The Mahablog: Truth and the Bush Administration

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friday, may 28, 2004

Let the Sunshine In
I am not yet prepared to think about a Kerry landslide, as Matt Stoller is, but it's hard to imagine how Bush will recover from his current meltdown.
Even the capture of Osama bin Laden or another terrorist attack on America would not work in Bush's favor at this point, I believe. First, the Bushies have done too good a job re-directing focus from Osama to Saddam Hussein, who is now old news. The capture of Osama at this point would just confuse the stupid and disgust the rest of us who think Osama should have been captured more than two years ago.
I also believe that another terrorist attack in America between now and the election would just reinforce the perception that the Bushies are utterly inept and have no clue what they are doing.
Cracks are forming within the administration itself. For example, the Department of Homeland Security has refused to sign on to John Ashcroft's recent threat warning, saying the agency had seen no change in the stream of threat reporting.
Even some Republican journalists are catching on. This staff writer at the Charlotte Observer is not exactly in the pocket of the evil libruhls --

Before accusing me of being a bleeding heart liberal, know this: I've been a life-long conservative Republican and am a U.S. Army veteran of the Persian Gulf War. I also voted for George W. Bush in 2000.

-- but nails the Bushies solid--
Never have I seen such sorry leadership in Washington. Never have I witnessed such a complete lack of accountability.
--and goes on to ask the question so many of us have asked lo these past three years:

For me, the most unsettling aspect of this is that Bush still has such a large amount of public support, even in light of the continuing unrest in Afghanistan, the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal and escalating violence in Iraq. How can that be?

I have a pretty good idea why: Many Americans still get their news from the three big networks and Fox News.

The coverage is mostly shallow and, at times, misleading. For the most part, the networks simply parrot the White House line. For example, last Thursday ABC News reported Bush's comments on why he isn't willing to tap into the nation's petroleum reserve. He claimed that since we're at war in Iraq, such action would leave America vulnerable to terrorism. Two words jumped out at me: Iraq and terrorism.

You've got to love that subliminal trick. A great number of people watching that ABC report probably absorbed that linkage as fact. Joseph Goebbels would be proud. [Rochelle Reynoldson, "Our Troops Deserve Better," The Charlotte Observer, May 28, 2004]

Do tell. Paul Krugman addresses the question of why the media was complicit in Bush's propaganda game (you must read this column all the way through):

So why did the press credit Mr. Bush with virtues that reporters knew he didn't possess? One answer is misplaced patriotism. After 9/11 much of the press seemed to reach a collective decision that it was necessary, in the interests of national unity, to suppress criticism of the commander in chief.

Another answer is the tyranny of evenhandedness. Moderate and liberal journalists, both reporters and commentators, often bend over backward to say nice things about conservatives. Not long ago, many commentators who are now caustic Bush critics seemed desperate to differentiate themselves from "irrational Bush haters" who were neither haters nor irrational — and whose critiques look pretty mild in the light of recent revelations.

And some journalists just couldn't bring themselves to believe that the president of the United States was being dishonest about such grave matters.

Finally, let's not overlook the role of intimidation. After 9/11, if you were thinking of saying anything negative about the president, you had to be prepared for an avalanche of hate mail. You had to expect right-wing pundits and publications to do all they could to ruin your reputation, and you had to worry about being denied access to the sort of insider information that is the basis of many journalistic careers.

The Bush administration, knowing all this, played the press like a fiddle. But has that era come to an end? [Paul Krugman, "To Tell the Truth," The New York Times, May 28, 2004]

