Saturday, April 17, 2004

Things That Make You Go Hmmm


The Rev. Jesse Jackson will contact religious leaders in Iraq to seek the release of Thomas Hamill, the American civilian truck driver abducted in Iraq, Hamill's wife said today.

Kellie Hamill, who has been pleading in the media for her husband's release, said Jackson made the offer last week and she asked him to intervene.

"We talked with him several days ago," she said in a telephone interview from the couple's home in Macon.

U.S. Sen. Trent Lott said Friday at a news conference in Tupelo he had talked with Jackson and helped the longtime civil rights advocate contact the Hamill family.

Lott said one step Jackson wanted to take was to write a letter to Al-Jazeera, the Arabic language television network, and encourage Hamill's release.


On Monday everyone can call Charlie Rangel's office and ask them, ever so politely, WTF?


Bush lied to the American people. What will we tell the children?

WASHINGTON (AP) Following an important meeting on Iraq war planning in late 2001, President Bush told the public that the discussions was about Afghanistan. He made no mention afterward about Iraq even though that was the real focus of the session at his ranch.

''I'm right now focused on the military operations in Afghanistan,'' Bush told reporters after talks on Dec. 28, 2001, with top aides and generals.

A ''war update'' was the White House description of the news conference Bush held with Gen. Tommy Franks, who was in charge of the Afghan war as head of U.S. Central Command.

Details of the meeting's focus on Iraq have since emerged in a recent speech by Franks, who now is retired, and in a new book by Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward.


What Yglesias says:

In the interests of full candor, let it be said that I did something very similar. The difference here being that, as I will now admit, I was wrong. Neither the policies being advocated by Bush nor the policies being advocated by the anti-war movement (even at its most mainstream) were the correct ones. What I wanted to see happen wasn't going to happen. I had to throw in with one side or another. I threw in with the wrong side. The bad consequences of the bad policy I got behind are significantly worse than the consequences of the bad policy advocated by the other side would have been. I blame, frankly, vanity. "Bush is right to say we should invade Iraq, but he's going about it the wrong way, here is my nuanced wonderfullness" sounds much more intelligent than some kind of chant at an anti-war rally. In fact, however, it was less intelligent. I got off the bandwagon right before the shooting started, but by then it was far too late -- this was more a case of CYA than a case of efficacious political dissent.

Now I am not an important person, and at the time I was even less important. Nevertheless, the block of opinion of which I was a part included some very influential people. In the aggregate, we were never a very large block of public opinion. We were, however, the all-important swing group. Some of us (represented in the blogosphere by me, Kevin, Josh, etc.) swung too late. Some of us never swung at all. If we had swung earlier (not just the bloggers and the journalists and hawkish Clinton administration veterans, but also the regular folks who had similar opinions) there probably would have been no war. We should have swung earlier.

The reason many people were so incensed about the types of people Matthew is talking about is because the war could have been stopped. If there were few less liberal hawks running around imagining they were "more serious" than the anti-war folks, providing the mushy middle with reason to jump on the war train, it just might have been. The fact that a lot of center-left types, or what qualifies as center-left in our media anyway, took the pro-war position provided the pro-war media an easy excuse to completely marginalize all anti-war opinion.

Even now many of these same people still cling to the conceit that because they were previously for the war they now have a greater degree of credibility on this issue. Well, sorry, you were wrong. There were people who were right. Let them talk for a change.

Another group who should have spoken up earlier and more loudly was the "former generals" group. This was always my big problem with Wesley Clark. I understand that in his role of CNN analyst, which he was doing in the runup to the war, he wasn't supposed to be particularly partisan (though, in these situations being "non-partisan" is an implicit endorsement of the status quo), but this was an important issue damnit. Screw being a CNN analyst! Quit your job and travel around the country trying to convince people that this is a really really bad idea.


One of the mantras you hear in the business world is that "competition is good". That's generally true. However, what isn't true is that people in the business world like competition. Competition is bad. So, when when big business is advocating legislation or regulatory changes on the grounds that it will increase competition, they're lying.

Dwight Meredith brings us yet another example of how big business and the Bush administration have teamed up to try to stifle competition.

Happy Anniversary to Me

Started this lemonade stand 2 years ago today.

...anyway, not going to say a whole lot. But, a year ago today this site had a quarter of the traffic it does now. And, if I remember correctly, during the whole Trent Lott Hullabaloo, a few months prior to that, this site was getting about a quarter of that amount of traffic - 4-5,000 visits per day.

...if the mood strikes, you can celebrate by giving some Turkee to Joe Hoeffel.


Once he was a prize witness before congressional committees, arguing that the US must invade Iraq immediately because Saddam Hussein possessed a fearsome arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. Given a top job in Baghdad after the war, he has now been quietly sacked by the US authorities.

Khidir Hamza was the dissident Iraqi nuclear scientist who played an important role persuading Americans to go to war in Iraq. His credentials appeared impeccable because he claimed to have headed Saddam's nuclear programme before defecting in 1994.

After the war, Dr Hamza was rewarded, to the distress of many Iraqi scientists, with a well-paid job as the senior advisor to the Ministry of Science and Technology. Appointed by the Coalition Provisional Authority, he had partial control of Iraq's nuclear and military industries.

It was not a successful appointment, according to sources within the ministry. Dr Hamza seldom turned up for work. He obstructed others from doing their jobs. On 4 March, his contract was not renewed by the CPA. It is now trying to evict him from his house in the heavily guarded "Green Zone" where the CPA has its headquarters. He could not be contacted by The Independent but is believed to have taken up a job with a US company.

