Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Deficit Rising

Tonight it is about how the Republican Congress is Flogging the House Rules and complicit in the rising Bush deficit. From the New York Times:
The degree to which the political price of President Bush's huge budget deficits is starting to dawn on moderate Republicans was in abundant evidence yesterday in the House of Representatives. Mr. Bush's loyalists had to bring to bear the full arm-twisting might of one-party government, and break House rules, to eke out a defeat of a perfectly sensible plan to impose some budget accountability.

The stage for this political spectacle was a vote over a Democratic proposal to counter Mr. Bush's demand for unaffordable tax cuts by requiring offsetting savings in spending if the president's "temporary" cuts are to be made permanent. The vote was supposed to last five minutes, but it was held open for 23 extra minutes in a clear abuse of House rules.
But that's the Times! The commie pinko rag will always attack Bush, won't it? What to comment? Can I just say, "they are right?" Yeah, there's a little inside politics about how a couple Republicans are jumping ship on deficits, just like it is inside politics that some Republicans are jumping ship on defending Iraq policy at all costs. But just a Times Editorial isn't enough. So I turned to the Economic Policy Institute's take on the the budget resolution, a resolution the Bush Corporation is touting as lowering deficits:
The budget resolution passed by the House of Representatives on March 25 is an odd response to current concerns about deficits.1 Instead of lowering deficits, the resolution would increase deficits through at least 2005, for a total increase of $242 billion over five years.

The meaning of “increase” here is critical to understanding the budget proposal in context. With no policy changes and very optimistic assumptions, the “baseline” deficit is projected to drop to $170 billion in 2009. Thus, doing nothing implies an automatic decrease from the projected 2005 level of $323 billion. In contrast, the resolution proposes tax and spending changes that would put the deficit at $231 billion in 2009—$61 billion higher than the baseline level of $170 billion.Economic Policy Institute
Yeah, not only are the rosy projections not forecasting a balanced budget in the Bushite prospective second term, but his actions effect the budget worse than if we did NOTHING!

Who was that guy who excoriated Reagan for "Voodoo economics" and why didn't he teach his son to pronounce the word "nuclear?"

In the meantime, domestic spending is projected to go down, despite a massive and ineffective prescription drug plan. And people around the country can't get the healthcare they need and are getting their jobs outsourced while Mr. Snow speechifies about the glories of said outsourcing. These are bizarre and scary times.

Rage Containment

The more I hear about the events around Fallujah, Iraq today, the more enraged I become. I don't know if any video or pictures have aired today -- photos and video were taken, according to AP -- but we Americans need to see and hear and understand the ugly truth of this "occupation". This has just become too damned important. Some media outlet needs to exhibit some balls, and let the supporters of the neocon movement see this at suppertime. If you are a sensitive person, may I gently recommend that you read this posting no further. It gets pretty graphic.
FALLUJAH, Iraq (AP) -- Jubilant residents dragged the charred corpses of four foreign contractors - one a woman, at least one an American - through the streets Wednesday and hanged them from the bridge spanning the Euphrates River. Five American soldiers died in a roadside bombing nearby.

The four contract workers for the U.S.-led coalition were killed in a rebel ambush of their SUVs in Fallujah, a Sunni Triangle city about 35 miles west of Baghdad and scene of some of the worst violence on both sides of the conflict since the beginning of the American occupation a year ago.

It was reminiscent of the 1993 scene in Somalia, when a mob dragged the corpse of a U.S. soldier through the streets of Mogadishu, eventually leading to the American withdrawal from the African nation.
The ugly truth is that we are not winning the "hearts and minds" of Iraqis - hell, we're no longer even in charge of the asylum, it appears:
Hours after the attack, the city was quiet. No U.S. troops or Iraqi police were seen in the area.Driving into work this morning, I was also struck almost senseless by an NPR report on the best selling DVD's and tapes in Iraq, glorifying the "resistance" and insurgency. You need to listen to this report.

This is so frustrating. How do we stop irrigating the killing fields with blood? You can not tell me that an Iraqi-led government at the end of June is going to have any positive impact on this mess. If anything, things are going to get a lot worse before they get better.

We're in a classic Catch 22. There's not even anyone we can turn this over to (like we did with the South Vietnamese army), and say, "See ya - this is now your kettle of fish." We're stuck.

My psyche hurts today.

Update: Link to two photos. WARNING - NOT FOR THE SQUEAMISH.

Photo 1
Photo 2

Update 2: I know this post is becoming disjointed, but here's another example of cognitive dissonance (thanks to Billmon for the pointer):
The CPA, responding to a Baghdad City Council request, is allocating $10 million to brighten the city's public parks, squares and playgrounds.

The White House
Iraq Fact of the Day
March 30, 2004
I feel like I've taken a hit of bad acid.

Repeating History

I'm rushed this morning, but in the aftermath of another five soldiers being killed in Iraq, felt moved to write something quickly. As the American death toll in Iraq quickly approaches 600, over the past couple of days, I've either heard or read a couple of reports in which the hawkish side of Washingtoon claims that the insurgency is "in it's death throes". The same jingoistic voices opine that stateside protests and anit-war sentiment is demoralizing to our armed forces in Iraq, and contributes to encouraging the enemy (whoever that is; I don't feel the "enemy" has ever been clearly defined).

After watching the Robert McNamara biopic, "Fog of War", I'm reminded of the spew from Lyndon Johnson's propaganda machine prior to the Tet Offensive in 1968:
The environment was much different, too. In the early 60s comedian Bill Cosby wrote and performed a wonderful comedy routine called "The Flip of the Coin." Describing the rules of engagement for the Revolutionary War, he said, "OK, you rebels (those who wanted independence from England), you can go anywhere you want, wear anything you want, and fight with anything you want. You British, you have to wear bright red uniforms and march in a straight line."

In a very rough sense, that's what fighting in Vietnam was like. You had no idea who or where the enemy might be. We were fighting in their territory, and they made the most of it. A 10 year-old boy walking toward you might just want something to eat. Or he might be carrying a hand grenade.

In 1968, U.S. General William Westmoreland, the U.S. commander in Vietnam, claimed that "the enemy has been defeated at every turn." In a strict sense, he was perhaps right. The Americans never lost a major battle of the war.
I guess we've learned little in the intervening 30 years. Hawks still blame the doves for "encouraging the enemy" and "demoralilzing the troops". They haven't learned one of the primary lessons from the Vietnam debacle - that those commanding in wartime are sometimes too close to individual trees to see the forest. When dissenting opinion is essentially squashed in the policy making process (as happened in the Johnson administration, and is now apparently happening in the Bush administration), the generals will march lockstep to the edge of the precipice, and beyond if so ordered.

As a nation, we've allowed an ardent group of civilian chickenhawks to wrap themselves in a post-9/11 flag, and drive the generals dangerously close to that precipice. And I refuse to subscribe to the notion that because I do not (and have not) supported Monkey Boy and Uncle Dick's excellent adventure, that I am giving aid and comfort to the enemy or don't support the troops "in country".

By the way, I'm a Vietnam era vet.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Highlights from National Petrochemical and Refiners Association Convention

Bush I, the Daddy of the Shrub stepped up to speak at this very appropriate forum. In front of a throng of conventioneers whose stock options are ringing like cash registers because of record oil industry profits, partly spurred by the LACK of adequate refining capacity, GHW Bush defended his son. And what a bunch of whining it is!
The former president appeared to fight back tears as he complained about media coverage of the younger Bush that he called "something short of fair and balanced."

"It hurts an awful lot more when it's your son that is being criticized than when they used to get all over my case," said Bush, who has often complained about media coverage of both Bush presidencies.The big yahoo whines on Yahoo news
I'm speechless at imagining this scene. I truly can make no more comment.

Little Red Wagon Meets the Little Red Book

OK, I stole the headline from Newsday, along with this shocking news that contrasts horribly with John Snow's speech about outsourcing today (referenced by Richard Cranium below). Newsday Article
Chicago -- Radio Flyer Inc., maker of the little red wagon loved by generations of children, plans to move its manufacturing operation to China.

The 87-year-old company said it would keep its headquarters and distribution business in Chicago but decided the Chicago plant where the metal wagons are built is too expensive to maintain. With the plant closing, Radio Flyer will lay off nearly half its 90 employees.
Forget that most of Radio Flyer's product are already made in China. This is an American brand beloved by kids throughout the ages. I had one. There's even a movie starring that All-American Hobbit Elijah Wood as a resilient but abused boy persevering through all. I can't help but think of the movie as a metaphor.
A father reminisces about his childhood when he and his younger brother moved to a new town with their mother, her new husband and their dog, Shane. When the younger brother is subjected to physical abuse at the hands of their brutal stepfather, Mike decides to convert their toy trolley, the "Radio Flyer", into a plane to fly him to safety.Plot summary by Bush and Snow aren't brutal stepfathers, but they are clearly trying make outsourcing palatable in a time when Americans are worried about their jobs. Yes, only 90 Radio Flyer employees, but MCI has announced big layoffs as well, and the new jobs figures come out this week.

