Saturday, November 11, 2006
And here's the morning after:
CHALK UP MY MUFFED ELECTION CALL TO USER ERROR, not a faulty crystal ball. Against the odds, I predicted that the GOP would retain nominal control of the House and the Senate by slim margins. In fact, the Democrats won control of both chambers, picking up at least 28 seats in the House and six in the Senate. To borrow a word coined by our commander in chief, I "misunderestimated" the anger of the American electorate, which walked into local precincts looking for punching bags and instead settled for ballot boxes.Link.
THE DEMOCRATIC VICTORY IN THE 435-MEMBER House was narrower than the seat-count suggests. The GOP lost nationally by a mere 77,000 votes
That latter argument is of course fallacious. Reagan got a "landslide" and a "mandate" by an electoral sweep that was -- surprise! -- unsupported by the popular vote. This is what is expected of a courtier: If my guy wins like this it's awesome and significant, if the other wins in the exact same way, it's something to belittle.
But the bottom line is Big Media got it wrong because they don't care or dare to get it right. That's called a disservice. And this refusal or failure to acknowledge the majority as opposed to catering to an elite, is why so-called old media is tanking across the board: they're talking to fewer and fewer people at a time. So it's easier and easier to just disregard them; it's their loss, not ours.
This is what happens when a pundit uses an idiotic criterion and fails to filter it with any intelligence. First clue: This administration was never loved by the masses; it won electoral power by fear and, well, scummy tactics like, oh, just stealing elections. Yes, one should have pondered before November 7th, upon reviewing polls, whether maybe a significant percentage of the electorate or, I should say, likely voters had had it with the Cheney/Rove/Bush administration and maybe would be incited to, well, vote the bums -- the enablers -- out.
But no, a courtier can only parrot a party line, not think, not think that "he who spends most, wins" might not be the best criteriorn around... no, that would take thought, a dispassionate analysis, all of which conflicts with water-carrying....
Meanwhile, is Our Leader scared??
Around the time that the John Deere Company hired the former Oklahoma representative J. C. Watts Jr. as a lobbyist two years ago, it also handed him an important mission.The whole disgusting story is here.
Mr. Watts, the conservative Republican superstar, was asked to find black businessmen and women to become John Deere dealers after a lawsuit stated that there was not a single one among the roughly 1,400 dealers nationwide that sold its trademark green-and-yellow tractors and riding mowers.
This May, executives at Mr. Watts’s lobbying and consulting firm in Washington announced that after a lengthy search, they had found the “first African-American” owner for a John Deere dealership. That dealer’s name: the J. C. Watts Companies.
Just a ThoughtLink.
Who would have imagined that when George Allen called that kid "makaka," it would cost the Republicans control of the Senate?
A lot of Democrats have said that John Kerry's botched "Bush is dumb" joke proved that he's not fit to be a presidential candidate. If I were a Republican, I'd be saying the same thing about Allen.
Yes, isn't this a Big Media riff? Over-react to the Kerry remark -- the remark of someone not exactly running for anything -- and underplaying a candidate's even more idiotic statement? Is there a "balance" I'm missing?
Now, after the primary, Lieberman does not have this special platform anymore. He can never again purport to speak for the Democratic Party, because he no longer even has a nominal claim to actually being a Democrat. He officially left the Democratic Party when he ran under his own party in the general election, and his candidacy relied primarily on Republican votes, money and institutional support. That means while he can still be a gadfly and still draw attention to himself, his days of being able to fundamentally damage the image of the national Democratic Party are over.Link.
The senator’s post-election anger suggests he intimately understands just how much power and credibility he has lost. His victory speeches on election night and the day after were laced with rage. Far from being magnanimous or humble, he used the occasion to attack the majority of Connecticut voters who voted against him as representing the “extreme.” He then issued the political equivalent of pro-wrestler threats, reiterating to Democrats that he will now be even more “independent” (read: Republican) than ever. His campaign website now features one giant link across the top of the page—a link to a blogged screed by former Christian Coalition official Marshall Wittman that breathlessly attacks progressives and bloggers for having the nerve to challenge Lieberman. (What a gracious winner you are Joe—really, you stay classy Joe Lieberman.)
First, from SlashDot:
* Linux Viruscan..... Windows 95 found. Remove it? (Y/y) -- Unknown sourceAnd here's the love:
"The New York Times reports that Microsoft has a new deal with Universal to share profits from Zune player sales.
This is rather incredible even for a consumer-hating company like M$.
If the Zune achieves any traction, any significant marketshare, this will pressure an increase in pricing at the iTunes Store which, at the end of the day, has been the most significant force for the promotion and growth of legal downloading of music. We all know the iTS can take a price increase within reason with no problem -- really, album prices are pretty cheap -- but only to the point. Meanwhile, the labels have been doing an excellent job proving that their obsession with money over all else has been a pretty crappy model; they still seem reluctant to sell anything worth buying or paying their, as opposed to iTunes', price for. (I exagerate but obviously there's a lack of compelling acts and that, at the end of the day, is what's hurting unit sales.)
And this deal is only another piece of that whole, as it were.
The availability of Zune in brown is a very significant sign.
Speaking of Zune: Someone noted that M$ never gets v.1 quite right but eventually does in a later version. So if M$ had such great models as iTunes and the iPod to rip off why did they get it so wrong: an awful purchase system where the buyer of music loans M$ money; dishonest prices at the Zune store and a bigger but crappy display?
I'm telling you; brown is a sign.
So down the line we may all pay for Zune whether we buy one or not. And the labels' product will suck.
And another thing: The reality of Zune, like many things M$, doesn't match the talk.
At the the end of the dy, the sole advantage, even if and when the ZuneScamStore and unit equal iPod and iTunes is that the PCs will presumably come with all the crap to be Zune-friendly.
However, all it takes is a fast download to get iTunes and the store on the PC and there is no comparison. If you know enough to be able to get music online and move it onto a player, you have the knowledge and the will to download iTunes and get a far better experience than, given, you know, history, M$ will ever do.
