Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Haditha Massacre and Unspeakable Evil

Why do we use the phrase "unspeakable evil"? A few things come to mind. It refers to something we don't want to bring back or recreate in the world, even if only in the symbols of language. Also, it is something so wrong, it does not need explication to make us comprehend its horror, a truth that is self-evident. Next, the phrase tells us this is something that does not deserve words, which offer up the possibility of dissent. For me, to say something is unspeakably evil means that it belongs outside the realm of the human, a danger we ward against by refusing it a place in our sharing of the world through language.

The irony, of course, is that we can only convey the unspeakable (horrifying, inhumane, unworthy of existing) nature of a particular evil by speaking about it. Arendt notes that once something new is brought into the world, for good or ill, it is part of that world and may not be undone. It must be made comprehensible, which risks making it less than evil, that the act of explicating what is now before us will become an exculpation of the evil itself.

One of the better attempts to explicate, but not exculpate, what happened is LTC Bob Bateman's story today on Altercation.
Fort Hood, Texas, Summer 1995:

Private Ericsson was the blond-haired blue-eyed epitome of American youth. A little older than his peers at 22, he was often the first to speak up when I called for a response. In this case I had just put forward the question, “What would you do?” to a hypothetical situation in which several prisoners had been captured who may, or may not, know about an ambush the enemy had emplaced for our unit some distance away. The prisoners appeared to be civilians, taken in a village from which we had, in this notional scenario, recently taken fire.

“I’d shoot one of them sir, to see if it got the next one to talk,” said Ericsson with a perfectly straight face.


Please take time to read the rest of LTC Bateman's post. It is not long and it will make you think.

Haditha, the deliberate murder of people who happened to be nearby, is unspeakable evil both because it occured and because it is being accompanied by concerted effort to exculpate those responsible. In the end, the murders were done in our name and in the performance of our military action against a country that had not done us harm.

The responsibility begins with the Marines who pumped bullets into the bodies of children, the youngest victim being about 1 year of age. It goes on to those Marines who did not take lives but who particiapted in the cover up, from the men who did not stop their comrades from murder to the last officer with certain knowledge of the massacre and who chose to look the other way.

The responsibility continues up the "chain of command" to Bush. According to news reports, he claims he had no idea about the Haditha massacre when Time magazine reporters called the White House for comment. Now, either this is a lie, and the White House is complicit in the cover up, or it is the truth, and the White House doesn't consider the butchering of a few dozen civilians, including small children, by American troops to be worth noticing. Either situation is damning.

There is no exculpation for any of these people. They are guilty of crimes against humanity. The higher up the ladder you go, the more abstract this guilt becomes, but it is greater for being one instance among many.

What of responsibility beyond the chain which binds the military and the civilian leadership together in atrocity? Any who try to justify the murder of unarmed civilians as revenge for the death of a soldier is engaging in evil. In their assaults upon those who condemn the murders, declaring evil to be the ground of patriotism and threatening violence against those who reject atrocity, these people are fully, willingly complicit in evil. Trying to invert the atrocity - to make a virtue of an abomination - reenacts the murder of the innocents.

And what of the bulk of the American public who hears of this on the TV or reads a news article, yet remains silent? "But what can I do to stop this? I'm not the President. I can't order soldiers around, or call a halt to the war." No, you can't. But you voted this administration into power in 2004, knowing full well what was being done in your name. You fret about your Democratic candidates not being "exciting" or "liberal" enough, knowing full well that there is no hope of slowing the insanity, let alone stopping it, unless control of Congress is wrested from the Rethuglicans. What is the price of your tax cut? Of your tough sounding rhetoric? Of your contempt for "squishy" politics? Of your ennui?

The price is a three year old girl clasped in her mother's arms with a bullet through her brain.

And that is unspeakable evil.


Google Needs to 'fess Up

Google Unlikely to Make Own Web Browser


May 31,2006 | SAN FRANCISCO -- Google Inc. CEO Eric Schmidt on Wednesday told industry analysts the online search engine leader is unlikely to create its own Web browser, even though the company remains worried about being slighted by the next version of Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer.

Responding to a question during a conference call, Schmidt said Google sees little need to develop its own browser because most people seem satisfied with Explorer and rivals such as Firefox, Apple Computer Inc.'s Safari and Opera.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Google already has a search toolbar installed in Firefox as part of its partnership with the Mozilla open source software project that introduced the browser in 2004.

"We would not build a browser just for the fun of building a browser," Schmidt said.

What Google fails to tell the AP reporter is that it bankrolls FireFox and that people on Google's payroll are the primary developers of the browser. The only reason it doesn't declare formal ownership is because it allows them to play this shell game.

You know, this isn't about the browser. This is about honesty. Why doesn't Mr. Schmidt just say "Google pays for FireFox development," and provide some transparency about their role in supporting it? People should know up front Google's financial stake in this product.

Companies get a lot of mileage off the popular assumption that Microsoft's products are inferior and their business practices are illegal. It amazes me how many people presume that Google or Apple are not just profit-seeking self-interested business operations. Do you think they do what they do out of the goodness of their hearts? Please...

Good legislation, consumer-friendly regulations, and rigorous enforcement are necessities in business because consumers are stupid enough to believe the PR. Keep Microsoft honest, and its competitors, too.


Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Our Constitutional Crisis

Gary Hart and Joyce Appleby have a long and substantial post up on the Huffington Post about the nature of the Constitutional crisis facing the nation. Key graphs here:

During the Cold War, intelligence became a marshal's baton. Those who had access to it, particularly the president, held a trump card over those who did not. The theme of "if you only knew what I knew you wouldn't question my decisions" helped a succession of Cold War president keep Congressional inquiries at bay. It has resonated most blatantly in the George W. Bush administration. "We know secrets having to do with national security that we cannot divulge even to Congress, let alone the American people," has been their message. Access to intelligence, real or imagined, became the justification for unilateral presidential action.

Bush's prosecution of the Iraq war has included similar abuses. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, providing Constitutional means to carry out surveillance, and the Intelligence Identification Protection Act, protecting the identity of undercover intelligence agents, have both been violated by an administration seeking to "restore the power of the presidency," even those powers have been explicitly prohibited by acts of Congress.

The issue of presidential power in wartime has plagued the American republic throughout its history. Once past the founding era principle of "no foreign entanglements," various administrations have tried to use conflict, whether genuine or not, to consolidate and concentrate power in the executive branch. Characterizing the fight against terror as a war has accelerated this pernicious development.

Terror is a method not an ideology or tangible enemy, but declaring "war" on it has enabled the Bush administration to justify unlimited detention of "enemy combatants" (a unique, self-invented category meant to avoid both the criminal justice system and international conventions). So too has the "war on terror" permitted surreptitious domestic wiretaps and surveillance, in violation of U.S. law and in circumvention of established judicial warrant procedures. Its exigencies have been called in to defend unilateral, preemptive invasions of sovereign states....

... Al Qaeda provided the opportunity to carry out the long awaited project of restoring a dominant executive branch. War is always a convenient excuse to do that. Instead of overtly and directly announcing their intensions, the executive "restorationists" carried out their project largely in secret. No speeches were given, no mandate articulated. Senior Bush administration officials simply went about their business of making the presidency primus inter pares despite the importance in the Constitution of maintaining a balance.

The creation of a constitutional crisis became virtually inevitable once this program was in gear. Though the systematic effort to place ideologically motivated judges in federal district courts, courts of appeals, and Supreme Court positions was largely read as motivated by a social agenda centered on reversal of Roe v. Wade, there is now reason to believe that this effort was even more motivated by a realization that extra-constitutional concentration of power in the executive would, sooner or later, required judicial scrutiny and approval.

The Bush administration has built on the Cold War foundations of an imperial president, accelerating the rate of the power shift and openly defending the unlimited nature of the president's power in time of war. Five years and many decisions later, President Bush and his most trusted advisors have pushed the expansion of presidential power so far that we now confront a constitutional crisis.

President Bush has given Commander-in-chief Bush unlimited wartime authority. Relying upon legal opinions from Attorney General Albert Gonzales, then working in the White House, and John Yoo, in the Justice Department, Bush has insisted that there can be no limits to the power of the commander-in-chief in time of war. More recently the president has claimed that laws relating to domestic spying and the torture of detainees do not apply to him.

President Bush's interpretation of his war powers has produced a devilish conundrum, for no peace treaty can possibly bring an end to the fight against terror. There will always be some rogue terrorist. The emergency powers of the president during this "war" can now extend indefinitely, at the pleasure of the president and at great threat to the liberties and rights guaranteed us under the Constitution. The entire scheme has required not just a president intent on accumulating and consolidating executive power, but a compliant Congress, and a judiciary willing to ratify this systematic march toward a quasi-authoritarian structure as well. Arguably, there is no precedent for this dangerous project in American history. Upon its outcome could rest the future of our republic.

