Amazingly, through it all the only person who was right was me.
Saturday, February 07, 2004
On Aug. 26, 2002, Cheney said: "Many of us are convinced that Saddam will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon." The estimate, several weeks later, would say it would take as many as five years, unless Baghdad immediately obtained weapons-grade materials.
In the same speech, Cheney raised the specter that Hussein would give chemical or biological weapons to terrorists, a prospect invoked often in the weeks to come. "Deliverable weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a terror network, or a murderous dictator, or the two working together, constitute as grave a threat as can be imagined," Cheney said.
It would be more than a month later that a declassified portion of the NIE would show that U.S. intelligence analysts had forecast that Hussein would give such weapons to terrorists only if Iraq were invaded and he faced annihilation.
"The probability of him initiating an attack . . . in the foreseeable future . . . I think would be low," a senior CIA official told the Senate intelligence committee during a classified briefing on the estimate on Oct. 2, 2002. The CIA released a partial transcript five days later after committee Democrats complained that a published "white paper" on Iraq's weapons had not given the public a fair reading of what the classified NIE contained.
On Sept. 8, 2002, Cheney said of Hussein on NBC's "Meet the Press": "We do know, with absolute certainty, that he is using his procurement system to acquire the equipment he needs in order to enrich uranium to build a nuclear weapon." Cheney was referring to the aluminum tubes that some analysts believed could be used for a centrifuge to help make nuclear materials; others believed they were for an antiaircraft rocket.
Such absolute certainty, however, did not appear in the estimate. Tenet said Thursday that the controversy has yet to be cleared up.
On Sept. 19, 2002, Rumsfeld, speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee, said: "No terrorist state poses a greater or more immediate threat to the security of our people than the regime of Saddam Hussein and Iraq." The October estimate contained no similar language.
Speaking to the House Armed Services Committee on Sept. 18, 2002, Rumsfeld described an immediate threat from biological weapons. Hussein, he said, could deploy "sleeper cells armed with biological weapons to attack us from within -- and then deny any knowledge or connection to the attacks."
In '96 I went to a campaign rally for the Clenis. The security (visible) was fairly minimal. I believe I had to go to the local Dem office and sign my name to get a "ticket" to the event, but that was bascially a formality. It was in a very open area. You know, what a campaign rally is supposed to look like. I can't imagine Bush doing anything like that, or doing the meet-n-greet at the local coffee shop. I can't imagine him getting in with the crowds.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Oh well. Another one down:
DES MOINES, Iowa -- In what may be the first subpoena of its kind in decades, a federal judge has ordered a university to turn over records about a gathering of anti-war activists.
In addition to the subpoena of Drake University, subpoenas were served this past week on four of the activists who attended a Nov. 15 forum at the school, ordering them to appear before a grand jury Tuesday, the protesters said.
Federal prosecutors refuse to comment on the subpoenas.
In addition to records about who attended the forum, the subpoena orders the university to divulge all records relating to the local chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, a New York-based legal activist organization that sponsored the forum.
Two days later, Pincus, together with Dana Milbank, the Post's White House correspondent, was back with an even more critical story. "As the Bush administration prepares to attack Iraq this week," it began, "it is doing so on the basis of a number of allegations against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein that have been challenged?and in some cases disproved ?by the United Nations, European governments and even US intelligence reports." That story appeared on page A13.
The placement of these stories was no accident, Pincus says. "The front pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times are very important in shaping what other people think," he told me. "They're like writing a memo to the White House." But the Post's editors, he said, "went through a whole phase in which they didn't put things on the front page that would make a difference."
The Post was not alone. The nearer the war drew, and the more determined the administration seemed to wage it, the less editors were willing to ask tough questions. The occasional critical stories that did appear were, like Pincus's, tucked well out of sight.
The performance of the Times was especially deficient. While occasionally running articles that questioned administration claims, it more often deferred to them. (The Times's editorial page was consistently much more skeptical.) Compared to other major papers, the Times placed more credence in defectors, expressed less confidence in inspectors, and paid less attention to dissenters. The September 8 story on the aluminum tubes was especially significant. Not only did it put the Times's imprimatur on one of the administration's chief claims, but it also established a position at the paper that apparently discouraged further investigation into this and related topics.
The reporters working on the story strongly disagree. That the tubes were intended for centrifuges "was the dominant view of the US intelligence community," Michael Gordon told me. "It looks like it's the wrong view. But the story captured what was and still is the majority view of the intelligence community?whether right or wrong." Not only the director of central intelligence but also the secretary of state decided to support it, Gordon said, adding,
Most of the intelligence agencies in the US government thought that Iraq had something. Both Clinton and Bush officials thought this. So did Richard Butler, who had been head of UNSCOM and who wrote a book about Iraq called "The Greatest Threat." So it was a widely shared assumption in and out of government. I don't recall a whole lot of people challenging that.
Yet there were many people challenging the administration's assertions. It's revealing that Gordon encountered so few of them. On the aluminum tubes, David Albright, as noted above, made a special effort to alert Judith Miller to the dissent surrounding them, to no avail.
Asked about this, Miller said that as an investigative reporter in the intelligence area, "my job isn't to assess the government's information and be an independent intelligence analyst myself. My job is to tell readers of The New York Times what the government thought about Iraq's arsenal." Many journalists would disagree with this; instead, they would consider offering an independent evaluation of official claims one of their chief responsibilities.
There you go. Our investigative reporters think that the job of the investigative reporter is to report whatever the government tells them.
The whole article is pretty incredible. Whores be damned.
Ah, 3:46. Perhaps it's not too early for a drink. Jeebus.
President George W. Bush's approval rating has slipped to 48 percent, the lowest level since February 2001, according to the Newsweek poll. Fifty percent of registered voters say they would not like to see Bush re-elected to a second term (45% say they would). And if the election were held today, Democratic frontrunner Sen. John Kerry would win over Bush by 50 percent to 45 percent among registered voters. However Bush would have clear wins over Democratic contenders Sen. John Edwards (49% to 44%), former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (50% to 44%) and retired General Wesley Clark (51% to 43%).
I'm just thinking out loud here (like most of my posts), but I am a bit curious about the cause of the falling support. The economy isn't as good as the Lucky Duckies crowd likes to claim, but it definitely isn't abysmal. Iraq is a mess, but support for it hasn't exactly fallen through the floor yet.
Maybe people are finally fed up with the Terra Terra Terra "it's a different world after 9/11" stuff. We kicked ass in Afghanistan, and we're still supposed to be scared. We kicked ass in Iraq, captured the Evil One with the Moustache, and we're still supposed to be scared. People are just goddamn sick of the low-level anxiety stuff, which has a certain perverse thrill for awhile. I think the Roveians were right that it was time to change the focus to something more positive, but what they came up with - Mars - was just stupid. And, when cornered on anything the knee-jerk reaction is just to revert to "terra terra terra." Frankly, it's just gotten old.
