Friday, September 22, 2006

End Time Strategy

I was talking to the spousal unit last weekend about the probable behavior of the Bush/Cheney White House between now and when power is wrested from their savage hands in January 2009. I honestly don' think you can presume that anything is out of bounds for these guys given that the media simply will not hold them accountable for anything and that they have driven out every honorable public servant in positions of authority who might have been willing to oppose them.

You also have the case that these guys simply don't care if there is a future for anyone. "We'll all be dead," is the Chimperor's mantra, said with that smirk of his. These are people whose bad drug trips don't end because they don't need drugs to go on them anymore.

Domestic agenda - Kill Social Security. If there is even a one vote margin in both house of Congress, they will simply end Social Security. They may not even bother to put something in its place. They will destroy any and all rules and practices of Congress to force through the measure, including destroying the filibuster. It will be done in the worst way possible, emptying the fund in some combination of a massive payout to retirees to try to buy some of them off and transferring obscene amounts to their Wall Street buddies to set up bogus "retirement accounts" where the fees are higher than the returns. The absence of FICA withholdings on paychecks will mollify people who can't think or who are already so stinking rich they don't have to worry about retirement.

They want to do something so devestating and irrevocable that no one will be able to undo their damage for generations. That it consigns millions to poverty and robs millions more of any benefit of their long term payments into Social Security simply doesn't matter to them. We're not their "base".

Foreign agenda - Nuke Iran. I think it is pretty clear that Bush & Co. really wants to nuke someone to send a message about how bad-ass the US is. It's not even regime change at this point. They really don't care that the mullahs are a bunch of power-mad bastards. Indeed, they probably like that aspect of them. What angers them is that Iran won't knuckle under.

It also infuriates the Chimp that people are already saying what an utter loser and fuck-up he is, and that he is held in contempt. Worst. President. Ever. He knows, down in that drug-damaged lump of cells that used to be a brain, that people are waiting for the day he is gone so that they can return to normalcy and try to undo the horrific damage he and his enablers have inflicted on the world.

And he's not going to let that happen. He will do everything in his power to commit the nation to an act of such irrevocable barbarity that his successors cannot even begin to restore the republic.

It's End Time strategy, the arrogant assumption that they have the God given right to determine the fate of the nation and the world forever. The only way they can ensure this is to destroy so that there is nothing that has enough substance remaining to be altered after it has left their hands.


Saturday, September 16, 2006

Torture Nation - Billmon Explains

Billmon cuts to the chase and explains why the White House is so frantic to make it legal for the US to torture people:

I caught Commander Codpiece on the tube today, explaining to the assembled White House press zombies why the Geneva Convention's Common Article 3 is "vague" and "open to interpretation." By which he meant: "It lets us waterboard anybody we like."

The fact that we have over 50 years of law and precedent based on Article 3, that the U.S. military has issued (and now re-issued) an entire field manual interpreting it, that the U.S. Code contains a specific statute to enforce it -- these apparently haven't resolved those pesky ambiguities that have created so many PR problems for the Children of Light in their eternal war against the Children of Darkness.

But, as Marty Lederman asks over at Balkinization, if Article 3 is so "vague," and our organs of state security never use torture (as President Cheney and his underlings tell us repeatedly) then why are the administration's mouthpieces fighting so hard to get Congress to bar the courts from reviewing methods such as hypothermia, near drowning, standing in place with hands shackled over head for 40 hours or more, etc.? And why are the Rovian clone clowns on Capitol Hill trying to amend the War Crimes Act? And why are CIA operatives suddenly taking out "torture insurance" (including the accidental death or dismemberment riders)?

The answers are pretty obvious: They're all exposed. They're great big flabby asses are hanging out in the legal breeze, and they know it. They actually scared it could come to this.

We are, in a sense, at the moment of truth. The sadistic and/or bizarre acts committed in Guatanamo, Abu Ghraib and the CIA's secret prisons can be written off as the crimes of a few bad apples with names like Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld -- or, more charitably, as the consequences of a string of bad and brutal decisions made under emergency conditions by men who were terrified by all the things they didn't know about Al Qaeda. Either way, they were not acts of national policy, endorsed and approved by Congress after open, public debate. But, thanks to the Hamdan decision, the question is now formally on the table:

Does Congress really want to make the United States the first nation on earth to specifically provide domestic legal sanction for what would properly and universally be seen as a transparent breach of the minimum, baseline standards for civilized treatment of prisoners established by Common Article 3 -- thereby dealing a grevious blow to the prospect of international adherence to the Geneva Conventions in the future?