Meanwhile, I have a friend on a Message Board who cannot afford the diagnostic tests so he can find out if he has stomach cancer. Health care and jobs in the Age of Bush are growing scarcer.

Sometimes one doesn't have the energy to spit, but disgust is all that propels us.

Cognitive Dissonance, Part II

The cabal never ceases to amaze me. Didn't getting slapped around by David Kay teach them anything? Oh, that's right - as Richard Clarke has said, the junta doesn't listen to anything that might get in the way of their preconceived notions.

U.S. Weapons Hunt Shifts Focus to 'Intent' in Iraq

Cognitive Dissonance

Definition: A psychological theory for how individuals reconcile differences/disparities/ambiguities in their expectations or desires and the reality of their world.

There's no other way to explain why, on a day that George Bush is campaigning in Wisconsin on a jobs platform, that his Treasury Secretary, John Snow, is promoting outsourcing. Being somewhat a victim of outsourcing myself, I'm particularly livid at some of Snow's comments:
It's part of trade," Snow said. "It's one aspect of trade, and there can't be any doubt about the fact that trade makes the economy stronger. You can outsource a lot of activities and get them done just as well, or better, at a lower cost. If we can keep the American economy strong and growing and expanding, we'll create lots of jobs." To which some folks in Wisconsin replied...
"George Bush is doing some terrible things to America and it's affecting the Fox Valley," said Bob Poeschl of Oshkosh, organizer of the Winnebago Peace and Justice Center. "It's time we get that word out."

Further down on College Avenue on the site of the former Rich's Bakery in Grand Chute, another group of protesters gathered.

"This is all about jobs or the lack of jobs," said Gary Ruhl, a union representative.
Makes you wonder what gated-community planet the Bush cabal actually lives on...but then, these guys seem to live such an insulated existence, the duplicity is continually magnified.

Waiting for Luke

Richard Clarke is not Luke Skywalker. Clarke's a significant Jedi, yet the force is not strong with him. But Clarke is serving as a nice distraction for the Empire. While Vader's attention is diverted, Luke is going to sneak in the back door of the Death Star.

Who is our Luke Skywalker?


(Oh, and breaking news: the White House has cleared Condi to testify, in public and under oath, before the 9/11 Commission. I guess all the cards and letters worked!!)

Monday, March 29, 2004

U. S. Commission on National Security

I was brought to this subject by a recent column by Molly Ivins, God bless her spunky soul. The focus here is the report of the Hart-Rudman Commission, turned over on January 31, 2001, almost exactly the time Richard Clarke made his recommendations to the Bush White House. The general intent of the Report is to strengthen our homeland security and take the offensive on terror, suggestions Mr. Clarke made as well.

According to the Committee which wrote the report:
We have taken a broad view of national security. In the new era, sharp distinctions between "foreign" and "domestic" no longer apply. We do not equate national security with "defense." We do believe in the centrality of strategy, and of seizing opportunities as well as confronting dangers. If the structures and processes of the U.S. government stand still amid a world of change, the United States will lose its capacity to shape history, and will instead be shaped by it.Executive Summary of the Hart Rudman Report -- FASCINATING reading
Molly Ivins rightly points out that the Bush Administration did not only dismiss Clarke's suggestions, but also the recommendations of this bipartisan committee, purportedly because it was being championed by Congress. Yes, they were afraid to lose the credit for reshaping the central force of the nations' foreign policy as regards terror.

Ms. Ivins:
True, the report was initiated by Clinton, but the commission was bipartisan and included former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and other Republicans. On May 5, the White House announced that rather than adopt Hart-Rudman, it was forming its own committee on terrorism headed by Vice President Dick Cheney. That group never met.
All this can be proven, of course. That the White House rejected the Congressional approach because it came from the bipartisan commission, that the Cheney group never met before 9/11. The moral of this story is far more damning that the Bush Administration not listening to Clarke, but it has become familiar. They won't listen to any Americans who aren't in the core of the BushCorp team.

But, didn't Mr. Bush boast about his abilities in bringing people together, in forming bipartisan coalitions when he was Governor of Texas? Or does he forget that, just as he forgot he was in the Situation Room on 9/12?

Rinse and spit. Please try to hit the bowl.

Oh, Fer Christ's Sakes...

Someone tell me these guys wouldn't stoop so low. Please tell me they wouldn't stoop so low.

What's the over/under on how long this takes to hit Drudge?
We have it on semi-reliable authority that the Bush administration's next attempt to discount Richard Clarke's credibility will consist of alleging that he's a big gay. We have a little trouble figuring out how being gay makes you unable to assess threats to a country's national security -- after all, we trust them to tell us what to wear. Still, it is a great strategy.

That is, as long as you don't believe there any other homosexuals on the Bush national security team.
Hey, it fits the TeamBush M.O. I was going to ask if this crew had any shame left anymore, but I figure I'll leave that for the Department of Redundancy Department to answer.

"Thanks for Calling New Jersey - This is Irving...Patel"

Attention John Kerry - we have an issue on aisle three...

I think I've found a theme for my time on this blog - continue hammering on the jobs and "offshoring" issues. From the Philadelphia Inquirer today, there's a New Jersey State Legislator who took up the mantle long before anyone else. She's looking like quite the genius these days.
She has appeared on Lou Dobbs' CNN program. A Japanese television station sent a camera crew to her Senate office in a modest neighborhood in Ewing, just outside Trenton, to record a segment for Japan's equivalent of 60 Minutes.

Dozens of newspapers, magazines, and online news sites have called for comment on what began as an economic ripple and has grown into a tidal wave of controversy: U.S. companies outsourcing tens of thousands of service jobs to India and other low-wage countries.

"I have never seen an issue generate this amount of energy," said Sen. Shirley Turner (D., Mercer), the surprising spokeswoman for thousands of dislocated workers. "The anger is more than I ever dreamed... . There does not seem to be any end to it."

Two years ago, Turner - whose district includes Trenton, Ewing, Lawrenceville, Hopewell, Pennington and Princeton - proposed what she considered "no-brainer" legislation: Stop companies with state contracts for call centers, computer coding, and other service work from sending jobs to countries with lower wages.

The anti-outsourcing proposal was one of the first of its kind in the United States, and it passed the state Senate before dying in the Assembly. Turner came up with the idea after hearing of New Jersey welfare recipients being routed to a call center in India where callers were given fictitious American names...

As usual, there's nothing here that we "early adopters" don't understand. Poll after poll tell the Kerry campaign that this is where they should be hanging their hats. Lest Mr. Kerry's camp forget, this single issue is the issue that lit John Edwards brief flame.

Richard Clarke can carry the water on issues regarding the war on terror and Iraq. Focus on the wallet.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Dude, I Can't Afford To Drive My Car

Subtitle: The Real Reason Bush Will Lose in November

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Gasoline prices across the country climbed another 3 cents in the past two weeks to a record-high average of $1.80 per gallon for all grades, according to a study released Sunday.

There is little chance of prices falling significantly in the near future, because increased demand will likely result from an improving economy, Memorial Day travel, and even the extra hour of light from daylight savings time, said Trilby Lundberg of the Lundberg Survey of 8,000 stations nationwide.

"The demand push this time of year is adding to supply tightness and therefore price," Lundberg said. "I don't see any recipe for substantial gasoline price cuts anytime soon."

Dude, Where's My Job?

The war on terror (or lack thereof) and the situation in Iraq seem to be dominating the news these days. No surprises there. Some have been critical of the Democratic Party's largely sidelines stance over the past week. Again, no surprises there, at least for me. The Rovians have been on the defensive, notably without any direct involvement of Terry McAullife's attack dogs. This is a good thing. When the GOP has to spend seven days of an election cycle playing nothing but defense to shore up the base, the Democrats can save up sparse ammunition (translation: money) for more important fights at a more opportune time.

That time might come at the end of this coming week. The government's March payrolls report, due Friday, is likely to be the week's main event. And jobs are where the Bush Administration is most vulnerable:
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Show us the jobs. That's what Wall Street will be hoping for in the week ahead when the closely watched monthly jobs report and a fresh batch of economic data are set for release.

Investors will be searching for signs that the U.S. economic recovery remains on track -- and if they get some positive evidence, that could persuade them to buy stocks. If not -- or if the economic reports send mixed signals -- then stocks are likely to stay in a holding pattern or decline slightly....

Speculation that employment growth is not strong enough to support consumer spending -- a force that powers two-thirds of U.S. economic growth -- has been one of the main issues nagging stock investors in recent months, and it will put Friday's report in the spotlight.

Economists polled by Reuters predicted 103,000 new jobs were added to U.S. payrolls in March, versus February's rise of only 21,000. They expect the unemployment rate will remain steady at 5.6 percent.