The existence of an open civil society requires that the vast majority of people, for the most part, choose to be civil. There are so many scores to be settled, so many competing factions, so many reasons for general popular discontent for the current state of affairs, that I really don't comprehend how we're really going to be capable of doing much of anything to improve things. Maybe - just maybe - there was a narrow window in the immediate aftermath of "major combat operations," when if we'd done things just right, used the existing institutions including the military and much of the Baathist bureaucracy, had an army of engineers in to fix the place up the way all those breathless NPR reports kept promising us, etc... when we could have put things on the right course. But, they just lost the thread pretty quickly.
Our media has been completely complicit in this disaster. From the supposedly (according to Crazy Andy) anti-war New York Times endorsing the war, to Paula Zahn telling Scott Ritter he'd "drunk Saddam's Kool Aid," to Kyra Phillips asking if a boy who had his arms blown off understood what Operation Iraqi Freedom was all about, etc... It's been a disaster, and it will continue to be a disaster. As far as I can tell, even Ahmed Chalabi doesn't like his new toy very much - he doesn't spend much time there.
Things aren't improving much now. When the Bush administration decides that Up is Down, the media dutifully follow. When suddenly it was the CIA, and not the Office of Special Plans and Dr. Strangefeld who were perverting intelligence to push for war, the media compliantly forget everything they'd been saying for a year. Warbloggers who had blamed the CIA for being insufficiently enthusiastic about the Excellent Adventure are now pretending that nasty CIA hoodwinked the administration, while simultaneously saying the war was Still a Good Thing because...? Shit, I don't even know what the reason is this week. The Washington Post lets Jim Hoagland rewrite history by contradicting his own prior columns.
There's a cancer in our press right now, and it's going to continue to grow and grow. Even now anti-war critics, despite being ABSOLUTELY RIGHT, are being marginalized because for some reason in order to criticize the war you have to have been for it to begin with. I have no idea why this makes any sense, but there it is. It's aided and abetted by the "liberal hawks" who for the most part seemed to just want to prove they have bigger testicles than the rest of us. But, why the hell should anyone listen to them? They were wrong, and I don't really care about reading their tortured essays of self-evaluation. The issue isn't simply that they were wrong, but they were wrong in a particular offensive manner. They, too, for the most part encouraged the marginalization of war critics with their smarmy condescending "we know best" tone. You know what, guys, it ISN'T ALL ABOUT YOU. Stop with the narcissistic navel-gazing. The consequence of your crap wasn't a wee bit of embarassment at cocktail parties, it was this.
President Bush and Vice President Cheney will not be coming to Kentucky to help Alice Forgy Kerr's congressional campaign, Kerr said Monday.
Kerr, who is running in a special election Feb. 17, had expected a visit by one or both of the national leaders. But her campaign would have to pay security costs, among other things, and could not afford it, she said.
With no other Republican candidates to share the spotlight and also the expense, "it would be cost prohibitive," Kerr said in an interview while campaigning in Richmond. It would cost "up in the hundreds of thousands of dollars," she said.
As Kos tells us, Kerr began her campaign by running commercials with her and Bush. Her positives sank and her negatives soared. She pulled the commercials. Let's win KY6! Throw a few more nickles at the Chandler campaign. This is the last week, where the Republicans always pull out all the stops. Push polls, nasty leafletting, fake campaign calls from "Child molesters for Chandler!" and the like will all happen courtesy of the Kerr campaign and its allies. Make sure he has enough money to expose and fight this stuff in the last days before the election.
Brooks continued: "In truth, the people labeled neocons... travel in widely different circles and don't actually have much contact with one another." In truth--to use Brooks's phrase--among those who have signed PNAC letters are Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle and Robert Kagan. PNAC is run by William Kristol, who edits The Weekly Standard, for which Brooks writes, and is the son of Irving Kristol, founder of The Public Interest and former publisher of The National Interest, who wrote a book called Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea, and is married to the neoconservative historian Gertrude Himmelfarb, William's mother. Norman Podhoretz, the former editor of Commentary, is the father of John Podhoretz, a neoconservative editor and columnist who has worked for the Reverend Moon's Washington Times and the New York Post, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns The Weekly Standard and Fox Television. Norman is the father-in-law of Elliott Abrams, the former Iran/contra figure and former head of the neocon Ethics and Public Policy Center and the director of Near Eastern affairs at the National Security Council. Elliott's mother-in-law and Norman's wife, Midge Decter, like many older neocons a veteran of the old Committee on the Present Danger, was recently given a National Humanities Medal after publishing a fawning biography of Rumsfeld, whose number-two and number-three deputies at the Pentagon, respectively, are Wolfowitz and Feith, veterans of the Committee on the Present Danger and Team B, the intelligence advisory group that grossly exaggerated Soviet military power in the 1970s and '80s. Perle, a member of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board (and its former head), is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and sits on the board of Hollinger International, a right-wing media conglomerate (including the Jerusalem Post and the Daily Telegraph) controlled by Conrad Black, the chairman of the editorial board of The National Interest, which Black partly subsidizes through the Nixon Center. Perle and Feith--both PNAC allies--helped write a 1996 paper called "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm," on behalf of Israel's right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Perle, Feith and the other US and Israeli authors called on Israel to abandon the Oslo process and to restore martial law in the Palestinian territories long before the second intifada began. Co-authorship is common among the neocons: Brooks and Kristol, Kristol and Kagan, Frum and Perle.
These are people who, according to David Brooks, "don't actually have much contact with one another."
(via Light of Reason).
I do highly recommend Lind's book Up from Conservatism.
Today Bush announced the names of seven of the nine commissioners charged with investigating US intelligence on Iraq, and to no one's surprise, he appointed a right-wing partisan, former federal appellate judge Laurence Silberman, as co-chairman.
Silberman has never shied away from using his position to benefit his extreme right-wing agenda. According to Blinded by the Right author David Brock, Silberman and his wife helped Brock - then a conservative journalist - smear Anita Hill during Clarence Thomas's confirmation hearings.
Silberman and his wife were also crucial players in the right-wing Clinton impeachment witch hunt. Brock credited the Silbermans with convincing Ken Starr to file a friend-of-the-court brief in the Paula Jones case.
Perhaps most disturbing, Silberman was a decisive vote in the decision to overturn the conviction of Iran-Contra impresario Oliver North, despite Silberman's own connection to the case He was appointed to the court by Ronald Reagan and worked for Reagan's 1980 election campaign.
