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 29, 2004

Liberal Bush apologists

Pathetic Media Watch

The Nixon administration was the first to really begin the long, right-wing assault on the media, slamming it for its "bias" and complaining about the "nattering nabobs of negativity". The radical right has made working the refs in this way an art form, to the point where most reporters and editors reflexively and automatically present the approved corporate point of view. Those reporters and editors who don't do this are quickly cowed into conforming (so that they can continue to go to tony cocktail parties with their peers, and the powerful whom they cover) or shown the door.

There are of course, nominally liberal editorial writers still being published. Paul Krugman is an economist who is actually not that liberal, but who has a dogged grip on the truth and who will not let go, despite the yowls of anger from his self-deluded colleagues and readers. His twice-weekly column in the NYT is probably the most visible reality-based media offering. Other nominally progressive or liberal voices seem almost hopelessly weak in their pandering acquiescence to the views of the movement conservatives.

Some cases in point: William Raspberry, liberal op-ed writer for the Washington Post, rolled over like a puppy when Colin Powell made his lie-filled speech in front of the UN. And he was far from alone. Other "liberal" commentators like Marie Cocco and Richard Cohen couldn't rush fast enough to abandon their well-founded skepticism and join the jingoism. What is it about Colin Powell's round, teddy bear-like countenance that makes people trust him so implicitly? Powell has been on TV lying like a rug for this corrupt administration for months now, totally throwing any honor he may have once had overboard for the sake of these crooked imperialists. Ah well.

Two recent offerings by the liberal press show just exactly why they are so frustrating to read. Despite being nominally on the side of the public good, these writers still cannot manage to serve their audience with consistency or effectiveness. Here is Nicholas Kristof displaying why the forces of good will and truth need some new champions:

The current president's hyped version of the incident reflects his casual relationship with truth. Like President Ronald Reagan, reality to him is not about facts, but about higher meta-truths: Mom and Dad are loving grandparents, Saddam Hussein is an evil man, and so on. To clarify those overarching realities, Mr. Bush harnesses "facts," both true and false. .... In fact, I'm convinced that Mr. Bush is not only smarter, but also a better man than his critics believe. Most important, he's not a panderer. While Mr. Kerry zigs and zags on trade and Middle East policy, Mr. Bush has a core of values and provides genuine leadership (typically, I believe, in the wrong direction, by trying to reshape America and the world according to a far-right agenda) .... But that's also the problem with his administration: his convictions are so solid that they're inflexible and utterly impervious to reality. When Mr. Bush pumped up the intelligence on Iraqi W.M.D., his exaggerations reflected the overriding truth as he saw it - that Saddam Hussein was a menace. I think Mr. Bush considered himself truthful, even when he wasn't factual.

Now, let's emphasize again that Kristof is supposed to be a liberal writer. In these very short passages from a very short essay, he manages to

A) euphemize Bush's lying as 1) clarifying overarching realities by harnessing both true and false facts 2) exaggerations 3) a casual relationship with truth and 4) truthful, though not factual

B) assert that Bush is both smarter and "better" than we believe. (Thanks for that GOP talking point, Nick)

C) assert Bush has a "core of values" and provides "genuine leadership" (two more GOP talking points, wow, your corporate masters will be well pleased Nick, keep it up. By the way, if by "core of values" you mean he has consistently worked to make America a great place to be for the very rich and corporations while screwing over everybody else, and that he has always "valued" leading an invasion of Iraq come Hell or high water, then yes, he has been consistent)

D) assert that Bush is not a panderer (holy crap, you've got to be kidding me with that one. Not a panderer? What was that whole anti-gay-consitutional amendment garbage about then? What about the stem cell research ban? What about the failed immigration reform plan? Not a panderer? Seriously, this is slipping into the realm of absurdist comedy. But way to get another GOP talking point in there.)

E) assert that Kerry zigs and zags on Mideast and trade policy (mucho extra points for working in the tired "flip flopper" barb against Kerry. Good Nick! Good boy! Excuse me, _Kerry_ is a flip flopper on trade? Can you say "steel tariffs"? _Kerry_ is a flip flopper on the Middle East? Can you say "roadmap to peace"? Can you say "ignoring Israel Palestine for years, then giving the hardline Sharon government tacit permission to do whatever it wants?")

Man, with friends like these, who needs enemas? Remember, this guy is supposed to be on OUR side, and THIS is the garbage he chooses to write, this close to the election? Kristof clearly knows which side his bread is buttered on, and it isn't working in the interests of truth. With his left-handed, sort-of endorsement of Kerry over Bush, notice how he manages to praise Bush and dis Kerry, even after acknowledging that Bush only has a tenuous grasp of the truth.

That disgusting display contrasts with the following one by Richard Cohen, another liberal Washington Post op-ed writer. In it, Cohen seems to finally throw off the yoke of his corporate masters and just comes right out and says we should impeach Bush, or at least not re-hire him. An excerpt:

Not since the Spanish-American War has the United States gone off to war so casually, so half-cocked and so ineptly. The sinking of the Maine, the casus belli for that dustup, has been replaced by missing weapons of mass destruction, and the Hearst and Pulitzer presses are now talk radio and Fox News Channel. Everything has changed. Nothing has changed. Still, though, we mourn the dead, look away from the wounded and maimed, and wonder what it was all about. We embarked, truly and regrettably, on a crusade.

Yet from Bush comes not a bleep of regret, not to mention apology. It is all "steady as she goes" -- although we have lost our bearings and we no longer know our destination. (Don't tell me it's a democratic Middle East.) If the man were commanding a ship, he would be relieved of command. If he were the CEO of some big company, the board would offer him a golden parachute -- and force him to jump. But in government, it's the people who make those decisions. We get our chance on Tuesday.

Impeach Bush.

Well, that sounds pretty good, pretty well reasoned. But wait, can this be the same liberal Richard Cohen who wrote in May of 2003:

. . . I feel that it will hardly matter if, as now seems possible, no large cache of weapons of mass destruction is found in Iraq and the war to disarm that country turns out to have been unnecessary. All that will matter is that the United States won a magnificent victory -- never mind why the war was fought in the first place. Everyone likes a winner, and Bush is a winner.

