Archive for July 2004
In what has become a tradition over the last few years, the Bush Admin normally saves its most unpopular statements for release after 3pm on Friday when no one is paying any attention. Karl Rove has proved, without question, that democracy doesn’t operate between 3pm Friday and 7am Monday because US citizens stop caring about it between 3pm Friday and 7am Monday. Friday afternoon press releases are reserved for announcing the BA’s most fascist, least popular, and most undemocratic initiatives, policies, and statements of intent because they will be completely ignored by citizens vacationing from their citizenship, and by Monday everyone has moved on to something else.
eRobin has pointed out that Rove isn’t the genius a lot of people claim he is, and she’s right. He’s not. What he is is a crafty political animal with low cunning, a bagful of sleezy tricks he isn’t afraid to use, and no illusions about Americans’ real attitudes toward their patriotism and responsibilities of citizenship. He knows that we like our patriotism to come without the pain of too much thought and our citizenship duties restricted to watching network tv news, preferably with the sound off. We don’t want to spend more than an hour a day on it; we want it pre-digested and fed to us with a spoon; and above all, in a complex world where nothing is what it appears to be, allies on one issue are enemies on others, and all the truth is in the nuances, we don’t want to hear, read, or be forced to learn anything that can’t be summarized in a 5-sec soundbite because we can’t handle nuance. We’re afraid of gray areas; we tremble before anything that has more than one level of meaning and believe that if something isn’t simple to understand it’s probably a trick; we prefer to deny uncomfortable realities rather than face up to difficult solutions, and the illusions of a ‘morning in America’ to the warnings of dark clouds on the horizon; we’d rather trust our leaders than keep an eye on them because the first we can do from our barcalounger and the second might require movement unrelated to a gym or a snowboard. We prefer war to peace if peace would be confusing. And we prefer being to afraid to facing our fears–we want somebody else to do that for us.
Nothing about this is particularly much less exclusively American. It’s human, it’s the way we operate and have for centuries. We are neither uniquely ignorant nor ingenious in our willful blindness. We are simply better able to allow ourselves to indulge in both as a result of our riches: we don’t have to deal with reality if we don’t want to; we can turn on the tv and watch other humans we can look down on swallow cockroaches and cheat on their lovers. We don’t have to work 7 days a week because four guys got hanged in Haymarket Square to win the 40-hr work week for us. We have a Consitution to protect our domestic liberty and oceans on both sides to protect us from foreign invasion. We’ve been extraordinarily lucky in both our geography and our progenitors because they did all the work for us and we can have our weekends off.
Which explains Fab Friday. Rove’s view of us is the view I’ve just expressed. It’s who he thinks–knows–we are, or would prefer to be. He panders to it, strokes it, encourages it every chance he gets, and one of his favorite tricks is to drop his bombshells just as we have dropped our attention as citizens to focus on the only two days we have in which we get to act like ordinary humans.
Which is why I find it so disturbing that he would save the announcement of the BA’s disagreement with the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission for a Friday afternoon.
WASHINGTON — The Bush administration warned Friday that the two central reforms proposed by the Sept. 11 commission — creating a powerful intelligence chief and establishing a new counterterrorism center — may remove barriers protecting intelligence from political influence and undermine civil liberties.The president and his senior advisors are drafting initial orders on some of the commission’s recommendations that could be issued as soon as next week. But action on the centerpiece reforms deserves more consideration, a senior White House official said.
“We need to, in considering each of these recommendations, place a premium and real attention on how to protect civil liberties while better safeguarding our homeland,” the official said.
Similar concerns were expressed by senators Friday during the first congressional hearing on the Sept. 11 commission’s recommendations. The question of how to protect the independence of the intelligence community has become perhaps the most difficult dilemma for policymakers who are otherwise eager to embrace reform.
Many questions arise from the waves like a school of dolphins: Why would an Administration that for three years has been assiduous about gathering every possible power it can to itself suddenly refuse one? Why would an administration previously contemptuous of anyone else’s privacy while obsessing over its own suddenly be concerned about protecting ours at its own expense? And if it’s an election-year ploy, why announce it on Fab Friday when they know it will be ignored?