Silberman is hardly the kind of independent, unbiased person this commission needs in order to get the truth to the American people. He should resign and clear the way for someone more appropriate.
Friday, February 06, 2004
Bill Frist offers stunning proof of a fundamental theory of heredity: Regession to the mean, also known as "the law of filial regression to mediocrity."
I rate this book five tortured and slaughtered kitties out of a possible five. It's sure to win the Mengele Eugenics Award at The New Republic's Gala Celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the Publication of "The Bell Curve"!
More on the illustrious career of Mr. Silberman over the weekend...
...oh, who gives a damn. The committee isn't charged with looking into anything that anyone might actually care about anyway.
STATEMENT OF SENATE DEMOCRATIC LEADER TOM DASCHLE
ON PRESIDENT BUSH'S BUDGET
The document the White House has submitted this week cannot be taken seriously as a budget. As vast and extensive as this budget seems, the Administration has omitted essential facts and data that will have enormous consequences for our fiscal future and our economy. There is not a dime in this budget to cover the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, despite the fact that the CBO estimates the cost of these efforts in the coming years will exceed $200 billion. In addition, by stopping short and projecting five years ahead, the budget hides the full cost of the President's tax breaks. When you include the five years after the budget projections stop, the President's tax breaks will add trillions more to the national debt.
We can't predict every challenge our nation will face in the coming years, but you don't need a crystal ball to know that we have to commit resources to support our troops' efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. You don't need a crystal ball to know that when you ask to make tax breaks permanent, the costs will be with us for more than five years. And yet, the Administration has omitted trillions in spending and revenue shortfalls from their budget plan.
When we look closely at this budget, we learn something valuable about the Administration's choices and priorities. The Administration insists that even in the face of massive deficits, a jobs crisis, and our ongoing activities in Iraq and Afghanistan, we must continue their failed policies of tax cuts first, last and always. In addition to record deficits and debt, this means 2.4 million more children left behind because of underfunded education priorities; 210,000 more veterans without the health care they need; 1,200 fewer cops on our streets; and thousands of fire fighters and emergency medical personnel let go from local departments. These are choices the White House has made.
The President has chosen to provide huge windfalls for millionaires and giant corporations, and huge cutbacks for the programs that matter most to American families. If this budget passes, Americans face a future with poorer schools, higher crime, and less secure retirements. We can and must do better.
U.S. House speaker promises to push tobacco-buyout plan
Should actually be
U.S. House speaker promises to push tobacco-buyout plan if Republican wins special election.
Donate to Ben Chandler. We can win this one.
Let's assume they're right for a moment. But, if so, why is it that they've been oddly unaware of just how dastardly the Clenis is and how large the economic impacts of 9/11 were?
Paul Krugman reminded us recently that months after September 11 (and a year after the departure of the dastardly Clenis), the Bush administration's revenue projections, which incorporate assumptions about economic growth, had us with a $14 billion dollar deficit for this year, which I believe is a bit below the actual number.
Last June, long after September 11 and the departure of the dastardly Clenis, the administration predicted that, following their tax cuts, the economy would gain an average of 305,000 jobs per month beginning in July. Since July, the economy has gained a grand total of 296,000, which means we're still 1,846,000 behind their prediction.
It's tough work transforming our government into a Southern Baptist church, so where does U.S. Representative Tom DeLay go when he wants to relax and refuel? Nowhere else but Hooters, the soft-porn restaurant chain where waitresses are judged by how tightly they squeeze into skimpy tops and shorts.
We don't know if DeLay himself went and showed the ladies just why he's nicknamed The Hammer -- his office didn't return our calls -- but it's obvious he endorses Hooters' philosophy that it ain't a meal unless you can ogle some Men's Club wannabe.
The December financial report of DeLay's political action committee, Americans for a Republican Majority, shows an outlay of $117.19 at a Washington, D.C., Hooters. (Pretty large bill; we can only hope the ARM PACers did not imbibe any ungodly alcohol while leering at the cleavage.)
Judging from the filing and DeLay's past statements, we know: a) Don't send your kids to liberal schools like Baylor or Texas A&M because they have "coed dorms"; and b) Fine family-values dinner conversation can include "Check out the tits on that waitress!"
Is Hooters worried about being taken over by fundamentalists? "We're in the hospitality business," says Mike McNeil, marketing vice president for the chain. "We're not going to discriminate against anyone based on politics."
Perhaps DeLay was trying to get his daughter a job there. Here's a little flashback:
- The weekend included a late-night party Saturday in DeLay's suite at the Rio Hotel and Casino, which featured a living room, bar and hot tub on the balcony. DeLay was not present, aides said; the event was hosted by his daughter, Dani Ferro, the campaign manager for DeLay's reelection campaign. After the party, Ferro told associates that a lobbyist poured champagne on her while she was in the hot tub.
Though, probably not, as his daughter is rewarded quite well for her services to her father's campaigns. We have this from 2000:
Now, six months later, The Washington Post revealed that the daughter of House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas, was paid nearly $60,000 in consulting fees during the second half of 2000, according to financial disclosure reports made public under the new law. The money came from political committees tied to DeLay.
And more recently
Mr. DeLay is not a formal official of the charity, but its managers are Mr. DeLay's daughter, Dani DeLay Ferro; Craig Richardson, a longtime adviser; and Rob Jennings, a Republican fund-raiser. Mr. Richardson said the managers would be paid by the new charity. Mr. Richardson said the goal was to give 75 percent of the money it raised to children's charities, including some in the New York area.
NEW YORK (CBS.MW) -- The major U.S. stock indexes were mixed Friday after data showed that the jobless rate fell to the lowest level in two years and that job growth was strong, but not quite as strong as expected.
The technology sector cheered a strong quarterly report from telecom equipment maker Ericsson, while blue chip stocks were clipped by declines in United Technologies and General Electric, which more than offset a rally in McDonald's.
The U.S. Labor Department said nonfarm payrolls grew by 112,000 in January, the strongest one-month gain since December 2000, but was below expectations of growth of 150,000 or more. The unemployment rate fell 5.6 percent from 5.7 percent, vs. expectations of a rise to 5.8 percent, to the lowest level in two years.
112,000 in a month is anemic job growth. The expectations of 150,000 were expectations of a labor market which is just barely maintaining the status quo.
Not all non-negative job growth is "strong."
Orcinus in Print
Neiwert left his job at MSNBC.com in the fall of 2002, to finish a book, and began his blog in January of 2003 after his wife got pregnant and they decided that he would stay at home to care for the impending baby. He likes the form, he says, because it's so democratic: Bloggers link to each other, link to published articles, post responses from readers, keep tabs on professional pundits and maintain ongoing vendettas against and alliances with other bloggers.