Or the same Richard Cohen who wrote a month ago:

I nevertheless cannot bring myself to hate Bush or, as someone here told me, to consider his possible reelection as a reason to leave the country. In fact, Bush haters go so far they wind up adding a dash of red to my blue, pushing me by revulsion into a color I otherwise would not have.

Thanks, Richard Cohen, for your consistant moral clarity. By the way, there were several million of us, all around the globe, who had a historical perspective and knew enough not to trust this cabal of thieves BEFORE the invasion. We marched, shouted, wrote letters to the editor, and were ignored into insignifigance by you and your media cohorts.

And these two examples are just small samples of the corporate approved, gelded, "liberals" that are kept as court pets by the coporate media monopolies.

Election Theft Watch

I've been trying to keep a list of all of the articles concerning voter intimidation, polling place confusion, intimidation, registration fraud, dirty tricks, and other GOP efforts to drastically reduce the number of Democratic voters who make it through the registration and voting process for this election. But the number of articles is just too many to really post or explain. The number is huge and growing. They all point to a huge, semi-coordinated (in that GOP operatives assume that they will be protected from prosecution for breaking voting rights act legislation while performing dirty tricks that help the GOP) effort by the GOP to disenfranchise American citizens. They really must hate us for our freedoms. I cannot believe that even in this day and age, the media can report all of these stories and not step back and take a wider look at what is happening in our "democracy". As we've said before, voting is one of the very few places left where individuals can exercise power that checks corporate takeover of the government, and they are hell bent on stopping it, from crooked electronic voting machines (that story has hit the mainstream a bit) to hiring thugs to "monitor" polling places for initimidation purposes.

Here are links to some of the dozens of other stories documenting these atrocities:

The list goes on and on. As you can see, our political opponents sit around all day and dream of ways to keep people from exercising their right to vote. This is clearly the right party to bring "democracy" to Iraq, don't you think?

Oh, and here's a good one about the corporate-owned GOP using public airwaves for its own political advocacy. Can't we make this illegal?

Since the GOP is now acting as a huge criminal organization, can we prosecute them under the RICO laws?

Tell Us Something We Didn't Know Watch

It seems Bush had Iraq in his sites the whole time. Not too surprising. This comes from the ghostwriter on his autobiography ("Two Years Before 9/11, Candidate Bush was Already Talking Privately About Attacking Iraq, According to His Former Ghost Writer"):

"He was thinking about invading Iraq in 1999," said author and journalist Mickey Herskowitz. "It was on his mind. He said to me: 'One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief.' And he said, 'My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it.' He said, 'If I have a chance to invade·.if I had that much capital, I'm not going to waste it. I'm going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I'm going to have a successful presidency." Herskowitz said that Bush expressed frustration at a lifetime as an underachiever in the shadow of an accomplished father. In aggressive military action, he saw the opportunity to emerge from his father's shadow. The moment, Herskowitz said, came in the wake of the September 11 attacks. "Suddenly, he's at 91 percent in the polls, and he'd barely crawled out of the bunker.

That President Bush and his advisers had Iraq on their minds long before weapons inspectors had finished their work - and long before alleged Iraqi ties with terrorists became a central rationale for war - has been raised elsewhere, including in a book based on recollections of former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill. However, Herskowitz was in a unique position to hear Bush's unguarded and unfiltered views on Iraq, war and other matters - well before he became president.

Deception Watch

Here is an interesting result: It turns out that the majority of Bush's supporters don't even know what his policies are.

The Lies Come Home To Roost Watch

Bushco's feeble excuse for the missing explosives ("maybe they were already gone") is not cutting it with the reality-based community. This article, by Jonathan Chait, is well worth reading, but because it requires registration, I'm copying it here in its entirety:

On Monday morning, the New York Times reported that 380 tons of powerful explosives had disappeared from a military complex in Iraq that the American military didn't safeguard. An honest supporter of President Bush would reply to this by arguing that, despite this mistake, there are plenty of good reasons to reelect him anyway.

The week before the election, though, is too late for honesty, especially for a campaign so committed to the infallibility of its candidate. And so Bush and his allies have been forced to argue that no, neglecting to guard a lifetime supply of bomb-making material does not in any way reflect poorly on Bush's military strategy. Indeed, if anybody is tainted here, it's Kerry. This exercise in defending the indefensible offers a kind of morbid hilarity. So far, I count seven distinct lines of argument:

1. Look at the bright side. Kerry, insists Vice President Dick Cheney, fails to "mention the 400,000 tons of weapons and explosives that our troops have captured and are destroying." This is sort of like arguing, "Your honor, the record should reflect the countless times I've driven to work without swerving onto the sidewalk and mowing down dozens of pedestrians."

2. Consider the source. Why, Republicans ask, are we finding out just now about this? Well, for starters, it was less than two weeks ago that the International Atomic Energy Agency informed our government of the lost explosives. A Wall Street Journal editorial imputed dark motives to the fact that the information leaked, without explaining why the U.S. government was keeping it secret in the first place, or why the fact that it leaked detracts from the substance of the story.

3. Don't judge. As the Journal pleaded, "Some 380 tons of frightfully powerful stuff has gone missing, and the objective before us should be to locate it, not locate blame." In other words, the military can't search for the bombs unless the voters withhold judgment about Bush.

4. Kerry reads newspapers. "What would he do as president? Get up every morning and say, 'I'm going to govern based on what I find in the newspapers?' " sneered Karl Rove. "John Kerry will say anything he believes will help him politically," wrote Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman, "and today he is grasping at headlines to obscure his record of weakness and indecision in the war on terror." The horror — Kerry is letting world news infect his judgment.

5. Kerry's a hypocrite. "After repeatedly calling Iraq the wrong war and a diversion," Bush declared, "Sen. Kerry this week seemed shocked to learn that Iraq was a dangerous place full of dangerous weapons." This is a bizarre inversion of reality. Bush justified the war primarily as a way to keep weapons out of the hands of terrorists, yet his handling of it led to exactly that result.

