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

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Altmouse: Women Hating Women

So a bunch of liberal bloggers had lunch with former President Clinton, in what can be seen as a turning point in the relationship between the progressive blogosphere and the establishment of the Democratic Party (along with what looked like, but wasn't, a coordinated response to Disney's crockumentary "The Path To 9-11"). A big moment, sure to cause jealousy among the conservosphere. So what did they decide to focus on?

Focus on the breasts of one of the participants. And this, from a woman.

One of the central critiques of the media, from all sides of the political spectrum, is that they refuse to take issues and policy seriously, instead focusing on the sensationalistic, the sleazy, the tabloid, the meaningless innuendo.

Ann Althouse, you're quite a credit to the online discourse. And to your gender.

Amanda from Pandagon has more:

Dr. Helen and Ann Althouse are on The Case of How a Pair of Breasts Got Into a Luncheon With Bill Clinton. Normal people would think, “Well they appear to be attached to a woman who got invited to the luncheon.” But Ann, unable to muster up anything to actually say about the luncheon, decided to invite her male readers to make gross comments about Jessica’s body. Naturally, the word “intern” was thrown around, because about 95% of wingnuts think “interns” are concubines for politicians. When Jessica linked back and told her, far more nicely than I would, to cram it up her tight ass, she decided to write an entire post on Jessica’s boobs.

The general opinion at Ann’s blog and Dr. Helen’s blog (from the supporters, though a lot of fantastic folks are defending Jessica’s and all women’s right to be both of breast and of talent) is that Jessica, by leaving the house without her state-issued burqua is clearly trying to send the perilous message that bitches are indeed shit. And we know this is not true. Except Ann and Dr. Helen, who are useful fools and have no idea that when those state-mandated burquas are coming, they’re going to be required to wear them, too.

By the way, how much do I love Ann’s “blame the victim” defense?

Sooooo… apparently, Jessica writes one of those blogs that are all about using breasts for extra attention. Then, when she goes to meet Clinton, she wears a tight knit top that draws attention to her breasts and stands right in front of him and positions herself to make her breasts as obvious as possible?

Ann would totally be a great leader for a gang rape. “Go for it guys, she’s just a slut. You can tell. Look at what she’s wearing.”

Apparently a woman isn't allowed to be seen within 250 yards of Bill Clinton without being deservedly called a slut.

Like I said, real credit to your gender, Ann.


Millions About To Die

The situation is Darfur is rapidly deteriorating. It's sad that it takes George Clooney to get the world to pay attention to a genocide staring them in the face. The weakness of the UN Charter, which must ask permission from a host nation to send in a peacekeeping force, is in evidence here. But in many ways the UN is a convenient scapegoat for the inability of individual countries to accept responsibility for mass murder while they stand by idly. NATO, or a bolstered AU, or even ad hoc coalitions could enter the Sudan to save the lives of these people. But they have as yet not stepped up to the plate. I was encouraged that President Bush chose to mention Darfur, unsolicited, in his press conference yesterday. But the position of the United States government for going on two years has been that this is a genocide. And precious little has been done about stopping the killing. I'm not talking about humanitarian aid: the world has done their part in that, led by the United States. I'm talking about disarming the janjaweed and allowing Darfurians to end their ceaseless life in fear.

I'm happy that Tony Blair is demanding that the international community do something. And I'm glad that an international series of events are planned for tomorrow. I'll endeavor to visit one in my community. But the time for talk is over. In two weeks the Khartoum government will expel the meager African Union forces that have been the only thing standing in the way of mass death. Air attacks have increased in recent weeks, and women cannot leave their villages without fear of rape, yet will starve if they stay in their camps. This is unacceptable. Having lived through Rwanda and Bosnia, it is unacceptable for me to silently witness another ethnic cleansing. This is beyond politics, and is about basic human rights. The Khartoum government must be held accountable for mass murder, and must be stopped. Today. Right now. no exceptions.

Here's something you can do. There's a lot more where that came from.

UPDATE: Mark Leon Goldberg notes that the President's remarks on Darfur were almost entirely about what the UN has to do, instead of his country's responsibility. Again, the UN is the scapegoat.

First things first: Legally speaking, the Security Council does not need to pass another resolution to deploy peacekeepers to Darfur without Khartoum’s permission. However, the logistics on the ground in Darfur require that Khartoum grant its consent; the 17,000 troops authorized by Resolution 1706 somehow need to get to the remote region, and once there, they would need to be supplied.

To be sure, this is frustrating the U.N. process, but it is not an insurmountable diplomatic obstacle. So far, China and Russia, which have close ties to the government of Sudan, have been unwilling to press the Khartoum into accepting the blue helmets. If President Bush were truly serious about stopping the genocide, he would pick up the phone, call Hu Jintao and Vladamir Putin, and make Darfur a priority of our bilateral relations with China and Russia.

The UN is where countries that don't get along can dump all their tensions and find a convenient body to blame.


Friday, September 15, 2006

Quick Hits Before The Weekend

Here's some things for you to study before the quiz on Monday:

• Sen. Lieberman (Connecticut for Lieberman - CT) is feeling the heat about missing hundreds of votes during his tenure, including almost half of the votes on Iraq. This is exactly the same attack Lieberman used in his successful race against Lowell Weicker in 1988. So he's particularly sensitive to it. This race looks to be in Lieberman's favor right now, but Ned Lamont is charging.

• Republicans: they don't care about your security:

House Republicans are blocking an attempt to spend $3.1 billion to help the nation's police and fire agencies communicate in emergencies as Congress debates a proposed overhaul of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Let's use experimental microwave weapons to disperse crowds. Sweet!!! This isn't coming from an eight year-old, but the Air Force secretary, a high-ranking official.

• A really good debate in my cross-posted Daily Kos version of my thoughts on Presidential blackmail. One point that comes through over and over again is that the President is covering himself and his colleagues from war crimes prosecution by trying to legalize his own illegal behavior. CIA officers may be buying legal insurance because they changing the law after they've committed crimes won't help them. But it might help the Administration maintain plausible deniability. And judging from Bush's petulance today, he looks to be VERY worried about this. Jonathan Turley's appearance on Countdown today hit this point over and over.

The Washington Post editorial board also weighs in on the President lobbying for torture. Key quote:

There's no question that the United States is facing a dangerous foe that uses the foulest of methods. But a wide array of generals and others who should know argue that it is neither prudent nor useful for the United States to compromise its own values in response. "I continue to read and hear that we are facing a 'different enemy' in the war on terror," retired Gen. John W. Vessey Jr., a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote in a letter to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) this week. "No matter how true that may be, inhumanity and cruelty are not new to warfare nor to enemies we have faced in the past. . . . Through those years, we held to our own values. We should continue to do so."

• Never got to this, but Social Security is still on the hit list for the White House, and every Democratic candidate should be very vocal about their determination to protect this successful government program that has lifted so many seniors out of poverty.

• Bob Ney wasn't the only Ohio Republican sentenced to prison this week, Tom Noe will also be fitted for an orange jumpsuit, for illegally contributing money to the President through intermediaries. By the way, the White House still has not returned that money, to the best of my knowledge.

• I am disappointed that Chicago was unable to implement their living wage law due to a veto from the Mayor. That was Mayor Daley's first veto in 17 years. Corporate America still holds a gun to the head of our nation's cities.

Roy Edroso sees some hypocrisy in conservatives mourning the loss by hard-right Stephen Laffey to moderate Lincoln Chafee, but then seeing the loss of Joe Lieberman as the end of the Democratic Party. Apparently some insurgent campaigns are worse than others.

