Saturday, July 14, 2007

Collected and who knows?

By Creature

Today in the New York Times we find a somewhat interesting article about a 1973 GOP strategy paper written by none other than a 22-year-old Karl Rove. The paper, found amongst 78,000 pages of documents recently released by the National Archives from the Nixon administration, is predictably wonkish and unsurprisingly devious for a man who created his own math while at the same time advised the president on all things political--and all things criminal.

But the past is the past, and one man's "Reefer Madness" is another man's GOP fund-raising tool, I bring the NYT article up because when interviewed about the newly unearthed position paper Mr. Rove said this:

"When you send something to a White House person," he said, "it tends to be collected and remain."

Collected and remain? Karl Rove selectively seems to forget what happens when you send something--electronically or otherwise--to a Bush White House person. Collected and destroyed, collected and deleted, collected and locked behind an executive privilege wall seems more likely today.

Who would have thought we would ever crave the good old Nixon era days?

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Maliki's progress

By Michael J.W. Stickings

***Updated below***

According to the BBC, "Iraq's PM Nouri Maliki has shrugged off criticism of his government's political progress, saying delays in the face of such violence were 'fairly natural'. He said 'international interference' was partly to blame and called for more time to reach Washington's benchmarks."

Uh, "international interference"? Hmmm.

Of course what Maliki really means by progress is the concentration of more and more power in the hands of Shiite sectarians like himself, not to mention like those in the Sadr-oriented militias. And of course it may be that his government, however illegitimate, or however incompetent, never really stood a chance of success, given how from the start it was a sectarian authority set up by American occupiers and how the war and subsequent occupation were so badly botched by American authorities both in Washington and in Baghdad.

Which is not to excuse Maliki, just to point out that the whole thing stinks.


And the whole think stinks as the death toll rises and rises. Here -- Just another day in the life and death of Iraq LXIII -- is the latest:

Police say nine people, all believed to be Shia men from the same extended family, were shot dead in a village near Hilla, south of Baghdad, after gunmen raided a house.

The US military reported that it had killed six suspected insurgents in an air strike near Baquba, north of Baghdad.

In the capital itself a car bomb killed six people and injured 15 near a petrol station in the south of the city and in the east a bomb placed inside minivan killed one person and destroyed a block of flats.

A translator working for the Reuters news agency has also been killed -- the third Reuters employee to die this week.

And police also announced that 21 unidentified bodies had been found on the streets of the capital on Friday.

Progress, huh? Sure. Whatever.


Regarding Maliki's comments, I should add this, from the AP: "Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki shrugged off U.S. doubts of his government's military and political progress on Saturday, saying Iraqi forces are capable and American troops can leave 'any time they want.'"

He's no doubt wrong about both his government and Iraqi forces, but, as for the U.S. leaving, how about... now? Sure thing, Nouri. We hope Bush gets the message. (See below for more.)

As Steve Benen points out, Maliki's "get out" message contradicts what Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said earlier in the week, which was, essentially, that "a U.S. withdrawal would make Iraq's chaos worse".

Looks like pretty much everyone wants the U.S. to get out: the American people, the Iraqi people, the Iraqi government, the Democrats, many (and far more than have come out publicly) Republicans, just about everyone else around the world.

Who's left? Bush, Cheney, and their minions, the diehard neocons, McCain, Lieberman. Pretty lousy company.

But, then, it's been a pretty lousy war.


Will Bush get the message? No, not much gets through to The Presidential Bubble Boy. Although many in his own party are at long last abandoning him -- like Sens. Warner and Lugar -- Bush continues to insist, even in light of the report that Iraq is not meeting the benchmarks, that the war is not lost: "This report shows that conditions can change, progress can be made, and the fight in Iraq can be won."

Hence the surge must go on and on and on... even though conditions aren't changing, progress isn't being made, and the war has already been lost.

Saying so won't make it so, but Bush continues to be driven by stubborn self-righteousness and the delusions that stem from it.

Yes, it's been a pretty lousy war run by a pretty lousy president.

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If a candidate quits the race in a forest...

By Edward Copeland

...and no one is there to hear the withdrawal, does his departure make a sound? Not if it's Jim Gilmore, who's decided that he doesn't stand a chance at getting the GOP presidential nomination, though he's blaming a "late start" to his campaign instead of the fact that even most Republicans don't know who the hell he is. At least McCain can breathe a sigh of relief that he won't be the first GOP hopeful to quit:

Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore ended his long-shot campaign for presidency on Saturday.

The 57-year-old Republican said in a written statement that his late start, near the end of April, and the front-loaded primary schedule "have made it impractical to continue."

Gilmore is the first of the 10 GOP presidential candidates to drop out. He barely registered in the polls and his latest financial disclosure report showed him with about $90,000 in cash on hand. Gilmore also underwent emergency surgery for a detached retina last month, which forced him to cancel at least a week's worth of campaign appearances.


Update (for those who care): See also the Post, the L.A. Times, and The Politico. -- MJWS

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When Russia is a neighbor

By Carol Gee

(Image: My Space)

Things can get tense -- Russian relationships with its neighbors are often difficult, requiring a great deal of effort among all the neighbors just to co-exist. The United States and Russia have been forced to work hard at easing tensions as well, given Russia's cold war history and the current administration's stance that can appear to others to be all about war. Our current president (OCP) recently invited Russian President Putin to a family get-together at the beach in Maine to put relations on a more even footing. Most of the change now appears to have been cosmetic, however. Neither the U.S, nor Russia has become more peaceful. And the European Union is the ground upon which the current sabre-rattling drama is playing out.

Tensions in the neighborhood -- One of the thorniest issues between Russia and the U.S this past year has been the U.S. proposal for deployment of a so-called "missile shield" in Europe. And U.S. plans to put additional conventional arms near the Russian border are complicating things even further, as the following story indicates. NATO is omnipresent and members of the former Soviet Union are joining the organization to which Russia has not been invited. Russia's RIA Novosti (7/14/07) headlines,"Russian president decrees to suspend CFE treaty in Russia." To quote from the story:

The fact that NATO's new members have been refraining from ratifying an agreement on adaptation to the CFE Treaty is seen as the above exceptional circumstances. Moreover, some group limits under the CFE have been exceeded since the alliance's expansion.

The document also reads that U.S. plans to deploy conventional arms in Bulgaria and Romania have "a negative impact" on compliance with CFE group limits.

Three ex-Soviet Baltic republics and seven former Communist-bloc states in Eastern Europe have joined NATO since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Former Soviet allies Ukraine and Georgia have also declared plans to join the 26-member alliance.

