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Bernard Weiner's Blog -- Summer, 2004

July 2, 2004

There's a New Yorker cartoon that's been hanging over my desk for years now.  It shows two bearded gurus sitting in lotus-position on top the great mountain. One guru leans over and says: "Sometimes I think we know too much for our own damn good."

That's the way I felt the other night when I saw "Fahrenheit 9/11." Like a good many readers of this blog, I was acquainted with virtually all the points being made by Michael Moore in his film. And yet, even though we politically-aware viewers know "too much for our own damn good," it's still hard not to be moved and angered by the movie's revelations.

Since Moore is being bashed by rightwing commentators because the film isn't a traditional "documentary," it's imporant to note that "F-9/11" doesn't even pretend to be an objective documentary. It's clear from the opening narration that this is one man's highly idiosyncratic, subjective take on Bush and the reckless, deadly policies he's led the country into.

This is true free-speech moviemaking -- and, in a sense, is a perfect example of traditional Republican values of entrepreneurship: A guy with something to say figures out a clever way of saying it -- and, most importantly, marketing it -- and makes a lot of money doing so.

Moore couldn't be happier that the rightwing is denouncing his film, thus guaranteeing full houses everywhere. Already, the Cannes Film Festival first-prize winner has moved into the rarefied list of all-time box-office successes, and may well influence the presidential election -- which, of course, is the filmmaker's goal.


The film contains a lot of facts (maybe too many, actually), and those coming to these issues for the first time will receive a wide-ranging, wake-up-call education. But the movie's cumulative effect lies less in the details and more in its overall emotional impact.

In this regard, how Moore utilizes the story-within-the-story of Lila Lipscombe is at the heart of the film's success. When we first meet Lipscombe two-thirds of the way through the film, the impression we get is of a self-described "conservative Democrat" housewife and mother who was proud to encourage her daughter to join the military and fight in the first Gulf War, and her son to sign up and fight in the current Iraq war. She comes from a long military family and is a gung-ho patriot.

Like so many lower-middle class parents, she and her husband saw the military as an honorable and effective way to climb the ladder of success -- a sentiment the military counts on for recruiting purposes that target 18- and 19-year-old kids from the economically-depressed rural areas and the inner cities.

Lipscombe's daughter served honorably in the Gulf War and returned in one piece. Her son died in the Iraq desert, when his helicoper crashed after taking fire.

We watch this agonizing mother try to deal with the reality of that grief, and with her own anger -- at herself, for urging her son to enlist, and at the political system that sent him there for suspect reasons. As she approaches the outside of the White House, to express her rage and hurt and anger, and nearly falls to the earth crying out for her lost son, there isn't a dry eye in the house.

Typically, a Republican operative, patrolling the outskirts of the White House, denounces her as a staged plant -- presumably to make Bush look bad -- but then, when she comes face to face with the exploding heart of Lipscombe lamenting the loss of her very real, dead son, the Bushie doesn't quite know how to respond.

These later scenes with Lipscombe are among the most powerful moments in a most powerful film, one where Moore wisely chose to keep his mouth shut and simply keep the camera running.


The honest grief and the anger welling from the center of Lipscombe's being are testaments to truths unfolded by Moore earlier in the film: the various oil-related scandals involving Bush (and often the bin Laden family), Bush's kowtowing to the corporate interests that have backed him and groomed him all his life, the endless lies Bush&Co. used to manipulate the Congress and the American people into a war-of-choice against Iraq, Bush's mythologizing the American soldier in the field and then the cheap, humiliating treatment they receive when they come back home wounded, and on and on.

Bush comes off, as he's supposed to, as a pampered elitist child, unfamiliar with how ordinary people live; totally over his head in the presidency (the footage of Bush on 9/11 listening to pupils read about a goat for seven agonizingly long minutes, devoid of advisors to tell him what to do, is devastating); a willing tool of corporate and religious forces that have their own agendas that are not always in America's best interests.

The film has many faults and flaws -- not the least of which is spending too much time on the Saudis, with nary a mention of Israeli-Palestinian issues that inflame the Middle East and help drive U.S. foreign policy -- but it's a must-see: a brilliantly edited (and often quite satirical) political pilloring of a leader. The film reminds us of our duties as citizens to correct this awful ituation, by driving the extremist Bush crowd from the reins of power.

Enough from me. As you enjoy your 4th of July picnics and parades on Sunday -- celebrating the brave men and women who birthed our nation more than two centuries ago -- reflect on how far we've come from a period in American history when patriots were willing to fight and die for the right to criticize their ruler, and to overthrow the police-state system established by King George when his authoritarian misdeeds no longer could be tolerated.

Read the bloggers below for instances that will help remind us how far we've come from those days.

Josh Marshall  has a few such ethical and democratic lapses worth considering:  ..Everyone is waiting with frenzied expectation to see what's going to be contained in that soon-to-be-released Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on Iraq intelligence failures.

Here's one thing I suspect we'll hear about.

Remember those aluminum tubes?

Those were the tubes imported by Iraq which were so precisely and finely manufactured that they could only have been intended for use in gas centrifuges to enrich uranium. That was the story at least -- the tubes that launched a thousand ships in the tragicomic Dubyiad.

There were always doubters, of course. And some rather important ones, particularly the experts at the Department of the Energy -- the folks in the US government who actually have real experience in enriching uranium and making nuclear weapons, a rather potent credential.

They didn't think the aluminum tubes were for nukes.

Yet that seemingly qualified verdict was overruled by contending voices at the CIA, particularly one analyst who took up the tubes case aggressively.

As David Albright wrote in March 2003, "For over a year and a half, an analyst at the CIA has been pushing the aluminum tube story, despite consistent disagreement by a wide range of experts in the United States and abroad. His opinion, however, obtained traction in the summer of 2002 with senior members of the Bush Administration, including the President."

In any case, who did the actual technical analysis of the tubes for the CIA?  apparently they hired an outside consultant/contractor -- given the US government's expertise in the production of nuclear weapons, a rather dubious instance of outsourcing. And that contractor came back with the thumbs up on the nuclear verdict.

But the thumb, it seems, didn't start out up. It needed help.

Apparently, the first time they came back with their judgment it was either ambiguous or negative on whether these tubes seemed likely to be destined for an Iraqi nuclear program.

Only that wasn't the answer the tube-master at the CIA wanted. And they were told so in no uncertain terms.

Getting the thumbs-up apparently required a bit of coaching, a clear message that the initial thumbs-down (or perhaps thumbs-sideways) wasn't the right answer.

Verdict number two, I'm told, came back on the mark, with an answer finely tuned to meet the required specifications.

"Send your Church Directory to your State Bush-Cheney '04 Headquarters or give to a BC04 Field Rep. ... Identify another conservative church in your community who we can organize for Bush ... Receive a list from you [sic] County Chair of all non-registered church members and Pro-Bush Conservatives ... place reminder bulletin about all Christian citizens needing to vote in Sunday program or on a board near the church entrance."

Just a few of the "duties" of Bush-Cheney campaign Church coordinators, as outlined by this Bush-Cheney campaign document obtained by the Washington Post.

Imagine that. Back a year and a half ago, we here at TPM went on for several days telling you about the case of Allen Raymond, once head of GOP Marketplace LLC, a phone bank operation, and all-around GOP jack-of-all-trades.

As we reported  back then, the New Hampshire GOP had hired him to do phone banking work on election day 2002 when Senator John Sununu pulled off his close-call victory over out-going Governor Jeanne Shaheen.

Somehow, though -- and it's always amazing how these things happen -- that innocent effort turned into a campaign to jam the phone lines of the Democrats' get-out-the-vote operation on election day, with a phone bank out in Idaho making countless five-second hang-up calls to phone numbers of the Democratic coordinated campaign offices as well as the offices of the Manchester firefighters union, which was also doing get-out-the-vote work that morning.

...We did our own bit of sleuthing and found out that Raymond was also the Executive Director of the Republican Leadership Council -- an outfit run by a long list of Republican worthies -- and that his company had done phone banking for them on election day too. And Steve Kornacki of PoliticsNJ.com found out that Raymond also seemed to be behind another phone banking scandal in New Jersey.

..In any case, as you might expect, Raymond denied the whole thing. Until today that is, when he copped a plea  in U.S. District Court in Concord.

In a statement out today, the Executive Director of the state Democrats, Michael Vlacich,
says, "While Allen Raymond of GOP Marketplace was charged in this case, the US Attorney makes it clear that there are co-conspirators, both known and unknown. We urge the U.S. Attorney to continue working to bring all of the people involved in this matter to justice."

Corrente  adds some important info to the Raymond case:

The Republicans stop at nothing, as we already know from Florida 2000. But they were up to the same dirty tricks in 2002. And one of them got caught. This looks like good news, but look at the detail:

The former head a Republican consulting group pleaded guilty to jamming Democratic telephone lines in several New Hampshire cities during the 2002 general election.

Allen Raymond, former president of the Alexandria, Va.-based GOP Marketplace LLC, waived indictment...

Hmmm... Wonder what they didn't want to come out in court? Of course, if this
were a crime family, instead of the Republican party, I'm sure that Raymond
would be confident of being well taken care of in exchange for keeping his
mouth shut.

... and pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Concord on Wednesday.  Judge Joseph A. DiClerico Jr. released Raymond on his own recognizance pending
sentencing in November.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department, which prosecuted the case, said an investigation into the telephone jamming continues.

According to court papers, Raymond plotted with unidentified co-conspirators...

Well, well. I wonder who?

... to jam Democratic Party telephone lines established so voters could call for rides to the polls in Manchester, Nashua, Rochester and Claremont.  Manchester firefighters' union phone lines also were affected. (via ##AP)

I wonder if the DOJ will have a result from their continuing investigation in
time for November 2004?

Finally, let's close with some good news, reported from Atrios, quoting from Marie Coco's Newsday column:

Wow. Bush has lost one of strongest media-manufactured characteristics - his
reputation as a "straight shooter."

New surveys by The New York Times and the Washington Post reveal a perilous plunge in the commander-in-chief's credibility. The Times found that 79 percent of the public thinks Bush either is hiding something about Iraq, or worse, is "mostly lying" about it. The Post asked whether Bush or Kerry is "honest and trustworthy," and the president was judged to be honest by 39 percent. Kerry came in at 52 percent.

July 6, 2004

Good Signs in Smalltown America

On the road again. Here in the San Geronimo Valley in West Marin (with San Francisco a long drive away), one feels swept up into small-town Americana, anchored to tradition, but, in the face of 21st-century realities, open to new ways of looking at the world.

We witnessed two 4th of July parades Sunday, in separate small communities, and both were considerably different from those of years' past. Those previous parades were like dipping into a Norman Rockwell world of America as it once was, when celebrating the country's birth never varied: red-white-and-blue flags and bunting everywhere, fire engines, police cars and horses, local politicos waving, families and small businesses creating floats, flatbed trucks with musicians playing patriotic songs, kids on bicycles festooned with ribbons, paens to war and duty.

But this year was different. In both smalltown parades, it was a pleasant surprise to see and hear that there were contingents of neighbors and friends with signs denouncing Bush and the way he got us into war in Iraq and the bumbling way he's handled the situation since then. There also were young people working the large crowds, registering new voters for the upcoming November election.

The antiwar message was not flamboyant and insulting, and was by no means the majority point of view, but just the fact that those protesters were part of the festivities gave hope that our flag was still there, besmirched though it may be by our leaders. Such action is the best demonstration of our country's heritage -- speaking out as citizens of a free land created by our own hands and courage.


Let us not forget, after all, how our country came to be. A king named George was behaving irrationally and vindictively toward England's colonists in America, and responded with violence and increased burdensome taxes when the colonists complained of their treatment. Many of the American colonists didn't appreciate their money and young men being taken to fight on behalf of England's desire for empire. They petitioned, and complained, and agitated, but King George -- stubborn and not too bright, maybe even a bit mad -- would have none of it. He poured it on the colonists.

Eventually, they'd had enough and in 1776 drafted and made public the Declaration of Independence, one of the most extraordinary documents ever created in the history of government, written by some of the most intelligent and bravest men who ever lived. In no uncertain terms, and at great personal risk of their lives, they laid out their bill of particulars against George's tyrannical rule, and the War for Independence began.

In the main, the Declaration and the later Constitution with the Bill of Rights attached were quite clear in what they didn't want -- the kinds of oppressive actions George and other European leaders visited upon them in the past -- and were equally clear what it was they did want in the way of government.

What they didn't want was government running roughshod over their lives. And so they did away with their relationship to the king, and established a system of rule that made it very difficult for governments to do anything. In short, they put all sorts of checks-and-balances roadblocks in front of their rulers, and factions, to prevent tyranny from ever raising its head again.

They made sure to separate government from religion, so that the state could never intrude on their individual belief systems. They built in a protection of their right of privacy (although they never used that word, "privacy," which, in those days, referred to toilet matters) against a snooping government. They made sure that those suspected of offenses had legal weapons to protect themselves against government control. In short, they were damn tired of oppressive government and they didn't want to have to go to war against one again.

And, in their genius, lo and behold, the system worked, and, if left alone, continues to work 228 years after the Declaration.


But something has happened since the beginning of the reign of our latest George and the tight circle around him: they have hijacked the government and moved it toward extremist behaviors, have given short shrift to the Constitution and Bill of Rights, engaged in war adventures abroad (using a mercenary army, and outside "contractors"), endangered our relations and long-term national interests in the world, ruined our economy, laid burdensome debt onto our children's future, carried out policies that have stimulated the growth of terrorism, wrecked our moral stature at home and abroad (and approving torture is just the tip of the iceberg), increased the pollution of the air we breathe and the water we drink by letting the polluters write the environmental and energy rules, cut public services to the poor and middle-class while handing out favors to the already-wealthy, and on and on.

In short, we've got a stubborn king -- one who has, on at least three occasions, jokingly affirmed that he would like to be a dictator. He and his extremist handlers are ruining our country, and the institutions that have served us so well for more than two-and-a-quarter centuries.

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary to free ourselves from this ruinous behavior at the hands of a would-be despot, and his authoritarian-minded friends, we must consider seriously how to extricate ourselves from this sad state of affairs.

Impeachment, resignation from office, being forced from power as a result of a fair and honest election -- these are our legal remedies. For the moment, we will leave unsaid the extralegal. Using hope and energy as our fuel, we will drive these greedy, mean-spirited ideologues from the halls of power. On this 4th of July weekend, we thank you, Paine and Jefferson and Madison and all the rest of the patriots that provided us with our institutions of hope.

Along those lines, blogger Steve Gilliard has selected these quotes from Tom Paine, the intellectual patron-saint of The Crisis Papers (our very name is taken from Paine's writings). Read them and weep at where the current administration has taken our country:

A few words from Thomas Paine. While other founding fathers usually get the attention on the 4th of July, it was Paine and his pen which launched the break with England. There would have been no Declaration of Independence without his words and his ideas. Thomas Paine was the most revolutionary of the revolutionaries. He wasn't a titled man, or a man of property, like those who signed the Declaration. But it was his ideas which launched the United States.

These are selections from...the first and last American Crisis. While publishing the American Crisis, Paine served as a soldier in the Continental Army as well during this time. Paine was not an easy man to deal with but his ideas made America. He saw a future where individuals had rights and didn't need kings. Which isn't bad for a tax collector who was on the run from England.

The first American Crisis was read to the Continental Army before the battle of Trenton, which Paine fought in. It is one of the few documents in American history which can be quoted by people from memory. His words, and his ideas are among the most important ever produced by an American and his legacy is one of the finest that the US has ever produced...


December 23, 1776

THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.

Britain, with an army to enforce her tyranny, has declared that she has a right (not only to TAX) but "to BIND us in ALL CASES WHATSOEVER" and if being bound in that manner, is not slavery, then is there not such a thing as slavery upon earth. Even the expression is impious; for so unlimited a power can belong only to God.
Whether the independence of the continent was declared too soon, or delayed too long, I will not now enter into as an argument; my own simple opinion is, that had it been eight months earlier, it would have been much better. We did not make a proper use of last winter, neither could we, while we were in a dependent state. However, the fault, if it were one, was all our own; we have none to blame but ourselves. But no great deal is lost yet. All that Howe has been doing for this month past, is rather a ravage than a conquest, which the spirit of the Jerseys, a year ago, would have quickly repulsed, and which time and a little resolution will soon recover.

I have as little superstition in me as any man living, but my secret opinion has ever been, and still is, that God Almighty will not give up a people to military destruction, or leave them unsupportedly to perish, who have so earnestly and so repeatedly sought to avoid the calamities of war, by every decent method which wisdom could invent. Neither have I so much of the infidel in me, as to suppose that He has relinquished the government of the world, and given us up to the care of devils; and as I do not, I cannot see on what grounds the king of Britain can look up to heaven for help against us: a common murderer, a highwayman, or a house-breaker, has as good a pretence as he.

The Crisis: Philadelphia, April 19, 1783


THESE are times that tried men's souls, and they are over -- and the greatest and completest revolution the world ever knew, gloriously and happily accomplished. But to pass from the extremes of danger to safety -- from the tumult of war to the tranquility of peace, though sweet in contemplation, requires a gradual composure of the senses to receive it. Even calmness has the power of stunning, when it opens too instantly upon us. The long and raging hurricane that should cease in a moment, would leave us in a state rather of wonder than enjoyment; and some moments of recollection must pass, before we could be capable of tasting the felicity of repose. There are but few instances, in which the mind is fitted for sudden transitions: it takes in its pleasures by reflection and comparison and those must have time to act, before the relish for new scenes is complete.

In the present case -- the mighty magnitude of the object -- the various uncertainties of fate it has undergone -- the numerous and complicated dangers we have suffered or escaped -- the eminence we now stand on, and the vast prospect before us, must all conspire to impress us with contemplation.

To see it in our power to make a world happy -- to teach mankind the art of being so- to exhibit, on the theatre of the universe a character hitherto unknown -- and to have, as it were, a new creation entrusted to our hands, are honors that command reflection, and can neither be too highly estimated, nor too gratefully received.

In this pause then of recollection -- while the storm is ceasing, and the long agitated mind vibrating to a rest, let us look back on the scenes we have passed, and learn from experience what is yet to be done.

Never, I say, had a country so many openings to happiness as this. Her setting out in life, like the rising of a fair morning, was unclouded and promising. Her cause was good. Her principles just and liberal. Her temper serene and firm. Her conduct regulated by the nicest steps, and everything about her wore the mark of honor. It is not every country (perhaps there is not another in the world) that can boast so fair an origin. Even the first settlement of America corresponds with the character of the revolution. Rome, once the proud mistress of the universe, was originally a band of ruffians. Plunder and rapine made her rich, and her oppression of millions made her great. But America need never be ashamed to tell her birth, nor relate the stages by which she rose to empire.

The remembrance, then, of what is past, if it operates rightly, must inspire her with the most laudable of all ambition, that of adding to the fair fame she began with. The world has seen her great in adversity; struggling, without a thought of yielding, beneath accumulated difficulties, bravely, nay proudly, encountering distress, and rising in resolution as the storm increased. All this is justly due to her, for her fortitude has merited the character. Let, then, the world see that she can bear prosperity: and that her honest virtue in time of peace, is equal to the bravest virtue in time of war.

She is now descending to the scenes of quiet and domestic life. Not beneath the cypress shade of disappointment, but to enjoy in her own land, and under her own vine, the sweet of her labors, and the reward of her toil. -- In this situation, may she never forget that a fair national reputation is of as much importance as independence. That it possesses a charm that wins upon the world, and makes even enemies civil. That it gives a dignity which is often superior to power, and commands reverence where pomp and splendor fail.

It would be a circumstance ever to be lamented and never to be forgotten, were a single blot, from any cause whatever, suffered to fall on a revolution, which to the end of time must be an honor to the age that accomplished it: and which has contributed more to enlighten the world, and diffuse a spirit of freedom and liberality among mankind, than any human event (if this may be called one) that ever preceded it.

It is not among the least of the calamities of a long continued war, that it unhinges the mind from those nice sensations which at other times appear so amiable. The continual spectacle of woe blunts the finer feelings, and the necessity of bearing with the sight, renders it familiar. In like manner, are many of the moral obligations of society weakened, till the custom of acting by necessity becomes an apology, where it is truly a crime. Yet let but a nation conceive rightly of its character, and it will be chastely just in protecting it. None ever began with a fairer than America and none can be under a greater obligation to preserve it.

The debt which America has contracted, compared with the cause she has gained, and the advantages to flow from it, ought scarcely to be mentioned. She has it in her choice to do, and to live as happily as she pleases. The world is in her hands. She has no foreign power to monopolize her commerce, perplex her legislation, or control her prosperity. The struggle is over, which must one day have happened, and, perhaps, never could have happened at a better time. And instead of a domineering master, she has gained an ally whose exemplary greatness, and universal liberality, have extorted a confession even from her enemies.

July 9, 2004

Edwards to Lay to Rove: Connect the Dots

Let's take a look at the three big stories of the week: John Edwards joins the ticket, Ken Lay gets busted, Karl Rove orders a major Al Qaida arrest to coincide with the Democratic Convention, if possible, but definitely before Election Day.

And, of course, as in most matters political, all three of those stories are inter-related.


The news behind Edwards ascension to the ticket, and why it took so long for Kerry to make the obvious choice, is that the Kerry campaign had to see if BushCheney were imploding on their own, or whether he'd have to jog considerably to the right in his Veep choice.

During the months when Kerry was vetting the contenders, Iraq went from worse to disastrous, the torture scandals revealed so gross an overreaching into legislative and judicial prerogatives that even the U.S. Supreme Court slapped them down, the job figures weren't rising fast enough, Bush was questioned for 70 minutes by the prosecutor in the Plame, spy-outing case -- in short, Kerry could look around and see that BushCheney were in big trouble and weren't going to find an easy way to climb out.

So, he went with Edwards, who brings few negatives and a lot of positives, to the campaign. The biggest negative is his lack of foreign policy experience, but Bush had zip when he ran in 2000, and that was for the presidency, not the vice presidential job. (See Juan Cole's take on this non-issue below.)

In sum, Kerry can expand his run from the center-right to the liberal left, instead of having to stick too close to the center-right and risk losing a vital share of his liberal/progressive base by doing so. And Edwards will help bring in the few remaining independents who haven't made up their minds.


The indictment of Ken Lay (the close family friend, and major contributor to Bush's political career from his Texas days up to and including the 2000 race) helps Bush in some ways, and harms him in others. (Bush, of course, is still pretending he doesn't have a relationship with "that man.")

Lay's arrest helps in shifting the focus away from the bad Iraq and electoral news; now the press can hype the Lay/Enron brouhaha, and downplay the more meaningful stories. But by putting Lay front and center, the old relationship between Kenny-Boy and Georgie-Boy will generate lots of stories about Lay's enormous influence over Bush Administration energy policy, remind folks of the accounting and other corporate scandals that occurred on Bush's watch, and add more fuel to the interest in finding out how closely Lay was involved in Cheney's secret energy-policy meetings and in the creation of that policy.

One can guess that Lay will keep his mouth shut about his BushCheney ties and what he knows of the inner workings of U.S. energy policy, and gamble that the prosecution will blow the case in the courts. If the worst happens and he's convicted on some counts, Lay probably figures he can rely on a presidential pardon somewhere down the line.


Karl Rove, the power behind the Bush throne, is cranking up the get-the-Democrats machine big time. The character-assassination and negative campaigning has begun, but, given his candidate's slide in the polls, the deteriorating situation in Iraq, the various torture/Plame and other scandals erupting, the revelations in "Fahrenheit 9/11," etc., Rove knows he's got to come up with something really big to regain the momentum.

1. To cover its butt and heighten the fright factor in the population, he Administration is already preparing the public for a massive Al Qaida attack  within the next four months. No doubt, it's already devising plans for how to take advantage of that terrorism if and when it occurs, a la the original 9/11 terrorism (even though last time, they knew a major attack was coming and didn't warn the citizenry, or anyone else for that matter.)

2. There's always the option of initiating another war somewhere, or at least the threat of such, maybe against Cuba or Syria or Iran -- anticipating a the rally-'round-the-President effect. But there's no guarantee the military would go along without an enormous internal struggle that no doubt would leak to the public; and there's no certainty that the American public would buy another war just before the election.

3. The best, and least-politically costly, alternative would be to capture Osama bin Laden or other top al-Qaida/Taliban leaders, and thus demonstrate how effective the Bush Administration is on waging the "war on terror." (Of course, they could have gone after Osama full-time during the past two-plus years when they were obsessed with invading Iraq, but better late than never.)

To that end, the U.S. more or less has commanded the Pakistani government to launch a major offensive in the mountainous zone on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border where Osama and his lieutenants are thought to be hiding. Here are the key quotes from the dynamite story in The New Republic by respected journalists John Judis and Spencer Ackerman, with Pakistani reporter Massoud Ansari:


"This public pressure would be appropriate, even laudable, had it not been accompanied by an unseemly private insistence that the Pakistanis deliver these high-value targets (HVTs) before Americans go to the polls in November. The Bush administration denies it has geared the war on terrorism to the electoral calendar. 'Our attitude and actions have been the same since September 11 in terms of getting high-value targets off the street, and that doesn't change because of an election,' says National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack. But The New Republic has learned that Pakistani security officials have been told they must produce HVTs by the election."

"...According to this ISI [Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence] official, a White House aide told ul-Haq [ISI's director] last spring that 'it would be best if the arrest or killing of [any] HVT were announced on twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July' -- the first three days of the Democratic National Convention in Boston."

Can politics get more crass and under-the-rocks slimy than this? The Bush Administration had nearly three years to get these guys -- instead they were mostly preparing for and then going off on their cockamamie invasion of Iraq, a country that was incapable of threatening or attacking anybody, certainly not the U.S. -- and now they want to have the bad guys served up on a platter to detract from, and they hope destroy, the Democratic campaign.

Shameful! But not all that surprising. As many of us have said many times, these guys will do just about ANYTHING to stay in power.

Note: If you're interested in having some fun with the Lay-Bush relationship, you might like these two older satires of mine: "Inside Bush's Diary: Bobbin' and Weavin' Over Enron" (January 29, 2002), and, also from democraticunderground.com, "Confidential Memo from Kenny Boy to Georgie Boy: 'Welcome to the Club!'" (May 24, 2002).

Now on to further thoughts on some of these matters by a number of fellow bloggers:

Some interesting little items over at Atrios

Still Holding at Level Big Bird

Posted by Tena

Can someone tell me, please, what Tom Ridge actually does? BBC News is reporting that Ridge has warned that there have been "credible reports" that Al Qaeda is planning to try to undermine the November 2 election by staging an attack. But Ridge said that the U.S. has no plans to raise the alert level.

Then why bother to tell anyone about the so-called "credible reports" that there is going to be an attack? What the hell is the Department of Homeland Security trying to do?

Today on Holden's Obsession with the Gaggle

Posted by Holden

Dang, I wish I could get my mitts on a transcript of Chimpy's little dust-up, but all I have is Scottie [Press Secretary Scott McClellan].

Still, there were some interesting Lay-related questions:

Q But this particular alleged corporate wrongdoer was a personal friend of the President's, who the President addressed as "Kenny, boy," who raised a lot of money for the President in the 2000 election cycle, who offered corporate jets to the President for travel in Texas. He did know him well. Does he --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you seem to want to be fairly selective there, because let me point out that he was someone who supported Democrats and Republicans, alike, including the President, as you pointed out.

Q Well, is that all the President had to say?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's how I would describe the relationship, and I think it's an accurate way to describe the relationship.

Q Does President Bush consider Ken Lay a personal friend? And did the White House have any communication with the Justice Department leading up to the indictment?

MR. McCLELLAN: No. This is a Justice Department matter, and we expect the Justice Department to do their job when it comes to cracking down on corporate wrongdoing. In terms of the question you asked about Mr. Lay, the President has already addressed that, and he described it the way I did, as well.

And what about Lay's role in Cheney's Energy Task Force? The questions say it all:

Q Scott, could you say whether Ken Lay had any input into formulation of a Bush energy policy?...

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I realize that. But wouldn't it be -- given the indictment now, wouldn't it be in the interest of assuring the public of the integrity of the process by which you came to the formulation of the policy -- ...

Q Yes, I realize that, Scott. But wouldn't it be politically appropriate to at least indicate what advice, if any, Mr. Lay had given, given that --...

Juan Cole takes up the Edwards' "lack of experience" issue:

George W. Bush alleged Thursday that John Edwards lacks the experience necessary to be president.

The problem with this argument is that Bush lacked the experience necessary to be president when he ran in 2000, so this sort of cheap shot just hoists him by his own petard. Let's just remember a seminal Bush moment in 1999:

' Bush fails reporter's pop quiz on international leaders

November 5, 1999

Web posted at: 3:29 p.m. EST (2029 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Texas Gov. George W. Bush is enduring sharp criticism for being unable to name the leaders of four current world hot spots, but President Bill Clinton says Bush "should, and probably will, pick up" those names.

The front-runner for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination faltered Thursday in an international affairs pop quiz posed by Andy Hiller, a political reporter for WHDH-TV in Boston.

Hiller asked Bush to name the leaders of Chechnya, Taiwan, India and Pakistan. Bush was only able to give a partial response to the query on the leader of Taiwan, referring to Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui simply as "Lee." He could not name the others.

"Can you name the general who is in charge of Pakistan?" Hiller asked, inquiring about Gen. Pervaiz Musharraf, who seized control of the country October 12.

"Wait, wait, is this 50 questions?" asked Bush.

Hiller replied: "No, it's four questions of four leaders in four hot spots." . . .

Bush, in answering the question about the leader of Pakistan, also said: "The new Pakistani general, he's just been elected -- not elected, this guy took over office. It appears this guy is going to bring stability to the country and I think that's good news for the subcontinent."

Gore released a statement Friday taking Bush to task for his comments on Pakistan's recent coup.

"I find it troubling that a candidate for president in our country -- the world's oldest democracy -- would characterize the military takeover as "good news," Gore said. "Further, I find it even more disturbing that he made these comments about a nation that just last year tested nuclear weapons -- shortly after voicing his public opposition to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

A spokesman for President Clinton also criticized Bush's comments.

"It is very dangerous for this country to condone the overthrow of democratically elected governments," said David Leavy, spokesman for the National Security Council.

Not only did Bush not know who General Pervez Musharraf was, he seems to have confused coup-making with "taking office," and moreover went on to suggest that the overthrow of an elected prime minister and the installation in power of the Pakistan military, then the world's strongest supporter of the Taliban, would bring "stability!" Musharraf made his coup in part because of the military's anger over Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's willingness to back down from confronting India over Kashmir, so that he explicitly came to power as a warmonger.

I can't tell you how ominous I found Bush's performance in that interview. I still remember him stuttering about "the General," unable to remember Musharraf's name. He obviously had no idea what he was talking about, though he demonstrated a number of ill-fated instincts. He obviously liked authoritarian rule better than democracy, equating dictatorship with "stability." And, he didn't think he needed to know anything about South Asia, with its nuclear giants and radical religious politics--the latter a dire security threat to the US. He couldn't tell when things were becoming more unstable as opposed to less. Musharraf went on to play nuclear brinkmanship with India in 2002, risking war twice that year. Although Musharraf did turn against the Taliban after September 11, under extreme duress from the US, elements of his military continued to support radical Islamism and have recently been implicated in assassination attempts on Musharraf himself. This was the body that Bush proclaimed was bringing "stability" to the region in fall of 1999.

So, one answer to Bush's charge about Edwards is that if it had any merit, Bush should have declined to run himself.

Another answer is that Edwards certainly knows far more about foreign affairs now than Bush did then. Indeed, given how Bush has rampaged around the world alienating allies and ignoring vital conflicts with the potential to blow back on the US, one might well argue that Edwards knows more now than Bush does.

This is what Edwards' campaign literature said about his positions: "Edwards believes that the U.S. must be an active leader to help resolve conflicts, from reducing tensions between India and Pakistan to the peace process in Northern Ireland. Edwards is a strong supporter of Israel, and believes that the U.S. has a vital role in promoting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians."

I don't see Bush doing any of this.

Interesting postings at Corrente:

Looking Out for #1

Tucked away in Spencer Ackerman and John Judis' article on the Administration enlisting the Pakistani military in its re-election campaign hunt for al-Qaida leaders, there is this little nugget:

The Bush administration has matched this public and private pressure with enticements and implicit threats. ...[Colin] Powell pointedly refused to criticize Musharraf for pardoning nuclear physicist A.Q. Khan--who, the previous month, had admitted exporting nuclear secrets to Iran, North Korea, and Libya--declaring Khan's transgressions an "internal" Pakistani issue.

So, for those keeping score: first Bush let al-Qaida's leadership escape from Tora Bora rather than divert military assets from attacking Iraq, then spared Abu Musab Zarqawi so we could falsely link Saddam to al-Qaida as a pretext for attacking Iraq, and gives a pass to a country that actively participates in the market for nuclear terrorism so we can catch the al-Qaida leadership we let get away 2 1/2 years ago. Meanwhile New Yorkers and Californians get the least homeland security funding per capita, Montanans the most.

Maybe someone with experience in NCAA playoffs could help, but from where I sit the rankings going into the Self-Preservation Semifinals seem to be something like this:

1. Bush and cronies

2. Rogue nuclear states

3. al-Qaida

4. US citizens

(5. Saddam)

So this is what they meant by "moral clarity."

Options for Kenny Boy: How about a tell-all book? Say, about how Enron stole billions from California?

Certainly one way to pay off the lawyers! And the book practically writes itself, doesn't it? Robert Bryce lifts up the Enron rock in Salon and finds all kinds of crawly, squirmy things:

>>Lay could dish the dirt on several important topics: the [1] Karl Rove-brokered push that resulted in Enron paying Christian conservative turned super-lobbyist Ralph Reed $300,000; [2] Lay's dealings with secretary of state turned super-lobbyist James Baker; [3] why Enron hired Ed Gillespie, the man who now heads the Republican National Committee; [4] the reason for Lay's decision to allow the Bushes to use Enron's fleet of airplanes as their own; [5] what happened in those meetings with Dick Cheney and his energy task force; and [6] what really happened with the California energy crisis. (via Salon)

Of course, Lay would have to ask fast; the book would need to hit the stands by, say, late October.... Anyhow, Bryce picks [6] as the hot topic: The phony California energy "crisis" scam:

Or better still, what might Lay tell us about the California energy crisis? Some may recall that Lay had a private meeting with Cheney on April 17, 2001, to talk about the [California] energy markets, which were reeling from skyrocketing power prices. During the meeting, Lay told Cheney that the federal government should not impose any restrictions on the markets. His memo to Cheney said that "the administration should reject any attempt to re-regulate wholesale power markets by adopting price caps." Even temporary price restrictions, the memo argued, "will be detrimental to power markets and will discourage private investment."

Cheney immediately began parroting Lay's argument. The day after the meeting, Cheney mocked the idea of price caps during an interview with a reporter from the Los Angeles Times, saying caps would provide only "short-term political relief for the politicians." He also said they would discourage investment, a matter Cheney called "the basic fundamental problem."

