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Step off, old man!
Monday, 24 January 2005
Molly on Condi
I loved Condi's faux indignation when Barbara Boxer dared ask her tough questions. If W had been there, I'm sure Rice would have run crying to him. Here's Molly Ivins take on Condi:

"Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice helpfully explained it all for us. The problem is that we are living in an alternative reality. What we think we know is not true. We have always had enough troops in Iraq. There are 120,000 trained Iraqi soldiers ready to take over. The president has condemned torture, so what else is there to say? Why torture happened, whose fault it is and why it is still happening at Guantanamo is not a problem because the president has condemned it. Secretary Rice also condemns it, so why raise questions about the fact that she wrote a letter to get an anti-torture clause in the intelligence appropriation bill taken out?

What, do you want to insult her integrity?

Secretary Rice did say that mistakes were made, but she does not know who made them or who should be held accountable. And, of course, as we all learned during the last election, no matter what happens, it is never, ever President Bush's fault."

Posted by brettdavey at 9:18 AM EST
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Lie and Deny
This story is interesting to read because it's just another example of Bush doing everything he can to avoid being held accountable. Personally, I wouldn't be surprised if Gonzales helped Bush dig a ditch to bury a body. Again, this is a trifling matter compared to the true atrocities the Administration commits on a daily basis, but it's still a perfect illustration of their M.O.: lie, lie, and then deny.

From Newsweek:

"Senate Democrats put off a vote on White House counsel Alberto Gonzales's nomination to be attorney general, complaining he had provided evasive answers to questions about torture and the mistreatment of prisoners. But Gonzales's most surprising answer may have come on a different subject: his role in helping President Bush escape jury duty in a drunken-driving case involving a dancer at an Austin strip club in 1996. The judge and other lawyers in the case last week disputed a written account of the matter provided by Gonzales to the Senate Judiciary Committee. "It's a complete misrepresentation," said David Wahlberg, lawyer for the dancer, about Gonzales's account.

Bush's summons to serve as a juror in the drunken-driving case was, in retrospect, a fateful moment in his political career: by getting excused from jury duty he was able to avoid questions that would have required him to disclose his own 1976 arrest and conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) in Kennebunkport, Maine--an incident that didn't become public until the closing days of the 2000 campaign. (Bush, who had publicly declared his willingness to serve, had left blank on his jury questionnaire whether he had ever been "accused" in a criminal case.) Asked by Sen. Patrick Leahy to describe "in detail" the only court appearance he ever made on behalf of Bush, Gonzales--who was then chief counsel to the Texas governor--wrote that he had accompanied Bush the day he went to court "prepared to serve on a jury." While there, Gonzales wrote, he "observed" the defense lawyer make a motion to strike Bush from the jury panel "to which the prosecutor did not object." Asked by the judge whether he had "any views on this," Gonzales recalled, he said he did not.

While Gonzales's account tracks with the official court transcript, it leaves out a key part of what happened that day, according to Travis County Judge David Crain. In separate interviews, Crain--along with Wahlberg and prosecutor John Lastovica--told NEWSWEEK that, before the case began, Gonzales asked to have an off-the-record conference in the judge's chambers. Gonzales then asked Crain to "consider" striking Bush from the jury, making the novel "conflict of interest" argument that the Texas governor might one day be asked to pardon the defendant (who worked at an Austin nightclub called Sugar's), the judge said. "He [Gonzales] raised the issue," Crain said. Crain said he found Gonzales's argument surprising, since it was "extremely unlikely" that a drunken-driving conviction would ever lead to a pardon petition to Bush. But "out of deference" to the governor, Crain said, the other lawyers went along. Wahlberg said he agreed to make the motion striking Bush because he didn't want the hard-line governor on his jury anyway. But there was little doubt among the participants as to what was going on. "In public, they were making a big show of how he was prepared to serve," said Crain. "In the back room, they were trying to get him off."