(Image: U. of Michigan)

The Russian Bear still threatens. He is an absolutely magnificent creature with very big teeth and a big appetite. And he has been loose in the neighborhood. How to be tough with "The Bear" is the current question for the United Kingdom's judicial system, in its efforts to further justice in the Litvinenko case. The Financial Times (of 7/11/07) headline: "UK seeks tough response to Russia." To quote:

Britain is considering serious measures against Russia – which analysts suggested could include expelling diplomats – in response to its refusal to extradite the chief suspect in the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, the former KGB officer.

. . . Analysts said a return to the Cold War tactic of diplomatic expulsions was one option likely to be being considered, alongside visa bans on certain law and order officials, or withdrawing cooperation in areas such as education, social affairs or counter-terrorism information.

But the UK needs to calibrate its response carefully, given the importance of cooperation with Russia on issues such as Iran’s nuclear programme and the future of the breakaway Serbian province of Kosovo. Any UK actions can also be expected to trigger retaliatory responses from Russia.

When tension includes the element of dependence -- Russia is very energy rich, and the rest of the EU is less so. When a neighbor has something upon which the others are very dependent, the power ratios change. And, when only two in the neighborhood (Russia and Germany) act independently to make a deal, it inevitably affects the others living nearby. Deutsche Welle (7/13/07), "New Twists and Turns in German-Russian Gas Pipeline Saga":

The German-Russian gas pipeline saga continues with a new disputed region causing a rethink over its route. The Nord Stream consortium is again forced into finding an alternative direction for its maligned project. . . after it was revealed a section had been earmarked for a stretch of water that both Poland and Denmark claim as an exclusive economic zone.

. . . The fact that the project was negotiated by Russia and Germany without consulting the countries between them has also created great ill-will in former Soviet satellites such as Poland and the Baltics.

. . . If completed, it would create separate routes for Russia to supply gas to eastern and western Europe. As a result, the EU's eastern European member states have complained that it would allow Russia to cut off their gas supplies -- as it did to Ukraine in January 2006 -- without affecting supplies to its richer Western clients

Triangulation -- In psychological terms, the "triangulation" dynamic looks like this: One party is the "aggressor," one party is the "victim," and the third party is the "rescuer." These roles have varying levels of relative power. And the dangerous thing in this crazy dynamic is that the roles can switch with blinding speed. Role changes also happen between countries, though more slowly that with individuals.

Two or three players -- In the above articles, for example, the tension between the U.K. and Russia is unilateral; it is about serving justice. It is one thing to have unilateral tension such as between the U.S. and Russia over military arms, such as those addressed in our disarmament treaties. Add in the nations proposed to host the U.S. missile shields and you have a triangle. The deal between Russia and Germany over the pipeline was unilateral. The strain between Russia and various EU countries, over scarce energy resources, is triangulated. And finally, when triangulated relations between the U.S., Russia and the European Union are strained it gets even more complicated.

This is a test; are you tense now? Here is your question. Does anyone wish to venture a guess as to the triangle-roles played by various countries in the above examples? And what about the power ratios?

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Conrad Black: GUILTY

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The trial of the loathsome Conrad Black is surely getting more attention up here in Canada than down in the U.S. The location of the trial is Chicago, and American laws were broken, but Black is Canadian by birth, a Canadian who in 2001 renounced his citizenship to become a British life peer, a member of the House of Lords, and it was in Canada that he became a media mogul. And so this story matters to us more than it otherwise might, not least because Black, whatever his citizenship, is an arrogant prick, his wife, the loathsome Barbara Amiel, very much the same.

And so the news from Chicago yesterday, the verdict, well, it was awesome. Here's the headline at The Globe and Mail:

Yes, indeed, "decades in prison" sounds good to me, as it sounds good to many, for justice has been done, appeals expected, and the arrogant prick has finally been held accountable:

Conrad Black has been convicted on four criminal charges, including obstruction and three counts of mail fraud. He was found not guilty on nine other charges. He now faces the prospect of as much as 35 years in jail...

The most dire decision by the jury: on count 13, the jury judged Conrad Black guilty of obstruction of justice in connection with the removal of 13 boxes of documents from his office at 10 Toronto Street in Toronto. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail and a $250,000 (U.S.) fine.

Lord Black, 62, was also convicted on three counts of mail fraud.

Together, the convictions carry a maximum jail term, if served consecutively, of 35 years and a maximum fine of $1-million.

Lord Black's key financial adviser, John Boultbee, was found guilty on three counts of mail fraud, as were Lord Black's long-time friend, Peter Atkinson, and the man who was credited with arranging the non-competition agreements central to the trial, Mark Kipnis.

(Read the full article for details of the trial. See also Bloomberg and the BBC -- that latter of which also has a timeline, the charges, an examination of Black's fall, background to the trial, and a look at "Black's life of luxury".)

One hopes that Black is denied bail, but perhaps that is too much to wish. Either way, one hopes that this conviction holds up on appeal and that Black is punished accordingly.

Other than that, "Lord" Black can go to hell.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Everything may be held against them

By Edward Copeland

Dubyaland is on an executive privilege frenzy as they now are invoking the right to keep their dirty laundry private to withhold records from congressional investigators looking into the friendly-fire death of former NFL star Pat Tillman and the subsequent propaganda campaign use of his tragic death by claiming that certain papers relating to discussion of the friendly-fire shooting "implicate Executive Branch confidentiality interests."

Although Pentagon investigators determined quickly that he was killed by his own troops, five weeks passed before the circumstances of his death were made public. During that time, the Army claimed he was killed by enemy fire.

Tillman's family and others have said they believe the erroneous information peddled by the Pentagon was part of a deliberate cover-up that may have reached all the way to President Bush and then-Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld. The committee said Friday it had scheduled a second hearing on Tillman's death for Aug. 1, this time to probe what senior Pentagon officials knew and when.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., agree that the documents that the White House have turned over are inadequate and provide little in the way of answers for their investigation.

The document production from the White House sheds virtually no light on these matters," Waxman and Davis wrote to White House counsel Fred Fielding, part of a renewed request for additional papers.

The White House claims that the only things they've withheld were internal matters not connected to Tillman, a bogus argument which doesn't fly with Waxman and Davis since one packet of documents consisted merely of newspaper clippings about Tillman's death and there were no records of how or when Donald Rumsfeld was even informed of the death.

