Sunday, April 30, 2006

Speaking Truth(iness) to Power

Wow! Stephen Colbert has balls! I just watched and read what he had to say at the White House Correspondent's Dinner, with Bush and his henchmen in attendance.

You can watch it too... at least for now. Check it out here and continued here. I think you'll be blown away... like the guy who made the decision to invite Colbert to speak will probably be. This stuff has just never been said on prime time. He touched on everything and he told it like it is. What a breath of fresh air.

I wonder what the fall-out will be...?

Update: A rough transcription of the text portion is here.
Update2: A better transcript is here.
Update 3: More video links here and here.
Update 4: Another video link here.
Update 5: CSPAN lets Google show it here.

The belief that an American citizen is unpatriotic by virtue of criticizing and opposing the president is one of the most pernicious ideas to take hold in some time. What Colbert did took real courage and - like Savage - he should be commended for reminding us of the kind of country we are supposed to have, and the kind of country we aren't supposed to have and, until this administration, never had.
-- Glenn Greenwald

All hail Stephen Colbert --- the man who coined the word for what the Washington press have been feeding us for the last decade. The truthiness hurts, doesn't it kids?
-- Digby

Stephen Colbert is important and Glenn Greenwald is important. The people sitting in that room last night cannot be counted upon for either self-awareness — have you ever seen a room of people so stiff and uncomfortable at the specter of their own failings? It was like watching Lenny Bruce tell political jokes at the titty bar to a bunch of bored old pervs who just wanted to get back to the boobs.

They are going to need an awful lot of help to come to terms with the fact that the cowboy stooge they all clap and laugh for like a bunch of trained seals is, in fact, a grotesque criminal who most certainly thinks he has the right to spy on all of them. It gives me great hope to know that people like Colbert and Greenwald are willing to give it to them.
-- Jane Hamsher

Instead, Colbert was cool, methodical, and mercilessly ironic, not getting rattled when the audience quieted with discomfort (and resorting to self-deprecating "savers," as most comedians do), but closing in on the kill, as unsparing of the press as he was of the president. I mean no disrespect to Jon Stewart to say that in the same circumstances, he would have resorted to shtick; Colbert didn't. Apart from flubbing the water-half-empty joke about Bush's poll ratings, he was in full command of his tone, comic inflection, and line of attack. The we-are-not-amused smile Laura Bush gave him when he left the podium was a priceless tribute to the displeasure he incurred. To me, Colbert looked very relaxed after the Bushes left the room and he greeted audience members, signed autographs. And why wouldn't he be? He achieved exactly what he wanted to achieve, delivered the message he intended to deliver. Mission accomplished.
--James Wolcott

Playing offence

I was talking with some people yesterday about the importance of being "for" something and not just "against" stuff. In a similar way, you should focus on your "game", not defending against your opponent's. I'm watching baseball now and I'm reminded of Steve Carleton saying he didn't pitch to the batter, he pitched to the catcher. He focused on what we was trying to do and if, the batter wanted to try to hit Lefty's pitch, he was free to try.

Today, Josh Marshall is exhorting the Democrats, with regard to the Rovians and the up-coming election, to stop behaving like losers and "maintain the initiative. And that pretty much always means bringing the attack to the other side". My favourite quote is: "To the president the Democrats should be saying, Double or Nothing is Not a Foreign Policy."

The White House is now telling us that engineering a confrontation with Iran is a key part of their plan to resuscitate the president's dismal approval ratings in time to survive election day.

And this is probably as good a time as any to address the question we hear more and more from Democrats: how do we prepare for whatever it is Karl Rove has cooked up this election season? How do Democrats or this or that Democratic candidate 'inoculate' themselves from this year's version of the Swift Boat scam?

With respect, this is loser talk. The 'how will we defend ourselves' conversation is an example of the malady itself masquerading as the cure to the disease.

On a battlefield there is a name for armies that spend all their time and energy planning and conditioning themselves to defend against their opponents' attacks. They're called defeated armies. You defend yourself when and where you must. But you do everything you can to maintain the initiative. And that pretty much always means bringing the attack to the other side.

This isn't just a good way to win political fights. It's also a window into the meta-message that often makes Republican attack politics so damaging for Democrats. If you think back to the Swift Boat debacle of 2004, the surface issue was John Kerry's honesty and bravery as a sailor in Vietnam. Far more powerful, however, was the meta-message: George Bush slaps John Kerry around and Kerry either can't or won't hit back. For voters concerned with security and the toughness of their leaders, that's a devastating message -- and one that has little or nothing to do with the truth of the surface charges. Someone who can't fight for himself certainly can't fight for you. At the time I called it the "Republicans' bitch-slap theory of electoral politics."

With respect to what's coming on Iran, what is in order is a little honesty, just as was the case with the Social Security debate a year ago. The only crisis with Iran is the crisis with the president's public approval ratings. Period. End of story. The Iranians are years, probably as long as a decade away, and possibly even longer from creating even a limited yield nuclear weapon. Ergo, the only reason to ramp up a confrontation now is to help the president's poll numbers.

This is a powerful message because it is an accurate message. We have many challenges overseas today. Chief among them, as one of the Democrats' senate candidates puts it, is "refocusing America's foreign and defense policies in a way that truly protects our national interests and seeks harmony where they are not threatened." The period of peril the country is entering into isn't tied to an Iranian bomb. It turns on how far a desperate president will go to avoid losing control of Congress.

Go to his heart. Go to his weaknesses. Though the realization of the fact is something of a lagging indicator, the man is a laughing stock, whose lies and failures are all catching up with him.

To the president the Democrats should be saying, Double or Nothing is Not a Foreign Policy.

The great bulk of the public doesn't believe this president any more when he tries to gin up a phony crisis. They don't believe he'd have much of an idea of how to deal with a real one. Enough of the lies. Enough of the incompetence and failure.

No buying into another of the president's phony crises.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Greenwald gems

Glenn Greenwald possesses two qualities which I delight in every day -- he is a really good writer and he has lots of worthwhile stuff to say on subjects that interest me. Today he writes about the amazing success of his as-yet-unreleased book on (#1 all week) and about the risks inherent in, but the necessity of using, generalizations and advice on the correct way to do so. I recommend that you read both in their entirety and I'll provide some excerpts in the hopes of enticing you to do just that.

On the early success of his book:

Over the last five years, our country has been gradually though incessantly changing in fundamental and radical ways. The things we see and hear our government doing are squarely at odds with how we perceive of ourselves as a nation and the values which Americans, by definition, universally embrace. We have watched while this administration imprisoned U.S. citizens on U.S. soil and claimed the right to keep them there indefinitely with no trial, no charges and no access to lawyers; routinely used torture as an interrogation tool; created secret gulags in former Soviet Eastern European prisons in order to detain people beyond the reach of the law or monitoring; and eavesdropped on American citizens, on U.S. soil, without warrants or oversight of any kind in patent violation of a 28-year-old law which makes warrantless eavesdropping on Americans a criminal offense.

Those scandals have received their fair share of attention, but this critical point has not: all of those scandals stem from the fact that we have a president who, expressly and out in the open, claims that he has the power to act in the broadly defined area of national security (which includes measures taken against American citizens on U.S. soil) without any "interference" from anyone -- including Congress, the courts, and even the law. In sum, we are radically changing our system of government, and, in the process, have transformed ourselves from a country that, for decades, was widely respected as a restrained and principled superpower into an amoral, highly militaristic and aggressive state which is widely feared and despised.


I genuinely believe there is a hunger to talk about what is happening to our country and why it is happening. The media is capable, at best, of talking about scandals and issues in day-to-day isolation. The fact that this administration has expressly embraced theories of presidential power which are entirely unprecedented and plainly alien to our most basic political values and traditions is something of unparalleled significance and yet also something that we have barely discussed as a country. I think Americans know there is something deeply amiss and are receptive to attempts to talk about what that is.


I really believe that its [the book's initial appeal] significance lays in the fact that the extremist and dangerous theories of lawlessness expressly adopted by the administration have received virtually no attention, and the fact that our national character and fundamental values are being radically changed -- through fear-mongering, exploitation of the terrorist threat, efforts to quash dissent, and plainly lawless and un-American policies -- is a discussion people want to have. And, the way in which that discussion has been conducted here over the past few months is, I believe, also a factor in why the book is being ordered.