The answer, at the moment, appears to be yes, even as Senators Warner, McCain and Graham (i.e. the Senate GOP "conscience caucus") try to paint a figleaf over the nasty truth:

The so-called "final" version of the Warner-Graham bill, now dubbed the Warner-McCain-Graham bill on military commissions . . . is still a very bad bill, eliminating judicial review and habeas corpus, and limiting criminal enforcement of Geneva Common Article 3 under the War Crimes Act (apparently Geneva [common article] 3 is still law, but only "grave violations" of Geneva are criminally enforceable).

And this is the bill the Cheneyites have threatened to veto -- putting torture on the same exalted plain as banning stem cell research.

They know. They know what they have done goes far beyond the usual practice of allowing others to do dirty work on our behalf. They know that they are in jeopardy and they are trying, like Pinochet, to make the entire nation explicitly complicit in their crimes. That the US is implicitly complicit was proved when the nation knew about Abu Ghraib and reelected these bastards in 2004.

THINK, people. When one kind of inhumanity is codified and sanctioned, it lowers the barriers to other, even more horrific practices. Once, the US wrote slavery, consigning a class of human beings to being chattel property, into our foundational law, and we are still suffering from that original sin today. Allowing people to be owned meant allowing people to be raped, tortured, mutilated, beaten, in short, treated like dolls in the possession of petulant children, subject to all the brutality and callousness children are capable of inflicting.

The Bush administration is more like Al-Qaeda than not. A charismatic (well, to his followers) leader claiming divine authority to commit atrocities, deliberately perverting the meaning of words, law and tradition to justify his murderous rage against the world and those who oppose him. Pope Ratzo's stupid comments notwithstanding, Islam is no more (or less) violent a creed than any other organized religion. Those who wish to practice it with peace and diginity will find the resources within it to do so, just as they would regardless of their particular faith. The core of every worthy faith is a recognition of and dedication to the divine within every being, and a commitment to treat every being one encounters as the instantiation of the divine - the cosmos in a finite body.

Back to the matter at hand. As I have noted in earlier posts, what we are looking at is more of the Bush/Cheney drive to break down all boundaries and barriers to the perfect possession of their will, to stand astride the world unimpeded. It is not even so much that they fear punishment (the US doesn't have the fucking balls to actually try a President for real crimes) as much as their outrage that any restraint has been placed on their desires. But this is not, in the end, what is at stake with these debates. Billmon explains far better than I ever could:
What this amounts to (and what Powell was really complaining about) is the final decommissioning of the myth of American exceptionalism -- once one of the most powerful weapons in the U.S. arsenal. Without it, we're just another paranoid empire obsessed with our own security and willing to tell any lie or repudiate any self-proclaimed principle if we think it will make us even slightly safer.
Myths are useful, even necessary, things. They can explain and compel where strict logic won't find a hearing. They can inspire people to look beyond their own interests and can unify despite profound divisions. While many decry myths, particularly that of American exceptionalism, I add that we are poorer, less resilient without them (and it). If it is a spur to hubris, it is also one for compassion.

And that, perhaps more than any virtue, is absent from the policies and predilictions of the Bush regime. The demand that we all join in approval of torture says more clearly than any other act that there is no feeling-with (com-passion), only acting upon those who are Other than US.

In political science circles, the great "problem" of the 20th century to explain was how did German society turn so quickly and without compulsion into one that invaded its neighbors and institutionalized the murder its own citizens? What made an advanced, relatively wealthy, educated, literate and civilized people become a nation of butchers? I think the downfall of the United States will be a comparable problem to explain. How did we move so quickly from Bill Clinton's "I feel your pain" to George Bush institutionalizing the infliction of it?


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) Lets the Republicans Have It

In a brief, blunt, speech on the Senate floor, after listening to some Republican jerks insulting the intelligence and patriotism of half the country:
"In light of the rantings that went on for 30 minutes here, in the chamber, by two colleagues from the other side, I'd like to state for the record that America is not tired of fighting terrorism; America is tired of the wrongheaded and boneheaded leadership of the Republican party that has sent six and a half billion a month to Iraq while the front line was Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. That led this country to attack Saddam Hussein, when we were attacked by Osama bin Laden. Who captured a man who did not attack the country and let loose a man that did.

"Americans are tired of boneheaded Republican leadership that alienates our allies when we need them the most. Americans are most certainly tired of leadership that despite documenting mistake after mistake after mistake, even of their own party admitting mistakes, never admit they do anything wrong. That's the kind of leadership Americans are tired of.