Neiwert, for instance, provides links to more than 100 other bloggers, including his old Salon.com buddy Atrios, who publishes the left-leaning blog Eschaton. He also cultivates a running polemic against conservative writer Andrew Sullivan, whose website is one of the most visited blogs on the world wide web. "My issues with Sullivan really revolve around his crappy journalism," he says. "He wrote a piece about hate crimes for the New York Times Magazine, for instance, that was oblivious to the reality of what hate crimes are all about. He just crudely misrepresented how the laws work, and I thought, 'This is somebody who's just writing straight out of his ass.'"
Never burn a source. It's a cardinal rule of journalism: do not disclose the identity of someone who gives you information in confidence. As a staunch believer in this rule for decades, I have surprised myself lately by concluding that journalists' proud absolutism on this issue — particularly in a case involving the syndicated columnist Robert Novak — is neither as wise nor as ethical as it has seemed.
True, at the core of the pact lies the problem of anonymity. The same tool that exposes wrongdoing can foster it, and journalists' abuse of anonymous sources steadily undermines us. But it is incontestable that some information vital to a democratic public will reach it only through the protection of confidentiality. That is why more than 30 states and the District of Columbia have recognized a reporter's privilege not to be turned into an investigative arm of the government. This protection, never secure, is under increasing pressure from the legal system, causing journalists to feel ever more urgency about defending it.
As a piece of journalism, the Novak column raises disturbing ethical questions. He apparently turned a time-honored use of confidentiality — protecting a whistleblower from government retribution — on its head, delivering government retribution to the whistleblower instead. Worse, he enabled his sources to illegally divulge intelligence information.
Check in with Jobwatch for more details later in the day.
...DeLong has more.
...Reuters has more.
- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. economy created just 112,000 new jobs in January, far fewer than expected, government data showed on Friday, in a disappointing report that will weigh on President Bush's re-election campaign.
The fifth straight monthly gain in non-farm payrolls followed a revised increase of 16,000 new jobs in December, the Labor Department said. The unemployment rate ticked down to 5.6 percent, the lowest since January 2002, from 5.7 percent the previous month - but those numbers are taken from a separate, smaller, survey.
Analysts had been expecting the improving economy to create 150,000 new jobs in January. They were looking for the unemployment rate to hold steady at 5.7 percent.
Many of the new jobs came from a 76,000 increase in the retail sector. But analysts had said before the report that a seasonal adjustment quirk would be the main reason for such a rise. They said there would be a gain because retailers took on fewer employees than expected in the holiday shopping months, which would mean that according to the seasonal adjustments in the report there would be fewer layoffs in January.
...and, on that news, the dollar plunges...
WASHINGTON - President Bush (news - web sites)'s public support dropped sharply over the past month, especially among older voters, political independents and people in the Midwest, an Associated Press poll found.
And for the first time, more voters in this poll's two years of tracking the question said they would definitely vote against Bush than said they would definitely vote for him.
Bush's approval rating stood at 47 percent in the AP-Ipsos poll taken in early February, down from 56 percent approval just a month ago. Half, or 50 percent, said they disapproved in the latest poll.
Thursday, February 05, 2004
Gay Marriage as an issue is here. It isn't going away. I have little patience for those on my side who blame those uppity homos for making it an issue in an election year. Every year is an election year. Now that the Mass. Supreme Court has said "civil unions are not enough," the civil unions semi-dodge is also not enough, particularly for the Senator from Massachusetts. Up until now it's been a reasonable way to try and get around the issue - protect "marriage" while advocating most/all of the legal rights of marriage for gays and lesbians. All the Dem candidates have embraced some version of this. However, while Republicans have had some success because "marriage" is for some reason a hot-button word, as long as this is front and center no amount of blathering about "civil unions" is going to make the issue go away. According to Reuters, Kerry has said that "he favored letting homosexuals enter into civil unions and disagreed with a Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling granting gays the right to marry."
Is it a bad legal decision? Or, is it just icky? It isn't clear. Obviously Kerry would like this issue to go away, but now that Mass. is talking marriage, and not talking civil unions, that particular dodge is no longer operative. Within a couple of months, gays and lesbians will probably be able to get married in the state of Mass. At that point, several legal and political questions will be raised. Kerry, and the rest if they're relevant at the time, can either finesse the issue or confront it head on.
Even conservatives know that they're on the wrong side of history on this one. They're still fighting the fight, but they know they'll lose. It's a shame that, thus far, so many elected Democrats are also on the wrong side. I'm all for practical politics - noble failures are usually of little use. But, at some point, this type of politics becomes impractical
Democrats - The Party of Queers! It'll be true whether or not they deserve the slogan, so they may as well try and deserve it. It is, after all, the right thing to do.
NZ Bear. He does that ecosystem thing and seems like a nice bear.
Cato the Youngest. Actually, I've never read this blog before, but it's a catchy name.
The CounterRevolutionary Ditto.
Cranky Professor He's cranky. He's a professor. What's not to love?
Lone Dissenter S/he sure does sound courageous, though s/he seems to have stopped blogging.
Blissful Knowledge It appears to be written by a superhero. That's pretty damn cool.
Misha. He is a very very nice doggie. Woof!
Tacitus. Well, he isn't nearly as polite as he keeps telling us, but he does have a cool name.
The Volokh Conspiracy My favorite is Juan Non-Volokh. I'm not sure why. His bio is fascinating.
This should really get Russert's goat, if it hasn't already. For President Bush -- a man famously bad on his feet, who has created problems for himself at virtually every single one of the few press conferences he has given -- to put himself in Russert's hands for a full hour, when a few simple questions are all that are needed to break this story wide open, would seem to be a real risk. Unless you believe, as some folks do, that Russert's reputation for toughness is at best lived up to erratically, and at worse undeserved. Will Russert prove his critics right, or will he prove them wrong?
My guess is Russert will prove his critics right, while simultaneously proving that when there's a choice between sucking up to Republican power or proving your cred as a journalist, it's a no-brainer. Then we can cease all discussion on this topic and simply recognize the truth.
State Sen. Bill Stephens, sponsor of a proposed amendment to Georgia's constitution that would ban gay marriage, is in no position to defend the "sanctity of marriage," his former wife told Southern Voice this week.
The woman, who asked that her name not be published, said she and Stephens were married for 15 years and had two sons before the couple split in 1991, in part because she heard persistent allegations that he was having an extramarital affair.
In an interview on Jan. 30, Stephens acknowledged the divorce from his first wife but denied there were any allegations regarding extramarital affairs.