Part of my discomfort no doubt comes from the painful discovery that I actually agree with them. My experience over the past 3 1/2 years of the BA has been that when I approve some decision they’ve made, either I’m wrong or they’re lying. Usually it turns out they had a plan to twist that seemingly intelligent and citizen-friendly decision into a pretzel that makes it its own opposite, and I’m wary of that but I don’t see how it applies here. The 9/11CR plops power right into their waiting laps, and even Kerry is stumping hard for it. Why would they reject it? It codifies and encapsulates in law–potentially–exactly what they’ve been roundly criticized for doing: politicizing intelligence. Why turn away from the very development that would legitimize what has been illegitimate up to now? The possibility that they’re genuinely concerned about citizen rights is laughable given the PATRIOT Act and all their other blithe intrusions on civil liberties, so I dismiss that out of hand. What other reasons could there be? A few come to mind.
1) Rove wants to take the opportunity for Junior to act ‘presidential’ by appearing to ‘think it over’ and ‘have doubts’–BA spinmeisters are already out there making a big deal about how Bush is ‘reading the whole report all the way through; he will finish it’ (NPR), apparently unaware that their breathless surprise at his uncharacteristic behaviour is showing–over something there is no real danger will not be passed with or without him.
2) He wants to set Junior’s reluctance smack up against Kerry’s unvarnished enthusiasm, making Kerry look like a callow opportunist and Junior like a seasoned statesman by comparison, cautious and thoughtful–traits noticeably lacking in Shrub’s palette over the past 3 years.
3) He wants the Pubs to be able to disclaim responsibility down the line when the re-organization blows up in everybody’s face.
4) He thinks Junior might lose the election and doesn’t want that kind of power put into Democratic hands.
But the first two are positive for him and don’t explain why he would do it on Fab Friday, and the second two are exercises in projecting farther into the future than the next election–a skill conspicuous by its absence from Karl’s portfolio.
In fact everything about this announcement is uncharacteristic of Rove, Bush, and the whole BA. It doesn’t fit with anything else they’ve done since the day they took office. So what the hell is going on?
After taking a beating over politicizing science for ideological reasons and to make things easier for corporate polluters and despoilers of the environment, the Bushies have come up with a whole new tactic: The EPA simply isn’t going to ask what the science might be if they don’t think they’ll like the answer.
WASHINGTON — The Bush administration made it easier Thursday for the government to approve pesticides used by farmers and homeowners, saying it no longer would require the Environmental Protection Agency to first consult other federal agencies to determine whether a product could harm endangered species.The change, supported by growers and pesticide manufacturers, affects federal regulations for carrying out the Endangered Species Act, a law that protects about 1,200 threatened animals and plants.
Environmentalists said the streamlined process would strip away protections for those species.
The law has been successfully used by environmental groups in a recent lawsuit seeking to mitigate the effects of pesticides on salmon in the Pacific Northwest. A federal judge found that the EPA had failed to abide by a requirement that it consult with federal wildlife agencies over the potential harm from pesticides.
Under the new process, expected to take effect in a few months, the EPA will conduct its own scientific evaluation. The agency will be required to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other federal agencies only if its internal evaluation deems that a pesticide is likely to have an adverse effect on endangered species. (emphasis added)
OK, so the EPA, which is implementing the change at the behest of the industry, is going to do its own ‘internal evaluation’, minus the science involved, which they will ‘evaluate’ based on…what? Industry claims?
‘So, Bob, what does Monsanto think? I mean, they developed this pesticide. Is it safe to use around animals?’
‘Of course it is, Bill. We tested it and it’s safe as houses. Sign here.’
‘Well, can I see the test results?’
“No can do, Bill. Proprietary rights, exclusionary, you understand. Just sign the damn waiver, I’m late for my 9am tee-off at the club.’
‘Maybe I should ask Fish & Game–‘
‘What are you, a Commie? Why do you hate American business, Bill? We’re trying to make a buck here, what’s so wrong about that that you think you have to check every little piddling detail? Anyway, what’s a few dead birds here or there, there’s millions of the damn things. Wake me up every morning at the crack of dawn, the little bastards. We’ll be better off without ‘em. Now sign or tell Junior he can forget the $200K for his next campaign.’
