior committee staff member.



I would suggest that we use their own language against them instead of against ourselves, for once. Who are the real spineless politicians in Washington, after all? Is it the opposition Democrats who flailed unsuccessfully at a president who says that he'd prefer to be a dictator? Or are the GOP Senators and Congressmen who have spent the last five years as servile yes men and women to every single insane thing the president asked of them the real wimps in all this?

They have covered and excused and enabled and supported President Bush and Vice President Cheney no matter what cockamamie acheme they came up with at the expense of their duty as an equal branch of government. What kind of mealy-mouthed little bed-wetters are these Republicans who stood by while this president took this country down the path to perdition.

George W. Bush would be nothing today if it weren't for the unified unquestioning support of the GOP congress of the United States. We need to make sure that he's hung like a dead soaring eagle around the necks of every single Republican running for office next year. It isn't just Codpiece and his mad dog Cheney. It's the legislative branch who checked their consciences and their responsibilities at the doors to become brown-nosing sycophants for the most incompetent, radical, corrupt administration in history. It's their Party and they can cry if they want to ---- but it won't do any good.



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Friday, November 04, 2005

 
Back On The Chain Gang

Are there any Republican political types who aren't crooks? Any? I think that may be there are one or two, there have to be, but I honestly can't think of any.

It turns out that Kenneth Tomlinson, the ousted head of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is being investigated for "misuse of federal money and the use of phantom or unqualified employees."


People involved in the inquiry said that investigators had already interviewed a significant number of officials at the agency and that, if the accusations were substantiated, they could involve criminal violations.

Last July, the inspector general at the State Department opened an inquiry into Mr. Tomlinson's work at the board of governors after Representative Howard L. Berman, Democrat of California, and Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, forwarded accusations of misuse of money.

The lawmakers requested the inquiry after Mr. Berman received complaints about Mr. Tomlinson from at least one employee at the board, officials said. People involved in the inquiry said it involved accusations that Mr. Tomlinson was spending federal money for personal purposes, using board money for corporation activities, using board employees to do corporation work and hiring ghost employees or improperly qualified employees.

Through an aide at the broadcasting board, Mr. Tomlinson declined to comment Friday about the State Department inquiry.


And guess who's one of Ken's good friends?

In recent weeks, State Department investigators have seized records and e-mail from the Broadcasting Board of Governors, officials said. They have shared some material with the inspector general at the corporation, including e-mail traffic between Mr. Tomlinson and White House officials including Karl Rove, a senior adviser to President Bush and a close friend of Mr. Tomlinson.

Mr. Rove and Mr. Tomlinson became friends in the 1990's when they served on the Board for International Broadcasting, the predecessor agency to the board of governors. Mr. Rove played an important role in Mr. Tomlinson's appointment as chairman of the broadcasting board.

The content of the e-mail between the two officials has not been made public but could become available when the corporation's inspector general sends his report to members of Congress this month.



The turning of public broadcasting into a cog in the GOP noise machine was undoubtedly part of Rove's master plan. One of the beautiful things about controlling the government was the availability of taxpayer money to pay for partisan propaganda. Why bleed your friends when you can bleed the saps who are paying the bills? I'm sure Rupert Murdoch and Dick Scaife would be very grateful if they didn't have to underwrite the entire thing. Why, if they played thier cards right, in a decade or two, the private sector could be completely out of the propaganda business.


Update: Never Mind. Bush has solved the problem. He's a leader cuz he knows how ta lead. Back to codpiece worship for everyone:

President Bush has ordered White House staff to attend mandatory briefings beginning next week on ethical behavior and the handling of classified material after the indictment last week of a senior administration official in the CIA leak probe.

The mandatory ethics primer is the first step Bush plans to take in coming weeks in response to the CIA leak probe that led to the indictment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, and which still threatens Karl Rove, the deputy White House chief of staff.

[...]

A senior aide said Bush decided to mandate the ethics course during private meetings last weekend with Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. and counsel Harriet Miers. Miers's office will conduct the ethics briefings.


Is it mandatory for Rove and Cheney, do you suppose? It seems kind of pointless otherwise.


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Their Cheatin' Hearts

The Stranger is reporting more voter manipulation by Republicans in Seattle, trying to suppress the vote, as usual:

Steven Lacey is a regular voter whose plan for Election Day next Tuesday was to walk a few blocks from his Belltown apartment building and cast his vote, as usual, at his local precinct. At least, that was his plan until he received a letter last night informing him that his right to vote had been challenged by a woman from the east side named Lori D. Sotelo.

The letter reported that Sotelo had declared to King County election officials, “under penalty of perjury,” that Lacey’s voter registration was not valid because he couldn’t possibly be living at the address he was claiming. “Which is insane,” Lacey said. The 35-year-old insurance company account manager lives at the Watermark, a 60-unit downtown apartment building built in 1908. However, Sotelo appeared to believe the Watermark was a storage unit, a P.O. box, or some other location that Lacey could not legally be using as an address of record.

Furious, Lacey did a quick web search and realized that Sotelo was a leader in the King County Republican Party. He couldn’t understand how she came to think he was illegally registered, since the Watermark, Lacey said, “couldn’t more clearly be a physical residence.” He left Sotelo a phone message telling her as much, but he never heard back.

Then he asked around, and found that many people in his building had received the same letter, informing them that their votes would not be counted until they proved, at a hearing or through a signed affidavit, that they were legally registered.

“A lot of the people that live in the building are over 50 and have voted in dozens of elections and are incredibly pissed,” he said. “Everybody’s pretty pissed.”

It turns out that Lacey and his neighbors were just a few among at least 140 King County voters who were wrongly challenged by Sotelo, who chairs the King County Republican Party’s “Voter Registration Integrity Project.” Sotelo could not be reached for comment on Friday morning, when The Stranger first reported the mistakes on our blog, but Chris Vance, chairman of the state Republican Party later confirmed for The Stranger that a serious mistake had been made.

