The Watch

The Watch is concerned about the increasing pressure towards feudalism in the United States from corporations, social regressives, warmongers, and the media. We also are concerned with future history concerning our current times, as non-truths which are “widely reported” become the basis for completely false narratives.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Media blackout

Rumsferatu Watch

Here are two interesting articles on the Rumsfeld internal memo "leak". Liberal Oasis analyzes the reporting coming from this and concludes that this memo was leaked by Rumsfeld purposely to show that he has complaints with the rest of the administration on Iraq. Join the club, Rummy. More signs that the administration is now just melting down and all the rats are blaming each other for the fiasco in Iraq. It's nice to hear Rummy claiming what anti-war activists have maintained all along, though: that there was no plan in place for post-war Iraq.

This entry from Is That Legal? also analyzes the leak and comes to the same conclusion. The Bushies are not presenting a united front. Far from it. Who is really in charge here? Cheney or Rove? (or Rumsfeld?) In any case, it isn't Bush.

River in Egypt Watch

Speaking of Bush, here is one policy that he (or at least Rove) is fully in charge of. The media handling of the war! You can get Americans to go along with almost any horrible war, as long as they don't have to suffer being made aware of what is going on in their name. If Americans were constantly reminded of the toll in dead and maimed people, and the horrible conditions our soldiers are in, their might be less "support" for the war. But as long as it remains just a sterile thought in their heads ("We're gittin' Saddam!") then they support it wholeheartedly.

So, very few pictures from Iraq. Certainly no media pictures of dead or dying or maimed soldiers. And no reminders of dead soldiers. Why, if we thought about dead soldiers, we might all ponder the wisdom of our course even more! So, Rove has said, "no coverage for dead soldiers" and the faithful, lapdog media, has complied. No soldier funerals. Bush doesn't even go to them, because to do so would be to call attention to them. So he doesn't even have the decency to honor these men and women in death, after they and their families have made the ultimate sacrifice for this adventure in stupidity. Here is an article about the control of the reporting, "Curtains Ordered for Media Coverage of Returning Coffins". An excerpt:

To this problem, the Bush administration has found a simple solution: It has ended the public dissemination of such images by banning news coverage and photography of dead soldiers' homecomings on all military bases.

In March, on the eve of the Iraq war, a directive arrived from the Pentagon at U.S. military bases. "There will be no arrival ceremonies for, or media coverage of, deceased military personnel returning to or departing from Ramstein [Germany] airbase or Dover [Del.] base, to include interim stops," the Defense Department said, referring to the major ports for the returning remains.

Out of sight, out of mind, heh? Brilliant. And no one has to think about the price we are really paying. We'll just go back to waving our flags.

Friday, September 19, 2003

MiniTru and backpedaling to change history

His Chimperial Majesty Watch

I found a link to a very moving set of pictures from the days after 9/11, showing the reaction of the rest of the world to the attacks, entitled "When Words Fail Us". It is a poignant reminder of the good faith and respect which Smirky has squandered in his rush to warmonger and bully the rest of the world and the citizens of the US. Remember these pictures if you hear any neocons talking about how we should hate the rest of the world, or how they should hate and fear us.

Ministry of Truth Watch

Cheney, Rumsfeld, Perle, Wolfowitz, Rice, and most especially Bush lied and lied leading up to the inevitable Iraq war, claiming (always with weasel words, of course) that Saddam and Osama were good buddies, and that 9/11 was hatched out of Iraq. We heard all about how Al Qaeda was suspected of having training grounds in Iraq, how Saddam was in cohoots with terrorist operatives, how Mohammed Atta had met with an Iraqi functionary in Europe before the attacks. Of course, it was all untrue, as so many experts on the Middle East and Islam tried unsuccessfully to point out. The administration succeeded in turning the wrath of the American public against Iraq, which although not a great place, was innocent of the attacks of 9/11, with their slimy innuendoes.

Most of the mainstream press was happy to let them do it, apparently, and rarely if ever corrected the false impressions they were leaving, but continued to beat the drums of war (probably because it would increase their profits). Stalwarts in the liberal press tried to right the record, but the smear campaign was in full swing. Innocent Iraqis (and even some not-so-innocent Iraqis) would have to die because of what other people had done to us.

Dick Cheney, always hard to find but increasingly removed from the people he is supposed to be representing, made an appearance on Meet the Press about six months ago and made a whole basket of lies about Iraq's supposed nuclear capability. Then he disappeared into his hidey-hole for another six months. But he reappeared last week, saw his shadow, and appeared on Meet the Press (apparently Tim Russert is the only presstitute servile enough to this administration to rate an appearance by Sneer).