An ongoing weekend CNN poll asks, Which issue will most impact your vote for president? By a wide majority (65% "the economy", 35% "national security"), the vote is for jobs. Now, this is a decidedly unscientific poll, and I highly suspect the results would be flipped 180 degrees if the same poll were run on the Fox News website.

But anecdotal stories from my own personal portfolio lead me to believe that the economy is clearly the number one issue in the minds of voters (at least right now). Here's one. I was in a local store this morning picking up the Sunday paper and a half gallon of milk. As I was checking out, the register clerk starts bitching about jobs going overseas and "that's why I'm stuck behind a register." Note that I didn't provoke the conversation, she just hit me with it out of the blue.

Senator Kerry, you have an issue. Ride it.

I've opined here before that there's a 50/50 split on the phantom "war on terror", and there's just not going to be big movement on that issue. The believers will continue to believe. The non-believers will continue to whine about the believers.

Jobs and the economy? That's another issue all together. Americans have historically voted with their wallets. With energy prices reaching historic levels, the sure-to-result blowback on other prices from that, and the perception that the job market continues to leave people behind or thoroughly underemployed, we Democrats have an issue that will stick. The McAullife machine should be banging on that drum loud and hard from now until November 2nd.

Precious, indeed.

Knickers in a Knot

Everyone in the liberal blogosphere seems to have their knickers in a knot over Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's temper tantrum on the Senate floor Friday afternoon. Now, I'll admit that it was reminiscint of the best rant Dennis Miller ever ranted when Miller was still actually funny, but here's a note to the liberal blogosphere: you're all missing the point.

(Just to recap for anyone who has been living in a political cave since Friday, Frist called for classified testimony from Richard Clarke to be declassified, austensibly to point out an "a-HA!" moment.)

My read on Frist's little stage show is that it's nothing more than a prefunctory bluff by a partisan hack. Let's keep it real -- he doesn't want confidential testimony declassified -- setting such a precedent would open a pandora's box from which there would be no return. Frist's political equivalent of a football "hail Mary" pass was calculated to generate a strong Friday afternoon soundbite for the GOP to surf through the weekend, after a miserable prior five days for the Bush Administration. He accomplished that mission, and that's all he wanted.

Am I the only one who thinks the Senate Majority Leader should be above "snuff politics"? Methinks the lady hath already protested too much.

Oh, and I made Richard Clarke's publisher $24.99 richer yesterday. I'll let you know what I think in a day or two.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Survey Sez...

Here's an odd one:
WASHINGTON - A Republican voter survey used to raise political money identifies Thailand and the Philippines as countries that "harbor and aid terrorists," a description that has angered officials from the two nations.

A question on the National Republican Congressional Committee's "Ask America 2004 Nationwide Policy Survey" asks, "Should America broaden the war on terrorism into other countries that harbor and aid terrorists such as Thailand, Syria, Somalia, the Philippines, etc.?"

Accompanying the survey, which also poses questions about health care, the economy and other issues, was a four-page letter signed by House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., which asks for a donation to help "keep the Republican Party in control of the U.S. House."

Officials from both countries say they've been wrongly labeled and would contact the NRCC to complain. Both countries have been praised by the Bush administration for their roles in the anti-terror war.

"For the Philippines to be described as a country harboring terrorism is an entirely different matter altogether," Patricia Paez, a spokeswoman for the Philippine Embassy in Washington, said Friday. "It doesn't accurately describe the view of the Bush administration."

I dunno. I guess they're working on developing a list for the Semi-Axis of Sub-Evil, pending results of the November elections.

I just thought it was odd.

Hey, I'm heading out to support the economy today. Enjoy yours!

Friday, March 26, 2004

Target Rich Environments

Reality is always a cold slap in the face to the Businistas. In another forum that I frequent (which, by the way has a nice crossection of libs and cons), one of the cons was shilling for Dub on a jobs report released yesterday:
Manufacturers expect to hire in 2004
By Rex Nutting,
Last Update: 11:44 AM ET March 25, 2004

WASHINGTON (CBS.MW) -- A majority of U.S. manufacturing firms surveyed by a national trade group say they plan to add jobs this year.

Small manufacturers are more upbeat about hiring, sales, capital spending and profit growth, said Jerry Jasinowski, president of the National Association of Manufacturers.

No one can argue that the word "expect" has taken on a whole new meaning in the last 3+ years. Let me be kind enough to give a few examples culled from my response:
Yeah, and you expected al-Zawahri to be caught.

You expected WMD to be found.

You expected 2.6 million jobs.

You expected Richard Clarke to tank.

You didn't expect $2.75 trillion in deficits as far as the eye can see.

You didn't expect 3 more soldiers killed in Iraq today.

You didn't expect a higher suicide rate among servicemen/women in Iraq than in Vietnam.

You didn't expect 9/11. Apparently, neither did Dub.

You didn't expect the drip, drip, drip, drip on the Bush presidency. It's happening.

You didn't expect to have to live in Bizzaro World to validate your viewpoints.

I think what pisses me off more than anything is that I had very low expectations for the Bush administration going into 2001, and three years into it, they've met or exceeded all of my expectations.

One Song

Over at Eschaton we've just been talking about the recent Vanity Fair article on blogs and popular culture. To my mind they come close to the 19th and 18th century British broadside ballads and leaflets ... not mainstream journalism, but something more, something "better" perhaps.

It is not governments, but popular social machines that transmit who we are from age to age. Song, art, theater, these and more.

In keeping with those thoughts, this, from this mornings 4 AM on-line meanderings:

Little songs: The Compassionate Conservatives, Skewering George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and the GOP through music.

Among their offering are: "Another War" to the tune of the Beatles' "Drive My Car", and "Chalabi" to the tune, "Volari".

The day I learned that the word "universe" was literally translated: one song, was a stellar day for me. It's helped make things make sense.

Barking Defense Contractors

So, here we go. Sleep comes hard these days, has for years. I only check in on network TV news to see what the current fairytale is. I get my news from the Internet these days, and some print newspapers.

But BuzzFlash is my home page, the first page I scan in the mornings, and the last page I look at before I say, "aw heck", at night. This morning I found this: Nick Turse on Iraq as a weapons lab

"Back in 1965, Jack Raymond of the New York Times wrote a piece aptly headlined, "Vietnam Gives U.S. ‘War Laboratory.'" And in that era, there were a couple of American commanders who publicly said as much. For instance, General Maxwell Taylor, who served as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and then U.S. ambassador to South Vietnam, noted that "we have recognized the importance of the area [Vietnam] as a laboratory. We have teams out there looking at equipment requirements of this kind of guerilla warfare." But as Raymond pointed out, most American officials were loath to make such boasts for fear of comparisons to the Nazis, who had, only three decades earlier, used the Spanish Civil War as a training ground for World War II."
What struck me about this article, which goes on to say suggest that the military industrial complex uses every "war" or military action as a living laboratory, is that my brother-in-law (a known wacko) has been saying this for years. He was regular Army sorta, in Vietnam, but most probably special ops. He refuses to say, or melts down completely when pressed. He said it: They use such actions as ways to test new weapons systems. They like that they can do that.

I've gone way past the point in my life where I can discount that the machiavellian cronies do exactly what they want to do where weapons are concerned. But I know that I live in a different bubble from most people.

Do weapons makers salivate like pavolian dogs at the first hint of a military action where they can road test new systems? My mind goes to the Dodge Brothers' Proving Grounds where the prototype cars get tested.

I point. You decide.

Hello, World!

I'm humble and nearly prostrate to the ground, dumbfounded because Richard asked me to add my voice to the All Spin Zone. I've been around the Internet since we could only get access through a local BBS portal. My computer credentials go back to teaching myself BASIC and backward engineering programs in order to learn how to create sounds on a Commodore Pet. Say: Peek and Poke.

This is my first crack at this interface with a brief look at the how-tos. Wish me luck, and thank you Richard.

I've got one of my family tinfoil fedora issues to discuss with you, which I'll post if this one works. It's based on something I found at BuzzFlash this morning.

More later. As my family says: "Watch out for low-flyin' crazies!"

Participatory Democracy

Folks, I'm going to play this one straight.

The 9/11 Commission hearings this week have marked a watershed event in understanding the precursors to the acts perpetrated on America during a few brief hours on September 11, 2001. In my simple mind, there's a key piece missing in the testimony - that of National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice. Dr. Rice has been blanketing the media over the past two days trying to refute some of the testimony, and has spent quite a few hours in the process. She has previously declined to testify under oath before the commission, claiming "separation" arguments - that is, separation of executive branch involvement in a congressionally mandated inquiry.

Yesterday evening, cracks started to appear in the her steadfast refusal to testify. The White House has offered to have Dr. Rice meet with the commissioners in private - and presumably, not under oath. I know I'm only one guy, but I don't think this is acceptable.

