Category Archives: Rice

Black Humor Is Where You Find It (no pun intended)

Yonk.

This is, well, amusing, n’est-ce pas?

“We are going to do an investigation through the inspector general, who will get to the bottom of it and make certain that nothing more was going on,” Rice told reporters. She added that she told Obama “that I myself would be very disturbed if I learned that somebody had looked into my passport file.”

Yet it doesn’t bother her to be at a high level in an administration that has made spying into Americans’ every word and action an article of faith and not questionable (or else you’re not a patriot but an Al Qaeda sympathizer).

Come on. If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry.

Let’s Stop Pretending Rice Is Doing Something

The trouble with policy wonks is that they think everybody is as knowledgeable and logical as they are despite all compelling evidence to the contrary. Eric Martin riffs on a Josh Landis piece about the “meeting” between the fabulous NeoCondi and Syrian foreign minister Walid Moualem in an attempt to analyze what might be going on.

The recent diplomatic thaw between the US and Syria may be a manifestation of a nascent strategy to de-link Syria from Iran (which would then, presumably, make it easier to isolate Hezbollah in Lebanon by eliminating Iran’s middleman). This reading is not made any less credible by the obvious empowerment of Iran in the region, and the perceived need to assemble and fortify an effective counterbalance. The question remains, however, what would the US offer Syria in return for its cooperation? The return of the Golan Heights, and the killing of the tribunal investigating Syria’s role in the Hariri assassination, are the two most obvious Syrian objectives.

This is all nonsense. There is no “thaw”, the US has no intention of offering Syria anything for their “co-operation” except calling off its potential invasion – maybe (there are three carrier groups off the Iranian coast, a stone’s throw from Syria) – and no one in the Bush Admin understands the concept of “counterbalance”, let alone is looking for a way to achieve it.

Landis isn’t much better, though he does at least hint that Condi offered, in fact, nothing, and quotes Iran’s foreign minister to that effect.

Mottaki was more honest. He explained that the US needs Iran more than Iran needs the US. The US had not prepared for the meeting properly and was not willing to discuss the an agenda important to Iran, comsequently Iran passed up the chance to talk to the Americans at the ministerial level.

(emphasis added)

Of course we hadn’t “prepared properly”. Since when has the fabulous NeoCondi prepared for anything properly?

Look, at some point it would be helpful if we stopped talking about these people as if they were sentient, rational human beings with knowledge, goals, and strategies for how to attain them. They are none of the three. They are not-very-bright ideologues who feature a deep-seated disdain for most foreigners and a heavy penchant for throwing their weight around. They know how to bully, they know how to threaten, and that pretty much exhausts a list of their negotiating tactics.

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Lost in Space: NeoCondi in the Middle East

Golly, since the Libby trial went to the jury, everybody in the Bush Administration has been out of town: Cheney’s been table-hopping the globe, Bush has been discovering poverty in Latin America, and NeoCondi is in Israel stumbling around trying to sell a quick-dry Palestinian state and getting blind-sided by a move everybody and his Cousin Elmo saw coming a half-mile away.

The United States and Israel have sought to thwart creation of a Palestinian unity government, but U.S. officials are withholding public judgment about the new government until the Palestinian parliament ratifies it tomorrow. But they privately acknowledge that Abbas’s announcement last month that he had struck a deal with Hamas was a blow to U.S. and Israeli efforts to elevate Abbas as an alternative to Hamas.

“Abbas promised us several times he would not agree to a national unity government,” a senior Israeli diplomat said this week. “But then he sold the store to Hamas. He left us flabbergasted and without a strategy.”

Who wants to break it to the fabulous NeoCondi that getting Abbas and Olmert to talk isn’t a strategy so much as a tactic without one? And how come she doesn’t have a back-up when Hamas was voted into the Palestinian govt months ago and the formation of a unity govt has been in the works for weeks? And weeks? And weeks?

U.S. officials say Rice remains determined to try to make headway on the Israeli-Palestinian issue after six years of stagnation.