On generalizations:

Much of what I have come to believe about how Bush defenders think, how they behave, what motivates them, what tactics they use, is based upon the insight one develops as a result of having that level of exposure to their thought processes. With almost everyone opining so regularly and continuously on the Internet, how Bush defenders think and what they believe is all right there to look at -- it's all out in the open -- and, as a result, it can be amply documented. Almost every post I write about Bush defenders is usually stuffed full of links to pro-Bush bloggers or other Bush-defending advocates because I try to ensure that any such generalizations are supported by ample documentation and are accompanied by abundant (and meaningful) examples (i.e., from influential and representative Bush followers rather than obscure and unrepresentative ones). That is what I think distinguishes responsible generalizations from irresponsible ones.


Arguments of that nature are not inherently invalid because they are comprised of generalizations. To say "oh, he's talking in generalizations" is not an indictment of someone's argument. Whether the arguments are valid is simply determined by whether there is rational and evidentiary support for those generalizations. When I describe the behavior of Bush defenders, I never simply assert the description but always provide what I believe is ample support for it. One can dispute the persuasiveness of the claims or the support, but one cannot, in my view, claim that those descriptions are somehow inherently invalid because they are made in the form of generalizations.

Kenny Boy on the stand

Digby has a post about how Ken Lay did during his days in court. For those of you who've recently wakened from a coma, Kenny Boy is George W. Bush's nickname for one of his largest financial supporters and the CEO of scandal-riddled and now defunct Enron. He's on trial now in Texas and the always readable Digby ends his piece on Kenny Boy on the stand thusly:
Can't you just see Bush stabbing Cheney and Rove in the back and blaming them for all his troubles? Being snotty to the prosecutor? The whole thing sounds like a typical Bush press conference to me.

Just as a reminder, Kenny Boy Lay was Bush's biggest contributor in 2000. His presidential campaign received $1.14 million from Enron. And Enron got its money's worth until the whole thing imploded:

Shortly after taking office, President Bush waged a battle against the imposition of federal price controls in California that allowed Enron to price-gouge consumers by extending the energy crisis in California, costing the state billions of dollars. Enron reported increased revenues of almost $70 billion from the previous year.

Two peas in a pod, Lay and Bush. Arrogant losers who drove their organizations into the ground.

Friday, April 28, 2006


Readers of this blog will know that one of my favourite writers at the DailyKos is Georgia10 but all I knew about her was the passionate, informed, reasoned and articulate writing that had earned her diary front-page status at the DailyKos. Well today, thanks to an article in the Chicago Reader, we learn more about this 23-year old law student.

Something for you Plame-a-holics

I just read a really good post by Christy over at FDL about the latest Rove segment in this continuing chronicle which features her usual former-prosecutor insight. But, as well as documenting why we both respect Fitz and the way he conducts himself, there is also a comment from reader which really resonated with me, not to mention, reminding me of my mum.

Go read it here.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Let me introduce you to Condi's good friend

Douglas Farah has an article in WaPo called African Pillagers which sheds some light on type of the despicable characters that the Bush administraction is making cozy with. Such hypocrites! Pretending to care about that sacred God-given right to freedom and democracy... I could puke!
But when the Bush administration speaks of spreading democracy around the world, these petty and cruel tyrants, who make Saddam Hussein seem tolerant, are not condemned. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice just days ago called Obiang a "good friend" while being photographed beaming at his side during his visit to her office. This is the same Obiang whose regime her own department routinely denounces for its macabre brutality.


One of the richest and most repressive of this group is Obiang [Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea], since 1979 the ruler of the only Spanish-speaking nation in Africa. In 2004 Riggs Bank admitted criminal liability for illegally taking Obiang's illegal proceeds. In the late 1990s, according to a 2004 report by the Senate's subcommittee on investigations, Obiang and his cronies had at least $700 million in Riggs, making Equatorial Guinea the bank's single largest depositor. At the same time, his country's inhabitants were wallowing near the bottom of almost every global index of health, literacy and life expectancy.


He survives in part because his tiny country pumps 350,000 barrels of oil a day and has reserves of 1.2 billion barrels, along with 1.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. As a result, oil companies and governments are willing to support a regime that has long since silenced the press, driven almost a third of its population of 540,000 into exile and crushed any hint of dissent.

The need for a political soul

Glenn Greenwald, whose new book How Would a Patriot Act? is already #1 at Amazon even though it hasn't been released yet, writes an article which is close to my heart. Go read it here.

Democratic Party has all but turned itself over to highly risk-adverse, overly calculating political consultants who have drained the party of ideals, passion, energy and life. Almost all of them inspire nobody, because they so transparently lack any governing principles or passion about anything. They embrace only those ideas which are guaranteed in advance to be popular, and they run from ideas they believe in and that are right whenever they are told -- by the bookish, soul-less consultants who dominate them -- that those ideas are risky or unpopular. And everyone sees this and knows this.

Say what you will about the Bush movement, but it is difficult to accuse it of lacking passion and conviction. Indeed, the deep emotional fulfillment it provides to its adherents is one of its greatest strengths. Democrats never throw caution to the wind or take a real stand -- one that might be unpopular or risky -- for anything, including their core convictions, to the extent such a thing exists any more. The Swift Boat attacks in the 2004 election were so effective mostly because they provoked no reaction from Kerry -- no fury, no aggression, no unrestrained human conviction. When a response finally did come, it was pre-scripted, contrived and transparently empty, and that became the hallmark of the campaign.

Feingold's Censure Resolution had such resonance because it was something which came -- finally -- from conviction, from principle, from a political soul.

Lincoln he ain't

It would appear that Abraham Lincoln warned us about George W. Bush a long time ago.

Tristero asks us to notice... Schlesinger cleverly disses Bush by pointing out that these three were war veterans, not drunken, promiscuous fratboys who used their fathers' good name to avoid military service:The issue of preventive war as a presidential prerogative is hardly new. In February 1848 Rep. Abraham Lincoln explained his opposition to the Mexican War:

"Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose -- and you allow him to make war at pleasure [emphasis added]. . . . If, today, he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him, 'I see no probability of the British invading us'; but he will say to you, 'Be silent; I see it, if you don't.' "

This is precisely how George W. Bush sees his presidential prerogative: Be silent; I see it, if you don't .

It's gonna be a long hot summer

Josh Marshall tells us again just what will be at stake this November.

The president is unpopular for a lot of reasons. The biggest reason is probably Iraq -- in all its many manifestations. But a very big reason -- and one that suffuses many of the other reasons -- is a growing sense that the president and his chief advisors are dishonest, incompetent, cynical and possibly corrupt.

That's not great. But when you think about this coming election, and the stakes for the White House, you need to figure that that's all come about without any independent, let alone antagonistic or hostile, investigations into the key issues that have led to this souring view of the president.

Would the president look better after a new look at the Iraq intel bamboozlement that wasn't controlled by Sen. Roberts? How about an investigation into the executive branch side of the Abramoff scandal? What about a look into the Plame affair? What about the folks in Rumsfeld's office who knew about Duke's corruption but looked the other way?

Aggrieved opposition parties can go overboard when they come back into power and damage themselves -- the Republicans in 1946 and 1994 are good examples. But the Bush administration has built up a very big backlog of bad acts.

Get ready for a rough summer and fall. The White House can't afford to lose either house of Congress.

Reader discretion is required

This is hard to believe, but so much of what passes for business-as-usual now deserves that label that almost anything is believable.

Check this out: Air Force Censors Liberal Websites, But Leaves Conservative Ones Alone


Josh Marshall reflects on good old Jim Baker being sent off to "generate new ideas on Iraq" and the likelihood of anything good coming of it as long as the current resident occupies the White House. I think Josh hits the nail on the head:

Johnson eventually halted the bombing of North Vietnam and announced he wouldn't run for reelection. In effect, he resigned the presidency, though he remained to serve the remaining ten months of his constitutional term of office. It's probably the closest thing you'll ever see in American politics to an admission of failure followed by an intentional act of political self-immolation.

Does anyone imagine anything even remotely like that in the offing?

The president is stuck on telling us that Don Rumsfeld has done a bang up job as defense secretary.