There's a word for Zunesters:
And remember, it comes in brown for a reason.
Miss Zune 2006
Friday, November 10, 2006
Now that the election is behind us, and the Democrats control both houses of Congress, there's no reason not to admit it: the Right was right about us all along. Here is our 25-point manifesto for the new Congress:Link.
1. Mandatory homosexuality
2. Drug-filled condoms in schools
3. Introduce the new Destruction of Marriage Act
4. Border fence replaced with free shuttle buses
5. Osama Bin Laden to be Secretary of State
6. Withdraw from Iraq, apologize, reinstate Hussein
7. English language banned from all Federal buildings
8. Math classes replaced by encounter groups
9. All taxes to be tripled
10. All fortunes over $250,000 to be confiscated
11. On-demand welfare
12. Tofurkey to be named official Thanksgiving dish
13. Freeways to be removed, replaced with light rail systems
14. Pledge of Allegiance in schools replaced with morning flag-burning
15. Stem cells allowed to be harvested from any child under the age of 8
16. Comatose people to be ground up and fed to poor
17. Quarterly mandatory abortion lottery
18. God to be mocked roundly
19. Dissolve Executive Branch: reassign responsibilities to UN
20. Jane Fonda to be appointed Secretary of Appeasement
21. Outlaw all firearms: previous owners assigned to anger management therapy
22. Texas returned to Mexico
23. Ban Christmas: replace with Celebrate our Monkey Ancestors Day
24. Carter added to Mount Rushmore
25. Modify USA's motto to "Land of the French and the home of the brave"
The 63-year-old Gates has long faced accusations of collaborating with Islamic extremists in Iran, arming Saddam Hussein's dictatorship in Iraq, and politicizing U.S. intelligence to conform with the desires of policymakers - three key areas that relate to his future job.Way more here. And here.
And raw data is here.
During a telephone conference with reporters yesterday, outgoing Microsoft co-president Jim Allchin, while touting the new security features of Windows Vista, which was released to manufacturing yesterday, told a reporter that the system's new lockdown features are so capable and thorough that he was comfortable with his own seven-year-old son using Vista without antivirus software installed.Link.
That doesn't even rise to the level of unbelievable.
But then again, total bullshitting is the Microsoft way. It's all about crap: the quality of most M$ products, the public utterances -- everything.
The final count from the radical leftist Wall Street Journal readers:
And then there are these fabulous, wonderful portraits:
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit: The Democrats now have a chance to govern....Link.
With a president who repeatedly states that he will not enforce laws passed by a Republican-controlled Congress, he's really going to enforce any laws passed by a Dem Congress??
Really, I really, really don't quite understand how people can repeatedly lie like this, knowing that they are completely full of crap....
And here's more idiocy, from Our Leader, unsurprisingly:
George W. Bush is getting a lot of credit this morning from talking heads who say that he's ready to work across the aisle with the newly empowered Democrats.Link.
The next two years is going to be all about setting up the GOP for 2008 by making their hostility for and hatred of America and Americans clear by refusing to go along with simple Dem policies such as a modest increase in the minimum wage and maybe even some fixing of Medicare D (The Big Pharma profit-enhancement program).
Whatever happens, it'll all be a set-up.... All "rope-a-dope"....
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
The blunders by Israel and the United States have left Iran as the undisputed leader in the Muslim world. These blunders have empowered the radical Islamic groups allied with Iran and have indeed ushered in the birth of a new Middle East, one that understands that the days of Israel and Washington’s hegemony in the region are doomed.Link.
And how much will things change?
Well, damn little, but still....
Or maybe it's a ramp-up to '08. With a GOP Senate, there's a limit to what can be done -- but no matter how little, it'll only be good.
And it will be prep for 2008 -- an opportunity to sell the party.
Meanwhile, let's see how Our Leaders spread democracy and free election, a brief reminder during our 1996, of their scumminess:
Our leader speaks:
President George W. Bush: "If I thought we were going to lose, would I tell you. We're not going to lose, in my heart of hearts."Link.
But the question for Our Leader is: Did God not tell him about this? How in God's name could God not tell Our Leader about this? Or even Joe Lieberman?
A profile of a nutjob who lost and a clear description of his nuttiness. Really, all pols are nutjobs but, come on, the GOP pols are really deranged even by that low standard....
Hey, where were the evangelicals and other Christofascists? How in God's name did they drop the ball? Is their God going to be pissed?? Well, he can do no worse than overturning the results -- and there's a lot of them to overturn....
God knows Our Leaders tried to make it difficult to vote -- their means for free elections. (In the GOP democracy, nothing's free, not even -- especially -- elections.)
Wait, maybe here's a clue where God was....
And here's some idiocy:
Why Some People Shouldn't VoteWhy should insufficiently informed people be allowed to vote (besides the obvious Really, how do you decide who can and cannot?)?
By N. Gregory Mankiw
As election day gets close, get ready to hear the usual exhortations about voting. Whether Bush or Gore is the better choice is debatable, but responsible people all agree that everyone should be encouraged to vote. It's a national disgrace, the hand-wringers say, that millions of eligible voters fail to turn out in presidential elections. Voting is a civic responsibility, they tell us, because democracy works best when everyone participates.
The problem is, this isn't true. Sometimes the most responsible thing a person can do on election day is stay at home.
Before we're too hard on people who don't vote, we should ask why they don't. It is tempting for us voters to view abstainers as lazy free riders who aren't holding up their end of the democratic bargain. But is it really this simple? Not according to economists Timothy Feddersen and Wolfgang Pesendorfer. They wrote a 1996 article in the American Economic Review that is now on the cutting edge of explaining why people don't vote.
Feddersen and Pesendorfer suggest that nonvoting has to be understood together with a related phenomenon--the decision of voters to skip some items listed on the ballot. This behavior, which political scientists call roll off, is common. Feddersen and Pesendorfer give an example of a 1994 Illinois gubernatorial race in which about 3 million citizens showed up at the polls, but only 2 million voted on a proposed amendment to the state constitution.
