Saturday, July 19, 2003

MoDo: Administration meltdown not a pretty sight

In her Liberties column Maureen Dowd writes:

What we are witnessing is how ugly it can get when control freaks start losing control. Beset by problems, the Bush team responds by attacking those who point out the problems. These linear, Manichaean managers are flailing in an ever-more-chaotic environment. They are spending $3.9 billion a month trying to keep the lid on a festering mess in Iraq, even as Afghanistan simmers.

The more Bush officials try to explain how the president made the bogus uranium claim in his State of the Union address, despite the C.I.A. red flags and the State Department warning that it was "highly dubious," the more inexplicable it seems. The list of evils the administration has not unearthed keeps getting longer — Osama, Saddam, W.M.D., the anthrax terrorist — as the deficit gets bigger ($455 billion, going to $475 billion).

After 9/11, this administration had everything going for it. Republicans ruled Congress. The president had enormously high approval ratings. Yet it overreached while trying to justify the reasons for going to war.

Even when conservatives have all the marbles, they still act as if they're under siege. Now that they are under siege, it is no time for them to act as if they're losing their marbles.

Let's send them all fruitcakes!

When Intelligence Fails

God knows, this Bush administration gives new meaning to the notion of an intelligence failure.

Here's a nifty little package of three articles that spells out what happens when it does:

Soldiers pay in blood.

Schemers have their way.

Which leaves us with the question:

Who takes the blame?

There's little here most of you don't know, but all three pieces strike me as excellent summaries; two of them are by Jim Lobe, who is fast becoming an essentialy read, in my book.

What is going on?!

Hours before his death, mysteriously slain UK WMD expert David Kelly told of 'dark actors'....

UPDATE: Kelly was a microbiologist, like these others (From Canada's newspaper of record, the Toronto Globe and Mail, thanks to alert reader kelly b). Weird.

UPDATE: The Times (Warren Hoge not Judith Miller)

Bush Is Bullish On Economy

From the President's weekly radio message:

"The American economy is headed in the right direction, and we can be confident of better days ahead," Bush said Saturday in his weekly radio address.

It needs to hurry up, don't you think? After all, the recession ended officially, we now know, in November, 2001, eight months after it officially started, in March, 2001. You remember, it was the Clinton recession then.

The 2001 recession was slightly shorter than the average of the nine other U.S. downturns since World War II, and it was also among the mildest in terms of lost economic output

So the months since November 2001 have to be considered this Bush administration's recovery, yes?

No wonder Incurious George is so optimistic.

When the Dems get beat up badly enough, maybe they'll find a way to make public financing of elections their issue, which is not as easy a move as you might think. There's a Supreme Court ruling to think their way around, and an understandable fear that if they take that issue and run with it, they'll find themselves in a position where they'll look like hypocrites, or be forced to unilaterally disarm.

Even so, what other way is there for citizens to get their democracy back?

EDITED: Reposted to replace what was a draft.

16 questions

Dean has 16 questions for the President. Number 12:

Mr. President, we need to know why your Administration has never told the truth about the costs and long-term commitment of the war, has consistently downplayed what those would be, and now continues to try keep the projected costs hidden from the American people.

Leah already answered this one ("4 letters: P.N.A.C." Summary: Iraq is just a trial run.)

Dean's questions are good and pointed, and thank Jeebus someone is asking them.

But the list of 16 is a mixture of detail and big picture stuff. Granted, you've got to master the detail to know when Bush is lying—or at least which lie he's telling at any one time—but only the big picture stuff can take the White House back in 2004. FWIW, I think Dean should focus on the vision and put an attack dog on the details.

And I do like the "We can handle the truth" banner. A positive message.

Who wants to write the "16 questions" parody, to the tune of "16 candles"? (We've already done "16 words, and whaddaya get," thanks to alert reader Weldon Berger). Maybe we can improve on Dean's questions in the course of writing the lyrics...

Classics of Winger Rhetoric

According to a White House official here:

"The president of the United States is not a fact-checker."

Then again, back on July 5, Our CEO President himself told us:

"I'm the kind of person that likes to know all the facts before I make a decision."
(thanks to alert reader the reverend)

So who's lying? The official? Bush? Or both?

UPDATE: Thanks to the reverend. I guess I'll have to use that "Incurious George" riff another time.

UPDATE: Parseville!
Alert readers decode the carefully crafted, lawyer-like statements of Bush and his officials. Surprise! They turn out to be "technically accurate"!

"I said I was the kind of person who likes to know all the facts. ... That doesn't mean I actually look for them. I just like to think I know what they are." (thanks to Traitorous filth)

Who Is David Kay?

Former UN Arms Inspector, member of UNSCOM, currently part of the team in Iraq looking for those damn WMD, or at least what happened to them, or at least evidence that they were once there, or at least evidence that Saddam had every intention, at some point, to restart his chemical, biological and nuclear weapons program.

If you watched any of the cable news coverage of the leadup to the war, you saw David Kay, and heard him speak often and with absolute confidence; Saddam had 'em, would hide'em, inspections were useless. And he has lost none of his confidence.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003 4:41 p.m. EDT

Pentagon Bombshell: U.S. Uncovers WMD Document 'Mother Lode'

The Pentagon's chief weapons inspector, David Kay, has uncovered what is being described as a "mother lode" of documents in Iraq detailing Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction program.

"I've already seen enough to convince me," said Kay, former U.N. chief nuclear weapons inspector, in an interview aired Tuesday with "NBC Nightly News" anchorman Tom Brokaw.

"We're finding progress reports. [Iraqi scientists] also got financial rewards from Saddam Hussein by breakthroughs, indicating breakthroughs. They actually took – went to Saddam and said, 'We have made this progress,'" the top WMD prober explained. "There are records, there are audiotapes of those interviews which give us that."

"According to Kay, the Iraqis seem to [have kept] documents on even the most damning evidence," said Brokaw.

In assessing the scope of Kay's find, the NBC newsman proclaimed, "This is a mother lode, an estimated seven and a half miles of documents, many of them collected by U.S. military from [Iraq's] official buildings, but many others handed over by Iraqi civilians."


How long will it take before President Bush is able to reveal what could be smoking-gun justification of his decision to make war on Iraq?

"I think we will have a substantial body of evidence before six months," Kay told NBC.

Brokaw ended his report on Kay's find with a clip of Tuesday's comment by Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., a move the newsman apparently intended as a reminder to Democrats who continue to carp about the lack of WMD evidence that they're liable to be humiliated when the full story is known.

"It's a disgrace that the case for war seems to have been based on shoddy intelligence, hyped intelligence, and even false intelligence," Kennedy complained.

Meanwhile, back in Baghdad, Kay continues to pour over his treasure trove of WMD documents.

That's how Newsmax is playing the story. Here's the original interview via MSNBC.

The right is banking on David Kay, to bring home the bacon, so to speak. And not just the whacky right. In that NewHours segment, David Brooks, his voice trembling with breathy hope, brought up the name of Kay.

Through-out the runup to the war, David Kay was slightly more impatient then, with references to "smoking guns."

I'm not suggesting Kay isn't knowledgeable, or that he's lacking in integrity. He believes what he believes, and I doubt many of us would claim that given half a chance, Saddam Huessin was not ever ready to renew his various WMD programs. But the approach to inspections, underlying his Janruary WaPo oped, were, I suspect, highly influencial within the administration.

When it comes to the U.N. weapons inspection in Iraq, looking for a smoking gun is a fool's mission. That was true 11 years ago when I led the inspections there. It is no less true today -- even after the seemingly important discovery on Thursday of a dozen empty short-range missile warheads left over from the 1980s.

The only job the inspectors can expect to accomplish is confirming whether Iraq has voluntarily disarmed.


When it comes to the U.N. weapons inspection in Iraq, looking for a smoking gun is a fool's mission. That was true 11 years ago when I led the inspections there. It is no less true today -- even after the seemingly important discovery on Thursday of a dozen empty short-range missile warheads left over from the 1980s.

The only job the inspectors can expect to accomplish is confirming whether Iraq has voluntarily disarmed.

And they weren't intended to. The administration knew when it needed to wage this war - sometime before the blistering heat arrived that our troops are serving in now. That put time on Saddam's side in their mind, and in David Kay's.

But was it? And was a containment policy that centered on enhanced inspections incompatible with any possibility of Saddam losing his power over the Iraqi people?

UPDATE: David Ehrenstein, who else, has the definitive answer to the question posed in the header. Click on the excellent comments section to find out the answer.