Gonzales last week refused to waver. "Judge Gonzales has no recollection of requesting a meeting in chambers," a senior White House official said, adding that while Gonzales did recall that Bush's potential conflict was "discussed," he never "requested" that Bush be excused. "His answer to the Senate's question is accurate," the official said.

Posted by brettdavey at 9:14 AM EST
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Sunday, 16 January 2005
Who said it?
I'm not comparing the Bush Administration with Nazis. Just aiming to show, over the decades, the answers remain the same for ignorant and awful human beings.

From the website, www.realitybasednation.com.

Let's play 'Who Said That?!'
By Bob Cesca

"These so-called ill-treatments and this torturing... were not, as assumed, inflicted methodically, but were excesses committed by individual leaders, subleaders, and men who laid violent hands on internees... It is obvious that there were elements among them who would ill-treat internees, but this ill-treatment was never tolerated."

"Who Said That?!"

Was it:

A) White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales in Congress today?

Or...

B) Nazi Auschwitz Kommandant Rudolf Hoess during the Nuremberg Trails?

If you answered, A) White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales in Congress today, you'd be close... But wrong.

Rudolf Hoess said this about concentration camp abuses and torture, but doesn't it sound eerily familiar? Only the use of the word "internees" instead of "detainees" really gave it away.




Posted by brettdavey at 1:16 PM EST
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And God said, kill at will
It's staggering the lack of humility and grace that this supposed Christian president has. Has there ever been a more arrogant elected official, one who will never, ever admit a mistake, even as Iraq goes up in flames?

Look out now. We all know torture of captured foreign fighters is A-OK with the President who gets his orders from God. Next up, I'm sure, is murder of his enemies.

After all, he was re-elected.

From today's Washington Post:

President Bush said the public's decision to reelect him was a ratification of his approach toward Iraq and that there was no reason to hold any administration officials accountable for mistakes or misjudgments in prewar planning or managing the violent aftermath.

"We had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 elections," Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post. "The American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me."

Posted by brettdavey at 1:03 PM EST
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Friday, 14 January 2005
Say what?
I'm not one of those people who thinks George Bush is unintelligent because of the way he speaks. My problem is that he doesn't care at all about the consequences of what he does.

Still, it's kind of fun to read transcripts of him answering questions. This is GW discussing US tsunami aid efforts with Barbara Walters.

Barbara Walters: "Do you think that, because of the kind of aid that we're giving, because of the leadership that we're giving, that this could make a difference in the Muslim world?"

Bush: "Absolutely. I think it can. Our public diplomacy efforts aren't . . . aren't very robust, and aren't very good, compared to the public diplomacy efforts of those who would like to spread hatred and . . . and vilify the United States. And, uh, but in the ... responding to the tsunami many in the Muslim world have seen a great compassion in the American people. Our troops are providing incredibly good service. I mean, we are saving lives, and flying supplies, and I ... people ... aside from the propaganda, many people, outcasts, are coming over some of those stations, um, apart from that, or in spite of that, I guess is the best way to say it, people are seeing the concrete actions of a compassionate country."


Posted by brettdavey at 2:33 PM EST
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Nixon, born 30 years too late
This is one of the headlines currently on CNN.com --"Bush picks new nickname for senator."

Can we now officially admit that it's over, that the national media is an insult to all the ink stained wretches who came before them into what was once considered an honorable profession?

It's still hands-off when the national media talks about the Bush Administration. All of the following are no big deal according to the hacks working at most national media outlets:

* We're now in the torture business.
* We went to war on a made-up premise.
* Bush has told his aides he doesn't want to hear any bad news about the war. (I am not making this up.)
* During the run-up to war, the Administration tapped the phones of UN delegates to get an inkling of how they were going to vote.
* The Administration is now paying pundits to carry their water. (Armstrong Williams, stop saying they just paid for ads on your show. They also paid you to have Rod Paige on, talk up "No Child Left Behind," and urge other columnists to write about "NCLB.")
* Bush & Co. are lying about the Social Security issue so they can dismantle it.
* Bush's phony ranch in Crawford. (I know this is a trifling matter but the damned thing was built while he was running for president. He'd never lived on a ranch in his life. It's a prop, people. I always feel an aneurism coming on when a TV reporter is doing a standup at the ranch, standing in front of a tractor.)

