February 29, 2004

Soldier for the Truth

"Soldier for the Truth" is the interview of a lifelong conservative who worked at the Pentagon during the buildup of bullshit surrounding Iraq. She eventually resigned in frustration when the war started, and she has a compelling story to tell about what went on as the administration pressured the CIA for intelligence interpretations to justify the war they had already decided on. The whole article is excellent, but I have provided a lengthy summary of the highlights if you don't want to click through...

There you were, a career military officer, a Pentagon analyst, a conservative who had given two decades to this work. What provoked you to become first a covert and later a public dissident?

Like most people, I’ve always thought there should be honesty in government. Working 20 years in the military, I’m sure I saw some things that were less than honest or accountable. But nothing to the degree that I saw [in reference to Iraq].

This was creatively produced propaganda spread not only through the Pentagon, but across a network of policymakers — the State Department, with John Bolton; the Vice President’s Office, the very close relationship the OSP had with that office. That is not normal, that is a bypassing of normal processes. Then there was the National Security Council, with certain people who had neoconservative views; Scooter Libby, the vice president’s chief of staff; a network of think tanks who advocated neoconservative views — the American Enterprise Institute, the Center for Security Policy with Frank Gaffney, the columnist Charles Krauthammer — was very reliable. So there was just not a process inside the Pentagon that should have developed good honest policy, but it was instead pushing a particular agenda; this group worked in a coordinated manner, across media and parts of the government, with their neoconservative compadres.

How did you experience this in your day-to-day work?

There was a sort of groupthink, an adopted storyline: We are going to invade Iraq and we are going to eliminate Saddam Hussein and we are going to have bases in Iraq. This was all a given even by the time I joined them, in May of 2002.

You heard this in staff meetings?

The discussions were ones of this sort of inevitability. The concerns were only that some policymakers still had to get onboard with this agenda. Not that this agenda was right or wrong — but that we needed to convince the remaining holdovers. Colin Powell, for example. There was a lot of frustration with Powell; they said a lot of bad things about him in the office. They got very angry with him when he convinced Bush to go back to the U.N. and forced a four-month delay in their invasion plans.

General Tony Zinni is another one. Zinni, the combatant commander of Central Command, Tommy Franks’ predecessor — a very well-qualified guy who knows the Middle East inside out, knows the military inside out, a Marine, a great guy. He spoke out publicly as President Bush’s Middle East envoy about some of the things he saw. Before he was removed by Bush, I heard Zinni called a traitor in a staff meeting. They were very anti-anybody who might provide information that affected their paradigm. They were the spin enforcers. [...]

We were instructed by Bill Luti, on behalf of the Office of Special Plans, on behalf of Abe Shulsky, that we would not write anything about Iraq, WMD or terrorism in any papers that we prepared for our superiors except as instructed by the Office of Special Plans. And it would provide to us an electronic document of talking points on these issues. So I got to see how they evolved.

It was very clear to me that they did not evolve as a result of new intelligence, of improved intelligence, or any type of seeking of the truth. The way they evolved is that certain bullets were dropped or altered based on what was being reported on the front pages of the Washington Post or The New York Times.

Can you be specific?

One item that was dropped was in November [2002]. It was the issue of the meeting in Prague prior to 9/11 between Mohammed Atta and a member of Saddam Hussein’s intelligence force. We had had this in our talking points from September through mid-November. And then it dropped out totally. No explanation. Just gone. That was because the media reported that the FBI had stepped away from that, that the CIA said it didn’t happen. [...]

What do you believe the real reasons were for the war?

The neoconservatives needed to do more than just topple Saddam Hussein. They wanted to put in a government friendly to the U.S., and they wanted permanent basing in Iraq. There are several reasons why they wanted to do that. None of those reasons, of course, were presented to the American people or to Congress.

So you don’t think there was a genuine interest as to whether or not there really were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

It’s not about interest. We knew. We knew from many years of both high-level surveillance and other types of shared intelligence, not to mention the information from the U.N., we knew, we knew what was left [from the Gulf War] and the viability of any of that. Bush said he didn’t know.

The truth is, we know [Saddam] didn’t have these things. Almost a billion dollars has been spent — a billion dollars! — by David Kay’s group to search for these WMD, a total whitewash effort. They didn’t find anything, they didn’t expect to find anything.

So if, as you argue, they knew there weren’t any of these WMD, then what exactly drove the neoconservatives to war?

The neoconservatives pride themselves on having a global vision, a long-term strategic perspective. And there were three reasons why they felt the U.S. needed to topple Saddam, put in a friendly government and occupy Iraq.

One of those reasons is that sanctions and containment were working and everybody pretty much knew it. Many companies around the world were preparing to do business with Iraq in anticipation of a lifting of sanctions. But the U.S. and the U.K. had been bombing northern and southern Iraq since 1991. So it was very unlikely that we would be in any kind of position to gain significant contracts in any post-sanctions Iraq. And those sanctions were going to be lifted soon, Saddam would still be in place, and we would get no financial benefit.

The second reason has to do with our military-basing posture in the region. We had been very dissatisfied with our relations with Saudi Arabia, particularly the restrictions on our basing. And also there was dissatisfaction from the people of Saudi Arabia. So we were looking for alternate strategic locations beyond Kuwait, beyond Qatar, to secure something we had been searching for since the days of Carter — to secure the energy lines of communication in the region. Bases in Iraq, then, were very important — that is, if you hold that is America’s role in the world. Saddam Hussein was not about to invite us in.

The last reason is the conversion, the switch Saddam Hussein made in the Food for Oil program, from the dollar to the euro. He did this, by the way, long before 9/11, in November 2000 — selling his oil for euros. The oil sales permitted in that program aren’t very much. But when the sanctions would be lifted, the sales from the country with the second largest oil reserves on the planet would have been moving to the euro.

The U.S. dollar is in a sensitive period because we are a debtor nation now. Our currency is still popular, but it’s not backed up like it used to be. If oil, a very solid commodity, is traded on the euro, that could cause massive, almost glacial, shifts in confidence in trading on the dollar. So one of the first executive orders that Bush signed in May [2003] switched trading on Iraq’s oil back to the dollar. [...]

You gave your life to the military, you voted Republican for many years, you say you served in the Pentagon right up to the outbreak of war. What does it feel like to be out now, publicly denouncing your old bosses?

Know what it feels like? It feels like duty. That’s what it feels like. I’ve thought about it many times. You know, I spent 20 years working for something that — at least under this administration — turned out to be something I wasn’t working for. I mean, these people have total disrespect for the Constitution. We swear an oath, military officers and NCOs alike swear an oath to uphold the Constitution. These people have no respect for the Constitution. The Congress was misled, it was lied to. At a very minimum that is a subversion of the Constitution. A pre-emptive war based on what we knew was not a pressing need is not what this country stands for.

What I feel now is that I’m not retired. I still have a responsibility to do my part as a citizen to try and correct the problem.

There is some news here. I mean, first of all, I had no idea about the dollar vs the euro and all that, nor was I aware of the military basing issues (though I knew the Saudis and bin Laden want our bases out of Saudi Arabia). But I think the big news here, the big difference between this person's pre-war knowledge and everyone else's, is that she (and the people in charge of making decisions and publicizing propaganda) knew that there wasn't any significant WMD capacity in Iraq. Or at least she was awfully confident of that, and now we come to find out that a correct, objective view of the intelligence supported her position before the war and supports it now.

Now we're at the point where we want to leave ASAP. We're either going to have civil war, massive violence or a Shiite government, because if there is a direct vote, the Shiites easily are the majority. If there is no direct vote, there will be big trouble. So basically, we got rid of Saddam, wrote a check to Halliburton for umpteen billion (and hey, don't worry about corruption ... we've got hard-charging Republican loyalist L. Jean Lewis on the case!) to fix up Iraq's infrastructure a bit after all the explosions and so forth, and now Iraq is on the verge of turning into another Iran (which, surprise, is a lot further along toward nuclear weapons than Iraq was).

I asked this when we invaded, and I'm still wondering: Why did we go to war with Iraq? Bush himself admitted there's no link to Al Qaeda (though now in the messy aftermath, Al Qaeda is trying to make inroads with an angry population, and conservatives like William Safire are offering *that* as proof of a link!!!). There are no WMD's, and it appears that the consensus among the intelligence community agreed prior to the war. Saddam was a monster in terms of human rights, but not only was that not the case we made going in ... it isn't at all clear that the human rights situation will be significantly better once we leave.

Face it, conservatives, your president just took the US military on a fucking joyride, and he's using 9/11 to justify it. Bush is a disgrace, and America is a weaker nation politically, militarily, philosophically and economically as a result of his disastrous and sometimes downright malevolent incompetence. And I'm not even *mentioning* the Patriot Act. Any so-called libertarian who supports Bush and this Republican Congress after that fiasco needs to quit kidding themselves and accept the label of Fuckwit Republican so those of us with true libertarian sympathies can at least maintain a sense of dignity and respect.

And the fucking bastards in the media can only talk about how John Kerry is Mr. Special Interest Money (on the front page, no less, while dead soldiers in Iraq get a couple of paragraphs on A16) when he doesn't hold a single goddamn candle to the flaming blowtorch of corruption and special interest money that is the Republican party nowadays. FUCK, I'M MAD! I'm starting to feel like Michael Moore, wondering what the hell happened to my country.

Posted by Observer at 08:21 AM | Comments (0)

February 28, 2004

Track the Spin

So the latest Republican spin point is that John Kerry voted against a whole bunch of different weapons systems while he was a senator, and this is supposed to make him a wuss on defense or whatever. Fred Kaplan of Slate has a good rebuttal here (thanks to The Howler for the link). It'll be interesting to see which spin gets embedded in headlines and articles over the next week.

Another spin point is that John Kerry is a waffler. He flip-flops. Actually, the record shows Kerry has been fairly consistent on most issues, but like all politicians, he has a sense of expediency and changes his mind on occasion, etc. Nobody's perfect. But if you want to take flip-flops, Bush has really taken the cake, which is ironic given that he is trying to campaign based on "steady leadership in troubling times". Go see Wampum for plenty of documented flip-flops by Bush on major issues in the past few years.

(a) Will reporters just type up the Republican spin points? (b) Will they type them and provide a shred of context or contradictory information (such as staunch Republicans also voting for military reductions or complaining about certain military spending bills, Bush's numerous flip-flops, etc) that Kaplan and Warmpum were been so good as to clearly lay out. (c) Or will they just not mention these spin points because they realize they are completely bogus? I'll go with (a), because that's basically what happened with the "John Kerry is hypocritical and beholden to special interests" spin, which has proven to be totally bogus. These days, the So-Called-Liberal-Media never disappoints.

On the other hand, if you want to read a well-written positive outlook of John Kerry, recounting many of his successes and principled battles, this article by David Corn in "The Nation" is quite a good summary (and I'm only quoting a couple of the many points Corn makes). If you are looking for a reason to support Kerry, read a little bit about the backbone this guy has and imagine someone like this in the White House.

It is true that Kerry, another Yalie and Skull and Bones alum, has voted in favor of NAFTA and other corporate-friendly trade pacts, that he once raised questions about affirmative action (while still supporting it), that he has, like almost every Democratic senator, accepted contributions from special-interest lobbyists (while being one of the few to eschew political action committee donations), that he voted to grant Bush the authority to invade Iraq. But this hardly makes him Bush lite. There is, as evidence, his nineteen-year Senate record, during which he has voted consistently in favor of abortion rights and environmental policies, opposed Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy, led the effort against drilling in the Alaskan wilderness, pushed for higher fuel economy standards, advocated boosting the minimum wage and pressed for global warming remedies. But what distinguishes Kerry's career are key moments when he displayed guts and took tough actions that few colleagues would imitate. [...]

In early 1986 Kerry's office was contacted by a Vietnam vet who alleged that the support network for the CIA-backed Nicaraguan contras (who were fighting against the socialist Sandinistas in power) was linked to drug traffickers. Kerry doubted that the Reagan Administration, obsessed with supporting the contras, would investigate such charges. He pushed for a Senate inquiry and a year later, as chairman of a Foreign Relations subcommittee, obtained approval to conduct a probe. [...]

The report concluded that "individuals who provided support for the contras were involved in drug trafficking...and elements of the contras themselves knowingly received financial and material assistance from drug traffickers." And, it added, US government agencies--meaning the CIA and the State Department--had known this.

This was a rather explosive finding, but the Kerry report did not provoke much uproar in the media, and the Democratic leadership on Capitol Hill did little to support Kerry and keep the matter alive. His critics derided him as a conspiracy buff. Yet a decade later the CIA inspector general released a pair of reports that acknowledged that the agency had worked with suspected drug smugglers to support the contras. Kerry had been right.

After the contra investigation, Kerry next turned to a far more sensitive target: a bank connected to a prominent Democratic Party fundraiser. [...]

