Saturday, July 31, 2004

Women are people (and voters), too. 

I've been hesitant to respond to Barbara Ehrenreich's column from July 29, because I was waiting to hear John Kerry's acceptance speech. Chatting about the speech the next day, my feminist warrior friend said, "Wasn't it awful?" I knew what she was talking about. First, I replied, "No, it was a great speech. He did everything he needed to do." Then I admitted that I had to watch it a certain way. Sometimes, during the speech, I remembered that I was a woman, and I felt left out and left behind. Back in April, I blogged about how the political discourse was all about who was more masculine:
It's clear we are harmed when we allow these pampered sissy boys to make decisions about war and peace. An imperfect alternative is to elect a man who knows what it's like to be at war, from the bottom all the way up to the top, who is motivated to avoid war and learn our way out.

A more perfect alternative would be to elect a woman, who knows what it takes to create, care for, and teach children to become men and women, who is in touch with her and all our everyday lives. A woman's standpoint, in the physical world of eating, sleeping, feeding, cleaning, growing, casting off, taking on, is what is needed to remind us of what it is we destroy when we bomb the crap out of everything and everyone.

I was hopeful, then.
Perhaps it takes El Presidente's mutilation of masculinity to make us all see that masculinity is not the answer to our problems. Perhaps the best president is not he who is man enough, but rather she who is woman enough to have the courage to say no to greed, no to war, no to anything that objectifies people or disregards their existence in the material world altogether.

But then I forgot all about it, I guess, because as it turned out, I was wrong in my prediction that the Democrats would just say no to hypermasculinity. In addition to the many things I loved about the Democratic Convention, especially the promise of unity across racial difference, the relative silence of and about women was noticeable.

Don't get me wrong. There were moments when people spoke about women's choice, for instance. And after Teresa Heinz Kerry spoke, I was hopeful that if her husband is elected, she will fight for women's and children's rights in a substantial way rather than go to tea parties and photo-ops at libraries.

But I have to admit, it took a lot of denial to be happy with the Convention and the election in general. Our choice has been shaped for us: decide who is the most manly man and pick him. That quality has pretty much nothing to do with what I care about or believe will bring the peace.


Friday, July 30, 2004

What a wimp! 

The punxsutawney groundhog emerges for just a short time each year to check for his shadow, but only self-proclaimed groundhog lovers will get to see it happen. The rest of us who don't like hole-dwelling creatures so much, are a little miffed.


Big List 'o flipflops 

  1. President Bush first says he's a war president, and then he says he wants to be a peace president.
  2. First he says old Europe are useless chocolate eaters and pours his french champagne down the toilet, and then he goes begging for help.
  3. First he says no to Patients Bill of Rights, and then they do it without him, and then he takes credit for it.
  4. First he says fuck you to the NAACP and then he says Republicans offer an alternative for African Americans.
  5. First he says no to a 9/11 commission, then he says no to a 9/11 commission, then he says no to a 9/11 commission, and then he says yes.
  6. First he says no to Homeland Security, then he says yes.
  7. First he says he'll do a weekly briefing, then he says no he won't.
  8. First he says "mission accomplished," then he says well, not exactly.
  9. First he says there are WMDs, then he says there aren't, then he says I never said that!
  10. First he says Saddam is in cahoots with Al qaeda, then he says probably not, then he says I never said that, but Dick Cheney keeps saying it
  11. First he says no to screwing around with the constitution, then he says yes, then he says no, then he says yes and no at the same time.


July Surprise 

Pakistan captured some important Al Qaeda operative on Sunday, and announced it yesterday.
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A top al Qaeda operative, one of the world's most wanted men, has been captured in Pakistan and a senior government minister said Friday that the network supporting Osama bin Laden was crumbling.

The Tanzanian-born Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani had a $5 million reward on his head, and is wanted by the United States for his role in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa that killed 224 people.

Yesterday they said he was worth $25 million, but I guess since they weren't able to get near the top of the headlines, they decided to save a few bucks.

Now, I'm going to recreate from memory what I heard this morning on NPR. Interview with a Pakistani journalist:
NPR: Why did the Pakistani government only announce it yesterday, when they captured him on Sunday? Was it because they wanted to time the announcement to coincide with John Kerry's acceptance speech?
PJ: No, I don't think the Pakistani government cares about that sort of thing.
NPR: Wh...
PJ: The Pakistani government cannot make these sorts of announcements unilaterally; they must do so in coordination with the U.S. government. You will have to ask the U.S. why the announcement was made later.

Seriously, it was very close to that.


Quick take on Kerry's speech 

Kerry covered a lot of policy ground last night, and anyone who was paying attention will have learned enough about his background, public service record, and plans for his presidency to feel comfortable voting for him. You can't know for sure until the man is in office, but as others are commenting, he gave people a lot of food for thought.

More important, he framed the political battleground in a truly brilliant way (this truly is an advantage for someone who understands complex problems!).

First, Kerry went on the offensive about values:

For four years we've heard a lot of talk about values. But values spoken without actions taken are just slogans. Values are not just words. Values are what we live by. They're about the causes that we champion and the people that we fight for. And it's time for those who talk about family values to start valuing families.

Second, Kerry continued with the theme that was laid out most clearly by Clinton's speech:

They need to divide us. We don't.

Third, Kerry made it clear that he thinks El Presidente is too incompetent, disinterested, and untruthful to lead this country into a brighter future.

Now I know that there are those who criticize me for seeing complexities, and I do, because some issues just aren't all that simple. Saying there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq doesn't make it so. Saying we can fight a war on the cheap doesn't make it so. And proclaiming mission accomplished certainly doesn't make it so.

Fourth, proclaiming that help is on the way, Kerry characterized the difference between what he had to offer and what El Presidente has to offer as between sane policy that has been shown to help people and insane policy that has been shown to hurt people. He laid out a number of specific policies that I won't repeat here, that clearly show a difference between our way that will probably work to improve the lives of middle class families, and their way that clearly doesn't.

Fifth, Kerry characterized himself to be someone who is optimistic and inclusive. And he challenged El Pres to take the election discourse to a higher ground.

I want to address these next words directly to President George W. Bush. In the weeks ahead let's be optimists, not just opponents. Let's build unity in the American family, not angry division. Let's honor this nation's diversity. Let's respect one another. And let's never misuse for political purposes the most precious document in American history, the Constitution of the United States.

My friends, the high road may be harder but it leads to a better place. And that's why Republicans and Democrats must make this election a contest of big ideas, not small-minded attacks. This is our time to reject the kind of politics calculated to divide race from race, region from region, group from group. Maybe some just see us divided into those red states and blue states, but I see us as one America - red, white and blue. And when I am president, the government I will lead will enlist people of talent, Republicans as well as Democrats, to find the common ground, so that no one who has something to contribute to our nation will be left on the sidelines.

This leaves the 'thugs in a terrible position. (YAY!)

First, they have to (a) ignore the uniter/divider challenge altogether and hope it will go away, or (b) try to refute it. Both will be difficult to do since it's been percolating over the entire tenure of this secretive, suspicious administration, and it's only been reinforced by their negative campaigning.

Second, they're in the position of showing (a) their policy works, which will be kind of difficult to do considering how much so many voters are hurting, or (b) they're pessimists who don't think anything will work, or (c) Kerry's plans won't work, which means more negative campaigning, or (d) look, Britney's pregnant!

I think we'll see them doing a lot of pandering to their base. Rumor has it that Jerry Falwell is doing the opening invocation at the 'thug convention. Stuff like this will bite the 'thug party in the ass, as moderates stay home in November or vote for Kerry, and they lose Congress, but you know what, they deserve it for nominating that freak in the first place.

I hope we've all learned from this, and will look back on it next year and for years to come, saying Never again.