• MT-Sen: Will Connie Burns be the next to fall in the ongoing Abramoff probe? Maybe so, but judging by how Jon Tester is surging in the Montana Senate race (Rasmussen will show a 9-point lead soon), Burns will be a private citizen before we find out.

• The NSA is writing approved talking points for the Senate Intelligence Committee in order to move forward the illegal wiretapping program. Politics over national security, again.

• GA-Gov: Sonny Perdue thinks it's hilarious that, as governor, he can write bills giving himself a $100,000 tax break, and you can't.

"The one thing I haven't been able to do is find a way to have a friend of mine write me a bill that saves me a $100,000 on my taxes," "Brian" said. "I was wondering how I might be able to get that done."

"Well, you get elected governor Brian," Perdue fired back.

I don't think that ultimately there's a good shot Perdue will lose the governor's mansion, but it's always nice to see Republicans letting the truth slip out.


Newest Tool In The White House Shed: Blackmail

I'm going to ask you to perform a tall order. But I think it will end up being instructive.

I'm going to ask you to take the President at his word. Because if you do so, and you logically piece out his machinations in the debate over military commissions, you have to crown him one of the most impudent, treacherous, vile sould ever to hold the office.

So join me on this thought experiment, will you?

The President said today, as he's said on numerous occasions, that the CIA detainee program (and we've truly gone down Euphemism Lane when a practice of torturing people, hiding them in secret prisons off the books, and trying them in kangaroo courts with evidence obtained through that torture which they cannot see is a "program") for high-value targets has yielded vital information in the war on terror. I would tend to question the value of that information, but for this moment, let's just take the President at his word. If you believe that, you believe that the program itself is indeed vital to our homeland security.

This is what the President said today about that program.

Members of the Central Intelligence Agency who have been questioning terrorist suspects — and extracting vital information in the process — cannot be expected to continue their efforts without clarification, Mr. Bush argued during a question-answer session that lasted nearly an hour.

“They don’t want to be tried as war criminals,” Mr. Bush said. “They expect our government to give them clarity about what is right and what is wrong.”

He went on to essentially say that if he did not get his way on the military commissions bill, he would shut down the CIA program. Which means that he is threatening to stop what he terms A SUCCESSFUL AND VITAL SECURITY PROGRAM is he doesn't get what he wants.

In other words, the President is blackmailing the American people, and will DELIBERATELY make us less safe if he doesn't get his way.

Can this be true? Can he seriously hold Americans in such contempt that he'd rather endanger them than compromise? Well, I actually don't think so. That's the logical outcome of his threat, but you have to accept all his dubious premises in order to think so. For one, you have to believe that the CIA program is vital. You have to think it's necessary for us to torture detainees to save America. You have to think it's crucial for us to lose our humanity to save our humanity. You have to think that torture provides valuable informaiton.

I don't believe any of that. Therefore I believe undermining our moral standing both debases ourselves and our global stature, and we ought to bring military commissions in line with our own ideals. That's why I think this program is NOT vital. It wouldn't be offered up as blackmail if it was so important.

But the President does believe his CIA program is legal and also vital, at least in public statements. Yet he would jeopardize it because of nothing but disagreement.

And so we have a case which we often have when dealing with this President. He's either a vile, heartless scoundrel who would rather put America at risk than back down, or he's simply lying about how important the CIA detainee program really is. Either way, it's unconscionable for a President of the United States to play politics with national security in this manner.

As Jonathan Turley just put it on "Countdown," this issue is a "redefining" moment in American history. We had our defining moment in 1787 when we established a Constitution on the ideals of liberty and individual freedom. Codifying torture, allowing the US justice system to accept evidence gained through torture, denying defendants to view the evidence against them, would redefine our commitment to the ideas we fought a Revolutionary War to achieve, and continued to fight battles on our own soil and all over the globe to maintain.

It's far far worse to have a President who deems it fit, indeed necessary, to blackmail the American people into accepting his radical aggrandizement of executive power.

(P.S. Redhatman had a similar take on the initial move of high-value detainees to Guantanamo last week, but I think this latest incident is even more brazen).


Lightly Posted

I have a shoot until mid-afternoon, so enjoy the links to your right.


The Need For Clarity When You Don't Need Clarity

It's insane to see the media just parrot the White House line that they simply need nothing more than "clarity' on the Geneva Conventions. They've been in place for around 60 years, and nobody else has needed such clarity, including all of the American Presidencies before him. This is not a simple question of clarity; it's a radical departure which rejects this international treaty and seeks to find loopholes in it. I can see an internal White House debate where someone says "Well, it says we can't do waterboarding, but what about Gatorade-boarding?"

Both the Feinstein-Specter bill on wiretapping, and the Warner-led Armed Services Committee legislation on military commissions are compromise bills with bipartisan support that strike the balance between defending national security and preserving liberty, without which there is no point in defending national security.

And really, if Bush's most important job is to protect the homeland, you'd think he'd give a rat's ass about the man who murdered 3,000 American citizens in cold blood.

HOST: Alright Fred, you and a few other journalists were in the Oval Office with the President, right? And he says catching Osama bin Laden is not job number one?

BARNES: Well, he said, look, you can send 100,000 special forces, that’s the figure he used, to the mountains of Pakistan and Afghanistan and hunt him down, but he just said that’s not a top priority use of American resources. His vision of a war on terror is one that involves intelligence to find out from people, to get tips, to follow them up and break up plots to kill Americans before they occur. That’s what happened recently in that case of the planes that were to be blown up by terrorists, we think coming from England, and that’s the top priority. He says, you know, getting Osama bin Laden is a low priority compared to that.

If Bin Laden is Hitler, you'd think his capture would actually, you know, be a priority.

Somehow, we have an Administration that is trying to scare people about terrorism, scare people into thinking "they're coming again," and yet can't be bothered to actually find its leader.

I'm listening to the President's speech right now, and he simply cannot argue the specifics of his preferred legislation, which includes secret hearings, hidden evidence, torture and coercion codified into law, instead pretending that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention is so foggy. "It's so vague, can't perform outrages upon human dignity, what does that mean?"

You know, anyone that can't figure that out is frankly a contemptuous individual.


Thursday, September 14, 2006

3 Is A Trend

Randy Cunningham was an incident. Tom DeLay was a coincidence. Bob Ney is a trend:

Ohio Republican Rep. Bob Ney has agreed with the Justice Department to plead guilty to at least one criminal charge in a deal that could be announced as early as Friday, Capitol Hill sources said Thursday.

The Justice Department and Ney’s attorney would not discuss whether a deal has been reached.

“I don’t have anything I can share with you right now,” said William Lawler, a lawyer for Ney. Ney’s congressional office did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

But Capitol Hill sources close to Ney said the plea agreement was ready to be publicized on Thursday, but an announcement was delayed to avoid influencing a special election in Ney’s congressional district.

Ney was all but named in multiple indictments of lobbyists and former Congressional staffers throughout the year. This plea bargain was all but assured. And "deal" means they'll be getting some information from Ney on some others.

Jerry Lewis, John Doolittle, Richard Pombo... you're all on deck.

UPDATE: Charlie Brown and Jerry McNerney represent the best chance to pick up seats for the Democrats in California because they are not afraid to label Doolittle and Pombo as corrupt Abramoff cronies. Brown just launched a site called Doolittle Facts which takes it right to him for siding with Abramoff on the forced abortion, sex slavery, sweatshop compound that is the CNMI.

The CNMI Government has been under intense scrutiny for more than a decade in connection with their tolerance of sweatshop factories, forced abortions, sex slavery, religious restrictions, and numerous other human rights abuses. While most Americans have never heard of the CNMI, or the abuses, John Doolittle has known for almost ten years—through published reports by the U.S. Department of the Interior, in certified letters sent to his office and the Resource Committee on which he served, and on national news programs like ABC News’ 20/20.