Poor Richard Nixon. If he had only been born a few decades later, he could have skated through his second term unscathed. Seriously. Think about how trifling Watergate seems now compared to the atrocities being committed today.

Like they say, if you're going to steal, steal big.

Posted by brettdavey at 10:44 AM EST
Updated: Friday, 14 January 2005 2:30 PM EST
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Thursday, 13 January 2005
James Wolcott says
This is from www.jameswolcott.com.

"I do believe in being skeptical at all times, and I would assume any writer or commentator would wish to have a healthy skepticism as standard operating equipment. I was skeptical about the claims and rationales for the war in Iraq, and three years later I don't think such skepticism was unjustified. Today we learned that the search for WMDs is being wrapped up with no evidence of banned weapons being discovered. Now Simon has posted that the WMD threat was never the primary reason he supported the war. That may be. But that's how it was sold to the American people with scare talk to convince us that we must act now before it was Too Late and, as Condi Rice said more than once, the next smoking gun turned out to be a mushroom cloud. And again and again warbloggers would pounce upon a discovery of this mobile lab or that stash of shells or that trace of ricin and say aha! here they are, why aren't the MSM reporting this?--only to learn a few days later this was rusty material left over from the Iran-Iraq war.

Simon is palsy-walsy with Michael Ledeen, who sometimes posts on Simon's site and is (or was) collaborating with him on a screenplay. Ten days after the 9/11 attacks, Ledeen published a column called "Creative Destruction"--neocons love creative destruction, especially the destruction part--in which he tee'd Iraq and Iran for regime change, even though at at this point the U.S. hadn't engaged the Taliban. Ledeen lamented that the intelligence and foreign policy establishment had done so little to fan the flames of freedom in the region. To wit,

"In Iraq, we have halfheartedly supported an umbrella organization, the Iraqi National Congress, under the outstanding leadership of Ahmed Chalabi.

"Yet the State Department, as recently as yesterday, was still telling them that they must not, under any circumstances, operate inside Iraq. That is sheer folly, for it guarantees that we get the worst of both worlds: We enrage Saddam even further, but ensure that we won't be able to get close to his throat. The president should order these embarrassing restrictions removed, give full support to this democratic resistance movement, and encourage the downtrodden and long suffering Iraqi people to join Chalabi and win their freedom."

Well, the Bushies heeded Ledeen and his fellow neocons and embraced the "outstanding leadership" of Chalabi and the Iraqi exiles, who fed them and us factoids and fantasies about what would unfold in Iraq when the tanks liberated Baghdad. Jim Lobe, delving into a 220 page report from the Defense Science Board regarding the preplanning for the war, writes:

"Before the war, the Pentagon civilians, who were backed by Vice President Dick Cheney, sought to exclude the State Department or the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from postwar planning and operations largely because of their belief that the two agencies would promote Sunni Arab nationalists in the place of Saddam Hussein. They, on the other hand, supported exile leader Ahmed Chalabi, a secular Shi'ite who, they believed, was committed to a thorough de-Ba'athification of Iraq and staunch alignment with the U.S. and even Israel.

"They also believed Chalabi's repeated assurances that U.S. troops would be greeted as 'liberators' by virtually all Iraqis, rather than as 'occupiers' and so planned to quickly draw down the 140,000 troops who invaded the country to only about 30,000 by early 2005."

Well, we've seen how well that panned out. Pessimism, schmessifism. It doesn't matter if the glass is half-empty or half full if the glass is filled with blood needlessly shed.

And today Simon is all caffeinated about another urgent summons from Norman Podhoretz to gird our loins and show the fortitude to wage World War IV. Ledeen, Chalabi, Podhoretz--these are your comrades, Mr. Simon, and you're welcome to them.