In the fall of 1992 Kerry released a report on the BCCI affair. It blasted everyone: Justice, Treasury, US Customs, the Federal Reserve, [Democratic party fundraisers] Clifford and Altman (for participating in "some of BCCI's deceptions"), high-level lobbyists and fixers, and the CIA. The report noted that after the CIA knew the bank was "a fundamentally corrupt criminal enterprise, it continued to use both BCCI and First American...for CIA operations." The report was, in a sense, an indictment of Washington cronyism. In the years since, there's been nothing like it. [...]

As an aside, can you imagine this administration investigating Republicans or this Congress investigating the activities of this administration? What a joke. As I said before, the House even killed an investigation into the very obvious and treasonous wrongdoing surrounding the Wilson/Plame scandal on a party line vote. Fortunately, others are investigating, and a grand jury is taking testimony even now so there is a good chance someone will pay.

After two decades in the Senate, Kerry has a long record that can be picked apart by competitors within his own party as well as in the GOP. And though he has been re-elected three times, he has not developed the best political skills. He has not shed a manner too easily criticized as aloof or patrician. He has had brushes with smarmy campaign financing. But there have been times he has shown courage, devotion to justice and commitment to honesty, open government and principle-over-politics. There are few senators of whom that can be said. A full assessment of the man ought to take these portions of his public service into account.

I am starting to learn more about Kerry, and I like what I see. I haven't been able to find out much more about Edwards (but I'm not looking that hard). I plan to make an effort before Tuesday's primary vote.

Posted by Observer at 07:21 AM | Comments (0)

February 27, 2004

Front Page Lies

I caught part of the Democratic debate last night on CNN. Kerry and Edwards both look and sound like good candidates. It's hard to say I really have a preference. At this point, I'd probably pick Kerry just because he has more experience. Both have platforms that seems indistinguishable. I'd like to hear them talk some more, but unfortunately, Kucinich and Sharpton are still officially in the race despite getting almost no votes. That means somebody like me who wants to see more of the actual candidates has to sit through those two grandstanding for half the debate.

The part of the debate I saw made me plenty angry. The two reporters spent most of it asking questions about John Kerry's special interest money. These questions are based on recent very misleading reports in the Washington Post which proclaim that Kerry is a hypocrite for battling special interests while accepting money from lobbyists or whatever. Turns out, though, that Kerry has pretty high standards compared to the rest of the Senate. He doesn't take PAC money (which is where the worst problems are), and the money he's taken from lobbyists amounts to about 1% of his total take.

Over four Senate campaigns, Kerry has taken in a total of less than a million dollars from what the media dubs "special interests". As Molly Ivins mentioned a week or so ago, Republicans getting on Kerry for this is high comedy. Bill Frist, the Republican Senate majority leader, has earned more than double Kerry's career take just in the last year from "special interests". Do articles and reporters in the So-Called-Liberal-Media provide any context like this? Of course not, so the impression is left among the Moron American set that Kerry is some kind of career politician and hypocrite. Then the Republicans start repeating it as truth on talk shows, Faux news, etc., and it becomes a "fact" just like Gore invented the Internet or is somehow a fake, etc.

Anyway, Bob Somerby of the Daily Howler has a summary of the latest nonsense about Kerry and "special interests":

This morning, [Washington Post reporter] VandeHei is upset about some of Kerry's contributors and fund-raisers. "Kerry Donors Include 'Benedict Arnolds,'" the headline screams. "Candidate Decries Tax-Haven Firms While Accepting Executives' Aid." Yep—phony old Kerry is at it again! Here's VandeHei's opening statement:

VANDEHEI: Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, frequently calls companies and chief executives "Benedict Arnolds" if they move jobs and operations overseas to avoid paying U.S. taxes.

But Kerry has accepted money and fundraising assistance from top executives at companies that fit the candidate's description of a notorious traitor of the American revolution.

According to VandeHei, Kerry has accepted money from "top execs" at firms whose conduct Kerry decries. But wouldn't you know it? He smuggles in a helpful new category as he offers a bit more detail:

VANDEHEI: Executives and employees at such companies have contributed more than $140,000 to Kerry's presidential campaign, a review of his donor records shows. Additionally, two of Kerry's biggest fundraisers, who together have raised more than $400,000 for the candidate, are top executives at investment firms that helped set up companies in the world's best-known offshore tax havens, federal records show. Kerry has raised nearly $30 million overall for his White House run.

On face, how silly are parts of this complaint? It is plainly absurd to criticize Kerry for accepting money from employees of these companies, the sleight-of-hand which VandeHei work in the first sentence of this paragraph. Should candidates really reject contributions from employees of various companies—from people who have nothing to do with decisions made by the firms for which they work? The notion is absurd on its face. But, even including contributions from such employees, Kerry has only raised $140,000 from people at such firms, Vandehei says—out of $30 million raised! This is a stunningly trivial amount—a figure which VandeHei could only gin up by including "employees" in his figures. This part of his complaint is so absurd that it should never have gone into print.

Meanwhile, note a second category VandeHei smuggles in—the new front opened by the word "helped." Do Kerry's two fundraisers work at firms which have set up off-shore havens? No, their companies have only "helped" do that. But that weasel word appears several times as we make our way through the Post’s piece.

At any rate, how about those troubling "big fundraisers," the ones who have brought in 400K? VandeHei describes the two troubling men—and he shows us how weak his complaint is.

Who are the troubling souls who have raised this money for Kerry? Here is one of VandeHei's examples—one of only two such complaints:

VANDEHEI: Thomas F. Steyer, who said he has raised around $200,000 for Kerry, is a partner at a California investment firm called Hellman & Friedman LLC that helped set up an insurance company in Bermuda, another popular tax haven. The insurance company—Arch Capital Group Ltd.—stated in a 2000 Securities and Exchange Commission filing that it was sinking roots in Bermuda to reduce its U.S. tax bill.

Note again the sleight of hand achieved by that key word, "helped." Steyer's firm didn't set up in Bermuda; it "helped" another firm do so, we're told. What exactly does that mean? We're not sure, and you aren't either. But is a conflict involved in Steyer's fundraising? Here is VandeHei's next paragraph:

VANDEHEI: Steyer said that it "wasn’t my decision" to set up the company in Bermuda and that he now spends less than 10 percent of his time at Hellman & Friedman. "I believe American citizens should pay their American taxes," Steyer said. He said he "absolutely" does not consider himself part of a "Benedict Arnold" enterprise.

Is Steyer part of such an enterprise? VandeHei doesn't try to say. More specifically, did Steyer play any role in his firm's work for Arch Capital? VandeHei doesn't tell you that either. In short, there is no sign that Steyer played any role in setting up this one off-shore haven. But because Steyer has worked for a firm which "helped" one entity set up such an enterprise, VandeHei is on page one of the Post suggesting that Kerry's a phony.

To state the obvious, such stupid work is easily done—by people who want to make a joke of your discourse. Indeed, for eight months starting in March 1999, [Washington Post reporter Ceci] Connolly aimed stupid financial critiques at Gore, generating a string of inane "news reports" about his fund-raising and campaign spending. Four years later, VandeHei has done the same thing twice, in a pair of front-page reports. The time has come to ask the question: Is the Washington Post up to old tricks again? Is VandeHei the new Ceci Connolly?

One more point from this morning's piece. Sadly, VandeHei doesn't shy away from his first, grossly misleading report, the one he wrote on January 31. In fact, he types its basic construction again, grossly misleading Post readers:

VANDEHEI: Kerry has come under attack from President Bush, as well as some Democrats, for criticizing laws he voted for and lambasting special interests after accepting more money from paid lobbyists than any other senator in the past 15 years. Some Democrats worry that Kerry is leaving himself open for similar attacks on the latest issue.

Pathetic. "Some Democrats" worry, VandeHei says—and he forgets to say which ones he means. But look at that clip from his previous report. According to VandeHei, Kerry has been criticized "for lambasting special interests after accepting more money from paid lobbyists than any other senator in the past 15 years." But that formulation is grossly misleading. As we have noted, lobbyist money is just one small part of what is referred to as "special interest" money; Kerry actually ranks 92nd among U.S. senators when it comes to receipt of such money, Peter Beinart has said. But in this passage, VandeHei does what he did on January 31—he takes one small part of "special interest" money, then uses it to imply that Kerry is the king of such dough. That claim is grossly, fiendishly misleading—and the Post should stop putting it in print.

In Campaign 2000, the Post and its inexcusable "reporter," Ceci Connolly, conducted a twenty-month fraud on the public. VandeHei's clowning clearly suggests that a pattern is emerging once again.

VACUOUS IS AS VACUOUS DOES: Let's face it: Reports of this type can be aimed at any candidate who criticizes "special interests." And clowning clowns are quick to seize on VandeHei's silly reports. As we have seen, his grossly misleading January 31 report has been used to shape a false but damaging claim—the claim that Kerry is the reigning king of Senate special interest money. That claim is baldly inaccurate—the claim is false—but the Post was happy to let Charles Krauthammer type it up on its own op-ed pages last week. And alas! This morning, readers will draw the same conclusion from VandeHei's artful but phony construction. Is VandeHei trying to inform Post readers? Or is his work really built to mislead, as was so plainly the case with Ceci Connolly?

And make no mistake—VandeHei's work has been manna for spinners. This morning, the goony goons on Fox & Friends were eagerly spinning his new report. (Sorry, we didn't have tape running.) Is Candidate Kerry just a Big Fake? On Fox, of course, they know he is—and even Kiran Chetry drank the Kool-Aid this morning, constructing prime spin out of VandeHei's trivia. What a shock! Kerry received campaign contributions from employees of some naughty firms! And a Kerry funder works at a firm which may have "helped" one other firm go offshore! To VandeHei’s editors, this is prime, front-page stuff. But then, they plastered Connolly's devious work all over their front page four years ago. Is a pattern emerging again at the Post? As VandeHei churns more trivia today, it's becoming quite hard to dispute it."

When I was watching the debate last night, and one of the reporters brought up the Post article that Somerby talks about, I wanted Kerry to say something like, "Wait a minute, you and I both know that the article is misleading. We both know a, b and c about this, how much money Republicans bring in, and so on, so let me turn the question around. Why are you citing that article as though it is an authoritative article when we both know it is crap? What exactly is your agenda? What are you trying to accomplish with your question?" I know it's death to take on the media like that. It gets you labelled "angry" or "unhinged" or "irrational", but someone needs to question the media. They aren't doing their job.

With any luck, this time watchdogs like Bob Somerby and angry people like me can write enough letters and make enough noise to stop this kind of nonsense before it gets rolling. I'm not optimistic, though, if the very bastion of the SCLM is already bashing the Democratic candidates. On the bright side, stuff like this is always good for some very bitter laughter every time some moron spouts off about the librul media.

Posted by Observer at 07:14 AM | Comments (2)

February 26, 2004

Bah!

Crap, I set the VCR to record the wrong stupid channel, so we missed tonight's "Survivor". Gah, I hate that.

And yeah, I know, Humbaba, we need to get TiVo. Believe me, it's on the list.

Posted by Observer at 09:07 PM | Comments (1)

Who Watches the Watchers?

News has come out lately that Halliburton is being investigated by the Pentagon's Inspector General office over the supposed abuses and corruption of its operations in Iraq. What a joke. The bidding wasn't even open, most things are being hidden behind anti-terrorism legislation, and so there is no chance of the bright light needed on these activities to make the cockroaches scurry for cover.

If you think the Pentagon investigation is going to uncover anything, David Neiwert of Orcinus advises you to think again. He's been following this one for a while. A couple of years ago, Bushco installed L. Jean Lewis to head the office of the Inspector General, right during the time of a purge of some whistleblowers who were trying to bust a Republican employee on some funny business (remember the "purge" associated with "Travelgate" when a bunch of partisan employees got fired from the White House travel office and it became an enormous scandal ... hell, that was not only legal, it was and is routine for incoming administrations for clean house in partisan jobs! But where's all the media coverage of this?).

Lewis was a low-level employee of a federal agency known as the Resolution Trust Corporation, involved in the whole Savings and Loans bailouts. She used her position to try to dig up dirt on the Clintons, among other unethical and illegal activities. She committed perjury before Congress in telling her tale, which is ironic since the whole thing ended up being about perjury. Of course, she suffered no consequences. In fact, Ken Starr took all possible heat off of Lewis when he took charge of the whole Whitewater matter, and Lewis dropped from sight after a public breakdown at a Congressional hearing.

She suddenly reappeared in 2001 as the person in charge of the Pentagon's Inspector General office, having no previous qualifications (she oversees over 1200 employees). Well, I should say no formal qualifications. The one thing she does have is blind loyalty to Republican causes, and that means she'll whitewash anything that needs it.

I know, I know, I know. You're saying, yes, well, any kind of skullduggery like this would surely be exposed to the light of day by the Liberal Media, which is always looking to pounce on potential scandals involving conservatives! You'd think that, wouldn't you? I mean, Neiwert has pretty much laid it all out himself (lots of amazing twists and turns ... you should read his summary and follow his links), doing award-worthy work that any reporter could and should be able to do. The question is, why isn't this all in the newspapers?

