Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Tuesday, December 27th, 2005.


Why They Snoop

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Bush Administration, Civil Rights, Condi Rice, Iraq War

Jason Leopold of Raw Story reports that Condi Rice authorized a plan to use the NSA to spy on UN delegates in 2003.

President Bush and other top officials in his administration used the National Security Agency to secretly wiretap the home and office telephones and monitor private email accounts of members of the United Nations Security Council in early 2003 to determine how foreign delegates would vote on a U.N. resolution that paved the way for the U.S.-led war in Iraq, NSA documents show.

Two former NSA officials familiar with the agency’s campaign to spy on U.N. members say then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice authorized the plan at the request of President Bush, who wanted to know how delegates were going to vote. Rice did not immediately return a call for comment.

The former officials said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld also participated in discussions about the plan, which involved “stepping up” efforts to eavesdrop on diplomats.

This is actually old news; the NSA angle was reported in the Observer in March 2003, before the Iraq invasion.

The United States is conducting a secret ‘dirty tricks’ campaign against UN Security Council delegations in New York as part of its battle to win votes in favour of war against Iraq.

Details of the aggressive surveillance operation, which involves interception of the home and office telephones and the emails of UN delegates in New York, are revealed in a document leaked to The Observer.

The disclosures were made in a memorandum written by a top official at the National Security Agency – the US body which intercepts communications around the world – and circulated to both senior agents in his organisation and to a friendly foreign intelligence agency asking for its input.

See also Shakespeare’s Sister.

I recall that in 2004 the NSA was also used to wiretap Mohamed ElBaradei, of the International Atomic Energy Agency and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. The Bushies were pissed at ElBaradei for trying to warn them prior to the Iraq invasion that Saddam Hussein was not a nuclear threat.

Now, I don’t know offhand if these wiretaps would have required warrants. But it does show us that the Bushies have no qualms about snooping for purely political purposes.

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Good News from Iraq!

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Iraq War

Chalabi’s out. See also Josh. And don’t miss Juan Cole’s “Top Ten Myths About Iraq, 2005.”

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Us Versus Them

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blogging, conservatism, liberalism and progressivism, News Media

David Neiwert seems to be taking some time off from blogging, so he hasn’t reacted to Cathy Young’s commentary on his Michelle Malkin series (first installment here) in yesterday’s Boston Globe.

After calling Michelle Malkin’s book Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild “accurate and disturbing,” Young acknowledges that righties can get a little unhinged sometimes, too. Then she mentions Dave:

Dave Neiwert, a Seattle-based author and award-winning freelance journalist, has posted a rebuttal to Malkin on his website at dneiwert.blogspot.com. Neiwert documents a lot of nastiness on the right, including physical as well as verbal assaults. For every left-wing ”Kill Bush” T-shirt, he notes, there’s a right-wing ”Liberal hunting permit” bumper sticker.

I’ve never seen a “Kill Bush” T-shirt. Per Dave, this claim comes from Malkin. I’ll take her word for it that somebody has such a T-shirt for sale, but we don’t know if anyone bought them. Impeach Bush, on the other hand …

But this anecdotes illustrates another point that Young misses: Righties demonize liberalism far more broadly, and generally, than lefties demonize conservatism; see this old post for discussion and this post for an illuminating comparison of rightie and leftie book titles. Briefly, I argue that righties define liberalism in more broad-brush, demonic terms than lefties define conservatism. Although there is copious and robust snarking going both ways, I find it’s easier to find condemnations for liberalism itself on the Right Blogosphere than it is to find condemnations for conservatism itself on the Left Blogosphere. As I wrote earlier, “when liberals attack conservatives, liberals tend to be person- or issue-specific, and give reasons — This guy is a jerk because he did thus-and-so. This policy stinks because it’s going to have such-and-such effect.”

Comparing “shoot liberals” to “shoot Bush” illustrates my point. But let’s go on …

Young continues,

Neiwert makes a lot of excellent points, but unfortunately he can’t resist the temptation of arguing that right-wing nastiness is worse than the left-wing kind.

For instance, Neiwert argues that a number of leading conservative figures have employed rhetoric about rounding up the opposition. (Here’s Limbaugh again: ”Wouldn’t it be great if anybody who speaks out against this country, to kick them out of the country? . . . We’d get rid of Michael Moore, we’d get rid of half the Democratic Party. . .”) Such talk, Neiwert claims, has no real counterpart on the left. But was it much better when Garrison Keillor, who has an audience of nearly 4 million on National Public Radio, suggested taking the vote away from born-again Christians shortly after the 2004 election? Yes, it’s all in jest, but this is joking of a very poisonous kind.