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It's time for CNN to pack it in

By Edward Copeland

I don't even think CNN makes a pretense at being a "news" network anymore. It was bad enough with the ridiculous promotion they did leading up to Larry King's interview with what'shername, you know, the hotel heiress whom I shouldn't even have a reason for knowing existed. (Wolf Blitzer: "Sorry Mr. Cosby, we can't talk about education right now, she's getting into a car.") Then there was the joke of the Michael Moore vs. Blitzer and Dr. Sanjay Gupta dustup where everyone looked back. Yesterday morning though, I think they may have outdone themselves as I passed a TV and they were touting a "Developing Story." Terrorism threats? Disputes about the Iraq war? Natural disasters? Oh no. Nothing that trivial. They were providing live coverage of soccer star David Beckham and his wife arriving in Los Angeles. CNN, it's time to give up. You might as well merge with E! at this point, though I think they occasionally run more actual news stories than you do.

Other writings about CNN's decline at the Copeland Institute for Lower Learning:
April 26
Feb. 27
Feb. 9
Jan. 27, 2006
Jan. 13, 2006
Jan. 10, 2006

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. . . Let me count the ways

By Carol Gee

The words used to describe leaders and to characterize what they do matter very much to our understanding of the news. My Bloglines feed served up this delicious essay this morning, written by a talented wordmaster. Read it and you will finally understand yesterday's White House news conference. Titled "Going Over The Edge With 'Precipitous'," it is by The Washington Post's Henry Allen.

In a strategic and linguistic coup, the president seemed to be saying that in our fight in Iraq we can forget about the shopworn old Vietnam menace called the quagmire. Now it's time to bravely face its equal and opposite menace, the precipice, as in the dread "precipitous withdrawal."

"Extremist groups would be emboldened by a precipitous American withdrawal," he said. And: "A precipitous withdrawal would embolden al-Qaeda."

. . . Anyway, our precipitous president is not a quagmire guy, so he doesn't do gradual anything. Instead of escalations, he does surges. He wants us to worry about precipitousness, not the quagmire: the fall, not the stall; the brink, not the sink; the steep, not the creep; the plunge, not the grunge; the edge, not the dredge.

. . . Pages of the Oxford English Dictionary warn of the threat signaled by this word: "headlong fall . . . perilous . . . thrown down . . . violent hurry . . . excessive suddenness . . . descent."

Sadly, the mainstream media's reporting has far too gradually become more descriptive of our current president (OCP). And it took a lot of digging to find today's examples of relatively adjective rich stories. Let me count the ways MSM news sources currently describe (OCP), our current president. So that I can avoid my usual name calling, I bracket [my own labels].

  • Running Iraq war's my job - Defiant Prez sez funding troops Congress' role -- [defensiveness] New York Daily News (7/13/07)

  • Defiant Bush tells Congress Iraq war can still be won -- "Bush struck a defiant tone Thursday. . ." [aggressiveness] -- Yahoo! News (7/13/07)

  • Bush says no shift on Iraq, "Bush's tone was at times strident, at times beseeching, as he defended the U.S. role in a war. . . " [immaturity] - Reuters (7/13/07)

  • Bush Distorts Qaeda Links, Critics Assert, ". . . President Bush on Thursday employed a stark and ominous defense." [use of scare tactics] -- New York Times (7/12/07)

  • Bush Quiets GOP revolt over Iraq [from a discussion during his news conference, in which the president conflated the facts] -- Los Angeles Times (7/13/07):

    Bush argued repeatedly that persistence is necessary in Iraq to prevent new Al Qaeda attacks in the United States. He did not distinguish between the threat posed by the network controlled by Osama bin Laden and that from an Iraq-based group known as Al Qaeda in Iraq.

    . . . Bush's language in recent months has been less precise, and he has often appeared to suggest that Bin Laden's group is conducting attacks in Iraq. In recent days, Bush has gone a step further, twice asserting that the groups are one and the same.

    . . . Asked by a reporter whether he had evidence the groups operated together, the president retreated somewhat.

  • Bush's Latest, Lame Libby Excuse, [inconsistency] -- Slate's John Dickerson (7/12/07):

    For the last two weeks the president and his aides have asserted that Bush was deep in contemplation over the details of the Libby case as he weighed whether to commute the sentence. But on the larger, four-year episode with national security implications, the inquisitive chief executive asserts he didn't ask a single question of those involved.

The careful use of words is an art that I greatly admire. Elizabeth Barrett Browning's classic love poem "How do I love thee?" is a masterpiece in its use of the English language. Writers' words matter, they endure, they have influence. It would have been better if, over the years, our national media could have been more routinely descriptive of the behaviors of OCP and the people in his administration. It could have saved us an awful lot of grief.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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"I'm aware of the fact that perhaps somebody in the administration did disclose the name of that person ..."

By J. Thomas Duffy

This may have to become a new, reoccurring feature

No shit, Dick Tracy!

It was Iraqi Iraqi Mid-Term Progress Report Day (Report Card Day comes in September), and, most likely, both the Bush Grindhouse and the Iraqi Government (well, whatever they are; Perhaps, if you have seen the movie 'Le Roi de Coeur' - King of Hearts - we can understand how the Iraqis modeled their parliament) were burning the phone lines, to get their stories straight.

It sure seems like the policy is "Well keep standing up, while they sit down".

In his press conference this morning, to crow about the possible, and slightly below 50%, positive marks, The Decider/The Commander/The Shakespeare Guy, answering the one and only question about his Quid Pro Quo bailing out of convicted felon, former Advisor to the President and Vice President Chief of Staff, I. Lewis 'Scooter" Libby, engaged in this startling response;

Q If I could just switch subjects for a second to another big decision you made recently, which was in the Scooter Libby case.


Q You spoke very soberly and seriously in your statement about how you weighed different legal questions in coming to your decision on that commutation. But one issue that you did not address was the issue of the morality of your most senior advisors leaking the name of a confidential intelligence operator. Now that the case is over -- it's not something you've ever spoken to -- can you say whether you're at all disappointed in the behavior of those senior advisors? And have you communicated that disappointment to them in any way?

THE PRESIDENT: Michael, I -- first of all, the Scooter Libby decision was, I thought, a fair and balanced decision. Secondly, I haven't spent a lot of time talking about the testimony that people throughout my administration were forced to give as a result of the special prosecutor. I didn't ask them during the time and I haven't asked them since.

I'm aware of the fact that perhaps somebody in the administration did disclose the name of that person, and I've often thought about what would have happened had that person come forth and said, I did it. Would we have had this, you know, endless hours of investigation and a lot of money being spent on this matter? But it's been a tough issue for a lot of people in the White House, and it's run its course and now we're going to move on.

