As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, June 04, 2004

Light blogging today

Busy with work.

Have a good weekend...


Thursday, June 03, 2004


I'm no doomsday prophet, and I don't see prosecution in the future for any member of this administration (although, you know, take your pick of lawbreakers). But clearly the winds are swirling in Washington. Today's resignation by CIA director George Tenet should come as no surprise. It means Tenet's record for the longest string of ineptitude by an intelligence-gathering organization in world history can remain unchallenged. From failing to connect the dots on 9-11, to describing the presence of WMD in Iraq as a "slam-dunk," to arresting a Portland lawyer in connection with March's Madrid train bombing based on a photocopied fingerprint, Tenet made Chief Wiggum look competent. But of course, the Prez was sure to pat him on the back on the way out the door:

"He told me he was resigning for personal reasons. I told him I'm sorry he's leaving. He's done a superb job on behalf of the American people," the president said at a hurriedly arranged announcement before boarding a helicopter to begin a trip to Europe. Cheney stood outside the Oval Office to watch Bush's announcement. (editor's note: isn't that creepy? You can almost hear Cheney cackling maniacally)

But in a classic case of burying the lead, this comes in about 3/4 of the way through the story:

Retired Adm. Stansfield Turner said he thought Tenet was pushed out.

"I think the president feels he's in enough trouble that he's got to begin to cast some of the blame for the morass that we are in in Iraq to somebody else, and this was one subtle way to do it," said Turner, himself a former CIA director.

Certainly, there's a lot of reasons for Bush to want to change the subject. Consider first the fact that he's had to hire a personal lawyer to counsel him about the Valerie Plame case, in which somebody in the White House outed Plame as a CIA agent as revenge for her husband criticizing them about Iraq. With rumors flying that Bush knew about the leak in advance, and that he may face a grand jury in the case, that paranoia is justified. But while the lawyer is there, I'm sure he can bill plenty of hours about the dozens of other scandals not coming to light.

Let's start with the Ahmad Chalabi-Iran case. It now appears that someone in the Defense Department let Chalabi know that we had broken Iran's intelligence code. And Chalabi did what any self-respecting double agent would do: he told an Iranian contact in Baghdad about it. That guy didn't believe Chalabi. So he wired back to Tehran, USING the Iranian intelligence code. And we intercepted the message, and found out the whole sordid mess. Someone's got to go down for that.

And then there's the revelation that Bush's buddy "Kenny Boy" Ken Lay and Enron deliberately manipulated the power crisis in California in 2001 to gouge millions of dollars from the state. The smoking gun in this case was a series of tapes that are so incriminating they almost sound fake. Here's a sample:

"They're fucking taking all the money back from you guys?" complains an Enron employee on the tapes. "All the money you guys stole from those poor grandmothers in California?"

"Yeah, grandma Millie, man."

"Yeah, now she wants her fucking money back for all the power you've charged right up, jammed right up her ass for fucking $250 a megawatt hour."

I lived in San Francisco during that summer, and I remember the rolling blackouts at work practically every other day. It's unconscionable that so much of that was caused because Enron was demanding power plants to shut down to drive up prices. It's even more sickening considering that the energy mess was among the main reasons Gray Davis is no longer governor (and Ah-nuld is).

Of course, Bush doesn't know Ken Lay. Or Ahamad Chalabi. Remember?

The pillars are shaking in DC. Treason? Fraud? Illegal possession of firearms? Stay tuned...


Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Special thanks...

To the anniversary of D-Day (this Sunday, June 6) for giving me about 75% of the total hits to this site over the past week or so. I'd better change the name to VE-Day in time for next year.

Actually, D-Day is just a shortening of my name, Dave Dayen.

But those looking for quotes from Eisenhower, stick around! I'll write more stuff about Patton and Rommel!


He's out of his fucking mind

Does it bother anyone else that in addition to our President being a simp and a liar, he's also a fetishist?

The President's Trophy Room

The pistol wielded by Saddam Hussein when he was captured in his spider hole last year isn't the only war relic President Bush is fond of showing visitors to the White House. Recent guests tell us that Bush proudly displays two other iconic items in a study off the Oval Office: a brick from Taliban leader Mohammad Omar's home in Kandahar, and a roughly two-foot-high cross made of steel recovered from the World Trade Center wreckage.