So, this morning, I did a bit of research. I found a contact at the 9/11 Commission other than a "blind email" inbox, and wrote a quick letter. The letter isn't particularly artful or eloquent, but hopefully it gets to the point. Feel free to cut and paste and send as your own.

Dear Mr. Felzenberg,

The Commission hearings this past week were both instructive and revealing, and as a private citizen I commend the Commissioners for conducting a thoughtful inquiry. I note with interest that National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice has offered to speak once again with the Commissioners in a private meeting.

Given the events of the past week, I think it is critically important, to both the fact finding and national healing processes, that Dr. Rice agree to testify to the Commissioners. Such testimony should be taken only under oath and in a public forum, as have Secretaries Rumsfeld and Powell and other honorable witnesses. In the absence of agreement to proceed under these conditions, I feel the Commissioners should decline to meet behind closed doors with Dr. Rice.

Two and one half years after one of the most defining events in our history, America as a nation has not yet been allowed to complete our grieving. This is not about assigning blame or responsibility. It's about understanding and learning.

Lastly, I would sincerely appreciate it if you would forward this note to Chairman Kean and Vice-Chair Hamilton. I don't believe I'm alone in my desire to have Dr. Rice complete the picture of 9/11 precursors under oath in a public setting, particularly if she desires to rebut prior testimony.

Thank you for your time.


Thursday, March 25, 2004

Just North of Bummerville

Yeah, just north of Bummerville, CA may be the next battlefield in the Gay marriage war. Yeah, this story, though, takes place in Pleasant Valley, along the road midway between Sacramento and South Lake Tahoe.
When California middle school teacher Ron Fanelle was asked by his students if rumors were true that he was homosexual and he had married his longtime male partner, he decided to tell the truth and confirm it all.
Story from Pleasant Valley

Sure, this was bound to happen. What is odd is that it is a fairly balanced story, from World Net Daily, of all places. Their commentary today is Larry Elder, Ann Coulter and Benjamin Shapiro, with stories about Clinton stealing the White House China! Oh joy! So it is odd that this story is balanced. Cold that mean something for this issue, that the conservative press knows that demonizing gays on this issue will backfire, even in towns like Pleasant Valley and Bummerville?

Kids find out that one of their teachers was involved in that juicy news story their parents were talking about. Giggly 6th to 8th graders. They work up the courage to talk to the teacher. GASP! He tells them the TRUTH!

Does this travel across the neo-con blogosphere? Does it make a blip on the Sunday morning talk show radar? I'll bet not. And that in itself is a good story.

Proud to be an American here. No spitting today! Cheers!

Two Words

As the author of two books, I'm painfully aware that the English language is a complicated animal. While I've been a lifelong student of the written and spoken word, I like to think I'm also a fairly good interpreter of what's best described as "delivery". Verbal delivery is a combination of raw words, tonal nuance, facial expression, and body language. We all know that individual words can have many meanings, but when you consider the other facets of communication, the potential meanings of individual words multiply exponentially.

Perhaps that's why Richard Clarke's testimony before the 9/11 Commission was so powerful. If you haven't actually watched the testimony (live or on tape), you should do so. The written transcript of his testimony simply can't convey the credibility and raw emotion he brought to the witness table. No one could have scripted the visual impact of his turning away from the panel to directly address the families of 9/11 victims in the room at the beginning of his testimony. A simple physical gesture such as that, particularly from someone of Clarke's stature, doesn't come from a script. It emotes from the heart.

There's no doubt in my mind that Richard Clarke is telling the absolute, unvarnished truth -- at least as he sees it. If "confession" is a means of cleansing the soul, no one watching Clarke's testimony yesterday could bring away anything other than the fact that Clarke has been - still is - hurting since 9/11. His 2 hour equivalent of a Washingtonian primal scream was best summed up in two words that resonate with everyone, because everyone has had to utter them at one time or another:

"I'm sorry."

And that's why today I can finally say, without reservation, that the Bush administration is in grave jeopardy of losing a presidential race that was clearly theirs to lose. As the New York Times editorialized today:

Despite attempts by a few commission members to paint Mr. Clarke as a disgruntled former employee trying to get publicity for his new book, the former counterterrorism chief was an impressive, reasonable witness. He has done the country a service in focusing attention on the failures leading up to 9/11. The only problem with his apology was that so few of those failures really seemed to be his.
It's clear that Richard Clarke is a principled man, probably to a personal fault. That's the part of Clarke for which any reasonable human being can feel empathy. The man, unlike most of his contemporaries in the Bush administration, appears to have a conscience. Richard Clarke accepted responsibility, where lesser men (and women) above and below him continue to play politics and shirk any modicum of responsibility for failure. Never mind "accepting responsibility", hell, for the most part they won't even acknowledge that there was failure.

The Lady MacBeth's of the Bush administration will not be as easily able to wash the blood from their hands as did Richard Clarke.

You can't make up shit like this. You just can't. That's why I'm posting it it in it's entirety. Thanks to General JC Christian, Patriot for the pointer. We are indeed residing in George Bush's Bizzaro World.
Unfit discipline

Vice President Dick Cheney's wife, Lynne, came to the campus last Sunday for a C-SPAN interview with Doug Besharov of the School of Public Affairs. As the show ended, a handful of University Police officers surrounded a group of students, including myself, and threatened to arrest us. They then took down our information and informed us we would be charged under the Judicial Programs Student Code of Conduct, though they have not yet told us what specific charge(s) will be handed down. We were not, as The Diamondback erroneously reported, "forcibly removed."

It's difficult to say which is more embarrassing: that University Police, without legal justification, attempted to intimidate three students engaging in speech protected not only constitutionally but explicitly by the Student Conduct Code, or that The Diamondback failed to mention the abuse other than to write, "University Police forcibly removed three students at the end of the program after they called out several questions outside of the format, including a final question after the show ended about Cheney's openly gay daughter Mary and same-sex marriages in San Francisco." If The Diamondback won't protect free speech on campus, then who will?

Here's what happened: As the show ended, it became clear Lynne Cheney would not be asked any of the questions we had written down relating to gay marriage. Cheney, a former gay-rights activist, who is the mother of a lesbian daughter, has not taken a public position on Bush's proposed amendment. As the applause died down I asked her, "Dr. Cheney, would you attend your daughter Mary's wedding if she married a person of the same gender?" The audience, deadly silent as she stared back at me, blinking softly, waited for her response. It wouldn't come. She turned to her right and ended the program, apparently the signal for the police to descend.

Anyone who went to Howard Dean's rally here last fall will immediately recognize the double standard. There, as the future flare-out addressed his audience, a group of Young Republicans shouted and chanted at Dean, attempting to drown him out. Unlike Cheney, Dean handled the hecklers, who apparently had not thought to prepare remarks beyond an initial burst of profanity, with ease. No police officers tried to quiet the rowdy bunch, nor direct them toward Comcast Center, where their Dean critique would have blended in a little better. They were not harassed, intimidated, threatened or charged with any violations of any student codes. Yet when I direct a measured question toward Dr. Cheney during a "policy forum," I am charged with some type of violation. Harass a Democrat, fine; question a Republican, pay the price.

Two other students made comments, and both of them received similar treatment. Cheney told the audience she did not believe the mass extermination of the American Indian population from 1492 until the late 1800s could be considered genocide. It was merely a "clash of cultures" that occurred for a "brief period" and was perpetuated by "Europeans."Graduate student Michael Cawdery responded to her outrageous statement the only way a rational human being with a vague historical sense could. He said, quite properly, "Bulls---."

Later, Cheney bemoaned the evils of slavery (which was apparently ended when God-fearing Americans from the North defeated slave-holding, Indian-killing Europeans from the South), which she referred to as a "challenge overcome." Charles DeVoe asked if she supported reparations for slavery. She responded that no, she did not. For this question he is to be charged with conduct violating the student code.

Interestingly, a minor amount of research showed that we in fact were not in violation of anything. Brief "heckling" that does not drown out the speaker is specifically protected. So either the cops were misinformed, or they were engaging in willful intimidation of dissent.

By doing so, especially at an event labeled a "policy forum," the police have brought shame on to the university. This is a shame equal to that which the "Europeans" must feel for all the dastardly deeds they've committed, even for people who tell blatant lies on national television.

And for timid college newspapers who don't refute them.


Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Meanwhile, Back on the al-Sistani Ranch...

With the White House and the media all a-titter about the 9/11 commisar's hearings, this story kind of slipped under the radar screen. It will no doubt be section B'd in the papers tomorrow - but it's arguably at least as important as all the words added to the public record today in Washington:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric has urged the United Nations not to endorse the country's interim constitution, his office said Monday, raising a potentially grave obstacle to U.S. plans to hand power to Iraqis on July 1.
Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani told senior U.N. official Lakhdar Brahimi in a letter that unless the United Nations rejects the constitution, he would boycott a U.N. team expected to visit Iraq soon to advise on forming an interim government...