Today we know [and Paul Krugman wrote at the time—Lambert] that one of the fundamental problems with the California energy crisis was that traders from Enron and other energy companies were manipulating power prices at their whim -- and that they liked to joke about how they were taking money from those "poor grandmothers in California." Lay could tell us when he first learned that his traders were making huge profits by scamming California's gas and electricity markets.

Oh, and those thieving traders? Faithful Republicans, every single one. Let's watch Republican values in action. From the trading transcripts:

On the calls, traders openly and gleefully discussed creating congestion on transmission lines, taking generating units offline to pump up electricity prices and overall manipulation of the California power market.

They also kidded about Enron's hefty political contributions -- particularly to Bush's 2000 presidential campaign -- and how that could translate into more opportunity for profit in California.

"I'd love to see Ken Lay be secretary of energy," one trader said, referring to the now-disgraced former Enron chief executive whose ties to the Bush administration have drawn criticism from Democrats.

In one transcript, a trader asks about "all the money you guys stole from those poor grandmothers of California."

To which the Enron trader responds, "Yeah, Grandma Millie, man. But she's the one who couldn't figure out how to (expletive) vote on the butterfly ballot." (AP via the Seattle Post Intelligencer)

Funny ha-ha, eh?

July 13, 2004

How to Win an Election: Cancel It

One of the Bush Administration's favorite techniques is to scattershot its awfulness. Each week, it seems, three or five or ten new policy atrocities are trundled out and the Democrats have to scatter their energies just to keep up with them. But every so often, Bush&Co. come up with a single policy so monumentally abhorrent that it takes your breath away. Here is this week's:

Rove and his minions have seen the handwriting on the wall, as their poll numbers continue to slide downward: They may very well lose the upcoming November election, perhaps by a landslide. What to do? How about postponing the vote?

You think I jest? Take a look at this Periscope piece, "Election Day Worries," by Michael Isikoff in the latest, July 19th, Newsweek:

American counterterrorism officials, citing what they call "alarming" intelligence about a possible Qaeda strike inside the United States this fall, are reviewing a proposal that could allow for the postponement of the November presidential election in the event of such an attack, Newsweek has learned.

The prospect that Al Qaeda might seek to disrupt the U.S. election was a major factor behind last week's terror warning by Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. Ridge and other counterterrorism officials concede they have no intel about any specific plots. But the success of March's Madrid railway bombings in influencing the Spanish elections-as well as intercepted "chatter" among Qaeda operatives-has led analysts to conclude "they want to interfere with the elections," says one official.

As a result, sources tell Newsweek, Ridge's department last week asked the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel to analyze what legal steps would be needed to permit the postponement of the election were an attack to take place. Justice was specifically asked to review a recent letter to Ridge from DeForest B. Soaries Jr., chairman of the newly created U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Soaries noted that, while a primary election in New York on September 11, 2001, was quickly suspended by that state's Board of Elections after the attacks that morning, "the federal government has no agency that has the statutory authority to cancel and reschedule a federal election."

Soaries, a Bush appointee who two years ago was an unsuccessful GOP candidate for Congress, wants Ridge to seek emergency legislation from Congress empowering his agency to make such a call. Homeland officials say that as drastic as such proposals sound, they are taking them seriously-along with other possible contingency plans in the event of an election-eve or Election Day attack. "We are reviewing the issue to determine what steps need to be taken to secure the election," says Brian Roehrkasse, a Homeland spokesman.

"Secure the election" indeed.

The key question is: Could they get away with it? Would the Democrats rise up? Would the people rise up?

You'd think so, but, given the fright factor -- and the relentless pounding on that drum by Bush&Co. and their mass-media corporate supporters -- you never know. Certainly, even though this story has been out there for only a few days, there hasn't been much objection heard from politicos or organizations.

I'm with the sharp blogger Digby (see below), who writes:

Constitutionality aside, why would there be any need to do this? We lived under the threat of nuclear war for decades --- real weapons of mass destruction pointed at all of our major cities --- and nobody ever contemplated suspending elections and devised no plans to do so. We have held elections during every war, including the civil war, and didn't contemplate suspending them in case of an attack.

This is absurd. Unless the terrorists are somehow able to prevent large numbers of people from exercising their right to vote by bombing individual polling places there can be absolutely no reason to postpone this election.

Besides, if I recall correctly, the Bush administration made quite a case a few years back that there should be no changing of the rules, even when certain rules are contradictory, in election procedures. I remember that deadlines, particularly, were sacrosanct. Indeed, the dates surrounding election laws were seen as written in stone. Somehow, I have to believe that if terrorists attack us around the election, Americans will crawl out of the rubble on their hands and knees to vote. But then, that's obviously what they're really afraid of, isn't it?

If Ridge (read: Rove) really tries to get a law passed to authorize such electoral hanky-panky, I'd say the resolutions on impeachment shouldn't be far behind.


The report issued by the Senate Intelligence Committee, basically laying the blame for bad pre-war intelligence on the CIA, may snow a lot of folks in the heartland red states into believing that the White House is exonerated for the lousy intel on Iraq that got us into war.

But anybody knowing anything about how the "pressure" game is played in Washington will immediately smell a whitewash -- one in which the Democrats permitted themselves to be ensnared. (They were told to sign this report, and there would be another one on how the White House used, or misused, that CIA intel. Problem is that report, if it comes at all, will arrive only AFTER the November election.)

When the President and Vice President and Secretary of Defense and the Assistant Secretaries of Defense have already made the decision to launch a war againt Iraq, and request the intelligence to back up their decision, any CIA analyst knows by the very nature of that reverse process what kind of intelligence is being requested. So they went to work and produced a whole lot of possibly useful intel, but had enough backbone under Tenet to include a whole lot of caveats that indicated how tenuous the intelligence was on a number of key issues: WMD, nuclear weapons, drone planes, al-Qaida link, etc.

The White House took that caveated intelligence and -- after no doubt running the CIA's findings to Rumsfeld's Office of Special Plans (staffed by neo-con ideologues under the direction of Doug Feith) -- and, surprise, dropped out all the caveats.

Now they could go to the Congress and the United Nations with all this assertive "intelligence" and "prove" all sorts of nefarious intent and weaponry on the part of the Iraqis.

Why Kerry won't bring himself to say what Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller admitted the other day -- that, had he known then what he knows now about the phony intelligence, he would not have voted for the resolution authorizing Bush to go to war -- continues to astound me.

Senator Kerry: You didn't make a mistake; you were snookered, along with your fellow senators, and are much the wiser now, wise enough to know you wouldn't have voted for that damn resolution, based as it was on lies and deceptions.

Kerry works slowly; maybe he'll come to his senses before November 2 -- but, at the very least, after November 2.

Enough from me. Here are some cogent thoughts on the election-postponement issue from fellow bloggers:

Kos asks some pertinent questions:

So, what do we have here? Is this merely a perfectly reasonable contingency plan, preparation for one possible course of action if, say, a purloined nuke hidden in a ship container takes out a 2-mile radius at the Port of Long Beach or Seattle on October 29?

Or is it a trial balloon for a Cheney-Bush plan to call off the November election for purely political reasons?

Would a terrorist attack - even an extremely serious attack on four or five widely dispersed targets - actually offer enough rationale for calling off the elections?

Some people argue that such an attack so close to the elections might skew the results, as they claim occurred in Spain after the 3/11 Madrid bombings. Perhaps. But which way? Would Americans rally behind the incumbent out of fear and a gut desire for unity after such an attack? Or would they be angry because the attack proved that not enough and many of the wrong things had been done to protect us against terrorism during the incumbent's term of office?

Short of a full-out nuclear exchange of the sort much discussed during the Cold War, do you think there is any justification for calling off national elections?

Over at Corrente, we find this:

Department of "No! They would never do that!" Postponing the November election.

Funny how all that heavy sarcasm about "we're the government and we're here to help you" melts away as soon as the Republicans start consolidating their hold on power, isn't it?

From USA Today (funny how Pravda on the Potomac and Isvestia on the Hudson aren't following up on this):

Counterterrorism officials are looking into the possibility of postponing the November presidential election if there is a terrorist attack at election time, Newsweek reported Sunday.

Newsweek said DeForest Soaries, chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, wants Ridge to ask Congress to pass legislation giving the government power to cancel or reschedule a federal election. Soaries said New York suspended primary elections on the day of the Sept. 11 attacks, but the federal government does not appear to have that authority...

Seems to me, that in a democracy, we would want legislation to make sure that elections were held no matter what. Since otherwise, the terrorists have won, right? Wouldn't it be a shame if election 2000 turned out to be our last free election, eh?

Digby  razors right in on the central issue:

Covering Their Bases

Tom Ridge wants John Ashcroft to look into the possibility of postponing the election in case of a terrorist attack. Considering that Ashcroft and company have believed that the GWOT justifies everything from unlimited detention to torture it's going to be very surprising if they don't back the idea that doing so would be constitutional.

But constitutionality aside, why would there be any need to do this? We lived under the threat of nuclear war for decades --- real weapons of mass destruction pointed at all of our major cities --- and nobody ever contemplated suspending elections and devised no plans to do so. We have held elections during every war, including the civil war, and didn't contemplate suspending them in case of an attack.

This is absurd. Unless the terrorists are somehow able to prevent large numbers of people from exercising their right to vote by bombing individual polling places there can be absolutely no reason to postpone this election.

Besides, if I recall correctly, the Bush administration made quite a case a few years back that there should be no changing of the rules, even when certain rules are contradictory, in election procedures. I remember that deadlines, particularly, were sacrosanct. Indeed, the dates surrounding election laws were seen as written in stone. Somehow, I have to believe that if terrorists attack us around the election, Americans will crawl out of the rubble on their hands and knees to vote. But then, that's obviously what they're really afraid of, isn't it?

And Corrente again, from an earlier post:

Will we have an election?

The folks over at Seeing the Forest... are wondering aloud if we're even going to have an election in November.

John Emerson (aka Zizka) even goes so far as to posit  that, if we have one and Kerry wins, we won't get our new president "on time."

Hmmm. If W and the boys are really far behind and the "a vote for Kerry-Edwards is a vote for Osama" argument doesn't work, would they postpone the election? Worse yet, having lost the election, would W and the boys let Kerry and Edwards have the White House?

As a historian, this is an interesting thing to ponder. Even the Federalists, despite their hatred of Jefferson, eventually let him have the election and the White House in 1800. (If you recall, the lame duck Federalist-controlled congress had to decide who won the election because Burr and Jefferson got the same number of electoral votes.) Many in the world were quite surprised that there was a peaceful handover of the White House in 1800....

As for my current opinion on the question, I'll put it this way: having watched W and his administration reach unparalleled levels of public mendacity for nearly four years now, there really isn't a damn thing that I put past these guys.

July 16, 2004

Setting Up the Rigging Poles

This question may have occurred to you, too: Why would Bush&Co., with a straight-face, still continue telling the most outrageous lies about Iraq -- especially about the alleged but non-existent "close ties" between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida -- even when they've been proven demonstrably false time and time again?

Certainly, the Senate Intelligence Committee's report lowered the boom on the Administration's intel failures (starting with the CIA). Even Tony Blair, who used the same faulty intelligence to justify the war -- and likewise got smacked around by the investigating panel's report just a few days ago -- is backing away from some of his more outrageous claims.

Here are some possible answers with regard to the Bush Administration:

1.    The Busheviks believe what they're saying.

2.    Those claims are designed to distract their opposition from focusing on other, perhaps more important issues.

3.    Bush&Co. know they have to have a reason, some reason, ANY reason, to justify the invasion, so, not knowing what else to say, they revert back to what has worked for them earlier, before the truth became fully apparent to the investigating bodies and the citizenry at large. If you tell whoppers long enough, they may believe, those lies take on a life all their own and many in the citizenry come to believe them. The art of agit-prop.

4.    The modus operandi of Bush&Co. is to lie, obfuscate, distort, deceive, manipulate. They're addicted to this technique. Lies are their "fix."

5.    Those Bush&Co. lies are not aimed at folks more attuned to the complex political situation. They are designed to help solidify the base in the fundamentalist 30-35% of the population, some of whom are beginning to wander away from the Bush fold. Also helps explain why the GOP regularly throws that segment of the population hunks of red meat to chomp on -- the attempt by GOP senators to pass an "anti-gay marriage" amendment, for example. Doomed to defeat from the git-go, but a pot worth stirring in the fundamentalist right's kitchen.

No doubt, there are other options that I haven't included, but let's examine these five.


Number One:    I don't really accept this one; Rove is vicious and incompetent, but he knows exactly what he's doing. The Bushies may be dumb, but they ain't stupid.

Number Two:    They know how those lies enrage the left and critical press, and that their opposition therefore will take after them big time, focusing on those whoppers rather than on larger, more potentially damaging scandals: the torture orders emanating from the top, the attempt to set up an extra-constitutional dictatorship, the Plame case, Cheney's energy and Halliburton scandals, Bush and Ken Lay, preparations for "legally" derailing the elections, etc. etc.

Number Three is partially true: The Bush Administration hasn't yet worked out the new approach to Iraq. They keep hoping Iraq miraculously will turn around for them, and they won't have to step out on any limbs that might indicate they've made mistakes, either in going to war or in the way the Occupation has been conducted. So, in the meantime -- and it's a real question how long they can continue hoping for a major change before the truth socks them upside the head -- they'll keep spinning the old pre-war web of lies and distortions.

Number Four is definitely true -- they do need help, won't admit that they need help, and therefore the stress of maintaining these fictions, and fighting off those who reveal their falseness, is taking them to the emotional edge -- and therefore we citizens will have to help them out with an electoral "intervention" on November 2.


This mention of the upcoming election brings us to Number Five, which I think has much merit. If, as a Bush campaign planner, you see Kerry surging, and your candidate is not, you must win essentially with your base. That means you've got to reduce the Democratic base of voters below yours, by some strategem, in order to eke out enough victories in the toss-up states to take the Electoral College prize.

Let's think of ways the GOP can keep that Democrat vote down:

a. Back Nader, to siphon off votes that otherwise might go to Kerry; this already is happening in a number of states, with GOP funders pouring money into the Nader campaign, paying for petition drives for him, etc.

b. Slime the Dem candidates, trying to convince wavering Dems (especially progressives) and moderate Republicans who might be tempted, to not vote for the Kerry-Edwards ticket. We're sure to see the crudest of dirty-tricks campaigning in the next several months.

c. In whatever toss-up states that are using touch-screen voting systems without voter-verified safeguards, consider fiddling with the software to remove some votes from Democrats and move them over into the Republican column, enough to make for a Bush victory.  It may have been done in Georgia in 2002. It's already been demonstrated  how easy it is for this manipulation to be accomplished -- either by the software technicians, by hackers from the outside, or by those companies tabulating the votes -- without leaving a single trace that the tallies have been altered.

(Note: By and large, the companies who make and install the computer voting machines -- several of the largest of which are owned by rabid Republican supporters -- also tabulate the votes, in secret, and then report the results to the election officials. Don't forget the promise by the chairman of Diebold -- one of Bush's major "Pioneer" donors -- that he's "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president." Think absentee ballots!

d. Keep new voters from registering Democratic, especially recent immigrants who tend to vote more liberally. After a recent swearing-in ceremony for new citizens, for example, voting registration forms were supplied outside the hall by GOP operatives -- with the Republican box already checked-off   -- to these eager new Americans, many of whom couldn't read English all that well and had no idea they had signed up as Republicans and would be receiving all the Bush propaganda in the mail and probably by visitors to their homes as well.

e. Keep many Democrats from going to the polls. The process already has started. The Administration has been pounding away at the fright theme with regard to the upcoming elections. Remove some likely Dem voter from the rolls (see Florida for tips.) "Al-Qaida will try to disrupt our election process" before or during the voting, we are told Armed guards may have to be stationed outside polling stations. (Remember Florida in 2000, when many black citizens in poor counties approached the polling stations, to find armed police standing there, oftentimes questioning their bone fides?) I've even heard speculation about taking advantage of a supposed terrorist attack on the Democratic convention. Anything to keep Dems from wanting to exercise their right to vote. Yet another argument for voting by absentee ballot, but don't forget to check to see how those votes will be counted.

f. Finally, if the pre-election poll numbers for BushCheney (or Bush and whomever takes Cheney's place on the ballot if he's indicted by France and Nigeria in connection with Halliburton scandals) are too low to permit even a corrupted election, there's always the option of "postponing" the voting due to this expected terrorist attack and/or threat. The "postponement," of course, would be couched as necessary in order to "defend the right of every citizen to vote." Germany in the '30s, anyone?

In short, friends, organize, organize, ORGANIZE! And fasten your seat-belts; it's going to be a VERY bumpy ride these next few months.

Enough from me; here are some relevant comments from fellow bloggers.

Matthew Yglesias  examines the question "Who's Helped by a Terrorist Attack":

Dan Drezner asks the question of the hour -- who wins politically from a terrorist attack? One thing that's interesting about this question is that it sort of encourages each side's partisans to say it will help the other guy. After all, if it becomes entrenched conventional wisdom that an attack will help Bush, then if an attack happens it will seem like it was partially designed to help re-elect Bush, which would hurt Bush. This is why GOP partisans have been running around town darkly implying that an attack may be in the works aimed at influencing the election "just like in Madrid." In other words, terrorists love John Kerry.

So that's one complication to add to a complicated dynamic. Folks on both sides of the aisle will be scrambling like hell to make the case that Osama has endorsed candidate X or candidate Y. Most broadly, though, I think that while the immediate impact of an attack would be to help Bush ("rally 'round the flag," etc.) that pretty soon afterwards that bounce would fade and Kerry would get the advantage. The reason is that a successful attack would (a) reveal that we're still unsafe, and (b) reveal that Bush isn't doing anything to try and make us any safer, he's busy fighting a counterinsurgency in Iraq.

The president's not going to be able to go off on another three-year, two-war sequence in response to a second attack, which is going to wind up revealing the fact that there really isn't all that much "decisive leadership" forthcoming from this gang. Kerry, meanwhile, will get to say something vague about how this shows it's time for a new approached centered on doing good things in smart ways, or whatever it is you say on a campaign trail.

The question is -- how long would the bounce last? The post-Saddam bounce lasted six weeks, which I'd say is a reasonable estimate for a terror bounce as well. So starting in late-September, I think attacks help Bush, but until then they wind up helping Kerry.

That means that if an attack comes soon, the terrorists want Kerry to win and you should vote for Bush. If it comes later, they want Bush to win and you should vote for Kerry. Or maybe they know that's what you'll think and if they like Kerry they'll attack late and if they like Bush they'll attack early. But what if they guessed that, too? Well, then. . . .

Juan Cole dissects Bush's reiterated lies in a recent speech; here are the opening paragraphs:

President Bush gave a speech on Tuesday in which he made specific claims about how the United States is safer as a result of his military action. I dispute assertions about particular Middle Eastern or South Asian countries.

"The world is changing for the better because of American leadership. America is safer today because we are leading the world. Afghanistan was once the home of al-Qaeda. Now terror camps are closed, democracy is rising, and the American people are safer," he said.

Cole: The Afghanistan war was the right war at the right time, and it did break up the network of al-Qaeda training camps from which terrorists would have gone on hitting the United States. But the fact is that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld did not want to fight that war after September 11. Rumsfeld sniffed that "there were no good targets" in Afghanistan. Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney all wanted to leave al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and attack Iraq first. At first Wolfowitz was leaked as the proponent of this crazy idea, and although he did back it, it is now clear from insider accounts like that of Richard Clark that the three top leaders just mentioned wanted Iraq first.

The UK ambassador to the US maintains that it was Tony Blair who talked Bush into going after al-Qaeda in Afghanistan first, with a promise that he would later support an Iraq war. MI6 would have been briefing Tony about the dire threat coming from Afghanistan, and he, unlike the Bush team, could see the dangers of getting bogged down in an Iraq quagmire while al-Qaeda and the Taliban were still in control of Afghanistan. (Can you imagine the full scope of that disaster that Bush had planned for us?)

Even after Bush was dragged kicking and screaming into doing the right thing by Blair, he did it half-heartedly. He let Bin Laden and al-Zawahir escape. (I'll repeat that. He let Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri escape). Instead of rebuilding and stabilizing Afghanistan, as he promised, he put almost nothing into reconstruction for that country.

...So, no, Americans are not safer, Mr. Bush. They face the threat of substantial narco-terrorism from Afghanistan. Iraq is a security nightmare that could well blow back on the American homeland. Pakistan remains a military dictatorship with a host of militant jihadi movements that had been fomented by the hardline Pakistani military intelligence. Saudi Arabia is witnessing increased al-Qaeda activity and attacks on Westerners. And the Israeli-Palestine dispute is being left to fester and poison the world.

These are not achievements to be proud of. This is a string of disasters. We are not safer. We face incredible danger because of the way the Bush administration has grossly mishandled the Middle East.

(For more of this extraordinary essay, you'll find it at www.juancole.com , July 14 listing .)

Bush, who doesn't like reading, sometimes pays the price for his had habits. See this item at Corrente:

It's always the coverup that kills you, right?  Only one day, and the Republican CYA CIA strategy of blaming the Iraq WMD fiasco 100% on the CIA, and 0% on Inerrant Boy is starting to fall apart: [Quotes from New York Times  story, "Bush and C.I.A. Won't Release Paper on Prewar Intelligence"]

The White House and the Central Intelligence Agency have refused to give the Senate Intelligence Committee a one-page summary of prewar intelligence in Iraq prepared for President Bush that contains few of the qualifiers and none of the dissents spelled out in longer intelligence reviews, according to Congressional officials.

So, they gave Him the black and white, "don't do nuance" view that they knew He wanted to hear, right?

Senate Democrats claim that the document could help clear up exactly what intelligence agencies told Mr. Bush about Iraq's illicit weapons. The administration and the C.I.A. say the White House is protected by executive privilege, and Republicans on the committee dismissed the Democrats' argument that the summary was significant

They would. Gee, it's funny how everything that makes Bush look good is disclosed, and everything that makes Him look like what He is is suppressed, isn't it?

The review, prepared for President Bush in October 2002, summarized the findings of a classified, 90-page National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq's illicit weapons. Congressional officials said that notes taken by Senate staffers who were permitted to review the document show that it eliminated references to dissent within the government about the National Intelligence Estimate's conclusions. (via Times)

Oh, and the "yet again" part?

Bush has a habit of making life-and-death decisions based on sloppy one-page memos written by his fluffers.
As we wrote back in December:

Think! What about [current WhiteWash House Counsel and torture apologist] Alberto Gonzales pimping 56 easy kills for Bush in Texas, detailed in The Texas Clemency Memos?   What kind of a man [Bush] signs a death warrant on the basis of "the most cursory briefings"?

It really is a question of character, isn't it? Fool me once....

Bob Dreyfuss at Tom Paine has some interesting thoughts on war intelligence:

This weekend I read Anonymous' new book, Imperial Hubris, which reminds us to remember Afghanistan. It also helps put in perspective some of the news we're getting. Today's New York Times reports  that the final report of the 9/11 commission, due out in a week or so, will put the final nail in the nail-filled coffin about Iraq's nonexistent ties to Al Qaeda:

The commission investigating the 9/11 attacks is nearing completion of a final, probably unanimous report that will stand by the conclusions of the panel's staff and largely dismiss White House theories both about a close working relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda and about possible Iraqi involvement in 9/11, commission officials said.

Okay, we've all known that. But for Mr. and Mrs. Man-in-Street, it's an important punctuation mark, and it sets people thinking. (Actually, of course, not only did Iraq not support Al Qaeda, it was probably the single strongest Arab state opposed to Al Qaeda and to Islamic fundamentalism in general. Pre-war Iraq was indeed, as Bush claimed, a "central front in the War on Terror," not in precisely the opposite way that Bush meant. Pre-war Iraq was a bulwark against Al Qaeda, bin Ladenism and Khomeinism. But no more.)

Which brings me to Anonymous. His book makes the case, over and over again, that the war in Afghanistan was an utter failure, that Al Qaeda and Osama have regrouped, that Afghanistan itself will inevitably fall back under the control of a Taliban-style regime backed by Pakistan and Islamic fundamentalists, that pathetic President Karzai has little power and that what remaining influence he does have will soon be gobbled up by fascist militia from Afghanistan's countryside. It's a sobering read, in that it comes from the CIA guy in charge of the Osama bin Laden task force....

Kevin Drum connects the U.K. dots, and then places the responsibility for using the faulty intelligence where it belongs -- at the top:

Over in London, Lord Butler has released yet another investigation of prewar Iraq intelligence, and he comes to the following conclusions:

* British intelligence reports were "seriously flawed."

* The 45-minute claim went to the "outer limits" of the available intelligence — i.e., it was wrong.

* There was not, it turns out, even enough evidence to justify claims that Iraq was in breach of United Nations resolutions, let alone anything more.

* Tony Blair was one among several people who fooled the public into thinking the evidence was considerably stronger than it really was.

But hey — that was all in the past! There was no "deliberate distortion," perish the thought, and neither Blair nor incoming intelligence chief John Scarlett, who was responsible for much of the reporting, should be held accountable. They've learned their lesson, right?


Michael O'Hanlon, in the course of an op-ed suggesting that the CIA didn't screw up quite as badly as the Senate Intelligence Committee says it did, points out that, after all, before the war it sure looked like Saddam was
hiding something:

Let's face it, it would have taken an overwhelming body of evidence for any reasonable person in 2002 to think that Saddam Hussein did not possess stockpiles of chemical and biological agents

....The United Nations and most European and Middle Eastern intelligence outfits had the same incorrect beliefs as our agencies, for the same understandable reasons. Saddam Hussein had used chemical weapons in war and against his own people in the 1980's. For more than a decade after the Persian Gulf war, he obstructed international inspectors' efforts to find and destroy such weapons, ensuring that United Nations sanctions that cost his country more than $100 billion would remain in place. He had his underlings confront the inspectors on several occasions in ways that led to military strikes against his security organizations. It certainly looked as if he valued chemical and biological agents a great deal, and was prepared to do a lot to hold onto them.

This may — or may not — get the CIA off the hook, but the drumbeat repetition of this argument (mostly by war supporters) deliberately obscures a far more important point: by the time we invaded Iraq none of this mattered.

Remember, UN inspectors re-entered Iraq three months before the invasion and found nothing there except a handful of missiles that violated UN limits by a few miles. Saddam destroyed them.

The United States provided the inspectors with detailed intel on where to find Iraq's WMD stockpiles. No dice: every single followup turned out to be a wild goose chase.

Hans Blix's team searched everywhere, including Saddam's palaces. Nothing.

Before the invasion, France and several other countries made proposals for even more intrusive inspections: thousand of inspectors backed up by military units. George Bush turned them all down.

The fact is that by March 2003 we didn't have to rely on CIA estimates or on the estimates of any other intelligence agency. We had been on the ground in Iraq for months and there was nothing there. There was nothing there and we knew it.

Did the CIA screw up? Probably. Did it matter? No. George Bush invaded Iraq in March 2003 not because he was convinced Iraq had WMD, but because he was becoming scared that Iraq didn't have WMD and that further inspections would prove it beyond any doubt. Facts on the ground have never been allowed to interfere with George Bush's worldview, and he wasn't about to take the chance that they might interfere with his war.

Whatever faults the CIA has, let's not blame them for the war in Iraq. We all know exactly whose mistake it was.

Finally, if you want to read something really sad, and disturbing, check out Steve Gilliard's take on the embarrassing phone call   ) Ralph Nader made to Salon about his GOP backers. Read the transcript and Gilliard's annotated comments. A former hero of the left besmirches himself royally. Pitiful.

Gilliard's summation:

This is a 70 year old man ranting like some hopped up high school junior having just read the Communist Manifesto. No one is a fascist here, this isn't a dictatorship, if it were, he'd be in jail or dead. Nader refuses to abide by election laws and he's whining about them now. I mean he sounds like a paranoid liar, and Talbot, who is not one of my favorite people, is conciliatory, at worst. He's trying to reason with Nader and it just doesn't get through. Nader is willfully blind to the effect his GOP "supporters" are trying to have.

It's amazing Nader would say these unhinged things, but said them he did. It's like seeing a mask revealed and it isn't pretty.

No one on the left wanted Nader to do this, to be so willfully self-destructive and blind to the harm he's causing.

Once you read this, what choice do the Dems really have but to use the law to crush his campaign? My God, I thought he was unsuited to be president before, but now? He lies like Bush, for God's sake, and right in front of you. What a truly scary and paranoid man.

July 19, 2004

T-Shirt "Terrorists"

Many HardRightists think that those of us who cherish civil liberties are paranoid about the tone set by the Patriot Act and other such draconian measures emanating from the Bush Administration. They tend to justify the slicing away of Constitutional protections as necessary given the terrorist threat to our national security.

But how can they possibly justify the infringement of free speech involved when a couple wearing anti-Bush T-shirts were handcuffed and thrown out of a public gathering where Bush was to address the crowd? That's what happened to Nicole and Jeff Rank at a West Virginia rally on (of all appropriate days) the 4th of July.

Another example: a local Wisconsin politico, Jayson Nelson,  was running late to attend a political speech by Bush. He had just come from a Kerry rally and grabbed his heavy, long-sleeved shirt and buttoned it all the way to the top. Someone tipped off the Secret Service, or maybe spied the tiny bit of green t-shirt poking above the highest button. He was unceremoniously ushered to the Secret Service and ejected.

In both cases, ordinary citizens, had come to hear Mr. Bush speak, to hear what he had to say. They caused no disruption, nor did they come there with intent to. But they were denied the right to peaceably assemble with other citizens, with whom they might or might not agree, to partake of a public (not a private) event. But they were ejected anyway. The first pair were handcuffed and taken to jail (a judge later dismissed their trespassing charge); the second, Nelson, said: “I was told that no law was broken, but I was nearly treated like a criminal for the terrible crime of wearing a T-shirt.”

In both cases, when confronted, the Secret Service agreed that the citizens had every constitutional right to be there, and the guards had no right to throw them out. But they were ejected anyway. (Which action accomplished its aim, to frighten others who witnessed the arrests from taking similar action, keeping them docile.)


But these cases are not unique. There are scads of such reports, of visits from the FBI because of statements opposed to Bush policies, of being ejected from public gatherings, of being refused the right to fly, and so on.

One expects such behavior from Bush -- insecure at his core, he's notoriously thin-skinned, and brooks no dissent. Let us not forget the incident early in his tenure, when a citizen shook his hand when Bush came to town and asked him a critical question about his policy, and Bush replied "Who cares what you think?"   It's been the same ever since.

When Bush has to appear in a non-structured event -- that is, when he's not speaking to groups of invited pro-Bush citizens: military troops, defense contractors, neo-conservative gatherings, Christian Right congregations, etc. -- he makes sure that all those who have contrary points of view are segregated blocks, and often and miles, away from where he might have to see or hear them. The police, with no attempt at irony, refers to these areas as "free-speech zones."

How would the Bushistas react, I often wonder, if the situations were reversed -- if President Gore was appearing in their community and they wished to silently express their displeasure at his policies by wearing political-message T-shirts, and they got thrown out, or were forced to mill about miles away in "free-speech" enclosures? Somehow, I don't think they'd appreciate such heavy-handed approaches to their Constitutional right to assemble and express themselves.


On occasion, I have been able to ask several rightwing acquaintances this very question. I'm sure you can guess the reaction I got: "Yeah, but you guys are wrong, and potentially dangerous, and besides terrorists could be among you."

In other words, ignoring the question while asserting their righteousness, and your "wrong"-ness, which apparently is meant to justify the illegal behavior of the police.

This attitude is greatly influenced by the tone, and disrespect for democracy, that emanates from BushCheneyRove and their ilk. (See Digby's commentary below.) Bush on at least three public occasions has expressed -- supposedly in jest, ha ha -- his desire to rule as a dictator. The way his Republican congressional allies violate the rules and manhandle the rights of the Democrat minority is likewise in the same vein.


The name of the game is winning, and using power as a weapon to get their way. Bush claims that he gets his war marching orders from God,  ("God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East"; a few days ago, he told an Amish group  that he believes "God speaks through me"), and thus apparently doesn't feel he has to take other points of view into consideration.

Once upon a time, we looked on those who expressed such views as fanatic zealots, or, if in extremis, in need of institutional care. Now they are treated deferentially, as if such Talaban-like pronouncements are welcome in a democratic republic, founded by wise men who knew firsthand the dangers of religious self-righteousness.

Our democratic institutions are in grave danger of permanent erosion, if the election results give this crew another four years to finish their constitutional deconstruction project. The Patriot Act is bad enough, permitting police agents to enter your home and computer, check them out, and never have to tell you; read your emails; attorney-client privilege no longer is sacrosanct; the FBI can find out what books you read, and your librarian is forbidden by law to tell you they're doing it.


But there are more recent atrocities: Their project to turn citizens into informers  is still lying dormant; they have asked churches to supply their congregation lists  to the Bush Campaign; in Minnesota, loyal GOP cadres are being asked to supply information, obtained however they can, on the politics of their neighbors; in New York, immigrant tenants asking for repairs to their shoddy apartments are told by the landlords that they'll be reported  to the Homeland Security Administration unless they keep silent; and on and on.

And that's just the domestic damage they are doing. Abroad, it's even scarier, since thousands of people are being killed and maimed in the name of America's desire to control Middle East energy sources, and to reshape the geopolitics of that key area of the world -- one that doesn't really seem to want to move, at the barrel of a gun, toward an American vision of democracy and free-market capitalism.

The other Arab states in the area look at Iraq and wonder what kind of "democracy" is being peddled. Iyad Allawi, the new prime minister of Iraq -- picked by us to lead his nation into democracy and respect for the rule of law after we "liberated" the country from the brutality and lawlessness of Saddam Hussein -- has been accused of taking out a pistol recently at an Iraqi jail and murdering six suspected insurgents, devoid of charge or trial.

What hath we wrought?

Enough from me. Here are further thoughts on these and other matters from fellow bloggers Digby and Steve Gilliard.

Digby takes a serious look at how the Bush Administration views American democracy and its restraints on rulers:

They Don't Like Democracy

Charles Pierce gets to the nub  of the argument:

There really is only one issue in this election. Since the Extended Florida Unpleasantness, this has been an Administration utterly unconcerned with any restraints, constitutional or otherwise, on its power. It has been contemptuous of the idea of self-government, and particularly of the notion that an informed populace is necessary to that idea. It recognizes neither parliamentary rules nor constitutional barriers. (Just for fun, imagine that the Senate had not authorized force in Iraq. Do you think for one moment that C-Plus Augustus wouldn't have launched the war anyway, and on some pretext that we'd only now be discovering was counterfeit?) It does not accept the concept of principled opposition, either inside the administration or outside of it. It refuses to be bound by anything more than its political appetites. It wants what it wants, and it does what it wants. It is, at its heart, and in the strictest definition of the word, lawless. It has the perfect front men: a president unable to admit a mistake because he's spent his entire life being insulated from even the most minor of consequences, and a vice-president who is viscerally furious at the notion that he is accountable to anyone at all. They are abetted by a congressional majority in which all of these un-American traits are amplified to an overwhelming din.

So, now we are faced with the question: Do you want to live in a country where these people no longer feel even the vaporous restraints of having another election to win?

