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saturday, march 6, 2004

Hot Links 12:29 pm | link

WMD News
 
Today's Guardian has an excerpt from Hans Blix's book, Disarming Iraq: The Search for Weapons of Mass Destruction that's definitely worth reading. Last February when the UN inspectors were sweeping through Iraq, the United States treated them with great disdain and accused them of incompetence.
 
The United States was adamant that Iraq have a "dramatic change" in attitude about WMDs. Assistant Secretary of State John Wolf presented the UN inspectors with a letter that said,

"The genuine 'dramatic change' by Iraq would have necessitated that it admit openly, not under pressure, that it had and has WMD and WMD programmes. This change would have had Iraq voluntarily take inspectors to the secret hide sites. Iraq would have shown the facilities where production has/is taking place; Iraq would have elaborated the illegal procurement networks ... That is not what Iraq did. That is not what Iraq is doing."

I understood his formulations to say: the witches exist; you are appointed to deal with these witches; testing whether there are witches is only a dilution of the witch hunt.

Wolf had insisted the U.S. had provided evidence of the existence of mobile labs and chemical weapons, but the UN was unable to verify this evidence. In another episode, Wolf visited Blix with more demands.

He asked me in a rather discourteous tone why Unmovic did not conclude that the discovery of an Iraqi UAV drone and a cluster bomb for the delivery of chemical weapons were violations of Iraq's obligations. He tossed photographs of a drone and a cluster bomb on my table.

Blix suspects the photographs were obtained by the U.S. by bugging UN inspector's offices. In any event, the drone and cluster bombs turned out to be non-issues. The drone by itself was not in violation of UN sanctions, and the bomb turned out to be an empty "scrap from the past" left behind in an old factory.  

In the meantime, both U.S. officials and Britain's and America's conservative media were out to vilify Blix. For example, a correspondent for the London Times suggested Blix turn the smoking gun on this own head.

Blix also told reporters from the Guardian that Tony Blair lacked critical thinking skills. This is worrisome to us Yanks, because as Kevin Drum points out today, Blair seems a bleeping genius compared to Bush.

Further,

Prewar wrangling in the UN collapsed not over the principle of benchmarks but because Britain and the US reserved the right to judge for themselves whether they had been fulfilled, said Mr Blix. Other countries, notably France, had no faith in that, Mr Blix told the Guardian.

He said that it seemed President George Bush had decided to go to war once 300,000 troops were amassed in the Gulf and the hot season was approaching.

In other WMD news, Ahmed Chalabi told "60 Minutes" that he is tired of being accused of misleading the United States regarding Iraq's WMDs.

Chalabi, who heads the Iraqi National Congress exile group and has close ties to the Bush administration, says the CIA should have done a better job analysing information received from defectors he steered their way.

"This is a ridiculous situation," he told the CBS 60 Minutes programme. Chalabi still maintains that weapons of mass destruction will be found in Iraq.

He said the CIA knew defectors could be biased and that even the press was saying "defectors have an axe to grind, don't believe them."

In other words, it's not Chalabi's fault if the U.S. was stupid enough to believe the testimony of the witnesses he provided.

Yet hope springs eternal. Yesterday the U.S. Air Force issued a press release from Iraq stating that although " To date, no nuclear, biological or chemical agents have been found here," a team of Airmen are prepared to test any such agents they may find, if any.

8:54 am | link

friday, march 5, 2004

Hot Links, the Mighty Are Falling Edition
 
Air Force One Records Subpoenaed!
 
Grand jury to review call logs from Bush’s jet in probe of how a CIA agent’s cover was blown!

WASHINGTON -- The federal grand jury probing the leak of a covert CIA officer's identity has subpoenaed records of Air Force One telephone calls in the week before the officer's name was published in a column in July, according to documents obtained by Newsday.

Also sought in the wide-ranging document requests contained in three grand jury subpoenas to the Executive Office of President George W. Bush are records created in July by the White House Iraq Group, a little-known internal task force established in August 2002 to create a strategy to publicize the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.

And the subpoenas asked for a transcript of a White House spokesman's press briefing in Nigeria, a list of those attending a birthday reception for a former president, and, casting a much wider net than previously reported, records of White House contacts with more than two dozen journalists and news media outlets. [Tom Brune, "Air Force One Phone Records Subpoenaed," New York Newsday, March 5, 2004]

This appears to be a Newsday scoop. The subpoenas were issued January 22 and gave the White House a deadline of January 30 to begin handing over records, but it's not clear if the White House complied. Josh Marshall discusses this story here and here.

In other news:

Republican Aides Spied on Democrats!