Sistani, in a letter published by his office, said the United Nations should not approve the de facto constitution. "The (Shi'ite) religious establishment fears the occupation authorities will work to include this law in a new U.N. resolution to give it international legitimacy," he wrote.

"We warn that any such step will not be acceptable to the majority of Iraqis and will have dangerous consequences."

al-Sistani has sure become the wildcard in this whole thing, huh? Power abhors a vacuum, and it seems that al-Sistani is working hard to consolidate his base. Given the liberal-like capitulation of al-Sistani on allowing his IGC stooges to finally sign the document (after a delay that was clearly designed to embarrass the Bushinistas), you have to wonder what kinds of promises were made and gifts exchanged by Paul Bremmer to bribe the bastards into signing an occupation authority-guided document.

It seems pretty clear to me that the interim draft Iraq constitution is written on so much Charmin, and will be appropriately flushed once sovereignty is returned to the Iraqis.

IMHO, there are a few interesting Kodak moments coming up in Baghdad. I'm thinkin' that by July 4th, it's possible that the Bushinistas will look back wistfully on the 9/11 commission hearings as the very least of their worries. Trust me on this one.

Thanks to Josh Marshall for the pointer...

Smoke Containment

Seems like everyone's got their knickers in a knot over the 9/11 commission hearings, Richard Clarke, spin, reverse spin, and the talking heads who are preaching to their own sectarian choirs. Today's hearings culminate a process that is increasingly looking like it's going to turn out to be more of a partisan snipefest than an actual examination of the root causes and the missed opportunities leading up to September 11, 2001.

Liberals are expecting the 9/11 commission report to eviscerate the Bush administration for lack of action in the early days of the junta. Neocons are expecting the same report to exonerate Bush and hang Slick Willie by his nutsac. When this report finally hits the street, both groups will be satisfied - but we'll be no closer to the root cause of 9/11, and no closer to preventing another one.

Root causes. That's what this commission should be all about, but it's not. You need to keep this in perspective when watching the hearings, reading any present or future reports, or listening to the spin machines. I can tell you right now, without fear of any contradiction whatsoever, that the commission will not get to the root cause of the event. The commissioners are not (to the best of my knowledge) tasked with examining the historical context of the event precursors, as such, they're not asking two of the most fundamental questions:
  • Extremely Simplistic Supposition: an inherent hatred of the U.S. and its "allies" is the wellspring of al-Qaeda and similar terrorist organizations. What fuels this hatred toward Western interests?
  • What can be done (long and short term) to address the causes of this hatred?

In medical terminology, any other course of treatment only addresses a short term stabilizing of the patient, and perhaps the presentation of other facets of the disease. Setting up more security screening devices in airports, checking more container ship cargo, getting more humint on the ground, and occasionally bombing the shit out of Middle East sandcastles does not cure the disease. As things stand right now, we'll never cure the disease, because the regimen of treatment would be viewed by the neocon movement as "appeasing the disease".

What the commission is tasked with recommending might be better summarized by "tell us how to contain smoke". When viewed through this lens, the end result of 9/11 commission findings will not be satisfactory to any political spin machine, and ultimately, will not prevent jihadists from trying and trying and trying and trying again. They might fail 100 "next times" over the next 20 years. But it only takes one success.

So, how do you stop them from trying to hurt us? We've learned that bombing the shit of out them or shooting them in their tracks doesn't help. Killing their leadership won't help (see my "Amway" entry from the other day). Trying to find a throat on which to plant a jackboot is proving to be a futile exercise.

How can anyone expect such an important commission to issue recommendations, based on the real causes of 9/11, to prevent similar future occurrences when the commissioners haven't addressed the cause of the problem to begin with? What do we, as a country, really end up with?

Another missed opportunity.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Please Feel Free to Discriminate about the Country, if you are a Federal Manager

It is a rough week for me, and I only got a chance to check my email recently. Sure enough, I got an alert that's related to a story I wrote about elsewhere about a month ago. On February 18th the Washington Post reported that the Federal Government had begun removing information about sexual orientation discrimination from web sites. I don't recall the government response at the time, but those protections had been available to Federal workers for over 25 years. Perhaps that response was from Mr. Bush himself, as he came out for the a Federal Amendment to the Constitution defining marriage only six days later. Mr. Bush pandering to the Religious Right

Today, it has been reported by Federal Times that the Office of Special Counsel is reviewing whether gays are protected in the workplace. They still will be protected for political activities, it notes, but the very fact of being gay may now jeopardize their jobs.
A gay employee who is fired or demoted for attending a gay pride rally would receive protection from the Office of Special Counsel. But the same employee would have no recourse at OSC if he was fired or demoted simply for being gay.

This is new Special Counsel Scott Bloch’s initial reading of a 1978 law intended to protect employees and job applicants from adverse personnel actions taken against them for reasons unrelated to their job performance.

This story has no legs as yet, but it is interesting to note that George Bush in the October 11, 2000 Presidential debate said that gays should have all the rights of other citizens. I don't take that to be referring to marriage, but certainly the rights the government was giving them at the time. Does this make Mr. Bush a liar?

Here's some words he used during this year's State of the Union Address:
"I believe we should respect individuals as we take a principled stand for one of the most fundamental, enduring institutions of our civilization."

Before changing topics, Bush said, "The outcome of this debate is important -- and so is the way we conduct it. The same moral tradition that defines marriage also teaches that each individual has dignity and value in God's sight."
>CNN report on 2004 SOTU speech
You decide. Is threatening the protection gays have had for 25 years the same as treating each individual with dignity?

Oh, just go ahead and spit. You can rinse later. You should taste this lie for a while.

Yeah, I'm Dirty...

As I wandered the blogosphere tonight, I found myself wondering how many "amateur hour" pundits like myself actually have any direct political involvement at the elected level? I'm a former two term councilperson in my town (elected position), and chaired the local planning board (appointed) for several years before my council terms. In the mid-90's, I was even approached by the county party committee to run for a county supervisor position, but I declined their invitation for a variety of reasons.

Which leads me to the point of this post -- regardless of party affiliation, it takes a certain kind of person to pursue politics as a full time profession. You think it looks dirty as an outsider?? From one who has been inside, it's 10 times - nay - 100 times worse.

And that's at a local / county level, within your own party.

Besides the constant dirty politics, there's the personal grind. I've come to the conclusion that any politician can't have a home life of any sort (even locally, I was generally out 3 to 4 nights a week), has to have a very large ego (mine used to be larger than it is now), and has to have skin as thick as aged leather. You take crap constantly from all sides, you take crap from the public, you get NO credit for actually doing something positive (a rare occurrence, anyway), and you get personally attacked continuously. So why would anyone want a job like that?

Power, baby. Pure, unbridled power.

Even simple stuff, like the trashmen actually putting your trashcans on the sidewalk because they know you're a councilman, is powerful. Seems stupid, but it's not. "Power" is every bit as addictive as crack cocaine - trust me, I know. I power jonesed for two years after leaving office. It's a difficult concept to understand for someone who hasn't been there. Seeing your name on the winning side of the ledger on election night is (mostly) better than any orgasm you'll ever experience. I don't care if you're running for local dog catcher, and you win 37 - 32. Anyone holding the misconception that any politician is in the game simply in the interest of the common weal only gets it half right. Many politicians take the initial plunge for just that reason, but the politico who makes the pursuit of votes their life's work is in it for the power.

We've just really entered the quadrennial 'silly season'; the time from primaries through to election day. As you review local, state, and federal-level candidates this year, think about the choices you have available. When the available choices are tweedle-dum and tweedle-dummer, ask yourself, "Why?" The answer is right in front of you. Unless you are willing to get personally involved (regardless of your party), make the required sacrifices, and make yourself available to break the 'cycle of morons', nothing much is going to change in your schools, your town, your county, your state, your country, or the world.

On Losing an Old Friend

There's a voice that I listen to very early each weekday morning - a voice that helps me decipher the crazy world around us. I have the pleasure of spending and hour or so (depending on traffic conditions and radio reception in my office) listening to stories develop in depth, delivered in a soothing baritone, rather than the story-a-second staccato of the local news radio station. My world would be so much smaller without that voice. I'd know little to nothing of remote places like Nambia, might not have been turned onto incredible musicians like Wynton Marsalis, wouldn't be able to distinguish Desmond Tutu from my daughter's dance tutu, and would surely have a poorer view of the body politic.

Bob Edwards, NPR's long time host of "Morning Edition", has been shown the gilded edge of the program director's axe. His last day behind the microphone at NPR will be on April 30th. After that, he's relegated to the radioland Siberia of "NPR senior editor".

When you've been listening to a morning guy like Edwards as long as I have, he becomes more than just a part of your daily routine. He's the person you're sitting with at the kitchen table as you woof down the first cup of coffee. If the lead story above the fold in the paper doesn't make sense, he'll explain it to you. Don't want heavy news? There's always the good human interest piece he's relating, or spelling bee champ from Uzbekistan that he's interviewing. And what is unique about Edwards is that (neocon protestations to the contrary) he very much tries to examine issues from both sides. Maybe that's what really pisses off the brownshirts.

