Monday, May 31, 2004

 

Elisabeth Bumiller Rides Again

What we have here is the Gore-ing Of John Kerry At Its Finest.

Allow me to present, in a somewhat condensed form, Elisabeth Bumiller's White House Letter for Monday, 31 May 2004.

I'll paraphrase.

Taking the High Road, the Low Road and Maybe a Boulder or Two

John Kerry rides a wimpy road bike, while the ever masculine George W. Bush rides an off-road mountain bike.

Not only does John Kerry ride a road bike but he rides an expensive road bike which was made by a possible Democrat! Mr. Kerry also has "mountain bikes for the trails near his home in Ketchum, Idaho." Pardon me, in case you missed my point, Mr. Kerry bikes near his expensive vacation home. But what is clear, is that Mr. Kerry likes expensive things.

However, the rough-hewn George W. Bush rides a less expensive bike and sometimes rides an "ordinary $250" bike. Mr Bush uses a bike made by "a member of the President's Council on Physical Fitness" who also "...sponsored athlete is Lance Armstrong, the five-time Tour de France winner from Austin, Tex...." He is, as a result, more manly.

John Kerry exhibits poor bike sportsmanship. My example is a supposed quipped about Mr. Bush's spill, "Did the training wheels fall off?" This quip is attributed to Mr. Kerry and can be found on The Drudge Report. It may not be accurate, but I'm going to pass it along as fact anyway because it shows that Mr. Kerry is a bad sport.

Moreover, Mr. Kerry was scolded by "Chicago's Democratic mayor, Richard M. Daley" who knows a thing or two about bike accidents himself having been in one a few years ago.

By the way, "the Republican National Committee then seized on Mr. Daley's remarks and sent them out as an attack e-mail under the headline 'They said it!" I don't offically work for the RNC, but I'll be more than happy to pass these things along when they come up.

George W. Bush on the other hand, didn't say anything when Mr. Kerry had a spill of his own. I know this because there was nothing on the Drudge Report about it.

George W. Bush, rough-hewn in-shape fellow that he is, typically mountain-bikes, which we know is harder than the type of biking Mr. Kerry does, 15 to 20 miles. He takes "hour or an hour and a half at a time" out of his busy schedule to do this. Mr. Bush is so good at this that Secret Service agents struggle to keep up!

John Kerry on the other hand "...has covered up to 100 miles a day on his road bike in some charity rides." Occasionally. Mr. Kerry doesn't even ride all the time, he only rides in high-falootin' charity rides. Still, he's fit for a 60 year-old, but Mr. Bush, at a spry 57, leaves the Secret Service agent's "complaining of sore muscles" after his workouts.

In case you missed my none to subtle hints, mountain biking, the exercise of the common man and Mr. Bush's robust bike exercise of choice, is harder than road biking. Road biking, is of course, Mr. Kerry's wimpy, aristocratic bike exercise of choice.

In fact according to Stephen Madden, the editor of Bicycling and Mountain Bike magazines, [m]ountain biking involves a lot of up and down, and it also can involve a lot of technical expertise in jumping logs and rocks."

Article via Pandagon.

What Drivel. How can the New York Times print this stuff?

What liberal media was that again?

Sunday, May 30, 2004

 

When You Can't Be Positive, Be Negative

Keep telling lies long enough and loud enough and something is going to stick in the minds of the people you're telling them too.

Or, a primer on how the Bush campaign views honor and integrity.

From Bush, Unprecedented Negativity
Scholars Say Campaign Is Making History With Often-Misleading Attacks


It was a typical week in the life of the Bush reelection machine.

Last Monday in Little Rock, Vice President Cheney said Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry "has questioned whether the war on terror is really a war at all" and said the senator from Massachusetts "promised to repeal most of the Bush tax cuts within his first 100 days in office."

On Tuesday, President Bush's campaign began airing an ad saying Kerry would scrap wiretaps that are needed to hunt terrorists.

The same day, the Bush campaign charged in a memo sent to reporters and through surrogates that Kerry wants to raise the gasoline tax by 50 cents.

On Wednesday and Thursday, as Kerry campaigned in Seattle, he was greeted by another Bush ad alleging that Kerry now opposes education changes that he supported in 2001.

The charges were all tough, serious -- and wrong, or at least highly misleading. Kerry did not question the war on terrorism, has proposed repealing tax cuts only for those earning more than $200,000, supports wiretaps, has not endorsed a 50-cent gasoline tax increase in 10 years, and continues to support the education changes, albeit with modifications.

Scholars and political strategists say the ferocious Bush assault on Kerry this spring has been extraordinary, both for the volume of attacks and for the liberties the president and his campaign have taken with the facts. Though stretching the truth is hardly new in a political campaign, they say the volume of negative charges is unprecedented -- both in speeches and in advertising.

Dana Milbank and Jim VandeHei, Washington Post

What's the phrase, slime and defend.

 

George W. Bush, Liberal Energizer?

Political Animal Kevin Drum writes a very interesting post about how Mr. Bush might be the catalyst that sparks a liberal resurgence.

A couple of months ago a conservative acquaintance suggested to me that the best thing that ever happened to America was Watergate. After all, he said, Watergate led to the election of Jimmy Carter, and it was only Carter's uniquely horrible presidency that allowed Ronald Reagan to be elected in 1980. Without Watergate and Carter, there would have been no Reagan.

Likewise, I wonder if George Bush will end up being the best thing ever to happen to American liberalism. Bushian excess has energized liberals, of course, but more important may be that in the same way that liberals dejectedly gave up on Carter toward the end of his presidency, conservatives seem to be losing heart over Bush in his final year too. Increasingly, even the most hawkish conservatives are unwilling to drain their credibility further by dredging up pretzel twisting defenses for Bush's obvious incompetence and cluelessness.

One can only hope.

 

From Whence The Polarization?

E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post has a clue.

The President: Paying the Price . . .

When presidents take big chances, they have two choices. They can take all the responsibility on themselves and hope that when things go well, they will reap allthe rewards. Or they can choose to draw in the opposition from the beginning and count on some help and a feeling of solidarity if things start to go wrong.

President Bush took his big chance in Iraq without buying himself an insurance policy. He could have patiently built a coalition of the many -- not only abroad, but also at home -- rather than slapping together a coalition of the few, including the not-entirely-willing. He could have made clear, as his father did a decade earlier, that a decision to go to war is so momentous that Congress should consider the matter under circumstances that would encourage genuine deliberation.

Legislators from both parties will tell you that the congressional debate over the 1991 Persian Gulf War was one of the most ennobling experiences of their political lives. You don't hear much of that this time around. That's because approval was shoved through Congress by a president only too happy to turn war into a campaign issue.

Instead of reaching out to doubters, Bush derided them. On the campaign trail in September 2002, he characterized Democratic members of Congress who wanted a strong mandate from the United Nations -- exactly what the administration is seeking now -- as evading responsibility. "It seems like to me that if you're representing the United States," he said, "you ought to be making a decision on what's best for the United States." Didn't his opponents think that defending the interests of the United States was exactly what they were doing? Bush continued: "If I were running for office, I'm not sure how I'd explain to the American people -- say, 'Vote for me, and, oh, by the way, on a matter of national security, I'm going to wait for somebody else to act.' "

No wonder the country is so polarized. Behind the president's plummeting poll numbers and public restlessness about the war is an emerging truth about the administration's way of doing business. Iraq was a preemptive war pursued by a president who governs by preemption.

Unity is for people who don't have a ranch in Texas.

There is one explanation for Bush's preemptory posture: He genuinely believed that the weapons were there and that the transition to democracy in Iraq would be much easier than it turned out to be.

Not only was Mr. Bush wrong but he was HUGELY wrong.

So why, why, oh why, oh why, would anyone vote to put this man back in office for 4 more years?

Via Pandagon.

 

Clearly, It's The Fault Of The Media

Atrios over at Eschaton links to this article in Time magazine.

The Paper Trail
Did Cheney Okay a Deal?