Thursday, July 29, 2004

Tips for watching the convention tonight 



Expressed so many things that needed to be expressed last night. Most important, he conveyed a story of hope and promise in America. He also held El Presidente accountable for his words and deeds and those done on his behalf.
Mr. President, the reason we are fighting so hard, the reason we took Florida so seriously, is our right to vote wasn't gained because of our age," Sharpton said. "Our vote was soaked in the blood of martyrs, soaked in the blood of (civil rights activists) Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner, soaked in the blood of four little girls in Birmingham. This vote is sacred to us. This vote can't be bargained away. This vote can't be given away.

"In all due respect, Mr. President, read my lips: Our vote is not for sale.


Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Specific reasons to vote for John Kerry 

  1. A liberal to select several Supreme Court justices
  2. Among other things, this will protect a woman's right to choose for years to come, so that the women's movement won't have to expend nearly all its energy on this single issue.

    Although it's not an issue in the current election, we will eventually have to fix our criminal justice system if we want to heal the racial divide in this country and create the conditions for economic and social justice. We need a liberal Supreme Court that will help us do that.

  3. A realistic, creative plan to make health care available to a lot more people.
  4. It's not perfect, but it sure is interesting to put the catastrophic coverage in the hands of the feds. From what I understand biz likes it, and any individual who teeters on the edge of having/not having health care, ought to like it.

  5. A commitment to creating new, good, meaningful jobs through the pursuit of alternative energy sources
  6. There is a whole new area of technology to explore for the purposes of conserving and creating fuel. This will be good for the economy, good for our national security, and good for our environment.

  7. A commitment to cleaning up and protecting the environment.
  8. John Kerry has an excellent record on environmental issues. People on both sides of the aisle care about the environment, and I speculate that this is an area where he can rather quickly reverse all the Bush policies.

  9. Someone who has experience working with leaders from around the world, and who is committed to developing alliances

  10. Remember, Bush hadn't even visited a foreign country when he took office. Kerry has worked with foreign leaders (like in Vietnam) to resolve issues. Bush may wish to have alliances now, but he is incapable of it. He's stymied in the world, and the world is waiting with baited breath for us to elect someone else and prove that we want be a good global citizen.
  11. A leader who surrounds himself with smart, powerful people, and who empowers and unites them to speak with their own voices, and with a common vision.
  12. In the past few weeks, we have seen John Edwards out front, Teresa Heinz Kerry, Senator Obama, and a host of powerful current and former public servants.

  13. A party that is committed like never before, to justice and equal opportunity
  14. I haven't seen this much hope for healing since the first time Clinton was elected. There are more people than ever before engaged in political activity with good will and an eye toward the lives of our children.

  15. A leader who has the wisdom and willingness to listen to a variety of experts, and therefore might be able to extricate us from the Iraq adventure
  16. I realize that Kerry has been saying that we can't just leave Iraq. I don't think we can either. But, he is willing to sit down with world leaders and try to come up with a collaborative solution, and they are willing to sit down with him. He is also willing and capable of exploring alternatives to military force, including diplomacy, education, relief, and yes, law enforcement. Also, he has a sophisticated understanding of what it means to know what's going on in the world. Bush's way is to view the world through a Midland,Tx lens. Kerry attempts to understand others' perspectives, in order to make policy that makes sense.

  17. Finally, there are so many obvious opportunities for improvement in our country, and we need an experienced, compassionate leader to take on these challenges. Why not Kerry?
  18. Kerry's experienced, he's compassionate, he's liberal, he's got great leadership qualities, and he's got staying power.

Those are just a few off the top of my head.


ANOTHER bike crash! 

This guy should try out for the special olympics. He's not only an idiot, he's a klutz.
Here's the report:
Bush offered a glimpse of his new pastime to an Associated Press reporter Monday, roaming the dirt roads and far-flung pastures of his 1,600-acre ranch. About halfway through, he sailed over the handlebars during a dangerous descent, but dusted himself off, picked up his $3,100 bicycle and kept riding.
Here's the media ho part:
Crashing is a routine part of mountain biking, a sport in which riders roll over loose dirt, rocks and other obstacles.
(Edited for clarity) Here's the thing: there is a difference between mountain biking and riding a mountain bike. El Prez is traveling dirt roads and pastures, not riding over roots and logs up and down Mount Waco. I'll bet that dangerous descent was down a steep driveway. Just don't kill yerself before the election Georgie. We can't take a minute of Big Time Dick.


Tuesday, July 27, 2004


This is a man who is headed for greatness. Here is the transcript of his speech. He made me feel so proud to be an American.
John Kerry believes in America. And he knows that it's not enough for just some of us to prosper. For alongside our famous individualism, there's another ingredient in the American saga, a belief that we are all connected as one people.
If there's a child on the south side of Chicago who can't read, that matters to me, even if it's not my child.
If there's a senior citizen somewhere who can't pay for their prescription and having to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it's not my grandparent.

If there's an Arab-American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties.

It is that fundamental belief -- it is that fundamental belief -- I am my brother's keeper, I am my sisters' keeper -- that makes this country work.
I remember when Clinton was elected the first time, and so many people were so hopeful. I was a smoker at that time, so I chatted with lots of people I didn't really know while taking smoke breaks. And we talked about how hopeful we were that Clinton would help unite the country.
Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes.

Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America.

There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America.

The pundits, the pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue States: red states for Republicans, blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states.

We coach little league in the blue states and, yes, we've got some gay friends in the red states.

There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq, and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq.

We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.
The thing I learned when Clinton was first elected was that alot of American people want to be united. We care about it. We don't like being divided by race, by class, by gender, no matter what group we ourselves fall into. Dare we hope again? Tonight, Barack Obama made it conceivable that we could realize this dream.


Castro analyzes El Presidente 

Another exciting episode of The Surreal World.
Cuban leader Fidel Castro questioned President Bush's mental fitness on Monday and rejected as "lies and slanders" recent charges by the American that Cuba encourages sex tourism.

Addressing the nation on the anniversary of his initial guerrilla uprising 51 years ago, Castro portrayed Bush as a dangerous religious fundamentalist bent on destroying Cuban socialism. He accused Bush of exhibiting "strange behavior and bellicosity."

"Let's hope, in Cuba's case, God does not instruct Mr. Bush to attack our country," Castro said. "He had better check on any divine belligerent order by consulting the Pope."


Sorrow and anger 

One of our neighbors died last night in a motorcycle accident, leaving behind a spouse and 3 children -- 2 in early elementary school and 1 just 14 months old. I don't know if he was wearing a helmet, but I want to take a moment to discuss motorcycles and helmets.

Since Iowa does not have a helmet law, most cyclists we see here are not wearing them. Mr. Observer and I often make angry, sarcastic comments about these riders: "There goes another moron...Here comes another drooling brain injury." We don't often get on our high horse about too many issues, but this is one issue that bothers us greatly.

In 1990, the GAO conducted a meta analysis of studies about helmet laws. They found:
  1. Helmet use under universal laws ranged from 92 to 100 percent, while without a law or under a limited law [requiring only some riders to wear helmets], helmet use generally ranged from 42 to 59 percent.
  2. Fatality rates were lower when universal helmet laws were in effect; most rates ranged from 20 to 40 percent lower.
  3. Nonhelmeted riders involved in accidents were more likely to (1) need ambulance service, (2) be admitted to a hospital as an inpatient, (3) have higher hospital charges, (4) need neurosurgery and intensive care, (5) need rehabilitation, and (6) be permanently impaired and need long-term care.
"Studies since the 1991 GAO report confirm GAO's conclusions with more recent data. All studies concluded that universal motorcycle helmet laws raise helmet use to 90 percent or higher from pre-law levels of 50 percent or lower. Universal laws reduce motorcycle fatalities, fatality rates, and severe head injuries. The studies also confirm that helmets reduce the probability of injury, of head injury, and of fatality for crash-involved motorcyclists."