UPDATE: For more about David Kay, check here here and here. (courtesy of reader Fact search)

Also, anyone who may have missed the farmer's extraordinary essay posted early this morning, please don't. It's here.

And Speaking Of Imperium

From the AsiaTimes:

US won't take India's 'No' for an answer
By Sultan Shahin

NEW DELHI - Ever since the United States sought Indian military help to continue its three-month-old occupation of Iraq, speculation about the carrots and sticks attached to the request have been rife. As New Delhi dithered, suspicions grew stronger, despite denials of pressure from both sides, that the incentives were substantial, as were the potential punishments.

Now that Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's coalition government has shown the courage to refuse to send troops to Iraq, both the carrots and sticks are beginning to come out into the open.

In total contrast to its very mild public reaction, expressing just disappointment, senior US officials have reportedly made American displeasure very clear in a closed-door meeting with Indian Ambassador Lalit Mansingh in Washington. One of India's largest-circulated newspapers, the Hindustan Times, quoted diplomatic sources on Thursday to confirm that the US administration conveyed that it felt "let down" by India's decision. More worrying for India, they said it could impact Indo-US ties in "critical areas".


As analyst Seema Sirohi put it: "Hell hath no fury like the US scorned." State Department spokesperson Richard Boucher expressed his concerns more diplomatically: "I am not predicting any particular problems. However, we hoped the troops would have been able to go, I think in our interests and what we perceive as their interests as well."

The Bush administration is known to have a vindictive streak. It reacts strongly to countries that don't cooperate in its imperialist ventures. Even before India's decision to reject the US request, William Triplett, former Republican counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said: "A 'No' from India will have an impact although no one will say so in public. The adults in the administration are thought to be more than a bit put out by the Indian parliament's resolution on Iraq, especially its timing. Showing that the Indian army are rolling up their sleeves to help out now will pay dividends with the Americans later."

George Perkovich, vice-president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, believes with other analysts that this administration does not forget easily. He commented earlier: "The administration would be angry or at least disappointed, and if India sends troops, it would be bailing out the Republicans from a growing crisis of occupation without international partners."

It's not as if the US press hasn't reported the various stories that illustrate the confusion of "vindictive" with "strong" that runs through-out the Bush foreign policy. In fact, the essence of the Bush doctrine is its willingness to coerce compliance with a Pax Americana.

You just don't see any of our pundits noticing in quite the open way we see here. But maybe that's beginning to change?

David Brooks Puts Himself In The President's Boots

On yesterday's NewsHour, during his regular end-of-week commentary from the right, David Brooks expressed consternation and wonderment that the issue of uranium from Niger is still with us.

This story in my view deserved two days. This is a story about one charge among many, and this national intelligence estimate, there were three paragraphs about this uranium story out of ninety pages, and it's not an important story at all.

Brooks pointed out that what we need to be worrying about are where the WMDs are, reconstructing Iraq, and fighting this new guerrilla war that's getting our soldiers killed. That there might be a relationship between the choices made by the Bush administration "then," and the problems we're having "now," Mr. Brooks rejected.

....we are in this frenzy. It is like a libido for the trivial that somehow we think we have Travelgate or Watergate or some other scandal.

Let's leave aside the equation of Travelgate and Watergate; were both trivial? And who was it, again, who treated Travelgate like it was Watergate?

This was the day the White House declassified and released ninety odd pages of last October's NIE, and for Brooks, it explained everything that needed explaining.

Bush gets this in the Oval Office; he reads this on the first page. If Baghdad acquires sufficient fissile material from abroad, it could make a nuclear weapon within several months to a year. Your president of the United States, September 11 just happened, several months to a year. You have to connect the dots. If you're sitting with this document and the whole document is compelling aside from the few areas, including the uranium tubes which are not compelling because of the state department difficult sent. But if you are sitting with this document, you want to connect the dots.

You're in a context, post-September 11 where everybody is blaming you for not bring all the information together, to think about a theory of how the World Trade Centers got blown up. So you want to be aggressive in connecting the dots. They were aggressive and they did take this Niger thing seriously. But to me, that's what I want my president to be doing in those circumstances because nuclear bombs could be months away in Iraq.

Here's what the two Danas, Milbank and Priest, tell us in todays WaPo:

President Bush and his national security adviser did not entirely read the most authoritative prewar assessment of U.S. intelligence on Iraq, including a State Department claim that an allegation Bush would later use in his State of the Union address was "highly dubious," White House officials said yesterday.

The acknowledgment came in a briefing for reporters in which the administration released excerpts from last October's National Intelligence Estimate, a classified, 90-page summary that was the definitive assessment of Iraq's weapons programs by U.S. intelligence agencies. The report declared that "most" of the six intelligence agencies believed there was "compelling evidence that Saddam [Hussein] is reconstituting a uranium enrichment effort for Baghdad's nuclear weapons program." But the document also included a pointed dissent by the State Department, which said the evidence did not "add up to a compelling case" that Iraq was making a comprehensive effort to get nuclear weapons.

Bush aides released eight pages of the NIE, including various findings supporting Bush's charges against Iraq: that Iraq was "continuing, and in some areas expanding," chemical, biological and nuclear programs; that it possessed forbidden chemical and biological weapons; and that it was likely to have a nuclear weapon by the end of the decade.

But the excerpts also show that significant doubts were raised about key assertions Bush made in his State of the Union address. According to the NIE, a consensus document based on the work of six agencies, both the Energy Department, which is responsible for watching foreign nuclear programs, and the State Department disagreed with another allegation, voiced by Bush, that aluminum tubes purchased by Iraq were for a nuclear weapons program.


A senior administration official who briefed reporters yesterday said neither Bush nor national security adviser Condoleezza Rice read the NIE in its entirety. "They did not read footnotes in a 90-page document," said the official, referring to the "Annex" that contained the State Department's dissent. The official conducting the briefing rejected reporters' entreaties to allow his name to be used, arguing that it was his standard procedure for such sessions to be conducted anonymously.

The official said Bush was "briefed" on the NIE's contents, but "I don't think he sat down over a long weekend and read every word of it." Asked whether Bush was aware the State Department called the Africa-uranium claim "highly dubious," the official, who coordinated Bush's State of the Union address, said: "He did not know that."

"The president was comfortable at the time, based on the information that was provided in his speech," the official said of the decision to use it in the address to Congress. "The president of the United States is not a fact-checker."

Brooks, yesterday, recommended "perspective," in evaluating what's really important about how and why this country went to war against Saddam Huessin, which meant waging war on the entire country of Iraq

The reconstruction of Iraq is what we're going to remember in a year or two -- not one charge out of many in the president's case. And that, I think, in Washington, in particular, and I'm not sure it is true in the country, we've lost perspective. (all italics mine)

And what will we have wrought when we've completed that reconstruction? According to Brooks, exactly what was, and still is, the President's strongest argument about Iraq.

...if he had come to the country and said there is a bad guy and there are mass graves, he kills two million people, I actually doubt it would have been enough. But if he had come and said we have to transform the Middle East to drain the swamp of terrorism, and that is part of our larger war on terrorism, then I think the American people would have supported the president on that.

There you have it, the rebirth of a meme, straight outta the PNAC.

The birthplace of civilizations has become the "swamp of terrorism," and it is our imperial responsibility to transform it, for the ultimate good of all mankind, and if we do not shirk from the task, the world will follow us.

Uh huh.

Republican tactics 101: Change the subject

Mike Allen of WaPo (via the Note) lays out the newest White House game plan on hyped Iraq intelligence:

[M]oving the argument away from the specifics of the use of intelligence and to the broader question of the war against terrorism.

Right. Let's enjoy watching Scott "Sucker MC" McClellan sweat and stutter while he explains how getting half our army bogged down in a guerilla war in Iraq has anything to do with fighting the trans-national and decentralized AQ.

Make my popcorn super-sized!

Advice to Mary Matalin: As they say in the Navy: "You can't buff a turd."

Our Fruitcake Republicans

Rep. Scott McInnis, a 50-year-old Colorado Republican, cries:

''I fully intended to defend myself."

And what was the imminent threat?

... [McInnis] later said the 71-year-old Stark ''threatened me with physical harm. It was entirely appropriate for the [Chairman Bill Thomas] to call the sergeant at arms and the Capitol Police so order in the committee could be maintained.'' (Margasak, Associated Press)

A 50-year-old gets the cops to defend himself against a 71-year-old man? Weak. Pathetic. But it's the best the Republicans can do:

By their account, [Chairman Bill Thomas] had no choice but to call the authorities, to restore order when Mr. Stark, 71, threatened Representative Scott McInnis, a 50-year-old Republican, and called him "a wimp" and "a fruitcake." (Stolberg, Times)

Stark has, of course, been contrite about calling a Republican a fruitcake[1]. We have yet to hear an apology from the Republicans for anything.