BUSH-CHENEY UNLEASHED. Up or down? Yes or no?

There you have it.

Jon Chait in The New Republic amplifies this theme:

Here we have a sample of the style of governance that has prevailed under Bush's presidency. It's not the sort of thing you would find in a civics textbook. Bush and his allies have been described as partisan or bare-knuckled, but the problem is more fundamental than that. They have routinely violated norms of political conduct, smothered information necessary for informed public debate, and illegitimately exploited government power to perpetuate their rule. These habits are not just mean and nasty. They're undemocratic.

What does it mean to call the president "undemocratic"? It does not mean Bush is an aspiring dictator. Despite descending from a former president and telling confidants that God chose him to lead the country, he does not claim divine right of rule. He is not going to cancel the election or rig it with faulty ballots. (Well, almost certainly not.) But democracy can be a matter of degree. Russia and the United States are both democracies, but the United States is more democratic than Russia. The proper indictment of the Bush administration is, therefore, not that he's abandoning American democracy, but that he's weakening it. This administration is, in fact, the least democratic in the modern history of the presidency.

I think it's very important to note that this is not something that's confined to the Bush administration alone as if they are some sort of GOP anomalies. The fact is that this is an ongoing, serious problem of the modern Republican Party in general. They are congenitally opposed to compromise which leads inevitably to rule by force.

Chait argues that the Bush administration is not destroying democracy but rather weakening it. I would suggest that that adds up to the same thing. They are unlikely, except in a desperate situation, to attempt a military coup or do something dramatically attention grabbing like cancel the election. They aren't that stupid. They can attain everything they want over time by simply eroding democracy to the point at which it has all of the trappings and none of the substance. That process has been going on for some time now and escalating gradually to the point at which we now find ourselves with a presidency (which has always been the repository of Republican ruling fantasies) that quite blatantly declares that it has no responsibility to uphold the laws if it deems them an impediment to national security.

But it's not the Bushies, it's the party. Removing Bush will not solve this problem. Indeed, I'm sure the GOP congress would love to get back into action and resume its natural investigative role which they have been shut out of while Republicans are in the white house. Their egos demand a little bit of the spotlight.

I'm sure there are many Republicans who simply don't see what is happening and would be horrified if they did. Not even the Democrats who have been on the receiving end of these undemocratic power plays seem to have been aware until recently of what has been going on.

I have been repeating this "undemocratic" mantra since the mid 1990's. (You can Google this blog for the word and you'll see that I've done my best to bore everyone to tears with it.) It is a huge threat to this country --- one that has been magnified a hundred fold by the events if 9/11. It's not tin-foil kookiness and it's not partisan angst. It's real. And while I have little doubt that many reasonable sorts (which, by the way, I am also) will shake their heads sadly once again at my shrillness and hysteria for taking this view, I'll continue to do it. The Emperor has no clothes. I see what I see. I'm glad to have some company.

Steve Gilliard   adds a warning addendum to the story referenced above about the GOP activists asked to snoop on their neighbors' politics and report back to the Bush Campaign:

So when those names wind up in the Homeland Security database, it would be an "accident."

It's one thing to report positives, but another to keep track of negatives. This is the kind of thing which gets people sued.

July 23, 2004

Are You Better Off?

Years ago, I was friends with, and often exchanged long political letters with, the late documentary filmmaker Emile de Antonio ("Point of Order," "In the Year of the Pig," "Millhouse: A White Comedy," "Rush to Judgment," etc.). Given that he was a serious leftist, he shocked me one day at lunch by pulling out the Wall Street Journal and flipping through the back pages.

I asked him what on earth he -- who liked to call himself a revolutionary -- thought he was doing subscribing to, and reading, the Wall Street Journal. His answer was wise: "Anyone can read and quote from The Nation or New Republic or Daily Worker, but when I want to know what's going on in the economy or in politics, I read the Wall Street Journal. The little items in the back of the paper, if you know how to read them, often tell me what's really going on in the elite corridors of power in this country and the world. Plus, it's always better to quote the rightwing publications; they can't be dismissed as easily."

I learned a lot from "de" (pronounced "dee") over the years, and that insight affected the way I learned to read newspapers. Obviously, I pay attention to the big stories on the front pages, but it's often the paragraphs buried inside those stories, sometimes at the very end of a long piece, that contain the nuggets you need to know. I.F. Stone, another of my journalistic heroes and role-models, operated along the same lines, always ripping the smaller stories out of some newspaper or other and putting them in his pocket for later use.

So, with that intro, here are the key paragraphs from this week's Wall Street Journal story that needs to be read and folded into the presidential campaign. Warning: Class warfare alert! Class warfare alert! (From the WSJ no less! Thanks, de.)

With the U.S. economy expanding and the labor market improving, it isn't clear how well the Democrats' message of a divided America will resonate with voters this fall. But many economists believe the economic recovery has indeed taken two tracks...

Upper-income families, who pay the most in taxes and reaped the largest gains from the tax cuts President Bush championed, drove a surge of consumer spending a year ago that helped to rev up the recovery. Wealthier households also have been big beneficiaries of the stronger stock market, higher corporate profits, bigger dividend payments and the boom in housing.

Lower and middle-income households have benefited from some of these trends, but not nearly as much. For them paychecks and day-to-day living expenses have a much bigger effect. Many have been squeezed, with wages under pressure and with gasoline and food prices higher. The resulting two-tier recovery is showing up in vivid detail in the way Americans are spending their money.

..."To date, the [recovery's] primary beneficiaries have been upper-income households," concludes Dean Maki, a J.P. Morgan Chase (and former Federal Reserve) economist who has studied the ways that changes in wealth affect spending. In research he sent to clients this month, Mr. Maki said, "Two of the main factors supporting spending over the past year, tax cuts and increases in [stock] wealth, have sharply benefited upper income households relative to others."

For more on this important story, see Billmon's long piece, "Building a Bridge to the 19th Century,"  along with the story above it, "Minimum Wage."


How to interpret what's happening in Iraq, the controversies surrounding Joseph Wilson, Sandy Berger, Martha Stewart, et al? Is there some fire there or just a lot of Bush Campaign smoke?

It seems clear to me that in order to understand what's happening in all these, and other, areas of politics, you have to peer through the lens of November 2. Certainly, that's how Rove sees the world.

What I mean is that everything, EVERYTHING, done by the Bush Administration these days is for one purpose and one purpose only: to get Bush back in the White House for another term. If they're successful, they can revert back to their normal modus operandi -- further amassing of police-power and slicing away of Constitutional protections at home, and abroad moving toward "regime change" in Syria and Iran and Cuba

But they can not begin to implement those aggressive agendas unless they win the election. Ergo, go on the offensive, change the subject of discussion, get the Bush-friendly mass media on board to snow the public.

* For example, the attempt to alter Iraq news to benefit Bush's campaign, by "handing over" something termed "full sovereignty" to the U.S.-friendly interim government. The entire object of that enterprise was to get the Iraq mayhem off the front pages, or, if not that, have Iraqis dying and getting maimed, not American troops. (As it turns out, more U.S. troops have died in July already, AFTER the handover, than in all of June.)

* In the case of Berger and Wilson, it's important to harass and destroy the reputations of these two guys because they have been damaging Bush&Co. on 9/11 pre-knowledge and the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame (Wilson's wife).

Rove figures he can get a two-for-one by sliming Berger and Wilson, because both are tied to the Kerry campaign, as foreign-policy consultants.

Berger, Clinton's National Security Advisor, told the incoming Bush administration that their major security concern would be terrorism as plotted by Osama bin Laden; the Bushies ignored the warning. If Berger can be shown to be a liar and endangering "national security" himself, by having taken classified documents home with him, Bush's pre-9/11 vulnerability can be diminished. At least, that's their hope.

Likewise, if they can make Wilson out to be a liar, on any small detail of his story, they hope they can take attention away from the felonious outing of a covert CIA operative (by two "senior Administration officials") by putting it on Wilson. It is especially important to do that now, just before the indictments are issued in the Plame case.

Now, does this mean that Berger and Wilson -- and let's now bring Martha Stewart into the mix as well -- are entirely innocent of any wrongdoing? No. But let's keep our eyes on the ball here and not get distracted: Whatever these folks did or didn't do is not what's at issue here; what IS at issue are the crimes and misdemeanors of the Bush Administration in: outing a covert CIA operative, in ignoring the clear-and-present-danger warnings about a coming al-Qaida attack, in continuing to carry out a war against Iraq based on lies and deception that is getting hundreds of troops and Iraqi civilians slaughtered each week.

One can hope that seeing how Bush&Co. are trying to shift the focus of media attack to their opponents, Democrats and those associated with Kerry will take special care to keep their noses clean. Don't give the Bush forces any opening, no matter how small, to change the subject away from Bush&Co's incompetence, misrule, and reckless domestic and foreign policies.

Enough from me. Here's more on some of these topics by fellow bloggers Corrente, Kos, Billmon, Kevin Drum, Juan Cole, and Josh Marshall.

Over at Corrente, Lambert has this take on the Berger affair:

Gee, I wonder if the whole Berger smear could be politically motivated?


President Bush on Wednesday described the federal inquiry into Clinton White House national security adviser Sandy Berger's mishandling of classified documents as "a very serious matter."

The FBI:

But a government official who asked not to be identified because of the political sensitivity of the matter said that FBI agents did not regard the Berger inquiry as "a front-burner-type of investigation." (via USA Today).

The fish really does rot from the head, doesn't it?

Kevin Drum  skewers the rightwing obsession with the Berger case, noting how this behavior differs from what they did -- nothing -- in the Plame case.

THAT WAS THEN, THIS IS NOW....Tom Davis is the Republican chairman of the House Government Reform Committee. Among other things, this means he's the point man for congressional investigations of governmental misdeeds.

Here is Tom Davis on his plans to open an investigation into the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame, which was first exposed by David Corn on July 16, 2003:

July 17, 2003: Nothing.

October 3, 2003: "I know [John] Ashcroft very well, and I'm sure he'll go by the book." Um, OK. Nonetheless, he also said he was "gearing up" to lead an investigation of the matter. "It's our obligation to do so. This is something we can't tolerate."

January 23, 2004: "If they don't find it, we will. It will be looked at and second-guessed. It's a troubling and serious violation." But we'll still wait on gearing up that investigation.

July 21, 2004: Still gearing up. No investigation yet.

Two days ago, on July 19, 2004, AP reported that former NSA Sandy Berger had removed some classified documents from the National Archives and is the subject of an active FBI investigation. How does Davis feel about this?

July 21, 2004: Congress has "a constitutional responsibility to find out what happened and why. At best, we're looking at tremendously irresponsible handling of highly classified information." An investigation is underway.

Hey! Tom Davis can move mighty quickly when he puts his mind to it! I wonder what the difference between these two cases is?

Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, who has been equally sanguine about the FBI's ability to investigate the Plame case, is also deeply concerned.

Kos takes a long look:

I have admittedly ignored the Sandy Berger thing. Everything I read indicated that he may have done something stupid, but if Ashcroft's Justice Department wasn't interested in pursuing a case, it couldn't be anything serious.

Of course, the GOP hysteria over the topic isn't really about anything Berger did. It's about fear of the upcoming 9/11 report.  Stealing this from the Center for American Progress:

One day before the bipartisan 9/11 Commission is scheduled to release its final report, Bush administration allies on Capitol Hill have put their partisan spin machine into high-gear. Despite overwhelming evidence that President Bush underfunded counter-terrorism, ignored repeated memos warning of an imminent attack by Osama bin Laden, and took one of the longest vacations in presidential history while the pre-9/11 security threat boiled, Republicans are seeking to blame 9/11 on the Clinton administration even before the Commission's report has been published. Their current target: former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, who in October 2003 acknowledged inadvertently losing two documents from the National Archives. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist claimed Berger was trying to deceive the 9/11 Commission. They failed to mention the Commission refuted that charge, and that even the Bush Justice Department admits the incident is so innocuous, that CBS News reports "law enforcement sources say they don't expect any criminal charges will be filed."

REPUBLICANS ADMIT THE TIMING SMELLS: CBS News reported last night that even Republicans "say the timing of the investigation's disclosure smells like politics, leaked to the press just two days before the 9/11 Commission report comes out." Republican strategist Eddie Mahe said, "somebody is manipulating the process." Why? Because, as the WP reports, the final report by the commission concludes Iraq "never established operational ties" with al Qaeda. In other words, the Commission is about to formally conclude that one of the two major justifications the administration gave for war in Iraq was a fraud. With the WMD justification also proving false, the administration is desperate to distract from polls that show a majority of Americans say the war was a mistake.  Even more troubling for the White House, almost half the public now says the White House "deliberately misled" America about Iraq. It was this fear that the Commission would embarrass the Bush administration that led the White House to oppose its creation.   And it is no surprise that yesterday Commission Chairman Tom Kean admitted that some wanted the 9/11 Commission to fail.

MOTIVE ACCUSATIONS JUST PLAIN SILLY: Reuters reports "Republicans accused Berger of taking the documents so they could be used by the Kerry campaign at a news conference on port security." Said Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA): "Right after the documents were taken, John Kerry held a photo op and attacked the president on port security. The documents that were taken may have been utilized for that press conference." Although the timing in this fable may be accurate, one thing is clear: neither Kerry nor any citizen in America needs secret documents from the National Archives to know the Bush administration and Republicans in Congress have dangerously underfunded seaport and airport security. As American Progress fellow PJ Crowley notes, while the Coast Guard has said it needs $7.5 billion for key port security upgrades, the White House has requested just $45 million this year. Similarly, as the Century Foundation reports, while "the Transportation Security Administration estimates there is a 35% to 65% chance that terrorists are planning to place a bomb in the cargo of a U.S. passenger plane" the administration has only provided funding to make sure that 5% of air cargo is screened.

WHERE IS THE LEAK OUTRAGE?: CBS News reports the controversy "was triggered by a carefully orchestrated leak" about the FBI's investigation of the matter. Yet, top administration officials and Republicans who have previously expressed outrage about leaks were nowhere to be found. There was no statement of outrage or call for an investigation from Attorney General John Ashcroft who in 2001 said leaks "do substantial damage to the security interests of the nation." Similarly, there was nothing from the Chambliss, who one year ago said "leaks have always been a problem and continue to be a problem." And it was all quiet at the Pentagon, despite Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld stating last year that leaks are "disgraceful, they're unprofessional, they're dangerous."

NO SIMILAR OUTRAGE ABOUT BUSH RECORDS BEING DESTROYED: Even as Rush Limbaugh and the GOP's congressional leadership insinuate without proof that Berger was deliberately trying to destroy records, they have made little mention about last week's disclosure that President Bush's key military draft records were destroyed by Pentagon officials.  The documents in question would have proven whether the President was lying about whether he fulfilled his military service that allowed him to avoid going to Vietnam. The destruction of the documents has forced the Associated Press to sue for copies of them, which are legally required to exist in the Texas archives. Despite promises to release all documents, the president has refused to release the Texas copies.

Josh Marshall provides more context for the whole affair:

Hmmm. Imagine that. Senior officials at the White House Counsel's Office (perhaps understandable) and "several top aides to" the president (not so understandable) were given a heads-up about the Berger investigation months ago.

So says the New York Times.

Meanwhile, the Post has a tangled article  about how Archives staffers allegedly became suspicious of Berger while he was reviewing the documents and even started monitoring him. Calling the piece 'tangled' isn't necessarily a criticism. The reporters clearly have two very conflicting versions of events and are trying to explain both -- and point out the ways they contradict. The piece reads as if the authors' themselves are uncertain which version to credit. What's also clear from the Post article is that not only law enforcement officials but also one 'government source' are leaking like crazy about this story.

The story the leakers tell in the Post story certainly seems hard to reconcile with inadvertence.

Finally, USA Today says that FBI agents involved in the case didn't think the whole thing was particularly serious.

Finally a case President Bush is eager to see investigated. Bush on Berger: "This is a very serious matter that will be fully investigated by the Justice Department."

As we said earlier, desperate.

Winning campaigns don't put the candidate in the mud.

Apropos of my earlier post about Republican desperation, here's Charlie Cook of the Cook Report on the state of the presidential race ...

Last week in this space, I discounted the widely held view that the knotted polling numbers between Bush and Kerry meant that the race itself was even. I argued that given the fact that well-known incumbents with a defined record rarely get many undecided voters -- a quarter to a third at an absolute maximum -- an incumbent in a very stable race essentially tied at 45 percent was actually anything but in an even-money situation. "What you see is what you get" is an old expression for an incumbent's trial heat figures, meaning very few undecided voters fall that way.

......This is certainly not to predict that Bush is going to lose, that this race is over or that other events and developments will not have an enormous impact on this race. The point is that this race has settled into a place that is not at all good for an incumbent, is remarkably stable, and one that is terrifying many Republican lawmakers, operatives and activists. But in a typically Republican fashion, they are too polite and disciplined to talk about it much publicly.

From a Press Release just out from Speaker Hastert ...

Speaker Hastert on Congressional Investigation Regarding National Security and Sandy Berger

(Washington D.C.) Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) today made the following statement:

"Like many Americans concerned about our national security, I look forward to learning more from the House Government Reform Committee's investigation into the wayward actions by Sandy Berger. The American people deserve to know why Mr. Berger apparently skirted the law and removed highly classified terrorism documents, purportedly in his pants, from a secure reading room at the National Archives and then proceeded to lose or destroy some of them.

"How could President Clinton's former National Security Advisor be so cavalier?

"Was Mr. Berger trying to cover-up key facts regarding intelligence failures during his watch?

"What happened to those missing documents?

"Whose hands did they fall into?

"What kind of security risk does that pose to Americans today?

"I know Chairman Tom Davis (R-VA) will work to get the full truth of what really happened and help all of us better understand why Sandy Berger, a person who should fully understand the gravity and importance of sensitive national security materials, would operate with such overt negligence and apparent disregard for the law."

Any Democrat has to see red when reading those words -- in fact, I'm tempted to say anyone with more than a bit of decency.

But I post them because critics of the administration, whatever their anger or indignation over those comments, should actually greet all this with a smile.

There's no doubt this Berger imbroglio has thrown the Dems seriously off message for a couple days. And it's embarrassing. There's no denying it. But Hastert's words are those of folks who are desperate -- real desperate. Folks looking at November 2nd, not liking at all what they see, and casting about for anything that will change the political lay of the land.

It's cornered, wounded animal time.

Finally, Juan Cole has a go at aspects of the 9/11 Commission's final report:

The September 11 Panel will issue its findings on Thursday. It notes 10 points at which the US made key mistakes that might have stopped Bin Laden's plot. Four of these were under Clinton and 6 under Bush.

Bush came out today and said that if he had known what was coming, he would have expended every effort to stop it, and that so would have Clinton. This statement is, despite its facade of fair-mindedness, so many weasel words. Of course Bush would have tried to stop 9/11 if he had known it was coming.

The question is, "Should he have known it was coming?"

The answer is, "Yes!"

We now know that Bush and his administration came into office obsessed with Iraq. Cheney was looking at maps of Iraq oil fields and muttering about opportunities for US companies there, already in January or February of 2001.

Wolfowitz contradicted counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke when the latter spoke of the al-Qaeda threat, insisting that the preeminent threat of terrorism against the US came from Iraq, and indicating he accepted Laurie Mylroie's crackpot conspiracy theory that Saddam was behind the 1993 World Trade Towers bombing. If you believe crackpot theories instead of focusing on the reality--that was an al-Qaeda operation mainly carried out by al-Gamaa al-Islamiyyah, an Egyptian terrorist component allied with Bin Laden-- then you will concentrate on the wrong threat.

Even after the attacks on September 11, Bush was obsessing about Iraq.

Wolfowitz lied to him and said that there was a 10 to 50% chance that Iraq was behind them. (On what evidence? The hijackers were obviously al-Qaeda, and no operational links between al-Qaeda and Iraq had ever been found).

Rumsfeld initially rejected an attack on al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan, saying there were "no good targets" in Afghanistan. (What about 40 al-Qaeda bases that had trained the 9/11 hijackers and other terrorists gunning for the United States??) The Pentagon did not even have a plan for dealing with Afghanistan or al-Qaeda that it could pull off the shelf, according to Bob Woodward.

Bush did not have his eye on the ball. Neither did Cheney, Rumsfeld, or Wolfowitz. They were playing Captain Ahab to Saddam's great white whale.

Imperial Hubris makes the case that lots of people in the CIA and counter-terrorism divisions elsewhere in the US government knew all about Bin Laden and the threat he posed. They were from all accounts marginalized and not listened to. Bush demoted Dick Clarke, among the most vocal and focused of the al-Qaeda experts, from his cabinet. Dick could never thereafter get any real cooperation from the cabinet officers, who outranked him, and he could not convince them to go to battle stations in the summer of 2001 when George Tenet's hair was "on fire" about the excited chatter the CIA was picking up from radical Islamist terrorists.

As for the Clinton administration, let me say one thing in its defense. Clinton had worked out a deal with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in summer of 1999 that would have allowed the US to send a Special Ops team in after Bin Laden in Qandahar, based from Pakistan. I presume you need the Pakistan base for rescue operations in case anything went wrong. You also need Pakistani air space. The plan was all set and could have succeeded.

But in fall of 1999, Gen. Pervez Musharraf made a coup against Nawaz Sharif. The Pakistani army was rife with elements protective of the Taliban, and the new military government reneged on the deal. Musharraf told Clinton he couldn't use Pakistani soil or air space to send the team in against Bin Laden.

Look at a map and you try to figure out how, in fall of 1999, you could possibly pull off such an operation without Pakistani facilities. Of course, you could just go in by main force. But for those of you tempted in that direction, please look up Carter's Tabas operation. It should be easily googled.
Clinton tried, and tried hard. The gods weren't with us on that one.

July 26, 2004

BushCheney: Alzheimer's/Dementia?

I was holding my mom's hand the other day in her care-facility ward (she's 93), when it hit me: In ways very similar to my mother's condition, America is in such bad political and social shape because it, too, had contracted Alzheimer's Disease.

Consider my mom's history: She has been consumed by fright in her later years, a paranoia usually manifested in how enemies were going to kill her or steal from her. She would explode in anger, or engage in non-sequitur conversations, at odd moments. She retreated into a corrosive sort of narcissism, which meant she was fairly isolated, since others didn't want much to do with her, leaving her fairly friendless. Sometimes, she would shout and strike out at others. Often, she would have vivid conversations in her mind with strangers, or pick up newspaper headlines on the ceiling over her bed.

She lost her short-term memory, repeating phrases and thoughts she had just uttered moments before. She lost her middle-range memory, of things that happened recently or not too long ago. Then she lost her long-term memory, of events from years and years back. When she was still able to walk, she'd occasionally wander into neighbors' apartments and use their toilets, frightening the hell out of them when they'd open the bathroom door. And so on.

And now the rough comparisons -- some referring to our culture as a whole, many to actions and behaviors of the Bush Administration -- bold-faced where appropriate:

* The neo-conservatives at the center of power in the Bush Administration -- Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, Khalidad, et al. -- have a supremely negative view of the world, which, in shorthand, translates into a feeling that the world is a place of constant
dread and fright, filled with those wishing to attack us and/or steal our goodies. Therefore, do unto others before they do it unto you -- especially if they're weak and can barely defend themselves.

* Other nations of the world have watched Bush&Co. lash out at its enemies, real and imagined -- with thousands of innocent civilians dying in the process -- and are wary of doing anything that could enrage the American superpower into unleashing its

* Bush constantly engages in
non sequiturs when talking, or in strange usages, or in made-up words.

* Under the neo-con theories dominating the Bush Administration, a dangerous form of
narcissism has resulted in isolation of the U.S. from the rest of the world. The U.S. engages in unilateral behaviors such as starting wars, withdrawing from treaties, humiliating and insulting former allies, and then has to face the truth that few foreign leaders or populations like America. But Bush&Co. don't care: You're either with us or with the terrorists, so there.

* Bush and Cheney constantly
repeat statements, even though they bear no resemblance to reality. Bush once admitted that Saddam had no connection to 9/11, for example, but then apparently couldn't remember that he'd said that and continued to suggest the connection. All the investigating bodies have made clear that Saddam had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks of 9/11, but Bush and Cheney and others continue to conflate the two. Likewise, the official investigating bodies have determined that Al-Qaida and Iraq had minimal contacts (and certainly no operational links) in the years leading up to 9/11 and the current Iraq War, but the Bush folks continue to suggest otherwise. Bad short-term memory loss.

Middle-term and long-term memory losses continue in evidence as well. Bill Clinton and Sandy Berger spent hours warning the incoming Bush Administration about Osama bin Laden and likely attacks by al-Qaida directed at the U.S. But once they assumed power -- and even when counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke and CIA Director George Tenet were telling them an attack was imminent -- they ignored the advice and set up their own commission to "study" the threat of terrorism. The chairman of that group, someone named Dick Cheney, apparently forgot all about that commission's mandate, since it never met.

* The U.S. war in Vietnam in the -'60s and '70s provided numerous lessons for every administration since. Every President remembered those lessons, and made sure not to make the same mistakes again. But one Administration did
forget that history. Even with Vietnam veteran Colin Powell as Secretary of State, George W. Bush's war-machine forgot that humiliating episode and proceeded to make the same mistakes.

It attacked a country about which it knew very little, used a much-too-small attack force, outfitted them poorly and with confusing battle plans, antagonized the local citizenry (many of whom then joined the guerrillas), and had no exit strategy in place. And, as in Vietnam, it thought its overwhelming firepower eventually would rule the day, so no need to consider negotiations or withdrawing its forces -- until the situation got totally out of hand and it had to agree to terms it could have accepted years before (thus saving many thousands of American lives and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese lives) and withdrew its forces and supporters in a humiliating, chaotic retreat.

* Bush admits that he hears voices from the beyond, urging him to smite the evildoers. "God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East," he told leaders in the Middle East;  More recently, he told an Amish group that he believes "God speaks through me."

* As with my mom, sometimes the Bush Administration
wanders into someone's house or back yard and leaves a terrible, stinky mess there. In Afghanistan and Iraq, for example. Others are expected to come along after them, and pick up the excrement. These often are former allies, who resent the shoveling task.

So you see, even though the parallels are not exact, when a country's leaders contract Alzheimer's and forgets their nation's true and best values -- and its history -- a lot of damage can be done, endangering so many people.

The people responsible for ruining the reputation of the United States really need help. They bumble around, creating havoc wherever they go; they need to be in a care-facility, with numerous assisted-living, and assisted-thinking, aides. On November 2, we will be their care assistants, telling them that they can no longer be permitted to drive the state, that they will have to turn over their keys of power to others.

Give to the Alzheimer's Foundation, help us find a cure. But until that time, we must ensure that more responsible leaders take over from those too debilitated to carry on in a stable, helpful fashion. Our country and its glorious institutions and history are too important to leave in the hands of individuals whose erratic behavior threatens to take us all down with them.


The detailed facts are there in the 9/11 Commission's report -- ones devastating to the lies and distortions of the Bush Administration -- but the fix was in and so no blame is assigned to anybody by name. (For a host of super articles on this topic, go to our new "9/11 Commission Report" page)  

Since he was not singled out for most of the 9/11 blame, Bush feels he is insulated on the campaign trail from effective criticism. And he'll be right if Kerry & Edwards play nice little campaigners and don't go for the exposed jugulars of Bush & Cheney & Rumsfeld & Ashcroft.

The Democrats, bless their naive little hearts, permitted themselves to get hustled big time by agreeing that the final part of the 9/11 Commission's work -- the most important part of its job, reporting on how Bush&Co. misused the corrupted and phony intelligence it did receive -- will be issued only AFTER the election!

Talk about being snookered! It's almost like the Democrats want to lose the election, still playing by the rules of legislative civility when the GOP extremists long ago stomped all over that concept and dumped it in the Tidal Basin.

All Kerry-Edwards have to do is to use the facts published in its report -- asserting clearly that despite BushCheney's constant and continuing suggestions to the contrary, there was no meaningful or operational connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaida and no connection at all to 9/11 -- and let the voters decide.

We shall see. All indications are, as I write this on the day the Democratic National Convention opens, that the conclave will be a feel-good affair, with no heavy mortar rounds lobbed at the Bush Administration.

The campaign seems to be operating on the following game-plan: The vote is going to be razor-close, especially if Nader hangs in there, and thus the election will be decided by the very small slice of independent voters. So, all comments will be aimed at getting those swing voters to like us, thus no angry rhetoric and roundhouse rights aimed at the Republican candidates.

I see it differently. The momentum in state after state, especially in key toss-up states -- such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Arizona, Nevada -- is swinging more and more to Kerry. I think, if we keep expanding our base and working our butts off for the next three months, Kerry may well win in an Electoral College landslide.

So much depends on the acceptance speech Kerry delivers at the Convention. Can he generate anything even resembling charisma? Can he deliver short, pithy, punchy, sound-bite arguments? Will he evidence any desire to take off the gloves and go for Bush's very vulnerable chin?

We shall see.


A big media story at the Convention is the officially-sanctioned presence, for the first time, of website political bloggers. Not much news will come out of their convention blogs (remember, they are not trained as reporters; they are opinionated political writers), but that's not why this is a story.

The reason this story is of interest is that it validates the influence and impact of the internet -- much as Howard Dean's smooth, effective internet presence did, especially in organizing folks around the country and raising lots of money, quickly, for the campaign. Or the amazing impact of groups such as MoveOn.org . (See Matt Bai's fascinating "Wiring the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy").

These bloggers -- such as Josh Marshall, Steve Gilliard, Kos, Atrios, Corrente, Digby, et al. -- are extremely influential in focusing on items buried by the conglomerate-owned mass-media, reporting instantaneous political happenings, cogently analyzing the events and spin of the day, etc. In this, especially for the growing body of younger citizens who get their political education via bloggers and Jon Stewart's "Daily Show," they rival in some ways the traditional influence of veteran reporters and large newspapers.

Finally, as Steve Gilliard writes below, we should look at bloggers' presence at the DNC Convention as a tryout for them, a way of learning how to maneuver away from their virtual desks in the actual political labyrinth that is contemporary politics. Their mettle truly will be tested when they blog next month from the Republican National Convention in New York, where there will be real news inside the hall, and likely real violence outside on the streets.

Enough from me. Check out Steve Gilliard and Josh Marshall on the blogging phenomenon, linked to below. And Robert Dreyfuss on one aspect of the 9/11 Commission's report.

Excerpts from Steve Gilliard's insightful piece on bloggers, "Blogging Boston Part II," about how and why we do what we do, and what it means in terms of those covering the conventions. Here's part of his conclusion:

If bloggers are going to learn how to cover a spot news event, this is the place and time, a relatively friendly event, lots of activity and a small city. Some folks will shine, some will not, but that's the way it is with news. Will we supplant the reporters? No. Because they will do what they do. Will there be a fresh voice for the news? Not really, because this isn't really a news event, so fresh is unlikely.

But, the reason people need to blog the DNC, and there are a lot more than 30 people going to cover this thing, is to learn what they can and cannot do. This is a good way to break into the big time of reporting on things and not just commenting on them. People shouldn't judge the DNC as a test of bloggers, per se, but a training experience, one hopes more like Taranto than Dieppe. There are a lot of smart, thoughtful people blogging, but few who have ever covered spot news.


Because the RNC will be serious business. There won't be time to learn and to figure things out. I expect serious confrontations and some open hostility to the RNC and their delegates. People will have to know what kind of risk they feel comfortable with, and things they can deal with. I wouldn't send any inexperienced people into New York's streets in August. It won't be smiles and pats on the back.

Josh Marshall www.talkingpointsmemo.com  is puzzled by the swiftness with which blogging has gone mainstream, the dangers therein, and what their presence at the DNC might mean:

When I see the mainest of mainstream outfits buying into the [blog] concept or the model, I really don't know what to think. The best way I can describe my reaction is some mix of puzzlement and incredulity.

I've always thought of this as just a vehicle for writing -- a mix of reporting and opinion journalism, done in a format that allows a maximum degree of flexibility, not bound by limitations of space -- the need to write long or short -- or any of the confining genre requirements that define conventional journalism.

The whole thing is mystifying to me.

Over at Tom Paine.com, Robert Dreyfuss examines one aspect of the 9/11 Commission's Report:

Five Things Wrong With The 9/11 Report

I’m going to spend some time this week pointing out five things wrong with the 9/11 Commission report—one each day. A thorough job could be, well, 567 pages long, which is the size of that bulky, now-a-best-seller tome. It has some good stuff in it, mostly in the form of on-the-record documentation. But there are many flaws, some of which are dangerous ones.

So what’s wrong?

Thing One. There is a scary rush to judgment about implementing the Big Brother-like recommendations of the commission. You wouldn’t think that officials and members of Congress would pay that much attention to the opinion of a Republican governor of New Jersey et al. when it comes to matters of reorganizing the intelligence community. But the politicians don’t want to be accused of dragging their heels when it comes to implementing all 567 pages, in case there is a pre-election terrorist incident. Adding fuel to the fire are the families of the 9/11 victims. Let’s be honest here—having endured the tragedy of a terrorist attack doesn’t make you an expert in fighting terrorism. The commission’s proposal for reorganizing intelligence is wrong-headed and scary. It would create a Big Brother that even the authors of the USA PATRIOT Act wouldn’t have dreamed of.

First, the commission proposes the creation of a National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). It would have two functions: intelligence and operations. Of its intelligence function, the commission says: “The NCTC should lead strategic analysis, pooling all-source intelligence, foreign and domestic, about transnational terrorist organizations of global reach.” Operationally, “The NCTC should perform joint planning. The plans would assign operational responsibilities to lead agencies, such as State, the CIA, the FBI, Defense and its combatant commands, Homeland Security, and other agencies.” According to the commission, the head of the NCTC “must have the right to concur in the choices of personnel to lead the operating entities of departments and agencies focused on counterterrorism, specifically to include the head of the Counterterrorist Center, the head of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, the commanders of the Defense Department’s Special Operations Command and Northern Command, and the State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism."

Then the commission would couple this all-powerful new entity with the creation of a National Intelligence Director. The NID would be an intelligence czar, overseeing both foreign and domestic intelligence collection and analysis. "The National Intelligence Director must be able to directly oversee intelligence collection inside the United States.” The NID would also have authority to “approve and submit nominations to the president of the individuals who would lead the CIA, DIA, FBI Intelligence Office, NSA, NGA, NRO, [parts of] Homeland Security and other national intelligence capabilities.” And the NID would control their budgets. The NID would also oversee covert operations. And: “The head of the NCTC would report to the national intelligence director.”

In tandem, the NCTC and the NID would create an intelligence power of truly awesome scope. Because terrorism is essentially a political crime, as the ACLU reminds us constantly, counterterrorist investigations always involve politics, dissidents and rebels. It’s not like investigating crimes, or like intelligence on war-making capabilities of nations. Just as the Patriot Act knocked down the “wall” between the CIA and the FBI, making it far easier to conduct domestic spying operations against American citizens not suspected of a crime, the NCTC-NID combination would concentrate the power to carry out domestic spying in all-powerful nexus, located (where?) in the White House. The NID would report directly to the president, or to the “POTUS,” in the pompous wiring diagram in the commission report. Says the report: “The intelligence entity inside the NCTC .. would sit there alongside the operations management unit, … with both making up the NCTC, in the Executive Office of the President.”