If Iowa had 100% helmet usage, which can only be achieved with a universal helmet law, it is estimated that we would have saved 147 lives in 13 years studied, and a whopping $206 million.

I'm so sorry for the family -- those poor babies who will be growing up without their father. The man who died was a very nice person and the world will be poorer for his absence, too.

Like I said, I don't know if he was wearing a helmet or not and it would be tasteless to ask. But I do know that many Iowan riders do not wear helmets, and the vast majority of deaths occur when riders do not wear helmets. In 2002, there were 41 deaths due to motorcycle accidents in Iowa; 35 of those were unhelmeted riders.

We should have a universal helmet law; it's common sense.

Update: our neighbor was wearing a helmet.


The speeches last night ROCKED THE HOUSE, Y'ALL 

As reported by the Washington Post,
Led by former President Bill Clinton, the Democratic National Convention opened here Monday night with a tough and sustained critique of President Bush's policies and a partisan rallying cry to delegates to convert their bitterness over the disputed 2000 election into fresh energy aimed at electing John F. Kerry in November.

Some choice lines from President Clinton:
They need a divided America, but we don't.

America just works better when more people have a chance to live their dreams.

John Kerry said: Send me.....Let every person in this hall and like-minded people all across our land say to him what he has always said to America: Send me.

Strength and wisdom are not opposing values.

Since we're all in the same boat, we should choose a captain of our ship who is a brave good man, who knows how to steer a vessel through troubled waters, to the calm seas and the clear skies of our more perfect union. That is our mission.

So let us go in tonight and say to America in a loud, clear voice: Send John Kerry.

God bless you.

Oh, and don't forget to watch the Rev. Alston witness for John Kerry at C-Span


"We hate the other guy!" 

My four-year-old son asked me, "Who's John Kerry?" after hearing the reference in so many speeches last night. After explaining that Kerry was going to be our next President, the guy in charge, the guy who will protect us from bad guys, the guy who will beat the other guy in the election, or whatever it is that I thought a small boy could comprehend, my kid asked ""Who's the other guy?" I told him it was George Bush and that we didn't like him, so we were going to vote for John Kerry. He exclaimed, "We like John Kerry!"

Then my kiddo asked me why we don't like the other guy. "Because he's a bad man."

"Does he have a gun?"

"Probably. He probably has lots of guns, and he wants there to be more guns."

My son's eyes widened. Quietly, and with great seriousness, he asked in a low voice, "Does he have a sword?"

I smiled and said I didn't know, but thought that if George Bush thought it would help his bad policies, I'm sure he would have one.

Kiddo laughed and said, "We like John Kerry! We hate the other guy!"

I replied that we try not to hate anyone, but in this case it's hard not to make an exception. Kiddo didn't really understand that.

When Mr. Observer came home later that evening, Kiddo was still saying "We like John Kerry! We hate the other guy! He's a bad guy!" I made a joking reference to "He who must not be named."

Josh Marshall is at the convention this week, and he's picking up the same vibe from other Democrats. He only needs to eavesdrop on a Democratic family to learn that Democrats don't have to say his name to know what you're talking about. He says the mainstream media is reporting that we're trying to stay warm and fuzzy, but really, what planet are they on? Every speaker last night was forthright and to the point. It wasn't about making ad hominem attacks, it was about telling the truth.

We hate the other guy! He's a bad guy!


Monday, July 26, 2004

Rewards for being a stubborn pain in the ass 

Here's the map of the Democratic National Convention floor. Notice that the delegation from Iowa has one of the prime locations up front. That means we need to be cajoled just a little bit into swinging into the Kerry column. States like Maryland and New York and California get back row seats, because everyone knows they'll go home with Kerry after the dance. States like Utah and Texas get the crappiest seats, because they suck. I mean, the delegates are heroes of course, which is the only reason they aren't out in the hall, I guess.


From welfare state to prison state 

From Bureau of Justice Statistics summary:
It is incredible that in a democratic society, greater than 3% are under some form of correctional supervision. We incarcerate more people than anyone else in the world.
We are the world leader with respect to incarceration rates. Russia, with only 80% of our incarceration rate, is our closest contender.

But wait, it gets worse. We are not democratic about who From Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2003:

At midyear 2003 --
It is barbaric to place children in the same prisons as adults.
Although women only make up less than 10% of the total, their numbers are increasing more rapidly than that of men.
One in 8 (yes! 1 in 8!) black men are currently incarcerated, compared with 1 in 62 white men.


Why Iraqis might be just slightly pissed off at us 

I never understood how anyone could argue with a straight face that Iraqis are ungrateful or even worse, barbaric, because they shoot at our invading soldiers. Such a failure in logic makes American schooling look very bad. But just in case you would like to be prepared to argue that ridiculous claim, Stephen Soldz provides some ammunition:
[I]magine yourself an Iraqi. You've suffered terribly under a ruthless dictator. The Americans invade your country under false pretenses. They promise democracy but don't organize elections. They appoint exiles to rule you, exiles who spend most of their time out of the country and the rest in a few highly protected areas. The occupiers break into your homes in the middle of the night and arrest your men, who then disappear, with no accountability. They shoot Iraqis at roadblocks and from convoys. They declare war on the second most popular man in the country, announcing his death in advance. They open the economy to US corporations and give them sweetheart contracts, ignoring local business. Then they write hundreds of laws and establish commissions limiting any future government. They build permanent military bases on your soil. Then they turn your country over to a former associate of Saddam Hussein, also a former CIA agent, known for his ruthless brutality. Imagine that was your country. What would you do?

By way of Holden posting at Eschaton.


More about blogging and the media 

Josh Marshall ponders the role of blogs in the media.
Blogs make up a small, specialized niche within the interdependent media ecosystem -- mainly not producers but primary or usually secondary consumers -- like small field mice, ferrets, or bats.

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

I think blogs serve yet another purpose, which is to give readers/viewers an opportunity to talk back, talk to each other, generally respond or interact with the content that is being delivered to them. Although the owner of the blog is still the driver of opinion since s/he frames the content to begin with, there is more democracy surrounding how the content ultimately will be processed, at least among those who participate in the blog.

When mainstream media outlets begin to get it; that is, figure out what the point is, I don't know whether they will keep blogs or not. Furthermore, success in blogging is not simply keeping the blog around, but doing something with it and doing that well.


Sunday, July 25, 2004

The New York Times notices blogs 

Are blogs and bloggers just a fad, or something more? Since several bloggers were given credentials for the Democratic National Convention, the mainstream outlets are taking notice. Suddenly they're getting on the blogger bandwagon - see Chris Matthews' very stupidly named Hardblogger for instance. Last night, he was promoting it on television and admitted that he'd just learned what blogs were a few days before.

I've been blogging for 6 or 7 months, and introduced them in a class I taught over a year ago, so I guess you could say I'm an old hand at this. I don't know much about media, except that generally they suck, but I do know that so far, the absolute best thing about blogs is that they connect the necessary dots that mainstream outlets are too stupid, lazy, or otherwise incapable of doing.


Free-Speech Internment Camp 

Despite his opinion that it is an understatement to call the Boston "free-speech zone" an internment camp, a federal judge declined to do anything about it. Too bad, so sad, democracy is nearly dead.


The party of the people? 

In 2000, many African American voters were disenfranchised, as investigated most carefully by Greg Palast. It's not simply a matter of standing up for democratic principles. We have no credibility before the world if we do not allow some of our votes to count, so spreading the word of democracy will be impossible. We have no credibility as a political party if we stand silent and allow disenfranchisement to have occurred without speaking of it. We cannot claim to be the party of the people if we don't take care of all of our people and defend their most basic rights as citizens of a democracy.