Quick, someone call the Webster Dictionary folks, and have them insert Bush's picture under the words;

In Denial
Head Up One's Ass

Secondly, I haven't spent a lot of time talking about the testimony that people throughout my administration were forced to give as a result of the special prosecutor. I didn't ask them during the time and I haven't asked them since.

What the hell is this?

Is he inferring that Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, somehow, in some way, coerced the testimony and statements implicating Cheney and Rove, and possible, himself?

Was he confusing Fitzgerald's method of conducting a lawful and legal investigation, following established U.S. laws and procedures, with the methods he has approved for interogationg prisoners at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib?

Does he believe that the "people throughout my administration" were tortured by Fitzgerald, therefore, the testimony they offered is unreliable and not to be believed?

" ... that perhaps somebody in the administration did disclose the name of that person ..."

Again, this in not some inanimate object.

We pointed out before that there was a real victim, a real person, that suffered terrible consequences as a result of "somebody in the administration did disclose the name of that person ..."

"That person" is Valerie Plame, now former, covert CIA Agent, exposed, thanks to Bush, Cheney, Libby and Rove.

The persons that leaked her name, exposed her, blowing her covert cover include;

Wake the fuck up there The Decider/The Commander/The Shakespeare Guy.

You'll be getting us thinking. Talk like this will have us adding, derisively, "Sherlock Holmes Guy" to you and your self-produced moniker list.

Bonus Links

Glenn Greenwald - Excerpt from Chapter 4 of A Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency

Garlictorial: Happy 4th of July ... Okay, It May Be Down To This .... Citizen's Arrest!

Bonus Links II

Crooks and Liars - Bush blames Saddam for the US attack of Iraq and says: “there is a war fatigue in America”

Cross Posted at The Garlic

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Iraq reality?

By Carol Gee

The reality in Iraq seems far removed from the Senate chambers in Washington, D.C. The debate is couched in terms of change vs. the status quo. But debaters have very different views of the actual reality.

Nothing in Iraq seems to be changing, from my point of view and that of the Democrats now opposing the current conduct of the war. However, Republicans arguing in favor of the war alternately claim to see progress, or warn of dire consequences with any change in course. Thus the debate is not really over what constitutes the facts on the ground. It is over which of the debaters will win the contest. Will there be a change of direction or will the status quo be maintained?

Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada is looking for a few more Republican senators, disaffected by the reality of events in the war in Iraq, to vote with the Democratic majority. Their votes, when combined with solidarity within the Democratic caucus, may actually reach the magic numbers 60/66. Those are the (very optimistic) levels of majority needed to change the direction of the Bush administration's conduct of the war.

Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is looking for enough Republicans that will stick with him in maintain the status quo, blocking any Democratic action that could change the course of the war in the way that a majority of Americans appear to prefer. For the Minority it seems to be more about winning than doing what is best for the country. It echos our current president's insistence on "victory."

Two completely different realities were also briefed to the Iraq Study Group last fall, according to Bob Woodward's important piece in today's Washington Post. Headlined, "CIA Said Instability Seemed 'Irreversible'," Woodward's article analyzes in depth the disparities between what the group heard as the CIA's view (that of General Michael Hayden) of the reality in Iraq, and the views presented to the group by our current president earlier that morning. Quoting from the story,

Early on the morning of Nov. 13, 2006, members of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group gathered around a dark wooden conference table in the windowless Roosevelt Room of the White House.

For more than an hour, they listened to President Bush give what one panel member called a "Churchillian" vision of "victory" in Iraq and defend the country's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. "A constitutional order is emerging," he said.

Later that morning, around the same conference table, CIA Director Michael V. Hayden painted a starkly different picture for members of the study group. Hayden said "the inability of the government to govern seems irreversible," adding that he could not "point to any milestone or checkpoint where we can turn this thing around," according to written records of his briefing and the recollections of six participants.

Iraq reality in today's hard news - as reported from Juan Cole's (7/12/07) Informed Comment is, as usual, chilling. His post is titled, "30 Bodies found in Baghdad Death Squad killings Spike." I quote from it,

The numbers of bodies found daily has gone up since the bombing of the Samarra shrine and the recent bombing of Shiites at Ermeli. Speaking of which, someone shot the mayor of Samarra dead on Wednesday.

. . . A new poll shows that 70% of Americans want US troops back home by spring of 2008, and only 20% think the surge is working.

. . . CNN report on the true cost of Bush's 'War on Terror'- [YouTube] must see.

Whose view of reality can we buy? Senator Reid's view of reality matches that of a majority of U.S. public opinion. Senator McConnell's view matches the Orwellian reality of his Republican president's magical thinking about Iraq: "A constitutional order is emerging."


Cross-posted at South by Southwest

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A September 11th morning

By Creature

This morning in New York City the sky is cloudless and blue. This morning in New York City the air is clear and crisp. In other words, this morning in New York City is what I like to call a "September 11th Morning."

I'm sure I'm not the only New Yorker who feels this same, odd, anxious deja-vu on days like today. My walk towards the train is the same as it was six years ago. The sky I see is the same sky that held that first plane as it flew way too low, right down the center of Manhattan island. Thankfully this morning there was no plane. Thankfully this morning there was no boom. Thankfully this morning George W. Bush is in charge and we are a safer nation for it.

Oh, wait...

U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded al-Qaida has rebuilt its operating capability to a level not seen since just before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, The Associated Press has learned. The conclusion suggests that the group that launched the most devastating terror attack on the United States has been able to regroup along the Afghan-Pakistani border despite nearly six years of bombings, war and other tactics aimed at crippling it.

If al-Qaida does strike this summer. If they do follow us home. If the feeling in Chertoff's "gut" is more than just hunger. I will hold that smirking bastard, George W. Bush, and all the enablers around him, directly responsible for the consequences of any attack on my country, on my home.

I do not want another September 11th Morning haunting me. There is a real terror threat out there and these criminals in charge have done nothing to make it less likely. On the contrary, they have made it only more likely.

And this time they can't blame it on Bill Clinton.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Rudy's disgrace -- firefighters speak out on 9/11

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Let the disgraceful truth about Giuliani's self-glorifying bullshit come out:

Firefighters who lost colleagues in the 9/11 attacks in New York have strongly criticised Republican presidential contender Rudy Giuliani.

They released a video claiming that failures by the then-mayor of New York led to the deaths of 121 men.

The video says Mr Giuliani failed to provide working radios for crews and halted the recovery effort too soon.

Mr Giuliani's campaign said the union behind the footage was known to support Democratic presidential candidates.