A story in today's New York Times says that according to a report released by the Senate sargeant-at-arms, two Republican aides named Manuel Miranda and Jason Ludell accessed and downloaded as many as 4,670 files. Many other Republican staff aides may also have been involved.

The report, of an investigation requested by the Senate Judiciary Committee, was not supposed to have been released with the aides' names, but somebody goofed up.

The spying began after Mr. Ludell observed the keystroke sequence a Democrat aide used to access files. Mr. Miranda argues that it couldn't have been illegal to access the Democrats' files, because it was so easily done.

'Scuse me while I go find an unlocked car I can break into.  

In more other news. Salon asks the question, "Has Bush no shame?"

Well, no. I don't think he does.

 
 
 
 
 

Bob Herbert: Florida GOP Plays Politics With Childrens' Lives

6:14 am | link

thursday, march 4, 2004

9/11 Families Outraged at Bush Ads
 
A "slap in the face" of the families of 9/11 victims, says widow.
 
The Bush reelection campaign yesterday unveiled its first three campaign commercials showcasing Ground Zero images, angering some 9/11 families who accused President Bush of exploiting the tragedy for political advantage.

"It's a slap in the face of the murders of 3,000 people," said Monica Gabrielle, whose husband died in the twin tower attacks. "It is unconscionable."

Gabrielle and several other family members said the injury was compounded by Bush's refusal to testify in open session before the 9/11 commission.

Read and pass around "Furor Over Bush 9/11 Ad" in today's New York Daily News.

11:03 am | link

Hot Links
 
News Lizard Bob Novak wrote yesterday that Republicans on Capitol Hill are increasingly disappointed in the lack of leadership offered by the Bush Administration.

The disaffection is such that over the last two weeks, normally loyal Republicans -- actually including more than a few members of Congress -- are privately talking about political merits in the election of Sen. Kerry. Their reasoning goes like this: There is no way Democrats can win the House or Senate even if Bush loses. If Bush is re-elected, Democrats are likely to win both the House and Senate in a 2006 mid-term rebound. If Kerry wins, Republicans will be able to bounce back with congressional gains in 2006.

To voice such heretical thoughts suggests that Republicans on Capitol Hill are more interested in maintaining the fruits of majority status first won in 1994 rather than in governing the country. A few thoughtful GOP lawmakers ponder the record of the first time in 40 years that the party has controlled both the executive and legislative branches, and conclude that record is deeply disappointing.

But incipient heresy also reflects shortcomings of the Bush political operation. Its emphasis has been on fund-raising and organization, with deficiencies in communicating and leadership. The president is in political trouble, and his disaffected supporters who should be backing him aggressively provide the evidence. [Bob Novak, "Bush, GOP Congress Not on Same Page," Chicago Sun-Times, March 3,2004]

Neocons versus theocons. Sidney Blumenthal writes in today's Guardian about the cracks in Bush's base. Blumenthal notes (as have I in recent blogs) that Bush's anxious devotion to the Religious Right and their culture war agenda is costing him support elsewhere.

Bush's instigation of religious wars in America, while it mobilises the evangelical Protestant faithful, is also unexpectedly thwarting him. The born-again Bush, who reconstructed his self-image after 9/11 as a messianic leader, assumed that the agendas of the neocons and the theocons were one and the same. However, Bush outsourced his foreign policy on the Middle East and Israel to the neocons in part for an electoral purpose, hoping to capture the Jewish vote, which will not be fulfilled because of his anxious devotion to the theocons.

The neocons and the theocons were bound together in reaction against the 1960s for different reasons: the neocons by foreign policy, the theocons by their continuing fundamentalist revolt against modernity. Under Ronald Reagan, this coalition was held together in the crusade against godless communism. [Sidney Blumenthal, "Bush Goes to War With Modernity," The Guardian, March 4, 2004]

Blumenthal goes on to say that at one time the Bush team hoped to be able to win the entire East Coast plus Florida, partly through gaining Jewish voters. But the culture wars (coinciding with the release of Mel Gibson's bloody Jesus movie) has Jewish voters genuinely frightened, worries the neocons and libertarians who supported Bush's Iraq War and tax cuts, and pretty much turns off moderate swing voters as well.

The Bushies don't seem to realize how much the "culture war" theme of the 1992 Republican National Convention helped defeat Bush Sr. Let's not tell them.

See also this editorial from the British Independent, which calls Senator Kerry "the hope of the world." If foreigners could contribute to re-election campaigns ...

Money Money Money Money. Speaking of contributions, I read yesterday that Bush is sitting on about $100 million in campaign cash, while John Kerry has only $3 million in hand. Need I say more? You can contribute to the Democratic National Committe here or the Kerry campaign here. Or, if you prefer, help Moveon run its anti-Bush ads on television against Bush's ads.  