There is yet more to read about the nature of the constitution and the deliberate subversion of its checks and balances. Please take time to read the whole thing.

There are two sides to the current Rethuglican assault upon the nation. One is out and out corruption, brought to apotheosis in the K Street Project, to use the federal government as a cash machine for the friends of crooked polititicians. It is the same as we saw in the Gilded Age, and done for exactly the same reasons - there's money for me to steal from you, and I'm going to do it. These guys don't give a rat's ass about governing or public service. They are there for the money.

The second is a frontal attack on the foundations of the nation as such, a deliberate and calculated program to gut out the substance of our laws and turn the nation into an authoritarian state. It is done by declaring perpetual war, and then eviscerating the institutions constructed to place limits upon executive power. As I argued in an earlier post, the doctrines proposed by Abu Gonzales and "Let's Incarcerate" Yoo have the goal of removing barriers and limitations on the arbitrary exercise of power.

The second is by far the more pernicious and dangerous, as it is pursuit of power for power's sake.

The Democrats must win back and hold Congress to clean up the first. Without the ATM machine open, business will be far less interested in supporting "the war effort". But don't forget that MZM is run by a guy deeply involved in the Contra imperial adventure of the Reagan era. Look to the Cunningham scandal to expose the intertwined operations of greed and power.

As for the second, it will take wresting the White House away from the Rethugs and their fascist supporters in broadcasting, and having an administration brave and honest enough to reject the ways in which lawlessness has been woven into the everyday operation of the executive office, exposing the dangers that giving that much power to one branch of government will do to the nation, and then leading the dismantling of those constructs.

Impossible? Perhaps, but what is the alternative?


Monday, May 29, 2006

Dust Still Settling

So, things are getting curiouser and curiouser in the case of the FBI raid, but some fundamental questions are being answered.

The biggest one for me was the question about FBI authority and whether they were acting within the limits of the law. The answer is that the FBI has the legal right to conduct such a search. I'm going off Josh Marshall's Another Question post. Yes, they had the legal authority to do so, and they followed correct procedure, which is a slightly different but no less vital issue.

My initial suspicion was this was an action by the White House to harass Democrats, flood a news cycle with dirt about the opposition, and expand executive power over Congress. Given that these things are SOP for the Cheney administration, it was reasonable, but it still didn't add up, especailly when Hastert began complaining. Then Bush tried to get the papers returned. Then imposed a 45 day lock on the data. It began to look like the WH wasn't behind the raid, or else it didn't go the way the WH wanted.

Next up was the threat by Mueller, McNulty & Gonzales to resign if the WH forced them to return the seized evidence. In conjunction with the WH effort to get the papers returned, the situation is now significantly different. This remains the biggest mystery to me. Mueller's threat makes sense given that he is protecting his agency - plain old-fashioned turf fight there. It should come as no surprise that he wouldn't want the FBI to be given the CIA treatment. I do think, with Mark Klieman, that the "warning shot" fired off against Hastert (a leak that Hastert himself is involved in an investigation, with the implication that it is an investigation of him directly) is an illegitimate use of inside information to inflict political harm. That it was done to a politician I loathe and wish to see thrown out of office does not make it less objectionable. The next time it could be a leak about a Democrat.

The question is why are DOJ guys, Gonzales and McNulty, also threatening to resign? That's a really drastic action. I find it difficult to beleive that two political hacks who owe their current power to ass-kissing the Cheney regime have suddenly grown backbones and are acting from principle. So far, I have yet to read or deduce an explanation that will acount for their actions.

It's beginning to look like the WH and Hasert are working together to try to keep this from becoming precedent, and for good reason - they are up to their eyeballs in dirty deals. Again, I turn to the ever-reliable work by Josh Marshall and the terrific reporters of the TPM group - it is strongly in the Rethug corruption machine's interest to create rules to hamstring concerted efforts to uncover their own malfeasance. The California Rethug gang is really going to get hammered on this.

It still leaves why the FBI decided to use Rep. Jefferson as an example. I do think both partisanship and racism played a role, particularly when various accounts indicate that they had a solid case against this guy without having to raid his office. The most salient reason, though, is also the most simple - they needed a slam-dunk case on which to base what they knew would be a very daring move, one that would be fought by the WH. They need precedent. If the first raid (and, yes, there will be others) had been against, say, Rep. Jerry Lewis or another white male insider Rethug, the battle would have been more aggressive to force the FBI to back down. Think about the way that the CIA (!!!) is being cast as a hotbed of liberal Democrats out to bring down the WH. (If only...) Going after a Dem helps to protect the agency from such claims. I think we can expect to see news accounts in the coming weeks trying to make that argument, but it is going to be harder to make it stick.

This puts Dems in a dangerous position. On the one hand, it seems a no-brainer to flatly declare if Rep. X is involved in a felony, then the party stands with the law, not the person. Clean government, accountability, etc. On the other, it's not a mistake that the FBI went after a black Democrat from the south. The history of racism (Mississippi Burning notwithstanding) in the FBI is one of the least honorable facets of the agency, and the Democratic leadership is right to be wary of appearing to throw a black representative to the wolves. Invoking law and order is not going to go over well with constituents who have reason to doubt the integrity and motivations of the police. Thus, I'm not going to bash Pelosi for insisting on accountability and transparency on the part of the FBI, particularly when joined to her requests that Rep. Jefferson step down from his committee seat.

I did enjoy reading Rep. Barney Frank's (Dem., Reality) short, sharp, and smart smack-down of the Rethug maneuverings to protect their asses:
(Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts asked and was given permission to address the House for 1 minute.)

Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Madam Speaker, I disagree with the bipartisan House leadership criticism of the FBI's search of a Member's office. I know nothing specifically about the case, except that the uncontroverted public evidence did seem to justify the issuance of a warrant.

What we now have is a Congressional leadership, the Republican part of which has said it is okay for law enforcement to engage in warrantless searches of the average citizen, now objecting when a search, pursuant to a validly issued warrant, is conducted of a Member of Congress.

I understand that the speech and debate clause is in the Constitution. It is there because Queen Elizabeth I and King James I were disrespectful of Parliament. It ought to be, in my judgment, construed narrowly. It should not be in any way interpreted as meaning that we as Members of Congress have legal protections superior to those of the average citizen.

So I think it was a grave error to have criticized the FBI. I think what they did, they ought to be able to do in every case where they can get a warrant from a judge. I think, in particular, for the leadership of this House, which has stood idly by while this administration has ignored the rights of citizens, to then say we have special rights as Members of Congress is wholly inappropriate.

(BTW, if you don't get your long distance phone service through Working Assets, the parent organization of Working For Change, you should. They have cellphone service, too.)

Even so, the raid on Rep. Jefferson has the potential to have electoral costs for the Dems in November. The party leadership is going to have to be rigorous in its adherence to procedure in public, and work like crazy behind the scenes to keep Jefferson from using race politics to try to avoid prosecution. Liars to the left, bastards to the right, and they're stuck in the middle with the howling storm of comfortable white middle-class self-righteousness. Unenviable position to be in, is all I can say.

This will be a long time unfolding. The Dems are really on the sidelines with it, except when brought out to be smacked around for some entertainment by the main players. The best that can be said is it looks like Jefferson will be out of the picture relatively soon.


Saturday, May 27, 2006

Billmon in Cairo

And now for something completely different. Billmon, my favorite blogger, was attending an economic conference in Egypt last week, and did some great blogging about Sharm El-Sheikh. Then, there was nothing for a few days. Last night, he posted what has to be one of the funniest accounts of trying to catch a train I have ever read. The intro:
Every since I was a small boy, and used to spend hours pouring over maps of faraway places and dreaming about the treasures hidden there, one of my dreams has been to take a train down the Nile, into the heart of Africa. Riding first-class to Luxor on the Egyptian national railway isn’t quite the same thing, but it’s close enough, and that’s what I was set to do after I left Sharm el-Sheikh and the World Economic Forum behind. Last Tuesday, however, my dream was almost shattered, probably beyond repair, because of a large red spot on the corner of a $10 bill.

It would have been entirely my fault. For once in my life, I forgot the traveler’s gold rule: cash is king. And because I forgot, I arrived at the Cairo train station Tuesday morning with only twenty Egyptian pounds (or about $3) in my pocket – 47 less than the price of a first-class ticket to Luxor. And that almost kept me from going to Luxor at all.

I know what you’re thinking: What about that $10 bill with the red spot on the corner. What the hell does that have to do with rail travel in Egypt? I’ll get to that, but first let explain why I ended up in a strange city in the Middle East with virtually no ready cash.

In my younger days (or, as my son prefers to say, back in the Late Stone Age) I always traveled with a thick wad of American Express travelers checks tucked away in my money belt. I had a rather bad experience as a teenager alone in New York City with very little money trying to get a paycheck cashed (I know it sounds stupid, but I was just a kid.) Ever since then I’ve had a healthy respect for the power of liquidity, enough to want to be sure I’m floating in it whenever I’m far away from home.

