The delirium in the press at Tim Russert's passing has been strange. As a broadcaster he was not much better than average, which is saying very little. He could be a sharp questioner, but not when it really counted and when courage was required. He was tough with George Bush in a February 2004 interview. He taxed him with faking the reasons to attack Iraq. But in the years before the 2003 attack, I used to hear Russert being merciless to those questioning whether Saddam Hussein had the nukes and bioweapons alleged by the Bush Administration and its co-conspirators in the press, prominent among them Russert himself.Link.
Russert and his staff ignored efforts by watchdogs like Sam Husseini and others to get him to stop telling lies to the effect that it was Saddam who threw out the UNSCOM weapons inspectors, whereas it was Richard Butler, the head of UNSCOM, who pulled out the inspectors, apparently at the instigation of the United States. As Husseini correctly writes, "This lie, echoed through much of the political-media system around the time Russert told it, helped set the stage for the invasion after 9/11."
If Russert had rocked the boat in any serious way he'd have had more enemies. The right-wingers didn't care for Walter Cronkite, but they had no problem with Russert. Rush Limbaugh nuzzled him respectfully on the air, and so did Don Imus. Russert was always there with his watering can to fertilize myths useful to the system. On Russert's memorial show Ronald Reagan glowed in memory, up there with FDR as the twentieth century's best-loved and most popular American President. Not true at all, as Russert--trained to read polls by years of working for Mario Cuomo and Daniel Patrick Moynihan--could have found out in five minutes if he'd wanted to. Reagan had a scrawny 52 percent average approval rating for his presidency, worse than JFK, LBJ, Eisenhower, Roosevelt and Johnson. His supposed "likability" was also hugely exaggerated. But the invention of RR as the toast of the ordinary folk was necessary to validate the disgusting pigout for the very rich he inaugurated, which continues to this day.
Similarly necessary has been the notion that if it means winning the "war on terror," ordinary Americans are OK with the President (along with the US Congress) making a bonfire of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Russert helped spread that lie too, even though polls dissected in numerous accounts by press watchdogs like FAIR have shown that a narrow majority of Americans hold contrary views on the matter.
Russert spent many years working for Moynihan, who played the greasiest cards in the political deck, whoring for the Israel lobby, race-baiting for Nixon. Few were more zealous than Russert in shredding anyone with the temerity to criticize Israel. Obama, now shuffling Moynihan's greasy deck with his Father's Day sermon about black responsibility, got a dose of Russert's own race-baiting earlier this year, with a ridiculous volley of questions about Farrakhan and Wright in the February 26 debate. Any white telly pundit can make hay with Farrakhan, but when it came to high gasoline prices Russert was meek as a shoeshine boy on his show, lining up the oil execs and tugging his forelock.
After Russert's death the TV played over and over the clip of his interview with Dick Cheney, where the latter said US troops will be greeted as liberators. Russert didn't say, "What do you mean, Mr. VP? People historically despise occupying armies. Bombing historically does not win people to your side." It was a softball moment for Cheney. Russert was part of the amen chorus.
Now, after his death, in congratulating Russert, his eulogists in the press get to congratulate themselves. On Hardball, Chris Matthews decided to have a show much like the one he always has, stacked with Irish Catholic men. This time it was more self-conscious, but the self-consciousness of it only underscored the incredible skewed reality that the show presents day in and day out.
Matthews began with a prayer. "Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with Thee. [Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.]" Then he introduced guys who are on his show all the time, Mike Barnicle and Pat Buchanan. And the three of them had a kind of Irish wake on the air, laughing, remembering, talking about the importance of parochial school and the values imbued in Tim and all of them by the nuns. On and on they went, about Catholicism and the Irish, and the special quality of Irish Catholics as "truth tellers," as people who "get the bad guys"--prosecutors, G-men and journalists. Russert was put right up there in the pantheon of FBI agents, without irony, people who delve for the truth, for the light, for the greater good against the "bad guys." Matthews used that phrase, "bad guys," over and over. Then he closed the segment with the other half of the prayer: "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death."
Russert, they said, was the guy who always did it better. So it was as if the closing prayer put Tim right there by the side of Mary, an interlocutor to God for the lesser lights, the Chrises and Pats and Mikes, the "sinners" who only strive to be like him.
The TV carried live shots of Russert lying in state, and the mourners could pass by and merely touch the edge of his coffin for a cure, or hope for a cure. This after seven years of craven, culpable journalism across the mainstream board. No one at this point is remembering the reporters at Knight Ridder, who were among the few in the mainstream pre-war to hammer away at the WMD argument. Russert's colleague-survivors need him as a saint.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
This is very strange... something a saint doesn't do, let alone for fifteen years....
That may be true, but this week, the real Russert scoop belongs to Novak. His Tim was a bit of a devil. His "skill" at opposition research "propelled him to the top ranks of television interviewers." Russert's long service as an anonymous source to Novak, aka the prince of darkness, requires further explanation.The long version is here.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Stephen Colbert spoke Wednesday about John McCain's habit of referring to Islamic extremism as a "transcendental challenge" or "transcendental threat," suggesting that McCain is using the word "transcendental" as a method for "distinguishing himself from President Bush."Link.
"To prove that he's his own man," Colbert explained, "John McCain has his own word to describe America's ongoing conflicts." Unfortunately, however, "it's not entirely clear what he's trying to say."
"Does he mean transcendent, which according to Webster's means 'exceeding usual limits'?" Colbert wondered. "Because the war has certainly exceeded the time limit."
"Or is he intentionally using the word 'transcendental,' which is defined by Webster's as 'of or relating to experience as determined by the mind's makeup.' In which case he's saying the war on terror is all in our heads."
"John McCain needs to come up with a new word," Colbert suggested. "So Senator, let me help you. From now, keeping our troops in the Middle East isn't just necessary to win the war. It's downright Iraq-rosanct."
"Holding people indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay is Divine Inter-Detention."
"And secretly sending prisoners to other countries where torture is legal is no longer extraordinary rendition, it's called Offshore Drilling."
"I hope those help," Colbert concluded, "because using language to turn failed policies into ideals that transcend debate is the best way to get people to think of you as Transcen-Presidential."
I wondered whether a more rounded, as it were, assessment of Timmeh would ever appear....
Short version: He was just another &*^%ing water carrier.
FAIR (little surprise) has it:
Short version: He was just another &*^%ing water carrier.
FAIR (little surprise) has it:
And Russert's tenacious interviewing style would alternate with a much more deferential one--depending on who was being interviewed. Surprisingly, some of Russert's journalistic colleagues praised him for being tough on the Bush administration over the Iraq War. CBS Evening News correspondent Anthony Mason said (6/13/08), "In 2003, as the United States prepared to go to war in Iraq, Russert pressed Vice President Dick Cheney about White House assumptions."Bottom line: The White House always lied with the most awful repercussions -- and Timmeh treated this with kid gloves. Dead or alive: inexcusable.
In reality, Meet the Press was the venue for some of the White House's most audacious lies about the Iraq War--most of which went unchallenged by Russert. On the morning that the New York Times published a front-page article falsely touting the now-famous "aluminum tubes" as components of an alleged Iraqi nuclear weapons program, Vice President Dick Cheney appeared on Meet the Press (9/8/02), where Russert pursued open-ended questions that seemed to invite spin from the vice president on Iraqi nuclear weapons.
Recalling such softball questioning, it's easy to believe the advice that Cheney press aide Cathie Martin says she gave when the Bush administration had to respond to charges that it manipulated pre-Iraq War intelligence: "I suggested we put the vice president on Meet the Press, which was a tactic we often used," she said (Salon, 1/26/07). "It's our best format."
In Bill Moyers' documentary "Buying the War" (PBS, 4/25/07), Russert expressed the wish that dissenting sources would have contacted him: "My concern was, is that there were concerns expressed by other government officials. And to this day, I wish my phone had rung, or I had access to them." Of course, any journalist could have found such sources--and certainly few critics of the war would have passed up an opportunity to air their views on such a prominent media platform.
As David Folkenflik pointed out in the Baltimore Sun (5/19/04), Russert seemed to think the media were merely following public opinion in the run up to the war:"I don't think the public was, at that time, particularly receptive to hearing it," Russert says. "Back in October of 2002, when there was a debate in Congress about the war in Iraq--three-fourths of both houses of Congress voted with the president to go. Those in favor were so dominant. We don't make up the facts. We cover the facts as they were."Folkenflik commented:Russert's remarks would suggest a form of journalism that does not raise the insolent question from outside polite political discourse--so, if an administration's political foes aren't making an opposing case, it's unlikely to get made. In the words of one of my former editors, journalists can read the polls just like anybody else.Indeed, the reticence to actually render judgment on those in power--particularly the Bush White House--was what many critics found so frustrating, especially coming from someone who enjoyed a reputation as a dogged interviewer. When author and comedian Al Franken appeared on Russert's CNBC show on April 1, 2006, the two got into a disagreement about the White House's oft-repeated claim that Congress had access to the same intelligence about Iraq's WMDs as the White House. Franken's point was that the president receives a daily briefing that Congress does not receive, so the claim is false. As Franken put it, "So what the president's saying isn't true, isn't that right, Tim?" Russert would only say, "I'll leave that for you to make a judgment."