6. Kerry hates the troops. "The senator is denigrating the actions of our troops and commanders in the field," Bush insisted. By this logic, any criticism of Bush's military plan amounts to blaming the troops. By the same Orwellian logic, statements like the one from Bush supporter Rudy Giuliani — "The actual responsibility for it really would be for the troops that were there. Did they search carefully enough?" — do not count as blaming the troops.

7. It was like that when we got here. Republicans seized on an NBC News report that a U.S. Army brigade had inspected the site in April 2003 and found no weapons. This claim fell apart after NBC and the brigade commander said the Americans merely stopped at the site without inspecting it. Bush and his allies have since retreated to claiming that the explosives may have been moved before the war started. This is possible, though highly unlikely. David Kay, the man Bush chose to search for WMD in Iraq, said such a transfer probably would have been detected by U.S. satellites. And KSTP, a Minneapolis TV station that had staff embedded with troops who went into the area, has footage of U.S. troops coming across what look to weapons inspectors very much like the explosives in question, cracking open locks and then departing. There have been reports of systematic looting since.

But even in the unlikely event that the weapons disappeared before the war, it would hardly forgive Bush's policy of invading without enough troops to secure vital weapons caches. The point is that he didn't plan for the peace, which included safeguarding weapons. Suppose it turned out that the pedestrians struck by our reckless driver all suffered fatal heart attacks moments before they were run over. Sure, the driver would be exonerated of their deaths. But as far as evaluating his driving skills — or Bush's war-planning skills — it makes no difference at all.

See also Josh Marshall on this point:

They got caught with a screw-up, their response was to lie, smear, obfuscate and bamboozle. And now the unimpeachable evidence is out.

It captures the administration's whole record on Iraq, only fast-forwarded and telescoped into four days as opposed to four years.

This article goes on to quote David Kay on the explosives and what the ABC video of them shows.

Frontline Watch

If you have some time to watch programs on your computer, I would like to invite you to see two recent important Frontline shows, Rumsfeld's War which should be online today sometime, and The Choice which contains good biographies of both candidates. Or catch them on a rerun on your local PBS station.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

The Boy in the Bubble

Practically Perfect in Every Way Watch

Something rather objectively bad has happened in Iraq since our invasion. Hundreds of tons of very powerful explosives, which had been catalogued, contained, and guarded by the UN through the IAEA are now in the hands of God knows who. They can be put to a variety of purposes, like blowing up our troops, blowing up Iraqis that cooperate with us, blowing up moderates in Iraq and surrounding areas, or blowing up airplanes, etc. They can even be smuggled into other countries and used there. I think, that in the world of reality, we can all agree that this is a bad thing.

Assigning blame is not always the most useful activity. But in this case, it is salient that we at least find out who will assume responsibility for this situation. There can be only two possible parties that are to blame: 1) The troops and their commanders on the ground or 2) Bush and his war planners. Kerry has blamed Bush. But Bush cannot take any responsibility. So Bush and his war planners have the unenviable task of both blaming the troops (which they know is really despicable and indefensible, since there weren't enough troops provided to do these jobs AND the troops were following their orders, which were to get to Baghdad as quickly as possible) and trying to deflect the outrage at their blaming the troops by pretending that Kerry is blaming the troops.

Will they succeed with this death-defying stunt? Are they even brazen enough to try it? You be the judge!

Kerry on Tuesday (paraphrase): "I blame Bush for this stunning mistake. There should have been enough troops to guard this site, and it should have been made a priority."

Bush yesterday (paraphrase): "How dare Kerry blame the troops! He should be ashamed of himself!"

GOP shill and subhuman Rudi Guliani this morning (actual quote): "The actual responsibility for it really would be for the troops that were there. Did they search carefully enough? Didn't they search carefully enough?" (video of this horrifying comment (made on national TV!)).

So, yes, they are brazen enough to try it. Incredible. And once again we can rest snug in our beds, knowing that the Chimpleton, like a certain magical British nanny, is practically perfect in every way.

When We Practice To Deceive Watch

Because the Bushies know that they cannot continue to simultaneously blame the troops and pretend that Kerry is blaming the troops, their only other recourse is to muddy the waters around the missing explosives story. So now, they are trying to push various horse hockey arguments about the explosives being gone when US troops arrived at the ammo dump. As Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo points out, this is the White Houses' third version of this story. But as Liberal Oasis points out, the story is being pushed by only one person, a John Shaw who works for the Department of Defense. And Shaw is hopelessly compromised by various war profiteering, crony capitalism, and bidding scandals involved in the "rebuilding" of Iraq.

Even as they are pushing these road apple arguments down the willing throats of their mouthpieces, the cable news media, comes evidence that they are complete BS. Here, for example is proof that our troops were in that facility, that explosives were there, and that they had not disappeared before we invaded. Their lies are falling apart all around them now.

Bubble Boy Watch

Bush never appears before crowds that aren't already slavishly devoted to him. His campaign crowds have had to sign loyalty oaths, must not wear any "suspect" clothing (like shirts that say Protect Our Civil Liberties), must be drooling sycophants who never ask him any tough questions. Given that this election campaign has been portrayed as a fight to win over independent, undecided voters, I really have to wonder how it is that he is even close in the polls. Sure, he has a strong, delusional base, but if I were really an independent voter in say, Ohio, would I be attracted to him as a candidate if I couldn't get in to his rally?

His isolation from dissenting views has of course hurt his ability to govern, and it really hurt him in his preparation for the debates. I had to laugh when I read this passage from the Slacktivist:

But President Bush, yesterday, really did say "I want to speak directly to the Democrats" at a rally in Lititz, Pa.

Those of us in the reality-based community find it odd that someone who wants "to speak directly to the Democrats" would choose to do so at an audience that was exclusively composed of non-Democrats. A few had tried to sneak in, but they were "handcuffed and escorted away.