We know the republicans don't give a damn if America lives or dies, so Democrats must take responsibility for our survival. If we perpetuate the continued violent discrimination of African American citizens with our silence, this of all issues is the ruin of our country. It is wrong to take away the vote from convicted felons, as occurs in some states like Florida, especially when racism is built into the criminal justice system. From start to finish, from arrest to conviction to sentencing to parole, African Americans get the short end of a violent stick. We should work to make this issue uncontroversial: why is it controversial for every citizen to have a vote?

I want my white child to have a chance for a better world than we have now, and the only way he will have that is if we fight and keep on fighting for social justice. As we have learned so well, there are those who would cynically ruin everything America stands for when given the chance. We must be the party of the people by speaking for all the people, no matter how painful.


Saturday, July 24, 2004

This is what happens when you lead our soldiers into an illegitimate war and then you incompetently manage their operations there. They get sick and tired and angry to lay their lives on the line for a lie and for people who are leaders in name only, and barely that.

Is the Iraq invasion a failure? Disinfopedia says you can't answer that without knowing the mission. Unfortunately the mission changes whenever it doesn't look like we're accomplishing it.

You cannot win an occupation, all you can do is reduce the size of your humiliation.

Unfortunately, El Presidente isn't doing either.


Friday, July 23, 2004

Clinton vs. El Presidente part II 

LiberalOasis points out that both Clinton and Gore expressed their concern for terrorism publicly, and the Boy Prince did not. Still, he might have been thinking about it.


The difference between President Clinton and the Boy Prince 

The commission was critical that no systematic approach to dealing with terrorism was in place during the Clinton administration; however, they recognized that a lot of the blame rested on severe partisanship throughout government, slavery to special interest groups, and a overarching false sense of security outside the innermost circles of government, in the face of very real threats.

Warned by the CIA that the disrupted Jordanian plot was probably part of a larger series of attacks intended for the millennium, some possibly involving chemical weapons, the Principals Committee met on the night of December 8 and decided to task Clarke’s Counterterrorism Security Group (CSG) to develop plans to deter and disrupt al Qaeda plots.

Michael Sheehan, the State Department member of the CSG, communicated warnings to the Taliban that they would be held responsible for future al Qaeda attacks. “Mike was not diplomatic,” Clarke reported to Berger. With virtually no evidence of a Taliban response, a new approach was made to Pakistan….Musharraf was “unwilling to take the political heat at home.”

The CIA worked hard with foreign security services to detain or at least keep an eye on suspected Bin Laden associates….In mid-December, President Clinton signed a Memorandum of Notification (MON) giving the CIA broader authority to use foreign proxies to detain Bin Laden lieutenants, without having to transfer them to U.S. custody. The authority was to capture, not kill, though lethal force might be used if necessary. Tenet would later send a message to all CIA personnel overseas, saying, “The threat could not be more real….Do whatever is necessary to disrupt UBL’s plans….The American people are counting on you and me to take every appropriate step to protect them during this period.” The State Department issued a worldwide threat advisory to its posts overseas.

Then, on December 14, an Algerian jihadist (Ressam) was caught bringing a load of explosives into the United States.

It was determined that the arrest was not due to all these counterterrorism efforts, but simply the good work of a well-trained customs officer. Nonetheless, plans continued at the highest level.

After the millennium alert, elements of the U.S. government reviewed their performance. The CIA’s leadership was told that while a number of plots had been disrupted, the millennium might be only the “kick-off” for a period of extended attacks. Clarke wrote Berger on January 11, 2000, that the CIA, the FBI, Justice, and the NSC staff had come to two main conclusions. First, U.S. disruption efforts thus far had “not put too much of a dent” in Bin Ladin’s network. If the U.S. wanted to “roll back” the threat, disruption would have to proceed at “a markedly different tempo.” Second, “sleeper cells” and “a variety of terrorist groups” had turned up at home.

President Clinton treated these threats as though danger were imminent, but the point is well-taken that simply responding to threat was not a good long-range strategy. On the other hand, President Chimpy and his band of incompetents did not approach these threats as though they were imminent:

Bush and his principal advisers had all received briefings on terrorism, including Bin Ladin. In early Sepatember 2000, Acting Deputy Director of Central Intelligence John McLaughlin led a team to Bush’s ranch in Crawford Texas and gave him a wide-ranging, four-hour review of sensitive information. Ben Bonk, deputy chief of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, used on of the four hours to deal with terrorism.
In December, Bush met with Clinton for a two-hour, one-on-one discussion of national security and foreign policy challenges. Clinton recalled saying to Bush, “I think you will find that by far your biggest threat is Bin Ladin and the al Qaeda.”….Bush told the Commission that he felt sure President Clinton had mentioned terrorism, but did not remember much being said about al Qaeda.
In early January, Clarke briefed Rice on terrorism. He gave similar presentations [about al Qaeda] to Vice President-elect Cheney, Hadly, and Secretary of State-designate Powell….Later the same day, Berger met with Rice. He says that he told her the Bush administration would spend more time on terrorism in general and al Qaeda in particular than on anything else. Rices’ recollection was that Berger told her she would be surprised at how much more time she was going to spend on terrorism than she expected, but that the bulk of their conversation dealt with the faltering Middle East peace process and North Korea.
The procedures of the Bush administration were to be at once more formal and less formal than its predecessor’s. President Clinton, a voracious reader, received his daily intelligence briefings in writing. He often scrawled questions and comments in the margins, eliciting written responses. The new president, by contrast, reinstated the practice of face-to-face briefings from the DCI. President Bush and Tenet met [each day] with Cheney, Rice and Card usually also present….The President talked with Rice every day, and she in turn talked by phone at least daily with Powell and Rumsfeld. As a result, the President often felt less need for formal meetings.
Within the first few days after Bush’s inauguration, Clarke approached Rice in an effort to get her—and the new President—to give terrorism very high priority and to act on the agenda that he had pushed during the last few months of the previous administration…..[She] did not respond directly to Clarke’s memorandum. No Principals Committee meeting on al Qaeda was held until September 4, 2001 (although the Principals Committee met frequently on other subjects, such as the Middle East peace process, Russia, and the Persian Gulf).
….In the spring, reporting on terrorism surged dramatically….These increasingly alarming reports, briefed to the President and top officials, became part of the context in which the new administration weighed its options for policy on al Qaeda.
….In May, President Bush announced that VP Cheney would himself lead an effort looking at preparations for managing a possible attack by weapons of mass destruction and at more general problems of national preparedness. The VP’s task force was just getting under way when the 9/11 attack occurred.
The Principals Committee had its first meeting on al Qaeda on September 4. On the day of the meeting, Clarke sent Rice an impassioned personal note. He criticized U.S. counterterrorism efforts past and present. The “real question” before the principals, he wrote, was “are we serious about dealing with the al Qida threat?…Is al Qida a big deal?… Decision makers should imagine themselves on a future day when the CSG has not succeeded in stopping al Qida attacks and hundreds of Americans lay dead in several countries including the US,” Clarke wrote. “what would those decision makers wish that they had done earlier? That future day could happen at any time.”

What were the two presidents dealing with at the time they were dealing with terror? President Clinton was dealing with the aftermath of being impeached, and continued accusations by the GOP, as if they couldn't get enough. El Presidente was installing his incompetent administration, but said he was "tired of swatting at flies" and wanted to go get the dang terrorists. However, he didn't want to use anything from the previous administration; he wanted to develop his own slow policy that avoided the Saudis altogether...

The Commission concluded thusly:
[B]oth Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush and their top advisers told us they got the picture--they understood Bin Ladin was a danger. But given the character and pace of their policy efforts, we do not believe they fully understood just how many people al Qaeda might kill, and how soon it might do it. At some level that is hard to define, we believe the threat had not yet become compelling.
The commission says it was due to a lack of imagination in both administrations. Here is my analysis, thus far:

In the Clinton administration, there was an inability to get beyond the specific threats. They were successful at thwarting a series of plots, but did not get beyond that to the bigger picture. The root cause lies in the organizational structure and a general lack of imagination of how bad it could get, combined with a Republican vendetta against the White House that had polarized the country to an unprecedented degree, thus shutting down a lot of options for getting the electorate on board with any grand military or other strategies.