‘Oh, well, when you put it that way….’
Yessiree. ‘BushCo: We’re a Friend of Science–When Science is a Friend to Us. If It Ain’t, Screw It.’
According to the NYT, a secret DoJ investigation has concluded that Sybel Edmonds was, indeed, fired for blowing the whistle on sloppy FBI oversight of its translators.
WASHINGTON, July 28 – A classified Justice Department investigation has concluded that a former F.B.I. translator at the center of a growing controversy was dismissed in part because she accused the bureau of ineptitude, and it found that the F.B.I. did not aggressively investigate her claims of espionage against a co-worker.The Justice Department’s inspector general concluded that the allegations by the translator, Sibel Edmonds, “were at least a contributing factor in why the F.B.I. terminated her services,” and the F.B.I. is considering disciplinary action against some employees as a result, Robert S. Mueller III, director of the bureau, said in a letter last week to lawmakers. A copy of the letter was obtained by The New York Times.
Given the tight secrecy surrounding the case, “one could argue that Mueller himself disclosed classified material” by quoting from a still-secret Justice Department report, said one congressional official who spoke on condition of anonymity.In his letter, Mr. Mueller said he was pleased that the office of the inspector general “had not concluded that the F.B.I. retaliated against Ms. Edmonds when it terminated her services on April 2, 2002.” At the same time, he said, “I was concerned by the O.I.G.’s conclusion that Ms. Edmonds’ allegations ‘were at least a contributing factor in why the F.B.I. terminated her services.’ “
He said the F.B.I. would work with the inspector general to determine whether any employees should be disciplined as a result. And he emphasized that he wanted to encourage all F.B.I. employees to “raise good faith concerns about mismanagement or misconduct” without fear of reprisals or intimidation.
The letter did not say what other factors, if any, beyond Ms. Edmonds’s accusations may have played a part in the decision to dismiss her. In the past, federal officials have suggested that her allegations had nothing to do with her dismissal, pointing instead to what they described as her “disruptive” presence in the field office.
The inspector general “also criticized the F.B.I.’s failure to adequately pursue Ms. Edmonds’s allegations of espionage as they related to one of her colleagues,” Mr. Mueller said in his letter.
The J Edgar Hoover Legacy Marches On: Silence the critics, then fire them. The next step is to trash their reputations.
So the Plame investigation is coming to a head and now the Edmonds investigation is about to generate some steam. Meanwhile, the investigation of Halliburton continues, Kenny-boy’s trial is about to begin (they must have picked the jurors by now), and questions are circulating about Cheney’s actual relationship with his old company. This is sure going to be a fun summer for the Bush Team, and the fall should be full of surprises.
Our old friend Ahmad Chalabi, embezzler, thief, swindler, master con artist and possible double agent, still isn’t in jail if that’s what you thought. No, like the trouper he is, he has re-written the script and taken his act on the road where he is performing as The People’s Friend–and Muqtada al-Sadr’s ally.
Snubbed by the Bush administration neoconservatives who once embraced him [Untrue: Perle is still defending him, as are Wolfowitz and Libby--MA], and excluded from the interim government, he is building a grass-roots coalition of Shiite Muslim groups who lack a voice in the new Iraq.At the same time, he’s reaching out to Iraq’s most prominent anti-American Shiite cleric, Muqtada Sadr, whose followers come mainly from Baghdad’s urban underclass and the impoverished south of the country. Political analysts here believe that the new approach will eventually win support from a significant segment of Sadr’s followers if Chalabi chooses to run for office — and, as expected, Sadr chooses to wield his power from the pulpit instead.
That would give Chalabi and his new organization, the Shiite Political Council, mass support that could yield considerable clout in the majority Shiite community.
More established Shiite parties alternately discount Chalabi and describe him as a strong opponent. He is gathering up the political scraps, “mingling with little groups,” in the words of Ridha Taqi, director of political relations for a major Shiite party, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq.
But he acknowledged that if Chalabi can bring Sadr on board, he will be a formidable force. “If the Sadr movement abandons violence and makes an alliance with Ahmad Chalabi, he will gain something from that movement,” Taqi said. “Sadr is one of the big pillars of the Shiite family.” And, he added, “it’s not that Ahmad Chalabi is [just] thinking of cooperating with the Sadr group — he’s already working with them in an intense manner.”