Here's a little tidbit I didn't know until I read the CNN story of Edward's departure. "Morning Edition" is second only to Rush Limbaugh's syndicated program as the most-listened to national radio show.

Bob, you'll be missed during drivetime, old friend. I can only hope that the successor NPR chooses to fill your shoes is worthy to carry your journalistic jockstrap.

The news has been flying so fast and furiously over the past few days that it's truly been hard to keep up. Here's some links to a few stories and opinion pieces that I've found particularly interesting. I'll pull a few of these apart later this evening:

David Kay Lampooning Bush Administration Again - from Daily KOS
George Bush's Backdoor Political Machine - from "The Apparat"
The Axis of Ideology - from National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy
Analysis: Iraq Charges Against Bush Begin to Mount - from Reuters
Ex-Iraq WMD Hunter Fears U.S. Credibility Erosion - from Reuters

Ok, those should keep both you and me busy for awhile. More later.

Monday, March 22, 2004

It just occured to me that Americans have been programmed to think of al-Qaeda as a hierarchial organization like IBM.

In reality, it's more like Amway. And that's why it's so damn hard to get a bead on these jokers.

I just had to share that lightening bolt of wisdom with you. Someone please pass it along to the mainstream press and Condi Rice.

The reactions to Clarke

OK, the reactions are predictable, given the way the Administration took off after Paul O'Neill. Someone serves the Administration and then gets disappointed by its actions and all of a sudden is the devil incarnate once he writes about it. That's not surprising. The need to vilify seems especially strong for the Bushites.

What are the tactics? Some at the White House are wondering at the "timing" of the book, forgetting completely that Time published most of this information when they interviewed Clarke more than a year ago. Does that Bush spokesperson on Foxnews read Time? Of course, "timing" implies this is purely political, but none at the White House are directly accusing Clarke of being a closet Democrat. Leave that for Blogsville, or the surrogates, who claim Clarke is angling for a job on the Kerry team. Best guess here is that Clarke is a Republican, or so it says here: Post article from today

There's a certain amount of messenger shooting going on as well. Foxnews has been more partisan today than I've ever seen it, with several wondering if Clarke ever did a good job at all in his role as "Terrorist Czar." Forget that Condi Rice praised the man in her comments.

And what was it that the White House a few times today and through multiple surrogates said the President didn't recall talking to Clarke in the Situation Room on 9/12. When told that there were witnesses who include Condi Rice, they all switched to another story, that of course Bush should ask about whether Iraq is involved.

The most intriguing question I've seen concerns who will write the next memoir critical of Bush. It won't be a true believer, so Ridge, Cheney, Ashcroft and Rumsfeld are out. Whitman? Thompson? Powell? Rice? Those are my candidates, not necessarily in that order, but surely none of them will do so before the elections.

Overall, today's BushCorp antics were ugly to watch. And the Dow dropped over 100 points. Confidence in Bush waning there as well?

Rinse, spit, repeat. . .

Premature Ejaculation

In what has become a hallmark of the neocon movement, the Bush spin machine, and the Ministry of Truth, it seems that cork poppage for bagging Ayman al-Zawahri was, eh, a bit premature. al-Zawahri apparently slipped the net that those crack Pakistani troops have supposedly been tightening over the past four shopping days.

The timing of the initial story was a bit curious to begin with. It coincided neatly with Colin Powell's trip to meet with America's close ally, Pakistan President Pervez "Free AQ" Musharraf. I think what tipped me initially that there was smoke but no fire was the fact that there were no reports of American troop involvement in the usual suspect roundup.

Listen, I want Al Qaeda and its leaders dispatched from the face of the planet as much as anyone. Without getting into the actual construct of organization, I'm not sure that capturing any of the big dogs in that kennel of dog poop known as Al Qaeda would make all that much difference anyway. But when the neocon spin machine continues to crank out FUD* to promote its agenda or counter negative news stories, only to retract or step back from the FUD a few days later, eventually the "little boy who cried wolf" syndrome will kick in with the populace.

The moral of the story? Speculation is not a story in a journalistic sense. Retracted speculation is even worse - not that there's a lot of credibility left to damage in the Bush administration anyway, but these kinds of things tend to gain a life of their own. Keep the sheath on your weapon until all partners are satisfied -- that is, unless you're into instant, unilateral self-gratification, which tends to ultimately be a hollow exercise.

* FUD - (jargon) /fuhd/ An acronym invented by Gene Amdahl after he left IBM to found his own company: "FUD is the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that IBM sales people instill in the minds of potential customers who might be considering [Amdahl] products." The idea, of course, was to persuade them to go with safe IBM gear rather than with competitors' equipment. This implicit coercion was traditionally accomplished by promising that Good Things would happen to people who stuck with IBM, but Dark Shadows loomed over the future of competitors' equipment or software.

Found on Beat Bush Blog:

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Clarke to Bush: FU - Strong Book to Follow

The Richard Clarke interview on 60 minutes is now history. And somewhere in America, a neocon's dog is getting kicked tonight.

It's hard to put into words what I was feeling as the interview with Mr. Clarke by CBS's Lesley Stahl progressed. Over the past few days, I've read snippets from the interview, and regurgitated some of those comments in prior posts. The written words simply don't do the interview justice - because the written word can't nuance emotional voice tone (incredulity, anger, bewilderment). Clarke was pissed. And sad. And befuddled by an administration hell bent for leather and single-minded in its quest to publicly display Saddam's head on a stick.

But I don't want to focus on Clarke right now. There will be millions of forgotten words written tonight on keyboards all around the universe regarding Richard Clarke. The designated Bushinista responder, Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, is my target of opportunity. What a smarmmaster this guy is. While Clarke displayed coolness and righteousness of purpose even during some tough questioning from Stahl, Hadley fairly oozed with slime and smarm. When Stahl administered the coup de grace, stopping Hadley in midsentence and calling him on a profoundly obvious dodge (I'll refrain from using the L word), the man was obviously blindsided like a teenager caught in the bathroom with Dad's Hustler in his hands. He stuttered. He stammered. He hemmed and hawed. And then repeated the It was a classic, and surely destined to join Donald Rumsfeld in the video hall of shame.

On reflection, I think overall the most striking thing is that the Bush administration assigned a second tier flak runner to counter Clarke's allegations. I didn't understand this at all. Maybe National Security Advisor Condi Rice didn't understand the breadth or depth of the story CBS was producing. Maybe she had a round of golf to play that day, or had a dress fitting at Neiman Marcus. Overall, I think letting Stephen Hadley run interference for the Bush Administration will turn out to be a bigger mistake than not saying anything at all prior to airing of the Clarke interview.

Sometimes, you just have to know when to shut up and take your lumps. You can plot revenge after the fact.

Update: Courtesy of Whiskey Bar, a link to (what I'm sure is) a thoroughly unauthorized transcript of Clarke interview.

Bush's Florida Campaign kickoff

I learned a little by following the coverage. Lynn Swan is the Chair of the President's Council on Physical Fitness. I hadn't known that before. Another good reason to hate the Steelers. (Not hard to do, being raised a Browns fan and all.)

The campaign kickoff was held in the Orlando Convention Center. I guess it was invitation only, because a couple folks got escorted out. Maybe this is an example of the Bush gang and their love for American ideals like freedom of speech. . . Florida Today

Protesters ejected.Just before the president arrived, three college-age men right in front of the media stands broke out an anti-Bush sign and began chanting "No more Bush!"

They were quickly surrounded by angry Bush supporters yelling "Four more years" and waving four fingers in the young men's faces.

Security quickly escorted the trio from the building. Secret Service agents and Orange County deputies than stationed themselves in front of the platform.

The timing of the protest suggests music education isn't what it used to be. The song that made the men break out their sign was "Stars and Stripes Forever." A few minutes later, when Bush made his entrance, "Hail to the Chief" blasted from the loudspeakers.

The Free Speech Zone was down the block and around the corner, far enough away that the press was sure to only see Bush/Cheney signs.

I'm unsure, though, why the young men were escorted out. Was the event only for Bush supporters? Do the Sercret Service think people voicing their opinion are dangerous? The appearance is that Bush is afraid of his critics. Contrast that with Kerry talking with his hecklers, hearing them out, responding. The Kerry campaign would be wise to continue that.

Quiet Time

Sunday mornings are usually quiet time for me. I wake up early, knowing that my spouse is already at work, and that my teenage daughter is going to sleep until approximately noon. In those five or six hours that I have the place to myself, I usually get more accomplished than at any point during the preceding six days. Today, I have fences to mend. No, really, I planned on repairing some fencing in my yard that's taken a beating over this past harsh winter. That, and clear out the day lilly beds. And cut down the pampas grass around the poolscape that turned bamboo-tan color about 5 months ago. But a cold front came through last night, it's cloudy, and the wind is howling this morning. So, the winter of my discontent continues, and none of the stuff I planned to do today will end up getting done.