Cheney immediately began lying again about the connections between Saddam and Osama. Russert, of course, let him get away with it completely. But this time, in addition to his ballsy mendacity being pointed out by the liberal press, the mainstream press seemed to be tired of the lies as well.

And then a funny thing happened. In rapid succession, and in a fashion that would make even Winston Smith proud, Rumsfeld, Rice, and even Bush himself lined up to deny that there ever was a connection between Hussein and Bin Laden. "What are you talking about?", they seemed to imply, "Who ever gave you that screwy idea?"

One can hope that the DNC will produce a video montage juxtaposing these collections of Oilwellian and contradictory statements for the upcoming election, but they usually aren't very good at pointing out lies and hypocrisy and things like that. But we should never forget. What follows are some of the more salient articles on this phenomenon.

The first is an article from March on how the Bushies blurred the lines between Iraq and Al Qaeda with their bellicose rhetoric called "The impact of Bush linking 9/11 and Iraq".
Bush never pinned blame for the attacks directly on the Iraqi president. Still, the overall effect was to reinforce an impression that persists among much of the American public: that the Iraqi dictator did play a direct role in the attacks. A New York Times/CBS poll this week shows that 45 percent of Americans believe Mr. Hussein was "personally involved" in Sept. 11, about the same figure as a month ago.

Here are several fine articles on Cheney's most recent bout with the truth:

From the Boston Globe, "Cheney link of Iraq, 9/11 challenged":
But Cheney left that possibility wide open in a nationally televised interview two days ago, claiming that the administration is learning "more and more" about connections between Al Qaeda and Iraq before the Sept. 11 attacks. The statement surprised some analysts and officials who have reviewed intelligence reports from Iraq.
From the Minnesota Star-Tribune, "Truth / Too little of it on Iraq":
To explore every phony statement in the vice president's "Meet the Press" interview would take far more space than is available. This merely points out some of the most egregious examples. Opponents of the war are fond of saying that "Bush lied and our soldiers died." In fact, they'd have reason to assert that "Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz lied and our soldiers died." It's past time the principals behind this mismanaged war were called to account for their deliberate misstatements."
Josh Marshall hammers Cheney:
In Cheney's answer he reels off a series of allegations, most of which have either been positively discredited or remain wholly unsubstantiated. Even if each point were true -- which, for the most part, they aren't -- they are clearly intended to muddy the issue by tossing out a variety of points not directly related to the question of Iraqi government involvement in the 9/11 attacks.
Joe Conason, "Half-Baked Whoppers Hard to Swallow":
And Mr. Cheney reasserted the primal myth of the Bush White House, which holds Saddam Hussein responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks. "We learned more and more that there was a relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the 90’s," he claimed, "the Iraqis providing bomb-making expertise and advice to the Al Qaeda organization." He provided no new proof. In fact, he cited no evidence whatsoever.
The always excellent Mother Jones comments on Cheney's interview with the appropriate title "Liar, Liar".

And now for the new denials:

Robert Scheer notes the evil Wolfowitz making, then having to retract his lies in "White House's cynical Iraq ploy: 'Misspeak' first, 'correct' it later":
The pattern is clear: Say what you want people to believe for the front page and on TV, then whisper a halfhearted correction or apology that slips under the radar. It is really quite ingenious in its cynical effectiveness, and Wolfowitz's latest performance is a classic example -- even his correction needs correcting.
The amazing Rumsfeld can't figure out why anyone would have thought Saddam and Osama were linked in "Rumsfeld: Iraq, 9/11 not linked":
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Tuesday he had no reason to think that Iraq's Saddam Hussein had a hand in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.
Rice can't figure out where anyone got such a crazy idea in "No Iraq link to 9/11":
"We have never claimed that Saddam Hussein had either direction or control of 9/11," Rice added.
And finally, Dim Son himself suggests maybe people's ears were clogged in "Bush: No Proof of Saddam Role in 9-11":
"There's no question that Saddam Hussein had al-Qaida ties," the president said. But he also said, "We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with September the 11th."
I just don't know what to say. I could point out that one of the frustrations of the anti-war movement was that no one would believe that Saddam wasn't involved in 9/11 - and now here are those same liars finally confirming what we knew all along. I guess we can only hope that the press and the public continues to wake up.

Foot Soldiers for Bush Watch

One of our best reporters, Christiane Amanpour, finally began talking about the elephant in the living room, the blatant media whoring for this administraion, as reported at "Amanpour: CNN practiced self-censorship":
CNN's top war correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, says that the press muzzled itself during the Iraq war. And, she says CNN "was intimidated" by the Bush administration and Fox News, which "put a climate of fear and self-censorship."
No doubt she will be punished by her bosses. Check out the response by a Fox representative at the end: 'Fox News spokeswoman Irena Briganti said of Amanpour's comments: "Given the choice, it's better to be viewed as a foot soldier for Bush than a spokeswoman for al-Qaeda."' THAT'S the spirit!