Such changes in our foreign and domestic spying capabilities cannot, and should not, even be considered in the months before a presidential election, with each party competing with the other to show how tough on terrorism they are. I expect that normal bureaucratic resistance will happily block the commission's radical plan this year, but you never know. One thing we do know: If Osama bin Laden & Co. are planning some attack this year, the commission's Big Brother plan won’t stop them—whether it’s enacted or not.

July 29, 2004


How can one NOT talk about the Democratic National Convention? It's the best show in town.

Sure, its outcome is known in advance, it's a whole lot of positioning and spinning, it's a creaky ritual dance. But there also is high drama offstage and on.

Our text today is the rift behind the Dems united front for Kerry. The delegates, 95% of whom are adamantly opposed to the Iraq War, are trying to follow the party line of not bashing Bush too openly on that disastrous conflict -- even Dennis Kucinich and Howard Dean bent to that line -- and instead are mostly talking about hope and health insurance, positive programs and the like. (There were a few heart-warming exceptions that laid some good wood on Bush over Iraq: President Jimmy Carter,  Rev. Al Sharpton,  Teddy Kennedy, and, to a certain extent, the Big Dawg, Bill Clinton's address).

The Dem delegates, and many of us on the outside looking in, are so desperate to get rid of the Bush crowd, that we're willing to give Kerry a free pass to do and say what he feels he has to do or say in order to win the election. We sense in our hearts that the true policies of Kerry with regard to Iraq, Israel-Palestine, and the use of America's sole-superpower status in geopolitics -- which we trust are somewhat different than what he is saying now -- will come to the fore after the November victory.

But there is a great deal of nervousness about Kerry's security-first approach, about his unwillingness to take on Bush frontally over Iraq, on 9/11 pre-knowledge, on the torture scandal, and so on.


Indeed, the nerve-wracking part of the Kerry Campaign's foreign policy -- at least as described Tuesday night by keynoter Barack Obama, and Wednesday night by John Edwards and General Shalikashvili -- was the apparent decision to attack Bush from the right on Iraq rather than from the left: more stay-the-course language, more military might and the willingness to use it (with our old allies) in Iraq and elsewhere, more promise of security for Israel but not even a bone thrown to the Palestinians in return, etc.

Now, maybe all that is just a daring campaign ploy, to throw Rove and the rest of the Bushies into a tizzy, to out-hawk the hawks, but it makes me nervous no end because part of me wonders whether Kerry really believes that stuff. If so, and he were to win, the U.S. would be in for one long slide downward in world affairs, and we'd better be prepared for more terrorism emanating from the extreme Islamists in the Middle East and beyond.

Now, as I say, many of us supporting Kerry are hoping these extreme positions, some of which out-Bush Bush, are derived of campaign strategy, and will change drastically once the Dems come into power. (We may know more after Kerry's acceptance speech on Thursday.) If all this talk is a campaign ploy, let us hope that it works and that Kerry will not alienate the anti-war base that is the heart of the Democratic Party. But, at heart, it's a terribly risky and potentially self-destructive strategy -- and may be even more insidious, if truly believed.

We'll work and vote for Kerry, to be sure -- the alternative, in foreign and domestic policies, is too horrendous to do anything but work for Bush's defeat -- but we progressives know we may have to redouble our efforts for change in America's approach to the world after Election Day, regardless of who wins.


As I say, I'm not the only one made nervous by the apparent Kerry foreign-policy direction. Here's Tikkun's Michael Lerner, for example, emailing from Boston:

The rhetorical thrust of the convention has been overwhelmingly militaristic, insisting that Kerry will be strong by sending MORE troops, giving better support to the army and to those returning from service, but failing to give any serious respect to the majority of Democrats who have served their country by NOT FIGHTING, by rejecting and demonstrating against the war. The war-makers in both parties should rejoice, but the peace forces are being isolated. All in the name of "winning."

..."Winning is everything--we've got to beat Bush." Yet to beat Bush there needs to be a coherent vision that can speak to people in a way that makes them believe that something can really be different.

This is what worries many of the delegates when you talk to them away from the pandemonium of the convention hall. They want a winner, and for that reason are willing to go with the Kerry strategy...Their great fear, expressed constantly in small conversations, is that this big gamble may not excite many of the increasing numbers of Americans who don't bother to vote at all. Looking responsible and balanced to the editorial writers and pundits may get the Democrats praise, but it may not produce the necessary votes to replace the Bushites who are unlikely to be similarly polite or restrained once the campaign heats up in the Fall--and who are not afraid to stand for what they stand for.

...The irony is that the democratic process this past Winter and Spring demonstrated that there are millions of Americans who resonate to this broader vision. They are yearning for something very different--a turn toward peace, social justice, and a whole new discourse of caring. Many of these Americans realize that the rhetoric of American superiority, exceptionalism, and our-needs-above-the-needs-of-everyone-else on the planet--a rhetoric which seems to pop up even in the talks of those thought to be most liberal or progressive in the Democratic party--is precisely what undermines our capacity as a people to envision a world of mutual interdependency. The spiritual vision of The Unity of All Being is side-lined to tin-horn patriotism that ignores all that we've learned in the past forty years.

Yet however powerful that yearning for a different world may be, it has at least temporarily been silenced by the fear of Bush. The ultimate irony may be that it is precisely allowing that vision of a different world--not just the refining of the old liberal politics that have been so uninspiring for the past thirty years--that might have been the most effective way to actually beat Bush. It may yet turn out that this Democratic Convention and the "Bush lite" strategy behind the Kerry campaign may not really be so "realistic" after all.

For more on these Bush/Iraq issues, see also David Corn's "To Bash, or Not Bash Bush? in The Nation, and the Agence-France Press story, "Kerry, Democrats Still Struggling With Iraq."

Blogger Digby first points us to a rival, mainstream journalist blogging, the Washington Post's Harold Meyerson, at the American Prospect website for some news and analysis nuggets not seen elsewhere.

Then he discusses an AFL-CIO caucus plan:

"...on the afternoon and evening of George W. Bush’s speech to the Republican convention -- Thursday, September 2 -- union activists will knock on the doors of one million union households in the 16 battleground states. I like it.

Also he mentions the likelihood of Bush calling Congress back into session right after the Dem convention, to deal with the 9/11 intelligence reforms:

(Of course, this would also have the effect of shifting attention away from the Kerry-Edwards ticket that will be nominated on Thursday.) The Democrats have no intention of having this issue taken away from them, however. [Congresswoman Jane] Harman said that tomorrow morning at 8:00 A.M., House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will convene a Democratic House Caucus meeting here in Boston, which Harman will address, to make sure the Democrats have the fullest possible proposal on the table before Bush acts.

I'm sure you are all aware that the day after the convention is like the afterglow day. The campaign found its big release the night before and smoked its metaphorical cigarette and everybody's in love. For Bush to burst through the bedroom door is pretty darned uncivil but predictable. The Dems are all together and they should be able to formulate a counter strategy.

This is interesting stuff.

Then Digby focuses on a Salon article describing a veterans' caucus meeting where Wesley Clark, Max Cleland and James Carville roused the assembled vets.

In a building riff that brought veterans to their feet, Clark said: "That flag is our flag. We served under that flag. We got up and stood reveille formation, we stood taps, we fought under that flag. We've seen men die for that flag, and we've seen men buried under that flag. No Dick Cheney or John Ashcroft or Tom DeLay is going to take that flag away from us."

Clark's fiery performance knocked the GOP-style stuffing out of the veterans' event, turning it into a Bush-bashing barnburner. By the time Carville reclaimed the stage he was in full sputtering ragin' Cajun mode. "I know the Kerry people back there are having a heart attack," Carville said. "They're saying, 'There goes Carville, the mad dog, the pit bull.'"

Uh huh.

It seems to me that the Kerry campaign's public face of cheery optimism barely holding back the furious grassroots is a pretty good strategy. Everybody keeps parroting the party line like "positive" and "upbeat" when they're talking to the celebcorps while even speakers like Jimmy Carter (?) allude to Bush's national guard service and lying. You end up wondering what they'd be saying if Kerry hadn't "given the word" to be disciplined. He shows leadership and the Democrats look like they're ready for a fight. The Republicans are frustrated because they want the Democrats to make the mistake they made in 1992 and go over the top.

It's as if the Party has Jack Nicholson's smile.

Finally, Juan Cole has a super instant-analysis blog deconstructing Bill Clinton's talk, "Clinton's Low-Key Dissing of Bush." Here are some key paragraphs:

If Bush's world is Manichaean, characterized by a division of human beings into Good and Evil, the Democrats' world is organic, capable of being molded into a smoothly functioning whole. The Manichaean world-view implies warfare, the vision of organic unity allows for peace.

Clinton contrasted the cooperative and idealistic vision of the Democrats with what he depicted as a selfish and cynical opportunism among Republicans:

"We Democrats want to build a world and an America of shared responsibilities and shared benefits. We want a world with more global cooperation where we act alone only when we absolutely have to. We think the role of government should be to give people the tools to create the conditions to make the most of their own lives. And we think everybody should have that chance.

On the other hand, the Republicans in Washington believe that America should be run by the right people — their people — in a world in which America acts unilaterally when we can and cooperates when we have to . . ."

Clinton points to a moment of betrayal, when Bush failed to live up to the expectations of national unity and altruism raised by September 11:

"The president had an amazing opportunity to bring the country together under his slogan of compassionate conservatism and to unite the world in the struggle against terror. Instead, he and his congressional allies made a very different choice. They chose to use that moment of unity to try to push the country too far to the right and to walk away from our allies, not only in attacking Iraq before the weapons inspectors had finished their work, but in withdrawing American support for the climate change treaty and for the international court on war criminals and for the anti-ballistic missile treaty and from the nuclear test ban treaty. Now, now at a time when we're trying to get other people to give up nuclear and biological and chemical weapons, they are trying to develop two new nuclear weapons which they say we might use first."

The attack on Bush is not that he went to war against Iraq. It is that he did so virtually unilaterally, "walking away from our allies." This is a genteel way of saying that the Bush administration humiliated and demeaned France, Germany and later Spain, for not going along with the war or for later withdrawing from it in the case of Spain. Note that Clinton or his speech writer keep the focus on Bush, not foregrounding the allies (France is not popular). The crime is to "walk away" from old friends. Although complaints about this abandonment of old Europe would have had no resonance a year ago, by now it is obvious that it would be awfully nice to have a division each from France and Germany in Iraq, and that the Bush administration's gratuitous insults made it highly unlikely that such help will be forthcoming.

Likewise, the timing of the war rather than the war itself is criticized. The Bush administration orchestrated a UN resolution that put the weapons inspectors back in Iraq, but then attacked "Iraq before the weapons inspectors had finished their work." This impatient unilateralism also led, Clinton said, to the repudiation of Kyoto and other important international treaties. Bush is depicted as rash, hotheaded, impatient, and a dangerous loner.

Now Clinton ties the foreign misadventure to the domestic economy: "At home, the president and the Republican Congress have made equally fateful choices, which they also deeply believe in. For the first time when America was in a war footing in our whole history, they gave two huge tax cuts, nearly half of which went to the top 1 percent of us."

Clinton is saying that you were cheated out of your fair share of the tax break, a tax break that probably shouldn't have been given in the first place because of the extra demands of the war that shouldn't have been fought. The cumulative effect is to raise fears that a series of grave policy errors has been committed and that, worse, it has deleteriously affected you in the pocket book. It is one thing to have the US government mucking things up overseas. It is another for it to cheat you out of your fair share of a tax break.

I suspect that the Kerry-Edwards campaign will pick up on Clinton's themes. Not the war but the rush to war and unilateralism will be critiqued. Not the troops but the Bush administration officials will be faulted. The criticism will be subtle rather than blunt, and the theme will be hope rather than fear.

August 5, 2004


Are the current heightened security alerts a total political scam, to distract from the growing Kerry-Edwards momentum and to get the citizenry once again in a frightened, support-the-government frame of mind? Or is there really something to the four-year-old reports, bolstered by claimed recent "evidence," that al Qaida is planning to unleash a major attack inside America sometime soon?

With all the previous boy-crying-wolf alerts that have come before and amounted to nothing, the American people are somewhat justified in disregarding this one as more of the same political manipulation whenever Bush&Co. need to create a headline and up the fright mode. Plus, in the same period when New York supposedly is endangered by al-Qaida terrorists, the Bush Administration re-opens the Statue of Liberty to public entry in New York harbor. What's that all about?

Unlike many of my progressive colleagues, I happen to think a major terrorist attack may well be in the final planning stages -- something, of course, that the Bush Administration would not be unhappy to see transpire, as they believe it would serve their electoral purposes.

But an attack could backfire on the GOP campaign, as Bush policies abroad -- in Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel-Palestine, the tortures and abuses, etc. -- have ensured that terrorists have more incentive to attack us, rather than less. In that sense, the U.S. citizenry is less secure because of Bush's disastrous, bumbling war in Iraq (and the attendant tortures and humiliations of Muslim detainees) and his unconscionable pullback from trying to arrange a viable Israel/Palestine peace settlement.

It's not America's freedoms and culture that are to blame for our current insecurities -- polls in the Mideast indicate it's Bush's foreign/military policies that create the overwhelming distrust and hatred of this country. If Kerry and Edwards were smart, they'd try to separate themselves from those policies as much and as quickly as they can, and start verbally attacking Bush big time. But, in some key areas, they aren't, and Kerry-Edwards may pay an electoral price for that.


Follow the bouncing bullbleep. The 9/11 Commission issues a report calling for a major overhaul of the entire intelligence structure, appointing a Cabinet-level director in the White House to head it up, with power of the purse-strings and hiring-and-firing authority; without that clout, the Commission said, the director would be a figurehead.

Kerry immediately endorses the proposal. Bush hems and haws for a few days, but, seeing that the issue is playing for Kerry, then says he agrees, and the spin goes out that Bush has come around to the Commission's position and will appoint such national intelligence director.

But Bush's proposal will not give the new director the clout-tools (budget and hiring/firing authority), and would not be in the White House. Bush would appoint the new director as a figurehead -- akin to adding a new, large deck chair on the Titanic -- and make him or her dependent on the political desires of the White House.

Also, it turns out, that if that person was in the White House, he or she would need Senate approval, and would be privy to activities and decision-formation that BushCheney wouldn't want made public, and that wouldn't do.

In other words, the usual flip-flopping and manipulative-spin from the Bush Administration. But it may not fly this time. If there is to be such a new director, that person needs to be independent (a 10-year appointment? why not a shared-directorate of a Democrat and a Republican?), and have the political strength to get things done, which only comes with budgetary and hiring/firing authority.

Go get 'em, John-John!


Paul Lukasiak, whose discoveries about Bush's AWOL scandal could well rock the election campaign and wind up propelling John Kerry into the White House, is one modest guy.

After my most recent blog,  where I quoted from "Bush AWOL: Bush Absent Without Leave While Others Went to Their Deaths," in Corrente,-- a story that detailed Lukasiak's research into Bush's military records -- he emailed me. Lukasiak was upset that I had called him an "expert on decoding old military records," when he really was "just some guy from Philadelphia."

Usually, they wind up describing me as a "researcher" because I did the research, and that is accurate enough. But "expert" goes a bit too far, IMHO.

I do have some small amount of knowledge of punch card data structures from 30 plus years ago---but just by looking at the data lines found in the payroll records, there are obvious patterns that anyone could detect.

I spent a couple of months reading the statutes, DoD regulation, and Air Force policies and procedures, and spent a great deal of time figuring out the rest of the payroll records and "points records" themselves. Having acquired a certain amount of knowledge, the nature and the meaning of the pattern in the payroll data became self-evident.

In other words, all I did was what any reasonably intelligent person could do. The only difference is that I'm the guy who did it. But that doesn't make me an "expert", and I'm really afraid that people will think that I'm presenting myself as something that I'm not."

I couldn't let that rest, so I wrote him back: "You have done what no other journalist or investigator seems to have done -- or perhaps even was capable of doing: dug deep into G.W. Bush's TANG records to form a definitive conclusion on the central question of his service. For this, America is much in your debt."

I asked if he'd mind responding to a few questions about his research and conclusions. His illuminating answers are below.

1. I first inquired what military personnel with whom he'd shared his research had to say about his revelations.

Lots of military personnel have read my stuff, and I get two general reactions --- absolute approval, or complete condemnation ("You don't know what you are talking about" kind of stuff.) With the latter group, I politely write back asking them for specific examples of where I misstated a fact. I've yet to hear back from any of them with such an example.

2. Corrente had posted quotes from Dr. Lawrence Korb, a Reagan-appointed official in the Defense Department, saying that, if Lukasiak's conclusions were correct, Bush would be in legal trouble as absent without leave. Korb said he would look over the relevant documents. Has he yet?

Korb is less than enthusiastic about getting involved in this issue. I have spoken with him, and he is desperately trying to find ways to avoid saying that "bush was AWOL" or words to that effect --- although he acknowledges that is what the records show. I am waiting to hear back from Korb, because I do want to represent his views in a far less sensationalized manner than appeared in RawStory in a footnote to www.glcq.com/missed_weekends.htm...

[From that footnote:] "According to Dr. Lawrence Korb (Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower, Reserve Affairs, Installations and Logistics during the Reagan administration) who examined the payroll records, based on those records in fiscal year 1973, Bush failed to meet his training requirements as established in law and Air Force policy. Dr Korb also noted, however, that Bush had accumulated more than the required number of training credits in fiscal year 1972. Although under Air Force regulations training credits earned in one fiscal year could not be applied toward training requirements in a subsequent fiscal year, Dr. Korb stressed that as a practical matter, Guardsmen would on rare occasions be granted permission by their commanders to accumulate Active Duty training credits in advance in one fiscal year, and apply them to training requirements for the next fiscal year. Dr. Korb also stated that advance permission was required to accumulate these credits in order for this 'informal exception' to the policy and procedures of the Air Force to be permitted.

"All of the points credited to Bush for training in fiscal year 1972 were earned prior to April 17, 1972. According to every biographical account of this year in Bush's life, he was not offered the position with the Blount campaign until May of 1972. Thus, it is clear that even Dr. Korb's 'informal exception' to the laws and policies governing Bush's training requirements was not applicable to the issues that arise from his payroll records."

3. Even though it was unfair and a nearly-impossible task, I asked Lukasiak to try to sum up his conclusions in one paragraph, "one that the American citizenry immediately would grasp, and might be useful in considering whether to vote for Mr. Bush in November." (I have broken up his one long paragraph into more readable chunks; emphasis is supplied.)

One paragraph? Four months of research distilled to one paragraph? Here goes...

An examination of U.S. Statutory Law, Department of Defense Regulations, and Air Force policies and procedures from the early seventies proves that the George W. Bush and his spokesmen have consistently misrepresented the nature and extent of his obligations as a member of the United States Armed Forces.

When considered within their proper legal and policy context, the Bush records effective rebut the White House claim that Bush "fulfilled his duty." When considered as a whole, these documents reveal that Bush spent the last two years of his six-year Military Service Obligation in an active effort to avoid fulfilling the obligations and commitments he incurred upon entering the Texas Air National Guard.

They also show that while some Texas officials aided and abetted Bush's efforts (and others apparently acquiesced to what was happening), there is no reason to question the character of Alabama officials, or Air Reserve Forces personnel as a whole. Finally, the only conclusion that can be reached from an examination of Bush's records for the period after he quit the Air National Guard is that
the Air Force attempted to take punitive measure against Bush, but that political pressure prevented those measures from being carried out.

4. Did he receive any official or other reaction from the Bush Administration or Republican Party?

No. Other than that weird noise in the telephone….but my aluminum hat keeps me safe!

The man has a cool sense of humor, in addition to his amazing, "just-some-guy-from-Philadelphia" research skills.


So, who will be the first mainstream journalist or newspaper/TV network to have the courage to run with Lukasiak's updated findings, and thus put the AWOL Scandal right back into the heart of the presidential campaign?

Place your bets, ladies and gentlemen. Will that journalist come from the right: Bill O'Reilly at Fox? Not bloody likely. Or the right-center: Tom Brokaw or Tim Russert at NBC, Dan Rather at CBS, Peter Jennings at ABC? Probably not.

So where is the so-called "liberal media" that supposedly controls the information flow in America? Why isn't this updated story on the front page of the New York Times or Washington Post or Boston Globe or Los Angeles Times? Or on "60 Minutes"? If one of those would run with this story, in a major way, the Kerry Campaign might feel more emboldened to start raising the AWOL issue frontally rather than just sniping away by implication.

The partial answer why the media giants haven't touched the Lukasiak findings, is that we, the citizens, haven't demanded it, haven't clamored for it, haven't taken the action that needs to be taken to get it.

But at least Paul Lukasiak is out there, digging in the minutiae of military records to unearth the truth. Add Lukasiak to the pantheon of investigative and analytical heroes that includes Daniel Ellsberg, John W. Dean, Paul Krugman, E.J. Dionne Jr., Molly Ivins, Arianna Huffington, Jim Hightower, Josh Marshall, William Rivers Pitt, and a host of others banging away for truth inside and outside the establishment media circles.

Thanks to them, we might actually get our government back in November from those reckless, incompetent ideologues that, unless they're stopped in November, could take the country down with them.

Enough from me. There are so many great bloggers out there with so many insightful commentaries. Too many to reference here this time. Go to our Recommended Blogsite list, and check out some or all of these blogs, daily. Get in the flow of the news, as it happens.

Then take your anger into the campaign arena and make sure Bush gets his pink slip in November. Electorally outsourced.

August 3, 2004


There are lots of pressure-cooker pots building up steam on the Bush Scandal Stove. I think the Democrats have figured out which one is about to blow first.

If I'm right, the Dems hyped their candidate's war-record at the Convention not only to demonstrate that Kerry would make an effective commander-in-chief, but also because they believe Bush's AWOL scandal is about to explode big-time.

Check out this story by Lambert, "Bush AWOL: Bush Absent Without Leave While Others Went to Their Deaths," in the July 31, 2004 Corrente).

Rove dumped a huge load of documents in recent months, which he was sure would reveal nothing incriminating about Bush's National Guard service, and besides none of the mainstream journalists know how to read the military codes and jargon anyway. He didn't count on an internet investigator named Paul Lukasiak, who is an expert on decoding old military records.

The story documents how Lukasiak has come to the conclusion in the headline, based upon a careful reading of Bush's own supposedly "cleansed" records.

When informed of the findings, Lawrence J. Korb -- Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower, Reserve Affairs, Installations and Logistics under Ronald Reagan from 1981-1985 -- concluded:

Given proof that Bush missed five months of Guard training sessions, [Korb] said that Bush would be considered AWOL.

"If you don't show up, you're absent without leave, by definition," Korb said.

No more than ten percent of sessions could be missed without them being made up, he asserted. He added that President Bush should have been mandated to serve active duty if he missed even two months of service in a fiscal year -- "24 months of active duty minus the amount of active duty already served -- you would be put on active duty and sent wherever they needed you," he said.

At the time Bush was serving in the Texas Air National Guard, Korb himself was serving in the Naval Reserve, the Navy's equivalent of the National Guard, where he served from 1966 to 1985. He dismisses suggestions that the Guard was being lenient about service at the time.

"At that time they were very strict about [Guard/Reservists] fulfilling their obligations -- and we don't like to say it, because this was a way to avoid the draft and going to Vietnam."

He was unable to examine Bush's payroll records at his home on Friday, but is expected to formally confirm that Bush had failed to complete his required duty in 1972, therefore rendering him AWOL, at his office Monday.

A Reagan-official saying this -- dynamite! As soon as this story hits the mainstream media outlets -- which one will have the guts to go first? -- a whole lot of something is going to hit a mighty big fan.

And the Dem strategy at the convention will yield an enormous political jackpot.

Xan at Corrente also posts a fascinating story of the FBI once again (remember Coleen Rowley?) cracking down on a whistleblower within its ranks. ("Too Homegrown to be a Terorrist?"). This agent, Mike German, told how the bureau squelched an investigation of American militia-type terrorists, who might be forging an alliance with foreign terrorists. Well worth reading.

Also in Corrente:  Lambert's insightful piece ("The Big Bounce") about a quickie survey taken in Cincinatti by Republican pollster Frank Luntz. He polled 20 swing-voters in a GOP focus group, 14 of whom had voted for Bush in 2002. After hearing Kerry's convention speech, only four of those say they'll vote for Bush. That's in Ohio -- Republican heartland country!

The momentum is swinging to Kerry, as more and more Republicans -- the elite generals and former Reagan/Bush1 staffers, as well as ordinary rank-and-file -- peel away from the corrupt, reckless, incompetent Bush&Co. administration.

Over at ##Kos, ToqueDeville has a must-read commentary, "Everyone Should Take Action on Computerized Voting Machines," that states the case for the danger of massive voting fraud in November, and what can be done about it.

Quick summary:

Kerry's numbers won't mean anything with computerized voting machines. Nor will those of dozens of Democratic House and Senate candidates.

People steal elections. They will if they can. With computer voting, they can and there's no way to stop it or prove that it happened.


What will it take? Last night I saw Michael Moore and Bill Maher begging Ralph Nader not to run. They should have been begging Tom Daschle and Nancy Pelosi to get off their fucking asses and demand that these voting machines be taken out.

Everyone, please. This is the November surprise: Bush is down 7 points in Ohio. And yet somehow wins by 3. Compliments of ES&S and Diebold.

Keep raising money by all means. But for the sake of democracy itself, it's time to raise hell on computerized voting machines.

And from [Ronnie Dugger's article in] The Nation:

On November 2 millions of Americans will cast their votes for President in computerized voting systems that can be rigged by corporate or local-election insiders. Some 98 million citizens, five out of every six of the roughly 115 million who will go to the polls, will consign their votes into computers that unidentified computer programmers, working in the main for four private corporations and the officials of 10,500 election jurisdictions, could program to invisibly falsify the outcomes.

The result could be the failure of an American presidential election and its collapse into suspicions, accusations and a civic fury that will make Florida 2000 seem like a family spat in the kitchen. Robert Reich, Bill Clinton's Labor Secretary, has written, "Automated voting machines will be easily rigged, with no paper trails to document abuses." Senator John Kerry told Florida Democrats last March, "I don't think we ought to have any vote cast in America that cannot be traced and properly recounted." Pointing out in a recent speech at the NAACP convention that "a million African-Americans were disenfranchised in the last election," Kerry says his campaign is readying 2,000 lawyers to "challenge any place in America where you cannot trace the vote and count the votes" [see Greg Palast, "Vanishing Votes," May 17].

For those who still question whether Republicans will do ANYTHING to win an election, check out this item, reproduced by ##Atrios.  If this was the Nixon crew then, what do you suppose Rove and the boys would be capable of now?

The blog item reproduces the tale of the Nixon Plumbers -- White House hoods led by G. Gordon Liddy to harm or even assassinate investigative journalist Jack Anderson, who was regarded as much too nosy by the Nixon folks.

Here's the audio link to the conversation between investigative journalist Mark Feldstein, who's written a book about Anderson, and NPR's Brian Naylor. And here's the money quote:

They discussed various ways they were going to kill him. First, they talked about putting LSD in his drink. The trouble was as Mormon and a teetotaler, he didn't drink alcohol. So that was out. So then they talked about making him crash in an automobile accident, but they would have to go to the CIA and use a special car for that. So finally G. Gordon Liddy volunteered to kill Anderson himself personally by knifing him, slitting his throat, and staging it as a mugging that would look like a Washington street crime. At the last minute, this assassination plot was aborted, and a few weeks later, the men were arrested in the Watergate break-in and never had a chance to put their plan into operation.

Read the whole item, it will scare the bejusus out of you, even knowing that Liddy and the other Plumbers went to jail for other misdeeds in the Watergate Scandal. (Liddy, by the way, had Watergate schemes to kidnap anti-Vietnam-war leaders organizing outside the GOP convention, and even to drop them from helicopters over the ocean.) Real nice, solid-Republican guys.

Check out Digby  for commentary on this important, doesn't-make-sense story by the Washington Post's Dafna Linzer, "Administration Now Opposes Inspections as Part of Nuclear Treaty ."

Yeah, that's right. Nuclear weapons that could wind up in the hands of terrorists would no longer be inspected under the Administration plan. You figure it out. It's just nuts. Is Bush overdosing on his anti-depressants?

Moving on to uranium, Juan Cole briefly takes us through the history of the phony Niger-yellowcake-uranium story, now that the Italian fraudster Rocco Martino has admitted he is the source of the false stories and forged documents that Bush and Blair used to hype the "nuclear threat" from Saddam's Iraq.

For even more on this important, convoluted story -- and its ties to the Plamegate scandal, where "two senior Administration officials" outed a CIA agent by name -- see the blog by Josh Marshall  who has been working on this story for the past six months.

Finally, after reading my new Crisis Papers essay, "Letter to European Friends: America's Weird Election Dance," you shouldn't be surprised that I'm posting these comments by Jonathan Schell, from his article "Strong and Wrong" in The Nation:

"I will be a commander in chief who will never mislead us into war. I will have a vice president who will not conduct secret meetings with polluters to rewrite our environmental laws. I will have a secretary of defense who will listen to the best advice of the military leaders. And I will appoint an attorney general who will uphold the Constitution of the United States."

I know, I know: It's essential to remove George W. Bush from the White House, and Kerry is the instrument at hand. I fully share this sentiment. But I am not running for anything, and my job is not to carry water for any party but to stand as far apart from the magnetic field of power as I can and tell the truth as I see it. And it's not too early to worry about the dangers posed by the Democrats' strategy.

In the first place, they have staked their future and the country's on a political calculation, but it may be wrong. By suffocating their own passion, they may lose the energy that has brought them this far. They have confronted Bush's policy of denial with a politics of avoidance. Bush is adamant in error; they are feeble in dedication to truth. If strong and wrong is really the winning formula, Bush may be the public's choice.

In the second place, if Kerry does win, he will inherit the war wedded to a potentially disastrous strategy. If he tries to change course, Republicans -- and hawkish Democrats (Senator Joe Lieberman has just joined in a revival of the Committee on the Present Danger) -- will not fail to remind him of his commitment to stay the course and renew the charge of flip-flopping. But the course, as retired Gen. Anthony Zinni has commented, may take the country over Niagara Falls. Then Kerry may wish that he and his admirers at this year's convention had thought to place a higher value on his service to his country when he opposed the Vietnam War.

Comments anyone? Click here crisispapers@comcast.net  to reach us.

August 12, 2004

Rove-Induced Nervousness

It's only mid-August, but the election campaign is on for real. And there's something about Karl Rove's political strategy that makes me nervous.

The national polls and those in state after state -- including several of the toss-up states -- show Kerry either ahead, even with Bush, or moving up. Yet the GOP is doing little more than solidifying its base. It doesn't seem to feel, as do the Kerry folks, that their candidate needs to tack to the middle in an attempt to pull in the more moderate, uncommitted voters.

It must be clear to Rove that the Republicans can't win the election by just playing to and energizing their rock-hard base -- which might yield them 35-40% of the vote -- so why are they engaging in this seemingly self-defeating strategy? That's what makes me so nervous.

Oh, I suppose one could say that they're just as incompetent in campaigning as they are in running the war in Iraq -- however, Rove and his minions may be dumb, but they ain't stupid.

No, what worries me is that, even though in some ways they seem more and more desperate, their play-to-the-base strategy suggests that they have something up their sleeve, something they figure will provide them the votes they need without having to go out and court them.

What could those "surprises" be? Let's re-examine the major possibilities.


In most states, touch-screen voting machines will be used, with no verified-voting backup in case there has to be a recount. It's long been demonstrated that it's easy for programmers to fiddle with the computer vote-counting software -- or hackers can do it -- and not be detected. This might well have happened in the 2002 election.

As Stalin said, it's not who votes that count, but who counts the votes; in most cases, the same companies that manufacture the computer-voting machines (the three main ones are owned by arch-Republicans) tally the results.

Plus, voting rolls have been purged in several key areas of thousands of minority voters who likely would go for the Democrats. Or tricks have been employed to remove Democratic voters from the rolls, such as sending in fictitious change-of-address forms to county registrars.

So maybe Rove&Co. figure they're set in those states that do not seem to care about the integrity of the voting process -- where the voting officials, believe it or not, also are major players in the BushCheney campaign structure. Florida is one of several examples; remember Gov. Jeb Bush and Katherine Harris in 2000?


Rove figures their surrogate dirty-tricks groups can slime Kerry big-time, thus reducing the Democratic candidate's momentum. Take the so-called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, for example -- which should be renamed Swift Boat Veterans Who-Never-Served-With-Kerry for Bush -- who are bought and paid for by Republican bigwigs, to question Kerry's war heroism. (For a sharp rebuttal, see Republican Jim Rassman's story, "Shame on the Swift Boat Veterans for Bush" in the Wall Street Journal.)

Rove is a great believer in the Big Lie Technique: doesn't matter how outrageous it is, just keep telling it, just keep pounding it, and after awhile, the citizenry begin to believe it -- or at least hear it so often that they begin to wonder about the reality of the other candidate's honesty and motives.

Even Bush-supporting Senator John McCain, the Republican war-hero who spent half a dozen years in Hanoi prison during the Vietnam War, couldn't stomach those lying attacks by the Swift Boat vets, and said so in no uncertain terms. He urged Bush to disavow such tactics, but (surprise!) Bush declined. McCain said those slimy tactics were used on him by the Bush campaign in 2000, when he was moving up in the polls. So now -- you guessed it -- the slime machine is going after McCain, questioning his patriotism, his war-record, and even his years as a POW.

This GOP sliming is par for the course. They have no scruples, and no shame. They did it to Georgia Senator Max Cleland in the 2002 race (the Vietnam war vet, who left three limbs in that country, lost after shameful GOP advertising questioned his patriotism), they did it to Senator McCain in the 2000 campaign (and now again in 2004), and they're attempting to do it with the Smear Boat Veterans for Bush in the current race.

Another plus for Rove: These slime attacks on Kerry, and Teresa Heinz Kerry, force the Democrats to waste precious time, money and staff on combating the smear, when those resources could be used in going after Bush's sorry record domestically and overseas.

The negative for the GOP is that it reminds voters of Bush's AWOL status -- see Paul Lukasiak's voluminously-researched "Deserter" article -- during his Texas Air National Guard days. Which may lie at the heart of the major slime attack on Kerry, hoping that by tarnishing the Dem candidate's war record, the issue of military service will be a wash for both candidates.


There may or may not be any actual al-Qaida plans for a major terrorist attack between now and November, but Bush&Co. figure it's a win-win regardless of what transpires.

If there is a major, 9/11-level attack -- and I, for one, believe it is entirely possible -- Rove is poised to manipulate the citizenry's fear, as was done after 9/11. Bush&Co. once again will urge Americans to rally around their government as their best protection against more terrorism, and the GOP will play the don't-change-horses-in-the-middle-of-a-war theme. Many citizens, in their insecurity, may gravitate toward that position.