All's Well That Ends Well

Please, take time out of your day and read the whole thing. It is long but worth the read. You'll be glad you did.


Friday, May 26, 2006

The Rude Pundit on Al Gore

This is exactly right. The Rude Pundit went to the talk Al Gore held in New York after the screening of An Inconvenient Truth and does a little reporting:

Last night, Gore was as you've heard, loose, funny, and smart. Goddamn, so fuckin' smart. Every time he opened his mouth to discuss some aspect of melting ice caps or fuel efficiency, you just wanted to weep, thinking, "Jesus Christ, he won. Motherfucker won. He should be our president right now, not that inarticulate, shit-tossing baboon hunched in the ditch next to Tony Blair right now." What Gore does better than anyone in the Democratic Party right now, from Hillary Clinton to Russ Feingold, is articulate liberal issues as moral callings. Not squishy, feel-good sentiments, but deep in the soul, religious, even, moral purposes. Like, you know, Christians are supposed to do.

Essentially, Gore's mission on global warming is rhetorically similar to George Bush's mission in Iraq: revolution now so that the future can be secure. The difference, of course, is that Gore isn't a liar, and he doesn't have to hype the evidence. Gore approaches his subject the way every politician ought to lead: he knows he's right, and he's so right that others are wrong....

Gore joked (earlier he had called politicians "a renewable resource"), and he said he had "no intention" to run for President. Then he turned it around, speaking quietly, which, whenever he does, it's time to listen. He made a statement about the power of the people, of James Madison's "informed electorate," and about the responsibility of citizens to be active participants in the destiny of the nation. For Gore, running for President would give him the wide national platform to even discuss these issues. But more important to him is a politics of engagement, whether in power or not.

Emphasis added.

The long knives on the right are out for Al already because they know he isn't afraid and won't be turned aside. They have nothing to hold over him and no one to compare to him. If you think the neo-cons hate Hillary (and they do even more than you know), then you ain't seen nuthin' compared to how they hate Al.

Here, idiot Left, here is the person you say you want. Serious, committted, intelligent, determined, 100% dedicated to liberal policies and objectives, and not an ounce of pandering. Al is our next president if you will support him - now and every step of the way to November 2008.

Al Gore - He Won Last Time, Too


FBI and Congress

This all stinks to high heaven.

I think we're seeing the White House trying to rough up the Congress with (very credible) threats of investigation and arrest for corruption.

There's a few issues muddying the waters. There's the factual question of did Rep. Jefferson commit the crimes the FBI says he did? So far, the evidence looks pretty darn strong that he did. The results of that will be decided in court.

There's the problem of the Congress being unwilling to police its members using the structures and procedures created for that purpose. On this point, Mark Klieman is right - the Democrats have to do something drastic to force the Rethugs' hand on their "give 'em a pass" perversion of the process.

There's the problem of the FBI, never an organization noted for its adherance to democratic proprieties, busting into the offices of a sitting congress critter in the middle of the day. In their favor is the warrant. It may be shown that they had exhausted all other reasonable means for obtaining necessary evidence. The point is we don't know the legitimacy of their act, but we do know that it is a very bad precedent for an executive police bureau to go after people in other governmental branches without extreme extenuating circumstances. They may exist, but that case hasn't been made.

There is the problem of timing and targets. Rep. Jefferson is a black Democrat. He is being subjected to a level of search and seizure that Rep. Cunningham, a white, Rethug lackey, was not. Why, of all the corruption probes going on, was this person targeted, guilty or not? Maximizing political embarrassment for the Dems.

Finally, there is the leak of Hastert's participation, however tangential, in some investigation. That was a bully tactic, plain and simple. Was it ordered by the WH, or did the FBI do this bit of intimidation on its own? Both are equally bad prospects. While I'd love to see Hastert bounced out of there, I don't want him gone so badly that I'll approve of the FBI bullying legislators.

Rep. Jefferson needs to step down now to deal with the corruption charges, and he needs to not demean himself or the nation by claiming this is racially motivated. Period.

The FBI does not need its powers expanded, and they should not be rewarded for invading the Capitol. They have to prove that they had no other recourse in this case, and even then the choice of target and the timing of the raid remain suspect.

I'm agreeing with Mark Kleiman on this one - unless the Congress (and that means the Dems) get off their asses and enforce their own discipline, they will get no support when they try to fend off the assault of the exective branch for political purposes.

If the Dems do take back one or both houses in teh November election, I think you can expect more raids for less cause by the FBI.


Thursday, May 25, 2006

Oh, Cry Me a River...

The left blogosphere indignation over the NYT article doing a pre-emptive character assassination on Hillary Clinton has me wanting to throw things through their hypocritical windows.

The nastiest critics of Hillary are Atrios, Kos and all their little ass-kissing, enemies-list-creating neo-Naderite hordes. Or whores. Same difference.

Enough with the faux outrage. You know your first reaction was "Heh, no way that bitch is going to win now. Heh."

You have spent six years saying things no less insulting than Broder about Bill Clinton. What does Jane Hamsher sneeringly call him just a few days back? "Bubba" "The best Republican president in my lifetime." And so on. You're already talking about Gore as a loser and how you just can't be bothered to support someone like that.

You know, twice as smart and capable as you are, with a keen understanding of how to balance interests to achieve liberal goals?

You hold the Clintons in contempt just as much as MoDo, Broder, NYT and the rest of the Kewl Kidz. You are just as happy to bash center-left Democrats as Rush Limbaugh. You give no strokes for good behavior and heap scorn (and a wildly overrated book) on their heads from the comfort of your keyboards.

You are the left equivalent of the 101st Fighting Keyboarders. You even have the same targets.

So, save me the crocodile tears. You will be back to verbally raping Hillary on your blogs within 48 hours. You know you want to...


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

What Kevin Said

Hey, Kevin Drum is on a roll (with a side of jicama slaw). I blog on one post and see he has another. The key bits:
[W]what truly makes [Bush] unique is what's missing: a respect for policy analysis. After eight months of working in the Bush White House, John DiIulio reported that "the lack of even basic policy knowledge, and the only casual interest in knowing more, was somewhat breathtaking." Paul O'Neill described Bush in cabinet meetings as "a blind man in a roomful of deaf people." A senior White House official told Ron Suskind that the Bush White House is "just kids on Big Wheels who talk politics and know nothing. It’s depressing." The meltdown at FEMA, the war with the CIA for being insufficiently hawkish, the lack of a serious plan for Social Security privatization, the staffing of postwar Iraq with inexperienced ideologues — all of these things have the same root cause: a belief that ideas are all that matter.

Of course, that also means that President Bush's initiatives fail at a truly spectacular rate. After all, policy is all about figuring out how to implement ideas so that they actually work. If you believe that policy is something for effete liberal wonks — as George Bush evidently does — your ideas are doomed to failure. In the end, ironically, the one thing that Bush disdains so utterly is the very thing that guarantees his utter failure.

The Death of Policy

Well, there's failing and there's failing. It strikes me that there is a policy that Bush unfailingly follows - enrich my base. He has pumped more money into corporate hands both directly through government contracts and indirectly through government crises and blunders than most other presidents. I suspect you'd have to look at WWII to see a comparable portion of GDP being funneled to private interest.

His practice of destroying insitutional boundaries in order to expand his own power might be considered a successful policy.

The trouble is (and this relates to the last post) unless he can retain power (which could be considered the third player in this little triangle of greed), these policies cannot persist. Unfettered power ==> enrich my buddies ==> maintain death grip on levers of power ==> unfettered power ==> Rinse. Repeat.


Yes, This is a Problem

Kevin Drum presents commentary and links on the El-Masri suit against the US:
STATE SECRETS REVISITED....A couple of days ago I mentioned the "state secrets privilege" that allowed the Bush administration to throw out Khaled El-Masri's suit against the government for mistakenly kidnapping and torturing him. In Slate today, Henry Lanman provides more detail. The problem, he says, isn't just that the privilege is being used far more often than it used to be, it's that it's being used more broadly. In the past, it was used to exclude specific pieces of evidence that might have compromised national security, but today it's being used to keep cases from even coming to trial

Here it is in nice and simple langauge that even Rethuglicans might understand. If the government commits a crime against you, then prevents that crime from being investigated because they claim it might do them harm by being investigated, and the court says "OK", you are living in a dictatorship. The administration dictates the terms of its rule to the nation, and you have grounds on which to reject their pronouncements, even if it means they can take you out and shoot you.

And that is a problem.

The bigger problem is the 30+% of Americans who don't consider it a problem that their government arbitrarily totures and murders people. I really don't want to understand how you became to be such sick little fucktards. Especially those of you who support Bush because he's such a "Christian" man.