Buzzflash followed this up with a MUST READ editorial, "It's Me or the Terrorists! You Have Three Seconds to Decide.":
We have said since just a few days after September 11th -- and repeatedly since then -- that our lives and the lives of our families are at stake. The likes of Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes, Bill O'Reilly and Joe Scarborough aren't going to decide for us how to best protect ourselves and those we love. They can back an administration that is nothing more than the Keystone Cops of anti-terrorism if they want. They can support a strategy that is 10 parts partisanship and greed and one part actual anti-terrorism effort if they want, but it's our lives at stake -- and these exorbitantly compensated PR hookers aren't going to get away with selling the security of America to the highest bidder.
PaleoCons Watch

Finally, it always worries me how much I agree with Pat Buchanon these days, but he at least has the fortitude to point out that this administration has responded to the 9/11 attacks exactly as Bin Laden had hoped (there were several great This Modern World cartoons to this effect a while back as well). Way to be completely predictable and easily goaded into a ruinous mess, George. The article is "Wrong war in the wrong place". Some excerpts:
But our enemies know us better than we know ourselves. We are reacting exactly as they anticipated and doing exactly what they want. Full of wounded pride and outraged patriotism, we lunged right into the trap baited for us on Sept. 11.
But the president did not listen. Instead, like Pinnochio heeding the lazy and roguish Candlewick and heading off for Funland, where both were turned into donkeys, he heeded the neocons, who whispered in his ear about his being the Churchill of his time, who would strangle Islamofascism in the cradle the way our fathers should have strangled Nazism. When we march in, the neocons assured him, we will be welcomed as liberators, Muslim nations will fall like dominoes to democracy and peace will reign in the Mideast.
But, like a bad marriage, the mistake was going in, in the first place, and now, there is no easy way out. If we pull out, Iraq could become a failed state and a haven for Islamic warriors. If we stay and fight, we may be plunging into an endless or unwinnable war. Somewhere, Osama bin Laden is saying to himself, "Mission accomplished."
Scales Falling from Our Eyes Watch

It seems that Ted Kennedy has not only finally figured out the Bush/Iraq axis of lies, but actually has the cohones to talk to the press about it. Just because the rest of us had this figured out a year ago doesn't mean we aren't happy when Democratic senators finally get it, but let's hope there is something we can do about it now. The article is entitled "Kennedy says Iraq war case a 'fraud'". At least he knew enough to vote against the IWR last October. An excerpt:
"There was no imminent threat. This was made up in Texas, announced in January to the Republican leadership that war was going to take place and was going to be good politically. This whole thing was a fraud," Kennedy said.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Who is the most inappropriate person for this position?

Foxes and Henhouses Watch

Thanks to Ingrid for this article, "Bush puts hawk in nest of doves", which describes the horrible inappropriateness of yet another one of Bush's appointees. This one is Daniel Pipes, appointed to the United States Institute of Peace. Like appointing Ashcroft to guard the Constitution, the failed appointment of Linda Chavez to protect Labor, Negroponte to represent us at the UN, Elliot Abrams to the National Security Council, and the despicable Poindexter to the Pentagon and the Information Awareness Office, this appointment flies in the face of the spirit of the position. Is Bush merely ignorant, or is he deliberately goading and insulting us? An excerpt:
In a time when we need open and lucid dialogue to help instill harmonious relations throughout the world, President Bush's recess appointment of Pipes sends a completely contradictory message to the Muslim world. On one hand, the president has repeatedly called Islam a "religion of peace." On the other hand, he circumvents senatorial confirmation to appoint a man who has a documented history of disturbing anti-Islamic rhetoric. If he is trying to improve relations with the Muslim world by issuing this recess appointment, he is most certainly headed in the wrong direction.

Regression Watch

After many labor rights had been won in this country, such as the 40 hour work week, overtime pay laws, and health insurance laws, unions in this country began to get a bad rap, and perhaps they earned it. Unions were always vilified by the people in power, but we owe so much of our standard of living to them and the people who fought, and suffered, and were injured and even killed for those rights.

Thanks to Diana for sending this link to a petition to stop the current insidious campaign to end overtime pay, spearheaded quietly by Congressional Republicans (of course). Democratic Senator Harkin is trying to stop this giant step backwards for labor rights.