Beyond the heated words, serious issues are at stake:

  1. The Republicans did call the cops. Into the Capitol. Where do they think they are? Texas?

  2. The Republicans tried to move a bill out of committee without even giving Democrats a chance to read it. Where do they think they are? '30s Berlin? Says Stark: "The real issue here is that we were precluded from being able to represent our constituents". (Josh Richman, Tri-Valley Herald)

  3. That bill is important, since it could slash pension payouts for millions of Americans. We're going to trust the Republicans with our money?

Not that our "evenly balanced" and play-it-for-sneers SCLM will ever tell you that.

And besides.

Bill Thomas is a fruitcake. He's the one responsible for calling the cops. Make him even nuttier by sending him one!

Send Bill Thomas a fruitcake![2]
Let's try a little media manipulation of our own. You can fax Bill Thomas a fruitcake image here:

Fax: 202-225-8798
Fax: 661-637-0867

If you want to send Thomas a real fruitcake, why not send one of those petrified holiday ones you've never thrown out? Good liberals recycle! Or you can send him a new one:

  1. here (pixie)

  2. here (libertas)

Thomas's addresses are:

Washington, DC
2208 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
4100 Empire Drive
Suite 150
Bakersfield, California 93309
(thanks to Leah for recycling suggestion)
[1] "Fruitcake" is slang for a crazy or an eccentric person. Usage example: "Those winger fruitcakes are nuttier than Mussolini."
[2] A real fruitcake, I mean. There are far too many winger ideologues on The Hill already.

UPDATE: Fruitcake Rebellion Roll of Honor

  1. Fruitcake sent. $8.95 is a small price to pay to make my voice heard. (alert reader RCSanders)

  2. Ok, sent a fruitcake. Feel better. Thanks everyone, for making it possible. (alert reader tena)

  3. Just mailed my fruitcake. I really enjoyed "fruiting' the repubs. They deserve all the fruitcakes they can get. Besides, $8.95 is a small price to pay to get my country back!!!!!! (alert reader Colleen)

  4. Fruitcake sent to Thomas' home office in Bakersfield. Hopefully he'll get the point. At least I didn't have to fill out a nine-screen form that first asks if I'm for or against fruitcake. (alert reader whump)

  5. I faxed a letter of complaint, along with a picture of a fruitcake from that Google search you posted. I believe he's still my Rep., unfortunately. (alert reader dark avenger)

  6. Another fruitcake inbound for D.C.! (alert reader Tartarus)

  7. Another fruitcake on it's way to Thomas. Hope he's got a big appetitie!
    kriselda jarnsaxa

  8. My family all pitched in to send Billy Boy a big ol' concrete block o' fruity stuff; thanks for the links!

(Thanks to alert reader Beth for "Fruitcake rebellion")

"The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat."- Genesis 3:13

Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind. And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all of their rights unto the leader and gladly so. How do I know? For this is what I have done. And I am Caesar. – Author unknown

"...Fascism is, also historically, of mushroom growth, without legitimate roots in our liberty-loving traditions." - Anthony Turano quoting a resident of Naples Italy, 1934.

The following excerpts appear in an article titled: "Mussolini Is Tottering", by Anthony M. Turano, published by The American Mercury, September 1934. Volume XXXIII, Number 129. page 25, Editor: Charles Angoff.
Turano, born in Italy, returned to his country of birth to report on the state of affairs during Mussolini's reign. NOTE: All bracketed bold type sectional sub-heads below are my emphasis, and do not appear in the original AM article.

[begin Turano excerpts, Italy circa 1934]

POLITICAL conversation in Fascist Italy divides itself into two main branches: the ostentatious public panegyric, and the whispered private jeremiad. The first, of course, is always concerned with the glory of Il Duce, his dynamic personality, his pontifical infallibility, his success in commanding the respect of other nations toward his country, and his extraordinary feat of making the trains run according to schedule. During a recent personal visit to the land of the Corporative State, I did not escape the loud panegyric; but it was also very interesting to overhear the mono-tone of lamentation and rebellion that prevails in every part of the peninsula.

[i pressci grossi]

One evening, soon after my arrival in my native town in the Southern province of Calabria, I was surrounded by a small group of people who had come to pay their respects to l'Ammcano.

"We have electric lights now," said an old contadino who had previously amused the company by recounting my half-forgotten childhood pranks. "We also have a new railroad, a modern olive press and a flour mill. But il Fascismo is good only for i pesci grossi [the big fish] of the Kingdom. The common people have a worse lot than before. Our knees were badly patched when yon first knew us, and we still wear the same uniforms of poverty.

[Agribiz and Corporate Feudalism]

Mussolini himself has recently admitted that any additional levies would "drive the taxpayers to death." A schoolmate of mine explained that the old regime established Casse Rurali, land banks that were required to loan money to farmers at 3% interest. But the patriotic gentlemen in charge of the institutions, invariably eminent in the high councils of the Fascist Party, manage to collect as much as 12% a year on each loan. Through an epidemic of foreclosures the loan sharks have elevated themselves into feudal barons, while hundreds of families have been evicted from the homes and lands that had been theirs for centuries. These conditions have been consistently ignored by Il Duce, although he is seeking, in his "Battle of Grain," to make Italy self-supporting in the production of wheat.

[Labor vs. Industrial Feudalism]

In Bologna, I spent some time with a distant relative who was a telephone lineman. As an old trade-unionist, he had not managed to digest the industrial feudalism of recent years.

"Labor has lost, under Fascism, everything it had gained in all its previous struggles," he said. "Our wages have been falling steadily since 1929, with no corresponding decrease in the price of bread. If we threaten to strike, we are treated as traitors to the state. With our standard of living lower than ever, we naturally laugh at the propaganda for large families and fearsome armies."

[Culture War and the Fascist Ideal]

Another writer informed me that he had been employed for several years, by an important newspaper, as a special collaborator on artistic and musical subjects. One day his editor, doubtless obeying orders, demanded a written statement of his political attitude.

"I pleaded," said my friend, "that my interests in life were purely literary, and that I preferred to retain my neutrality. It was a mistake. A week later I was discharged."

When I asked him what he had been doing since, he answered that he had managed to eke out an existence by writing for foreign publications in French and English, and that he hoped eventually to establish himself in America.

"The atmosphere itself is so depressing," a Milanese critic said, "that no outstanding writer has arisen here since the advent of the Dark Age of Fascism. Even the novelist is inevitably cramped and self-conscious, for fear that he picture contemporary life in a manner unsuitable to the Fascist idea. The consequence might be imprisonment or exile, as happened to Vinciguerra, De Bosis, Malaparte, and hundreds of the smaller fry. Furthermore, the psychological emphasis has been so completely switched to patriotic stupidities, that there is no longer a reading public in the older sense. There is only the state and its trembling subjects."

[A Blood and Thunder Creed - Learned by Rote]

He later discussed the educational systerm of Italy, and pointed out that all students, even the youngest, are taught to revere imperialism and war, and to learn by rote the various exploits of Il Duce.


"Every instructor and college professor," I was told, "must subscribe to an oath, a blood and thunder creed of Fascism, before he is allowed to teach. Those who refuse to take the oath are replaced by others more obedient. Some of the non-conformists, including two men of immense erudition, are now teaching in American colleges."

[Agents of the National Security State]

The Fascist answer to all signs of economic and spiritual distress is a formidable army of militiamen, carabinieri [police], guards, spies, metropolitani, and other "agents of public security". An exiled Italian author estimates that the cost of maintaining order in Italy is three times what it is in France. Surely no other nation has a more imposing police force.

Naturally, the average Italian cannot reconcile this depressing state of martial law with the official ballyhoo concerning the great popularity of Fascism. His private conversation contains a rich repertoire of picturesque epithets to fit every corps. Some of the most expressive ones, such as infame, and canaglia (infamous, low brow) are directed at the supernumerary militia of Fascism, whose special assignment is the preservation of the state against subversive uprisings. It is the general opinion that these indolent militi are recruited from among the early partisans of Il Duce, and that he is now "providing for them" at public expense. But perhaps the greatest hatred is expressed against the OVRA [Mussolini's secret police] and the hordes of other officers in plain clothes, who trace the movements of every citizen, in the street cars, trains, cafes and other public places, in the hope of overhearing some unguarded phrase of criticism against the prevailing regime. Their espionage penetrates into the most intimate affairs of civilians, including their telephone conversations. Many citizens informed me that their letters had been opened by postal spies.