In the Bush administration, they were too busy trying to understand and respond to the bigger picture to deal with specific threats. Their lack of imagination had to do with viewing the bigger picture through a cold war/neoconservative lens, rather than the new paradigm for terrorist activity. The root cause still lay within the bureacracy, combined with a polarized country and an administration that was busy planning for the rapture.

I don't think the report has been as completely forthcoming about what was going on inside the Bush administration as it was about the Clinton administration. There is a lack of detail, particularly about the curious statements (lies) made by Rice in her testimony. I guess this will all come out once President Kerry is in office.


Commission swipes El Presidente, part II 

While campaigning, he told us he's a uniter, not a divider
John Kerry doesn't think so.

Apparently, neither does the 9/11 commission, especially these republican spokespeople.
"On that beautiful September day, we felt great hurt," Mr. Kean said, recalling the attacks, as he presented the panel's final report on Thursday. "But we believed and we acted as one nation. We united as Americans have always united in the face of any common foe." Now, he added, "We must unite to make our country safer. Republicans and Democrats must unite in this cause."
At least one of them, James R. Thompson, the former Republican governor of Illinois, warned sharply of the practical and political consequences of inaction.

"If I were the president of the United States, I would want sitting next to me in a cabinet meeting a national director of intelligence so that I could fix responsibility in one person for issues of this sort," Mr. Thompson said. "And if I were in the Congress of the United States, I would want to make sure that I was protected from the accusation that oversight funding authorization and appropriations were not adequate."

"Everyone was caught unawares by Sept. 11," Mr. Thompson added, "the president, the Congress, the American people, law enforcement agencies. Blame, if there's blame, has to be spread all across the board because the American people never demanded more or better. But now we've been warned, specifically warned. And now we've been told by everyone, from the president of the United States on down, it's going to happen again. And if it happens, and we haven't moved, then the American people are entitled to make very fundamental judgments about that."


Tucker Carlson, lying sack of poo 

It's not the first or the last time that Tucker is caught lying like a junkyard dog, and probably won't be the last. Josh Marshall reports. Tucker has jumped on the "Look, over there, it's Sandy Berger with classified documents in his socks!" bandwagon, doing his part for El Presidente, to divert attention away from the 9/11 commission report, which is none too good for this administration.

The only reason anyone has anything other than disgust for Tucker Carlson is because he published El Presidente's sinister mocking of Karla Faye Tucker ("please don't kill me!"). But IIRC, Carlson has said that he didn't think his interview of Bush was on the whole negative, and was surprised that Bush was annoyed with him after it was published.

I think Tucker has either a) been trying to get back in the fold ever since, or b) really doesn't think there's something all that godawful about mocking a death row inmate.

I think it's a) myself, but that means he's had to somehow forget what El Presidente is really made of. Sorta like David Frum has (who is an asshole too, of course):

From Frum's National Review diary:
Here are more questions from readers about President Bush - and more attempts to answer them.

Q: Do you have any reaction to then-Gov. Bush's mocking of the Texas woman on death row who asked to be spared since she had been born again? My own view is that I believe her conversion was genuine, but that she
Also should still face the consequences of her murder conviction. And she
did. But I was shocked at Bush's behavior toward her in that interview.

A: The question refers to an article by Tucker Carlson, now co-host of CNN’s “Crossfire,” and published by Talk magazine early in the 2000 campaign. Carlson asked Bush about the then-pending execution of Karla Faye Tucker. Bush responded, Carlson reported, by mocking an interview that Karla Faye Tucker had recently given Larry King. “Please,” Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock-desperation, “please don’t kill me.” Disturbing.

But Bush has moved far and fast since then. For one thing, he has had to comfort thousands of grieving survivors of the people murdered on 9/11. Proximity to sorrow changes us – and it seems to have changed Bush.
If I heard a man talk like that, I would never every forget it. I would never brush it aside, I would never trust him. Our president, as someone said over at Atrios' blog (I think), is a giggling idiot murderer.


Thursday, July 22, 2004

Google for good news. Sorry 'thugs! (NOT) 

Now, this is what I like to see when I google news for "Kerry"


The commission report: Take that, you friggin morons! 

There are definitely places where the 9/11 commission report slams the crap out of the current administration and the 'thugs, and I'm here to point them out:
Page 105: “[T]he oversight function of Congress has diminished over time. In recent years, traditional review of the administration of programs and the implementation of laws has been replaced by “a focus on personal investigations, possible scandals, and issues designed to generate media attention.”

Stop looking at Clinton's penis and get back to work!

(emphasis added, you stupid fucks)

pp. 363-364: “Long-term success demands the use of all elements of national power: diplomacy, intelligence, covert action, law enforcement, economic policy, foreign aid, public diplomacy, and homeland defense. If we favor one tool while neglecting others, we leave ourselves vulnerable and weaken our national effort.”

(not to mention, if someone really does threaten us, we're fish in a barrel. It's almost hurricane season and we don't have any national guardsmen to help out)

p. 367: "Identify and prioritize actual or potential terrorist sanctuaries…We offer three illustrations that are particularly applicable today, in 2004: Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia"

(Notably not Iraq, emphasis added, you stupid schmucks!)

p. 374 “The problems in the U.S.-Saudi relationship must be confronted, openly. The United States and Saudi Arabia must determine if they can build a relationship that political leaders on both sides are prepared to publicly defend--a relationship about more than oil…”

(Well, that just can’t happen with the House of Bush-House of Saud connection)

p. 378 “The U.S. government should offer to join with other nations in generously supporting a new International Youth Opportunity Fund. Funds will be spent directly for building and operating primary and secondary schools in those Muslim states that commit to sensibly investing their own money in public education.”
(BOOKS NOT BOMBS! Jesus christ, the lefties have been saying this for years.)

pp. 394-395 “The burden of proof for retaining a particular governmental power should be on the exective, to explain (a) that the power actually materially enhances security and (b) that there is adequate supervision of the executive’s use of the powers to ensure protection of civil liberties. If the power is granted, there must be adequate guidelines and oversight to properly confine its use.”

Fire that asshole Ashcroft.

p. 395: “The choice between security and liberty is a false choice, as nothing is more likely to endanger America’s liberties than the success of a terrorist attack at home. Our history has shown us that insecurity threatens liberty. Yet, if our liberties are curtailed, we lose the values that we are struggling to defend.”
So stop fuckin scaring us into handing over our rights.

p. 396 “Federal homeland security assistance should not remain a program for general revenue sharing….Congress should not use this money as a pork barrel.”
Stop surveillance on peace protesters, for purposes of justifying spending in states like Iowa. They aren't violent, that is why they are called PEACE PROTESTERS!


Tuesday, July 20, 2004

SCLM ignores the obvious 

The Washington Post noted that a website makes the connection between El Presidente's uncle and the highly corrupt Riggs bank.
A political Web site written by a Democratic operative drew attention yesterday to the fact that President Bush's uncle, Jonathan J. Bush, is a top executive at Riggs Bank, which this week agreed to pay a record $25 million in civil fines for violations of law intended to thwart money laundering.

I don't know if Jonathan Bush is involved in the corruption. It is just fucking amazing how the press has seen fit to avoid mentioning his name at all, when that itself is big frickin NEWS.

The press is an oozing sore. Seriously.


White house promotes sex tourism 

Treasury Secretary John pimps the economy today, online.