Rats and Sinking Ships Watch

Another lifelong GOPer jumps ship. This essay is actually sincere, I believe, and even though the guy seems to be a militia and religious nut, I have to give him credit for having some principles to stick to. An excerpt:

No, the words on the T-shirts the ladies were wearing did not disparage Bush, nor did they suggest support for Kerry or any other candidate. The words did not condemn or support the war in Iraq, nor did they slam any Administration policy. No, the T-shirts the three women wore showed an American flag, and under it the words, "Protect Our Civil Liberties". That was all -- I kid you not.

That was it. That was the last straw for me. That was the defining moment I'll never forget. That was my epiphany. ..... My decision to vote for Kerry was a vote to get Bush and his administration out. I could have voted for a third party candidate who couldn't possibly win, but that would have translated into a vote for Bush, and I just couldn't do that. Too many kids in uniform have already been killed and maimed for nothing, and I see it as my primary duty to save as many of them as I can. If my vote for a third party candidate means Bush wins and more kids come home dead and mutilated, then I have abrogated my duty as an American, as a Christian and as a decent human being. I didn't know better during the Vietnam War, when I voted for Nixon twice, but I would be without excuse if I did it again now.

If you have the stomach for it, you can read comments to his essay (mostly by frothing at the mouth types who consider him a "traitor") and his responses as well.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

The Global Test

Crystal Ball Watch

I think everything can be explained easily: President Bush can see into the future. In 2002, he looked into the future and saw that dangerous elements in Iraq were aligned with Al Qaeda. It wasn't true in 2002. We had Zarqawi in a region we controlled. But now in 2004, Zarqawi is apparently located in Baghdad, and growing stronger. In 2002, he looked into the future and warned that Iraq was putting dangerous and powerful weapons into the hands of terrorists and those who would use them against Americans. Not true in 2002, as the IAEA had explosives sites under lock and key. But now in 2004, powerful explosives are in the hands of who knows what groups. As others have noted, 1 pound of this explosive is enough to bring down a jet aircraft, and now "shadowy forces" have enough explosives to try to repeat the Lockerbee attacks 760,000 times. (That would be 205 million dead people, were they to succeed). In 2002, he looked into the future and said that Iraq was full of terrorists. Not really true then, but now it is. In 2002, he looked into the future and blamed the Iraqis for 9/11 in so many words. Not true then, but now I’m sure there are a lot of people in Iraq who wouldn’t mind hurting us.

So, in a way, it's Dim Son's amazing prescience which has allowed us to fight a war that created the conditions for the original justifications for the war in the first place. If only he had applied his powers to post-war planning, as well, instead of retroactive justification.

Voting Watch

Ha ha ha ha ha! Get ready for more zany antics from those crazy officials in Florida, as they once again disenfranchise voters in lots of wacky ways. More on the serious side of this issue later, but for now here is a pretty humorous movie (quicktime format) of a voter trying to cast his vote.

Draft Watch

Check out this amazing rant on the floor of the House by representative Tim Ryan, who thinks it is a little much to ask that we take this administration's word for it that they won't institute a draft. Well worth watching.

Battle of the Airwaves Watch

Here is a new ad which they are gathering money to air. You may feel like donating to the effort. It refers to the hilarious antics of Bush when he regaled a crowd of media folks with a slideshow showing himself looking under couches and behind chairs for those pesky WMDs. The national reporters laughed and laughed at that droll Dubya. “He really fooled us but good!” they seemed to be saying. Good times, good times.

Blog Watch

There is a new blog by funny and talented Bob Harris. Bob is a five-time Jeopardy champion (under the old rules, when that was all you got). Also, check out James Wolcott's blog, which I find deliciously bitchy.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Iraq War Supporters Live in an Alternate Universe

Yesterday's Washington Post picked up the story about the University of Maryland report. This report concluded that Bush and Kerry supporters live in different worlds with different facts. For example, 75% of Bush supporters believe that Iraq was behind the 9/11 attacks (vs. 30% of Kerry supporters), despite the bipartisan 9/11 commission concluding that Iraq was not involved in the attacks. Similar disparities exist on whether Iraq had WMD, whether the world approves of the war in Iraq and more.

NOW they have weapons

What Does a Republican Have To Do To Get Impeached Around Here? Watch

As you've all probably heard, we've just learned that between 350-380 tons of extremely powerful explosives were looted from a location in Iraq, from a time period of just after the invasion to relatively recently (see 'Huge cache of explosives vanished from site in Iraq'). Only a few pounds of this stuff are enough to create a devastating explosion. If we calculate that 5 pounds of explosive is enough to kill a US soldier, then there is enough missing material to kill (conservatively) 140,000 US servicepeople.

So this is how Bushco is supporting the troops. Their own little yellow magnetic car ribbon was to protect the oil ministry while the forces of chaos looted this site. And of course, they've been hiding this information from the American public. They claim that Kindalazy Rice just found out about this a month ago, even though Bremer was told about it at least six months ago. I guess she's been too busy campaigning for Bush in swing states to do her job. She's a crack national security advisor, all right. They were warned about this site by the IAEA. The weapons inspectors who were in country before we invaded even checked the site to see that everything was still secure, but NO ONE thought to secure the site? Way to "make America safer" there, guys.

The circumstantial evidence is that this material is what has been inside many of the roadside and car bombs that have been used on our forces so far. Prior to this, it was believed that much of the explosives in those attacks came from artillery shells, but that is a dangerous source, and this material being in the wrong hands explains why we haven't found too many dead bombmakers around the country.

So, way to run the war guys. You can't even be bothered to protect your own fighting forces, which are your sole tool for international diplomacy. It now is almost surely true that the world was indeed a safer place with Saddam in power, with the IAEA keeping an eye on this material. Now, it is in the hands of "insurgents" and "terrorists", whereas before it was not.

Some of this material might even find its way into our country. The idiots who support this war think that if we are fighting them "over there" that they won't come here looking for vengeance. But, I don't know why they would fight our armed soldiers in Iraq when they could come here and blow up our populace, do you? They aren't stupid. So, apart from the difficulty of getting in to the country in the first place (which Bush hasn't made any harder, by shoring up border security), I'd say we are looking like a big fat target these days. What stupidity.