Russert was not always so restrained about making judgments. He made a strange observation about Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry on October 31, 2004:But is it inconsistent for John Kerry to be criticizing the missing weapons of mass destruction when, if he had been president of the United States, Saddam may be in power with all those potential biological, chemical weapons or munitions, however you want to describe them?It's not clear what Russert meant, since Iraq did not have such weapons.
In some of the presidential debates he moderated, Russert often gravitated towards questions that were either irrelevant or framed from a right-wing political view. In one debate (9/26/07), he challenged the Democratic contenders to match Rudolph Giuliani's pledge that he would not permit Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. When Barack Obama suggested that talking about attacking Iran was "irresponsible," Russert responded: "So you would not offer a promise to the American people, like Giuliani, that Iran will not be able to develop and become a nuclear power?"
In the same debate, he asked Hillary Clinton if she would support an Israeli attack on Iran. When Clinton suggested this was a hypothetical, Russert interrupted with a curious non-sequitor: "It's not a hypothetical, Senator. It's real life." At a later debate (2/26/08), Russert asked Clinton about her proposal to withdraw troops from Iraq: "If this scenario plays out and the Americans get out in total and Al-Qaeda resurges and Iraq goes to hell, do you hold the right, in your mind, as American president, to re-invade, to go back into Iraq to stabilize it?" When Clinton responded by saying, "You know, Tim, you ask a lot of hypotheticals," Russert interrupted: "But this is reality."
One of Russert's signature issues was the so-called Social Security "crisis," a line he pushed relentlessly over the last decade or so. NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell credited Russert (6/15/08) for bringing the issue to prominence by "defining what is the political issue. Nobody talked about entitlements. Nobody talked about Social Security and Medicare and balancing budgets on television on Sunday morning until Tim, with the facts and the experience that he had learned at the feet of Daniel Patrick Moynihan of the Finance Committee of the Senate."
As moderator of two of the Democratic debates (9/26/07, 10/30/07), Russert was particularly aggressive in questioning the candidates about Social Security's finances. In a November 5, 2007 MSNBC appearance discussing the debates, Russert said, "Everyone knows Social Security, as it's constructed, is not going to be in the same place it's going to be for the next generation--Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives."
Actually, as many economists have pointed out, the Social Security Administration projects that it will be able to pay full benefits to retirees for almost the next three decades. And just a few weeks before Russert made his statement, he interviewed former Federal Reserve chair Alan Greenspan (9/23/07). When Russert asked him "how big a crisis" the country faced in paying for Social Security and Medicare, Greenspan told him: "Social Security is not a big crisis. We're approximately 2 percentage points of payroll short over the very long run. It's a significant closing of the gap, but it's doable, and doable in any number of ways."
Despite the perception that Russert excelled at holding the powerful to account, in reality Russert was among the most powerful members of the political-journalistic establishment in Washington. His insider status was reinforced during the trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, when Russert was forced to testify about his contacts with high-level Bush administration figures and discussions about Valerie Plame Wilson and Joe Wilson.
As Tim Rutten wrote in one of the few critical commentaries about Russert (L.A. Times, 6/14/08), "Like former New York Times reporter Judith Miller, Russert was one of the high-level Washington journalists who came out of the Libby trial looking worse than shabby." Rutten recounted that while Russert and NBC had publicly argued that these conversations were journalistic privilege, "it emerged under examination, however, Russert already had sung like a choirboy to the FBI concerning his conversation with Libby--and had so voluntarily from the first moment the Feds contacted him. All the litigation was for the sake of image and because the journalistic conventions required it."
Russert was, by almost every account, a warm and compassionate friend and mentor to many reporters, at NBC and elsewhere. The real question for citizens, though, is whether Russert performed as an aggressive and independent watchdog. Even some of his admirers explained that this was not the point. The Washington Post's David Broder explained (6/14/08), "His questioning was completely efficient but never officious. Both the viewers and the guests could tell he really liked the newsmakers he was interviewing."
"He respected politicians," right-wing pundit Mary Matalin explained (Meet the Press, 6/15/08). "He knew that they got blamed for everything, got credit for nothing. He knew how much they meant. He never treated them with the cynicism that attends some of these interviews. So they had a place to be loved. "
ABC's Sam Donaldson weighed in with one of the most revealing comments (This Week, 6/15/08): "He understood as well as anyone, maybe better than almost anyone, that the reason political reporters are there is not to speak truth to power. Today's truth is tomorrow's falsity. But to make those who say we have the truth-- the politicians--explain it. Defend it, explain to the American public where they're going and not pull your punches."
Asked about the failure to more aggressively challenge the White House on Iraq, Russert once explained (3/21/06):Well, you know, there's really no alternative. There are a lot of people on the far right or the far left who want someone in my situation to yell and scream or lean over and choke somebody or slap them around and a lot of histrionics, but you really don't achieve anything because you make your guest immediately sympathetic, and I much prefer just to try to steady as you go, draw people out.He added that the White House claims:were judgments, and there was no way at that time to say, 'You're wrong. How could you possibly say that? You're lying.' That's just not the style of Meet The Press, nor I think the style of good journalism, but we now have a permanent record as to the judgments believed by the Bush administration going into the war and you can look at them three years later and decide whether they were correct or not.In fact, there are journalists who examine the claims made by politicians at the time that they make them, and some of them were doing just that with the assertions Bush administration officials used to justify the invasion of Iraq (Extra!, 3-4/06). Had a journalist with the prominence of Tim Russert done so, it's possible that the debate could have had an entirely different outcome.
O, via War Room:
[T]he fact that I want to abide by the United States Constitution, [the McCain campaign says], shows that I have a "pre-9/11 mindset."
Well, I refuse to be lectured on national security by people who are responsible for the most disastrous set of foreign policy decisions in the recent history of the United States. The other side likes to use 9/11 as a political bludgeon. Well, let's talk about 9/11.
The people who were responsible for murdering 3,000 Americans on 9/11 have not been brought to justice. They are Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda and their sponsors -- the Taliban. They were in Afghanistan. And yet George Bush and John McCain decided in 2002 that we should take our eye off of Afghanistan so that we could invade and occupy a country that had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11. The case for war in Iraq was so thin that George Bush and John McCain had to hype the threat of Saddam Hussein, and make false promises that we'd be greeted as liberators. They misled the American people, and took us into a misguided war.
Here are the results of their policy: Osama bin Laden and his top leadership -- the people who murdered 3000 Americans -- have a safe-haven in northwest Pakistan, where they operate with such freedom of action that they can still put out hate-filled audiotapes to the outside world. That's the result of the Bush-McCain approach to the war on terrorism.
This means that McCain will receive more than $80 million in public money, which is collected in $3 increments from taxpayers who choose to contribute. But it also means he has to abide by spending limits that will put his campaign at a distinct disadvantage financially when placed up against the fundraising behemoth that has been Barack Obama's campaign.[more]
McCain did opt out of the public financing system for the primaries after early victories helped him raise money and fill what had been empty coffers. As Salon's Mike Madden detailed in this space on Tuesday, Democrats aren't happy about that decision. They allege that in taking a loan partially secured by a pledge to accept federal funding if it became necessary to do so, he essentially opted in. Spending limits come with such a decision, and McCain has spent more than allowed under those limits. This, Democrats say, means McCain is breaking the law.
You know it's not just because of the run up in oil prices; it's way more than that.
Keith Olbermann delivered a special report Wednesday on the "Enron loophole" -- a regulatory gap that is the single greatest cause of out-of-control gasoline prices -- and how McCain's leading advisors created that loophole and continue to defend it.Link.
People who deal in oil routinely use "futures" -- agreements in advance on prices and delivery dates -- to deal with fluctuations in the market. However, deregulation has allowed commodity speculators to take over this system of futures and use it for their own profit, running up the price of oil in a speculative bubble.
According to Olbermann, the story of $4 a gallon gas begins during the presidency of George H.W. Bush, when former Enron CEO Ken Lay started speculating on energy futures. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) gave Enron free rein, and when Bill Clinton was elected in 1992, CFTC Chairwoman Wendy Gramm moved to lock in the commission's informal position on Enron as official policy. Gramm then joined Enron's board of directors, earning more than $900,000 over the next decade.
In December 2000, during the chaos following the presidential election, Enron got a law passed containing an amendment known as the "Enron loophole," deregulating not just single trades but entire markets. This made it possible for Enron to artificially create the California energy crisis -- and left Enron employees chortling over how they had fucked over "Grandma Millie."
The Enron loophole applied not just to electricity, but to all energy sources, which is why speculators have now been able to take over the oil market. Two weeks ago, the Senate Commerce Committee heard testimony from a former CFTC director that "the speculators are not just placing bets in these futures markets, they're saying, 'Gosh, I can control the price of heating oil.' ... Morgan Stanley is the biggest heating oil owner in New England."
If the Enron loophole is removed, said this director, "you get at least a 25% drop in the cost of oil ... some people estimate 50%."
John McCain voted to close the Enron loophole in 2002 and 2003, saying at the time that "we're all tainted" by Enron's money. But, notes Olbermann, "for most of this campaign, McCain has offered explanations other than the influence of speculators, and remedies other than regulation." If the Enron loophole is not closed, even alternative energy sources will do little to reduce prices, because speculators will be able to immediately take those over as well.