Bush quotes undergraduate research paper 

These people are so utterly stupid, it is a wonder that they aren't hooked to respirators and feeding tubes, in case they forget. According to the LA Times, in his agitation of the week, Bush was quoting an undergraduate research paper when he said,
"The dictator welcomes sex tourism. Here's how he bragged about the industry," Bush said. "This is his quote: 'Cuba has the cleanest and most educated prostitutes in the world.' "
As it turns out, he recklessly took this statement out of context (duh). According to the author, now in graduate school,
"Castro was merely trying to emphasize some of the successes of the revolution by saying 'even our prostitutes our educated,' " Trumbull said. "Castro was trying to defend his revolution against negative publicity. He was in no way bragging about the opportunities for sex tourism on the island."
I'm sure most experts would like to call him a lying moron rather than saying
Julia Sweig, a Cuba expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, said it was one thing for an undergraduate to include an unsubstantiated quotation in a college paper, but it was another for the White House to include one in a presidential speech.

"That's incredibly sloppy, and it shows that when it comes to Cuba policy, they are willing to cut huge corners," Sweig said.


Terrorists in Iowa! 

The DesMoinesRegister is reporting that we've had 35 cases of terrorism in Iowa since September 11. And we have been completely in the dark!
"If there have been terrorism-related arrests in Iowa, I haven't heard about them," said U.S. District Judge Robert Pratt.

As it turns out, these were mostly petty criminals who apparently because of their race, were marked terrorists, including "Five Mexican citizens who stole cans of baby formula from store shelves throughout Iowa and sold them to a man of Arab descent for later resale."

Naturally, lumping petty crimes into the national terrorism database could make some of us more nervous than we already are. And we might just lose faith in the whole process, as Sen. Grassley argued, "When people read that they're doctoring the numbers, aren't they going to have less confidence in the Justice Department and the war on terror? You can't say that somebody's a terrorist when he isn't a terrorist."

Of course, the government stands by its crazy bullshit:
Prosecutors interviewed by the Sunday Register stressed that many of the Iowa cases were classic examples of illegal activities that are perpetrated by terrorist groups. And though any evidence of terrorist connections or motives was rarely mentioned in the courtroom, officials implied that some of the suspects might still be under suspicion, even since their release.

Now I know that baby formula is expensive, but the terrorism ship would have long sailed before you'd sell enough to shady looking Arabs to buy yourself even one illicit Saturday night Special.


Friday, July 16, 2004

Email to PBS about Tucker Carlson 

Tucker Carlson continues to publicly repeat the disgusting falsehood that John Edwards, as a trial lawyer, "specialized in jacuzzi cases." Carlson knows exactly what Edwards did, which was to successfully represent a little girl who was disemboweled in a dangerous wading pool. Carlson continues to display utter disregard for humanity, which is surprising since I know he has several children of his own.

The world would be a better place if media outlets wouldn't continue to reward sociopaths by giving them more air time.


James Carville 

I'm reading James Carville's book "Had enough? A handbook for fighting back." I'm doing it rather slowly, because it's the book I read while I'm on the treadmill. Anyway, he's giving me a lot of food for thought. I agree mostly with what he says, but not with everything. He's much more of a hawk than I am.

Shocker from my reading yesterday: Carville went down a list of significant international treaties that we've had in place or have been negotiating for years and years, which El Presidente has completely dropped.

He also mentioned the point that only dictators dress up in uniforms, not leaders of democratic countries.


Thursday, July 15, 2004

The mission of Tomato Observer 

I've been another voice in the ether, pretty much talking to myself for a while, although there are a few occasional guests (Ananna, Mooser, Jeff, and others, thanks!). As it turns out, a lot of my real political activism has to do with letter writing and public speaking, so I'm probably going to be focusing my posts on those activities. Others seem to do a pretty good job of the political commentary; I'm good at writing letters. So I'll be posting those, along with any responses I get. I'll also be blogging local efforts to beat the hell out of El Presidente. I won't completely stay away from general commentary, but I'm going to be keeping that to a minimum for a while.


Letter to Richard Cohen, WaPo columnist 

I googled "irony" today and the first link that came up was Richard Cohen's column. Cohen is a little annoyed because Ron Reagan is speaking at the Democratic Convention.

....And let us also concede that if Ron Reagan were not his father's son, not only would he not have been at that funeral -- by virtue of what achievement? -- but no one would have paid him any attention. He had, as he well knew, expropriated his father's fame and stature for his own purposes.

It is the same with stem cell research. Once again, Ron Reagan will be speaking solely because of his name and because, by implication, he is articulating his dead father's convictions. Maybe he is -- I would like to think so -- but there is no way of knowing where Ronald Reagan would have stood on stem cell research. He was not, to say the least, a rigorous thinker and might well have wound up in Bush's corner. Who knows?

What I do know is that Ron Reagan is going to speak at the Democratic National Convention because his name is Ron Reagan. He is not a famous Democrat and he is not a well-known ethicist or medical researcher. He will be there just to stick it to the GOP and Bush and to suggest, as do the selfish when they would rather golf than attend a funeral, that they have the permission of the deceased. There's a term for this sort of thing.

Grave robbery.

Wow! Such conviction! I wrote back to Mr. Cohen:
Yikes! Ron Reagan has accomplished hardly anything on his own. Why, he's probably never snorted coke, crashed his car in a drunken rage, driven his business into the ground, won an election by court order, started a war by lying to the American public, or even created the biggest deficit in our history.

And now Ron Reagan has the nerve to speak publicly in favor of stem cell research. What a spoiled little undeserving man. He should go back to prancing around on aircraft carriers in dress up clothes, on the taxpayer's dime. Oh wait, that's some other famous daddy's son.

Sometimes you hit it, Mr. Cohen, but not today.



Exchange with Dan Froomkin of the WaPo 

He had an open chat yesterday, and he provided pseudo-answers to my questions:

Des Moines, Iowa:
Who is your favorite White House spokesperson and why?
Who's a bigger liar, Scott McClellan or Ari Fleischer?
Who looks like they enjoy lying more, Ari or Scotty?
I kinda feel more sorry for Scott than I did for Ari. What do you think?

Dan Froomkin:
I will duck the first three. On the fourth, I think it's safe to say that some members of the press corps find Scott a bit hapless at times.
Des Moines, Iowa:
I've read a lot of half-baked non-apologies from former cheerleaders in the run up to war. Do you think members of the press feel any serious remorse over the war in Iraq? What might be done to prevent such horror in the future?

Dan Froomkin:
There is a great deal of self-flagellating going on in the press corps, yes. So many of the things we are finding out now, we should have known before, regardless of how you feel about the war. As for the future, that is a tough question.


Non form letter from Tom Harkin 

After seeing Fahrenheit 9/11, I wrote to Tom Harkin to ask him why the Senators did not step up and challenge the election results. Here is the reply:

Dear [Tomato]:

Thank you very much for your email. I always appreciate receiving mail from my fellow Iowans. You asked a great question on why no senators challenged the election results.

The Supreme Court had ruled 5-4 that George W. Bush would be the next President. Vice President Al Gore supported the Courts decision, and discouraged Democrats from challenging the election result. Humbly, Gore spoke to Members of the House and told them, “We must all respect, and whenever possible, help the President-elect Bush because from the moment he takes his solemn oath, a great responsibility will rest in his hands.” If a Senator would have signed, long debates would have begun, but it would not change the outcome of the election. We decided that it would be the best interest of our country to move forward.

Again, thank you for contacting me. Please feel free to contact me again about any questions or concerns you may have.


Tom Harkin

United States Senator


Monday, July 12, 2004

What government actually is supposed to do 

- The Constitution of the United States of America

James Carville reminded me of this. El Presidente's 0 for 6.


The jig's up 

Two Tomato Observers, one heart. Practically since day 1 of his term, Tomayto has been optimistic that El Presidente would be tossed eventually. But Tomahto, ever the pessimist, always said never to misunderestimate the flabby incompetencentinence of mainstream media, who would serve their master as long as he held the purse strings. But today, the two tomatoes are finally on the same page.