Krugman isn't predicting that the press will wake up and do its job, finally, and report the truth about Bush, but he thinks it might.
Predictably, the Bushies are launching a counter-attack at news media.
Confronted with this drumbeat of dismay, senior administration officials are lashing out at American journalists, adding their official voices to the chorus of talk radio, conservative Web site and newspaper columnists for whom there is no more filthy three syllable word than “media.” From seemingly casual asides in remarks by President Bush to outright attacks and boycotts orchestrated by Bush administration allies, a strong subtext is being transmitted with the normally optimistic line of the day — that the media is undermining support for the war. [Michael Moran, "Media Takes Heat from Administration Over Iraq," MSNBC, May 25, 3004]
But then there's the Kerry campaign, which so far has been less than impressive. David Corn has a good roundup of the complaints about Kerry. And there is also the matter of voter fraud. We know the Bushies will stop at nothing to steal elections. So we cannot be complacent. If the votes (the real ones) are close, the Bushies could pull of a steal. But not even they could get away with a steal if Kerry is considerably ahead in the polls on election day.

7:29 am | link

thursday, may 27, 2004

Mahablog: The Musical
Yesterday's speech by Al Gore at NYU is the hottest of hot links today. Don't miss it.
Also, the Lizard has some startling things to say about the GOP: "... the current realignment cycle in American politics is nearing an end after 36 years, with the Republican Party displaying symptoms of a nervous breakdown."  
So let's join hands and sing:
You're the kind of person
You meet at certain dismal dull affairs.
Center of a crowd, talking much too loud
Running up and down the stairs.
Well, it seems to me that you have seen too much in too few years.
And though you've tried you just can't hide
Your eyes are edged with tears.

You better stop
Look around
Here it comes, here it comes, here it comes, here it comes
Here comes your nine-teenth nervous breakdown.

That sure beats "Kumbyah" out of its socks, don't it?
Sidney Blumenthal writes in the Guardian that the FBI is investigating prominent neocons to find out who gave Ahmed Chalabi classified information about the plans of the US government and military.

Washington, just weeks ago in the grip of neoconservative orthodoxy, absolute belief in Bush's inevitability and righteousness, is in the throes of being ripped apart by investigations. Things fall apart: the military, loyal and lumbering, betrayed and embittered; the general in the field, General Sanchez, disgraced and cashiered; the intelligence agencies abused and angry, their retired operatives plying their craft with the press corps, seeping dangerous truths; the press, hesitating and wobbly, investigating its own falsehoods; the neocons, publicly redoubling defence of their hero and deceiver Chalabi, privately squabbling, anxiously awaiting the footsteps of FBI agents; Colin Powell, once the most acclaimed man in America, embarked on an endless quest to restore his reputation, damaged above all by his failure of nerve; everyone in the line of fire motioning toward the chain of command, spiralling upwards and sideways, until the finger pointing in a phalanx is directed at the hollow crown. [Sidney Blumenthal, "The Bush Orthodoxy Is in Shreds," The Guardian, May 27, 2004]

Possibly the longest sentence Sidney Blumenthal ever wrote, and a beauty.
I'd like to dedicate our next musical number to all the neocons as they listen for the knock on the door.
You have many contacts
Among the lumberjacks
To get you facts
When someone attacks your imagination
But nobody has any respect
Anyway they already expect you
To just give a check
To tax-deductible charity organizations

You've been with the professors
And they've all liked your looks
With great lawyers you have
Discussed lepers and crooks
You've been through all of
F. Scott Fitzgerald's books
You're very well read
It's well known

Because something is happening here
But you don't know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?
Yesterday the New York Times admitted (on page 10) that coverage of issues and events leading up to the Iraq War was "not as rigorous as it should have been." Cough. Yes. 
The Times didn't name names, but others did. Salon even published Judith Miller's picture.

The reporter on many of the flawed stories at issue was Judith Miller, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and authority on the Middle East. The Times, insisting that the problem did not lie with any individual journalist, did not mention her name. The paper was presumably trying to take the high road by defending its reporter, but the omission seems peculiar. While her editors must share a large portion of the blame, the pieces ran under Miller's byline. It was Miller who clearly placed far too much credence in unreliable sources, and then credulously used dubious administration officials to confirm what she was told.

