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.

Friday, October 31, 2003

As usual, the question is Evil or Incompetent?

Evil or Incompetent Watch

For a long while, we have pondered whether this administration is simply evil or just incredibly incompetent. The jury has been out a while, but I think we can safely say that there is enough evidence now to answer the question with confidence. This administration is both evil and incompetent, with large measures of both.

I often ponder just how much trouble this country would be in if we had to deal with an administration which was evil and highly competent. We make Rove and company out as masters of manipulating the media, when really nearly all of their schemes are laughably easy to see through. It is no secret the pillaging of public treasure that is going on now as billions of our dollars (with each billion representing about $10 per family) funneled directly into Cheney's coffers, or Poppy Bush's pockets, or George Schultz's bank account. The only reason Rove seems like he is good at manipulating the press is that the press just totally lays down for these guys.

Imagine what their situation would be like with even a halfway decent press. Imagine.

Then think about how badly off we would be with real masters of propaganda, who had their act together, in charge. This bunch can't even get their evil take over of another country straight. They have turned it into a huge mess, and as it falls apart they are busy blaming each other. More competence was seen in the apple dumpling gang. But this country really is in danger from people who can manipulate our fears competently, not in the ham-handed hubristic way these thieves have, but in subtle, psychologically skillful ways. Without better education in this country to protect our citizens from this bullcrap, we are a nation of sheep ready to be led off the nearest cliff by anyone peddling jingoism, nationalism, and fascism.

I have high hopes that we will step away from the cliff this time. Another year under this cabal and I think voters will be out in droves to get rid of them. But we really need to take this administration as a warning. We've been (hopefully) saved by their incompetence and incredible arrogance this time, but next time we may very well not be so lucky. We have to make our bonds with other people of sanity, quickly. They are definitely out there. Even most Republicans, even most conservatives, even most free-market, cheap-labor conservative Republicans don't wish harm on this country - they just don't know better, yet. It is fortunate that it is only the small crowd at the top who buys in to this destructive philosophy, because it benefits them so much at the expense to the rest of us. Let's keep them small, and hopefully soon, out of power.

Speaking of Evil or Incompetent, here is James Galbraith on what seems like the incompetent handling of our economy, but which he reasons is actually evil, in an article entitled: "Why Bush Likes a Bad Economy". An excerpt:

Stagnation, moreover, helps to justify more tax cuts. The Administration's core policy objective in this area is to shield financial wealth from all taxation. Two years ago, estate and income taxes were cut. This year, it was capital gains, dividends, and again the top tax rate. Next year, the sunset provisions in these measures will probably be removed. As things are going, quite soon, taxes will fall mainly on real estate, payrolls, and consumption. This is to say that taxes will be paid mostly by the middle class, by the working class, and by the poor. That is what the Administration wants, and what--if not defeated--it is exceedingly likely to get.

Finally, stagnation and the Bush tax policy promote rightwing plans to cut and privatize essential services, including health, education, and pensions. As financial wealth escapes tax, neither states nor cities nor the federal government can provide vital services--except by taxing sales and property at rates that will provoke tax rebellions, especially when middle class incomes are not rising. Every public service will fall between the hammer of tax cuts and the anvil of deficits in state, local, and federal budgets. The streets will be dirtier, as also the air and the water. Emergency rooms will back up even more than they have; more doctors will refuse public patients. More fire houses and swimming pools and libraries will be closed. Public universities will cost more; the public schools will lose the middle class. Eventually, federal budget deficits will collide with Social Security and Medicare, putting privatization back on the agenda.

Bush "Haters" Watch

Molly Ivins in the Progressive writes one of the best articles I have read recently, this on the current nonsense about "Bush Hating". Molly is smoking here, profane, angry, and powerful. She blows the doors off normal progressive commentary. The whole article was so good I hardly knew what to quote. Read the whole thing, but here is a bit of it:

Oh, I stretch memory way back, so far back, all the way back to--our last President. Almost lost in the mists of time though it is, I not only remember eight years of relentless attacks from Clinton-haters, I also notice they haven't let up yet. Clinton-haters accused the man of murder, rape, drug-running, sexual harassment, financial chicanery, and official misconduct. And they accuse his wife of even worse. For eight long years, this country was a zoo of Clinton-haters. Any idiot with a big mouth and a conspiracy theory could get a hearing on radio talk shows and "Christian" broadcasts and nutty Internet sites. People with transparent motives, people paid by tabloid magazines, people with known mental problems, ancient Clinton enemies with notoriously racist pasts--all were given hearings, credence, and air time. Sliming Clinton was a sure road to fame and fortune on the right, and many an ambitious young rightwing hit man like David Brock, who has since made full confession, took that golden opportunity.

And these folks didn't stop with verbal and printed attacks. From the day Clinton was elected to office, he was the subject of the politics of personal destruction. They went after him with a multimillion dollar smear campaign funded by Richard Mellon Scaife, the rightwing billionaire. They went after him with lawsuits funded by rightwing legal foundations (Paula Jones), they got special counsels appointed to investigate every nitpicking nothing that ever happened (Filegate, Travelgate), and they never let go of that hardy perennial Whitewater. After all this time and all those millions of dollars wasted, no one has ever proved that the Clintons did a single thing wrong. Bill Clinton lied about a pathetic, squalid affair that was none of anyone else's business anyway, and for that they impeached the man and dragged this country through more than a year of the most tawdry, ridiculous, unnecessary pain. The day President Clinton tried to take out Osama bin Laden with a missile strike, every rightwinger in America said it was a case of "wag the dog." He was supposedly trying to divert our attention from the much more breathtakingly important and serious matter of Monica Lewinsky, and who did he think he was to make us focus on some piffle like bin Laden?

"Imminent Threat" Watch

There is still more media howling going on to the effect that Bush never used the word "imminent" to describe the Iraqi threat, and so opponents saying he said Iraq was an imminent threat is a lie. What utter hogwash. Bush instead used words like Iraq could attack us with horrible weapons "on any given day", etc. Here is a very important Howler in which Bob Somerby takes apart this argument as it is leveled against Wes Clark, in which it is revealed that Clark made some very important recommendations last fall about our invasion, which were (of course) ignored.

Progressive Watch

Finally, here are some links again about places to go in your daily web travels to keep an ear on what is actually happening. Do not do something foolish like watch Fox news. Here are three sites which will keep you well-informed on what is happening, and are best visited once a day:

Media Whores Online

For more in-depth analysis on a variety of topics, we also recommend:

The Daily Howler (especially good media commentary)
Talking Points Memo
Liberal Oasis

If you are in a more whimsical mood, these sites have more fun with their topics:

Busy Busy Busy

If you feel like reading more, The Smirking Chimp has excellent daily collections of important articles.

Finally, please do remember to visit Democratic Underground every Monday for the Top Ten Conservative Idiots. That feature just gets better and better. Please see the Watch archives for other good links, a recommended reading list, and links to most of these sites. Until the spring, take care.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Writing the NIE after the war plans

"Technically" True Lies Watch

Here's one good for a laugh. George Bush, deservedly getting a lot of heat for the "Mission Accomplished" banner this spring, a couple of days ago in a (increasingly rare) press conference said that "The "Mission Accomplished" sign, of course, was put up by the members of the USS Abraham Lincoln saying that their mission was accomplished. I know it was attributed somehow to some ingenious advance man from staff..." Turns out, this is technically true. The sign WAS "put up" by members of the crew. However, it turns out that the sign was designed, manufactured, and brought on board by Bush's advance men. What a dope. See Media Whores Online this morning for more details, and a litany of Media Hos denouncing "pathological liar" Al Gore for comparison.

Lying Sanctimonious Druggie Watch

Who else could we be talking about? Here is a great article by the libertarians, who have argued that the war on drugs is a stupid waste of time and money, and an evil policy to boot, pointing out that if Rush Limbaugh is not thrown into the clink post haste, that the enormous hypocrisy thus exposed by the nation's "drug warriors" renders them forever irrelevant to the drug debate . I couldn't agree more. I love it when someone really skewers hypocrisy. The libertarians:

"One thing we don't hear from American politicians very often is silence," said Joe Seehusen, Libertarian Party executive director. "By refusing to criticize Rush Limbaugh, every drug warrior has just been exposed as a shameless, despicable hypocrite.

"And that's good news, because the next time they do speak up, there'll be no reason for anyone to listen."

"Intelligence" Watch

Here is an amusing entry at Talking Points Memo. In it, Josh Marshall describes how George Tenet at the CIA is being "blamed" for giving the White House bad intelligence on Iraq. But as Marshall points out, the only blame the CIA has is letting the Bushies justify bad policy with bad intelligence, and not making sure the good intelligence was used to form policy.

The White House was already so set on war, that they failed to order something called a National Intelligence Estimate, which is pretty standard procedure before something as big as the Iraq war. An NIE was finally ordered, at the request of congressional Democrats, and since then Condi Rice has made claims that directly contradict the NIE, as if she'd never read it. (For all we know, she hasn't). Here's Marshall:

"The NIE was done after the White House was already on the record with a policy. So the White Houses views on what it wanted the NIE to say were, shall we say, rather clear. And this whole project came after 18 months in which the administration was mau-mauing the CIA to come up with more alarmist reports about Iraq.

