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saturday, june 19, 2004

Wag the Dog Redux
Or, there they go again ...
Stephen F. Hayes himself weighs in on the 9/11 Panel report in the June 28 issue of The Weekly Standard.

IT'S SETTLED, APPARENTLY. Saddam Hussein's regime never supported al Qaeda in its "attacks on America," and meetings between representatives of Iraq and al Qaeda did not result in a "collaborative relationship." That, we're told, is the conclusion of two staff reports the September 11 Commission released last Wednesday.

But the contents of the documents have been widely misreported. Together the new reports total 32 pages; one contains a paragraph on the broad question of a Saddam-al Qaeda relationship, the other a paragraph on an alleged meeting between the lead hijacker and an Iraqi agent. Nowhere in the documents is the "Al Qaeda-Hussein Link...Dismissed," as Washington Post headline writers would have us believe. In fact, Staff Statement 15 discusses several "links."

Hayes's article is, of course, a pack of lies. I walked through the famous Staff Statement 15 here. It did not discuss several "links," in quotation marks or otherwise. It says there may have been three meetings between an Iraqi intelligence official and al Qaeda in the early 1990s, none of which resulted in any sort of collaboration or relationship. It says that Osama bin Laden made some requests of Saddam Hussein's government, and that these requests were ignored. So, it is far more accurate to say that the panel dismissed an Iraq-al Qaeda link than it is to say the panel discussed several links.

Hayes's spin implies that the panel thought there might be some kind of relationship or collaboration. Instead, the panel clearly said there was no relationship or collaboration. Period.

It never, as the Associated Press maintained, "bluntly contradicted" the Bush administration's prewar arguments.

Hoo boy, there's a juicy one. I could blog all day about what a big lie that is. Just a few of Bush's prewar arguments that have been bluntly contradicted:

In October 2002, Bush said, "Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases." That was false.

Bush said, in his January 2003 State of the Union address, "Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaeda." That was false.

Bush said, on February 8, 2003, "Iraq has also provided Al Qaeda with chemical and biological weapons training." That was false.

Powell, in his U.N. speech prior to the Iraq War, talked of the "sinister nexus between Iraq and the Al-Qaeda terrorist network." False again. [Matthew Rothschild, "Bush and Cheney Out on a Limb of Lies," The Progressive]

There's a lot more where those came from. I've been running into them all day. Sometime over the weekend I want to do a roundup of exposed Bushie lies about Iraq. But first I want to finish snarking about Stephen Hayes.

Hayes goes on to complain that most news media are misreporting what the Panel actually said. In fact, it's Hayes and his ilk (Glenn Reynolds being a major ilk) who are misreporting what the Panel actually said. For once, the media as a whole seem to be at least in the ball park, with the usual exceptions (e.g., Faux News).

Clinton's Revenge! Here's a righty blogger whose faith will not be shaken:

Let me repeat, Saddam had longstanding ties to terrorists including al Qaeda, sponsored terrorism, carried out terrorism, and cheered on terrorism. The press likes to pretend that this is a new argument invented by the Bush administration to trump up reasons for war, forgetting their own reports in the 90s about such connections and the Clinton administration’s claims of such connections.

You know these people are desperate when they fall back on the Clinton Administration as an authority. And like Andrew McCarthy, whom he credits as a source, our righty blogger drags up a November 1998 federal indictment of Osama bin Laden and  Muhammed Atef for the August 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. But I didn't realize how deliciously ironic this was until I read this letter to the editor in today's New York Times:

To the Editor:

When former Secretary of Defense William Cohen testified before the 9/11 commission, he discussed the Clinton administration's rationale for the 1998 bombing of the pharmaceutical factory in Sudan. He said that there was intelligence that Osama bin Laden had put money into "this military industrial corporation; that the owner of the plant had traveled to Baghdad to meet with the father of the VX program."

This supported the Clinton administration's thesis that VX gas was being produced there. In other words, it was evidence of Iraqi involvement with weapons of mass destruction.

How can you say that "there was never any evidence of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda"? The Clinton administration deemed it to be a link.

Eden Prairie, Minn., June 17, 2004

Yes, my loves, she's talking about the "aspirin factory"! The one the right claims Clinton bombed only in a wag-the-dog attempt to divert attention from the Monica Lewinsky scandal! Could it be that the righties will resurrect the aspirin factory and turn it back into a bomb-making facility? My heart is going pitty-pat at the thought!


1:42 pm | link

Vladamir Putin Update
Apparently the U.S. State Department never got Putin's warnings about Iraq planning terrorism against America.

State Department spokesman Adam Ereli told reporters he did not know anything about the information that Putin said Russia passed on. No such information was communicated from Russia through the State Department, he said.

"Everybody's scratching their heads," said one State Department official, who asked not to be named. [Reuters]

Speculation on the Blogosphere about why Putin is trying to prop up Bush's presidency mostly falls on Chechnya -- either Putin wants Bush to support him, or Putin wants Bush to stay in power and continue to make an ass of the U.S. and distract the rest of the world from Chechnya. See also comments on this Daily Kos post.

9:59 am | link

RSS Feed Update
After several people told me they can't subscribe to The Mahablog because of some glitch in my RSS feed, I complained to my web host service. Here is the response.
I am not exactly sure what the problem is with your site? I have browsed to the site and conducted tests, and everything seems to be in working order.
This happened the first time I complained. They don't seem to know what an RSS feed is, and I'm not enough of a technoweenie to explain it to them. So for those who have complained, sorry. I might consider moving my blog to another host (again; current host is my fourth, I think), however.

9:30 am | link

More on the myriad ways the Right is soothing itself into thinking the 9/11 panel's reports are not damaging to Bush:
Tacitus wrote,
I'm not sure this news story is the unalloyed victory for the antiwar left that much of the antiwar left seems to think it is. On the one hand, you have the 9/11 commission stating there's no hard evidence that al Qaeda and Ba'athist Iraq worked together. This much we knew, whatever the Vice President might say. (And by the way, see Steve Hayes for evidence that not all proponents of this thesis are reality-denying hacks.) On the other hand, we also have the 9/11 commission stating that al Qaeda actively sought cooperation with Ba'athist Iraq, and that Ba'athist Iraq gave the notion serious consideration. Note that we don't know that Ba'athist Iraq actively rejected the proposal -- there's simply no evidence of followup. [Emphasis added]
The "serious consideration" part is pure projection; the 9/11 panel report didn't even hint of "consideration" of any sort. And the story linked to doesn't say anything about al Qaeda and Iraq working together. Odd.
And like most of the Right, Tacitus clings to the opinions of Stephen F. Hayes for comfort. I googled for book reviews of Hayes's book The Connection, in which he claims to present proof of corroboration between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and al Qaeda. The only reviews I found were on right-wing blogs and from righty propaganda organs like National Review Online and Faux News, and Publisher's Weekly, which makes its profits from selling ad space to publishers and therefore writes puffball reviews. I have not read the book, so I cannot make an informed comment.
James Joyner at Tech Central Station snarks:

It should be noted, however, that the Commission also seemed to have demanded an inordinately high standard of evidence, unable to establish definitively, in their view, links between al Qaeda and a number of attacks long presumed to have been perpetrated by them:


§          "We have seen strong but indirect evidence that his organization did in fact play some as yet unknown role in the [June 1996] Khobar [Towers] attack."