In fairness, he denies it, but nonetheless it seems an amendment banning adultery would be more theologically grounded, assuming we do want to take the whole theocracy-trumps-democracy view.
U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert pledged for the first time yesterday that he would push a tobacco buyout plan to the House floor -- but only if Republican Alice Forgy Kerr is elected to Congress.
Tobacco growers attending the $50-a-head Kerr-sponsored event in Lexington applauded Hastert's remarks. A Kentucky Farm Bureau representative was more reserved, saying the group was encouraged but would fight for a buyout regardless of who wins the Feb. 17 special election for Gov. Ernie Fletcher's vacant 6th District seat.
Go give Ben Chandler some money. We can win this one.
HINGTON, Feb. 4 ? President Bush condemned the Massachusetts court ruling on gay marriage on Wednesday, and conservative groups said the White House had informed them that the president would soon endorse efforts to pass an amendment to the United States Constitution defining marriage to be between a man and a woman.
Mr. Bush, in a statement issued by the White House on Wednesday night, stopped just short of explicitly backing a change to the Constitution, but left little doubt that he is heading in that direction.
The ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court "is deeply troubling," Mr. Bush said.
"Marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman," he said. "If activist judges insist on re-defining marriage by court order, the only alternative will be the constitutional process. We must do what is legally necessary to defend the sanctity of marriage."
Conservative activists who have been in touch with the White House on the issue said they now had no doubt that Mr. Bush had made up his mind to back their call for a constitutional amendment.
"After conversations in recent days with the appropriate people, I have absolutely no doubt the president will in fact take this step in order to ensure that marriage in the United States remains between a man and a woman," said Gary Bauer, the conservative activist who was a Republican presidential candidate in 2000.
Mr. Bauer, who spent the last two days in meetings with conservative groups to develop a strategy for pushing an amendment, said he expected Mr. Bush to make an announcement "sooner rather than later."
Glenn T. Stanton, a policy analyst for the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, said its founder, Dr. James C. Dobson, heard in a conversation on Tuesday night with the president's senior adviser, Karl Rove, that Mr. Bush had decided to back an amendment.
"We heard last night that President Bush is going to come out very clearly advocating the passage of a federal marriage amendment and he is looking for the opportunity to do that," Mr. Stanton said on Wednesday. "It is not a question of if but when."
Wednesday, February 04, 2004
Another Kerry adviser was more blunt. "This is not the Dukakis campaign," the adviser said. "We're not going to take it. And if they're going to come at us with stuff, whatever that stuff may be, if it goes to a place where the '88 campaign did, then everything is on the table. Everything."
I need a cigarette.
Kerry does know where a couple of the bodies are buried.
A media firm working for President Bush (news - web sites)'s re-election campaign has a share of the administration's publicly funded $12.6 million advertising effort touting the new Medicare law.
National Media Inc. of Alexandria, Va., is purchasing $9.5 million worth of television advertising for a 30-second commercial that the administration intends to educate seniors about changes in Medicare such as the new prescription drug benefit, executives involved in the advertising campaign said Wednesday.
Critics of the new law contended the firm's involvement is evidence that the administration is mounting a political rather than educational campaign for the new law.
"There are hundreds of media buyers out there and they get the contract," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill.
Emanuel said campaign media buyers typically are paid 10 to 15 percent of the cost of air time. But executives would not say how much the firm is being paid.
National Media partners include Robin Roberts, the media buyer for Bush's 2000 campaign, and Alex Castellanos, who is well-known for creating sharp attack ads including the Republican Party commercial about Democrat Al Gore (news - web sites) in 2000 that subtly flashed the word "RATS" across the screen.
...how'd we go from 9.5 to 12.6 million so fast?
...Note that National Media didn't produce the ads - they're just going to get a million+ for placing them. Your tax dollars.
Just two days after the White House proposed serious budget cuts and the President said he's "calling upon Congress to be wise with the taxpayer's money," the Bush Administration announced a massive taxpayer-funded television ad campaign to promote its controversial Medicare bill (you can download the ad). Specifically, the White House will use $9.5 million from the Department of Health and Human Services – money that is supposed to be used to implement the law and could go to restore some of the cuts to social services for the poor – on political commercials that "rebut criticism of the new Medicare law." The TV ads will be augmented by $3.1 million in print, radio and Spanish-language ads. The effort represents an "uncommonly aggressive campaign by the administration and congressional Republicans to promote legislation that already has become law" by using scarce taxpayer funds expressly for partisan political purposes at a time when lawmakers are trying to amend the bill. And while the White House claims to be very concerned with the deficits, the new ads – and the past record of opening the spigot of taxpayer money for partisan political purposes – raises questions. First and foremost, does the blatant misuse of taxpayer funds for political purposes violate federal law under 31 USC 1301(a) and 5 USC 7321? Secondly, how much other waste, fraud and abuse is being promoted throughout the government?
THE AD'S DISTORTIONS: The new Medicare ads urge citizens to call 1-800-MEDICARE to hear more about the new law. And in "Big Brother" style, when you call that number you have to actually say out loud "Medicare improvement" in order to get information. The information you then receive is filled with distortions. The hotline claims the new Medicare "is the same Medicare you have always counted on" – failing to disclose that the law includes provisions which try to force more seniors into private HMOs. The hotline claims that seniors will be able to find "immediate savings between 10% to 15% from a new drug discount card program." But the cards, which were written into the bill by one of President Bush's closest business associates, actually do not guarantee any savings at all. The hotline also says the new prescription drug program under Medicare "will provide significant savings for seniors." But as the Center for Economic and Policy Research notes, "seniors in the middle income quintile will pay an average of $1,650 a year in out-of-pocket expenses for prescription drugs in 2006 - a figure nearly 60% more than they paid in 2000."
HHS FUNDS HAVE BEEN RAIDED BEFORE: HHS is the agency charged with helping low-income citizens find health care and social services, which means its funds have been historically shielded from overt politics. But that changed when, last year, the WP reported "the White House billed HHS's Office of Family Assistance $210,000 to help pay for five trips in which President Bush promoted welfare reform at official events and made separate fundraising appearances for GOP candidates." By tapping agencies such as HHS for part of the costs "the president can stay on the campaign trail without socking all the costs to the Republican Party" – instead forcing taxpayers to foot the bill. When HHS was pressed about how much the White House had siphoned off from programs for low-income families and into bankrolling partisan fundraising trips, "they said they could not provide the total scope of White House billing to all of HHS." Meanwhile, the "White House said they were unable to determine the total scope of billings for White House travel costs to other domestic departments."
Tuesday, February 03, 2004
Better luck next time.
P.S. And you wonder why I declined to be interviewed?
...Sisyphus Shrugged explains it v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y so even Farah can understand.