Sunday, May. 30, 2004
Vice President Dick Cheney was a guest on NBC's Meet the Press last September when host Tim Russert brought up Halliburton. Citing the company's role in rebuilding Iraq as well as Cheney's prior service as Halliburton's CEO, Russert asked, "Were you involved in any way in the awarding of those contracts?" Cheney's reply: "Of course not, Tim ... And as Vice President, I have absolutely no influence of, involvement of, knowledge of in any way, shape or form of contracts led by the [Army] Corps of Engineers or anybody else in the Federal Government."

Cheney's relationship with Halliburton has been nothing but trouble since he left the company in 2000. Both he and the company say they have no ongoing connections. But TIME has obtained an internal Pentagon e-mail sent by an Army Corps of Engineers official—whose name was blacked out by the Pentagon—that raises questions about Cheney's arm's-length policy toward his old employer. Dated March 5, 2003, the e-mail says "action" on a multibillion-dollar Halliburton contract was "coordinated" with Cheney's office. The e-mail says Douglas Feith, a high-ranking Pentagon hawk, got the "authority to execute RIO," or Restore Iraqi Oil, from his boss, who is Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. RIO is one of several large contracts the U.S. awarded to Halliburton last year.

The e-mail says Feith approved arrangements for the contract "contingent on informing WH [White House] tomorrow. We anticipate no issues since action has been coordinated w VP's [Vice President's] office." Three days later, the Army Corps of Engineers gave Halliburton the contract, without seeking other bids. TIME located the e-mail among documents provided by Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group.

Cheney spokesman Kevin Kellems says the Vice President "has played no role whatsoever in government-contract decisions involving Halliburton" since 2000. A Pentagon spokesman says the e-mail means merely that "in anticipation of controversy over the award of a sole-source contract to Halliburton, we wanted to give the Vice President's staff a heads-up."

Cheney is linked to his old firm in at least one other way. His recently filed 2003 financial-disclosure form reveals that Halliburton last year invoked an insurance policy to indemnify Cheney for what could be steep legal bills "arising from his service" at the company. Past and present Halliburton execs face an array of potentially costly litigation, including multibillion-dollar asbestos claims.

Timothy J. Burger and Adam Zagorin

The Bush Administration, bringing honor and integrity to a White House near you.

 

More Fun With Republicans And Budgets

I wonder when they will start to clean up their own party.

And, I wonder how long it will take them to whine if something similar happens to them when the Democrats take over a la the stink made about Mr. Bush's conservative judicial nominations.

Budget Chicanery

If you want to know how serious the Bush White House is about something, it is often useful to watch the House of Representatives. The president's spokesmen frequently pay lip service to goals that sound great. Only by checking the actions of the loyalist leadership of the House can you discern what President Bush really means.

The president has said many times that he has offered a budget that will cut the record deficit of this year in half in the next five years. So one would think that in the House, where his word is law, those marching orders would be carried forward.

On the face of it, Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle of Iowa claims to have done the president one year better -- halving the ugly deficit in four years.

Don't believe it. The House budget is a document that makes ordinary Washington budgetary "smoke and mirrors" look good.

It was brought to the floor on May 19 under the sort of strong-arm procedures that Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Leader Tom DeLay use when they know they've got a turkey on their hands. Last year, with the Medicare drug benefits bill (whose true cost we now know was deliberately underestimated and concealed by the administration), their tactic was delay. The House was kept in session all night; the actual roll call was stretched to almost three hours -- not the normal 15 minutes. Dawn was breaking over the Capitol when the necessary votes were finally squeezed.

On this bill, they put on the rush job. The budget was filed at 6:20 a.m. At 7:15 a.m., the Rules Committee met to clear it for debate. A couple of hours later, the House met for an abbreviated session and adjourned, and when it met again to take up the budget at 11 a.m., it was "deemed" to have satisfied the requirement that all legislation lay over one day so members can become familiar with it.


David S. Broder, Washington Post

*Emphasis added.

Strong-arm procedures? These guys should be wearing ski masks.

Read the rest of the article for some more Republican budgetary chicanery.

Friday, May 28, 2004

 

Read

Go, read Paul Krugman's latest.

 

This Is Exactly How I Want To Choose My President

Oh, I weep for our political discourse.

Poll Shows Voters Prefer Bush at Barbecue

HAMDEN, Conn. - Voters would rather flip burgers and drink beer at a backyard barbecue with President Bush than Sen. John Kerry, according to a national poll that found Bush leading Kerry on "regular guy" qualities.

Half of the registered voters surveyed said they would rather have a barbecue with Bush, while 39 percent chose Kerry and 11 percent either didn't know or would not answer the question posed by Quinnipiac University pollsters.

More voters also would trust Bush, 46-41, to run the family business. But voters were evenly split on whether they would rather have Kerry or Bush teach their children.

Mickey Carroll, the director of the Quinnipiac Polling Institute, said these offbeat questions were asked to try to get a peek at the personal, regular-guy qualities of each candidate.

On the question of whom to vote for, though, voters were evenly split — 43 percent picked Bush, 42 percent chose Kerry, 6 percent chose Ralph Nader (news - web sites), and the rest said they did not know, would not answer, would choose someone else or would skip the election.

"On the likeability, regular-guy quotient, probably Bush comes out a little bit better, but with who are you going vote for, it's a standoff," Carroll said.

Carroll said the regular-guy quotient factors in to how voters make their choices, along with the candidates' stance on the issues and their experience and leadership qualities.

Associated Press

See, George is just a hand-shakin', back-slappin', owns-a-farm, country-fried-steak-eatin', Regular Guy™.

While John Kerry, on the other hand, is a french-looking, big-word-knowing, complex-sentence-using, fine-dining, Elitist™.

Why anyone would want just some Regular Guy™ for one of the most important offices in the world is beyone me. And the whole concept of who is an Elitist™, oh, that bugs the crud out of me too.

THEY ARE BOTH ELITES! Why is it that people can't see that?

Clearly, there is a real cultural divide in this country. But what makes an Elitist™ in people's eyes?

Well, we're in luck because, in that Horatio Alger, we all can do it sort of way that people seem to think is only open to the desire to make loads of money, those sorts of things are open to everyone.

Everyone can watch the Fine Living Channel and see the snooty types telling you what wine to buy. Everyone can purchase and read books. Everyone can go to university.

Heck, thanks to those darn liberals, you don't even have to buy the books, you can check them out from the local public library, and you might get financial help to go to school.

Everyone has the opportunity to improve themselves.

So, why, in the hard-right universe where hard reason rules and where it's only the liberals who are always bringing up and fighting the culture wars, why is this particular field of cultural combat ok.

Why is it ok to call John Kerry an Elitist™ because of his penchant for good food, massive wealth, and huge private mansion, but it's NOT ok to call Rush Limbaugh an Elitist™ because of his probable penchant for good food, massive wealth, and huge private mansion?

Just who in the world thinks Rush Limbaugh is a Regular Guy™?

The argument for the massively wealthy is that everyone can get there too. We all have the opportunity. All we have to do is formulate an money making idea and exploit foreign workers and we can live in a huge private mansion too.

But the same holds true for the unspoken definition of an Elitist™. Pick up a dictionary. Read a book. Watch Martha Stewart. It's all waiting for you.

But no, we want the Regular Guy™ to be president because we don't like the Elitist™.

I just don't get it.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

 

Just Plain Ouch

Timothy Noah at Slate needs to send an ice pack for the bruises he's inflicted on the Bush campaign.

Read.

 

A Sorry State Of Affairs

TalkLeft has a post linking to this article.

Roadblocks to Proving Innocence

----

Virginia recently repealed a law that barred inmates from seeking a new trial based on newly discovered evidence of innocence unless they presented that evidence to the court within 21 days of sentencing. If the true culprit confessed on day 22, too bad for the innocent man who was sentenced to life. That law would have prevented David Wayne Boyce (featured yesterday in TalkLeft) from presenting DNA evidence showing that someone else probably committed the murder that resulted in his conviction.