§          "Whether Bin Ladin and his organization had roles in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center and the thwarted Manila plot to blow up a dozen U.S. commercial aircraft in 1995 remains a matter of substantial uncertainty."


Given the nature of counter-terrorist intelligence, critics might argue that the Commission's apparent search for proof that meets the reasonable doubt standard of the U.S. criminal justice system is unreasonable.

Given that the overwhelming opinion of American intelligence agencies, not to mention the intelligence organizations of the rest of the world, is that al Qaeda had nothing to do with the 1993 World Trade Center attack, it doesn't seem the 9/11 panel's standard of proof is all that unreasonable.
A lieutenant-colonel in the DIA [U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency] who specialized in terrorism and the Muslim world also ridiculed the claims connecting Iraq and al-Qaeda, adding that administration officials relied on evidence provided by Laurie Mylroie in her book The War Against America: Saddam Hussein and the World Trade Center Attacks: A Study of Revenge. "From her book," he said, "It was evident she hadn't spent one day in the Middle East but she was close with Wolfowitz and as a result we had a guy on staff [at the DIA] whose job for two years was to debunk her allegations." [Nir Rosen, Asia Times, October 4, 2003]
Gotta go to the gym now; I'll pick this up later.

6:59 am | link

friday, june 18, 2004

Way Past Absurd
Here's what I want you to do. I want you to click here and go to the web page of the 9/11 commission. Then, scroll down just a bit, and you'll see links to the three staff statements reporting the June 16-17 hearings. The staff statement that talks about Iraq is #15, Overview of the Enemy.
Please, read the dadblamed thing for yourself. Please.
As a public service I will repeat the passages about Iraq below, but I really, really want you to read it for yourself. And read the rest of them, plus the submitted testimony too, if you have time. I may go on to the testimony over the weekend.
I ask you to read it for yourselves because the degree of spin/denial/obfustication coming from the Right on this document -- this 12-page, publicly available document -- has gone way beyond absurd.
You will not believe what the lying bitch who is allegedly the "national security adviser" is saying:
In publishing a report that cited no evidence of a collaborative relationship between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, the Sept. 11 commission actually meant to say that Iraq had no control over the network, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said on Friday.

As the White House strove to curb potential damage to President Bush's credibility on Iraq, his closest aide on international security denied any inconsistency between the bipartisan panel's findings and Bush's insistence that a Saddam-Qaeda relationship existed.

What I believe the 9-11 commission was opining on was operational control, an operational relationship between al Qaeda and Iraq which we never alleged," Rice said in an interview with National Public Radio.

This is just plain pathological. The panel was not "opining" that Saddam had no control over al Qaeda. It "opined" that Saddam had squat to do with al Qaeda. But let's go now to what the commission actually said. I will focus on all mentions of Iraq.

This is on page 3, which deal with the early history of the al Qaeda organization, ca. 1989-1992:

With al Qaeda as its foundation, Bin Laden sought to build a broader Islamic army that also included terrorist groups from Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Oman, Tunisia, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, Somalia, and Eritrea. Not all groups from these states agreed to join, but at least one from each did.

That doesn't tell us much, but I expect the Kool-Aiders to attempt to make something out of it, as soon as they notice it.

We find the next mention of Iraq on page 5:

Bin Laden also explored possible cooperation with Iraq during his time in Sudan, despite his opposition to Hussein's secular regime. Bin Laden had in fact at one time sponsored anti-Saddam Islamists in Iraqi Kurdistan. The Sudanese, to protect their own ties with Iraq, reportedly persuaded Bin Ladin to cease this support and arranged for contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda. A senior intelligence officer reportedly made three visits to Sudan, finally meeting Bin Ladin in 1994. Bin Ladin is said to have requested space to establish training camps, as well as assistance in procuring weapons, but Iraq apparently never responded. There have been reports that contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda also occurred after Bin Ladin had returned to Afghanistan, but they do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship. Two senior Bin Ladin associates have adamantly denied that any ties existed between al Qaeda and Iraq. We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States.

For a study in desperation, see how Andrew McCarthy managed to twist this paragraph around for National Review Online. "The commission's cursory treatment of so salient a national question as whether al Qaeda and Iraq confederated is puzzling," he sniffs. "Given that the panel had three hours for Richard Clarke, one might have hoped for more than three minutes on Iraq."

Well, of course, the panel did spend more than three minutes on Iraq. This document is the summary, not the investigation itself. It doesn't say much, but maybe that's because there isn't much to say.

McCarthy drops dark hints of contradiction by other public testimony, but isn't specific about what that was. Then he says of the paragraph above,

Just taken on its own terms, this paragraph is both internally inconsistent and ambiguously worded. First, it cannot be true both that the Sudanese arranged contacts between Iraq and bin Laden and that no "ties existed between al Qaeda and Iraq." If the first proposition is so, then the "[t]wo senior Bin Laden associates" who are the sources of the second are either lying or misinformed.

Now, I've been around the block a few times, and I know for a fact that people can have "contacts" and "meetings" without forming a "tie." I'm told this happens in bars all the time, but I wouldn't know about that. However, many times over the years I've interviewed for jobs and spent a lovely couple of hours chatting with interviewers, and never heard from them again. So even though I had "contacts" with those companies, I left the interviews with no "ties" to the companies.

Yet Mr. McCarthy says this is not possible. If there is any sort of contact or meeting of any kind, then there must be a "tie." If that's true, there are a number of companies that owe me back pay. 

Look, there's nothing ambiguous at all about this. A "senior intelligence official" met with al Qaeda, once with bin Laden, in 1994. Bin Laden made some requests; Iraq did not respond. No "collaborative relationship" was formed. I read English pretty durn good; that means they weren't collaborating. That means they weren't working together. That means they did not establish ties.

It doesn't mean they were working together but that Iraq wasn't in control, as Condi claimed. It means they weren't working together. The American Heritage dictionary says that the word "ties" in this context means "To bring together in relationship; connect or unite: friends who were tied by common interests; people who are tied by blood or marriage." As a transitive verb, "ties" means to be fastened or attached.

