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

Saturday, February 12, 2005


The right side of blogland is crowing about the resignation of Eason Jordan, apparently for little more than saying something they all didn't like.  I'm sure that in 20 years, when the US military targeting of journalists is revealed, on page A20 of the Toledo Blade or something, that Glenn Reynolds and Hugh Hewitt will not buy a joint bus ticket to Jordan's retreat in Media Exileville to say they're sorry.  (Actually the targeting may have already been revealed, and if we had a curious press in this country, Jordan's remarks might have led to some actual reporting on this and other stories.  But of course then the walls of the Pentagon would start to shake, and we can't have that.)

But here's my question: how are Richard Perle's remarks in a House Intelligence Committee hearing on February 2 ANY different?

In today's LA Times, Greg Miller writes a story revealing a breakdown in a CIA intelligence operation in Iran in the late 80s or early 90s:

WASHINGTON -- Dozens of CIA informants in Iran were executed or imprisoned in the late 1980s or early 1990s after their secret communications with the agency were uncovered by the government, according to former CIA officials who discussed the episode after aspects of it were disclosed during a recent congressional hearing.

The source who disclosed this incident to the Congress was Richard Perle, neocon member of the Defense Policy Board.

Details of the setback were first outlined Feb. 2 by former Pentagon advisor Richard N. Perle in testimony before the House Intelligence Committee. During a hearing on security threats, Perle was critical of U.S. intelligence capabilities and cited the crackdown on American sources in Iran as an example of the failures that have beset U.S. espionage in the Mideast.

Perle referred to the "terrible setback that we suffered in Iran a few years ago when in a display of unbelievable, careless management we put pressure on agents operating in Iran to report with greater frequency and didn't provide improved communications."

When the CIA's sources stepped up their reporting, "the Iranian intelligence authorities quickly saw the surge in traffic and, as I understand it, virtually our entire network in Iran was wiped out."

The CIA refuted a good deal of this testimony.  While acknowledging a breakdown in Iran, they explained it was sometime in the late 80s or early 90s, not "a few years ago."  They also disputed the claim that Iran found out about the spies due to CIA pressure to have their agents report more often.  Here's a quote from an official:

The CIA declined to comment, but a U.S. intelligence official rejected Perle's criticism of the agency's record in the Mideast as ill-informed and outdated.

"Intelligence methods evolve constantly," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Trying to use these things from the past to make assertions about the present is in this case ill-advised."

When confronted about this, Perle immediately backed off all of the most damning assertions that he made:

In a phone interview, Perle acknowledged that he had "a poor sense of time" concerning the events he described and was uncertain about details.

"I don't recall the details, or the mechanism by which the [Iranian agents] were communicating," Perle said. "What I was told was that our entire network was destroyed" and that as many as 40 of the informants were executed.

The point here is that this is directly analogous to the Jordan affair.  Richard Perle (Eason Jordan) makes comments before a Congressional panel (Davos panel) that are inflammatory about the CIA (US military) and contain statements that are more hearsay than fact.  When challenged by the CIA (right-wing bloggers), Perle (Jordan) immediately backs off the comments.  Perle (Jordan), who has a long history of antagonism toward the CIA (US military), has then slandered an organization dedicated to trying to protect Americans.

So where's the outrage on the right?  Why won't C-SPAN release the Perle tape?  Is this transcript from the LA Times correct?  Who's starting the blog?

No, of course, that won't happen.  And I'm not exactly calling for that to happen.  I do think it's irresponsible of a leading critic of the CIA to make false or misleading statements about the CIA to Congress.  Perle had the gist of the story somewhat down, but the specifics were wrong, and mainly designed to play up a notion of CIA incompetence.  Like Jordan (I imagine), Perle believes that the importance of his project (to undermine the CIA) means that he doesn't have to back up his statements with facts that correspond to them.