But Virginia replaced that law with a requirement that limits an inmate to one and only one chance to prove his innocence. The result: if you aren't successful on the first try and later find compelling evidence of innocence, you're out of luck.

"Some members of the General Assembly are more concerned about finality of convictions than correctness," said Steven D. Benjamin, president of the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, in Richmond. "There is no moral justification for closing the courts for a person who is able to prove his innocence.

It doesn't "burden" courts to require them to hear evidence of wrongful convictions. Justice should never be seen as a burden.

Nor should lawmakers accept the conservative philosophy that a little unfairness makes us all safer -- that keeping the innocent behind bars is a small price to pay if it keeps the guilty from being set free.

For those who shrug and say a wrongly convicted person is a small price to pay for safer streets, consider that for every wrongly convicted person in prison, there's a guilty person, likely running around free.

I Agree.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

 

More Zinni

According to retired Marine Corps four-star general Anthony Zinni.

  1. The first mistake [was] the belief that containment as a policy doesn't work....
  2. The second mistake I think history will record is that the strategy was flawed....
  3. The third mistake, I think was one we repeated from Vietnam, we had to create a false rationale for going in to get public support....
  4. We failed in number four, to internationalize the effort....
  5. I think the fifth mistake was that we underestimated the task....
  6. The sixth mistake, and maybe the biggest one, was propping up and trusting the exiles....
  7. The seventh problem has been the lack of planning....
  8. The eighth problem was the insufficiency of military forces on the ground....
  9. The ninth problem has been the ad hoc organization we threw in there....
  10. The tenth mistake [has been] a series of bad decisions on the ground....

Via Kevin Drum.

And here where the list originates.

Monday, May 24, 2004

 

Stupid Liberal Former Marine Corps Four-Star Generals

Why do they hate the United States?

Eric Alterman points to this 60 Minutes story about Retired General Anthony Zinni.

"There has been poor strategic thinking in this," says Zinni. "There has been poor operational planning and execution on the ground. And to think that we are going to 'stay the course,' the course is headed over Niagara Falls. I think it's time to change course a little bit, or at least hold somebody responsible for putting you on this course. Because it's been a failure."

Zinni spent more than 40 years serving his country as a warrior and diplomat, rising from a young lieutenant in Vietnam to four-star general with a reputation for candor.

Ah, candor. How the Bush Administration hates candor.

I wonder how they are going to impugn Mr. Zinni's patriotism?

More:

Last month, Secretary Rumsfeld acknowledged that he hadn't anticipated the level of violence that would continue in Iraq a year after the war began. Should he have been surprised?

"He should not have been surprised. You know, there were a number of people, before we even engaged in this conflict, that felt strongly we were underestimating the problems and the scope of the problems we would have in there," says Zinni. "Not just generals, but others -- diplomats, those in the international community that understood the situation. Friends of ours in the region that were cautioning us to be careful out there. I think he should have known that."

Instead, Zinni says the Pentagon relied on inflated intelligence information about weapons of mass destruction from Iraqi exiles, like Ahmed Chalabi and others, whose credibility was in doubt. Zinni claims there was no viable plan or strategy in place for governing post-Saddam Iraq.

"As best I could see, I saw a pickup team, very small, insufficient in the Pentagon with no detailed plans that walked onto the battlefield after the major fighting stopped and tried to work it out in the huddle -- in effect to create a seat-of-the-pants operation on reconstructing a country," says Zinni.

----

Zinni says he blames the Pentagon for what happened. "I blame the civilian leadership of the Pentagon directly. Because if they were given the responsibility, and if this was their war, and by everything that I understand, they promoted it and pushed it - certain elements in there certainly - even to the point of creating their own intelligence to match their needs, then they should bear the responsibility," he says.

"But regardless of whose responsibility I think it is, somebody has screwed up. And at this level and at this stage, it should be evident to everybody that they've screwed up. And whose heads are rolling on this? That's what bothers me most."

Adds Zinni: "If you charge me with the responsibility of taking this nation to war, if you charge me with implementing that policy with creating the strategy which convinces me to go to war, and I fail you, then I ought to go."

Move to Iraq buddy!

Stupid liberal, United States hating, former Marine Corps four-star generals.

 

Abu...Guh...rrab

What Was That Name Again?

And why can't the President of the United States pronounce it?

I watched some of Mr. Bush's speech and Joan Walsh, at Salon notices something that I also picked up on.

Mr. Bush can't pronounce Abu Ghraib.

No big deal you say? He can't pronounce alot of things.

True enough.

But I say it's kind of a big deal. One would think if Mr. Bush was actually on top of the problem, playing an active part in his administration, he might show that he cared enough about the problem to act as though he heard about it more that 5 minutes ago.

This story has only been front and center for a week now with EVERY newscaster and pundit talking about it in some way or another ALL the time.

And the alleged President of the United States can't be bothered to learn how to pronounce the name?

It was as if someone pulled him off the golf course and told him he had to give a speech about something...

Says Walsh:

Bush's telling Abu Ghraib gaffe

Given the importance of President Bush's Iraq address, it's the wrong time to be petty, but someone needs to say that his stumbling over the pronunciation of Abu Ghraib was a stunning gaffe -- and yes, I mean "gaffe" in the Washington definition of the word, as in a slip of the tongue that inadvertently reveals what the speaker really thinks -- or in this case, doesn't bother to think.

Is Bush the only American who hasn't discussed the torture scandal enough in the last month to have decided already how to pronounce the prison's name? I've come to say "Abu Ghrabe," with a long A (sounds like "hate"), which Google seems to say is the correct pronunciation. But the point is not to insist there's a clear, written-in-stone right way to pronounce it; there's no time to consult Arabic experts, and that isn't the point. I've heard knowledgeable people say "Abu Gribe," with a long I, as in "spite." Bush's mangled version sounded kind of like "Abu...Guh...rrab," as in "grab," which may be a Freudian take on it, given the groping and sexual abuse that went on there.

But the worst of it was the way Bush got stuck on the word, parsing out the syllables lamely, as though he'd never read or heard them before. In fact the way the prison scandal unfolded seems to indicate that Bush and his advisors really hadn't heard of Abu Ghraib before they invaded Iraq, didn't know about its symbolism as a fortress of terror, or they never would have turned it into the concentration camp it became. It took Salon's Phillip Robertson only a few days in Baghdad last year to suss out the meaning of Abu Ghraib -- he interviewed a poet who'd been imprisoned and tortured there for eight years, and he meditated on the meaning of the awful prison in a great piece last May, a year before Abu Ghraib became a household word.

Abu Ghrabe, Abu Ghribe, Abu Ghrab, it didn't necessarily matter how Bush pronounced it, as long as he showed a weary, fed-up familiarity with the word and all it meant, and a determination to make sure this sort of scandal never happened again. But he didn't. That may have been the most important moment of Bush's speech, and the president fell on his face again, badly.

It's almost like he doesn't care or something.

 

Regarding the Torture of Others

I want to comment on something in this article by Susan Sontag, in the New York Times on 23 May 2004, quite interesting.

Even when the president was finally compelled, as the damage to America's reputation everywhere in the world widened and deepened, to use the ''sorry'' word, the focus of regret still seemed the damage to America's claim to moral superiority. Yes, President Bush said in Washington on May 6, standing alongside King Abdullah II of Jordan, he was "sorry for the humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners and the humiliation suffered by their families." But, he went on, he was "equally sorry that people seeing these pictures didn't understand the true nature and heart of America."

Indeed, but:

Sontag continues, and makes a very good point.

To have the American effort in Iraq summed up by these images must seem, to those who saw some justification in a war that did overthrow one of the monster tyrants of modern times, "unfair." A war, an occupation, is inevitably a huge tapestry of actions. What makes some actions representative and others not? The issue is not whether the torture was done by individuals (i.e., "not by everybody") -- but whether it was systematic. Authorized. Condoned. All acts are done by individuals. The issue is not whether a majority or a minority of Americans performs such acts but whether the nature of the policies prosecuted by this administration and the hierarchies deployed to carry them out makes such acts likely.