George Tenet deserves censure for allowing himself to become complicit in the politicization and manipulation of intelligence on an almost unprecedented scale. Other top officials at the Agency do as well. (And there are certainly many other issues on which the Agency itself deserves to be taken to task.)

But this fish is rotting from the head down. And the heads not George Tenet. Its a many-headed monster. And theyre all at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and the OSD.

Pumpkin Watch

Here is a great 'Halloween at the White House' cartoon.

Plame Watch

Finally, here is some levity from the Onion that cuts so close to reality that there is no line which divides the satire in this piece. Enjoy "CIA-Leak Scapegoat Still at Large". An excerpt:

We are doing everything in our power to see that the scapegoat is found and held accountable," President Bush said. "We will not stop until heor sheis located. Believe me, nobody wants to see the blame placed squarely on the shoulders of a single person, and photos of that individual in every newspaper in the country, more than I do.

Watch Watch

After tomorrow the Watch will be on an extended hiatus, probably for about 6 months, as I prepare to teach a graduate class in the spring. Science will be my avocation as well as my vocation during this time, so I will have to hope that politics will continue to roll merrily along without me. Thank you for allowing me to vent a bit, I hope you have enjoyed it. Please consider posting interesting articles to this mailing list if you find them, and adding names to the list - it would be fun to create a big, progressive mailing ring for articles, etc. Hopefully I'll be able to get going again in May. By then the Democrats will have chosen a nominee (hopefully someone will have sewn the nomination up cleanly, without having it go to the floor of the convention) and the real campaign against the forces of incompetence will have begun.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

General Boykin: Soldier for Christ

Lying Liars Watch

Here is an extensive list of links and quotes concerning the phantom Al Qaeda/Iraq lovefest which was always false (his Chimperial Majesty just admitted as much a month ago - but the press didn't seem to notice) but which the public seems to believe in anyway. The quotes show why. There are also quotes from sources at the time refuting the link. It's very telling. Here is one from September, this one carefully couched with weasel words to scare, but not straying from Bush's scary fantasy of them "working together":

U.S. President George W. Bush, along with other senior U.S. officials, yesterday alleged possible connections between Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and the al-Qaeda terrorist network (see GSN, Aug. 2). Bush said he was concerned Hussein and al-Qaeda could decide to work together, adding that the two were already almost indistinguishable. The danger is, is that they work in concert, Bush said during a White House meeting with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. The danger is, is that al-Qaeda becomes an extension of Saddams madness and his hatred and his capacity to extend weapons of mass destruction around the world.

Tinfoil Hat Watch

Joe Conason (you have to go through the "day pass" mechanism to read it unless you subscribe to Salon, but it's usually pretty painless) weighs in a bit on the electronic voting machine controversy, and asks this very provocative question: "Why aren't Republicans more disturbed by the threat of computer cheating?" Hmmm. Why indeed? An excerpt:

The sickening irony of this situation is that it developed from congressional efforts to preclude another fiasco like Florida 2000. Now Rep. Rush Holt, D.-N.J., has proposed legislation that would require a separate printed record of every computerized vote so that recounts can be audited with a paper trail. But Rep. Bob Ney, the committee chairman, opposes Holt's Voter Confidence Act. Ney happens to be a Republican from Ohio. But why aren't Republicans -- many of whom fret incessantly about "ballot security" in black and Latino neighborhoods -- more disturbed by the threat of computer cheating?

Pundits Watch

Liberal Oasis had an excellent breakdown of the Sunday morning pundit shows this week, where both sides of the aisle had to admit that Iraq was a huge mess. (What a surprise!) The most amazing thing is Democrat Jay Rockefeller, who supported this war wholeheartedly (say "Arf" Jay! Rollover! Good boy.), actually said, "If I suspected that there might have been a predetermination to go to war, regardless of the United States, United Nations Security Council, I probably would have voted differently." Uh, Jay? Most of us had figured out that there was a "predetermination" to go to war years ago. Maybe Senator Rockefeller isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer, if you know what I mean.

What Liberal Media? Watch

Eric Alterman's debut column on the new website of the Center for American Progess, a progressive think tank modeled after the Heritage Foundation (except sane), is great. He notes that Democrats are getting flak in the press for opposing the $87 billion spending we need to bail Chimpy McFlightsuit out in Iraq. Why? In many cases, the Democrats just want a little more accountability about where the money is actually going (for example, is it just going straight into Halliburton's pockets, with no benefit to anyone? - that's a pretty important question). But many in the media want to tar and feather the democrats anyway. An excerpt:

But it was all of the Democrats fault. They didnt hatch the war plan, didnt plan it, and they didnt launch it. They didnt lie and they didnt screw up the occupation, infuriate the rest of the world, or create a situation where U.S. taxpayers will need to fork over hundreds of billions for years on-end, without any currently credible plan to make the U.S. or the world any safer. Remember, they dont have access to the levers of power in the House, Senate, or White House, so they cant effectively fix the quagmire. And even conservative Republican Chuck Hagel is worried that Congress gave President Bush too much latitude in conducting foreign policy after the Sept. 11. Still, the pundits demand they refrain even from questioning whos going to pay for it, how much, and where the moneys going.

The column also contains some interesting information about the way the California labor troubles are being covered.

Howler Watch

Monday's Daily Howler was a tour de force. In it, Somerby takes a look at the religious nutcase general who is an important player in Iraq. (He might not be the best person to improve our relations with Muslims in that country, let's just put it that way). He also takes a look at potential smears of Wesley Clark now forming in the media, including one which is blatantly fraudulent. He ALSO examines "Bush hatred" with respect to Clinton hatred and Gore hatred in the media. Not bad for a single column.

Also on the topic of General Boykin, thank you to Paul for this link, in which a Christian with both a brain and a heart helps the general along with his theology a bit.

Conservative Idiots Watch

This week's Top Ten Conservative Idiots is as great as ever. An example:

So the heady days of California's bizarre recall election are over, and now it's time to get down to business. Unfortunately it looks like Governor Groping Austrian Beefcake is about to take a shot in the gut from the phased plasma rifle of reality. According to the L.A. Times, Schwarzenegger got "a grim briefing on California's budget Thursday, and emerged appearing sobered." That's right - suddenly Arnold has realized that now he's the governor, he actually has to run the state. Bummer. "The problem was created over the last five years," said Arnie, "and so you can't expect that - even though I've played very, very heroic characters in the movies, but you can't expect me to walk into his office and all of a sudden come out with the answers." What? But surely during the campaign, Arnold kept going on and on about how he was going to swoop in and fix California's problems in the blink of an eye. I mean, I know he didn't explain how he was going to do it, but I got the impression that the fact he played "very, very heroic characters in the movies" was going to be an integral part of his governing technique. Does this mean that we can no longer expect him to pump up Sacramento? What a letdown. I was looking forward to that.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Bush's Wormtongue

Our Incompetent Lord High Chancellor Watch

We all know by now that little W isn't really in charge in this administration. When the GOP chose Dick Cheney to find a suitable Vice Presidential running mate for The Littlest Dictator, he interviewed some people, and then came back with the conclusion that HE would make a swell VP. What humility. He has taken Dim Son under his avuncular wing and guided him through his Presidency with a sure hand, assuring the country and the world that "the grownups" were back in charge, and that things were going to be A-OK. So now in addition to Bush's shortcomings, we also have Cheney's Nixonian stonewalling and secrecy on domestic issues and his truly unhinged foreign policy to deal with.

Josh Marshall has recently written another of his analyses of Cheney and his influence within the administration, titled "At the start of each of Bushs bad ideas is Dick Cheney". He proceeds to make the case that not only is Dick Cheney "in charge", but he is hopelessly anti-American and incompetent to boot. An excerpt:

In Sundays New York Times, Iraqs new interim president, Iyad Alawi, thanked Americans for liberating his country and then made a simple request: please bring back the Iraqi army.

Given what we just put into defeating the Iraqi army, that might sound like an odd proposal. But its difficult to find anyone today who thinks disbanding the Iraqi army was a good idea in the first place. And few thought it was a good idea at the time. Doing so not only worsened the security vacuum that now plagues the country, it took hundreds of thousands of armed men and in a pen stroke made them both unemployed and harder to control.

Who was the senior administration official most responsible for this ill-conceived idea?

Vice President Dick Cheney.