...Salon has now edited the part out about my "Maria" story without apology or notice of correction. And these are the people giving me ethics lessons.
...Now there's a correction notice.
okay... here we go
CNN at 10:32 PM:
CNN at 11:30:
Inbetween there was a period where the vote totals matched the "11:30" version, but it said that "0%"were reporting.
Here's the link to the page.
It's weird that Clark and Dean have exactly the same vote total in the first picture, but I'm pretty sure that earlier they had been running fairly neck-and-neck with different totals.
Anyway, some monkey at CNN could have just entered the wrong numbers, but it caught my eye.
The Big Winner: Edwards. While Kerry has more wins, Edwards won't be too far behind in terms of delegates.
The Small Winner: Clark. Whether or not he wins OK - close enough. Delegate count should be even.
The teensy weensy winner: Dean. He'll grab delegates in New Mexico and maybe Arizona. No big win, obviously, but at least slightly exceeded expectations.'
The Minor Loser: Kerry. No big deal, and it's going to mostly depend on how the media reports it. But, will presumably slow his Big Mo ever so slightly.
Other than Edwards, mostly a wash in absolute terms. Though, obviously, his big SC win potentially paves the way for a Clintonesque Southern Storm.
...just wanted to add - these are all meant to be relative to expectations.
WASHINGTON, Feb 3 (Reuters) - One day after proposing bigger budgets for defense and homeland security, the White House on Tuesday released a list of the 128 programs it wants gutted, from education equity for women to combating alcohol abuse, a problem President George W. Bush faced himself.
Mark this day on your calendar.
CBS announced today plans to enhance its ability to edit out any inappropriate and unexpected events from the Sunday, Feb. 8 broadcast of the "46th Annual Grammy Awards" on CBS.
The enhancement will include the ability to delete both inappropriate audio and video footage from the broadcast. Using a five second delay, CBS has traditionally employed procedures that allow only for the elimination of inappropriate audio. This new enhancement will accomplish both. The precise length of the new delay has yet to be determined.
There go my streaking plans. But, this is just silly. Are they really claiming they had no power to cut the video feed previously?
I met George W. Bush back in 1972. I was getting my Ph.D. in clinical psychology and interning at a private drug rehab clinic for the sons and daughters of the rich and powerful in North Carolina. It was tucked away in the hills, away from the lime light and promised the utmost discretion. I had to sign a half-dozen forms swearing me to secrecy to get my internship.
In the late summer, this kid shows up, looking like shit, wild-eyed, thin as a rail. It was Bush, strung out on coke. When he first came, he was trembling with the shakes and almost hallucinating. (He wasn?t my patient, so I am not violating any therapeutic relationship by revealing this.) Current news reports indicate that he was supposed to be in Alabama, working on some political campaign. He wasn?t in Alabama, he was in North Carolina going through rehab. I heard his father was some sort of political big wig, but that was no surprise; every kid in there had rich parents. It went with the territory. So Bush didn?t attract much attention.
His father never showed up, but his mother came twice. She just tore him to pieces. Even though she was in his room, with the heavy door closed, everyone could hear her perfectly well, just ripping him up one side and down the other, how he was a worthless piece of shit and if he didn?t shape up he would be cast out of the family, penniless. She would go on and on for hours. She made everyone there feel so sorry for George.
The thing is, he did shape up while he was in rehab.
Needless to say, don?t release my name.
...lighten up people - I posted this to make fun of the Corner, not to claim it is a true story. Us liberals can't even play dirty in jest...
DENTON, Texas (AP) -- About 40 people gathered outside an Eckerd pharmacy Monday, protesting what they said was a decision to deny a rape victim a prescription for the morning-after pill.
A spokesman for the Florida-based company confirmed that Eckerd has taken disciplinary action in response to an incident at the store.
"Apparently there was a request for a prescription to be filled and the prescription was denied based on a moral or ethical decision made by the pharmacist, and that's not in accordance with our corporate policy," said Joan Gallagher, vice president of communications for Largo, Florida-based Eckerd Corp.
...and, odds, are the Year of the Joementum has come to a premature end.
...as for the expectations game, if these polls are worth anything it looks pretty good for Kerry, damn good for Edwards, not so good for Clark, and barring a last minute surge for a few delegates, not so good for Dean.
Only about 4 more months of primaries to go!
[oops. fixed primary schedule link.]
Rough Cost of Iraq War and Reconstruction, per capita US: $700
Per Capita GDP, with purchasing power parity, of Iraq, 2002 est.: $2400.
Rough Cost of Iraq War and Reconstruction, per capita Iraq: $8300.
Isn't anyone going to ask just what the hell we're spending $200 billion on?
This idea from the Onion is looking better and better.
And, while we're at the Onion, let's not forget this one.
I received this note the other day from someone. Normally I wouldn't run such a thing, but I figure I'll adopt the journalistic standards of the National Review.
I want to tell you a story from my youth. I was 16 years old, an illegal immigrant, and working as a maid for the Bush family in Texas. Several times George Bush told me that I had to have sex with him or I'd be arrested and deported. I became pregnant, and Bush drove me across the border and forced me to have an abortion. He said if I ever told anybody he'd kill me.
I cannot confirm this story, but it sure is interesting.
Increasingly Easterblogg finds that people and institutions can be divided into three fundamental groupings. They are:
1. Those who deny that they make mistakes.
2. Those who occasionally make mistakes, and admit them.
3. Those who constantly make mistakes.
You know, anyone who works at even the liberal New "andrew sullivan stephen glass ruth shalit michael kelly elizabeth mcCaughey" Republican and dares to criticize the BBC for mistakes which, while real, don't even come close to the regular gross NYT/WAPO/TNR-level errors sure has some nerve...
Particularly when his own book has some wee problems.
Reader eb writes in:
On Diane Rheem's show this morning, James Woolsey repeated Bush's lie that Saddam did not let weapons inspectors into Iraq before the U.S. started the war.
The other guest, Lt. General William Odom (ret) of the Hudson Institute, then said he agreed with Woolsey's statement.
Diane did not challenge them on the issue.
It took two callers to finally get Odom to remember the existence of Hans Blix. Woolsey never did acknowledge that he was wrong. Diane did not take a position one way or another.
I suppose it makes sense that he didn't exist. Otherwise, how could our media let Rumsfeld get away with claiming that he knew exactly where the WMDs were, while he refused to tell the UN weapons inspector this little detail. Well, he did say they were in "the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat," but that is somewhat less specific than would be useful.
What a bunch of clowns. I guess it's kind of funny but not, you know, Ha Ha funny.
