Monthly Archives: May 2004

Dumping Bush Is Only the First Step

I don’t usually write about local politics for one simple reason: I only have a couple of readers who live in Mass. The rest of you are scattered across the US–and indeed, the world; thanks largely to Tim Dunlop, I have more readers in Australia than I do in Massachusetts. That’s the nature of the internet.

But this latest development in the culture wars in Mass has larger implications than its local nature would suggest. First, let’s look at the story.

Three weeks ago, the decision of the Mass Supreme Judicial Court that banning gay marriages was in violation of the State Constitution took effect and the first legal marriage licenses ever issued to gay couples were signed by municipal clerks in the cities of Provincetown, Springfield, Somerville and Worcester. Many of those couples married almost immediately; many others waited until friends and families could gather. Rep Gov Mitt Romney, who is basically a moderate but plays to the radicals for effect (and votes), announced his opposition to the clerks’ compliance with the law as given in the SJC decision and warned them that they were guilty of flouting a law dating from 1913 that he had dug out of the tomb where it was resting comfortably and was now using to threaten any city clerk who dared to comply with the Constitution rather than with his stated position.

On Friday, May 21, Romney asked State’s Attorney General Thomas O’Reilly to stop the clerks on the basis of a 1913 law prohibiting couples from other states from obtaining marriage licenses in Mass ‘if they would be void in the state in which a couple resides.’

Romney said he expected Reilly to urge the clerks to stop issuing the licenses with calls and letters at first. If that does not work, Romney said, a court injunction might be warranted.

Reilly repeatedly stressed that under Massachusetts law, the governor has the power to prosecute all matters related to marriage without the help of the attorney general. “I want to recognize here and acknowledge that the governor of Massachusetts has special authority and jurisdiction when it comes to the regulation of the issuance of marriage [licenses], and enforcement of the marriage laws and process,” Reilly said. “I certainly understand that authority, and I respect that authority. We will take it in that context.”Romney said he has spoken to Reilly personally and that the two officials are “on the same page.”

What the Globe article carefully refrained from mentioning was that the 1913 law Romney is using as an excuse to stop out-of-state gay marriages was originally written to stop ‘mixed-race’ marriages. The SJC then had recently struck down the laws forbidding mixed-race marriages using the same reasons and referring to the same clauses in the State Constitution as the present SJC, and the State legislature promptly scurried through a loophole and passed a law preventing out-of-state mixed-race couples from ‘flooding into Massachusetts’, as one outraged Republican State Senator put it, to get married here when it was illegal in their home states.

This onerous law, ignored for 75 years and illegal by intent if not language, should have been repealed a long time ago, and probably would have been if anybody had remembered it existed before Romney disinterred it from its vault, dusted it off, and applied it to gays rather than to ‘miscegenation’. (Bigots have such harmless-sounding words for their bigotry, don’t they? ‘Miscegenation’. Such soft syllables. Almost sounds like something that happens to an undercooked pie.) For him to be using that law in this context is tantamount to an admission that gay marriage is in fact a civil rights isuue, not a ‘religious’ issue, and that Mitt is standing four-square with the bigots of yesteryear to deny a minority their rights.

The pressure, of course, is coming from radical conservative groups like the Mass Family Institute, and from the religious right who have been outraged by the SJC decision. They are key players in Romney’s constituency, having supported handsomely both of his failed senate campaigns against Ted Kennedy as well as his squeaker-of-a-win in the Gov’s race against the weak Democratic hack who was his opponent. They have a lot of influence with the Romney Admin and, as is usual with the radcons, they’re not shy about using it.

Unfortunately for them, Mass is a very Democratic state. While it’s a lot less liberal than its radcon attackers would have you know, it is definitely NOT a bastion of right-wing ideologues and bigots. The Mass GOP has in the past been fairly centrist in its leanings, an old-style moderate Republicanism that harkens back to people like Ed Brooke and Bill Weld, the kind of men (usually men) who defined the ‘fiscal-conservative/social-liberal’ model in the late 80’s and early 90’s (clarification: Ed Brooke was the first black US Senator from NE and was waaaay ahead of his time in pioneering the fc/sl model, an achievement for which he receives very little credit). They haven’t tended to the extremes and in the past have been known to hand radicals their walking papers. No more. Like everywhere else, radcons have hijacked the state GOP and used it to push moderates to the margins and their own radical policies to the center of the party platform, and like everywhere else, they have been none too dainty–or scrupulous–about how they did it.

Local Republican politics is becoming as radical, arrogant, autocratic, and unsavory as its national Big Brother. Cockroach Master Tom DeLay, from his perch as House Majority Leader, ordered the Texas State Legislature to re-district the state to favor Republicans in defiance of a tradition that only allowed re-districting after each census because Republicans happened to control that legislature at the moment and DeLay was determined to see it stayed that way. In California, the RNC used a wealthy used-car dealer, Darryl Issa, to force a recall vote on Gov Gray Davis right after an energy crisis brought on by big corporate Republican donors running energy companies in Texas had stolen $Billions$ from the state by illegally manipulating the market, causing an artificial shortfall that all but bankrupted the state coffers. They used the recall to blame Davis for the energy crisis, and when people turned against Davis because of it, they used Davis’ weakness to foist The Terminator on a punch-drunk state reeling from the Republican-engineered body blows. In Georgia, radcon-elected State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox tried to force a school curriculum that replaced evolution with creationism, and in Colorado, they tried the same re-districting trick the Texas Republicans had succeeded with only to be slapped down by the courts.

You probably knew about those, but here’s the sort of maneuver becoming standard for radcons that doesn’t get much press: Jeff at Notes On The Atrocities lives in Oregon and reports on the machinations of its far-right Speaker of the House, Karen Minnis, who has just ordered the House to meet in a special sessionwithout the Senate.