01.12.05 1:28PM ? LINK ? Pings (3)


Howard Fineman: Still Searching for the Perfect Shade of Lipstick
Posted by James Wolcott
Tbogg, wincing, directs us to a demure pile of Howard Fineman fingernail parings about how "Rathergate" spells the demise of the "Media Party."

Forget for a moment that Fineman, a mucky-mucky at Newsweek and MSNBC pundit who preens like a courtier, jeers at the "Media Party" as if he weren't a fully paid-up club member with spa privileges. When he writes, "It's hard to know now who, if anyone, in the 'media' has any credibility," it doesn't penetrate his pancake makeup that few have less credibility than he, and not because he's tilted at too many windmills and missed.

No, what's startling is Fineman's ignorance of the history and dynamics of his own profession. He now looks at journalism not through the eyes of a journalist but through the contemptuous eyes of those he covers, sharing their disdain.

One supremely, fatuously blithe sentence says it all. Writing about the media's bloodhound pursuit of the truth about the war in Southeast Asia and Watergate, Fineman, lolling in the comfort of hindsight, observes, "The crusades of Vietnam and Watergate seemed like a good idea at the time, even a noble one, not only to the press but perhaps to a majority of Americans."

1) I would say that those "crusades" also seem like pretty goddam good ideas in retrospect, considering that the alternatives were endless slaughter in Vietnam and the complete subversion of the Constitution and a gangster mentality unchained had Watergate never been investigated. I have to believe that if Howard Fineman had been an editor in 1972, he would have shrugged off Watergate and assigned his reporters to meatier stories, such as finding out who's designing Mrs. Nixon's inauguration gown and how well it drapes.

2) The notion that Vietnam and Watergate were press "crusades" is an ignorant and idiotic telescoping of history. During much of the buildup and carnage in Vietnam, the establishment papers and newsweeklies (Time, particularly) were resolutely for the war as a bulwark against Communist incursion in Southeast Asia (the domino theory), as were the American people. The opposition came from the fringe--Ramparts, Evergreen Review, underground papers, I. F. Stone's Weekly (I.F. Stone, who should be the patron saint of Koufax bloggers)--and bled into the mainstream middle as the carnage continued unabated with no end in sight. Reporters in the field who saw how badly the war was going constantly fought with their editors in NY and DC, who watered down their dispatches. The press turned against Vietnam when the chasm between what was coming out of the Pentagon and White House and what their own reporters were telling them and their cameras showing them became too wide to bridge. It was an unfolding process. (If Walter Cronkite had said the Vietnam war was unwinnable in 1966, he would have sounded like a mad prophet. By 1968, when he issued his dire prognosis, he was voicing what so many knew but had been reluctant to say.) The public slowly turned against the war because of the mounting casualties, deaths that seemed more and more futile. The Gallup Poll today showing that 50% of the American people now believe the invasion of Iraq was a mistake reflects the same pattern of attrition.

As for Watergate, Fineman makes it sound like the entire press suited up in armor and mounted their steeds into battle at the first trumpet. Hardly. The Watergate breakin was dismissed as a second-rate burglary of trifling interest with Woodward and Bernstein's digging being dismissed at the outset as a snipe hunt by the loftier placed in the media. Watergate didn't become a "crusade" until the story became so juicy, the evidence of corruption so pervasive, and the testimonies so riveting, that the entire nation was transfixed.

When you see how gullibly the media swallowed the lies and claims from the Bush administration and their neocon mouthpieces about WMDs in Iraq, it's pretty damned hard to accept the notion that the Media Party suffers from an excess of prosecutorial zeal, and that we're all better off with the ghost of Edward R. Murrow finally being sucked into the ventilator so that reporters can resume a more modest role shining Karl Rove's shoes.


Posted by brettdavey at 1:14 PM EST
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Tuesday, 11 January 2005
From Helen Thomas
We'll probably never know what is at the core of the strange relationship the President has with his father. Armchair psychiatrists always guess that he is trying to outdo his old man. Whatever. One thing everyone can agree on is the younger Bush has created a collossal mess that could have been avoided if he'd bothered to chat with his father. Why he didn't is a question for the ages.