"I'm didn't come to the Senate to have partisan rantings on the floor, but I am most certainly not going to sit here as a Democrat and let the Republican leadership come to the floor and talk about Democrats not making us safe. They're the ones in charge and Osama bin Laden is still at loose."

Say that again: The REPUBLICANS are in charge and OSAMA is still on the loose

Not Google's Day

So much for "Don't be evil." They are now in bed with the worst of the Republican political operatives. From TPM, Josh Marshall writing, reapeated in full:

Oh that's not good.

This article in Roll Call describes how Google, preeminent search engine and purveyor of fun online gizmos, is courting Republicans in Washington, as part of their efforts to build up a bigger presence in DC.

Fair enough: they can't afford to be completely on the outs with what is at least for now the majority party.

But buried down deep in the article it says they've hired the DCI Group.

If you're a dirty tricks and slimey opps afficionado a chill most certainly just went down your spine.

DCI, if you're not familiar with them, is an interlocking group of companies which is the phony seed bed for most noxious astroturf organizing and general bamboozlement in contemporary politics.

Here's an old post from 2003 on DCI, here's one on astroturf organizing in general and here's a selection of posts on the Johnny Appleseed of GOP astroturf opps, Tom Synhorst, the main man at DCI.

Sorry, there's only one excuse for dealing with groups like this - buying access to power. I suspect the long-term price for Google's sucking up to the authoritarians and the fascists is a sweet little under the table deal to hand over information on the sly - ostensibly for "national security" but in truth to be funneled to corporations who will use your data to deny you goods and services, such as health care, and to target you for marketing.

Remember, all Google has to sell, in the end, is information about YOU.


More Bullshit from Google

Now Google is going to get into philanthropy, except, oh, it's a for-profit operation, and the books are secret, and Google gets to keep all the profits? Does anyone else here smell a rat, or at the very least a rather callous ad campaign to counter the very good press the Gates Foundation has legitimately earned in the last few months? Lookie, lookie, we give away (a small fraction into technologies we are already interested in investing in) too!

And the technology sheep (as long as we can bleat "We hate Micro$oft", we're happy) are going to be touting this as some kind of big mark in Google's favor.

You know, Google as a company scares me much more than Microsoft. It's stock and trade is data aggregation and distribution. We have only their word that they aren't supplying data to various government and business entities, and I suspect the all mighty dollar will win out. Look at it coldly - the value of Google is their pile of data. They don't make money unless they sell access to that data. They are in the business of SELLING YOUR DATA.

And now they want to play at philanthropy as another revenue stream. The guy running it sounds like a doofus. He yammers on about forming a public, rapid response reporting system for disease outbreaks. Uh, dude, one already exists. My brother is a part of it as an epidemiologist. When I worked at the hospital, *I* was a part of it as a public reporter.

I think that's paradigmatic of what Google is up to. Old ideas being tarted up to sound new, all in service of selling people something.

Sounds like a bunch of hucksters to me.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Deep Origins of 9/11

Ok, I know I'm stretching here, but I was struck by an AP report about the recent commuter plane crash at the Lexington, KY airport. It appears that the air traffic controllers had complained about working conditions:

Months before the Comair jet crash that killed 49 people, air traffic controllers at the Lexington airport wrote to federal officials complaining about a hostile working environment in the tower and short-staffing on the overnight shift, according to letters obtained by The Associated Press.

In identical letters sent April 4 to Kentucky's senators, Republicans Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning, a control tower worker said the overnight shift, or "mid," is staffed with two people "only when convenient to management."

The Federal Aviation Administration's guidelines called for two people to be there the morning of the Aug. 27 crash, but only one was present.

"We had a controller retire last month and now we are back to single man mids," wrote Faron Collins, a union leader for the Lexington control tower workers. "I ask you one simple question. Are two people needed on the mids for safety or not? If they are, why are they not scheduled?"

Besides the letter to the senators, another Lexington control tower operator wrote to the FAA's Accountability Board on Dec. 1, 2005, complaining about a hostile work environment in the tower. That employee requested anonymity, fearing discipline against him.

"Not only do the vast majority of controllers worry about the security of their jobs, but this anxiety in the work place should be considered a legitimate safety concern for the flying public since controllers are not in a healthy state of mind while working traffic," he wrote.

What was Ronald Reagan's first big act as President? To break the Air Traffic Controller's union. While the tragedy in Lexington looks to have some connection to destroying the bargaining position of the people running the tower, what bearing does it have on the airplane attacks of 9/11?