One big reason for a notable lack of scandals and investigations is that Republicans control both houses. Democrats can't get a majority on any committee to call for and use the resources of the legislative branch to conduct an investigation and hold public hearings (which always make for great TV). Even yesterday, Republicans squashed any attempt at an investigation into the Plame matter on a party-line vote. *This* is the party of national security?

I'm telling you: worst administration in history. This whole Lewis thing is just the tiniest little scratch in the surface. The books that are going to be written by insiders and whistleblowers about this four year era over the next couple of decades are going to blow people away. The recent one by O'Neill (the former Treasury Secretary) is nothing compared to the stories that I am sure will be told. These stories could be told NOW, while it actually fucking MATTERS, if we had a mainstream media that actually understood the function of objective journalism that serves the public interest.

Instead, stay tuned for more on Theresa Heinz-Kerry's Botox injections.

Posted by Observer at 07:08 AM | Comments (0)

February 25, 2004

Contact

Time for another book review! I first read this back in graduate school, and I honestly wasn't expecting much. All I knew about Carl Sagan was his cartoonish "billions and billions" personality, and I only had a passing familiarity with his various attempts to popularize science through books and TV shows. So maybe it helped that I went in with low expectations, but I ended up a big fan of his book "Contact". Of course, most people are probably familiar with it because of the very good movie with Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey that was based on the book.

I highly recommend both. The book has a deeper plot and definitely goes into the science of SETI (the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) and other things in a lot more depth. It's a real model for the kind of science fiction I like: a fairly good plot with a few surprises, characters with some depth and uncertainty, lots of neat gadgets and science fiction that helps drive the plot. They didn't go the cheap route on the movie -- they made a very sleek looking package that stands the test of time. It wasn't "Star Wars" or "Lord of the Rings", but it's one of the few science fiction stories that bears up under multiple exposures (whether it is the book or the movie).

I like the way the signal is first received, and I like the story of decoding it. I like the struggle for control between the scientific community and the government. I like the interplay between scientists at every level. I really identify with the idealism of the main character (my favorite line in the movie occurs when she says, "I always thought the world is what we make of it."). I liked the various surprises sprinkled throughout, and I was satisfied with the ending. I could've done without some of the emotional melodrama in both the movie and the book, but those were pretty minor flaws.

As for SETI itself, I'm a big supporter. It's a big universe, with trillions of potential experiments in organic chemistry within range of even a modest telescope. Intelligent life may well be extremely improbable, but I doubt we're truly alone. The only question is whether other civilizations are close enough and have long enough lifespans so that we can have meaningful communications. On that issue I'm a little more pessimistic because we've been looking pretty hard now for a few decades and found nothing. Still, it's a very inexpensive gamble with a potential monster of a payoff, so I'm in.

Posted by Observer at 06:52 AM | Comments (3)

February 24, 2004

Careful What You Wish For

I wonder what Bush would do if he were reelected? Obviously, he'd keep appointing wingnut judges, stacking the courts with racists, homophobes, religious nuts and (sarcasm) worst of all (in an emphatic Gollum voice) PERJURERS (/sarcasm). Do you think he'd suddenly decide to become fiscally responsible? Of course, he'd try to make those tax cuts for the rich permanent, including an abolition of the estate tax. The looting of our nation would just keep right on going. Would he really let the deficit balloon to over $10 trillion? If not, what major thing would he want to cut? When would he (well, whoever is making the decisions if it isn't him) finally start to think that, hey, maybe deficits this big *do* matter.

What brings this to mind: I've been thinking lately, after reading various reports hinting that the capture of Osama bin Laden may at long last be near. Who knows how reliable those reports are? But for the moment, I'm going to put myself in Osama's shoes. What does Osama want more than anything? Just to get US troops out of Saudi Arabia? Or is it to destroy the US? What?

The scary thing is, Osama's best tactic toward hurting the US may well be to allow himself to be captured. Or perhaps brutally killed on camera so that he could become an effective martyr. Doing either of these would prove to be a big boost to Bush and help him on to re-election, no doubt. Why would that help Osama's cause? Just look at the track record.

If I were Osama, I would want America to keep doing EXACTLY what it has been doing since 9/11. Namely, ignoring the basic elements of homeland security (you know, ports, reliable non-politicized intelligence, etc) so as to remain vulnerable, driving the government into economic ruin, continuing the military adventurism (say, does anyone feel a draft?) that has made us so unpopular around the world (especially among Muslims), draining our resources into Iraq in exchange for yet another essentially America-hating Muslim theocracy instead of a more neutral crappy despotic country (hello, all you African nations and former Russian states!), letting Afghanistan revert to mostly Taliban control, etc.

I mean, aside from chasing bin Laden all through the mountains of Pakistan (assuming he's even near there) and making his life fairly miserable (which, obviously, any American president would continue to do), what exactly has Bush done that Osama wouldn't have wanted? Seems to me Bush has done a great job of undermining America in so many ways since 9/11. Why would Osama want anyone else in charge?

Posted by Observer at 06:59 AM | Comments (2)

February 23, 2004

Sports History

My mom and stepdad were up to visit over the weekend, and mom brought a scrapbook of stuff from my childhood that we went through. I have two sports claims to fame in my life. The first was in college when I was at the University of Texas at Austin. Our ultimate frisbee team (full of geeks, and not just geeky guys but geeky girls) was getting thoroughly trounced in an intramural tournament game by a team full of trash-talking frat boys. We were down 6-0 (playing to 7), and after the 6th goal, the frat boys were yelling "Come on! Let's do a shutout! Kick ass! Yeah!" all the way down the field when we were lining up again.

Well, our angry little team fought pretty hard and ran our asses off. The disc went back and forth on turnovers a few times, and finally we were pretty close to scoring, about 20 yards out. Our thrower was running out of time, and all of us were pretty much covered (it seemed at the time like those baboons had arms four feet long). I ran down the sideline to the endzone and saw the thrower zing one straight down the middle of the field, low and fast. I had cut right across the back of the endzone ahead of my defender just before the throw and saw that the frisbee was going to miss its intended running target by a few feet.

One of the frat boys was already yelling "Turnover!" when I started my dive. I was horizontal when I caught the disc between my two forearms about a foot off the ground for a goal. Our side went crazy. I spiked the disc, which is very impolitic for ultimate frisbee but paled in comparison to their behavior (sniff). Definitely the highlight (for me) of a very bleak tournament for us. I mean, the frat boys scored in about 15 seconds after the next pull (frisbee for "kick off") and won, but we were happy we didn't get shut out.

Keep in mind, too, that despite my heroics, I did not have a girlfriend at the time, nor was any female sufficiently impressed with my prowess to result in me getting a girlfriend at any point in the immediate future after that. College mostly sucked for me along those lines, but then it is hard to expect much different when you're a skinny science geek who likes video games (Tetris was big at the time), wargames and role-playing games.

My other great sports moment occured when I was 9 years old. My mom brought the newspaper report of it from June 15, 1977. During a peewee softball game, I was playing pitcher's assistant (the opposing coach would throw the pitch underhanded to his hitters, so they needed someone from our team to play the pitcher position defensively). Runners on first and third with no outs. The batter popped it up down the third base line.

This being peewee league, no one knew the rules, so the runners took off. I caught the ball, tagged out the runner who was halfway home from third base and then saw that the runner from first was almost to second and not slowing down. So I sprinted across the field over toward first base. I would've thrown it right away, but our first baseman was notorious for missing catches (and we fielders were notorious for poor throws), resulting in balls sailing or bouncing past him and going out of play (which is why they had runners on first and third to begin with).

Anyway, I didn't want to risk it, so I ran the ball over there myself. About ten yards from the first baseman, I thought what an ass I would look like if I did this myself instead of throwing it, so I stopped, threw it underhand directly at his gut (and that's what he caught it with, not his glove), and we got the third out. Technically it wasn't, but it was reported in the newspaper as my first and only unassisted triple play ever.

Top that!

Posted by Observer at 07:03 AM | Comments (4)

February 22, 2004

Patriots and Scientists

Random good stuff that I found during the past week: First, here's a good "Tom Tomorrow" cartoon about how conservatives see the world. It's funny 'cause it's true.

Speaking of comedians, I also found this excerpt from a Washington Post story detailing Al Franken's recent USO trip to Iraq to entertain the troops. This guy's a true patriot, and even though he's one of the most eloquent opponents of the whole Bush fiasco, he knows enough to leave politics behind:

One of [Darryl] Worley's best-known songs is the 9/11 anthem "Have You Forgotten?" Just before Christmas last year, he joined Franken [...] on a swing through Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. But the Tennessee-born singer -- who leans "a lot to the right," as he puts it -- says he was far from pleased that the left-leaning Franken was coming along.

"You know, I just don't understand -- why would somebody be on this tour if they're not supportive of the war?" Turner remembers Worley saying before they left. "If he decides to play politics, I'm not gonna put up with it."

After Worley and Franken had became friends, Franken says, he joked about this. "What'd you think, Darryl? That I was gonna go: 'Your president lied to you and you're dying for no reason. Ladies and gentlemen -- Darryl Worley!' "

Franken does believe that the hawks in the Bush administration lied. He thinks they massaged intelligence to sell the war, "blew the diplomacy so we didn't have a real coalition," then failed to send enough troops to do the job right. "Out of sheer hubris, they have put the lives of these guys in jeopardy. That makes me furious," he says. But he didn't go to Iraq to talk to American soldiers about those things.

"I would never do anything to undermine morale," he says. "You're going there because they're our guys."

"He's just a class act," Worley says. "Let me tell you, that guy loves our troops and he totally gave it everything he had."

The entire article is here.

Then, finally, an issue near and dear to my heart: the intersection of science and politics. Recently, the Union of Concerned Scientists released a public letter to the president expressing their concerns over the administration's appalling misuse and ignorance of science in the service of political goals. Kevin Drum, aka Calpundit, has more:

The UCS report describes several specific examples of the Bush administration deliberately ignoring or distorting scientific results for purely ideological purposes:

* A flat refusal to believe the (by now) almost unanimous scientific consensus that human activity is contributing to global warming. In one case, the EPA had to scrap an entire section on climate change because the White Hous simply wouldn't accept any form of wording that was even remotely true to the scientific evidence.

* The White House suppressed data on mercury emissions not because the science was wrong, but because it interfered with their plans to reduce regulation of coal-fired power plants. They also suppressed an EPA report on a bipartisan Senate alternative to their "Clear Skies" proposal because it concluded that the Senate version would do a better job of cutting pollution.

* The Bush administration has interfered with CDC research on teen pregnancy that doesn't support its position on abstinence-only sex education programs. It has replaced condom information on government websites with questionable data emphasizing condom failure rates. And it has tried to push a link between abortion and breast cancer that is supported by no reputable scientific data.

* A USDA researcher was prohibited from publishing his findings on health hazards posed by airborne bacteria resulting from farm waste. In addition, "a directive issued in February 2002 instructed USDA staff scientists to seek prior approval before publishing any research or speaking publicly on 'sensitive issues'...."

* The administration ignored scientific analysis of Iraq's aluminum tubes that suggested they had nothing to do with uranium enrichment. We know all about that, don't we?

* A team of scientists who drew peer-reviewed conclusions about the management of the Missouri River that was at odds with what the Bush administration wanted to hear was swiftly replaced with a "SWAT team" that could be trusted to say what they did want to hear.

* A new Bush administration rule on peer-review would essentially require that all government research be vetted by industry reviewers before it was published. Tobacco research, for example, could not be reviewed by anyone else who received government funding, but only by industry funded "researchers."

Plenty of good supporting links in Drum's post, and it's a good hour of reading at least to follow up on things. I mean, a *good*, productive hour of learning the depths to which this disgusting administration will sink in the name of political expediency. Not just in the links but also in comments (and check out his latest post plus comments on climate change). Lots of informative commenters on that site.

Posted by Observer at 08:58 AM | Comments (4)

February 21, 2004

Simon Says

Well, I had a couple of bookstore gift certificates burning a hole in my pocket, so I went and bought a few books this week, including American Idol judge Simon Cowell's effort, "I Don't Mean to Be Rude, But...". It is rather slight in length, hardback, so when I was buying it, I figured it would be a ripoff. I'm slogging through a long trilogy right now (Kim Stanley Robinson's "Red/Blue/Green Mars" trilogy), and I needed a quick read of something completely different just to recharge.

Anyway, it turned out to be quite interesting and readable. I was pleasantly surprised. I mean, I love the show, and I do think Simon is the most interesting part of it. He talks in this book about his early career (which I knew nothing about), how he made it to be a big success, and he also mentions a few other details about how American Idol got started and so forth. The most interesting part of the book for me was his childhood, his background and his description of how the whole recording industry works in England.