*Emphasis added.

That should be the argument here. Not that 7, 10, or 20 soldiers and "contractors" carried out the abuse of prisoners, but whether the Bush Administration created a policy climate that allowed such abuse to happen.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

 

Conditions Under Which You Should Not Start Wars Of Choice™

Kevin Drum, has post on what he calls "Praetorian Presidency."

My thoughts:

Turns out, starting Wars Of Choice™ is not such a good thing if the following is true:

  1. You didn't win the popular vote and can't, as a result, act unilaterally;

  2. You are:
    • Incompetent
    • Surround yourself with incompetents
    • Refuse to remove any of these incompetents for any of their incompetent actions.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

 

Someone Missed The Unity Or Else Meeting

GOP Senator Rips Bush on Iraq, Terrorism

MEDFORD, Mass. - Republican Sen. Richard G. Lugar on Saturday said the United States isn't doing enough to stave off terrorism and criticized President Bush for failing to offer solid plans for Iraq's future.

Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the nation must prevent terrorism from taking root around the world by "repairing and building alliances," increasing trade, supporting democracy, addressing regional conflicts and controlling weapons of mass destruction.

Unless the country commits itself to such measures, "we are likely to experience acts of catastrophic terrorism that would undermine our economy, damage our society and kill hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people," the Indiana senator said during an appearance at the Fletcher School at Tufts University.

Lugar said military might alone isn't enough to eradicate terrorism.

"To win the war against terrorism, the United States must assign U.S. economic and diplomatic capabilities the same strategic priority that we assign to military capabilities," he said.

He later added, "Military action is necessary to defeat serious and immediate threats to our national security. But the war on terrorism will not be won through attrition — particularly since military action will often breed more terrorists and more resentment of the United States."

Mark Pratt, Associated Press

So, to be clear, it's not just the treasonous Democrats and the liberal media who think that Mr. Bush is not doing a good job.

 

More Trouble For The Kristof Defense

I just don't know what Mr. Kristof is looking at, but there are stories about Mr. Rumsfeld knowing about, and approving of, harsh interrogation techniques.

More charges arise in Iraqi abuse

WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon's inspector general is investigating charges that the military's elite Delta Force abused Iraqi prisoners far more seriously than anything known at Abu Ghraib, including threatening them with drowning and suffocation, NBC News reported last night.

NBC reported that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld knew about the Delta Force's operation and directed U.S. military officials to bring some of the methods to prisons like Abu Ghraib. The network cited "several top U.S. military and intelligence sources."

The report could not be verified last night.

A Pentagon spokesman denied allegations of prisoner abuse at Delta Force facilities.

If true, the NBC report would contradict Pentagon assertions that abuses in Iraq were carried out by just a handful of wrongdoers, and not authorized or condoned by Rumsfeld or any other senior commanders or policy makers.

Craig Gordon, Newsday

And over at The Blogging of the President: 2004, they are also confused about what Mr. Kristof wrote.

Nick Kristof's Weird Contrarian Instincts

From today's Kristof column:

"Mr. Rumsfeld is not a neo-conservative hawk. He is an old-fashioned conservative, a realist like the first President Bush, and he did not particularly press for war with Iraq."

Doesn't he remember Rumsfeld, shortly after 9/11?

Clarke recalls that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was also looking for a justification to bomb Iraq. Soon after the 9/11 attacks, Rumsfeld was arguing at a cabinet meeting that Afghanistan, home of Osama bin Laden's terrorist camps, did not offer "enough good targets." "We should do Iraq," Rumsfeld urged.
And then there's this:

"Indeed, under the neo-cons the war would have been even more mishandled. Mr. Wolfowitz believed that a small number of troops could seize Iraq's southern oil fields and that Saddam's regime would then fall."

From the Weekly Standard:

"Serious errors have been made--and made, above all, by Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon. The recent violence in Iraq has confirmed that the level of American military forces has been too low to accomplish the president's mission ever since the invasion phase of the war ended last April."

Nick Kristof and William Safire consistently publish strange columns that offer contrarian-esque viewpoints, even when those viewpoints assert discredited facts or ideas. Safire is known as a conservative, so that excuses him in weird-media la la land in which America currently finds itself. Kristof, from his creepy detached defense of Rumsfeld to his lashing out at American feminist groups for not supporting global women's health issues and praising conservatives for doing so when the reality is just the opposite, largely flies under the radar. I don't understand why.

Matt Stoller, The Blogging of the President: 2004

The links can be found in the original post.

Friday, May 21, 2004

 

Nicholas Kristof For The Defense

This 22 May 2004 atricle by Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times has me scratching my head.

In sticking up for Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Kristof writes:

The central point is that we have no proof that Mr. Rumsfeld bears direct responsibility for the torture.

Um, ok, sure. As I mention below, Mr. Rumsfeld probably did not personally asphyxiate any unarmed prisoners.

But Mr. Kristof continues, and this is the part I can't figure:

It's true that the torture arose in a climate of administration contempt for the Geneva Conventions, particularly reflected in those shameful Justice Department memos outlining loopholes so the U.S. could evade responsibility for war crimes. But this disregard for ethics and law arose mostly from the White House and the Justice Department.

----

But remember: this is not Mr. Rumsfeld's war. It is President Bush's.

Mr. Rumsfeld is not a neo-conservative hawk. He is an old-fashioned conservative, a realist like the first President Bush, and he did not particularly press for war with Iraq. The real culprits are the neo-con ideologues who screamed for war: people like Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, Scooter Libby and the current President Bush himself.

Mr. Rumsfeld did not display the wisdom of Colin Powell, who pushed back against Mr. Bush in the run-up to war. But neither was he a jingoist. According to Bob Woodward's new book, Mr. Rumsfeld spent meetings asking questions rather than taking positions. So why fire Mr. Rumsfeld for carrying out his boss's invasion?

I wonder how not pressing for war and not being a jingoist in the process of not pressing for war removes Mr. Rumsfeld from the list of people who knew about, and approved of, the Bush Administration’s plan to step away from the Geneva Conventions which created the climate for the abuse of prisoners.

How could he not have known?

Were the instructions to let loosen the strictures of interrogation techniques relayed to persons in Military Intelligence without the knowledge of the Secretary of Defense?

Bradley Graham of the Washington Post reports that Mr. Rumsfeld “...approved harsh interrogation techniques in late 2002....”

Interrogation Tactics Evolved
Rumsfeld Approved Harsh Procedures at Guantanamo, Officials Say

To extract information from suspected terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld approved harsh interrogation techniques in late 2002 that were not in accordance with standard U.S. military doctrine, defense officials said yesterday.

The approval led to aggressive questioning of at least one prisoner thought to have information at the time about possible terrorist acts. Interrogators learned about a planned attack from him and about terrorist financing, one official said, without elaborating on the information or identifying the prisoner.

But in early January 2003, the harsher methods were halted, and Rumsfeld ordered a review of tactics that could be applied in questioning prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay military prison, the officials said.

R. Jeffrey Smith, also of the Washington Post write this:

Memo Gave Intelligence Bigger Role
Increased Pressure Sought on Prisoners

Shortly before the physical abuses of Iraqis were photographed in Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad last year, the top U.S. military official in Iraq signed a classified memorandum explicitly calling for interrogators to assume control over the "lighting, heating . . . food, clothing, and shelter" of those being questioned there.

The Oct. 12, 2003, memorandum signed by Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez called for intelligence officials at the prison to work more closely with the military police guarding the detainees to "manipulate an internee's emotions and weaknesses."

This memo and the deliberations that preceded it were completely shrouded from public view at the time, but now lie at the heart of the scandal that erupted last month over the abuses at Abu Ghraib. Under congressional prodding, the administration has provided a fuller chronology of the events leading up to its approval.