...as the Strib says:
Let's be clear: The failure of the administration's evidence on Iraq's WMD is not a case of 20-20 hindsight, as some apologists for Bush assert. The president himself was flat-out wrong when he said last week that Saddam Hussein refused to "let us in." Before the war, Blix's weapons inspectors were on the ground in Iraq examining the specific sites and looking for the precise materials mentioned in the brief Powell presented to the U.N. Security Council. And they were finding nothing. Very few people worldwide bought the American case for war -- before the war started.
Coincidentally, that's who even the liberal New Republic encouraged people to vote for...
*not, as far as I know, part of the Bush budget cuts.
Sept. 2002: The CIA is underrepresenting the threat posed by Iraq.
Oct. 2002: The CIA needs to stop claiming that the White House is overstating the threat posed by Iraq.
Early 2003: In the battle between the White House and the CIA, the White House is right and the CIA is wrong: Iraq poses a far more serious threat than the CIA will admit.
Late 2003: Everyone agreed all along about the nature of the threat posed by Iraq. There never was a battle over the intelligence between the CIA and the White House.
Early 2004: The CIA overrepresented the threat posed by Iraq, overwhelming the White House in the battle over the intelligence.
While I wouldn't agree with the UK's TV standards, they at least reflect a more reasonable approach. They're more concerned with violence than sex - before a certain time even shows like Star Trek, or Buffy, get edited for violence. But, once the adult hour kicks in they aren't too disturbed by the display of a few boobs or the sexual content of a typical 'R' movie. On the other hand, pornography (which, again, seems to be defined as anything presenting an erect penis), is illegal so I'm not sure I'd swap.
In movies, here, a penis shot, erect or not, will almost guarantee an NC-17 rating.
What is it about the penis?
But, if you need your daily dose of Boobs there's always page 3 of this fine Murdoch publication, easily accessible by schoolchildren everywhere, to keep you happy. (not work safe).
...apparently things have changed since I was in the UK. Pornography is not quite as illegal as it once was. It wasn't as if it was commonly (successfully) prosecuted before that, anyway.
Monday, February 02, 2004
Sen Select Com on Apr 26 discloses that CIA plans to continue to employ as agents more than 25 journalists or other reprs of Amer news orgns. Says those persons are not covered by public pledge made in Feb by CIA Dir George Bush that agency would stop hiring correspondents 'accredited' by Amer publications and other news orgns. Com staff member repts that many of individuals were in exec positions at Amer news orgns. Panel recommends enactment of law precluding agency's 'operational use' of any person regularly involved in writing, editing or setting policy for US news orgns. Says it is concerned that use of Amer journalists and media orgns for clandestine operations is threat to press integrity. Rept cites instances in which efforts of CIA agents acting abroad as journalists were printed in domestic publications. Says it is aware other countries made use of 'internatl media' for propaganda and that US public is not insulated from such efforts. Cites examples of work by journalist agents including: book about China written covertly by agent which was revd in NY Times by another agent. Agency paid $170,000 a yr for publication of magazine in S Vietnam in '74 and '75. 2 news services maintained by CIA in Eur were subscribed to by major Amer newspapers. Penkovsky Papers, book purported to be based on repts of executed Soviet spy, was actually written by CIA agents. Employment of news orgns and publishing houses by CIA appears to have been reduced in recent yrs. Com described catagories of journalists who have worked as agents: staff members of gen circulation Amer news orgns. Com said it had found only 2 individuals in this category and that their relationship with agency was being ended under Bush's Feb directive. Staff members of limited-circulation Amer publications. Com reptd that it had found fewer than 10 persons now in this category. Freelance writers, part-time stringers for newspapers, magazines and news agencies, propaganda writers and employes of Amer publishing houses. Com says this is largest category. Journalists with whom CIA makes occasional, informal contact during which information is exchd or verified (M).
...anyway, this isn't news to most of us but I'm curious how many "operatives" of one kind or another are working in our media.
But, seriously, what was up with those ads? Completely crass without actually being funny.
The poll also gave Bush an approval rating of between 45 and 48 percent, the first time his approval has dipped below 50 percent in a Quinnipiac poll.
What a weird way to report a poll.
...going to the original poll results page from Quinnipiac it gets even weirder. There we realize the news report just messed up, that it's 48 approval versus 45 disapproval. And, whoever wrote up the poll results thinks it's October.
Sunday, February 01, 2004
It'd be sort of amusing, if they weren't now trying to pretend that it was the CIA mainstream who led them astray, and not vice versa.
What we discovered about the Soviet Union after the cold war was that it was every bit as evil as we had thought--indeed more so--but that it was a whole lot less powerful than we had feared. That is what we will probably discover about Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
And, for the record, Zakaria is not a "liberal." As Eric Alterman pointed out, being a sane intelligent neoconservative does not a liberal make, unless we're defining liberal as "sane" and neoconservative as "insane," which I'd be relatively happy to do.
Poll workers in Alameda County noticed something strange on election night in October. As a computer counted absentee ballots in the recall race, workers were stunned to see a big surge in support for a fringe candidate named John Burton.
Concerned that their new $12.7 million Diebold electronic voting system had developed a glitch, election officials turned to a company representative who happened to be on hand.
Lucky he was there. For an unknown reason, the computerized tally program had begun to award votes for Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante to Burton, a socialist from Southern California.
Alameda County officials still don't know why the computer program failed on election night. In fact, they only discovered the malfunction because they could compare the paper absentee ballots the software was counting to the computer's tally. The rest of the county's voters cast electronic ballots. Nor were election workers aware at the time that their touch-screen machines were running unauthorized Diebold software in violation of California law, as a state investigation later discovered.
``There was something in the software,'' said Elaine Ginnold, assistant registrar of voters for Alameda County. Alameda County officials refused to allow the Mercury News to review the software code used to test its electronic voting system, saying it was a Diebold trade secret.
SOMETIMES it's necessary to beat a dead horse. Many recriminations pieces have been written since the end of the war (here, for starters) and while they may seem like simple gloating, they're not. It's crucial to keep score on public commentators because if you bat .115 in the bigs, you get canned.
Powell and the CIA have come in for criticism in this column over the past two years for seeming to misjudge the dangers of Saddam Hussein's drive for weapons of mass destruction and Iraq's support for international terrorism and its links to al Qaeda in particular. But the secretary and the spies assembled as powerful a case as the most exacting critic could expect and backed it up impressively yesterday.
Speaking as "an old trooper," the ex-general showed, through technical detail, the illogic of Iraq's protestations that it has been importing aluminum tubing for short-range rockets and not for nuclear weapons. Nobody uses this kind of tubing for rockets, Powell said convincingly. He then made the obvious point that so many are intent on rushing past: In any event, the act of importing this specific tubing -- for any purpose whatever -- is illegal and further proof of Iraq's deliberate and material breach of sanctions and U.N. resolutions. How is that not a smoking gun?