The point is that Perle will face no public pressure for these remarks, for (arguably) compromising CIA efforts in the Middle East by bringing to light techniques for reporting, because the Right Wing Noise Machine is on his side.  If you see this story at all over there, it will be spun as proof that the CIA needs to go.  The fact that there's NO SUBSTANTIAL DIFFERENCE between the Perle affair and the Jordan affair is irrelevant.  The hypocrisy of blind ideology once again rises to the surface.

If Eason Jordan did something wrong by saying out loud what people have been saying in private for a couple years, the Richard Perle needs to turn in his Defense Policy Board executive washroom key.


Friday, February 11, 2005

Rice Cooker

For all these Republican Senators who were shocked, SHOCKED, that anyone could possibly oppose someone so diligent and upstanding and qualified as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, I submit Exhibit A:

Nearly half of the Federal Aviation Administration's daily intelligence reports in the months leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks mentioned Osama bin Laden's terrorist network, according to newly released documents.

This after Condi claimed in the days after 9/11 that "we never could have imagined terrorists flying planes into buildings." Well, unless the government read the report:

In the months before Sept. 11, the Federal Aviation Administration told some of the nation's largest airports that if a terrorist wanted to hijack a plane to commit suicide in a "spectacular explosion," it would probably be a hijacking on U.S. soil rather than overseas.

Then there was Rice's claim in the WaPo from March 2004 that "No al-Qaeda threat was turned over to the new administration." Except for this:

EIGHT months before the September 11 attacks the White House's then counterterrorism adviser urged then national security adviser Condoleezza Rice to hold a high-level meeting on the al-Qaeda network, according to a memo made public today.

"We urgently need such a principals-level review on the al-Qaeda network," then White House counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke wrote in the January 25, 2001 memo.

Here's the memo.

See, it wasn't the color of her skin, or just Democrats being "obstructionist." It's, as 1-term Senator Mark Dayton put it, the "lying." As in "I really don't like being lied to, repeatedly, flagrantly."

Neither do I.


Arthur Miller, 1915-2005

I had the great pleasure of serving on a magazine staff while in college (the Michigan Gargoyle) that had Arthur Miller as an alumnus. I remember a disparaging phone call from the Harvard Lampoon one time, when one of their gang of idiots condescendingly asked us what our alumni had gone on to write, and we casually said, "Oh nothing, just Death of a Salesman, All My Sons, The Crucible."

He was always my favorite playwright, able to bring political and social themes to his stories without them becoming polemics, without sacrificing character development to the allegory. He will be missed, particularly with today's American theatre scene consisting almost entirely of musicals and revivals.


Thursday, February 10, 2005


One of the best bloggers on the left today has absolutely knocked it out of the park with this post indicting the current government and the right for bloviating on and on about American exceptionalism while sanctioning (indeed, even cheerleading for) mass torture of human beings. Really, go read it. Since Billmon left the scene (and he's back now, but mainly with bunches of quotes linking the Bush Administration to the ruling government in Orwell's 1984, not a bad thing but not the in-depth analysis he did in the past), Digby has taken over the mantle as the most eloquent blogger, IMHO.

Here's a brief sample:

As more and more is revealed every day it becomes clear that these incompetents who ignored the warning signs before 9/11, (more proof of which was also revealed today) are going to get a lot more of us killed. I guess that is the price we shall have to pay for allowing ourselves to wallow in political trivia and tabloid sensation during the Clinton years and creating a taste for showbiz politics that encouraged the puerile cartoon reaction to the attacks from our leaders. Our leaders, the people with whom we trusted our very lives, behaved as we wanted them to, as we would expect the man who we'd like to have a beer with to behave --- with simple-minded bloodlust instead of reason.

Really, it's amazing stuff.


Suspend All Laws

Today the Sensenbrenner bill HR 418 passed the House by a 261-161 vote. That means that the Republican-led House of Representatives just passed a bill authorizing the suspension of all laws:


Section 102(c) of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (8 U.S.C. 1103 note) is amended to read as follows:

`(c) Waiver-

`(1) IN GENERAL- Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall have the authority to waive, and shall waive, all laws such Secretary, in such Secretary's sole discretion, determines necessary to ensure expeditious construction of the barriers and roads under this section.

