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

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Can't Get This Out Of My Head

So it's your turn.

Thanks a lot, Mr. Colbert.


The Path To Iraq: Filled With Deception

Another of the bigger stories of the week, a confirmation of what so many of us were saying for so long, recounted in a bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report, is that Iraq and al-Qaeda had pretty much nothing to do with each other:

There's no evidence Saddam Hussein had a relationship with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his Al-Qaida associates, according to a Senate report on prewar intelligence on Iraq. Democrats said the report undercuts President Bush's justification for going to war.

The declassified document being released Friday by the Senate Intelligence Committee also explores the role that inaccurate information supplied by the anti-Saddam exile group the Iraqi National Congress had in the march to war.

It discloses for the first time an October 2005 CIA assessment that prior to the war Saddam's government ''did not have a relationship, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi and his associates.''

Bush and other administration officials have said that the presence of Zarqawi in Iraq before the war was evidence of a connection between Saddam's government and al-Qaida. Zarqawi was killed by a U.S. airstrike in June this year.

The reports are here and here. One involves the accuracy of prewar intelligence and the other concerns the role of Ahmad Chalabi's INC in providing faulty intelligence. Both are incredibly damning, particularly on the question of the Saddam-Al Qaeda link. Even today 43% of the American people believe Saddam was personally involved with the 9-11 attacks. The Bush Administration still uses weasel words like "nobody ever said Saddam ORDERED the attacks," but clearly they sought to hype anything showing a link which would allow them to conflate Iraq and 9-11. In fact this was completely untrue. Here's former CIA agent Larry Johnson:

Postwar findings indicate that Saddam Hussein was distrustful of al-Qa'ida and viewed Islamic extremists as a threat to his regime, refusing all requests from al-Aq'ida to provide material or operational support.

Postwar findings have identified only one meeting between representatives of al-Qa'ida and Saddam Hussein's regime reported in prewar intelligence assessments. Postwar findings have identified two occasions, not reported prior to the war, in which Saddam Hussein rebuffed meeting requests from an al-Qa'ida operative.

Postwar findings support the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) February 2002 assessment that Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi was likely intentionally misleading his debriefers when he said that Iraq provded two al-Qa'ida associates with chemical and biological weapons (CBW) training in 2000. . . .No postwar information has been found that indicates CBW training occurred and the detainee who provided the key prewar reporting about this training recanted his claims after the war.

Postwar findings support the April 2002 Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) assessment that there was no credible reporting on al-Qa'ida training at Salman Pak or anywhere else in Iraq.

. . .Postwar information indicates that Saddam Hussein attempted, unsuccessfully to locate and capture al-Zarqawi and that the regime did not have a relationship with, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi.

Postwar information indicates that the Intelligence Community accurately assessed that al-Qa'ida affiliate group Ansar al-Islam operated in Kurdish-controlled northeastern Iraq, an area that Baghdad had not controlled since 1991.

Postwar information supports prewar Intelligence community assessments that there was no credible information that Iraq was complicit in or had foreknowledge of the September 11 attacks or any other al-Qa'ida strike. . .

No postwar information indicates that Iraq intended to use al-Qa'ida or any other terrorist group to strike the United States homeland before or during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Now, the response to this from the Administration has been nothing short of laughable. Tony Snow came out and called the report old news, and the LA Times did a fine job of contradicting him with the facts later in their article:

White House spokesman Tony Snow on Friday downplayed the significance of the report, describing it as "nothing new."

"It's … kind of relitigating things that happened three years ago," Snow said. "In 2002 and 2003, members of both parties got a good look at the intelligence we had, and they came to the very same conclusions about what was going on."


The report released Friday is based largely on documents recovered from Iraqi facilities in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion in March 2003, as well as interrogations of Hussein and other Iraqi officials captured by coalition forces.

As a result, it represents the most thorough comparison to date of prewar suspicions with evidence subsequently collected. Much of the information was unavailable to U.S. intelligence agencies and policymakers before the war.

So how is it "nothing new" if it's based on postwar evidence? Of course it's new, and it's a confirmation of the official deception tht led this country into a disastrous war that has claimed more lives than the attacks on 9-11.

And the chief Senate Intelligence lackey Pat Roberts was embarrassed by his own findings:

The report's publication was marked by intense political wrangling within the Republican-controlled Intelligence Committee, with two GOP members — Sens. Olympia J. Snowe of Maine and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska — breaking ranks to vote in favor of conclusions drafted by Democrats.

In a statement, Snowe cited the "obligation of our government to learn from these horrific mistakes" and complained that the intelligence panel, "once noted for its bipartisanship, has become marred by partisan feuding." Hagel was not available for comment.

The dispute put Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), the committee's chairman, in the awkward position of touting the work of his panel while urging the public to ignore some of its conclusions.

"Overall, I am disappointed that some of my colleagues have twisted the facts to reach conclusions that support other agendas," Roberts said. "It is my view that the public should not focus on the conclusions in this report, but rather on the underlying facts."

Don't focus on the conclusions, nothing to see here, move away.

This is a bombshell of a report that can only be added to the other bombshells coming out of this week.



After I seethed at the President's pathetic dodge to Charles Gibson about the Pakistan-Taliban peace treaty, a few fellow bloggers sent me over to this very interesting article from I can't speak to their validity because I don't know who they are. And this is most definitely not being reported in the American press. But check it out, for what it's worth:

With the recent Pakistan-Taliban ceasefire along the Afghan border, General Abizaid (US Central Command) seems to have gotten what he wanted from Musharraf - Pakistani withdrawal opening up the restive tribal regions to American forces.

Sources in Rawalpindi - the Headquarters of the Pakistani Army - indicate that the plan was directly dictated by Abizaid during his recent visit to Pakistan, and is said to put both the Musharraf Regime and War Against Terror in more secure positions.

At face value, the Musharraf regime gains as the ceasefire between Taliban and Pakistan Army will ensure that Pakistan Army will not be internally seen responsible for 'Muslims killing Muslims'.

It will also absolve Musharraf if and when U.S. forces, which have been granted "hot pursuit" rights, eventually capture Osama Bin Laden and Mullah Omar along the same border.

The Asia Times has a similar story.

If this is true, it's a victory for the United States. But it doesn't come without a cost. I suspect the extremist forces fighting the brittle Musharraf regime in Pakistan would be most unhappy to hear that the "infidels" were given entry, and it may be enough to whip up support to overthrow the government. A Wahhabist Pakistan would be the most dangerous nation-state ever encountered in this "War on Terror," worse than Afghanistan, far worse than Iraq, because they already have the bomb.

It's a tricky question, but the way it's set up, it's worth the risk if it leads to the capture of bin Laden or Mullah Omar. And I'm glad the Administration is taking the Democrats' advice and seeking to find the man responsible for 9-11. But I don't understand why it had to take four years to do so. Bin Laden was cornered in Tora Bora, and we outsourced the job of getting him to warlords. We're four years from that moment, and certainly there are contingencies in place now to prevent the same cornering from happening.

Clearly the timing of this cannot be underestimated. If this is true (and honestly, I'm not 100% in either direction), then there is a significant push being made to capture bin Laden before the midterm elections. Meanwhile he's been out there since 2001.

Look, whatever the pretense, whatever the timing, if you can get Osama, get him. But you'll have to answer for this delay, which I feel has made the possibility for success more remote.


Disney Protest Video

Thanks to The Courage Campaign for putting this together.


Unbelievable Hubris

Read this absurd response to the biggest question of the week:

Gibson: Let me ask you a couple of broader questions. You talked in your speech on Tuesday about working with friends in the region. To deny terrorists safe haven. On that very day, President Musharraf was signing an agreement with the Taliban to in effect give them free reign in an area on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Isn't that exactly doing, he's giving them safe haven? (crosstalk)

Bush: I don't read it that way. As a matter of fact, the intelligence community came in and gave me a little more, uh, granularity on what he had done.

Hey, trust me, I haven't steered you wrong before! Have I? Have I?

Let's read on:

What he (Musharraf) is doing is entering agreements with governors in the regions of the country, in the hopes that there would be an economic vitality, there will be alternatives to violence and terror.

How incoherent is that? Musharraf is just hoping the Islamofascists, who Bush has said have no regard for human life and will stop at nothing to build a caliphate, will get all googly and give up the movement over a job at Starbucks? Really? And furthermore, how do agreements with governors to build local economies get confused with specific treaties to stop the Pakistani Army to enter the region?

This is a pathetic cover for the most serious failure in the ignominious history of the war on terror. The guy who's spent the last two weeks saying "the enemy will stop at nothing" thinks you can somehow bribe the Taliban to stop being the Taliban.