Garlic Country Watch

Here is a great editorial from the Gilroy Dispatch, on war and the Bush Doctrine. I really like this guy's style. Check this out:

I was gratified to hear Secretary of Soothing Doublespeak Colin Powell the other day; his words assured me that the Administration policy on Iraq is on a consistent track, albeit a track which begins at Kings Cross Station, Platform 9-3/4 and ends at Hogwarts. In fact, Administration spokespeople are being forced to dispense more and more fresh hogwarts every day to cover the hogwarts they dispensed the day before. The people were not told lie after lie after lie, he said, lying. The people were told that Iraq was a dangerous situation. Now, my memory may not be what it used to be, but I recall language considerably stronger than a dangerous situation being tossed around when we and Congress and the world were being sold Operation Fix Daddys Mistake. Now, South-Central L.A. is a dangerous situation. The sorry state of Americas highways and bridges is a dangerous situation. The contents of most peoples garage is a dangerous situation. But Iraq? No, I do believe that back last fall and winter the message the Bushies were pumping out was not really dangerous situation; it was more along the lines of WERE ALL GONNA DIE!! OH GOD, THEY HAVE NUKES!! AND ANTHRAX!! AND MISSILES!! AND, AND, AND OTHER STUFF THATS REALLY BAD THAT WE HAVENT EVEN FIGURED OUT WHAT IT IS YET!! AND THEYVE GOT BOATLOADS OF ALL OF IT, ITS JUST LYING AROUND ALL OVER THE COUNTRY PILED SO HIGH THAT PEOPLE CANT GET TO THE GROCERY STORE WITHOUT RUNNING INTO IT!! AND HES GONNA USE IT ON US ANY MINUTE, GOSH, I JUST HOPE WE GET THERE IN TIME!! It was more like that.

Spooks Watch

Another ex-CIA guy has come forward to accuse the administration of lying about the Iraqi intelligence before the war. This will probably be a common theme as long as the CIA is trying to bring down this administration. The question is, will the public care? The media won't lift a finger to make them care, and in fact will be actively trying to lull the populace back into a stupor. We'll see. An excerpt:

President Bush also gave many speeches linking Iraq to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, McGovern said.

Never have I seen such a cynically orchestrated campaign over a year and a half, he said. Only a few weeks ago did Bush admit that Iraq was not involved in any way with 9/11.

Journalists with Integrity Watch

There are very few of them these days, but Bill Moyers is definitely among them. He gave an interview with Buzzflash recently on the sorry state of American journalism, and how the media have capitulated to pressure to not play their watchdog roles for democracy. Here is a quote from the interview:

I think these forces have unbalanced the relationship between this White House and the press. Frankly, even if we had tried it in LBJ's time, we wouldn't have gotten away with the kind of press conference President Bush conducted on the eve of the invasion of Iraq -- the one that even the President admitted was wholly scripted, with reporters raising their hands and posing so as to appear spontaneous. Matt Taibbi wrote in The New York Press at the time that it was like a mini-Alamo for American journalism. I'd say it was more a collective Jonestown-like suicide. At least the defenders of the Alamo put up a fight.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Fox News makes you stupid

Faux News Watch

We all know that Fox news is the propaganda arm for the Republican Party, or at least that part of the Republican party which is now in control. The "dishonorable" Republicans. I still hold high hopes that most of the Americans who consider themselves Republicans are good people and good citizens, and if they just knew a bit more about what was going on in the name of their party, they would be horrified by what they learned. But ignorance is bliss, and with good little propagandists like Fox pumping disinformation into their face all the while, how can they be shaken out of their ignorance?

Here are the results of a recent study, which show that people whose primary news source is Fox are seriously delusional about the actual facts upon which our Iraq "policy" is based. Here's what I like about the study: They state outright that 1. There are no ties between Al Qaeda and Hussein 2. There have been no WMDs found. 3. Other countries did not support our invasion. They take these positions to be fact, which they are, but it is refreshing to see someone not being mealy mouthed about it. Those statements ARE all true, and the surveyors and researchers don't take them as a matter of opinion, which I love. The other good part of the design of the experiment is that they took into account the ideology of the respondants, which could definitely have been a big confounding variable.

The results show that of the three misconceptions studied (believing any one of the three true statements above to be false), people who got their news primarily from Fox were most likely to think any of them were false and were mostly to be misled on multiple issues. NPR and PBS patrons were least likely to be misinformed. The article includes a link to the study itself, if you are interested in more of the details. Here is an excerpt, which implies a link (not too hard to infer) between the misinformation people hold, and their support for the war (ie the consequences of being misinformed):

Among those with one of the three misconceptions, 53 percent supported the war. Among those with two, 78 percent supported it. Among those with three, 86 percent backed it. By contrast, less than a quarter of those polled who had none of the misconceptions backed the war.

So, if you know the truth, you are unlikely to back the war. The implications for the people who back the war are clear: You probably are misinformed.

Thanks to Marti for this link, which draws some (what would be funny if they weren't so scary) conclusions about the survey and the results. In "Fact-Free News", Harold Meyerson proffers the expectation that Fox is not likely to be chagrined by these results. Rather, they would consider their mission accomplished. Here is Meyerson:

Take a wild flight of fancy with me and assume for just a moment that one major goal over at Fox is to ensure Bush's reelection. Surely, anyone who believes that Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda were in cahoots, that we've found the WMD and that Bush is revered among the peoples of the world -- all of these known facts to nearly half the Fox viewers -- is a good bet to be a Bush voter in next year's contest. By this standard -- moving votes into Bush's column and keeping them there -- Fox has to be judged a stunning success. It's not so hot on conveying information as such, but mere empiricism must seem so terribly vulgar to such creatures of refinement as Murdoch and Ailes.

Scary stuff, and no doubt true. How nice it must be for the ruling class to have a 24-hour "news" service filling the airwaves with lies for its benefit.

The Scapegoating Begins Watch

As you know, the situation in Iraq is such a horrible clusterf*ck that members of the administration are beginning to fall all over themselves in their blame for each other. Rumsfeld and DOD just were taken down from the head position in post-war Iraq administration, to be replaced by the incompetent Condi Rice. In response, Rumsfeld leaks his own internal emails about how poorly managed the whole thing has been (we'll have more on this next week). Here is the State Department, letting the world know that they saw the horror of this situation coming well in advance, and submitted a report to that effect (which was of course, ignored) months before the invasion began. Fingers are being pointed!!

Thursday, October 23, 2003

"Delivering" Ohio

Tinfoil Hat Watch

Time for more dark conspiracy theories about the end of democracy via electronic voting machines.

As you probably know, the theoretical problem with electronic voting machines is that they make possible the following scenario: Voters go into booths, punch a bunch of buttons, and leave thinking they have voted. The machines spit out a pre-determined outcome at the end of the day. There is no trace of fraud, nothing that poll observers could see. It is all an elaborate pantomime of actual Democracy, but the winners are determined by the people who program the machines.

There would be very few ways to detect such a scheme. One of the only ways to even infer it would be if the results were wildly at odds with polls taken right before the election. That might make people scratch their heads and wonder what was going on.

Now, that type of election fraud is a possibility. But, in this land of the free, home of the brave, it does at first seem not very likely. Surely, we say nervously to ourselves, the people in power wouldn't commit fraud like that just to keep themselves in power? Not in the good ol' US of A, where the best man always wins?

Ok, so it still does seem a little far-fetched. But lately there have been a lot of clues indicating that this rather nightmarish idea is not just a possibility, but may actually be more probable than we first thought.

For example, there is the CEO of Diebold, one of the leading suppliers of electronic voting machines. Wally O'Dell is not just a Republican, but one of those scary, born-again, evangelical Republicans who also happens to think Chimpy is the Second Coming. We linked to this article in September, but it is worth reading again how O'Dell is a major Republican fund-raiser who sent invitations to a Republican fund raising event in his home that stated he is "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President next year." Diebold is bidding to become the supplier of voting machines for the state of Ohio.

That makes vote stealing more likely. Also making it a more likely possibility is that the service which has conducted voter exit polls for years and years, and has shown that they can predict the outcome with reasonable accuracy, has been disbanded. The service was a joint effort of several media companies, and (correctly) announced Gore's victory in Florida in 2000. They will do so no longer, removing one of our last checks to see how voters actually voted.

We have also learned that Diebold machine security is based on Microsoft Access technology, with all of the "security" that implies.

That brings us to Georgia in 2002. Not only were the polls in Georgia showing that Max Cleland, the triple amputee war hero Democratic Senator was in the lead going in to the vote, but Diebold was the supplier of the electronic voting machines for the state. Somehow, a chickenhawk who skipped Vietnam with a bad knee (who now jogs every day) defeated Cleland in a surprising upset. Georgia's Democratic governor was also defeated in a surprising upset. Hmmm. Republican Georgia state chair and High Lord of Evil Ralph Reed chalks their victory up to something, I guess, instead of vote tampering.

Now comes this story from Wired, in which an employee from Diebold has come forward and avowed that he "patched" the voting machines in Georgia after they had been verified and that no tests were run on the machines after the patch to check them for accuracy. Some excerpts:

Behler said Diebold provided warehouse workers with at least three patches to apply to the systems before state officials began logic and accuracy testing on them. Behler said one patch was applied to machines when he came to the warehouse in June, a second patch was applied in July and a third in August after he left the warehouse.
Behler said the patches he applied were never certified. No third party, other than the Diebold engineers who created the patches, knew what was in the patches. And once machines were patched, they did not undergo re-certification.

Ok, two additional points here: 1. Behler was fired from Diebold after he came forward. 2. How hard can it be to make voting software? All you do is add "1" to the tally for every vote cast for a candidate or issue? The article says that lots of their machines were failing and needed to be fixed. WTF? Honestly, how hard could that software be to implement? I'm not much of a programmer, but I think even I could write it.

Keep that tinfoil handy, folks.