Zarqawi Watch

Recently Bush has been using Zarqawi as his newest cynical reason why this war has to be continued. "Zarqawi is a bad man", etc. etc. And there is no doubt that Zarqawi is a bad guy. However, we knew about him, had him located, and had plans on the table to take him out even before the invasion of Iraq began. Why didn't we do it? I hear you ask. After all, Zarqawi DID have ties to Al Qaeda, and he did use terrorism as a strategy. And he was in the US controlled northern fly zone, where we could reach him easily.

No one will ever know the true reason, but there are those who believe that the Bushies didn't take him out because that would have taken away one of their excuses for the invasion. An excerpt from "Avoiding attacking suspected terrorist mastermind" explains:

In June 2002, U.S. officials say intelligence had revealed that Zarqawi and members of al-Qaida had set up a weapons lab at Kirma, in northern Iraq, producing deadly ricin and cyanide. The Pentagon quickly drafted plans to attack the camp with cruise missiles and airstrikes and sent it to the White House, where, according to U.S. government sources, the plan was debated to death in the National Security Council.

Four months later, intelligence showed Zarqawi was planning to use ricin in terrorist attacks in Europe. The Pentagon drew up a second strike plan, and the White House again killed it. By then the administration had set its course for war with Iraq.

In January 2003, the threat turned real. Police in London arrested six terror suspects and discovered a ricin lab connected to the camp in Iraq. The Pentagon drew up still another attack plan, and for the third time, the National Security Council killed it.

Military officials insist their case for attacking Zarqawi’s operation was airtight, but the administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam. And despite the Bush administration’s tough talk about hitting the terrorists before they strike, Zarqawi’s killing streak continues today.

So, again, we see another chance for the administration to make our troops safer, and letting it pass because of political purposes. Support the troops, indeed.

Vietnam Watch

For those of you who think this election should be decided based on the Vietnam War (of which there are a surprising number of Republicans) and who said that maybe that war was not such a great idea, there is currently a documentary out about Kerry's experiences as a young man growing up, in Vietnam, and afterwards called "Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry". If you have some time on your hands, you can download and watch the entire movie on your computer.

Our Responsible Media Watch

See this piece for a spot on critique of the way our lovely discourse is shepherded by the media. It would be funny if it weren't so true. For example, Kerry says he would like it if terrorism were a nuisance in our lives, not an immediate issue. The GOP acts as if Kerry said terrorism WAS a nuisance, not that he WOULD LIKE IT TO BE a nuisance. And guess what? The media go right along with the charade. Good job, media. Way to stifle meaningful debate.

Who Would Jesus Bomb Watch

Thanks to Melissa for this hilarious link, which with tongue firmly in cheek analyses the candidates' lives and lies from the perspective of the ten commandments and then attempts to determine who Jesus would vote for. It is hilarious and appropriately cynical.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Potemkin Ranch

October Surprise Photo-op Watch

Bush, just 10 days away from the most important and highly contested election in America's recent history, has decided he needs to take a day at his ranch, which he bought in 1999 for his presidential campaign. Prior to buying this ranch, he lived his whole life in houses in towns and cities, like the rest of the non-ranching world. Keep that in mind as the media tries to pass him off as some kind of brush-cutting cowboy.

According to his schedulers, he plans to spend a day in Crawford, Texas on Saturday. Does it really seem likely that he would waste one of the most important campaigning days this month, so close to the election, on a Saturday when people are actually home, to go kick around on his dusty ranch? No, it doesn’t seem likely to me either. I would predict that instead of spending the whole day on Saturday talking to cows, he is going to be flown to some hotspot in Iraq, for a Glorious Salute to Dear Leader Photo-op. This will be the second time in his life that he will have been in a war zone, despite having been quoted in January of 2002 as saying "I've been to war. I've raised twins. If I had a choice, I'd rather go to war." The first time was when he was carted off to Iraq for a similar photo-op last Thanksgiving, prancing around with a large, inedible turkey for those troops that had signed a loyalty oath to him. The corporate media sycophants will wet themselves with pleasure at seeing our Glorious, Manly Leader standing in our conquered colony of Iraq, pal-ing around with the young people he so resolutely thrust into harm's way for no purpose that he can reveal to the public.

That's my prognostication for Saturday.

Ratf*cking Watch

Here's one other prediction for the remainder of the campaign. One of Rove's favorite tricks, which he learned at the knees of Nixonian dirty-tricksters, is called ratf*cking. In this move, a candidate does something to harm, or seeming to harm, himself, so that he can play the victim and blame his opponent.

One of the most famous episodes of this from Rove's past was when he bugged his own office, then whipped up a big media frenzy around trying to find out who had done it. He managed to "discover" the bug on the day of a big debate in which his candidate was expected to do poorly. And he blamed his candidate's opponent, of course.

In the 2000 race, a Bush debate folder found its way into the Gore camp. Imagine Rove's surprise when it was returned, unopened, before Bush could declare that Gore had stolen it and "cheated" in the debates.

So, in the coming days, watch out for something unfortunate to occur to Smirky, something which Rove may try to blame Kerry for. Something like the forged CBS desertion memo . . .

See The Atlantic Monthly for more examples.

Feeling a Bit Drafty Watch

Yesterday evening, there was a small NPR radio piece on "The World" about a nuclear Iran and what needed to be done about it. The commentators were lamenting the fact that we didn't know if Iran's nuclear facilities are above ground, where we could "take them out", or below a mountain somewhere. Quite apart from the irresponsible idea that we would just attack Iran and blow up their facilities on our own, scattering radioactivity across the landscape (which would unite the Muslim world against us in a way that even the invasion of the weak, oil-rich Islamic Iraq has not yet done), I found this piece disturbing because it seriously was postulating that the US is being forced into some kind of position of no return, where we would have to attack Iran militarily. Oh sure, the piece paid lip service to the idea that the Bush misadministration would rather negotiate with Tehran (until the hard-line chickenhawks in their base got bored and frustrated), but on the whole it sounded quite ominous indeed.

Our military is quite logistically stretched right now, and so our continuing dealings with the rest of the world, framed by Bush in all three debates as "aggressive", will entail a draft. Of both men and women. They are already planning to draft medical workers, and you have all read the stories about soldiers having their combat tours extended, being forced to re-enlist (under threat of being sent to Iraq), and calling retired soldiers and guardsmen back up. The draft is happening already, slowly, relatively quietly, but it is already happening.