Anyone who has ever entered a polling booth can easily see why roll off occurs. You come ready to vote for your favorite candidate in some race you've been following closely, but then you face a whole list of races and ballot questions, most of which you know little or nothing about. What do you do? You could quickly make a decision based on your scant knowledge. But what if the contest is very close? Do you really want the outcome based on your almost random vote?
So you choose another course: You skip the item. In practice, this means that you are relying on your fellow citizens to make the right choice. But this can be perfectly rational. If you really don't know enough to cast an intelligent vote, you should be eager to let your more informed neighbors make the decision.
Feddersen and Pesendorfer suggest that not showing up to vote is motivated by the same reasoning as roll off. Eligible voters who are less informed about the candidates than their fellow citizens choose to stay at home, knowing the outcome will be more reliable without their participation. By not voting, they are doing themselves and everyone else a favor. If the ill-informed were all induced to vote, they would merely add random noise to the outcome.
What's the evidence that this theory is right, that nonvoters are less informed than voters? Studies of voter turnout have found that education is the single best predictor of who votes: The highly educated turn out more often than less educated. A classic argument for why democracies need widespread public education is that education makes people better voters. If this is true, then the less educated should show up at the polls less often. They are rationally delegating the decision to their better educated neighbors.
So the next time a friend of yours tells you he's not voting, don't try to change his mind. It's a good bet that if he's not voting, he's not been following the election closely anyway. Maybe he watched a baseball game instead of the debates. Maybe he is bored silly with all the talk of targeted tax cuts, privatized social security, and campaign finance reform. Maybe he's as ignorant about public policy as those focus groups of undecided voters that are the media's latest darling.
So rather than pushing your friend to the polls, perhaps you should thank him for staying at home. He's making your vote count just a little bit more.
Who else can judge Our Leaders other than their peers? People with vested interests only??
Well, in one sense that's all of us.
But here's one difficult example.
Should this person be allowed to vote?
An imbecilic Yale graduate.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
We Knew Since 1999 Toppling Saddam Would be a Disaster: But of Course That Was During the Clinton Administration
Before They Vote, Tell Your Friends Just How Bad Republicans Are at National Security - They'll Say "WTF!"Link.
by RJ Eskow | Nov 6 2006
Wherever you are, this can be your last-minute campaign effort: tell your undecided friends and co-workers about the Republicans' stunning record of incompetence in managing our national security. They don't know the truth, so lay it on 'em. I promise you - they'll say "WTF!"*
WTF! "Homeland Security estimates that the detonation (of a rail-based) chlorine container would kill 17,500 and injure 100,000.
Yet despite its own calamitous assessment of the risk ... DHS continues to rely on the voluntary cooperation of the rail industry ..." (The Next Attack, by Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon)
WTF! The investigative unit that was uncovering outrageous cost overruns and contract failures - failures that put our troops in danger - was just shut down by the Republicans in Congress.
WTF! Several studies have shown that airport screeners are no more effective at preventing weapons from getting on planes than they were before 9/11.
WTF! In another sign of lousy postwar planning, they failed to secure the arms depots in Iraq: "In the fall of 2004, U.S. intelligence estimated that at least 4,000 missiles from Iraq's arsenal could not be accounted for ... The RAND Corporation ... determined that if a single aircraft were destroyed by a missile, the direct economic cost to the United States would be $1 billion. The indirect cost ... would reach $50 billion." (The Next Attack)
Guess they were too busy stealing missiles to welcome us with flowers.
WTF! The missile defense system they keep bragging about is just a boondoggle for their rich contractor friends. It just keeps failing and failing.
WTF! Generals, defense experts, and even the Army Times have called for Rumsfeld's resignation, but they keep him in place anyway. If bullshit was bullets, his name would be Winchester. Talk is cheap and Rummy's the cheapest guy the've got. He's an amateur. Lose him.
WTF! They place politics over our national defense, time and time again: "A number of key appointments to White House posts involving career civil servants with vital experience have been held up because of concerns about the political loyalties of the individuals ... candidates report being flummoxed in their interviews by questions from White House staff about who they voted for in the last election." (The Next Attack )
WTF! The cost of bomb-detection machines at airports has skyrocketed, although the machines are so inefficient that their usefulness is being questioned altogether. Still, somebody's getting rich. (Funny how that keeps happening.)
WTF! There still has been no coordinated effort to create countermeasures against the use of private planes and/or ultralights in a terrorist attack. But did you hear that Michael Chertoff was just given a medal? Unbelievable. Must have had something to do with New Orleans.
Out on the campaign trail, the president likes to remind voters that we're a nation at war. At a rally in Florida today, he used the W-word 15 times. "I wish I could tell you we weren't at war, but we are," he said. It's a "different kind of war"; Iraq is the "central front in the war"; Osama bin Laden thinks this is the "third world war"; Americans have to decide "which group of folks can best win the war."Link. And more here.
"And as you go the polls," the president said today, "remember, we're at war."
It would be hard to forget -- unless you're an Army recruiter, it seems.
ABC News sent kids armed with hidden video cameras into Army recruiting centers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to see what recruiters are telling people about Iraq. Among the "misleading" comments the students caught on tape: A recruiter telling a would-be soldier: "We're not at war. War ended a long time ago."
When a student asked another recruiter about the odds that he'd be sent to Iraq, the recruiter said "slim to none." A third recruiter told a student that the United States isn't sending troops to Iraq anymore. "No," he said, "we're bringing them back."
An Army official tells ABC that recruiters who tell lies are the exception rather than the rule. But after watching video clips recorded by the students, the official acknowledged that he found it "hard to believe some of the things" his people were telling potential recruits.
Democratic Reps. John Conyers and John Dingell are demanding that the Justice Department, the Federal Election Commission and the Federal Communications Commission investigate misleading and harassing robo-calls paid for by the National Republican Congressional Committee.Link.
Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo has been tracking the calls. In them, a pre-recorded voice tells voters that they're about to receive important information about a Democratic candidate. If the voter stays on the line, he or she hears negative information about the Democrat. If the voter hangs up, a computer dialer redials the same number repeatedly, misleading voters into thinking that they're being besieged by calls by a Democratic candidate.
Monday, November 06, 2006
Published: November 2, 2006Link.
Iran fired several missiles with a range of more than 1,000 miles during a military maneuver today, apparently to send a message to the United States and several of its allies in the Persian Gulf after they conducted naval exercises in the same area this week.
The Republicans love helping Iran, this going back to the Nixon/Kissinger administration -- correction: The Eisenhower administration.
So this is part of a Republican tradition.
Science: An Inconvenient TruthLink; there's more there and live links....
The scandal: The clear and present dangers of global warming haven't just met with a cold shoulder at the White House -- Bush officials have ordered a freeze on the facts. The White House kept a grip on scientists at federal agencies, limiting their contact with the media and issuing reminders to "stay on message" in interviews, according to government e-mails obtained by Salon this year through a Freedom of Information Act request. Employees of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have said that administration officials "chastised them for speaking on policy questions; removed references to global warming from their reports, news releases and conference Web sites; investigated news leaks; and sometimes urged them to stop speaking to the media altogether." The White House also blocked publication of research by NOAA scientists linking global warming with escalating hurricanes, according to a September 2006 article in the journal Nature.
The problem: An overwhelming majority of scientists, scholars -- and heck, even some policymakers -- believe that when it comes to safeguarding the planet's future, we should seek truth, not truthiness.
The outcome: In September, a group of 14 senators raised the problem with the inspectors general of NASA and the U.S. Commerce Department (which oversees NOAA), who have since launched formal investigations into the alleged coercion.
Further reading: "Climate-controlled White House"; "Brownout at the EPA"; "The Know-nothings"; "Does George Bush Even Know What Science Is?"
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Trumped-up Terror Busts
The scandal: It wasn't just the "Lackawanna Six" who got the Kafka treatment after 9/11. In February 2006 director of national intelligence John Negroponte warned Congress about "a network of Islamic extremists" in Lodi, Calif. Two men there were charged -- Umer Hayat, an ice cream truck driver, and his son, Hamid -- but the cases, riddled with faulty intelligence and coerced testimony, crumbled in court. FBI agents had pushed the two men into separate accounts about a training camp in Pakistan, but the confessions didn't square. "You can hear the agents literally dictate to [Hayat] what it is that they thought he was involved in," James Weddick, a 35-year FBI veteran who reviewed the interrogation tapes, told "Frontline" this fall. "And then he mimics back to them what he thinks that they want to hear."
Then there was the highly publicized bust by the feds in Miami this summer: A group calling itself the "Seas of David" stupidly dreamed out loud of blowing up the Sears Tower -- but lacked weapons, means of transportation and the al-Qaida "uniforms" they hoped to purchase from a terrorist-cum-FBI operative. FBI deputy director John Pistole admitted the group was "aspirational" rather than "operational." And then there were the three Arab-Americans locked up this year for the menacing act of buying a bunch of cheap cellphones at Wal-Mart.
The problem: You may be starting to sense a pattern here -- has the Bush administration been exploiting fear of terrorism as a political weapon? (Is the pope Catholic?)
The outcome: In the Lodi case, Hamid Hayat was convicted for attending a training camp and lying to the FBI, though the FBI never did any follow-up investigation in Pakistan; the defense has filed an appeal. Umer Hayat's case led to a mistrial. The seven "Seas of David" members await trial in March. Due to lack of evidence, terrorism charges against the cellphone buyers were swapped out for conspiracy and money-laundering charges -- which were later tossed out by a federal judge.
Further reading: "Real Threat or Fake Terror?"; "Is the U.K. Better Than the U.S. at Stopping Terror?"; "Be Very Afraid"
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Pat Tillman: The Hero Myth, the Ugly Truth
The scandal: Attempting to deceive the American public about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was nothing new from the P.R. department of Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon -- think back to the Jessica Lynch fable or the various Pentagon efforts to hide U.S. casualties -- but the Pat Tillman affair perhaps stands as the Bush administration's most craven and cynical attempt to bury a painful truth while maximizing political spin. When the former football star and Army Ranger was killed in Afghanistan in 2004, the Pentagon put out a press release implying that he'd died while courageously taking "the fight to the enemy forces." It wasn't until long after Tillman was awarded a Silver Star and his memorial service was televised nationally that the truth came out: He'd accidentally been killed by his fellow soldiers. In June 2005, columnist Robert Scheer reported that files from an internal military investigation given to him by Tillman's mother made it "unmistakably clear that the true cause of Tillman's death was known in the field shortly after he was killed and reported as fratricide up through the military command. Yet those facts were systematically kept from the family -- including Pat's brother and fellow Army Ranger, Kevin Tillman, who was serving in the same unit in Afghanistan -- while a markedly inaccurate story played itself out in the world's media."
The problem: The campaign of deception went all the way to the heart of the White House. According to a memo included in the Army's investigation, in late April 2004 -- right as the Abu Ghraib torture scandal was sending shock waves around the world -- a White House speechwriter requested information on Tillman ahead of the president's appearance at the upcoming White House correspondents dinner. There, Bush declared: "Corporal Tillman asked for no special attention. He was modest because he knew there were many like him, making their own sacrifices." By then the White House had already told the press that Tillman was among those who had "made the ultimate sacrifice in the war on terror."
The outcome: The ugly charade -- which the Army later absurdly blamed on "an administrative error" -- remains under investigation by the inspector general of the Defense Department and the Army Criminal Investigation Command. Last month, Kevin Tillman published a scathing criticism of the "illegal" war in Iraq.