[Traitors Be Silent]

The man who does not agree with official opinion must be silent, or suffer as a traitor. The inmates of the political prisons are neither regicides nor Communists, but ordinary citizens whose ideas are current street-corner talk in democratic countries. Nitti, Rosselli, and Lussu were ordinary liberals, but they would still be in prison if they had not escaped."

It is the general belief of most citizens that the Italian national "election" of March 25, 1934, was merely a method of counting the friends and enemies of Fascism, for the purpose of apportioning rewards and punishments.

[The Suicide Chamber & The Council of Corporations]

It is well known that Fascism has small respect for democratic institutions. Several years ago it dispensed with municipal elections, by appointing an autocratic podesta for every city and town. The present House of Deputies, known as "the suicide chamber," has been ordered to eliminate itself in favor of a despotic Council of Corporations.

[Fear, Fictions and Propaganda - A Tribe of Hypocrites in Chains]

I was repeatedly told by natives that Il Duce's popularity is a fiction compounded of propaganda and fear. Others insisted that at least one-half of the crowds that cheer him when he appears in public are policemen in plain clothes, while the other half are largely his political dependents.

Indeed, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the Italian blackshirt is nothing more than an ornamental political dickey, a sort of detachable cuff and bosom set that serves a purely forensic purpose; while the majority of citizens continue to wear, closer to their skins, the older white broadcloth of common sense. This universal duplicity that Fascist terrorism has forced upon the population is a frequent subject of apology and justification on the part of intelligent Italians.

"We have been reduced to a tribe of hypocrites in chains," a Neapolitan lawyer was lamenting. "But what can we do? There have been hundreds of martyrs to the cause of freedom in the last twelve years. But you can't expect the whole peninsula to submit to martyrdom. Yet the moral degradation of the individual Italian is a pitiful tragedy. It will be the first concern of Mussolini's successor to restore the dignity of a cowed and fear-palsied nation.

[Fanatic Patriotism and Seeds of Destruction]

It is the prevailing opinion of Italians that Fascism carries within itself the seeds of its own early destruction. One of its main tenets is an insanely fanatic patriotism that causes its leader to fancy himself an avatar of Julius Caesar, and to say that the expansion of his country "is a problem of life and death."

[end Turano excerpts]

Additional Reading: A Kind of Fascism Is Replacing Our Democracy by Sheldon S. Wolin - ("emeritus professor of politics at Princeton University") published July 18, 2003 by Newsday. Article mirrored here.


Friday, July 18, 2003

It gets better: House Thugs called cops for fear of a 71-year-old man

[Scroll down to send Bill Thomas a fruitcake.]

Nothing against 71-year-olds—Heck, my Mom's about that age and she can still scare me. But I've never called the cops on her!

These Thugs! At long last, have they no decency? Marilyn Geewax of the Austin American-Statesman writes:

Republicans defended Thomas, saying he had no choice but to call in police to head off physical attacks they said appeared imminent from Rep. Fortney "Pete" Stark, a 71-year-old Democrat from California.

Leah has posted contact information to support Democrats against this thuggery, and placing the whole matter in context.


UPDATE: Fruitcake, meet Pretzel Boy (thanks to alert reader "bill thomas"). In the lexicon, fruitcake is a demotic measure of diminished mental capacity, not a taxon in a sexual or gender-related classification scheme.

Here is a usage example: "Those winger ideologues—What bunch of fruitcakes!"

UPDATE: Stark's statement (thanks to alert reader anonymous).

UPDATE: Send Bill Thomas a fruitcake!*
You can fax Bill Thomas a fruitcake here:

Fax: 202-225-8798
Fax: 661-637-0867

And if you want to send him a real one, some bakeries are:

  1. here (pixie)

  2. here (libertas)

Thomas's addresses are:

Washington, DC
2208 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
4100 Empire Drive
Suite 150
Bakersfield, California 93309

* A real fruitcake, I mean. There are far too many winger ideologues on The Hill already.

So long, Mom, I'm off to drop the bomb...

...So don't wait up for me! (Tom Lehrer)

No, but wait, there's good news tonight: The Bush administration didn't have mini-nukes in the Iraq war!

Though that won't stop this administration from trying to get them. Bennet Ramburg of the Herald Trib writes:

The Bush administration is scrambling to reverse the House Appropriations Committee's recent deletion of new nuclear weapons funding.

With a new preemptive doctrine, the Bush administration called on Congress to overturn the 1993 prohibition on mini-nuclear weapons and give it the right to explore the option. However, its requested authorization to cut in half the 36 months required to ready the Nevada test site to resume nuclear detonations suggests that the Department of Energy's plans to do more than simply weigh the possibility of new nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, the Iraq war has already called into question the mini-nuke rationale. At the time the conflict began, intelligence had "identified" 800 suspected weapons of mass destruction sites. We now know how faulty this estimate was. Had mini-nuclear weapons existed, might the United States have been tempted to use them? Seduced by representations from the labs that the warheads are sufficiently small to minimize collateral damage, the mini-nukes would have burrowed and exploded on bogus sites, lifting tons of radioactive debris into the atmosphere. The radioactive plumes would have left Iraq with large contaminated zones.

Fortunately, the president did not have this nuclear option on his desk.

Jeebus be praised! And it's funny how things turn out, isn't it?

Having real intelligence—not politicized (copy), "technically accurate," exaggerated, bogus intelligence—could be really useful in preventing things like, oh, turning large portions of the Middle East into radioactive death traps in a strike under the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war. Who knew?

Bush blames the victims: our soldiers

Robert Collier of the San Francisco Chronicle writes:

"It was the end of the world," said one officer Thursday. "It went all the way up to President Bush and back down again on top of us. At least six of us here will lose our careers."

What is it with these guys? They think they're in some kind of citizen army?

[B]itter sentiments -- with no names attached -- were voiced in an anonymous e-mail circulating around the Internet, allegedly from "the soldiers of the Second Brigade, Third ID."

"Our morale is not high or even low," the letter said. "Our morale is nonexistent. We have been told twice that we were going home, and twice we have received a 'stop' movement to stay in Iraq."
(thanks to alert reader cynic http)
Of course, if the neo-cons hadn't promised us all a cake-walk... And if we hadn't gotten guerilla warfare instead ... And if bungled Bush diplomacy hadn't made international troops a fantasy... And if the Bush lies that got us into the war weren't so insultingly transparent to anyone with half a brain, a little cynicism, and CNN (i.e., the entire country), and if Bush hadn't pulled that shark-jumping Mission Accomplished stunt... Maybe morale would be a little bit better?

Blame the victims, Dear misLeader!

The body of UK WMD whistleblower found in woods: Update


British police said a body found Friday had been tentatively identified as that of a missing Defense Ministry adviser suspected of being the source for a news report that the government doctored information on Iraq’s weapons programs to bolster the case for war.

The family of the man, David Kelly, 59, a microbiologist who had worked as a U.N. weapons inspector, reported him missing after he went out for a walk Thursday with no coat despite a heavy rainstorm.

If you ever get a mysterious phone call from someone who has to meet you immediately—don't agree to meet them in the woods, OK?

“[Kelly’s wife, Janice] didn’t use the word ‘depressed,’ but she said he was very, very stressed and unhappy about what had happened and this was really not the kind of world he wanted to live in,” [Television journalist Tom] Mangold said.

True for a lot of us, what? Even those of us who aren't wearing tinfoil hats.

UPDATE: Alert reader Eliza Black comments: "I can't comment on Mr. Kelly's situation before knowing more, but I feel a lot of sympathy for him, and a lot of sympathy for his family."

Worse than a crime—a blunder

Michael Gordon of the Times details the consequences of the diplomatic bungling by the Bush administration (oxymoron!) in mounting the Iraq war. Bush's flubs are costing American lives (and dollars that, thanks to the tax cuts for the richest, we don't have).

The guerrilla war brewing in Iraq is just one reason the American deployment there is shaping up to be larger and longer than anticipated. Another is the tepid international support for the Bush administration's military campaign to topple Saddam Hussein.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said last week that he hoped to enlist as many as 30,000 troops from 49 nations. That is the much advertised coalition of the willing and able that administration officials are hoping can help stabilize Iraq.

The problem, however, is that many of the recruits the Pentagon has tried to line up so far appear to fall into two categories: the not so willing and the not that able.

[T]he failure to build broad international backing for the effort also meant that there were relatively few allied forces to help shoulder the military and financial burdens of enforcing the peace. There is a long list of nations that may send forces, but many of the promised foreign deployments are small and largely symbolic. ...