It’s an unprecedented move and has no legal standing. Without Senate approval, no legislation can go through. But Minnis isn’t afraid to use whatever tiny reserve of goodwill that remains to try to rend the state further apart. We will now watch the GOP spend days or weeks passing phony laws and calling Dems rat bastards–all on the government dime. (Hey, fiscal responsibility is only good when you’re cutting programs that benefit Democratic constitutencies.)

Minnis, who has a background of dirty tricks and slimy campaign tactics that would rival Saxby Chambliss’ for sleaze (read Jeff’s post for details), is typical of the rising radicalism in local GOP organizations across the country who have used Bush’s popularity and the excuse of the ‘new reality’ since 9/11 to ram through extreme right-wing programs that would be DOA if offered fairly and openly. They have crow-barred their way to power and they have no intention of letting it slip away just because the standard-bearer is self-destructing.

With his own party turning against him, the Cult of Personality that was built up around Bush over the past four years may be crumbling but its purpose has been to some degree served: radical conservatives now control not only the national GOP but many of the local party mechanisms as well. Rejecting Bush will weaken but hardly destroy them. For those who may be thinking that if we just get rid of Junior everything will be alright, think again. That’s only half the battle. The other half will have to be fought right in our own home towns.

In the words of Han Solo, ‘Don’t get cocky, kid.’ We’ve got a long way to go before we can rest.

Signs of the Apocalypse–Ultimate Poker Babes

I’ve said before that ours is an adolescent culture focused on the sex, simple answers, and mindless hedonism of the teen-aged years. It seems obvious to me when I see how we vote (and who we vote for) and what we like to watch on tv. Apparently, cable tv producers think so, too.

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (AP) — You’ll have to expose more than a poker face if you want a spot on “Ultimate Poker Babes.”The producers of “Ultimate Poker Babes” are looking for eight young woman to play strip poker as part of a pay-per-view cable series. Open auditions will be held Wednesday at a Hollywood hotel.

The poker babes don’t have to know the difference between a straight and a flush, but what they will have to do may make some blush.

The producers say those participating must sign an agreement to appear partially nude during the audition and the game.

As for poker prowess, the producers say lessons will be provided.

I like that last part. Lessons. We have our priorities, we do. Stripping comes first. The sacred game of Poker descends into Hell to play with Satan. Sad.

A Poem for Our Time

I find it very difficult to enthuse;

Over the current news.

Just when you think that at least the outlook is so black that it can grow no blacker, it worsens,

And that is why I do not like the news, because there has never been an era when so many things were going so right for so many of the wrong persons.–Ogden Nash

Culture Wars

Frank Rich: How (and why) the right is blaming Abu Ghraib on Time/Warner:

It sounds laughable, but it’s not a joke. Some of our self-appointed moral leaders are defending the morally indefensible by annexing Abu Ghraib as another front in America’s election-year culture war. Charles Colson, the Watergate felon turned celebrity preacher, told a group of pastors convened by the Family Research Council that the prison guards had been corrupted by “a steady diet of MTV and pornography.” The Concerned Women for America site posted a screed by Robert Knight, of the Culture and Family Institute, calling the Abu Ghraib scandal the ” `Perfect Storm’ of American cultural depravity,” in which porn, especially gay porn, gave soldiers “the idea to engage in sadomasochistic activity and to videotape it in voyeuristic fashion.” (His chosen prophylactics to avert future Abu Ghraibs include abolishing sex education, outlawing same-sex marriage and banishing Howard Stern.) The vice president of the Heritage Foundation, Rebecca Hagelin, found a link between the prison scandal and how “our country permits Hollywood to put almost anything in a movie and still call it PG-13.”

Women Blog, Too! 2

This week’s featured female blogger is ‘melanie’ of Just a Bump on the Beltway.

Melanie, like Seattle, posts long excerpts from articles or news stories she finds significant or telling. Saturday’s posts, for example, include an item that CNN is suing Florida for access to its ineligible voter list, an article on the breakdown of discipline in the White House, and a piece all but buried by the mainstream media that Pat Tillman was probably killed by friendly fire, among others.

Also like Seattle, she doesn’t write much, usually containing herself to a sentence or two after the excerpts, but what she writes makes up in pith and vinegar what it lacks in length.

On an NYT article about the sham ‘sovereignty’ in Iraq:

Good puppet press that it is, the Times is attempting to find the pony in a room filled with horseshft. The people of Iraq are not liable to be equally fooled. If Americans and the US press want to pretend that this fake sovereignty actually means something, than we can also pretend to be surprised by the violence which follows on.

On an Andrew Greeley essay on how the WOT makes us less safe:

This is the real story of the Global War on Terror: it’s all yack.

On Ashcroft raising the warning level without telling Ridge, whose responsibility it is:

If this is the best they can do to get the preznit re-selected, they should be displaid in public stocks on the capital Mall this holiday weekend. If I were voting for cheap goods like this, I’d rather head to my local dollar store. At least I’d arrive home with some new coasters or something similar.

She’s concise, well-informed, and sports just enough sass to be a fun read. A good way to start your day with a rounded look at what’s coming ’round the corner.

Denial Hurts the Military

Tom Engelhardt in his Dispatch titled ‘State of Denial: AbuGrabbed in Washington’ is taken by the level of denial in Bush’s ‘lackluster Iraq speech’ as illustrated by his promise (spurned by the IGC) to tear down the offending building as if it were the building that was at fault.

In terms of the President’s speech, the strangest thing about his prison offer is that he’s so ready to shuck blame for our torture regime (though not Saddam’s) off on the building itself.