Interestingly enough, perhaps that's kind of a metaphor for where we are right now as a political consumers. Taken as a whole, the events that have transpired inside the Washington, DC beltway over the past 3 years are no less than political nuclear winter. As a nation, we've been stunned into abject political numbness and inaction by events, actions, and reactions that are largely outside of our control. It's the only reasonable conclusion I can draw when I attempt to fathom how monkey boy's junta is still able to operate out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue rather than Allenwood Prison. There is no other explanation.

The hubris of the Bush administration continues to astound, even in the wake of disclosures and revelations by former high ranking officials such as David Kay, Paul O'Neill, and now Richard Clarke. Never, I repeat, never has a sitting administration received such scathing criticism from ex-employees who at one time enjoyed unfettered access to the oval office. We're not talking about political fences sitters and opportunists here, either. These gentlemen are not David Gergen. Every one of them are confirmed hawks who either formulated or strongly supported Bush administration policies in their respective areas of expertise.

Of particular immediate note is the upcoming 60 Minutes interview with Richard Clarke. Since the calendar says it's only March, my guess is that this interview will end up in the political dust bin by the time anyone other than hardcore political junkies are paying attention. I would have been much happier to see the fallout from this interview happen after Labor Day rather than before Easter. Never the less, the fact that it's happening at all is pretty much unprecedented.

Is the interview with Richard Clarke the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back? With every such revelation about the inside workings of the Bush administration, I keep thinking "Well, 'Lizabeth, it's finally the big one." Yet, public response continues to be nothing short of a collective national yawn. Approval polls for the Bush administration, while trending slightly down, have made no quantum movements in either direction. So, while my impact analysis of Clarke's "smart bomb" on the neocon movement has yet to be written, I refuse to once again prime myself with false expectations. The body armor that the Bush administration is wearing seems to be impenetrable. However, there's always hope:
"The president dragged me into a room with a couple of other people, shut the door, and said, 'I want you to find whether Iraq did this.' Now he never said, 'Make it up.' But the entire conversation left me in absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said Iraq did this. "I said, 'Mr. President. We've done this before. We have been looking at this. We looked at it with an open mind. There's no connection.' "He came back at me and said, "Iraq! Saddam! Find out if there's a connection.' And in a very intimidating way. I mean that we should come back with that answer. We wrote a report."

Clarke continued, "It was a serious look. We got together all the FBI experts, all the CIA experts. We wrote the report. We sent the report out to CIA and found FBI and said, 'Will you sign this report?' They all cleared the report. And we sent it up to the president and it got bounced by the National Security Advisor or Deputy. It got bounced and sent back saying, 'Wrong answer. ... Do it again.'

"I have no idea, to this day, if the President saw it, because after we did it again, it came to the same conclusion. And frankly, I don't think the people around the president show him memos like that. I don't think he sees memos that he doesn't-- wouldn't like the answer."

If the Clarke interview represents nothing more than another sign that political spring will inevitably arrive, then I suppose it's a good thing. And maybe we, as a nation, can finally get around to some real fence mending.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

This was simply too good to let go to waste. :-)

I could swear that's Ed Bradley carrying the sign...


Sometimes the Drudge Report just slays me. Sure, he a purveyor of rumor and all, but once in a while he's got a headline that zings. The Drudge Report "The Passion of the Christ,' which O'Reilly among others is considering the best seller of all-time, is slowing down to just $5MM a week at the Box Office. It'll sell huge on DVD as well, but the controversy is over. It just wasn't much of a ripple on the American landscape after all. The movie will likely not become an all-time classic, and will be forgotten eventually.

Is there a positive about Drudge's site? Perhaps he has paved the way for alternative sorts of news coverage, but except for the whacked out right wing and the whacked out left wing, almost everyone goes to the tried and true sources for their news. Times, Post, the networks, CNN, PBS, with several magazines for investigative or in-depth pieces. What's positive about Drudge?

I use the site to go to for giggles, to find Molly Ivins from the link collection he's got, and to see if there is a hot little rumor the Republican spin machine is using Drudge to spread (Like that supposed Kerry mistress of a couple weeks ago). I'm not sure there is more value to him than that.

But after reading him, I always rinse and spit.

Iraq - One Year Later - Richard's view

Since SpinDentist offered his thoughts on the one year anniversary of the Iraq invasion, I figured I'd offer mine. My spin is based on a question I've seen posed in a dozen different places over the past few days: is Iraq better off than it was 365 days ago? I don't know. Like you, I'm not there, and my opinions are subject to the whims of government and media propaganda (pro and con) just like yours. If I were a betting man (scratch that, I am), I'd say that on the whole things are worse now than before.

Here's a link to one reporter's view that might be of interest to you.

Here's another link to an ongoing journal of someone who's living the "adventure".

Things will get better in Iraq, eventually. It's the natural order of things. The question really becomes, at this point is our continued presence in Iraq helping or hindering? Like the despot who preceded the current occupation authority, I feel we're merely keeping the lid on a powderkeg that will eventually blow anyway.

It occurs to me that controlled detonations still result in things getting blown up.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Ah, it's been a busy, busy day. So, I only have two useful tidbits to pass along for the moment.

Leslie Stahl interviews former White House terrorism expert Richard Clarke on 60 minutes this Sunday. From (of all places) Drudge Report:
Former White House terrorism advisor Richard Clarke tells Lesley Stahl that on September 11, 2001 and the day after - when it was clear Al Qaeda had carried out the terrorist attacks - the Bush administration was considering bombing Iraq in retaliation. Clarke's exclusive interview will be broadcast on 60 MINUTES Sunday March 21 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

Clarke was surprised that the attention of administration officials was turning toward Iraq when he expected the focus to be on Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. "They were talking about Iraq on 9/11. They were talking about it on 9/12," says Clarke.

The top counter-terrorism advisor, Clarke was briefing the highest government officials, including President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, in the aftermath of 9/11. "Rumsfeld was saying we needed to bomb Iraq....We all said, 'but no, no. Al Qaeda is in Afghanistan," recounts Clarke, "and Rumsfeld said, 'There aren't any good targets in Afghanistan and there are lots of good targets in Iraq.' I said, 'Well, there are lots of good targets in lots of places, but Iraq had nothing to do with [the 9/11 attacks],'" he tells Stahl.

Clarke goes on to explain what he believes was the reason for the focus on Iraq. "I think they wanted to believe that there was a connection [between Iraq and Al Qaeda] but the CIA was sitting there, the FBI was sitting there, I was sitting there, saying, 'We've looked at this issue for years. For years we've looked and there's just no connection,'" says Clarke.

Hmmmm. Is Rummy being set up as the fall guy for BushCo? As Matt Drudge would say...developing...

Here's the other one that you won't want to miss. Crank up the speakers.

Donald Rumsfeld caught lying through his teeth.

More over the weekend...

UPDATE... Well, it seems as if the Clarke story is really getting some legs. If the 60 Minutes piece is half as strong as the publicity teaser quotes for it, you can bet the BushCo spin machine is working overtime tonight trying to figure out an angle to play on this one. Here's a snippet:
Clarke acknowledges that, "there's a lot of blame to go around, and I probably deserve some blame, too." He said he wrote to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice on Jan. 24, 2001, asking "urgently" for a Cabinet-level meeting "to deal with the impending al-Qaida attack." Months later, in April, Clarke met with deputy cabinet secretaries, and the conversation turned to Iraq.

"I'm sure I'll be criticized for lots of things, and I'm sure they'll launch their dogs on me," Clarke said. "But frankly I find it outrageous that the president is running for re-election on the grounds that he's done such great things about terrorism. He ignored it. He ignored terrorism for months, when maybe we could have done something."

Schnikes! Think the Rovians are losing some sleep tonight?

Happy Anniversary

The Bush War is a year old, and I think it is instructive to look at that speech he gave a year ago. Perhaps comparing it to the speech he is giving today woudl be nice, as well. Last year's speech on the first day of the war is here: A pretty good speech, actually. . .

It was indeed a rousing and patriotic speech, but this paragrah certainly would give pause when read today:
Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly -- yet, our purpose is sure. The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder. We will meet that threat now, with our Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines, so that we do not have to meet it later with armies of fire fighters and police and doctors on the streets of our cities.
Reluctantly? Paul O'Neill's book sure casts doubt on that. But what I notice here s that on the very day American troops are comitted to battle, from which 500 and more will not return, Mr. Bush uses the excuse of WMD as his most prominent one. Would that all those dead and injured soldiers could read this speech today and see that they were sent into harm's way for false reasons.

God Bless our soldiers. Pray that they get a new Commander in Chief.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

OOooooooooh I'm having a crisis this evening. I hate when that happens.