Dr Hamza's fall from grace with the US administration is in sharp contrast with the seriousness with which it took his views on WMD before the war. Speaking excellent English, he was also regularly interviewed by US television and quoted by the press.

There were always doubts that Dr Hamza had been as central as he claimed to Saddam's programme to develop a nuclear bomb. Dr Hussain Shahristani, an Iraqi nuclear scientist, tortured and imprisoned under Saddam for refusing to help build a nuclear device, said: "Hamza really was only a minor figure in our nuclear programme and always exaggerated his own importance when he got to the US."

Not Vietnam II

Chris Patten:
Ireland (Reuters) - The conflict in Iraq is "much more serious" than the war in Vietnam and any comparison between the two is misplaced, the European Union's external relations commissioner said on Saturday.

"The comparison... that Iraq could become as difficult an issue as Vietnam is misplaced, because I think it is arguably much more serious," Chris Patten told a news conference after an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Ireland.

"If things go wrong in Iraq we will be living with the consequences for a very, very long time," he added.

Not Vietnam


The first part of April has been the bloodiest period so far for U.S. troops in Iraq. There were 87 deaths by hostile fire in the first 15 days of this month, more than in the opening two weeks of the invasion, when 82 Americans were killed in action.
"This has been some pretty intense fighting," said David Segal, director of the University of Maryland's Center for Research on Military Organization. "We're looking at what happened during the major battles of Vietnam."
The last time U.S. troops experienced a two-week loss such as this one in Iraq was October 1971, two years before U.S. ground involvement ended in Vietnam.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Not Your War

I think Michael Berube says what needs to be said to the sincere liberal hawks and like Paul Berman and Tom Friedman (when he's in his "let Democracy bloom" mode instead of his "let's kick some ass to prove we can!" mode):

But isn't it looking as if this invasion and occupation is confirming precisely the "paranoia and hatred" Berman speaks of? Doesn't it seem possible that millions of Muslims, let alone the liberal democrats of the Muslim world, are going to understand American "interventions" in the Middle East in terms of the actions and statements of the Bush Administration (think Negroponte, think Sharon and his wall-- and that's just this week alone) rather than in terms of the professions of good will from a handful of hawkish liberal intellectuals?

The war and occupation are no longer some abstract idea. The cards have been played, and action has resulted in a reaction. The idea, no matter how true, that this could've been a just war with just consequences is pretty irrelevant right now. And to cling to the idea of what could have been, as if it somehow justifies the disaster that it is, is truly bizarre.

Moonie in Kentucky

This is just a bizarre tale.

And, for the record, it wasn't until very very recently that the members of the Unification Church started objecting to the term "Moonie" - it was commonly used by members, although at some point they started scrubbing its occurrences in speeches, etc..., from their website.

But, in any case, I don't really consider using pejorative names about people who follow a man who advocates genocide against homosexuals something to worry too much about.
(thanks to jb)


From Booby:

"President Bush, after a National Security Council meeting, takes Don Rumsfeld aside, collars him physically and takes him into a little cubbyhole room and closes the door and says, 'What have you got in terms of plans for Iraq?' What is the status of the war plan? I want you to get on it. I want you to keep it secret," says Woodward.

"...The end of July 2002, they need $700 million, a large amount of money for all these tasks. And the president approves it. But Congress doesn't know and it is done. They get the money from a supplemental appropriation for the Afghan War, which Congress has approved. ...Some people are gonna look at a document called the Constitution which says that no money will be drawn from the treasury unless appropriated by Congress. Congress was totally in the dark on this."

I sure do miss the rule of law.

...If this is the supplemental approprations bill they're talking about, it looks like they were stealing from the humanitarian and economic assistance funds for Afghanistan.

Coming Soon

Treasury Department Recycling GOP Press Releases


National Security Advisor

Clearly, Rice understood what her job entailed.

In response to a question about whether the United States would increase its role in Middle East peace efforts, Bush directed Yasser Arafat "to urge the terrorists, the Palestinian terrorists, to stop the suicide bombings." Bush did mention Rice at the session -- but only to say that she and White House counselor Karen Hughes had "briefed" him on the Chandra Levy matter after the two aides watched then-Rep. Gary A. Condit's television interview about the missing intern.

Bush/Blair Today

You know, I'd like to think that there's some context that's missing from the transcript, but I can't imagine what it would be.

Q: (Egyptian President) Hosni Mubarak is saying the new U.S. policy on the West Bank could escalate violence. How do you respond to his concerns?

BUSH: Yes, I think this is a fantastic opportunity.

Specter/Toomey Debate Highlights

Courtesy of the Hoeffel campaign.


Franken's dittohead pal just said that there weren't any investigations into Pearl Harbor until after WWII and Al didn't correct him.

ah well.

Kerry in Philadelphia

Apparently there's a rally in Philadelphia today. However, I can't find any information about this on Kerry's website and the only local news coverage that I can find is about how the rally was almost cancelled by our occasionally petulant mayor.



No, Mr. President, what sends the wrong message is when our country doesn't put enough troops on the ground in the first place to do the job right. It doesn't help that you were unwilling to make clear in advance that bringing democracy to Iraq would involve a long struggle and a great expenditure of American treasure. It doesn't make our troops more secure for a president to divide the country by trashing his critics as unpatriotic. And it doesn't build support for a great experiment in democratization when the president fails to explain how he is going to win the thing.

I actually agree with the president that it's good Hussein is gone, that it would be a great thing to bring democracy to Iraq, that it would be a disaster if this venture fails. But if we fail, the fault will not lie with Bush's opponents. It will lie with an administration that thought it could pursue a series of radical theories all at once and not worry about the impact of reality on its plans. If Bush wants his war to succeed, he owes the country more than he offered this week.