John Doolittle has done nothing in the face of these abuses. Twenty-nine legislative reforms have been proposed in Congress since 1995 to fix problems on CNMI, and Doolittle has supported none of them. Instead, he’s championed millions in CNMI appropriations from U.S. taxpayers. He’s also provided campaign contributions and other political support to CNMI government officials that have helped perpetuate the exploitation of tens of thousands of their residents.

The whole "culture of corruption" meme has waned somewhat, and it didn't help in a campaign where Francine Busby tried to run against Duke Cunningham, who was already in jail at the time. But when you're running against the SOURCE of the corruption, you must hold him accountable for it. And Brown (and McNerney) are doing that. Maybe that's why he's he's in a virtual dead heat with an entrenched incumbent.


People Let Me Tell You...

...'bout my best friend....

Iran's president -- hosting a visit from Iraq's prime minister and expressing support for his country's beleaguered war-torn neighbor -- says the Islamic republic supports a "united" Iraq and will help the nation "establish full security," an Iranian news agency reported.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke at a news conference with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki after private talks were held on Tuesday, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported. It is al-Maliki's first visit to Iran since he became prime minister earlier this year.

"Iran will provide assistance to the Iraqi government to establish full security. We believe strengthening the Iraqi government is tantamount to promoting security, peace and friendship in that country," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying.

Does anyone think there's a difference in Iran's mind between "establishing full security" and "murdering all the Sunnis"?

By the way, this would be yet another example of Bush and Ahmadinejad in full agreement: they both think Nouri al-Maliki is a great guy.


How To Hack A Website

Here, according to the Schwarzenegger campaign, is how you hack a website.

Take, for example, the Governor Phil website.

1 - type in the URL for a story:

2 - Remove everything but this:

You have now hacked the Governor Phil website.


The Free Speech Show

A few weeks ago I taped an episode of The Free Speech Show, a free-form videocast roundtable discussion on a specific topic, hosted by Bill Bronner. My show was on the economy, and it's not up yet, but their revamped site looks really good. Their blog has an RSS feed as well. I suggest that it's worth a look.

i'll let you know when my episode goes live.


The Return of Big Media

One of the things this whole ridiculous Disney/Path to 9-11 flap showed was the dangers of media consolidation. Some on the progressive left have argued that in the Internet age media consolidation is no longer as big an issue. Well, Disney was able to disseminate their advertising to the ABC Radio Networks they owned (most of which are conservative) and vertically market their product to their self-selected audience. A media environment which is less local and more conglomerated really does a disservice to the whole country. Issues of Big Media rarely make the Big Media, and here's one of them, which I got in an email from FreePress:

We have just learned that former FCC Chairman Michael Powell buried evidence that showed media consolidation is harmful to local news reporting.

Powell suppressed a 2004 study to protect his friends in the corporate media lobby. It revealed that locally owned stations produced more local news than those owned by media giants -- such as ABC/Disney, Fox Television, Viacom and Sinclair Broadcast Group.

There's an AP story on this subject.

Media consolidation was a bigger issue for me prior to entering the blogosphere, which I still do see as helping the cause. But clearly the whole world isn't checking blogs every 5 minutes. There are vast areas of the country which rely on radio owned by 2 conglomerates, television owned by four or five, and maybe a movie made by one of six, tops. Local programming is vital to communities in terms of getting information they need about what's going on in their area.

The FCC needs to restore this study and heed its recommendations.


Actually, THE DEMOCRATS stood up today

I'm a little tired of hearing about heroes like John McCain, Lindsay Graham, and Mark Warner in a vaccuum. McCain, Warner and Graham, along with Susan Collins, did stand up against what I'm sure was plenty of intimidation from the White House, supporting military tribunal legislation that would put it in line with Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. For that they deserve commendation.

But would it kill these media types to just mention that EVERY DEMOCRAT stood with those four Republicans as well? That EVERY DEMOCRAT saw the danger in concealing evidence and allowing other evidence obtained through coercion in military trials. Colin Powell sees it too, and that's great. But how about the fact that the Democrats are completely united on following the blueprint of the Supreme Court in Hamdan and restoring Geneva Convention protections for military tribunals?

It's fairly obvious that there's a connection between Republicans with war experience and those supporting this measure. Those who have actually been on the front lines understand that they don't want soldiers to be put at the same risk of kangaroo courts and detainment without charges. And this quote by Lindsay Graham is dead on target.

"We are not going to win the war by killing every terrorist with a bomb or a bullet,'' South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham told reporters before the committee met. "You win the war by persuading those people in the Mideast to reject terrorism.''

But the media has turned this into an internecine war between Republicans, rather than some key Republicans jumping on a policy Democrats have argued the entire time. I can't say I blame the Democrats for this one. For the media, the story of a party eating their own is always bigger. And the Dems can say whatever they want without getting a whole lot of attention. This could easily be a top story, when a United States Senator says this:

"In light of the rantings that went on for 30 minutes by two colleagues from the other side, I'd like to state for the record that America is not tired of fighting terrorism; America is tired of the wrongheaded and boneheaded leadership of the Republican party that has sent six and a half billion a month to Iraq while the front line was Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. That led this country to attack Saddam Hussein, when we were attacked by Osama bin Laden. Who captured a man who did not attack the country and let loose a man that did. Americans are tired of boneheaded Republican leadership that alienates our allies when we need them the most. Americans are most certainly tired of leadership that despite documenting mistake after mistake after mistake, even of their own party admitting mistakes, never admit they do anything wrong. That's the kind of leadership Americans are tired of."

She concluded,

"I'm not going to sit here as a Democrat and let the Republican leadership come to the floor and talk about Democrats not making us safe. They're the ones in charge and Osama bin Laden is still at loose."

It's damn near time to bring back the Fairness Doctrine, but since that won't happen, its time to acknowledge that during this campaign season, when Republicans are fighting within their own party, that's because SOME OF THEM AGREE WITH DEMOCRATS who are, for the most part, united this year.


Humbled, I

Welcome Glenn Greenwald fans, and a big thanks to him for linking to my post from a couple days ago which compiled a series of Glenn Reynolds quotes from the immediate aftermath of September 11th and showed he was fairly concerned about civil liberties and warrantless spying THEN.

Glenn points out that the bill to which Reynolds was opposed back then was FAR less intrusive in terms of granting surveillance power to the federal government than Arlen Specter's White-House approved bill which passed the Judiciary Committee yesterday. It is incumbent upon us in the reality-based community to call outthis rank hypocrisy when we see it, but also to make sure the principles of American democracy, the separation of powers, and the Bill of Rights (particularly the Fourth Amendment) are upheld by not allowing this pernicious legislation to go forward. This New York Times story is completely frustrating. There is a competing bill proposed by Senator Feinstein that is completely reasonable, which would:

• Re-state that FISA is the exclusive means by which our government can conduct electronic surveillance of U.S. persons on U.S. soil for foreign intelligence purposes;

• Prohibit the use of federal funds for any future domestic electronic surveillance that does not fully comply with the law; and

• Expressly state that there is no such thing as an “implied” repeal of FISA laws. In other words, no future bill can be interpreted as authorizing an exemption from FISA unless it expressly makes an exception.