Can't you see him playing with these the way Rick Moranis (as Dark Helmet) does in Spaceballs? "Oh, whatcha gonna do Saddam, shoot me? You can't, I got yer gun! How 'bout I bash in yer skull with this brick Mullah Omar gave me! Ha ha ha ha ha!!!"

By they way, these items are kept in the same room, allegedly, that Clinton was in with Monica Lewinsky. And I don't think you'd find one American who'd think that what Clinton did in there is any creepier than what Bush is doing. Well, one non-Republican American.

But here's the part where you know he's really fucking nuts:

The collection isn't entirely somber. It also includes a few bobble-head dolls depicting the president -- which, we're told, Bush likes to flick with his finger for guests' amusement.

I'm moving. Who's with me?


Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Hate for Art's Sake

"The woman who ran this gallery is a brave and honorable woman. ... She is a true American and a real patriot." So writes an anonymous wellwisher, in a note included with a bouquet of flowers. Why? Well, perhaps it would be easier to explain if you decode the statement into its true meaning: "Me know Americans not permit dissent or uncomfortable truth. Me do whatever you want- what everybody want. Please don't kill me or friend."

The note and flowers are for San Francisco gallery owner Lori Haigh, who after displaying a painting representing the torture of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers was beaten in the face until bloody and bruised. The attack was only the latest in a seemingly endless stream of incidents, and although I usually let my co-editor present lengthy analysis of a story while I simply regurgitate facts, I'll leave it to you to read about it yourself.

Done? Good. Now, first and foremost let's just get out in the open that this attack proves that abuse (the title of the painting!) is, despite what Bush claims, nothing if not "American." Ask Arab-Americans how much they enjoyed life after 9/11. Read through again the litany of abuse hurled at Haigh during the weeks that the painting appeared in the gallery. Ask Rodney King how his head is doing. Neighbor Lawrence Ferlinghetti offered support, and I'm sure in his tricky counter-culture brain, he's hoping that his City Lights bookstore looks more Barnes & Noblesque nowadays than like a Weather Underground safehouse because how long before the bricks start coming through his windows?

Do you know what else is American? The feeling that an act of injustice is not in itself bad- only TELLING PEOPLE ABOUT IT. How else can you explain outrage against a representation of that act? Do city workers need to canvas U.S. cities with simplified flow charts that explain who is actually the aggressor and who is the victim ("If you see here, this stick figure is a person with a baton and dog torturing a prisoner. The other stick figure is a woman who displays paintings. Draw a line to the one who has committed the outrage. WHAT? NO! You're doing it all wrong!")? Just which misfiring neurons in these North Beach residents create this kind of reaction against someone who in this instance is blameless of any crime or injustice? Perhaps it's some of our Republican friends with their defective amygdalas.


Lying Liars Redux

Bush at today's Rose Garden press conference, about his relationship with Ahmad Chalabi: "First of all, I don't know Ahmad Chalabi very well. I guess I met with him at the State of the Union, but we spoke very briefly." And, "I don't think anyone ever walked into my office and said, "Here's what Chalabi is saying about what's going on in Iraq."

The facts: Chalabi claims to have met 4 times with Bush. He also maintains close ties to top Administration officials, and he is a personal friend of Dick Cheney. He also undoubtedly supplied information about Iraq and WMD to the Defense Department and the Defense Policy Board, information that eventually made its way to the White House.

For some perspective:
Bush on January 10, 2002, responding to a reporter about his relationship with Ken Lay: "First of all, Ken Lay is a supporter, and I got to know Ken Lay when he was a head of the -- what they call the Governor's Business Council in Texas.  He was a supporter of Ann Richards (former Texas governor) in my run against her in 1994, and she named him head of the Governor's Business Council and I decided to leave him in place, for the sake of continuity."

The facts:
In the summer of 1991, Lay told the Dallas Morning News that in 1989, when he was spearheading a project to locate the Bush Presidential Library in Houston (Bush I), "That's when I probably spent more quality time with George W. Bush."  1989 -- not 1994.