Ours is a system where policy and direction come from the top.

When that policy is changed to step away from the Geneva Conventions, and that stepping away allows for the use harsh interrogation techniques, and those harsh interrogation techniques create a climate that degenerates into abuse, how again, is Mr. Rumsfeld not responsible?

Thursday, May 20, 2004

 

Worst Since...

One for the history books

How will historians tell the tale of George W. Bush's presidency? Some history professors aren't waiting 50 years to weigh in. The History News Network conducted an informal poll of professional historians -- eight in 10 said Bush's tenure has been a "failure." Twelve percent said Bush's presidency is the worst in all of American history.

Here's how historians finished the sentence "Bush's presidency is the worst failure since ____" and how they came to their conclusion.

REAGAN: "I think the presidency of George W. Bush has been generally a failure and I consider his presidency so far to have been the most disastrous since that of Ronald Reagan--because of the unconscionable military aggression and spending (especially the Iraq War), the damage done to the welfare of the poor while the corporate rich get richer, and the backwards religious fundamentalism permeating this administration. I strongly disliked and distrusted Reagan and think that George W. is even worse."

NIXON: "Actually, I think [Bush's] presidency may exceed the disaster that was Nixon. He has systematically lied to the American public about almost every policy that his administration promotes." Bush uses "doublespeak" to "dress up policies that condone or aid attacks by polluters and exploiters of the environment . . . with names like the 'Forest Restoration Act' (which encourages the cutting down of forests)."

HOOVER: "I would say GW is our worst president since Herbert Hoover. He is moving to bankrupt the federal government on the eve of the retirement of the baby boom generation, and he has brought America's reputation in the world to its lowest point in the entire history of the United States."

COOLIDGE: "I think his presidency has been an unmitigated disaster for the environment, for international relations, for health care, and for working Americans. He's on a par with Coolidge!"

HARDING: "Oil, money and politics again combine in ways not flattering to the integrity of the office. Both men also have a tendency to mangle the English language yet get their points across to ordinary Americans. [Yet] the comparison does Harding something of a disservice."

McKINLEY: "Bush is perhaps the first president [since McKinley] to be entirely in the 'hip pocket' of big business, engage in major external conquest for reasons other than national security, AND be the puppet of his political handler. McKinley had Mark Hanna; Bush has Karl Rove. No wonder McKinley is Rove's favorite historical president (precedent?)."

GRANT: "He ranks with U.S. Grant as the worst. His oil interests and Cheney's corporate Haliburton contracts smack of the same corruption found under Grant."

Via Salon

 

American Ideals?

If the War On Terror™ is about ideals, are these the ideals we’re fighting for?

I think the answer to that is no.

That however, begs the next question, then why are we doing this? Why has the Bush Administration ok’ed torture as a mode of war?

For expediency? For security?

I’m not suggesting that we’ve become a Hitler. Nor am I suggesting that there is not a way to actively seek information from prisoners. But we’ve apparently killed people using methods of torture and we’ve apparently used a child as a pawn to break a father.

Are our ideals so easily tossed aside?

Apparently the petty people in the Bush Administration thinks so.

No, Mr. Bush did not personally sodomize any Iraqis with a chemical light, nor did Donald Rumsfeld asphyxiate unarmed prisoners, but, as the Gonzales memo shows, they fostered a culture and a climate where such events happened.

I think history will judge Mr. Bush harshly as a small man, who in a time of great challenge and change, reduced nuanced thought to swagger, diminished problem solving to slogan making, and struggled with problems that he did not grasp and did not care to understand.

Is there any doubt that the struggle with anti-American terror goes far deeper than simple attacking Afghanistan and Iraq in response?

If we get Bin Laden will the attacks stop? If we cut his head off on television and broadcast the live image to the Arab world will anti-American violence cease?

Of course not.

And that’s one of the real shames of the Bush Administration. They don’t care AT ALL about addressing the root causes of the problem.

None whatsoever.

Again, Mr. Bush needs to stop acting like the new American Caesar go home to Texas.

 

Books

I've got two books going at the present time.

Literaly just started Wealth And Democracy: A Political History Of The American Rich by Kevin Phillips.

So I've got no feel about that as of yet.

The second one, I've already got some feelings about. I've not read enough for a full review since I'm only on chapter 2, but I've got feelings about the writing, the writer and the content.

Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News by Bernard Goldberg.

Reading up to the second chapter so far,Bias is a stomach churning, face-rubbing martyr-fest with Bernard Goldberg serving as chief martyr. He was the only stander-upper in the news business. He was the only one to write about, and rail against, the liberal agenda despite any retribution that might come.

So far, Goldberg's writing is redundant, illogical, filled with ad hominem attacks and, worst of all, unsourced.

I've not yet found a footnote or endnote. Maybe they are hiding, but I've not spotted any yet. Seems to me, that if a book wants to be serious about showing the public the liberal bias in the network news, the author might want to include some footnotes. Maybe it's just me, but it's hard to take the unsourced Bias seriously.

Anyway, I grabbed the book to read in the time I have a school before class, so I just read along. I might write a further review later...I might not.

 

Is This Who We Are?

Two more stories to add to the list.

And remember, this is all the fault of the liberal media.

Brutal interrogation in Iraq
Five detainees' deaths probed

Brutal interrogation techniques by U.S. military personnel are being investigated in connection with the deaths of at least five Iraqi prisoners in war-zone detention camps, Pentagon documents obtained by The Denver Post show.

The deaths include the killing in November of a high-level Iraqi general who was shoved into a sleeping bag and suffocated, according to the Pentagon report. The documents contradict an earlier Defense Department statement that said the general died "of natural causes" during an interrogation. Pentagon officials declined to comment on the new disclosure.

Another Iraqi military officer, records show, was asphyxiated after being gagged, his hands tied to the top of his cell door. Another detainee died "while undergoing stress technique interrogation," involving smothering and "chest compressions," according to the documents.

Details of the death investigations, involving at least four different detention facilities including the Abu Ghraib prison, provide the clearest view yet into war-zone interrogation rooms, where intelligence soldiers and other personnel have sometimes used lethal tactics to try to coax secrets from prisoners, including choking off detainees' airways. Other abusive strategies involve sitting on prisoners or bending them into uncomfortable positions, records show.

"Torture is the only thing you can call this," said a Pentagon source with knowledge of internal investigations into prisoner abuses. "There is a lot about our country's interrogation techniques that is very troubling. These are violations of military law."

Miles Moffeit, The Denver Post
And this...

GI: Boy mistreated to get dad to talk

A military intelligence analyst who recently completed duty at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq (news - web sites) said Wednesday that the 16-year-old son of a detainee there was abused by U.S. soldiers to break his father's resistance to interrogators.

The analyst said the teenager was stripped naked, thrown in the back of an open truck, driven around in the cold night air, splattered with mud and then presented to his father at Abu Ghraib, the prison at the center of the scandal over abuse of Iraqi detainees.

Upon seeing his frail and frightened son, the prisoner broke down and cried and told interrogators he would tell them whatever they wanted, the analyst said.

Mike Dorning, Chicago Tribune

Via Atrios at Eschaton
We're abusing 16-year-olds to get the father to talk??

We're not only torturing people we're interrogating, but we're killing people with torture that we're interrogating.

I'm not being flippant about this question, but what level do we have to get to till we say this is too much...till we say this is not what America is about?

What level to we get to till we realize that we've become too similar to what we're fighting against?

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

 

No Mandate

I was reading this Paul Krugman column and I was struck by something.

Before the war, officials refused to discuss costs, except to insist that they would be minimal.

A couple of things come to mind.


Monday, May 17, 2004

 

Mr. Powell

I think what we’re seeing now as regards Mr. Powell is an attempt to tidy up his reputation.

I read something once, I can’t remember where, about how Mr. Bush gets other people to fall on the sword for him. In essence, he gets other people to do things that may come back later to ruin a reputation, so he doesn’t have to.