It also increases the period the NSA can surveil without a warrant from 72 hours to 7 days, streamlines the warrant process, and allows immediate warrantless eavesdropping without the AG's approval. So everything the White House has been saying about FISA, all the negatives to it, are fixed in the Feinstein-Specter bill, while still maintaining that FISA is the only way you can wiretap and eavesdrop. It's a completely reasonable compromise that maintains civil liberties while allowing the tools necessary to surveil terrorists. To quote Greenwald:

Thus, there is only one possible reason to oppose that bill -- namely, because what the President really wants is to eavesdrop on Americans in secret and with no judicial oversight. That is what the debate is about, not about whether the President can eavesdrop on terrorists. That is an easy argument to make, as Sen. Feinstein's own Release demonstrates, and as Sen. Leahy demonstrated with his defense of that legislation in David Stout's NYT article yesterday (Leahy: Feinstein-Specter bill "ensure(s) that the U.S. intelligence community can continue to operate and protect the nation with the necessary F.I.S.A. court oversight").

I often go to Greenwald for all of these issues, I actually just (finally) finished his book yesterday, and I'm completely humbled that he came to me to make a point.



Mystery Democratic Theater 2006: Path To 9-11

OK, since Tuesday I've been feverishly working on a YouTube special event. Originally it was suggested to me last Sunday that we do a "Mystery Science Theater 3000" treatment to Disney's hackumentary "The Path To 9-11." After a couple days of technical difficulties, we finally did it using nothing more than a Macbookpro for video, sound and editing.

I can now officially present to you, with a budget of $15 for beer (approximately $39.999985 million less than the actual movie), Part 1 of a 2-part series.

link (I don't want to embed, as it is kinda copyrighted material)

Part 2 will be up shortly and I'll update at that point.

One thing you can never do enough as progressives is outright mockery. We know that the Rove/Limbaugh approach to liberals works this way. It can absolutely work in the other direction, and if this works out, in the future it can be applied to all sorts of other material (ads, speeches, White House press conferences, CNN, etc).

[UPDATE] Part 2 is up! This features the infamous Sandy Berger scene, the infamous Madeleine Albright scene, and the infamous "terrorists shoot at a projection of President Clinton on a cave wall" scene.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

CA-Gov: What The Voters COULD Be Focused On

You know, he-said she-said competing press releases about GOP computer incompetence are fun and all, but while this goes on, a huge political story has gone virtually unnoticed. What we have is a governor who is taking millions in donations from interests with business before the state.

As legislators were approving more than 1,000 bills in August, Schwarzenegger was crossing the state, and the country, soliciting campaign cash. Now, as he decides whether to sign those bills into law or nix them with a veto, he will be cashing checks from scores of contributors whose interests intersect with legislation.

Schwarzenegger is vastly out-raising his Democratic challenger, state Treasurer Phil Angelides. He has taken $26.4 million into his reelection account so far this year, compared with Angelides' $13.4 million, according to records filed with the Secretary of State's office.

Last week alone, the Republican governor held five fundraisers, including two on Friday in the Central Valley, two in Los Angeles and one in suburban Sacramento. He has scheduled at least 22 such events this month.

"This is exactly the kind of practice he said he was going to Sacramento to end," said Angelides consultant Bill Carrick.

The Times article rightly notes that as a candidate in 2003, the Governor called for a blackout period for fundraising during times when the legislative session was closing. Now that he has a chance to raise millions during that time, it's not such a big deal.

So we have a real choice here. Do you want a governor who consistently hides the truth, whether it's his massive fundraising, his contributors, his true principles, even down to his Internet team's incompetence, or do you want someone who's told the people of California exactly what he would do with the state if given the opportunity. That's the issue, when it comes right down to it.


Something's Cooking

Last night some friends and I put together an interesting little video project about Disney/ABC's Path to 9-11. I'm almost done with it and will have it up shortly.

This is just a teaser.



So Lincoln Chafee averted a Republican suicide mission by fending off his hard-right opponent in Rhode Island in the Senate primary. Of course, the Democratic nominee, Sheldon Whitehouse, received more votes in his uncontested primary than Chafee and Laffey COMBINED. So Senator Chafee may have earned the right to get torched by Sheldon Whitehouse in November. Especially if Laffey voters are so alienated and feel they don't have a choice in the race that they stay home.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Fighting the War On Terror With 3 Guys Named Joe

Even if you buy the existential threat that is Al Qaeda, even if you believe as the President does that this is a battle for civilization, you can't help but ask this question:

If the war on terror is really a "struggle for civilization" itself, as President Bush claimed last night, why do we have just 130,000 troops in Iraq?

You would think that if America were really engaged in such an epic battle -- "for all the marbles," as one friend paraphrased it -- we would put up a bigger fight.

In fact, Michael Ware again reports, as he did yesterday on CNN, that the chief refuge for Al Qaeda in Iraq, a region the size of New Hampshire, is patrolled by 300 US troops. He also said that US commanders feel three times as many troops are needed to complete the mission. In a way, as Attaturk says, this is generals covering their ass and shifting the blame. But clearly we're fighting the enemy with hopes and sticks. But it's curious that this "battle for civilization to the death" is being staffed by three guys named Joe. Maybe the 101st Fighting Keyboardists will have to get into the fight after all if they want to make the world safe for their parents' basements.

I don't agree with this, by the way, as I don't believe there's any more that can be done militarily that will stop what is really a civil war. I don't believe that military power can do anything simply with proper force of will. And I don't think this level of forces are even available. But that doesn't stop Rich Lowry of the National Review from writing this very thing today, calling for increased troops, despite saying something completely different 5 months earlier:

All along, over the past several years, Lowry has been insisting that troop levels don't matter, that we have a sufficient force to get the job done in Iraq, and that we are winning, winning, winning. This is the same Foreign Policy Expert Rich Lowry who, following the example of the Commander-in-Chief's aircraft carrier victory dance, boldly announced in the May 9, 2005 issue of National Review: "It is time to say it unequivocally: We are winning in Iraq" [...]

To Lowry, we're always on the cusp of winning. It's always -- as he announced today -- the "crucial moment." The "decisive battle at a decisive moment." Everything is always going really swell in Iraq. And all we need for it to get even better, to get to the finish line, is some more Churchillian "stirring rhetoric about the need for victory and for stalwartness in the face of setbacks." Anyone serious can see that that's all we need [...]

Just go read a few Rich Lowry columns about Iraq over the last few years -- just pick some randomly -- and then ask yourself if there is anyone you would trust less on national security; ask whether, short of being Bill Kristol, it would be possible to have been more wrong about everything. Virtually every one of his Iraq columns are filled with bitter mockery of those who were right, along with pompous predictions about what would happen which were plainly grounded in a world composed in equal parts of adolescent fantasy and rank ignorance.

But as always with Iraq and terrorism debates, being endlessly wrong is a sign of profound seriousness, and cheering on wars -- no matter how misguided and misinformed the cheering is -- renders one a serious foreign policy expert who recognizes the serious threats we face in these very serious times. That's why, when The Washington Post wants to find someone to counsel us on its Op-Ed page as to what to do in Iraq, it turns to two of the Wrongest People in America.

Anyone focusing on troop levels in Iraq instead of the real problems facing the country borders on total irrelevance. Making them perfect for editorial pages around the country.

UPDATE: Some things that are different between the War on Terror and WWII, like tax increases and shared sacrifice and the bracero program and war bonds and a unity of purpose.


How Times Have Changed

Yesterday, Glenn Reynolds sent people to his archive for 9-11, meaning to highlight a post that "holds up pretty well." I don't know about that, but a separate post had this to say, three hours after the attacks:

GEORGE BUSH IS NOW THE MOST POWERFUL MAN IN THE WORLD: People always say that about Presidents, of course, but usually it's only notionally true. Now, if he wants to nuke Baghdad, there is nobody to say him nay -- and damned few who would want to. That's a danger if he goes off half-cocked, but I don't think there's much risk of that. But I wonder: do the people behind this assault realize what this means?