Hmmm. Six years of stagnation, six years of Bush. Co-incidence?

Is there anybody in this admin who isn’t embarrassing in their ignorance and pathetic in practice?

The Myth of Corporate-Style Governing 5: The State v Commerce Turf War

No one who has ever worked for a corporation could fail to be aware of a certain “turf consciousness” as various departments – and individuals within those departments – compete for attention and power. There are two myths involved in turf consciousness.

1. The “team concept”

That’s the one that portrays corporate life as a sports metaphor, where every individual has a specific job to do but works seamlessly with everyone else as part of a unit with the same goal: winning the game (read: “making a lot of money”). According to the myth, “teamwork” increases efficiency and corporate harmony by honoring the value of everyone’s contribution equally, and subsuming private goals to the overall good of the team. The idea is expressed in one of two ways:

  1. The only “turf” that matters is the turf of the playing field where the game is being fought. It is common to everyone and no single individual or group controls it. Therefore, fighting over control of it is counter-productive and inefficient.
  2. The game can only be won if the team works together. Fighting over prerogatives, perks, and power serves to fragment the team effort, weakening it with jealousy, internal strife, and hurt feelings, effectively sabotaging the team’s efforts.

There are a number of corporate fads swirling around the concept of building teamwork. My sister-in-law, for example, runs corporate Team-Building Weekends on ropes-challenge courses in which junior executives learn to work together on an obstacle course consisting of rope-ladders, rope bridges, trapezes, and simulated cliffs. Most of it happens in trees, 20 feet or more above the ground. The course is designed to make it difficult or even impossible for an individual to succeed alone but a snap if the group works together. It’s a very sophisticated version of the kind of obstacle course the military uses during basic training. She makes a good deal of money running these weekends.

Then there was the “dragon boat racing” craze of a few years ago. Adapted from the Chinese, dragon boat racing requires participants to row and steer together. If they argue, they lose.

The latest of these fads was adapted, believe it or not, from acting and improvisational exercises. Two of these exercises were on view last year in tv programs, an episode of What About Brian? and a teaser for Donald Trump’s new Apprentice.

The point of all these is to build trust between the participants and break down the walls of competitive ego by forcing the subjects to co-operate with each other. Does it work?

The short answer is, of course, No.

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For NeoCondi, Diplomacy Is “Hard Work”

Why do the Bushies spend so much time telling us how hard they work? How many times have you heard Junior say something like this:

“This takes hard work. It takes patience, it takes perseverance, it takes getting up after a bad day and trying to make a better day. And that’s what I am going to do…”

Is she under the impression that the rest of us don’t do that? That we sort of laze around saying, “Oh I don’t feel like getting up” or “I’m going to make today worse than yesterday”?

Why do they want us to feel sorry for them?

“Oh, poor me! Pity me! I’m Secretary of State, and that’s Hard Work. I have to talk to people I don’t like – when I can’t avoid it, which I can most of the time – and that’s painful. Continue reading

Rice Pudding–The Sequel

In case you were wondering, here’s the post I had just finished Monday when the computer went phzzzzt, szzl, crinch! (I wouldn’t want you to miss anything):

We aren’t often lucky enough to get a peek at what kind of thinking is going on deep underground at GOP HQ, but today Condi Rice may have given us one.

Condoleezza Rice said on Sunday that the administration was worried that terrorist groups could find the approaching presidential election “too good to pass up” and that Washington was already considering measures to deter an attack seeking to influence the election’s outcome.Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Ms. Rice acknowledged that the March 11 train attacks in Spain, for which groups linked to Al Qaeda have been blamed, could send what she called “the wrong message.”

Is this sloppy writing or does Minute Rice actually think the message of the Spanish attack is confusing? Who does she think she’s dealing with, graffitti-writing teen-agers who aren’t sure what they want? If there are any doubts left of her incompetence after her sad performance in front of the 9/11 Commission, she’s erasing them every time she opens her mouth.

“[W]e are actively looking at that possibility, actively trying to make certain that we are responding appropriately.”