Cheney's Principles

The Passion of Howard Stern

Gay Republicans Plan Counterattack

Pew Poll Shows More Voters Leaning to Kerry

Josh Marshall: Pilfered Memos and the White House

6:14 am | link

wednesday, march 3, 2004

Growing Up
 
I ran into some remarks today in the comments on Daily Kos that annoyed me, and I've been mulling over why. The writer says he probably won't vote for John Kerry because Kerry isn't ideologically pure enough:

My vote needs to be earned by the Democrats, and if they don't show me they're working for it, that they will work for me once they are elected, I'm not going to bother.  I'll vote for people who would work for me if they were elected.  That's the way it works.

Is that the only way it works, though? Do we all just vote our own self-interests, or do we consider what's good for the nation as a whole, whether it benefits us individually or not?
 
In other words, is the election all about "me," or is it about "We, the People"?
 
This individual goes on to describe his progressive-utopian dream party that will bring about sweeping social changes. I don't disagree with his goals, but (a) some of these changes go way beyond anything a mere political party could bring about, such as persuading Americans to stop worshipping wealth; and (b) all of them are of less immediate concern to most Americans than jobs or terrorism.
 
Billmon at Whiskey Bar wrote a response to this kind of thinking.
Some ultra-left purists apparently prefer an impotent anger to the inevitable compromises and disappointments of working through, and sometimes in, the Democratic Party. Others wrap their third-party hopes in dreams of proportional representation, or instant runoff voting, or some other procedural deus ex machina that will deliver them from political irrelevancy.

To the former group, I've nothing left to say. I’ve walked your path and I’ve seen where it leads – to the graveyard of lost causes. I’m too old now to strike poses, and too angry to wallow in my own helplessness. I don’t just want to fight, I want to win -- not simply for the sake of winning (this isn’t a soccer game) but to turn the tide, to start pushing the conservatives back, after all these long years of being on the defensive. And the only way I know how to do that is to create a political coalition broad enough, and strong enough, to beat the Republican machine.

That says it all. This is something else to clip & save and shove in the face of the whiners who want the Democrats to "earn" their votes.

9:45 pm | link

Hot Links 6:25 am | link

tuesday, march 2, 2004

Clip & Save
 
Here's a little gem of a link I found through Maru at WTF Is It Now??? It's the sort of quote you want to print on several 3 x 5 index cards so you can hand them out to those who still think Bush is a great leader.
 
It's from an article by James Webb from the February 18 issue of USA Today. Webb was secretary of the Navy during the Reagan administration and a Marine platoon and company commander in Vietnam. He discusses the choice veterans face in November between (we assume) Kerry and Junior.
 
He starts out by criticizing Kerry for his participation in Vietnam Veterans Against the War, saying that Kerry "defamed a generation of honorable men." Most Vietnam vets I know don't agree with this and think Kerry did the right thing, but let's let that go for a moment. The second half of this article is the real eye-popper.

But in the zero-sum game of a presidential campaign, to go after Kerry is to give a free pass to Bush, whose actions then and now deserve no prizes. Recent statements defending Bush claim that the National Guard was not a haven for those who wished to avoid Vietnam; but it clearly was. According to the National Guard Association, only some 9,000 Army Guardsmen and 9,343 Air Guardsmen served in Vietnam. Considering that nearly 3 million from the active forces did so, one begins to understand why so many of America's elites headed for the Guard when their draft numbers were called.

Bush used his father's political influence to move past many on the Texas Guard's waiting list. He was not required to attend Officer Candidate School to earn his commission. He lost his flight status after failing to show up for a required annual physical. These facts alone raise the eyebrows of those who took a different path in a war that for the Marine Corps brought more casualties than even World War II.

The Bush campaign now claims that these issues are largely moot and that Bush has proved himself as a competent and daring "war president." And yet his actions in Iraq, and the vicious attacks against anyone who disagrees with his administration's logic, give many veterans serious pause.

Bush arguably has committed the greatest strategic blunder in modern memory. To put it bluntly, he attacked the wrong target. While he boasts of removing Saddam Hussein from power, he did far more than that. He decapitated the government of a country that was not directly threatening the United States and, in so doing, bogged down a huge percentage of our military in a region that never has known peace. Our military is being forced to trade away its maneuverability in the wider war against terrorism while being placed on the defensive in a single country that never will fully accept its presence.