And again...

You know, we are watching this very carefully, obviously. We have made it … we have made it clear that, uh, he should not provide an environment that enables people to go from his country into Afghanistan. I haven't seen the statements that he made in Afghanistan yesterday or today, but he is in Afghanistan today, and I know President Karzai is concerned about, the issue of enabling the Taliban to move.

We're watching this very carefully. And when I say we, I mean that I'm not watching it at all. But somebody probably is. Maybe. I hope.

And so, we'll see how it shakes out. I will tell you this: President Musharraf, in my conversations with him, and I talk to him quite frequently, fully understands, and does not want his country to become a launching pad for military actions against neighbors and/or U.S. troops.

I would assume that Musharraf also does not want a bullet through the head, which he has nearly had on several occasions. Plus he's got the weaponry from the US he wanted, so why continue to cooperate? Not to mention the fact that he can SIGN PEACE TREATIES WITH THE TALIBAN AND AL-QAEDA and have the President of the US cover for him after he does it.

Meanwhile, the Taliban is setting off car bombs and killing US troops and more resurgent than ever, five years after 9-11. And they're being harbored by a nuclear power. And Iraq's about to break up.

Heckuva job.


We Count Everybody But The Dead People

America's rubbing off on Iraq, just look at the Arthur Andersen-style accounting!

U.S. officials, seeking a way to measure the results of a program aimed at decreasing violence in Baghdad, aren't counting scores of dead killed in car bombings and mortar attacks as victims of the country's sectarian violence.

In a distinction previously undisclosed, U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Barry Johnson said Friday that the United States is including in its tabulations of sectarian violence only deaths of individuals killed in drive-by shootings or by torture and execution.

That has allowed U.S. officials to boast that the number of deaths from sectarian violence in Baghdad declined by more than 52 percent in August over July.

But it eliminates from tabulation huge numbers of people whose deaths are certainly part of the ongoing conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Not included, for example, are scores of people who died in a highly coordinated bombing that leveled an entire apartment building in eastern Baghdad, a stronghold of rebel Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

If this government isn't lying, they're not doing their job. I mean, what else would you call deliberately not counting dead bodies to make the war look better? And that's absolutely the reason:

Within weeks of the kickoff of the Baghdad security plan, the U.S. military's top spokesman, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, boasted that the murder rate in Baghdad had fallen by 46 percent and attributed most of the fall to the new security sweeps.

On Thursday, Caldwell revised the figures, posting a statement on the website of the Multi-National Force-Iraq that the murder rate had dropped even more - by 52 percent from July.

That claim was immediately contradicted by the morgue figures, which trickled out in accounts by various news organizations citing unnamed officials.

Damn liberal media! Watching the count and using facts and such! How dare you keep us from winning!

Democrats almost have too many things to talk about coming out of this week. With the deliberate undercount, the Pakistan-Taliban peace treaty, and the bipartisan Senate intel report showing no relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda, the astonishment just keeps on coming. The Disney movie is background and maybe a deliberate way to change the subject. Let's not let these other scandals fall down the memory hole.


Friday, September 08, 2006

Just Back from the Path to 9-11 Protest at Disney

I had to leave early to get back to the job I snuck out of to go.  It's still going on, though, so if you're in LA, please get down there.  It's in Burbank at the West Alameda Gate, on Alameda between Buena Vista and Keystone.

I was the second one there.  Suzanne from the Courage Campaign had some hand-painted signs.  I have pictures, but my cell phone is not cooperating with the transfer right now, so I'll get them up as soon as I can.  My favorite signs were; "Stop Blaming President Clinton," "Facts Not Fantasia," and (held by a kid) "I'm Not Going to Disneyland."

And the best part: CNN WAS THERE!

We got some very good response from passersby on the street, a lot of honking horns.  Somebody showed up with a stack of pictures of Mohammed Atta with mouse ears and then drove away!

The protest was called for 4:00.  We had about 30 people or so by 4:15.  The Burbank cops then showed up, for really no reason other than to explain the familiar protest ground rules (don't go in the street, don't go on Disney property, etc.)  They went away quietly.

The gate we were at is an exit gate, and it was delicious to see the muckety-mucks coming out of their offices to be greeted by our band of protestors yelling "Bad Mouse!  Bad Mouse!"

CNN did interviews with Rick Jacobs and CJ from the California Courage Campaign.  Kudos to them for putting it together.

I urge anyone in the area to stop by, they should be there for a little while.  They're the PUBLIC airwaves, after all.

Update: Pics!

The cops!!

Update: Forgot to mention this. There was a lady in a white car across the street from the protest who was just sitting in her car staring at us for at least a half an hour. Finally one of us said "You can come on out," and she smiled wanly and just kept on staring.

Disney absolutely has spies. Every big corporation does. Just food for thought, she could have just as easily been a meek supporter.


Pathological Lies to 9-11

I'm going to be a part of a little protest at Disney's corporate HQ in about an hour. This has really blown up in ABC's face, especially when you consider that every same conservative, and even a few insane ones, are now calling for the film's more controversial pieces to be edited or removed. These guys know that peddling outright falsehoods will do nothing but damage the conservative argument that 9-11 was all Clinton's fault. They think they can make it without having to lie. The facts don't really represent that, but what do they care?

My favorite conservosphere comments were from John Cole:

Let’s say off the bat that somebody will get fired for this. After ABC has to eat its $30 million investment they might sack whoever decided to aggressively promote a fictionalization of the events leading to 9/11, written by a known conservative activist and promoted exclusively to rightwing blogs and allied news outlets like Rush Limbaugh and NewsMax. Sensible managers would cut loose the genius who decided to chase the evaporating FOX News demographic and influence an election with blatantly untrue efforts to shift the blame for 9/11 to a previous administration.

And Mark Coffey at Decision '08:

Again, the partisan aspect interests me not at all; this is 9/11, and ‘reasonably accurate’ isn’t good enough. Either go completely fiction or stick to the facts. This sounds an awful lot like the Dan Rather excuse for the National Guard fiasco (that the essence of the story was true, even if the details were fabricated), and I’m not interested in this sort of clever parsing of words.

I understand the need to do composite scenes and characters in media with a limited duration, but this is going a bit far. I’ll probably still watch it, but my enthusiasm has dimmed considerably.

Suffice it to say I would NOT want to be the editor on that project. I'd literally be there for the next 36 hours straight.

Meanwhile the Senate Democratic leadership isn't fucking around at all, making veiled (and wholly possible) threats about license revocation.

I do think this is sucking up a lot of oxygen that could be better spent detailing some of the amazing stuff that's happened this week, which shows the bankruptcy of the path FROM 9-11, but I do find this whole thing to be a consequence of unaccountable Big Media, and I want to do my part as part of the people-powered movement to make sure we're all heard. So I'll be there at 4:00pt.


Arnold's Macaca Moment?

I suppose I should say something about today's LA Times story about an audiotape recording of the Governor practicing genetic theory by saying that Cubans and Puerto Ricans "have the, you know, part of the black blood in them and part of the Latino blood in them that together makes it."

On its own, I don't think this rises to the level of a full-blown Macaca moment, although I find it frankly hilarious to read Bill Bradley's breathless condemnations of reporter bias when he in the same breath recounts all sorts of intimate conversations he's had with the governor, and somehow thinks HE'S the one free of bias in this race. What did we really learn here that we didn't already know? The Governor likes women, likes to talk about women, has no filter when he talks about women, and has no understanding of biology. Where's the shocker here?

In fact, Arnold's public record is littered with comments far worse than this one (how about wanting to shove a woman's head in a toilet?). If voters want to take a look at that kind of insensitivity and lustfulness and make it a campaign issue, they're welcome to do so. He's apologized and you can take that for what it's worth.

This is the best backgrounder I've seen on the whole thing.


Arnold: Corporate Tax Evasion is AOK!

A GovernorPhil writer mentioned one of the many bills lost in the clutter that show Arnold's true colors, namely rewarding his friends and political allies. There was another example of that yesterday when the Governor vetoed AB675, the Honest Corporate Tax Reporting Act.

Phil's blog has some commentary on this issue:

Specifically, AB 675 would stop the corporate practice of providing one set of books to shareholders and another set to tax boards, and it would have been a critical deterrent to corporations seeking to hide money in offshore tax havens.

According to the Franchise Tax Board, AB 675 would have been “a significant audit tool,” which “could assist auditors in identifying tax shelter activity and could dissuade some taxpayers from entering in tax avoidance schemes.”