If there is any humor to be found in this situation, you may find some of it at Enjoy the Draft.

Planning for Success Watch

In this NYT article, we read that this administration had a firm grasp of the situation in Iraq going into the war. A quote:

Gen. Tommy R. Franks climbed out of a C-130 plane at the Baghdad airport on April 16, 2003, and pumped his fist into the air. American troops had pushed into the capital of liberated Iraq little more than a week before, and it was the war commander's first visit to the city...

Huddling in a drawing room with his top commanders, General Franks told them it was time to make plans to leave. Combat forces should be prepared to start pulling out within 60 days if all went as expected, he said. By September, the more than 140,000 troops in Iraq could be down to little more than a division, about 30,000 troops.

So by September of 2003, we were supposed to have troop levels down to 30,000 in Iraq. That was over a year ago. Obviously, all has not gone "as expected".

Free Speech Watch

I remember years ago, when I first felt like writing to other people to ask what was going on in our country, the thing that struck me as the most weird, unbelievable, and strange were these scattered reports of "free speech zones". Early in Bush's presidency, people were writing in to websites and news sources that protestors at events where the president appeared publicly were being herded up, shipped hundreds of yards if not miles away, and left to stand in areas with their protest signs.

I really couldn't believe it. I thought it was way too conspiracy-theory-ish, and that no one would believe me if I wrote about it. This surely couldn't be happening in America. The people, who have enjoyed and presumably cherished free speech and the right to assemble until now, wouldn't put up with it.

Today, we know that those early stories were not only true, but only a small foretaste of the ridiculous curtailment of our civil liberties to come. This regime treats its citizens as if they have no right to assemble, no right to protest, and treats citizens with differing opinions as criminals. Amazing that we have become a banana republic in so little time, and no one seems at all upset about it. Certainly the whorporate media doesn't think there is any problem with the situation. Apparently, if our government decides to take our civil liberties away because it doesn't like them, the American people just give them up without a fuss. And apparently, if we have a government that doesn't like our civil liberties (remember, watch what they DO, not what they SAY), nobody feels it important to comment on that.

And so, citizens going to Bush campaign events have to sign loyalty oaths, and if they are found to have Kerry t-shirts on, or a pro-choice button in their purse, they are forced to leave and threatened with arrest. Even people attending PUBLIC events with the president are subjected to such treatment. And clearly this has nothing to do with 9/11 or terrorism; these goons were moving in this direction well before September of 2001. They treat the public as if they were in charge of a one-party autocracy. They treat political dissent in the same manner that their favorite boogyman Saddam Hussein treated it.

The stories coming out of these events just get weirder and weirder. Finally, they have hit the level of the truly absurd. Three teachers from Oregon were kicked out of a Bush campaign event for wearing t-shirts that said "Protect our civil liberties". Think about that. That message was judged as antithetical to the Bush regime. Protect our civil liberties. It is so rare that such a moment of truth comes out of a Bush event. Protecting our civil liberties is of course an affront to this regime. But to just come right out and clearly admit it, by kicking these three out of the event, was a rare moment of truth from a Bush campaign event.

I’m sure there are many other signs and symbols that would get you kicked out of a Bush campaign event. These three teachers have shown us that we haven't hit the envelope yet. Surely, someone wearing a sign or shirt saying "Give Peace a Chance" would be shown the door. What about the peace symbol itself? Would that get you kicked out? What about an allusion to the brotherhood of mankind, or kindness, or turning the other cheek? Just what is the limit of what is considered banned in a Bush campaign event? Bizarre.

Getting Less for More Watch

One of the things I really like about Kerry's platform is his bit on healthcare. As I understand it, by having the government be a second insurer and pick up catastrophic coverage for people, it will reduce insurance premiums and probably allow more small businesses to get more people covered. It will cost a bit to the government, but it will also protect people whose insurers try to screw them over when some catastrophic health event befalls them.

The thing I like most about it is that I really do think it is the nose of the camel under the tent on the way to a single payer plan, which would be a huge benefit to this country. The US pays so much more, about triple per capita, for our healthcare, and we get so much less than other countries with socialized medicine. People in this country have been conditioned to be scared to death of single payer plans with horror stories about how bad medicine is in other industrialized countries. But really, is anyone so head-over-heels in love with the healthcare they are getting in this country now? I know I’m not that impressed. Sure, we are covered for things going massively wrong, but the bureaucracy, inefficiency, redtape, and delays that I've experienced are exactly what I would imagine enemies of a single payer plan would dredge up as arguments against such a plan. And if we had national coverage, we could really keep an eye on it. Plus it would lower the costs for everyone, because there would be no cherry picking, no dropping people for previous conditions. It wouldn't be perfect, but it would be a hell of a lot cheaper than what we have today, and I don't think it would be any worse.

Kerry's plan is small, but significant, and will let us see how this kind of system might work.

War Watch

Thanks to Paul for the following joke:

Q. What's the difference between the Vietnam War and the Iraq War?

A. George Bush had a plan to get out of the Vietnam War.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Bush fantasy world

Reality is What We Choose It To Be Watch

Here is a brief summary of a poll showing that 62% of Republicans believe that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the September 11th attacks, even though that idea has been proven time and time again to be false. Our leaders have continually lied to us about this matter (Bush, Cheney, Rice, Powell, Rumsfeld, and many others are on record making this connection) though, and the corporate press has not seen fit to clear up the "confusion". So, even though Hussein is demonstrably, categorically, really, not involved in 9/11, all the people living in "Bush fantasy world" can continue to believe he was, and never have this notion challenged. Our national discourse is more and more like "The Matrix".