There was no relationship. There was no attachment. There were no ties.

After a little more obfustication, McCarthy goes on to complain that the panel ignored a 1998 indictment obtained by the Justice Department against bin Laden that accused bin Laden of working with Iraq to develop weapons.

Does McCarthy know what an "indictment" is? It's an accusation; a document that details what crime a person is charged with. By itself, it's not proof of anything. So in 1998 the Justice Department accused bin Laden of collaborating with Iraq. McCarthy doesn't say how the Justice Department came by its suspicions (possibly some of the same bad intelligence that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction or was purchasing yellowcake uranium in Africa?), nor does he say that bin Laden was convicted of this.  

McCarthy goes on and on in the same illogical vein, sputtering and dragging the same old, same old, tired complaints that have been debunked so many times before. He even drags up the Mohammed Atta in Prague scenario again, even though that dead horse has been way beaten to a pulp already. The 9/11 panel debunked (once again) the Atta in Prague story in statement 16, but McCarthy will have none of it. Why, the Czech Republic saw Atta in Prague (although they changed their minds in 2002; McCarthy must've not gotten the memo). The FBI has considerable proof that Atta was in Florida when this meeting took place, but McCarthy brushes that off as so much hearsay.

McCarthy has too much invested in the Atta in Prague story to let go of it. A little matter like "overwhelming evidence to the contrary" is not going to pry it loose. Unfortunately, most of the Right Blogosphere is picking up McCarthy's arguments and repeating them in spite of the fact they make no sense.

But let's go back to statement #15. The next paragraph looks at allegations that Osama bin Laden was behind the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, another pillar of wingnut faith, and says there's no conclusive evidence. No wonder the neocons are unhappy.

I found no more mention of Iraq in statement #15. I'll go on to statement #16 tomorrow. But you can read it yourself, of course.

Related link: Bush Team Tries to Brazen It Out.


8:35 pm | link

Calling Fox Mulder
Former KGB spy and current Russian President Vladamir Putin has stepped forward to cover "president" Bush's bare nekkid butt:

MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- Russian intelligence services warned Washington several times that Saddam Hussein's regime planned terrorist attacks against the United States, President Vladimir Putin has said.

The warnings were provided after September 11, 2001 and before the start of the Iraqi war, Putin said Friday, according to the Interfax news agency.

The planned attacks were targeted both inside and outside the United States, said Putin, who made the remarks during a visit to Kazakhstan.

However, Putin said there was no evidence that Saddam's regime was involved in any terrorist attacks.

So are we making sense yet? Russia warned the U.S. that Saddam Hussein's regime planned terrorist attacks on America, but there was/is no evidence of it?

Russia opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning, but Putin said the issue of going to war was separate from a potential Iraqi threat. He said there were international norms that weren't observed in carrying out the war.

Uh huh. What he said in March 2003 was "This military action is unjustified." That doesn't sound like a quibble about "international norms."

The United States never mentioned the Russian intelligence in its arguments for going to war.

Uh huh.

After September 11, 2001, and before the start of the military operation in Iraq, the Russian special services ... received information that officials from Saddam's regime were preparing terrorist attacks in the United States and outside it against the U.S. military and other interests," Interfax quoted Putin as saying.

Despite that information about terrorist attacks being prepared by Saddam's regime, Russia's position on Iraq remains unchanged," Putin said.

Of course, Putin doesn't have to make sense to the Russian people. As dictator president of Russia, he has closed down the independent press, rigged elections, and waged an inhumane war in Chechnya. In other words, he and Shrubbie are peas in a pod, except that Putin can walk and chew gum at the same time.

If this were an X-Files episode, Mulder and Scully would be investigating corroboration between Russia and the U.S. to cover up the conspiracy about oil aliens and killer bees in cornfields and alien abductions.

Instead, we've got Putin inexplicably making up a story to cover Bush's butt. One wonders what quid pro quo was agreed to.  We may have a hint in today's Washington Post. In "Veering from Reagan," a fellow at the Hoover Institution writes,

Bush praises Putin as an ally in the fight against terrorism and a man with a vision for Russia "in which democracy and freedom and the rule of law thrive." Rather than speak the truth about Russia's autocratic drift, Bush seems content to maintain his personal relationship with Putin, even if it comes at the expense of his principles -- not exactly Reagan's approach to foreign policy.

We don't know if today's fib was just Putin returning a favor or if more substantial exchanges were made behind closed doors. But this stinks, people. It stinks out loud.

Now let's count how many nanoseconds pass before the right-wing "pundits" crush former Communist apparatchik Putin to their bosoms and thank him for being a defender of their faith.

Update: we caught one. Glennie took the bait. 