Chalabi clearly hasn’t given up on his dream of one day ruling Iraq–and controlling its treasury. He has found a little opening and he’s exploiting it for all he’s worth. Remember, he still controls much of the bureaucracy in Iraq, having installed loyalists at key points in the new govt’s infrastructure who know where all the bodies are buried, and Allawi has made no significant attempt to remove or replace them–not a good sign, since it would be one of the surest ways to consolidate his power before the election that will undoubtedly come.
You can file this under Bad News From Iraq. I suspect that the Neocon Wonder Boys are as proud as peacocks that their protege just won’t give up but the rest of us should be seriously concerned that Chalabi hasn’t been stepped on yet. An alliance with al-Sadr bodes no good for either the US or the Iraqi people’s best interests. I’ve said before that I doubted he was doubling for Iranian Intelligence and I still do, but his contacts with them are real enough and they will use him if they get the opportunity. At the moment, I figure he’s probably feeding them information about Iraq’s dissident Shiite groups and they’re patting him on the head and making promises they don’t intend to keep, but if he manages to corral some power in the eventual coalition govt, their contacts could get a lot more serious.
Chalabi is steadily building his new coalition. The leadership of the Shiite Political Council includes several members of the former Governing Council who, like Chalabi, were left out of the interim government. But the bulk of the members come from small, little-known groups. Unsophisticated in politics, they are joining because they see the organization as a means to make their voices heard.And because they are Shiites, they hope that by banding together they will avoid being crushed the way they were under the previous regime.
“It has nothing to do with sectarianism. It’s just that Shiites represent the majority,” said Ali Aliausha, an earnest man in a pinstriped suit who spent much of the last 20 years in exile and says he lost two brothers to Hussein’s executioners. He was one of many people at a recent meeting of the council at Chalabi’s headquarters — known as the China House for its pagoda-like architecture.
“Dr. Ahmad Chalabi is an Iraqi citizen, and he has played a big role in this moment of change,” Aliausha said, admiration in his voice.
Oh, so it’s Dr Chalabi now, is it? Cute. That title carries a lot of freight in Arabic countries where it represents a combination of virtues like honesty, selflessness, and political integrity, to none of which Ahmad has any legitimate claim. His populist stance is as big a sham as the ‘information’ he had his minions in the INC invent and then pass along to the gullible neocon newcomers at C-TEG, but it may be awhile before the Shiite groups figure that out.
Little Ahmad better be careful how he steps, though. He’s playing with dynamite in al-Sadr, and the dynamite is sweating.
I suppose it was inevitable. It’s an election year. But did he have to be so damned enthusiastic about it?
NORFOLK, Va., July 27 – Senator John Kerry called Tuesday for an 18-month extension of the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, sharpening his critique of President Bush’s response to the panel’s recent report by declaring, “backpedaling and going slow is something that America can’t afford.”Escalating the political tussle over national security, Mr. Kerry, at a campaign rally in this Navy town, said the commission should stay in existence past its scheduled Aug. 26 expiration to monitor progress on its many recommendations and issue status reports.
“You can’t treat the commission report as something you hope will go away,” he said. “Leadership requires that we act now, not talk, not vague promises, not excuses.”
An 18-month extension so they can ‘make sure we do it right’, he said, or words to that effect (I heard him say it). Like the 9/11CR is the fucking Bible or something and he’s a fundamentalist acolyte. But it’s an election year and the numbers are tight and Junior waffled over the 9/11C from the beginning, stonewalling it, refusing to release documents until it was forced to, playing games around who would testify and how, and all the rest of it. He’s vulnerable here so we have to jump on it.
The problem is: the 9/11CR is NOT the be-all/end-all, NOT the Received Word From On High. It’s just a report by some politicians who’ve made some serious mistakes that we already know about and failed even to ask some of the most vital questions. In an NYT Op-Ed yesterday, Gerald Posner took them to task for their easy dismissal of Saudi complicity.