I find that somewhat interesting that Baghdad was on his lips, too, within 3 hours of the attack.

And then there's this one:

TERRIFIC COLUMN BY DEROY MURDOCK: He has it dead right, about reacting and overreacting. Quote:

"[O]ver the long term, political leaders must exercise extreme caution about overreacting to these staggeringly severe circumstances. Those who have called for government control of Internet-encryption technology, monitoring of the movements of cell-phone users and similar surveillance techniques will demand these and other steps in the aftermath of these disasters. In the name of fighting terrorism, such steps may be appealing. However, American leaders and voters alike should be very careful about embracing measures today that will leave citizens less free in the long run in an effort to catch criminals in the here and now. The Bill of Rights must not collapse with the Twin Towers.

American officials should feel no such restraint about retaliating against whatever group or nation perpetrated these acts of war. Any country that gave aid and comfort to whomever did these things should be treated as if its president were at the controls of one of the flying bombs that so tragically found its target."

Well said. I should add that holding these countries responsible is appropriate, but there have to be limits. Right now, somewhere in Washington, somebody is probably working on some grandiose scheme to retaliate in a way that will kill most Arabs and annex the oil. I hope that such dumb ideas wind up on the cutting-room floor where they belong.

And this one, from back when Glenn was a libertarian and not a glibertarian:

THE SENATE has approved a bill allowing warrantless taps of Internet traffic. This is one of those losses of freedom I was talking about. It may (and should) be ruled unconstitutional. But it shouldn't be passed at all.

Would this have prevented Tuesday's attacks? No, because we didn't know who to tap. Has the FBI wanted this for years anyway, under a variety of excuses (drug dealers, organized crime, kiddie porn, whatever the flavor of the week was)? Yes. Is this bureaucratic opportunism? Yes again.

If the bill can't be stopped, opponents in the House should insist on a sunset provision -- say in two years. If it hasn't proved its usefulness by then, it should be scrapped. But really, it should be scrapped now.

I'd love to see somebody compare these fairly reasonable statements to those of today.


GOP Whines About Their Own Cluelessness

After Arnold's "hot blooded" flap last week, those in charge of his campaign tried to change the story to Democratic operatives "hacking" their computers to obtain the audio file. Now it appears that the file was posted on a public server due to a mistake by Arnold's Internet team.

While the Governor’s page no longer allows this, users could previously search a backend directory listing that showed every file on the public server, even files not linked to the main page. The tape could have been obtained in this way, and it required neither access to "a password protected area" nor an "illegal hack." CMR does not know who initially found the tape, but we are confident that the tape could have been acquired without breaking any laws.

Always funny to see Republican whiny-ass-titty-babies crying about Democratic "hackers!" when their own people are to blame.


It's Not A Political Speech

The President's prime-time "commemoration" of September 11 spent about 5 minutes on September 11, and close to 10 on defending his decision to go into Iraq. We know that Iraq had nothing to do with September 11, which is why Bush said last week that "the hardest part of my job is to connect Iraq to the war on terror." So he took 20 minutes in prime time attempting to do just that.

And I don't think this made anybody happy. Here's Dan Froomkin:

The occasion called for reflection and an attempt to unify the nation in its grief and determination. In fact, it was billed as such by the White House.

Instead, Bush delivered a leaden rehash of his unpersuasive rationales for his response to the threat of terrorism. He made a carefully crafted attempt to terrify Americans into supporting his deeply unpopular war in Iraq. He was misleading. He mischaracterized his critics.

It's hard to imagine that he could have been more divisive if he'd tried. And with most Americans no longer trusting the president, it's hard to imagine the speech served him well.

A decent President would actually have not done a political speech. Fighting for his party's life, Bush did not have that luxury. And it came off as crass, out of place and unpersuasive. It looked like the last speech of a condemned man.


Ethnic Rally

When George Allen labels another campaign event as an "All-White Rally" then this would be OK.

Marshall: "I guess 'ethnic rally' was better than 'brown people outreach' and that probably would have been better than 'macaca day'."

dday: Did the "ethnic rally" include "ethnic lunch counters" and "ethnic drinking fountains"?

No wonder Jim Webb has all the momentum.


Monday, September 11, 2006

The OTHER Speech

Tom Brokaw's initial response to the President's address was "I expected more poetry" and "You could have given this speech three years ago."

It's true. I'm not even sure this was taped live, so much as spliced together from the other 20 Oval Office speeches. It was listless, rote, and had about as much emotion as a man reading off a grocery list. Seriously, I want to see the tape with a timestamp on it. I have no idea if he read this today or in October 2003.

One of the things Keith Olbermann talked about tonight was the missed opportunity. With the world on his side, with every means at his disposal, this President squandered and alienated and demonized and fearmongered his way into oblivion. The missed opportunities continued tonight.


American Hero.

The real speech to read on 9-11.

Half a lifetime ago, I worked in this now-empty space. And for 40 days after the attacks, I worked here again, trying to make sense of what happened, and was yet to happen, as a reporter.

All the time, I knew that the very air I breathed contained the remains of thousands of people, including four of my friends, two in the planes and -- as I discovered from those "missing posters" seared still into my soul -- two more in the Towers.

And I knew too, that this was the pyre for hundreds of New York policemen and firemen, of whom my family can claim half a dozen or more, as our ancestors.

I belabor this to emphasize that, for me this was, and is, and always shall be, personal.

And anyone who claims that I and others like me are "soft,"or have "forgotten" the lessons of what happened here is at best a grasping, opportunistic, dilettante and at worst, an idiot whether he is a commentator, or a Vice President, or a President.

However, of all the things those of us who were here five years ago could have forecast -- of all the nightmares that unfolded before our eyes, and the others that unfolded only in our minds -- none of us could have predicted this.

Five years later this space is still empty.

Five years later there is no memorial to the dead.

Five years later there is no building rising to show with proud defiance that we would not have our America wrung from us, by cowards and criminals.

Five years later this country's wound is still open.

Five years later this country's mass grave is still unmarked.

Five years later this is still just a background for a photo-op.

It is beyond shameful.

From a man whose looked with clear eyes at reality rather than this rose-colored spin-fest from the Oval Office.

The only positive on 9/11 and the days and weeks that so slowly and painfully followed it was the unanimous humanity, here, and throughout the country. The government, the President in particular, was given every possible measure of support.

Those who did not belong to his party -- tabled that.

Those who doubted the mechanics of his election -- ignored that.

Those who wondered of his qualifications -- forgot that.

History teaches us that nearly unanimous support of a government cannot be taken away from that government by its critics. It can only be squandered by those who use it not to heal a nation's wounds, but to take political advantage.

Terrorists did not come and steal our newly-regained sense of being American first, and political, fiftieth. Nor did the Democrats. Nor did the media. Nor did the people.

The President -- and those around him -- did that.

They promised bi-partisanship, and then showed that to them, "bi-partisanship" meant that their party would rule and the rest would have to follow, or be branded, with ever-escalating hysteria, as morally or intellectually confused, as appeasers, as those who, in the Vice President's words yesterday, "validate the strategy of the terrorists."

They promised protection, and then showed that to them "protection" meant going to war against a despot whose hand they had once shaken, a despot who we now learn from our own Senate Intelligence Committee, hated al-Qaida as much as we did.

The polite phrase for how so many of us were duped into supporting a war, on the false premise that it had 'something to do' with 9/11 is "lying by implication."

The impolite phrase is "impeachable offense."

From a man patriotic enough to use the national stage to dissent. Courageous enough to speak plainly and with truth.