The essence of whatever was “new” in his speech lay in odd lines that popped up every now and then and were clearly meant to pass for a reckoning with Iraqi reality. In half an hour of otherwise forward-thrusting turns of phrase, all few of these swipes at reality were cast in the passive tense as if, out of a blue sky, something — call it history, call it chance — had done George in. Our own President, it seemed, had been Abugrabbed.Here are more or less all of those lines:

“There are difficult days ahead, and the way forward may sometimes appear chaotic….In the last 32 months, history has placed great demands on our country and events have come quickly… History is moving and it will tend toward hope or tend toward tragedy.”

In other words, if it goes wrong, history’s what done me in.

Apparently they’re running out of individuals to blame and Rove has now decided to just blame ‘history’. ‘History’, after all, can’t talk back. History can’t defend itself or go on tv or testify in front of a Congressional committee or write a book explaining how the Bush Administration ignored its advice, denied its reality, and twisted its facts. From the Rove perspective, ‘history’ is the perfect scapegoat, especially if you’re busy re-writing it in your favor almost as soon as it happens.

When the President didn’t shift the blame for events to Abu Ghraib or history in the speech, he unerringly found someplace else for it to lie. On troop levels in Iraq, for instance, he had this curious comment:”Our commanders had estimated that a troop level below 115,000 would be sufficient at this point in the conflict. Given the recent increase in violence, we will maintain our troop level at the current 138,000 as long as necessary.”

Here he repays history for its indignities with a good, stiff jab to the jaw. At the Army War College, in front of an audience of military men some of whom must have been squirming with anger, he managed to wipe out his administration’s rejection of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki’s prewar suggestion that several hundred thousand troops would be needed to occupy Iraq. Now, it’s the “[military] commanders” themselves who made the only real mistake he manages to acknowledge, however indirectly — not Donald Rumsfeld or Paul Wolfowitz who laughed Shinseki out of the service. As it turned out, I guess, history (division of rewriting) had its uses after all.

The damage of denial grows by the hour and spreads from one area to another like weeds in a neglected garden. One of the most serious–and least talked-about–of its effects is liable to be on the state of the US military itself. When Generals like Tony Zinni and Eric Shinseki get fired for their honest evaluations and are promptly replaced by yes-men like Myers and Kimmet who will faithfully regurgitate the political-party line without questions, express no doubts, refer to no reality in their assessments beyond the capacity of the ‘presidential bubble’ to understand, you inevitably create a military unable to respond effectively to anything.

History has desperately tried to teach the Bushies a lesson or two, and it has been spurned like a clueless CEO spurns his tech expert because she’s an ‘egghead’ who doesn’t understand the cold realities of the business world; refuse to listen, though, and before long all your systems crash.

There are, as Wanda wrote, new stirrings about the necessity for a draft again to keep America’s many adventures around its empire stocked with a steady supply of cannon fodder, and it may come. But the alternative–and it’s happening right now–is even worse: a privatized army–highly paid mercenaries hired to do the dirty work in our colonies around the world as another George hired Hessians 240 years ago to put down the insurgency in that other upstart colony full of terrorists who fired at you from behind trees and then blended back into the population so you couldn’t tell who was who. Using mercenaries is a tacit admission of empire as well as an unavoidable signal that government has become a corporation and war is now a business expense.

The proud tradition of the US military, while inevitably marred from time to time by the political uses to which it has been put (see Gen Smedley Butler for detailed examples), has by-and-large been able to believe that it serves the nation’s interests for love of country, not love of money. What happens to that belief when it sees itself replaced by much higher-paid mercs in the field? when its logistics are serviced by corporate contracts given without a bidding process to companies that have ties to govt officials? when more money is thrown at the latest unworkable high-tech battlefield gadget while their health care, travel expenses, death benefits, hazardous duty pay, combat pay, and personal equipment budgets are being cut to the bone and their families are having bake sales to buy their body armor for them?

Recruitment apparently remains at its usual levels but the number of re-ups is diving toward the cellar. The call to help protect and defend our country is as strong as it ever was but when soldiers see how the Bush Administration is mis-using and abusing their sacrifices, many more than ever before decide they want out after a single hitch. The National Guard–a home-grown, part-time militia intended, like the Minutemen, for defending against an invasion–has become little more than the maid service for a stretched-thin military, filling in gaps, cleaning up after it, and getting no respect.

Once again, what has happened is the result of standard corporate attitudes held by the ex-CEO’s and high-level corporate flunkies with which Bush has filled the govt, men–and women, at least one–who see the military as they have always seen it: a corporate asset whose only legitimate use is to further their business interests, and to do so as cheaply as possible and shut up about it. Can it really surprise anyone that when young men who join believing they are serving their country discover that in fact they’re serving Halliburton, they turn away in disgust?

We are looking at the potential creation of a privatized, corporate military serving at the exclusive pleasure of the business interests of the dominant companies, a sort of US East India Company that is expected to function according to the highest corporate values: No military analysis is to contradict stated corporate policy; no military department is to exceed its budget and every budget is to be cut; anyone dissenting from the corporate goals will be considered disloyal, negative, and ‘not a team member’ and will be disciplined accordingly; no military employee is allowed to express a personal opinion not in line with the corporate agenda; all military employees must sacrifice any and all benefits for the good of the corporation; no corporate goal, agenda, or business plan is to be discussed by the employees in public or private; no employee below the executive level has any rights whatever beyond those granted by the corporation–and the corporation grants NO rights.

In short, we are witnessing the US military being turned into Wal-Mart, which Dick Cheney called ‘one of our nation’s best companies’, blithely ignoring little things like ‘its poverty-level wages, mistreatment of workers and repeated violations of…law.’