Further reading: "The Truth About Tillman"; "The Army's Not-So-Heroic Damage Control"; "The Invisible Wounded"
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A Black Hole for Terrorist Suspects
The scandal: In November 2005, the Washington Post exposed an international web of secret CIA-run prisons chillingly referred to as "black sites." In unknown locations from the war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan to Eastern Europe and Asia, terrorist suspects were imprisoned indefinitely without charge, and subjected to brutal interrogation techniques including simulated drownings. The revelation of the prison network sparked international outrage, including from European allies, and further stained America's already Abu-Ghraib-blackened global reputation.
The problem: We all want the Khalid Sheik Mohammeds of the world to be brought to justice. We also want to protect the American principles that distinguish us from the terrorists -- secret kidnappings, torture and kangaroo courts not being among them.
The outcome: The White House refused to confirm the existence of the CIA-run prisons until the landmark 2006 Supreme Court ruling in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld determined that the Geneva Conventions apply to all prisoners, including so-called enemy combatants. Following the ruling, Bush announced the transfer of 14 highly touted prisoners to the U.S. facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, another contemporaneous icon of American abuse. With a relentless Dick Cheney leading the way, the administration has continued battling for legal cover that would allow them to conduct military tribunals and harsh interrogations.
Further reading: "Tortured Justice"; "The Supreme Court Clips Bush's War Wings"; "The Bush Code of Secrecy"; "Wrong About Rights"; "America Can't Take It Anymore"
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Hurricane Katrina: One Heck of a Betrayal
The scandal: As one of our treasured cities came under siege from the worst natural disaster in modern U.S. history, where the hell was the federal government? Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff apparently was asleep on the job -- more than a day and a half went by before he deemed it "an incident of national significance." Bush didn't bother to interrupt his vacation in Crawford. Leadership in the Gulf Coast's time of peril was left in the hands of dithering FEMA chief Michael Brown, aka "Brownie," whose qualifications for the job amounted to falsified emergency-management experience listed on his résumé.
The problem: America watched unthinkable horror unfold beneath astounding political indifference and bureaucratic failure. For thousands stranded in New Orleans, hope and human dignity washed away as food, water and medicine ran out, and violence, sickness and death spread. It was four days before the National Guard showed up. Hundreds of firefighters marshaled from elsewhere to help were diverted to Atlanta for days of training. Months later, as evacuees had to begin vacating temporary residences, more than 10,000 FEMA trailers sat unused because of restrictions against use in floodplains. Nearly $1.4 billion in federal aid was fraudulently distributed, paying for everything from "Girls Gone Wild" videos to a two-month-long Hawaiian vacation.
The outcome: Two FEMA officials and a quality assurance rep for the Army Corps of Engineers were convicted in 2006 on bribery charges. While "Brownie" resigned as FEMA chief in the wake of the catastrophe, no federal leaders have been held accountable. Rep. Henry Waxman of California, who would likely serve as a next Democratic head of the House Committee on Government Reform, has vowed at least to review "waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayers' money" in connection with Katrina.
Further reading: "Timeline to Disaster"; "Halliburton's Gulf Coast Slaves"; "Cry for Katrina's Kids"; "No Direction Home"; Salon's complete Katrina archive.
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Iraq: The Central Front for Global Insecurity
The scandal: The Iraq war has poured fuel on the fire of Islamic radicalism and swelled the ranks of militants across the globe, according to the 2006 National Intelligence Estimate, whose findings were leaked in September to the New York Times. Days later, Bush declassified portions of the report that showed that the war in Iraq was indeed a "cause célèbre" for jihadists. “If this trend continues," the report concluded, "threats to U.S. interests at home and abroad will become more diverse, leading to increasing attacks worldwide."
The problem: Where to begin? How about: The Iraq war has poured fuel on the fire of Islamic radicalism and swelled the ranks of militants across the globe. The latest NIE, which is the highest amalgamation of findings from various U.S. intelligence agencies, is directly at odds with Bush’s long-running refrain that we're winning the war on terror. It also undercuts findings released by the Bush administration on the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks claiming that "America and its allies are safer" and that much has been done "to degrade Al Qaeda and its affiliates and to undercut the perceived legitimacy of terrorism."
The outcome: Never mind those pesky security concerns abroad -- time to focus on a witch hunt at home! Rep. Peter Hoekstra, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, launched an investigation of minority staff members, hoping to string up anyone involved in the leak of the NIE's contents to the press. Meanwhile, Bush vowed just last week that Rumsfeld will continue to run the show at the Pentagon through 2008. Maybe Bush hasn't noticed that a growing number of active-duty members of the military, who've experienced the Iraq abyss firsthand, are calling on Congress for a major change of plan. And they've got some generals backing them up.
Further reading: "At War, in Denial"; "How the War in Iraq Has Damaged the War on Terrorism"
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Bush's Unethical Judges
The scandal: With the appointment of Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito, the Supreme Court got most of the attention over the last year -- but the White House has also worked to stack the nation's appellate courts with right-wing, corporate-friendly judges, some of them a little too corporate-friendly. As Salon and the Center for Investigative Reporting uncovered earlier this year, two Bush nominees to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge James H. Payne and Judge Terrence W. Boyle, broke federal ethics law by ruling in numerous cases involving corporations in which they owned stock. Meanwhile, a Salon/CIR exposé published just last week revealed that at least two dozen federal judges confirmed under Bush made political contributions to leading Republicans who were influential in their appointments, or to the president himself, while under consideration for their judgeships.
The problem: Federal judges receive lifetime appointments. Discovering that Bush has picked judges who may be in good company with the DeLay-Abramoff gang doesn't exactly inspire confidence in the integrity of the nation's courts.
The outcome: Following Salon's report, Bush withdrew his nomination of Payne, who subsequently had told the president that, among other reasons, he felt obligated to remain at his district court post in Oklahoma to see through an overhaul of that court's filing system. Bush has not withdrawn his nomination of Boyle; his fate still hangs with the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Further reading: Money Trails Lead to Bush Judges; "Controversial Bush Judge Broke Ethics Law"; "Bush Judge Under Ethics Cloud"; the full Salon/CIR investigative series scrutinizing the federal judiciary under Bush.