Oh, so it's all just a partisan attack. I see. (You're not so fond of firefighters when they speak the truth and expose you for what you are, eh, Rudy?)

And yet: "The 13-minute footage was made by the 280,000-strong International Association of Firefighters (IAFF)." Do you not think they have some credibility?

You can read the IAFF's post here: "The truth is, Rudy Giuliani failed to properly prepare the Fire Department of New York prior to September 11, 2001, and he has subsequently exploited 9/11 to make tens of millions of dollars and build a foundation for his presidential campaign."

The IAFF's video, "Rudy Giuliani: Urban Legend," is here. It's a must-see.

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A Kagan Affair

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I'm beginning to think that the only people who think the surge is working are named Kagan -- or Lieberman or McCain. Robert is a prominent neocon and one of the war's leading theorists, Frederick came up with the surge, and now Kimberly, yet another think-tanker, has a piece in the Journal on "the current progress," entitled "Moving Forward in Iraq". (It's the usual claptrap -- I'll spare you the redundant parsing of said claptrap, however, parsing you've gotten from me and many others in our efforts to expose this nonsense for what it is. (Even Petraeus thinks the insurgency war could go on for decades.) Suffice it to say that this Kagan, like the others, believes that "this conflict" -- yes, she calls it a "conflict," such is the extremity of her misrepresentation -- "shows every sign of succeeding". Evidently, she hasn't been paying attention.)

But I'm not the only one who thinks this. Over at Shakesville, Kathy Kattenburg is similarly attuned:

Everytime you look around, another member of the Kagan family crawls out of the woodwork to shout hurrahs for the Iraq war and proclaim the so-called "surge" to be a resounding success. The latest of these is Kimberly Kagan, who is married to Frederick Kagan (architect of "the surge") and who is the sister-in-law of Robert Kagan (Frederick Kagan's brother, and a leading cheerleader for the surge). Here she is, vomiting out the same old garbage...

And she helpfully reminds us of this piece by Glenn Greenwald on "the royal Kagans":

Apparently, the Kagan family has locked up a "surge" monopoly: Fred designed it, they sold it to the President, and the whole familiy is now held up by our media outlets -- such as The Washington Post and Weekly Standard -- as the experts to whom we should turn in order to learn if the "surge" is or isn't working. They'll be honest and tell us. As Matt Yglesias put it...: "Maybe someday we can get Donald Kagan's take on all this. If only the whole world were made up of members of the Kagan family, then maybe George W. Bush would be a really popular president."

And don't forget Daryn Kagan. And these others. (Presumably Elena Kagan doesn't support Bush.)

The Kagans. Famous for failure. A suitable epitaph.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Historical obliteration, Bush-style

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I would rarely advise reading anything by Dick Morris, but his latest column in The Hill includes this memorable passage:

Bush faces a stark choice: If he doesn’t begin pulling out [of Iraq], his party will lose the White House, lose Congress by stunning and likely filibuster-proof margins, and his tax cut and education reforms will be repealed. His footsteps will be obliterated from history. It will be as if he never served.

Here's my dilemma. I would like both:

  • the U.S. to pull out of Iraq and
  • Bush to be obliterated from history.
Do I have to make a choice? Morris says yes. Republican senators like Voinovich, Warner, Lugar, and Domenici have already "jumped ship," and many more are likely to follow. These "prophets" -- what an idiotic thing to call them; their belated call for withdrawal hardly makes them prophets, and Democrats and many other Republicans have been calling for it for a long time -- now "realize that Bush needs to begin to pull out to save his party, even if it puts Iraq at risk" -- what an idiotic thing to say, given that Iraq is already well beyond the stage of "risk". Morris is right that these senators are right, but he knows nothing about Iraq, the reality of Iraq, and his motives are morally appalling.

What Morris is saying, however delusionally, is that the Iraq War is not just a good cause but, after all that has happened, all that has gone wrong, a winnable war. And yet his concern is not really Iraq or the Iraqi people but the electoral fortunes of the Republican Party. He advocates withdrawal not because it is a good idea -- which it is -- but because it would benefit the GOP heading into '08. Screw Iraq. Screw the Iraqi people.

Look, if you genuinely support the war, fine -- at least be consistent about it. But to argue, as Morris does here, that the fate of Iraq is less important than the short-term fate of the Republican Party is both irresponsible and repugnant. So much for Powell's Pottery Barn argument. Bush broke it, but there's no need to pay for it, certainly not with Republicans in danger. What matters above all is victory at the polls. And Iraq -- well, Iraq won't win you any elections these days.

Morris argues that "a gradual pullout makes all kinds of sense," but, even here, Morris reveals despicable motivation. As many have argued and continue to argue, withdrawal would be good not just for the U.S. but for Iraq -- the ongoing occupation, and that is what it is, is preventing things from improving and indeed making things worse. But Morris turns to Vietnam:

The lesson of Vietnam is clear: If the public get so turned off on a military intervention, it will force Congress to ban any further involvement, making it inevitable that our enemies win. But if the administration salvages a modicum of public support by way of a prompt but gradual withdrawal, it will preserve the option of re-entry by air or land should an adverse situation arise. We probably could have stopped the North from winning in Vietnam had Congress not banned any air or ground involvement after 1974. We must not fall into the same trap in Iraq.

This is both ignorant and crazy. The clear lesson of Vietnam is not to get involved in such wars. Vietnam was an unmitigated disaster regardless of public opinion, and the north likely would have won no matter what. What Morris is arguing here is that Congress should have permitted Nixon to carry on with the war, and perhaps even to escalate it, long after it had become a lost cause. And his concern here is that Bush will carry on with the war to the point where Congress, evil Congress, will step in and prevent him from returning to the war at a later date. In other words: withdraw now, go back in later; withdrawal to appease the public, and the party, but more war once the opportunity arises.

Oh, how much Morris fails to grasp. He is right about withdrawal, but he gets everything else wrong. Including this: There is no "modicum of public support" for Bush to salvage. He has his supporters still, but his party is abandoning him, finally, and so have the American people.

Returning to my dilemma, I don't think I have to make a choice -- for there is no choice to make. Bush may or may not withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq, but his war has already been lost. I would prefer withdrawal to come sooner rather than later, but come it will, eventually, perhaps once Bush leaves office. And if it come sooner, well, fine -- whether for partisan purposes or because it is simply the right thing to do. I'd take that, and it wouldn't much affect the second point. There is no way that Bush will ever be "obliterated from history," "as if he never served". On this, as on everything else, Morris is wrong.