Sunday, May 21, 2006

Where Are the Ponies?

Larry Beinhart over on the Huffington Post sums it up beautifully:

“If someone is calling al Qaeda, we want to know about it.”

Yes, sir, you bet. Alright, General Hayden, you’ve been in charge of finding out if anyone is calling al Qaeda. You’ve spent hundreds of millions, maybe billions. You’ve built a data base to see if anyone is calling anyone who calls in a pattern that an al Qaeda member would call if he were making calls.

More gargantuan sums of money, time and effort.

Line ‘em up and show us the results. Let’s have the perp walk of all the al Qaedas, all the al Qaeda caller uppers you’ve located, investigated, caught, apprehended and brought to trial! With all this horseshit there must be a whole herd of ponies.

Get on the stand and regale with tales of success. Of plots thwarted. Of desperate measures intercepted. Of terrorists captured or killed.

Tell us how you’ve located Osama bin Laden.

It’s been over four and a half years. Unlimited budget. Unlimited military might. No visible moral constraints. Tell us how you’ve tracked him down, hung him high and busted up his ring!

Don’t tell merely that there have been no terrorists incidents since 9/11. It’s a lot tougher action to pull off since then, with every eye of every American, with all the airlines and airports and security companies, the local and state police, immigration and customs, all on alert. We don’t have to hear about all kinds of secret stuff you did to stop the next 9/11.

Let’s not bother with that namby-pampy wimpy liberal stuff about civil rights, the constitution and no one being above the law not even you and the president you rode in on. You’re argument is you gotta do what it takes and the ends justify the means and it is security that makes us safe to enjoy whichever liberties we have left that we would like to enjoy in moderation.

So, let’s take it on your terms. We see the horseshit. Show us the ponies.

Or admit that you have failed. Admit that all this effort and show and money, has bought us nought. Let us count the terrorists caught or interdicted. Let us see that it was only through your less than legal programs that we got them.

It can’t be that your success is just too secret to share. I expect that it’s your failures that hide behind the coy veil of national security.

With All This Horseshit

Exactly. The Cheney regime has had everything it could want to get Bin Laden and his band of thugs. Where the hell are the results? For this reason alone, these bastards deserve to be thrown out of office. When we start adding in all the other horseshit, they deserve to be charged with high crimes and misdemeanors.


Analyzing Connecticut - Good News

Hat tip to my good buddy Fergus on this one.

In my previous post, I said I was worried about Lieberman losing the primary and then running as an Independent, thus spoiling Lamont's chances for a senatorial win. Fergus let me know that Lieberman does not have that option. If he intends to run as an Independent, he has to declare as one before the August Democratic primary.

Unless the Lieberman campaign has internal poll numbers that show him losing decisively in the primary, he will not bolt the party. That means he is going to have to face a Democratic only vote (no Rethug sympathy votes) against a strong challenger in August. If Lieberman does bolt, I think that's it for his political future. I don't think he can win in that capacity - the Rethugs will (rightly) see a chance for victory and rally to their guy, while on-the-fence Dems will focus anger on him for trying to spoil the party's choice.

The most likely outcome, however, is that Lieberman will win the primary with a clear majority, but far less votes than an incumbent should receive. Lamont's convention numbers would have to have been closer to 50% to make me believe there is solid voter support (vs. support among political junkies), and the claim that there were people who wanted to vote for him but remained silent sounds just like Nixon's claim about the Silent Majority, in short, wishful thinking.

At this point, it comes down to who the CT Dems want as their candidate. The number of voters in CT who don't want Lieberman (which is a larger number than those who do want Lamont) is unknown. I'd like to see some non-partisan poll numbers on what the voters think. Netroots agitating is not an accurate measure of local voter preference.


Friday, May 19, 2006

Analyzing Connecticut

Several blogs report that Ned Lamont has secured enough delegates at the Connecticut Democratic Part convention to trigger a primary face-off with Joe Lieberman in August. Short-term, this is probably a losing proposition for Democrats. Long-term, this will be to their advantage.

I predict that the primary will be extremely close, and that Lamont is unlikely to win. If he does, Lieberman will run as a spoiler, preferring to throw the November election to the Republican than allow another Democrat into that seat. The party dinosaurs will dither, unwilling to overthrow one of their own but scared to anger a significant minority of the party, and in doing so will lose all credibility with either side.

That's politics. I'm looking at it like I'm looking at the various slow-motion train wrecks happening in America today. I hope Dean will come down squarely behind the primary winner, even if the winner is Lieberman. Why? Because party discipline is more important than any other consideration until Dems get the Congress back.

It's for the CT Dems to pick their senator. If they pick Holy Joe, then the netroots left needs to rein in its outsized sense of moral outrage and vote for party dominance. They won't, of course, and will probably spoil the election, just as the cautious left won't whole-heartedly endorse Lamont should he take the primary, emboldening Lieberman to backstab the party. A Lieberman primary loss is more likely to cost the party the seat due to Lieberman's entrenched constituency. He only needs to collect 3%-4% of the November ballot to spoil the race for Lamont, just as it will only take a sliver of the Lamont supporters refusing to vote for Lieberman to lose it the other way. While it is more "expensive" in voting terms to make a voter switch party affiliation than to refrain from voting, the balance on either side in vote defections is probably about equal.

Heads, the Rethugs win; tails, the Dems lose.

So, looks like the Dems are losing another Senate seat. In the long-run, as I said above, it is probably worth it as it is unlikely that Lieberman can come back to win the seat. There's really no other way to dispose of an incumbent, short of a heart-attack or a plane crash.

The Democrats have an opportunity to replace a senior but untrustworthy incumbent with an untried but inspiring newcomer. It is for the CT voters to decide which one best represents their interests. Once that choice is made, whether for Lamont or for Lieberman, the national party needs to put itself 100% behind the winner of the primary, and the voters need to punch the ticket. No fudging, hemming or hawing. They need to back the choice of the CT Democrats.

If Lieberman loses and tries to run as an Independent, as he has hinted he will do, he must be denounced by the party leadership (state and national) in the harshest terms. Sure, it's a free country and anyone can run for anything they like, but the party needs to stand up for itself.

Until it does, it cannot beat the Rethuglican machine.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

More Atrocities by US Troops in Iraq

This is so ghastly on every level. It appears that US Marines executed a family, innocent of any crime or wrong-doing, in retaliation for one of their members being killed. From the MSNBC article:

The video, obtained by Time magazine, was broadcast a day after town residents told The Associated Press that American troops entered homes on Nov. 19 and shot dead 15 members of two families, including a 3-year-old girl, after a roadside bomb killed a U.S. Marine.

On Nov. 20, U.S. Marines spokesman Capt. Jeffrey Pool issued a statement saying that on the previous day a roadside bomb had killed 15 civilians and a Marine. In a later gunbattle, U.S. and Iraqi troops killed eight insurgents, he said.

U.S. military officials later confirmed that the version of events was wrong.

Murtha, a vocal opponent of the war in Iraq, said at a news conference Wednesday that sources within the military have told him that an internal investigation will show that "there was no firefight, there was no IED (improvised explosive device) that killed these innocent people. Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood."

Military officials say Marine Corp photos taken immediately after the incident show many of the victims were shot at close range, in the head and chest, execution-style. One photo shows a mother and young child bent over on the floor as if in prayer, shot dead, said the officials, who spoke to NBC News on condition of anonymity because the investigation hasn't been completed.

One military official says it appears the civilians were deliberately killed by the Marines, who were outraged at the death of their fellow Marine.

"This one is ugly," one official told NBC News.

Lawmaker: Marines killed Iraqis 'in cold blood'

No, this isn't "ugly". It isn't even tragic. It's in Armegeddon zone, where what was done does little except illustrate how un-American we have become. As I said so long ago, placing the troops in Iraq in the war-on-the-cheap, make-money-for-contractors style has only one guarantee - that it will lead to atrocities.

The situation is an utter clusterfuck. Soldiers who like death, destruction, mahem, torture, and war crimes have a green light from Donald Rumsfeld himself to act out their worst impulses. Soldiers who do not want to do this kind of shit are thrown into situations where they have no choice, as Garry Trudeau is illustrating so horribly in his story line about BD. Click the links for full sized images - I don't want to reduce their size to fit on the blog.
US soldiers everywhere are being tarred with the atrocities committed by their benighted fellows even as they are increasingly likely to be placed in situations where they will be forced to make impossible choices.

Remind me again, why are we in Iraq? No connection between Hussein and 9/11, no WMD, so many lies to trick the public and Congress to approve it, and now the annihilation of whatever moral or ethical power we had. Iraqis are less secure than under their dictator, oil prices are skyrocketing, and nations with real nuclear capabilities are flipping us the bird when we sabre rattle.