`(2) NO JUDICIAL REVIEW- Notwithstanding any other provision of law (statutory or nonstatutory), no court shall have jurisdiction--

`(A) to hear any cause or claim arising from any action undertaken, or any decision made, by the Secretary of Homeland Security pursuant to paragraph (1); or

`(B) to order compensatory, declaratory, injunctive, equitable, or any other relief for damage alleged to arise from any such action or decision.'.

Welcome to the rise of American fascism. So does that mean the head of DHS can personally shoot border-jumpers on sight? Burn them alive? Rape them in front of bands of tourists? Are you kidding me? One man can nullify any law he deems appropriate, without judicial or administrative review?

By the way, the House Dems tried to amend the bill to strip out this section. The amendment failed.

There's no way the Senate can let this stand. Call them.


Why Gannon Matters

Apparently the right side of the blogosphere is shrieking like harridans at this Eason Jordan story, which concerns his comments at the World Economic Forum about the US government targeting journalists as a matter of policy (I guess Glenn Reynolds and his charges haven't seen the movie "Control Room," nor have they ever heard of Tarek Ayyoub). Since the Jordan story and the "Jeff Gannon" story have hit the blogosphere at roughly the same time, people are instinctively comparing them.

Let's see. As Kos puts the Jordan story, better than I could:

So apparently, a CNN news executive, at worst (according to Glenn) repeats something false at a conference, none of which was recorded, was aired, or was printed on any site. So at worst, Jordan was a victim of the Right's new speech code for playing to the audience with a lie (something that Bush, Cheney and Co. can do with impunity, remember). More likely, the CNN guy exaggerated. This is what Glenn and others are deeming a "scandal".

Ironic, but the Right has become the new champions of Political Correctness.

Meanwhile, "Jeff Gannon" used a fake name and a fake news organization cover to gain access to the White House, sit in on press briefings, and come within 30 feet of the President. And, as Bruce Bartlett notes:

Having worked in the White House, I can assure everyone that not only would it be impossible to get a White House pass using an alias, it is impossible even to get past the gate for an appointment using an alias. Thorough FBI background checks are required for the former and a picture ID is necessary for the latter. Therefore, if Gannon was using an alias, White House staff had to be involved in maintaining his cover.

That's the big story here, folks. The gay military prostitution websites is just window dressing. Sleazy, but window dressing.

In addition, it seems that "Gannon" was also involved in the leaking of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame's name, a federal offense now under grand jury investigation. Gannon did an interview with Joe Wilson in 2003, where he mentions a leaked 2002 CIA document that apparently only he knows about, since it hasn't appeared in any other media source ever. He also reported on the Rather memos before the report on 60 Minutes was even finished broadcasting.

So he's potentially a government operative using trhe front of "Talon News" for GOP-created stories, in addition to being a man with White House access using an alias.

No contest.


Taking Their Ball and Going Home

I actually do understand why people shop at Wal-Mart. For a growing segment of lower-class America, that's what they can afford. The worsening economy directly impacts Wal-Mart positively. One could argue that paying their workers a pittance gives Wal-Mart a larger market share in their communities, because that's all their workers can afford.

But once you know the facts, I don't know how you could possibly shop there. Case in point: A Canadian Wal-Mart was days away from becoming the first store to win a union contract. So what did Wal-Mart do? They shut it down!

Wal-Mart said it was shuttering the store in Jonquiere, Quebec, in response to unreasonable demands from union negotiators, which would make it impossible for the store to sustain its business. The United Food & Commercial Workers Canada last week asked Quebec labor officials to appoint a mediator, saying that negotiations had reached an impasse.

"We were hoping it wouldn't come to this," said Andrew Pelletier, a spokesman for Wal-Mart Canada. "Despite nine days of meetings over three months, we've been unable to reach an agreement with the union that in our view will allow the store to operate efficiently and profitably."