He claimed the company “exemplifies some of the very best qualities in our country—hard work, the spirit of enterprise, fair dealing and integrity.” He failed to mention the 60 federal complaints against the company for workplace violations, Wal-Mart’s decisions to lock workers into stores and charges that it doctored hourly employees’ time records in order to skimp on wages. Instead, he parroted the Wal-Mart executives, the same ones who are bankrolling the Bush-Cheney campaign, and called for “litigation reform,” saying the problem afflicting America is pesky workers who have the nerve to challenge corporate malfeasance in court.

If the BA is allowed to continue the way it’s going, the US military may well become the equivalent of Wal-Mart security guards. Does that make you feel safer?

Saturday Blog-Browsing

#Matt Yglesias at TAPPED on Mickey Kaus’ accusation that Kerry ‘flip-flopped’ on the question of putting more troops in Iraq.

Well, there was a third school of thought represented by George W. Bush, who exercized his patented strong leadership in times of change by refusing to acknowledge that the problem existed at all. As a result, the situation continued to deteriorate. Eventually, things got so bad that Bush was forced to cede political control to the UN in exchange for nothing at all.

#John McKay at archy finds a Hannity comparison between and the Ku Klux Klan wanting, and notes with satisfaction the IGC’s decision on razing Abu Ghraib.

#David Neiwert at Orcinus investigates the source of the BA’s decision to flout internmational law and comes up with a less obvious candidate than Alberto Gonzales.

However, I think that while the initial paper trail points to the OLC, there has to be at least one significant suspect as the actual source of this legal stratagem, namely, Solicitor General Ted Olson — Clement’s boss, and the architect of nearly the entirety of the Bush administration’s legal strategy in the war on terrorism.

Important reading.

#Stirling Newberry at BOP goes after NY Times ‘reporter’ and Chalabi/Mylroie/Rove mouthpiece Judith Miller and doesn’t mince a lot of words in the process.

Miller’s arrogance, to the point where one must question her sanity, is, lamentably, all too common. In a world of uncertainty, many people rise by making the best decisions, but many people rise by simply muscling their way to the table, grabbing other people’s chips, and betting on 22. Miller is one of these people, it is time to call security and take her out of the casino.

#Wanda at Words on a Page writes a heartfelt post about the rising spectre of a re-institution of the draft.

How do we face the reality that ‘staying the course’ means the probability of a re-instatement of the draft? How do we ask young men and women to go unwillingly to fight in a war they do not believe in or support? Are we prepared to face the disfranchisement of the thousands of young people who will refuse? The children of today are not as naively loyal as they were 30 years ago. Do you remember the nightmare that Vietnam wrought on this country? Fathers turned against their sons. Brothers against their brother. All for a war that in the end we lost. What did we accomplish? What are we accomplishing now? We are suppose to be bringing liberty and freedom to Iraq but we are willing to enslave our young to do so? That’s what the draft is, afterall, because if you force them go against their will, that is slavery.

#Jesse at The Gotham City 13 lays out the resume of the new Iraqi Prime Minister. It ain’t pretty.

#Alan at Southerly Buster, my second favorite Aussieblog, links to a Wall Street Journal article re-published on the Global Policy Forum website that proves all of junior’s protestations and promises today about ‘full sovereignty’ for Iraq was so much Bushwah.

This is just another proof of how incomplete the transfer of complete sovereignty is going to be. These tactics are authorised by by Articles 48 and 49 of the transitional administrative diktat. It’s only a guess, but I wonder how much of UN Envoy Brahimi’s difficulties in constructing a government are due to the CPA making these appointments over his head. The defence minister, for instance, has a fixed 5-year term and cannot be removed by the prime minister or the presidency council.Without basic changes, the interim constitution is simply unworkable.

#And Bert at That Colored Fella’s Weblog (who has redone his site again) has a long list of convincing reasons why Bush is at the bottom of a long uphill slog.

However, not on Bush’s agenda, but on the country’s schedule is the 9/11 reports and the Wilson Spy Scandal. Not to mention the ever-widening abuse scandal inching its way up to Rumsfeld and the coming toll of gas prices on a recovering economy – new job’s number box score. But, what of the recently penciled in Ahmed Chalabi? If he proves to be more of a media hound than Chuck Shummer, it should be interesting how the Right spins the elite Liberal media’s manipulation after supplying ample incriminating file footage of the future (now former) Hamid Karzai of the new Iraq.

Tax Cuts Responsible for Gas Price Hike

FITE Newsletter #27

Re: corruption, taxes, and gas prices

Remember all those tax cuts that “benefited American families?” Most American families saved around $450. But the gains have been more than erased by the more than $500 extra paid annually for gasoline and heating oil. Then again, they were already erased by increases in local taxes and fees in the same time period.

We have explained in previous newsletters how Bush’s irresponsible tax cuts and profligate spending caused OPEC to increase oil prices. But the price of crude is only one part of the story. Refiners are making the biggest profits in a long time, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that the Bush administration allowed 33 refinery mergers after the refineries dumped $3.5 million into Bush campaign coffers. The mergers translate into less competition and higher prices.

The refinery-Bush love fest will get even “better” if Bush is reelected because the new energy bill, providing some $25 billion in tax breaks, will likely pass after a Bush win.

Democrats Urge Bush To Act on Gasoline Prices

Reduce Demand for Oil…Money

Political chemistry lesson number one: whether it’s Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Texas or Washington, oil money and good government don’t mix. Arianna Huffington runs the numbers that reveal how our oil dependence is weakening our society and threatening our security—and comes out in favor of regime change here at home.



Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Charles Palson


US Empire: The Big Picture

Robert Jensen nails it. Rather than restating his points in my own words, I’ll fall back on my bad habit of extensively excerpting:

Republican politicians took potshots at House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi last week after she called President Bush “incompetent” and criticized his judgment and leadership. Her conclusion — “the emperor has no clothes” — understandably made Republicans angry, because it is so obviously accurate.