He also has plenty of behind-the-scenes stuff from the first two seasons (I never watched the first season). I didn't realize how close was his friendship with Ryan Seacrest. He seems to treat both Ryan and Paula with semi-playful contempt on the show, but with Ryan, it's all in fun. With Paula... it's not clear all the time. Now that I've read this, I'd be interested in seeing Paula's book, if she ever writes one, just to see her side of things. Problem is, even though I've always liked Paula's music, I think she's a pretty boring judge, and I imagine she would write a pretty boring book (unless she got a really good ghostwriter/assistant to help out like a lot of major league ballplayers do for their books).

In other Reality TV news, I'm still getting a kick out of Survivor All-Stars. Richard Hatch makes me laugh just about every time he's on the screen, and Boston Rob is kind of like that, too. They're both such assholes, but they have charisma and are fun to watch. So far, it has been a good series.

Posted by Observer at 07:12 AM | Comments (0)

February 20, 2004

A New Narrative

It's early, sure, but it is nice to see signs at last among the general Moron American population that Bush's popularity is crumbling. Two polls I saw in the paper yesterday showed that among likely voters, Kerry and/or Edwards lead Bush by about 55% to 44% or so. I also read this report of Bush's appearance at the Daytona 500 over the weekend:

Overhead, Lee Greenwood sang "God Bless the USA." The crowd started chanting obscenities. After LeAnn Rimes sang the national anthem, the crowd above the grandstands started cheering; those below booed. Then Bush's motorcade drove by. One middle finger went up in the crowd, then another, and soon they were everywhere.

As Atrios pointed out, if this had happened on Clinton's watch, the mainstream media would've been going on about it for weeks (a la the Air Force One haircut in Los Angeles). As it is, if you want to hear what really happened beyond the photo op, you have to look pretty hard.

At least the Washington press corps, as misguided as it is, has somehow come to the opinion that Bush's lies are a little too obvious now, so he's not one of the Kewl Kids anymore. They're starting to gang up on him and actually question what they're saying rather than just rewriting White House memos. For example, Bush recently claimed that his economic plan would generate a jaw-dropping (and unbelieveable) 2.6 million jobs this year.

Conveniently, if true, that would cancel out all the job losses during his first three years. It isn't true, so Bush will be the first president since Herbert Hoover to provide over an economy that has a net loss of jobs during his term. Now that some administration flacks are backing off the numbers, the press is starting to hound them. The narrative of vanishing credibility is taking hold, and it would be nice if it would last longer than the next fake Kerry rumor.

Posted by Observer at 07:07 AM | Comments (4)

February 19, 2004

Gay Marriage

A long time ago, when I lived in Seattle, I remember getting into an on-line debate over some initiative that was being proposed statewide. The proponents' slogan was something like "No special rights for gays!" My question, repeatedly, was "What special rights are they asking for?" I never got an answer. I never heard of a single thing gays were asking for that wasn't a right already enjoyed by everyone else. Marriage really isn't an exception to this. I've read a couple of things lately that summarize the arguments very well, I think. First is Mark Morford:

And no question became so clear, so obvious, as the one being asked by same-sex-marriage advocates around the world: What, really, is so wrong about this? What is the horrible threat about two adults who love each other so intensely, so purely, that they're willing to commit to a lifetime of being together and sleeping together and arguing over who controls the remote? And what government body dares to claim a right to legislate against it?

It is a question no group, no homophobic senator, no piece of antigay legislation, no BushCo stump speech, no Bible-humping pastor has been able to answer with any clarity or conviction.

They can only mumble about immorality and quote some vague Scripture about sodomy that makes them all tingly, as wary biblical scholars all over the world roll their eyes and point to a thousand proofs that demonstrate, over and over again, how the Bible is basically a reinterpreted regurgitated piece of classic patriarchal misogynistic mythmaking that says exactly what the church rewrote it to say.

But I might have part of an answer. From what I can glean from some of my hate mail and the general conservative outcry, here is what the homophobes fear about same-sex marriage: bestiality.

That is, they are utterly terrified that same-sex marriage is a slippery slope of permissive debauchery that will lead to the utter breakdown of social rules and sexual mores, to people being allowed to marry their dogs, or their own dead grandmothers, or chairs, or three hairy men from Miami Beach.

In short, to the neocon Right, a nation that allows gays to marry is a nation with no boundaries and no condoms and where all sorts of illicit disgusting behaviors will soon be legal and be forced upon them, a horrific tribal wasteland full of leeches and flying bugs and scary sex acts they only read about in chat rooms and their beloved "Left Behind" series of cute apocalypse-porn books.

You know, just like how giving blacks the right to own their own land meant we had to give the same rights to house plants and power tools, or how granting women the right to vote meant it was a slippery slope until we gave suffrage to feral cats and sea slugs and rusty hubcaps.

This, then, is why it is a time to be incredibly proud. San Francisco is slapping this moronic worldview back to the dank basement of subhuman intellect, where it belongs. We have broken the taboo, challenged the ignorant and the easily terrified, made it beautifully clear that what matters most in a modern society is not unfounded, naive fears, not uptight religious puling, but a humane and equal, joyous sense of love for all.

Second is Calpundit, who writes:

Unless you have a specifically Bible-centric view of what marriage is, you need to accept this simple reality: marriage is not a natural law, it is a human institution that's defined by humans and subject to change by humans.

Slavery was a human tradition for 5,000 years too. So was child labor, the subjugation of women, and the divine right of kings. All of these are venerable human institutions that we recently decided to change. So why not marriage? Why shouldn't we change it if that's what we collectively decide to do?

As for polygamy and group marriages, the answer is simple: those will become legal if there's ever enough collective pressure to make them so. So far there's no sign of that.

What the City of San Francisco is doing is a publicity stunt. They are peacefully challenging the law in an effort to change public opinion, something that's a rich tradition in American politics from both liberals and conservatives. When a court rules against them, as it almost certainly will, they'll stop. So what's the problem?

Indeed. The "slippery slope" argument is about the only rational objection one could have to gay marriage, and it falls apart under about 15 seconds of logical thinking. Sometimes I hear people bring up the propagation of the species, and that's just so amazingly ludicrous, I have to laugh. I'm at the point where anyone who even uses the word "species" in any construction of a sentence while debating this ... well, I just tune them out. Likewise with selective Bible quoters.

Why why why do people feel so threatened by gays?

Posted by Observer at 08:17 AM | Comments (2)

February 18, 2004

Coping with Conservatives

Few writers have the consistently high quality and wit of Molly Ivins, and her latest column on the beginnings of the 2004 campaign is no exception:

My favorite campaign document of recent days is from a conservative email newsletter, Talon (you can't make this stuff up). In the Feb. 13 update, Item One is a nasty piece of gossip about a Democratic contender, whereas Item Three (I swear) is, "Gutter Politics to Get Uglier: Reacting in part to the relentless questioning of the President's service record, RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie said Wednesday that despite being so early in the campaign season, the Democrats have made clear they intend to run the dirtiest campaign in modern presidential politics."

I think we need a rule calling for at least two paragraphs between spreading nasty gossip and then decrying the spreading of nasty gossip. On television and radio, 24 hours should be required. Standards must be maintained here, team.

In the category of most ludicrous attack, we have an outcry (well, sort of an outcry) over the horrible news that John Kerry takes money from special interest lobbyists. Lawsy, I swan, I had to sit down and fan myself when I heard it. Corporate special interest money in politics! What next? [...]

Kerry has surged to the fore and is now undergoing the pluperfectly idiotic political experience of being called the candidate of special interests by Republicans! Oh, this is so rich, how can you not rejoice? President Bush has only raised 28 times as much money from corporate special interests as John Kerry, and four times as much directly from lobbyists. [...]

for sheer, vicious nastiness, no one cam compete with Ann Coulter, whose latest error-riddled effusion is an attack on former Georgia Sen. Max Cleland, who has been critical of the Bush administration. Apparently in an effort to make George W.'s incomplete in the National Guard look better, Coulter wrote a column distributed by the Heritage Foundation saying Cleland, a triple amputee, had showed "no bravery" in Vietnam, "didn't give his limbs for his country," is not a war hero. My favorite sentence is, "Luckily for Cleland ... he happened (to lose his limbs) while in Vietnam," her point being that if he had been injured at Fort Dix, he wouldn't be a hero.

He also wouldn't have been under enemy fire at Fort Dix. She says he lost his legs in "a routine noncombat mission where he was about to drink beer with friends." Actually, Cleland lost his limbs when a grenade detonated after he and another soldier jumped off a helicopter in a combat zone.

As for not being a war hero, Cleland earned the Silver Star in a separate incident just four days before he was injured. The citation reads, "during heavy enemy rocket and mortar attack, Capt. Cleland disregarded his own safety, exposed himself to rocket barrage as he left his covered position to administer first aid to his wounded comrades. He then assisted them in moving the injured personnel to covered positions. Cleland's gallant action is in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflects great credit upon himself, his unit and the United Sates Army."

How lucky for Cleland...

I know a lot of liberals are really mad at Ann Coulter, and there are organized movements on various blogs to harass her employers, advertisers who sponsor shows on which she appears, etc. They need to learn a little judo, you know? Your opponent is steaming full tilt, and you just move out of the way and let 'em go by (maybe with a little kick in the ass for extra momentum into that wall). Watch them flail and get a good laugh.

Really, it's all you can do, because they're not going to shut up (and we're not a bunch of fascists like many conservatives, trying to shout down dissent through threats or moving protesters to free-speech zones, etc.). And as I've always said, people like that make the case against conservatism very convincingly to a lot of Moron Americans, who sometimes will wake up enough to wonder why some blow-dried bitch is verbally smacking around an American hero.

In three years, the federal budget has gone from something like a $200 billion surplus to a $500 billion deficit. That $500 billion we're going into the hole each year costs every American an average of about $2,000. And that's not counting the interest we have to pay on it or the fact that the wealthy are paying a far smaller fraction or corporations have all their loopholes and offshore stuff set up, etc. You don't have to be a rude loudmouth to make the simple case, on issue after issue, that our country is suffering under the worst administration in American history.

Posted by Observer at 07:18 AM | Comments (1)

February 17, 2004

Bush Knew

An interesting article by William Rivers Pitt assembles the evidence that Bush had lots of warning and could have prevented the 9/11 tragedy. This is something the 9/11 commission is currently working on, despite stonewalling from the White House (Bush recently said he would testify before the committee, then just said he'd meet with them, then backed out altogether, and this is mostly Republicans). Given that Bush is running on the idea that his administration is the best qualified to protect us from another 9/11, this could turn into a monster issue if the report from the commission confirms much of what Pitt talks about (and if the media reports it front page for a few days, where it belongs).

As it is, Democrats aren't really bringing up the issue. They're too worried about being seen as conspiracy mongers, I guess, because the lazy corporate media would like nothing more than to pin an easy Dean-crazy label on another candidate to make their job easier and more fun. The most Democrats are doing is talking about how Bush isn't spending enough to protect our ports, etc (which is a legitimate issue, to be sure). But Pitt has some interesting quotes and analysis that argues we should look deeper:

Two words: 'Bush Knew.'

It is, frankly, amazing that this has fallen down the memory hole. Recall two headlines from that period. The first, from the UK Guardian on May 19, 2002, was titled "Bush Knew of Terrorist Plot to Hijack US Planes." The first three paragraphs of this story read:

"George Bush received specific warnings in the weeks before 11 September that an attack inside the United States was being planned by Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network, US government sources said yesterday. In a top-secret intelligence memo headlined 'Bin Laden determined to strike in the US', the President was told on 6 August that the Saudi-born terrorist hoped to 'bring the fight to America' in retaliation for missile strikes on al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan in 1998. Bush and his aides, who are facing withering criticism for failing to act on a series of warnings, have previously said intelligence experts had not advised them domestic targets were considered at risk. However, they have admitted they were specifically told that hijacks were being planned."

Another story on the topic came from The New York Times on May 15, 2002, and was titled "Bush Was Warned bin Laden Wanted to Hijack Planes."

Unlike the Guardian piece, the Times chose to lead the article with the Bush administration's cover story, one the administration has stuck with to this day:

"The White House said tonight that President Bush had been warned by American intelligence agencies in early August that Osama bin Laden was seeking to hijack aircraft but that the warnings did not contemplate the possibility that the hijackers would turn the planes into guided missiles for a terrorist attack. 'It is widely known that we had information that bin Laden wanted to attack the United States or United States interests abroad,' Ari Fleischer, the president's press secretary, said this evening. 'The president was also provided information about bin Laden wanting to engage in hijacking in the traditional pre-9/11 sense, not for the use of suicide bombing, not for the use of an airplane as a missile.'"

Yes, we were warned, said the Bush administration, but who could have conceived of terrorists using airplanes for suicide bombings? A lot of people, actually.

According to a Time magazine story that appeared on Jan. 2, 2004, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice is balking at requests to testify before Thomas Kean's 9/11 commission under oath. She also wants her testimony to be taken behind closed doors, and not in public. The crux of her hesitation would appear on the surface to be her comments of May 16 2002, in which she used the above-referenced excuse that no one "could have predicted that they would try to use a hijacked airplane as a missile." If that excuse is reflective of reality, why does she fear to testify under oath? [...]