The conflict in Iraq may offer an important, if painful, lesson for future military campaigns, particularly those that involve "regime change" and the arduous nation-building that is needed to cope with the power vacuum that follows. The lesson is that broad international support is not only desirable politically, it can also offer a real military advantage.

And we can be certain (thanks Atrios) that the administration has many more such campaigns planned for their "New American Century."

Or can we?

NOTE: C'est pire qu'un crime, c'est une faute—Anton Boulay de la Meurthe (also attributed to Talleyrand)

Battle Royal On Floor Of House

Nancy Pelosi introduced a resolution condemning what happened yesterday. (see Lambert's post) ,which has contact information for one of the offending Repubs.

Today, the Repubs are outraged that the Democrats are "making an issue" of it.

Their argument is essentially that Bill Thomas was neither overeacting nor being autocratic; words were said, menacing words, things were getting out of hand, it was perfectly appropriate to call the police.

The Dems are fighting back.

Whoever among you, dear readers, still think the House Democrats are spineless have not been paying attention to the House floor debates, or their Special Order speeches and colloquies.

The incident last night is symptomatic of the ramrod tactics of the Repubs, like DeLay and Thomas, who wield the real power in the house that Hastart doesn't. On the complicated Medicare bill, for instance, the actual bill and amendments were held in a locked room; Democrats were not provided with copies; they were only allowed to read the bill in the locked room, and only after it being ascertained that they had neither pencil or paper upon which to make notes.

Last night was apparently a similiar type of contempt aimed at the minority members.

The Repubs have now been forced into a vote to table Pelosi's resolution.

Let's help the Democrats make this a really big issue. My suggestion, start faxing, telephoning, emailing Pelosi's office. Best, I would say to focus the efforts, so that Pelosi can make the sheer size of the outcry by us citizens, a public issue.

Here's all the contact information on Pelosi.

Here's the contact information for Steny Hoyer, minority whip.

Here's the contact information for Charles Rangel, who is the ranking minority member on the Ways and Means Committee, which is headed by Bill Thomas, and is where the Dems are getting the roughest treatment.

Send some kind of communication to all three. Then call or email ten people to do the same, and ask each of the ten to contact or email another ten, and don't forget to let them know who's already been contacted.

This kind of stuff can really make a difference. What happened last night is so typical of what government has become under total Republican control, that helping to make an issue of it, that has legs, could be the beginning of Congressional Democrats running a national campaign next time around.

Edited to correct horrendous and embarrassing typo, grammatical error, and for purposes of clarification.

Fool me once ...

John J. Lumpkin of the AP writes:

Mounting a campaign to counter criticism that it used flawed intelligence to justify war with Iraq, the White House made public excerpts of the intelligence community's October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate. That report helped shaped now-challenged comments by President Bush in his State of the Union address that Iraq was attempting to buy uranium in Africa.

But we already know that the National Intelligence Estimates, once the "gold standard," have been so politicized by Cheney (copy) as to be worthless.

So when are we going to stop hearing this "flawed intelligence" thing? The issue is that the administration was going to have its war, no matter what. ("Sentence first, verdict afterwards" is the motto of this down-the-rabbit-hole administration.)

Lumpkin goes on to write:

On Thursday, U.S. officials offered new information which suggested a disconnect between the CIA and the State Department over the handling of what turned out to be a crucial but faulty piece of intelligence - the forged documents - used to make the Bush administration's case for war.

Officials acknowledged that had U.S. intelligence analyzed the documents sooner, they could have discovered the forgeries before the information was used as fodder for Bush administration statements vilifying Iraq.

Pretty vivid language for the slow-moving, mainstream AP, eh?

UPDATE: Derrick Z. Jackson of the Glob editorializes on the GOP's double standard on presidential lies (thanks to alert reader Shaw Kenawe.)

When I want your opinion I'll give it to you

Remember how "everybody" thought Iraq had WMDs? Well, turns out everybody thought so--except the experts:
A conference of top-level military analysts was told that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction months before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — a message that later fell on deaf ears in the U.S. capital, analysts say.

Former Canadian military officer-turned-analyst Sunil Ram remembers the January, 2001, conference Understanding the Lessons of Nuclear Inspections and Monitoring in Iraq: A Ten-Year Review.

What he heard at the meeting he has repeated for months, he says, getting little attention from the mainstream media: that U.S. President George W. Bush had no grounds to base the invasion of Iraq on the disarmament issue.

"The people doing the presentation were weapons inspectors and former weapons inspectors and senior members of (U.S. government) agencies," Mr. Ram said in an interview.

"These were the guys on the ground (in Iraq) who had this stuff (weapons facilities) taken apart."

The conclusion they reached, he said, was that "Iraq's nuclear weapons program (didn't exist) because (the Iraqi government) had dismantled it."

He said the message of experts at the meeting was heard loud and clear by many U.S. military and political officials.
The Washington meeting dealt specifically with nuclear weapons, but Mr. Ram said it also addressed chemical and biological weapons to a smaller extent. Even there, he said, the danger to the world from such weapons was dismissed by the presenters.

If there were such weapons in Iraq at that time, he said, "they were negligible in quantity and militarily meaningless."
Scott Taylor, publisher of Esprit de Corps, a magazine on Canadian military affairs, was in Iraq before and after the war and says it was common knowledge — despite insistence of U.S. officials such as Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld — that it was not a certainty that the weapons would be found.

"The unit the Americans had sent (to Iraq) on April 9 (was sent) to find these weapons of mass destruction and secure them (but they) have all come up empty handed," Mr. Taylor said.

"That unit has in fact suspended its operations, and the people (on the team) have a report out to say they do not expect to find any chemical or biological weapons."
Mr. Taylor also believes that Canada's refusal makes it a likely candidate to take a significant role in rebuilding Iraq. He described the reaction of Iraqi people to the fact that he is Canadian: "I was there and all the time people were actually saying (to me) 'Jean Chrétien No. 1' when they knew you were from Canada."
The Bushies are practically a caricature of the postmodernist critique of truth: they really thought that political power carried the ability to define reality. And people are now being killed in the service of that ideological delusion.

Republicans call the cops on Democrats yet again

No, not the Texas Republicans. The (United States) House Republicans. Right on Capitol Hill:

Committee Chairman Bill Thomas, R-Calif., summoned police because he thought the lone Democrat to remain in the room, Rep. Pete Stark of California, was speaking out of line, other Republicans on the panel said. He asked police to remove Democrats from the adjacent room, but later rescinded that request, the Republicans said.

Assistant to the Sergeant of Arms Donald Kellaher, called in to mediate, said that "clearly the police in this circumstance have no role or authority to intervene."


I used to think "Rethuglican" was a little over the top. All good clean fun, though, and part of America's tradition of robust political discourse. Now it looks like "Thug" is le mot juste.

UPDATE: This is on C-SPAN? I wonder if some alert reader could paint a vivid word picture of the whole episode for the readership as a whole? The Post article is lacking in telling details.

UPDATE: The Democratic concerns, from Susan Cornwell of Reuters:

The Republican majority rushed the measure through on a voice vote while committee Democrats were conferring over last-minute changes in an adjacent room. ...

Democrats questioned whether the committee action was legitimate and said they were furious that police had been called by Republican staff. "There is no question in my mind this is an absolute abuse of power," said Rep. Robert Matsui, of California.

All too believable. Especially the "abuse of power" part.

UPDATE: From alert reader Scott Alexander:

Contact info for Kevin Brady (R-Texas), the guy who said he was glad the cops were called because the Democrat who was debating heatedly could no longer "control...his bodily functions".

Kevin Brady (Republican)
428 Cannon Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington,DC 20515

Republicans to students: Drop Dead!

Well, only 84,000.

Rapture index down 3

Still, there's hope (one way or the other). If only we could get that "Peace is War" thing Atrios just spotted under control, we could get the index right back to where ought to be...

LA Times

The LA Times has a long article on the post-war planning screwups. Don´t forget to read all the way to the end. If you don´t, you´ll miss this:

Still, he and other Pentagon officials said, they are studying the lessons of Iraq closely — to ensure that the next U.S. takeover of a foreign country goes more smoothly.

"We're going to get better over time," promised Lawrence Di Rita, a special assistant to Rumsfeld. "We've always thought of post-hostilities as a phase" distinct from combat, he said. "The future of war is that these things are going to be much more of a continuum

"This is the future for the world we're in at the moment," he said. "We'll get better as we do it more often."

Wag It Baby

Sky News (yes, Murdoch) in trouble for filming a bit of military theater and reporting it as real.