Disinformation Watch

MoveOn, the online democracy outfit, has recently begun a daily mailing/posting service calling out the Bush Administration lies. You can sign up for daily mailings or read today's post at

Franken Watch

If you had trouble with yesterday's mp3 link to the Late Show interview with Al Franken, try this link (thanks to Marti). When I clicked the original link, nothing seemed to happen for a minute or two, as it was downloading, then I got an audio player, so if it seemed to be broken, try it again and wait a minute or two.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Stripping us of our citizenship

"Patriot" Watch

In this article (I got some weird formatting with it) from the spring of this year, Nat Hentoff wonders why the press hasn't been informing us more about what our leaders "perceive" our liberties to be, how that may differ from what we think our liberties are, and how the laws are being changed to curtail them. This was back when Bush and Ashcroft were quietly trying to pass part II of the Patriot Act. Apparently they have stopped trying for now, or are being even more quiet about it.

How many Americans know that if the bill is passed (and Bush certainly won't veto it), they can be stripped of their citizenship if charged with giving "material support" to a group designated by the government as "terrorist"? Sending a check for the outfit's lawful activities - without knowing why it landed on Ashcroft's list - could make you a person without a country and put you behind bars here indefinitely. As Chief Justice Earl Warren said, "you lose the right to have rights" when you lose your citizenship.

Lying Liars Watch

Here is an editorial, also from late April, that has an almost insouciant naivete about it in retrospect. We had just "won" the war in Iraq, but the editor asks, "Did our leaders lie to us? Do we even care?" (Answers: most definitely and some of us). Some excerpts:

Just a few weeks ago, any statement from me that Bush's case for war was riddled with inconsistencies and illogic would have brought swift and fierce condemnation from this fellow. Now, basking in the glow of military conquest -- and confronted by a thus-far futile search for chemical and biological weapons -- this hawk breezily conceded the point while also waving it away as inconsequential. Have we become a country that wears its hypocrisy openly and proudly?
But we're heading for big trouble as a nation if we aren't even concerned that our heads of state may be manipulating us by manipulating the truth. In a nation where hypocrisy is rewarded, expect more lies.

Later, of course, we learned the stunning depths of the lies which were told to us, and many many more people have died since this was written, with no end to the bloodshed, destroyed lives, or enormous costs to us in sight. Oh, to return to those jejune days of spring, when our cynicism was young and we thought that at least the Bushies thought that Saddam was a threat. Were we ever really that young?

"Democracy" in Iraq Watch

Ooops, did we ever say that we were going to let the Iraqis choose their own leaders? One would think that was a requirement for "democracy" in Iraq, yet this headline (reprinted from the New York Times) "In Reversal, Plan for Iraq Self-Rule Has Been Put Off" signals a very different outcome. Let's read on about how we are going to put this nation, formerly ruled with an iron fist, on the shining path to peace, prosperity, representative government . . . someday:
The Iraqi figures were also surprised by the reversal since it appeared in recent weeks that Pentagon officials had persuaded the White House that the best course was to turn over power as quickly as possible to opposition forces.

But as the breadth of systemic breakdown in Iraq has become more visible, a counterargument has grown that the failure of the opposition to make the transition to a viable government would reflect poorly on the allied victory over Mr. Hussein and add to instability.

To be sure, there is some kind of council now in place, but we are definitely running the show. Maybe we are afraid that a new Iraqi government might not just give Halliburton (oops again, of course I mean the United States) all of its oil.

Franken Watch

Finally, here is a link to the audio of a hilarious interview that Al Franken did on the Late Show with David Letterman promoting his new book (warning: sound), in case you missed it. The funniest thing is to hear Letterman laughing his ass off as Franken skewers O'Reilly.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

The Patriot "act"

No Matter How Cynical I Become, I Can't Keep Up Watch

Here's a charmer: "New Patriot Act Terror Laws Used Against Common Criminals". Remember all of those unconstitutional laws which were passed just weeks after 9/11 which were frightening but were supposed to protect us from "terra'ists"? Remember how civil libertarians warned about the slippery slope? Check out these quotes:

"Within six months of passing the Patriot Act, the Justice Department was conducting seminars on how to stretch the new wiretapping provisions to extend them beyond terror cases," said Dan Dodson, a spokesman for the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys. "They say they want the Patriot Act to fight terrorism, then, within six months, they are teaching their people how to use it on ordinary citizens."
The law, passed two months after the Sept. 11 attacks, erased many restrictions that had barred the government from spying on its citizens, granting agents new powers to use wiretaps, conduct electronic and computer eavesdropping and access private financial data.
Before the anti-terrorism act, U.S. officials would have had to use international treaties and appeal for help from foreign governments to retrieve the cash, deposited in banks in Jordan and Israel. Now, they simply seized it from assets held by those banks in the United States.

I don't want to defend con artists and drug dealers, obviously, but we used to have laws about how people could and could not be prosecuted. Remember that?