[E]ven more startling is the report’s conclusion that the panel has “found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually” helped to finance Al Qaeda. It does say that unnamed wealthy Saudi sympathizers, and leading Saudi charities, sent money to the terror group. But the report fails to mine any of the widely available reporting and research that establishes the degree to which many of the suspect charities cited by the United States are controlled directly by the Saudi government or some of its ministers.The report makes no mention, for example, of an October 2002 study by the Council of Foreign Relations that draws opposite conclusions about the role of Saudi charities and how “Saudi officials have turned a blind eye to this problem.” The 9/11 panel also misses an opportunity to more fully explore an intelligence coup in 2002, when American agents in Bosnia retrieved computer files of the so-called Golden Chain, a group of Mr. bin Laden’s early financial supporters.
Reported to be among the 20 names on this list were a former government minister in Saudi Arabia, three billionaire banking tycoons and several top industrialists. Yet the report neither confirms nor denies this. Nor does it address what, if anything, the Saudis did with the information, or whether the men were ever arrested by Saudi authorities.
After going over the evidence that Saudis, including members of bin Laden’s family, were allowed to leave the US at a time when other planes were grounded (whether or not they were questioned before they went is unclear), he concludes:
Of course, none of these matters undermine the report’s central conclusions about what went wrong inside the United States leading up to 9/11. And satisfying answers to questions about the relationship between the Saudis and Al Qaeda might not be available yet. But the commission could have at least asked them. By failing to address adequately how Saudi leaders helped Al Qaeda flourish, the commission has risked damaging its otherwise good work. (emphasis added)
Robert Dreyfuss points out in 9/11C–Failure #2 that some of their central recommendations betray an astonishing ignorance of both Islam and what drives Islamic terrorism.
Thing Two. Perhaps it’s too much to expect people like Fred Fielding, Slade Gorton, Jim Thompson, Bob Kerrey and the rest of the 9/11 Commission to say anything intelligent about how to “Prevent the Continued Growth of Islamist Terrorism,” one of the top priorities in the “What To Do? A Global Strategy” chapter of their report. After all, it’s fair to say that they are virtual know-nothings when it comes to understanding Islam, not to mention its radical and fundamentalist manifestations.But this chapter isn’t a road map on fighting “Islamist terrorism.” It is a veritable Bartlett’s of quotable (and meaningless) platitudes. So far, at least, I haven’t seen anyone point this out.
Here are a few of the silliest (and by the way, these are not taken out of context, but are the central observations and “recommendations” of the commission in how to fight Islamic terrorism by “engage[ing] in the struggle for ideas”):
“It is among the large majority of Arabs and Muslims that we must encourage reform, freedom, democracy, and opportunity.”
“The U.S. government must define what the message is, what it stands for. We should offer an example of moral leadership in the world, committed to treat people humanely, abide by the rule of law, and be generous and caring to our neighbors… That vision of the future should stress life over death.”
“Just as we did in the Cold War, we need to defend our ideals abroad vigorously. America does stand up for its values.”
“The U.S. government should offer to join other nations in generously supporting a new International Youth Opportunity Fund.”
These are PPPP’s (Pointless but Positive Political Platitudes) meant to shore up Junior’s ill-advised, inaccurate hyperbole about Islamic fundamentalism arising from a hatred of ‘freedom’, which is such arrant, bigoted, and superficial nonsense that even the neocons who thought this idiotic strategy up never used it as an excuse before he did.
The 9/11CR is just a political document, and it needs to be treated that way: picked apart until the grain is separated from the mountains of chaff, not embraced like Holy Writ. Yet even the 9/11 Family Steering Committee, up to now one of the 9/11C’s most vocal and reliable critics, is jumping on the bandwagon.
We intend to hold any elected official publicly accountable for any obstruction or opposition to the implementation of these recommendations. We will maintain a log on our website that will track the course of this legislation. We will in effect conduct our own oversight – “the people’s oversight”. And we will actively lobby Congress and the White House until these important recommendations are in place.
You can stand down guys; it’s an election year and everybody’s breaking their necks to get in line. We’re apparently going to have this crap hung around our necks at the speed of light, and nobody’s going to bother too much with whether it makes sense or not, will fix anything or not, or count the glaring holes in it.
It’s an election year.