A failure of Bush's scale cannot be "obliterated from history". Regardless of what happens over the next year and a half, Bush has entered Nixon territory. He has been, and will almost certainly go down as, one of the worst presidents in history, a select group of which massive, historical failure is a requirement for membership. It is Iraq, it is so much else.

Oh, yes, Dick, people will remember that Bush served. And they will remember what he did.

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Go to your room, George

By Capt. Fogg

You're probably not old enough to remember the Checkers speech, or the "you won't have Nixon to kick around any more" outburst, but there's something vaguely Nixonian about Bush's rejoinder to Press Corps questioning today while he was cutting a ribbon to officially open the newly renovated briefing room. The condescending implication that the press are just rabble, asking questions just to be annoying and acting like a patient but very sarcastic martyr, had tricky Dick written all over it. I may be imagining it, but I sense that he senses his inevitable helplessness:

Let's do this. Let me cut the ribbon... and then why don't you all yell simultaneously. Like, really loudly. And that way, you might get noticed. I'll, like, listen, internalize, play like I'm gonna answer the question, and then smile at you and just say "got it. Thanks. Thanks for such a solid, sound question."

That's vintage Nixonian martyrdom mixed in with the snottiness and sarcasm of a born loser who knows he's losing again and knows that we know it. There's something in it of Ratso Rizzo banging on the car hood and shouting, "I'm walking here!"

We're not to the tearful resignation stage yet, and I don't think Boss Cheney will let him declare
he's not a crook, but the martyr complex is showing. It showed in Ohio when another caustic reply to a 13 year old girl's simple question about immigration made her break into tears -- upstaging his spoiled child act.

Of course, it's an act that comes from his nature; he is a spoiled brat with an arrogance that comes from long experience with self-contempt over mediocre achievement, multiple business failures, weaseling out of military service, and now a crusade turned to ashes. He's been surrounded with sycophants since daddy became an important public figure and he's employed an army of world-renowned yes men to prop up his rickety ego, but it's falling apart. People are leaving. People are standing up to him and so he barks at a little girl.

But he's a spoiled brat with an army and a navy and nuclear weapons and sometimes when you send a naughty kid to his room, he burns the house down.

(Cross-posted at
Human Voices.)

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Around the world: Iran, U.S., France, India

By jeffaclitus

I was going to title this post "Link-o-rama," but "Around the world" seemed somehow more dignified. Anyways, off we go--

This article in The Nation gives a good historical overview of Western interference in Iranian politics since Iran's liberal, reforming Constitutional Revolution in 1906-1911 (thanks to Kaveh for the link). The authors argue, persuasively in my opinion, that western progressives should offer critical opposition to both the Bush administration's typical imbecilic sabre-rattling and the repressive theocracy ruling Iran at present (which some apparently romanticize as "anti-imperialist").

For many people on the left outside Iran, the era of Ahmadinejad has presented a quandary, forcing them to choose between anti-imperialism (at the risk of defending an Islamist theocracy) and solidarity with the opponents of a repressive theocracy (at the risk of appearing to do the bidding of the Bush Administration). Danny Postel, an editor at the online journal openDemocracy, believes that much of the left has made the wrong choice, ignoring the great promise of Iran's dissident movement. In Reading "Legitimation Crisis" in Tehran, Postel takes the US left to task for neglecting this important social movement and suggests that the new Iranian democratic discourse is an original form of "liberal Third Worldism" that is distinct from neoliberalism and deserving of our support. (One chapter is pointedly titled "We Know What We're Against, But What Are We For?") The US left, he believes, has made the error of viewing Iran through a narrow "American prism," rightly opposing US military threats against the Islamic Republic but failing to raise its voice in support of Iranian progressives battling theocratic repression--i.e., failing to demonstrate solidarity with our true allies in Iran. But anti-imperialism need not come at the expense of solidarity. (A similar error, notes Postel, was made during the Bosnian war, when "anti-imperialism" led some on the left to side with Milosevic's Serbia.)

Meanwhile, in the US, I think the abstinence-only boondoogle is perhaps the best symbol of the Bush administration. I'm not sure anything else so perfectly encapsulates their eagerness to mash together as many lies as possible, all for the sake of using federal money to enforce an almost unbelievably absurd and repellent ideology. Amanda Marcotte does an excellent job of thoroughly shredding a recent farrago of lies, half-truths and bad faith misdirection from a proponent of abstinence-only education.

There’s two columns [in a study about failure rates for contraception], one that constitutes “perfect use” and one that shows “typical use”, a distinction that Morse ignores because it blows her argument out of the water. Basically, typical use failure rates are extremely dependent, as you can imagine, on the education of the people using the method. Someone who has the kind of non-education on contraception that Morse promotes will have a higher typical use failure rate, for obvious reasons. If you’ve never had sex ed and don’t know how to put on a condom, you’re more likely to break it. If you’ve never been told that antibiotics decrease pill effectiveness or that you have to take it the same time every day, you’re more likely to use it wrong and get pregnant. Morse wants to separate kids from the information that gets them from the status of typical use rates to perfect use rates.

Agnès Poirier has an amusingly caustic comment in The Guardian about Nicolas Sarkozy. Noting that "what foreign journalists seem to forget is that France boasts as many authoritarian styles as it does cheeses," Poirier rejects the common comparison of Sarkozy to Napoleon, arguing instead that he resembles Napoleon III, a short-sighted vulgarian figurehead who luxuriated in a "culture of bling" in which mediocrities were vaulted into positions of power and influence (starting with the little Napoleon himself) by an alliance of reactionary social conservatives and money-grubbing, ostentatious nouveux riches (there may have been some overlap, believe it or not).

Napoleon III believed first in himself, then in action rather than morals. This is what his supporters, the reactionary Catholics and the nouveaux riches, believed France needed. He had one objective - to make the French believe they'd get richer, and thereby resolve the social problems shaking the country. He had forged liberal economic policies based on his years in exile in the US and England. France turned bling, and gold adorned every wrist, cleavage and home. Rich bourgeois flaunted their wealth in the face of the people. His supporters relied on him to keep the "little people" quiet while they got wealthier, and the republicans' most active representatives had to live in exile.

A young lawyer, Gambetta, a future republican leader, gave this frank assessment of Napoleon's entourage: "Nobody knew these men before [the coup of 1852], they had no talent, no rank, no honour; they are the opportunists who always emerge during coups, the kind Cicero referred to when talking of the scum surrounding Catilina."

Under Napoleon, the press was free in theory only, and publications that appeared too critical received friendly "warnings" from the government. Auto-censorship thus became second nature to journalists, and although great artists did emerge, they did so in exile or were at risk of being tried for "immorality", like Flaubert and Baudelaire.