How dare you, Mr. President, after taking cynical advantage of the unanimity and love, and transmuting it into fraudulent war and needless death, after monstrously transforming it into fear and suspicion and turning that fear into the campaign slogan of three elections? How dare you -- or those around you -- ever "spin" 9/11?

Just as the terrorists have succeeded -- are still succeeding -- as long as there is no memorial and no construction here at Ground Zero.

So, too, have they succeeded, and are still succeeding as long as this government uses 9/11 as a wedge to pit Americans against Americans [...]

When those who dissent are told time and time again -- as we will be, if not tonight by the President, then tomorrow by his portable public chorus -- that he is preserving our freedom, but that if we use any of it, we are somehow un-American...When we are scolded, that if we merely question, we have "forgotten the lessons of 9/11"... look into this empty space behind me and the bi-partisanship upon which this administration also did not build, and tell me:

Who has left this hole in the ground?

We have not forgotten, Mr. President.

You have.

May this country forgive you.



Here Comes The Ugly

Today's time for reflection. By tomorrow, it's time for the mighty smear machine:

Republicans are planning to spend the vast majority of their sizable financial war chest over the final 60 days of the campaign attacking Democratic House and Senate candidates over personal issues and local controversies, GOP officials said.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, which this year dispatched a half-dozen operatives to comb through tax, court and other records looking for damaging information on Democratic candidates, plans to spend more than 90 percent of its $50 million-plus advertising budget on what officials described as negative ads.

The hope is that a vigorous effort to "define" opponents, in the parlance of GOP operatives, can help Republicans shift the midterm debate away from Iraq and limit losses this fall. The first round of attacks includes an ad that labeled a Democratic candidate in Wisconsin "Dr. Millionaire" and noted that he has sued 80 patients.

I don't know how this could possibly come as a surprise to anybody. Republicans are stuck in the past and have no record to run on. They have no ideas to move the country forward, so it's fear and smear. For example, they'll roll out an ad that says "your life depends" on your vote. These are people who are blaming the 9-11 attacks on liberalism (which is too clever by half, as it lumps in the perpetrators of the attacks as having the same values as Republicans). They're going to try and make Americans so scared they'll spend the next two months hiding under the bed. And this isn't only going to be directed at Democratic opponents, but Republican apostates as well:

Next week, I'm informed via troubled White House sources, will see the full unveiling of Karl Rove's fall election strategy. He's intending to line up 9/11 families to accuse McCain, Warner and Graham of delaying justice for the perpetrators of that atrocity, because they want to uphold the ancient judicial traditions of the U.S. military and abide by the Constitution. He will use the families as an argument for legalizing torture, setting up kangaroo courts for military prisoners, and giving war crime impunity for his own aides and cronies. This is his "Hail Mary" move for November; it's brutally exploitative of 9/11; it's pure partisanship; and it's designed to enable an untrammeled executive. Decent Republicans, Independents and Democrats must do all they can to expose and resist this latest descent into political thuggery. If you need proof that this administration's first priority is not a humane and effective counter-terror strategy, but a brutal, exploitative path to retaining power at any price, you just got it.

So what will the Democrats do? First things first, don't worry about it. This is what the Republicans always do. It's same shit, different year. Second, hit back. Giving as good as you get obliterates the "weak Democrat" frame. Actions do speak louder than words. Third, speak your values. Just talk about the (popular) principles that make a Democrat a Democrat. And fourth, make the election about one thing.

Stay focused on one and only message -- "You -- the Voters -- have ONE DAY to hold the Bush Administration accountable for what's happened in Iraq, and here at home. ONE DAY -- election day. If you like the way things are going, vote Republican. If you think things need to change, VOTE DEMOCRATIC. Seize the day. It's your very last chance."

This can be a very simple and very successful election. Let this be a blueprint.


Michael Ware in Al Anbar: it's worse than the WaPo said

Michael Ware just gave an extremely depressing report on CNN about the state of Al Anbar Province in Iraq. The Washington Post today reported that Al Anbar is basically lost to insurgents, and that "there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation there." The report gives the very real sense of a failed state.

...there are no functioning Iraqi government institutions in Anbar, leaving a vacuum that has been filled by the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has become the province's most significant political force, said the Army officer, who has read the report. Another person familiar with the report said it describes Anbar as beyond repair; a third said it concludes that the United States has lost in Anbar.

Ware, who has been in Iraq for years now, went much further than the already-pessimistic report. With frustration in his voice, he said that the Washington Post story is an old story. This has been known to commanders on the ground for a year and a half. And the reason this is the case today in Al Anbar is that the US is not committed to the fight. We only have 1/3 of the troops needed to make a dent. The troops that are there are simply holding the line, and they're being put into a meat grinder for the sake of moving other troops into Baghdad.

Politically, Ware said, it's an absolute disaster out there. The residents of Ramadi and Al Anbar believe that the ruling government (and the Americans who support it) is empowering their old enemy, Iran. Without any functioning institutions, they are being herded toward Al Qaeda because they have no choice. He said Baghdad has cut off sugar supplies to Al Anbar and nobody can explain why.

The region has almost become a place where insurgents have free reign. North of Ramadi, on the other side of the Euphrates River, is a spot called Jazeera. Military intelligence knows that was Zarqawi's safe ground, the central headquarters for Al Qaeda in Iraq (such that it is). Zarqawi's successor stills goes there. Zawahiri has said that's where the caliphate will begin. How many troops do we have fighting this enemy? About 300. Not even a battalion. We are not disrupting them even though we know this is their location.

Meanwhile this score-settling continues in the very house of horrors we just left to the Iraqis, Abu Ghraib:

Staff at the jail say the Iraqi authorities have moved dozens of terrorist suspects into Abu Ghraib from the controversial Interior Ministry detention centre in Jadriyah, where United States troops last year discovered 169 prisoners who had been tortured and starved.

An independent witness who went into Abu Ghraib this week told The Sunday Telegraph that screams were coming from the cell blocks housing the terrorist suspects. Prisoners released from the jail this week spoke of routine torture of terrorism suspects and on Wednesday, 27 prisoners were hanged in the first mass execution since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime.

And this comes from the Shiite-led government we're propping up.

Can anyone explain what we're doing in Iraq if we aren't even fighting the insurgency, and we're giving them a safe harbor in a region that borders Saudi Arabia, Syria and Jordan? Can anyone explain why we're supporting a so-called democracy that is torturing Sunnis and doing their level best to deteriorate the country into civil war? Can anyone explain how, five years after 9-11, we've managed to make the central response to those horrific attacks a country, now thrown into chaos, which had nothing to do with those attacks or the organization who planned it?

Can anyone figure out this war?


The Path, De-Fanged

In the run-up of The Path to 9-11, which bowed last night despite a sustained weeklong series of attacks on its legitimacy, the key opinion from conservative commentators who defended the program (which didn't even seem to be a majority) was that all this controversy did nothing but raise awareness of the show, and would drive ratings. Except Americans decided that partisan propaganda wasn't how they wanted to spend their Sunday:

NFL Football (NBC) 15.1 23
9/11 (CBS, rerun) 8.2 12
Path to 9/11 (ABC) 8.2 12

An 8.2 is horrible for a "television event," especially one with this much hoopla around it. People just didn't tune in. And in addition, American Airlines is threatening to sue over a scene early in the movie that blames them for letting Mohammed Atta on their plane despite a warning flag. In fact that happened in Portland, Maine, on his first flight of the day, a US Airways shuttle to Boston.

I am actually involved in a sort-of secret project to criticize this film that we're planning to unleash in the next day or two, but after seeing those ratings, my enthusiasm for it is waning. What's the point now, it's a faded and dead issue. Except for the lawsuits.