And even with the rising chorus of retired generals calling for Rumsfeld's ouster, isn't this just displacement? Don Rumsfeld works for the president. This is the president's administration in more than just the obvious, literal sense. These are his policies. It's his denial, his indifference to the failure of his policies and the incompetence of his subordinates. As David Remnick put it recently in The New Yorker, the man in the Oval Office "does not much believe in science or, for that matter, in any information that disturbs his prejudices, his fantasies, or his sleep."

The president is accountable, not just in the sense that the president is by definition accountable, but because these failures are his failures. They stem from his weaknesses -- his inability to summon the courage to make tough decisions, his addiction to sycophants, his penchant for denial.

We'd be fools to expect any change when the president lacks the guts to recognize his failures let alone try to fix them.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Think Progress

I perusal of the Think Progress site brought to light the following:

- 32%: President Bush’s approval rating in a new CNN poll have sunk to a new personal low.

- With little more than a month left until hurricane season begins, the levees in New Orleans remain “flawed.” “Flood walls are too weak in some places; earthen levees are too short in others. Locals say the only thing that will save the low-lying region from more flooding this summer is not getting hit with a strong storm.”

- Powerline’s Paul Mirengoff has declared:

Public officials must be judged by the totality of their work not by one event, particularly an event like Abu Ghraib that cannot reasonably be attributed to anything the official did or didn’t do.

Even Rumsfeld himself acknowledges this isn’t true. As the Defense Secretary testifed in May 2004 before the House Armed Services Committee:

There has been a good deal of discussion about who bears responsibility for the terrible activities that took place at Abu Ghraib. These events occurred on my watch. As Secretary of Defense, I am accountable for them. I take full responsibility.

- A review of “at least six joint U.S.-Iraqi inspections of detention centers, most of them run by Iraq’s Shiite Muslim-dominated Interior Ministry,” found evidence of prisoner abuse at all of them. Some of the abuse was “severe,” including cigarette burns and missing toenails, but unlike in the past, abused detainees were not removed from the centers, “prompting concerns that they could be victims again.”

-SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, we have to buy vehicles that are fuel-efficient…We want to inspire people to buy cars that are fuel-efficient, and also drive less, do more carpooling and so on. Because remember, the oil price is all based on supply and demand.

It was a curious argument from the man who literally brought the Humvee, the most fuel inefficient civilian vehicle on earth, to the roadways:

The partnership of Schwarzenegger with the Hummer brand is like no other celebrity/manufacturer relationship. The muscle man is a legitimate player in a game that paid off with the actualization of the Hummer product line. While filming “Kindergarten Cop” about a decade ago, Schwarzenegger saw a fleet of military HMMWV/Humvee vehicles rolling down the street. He had to have one. Since the Humvee was a military-only vehicle, Schwarzenegger initiated talks with the manufacturer, AM General Corp., and the U.S. Army. Those discussions resulted in the civilian Hummer.

Arnold owns five gas powered Humvees and is still driving them.

- 169: Number of days that elapsed between Dana Priest’s article on secret prisons and the firing of the supposed leaker. 1,014 and counting: Number of days that have elapsed since Valerie Plame’s identity was published without anyone having been fired.

The GOP: The Party of Greed and Bleed

I just read this post by SusanG over at the DailyKos and I thought it summed things up rather neatly.

Money and war, war and money. The mantra of the modern Republican Party.

I've come to the reluctant conclusion that every single decision - not just a vast majority of decisions, but every single one -- made in the past six years by the ruling GOP leads back to these twin motivators, with war secondary in the service of obscene accumulations of wealth by a small coterie of cronies, criminals and corporatists.

Funny, isn't it, how times change? Once upon a time, Christians considered avarice a sin. Now they consider serving as ignorant foot soldiers in the army of a few self-selected Gekkos a sign of grace. Jesus, had he a grave, would certainly be rolling over in it now, watching middle and working-class Americans - and the rest of the world - being bled with the help of his followers so that the top's illimitable greed is fed.

We are bled at the gas pump. We are bled at the workplace. We are even bled in our homes as heating oil prices soar while energy companies reap the greatest profit in human history and object to paying their fair share of taxes on it.

And of course, there's the literal blood, of Iraqis and American troops spilled in the sands and streets of the Middle East. America bleeds in the mines of West Virginia., floats face down in the streets of New Orleans, drops dead from Vioxx. So very, very many victims. And, of course, no perpetrators, because people who loathe government are in charge of government, and they most sacredly aver that government has no real role in safety issues, disaster preparedness or illness prevention. No role in preparation or prevention at all, in fact, in their ideal, privatized world.

Unless, of course, it comes to "preventive war." There the GOP has its priorities straight: no money to prevent levee flooding in New Orleans, but the far-sightedness to spend a trillion to kill people half a world away whom our leaders knew from the beginning had done us no injury and posed us no threat.

Lying, in short, in the service of money and war.

Democrats in this election year need to ask Americans: Why would you put a party in charge of government that wants to abolish it, that views it as only capable of evil? Transpose this nonsense into any other realm and contemplate the resultant absurdity: Imagine hiring a symphony conductor who loathes orchestras, or assigning literacy tutoring to someone who believes the written word should be abolished. What would be the end result? Surely similar to what we have now: a ruling party that refuses to take responsibility for the failure of the end result.

Republicans have evolved into masters of outsourcing blame, even within the borders of our own country: on GM workers who have been led to believe they contracted their labor for some health coverage as well as wages; on seniors who paid into Social Security all their working lives, only to be told their "greed" for monthly $900 checks is breaking the system while the trust fund is raided; on the children of this country who deserve well-funded schools and decently paid teachers.

The economic and social failures of this ruling class - its inability to ... well ... rule competently - are shifted to the victims of their corrupt and impracticable ideology. It's our fault that working hard and playing by the rules no longer buys a house in the suburbs or gets us health coverage or buys our children a decent education. We got greedy and lazy, not them, and our rumblings of discontent earn us labels as "treasonous" and "unpatriotic." As such, it's perfectly okay to use the government to invade our bedrooms, our doctor's offices, our reproductive systems, our phone lines, our Internet connections, even our deathbeds - and then lie about it and evade even anemic attempts to find out what the hell is going on. All secrecy is legitimatised for government, while the citizens retain no zone of privacy at all.

Democrats, take heed. It's time to talk straight to the American people. The modern Republican Party can best be summed up as devoted to lying and spying while others do the dying.

All in the service of greed and bleed, of money and war.

Secrets and Lies

Matthew Yglesias puts is well...

Mark Kleiman has a great rundown of the hawkosphere's lunacy on Mary McCarthy spilling the beans on the secret illegal torture prisons business. Less crazed figures on the right are mostly restricting themselves to throwing around hypocrisy charges. But, of course, if you think that leaking classified information in order to expose illegal conduct by high government officials is the same thing as high government officials selectively releasing classified information in order to bamboozle the public into supporting a strategically daft invasion, then you're out of your mind. The issue, though, is that a certain number of people think that bamboozling the public into supporting the Iraq War was a good and noble thing to do, and a largely overlapping group of people think that arbitrary detention and torture are so vital to American national security that a little lawbreaking and secrecy is a small price to pay to ensure that the job gets done. Others of us hue to an anti-bamboozlement, anti-torture line and, naturally, don't think the president should be able to cover up his illegal conduct by slapping a "classified" label on all the evidence.

Ned Who

Meet Ned Lamont, the guy that many in Left Blogastan hope might beat Joe Leiberman, the incumbent DINO (Democrat In Name Only), for the Democratic nomination for Senator in Connecticut's primary.

Lamont favors gay marriage, abortion rights, universal health care and finding a way to put undocumented workers on the path to citizenship. And, of course, he faults Lieberman for supporting the invasion of Iraq and failing to filibuster the Supreme Court nomination of Samuel Alito, who succeeded the centrist swing vote, Sandra Day O'Connor.

Bush Brandishes Jail Time at Critics

Robert Parry has written an article about what we can expect from a cornered desperate Bush administration.

Over the past five-plus years, the American people have gotten a taste of what a triumphant George W. Bush is like, as he basked in high approval ratings and asserted virtually unlimited powers as Commander in Chief. Now, the question is: How will Bush and his inner circle behave when cornered?