Operating "efficiently and profitably" means gouging the workers, not paying them a dime, locking nighttime workers in the building so they have to work overtime, offering health care that costs about 1/3 of their paycheck (so they won't opt for it), and taking their profits. By the way, this is the first time Wal-Mart has closed a whole store in reaction to union activity, though there was a similar situation in Texas a few years ago:

The closest a U.S. union has ever come to winning a battle with Wal-Mart was in 2000, at a store in Jacksonville, Texas. In that store, 11 workers -- all members of the store's meatpacking department -- voted to join and be represented by the UFCW.

That effort failed when WalMart eliminated the job of meatcutter companywide, and moved away from in-store meatcutting to stocking only prewrapped meat.

They'd rather shut stores down than unionize. This is a company that made so much money last year that they devoted $2.2 BILLION dollars to stock buybacks. They offered their CEO Sam Walton and his family dividend payouts of $900 MILLION dollars. But they can't afford unionizing. They know that just one union store will have the effect of lighting up the cave of darkness for all of their workers. They'd realize that they're entitled to a living wage, that they have a choice in their lives.

Maybe that's the way to get rid of all these Wal-Marts, then; unionize every single one of them! Unionization of Big Box stores should be (and, I believe, is) the greatest priority of Big Labor.


Wednesday, February 09, 2005


I have not been really plugged in to this Jeff Gannon/JD Guckert "Talon News" story until today. But it's fucking insane. AmericaBlog has the best summary of it if you're looking to understand it better. Suffice to say this:

A man is credentialed as a White House press reporter, gets to sit in on White House press briefings, and ask questions of the Press Secretary and the President. (which are always softballs that might as well have been written by the RNC) Here's the thing; he's using a fake name (the WH Press pass has a pseudonym on it), he is the alleged owner of gay military prostitution websites, and he has reported on secret internal White House memos to which no other press organization has access.

Confused? Go to AmericaBlog. This is an out of control story that's already hit cable news tonight, and I suspect it will filter into the mainstream shortly. In an age of "the global war on terror," tell me, why is a man with a fake name allowed into White House press briefings? Why is he allowed to talk to the President? Why is the owner of "" pretending to be a reporter, and asking softball questions to Scott McClellan? Why does Talon News appear to be nothing more than a construct of GOP USA, a Republican think tank?

This is poised to become the story of the year.


Fuzzy Math

Why, oh why, do we believe any numbers that come out of this Administration?

The Bush administration offered a new estimate of the cost of the Medicare drug benefit on Tuesday, saying it would cost $720 billion in the next 10 years.

That is much more than the $400 billion Congress assumed when it passed legislation creating the benefit in late 2003.

But administration officials said the numbers were not comparable. The original estimate was for the years 2004 to 2013. The new estimate covers the period from 2006, when the drug benefit becomes available, to 2015.

This is what they're saying, then: the first time they were calculating the cost of the drug benefit, they included the years 2004 and 2005, BEFORE THE BENEFIT WAS ELIGIBLE. That's an admission of duplicity, if not outright guilt.

Let's remember that this is the THIRD upward cost calculation of this benefit (which really is more of a benefit for Big Pharma than actual seniors). The original cost was supposed to be around $400 billion. Then the White House admitted it was about $100 billion higher, and it was revealed that they pressured the chief actuary Richard Foster to withhold cost estimates under the $400 billion marker. (incidentally, this little tidbit, or some would say "illegal action," is not in the NY Times story.)

So this is upward tick #3. And I wholeheartedly expect #4.

So why does this estimate keep going up and up? Well, maybe because it pays for rich people to keep their erection:

Several members of Congress cited the latest cost estimates as a reason Medicare should not pay for Viagra and other "lifestyle drugs." Medicare officials said last week that the new benefit would pay for Viagra, Levitra and similar drugs when they were needed to treat erectile dysfunction.

Sick patients aren't looking to buy Viagra. This is merely an add-on from Pfizer to sell more penis pills.