This is the truth, and I'm not sure how many of my countrymen understand just what this is going to do to our nation for the next fifty years.

"Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just."
Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

What is There to Say, Really?

The Cheney administration is the Nixon administration on steroids - more secretive, more paranoid, more brutal, more arrogant, more dishonest, more of everything.

They have consistently exploited law, emotion, trust, money and power to expand their maniacal grab to control everything.

They arrest people without cause, send them to secret torture camps and brutalize them, including murdering them. They spy on ordinary Americans in their ordinary lives. They have yet to capture any significant terrorists, and have not done anything appreciable to defend endangered locations in the country, yet continually use the threat of "The terrorists are going to get you!" to justify their rule.

They abuse national intelligence to advance their political aims and to smear political enemies, even when doing so materially harms America. Valerie Plame was working on keeping nuclear material out of Iran, and now they have it, to name the most famous example. When their criminality is uncovered, they scream that the whistle-blowers are traitors and engage in more illegal surveillance to punish their critics.

They are looting the treasury, handing out federal contracts to felons and lackeys, and holding stupid publicity stunts like sending National Guardsmen to patrol one border until the November elections.

They aggressively try to militarize and nationalize police functions and advocate expanding the Secret Service into their own private federal police force.

They are, as Bob Herbert succinctly said in his latest column, totalitarians. They may not have been able to implement it completely, but that is their clear intent.

Isn't it ironic that the party of Reagan is the one trying to resurrect the shambling corpse of Joseph Stalin?

Isn't it disgusting that any American is willing to help?


Monday, May 15, 2006

Krugman - D for Debacle

I'm still chewing on the various bits of news coming out today, so in the mean time, here's Krugman's latest:

Today is the last day to sign up for Medicare Part D, the prescription drug benefit. It appears that millions of Americans, confused by the array of competing plans or simply unaware of the cutoff date, will miss the deadline. This will leave them without drug coverage for the rest of the year, and subject to financial penalties for the rest of their lives.

President Bush refuses to extend the sign-up period. "Deadlines," he said last week, "help people understand there's finality, and people need to get after it, you know?" His real objection to extending the deadline is probably that this would be an implicit admission that his administration botched the program's start-up. And Mr. Bush never, ever admits mistakes.

But Part D's bad start isn't just another illustration of the administration's trademark incompetence. It's also an object lesson in what happens when the government is run by people who aren't interested in the business of governing.


After all, prescription drug coverage didn't have to be bafflingly complex. Drug coverage could simply have been added to traditional Medicare. If the government had done that, everyone currently covered by Medicare would automatically have been enrolled in the drug benefit.

Adding drug coverage as part of ordinary Medicare would also have saved a lot of money, both by eliminating the cost of employing private insurance companies as middlemen and by allowing the government to negotiate lower drug prices. This would have made it possible to offer a better benefit at much less cost to taxpayers.

But while a straightforward addition of drug coverage to Medicare would have been good policy, it would have been bad politics from the point of view of conservatives, who want to privatize traditional social insurance programs, not make them better.

Moreover, administration officials and their allies in Congress had both political and personal incentives not to do anything that might reduce the profits of insurance and drug companies. Both the insurance industry and, especially, the pharmaceutical industry are major campaign contributors. And soon after the drug bill was passed, the congressman and the administration official most responsible for drafting the legislation both left public service to become lobbyists.

So what we got was a drug program set up to serve the administration's friends and its political agenda, not the alleged beneficiaries. Instead of providing drug coverage directly, Part D is a complex system of subsidies to private insurance companies. The administration's insistence on running the program through these companies, which provide little if any additional value beyond what Medicare could easily have provided directly, is what makes the whole thing so complicated. And that complication, combined with an obvious lack of interest in making the system work, is what led to the disastrous start-up.

Ripping off people to line their own pockets while accusing administration critics of treason - that is the Bush junta in a nutshell, folks.


Sunday, May 14, 2006


The blogroll to the right has been updated. There was a lot of cruft left over from the last election, some of my blog favorites like Respectful of Otters and Fafblog! have gone dormant, and I've come across a set of new sites I find interesting.

Rude Pundit is NOT work safe. Ever. OK? You've been warned.

Whiskey Bar is the best political analysis on the web, bar none, but posting can be erratic.

TPM and TPM Muckraker are must-reads. Multiple times per day.

By Neddie Jingo! is just... odd.

The rest are a collection of sites that interest me at different times for different reasons.


Call Him Al

The next president, that is.

Al Gore in 2008.

Why not? He won last time, too.

He invented the internets, knows more about global warming (and how to fight it) than any other public figure, is 100% trained for the job, opposes a surveillance state, and is respected around the world as an honest and intelligent man.

In the coming decade, it is not policy, but leadership that we are going to need. Now, Al's no slouch on policy (only out-wonked by the Big Dog, after all), but he has a vision, he knows where he wants to go, he harbors no illusions of what he's up against, and he's on his way.

Why will he win? Because he won't be campaigning. He'll simply say, "Take it or leave it, this is what you get."

Re-elect Al Gore in 2008 - integrity & leadership.


Not Ogres, But Ordinary Men

For the ruthless machines of domination and extermination, the masses of coordinated philistines provided much better material and were capable of even greater crimes than so-called professional criminals, provided that these crimes were well organized and assumed the appearance of routine jobs...

[Himmler] proved his supreme ability for organizing the masses into total domination by assuming that most people are neither bohemians, fanatics, adventurers, sex maniacs, crackpots, nor social failures, but first and foremost job holders and good family men...

The mass man whom Himmler organized for the greatest mass crimes ever committed in history bore the features of the philistine rather than of the mob man, and was the bourgeois who in the midst of the ruins of his world worried about nothing so much as his private security, was ready to sacrifice everything – belief, honor, dignity – on the slightest provocation. Nothing proved easier to destroy than the privacy and private morality of people who thought of nothing but safeguarding their private lives.

Hannah Arendt, "A Classless Society,"
The Origins of Totalitarianism

The difference between, on the one hand, executive branch members eavesdropping on our conversations or reading our e-mail, instant messages, or postcards, and, on the other hand, computers generating a report on every electronic contact every one of us ever makes is important to the executive branch's defense of the still mostly undisclosed NSA conduct. Yet the former is in a practical sense arguably less troubling, because obviously it is more limited; there aren't enough government employees to read all our mail or listen to all our chitchat. By contrast, the NSA computers give humans the capability to know everyone who each one of us ever contacts. With that information these humans are empowered to suspect, in effect, everyone of anything. They then can act on such suspicions.

After all, the NSA computers do not just store information. Presumably they suggest possible conspiracies reflected in the data, in accordance with the assumptions that NSA oficers imparted to the computers' intelligence. The assumptions, perhaps, were not defined by law or reviewed by any court. The computers' suggestions are then reviewed by people and turned into reports, one presumes, that are circulated to other people. All this still occurs outside any known legal framework or possible judicial review. The readers ask for more information, and perhaps order punitive action. No one outside the executive branch knows whether non-uniformed, political people have the power to order inquiries and action, but perhaps they do. In any event, it must be true that the computers' examination of phone records at a minimum spawns other investigations and presumably arrests. Is all that also done without warrants or judicial oversight?

None of the folks involved in watching all of us wants to do the wrong thing; each wants to assure peace and security for us. But they are not, as far as reports indicate, operating according to any legal structure familiar to Americans. Their actions are not reviewed by independent judges. They did not tell the Attorney General what they were doing and don't propose to fill that person in. They compose a clandestine organization of watchers guided only by their own sense of right and wrong. However unerring might be that sense of theirs, for the rest of us Americans to place blind trust in, and passively submit to, unknown and unchecked governmental power would be strange. After all, that behavior is part of what our forebears fought the American Revolution to assure would not be an element of our culture.

Reed Hunt, "A Very Different America," TPM Cafe

Arendt's words, 55 years old, are as relevant today as when they were published, indeed, more so. The abstraction that computer data warehouses place between the people running the programs and the people affected by the decisions made as a result of that analysis increases the likelihood of atrocities occuring because the analyst is that much more removed and isolated from knowing the results of her actions. I think of the plot in the movie Brazil where an innocent man is abducted, tortured and murdered because of a typo in a government record. I think of the people currently in Gitmo or the black prisons in Eastern Europe who are enduring the same because of mistaken identity. (No, I don't condone torture and murder when the person has been ID'd correctly, either.)

But we needn't posit atrocities to object to what is done. What about being unable to find a job because you are on an NSA shit list? Unable to get credit? Be denied an airplane ticket? Be denied health insurance because the results of the data mining are sold to find the program and now the insurance industry has deemed you too much of a risk?

Hunt is right that the individuals doing the analysis need not be criminals or "bad" people. They need only be good family men (and women) just trying to do their job and take care of their own private interest. They may never know what their small analytic role is in the larger unfolding of total surveillance nor how it affects you. They can be like the soldiers who very earnestly believed that Iraq had something to do with 9/11, so they are serving the national good by fighting the enemy there.