Tom Schaller writes at TAPPED that there is some significance to this controversy:

For years now, the standard attack on liberals or liberal Democrats has been two-pronged. The first prong proceeds from the idea that the vast majority of liberals are weak, slow-to-learn political bunglers who repeat the same mistakes, chose the same dumb candidates, take lumps without fighting back, etc. The second prong of the attack is to assert that the small sliver of politically competent liberals are ruthless, shameless, rabid radicals bent on destroying the country and its values -- not to mention liberalism itself and the Democratic Party along the way. Call it the feckless-or-reckless critique: The smart, reasonable elements are weak, and the strong elements are unhinged lunatics. With this formula, there’s not a sane liberal and the only Democrat with any redeeming value is somehow Joe Lieberman.

Well, guess what? In the wake of the nationwide campaign to de-legitimize ABC’s 9-11 “documentary,” it will be increasingly hard for the mainstream talking heads, who normally opt for the feckless half of the critique, or the Limbaugh/Hannity/York types, who by reflex lean toward the reckless option, to be successful unless they adapt a new way of perpetrating their systematic demeaning and diminishing of the left. For what we saw in the past two weeks, led yet again by key actors on the left, from MoveOn to powerhouse blogs to Media Matters for America to key politicians, was a smart, measured, coordinated, savvy, sometimes cheeky but ultimately successful -- no less pre-emptive -- criticism of a national network, its key decision makers, and its corporate owners.

This feat would not have been possible even three or four years ago. But, regardless of when the clout threshold was crossed, a smart, coordinated, energized left is now here, and no more wait-and-see analyses or other postponed judgments will suffice because a decidedly non-feckless, non-reckless campaign was put together on the fly. And it succeeded.

This was a combination of collective action, Internet research, verbalized outrage, contextualized links to the past to bear out the hypocrisy of those who supposedly value "free speech" (whatever that's supposed to mean), creative dispensations of YouTube parodies and satires, and a closing of Peter Daou's triangle where the media and the political establishment participated in an issue first brought to them through the blogs. This is not your father's progressive left. And we're not going away.



Michael Tomasky at The American Prospect notes that nobody's gonna mess up the Republican 9-11:

Both the Times and the Post note this morning that Bush laid two wreaths at ground zero last night in the company of George Pataki, Mike Bloomberg, and Rudy Giuliani. The Post goes well out of its way to remark that the event “left aside the partisan rancor” that…well, that Bush & Co. have enforced on the country since about 9-14.

If this event was so nonpartisan, where were Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton? Neither paper makes any mention of their having been there. I’m told that in fact they were not invited (they were at St. Paul’s church, where Bush went after laying the wreaths -- and where there were apparently no photographers!!). In what sense does an event that features four Republicans but excludes the two senators who were representing New York at the time of the event, but who happen to be Democrats, leave aside partisan rancor?

The Republicans have tried to own 9-11 since 9-14 and the bullhorn moment. They don't want to own the slow-motion tragedy of rescue and cleanup workers sickened and dying of lung diseases, instead trying to blame the City of New York:

Former EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman is blaming the city for not forcing Ground Zero workers to wear respirators, prompting a fiery response from the city's top lawyer.

In a "60 Minutes" interview to air Sunday, Whitman maintains that the nation's leading environmental agency did not have authority to enforce rules at the site, though the agency did warn the city about dangers in the air at Ground Zero [...]

Former deputy mayor Joe Lhota, in a response to questions posed to a spokeswoman for Giuliani, said, "The EPA publicly reported that the general air quality was safe and the city repeatedly instructed workers on the pile to use their respirators."

Five years later, early statements by public officials about air quality have butted up against the reality of thousands of people sickened as a result of working or living near the disaster site. That reality was underscored earlier this week by a Mount Sinai Medical Center study of first responders' health, showing that 7 out of 10 of them suffer chronic long ailments.

During the intensive debris removal operation, officials from both the EPA and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, though visible at the site, opted to maintain an "advisory role," records show. Therefore, no one forced workers -- through threat of fines or expulsion from the site -- to wear respirators until very late in the six-month effort.

In fact both the EPA and Guiliani's New York reopened Lower Manhattan before it was safe to breathe. If you want to own 9-11, own all of it.

The attacks on America had nothing to do with politics. Al Qaeda is not selective in their hatred and desire for fundamentalist global change. And no political party should dominate the response. We can argue and debate tactics and strategy. We cannot exclude one side or the other by eliminating them from the scene.


We Interrupt This Moment of Silence

I agree that I'm just one guy with one relatively meaningless personal story, not all that important in the grand scheme of things. And I agree that one of the main topics of discussion on that day concerned the President.

On September 11th, at least here in the hinterlands, all fucking day people were talking to each other saying "where the hell is Bush?" -- in fact it is one of the reasons that the cult of Giuliani was born, because there was such a gigantic vacuum from the national leadership. There was no real Bush moment until three days later when he climbed upon rubble with a bullhorn.

In that moment of national confusion, the only one who was in the breach was a mayor. The President was zipping around the country. It was left to journalists to put it into context, to tell us about bin Laden, who I'd gather wasn't all that memorable a name to the vast majority of the country. I recall Clinton's speech after the Kenya and Tanzania bombings about the "bin Laden network," but that was a few years before. What we all wanted to know then was "How are we going to get this guy?" I don't think there were more than 10 people who didn't agree.

Which is why this unbelievable story so incensed me. The inattention to the chief plotter of the 9-11 attacks should disgust every American.

The clandestine U.S. commandos whose job is to capture or kill Osama bin Laden have not received a credible lead in more than two years. Nothing from the vast U.S. intelligence world -- no tips from informants, no snippets from electronic intercepts, no points on any satellite image -- has led them anywhere near the al-Qaeda leader, according to U.S. and Pakistani officials.

"The handful of assets we have have given us nothing close to real-time intelligence" that could have led to his capture, said one counterterrorism official, who said the trail, despite the most extensive manhunt in U.S. history, has gone "stone cold."

The litany of mistakes and difficulties and turf wars surrounding this manhunt are innumerable and unconscionable. Most shocking is how we pulled up stakes and left the fight at the exact moment we had him cornered.

On the videotape obtained by the CIA, bin Laden is seen confidently instructing his party how to dig holes in the ground to lie in undetected at night. A bomb dropped by a U.S. aircraft can be seen exploding in the distance. "We were there last night," bin Laden says without much concern in his voice. He was in or headed toward Pakistan, counterterrorism officials think.

That was December 2001. Only two months later, Bush decided to pull out most of the special operations troops and their CIA counterparts in the paramilitary division that were leading the hunt for bin Laden in Afghanistan to prepare for war in Iraq, said Flynt L. Leverett, then an expert on the Middle East at the National Security Council.

"I was appalled when I learned about it," said Leverett, who has become an outspoken critic of the administration's counterterrorism policy. "I don't know of anyone who thought it was a good idea. It's very likely that bin Laden would be dead or in American custody if we hadn't done that."

Several officers confirmed that the number of special operations troops was reduced in March 2002.

And as I've been discussing all week, we've done nothing to put pressure on Pakistan, on who we rely almost entirely.

A Muslim country where many consider bin Laden a hero, Pakistan has grown increasingly reluctant to help the U.S. search. The army lost its best source of intelligence in 2004, after it began raids inside the tribal areas. Scouts with blood ties to the tribes ceased sharing information for fear of retaliation.