The Boy Prince is Goin' DOWN!

The media's marriage to El Presidente has officially jumped the shark. As Liberal Oasis convincingly argued, the Dems finessed the Senate Intelligence Report pretty well. Yeah, they compromised and didn't put anything in the report that would smear El Presidente, but they never would have been able to release the report in time for people to digest it if it had been overtly critical of the boy prince. But, Rockefeller hand-carried the report to the press, and talked up the pressure the White House put on the CIA, and pretty much took care of that. It's all over the news, and many outlets aren't trying to give El Presidente a pass anymore.

The reason the media aren't trying to whitewash the Senate Intelligence Report is because it gives them an opportunity to blame someone else. They can say they were fooled, and pointgive the finger to the White House. For it to be in any one media dick's self-interest, it has to be in everyone's. And they are now turning their mass of incandescent gas away from El Presidente, because he's bad for business. It makes no sense to hitch your wagon to this goner.

Finally, unless they steal the election again, I am fully convinced of heart and mind that we will not have to look at their sour pusses again after January.


Saturday, July 10, 2004

That won't get my vote 

According to Seeing the Forest, There have been comments circulating here and there about the need to make plans to cancel or postpone the presidential election should there be a major terrorist attack. In a democratic society, this must not come to pass. If a handful of us still live to rummage around in the ashes of the city, we still must hold an election, if only to preserve whatever we thought democracy ought to be. Watch Bernie Sanders in action (via Annatopia) if you don't think we have a threat to democracy.


The boy prince who cried wolf, part II 

I see that the New York Times agrees with me.
[T]he report also speaks to a critical long-term security threat. We cannot afford to have the public become too cynical about the government's assessment of danger.

There may well come a time when Mr. Bush, or another president, will have to ask the nation and its allies to back a pre-emptive military strike against terrorists, or a country that poses a real threat. And he's probably going to have to rely on intelligence that is hardly the "slam dunk" that George Tenet reportedly called these shoddy reports on Iraq. The public will have to believe that the president is acting against a real threat, not one manufactured to justify a political agenda.

This administration has not made it easier for people to have that confidence. Its continuing insistence on linking Iraq and Al Qaeda is not aimed at helping the public understand the situation in the Middle East, but at providing political cover for an increasingly unpopular invasion.


Now they tell us 

This is somewhat dated, but I just learned of it via Thersites on Eschaton. Michael Massing writes:
[W]here were you all before the war? Why didn't we learn more about these deceptions and concealments in the months when the administration was pressing its case for regime change—when, in short, it might have made a difference? Some maintain that the many analysts who've spoken out since the end of the war were mute before it. But that's not true. Beginning in the summer of 2002, the "intelligence community" was rent by bitter disputes over how Bush officials were using the data on Iraq. Many journalists knew about this, yet few chose to write about it.

On Chalabi, the big fat obvious scam artist: The NY TImes' Judith Miller relied on him and his friends for most of her reporting on WMD prior to war.
In the period before the war, US journalists were far too reliant on sources sympathetic to the administration. Those with dissenting views—and there were more than a few—were shut out. Reflecting this, the coverage was highly deferential to the White House. This was especially apparent on the issue of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction— the heart of the President's case for war. Despite abundant evidence of the administration's brazen misuse of intelligence in this matter, the press repeatedly let officials get away with it. As journalists rush to chronicle the administration's failings on Iraq, they should pay some attention to their own.

On Cheney, the big fat obvious scam artist: Miller and another reporter, Michael Gordon, continued to develop a circle of defector associates who fed their theory that Iraq had WMDs, and thus bolstered the messages they were getting from the administration about the WMDs. Then members of the administration took their reporting and used it to bolster their own cases. For instance,
Administration "hard-liners," Gordon and Miller [reported], worried that "the first sign of a 'smoking gun'... may be a mushroom cloud."
On that morning's talk shows, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, and Condoleezza Rice all referred to the information in the Times story. "It's now public," Cheney said on Meet the Press, that Saddam Hussein "has been seeking to acquire" the "kind of tubes" needed to build a centrifuge to produce highly enriched uranium, "which is what you have to have in order to build a bomb." On CNN's Late Edition, Rice said the tubes "are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs." She added: "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud"—a phrase lifted directly from the Times.

Many nuclear experts had doubts and expressed them to Miller. However,
Six paragraphs into an article that summarized the White House's case against Iraq, Miller and Gordon noted that senior officials acknowledged "that there have been debates among intelligence experts about Iraq's intentions in trying to buy such tubes." But, they quickly noted, those officials insisted that "the dominant view" in the administration was that the tubes were intended for use in centrifuges to enrich uranium.

One of the dissenting experts, David Albright, decided to take his opinions elsewhere, and teamed up with reporter Joby Warrick of the Washington Post. Warrick reported the challenges to the official view and
Warrick also noted reports that the Bush administration "is trying to quiet dissent among its own analysts over how to interpret the evidence." It was one of the first public mentions of the administration's possible misuse of the data on Iraq. Appearing on page A18, however, the story caused little stir.

The article continues with more detail about how the case against WMD's was subsumed, subverted, or suppressed in media. Lessons learned were:

1) Reporters relied too much on the word of high level officials who "closed ranks" They LIED to you!
2) There was a pack mentality. No one wanted to report differently from how everyone else was reporting. You went along to get along!

Now we are all screwed.


Friday, July 09, 2004


The best political ad out there.


Make me wanna puke, and then holler! 

Just when you think El Presidente has sunk as far as humanly possible without dropping off the face of the planet, he finds a new and inhuman way to behave.

The Daily Misleader sums up yesterday's coverage of this administration's exploitation of our cumulative fears.
In the months after the tragic attacks of 9/11, President Bush told the American people that he had "no ambition whatsoever to use [the War on Terror] as a political issue."

As it turns out*, they've been leaning on Pakistan to find some "high-value" terrorists before our elections in November. Actually, according to Pakistani officials, our fearful leader and his craft band prefer these captures to occur in time to broadcast during the Democratic National Convention at the end of this month.

I am against the Death Penalty, but almost willing to make an exception for these traitorous fools.

*I should write a macro to hotkey this phrase, I write it so often.


Thursday, July 08, 2004

My dog ate my records 

The NY Times is reporting that AWOL's records were accidentally destroyed for several of the months in question.
Military records that could help establish President Bush's whereabouts during his disputed service in the Texas Air National Guard more than 30 years ago have been inadvertently destroyed, according to the Pentagon.

It said the payroll records of "numerous service members," including former First Lt. Bush, had been ruined in 1996 and 1997 by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service during a project to salvage deteriorating microfilm. No back-up paper copies could be found, it added in notices dated June 25.
On June 22, The Associated Press filed suit in federal court in New York against the Pentagon and the Air Force to gain access to all the president's military records.

Two points:

1) People have been asking for these records for years, to no avail. It was only after the AP got right with jesus and filed suit, that the records were announced to be destroyed.

2) This NY Times article acknowledging that Bush's service is disputed is itself somewhat of a rarity. I thought the administration and their media ho's put that silly idea to bed ages ago!


The boy prince who cried wolf 

Today, Tom Ridge gave yet another briefing about a vague threat to national security. He said that we do not have information on the precise time, place or method of attack, but that Al Qaeda definitely was planning a large scale attack "in order to disrupt our democratic process." He then spent the bulk of the briefing to describe all the great plans the Dept of Homeland Security has for strengthening the security of the U.S.

He said that both conventions were high profile events that warranted extra security, so the Secret Service is in charge for both. When questioned by a reporter, Ridge said there was no specific intelligence about the conventions.