In a late November truthout interview, former Clinton advisor Sidney Blumenthal said:

"Richard Clarke was Director of Counter-Terrorism in the National Security Council. He has since left. Clark urgently tried to draw the attention of the Bush administration to the threat of al Qaeda. Right at the present, the Bush administration is trying to withhold documents from the 9/11 bipartisan commission. I believe one of the things that they do not want to be known is what happened on August 6, 2001. It was on that day that George W. Bush received his last, and one of the few, briefings on terrorism. I believe he told Richard Clarke that he didn't want to be briefed on this again, even though Clarke was panicked about the alarms he was hearing regarding potential attacks. Bush was blithe, indifferent, ultimately irresponsible."

"The public has a right to know what happened on August 6," continued Blumenthal, "what Bush did, what Condi Rice did, what all the rest of them did, and what Richard Clarke's memos and statements were. Then the public will be able to judge exactly what this presidency has done."

George W. Bush is going to run in 2004 on the idea that his administration is the only one capable of protecting us from another attack like the ones which took place on 9/11. Yet the record to date is clear. Not only did they fail in spectacular fashion to deal with those first threats, not only has their reaction caused us to be less safe, not only have they failed to sufficiently bolster our defenses, but they used the aftermath of the attacks to ram through policies they couldn't have dreamed of achieving on September 10. It is one of the most remarkable turnabouts in American political history: Never before has an administration used so grisly a personal failure to such excellent effect.

Never mind the final insult: They received all these warnings and went on vacation for a month down in Texas. The August 6 briefing might as well have happened in a vacuum. September 11 could have and should have been prevented. Why? Because Bush knew.

This administration must not be allowed to ride their criminal negligence into a second term. Someone needs to say those two words. Loudly. After all, Bush has proven with Social Security and with 9/11 that third rails can be danced across. All it takes is a little boldness.

Kerry won't be able to raise this issue without being portrayed by the stupid media as crazy or desperate or whatever, but this election is going to be largely funded by independent groups outside of the campaigns. Maybe some group like ACT or MoveOn will bring it to everyone's attention and get the story going. It certainly should be an issue, I think, especially if "I'm a war president" Bush succeeds in making this whole election about the War on Terror.

Posted by Observer at 08:05 AM | Comments (0)

February 16, 2004

The Content of Our Character

Well, I may not think the whole Bush AWOL thing is a big deal, but Paul Krugman disagrees:

To understand why questions about George Bush's time in the National Guard are legitimate, all you have to do is look at the federal budget published last week. No, not the lies, damned lies and statistics — the pictures.

By my count, this year's budget contains 27 glossy photos of Mr. Bush. We see the president in front of a giant American flag, in front of the Washington Monument, comforting an elderly woman in a wheelchair, helping a small child with his reading assignment, building a trail through the wilderness and, of course, eating turkey with the troops in Iraq. Somehow the art director neglected to include a photo of the president swimming across the Yangtze River.

It was not ever thus. Bill Clinton's budgets were illustrated with tables and charts, not with worshipful photos of the president being presidential.

The issue here goes beyond using the Government Printing Office to publish campaign brochures. In this budget, as in almost everything it does, the Bush administration tries to blur the line between reverence for the office of president and reverence for the person who currently holds that office.

Operation Flight Suit was only slightly more over the top than other Bush photo-ops, like the carefully staged picture that placed Mr. Bush's head in line with the stone faces on Mount Rushmore. The goal is to suggest that it's unpatriotic to criticize the president, and to use his heroic image to block any substantive discussion of his policies.

In fact, those 27 photos grace one of the four most dishonest budgets in the nation's history — the other three are the budgets released in 2001, 2002 and 2003. Just to give you a taste: remember how last year's budget contained no money for postwar Iraq — and how administration officials waited until after the tax cut had been passed to mention the small matter of $87 billion in extra costs? Well, they've done it again: earlier this week the Army's chief of staff testified that the Iraq funds in the budget would cover expenses only through September.

But when administration officials are challenged about the blatant deceptions in their budgets — or, for that matter, about the use of prewar intelligence — their response, almost always, is to fall back on the president's character. How dare you question Mr. Bush's honesty, they ask, when he is a man of such unimpeachable integrity? And that leaves critics with no choice: they must point out that the man inside the flight suit bears little resemblance to the official image.

There is, as far as I can tell, no positive evidence that Mr. Bush is a man of exceptional uprightness. When has he even accepted responsibility for something that went wrong? On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence that he is willing to cut corners when it's to his personal advantage. His business career was full of questionable deals, and whatever the full truth about his National Guard service, it was certainly not glorious.

Old history, you may say, and irrelevant to the present. And perhaps that would be true if Mr. Bush was prepared to come clean about his past. Instead, he remains evasive. On "Meet the Press" he promised to release all his records — and promptly broke that promise.

I don't know what he's hiding. But I do think he has forfeited any right to cite his character to turn away charges that his administration is lying about its policies. And that is the point: Mr. Bush may not be a particularly bad man, but he isn't the paragon his handlers portray.

Some of his critics hope that the AWOL issue will demolish the Bush myth, all at once. They're probably too optimistic — if it were that easy, the tale of Harken Energy would have already done the trick. The sad truth is that people who have been taken in by a cult of personality — a group that in this case includes a good fraction of the American people, and a considerably higher fraction of the punditocracy — are very reluctant to give up their illusions. If nothing else, that would mean admitting that they had been played for fools.

Still, we may be on our way to an election in which Mr. Bush is judged on his record, not his legend. And that, of course, is what the White House fears.

If I start thinking that this coming election will be decided based on Bush's record as president rather than the usual nonsense (like hair style), someone slap me. You and I both know that the Moron American won't let that happen. I can't believe that I'm more cynical that Paul Krugman, but there you have it.

Posted by Observer at 07:06 AM | Comments (0)

February 15, 2004

ARod Moves On

Wow, a real shocker in the paper this morning. The Rangers unloaded Alex Rodriguez (ARod) on the Yanks, paying them about 1/3 of the remaining $180 million long-term commitment, and the Rangers got Yankee 2b Alfonso Soriano (who isn't too shabby, making "only" $5.4 million and sort of restricted from free agency for the next couple of years). So ends the melodrama of this entire offseason.

It began when the Rangers fired a clubhouse attendant who was ARod's best bud. It was one of many things getting under ARod's skin, so he apparently asked behind the scenes for the Rangers to try to work out a trade. They tried to, with Boston, but they couldn't make the money work. Boston fans must be sick about it now, knowing that the hated Yankees get ARod instead. When the trade fell through, the Rangers and ARod tried to publicly make nice, assigning the team captain role to ARod (after which both mutually made noises about ARod being a "Ranger for life", etc) and even rehiring ARod's best boy a week ago.

I have mixed feelings about the ARod deal. On the one hand, I guess given what other teams were willing to pay, Ranger owner (and conservative nutball, by the way) Tom Hicks screwed up. However, ARod *is* the best non-pitcher in baseball, not so much because of his hitting but because he plays the normally low-production position of shortstop well (if ARod were an outfielder, like say Barry Bonds, he would be just among the top 10 players, because good-hitting outfielders are a dime a dozen). He deserves to get paid accordingly if a team can afford it.

The nasty pill Ranger fans now have to swallow is that ARod's salary is not going to be replaced anytime soon. Hicks thinks the Rangers should be able to win the World Series with a Marlin-style $75 million payroll (instead of a Yankee-like $130-$150 million). Well, that might be true if we had a good baseball guy as owner or as General Manager, but the evidence so far is lacking. Keep in mind, of course, that the taxpayers are still paying for the stadium that supposedly brings in all this revenue to enable the Rangers to field an expensive team. What suckers.

Time to batten down the hatches for another long, dreary season. Did I mention that our most expensive player now is Chan Ho Park, making $13 million per season? It would be nice if watching baseball around here were fun.

Posted by Observer at 09:35 AM | Comments (9)

February 14, 2004

Snow Job

Well, for us down here in the South, an inch of snow is a Big Deal. We get snow maybe once a year if we're lucky. Last year, we had a three-day ice storm. This year, we woke up to about 3-4 inches of snow on the ground. Very pretty. The kids are going to have a blast in it today. It will be Daniel's first snow. A nice way to start Valentine's Day.

I guess the big political news for the past few weeks has been the Bush AWOL story. I've mentioned this issue briefly before. Places like Eschaton, CalPundit and The Daily Howler have been following the story closely as well as press coverage of the whole affair.

My gut reaction to this story is: yuck. I mean, I'll admit to a certain level of schadenfreude (joy at the sorrow of others) at seeing the Bushies squirm over something in the face of intense media scrutiny. It's also amazing to me that Bushco seems to be handling it in the most idiotic way possible, like they've learned nothing about how the media does scandals, when they've been so masterful at manipulating the media for the past three years. In a sense, it is about time. But if this was such a big deal to the media, why didn't they go after him in 2000, when it mattered a little bit? Why did they drop the ball on this? Were they too busy making up crap about Gore?

My guess is that the reason the media is going after this now is because it is a stepping stone to get at Bush's possible past cocaine use. There has always been a rumor floating around out there, but the media couldn't go with it because it wasn't solid enough (one guy who floated a book idea with that revelation was pretty thoroughly trashed for it and the whole thing went away like a dropped hot potato). I think some people smell a way to get Bush to release some info that he has been in rehab or ordered to do community service or something, some way to get confirmation, and they think that would be a big story.

Oh well, a much more significant feeling than schadenfreude is one of disgust at the media. What Bush did so long ago really doesn't matter to me. I don't need to know what he was like back then to know that he is abysmal president now. And that's the real story that the media continues to miss. Where is the drip, drip, drip scandal of the outrageous lies about the budget, about the war, about education (like the stupid No Child Left Behind debacle), about just about EVERYTHING else that is a lot more important the Bush's ancient history?

Here's a tip for any liberal feeling glee (or conservative feeling glum) over this whole AWOL business: The worm will turn. We all know it will. Something stupid about Kerry's past is going to come up, and the scandal machine wurlitzer is going to be pointed at him for a few weeks (at least). They're already trying to spread an affair story (it took about two days to get from some right-wing wacko web site, to the Drudge Report, to Fox News, to Don Imus, and finally to the mainstream media), and even the New York Times printed a fake picture of Kerry sitting next to Jane Fonda (nice fact-checking, guys!) 30 years ago. In the end, the Moron American vote is going to be decided not on the issues but on the stupid little personal scandal crap that the media covers wall-to-wall. THAT is the real scandal.

I say turn the goddamn feeding frenzy off and talk about the deficit, the stupid war, stupid taxation policies, stupid judges being appointed, whatever. Some commenter on CalPundit put my feelings best: I want to see Bush voted out of office because he's the worst president in history, not because he snorted a line of coke 30 years ago.

I'm not saying Kerry is going to be great. I really don't know him yet. But right now, anything is better than this horrible mess of an administration.

Posted by Observer at 07:53 AM | Comments (1)

February 13, 2004

Weak Interactions

Work-sensitive enough that I decided to delete it. Sorry.

Posted by Observer at 06:55 AM | Comments (5)

February 12, 2004

Blogoversary

Today marks the first birthday of this blog. I thought I would celebrate by pulling together links and brief descriptions of my notable/favorite/memorable entries (out of about 500 total entries) from the past year. Took a while to make this list, which is in chronological order. It's probably too long to go through all 60-something entries, but then again, I never said I was writing this blog for anyone else but me. And I never claimed to be a good editor. :)

Reality Check -- This one is my second post and my first comment on the whole Iraq mess, from February 2002, several weeks before we invaded. I think it stands up to the test of time quite well, thanks!

I'm ambivalent about it. I doubt we'd get anywhere without a credible threat of force, and I would very much like to see Saddam out. HOWEVER, I think the idea that he will be replaced by some kind of representative democracy in a region sorely lacking in that tradition ... that is a fantasy.

I think we'll get a replacement who is just as bad, or possibly worse considering that Saddam represents the (generally) corrupt faction of Muslims instead of the fanatic-great-satan-kill-America faction (like Iran), which is the majority of Iraq's population. The alternative is that we stay there long enough to completely change the culture of the country, and I mean stay there in force, effectively becoming the entire governmental apparatus. And we simply don't do that.

Advice for Undergraduates -- The canonical list of things every student ought to know. Yes, the professor notices you talking.

Cargo Cult Science -- This is where I compared the methodology of the Bush administration with the Cargo Cults of the Pacific Islanders, thanks to some help from Richard Feynman. Bush claimed that his tax cuts would promote economic and job growth, and economists claimed otherwise. To this point, given that Bush is due to preside over the first administration since Hoover's disastrous Depression-era government to suffer a net job loss in the economy, I'd say the economists were right.