“We are withdrawing those challenges today and apologizing to those folks,” he said. He added that it is “just coincidence” that a significant number of the wrongly challenged voters live in a strongly Democratic neighborhood.


They do this all the time:

Oct. 30, 2004

Citing a new list of more than 37,000 questionable addresses, the state Republican Party demanded Saturday that Milwaukee city officials require identification from all of those voters Tuesday.

If the city doesn't, the party says it is prepared to have volunteers challenge each individual - including thousands who might be missing an apartment number on their registration - at the polls.

The move, which dramatically escalates the party's claims of bad addresses and potential fraud, was condemned by Democrats as a last-minute effort to suppress turnout in the city by creating long delays at the polls.

City officials, who already were trying to establish safeguards in response to the party's claim of 5,619 bad addresses, were surprised by the 37,180 number, nearly seven times larger.

"It's not a leap at all to say the potential for voter fraud is high in the city, and the integrity of the entire election, frankly, is at stake," said Rick Graber, state GOP chairman. "The city's records are in horrible shape."

Any inaccurate address, he said, is an opening for someone to cast a fraudulent vote. However, many of the new addresses now cited might be eligible voters who have voted for years without problems.

City Attorney Grant Langley labeled the GOP request "outrageous."

"We have already uncovered hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of addresses on their (original list) that do exist," said Langley, who holds a non-partisan office. "Why should I take their word for the fact this new list is good? I'm out of the politics on this, but this is purely political."


They cheat on an institutional level. Operatives are taught to do it when they are just political pups:

The Committee is the place where Republican strategists learn their craft and acquire their knack for making their Democratic opponents look like disorganized children. Many of the biggest-brand Republican operatives--from Karl Rove and Lee Atwater, to Charlie Black and Roger Stone, to Jack Abramoff, Ralph Reed, and Grover Norquist--got their starts this way. Walking through the halls of the convention, it is easy to see the genesis of tactics deployed in the Florida recount and by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Republicans learn how to fight hard against Democrats by practicing on one another first. "There are no rules in a knife fight," Norquist instructed the young conventioneers in a speech. And, while Norquist described a knife fight, the Gourley-Davidson rumble transpired around.

[...]

In 1973, Rove was the Establishment candidate, and Atwater, the original Sun Tsu-quoting College Republican, was his prime campaign operative. They spent the spring of 1973 crisscrossing the country in a Ford Pinto, lining up the support of state chairs--basically the right-wing version of Thelma and Louise. But, in point of fact, Rove was hardly the right-winger in the race. His two opponents, Terry Dolan and Robert Edgeworth, were. And, when Dolan threw his support to Edgeworth, Rove had no other alternative. He had to cheat.

When the College Republicans gathered for their convention at the Lake of the Ozarks resort in Missouri, Rove and Atwater relentlessly challenged the legitimacy of Edgeworth's delegates, even if the evidence did not justify their attacks.


Republican party operatives are trained to cheat. They first cheat each other in the minors and then they take their skills to the show. This is a cog of the GOP machine that needs to be exposed and dealt with.

Prepare yourself to defend every Democratic win, because they are going to go batshit crazy if they start to lose and you will see an "electoral reform" movement like we could only dream of. It will be based upon spurious claims of massive, national voter fraud.



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Lawyers In The Case

This article doesn't state specifically when it took place, so it's hard to know if it's referring to the meeting I found so puzzling, but according to a Rove associate, Fitzgerald at some point met with James Sharp, Bush lawyer, about whether or not Rove misrepresented his role in the leak case to the president. That's a bit more believable than Fitzgerald making a personal pilgrimage to Sharp's office to get word to the president that Rove is out of danger, as Michael Isikoff would have had us believe.

"Lawyers in the case" also said that Fitzgerald has narrowed his focus as to whether Rove lied about his conversation with Matthew Cooper.

And:


Mr. Fitzgerald no longer seems to be actively examining some of the more incendiary questions involving Mr. Rove.


They "seem" to have come to this conclusion based upon the fact that Rove and Cooper's lawyers are talking and nobody else is. In other words, they don't really know shit. It may be that he's only considering the Cooper e-mail lie or it may be that he's trying to nail down the Cooper e-mail lie as part of something else that he is no longer actively investigating --- because he already has the goods.

You can't tell what is going to happen based upon what he has been investigating this last week. Luskin's bombshell, exculpatory, pause-giving evidence notwithstanding, we are still in the dark about "Official A's" real exposure in all this.

I'm in "I'll believe it when I see it" mode. Nobody knows nothin'.



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Turdblossom Special


Via Pre$$titutes


If it comes to pass that Karl Rove is indicted, or even if he loses his security clearance (which he damned well should) I would hope that someone in Washington has the guts to smash this fellatory daydream in Mark Helperin's face and twist it like a grapefruit until he screams for mercy. I'm not sure if "The Note" think this is funny or if they seriously believe that Karl Rove was just an innocent bystander in the Plame outing, but either way their little fantasy is ludicrous.

Pretending that they are writing in the future on a day when Rove comes to the podium and finally speaks, they write Rove's speech for him:



"I have a statement to make before taking your questions."

"Now that the special counsel has informed me that I will not be charged in his investigation, I thought I should come to this podium and tell you the straight Texas truth about my role in this case."

"In short, my counsel advises me that there is no controlling legal authority that says that any of my activities violated any law."

"Just kidding. Lighten up, Plante."

"When news reports began regarding allegations that Valerie Wilson's name was improperly released to the media, I was asked by several colleagues here at the White House if I had played a role in illegally releasing the name of Mrs. Wilson. I said at the time that I had not. That was my best recollection at the time I was asked."

"Subsequently, three things occurred. One, the special counsel's investigation began, and both he and the President — as well as the White House counsel — asked those of us working in the government not to speak publicly about the case in any way."