I got news for you, honey lamb; the righties ain’t jokin‘. And notice we’re comparing violence (“kick them out of the country”) to non-violence (“taking away the vote”). I mean, we’re comparing raving mad, foaming-at-the-mouth Limbaugh to the courtly and often soporific Keillor, for pity’s sake. Give me a break.

Now we have another example. The LGF’ers are calling for James Wolcott’s decapitation. Yeah, beheading jokes are always knee-slappers.

The catalyst for this impromptu rally was my clinical diagnosis of Daniel Pipes as “a patronizing little shit,” which seemed to displease the footballers, not that any of them bothered to acquaint themselves with the causus belli (Pipes’ pipsqueak character smear of Muhammed Ali). Then again, the poor dears don’t seem to know the difference between an ocelot and an ocicat, another indictment of the limitations of home schooling.

This one sentence amid all that writhing distemper leapt out at me:

“May he [i.e., me] be kidnapped by ‘insurgents’ in Iraq then appear on an ugly net broadcast. I wonder, if in the moment before the knife started sawing into his fleashy neck if he might rethink his opinions on the GWOT.”

He later corrected the spelling to “fleshy,” lest anyone think I possess a flashy neck.

Y’know, I have called a lot of people names on this blog. I call them weenies and idiots and whackjobs. I describe their mental and educational limitations in colorful terms. But I honestly do not believe I have ever wished physical harm on anyone. And this goes for the many other liberal bloggers whose work I follow.

Our James W. continues,

More and more the rightwing militant “anti-idiotarians” (as they deludedly think of themselves)have been relishing the prospect of antiwar figures undergoing the Daniel Pearl treatment. They keep bringing it up as the retribution that’ll deliver certain choice heads on a platter. In a sick irony, Daniel Pearl’s marytrdom has provided a negative inspiration to certain super patriots professing to fight for truth, justice, and the American way.

For example, Anna Benson, the bodacious wife of a Mets pitcher, recently burst her bodice giving full lusty cry to an aria painting the glorious prospect of Michael Moore’s neck being used as a log.

“You are a selfish, pathetic excuse for an American, and you can take your big fat ass over to Iraq and get your pig head cut off and stuck on a pig pole. Then, you can have your equally as fat wife make a documentary about how loudly you squealed while terrorists were cutting through all the blubber and chins to get that 40 pound head off of you.”

And just this morning, the day after Christmas and the second day of Hannukah, blogdom’s zestiest Zionist party girl elevated the discourse by dismissing the concerns of legal scholars perturbed about Bush’s domestic spying thusly:

“Someone ought to tlell those legal scholars not to worry…….it’s smooth sailing once those Radical Islmonazis saw through their jugulars.”

(Her excitable italics.)

I assume her excitable spelling, too. But, for the record, I don’t find jokes about sawing through jugulars all that amusing.

I am not going to claim that no leftie ever wished physical harm, or death, or beheading, on a rightie. But it is a whole lot less common. And Mr. Wolcott knows why:

When rightwing bloggers and posters conjure that under Islam, Democrats–which they’ve come to call dhimmicrats–will get what’s coming to them (i.e., the business end of a butcher’s blade), it’s as if it’s a horrible fate that couldn’t possibly happen to them*–because it’s a death wish directed outward. The Islamic terrorists serve as proxies and stand-ins in this imaginary theater of cruelty, enacting what they (the warbloggers) would like to mete out to us (their domestic adversaries). …

…(*as another LGF poster put it: “Funny thing, the liberal mindset: expend all energy on phantom ‘enemys’, meanwhile the real enemy pounds at the fucking gate, ready to chop off their heads.” Note: “their,” not “our.” LGF’ers have a touching faith in the undetachablility of their own heads under the grisly Islamofascism they spend so many hours daydreaming about.)[emphasis added]

I think it’s often the case that the things people say they are afraid of are actually what they wish for. Survivalists are a good example; they are often people who feel marginalized or intimidated by the society they live in, so they hope for a day when that society is wiped out. Today’s Right Wing might be defined as a selective survivalist cult. They don’t want the entire society to be wiped out, just the liberal parts. And they aren’t joking.

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Don’t Know Nothin’ ‘Bout History II

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American History, Bush Administration

Following up last night’s post — I’ve done some Bush-Lincoln comparisons in the past, such as this one from October

I still can’t get over the fact that his staff had to perform a bleeping intervention days after the hurricane had struck to get him to pay attention to the crisis. Didn’t he care about what a hurricane might have done to New Orleans? I guess not, until someone whispered the dreaded words “political damage” in his ear.

I keep remembering that Abraham Lincoln used to hang out for hours around the White House telegraph, reading dispatches from the generals, sometimes sending questions and comments back. He didn’t sit around by the fire waiting for his aides to bring him reports. Some historians accuse Lincoln of being a micromanager, but at least he was fully engaged in doing his job. Unlike George W. Bush, he wasn’t just a figurehead or a ribbon-cutter.