The common element is the callous disregard for human lives and livelihoods. To this day, the Republicans are fighting having a professsional, unionized security presence in the airports. Might the erratic behavior of the commandeered jets have been picked up sooner if towers across the nation were better staffed? Could a real security screening process - with enough people with real training to operate sophisticated detection systems - have kept the Saudi and Egyptian hijackers out of the planes?

Ever-expanding profit for an ever-shrinking portion of society is the be-all, end-all for Bush, Cheney, Frist, Delay, Norquist and all the rest of the Neocon horde. They don't actually give a damn if you can't support your family or travel in safety. Pull up the ladder, bo'sun, I'm aboard is their standard operating procedure.

The signature of this contempt for ordinary Americans is their union-busting, wage-cutting, profits-above-all obsession. That someone claiming an Earned Income Tax credit is more likely to be audited by the IRS than a millionaire is pretty obscene. What is more obscene is their unwillingness to forego a penny of profits in order to preserve the lives and livelihoods of ordinary Americans.

The worst union boss has nothing on the racket being run by the neocons.


Monday, September 11, 2006

Billmon, Summing Up

Billmon gets in the last word:

Five years after 9/11, this is what Ground Zero looks like (or will, once the NYFD removes the jerry-rigged memorial "pool" it created for Shrub's photo op):

Five years after Sept. 11, 2001, ground zero remains a 16-acre, 70-foot-deep hole in the heart of Lower Manhattan. High above it, a scaffolded bank building, contaminated during the attack, hulks like a metal skeleton, waiting endlessly to be razed . . ."The problem," as John C. Whitehead, 84, the former chairman of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, said baldly in an interview last spring, "is the 16-acre ditch."

If you had told me, five years ago, that on the fifth anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in history Ground Zero would still be nothing but an enormous hole in the ground, I wouldn't have believed you -- just as I wouldn't have believed that a major American city could be thoroughly trashed by a Category 4 hurricane and then left to moulder in the mud for a year while various federal, state and local bureaucrats and hack politicians tried to make up their minds what to do.

I would have said that while those kinds of things can and do happen in Third World kleptocracies or decaying Stalinist police states, they're simply not possible in the richest and most powerful nation in history. Even if the voters could somehow be bamboozled into accepting such incompetence, the wealthy elites and corporate technocrats who own and operate the world's only remaining superpower would never stand for it.

You can learn a lot about a country in five years.

What I've learned (from 9/11, the corporate scandals, the fiasco in Iraq, Katrina, the Cheney Administration's insane economic and environmental policies and the relentless dumbing down of the corporate media -- plus the repeated electoral triumphs of the Rovian brand of "reality management") is that the United States is moving down the curve of imperial decay at an amazingly rapid clip. If anything, the speed of our descent appears to be accelerating.

The physical symptoms -- a lost war, a derelict city, a Potemkin memorial hastily erected in a vacant lot -- aren't nearly as alarming as the moral and intellectual paralysis that seems to have taken hold of the system. The old feedback mechanisms are broken or in deep disrepair, leaving America with an opposition party that doesn't know how (or what) to oppose, a military run by uniformed yes men, intelligence czars who couldn't find their way through a garden gate with a GPS locator, TV networks that don't even pretend to cover the news unless there's a missing white woman or a suspected child rapist involved, and talk radio hosts who think nuking Mecca is the solution to all our problems in the Middle East. We've got think tanks that can't think, security agencies that can't secure and accounting firms that can't count (except when their clients ask them to make 2+2=5). Our churches are either annexes to shopping malls, halfway homes for pederasts, or GOP precinct headquarters in disguise. Our economy is based on asset bubbles, defense contracts and an open-ended line of credit from the People's Bank of China, and we still can't push the poverty rate down or the median wage up.

The Sixteen Acre Ditch

As always, please click through and read the whole thing. This year, the elections will be a referendum on the American people. Are you really, truly stupid enough to affirm the power of a regime that is destroying your lives and your honor at an incredible clip? I want to think no, that while my fellow citizens may not share my specific views on, say, gender equality, they would at least be able to figure out when they are being screwed.

Perhaps not. It may take a shock on the level of the Great Depression to make people understand that the Republicans are not their friends. But we live in a different world, one where we are the aging super power, not the slumbering up-and-comer. The comparison to Rome's unraveling is not unwarranted.

9/11 was a catalyst. It could not help but be. A different outcome in 2000 and it might have been a catalyst for something else, for a radical change in a better direction, but it was going to force the nation one way or another.

The hole in the ground in New York and the wasteland near the levies in New Orleans may be the precursors, not the outliers, if we do not face up to the rot at the heart of the republic.