Could things really get this bad under Sarkozy? Seems a bit much to me, but what do I know about French politics (in fact, if this column is exaggerated, that perhaps says something more important about the level of cynicism in French political life now).

Last but not least, violent clashes between the police and army and Maoists rebels in eastern India have left at least 24 soldiers and 20 rebels dead. "
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says the Maoists pose the most serious threat to national security in India," but this is the first I've heard of them. Read more about the Indian Maoists, or Naxalites, here and here.

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Iraq war protests becoming more organized

By Carol Gee

Clouds of dissent are gathering into what may be a stormy summer of organized objections to our current president's war in Iraq. The movement actually has a name:

Iraq Summer -- While the situation in Iraq gets worse and worse, the number of casualties increases, and the adminstration demands more time, the American people may be starting to formally organize into a loose coalition of war protestors. Summer is a good time. Students are out of school, people take vacations, and we try to get out of the house to find cool breezes. And lawmakers have returned to Washington to work on appropriating money to fund this hated war. Here is the good news about what is coming. carried a great article about the " 'Iraq Summer' campaign," written by Jeanne Cummings and John Bresnahan, from which I quote,

Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, an umbrella organization of anti-war groups, began a extensive robocalling project aimed at constituents of 12 senators and 52 House members, urging them to call the congressional offices of the targeted members and press them to vote for expected anti-war amendments.

. . . The intense lobbying campaign comes as Senate Republican leaders are scrambling for a response to the latest Iraq developments, including an escalation in violence and signals from the White House that a mid-July progress report will show that Iraqi political leaders are failing to meet the benchmarks for progress sent out by President Bush, party insiders say.

. . . All this maneuvering comes in the wake of the launch of the anti-war organizations' "Iraq Summer" campaign, which included dispatching 100 grass-roots organizers to 15 states and 40 congressional districts.

The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are back in session. And Republican legislators are increasingly uncomfortable. Their time back in the district may have forced them to pay attention to their constituents' soured opinion of the Iraq war. As Republican lawmakers begin to talk with each other they will inevitably begin to shift position. It has already begun. Matthew Continetti of the Weekly Standard calls them "The Nervous Caucus."

Update around noon, Washington time: Republicans blocked a vote on Senator Jim Webb's amendment to insure adequate "dwell time" at home between deployments, 56-41, four votes short of the 60 votes needed. A few "defectors" voted with the Democrats, including Senators Warner, Collins, Snowe, Sununu, Smith, Coleman, and Hagel, the amendment's co-sponsor.

My list of Republican senatorial critics of our current president's war policy follows: Senators Alexander, Brownback, Coleman, Collins, Domenici, Gregg, Hagel, Hutchison, Lugar, Smith, Snowe, Voinovich, and Warner. See also this ( 7/7/07) L.A. Times article by Noam Levey, discussing how facing reelection next year is often what motivates these defectors.

It is best to look to foreign news sources, in my opinion, for the most accurate coverage of what is happening with the change of direction of a beginning number of Republican senators and House members in the United States Congress. Fortunately previous congressional legislation has attempted to hold both the current U.S. administration and the Iraqis to some simple benchmarks, the first of which happens in a few days. Two good sources:

  • The (7/8/07) Financial Times headlined, "Republican rebellion over Iraq escalates." Andrew Ward wrote the excellent story, from which I quote:

    The Republican rebellion against the war in Iraq widened over the weekend as more of the party’s senators voiced dissent from President George W. Bush’s strategy.

    Republican unity on Iraq has shattered in recent weeks, amid mounting pessimism about the ability of US forces to bring stability to the country.

    Weakening Republican support for the war has left Mr Bush increasingly isolated as congressional Democrats prepare for a fresh barrage of votes aimed at forcing a US withdrawal.
  • For an example of a very good situational overview, the BBC News (7/10/07) headlined, "US Senate steps up Iraq pressure" yesterday. I quote:

    The US Senate is debating amendments to the annual military budget designed to put pressure on the White House to start withdrawing US forces from Iraq.

    . . . The administration is to report to Congress on Iraq progress by 15 July. The interim report on 18 measures of progress is required by law under a previous funding bill. Bush administration officials say the picture will be mixed.

    Reports quoting unnamed officials have said it will conclude that the Iraqi government has failed to meet any of the political and economic benchmarks it has been set.

Specifics of Republican strategy - Senators John Warner and Susan Collins, according to the Washington Post, are among several Republican Senators joining with Democrats on key amendments to the war spending bill, often in opposition to party leaders. Individual senators are behaving in remarkably bipartisan ways. And they are looking for existing vehicles within which they can act. Senator Collins is looking to the Iraq Study Group Report for inspiration for an alternate plan, according to the article:

The Maine moderate, who faces reelection next year in her antiwar state, is part of another bipartisan effort that would make last year's Iraq Study Group recommendations the new policy for Iraq, with a goal of removing combat forces by March 31, 2008.

. . . Sen. John W. Warner (Va.), a respected GOP voice on war policy, and Sen. Richard G. Lugar (Ind.), the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, are collaborating on an amendment that would meld the bipartisan efforts. Warner said that he will not comment on the initiative until after Bush presents an interim progress report on Iraq, which could come as early as tomorrow. But, according to lawmakers familiar with the deliberations, Warner and Lugar will try to merge some of the Iraq Study Group recommendations, such as a renewed diplomatic push, with forced mission changes similar to those in the Nelson-Collins amendment.

Using the Iraq Study Group's report is also looking like the best "cover" for wavering Republican House members, including my favorite, Rep. Christopher Shays, according to (6/27/07) Quote:

Earlier in June, several Republican members of Congress called for the Bush administration to follow the recommendations made by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, which Bush had resisted to follow.

This week, Republican congressmen Christopher Shays of Connecticut and Frank Wolf of Virginia are calling to reconvene the ISG to review Iraq policy and offer new recommendations.

The pace of Republican defections has not been dizzying. But, happily, it has been steady. I am cautiously optimistic. Time with the folks back home, a goodly number of whom are now organized and applying pressure, may have gotten these folks' attention when the time to cast votes arrives. I will keep you posted, so you can join in the application of citizen pressure as needed.

My “creativity and dreaming” post today at Good Second Mondays is about Native American dancers.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Dark Ages Bush

By Michael J.W. Stickings

From the Times:

Former Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona told a Congressional committee [yesterday] that top officials in the Bush administration repeatedly tried to weaken or suppress important public health reports because of political considerations.