Toadies and Sycophants Watch

See this Daily Howler entry concerning the conflicts of interests of our celebrity press corps, the people who are charged with protecting the public from the powerful. Bob Somerby, a national treasure, continues to pull back the curtain on the rich and powerful cabal of people who are calling the shots, and exposing the failure of the media to guard the public trust. Two excerpts follow:

Leave aside the embarrassing spectacle of Ted Koppel, alleged grown man, showing off his latest fast car. Some little people just never grow up, and Koppel may be one of their number. But couldn’t Koppel have had the decency—sorry, let’s say it; the personal integrity—to drive around and show off his car for someone who isn’t a Bush Admin honcho? Someone he doesn’t allegedly "cover?" For example, would it have killed poor Ted to show off his car for some other vacuous press corps member? To drive it over to Russert’s house and make him pretend to be interested?

Good God! What makes it amazing is the way these people discuss this conduct right out in public! We don't make a point of collecting these items; for example, we didn’t bother discussing that McCain birthday party which compromised member of your "press corps" attended during the GOP convention (more below). But people like Koppel are so blatant about their conflicts that they do become a bit hard to ignore. Examples? Over the course of the past few years, we've discussed Bob Schieffer playing golf with George Bush; Gwen Ifill giving home-cooked meals to Condi Rice; and Tim Russert off at Don Rumsfeld's Christmas party, loudly telling all in attendance about his dreams of the previous night (links below). All of these people then go on the air and pretend to "cover" the people they pal with. Are you really surprised when a flunkee like Ifill goes on the air and rolls over for Condi? Or when all the rest of her compromised cohort pretend that the session was boffo?
Sen. John McCain tended to his political base Sunday night: the entire national media. The maverick Arizona Republican, once (and future?) presidential aspirant and press secretary's dream, hosted a hyper-exclusive 68th birthday party for himself at La Goulue on Madison Avenue, leaving no media icon behind. Guests included NBC's Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert, ABC's Peter Jennings, Barbara Walters, Ted Koppel and George Stephanopoulos, CBS's Mike Wallace, Dan Rather and Bob Schieffer, CBS News President Andrew Heyward, ABC News chief David Westin, Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons, CNN's Judy Woodruff and Jeff Greenfield, MSNBC's Chris Matthews, CNBC's Gloria Borger, PBS's Charlie Rose—pause here to exhale—and U.S. News & World Report publisher Mort Zuckerman, Washington Post Chairman Don Graham, New York Times columnists William Safire and David Brooks, author Michael Lewis and USA Today columnist Walter Shapiro. They and others dined on lobster salad, loin of lamb, assorted wines, creme brulee, lemon souffle and French tarts...

"Christianity" Watch

I'm having a huge crisis of faith right now. Our soldiers are daily slaughtering Iraqi civilians that are innocent in the matters of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons. These people are in general poorer than we are, and they are innocent of perpetrating the abuses and excesses of Saddam's regime. They are innocent of having connections to Al Qaeda, or being involved in 9/11. They are innocent, in fact, of everything except fighting back against an occupying force. Therefore, we slaughter them. And nearly all of the "Christians" that I know or come in contact with go happily about their lives, while this continuing injustice sows the seeds of our own destruction. The resentment and rage this conflict is planting will come back to bite us. I see it as a huge, stinking elephant in the living room, but other Christians still seem to want to figure out who would Jesus bomb. (Answer: no one, if I'm remembering my sunday school lessons correctly). As we obliviously rain explosive, burning death on poor, innocent people, I really wonder if other people have been going to church and listening to the same sermons I have. Because I honestly don't know how there can be any justification for all of this that jibes in any way with (stated) Christian principles.

Humor Watch

If you need a laugh, and who among us doesn't in these tense times, head on over to "Opinions You Should Have". Some sample headlines:

Poll: Presidential Race Tied At Four Supreme Court Justices Apiece
Vaccine Shortage Solution To Social Security Problem, Says Thompson
Kerry Tends To Speak "As Though He's Running For Office Or Something," Poll Finds
Crawford Newspaper Endorses Kerry; Bush Declares Crawford A "Shitty Little Town"

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The Second Big Catastrophe

Catastrophe Watch

The original run of the Watch came out in response to our country teetering on the edge of a catastrophe: the invasion of Iraq. The justification and execution of Bush's War violated the principles of a Just War, it violated the Powell Doctrine, and it violated international law. While it has not (yet) spun into a conflagration that involves the entire Middle East, as I had oringally feared, it is a nearly complete and total disaster from every other aspect. Yesterday, we learned that despite the fact that the neocons ignored all of the planning done by the State department and the military parts of the Pentagon, leading predictably to the disaster we have today, the neocons continue to blame the very departments they ignored (see "Catastrophic success: The Strategy to Secure Iraq Did Not Foresee a 2nd War").

The "justifications" for this war have all been shown to be false and misleading. Thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis have lost their lives and limbs because "Saddam was gaming the oil-for-food system", now. Oh. Well, that explains and justifies everything, I guess.

But, as if stepping blithely and blindly into one huge fiasco of a disaster is not enough for our population, our country is teetering on the brink of giving the Chimpleton another term. This second catastrophe would be unbearably worse for our country than Bush's War. And so, there will be another, probably much shorter run of the Watch in the coming weeks. If Bush finally gets elected for the first time, it will allow the rest of the world to focus their hatred onto our citizenry, not just on our benighted leaders. That will be great.

Why Things Are Not As Bad As They Seem Watch

Going into the election, the polls are close. But there are at least four factors that I think make a Kerry election victory very likely. First, pollsters do not call cell phone numbers. Many people (especially young people) only have cell phones, have no phone tied to their residence, and therefore are invisible to polls. My assumption is that younger people like this will break for Kerry. Other people live in apartments, and when you live in apartments, you tend to move a lot, usually every year or two. People who move a lot are not listed as "likely voters", those voters who vote year after year at the same address. I don't think it is much of a stretch to think that people who live in apartments will break for Kerry. Finally, most pollsters are not polling newly registered voters, and there are a ton of them this year. I have heard that there have been more than 250,000 newly registered voters in PA this year alone, and that kind of energy will come from the challenger's side, not the incumbent's. Some articles state that in the Philadelphia area, new registrants have broken 9 to 1 in favor of the Democrats.