Lay headed the local host committee for the 1992 Republican National Convention in Houston where, according to what he told the Houston Chronicle he "worked closely with George W. Bush." 1992 -- not 1994.

In a March 2001 interview with PBS, Lay told a much different story from the lie told by GWBush.  Lay stated that he had been "a strong financial and political supporter of, first, President Bush, Sr., when he was running for president in 1980. . . I'm very close to the family. . . I was very close to George W. and had a lot of respect for him . . . "  1980 -- not 1994.

In a video of an October 2000 meeting of Enron employees, Lay stated "I strongly supported Bush when he ran for governor of Texas both times."  In fact, Bush sent Lay a letter in 1997 in which he referred to Lay as one of his "old friends."

What about Bush's claim that Lay had supported Ann Richards, former Texas governor?  Lay and his wife contributed $12,500 to Richards.  They gave $47,500 to Bush and Enron's political action committee gave Bush $146,500 (the PAC gave Richards  $19,500).

From 1994 on, Lay and his wife gave:  $122,500 for the two Bush gubernatorial campaigns; $100,000 for his inauguration; $250,000 for the Bush I presidential library.  Enron and Enron executives gave $736,680 to Bush for his political campaigns, his election recount, and his inauguration.

(tip of the hat to for the info)


Monday, May 31, 2004

Exhibit B: Iraq

On the heels of last week's five-point plan for Iraq put forth by the Bush Administration, recent events have cast doubt on its efficacy. First of all, this notion that on June 30 we will- presto!- grant full sovereignty to Iraq is hopelessly misguided. Today's news that the US and UN are trying to block the Governing Council's choice for the largely symbolic post of President makes that clear. We're so paranoid about losing our grip on this puppet government we're creating that we're trying to block a symbolic post. Actually, I think it's that we're absolutely petrified of the IGC choice, Ghazi Yamar, because he's a tribal and religious leader, and God forbid we put a religious face on this government (it's OK on our own soil, I guess, but not in Iraq). But what's more troubling is that the two alternatives for this position, Yawar and Adnan Pachachi (US and UN choice), are both IGC members. The Governing Council, known to everyday Iraqis by the sobriquet "The Governed Council," was supposed to have no impact on the interim sovereign government. This was one of UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi's first priorities, to find nonpartisan "technocrats" to lead the country into the election process. This is why Ahmad Chalabi was so angry, so much so that he decided (allegedly) to go to Iran with secrets about US troop movements and the like.

The Governing Council thought they would be cut out of the power sharing, and, you know, they like power. So, learning from the US, they pre-emptively struck, coalescing their support for Prime Minister around Iyad Allawi, a former Baathist Party member. Now, the US was likely pleased with the selection of a Prime Minister with ties to British intelligence and the CIA. In fact, there is evidence that suggests that once Allawi's name was leaked, the US shoved his ascension down Brahimi's throat. But once bolstered, it appears this assertiveness has continued, and almost all of Brahimi's other choices to lead will come from the Governing Council, which has been dismissed by most Iraqis as a mouthpiece for the US. At the same time, Council members are using nationalist rhetoric to distance themselves from the US. When asked about the impasse over the choice for President, Mahmoud Othman, a Kurd on the 22-member Council, told Reuters: "They should let the Iraqis decide for themselves. This is an Iraqi affair." Just what the Bushies don't want to hear: an expression of sovereignty.

There were a great series of articles in The Nation where a series of progressives tried to articulate an exit strategy for Iraq. Most of them did what they could with an impossible problem, but I thought the most honest assessment was from John Brady Kiesling, a career diplomat who resigned from the foreign service in protest just before the Iraq War. I quote:

In the end a fractured Iraq can be held together only by a man wrapped, like George Washington or Ho Chi Minh, in the legitimacy that derives from successful armed struggle. We should note the ease with which a scruffy young cleric united Sunnis and Shiites against the US presence. A victorious Secretary Rumsfeld could not impose Ahmad Chalabi. However, a retreating US military can designate Iraq's liberator. We must select the competent Iraqi patriot to whom we yield ground while bleeding his competitors. There will be casualties and disorder, no matter how brilliantly we orchestrate our withdrawal. But the overwhelming majority of Iraqis will rally around any man who claims to drive us out, and elections would validate his relatively bloodless victory.