Pelosi’s remarks deserve scrutiny, but not because she was too harsh on the president. The lies and distortions that Bush and his top officials used to promote the U.S. invasion of Iraq were exposed long ago, and day-by-day the disastrous consequences of the occupation are obvious to all but the most fanatical of the Leader’s faithful.

But the problem is not just that the EMPEROR is bare, but that the U.S. EMPIRE has no clothes, and in that respect mainstream Democrats stand before the world as naked as the most reactionary Republicans.

…The modalities of control change, but the game remains the same; set the terms for the world economy and derail the possibility of independent development by any means necessary, with a gargantuan military on call when violence is required.

Nor do the differences in style and tactics make Democratic administrations any less imperial than Republicans. The Cold-War liberals of the Democratic Party had no greater qualms than Republicans about using the military to extend U.S. power in the Third World…

That pattern continues up to this day. We should not forget that for all the talk of Bill Clinton’s “multilateralism,” he launched an illegal attack on Iraq in 1998 and insisted on maintaining the harshest economic embargo in modern history on that country for eight years, which killed as many as 1 million Iraqis — policies that had virtually no support in the world. In short, Clinton killed more Iraqis than Bush as he ignored international law and world opinion. I doubt the fact that Clinton is smarter and more rhetorically gifted than Bush makes much difference to the dead in Iraq.

Neither Republicans nor mainstream Democrats seem capable of admitting that the invasion of Iraq was never about weapons of mass destruction, terrorist ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda, or creating democracy; it was simply an intensification of the longstanding U.S. project of controlling the strategically crucial energy resources of the Middle East. That project has gone on under Democratic and Republican presidents alike, taking different forms but always with that same goal of expanding U.S. power.

It’s not just the Iraq War that is immoral. The whole rotten project of empire building is immoral — and every bit as much a Democratic as a Republican project. When politicians from both parties offer platitudes about America’s benevolent intentions as they argue about the most appropriate strategies for running the world, we should remember this trenchant comment after World War I from W.E.B. DuBois: “It is curious to see America, the United States, looking on herself, first, as a sort of natural peacemaker, then as a moral protagonist in this terrible time. No nation is less fitted for this role.”

This analysis doesn’t mean voters can’t judge one particular empire-building politician more dangerous than another. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t sometimes make strategic choices to vote for one over the other. It simply means we should make such choices with eyes open and no illusions.

Here, I borrow phrases from Pelosi’s condemnation of Bush: “When are people going to face reality? Pull the curtain back.”

Indeed, Rep. Pelosi, pull the curtain back. You will see naked emperors, Republican and Democratic. You will see the cowardly legislators who chose to step aside before the war, when spirited opposition in Congress might have helped derail the disaster that is playing out in Iraq.

Pull the curtain back, and step in front of the mirror.

CNN outrage

Atrios notes (1, 2) the following outrage from CNN:

[Kelli] ARENA: Neither John Kerry nor the president has said troops pulled out of Iraq any time soon. But there is some speculation that al Qaeda believes it has a better chance of winning in Iraq if John Kerry is in the White House.

BEN VENZKE, INTELCENTER: Al Qaeda feels that Bush is, even despite casualties, right or wrong for staying there is going to stay much longer than possibly what they might hope a Democratic administration would.

I took his advice and sent a quick note to CNN. You should too.







Dear Ms. Arena and Mr. Jordan,

Your comment on “speculation” that Al Qaeda thinks it has a better chance of “winning” in Iraq if John Kerry is elected is outrageous. If you want to report on speculation, at least focus on speculation with some real basis, like the compelling speculation that Bush’s violence has served as an ideal recruiting tool for Al Qaeda. Better yet, just stick to the facts. For starters, I suggest that you report on the following article about the relationship between the Bush administration and Al Qaeda:

It’s by Seymour Hersh. In striking contrast to your network, he has a stellar reputation for credibility.


Kerry Speaks

Well, I wondered where he was. Maybe he was listening.

Last night in Seattle (yes, we’re all waiting with baited breath to see if our own correspondent in that very city was lucky enough to see him and if we are, therefore, lucky enough to be able to expect a personal report on his appearance), Kerry delivered his first real speech in quite a while, and he centered it around national security, which he really needed to do. He sounded tough, which he needed to do. He threatened the terrorists, which he needed to do. He promised more reliance on negotiation and forging alliances, which he needed to do.

Alright. He did what he needed to do. He didn’t do what he could have done–talked like a statesman, talked about what it would cost, talked about why staying in Iraq was a good idea, how he expected to handle it, and what our part was. He says there’s more coming in the next few weeks; maybe he’ll address all those things then. But I doubt it.

I wanted to hear a statesman; I heard a politician. Maybe a good politician, but a politician nevertheless.

Let me now turn to a subject that I know is much on the minds of all Americans — the situation in Iraq. The stakes in Iraq could not be higher. Earlier this week, the president again said that he wanted to create stability and establish a representative government in Iraq. He did acknowledge what many have known all along; that we would be far better off if our allies were with us. What’s important now is to turn this late realization and acknowledgement from words into action.In the coming weeks, President Bush will travel to Europe and meet with members of the G-8 here in the United States. There will be speeches, handshakes, ceremonies. But will our allies promise to send troops to Iraq? Will they dedicate substantially more funding for reconstruction there? Will they pledge a real effort to aid in the transformation of the Middle East? Will they in fact become part of the stakes that are at large for all of us? That is what we need. But the day is late and the situation in Iraq is grim. Attracting international support in a situation like Iraq is a clear test of presidential leadership; it is what capable and confident presidents do. It is its own statement about this administration’s failed approach that they must so constantly be so urged to change that approach, and that they do so only reluctantly and at the last minute.