Eric Alterman on 9/11

I want to preserve this as Altercation is being abandoned by MSNBC this Friday and these words need to be remembered:

It would be impossible to do justice here to the legacy of 9/11 at year five and I’m not going to try. This nation was doubly cursed on this day five years ago; first by the attack itself, and second by the reaction of our dishonest, incompetent and corrupt leadership’s exploitation of it for their own naked political and ideological purposes. As every single global poll during the past four years indicates, we are a less admirable nation than we were five years ago. We are more warlike, more arrogant, more ignorant, less compassionate, less generous, less free, and thanks to the Bush administration’s catastrophic invasion of Iraq, far less safe.

Think back five years and it’s all but unimaginable.

I took a look at the column I did for five years ago today. I was writing in a state of shock, literally smelling death from downtown, not knowing if I had lost anyone close to me, trying to make sense of my thoughts and emotions. Here’s some of it:

The first commandment of any crisis is to be cool. Don’t panic. Don’t do anything to make it worse. There is plenty of time to assess blame and figure out how to respond in a manner and moment of our own choosing. Nothing could dishonor the dead quite as profoundly than to kill more innocents in the name of vengeance and let the true perpetrators get away with their crimes.
The politicians and pundits who conducted their dreamworld debate about missile defense and space weaponry against as yet imaginary opponents showed precious little interest in these more arcane threats that any number of nations and terrorist groups already possessed. Now we are paying the price for the unreality of our political debate.
Everything about American politics needs to come down to earth. Face it, it does not really matter much what happened to Chandra Levy. It’s too bad such a nice looking girl was missing, but she is only one person. Tuesday’s attacks demonstrate how much we need to grow up as a nation politics can be even if we prefer not to pay attention. It’s time to have a serious debate about the nation’s priorities and to make tough decisions involving difficult trade-offs. There is no way to wish away our many vulnerabilities as a society. But we can address them sensibly and democratically, if only we face up to the fact that we never had any innocence to lose. We merely acted as if we did.

Eight days later, to my eternal shame, I suspended my previous judgments about George W. Bush, and allowed myself to be sucked into the vortex of national unity that he would soon exploit to the detriment of this nation and the world. While I did criticize Bush’s “foolish” use of “for or against us rhetoric,” as well as the speech’s lack of specifics about what, exactly he had in mind, nevertheless, following Bush’s address to the nation, I wrote:

Whether you voted for him or felt he stole the election, it was hard not to be moved by the president’s ability to represent America in all its diversity, imagination and determination before the world in the face of our greatest collective tragedy in more than a generation. The President appeared to hit virtually every note just right. He was not overly belligerent, and did not play up to jingoist sentiments. He paid tribute to the real heroes of the crisis—the cops and firemen and rescue workers--and made frequent reference to the fact that the struggle we now face will require both cooperation and patience.

I look back on that moment when so many of us wanted to trust our president and I wonder:

Who would have imagined in their worst nightmares that these political usurpers would employ the human catastrophe of 9/11 to continue the terrorists work for them? Who would have imagined that they would embark on a course that would eventually kill more Americans than died on 9/11 in wars that do nothing to ensure the nation’s security but much to inspire more Arabs to hate us and wish to attack us? Who would have imagined they would dissipate the global solidarity and support the world had offered us? Who would have imagined that, having ignored all of the signs of a certain attack, they would continue to ignore the most obvious steps to protect us against future catastrophe, leaving our ports, our nuclear facilities, our chemical facilities invitingly unguarded? Who would have imagined that they would willingly allow bin-Laden to escape? Who would have imagined they would lie to the rescue workers about the health effects of the air they were breathing. Who would have imagined that they would put the fate of the nation in the hands of a group of lying, conniving, rats like “curveball,” Ahmad Chalabi and the INC? Who would have imagined a political campaign in which a man like Max Cleland, a man who lost three limbs in Vietnam, would be branded as insufficiently patriotic by right-wing politicians and pundits who never sacrificed so much as a chicken dinner for their country? Who would have imagined they would use homeland security as pure pork money, doling out millions for Red State fire houses while leaving tens of millions who live near obvious targets—and were attacked last time—unprotected? Who would have imagined they would emulate our enemies, employing methods of torture and massacre? Who would imagine they would force our brave soldiers to die fighting phantoms, without even proper body armor? Who would have imagined they would outlaw photographs of military funerals, or that the president could not find time to attend a single one of them? Who would have imagined they would use the attacks to create a domestic spying regime, a series of secret prisons and tribunals, and the declare the right to abrogate any and all American civil liberties whenever it struck their fancy? Who would have imagined, in other words, that they would exploit these tragic deaths to seek to undermine our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, indeed the very foundations of the same “freedom” that allegedly inspired the terrorists in the first place? And finally, who would have imagined that our vaunted “liberal media” and nonpartisan political establishment would cheer them along the way, failing to ask the difficult questions and attacking the patriotism and even sanity of those with the courage and foresight to do so?