Sparky Watch

Tom Tomorrow shows us the truth behind conservative "realists".

Monday, September 15, 2003

Here comes the tab

Hat in Hand Watch

Since Bush has asked us for $87 billion dollars (about $870 from each of our families) to continue this war in Iraq, it is time to ask: Why? Why are we in Iraq, again? What have we gained by being there? What is it costing us? (The bills have only just begun to come in). Will we be safer or less safe over time because of it? (Less safe is probably the right answer - antagonizing the Arab world has been traditionally a losing strategy.). Bush's speech and the arrival of the second anniversary of 9/11 has brought an outpouring of terrific articles, and I can only sample a few of them here. Check and Atrios's site especially over the last couple of weeks for a slew of excellent articles.

One of the best is "What can $87 Billion Dollars Buy?". This article is just a little reminder of where our priorities are as a nation. Obviously, they've been screwed up for a long time, but this list goes a long way to showing us what we could have if we didn't have to pay for Georgie's nation-destroying adventure. For just one example:

$87b Is More Than 10 Times What The Government Spends On All Environmental Protection
The Bush administration requested just $7.6 billion for the entire Environmental Protection Agency. This included a 32 percent cut to water quality grants, a 6 percent reduction in enforcement staff, and a 50 percent cut to land acquisition and conservation. [Source: Natural Resources Defense Council]

War on "Terra" Watch

Also last week the UK Guardian published an article by Michael Meacher, a British politician who really gets it. Entitled "This war on terrorism is bogus", it is an incredibly important article, cutting through all of the crap and presenting the very suspicious truth about PNAC, about 9/11, and about Iraq, in a straightforward way. It deserves several excerpts:

We now know that a blueprint for the creation of a global Pax Americana was drawn up for Dick Cheney (now vice-president), Donald Rumsfeld (defence secretary), Paul Wolfowitz (Rumsfeld's deputy), Jeb Bush (George Bush's younger brother) and Lewis Libby (Cheney's chief of staff). The document, entitled Rebuilding America's Defences, was written in September 2000 by the neoconservative think tank, Project for the New American Century (PNAC). The plan shows Bush's cabinet intended to take military control of the Gulf region whether or not Saddam Hussein was in power. It says "while the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein."
First, it is clear the US authorities did little or nothing to pre-empt the events of 9/11. It is known that at least 11 countries provided advance warning to the US of the 9/11 attacks.
It had been known as early as 1996 that there were plans to hit Washington targets with aeroplanes.
All of this makes it all the more astonishing - on the war on terrorism perspective - that there was such slow reaction on September 11 itself. The first hijacking was suspected at not later than 8.20am, and the last hijacked aircraft crashed in Pennsylvania at 10.06am. Not a single fighter plane was scrambled to investigate from the US Andrews airforce base, just 10 miles from Washington DC, until after the third plane had hit the Pentagon at 9.38 am. Why not? There were standard FAA intercept procedures for hijacked aircraft before 9/11. Between September 2000 and June 2001 the US military launched fighter aircraft on 67 occasions to chase suspicious aircraft (AP, August 13 2002). It is a US legal requirement that once an aircraft has moved significantly off its flight plan, fighter planes are sent up to investigate.
Given this background, it is not surprising that some have seen the US failure to avert the 9/11 attacks as creating an invaluable pretext for attacking Afghanistan in a war that had clearly already been well planned in advance.
The overriding motivation for this political smokescreen is that the US and the UK are beginning to run out of secure hydrocarbon energy supplies. By 2010 the Muslim world will control as much as 60% of the world's oil production and, even more importantly, 95% of remaining global oil export capacity.
The conclusion of all this analysis must surely be that the "global war on terrorism" has the hallmarks of a political myth propagated to pave the way for a wholly different agenda - the US goal of world hegemony, built around securing by force command over the oil supplies required to drive the whole project.

Go read the article. It puts it all into perspective, in a way you will never be allowed to read in the US media.

Mmm'Kay? Watch

David Kay is a compromised figure in this administration who has been given the dubious honor of coming up with anything - ANYTHING - which remotely resembles proof of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, thereby justifying the war. His report, scheduled to be released now, if not sooner, is sure to be full of brilliant paraphrases of "We just know down in our gut that he had them . . . I mean, he 'gassed his own people' (TM), etc." Josh Marshall at TalkingPointsMemo on the Kay report:

Will the administration be embarrassed? No doubt. But they won't be the only ones. Everyone in the US intelligence community thought the Iraqis maintained some WMD capacity. The irony of this whole mess is that the White House took the solid evidence of Iraq's continued illicit weapons programs and hyped them all out of proportion to get the country into war, only to find out that even the 'solid evidence' turns out to have been false or greatly exaggerated.
Here's the bottom line: the only reason for supressing the Kay Report is to game and stymie the political debate within the United States. That's unacceptable. Congress should demand the release of Kay's report -- even if redacted in some form. No more game playing. Let the chips fall where they may.