And of all Miller's unreliable sources, the most unreliable was Ahmed Chalabi -- whose little neocon-funded kingdom came crashing down last week when Iraqi forces smashed down his door after U.S. officials feared he was sending secrets to Iran. [James C. Moore, "Not Fit to Print," Salon, May 27, 2004]

See also:

Tough Times

The Lies of Our Times

Surrender, Judith Miller!

But now it's time for our big final production number, dedicated to New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller:

We starve, look at one another short of breath
Walking proudly in our winter coats
Wearing smells from laboratories
Facing a dying nation of moving paper fantasy
Listening for the new-told lies
With supreme visions of lonely tunes.

Somewhere, inside something, there is a rush of greatness
Who knows what stands in front of our lives
I fashion my future on films in space
Silence tells me secretly everything, everything ...

Let the sunshine
Let the sunshine in, the sunshine in ...

--"The Flesh Failures/Let the Sunshine In," Ragni/Rado 

[Thunderous Applause!]



11:50 am | link

wednesday, may 26, 2004

Fool Me Once ...
The Neocons are standing by their man. Today's Wall Street Journal editorializes that Ahmed Chalabi provided valuable "intelligence" (their word) to the United States, but that "someone in the U.S. government clearly wants to damage him."
Someone? Bob the Lizard says,

The story passed around by military officers at the Defense Department is that Ahmad Chalabi, outraged by the arrest of his associates and the raid on his home by U.S.-authorized Iraqi police, quickly got on the phone to the Pentagon. ''Get me Wolfowitz!'' Chalabi is alleged to have demanded. But it was too late for Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz or anybody else to save the erstwhile American favorite in Iraq.

In fact, Wolfowitz, widely identified as a leader of Pentagon ''neo-cons'' who sponsored Chalabi, had signed off on cutting ties with the designated leader of a future democratic Iraq. Defense Department civilians had brought Chalabi to power there against the wishes of the State Department, the CIA, prominent Republican senators and the king of Jordan. Nearly two weeks ago, Chalabi's sponsors gave up on him and quietly canceled his U.S. subsidies. Iraqi police raids were sanctioned by the Pentagon-sponsored Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad. [Bob Novak, "No Lack of Warning on Chalabi," The Chicago Sun-Times, May 24, 2004]

The Reptile goes on to say that a great many people warned the Pentagon suits who sponsored Chalabi that they would get burned, but the suits did not listen. Others not listening include Flaming Idiot Extraordinaire David Frum, who wrote in last Thursday's National Review Online:

Suppose it turns out to be true that Chalabi has been building a patronage empire. Suppose individuals close to him have been positioning themselves to get rich in the new Iraq – hell, suppose he himself is the “crook” that his detractors always say he is.

Here’s my question: When did America’s standards for our Middle Eastern allies get so excruciatingly high? 

I mean, what's a little larceny and corruption among friends, eh? Indeed, in the neocon mind the real villain is the CIA.

Richard Perle told this reporter Tuesday that the gloves were off. He said that the raid on Chalabi's home and offices in Baghdad last week was "the worst abuse of government power I have ever seen." Chalabi deserved better, Perle went on, citing Gen. Richard Meyers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, saying Chalabi's intelligence saved American lives.

Perle has no doubts that some of the attacks on him are coming directly from the CIA, in order to cover their own exposed rears, attacking Chalabi's intelligence to distract attention from their own mistakes.

I believe that much of the CIA operation in Iraq was owned by Saddam Hussein," Perle said. "There were 45 decapitation attempts against Saddam -- and he survived them all. How could that be, if he was not manipulating the intelligence?"