In response to Schwarzenegger’s partisan move on behalf of corporate special interests, Phil said the following:

“Arnold Schwarzenegger piles burdens on middle class families but won’t even lift a pen to sign Democratic legislation to make big corporations pay the taxes they owe and make them accountable to their shareholders and employees.”

This type of double-bookkeeping is standard operating procedure in Hollywood. It's how the studios could claim that Forrest Gump lost money despite grossing over $657 million dollars worldwide. So it should be no surprise that Schwarzengger would sanction such a practice. In fact, he knows how to get around it - as long as it impacts his bottom line:

Consider, for example, the demystification that might emerge from an unrestricted interview with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger if he were to candidly answer questions about the contract for his last movie, Terminator 3. Here is what he would say if he candidly described the terms in his contract.

Q: Governor Schwarzenegger... How much did you make?

A: That depends on whether you’re asking about guaranteed or contingent compensation. The guaranteed part is “play-or-pay,” of course.

Q. How much was that guaranteed “pay-or-play” fee?

A. $29,250,000.

Q. Plus bus fare...?

A. Actually, yes, the contract did include a perk package to cover essentials. It provided a lump-sum payment of $1.5 million for private jets, a fully equipped gym trailer, three-bedroom deluxe suites on locations, round-the-clock limousines, personal bodyguards--that sort of thing.

Q. So, let’s see--you made $30, 750,000 on this film?

A. Not including my contingent compensation.

Q. And what is that contingent on?

A. The movie reaching what is known as “cash break-even.” According to my contract, once the movie reaches cash break-even, I get a sum equal to 20 percent of the total adjusted gross receipts from every market in the world--including movie theaters, videos, DVDs, television licensing, in-flight entertainment, game licensing, and so forth.

Q. But doesn’t Hollywood accounting famously use smoke and mirrors to make sure movies never reach “break-even”?

A. Of course you hear about that happening to weaker players and girly men, but my contract--thanks to my lawyer, Jacob Bloom--is pretty tough. Take video and DVD sales, for example. Under the standard Hollywood contract, studios only credit the film with a video “royalty” equal to 20 percent of the sales. That means that if DVD sales total $20 million, only $4 million of that is counted towards reaching the break-even point.

Q. And in your contract?

A. The royalty is calculated at 100 percent of total video and DVD sales in determining my cash break-even. So if $20 million worth of DVDs are sold by Warner Brothers, $20 million is counted towards reaching the threshold where I begin collecting my 20 percent.

Q. Of course, you have to depend on the studios to tell you when that point is reached.

A. Not in my case. Jake Bloom--He is brilliant!--built a clause into my contract that triggered my contingent compensation once Daily Variety’s weekly box-office chart showed either that the total domestic box-office receipts had exceeded $155 million or that the world gross had exceeded $380 million.

You should read Edward Jay Epstein's entire explanation of Arnold's T3 contract. It's amazing.

So basically, when it comes to Arnold getting paid, he negotiates a contract that strictly limits corporate shenanigans. When it comes to the state of California getting what they're owed, there are no such limits. Corporations can continue to rip off the state, as long as the governor gets his. And in so doing, he basically says that it's perfectly fine for companies to deceive both shareholders and the government, minimizing their profits for tax assessors and maximizing them for their investors.


Things To Look At In Washington That Are Dead

In addition to the dead "anmesty for illegal wiretapping" bill, and the dead-on-arrival "kangaroo court" military commissions bill, it's been an awfully tough week for other Bush Administration priorities as well, as his unpopularity in an election year has left Congress scurrying for the exists.

First of all, John Bolton apparently won't be the UN Ambassador much longer:

Several well-placed sources close to the Bolton nomination process have reported to me that the Bolton confirmation process is now dead.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is "highly unlikely" to reconsider Bolton's confirmation again as things now stand.

One insider reported, as far as the Committee is concerned, "we consider the confirmation over. It's dead."

I assumed this was just a delay for Linc Chafee to get his electoral house in order, but apparently his refusal to confirm along with the expected filibuster led by Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, has sent Bolton down in flames. Enjoy your new office at the Heritage Foundation, dude.

That's actually a pretty big deal given the "march to Iran" currently egged on by the neocons. To remove one of its leading hawks from power on the global stage is significant.

Also dead is any hope for compromise on immigration this year, despite this issue's importance to voters. Or perhaps because of, as there's nothing more useful to the GOP than righteous anger.

Righteous anger from Democrats is what got Congress to reinstate Alec Station, the CIA office devoted to capturing Osama bin Laden. Of course, they'll have to negotiate that whole Pakistan-bin Laden peace treaty to get that kickstarted.

In other words, the Democrats are running the debate in Washington, the GOP is running scared, and the White House is bellowing down a cavernous hole, while polite people refrain from mentioning their irrelevance.


Getting Down To Business

One thing the rubber stamps in Congress did get done yesterday is fighting the greatest threat to this nation, what may shake the republic to its very core... horse slaughtering.

Returning from a five-week summer vacation, GOP lawmakers have much to worry about: war in Iraq and Afghanistan, terrorism and border problems, high energy prices and health-care costs, and none of the federal government's annual spending bills enacted.

So what did House leaders decide to make the centerpiece of the week? H.R. 503: the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act. This legislation, passed yesterday, followed Wednesday's action on a full slate of bills including H.R. 2808, the Abraham Lincoln Commemorative Coin Act.

And to think that Republicans are in jeopardy of losing their majority in the House.

Look, I know the cute animals always get protected over the ugly ones, and horses are cute and all, and maybe we shouldn't be slaughtering them and selling them as horsemeat abroad (although, isn't that how the free market works, free-market Republicans?), but really, is this all they've got on the other side of the aisle? The Leadership set the agenda, and they took a look at all the problems in the world and decided... on this? As centerpiece legislation? And did they even give their Majority Leader a vote on it?

Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), meeting privately with colleagues in the morning, referred to the legislation as "the horse [expletive] bill," according to someone present at the meeting.

A horseshit bill for a horseshit Congress.



Here's a funny thing. With all the speeches, and tough talk, and castigation of Democrats, you'd think that the Bush Administration was making headway on their agenda this week. But actually, the Rubber Stamp Republican Congress is offering resistance on a variety of levels.

First, Arlen Specter's amnesty for illegal wiretapping bill, written with the full cooperation of the White House, died in committee.

President Bush's support proved insufficient to push a bill authorizing his warrantless wiretapping program through the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday.

Sen. Arlen Specter, the committee's chairman, said the bill stalled because of election-year obstructionism.

''We have seen the incipient stage of filibuster by amendment,'' the Pennsylvania Republican testily declared as he called off a vote to move his bill to the Senate floor. ''Filibuster by speech, filibuster by amendment. Obstructionism.''

That's kind of funny that he calls it "election-year obsrtuctionism," since the chief antagonist in this debate is not up for re-election.

The target of his ire was Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., who spoke against the bill for about a quarter of the panel's two-hour meeting and offered four amendments. Feingold, a possible presidential candidate, said Specter's bill would give the White House too much power to eavesdrop without a warrant in some circumstances.

''The president has basically said: I'll agree to let a court decide if I'm breaking the law if you pass a law first that says I'm not breaking the law,'' Feingold said. ''That won't help re-establish a healthy respect for separation of powers. It will only make matters worse.''

Also, three Republicans joined Feingold in slowing down this legislation. Larry Craig of Idaho, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and John Sununu of New Hampshire are also NOT up for re-election. But this was election-year obstructionism. No, it was Constitution and federal statute-obstructionism, obstructing the President from engaging in any illegal activity he wants and then legalizing it ex post facto.

Next, the military commissions proposal sent to the Congress by the White House was met with immediate resistance by fellow Republicans and the Pentagon's own lawyers:

The Pentagon’s top uniformed lawyers took issue Thursday with a key part of a White House plan to prosecute terrorism detainees, telling Congress that limiting the suspects’ access to evidence could violate treaty obligations.

Their testimony to a House committee marked the latest time that military lawyers have publicly challenged Bush administration proposals to keep some evidence — such as classified information — from accused terrorists. In the past, some military officials have expressed concerns that if the U.S. adopts such standards, captured American troops might be treated the same way [...]

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said he would like to take up the bill on the Senate floor as soon as possible, leaving open the door for a vote on the measure before lawmakers break at the end of the month for election campaigning.