Conservative Idiots Watch

A particularly spectacular Top Ten this week:

Ah, remember when we were going to get Saddam Hussein, find his weapons of mass destruction, pay for the war using nothing but Iraqi oil revenues, and the only thing getting in our way would be the Iraqi people throwing flowers at us? Yes, those were the days. Unfortunately things haven't quite gone according to the neo-con plan, and now we can't find Saddam or his weapons, the Iraqi people are blowing us and each other up with car bombs, and Our Great Leader had to make a groveling speech to the nation last week asking for another $87 billion to rebuild Iraq. And that's just for one year. That brings the total budget for the war - so far - to $166 billion. But pay no attention to the enormous $550 billion budget hole we're slowly digging, if another $87 billion is what's needed, then another $87 billion is what we shall pay. Just to put things in perspective, $87 billion is three times the amount Bush intends to spend on education this year, twice the budget for Homeland Security, and ten times the budget for the Environmental Protection Agency. To put it further into perspective, the 1991 Gulf War cost the United States about $20 billion total. And to put things even further into perspective, ask yourself how much of that $87 billion is going to go directly into Halliburton and the Carlyle Group's back pockets. Let's face it, Bush and Cheney probably don't even care about next year's election - in a few short years the CEO president has already managed to set himself up for the world's biggest golden handshake.

Friday, September 05, 2003

Playing up 9/11 as a GOP victory

Fabulous Toxic Dust Watch

At the end of 2001, Dim Son issued a statement summing up his first year as president. He said, "it's been a fabulous year for Laura and me", and indeed he probably meant it. He had been sworn in as the 43rd President despite having lost the popular vote both in the country and in Florida. He had instituted massive tax cuts for his cronies. He had spent an entire month on "vacation" at the pig farm he bought in 1999. He had been given extraordinary, unprecedented, and unconstitutional powers as a result of the PATRIOT act, which most legislators signed without even having read all the way through it in the weeks following the terrorist attacks. He was praised as having "grown into his job" by the media, despite the fact that it was his administration's gross incompetence and negligence which allowed the attacks to happen. He had started a war to "git Al Qaeda" which also had the happy result of toppling the Taliban, allowing oil companies to use the US military to guard a new oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea through Afghanistan, installing a former oil company executive to lead Afghanistan, and sending massive profits to his family's war-profiteering business. All in all, a banner year for our littlest dictator.

You may recall feeling differently at the end of 2001, horrified, terrorized, exhausted, and amazed at how quickly our country could be turned from peace and prosperity to an impoverished police state by such a seemingly small thing as who "won" the presidential election. You may remember the jarring disconnect between Bush's quote and how you felt about 2001.

It is coming up on the 2nd anniversary of 9/11, the seminal event which turned 2001 into such a "fabulous year" for Dumbya. You'd think that he would want to celebrate it. Certainly, the third anniversary of 9/11 will be much ballyhooed by the Republicans during their convention, pushed off to an unusually late date in order to game the federal elections finance system, extending the "primary" season as late as possible. But this year, Bush will "celebrate" 9/11 by staying in Washington, sending Cheney to ground zero instead.

Why the reluctance to play up this event, which has been used to justify every ill wind issuing forth from this administration? Maybe it's because the Bushies lied about the health dangers of the dust from the collapsed towers in NYC in an EPA report. It has recently come out that the administration leaned on the EPA to doctor the report so that people wouldn't panic, Wall Street would open as soon as possible, and they would appear to be in control. Unfortunately, 8 million people were also breathing in toxic dust all of that time. See Paul Krugman's Dust and Deception for a discussion on this, including:

What does all this have to do with toxic dust? Think how much harder it would have been to stiff New York if the public had understood the extent to which Lower Manhattan had become a hazardous waste site. I can't prove that was what administration officials were thinking, but otherwise their efforts to play down the risks seem incomprehensible.

New Yorkers are going to be pissed. Watch for massive protests when Dick "Snarl" Cheney shows up in NYC.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Keeping us in the dark

Blackouts Watch

Here is one of the most astute things I have read about the latest big blackout, and the political and economic fallout likely to come from it:

In this article, the folks from Liberal Oasis argue cogently that the reason the energy grids are so stressed is that deregulation of our power companies results in energy being transferred back and forth between suppliers. And that ending deregulation would be an excellent way to relieve some strain on the power infrastructure, for which no one now has an economic reason to maintain. Finally, sadly, they outline how the latest blackout will be used as an excuse to take much more money from billpayers to line the pockets of the deregulated power companies, in much the same way as 9/11 was used as an excuse for all kinds of other chicanery. It is a very important and I believe prescient article. An excerpt:

Prior to the price spikes of 1998, the number of traders increased over 50 fold; the quantity traded increased several hundred times.