9/11 could have been a rebirth of our nation’s civic and political culture, together with a recommitment to use our power to ensure the security and prosperity of a world community that looked to us with sympathy and admiration. “We are All Americans,” said Le Monde. Today most of the world is anti-American and understandably so. We have failed the Afghans. We have failed the Iraqis. We have failed our long-time allies, indeed, virtually everyone who trusted us. We will survive, of course, and someday, a more enlightened leadership will be able to undo some of the damage these two curses have inflicted upon us and return us to the values that helped build this great nation. But the opportunity offered by a world united in solidarity with America and its values is almost certainly dead for good. Let the coroner’s certificate read: “Cause of Death: Lies, Extremism, Incompetence, Corruption, Murder, Torture, and Hypocrisy, Stupidity, and Even More Lies.”

Eric Alterman - 9/11: America Attacked Twice

Richard Clarke's Statement About the ABC Propoganda Show of 9/11

Courtesy of TPM Cafe:

Comments by Richard Clarke, former counterterrorism czar under Presidents Clinton and Bush, and current ABC News consultant:

As someone who was directly involved in almost every event depicted in the fictionalized docudrama, "The Path to 9-11," I believe it is an egregious distortion that does a deep disservice both to history and to those in both the Clinton and Bush administrations who are depicted.

Sadly, ABC's Entertainment Division hired a production company and screen writer who were apparently unqualified to deal with this historically important subject matter. That error appears to have been compounded by the failure of some of the docudrama's consultants to insure that the account was accurate. Some of the most outrageous scenes were removed after a recent senior level review. What remains, however, is not the true story as told by the 9-11 Commission.

Although I am not one to easily believe in conspiracy theories and have spent a great deal of time debunking them, it is hard to escape the conclusion that the errors in this screen play are more than the result of dramatization and time compression. There is throughout the screenplay a consistent bias and distortion seeking to portray senior Clinton Administration officials as holding back the hard charging CIA, FBI, and military officers who would otherwise have prevented 9-11.

The exact opposite is true. From the President, to all of his White House team, and NSC Principals (Lake, Berger, Albright, Tenet, Reno) there was a common fixation with terrorism, al qaeda, and bin Ladin. The President approved every counter-terrorism operation presented to him, including many that CIA proved unable or unwilling to implement. He increased counter-terrorism spending by 400% and initiated the first homeland security program in forty years. Even though the US had taken relatively few casualties from al qaeda at the time, the President repeatedly authorized the use of lethal force against bin Ladin and his deputies and personally requested the US military to develop plans for "commando operations" against
them. Even though he knew the timing of an attack aimed at killing bin Ladin would be labeled by critics as a political diversion, Clinton decided to follow the advice of his national security team and pay the price politically.

All of us who worked on these issues, then and now, hold some responsibility for the failures to stop al qaeda. I bear that burden every day.

But if history is to know where to assign some of that culpability, it should not be guided by this fictionalization. It might better focus on leaders of the FBI who held back John O'Neill, leaders of the CIA's Clandestine Service whose risk aversion prevented the Counter Terrorism Center from doing its job, and senior generals who strongly urged the Commander-in-Chief not to use our military to go after the al qaeda leaders in Afghanistan. Somehow, all of that is missing from this not too subtle televised politicization of history.

As is so often the case, the best advice about how to think about these things comes not from people like me or others in Washington, but from the families of the victims of 9-11. Several family members issued this statement, which I strongly commend to all:

"Families of September 11 believes the best way to honor those who were lost is to make sure that what happened to them never happens again. As such, we must understand exactly what took place, and not allow "entertainers" to promote misleading or incorrect information as fact to the public.

If we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. Any depiction of 9/11 that is not accurate and factual propagates myths, myths that may cause us future harm.

In order to make our country safer and more secure, we owe it to those who were lost to acknowledge that which took place, so that we can ensure it never happens again."

Remembering 9/11

I was brought awake with a jolt when my clock radio went off. It as set to NPR and the words were "...ceived news that a plane has crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center." I sat there, frozen, thinking that some commuter plane had gone off course, strayed from the Hudson flight path, maybe tried to go too close to get a view... Then came the next words, "A second plane has crashed into the towers!"