The foreign ministers, U.N. senior officials and others in the Security Council chamber yesterday did not get there by being dummies. They already knew the grand outline of the evils and dangers that Powell was describing in compelling detail. They have been following the familiar pattern of reasoning backward -- of determining the political outcome they desire first and then choosing or ignoring the facts that fit that outcome.
Powell has made that callous approach much more difficult for them and for all others who have claimed not to see the threat that Saddam Hussein and his terrorist henchmen have become to international order, the United Nations and American citizens.
To continue to say that the Bush administration has not made its case, you must now believe that Colin Powell lied in the most serious statement he will ever make, or was taken in by manufactured evidence. I don't believe that. Today, neither should you.
A sea change has occurred in official Washington since the president decided last summer that he would soon have to be ready to go to war against Iraq. Public attempts by officials to bury or explain away menacing information about Iraq have largely dried up or gone underground, although the CIA fights a rear-guard action. Now information and intelligence are marshaled to make the case, rather than deflect it.
This is, broadly speaking, political use of information -- no more and no less so than was the previous phase of denial and obfuscation. Bush mobilized facts on Monday to mobilize the nation for a challenge that is no less dangerous for being "largely familiar," as the New York Times labeled Bush's arguments in Tuesday editions.
The State Department and the CIA, institutionally wary and dismissive of the extensive intelligence about Saddam Hussein and his crimes provided by the dissidents of the Iraqi National Congress, had to listen Monday night to the president recite a dossier full of Iraqi National Congress information and insights that have filtered down over the years through the media, the government and academia to the skillful and alert speechwriters on Bush's staff.
These people lie without regards for the consequence. Increasingly, they lie knowing that everybody knows they're full of it. No editor with any ethics should let this kind of crap through.
This is the goddamn consequence of our corrupt, dishonest, unethical, lying media.
...Kos has a good post. Reminding us of, among other things, this:
At a news conference yesterday, Rumsfeld denied suggestions that the initiative was meant to compete with the CIA or other intelligence agencies. He said it was intended simply to assist policymakers in assessing the intelligence they receive.
"Any suggestion that it's an intelligence-gathering activity or an intelligence unit of some sort, I think would be a misunderstanding of it," Rumsfeld said.
But the effort comes against a backdrop of persistent differences between the Pentagon and CIA over assessments of Iraq. Rumsfeld and senior aides have argued that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has strong links to international terrorism, poses an imminent threat and cannot be constrained from eventually unleashing weapons of mass destruction. The CIA's publicly released reports have painted a murkier view of Iraq's links to al Qaeda, its weapons capabilities and the likelihood that Hussein would use chemical or biological weapons unless attacked.
"The Pentagon is setting up the capability to assess information on Iraq in areas that in the past might have been the realm of the agency," said Reuel Gerecht, a former CIA case officer who has met with the people in the new Pentagon office. "They don't think the product they receive from the agency is always what it should be."
...since the article Josh links to is temporarily (I hope) in the WaPo's memory hole, here are some excerpts:
Imagine that Saddam Hussein has been offering terrorist training and other lethal support to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda for years. You can't imagine that? Sign up over there. You can be a Middle East analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency.
Or at least you could have been until recently. As President Bush's determination to overthrow the Iraqi dictator has become evident to all, a cultural change has come over the world's most expensive intelligence agency: Some analysts out at Langley are now willing to evaluate incriminating evidence against the Iraqis and call it just that.
That development has triggered a fierce internal agency struggle pitting officials whose careers and reputations were built on the old analysis of the Iraqis as a feckless, inert and inward-looking bunch of thugs against those willing to take a fresh, untilted look at all the evidence.
Their work is only one part of a monumental record of failure on Iraq by the CIA, which has at different moments sought to understand, support, co-opt and then overthrow Hussein. The agency succeeded in none. Considering the extent of that failure, it is no surprise that Bush has until now relied little on the Langley agency for his information on Iraq. There is simply no way to reconcile what the CIA has said on the record and in leaks with the positions Bush has taken on Iraq.
Such misjudgments have continued until today. After four months of inconclusive debate following Sept. 11, the agency produced a new analysis last spring titled: "Iraq and al Qaeda: A Murky Relationship." It fails to make much of a case for anything, I am told. It echoes the views of Paul Pillar, the national intelligence officer for the Middle East and South Asia, and other analysts who have consistently expressed doubts that Iraq has engaged in international terrorism or trained others to do so since 1993.
More damaging to their case than the accumulating new evidence to the contrary is "old" information long available in CIA files: Iraqi intelligence officers meeting in Khartoum and Kandahar with Osama bin Laden, the nonaggression pact Saddam and Osama reached in 1993, training in Baghdad for international terrorism and the multiple trips to Prague made by Mohamed Atta, the head of the Sept. 11 suicide squads, are all there. These specific reports and much more have been explained away and minimized rather than thoroughly investigated.
Senior American officials concluded at the beginning of last May that there were no weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq, The Observer has learnt.
Intelligence sources, policy makers and weapons inspectors familiar with the details of the hunt for WMD told The Observer it was widely known that Iraq had no WMD within three weeks of Baghdad falling, despite the assertions of senior Bush administration figures and the Prime Minister, Tony Blair.
The new revelation came as White House sources indicated that President George Bush was considering establishing an investigation into the intelligence, despite rejecting an inquiry the previous day.
The disclosure that US military survey teams sent to visit suspected sites of WMD, and intelligence interviews with Iraqi scientists and officials, had concluded so quickly that no major weapons or facilities would be found is certain to produce serious new embarrassment on both sides of the Atlantic.
According to the time-line provided by the US sources, it would mean that Number 10 would have been aware of the US doubts that weapons would be found before the outbreak of the feud between Number 10 and Andrew Gilligan, and before the exposure of Dr David Kelly as Gilligan's source for his claims that the September dossier had been 'sexed up' to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.
It would suggest too that some officials who defended the 24 September dossier in evidence before the Hutton inquiry did so in the knowledge that the pre-war intelligence was probably wrong. Indeed, comments from a senior Washington official first casting serious doubt on the existence of WMD were put to Downing Street by The Observer - and rejected - as early as 3 May.
I'd like to know who some of these sources are.
One wonders if this is the result of the US's decision to move against the other Kurdish party, the PKK. (which may or may not be the correct thing to do, I have no knowledge in this area.)
But then why did Dick Cheney need to create an entire parallel intelligence apparatus under Doug Feith dedicated exclusively to explaining why the CIA was underestimating Iraq's WMD capacity?