8:53 am | link

thursday, june 17, 2004

What a Difference 140 Years Make
Michael Barone* has the nerve to compare the 2004 election to the election of 1864, in which Abraham Lincoln was re-elected. Barone also drops dark hints of Dire Consequences if Bush is not "re"-elected. He also thinks the Democrats are divided over Kerry. He also is an idiot. The man has no clue what is really going on out here in Voterland, so we can dismiss whatever he says as lunatic ravings.
However, Barone's column, plus this review of Mario Cuomo's new book, Why Lincoln Matters, gives me an opening to do some blogging about Lincoln that I've been meaning to do for a while.
It's often the case that we remember Famous Dead People as icons or statues rather than people, and we forget George Washington could out-swear most sailors, for example. So it is with Lincoln. Before he was assassinated and became Saint Abraham Who Sits on the Throne of God Next to Jesus, contemporaries described him as an exceedingly ugly and clumsy man who told vulgar jokes (of course, only the clean ones get into history books) in a high-pitched voice, and with a grating backwoods accent. And on some level we must realize he was just a man who had doubts and made mistakes, as we all do.
But Lincoln the man is dead, and we are left with Lincoln the Icon. Or Icons, as there are several editions. One version of Lincoln describes him as saintly and wise and always kind to the poor enslaved persons. And another version is Lincoln the Tyrant, who singlehandedly put an end to states' rights and enlarged the power of the federal government and suspended habeas corpus, which is all the proof some people need that he was a tyrant.
The truth is somewhere in between. Lincoln was opposed to slavery but, like pretty much all 19th-century white men, he was a racist. Historians today debate whether he would have supported the 15th Amendment, which gave freedmen the vote, had he served his second term. At the time of his election he'd come a long way from the backwoods bumpkin he sometimes pretended to be. In fact he was a prosperous lawyer whose clients included railroad tycoons.
And all of the arguments for the Tyrant icon ignore one little context of his actions, which was that there was this Civil War thing going on at the time. (These people also ignore the fact that the real expansion of federal government powers took place much later in the 19th century, but that's another blog.)
I can't give the entire argument for why Lincoln was not a tyrant in one blog post. It deserves a book; several, in fact. But here's a highly simplified overview:
Five days after South Carolina started the war by firing on the federal territory of Ft. Sumter, and just two days after the secession of Virginia, a Union regiment attempting to march through Baltimore to get to Washington was stoned by civilians waving Confederate flags. The mob turned into a riot. Someone fired a gun, which started a gunfight. Four soldiers and twelve civilians were killed, and 31 more civilians were wounded.
In the days that followed, secessionist demonstrations broke out all over Maryland. Marylanders formed militias to fight for the Confederacy. The city leaders of Baltimore destroyed bridges and telegraph lines into the city. Rumors flew that Maryland would seceed, and that the state legisature would arm the state to fight the Union. (A believable rumor considering the governor and legislature of Missouri attempted exactly that.) And mob violence was within hiking distance of Washington, DC. Civil authority was breaking down, in Maryland and elsewhere. At this point Lincoln suspended the writ in an area between Philadelphia and Washington, DC.  
The Constitution provides that the writ may be suspended "when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it." But this provision is made in Article I, which describes the powers of Congress. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume the Founders intended Congress to have that power, not the President. But Congress was not in session at that time, and in the 19th century it would take a few weeks to call Congress back. By then Washington DC might have been overrun by Confederates.
Remember, Lincoln could look out of the White House windows and see Confederate flags waving in Virginia. He had reason to be concerned.  Jefferson Davis had already assembled a Confederate army that by April 1861 was, as I remember, already twice the size of the U.S. Army, most of which was on the Pacific coast or fighting Indians on the plains. Lincoln was in a desperate situation.
As someone who learned about Lincoln through study of the Civil War, I am often stunned at the assumptions made by people who look at Lincoln's political actions outside the context of the war. He ordered a naval blockade of the southern states, they wail. Of course he did. There was a bleeping war going on. All Civil War buffs know about the blockade. As I remember, the blockade was recommended by the aging General Winfield Scott, who believed that cutting off cotton exports would force the seceeded states back into the Union with little bloodshed. It didn't quite work that way, although the blockade did have an impact on the cotton states and thereby the war. It's baffling to me how anyone bright enough to tie his shoes can call the blockade an act of tyranny, under the circumstances.
The Civil War was not a little skirmish. At least 618,000 Americans died in the war, and some say the toll reached 700,000. I haven't done the math myself, but it's said these casualties exceed the nation's loss in all its other wars, from the Revolution through Vietnam. Nasty business.
People today do not appreciate that the Union might have lost. The Union had a military advantage, but the South put up a remarkable fight and very nearly wore the Unionists down to a political settlement that would have split the nation in two. Without the blockade, the Confederacy might have prevailed. Without suspension of the writ, Confederate mobs might have captured Washington.
And when Congress finally got back to business Lincoln submitted all of his extra-Constitutional acts, including suspension of the writ, to the legislators for approval, which they gave. With only five Democrats voting no, Congress declared that "all the acts, proclamations and orders of the President ... are hereby approved and in all respects legalized and made valid ... as if they had been issued and done under the previous express authority and direction of the Congress of the United States."
My favorite Lincoln the Tyrant claim is that he used the writ only to round up his political enemies. In fact, the people detained were Confederate sympathizers, who incidentally were political enemies of Lincoln. Duh. Historian Phillip Paludan wrote,
Throughout the nation the possibility was woven into demography and politics. Here again the corrupting hand of slavery was ever present. In border states in particular but also throughout the North, who was loyal to the Union? People had migrated from slave states to free and vice-versa, leaving family and friends behind. They shared attitudes about and experiences with slavery, held them deeply, though living in different parts of the country. Would anything counter-balance them? Political loyalty linked Democrats North and South through racism, antipower rhetoric, and memories of anti-Republican struggles. Which Democrats would take that linkage to extremes? In the midst of a civil war, government needed to act when such questions threatened. [Paludan, The Presidency of Abraham Lincoln (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1994), p. 72]
In time the writ would be suspended in a few other areas, mostly in the border states in which mobs of citizens were shooting and hanging each other with great enthusiasm. In some cases the writ was suspended (usually at the request of generals) in places where, on later reflection, it didn't need to be, because civil authority was still functioning. People were taken into custody without the writ who were not guilty, but many of them really were planning acts of sedition. For example, some men taken into custody were in the process of providing arms, machinery, and even ships to the Confederacy.
However, no one was cut off from the rest of the world, as Jose Padilla is now. Most were held for only a short time. Even some of the guilty were paroled after they signed an oath of allegience to the Union. And Lincoln's war powers were essential to saving the Union.
Now let's scoot ahead to the election of 1864. Early in the year Lincoln sincerely believed he would lose the election, and he made plans with his cabinet for prosecution of the war as a lame duck. Yet he insisted that the election take place. This is not what a tyrant would have done. (The political winds blew in Lincoln's favor only after Sherman took Atlanta in September 1864.) 
The essential points are that Lincoln's actions were necessary to save the Union, and that Lincoln never claimed he could usurp the powers given Congress by the Constitution. He acted without their prior approval in exigent circumstances, because not to act would have endanged the Union. Not acting would have been a violation of his solemn oath to protect and defend the Constitution.
In no way did Lincoln provide a precedent for G. W. Bush to set aside the will of Congress or to act in secret without consulting Congress.
*Michael Barone's point was that if Lincoln had lost to George McClellan, McClellan might have negotiated a peace settlement with the Confederacy. Therefore, says Barone, it would be unwise not to "re"-elect Bush. Is he implying that President Kerry might negotiate a settlement with Osama bin Laden? As I said, Barone is an idiot.
OK, D.R. Marvel, have at it. :-) 

7:06 pm | link

Nothing to See Here
If you are curious about what's being said on the Right Blogosphere about the 9/11 panel's debunking of the Saddam-al Qaeda link, here is a summary:
I cruised about for quite a while, and the only mention of the 9/11 panel was on Instapundit. Glenn Reynolds is in psychotic denial, but he did mention it. 
Glennie clings tightly to his delusions -- there was a Saddam-al Qaeda link, because Prime Minister Blair says so. And he wouldn't have any reason to lie, would he? Naaaah ... Also, the 9/11 Commission is wrong and Stephen Hayes is right. Also, the claim about no Saddam-al Qaeda link is just ONE PARAGRAPH in a TWELVE PAGE DOCUMENT, but the LIBRUHL MEDIA picked out that ONE PARAGRAPH to put in their headlines! [pant pant pant, deep inhale] And anyway, UNSCAM! So there.
But give Glenn credit; at least he's not ignoring the 9/11 panel entirely, as is the rest of the Right Blogosphere.
Oh, wait, IMAO just posted something ...