Basically, power that used to just go from point A to point B -- from the plant to you -- is now shuttling back and forth between wholesalers, straining the system.

Electronic Vote Theft Watch

Ok, time for the tinfoil hats again. The CEO of Diebold, one of the largest manufacturers of electronic voting machines, whose machines have been shown to be susceptible to hacking because their security is built on Microsoft software, is also a huge backer of the Republican party, holding fundraisers in his home with invitations that state he is "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President next year." Can you say "the appearance of conflict of interest"? Maybe nervousness about electronic voting machines wouldn't be so widespread if the CEOs and boards of these companies weren't so right-wing, fundamentalist Republican. Then again, maybe we need to have voting with voter certifiable paper trails.

This is the foundation of our way of governance, and if we can't trust it, we are in for some bad times indeed.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Making mistakes, making money

Incompetence Watch

The most important article which came out last week was Michael Tomasky’s "Ineptitude Redefined" in The American Prospect. In it, he argues that the last excuse that the Republicans have for their claim to power, that they are at least competent at governing, has been blown away by the stunning, continual displays of incompetence shown by this administration. A sample:

But there's another argument about this administration, and about the Republican Party in general, that needs to be made, because this argument can alter presumptions about the two parties that have existed for at least a generation and can change the way the parties are seen well into the future. And it is this: The Republicans are total incompetents.

It really should come as no surprise, I suppose. For years, Republican "government is bad" ideology has put them at odds with people who would actually like to see their government function. Tomasky goes on to compare Republicans’ conflation of the good of party and state with other societies in which that unfortunate ideology had taken place.

It’s a great article, short and to the point.

Corruption Watch

Dick Cheney has managed to foil a GAO investigation into his energy task force, again. Here is an example of how these closed government types stonewall an investigation:

Administration officials did not account for much of the money spent on the task force and could not remember whether anyone took official notes during the 10 Cabinet-level meetings the group held in 2001, the investigators said.

Isn’t that precious? They couldn’t remember if anyone took notes. "Gee, did you take notes?" "I don’t know; I thought that was your job." "I brought the sandwiches." Amazingly, the rest of our government seems willing to put up with this incredible bullshite. If you ever hear Cheney or anyone else in this administration talking about someone else not complying with "the rule of law", please tell them where they can put it.

That excuse is so lame I’m almost speechless. I don’t know whether to be enraged or insulted. On the one hand, these were top level meetings of business and the highest level of government, making decisions that affect millions of lives and trillions of dollars, and the very future of our country itself. They didn’t take notes??? On the other hand, maybe they didn’t need notes, because their checklist was so simple: "Create energy crises. Exploit crises. Profit from crises. Use US military to protect private energy concerns overseas".

Reality Surpassing Satire Watch

I was going through an old book of "This Modern World" cartoons last night, for some reason, and came across this old chestnut from 1995.

It’s strange to think that in only eight short years, our orderly society has trumped our constitutional rights to the point where everything in this cartoon, which was once wild, libertarian hyperbole, has become true. I’ve heard it said that our country’s response to 9/11 shows how strong our nation is. But all I can see is how our response shows how weak we are. Something horrible happened, and we immediately, gladly, handed all of our rights which protect individuals over to the authorities, on a silver platter and tied with a beautiful ribbon. 99 US senators voted for the "PATRIOT" act in the weeks after 9/11, most of them without reading much of it. That includes otherwise sane individuals like Kerry, Byrd, and the late, great Wellstone. Only Russ Feingold had the stones to oppose it.

The Bush administration made a mistake (let’s give them the benefit of the doubt), and we rushed to pour unprecedented, unconstitutional power into their hands. Tell me again what their motivation is not to make any more "mistakes"?

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

The IWR trap

Voting for the War Watch

In the next seven months, as the Democratic party goes through a certain amount of infighting and decides who is going to be their nominee, you will hear that such and such a candidate "voted for the Iraq war" over and over again. Lieberman, Gephardt, Edwards, and Kerry all voted Yes on the Iraq War Resolution which passed last October. The media will say it, the candidates opponents will say it, and the candidates themselves will probably say it, too.

But it is important to understand what it was that they were actually voting for, so that the vote can be put into proper perspective. For one thing, the Bush people would like this to mean that criticizing the Iraq war is now off the table for those candidates. They will say, in mock horror, "How can John Kerry criticize this administration’s actions in Iraq, when HE VOTED FOR THE WAR?".