Bush to Win in November

Sorry, folks, it's over. How do I know? Well, Bush has a lot of money to spend. And, hey, if that doesn't work his people know how to tinker with those small airplanes Kerry flies in sometimes.

Wow! Suggesting that Bush's people would assassinate Kerry! That surely has to be outside the bounds of civilized discourse! I'm going to lose all of my advertisers for sure!

But, hey, if Rush Limbaugh can suggest the Clintons would kill Kerry...

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Shorter Ted Koppel

Poor people? Holy crap!


Josh Marshall has the latest in the long series of reasons we can be sure this admin wasn't too concerned about actually finding/securing WMD.


Howard, Arianna, and Uma have teamed up to register voters.


Fine free speech.

Burn Rate

The Bush campaign is blowing a lot of cash. All these stories emphasize advertising for some reason, but the Bush campaign also has an immense payroll.


It'll be interesting to see how the Bushies handle Woodward's book, assuming there's much that's particularly damning in it (or even slightly damning -- they're pretty thin-skinned). Booby's a dues-paying member of the Inner Circle of Kool Kids - will they put a horse head in his bed too? If so, will Booby be ostracized by the rest of the kool kids? Will he get a taste of the right wing hate machine?

AAR Wins Court Case

Will be back on in Chicago (assuming no further shenanigans). LA is a separate issue.


God this kind of thing is horrible:

KEOKUK, Iowa (AP) -- A Fort Campbell, Ky., soldier who police say robbed a bank and then surrendered just wanted to go to jail, Keokuk police said. "He told us he couldn't take it any more," police Capt. Kevin Church said.

"The robbery wasn't for financial reasons. He wasn't doing it because he needed the money, and we know he didn't want to hurt anybody. He wanted to be in a cell."

Master Sgt. Kenneth Lee Schweitzer, 38, of Louisville, Ky., walked into the Keokuk Savings Bank in southeast Iowa about 3 p.m. Tuesday, fired a large caliber handgun into the air and demanded cash, police said.

Schweitzer, a member of the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, left the bank, climbed into his pickup truck and drove to the police department, where he turned himself in.

"He also said the exact reason for robbing the bank was personal," Church added. "He said, 'The only thing I can live in is an 8-by-8 cell.' He realized he was going to jail and he's prepared to do so."

Schweitzer, who recently returned from Iraq, left Fort Campbell on Tuesday morning, about eight hours before he walked into the bank.

Axis of Please Help Us

Sure, Syria didn't make the original axis of evil but that was just an oversight. Now we're begging for help:

Secretary of State Colin Powell has asked Syria's president to help in stabilizing Iraq, Syria's official news agency said Thursday.

The request came in a letter from Powell to President Bashar Assad, congratulating him on Syria's Independence Day, which falls on April 17.

The letter from Powell ? and a separate congratulatory letter from President Bush ? were delivered by U.S. Ambassador Margaret Scobey during a meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa.

Powell's message "explains the dangers of the developments in Iraq" and urges Syria "to give any possible help that could contribute to easing the situation there in a way that serves the country's unity and preserves its security and stability," SANA said.

The Grownups Are in Charge

Is there any chance we can get the media to understand that this isn't some bit of gossipy high school kool kids stuff -- this is the Cabinet of the United States in the middle of a war. And, so, if Booby Woodward's claim, according to Drudge, is true then we have a serious problem on our hands? Our executive branch is apparently completely non-functional, other than its political office.

WOODWARD: Top administration officials now barely speak to each other...

The press used to mock the Clinton administration for being leaky - and it was - but for quite some time now the Bush administration officials have literally been at war with each other, fighting it out in the press. And, it isn't just the usual jockeying for position - it's serious war.


There's just so much wrong here I don't even know where to begin. Just go read this Digby post.

Then, if the mood strikes, write to and express your opinion.

Happy Anniversary to the Rittenhouse Review!

Oops, I'm a day late, but, anyway..

Looks like Saturday is the 2-year mark for this little lemonade stand.


This Fred Kaplan article should be read by everyone.


It's refreshing to see a member of the media admit a bit of culpability.

If that is the case, and it sure seems so at the moment, then this commission has to ask us all -- and I don't exclude myself -- how much of Congress and the press went to war with an air of juvenile glee. The Commission on Credulous Stupidity may call me as its first witness, but after that it has to examine how, despite our vaunted separation of powers, a barely elected president opted for a war that need not have been fought.

Tom in the Studio

Tom Tomorrow posted up a pic of him in the Majority Report studio last night.


Charles Dodgson brings us back to the events of about year ago when we were all a bit puzzled about one thing - why the hell didn't the Iraqi army blow up the bridges?

Well, now they're being blown up.

Don't Forget John Kerry Day!

Go give!



Maybe Condi's confusion about her job — that it entailed national security as well as being the president's foreign policy governess and workout partner — explains why so many critical clues went into the black holes of the F.B.I. and the C.I.A.

Thursday is New Jobless Day

Congratulations to the 360,000 new jobless! Lucky Duckies, every one.

Big jump from last week, but one shouldn't make too much of the weekly data.

New Neal Stephenson Book

Out now. (yes I get a small cut if you order through the link)

They Write Letters

The General writes a letter.

Happy John Kerry Day!

We skipped last Thursday, but the weekly event returns. Go do your part.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Ann Lewis's Daughter Murdered

This is horrible.

Tragedy has struck the family of Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank whose niece was found murdered in her Virginia home Monday.

NewsCenter 5's Steve Sbraccia reported that Arlington, VA., police have charged Susan Lewis' husband with murder.