So far, the answer should send chills through today’s weakened American Republic. Bush and his team – faced with plunging poll numbers and cascading disclosures of wrongdoing – appear determined to punish and criminalize resistance to their regime.

That is the significance of recent threats from the administration and its supporters who bandy about terms like sedition, espionage and treason when referring to investigative journalists, government whistle-blowers and even retired military generals – critics who have exposed Executive Branch illegalities, incompetence and deceptions.


However, neither right-wing commentators nor Bush administration officials have ever explained exactly how national security interests were hurt by the disclosures. As even Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has acknowledged, al-Qaeda operatives already were aware of the U.S. capability to intercept their electronic communications.

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Feb. 6, 2006, Sen. Joe Biden, D-Delaware, asked Gonzales, “How has this revelation damaged the program” since the administration’s attack on the disclosure “seems to presuppose that these very sophisticated al-Qaeda folks didn’t think we were intercepting their phone calls?”

Gonzales responded, “I think, based on my experience, it is true – you would assume that the enemy is presuming that we are engaged in some kind of surveillance. But if they’re not reminded about it all the time in the newspapers and in stories, they sometimes forget” – a response that drew laughter from the citizens in the hearing room.


Instead, what appears most keenly at stake in the escalating political rhetoric is the Bush administration’s determination to stop its political fall by branding its critics – even U.S. generals and CIA officers – as unpatriotic and then silencing them with threats of imprisonment.

Bush is trying to mark the boundaries of permissible political debate. He also wants total control of classified information so he can leak the information that helps him – as he did in summer 2003 to shore up his claims about Iraq’s WMD – while keeping a lid on secrets that might make him look bad.

The firing of CIA officer Mary McCarthy and the threats of criminal charges against various dissenters are just the latest skirmishes in the political war over who will decide what Americans get to see and hear.

The other signal to Bush’s critics, however, is this: If they ever thought he and his administration would accept accountability for their alleged abuses of power without a nasty fight, those critics are very mistaken.

Tyler Drumheller on 60 Minutes

Update: (CBS has video and the transcipt)

I watched 60 Minutes tonight and they opened with a segment about Tyler Drumheller, recently retired European head of CIA covert operations. He made it perfectly clear what many up us have long suspected -- that the Bush administration made the decision to invade Iraq long before they said they did and they used cherry-picked intel to bolster their "case" and suppressed evidence that didn't. The decision was made and then evidence was presented to justify the decision rather than an analysis of the evidence led to the decision.

That's right... they made the decision to invade Iraq (which was technically, legally and ethically a bad one) and then lied about it and yet, somehow, none of the subsequent Republican-led Congressional investigations told us this in the reports. It was an especially damning interview with someone who has pretty impressive credentials.

Josh Marshall has more here.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Partisan Leaks

Digby adds his comments on the firing of Mary McCarthy. He seems to think that the same rules should apply to everyone. How quaint...

Can someone explain to me why it's assumed that Mary McCarthy leaked information for partisan reasons (because she gave money to the Kerry campaign) while her boss Porter Goss, who was a Republican congressman until a year and a half ago, is not assumed to have fired her for partisan reasons?

Remember, when Goss was head of the house intelligence committee, he had this to say about the alleged leak of covert operative Valerie Plame's name to Robert Novak:

"Somebody sends me a blue dress and some DNA, I'll have an investigation"

yeah, yeah, I know. IOKIY... whatever.

Gotta keep the lid on

Josh Marshall thinks E.J. Dionne is on to something... the real reason that Karl Rove is going to devote his attention full time to Campaign 2006:

Dionne: "Here's the real meaning of the White House shake-up and the redefinition of Karl Rove's role in the Bush presidency: The administration's one and only domestic priority in 2006 is hanging on to control of Congress."

Another choice graf from E.J.'s Friday column ...

As one outside adviser to the administration said, the danger of a Democratic takeover of at least one house of Congress looms large and would carry huge penalties for Bush. The administration fears "investigations of everything" by congressional committees, this adviser said, and the "possibility of a forced withdrawal from Iraq" through legislative action.

This is the issue. Talk of impeachment, real or play-acted, is beside the point. Even having their hand pushed on Iraq is to them, I believe, a matter of far secondary importance. The key is subpoena power.

Little of what's happened in the last five years would have been possible were it not for the fact that there was no political institution with subpoena power in Washington not under the control of the White House. Obviously, that doesn't apply to pure policy objectives as much as what used to be known as congressional oversight and, particularly, investigations of wrongdoing. Yes, the Democrats briefly controlled the Senate. But that was always a marginal control, and as far as tough oversight it was almost immediately engulfed by 9/11.

The White House and the entire DC GOP for that matter is just sitting on too many secrets and bad acts. The bogus investigations of the pre-war intel is just one example, if one of the most resonant and glaring. Keeping control of the House and the Senate is less a matter of conventional ideological and partisan politics as it is a simple matter of survival.

They have too much to cover up. They could not survive sunlight.

This reminds me of one of those posts that I didn't post because Blogger ate it. It was Billmon's Happy Jack

Washington Post: "Karl Rove quits policy position to focus on midterm elections"

This is like reading that Jack the Ripper has given up his medical practice to concentrate on his night job.

The Worst President in History

Jane Hamsher is delighted that magazines "that are filling up the magazine stands of 7-11s across the country" have headlines like The Worst President in History (Rolling Stone). Sean Wilentz asks:

How does any president’s reputation sink so low? The reasons are best understood as the reverse of those that produce presidential greatness. In almost every survey of historians dating back to the 1940s, three presidents have emerged as supreme successes: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt. These were the men who guided the nation through what historians consider its greatest crises: the founding era after the ratification of the Constitution, the Civil War, and the Great Depression and Second World War. Presented with arduous, at times seemingly impossible circumstances, they rallied the nation, governed brilliantly and left the republic more secure than when they entered office.

Calamitous presidents, faced with enormous difficulties — Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Hoover and now Bush — have divided the nation, governed erratically and left the nation worse off. In each case, different factors contributed to the failure: disastrous domestic policies, foreign-policy blunders and military setbacks, executive misconduct, crises of credibility and public trust. Bush, however, is one of the rarities in presidential history: He has not only stumbled badly in every one of these key areas, he has also displayed a weakness common among the greatest presidential failures — an unswerving adherence to a simplistic ideology that abjures deviation from dogma as heresy, thus preventing any pragmatic adjustment to changing realities. Repeatedly, Bush has undone himself, a failing revealed in each major area of presidential performance.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

There are leaks... and then there are leaks

Glenn Greenwald has a great follow up on my last post about selective punishment when it comes to leaks. His point is that the distinction has nothing to do with national security and everything to do with political damage control.
The CIA's firing of the official who allegedly leaked the existence of Eastern European black prisons to Dana Priest of The Washington Post has prompted an orgy of celebration among Bush followers, who apparently believe that the dreams they harbor -- whereby anyone who discloses information which results in political harm to the leader will be imprisoned -- are about to be realized.


If we had the society which Bush followers are seeking to impose -- where anyone is imprisoned who discloses, or writes about, any information marked "classified" by the government -- Watergate misconduct would never have been exposed. We would not know that the administration was eavesdropping on us without warrants in violation of the law. We would not know that our government systematically used torture as a routine interrogation device nor that it disappeared terrorist suspects to black prisons. And we would not have learned of the substantial doubts which existed, and the evidence bolstering those doubts, regarding Saddam's weapons capability prior to our invasion. Nor, for that matter, would we have recently learned about the administration's apparently advanced plans to wage war on Iran.

These types of unauthorized disclosures, more than anything else, are what accounts for the fact that Americans finally realized what type of government we really have, and caused literally millions of Americans to abandon this President and his administration. Is it really any wonder why the president's followers are so eager to imprison the people responsible for these types of leaks, while insistently ignoring the leaks designed to help the president? This has nothing to do with national security or with safeguarding classified information. It is about punishment, vengeance, and deterrence -- all focused on those who have exposed, or who could expose, government misconduct that results in political harm to George Bush.

Fired for leaking information

If you were to read that subject line, you might be excused for thinking that it referred to Libby or Rove who, we are becoming increasingly aware, leaked bits of classified information to smear a political opponent who was telling the truth and to mislead the nation into supporting a war of choice. Alas, it refers to Mary McCarthy, the CIA whistle-blower who leaked information about the CIA's secret prisons to Wapo reporter Dana Priest and, according the notoriously unreliable Andrea Mitchell, has been fired for her troubles.