Not only do I think this is true, I think those grabbing for power in Iraq know this, and they're doing everything they can to resist the American enemy in order to get proper backing from the people. That's at work on the Governing Council, that's what Chalabi is trying to do, that's what Moqtada al-Sadr has in mind. In other words, it's in every Iraqi would-be leader's best interest to resist the US at every opportunity.

Billmon's recent claim that "success is not an option" looks more and more correct every day. In 30 days we will have a government in Iraq with no real power over security, that is at once cowtowing to and rebelling against the occupying forces of the American Whoopsie Empire. Basically, once the pieces are picked up from this debacle, whoever shuts the door at the border and yells "And stay out!" will become the new leader. And we can't just INSTALL that person.


Exhibit A: Afghanistan

100 years ago, at the St. Louis World's Fair, event organizers put about a thousand Filipinos on display as a "living exhibit" of the spoils of victory from the Spanish-American War. Today, were there still World's Fairs, we'd have two living exhibits, though it's likely they'd be a village of Afghan heroin-growing warlords, and a bombed-out village of angry and desperate Iraqis. On Memorial Day, some disturbing news reports have made the views of these two exhibits even dimmer. Let's start with Exhibit A.

First, Robert Novak dares to tell the truth about Afghanistan (a rarity for him) in today's Chicago Sun-Times. Ever since Iraq became foreign policy preoccupation number one, Afghanistan has been tragically neglected (you remember that President Bush did not allocate one dollar for Afghan assistance in his 2003 budget). Predictably, that has spun the country into a nightmare of brutal warlord control, corrupt official government, and suffering for ordinary citizens. As soon as I heard that under the Taliban, Afghan women could not become doctors, and could not seek treatment from a male doctor (certainly one of the most creative instances of racism since the Jim Crow law that you could only vote if your grandfather voted, ruling out any black person, all of whose grandfathers were not permitted to vote), I believed it would be necessary to liberate Afghanistan from such cruelty and abuse. But we did nothing more than appoint Hamid Karzai, who I think controls the area directly within reach of his arm. Meanwhile, instead of crushing a terrorist outpost, we added a new leader in the drug trade, with heroin production at an all-time high, and US forces, most of whom are confined to Kabul proper, unable to do anything about it. Novak tells us we have less than 100 men doing battle against narco-terrorists, whose profits from drugs are funding their revival. Most of our boys are doing Karl Rove's work:

More important than this conventional infantry division are two commando units known as Black SOF (Special Operations Forces) and White SOF. Black SOF, by far the more numerous of the two, is assigned to capture Osama bin Laden. Nothing would do more to boost President Bush's sagging popularity than getting the designer of the 9/11 attacks.

The problem is that nobody I have talked to in the military thinks his capture is likely or may even be possible. The American fighting men think ''UBL'' (as he is called) is hiding in Pakistan, impossible to find. Most exasperating to the men in the field is the manpower and effort expended on what they consider to be a helpless cause.

Our entire role in Afghanistan now is designed to "get bin Laden." Yet the forces engaged in that hunt believe that he's not even there. Meanwhile, the Taliban (or at least a group of fundamentalist Islamic strongmen) is this close to retaking the country, and control 90% of its land. I should mention at this point that Afghanistan is considered to be George Bush's "victory," compared to Iraq. But until we redistribute forces there to meet the needs of the people, and concern ourselves with infrastructure improvements rather than snipe hunts for hidden individual terrorists, we'll achieve nothing more than hollow victory, and inevitable failure. Karzai is so weak and corrupt, and has so little repsect in the country, that only actual elections (not appointments) can broaden the power of the government. Patridiots reports that Karzai is promising warlords cabinet positions if they back him, which is completely antithetical to the process. Once again, we have used political expediency and ceded power to strongmen because they can wield it easily. I don't know how you turn that around outside of full-scale war. Afghanistan is maddeningly complex, with little hope for progress thanks to its persistent neglect over the last couple years.

Later today we'll take a look at Exhibit B.