"Two, my colleague and friend Scott McClellan on several occasions repeated what I had in good faith told him — that I had not played any part in breaking the law and disclosing her name. As a result, he mislead you more often than my lawyer, Luskin, which is really something when you think about it."

"Third, after an e-mail was belatedly discovered through the normal search process at the White House, my recollection was refreshed and I recalled that I did have one brief conversation with one reporter in which I mentioned Mrs. Wilson's role in her husband's trip to Niger."

"Because of the first development — the absolute barrier to speaking about the case — I was unable to deal in a timely manner with the second two developments in a public way. This had the unfortunate effect of bringing into question the credibility of the White House and my own public credibility. For that, I am sorry."


There was, of course, no absolute barrier about talking about the case. Indeed, his lawyer discussed it constantly both on backround and in the open. This is nonsense.

Furthermore, Karl Rove has a photographic memory. He did not forget speaking to Cooper and he did not forget speaking to Libby about Novak writing a story about "Wilson's wife." Sure, Karl could say this, but nobody would believe it except his little cheerleading squad at The Note. The partisan shills might dutifully repeat it, but they wouldn't believe it either. This is because it's completely unbelievable.

Karl has cultivated quite a mystique over the years. He is considered by one and all, on both the right and the left, to be a Machiavellian genius, or as ex-Democrat and media maven Mark McKinnon, his most devoted sycophant, puts it, "a chess master who always sees 12 steps ahead." He worked very hard to create that image and playing the dizzy blond won't work now.

Why, everyone knows that Bush's Brain's tactical brilliance is legendary. It's obvious that Boy Genius's political skills are unparalleled. He has been lauded for his special brand of slash and burn politics since his earliest days, doing dirty tricks in the college Republicans. He doesn't play hardball politics, he plays beanball politics. He cannot play innocent. Ever.

In this case, regardless of any illegality, his tactics were no different than usual --- low, partisan and ruthlessly over the top. Here is what he reportedly said to the grand jury:


President Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove, told the FBI in an interview last October that he circulated and discussed damaging information regarding CIA operative Valerie Plame with others in the White House, outside political consultants, and journalists, according to a government official and an attorney familiar with the ongoing special counsel's investigation of the matter.

But Rove also adamantly insisted to the FBI that he was not the administration official who leaked the information that Plame was a covert CIA operative to conservative columnist Robert Novak last July. Rather, Rove insisted, he had only circulated information about Plame after it had appeared in Novak's column. He also told the FBI, the same sources said, that circulating the information was a legitimate means to counter what he claimed was politically motivated criticism of the Bush administration by Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson.

Rove and other White House officials described to the FBI what sources characterized as an aggressive campaign to discredit Wilson through the leaking and disseminating of derogatory information regarding him and his wife to the press, utilizing proxies such as conservative interest groups and the Republican National Committee to achieve those ends, and distributing talking points to allies of the administration on Capitol Hill and elsewhere. Rove is said to have named at least six other administration officials who were involved in the effort to discredit Wilson.


This is what the man does and it's how he got his creature George W. Bush in the white house. From whisper campaigns about Ann Richards being a lesbian to siccing the FBI on Jim Hightower, he honed his skills as an assassin for more than 20 years in Texas. He's proud of it.

The LA Times reported last summer that Rove was just as obsessed as Libby and for trivial reasons by comparison:


Prosecutors investigating whether White House officials illegally leaked the identity of Wilson's wife, a CIA officer who had worked undercover, have been told that Bush's top political strategist, Karl Rove, and I. Lewis Libby, chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, were especially intent on undercutting Wilson's credibility, according to a person familiar with the inquiry.

While lower-level White House staff members typically handle most contacts with the media, Rove and Libby began personally communicating with reporters about Wilson, prosecutors were told.

A source directly familiar with information provided to prosecutors said Rove's interest was so strong that it prompted questions in the White House. When asked at one point why he was pursuing the diplomat so aggressively, Rove responded: "He's a Democrat."


Karl Rove was in the middle of a ruthless, partisan campaign to "discredit" Joe Wilson with leaks. He, as "Official A," went to Libby and told him that Robert Novak was going to write a column "about Wilson's wife." He told Chris Matthews that Wilson's wife was "fair game."

Yet The Note wants us to actually swallow this utter bullshit that the brilliant, masterful, political genius Karl Rove "forgot" his conversation with Matt Cooper in which he spilled the beans about Wilson's wife. In a court of law, perhaps Pat Fitzgerald would not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Rove lied about that. In the court of public opinion, it is as ridiculous as the idea that OJ didn't do it.

Perhaps Karl can spend the rest of his tenure in the White House looking for the real leakers.


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It's Confirmed: Dog Bites Man.

You may recall Colonel Laurence Wilkerson, the former chief of staff to Colin Powell who recently caused a...hullabaloo when he shocked, shocked everyone with his report of the existence of a cabal that has hijacked foreign policy under Bush. Well, Colonel Wilkerson now tell us the orders to torture prisoners came from the highest levels of government, specifically Cheney's office.

Don't get me wrong. I'm glad the good Colonel's been able to put two and two together, but among others, investigative journalist Mark Danner's been saying much the same thing all along, long before Bush's ratings tanked (to still dismayingly high levels). Danner's reporting on the torture scandal has been detailed, meticulous, superb, accurate, and ignored.

By the way, does Danner appear regularly on major network TV news or panels? Any rumors he might replace David Brooks at the Times, who has been screwing up royally (unless Brooks's purpose has been to increase Friedman's relative stature at the Times as a prose stylist and deep thinker)?

No harm in asking.
 
Ken, We Hardly Knew Ye. But That Was Enough.