Flashback Friday

Head on back to the glory days of 1991. It´s getting pretty scary.

Washington Post Company

Demagoue notices the overexuberance that the Washington Post has for education vouchers in D.C.

It couldn´t have anything to do with the fact that the Post company also has a variety of companies which produce various education materials which would presumably benefit from a from any increases in the degree of the privatization of education.

That body in the woods

Yes, it was David Kelly.

Continuing thread.

Some Days...

I just don´t even know how the hell we got here. Via Hesiod I see that the wife of Maj. Gen Blount of the 3rd Infantry sent an email to all of the families of the soldiers telling them that if they continue to dare to criticize Dear Leader and the Pentagon it´s going to be their fault if their loved ones get shot because by speaking up they are encouraging the enemy.

Fortunately, on this side of the Atlantic, it isn´t too early to have a drink.


"When the Iraqis see media coverage of disgruntled Americans publicly campaigning for the return of our soldiers from Iraq, they are encouraged and believe their strategy is working," wrote Anita Blount in an open letter to spouses in The Frontline. The publication is a community newspaper in Georgia for Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield, home to the 3rd Infantry.

Anita Blount is the wife of Maj. Gen. Buford Blount, commander of the division, who is in Iraq leading his troops.

She said Iraqis who see complaints by U.S. families could come to believe "that their continued attacks on American soldiers are having the desired effect and are diminishing the resolve of the American people to complete the task in Iraq."

"We need to be aware of the possible outcome of our outcries that could backfire on us directly," said Anita Blount, whose husband Major General Buford Blount commands the US 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq.

Drudge Tool of White House

From Grovel:

Some folks in the White House were apparently hopping mad when ABC News correspondent Jeffrey Kofman did a story on Tuesday's "World News Tonight" about the plummeting morale of U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq.

So angry, in fact, that the next day, a White House operative alerted cyber-gossip Matt Drudge to the fact that Kofman is not only openly gay, he's Canadian.

Yesterday Drudge told us he was unaware of the ABC story until "someone from the White House communications shop tipped me to it" along with a profile of Kofman in the gay-oriented magazine the Advocate. On Wednesday, for 6 hours 38 minutes, the Drudge Report bannered Kofman's widely quoted ABC story -- in which enlisted people questioned the Army's credibility and one irked soldier went on camera to call on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to resign -- and linked to the Advocate piece with the understated headline "ABC NEWS REPORTER WHO FILED TROOP COMPLAINT STORY IS CANADIAN."

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan "is having a rough first week," Drudge said. "The White House press office is under new management and has become slightly more aggressive about contacting reporters. This story has certainly become talk radio fodder about the cultural wars-slash-liberal bias in the media."

A network insider was less sanguine about the White House tactic: "Playing hardball is one thing. But appealing to homophobia and jingoism is simply ugly."

Dr. Marshall has more.

Republican family values

Rick Karlin of the Albany Times Union writes:

The first sign of trouble came last year when one couple learned their daughter had been strapped into her chair with a leather belt.

Since then, more than a dozen parents have removed their elementary school youngsters amid complaints about disciplinary tactics by one of the teachers at Hawthorne Valley. Punishment included tying the hands of students and taping their mouths shut if they misbehaved.

The teacher who doled it out, Claire McConnell, apologized, saying in a June 24 letter, "I am sorry for my disciplinary misjudgment, very sorry. ... I request your forgiveness." ...

McConnell is the daughter of Sen. Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky. She did not return phone messages.

Well, such abuse will never happen when the schools are privatized. Oh, wait, Hawthorne Valley was a private school. (via political wire)

Rough play in the UK

A labour intra-party feud gets rather personal:

Supporters of the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, have launched an extraordinary attack on [Prime Minister] Tony Blair, portraying him as a "psychopath" and "psychotic".

[An article in the Brown-backing New Statesman] declares: "The question of Tony Blair's sanity can no longer be avoided."

It quotes Sidney Crown, a former consultant psychotherapist at the Royal London Hospital, as saying that Mr Blair "does not exist" and compares him with an actor. He adds that Alastair Campbell, Downing Street's director of communications and strategy, is "very much represented in Mr Blair's dark side, which is why they like each other ... the psychopathic personality is very quick to pick things up and shift and move about".

Dr Crown suggests that Mr Blair did not decide to lie about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, but had been "highly selective" over intelligence material, seeing the material that appealed to him. "With all forms of psychotics, if you ask people about the consequences of what they've done they can't tell you, because they've no ability to see the future."

Make my popcorn super-sized!

It's the credibility, stupid

By now we now that the Republicans can't handle money. Paul Krugman shows why it's even worse than we thought. As usual with this President, the starting point is a lie:

Here's another sentence in George Bush's State of the Union address that wasn't true: "We will not deny, we will not ignore, we will not pass along our problems to other Congresses, to other presidents and other generations."

Mr. Bush's officials profess to see nothing wrong with the explosion of the national debt on their watch, even though they now project an astonishing $455 billion budget deficit this year and $475 billion next year. But even the usual apologists (well, some of them) are starting to acknowledge the administration's irresponsibility. Will they also face up to its dishonesty? It has been obvious all along, if you were willing to see it, that the administration's claims to fiscal responsibility have rested on thoroughly cooked books.

The numbers tell the tale. In its first budget, released in April 2001, the administration projected a budget surplus of $334 billion for this year. More tellingly, in its second budget, released in February 2002 — that is, after the administration knew about the recession and Sept. 11 — it projected a deficit of only $80 billion this year, and an almost balanced budget next year. Just six months ago, it was projecting deficits of about $300 billion this year and next.

There's no mystery about why the administration's budget projections have borne so little resemblance to reality: realistic budget numbers would have undermined the case for tax cuts. ...

You see, a government that has a reputation for sound finance and honest budgets can get away with running temporary deficits; if it lacks such a reputation, it can't. Right now the U.S. government is running deficits bigger, as a share of G.D.P., than those that plunged Argentina into crisis. The reason we don't face a comparable crisis is that markets, extrapolating from our responsible past, trust us to get our house in order.

But Mr. Bush shows no inclination to deal with the budget deficit. On the contrary, his administration continues to fudge the numbers and push for ever more tax cuts. Eventually, markets will notice. And tarnished credibility, along with a much-increased debt, is a problem that Mr. Bush will pass along to other Congresses, other presidents and other generations.

Just as with the WMDS: It's the credibility, stupid.

Does Bush wear an earpiece for his occasional "press conferences"?

Readers have speculated that this would account for the peculiar stilted and halting quality of his speech. All the "I—I—I—I", "Uh—Uh—Uh." Personally, I think there are other reasons for that, but lots of times things have more than one cause.

UPDATE: From alert reader Goldstone.

Prove it, Pretzel Boy!

I'm starting to get tired of hearing that the WMD flap and Bush's 16 weasel words were the result of some kind of intelligence failure.

It's obvious that the failure was by White House political operatives wno politicized what intelligence we had, not the intelligence agencies. (The agencies aren't perfect, but at least they haven't bungled and blundered on the breathtaking scale that the White House has.)

Take two of the carefully crafted talking points on the 16 weasel words.

First, we were just quoting the Brits. Fine, but you can't say you "learned" what you don't really know.

Second, we had other reasons besides the Niger yellowcake forgeries: among them, National Intelligence Estimates, "the gold standard."

Fine, except like so much else in this administration, what was once a gold standard has been looted and trashed.

Knut Royce of Newsdaywrites:

During the Clinton administration, the CIA's annual reports to Congress on the global proliferation of weapons of mass destruction routinely cast Iraq as a problematic footnote -- a country worth keeping an eye on but not an alarming threat.

But the tone of the reports changed dramatically after George W. Bush became president, with increasingly longer narratives suggesting that Iraq was hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons.

In 1997, the first year of the congressionally mandated reports, the CIA devoted only three paragraphs to Iraq, noting that Baghdad possessed dual-use equipment that could be used for biological or chemical programs. There was no mention of a nuclear weapons program.

By last year, the latest reporting period, the section on Iraq ran seven times longer, warning that "all intelligence experts agree that Iraq is seeking nuclear weapons" and that the country could produce a bomb "within a year" if it got its hands on weapons-grade material.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Congress last week that no significant new evidence about Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction had been uncovered during the current administration. Intelligence sources agreed.

So, no new intelligence, but a lot more hype. And whose task was it to make sure the NIEs were hyped? Why, none other than Dick Cheney (copy).

Bush is doubly "responsible" for the 16 weasel words. First, for having his operatives corrupt our intelligence so he could have his war. The weasel words are a direct result of that corruption. The intelligence people kept taking them out; the White House kept putting them in. Second, for every word and every line* of this speech and every other speech he gives..