Whistleblowers Watch

One of Powell's underlings has come forward to reveal that Colin is a big fat liar, and that he knew that his presentation to the UN this spring was full of whoppers. All I can say to Mr. Thielmann is, thanks, but don't you think this would have been useful information _before_ the war? Now that all of the damage has been done, and we are saddled with all of the costs in money, lives, and our relations, it doesn't do us much good to be reminded again of what a pack of liars and thieves we have in charge. Oh well. The article is "The Man Who Knew". The Man Who Knew But Kept It To Himself Until the Damage was Done says that Iraq didn't pose an imminent threat to anyone, and that he believes the decision to go to war was made first, and then the intelligence was interpreted to fit that conclusion. Let's hope they trot this guy out for the general election.

Media Whores Watch

Here is a funny juxtaposition of quotes from uber-conservative Charles Krauthammer which I first found on TalkingPointsMemo. In April, CK said:

"Hans Blix had five months to find weapons. He found nothing. We've had five weeks. Come back to me in five months. If we haven't found any, we will have a credibility problem. I don't have any doubt that we will locate them. I think it takes time."

Five months later, after the Kay Report was released showing they had nothing, the (un)repentant Krauthammer had this to say:

"Hussein was simply making his WMD program more efficient and concealable. His intent and capacity were unchanged."

The emporer's clothes are truly magnificent, no?

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Lay down, Democrats!

The Plame Game Watch

Plame Plame Bo Bame, Banana Fana Fo Fame, Me My Mo Mame. Pla-ame!

We don't seem to be hearing too much about Plame these days. I guess it is perfectly all right with conservatives and the media for White House officials to commit felonious treason, as long as the victim is a political enemy. I must have missed that memo.

David Neiwert has put together a very cogent essay on the Plame affair with three main points: that the Plame scandal matters, that timings of phone calls do not matter, and that the White House, at the very least, has completely failed to live up to its responsibilities to this country to prosecute security breaches.

On a related issue, Bush is really mad that there are leaks in his White House. Not that he will do anything to punish leakers when they commit actual crimes, but he is fighting mad about it! This article contains this delightful couplet of paragraphs. File this under irony, hilarious, examples of:

Concerned about the appearance of disarray and feuding within his administration as well as growing resistance to his policies in Iraq, President Bush - living up to his recent declaration that he is in charge - told his top officials to "stop the leaks" to the media, or else.

News of Bush's order leaked almost immediately.

Unilateral Disarmament Watch

Republicans want Democrats to give up. They want them to lay down and play dead. They want to be able to criticize them up and down, and they don't want to be criticized. The media agrees with this view. And remarkably, many Democrats seem more than willing to oblige them. My advice to Democrats is for them not to unilaterally disarm. Because the Republicans will certainly not make the discourse more civilized on their own. Why should they? Uncivil discourse (and a sycophantic press) has brought them more success than they have ever had before.

Now, when Democrats actually have the nerve to criticize this miserable failure of a President, some conservative media people get the vapors and go all woozy about how our "national conversation" has been "degraded", and start talking about how Democrats should be more polite. Like Republicans have ever been held to that standard by the press.

Digby has written a hilarious response to one of Will Saletan's more egregious posts on this subject, where Saletan poses as an independent. I offer it up here as comic relief for people who have had too much serious politics for this early in the day. It is entitled "Lord Peerless". Here is an excerpt:

Isn't it refreshing to read the words of a distinguished Independent who can see through the shenanigans of both Parties and expose them for the cynical manipulative jacknapes they are? His Grace, Lord Saleton, the Duke of Slate delivers a thorough dressing down to those nasty odiferous Democrats that would make even a heathen Jacobite realize that it is all so very silly to be a partisan. Its much better to remove ones self from the lower orders who muck about in the political mud, splashing it willy nilly on their betters.

Lying Liars Watch

I found this editorial entitled "Bush 9/11 Admission Gets Little Play : Story Doesn't Make Many Front Pages" in which the author scratches his head a little at the prospect of Bush just coming right out and admitting the justification of the Iraq war is a lie, and it not getting much play in the US media. Huh. I wonder why that would be? Here's a sample:

So when President George Bush admitted on Wednesday, for the first time, that there was "no evidence that Hussein was involved with the September 11th" attacks, one would assume that would be big news and an opportunity for the press to make up for past failings.

And according to some newspapers, it was a big story. The Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune (both owned by the Tribune Co.) ran front-page stories on the revelation Thursday. But an analysis of most major American newspapers found the story either buried deep within the paper -- or completely absent.

GOP Hypocrisy Watch

The latest from This Modern World reminds of the fascinating things which don't seem to be that much of a big deal anymore. Things like sexual misconduct, drug abuse, etc. Gee, I wonder why the change?

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Mean-spirited, lying druggies haunt the airwaves

Minister of Propaganda Watch

So it turns out that Rush Limbaugh is a drug addict and a hypocrite. Not too much of a surprise. No doubt his legions of fans, who have detached themselves from reality already, won't have any cognitive dissonance about continuing to hang from his every lie anyway, despite his having called for throwing the book, hard, at every other junkie out there. But, he is "Rush", which means I guess that he doesn't even get arrested for possessing amounts of drugs which would get anyone else in Florida years in jail, no questions asked. That's our impartial justice system at work for you.

Conservatives reply to this situation by going on and on about how liberals should be compassionate to Rush, because he is addicted and liberals argue for compassion and treatment for addicts. Unfortunately Rush is kind of a special case. Not only did he never himself spare a moment of compassion for any other human being, nor encourage others to do so, but he is also responsible for one of the most evil streams of lies and propaganda ever perpetrated this side of Goebbels.

This little essay, "If Bill Clinton were an addict, here's how Rush might spin it" captures the Limbaugh mindset and illustrates why progressives might hold back their "compassion" from Limbaugh a bit.

Newsweek graced us a bit later with a "Poor Rush" story about what an embittered, lonely, loser of a person he is. Poor fella. Maybe he should try to take those feelings and use them to better mankind, instead of screwing people over. Or maybe he is lonely and embittered precisely because he knows that he is not helping anyone with his rhetoric. An excellent rebuttal was published by Quiddity in response. The response includes a link to the original article.

Digby wrote his own interesting take on why there is no sympathy for Rush. Here's an excerpt:

He has never shown one ounce of sympathy for the misfortunes of anyone, always chalking up whatever problems people have with weakness of character or laziness or the liberal culture of decadence. I doubt if he has ever in his life thought, "there but for the grace of God go I," always assuming that his success is attributable to his moral superiority, which also protects him from the vagaries that beset those whom he considered lesser beings.

Well, Rush, enjoy what is sure to be a failed rehab. (Rehab rarely works for people who are forced into it). You've earned it.

Lying Liars Watch

Jay Bookman, who was one of the first journalists to write an honest contemporary description of the Project for a New American Century and all of the ills it has brought us, has written a piece on Snarl Cheney and how he continues to lie and lie and lie and lie about Iraq. This most recent article, modestly titled "Lies about Iraq Rise to Level of the Absurd", reveals the heart of Cheney's disingenuous logic, where he says that if we would have accepted UN restrictions on us in Iraq, it would mean that any country would have the ability to veto the US from defending itself. Bookman's response is:

With that statement, Cheney abandons deception and traipses merrily into the Land of the Completely Absurd. Nobody -- not the Democrats, not the United Nations, not even the French -- makes the argument that he describes. It would be insane to do so.

Cheney invents that argument to support his larger point: After Sept. 11, the Bush administration at least did something, while its less-than-manly critics would have done nothing.

And that is the ultimate falsehood.

The true policy choice is between actions that make things better for the United States and actions that make things worse. If we were to assess the invasion of Iraq on those grounds, the outcome would be something like this:

Saddam had no WMD, no nuclear program and no ties to al-Qaida. So invading Iraq did little or nothing to improve our security. It did, however, come at a cost that may take decades to fully tally.
While we are on the topic of Cheney and his little problem with the truth, here is an article from the Boston Globe on how Snarl keeps creating messes with his mouth that others have to clean up. "Cheney on Iraq puts White House to work on unmuddling message" reveals that

In a television interview last month, Cheney discussed a link between Saddam Hussein and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as though it were a live possibility, not something that had long ago been determined to lack credibility. That prompted an unusual rebuttal from Bush, who declared that there was no evidence of a link between Hussein and Sept. 11.

The fact that the correction came from Bush, not Cheney, raised questions no one wanted to answer. After all, the government has a monopoly on overseas intelligence, and the public rightly assumes that reports of threats to the United States represent the best possible assessments by teams of professionals. Is Cheney refusing to accept the president's judgment? Does Cheney know something Bush doesn't? And who's really in charge here?

Then, on Friday, Cheney again repeated an assertion that others in the administration have steered away from. Hussein, Cheney told the Heritage Foundation, "had an established relationship with Al Qaeda, providing training to Al Qaeda members in . . . poisons, gases, and making conventional bombs."

The question of whether Hussein had ties to Al Qaeda remains of importance to those here and particularly overseas deciding whether to support the unfinished war. In stating it so baldly, as a fact, Cheney is committing the government's credibility to his assertion.

Toons Watch

Many thanks to George for this link to Mark Fiore animations. They are good for many laughs.

Conservative Idiots Watch

Another good week.