Tomlinson resigns from the CPB board. Remember? He's the guy who hired someone to watch Bill Moyers and report on all the heinous liberalism going on. Among those dastardly, "anti-administration" liberals were Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska), and ex-congressman Bob Barr (R-Hypocrite). Unfortunately, Tomlinson remains head of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. So it's too early to breathe a sigh of relief, but it is a step in the right... excuse me, proper direction.

Update: Kevin K. in comments reminds us that there's many more where Tomlinson came from still on the board, and that There's some majorly awful programming coming up. If I didn't know better, I'd think Bush was deliberately trying to destroy PBS. But he wouldn't do that, would he?
Interestingly, in the midst of all of the attention to the CPB’s fight against liberal bias, the agency quietly announced a round of grantees for its “America at a Crossroads” project (6/27/05). Among the projects receiving CPB support are The Case for War, a film about neoconservative Richard Perle made by Perle’s longtime friend Brian Lapping; The Sound of the Guns, a film about former CIA director William Colby made by Colby’s son; Soldiers of the Future, which “will tell the story of Donald Rumsfeld’s recent efforts to transform America’s military”; Warriors, in which American Enterprise editor Karl Zinsmeister argues that the U.S. military “attracts a cross-section of citizens motivated by idealism and patriotism”; and Studying Hatred, a film by David Horowitz co-author Peter Collier.
And in Spring, 2006, be sure to watch the much anticipated documentary, "Big 'Behind': A Profile of Tim LaHaye."

Thursday, November 03, 2005

 
The Rhetoric Was Part Of The Policy


All this nonsense about Clinton and other Democrats saying the same thing as Bush, so Bush couldn't have been lying is driving me nuts. It's bad enough that they trot this out as an excuse for their own fuck-up, but when they conveniently forget that they were against the action Clinton took at the time to meet the threat (because it interefered with their blow-job trial) it's infuriating.

Seetheforest has Trent Lott's famous quote after Clinton announced Operation Desert Fox, but I've got another one:

Armey said in a statement. "After months of lies, the president has given millions of people around the world reason to doubt that he has sent Americans into battle for the right reasons."


I won't say it.

Here's the real problem. Clinton said the usual boilerplate about Saddam being a dangerous guy and how he wanted to get weapons of mass destruction and how we had to be credible with our threats of force to keep him in line. And when Saddam stepped way out of line in 1998 he ordered the massive bombing operation that got all the Republicans' panties in a twist because it happened at the time of the all important fellatio impeachment.

On the night he ordered the bombing, here is how Clinton explained American policy:

...we will pursue a long-term strategy to contain Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction and work toward the day when Iraq has a government worthy of its people.

First, we must be prepared to use force again if Saddam takes threatening actions, such as trying to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction or their delivery systems, threatening his neighbors, challenging allied aircraft over Iraq or moving against his own Kurdish citizens.

The credible threat to use force, and when necessary, the actual use of force, is the surest way to contain Saddam's weapons of mass destruction program, curtail his aggression and prevent another Gulf War.


Clinton said that American policy was that if Saddam took certain threatening actions, we would use force.

Bush and Cheney said that Saddam might take threatening actions, so they had to invade.

That's quite a different threat assessment. Clinton never suggested an invasion and occupation to deal with Saddam, his policy was to contain him with threats and judicious use of force when he provoked us. And apparently it worked. There were, after all, no weapons of mass destruction and he had perpetrated none of the other actions that would have led to a need for further use of force as of 2002.

General Zinni ran Operation Desert Fox and believed that it had crippled Saddam's weapons capabilities. Inspectors, of course, could have verified that fact and Saddam allowed them back into the country in 2002 under the "threat of force."

Even I wondered for a bit if Bush might actually be bluffing about invasion in the beginning, because 9/11 gave us some momentum to saber rattle to get inspectors back in. I suspect that some of the Senators who voted for the Iraq resolution held out some hope that this was what Bush had in mind --- it had, after all, been Bush I and Clinton's policy and it had kept Saddam contained and toothless for a decade. After about five mionutes of pondering the question I realized that Bush was deadly serious and there wsn't a chance in hell that he could have the necessary finesse to pull something like that off. He wasn't, after all, "into nuance."

There was a lot of bellicose talk for years about Saddam because a public show of serious intent was part of the containment strategy. But until Commander Codpiece came along and empowered his neocon cabal of Iraq nuts, nobody was suggesting that the US military invade and occupy the country. Indeed, nobody thought it would be necessary in order to keep Saddam in check.

A lot of Democrats (including both Clintons) made a political gamble that after 9/11 they had to support the invasion because if it was successful they would have been tagged as soft. They were fighting the last war, Gulf War I, in which many Democrats looked foolish for having objected to such a painless, inexpensive, glorious victory. I'm afraid that many of the Democratic leadership bet on the wrong horse ---- again. It is, sadly, a testament to how badly they deal with foreign policy that they got it wrong both times. A lot of us out here in Real Murika didn't because we weren't playing politics --- just assessing the situation and deciding whether it made sense.

Still, it was undoubtedly difficult. 9/11 had cast a spell on our country, abetted by a media that turned the "war on terror" into an epic pageant of national pride and patriotism to such an extent that to question, much less oppose, was an act of political courage. There are very few politicans of either party with much of that:

Akaka (D-HI)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Boxer (D-CA)
Byrd (D-WV)
Chafee (R-RI)
Conrad (D-ND)
Corzine (D-NJ)
Dayton (D-MN)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Graham (D-FL)
Inouye (D-HI)
Jeffords (I-VT)
Kennedy (D-MA)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murray (D-WA)
Reed (D-RI)
Sarbanes (D-MD)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Wellstone (D-MN)
Wyden (D-OR)

Those were the Senators who voted against the resolution. How good, smart and prescient they appear today. The ones who didn't showed lousy instincts. When the president is an idiot, it should be easy to conclude that he is not going to make good decisions about the need for war --- or anything else. Millions of us knew the constant blathering about Bush's great "leadership" after 9/11 was hype. They should have too.