Used Card Salesmen -- My first entry about Yu-Gi-Oh, back in March 2003. I worried in this entry about a friend of C*dy's making unfair trades for C*dy's cards. C*dy and J*stin had gotten cards for Christmas, but they hadn't figured out how to play. S*rah hadn't even gotten cards by this time, so the cards were just sitting in the closet. Ah, how things have changed...

It's a Boy! -- March 6, 2003 was the date we had our first ultrasound and determined the sex of the baby who would later be born as our son Daniel.

Been There, Done That -- The story of our fun Sea World trip during Spring Break. That's the day I hit 15 out of 15 whack-a-moles to return the favor to a parent who ripped off my kids by jumping in late on a game that only kids were playing.

Mathemagic with Sarah -- Sarah changes her favorite number from 3 to 1.

The Big Chair -- After this post about how much Cody is reading lately, Humbaba gave me the mental kick in the butt I needed to go get us all library cards. We've been virtually every weekend since.

Disc Golf Primer -- As a public service for Polerand, I explained the ins and outs of Disc Golf to the masses.

There's No Lying in Baseball -- Work-sensitive enough that I decided to delete it. Sorry.

It's Early -- The Rangers won their first game of the season, so I had some hope about their chances in the 2003 season. That was March 31.

It's Over -- The first pitching performance of Chan Ho Park in the 2003 season and also the day I give up all hope for a good Rangers season. I declared that the half life of my interest in the Rangers was equivalent to the time between Chan Ho Park starts a few days later. That was April 2.

Dr. Big Mean Bully -- Work-sensitive enough that I decided to delete it. Sorry.

Love Story -- I posted a long excerpt from "Microserfs" about an internet love story that captures many of the emotions I felt during the time my wife and I were getting to know each other.

A Good Week -- This is when we decided to get all three kids new bikes for Easter, you know, so they could ride around on their own in the park down by the elementary school several houses away. Ah, if only we had known...

Suckered In -- I start playing Yu-Gi-Oh with the kids so that we could all learn the rules properly and to give us all something to do together. Oh dear.

Busted -- From May 5, 2003. We busted the boys riding their bikes where they weren't supposed to, so we took the bikes away for a while, figuring they would learn their lesson about misbehaving when we give them some freedom. Ha. Meanwhile, by this time, the Yu-Gi-Oh virus was rampant in the house.

The Great Outdoors -- I take C*dy and J*stin camping (sort of) at the grandparents' deer hunting cabin.

Me <== Sucker -- I bought my first Yu-Gi-Oh cards (prior to this, I had been borrowing the one kid's deck to duel with another).

Dueling Yu-Gi-Oh's -- I ordered the first boxes full of booster packs for Yu-Gi-Oh and set the kids to work earning them.

Minivan Shopping -- We began shopping for a minivan here, and we eventually settled on a white 2001 Honda Odyssey that we're very happy with.

Adventures in Obstetrics -- At 32 weeks in late May 2003, Michelle had an OB/Gyn appointment, where they discovered she was having contractions that she couldn't fell. C*dy was with us for the day-long adventure as he suffered his first ever suspension from school for wrestling with some little kid in the bathroom (we still don't know the full story on that from him).

Business as Usual -- I tried to act surprised when I discovered that Republicans in power had abused the Patriot Act and the new Department of Homeland Security to track down renegade Democrats who had fled Texas to try to forestall redistricting. 8 months later, an internal investigation by John Ashcroft found absolutely zero abuses of authority by the people conducting the internal investigation of themselves. A real stunner.

Birthday List -- May 27, 2003, my 35th birthday, and I realized that I don't need a list because I have everything I want.

Broken Spirits -- The boys ride their bikes down to the park and proceed to vandalize the local school (probably C*dy was the leader because he was angry at getting suspended and for all the homework he had to do, which was a huge change from Canada) to the tune of $4,224. Their summer of hell thus began and we figured out how to cope financially.

Halfway Home -- Halfway through the summer, and my sweetie is ready to pop with that big baby in her! Meanwhile, C*dy broke his two front teeth playing with a small folding kiddie chair in his room and had to have them partially reconstructed.

Baby Story -- Our son, Daniel, is born.

Let's Make It Interesting -- From August 2003. I introduce the idea of betting into our nightly Yu-Gi-Oh duels. If they win, they get free cards from a box of randomly selected cards. If I win, they have to call me "Dad" until the next duel. It stuck, so they all call me "Dad" now.

The Flop, The Turn and the River -- I learned about No-Limit Texas Hold 'Em from a book, and months later, the boys and I are playing nightly for fun. The "buy in" is a "poker chore", so now we are starting to get a lot of free chores done around the house.

Alternative Lifestyles -- The boys' first days in Alternative School, part of the district-mandated punishment for their vandalism back in May.

Farewell, Puddleby -- I say goodbye to Clan Lord.

Rules of the Game -- In response to various reviews about liberal books by Franken and Conason, I wrote probably my longest exposition to date on the evidence against the liberal media bias myth.

Stupid Conservative Myth #1 -- I begin my series in response to the idiotic crap posted by a conservative troll in another blog. These efforts would eventually result in death threats being made against me, *VERY* classy threats against my wife involving her abusive ex and other melodrama. But the bottom line is that when the troll had the chance to defend his ideas, he ran like the moral coward he proved to be. He has since given up blogging, hopefully only temporarily since he really did a good job of making the case against conservatism just based on his own idiocy. Oh well, don't let the door hit you on the ass on the way out, big guy.

Supply Side Jesus -- This was one of the funniest satirical cartoons I've seen in a long time, from Al Franken, called "The Gospel of Supply Side Jesus."

Sad. Funny. Typical. -- My pet conservative troll ponders, "It's interesting how liberals will screech about the first amendment, but then virtually attack someone who exercises it, if they're not espousing liberal crap." He then proceeds to ask my host to shut down my blog, followed by the issuance of various pathetic death threats (it probably didn't help his mental state when I defended my beliefs over on Chuck's blog).

Seasons in Hell -- Some very funny quotes from the 1970's Rangers era.

Stupid Conservative Myth #5 -- My lengthy exposition on global warming, a post (along with it's follow-up companion about fossil fuel alternatives) that I submitted as one of my best when my blog was nominated for best new blog in a contest I had zero chance of winning (I appreciate the sentiment, but I am so not worthy).

Fun with Cards -- September 2003. I get two more boxes of cards in the mail (well on my way to a year of spending probably more than $1000 on Yu-Gi-Oh cards for myself and the three kids, including Xmas presents and the like). I had a good time surprising the kids with them, and they started working their butts off to earn the money to buy the packs.

Pass the Effing Popcorn -- The Valerie Plame stonewall begins, leading to one of the funniest excerpts from another blog that I posted all year, conservative Gollum comments on the tricksy libruhls who make our brainses feel all swirly and bad.

Why Bother? -- October 2003, and we move our blogs to a new host. Meanwhile, our pet troll continues to threaten, deny, vaguely apologize, lie and otherwise express the unstable behavior that helps us better understand the roots of his conservative ideals.

Stupid Conservative Myth #7 -- My post about capital punishment and abortion generates a set of the most impressive and thoughtful comments of perhaps any other entry all year.

Conservative Talking Points -- Conservative lines of argument in defense of the proposition that 2 - 1 = 4.

Hoist by His Own Petard -- Rush Limbaugh is busted for prescription drug abuse, and I explain the origin of a popular phrase that typically applies to conservatives.

Stupid Conservative Myth #8 -- Some thoughts on Wal-Mart and the community along with a collection of very interesting comments from readers.

Tax Cut Math -- A revealing excerpt from Franken's book that shows why the Bush "tax cuts" are actually gigantic burdens on the lower class, not to mention an enormous burden to our kids who have to pay off the monstrous debt we are racking up (and this was 4 months ago, before the $87 billion more to Iraq, the drug-company money giveaway worth, at latest estimate, about half a trillion, the budget deficit projected at about half a trillion, etc).

WWRD? -- An excellent newspaper column explores how Rush would react if it were Bill Clinton with the drug abuse problem.

Lecture Fun -- Work-sensitive enough that I decided to delete it. Sorry.

Round and Round -- My Dad takes J*stin, C*dy and me to our very first car race along with about 80,000 of our closest redneck friends.

Run, Forrest, Run! -- Justin wins his first medal at a track meet. And there was much rejoicing.

Lecture-Head -- S*rah gets her first boyfriend, and she calls me Lecture-Head.

Girls Gone Wild -- Work-sensitive enough that I decided to delete it. Sorry.

Candy Time -- Halloween adventures.

Energy Bill = Bullshit Squared -- A massive energy bill works its way through Congress and represents a convenient summary of all the major problems I have with this administration.

Counting My Blessings -- Thanksgiving 2003 gives me the opportunity to recount all of the wonderful things in my life.

He Doesn't Know She's His Sister? -- S*rah gets hooked on the whole Star Wars saga.

Sim Nerd -- PvP Online begins a very funny series in which a gaming company playtests a new system in which they role-play gamers.

Carpet Datum -- December 12, 2003, and we get new carpet installed in the house.

Lessons from the War -- Lessons we didn't learn from Vietnam, because we're doing the same sort of nonsense in Iraq.

Foul Language -- Sarah learns how to swear the Bart Simpson way without getting into trouble, sort of.

Cowboys Rising -- A very promising Cowboys season ends with a playoff loss in the first round to eventual Super Bowl bound Carolina.

Anniversary -- Michelle and I celebrate our second wedding anniversary together.

Tournament Report - Part 1 and Part 2 -- The very, very long story of our weekend adventure at our first ever Yu-Gi-Oh mall tournament in which the boys and I all walked away with our heads held high and our nifty red lanyards!

Posted by Observer at 06:59 AM | Comments (1)

February 11, 2004

Failing Upwards

Two excellent articles in the latest New York Review of Books are not to be missed. First is an effort by Paul Krugman on the Bush family political scene, as described by two recent books by Kevin Phillips and Ron Suskind. The usual great stuff. Second is an article by Michael Massing on the media's performance before and after the Iraq war regarding WMD claims. Those who still believe in the liberal media will be surprised to see papers like the New York Times banging war drums the loudest with front-page articles that later turned out to be completely bogus (aluminum tubes, anyone?).

As for Bush himself, Josh Marshall recently summed up my feelings about the deficit and Bush when he said:

Given the president's record as a businessman, and since he's now run the country hopelessly into debt, isn't it about time he sells the country off to some rich friends who will swallow the loss so he can move on to greener pastures?

A busy week continues as today I give two exams. For my survey course, enrollment is down this term because the department is trying very hard to improve the student/teacher ratio across the board (by cutting out a few upper division/graduate level classes with 3-4 students and putting faculty into the introductory survey course with smaller enrollment limits, 7x60 instead of 4x105, that sort of thing). It's just a temporary band-aid to look good on some report, I think. I'll no doubt be back to the usual 200 students next Fall, but for now, I have about 120, and it is a small enough group that I'm trying an essay exam, the kind I used to give until a couple of years ago (when big enrollments forced me to give in to multiple choice). It means the exam is a *lot* easier to write, but it also takes a lot longer to grade.

Posted by Observer at 06:53 AM | Comments (1)

February 10, 2004

Beware! I Live!

I stumbled across "Midway Arcade Treasures" for the GameCube last night while attempting to pre-order "Pokemon Colosseum" for the kids. Wow, for only twenty bucks, I get to play a lot of the games that populated the arcade that I worked at when I was a teenager. I blew off student emails for an hour so I could try out Sinistar, Super Sprint and Robotron, and they were great.

Some of these are available through MAME emulators, but they aren't playable on a PC/Mac (usually) unless you buy a joystick or other appopriate controller. On the GameCube, the controller is versatile enough that it works for all the games (except no steering wheel made Super Sprint very difficult to relearn).

I hope some other manufacturers start doing the same thing soon. This disc has some other favorites I haven't tried yet, like Defender, Gauntlet, Joust, Marble Madness and SpyHunter, but I would love to get a decent Darius emulator for the GameCube, among many others. Unfortunately for me, it is the first exam week of the semester, so free time is short.

Posted by Observer at 06:53 AM | Comments (2)

February 09, 2004

Crossing the Line

The Sideshow and So Far, So Left point to this fascinating excerpt from The American Prospect about Republican election tactics in Philadelphia a few months ago. I'm pretty cynical about right-wing nutballs, despite having received death threats myself from one of the more pathetic of their lot, but this shocked even me:

Voter registration and identification weren't the only mobilization programs that occupied the Republicans in 2003, however. They were involved in a major voter-intimidation program as well. The battleground on which they tested their latest tactics was the Philadelphia mayor's race, where the campaign of the Republican challenger, Sam Katz, grew extremely nervous at the success the Democrats had had at registering minority voters. The Republican response was an attempt to scare black and Hispanic voters away from the polls -- not a new trick in the Republican playbook by any means, but one that the DNC had better be studying and preparing to confront this November.