"John McCain doesn't talk about the Enron loophole any more," reports Olbermann. "What changed? Since 2006, John McCain's top economic advisor has been former Texas Senator Phil Gramm, husband of the former CFTC head who then joined Enron."
"It was Graham who passed the Enron loophole ... with no hearings, no debate," Olberman emphasizes. "It was Graham who stopped Democrats from closing the Enron loophole. ... Graham lobbied Congress about commodity trading rules in 2006."
In addition, McCain's senior advisor, Charlie Black, was a lobbyist for the act containing the Enron loophole in 2000, and McCain's finance co-chair, Wayne Berman, has lobbied more recently against legislation to prevent price gouging.
Olbermann acknowledges that McCain is now saying, "We must reforms the laws and regulations governing the oil futures market." However, McCain has not yet specifically mentioned the Enron loophole, and he still has Gramm and Berman and Black running his campaign and writing his economic policies[.]
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Bush Says He Still Believes Iraq War Was The Fun Thing To DoLink.
Iraq War: 5 Years Later
APRIL 9, 2008
Onion News Network:
FEBRUARY 27, 2008
WASHINGTON—Despite harsh criticism from both sides of the political aisle, the U.S. populace, and former members of his own administration, President Bush once again defended his 2003 decision to invade Iraq, saying that, in the end, it was the fun thing to do.
Bush asserts that the fight for freedom in Iraq is a blast.
"On Sept. 11, 2001, we as a nation faced a difficult decision, an important decision, a decision between what was fun and what was wrong," Bush said during a speech before Pentagon officials Wednesday. "We could have backed down and allowed the terrorists to win. But instead, we stood up to the challenge before us, and we said, 'Bring it on—bring the good times on!'"
"Mark my words," Bush continued. "When the dust settles and the smoke clears, history will look back on the Iraq War as a total blast."
Throughout his speech, Bush remained unapologetic about his commitment to the ongoing mission to live it up in Iraq, repeatedly saying that sacrifices had to be made to ensure the most pleasurable course of action. The president also stated that he would not succumb to those who had pressured him to set a date for withdrawal, insisting that U.S. troops would remain in the region for as long as his administration was enjoying itself.
An Iraqi family trips the light fantastic in Basra.
"Withdrawing from Iraq when we're all having such a fantastic time would only serve to empower those intent on spoiling our fun," Bush said. "And I have to say, right now, we're having a ball."
Bush went on to defend his decision to remove troops from Afghanistan and "bring the party" to Iraq. He maintained that while policing the region wasn't "a bore or anything" it wasn't all that entertaining, either. Furthermore, the president said that had the United States not shifted its focus away from Afghanistan, military forces never would have had the opportunity to kick up their heels in Iraqi cities such as Basra, Baghdad, and Tikrit.
"Tell me 'Shock and Awe' wasn't an absolute riot," a visibly confident Bush said.
Bush maintained that he had no regrets about invading Iraq, and that all he needed to do to know he made the right decision was look at the smiling, happy faces of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Vice President Dick Cheney, and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Following the president's speech, Rice herself lashed out against critics of the war, painting them as "real downers" who wouldn't know how to let their hair down and have fun if their lives depended on it.
"I urge those who have grown tired of this war to lighten up and live a little," Rice said on CBS Evening News, adding that Bush had furthered his commitment to having a rip-roaring time in Iraq with a recent troop surge. "What detractors of this war don't understand is that when it comes to fighting terrorism, there's no harm in letting loose and painting the town red."
While Rice admitted that the Bush Administration could have better planned its exit strategy and more fully equipped troops to deal with the Sunni insurgency, she questioned how much fun that ultimately would have been for U.S. troops.
"The best times are had when there's no preparation in place. When everything is loud and spontaneous and you just throw caution to the wind," Rice said. "Sure, we might have been able to prevent a massive civil war had we taken a few precautions—but come on, where's the joy in that?"
Bush, who claimed he could see America having a great time in Iraq for decades to come, and called the war in the Middle East the most fun the nation has had since Vietnam, agreed with Rice.
Said Bush, "Frankly, if we're not going to enjoy it, why even invade Iraq in the first place?"
"I was telling kids - download it illegally, I don't care. I want you to hear my music so I can play live."
Asked whether he was worried about illegal downloading, he replied: "I don't agree with it. I think we should level the playing field. I don't mind people stealing my music, that's fine. But I think they should steal everything.
"You know how much money the oil companies have? If you need some gas, just go fill your tank off and drive off, they're not going to miss it."
A child porn possession charge lodged against a Department of Industrial Accidents investigator fired for having smut on his state-issued laptop has been dismissed because experts concluded he was unwittingly spammed.[more]
Loehrs, who spent a month dissecting the computer for the defense, explained in a 30-page report that the laptop was running corrupted virus-protection software, and Fiola was hit by spammers and crackers bombarding its memory with images of incest and pre-teen porn not visible to the naked eye.
Biden on Rudy:
It’s no surprise that it takes a man with zero national security and foreign policy experience to defend the policies of John McCain and President Bush..Moads more here.
The facts are that the policies President Bush has pursued and Senator McCain would continue, have not made us safer. We’re bogged down in Iraq with no end in sight and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan – the people who actually attacked us on 9/11 – have regrouped and are plotting new attacks. In fact, terrorist attacks around the world have increased since 9-11
Although he’s been absent from the public eye for the last few months, Rudy Giuliani’s 9/11 schtick hasn’t rusted.
The former New York mayor with zero foreign policy experience has emerged this week as Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s leading terrorism surrogate, viciously attacking Barack Obama’s ability to lead the nation in a time of crisis.
Obama’s campaign and the Democratic Party are not taking the attacks lying down. After a 2004 campaign that saw the GOP machine undercut the service of a war veteran and scare voters into believe Democrats would surrender to al Qaeda, they are hitting back with a vengeance.
“Democrats are not going to be lectured to on security by the mayor who failed to learn the lessons of the 1993 attacks, refused to prepare his own city’s first responders for the next attack, urged President Bush to put his corrupt crony in charge of our homeland security, and was too busy lobbying for his foreign clients to join the Iraq Study Group,” Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Karen Finney said in a statement. “Rudy Giuliani, can echo the McCain campaign’s false and misleading attacks, but he can’t change the fact that John McCain is promising four more years of President Bush’s flawed and failed policies on everything from energy security and the economy to the war in Iraq.”
In an Obama campaign conference call, foreign policy adviser Susan Rice accused the McCain campaign of peddling “a series of dishonest distortions straight out of Karl Rove’s playbook,” to divert attention from a foreign policies “that has left us dramatically less safe.
“They don’t want to talk about the fact that we had [al Qaeda leader Osama] bin Laden and a number of his lieutenants … at Tora Bora and they escaped,” Rice said, referring to a botched mission early in the war on terror.
Giuliani unveiled his first salvo against Obama Tuesday with an e-mail sent on McCain’s behalf accusing Democrats of wanting to “take a step back” to treating terrorism solely as a law enforcement matter. He reiterated the argument on a McCain campaign conference call Wednesday.
McCain’s campaign is making an issue of their disagreement with a Supreme Court decision granting detainees held at Guantanamo Bay the right to challenge their detention in the legal system. Obama has praised the decision, and his campaign notes that the US has lawfully prosecuted scores of terrorists, such as those now serving time for plotting the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
A former federal prosecutor, Giuliani’s position as lead McCain attack dog essentially puts him in the position of arguing against the effectiveness of his previous job. The Obama campaign was happy to point out this contradiction in an e-mail to reporters after the call Wednesday, with the subject line Giuliani v Giuliani: 1993 World Trade Center Bombing Case:Giuliani: Most Experts on Terrorism Would Say the Way 1993 World Trade Center Bombing Case Was Handled Was a “Terrible Mistake.” Giuliani: “The real problem is [Obama] having said that in essence, the 1993 situation was really correctly handled by it’s being a criminal prosecution, and these people were incapacitated. The reality is that I think most experts on terrorism who are non-partisan would tell you that that was a terrible mistake in not recognizing the full dimension of what we were involved with.” [McCain campaign conference call, 6/19/08]“I guess he was for the law before he was against it,” Rice quipped.
Giuliani: Convictions In 1993 World Trade Center Bombing Case “Demonstrates That New Yorkers Won’t Meet Violence With Violence, But With A Far Greater Weapon — The Law.” “The convictions in the World Trade Center bombing trial elicited jubilation and relief throughout New York City yesterday, though there was also righteous anger among some Arabs. But many who were bruised by the traumatic event were certain that no verdict by a jury or punishment by a judge will exorcise the pain and terror that remain. … Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani declared that the verdict ‘demonstrates that New Yorkers won’t meet violence with violence, but with a far greater weapon — the law.’ [The New York Times, 3/5/94]
Also on Wednesday, the Obama campaign named members to a senior working group on national security issues. The working group includes: Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; Senator David Boren; former Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence; Secretary of State Warren Christopher; Greg Craig, former director of the State Department Office of Policy Planning; Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig; Former Rep. Lee Hamilton, former Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder; Dr. Tony Lake, former National Security Advisor; Former Sen. Sam Nunn, former Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee; Secretary of Defense William Perry; Dr. Susan Rice, former Assistant Secretary of State; Former Rep. Tim Roemer, 9/11 Commissioner; and Jim Steinberg, former Deputy National Security Advisor.