A baby sitter returning to the Lewis household with the couple's 3-year old son said she discovered Lewis unconscious on the floor and Lewis' husband, James Powell, with stab wounds.

Officials rushed Lewis to the hospital, where she later died. Powell was treated at the hospital for what police have described as self-inflicted stab wounds to his arms.

Lewis, 41, is the daughter of Ann Lewis, a Democratic National Committee official, and niece to Frank.


I'll be on with those deadbeat check bouncers from Air America soon.

Install a Strongman

So sayeth Daniel Pipes. I guess he's the one Bush was referring to when he said that there are those who think that "brown-skinned" people can't handle democracy.

This history suggests that the coalition's grand aspirations for Iraq will not succeed. However constructive its intentions to build democracy, the coalition cannot win the confidence of Muslim Iraq nor win acceptance as its overlord. Even spending $18 billion in one year on economic development does not improve matters.

I therefore counsel the occupying forces quickly to leave Iraqi cities and then, when feasible, to leave Iraq as a whole. They should seek out what I have been calling for since a year ago: a democratically minded Iraqi strongman, someone who will work with the coalition forces, provide decent government, and move eventually toward a more open political system.

This sounds slow, dull and unsatisfactory. But at least it will work -- in contrast to the ambitious but failing current project.


Yes, Matt, we're all annoyed and horrified by the prospect that Negroponte may be getting a new job soon. But, we were all pretty horrified that he got his current cushy job in the Bush administration too. How many times can you get outraged by the same guy?

The media's been covering for people like this for years and there are some battles my mighty blog can't win I'm afraid. Though, I'm all for people trying...

Sometimes the outrage just needs to come from the other side. You'd think the moral clarity anti-terrorism crowd would perk up about this. But, as they say - one man's death squad is another man's army of infinite justice...

...okay, Matt's specific concern is that Negroponte is uniquely qualified to set up some delightful counterinsurgency squads as the new Ambassador to Iraq. But, look, the kind of people who thought Negroponte would be a lovely guy to be the UN Ambassador are the same people who decided to go to war in Iraq in the first place. Perhaps it's true that Negroponte will bring some special skills and creativity to his new job, but it just isn't obvious the governing philosophy will change much.

It's Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz's show. They're responsible for dictating the governing philosophy. And they have. This isn't really anything new.

Operation Ignore


At the beginning of the administration, President Bush revived the practice of meeting with the director of central intelligence almost every day in the Oval Office -- meetings which I attended, along with the vice president and the chief of staff. At these meetings, the president received up-to-date intelligence and asked questions of his most senior intelligence officials.


I am quite certain -- given that the director of the CIA met frequently face to face with the president of the United States -- that he would have made that available to the president or to me.


First of all, it was coming from the top because the president was meeting with his director of central intelligence. And one of the changes that this president made was to meet face to face with his director of central intelligence almost every day.


Well, the president was meeting with his director of central intelligence


ROEMER: Would it have made any difference if you had mentioned -- did you ever mention it, for instance, to the president -- your briefing the president from August 6th on?

TENET:: I didn't see the president. I was not in briefings with him during this time. He was on vacation. I was here.

ROEMER: You didn't see the president between August 6, 2001, and September 10th?

TENET:: Well, no. Before -- saw him after Labor Day, to be sure.

ROEMER: So you saw him September 4th -- at the principals' meeting?

TENET:: It was not at principals' meeting.

ROEMER: Well, you don't see him...

TENET:: Condoleezza Rice -- Condoleezza -- I saw him in this time frame, to be sure.

ROEMER: OK. I'm just confused. You see him on August 6th with the PDB.

TENET:: No, I do not, sir. I'm not there.

ROEMER: OK. You're not -- when do you see him in August?

TENET:: I don't believe I do.

ROEMER: You don't see the president of the United States once in the month of August?

TENET:: He's in Texas and I'm either here or on leave for some of that time, so I'm not here.

ROEMER: So who's briefing him on the PDBs?

TENET:: The briefer, himself. We have a presidential briefer.

ROEMER: But you never get on the phone or in any kind of conference with him to talk at this level of high chatter and huge warnings during the spring and summer to talk to him through the whole month of August?

TENET:: We talked to him directly throughout the spring and early summer almost every day.

ROEMER: But not in August?

TENET:: In this time period, I'm not talking to him, no.

(thanks to reader a for the catch)

...and Bush, last night:
And of course that concerns me. All those reports concern me. As a matter of fact, I was dealing with terrorism a lot as the president when George Tenet came in to brief me. I mean, that's where I got my information.

I changed the way that the relationship between the president and the CIA director. And I wanted Tenet in the Oval Office all the time. And we had briefings about terrorist threats. This was a summary.

Now, in the -- what's called the PDB, there was a warning about bin Laden's desires on America. But, frankly, I didn't think there was anything new. I mean, major newspapers had talked about bin Laden's desires on hurting America.

What was interesting in there was that there was a report that the FBI was conducting field investigations. And that was good news, that they were doing their job.

The way my administration worked, Ed, was that I met with Tenet all the time. I obviously met with my principals a lot. We talked about threats that had emerged. We have a counterterrorism group meeting on a regular basis to analyze the threats that came in. Had there been a threat that required action by anybody in the government, I would have dealt with it.

(thanks to scaramouche) appears that he went once on the 17th.

Open Thread

Chat away.

June 30

It's easy to joke that Bush is just Cheney's sock puppet and that for the most part he isn't really in charge. I think that's true to a great degree in that as with all presidents most things get delegated, though unlike most presidents Bush ignores most of the stuff once it's been delegated.