The lack of the rule of law and its instantiation in the world - a legal ruling - removes the last anchor that the ordinary analyst, the good and sincere worker, has to allow them to resist participating in an atrocity. If the measure of right is the Preznit's desire that X or Y be done, then it becomes a battle of ethical wills (or, rather a battle between an ethical will and the amoral abyss) as to whether the person will do X analysis. This is what the whistleblowers know. A claim that so-and-so would never do anything wrong may be factually true, but it is institutionally usupportable. The reality that people act to preserve their own interests, even if they know those interests are wrong, can be countered only through a standardization of allowable actions, authorized by law and codified into impersonal rules.

That is why the NSA surveillance operation must be brought under strict FISA control. This is why is it not enough that Hayden be a personally nice guy who wants to do right. We cannot trust to individual decisions on what is acceptable intrusion into the digital markers of our lives. It is too late to put the data warehouse genie back in the bottle - it can just as easily be moved to a new set of servers and conducted clandestinely. What is needed is the light of day peering into the activities, and support given to the ordinary people who need help resisting the siren song of "It's for your own good. Just run that report."

After all, we are all philistines.


Will the Real Traitors Please Stand Up?

The key points in Frank Rich's latest column. Emphasis added.
WHEN America panics, it goes hunting for scapegoats. But from Salem onward, we've more often than not ended up pillorying the innocent. Abe Rosenthal, the legendary Times editor who died last week, and his publisher, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, were denounced as treasonous in 1971 when they defied the Nixon administration to publish the Pentagon Papers, the secret government history of the Vietnam War. Today we know who the real traitors were: the officials who squandered American blood and treasure on an ill-considered war and then tried to cover up their lies and mistakes. It was precisely those lies and mistakes, of course, that were laid bare by the thousands of pages of classified Pentagon documents leaked to both The Times and The Washington Post.

This history is predictably repeating itself now that the public has turned on the war in Iraq. The administration's die-hard defenders are desperate to deflect blame for the fiasco, and, guess what, the traitors once again are The Times and The Post. This time the newspapers committed the crime of exposing warrantless spying on Americans by the National Security Agency (The Times) and the C.I.A.'s secret "black site" Eastern European prisons (The Post). Aping the Nixon template, the current White House tried to stop both papers from publishing and when that failed impugned their patriotism.


We can see this charade for what it is: a Hail Mary pass by the leaders who bungled a war and want to change the subject to the journalists who caught them in the act. What really angers the White House and its defenders about both the Post and Times scoops are not the legal questions the stories raise about unregulated gulags and unconstitutional domestic snooping, but the unmasking of yet more administration failures in a war effort riddled with ineptitude. It's the recklessness at the top of our government, not the press's exposure of it, that has truly aided the enemy, put American lives at risk and potentially sabotaged national security. That's where the buck stops, and if there's to be a witch hunt for traitors, that's where it should begin.


If this (NSA Spying) is one of our "most effective" programs, we're in worse trouble than we thought. Our enemy is smart enough to figure out on its own that its phone calls are monitored 24/7, since even under existing law the government can eavesdrop for 72 hours before seeking a warrant (which is almost always granted). As The Times subsequently reported, the N.S.A. program was worse than ineffective; it was counterproductive. Its gusher of data wasted F.B.I. time and manpower on wild-goose chases and minor leads while uncovering no new active Qaeda plots in the United States. Like the N.S.A. database on 200 million American phone customers that was described last week by USA Today, this program may have more to do with monitoring "traitors" like reporters and leakers than with tracking terrorists.

Journalists and whistle-blowers who relay such government blunders are easily defended against the charge of treason. It's often those who make the accusations we should be most worried about. Mr. Goss, a particularly vivid example, should not escape into retirement unexamined. He was so inept that an overzealous witch hunter might mistake him for a Qaeda double agent.

Even before he went to the C.I.A., he was a drag on national security. In "Breakdown," a book about intelligence failures before the 9/11 attacks, the conservative journalist Bill Gertz delineates how Mr. Goss, then chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, played a major role in abdicating Congressional oversight of the C.I.A., trying to cover up its poor performance while terrorists plotted with impunity. After 9/11, his committee's "investigation" of what went wrong was notoriously toothless.

Once he ascended to the C.I.A. in 2004, Mr. Goss behaved like most other Bush appointees: he put politics ahead of the national interest, and stashed cronies and partisan hacks in crucial positions. On Friday, the F.B.I. searched the home and office of one of them, Dusty Foggo, the No. 3 agency official in the Goss regime. Mr. Foggo is being investigated by four federal agencies pursuing the bribery scandal that has already landed former Congressman Randy (Duke) Cunningham in jail. Though Washington is titillated by gossip about prostitutes and Watergate "poker parties" swirling around this Warren Harding-like tale, at least the grafters of Teapot Dome didn't play games with the nation's defense during wartime.


What prompted Mr. Goss's about-face was revealed in his early memo instructing C.I.A. employees to "support the administration and its policies in our work." His mission was not to protect our country but to prevent the airing of administration dirty laundry, including leaks detailing how the White House ignored accurate C.I.A. intelligence on Iraq before the war. On his watch, C.I.A. lawyers also tried to halt publication of "Jawbreaker," the former clandestine officer Gary Berntsen's account of how the American command let Osama bin Laden escape when Mr. Berntsen's team had him trapped in Tora Bora in December 2001. The one officer fired for alleged leaking during the Goss purge had no access to classified intelligence about secret prisons but was presumably a witness to her boss's management disasters.


This being an election year, Karl Rove hopes the (Hayden) hearings can portray Bush opponents as soft on terrorism when they question any national security move. It was this bullying that led so many Democrats to rubber-stamp the Iraq war resolution in the 2002 election season and Mr. Goss's appointment in the autumn of 2004.

Will they fall into the same trap in 2006? Will they be so busy soliloquizing about civil liberties that they'll fail to investigate the nominee's record? It was under General Hayden, a self-styled electronic surveillance whiz, that the N.S.A. intercepted actual Qaeda messages on Sept. 10, 2001 — "Tomorrow is zero hour" for one — and failed to translate them until Sept. 12. That same fateful summer, General Hayden's N.S.A. also failed to recognize that "some of the terrorists had set up shop literally under its nose," as the national-security authority James Bamford wrote in The Washington Post in 2002. The Qaeda cell that hijacked American Flight 77 and plowed into the Pentagon was based in the same town, Laurel, Md., as the N.S.A., and "for months, the terrorists and the N.S.A. employees exercised in some of the same local health clubs and shopped in the same grocery stores."

If Democrats — and, for that matter, Republicans — let a president with a Nixonesque approval rating install yet another second-rate sycophant at yet another security agency, even one as diminished as the C.I.A., someone should charge those senators with treason, too.


Saturday, May 13, 2006

What Billmon Says

The most bitter man on the Internets hits another one out of the park:

In the end, the framers were more pragmatic: If the majority wants to abolish the 4th Amendment -- or the entire Bill or Rights, for that matter -- all it has to do is get two thirds of each house of Congress to pass a new amendment, get the president to sign it and three fourths of the states to ratify it. Or, it can get two thirds of the states to call a constitutional convention, and try its luck there. Win that battle, and the NSA can tap everbody's phones until the cows come home. But until then, the 4th Amendment stands, and it is most definitely not subject to majority rule.

Of course, this president and this Congress and this Supreme Court have already proven that constitutional rights -- natural or not -- mean very little in the face of money, power and expediency. And as long as the polls continue to show that a majority, or even an influential minority, of the voters is willing to put up with that state of affairs, the powers that be will go right on riding roughshod over the Constitution. As Shrub likes to say, he already had his accountability moment -- at a different set of polls.

So polls (both kinds) obviously matter. And those who favor the unlimited surveillance state can certainly try to cite public opinion as proof that the Cheney regime has the power to break the law. But they can never cite the polls -- accurate or not -- to prove that they have the right to break the law, and we should never forget that. (Emphasis added)

Vox Pollsteri

This is the fundamental distinction between popular rule and mob rule. One rests on respect for and protection of rights, while the other requires no more than fear of and submission to power.

However, and in disagreement with his immediately previous post, Leviathan, the only way to secure rights is through institutions, which in a modern industrial society means a strong governmental bureaucracy. People being willing to defend their little corner of regulatory turf is good fodder for satirical novels and a good way to defend the tedious but necessary "fine print" that makes the grand ideas of the Constitution a mundane reality for the ordinary schmoe. Someone who doesn't know jack about the legal implications of this or that interpretation of article whatever or amendment thus and such can cite rule book 123-XD4R56-2006.3.4.b.2 and make sure that this air filter is changed on time, by G-d.