UPDATE: *"Every line and every word," and the telling photo (see above, French Cuffs and all) are now making it into the mainstream information flow, via WaPo's Al Kamen. Kamen also mentions Bush's "revisionist" or "delusional" history on weapons inspection. So many lies, so many shadings of truth and untruth, who can keep track? (thanks to alert reader Terry)

UPDATE: OK, OK, "Freedom Cuffs." But—free associating from the penchant that Republican Mitch McConnell's daughter has for leather—has anyone noticed that "Freedom Cuff" is an oxymoron? Like "Bush administration"?

Brownshirts Out In Full Force

From the Post

Bush-haters and the anti-war crowd hoping to pounce on this are only encouraging America's enemies - and undermining the good achieved in Iraq.

Letters, They Get Letters

In the LA Times:

Why is Bush being questioned only about his intentionally false claim about nuclear weapons material? What about the other false claims in that same speech: Where are the "25,000 liters of anthrax"? Where are the "38,000 liters of botulinum toxin"? Where are the "500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent"? Where are the "29,984 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents?" All of these were supposedly ready, on 45 minutes' notice, to be used against "freedom-loving people."

Hence, the rush to war!

Bill G. Aldridge

Henderson, Nev.


What the hell is going on.

LONDON, July 18 — A Ministry of Defense adviser, named by the government as the possible source for a disputed news report on Iraqi arms, has been reported missing by his family, police said Friday.
Police searching for David Kelly said Friday they have found a male body about 5 miles from his home in in Oxfordshire, central England. But detectives have not yet identified the body, a spokeswoman for Thames Valley Police
Kelly's family reported him missing late Thursday after he failed to return to home from an afternoon walk.
''This is clearly a sensitive inquiry,'' David Purnell of Thames Valley Police spokesman told a press conference. ''At the moment ... a body has been found. There is no more further information as to the identity of that person, those inquiries are ongoing.''
Kelly, 59, appeared before a Parliamentary committee earlier this week to face questions over a British Broadcasting Corp. report that government aides doctored intelligence on Iraqi weapons to strengthen the case for war.

Tomasky on Limbaugh

This is a really nice article by Tomasky.

Don´t Read Eschaton In a Public Place

Apparently, even reading something which is critical of the way the media reports on the Bush administration can get you a visit from the FBI if some of the brownshirts drop a dime on you.

Plantation Rebellion

CNN's Moneyline, currently hosted by some vapid apple polisher who knows nothing much about farm issues, aside from whatever corporate lobbyist talking points have been provided, has been airing what amounts to a corporate agribiz PR news-o-mercial disguised as journalism. Nothing new there, including the usual imbecilic stage-managed shine, costumed as news reporting from the theater department at CNN. But for more perspective on the issue of big agribusiness and its impact on "family farms", local communities and the nation as a whole, the following three writers discuss some of the important broader economic, social and political implications that surround this subject.

Part 1 - Farming, Populism, Tradition

A.V. Krebs writes:
With each passing day it becomes more apparent that our nation's family farmers are going to have to rapidly remove the shackles of the recent past, face political and economic reality and collectively organize for the future if they are to survive. {...} Either family farmers must revive and adhere to their proud agrarian populist tradition or find themselves amongst the growing number of corporate agribusiness' "excess human resources." {...} In his book The Myth of the Family Farm: Agribusiness Dominance of US Agriculture, Ingolf Voegler, a geographer at the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire, points out that corporate agribusiness has managed to create its own self-serving "family farm" myth which it has supported collaterally by four other myths, namely, the work ethic myth, the free enterprise myth, the efficiency myth and the equal-opportunity myth. Belief in such myths has been the basis of the "conventional wisdom" that has not only exacerbated a wholesale exodus of family farmers from farming, but has reduced the role of those remaining in our food delivery system to being chattel, merely raw material providers for a giant profit-driven food manufacturing system.

It is time family farmers put aside such "conventional wisdom" that for so long has enslaved them, speak truth to corporate power and begin to act collectively in their own and in the general public's self interest.

Part 2: The Myth of the Family Farm

A.V. Krebs writes:
Thus for decades we have witnessed a wholesale exploitation of our agricultural system by corporate agribusiness and its "communities of economic interests" directed not only at driving farmers, workers and consumers apart, but also at the same time attempting to divert the taxpayers' attention away from the root causes of the this nation's chronic farm crisis.

It has done this by preaching about farming practices, "excessive" government regulations, by creating artificial divisions within the farm community, and by replacing a fair price in the marketplace with an ever-escalating unfair burden of debt.

At the same time through corporate/government/land grant college planning during the past 100 years, coupled with the success of self-serving "communities of economic interests," corporate agribusiness has obtained its primary goal -- namely, destroying farmers' economic and political power through forced liquidation caused by enforced low commodity prices.

Part 3: "Privatization and Neo-Feudalism"

Bill Willers writes:
Corporate America has spent billions lobbying for deregulation of its activities and for privatization of everything from the health system to education to national parks and forests to Social Security -- a situation that would lead to ownership and control by the corporate sector and a tiny handful of the super rich of virtually every aspect of society. {...} With country and culture in the hands of a very few, democracy perishes. The great American Experiment would end not through internal weakness, but via carefully crafted "neoconservative" strategy from without, to be replaced by something resembling, more than anything else, medieval feudalism, only set in a high tech world. According to the plan now in place, "we the people" are to be the new serfs. As Thom Hartmann noted: "We're entering a new and unknown but hauntingly familiar era."

SUMMER EXTRA: Read "RURAL ROUTES" by Margot Ford McMillen, on local in-season farm markets.

And for those of you who live in the DC area......
The FRESHFARM market at Dupont Circle, located in the 1500 block of 20th Street, between Massachusetts Avenue and Q Streets, and the adjacent Riggs Bank parking lot in Northwest DC is open from 9am to 1pm every Sunday (summers) or 10am to 1 pm (winters) year-round. The market in St. Michaels, MD, located in Muskrat Park on the St. Michaels's harbor, at Willow and Green Streets, one block from Talbot Street, is open every Saturday from 8:30am to 12:30 pm until October 26.

This producer-only market ensures that the money you spend goes directly to the farmers, helping them to remain economically viable and hang on to their land. American Farmland Trust's Farming on the Edge report tells the story of our nation's disappearing farmland.


White House to Netizens: Drop Dead!

Here. Perhaps some unemployed technical professionals can offer to help!

His first day on the job, new CENTCOM chief to soldiers: "Zip it!"

Craig Gordon of Newsday:

"If Donald Rumsfeld were here, I'd ask him for his resignation," one disgruntled soldier said on ABC's "Good Morning America" show. Asked by a reporter what his message would be for Rumsfeld, another said: "I would ask him why we are still here. I don't have any clue as to why we are still in Iraq."

Abizaid said he personally was "saddened" to hear disparaging comments by professional soldiers and noted that they probably violated the military code of conduct and could draw reprimands. But he said he knew soldiers were simply expressing frustration at being in the middle of a dangerous and difficult situation.

Permission to speak freely, sir?

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Pryor vote delayed.



Faith-based intelligence

No, they aren't shy about it.

As we know, "[F]aith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen..." (Heb 11:1). And we sure haven't seen any evidence, so it must be faith...

And Blair (arf!) really, really believes:

I said with every fiber of instinct and conviction I believe that we are right.

And so does Bush:

And the -- our people are going to find out the truth, and the truth will say that this intelligence was good intelligence.

But what's with Bush's near-Freudian "And the -- our people", anyhow?

"[T]he" what?

The special ops team in the desert planting the weapons? The intelligence team forging the documents? That's a good explanation for his otherwise bizarre confidence, isn't it?

Cheney Energy Task force

Judicial Watch, media release today:

Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption and abuse, said today that documents turned over by the Commerce Department, under court order as a result of Judicial Watch’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit concerning the activities of the Cheney Energy Task Force, contain a map of Iraqi oilfields, pipelines, refineries and terminals, as well as 2 charts detailing Iraqi oil and gas projects, and “Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts.” The documents, which are dated March 2001, are available on the Internet at:
(from Tom Tomorrow, thanks to alert reader tinyelvis )
Hmmm ...

Classics of winger rhetoric

Bush in his carefully scripted "press conference":

"We're being tested in Iraq. Our enemies are looking for signs of hesitation. They're looking for signs of weakness. They will find none."

How about some signs of a plan? "None" there, either.

And would it have been too much to have asked for a plan beforehand?