That's right... Bush gets Libby & Rove to leak classified info to mislead the public and smear someone telling the unpleasant truth == OK. But, blowing the whistle on the illegal acts by agents acting in the name of the American people == firing amidst allegation of being a traitor.

Truly, up is down.

Update: even Larry Johnson, no friend of McCarthy's, thinks that this stinks:

I am struck by the irony that Mary McCarthy may have been fired for blowing the whistle and ensuring that the truth about an abuse was told to the American people. There is something potentially honorable in that action; particularly when you consider that George Bush authorized Scooter Libby to leak misleading information for the purpose of deceiving the American people about the grounds for going to war in Iraq. While I'm neither a fan nor friend of Mary's, she may have done a service for her country. She was a lousy manager in my experience, but she is not a traitor and has not betrayed the identity of an undercover intelligence officer. That dirty work was done by the minions of George Bush and Dick Cheney. It is important to keep that fact in the forefront as the judgment on Mary McCarthy's acts is rendered.

Hello Pot... Kettle calling.

Interesting to see how a Democrat handles allegations of improprity (which appear to be smears). Rep. Allan Mollohan is the ranking Democrat on the House Ethics Committee and today he temporarily stepped down from his post. A Republican hit group National Legal & Policy Center (NLPC) alleges that there were omissions in his financial disclosures. What is noteworthy is that he has not been indicted -- there isn't even a formal government investigation. NLPC has simply filed a complaint with the FBI. But it gets worse -- his accusers won't even release the details of his alleged wrong-doing. georgia10 tells us:

Mollohan has vehemently denied any wrongdoing. He says he was unaware of any errors in his financial disclosures, if any do exist. And he'd like to address the details of the NLPC's complaint--except he hasn't received any information from the group.

Indeed, the NLPC refuses to publicly release the 500-page report. Mollohan has demanded it. Mollahan's Republican opponent has demanded it. The media has demanded it. And yet, the center won't release it. One local media outlet reports that the NLPC refuses to release its report because "some items it contains may not be accurate."

Were there errors in Mollohan's disclosures? If so, were they inadvertent or intentional? Eventually, we'll find out. In the meantime, by stepping down, Mollohan is stepping up and showing the GOP the proper way to react to ethics allegations.

You see, there this concept that Republican politicians don't understand--it's called the greater good.


Yet for Mollohan, and Democrats in general as Matt Stoller points out, it is about principle:

I know the press is going to report that a Democrat is under investigation, but that's not the real story. The real story is that faced with the perception of an ethics problem, Democrats chose to confront it directly and honorably even though they knew it would cost them politically.

Ancient and Hermetic Order of the Shrill

I read Brad DeLong regularly because he is such a smart guy and my favourite economist, but he's also fun:

What a Long Strange Trip It's Been...

Back in the old days--when Donald Luskin, Andrew Sullivan, and Mickey Kaus first decided that there were reputations to be made and Republican brownie-points to be earned by attacking Paul Krugman as "shrill," and when you could (well, maybe not you, but one, or some of those one might call "one") using only the suckers of one's tentacles count us few members of the Ancient and Hermetic Order of the Shrill as we gathered in the night psychotically ululating shrill screeds of Bush hatred at the dead, uncaring stars, having been driven into shrill unholy madness by the incompetence, mendacity, malevolence, and sheer disconnection from reality of George W. Bush and his administration--back in those old days, as I was saying, few would ever have thought that we would ever have the privilege of being led in Evensong here at Order of the Shrill headquarters here at Miskatonic University by tonight's fine and harmonious quartet, made up of Newsweek's Howard Fineman, the Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan, Meet the Press's Tim Russert, and the New York Times's John Tierney.

Howard Fineman Is Shrill
Peggy Noonan Is Shrill
Tim Russert Is Shrill
John Tierney Is Shrill

Welcome, friends! We are happy to give you your robes and your copies of the Krugmanomicon as we formally induct you into the Order! It's been a long strange trip, and you are late to the party, but you are very welcome now that you are here!

Now we will sit back and listen as your shrill ululating harmonies fill the sky beneath the dead, uncaring stars with that old favorite melody of Aaaiii! Ph'nglui Mglw'nafh Krugman R'lyeh Wagn'nagl Fhtagn! Aaaiii!!!

Spiraling into conflict

Following up on the inevitability of Bush doing something stupid regarding Iran, Billmon writes an article called The Spiral Conflict which contains:

William Beeman, a professor of Middle East studies at Brown University, published an interesting piece on the Iran showdown last week. It covers some of the same ground as my two Flight Forward posts, but gets to the punch line a lot quicker:

Iran and U.S. Locked Into Spiral Conflict

Indeed, the danger in this situation could be dismissed if there were other leaders in power. However, in both nations the leadership needs this conflict. President Bush and the Republican party face defeat in November without an issue to galvanize the voting public behind their assertion that they are best able to protect the United States from attack — the only point on which they have outscored Democrats in recent polls. President Ahmadinejad also needs public support for his domestic political agenda — an agenda that is paradoxically opposed by a large number of the ruling clerics in Iran. Every time he makes a defiant assertion against the United States, the public rallies behind him.

This creates what political scientist Richard Cottam termed a "spiral conflict" in which both parties escalate each other's extreme positions to new heights. It is entirely possible that Iran could goad President Bush into a disastrous military action, and that action would result in an equally disastrous Iranian reaction.


But we also can't overlook the possibility that the President of the United States may have his own celestial agenda here — or, not to put too fine a point on it, that Bush may have lost a few of his religious marbles.

There are degrees of craziness, after all, and while Shrub isn't barking at the moon (at least not that I know about) there have been some worrisome signs recently that his mind has moved into an even more distant outer suburb of reality.

A friend points out that when Shrub took a step out of his portable bunker last month to field a few unscripted questions at the Cleveland City Club, he was asked about his own personal belief in the War of the Apocalpyse. Bush turned his answer into a passionate declaration of his determination to protect Israel from the Iranian "threat."

The threat from Iran is, of course, their stated objective to destroy our strong ally Israel. That's a threat, a serious threat. It's a threat to world peace; it's a threat, in essence, to a strong alliance. I made it clear, I'll make it clear again, that we will use military might to protect our ally, Israel.
And Bush has made it clear — over and over and over again. In fact he now mentions it almost every time he's asked about Iran. To the point where I'm told the leading political mavens of the American Jewish community are getting a little nervous about all this presidential attention.


Personally, I'd be a little leery of having as my nearest and dearest political friends a group of religious fanatics who've tied their hopes for personal spiritual salvation to the destruction of my people. But Israel's national security elites don't seem to mind. From their point of view, who cares if Pat Robertson is bat shit crazy? The strategic benefits of a political alliance with the armies of Christian fundamentalism far outweigh any drawbacks.

Which is true, but only as long as it can be assumed with a high degree of certainty that the President of the United States doesn't share their maximum program — which, let's not forget, includes the destruction of Israel, even if it is for the greater glory of Christ.

Unfortunately, we can no longer make that assumption with the degree of conviction we would ordinarily like to have about the man with his finger on the button. To say that Bush is an emotionally unstable man under absolutely skull-crushing pressure isn't to say he's gone completely off the deep end and thinks God wants him to start the countdown to the Apocalpyse. But it's pretty hard to ignore the growing signs of megalomania ("I'm the decider, and I decide what's best.") We also know from his personal history that religion is Bush's crutch — his substitute of choice for the drugs of his youth. When a dry drunk who came to Jesus rather than seek treatment starts talking obsessively about protecting Israel from the Iranian Hitler, it seems reasonable to be worried, particularly when he has the world's largest military machine at his instant disposal.

Here's a little Billmon freebie for your reading pleasure:

Washington Post: "Karl Rove quits policy position to focus on midterm elections"

This is like reading that Jack the Ripper has given up his medical practice to concentrate on his night job.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Proven wisdom

Glenn Greenwald agrees with me about Scott Ritter's credibility:

One of the most bizarre aspects of our current political debates is that the very people who were most glaringly and incessantly wrong about virtually everything prior to the invasion of Iraq are still held out as some sort of wise foreign policy experts. The converse of that distorted principle is that those who were most right about Iraq-related issues are still treated as subversive lepers who are unfit for decent company, as well as unfit to be heard in mainstream media outlets and television talk shows.