But still, even the most craven Democratic opportunist cannot be held responsible for the administration's repeated assertion's that Saddam was a "grave and gathering danger" or that the Bush Doctrine was dutifully printed out from the PNAC web-site and distributed after 9/11 without any serious consideration of its ramifications. Bush was pushing a line that had many people wondering if he didn't know something thast the rest of us didn't. It was incomprehensible to a lot of Americans that an American president would be so reckless as to launch a war on unverified information.

There was no good reason to stage an invasion based upon the threat assessment we had. 9/11 actually made that proposition more dangerous and short sighted than it would have been before. They knew this, which is why they hyped the threat with visions of mushroom clouds and nefarious drone planes disguised a crop dusters. They knew that if we relied solely upon the threat assessment that the Clinton administration relied upon, the country would not back their war. So they lied.

The true irony is that it now appears that Clinton managed to accomplish what Bush said needed to be done, with a heavy bombing campaign during his own impeachment. (Talk about multi-tasking.) Bush came along and spent billions of dollars, stretched our military beyond its capabilities, destroyed our international credibility and got tens of thousands killed to accomplish something that had already been done in 1998. What a cock-up.



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Foreign Policy Magazine And A Little From Foreign Affairs, For Extra Measure.

I've been subscribing to Foreign Policy for a few years now, but ever since they gave Newt Gingrich several pages to propose an American Ministry of Propaganda, I haven't had much desire to do much more than glance at it. The current issue is different. It's terrific, doing precisely what I hoped the zine would do. Not that I agree with everything, far from it, but it stirs the pot and gets some lesser-known stories out in provocative ways.

Take, for instance, this good news story about Iraq. Or so it seems at first. Commander James Gavrilis captured/liberated/whatever Ar Rutbah less than a month after the official start of the war. Spending around $3000 and relying on what sounds like a reality-based perspective on the situation, he managed to get the town back on its feet:
My initial approach to governing was very authoritative; it eliminated anarchy and allowed Iraqis to debate the details of democracy rather than survival. What the Iraqis needed was an interim authority to get them back on their feet. While the interim mayor and I provided this stability, the city council’s role was to oversee the mayor and to provide input, not necessarily to make policy. The laws and values of their society and culture were just fine. All we needed to do was enforce them. The city council was an important body for dialogue, debate, and legitimacy. But by initially limiting its decision-making power, we made sure the council couldn’t paralyze our progress.


Representatives in the city council included teachers and doctors, lawyers and merchants. At one town-hall meeting, a few of these professionals asked me about elections. They said the tribal sheiks and imams did not represent their interests, and they wanted to have a say in their government. I explained that they couldn’t vote right away because we had no election monitors or ballot boxes. Still, they insisted. Two rudimentary elections were held in the grand mosque to reconfirm the interim mayor—and Americans were not involved in either vote.

As an alternative to Saddam’s regime, the particular form of democracy was not as important as the concept of a polity that provided for the individual. That was really what Iraqis missed under Saddam. Good governance had to precede the form or type of democracy. Because we were effective in providing services, were responsive to individual concerns, and improved their lives, the Iraqis gravitated toward us and the changes we introduced. However, we didn’t have to change much. Ar Rutbah already had a secular structure that worked. We just put good people in office and changed the character of governance, not the entire infrastructure.

[snip]

One day, a few tribal sheiks came to complain of looting at night in some parts of the city. So, knowing that some of the sheiks were behind some of the looting, I established a neighborhood watch. I put them in charge and had their men act as the watchmen. And the sheiks were held accountable if the looting continued. I also had a team patrol those areas at night at random. The stealing ended abruptly.

[Snip]

n the end, I spent only about $3,000. This sum included the salaries of the police, the mayor, the army colonel, and a few soldiers and public officials. We paid for the crane and the flatbed trailers to move the generators to the city for electricity, and for fuel to run the generators. And we picked up the tab for other necessities, such as painting, tea, and copies of the renunciation form. But the change did not depend on the influx of funds; the Iraqis did a lot themselves. The real progress was the efficient and decent government and the environment we established. Without a lot of money to invest, we made assessments and established priorities, and talked with the Iraqis, exchanging ideas and visions of the future.


We intended to work ourselves out of our jobs, and when conditions were right we took steps back.
A very moving, hopeful story, and I'm not being anything other than sincere in saying so. But there's just one teensy little problem with making this a textbook case example of why Iraq should have been invaded, which becomes obvious as the article winds down.

You see, unfortunately, Commander Gavrilis and his band of brothers were there for all of two weeks, and then they left. And then:
Although the Iraqis continued the work we started, the follow-up coalition forces did not. The distance between the locals and the troops widened. The Iraqis were eventually exposed and vulnerable to regime loyalists’ retribution and intimidation by foreign fighters. The local Iraqi security forces never developed to the point where they were stronger than the gangs of insurgents; they were never brought into a larger political or security framework of an Iraqi government so that they could be part of a collective security system. Left alone, the Iraqis simply couldn’t hold off the foreign fighters who passed through the city, using Ar Rutbah as a way station en route to Baghdad and Ramadi.
Now, you might think at first that this helps the argument of the liberal hawks, that Bush/Iraq could have worked had the occupation simply been more competent. Actually it doesn't. Here's part of the reason why.

As it happens, a few days earlier, I had read this remarkably bad article about Vietnam by Melvin Laird in Foreign Affairs about his tenure as Secretary of Defense during Nixon. Short version: "Don't blame me for Vietnam. The guys before me got us into that mess, I did a great job, but I didn't have time to finish, and the guys who came after me totally fucked it up."