Uh-huh. I’ll let Tim Dunlop at The Road to Surfdom take this one; I couldn’t say it any better.

We are “trying to see” if we’re doing the right thing? She “thinks” they have to take the chance of attack seriously? If this is any indication of how prepared they are now, two years after 9/11, after the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, after Bali, after Madrid, then I submit they simply didn’t have a clue prior to 9/11. I would expect her to be able to give chapter and verse on how prepared they are, or at least some confident indication that they have it under control. Instead we get this drivel.

Yup. “Drivel” is a good word. But her most interesting statement is this little tidbit that I think escaped her subconscious without her noticing:

“I think we also have to take seriously that they might try during the cycle leading up to the election to do something,” she said. “In some ways, it seems like it would be too good to pass up for them….” She added: “The hard thing about terrorism is that they only have to be right once, and we have to be right 100 percent of the time. And nobody can be certain there won’t be another attack. But, of course, we are concerned about the election cycle.”

Where that’s coming from are the sub rosa dialogues going on in the deepest, darkest caves where radcon strategy sessions are held. In the same way that the radcons speculated before 9/11 about what they’d need to justify an invasion of Iraq (remember “We’d need another Pearl Harbor”?), they’re speculating NOW about how to maintain their hold on power at the end of Junior’s second term. The discussions are running in two directions:

1) Repeal the 2-term limit that Publicans passed to keep Roosevelt from a possible fourth term so Junior can run in perpetuity. This was their favorite until the public began to catch on to his weaknesses; they thought that, like Reagan, Bush’s eternal popularity combined with the Personality Cult they’d built up around him so carefully would ensure endless popularly-elected BA’s for as long as they could prop him up. When that whole facade began to crumble, they went to Option #2:

2) “We’d need another Pearl Harbor.” What possible excuse could they come up with to justify cancelling elections altogether? Answer: Another 9/11, or, failing that, the threat of another 9/11.

So here’s how the meme will go in the Mighty Wurlitzer: We have received a dire threat from the terrorists to use every possible means to disrupt our democracy by disrupting the election process. It’s too dangerous to hold elections at a moment like this because it puts our democracy in jeopardy. We are at war and cannot afford the luxury of an election, especially when the opposition are traitors who will sell out the country to the terrorists if they win. It’s a risk we can’t afford to take. We must postpone the elections until our victory over the enemy makes it once again feasible for our democracy to flourish without danger to voters. And it’s only temporary. Really. Honest. We mean that. (Heh-heh. Nitwits.)

Sound far-fetched? Not to the radcons, it doesn’t. And the beauty of this is that it rewards their almost total incompetence by arguing that the worse they make things, the more we need to keep them in power.

Their desperation to maintain their grip on govt on behalf of right-wing loonies and greedy corporations who like the way things are going is almost palpable. They have always been capable, as we now know, of entertaining the worst, loopiest, most un-democratic notions without so much as a twinge of doubt or a soupcon of conscience. A little thing like cancelling a national election “for the greater good of the country” wouldn’t cause them to lose so much as 30 seconds’ sleep.

Remember: You heard it here first.

Condi and Junior


What Condi and Junior apparently expected….(Via Mustang Bobby at Bark Bark Woof Woof)

"Nobody Told Me To"–Who’s In Charge?

There’s a 2-part theme running through the BA’s defense of its inaction following the Aug 6 PDB, and the PPP (Press/Pundit Patrol) seems only to have caught on to the first part: “Nothing in it was ‘actionable’.” But this just raises a couple of critical questions: 1) What does “actionable” mean? and 2) What criteria do you use to determine what is “actionable” and what isn’t? What the PPP seems to have missed are the answers given to those questions. Listen up:

Condi Rice:

“[T]here was no recommendation that we do something about this.”

“Dick Clarke never asked me to brief the president on counterterrorism.”

Now comes John Ashcroft (through his spokesman, Mark Corallo):

Aides to Mr. Ashcroft, who is scheduled to testify before the commission on Tuesday, said he would tell the panel that he was…never informed…that he needed to take special action….