But some GOP moderates are challenging the proposal. They include three senators with hefty credentials: Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam; Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a former military lawyer who still serves in the Air Force Reserves as a reserve judge; and Sen. John Warner of Virginia, chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

This bill, in addition to paving the way for the United States to become the first country on Earth to be able to try a suspect for a capital crime without letting him see or respond to the evidence, would allow the CIA to go on torturing prisoners as well:

New U.S. policies on the treatment and interrogation of terrorism suspects outlined this week by the Bush administration mean that the military no longer will resort to harsh or extreme methods to obtain information — but that the CIA could.

The new administration approach, first presented by President Bush in a speech Wednesday and detailed later by administration and military officials, followed an internal administration debate over the question of how best to extract intelligence from the most notorious suspects apprehended in the war on terrorism.

But by assigning the CIA to use tough, undefined methods on some detainees, the policy outlined by Bush may raise new questions about U.S. procedures and invite more criticism from human rights advocates and allies.

This is exactly what has reduced our global standing, inflamed the entire world, and ceded the moral high ground in the first place. The Bush Administration is looking to codify it into law. The Pentagon admitted that torture does not reveal good intelligence. That hasn't stopped this crew. And they cite examples of "tough tactics" working that are obvious and complete lies:

As promised, some further analysis of Bush's contention that torture is awesome because torturing Abu Zubaydah led him to "identif[y] one of KSM's accomplices in the 9/11 attacks -- a terrorist named Ramzi bin al Shibh." Spencer Ackerman writes:

"A Nexis search for "Ramzi Binalshibh" between September 11, 2001 and March 1, 2002--the U.S. captured Abu Zubaydah in March 2002--turns up 26 hits for The Washington Post alone. Everyone involved in counterterrorism knew who bin Al Shibh was. Now-retired FBI Al Qaeda hunter Dennis Lormel told Congress who Ramzi bin Al Shibh was in February 2002. Abu Zubaydah getting waterboarded and spouting bin Al Shibh's name did not tell us anything we did not already know."

That's a month before Zubaydah's capture, for the record. And, presumably, the FBI knew something about this matter before revealing it in public statements to Congress. Bush is, once again, just making stuff up.

They can't even find one instance of good intelligence coming from torturous interrogation without lying about it. And they can't get any of their power-aggrandizing, lawbreaking agenda through Congress. Maybe that's just "election-year obstructionism", or maybe that's because public servants have seen the great danger of giving power over to this White House.


Thursday, September 07, 2006


There's so much going on in American politics today, that lost in the shuffle is the fact that the second-most-powerful man in the universe is being forced to ride off into the sunset:

Prime Minister Tony Blair, his reputation in Britain badly damaged by his refusal to break ranks with President Bush, gave in Thursday to a fierce revolt in his Labour Party and reluctantly promised to quit within a year.

Blair, whose popularity began sinking when he committed his nation to the U.S.-led war in Iraq three years ago, had long resisted calls to publicly set a timeframe for his departure from office. He feared such an announcement would make him a lame duck and sap his remaining authority.

But ultimately, the foreign leader best known to Americans could find no other way to end days of public turmoil that were severely damaging Labour, which has been in power for nearly a decade but now trails the opposition Conservatives in the polls.

I like how he's hewing to the Bush line of refusing to call for a timetable because that would embolden his political enemies. In fact, the walk of shame Blair will have to endure for a year is a direct result of his closeness to our President:

Long derided by critics as the U.S. president's "poodle," he suffered a further blow at July's G-8 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. An open microphone caught a chat in which he seemed embarrassingly subservient to Bush, who greeted him by shouting "Yo, Blair!"

Anger over his handling of this summer's Mideast fighting and anxiety over the party's slide in the polls fueled the rank-and-file's impatience for him to leave quickly, or at least to say when he planned to go. Blair's refusal to call for an early end to the Israel-Hezbollah fighting in Lebanon was the final provocation for many once-loyal supporters.

It served as yet another reminder of his close alliance with Bush — a friendship widely detested within the Labour Party — and stirred bitter memories of Blair's decision to commit Britain to the Iraq war despite intense public opposition.

Blair can now join Aznar in Spain and Berlusconi in Italy, other European leaders who paid the price for their relationship to Bush. And yesterday's revelation that there were indeed secret CIA prisons, presumably in Europe, is not going to help America's public image on the continent. BooMan considers this in a well-written post about the downfall of American exceptionalism:

Bushism is a spectacular failure, but it could not have been so all-encompassing if it had not jettisoned the aspects of U.S. foreign policy that made our hegemony palatable to the greater world community. The biggest failures have not been military, but diplomatic. The adandoment of the Kyoto process, the tearing up of the ABM treaty, and the total neglect of the peace process in Palestine are among the most glaring policy errors. Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, extraordinary rendition, torture, fishy elections, and increased police powers have all contributed to knocking out the pillars that allowed American Exceptionalism to operate with a good deal of good-will and support.

What we are left with is the dark side of American foreign policy (intervention, coups, support for tyrants and death squads, general neglect of human rights) without the light side (internationalism, collective security, support for democratization and self-determination, and support for human rights). With each passing day, the validity of traditional Marxist, non-aligned, third world, and Islamist critiques is increased.

The GOP response to this is to call such critiques anti-American, foreign propaganda, and to ratchet up the fear factor. This cannot stand.

Either America returns to its former policies that formed the basis for the legitimacy of American Exceptionalism (and does a better job), or the whole international system will re-align on us, with ugly and unpredictable consequences for our nation, our allies, and the world economy.

I think this is very right, and very serious. No country on Earth is going to be perfect, given the push and pull between acting as an enlightened democracy and acting within your country's self-interest. But there must be balance, or else we give those who are predisposed to blame America anyway a good reason to do so.


CA-Gov: Corrections Officers Endorse Phil

The San Jose Mercury News made a fairly bold statement today about the impact of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association endorsement of Phil Angelides, saying that it "could revive the campaign." I think that's an old media take on things, and that the campaign is sufficiently revived and energized as we head into the stretch run. But one thing the endorsement does bring is money money money:

The prison guards are heavy hitters in California politics, particularly known for independent campaigns that help push their favored candidates over the top. Typically, they back winners for the state's top office: The union helped boost Republican Pete Wilson and Democrat Gray Davis to the governorship.

"They're known for their clout,'' said San Jose State University political science professor Larry Gerston. "These guys are extremely well-organized. They really weigh in heavily on law enforcement matters. And they're not afraid to put their money behind candidates who they believe will fight for their cause.''

The correctional officers have purchased $5 million in television time for the final weeks of this election, and are said to have millions more at their disposal.

Without question the prison system should be an issue in this campaign. The Governor failed to deliver any bill addressing the overcrowding of our state prisons this legislative session. He has pretty much no vision for how to address the institutional problems at the root of the prison system. We have thousands and thousands of inmates in temporary beds, and the overcrowding is already responsible for growing violence. If unchecked, the system is frankly on the verge of collapse.

Phil Angelides set out his prison reform plan months ago, calling for expedited hiring, opening two currently unused prisons, getting the broken prison health care system out of receivership, and expanding rehabilitation programs. The leaders in the field, those on the front lines every day, now support him. There's a tendency to forget about this issue, to look at crime statistics to the exclusion of all else. But it's important, it requires serious leadership, and this Governor is not leading. Phil Angelides will.


She's Just Not That Into You

In the latest round of polling, we see that the President is creating quite a gender gap, even in the solid South:

"I think history will show him to be the worst president since Ulysses S. Grant," said Barbara Knight, a self-described Republican since birth and the mother of three. "He's been an embarrassment."

In the heart of Dixie, comparisons to Grant, a symbol of the Union, are the worst sort of insult, especially from a Macon woman who voted for Bush in 2000 but turned away in 2004.

In recent years, Southern women have been some of Bush's biggest fans, defying the traditional gender gap in which women have preferred Democrats to Republicans. Bush secured a second term due in large part to support from 54 percent of Southern female voters while women nationally favored Democrat John Kerry, 51-48 percent.

Now, anger over the Iraq war and frustration with the country's direction have taken a toll on the president's popularity and stirred dissatisfaction with the Republican-held Congress.

Republicans on the ballot this November have reason to worry. A recent Associated Press-Ipsos poll found that three out of five Southern women surveyed said they planned to vote for a Democrat in the midterm elections. With control of the Senate and House in the balance, such a seismic shift could have dire consequences for the GOP.

Mothers don't like it when their sons and daughters keep being sent into danger halfway around the world, and the results are mass anarchy and civil war. And women in general, I'd gather, are put off by the cocky flyboy who never admits that he's wrong. Bush is the husband who won't ask for directions when he's lost.