As the child of a life-long civil servant who made life better for millions of people by meticulously reporting the true census numbers in a western state, and resisting state and federal demands to fake results, I can personally attest to the ways in which the Leviathan can be done in by the clouds of plankton.

Even more than the courts, the Dems need to regain control of the federal agencies.



As Reagan liked to say, there you go again.

The CNN poll showing Clinton's continued strong popularity with the ordinary voter (you know, the grassroots?) has become fodder for the self-appointed purity police on the left to beat up "Bubba."

Think about that for a second. The most effective Democratic president since FDR, one who has more emotional appeal to the average American than Reagan, someone who presided over a period of peace and plenty despite a savage and deafening storm from the right to bring him down any way they could and craven back-stabbing from the left to help them do that, a person of amazing intellect and political savvy. What do they call him?


You know, the biggest strike against Bill Clinton in the eyes of the left as well as the right is that he is southern white trash. This man, who can think circles around them and who has out-maneuvered, out-governed and out-charmed every politican of his era, they hate him as much as the right does, and for almost exactly the same reason. He makes them feel inadequate. He points out their own social and economic privileges, their own indulgent policy biases, and the ways in which they take so much of their success for granted.

Yeah, he's just a Bubba, just a low-class, no-account southern white boy, some guy who likes greasy food and getting fucked. Yeah, that's it. He's just a Bubba.

He sold us out! He's really just a Republican! (Does anyone besides me find this ironic in light of the curent wingnut meme that Bush is a "liberal"?) He compromised liberal principles! He just wanted people to like him! He isn't one of us!

He's a bubba.

A Rhodes scholar. A policy wonk to beat all other wonks. A well-read, well-traveled man. A workaholic. A sharp lawyer. A tireless advocate for social justice. An American success story who pulled himself out of poverty and obscurity by intelligence, ambition and hard work.

Yeah, that's Bubba.

Ordinary Americans like Clinton a lot. His "Bubba" background makes him more appealing, less threatening. He's what they could have been if they had tried, and he is respectful of what they became, because he knows just how damn hard it is to try when you're down that far. This is the emotional connection that the netroots elitists either don't get or don't want to acknowledge. Why did Clinton succeed so well across the political spectrum?

Because he is Bubba.

This one fact offends the elite of the left (blogosphere, inner-sanctum, magazine publishers, etc.) no end, because, damn it, they have good ideas, too! They know what is best for all the Bubbas of the world. You know, the benighted sheeple who really don't understand what's good for them? The not-us who should know their place and stay there while we manage the world into a better place, eat sensible diets, and are culturally hip (or at least socio-economically powerful). The left elite is still angry at the compromises, the half-measures, the careful weighing of what was possible against what was likely, even when the flat-out success of this governance is shoved in their faces. Had Clinton governed the way the left elites wanted, he would have done as Bush is doing now - do as I say 'cuz I'm the Preznit.

Me, I like Bubba.

Not 100%, and it pissed me off that he didn't keep his dick in his pants during dangerous times. The offense itself, however, was a private one, and I suspect he will pay for it the rest of his days because the people he hurt were the people he loved. Had the left been less eager to punish Clinton for the scandal, he would have come through that with less damage. But, overall, this was a masterful president who did enormous good for the nation and her citizens, precisely because he was, is, and ever shall remain a Bubba.

What the contempt for Bill Clinton on the left demonstrates is the degree of contempt the ideologues of the left have for ordinary opinion, for the fools and the flawed that make up, oh, 100% of humanity, but from which the ideologues have exempted themselves. Perhaps this is why they hate Carter, too, as he will not exempt himself from the foibles of humanity. The peculiar designation "netroots" also exposes the distinction being drawn while trying to capitalize on the sentimental value of appearing to speak for the "common man". I look at the wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth that accompanied the first of the "Is NSA spying OK?" poll results yesterday. What was the meme? Those stupid sheeple who just don't understand the seriousness of this issue! Those wretched Bubbas who won't do and think and say what we want them to!

Listen up, netroots. It's a Bubba Nation.

Clinton's political genius was to know just how and when to push Bubba, the ordinary American citizen who is a little aware, a lot distracted, not very curious about anything outside their immediate life, and wary of change, to move that person to a place better for them in a way that did not instantly and automatically make it a worse place for others. It was thoughtful politics. He paid no mind to the Cassandras of either side, who predicted catastrophe for every policy and decision. He eschewed the politics of resentment. He resisted avatar politics. Though assailed by a conspiracy, he rejected appeals to paranoia so beloved of American politicians, and rampant now on left and right.

Machiavelli said that the greatest fortress of a prince is in the hearts of his people. The polls consistently show that is what Clinton has achieved, and it is driving left and right elites insane.

The Bubba abides.


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Dead Girl or Live Boy?

Am I the only one thinking that the name "Gannon" may figure in here?

This thing is huge -- that's the word from Rick Gwin, the Pentagon's top investigator into the massive fraud perpetrated by former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham and his unindicted co-conspirators. He spoke with the North County Times yesterday:

"This is much bigger and wider than just Randy 'Duke' Cunningham," he said. "All that has just not come out yet, but it won't be much longer and then you will know just how widespread this is."

He also complained that Duke -- now serving an eight-year-and-ten-month prison term -- isn't helping like he should:

"In my opinion, he has not been cooperative and I have not gotten any information from him to further develop other targets," Gwin said in a telephone interview from his office in Mission Viejo. I was hoping that from a jail cell, he might become more cooperative, but we just don't have the cooperation that I think we should have."

Duke protecting someone very high up? Given the pathology of his closeted lifestyle, I'm guessing that there was homosexual prostitution going on as well, and people high up in the Rethug establishment are terrified of their own proclivities being exposed. Gannon/Guckert's activities in the White House have never been fully explained. Given the tighteness of the circles in which the corruption moved, it would be surprising if there wasn't a Gannon connection vis-a-vis the prostitution.

I'm curious to see just how far and wide the scandal will go.

The TPM Muckraker reporters are way ahead of everyone else on this, and are poised to earn themselves some well-deserved attention for the excellence of their work. If you don't regularly read that site, you're missing the best parts of the story.


Sunday, May 07, 2006

Avatar Politics

Dealing with the political naifs of the left is really annoying. They agree that the Bush administration is the worst that has ever been, but at once turn around and caterwaul about how they just can't bring themselves to vote for a Democrat. Why not? Because they don't have backbone, because they are appeasers, because they don't inspire, because they don't act out in ways that give me personal emotional satisfaction.

OK, so who should be elected? More people like Russ Feingold, a real Democrat who doesn't compromise and is steadfast in his opposition to Evil (TM).

Huh. OK, then, how about this comment by Billmon:

That Goss was as unfit for his job as Bernie Kerik would have been for his (if Kerik's own overactive zipper hadn't blown him out of the running before he even left the gate) should have been obvious from the start. Actually it was obvious. Here's what I wrote at the time of Goss's appointment:

When Richard Nixon decided to bang heads together at the CIA, and thereby stop the flow of Watergate-related leaks he suspected were originating there, he at least sent in James Schlesinger - an experienced bureacrat who'd already paid his dues in the national security state. Bush, on the other hand, is sending in a partisan hack congressman with absolutely no experience managing large organizations, and whose glory days as a CIA operative are more than three decades in the past.

Of course, as you would expect, this didn't keep 28 Democratic Senators (including Messrs. Feingold, Daschle, Reid and Schumer, and Ms. Boxer) from voting to confirm the son of a bitch, despite Goss's track record on the House Intelligence Committee, where he proved an even bigger political tool of the Cheney administration than his Senate counterpart, Pat Roberts, R-Coverup. Foreign policy bipartisanship may be dead, but that hasn't stopped a lot of people who should know better from continuing to try to suckle the corpse.

The Night Porter Checks Out

In short, your golden boy voted for a partisan hack, fully knowing the depths of this guy's hackitude. When he had a chance to make a real difference, as opposed to posturing in the limelight, he caved. Isn't that what the idiot left says about Pelosi, Reid, Kerry, etc.?

Let's put it another way; Feingold went along to get along, saving his fight for another day. He acted as a politician, not as a tent revival preacher. He acted like other Democrats, and he will do so again. You may not acknowledge him doing this because you want to maintain the fantasy of your pure candidate vs. the dirty ones, but he has, does and will continue to act like a responsible representative of his constituents. And that means voting for policy and strategy reasons, not just for ideology.

Instead of demanding that elected officials act as avatars of your anger, which is the tactic that the right uses with inevitable bait-and-switch results once election day is at an end, you're going to have to compromise with other people who are left of center, but less so than yourself. It's easy to believe in the echo-chamber of Daily Kos and comparable sites that you are more numerous and more powerful than you really are. You are only strong enough to defeat your own candidate, which is why the center-left distrusts you. And they are right to do so.