It is time for President Bush to make a sustained effort, and he should start at the summit at Istanbul by persuading NATO to accept Iraq as an alliance mission with more troops from NATO and its partners. (Applause.) He should seek help in expanding international support for training Iraq’s own security forces so that they can safeguard the rights and the well-being of their own people and allow them to come out into the streets and take part in new freedom. And he should propose the creation of an international high commissioner to work with the Iraqis in organizing elections, drafting a constitution and coordinating reconstruction.

A lot of this is what Bush is claiming to do anyway. Except for a stronger UN role, what’s really different here? He renews the old Carter pledge to lessen our reliance on foreign oil by funding options–and we know how far that’s going to get with the Pubs in charge of the Congress. Anyway, it’s an empty promise, with or without the Pubs; he has to know people wouldn’t sit still for the expense unless he convinced them there was a good reason, and he seemed to be assuming they already knew it. Maybe his audience did, but out here in Realityburg we want to see gas prices go down NOW, not watch our money flow down the spout of pie-in-the-sky ‘alternative investments’ that may pay off twenty years after we’re dead.

The high-falutin’ statesman-lite-like language will play well down here; so will the criticism of Bush which was sharp without being nasty.

More than a century ago, Teddy Roosevelt defined American leadership in foreign policy.He said America should walk softly and carry a big stick. Time and again — (interrupted by applause) — time and again this administration has violated the fundamental tenet of Roosevelt’s approach. As Roosevelt described it, if a man continually blusters, if he lacks civility, a big stick will not save him from trouble. (Applause.)

And that is precisely what this administration has ignored. They’ve looked to force before exhausting diplomacy; they bullied when they should have persuaded. They’ve gone it alone when they should have assembled a whole team. They have hoped for the best when they should have prepared for the worst. They’ve made America less safe than we should be in a dangerous world. (Applause.) In short, they have undermined the legacy of generations of American leadership, and that is what we must restore, and that is what I will restore.

All that is well and good and we like it, but the rest of the speech is short on specifics, especially about Iraq. Is he going to commit more troops? Sounds like it. Probably necessary. So, John, where are they going to come from? He promises them the equipment Rumsfeld short-changed them on; OK, where’s the money going to come from? Pubs can get away with vague promises undefined and without substance; Dems can’t, not when it comes to national security. And the tax-cut/increase bugaboo is going to have to be faced sooner or later.

Still, it was a good speech, forceful and even poetic at times. It’s only a beginning but it’s not a bad one and there are months to go for him to flesh it out in. But people down here are going to be a lot tougher on him that they are on Junior: they’re going to want answers to those questions I posed and a whole lot more, and he better be ready to convince them that Junior’s patented cliches aren’t good enough when he answers them. To do that, he’s going to have to lead before he’s elected.

Junior’s a lightweight. Kerry can blow him off the map, but only if he’s more JFK than Dukakis; more FDR than Mondale. He has to come across as a statesman rather than a politician, and whether he can do that is still unclear.

Gore Blasts Bush

Vice President Al Gore delivered a blistering attack on the entire Bush Administration in a speech at NYU yesterday, calling for the resignations of six top-ranking members of Junior’s inner circle, including Rice, Rumsfeld, and his friend, George Tenet.

We simply cannot afford to further increase the risk to our country with more blunders by this team. Donald Rumsfeld, as the chief architect of the war plan, should resign today. His deputies Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and his intelligence chief Stephen Cambone should also resign. The nation is especially at risk every single day that Rumsfeld remains as Secretary of Defense.Condoleeza Rice, who has badly mishandled the coordination of national security policy, should also resign immediately.

George Tenet should also resign. I want to offer a special word about George Tenet, because he is a personal friend and I know him to be a good and decent man. It is especially painful to call for his resignation, but I have regretfully concluded that it is extremely important that our country have new leadership at the CIA immediately.

But although that’s the part that will get headlines, probably–if any attention is paid at all–it’s the rest of the speech that deserves attention. From the opening paragraph–‘George W. Bush promised us a foreign policy with humility. Instead, he has brought us humiliation in the eyes of the world.’–to the closing sentence–‘I believe we have a duty to hold President Bush accountable – and I believe we will. As Lincoln said at our time of greatest trial, “We – even we here – hold the power, and bear the responsibility.”‘–Gore carefully, cogently, and angrily laid out the real Bush legacy: humiliation, deceit, broken promises, and the destruction of America’s reputation.

During Ronald Reagan’s Presidency, Secretary of Labor Ray Donovan was accused of corruption, but eventually, after a lot of publicity, the indictment was thrown out by the Judge. Donovan asked the question, “Where do I go to get my reputation back?” President Bush has now placed the United States of America in the same situation. Where do we go to get our good name back?

It’s a question that haunts many of us. Bush’s inherent unilateralist approach–‘We don’t need anybody else else. We’re the Big Dog and we do what we want”–may have struck a welcome chord with right-wing jingoists but the rest of the world sees only unholy arrogance and a dangerous obsession with flexing our muscles at the expense of order and law.

He promised to “restore honor and integrity to the White House.” Instead, he has brought deep dishonor to our country and built a durable reputation as the most dishonest President since Richard Nixon.Honor? He decided not to honor the Geneva Convention. Just as he would not honor the United Nations, international treaties, the opinions of our allies, the role of Congress and the courts, or what Jefferson described as “a decent respect for the opinion of mankind.” He did not honor the advice, experience and judgment of our military leaders in designing his invasion of Iraq. And now he will not honor our fallen dead by attending any funerals or even by permitting photos of their flag-draped coffins.

How did we get from September 12th , 2001, when a leading French newspaper ran a giant headline with the words “We Are All Americans Now” and when we had the good will and empathy of all the world — to the horror that we all felt in witnessing the pictures of torture in Abu Ghraib.