The good news is that the Democrats in Congress are framing this exactly right:

Mr. (Rahm) Emanuel said: "The new cost estimate destroys the credibility of the Bush administration. Officials were so far off in estimating the cost of the Medicare law. Why should we believe what they say about the financial problems of Social Security?"

Representative Pete Stark of California, the senior Democrat on the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, said: "I told you so. We can't trust numbers provided by administration officials. They'll say anything to get a bill passed. And if the new drug benefit costs more, the extra money goes to their friends in the pharmaceutical industry, not to senior citizens."

Be sure you let your Congresspeople know that every time Bush and the Republicans submit a budget proposal, their response should be, "OK, what are the REAL numbers?"


Mixed Messages

Some would call the Secretary of State's trip to Europe this week a diplomatic mission. I would call it an exercise in frustration. What's she trying to say here?

BRUSSELS, Belgium Feb 9, 2005 — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday that Iran cannot delay indefinitely accountability for a suspected nuclear weapons program, even as she said NATO should not play policeman to the world.

This has the effect of meaning absolutely nothing. Unless you read between the lines, under the assumption that the US will act unilaterally and NATO is meaningless. Maybe it's that NATO shouldn't play policeman, the US should (and will, if we're to believe Seymour Hersh).

In the next part of Rice's speech, she warned Iran to stop foot-dragging and delaying the end of their nuclear program, while simultaneously saying that the European leaders deserve more time to continue negotiations. Is this like the way Yassir Arafat would say one thing to the US and the world community in English, and something entirely different to his Palestinian supporters, in Arabic?

I guess Rice, unused to the delicate talk of diplomacy, thinks it means that you should simply contradict yourself at all times.


Tuesday, February 08, 2005


This was the greatest hit that I missed while on sebbatical. First of all, there's this nonsense about what a great (snake-oil) salesman the President is:

"You can tell he has God within him!" says Zig Ziglar, the sales guru and motivational speaker, in a phone interview from Montgomery, Ala., where he is hosting a seminar.

"The president walks with his shoulders erect!" lauds Tom Hopkins, a professional trainer and author of "How to Master the Art of Selling" and "Selling for Dummies." "He makes great eye contact! He is buoyant! He walks at a fast pace! You can tell he's a great listener!" These are all the marks of successful salespeople, Hopkins says. Great salespeople like Tom Hopkins, he keeps telling us. "I have had so much success in real estate! I've set so many sales records!"

I want to highlight the phrase "You can tell he's a great listener."

In Omaha on Friday, a divorced single mother named Mary Mornin tells the president, "I have one child, Robbie, who is mentally challenged, and I have two daughters."

"Fantastic," the president exclaims, and he tells her she has "the hardest job in America, being a single mom."

Later, the 57-year old Mornin tells Bush that she works three jobs, which the president deems "uniquely American" and "fantastic." He asks her if she gets any sleep.

Reports were that they looked inside the suit after the rally and didn't find anything. The President was in the suit at the time.

"I'm going to jail for manslaughter." Fantastic!


I'm back

Just spent several days in Philadelphia, where I arrived to a party and left a morgue. Oh well. Wait 'til next year.

I thought the President's SOTU address was intellectually dishonest, particularly on the subject of Social Security. His barnstorming tour doesn't seem to be gaining any traction for privatization either, so the Repubs are reduced to sending out a poison pen letter to the media about Harry Reid (who rocks, incidentally), calling him an "obstructionist" in a clear attempt to remind Reid of Tom Daschle, which presumably will send him prostrate in a bee line for the ass of Bill Frist, asking which cheek to kiss. I think the senator from Nevada is made of stronger stuff (plus, he's safe for 6 years).

You also need to go to Juan Cole and look in on his ongoing bitchslapping of Jonah Goldberg, which is hilarious in its own right, but also really crystallizes a lot of thoughts I've had about the pundit class in general. His assertion that pundits merely apply their ideological template to situations about which thy know zilch is salient. It makes it easier to argue if you're unburdened by facts in this way.

OK, more later.