They had good reason. At least 23 senior anti-Taliban tribesmen have been assassinated in South and North Waziristan since May 2005. "Al-Qaeda footprints were found everywhere," Interior Minister Sherpao said in a recent interview. "They kidnapped and chopped off heads of at least seven of these pro-government tribesmen."

Pakistani and U.S. counterterrorism and military officials admit that Pakistan has now all but stopped looking for bin Laden. "The dirty little secret is, they have nothing, no operations, without the Paks," one former counterterrorism officer said.

Last week, Pakistan announced a truce with the Taliban that calls on the insurgent Afghan group to end armed attacks inside Pakistan and to stop crossing into Afghanistan to fight the government and international troops. The agreement also requires foreign militants to leave the tribal area of North Waziristan or take up a peaceable life there.

And I wonder where all of the assets needed to find bin Laden have gone?

Although the hunt for bin Laden has depended to a large extent on technology, until recently unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were in short supply, especially when the war in Iraq became a priority in 2003.

In July 2003, Vines said that U.S. forces under his command thought they were close to striking bin Laden, but had only one drone to send over three possible routes he might take. "A UAV was positioned on the route that was most likely, but he didn't go that way," Vines said. "We believed that we were within a half-hour of possibly getting him, but nothing materialized."

And remember "the wall" that allegedly kept agencies from talking to one another about intelligence? Good thing they've cleared up those bureaucratic turf wars:

Bureaucratic battles slowed down the hunt for bin Laden for the first two or three years, according to officials in several agencies, with both the Pentagon and the CIA accusing each other of withholding information. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's sense of territoriality has become legendary, according to these officials.

In early November 2002, for example, a CIA drone armed with a Hellfire missile killed a top al-Qaeda leader traveling through the Yemeni desert. About a week later, Rumsfeld expressed anger that it was the CIA, not the Defense Department, that had carried out the successful strike.

"How did they get the intel?" he demanded of the intelligence and other military personnel in a high-level meeting, recalled one person knowledgeable about the meeting.

Gen. Michael V. Hayden, then director of the National Security Agency and technically part of the Defense Department, said he had given it to them.

"Why aren't you giving it to us?" Rumsfeld wanted to know.

Hayden, according to this source, told Rumsfeld that the information-sharing mechanism with the CIA was working well. Rumsfeld said it would have to stop [...]

Today, however, no one person is in charge of the overall hunt for bin Laden with the authority to direct covert CIA operations to collect intelligence and to dispatch JSOC units. Some counterterrorism officials find this absurd. "There's nobody in the United States government whose job it is to find Osama bin Laden!" one frustrated counterterrorism official shouted. "Nobody!"

This has all happened in an environment where the Administration has given no public indication that they give a shit where the murderer of 3,000 Americans is located. Of course, this is an election year, so that's all changed.

But in the last three months, following a request from President Bush to "flood the zone," the CIA has sharply increased the number of intelligence officers and assets devoted to the pursuit of bin Laden. The intelligence officers will team with the military's secretive Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and with more resources from the National Security Agency and other intelligence agencies.

The problem, former and current counterterrorism officials say, is that no one is certain where the "zone" is.

"Here you've got a guy who's gone off the net and is hiding in some of the most formidable terrain in one of the most remote parts of the world surrounded by people he trusts implicitly," said T. McCreary, spokesman for the National Counterterrorism Center. "And he stays off the net and is probably not mobile. That's an extremely difficult problem."

The exploitation of this tragic moment for political purposes, using bin Laden as a bloody shirt instead of a malevolent figure we need to capture, to only concern oneself for him when it's politically expedient, should raise the ire of anyone who cares about this country.


A 9/11 Story

Over at Kos there's a thread on personal 9/11 rememberances. Here's mine.

I learned about the attacks while in bed with my fiancee. It was 2 1/2 weeks from our wedding. We were in San Francisco, and we actually had a little fight the night before. We awoke when hearing my mom on the answering machine saying, "We're under attack! They hit the World Trade Center!" My fiancee and I immediately looked at each other and hugged and apologized. It was a silly, meaningless fight in the context of what was happening right then.

Like everyone, I sleepwalked through that day. I watched the coverage and then went to work for a few hours until we were all told to go home. I was then at a television station (TechTV) that nobody was watching that day anyway, though they tried to carry on with live news coverage.

The biggest thing about those next few days was the fact that I had dozens of people who were supposed to come to my wedding from the East Coast, and nobody knew when flights would resume or how many people would decide against flying. I had numerous conversations with family members and friends who were struggling with the decision of whether or not to fly. I also remember that the following weekend there was some allegedly credible report about blowing up the Golden Gate Bridge, and I had to go over it for some wedding-related thing. Needless to say it didn't happen.

In the end, most people did show up to the wedding, though a couple didn't and I understood. I didn't pressure anyone. My thank you speech was partly a tribute to those who came in from Philadelphia, Florida, Western Pennsylvania, Washington, and New York to celebrate my union.

(This would be a better story if I was still married)

I may delve back in to politics later, but I wanted to just give a quiet reflection on this day.


Sunday, September 10, 2006

"A Katrina Foreign Policy"

Wow, I have to say I like that one from John Kerry. He said it just now on CNN. He went on to say that the Republicans "want to debate slogans, and not the real policy," and that they "want to cut and tun from the truth." He said in no uncertain terms that the current foreign policy is a failed policy. We have more terrorists in the world, and we have more terrorist acts than ever before. These are facts.

Now, every time Dick Cheney was confronted with a fact on Meet the Press this morning, he said "I disagree." He was ducking and diving and having to respond to his own words. He responded to his "last throes" comment by saying that when you look back in ten years, 2005 will be the turning point. So one Cheney is 20 Friedmans. And 40 Caseys (I believe Casey said we have 3 months to get things right). In other words, you can't talk about failures now, because we're too close to the situation. We can't discuss any kind of policy for ten years. It's a get-out-of-accountability-free card.

Cheney also said that he believes the international inspectors have good intelligence on Iran's nuclear program. But Russert mentioned out that he didn't accept El Baradi's reports and he was right. Cheney tried to duck it and said "I haven't looked into it." I guess he doesn't check these things for ten years.

Kerry's doing a really good job with Blitzer. Saying that the Iraqis won't stand up as long as we're there indefinitely, and that you can't resolve the differences in Iraq militarily. By setting a date certain, you accelerate the pressure for the Iraqis to stand up, and you accelerate the diplomatic efforts with the stakeholders.

Quite a contrast on the Sunday shows.

UPDATE: Think Progress is right, Cheney constantly cited Zarqawi as evidence of a Saddam-Al Qaeda relationship, which is directly contradicted by the recent Senate Intelligence Committee report, which Cheney says he "hasn't read."

CHENEY: You’ve got Iraq and Al Qaeda, testimony from the Director of C.I.A. that there was indeed a relationship — Zarqawi in baghdad. et cetera. Then the

RUSSERT: The committee said there was no relationship. in fact saddam —

CHENEY: I haven’t seen the report. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet.

RUSSERT: But Mr. Vice President the bottom line is…

CHENEY: We know that Zarqawi running the terrost camp in Afghanistan prior to 9/11. After we went in after 9/11, then fled and went to Baghdad and set up operations in Baghdad in the spring of 2002 and was there and then basically until the time we launched into Iraq.

That's a complete falsehood. In fact Saddam tried to capture Zarqawi when he entered Iraq.

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: Meanwhile, Kerry yesterday called for more troops in Afghanistan to deal with the rising Taliban threat. So much for cut and run. Money quote:

"We have a Katrina foreign policy, a succession of blunders and failures that have betrayed our ideals, killed and maimed our soldiers, and widened the terrorist threat instead of defeating it," Kerry said in a speech at Boston's historic Faneuil Hall.