To begin with, from its earliest days in power, this administration sought to radically destroy the foreign policy consensus that had guided America since the end of World War II. The long successful strategy of containment was abandoned in favor of the new strategy of “preemption.” And what they meant by preemption was not the inherent right of any nation to act preemptively against an imminent threat to its national security, but rather an exotic new approach that asserted a unique and unilateral U.S. right to ignore international law wherever it wished to do so and take military action against any nation, even in circumstances where there was no imminent threat. All that is required, in the view of Bush’s team is the mere assertion of a possible, future threat – and the assertion need be made by only one person, the President.

And, he said, we are promoting that pre-emptive war on the cheap at the expense of the soldiers we are sending to die.

The war plan was incompetent in its rejection of the advice from military professionals and the analysis of the intelligence was incompetent in its conclusion that our soldiers would be welcomed with garlands of flowers and cheering crowds. Thus we would not need to respect the so-called Powell doctrine of overwhelming force.There was also in Rumsfeld’s planning a failure to provide security for nuclear materials, and to prevent widespread lawlessness and looting.

Luckily, there was a high level of competence on the part of our soldiers even though they were denied the tools and the numbers they needed for their mission. What a disgrace that their families have to hold bake sales to buy discarded Kevlar vests to stuff into the floorboards of the Humvees! Bake sales for body armor.

It’s a remarkable speech, a speech that should arguably have been made by John Kerry. So where is Kerry?

According to Adam Nagourney of the NY Times, there’s an argument going on between Democratic consultants on that very question.

WASHINGTON, May 26 — President Bush’s political difficulties have prompted a debate among Democrats and aides to Senator John Kerry over how cautious his campaign should be on a variety of issues, from choosing a vice president to differentiating himself from Mr. Bush to responding to the turmoil in Iraq.Some party officials say that with three new polls showing President Bush more embattled than he has ever been, Mr. Kerry’s wisest course would be to take few chances and turn the election into a referendum on a struggling president. “People have won a lot of campaigns by just saying, `It is time for a change,’ ” said Mark Penn, a Democratic pollster.

But other Democrats warn that such a strategy entails risks of its own, banking on the proposition that Americans would be willing to fire an incumbent during war time and replace him with someone they know little about. “I don’t think anybody in their right mind is going to run for president on a strategy of `people hate the other guy and that’s enough for our guy to win,’ ” said Douglas Sosnik, the White House political director for President Bill Clinton.

So far the DLC seems to have won and Kerry has, as we’ve noted before, been keeping an awfully low profile–low to the point almost of invisibility. It’s an arguable policy for sure, especially since his numbers haven’t climbed in response to the sinking of Junior’s. But after thinking about this, I’m beginning to wonder if being in the front line, while comforting to those of us who want to hear these things said out loud, as Gore did, might only result in an even further polarization of the electorate. Things are dicey and there are a lot of people sitting on the fence; an active partisan assault by the nominee might shove them onto the other side rather than pull them onto ours.

Good thing I’m not one of the consultants. Go read the speech (it’s a great read) and decide for yourself.

Update: The Associated Press continues its right-wing slant. In reporting on Gore’s speech they characterized him as ‘Raising his voice to a scream’ a la Dean and ‘bellowing’. No other report on the speech mentioned him doing any such thing. They then dismiss the dozen outbursts of applause because they came from a ‘partisan crowd’, and quotes responses to the speech only from Jim Dyke of the RNC.

Berg Beheading Bogus

Talk about great minds thinking alike….

I was just writing a post about this when what I thought was an inoffensive little program I’d just downloaded crashed the computer. When I got back up, Seattle had beat me to it. But I’ll add a little just the same.

I originally ran into the charges that the Berg video was a fake a couple of weeks ago when La Voz De Aztlan published this story only a day or two after the video surfaced. But the Aztlan Press, while valuable, isn’t always terribly reliable, often printing rumors as if they were fact, so I waited to see if the story popped up someplace more credible. It did.

Yesterday, The Asia Times published this piece on the independent evaluations of two medical consultants.

American businessman Nicholas Berg’s body was found on May 8 near a Baghdad overpass; a video of his supposed decapitation death by knife appeared on an alleged al-Qaeda-linked website ( on May 11. But according to what both a leading surgical authority and a noted forensic death expert separately told Asia Times Online, the video depicting the decapitation appears to have been staged.”I certainly would need to be convinced it [the decapitation video] was authentic,” Dr John Simpson, executive director for surgical affairs at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, said from New Zealand. Echoing Dr Simpson’s criticism, when this journalist asked forensic death expert Jon Nordby, PhD and fellow of the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators, whether he believed the Berg decapitation video had been “staged”, Nordby replied: “Yes, I think that’s the best explanation of it.”

That gives Aztlan’s Hector Carreon credibility–on this issue, at least–and a few days after he wrote the first piece on the doctors, he wrote this one on a frame-by-frame analysis of the Berg video which he says shows that the staged decapitation took place within Abu Ghraib.

The evidence is mounting up that the beheading was, indeed, bogus. There are two possible explanations at this point: 1) the whole video is a fraud and NOBODY was killed; 2) it was Berg on the video but the decapitation happened after he was already dead.

Apart from Aztlan and Al-Jazeera, indications that the entire thing may be a hoax comes from the supposed linkage of terrorist al-Zarqawi who is, according to intelligence sources, dead and has been for two years.