If there is no major al-Qaida attack (don't forget that the "intelligence" that started the whole thing is nearly four years old) we'll hear Bush&Co. bragging about how well they've protected us from the bad guys, so don't-change-horses-in-the-middle-of...well, you get it.

In either case, they've ratcheted up the population's fear level -- a technique they've been using for years now. You can actually correlate the terror alerts by going to the dips in Bush's poll numbers: major slippage, Ridge or Ashcroft emerge to issue another non-specific terror alert; Bush doing better in the polls, no terror alerts. Amazing how that works.

What Kerry might be able to count on is the citizenry's suspicion that they are being manipulated endlessly by the boy-who-cried-wolf gang at the White House. And, if there is an al-Qaida attack, voters may well realize that Bush's reckless foreign policies in the Middle East -- and by his war of choice in invading and occupying Iraq -- have made America less secure, not more secure, and aided al-Qaida in recruiting more suicidists willing to attack American interests abroad and targets inside the U.S.


As a New Republic story made clear last month, the Pakistanis have been put on notice by the U.S. that they are to produce bin Laden or some of his high-ranking lieutenants before the election. The U.S. wanted someone major caught before or during the Democratic National Convention; sure enough, the Pakistanis produced a wanted al-Qaida operative right on schedule, just before Kerry's acceptance speech.

Rove seems to feel that producing Osama or his key aides will indicate to the public that the "war on terrorism" is being won under Bush's leadership, so why change horses in...you know the drill.

The negative for the Bush Campaign is that we're all a bit wiser now. The war in Iraq became even more of a disaster AFTER Saddam Hussein's capture than it was before, so getting the top honcho doesn't guarantee anything. The U.S. keeps killing or capturing al-Qaida and other terrorist organization's agents and leaders, but it doesn't seem to stop the groups from reforming and carrying out major bombings and assassinations.

Producing Osama or some of his top aides just before the election might well make voters ask why if it could be done now, why couldn't it have been done a lot easier when the U.S. was chasing al-Qaida and Taliban forces in Afghanistan? The big hunt was on and then, suddenly, the U.S. forces were ordered to prepare to attack Iraq, a country with no ties to 9/11 and one that posed no immediate threat to its neighbors or to the U.S.

In short, the capturing or killing of Osama would smack of pre-election manipulation, and might well remind many Americans of the incompetency of Bush's handling of the so-called "war on terror."


We know that Ridge and Ashcroft have been asked to begin researching the possibilities of  "postponing" the election in the event of major terrorist attacks.

If Bush's numbers keep falling, and/or the Plame indictments hit high up the White House ladder, and/or the jobless "recovery" continues to wreak its havoc on the economy, and/or Bush's AWOL history will finally resonate with the press and public, and/or the Torture memos asserting Bush's right to rule by decree reveal even more White House horrors, and/or the Iraq situation sinks even further into the disaster category, and/or...(take your pick as to which other scandal will surface) -- if all or some of those bubbling vats explode, RoveCheneyBush and the rest of the group may just decide that having an election on November 2 may not be such a good idea after all.

Using terrorism, or the "severe threat" of terrorism, as a justification, the Bush Administration might attempt to invoke martial law, indefinitely postpone the election (maybe until the never-ending "war on terror" is over), and Bush&Co. would continue to rule.

Hard to believe that the American people -- even the military -- would go along with this fascist blueprint, but you never know how desperate the Bushies are to hang onto power and whether they'd be willing to risk the public insurrection that would follow. Certainly, by their actions, we know THEY have thought about the possibility of postponing the vote.

Just typing those five possible Rove "surprises" got my heart racing. What may save us is the growing anger and activism of the American people -- Democrats, Independents, even many solid conservative Republicans. Let us continue to build that unshakeable desire and momentum, and get this country turned around.

For some top-flight stories on the ill-advised Bush decision to appoint Porter Goss as the new head of the CIA -- who, even if he were the right person for the job, might well serve only for few months, at a time when the intelligence community already is in turmoil -- check out: Fred Kaplan's "Spies Like Goss: How Much of a Hack Is Bush's CIA Nominee?, Ray McGovern's "Cheney's Cat's Paw, Porter Goss, As CIA Director?", and David Corn's  "A Soft Scold from Goss."

August 17, 2004


Despite all of Bush&Co.'s attempts to change the subject, to get the American people distracted from the unfolding disaster in Iraq, events on the ground inevitably bring us back to that country. Any day that happens is not a good day for George W. Bush.

And it doesn't look like it's going to be a good election campaign in that regard for him either.

Kerry can snipe from the outside about the war-plan and the incompetence of the Administration and its generals, but Bush actually has to produce enough victories to convince the American voters that the U.S. has "turned the corner" in Iraq.

If what's happening in Najaf these days is any indication, that ain't gonna happen.

Per usual, the U.S. has clubfooted itself into a horrific situation. They may kill a huge number of insurgents in Najaf -- and their supporters in other cities and towns in Iraq -- but by launching a major assault on this most holy city in Shi'ite Islam, they have succeeded in uniting most of Iraq's Muslims against them. When nationalism joins with religious fervor, the end game is near.

The U.S. and its interim Iraqi force has attacked inside the huge Valley of Peace Cemetery -- the sacred ground in which Shi'ite Muslims want to be placed after death -- ruining large parts of it, thus desecrating a holy site. (Analogy: Imagine how Americans might feel if the Arlington National Cemetery was bombed by attacking, occupying forces.)

As of this writing late-Monday, the U.S. has not yet attacked inside the Imam Ali Mosque, one of the holiest of shrines in all of Islam, but it's only a matter of time before major damage is done there. (Interim Iraq Prime Minister Allawi says he won't sent Iraq troops into the mosque either, but I wouldn't count on that. Someone is going in there to take control of that sanctuary from the insurgents.) What that happens, it's likely that virtually all of world Islam will be lined up behind the nationalist struggle in Iraq, which is battling, as they see it, to free their country from the occupying Western Christian defilers.

So why, then, did the U.S. take this seemingly self-destructive step? I'm no expert on the Arab world, but I can offer some educated guesses. If you want deep, daily insight on what's happening in Iraq -- from a longtime expert in the Middle East, well connected and well-versed in Arabic -- be sure to check in regularly with Juan Cole.  See also Gary Leupp's article, "The Attack on Najaf: The Ultimate Stupidity".


The first supposition is that the attack derives, as with everything in Iraq these days, from the presidential campaign in America. Short version: Better now than two months from now, as U.S. voters are making their final decision.

Expanded version: Bush&Co. must stabilize the security situation in Iraq, so as to give the appearance to U.S. voters that things are "under control" in that country. In order to do that, Allawi, our man in Baghdad, must appear to be fully in charge of his people. Ergo, Muqtada al-Sadr must be wiped out, both as a military force and as a political force.

The problem is that you can't have both. The more Sadr's militant militia is attacked, the more popular the Sadr movement becomes as a political force -- the only one with any organized armed forces willing to stand up, openly, to the military behemoth that is America. (And if Sadr is killed, he will be regarded as a martyr by the faithful, and his movement will grow even larger and more determined.)

But Bush&Co. apparently believe that it's worth taking the political heat -- and the American troops' deaths and maimings -- now, rather than closer to the November election. If their gamble pays off, they figure, nobody will remember what happened in the dog days of August.


Make no mistake about it, the Bush Administration is rolling the dice here, and the stakes are enormous: the future of Iraq, who will speak for Shi'ite Islam in that country, the viability of the U.S.-friendly interim government, Iran's growing role in the region, the American election.

Will the gamble work? Conceivably, it could -- enormous firepower slaughtering the heart of the Mahdi Militia. But my guess is not. The U.S. has poked its bumbling military finger into the Islamist hornet's nest in Iraq, and, one way or another, it is going to get stung badly, again and again, by outraged Islamic nationalists, both Shi'ite and Sunni. They have an unlimited supply of nationalist warriors, and great patience; the U.S. is constrained by political realities, and hampered by the fact that, as in Vietnam, its soldiers don't really know why they're there.

In short, it's possible that the U.S. military may win something in the short run that they can call a victory in Najaf, and elsewhere, but they will lose the larger war in and for Iraq. Because, as was the case in Vietnam, this is not a military battle but a political one -- where the opposition sees the fight as a war of national liberation for its own land and honor.

For Bush and his friends, it's about control, oil, a military foothold in the region, altering the politics of the Middle East. It's losing hand for the U.S. any way you look at modern nationalist history.


The scariest news these days is that the next wars are being slowly, carefully, planned for.

How else to read the report that the U.S. is going to pull 100,000 of its troops from Europe and elsewhere and send them home, for eventual redeployment. Despite all the military denials that this is anything more than good military planning, giving Pentagon officials more "flexibility" ( for what?), "in case of need" (where?), it seems clear that there is much more here than meets the eye.

Let's be blunt. The U.S. military is stretched mighty thin these days, given Rumsfeld's desire to keep the force lean and mean for rapid deployment to hot spots around the globe. Iraq troop strength is insufficient, likewise in Afghanistan; he's having to use the National Guard and Reserve troops as an "unofficial draft," and is using "stop-loss" procedures to keep troops who have served their time from going home. No wonder there aren't many re-ups in the Guard and Reserves and among those who have served in Iraq.

The Pentagon needs bodies. It's activating more Guard troops; it's stepping up its recruitment campaigns (great scenes of two such Marine recruiters trolling for new recruits in "Fahrenheit 9/11"); it's calling up former soldiers -- even some in their 60s; it's withdrawing 3500 troops from South Korea and moving them to Iraq; and you can bet on it that, only AFTER the election, the Selective Service System will be ready to administer a re-activated draft of young men and women, perhaps as early as June of 2005.


That need for bodies partially explains Bush's plan to close numerous bases in Europe -- plus doing so not-so-subtly "punishes" the Germans for not supporting the war in Iraq -- and redeploy a good many of them to areas closer to military flashpoints, such as Russia's former satellite states near the Caucuses: good staging areas for South Asia. And, if the U.S. can hang on to its bases in Iraq, it will have good staging areas for the Middle East.

In short, the U.S. will be well-positioned to "rapidly deploy" to wherever the U.S. has growing geopolitical interests, that is to say where the oil is.

The neo-conservative ideologues, the same ones that got the U.S. into Iraq, are keeping a low profile these days -- so as not to call attention to themselves and their cockamamie imperialist ideas as the election campaign heats up -- but they are still in powerful positions in the Pentagon, White House and State Department, and their goals are still the same.

They're still set on remaking the geopolitical and strategic map of South Asia and the Middle East -- to control the oil flow in those regions, to protect the U.S.'s major Mideast ally Israel, to bring Bush's version of "democracy" and "free-market capitalism" into "backward" Arabic and Caucuses countries. This will be done, it is hoped, not by occupying those states, at least not for long, but by setting up easy-to-influence, U.S.-friendly governments that will do America's bidding.

To do that, America needs a credible threat of the use of force. Taking 100,000 troops out of Europe and having them ready for quick action in Iran or Syria or Azerbaijan or Saudi Arabia or wherever is definitely helpful in creating that credible threat. Stay tuned for the fireworks.

Question for the Day: Now that Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez survived his recall election -- he got nearly 60% of the vote -- how many days do you think will transpire before the Bush Administration initiates a covert attempt to overthrow him in a "popular" coup? A clue: Venezuela has LOTS of oil.

Enough from me. Some really good blogging going on. Check out our Recommended Blogsites.

No time left to do other than to suggest that you might well want to start off with Digby, the aforementioned Juan Cole  ), Josh Marshall, Kevin Drum, Corrente, Kos, Steve Gilliard -- and last but by no means least, Crisis Papers' own Ernest Partridge.

August 20, 2004


When I first joined the San Francisco Chronicle, in the early 1970s, I found myself drawn to the wire room. I enjoyed being in the presence of the clickety-clakking teletype machines, spitting out real-time news from the various wire services -- AP, UPI, New York Times, Washington Post, Agence-France Press, Reuters and so on.

I got to read all the latest reports and commentaries on the disaster that was the Vietnam War, the unfolding Watergate scandal, and so on. It was an illuminating experience, but not just because I was on the "inside" of the news industry, reading first what we were about to publish -- and, more importantly, NOT publish -- in a few hours.

All this in the way of an introduction to today's opening point: What isn't published -- especially what isn't published on the front pages, or don't appear as lead items on TV newscasts -- often is much more revelatory of what's really happening than what the editors and publishers decide the citizens should see and hear.

Just one recent example, among many: John Kerry and George Bush were campaigning in Portland last week. Kerry drew 50,000 to the shores of the Willamette River to hear his talk. About 2000 cherry-picked guests got to hear Bush speak. Guess what story got the big play in the national news that evening? You guessed it.

Kerry appears at venues and events that are open to the public. Sure, his campaign staff makes sure that there are lots of union folks and vets in the audience, but anybody can come. Kerry is often faced with Bush-campaign hecklers, trying to drown him out.

Bush appears only at events where no spontaneity is possible, since those in attendance must sign "loyalty oaths" that they support his candidacy. Those regarded as suspicious -- wearing a Kerry pin might do it -- are summarily turned away. At the so-called "Ask the President" sessions that are included in some of Bush's events, he gets puff-ball questions from the adoring faithful.

How many citizens who read their papers and watch the news are aware of the numerical and partisan makeup of the crowds that attend their speeches? Precious few, I would guess, based on how the conglomerate-owned media slants the coverage.

Still, despite this media bias, and the vast amounts of slime and sleaze emanating from Karl Rove's dirty-tricks department, Bush continues to slide in the polls in many of the toss-up states, and Kerry continues slowly to climb, actually leading in a good number of those states.

Glory be! The citizenry are finally coming around to an "enough-is-enough" frame of mind.

For the rest of this column, here are some wonderful items from some of my favorite fellow bloggers.

The Swift Boat Vets for Bush slime-campaign is imploding, thanks to the over-the-top lies, the sleazy backgrounds of the leading spokesmen, the Republican bigwigs who are financing their operation. You can read the dirty details at the esteemed Josh MarshallDigby, and Steve Gilliard.

Kerry, as his political history attests, is a scrapper. So, finally, he's taking the gloves off and is starting to hit back. Check out his speech Thursday to the International Association of Fire Fighters; here are the key relevant paragraphs:

Over the last week or so, a group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth has been attacking me. Of course, this group isn’t interested in the truth – and they’re not telling the truth. They didn’t even exist until I won the nomination for president.

But here’s what you really need to know about them. They’re funded by hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Republican contributor out of Texas. They’re a front for the Bush campaign. And the fact that the President won’t denounce what they’re up to tells you everything you need to know—he wants them to do his dirty work.

Thirty years ago, official Navy reports documented my service in Vietnam and awarded me the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts. Thirty years ago, this was the plain truth. It still is. And I still carry the shrapnel in my leg from a wound in Vietnam.

As firefighters you risk your lives everyday. You know what it’s like to see the truth in the moment. You’re proud of what you’ve done—and so am I.

Of course, the President keeps telling people he would never question my service to our country. Instead, he watches as a Republican-funded attack group does just that. Well, if he wants to have a debate about our service in Vietnam, here is my answer: “Bring it on.”

I’m not going to let anyone question my commitment to defending America—then, now, or ever. And I’m not going to let anyone attack the sacrifice and courage of the men who saw battle with me.

Just a hunch on my part, but I think Xymphora may be a tad angry at the media, especially over the recent "apologies" by the New York Times and Washington Post for hyping the Administration's WMD bullbleep prior to the Iraq invasion.

The problem with these newsprint confessions is not that they are craven, insufficient and self-serving, which of course they are. The problem is that, on the whole, they do not correct the pre-war mistakes, but actually further them. The Post would have you believe that its 'failure' before the war was its inability/reluctance to punch holes in Bush's WMD claims.

Right. I marched in Washington against the war in February 2003 with about 400,000 people, and I can pretty much guarantee that not more than a handful of those people gave a shit about whether or not Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. That's because we knew what the Post and all of these other papers still refuse to admit - this whole thing was never about weapons of mass destruction. Even a five-year-old, much less the literate executive editor of the Washington Post, could have seen, from watching Bush and his cronies make his war case, that they were going in anyway.

For God's sake, Bush was up there in the fall of 2002, warning us that unmanned Iraqi drones were going to spray poison gas on the continental United States. The whole thing—the 'threat' of Iraqi attack, the link to terrorism, the dire warnings about Saddam's intentions - it was all bullshit on its face, as stupid, irrelevant and transparent as a cheating husband's excuse. And I don't know a single educated person who didn't think so at the time.

The story shouldn't have been, 'Are there WMDs?' The story should have been, 'Why are they pulling this stunt? And why now?' That was the real mystery. It still is."

We all knew. There were no weapons of mass destruction. It was always a lie, and a supremely obvious lie. The Washington Post and the New York Times didn't just report the lie, they participated in it. To put it in legal terms, they aided and abetted the gross breach of international and American law that the Bush Administration pulled on the American Congress and people by tricking them into an unnecessary and disastrous attack on Iraq. The apologies or explanations are self-serving and deceitful.

Neither Judith Miller nor the editors of the Times are as stupid as we are supposed to think they are, and the editors of the Post just had to read their own articles by Walter Pincus, published but hidden deep within the paper, to see what was really going on.

... Bush has managed, with the help of his crooked 9-11 commission, to portray the weapons fiasco as a problem of intelligence. This is nonsense, as the intelligence was completely irrelevant.

...Bush was going to go to war regardless of what his intelligence said or didn't say, and the Post and the Times knew it. Despite this, they published article after article repeating and reinforcing the warmongering lies of the Bush Administration. There are four real journalists in the United States who wrote on this issue: Seymour Hersh, Walter Pincus, Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay. Everyone else is either a traitor or just a waste of space. If you think you get the truth reading either the Washington Post or the New York Times, you are a fool.

GOP officials and secretaries of states around the country are moaning and groaning that they simply aren't able to alter their recount policies this close to the November election. So this August 18th story about the recount going on now in Venezuela is instructive; from the Corrente blog (scroll down to "Dept. of Cheap Ironies"):

The referendum was carried out on touch-screen voting machines, which produced a paper receipt of each vote, much like an ATM. Voters then deposited the receipts into a ballot box. Amid charges that the electronic machines were rigged, the monitors will be checking the results from the machines against the paper ballots to make sure there are no major discrepancies. The paper ballots will be checked at election offices while votes recorded in the machines will be examined at an army base.
(via The Globe and Mail)

There are several moves afoot to try to head off the looming computer-voting scandal. Given that the GOP controls the Congress, neither is likely to pass, but they're worth discussing and moving on anyway.

The American public would not put up with another suspect, vote-counting election in November, after the disputed one in 2000 -- and maybe some Republicans might come over and join the call for a transparent vote-count.

One initiative involves a bill that will be submitted to Congress after the August vacation, entitled the "Federal Paper Ballot Act of 2004 - Insist on Hand Counted Paper Ballots." The essence:

(1) All votes for federal offices shall be cast on paper ballots.

(2) All votes for federal offices shall be hand counted at the polling places where the votes were cast, and the manual count shall constitute the official count of the votes.

(3) Manually-tallied precinct totals for all federal offices shall be prominently posted at the polling places before the ballots are transported to the central facility.

(4) In any jurisdiction where votes for federal office are also counted by machine, the machine totals for federal offices shall be posted at the location where the votes are machine-counted.

(5) All absentee votes for federal offices shall be counted by hand, and the totals shall be posted at the central election office.

(6) This act is effective on the date of enactment.

The other is a petition beginning to circulate that would bar the Congress from certifying the electors from any state where there is no voter-verified paper ballot trail. Here are the key paragraphs (by e-mail from Nina Moliver, Moderator, NotMyPresident@yahoogroups.com):

...A bill to require official paper trails for all electronic voting has been held up in committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. Jeb Bush, Governor of Florida and brother of the Republican presidential candidate, has blocked all efforts to install a voter-verified paper trail for Florida’s machines.

Even international monitors, film crews and teams of lawyers on Election Day will be unable to prevent inaccurate electronic election results from being sent to the state and certified.

As a result, we face the very real possibility that for the second presidential election in a row, vote tampering and disenfranchisement will stop the winner of the election from taking office.

We hereby call on all Senators and Congresspeople who support democracy to PLEDGE to REJECT ELECTORS from ALL STATES where :

1. Votes have been cast and counted in a direct-recording electronic voting system with no voter-verified paper ballot trail or with such a trail that has not been counted and used to provide the official election results, AND

2. Where, with no verifiable recount done, the outcome of the vote tally is either very close or is significantly different from that which was reasonably expected on the basis of exit polls or the most recent public opinion polls.

For absolutely vital posts about the deteriorating situation in Najaf in particular, and Iraq in general, check out:

Juan Cole's, "What Does Muqtata al-Sadr Want?", and Kos'
Failing to Understand Guerrilla War".

Pick Out the Flip-Flopper Department

Want to see an egregious Bush flip-flop? Check out David Sirota's "THEN & NOW: Bush & the Great Lakes:


Even though experts say "diverting any water from the Great Lakes region sets a bad precedent" Bush "said he wants to talk to Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien about piping water to parched states in the west and southwest." He said, "A lot of people don't need [the water], but when you head South and West, we do need it."
- AP, 7/19/01; Bush statement, 7/18/01


"We've got to use our resources wisely, like water. It starts with keeping the Great Lakes water in the Great Lakes Basin. You might remember what my opponent said earlier this year about Great Lakes water diversion. He said it would be a delicate balancing act. It sounds just like him. My position is clear: We're never going to allow diversion of Great Lakes water." - Bush, 8/16/04

Which Candidate Understands the Real Threat?

Check out Atrios' ##delicious dissection of Bush, hell-bent for years for a missile defense shield, while Kerry wanted and still wants to focus on terrorism and al-Qaeda

August 24, 2004

GOP Skulduggery, Slime, Spin and Sleaze

OK, after these opening paragraphs, this blog will be a Swift Boats-free zone. Enough already. The point seems to be that the GOP's initial sliming did its work, throwing outrageous charges into the air, just to see if some of them would stick in the public mind. They did for a few days, but then it turned out that the Kerry Campaign was able to locate even more eyewitnesses to the senator's bravery in river-boat Vietnam action, and the Bush Campaign found itself being denounced from the political left, right and center for continuing its sleazy character-assassination. (For a trenchant summing up, see Juan Cole's "Bush's Superficial Wounds in the Vietnam Era").

So yesterday, Bush tried to call a halt to the whole issue. He didn't say anything about the Swift Boat liars and order them to stop their mendacious ads. Instead, he denounced all ads by all independent organizations commenting on political issues. The ads coming from MoveOn.org and other such liberal organizations really roast the Bush campaign, and Rove wants them to go away. They won't. So prepare for even worse slime, sleaze and spin from Rove and his surrogates. Especially since the poll numbers in more toss-up states are falling again for Bush.

We won't know until probably October -- when the near-final polls come out -- whether Bush&Co. are seriously going to follow through on their legal preparations to "postpone" the election. Or, if Bush's electoral prospects look truly bleak, whether they will move to "red alert" and initiate a state-of-emergency in certain voting regions on Election Day.

They've already prepared a legal memorandum that, if the GOP-controlled Congress approves, would give the Executive the power to "limit the movement" of citizens under certain election-day scenarios -- that is, voters might be permitted to cast votes in, say, Kansas, but not in California. More significantly in this scenario, a candidate (guess which one) could win the presidency on the basis of the votes cast. See here  and

In the meantime, there is the sticky issue of computer-voting machines and the lack of a way to verify the tallies, since there is no verified-voting paper trail provided by most of the machines.

But why would the companies who manufacture those touch-screen voting machines not want to provide such a paper trail? Well...the major companies are owned by rabid Republicans, and, often, they are the same companies hired to tally the votes! And they refuse to let anyone examine their software that counts the votes.

Now, according to Corrente's Lambert, it turns out that the situation is even worse than we thought. The companies that certify the voting technologies of those machines also are Republican-leaning. According to Associated Press reporter Bill Poovey, in a story entitled "Secretive Testing Firms Certify Nation's Vote Count Machines":

A Colorado company under contract to ensure that the nation's touch-screen voting machines are accurate has been a substantial contributor to Republican candidates and groups.

At Greenwood Village-based CIBER, employees and some spouses have donated more than $72,000 to GOP candidates and groups during the 2001-2002 and 2003-2004 election cycles, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan watchdog group.

Democratic donations linked to the firm were $3,000 during that time.

"What should raise eyebrows is that our U.S. government and state governments allow this to happen," she said. "There's been nothing done to dissuade the perception that there's partisan control over the voting process."

CIBER isn't the only company in the voting machine business at which people are actively involved in politics. Walden O'Dell, chief executive of Ohio-based Diebold Inc., the parent of electronic voting machine maker Diebold Election Systems, has helped raise funds for President Bush. O'Dell attracted attention last year after sending a letter to Ohio Republicans to raise money for the GOP, noting his commitment to "helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."

Douglas Weber, a researcher for the center, called CIBER's donations to Republicans "substantial."

"They're not one of the major donors. But they do give a substantial amount of money," he said.

The Center for Responsive Politics found $5,750 worth of campaign contributions from Wyle Laboratories for this year's election. All of [Wyle] money went to Republicans, including $1,500 to President Bush.

OK, now, [writes Lambert] let me see...

The voting machine manufacturers are Republicans...

The voting machine testers are Republicans...

The testing process is entirely secret....

The voting machine software is entirely secret...

Swing states Ohio (home of Diebold) and Florida (fraud in 2000, already) are using electronic voting machines that are manufactured, tested, and run by Republican firms...

No! They would never do that!

More, at another item from Corrente -- that estimable, six-person blogging collective -- on the same topic:

The three companies that certify the nation's voting technologies operate in secrecy, and refuse to discuss flaws in the ATM-like machines to be used by nearly one in three voters in November.

Despite concerns over whether the so-called touchscreen machines can be trusted, the testing companies won't say publicly if they have encountered shoddy workmanship.

They say they are committed to secrecy in their contracts with the voting machines' makers - even though tax money ultimately buys or leases the machines.

"I find it grotesque that an organization charged with such a heavy responsibility feels no obligation to explain to anyone what it is doing," Michael Shamos, a Carnegie Mellon computer scientist and electronic voting expert, told lawmakers in Washington, D.C.

The system for "testing and certifying voting equipment in this country is not only broken, but is virtually nonexistent," Shamos added.

Failures involving touchscreens during voting this year in Georgia, Maryland and California and other states have prompted questions about the machines' susceptibility to tampering and software bugs.

Also in question is their viability, given the lack of paper records, if recounts are needed in what's shaping up to be a tightly contested presidential race. Paper records of each vote were considered a vital component of the electronic machines used in last week's referendum in Venezuela on whether to recall President Hugo Chavez....

More than a decade ago, the Federal Election Commission authorized the National Association of State Election Directors to choose the independent testers.

On its Web site, the association says the three testing outfits "have neither the staff nor the time to explain the process to the public, the news media or jurisdictions." It directs inquiries a Houston-based nonprofit organization, the Election Center, that assists election officials. The center's executive director, Doug Lewis, did not return telephone messages seeking comment.

The election directors' voting systems board chairman, former New York State elections director Thomas Wilkey, said the testers' secrecy stems from the FEC's refusal to take the lead in choosing them and the government's unwillingness to pay for it.

He said that left election officials no choice but to find technology companies willing to pay.

"When we first started this program it took us over a year to find a company that was interested, then along came Wyle, then CIBER and then SysTest," Wilkey said of he standards developed over five years and adopted in 1990.

"Companies that do testing in this country have not flocked to the prospect of testing voting machines," said U.S. Election Assistance Commission chairman DeForest Soaries Jr., now the top federal overseer of voting technology.

A 2002 law, the Help America Vote Act, created the four-member, bipartisan headed by Soaries to oversee a change to easier and more secure voting.

Soaries said there should be more testers but the three firms are "doing a fine job with what they have to work with."

Wilkey, meanwhile, predicted "big changes" in the testing process after the November election.

I can imagine...[writes Lambert]

But critics led by Stanford University computer science professor David Dill say it's an outrage that the world's most powerful democracy doesn't already have an election system so transparent its citizens know it can be trusted.

"Suppose you had a situation where ballots were handed to a private company that counted them behind a closed door and burned the results," said Dill, founder of VerifiedVoting.org. "Nobody but an idiot would accept a system like that. We've got something that is almost as bad with electronic voting."
(via ##AP).

Is your hair on fire yet? [Lambert asks] If I had any, mine would be.

[Weiner here] All the more reason to get through to your legislators in Congress, DEMANDING that this whole shoddy, shaky, possibly corrupt computer-voting scheme be put in hold for at least this election. The only way we'll have an honest, non-suspicious vote in November is to have paper ballots, hand-counted.

In any case, vote absentee in advance, by paper ballot. Keep your receipt.

Finally, back to the Middle East/East Asia scholar Juan Cole for his Monday take on the U.S. attack on Najaf.   The entire piece, "Egyptian Mufti: Volcano of Anger Over Najaf," is well worth the read; here are some key paragraphs:

...Some of my readers have suggested to me that it doesn't matter what Americans do, since Muslims hate them anyway.

This statement is silly. Most Muslims never hated the United States per se. In 2000, 75 percent of Indonesians rated the US highly favorably. The U.S. was not as popular in the Arab world, because of its backing for Israel against the Palestinians, but it still often had decent favorability ratings in polls. But all those poll numbers for the US are down dramatically since the invasion of Iraq and the mishandling of its administration afterwards. Only 2 percent of Egyptians now has a favorable view of the United States.

It doesn't have to be this way. The US is behaving in profoundly offensive ways in Najaf. U.S. military leaders appear to have no idea what Najaf represents. I saw one retired general on CNN saying that they used to have to be careful of Buddhist temples in Vietnam, too. I almost wept. Islam is not like Buddhism. It is a far tighter civilization. And the shrine of Ali is not like some Buddhist temple in Vietnam that even most Buddhists have never heard of.

I got some predictably angry mail at my earlier statement that the Marines who provoked the current round of fighting in Najaf, apparently all on their own and without orders from Washington, were behaving like ignoramuses. Someone attempted to argue to me that the Marines were protecting me.

Protecting me? The ones in Najaf are behaving in ways that are very likely to get us all blown up. The US officials who encouraged the Mujahidin against the Soviets were also trying to protect us, and they ended up inadvertently creating the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Such protection, I don't need.


Radical Islamist terrorism is a form of vigilantism. Angry young Muslim men see their own governments doing nothing about Israeli dispossession of the Palestinians, and bowing to US adventures like Iraq, and they grow disgusted. They have no hope of getting their governments to do anything about what they see as profound injustices. So they form small groups of engineers or other professionals and take matters into their own hands.

That is exactly the kind of phenomenon [Egyptian mufti] Gumaa is warning against. He is right about the volcano of anger.


August 26, 2004

Big Lies, RNC Protests, Computer-Voting, and Najaf

It's still too early to tell how damaging the Smear Boat Vets lies will be on Kerry's momentum. Maybe not at all, especially as the entire episode seems to be imploding in Karl Rove's face as the GOP ties are revealed, the testimony is retracted, more and more witnesses emerge to back up Kerry's story, and the editorials from the right, left and center urge a halt to such mendacity.

But the Big Lie technique (which also will be on view at the upcoming Republican National Convention) is not designed to do anything other than muddy the waters and get voters to start wondering about the attacked politician.

The hope was that Kerry's support would be significantly weakened by the time Bush accepts the crown at the RNC Coronation -- I mean, Convention -- in New York City. And, as a corollary byproduct of the Smear Boat brouhaha, the nation's voters would be distracted and therefore wouldn't be paying much attention to the weakening economy and lack of new-job creation, to the unfolding Abu Ghraib scandal (the reports blaming everyone from Rumsfeld  down to the local commanders), to the change in the overtime law that will hurt many middle-class families, to the deteriorating situation in Iraq, and so on.

Finally, on the Smear Boat story -- and then we'll move on to the RNC convention and other matters -- here's Salon's Scott Rosenberg, with some analysis of note:

Facts are nearly irrelevant here; this is about punching John Kerry and seeing whether he punches back, and how hard. If he fails to punch back, he's exposed as a sissy who's not tough enough to defend America. If he does fight back, the Bushies simply point at him -- as they have already begun to -- and claim that he's lost it, he's "wild-eyed" and unreliable and unfit to be president.

It's exactly what every Democratic strategist knew was coming. It's cunning, and inevitable, and low. And I think the only answer for the Kerry campaign is to call Bush out, directly, on its lowness. The trouble, of course, is that as long as you're responding to fraudulent Swift Boat Veteran ads you're allowing Bush to dominate the agenda. You need to punch back hard, and only then move on.

George Bush is acting like a latter-day Joseph McCarthy -- albeit one smart enough to use shadowy surrogates for his dirty work and retain semi-plausible deniability. So the best way to stop him, I'm convinced, is to stand up and call out his campaign's slime for what it is. (The new Kerry TV ad, "Old Tricks," begins to take on this job.)...

There will be at least two major stories coming out of New York when the RNC opens. One is what is happening in the hall -- a stealth convention, showcasing the more moderate elements, who have little say-so in Bush&Co.'s actual policies, while hiding from view most of those extremists really in charge -- and the other is what's happening outside, on the streets.

Inevitably among hundreds of thousands of protesters, there will be a few violent, anarchist types out to make mischief, along with GOP provocateurs in the crowd instructed to smash windows, attack police and so on. Rove already has plans in place to use whatever violence ensues -- whether provoked by the police and provocateurs or actual demonstrators -- as ammunition with which to bash Kerry and the Democrats. ("See, these are the pro-Kerry hoodlums who will take over and destroy your property and peace-of-mind unless you vote for the law-and-order Bush/Cheney ticket.")

Lots of good articles and blogs around this very topic.

Rick Perlstein's Village Voice essay, "Get Mad. Act Out. Re-Elect George Bush," has been getting big play. In it, Perlstein raises a fascinating question: "If resistance against Bush actually plays into Bush's hands, is it really resistance?"

In addition, Perlstein sees the basically formless demonstration as woefully short-sighted, especially in its lack of a coherent political/communciations strategy.

If you leave questions of what you are communicating—to the cops, to the watching public—entirely up in the air, you are not really doing politics at all...

It would have taken all of [the Rev. Martin Luther] King's powers of Christian love, I think, not to laugh in these people's faces. King would never ever simply say, "We need to do what our conscience tells us is important to do," and somehow leave it at that. King planned his insurgencies with the strategic care of a military general, and with the characteristic obsessions of a top-drawer publicist: no risk of arrest, of violence—even when arrest or violence was welcomed, embraced for its communicative power—was ever left to chance. (Today's protesters revel in their embrace of improvisation, as if it were a good in itself.) And he never left the field of battle satisfied with mere moral victory, that his side had demonstrated more righteousness than the other. He always had a concrete political goal, that concrete goal but a step toward his continually evolving transcendent goals...

It is only inane arrogance that gives someone the confidence to pronounce that, magically, "people will understand." They might not understand at all. Instead, what they might understand is: "Bush is better than anarchy in the streets." It ain't fair. But if it all goes down as unplanned, there'll be a whole lot more unfairness coming down the pike in the next four years.