People will also say that these Democrats and other Democrats in Congress voted "to give Bush the authority to go to war". This is also not exactly true.

Bush always had the power to get us into a unilateral invasion of Iraq, with or without a blessing from Congress. As Commander In Chief, he can order the military to go anywhere and do anything, despite Congress’ formal power to declare war. However, because of the War Powers Act passed after Vietnam, Congress has the ability to cut funding from a military action after 2-3 months if they do not support it.

If Congress does not pass an authorization with limits and conditions on the President’s actions, then the President can wage war and continue to wage war with essentially no restrictions. So the first important point about the IWR is that it was absolutely crucial that such a resolution be passed, outlining the Congress’ goals and limiting Bush’s ability to wage war.

The Senate and the House began drafting separate bills. The House, largely Republican controlled, created a bill which essentially gave Bush free reign to wage war anywhere in the Middle East he wanted to, with few restrictions on cause. The Senate, more evenly divided, eventually came up with the Biden-Lugar bill, which would have been a bit more exacting in geographical restriction and burden of proof than what was actually passed.

Now, the Republicans control Congress. That being the case, it was pretty likely that some authorization which essentially favored Bush was going to pass, and he was going to be allowed to have his little war. That was inevitable. So, the only thing the Democrats could do was to make the authorization as responsible as they could. However, right away some of them started to jump ship.

Gephardt and Lieberman undercut the more responsible Senate position right away by stating that they would back the much more warmonger-friendly House version. This cut the legs out of the Senate position considerably. You may remember Gephardt and Lieberman standing shoulder to shoulder next to Bush at a photo-op last fall, trying to appear "tough on national security". Good luck with that, guys.

However, the Democrats in the Senate didn’t give up, and kept pushing a compromise bill which still had a lot of teeth in it. It forced Bush to go to the UN and attempt to win a UN security council vote of approval. This was the reason Colin Powell had to swallow the last bit of credibility he had and go to the UN and lie his way through that mendacious presentation of his. The resolution also demanded that all diplomatic avenues had to be exhausted before we invaded. This was obviously not met, and so technically, if the Congress wasn’t such a creature of this administration, they could now withdraw funding from our mission in Iraq. In the end, the IWR did much more good than it did harm, in that it forced Bush to lie in the face of the world, show that he actually didn’t have any proof before he went to war, and restricted the geographic constraints of our current actions.

When the compromise was completed and it was pretty clear that it was going to pass, the Democrats had a choice of whether to vote yes or no on it. This was largely a symbolic gesture, as the IWR was going to pass anyway.

A No vote might have made it seem like they didn’t want to limit the President’s power to wage war. But as a symbolic vote, this clearly would have been the better and smarter thing to do. Essentially you would be voting that Bush was going to screw up Iraq (which has certainly been proven correct in the aftermath) and based on his prior record that was the right call. But they also knew that Bush would try to make them look soft on that old debbil Saddam if they did.

Some of the Democrats were actually very active in the fight to make the authorization as responsible as it was, like Kerry. For Kerry to fight like crazy to limit Bush’s war making power, and then vote NO on his own bill, would probably have been seen in some kind of unflattering light. But, again, as I said, a YES vote was a vote predicting that this administration wouldn’t make a hash of the situation, and that was a very poor prediction indeed.

The good news is that in any case, there were Democrats who were watching out for the principles of diplomacy, international law, and proof, and they made the best deal they could.

The bad news is that we have to hear about how these candidates "voted for the war" for the next seven months.

Fun with Anagrams Watch

George Walker Bush == beer keg lush go war

Conservative Idiots Watch

It’s another week, so there are more conservative idiots to laugh at. We all need to laugh more. Here’s a selection:

Marc Racicot
Get ready to jump out of your seat and kick the cat! According to the Associated Press, George Whistle-Ass Bush's presidential campaign is "appealing for donations by portraying Bush as a fund-raising underdog." But... but... but... isn't Bush on target to raise an unprecedented $200 million dollars for his campaign? Isn't he holding $2000-a-plate fundraising dinners all over the place? Didn't he smash fundraising records during his previous campaign? Pah! According to campaign chairman Marc Racicot, all of that is completely irrelevant. In a fundraising email to supporters, Racicot wrote (added emphasis mine): "Democrats and their allies will have more money to spend attacking the president during the nomination battle than we will have to defend him. Cough-bullshit-cough." Look, if the people who support the GOP are really this gullible, they damn well deserve George W. Bush for another four years. Mind you, it's not really any surprise that Bush's campaign is reaching out to supporters by appealing to utter stupidity. After all, that is their target demographic.