However, I think every now and then he comes up with a magical idea all on his own. We saw this last night when he started recounting the anecdote about his discussion with the Japanese PM about the post-WWII occupation. It didn't make much sense and wasn't particularly intelligent, but you could tell he was sure proud of it. And, when he comes up with an idea or a plan it's impossible to get him to deviate from it. A stubborn child.

I'm pretty sure the rather pointlessly arbitrary June 30 deadline isn't just some Rove-inspired pre-election theatrics, though of course it is that too. It's Bush's little baby. And, no matter what, no one's going to change it.

Looks like the UN has a different vision than he does about how to do it, however...

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Iraq should dissolve the U.S.-picked Governing Council and set up a caretaker government of respected Iraqis to lead the country from the U.S. handover of power on June 30 until elections set for Jan. 31, U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said Wednesday.

The caretaker government would be led by a prime minister and include a president and two vice presidents. It must include ``Iraqi men and women known for their honesty, integrity and competence,'' Brahimi said.

I believe that's code for "Chalabi need not apply."

Roberts Smacks Frist

This is really quite extraordinary.

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says former Bush counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke's testimony before a joint congressional panel on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks did not contradict his later testimony before a presidentially appointed commission.

Roberts's comments to The Hill contradict a stinging condemnation of Clarke by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) on the Senate floor after Clarke accused President Bush of failing to take Osama bin Laden seriously before Sept. 11.


Bob Stevenson, Frist's spokesman, told The Washington Post that on March 24, while Clarke testified before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, a number of staff members of the Senate Intelligence Committee familiar with Clarke's 2002 joint intelligence committee testimony contacted the senator's staff and said "the tone"was "quite different from 2002."

Roberts said Republican staffers on the intelligence panel "will be in trouble" if he finds out they took the initiative to relate Clarke's closed-door testimony to Frist's staff.

Roberts said the appropriate handling of the matter would have been for Senate intelligence staff to brief him and for Roberts to brief Frist directly.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a member of the intelligence panel, said that it would have been inappropriate for Intelligence Committee staffers to contact staff in the leader's office to relate the contents of Clarke's 2002 testimony.

(thanks to pjb)

NPR This Morning

The transcript isn't up yet, but I swear that the announcer said in response to Bush's discussion of his policies in Iraq, Kerry said "where's the beef?"


One thing I noticed about the press conference last night was that at least on the feed I was watching (I think CBS), the audience sound was 100% blocked out. This became apparent when Bush made reference to people "yelling" - I don't think people were yelling, but reporters were scrambling to be called on and the viewers at home heard none of it.

Also, Franken's playing some clips now and in those, at least at times, the audience sound is audible.


Reality Irrelevant

Saletan has a good take on Bush's press conference, and Bush.

Hearing Thread

I can't watch, but discuss away...

Axis of Please Help Us

Could we really be begging Iran for help? Weird.


Nothing like having an AG who feels free to lie under oath.

I miss the rule of law.

(Thanks a lot Russ Feingold.)

Over to the UN

From last night's press conference:

Other nations and international institutions are stepping up to their responsibilities in building a free and secure Iraq. We're working closely with the United Nations envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, and with Iraqis to determine the exact form of the government that will receive sovereignty on June 30th. The United Nations election assistance team, headed by Karina Parelli (phonetic), is in Iraq, developing plans for next January's election. NATO is providing support for the Polish-led multinational division in Iraq. And 17 of NATO's 26 members are contributing forces to maintain security.


Q Mr. President, why are you and the Vice President insisting on appearing together before the 9/11 Commission? And, Mr. President, who will you be handing the Iraqi government over to on June 30th?

THE PRESIDENT: We will find that out soon. That's what Mr. Brahimi is doing; he's figuring out the nature of the entity we'll be handing sovereignty over. And, secondly, because the 9/11 Commission wants to ask us questions, that's why we're meeting. And I look forward to meeting with them and answering their questions.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004


Max has an interesting chart up about how if you factor in productivity growth, the share of per-worker output needed to take care of our old people is actually going to decline over time. So, while in absolute terms the per-worker cost of paying out promised social security benefits will increase in absolute terms, it will be a decling share.

But, anyway, all such discussions of social security should be irrelevant as a program which is "solvent" for the next 38 years at least is not something to worry much about.

Sweet Little Lies

David Sirota does a bit of instant analysis.

What will we tell the children...

Thread the Third

The post-mortem.

Thread 2

The babbling continues. Just keep staring at the tie...

(pic thanks to wjc)

The Chimperor Speaks


...I want one of those magic ties.

...I'm guessing 3 questions max. Karl Rove to TV networks -- Suckers! thanks for the free air time...

...Secretary of State Rumsfeld? Well, there's some news I guess...

...oy, I'm convinced now - he has an earpiece.

...damn, I thought On Bended Knee Bumiller was on vacation..., what a disaster. At least someone woke the Hos up a bit., from 'no one could picture planes flying into buildings' to 'Genoa threat' in 1.4 minutes.

Open Thread

Have fun.

Contractors Pulling Out

Anonther great idea, Big Don.



Head in the Sand

Matthew Yglesias gives us another example of "I'm too lazy to actually search their websites, but I don't remember hearing about women's rights organizations talking about issue X..."

There are a lot of issues here. First, I don't remember hearing the Ladies Against Women talking about the plight of women in Sudan. But, there are at least a few search hits at their website, though they seem to be celebrating the Sudan Peace Pact which I don't know much about but doesn't look all that good.

In fact, when I look around a bunch of other right-leaning websites I don't find much concern about the events in the Sudan either. If right wingers were so concerned about the Sudan, instead of trying to score political points, they might start, you know, trying to do something about it by lobbying Congress, raising awareness, etc... That's much more productive than bashing people who are actually doing those things even though you imagine they're not.