Now, there are major differences between Vietnam and Iraq, to be sure. Among them is that Commander Gavrilis seems like an intelligent, down to earth man, justly proud of his competence in a difficult situation while Secretary Laird reminds us what an arrogant, mistaken, paranoid son of a bitch he was thirty plus years ago. But the trajectory of failure is the same and, I'm afraid, entirely predictable. Let's, for argument's sake, take both men at their word, that they did a good job (a stretch with Laird, but bear with me). The problem is that no matter how good a job they could do, inevitably someone would replace them who wouldn't do as good a good job, who didn't care as much, who wasn't as informed, who didn't have the same combination of street instincts, commonsense, and decency that led to a temporary positive outcome. The main point is this: As Commander Gavrilis himself notes, any positive development was temporary and highly contingent. Because so little can be depended upon in such a volatile, and little understood, situation - be it Vietnam or a town in occupied Iraq - reversals due to incompetence and unexpected problems are all but certain. And let's not forget that incompetence during occupation was only one of many areas that had to go well in Iraq. There was national and international law and opinion, the economy, the insurgency, and the prospect that major US armed forces could be required elsewhere. Many of these did go well (despite Bolton's efforts to create total havoc, US forces didn't have to relocate to Korea, thank God) but Iraq still failed. The problem was that nearly all contingencies had to go well, and unless you're Bill Bennett on a roll, that's impossible.

In any event, it surely would have taken more good luck than even Andrew Lloyd Webber possesses to have pulled off Ar Rutbah for another two weeks. Amd to imagine that democracy could actually take root then and flourish 2 1/2 years later is a pie in the sky fantasy. Not even Commander Gavrlis could have kept the situation moving forward that long. Not after Abu Ghraib, for instance.

As with Vietnam, (which despite Laird's assertions did not in any way benefit from his clear-eyed genius as Defense Secretary, simply because there was no benefit to be had except to morticians and artificial limb manufacturers), Iraq could not work out. Incompetence, or insurgency, coalition atrocities, or sheer ignorance, or a combination of all four, was inevitable, and predictable.

And finally, I say with genuine sorrow: Commander Gavrilis' efforts, no matter how admirable, were, in any significant sense, predictably doomed never to last long enough to make much difference in avoiding the tragic reality of Iraq's people today.

Now, there are several other articles in Foreign Policy well worth reading that are equally interesting and subtle. For example, here's a profile of Zarqawi. What makes this article important is not only that we learn who Zarqawi is, but his significance. He is no rare anomaly, like the fabulously wealthy and fanatical bin Laden. Zarqawi is just a halfway smart lowlife thug, warped by 7 years of imprisonment with torture, transformed into a committed jihadist, originally only a reluctant an ally of al Qaeda, and finally, as a result of the American invasion/occupation, advanced to the position of "emir" for al Qaeda in Iraq. Now, guess what? As Peter Bergen and Alec Reynolds make clear in a brilliant article in the same issue of Foreign Affairs where the odious Laird held forth, there are likely to many, many more Zarqawis in Iraq's, and America's, future. And that, too, was predictable, and predicted.

Another article from Foreign Policy, seemingly just an innocuous roundup and overview of scholars is equally subtle and chilling. Take a look at this chart of the leading lights in foreign policy studies. As the article notes, "nearly all are white men older than 50." I'll add to that that there is not a single native Arab speaker on that list and at least two of the so-called wise men in foreign policy -Huntington and Fukuyama - hold what can only be described, in the kindest terms, mostly worthless opinions. Women may join the list soon, the article notes. That's all to the good, but the level of sheer mediocrity of the "scholars" on this list is astonishing, and is not likely to change much if one or two of the worst names are replaced by capable women.

Another part of this deceptively bland-seeming article notes a very scary statistic:
When asked what region was most strategically important to the United States today, a resounding 58 percent answered the Middle East and North Africa. Yet, only 7 percent of U.S. international relations scholars specialize in the region. This gap may explain why the American intelligence community is still advertising for Arabic speakers.
Well, yes, it just might explain it. That, and the fact that openly gay specialists in Arabic aren't welcome, too.
 
35% Of The American Public Living In Alternate Reality

Be afraid, be very afraid. After all that is happened, more than 1/3 of all Americans "approve" of Bush's presidency. What will it take to wake these people up? What horrible things would Bush and his gang have to do - or not do - to drive his poll numbers further south?

And let's try to be creative here. As enjoyable as fellatio, cunnilingus and its many delicious variations are for most of us, suggesting Bush get caught in flagrante delicto with Official A - or a horse, or whomever - just simply is not that original. Allow yourself to think way, way, outside the box (and the bedroom, and the bathroom), and let your imagination roam: What more could Bush inflict on us that he hasn't already done, to make matters so bad his approval ratings would fall to a more reasonable, but still alarmingly high, number, say 10%?

Would he have to publicly declare his desire to be dictator? Nope, been there, done that. How about establish gulags in Eastern Europe? He's beaten you to the punch.

Any ideas? It's not that easy.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

 
The Geography Of The Psyche

I was puttering around earlier working on something else and I came across this hilarious paper dealing with the spousal notification issue from the "men's rights" perspective.

Writing jointly for the Court on this aspect of the [Casey] decision, Justices O’Conner, Kennedy and Souter struck down the spousal notification requirement as in impermissible infringement on a woman’s right to privacy. The Court offered three basic reasons for holding that a wife could not be compelled to inform her husband of her intent to abort.

1. First, the Court discounted the husband’s interests by pointing to the realities of nature:

"[i]t is an inescapable biological fact that state regulation with respect to the child a woman is carrying will have a far greater impact on the mother’s liberty than on the father’s


In other words, because the fetus is in the woman and not the man, the woman’s interests trump.


This makes sense. I would even fo so far as to say that because the fetus is in the woman, the woman's interests trump --- the fetus. This fellow disagrees:


This reasoning might be questioned on several fronts. First, it is not the case that the biology is all with the women. As dozens of studies of couvade syndrome indicate, expectant fathers experience biological symptoms of pregnancy along with their partners. Both partners may feel nausea, irritability, food cravings, indigestion, and so on. Both can anticipate discomforts from pregnancy and the stresses of infant care. While the man’s aches and pains are "psychosomatic," and are likely to be less intense than the woman’s, they are not inconsequential. Men and women both experience biological effects of pregnancy.