Avatar politics, a pledge to act out the resentments of the partisans, is the core of authoritarian regimes. It is effective and powerful - it has captured the Republican party and America, after all, and is the ground of our current national shame. It is what the idiot left is demanding the Democratic party adopt as its modus operandi, confusing desire with policy and being willing to sacrifice the core tenant of liberal democracy - compromise - for personal emotional satisfaction. It is replacing the public good with private proclivity.

No, this doesn't mean roll over for the Democratic dinosaurs or backstabbing opportunists like Lieberman. It means don't act out your resentment in the voting booth. It means realizing that you have to persuade and convince, not just demand. It means joining forces with Howard Dean to restore and reinvigorate the Democratic party from the local precincts on up.

Avatar politics only works if you have an enemy and feel like you're on the winning side. Look at the drop in poll numbers for Bush & the Rethugs. Sure, you can behave like a left-wing version of this, but you consign yourself to permanent minority party status because your resentments are not visceral and frightening enough to attract voters. They are only strong enough to let you spoil the vote and keep the fascists in power.


Saturday, May 06, 2006

A Plumber Problem

Aside from its titillation value, the Fornigate scandal (hat tip to Billmon for coining the phrase), is the join between the general corruption issues in the Rethuglican Congress and the fascist coup the Cheneyites are trying to enact by militarizing the government and the nation into a Forever War.

Billmon nails it here:

I'd say it would take years for the agency to recover, but my suspicion is that it will never recover, as its missions and resources continue to flow towards the Pentagon, like stars being sucked down a black hole. Rather than being a hatchet man, like Schlesinger, or a caretaker, like Carter's CIA director, Stansfield Turner, Goss's successor may be more in the nature of an undertaker, charged with the continued, gradual dismantling of the agency -- taking the C out of CIA.

And that may be the bigger story here. What's been happening over the past decade -- or longer, according to Andrew Bacevich -- has been a relentless expansion in the authority and functions of the military services, and of their civilian overlords in the Secretary of Defense's office, at the expense of the CIA, the State Department, the NSC and the other bits of alphabet in the national security soup. Years ago I saw an editorial cartoon that showed the Pentagon attached to the White House as its new west wing. We may be nearing the day when it's actually the other way around. And Porter Goss has done his part to bring that day closer.

The Night Porter Checks Out

Dick Cheney ==> Porter Goss ==> Dusty Foggo ==> Brent Wilkes ==> War profiteering and general K-Street corruption racket. The key is that it also goes War profit/K Street ==> Wilkes ==> Foggo ==> Goss ==> Cheney. Hmm, where have we seen that pattern before? Be sure to read this series of articles on TPM Muckraker to get the background on all the twists and turns of the situation. While it is a lot of information, it is in bite sized posts.

The way that the Cheney administration is getting Congress and business to go along with the fascist conversion is by buying them off with military contracts. Period. Yes, there are some true believers in the mix who really do want to see the US become a military-backed dictatorship (including some very high-ups in the US military), but most are just in it for the money.

That's why the limousine company at the center of the scandal is so darn important. They are the equivaent of the Watergate plumbers. They were transporting congress critters to dens of iniquity, but they were also (and far more importantly) in the employ of the Cheney secret government apparatus, transporting Cheyney's people around. And where were they going? To meetings and locations Cheney doesn't want people to know about. If all that was at stake was some hick politicos getting to play poker and fuck a few whores in exchange for an earmark, Porter Goss would not be leaving. Trading votes for moeny is standard operating procedure and no Cheneyite would ever be removed for it.

The abruptness of Goss' departure is also important. While I do believe there is some major internecine battles being waged within the fascist party (they live for power and bloodshed, after all), it is telling that Cheney is obviously scrambling to prevent something really bad from getting out. Check out Laura Rosen's post from this morning:

So then he was forced out on very short notice? No notification to the House Intelligence committee? What about the months of press about the suddenly well-known tension between Goss and Negroponte, with Negroponte ascendant? Not really. (Indeed check out the recent coverage about Congressional raised eyebrows over the empire Negroponte is building, and his alleged frequent lunchtime visits to a fancy DC club for swim and cigar breaks).

The story line until today has been far different: that much of the operative camp of the Agency perceived Goss as a political enforcer, someone who wasn't seen to be looking out for them but for the White House's interests; that Goss was rather passive and out of touch and overly delegated day to day affairs to his staff, "the Gosslings," led by the fiercely partisan Patrick Murray. I don't believe I have ever heard from people in that world a sense that Goss was looking out for them. The newspaper coverage has suggested rather that a lot of the experienced bench strength cadre at the Agency had left in fights with Goss and his staff during his rocky tenure, and that the Agency had never been more demoralized. So all that time, during all those departures, Goss was covertly fighting for his folks against the new intel reorganization? He was a misunderstood champion of the Agency?

Does something about this story line that Goss suddenly left because of his long-standing tension with Negroponte, his fraternity brother from Yale, over Goss fighting to hold CIA turf seem a bit canned to you?

And also Kevin Drum's follow up about whether there have been any hints of this alleged falling out:

But, yeah, it doesn't seem very likely, does it? After all, as Laura points out, the press seems to have rather suddenly discovered this turf war. In fact, I just checked Nexis, and here's what I found: in the week before Friday's announcement, not one single reporter even mentioned the names Porter Goss and John Negroponte in the same story. In the month prior, there was only one piece that mentioned the phrase "turf war," and it wasn't being used to describe problems between Goss and Negroponte. On Thursday, a mere 24 hours before the Goss announcement, the Washington Post's Dana Priest did a one-hour online Q&A and never alluded to tension between Goss and Negroponte, even though she had several chances to do so.

So what's the deal? For the past several months, the consensus word on Goss has been that he's loyally protecting George Bush by aggressively tracking down the leakers who are undermining his ability to torture prisoners in Eastern European prisons and firing all the CIA's closet Democrats. That seems like sterling service. But now, out of the blue, we're supposed to believe that Bush woke up Friday morning and suddenly decided that some previously unreported bureaucratic turf war finally needed to be stopped? Who exactly is the source for this theory? Whoever it is, he seems to have been a busy boy on Friday.

No, boys and girls, something very dangerous to the Cheney silent coup has just occured. They didn't mobilize this fast over the Plame counter-punch, though perhaps they take the threats a little more seriously given the effectiveness of Fitzgerald's prosecution. They have a plumber problem at a time when the vast majority of the public is not very happy with what they are doing and there is a very real possibility that they will lose one or even both houses of Congress. Can we say subpoena? I knew you could.

I think we are looking at a very dangerous time in US government. We have a gang in office that thinks dictatorship is a reasonable way to govern, and is not opposed to dirty wars against citizens. After all, they have directly supported them in Central and South America. They can't just shrug and leave their considerable policy and economic failings for the next administration to clean up (and become unpopular in the doing). They need to avoid anyone looking into what the plumbers have been doing.


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Getting Our War On

Here we go again. Shelby Steele is actually arguing that the reason the US is losing in Iraq is that we have allowed thte non-white left to guilt trip the white supremicists for so long that we are no longer willing to ruthlessly murder swaths of uppity non-white people.

No, really.

That's the argument. For my readers who don't know the columnist, Shelby Steele is a conservative black man. Yeah, there are some very twisted people in America.

Billmon sums up the situation nicely:

So, short of using WMDs on Anbar Province, or turning the Sunni quarters of Baghdad into modern-day versions of the Warsaw Ghetto, it's not clear what kind of "military professionalism" would make our home front field marshals feel happy about the war again. I mean, the real generals have tried massive search-and-destroy sweeps, mass arrests, "oil spot" pacification campaigns, surrounding entire cities with barbed wire fences, clearing others (Fallujah and Tel Afer) block by block, selective bombing, precision bombing, revenge bombing. We've had Marines go house to house killing everyone they find. We've dropped 500 pound bombs in crowded urban neighborhoods, we've shot people (lots of people) on sight for driving too close to military convoys.

You have to wonder how much ferocity the Shelby Steele's of the world would need to see before they'd accept that Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld have put their white guilt behind them.

I think what's happening here isn't so much a credible demand for genocide as it is a fairly desperate attempt to think up an excuse for the Iraq fiasco -- one that doesn't involve admitting the invasion was a really stupid idea, stupidly executed. As a way of rationalizing defeat, it's a direct descendent of the post-Vietnam argument that our boys were forced to fight with one hand tied behind their backs, because LBJ wouldn't invade the North or nuke Hanoi. (Conservatives, like the Bourbons, learn nothing and forget nothing.)

As usual, read the whole thing. He has some choice quotes from Steele that make me too disgusted to want to repeat them.

The ability of the war mongers to blame everyone and everything save themselves for the disastrous conditions in Iraq is equalled only by their overwhelming fiath in mass murder as a civilizing influence. They should read their Conrad more and learn the final lesson.

Mistah Kurtz, he dead.