Finally, I don't believe a lot of the polls are honest. Many of them affiliate themselves with the same corporations that have a stake in getting the corporate party elected. Polls from the Zogby organization tend to be more reliable than polls from the Gallup organization, for example. The reason? Gallup has been oversampling Republicans. In 2000, the makeup of the people who voted is said to have been 39% democratic, 35% republican, and 26% independent. In 1996, those numbers were 39% democratic, 34% republican, and 27% independent. But in Gallup polls this year, they have been basing their results on a projected turnout that is 40% republican, 33% democratic, and 27% independent. If delusional oversampling of the GOP is based on anything besides the Gallup CEO being a GOP donor, I don't know what it is. See this for more details.

So, the reality of the election is that Kerry is likely to win it, certainly in the popular vote, and most likely in the electoral vote as well.

Why Things Are Worse Than They Seem Watch

On the other hand, while Kerry is likely to win the election (as Gore did in 2000 - and by that I mean that Gore actually won both the popular and electoral votes), we have to be realistic about what is going to happen afterwards. Rove will never concede. See this article for what has become for him a pattern. I had thought that the 2000 debacle was something unique, but it was in fact Rove standard operating procedure. The legal and media nightmare we went through last time will probably pale in comparison with the trickery, grandstanding, and accusations coming next month.

The corrupt leaders of the GOP will not concede this election, period. They will claim victory. What will the Democratic party do in the face of a political adversary that won't abide by a peaceful change of regime? This is one of the first times that we in the USA may have to find out the answer to that. My guess is that we will be forced to take it, as we were in 2000, as the corporate media tells us that everything is fine . . . nothing to see here.

Remember, the corporate press is completely on their side. They will say "Kerry will do anything to win", and that Democrats are "sore losers", and on and on, just as they did in 2000. The votes won't matter, the electoral college won't matter. They will dig their heels in.

I was feeling pretty good about our chances for regime change until I read this article, and realized this is exactly what we face, and exactly what we will face, in every election from now until the grip of the corporate media is broken. The GOP no longer has any shame. They don't even seem to care about being caught. No one is reprimanded. Dirty tricksters are just hired on to the Bush campaign, and the whorporate media snores.

A clip from the article:

In the race for chief justice, which had been neck and neck the evening before, Hooper awoke to discover himself trailing by 698 votes. Throughout the day ballots trickled in from remote corners of the state, until at last an unofficial tally showed that Rove's client had lost—by 304 votes. Hornsby's campaign declared victory.

Rove had other plans, and immediately moved for a recount. "Karl called the next morning," says a former Rove staffer. "He said, 'We came real close. You guys did a great job. But now we really need to rally around Perry Hooper. We've got a real good shot at this, but we need to win over the people of Alabama.'" Rove explained how this was to be done. "Our role was to try to keep people motivated about Perry Hooper's election," the staffer continued, "and then to undermine the other side's support by casting them as liars, cheaters, stealers, immoral—all of that." (Rove did not respond to requests for an interview for this article.)

The campaign quickly obtained a restraining order to preserve the ballots. Then the tactical battle began. Rather than focus on a handful of Republican counties that might yield extra votes, Rove dispatched campaign staffers and hired investigators to every county to observe the counting and turn up evidence of fraud. In one county a probate judge was discovered to have erroneously excluded 100 votes for Hooper. Voting machines in two others had failed to count all the returns. Mindful of public opinion, according to staffers, the campaign spread tales of poll watchers threatened with arrest; probate judges locking themselves in their offices and refusing to admit campaign workers; votes being cast in absentia for comatose nursing-home patients; and Democrats caught in a cemetery writing down the names of the dead in order to put them on absentee ballots.

As the recount progressed, the margin continued to narrow. Three days after the election Hooper held a press conference to drive home the idea that the election was being stolen. He declared, "We have endured lies in this campaign, but I'll be damned if I will accept outright thievery." The recount stretched on, and Hooper's campaign continued to chip away at Hornsby's lead. By November 21 one tally had it at nine votes.

The race came down to a dispute over absentee ballots. Hornsby's campaign fought to include approximately 2,000 late-arriving ballots that had been excluded because they weren't notarized or witnessed, as required by law. Also mindful of public relations, the Hornsby campaign brought forward a man who claimed that the absentee ballot of his son, overseas in the military, was in danger of being disallowed. The matter wound up in court. "The last marching order we had from Karl," says a former employee, "was 'Make sure you continue to talk this up. The only way we're going to be successful is if the Alabama public continues to care about it.'"

Initially, things looked grim for Hooper. A circuit-court judge ruled that the absentee ballots should be counted, reasoning that voters' intent was the issue, and that by merely signing them, those who had cast them had "substantially complied" with the law. Hooper's lawyers appealed to a federal court. By Thanksgiving his campaign believed he was ahead—but also believed that the disputed absentee ballots, from heavily Democratic counties, would cost him the election. The campaign went so far as to sue every probate judge, circuit clerk, and sheriff in the state, alleging discrimination. Hooper continued to hold rallies throughout it all. On his behalf the business community bought ads in newspapers across the state that said, "They steal elections they don't like." Public opinion began tilting toward him.

The recount stretched into the following year. On Inauguration Day both candidates appeared for the ceremonies. By March the all-Democratic Alabama Supreme Court had ordered that the absentee ballots be counted. By April the matter was before the Eleventh Federal Circuit Court. The byzantine legal maneuvering continued for months. In mid-October a federal appeals-court judge finally ruled that the ballots could not be counted, and ordered the secretary of state to certify Hooper as the winner—only to have Hornsby's legal team appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which temporarily stayed the case. By now the recount had dragged on for almost a year.

When I went to visit Hooper, not long ago, we sat in the parlor of his Montgomery home as he described the denouement of Karl Rove's closest race. "On the afternoon of October the nineteenth," Hooper recalled, "I was in the back yard planting five hundred pink sweet Williams in my wife's garden, and she hollered out the back door, 'Your secretary just called—the Supreme Court just made a ruling that you're the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court!'" In the final tally he had prevailed by just 262 votes. Hooper smiled broadly and handed me a large photo of his swearing-in ceremony the next day. "That Karl Rove was a very impressive fellow," he said.