Over at Corrente,  The Farmer, more or less agreeing with the Perlstein thesis, offers an intriguing alternative to raucous mischief:

To be honest, if I had my way, if I were even remotely influential in such matters, I'd call for a silent protest in New York. Absolute silence. Let the GOP come to New York and wander around in a stone dead silence. Blacken your windows New Yorkers. If you do go out on the streets wear black arm bands. Don't go out at night to bars or shows or restaurants. Boycott. It's your city and it's your money. Close your galleries and your shops or hang a black flag in the window as a symbolic gesture. Declare a day of mourning. Just stay home. It won't kill you.

Let the confetti pumped from the RNC shredder machine blow through the streets like so many leaves tumbling along the mainstreet of a plague bit ghostown. If drunken herds of fly-by-night goobers in cowboy hats and Free-Republic tee shirts want to stumble up and down Broadway or the lower east side at two am so be it. Let em do it all by themselves. Chill them with the sounds of silence. That would be the spookiest most powerful message I think New Yorkers and political activists could deliver. If the noisiest city in the world went stone cold quiet - well, you get my drift. Unfortunately I know thats way too much to hope for (especially at this point) and especially after reading what RP has to say.

And unfortunately the minute one single storefront window is broken or one single limousine leaving Rockefeller Plaza is delayed in traffic by a die-in, the bow-wow-wowsers and clangor horns and high steppers of television "news" theater cabaret will go into gran-mal seizures of seismic propotions. A bellowing whooping deafening squall. Red Meat! And you know that's exactly what they want. And you all know whose butchered rosy flanks will be served up at their cheery little corporate TV media buffet.


Over on the other end of the spectrum, there's old leftie Tom Hayden urging protesters to let it rip. In his "Dissent Must Come Alive in New York," Hayden concludes that a rip-roaring protest might convince those who like order above all that this is what America might look like everyday if Bush gets another term.

Adding to the preconvention tension is the floating rumor that Karl Rove, President George W. Bush's campaign strategist, is laying a trap for the protesters, counting on the very fact of disorder to bolster the president's image as a strongman. In this view, protesters are supposed to behave themselves lest they throw the election to Bush.

I say Karl Rove is overrated. Despite untold campaign funds, he couldn't win a majority for Bush in 2000. His script for Iraq called for an easy "mission accomplished." His tax cuts were supposed to generate a jobs boom. Social issues like gay-lesbian marriage were to fuel a permanent Republican majority in Congress. Nominating Bush in September, uptown from Ground Zero, was to be as triumphal as entering the new Baghdad. Clearly, Rove's script is in tatters.

Defending the GOP convention as if it is the Green Zone in Baghdad may not instill national confidence in the commander in chief. A confrontation in New York could be a sign that four more years of this president's policies will destabilize our country as needlessly as his Iraq adventure and trillion-dollar tax cuts for the wealthy. Many voters could conclude that Bush, if he wins in 2004, will plunge the country into strife not seen since the '60s.


Steve Gilliard, who will be out in the streets of "Angertown" covering the protests, provides a different perspective, concentrating on the massive demonstrations that will be organized by labor and non-violent groups. Here he talks directly to Perlstein about his article:

Cops and firefighters are likely to be out in the streets protesting as well. There is much less of a challenge to authority than what was going on in Chicago, 1968. Also, many people [then] were spoiling for a fight, on both sides.

Now, if it was the kids running the show, as it was in 1968, bad things might happen. But the people running the protests here are a lot older and a little smarter.

If the A31 [anarchist] people want to get arrested, fine. Who takes them seriously. After all, Rove has been using that Hitler entry on Move On for months. He wants to use them, fine. The problem for Rove is the Union protests, the organized stuff coming from the black church, NOW, NARAL and the serious people, not rich kids from the burbs. They will just get abused from New Yorkers and laughed at as they go to jail.
The people you quoted can barely shave and bathe, much less organize some kind of protest. Besides, their ranks have cops all over them.

If you had some serious protest planned, would you be in the papers bragging about it? I wouldn't.

Also, as the Yahoo article indicates, the hostility is not just limited to goofy kids with bad fashion sense. It's widespread, from the pages of the New Yorker to people in the street. A sense of betrayal lingers in the air, even if people can't nail it down specifically.

There's a feeling that the convention is the reason to let people know exactly how much we don't really like Bush. Some may see this as ingratitude, but it's really anger at being screwed like a plank of wood on This Old House. It's not just angry kids. It's much of the city, and the reasons are hardly obscure. Wayne Barrett lists
10 ways Bush has screwed New York.


Digby's tack is somewhere in the middle, and predicts how the mass-media will play the protests if violence gets out of hand:

"I'm all for protesting as a tactic if it's organized to make a political point. As emotional catharsis or an exercise of tribal identity it only hurts the ball club. I'm hoping that the NYC protest story is one entertaining and pointed "Billionaires For Bush" style political theatre, not anarchy in the streets.

If the worst happens, it should be noted, however, that one of the reasons that the 1968 [Democratic] convention anarchy was helpful to Nixon was that there had been a succession of real riots in various cities. There had been huge protests in the streets and on campus. There was tangible social upheaval in the country that made the confrontation with police at a political convention all the more dramatic. Nothing like that kind of civil unrest exists today (yet) so the backdrop that made the convention protests such a powerful image for Nixon to exploit as the "law and order" candidate isn't there.

The best Bush can hope for is to make it a matter of "values." I don't know how much punch that really has, but it is true that the media loves to go all Claude Rains on us whenever there's the tiniest hint of resistance to the bourgeois values that everybody pretends to hold (while they watch porn and pop prescription drugs.) If violence breaks out or someone does something too edgy you can bet that we'll be treated to another huge dose of phony sanctimony from the millionaire celebrity press corpse.


As for me here at The Crisis Papers, I hope and pray for mammoth demonstrations and protests, those that by their creativity and determined wit will garner widespread media attention to the issues behind public revulsion at Bush&Co.'s high crimes and misdemeanors.

Widespread violence would permit the GOP-friendly mass media to focus there, rather than on the issues, and could influence key middle-class swing voters in the toss-up states.

I hope for the former, but I've participated in enough demonstrations to know two things: there are crazies in any political demo just itching to provoke and battle the cops; and, there often are, and there certainly will be in New York, provocateurs in the employ of reactionary forces (read: Rove), anxious to make the nightly news-focus the violence and not the issues.

Two final items:

1. The siege of Najaf appears to be winding down with a seeming "victory" for U.S. policy. Here's Juan Cole's wise analysis  on the battle itself -- a militarily unwise one for al-Sadr's militia to have initiated and in the way it was fought -- and on Sadr's future as a key Iraqi leader.

...Muqtada and his main aides have disappeared from the shrine, as I had predicted they would. As I suggested, there are probably underground tunnels. Muqtada has plenty of safe houses in Iraq, since he eluded Saddam for four years, and he won't be easy to find if he doesn't want to be found.

My guess is that the Sadr Movement will now go into an active, long term guerrilla resistance. They will hope that bombings and assassinations will give heart to the public and provide a model for resisting what they see as the occupation. They will hope for an Algeria-style end game, in which the Americans and British are tossed out of Iraq. The drawback for the Mahdi Army is that they are just untrained Shiite ghetto youth, with perhaps a few older vets among them, and their ability to wage an effective guerrilla struggle is untested. So far they have fought far more stupidly than the resistance fighters in the Sunni Arab areas, attempting to take and hold territory and behaving like a mainstream army but without the necessary skill set.

If they move in this direction, they will at least have moral support of a wide range of Sunni and Shiite clerics, who jointly called for all Muslims to support the resistance to what they call the US occupation of Iraq. The signatories include prominent figures in the Sunni Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, in Lebanon's Shiite Hizbullah, and in Yemen's Sunni fundamentalist movement. Most of the clerics signing the call want an Islamic state in their country, with Islamic law the law of the land, and so can be called fundamentalists.

But most of them are not radicals in the sense of wanting a violent and immediate revolution. Some, like Yusuf Qaradawi, explicitly permitted Muslims to fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan in the US military or alongside it. But Qaradawi and the others see Iraq in a different light, as an Arab, Muslim society that has been colonized by an outside force, the U.S.

The low intensity guerrilla fighting in Amara against the British base, which left at least 12 dead and 54 wounded there, may be a sign of things to come. There were also clashes in the southern oil port of Basra.


Here, almost lost in the fog from the Swifties and the Olympics, are two other important articles that should be receiving widespread attention:

1. Citizen resistance to voting on easily corruptible computer-voting machines, those with no verified paper trail for accurate re-counts, have won victories in a number of large states, among them Ohio and California. But most citizens in most states will wind up casting their ballots by those machines, and therein lies the opportunity for Rovian mischief in counting those votes.

Check out "Sum of a Glitch," a new article by Black Box Voting's Bev Harris -- one of the leading activists and researchers on the whole touch-screen voting issue -- in
In These Times.

In the Alabama 2002 general election, machines made by Election Systems and Software (ES&S) flipped the governor’s race. Six thousand three hundred Baldwin County electronic votes mysteriously disappeared after the polls had closed and everyone had gone home. Democrat Don Siegelman’s victory was handed to Republican Bob Riley, and the recount Siegelman requested was denied. Three months after the election, the vendor shrugged. “Something happened. I don’t have enough intelligence to say exactly what,” said Mark Kelley of ES&S.

When I began researching this story in October 2002, the media was reporting that electronic voting machines are fun and speedy, but I looked in vain for articles reporting that they are accurate. I discovered four magic words, “voting machines and glitch,” which, when entered into a search engine, yielded a shocking result: A staggering pile of miscounts was accumulating. These were reported locally but had never been compiled in a single place, so reporters were missing a disturbing pattern.

I published a compendium of 56 documented cases in which voting machines got it wrong.

How do voting-machine makers respond to these reports? With shrugs. They indicate that their miscounts are nothing to be concerned about. One of their favorite phrases is: “It didn’t change the result.”

Except, of course, when it did

Harris then meticulously documents some of the most egregious errors. Scary stuff.


2. The situation in Najaf seems to be resolving, with what can be played by Bush&Co. as a seeming "victory." Here's Juan Cole, with a more sanguine view of what transpired there, how the al-Sadr militia made a politically unwise decision to take on the U.S. frontally in Najaf, and what major role Sadr will play in the guerrilla war against U.S. occupation.

...Muqtada and his main aides have disappeared from the shrine, as I had predicted they would. As I suggested, there are probably underground tunnels. Muqtada has plenty of safe houses in Iraq, since he eluded Saddam for four years, and he won't be easy to find if he doesn't want to be found.

My guess is that the Sadr Movement will now go into an active, long term guerrilla resistance. They will hope that bombings and assassinations will give heart to the public and provide a model for resisting what they see as the occupation. They will hope for an Algeria-style end game, in which the Americans and British are tossed out of Iraq. The drawback for the Mahdi Army is that they are just untrained Shiite ghetto youth, with perhaps a few older vets among them, and their ability to wage an effective guerrilla struggle is untested. So far they have fought far more stupidly than the resistance fighters in the Sunni Arab areas, attempting to take and hold territory and behaving like a mainstream army but without the necessary skill set.

If they move in this direction, they will at least have moral support of a wide range of Sunni and Shiite clerics, who jointly called for all Muslims to support the resistance to what they call the US occupation of Iraq. The signatories include prominent figures in the Sunni Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, in Lebanon's Shiite Hizbullah, and in Yemen's Sunni fundamentalist movement. Most of the clerics signing the call want an Islamic state in their country, with Islamic law the law of the land, and so can be called fundamentalists. But most of them are not radicals in the sense of wanting a violent and immediate revolution. Some, like Yusuf Qaradawi, explicitly permitted Muslims to fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan in the US military or alongside it. But Qaradawi and the others see Iraq in a different light, as an Arab, Muslim society that has been colonized by an outside force, the US.

The low intensity guerrilla fighting in Amara against the British base, which left at least 12 dead and 54 wounded there, may be a sign of things to come. There were also clashes in the southern oil port of Basra.


Finally, Charles Pierce at The American Prospect has a marvelous article that borrows from the Olympics gymnastics competition to make a powerful, satiric point about George W. Bush.

Due to an error by those mysterious folks in blazers who sit there like the politburo used to sit, Yang was given a start value that was too low. Great huffing and blowing ensued, and Trautwig -- who assuredly has a job at FOX whenever he needs it -- made sure to give the Korean an I-told-ya-so kick two nights later when Yang screwed up in the high-bar competition

Anyway, I like the start value. I think it's an interesting, charmingly egalitarian concept. For example, let's say you want to stay president of the United States. For most of the first 40 years of your life, you're a conspicuous ne'er-do-well, even in a family notable for them....

You are backed in several business ventures, all of which crater, but out of which you are helped from the wreckage by many of the people who were your stake horses to begin with. You do well selling your percentage of a baseball team to one of your family's best friends. You become governor of Texas and then, despite receiving half a million votes less than the other guy, you become president of the United States after nearly a decade of relative peace and prosperity.

For a year or so, you serve no apparent function in the office. However, a really bad thing happens, and the country and the world rally to your cause. Over the next three years, you squander almost all of that goodwill. A war into which you had to euchre the nation goes terribly bad. The economy remains narcoleptic. And then it's time to run for president again. You don't exactly stick the landing, but you throw your arms in the air and give the judges your best and biggest smile. But you know you have trouble.


Start values.

Start value on the life was only a 9.315. All that money. All that influence. Not a very complicated routine at all.

Start value on the business career was only about a 9.175. There's no such thing as a high-risk maneuver if you're not going to be allowed to fail.

Start value on the political career was a little higher, 9.58, but only because you never showed you wanted to do the routine at all. Still, though, low risk. You blew the landing in 2000, but the other guy did worse.

Start value on the presidency, well, here's where it gets tricky. The original one -- based on that decade of peace and prosperity -- was about a 9.0. Then the really bad thing happened, and the judges ratcheted it up to a 9.7, which came down gradually as almost everyone got behind you, and the judges adjusted it again to a 9.5. But the routine came apart in midair, and there's some ungainly flailing right now as the routine reaches its most critical elements, next week in New York, where an awful lot of people are going to wonder when in the hell all the plates fell off the sticks.

August 31, 2004


The big stories of the past few days, as usual, are all related: the spy-mole(s?) inside Donald Rumsfeld's inner circle, the Republican National Convention, and Bush's continuing AWOL saga while his surrogates attempt to smear Kerry for his war and protest record.

On the spy-mole story, I have a confession. I don't know what to make of it. We are only a few days into this complex tale, so it's difficult to get perspective on how far and wide this scandal goes. (For some introductory sources, see below.)

Three key points strike me:

It's not even clear what the issue is here. Is the scandal that one of the DoD's high-up analysts, with influence in the shaping of Iraq and Iran policy, might have passed top-secret information to the Israeli government? (Although why that route would have been taken, when the Mossad has a firm relationship with American intelligence, remains a mystery.)

Or, as the investigation proceeds, are we heading in a deeper direction? Could it be that the FBI is closing in on a whole rat's nest of off-the-books, neo-con foreign policy initiatives that involve key elements in the Middle East puzzle? Could the operation involve the same players that, in effect, got the U.S. into a war with Iraq, and want to get us into an attack on Iran, for motives that benefit other countries in that area of the world, with American soldiers serving as spearpoints ?

Not clear. This is like opening an onion, with lots of layers. Stay tuned.


The old proverb -- "Whether the stone hits the pitcher or the pitcher hits the stone, it isn't good for the pitcher" -- is apt. Bush&Co. is going to take a big hit here as this scandal unfolds. The "war-on-terror" administration not only can't capture -- and up until recently didn't seem all that interested in -- Osama bin Laden, the terrorist leader responsible for 9/11, but it's got classified information leaking to foreign powers from the office of the third highest civilian official in Rumsfeld's Defense Department.

If the heat gets too intense, I'd look for Doug Feith's quick resignation, and maybe even Rumsfeld's. Feith, the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, ran the PNAC-dominated Office of Special Plans (OSP) -- which cooked the "intelligence" that provided the phony justifications for invading Iraq. During that same time, apparently, at least one and maybe more underlings were passing on classified information on Iran to Israel. And possibly to Ahmed Chalabi, the sleazy leader of the Iraqi exiles who may well have been a double-agent for Iran.

Lieutenant Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski, who worked with the OSP -- and who resigned, appalled at the lax controls there and by the heavily politicized "intelligence" work being done under Feith's direction -- has reported that Israeli officials often would be invited into Feith's offices, without having gone through any of the required sign-in procedures. It was no secret that Iraqi exiles apparently also had easy access, foremost among them Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress.

This Administration was very big on buttering up those whom it considered its allies in the South Asia/Middle East region. Let us not forget that the Saudi Arabian ambassador, two months before the Iraq invasion was launched, was shown the top-secret war maps.  Bob Woodward reports that the map's classification was "TOP SECRET NOFORN. The NOFORN meant NO FOREIGN -- classified material not to be seen by any foreign nation."

Bush&Co. are total incompetents, as the above examples make clear, and may well have done immeasurable damage to America's national security. I suspect the spy/mole scandal at the Pentagon is only the tip of a very large and nasty-smelling iceberg.

Question: Will the Kerry Campaign drop the ball again, or will they finally pick up this one and run with it? You'd think they'd go for the jugular here, since Bush is campaigning on who can best protect America's national security. Go, John!

(Note: Few of the leading media outlets played this story big on Monday. Not a good sign. Surely, this story has legs. Doesn't it?)


Final point. Since these days everything that happens is connected, in some fashion, to the election campaign (such as the "compromise" solution in Najaf that permitted the Mahdi Army to walk away with weapons, in order to get Iraq fighting off the front pages before the Republican Convention started), we have to ask: Who initiated the probe? And why is it coming to a head now?

The initiators might have been elements within the CIA -- seeking revenge on Bush&Co. for the outing of one of their own agents (Valerie Plame) by White House officials, and for having to take the bad-intel blame for the OSP's shoddy work. Maybe that's true. Too early to tell.

But the timing question may also provide a clue. Maybe Rove knew that this huge spy-mole story was about to pop, and decided to: 1) cut it off at the knees, before all the links to the Israelis and Iranians could be tied down; and/or, 2) get the dirt out now, and hope it would have blown over long before Election Day. Better than having the whole scandal erupt in late-October.

Again, not clear.

All of the above is conjectural analysis, based on the little that's out there in the way of clear, verified information. Make up your own mind. To get a better sense of what's going on, and what it may all be about, I recommend the following sources:


A rich take-off spot is Juan Cole's "Pentagon/Israel Spying Case Expands: Fomenting a War on Iran.". Cole, who has deep contacts throughout the Middle East and South Asia, sees the scandal as "an echo of the one-two punch secretly planned by the pro-Likud [neo-con] faction in the Department of Defense. First, Iraq would be taken out by the United States, and then Iran... Fighting elective wars on behalf of Tel Aviv."

For an important sidebar, check out "Iran-Contra II? Fresh Scrutiny on a Rogue Pentagon Operation"  in the current Washington Monthly. Three well-connected reporters -- Josh Marshall, Laura Rozen, Paul Glastis -- spent six months working on this convoluted, shadowy tale. It involves intrigue, double-dealing and shady participants. "In particular," they write, "the FBI is looking with renewed interest at an unauthorized back-channel between Iranian dissidents and advisers in Feith's office, which more-senior administration officials first tried in vain to shut down and then later attempted to cover up." In short, a rogue operation of neo-con hardliners.

Also, check out
Digby's "Rogue Elements":

Once again we see a marked "impatience" with the unfortunately cumbersome working of democratic government. That this may have happened for the second time in twenty years featuring many of the same people [from the Iran-Contra scandal] is a pretty clear indication that letting bygones be bygones will not do when dealing with this sort of traitorous, undemocratic behavior. The stakes are a hell of a lot higher now that they are crashing airplanes into NYC skyscrapers.

If there is an immediate lesson to be gleaned by the people, perhaps the simplest is that when you have a stupid and easily manipulated man at the head of the government, his minions and courtiers spend all their time jockeying for position and finding shortcuts to get their way. If Kerry happens to win, he really must bite the bullet and see that this is investigated and people are brought up on charges. It's completely unbelievable that these same players came back into government and ran their game all over again. Unbelievable.

See also the New York Times piece, "Officials Say Publicity Derailed Secrets Inquiry," by David Johnston and Eric Schmitt, about one version of the timing question.


In short, this Pentagon scandal is big stuff, and could drag BushCheney down into the political vortex -- unless they decide immediately to cut their losses, sacrifice whoever needs to take the fall (pardon them later), and hope it all dies down. Get on this, John! The media might not do it for you.

To counter the Bush AWOL and spy scandals, we surely can expect that as more such bad stuff hits the Bush fan, there is going to be much more slime and smear (from the Swift Boat crew, and other 527 outfits loaded with cash and a host of talking-point lies) headed Kerry's way. The GOP thinking may be: If we're going to go down, we're going to take him down with us. Then we'll both be covered in filth, and maybe they'll stick with the devil they know than risk going with the new guy.

That seems to be the level of Hell that Rove is comfortable with in this campaign. God help us!

September 2, 2004


It's no longer just speculation. The spy/mole-in-the-Pentagon investigation is much, much bigger than one guy passing some classified info to an Israeli contact. They could be even more potentially treasonous -- and thus VERY harmful to Bush's campaign. Read these two excerpts from
Juan Cole's assessment:

Jim Lobe  argues that the FBI investigation that caught up Pentagon Iran expert Lawrence Franklin is much wider than initially thought, and focuses on the unauthorized transfer to Israel of highly sophisticated military software and designs. Since many Israeli arms merchants connected to the government in Tel Aviv sell to the black market, some of this military technology has ended up in the hands of countries that have poor relations with the US, and some may have ultimately been resold to al-Qaeda.

And, quoting the Boston Globe:

Senate Intelligence and House Judiciary Committee staff members say inquiries into the Near East and South Asia Affairs division have found preliminary evidence that some officials gathered questionable information on weapons of mass destruction from Iraqi exiles such as Ahmed Chalabi without proper authorization, which helped build President Bush's case for an invasion last year.

The investigators are also looking into a more serious concern: whether the office engaged in illegal activity by holding unauthorized meetings with foreign nationals to destablize Syria and Iran without the presidential approval required for covert operations, said one senior congressional investigator who has longtime experience in intelligence oversight.

Cole continues: A pattern of illegal payments for such information is also at issue. Laura Rozen says she has evidence that Pentagon officials paid Manuchehr Ghorbanifar for documents he provided.


In my previous blog on this subject, I speculated that the timing for last weekend's Pentagon-spy leak may have originated in the Bush inner circles. More and more, such appears to be the case. Franklin -- the original subject of the year-long FBI investigation, a key Iran analyst in Doug Feith's Office of Special Plans -- had been cooperating recently with the FBI, leading them into the wider circles of the scandal to contacts in Israel and Iran.

Suddenly, somebody leaks the investigation to CBS News (let's play whose office it originated in: Rove? Cheney? Rumsfeld?), and one can surmise that the investigatory balloon then popped. Blogger Xymphora is perhaps the most cynical:

Already the story is being polished, with Franklin being described as 'naive' and 'strange'. His role in the Pentagon, and even his competence at his job, is also being denigrated. The spin will be that his stupidity may have led him to inadvertently disclose to AIPAC officials information which he did not realize was sensitive. The AIPAC officials will be said to have received this information innocently, and the whole incident will be shelved. As the FBI operation has been 'blown', any investigation of the deep issues will be dropped, with the added bonus that there will be no more wiretaps of AIPAC (I'd like to know which FBI official has such enormous balls that he would approve the surveillance of AIPAC in the political climate in the United States today). The investigation of the Office of Special Plans will be hobbled until Bush wins the election (the FBI is already "wrapping this thing up"), at which point it will quietly disappear. Franklin probably won't even be indited, and certainly nobody at AIPAC will feel the slightest pressure (an apology to AIPAC and to Israel is probably in the works). All in all, a very successful leak.

Stay tuned. This one ain't goin' away.


There is a lot of Democratic gnashing of teeth that the Kerry Campaign is blowing it right now, and that the momentum is swinging way over to the Bush side. See Josh Marshall's blog:

To summarize the well-connected, level-headed Washington insider: there's room for worry, but not panic:

If you're a regular reader of this column, you'll know I've been very critical of the rapid-response from the Kerry campaign (wherever it may have gone to) as well as their seeming disinclination to go on the offensive and stay there.

But the difference between the race today and where it was two, three or four weeks ago is still very small. The difference in the national polls is very slight. The last nine major national polls have ABC (tied), ICR (+3 Kerry), Time (+2 Bush), Fox (+1 Kerry), CNN (+2 Bush), NBC/WSJ (+2 Bush), LAT (+2 Bush), NPR (+4 Kerry), IBD/CSM (tied)...

Let me be clear: Those polls tell me the momentum of the race has clearly moved in the president's direction. And some of the state-by-state numbers (like PA, for instance) show that even more clearly. For all that, though, it is difficult to say that Kerry has lost the race when it's not even clear that he's behind.

Again, this is not a Pollyannaish post. The Kerry campaign needs to get control of the debate back from the president. And they need to start hitting much harder. But Democrats themselves need to be a lot tougher and hardier about the cycles campaigns go through. And that applies to self-serving Democratic 'insiders' too. Discipline pays rewards.

I share the general Dem frustration that the Kerry Campaign took much too long to respond to the lies of the Smear Boat vets. They should have seen what was coming -- that Rove always slimes and always goes for an opponent's strength -- and should have been ready to punch back immediately, not five or six days later.

But they eventually got their act together and the polls indicate that most voters realize the Smear Boat attacks are partisan and originated in the White House, so the belated damage-control worked. (But they'd better be ready for Round 2: attacks on Kerry's anti-Vietnam War statements, and more on his service record.)


The broader point apparently missed by the Kerry Campaign is that they can't let Rove keep setting the agenda. Fighting defense is a losing proposition. Kerry-Edwards need to go on the attack, where Bush is most vulnerable:

* The growing spy-scandal in the Pentagon.

* Bush's de facto status as a military deserter in the early-'70s, when all signs lead one to only one conclusion: when he was supposed to be finishing out his National Guard duty in Alabama, he was AWOL. For the mountain of evidence, see Paul Lukasiak's voluminous research in his article "Deserter," and on his website ( http://www.glcq.com.

* The growing disaster in Iraq.

* The stagnant, sliding economy -- and, as a corollary, the jobless "recovery".


There are eight weeks to go, and Kerry should have finished off Bush long ago with a few roundhouse rights. Instead, he seems content to jab, strike a few glancing blows, and move on. It this rope-a-dope or is this just plain dopey?

Still, Kerry has a good shot at taking Bush down in many of the big swing states. So many conservatives just can't bring themselves to vote for Bush and his incompetent, extremist crew. They may not vote for Kerry, but may well stay home on voting day, which is just as good.

But Kerry can't count on that help from traditional conservative Republicans. Nor should he count on the corporate media doing anything to help. The energy and momentum has to come from Kerry & Edwards -- thus re-energizing the base -- and it has to come now. Later may be too late.


We know how anxious Rove is to drive the Smear Boat lies stake into the heart of Kerry's campaign. So good ol' loyal Republican icon Bob Dole is hauled out to underline the Vietnam lies, and then former President Bush Sr., without ever directly endorsing the Smear Boat lies, says he goes along with Dole's statements since Dole would never smear anyone. Disgraceful!

But here's an even better example of how desperate Bush&Co. are getting. House Speaker Dennis Hastert went ballistic on Fox News Sunday and i
nsinuated that Dem backer George Soros may be getting his money from illegal drugs.

"You know, I don't know where George Soros gets his money. I don't know where - if it comes overseas or from drug groups or where it comes from," Hastert mused. An astonished Chris Wallace asked: "Excuse me?" The Speaker went on: "Well, that's what he's been for a number years - George Soros has been for legalizing drugs in this country. So, I mean, he's got a lot of ancillary interests out there." Wallace: "You think he may be getting money from the drug cartel?" Hastert: "I'm saying I don't know where groups - could be people who support this type of thing. I'm saying we don't know."

Maybe saying something that stupid might make a certain sense a day or two before Election Day -- when it would be too late for Soros to do anything about such slander -- but doing it now, eight weeks out? To borrow a Republican phrase from the Watergate days, if he keeps going after Soros, a man not without resources and connections, he's liable to wind up with his tit in a wringer.

Plus, behaving in such bullying fashion may send a chilling message to other corporate CEOs: If Bush&Co. are crazy enough to do that to a billionaire like Soros, what might they do to me? Maybe these guys ARE too extreme, after al.

Update: Soros has sent Hastert a letter demanding a retraction and apology. Hastert is trying like crazy to slide out from this one, by "clarifying" what everyone heard him say, but he's doing so in a way that continues the slime attack on Soros. What a creep -- two heartbeats from the presidency. And how truly desperate these guys are to remain in power.


1. Atrios quotes Bush's Secretary of Health & Human Services Tommy Thompson on CNN making this wonderful slip-of-the-truth:

I think Arnold Schwarzenegger's, Governor Schwarzenegger's, speech last night was one of the finest I've ever seen at a convention, and I've been going to conventions for 28 years. His speech was outstanding, he gave a portrayal, he painted a picture of why people should be a Democrat, better and more ably than any person I've ever heard before.

[Says Atrios:] Indeed he did.

2. The Memory Hole -- also commented on by David Neiwert -- has come up with a classic example of the Bush Administration's absurd dedication to hiding that which could embarrass it:

Anybody who has read many official documents—including those makiing headlines in the last year or more—has seen plenty of redactions (those portions that are blacked out or otherwise made unreadable). This, we're told, is for legitimate reasons, such as "national security" or "protecting intelligence sources and methods." But now we have absolute, incontrovertible proof that the government also censors completely innocuous material simply because they don't like it.

The Justice Department tipped its hand in its ongoing legal war with the ACLU over the Patriot Act. Because the matter is so sensitive, the Justice Dept is allowed to black out those passages in the ACLU's court filings that it feels should not be publicly released.

Ostensibly, they would use their powers of censorship only to remove material that truly could jeopardize US operations. But in reality, what did they do? THEY BLACKED OUT A QUOTATION FROM A SUPREME COURT DECISION:

"The danger to political dissent is acute where the Government attempts to act under so vague a concept as the power to protect 'domestic security.' Given the difficulty of defining the domestic security interest, the danger of abuse in acting to protect that interest becomes apparent."

The mind reels at such a blatant abuse of power (and at the sheer chutzpah of using national security as an excuse to censor a quotation about using national security as an excuse to stifle dissent).

It's hard to imagine a more public, open document than a decision written by the Supreme Court. It is incontestably public property: widely reprinted online and on paper; poured over by generations of judges, attorneys, prosecutors, and law students; quoted for centuries to come in court cases and political essays.

Yet the Justice Department had the incomprehensible arrogance and gall to strip this quotation from a court document, as if it represented a grave threat to the republic. Luckily, the court slapped down this redaction and several others. If it hadn't, we would've been left with the impression that this was a legitimate redaction, that whatever was underneath the thick black ink was something so incredibly sensitive and damaging that it must be kept from our eyes.

Now we know the truth. Think about this the next time you see a black mark on a public document.

September 7, 2004


As those who've read my essays and blogs over the past several years are quite aware, my attacks on Bush&Co. have been fairly intense and constant. As a result, I often hear from friends and others who say: "It can't be that bad, Bernie."

The answer is that it's even badder -- worse than you could even imagine in your nightmares. You want specifics? Because the corporate-owned mass-media don't provide those details, it is left to book-authors (and us internet writers) to get the required specifics out to the public.

There are so many good, solid books out there -- with more to come, such as Sy Hersh's Iraq tortures/war blockbuster, due out next week -- but I'll just mention a few here that I've found most useful and informative, filled with specific details of the high crimes and misdemeanors of Bush&Co. (Aside from the just-released Miller book, I've cribbed excerpts from my earlier reviews of the other tomes.)

I even know a few conservatives who have left the Dark Side and decided not to vote for Bush as a result of reading some of the books discussed below. So, if you want to get some solid information into the hands of your moderate-Republican (or Naderite) friends, here are five highy recommended reads:


In "Cruel and Unusual: Bush/Cheney's New World Order," by Mark Crispin Miller, author of the invaluable "The Bush Dyslexicon," the author doesn't pull any punches. He lays it all out, almost more in sorrow than in anger. He's a strong, clear writer, and the case he makes is a compelling one that Bush&Co. have taken us well down the road to a reckless imperialist foreign policy abroad and a kind of American fascism at home.

Think those terms are too strong? Read the narrative and see how Miller came to those conclusions. Lots of facts, footnotes, references, many from Bush&Co. leaders themselves.

There is so much to quote from in "Cruel and Unusual," but I was especially impressed by this long section (which I've broken up into shorter paragraphs), since it reveals an underlying problem in Bush's way of assessing reality, and why therefore the country is in such horrendous situations domestically and abroad:

This simple doctrine of the iron mind is Bush's managerial credo. "A president has got to be the calcium in the backbone," he told Bob Woodward in August of 2002. "If it weakens, the whole team weakens. If I'm doubtful, I can assure you there will be a lot of doubt."

Of all our presidents, this Bush is certainly the only one who would thus cast himself as a hard mineral with a primitive cohesive function. His metaphor suggests not wordly leadership of either the civilian or the military kind, for heads of thriving states and winning armies must alike be capable of improvising, innovating, changing course as circumstances change. They have to think.

On the other hand, Bush sees himself not as a mind, or even as one part of a collective mind atop the goverment, but only as an ossifying agent, rather like cement or starch. In his command there is no flexibility, no openness, only fear of weakness -- which the president apparently associates with thought itself: "If I'm doubtful, I can assure you there will be a lot of doubt." In Bush's moral universe, doubt is the bad opposite of godly zeal. The latter he must endlessly and vividly -- and, necessarily, unthinkingly -- exude, as the inspiring figurehead of a crusade.

Doubt, on the other hand, he must avoid as if were the plague. To raise questions, study every option, call on expertise outside the leader's inner circle, would be a sign of insufficient faith. Bush regards it as perhaps his greatest virtue that he has his mind made up and tightly closed. "I believe what I believe is right,' as he put it to a pack of unbelieving journalists in Rome in the summer of 2001.

His presidency is, in short, a radical faith-based initiative [as opposed to the Jeffersonian ideal of learning]... Bush/Cheney, on the other hand, do not believe in anybody learning anything: not the people, whom they prefer to keep completely in the dark; and not themselves, as they believe they know it all already. Certainly the people still can learn, despite the vast impediments thrown up by this regime, but the regime itself just does not want to know, and therefore has learned -- can learn, will learn -- nothing. (pp.46-47)

This strange attitude of Bush&Co. helped me understand the deeper meaning underlying the recent comment by Andrew Card, Bush's Chief of Staff. Card, on the campaign trail, said:

"This president sees America as we think about a 10-year-old child. I know as a parent I would sacrifice all for my children."

In short, we citizens are but children, watched over by the wise daddy, who acts in our stead, without consulting us, since we are but ignorant, unshaped kids. When we deign to ask questions or demur, we are in violation of the sacrosanct order of things, and therefore must be brought back into the fold and educated, or dealt with harshly as ungrateful apostates.