And they both have that glow...

In any event, the right to privacy recognized in Roe v. Wade is not based on biology only, but also on issues of emotion and identity. Justices O’Conner, Kennedy and Souter stated as much in Casey, observing that the Fourteenth Amendment protects the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy. These choices include the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. This is not the language of biology, but of religion or philosophy.


And if men choose to define their "concept of existence, of meaning, of the mystery of life" as being pregnant, the law should give them equal rights to the female body that is actually, you know, biologically pregnant. That's called equality.

The greater maternal involvement in biological pregnancy cannot by itself resolve these larger issues. What matters, in addition to the physical effects on the body, are the consequences of abortion for the individual’s basic value structure and self-concept. Once the liberty interest protected by the Fourteenth Amendment is phrased in terms of choices and a concept of the self, rather than biology alone, the argument that the woman’s interests should trump the man’s requires further elaboration. Both men and women face choices about their roles as parents and their concepts of their own identities. Both men and women become bonded with the fetus. The fetus may be physically growing in the woman’s belly, but in the geography of the psyche, it is inside the man as well. To exclude expectant fathers from juridical notice on grounds of biology is to miss the importance of pregnancy in a man’s concept of himself as a parent and a procreative being and his vision of the meaning of his life.


I suspect that this guy's concept of himself would be less enthusiastic about sharing the burden of pregnancy if the geography of the testicles were squeezed in a vise for 18 hours as he tried to expel a cantaloupe through his penis. It would very likely change his vision of the meaning of his life, as well.



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A Most Convenient Escape

Turns out a "top al Qaeda operative" escaped before he could testify to "abuse" by an American soldier. Of course, I believe it. No doubt in my mind. I mean, it's not like they would lie about something like that, right? Permit a prisoner to escape or hide him (or worse) to prevent more embarassing revelations of torture. No, they just wouldn't do that. That's not what Americans - who live in a democracy and value freedom - do.

[Update: More misinformation...sorry, I meant details... about the escape here.]

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

 
Excellent

What Reid did was a superb variation of the strategy I was talking about yesterday. But Reid, brilliant fellow, ignored my suggestion simply to focus back on Traitorgate. No,he broadened it to our advantage, stressing the notion that Digby and others have emphasized, that the real subject of Traitorgate is the systematic, deliberate lying about Saddam's WMD before the war. Excellent, excellent, excellent.

Now, whatever it was Bush was talking about yesterday - does anyone remember? - well, Reid has the opportunity get to that when he's good and ready. And this gives me hope that when he does, Reid won't just roll over and surrender. Excellent, excellent, excellent.

Extra unexpected bonus: Watching Frist lose it today in real time, it's clear Reid's unmasked the true face of Cat Mengele. Oh, the embarassing soundbites tonight! Meow!!!

[Update: The gift keeps on giving. Reid's action also puts considerable pressure on Cheney, because, as I just recalled, Cheney's new security adviser, John Hannah, was linked to bogus information on Iraq. This means that some enterprising reporter might just think to ask whether it was all that appropriate for Cheney to hire Hannah as it really appears Cheney is just trying to extend the coverup about the prewar intelliegence.

Amazing how much good a touch of spine can do.

One final thought. When Bush, et al, get over their shock, their retaliation is gonna be quite ugly. And just as surprising. Watch out, Harry. You can expect that what Bush did to McCain will be just a mild foretaste of what's gonna happen.]
 
Secret Session!

So Harry Reid has called for the long awaited Phase II investigation into the Iraq debacle and they are going into a closed secret session to discuss it. The Republicans are squealing like pigs in a slaughter house.

Kyra and Ed Henry on CNN are characterizing it as "bickering" and "working against the interest of the American people." Interestingly, Frist is calling it a "stunt" and "uncivil." (No word yet from anyone about the substance.)

The Democrats should not back down on this. The Republicans are going to portray themselves a victimized and martyred, weeping like little bitty babies about "betrayal." Oh mercy me, pass the smelling salts -- that mean Harry Reid has "stabbed" Scarlett O'Frist in the back!

Fuck them. This is what an opposition party does and it's long overdue. You want to change the subject, motherfuckers? Think again.



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The Liberty Platform

Yesterday I got chastised by at least one reader for never offering any solutions, just criticisms. It reminded me that I haven't gotten on my personal soapbox lately and harrangued my audience with the notion that I think we should adopt a western and southwest red state strategy using a platform of personal liberty, economic responsibility, land conservation, energy independence and effective national security. If you've heard this before, feel free to move on. Otherwise, here is my super-duper message package to capture at least a couple of western red states and tip the balance to our side.

I understand that building a coalition of rural western states and big city blue states has its problems. But we have to find common ground with some red states somewhere and this seems like the most fertile ground requiring the least compromise on matters of primary importance to both. That's the only way a coalition can be successful. You can't force people into a mold, you have to mold the coalition around shared principles.

In a great post discussing the Alito nomination, Barbara at Mahablog articulates one part of this platform as she talks about the paternalist right wing:

The provision represents another rightie tendency, which is that righties essentially distrust human beings to make their own decisions. We saw that during the Terri Schiavo flap, when all manner of legislation was proposed that would have allowed government to intrude in a family’s end-of-life decisions. To a rightie, human beings are mindless beasts who need to be controlled by Big Brother so they don’t make “bad” decisions; i.e., decisions with which the rightie disagrees. And righties always assume that people who make these “bad” decisions have done so because they don’t think. Notice all the legislation imposed by states intended to make women reflect on a decision to abort, as if women can’t think for themselves. It’s beyond their comprehension that most women who decide to abort do understand exactly what a pregnancy is and realize that abortion is a serious matter.