He said that his remarks were based in part on recent interdictions in England and Italy, where individuals and munitions were in place. He also said "We are comfortable with the credibility of the sources" although he said something kind of confusing about how they weren't sure yet about the credibility of the information.

Ridge was asked "Why now? Why hold this briefing now?" He said that they'd started the process months ago, and were providing periodic updates to the public. He also called on citizens to be vigilant and report any suspicious activities or items.

He was asked about his response to remarks made by someone in the FEC about how we don't have any plans for postponing elections if there is a terrorist attack. Ridge said he didn't agree with the remarks, but said that they were looking into constitutional and security issues.

El Presidente is making us less safe because every time he cries wolf, we trust his word less. If Ridge is telling the truth and really does have information about a possible terrorist attack, how seriously are the American people going to take his word, after all the lying this administration has done?


One pundit's admission of guilt 

Richard Reeves' admission of guilt is about as decent as I've read, thus far.
In a great and free country, the more the people know, the safer and better off they are. We, the press, should have fought harder and smarter to get out the real story of the lousy and stupid war we started in Iraq.

At least he didn't take a shot at liberals for being right about this illegal unjustified war, like a lot of the other assholes are doing. It doesn't make me feel any better to say "I told you so." The loss is so enormous. I hope that as a result of this horror of the last 3 1/2 years, the U.S. will change significantly for the better. It's the only way I'll ever get past it, I think.


Big time Dick's political future 

Even the Des Moines Register thinks El Presidente should get rid of him.
John Kerry selected his chief rival within his party to be his running mate. President Bush should do the same. He should ask Senator John McCain to join him on the Republican ticket.

He should dump Vice President Dick Cheney.

I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, he should be more than dumped, he should be indicted, convicted, and have his car egged. On the other hand, I like the idea of running against Bush/Dick. I mean, clearly it's a losing hand.
Bush has given no indication that the thought of replacing Cheney has even crossed his mind. But it would be to Bush's and the nation's advantage.

I beg to differ. There's nothing worth saving in anything to do with El Presidente and his administration.
What's most important is that Bush and his fellow Republicans present the nation with the strongest possible ticket for the sake of the democratic process. That's their duty as a party. A Bush-McCain ticket would be their best.

The Republican's best ticket is Kerry/Edwards. They need to be way the fuck out of power while they figure out whether they can change course toward anything approaching morality.


Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Letter to the Washington Post 

To the editors:

Let me see if I understand today's unsigned editorial correctly. The logic goes like this: support an utterly inexperienced, inarticulate, proudly incurious candidate for President because his running mate (who incidentally nominated himself for the role) has extensive experience serving previous failed administrations. Now that it's become clear the president sat stunned and witless while his sidekick eagerly sprang into action on September 11, it does not follow that Senators Kerry and Edwards would ever present us with the same scenario. As President Bush himself has exclaimed, "Make the pie higher!"



second choices 

Since the media keeps harping that John Edwards was only Kerry's second choice for a running mate, anonymous in nc (over at atrios' blog) would like to point out that for a majority of Americans, Bush was the second choice for prez.

Actually, I think a decent number of us would rather have had a stuffed bunny for prez.


notes on transformation 

Well, the family went off to Lake Okoboji for the holiday weekend. The kids loved the fireworks and we loved watching the kids love the fireworks. Underneath was the usual sadness about the direction of our democracy since the 2000 (s)election. I was also exceptionally impatient with Iowa in general. We're so tired of this uptight, nasty, passive aggressive culture, brought into clarity in a right wing religious vacation spot.

A couple of weeks ago I was in Anaheim for a day and a half, giving a talk on the thing I love the most: the education of adults. As an educator, I have had the privilege to witness powerful transformations in people. It is not about swaying people to believe what I believe. The transformation that seems most rewarding to witness is when a person comes to realize that she or he is a learner, capable of inquiry and even scholarship! This is true transformation, and it's been my professional and personal goal, to help people or provide the conditions in which they might experience that kind of identity development.

Anyway, getting back to Anaheim. It's Disneyland, in case you are foreign or something. I was in a rottenish mood, mostly because the trip was long, I was doing it in just a day and a half, and I'd just returned from Ukraine and I missed spending time with my kids. Well, and also because the workshop in which I was participating was all about sales rather than education. Potential learners were "leads" and recruiting was "lead generation" and program identity was "branding." And the people running the show were just dense when it came to education. They were what they accused (constantly) professors of being: intractable. There was no room for compromise or a meeting of the minds. They didn't give a damn about what might be experienced by the learner, except in the sense of "customer satisfaction." All the magic of learning was knocked out of their presentation and I felt sad about it. Truly aggrieved.

In my own writing, I have been critical of the idea of "making" people transform, because it often is attempted through an extremist ideological lens and because educators who seek to transform learners often don't try to figure out where learners are coming from, such that they might be transformed. But fundamentally, I believe in the transformation from seeing oneself as a non-learner, into seeing oneself as a learner. In my years teaching, I've learned firsthand that there are many people who simply don't see themselves as learners, who have said to me, "I'm not college material" or "I hate to read" or "I'm just no good at math." People who place these beliefs about themselves between themselves and their dreams. I can help them along a particular path, but only if they first develop a sense of self as learner.

A transformation of identity means challenging everything you believe about yourself, so it makes sense that people would resist such possibilities. That's why it's so hard to effect change in adults. But it can and does happen. A cynical attempt to turn education into a commodity is throwing in the towel on transformation. I've been critical of transformative learning myself, but I never meant to turn my back on the possibility for transformation.

There is a connection to American politics, of course. But in the days to come, I may be spending more of my energy talking about education and transformation. It's what I know and love best.


Thursday, July 01, 2004

Faith-based governance 

The White House dismisses polls on Iraq terror fears, reads the headline from Reuters.
Several surveys this month have shown growing public concern about the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq and its potential for fueling Muslim anger against the United States.

Asked about polling data, White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters that Americans understood administration policy was "making the world a safer and better place."
President Bush, who has portrayed himself as a war president in his closely fought election-year contest with Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, routinely uses his public appearances to assert that the ouster of Saddam Hussein enhanced U.S. security.

But at least three major U.S. polls this month suggest many voters disagree.


A columnist worth reading 

Barbara Ehrenreich is guest columnist this month while Thomas Friedman takes a long-needed break. Long-needed by me, of course.

Instead of that apologist for the right, we have a true and decent lefty. Good writer, too! Today's column dispels the myth of the liberal elite:
The notion of a sinister, pseudocompassionate liberal elite has been rebutted, most recently in Thomas Frank's brilliant new book, "What's the Matter With Kansas?," which says the aim is "to cast the Democrats as the party of a wealthy, pampered, arrogant elite that lives as far as it can from real Americans, and to represent Republicanism as the faith of the hard-working common people of the heartland, an expression of their unpretentious, all-American ways, just like country music and Nascar."
Backed up by the concept of a "liberal elite," right-wingers could crony around with their corporate patrons in luxuriously appointed think tanks and boardrooms — all the while purporting to represent the average overworked Joe.

Beyond that, the idea of a liberal elite nourishes the right's perpetual delusion that it is a tiny band of patriots bravely battling an evil power structure. Note how richly the E-word embellishes the screeds of Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly and their co-ideologues, as in books subtitled "Rescuing American from the Media Elite," "How Elites from Hollywood, Politics and the U.N. Are Subverting America," and so on. Republican right-wingers may control the White House, both houses of Congress and a good chunk of the Supreme Court, but they still enjoy portraying themselves as Davids up against a cosmopolitan-swilling, corgi-owning Goliath.

More of this, and we wouldn't have to deal with those assholes anymore. I hate to cheer on the mainstream media for finally getting it, since their slow reluctant march has cost so much, so I won't. The NY Times doesn't deserve my praise for about a hundred years until they finally make up for what they've done. But hey, they apparently stumbled into hiring another decent columnist (in addition to Krugman of course).


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