There is no historical precedent for taking such action when our country was not being directly threatened. The reckless course that Bush and his advisers have set will affect the economic and military energy of our nation for decades. It is only the tactical competence of our military that, to this point, has protected him from the harsh judgment that he deserves.

At the same time, those around Bush, many of whom came of age during Vietnam and almost none of whom served, have attempted to assassinate the character and insult the patriotism of anyone who disagrees with them. Some have impugned the culture, history and integrity of entire nations, particularly in Europe, that have been our country's great friends for generations and, in some cases, for centuries.

Bush has yet to fire a single person responsible for this strategy. Nor has he reined in those who have made irresponsible comments while claiming to represent his administration. One only can conclude that he agrees with both their methods and their message.

Most seriously, Bush has yet to explain the exact circumstances under which American military forces will be withdrawn from Iraq.

Hoo, boy. That says it.

In other news, go to Body and Soul for a good round up of what's going on in Haiti and how various news organs are covering it.

1:08 pm | link

Hot Links, Super Tuesday Edition
 
"The Splintering of the Right"  is the lead article on Democratic Underground today. I've been seeing some serious cracks in the base, but this article finds more cracks. The author, Rick Freedman, sees schisms among the Goldwater "paleo-conservatives," Neocons, Pat Buchanan-style isolationists, and the National Review far-right eggheads, And on the Web I've noticed a break between the pro-Iraq War libertarians and social/cultural conservatives who want to use Big Gubmint to make us all behave.
 
A smart opposition party could use these cracks to great advantage. Unfortunately, the opposition party is the Democrats.
 
Along those lines, please read this bit by Hullabaloo's Digby in The American Street (a terrific new group blog organized by "cowboy" Kevin Hayden). In a nutshell: Karl Rove's strategy seems to be to hold Bush's base together by appeasing the extreme Right. Bush's recent approval of an anti-gay marriage amendment is an example. But this is a strategy doomed to failure, because the Right cannot be appeased. When politicians try to reach out to them by moving right, the Right moves further right. And halfway measures do not satisfy them -- you are either with them 100 percent, or you're agin' 'em. On the other hand, if a politician panders to the extreme Right, he loses all hope of winning the Middle. Digby says,

Karl Rove, however, has to win this election in a system that requires that his boy at least feint to the middle. His strategy, as Schreiber delieates above didn't work. There is no pleasing the right wing and there is no room for compromise. And, he is learning, just as the centrist Dems learned in the 90's when they tried to maintain a bipartisan consensus, that if you give these wing-nuts an inch, they'll take a mile. The more you move to the right, the more they move to the right. There is no meeting half way.

Welcome to our nightmare, Mr Rove.

Eleanor Clift writes in Newsweek about the proposed marriage amendment: 

[W]hat Bush did is all about base-tending, and the fact that he had to do it this deep into the election cycle reveals a weakness. This is the time when Bush should be reaching for the political center. Instead, from his perspective, he had no choice but to bow to the fire-breathing evangelicals. Without their enthusiastic support in November, he would suffer the same fate as his father—one term and out.

Sounds good to me. See also an article by Richard Rosendall in Salon, "Bush's Backfire."
 
World News. If I hadn't been so busy I would have been blogging about Haiti these past few days. All I have time for now is a sharp observation: Does that mess stink out loud, or what?
 
Cultural News. Yeah "Return of the King"! Way to go, New Zealand!

Bush Plays Politics With 9/11

Paul Krugman: Maestro of Chutzpah

Joe Conason: Kerry and the 'L' Word

E.J. Dionne: Syntax and Gay Marriage

The Casualty -- a Soldier Comes Home

7:14 am | link

monday, march 1, 2004

Sorry for the Absence
 
Happy St. David's Day. Something approaching normal blogging will return tomorrow, I promise.

2:05 pm | link


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Ben Merens, "Conversations with Ben Merens,"
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The Loyalties of George W. Bush

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"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." --Theodore Roosevelt, 1918

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The War Prayer

I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!... He has heard the prayer of His servant, your shepherd, & will grant it if such shall be your desire after I His messenger shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause & think.

"God's servant & yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused & taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken & the unspoken....

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed, silently. And ignorantly & unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is completed into those pregnant words.

"Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.

"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended through wastes of their desolated land in rags & hunger & thirst, sport of the sun-flames of summer & the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave & denied it -- for our sakes, who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask of one who is the Spirit of love & who is the ever-faithful refuge & friend of all that are sore beset, & seek His aid with humble & contrite hearts. Grant our prayer, O Lord & Thine shall be the praise & honor & glory now & ever, Amen."

(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! -- the messenger of the Most High waits."

·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·

It was believed, afterward, that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

[Mark Twain, 1905]

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