"Republicans don't trust people to make their own decisions." It's that simple. They want to tell people how to live. I believe that is a simple argument that plays ever so subtly on the Republican mantra that says "they don't trust you with your own money!" We should steal it since they've already trained the ears of Americans to hear that formulation.

Survey USA found that while Utah and Idaho are among the most conservative on social issues in the country, many of the other western red states are quite liberal. Here's a breakdown on choice:

23. Montana 53 percent "Pro-choice"
26. Arizona 56%
27. New Mexico 56%
30. Wyoming 57%
34. Colorado 61%
38. Oregon 62%
38. Nevada 64%
41. Washington 63%
46. California 65%

We do not need to pander on choice in order to win elections. In fact, we end up being mealy-mouthed and unappetising to both sides. Choice is a majority position and we should consistently articulate it as trusting people to make their own decisions about their personal lives. Period. Don't get into religious interpretations. Don't talk about the fetus. Just simply and straightforwardly say that people should be trusted to make their own decisions about complicated personal matters, that it's nobody else's business. It will make some people mad, to be sure. But it's simple and it gets to the heart of the matter. People want to know where we stand and that is where we stand.

People should be able to freely practice their religion as long as they don't expect anyone else to practice it or pay for it. People should be able to feel secure that their their homes, health and families are in the private sphere, where government has the least interest.

The western and southwestern states are far less amenable to intrusions on personal liberty, far less likely to be hyper-religious, far more "live and let live" than the southern red states. There is less history of racism than in either the south or the big cities (that's not saying all that much) and they have been leaders in women's equality. As the Republican party becomes a Christian dominated party of big government, this group is becoming unmoored from the GOP and is open to a new message from us.

They don't like taxes, which is why economics have to be presented in terms of responsibility rather than entitlement, which they are. Nobody likes taxes, but responsible people recognise that taxes are unavoidable if we are to have a decent society. "It is irresponsible to burden business with outrageous health care costs and individuals with the fear of imminent catastrophe --- the government needs to fix this problem." "It's irresponsible for the wealthy not to accept their rightful share of the burden to keep this country strong." "It's irresponsible for the government not to keep our promises to each generation by ensuring that social security stays healthy and that we don't leave behind a mountain of debt for our children."

They also don't like corruption and cronyism. It goes against the western ethos of both rugged individualism and communitarian necessity. The dishonest Republican political machine has to be grating at their very marrow. This issue is, of course, central to our critique of the Republicans generally, but I think it carries extra weight with the anti-authoritarian west. They don't like Washington much anyway. Washington corruption is particularly distasteful.

They are growing increasingly concerned about environmental degradation. Global warming affects people who work and live on the land --- people in the west are more concerned with the environment in general than those in the south. This is an area of common cause. Governor Brian Schweitzer of Montana has set forth some ideas about liquid coal that should be explored. Alternative energy is, in my opinion, a winning issue for us all around.

On national security, I think the simple answer is to point out that Republican unilateralism is creating enemies and bankrupting the country. There is a lot of evidence that people are resenting the amount of money that's being spent on Iraq. The way to deal with this is to say that if the Republicans had followed the model of Bush's father and worked with a real coalition toward goals that everyone could agree upon, we would not be bearing this kind of financial burden alone. We will never hesitate to act alone if the national security of the US is at stake. With Iraq, the administration claimed that we were in danger from a threat that didn't exist and we took on the enormous cost of that mistake alone because the vast majority of the world didn't agree with that assessment. We need to make sure that never happens again.

A few of the areas that are problematic for this coalition are guns, business regulation, unions and immigration. On the first I would adopt a states' rights position and use governor Dean's formulation that the rural areas have different concerns about guns than the cities and so there can be no national, one size fits all solution. Big city cops have different concerns than those in Montana.

We should argue that if business acts responsibly toward its community, its customers and its employees, they have no beef with us. Our society depends upon business being successful and there are many millions of them around the country that are both responsible and profitable. They should be rewarded, not penalized, for doing the right thing.

Unions need to take a page from California. They have been enormously successful in re-casting thier image here by simply pointing out that union members aren't "special interests" they are cops, firefighters, nurses, teachers, state employees. Once people see unions again as average working people instead of the stereotype of mobbed-up "On the Waterfront" crooks or ridiculous patronage machines, they tend to look at the whole issue differently. We should encourage the unions to work together to send out this message of average working people you depend upon every day to take care of you when you are in need. It's worked extremely well in California and I think it can work everywhere.

Immigration is going to be tough. I think we will have to look at the southwestern governors Napolitano and Richardson for some guidance. This issue is the canary in a coalmine of a faltering economy and it must be dealt with wisely. It's becoming huge around the country and the Democrats have to find the proper balance. I don't have the answers on this one.

The other side of all this is that the mountain red state voters need to recognise that the blue states are not the enemy of Real America. It's a two way street. We should ask them for some consideration of our culture just as they ask us for theirs. These are the live and let live people. If we let them know that we have no interest in turning Helena or Las Vegas into San Francisco, maybe they will grant that it's ok for San Francisco and Boston to have their own ways too. We have more in common than we have differences.

This discussion of what "real America" is, is a good starting point for launching this coalition. Despite what the GOP is trying to sell, Real America is all of us. The red state west is one element of the current Republican coalition that may just agree with that. We need them --- and frankly they need us. Their unique culture of independence and self-sufficiency is far more threatened by what the modern Republicans are doing than anything the Democrats have ever done.

I'm sure there are huge holes in my plan. I've never sat down and really worked on it. But others have, people who are in the trenches looking at how we can build a Democratic majority now that the Republicans have a total lock on the south. I'm not saying that we should abandon the south --- but we cannot depend upon it. History shows that the south is a voting block unto itself and almost always goes together. It's a very tough nut for us to crack, particularly if we wish to keep any principles. There are better ways.


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