More generally this really is about the so-called Liberal Media. When there was the big flap about Augusta National not allowing women members, a lot of people correctly argued that there are perhaps more important things to worry about. Well, there are, but those issues don't get you booked on Crossfire, or even the Newshour. The media loves to talk about issues like that, then blame the spokespeople they book on their shows for talking about them... then they'll proceed to devote 4 hours straight to the issue themselves. The media pretend they don't set the agenda, as if members of feminist organizations can come on their shows and talk about anything they want to, and that they regularly do, but of course that's crap.

Similarly, when we were in the run-up to the war, the media wouldn't book any people with actual credentials to take the "anti-war" side - they'd book actors and then spend most of the interviews asking them why they should care what the hell some stupid actor thinks. There were more credentialed people out there willing to speak out, but the liberal media didn't want to hear from them.

TV producers choose which issues they want to cover and who they invite on to discuss them. Then they pretend they're just passive actors, passing on the news of the day. It's a lie. They control what and who they show.

The Problem With Civilian Contractors

Obviously there's a role for private industry in a war zone. But, there's a big problem when things heat up - they aren't obligated to stay.

Kellogg, Brown and Root, a division of Halliburton and one of the biggest contractors, vowed on Monday "to stay the course and move forward with the logistical support to troops," but with unspecified changes in delivery and security procedures.

But John McCarthy, director of projects for TTS Group, a British company whose Kuwaiti affiliate ships cargo into Iraq, said his company would not operate north of Basra, in the relatively secure south.

"I wouldn't do that any more than put my hand on a hot stove," McCarthy said in a telephone interview.

The U.S.-led military operation is responsible for providing overall security through Iraq, but specific protection depends on the cargo, area and threat level, officers said.

To the extent that our troops are relying on these contractors to keep them in bullets and food... if those contractors scamper off into the night they could be well and truly screwed.

Hearing Thread

Not sure I'll have time to watch. Chat away.


What Yglesias says:

Bush decided terrorism was less important than missile defense, Ashcroft thought he'd rather focus on traditional law enforcement, but Freeh's priority was pleasing his congressional GOP patrons by dedicating time and attention to investigations of Clinton administration pseudo-scandals.

Freeh was incompetent and he covered his ass by pleasing the media and the Republicans by feeding them a constant stream of faux scandals. I'm shocked that there are Republicans out there who don't understand that any Democrat who has been paying attention hates Freeh as much or more than anyone. Freeh is going to be partisan alright - he's going to do his best to torpedo the Clinton administration's reputation one last time in order to try and save his own miserable skin. The Democrats on the commission had better realize that he is not on their side.

One Sentence

Occasionally, Cohen gets it right:

The lesson of Vietnam is that once you make the initial mistake, little you do afterward is right.

Crisco John


WASHINGTON, April 12 -- Draft reports by the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks portray Attorney General John Ashcroft as largely uninterested in counterterrorism issues before Sept. 11 despite intelligence warnings that summer that Al Qaeda was planning a large, perhaps catastrophic, terrorist attack, panel officials and others with access to the reports have said.

They said the draft reports, which are expected to be completed and made public during two days of hearings by the commission this week, show that F.B.I. officials were alarmed throughout 2001 by what they perceived as Mr. Ashcroft's lack of interest in terrorism issues and his decision in August 2001 to reject the bureau's request for a large expansion of its counterterrorism programs.

The draft reports, they said, quote the F.B.I.'s former counterterrorism chief, Dale Watson, as saying he "fell off my chair" when he learned that Mr. Ashcroft had failed to list combating terrorism as one of the department's priorities in a March 2001 department-wide memo.

6 Million?

If Baba WaWa is getting a 6 million advance, then we'd better hear all the details about her bid to become Mrs. Roy Cohn. (see drudge)

Monday, April 12, 2004

Threats to Marriage

First we had the rumors that Becks was cheating on Posh... Now we find out that John "Blackie" Stamos is splittin up with Rebecca...

Meet the New Bosses

Same as the Old Bosses.

"We've got to get more senior Iraqis involved, former military types involved in the security forces," Gen Abizaid said. "In the next couple of days, you'll see a large number of senior officers being appointed to key positions in the ministry of defence and in Iraqi joint staff and in Iraqi field commands. And General [Ricardo] Sanchez [commander of coalition forces in Iraq] and I are very much involved in the vetting and placing of these officers and I can tell you the competition for these positions have been fierce."

As part of the de-Ba'athification process put in place by the US-led coalition after the overthrow of Mr Hussein's government, Paul Bremer, the chief civil administrator in Iraq, insisted on disbanding the Iraqi army despite suggestions from some in the US military that experienced officers would be needed to staff the new army.

Michael O'Hanlon, military analyst at the Brookings Institution, said on Monday: "This really is a reversal. The bottom line is that he [Bremer] eliminated all previous military. The question was what piece do you bring back and how. He had the opportunity to do just this."

I'm one who thought (though this is one of those areas where I don't claim to know squat) that the disbanding of the Iraqi military was a mistake. But, that's not the same thing as thinking the dismissal of senior officers was a mistake. It's more than a bit interesting that we're bringing them back on board...

Defending the Evil Doers

The Center for Constitutional Rights is one of my latest sponsors. They're taking up the Guantanamo detainees' case, for which they were rewarded with death threats. Of course, in defending the Guantanmo detainees they're really defending the right of all of us to not be snatched up by a government - ours or another - and held indefinitely without charges. They're up against the Supremos on April 20.

I don't know everything about the organization, but I'm one of those people who thinks everyone deserves the best possible legal representation, no matter how horrible the charges against them are. They're also representing Maher Arar, the Canadian citizen who was deported to Syria.