From Helen Thomas:

"Former President George H.W. Bush is in a tough spot. He anguishes when his son, the president, is criticized. But he is reluctant to give him any advice, even when the president may need it.

Bush and his wife, Barbara, gave their views to Hugh Sidey, Time magazine's former columnist, for the magazine's "Man of the Year" issue with the current President Bush on the cover.

The former president has loosened up since leaving office 12 years ago, as evidenced by his blast at Michael Moore, whose movie, "Fahrenheit 9-11," presented an unflattering portrait of the current president.

Moore is a "slimeball," said Bush senior.

Seemed to me like the former president has picked up a freewheeling style from his wife, already known for her provocative comments. The couple seem to have fun saying what they think after years of restraint imposed by politics and protocol.

The former president is still simmering over a 1988 remark by former Texas Gov. Ann Richards, who said George W. Bush was "born with a silver foot in his mouth."

The current president defeated Richards when she ran for reelection in 1995, prompting Bush senior to say, "We showed her what she could do with that silver foot, where she could stick that now."

The senior Bushes are simply reaffirming the old truism that parents are usually defensive about their children, especially when they are under fire. Bush, the 41st president of the United States, told Sidey: "It's the pride of a father in a son and it transcends or avoids the issues."

He said that he does talk with his son about "issues, but it's not real in-depth. It's not his saying to me, 'What do I do now?'"

There has been speculation that the younger Bush wanted to run for the White House to outdo his father, who successfully prosecuted the first Gulf War in 1991 when U.S. forces evicted Iraq from Kuwait.

That commander-in-chief wisely chose not go on to Baghdad, fearing that U.S. forces would end up in a quagmire of urban fighting. Imagine that.

Bush senior vehemently rejects such personal motivations on the part of his son.

Of course, one can expect a father to be very protective of his son. But there are indications that Bush senior had been urging caution on his son in the runup to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, speaking through surrogates like former Secretary of State James Baker and former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft.

Both Baker and Scowcroft felt diplomacy was the best way to deal with Saddam Hussein. The neoconservatives -- who persuaded the current president to invade Iraq -- tried but were unable to sell their war plans to the elder Bush. That's because Bush-41 had wiser advisers around him.

The senior Bush also knew it was important for the United States to have friends and allies around the world, a goal that somehow has eluded his son.

The former president said he has certain ideas that he would like to discuss with his son but is reluctant do so, fearing the press would make much of it.

He said the thing that "was perhaps the most hurtful to me was the theme that the president doesn't know what he's doing, that he's dumb, that he's some know-nothing cowboy from Texas."

Bush said he sat with his son at Camp David and at his ranch at Crawford, Texas, and heard him "with intelligence people and asking the appropriate questions," adding, "I was surprised at how broad the vision and grasp are. But he gets no credit for that."

Bush said he and his wife "talk a lot" to the president and he usually calls at 6 a.m. from the Oval Office on a speakerphone.

Barbara Bush explained the rules governing those early morning chats: "No repeating what he tells you, No. 1, and not giving unsolicited advice."

That's too bad. Bush-41 might have passed on a rule that is well known to history buffs -- the Middle East is a tinderbox.

And his son would have done well to listen to his father."

Posted by brettdavey at 11:44 AM EST
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Rewarding incompetence
There has never been anything in history quite like the Bush Administration's drive to reward incompetence. It would be like if the Red Sox made Grady Little manager for life.

First, Condi is promoted to Secretary of State because she sucked as National Security Advisor. And hey, let's make Gonzalez Attorney General because he gave advice that the US should go hot-and-heavy into the torture business.

Here's the latest from today's Boston Globe:

WASHINGTON -- The man who insisted that President Bush make the claim that Saddam Hussein was seeking uranium for nuclear weapons in Africa is poised to assume a top State Department job that would make him the lead US arms negotiator with Iran and North Korea, according to administration officials.