Giuliani tested out some of his lines of attack earlier Wednesday during an appearance on MSBNC’s Morning Joe. He tried to resurrect an attack launched by Hillary Clinton during the primary campaign, but he misstated the former first lady’s words.
“She used the words naive and irresponsible in describing the way in which he would like to react to terrorism,” Giuliani stated, wrongly. Clinton’s attack actually was based on Obama’s willingness to talk to leaders of rogue countries.
Chief CBS News foreign correspondent Lara Logan, who recently returned from Iraq, appeared on Tuesday’s Daily Show.Link and viddie.
“Do we know anything about what’s going on over there?” Jon Stewart asked.
“I don’t think we really do have very much of an idea,” Logan replied. “We have all these armchair academics who go over for one visit. See Laura Bush saying, ‘This is my third time in Afghanistan.’ She doesn’t mention that she was only there for a few seconds.”
The outspoken Logan — who has stated in the past that Americans have no idea how badly the war is going because of the suppression of pictures of American casualties — made no attempt to hide her contempt for American coverage of the Iraq and Afghan Wars.
“Do you watch the news that we’re watching in the United States?” Stewart asked. “Do you see what we’re hearing about the war?”
“No,” replied Logan. “If I were to watch the news that you hear in the United States, I’d just blow my brains out, because it would drive me nuts.”
Logan explained how difficult it is to get the network interested in her stories. “I’m on high-value target raids, taking down some of the most wanted Taliban fighters and al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan, and I’m told … ‘Unless it’s Osama bin Laden, who cares about — you know, Mullah bin Shagged, whatever?’”
When Logan told of waking in Iraq one day after 3 hours sleep and thinking, “Oh fuck, I’ve got to get up,” Stewart chided her. “I don’t allow that type of language on the program. … I don’t care that you’ve spent the last five years in a war zone. We have standards here.”
“Usually that’s a good way to break the ice,” responded Logan. “You get into a humvee with soldiers and they’re all on their best behavior, they’ve been told not to swear about you, and you say, ‘Yo, what’s up motherfuckers,’ and then it’s all done.”
“Are we just numb?” Stewart asked. “Have we lost our humanity with this entire situation?”
“Yeah, we have,” agreed Logan. “Nobody really understands. And the soldiers do feel forgotten. … We may be tired of hearing about this five years later. They still have to go out and do the same job. … More soldiers died in Afghanistan last month than Iraq. Who’s paying attention to that?”
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Mentally distressed veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are being recruited for government tests on pharmaceutical drugs linked to suicide and other violent side effects, an investigation by ABC News and The Washington Times has found.Link.
* * *
In one of the human experiments, involving the anti-smoking drug Chantix, Veterans Administration doctors waited more than three months before warning veterans about the possible serious side effects, including suicide and neuropsychiatric behavior.
"Lab rat, guinea pig, disposable hero," said former US Army sniper James Elliott in describing how he felt he was betrayed by the Veterans Administration.
Elliott, 38, of suburban Washington, D.C., was recruited, at $30 a month, for the Chantix anti-smoking study three years after being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He served a 15-month tour of duty in Iraq from 2003-2004.
Months after he began taking the drug, Elliott suffered a mental breakdown, experiencing a relapse of Iraq combat nightmares he blames on Chantix.
"They never told me that I was going to be suicidal, that I would cease sleeping. They never told me anything except this will help me quit smoking," Elliott told ABC News and The Washington Times.
On the night of February 5th, after consuming a few beers, Elliott says he "snapped" and left his home with a loaded gun.
His fiancee, Tammy, called police and warned, "He's extremely unstable. He has PTSD."
"Do you think that he is going to shoot or attack the police?" the 911 dispatcher asked.
"I can't be certain. I don't know," she said. (Click here to hear part of Tammy's 911 call.)
"He was operating as if he was back in theater, in combat theater," she told ABC News. "And of course, a soldier goes nowhere without a gun."
When police arrived, they found Elliott in the street, with the gun in the front pocket of his hooded sweatshirt.
"Are you going to shoot me? Shoot me," Elliott said, according to the police report. (Click here to see the police report.)
Police used a Taser gun to stun Elliott and placed him under arrest.
It wasn't until three weeks later that the Veterans Administration advised the veterans in the Chantix study that the drug may cause serious side effects, including "anxiety, nervousness, tension, depression, thoughts of suicide, and attempted and completed suicide."
The VA's letter to the veterans, on February 29, 2008, followed three warnings from the FDA and Chantix' maker Pfizer, that were issued on November 20, 2007, January 18, 2008 and February 1, 2008. (Click here to read the FDA warning and click here to read Pfizer's statement on Chantix.)
"How this study continued in the face of these difficulties is almost impossible to understand," said Arthur Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania.
Doctors at the Veterans Administration say they acted as quickly as they could.
"This didn't justify an emergency warning at that level," said Dr. Miles McFall, co-administrator of the VA study.
Dr. McFall said there is no proof that Elliott's breakdown was caused by Chantix and he sees no reason to discontinue the study. Some 140 veterans diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder continue to receive Chantix as part of a smoking cessation study.
Dr. McFall says the VA decided to continue the Chantix study because "it would be depriving our veterans of an effective method of treatment to help them stop smoking."
Caplan, one of the country's leading medical ethicists, said he was stunned by the VA's decision to continue the Chantix experiment.
"Why take the group most a risk and keep them going? That doesn't make any sense, once you know the risk is there," he said.
Chantix is one of the drugs being used in an estimated 25 clinical studies using veterans by the VA.
Pfizer maintains that "the benefits of Chantix outweigh the risks" and that it continues to do further studies on the drug.
The FAA has prohibited commercial airline pilots from using Chantix because of its possible side effects.
Thank God this isn't via the AP....
Gardez, Afghanistan - Mohammed Naim Farouq was a thug in the lawless Zormat district of eastern Afghanistan. He ran a kidnapping and extortion racket, and he controlled his turf with a band of gunmen who rode around in trucks with AK-47 rifles.Link.
U.S. troops detained him in 2002, although he had no clear ties to the Taliban or al Qaida.
By the time Farouq was released from Guantanamo the next year, however - after more than 12 months of what he described as abuse and humiliation at the hands of American soldiers - he'd made connections to high-level militants.
In fact, he'd become a Taliban leader. When the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency released a stack of 20 "most wanted" playing cards in 2006 identifying militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan - with Osama bin Laden at the top - Farouq was 16 cards into the deck.
A McClatchy investigation found that instead of confining terrorists, Guantanamo often produced more of them by rounding up common criminals, conscripts, low-level foot soldiers and men with no allegiance to radical Islam - thus inspiring a deep hatred of the United States in them - and then housing them in cells next to radical Islamists.
The radicals were quick to exploit the flaws in the U.S. detention system.
Soldiers, guards or interrogators at the U.S. bases at Bagram or Kandahar in Afghanistan had abused many of the detainees, and they arrived at Guantanamo enraged at America.
The Taliban and al Qaida leaders in the cells around them were ready to preach their firebrand interpretation of Islam and the need to wage jihad, Islamic holy war, against the West. Guantanamo became a school for jihad, complete with a council of elders who issued fatwas, binding religious instructions, to the other detainees.
Rear Adm. Mark H. Buzby, until recently the commanding officer at Guantanamo, acknowledged that senior militant leaders gained influence and control in his prison.
"We have that full range of (Taliban and al Qaida) leadership here, why would they not continue to be functional as an organization?" he said in a telephone interview. "I must make the assumption that there's a fully functional al Qaida cell here at Guantanamo."
Afghan and Pakistani officials also said they were aware that Guantanamo was churning out new militant leaders.
In a classified 2005 review of 35 detainees released from Guantanamo, Pakistani police intelligence concluded that the men - the majority of whom had been subjected to "severe mental and physical torture," according to the report - had "extreme feelings of resentment and hatred against USA."
The report warned that unless steps were taken to rehabilitate the men, they had the potential of "becoming another Abdullah Mehsud," a former Guantanamo detainee who became a high-ranking Taliban commander in the Pakistani tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. Mehsud killed himself with a grenade last July to avoid being taken prisoner by Pakistani troops.
"A lot of our friends are working against the Americans now, because if you torture someone without any reason, what do you expect?" Issa Khan, a Pakistani former detainee, said in an interview in Islamabad. "Many people who were in Guantanamo are now working with the Taliban."
According to Afghan authorities, Mohammed Naim Farouq was a rural gangster, not a terrorist.
"He was with a group that was kidnapping people. It was a criminal group. It did a lot of extortion," said Attorney General Abdul Jabar Sabit, who interviewed Farouq in Guantanamo.
But, Sabit found, Farouq wasn't linked to the Taliban or al Qaida when the Americans arrested him.
No more. Since Farouq was released from Guantanamo, the Defense Intelligence Agency said, he's had a relationship with al Qaida and the Taliban and heads a group of Taliban militiamen.
"Naim was a very, very small guy before, but now that he's been released, he's a very big problem," said Taj Mohammed Wardak, a former Afghan interior minister who also served as the governor of Farouq's province. "It has a really bad effect when these men return to their communities."
Discussing the effect that Guantanamo had on him, Farouq measured his words.