So the 9/11 Commission has found no link between Iraq and al Qaeda on attacking on the September 11th attack. So what? Do they expect us to apologize to Saddam now or something? He had what was coming, and everyone should be happy.

So why are we wasting money on a commission like this?

Breathtaking, ain't it? Frank J. of IMAO should explain this to Fernando Juarez, whose son Jesus, a U.S. Marine, stepped on a U.S. cluster bomb and bled to death in a desert so that Frank can be happy. Mr. Juarez should be happy. Everybody should be happy. No problem.  
IMAO bills itself as a humor site, so perhaps Frank was writing with tongue in cheek. I don't see the humor, though.
Update: The voice of the (Medium) Lobster.

11:52 am | link

Can I Watch TV Now?
I've been watching less and less television news for several months now. I managed to miss all of the Reagan funeral coverage. But I see that NBC Nightly News reported last night that Donald Rumsfeld got caught doing something naughty.
Pentagon officials tell NBC News that late last year, at the same time U.S. military police were allegedly abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ordered that one Iraqi prisoner be held “off the books” — hidden entirely from the International Red Cross and anyone else — in possible violation of international law.
So I get my hopes up that the blow-dried brigades are doing real journalism again. But then I read:
It’s the first direct link between Rumsfeld and questionable though not violent treatment of prisoners in Iraq. [emphasis added]
So are we to believe the man pictured at left died of natural causes? And that it's perfectly normal for the dead to be gloated over by young women wearing rubber gloves?
I believe I will stay tuned in to Law and Order reruns, thanks. They make sense.
The hidden prisoner story does have some interesting plot twists. The report says he was flown out of Iraq for interrogation, but then the Justice Department suggested that holding him outside Iraq might be illegal (hiding him from the Red Cross wasn't illegal?) so they brought him back to Iraq, where "nearly one year after his capture, he’s still being held incommunicado."
But wait, it gets better.

In fact, once the prisoner was returned to Iraq, the interrogations ceased because the prisoner was entirely lost in the system. ... Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch said, “If they thought he was such a threat that he could not get Red Cross visits, then how come such a threatening prisoner got lost in the system?”

And if he's lost in the system, how do we know he is still being held in Iraq? And how do we know he's really "lost"? Forget Law and Order; X-Files reruns make more sense than this. And here's a real knee-slapper: 

Pentagon officials still insist Rumsfeld acted legally, but admit it all depends on how you interpret the law.

But we know Bushies subscribe to the Leona Helmsley school of jurisprudence -- laws are for the little people.
For more on how the Bush Administration interprets law, read Alberto Gonzalez v. International Law in Slate.
A couple of unrelated hot links:
*Thanks to Hammerdown.

6:22 am | link

wednesday, june 16, 2004

Bush: Biggest Screwup in History
The 9/11 Commission says that Saddam Hussein rebuffed Osama bin Laden in the early 1990s when the al Qaeda leader asked for Iraq's assistance.
Further, the 9/11 Commission found evidence of corroboration between al Qaeda and Iran as well as ties with Sudan and Pakistan.
The commission found that throughout the decade prior to the September 11 attacks, bin Laden’s organization forged alliances with officials in a number of foreign governments, including Iran, Sudan and Pakistan.
Indeed, the commission said there are “strong indications” that “elements of both the Pakistani and Iranian governments frequently turned a blind eye” to a flow of recruiters, travel facilitators, and document forgers who flew in and out of bin Laden’s training camps in Afghanistan throughout the late 1990s.
By contrast, the commission found little evidence of any collaborative relationship with Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq—which the Bush administration chose to invade last year at least in part because of claimed links to Al Qaeda. [Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball, Newsweek, June 16, 2004]
In other words, Bush invaded the wrong country.
Now, my question is, is this the biggest blunder in world history? I can't think of anything that even comes close in American history, so we have to take the question global. The only event that comes to mind is Napoleon's invasion of Russia, 1812. But surely, in terms of scale, Bush has Napoleon beat all to hell.

8:40 pm | link

He's Nuts, I Tell You, II
Richard Wolffe writes on the Newsweek web site that the "president" is struggling to express himself.
It was only 10 minutes into what was billed as a relaxed “conversation” about prescription drugs. But after leafing through his talking points, perched on a small black box in front of his chair, the president was clearly struggling. “I’m just about running out of air,” he joked, before handing things over to the other four people on stage. “Want me to keep talking?” In less than 40 minutes, the conversation was over. That was about the same time as George W. Bush spent in his motorcade from Kansas City airport to his chit-chat in Liberty, Mo.
Not only could Bush not sustain a conversation about health care, what he did say was odd.
Speaking of next year’s Medicare benefits for preventative medicine, Bush seemed far less interested in the health of seniors than the financial health of the tax base. “For the first time in Medicare's history, we're now going to diagnose problems before they become acute,” he said. “That seems to make sense, particularly if you're worried about taxpayers' money. In other words, if you act early to prevent problems from happening in the first place, it's good for the taxpayers.” ...
More tellingly, he couldn’t confine himself to just Medicare. Speaking for only half the 39-minute event, Bush couldn’t resist veering into the war on terror and other assorted parts of his re-election strategy. After a peculiar reference to voluntary work in the community, Bush riffed on the importance of a strong military. “It’s incumbent upon America to lead and work with other nations to spread freedom,” he said in front of a giant sign emblazoned with the acronym "Rx."
And Wolffe says Bush was unable to frame his message to be appropriate for his audience. He used "inside the beltway" jargon, says Wolffe, and spoke of "Medicare Plus Choice, as if his audience knew the technical differences between one part of the program and another."
This seems significant to me because it reveals an utter lack of empathy with his audience. Any normal person, especially a politician -- even a lying scoundrel of a politician -- would aim his message in a way that suited his audience. An inability to empathize is a big red flag of narcissistic personality disorder.
Also, it seems to me that Bush's performance reveals either a complete lack of interest in connecting with the voters in spite of the fact that he clearly wants their votes (personality disorder?)or an ability to do so (brain damage?).
Last month William Saletan wrote,
In press conferences, TV 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.
Last week ("Don't Blame the Pretzel") I wrote that Shrub's ability to speak coherently has deteriorated considerably over the past ten years. He's gone downhill even since he's been in the White House. Some dismiss his blabbering as innate stupidity, and others think it's part of a strategy to trick his opponents into "misunderestimating" him. But the first explanation doesn't explain the fact that he used to be smarter, and the second just doesn't fit the circumstances of his talk in Kansas City.
There is something seriously wrong with George W. Bush.
Update. In Salon, "The Inner Bush." It ain't pretty.