Robert G. Joseph, a special assistant for national security to President Bush until a few months ago, is on the short list to become undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, the nation's senior diplomat in charge of negotiating arms control treaties, said the officials, who spoke on the condition they not be named.

Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice, who was Joseph's boss at the National Security Council, has been a strong supporter of Joseph, the officials said. Joseph did not respond to messages yesterday.

White House and intelligence officials have identified him as the official who included the uranium claim in the president's 2003 State of the Union address, despite strong CIA objections. Joseph has said he believed the CIA's disagreement was over the sourcing of the assertion, not whether the claim was accurate, the White House said about six months after the speech. But the apparent willingness of the administration to consider promoting someone who was involved in one of its biggest embarrassments drew immediate fire from critics.

"He should have been fired or reprimanded," said Joseph Cirincione, a senior arms-proliferation specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. "We see instead that he could be given the key position in the Department of State for all treaty and nonproliferation matters."

In addition, some diplomatic observers worried that Joseph's appointment, which would have to be confirmed by the Senate, would mark a further consolidation of US foreign policy under the tight-knit group of national security officials that dominated in the first Bush term and aggressively promoted intelligence linking Iraq to weapons of mass destruction and the Al Qaeda terrorist network, despite cautions in the intelligence community.

Under the leadership of Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and his deputy, Richard Armitage, the State Department served as a check on the so-called neoconservatives in the Pentagon and the White House who strongly backed the Iraq war. With Rice as secretary and Joseph as her chief arms negotiator, many specialists outside the White House fear that the State Department will no longer provide a counterbalance to administration hawks who long have been suspicious of arms-control agreements and have espoused the doctrine of preemptive war.

"With Rice at the top it means that in terms of the one, two, and three posts at State you will now have two-thirds from the conservative ideology working for the president," said Greg Thielmann, who served as the State Department's top analyst on weapons of mass destruction until the fall of 2003.

Posted by brettdavey at 9:28 AM EST
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Monday, 10 January 2005
Trust them with Social Security?
I haven't really said much about the Social Security question, although I feel privatization is a bad idea. Social Security is a safety net, albeit a thin one. If a retiree does crummy with their investments, then what?

In the end, I just don't feel inclined to trust an Administration that has lied about just about every matter of importance for four years.

Here's a recent column on the Social Security issue from Josh Marshall at www.talkingpointsmemo.com:

"Here is one of many comparisons and observations we'll be making to provide some counterweight to the White House's efforts to deceive the American people about Social Security.

The Social Security Trustees estimate that over the next 75 years the program faces a budget shortfall of $3.7 trillion.

As we've noted previously and will again, the Trustees use a very pessimistic estimate of future economic growth to arrive at that figure. But, for the moment, let's stipulate to that amount.

$3.7 trillion is a lot of money.

But how much will the president's Medicare drug benefit plan cost over the next 75 years?

$8.1 trillion, say the Trustees of that program.

And over the next 75 years how much will the president's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts cost if made permanent, as the president wants?

$11.6 trillion.

So you add that up and you get $3.7 trillion we need to cover Social Security's shortfall and $19.7 trillion we need just to cover the costs of the two major domestic policy initiatives of the president's first term.

And yet Social Security, says the president, is in crisis and destined to chew through the rest of the federal budget.

(These statistics are noted in this budgeting summary from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.)

I would submit to you that in any reasonable universe this simple comparison shatters the president's credibility on fiscal 'icebergs' and spending crises. And yet these basic facts seem to garner little notice.

That is because, in the last couple decades, in the culture of Washington -- particularly among the elite commentators and reporters (just watch Meet the Press) -- presuming that Social Security is financially unviable has become an ready shorthand for public policy seriousness, much as many use a basic knowledge of imported wines or a familiarity with classical music to signal refinement.

This is something the president is exploiting. And the defenders of Social Security must find ways to overcome it."

Posted by brettdavey at 1:30 PM EST
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