I bounded from bed, husband on my heels, and we quickly turned on all the computers (we don't have TV) as well as both radios. We knew. We were in New York the first time they tried to bring down the towers and we knew it was "them" again.

I spent the rest of the day flipping from one news feed to another, one radio channel to another, trying to somehow find the news story that would say it was all untrue, as though Orson Welles had returned for an encore of War of the Worlds. When the towers fell, I would not believe it. They were still there, maybe the tops fallen away, hidden by the smoke.

I saw one still photo of a man jumping. It was closely focused on him and he looked like he was floating, head down, in an endless sky. It still gives me nightmares.

What astounds and humbles me now is how, after five years and the feckless behavior of the Bush administration, how the world still mourns for our nation's loss.


Kicking the Corpses

An email sent by my brother:

"This whole Bush making the rounds to each location of death and carnage on the fifth anniversary reminds me of a Mesoamerican religious practice in which the priests would flay the flesh of an individual in such a way as to create a hollow "garment" of flesh into which one of them would crawl and then dance around.

Look at me....look at me....I'm fighting terrorism......"


You've Got Your Ass Covered

Five years later, and Osama bin Laden is still wandering around free.

Five years later, and the media is still pretending that the Bush administration is not criminally negligent in its cavalier attitude towards knowledge there was going to be an attack.

Five years later, and a full 1/3 of the American public still supports someone who has made the country less safe.

Five years later, and Cheney is allowed to lie with impunity, using the deaths of the Americans he and Bush failed to protect to cover his ass on why they invaded Iraq.


Sunday, September 10, 2006

HotK - Ch. 50 - Campaign

For the fanfiction readers, I have just posted a new chapter for Hands of the King, Ch. 50 - Campaign. Click on the story title to go to the overview, click on the chapter name to go to the chapter. No warnings on this chapter.

2 of 3 Finduilas POV chapters. Finduilas continues to deal with "the sorrow" through politics. She moves to bring Thorongil completely over to Denethor's side, and to get him acccepted by her faction. Whorehouses remain a concern. Denethor makes clear his own desires where both Finduilas and Gondor are concerned. A major transformation overtakes a central character. The story within the story continues, and a mystery is solved.

For people who aren't familiar with HotK, it is a fanfiction novel, published a chapter at a time. It chronicles the courtship and marriage of Denethor and Finduilas. My publication has been erratic in July and August due to travel and work, but I should be back to a two chapters per month publication cycle through the end of the year.


Friday, September 08, 2006

Wes Clark - Vision, Smarts and Party Loyalty

When I am utterly disgusted with the mendacious and unpatriotic despotism that defines the Bush administration, I go over to Wes Clark's site for a breath of fresh air. I've never made a secret of my support for Clark, but he really is the candidate for the times. In his latest interview, with Ed Schultz, he is able to talk about international relations, political economy, regional stability, maintaining US military readiness, the utter stinking incompetance of the Bush White House, and having faith in the American people. It was great to read something by someone who can think on his feet and move easily from topic to topic.

However, where he has been hammering away is on two fronts - Bush's incompetancce and the need to tak back the Congress. In this interview on ABC News, he cuts through all the BS the media is letting Bush get away with:
Sam Donaldson: Alright, 'Stay the Course', it's a great theme, and as Mike suggested, it may have some validity. What's wrong with the president saying, 'We've just got to tough it out'?

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well, the policies aren't working. He hasn't made us safer. He's made us weaker. Look, the American public understand, the War on Terror's a very serious business, but they're also understanding in greater and greater numbers that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake and that staying there and pursuing the policies he's pursuing in Iraq is actually serving as a recruiting magnet for Al Qaeda.

There were a number of us who testified on the Hill in 2002, and we warned of this very occurrence. And it's come to pass, because this administration went to a war we didn't have to fight with Iraq, and then handled the aftermath of that war very, very poorly. The American public see it. You know, when you're dealing with a democracy, you don't get down into the fine nuances. People are busy in their own everyday lives, but what they know is: This administration promised the American people a cakewalk in Iraq and then a sweep through the rest of the Middle East to sort of clean up those old regimes and rubber-stamp Democracy in there. And it hasn't worked. It's a failed policy, and in Democracy, leaders who fail are held accountable by the electorate. That's what President Bush has riding on this election. He's failed. The American people are beginning to see it.

(Later, talking to Mark Halperin)

Mark Halperin: General Clark, your party has argued for months that Iraq is going badly. It's not a pleasant place, as Senator Reid said. Is that a message that you think's gotten through to the American people? Are you convinced that the American people understand, as you say you do, what's going on on the ground in Iraq and will vote based on that?