7:10 am | link

tuesday, june 15, 2004

Around the Blogosphere
Stuff too good to miss --
Maxspeak announces the winners of the Vicious Instapundit Blogroll Contest to find the most vicious posts by a blogger who can be found on the InstaPundit blogroll. It's worth it to read Max's comments before going on to the blogs themselves, which are fascinating. As Max says, "This 'literature' (sic) ought to provide case material for courses in abnormal psychology."
The best antidote to the insanity is, of course, the voice of the Medium Lobster. 
Several good things are up at BOP News, including Matt Stoller writing about "The Moderate Illusion" --
... moderation in policy discussions doesn't make sense as a construct anymore. Trying to mediate between two sides, one of which is operating in bad faith, is not moderation - it is being seduced by wishful thinking.  ... So the fights today are whether it is possible for a group to lie about its agenda and implement it subversively. This is in many ways a more serious political problem than, say, abortion, because the potential for a genuine rollback of liberal democracy and rights guaranteed in the Constitution are on the table. If you can implement a set of politics by promising to implement a different set of policies, then the whole system of checks and balances that sits upon the edifice of assumed transparency starts to break down.
In lumping in NRA with Moveon and essentially saying that compromise is optimal, one runs the risk of putting groups in the same political category, some of whom are operating in good faith and some of whom are not.

And that's not compromise or moderation - it's illusion.

You really have to read the entire essay to get Matt's argument.

And my bud Stirling Newberry writes in "Suckers":

... the infinite bright horizon of 1999 is dead and gone, and Americans seem to have accepted that. They seem likely to return a Republican House, at least, and have a choice between two Presidential nominees who signed off on "Saddam gone, oil back" as a policy.

It isn't going to work that way. First because this scenario underestimates where the costs have gone, second because it completely misjudges John Kerry as a nominee, and third because it misses that the American people are now fundamentally unhappy, because they were promised a return to boom, and will be very unhappy when they find out that boom is never coming again under this "Japanification" scenario.

Via Digby, please read this commentary by William Pfaff called "When Laws Get in the Way of Torture."

Via No More Mister Nice Blog -- Iran is massing troops on the border of Iraq. Whoops.

Last but not least, interesting comments about the job hole on Hammerdown and Josh Marshall on Today's "Press Gaggle"


7:52 pm | link

Boxed In
You may remember that earlier this week the Red Cross announced that, under the terms of the Geneva Convention, Saddam Hussein had to be either charged with a crime or handed over to the sovereign Iraqi government on June 30. 
Apparently, international law declares that at the end of a war or occupation, POWs and civilian internees must be released if there are no criminal charges against them.
Iraq Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said today that Iraqi government is in negotiations with the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority for the transfer of Saddam Hussein and all Iraqi detainees into Iraqi custody. Allawi told reporters that the U.S. is "keen" to turn Saddam over to Iraqi authority.
However, "President" Bush seems to be less than "keen."
President Bush said today that his administration was making plans to transfer custody of Saddam Hussein to the new Iraqi interim government. But he refused to be pinned down on exactly when the transfer would take place.

"We're working with the Iraqi government on a couple of issues," Mr. Bush said at a news conference in the Rose Garden. One issue is the "appropriate time" for transferring custody of the former Baghdad dictator, he said. ...

Mr. Bush has insisted that the date for returning some powers to Iraqis is ironclad. But he indicated today that a time for turning Mr. Hussein over to the Iraqis was not.

"We want to make sure that he is secure," Mr. Bush said, with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan standing by his side. "He's a killer. He is a thug. He needs to be brought to trial. We want to make sure that the transfer to a sovereign government is done in a timely way and in a secure way. That's what we're discussing with the government."  [David Stout, "Bush Plans to Transfer Hussein to Iraqis, But No Timetable Yet," The New York Times (web), June 15, 2004]

Bets on how long the Bushies will drag their feet about relinquishing custody of Saddam?
Also from the Stout article:

Nor did Mr. Bush shy away from a statement on Monday night by Vice President Dick Cheney that there were "long-established ties" between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda terrorists. To the contrary, Mr. Bush embraced the vice president's remarks.

Asked what he considered the "best evidence" of such a link, Mr. Bush shot back, "Zarqawi."

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant believed by the Central Intelligence Agency to have ties to Al Qaeda, has been named by the C.I.A. as the suspect in the recent videotaped beheading of a kidnapped American contractor.

"Zarqawi's the best evidence of a connection to Al Qaeda affiliates and Al Qaeda," Mr. Bush went on. "He's the person who's still killing."

Lest we forget:

NBC News has learned that long before the war the Bush administration had several chances to wipe out his terrorist operation and perhaps kill Zarqawi himself — but never pulled the trigger. [NBC News]

Before the invasion of Iraq, Zarqawi and members of al Qaeda were operating in Kurdish territory in northern Iraq, which was territory not controlled by Saddam Hussein. There's no apparent connection between Zarquawi and Saddam Hussein. 

5:17 pm | link

Hot LInks
If you don't read anything else today, be sure to read this post at Brad De Long's. It's from a few days ago, but I just now noticed it myself.
Either Seymour Hersh is insane, or we have an administration that needs to be removed from office not later than the close of business today. The scariest part: "[Hersh] said he had seen all the Abu Ghraib pictures. He said, 'You haven't begun to see evil...' then trailed off. He said, 'horrible things done to children of women prisoners, as the cameras run.' He looked frightened."
If you are up to reading two things today (not counting The Mahablog, of course), make the other one Michael Froomkin's analysis of the "Torture Memo." (Robert Scheer notes that the lawyer who wrote the memo was rewarded with a federal judgeship.)
And if you read three things, the third should be today's Paul Krugman column in the New York Times, which begins, "No question: John Ashcroft is the worst attorney general in history."
OK, one more. Sheryl Stolberg writes in the New York Times that the Reagan family is fighting George W. Bush's assumption of the Reagan mantle. Juicy stuff.
Religion Roundup: More on the GOP's attempts to use religion for political purposes on Talking Points Memo and Body and Soul. And the Boston Globe reports that a lobbyist for Massachusetts's bishops issued letters to all of parishes in the state urging Catholics to ''share their profound disappointment" with lawmakers who did not vote to ban gay marriage earlier this year.
Also in the Boston Globe today, Derrick Jackson writes,
Bush is trying to ram selective chunks of religion down the throats of all Americans in the most multicultural nation on earth. Once again, the president who once boasted, ``I'm a uniter, not a divider,'' and says he wants to get government out of our lives, is trying, more clearly than ever, to get the pope in bed with him so both of them can camp out in our bedrooms. 
Amen, Brother Derrick.
Elsewhere on the Web:
Slate picks up one my my current themes, that David Brooks is an idiot.
Robert Kuttner reviews what we know so far about U.S. sponsored torture at TAP.
WaPo reports that Texas congressman Chris Bell is filing an ethics complaint in the House against Tom DeLay.