Fed Forecasts A Chicken In Every Pot

And guess what's just around the corner.

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Federal Reserve policymakers' forecasts for U.S. economic growth next year are way above the market consensus and the strongest since 1984, suggesting they are confident recent stimulus will light a fire under the moribund recovery.

But economists caution the central bank has been over-optimistic in its forecasts throughout the entire downturn and pallid recovery, and as yet there are scant signs of the long-anticipated return to solid growth.

The Fed's central tendency forecast for 2004, compiled from estimates by the members of the policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee, put growth at 3.75 to 4.75 percent.

The mid-point of that range of 4.25 percent is well above the median 3.7 percent forecast of 29 private-sector economists polled by Reuters over the past week.

Reader Hobson suggests those who doubt have failed to grasp that Alan Greenspan is prepared to reduce interest rates, if necessary to stimulate the economy, to a minus percentage, wherein depositors will have to pay to keep their money anywhere but under a mattress.


Not nuke-u-lar! Aaugh! (Though to be charitable, check this. (Thanks to alert reader jerry)

UPDATE: Good soundbites, but they don't answer the actual questions (all two of them).

UPDATE: NPR—Bush doesn't take responsibility for the 16 weasel words (constitutionally, his) although he does take responsibility for the war (constitutionally, not his). Lots of "I—I—I—I", "Uh—Uh—Uh."

Lots of obfuscation between "weapons" (imminent threat) and "weapons program" (buried under rosebushes, etc.) Same old, same old.

Lots of references to '80s and '90s intelligence. Same old, same old.

UPDATE: The spin cycle begins anew... EJ Dionne (WaPo): Bush owes Blair big-time. Although Blair settled no questions. President "didn't do himself any good" by not taking responsibility for the 16 weasel words. David Brooks: Brought "mood" back to 9/11. (So??) Bush performance "relatively mediocre." (compared to?) Both agree Bush and Blair are still making the case for war (Brooks: "relitigating.")

UPDATE: From the transcript:

THE PRESIDENT: We'll take a couple of questions. Tom.

Q Mr. President, others in your administration have said your words on Iraq and Africa did not belong in your State of the Union address. Will you take personal responsibility for those words? And to both of you, how is it that two major world leaders such as yourselves have had such a hard time persuading other major powers to help stabilize Iraq?

THE PRESIDENT: First, I take responsibility for putting our troops into action. .... And, yeah, I take responsibility for making the decisions I made.

Not, apparently, for his words. But then, how could he?

And Bush never does answer the question. Again, putting the troops into action is not, constitutionally, Bush's responsibility at all. On the other hand, presenting a State of the Union speech to Congress and the American people is exactly that. Same old, same old.

Perspective: Dan Milbank here:

Minnesota Public Radio this week quoted Mary Kewatt, the aunt of a soldier killed in Iraq, saying: "President Bush made a comment a week ago, and he said 'bring it on.' Well, they brought it on, and now my nephew is dead."

Bush lies, soldiers die. All the stonewalling in the world can't change it.

UPDATE: Editorial tweaks.

Saying "No" To Saddam

On this date last year, the people of Iraq would have been in the streets, celebrating the coup which brought the Baath party to power. As we all know, those celebrations were always highly choreographed.

Today in Iraq, most Iraqis celebrated by not celebrating

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - For decades Saddam Hussein (news - web sites)'s Baath Party held lavish celebrations every July 17 to mark the anniversary of the 1968 coup that brought them to power.

No speeches and no fanfare rang out in Baghdad on Thursday as Iraqis ignored the 35th anniversary. The broadcast by an Arab TV station of a new tape purportedly of Saddam's voice, marking the anniversary, brought anger and derision on the street.

"This is the best July 17th I've seen so far because there is no Saddam and no Baath," said Fadil Amin, an out-of-work translator. "We're better off without them, even if we don't have any electrical power or water and security is abysmal."

Would that this country had said "No" to Saddam and to the Baathists lo those many years ago when, instead, we tilted toward him, against Iran, which had betrayed us by overthrowing the Shah, our chosen ruler for them, over the one democratically chosen by the Iranian people.

Do I think the mullahs were an improvement on the Shah? No. But if only we'd taken a few moments, then, to look back and consider why it was that in the long run, the Shah thing didn't work out, perhaps we might have avoided the kind of engagement with Saddam that has now resulted in two wars, and endless suffering for the Iraqi people.

Could be the same kind of questioning is in order now? Just a thought.

Saddam celebrated by releasing a new tape.

In an audiotape marking Thursday's 35th anniversary of the Baath Party coup, a voice purported to be that of Saddam Hussein urged Iraqis to continue a "holy war" against U.S. forces. Even so, the banned holiday was a remarkably quiet day for American troops in Iraq. The voice on the audiotape, broadcast on two Arab satellite television networks, said the tape was recorded three days earlier to commemorate the holiday

Unaccustomed as I am to wishing for the death of even the more heinous of persons, and not to be too bloodthirsty about this, but why or why couldn't one of those smart bombs found its way to Saddam? I doubt he has any real following left; whoever those guerrilla's are who are taking on US troops, and let's not assume that they're coordinated, or that they're all like minded or similarly motivated, I'd bet that damn few of them want Saddam back.

But his assumed presence, living and breathing somewhere "in country," is as useful to the Bush administration as it is to any Baathist supporters.

No, I'm not claiming that there is or was some sort of conspiracy to let him live; Saddam alive doesn't argue well for the war, but those tapes of him urging on the resistence will allow the administration and those who continue to defend the war and occupation to claim, once again, that critics of both or either, are siding with Saddam, against our own troops.

As I'm writing this, Tony Blair is speaking to a joint session of Congress, in a speech that it is already clear will seek to justify the war, largely, at least emotionally, on grounds of rescuing the Iraqi people from the clutches of Saddam.

I suspect the speech will do for Bush what Bush couldn't do for Bush these last few week.

Both Saddam's tape, and Blair's speech suggest to me that those of us who fear the consequences, both for the Iraqi people and for this country, of an occupation that its planners didn't really plan for, and those tasked with its implementation weren't prepared to implement, not be enticed by the utter incompetence of Bush's post war performance, into a total skepticism that cannot admit the present moment contains real possibilities for Iraqis, slender as they are, given what the occupiers-in-chief have in mind.

I'm glad Saddam's more or less gone. I'm glad the Baathist party has been disrupted.

Do I want this occupation to succeed? I leave the answer to another post, because only by examining the terms of that crucial question can we understand why a simple "yes" or "no" is inadequate to the reality of this particular historical moment.

To be continued.

Tenet's strange reluctance...

Who insisted on the 16 weasel words?

[S]ources, who spoke with NBC News on condition of anonymity, said that Tenet “reluctantly” identified the official as National Security Council member Robert Joseph. Once source said that the revelation led to a series of questions about Joseph’s role.

Sources have told the network that, after Foley objected to the first draft of the passage, Joseph came up with the suggestion of attributing it to the British, asking [CIA analyst Alan] Foley if that would make it technically correct. Since the British were reporting it, Foley had to acknowledge that the passage was factually accurate, even though the CIA did not think the assertion was true, according to the sources.

Though this is what Tenet is quoted as saying, NSC member and (very?) Special Assistant Joseph himself has already denied it. ("He denies it, leave out that part," as the King says in Alice in Wonderland.)

Another functionary (Condi's) heaved over the side....

From the cornered mind of George W. Bush: Got to—think—Some professor somewhere—Yeah, that's the ticket [to repeat Atrios's post earlier today]—Do Special Assistants even have swords?—Condi will know——

Pass the popcorn!

(Thanks to alert readers Hunter, Alex.)

UPDATE: Varied wordsmithing.

UPDATE: Via Talking Points, Sucker MC caught in the headlights on his first day of his new job:

QUESTION: Let me come back to your "nonsense" statement here, and let me slice it as thinly as I possibly can, just growing out of what Scott asked. Is it nonsense to say that the White House wanted this information included in the State of the Union and negotiated with the CIA to find a way to put it in to the State of the Union?

Scott McClellan: I'm sorry?


UPDATE: Who needs BabelFish? You can figure this out for yourself! Le Monde writes that according to the Italian intelligence service:

... [C]'est Silvio Berlusconi lui-même qui aurait relancé le faux dossier à l'occasion d'une conversation téléphonique avec George Bush, trois jours avant le discours de celui-ci sur l'état de l'Union...

It's got everything! A winger-to-winger telcon, outrageous (Italian) media concentration, and the Italian services using the French connection to put it to their own Misleader! (Thanks to Likely Story.)

Passez le mais grillé et éclaté!