Mr. Powell, long in the military, may or may not have been doing the “I’m a good soldier doing the bidding of the president” routine, but his reputation has been muddied by his association with, and doing the work of, the Bush administration.

It’s been said that if he truly believed he as being taken advantage of, or that he was knowingly doing things for the administration that were wrong, he should have resigned some time ago rather than just go along with the program.

Who knows.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

 

Bigger Than Just Abu Ghraib

Dig deeper, and it seems that the Bush Administration had created a framework for stepping away from the Geneva Conventions and allowing secret detentions.

The Roots of Torture
The road to Abu Ghraib began after 9/11, when Washington wrote new rules to fight a new kind of war. A NEWSWEEK investigation

NEW YORK - The focus of the Iraq prisoner abuse scandal shifted Sunday with a report in Newsweek magazine on whether the Bush administration established a legal basis that opened the door for the mistreatment.

Newsweek reports that, as a way to prevent a repeat of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, “Bush, along with Defense Secretary [Donald] Rumsfeld and Attorney General John Ashcroft, signed off on a secret system of detention and interrogation that opened the door to such methods.”

The story begins in the months after September 11, when a small band of conservative lawyers within the Bush administration staked out a forward-leaning legal position. The attacks by Al Qaeda on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, these lawyers said, had plunged the country into a new kind of war. It was a conflict against a vast, outlaw, international enemy in which the rules of war, international treaties and even the Geneva Conventions did not apply. These positions were laid out in secret legal opinions drafted by lawyers from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, and then endorsed by the Department of Defense and ultimately by White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, according to copies of the opinions and other internal legal memos obtained by NEWSWEEK.

----

Cut out of the process, as usual, was Colin Powell's State Department. So were military lawyers for the uniformed services. When State Department lawyers first saw the Yoo memo, "we were horrified," said one. As State saw it, the Justice position would place the United States outside the orbit of international treaties it had championed for years. Two days after the Yoo memo circulated, the State Department's chief legal adviser, William Howard Taft IV, fired a memo to Yoo calling his analysis "seriously flawed." State's most immediate concern was the unilateral conclusion that all captured Taliban were not covered by the Geneva Conventions. "In previous conflicts, the United States has dealt with tens of thousands of detainees without repudiating its obligations under the Conventions," Taft wrote. "I have no doubt we can do so here, where a relative handful of persons is involved."

The White House was undeterred. By Jan. 25, 2002, according to a memo obtained by NEWSWEEK, it was clear that Bush had already decided that the Geneva Conventions did not apply at all, either to the Taliban or Al Qaeda. In the memo, which was written to Bush by Gonzales, the White House legal counsel told the president that Powell had "requested that you reconsider that decision." Gonzales then laid out startlingly broad arguments that anticipated any objections to the conduct of U.S. soldiers or CIA interrogators in the future. "As you have said, the war against terrorism is a new kind of war," Gonzales wrote to Bush. "The nature of the new war places a high premium on other factors, such as the ability to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists and their sponsors in order to avoid further atrocities against American civilians." Gonzales concluded in stark terms: "In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions."

Gonzales also argued that dropping Geneva would allow the president to "preserve his flexibility" in the war on terror. His reasoning? That U.S. officials might otherwise be subject to war-crimes prosecutions under the Geneva Conventions. Gonzales said he feared "prosecutors and independent counsels who may in the future decide to pursue unwarranted charges" based on a 1996 U.S. law that bars "war crimes," which were defined to include "any grave breach" of the Geneva Conventions. As to arguments that U.S. soldiers might suffer abuses themselves if Washington did not observe the conventions, Gonzales argued wishfully to Bush that "your policy of providing humane treatment to enemy detainees gives us the credibility to insist on like treatment for our soldiers."

When Powell read the Gonzales memo, he "hit the roof," says a State source. Desperately seeking to change Bush's mind, Powell fired off his own blistering response the next day, Jan. 26, and sought an immediate meeting with the president. The proposed anti-Geneva Convention declaration, he warned, "will reverse over a century of U.S. policy and practice" and have "a high cost in terms of negative international reaction." Powell won a partial victory: On Feb. 7, 2002, the White House announced that the United States would indeed apply the Geneva Conventions to the Afghan war—but that Taliban and Qaeda detainees would still not be afforded prisoner-of-war status. The White House's halfway retreat was, in the eyes of State Department lawyers, a "hollow" victory for Powell that did not fundamentally change the administration's position. It also set the stage for the new interrogation procedures ungoverned by international law.

What Bush seemed to have in mind was applying his broad doctrine of pre-emption to interrogations: to get information that could help stop terrorist acts before they could be carried out. This was justified by what is known in counterterror circles as the "ticking time bomb" theory—the idea that when faced with an imminent threat by a terrorist, almost any method is justified, even torture.

With the legal groundwork laid, Bush began to act. First, he signed a secret order granting new powers to the CIA. According to knowledgeable sources, the president's directive authorized the CIA to set up a series of secret detention facilities outside the United States, and to question those held in them with unprecedented harshness. Washington then negotiated novel "status of forces agreements" with foreign governments for the secret sites. These agreements gave immunity not merely to U.S. government personnel but also to private contractors. (Asked about the directive last week, a senior administration official said, "We cannot comment on purported intelligence activities.")

John Barry, Michael Hirsh and Michael Isikoff, Newsweek

*Emphasis added.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

 

Finally Waking Up?

Are people finally seeing the Bush Administration as the secretive, disembling, incompetent bunch that they are?

There is renewed hope.

The International Brotherhood of Police Officers, a police union that backed President Bush in the 2000 election, is backing John Kerry.

Police Union Rejects Bush, Backs Kerry

WASHINGTON - Presumptive Democratic nominee John Kerry (news - web sites) on Friday collected the endorsement of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, a police union that backed President Bush (news - web sites) in the 2000 election.

"After three and a half years of disappointing leadership under George Bush, we need to change course in November and elect a president with a real record of supporting police officers and a lifetime of standing with law enforcement," IBPO President David Holway
said in a statement provided by the Kerry campaign.

Mike Glover, Associated Press

And Fred Kaplan, over at Slate writes a very interesting article.

In it, he quotes a 12 May 2004 Baltimore Sun article by Mark Matthews in which Colin Powell goes on record saying that he...

"...kept the president informed of the concerns that were raised by the ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] and other international organizations as part of my regular briefings of the president, and advised him that we had to follow these issues, and when we got notes sent to us or reports sent to us ... we had to respond to them, and the president certainly made it clear that that's what he expected us to do,"

In short, not only did Colin Powell put Mr. Bush in the loop about the International Committee of the Red Cross's allegations, and kept him informed.

But more than that, Mr. Powell says that Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld...

...kept Bush "fully informed of the concerns that were being expressed, not in specific details, but in general terms."

So, it seems, once again, that Mr. Rumsfeld was not being totally honest at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

Let me be clear: I failed to recognize how important it was to elevate a matter of such gravity to the highest levels, including the president and the members of Congress.

Mr. Kaplan has this to say about Mr. Powell's statements.

So much for Rumsfeld's protective claim, at last week's hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, that he had failed to bring the matter to the president's attention. No wonder Bush, in turn, rode out to the Pentagon and praised his servant-secretary for doing a "superb" job.

Can I just ask at this point, does Mr. Bush or Mr. Rumsfeld have ANY credibility left?

At any rate, Mr. Kaplan goes on to look at the Abu Musab Zarqawi stories that I discuss below as they relate to Mr. Bush's handling of the War On Terror™. Needless to say, Kaplan seems to think that the stories bring up a issues.

But the problem, from Bush's perspective, was that this was the only tangible evidence of terrorists in Iraq. Colin Powell even showed the location of the camp on a map during his famous Feb. 5 briefing at the U.N. Security Council. The camp was in an area of Iraq that Saddam didn't control. But never mind, it was something. To wipe it out ahead of time might lead some people--in Congress, the United Nations, and the American public--to conclude that Saddam's links to terrorists were finished, that maybe the war wasn't necessary. So Bush let it be.