And, of course, given the number of people who have actually been released from Gitmo after an extended stay, we know that not all of them were that evil...

Plame Game

From Tweety's Show:

Mr. FINEMAN: Remember the leak investigation?


Mr. FINEMAN: Who leaked that name? That's getting big behind the scenes, and I think it's going to be a bigger story than we know, because the question now is not just who leaked it but who lied to investigators about the leak.

Internet Broken

Not insignificant chunks of the internet are inaccessible today. Anyone else having problems?

Because We Can

I've posted about this before, thought not recently, but Kos has a post about the loss of the aura of American invincibility. Part of the 763 ever-changing reasons to invade Iraq was to prove we could. I assume that the people who made this decision were well aware that we could easily topple just about any government on the planet, so when we say "to prove we could" we're talking about something a bit more complicated than that. What we mean is that we could do it cheaply, roughly within the bounds of international consensus of appropriate use of force and the amount of collateral damage, and that what was left in its place would be better and more Democratic than what we took out.

Well, thanks a lot - in both Afghanistan and Iraq they've managed to prove that all of those things actually aren't true. We can still destroy the world with a few well-placed nukes, but we can't just cut off and replace the head anywhere we want.

So Much For Negotiation


BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The U.S. military intends to kill or capture rebel Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr who launched an uprising this month with his militiamen clashing with coalition soldiers in several towns and cities.

"The mission of U.S. forces is to kill or capture Moqtada al-Sadr," Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, commander of ground forces in Iraq, said in a video conference from Baghdad with correspondents in the United States.

I have no idea what they should do about Sadr. But, I do know that the issue isn't Sadr per se, but the events he can set in motion. His death or capture will cause a reaction...


Yglesias is right to point out, yet again, that there's almost no discernible difference between how the government should respond to threats of a "normal" hijacking and how one should respond to threats of hijacking planes to fly them into buildings. Aside from being much less likely to consider shooting them down, there is no difference at all.

As Jon Stewart said on Franken's show - Bush isn't dumb, we are. If we were smarter he couldn't talk like this and not have the country throw up their hands in a collective 'WUUUUUUH?'

Must be Nice

It's sort of cute that conservatives are suddenly shocked that there are people expressing opinions on the radio in a less than respectful fashion. William Raspberry is so shocked by it he's decided to write a column decrying the evils of the new Franken show, even though he's never actually heard it.

Astute Analysis

So, Jack Cafferty just informed us that John Kerry is making a big mistake by pulling out a "misery index" because in 1979 Jimmy Carter did something similar and his focus on the negative aspects of the economy caused him to the lose the subsequent election.

Cafferty didn't bother to point out one key difference... in 1979 CARTER WAS PRESIDENT and thus, you know, could be held responsible for all that malaise.

Impeach Now

Neal Pollack discovers some more declassified memos.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Boom and Bust

It's late, so I'm not going to throw out a bunch of smart stuff. But, just a couple quick comments on looming dangers.

1) Greenspan's foot is to the floor, and so is Congress's. If there's a negative shock for some reason - any reason - there's nothing else they can do.

2) This housing bubble is of serious concern. If long term interest rates go up for any reason, we could see an epidemic of foreclosures and potentially bank crashes. eek.

Bush Lies

David Sirota fact checks Bush's incredible statements from today.


It looks like the Labour party is ripe for a grass roots takeover. Party members help choose candidates for MP.

Unsourced Rantings

Hey Howell - my sources are better than yours.


Little Green Footballs or Late German Fascists? Take the quiz!


I really can't believe Bush's remarks today. The final in the series of "we didn't have the names, the dates, and the flight numbers, so there was nothing we could do."

WJI in Action

David Cho, who until recently was on the World Journalism Institute's roster of teachers, writes a treacly tribute to evangelical Christianity

I have no objection to Christians, Christianity, or writing about them positively in newspapers. But, this kind of uncritical boosterism isn't "journalism."

On the Guilt

Jim Henley, who plays in the sandbox of the "pro-war" side far more than I do, has a should-read post about the various mixed feelings of being anti-war. I think what Jim - and the media generally - doesn't emphasize is the fact is that while I don't doubt that many soldiers in Iraq perceive that "anti-war" folk are somehow against them, I also don't doubt that there are many soldiers there who believe that the "pro-war" folk are the ones who are against them.

Like Jim, I have immense sympathy for the troops - even those (hopefully few) who may be guilty of committing horrible unnecessary atrocities. In their situation I can imagine my behavior could be atrocious as well. I have no sympathy for the people who wrongly put them there, or for their cowardly non-enlisting supporters. They put these men and women in an impossible situation. One should not be surprised by their reactions.

War- any war - is about weighing the costs against the benefits. The moral calculus for different people will vary, as we have different beliefs about threats and consequences, and different weights placed on our deaths vs. their deaths, on military vs. civilian casualties, on the overall cost, etc... But, no matter what the benefits of "success" are (what that is I don't even know), as the situation and perception about the actual costs - in lives and in money - change, it's perfectly rational for peoples' perceptions about this adventure change. To not change your mind in the face of changing facts is the insane thing. To believe that "winning" is all-important, even once we've lost any sense of what that means, is a belief which simply sacrifices more lives to spare some fragile egos.

Pointing out that it was a mistake to send these people to their deaths does not dishonor them - it rightly dishonors the civilian leaders who sent them there. These people served their country when asked, even if their civilian leaders can be faulted.