9:29 am | link

monday, june 14, 2004

Undecided Voters Are Stupid
So far I haven't seen any undecided voters interviewed on television, possibly because I don't watch much news on television. But I really hate undecided voters.
I don't mean that I hate you if you weren't sure which Democratic candidate should be the nominee, or if you are on the fence about the local school board president. But at this point, anyone who is still undecided about George Bush has major cognitive deficiencies.
Gersh Kuntzman of Newsweek says something that needs to be said:

But who is this undecided voter? If you ask me, he's a moron.

It's been said. Finally. Thank you, Mr. Kuntzman.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, maha, what about all the morons who support George W. Bush? Well, many Bush supporters are morons. But I don't think they all are. Some of them are, I suspect, demented. And the rest are in on the take, as it were, or think they are.

But undecided voters--UVs--are all morons.

For the past several presidential elections, reporters have been doing man-in-the-street or focus-group-in-the-studio interviews of undecided voters. And for the past several presidential elections, I've realized these people are undecided because they've got their heads up their asses. They have no idea at all what's going on.

The formula is the same, election year after election year. After months of campaigning and media coverage, and millions of dollars in advertising, a reporter goes forth to interview undecided voters. The interviewer shoves a microphone into the placcid face of Mr. or Mrs. Middle America and asks if they've made up their minds who to vote for. And the UV replies, I don't know, because I don't know where they stand on the issues. 

At that point, the interviewer should ask, "And why not? How could you possibly not know where the candidates' stand on issues? Do you know how hard the candidates and the media and the parties have been working to get their messages out, and you still don't know? What's wrong with you?" But of course, nobody says that.

Kuntzman writes,

The Knight-Ridder syndicate uncovered a fundraiser for an AIDS group (she's undecided?! This is the president who promised millions for AIDS in Africa but never actually allocated the money). "There's information flying from both sides, and I don't know what to believe," she said. "I don't spend time doing a lot of research. It's all noise to me."

I remember during the 2000 elections, in one of the many focus groups of utterly brainless twits undecided voters, I realized that the UVs would appear to be even more stupid if the interviewer weren't prompting them, i.e., George Bush plans a bigger tax cut than Al Gore does; what do you think about that? Sure, it's a leading question with a predictable answer (yes on tax cuts). But without the hint you know the interview would've been D.O.A.

I never got over one UV in 2000 who finally admitted he didn't know anything about where the candidates stood on issues and, exasperated, huffed, "I guess I'm going to have to read something."

The undecided voter, the unnamed source told The New York Times last week, is "a relatively low-information, relatively disengaged political person." I'll stick with my definition for the time being--but regardless of what you want to call them, this group of people, who can't choose a side in the clearest ideological choice since the Reagan-Mondale landslide in 1984, will decide who the next president is.

It's not fair, you know. Right now both parties are dumping vast amounts on money and energy on this relatively small slice of the electorate, pretty much ignoring the rest of us. And since these people have no clue and no way to know lies from facts, they'll be swinging in favor of packaging rather than substance.

According to Adam Nagourney of the New York Times (June 11),

Undecided voters are likely to be younger, lower-income and less educated than the general electorate, said Ed Goeas, a Republican pollster.

These voters are more likely to put themselves at the center of the political scale: Stanley Greenberg, a Democratic pollster, said approximately 45 percent of undecided voters described themselves as moderate, compared with 23 percent of the general electorate. ...

From a tactical point of view, undecided voters present a special challenge to the campaigns because of their disinterest toward politics. The Annenberg poll found that 55 percent said they were not following the campaign closely or at all [the other 45 percent were lying -- maha], compared with 32 percent of the general electorate in swing states, which has produced a bit of a conundrum for both campaigns. ...

Outside of Milwaukee, Karen Pauli, 52, said she saw no reason to pay attention to the contest before autumn. "Until then, I just ignore it because it's so much confusing hot air," Ms. Pauli said, adding: "I'm not even sure who Kerry is. Too early to tell."

A senior Kerry advisor describes this segment of the electorate as "the classic picture of a relatively low-information, relatively disengaged political person. Less likely to know about the candidates, less likely to think that politics is relevant to their lives at all."

See? And it doesn't help when television news puts them on television and gives them star treatment. They don't belong on television; they belong in stocks. Pelted with rotten vegetables. Made to wear a scarlet U.


6:01 pm | link

Onward, Xtian Soldiers
Religion and political expediency go beautifully hand in hand.
--Friedrich Dürrenmatt
It's reported that when the "president" spoke with the Pope a few days ago, he attempted to recruit the support of His Holiness to help his re-election campaign. Specifically, he wants the Pope to tell American bishops to speak out more forcefully on socially conservative issues.  
And we also know that the Bushies are trying to organize Christian congregations to work for Bush's "re"-election in November.
And we also know that House Speaker Dennis Hastert recently inserted a provision into the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 that would give religious leaders more freedom to engage in partisan politics without endangering the tax-exempt status of their churches.
If you didn't know about that last one, here's the deal:
The American Jobs Creation Act, introduced Friday by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), is scheduled for markup Thursday and a vote on the House floor next week. The bill's main purpose is to cut the top corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 32 percent and provide other tax relief to businesses, in return for repealing subsidies that have triggered European sanctions on U.S. farmers and manufacturers.
Whether passage of this bill actually would result in the creation of American jobs could be debated, of course. But here comes the religion part:

But on page 378 of the bill is a provision entitled "Safe Harbor for Churches." It would allow clergy members to engage in political activity, including endorsing candidates, as long as they make clear that they are acting as private citizens and not on behalf of their religious organizations. They could not make partisan political statements in church publications, at church functions or using church funds.

The provision also would allow clergy members to commit three "unintentional violations" of the tax rules on political activity each year without risking the loss of tax-exempt status. After the first violation, the church, synagogue or mosque would have to pay corporate taxes on one week's worth of its annual revenue. For the second violation, the penalty would be taxation of 50 percent of the organization's annual revenue. The penalty for the third violation would be taxation of a year's revenue, but not permanent loss of its tax exemption.

Now, my understanding is that clergy, as individual citizens, are perfectly free to engage
in political activity now without causing loss of tax-exempt status for their churches. Sometimes that's a fine point, of course, because if a pastor or priest makes his political beliefs known to a congregation, that could influence some members of the congregation. And if the Rev. Mr. Wingnut speaks at a Bush rally and is identified as the pastor of the Old-Time Religion Tabernacle, that would appear to be an endorsement by the Old-Time Religion Tabernacle. Still, that to me is less objectionable than if the Reverend stood up in the pulpit and told his flock who to vote for. Not all ministers who get involved in politics are wingnuts-- think Martin Luther King.
However, that's not really what I want to write about. What I want to write about is this op ed in today's Boston Globe. In "Who Will Bless the Democrats?" David O'Brien (no relation to maha that she's aware of), who is director of the Center for Religion, Ethics, and Culture at the College of the Holy Cross, writes that the Democrats will have a hard time finding Christians ministers to bless this year's convention.