I didn’t think Bush compared well to other presidents, either.

I keep thinking that another president–I usually imagine Harry Truman or FDR–in these circumstances would be all over these problems, kicking butt and busting heads. And I imagine them working hard on a solution to the shelter problem. But does Bush even know these problems exist?

One fascinating point about the current Lincoln v. Bush flap is that the righties are dumping on Robert Kuttner instead of Doris Kearns Goodwin, even though the Kuttner op ed is essentially a review of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s new book Team of Rivals, and Kuttner cites Goodwin for his facts. Yesterday I dumped on Kenneth Anderson’s tortured critique of the op ed, noting that Anderson failed to even mention Goodwin (he added Goodwin to a postscript later), leaving his readers the impression that Kuttner was just making shit up. From a psychological point of view, the sidestepping of Goodwin by John at Discriminations is even more interesting:

Kuttner’s article is a gloss on a new book by Doris Kearns Goodwin on Lincoln and his cabinet, Team of Rivals (or perhaps I should say, a new book that purports to be by Doris Kearns Goodwin). I haven’t read Goodwin’s book, and probably won’t, and so I have no comment about how much of the silliness here is Kuttner’s and how much is Goodwin’s (or her research assistants’). I should thank whoever is responsible, however, for providing some good laughs.

He doesn’t dare take on Goodwin on historical fact, so he kicks her out of the way by claiming she didn’t write her own book. As I said, fascinating.

John continues,

Here’s a representative howler:

    Goodwin’s unusual title, ”Team of Rivals,” refers to the fact that Lincoln deliberately included in his Cabinet the prominent leaders of different factions of his party who had opposed him for the 1860 nomination. Some, like his treasury secretary, Salmon Chase, a fierce abolitionist, wanted Lincoln to proceed much more aggressively.

Salmon Chase had been and was many things, but “fierce abolitionist” is definitely not one of them. He came out of the Free Soil Party, a movement that grew up in Ohio, Illinois, and the midwest dedicated to limiting the expansion of slavery, but this “anti-slavery” position was definitely not abolitionist. Indeed, it was motivated in large part by a racist desire to keep blacks, slave or free, out of their territories; it was also anti-slavery in large part out of a desire not to compete with slaveholders and slave labor.

This is partly true, and partly not. It’s true that the “free soil” position was about keeping slavery out of the territories, not about abolishing slavery. And it’s also true that the majority of free soilers were not abolitionists. The Republican Party also placed a “free soil” plank in its 1860 platform, and Lincoln ran on a promise to keep slavery out of the territories. Lincoln was, in fact, much more of a “free soiler” than he was an abolitionist.

Salmon Chase, on the other hand, was an abolitionist, much more than Lincoln was. This is a simple fact. He was also a free soiler because he believed that, if slavery could be contained in the slave states and not allowed to spread, eventually it would die (or, there would be enough “free” states to amend the Constitution). Like Lincoln, and unlike more radical abolitionists, he did not believe the federal government had the constitutional authority to abolish slavery in slave states, so more incremental measures were called for. The Free Soil Party founded by Chase was a fusion of other small parties, and members held a variety of opinions, but above all it was an anti-slavery party. As one congressman at the organizing convention said, “Our political conflicts must be in future between slavery and freedom.” (See discussion of Chase and the Free Soil Party convention in McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, pp. 61 ff.) After the war began, Chase pressured Lincoln to emancipate the slaves, a pressure Lincoln resisted for more than a year. Later, Chase would be a dedicated proponent for African American suffrage.

I don’t have time to go chasing around the Right Blogosphere and cleaning up rightie messes, so this will have to be representative. But in short we’ve got a whole lot of people given to overstuffed rhetoric who don’t know as much as they think they do.

As I said yesterday I haven’t read the Goodwin book, so I’m not comfortable giving it a blanket endorsement for factuality. And I have to assume Robert Kuttner’s op ed conveyed Goodwin’s work accurately. But IMO Kuttner’s basic point — that Lincoln was a uniter but Bush a divider — is exactly right.

Update: Glenn Greenwald writes a stirring defense of Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus. I would like to add that Lincoln was faced with an emergency situation (civilians shooting at soldiers in Maryland; civil authority totally breaking down in parts of Missouri and Kentucky) at a time when Congress was out of session, and it would have taken weeks to re-convene it. So he acted extraconstitutionally, but openly, and when Congress was back in session Lincoln took his case to the legislators and humbly asked them to sign off on what he had done. Unlike Bush he did not act in secret, nor did he assume an inherent authority to do whatever he pleased, Constitution be damned. He acknowledged that the authority to suspend habeas corpus rested ultimately with Congress (Article I, Section 9, Paragraph 2).

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