"Why did the Americans treat me this way?" he said during an interview with McClatchy in Gardez. "I wanted to keep my district peaceful."
A Network for Radicalizing
In interviews, former U.S. Defense Department officials acknowledged the problem, but none of them would speak about it openly because of its implications: U.S. officials mistakenly sent a lot of men who weren't hardened terrorists to Guantanamo, but by the time they were released, some of them had become just that.
Requests for comment from senior Defense Department officials went unanswered. The Pentagon official in charge of detainee affairs, Sandra Hodgkinson, declined interview requests even after she was given a list of questions.
However, dozens of former detainees, many of whom were reluctant to talk for fear of being branded as spies by the militants, described a network - at times fragmented, and at times startling in its sophistication - that allowed Islamist radicals to gain power inside Guantanamo:
Militants recruited new detainees by offering to help them memorize the Quran and study Arabic. They conducted the lessons, infused with firebrand theology, between the mesh walls of cells, from the other side of a fence during exercise time or, in lower-security blocks, during group meetings.
Taliban and al Qaida leaders appointed cellblock leaders. When there was a problem with the guards, such as allegations of Quran abuse or rough searches of detainees, these "local" leaders reported up their chains of command whether the men in their block had fought back with hunger strikes or by throwing cups of urine and feces at guards. The senior leaders then decided whether to call for large-scale hunger strikes or other protests.
Al Qaida and Taliban leaders at Guantanamo issued rulings that governed detainees' behavior. Shaking hands with female guards was haram - forbidden - men should pray five times a day and talking with American soldiers should be kept to a minimum.
The recruiting and organizing don't end at Guantanamo. After detainees are released, they're visited by militants who try to cement the relationships formed in prison.
"When I was released, they (Taliban officials) told me to come join them, to fight," said Alif Khan, an Afghan former detainee whom McClatchy interviewed in Kabul. "They told me I should move to Waziristan," a Taliban hotbed in Pakistan.
Most of the 66 former Guantanamo detainees whom McClatchy interviewed were hesitant to talk about their religious and political transformations in prison.
Ilkham Batayev, a Kazakh, described his stay at Guantanamo in bitter, angry terms. "I learned the traditions of many people," he said. "Of course it changed me inside, but this is something private." He said that Arab detainees spent a lot of time teaching him Arabic and giving him lessons about the Quran.
Others said that fellow detainees showed them the path of fundamentalist Islam.
Taj Mohammed, an Afghan detainee, said that the time he spent at Guantanamo studying the Quran and discussing Islam with radicals helped him see the world more clearly.
"There were detainees who did not pray or who spoke with female soldiers," Mohammed said. "We stopped speaking with these men. Sometimes we beat them."
The U.S. government accused Mohammed of being a member of two insurgent groups in Afghanistan's Konar province and taking part in an attack on a U.S. military base.
Mohammed maintained that he was a shepherd. Mohammed Roze, an official with the Afghan government's peace commission in Konar province, said Mohammed was set up by a cousin with whom he was feuding.
US Attempts at Separation Backfire
American officials tried to stop detainees from turning Guantanamo into what some former U.S. officials have since called an "American madrassa" - an Islamic religious school - but some of their efforts backfired.
The original Guantanamo camp, Camp X-Ray, was little more than a collection of wire mesh cells in which detainees were grouped together without much concern for their backgrounds.
In April 2002, U.S. officials shifted the detainees to Camp Delta, which grew to include a series of camps organized by security level.
Camp One was for better-behaved detainees, who were given toiletry items such as toothpaste and shampoo and more time for outdoor exercise.
Camp Two was set up for cooperative detainees - especially those who helped interrogators - who still posed a high security threat to guards. They were given time in exercise areas, but were watched carefully.
Camp Three was a high-security facility where detainees spent most of their time in cells with steel mesh walls and little more than mattresses and copies of the Quran.
Camp Four was for the best-behaved detainees, and featured communal living spaces, librarian visits and lawns for soccer.
Camp Five resembled a U.S. maximum-security prison, with automatic sliding cell doors and a central guard station.
The idea was that detainees who presented graver threats and were uncooperative would be separated from those with looser ties to international terrorism.
What the plan overlooked - according to several detainees and a former U.S. defense official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject - is that even midlevel al Qaida members had been trained in resistance techniques, and that one of them was to avoid calling attention to yourself. An angry cabdriver from Kabul, in other words, may have been more likely to attack a guard and end up in Camp Three than an al Qaida militant was.
As a result, some senior radicals ended up in Camp Four, free to preach their message of international jihad to petty criminals, Taliban conscripts and detainees who had little or no previous affiliation with Islamic militancy.
At times, detainee leaders would order other men to break camp rules so that the guards would send them to higher-security blocks, where they could carry messages from their leaders, said Charles "Cully" Stimson, who was the deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs from January 2006 to February 2007.
"The communications network there is like the communications network in any jail," Stimson said. "When Americans are in captivity, they respect rank. ... I suspect it's no different down there."
Buzby, the Guantanamo commander, said that he, too, suspected that information flowed freely between militant leaders and their men at Guantanamo's camps.
"It would be foolish to not believe that there is a hierarchy of information being passed up and down the chain of command," Buzby said.
Abdul Zuhoor, an Afghan detainee who spent time in Camp Four, said that radical detainees used the system to their full advantage.
Zuhoor said he remembered watching groups of senior Taliban and Arab detainees meet in the exercise yard.
"They considered themselves the elders of Guantanamo," Zuhoor said in an interview in the Afghan town of Charikar. "They met as a shura (religious) council."
The group, Zuhoor said, acted in concert with others across Guantanamo to issue fatwas, which then were disseminated by detainees who were being moved to other areas for medical checkups, interrogations or transfers to higher-security blocks.
An attorney for one Arab detainee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he feared implicating his client, said his client told him at one point that he couldn't meet with his legal team anymore.
"He said there were five or six detainees who had assumed positions of leadership in the camp, and that he had to deal with them," the attorney said. "And they said that he would need a fatwa to continue speaking with us, to continue speaking with Americans."
The fatwa, the shura council told the attorney's client, couldn't come from just any imam; it had to be from a senior cleric in Saudi Arabia, a hotbed of fundamentalist Sunni Islam.
In June 2006, Zuhoor said, a Taliban member at Guantanamo bragged to him that there soon would be three "martyrs."
"The Arabs and some Taliban sat together and issued a verdict," Zuhoor said. "Three of the men volunteered to kill themselves to get more freedom for the other detainees."
The next morning, Zuhoor said, the news spread across Guantanamo: Three Arabs had committed suicide.
The Guantanamo commander at the time, Rear Adm. Harry Harris, called the suicides acts of "asymmetric warfare."
Harper Woods, Mich., has filed a lawsuit against a massive defense contractor, BAE Systems, over allegations that the company funneled payments to a member of the Saudi royal family.[more]
In the process, this small city has become a central player in an investigation that spans continents, involves accusations of corruption on an unimaginable scale, and has players ranging from former British Prime Minister Tony Blair to a substitute teacher.
Harper Woods is an almost archetypal American suburb. The streets are lined with trees, the houses are small, the yards big, and just about everyone has a dog. Its residents are big into Little League, and there's an annual parade featuring the mayor driving by in one of his classic cars. One of the finalists for national teacher of the year teaches seventh grade here. And rocker Bob Seger played at the now-closed Hideout dance club before he made it big.
"One of the funny things about Harper Woods is there nothing terribly special about it," says Kim Silarski, who has lived there since 1996. "And so in its normalness, in its normality, I think that is its beauty and its charm."
The Arms Deal
While it's technically a city, the place has only about 14,000 residents living in an area of 2.6 square miles.
This little corner of America is intimately involved in a $100 billion international arms deal between Saudi Arabia and BAE Systems, a giant British defense contractor that makes aircraft carriers, armored vehicles and a superadvanced cannon. BAE also manufactures fighter jets — and those jets have gotten the British defense contractor into trouble.
"In the mid-'80s, the Brits were negotiating a large defense contract with Saudi Arabia, nearly $100 billion. Obviously a huge, huge contract and very important to the U.K. and to BAE certainly," says Patrick Coughlin, a lawyer representing the Harper Woods public employees retirement fund.
"As part of the contract there was a side agreement that basically allowed for payments to be funneled to Prince Bandar," Coughlin alleges. "Bank examiners and people looking at this have estimated it was nearly $100 million a year or a total of $2 billion that was funneled through various U.S. banks."
Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud was Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States for decades. Coughlin is alleging that to get that defense contract for a bunch of fighter planes, known as the "Al Yamamah" or the Dove deal, BAE paid Bandar $2 billion over a period of about 20 years.
'David vs. Goliath'
"The Saudi princes sometimes feel that the rules don't apply to them," says Cheryl Constantino, Harper Woods mayor pro tem and a full-time substitute teacher. "This is like David vs. Goliath, only instead of using a rock we're using attorneys."
Harper Woods got involved because its $40 million employee pension fund includes about $135,000 invested in BAE Systems. That's not a lot, but this is not a big town.
Now the Harper Woods fund has taken BAE and Prince Bandar to court. But Constantino says what local officials care most about is not the politics but the money.