Who can we expect to see offering invocations and benedictions for Democrats?

Both parties should have little trouble finding friendly rabbis and imams. George Bush and John Kerry are both friends of Israel, and both want to make it clear that they are not into any sort of religious war. Bush will have no trouble with evangelical Protestants, and Catholic clerics are falling over one another as they rally to his cause.

But what self-respecting Catholic pastor or evangelical preacher can appear to bless the party of partial-birth abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and gay marriage? African-Americans could long be counted on for Democratic gatherings, but many have big problems with gay marriage. Mainstream Protestant preachers are always available, but whatever votes the Democrats will get from that shrinking pool are already sewed up. The big Christian markets are Catholics and evangelicals, and that's where the problem comes in.

Mr. O'Brien suggests that the Democrats abandon their "knee jerk" support of abortion rights, stem cell research, and other socially progressive issues. The Democrats should, says O'Brien, respect other points of view; build a big tent.
To which I say, bleep that.
Mr. O'Brien's suggestions are fairly reasonable -- he does not want to criminalize abortion -- but all too often "respecting  other points of view" ends up meaning "we'll cave in to what the Right wants." You cannot compromise with the Right.
I am so...very...tired... of watering down progressive policies to appease the Right. I say the Dems should stand strong for abortion rights, stem cell research, and against a "protection of marriage" amendment. And then take back the White House and Congress. Let the Right compromise with us for a change.
If getting a "blessing" is so dadblamed important, I will volunteer to perform a special fire-walking puja to open the convention that will call down the blessings of every deity you can think of, including Thor, Baal, and Harvey the Invisible Rabbit. For a reasonable gratuity I will twirl flaming batons and jump up and down on an effigy of Bush. And if that's not good enough, I will throw off my clothes and make a grain offering to the Almighty (e.g., set fire to a box of Cream of Wheat while singing "Guide Me Oh Thou Great Jehovah," which I can sing in English and Welsh).
You cannot get more righteous than that.

11:26 am | link

He's Nuts, I Tell You
Through Capitol Hill Blue I learned that a prominent Washington psychoanalyst says our President is nuttier than a peanut farm. In a book titled Bush on the Couch, Dr. Justin Frank  writes (according to CHB), Bush is a "paranoid meglomaniac" as well as a sadist and "untreated alcoholic."
I don't know how ethical it is for a doctor to diagnose someone he has never met, and I have some quibbles with psychoanalysis (as opposed to psychotherapy), so I want to be cautious about Dr. Frank's opinion. I believe there is some truth in this, however. As I wrote last week in "Don't Blame the Pretzel," there is evidence of real brain deterioration. And last year I wrote about Shrub's all-too-obvious oedipal complex.
I don't know about paranoid megalomania; I've thought Shrub just suffered from narcissistic personality disorder. But whatever you want to call it -- the boy ain't right.

9:55 am | link

sunday, june 13, 2004

Inherent Hypocrisy
Mark Kleiman writes about something I touched upon at the end of this post. The Right has been remarkably silent about the extraordinary claim made in The Memo that a president has "inherent authority" to set aside federal law and the will of Congress during a war. Mr. Kleiman says,
I find it striking that, in a situation where President Bush is being widely and harshly criticized for (at least) not disclaiming the astonishing claim made on his behalf by his appointees, no one who isn't actually on his payroll has stepped forward to defend those claims.
But I haven't seen anyone on the Right criticize those claims, either. Maybe I missed something, somewhere, because there is an enormous about of bloviating going on out in Limbaughland that I miss, on purpose.
But I've been bouncing around in the Right Blogosphere, generally a very libertarian place on constant vigilence against the tyranny of leftists, to see what was being said about The Memo and the "inherent power" claims. And this is what I found: 
I do not believe any president has ever claimed to have the authority to set aside the will of Congress. It is true that, in extraordinary circumstances, presidents have acted without the prior consent of Congress -- when war or civil unrest presents an immediate threat to public safety, for example -- but I'm unaware of any time in American history, even during wartime, in which a president claimed the power to set aside the will of Congress as expressed in federal law.
If Bush indeed acted or approved anything that violated federal law or a ratified treaty, and didn't even bother to inform Congress he was doing so, this is an unprecedented breach of the Constitution.
Yet all these self-professed libertarians are dutifully not noticing.
Further: There appears to be a lot of confusion about the president's powers as commander in chief. Findlaw has a good commentary on what the authors of the Constitution meant when they wrote Article II, Section 2, on presidential power, and how the role of the commander in chief has been viewed throughout American history.
Related Link

2:51 pm | link

Gotta Be Brave to Live Here
Here's an editorial after my own heart-- "Singing Our Song" in today's Boston Globe. The writer rightfully says that Americans are big weenies about singing our national anthem. Ain't it the truth? Most people either drop an octave at "the rocket's red glare" or drop out entirely. Wusses, I say.
Granted the "Star Spangled Banner" requires more than an octave range, making it a tad more of a challenge than "Happy Birthday to You." But it's nowhere near as difficult as most operatic arias, so you don't have to be especially gifted to handle the SSB range. In fact, I think anyone ought to be able handle an octave and a fifth, what SSB requires.
The vocal chords are (I think) muscles, and like muscles if you don't use them they get weak and flabby. But if you have normal vocal chords you can get them in shape to sing "The Star Spangled Banner" with practice.
Next time you sing the SSB, promise yourself you won't drop the octave. Instead, just before the "rocket's red glare," stand up straight, drop your chin a little (big mistake to stretch the neck to "reach" a note, but people do it), get a good deep breath from the belly, and "think" the high notes up past the soft palate in the back of your mouth and out the top of your head. Also, on "glare," be sure to drop your jaw down so that your mouth is open wide. With consistent work your vocal chords will get stronger and the high notes will get easier.
Also, when you get to "land of the free," sing "free" with a short A vowel -- land of the frah. The "ee" vowel sound pinches the note and makes it screechier.
While you're in training to sing the SSB, also practice singing scales (Do, Re, Mi, etc.) every day (in the shower?), and work at going up and down two octaves instead of one. When you can sing two octaves of scales, the "Star Spangled Banner" will be easy as pie.
9:28 am | link

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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


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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My Unitarian Jihad Name is: Sister Numchuku of Reasoned Discussion.

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Copyright 2003, 2004 by Barbara O'Brien

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