In the two years since the Pentagon's first attack plan, Zarqawi has been linked not just to Berg's execution but, according to NBC, 700 other killings in Iraq. If Bush had carried out that attack back in June 2002, the killings might not have happened. More: The case for war (as the White House feared) might not have seemed so compelling. Indeed, the war itself might not have happened.

One ambiguity does remain. The NBC story reported that "the White House" declined to carry out the airstrikes. Who was "the White House"? If it wasn't George W. Bush--if it was, say, Dick Cheney--then we crash into a very different conclusion: not that Bush was directly culpable, but that he was more out of touch than his most cynical critics have imagined. It's a tossup which is more disturbing: a president who passes up the chance to kill a top-level enemy in the war on terrorism for the sake of pursuing a reckless diversion in Iraq--or a president who leaves a government's most profound decision, the choice of war or peace, to his aides.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

 

But He Reads The Sports Page Every Day

Once again, Josh Marshall over at Talking Points Memo is right on target.

This time about Mr. Bush's reading habits.

He quotes from a Washington Times atricle, apparently excerpted from Bill Sammon's new insider account of the Bush presidency, Misunderestimated: The President Battles Terrorism, John Kerry and the Bush Haters.

Mr. Bush thinks that immersing himself in voluminous, mostly liberal-leaning news coverage might cloud his thinking and even hinder his efforts to remain an optimistic leader.

"I like to have a clear outlook," he said. "It can be a frustrating experience to pay attention to somebody's false opinion or somebody's characterization, which simply isn't true."

Amazing.

Absolutely Amazing.

Josh has this to say about that.

How 'frustrating' it is to have to listen to "somebody's false opinion or somebody's characterization, which simply isn't true" (i.e., information that contradicts our assumptions and viewpoints)?

It (i.e., critical thinking) really gets in the way of having a "clear outlook", right?

Now, certainly no one is perfect when it comes to subjecting and then resubjecting their viewpoints to fresh facts or challenging their assumptions with intelligently stated contrary views. I can't claim to be. But it's one thing to fall short of the mark and another to work out a system of self-rationalization and denial to ensure you come nowhere near the mark. And this is it in spades.

He doesn't even need the yes-men who "extract" the "facts" from the news articles. He's his own built-in yes-man.

How could we have ignored so many warnings, so much expert advice, so many facts staring us in the face? The president just gave you the answer.

The dangers of having an un-curious man in a job that needs all the curiosity and questioning it can get.

 

What If?

What if you wrote a blog and no one read it?

Is it still a blog?

 

The Anti-Terror / Anti-Evil-Doer President In Action

For a person, running for president on his anti-terror record, this is quite damaging.

Avoiding attacking suspected terrorist mastermind
Abu Musab Zarqawi blamed for more than 700 killings in Iraq

With Tuesday’s attacks, Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant with ties to al-Qaida, is now blamed for more than 700 terrorist killings in Iraq.

But NBC News has learned that long before the war the Bush administration had several chances to wipe out his terrorist operation and perhaps kill Zarqawi himself — but never pulled the trigger.

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

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

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

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

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

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

In January 2003, the threat turned real. Police in London arrested six terror suspects and discovered a ricin lab connected to the camp in Iraq.

The Pentagon drew up still another attack plan, and for the third time, the National Security Council killed it.

Military officials insist their case for attacking Zarqawi’s operation was airtight, but the administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam.

The United States did attack the camp at Kirma at the beginning of the war, but it was too late — Zarqawi and many of his followers were gone. “Here’s a case where they waited, they waited too long and now we’re suffering as a result inside Iraq,” Cressey added.

And despite the Bush administration’s tough talk about hitting the terrorists before they strike, Zarqawi’s killing streak continues today.

Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News


Interesting.

Anti-terror president doesn't go after a known terrorist because he doesn't want to mess up the Get Saddam Hussein™ campaign.

But, of course there is more to the story.

Thursday, 13 Mary 2004, the CIA said that the person who beheaded Nicholas Berg was none other than Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi.

CIA Says Al-Zarqawi Beheaded Berg in Iraq

WASHINGTON - U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was the person shown on a video beheading an American civilian in Iraq, based on an analysis of the voice on the video, a CIA official said Thursday.

Intelligence officials conducted a technical analysis of the video released on an Islamic web site and determined "with high probability" that the person shown speaking on the tape — wearing a head scarf and a ski mask — is al-Zarqawi, a CIA official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The speaker — determined to be al-Zarqawi — is then shown on the video decapitating American citizen Nicholas Berg, the official said.

Katherine Pfleger Shrader, Associated Press


And of course, there is even more to the story.

In looking up al-Zarqawi on the web I came across an article, apparently pre-invasion, which is indicative of the story the way Bush Administration was trying to spin the justifications of a preemptive invasion of Iraq.

Target: Zarqawi
U.S. Intelligence Is Tracking New Terror Mastermind and His Network

Feb. 24 — When the bombs start falling in any war with Iraq, one of the prime targets will be a nondescript cluster of huts in the Kurdish hills, where an emerging terrorist mastermind is believed to be running a poison factory.

Secretary of State Colin Powell has put the camp and its creator — a 36-year-old Jordanian named Abu Mussab al Zarqawi — at the heart of the U.S. justification for attacking Iraq.

The camp, though located on Kurdish territory outside of Saddam Hussein's control, is believed to house a poison laboratory whose very existence, Powell said, points to a "sinister nexus between Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network."

Derek Thomson, ABC News


Some might say, in light of the NBC News story above, that neither Mr. Powell or the Administration was being honest and forthright with the American people about the justifications for the preemptive invasion of Iraq.

Some say that for an anti-terror president determined to get the evil-doers, the failure to go after Abu Musab Zarqawi, preferring instead to preemptively invade Iraq, constitutes a major failure.

Some might also say that this is just another example, part of an ever growing list of examples of incompetence, why Mr. Bush, the anti-terror, anti-evil-doer President, should not hold office.

 

Turns Out He’s Lying

Josh Marshall over at Talking Points Memo links to this piece in the Washington Post by writer Jim VandeHei.

It's just astonishing what Bush supporters try to get away with.

The Bush campaign has repeatedly accused the senator of "politicizing" Iraq. Bush-Cheney chairman Marc Racicot told reporters Wednesday that Kerry is relentlessly "playing politics" and exploiting tragedy for political gain.

Racicot, for instance, told reporters that Kerry suggested that 150,000 or so U.S. troops are "somehow universally responsible" for the misdeeds of a small number of American soldiers and contractors. Racicot made several variations of this charge. But Kerry never said this, or anything like it.

As evidence, Racicot pointed to the following quote Kerry made at a fundraiser on Tuesday: "What has happened is not just something that a few a privates or corporals or sergeants engaged in. This is something that comes out of an attitude about the rights of prisoners of war, it's an attitude that comes out of America's overall arrogance in its policy that is alienating countries all around the world."

What Racicot did not mention was that Kerry preceded this remark by saying, "I know that what happened over there is not the behavior of 99.9 percent of our troops."


The audacity of this astonishes me.

I'm glad someone in the "mainstream" press is finally pointing out that there are lying.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

 

Partisan Times

It would seem that Mr. Bush is less of a uniter than he thought he was.

I just wonder where all this is going and where all this is going to end. If John Kerry is elected, the right-wing will think the "liberal elite" and the "liberal media" have handed the country over to the terrorists.

If Mr. Bush wins, by whatever means since he lost last time...hey, I didn't say this blog was non-partisan...then I just don't know what liberals like myself are going to do.

Should we loose all faith in the process?

Is the process damaged beyond repair?

Is this what happens to liberal democracy over time? The power concentrates upward?

*sigh*

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

 

Repercussions?

Video Seems to Show Beheading of American

CAIRO, Egypt - A video posted Tuesday on an Islamic militant Web site showed the beheading of an American civilian in Iraq (news - web sites), and said the execution was carried out by an al-Qaida affiliated group to avenge the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers.