Monday, October 20, 2003

The New Feudalism

Creeping Feudalism Watch

Thanks to Greg for spotting the following article on a message board. It was posted anonymously and off topic, and has since been removed, so I can't link to the author in any way, but it is an excellent summation of what the current leaders of the Republican party want for this country, if you follow their logic to its awful conclusion.

Think about the trends which are advocated by the current Republican leadership. They want the government to be weak, bankrupt, and powerless, except for the police who are used to subdue the citizenry and the military which is used to subdue the rest of the world for commercialization. They do not want the citizens of this country to have the right to privacy. They tolerate and encourage religion only as far as it is "Christian" (as opposed to Christian - in which people are actually encouraged to help others) and supports their own views. The right to assemble and dissent is being taken away from us. Their dream is for the individual to be weak and powerless as well, and for corporations to have free reign over all aspects of life. The only thing standing between them and this dream is the federal government and the protection of the courts, which is being eroded. They want the people who control the corporations to have all of the wealth and all of the power and be in control of everything, and they have largely gotten their way.

They have elected our first MBA president, as if that is something to feel good about. (No offense to my MBA friends, but it strikes me as amazing that people with MBAs have essentially created their own ruling class, all of them writing better and better benefits and pay for their own and other corporate executives, as they wheedle and screw everything else away from the rest of us. And I've met people with MBAs - I don't think they are nearly as smart as a lot of other people I've met in my lifetime. I mean, think about the people you've known who've gone into business - were they the sharpest knives in the drawer? And yet they have created their own ruling class and convinced the rest of us that it is ok for them to do it. What a scam. They are laughing all the way to the bank. Again, no offense to goodhearted business people out there, but tell me again what on earth do CEOs do that warrants their salaries?) W has managed to bankrupt the government. What a surprise! And a coincidence! That happens to be the goal of the corporatists as well. Gee, I wonder why he doesn't seem concerned about the deficit. Maybe it is because he thinks he doesn't rely on any government services.

The corporatists rail against "trial lawyers" because they represent one of the few remaining ways that individuals can still exercise some control over corporations, by taking them to court. Take away the trial lawyers, and we all have to breath the air the corporations want us to breath, and eat what they want us to eat. Regulation? Forget about it. Each company will become its own little fiefdom, with lords and ladies at the top, and peons serving them at their pleasure.

Anyway, on to this article, much of which I agree with. If you think this is too over the top, remember, as the author points out, that each individual plank in this proposal is certainly something that conservative leaders have advocated in the past and continue to advocate. Behold the society with which we will be left, unless something is done about it. And remember that feudalism will lead inevitably to revolution.

If Conservatives Had Their Way

We are, once again, hearing much these days about the so-called "Republican Revolution", but it's time to take their extremist ideas to their illogical conclusions. It seems to me, after years of listening to the rhetoric of the radical conservative right, that what they (the GOP leadership and also the Libertarian party) really want, their secret plan if you will and ultimate dream come true would be the dissolution of the United States government (remember all those government shutdowns?) and the creation, in its stead, of a country of isolationist baronial fiefdoms. These little kingdoms ("local control") would be ruled by the ultrarich 2% of society with the rest of the people that live within their boundaries as, more or less, servants to the landlords. This appears to have replaced their old wet dream of American world domination - at least for now (though there are still plenty of that old faction around as well). One need only listen to staunch conservatives to hear what they're saying. So what would life really be like if they had their way? The results of the elimination of taxes, government rules and regulations, those programs and agencies that so irk them and the promotion of absolute private property rights:

The end of environmental protections. The elimination of the endangered species act. Clean water/air acts gutted. Any conservation of land or wildlife is solely at the discretion of the individual landowners. Wholesale deforestation of woodlands, unbridled strip mining, dumping of toxic wastes becomes common. A rise in air pollution as slip-shod industries are erected willy-nilly and auto emissions laws are removed. Unrestricted development and use of pesticides and herbicides. End of federal labeling laws on food ingredients. All restrictions on genetic experimentation swept aside. An immediate halt on the development of alternative energies (only oil, gas, nuclear and coal are allowed). Abandonment of local growth control ordinances. The National Park system is abolished as all parks and Wilderness areas are auctioned off to the highest bidders. EPA, FDA, and Interior departments gone.

Labor laws erased (including those for protecting children). Worker's wages plummet (the minimum wage vanquished) at the same time that hours required to work a day doubles. Labor unions dissolved. Beatings of problem employees becomes prevalent. OSHA is dismantled.

Services like mail, fire protection, street maintenance and lighting, utilities, public schools and libraries, social security, state and federal consumer protection agencies, etc. are haphazard at best or disposed of entirely. Food stamps & school lunches for needy families are terminated. With taxes "cancelled", the great bulk of the monies previously allocated for these now go directly to the wealthy. Any returns to the lower classes are immediately confiscated by many landowners in the form of higher rents as rent control laws are obliterated. Those services that remain open can do so only at the sponsorship of business (or a few philanthropic individuals) and thus become their puppets.

The basic right to privacy as guaranteed by the Bill of Rights evaporates under a relentless assault by rightwing busybodies in government. Court orders are no longer required to tap telephones, read email or snail mail, or even to break into homes and search for evidence of anti-conservative thinking. Violators are prosecuted.

No longer are landlords obliged to repair the decaying houses of their tenants. As a result homes and communities degenerate, too expensive to fix.

Equal rights housing laws are repealed.

Nepotism, not the democratic vote (which has been done away with) becomes the method of placement for local officials. The two party system ceases. Corruption, without laws to oversee and enforce an equal distribution of justice, is rampant. Complaints fall on deaf ears with no recourse for appeal. Fair trials for accused are replaced by vigilantism and kangaroo courts. The death penalty is imposed for minor offenses. The President, Congress and Supreme Court are replaced with a "king".

The lack of uniform safety regulations for airplanes, trains and other means of transport, hospitals, public and private buildings, nuclear power plants, household appliances, etc. etc. lead to many disasters. Government attorneys, which now protect the publics interest from corporate fraud, go the way of the Dodo. In a David vs Goliath scenario, the onus for proof of safety is now on the shoulders of the individual which may or (more than likely) may not have the wherewithal to combat large corporations. Safety becomes an after-the-fact proposition (after needless suffering and death), dependant on winning lawsuits, since front-end regulations disappear.

Prices for food and merchandise skyrocket without competition. Quality of food and other goods decrease. Lawsuits for dangerous products are disallowed. Suits against big tobacco are thrown out.

Those schools that do remain open teach not factually responsible and universally accepted scholasticism, but each their own pet beliefs mixed with a powerful emphasis on duty to business/industry, the church and the landlord. A generous dose of corporal punishment keeps any deviants in line. The shelves of libraries and bookstores are drastically reduced as banned books are replaced with only a limited amount of "authorized reading".

Freedom of the press is curtailed since all literature must now pass through a strictly conservative "Values Committee before publication. News reports, whether paper, television or radio, that are viewed as anti-business or anti-church are forbidden. Only "wholesome", non-controversial programming is allowed.

All are required to attend the only approved religious services every Sunday, that being a strict fundamentalist Christian church. If you miss you can expect a visit from the Council of Investigations.

Scientific study that might contradict The Church's doctrines is prohibited and punishable by fines and imprisonment (or worse) for those who persist. Fear, superstition and witch-hunts are the order of the day.

Women are made to learn their proper roles as the servants of men. Equal opportunity laws are invalidated.

Any and all firearms/explosives regulations are shot down. High-powered guns etc. proliferate eventually endangering the oppressive wealthy which must then create ad/hoc rules removing them from the hands of the poor . Wars for the sake of wars, to keep restless young men occupied are arranged. Both civil wars and wars with Canada and Mexico (which fall prey to frequent pillaging raids). As a whole the "nation" without a central organized military, is considerably weakened and susceptible to hostile outside forces. The control of nuclear weapons becomes unstable. The new police, street thugs, desperate for money, are hired by the barons to harass and eliminate any that might protest or foment an uprising.

Groups and individuals that don't properly fit the W.A.S.P. model are "reconditioned". Virulent bigotry now becomes an openly accepted "traditional value". Martin Luther King Day and other non-white holidays are cancelled. Any and all remaining treaties with Native Americans are invalidated. The confederate flag is officially raised in many southern kingdoms.

The mass of new rules within kingdoms creates a conflicting chaos of standards between kingdoms, a new source of friction. Toll fees and "papers" are required to pass from kingdom to kingdom.

The ranks of the beggar class swell enormously; at the same time the rich expand their stores, enjoy their parties and operas and become boredly depraved.

Sound familiar? To students of history, yes. This is much the way governments and societies were shaped in the middle ages (and in lots of present day corrupt, oppressive, fascist-style systems). A time of horrific abuses of the many by the spoiled, greedy, privileged few. This method of lawless "local control" has already been tried and it was a ruinous failure.