The full title -- "Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush" -- indicates how bad the situation is. For those who've forgotten, Watergate was the Nixon-era umbrella term that represented the felonies and other crimes committed by that administration in an effort to gain and stay in power -- everything from setting up a secret police unit inside the White House to "get" the president's enemies, to breaking-and-entering to bribery to burglary to dirty election tricks to a massive cover-up to hide all these nefarious activities from the public.

So when John W. Dean says that the Bush Administration is "worse than Watergate," you know we're dealing with real "worstness" here, not merely a repetition of the Nixon-like felonies, which look almost quaint in comparison. With Bush&Co, we're talking about acts that have resulted in thousands of deaths, among many other high crimes and misdemeanors.

In the few excerpts that follow, Dean gives the general flavor of his argument against the "shared presidency" of Bush/Cheney, all well-sourced and with footnoted factual evidence.

Their secrecy is extreme -- not merely unjustified and excessive but obsessive...It has given us a presidency that operates on hidden agendas. To protect their secrets, Bush and Cheney dissemble as a matter of policy...Cheney openly declares that he wants to turn the clock back to the pre-Watergate years -- a time of an unaccountable and extra-constitutional imperial presidency. To say that their secret presidency is undemocratic is an understatement.

Cheney formed what is, in effect, a shadow NSC [National Security Council]...It is a secret government -- beyond the reach of Congress, and everyone else as well...Cheney knew that terrorism was the perfect excuse, an ideal raison d'etre, for his 'let's rule the world' philosophy. Politically, it would be much easier to be seen as shooting back instead of shooting first, given the caliber of weapon Cheney sought to wield. But he and his team did far worse than simply waiting for an attack that would kill a sufficient number of Americans...It is reasonable to believe that they planned to exploit terrorism before 9/11 handed them the issue ready-made for exploitation -- a fact they obviously want to keep buried.

Not since Lyndon Johnson hoodwinked Congress into issuing the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which authorizes sending American troops to Vietnam, has a president so deceived Congress about a matter of such grave national importance...Bush and Cheney took this nation to war on <i>their<-i> hunches, their unreliable beliefs, and their unsubstantiated intelligence -- and used deception with Congress both before and after launching the war....The evidence is overwhelming, certainly sufficient for a prima facie case, that George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney have engaged in deceit and deception over going to war in Iraq. This is an impeachable offense.

The Bush-Cheney secrecy and style of governing carries with it potential consequences that are far worse than any political scandal. Their secret presidency is a dangerous threat to democracy in an age of terrorism...Bush and Cheney have picked up where Nixon left presidential power. They seek to free the presidency of all restraints. They want to implement their policies -- a radical wisdom they believe serves the greater good -- unencumbered by those who view the world differently.


Remember how the conservative press -- indeed, virtually all the pundits, regardless of political stripe -- jumped all over Hillary Clinton when she said that a "vast rightwing conspiracy" had been out to get Bill Clinton for a long time before the impeachment drive?

Ha ha, another conspiracy theoris -- Hillary would say anything to deflect attention from her husband, the talk-show pundits proclaimed. Nothing to see here. Just move along, folks.

Well, it turns out she was right on the button. And David Brock's "Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative" is by a former card-carrying member of that "vast rightwing conspiracy."

Brock, before he realized what was happening to his soul and got out, was a hired-gun writer who specialized in smearing those who got in the way of the HardRight agenda. He did a sleaze job on Anita Hill, in the Clarence Thomas episode, and he's the journalist who got the Paula Jones/Bill Clinton story started. In short, Brock was a scumbag who took the dirty money and did the hatchet work.

Eventually, appalled by the hypocrisy and political immorality of the folks he was working for and with, Brock couldn't take any more. His coming-out party was "Blinded by the Right."

In the book, he apologizes to those whose reputations he ruined. And he names names and dates and places where he, and other, HardRight conspiracists did their slimy work. Brock was privy to the highest echelons of that network, funded by the likes of media mogul Richard Mellon Scaife and other dirt-obsessed rightwing highrollers. He knows where the bodies are buried and isn't afraid to show us the maps.

That inside knowledge is now being put to good use in the important progressive website that Brock founded and edits, Media Matters for America. Check it out. Go get 'em, Brock!


This book, written in the '30s by a law student in Germany, would seem to be about old history, unconnected to our own time. But Haffner reveals how easy it was for good, Christian Germans like him to slide into fascism and brutality. (Excerpts from my review follow:)

What distinguishes "Defying Hitler," in addition to its superb writing, is that Haffner focuses on "little people" like himself, rather than on the machinations of leaders. He wants to explore how ordinary Germans, especially non-Nazi and anti-Nazi Germans, permitted themselves to be swallowed whole into the Hitlerian maw.

Haffner tries to solve the riddle of the easy acceptance of fascism in Hitler's Third Reich. In March of 1933, a majority of German citizens did not vote for Hitler. "What happened to that majority? Did they die? Did they disappear from the face of the earth? Did they become Nazis at this late stage? How was it possible that there was not the slightest visible reaction from them" as Hitler, installed by the authorities as Chancellor, began slowly and then more quickly consolidating power and moving Germany from a democratic state to a totalitarian one?

All along the way, Hitler would propose or actually promulgate regulations that sliced away at German citizens' freedoms -- usually aimed at small, vulnerable sectors of society (labor unionists, communists, Jews, mental defectives, et al.) -- and few said or did anything to indicate serious displeasure. In the early days, on those rare occasions when there was concerted negative reaction, Hitler would back off a bit. And so the Nazis grew bolder and more voracious as they continued slicing away at civil society. Many Germans (including some of Hitler's original corporate backers) were convinced Nazism would collapse as it became more and more extreme; others chose denial. It was easier to look the other way.

Nazi propaganda, policies and terror had broken down traditional support-networks. You couldn't be sure whom to trust. Everyone could be on the government payroll, or could turn into informants to save their skins. And so arms went out in Nazi salutes, militarist songs were sung at rallies and on the streets, "each one of us the Gestapo of the others." In fear, individualism was crushed, leaving most citizens to relate only to The Leader, or to their military units, the comradeship offered by fascism.

When Hitler's in-your-face brand of "beyond" power -- with its meanness and arrogance and menace, throwing opponents in jail, beating them, even killing them -- met the traditional democratic culture, those on the other end often had no tools at their disposal to combat the new hardball politics: "It was then that the real mystery of the Hitler phenomenon began to show itself: the strange befuddlement and numbness of his opponents, who could not cope with his behavior and found themselves transfixed by the gaze of the basilisk, unable to see that it was hell personified that challenged them."

And so it becomes easier to simply permit oneself to sink, ever so slowly into this collective illness, into accommodation with the ruling party, even though the police-state is constantly violating citizens' privacy. "We were pursued into the farthest corners of our private lives; in all areas of life there was rout, panic, and flight. No one could tell where it would end. At the same time we were called upon, not to surrender, but to renege. Just a little pact with the devil -- and you were no longer one of the captured quarry. Instead you were one of the victorious hunters."

Certainly, Haffner and others like him felt their own slide toward complicity with the Nazis, as their sense of self faded. "Things were quite deliberately arranged so that the individual had no room to maneuver. What one represented, what one's opinions were in 'private' and 'actually,' were of no concern and set aside, put on ice, as it were. On the other hand, in moments when one had the leisure to think of one's individuality... one had the feeling that what was actually happening, in which one participated mechanically, had no real existence or validity. It was only in these hours that one could attempt to call oneself morally to account and prepare a last position of defense for one's inner self."

Haffner was approaching decision time about his future if he stayed in the Third Reich. But it's clear which way he was leaning, as his analyses got darker and darker. "It is said that the Germans are subjugated. That is only half true. They are also something else, something worse, for which there is no word: they are 'comraded,' a dreadfully dangerous condition. They are under a spell. They live a drugged life in a dream world. They are terribly happy, but terribly demeaned; so self-satisified, but so boundlessly loathsome; so proud and yet so despicable and inhuman. They think they are scaling high mountains, when in reality they are crawling through a swamp. As long as the spell lasts, there is almost no antidote."

Get the picture?


Similar to Haffner's book, Ellsberg's "Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers," concentrates on times past -- here Ellsberg's decision to release the so-called Pentagon Papers to the press -- as a way of helping stop the immoral, unwinnable, stalemated Vietnam War.

But, again, there are lessons to be learned for our own situation as the United States is once again fighting nationalist guerrillas as an occupation force in a very foreign country, and facing a similar stalemated future. [Here are some review excerpts:]

The common wisdom is that "you can't keep secrets in Washington," and that someone always deliberately leaks or inadvertently blabs. But, says Ellsberg, who was privy to some of the most top-secret material for years, "the fact is that the overwhelming majority of secrets do not leak to the American public.

This is true even when the information withheld is well known to an enemy and when it is clearly essential to the functioning of the congressional war power and to any democratic control of foreign policy...Secrets that would be of the greatest importance to many of them can be kept from them reliably for decades by the Executive Branch, even though they are known to thousands of insiders."

And who is in charge of the current government's secrets today? The Hard-Rightists who control American policy and who have made the Bush Administration the most secretive, closed shop -- isolated from the real world in which most of us live -- of any administration in modern times. (Senator Patrick J. Leahy, the Vermont Democrat first elected in 1974, said, "Since I've been here, I have never known an administration that is more difficult to get information from." Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, said things are getting worse, and "it seems like in the last month or two I've been running into more and more stonewalls.")

 In those days, citizens tended to believe what their officials told them and so the untruths rarely were caught. Again, the similarities to contemporary times are instructive: An administration needs an enemy, needs a war, in order to carry out its hidden agenda with the support of the American people, and so the true motives are concealed and lies are dispensed. Not quite as many citizens are inclined these days to believe everything they're told by their government leaders, but the pattern is still there. And still works. As Ellsberg says of Vietnam but which can apply to our current situation as well: "The President was determined to mislead the public... to conceal that he was taking the country into a major, prolonged war."

Underlying U.S. policy at that time was a belief that America knew what was best for other countries. "To presume to judge what was best for them, with life and death at stake, was the height of imperial arrogance, the 'arrogance of power,' as Senator Fulbright later called it." This observation has a certain ring of familiarity about it, as the Bush Administration arrogantly moves around the globe today like a big bully, informing other countries and their leaders what should be done and if they won't do it voluntarily, the U.S. will make sure it happens, one way or another.

Five Presidents were tragically wrong with regard to Vietnam; and our current resident in the White House is wrong with regard to his secretive war policies. The lock on secrets must be broken once again, before we become permanently engaged in an imperial foreign policy that will bring death and destruction down upon the world and that will leave our own society morally adrift and, as in the Vietnam era, close to a political civil-war. Let us learn from history and stop our leaders before it's too late. We must all become Ellsbergs.

George W. Bush doesn't read books -- other than ones with lots of pictures, especially if they involve pet goats. If his mean-spirited education policies continue, a lot of young people coming up aren't going to be able to read books either -- which may be part of the plan. Check out this blog by Kevin Drum:  EVERY SCHOOL A FAILURE....,  Via Mark Kleiman.  

The New York Times has a story about some unexpected consequences of the No Child Left Behind Act. It turns out that an awful lot of schools are getting failing grades:

In North Carolina, which pioneered one of the nation's most sophisticated accountability systems, more than 32 schools ranked as excellent by the state failed to meet Washington's criteria for academic progress. In California, 317 schools showed tremendous academic growth on the state's performance index, yet the federal law labeled them low-performing.

....In Florida, Gov. Jeb Bush announced that the state had rated more than two-thirds of Florida's 3,100 schools as high-performing. But three-quarters were rated as low-performing under the federal law.

"We have a school down here that is absolutely extraordinary — all the kids take Advanced Placement courses,'' said Jane Gallucci, chairwoman of the Pinellas County School Board and a past president of the Florida School Boards Association, "and the feds called it a failing school. Now that's ludicrous."

Later on the story quotes some suburban parents who are concerned that labeling their local school a failure will cause their property values to fall. This might actually be amusing if it weren't for the fact that labeling schools as failures isn't an unexpected consequence of NCLB. In fact, it's precisely the point of NCLB — at least for some people.

As I mentioned last year, NCLB mandates that each state has to set standards for student achievement, and by 2014 every single student must meet those standards. Any school with less than 100% success is deemed to be failing. What's more, even in the period between now and 2014, while pass rates are "only" 80 or 90 percent and we're still working our way toward the El Dorado of 100%, there's an absurd concoction of thinly sliced categories mandated by the act, and failure in any one category marks the offending school as a failure. It's pretty obvious that there are a suspiciously large number of ways to fail, and as the years go by the number of "failing" schools will slowly increase to 100%.

I suspect that a lot of people who supported the worthier goals of NCLB simply didn't realize they were getting snookered: the fact is that the Bush administration wants to see lots of public schools labeled as failures. It's basically a long-term plan to erode the public's faith in public schools and thereby increase support for private schools and vouchers.

This is part of a pattern from conservatives, who realize that their domestic agenda is actually pretty unpopular and can be passed only if people don't realize what they're getting. NCLB is an example of this kind of stealth legislation, and both last year's Medicare bill and this year's "ownership society" are additional examples. In the end, though, NCLB may turn out to have been too clever by half, as parents rebel against being labeled failures instead of meekly accepting the verdict of the federal government.

Of course, that's not the only surprise the Bush administration has in store — surprises that they're hoping nobody will notice until they're either safely reelected or out of office.

For some other lively blogging commentary, check out our Recommended Blogsites,especially those this week by Juan Cole, Josh Marshall, Kos, Corrente, Digby, Steve Gilliard, Kevin Drum, Atrios, Scott Rosenberg, David Neiwert.

September 21, 2004


Politics is dodgeball. Sometimes you get hit by the ball -- thrown at great velocity toward your head or stomach -- and sometimes you get to hit the other guy.

Sometimes, both hits seem to happen at the same time. Take the "CBS Memos" story, which continues to grow more convoluted each day. (I'm writing this late-Monday; no telling how the story will shift by Tuesday, when this blog will appear.)

Even though the Kerry Campaign apparently had nothing to do with CBS' judgment to reveal the controversial "Killian Memos" on its 60 Minutes show -- memos from Bush's commander Jerry Killian ordering Bush to take his flight physical (which he never did), and had Killian talking about being pressured from on high to "sugar coat" Bush's performance ratings -- nothing but bad news will accrue to Kerry as a result of that poorly vetted decision. The entire episode gives off a foul odor. It's happened to rightwing journalists and now it's happening to a mainstream one. Bad form.

But, hold on. Nobody has proven that the CONTENT of those memos -- whether real or facsimiles -- is false. As it turns out, those memos merely corroborated what already was known -- see here  and here -- about Bush's cavalier treatment of his National Guard duties and the missing chapters in that sorry little saga. Killian's secretary recently reported that the content of those memos was what her boss was saying about Bush at the time, though she didn't type those particular documents.

Not even the White House has chosen to question the truth of the content of those memos, leading one to believe that Rove&Co. are frightened to do so, because they suspect the original Killian documents are out there somewhere and could be placed into the public record the minute they make the forgery assertion.

So, here's where we are on this story. Dan Rather has a black eye for improperly relying on assertions as to the memos' source, and not doing his own due-diligence to verify. Bill Burkett -- the person who turned over copies of the alleged memos, and who some years back stated that he was privy to the destruction of many of Bush's Guard records when Bush was going to run for governor -- claims now that he won't reveal the original source of the memos because to do so would put that person at risk. Truth or fiction? Was Burkett the source? Could it be from a Karl Rove operative? Still to be determined.

Seems like a stalemate favoring Bush. Except -- that even without the missing original documents (either destroyed, as Burkett suggests, or withheld by the White House because they reveal too much of what they don't want known), the evidence is out there for all to see that Bush flipped off his Guard duty and, essentially, went AWOL, counting on his daddy's friends to get him his honorable discharge. (Also check out the new story at Blue Lemur about possible criminal tampering with Bush's official Guard records. )

If you want to read the best summing-up article about this whole sorry episode -- which rests to a large degree upon the meticulous research of Paul Lukasiak -- check out Eric Boehlert's "Bush in the National Guard: A Primer". It's a compact eye-opener.

And, for timely blogging on the subject of CBS, Dan Rather, the Killian memos, the role perhaps played by Karl Rove in suckering CBS, etc., check out ##Digby's "OxyMorons for Truth", and Xymphora's "More on Bloggergate").


It's tempting to get deeply involved in the byways of the Killian Memos/AWOL puzzles -- it's like a good political thriller -- but nobody is quite sure how interested voters are in the whole issue of what Bush and Kerry did 30+ years ago.

But we do know that they are vitally interested in what's happening right now in Iraq, and how this will affect them, their draft-age children, stateside Guard and Reserve units who may be sent to Iraq, on the faltering economy as more and more billions are siphoned from the budget and spent instead on war and reconstruction corruption, on the possibility of engendering more terrorist attacks on Americans here and abroad, etc.

John Kerry, in case you missed it, is finally taking off the gloves -- he's about six months late, but better late than never -- and is attacking Bush frontally on his war policies, both in how he took the U.S. into war under false pretenses and how he's waging it now. Go, John!

Check out his major NYU speech Monday on Iraq. Here are some sample quotes:


In June, the President declared,  "The Iraqi people have their country back."     Just last week, he told us:  "This country is headed toward democracy… Freedom is on the march."

But the administration's own official intelligence estimate, given to the President last July, tells a very different story. 

According to press reports, the intelligence estimate totally contradicts what the President is saying to the American people.

So do the facts on the ground.

Security is deteriorating, for us and for the Iraqis. 

42 Americans died in Iraq in June -- the month before the handover.  But 54 died in July…66 in August… and already 54 halfway through Se September. 

And more than 1,100 Americans were wounded in August -- more than in any other month since the invasion. 

We are fighting a growing insurgency in an ever widening war-zone.  In March, insurgents attacked our forces 700 times.  In August, they attacked 2,700 times ? a 400% increase.  Falluja…Ramadi… Samarra … even parts of Baghdad  are now  no go zones … breeding grounds for terrorists who are free to plot and launch attacks against our soldiers. The radical Shia cleric, Moktada al-Sadr, who's accused of complicity in the murder of Americans, holds more sway in the suburbs of Baghdad.

Violence against Iraqis… from bombings to kidnappings to intimidation … is on the rise.   

Basic living conditions are also deteriorating.

Residents of Baghdad are suffering electricity blackouts lasting up to 14 hours a day. 

Raw sewage fills the streets, rising above the hubcaps of our Humvees.  Children wade through garbage on their way to school.

Unemployment is over 50 percent.  Insurgents are able to find plenty of people willing to take $150 for tossing grenades at passing U.S. convoys.

Yes, there has been some progress, thanks to the extraordinary efforts of our soldiers and civilians in Iraq.  Schools, shops and hospitals have been opened.  In parts of Iraq, normalcy actually prevails. 

But most Iraqis have lost faith in our ability to deliver meaningful improvements to their lives.  So they're sitting on the fence… instead of siding with us against the insurgents.

That is the truth.  The truth that the Commander in Chief owes to our troops and the American people. 

It is never easy to discuss what has gone wrong while our troops are in constant danger.  But it's essential if we want to correct our course and do what's right for our troops instead of repeating the same mistakes over and over again....

The President has said that he  miscalculated € in Iraq and that it was a  catastrophic success. €   In fact, the President has made a series of catastrophic decisions … from the beginning … in Iraq.  At every fork in the road, he has taken the wrong turn and led us in the wrong direction.

The first and most fundamental mistake was the President's failure to tell the truth to the American people.

He failed to tell the truth about the rationale for going to war.  And he failed to tell the truth about the burden this war would impose on our soldiers and our citizens.

By one count, the President offered 23 different rationales for this war.  If his purpose was to confuse and mislead the American people, he succeeded.

His two main rationales -- weapons of mass destruction and the Al Qaeda/September 11 connection -- have been proved false… by  the President's own weapons inspectors… and by the 9/11 Commission.  Just last week, Secretary of State Powell acknowledged the facts.  Only Vice President Cheney still insists that the earth is flat.

The President also failed to level with the American people about what it would take to prevail in Iraq. 

He didn't tell us that well over 100,000 troops would be needed, for years, not months.  He didn't  tell us that he wouldn't take the time to assemble a broad and strong coalition of allies.  He didn't  tell us that the cost would exceed $200 billion.  He didn't tell us that even after paying such a heavy price, success was far from assured.

And America will pay an even heavier price for the President's lack of candor. 

At home, the American people are less likely to trust this administration if it needs to summon their support to meet real and pressing threats to our security.

Abroad, other countries will be reluctant to follow America when we seek to rally them against a common menace -- as they are today.    Our credibility in the world has plummeted.


Rightwing columnist Robert Novak can always be counted on to serve as a conduit for Karl Rove and his minions at the White House. Novak did so notoriously, of course, when he outed covert CIA agent Valerie Plame at the behest of "two senior Administration officials," and now he's floating a story, "Quick Exit from Iraq Is Likely" that the White House wants out there about Iraq.

The story is that Bush may be willing to cut-and-run in Iraq after the election -- the same charge Bush is leveling at Kerry.

Passing on this rumor does not even come close to passing the smell test. Clearly, it's designed as a way for Bush to have it both ways in trying to lure more voters into his camp. Publicly, Bush is a hard-liner on the Iraq issue -- all is going swimmingly, we'll have democracy there shortly, the insurgents are "terrorists" and we'll wipe them out -- but he can feel the heat not only from the intelligence community, which gave him the Iraq-as-disaster news months ago, but also from fellow Republicans who are telling him to wake up and smell the reality-coffee in Iraq, that the war is a catastrophe and is only going to get worse. See what prestigious Republican Senators said over the weekend. Tough comments.

By floating the trial balloon, Rove can intimate that Bush will announce his "secret plan" to withdraw from Iraq after the election. Of course, there is no such plan. The only plan is to somehow slide by in Iraq until the November 2 voting; if Bush wins, he doesn't have to pay anybody any mind. He'll just increase the war effort -- already Marines have been told to prepare for major assaults on Fallujah and Samara and other insurgent-dominated cities before the end of the year -- and continue his utopian scheme to beat Iraq to a pulp as a warning to Syria and Iran that they could be next, unless they get on board.

For more on this Novak subject, see Josh Marshall's blog , Robert Dreyfuss' "Getting Out", and Kevin Drum's "Reading the Tea Leaves").


Finally, some remarks on the unconscionable statements by Dick Cheney and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, desperate enough to declare that Osama Bin Laden prefers John Kerry over Bush. Juan Cole in "Bin Laden Doesn't Care Who Wins" says it much better than I could:

The remark of Speaker of the House Denis Hastert that al-Qaeda would like to manipulate the US election with a terrorist bombing and would be happier with Kerry as president is simply wrong. The Democrats are correct that such comments are a form of fear-mongering aimed at stampeding the American public into voting for Bush out of terror. Indeed, if the US public votes for any candidate because of concern for Bin Laden, then Bin Laden has been handed precisely the victory that Hastert professed to abhor.

But Hastert is just wrong. Al-Qaeda does not care who wins the elections. If the US withdraws from Iraq (which could happen willy-nilly under Bush as easily as under Kerry), that would be seen as a victory by al-Qaeda. If the US remains in Iraq for years, bleeding at the hands of an ongoing guerrilla insurgency, then that is also a victory for al-Qaeda from their point of view. They therefore just don't care which candidate wins. They hate general US policy in the Middle East, which would not change drastically under Kerry. To any extent that al-Qaeda is giving serious thought to the US elections, it would see no significant difference between the candidates. But given its goal of creating more polarization between the US and the Muslim World, it is entirely possible that the al-Qaeda leadership would prefer Bush, since they want to "sharpen the contradictions."

September 13, 2004


The Kerry Campaign, knowing Karl Rove's tendency to go on the attack with slime and sleaze, should have been at least somewhat prepared for slime and sleaze. And yet they seemed to be caught totally off-guard by the Rove-organized Smear Boat assault on Kerry's Vietnam war record, went into shock for a few days, and only after about a week managed to mount a meaningful defense.

(Coming out of the Dem convention, what Kerry could have said, and should have said, was something like: "Just want you to be aware that, if the Bush Campaign continues its long tradition, there will be a lot of smear and dirt and distortion coming at me -- the intent being to throw a lot of smoke in your face, in hope you'll wonder if maybe there's fire there -- so be prepared to be skeptical and to keep your attention on the key issues in the campaign: Bush's atrocious policies in Iraq, on the economy, on education and pollution....etc." That might have taken some of the sting out in advance.)

During that Smear Boat week, Kerry lost traction, and was forced to divert his attention from the items on his agenda -- attacking Bush's domestic and economic policies -- in order to do damage control.

Things seem to be much better now -- and a few of the old Clinton hands are now on board to help focus the Kerry Campaign -- but in a race this tight in several toss-up states, losing traction and control of the agenda for even a few days is dangerous.

Add the rightwing media -- and a few over-the-top, pro-Bush polls into the mix -- and the impression given is that Kerry is way behind, better jump on board that Bush bandwagon while you still can. As it turns out, Kerry is not that far behind nationally -- and in many key states is still ahead or dead even -- but if the Dems don't start to move the numbers, regain the momentum, focus attention on Bush's weaknesses, it might be difficult to finish the race strong. (The daily Rasmussen polls are showing a steady climb back for Kerry.)

Counting on Kerry to wipe Bush all over the floor in the two debates -- or maybe just one, as Bush seems to be backing away from the second one -- would be a big mistake. Bush is no debating slacker when properly primed, and you can bet that he'll be loaded with attack phrases and snappy talking points. Unless Kerry is likewise prepared, it could be a wash. Kerry needs a smashing success, not an ordinary performance, to "win" the debates. (Also, the debates will turn on which journalists are chosen and how friendly they are to Bush, sending him puffball questions, while flinging tough dart-like queries at Kerry.)

While we're waiting for the debates to start, Kerry, it seems to me, needs to remember where Bush is most vulnerable and go for the jugular in those areas. I'll just mention two here; there are plenty of others. (You'll notice that I'm not even listing Bush's AWOL problem; I think Kerry should slip that zinger in at the right moment and move on to issues that seem to resonate more with voters today.)


Rove's entire aim in Iraq was to turn over "full sovereignty" (NOT!) to the interim government and its troops in order to significantly reduce the number of U.S. dead and wounded, thus making this a war beneath the radar for American voters. The truth is that the insurgency is so strong, and seemingly growing stronger, that the dead and wounded figures remain about where they were before the "handover," and, in some areas, are even worse. (Question: Why does the media not question the 1000+ figure of U.S. dead in Iraq? And the supposed 6000+ wounded? These are Bush figures, which means we should be very skeptical of their validity. I've seen figures as high as 17,000+ wounded.)

The RoveCheney campaign is still trying anything to make the American voters forget Iraq as an issue -- including effectively turning over key cities and areas of the country to the insurgents, anything to keep the U.S. troops from having to engage -- but nothing seems to work. Kerry has an opening.

The war is totally FUBAR, a disaster. Kerry is staying away from having to make any specific suggestions for how to make it better, because in truth there aren't any. So badly has the Bush Administration made a mess of it there that the options are limited to two and they are reminiscent of the mess in Vietnam: get out as quickly as possible, or pour more troops and money down the rathole and have to get out later. (Bush, obviously, is choosing the latter option.)

Bush has made one major misstep after another, starting with the decision to rush into war on the basis of phony rationalizations, then not recognizing when the Iraqi army didn't engage that the U.S. military was being set up for urban guerrilla war, then not having enough troops with the correct equipment and plan, then not keeping the Iraqi soldiers as an on-salary defanged military force, then not letting the Iraqis rebuild their own society but turning over the reconstruction to outside corporations who don't know what they are doing and don't care (since they're making billions in any event), then authorizing policies that led directly to torture and rape of Iraqi male and female and children detainees, and on and on.

Kerry needs to bring the issue of Iraq -- the way Bush got the U.S. into that war, and his incompetent handling ever since -- front and center and keep pounding on it, the absolute waste of American lives sent into harm's way for no good reason.

Kerry also has an opening for attacking Bush and Cheney for the shameless way they are continuing -- in the face of overwhelming evidence and Bush's own admission that it's not true -- to attempt to link Saddam Hussein and 9/11. This lie is all the Administration has left as a reason for war -- all the other supposed reasons have not panned out (WMD, imminent threat, "mushroom clouds," etc.) -- but it doesn't pass the smell test in the slightest.

In sum, if Bush wants to run proudly as the "war president," make sure the American electorate realizes that if they vote for Bush, they're going to get four more years of unnecessary wars, heavy casualties, incompetent tactics and strategies, and more terrorist attacks aimed at us. Since polls for the past several months have shown nearly more than half of the population (and growing) think it was a mistake to go into Iraq,  Kerry definitely has a wedge opening and a good question to ask American citizens: How much FUBAR are they willing to put up with? Better to get a new commander-in-chief in there and start fresh.


My degrees are in government and international relations, but even I know -- and I know very little about economics -- there is something very wrong with our economy. The middle-class is being squeezed badly, while the wealthy are provided by Bush with more tax breaks and more opportunities to make lots more money at the expense of those beneath them. (See John Cassidy's important New Yorker article, "Tax Code.")

In addition, even though Bush brags about the occasional miniscule rise in monthly employment numbers, those jobs tend to be low-paying ones, with few benefits. The good new jobs, ones that pay a decent salary and that come with benefits, are few and far between. There's a net loss of about one million such good jobs since Bush was installed in the White House -- and, worst of all, it doesn't look like those jobs are coming back any time soon. (Many are off-shored to countries where the pay is minimal.)

Bush is keeping fairly quiet about our slumping/stagnant economy, in hopes nobody will notice how bad things really are. Kerry occasionally makes noises about Bush's faulty stewardship of the economy, but not in a passionate, concerted way that will resonate with lots of voters. He needs to kick it up a notch -- and, more importantly, continue to hammer away at the direct connection between the $200+ billion (with a B, John!) being spent in the disastrous Iraq adventure and the weak economy at home.

If Bush manages to win in November, the gloves will be off and his program for the economy will bring ruin to entire segments of our society, as he pushes privatization of more and more facets of government programs, starting with Social Security and Medicare and phony drug "discounts" for the elderly. All this will be pushed under the rubric of the "ownership" society. As columnist Matt Miller has written, Bush and his cohorts, who know nothing about how real people have to struggle just to get by, are saying
"Let them own cake."


For some superior blogs on aspects of the Iraq War and how it could affect the presidential race, check out:

Josh Marshall: It's a super analysis; here are a few sample excerpts:

"Iraq has quite simply become a disaster for the United States. And while people disagree over why this has happened, no thinking person can now fail to see that it has happened. In the last two months, all of this has been pushed to the side of the election debate -- either by rhetorical tangles over 9/11 and terrorism, or attack politics centered on the two men's war records or lack thereof. That is the reason for the president's resurgence in the polls. It's really that simple.  There's another point that worth noting here too. And it's at least played a role in pushing Iraq out of the political debate. That is, that President Bush has been able to mobilize his manifest failure as a political asset, and the Kerry campaign has allowed him to do so."

"...Politically, Kerry needs to ignore the commentators who will press him to come up with a twenty point plan that will immediately rectify the situation in Iraq. Yes, he needs to give an idea of what he'll do if and when he takes over. But the emphasis should be on the undeniable fact that though the way forward may be murky, the last person you want to lead the country down that foggy path is the guy who screwed everything up so badly in the first place."

Atrios spots political micromanaging all over the U.S. policy in attacking and then not attacking in Fallujah. Some sample quotes:

"So, it's pretty much the case that we went into Fallujah because some warbloggers got excited about the video of the desecration of the dead civilian contractors. And, apparently the White House ordered it so they could look tough."

He [Marine Lt. General James T. Conway, in charge of Western Iraq] echoed an argument made by many Iraqi politicians and American analysts -- that the U.S. attack further radicalized a restive city, leading many residents to support the insurgents. "When we were told to attack Fallujah, I think we certainly increased the level of animosity that existed," Conway said.

He would not say where the order to attack originated, only that he received an order from his superior at the time, Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the overall commander of U.S. forces in Iraq. Some senior U.S. officials in Iraq have said the command originated in the White House.

"And, here's what Bush told Russert in February:"

The thing about the Vietnam War that troubles me as I look back was it was a political war. We had politicians making military decisions, and it is lessons that any president must learn, and that is to the set the goal and the objective and allow the military to come up with the plans to achieve that objective. And those are essential lessons to be learned from the Vietnam War.

Kos summarizes Newsweek's story ( www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5973272/site/newsweek on the Iraq-FUBAR situation:

"There's widespread agreement that Washington needs to rethink its objectives, and quickly. 'We're dealing with a population that hovers between bare tolerance and outright hostility,' says a senior U.S. diplomat in Baghdad. 'This idea of a functioning democracy here is crazy. We thought that there would be a reprieve after sovereignty, but all hell is breaking loose.'

"No rational person thought there would be 'a reprieve after sovereignty', given that Iraq doesn't have true sovereignty. But whatever, the war is worsening."

"Force Bush to defend his 'war presidency.' He's got nothing to brag about."

Steve Gilliard quotes huge chunks of a Progress Report study by David Sirota/Christy Harvey/Judd Legum/Jonathan Baskin about the enormous mess the Bush Administration has created in Iraq:

The Bush White House is blithely insisting elections will occur in January as planned. Security concerns, however, have left others less confident. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stated this weekend on Meet the Press that "It would be lovely if they took place in January, but I sure don't see it." Iraqi officials are also increasingly skeptical. One senior Iraqi official told Newsweek, "I'm convinced that it's not going to happen. It's just not realistic. How is it going to happen?" Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari echoed that thought, saying, "The timetable really depends at the end of the day on the security situation."

Some worry that the Bush administration, desperate to avoid the appearance of yet another setback, will stick to the schedule despite ongoing problems. Ghassan Atiyya, director of the independent Iraq Foundation for Development and Democracy, warns, "Badly prepared elections, rather than healing wounds, will open them."

Let's close with some choice words from a choice BuzzFlash editorial "It's Time to Cream Him, John":

This is not business as usual. This is not just politics. John Kerry is running against a political criminal enterprise. If that statement shocks you, than you don't understand the dire straits that we are in, not even remotely.

Since the Republican Party was taken over by the Radical Right Wing -- beginning with the Nixon administration (in which Rumsfeld and Cheney began their ascent -- and remember that Cheney is our President for International Affairs, with Karl Rove his aide de camp for domestic affairs) -- the GOP has run campaigns and the country with three basic tools: demagoguery, the creation of manufactured images of leadership, and the criminal abuse of our justice department and legislative process.

...The good news is that it is not too late. Kerry is within striking distance -- especially in the crucial battleground electoral states. In fact, some polls show him currently ahead in likely electoral votes.

But he won't win by adopting a de facto air that Bush is somehow a legitimate leader, or that Iraq was a reasonable war. You can't win by subliminally reinforcing the facade that is created by your opposition.

The only way to win against the right wing thugs who stole the American government is to cream them, rip off their masks and put them on the defensive through Election Day.  Then, after you win, put them in the hands of the Department of Justice. It won't be long before they are behind bars.

...In this age of television news: form is content. Bush gets off being a leader when he is a bungling failure, who ruins the nation, not runs it. You are a natural leader for the times, but need to project that in a television age. Dramatic gestures count. Modern politics is like a sporting event. You don't win playing defense -- and image, unfortunately, trumps content.