"We don't look at this as sort of an international incident," Constantino says. "We just look at it as, 'Hey, here's our retirees' pension money and we just want to make sure that everything is right with it.' And then the next thing we know is that, this whole Prince Bandar thing comes up and we're like 'whoa.' "
Coughlin, the fund's lawyer, says the city wants BAE to recover as much money as possible and put it back into the company. The city also wants to reform the governance of the company so that this kind of thing doesn't happen again, he says.
"Corruption just inflates contracts, destroys competition and is not good for anybody," Coughlin says. "And corruption with a defense contractor, of course, is the most dangerous, because where are the arms going? Where are they ultimately [going]? You have to have real accountability in this area because of the world that we live in today."
Colleen Leduc already had a lot going against her. The Barrie woman was holding down a job while struggling to raise her autistic 11-year-old daughter. She couldn't afford to give the child the intensive therapy she needed, and was forced to send her to a public school in the area.[more]
So she was completely unprepared for what happened to her and the youngster, an almost unbelievable tale of red tape involving a strange claim from a teaching assistant, a bizarre decision by a school board, a visit from the Children's Aid Society (CAS) and most improbably of all, the incorrect pronouncements of a psychic.
Leduc's weird tale began on May 30, when she dropped young Victoria off for class at Terry Fox Elementary and headed in to work, only to receive a frantic phone call from the school telling her it was urgent she come back right away.
The frightened mother rushed back to the campus and was stunned by what she heard - the principal, vice-principal and her daughter's teacher were all waiting for her in the office, telling her they'd received allegations that Victoria had been the victim of sexual abuse - and that the CAS had been notified.
How did they come by such startling knowledge? Leduc was incredulous as they poured out their story.
"The teacher looked and me and said: 'We have to tell you something. The educational assistant who works with Victoria went to see a psychic last night, and the psychic asked the educational assistant at that particular time if she works with a little girl by the name of "V." And she said 'yes, I do.' And she said, 'well, you need to know that that child is being sexually abused by a man between the ages of 23 and 26.'"
Victoria, who is non-verbal, had also been exhibiting sexualized behaviour in class, actions which are known to be typical of autistic behavior. (See other typical actions here) That lead authorities to suspect she had a bladder infection that may have somehow been related to the 'attack.'
Leduc was shaken by the idea. "It's actually your worst nightmare your child being violated," she admits. "So for them to even suggest that, and that be my worst nightmare, it was horrific."
But things got worse when school officials used the "evidence" and accepted the completely unsubstantiated word of the seer by reporting the case to Children's Aid, which promptly opened a file on the family.
Bringing us ever more pride in our nation -- or at least what it used to be....
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Can President McCain Be Lying About His Life? Or He Just Doing The Ultimate Flip-Flop? What's Next -- Becoming A Whole Other Person??
Big Media journos: Proud of hiding stuff like this? To you, that's responsible. And here, my dead Tim Russert dis: Anyone think he or he'd have NBC News jump on this?
"At a meeting in his Pentagon office in early 1981, Secretary of the Navy John F. Lehman told Capt. John S. McCain III that he was about to attain his life ambition: becoming an admiral.... Mr. McCain declined the prospect of his first admiral's star to make a run for Congress, saying that he could 'do more good there,' Mr. Lehman recalled." So claimed the New York Times in a front-page article on May 29 this year.Link.
This story is highly improbable for several reasons, not least of all because John McCain himself has always told a very different story about his stalled naval career. For example, on page 9 of his memoir Worth The Fighting For, McCain writes:"Several months before my father died, I informed him that I was leaving the navy. I am sure he had gotten word of my decision from friends in the Pentagon. I had been summoned to see the CNO, Admiral Heyward, who told me I was making a mistake.... His attempt to dissuade me encouraged me to believe that I might have made admiral had I remained in the navy, a prospect that remained an open question in my mind.... Some of my navy friends believed I could earn my star; others doubted it.... When I told my father of my intention, he did not remonstrate me.... But I knew him well enough to know that he was disappointed. For when I left him that day, alone in his study, I took with me his hope that I might someday become the first son and grandson of four-star admirals to achieve the same distinction. That aspiration was well beyond my reach by the time I made my decision...."McCain's father died on March 22, 1981. McCain retired from the Navy within a week. He wrote about his retirement soon thereafter. McCain never mentioned the alleged offer of an admiralship by Lehman in any of his books, nor in the numerous interviews McCain gave during his first run for the presidency in 1999-2000.
Furthermore, articles written during the current presidential campaign quote McCain's closest friends about McCain's failure to be promoted to admiral before he retired from the Navy. For example, in an April 26, 2008, National Journal cover story, William Cohen (then a Senator, subsequently Secretary of Defense and the best man at McCain's second wedding) recounts that McCain "knew his career in the Navy was limited." Former Senator Gary Hart, who served as a groomsman at McCain's 1980 wedding, says in the National Journal story that he had been told "that [McCain] was not going to receive a star and not going to become an admiral. I think that was the deciding point for him to retire from the Navy."
John Lehman doesn't figure in any accounts of McCain's naval career, probably because Lehman was appointed Secretary of the Navy less than two months before McCain retired. The New York Times didn't note this, or the pertinent fact that John Lehman is currently serving as National Security Adviser to McCain's 2008 presidential campaign. Two admirals in the Times story confirmed Lehman's claim, but for unknown reasons the Times, in violation of its own guidelines, accorded them off-the-record status that makes it impossible to assess their motives and credibility.
The New York Times' front-page story about McCain declining promotion to admiral lacks credibility for other reasons as well. For example, McCain had been promoted to captain on August 1, 1979, so he wouldn't have been due for another promotion by March of 1981.
Retired Admiral Peter Booth, who was promoted to rear admiral in 1981, flatly disputes Lehman's claim about McCain. "No, John McCain was not selected for flag rank, for admiral. With all due respect, I think I was selected that same year, and I have never heard anything even remotely like that. To begin with, John Lehman did not select Navy flag officers. That was done with a very august selection board headed by a four-star admiral. The Secretary of the Navy does not appoint. He is in the approval chain, but he is not on the committee.
"I have never heard a story, even remotely, that John McCain was going to be a flag officer. I was early selected for captain, in 1976, and I was regular selected for admiral in 1981. So it's probably five or six years, I guess. I've never heard of anybody being selected for flag rank within three or four years of making captain, ever."
Retired Admiral John R. Batzler, former commanding officer of the U.S.S. Nimitz, also promoted to rear admiral in 1981, agrees with Retired Admiral Booth.
"I made rear admiral in about five years. I wasn't selected early, and I wasn't selected late. I find it incredible that someone made that statement that John Lehman told John McCain he was going to be promoted to admiral two years after he made captain. First of all, telling him at all is not kosher, but we all know the Secretary of the Navy does what he damn well pleases, in particular John Lehman. This whole idea that John Lehman told John McCain he was going to be promoted to flag two years after he made captain sounds preposterous to me."
All of the evidence, indications and comments that the New York Times published a flattering lie about McCain's career on its front page are easy for John McCain to refute. All he needs to do is sign Standard Form 180, which authorizes the Navy to send an undeleted copy of McCain's naval file to news organizations. A long paper trail about McCain's pending promotion to admiral would be prominent in his file. To date, McCain's advisers have released snippets from his file, but under constrained viewing circumstances. There's no reason McCain's full file shouldn't be released immediately. There's also a recent precedent for McCain signing the simple form that leads to full disclosure: Senator John Kerry signed the 180 waiver, which made his entire naval file public.
The Navy may claim that it already released McCain's record to the Associated Press on May 7, 2008 in response to the AP's Freedom of Information Act request. But the McCain file the Navy released contained 19 pages -- a two-page overview and 17 pages detailing Awards and Decorations. Each of these 17 pages is stamped with a number. These numbers range from 0069 to 0636. When arranged in ascending order, they precisely track the chronology of McCain's career. It seems reasonable to ask the Navy whether there are at least 636 pages in McCain's file, of which 617 weren't released to the Associated Press.
Some of the unreleased pages in McCain's Navy file may not reflect well upon his qualifications for the presidency. From day one in the Navy, McCain screwed-up again and again, only to be forgiven because his father and grandfather were four-star admirals. McCain's sense of entitlement to privileged treatment bears an eerie resemblance to George W. Bush's.
Despite graduating in the bottom 1 percent of his Annapolis class, McCain was offered the most sought-after Navy assignment -- to become an aircraft carrier pilot. According to military historian John Karaagac, "'the Airdales,' the air wing of the Navy, acted and still do, as if unrivaled atop the naval pyramid. They acted as if they owned, not only the Navy, but the entire swath of blue water on the earth's surface." The most accomplished midshipmen compete furiously for the few carrier pilot openings. After four abysmal academic years at Annapolis distinguished only by his misdeeds and malfeasance, no one with a record resembling McCain's would have been offered such a prized career path. The justification for this and subsequent plum assignments should be documented in McCain's naval file.
McCain's file should also include records and analytic reviews of McCain's subsequent sub-par performances. Here are a few cited in two highly favorable biographies, both titled John McCain, one by Robert Timberg and the other by John Karaagac.