Perle went on to suggest an even darker motive behind the attacks on the neo-cons; that the real target was Israel's Likud government and the staunch support for Israel's prime minister Ariel Sharon in the Bush administration. [Martin Walker, "Walker's World: Washington's Civil War," United Press International, May 26, 2004]

We can pause now to wallow in the irony of Perle's remarks about CIA "mistakes." Go re-read David Corn's May 2002 interview with Perle, an oldie but a goodie, then come back, and we'll march on to the next paragraph in the Martin Walker column, which is,
When this was put to one CIA source, the reply was mocking: "That's what they always do. As soon as these guys get any criticism, they scream Israel and anti-Semitism, and I think people are finally beginning to see through that smokescreen."
Speaking of which, check out this article in FrontPage, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zinni." The author,  Richard Baehr, manages to be anti-semitic and pro-Israel at the same time. It's classic. All of the opposition to the Iraq War, including Gen. Anthony Zinni's recent criticisms, can be dismissed because they are all part of a Vast Anti-Israel Conspiracy.
For another knee-slapper, skip back to the Wall Street Journal and read "What Europe Doesn't Understand," in which Zachary Selden sings the praises of neoconservatism and using the power of America for moral purposes. Be prepared to scrape your jaw off the floor.  


11:24 am | link

tuesday, may 25, 2004

Bombs Away
My bud Stirling Newberry reacts to last night's "speech" in no uncertain terms:
... we have, installed in our oval office, a man who is so unfit for the duties - by reason of a pathological dishonesty and complete disregard for the welfare of the citizens of this country - as to demand that we remove him, and his party, from power - and then use every law and organ of government to investigate the nakedly criminal underpinnings of that party. And exact precisely the punishments that they have so gleefully inflicted upon others.
Works for me.
Some other reactions -- The Left Coaster says,  

Yikes! Even Tom Shales of the Washington Post said Bush looked bored with his own speech, and pointed out that none of the major broadcast networks carried the speech, opting instead to run their sweeps programming.

The Post has already written the speech off, and the New York Times trashes Bush and goes so far as to recommend that Bush follow the lead of John Kerry and the Center for American Progress. My, my, we are a long way from stenography now, aren't we?

From Liberation News Service:

The most newsworthy story related to the incredible shrinking _resident's speech last night is that the three major networks didn't televise it live. It was billed as a very important speech, it was a prime-time speech, it was being positioned as one that would be carried by the networks -- just as the incredible shrinking _resident's recent embarrassing press conference was broadcast live. So what happened? Were they doing the White House a favor by NOT broadcasting it? Did Rove get second-thoughts? Or has the US electorate distrust, disapproval and disappointment in the incredible shrinking _resident soared so high that the networks are thinking about their own damaged credibility or more like their ratings? It was, afterall, one of the last "sweep" nights. It's the Media, Stupid.

See also these comments in New York Newsday:

The central problem in Bush's approach to Iraq from the beginning has been a tendency to believe the best would happen and not plan for the worst. This president doesn't want to give bad news or admit any mistakes. But the American people are losing confidence in his judgment about Iraq. They deserved a more forthright assessment than they received last night, even given his warnings of more violence there.

A stable and eventually democratic Iraq is in this nation's interest. Nobody should want Bush to fail. The consequences of chaos in Iraq are too frightening. But nothing Bush said last night gives us confidence that his administration knows what it's doing there - other than keeping its fingers crossed until Election Day.

And don't miss William Saletan's excellent analysis in Slate:

In press conferences, television ads, and interviews this year, President Bush has manifested a series of psychopathologies: an abstract notion of reality; confidence unhinged from facts and circumstances; and a conception of credibility that requires no correspondence to the external world. Tonight, as he vowed to stay the course in Iraq, Bush demonstrated another mental defect: incomprehension of his role in history as a fallible human agent. Absent such comprehension, Bush can't fix his mistakes in Iraq, because he can't see how—or even that—he screwed up.

It's gonna be a real shock to the boy when he loses in November, ain't it? But he will have to face reality when the moving van pulls up to the White House ...



6:54 am | link

monday, may 24, 2004

A Diverse Well Bacana Article
Be sure to read "Jingoes and the Fascist Impulse" at Orcinus. I was especially taken with this part, discussing the book The Anatomy of Fascism by historian Robert O. Paxton:
Paxton cites a passage from Alexis de Tocqueville as a "glimmer of premonition" about the darker impulses that shadowed democratic societies, particularly "the majority's power to impose conformity by social pressure, in the absence of an independent social elite":

The kind of oppression with which democratic peoples are threatened will resemble nothing that had preceded it in the world; our contemporaries would not find its image in their memories. I myself seek in vain an expression that exactly reproduces the idea that I form of it for myself and that contains it; the old words despotism and tyranny are not suitable. The thing is new, therefore I must try to define it, since I cannot name it.