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Iraq Budget Blown to Smithereens
The scandal: Thanks to a morass of murky contracts and failed oversight, more than half of the budget for some Iraq reconstruction projects -- and we're talking in the hundreds of millions here -- has been burned on overhead costs, according to a report released in October by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. The overhead costs in some cases were as much as 10 times the expected amount. Sure, security in Iraq is expensive (see above) -- but according to the report, the most money was wasted, incredibly, on idle time. ''The government blew the whistle for these guys to go to Iraq and the meter ran," Jim Mitchell, a spokesman for the inspector general's office, told the New York Times. "The government was billed for sometimes nine months before work began.'' Meanwhile, any guess as to who's leading the pack here? Yep, you got it -- Halliburton subsidiary KBR Inc., with its various oil-facility contracts, tallied the highest level of overhead costs.
The problem: As columnist Paul Krugman noted last week, Baghdad received less than six hours a day of electricity in October, and much of Iraq’s population currently lives with untreated sewage and without clean water. If you're still having trouble doing the math here, Stephen Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense added it up recently: "These contracts were to design and build important items for oil infrastructure, hospitals and education, but in some cases more than half of the money padded corporate coffers instead."
The outcome: Soon enough, it will be anyone's guess. Last month President Bush signed the FY2007 Defense Authorization Act, which includes the termination of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, the funding watchdog. The SIGIR will disappear by October 2007, regardless of the status of funds it was designed to oversee. Sen. Russ Feingold, who helped create the watchdog office, is indeed troubled: "American taxpayers deserve to know where their money is going in this costly war," he said last month. "This termination plan means that billions of dollars will go without proper oversight and auditing."
Further reading: "Accounting for $108 Million in Overcharges"; "The Buck Stops Where?"; "Halliburton's Iraq Gravy Train"; "Fill 'er Up -- With Taxpayer Dollars"
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Uncle Sam Goes Big Brother
The scandal: "Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity," the New York Times reported in a Page One bombshell on Dec. 15, 2005. According to "nearly a dozen current and former officials," the report said, the top-secret program was carried out without the court-approved warrants required by law for spying inside the U.S. In the three years since 9/11, the Bush government had secretly monitored the international telephone calls and e-mail messages of "hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people," according to the Times. This spring, USA Today reported the existence of a massive database at the NSA, containing phone call records of tens of millions of Americans provided to the government by major telecom companies. And in June, Salon uncovered evidence pointing to government surveillance of U.S. Internet traffic.
The problem: Bush has plunged America back into Richard Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover territory, and perhaps beyond.
The outcome: In what promises to be a long legal saga, two federal district court judges have so far ruled against Bush: Judge Vaughn R. Walker in San Francisco, and Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit. In July, rebuking a mind-bending state-secrets claim by Bush administration lawyers, Vaughn allowed a suit to go forward against AT&T for allegedly collaborating with the NSA. In August, Diggs ruled that "The President of the United States, a creature of the same Constitution which gave us these Amendments," had "undisputedly violated" the First and Fourth Amendments, as well as the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. No doubt the Supreme Court will eventually have the last word. Until that time comes, the domestic spying presumably continues.
Further reading: "Is the NSA Spying on U.S. Internet Traffic?”; "The Bush Doctrine Under Surveillance"; "Uncle Sam Is Listening"; "Bush's Illegal Spying"
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The House That Corruption Built
The scandal: The Jack Abramoff influence-peddling ring began to unravel in 2004, but it was over the last couple of years that the scope of GOP corruption came into view. Among the dozens of players with fingers in the pie: Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Sen. Conrad Burns of Montana, Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio and David H. Safavian, former chief of staff of the General Services Administration. Perks that politicians and staffers enjoyed ranged from campaign contributions to prime sporting events tickets to luxurious vacations to high-end wining and dining. Meanwhile, Randy "Duke" Cunningham, a GOP representative from San Diego on the House defense appropriations subcommittee, earned investigators' interest in 2005 for dealings with his own circle of friends in the defense contracting industry. Trafficking in cash-stuffed envelopes, luxury houses and yachts, Cunningham was exposed for taking upward of $24 million in bribes in exchange for securing government contracts.
The problem: Anyone who knows politics knows that corruption is part of the game on both sides of the aisle. But this has been a veritable epidemic of sleaze and criminality among the current ruling party.
The outcome: Cunningham pleaded guilty to bribery charges and resigned in November 2005. Abramoff pleaded guilty to charges of federal conspiracy, fraud and tax evasion in January 2006. Safavian was convicted in October of lying to investigators and sentenced to 18 months in prison. Ney pleaded guilty in mid-October to charges of conspiracy and making false statements -- and late Friday, finally resigned. DeLay was indicted on a conspiracy charge back in 2005 and resigned this June, but he has not been convicted of a crime.
Further reading: "Abramoff's 'Rock Star'"; "Abramoff-Scanlon School of Sleaze"; "The Hammer Falls"; "The GOP's Spreading Plague"
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Hushed Up About Corporate Media
The scandal: In September 2006, the L.A. Times reported that during Michael Powell's tenure as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, two internal draft reports exposing the ill effects of corporate media consolidation were quashed. What the agency prevented from getting any airtime: A 2004 report that found locally owned TV stations did a better job covering local news and issues, and a 2003 report pointing out a decrease in the number of radio station owners.
The problem: Powell and his aides denied knowing about the studies -- but clearly his corporate-friendly agenda would necessitate flipping the channel on such troublesome findings. Both Powell and his successor, Kevin J. Martin, supported reduced restrictions on television station ownership and the lifting of a ban preventing companies from owning a newspaper and a television or radio station in the same market.
The outcome: The looser FCC rules backed by Powell and Martin have been put on hold since 2004, after an appeals court said the FCC failed to sufficiently justify them. After getting ahold of the two suppressed reports, California Sen. Barbara Boxer blasted the FCC for "destroying every piece of a document they didn't like." The FCC's inspector general is investigating.