Timberg:"[A]fter a European fling with the tobacco heiress, John McCain reported to flight school at Pensacola in August 1958.... [H]is performance was below par, at best good enough to get by. He liked flying, but didn't love it. What he loved was the kick-the-tire, start-the-fire, scarf-in-the-wind life of a naval aviator. ...One Saturday morning, as McCain was practicing landings, his engine quit and his plane plunged into Corpus Christi. Knocked unconscious by the impact, he came to as the plane settled to the bottom....McCain was an adequate pilot, but he had no patience for studying dry aviation manuals.... His professional growth, though reasonably steady, had its troubled moments. Flying too low over the Iberian Peninsula, he took out some power lines, which led to a spate of newspaper stories in which he was predictably identified as the son of an admiral.... [In 1965] he flew a trainer solo to Philadelphia for the Army-Navy game. Flying by way of Norfolk, he had just begun his descent over unpopulated tidal terrain when the engine died. 'I've got a flameout,' he radioed. He went through the standard relight procedures three times. At one thousand feet he ejected, landing on the deserted beach moments before the plane slammed into a clump of trees."Adds Karaagac:"In his memoir, everything becomes a kind of game of adolescent brinksmanship, how much can one press the limits of the acceptable and elude the powers that be....The [fighter jocks'] ethos of exaggerated, almost aggressive sociability becomes an end in itself and an excuse for license. There is a tendency for people, not simply to believe their own mythology but, indeed, to exaggerate it.... Fighter jocks, like politicians around their campaign contributions, often press the limits of the acceptable. It is a type of mild corruption that takes place in a highly privileged atmosphere, where restraints are loosened and excuses made....McCain gives some hint in his memoirs about where he stood in the hierarchy among carrier flyers. Instead of the sleek and newer Phantoms and Crusaders, McCain flew the dependable Douglas A-4 Skyhawk in an attack, not a fighter squadron. He was thus on the lower end of the flying totem pole."The genius of McCain's mythmaking is his perceived humility amid perpetual defiance. Having been a rebel without cause, and often a rebel without consequences, McCain apparently was not surprised when his Vietnamese captors went relatively easy on him compared to his fellow POWs. The Vietnamese military secretly and frequently filmed the American POWs to learn their propensities. Col. Pham Van Hoa of the Vietnamese People's Army Film Department was in charge of the filming. Asked recently for his dominant impression of McCain, the now-retired Van Hoa said that McCain "seemed superior to other prisoners." How so? "Superior in attitude towards them."
But when Mark Salter, McCain's closest aide and co-author, was asked by the Arizona New Times about the first McCain memoir, Faith of My Fathers, that he was then working on, Salter said "the book will showcase a humble McCain. When I worked on this book with him, he just kept saying, 'Other guys had it a lot worse. I think they took it easier on me because of who my dad was. . . . When they tied me in ropes, they'd roll my sleeve up to give it a little padding between the rope and my bicep, you know, little things I noticed. The only really hard time I had was when I didn't go home, and then it only lasted a week, and sometimes I felt braver, I felt I could get away with more.'"
Is McCain now getting away with more by hiding his official history and by having his national security adviser inflate McCain's resume with a bogus promotion to admiral humbly declined? If so, McCain may be attempting to hide why the Navy was in fact slow to promote him upwards despite his suffering as a POW and his distinguished naval heritage.
One possible reason: After McCain had returned from Vietnam as a war hero and was physically rehabilitated, he was urged by his medical caretakers and military colleagues never to fly again. But McCain insisted on going up. As Carl Bernstein reported in Vanity Fair, he piloted an ultra-light, single propeller plane -- and crashed another time. His fifth loss of a plane has vanished from public records, but should be a subject of discussion in his Navy file. It wouldn't be surprising if his naval superiors worried that McCain was just too defiant, too reckless and too crash prone.
Regardless, McCain owes it to the country to release his complete naval records so that American voters can see his documented history and make an informed decision.
ZI dedicate this post to my Lucy (whom, as far as I know, has never been in NYC).
Maybe not quite literally dog-eat-dog but....
Maybe not quite literally dog-eat-dog but....
New York dog owner Robert Machin has described himself as "devastated" after a street cleaning truck made short work of one of his two Boston terriers, sucking the unfortunate mutt into its rotating brush mechanism, the New York Daily News reports.Link.
Machin had been walking Buster and Ginger on Thursday when tragedy struck. He'd opened the door to his car and was about to get in when said truck ingested Ginger. Machin, who'd been holding the poor pooch by its lead, recounted: "It happened so fast. It spun me around, and as it spun me around, I caught a last glimpse of her.
"I was devastated. I was completely dumbfounded and shocked. I mean, I just witnessed my dog sucked up into a street sweeper."
Machin chased the truck for two-and-a-half blocks, "shouting for the operator to stop". Sadly, the whirring brushes of canine death had already done their grisly work.
Eyewitnesses to the tragedy say the truck was speeding, and Machin said he's "planning to contact the Humane Society and hire a lawyer".
The Department of Sanitation offered its condolences, describing the incident as "a rare and unfortunate accident". It concluded: "It is important for all New Yorkers to remember to maintain the safety of their animals while walking city streets."
In his 1996 Frontline interview, Woodward said he gave all of his lecture money to charity, the charity in question being a foundation run by him and his wife, the Woodward Walsh Foundation. Woodward seems to have greatly increased his speaking appearances in recent years, which probably helps explain why his foundation’s assets have soared, from assets of $347,602 in 2000 to about $1.8 million last year.Link.
Yet the foundation doesn’t seem to do much genuine charitable work. Last year it doled out a meager $17,555 in grants. Over recent years more than half of the foundation’s money went to Sidwell Friends, one of the richest private schools in Washington (with a reported endowment of over $30 million) that caters primarily to the children of the local elite (like Woodward’s children). Meanwhile, the foundation has also supported needy causes like “Citizens for Georgetown Trees,” which prettifies Woodward’s neighborhood, the “Little Folks Nursery School” (“For the 2007-2008 school year, the tuition is: For morning only–$12,150. For the full day–$14,900”), and In Town Playgroup, a private daycare outfit.
It makes one wonder what Ben Bradlee thinks of all this. You’re corrupted if you take money from corporate groups, but not if you give the money to charity? Even if it’s your own personal charity, and you get a tax break, and most of the contributions go to elite causes of direct interest to the donor? This looks to be the same sort of double-dealing and hypocrisy that Bob Woodward–at least the old Bob Woodward–would have been all over as a reporter, if a political figure were involved.
This is not a dis, just something amusing and an insight into what makes conservatism great: shameless stealing -- because without theft, they'd have pretty much nothing.
John Hall, NY19:
John Hall, NY19:
Last week John McCain's campaign started using my song, "Still the One," without asking permission of the writers and performers who own the copyright. We objected just as we did when George W. Bush did the same things four years ago. It seems like John McCain just keeps on demonstrating that he hasn’t learned from any of Bush’s mistakes.
The suicide of a man who was forcibly returned to China by Australian immigration authorities has prompted calls by refugee advocates for better treatment of people seeking protection visas.Link.
The man, known as Mr Zhang, was beaten and tortured when he was deported to China a year ago.
He spent almost a decade arguing his case for asylum, repeatedly telling Australian authorities he was at risk because of his involvement with pro-democracy groups in China.
His last two years were spent in Sydney's Villawood immigration detention centre.
But immigration advocates say that after being denied asylum on numerous occasions, in the end he lost hope and committed suicide.
When he spoke to the ABC's AM program just over a year ago Mr Zhang described how he was beaten up and tortured by Chinese police after being deported from Australia.
"And the two PSB (Public Safety Bureau) police men, they pushed me down on the ground, One PSB stamped on me and one, my hand, was broken, the left hand my middle finger," Mr Zhang said at the time through an interpreter.
Refugee advocate Frances Milne worked on Mr Zhang's case and kept in touch with him after he was deported.
"To find that he has now committed suicide to avoid further persecution and torture is very, very disappointing and upsetting," Ms Milne said.
She says numerous letters sent on Mr Zhang's behalf to both the present Immigration Minister, Senator Chris Evans, and his predecessor, Kevin Andrews, seem to have been ignored.
"If there is any decency in our government then having a policy of giving protection to people that we've wrongly determined not to be refugees is absolutely crucial. They must do it," she said.
Senator Evans says he will be seeking more information on the fate of Mr Zhang.
"It sounds quite tragic, but as to the circumstances as to what occurred on his return I have no information on that," he said.
"The immigration system relies on us being able to remove people who are not here legally if that's warranted.
"Clearly when we do that, it's under international law and on the understanding that they won't suffer persecution on their return.
"Any suggestion that someone has suffered persecution would be something that will be looked at quite seriously."
Stephen Blanks from the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties says Mr Zhang's case is a tragic example of how the system is flawed.
"He was removed from Australia in breach of Australia's obligations under the Convention Against Torture," he said.
"He immediately faced torture on his return to China and evidence of that was presented to the Australian Government and we have been pleading with the Australian Government to find a way to bring him back and there has just been inaction."
Mr Blanks says there has been improvement with the present Government but some areas need reform.
"Addressing the big issue policy issues like detention centres and TPVs (temporary protection visas) is only part of the story," he said.
"There must be wholesale change to the immigration system to give asylum seekers proper access to justice."
A spokesman for the Immigration Department says it regrets that Mr Zhang may have committed suicide but that it would not comment on details of his case.