Few people, if any, were as right about the critical pre-invasion issues as Scott Ritter was. Back in September, 2002, Ritter was trying to tell anyone who would listen that Iraq had no WMD's, and accordingly said:

My country seems on the verge of making an historic mistake…. My government is making a case for war against Iraq that is built upon fear and ignorance, as opposed to the reality of truth and fact.

Ritter was not just some newspaper columnist like Charles Krauthammer or free floating pundit like Michael Ledeen. He was a former Marine officer, top aide to Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf during the first Gulf War, and a tenacious weapons inspector working inside Iraq for the U.N. It is difficult to imagine someone with greater credentials and credibility who ought to have been listened on those issues.


And by virtue of this now-familiar Bush worshipping tactic, one of the very few individuals who was actually voicing accurate and truthful observations about Iraq prior to the invasion was shut out of the debate, other than to be held up for universal mockery.

Ritter has just given an interview (h/t Taylor Marsh) to San Diego Citybeat (the national media, with a payroll full of people who were completely misinformed and wrong about Iraq, still treats Ritter like a crank). The interview is well worth reading.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Talks with Iran

I just read a very interesting article by Kevin Drum about overtures made by Iran (through various intermediaries) to the US in 2003. They were spurned (after all, why talk if it will make another war less likely, eh?) and it would appear that Darth Cheney et al may have been behind that short-sighted move.
Gareth Porter: Realists, led by Powell and his Deputy Richard Armitage, were inclined to respond positively to the Iranian offer. Nevertheless, within a few days of its receipt, the State Department had rebuked the Swiss ambassador for having passed on the offer.

Exactly how the decision was made is not known. "As with many of these issues of national security decision-making, there are no fingerprints," [Lawrence] Wilkerson told IPS. "But I would guess Dick Cheney with the blessing of George W. Bush."

As Wilkerson observes, however, the mysterious death of what became known among Iran specialists as Iran's "grand bargain" initiative was a result of the administration's inability to agree on a policy toward Tehran.

A draft National Security Policy Directive (NSPD) on Iran calling for diplomatic engagement had been in the process of interagency coordination for more than a year, according to a source who asks to remain unidentified.

But it was impossible to get formal agreement on the NSPD, the source recalls, because officials in Cheney's office and in Undersecretary of Defence for Policy Douglas Feith's Office of Special Plans wanted a policy of regime change and kept trying to amend it.

With that as background, here's my suggestion: quit letting Cheney's crackpots run foreign policy and talk to Iran. After all, the administration's ideologues killed an opportunity to ratchet down tensions three years ago, and since then things have only gotten worse: Iran has elected a wingnut president, they've made progress on nuclear enrichment, gained considerable influence in Iraq, and increased their global economic leverage as oil supplies have gotten tighter. So why blow another chance? If the talks fail, then they fail. But what possible reason can there be to refuse to even discuss things with Iran — unless you're trying to leave no alternative to war?

That may well be the Bush administration's strategy, but ordinary horse sense suggests it shouldn't be anyone else's.

Scott Ritter -- straight talk

I really liked this article in the San Diego City Beat. It's an an interview by David Rolland of Scott Ritter, the former Marine officer, advisor to Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf during the first Gulf War, U.N. weapons inspector and unflinching critic of Bush’s misadventure in Iraq and it's called American Patriot.

What I really like is his assertion that "Americans don’t know enough about anything to have a well-informed opinion; this is all superficial." He insists that citizenship carries an obligation to become informed and to hold elected officials accountable. Here's a sample but I strongly recommend that you read the whole thing here as it is wide-ranging and well worth the time.

Q: What is it about Americans that allows them to get so bent out of shape when you start questioning the government in a time of war?

SR: I’ll say ignorance. How many Americans have read the Constitution and know the Constitution, live the Constitution, breathe the Constitution, define their existence as Americans by the Constitution? Very few. And so what happens is, Americans have no concept of what citizenship is, what it is they’re supposed to serve. Many Americans have become so addicted to a lifestyle that I say they’re better consumers than they are citizens. And it’s these consumers who have wrapped themselves in a cocoon of comfort and who have basically abrogated their responsibilities of citizenship to the government, and as long as the government keeps them waddling down the path to prosperity, they don’t want to rock the boat. And they will go out and attack those who do rock the boat—those who challenge authority.

If you read the Constitution, you’ll be struck by the first words: “We the people of the United States.” And yet it sickens me where Americans will say, in the name of security, they will give up their constitutional rights. Warrantless wiretapping—it’s against the law! This is the sort of issue that should bring Americans streaming into the streets, saying, “Not on my watch.” If your definition of patriotism is blind subservience to governmental authority, then you’ve just defined those Germans who supported Hitler, the Italians who supported Mussolini.

You say people have failed at citizenship. But, playing devil’s advocate, people are really busy. You seem to be saying that people can’t trust mainstream media, but it’s a lot to ask people to seek out the truth from alternative sources. How can people know whom or what to trust as the truth? In a representative Democracy, shouldn’t they be able to trust their elected officials, and if they can’t, hasn’t our entire government structure failed?

It would be nice to trust [elected officials], but, you know, representative democracy isn’t a one-phase process, where you vote, and then—boom—somebody gets elected and now that’s it, you back off. There’s a thing called accountability. They’re still accountable to you, and you have to hold them accountable for what they do in your name. It’s a constant process. We have to supervise, because, remember, they work for us.

The other aspect of citizenship is to empower oneself with knowledge and information so that in the conduct of supervision of those whom we elect, we do so based on knowledge and information, on facts, as opposed to rhetoric, fiction and bald-faced misrepresentation of fact. It’s the citizen’s responsibility for this empowerment—no one else’s. And, yeah, it’s hard. God, I’m busy; you’re busy; we’re all busy—life’s a busy thing. But, you know what? I don’t want to hear that people can’t go out and gain access to the data necessary, because, you know what? I go to a bar on Monday night, and I watch baseball fans; I watch football fans—hell, I’m one of them. And they can give me the slugging percentage of every player coming up there. How do they know that? They spend hours reading the sports pages. If an American citizen has enough time to know all these sports statistics, they have enough time to learn about the world we live in and the role America plays and how their representatives are guiding us in this world.

So, no, I don’t accept the notion that life is too complicated for American citizens to be involved. I reject that 100 percent. Democracy isn’t meant to be easy.


Blogger just ate my last two posts. Perhaps they'll appear just as miraclulaously as they disappeared. Here's hopin'...

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Bush: "I'm The Decider and I Decide What Is Best"

From Crooks & Liars:

Reporter: What do you say to the critics who believe that you are ignoring the advice of retired generals and military commanders who say there needs to be a change?

Bush: I say I listen to all voices but mine's the final decision and Don Rumsfeld is doing a fine job. He's not only transforming the military, he's fighting a war on terror - He's helping us fight a war on terror. I have strong confidence in Don Rumsfeld. I hear the voices and I read the front page and I know the speculation but I'm the decider and I decide what is best and what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the Secretary of defense.

I'm a big boy... I'm a decider! Omigawd... it's pathetic.

Digby's comments:
Once again, I am stunned that the Republicans had the gall to foist this manchild on the United States of America --- and that so many Americans accepted it for so long. There's a lot of talk in the wingnutsphere about "Bush Derangement Syndrome" which says that we are all suffering form irrational hatred of Dear Leader. But it's not accurate. Bush is just a spoiled, deluded little boy, pushed into a job that was obvious to any sentient being would be too much for him. My righteous anger is for the big money pooh bahs like Dick Cheney who would gamble with this country's future by choosing a brand name in an empty suit for president. They proved that they can sell anything, I'll give them that. But as with their other colossal marketing success and business failure, Enron, the sales job couldn't cover the corruption and poor planning forever. Therefore, I blame the Republican Party more than little Junior. He's just a pathetic loser who believed his own hype --- responsible for his actions, of course, but not the mastermind.

From his little tirade today, it appears that he's feeling like his authority is being questioned. That's just funny. It took his this long to figure out that he's not really in charge?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Bizarro World

Am I the only one who is wondering why everyone with a pulpit isn't shouting: What is going on here???!!!