Further reading: "Indecency Wars"; "Last Stop Before the Media Monopoly"
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Republican Hypocrisy, in All Its Naked Glory
The scandal: Former Florida congressman Mark Foley's sexually predatory instant-message and e-mail exchanges with underage congressional pages were exposed by ABC News in late September. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert first claimed to have learned of Foley's behavior only after the story broke -- but later admitted that he had "no reason to dispute" statements by other Republican congressmen that they'd informed Hastert about the Foley problem beginning nearly a year before.
The problem: Could there be anything that strips bare Republican sanctimony more than this story? Foley was in charge of the Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus in the House, for God's sake. The notion that the Republican leadership had no clue about his behavior looked laughable within hours of the initial news. In the words of one former page Foley had in his online sights: "sick sick sick sick sick."
The outcome: Foley resigned the day the story broke, then ducked into alcohol rehab and had his lawyer announce that he was molested by a priest as a youth. ("I'm a victim, not a perp, see?") The House Ethics Committee and the FBI are conducting separate probes. Hastert has refused to resign, with Bush backing him up. Meanwhile, there's little more than a fig leaf left to cover up the truth about the hard-line antigay wing of the GOP. On Friday, another figurehead of antigay politics was exposed: Evangelical heavyweight and anti-gay marriage campaigner Rev. Ted Haggard admitted to receiving massages and buying crystal meth from a gay prostitute. He resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals, though he denied the prostitute's claims that the two partook in a drug-laced sexual affair for the last three years.
Further reading: "The GOP's Dwindling Anti-gay Parade"; "The Glass Closet"; "Paging the Ethics Committee"; "Foley's Angels"; "It's the Coverup, Stupid"
Anyway, for prosperity:
According to Kerry he intended to critique President Bush:
Do you know where you end up if you don't study, if you aren't smart, if you're intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq.
But what he said was:
You know education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
You may have seen the New York Times story about recently declassified Iraqi documents that the Bush Administration put on a Web site as a result of pressure from Congressional Republicans, including Rick Santorum. It turns out some of those hastily declassified documents contained information about nuclear research that basically laid out how to create a nuclear bomb.Link.
In light of those facts, we thought you might like to see the video of Rick's announcement of the web site, in which he takes credit for getting the documents made public and says he's not concerned that any of the information is sensitive, even though he admits to having "no idea" what's contained in the documents. Brilliant! Here's the video (partial transcript below).
[S]hould lightning strike and Dems take over, what will happen to those DC worthies whose career has been based on fellating the Republican power structure?Link.
Josh asks rhetorically even though I'm certain he knows the answer; apparently he's ben under the weather.
But the answer to the obvious is this:
Those such as lobbyists will keep getting the big bucks. Appointees who lose jibs will be taken care of. Pundits will keep spewing the same old crap while of course dodging how they got it wrong.
Assuming of course the ruling party fails to hold on to power, if you know what I mean....
But then there's always schadenfreude. And it's great watching these guys sweat -- it's about the best we'll ever see. God knows there will be no punishment for them, the monied rightist establishment will make sure they're well taken care -- they're just doing their jobs....
Vanity Fair Exclusive:Link.
Now They Tell Us Neo Culpa
As Iraq slips further into chaos, the war's neoconservative boosters have turned sharply on the Bush administration, charging that their grand designs have been undermined by White House incompetence. In a series of exclusive interviews, Richard Perle, Kenneth Adelman, David Frum, and others play the blame game with shocking frankness. Target No. 1: the president himself.
by David Rose VF.COM November 3, 2006
I remember sitting with Richard Perle in his suite at London's Grosvenor House hotel and receiving a private lecture on the importance of securing victory in Iraq. "Iraq is a very good candidate for democratic reform," he said. "It won't be Westminster overnight, but the great democracies of the world didn't achieve the full, rich structure of democratic governance overnight. The Iraqis have a decent chance of succeeding." Perle seemed to exude the scent of liberation, as well as a whiff of gunpowder. It was February 2003, and Operation Iraqi Freedom, the culmination of his long campaign on behalf of regime change in Iraq, was less than a month away.
Three years later, Perle and I meet again at his home outside Washington, D.C. It is October, the worst month for U.S. casualties in Iraq in almost two years, and Republicans are bracing for losses in the upcoming midterm elections. As he looks into my eyes, speaking slowly and with obvious deliberation, Perle is unrecognizable as the confident hawk who, as chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee, had invited the exiled Iraqi dissident Ahmad Chalabi to its first meeting after 9/11. "The levels of brutality that we've seen are truly horrifying, and I have to say, I underestimated the depravity," Perle says now, adding that total defeat—an American withdrawal that leaves Iraq as an anarchic "failed state"—is not yet inevitable but is becoming more likely. "And then," says Perle, "you'll get all the mayhem that the world is capable of creating."
According to Perle, who left the Defense Policy Board in 2004, this unfolding catastrophe has a central cause: devastating dysfunction within the administration of President George W. Bush. Perle says, "The decisions did not get made that should have been. They didn't get made in a timely fashion, and the differences were argued out endlessly.… At the end of the day, you have to hold the president responsible.… I don't think he realized the extent of the opposition within his own administration, and the disloyalty."
Perle goes so far as to say that, if he had his time over, he would not have advocated an invasion of Iraq: "I think if I had been delphic, and had seen where we are today, and people had said, 'Should we go into Iraq?,' I think now I probably would have said, 'No, let's consider other strategies for dealing with the thing that concerns us most, which is Saddam supplying weapons of mass destruction to terrorists.' … I don't say that because I no longer believe that Saddam had the capability to produce weapons of mass destruction, or that he was not in contact with terrorists. I believe those two premises were both correct. Could we have managed that threat by means other than a direct military intervention? Well, maybe we could have."
Having spoken with Perle, I wonder: What do the rest of the pro-war neoconservatives think? If the much caricatured "Prince of Darkness" is now plagued with doubt, how do his comrades-in-arms feel? I am particularly interested in finding out because I interviewed many neocons before the invasion and, like many people, found much to admire in their vision of spreading democracy in the Middle East.