I don't know how much the loss of Southern women will actually impact the fall elections, except for in Virginia, where the continuing revelations about George Felix Allen and his coziness with neo-Nazi and Klan-friendly white power groups has led even local boy Jerry Falwell to praise his opponent:

Ten weeks before election day, conservative TV evangelist Jerry Falwell is heaping surprising praise on the Democrat opposing Sen. George Allen's re-election bid in Virginia.

In an interview on, Falwell, 73, makes his first comments about Allen's opponent, James Webb. Falwell says he disagrees with Webb on social issues, but gives the politician a personal ranking of "A-."

I don't agree with Falwell pretty much at all, but he's pretty smart at the political dance, and this wet kiss to Jim Webb is clearly an attempt to hedge his bets. Maybe the women in his congregation are feeding him tales about how much they've had it with Republicans.

Georgie, they're just not that into you.


Scholastic Sees The Light

The worst thing about this whole Mickey Mouse mockumentary about 9-11, to me, was that Scholastic, purportedly an educational organization, was going to deliver this baseless garbage to thousands of high schools as a teaching tool. Thanks to public outcry, that will no longer happen. This is a good outcome. Education should not involve fictionalized events in place of history.

Educational media giant Scholastic, Inc. announced it's dropping its original classroom companion guides to a controversial new docudrama, and replacing them with materials stressing critical thinking and media literacy.

"After a thorough review of the original guide that we offered online to about 25,000 high school teachers, we determined that the materials did not meet our high standards for dealing with controversial issues," said Dick Robinson, Chairman, President and CEO of Scholastic, in a press release.

Now, it's on to ABC. But that'll be a tougher nut to crack, given that they're:


ABC: Always Blame Clinton

I'm sitting about a half a mile from ABC's corporate offices, and if I can fake an injury or somehow duck out of work for an hour I'm going over there. Because this "Path to 9-11" mockumentary that they're about to foist on the nation this weekend is such a travesty, so riddled with errors, and so insulting to the memories of those who died that day, that it's driving me to distraction.

ABC is spinning furiously, claiming that nobody's seen the final version and it's unfair to criticize the film. But 900 screeners were already sent to conservative activists and right-wing bloggers, while none were made available for the members of the Clinton Administration it slanders. For his part, the Big Dog is very pissed:

September 1, 2006

Dear Bob,

As you know, ABC intends to air a two part miniseries, “The Path to 9/11,” which purports to document the events leading up to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. ABC claims that the show is based on the 9/11 Commission Report and, as Steve McPherson, President of ABC Entertainment, has said: “When you take on the responsibility of telling the story behind such an important event, it is absolutely critical that you get it right.”

By ABC’s own standard, ABC has gotten it terribly wrong. The content of this drama is factually and incontrovertibly inaccurate and ABC has a duty to fully correct all errors or pull the drama entirely. It is unconscionable to mislead the American public about one of the most horrendous tragedies our country has ever known [...]

While ABC is promoting “The Path to 9/11” as a dramatization of historical fact, in truth it is a fictitious rewriting of history that will be misinterpreted by millions of Americans. Given your stated obligation to “get it right,” we urge you to do so by not airing this drama until the egregious factual errors are corrected, an endeavor we could easily assist you with given the opportunity to view the film.

In another development, it turns out an FBI agent working with the production "quit halfway through because he thought they were making things up. In fact, the writer of the movie admitted that a key scene regarding Sandy Berger slamming a phone on a CIA agent who's about to take out bin Laden is fictional, claiming that...

“Sandy Berger did not slam down the phone,” Mr. Nowrasteh said. “That is not in the report. That was not scripted. But you know when you’re making a movie, a lot of things happen on set that are unscripted. Accidents occur, spontaneous reactions of actors performing a role take place. It’s the job of the filmmaker to say, ‘You know, maybe we can use that.’"

Brent Fricking Bozell, as conservative a conservative as you're ever going to find, called on ABC to correct the scenes "that do not have any bearing in reality."

Despite all this, ABC is forging ahead with showing this absurdity, commercial-free, in prime time, making it available for free on iTunes, and partnering with Scholastic to distribute it to hundreds of thousands of high schoolers as a history lesson.

This is what you get in a society with media conglomeration, especially when one side of the political fence allies themselves with the corporatocracy. You may recall that when right-wingers had a shit fit over an unflattering portrayal of the Reagans in a CBS "docudrama," the network pulled it off the air and ran it on Showtime instead. Now the same people are defending ABC's right to lie to the nation and call it truth.

I'm a big supporter of free speech and wouldn't actually want to see this show tossed off the air. I'd rather exercise my same free speech right to criticize it, and decline to support ABC or any of its advertisers, and boycott everything they do from here on out. Same with Scholastic. Hitting companies in the pocketbook works. I'm under no obligation to support them after they use their megaphone to slander one President and absolve another of blame 60 days before an election. The best of all possible worlds at this point would be forcing ABC to acknowledge that this is a work of fiction, and allow a rebuttal and response in the same prime time slot. But ABC is digging in their heels.

Let them know on this site how you feel. Sell Disney stock. Don't go to Disney World. Stop watching ABC. Picket their corporate offices (I swear I'm going after work). These are the ways to get a corporation's attention.



Two of the best, most powerful, outside-the-box campaign ads I've seen in a long long time.

One, by Kirsten Gillibrand, running to represent the 20th Congressional District of New York against Rubber Stamp Republican John Sweeney, who actually got David Strathairn to reprise his role as Edward R. Murrow.

The other, from Ned Lamont, a fantastic little mini-movie about the war and its effects.

In the age of TiVo and YouTube, there's too much media out there for the same old type of political ads. You need to tell stories and create buzz and be viral. These ads are understanding the changing nature of our media landscape and creating some great, memorable work.


The Chafee Squeeze

Lincoln Chafee is in an impossible spot. He's in a battle with far-right challenger Stephen Laffey for the Republican nomination to the US Senate next week. And if he wins that, he'll be in a tougher battle with Sheldon Whitehouse in the general election in Rhode Island, maybe the most anti-Bush state in the Union.

He also happens to be on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which scheduled a vote today on the confirmation of John Bolton as US Ambassador to the UN (Bolton's in there right now on a recess appointment which will expire in January). If Chafee votes "no" on Bolton he'll get bashed by Laffey from the right; if he votes "yes" he'll get bashed by Whitehouse from the left.

To quote Joshua, the computer in the 80s classic WarGames, "A strange game. The only winning move is not to play."

Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday scrubbed a planned vote on President George W. Bush's bid to keep John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Committee Chairman Richard Lugar, an Indiana Republican, did not explain why the vote on whether to send Bolton's nomination to the full Senate was removed from the day's agenda and did not say if or when it would be taken up again.

Given Democratic opposition to Bolton's nomination, all Republicans on the committee would have to back him in order to send his name to the Senate with a full endorsement. Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, who is locked in a tight re-election bid, has not publicly said how he would vote.

If Chafee gets through the primary, at least he'd only be fighting a one-front war. Then he can make the vote and have an out. Doing it now would be a no-win situation. And we all know that for the GOP, politics is more important than getting work done. So they delayed the vote.

Meanwhile, Laffey has an excellent shot of taking the primary and making all of this a moot point. And it'd be a case of Republicans eating their own, as Whitehouse would slaughter Laffey in the general. Somehow I've missed all the articles about "crazy conservative activists purging their party of moderates." Must check Google again.

UPDATE: Confirmed. This was entirely Chafee's call to delay the vote.


The Accountability Dance

Last week, you heard a brief bit of crowing from Bush defenders and even Administration officials that the crackdown on Baghdad appeared to be working, and this was proof that the "adapting to win" strategy in Iraq was working. Now, whenever things go badly there, a Bush defender will say something like "you can't look at the events on the ground NOW, history will judge," which I consider a "get out of accountability, free" card. As soon as there was any good news, however, history ceased to judge, and the two-week sample rate was enough to proudly boast "We're winning." Except when that sample rate is fudged:

It looks like they spoke too soon. According to the ABC News blog, the Baghdad morgue today revised its figures upward a whopping 300 percent:

"It turns out the official toll of violent deaths in August was just revised upwards to 1535 from 550, tripling the total. Now, we’re depressingly used to hearing about deaths here, so much so that the numbers can be numbing. But this means that a much-publicized drop-off in violence in August - heralded by both the Iraqi government and the US military as a sign that a new security effort in Baghdad was working - apparently didn’t exist. […] Violent deaths now appear roughly in line with the earlier trend: 1855 in July and 1595 in June."