They're talking about starting another war! This what the bad guys do. Good guys don't start wars.

And they're talking about using nukes... to start a war!!! WTF is going on? This is the behaviour of the criminally insane, this is war crimes stuff. Where is the outrage, the scorn, the condemnation?

It's as if they're sitting around drunk on their power saying: watch this, watch this, I can do this, say this... and we'll get away with it, just watch! and they're using the same tired old lies to "justify" it. The same bafflegab.

It's like Billmon said: it's double or nothing. Let's roll the dice again. Maybe we'll get lucky.

Truly it's Bizarro world...

Update: Arthur Silber agrees.

Lucy, Charlie Brown & the Football

Oh, I see... this time we're supposed to trust them, right? Sure Lucy!

Glenn Greenwald has a couple of good articles on this theme here and here which I've excerpted below.

As amazing as it is, there is no question that exactly the same political segment which led us into the Iraq disaster really is in full-on, coordinated war-mongering mode with regard to Iran. What's most startling about it is that they are not even attempting to do anything differently. It's all exactly the same.


But what is really most alarming -- although, I know, it shouldn't be surprising at all -- is that the American media seems not just willing, but tongue-waggingly pleased, to be exploited and used again, in the best tradition of Pravda, as the principal mechanism for venerating governmental claims as though they constitute "news," without even pretending to subject those claims to the slightest bit of skepticism or scrutiny.


Of all the dysfunctional aspects of our governmental system, this is, by far, the most dangerous. This is how most journalism works now. The Government wants to implant certain claims as "facts" into the public discourse. It then contacts the most slavish reporters, promises them exclusivity, and then feeds them a bunch of highly dubious claims which the reporter then dutifully and mindlessly publishes as though it is fact, without any corroboration, investigation, or anything else that distinguishes journalism from other fields such as, say, government propaganda, public relations, or stenography.


As Bush followers gear up for another election year campaign to start a war, they are using exactly the same rhetorical tactics and are revealing precisely the same mindset to which we were subjected during the 2002 campaign for the Iraq War. What is starkly apparent from this repetition is that their awareness of history and knowledge of the world is sadly confined to one singular event, which is all they know and which, rather bizarrely, they have a need to live over and over and over again.

To pro-Bush war supporters, the world is forever stuck in the 1930s. Every leader we don't like is Adolf Hitler, a crazed and irrational lunatic who wants to dominate the world. Every country opposed to our interests is Nazi Germany.


Anyone who opposes this mindlessly militaristic approach simply seeks, of course, to “appease the mullahs.”

This sort of cheap equivalence between Hitler and the tyrant de jour is rather disorienting. One minute, Hitler is a singular manifestation of unique and unparalleled evil to which nothing should ever be compared, lest the uniqueness of his atrocities be minimized. The next minute, though, there are nothing but Hitler spawns running around everywhere, and we need to constantly wage war against each of them in order to avoid suffering the fate of 1938 Czechoslovakia and Neville Chamberlain.


Not every dictator is irrational and suicidal. Most are not, including the most brutal. Throughout the 20th Century, the U.S. was able quite successfully to contain, negotiate with, and even form discrete common alliances with a whole array of dictators, thugs, murderous cretins and even militaristic madmen.

And the U.S. is not unique in that regard. No country is pure, and every country, driven by rational self-interest, finds ways to achieve co-existence even with the most amoral regimes. The notion that we have to wage war or even threaten war against every hostile, tyrannical government is itself sheer lunacy, and yet that is the premise driving this crusade for more war.


We were led into invading Iraq by a group of people who are as bloodthirsty as they are historically ignorant. They are stuck in a childish and stunted mental prison where every event, every conflict, every choice is to be seen exclusively through the prism of a single historical event, an event which – for a variety of reasons, some intellectual, some cultural, some psychological – is the only one that has any resonance for them. Even as we are still mired in their last failed war, they are attempting to impose these stunted historical distortions to lead us into a new one.
Glenn also points us to Gregory Djerejian at The Belgravia Dispatch who...
has compiled a series of pre-Iraq war denials from the president and top military and civilian officials which are strikingly, and alarmingly, similar to those being issued now with regard to Iran.
OK now, Charlie Brown, this time Lucy won't pull the football away... really. When have I ever lied to you?

Oh yeah...

Monday, April 17, 2006

A Bad Leak

The NYTimes editorial lays a smackdown on The WaPo. It's called A Bad Leak, to contrast with the WaPo editorial attributed to Fred Hiatt called A Good Leak, it begins:

President Bush says he declassified portions of the prewar intelligence assessment on Iraq because he "wanted people to see the truth" about Iraq's weapons programs and to understand why he kept accusing Saddam Hussein of stockpiling weapons that turned out not to exist. This would be a noble sentiment if it actually bore any relationship to Mr. Bush's actions in this case, or his overall record.

Mr. Bush did not declassify the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq — in any accepted sense of that word — when he authorized I. Lewis Libby Jr., through Vice President Dick Cheney, to talk about it with reporters. He permitted a leak of cherry-picked portions of the report. The declassification came later.

And this president has never shown the slightest interest in disclosure, except when it suits his political purposes.

We don't need no intel !

Arthur Silber articulates a vitally important point here. He contends that it's a mistake to believe that the reason Bush invaded Iraq was because he had bad intel. Arthur claims (as the Downing Street memo made clear) that the decision was made to invade and then the intelligence was fixed around selling that conclusion. That's scary enough, but Arthur doesn't think that they're done yet. They've already started doing it again... with Iran. Read it all here.
If you contend that it is crucial for the intelligence to be correct and given how the argument is almost always presented, you are assuming that major policy decisions are made on the basis of that intelligence, at least to a significant degree. This is buying into Bush's defense entirely: "But everyone thought Iraq had WMD and was a serious and growing threat!" Never mind the lie about "everyone" having thought this, which everyone most certainly did not. The crucial point is that Bush is saying that he only launched the war on Iraq because of what the intelligence indicated. And even liberals still repeat this propaganda.

The record has been indisputably clear for some time now -- and the record is amplified almost every day -- that the decision to go to war was made first, entirely separate and apart from the intelligence, whatever it may have indicated and whether it was correct or not. Subsequently, the intelligence was "fixed" around the policy. To be more exact in terms of its purpose: the intelligence was used selectively and misleadingly as the propaganda to justify the war to the American public, and to the world. The servile media was the indispensable transmission belt used to convey the administration propaganda to the rest of us.

This is not a complicated point, and I cannot understand why people are so resistant to it.


Yes, accurate intelligence, both tactical and strategic, is of critical importance. But whether and to what extent that intelligence, accurate or not, actually influences decisions of policy is an entirely separate inquiry. As Tuchman, Kolko and many have others have noted, and as history has proven repeatedly, most of the time it does not.

A crucial part of the Iran propaganda campaign has been to steadily reduce the relevant time horizon, as I noted in this essay. The administration began with estimates of approximately a decade before Iran could have nuclear weapons -- which then got reduced to five years -- which then was further shrunk to a year or two -- then to a few months -- and now they are offering ludicrous stories about Iran having nukes within 16 days. Let me repeat the critical point: this is all propaganda. It doesn't matter in the least that they say this is what the intelligence indicates. Even if it were accurate, which almost all of it is not, the intelligence is not the foundation of the administration's foreign policy, with regard to Iran or more broadly.

In fact, I have thought for a few years that the decision to attack to Iran was made some time ago. I am more convinced of that now than I ever was before. The constant stream of scare stories about Iran is designed only to terrify the American public sufficiently, so that when Bush holds a press conference to announce air strikes against Iran that have already begun, enough people will believe that the strikes were necessary -- since Iran was about to launch nuclear weapons against us momentarily.

As with Iraq, all the major points will be lies. All of it will be war propaganda. And given our cowardly, inept, and fatally incompetent media and the lack of any significant political opposition -- which opposition, if it existed, ought to be making itself known now and not after the press conference -- and provided enough people are scared to the required degree, it will work. Again.

But let no one be heard to say that they were taken by surprise, or that they didn't see it coming, or that they didn't believe "they really meant it." We all see it coming and we all know they do mean it, and almost no one is doing a damned thing to stop it. No one is off the hook this time.