Dr. Carmona, who served as surgeon general from 2002 to 2006, said White House officials would not allow him to speak or issue reports about stem cells, emergency contraception, sex education, or prison, mental and global health issues because of political concerns. Top administration officials delayed for years and attempted to “water down” a landmark report on secondhand tobacco smoke, he said in sworn testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

He was ordered to mention President Bush three times on every page of every speech he gave, Dr. Carmona said. He was asked to make speeches to support Republican political candidates and to attend political briefings, at least one of which included Karl Rove, the president’s senior political adviser, he said.

And administration officials even discouraged him from attending the Special Olympics because, he said, of that charitable organization’s longtime ties to the Kennedy family.

So, to summarize: Bush (and his White House, and his administration) is against stem-cell research, against contraception, against sex education, for second-hand smoke, and against the Special Olympics. Among other flat-earth policies and beliefs.

Fantastic. Finally a presidency in full anti-enlightenment mode. I'm surprised they haven't taken the logical next steps and come out against, say, gravity. An apple fell on Newton's head? No, we can't talk about that.

For more, see Steve Benen, who is as good at tracking Bush's theocratic and anti-science tendencies as anyone out there in the blogosphere, or anywhere: "I started drawing up an informal list of non-partisan offices and federal agencies that the Bush gang have politicized to an unprecedented extent, but quickly gave up — the list was too long and it became too depressing."

And see Think Progress, which has the video of Carmona's testimony.

And see also Digby, Universal Health (with a lot of video), and The Democratic Daily.

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Scared shitless

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Speaking of scaring the shit out of the American people -- which I just did -- consider this seemingly scary report from The Blotter:

Senior U.S. intelligence officials tell ABC News new intelligence suggests a small al Qaeda cell is on its way to the United States, or may already be here.

The White House has convened an urgent multi-agency meeting for Thursday afternoon to deal with the new threat.

Well, that is scary, or seems to be. Al Qaeda in America -- the very thought stimulates the sort of fear upon which Bush and Cheney and the Republicans have preyed lo these many years.

And, for all I know, this may be true. Maybe an al Qaeda cell really is in the U.S., or on its way there. And maybe that cell really is targeting "a government facility" -- I can neither confirm nor deny.

But please note this: The sources for this story are anonymous -- as perhaps they need to be, given the circumstances of the war on terror, but anonymity of this sort tends to breed suspicion, or at least it should. Brian Ross, a good but perhaps overly trusting reporter, uses as sources "[s]enior U.S. intelligence officials," "[l]aw enforcement officials," and -- alarm bells, alarm bells -- "[a] senior administration official". Who are these officials? Are credible sources? Or are they sources with a political agenda to push? Given what we know of the modus operandi of the Bush White House, which uses the threat of terrorism as one of its political weapons of choice, and which stokes public fears and feeds off the ensuing irrationality, would it be wrong to think that this is yet another such instance of crying wolf? Given that everything -- and I mean everything -- has gone sour for Bush, and given that his war in Iraq continues to be a disaster, so much so that many in his own party are abandoning him, and given that his approval ratings are pathetically low, given all this, and more, would it be wrong to think that maybe -- just maybe -- yet another threat is being dreamed up, or cooked up, or exaggerated?

Has Bush, or his administration more broadly, given us any reason to trust him?

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Fearmongering from the gut

By Michael J.W. Stickings

John Amato is right. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff should resign.

But he won't. And he won't be held to account by his superiors in the White House because this sort of thing is exactly what they want from him -- and what they want generally. Not proactive measures to bolster homeland security, but fearmongering for partisan political purposes -- not to mention, from the Bush-Cheney perspective, for purely self-interested purposes. Bush and Cheney, and the Republican Party, do well when the American people are on edge, when a terrorist attack seems to be, or when they are told that it may be, imminent. The culture of fear is their domain, the politics of irrationality.

Remember Tom Ridge's "phony terror alerts," John reminds us. Ah, yes. How the colour turned orange and red whenever such fear was required, whenever a diversion was needed, some new threat to wipe the bad news, whatever it was, away. The media played along, of course, so trusting were they, so fearful themselves -- fearful of looking unpatriotic, fearful of bad ratings, that is, not so much fearful of terrorism.

And what did Ridge's successor, Chertoff, say to warrant this call for his resignation? He said this, according to the Chicago Tribune: "I believe we are entering a period this summer of increased risk. Summertime seems to be appealing to them" -- to al Qaeda, that is. "We do worry that they are rebuilding their activities."

And his basis for such a bold assertion, for such "worry"? New intelligence? Suspicious chatter? A confession, perhaps from a tortured detainee?

Er, no. For Chertoff, it's "a gut feeling," that's all.

Which is outrageous, is it not -- and not a little irresponsible? This is the homeland security secretary warning Americans of an increase in the terrorist threat, playing on some of their deepest fears, based not on genuine intelligence assessments, but on a "feeling" -- and one in his "gut," what's more.

The American people should be outraged by this, and they should be appalled. And they should refuse to be so manipulated. For that -- the manipulation of the American people by way of the fabrication of a war on terror -- is, we now know so well, the Bush-Cheney way.

Their underling, Chertoff, may or may not have misspoke, and he may now take back what he said, and claim that he never did mean it that way, context and all, but in truth he was just doing what has been done all along, including by his superiors. And that is to seek political advantage by scaring the shit out of the American people.

For that he should resign. But for that, too, for all that, the whole lot of them, Bush and Cheney included, should be removed from office.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Where is Springfield?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

In the extraordinary "Behind the Laughter" episode, it is revealed that the Simpsons are from northern Kentucky. In other airings of the episode, northern Kentucky is replaced by southern Missouri. And yet, the show within the show here is an elaborate fabrication. As this interesting site concludes, after examining the evidence, episode by episode, the Simpsons' Springfield "does not exist" -- or, rather, it is not a Springfield that does exist, and there are many of them across the U.S. It exists "on your television" -- a town that is nowhere, and yet everywhere, just like the Simpsons themselves.

And yet the winner of a USA Today poll to determine which real Springfield would host the premiere of the soon-to-be-released Simpsons movie is:


Yes, Vermont, which narrowly beat out Illinois and Oregon.

Does this mean that the Simpsons' Springfield is in Vermont? Surely not. Springfield, Vermont, in my estimation, isn't quite all-American enough, or at least not as all-American as other Springfields. But no matter. It is the fictional Springfield that is the all-American town, and, again, it is everytown, everywhere.

But congrats to Vermont, a lovely place, for the victory.

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