The video showed five men wearing headscarves and black ski masks, standing over a bound man in an orange jumpsuit — similar to a prisoner's uniform — who identified himself as Nick Berg, a U.S. contractor whose body was found on a highway overpass in Baghdad on Saturday.

"My name is Nick Berg, my father's name is Michael, my mother's name is Susan," the man said on the video. "I have a brother and sister, David and Sarah. I live in ... Philadelphia."

After reading a statement, the men were seen pulling the man to his side and putting a large knife to his neck. A scream sounded as the men cut his head off, shouting "Allahu Akbar!" — "God is great." They then held the head out before the camera.

Berg's family said Tuesday they knew their son had been decapitated, but didn't know the details of the killing. When told of the video by an Associated Press reporter, Berg's father, Michael, and his two siblings hugged and cried.

Niko Price, Associated Press

 

Abu Ghraib As Fundraiser?

Apparently, some on the right are all upset with John Kerry.

Who knew?

They appear to be angry that Mr. Kerry is using the abuse of Iraqi prisoners Abu Ghraib as an example of incompetence in the present administration.

Apparently, Mr. Kerry's campaign is asking like-minded people, those who also think the present administration is incompetent, and who think that the way the present administration handled the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib is an example of that incompetence, to give some money to elect a new president.

Shocking!

Republicans accuse Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign of "politicizing" the Iraqi POW scandal to raise cash.

"The prison images from Baghdad are clearly disgusting, but it's harder to find words to describe those whose first instinct upon seeing them is to raise campaign cash with them," said RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie in a press release dated Sunday.

According to Gillespie, Kerry's campaign manager, Mary Beth Cahill, made fund-raising pitches over the weekend urging Kerry supporters to send money to the campaign as a way of showing support for Kerry's demand that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld resign.
What to say, what to say.

 

Some Sort Of Process

I can pretty much agree with those folks, generally on the right, who point it out, that is that it is good to see a Democratic process looking into the abuse of the Iraqi prisoners.

It may be creaking into action, moving only because pictures of the abuse were made public, will probably not get to the bottom of it all, and most likely has no chance of changing the culture at the Pentagon, but at least there is some sort of a process.

Monday, May 10, 2004

 

Gratitude?

Atrios over at Eschaton links to this Reuters story.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush strongly backed Donald Rumsfeld on Monday and said the nation owed him a debt of gratitude, countering calls by some Democrats for the defense secretary to resign over his handling of the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal.
After a meeting with Rumsfeld, military leaders and other top administration officials at the Pentagon, Bush told Rumsfeld, "Thank you for your leadership. You are courageously leading our nation in the war against terror."

"You're doing a superb job. You're a strong secretary of defense and our nation owes you a debt of gratitude," Bush said.


There is so much wrong with this.

First off, Mr. Bush went to the Pentagon to show support to Mr. Rumsfeld. In this ever so political White House, that’s not so much a show of support for the Secretary of Defense as it was full on massage and toweling off of the SecDef by the president.

But the part that just reaches out and grabs you is where Mr. Bush says we owe Mr. Rumsfeld a debt of gratitude.

Is he serious?

Gratitude?

For the guy

1) Who won’t put enough troops in Iraq to secure the occupation...
2) Who oversees the political prisoners down in Cuba...
3) Who basically said we are not bound by the Geneva Conventions...
4) Who couldn’t be bothered to inform Congress that the MP’s in Iraq were beating and humiliating unarmed Iraqi prisoners...
5) Who allows the system of “torture lite” to continue...

This is the guy we owe a debt of gratitude to? This is a guy who should be kicked out on his ear.

Along with his CEO boss who gave him the job, and in light of demonstrable failures, lets him keep it.

Speaking of which, Mr. Bush ran as the CEO president, because his previous stints as CEO were so successful.

Can we now add his current office to his list of CEO failures and move on?

Because if the CEO president does not listen to people who are trying to warn him, AND surrounds himself with incompetents who can neither do the task the CEO president has delegated to them or refuse to pass up pertinent information from other subordinates, AND refuses to replace these incompetents – WHY would anyone vote to give the bumbler another try at the office.

This ain’t Arbusto you know.

 

Hitting The Nail On The Head

Oi.

The Price of Arrogance

"The basic attitude taken by Rumsfeld, Cheney and their top aides has been "We're at war; all these niceties will have to wait." As a result, we have waged pre-emptive war unilaterally, spurned international cooperation, rejected United Nations participation, humiliated allies, discounted the need for local support in Iraq and incurred massive costs in blood and treasure. If the world is not to be trusted in these dangerous times, key agencies of the American government, like the State Department, are to be trusted even less. Congress is barely informed, even on issues on which its "advise and consent" are constitutionally mandated.

Leave process aside: the results are plain. On almost every issue involving postwar Iraq—troop strength, international support, the credibility of exiles, de-Baathification, handling Ayatollah Ali Sistani—Washington's assumptions and policies have been wrong. By now most have been reversed, often too late to have much effect. This strange combination of arrogance and incompetence has not only destroyed the hopes for a new Iraq. It has had the much broader effect of turning the United States into an international outlaw in the eyes of much of the world.

Whether he wins or loses in November, George W. Bush's legacy is now clear: the creation of a poisonous atmosphere of anti-Americanism around the globe. I'm sure he takes full responsibility."

Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek
Right on the mark.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

 

Whatever You Do, Do Read That

In a post titled "Wouldn't want them to get too far ahead of the SecDef," Mark A. R. Kleiman links to a story about a Pentagon memo.

I really liked the last part of the following about not complicating the investigative processes by seeking information.

Ironies are so cute sometimes.

"This leakage will be investigated for criminal prosecution. If you don't have the document and have never had legitimate access, please do not complicate the investigative processes by seeking information."
So reads an memo from the Pentagon to personnel ordering them not to try to obtain and read the Taguba report from the Fox News website.

"ALL ISD CUSTOMERS SHOULD:

1) NOT GO TO FOX NEWS TO READ OR OBTAIN A COPY
2) NOT comment on this to anyone, friends, family etc.
3) NOT delete the file if you receive it via e-mail, but
4) CALL THE ISD HELPDESK AT 602-2627 IMMEDIATELY

....

Again, THE INFORMATION CONTAINED IN THIS REPORT IS CLASSIFIED; DO NOT GO TO FOX NEWS TO READ OR OBTAIN A COPY."
In a funny way, you know, that the-person-who-wrote-the-memo-just-doesn’t-get-it sort of way, the memo reads like directions about where to obtain and read the Taguba report.

But in that all too serious sort of way, it’s the Pentagon culture at to it’s most opaque as it attempts to stifle information and prevent people from knowing what’s going on.

 

Inaugural Post – Whoopee!

It seems like I should say something interesting in the first post. Rather than, say, posting something about how bad political discourse has become, or some such, I should post about my ideology and beliefs.

Naw.

The political discourse in the United States continues to spiral downward at a rate that is sure to land us back in the time where political adversaries opened up their own newspapers. Partisan scandal sheets created to:

1) Disseminate the political agenda of their founders;
2) Tear apart the other side with slander and innuendo;
3) Propagandize far and wide.

Yup, we will be heading back in that direction any day now.

Oh, wait.

Only difference now is, we have television.

Ain’t politics fun.

At any rate, the purpose of this blog, other than to find something to name after my cat, Billie, is to waste time by writing about politics, culture, and the myriad of things that these rather overarching categories encompass.

Like jazz. I love jazz.

And politics. I hate politics...but I love politics. It’s a contact sport in the United States.

And my cat. I love my cat. Even though we have three, two came with my wife and Socks, the male is so her cat it's not even funny. Chole is just kinda nuts, but we love her. Billie on the other hand, it our cat. She may play a large role in this new blog.

So, if you catch the tone already, it’s going to be rather free-wheeling and loose around here. My sense of humor and what I find important / interesting is wide-ranging.

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