Now, I'm sure, we'll go back to the "history will judge" argument. Anything to remove accountability for this disastrous foreign policy mistake.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Trojan Horse

Marty Lederman's post at Balkinization takes a look at the Military Commissions Bill Bush has sent to Congress. There's a little something extra in there which stands in sharp contrast to the "we do not torture" rhetoric of speeches:

...the most important action has little to do with military commissions (although that stuff is certainly significant, too). Instead, focus ought to be on sections 5 through 7 (pages 77-84), which are, as I predicted here, collectively an attempt to authorize the CIA to engage in the sorts of "enhanced" interrogation techniques -- e.g., hypothermia, threats of violence to the detainee and his family, prolonged sleep deprivation, "stress positions" and waterboarding -- to which the President alluded in his speech today, and to immunize such conduct from any judicial review. (The President's speech is much more candid than the face of the Administration bill. The President bascially concedes that the Hamdan decision stopped the CIA techniques in their tracks -- and that the object of the Administration bill is to authorize them anew.)

The President announced this today because he saw his ass on the line for war crimes. So buried deep in his bill which purports to set up the rules military commissions, he tries to amend the War Crimes Act to authorize the CIA to torture detainees. They mean to subvert the Geneva Conventions under the radar. They mean to make secret CIA prisons, which are now admitted, legal. They mean to do business as usual. And as Josh Marshall says, they mean to do it in the context of politics:

As we speculated last night, President Bush wants to gin up a hail mary pre-election political fight over the constitution (no pun intended) of military tribunals for accused terrorists. This election-timed stunt is intended to put fourteen faces on the president's fight over the rules for his kangaroo courts.

So now, you're either with Bush or you're with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

What am I missing exactly?

Remember: It's all about the politics.

You're missing nothing, Josh. Although I'd add that it's as much about legal vulnerability and de facto legalization of criminal acts as politics.



With the anniversary of 9/11 coming up, this should be the only story we're talking about in relation to it, quite frankly.

The largest health study yet of the thousands of workers who labored at ground zero shows that the impact of the rescue and recovery effort on their health has been more widespread and persistent than previously thought, and is likely to linger far into the future.

The study, released yesterday by doctors at Mount Sinai Medical Center, is expected to erase any lingering doubts about the connection between dust from the trade center and numerous diseases that the workers have reported suffering. It is also expected to increase pressure on the federal government to provide health care for sick workers who do not have health insurance.

Roughly 70 percent of nearly 10,000 workers tested at Mount Sinai from 2002 to 2004 reported that they had new or substantially worsened respiratory problems while or after working at ground zero.

The rate is similar to that found among a smaller sample of 1,100 such workers released by Mount Sinai in 2004, but the scale of the current study gives it far more weight; it also indicates significant problems not reflected in the original study.

For example, one-third of the patients in the new study showed diminished lung capacity in tests designed to measure the amount of air a person can exhale. Among nonsmokers, 28 percent were found to have some breathing impairment, more than double the rate for nonsmokers in the general population.

In the immediate aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center, the EPA was extremely quick to call Ground Zero "safe." AmericaBlog digs up this story that specifically states how the Bush Administration minimized the toxic impact of the site:

An Environmental Protection Agency memo claims city and federal officials concealed data that showed lower Manhattan air was clouded with asbestos after the World Trade Center collapse.

And officials sat on the alarming information even as they told the public it was safe to return downtown, the internal memo says.

Testing by the city Department of Environmental Protection showed the air downtown had more than double the level of asbestos considered safe for humans, claimed federal EPA environmental scientist Cate Jenkins, who supplied the memo to The Post.

The data, which Jenkins says she culled from state records, appear damning.

On the day after the attack, the memo claims, city test results from the corner of Centre and Chambers streets and from the corner of Spruce and Gold streets showed asbestos concentration at about twice the level considered safe by the EPA.

The city did not release this information to the public, Jenkins says.

The next day, Sept. 13, city tests were "overloaded" with asbestos in the air so much that the lab could not conclude precise amounts along Church Street.

Again, the information was withheld, the memo claims.

When the city published the test results for the weeks following 9/11 on its Web site in February 2002, there were 17 instances where the data was either understated or left blank, Jenkins asserts in her report.

"New York City could wiggle out of the [claim of] concealment, because they weren't making any explicit statements about data at the time," Jenkins told The Post. "But the EPA can't wiggle out of this. They said the air was safe at the same time they were coordinating data with the city."

To drive her point home, Jenkins compares statements made by the EPA on the same day test data was showing dangerous levels of asbestos.

On Sept. 18, then-EPA administrator Christie Whitman said the public in lower Manhattan was not being exposed to "excessive levels of asbestos."

That same day, city testing data, some of which was later made public, showed asbestos levels 50 percent higher and more above what her agency considers safe, the memo states.

It's honestly no surprise that when two of the world's largest buildings, constructed in the 1970s, fall to the ground, that's going to kick up a lot of toxic materials into the air. For the Bush Administration to say "no problem" and send cleanup crews and rescue workers into such an environment represents just how little they care about our public safety.

This goes right along with the US Army rejecting a system that would protect our troops from RPGs because it was built by an Israeli company instead of Raytheon, who has a contract or the same kind of device but hasn't delivered it yet. This is not an isolated incident of favors for contractors in Iraq. T. Christian Miller, a writer for the LA Times, has a book out called Blood Money about this national scandal. He writes at The Huffington Post:

I wrote Blood Money in an attempt to answer that basic question. A couple of quick realities: The first problem was trying to rebuild the country in the middle of a war zone. It shouldn't take a degree from Yale to tell you that isn't smart. At one point, the U.S. was spending $4 million dollars a day just to feed the contractors, whether they did any work or not. There were sometimes 5 body guards for each engineer on a job.

The second problem was the Bush administration decided to contract out the rebuilding. Blood Money tells how U.S taxpayers paid Halliburton millions to build an oil pipeline under a river. The company never finished. We paid Bechtel million more to build a hospital for one of Laura Bush's favorite charities. That has yet to be finished, either.

A final, fundamental problem was motivation. The 82nd airborne is different than Wal Mart. The battle field is not the board room. You had fine soldiers like U.S. Army Col. Ted Westhusing, 3rd in his class at West Point, who was found dead in his trailer after clashing with contractors. Whether it was a suicide or something more nefarious, the result was the same. Westhusing's--and by extension the U.S. military's--ability to succeed was frustrated by making private companies responsible for rebuilding. American soldiers have the most at stake in winning hearts and minds. When they undertook that mission, via civil affairs units or under the leadership of people like Gen. Pete Chiarelli, ordinary soldiers often did an amazing job with small amounts of money. The soldiers should have been on the front lines of the rebuilding effort. Instead, they were sidelined by the Pentagon's mania for outsourcing.

The Bush Administration would rather reward contractors, in Iraq as sure as in Lower Manhattan, than keep Americans safe. I don't know how you could interpret this any differently. And it's a disgrace.


CA-GOV: A Conference Call With Phil

I just got off a blogger's conference call with Phil Angelides. This is the second time I've been able to hear him live (OK, this one is on the phone), and I've come away impressed both times. The media filter we have is not getting at the central truths of the California governor's race. Phil Angelides is an unequivocal progressive going against a guy who's gone through 8 different personae in 3 years. Phil is able to make the progressive case with a lot of knowledge and understanding, and he wants to use government to expand opportunity and help the wide swath of Californians rather than corporations and the super-rich. Some call it class warfare, I call it "doing the job you are sent to the governor's mansion to do."

Phil has just launched a re-designed website featuring a brand-new blog (thanks for the link, guys!). That was the essential reason for the conference call, but Angelides used it as an opportunity to once again explain why he's running for governor and what he'd like to do when he wins. He talked about how he started his political engagement at 19 years old, organizing against Richard Nixon. He believes in broad engagement and civic activism, and the power of everyday people to make a difference, and has done so long before there was an Internet. He feels that 2006 can be a turning point, an opportunity to stop the assault on values of fairness and opportunity and to put government back on the side of working people. The nation has always looked to California as a model for progressive action, which is why the Governor's seat is so very important. We cannot cede this race to somebody who looks like a Democrat for three months after looking like a Republican for his entire public life.

Angelides gave a great answer, pursuant to this, about the ways in which the Bush agenda and the Schwarzenegger agenda have dovetailed. This is the B-S agenda:

• Both have talked of "starving the monster" of government, much like Grover Norquist's plea to "drown the government in the bathtub." We all know how well that turned out in New Orleans.

• They've both pushed privatization of retirement safety nets, be it CALPERS or Social Security

• Both have increased the cost of college for students, through tuition hikes, increased student loan rates, and shrinking Pell grants.