So the underlying theme is: “Nobody told us to do anything.” Hmm, now who might have had that responsibility?

Quiddity boils Rice for us

Quiddity at uggabugga boils it down for us:

Rice in 50 Words.

(Thanx to Seattle for the link in Comments)

The Myth of Corporate-Style Governing 8: Rice Pudding

Condoleezza Rice’s testimony yesterday didn’t do much to shore up Admin arguments that they “did everything they could”, not even on the surface. Instead of acknowledging that their focus on state-sponsored terrorism was mistaken and that they corrected it after 9/11, Rice actually seemed to be defending this thoroughly discredited doctrine. Of course, she more or less had to, what with its being the excuse for Iraq and all, but it increased rather than decreased the sense that the BA remains locked inside its own little world, believing what it wants to believe, its thought processes uncontaminated by facts.

The disconnect beteen the Admin version of events and realities on the ground was thrown into sharp relief on the tv screen, as Robert Wright noted in the NY Times this morning.

How did Condoleezza Rice do in defending the Bush administration’s antiterrororism policies yesterday before the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks? Better if you kept your eyes on her than if you glanced down at the CNN headlines rolling across the bottom of the TV screen.Just as she said that invading Iraq had removed a source “of violence and fear and instability in the world’s most dangerous region,” the bottom of the screen read, “IRAQ’S INTERIM INTERIOR MINISTER NURIL AL-BADRAN ANNOUNCES HIS RESIGNATION; INTERIOR MINISTRY IS IN CHARGE OF POLICE FORCES.”

You have to admire Ms. Rice, the national security adviser, for so staunchly defending the invasion of Iraq even amid the current turmoil there. But the effect of her defense — and of her testimony generally — was to raise questions about this administration’s grasp of reality.

Not really–I think those questions have all been answered at this point–The Bush Admin is out to lunch. Permanently.

But if there were no surprises in her attempt to defend her boss by supporting standard BushCo fantasies, there were a couple in other areas that are worth mentioning, not so much surprises of views as surprises of tone.

The first was Rice’s apparently genuine belief–that’s how it came across on the radio–in the Clinton Admin’s responsibility for 9/11, and her matter-of-fact contempt for the Constitution. Not once but again and again she called it a “structural problem” and took credit on behalf of the BA for finding a way to circumvent it. She was talking about the PATRIOT Act, which dismisses all those uncomfortable Constitutional separations between domestic and international surveillance that used to keep the CIA from spying on dissenters and the FBI from eavesdropping on embassies, and pretty much allows them to cross any boundary that happens to get in their way. Given that someone as inherently anti-democratic as Ashcroft is in charge of the Justice Dept, one suspects that the same contempt runs through the whole Administration.

Early in her opening statement, she said that the “only thing” that could have stopped 9/11 was better information collection which legal restrictions due to laws against the invasion of privacy made difficult or impossible, and hinted rather strongly that this intolerable situation was the fault of the Clinton Administration, implying that 9/11 might not have happened if only they had ignored those pesky laws like the BA had.

If that weren’t chilling enough, we have the spectre of a National Scurity Advisor unable to recognize a threat report when she sees one, and insisting that nothing could possibly be done unless the terrorists told her in advance the details of their attack: “It was not a warning — there was no specific time, place or method involved.” Oh, sorry. We’ll try to do better next time.

At the root of Rice’s blithe acceptance of the dictum that without specific information nothing much could be done and that in any case, nobody asked her to do anything, is a corporate mind-set that is yet another reason why corporate executives don’t belong in govt. In the corporate world, change is dangerous–you don’t move or adjust until and unless you’re forced to do so. CEO’s are prized for their “steadiness”–which tranlates in the real world to “stubbornness in the face of external pressures”–because it’s a quality that makes investors feel good; they think their money is safer in the hands of people not blown away by every little fad or difficulty. They’re probably right, but it’s a quality that leads, in govt, directly to what we’re seeing now: officials challenged by new circumstances who are both unable and unwilling to shift gears when confronted by new information or changing environments. All their training and experience tells them to resist doing any such thing.