On March 4, Brigadier-General David Rodriguez of the Joint Chiefs of staff revealed that the Pentagon didn’t have “direct evidence of whether he’s [al-Zarqawi] alive or dead”, providing commentary on the nature of prior “evidence” linking al-Zarqawi to attacks and bombings. But that same day, AP reported that an Iraqi resistance group claimed al-Zarqawi had been killed the April prior in the US bombing of northern Iraq.Speaking off the record, intelligence community sources have previously said they believe it “very likely” that al-Zarqawi is indeed long dead. Such a fact makes al-Zarqawi’s alleged killing of Berg difficult to reconcile, and there has been broad speculation that blaming al-Zarqawi is an administration ploy. Further anomalies surrounding Berg’s death have fueled added speculation.

Like the Plame Affair, this one isn’t over by a long shot.

OK, I’m with Mick on this one…

There are too many inconsistencies for the standard Nick Berg story to be credible.

What Is It With Tony Blair?

I can’t remember the legal term for it but in court when you’re cross-examining a witness you’re not allowed to inject questions about issues unless the other side raised them in the direct examination. That’s sort of what happened to Bush. From the moment he uttered the phrase ‘full sovereignty’, it’s been open season.

A day after President Bush declared in a major speech that Iraqis would exercise authority over their own affairs, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in London that Iraq’s interim government would have the right to veto specific military operations by the U.S.-led coalition, a view American officials immediately disputed. And French President Jacques Chirac told Bush in a telephone conversation that France wanted any new U.N. Security Council resolution to spell out clearly that the Iraqis would have a say over U.S.-led military operations.

The BA has been running around saying that there was going to be a ‘handover’ on June 30 no matter what but no one has been, until now, holding their feet to the fire to get a straight answer about exactly what that means. Then Junior opened the door to the issue Monday night and Tony Blair jumped right into the snake pit by publicly assuming that ‘full’ meant ‘full’, which, of course, it doesn’t, as those of us who understand the games Bush plays wih words knew as soon as he said it. That Tony didn’t know it should be troubling to Brits.

I like Blair, I have to admit. He comes across as the reasonable man in the unreasonable situation, but his insistent naivete when it comes to the Bush Administration is paradoxical, or at least mysterious. Tony Blair is not an idiot, yet he persists in acting like he’s three fries short of a Happy Meal whenever Bush is around. Alright, he bought Feith’s Chalabi-generated lies about WMD’s in Iraq; so did a lot of other people. But then he bought the Niger documents that his own Foreign Office knew were forgeries; he swallowed Colin Powell’s UN speech whole although he must have known at that point that most of it was based on bogus information; and he has defended like a trooper the BA protestations of ignorance over Abu Ghraib, Kimmet’s odious defense of the wedding-party cock-up with the standard Israeli excuse–‘They were shooting at us’–despite the video evidence to the contrary, and now this.

You’d think somebody as smart as Blair would know by now that when he’s been lied to several dozen times the chances are pretty good he’s being lied to again. But no. Once again he’s embarrassed himself in public by assuming Bush meant what he said when it’s perfectly obvious to the rest of the world that he didn’t.

On Tuesday, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said the U.S. did not intend to give the Iraqis authority over American operations in Iraq. He said the relationship between the interim government and coalition forces would be negotiated only after the new officials were named.”Obviously, we would take into account whatever they might say at a political and military level,” Powell told reporters in Washington. “Ultimately, however, if it comes down to the United States armed forces protecting themselves or in some way accomplishing their mission in a way that might not be in total consonance with what the Iraqi interim government might want to do at a particular moment in time, U.S. forces remain under U.S. command and will do what is necessary to protect themselves.”

In other words, the Pentagon will remain in control, handover or no handover, and the only man in the whole world surprised by that ‘clarification’ is Boy Georgie’s British puppet, Tony Blair. Chirac, who manipulated Junior shamelessly for his own ends when the new Pres went on his first extended European holiday right after his inauguration, was sufficiently realistic to demand specifics.

French President Jacques Chirac told Bush in a telephone conversation that France wanted any new U.N. Security Council resolution to spell out clearly that the Iraqis would have a say over U.S.-led military operations.

See, Jacques has had enough experience with the lies of the BA to want what ‘full’ means spelled out in writing–he wants the corporate CEO’s running the US held to a contract. Blair is merely using the common sense of an intelligent man expecting the BA to do the rational thing.

In a London news conference Tuesday, Blair seemed to be reassuring the French and other Security Council members when he said that the Iraqis would be allowed to block U.S. military plans.”If there’s a political decision as to whether you go into a place like Fallouja in a particular way, that has to be done with the consent of the Iraqi government,” Blair said, in a reference to recent U.S. attacks on Sunni Muslim insurgents in that city. “The final political control remains with the Iraqi government. That’s what the transfer of sovereignty means.”

Sounds logical enough, doesn’t it? That is, after all, what the word ‘full’ means in English, and Junior used that word–several times. In a normal, rational world, Blair should have been able to assume that the head of the US govt meant what he said in a public speech. But the world of the Bushies is neither normal nor rational; it is the comic-book Bizarro world of saying one thing and doing the opposite and it has been that way for three years, yet Blair simply doesn’t catch on. If I was a Brit, Blair’s continued naivete would worry me. A lot.

Oh, and one more consequence of the legal doctrine I mentioned to start with: Bush’s use, finally, of the word ‘occupation’ has allowed others to admit publicly that that’s what this is.

A senior Bush administration official in Baghdad said he expected the U.S. to negotiate an agreement with the Iraqi interim government in early June.”It is a crucial issue,” said the official, who spoke on condition that he not be named.

The Iraqi government, he said, will have “a seat at the table” when military decisions are made. But he bristled when asked whether that meant the Iraqis would have the explicit power to block U.S. military plans.

“We went through half a century with Germany, half a century with Japan, and we didn’t talk like that,” he said, referring to the issue of veto power. (emphasis added)

There it is, right out in the open–the comparison of Iraq to the occupations of Germany and Japan after WW II.

Tony? Got it yet?