• Both have protected tax breaks for the super-rich.

• Both have borrowed billions to finance their budgets, adopting these borrow-and-spend policies at the expense of tax fairness and the middle class.

• Both have UNEQUIVOCAL SUPPORT for the failed war in Iraq.

• And of course, both share the same campaign team. Steve Schmidt and Matthew Dowd went directly from Bush-Cheney '04 to Schwarzenegger '06.

In Phil's words, "Arnold's election-year conversion is as fraudulent as President Bush's claims on weapons of mass destruction."

He did take some questions, and I want to briefly cover those. Conan from GovernorPhil asked him to clarify his position on SB840, the universal health care bill which the Governor has vowed to veto. Phil went off on a bit of a tangent about his support for progressive causes. He called SB840 a "moot point" because it will be vetoed, which disappointed me. But then he made a fine statement, outlining his steps to cover Californians. First, insure all children. Second, force large businesses to cover their employees. Third, crack down on HMO fraud and abuse. Fourth, then work with Sheila Kuehl (the bill's author) to determine strategies to insure all Californians. This incremental approach is probably more sensible and more likely to succeed. A univesal intiative will be subject to major lawsuits and attacks. The right does not want to provide Americans with universal health care distribute by a successful government program. To mount an effort like this will take more than legislation, but a serious effort to mobilize on the ground.

I asked about AB675, the Honest Corporate Tax Reporting Act, which has been on the Governor's desk for a couple weeks without his signature. This bill would stop the practice of corporations who provide one set of books to shareholders (to show enhanced income) and another set to tax boards (with next to no income). There's been literally no talk about this bill, and Angelides didn't seem to know about it, but promised to look into it. There are a lot of bills under the radar screen, and it's important to highlight these points of contrast. Phil also pledged support for Debra Bowen's initiative reform bills, which you won't hear a lot about but are very important (it would disclose who's paying for these ballot measures we vote on every year).

This was a pretty informative conference call, and one that put the issues at stake in California into perspective. It really is a debate about America's future, and I find Phil Angelides to be an excellent standard bearer of the progressive movement we need to keep moving forward.



I'm watching this breathless speech from the President, which was kicked off by this total whitewash about the capture and interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, who was supposed to be a high-value target. Zubaydah was not only mentally ill, but Bush personally got involved in his interrogation after the CIA knew it was pointless.

Which brings us back to the unbalanced Abu Zubaydah. "I said he was important," Bush reportedly told Tenet at one of their daily meetings. "You're not going to let me lose face on this, are you?" "No sir, Mr. President," Tenet replied. Bush "was fixated on how to get Zubaydah to tell us the truth," Suskind writes, and he asked one briefer, "Do some of these harsh methods really work?" Interrogators did their best to find out, Suskind reports. They strapped Abu Zubaydah to a water-board, which reproduces the agony of drowning. They threatened him with certain death. They withheld medication. They bombarded him with deafening noise and harsh lights, depriving him of sleep. Under that duress, he began to speak of plots of every variety -- against shopping malls, banks, supermarkets, water systems, nuclear plants, apartment buildings, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty. With each new tale, "thousands of uniformed men and women raced in a panic to each . . . target." And so, Suskind writes, "the United States would torture a mentally disturbed man and then leap, screaming, at every word he uttered."

This is complete, total bullshit he's peddling right now.

...And now there's clapping? For doing something that ought to have been done 3 years ago? Sending the 9/11 planners like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to Gitmo and prepping them for trials could have been done AT ANY POINT in the last 3 years.

I literally am rubbing my eyes.

...Wow, the bottom line is that Bush is scared that US personnel, including HIM, will be indicted for war crimes. He just said so. His lawyers must have looked at the Hamdan decision and told him there was vulnerability there. This CIA program, which Bush said will CONTINUE, is clearly in flagrant violation of Common Article 3, and now the White House is backpedaling fast, because they're liable.

So they had to spell out an extremely detailed prescription of techniques that will NOW be outlawed (proving they weren't in the past). Lt. Gen. John Kimmons at the Pentagon said today that "no good intelligence is going to come from abusive practices." That didn't stop the White House from doing it. The only thing that stopped Bush is the realization that his ass could be prosecuted. This is big.


Admissions of Guilt

CNN is now reporting that the government will transfer detainees held at "secret CIA prisons" to Defense Department detention centers, where they will get Geneva Convention protections (well, maybe, as Bob Franken is now saying). Eventually, they'll get whatever military tribunals which will be authorized through Congress.

So the Bush Administration is now admitting that the CIA has shepherded away high-value targets into secret prisons. I don't think they've done this before.

This comes on the same day that DoD has revised the Army Field Manual under compliance to the Geneva Conventions.

My, this is a shift.


And Now, Let's Link

Time to get some things out of the inventory:

• I agree that it's beyond time to get rid of Rumsfeld, and it's probably good politics to call for this no-confidence vote, as Democrats are doing, but ultimately Matthew Yglesias is right, Rumsfeld's policies and Bush's policies are one and the same, so it won't change anything. However, indicting Rumsfeld then necessarily indicts the policies of the Bush era, which makes sense to do.

UPDATE: Looks like the GOP will hold strong defending America's Worst Secretary of Defense (tm). I imagine that's the desired effect.

Some Republicans must be getting polls that giving the President wide latitude to break the law isn't playing well. A lot of splintering over the illegal warrantless wiretapping program, with four competing bills in the Judiciary Committee. Republicans are divided, Democrats would be smart to unite.

Felipe Calderon declared President in Mexico, but Lopez Obrador refuses to give up the fight. His party prevented current President Vicente Fox from delivering the State of the Nation message last week. This story continues.

• When comparing Democrats to Nazi appeasers isn't crass enough, Condi Rice obliges by comparing them to white slavers.

• I don't believe the President is anti-Semitic, but I do think that he believes Jews are going to hell as a plain fact. It's part of the worldview of evangelicals who think you can only go to Heaven if you accept Jesus Christ. This really isn't that hard to figure.

• A while back Scott Winship at The Democratic Strategist wrote this interesting article on "The Uninformed Bloc." Anyone who thinks rationality informs political decisions must look at the other decisions people make every day. They've done studies. People are crazy. We in the reality-based community have to hope that we can cajole people into being less crazy.

• How many times have news organizations agreed to these Rove rules?

The White House said that Mr. Rove would consider an interview for this article if it were conducted off the record, with the provision that quotations could be put on the record with White House approval, a condition it said was set for other interviews with Mr. Rove. The New York Times declined.

• The world is now safe for Hummers and greenhouse gases as news emerges of a big oil discovery off the Gulf of Mexico. Anything that boosts US reserves and adds to energy independence is a good thing in the short-term (although this find would reach gas stations for five years), but the long-term goal of alternative energy diversification must continue.


Disney: The Lyingest Place on Earth

So at this point, Bush counterterrorism officials are coming out of the woodwork calling ABC's 9/11 mockumentary an exercise in prevarication:

CRESSY: Joe, it’s amazing, based on what I’ve seen so far is how much they’ve gotten wrong. They got the small stuff wrong such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed instructing Ahmed Rassam to carry out the millenium attacks. Then they got the big stuff wrong, this fantasy about how we had a CIA officer and the Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Massoud looking at Bin Laden and they breathlessly call the White House to say we need to take him out and the White House said no. I mean it’s sheer fantasy. So, if they want to critique the Clinton administration and the Bush administration, based on fact, I think that’s fine. But what ABC has done here is something straight out of Disney and fantasyland. It’s factually wrong. And that’s shameful.

SCARBOROUGH: But at the same time, doesn’t history show that Bill Clinton had several opportunities to go after bin Laden, but the President and his cabinet were afraid to do so because they may offend some people in the Arab world?

CRESSY: Actually, Joe, that had nothing to do with it. If you read the 9/11 Commission report, it makes it very clear. In most of those cases, George Tenet, the Director of the CIA, said because there was single source intelligence it was his recommendation to the President not to take the shot. There was never a case where we had a clear shot at Bin Laden and the decision to take it wasn’t made.

And the lies are so fast and furious in the film, including blaming the Washington Post for something the conservative Washington Times did, you have to wonder how this got made in the first place. I mean the partisanship surrounding 9/11 cannot be good publicity for a major conglomerate.

Until you understand that ABC is showing this fiction without commercials, making it available for free on iTunes, and is basically giving away $30 million in production costs to do it.

In other words, this is a campaign contribution.


I Need To Say Something To My President.