Another problem arises from a managerial skill that you would think would be a plus: the focus on problem-solving. That it isn’t is due to the differing nature of corporate and governmental cultures and a different level of expectations. She wasn’t kidding or making excuses when she said this–it’s the way corporate managers think:

[S]he suggested that if terrorist threats were not brought to the president’s attention, it was Mr. Clarke’s fault. “All he needed to do was to say, `I need time to brief the president on something,’ ” she said. “But Dick Clarke never asked me to brief the president on counterterrorism.”

It sounds, as Philip Shenon notes, like she’s playing into the Blame Game. But the reality more likely is that this is simply her management style: your job as a supervisor is to solve the problems and expedite the requests of your subordinate staff; if they don’t tell you the problems, how can you solve them? If they don’t make the request, how can you grant it?

Richard Clarke, by contrast, is a career govt official, and the govt paradigm is significantly different: when a situation develops, you tell your principals and make recommendations, the assumptions being that the principals will then act on it without you having to “ask them” to do so. That is, presumably, what they came to govt for–to do things.

Indeed, that has been our expection of and belief in govt activity lo, these many years–govt does things: things that protect us, that better our lives, that make us safer. We don’t expect people in govt to sit on their hands in a crisis and hope it blows over. But that’s exactly what corporations demand. Where a govt warning in a crisis might be, “Don’t do too little”, in a corporation it’s “Don’t do too much.” The cultures are entirely apposite.

Finally, there is the corporate manager’s instinctive faith in delegation of authority. Her otherwise inexplicable refusal to help bridge the gaps she acknowledges existed between the intelligence services due to the “structural problems” she was fully aware of, can be understood only in the light of her contention that she didn’t need to do anything because the FBI was already doing it.

“The F.B.I. was pursuing these Al Qaeda cells,” she said. “I believe in the Aug. 6 memorandum it says there were 70 full-field investigations under way of these cells. And so there was no recommendation that we do something about this. The F.B.I was pursuing it.”

First, one of her departments was dealing with the situation, so why did she need to get involved? Let them do their job. Second, there was “no recommendation” that she do anything, and in the corporate world, you don’t initiate anything if you want to survive.

There is a caveat to all this, and it needs to be said: In the corporate world, lower-echelon managers are responsible to upper-echelon managers; every boss does what her boss told her to do. Orders come from the top. No orders, no action. Condi’s boss is George.

Unwittingly, Rice gave us a pretty clear picture of Bush’s incompetence as a manager. We can now understand, if we didn’t before, why Arbusto went busto. As Randi put it yesterday, “When Bush says they did everything he knew how to do, believe him.”

Condi’s Testimony–A Running Tab

Her Opening Statement: (9.14) Why is her voice shaking?

The Commission Chairmen, Lee Hamilton and Thomas Keane, asked the Commissioners not to repeat the partisanship shown in the questioning of Clarke when they question Condi.

“In a very difficult atmosphere, in a town that is the most polarized I’ve ever seen, the commission is trying to do a job for the American people that is, to the best of our ability, nonpolitical,” Mr. Kean said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Sure. NOW they want to get nonpolitical. Publican translation: “We can attack but they can’t.”

(9.22) The only thing that could have stopped 9/11 was better info collection which legal restrictions due to laws against the invasion of privacy made difficult or impossible.

(9.26) Linked Iraq invasion and Libyan negotiation.

(9.33) There was a blizzard of warnings and it was impossible to tell which were serious.

(9.35) Bush “badgered” Lindsey in the hours after 9/11 to get make sure Wall Street continued to function. Mr Bush has hois priorities. This during a long rationalization defending their concentration on Iraq as the potential perp. No mention of FBI and CSG’ instantaneous knowledge that it was AQ because the names of AQ ops were on the passenger list.

(9.45) Her voice is still shaking. In fact, it seems to be getting worse (?).

(9.46) Claims that if they had paid attention to the CSG reports they “might have gone off-course” because they were focused on the danger of the Northern Alliance.