As should be apparently obvious by now, my sympathies toward the travesty in Iraq do not lie (pun intended) with the Bush administration. March 20th marks the one year anniversary of the first pre-emptive invasion of a sovereign country by the United States in its 227 year history. Not surprisingly, significant protests are planned in major cities throughout America.

But Houston, I have a moral dilemma.

One of the primary organizations behind the mass protests is a group called ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and Racism). It's a great name for a liberally oriented group. The acronym fairly shouts representation of some significant liberal ideals. So, why do I have a dilemma?

ANSWER, and other groups connected to it, tout a key supporter that I want to see hang from the gallows.

Mumia Abu-Jamal.

For those of you not familiar with Abu-Jamal, he was a journalist in the Philadelphia market. In 1981, police officer Daniel Faulkner was shot and killed by an assailant in Philadelphia during a routine traffic stop. Jamal was implicated, arrested, tried, convicted (on very damning evidence). Abu-Jamal now sits on death row in Pennsylvania, but has become a cause celeb over the past 10 years or so, as noted in this short excerpt from a 1999 Vanity Fair article on the Daniel Faulkner murder:
Whatever the motivation, the beat of Abu-Jamal goes on. And, there may be only one thing to mar it all: compelling evidence Abu-Jamal ran across Locust Street with a gun in his hand on that December night in 1981 and killed Daniel Faulkner.
I have no desire to publicize the Faulkner case (or that of his cold blooded murderer) any further. The purpose of this rant is to explain why I can't associate myself with what would be an otherwise worthwhile endeavor. I'm not doing anything this Saturday. I haven't participated in a good civil protest in many years. But I won't be associated with any action spearheaded by a group that publicly flaunts a cop killer as a spokesperson.

The only reason I'm posting this is so you know there's a big anti-war protest in a city near you if you want to attend. I'd love to be there, but I can't. And now you know why. End of story.

Oh, and that little "salute" thing you got goin' there in the picture above, Abu-Jamal? Right back atcha', bro, as Maureen Faulkner throws the switch.

No Spin Zone, meet the SpinDentist

Today's radio factor was a rarity. Bill the Shill O'Reilly, usually a lapdog conservative but once in a while a straight shooter, had warnings for Mr. Bush today concerning the political impact of high oil prices. According to O'Reilly Radio Factor, Bush needs to speak out on this issue, which has some prognosticators predicting a 30% rise in oil prices by Labor Day. If Bush doesn't speak out, warns O'Reilly, then he'll lose in November. Swing voters like their SUVs after all. I guess O'Reilly was looking at the business pages this morning.

According to Reuters,
LONDON -- U.S. oil prices today simmered just below a 13-year high closing price struck the previous session, as the head of the OPEC producer cartel offered little solace for hard-pressed consumers.

New York light crude (CLc1) was trading at $37.85, down 33 cents from Wednesday's settlement of $38.18 a barrel, which was the highest close since October 16, 1990, shortly after Iraq invaded Kuwait.

London Brent was 45 cents lower at $33.08 (LCOc1) a barrel.

Prices stormed higher on Wednesday after U.S. government data showing gasoline stocks fell last week by 800,000 barrels to stand five percent below the five-year average.

The data reinforced worries of a supply crunch during peak U.S. summer holiday gasoline demand as consumption races 4.5 percent above year-ago levels.

Boy, this sure looks timed right. The highest prices just as the summer campaigning is warming up. This is the moment the Democrats should hit Mr. Bush with all they've got about special interests, and about how Cheney set oil policy in collusion with the oil industry, which is making record profits.
OPEC President Purnomo Yusgiantoro said the cartel, which controls half the world's crude exports, was concerned about high oil prices.

"The current oil price will not be a benefit to the world. We are concerned about that," Purnomo Yusgiantoro told reporters in Jakarta.

Even so he said OPEC would not backtrack on its decision to cut official production quotas to 23.5 million barrels per day from 24.5 million bpd from April 1.

"That is already policy," he said. "We have already cut. Nominations were decided in early March. The April decision is implemented because April nominations were decided at least around March 10."

And OPEC comes in to seal the deal. Less supply, more summer demand, and an oil industry, because of lack of reinvestment in refinery capacity, makes its own product a scarcity, thus higher prices. The SpinDentist is not so nice to Mr. Bush as to give advice. Indeed, he is gleeful that as the prices rise more and more Americans will learn that the Bush Administration oil policy was set by firms that are raking in record profits while those same Americans are taking out second mortgages to finance the commute to work, where, of course, they are in danger of being outsourced.

Looks like the Oil Cartel may just give the Bush Cartel a working over.

You may now rinse and spit.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

I love hanging around the blogosphere, I really do. You find some treasures on occasion that just absolutely resonate and scream THIS PERSON REALLY NAILED IT!!! One of those moments of clarity jumped out of my monitor tonight as I was doing some light reading at Whiskey Bar. I won't even bother to set this up for you, since I trust you'll know inherently what the writer is talking about:
The writer's Premise: Spain is Spain. Restated. Spain is Spain. Once again. Spain is Spain.

That Is. The small percent of the Spanish electorate who changed their votes did it for reasons only they know. Apparently, the dominate reason was a domestic Spanish one: The outgoing Fearless Leader lied like a rug to blame his favorite demon, ETA, for the slaughter, when it was apparent jihadist were involved. This disgusted and outraged many Spanish voters, who voted accordingly.

Al Quaeda grand strategic calculations did not control this outcome. Spanish fearless leader bullshit did.

The Spanish people supported the war against Al Quaeda.

The Spanish people did not support the American war against Iraq.

The newly elected leader was against the war with Iraq.

It serves the purposes of those with AMerican Federal STate power to twist the facts, and make the propaganda claim that the Spanish domestic vote was about giving in, responding to, Al Quaeda. This propaganda is predictable.

I've never been much of a fan of the word "propaganda". Maybe that's because I lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis, and grew up during the cold war in a location surrounded by Nike missile silos. I associate "propaganda" with doddering old men in the Kremlin drinking vodka with the left hand, while their right hand rested on the button. Maybe that's why I like the term "spin" so much better. But I digress.

The events of the last 7 days in Spain are quite mind boggling. Even more so if you try to view them in an American political context. The neocon slant since Monday has been, "Spain capitulated, Osama won."

Bologna. The writer of the piece above nailed it - a lying weasel trying to cover his own political ass lost. It's no more or less than that.

Brilliant. So, when do Americans "get it"?

The Bush administration offered prayers for the victims but said such attacks would not change U.S. policy. "Democracy is taking root in Iraq and there is no turning back," said Scott McClellan, White House spokesman.
The Bush administration faith-based response to the hotel bombing today in Iraq that has left at least 27 people dead and scores injured...

Looks like anarchy to me, Scott.

When will Drudge pick up this hysteria?

On March 12 posted a story about a woman who went to a Kerry rally with an anti-abortion sign. Mr. Kerry supposedly looked her in the eye while shaking people's hands, and then shortly someone came along and ripped up her sign. The first citation of this story The story is not corroborated in the article, and it stretches credulity that the major news organizations swarming over the Kerry campaign haven't picked this up. It is likely that the woman, Rebecca Porter, Client Services Director for Pregnancy Care Center of Plant City FL Source and a Director of Operation Outcry Link simply made the story up. Surely time will tell on that one.

Of course the story is being spread to counter the dozens of stories brought to light by the Bush campaign's practice of using "free speech zones" to corral protesters away from the line of sight of the President. "Free Speech zones," and arrests of people who somehow skirt these censorship tactics are being attacked by liberal groups, like the ACLU, and many independent and mainstream news outlets, but also by conservative organizations such as The American Conservative as far back as December of 2001:
When Bush travels around the United States, the Secret Service visits the location ahead of time and orders local police to set up “free speech zones” or “protest zones” where people opposed to Bush policies (and sometimes sign-carrying supporters) are quarantined. These zones routinely succeed in keeping protesters out of presidential sight and outside the view of media covering the event.The American Conservative
Just do a search of "free speech zone" on google and you'll see dozens of legitimate stories of the suppression of speech at Bush's campaign and other appearances.

What's most interesting is the wait to see how long until this gets picked up by Drudge, and then the legitimate news outlets will run with the "story about the story." What do you say, a week more?

Already the story has flitted from to, rewritten, probably without talking to Ms. Porter, by J. Grant Swank, Jr. Michnews, a religious anti-abortion web site, and Talon News, another slanted source on the right has also picked it up: Another fake news site. picked it up yesterday Republican fake news site (and just look at the Board of Directors of the site! They sure couldn't be biased, could they?) Directors of The story is also hitting more BLOGs than you can count, on the conservative side, of course, but also on liberal Blogs when conservatives want to attack.

Could this be the next bald-faced lie to be thrown at Mr. Kerry? If so, when will it hit the mainstream media? I'd say the over/under on that is March 20.

Now rinse twice and spit