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well, I think increasingly, the American people do see it. It's not because Democrats have been saying it. We want to succeed in Iraq like everybody else does. What they're seeing is the facts in Iraq and the fact that the President always is talking about turning corners and see lights. We've been about three laps around the Pentagon right now in terms of the number of corners we've turned, and we still haven't really turned a corner in Iraq. So, I think people have enough common sense to recognize that 'Stay the Course' is not a strategy for success.
Bush's policies (to the degree they deserve to be taken that seriously) have failed. Full stop. The American people know it, and it is time for the media to stop playing some game that it's all "just politics," as though the butchery of Americans and Iraqis is not happening as a result of the lies told by this administration.

What Wes Clark does better than any other presidential contender is tie together domestic national security, military readiness, international relations and support of the Democratic party. I have yet to hear anyone make a more certain and effective argument than this to overcome decades, even generations, of misplaced faith by security elites in the Republicans:
We need a change in course, and that's got to start with a change in the leadership in Congress. I believe the leaders that you see here, in the United States Congress and the others will help put us on the right course for success in the War on Terror. They know that to win you've got to make more friends than enemies in the world. They know that you've got to strengthen relations with other countries, that you've got to talk to people you don't necessarily agree with and that you've got to use all the elements of military power AND America's diplomatic strength and international law and law enforcement, bringing it all together to succeed in the War on Terrorism. They're not soft. They're tough-minded, and they're determined to win.

And I want to make a special plea to my fellow believers in U.S. national security - our veterans, our policy analysts, the men and women associated with the Armed Forces because their spouses or their children or their fathers are involved in this. We've dedicated over thirty years since Vietnam to rebuilding our Armed Forces. We created a whole strengthened culture of national security, and I'm calling on those people today and my fellow retirees from the Armed Forces to lay aside the prejudices of the Vietnam era and face the facts. The war in Iraq was a mistake. The policies that this administration has trumpeted haven't worked. It's time to change the course, and to do that, we must have a change in leadership that starts in 2006.
Given the hand-wringing by certain youngsters in the progressive punditry over how to package the Democrats as strong and smart on national defense, you'd think they'd pay more attention to the person who is actually doing it.

Wes Clark is busting his chops to get other Democrats elected. This is someone who really understands "team player." Yes, he wants to be President, but more than that he wants us to have a government we can be proud of and the rest of the world looks up to.

A man with vision and common sense, who is smart and well connected enough to make it happen, and who is totally dedicated to the Democratic party. The antidote to six long years of the Bush regime.


Incompetance on a Catastrophic Scale

Hat tip to Kevin Drum for pulling the links togather. It appears that Rummy & George never planned to manage a nation devastated by war, suffering from decades of authoritarian rule and riven by deep ethno-religious conflicts:

"The secretary of defense continued to push on us ... that everything we write in our plan has to be the idea that we are going to go in, we're going to take out the regime, and then we're going to leave," Scheid said. "We won't stay."

Scheid said the planners continued to try "to write what was called Phase 4," or the piece of the plan that included post-invasion operations like occupation.

Even if the troops didn't stay, "at least we have to plan for it," Scheid said.

"I remember the secretary of defense saying that he would fire the next person that said that," Scheid said. "We would not do planning for Phase 4 operations, which would require all those additional troops that people talk about today.

"He said we will not do that because the American public will not back us if they think we are going over there for a long war."

...."In his own mind he thought we could go in and fight and take out the regime and come out. But a lot of us planners were having a real hard time with it because we were also thinking we can't do this. Once you tear up a country you have to stay and rebuild it. It was very challenging."

That doesn't mean they weren't planning on maintaining influence in Iraq, of course, only that they were never the slightest bit concerned with the butchery and suffering they were about to inflict an an already traumatized nation. They clearly intended to hand over the government to their favorite lick-spittal, Ahmed Chalabi, and then dig in to create permanent bases in the region from which they could launch attacks with impunity against misbehaving Islamic states. While oil plays a large role - the reason why we are bothering to fight over this land rather than let its people kill each other off, as we do with most of Africa - it has more to do with extending military and corporate power.

They knew there weren't any WMDs. Valerie Plame told them so. It was always an excuse, like all of the other pathetic excuses.


Monday, September 04, 2006

Kitty Sick Again

Just when I thought I'd wrapped up site technical problems and would have time to write and blog, the cat got sick again. She has an abscess on her rear and is at the animal ER awaiting surgery. Sigh. And just when the credit card bills for the last kitty medical emergency were finally paid off, too...