Paxton suggests that it finally took a name in the 20th century: fascism. He sums up neatly the essence of fascism as a political force: "dictatorship against the Left amidst popular enthusiasm."

I also liked this comment to the Orcinus blog, from a blogger named Melissa:

I think what really creeps people out about fascism is that it allows the mob to oppress others, either inside or outside the state, willingly. The mob runs amok and controls itself and others in service of some ideal like national honor or virtue or glory. For the sake of these ideals, the mob votes away its freedoms. The state doesn't need to supress dissent, at least initially, because the mob only too happily does it for itself. It really is like a democracy that has suddenly mutated and turned cancerous, its institutions rampant and without its usual curbs.

Even if he wanted to, Bush (or anyone else) couldn't do it himself. It would require a mass movement. Organized intimidation would have to keep dissenters from participating in society. The spread and validation of the ideology is a step towards such a mass movement, but the movement would still have to happen, and it would have to be more than a couple hundred freepers.

Yes, but there are more than a couple hundred freepers, aren't there? And what is the real motivation behind Faux News and Wingnut Radio and just about anything coming out of the White House? Is it not propaganda to inflame the mob against anyone who dissents? And libruhls in general?

On the other hand, there is good news about Shrub's poll numbers. James K. Galbraith, writing in Salon, suggests that Bush's recent personal-worst approval ratings are not necessarily the result of bad news coming out of Iraq. With the exception of spikes following three exceptional events: 9/11, the beginning of the Iraq War, and the capture of Saddam Hussein, Bush's poll numbers have been drifting steadily downward, month after month, through his entire presidency.

Apart from them, Bush's approval showed a remarkably stable declining trend, which averaged 1.6 percentage points every month.

Tick, tock -- no matter what Bush said or did, Americans seemed to come to their senses about him at a steady rate. Except, of course, in the presence of a galvanizing foreign event or crisis. ...

Bush's rate of decline in recent weeks has been consistent with the decline in his numbers since he took office -- with the exception of the three spikes.

Makes you wonder what they'll try to pull to get him "re"-elected, huh?

Meanwhile, in spite of Mickey Kaus's hand-wringing about the disastrous Kerry campaign, Kerry is pulling ahead.

And Air America beats Limbaugh in the New York radio market!

I didn't watch Bush speak tonight. I believe there was something more compelling on, like a "Law and Order" episode from three years ago. Hate to miss those. I'll read a transcript tomorrow and find out if he actually said anything. In the meantime, get early reviews in this open thread at Eschaton.

I hope this article was bacana enough.


8:41 pm | link

sunday, may 23, 2004

Mahablog International
I find that Mahablog is reviewed on a Brazilian web page, in (I assume) Portuguese. I pasted the review into an online translation service, and this is what it says:
Who knows blogs - modern versions, in the InterNet, of the old di?rios of adolescent - knows that n?o h? criterion some in such a way in that it says respect? form as to conte?do of this type of p?gina. The case of the Mahablog, however, it is different. Instead of being counting of enfadonha form what it made in the day or as he was?ltima visit? house of the cousins of the interior, the author dedicated its knowledge internéticos? confec??o of a directed vestibule to patrol administra??o of George W daily. Bush. In war times, the site is brought up to date constantly and brings diverse well bacanas articles, as one intitled `` As Bush plays of pol?tica with our lives ' '.
Sums it up pretty well, don't you think?


8:27 am | link

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Ben Merens, "Conversations with Ben Merens,"
September 9, 2004, WHAD Milwaukee, 90.7 FM

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The Loyalties of George W. Bush

Terror Alert Level






"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


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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