I expect to encounter disappointment. What I find instead is despair, and fury at the incompetence of the Bush administration the neoconservatives once saw as their brightest hope.
To David Frum, the former White House speechwriter who co-wrote Bush's 2002 State of the Union address that accused Iraq of being part of an "axis of evil," it now looks as if defeat may be inescapable, because "the insurgency has proven it can kill anyone who cooperates, and the United States and its friends have failed to prove that it can protect them." This situation, he says, must ultimately be blamed on "failure at the center"—starting with President Bush.
Kenneth Adelman, a lifelong neocon activist and Pentagon insider who served on the Defense Policy Board until 2005, wrote a famous op-ed article in The Washington Post in February 2002, arguing: "I believe demolishing Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk." Now he says, "I just presumed that what I considered to be the most competent national-security team since Truman was indeed going to be competent. They turned out to be among the most incompetent teams in the post-war era. Not only did each of them, individually, have enormous flaws, but together they were deadly, dysfunctional."
Fearing that worse is still to come, Adelman believes that neoconservatism itself—what he defines as "the idea of a tough foreign policy on behalf of morality, the idea of using our power for moral good in the world"—is dead, at least for a generation. After Iraq, he says, "it's not going to sell." And if he, too, had his time over, Adelman says, "I would write an article that would be skeptical over whether there would be a performance that would be good enough to implement our policy. The policy can be absolutely right, and noble, beneficial, but if you can't execute it, it's useless, just useless. I guess that's what I would have said: that Bush's arguments are absolutely right, but you know what, you just have to put them in the drawer marked can't do. And that's very different from let's go."
I spend the better part of two weeks in conversations with some of the most respected voices among the neoconservative elite. What I discover is that none of them is optimistic. All of them have regrets, not only about what has happened but also, in many cases, about the roles they played. Their dismay extends beyond the tactical issues of whether America did right or wrong, to the underlying question of whether exporting democracy is something America knows how to do.
I will present my findings in full in the January issue of Vanity Fair, which will reach newsstands in New York and L.A. on December 6 and nationally by December 12. In the meantime, here is a brief survey of some of what I heard from the war's remorseful proponents.
Richard Perle: "In the administration that I served [Perle was an assistant secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan], there was a one-sentence description of the decision-making process when consensus could not be reached among disputatious departments: 'The president makes the decision.' [Bush] did not make decisions, in part because the machinery of government that he nominally ran was actually running him. The National Security Council was not serving [Bush] properly. He regarded [then National-Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice] as part of the family."
Michael Ledeen, American Enterprise Institute freedom scholar: "Ask yourself who the most powerful people in the White House are. They are women who are in love with the president: Laura [Bush], Condi, Harriet Miers, and Karen Hughes."
Frank Gaffney, an assistant secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan and founder of the Center for Security Policy: "[Bush] doesn't in fact seem to be a man of principle who's steadfastly pursuing what he thinks is the right course. He talks about it, but the policy doesn't track with the rhetoric, and that's what creates the incoherence that causes us problems around the world and at home. It also creates the sense that you can take him on with impunity."
Kenneth Adelman: "The most dispiriting and awful moment of the whole administration was the day that Bush gave the Presidential Medal of Freedom to [former C.I.A. director] George Tenet, General Tommy Franks, and [Coalition Provisional Authority chief] Jerry [Paul] Bremer—three of the most incompetent people who've ever served in such key spots. And they get the highest civilian honor a president can bestow on anyone! That was the day I checked out of this administration. It was then I thought, There's no seriousness here, these are not serious people. If he had been serious, the president would have realized that those three are each directly responsible for the disaster of Iraq."
David Frum: "I always believed as a speechwriter that if you could persuade the president to commit himself to certain words, he would feel himself committed to the ideas that underlay those words. And the big shock to me has been that although the president said the words, he just did not absorb the ideas. And that is the root of, maybe, everything."
Michael Rubin, former Pentagon Office of Special Plans and Coalition Provisional Authority staffer: "Where I most blame George Bush is that through his rhetoric people trusted him, people believed him. Reformists came out of the woodwork and exposed themselves." By failing to match his rhetoric with action, Rubin adds, Bush has betrayed Iraqi reformers in a way that is "not much different from what his father did on February 15, 1991, when he called the Iraqi people to rise up, and then had second thoughts and didn't do anything once they did."
Richard Perle: "Huge mistakes were made, and I want to be very clear on this: They were not made by neoconservatives, who had almost no voice in what happened, and certainly almost no voice in what happened after the downfall of the regime in Baghdad. I'm getting damn tired of being described as an architect of the war. I was in favor of bringing down Saddam. Nobody said, 'Go design the campaign to do that.' I had no responsibility for that."
Kenneth Adelman: "The problem here is not a selling job. The problem is a performance job.… Rumsfeld has said that the war could never be lost in Iraq, it could only be lost in Washington. I don't think that's true at all. We're losing in Iraq.… I've worked with [Rumsfeld] three times in my life. I've been to each of his houses, in Chicago, Taos, Santa Fe, Santo Domingo, and Las Vegas. I'm very, very fond of him, but I'm crushed by his performance. Did he change, or were we wrong in the past? Or is it that he was never really challenged before? I don't know. He certainly fooled me."
Eliot Cohen, director of the strategic-studies program at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and member of the Defense Policy Board: "I wouldn't be surprised if what we end up drifting toward is some sort of withdrawal on some sort of timetable and leaving the place in a pretty ghastly mess.… I do think it's going to end up encouraging various strands of Islamism, both Shia and Sunni, and probably will bring de-stabilization of some regimes of a more traditional kind, which already have their problems.… The best news is that the United States remains a healthy, vibrant, vigorous society. So in a real pinch, we can still pull ourselves together. Unfortunately, it will probably take another big hit. And a very different quality of leadership. Maybe we'll get it."