(10.03) Condi is fighting Ben-Veniste even though he isn’t attacking her, using up a good deal of his time for questions. It’s becoming clear that she has zero interest in explaining anything; she’s there to defend Bush. Period. Every answer is defensive, every answer includes generalizations about what a great job they did.

(10.08) Ben-Veniste keeps trying to ask if Louis Freeh talked to Bush, and she keeps insisting on answering that “structural problems” inhibited the info flow.

(10.13) Ah. The “structural problems” that were the reason they didn’t do anything were the fault of the Clinton Administration because they weren’t willing to “break down..walls between criminal and intelligence” by passing, say, a PATRIOT Act.

(10.24) Principals’ meetings “weren’t efficient”, so she talked to Rummy and Co herself. She rejects “shaking the trees” because she “just doesn’t believe” there was some piece of info that would “connect-the-dots.” Adds she didn’t have a Principals’ meeting during China crisis.

(10.29) Gorelick points out that a lot of agencies knew nothing about the threats. Rice responds that the warnings concerned international, not domestic, threats. Gorelick responds, essentially, that that’s not true and that domestic threat-warnings were everywhere when Bush took office. Rice goes back to the “structural problems” without answering Gorelick’s question. Then she says it’s Clarke’s fault for not connecting with Andy Card because she’s not “responsible for domestic agencies”.

(10.46) Gorton’s throwing nerf balls. If they were any softer, he’d be up to his elbows in Rice pudding.

(10.52) Defending the PATRIOT Act again. Suggests that the pre-emption debate should be over.

(11.00) Kerrey goes after the “fly-swatter” and wants to know how Bush could have been “tired of swatting flies” when he hadn’t swatted any? Rice responds that it was tactics v strategy. (Kerrey keeps calling Rice “Dr Clarke”.) He breaks off yet another long answer to challenge her “fillibustering”. She insists on wasting time answering anyway.

(11.07) Kerrey wants to know what she did to make sure the FBI and the CIA were talking? She says it was Clarke’s responsibility.

(11.09) Back to the “structural changes” which should have been made by Clinton (though she doesn’t mention his name) being the reason for the BA’s lack of movement.

(11.14) Kerrey’s right: her answers to Republican Commission members are a whole lot shorter than to similar questions from Democrats. Slick. Cuts the time of the opposition while appearing to be responsive. Of course, what Lehman’s doing is listing her excuses for her so all she has to do is agree with him.

(11.28) Rice: When you don’t have specifics, how do you organize a response to a general threat? I dunno, maybe turn out the troops to find out exactly what the threat is?

(11.31) Why didn’t Clarke talk to the President? Because it wouldn’t have done any good and anyway he didn’t ask. Much longer answers again.

(11.36) Roemer: Why didn’t the Principals meet in the face of this Big Big Threat? Do you have any responsibility for making sure that happens? Rice. No. It was the responsibility of the CSG (Clarke).

(11.41) Rice explains the definition of “warning”: must be specific, otherwise it isn’t a warning. Pretty narrow. Sort of like what the meaning of “is” is.

(11.45) Says again that she didn’t do anything because Clarke never asked her to do anything. “He never gave me a plan [to carry out].”

(11.47) Insists that even though she has to admit (reluctantly) that independent terrorist organizations do exist, they’re “much more effective” when supported by a state.

The Condi Rice Drinking Game

From the irrespressible Wonkette:
The Condi Rice Testimony Guide and Drinking Game.

Clarke Bar 3: Discrepancy

There’s a discrepancy in the stories Dick Cheney and Condi Rice are using to discredit Clarke. Cheney says he was “out of the loop” and Rice says he was very involved: “I would not use the word ‘out of the loop,’ ” When asked to explain the discrepancy, Condi replied, “Perhaps Dick felt that he had, you know, less — he didn’t sit with Powell and Rumsfeld and so forth. It’s just not the way we operate. I did sit with Powell and Rumsfeld and Tenet.”

IOW, Condi, the Veep was *ahem* “out of the loop”?