It's the wolf guarding the henhouse. Yet it seems that the Republicans still dreamily look back to the good ol' days. Worse still, they've also, sadly, been successful in flimflamming many Americans into voting against their own best interests with a lot of hysterical nonsense about "big government". Witness, for example, the fate of President Clinton's health care bill (let alone even discussing universal health care in an open, public forum). How many of those rank and file who screamed about it could afford to spend even one day in the hospital let alone a week or a month if they had to? Ironically while they agonize over a new tax dollar here or there, they defend the right of the health care industry to charge as much as they want (which they do), driving many into poverty. And lest some think I exaggerate, let me remind them that each of the points listed has, at one time or other, been advocated, some even vociferously championed by the right, and in fact before laws were made to curb these practices, each was commonplace.

This is NOT to say that all conservatives hold the attitudes described above. However, given the long history of meanness on the part of the Republican Party, I'd be highly suspicious of their claims of new found compassion in this election year.

Am I just a "Iibrul guvment hugger"? Far from it. On most issues I consider myself a middle-of-the-roader. There are things I definitely don't like about feds and the ultraleft. Improvements can and should be made. But a return to the dark ages is definitely not the answer.

If we were a country numbering only in the thousands or a few million evenly spread out (as the Native Americans were) there would probably be no need for laws and regulations as we would rarely, if ever, infringe on the lives of others and our collective impact on the environment would be minimal. But in a nation approaching 300 million, each with his/her own ideas and degrees of character, not to have rules would be foolhardy. Thus the call for their end is naive, juvenile, suspect. And besides, when this country was first created we decided then that we wanted to be united. Have we now decided that divided is to be preferred?

Until human nature and intelligence suddenly evolve for the better, laws, taxes and government will, unfortunately, continue to be necessary.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Winning hearts and minds with bulldozers

Sowing the Land with Salt Watch

It is my distinct displeasure to bring you this story today. I found it reported by two independent sources (neither American, of course) and so I reluctantly conclude that it may, in fact, be true, my horrified disbelief notwithstanding.

I should point out here that American soldiers in Iraq have been put in a horrible position. They are trying to "keep the peace" or "create the peace" or do something having to do with peace. Yet every day they have to walk a thin line between blowing away innocent people who give them a cockeyed look to preserve their own survival, or being killed or maimed themselves by a populace which engulfs them, in which they cannot know who to trust. I would hate hate hate to be put into that position, and I hate the people who have put our troops in that situation for no good reason.

Yet when faced with such a difficult situation, some people seem more than happy to abandon their humanity and go directly to becoming evil, power abusing monsters.

These reports have to do with American soldiers bulldozing groves of fruit trees in Baghdad. In the arid climate of Iraq, trees grow very slowly, and may take almost a lifetime from planting to ever bear fruit. And yet, our troops are knocking them down and killing them.

Here is the first report, " US soldiers bulldoze farmers' crops: Americans accused of brutal 'punishment' tactics against villagers, while British are condemned as too soft". An excerpt:

US soldiers driving bulldozers, with jazz blaring from loudspeakers, have uprooted ancient groves of date palms as well as orange and lemon trees in central Iraq as part of a new policy of collective punishment of farmers who do not give information about guerrillas attacking US troops.

I'm no expert on the Geneva Convention, but I believe that it outlaws this kind of "mass punishment" and also the retaliatory destruction of farms, etc. (also: "jazz"?) From the story you'll note that at least one of our soldiers still seems to have both a soul and a functioning conscience. Note also the terrific freedom of the press we are promoting there:

They said that one American soldier broke down and cried during the operation. When a reporter from the newspaper Iraq Today attempted to take a photograph of the bulldozers at work a soldier grabbed his camera and tried to smash it.

Think about any war movie you've ever seen (hopefully that is as close to actual war any of us will ever have to be). Whenever there is a scene where an occupying force is terrorizing a group of locals because they won't talk about the resistance, are the occupiers ever the good guys? Ever? Do the occupiers ever win over the people by burning their crops? Ever? That's us now. We are the evil empire. What's next for us? Are we going to wipe out whole villages like the Nazis did?

And what kind of asshats are we that we would kill trees that take decades to grow and fruit? These would be trees you would have to plant for your grandchildren. All dead in a matter of minutes.

The second report of this event comes from Islam Online and includes some pictures of the former orchards. You'll note how well this policy is working from the tone of the headline "To Avenge Their Trees, Iraqi Farmers Threaten Resistance".

This version gives a slightly different stated version for the destruction: "Claiming his lush date and orange groves provide camouflage for resistance fighters, the U.S. occupation forces leveled Khalil's plantations". However, what I think is the true tone of the action is reflected by this quote "But all they said was: 'When the resistance will stop, we will stop destroying the fields,'" said Saleh.

Way to go, US troops! I pray that neither our soldiers nor American citizens will reap what has been sown there. The only way to describe it is evil.

Conservative Idiots Watch

This week's is here. Lot's of fun with the vulgar pigboy himself, Rush the druggie.

Sparky Watch

DO NOT miss this week's This Modern World if you are a fan of the old Batman TV series (and let's face it, who among us isn't?). Read it here. It would be even funnier if it weren't about real life treason.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Traitorgate too complicated to figure out

Complexity Watch

It is actually kind of amazing for our national journalists to be in so much denial about events that are happening right in front of their noses. They are unwilling or unable to actually process events which clearly happen, and instead look around for other mysterious "explanations" which fit their worldview better. But all of that doublethink is hard work. I'm reminded of a passage from a childhood book, "The Last Battle" by C.S. Lewis, in which a group of dwarfs are saved from destruction and end up in a kind of promised land. They are surrounded by delicious fruits and cool breezes on a green lawn. However, their last memory was of being locked in a lightless barn, and they refuse to believe that they have escaped the barn. Their minds control their senses, and so when they are offered something good to eat, they think it is a cow pat. The protagonists eventually leave them, trapped by their own disbelief. Our national press corps is like that, only in reverse. They would have us all eat the foul things we are given by this administration, all the while extolling their wholesome goodness. As a less genteel friend once said, "You're shitting in my mouth and telling me it's a sundae".

This press corps saw a witch hunt for a democratically elected president masquerading as a search for impropriety. They saw an impeachment of one of the least corrupt presidents we've had for decades. They watched an election stolen. They saw an honest public servant smeared as the most vicious of liars. They saw someone uniquely unqualified assume the mantle of the most powerful man on the planet. They saw corrupt officials installed in the highest halls of government.

They've seen jingoism and nationalism (and dare we say fascism) shoved down our throats to stifle dissent. They've seen a foreign country which was not a threat invaded and innocent people killed over dozens of lies. They've seen our rights torn down based on a stack of lies and fear. Every day there is a torrent of lies coming from this administration.

And now, when they are faced with what are obviously acts of felonious treason, they scratch their heads and wonder what really went on. It couldn't be so simple as that this administration is full of traitors(?!). Heaven forfend, it couldn't be that! It must be something else. There must be something much more complicated and twisted and absolving for the Bush administration out there. They must have had a good, patriotic reason for exposing a CIA agent. A great reason, one that those evil liberals just don't get. It must be complicated.

But faced with something that looks, walks, and sounds like a duck, they are looking for chickens. Sometimes however, it really is just that simple: Bush's people committed a felony, and he doesn't care one bit. As Ahnold said, "Where there is smoke there is fire". The case is explained eloquently by Paul Krugman in "Slime and Defend":
In any case, Mr. Wilson's views and character are irrelevant. Someone high in the administration committed a felony and, in the view of the elder Mr. Bush, treason. End of story.

The hypocrisy here is breathtaking. Republicans have repeatedly impugned their opponents' patriotism. Last year Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, said Democrats "don't want to protect the American people. . . . They will do anything, spend all the time and resources they can, to avoid confronting evil."

But the true test of patriotism isn't whether you are willing to wave the flag, or agree with whatever the president says. It's whether you are willing to take risks and make sacrifices, including political sacrifices, for the sake of your country. This episode is a test for Mr. Bush and his inner circle: a true patriot wouldn't hesitate about doing the right thing in the Plame affair, whatever the political costs.

Mr. Bush is failing that test.
Also weighing in is Josh Marshall (here - the entry that starts "It's amazing how quickly people . . . "):
All of it is beside the point.

For the last ten days we've known that two senior administration officials blew the cover of an undercover CIA employee for some mix of retribution and political gamesmanship.

It's next to certain that the president --- like the rest of those who read Novak's original column or heard about it --- knew this in mid-July. But it's absolutely certain he's known about it since September 27th.

And what has he done about it? Nothing.

All mumbo-jumbo to the contrary, the universe of possible culprits is quite small. I suspect the identity of the two is already well-known in the White House. But even if that's not the case, the president could quickly figure out who they are --- probably by demanding that they come forward, and certainly by reviewing phone logs and emails. Yet he has done neither.

We now have the farcical spectacle of the Justice Department initiating a massive investigation --- with the net thrown almost comically wide --- in order to find out what the president could find out in a few hours, tops.

That's the whole story right there.
Finally, this summary from the Daily Kos:
Plame Affair primer

For those who argue it is complicated.

  • Plame is an undercover CIA agent.
  • She was outed by senior administration officials in the White House.
  • Outing a CIA agent is a felony.

Hmm, not so complicated, after all...

What was the motive? Her husband, Ambassador Wilson, criticized the administration for Yellowcake lies.

But wasn't he a partisan Democrat? No. He donated money to Bush's presidential campaign in 2000. But even if he was James Carville, see numbers 1 and 2 above.