To begin, according to Democratic consultant Tom Lindenfeld, who ran the counter-intimidation program for the campaign of Democrat John Street, the Republicans assembled a fleet of 300 cars driven by men with clipboards bearing insignias or decals resembling those of such federal agencies as Drug Enforcement Agency and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Thus arrayed, says Lindenfeld, these pseudo-cops spent election day cruising Philadelphia's African American neighborhoods and asking prospective voters to show them some identification -- an age-old method of voter intimidation.

"What occurred in Philadelphia was much more expansive and expensive than anything I'd seen before, and I'd seen a lot," says Lindenfeld, who ran similar programs for the campaigns of Harvey Gantt in North Carolina and other prominent Democrats. In a post-election poll of 1,000 black voters, 7 percent of them said they had encountered these efforts (this being Philadelphia, there were allegations of violence and intimidation against Street supporters as well). Lindenfeld employed 800 people to confront the GOP's faux-agents at polling places.

Lindenfeld's operatives found Republican volunteers from as far away as Missouri, and attorneys from the District of Columbia were discouraging Philadelphia voters from exercising their franchise. That doesn't make the effort an official activity of the RNC, of course. But it does mean that a broad network of Republicans are still honing their techniques for manipulating an election.

Holy crap. This is happening in America? In 2003? This sounds like the kind of crap you'd see in a Hollywood movie depicting the 50's, and you'd say, "Oh good grief, that's so manipulative of the director to show people acting so evil on such a large scale. There's no way that could've happened. They're just trying to play to the audience's sympathies." But THIS REALLY HAPPENED. This isn't some "pox on both houses" moment. I mean, this is racist to the extreme, and it crosses the line of typical partisan behavior. And it is going to happen again with the blessing and knowledge of the Bush administration.

I guess Republicans were right all along about having moral clarity. They just didn't let us in on what they considered to be moral behavior.

Posted by Observer at 06:43 AM | Comments (0)

February 08, 2004

Swept Under the Rug

Buried deep inside the Washington Post, it seems that someone, at least, is doing some reporting. Before the war, conservatives and Bushco were ALL OVER the intelligence community and the CIA specifically, saying they were understating the threat that Saddam represented to America. It got so far that Rumsfeld and one of his flunkies, Douglas Feith, set up a parallel intelligence/analysis operation out of the Office of Special Projects (under Rumsfeld's authority as Secretary of Defense and Cheney's as Vice President).

That was then. This is now. The war was pretty much the big screwup that us liberals (mostly) predicted, and the president who promised to bring honor and integrity back to the White House, the president who talked so much about personal responsibility and leadership is looking for someone to blame. So NOW it seems that it is the CIA's fault for overstating the threat, tricking everyone into thinking we had to invade! Much of the media is pretty much reporting what the administration claims, burying reality past the 25th paragraph on page 17, if that is reported at all. But here and there, you have your buried stories like this one:

In its fall 2002 campaign to win congressional support for a war against Iraq, President Bush and his top advisers ignored many of the caveats and qualifiers included in the classified report on Saddam Hussein's weapons that CIA Director George J. Tenet defended Thursday. [...]

For example, when Bush on Sept. 24, 2002, repeated the British claim that Iraq's chemical weapons could be activated within 45 minutes, he ignored the fact that U.S. intelligence mistrusted the source and that the claim never appeared in the October 2002 U.S. estimate.

On Aug. 26, 2002, Cheney said: "Many of us are convinced that Saddam will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon." The estimate, several weeks later, would say it would take as many as five years, unless Baghdad immediately obtained weapons-grade materials.

In the same speech, Cheney raised the specter that Hussein would give chemical or biological weapons to terrorists, a prospect invoked often in the weeks to come. "Deliverable weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a terror network, or a murderous dictator, or the two working together, constitute as grave a threat as can be imagined," Cheney said.

It would be more than a month later that a declassified portion of the NIE would show that U.S. intelligence analysts had forecast that Hussein would give such weapons to terrorists only if Iraq were invaded and he faced annihilation.

"The probability of him initiating an attack . . . in the foreseeable future . . . I think would be low," a senior CIA official told the Senate intelligence committee during a classified briefing on the estimate on Oct. 2, 2002. The CIA released a partial transcript five days later after committee Democrats complained that a published "white paper" on Iraq's weapons had not given the public a fair reading of what the classified NIE contained.

On Sept. 8, 2002, Cheney said of Hussein on NBC's "Meet the Press": "We do know, with absolute certainty, that he is using his procurement system to acquire the equipment he needs in order to enrich uranium to build a nuclear weapon." [...]

On Sept. 19, 2002, Rumsfeld, speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee, said: "No terrorist state poses a greater or more immediate threat to the security of our people than the regime of Saddam Hussein and Iraq." The October estimate contained no similar language.

I'm sure it is only a matter of time before we'll be told we're just big crybabies, that we should forget about it and move forward, just like with Florida. Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it, and for the last three years, that's about the size of things. Bushco tells a big lie (Healthy Forests, Deficit Reduction, Clear Skies, WMD in Iraq, Tax Cuts, Wanting to Get to the Bottom of the Plame Scandal, 9/11 Commission, etc., etc.) and pretty much brazens their way through it because the media is too afraid to bore everyone with the details or too afraid of bias accusations or offending corporate owners or whatever. Is he going to get away with this one, too?

(Thanks to Atrios for the link.)

Oh yeah, and did anyone catch the news that Pakistan has now basically admitted to the very thing we were so scared Saddam would do ... giving away nuclear secrets, etc. to other evil countries. The White House response is a collective shrug, because they know we need their help against other enemies. This kind of moral clarity must surely be making all the right-wing American nutballs so proud of their leaders.

Posted by Observer at 07:39 AM | Comments (0)

February 07, 2004

Did I Say "Attacked"?

Catching up on "The Daily Show" lately, I saw a very funny summary of Paul Wolfowitz's visit to Iraq. Wolfowitz was one of the chief policy makers behind the decision to push for war, and he remains unapologetic and pretty much out of touch with reality. While there he said, "The more successful we are, the more we can expect them to go after those things that represent success".

Stewart responded, "Apparently the best way to measure our accomplishments is to witness the destruction of our accomplishments. Those terrorists falling right into our trap! Our logic trap!"

Wolfowitz later said, "It's pretty hard to visit a division around here on a day when they are not attacked."

Stewart continued for Wolfowitz "Did I say 'attacked'? I meant 'having their success confirmed.'"

Elsewhere on TV, Presidest Bush is apparently going to appear on "Meet the Press" for a one hour taped interview on Sunday. Brad DeLong has a very good list of questions that should be asked (and good comments on this post, too), but most of us over on the left don't have much hope. The conventional wisdom where we're coming from is that Tim Russert (aka "Pumpkinhead") will throw a bunch of softballs, Bush will stumble anyway but still "outperform expectations," and then a few months later there will be a minor scandal as it comes out that Russert's questions were actually written by the White House staff, etc.

After all, this is the same interviewer who gave a free pass to the author of the outlandish right-wing book "Bias" ... see The Howler and search for Goldberg if you want to see how. I don't plan to watch it, but if anything substantive comes out of it, it'll be a pleasant surprise and I'll read the transcript.

Posted by Observer at 07:44 AM | Comments (2)

February 06, 2004

Saboga--;

I watched two seasons of Survivor. I was totally hooked on the first season on Borneo, the one Richard Hatch won. I followed every twist and turn and even bought the book afterwards. Then I watched the Australian Outback version, and I liked that pretty well. When they decided to go to a third season, I just didn't have the energy to follow it. I did perk up a little when I happened to catch the episode in which Johnny Fairplay tricked the rest of the people into thinking his grandmother had died, but I didn't watch much after that.

Well, with some of my old favorites back, I decided to take the bait and follow Survivor All-Stars. So far, I haven't been too disappointed. I really like the idea of three tribes instead of two so that when tribes merge, it isn't so automatic that the bigger tribe will slowly pick off the smaller tribe. Makes for a very boring midway slump when you know who's gone early on. I also like the fact that they are allowing comments on camera about previous Survivor seasons and players, allowing the "outside the box" commentary, as other fans have mentioned.

I can see now why there was so much talk about everyone loving Rupert last season. He's a really lovable guy, reminds me of a guy I used to work with back when I was in grad school. I'm also laughing out loud at just about everything Richard Hatch does. Everytime he's on screen, just about, they've got him all blurry-blocked because he's stark naked. I doubt he'll go far, but so far, he's the best thing on the show.

I was sorry to see Tina and Rudy get voted off the first two weeks. Rudy getting voted off was understandable, given that he looked dead on his feet after just four days, but I would still rather have seen Jenna get a nasty surprise. She's really cocky, and I haven't liked her since season 1 when she was a big crybaby. I imagine that's just the editing making her unsympathetic, but oh well. Rudy made me crack up at the end when he got all mad about getting voted off. Of course, it is *completely* unforgiveable that these people went back a second time for Survivor and *still* didn't know how to make fire.

Lots of good characters, and it should be fun to follow. We're following American Idol again, too (using the VCR a lot so that we can fit all this TV into our schedules ... it isn't easy watching more than a couple of hours a week when we have so many other priorities). So far, maybe again it is just the editing, but I am spectacularly unimpressed with the Idol field. I haven't seen anyone who I've thought consistently was really good.

Next week, the Idols will start butchering all of my favorite songs in earnest. I just hope the bad ones stay well clear of 80's stuff, which is my favorite. I still remember how one of them ran over "Against All Odds" last year and then backed up and ran over it again. Still gives me chills, remembering such a great song getting ruined. I had to really grimace this past week hearing "Up on the Roof" get abused by so many horrible trios. The Nylons sang the best version I know of. Some songs and some versions should just be allowed to rest, because they are as close to the Platonic ideal as they're going to get.

Posted by Observer at 07:01 AM | Comments (5)

February 05, 2004

Milestones

Well, that does it for the main part of my "Stupid Conservative Myths" series. I've celebrated plowing through the original 20 myths by reposting links to each myth in my sidebar. As new myths surface, I'll deal with them and add them to the continuing series. I had to replace one of the myths (original #20) with a more current myth (new #19) because the original myth was kind of repeated in the list of 20. Thus, the original #19 ended up as my #20, dealing with the Establishment Clause.

When I originally decided to start this series, it was promised that I would eventually be overwhelmed and inundated with substance from the troll who put the list on his own blog. While I never got a single iota of substantive information from the troll, not even a small little attempt to debate a single point of mine (unlike some of my other readers who brought up good points often), I did get my first public death threat. My free-speech-loving troll even tried his best to shut my blog down. All along, troll-boy spoke more eloquently against his own stupid conservative beliefs than I ever could and so did us all a service.

Another milestone is on the horizon as my blog approaches its first anniversary. On February 12, I'll post links and short summaries of my favorite or most significant (in terms of events described) posts of the year. Amazingly, I haven't missed a day of blogging since I began, even when we went to Sea World and had a baby! Actually, that's kinda sad. Heh.

Posted by Observer at 11:49 AM | Comments (1)

Stupid Conservative Myth #20

Here's another fun one from your friends, the barking idiots on the right:

Liberals believe that homosexual parades displaying drag, transvestites and bestiality should be constitutionally protected and manger scenes at Christmas should be illegal.

For the first part, I have to say that I have yet to see a parade the celebrates bestiality or liberals who support such parades, so I can't speak to that part of it. Sounds like bullshit to me.

If people want to dress in drag or cross-dress, why the hell is it the government's business? Just another manifestation of the Church Lady Conservative, trying to stick her nose where it doesn't belong. As for manger scenes at Christmas (on public grounds) and the like ... well, that gets into the Establishment Clause. So this is actually one of the myths about liberals that has a ring of truth to it (a truth liberals should be proud of), though it is worded poorly.

In a way, this is a depressing post as I write it. It recollects some of the research I once did regarding the Establishment Clause. Supreme Court decisions (searchable at findlaw.com) are usually masterfully and persuasively written (for both sides, when there is a dissenting opinion), and they often represent the pinnacle of reasoned debate, which is sorely lacking in today's political discourse thanks largely to stupid, talk-radio, know-nothing conservatives and the media outlets and pundits who pander to their ilk.

I've always believed that this sort of debate is necessary in a Democracy. It strengthens us. It exposes us to new ideas and offers the possibility of changing long-held, damaging beliefs. Just as debate and philosophy constantly hone science into a sharper and more effective tool, so it does with government, when it is used properly.

The reason this subject is worth revisiting for me is that I really learned something neat by going through this Supreme Court decision, something about the law and the history of our country that I didn't already understand and appreciate. The reason it is depressing is because the infamous "Bush v Gore" decision of the Rehnquist court in 2000 made it all too clear that the conservatives on this court don't really care about logic and reason when the chips are down.

It's all just words used to gain their political ends, and so they are no better than the political hacks they installed into the White House in their damaging, unprecedented ruling. And so now every time I look at a Supreme Court opinion, especially one that involves one of the parties to "Bush v Gore" like Scalia, I can't help but wonder just how sincere the logic is on that side of the ledger and how much of the argument is driven by simple partisanship.