Dude. Come over here. Sit down for a second.

I know you're busy scaring the bejeezus out of the American public and making proposals that your friends don't even support. So I promise to be brief. But in my capacity as a citizen of this country, you're my employee, and this conversation has been a long time in coming.

First of all, how dare you.

How dare you call me an "appeaser" simply because I don't agree with your tactics in fighting or even slowing down terrorism. How dare you be the one to invoke Nazi Germany, so that we have an upside-down fun-house mirror where the guy with the grandfather who profited from relationships with Nazi financiers tells me, the man whose ancestors were rounded up, hauled into a synagogue at the German-Polish border, and burned alive, that I'M the one soft on Nazism. You don't know the first thing about the history of World War II, where it was your own party that had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the fight. You don't have any right to use the death of 6 million Jews, including every member of my family except my great-grandparents, to advance your own agenda. Differences of opinion are just that, and your intention to scaremonger and demonize your way to electoral victory is offensive to the core.

But I will be magnanimous and set that aside for a moment. Have you seen the news? Never mind, I'll read it to you.

The surprising announcement comes as Pakistani army officials announced they were pulling their troops out of the North Waziristan region as part of a "peace deal" with the Taliban.

If he is in Pakistan, bin Laden "would not be taken into custody," Major General Shaukat Sultan Khan told ABC News in a telephone interview, "as long as one is being like a peaceful citizen."

On September 12, 2001, Osama bin Laden was hiding in the mountains of Afghanistan, under shield by the ruling government. Five years later, he's hiding in the mountains of Pakistan, under shield by the ruling government, who happens to be the Islamic world's ONLY NUCLEAR POWER. Your strategy for victory has made Osama so uncomfortable that he's had to jump a mile and a half across the border.

Pakistan is a nation with an unfortunate history of arming rogue states. A.Q. Khan, who sold nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya, North Korea and across the globe, has the same nonagression deal with the Pakistani government as Osama bin Laden. How long before the two of them get together over tea?

You have often said that you make no distinction between terrorists and the nations who harbor them. You now have heard that the world's number one terrorist is being harbor by a putative ally, who has allegedly engaged in a massive nuclear buildup of late, one that you knew about and didn't tell Congress.

So I'm wondering why, with all your tough talk and bravado and insistence that you're taking the fight to the enemy, why you have refused to question, pressure, or even engage what everyone can see is the greatest threat to world peace on the planet. One of the few times you agreed with John Kerry in 2004 is when you both cited nuclear proliferation as the greatest issue facing the world, in other words a terrorist getting a nuclear device. A global terrorist is living without fear in a nuclear nation. You stand mute as Pakistan continues to harbor, foment, finance and welcome terror.

Mr. President, or more to the point Mr. Cheney... why are you both trying to kill me? Why do you appear to be deliberately making me less safe? And why are you still allowed to do so?

Because I think you're getting everybody so very angry that the final question I posed to you might not be as ridiculous as you think.

Now go. Make your speech.


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Like I Said About Rolling Up Your Sleeves...

September signaled the start of the fall campaign season. Here's a choice bit from September 1, wherein Newt Gingrich (who sent me a campaign email today, the first of many, I hope) decides calling your opponent an appeaser to Nazis is no big deal:

COLMES: We were just talking about [House Democratic Leader] Nancy Pelosi [CA] and what she wants to do in this effort to perhaps get Rumsfeld removed. He recently made some very controversial comments, basically suggesting that critics of the Iraq war are tantamount to Hitler's appeasers. Do you agree with him on those comments?

GINGRICH: Essentially, sure. I mean, I think you've got to say that --

COLMES: You're calling appeasers people who disagree with the Bush policy administration --


COLMES: -- comparing them to those who enabled Hitler?


COLMES: That's an astounding comment --

GINGRICH: GINGRICH: What's your -- what's your -- why? Why is it astounding?

COLMES: -- that's a very insulting comment --

GINGRICH: It's not an insulting comment.

Gingrich went on to tout the unexploded sarin gas shells, buried remnants from the Iran-Iraq war that are best described as
"weapons of minor discomfort," as if they were "chemical warheads."

And today we got this amazing speech from the President:

Quoting repeatedly from Osama bin Laden, President Bush said Tuesday that pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq would fulfill the terrorist leader's wishes and propel him into a more powerful global threat in the mold of Adolf Hitler [...]

"History teaches that underestimating the words of evil and ambitious men is a terrible mistake," the president said. "Bin Laden and his terrorist allies have made their intentions as clear as Lenin and Hitler before them. The question is: Will we listen? Will we pay attention to what these evil men say?"

Yes, we should definitely make sure that we listen and study and maybe put up a chart about bin Laden's words, instead of actually finding him and bringing him to justice. John Kerry made exactly the right statement.

"If President Bush had unleashed the American military to do the job at Tora Bora four years ago and killed Osama bin Laden, he wouldn't have to quote this barbarian's words today," said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. "Because President Bush lost focus on the killers who attacked us and instead launched a disastrous war in Iraq, today Osama bin Laden and his henchmen still find sanctuary in the no man's land between Afghanistan and Pakistan, where they still plot attacks against America."

In fact, he's not only finding sanctuary, he's being shielded. By our friends in Pakistan.

Mind you, this is only September 5. It's going to get even nastier. We're not going to get reasonable debate from the cornered animal that is the Republican Party, so let me lay it out. The question is tactical. Nobody thinks bin Laden is a paper tiger, but we think he should be captured by now. We know that Afghanistan is still a mess five years on, that Iraq is in civil war, that Iran is at the height of its power, and that the homeland is not secure. More terrorist attacks occurred in 2005 than any year in history. This is a question of tactics. And right now, we're using the wrong ones. So you can keep studying words, or shrugging shoulders as you call your opponents fascist appeasers. But make no mistake: only one party in this country is actually committed to fighting terror. Sorry, it's true. If you want a safer America, vote Democratic.

P.S. Go read Howie Klein's piece at the if you want a safer America link, it has some great first-hand accounts with national security Democrats running in races all over the country. And none of them are about to back down in the face of this scaremongering and demonizing.

UPDATE: Olbermann goes after Bush's ridiculous speech again with another commentary that makes him a credit to his profession:

Whatever the true nature of al Qaeda and other international terrorist threats, to ceaselessly compare them to the Nazi State of Germany serves only to embolden them.

More over, Mr. Bush, you are accomplishing in part what Osama Bin Laden and others seek--a fearful American populace, easily manipulated, and willing to throw away any measure of restraint, any loyalty to our own ideals and freedoms, for the comforting illusion of safety.

It thus becomes necessary to remind the President that his administration's recent Nazi "kick" is an awful and cynical thing.
And it becomes necessary to reach back into our history, for yet another quote, from yet another time and to ask it of Mr. Bush:

"Have you no sense of decency, sir?"


The Deal

Just saw Anderson Cooper with Peter Bergen, noting that Pakistan has not arrested a member of the Taliban since 2001. Apparently, there's now a deal in place with Pakistan to keep Al-Qaeda's top leder safe:

Pro Taliban militants and the Pakistani government signed a peace deal on Tuesday, according to Pakistani negotiators.

The militants said they would stop attacks in Pakistan and across the Afghan border on the condition that the Pakistani government stop air and ground operations in the Waziristan region and dismantle newly built checkposts.

People arrested during military operations will also be released under the agreement and confiscated property, including weapons, would be returned [...]

The peace agreement means that there will be no more free movement for tribes to enter into Afghanistan.

"Except for trade, people will not be allowed to go to Afghanistan to launch attacks," said Nek Zaman, a member of the tribal council who is also a member of the Pakistani parliament.

You can run all the bullshit 9/11 mockumentaries you want, if it gets out (and it will) that Pakistan "would not bring bin Laden into custody" is he promises to lead a peaceful life, the Bush Administration will lose everyone but the diehards. We've now gone from having the architect of the 9/11 attacks, the man most responsible for killing 3,000 of our citizens, on the run in the Tora Bora mountains, to him being shielded from prosecution by a foreign government. Which, just to clarify, was exactly his situation in Afghanistan throughout the 1990s. So in effect NOTHING has changed for bin Laden five years after the terrorist attack on America. In fact, it's worse, because we're nominally ALLIED with the country that's shielding him.

This is as grave an injustice that's ever been committed on this country. I know fugitives can be hard to find. But to let this one slip through your fingers, and then push him into the waiting bosom of a country to whom we just gave billions in weaponry, it's... unconscionable. Just unconscionable.

But I'm sure an ABC docudrama will prove that Clinton did it.