Period. Everything else is chaff.
It really is that simple. They have committed treason and Bush, Cheney, and Ashcroft are covering it up and obstructing justice. That's the duck. That's the cow pat. That's the reality. And the press refuses to see it. Welcome to the see no evil era of journalism.

Friday, October 10, 2003

Deep in the heart of the 14th century

Taking them at their Word Watch

Thanks to Greg for finding this very excellent analysis of the Texas Republican Party platform. As the author points out, it is a revealing look into the heart of the venomous heart of this party. An excerpt:
If this were just a lunatic fringe we could all have a good laugh over their manifesto and then go out for a beer. But you can't dismiss it so easily. Texas-style conservatism has already put George Bush, Tom DeLay, and Karl Rove in charge of the country, and it is very much the future of the Republican party. And for all the conservatives reading this: I know this doesn't necessarily represent what you believe. But whether you like it or not, this kind of thinking does represent a very strong, very fast growing segment of the leadership of your party, and this is why liberals think the Republican party is just plain scary these days. We know that this is their agenda, we know that they really truly want to do this stuff, and we know that they are steadily gaining influence.
Leakers Watch

More from John Dean about the Valerie Plame affair:
If Newsweek is correct that Karl Rove declared Valerie Plame Wilson "fair game," then he should make sure he's got a good criminal lawyer, for he may need one. I've only suggested the most obvious criminal statute that might come into play for those who exploit the leak of a CIA asset's identity. There are others.
This is a MUST READ article with an excellent summary of what is going on. Dean smells blood, which the rest of the Washington establishment is trying its best to ignore.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Bush on treason: "What's the problem?"

Ferreting out the Evildoers Watch

Three excellent quotes posted this morning on BuzzFlash, showing how serious Bush is about someone in his administration blowing an undercover agent's cover, blowing other covers of people who were listed as working for the same fictitious front company, and endangering the work of the CIA in gathering actual intelligence about real weapons and threats to the US:

The Bush Administration on finding Osama Bin Laden in Central Asia:

"We're going to hunt them down one at a timeit doesn't matter where they hide, as we work with our friends we will find them and bring them to justice."

- President George W. Bush, 11/22/02

The Bush Administration on finding Saddam Hussein in the Mideast:

"We are continuing the pursuit and it's a matter of time before [Saddam] is found and brought to justice."

- White House spokesman McClellan, 9/17/03

The Bush Administration on finding the leaker in the close confines of the White House:

"I don't know if we're going to find out the senior administration official. I don't have any idea...This is a large administration, and there are a lot of senior administration officials."

- President George W. Bush, 10/7/03

Here is a good current article on the issue with a timeline. A sampling:
In addition to Novak's column, an administration official told The Washington Post on Saturday that two White House officials leaked the information to several journalists in an effort to discredit Wilson.
I saw Wilson on the Daily Show some months ago (Jon Stewart and his team of comedy writers were more interested in getting to the bottom of the issue than Bush was) and found him to be very credible, intelligent, and lively. You can see that interview here. Atrios notes that Mike Isakoff, in an effort to try to carry water for this administration, is trying to make this out as some big "mistake":
But more than 10 days after the story exploded, an alternative theory is emerging among those who are directly involved in the leak case: that the senior administration official quoted in the Washington Post piece simply got it wrong. There were indeed White House phone calls to reporters about Wilsons wife. But most, if not all, of these phone calls, were made after the Novak column appeared, some government officials now believe. They were placed as part of a blundering effort to persuade journalists to concentrate on Wilsons presumed lack of credentials as a critic of pre-Iraq war intelligence rather than the substance of his critique.
The problem with this "alternate theory" (read: bullshit) is that this "blundering effort" included many other members of the press, and was clearly coordinated and deliberate. In fact, there was probably an effort to expose Wilson's wife first, then to notify the press so they could officially expose her under the cover of it being "common knowledge". The bottom line is that this administration, and especially dirty tricks master Karl Rove, wants to continue to act like a bunch of thugs, regardless of the law and regardless of the harm it does to our country and our safety. And ol' Honor and Integrity is not going to stop them. He has neither the power nor the will to do so.

These skunks are finally starting to smell strong enough to maybe get the attention of some of the more apathetic (not necessarily evil) members of the press. Let's hope.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Michael Moore sees the light

Recallifornia Watch

Playing a massive version of "blame the victim", Californians were happy to toss out the only person who stood between them and being controlled by the very people who screwed them with high energy costs. So now they can really be under the thumb of the pricegougers - way to go, voters! Chalk a victory up to the right wing media and charisma over self-interest.

As a former resident of California, my deepest sympathy goes out to my friends there. I'm sorry you live in a sea of idiots.

Michael Moore Watch

Michael Moore seems to have figured out that maybe supporting Nader to the detriment of Gore in the last election wasn't such a good thing. He certainly seems determined not to make that mistake twice. Here is an excerpt from his new book, "Dude, Where's My Country?" - includes sample pages!), published in the UK (of course), with seven questions for Bush: A sample:
1. Is it true that the Bin Ladens have had business relations with you and your family off and on for the past 25 years?

Most Americans might be surprised to learn that you and your father have known the Bin Ladens for a long time. What, exactly, is the extent of this relationship, Mr Bush? Are you close personal friends, or simply on-again, off-again business associates? Salem bin Laden - Osama's brother - first started coming to Texas in 1973 and later bought some land, built himself a house, and created Bin Laden Aviation at the San Antonio airfield.
After leaving office, your father became a highly paid consultant for a company known as the Carlyle Group - one of the nation's largest defence contractors. One of the investors in the Carlyle Group - to the tune of at least $2m - was none other than the Bin Laden family. Until 1994, you headed a company called CaterAir, which was owned by the Carlyle Group.

After September 11, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal both ran stories pointing out this connection. Your first response, Mr Bush, was to ignore it. Then your army of pundits went into spin control. They said, we can't paint these Bin Ladens with the same brush we use for Osama. They have disowned Osama! They have nothing to do with him! These are the good Bin Ladens.

And then the video footage came out. It showed a number of these "good" Bin Ladens - including Osama's mother, a sister and two brothers - with Osama at his son's wedding just six and a half months before September 11. It was no secret to the CIA that Osama bin Laden had access to his family fortune (his share is estimated to be at least $30m), and the Bin Ladens, as well as other Saudis, kept Osama and his group, al-Qaida, well funded.
Read the whole thing.

Bush Watch

David Corn offers an excellent summary of two current stories at An excerpt on the Valerie Plame affair:
He was arguing that a serious leak attributed to anonymous sources was still not serious enough to cause the president to ask, what the hell happened? And he made it seem as if the White House just ignored the matter. Not so. Mitchell's remark and even the Rove-friendly account of the Rove-Matthews conversation are evidence the White House tried to further the Plame story--that is, to exploit the leak for political gain. Rather than respond by trying to determine the source of a leak that possibly violated federal law and perhaps undermined national security ( The Washington Post reported that the leak also blew the cover of a CIA front company, "potentially expanding the damage caused by the original disclosure"), White House officials sought to take advantage of it. Spin that, McClellan.
and on the Kay report on WMDs:
Reality check: Bush had said that the main reason to go to war was because Hussein possessed "massive" stockpiles of unconventional weapons and at any moment could hand them off to al Qaeda (with whom Bush claimed Hussein was "dealing"--even though the evidence on that point was and continues to be, at best, sketchy). Now Bush is asserting that Hussein was a threat that could only be countered with invasion and occupations because he had weapons research programs that indeed violated United Nations resolutions but that had not produced any weapons. That's a much different argument. Bush, Cheney, McClellan, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell and others continue to deny they overstated (or misrepresented) the case for war. But the evidence is incontrovertible, and it keeps on piling up.
Also in this article is the very important quote from Chris Matthews, who says he was told by Karl Rove after the Plame leak that Wilson's wife was "fair game". Never mind the despicable prospect of these people using their positions in government to target the safety of their political enemies' spouses and families. Rove has essentially said that he sees nothing wrong with the treason he has committed, and Bush obviously sees nothing wrong with it either, hoping the media storm will just blow over. Time for federal prison for both of them.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Ahnold's day

Gubernator Watch

I've mostly avoided the topic of the California recall up until now; not only is it a regional issue, but it also makes my head hurt to think about it. But as today is the "big day" when the GOP gets to try to kill representative democracy in the world's fifth largest economy, just as it did in the nation as a whole, it's time to address it a bit.

The seeds of the situation were born from Enron gaming the California energy system (this has been proven with the release of internal Enron documents - it is no longer speculation). Because CA went through energy deregulation (a Republican pipedream that was sold as an elixir for everything that ailed you: "deregulation will bring you lower rates, cleaner electricity, more reliability, and brighter teeth"), it was left wide open to fraud and deliberate rigging of its systems from outside entities. In choosing deregulation, the people of California chose to trade control of power company practices for the wonders of the "free market", and all of the wholesome goodness it brings with it. In any case, Enron (among other companies like Alcoa) screwed them six ways to Sunday. In the midst of the crisis, Gray Davis signed some long term contracts for lower energy rates than were available at the time, but then the manufactured "crisis" suddenly abated and the long term contracts were costly. Budget problems ensued (because of the energy crisis but also because of the dotcom collapse and Chimpy's recession), which have been mostly solved through the magic of cutting government services and raising taxes, but California is still solvent.