Anyway, on to the issue at hand, which is the Establishment Clause. The Establishment Clause (EC hereafter) is part of the First Amendment to the Constitution (in the part popularly known as the "Bill of Rights"), and it reads "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." A recent case involving prayer services at a high school graduation ceremony brought a lot of EC-related issues to light, and so I would like to briefly summarize and talk about it.

In the minority opinion, Scalia et al argue that prayer at a graduation ceremony is not in conflict with the EC because:

1) There are prayers at presidential inaugurations, public addresses, sessions of Congress, etc. Why not graduations? The majority argued that it's an apples/oranges comparison and referenced other cases in which Scalia's examples were addressed.

2) Participation is not obligatory or coerced in any way. Students are free to go or not go, pray or not pray. Probably the most debatable point here. Just how obligatory is attendance at a high school graduation? And once present, how much coercion is involved in a religious invocation during which everyone is encouraged to stand up and join in?

3) You could argue that there is equal obligation or coercion involved with the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, which includes "under God", and so if one is allowed, why not the other? I thought it was funny here to see conservatives using the "slippery slope" argument to their own benefit. After all, the words "under God" should've never been allowed into the pledge in the first place. It's an artifact from the 1950's, and I'm not sure it has ever been tested constitutionally until recently.

4) It wasn't the principal or any other state-employed official leading the prayer but instead a religious person invited by the principal, so there was no direct involvement of the state with the religious nature of the ceremony.

To this last point, a stipulated fact of this particular case was that "Principal Lee invited Rabbi Gutterman, provided him a two-page pamphlet, prepared by the National Conference of Christians and Jews, giving general advice on inclusive prayer for civic occasions, and advised him that his prayers at graduation should be nonsectarian." Sounds like "direct involvement of the state" to me.

Anyway, the majority's decision largely revolves around what is called the "Lemon test", which is based on a 1971 case "Lemon v. Kurtzman" in which some basic standards were set by the justices. According to these standards, the EC is not violated (so the act is ok under the constitution) when a governmental practice:

(1) reflects a clearly secular purpose;

(2) has a primary effect that neither advances nor inhibits religion; and

(3) avoids excessive government entanglement with religion.

Essentially, the Lemon test is violated whenever government action "creates an identification of the state with a religion, or with religion in general' or when 'the effect of the governmental action is to endorse one religion over another, or to endorse religion in general.'". Clearly, the majority argued, the Lemon test was violated here.

Looking further into the background of the EC brings some interesting surprises for me. For example, did you know that the founding fathers (such as James Madison, cited in the opinion, or Thomas Jefferson, whose historical importance I am sure liberals and conservatives can agree upon) primarily put the EC into the Bill of Rights as a way of protecting religion from governmental interference and not the other way around, as is popularly perceived?

Their wariness came from their experiences with the Church of England, a religion of convenience established by Henry VIII during his famous feud with the Catholic Church. People latched onto this religion at the expense of more "pure" expressions of religion, and the founding fathers worried that any kind of milquetoast "civic religion" would inevitably weaken other religions and thus threaten religious liberty. You can find out a lot more about the founding fathers thoughts on church and state here.

As the justices put it in their majority opinion:

In  the hands of government, what might begin as a tolerant expression of religious views may end in a policy to indoctrinate and coerce. A state-created orthodoxy puts at grave risk that freedom of belief and conscience which are the sole assurance that religious faith is real, not imposed.

And in schools, the danger is worse:

What to most believers may seem nothing more than a reasonable request that the nonbeliever respect their religious practices, in a school context may appear to the nonbeliever or dissenter to be an attempt to employ the machinery of the State to enforce a religious orthodoxy.

Of course, the worst-case scenario is what we've seen lately, in which the government is trying to endorse not a civic religion but a particular brand of fundamentalist Christianity. Imagine if you lived in Iran and openly practiced Baptism. You walk into a courtroom filled with Islamic symbols, recite a Muslim prayer before the trial, swear on the Koran, pledge allegiance to Allah, etc. How would you feel about your shot at a fair trial? The whole point of America is that we're *not* like that. Why can't stupid conservatives understand this simple truth?

I always get a good laugh when conservatives try to play the religious persecution card because of the EC. Conservatives, who absolutely ridicule any liberal who plays the victim card, are extremely quick to cry for help on religion. Oh, those nutty conservatives, they control all three branches of government, but they are scared that some liberal is going to throw them in jail just for saying "God" out loud or something.

Not only does this reflect a deeply ignorant and fundamentally wrong interpretation of the EC, but the sad irony is that the purpose of the EC is to protect the sanctity of their religion and their beliefs. Poor conservatives. They're too stupid to support the part of the constitution that protects what they claim to love the most. You just can't win with these idiots.

Posted by Observer at 07:01 AM | Comments (0)

February 04, 2004

The Bush Doctrine

From The Horse, who doesn't update nearly as often as he should, dammit, we have the Bush Doctrine v6.0:

Preemptive invasion of nuclear-armed armed unarmed third world countries that will could "would love to" attack the US immediately soon, with nuclear weapons with bio or chem WMD if only they were armed.


Posted by Observer at 04:31 PM | Comments (0)

Rules of Engagement

Ken Roth of Human Rights Watch has written an excellent and timely essay on the Iraq war and on humanitarian interventions in general. It is quite long, maybe a 15-20 minute read, but it is worth it if you want to seriously consider whether the invasion of Iraq was justified based on humanitarian concerns (short answer: it wasn't). The basic issues are as follows:

In our view, as a threshold matter, humanitarian intervention that occurs without the consent of the relevant government can be justified only in the face of ongoing or imminent genocide, or comparable mass slaughter or loss of life. To state the obvious, war is dangerous. In theory it can be surgical, but the reality is often highly destructive, with a risk of enormous bloodshed. Only large-scale murder, we believe, can justify the death, destruction, and disorder that so often are inherent in war and its aftermath. Other forms of tyranny are deplorable and worth working intensively to end, but they do not in our view rise to the level that would justify the extraordinary response of military force. Only mass slaughter might permit the deliberate taking of life involved in using military force for humanitarian purposes.

In addition, the capacity to use military force is finite. Encouraging military action to meet lesser abuses may mean a lack of capacity to intervene when atrocities are most severe. The invasion of a country, especially without the approval of the U.N. Security Council, also damages the international legal order which itself is important to protect rights. For these reasons, we believe that humanitarian intervention should be reserved for situations involving mass killing.

We understand that “mass” killing is a subjective term, allowing for varying interpretations, and we do not propose a single quantitative measure. We also recognize that the level of killing that we as a human rights organization would see as justifying humanitarian intervention might well be different from the level that a government might set. However, in either circumstance, because of the substantial risks inherent in the use of military force, humanitarian intervention should be exceptional—reserved for the most dire circumstances.

If this high threshold is met, we then look to five other factors to determine whether the use of military force can be characterized as humanitarian. First, military action must be the last reasonable option to halt or prevent slaughter; military force should not be used for humanitarian purposes if effective alternatives are available. Second, the intervention must be guided primarily by a humanitarian purpose; we do not expect purity of motive, but humanitarianism should be the dominant reason for military action. Third, every effort should be made to ensure that the means used to intervene themselves respect international human rights and humanitarian law; we do not subscribe to the view that some abuses can be countenanced in the name of stopping others. Fourth, it must be reasonably likely that military action will do more good than harm; humanitarian intervention should not be tried if it seems likely to produce a wider conflagration or significantly more suffering. Finally, we prefer endorsement of humanitarian intervention by the U.N. Security Council or other bodies with significant multilateral authority. However, in light of the imperfect nature of international governance today, we would not require multilateral approval in an emergency context.

Interestingly, the article also notes a couple of arguments that people like me have made about the war aren't really relevant to this issue:

Before applying these criteria to Iraq, it is worth noting two factors that we do not consider relevant in assessing whether an intervention can be justified as humanitarian. First, we are aware of, but reject, the argument that humanitarian intervention cannot be justified if other equally or more needy places are ignored. [...]

Second, we are aware of, but reject, the argument that past U.S. complicity in Iraqi repression should preclude U.S. intervention in Iraq on humanitarian grounds.

To be fair, I have made these points not so much in response to the question of motives for war but rather weaknesses in our stated reasoning that will hurt our standing in the eyes of the international community. For a leader who bellowed long and loud about ethics and moral authority, this president has been found severely lacking. You can find plenty of the detail about the five reasons, the arguments behind them, etc. if you take the time to read this article.

Posted by Observer at 07:09 AM | Comments (0)

February 03, 2004

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Planning!

In an excellent article, James Fallows tells the story of how we screwed up post-war Iraq. It's a very long article, a good 20-30 minute read, but it is full of details I had never heard before. Basically, Rumsfeld, Feith, Wolfowitz and the other Iraq war hawks are all saying today that there was no way we could've properly prepared for post-war Iraq.

Fallows paints the vivid picture of why these is categorically false by telling the stories of all the different pre-war efforts that were made to plan for post-war Iraq. The bottom line on these efforts, however, is that they were actively shunned by Rumsfeld, Cheney and others because they were seen as "anti-war" exercises or ways to sap the growing momentum for what they felt was a necessary war. It got so bad that underlings from the defense department who *wanted* to attend meetings to find out more about what to expect were *disallowed* from doing so.

The amount of effort that went into post-war planning and so forth is actually phenomenal. These people used the lessons from past wars and applied them with amazing foresight. Rumsfeld basically threw all their work out the window and figured that once the Iraqis start throwing flowers and waving flags for their liberators, everything would just fall into place.

This whole fish is rotten from the head down. It's not even clear to me that Bush is a part of the fish.

Posted by Observer at 07:00 AM | Comments (0)

February 02, 2004

Stupid Conservative Myth #19

I'm going a little bit out of order compared to the original list, but this one is fast becoming a conservative mantra:

No one in the Bush administration ever characterized Saddam Hussein as an "imminent threat" before the war with Iraq.

What a sad joke. The Center for American Progress has the complete rundown on this myth, including a lengthy list of pre-war quotes, some of which I reproduce below:

"Some have argued that the nuclear threat from Iraq is not imminent - that Saddam is at least 5-7 years away from having nuclear weapons. I would not be so certain. And we should be just as concerned about the immediate threat from biological weapons. Iraq has these weapons."-- Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, 9/18/02

"No terrorist state poses a greater or more immediate threat to the security of our people and the stability of the world than the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq." -- Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, 9/19/02

"The Iraqi regime is a threat of unique urgency." -- President Bush, 10/2/02

"There are many dangers in the world, the threat from Iraq stands alone because it gathers the most serious dangers of our age in one place. Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists." -- President Bush, 10/7/02

"I would look you in the eye and I would say, go back before September 11 and ask yourself this question: Was the attack that took place on September 11 an imminent threat the month before or two months before or three months before or six months before? When did the attack on September 11 become an imminent threat? Now, transport yourself forward a year, two years or a week or a month...So the question is, when is it such an immediate threat that you must do something?" -- Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, 11/14/02

"Well, of course he is.” -- White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett responding to the question “is Saddam an imminent threat to U.S. interests, either in that part of the world or to Americans right here at home?”, 1/26/03

"Iraq poses a serious and mounting threat to our country. His regime has the design for a nuclear weapon, was working on several different methods of enriching uranium, and recently was discovered seeking significant quantities of uranium from Africa." -- Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, 1/29/03

"This is about imminent threat." -- White House spokesman Scott McClellan, 2/10/03

So can we consider that myth dispatched, perhaps? Thanks for the pointers to Tom Tomorrow, who also recommends a fun Google search for the phrase "We know he has weapons of mass destruction." Another good link about this comes from The Daily Mislead.

Art Silber has more on this. Not only does he point to some choice "imminent threat" pre-war quotes, but he goes on to talk about the latest spin, which is that we went to war because of an intelligence failure. Sorry, no. We went to war because Bushco chose to go to war...

It is simply not true that the Bush administration's decision to go to war with Iraq was the result of "bad intelligence." In the most significant sense, that decision had nothing at all to do with the quality of the intelligence they were getting. The decision was one of policy -- a decision that depended "not upon available facts but upon judgment." As the Star-Tribune editorial points out, the Clinton administration had virtually the same intelligence -- yet came to a different conclusion altogether with regard to the proper course of action.

But this tactic serves an important purpose: it passes blame off to another party, and in effect lets the administration off the hook. The administration thus hopes to insulate itself from examination, criticism and accountability. It's as if the administration is saying: "The intelligence made us do it."

But the intelligence, whatever it was, didn't make them do anything. They had already decided what they wanted to do -- and the intelligence was almost irrelevant.

For more on the absolute stupidity of the "CIA made us do it" excuse, go see the latest from Atrios and Talking Points Memo. This kind of historical revisionism is something the so-called-liberal-media most definitely should not allow.

Posted by Observer at 07:02 AM | Comments (6)

February 01, 2004

Job Security

Work-sensitive enough that I decided to delete it. Sorry.

Posted by Observer at 07:04 AM | Comments (5)