No one.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Iran : Are We There Yet?

Digby's got another good post which follows up on the idea that the US has already begun operations in Iran.
Again, this is tinfoil hat stuff, connecting some very vague dots. A few years ago I would have dismissed it as conspiracy mongering of the worst kind and consigned myself to spend a month digging through illuminati web-sites to cure me of the disease.

After what we have seen, however, I don't think it's far-fetched at all:

  • The administration has asserted a theory of unlimited executive power in wartime.
  • The secretary of defense is committed to creating and using a new and "modern" fighting force using all kinds of unconventional and untried means.
  • The president believes he was chosen by God to be his vehicle for spreadin' freedom.
  • The power behind the throne is a devious, powermad greedhead who believes that military dominance is the only way America can stay on top.
  • They all have a history of lying about their plans for war and believed that their reelection was a mandate to continue on the same path.
He finishes up with a typical Digby flourish:

The most polarizing president in US history, who assumed office through one vote on the Supreme court the first time and won the second time because of a dubious swing of about 70,000 votes in Ohio says it's his style to spend the political capital he "earned" when "the people" endorsed all his views.

That's the kind of guy who thinks he can start secret wars to transform the middle east through sheer force. A megalomaniac child in the hands of manipulative men.
Billmon has his own thoughts on this matter and they are by no means sanguine either:

What we are witnessing (through rips in the curtain of official secrecy) may be an example of what the Germans call the flucht nach vorne – the "flight forward." This refers to a situation in which an individual or institution seeks a way out of a crisis by becoming ever more daring and aggressive (or, as the White House propaganda department might put it: "bold") A familar analogy is the gambler in Vegas, who tries to get out of a hole by doubling down on each successive bet.

Classic historical examples of the flucht nach vornes include Napoleon's attempt to break the long stalemate with Britain by invading Russia,the decision of the Deep South slaveholding states to secede from the Union after Lincoln's election, and Milosevic's bid to create a "greater Serbia" after Yugoslavia fell apart.

As these examples suggest, flights forward usually don't end well – just as relatively few gamblers emerge from a doubling-down spree with their shirts still on their backs.

But of course, most gamblers don't have the ability to call in an air strike on the casino. For Bush, or the neocons, or both, regime change in Iran not only may appear doable, it may also look like the only way out of the spectacular mess they have created in Iraq.

The logic is understandable, if malevolent. Instead of creating a secular, pro-American client state in the heart of the Middle East, the invasion of Iraq has destroyed the front-line Arab regime opposing Tehran, installed a pro-Iranian government in Baghdad and vastly increased Iranian influence, not only in Iraq, but throughout the Shi'a world. It's also moved the Revolutionary Guard one step closer to the Kuwaiti and Saudi oil fields – the prize upon which the energy security of the West depends.

By the traditional standards of U.S. foreign policy, this is a fiasco of almost unbelievable proportions.

Omigawd! Debbie's at it again

Deborah Howell, ombudsman cum apologist at WaPo, is at it again, this time defending the fact-free Hiatt editorial. It's appalling and Jane Hamsher patiently smacks her down again in a post called Fact-free and loving it. Jane speculates on whether Debbie is "ignorant or craven" and quotes Upton Sinclair:
It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.
Jane heaves a sigh and begins thusly:
Do we have to go through this again? I guess so. Joe Wilson’s oped appeared on July 6, 2003. Five days later, on July 11 2003, George Tenet had to admit Wilson was right and there was no credible reason to believe as of January, 2003 when the President gave the State of the Union address that the 16 words had any validity; indeed, that’s why Tenet said they never should have been included in the first place.

Only this last week we learned what they knew then, but what we didn’t know – the National Intelligence Council had delivered a definitive judgment in January of 2003 that the claims weren’t credible. It appeared in the Post on the same day Hiatt’s editorial did. Lil’ Debbie claims Hiatt had not read Gelman and Linzer’s piece at the time he wrote his editorial, not that it would have made any difference (her words not mine — facts obviously have no place within the bubble world of the Post’s editorial page). But by the time Howell was scribbling her excuses for Hiatt she most certainly had read it. What it said:

Tenet interceded to keep the claim out of a speech Bush gave in Cincinnati on Oct. 7, 2002, but by Dec. 19 it reappeared in a State Department "fact sheet." After that, the Pentagon asked for an authoritative judgment from the National Intelligence Council, the senior coordinating body for the 15 agencies that then constituted the U.S. intelligence community. Did Iraq and Niger discuss a uranium sale, or not? If they had, the Pentagon would need to reconsider its ties with Niger.

The council’s reply, drafted in a January 2003 memo by the national intelligence officer for Africa, was unequivocal: The Niger story was baseless and should be laid to rest. Four U.S. officials with firsthand knowledge said in interviews that the memo, which has not been reported before, arrived at the White House as Bush and his highest-ranking advisers made the uranium story a centerpiece of their case for the rapidly approaching war against Iraq.

How could even she write something so staggeringly dishonest as "the president had reason to believe that Iraq was seeking uranium" when she admits in the same piece that this was staring her right in the face? I mean, WTF? What does it take to get through to these people? There were no attempts to purchase uranium from Niger and the President knew it, even by the Post’s own reporting. How much simpler can we possibly make it?


The attempt by the Administration to smear Joe Wilson was a pure Rovian effort to distract from the fact that he was right.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Billmon diagnoses the Republicans for us:

Iraq is in flames, Iran is a nuclear crisis (whether or not it need be) the immigration debate is raging, oil is at $70 a barrel, global climate change is accelerating, the post-Katrina recovery effort is floundering, there is no budget for the coming fiscal year.

And the Republicans are preparing their agenda for the fall elections:

GOP Campaign to Focus on Flag Burning, Gay Marriage, Abortion

Instead, the conservative movement – particularly its "social conservative" wing – is starting to resemble the thumbnail definition of monomania: i.e. the process of thinking more and more about less and less.

The propaganda ministers of the Republican Party, meanwhile, have made it their business to learn this code and to manipulate it in ways that will whip the faithful into a frenzy – while at the same time appealing to a broader, less indoctrinated audience that is also concerned (not fanatical, but concerned) about such issues.

It's really quite clever, not to mention extremely effective. Kevin Phillips has tactfully referred to it as the creation of a "rogue coalition." I, on other hand, would call it something else. But that's another story.

Leaving or staying?

There has been much discussion about how long the Americans will stay in Iraq. Bush's assurances that "as the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down" imply that the departure is imminent. Discussions about how may troops will leave before the mid-terms and the advisability of a timetable for a withdrawal are commonplace . But it seems pretty clear to this untrained eye that the American presence is there for the long haul. I have heard about the construction of permanent military bases but check out this embassy! Any doubts but that this is a long-term commitment?

The fortress-like compound rising beside the Tigris River here will be the largest of its kind in the world, the size of Vatican City, with the population of a small town, its own defense force, self-contained power and water, and a precarious perch at the heart of Iraq's turbulent future.


The embassy complex — 21 buildings on 104 acres, according to a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee report — is taking shape on riverside parkland in the fortified "Green Zone," just east of al-Samoud, a former palace of
Saddam Hussein's, and across the road from the building where the ex-dictator is now on trial.


"The presence of a massive U.S. embassy — by far the largest in the world — co-located in the Green Zone with the Iraqi government is seen by Iraqis as an indication of who actually exercises power in their country," the International Crisis Group, a European-based research group, said in one of its periodic reports on Iraq.


Embassy Baghdad" will dwarf new U.S. embassies elsewhere, projects that typically cover 10 acres. The embassy's 104 acres is six times larger than the United Nations compound in New York, and two-thirds the acreage of Washington's National Mall. Original cost estimates ranged over $1 billion

Throwing Rummy from the train?

Larry Johnson has an article up over at the TPMCafé wherein he predicts that:

"Don Rumsfeld may want to stick it out, but stick a fork in him. His goose is cooked and his reign will soon be over."

Johnson seems to think that the Six Generals constitute the tipping point. Contrast this assessment with Billmon's:

But I'm afraid the Field Marshal is too heavily armored even for your rounds.

Either way, we'll see. But with Bush's penchant for not firing anyone for incompetence and sticking together with his cronies, my money's on Billmon's view.

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