In fact, the $38 million budget shortfall, so widely shouted about by Republicans (as if they cared one whit for fiscal responsibility) has been reduced to $8 million.

So, basically what happened was people in California had some rocky times with their energy prices and their rates went up. And Davis was the governor at the time. That is the extent of the "rationale" for this recall.

Never mind that the energy crisis was engineered by Bush's cronies at Enron. Never mind that the people are dangerously close to electing someone who will hand power over to those very same people. Never mind that Davis was the one who had to fight those guys and deal with the screwing they were creating.

What a neat trick: Republicans (and here I should really qualify to mean the Republicans now in control of that party - big business, cheap labor, fundamentalist Republicans who are part of Bush's Familia) bone over California citizens, then use that as an excuse to get themselves elected. In what universe should this happen? The universe we live in, which doesn't have an honest press corps.

The support for Arnold is one of the biggest, most insulting jokes ever perpetrated on the citizenry. To even suggest that this meathead has any of the qualifications to run a state, let alone our biggest and probably most important state, is insulting in the extreme, and to have the media so taken by him that they cannot help themselves but support him shows just how far we have fallen as a society. That the people of California are dumb enough to fall for it speaks volumes about that state's troubled schools.

There is a scene in the movie "The Running Man" where ex-governor Jesse Ventura of Minnesota, wearing tights, wrestles and kills future-ex-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, also wearing tights. Think about that for a minute. I'll wait while the nausea subsides.

The people are about to reward Enron for unfairly raising their energy costs by handing them the executive branch. (see this, where it was reported that Arnie was in private meetings with Ken Lay a couple of years ago) Arnold, like W himself, is an idiot front man who will open the doors to the powerfully evil cabal which still goes unprosecuted, thanks to John "Crisco Kid" Ashcroft being our Attorney General.

Good luck today, California.

Bigots Watch

Here is something good for a laugh.

Pat Robertson, everyone's favorite Pharisee, decides that since Rush Limbaugh is getting a hard time about being a bigot, he should jump in and trash Morgan Freeman. Freeman's crime? Getting roles where he plays the president, the head of the CIA, etc. I don't even know where to begin with this one.

Conservative Idiots Watch

Yesterday's Top Ten Conservative Idiots was a tour de force, due to the wonderful week the conservatives brought on themselves last week. You'll pardon me if I quote heavily from it here:
All of which brings us nicely to the topic of John Ashcroft. Last week John Ashcroft vowed that he would not rest until he tracked down the person who murdered his wife. No wait, that was O.J. Simpson. Last week John Ashcroft began a full investigation of the Bush administration to determine who leaked the identity of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame to columnist Robert Novak, dismissing calls for a special prosecutor. Despite minor issues, like, say, the fact that Karl Rove was a paid consultant to three of Ashcroft's political campaigns back in the 80s and 90s, the Crisco Kid doesn't seem to think a special prosecutor is necessary to avoid a conflict of interest. Odd, really - Ashcroft used to be a big fan of special prosecutors. Back in 1997 he appeared on CNN's "Evans & Novak" to express his indignation that a special prosecutor was not appointed to investigate important matters like Al Gore's alleged use of a government telephone while fundraising. See - important matters, not like all this boring national security stuff. "...You know, a single allegation can be most worthy of a special prosecutor," said then-Senator Ashcroft. "If you're abusing government property, if you're abusing your status in office, it can be a single fact that makes the difference on that." My, my, how times have changed.

"Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction." (Dick Cheney, August 26, 2002). "Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons." (George W. Bush, September 12, 2002). "If he declares he has none, then we will know that Saddam Hussein is once again misleading the world." (Ari Fleischer, December 2, 2002). "We know for a fact that there are weapons there." (Ari Fleischer, January 9, 2003). "Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent." (George W. Bush, January 28, 2003). "We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction, is determined to make more." (Colin Powell, February 5, 2003). "We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons - the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have." (George Bush February 8, 2003). "So has the strategic decision been made to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction by the leadership in Baghdad? I think our judgment has to be clearly not." (Colin Powell, March 8, 2003). "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised." (George Bush, March 18, 2003). "We know where they are. They are in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad." (Donald Rumsfeld, March 30, 2003). "At this point we have found substantial evidence of an intent of senior level Iraqi officials, including Saddam, to continue production at some future point in time of weapons of mass destruction. We have not found yet, and I'm sure you know this, otherwise you would know it earlier, we have not found at this point, actual weapons." (David Kay, chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq, October 3, 2003). Emphasis added to underscore complete and utter uselessness of entire Bush administration.

So weapons inspector David Kay has returned from Iraq, and the news is: no weapons of mass destruction. Oh sure, they uncovered one or two programs and discovered that the Iraqis might have wanted to have weapons at some point in the future, but, uh, no actual weapons. Reaction from the Bush administration was downright lethargic - surprising really, considering that they convinced the American people that we had to invade Iraq before Saddam dropped anthrax down our chimneys. But head chickenhawk Donald Rumsfeld, he of the "We know where they are. They are in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad. North and south and east and west a bit. They're under Saddam's bed and in his socks. They're in the breakfast cereal of every Iraqi child. They're in the flowers and the trees. They're blowing in the wind, somewhere over the rainbow," seemed particularly unimpressed. Upon hearing the news of the Kay Report's conclusions, Rumsfeld said that it would be "unfortunate" if U.S. intelligence before the war was "dramatically wrong." Unfortunate? Unfortunate? Pardon me, but it's unfortunate when you're doing the dishes and you accidentally break a mug. It's unfortunate when someone backs into you in a parking lot. I think the situation in Iraq has gone a little past unfortunate, Donald. How about a downright bloody disaster? How about a mismanaged, ill-conceived fiasco? How about a murderous, useless, financially backbreaking fuck-up of epic proportions? Unfortunate indeed.

Monday, October 06, 2003

Novakula and the Traitors

Traitors Watch

Long time readers of the Watch will already have heard of the CIA leak story which is now threatening the White House. In a nutshell, Ex-Ambassador Wilson wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times saying that Bush's uranium from Africa claim in the State of the Union address was probably bogus (actually, what Bush claimed in his speech can never be proven false definitely. He used weasel words and made a claim that cannot possibly be refuted. What Wilson wrote was that Iraq was unlikely to be able to get uranium from Niger (not Africa), and of course he couldn't say whether Iraq had tried to get it from there or not. ) Then, people in the White House, acting like classic gangsters, decided to "get" Wilson for speaking out. This was a warning to other potential whistleblowers. They had learned that Valerie Plame, Wilson's wife, was a CIA agent, possibly still undercover, and they decided to hurt Wilson by blowing his wife's cover.

These two people (rumor has it that they are Karl "Bush's Brain" Rove and Lewis "Scooter" Libby in Dick Cheney's organization) began phoning reporters, trashing Wilson and dropping the information about Plame. They supposedly called six reporters in all, and Bob Novak (formerly the "Prince of Darkness" (currently that title is Cheney's)) wrote an article on it.

The potential fallout from this release of information is very serious. First, Valerie Plame is in danger. I don't know anything about her or her work, but the potential is that she is a citizen who has served her country under very dangerous, life-threatening situations, and now she is rewarded with this. Second, all of Valerie Plame's contacts in every country she has worked in are in danger. The foreign governments where Wilson and Plame represented the US will now go back over his and her travel records with a fine tooth comb, and discover who they might have talked with. Third, it will be MUCH harder for US operatives to find other people who are willing to work with them, since everyone now knows that

The story raises a number of questions that I can't answer. Why, for example, did it ever occur to anyone that blowing a CIA agent's cover would be the best way to get back at Wilson? Why, if this is as serious as it seems, isn't Novak behind bars right now? If Novak isn't behind bars now, does that mean that this isn't as serious as it seems to be? Why, if Bush is serious about "cooperating" with the Justice Department, didn't he just ask his staff who made the leaks 11 weeks ago, when the story appeared, instead of letting Justice give them all lie-detector tests now? (Actually, that one is easy to answer).

The irony in all of this is that apparently Plame was working to find out about "Weapons of Mass Destruction" (TM) in other countries, and so she was on the front line of gathering information that could actually keep us safe from harm. Dubya and his minions have once again shown that they don't care about keeping us safe, especially if the alternative is being able to harm their political enemies.

Crony Watch

Some people are starting to wake up to the fact that the "Iraq war against Terra" is really just a big giveaway to big corporations with ties to the Bushies, like Halliburton, Bechtel, etc. Here is a good summary piece on where that stands from Mother Jones.

Another headline on that topic is "Washington Insiders' New Firm Consults on Contracts in Iraq", in which we learn that
A group of businessmen linked by their close ties to President Bush, his family and his administration have set up a consulting firm to advise companies that want to do business in Iraq, including those seeking pieces of taxpayer-financed reconstruction projects.
Isn't that lovely? "Taxpayer-financed" means out of all of our pockets, directly into Cheney's and Cheney's friends'. As someone once said, "War is a racket.":