Bad Viceroy

Over at Kos there's a decent roundup of the discussion of Viceroy Jerry's decision to close down Sadr's paper. Not having been a regular reader of it, I really don't know the degree to which the claim that it incited violence against US troops is true. But, frankly, I don't really care. I'm no supporter of Sadr, and nor is the concept of "Freedom of Speech" really relevant in a war zone. What is important is that the people over there need to recognize that no matter how legitimate any particular action may be from a legal/moral perspective, they need to remember that those actions have reactions. Apparently Viceroy J didn't bother to plan for the possible consequences of shutting down the paper. That doesn't make him an evil guy - it makes him incompetent.

No Help

Like Billmon, I really don't understand how anyone expected the US-trained Iraqi army to "fight on our side." Sure, you could expect them to take part in small security operations perhaps, but not join in for large scale military battles.

So Fine

A couple readers wrote in to tell me that on Matthews' weekend show, Howard Fineman said that the Plame scandal is going to blow up bigger than any of them imagined. Or something like that.

Thanks Donald

Once upon a time we had a Secretary of Defense. He had a vision of wars which would be fought with air power, special forces and psyops, his collection of invincible robots, and a small number of lightly armored cannon fodder. His vision is wrong. People are now getting killed because of him.

Anyway, read the article at the link (which is only indirectly related to this post). It's interesting and disturbing. But, I want to puke every time I rememmber how the pathetic Heathers used to swoon at Big Don's every press conference. Oh well, it's not their kids getting killed.

Straw Men

Roger Ailes discusses the latest battle in the war on straw, courtesy of Easterbrook and Kitty Parker. In their world the only possible response to having awareness of a possible attack by al Qaeda was to carpet bomb Afghanistan. Therefore, all the people who are criticizing Bush should just shut their pie holes, because there's no way they would've supported such a thing in 2001.

At the risk of being called a Saddam-loving French Islamofacist, might I point out that more measured, and rational, responses to the information Bush possessed -- like heightened precautions at airports and more careful review of existing information -- might have solved the immediate problem, whereas the responses imagined by our fantasizing friends -- "the bombing of Afghanistan" and "an all-out attack on alleged terrorist camps in Afghanistan" -- likely would not have.

The issue isn't, of course, that Bush failed to stop 9/11 - it's that he apparently failed to do anything to try and stop 9/11. I'm tired of how Bob Kerrey has framed the issue this way also - "attack Afghanistan or do nothing" are the only options he understands. Now, going after al Qaeda in Afghanistan earlier may have been the right thing to do, but either way it doesn't speak to the more immediate question:

After getting information about possible hijackings in the US, what additional measures did the Bushies implement or at least propose implementing?

Stop the war talk, let's just talk basic domestic security.


To the Post-Gazette:

Answer Fallujah
The April 1 headline screamed "Four Slain Americans Savaged by Frenzied Mob." Unfortunately, it was no April Fool's Day joke.

How many of our countrymen and -women must lose their lives before terrorists are dealt with using the only means they understand: all-encompassing, completely deadly, damn-the-consequences brute force?

The entire city of Fallujah should be firebombed from the air, just as we did with Dresden. Many people died. It was war. So is what we are engaged in now. That whole city, and every man, woman, and child in it, should be reduced to nothing but charred ashes.

A message needs to be sent to those who would commit such actions as the terrorists in Fallujah did. The only reason they continue to do so is because they can. "Let the punishment fit the crime" is an old saying that in many cases falls short. The punishment should be more severe than the crime, if possible, so as to act as a deterrent to future crime.

When Hiroshima and Nagasaki were obliterated, it was done to send a message, to act as a deterrent and to save American lives in the future. Did innocents die? Unfortunately, yes.

To all of you reading this I say: just think of the innocents who perished on 9/11 in this country. And the thousands more who will die if we do not act decisively to deter such atrocities as Fallujah.

Brighton Heights

Post 9/11 Flights

Craig Unger suggests the 9/11 commission should ask Ashcroft and Mueller how 140 Saudi citizens were allowed to fly around the country - and then out - starting when the airspace was still closed.

We're Back

Sorry about the downtime. Blogger was bloggered.


What Richard Reeves says:

NEW YORK -- Dr. Condoleezza Rice (news - web sites) is giving good brains a bad name. Her testimony to the 9/11 commission on Thursday demonstrated that it is not enough to know everything. You have to understand something. She didn't get it and still doesn't.

We screwed up big time, and now she says that she and President Bush (news - web sites) just want to "move forward." But you can't do the latter if you do not understand the former, which is: what happened before Sept. 11, 2001. As smart and alone as she is in her job, she made a huge mistake in answering questions from commission member Richard Ben-Veniste, the combative little lawyer who was a majority (Democratic) counsel during the Watergate hearings 30 years ago.

Ben-Veniste questioned her about the Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) of Aug. 6, 2001, and in her nervous answer she blurted out the classified title: "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States." Ben-Veniste knew that, but could not say it because he and other commissioners had been allowed to see parts of the memo on condition that they not reveal its title or contents. Rice, in effect, declassified that title on her own. Many reasonable people will interpret the lack of follow-up -- she lamely said follow-up was not part of her job -- as stupidity and incompetence.

But that is now the hallmark of this administration: stupidity and ignorant incompetence -- in gathering, interpreting and following up pre-9/11 intelligence, and in going to war in Iraq (news - web sites).

(The title of the PDB may not be a smoking gun, but it certainly qualifies as warning ignored, rather than, as Rice said, a vague historical document. The title, by the way, was published a year ago in The Washington Post, but no one noticed -- as no one noticed a front-page story in The New York Times revealing the secret bombing of Cambodia more than 30 years ago. An institutional flaw of the press is that it says things only once, and if the timing is wrong, no one notices.) [emphasis mine]