Monday, June 16, 2008
I confess. While I'm politically perfect, I am truly ultra-liberal when it comes to humor: all a joke must be is funny. Offensive? Maybe limits who I tell it or pass it on to. I vaguely recall the odd joke that has offend me but it's rare. (Now, the Vanity Fair photo of the Cyruses (well, not really, Miley isn't a true Cyrus yet), that offended me.)
The following, well, no.
The following, well, no.
"Who's Your Daddy?"Link (if you can get in).
The following are all replies that Detroit women have written on Child Support Agency Forms in the section for listing "father's details;" or putting it another way.... Who's yo Daddy? These are genuine excerpts from the forms. Be sure to check out #11 tomorrow. It takes 1st prize and #3 is runner up.
1. Regarding the identity of the father of my twins, Makeeshia was fathered by Maclearndon McKinley. I am unsure as to the identity of the father of Marlinda, but I believe that she was conceived on the same night.
2. I am unsure, as to the identity of the father of my child as I was being sick out of a window when taken unexpectedly from behind. I can provide you with a list of names of men that I think were at the party if this helps.
3. I do not know the name of the father of my little girl. She was conceived at a party at 3600 East Grand Boulevard where I had sex with a man I met that night. I do remember that the sex was so good that I fainted. If you do manage to track down the father, can you please send me his phone number? Thanks.
4. I don't know the identity of the father of my daughter. He drives a BMW that now has a hole made by my stiletto in one of the door panels. Perhaps you can contact BMW service stations in this area and see if he's had it replaced.
5. I have never had sex with a man. I am still a Virginian. I am awaiting a letter from the Pope confirming that my son's conception was ejaculate and that he is the Saver risen again.
6. I cannot tell you the name of Alleshia dad as he informs me that to do so would blow his cover and that would have cataclysmic implications for the economy. I am torn between doing right by you and right by the country. Please advise.
7. I do not know who the father of my child was as they all look the same to me.
8. Tyrone Hairston is the father of child A. If you do catch up with him, can you ask him what he did with my AC/DC CDs? Child B who was also borned at the same time.... well, I don't have clue.
9. From the dates it seems that my daughter was conceived at Disney World; maybe it really is the Magic Kingdom.
10. So much about that night is a blur. The only thing that I remember for sure is Delia Smith did a program about eggs earlier in the evening. If I had stayed in and watched more TV rather than going to the party at 8956 Miller Ave, mine might have remained unfertilized.
11. I am unsure as to the identity of the father of my baby, after all, like when you eat a can of beans you can't be sure which one made you fart.
For years now, the U.S. political press corps has traveled with John McCain on his “Straight Talk Express,” buying into his image as a paragon of truth-telling. But the real truth is that McCain routinely makes stuff up, as he did on June 11 in lying about Barack Obama’s “bitter” comment.Link.
During a political talk in Philadelphia, McCain claimed that Obama had described “bitter” small-town voters as clinging to religion or “the Constitution” – when the second item in Obama’s comment actually was “guns.”
But the Arizona senator didn’t stop with a simple word substitution. He added that he will tell these voters that “they have trust and support the Constitution of the United States because they have optimism and hope. … That’s what America’s all about.”
In other words, McCain didn’t just make a slip of the tongue. He willfully accused Obama of disparaging the U.S. Constitution, a very serious point that, if true, might cause millions of Americans to reject Obama’s candidacy.
Still, when some of the U.S. broadcast networks – including NBC evening news – played the clip of McCain lashing out at Obama’s purported dissing of the Constitution, they didn’t correct McCain's falsehood.
That fits with a long-standing pattern of the political press corps giving McCain a break when he makes statements at variance with the truth. Even in the rare moments when he is caught in an inaccuracy – such as accusing Shiite-ruled Iran of training Sunni extremists in al-Qaeda – the falsehood is minimized as an unintentional gaffe.
However, McCain actually seems to be following a trail blazed by George W. Bush, saying what’s useful at the time even if it’s not true and then counting on the U.S. press corps to timidly look the other way.
Through all his misstatements, McCain’s “straight-talk” reputation survives.
In another instructive case, McCain got away with sweeping denials in his reaction to a New York Times article on Feb. 21. The story led with unsubstantiated suspicions among some McCain staffers that their boss had gotten too cozy with female lobbyist Vicky Iseman, but McCain went beyond simply denying any sexual improprieties.
He put out a statement declaring that in his quarter-century congressional career, he “has never violated the public trust, never done favors for special interests or lobbyists.” But that simply isn’t true.
As the Times story already had recalled, McCain helped one of his early financial backers, wheeler-dealer Charles Keating, frustrate oversight from federal banking regulators who were examining Keating’s Lincoln Savings and Loan Association.
At Keating's urging, McCain wrote letters, introduced bills and pushed a Keating associate for a job on a banking regulatory board. In 1987, McCain joined several other senators in two private meetings with federal banking regulators on Keating’s behalf.
Two years later, Lincoln collapsed, costing the U.S. taxpayers $3.4 billion. Keating eventually went to prison and three other senators from the so-called Keating Five saw their political careers ruined.
McCain drew a Senate reprimand for his involvement and later lamented his faulty judgment. “Why didn’t I fully grasp the unusual appearance of such a meeting?” he wrote in his 2002 memoir, Worth the Fighting For.
But some people close to the case thought McCain got off too easy.
Not only was McCain taking donations from Keating and his business circle, getting free rides on Keating’s corporate jet and enjoying joint vacations in the Bahamas – McCain’s second wife, the beer fortune heiress Cindy Hensley, had invested with Keating in an Arizona shopping mall.
In the years that followed, however, McCain not only got out from under the shadow of the Keating Five scandal but found a silver lining in the cloud, transforming the case into a lessons-learned chapter of his personal narrative.
McCain, as born-again reformer, soon was winning over the Washington press corps with his sponsorship of ethics legislation, like the McCain-Feingold bill limiting “soft money” contributions to the political parties.
However, there was still that other side of John McCain as he wielded enormous power from his position as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, which helped him solicit campaign donations from corporations doing business before the panel.
The Times story reported that McCain did favors on behalf of Iseman’s lobbying clients, including two letters that McCain wrote in 1999 to the Federal Communications Commission demanding that it act on a long-delayed request by Iseman’s client, Florida-based Paxson Communications, to buy a Pittsburgh television station.
Rather than simply acknowledge this fact, McCain’s campaign issued another sweeping denial of impropriety, calling those letters routine correspondence that were handled by staff without McCain meeting either with Paxson or anyone from Iseman’s firm, Alcalde & Fay.
"No representative of Paxson or Alcalde & Fay personally asked Senator McCain to send a letter to the FCC," his campaign said.
McCain’s Own Words
But that also turned out not to be true.
Newsweek’s investigative reporter Michael Isikoff dug up a sworn deposition from Sept. 25, 2002, in which McCain himself declared that “I was contacted by Mr. Paxson on this issue. … He wanted their [the FCC’s] approval very bad for purposes of his business. I believe that Mr. Paxson had a legitimate complaint.”
Though McCain claimed not to recall whether he had spoken with Paxson’s lobbyist [presumably a reference to Iseman], he added, “I’m sure I spoke to [Paxson],” according to the deposition. [See Newsweek’s Web posting, Feb. 22, 2008]
McCain’s letters to the FCC, which Chairman William Kennard criticized as “highly unusual,” came in the same period when Paxson’s company was ferrying McCain to political events aboard its corporate jet and donating $20,000 to his campaign.
After the Feb. 21 Times article appeared, McCain’s spokesmen confirmed that Iseman accompanied McCain on at least one of those flights from Florida to Washington, though McCain had said in the 2002 deposition that “I do not recall” if Paxson’s lobbyist was onboard.
First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams, who conducted the deposition in connection with a challenge to the McCain-Feingold law, asked McCain if the benefits that he received from Paxson created “at least an appearance of corruption here?”
“Absolutely,” McCain answered. “I believe that there could possibly be an appearance of corruption because this system has tainted all of us.”
When Newsweek went to McCain’s 2008 campaign with the seeming contradictions between the deposition and the denial of the Times article, McCain’s people stuck to their story that that the senator had never discussed the FCC issue with Paxson or his lobbyist.
“We do not think there is a contradiction here,” campaign spokeswoman Ann Begeman told Newsweek. “It appears that Senator McCain, when speaking of being contacted by Paxson, was speaking in shorthand of his staff being contacted by representatives of Paxson. Senator McCain does not recall being asked directly by Paxson or any representative of him or by Alcalde & Fay to contact the FCC regarding the Pittsburgh license transaction.”
That new denial crumbled, too, when the Washington Post interviewed Paxson, who said he had talked with McCain in his Washington office several weeks before McCain sent the letters to the FCC.
The broadcast executive also believed that Iseman had helped arrange the meeting and likely was in attendance. “Was Vicki there? Probably,” Paxson said. [Washington Post, Feb. 23, 2008]
So, in the months ahead, there’s urgency for American voters to figure out whether John McCain is the maverick “straight-shooter” of his usual press clippings or a sanctimonious phony who’s just masquerading as the guy who tells it like it is.
Is John McCain like George W. Bush, someone who has learned that the mainstream news media – ever sensitive to accusations of “liberal bias” – is hesitant to call a prominent Republican politician a liar, regardless of the facts and the circumstances?
In this political/media climate, McCain appears to believe he can get away with falsifying key details of something even as heavily reported as Obama’s infamous “bitter” remark.