Now is the time to kick him in the balls and win.

If that sounds too nasty, your opponent wouldn't have it any other way, John. That is HIS politics.

Remember, this is not just an election that you and John Edwards win or lose against Cheney and Bush.

This is an election that will determine, perhaps, whether the American democracy founded in 1776 continues to exist.

September 23, 2004

We Once Were Lost, Now Getting Found

Last week, a play of mine about the Israel/Palestine struggle, entitled "Playing for Peace," was performed as part of a "Writers With Attitude" festival of socially-relevant works in the San Francisco Bay Area. Seven short plays were presented, all dealing with fairly heavy topics -- ranging from Iraq to the homeless -- and yet the large, sold-out audience was attentive throughout the long program, and expressed deep appreciation for the evening in their comments and applause.

In recent weeks, I've attended a number of events sponsored by MoveOn.org, the Kerry-Edwards Campaign, environmental organizations, etc. The same deep interest and concern evident at the "Writers With Attitude" program was manifest at these political fund-raisers.

What is obvious from the above, and from similar reports all around the country, is that -- thanks to the Bush Administration's reckless policies and thorough incompetence -- there is a renewed surge of involvement in the political process. Not only about the vote on November 2 -- though that, of course, is the main focus --but, more importantly, in trying to restore the energy in and behind our democratic institutions.

We liberals have been far too complacent for decades, figuring that our democratic institutions were stable and working just fine, so no need for us to get our hands dirty doing the political maintenance work. We failed to notice other, less-benign forces that were aiming to replace democracy with some sort of Darwinesque elitism, which now has morphed over the years into one-party authoritarianism and which threatens to become an American kind of fascism.

The result of that lapse in our attention was to permit the well-financed forces of conservatism and reaction -- and then BushCheney extremism -- to build an entire superstructure in government, the media, and academia/think tanks. While that was going on, we were in denial about the erosion and rot in our own liberal, pro-democracy institutions and mind-set.

Given this semi-slumber, we were shocked by what appeared to be the "sudden" emergence of HardRight conservatism as the driving force left of center, and thus were ill-equipped politically to deal with the hardball, go-for-the-jugular politics those folks practiced.


The threat of four more years of even more extreme policy-making by those HardRight forces FINALLY! has awakened much of the liberal/progressive Left all around the country -- and also awakened traditional conservative forces, appalled at the way their party has been hijacked by radicals and how all sorts of conservative principles are being violated in the process -- and we are beginning to see the enormous positive force of united re-commitment to our democratic institutions.

Organizations like MoveOn.org and the emergence of Air America on the radio and think-tanks like the Center for American Progress -- and an alternative press that reaches millions daily, on the internet -- these are all hopeful signs. Small moves in the correct direction, but at least movement that suggests pre-thought and a strategy -- and that can be cultivated and strengthened in the post-November 2 period.

Whether we've awakened in enough time to defeat the extreme Right on Election Day is still up in the air. The Kerry Campaign is battling mightily in the home stretch (after some amateurish delays and uncertainties), facing not only a mass-media aligned with BushCheney but also an onslaught of dirty-tricks being rolled out in massive proportions. Slime, sleaze, sludge, intimidation, "suppressing" the minority vote, you name it.

But, even with those obstacles, I continue to believe -- based on my reading of the political tea leaves, correspondence with voters all over the country (especially traditional conservative Republicans), and my travels around America over the past year or so -- that the chances are good for a Kerry victory in November.


There is a groundswell of opposition to Bush coming from both the left, middle and, yes, the traditional right that is not always evident in the pro-Bush polls. Just take one example: most polls are conducted by telephone. Hundreds of registered voters are called. Those that choose to respond to having their dinner or TV-watching interrupted -- it's estimated that only 10% these days talk to the pollsters -- are reached by land-line phones. Polling organizations do not call cell-phone numbers.

Does that tell you anything? Most younger citizens operate from their cell-phones. An entire demographic slice of the population is not being polled. Younger types tend to be more liberal. You get the picture.

Even with such polling errors, and with several of the key polling organizations leaning to the GOP in the way they phrase their questions and in whom they call (read: over-weighted with Republicans), the national figures indicate a neck-and-neck race. In the tossup states, Kerry is doing quite well. In fact, some polls indicate that Kerry is considerably ahead in many of those key states.

That should not make us complacent. Karl Rove no doubt has even more dirty tricks up his sleeve, just waiting to be unleashed in the final weeks of the campaign, when it will be difficult to counter them effectively -- and, who knows?, the massive terrorist attack the Bush folks have been warning us about, and almost inviting, could happen just prior to Voting Day.

In short, we need to redouble our efforts in these final weeks of the campaign, to build up the popular vote totals nationwide and in the various states -- to make it more difficult for computer-voting manipulations to do their dirty work unnoticed -- and to bear down in the swing states to ensure a Kerry victory big time. A landslide defeat of Bush is what's really needed to begin to get this country back onto a more sane centrist/progressive track. Money, support, activism, getting out the vote, talking up your friends and neighbors and colleagues -- let's do it!


It's still a bit early to see if the CBS/Killian Memos brouhaha will impact Kerry's growing momentum. And it's still early to make definitive statements about how this whole episode unfolded.

This much we do know: Dan Rather did not properly vet the source of the documents presented to him by Bill Burkett. At first, Burkett said he'd received them from a fellow National Guard officer; now he claims the genesis was a phone call from one "Lucy Ramirez" who said she'd pass him the documents in Houston.

When he got to the pickup spot, Burkett reports, a man said he would do the honors instead of "Lucy Ramirez," and gave him the documents. Apparently, in a classic demonstration of poor journalistic practice, Rather did not contact the officer Burkett first named; had he done so, that person would have indicated he knew nothing about such documents.

Is Burkett telling the truth now? Or trying to divert attention away from himself? If he's lying, and carried out all by himself, the damage is bad -- CBS still has to take its well-deserved punishment -- but can be dealt with. (This assumes that the Kerry Campaign had no hand in any of this, which appears to be the case.)

If Burkett is telling the truth, who set him up with documents that could easily be regarded with suspicion? (Note: The internet attack on the validity of these memos, in great typographical detail, began mere minutes after CBS displayed the documents on 60 Minutes. The instantaneous timing, with such detailed accusations, seems a bit suspicious on its face.)


So, who would stand to gain by such a scam? Not Kerry, for sure. Not CBS New s, for sure. That leaves only one party that benefits: the Bush Campaign.

The rumor going around political circles as I write this late-Wednesday (all of which could change by Thursday -- this story is fast-unfolding) is that the Rove operative behind the entire affair may be Roger Stone, a famous GOP dirty-trickster from the Nixon Era, currently working for anti-Kerry forces. Stone was deeply involved in the phony "riot" outside the vote-counting room in Florida in 2000.

(In case you've forgotten: Supposedly angry Florida citizens were banging on the doors demanding that the recount be halted; those folks, it turned out, were paid employees of various right wing congressmen, flown in from out of state precisely to provide anonymous bodies to yell and scream and intimidate the voting officials. Roger Stone organized all that.)

But, assuming Burkett's story is valid, unless some forensic proof is obtained, or somebody talks, it's difficult to see how to tie Burkett to the mysterious "Lucy Ramirez" to the unknown man to Roger Stone to the Bush Campaign. Some enterprising investigative reporter might be able to discover the connections, but we shouldn't count on that.


The other thing that is known -- though you wouldn't know if from reading the mass media -- is that the truth in the "Killian memos" was documented see here and here long before the 60 Minutes story aired: Bush was given a direct order to take a flight physical, but did not do so. And he was prohibited from flying because of that and "failure to perform" to USAF and National Guard standards.

Rather, in his apology on CBS, unaccountably did not mention that the CONTENT of the memos remains true, even if the papers passed on by unknown sources are questionable. The White House has not addressed itself to the truth or falsity of the content -- one would guess because they know, or suspect, that the original Killian memos may be out there somewhere. If they question the truth of the memos, they may have to face the prospect that someone will step forward and produce the actual documents -- and that would be disastrous for their campaign.

Oh, it's all so convoluted -- and detracts from the major news that, finally!, John Kerry is addressing these days: Bush's war in Iraq -- how we were lied into it, and how the incompetent way it's being managed is harming our national security.  See Kerry's important speech on the war, delivered at NYU.


You know the previous comparison: Bill Clinton lied and embarrassed himself; George Bush lied and at least 25,000 people have died. Now comes another classic comparison, this one by Kos:

Dan Rather, CBS News Anchor

1. given documents he thought were true 2. failed to thoroughly investigate the facts 3. reported documents to the American people as true to make his case 4. when confronted with the facts, apologized and launched an investigation 5. number of Americans dead: 0 6. should be fired as CBS News Anchor

George W. Bush, President of the United States

1. given documents he thought were true 2. failed to thoroughly investigate the facts 3. reported documents to the American people as true to make his case 4. when confronted with the facts, continued to report untruth and stonewalled an investigation 5. number of Americans dead: 1100 6. should be given four more years as President of the United States.


Juan Cole is a national treasure. The university professor is best known as perhaps this country's leading expert on all things Arabic, and his reports on the deteriorating situation in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East are absolutely essential to understanding that complex region.

But his blogs on the American political situation are equally as sharp and trenchant. Check out this one,
"Bush Taunts Kerry":

I just heard President Bush taunt John Kerry for suggesting that the US was not safer because Saddam Hussein was deposed, and for saying that the US was in fact less safe because of the chaos in Iraq.

Bush attempted to turn this statement around and suggest that Kerry was preferring dictatorship to democracy.

Iraq, however, does not have a democracy, and cannot possibly have a democracy any time soon because of events such as those described below (and they are only 24 hours' worth) -- that is, because of a failed state and a hot guerrilla war.

Moreover, if Mr. Bush abhors dictatorships so much, why hasn't he overthrown that in China? North Korea? Zimbabwe? Or, say, Egypt? There are enormous numbers of dictatorships in the world. Is the US to overthrow them all? Putin's decision to appoint provincial governors rather than allowing them to be elected (as though Bush should appoint the governors of US states) is a step toward dictatorship. Shall we have a war with Russia over it?

Surely the conditions under which the Palestinians live in the West Bank are a form of dictatorship (they haven't voted for their Israeli military rulers). Why not invade the West Bank and liberate the Palestinians?

Obviously, what was obnoxious to the American people about Saddam Hussein was not that he was a dictator. Those are a dime a dozen and not usually worth $200 billion and thousands of lives. It is that he was supposedly dangerous to the US because, as Bush alleged, he was trying to develop an atomic bomb.

But whatever nuclear program he had was so primitive as not to be worth mentioning, and there is no evidence that Saddam posed any threat at all to the United States' homeland, or would have in his lifetime.

I have a sinking feeling that the American public may like Bush's cynical misuse of Wilsonian idealism precisely because it covers the embarrassment of their having gone to war, killed perhaps 25,000 people, and made a perfect mess of the Persian Gulf region, all out of a kind of paranoia fed by dirty tricks and bad intelligence. And, maybe they have to vote for Bush to cover the embarrassment of having elected him in the first place.

How deep a hole are they going to dig themselves in order to get out of the bright sunlight of so much embarrassment?

Here's another, longer essay by Cole that is essential reading: "If America Were Iraq, What Would It Be Like?  Here's a sample; read the whole thing:

What would America look like if it were in Iraq's current situation? The population of the US is over 11 times that of Iraq, so a lot of statistics would have to be multiplied by that number.

Thus, violence killed 300 Iraqis last week, the equivalent proportionately of 3,300 Americans. What if 3,300 Americans had died in car bombings, grenade and rocket attacks, machine gun spray, and aerial bombardment in the last week? That is a number greater than the deaths on September 11, and if America were Iraq, it would be an ongoing, weekly or monthly toll.


Finally, Lambert at Corrente quotes from a long piece, "Bush's Lost Year: How the War in Iraq Undermined the War on Terror," by James Fallows in the October Atlantic Monthly, not yet online. Well worth a read. Here's a brief sample:

"Let me tell you my gut feeling," a senior figure at one of America's military-sponsored think tanks told me recently, after we had talked for twenty minutes about details of the campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. "If I can be blunt, the Administration is full of shit. In my view we are much, much worse off than we were than we went into Iraq. This is not a partisan position. I voted for these guys. But I think they are incompetent. Whatever tactical victories we may gain along the way, this will prove to be a strategic blunder."

This man will not let me use his name, because he is still involved in military policy. He cited the experiences of Joseph Wilson, Richard Clarke, and Generals Eric Shinseki and Anthony Zinni to illustrate the personal risks of openly expressing his dissenting view. But I am quoting him anonymously” as I will quote some others—because his words are representative of what one hears at the working level.

Professionals argue that by the end of 2002 the decisions the Administration had made—and avoided making—through the course of the year had left the nation less safe, with fewer positive options. Step by step through 2002 America's war on terror became little more than preparation for war in Iraq.

September 28, 2004

How Much "Success" Can We Take in Iraq?

As we approach D-Day on Thursday, here are some thoughts about what will be the main topic for the evening's debate: the absolute disaster that is U.S. policy in Iraq.

Bush seemed to be implying the other day that the U.S. problems in Iraq added up to a great success in the sense of diverting terrorists from doing damage in the United States. In other words, by messing up royally in the "post-invasion" phase of the war, the U.S. created a magnet effect for terrorists from all over the world. They were drawn like flies to honey in wanting to fight the American Satan.

So, instead of planning attacks on the U.S. mainland and other major American targets abroad, this tortured Bush logic goes, the terrorists have fallen into our trap and are congregated in Iraq, where it's easier to kill them en masse and one by one.

Never mind that this incoherent, ongoing war in Iraq also is breeding thousands of more anti-American terrorists by the week. Bush&Co. really seem to believe this new rationale (#27 in a long list) for why the Administration invaded that hapless country.

Our plan all along, according to this revisionist Bush logic, was to appear to be struggling in Iraq, so as to lure all the bad guys into the same place. Then we'll wipe them out with our precision, bunker-busting missiles, thus cleansing the world of those violent scum.

Talk about disconnecting from reality! By trying to keep American casualties to a minimum in this election runup, the U.S. is relying almost totally these days on air power. Bombing from the air is notoriously inefficient, and a sign of weakness on the ground, not strength. Plus it engenders lots of "collateral damage"; those increasing civilian deaths merely make the situation even more tenuous for the U.S. military, and provide more reasons for young, unemployed Muslim men to join the insurgency against the American occupiers.

The insurgent guerrillas are swimming in the sea of the citizenry and, for the most part, are not being reported to the authorities. Some of that silence comes from fear of these violent rebels, but a lot is simply nationalist hatred toward the occupying power and desire to see the U.S. leave as quickly as possible. Continued chaos and destruction is more to be feared among many Iraqis than somebody, anybody, stabilizing things and taking charge.

The U.S. has proven it can't do it, even with all its might and technology and money. The non-elected Allawi interim government, a U.S. puppet, can't do it. Bush can't do it, given his single-minded focus on tough-love destruction. Were Kerry to be elected, it's probable he couldn't do it, especially if he thinks the best policy is to stay and tough it out.

The Iraqis themselves don't know what the solution is -- maybe they'll just have to fight amongst themselves to determine who can control the situation. The hope for a democratically-elected government that will come in and turn things around probably is an illusion a well. See next item.


Rumsfeld said the upcoming "democratic" election in Iraq might have to be a partial one. ( ) That is, since some key areas and cities are too risky for election officials to enter, we'll skip those and hold the vote in the areas that are under control. The winner of the partial vote -- maybe held in three-quarters of the country -- will assume "full sovereignty."

Two things: 1. It would appear that all the talk of an Iraqi election in January is so much hot air, an illusion to convince America before our own election in November that things are progressing just fine toward democracy and free markets in Iraq, not to worry, just move along, folks, nothing to see here.

In reality, there is precious little chance there will be a free and fair election in Iraq in the near future. The situation there simply is too dangerous and insecure for even the election framework to be established. (Contradicting his boss's rosy pronouncements, Secretary Powell said the other day that the situation is "getting worse," not better).  The United Nations, which is supposed to set up the election process, is barely on the ground with a few officials, and probably will be attacked again and then decide it's unwise to carry on further.

Also, even if the election were to proceed, and it was relegated to the "safe" areas -- the Kurdish region, Basra and a few other provinces -- entire ethnic and political sectors of Iraqi society would be disenfranchised, especially the Sunnis and many Shias as well. There is no way, given that scenario, that the "winning" candidate would be thought of as legitimately elected in a fair and full election. Civil war might be just around the corner.


2. When I heard Rumsfeld's partial-election scenario, a bell went off in my head. Didn't the Bush Administration propose something like that for America as well?

Sure enough, Administration lawyers have written legal memoranda asserting the possibility of "postponing" the electoral process in certain locations of the country in the event of a major terrorist attack or, presumably, the "credible" threat of a major terrorist attack in certain threatened states. The election would proceed in the rest of the country, and the winner would be based on the totals amassed in that truncated vote.

In other words, in this scenario, Bush might declare a State of Emergency around November 2 in, say, the Western coastal states (California, Oregon, Washington) and some Eastern states (Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey) -- based, Ridge will tell us, on "highly credible" threats of a major biochemical attack by Al Qaida. Voting will proceed in the rest of the country, and the winner of that partial election would be certified as the next President.

Now, true, these were only legal justifications for such action. Congress would have to approve to put this extreme plan into force.

But, given the ease with which the Bush Administration was able to slide the Patriot Act through a terrified Congress in the days after 9/11 and the anthrax attacks, it is not outside the realm of possibility that, should a major terrorist attack occur in the nation's capital, the Congress might be equally scared and pass such emergency legislation, effectively turning over the election process to one of the candidates in the running, to wit George Bush and his cohorts.

We live in politically frightening times. Anything is possible. Not likely, but possible. Stay alert.


Here's how it works. CBS gets snookered into accepting memos about Bush's incomplete National Guard duty without establishing the chain of provenance -- i.e., where those memos came from and who handled them along the way -- and suddenly, CBS becomes the story rather than the well-documented running of Bush the other way when it came to doing his duty in the Vietnam era.

We don't know who set up CBS, but certainly one key suspect -- the party that stands to benefit the most -- is the Bush Campaign. And it smells very much like similar scams run by Karl Rove in the past. Whether we'll hear the truth about the CBS scandal by Election Day is problematic.

What we won't see or hear is the story that was bumped by CBS' "Sixty Minutes" show in order to run the memos "scoop." A delay in that bumped story by a week or two wouldn't have been the end of the world, but it might well have had an influence on the election. Now we'll never know.

That story dealt with how the Bush Administration came to include the "Iraq-seeking-uranium-from-Africa" charge in Bush's State of the Union speech in 2003, even though the CIA had warned the Administration that the uranium story was shaky and based on forged documents. (Still unknown is the identity of those forgers. Hmm.)

Again, delaying that story by a week or two would have been understandable. But CBS, owned by conglomerate Viacom, is so gun-shy right now about doing anything that looks "political" that it has gone deep into cowardly self-censorship. It has announced that it will not run that uranium story  or any other story that aims its attention on Bush policies or scandals prior to the election.

In short, whether or not it was intended to turn out that way, CBS' memo flap couldn't have worked out any better for Rove and his minions in the Bush Campaign. We report the news, you decide.


We've talked a lot in this space about the dangers of computer-voting, how the ballot-tallying software can be manipulated without anybody being the wiser. But the Republicans have a lot of other tactics at their disposal, and they're pulling out all the stops in using them.

One is to scare voter with lies about the opposition candidate. The Republican National Committee has admitted that it's been sending out mail-flyers that claim a vote for Kerry might well result in the Bible being "banned" and that married gays may move into your neighborhood. Rove's Big Lie technique -- similar to the whisper campaign against John McCain in 2000, that he was a bit loose upstairs and fathered a black baby anyway, or suggesting a judge they didn't like was a pedophile -- except that this time they're not whispering. They're right out there in the open, saying and doing these things, arrogantly asserting that it's OK to say anything to win, even if it's pure bullbleep.

Another highly-effective tactic is to lop registered citizens off the voting rolls, or make it very difficult to get on the voting rolls. Gov. Jeb Bush had removed upwards of 50,000 such voters in Florida in 2000 -- most of them Democrat-leaning African-Americans -- and tried to do something like that again earlier this year, but had to back down when the word got out. (But ex-President Jimmy Carter, leading an international team of observers, says the situation in Florida is likely to repeat its "irregularities" from 2000, since those in charge exhibit "bias." Gee, I wonder towards whom.)

Now it's happening elsewhere as well: the Secretary of State of Ohio (a Republican, of course)  illegally has rejected many thousands of voter registration forms, most from black wards in the big cities, because they are on the "wrong" thickness of paper stock, a technicality from an earlier era of technology. Whether the bulk of those registrations can be re-done in enough time is problematic, since the registration deadline is looming. Somebody should take Blackwell, the secretary of state, into court for an immediate judgment; as Atrios reminds us, Blackwell is violating the Federal Voting Rights Act of 1971, which prohibits keeping someone from voting for "immaterial" reasons.

Another tactic is to place state and local police outside mainly rural voting precincts and question minority citizens, especially older ones, when they attempt to enter the voting area, sometimes demanding photo IDs, even though doing so is often against the law. Clearly, these are intimidation methods, to "suppress" the vote of Democrat-leaning minorities. That "suppress" term was used by a Republican lawmaker, urging such a practice against voters in Detroit, who are overwhelmingly African-American.


Finally, here are a few dynamite blogs you should check out.

On the Iraq situation:

1. Juan Cole's "Bush Falsehoods About Iraq", which quotes liberally from the excellent i##Reuters' dispatch "Key Bush Assertions about Iraq in Dispute."

2. Xymphora's untitled September 27, 2004 blog.

3. Digby's "Embolden This".


On the question of allies and how to offend and keep them: Digby's "You Can't Build an Alliance..."

On sage advice to Kerry for the debate: Scott Rosenberg's "
Speaking Unblinking Truth to Power"

September 30, 2004

Galluping Toward Vote Fraud?

Like a lot of political observers, I've been somewhat mystified by how far off the norm Gallup and a few other pollsters have been. Most polls I've seen have the race leaning slightly toward Bush, but within the margin of error. But Gallup for the past few weeks has been WAY out there, and currently is showing Bush with 13-point lead.

My original supposition was that the poll was artificially jacked up (by adding more Republicans than Democrats into the polled-voter list) in order to give the impression that Bush had the big momentum, and those sitting on the fence better jump aboard the GOP bandwagon before it's too late. With that big a lead indicated, the hope of the Bush Campaign was that many Democrat voters would get discouraged and not even head for their precinct on Election Day.

But there may be something even more nefarious going on. Short version: It's possible we are being set up for tally-manipulation on Election Day.

This longer version takes a bit of explanation. Follow me on this one:

If the polls in a state indicated a slight lead for Kerry going into the election, or a tied race, and Bush emerges the winner by a few percentage points, there might well be immediate calls for recounting the ballots. But if Bush is given, say, a 10-to-13-point cushion in the rigged polls, and he wins by, say 2 or 3 points, this victory would not excite that much suspicion, and the recount issue might not come into the picture.

("Recount," as you realize, is a meaningless term for those who cast their ballots on touch-screen computer-voting machines that do not provide verified-voting receipts. A "recount" merely would once again spit out the same skewed numbers.)

The Gallup poll, and similar suspicious ones, thus give Rove the cushion he needs to hide whatever electoral manipulations need to be carried out. You remember that the proprietary software for counting the votes is controlled by the Republican-supporting companies that manufacture the computer-voting machines, and that the software can be diddled-with without leaving any trace.

Some of the thinking above was hinted at  in "Gallup Polls: Conditioning the Public for Vote-Rigging?", by Stephen Crocket and Al Lawrence of Democratic Talk Radio.

For more on the Gallup Organization, and how it works, check out Steve Soto's "Gallup Is At it Again -- Yesterday's National Poll Had 12% GOP Bias".  Also, be sure to see Ruy Teixeira's "The "How Can Gallup........Game", where he uses Gallup's own state-by-state figures to demonstrate the phony nature of the supposed 13% Bush lead.


I'm writing this late-Wednesday, a day before the all-important synchronized swimming event known as the "debate" -- where true confrontations and spontaneity are kept to an absolute minimum. But surely, one of the key charges on which Bush will rest his case is the "flip-flopper" one, trying by constant repetition to convince voters that Kerry is simply not consistent or strong enough to earn anybody's vote.

I think Kerry is prepared to deal with that one, in the same way he dealt with enemy attackers along the river in Vietnam, when he turned his boat toward them, powered onto the shore and went after the Viet Cong with guns a-blazing. My guess in the debate is that Kerry will execute a ricochet. Bush will make the charge and then Kerry will bounce the charge right back at him, rolling out instance after instance when Bush flip-flopped on vital social and military issues, ranging from Iraq to the 9/11 Commission to Osama bin Laden and on and on. One can hope that Kerry's frontal attack will take the sting out of this issue once and for all.

Along these lines, check out Mark Sandalow's important front-page San Francisco Chronicle story on Bush's Iraq flip-flops, "Record Shows Bush Shifting on Iraq War: President's Rationale for the Invasion Continues to Evolve".  Here are some key paragraphs:

"Mixed signals are the wrong signals,'' Bush said last week during a campaign stop in Bangor, Maine. "I will continue to lead with clarity, and when I say something, I'll mean what I say.''

Yet, heading into the first presidential debate Thursday, which will focus on foreign affairs, there is much in the public record to suggest that Bush's words on Iraq have evolved -- or, in the parlance his campaign often uses to describe Kerry, flip-flopped.

An examination of more than 150 of Bush's speeches, radio addresses and responses to reporters' questions reveal a steady progression of language, mostly to reflect changing circumstances such as the failure to discover weapons of mass destruction, the lack of ties between Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network and the growing violence of Iraqi insurgents.

A war that was waged principally to overthrow a dictator who possessed "some of the most lethal weapons ever devised'' has evolved into a mission to rid Iraq of its "weapons-making capabilities'' and to offer democracy and freedom to its 25 million residents.

The president no longer expounds upon deposed Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein's connections with al Qaeda, rarely mentions the rape and torture rooms or the illicit weapons factories that he once warned posed a direct threat to the United States.

In the fall of 2002, as Bush sought congressional support for the use of force, he described the vote as a sign of solidarity that would strengthen his ability to keep the peace. Today, his aides describe it unambiguously as a vote to go to war.

Whether such shifts constitute a reasonable evolution of language to reflect the progression of war, or an about-face to justify unmet expectations, is a subjective judgment tinged by partisan prejudice.

Yet a close look at the record makes it difficult to support Bush campaign chairman Ken Mehlman's description of the upcoming debate as a "square-off between resolve and optimism versus vacillation and defeatism.''


Also, read Jim Hightower's "Flip-Flopper-in-Chief":

If you're a toad, don't try to call a frog ugly.

This refers to Bush's toadiness in trying to label John Kerry a flip-flopper on a variety of issues. Kerry has indeed changed his positions on several matters -- and thank goodness he has, since most shifts were to a more progressive position!

But who is the flip-flopper-in-chief? His Georgeness, of course.

For example in his 2000 presidential run, Bush declared that gay marriage was a matter for the states to decide -- now he's crying for a Constitutional amendment to federalize and criminalize the issue. He also promised in 2000 that he would put our nation's Social Security trust fund in a lock box so politicians couldn't spend it on their pet projects -- but he has now totally looted that "lock box," having spent all the money the trust fund will build up through the year 2013 on such pet projects as his tax giveaways to the rich.

Then there's Osama bin Laden. Remember Bush's braggadocio after September 11, declaring that he'd get Osama "dead or alive?" Three years later, Osama is still on the loose and George meekly says, "I don't know where he is. ... I truly am not that concerned about him."

One of his most acrobatic flip-flops was on the need for a "Patients Bill or Rights," se we can sue HMOs that wrongfully deny us medical treatment. In his 2000 campaign, Bush loudly bragged that he had "delivered" such a bill for Texans while he was governor of Texas. But this was a lie, for he actually had vetoed the state legislation. Yet, in 2000, he promised a national patients bill of rights. As president, however, Bush has done a double flip-flop, threatening to veto a patients bill and adamantly claiming in federal court that states cannot pass their own laws.

No one can beat George W when it comes to flip-flops. He does more flipping than IHOP.

And, finally on this issue, see CBS News political writer David Paul Kuhn's "Bush's Top Ten Flip-Flops".


Perhaps the major substantive topic for the first debate will be which version of reality Bush and Kerry use as their prism for interpreting what is happening in Iraq.

Bush will be the rosy-eyed optimist: There are a few problems, establishing democracy isn't easy but we're making great progress, the people and government of Iraq are behind us, we're mopping-up the few insurgents and terrorists, we have to stop "them" (implication: al Qaida) there so as to prevent them from attacking us here again, democratic elections in Iraq are coming in January, don't change horses in the middle of a war -- you know the drill.

Kerry, if he's smart, will quote liberally from Bush's own Secretary of State (Colin Powell said things are "getting worse" in Iraq, not better and national-security experts) to back up his reading of the situation, that Iraq is a disaster area. And that the catastrophe could have been prevented had Bush and his neo-con advisers not taken one wrong step after another in the way they lied us into the war, thoroughly botched the occupation, and on and on.

(For more on the Iraq/reality question, check out Adam Entous' Reuters dispatch "Key Bush Assertions About Iraq in Dispute", Robert Dreyfuss' "Well, Iraq Worked, Right?", and Atrios' "Reality As Presented").

In the debate, Kerry needs to look "presidential" and confident, to stay on the offensive as much as he can, and self-effacingly humorous on occasion. I think he'll do just fine, and by doing so will put into stark contrast the reckless rote-reciter currently in charge of things.

Naturally, of course, no matter how badly Bush does and how well Kerry does, Dubya will be declared the "winner" almost immediately by the Bush-supporting pundits on the networks and cable. As a matter of fact, even before the debates, those spinners are at work by lowering the expectations for Bush; if he doesn't drool, stutter, and smirk too much, he'll obviously be the "winner."

Should be fun. We'll have a full analysis roundup Monday here at The Crisis Papers.


Finally, in case you haven't seen it, here are key excerpts from the editorial endorsing Kerry from the Lone Star Iconocast, the paper in Bush's hometown of Crawford that endorsed Bush in 2000. Read the whole thing; it's a beaut:

Few Americans would have voted for George W. Bush four years ago if he had promised that, as President, he would:

  • Empty the Social Security trust fund by $507 billion to help offset fiscal irresponsibility and at the same time slash Social Security benefits.

  • Cut Medicare by 17 percent and reduce veterans' benefits and military pay.

  • Eliminate overtime pay for millions of Americans and raise oil prices by 50 percent.

  • Give tax cuts to businesses that sent American jobs overseas, and, in fact, by policy encourage their departure.

  • Give away billions of tax dollars in government contracts without competitive bids.

  • Involve this country in a deadly and highly questionable war, and

  • Take a budget surplus and turn it into the worst deficit in the history of the United States, creating a debt in just four years that will take generations to repay.

These were elements of a hidden agenda that surfaced only after he took office.

The publishers of The Iconoclast endorsed Bush four years ago, based on the things he promised, not on this smoke-screened agenda.

Today, we are endorsing his opponent, John Kerry, based not only on the things that Bush has delivered, but also on the vision of a return to normality that Kerry says our country needs.

Four items trouble us the most about the Bush administration: his initiatives to disable the Social Security system, the deteriorating state of the American economy, a dangerous shift away from the basic freedoms established by our founding fathers, and his continuous mistakes regarding terrorism and Iraq.

...When he finally emerged from his hide-outs on remote military bases well after the first crucial hours following the attack, he gave sound-bytes instead of solutions.

He did not trust us to be ready to sacrifice, build up our public and private security infrastructure, or cut down on our energy use to put economic pressure on the enemy in all the nations where he hides. He merely told us to shop, spend, and pretend nothing was wrong.

Rather than using the billions of dollars expended on the invasion of Iraq to shore up our boundaries and go after Osama bin Laden and the Saudi Arabian terrorists, the funds were used to initiate a war with what Bush called a more immediate menace, Saddam Hussein, in oil-rich Iraq. After all, Bush said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction trained on America. We believed him, just as we believed it when he reported that Iraq was the heart of terrorism. We trusted him.

...We presumed the President had solid proof of the existence of these weapons, what and where they were, even as the search continued. Otherwise, our troops would be in much greater danger and the premise for a hurried-up invasion would be moot, allowing more time to solicit assistance from our allies.

...Once and for all, George Bush was President of the United States on that day. No one else. He had been President nine months, he had been officially warned of just such an attack a full month before it happened. As President, ultimately he and only he was responsible for our failure to avert those attacks.

We should expect that a sitting President would vacation less, if at all, and instead tend to the business of running the country, especially if he is, as he likes to boast, a "wartime president." America is in service 365 days a year. We don't need a part-time President who does not show up for duty as Commander-In-Chief until he is forced to, and who is in a constant state of blameless denial when things don't get done.

What has evolved from the virtual go-it-alone conquest of Iraq is more gruesome than a stain on a White House intern's dress. America's reputation and influence in the world has diminished, leaving us with brute force as our most persuasive voice.

Iraq is now a quagmire: no WMDs, no substantive link between Saddam and Osama, and no workable plan for the withdrawal of our troops. We are asked to go along on faith. But remember, blind patriotism can be a dangerous thing and 'spin' will not bring back to life a dead soldier; certainly not a thousand of them.

Kerry has remained true to his vote granting the President the authority to use the threat of war to intimidate Saddam Hussein into allowing weapons inspections. He believes President Bush rushed into war before the inspectors finished their jobs.

Kerry also voted against President Bush's $87 billion for troop funding because the bill promoted poor policy in Iraq, privileged Halliburton and other corporate friends of the Bush administration to profiteer from the war, and forced debt upon future generations of Americans.

...The publishers of the Iconoclast differ with Bush on other issues, including the denial of stem cell research, shortchanging veterans entitlements, cutting school programs and grants, dictating what our children learn through a thought-controlling 'test' from Washington rather than allowing local school boards and parents to decide how young people should be taught, ignoring the environment, and creating extraneous language in the Patriot Act that removes some of the very freedoms that our founding fathers and generations of soldiers fought so hard to preserve.

...The re-election of George W. Bush would be a mandate to continue on our present course of chaos. We cannot afford to double the debt that we already have. We need to be moving in the opposite direction.

John Kerry has 30 years of experience looking out for the American people and can navigate our country back to prosperity and re-instill in America the dignity she so craves and deserves. He has served us well as a highly decorated Vietnam veteran and has had a successful career as a district attorney, lieutenant governor, and senator.
Kerry has a positive vision for America, plus the proven intelligence, good sense, and guts to make it happen.

That's why The Iconoclast urges Texans not to rate the candidate by his hometown or even his political party, but instead by where he intends to take the country.

The Iconoclast wholeheartedly endorses John Kerry.

More Bernard Weiner's Blogs

Spring, 2004 -- Summer, 2004 -- Autumn, 2004

2005 -- 2006 -- 2007 -- 2008 -- 2009 -- 2010




Crisis Papers editors, Partridge & Weiner, are available for public speaking appearances