Archive for June, 2003

The Homeland Security Choker Set

Saturday, June 21st, 2003

From Aaron/Hiro comes this fun item: the homeland security choker set.

New Republic Details the Administration’s Pre-War WMD Deceptions

Saturday, June 21st, 2003

The New Republic is running a good article by John P. Judis and Spencer Ackerman on the Bush administration’s pre-war sales job on Iraqi WMDs: The first casualty. There are no big revelations, but a certain amount of fleshing out via new details, and overall just a really good presentation of what happened when.

I just don’t see any way to avoid the conclusion that Bush & Co. lied intentionally to sell the war, especially on the key points of the Iraq/al Qaeda connection and the Iraqi nuclear program. And that ends up being really problematic.

The authors of the article point out that the openness required by democracy and the secrecy required by the national security apparatus are always going to be in conflict. It’s a delicate area, where the need to protect the country from external threats must be balanced against the need to protect it from unscrupulous leaders here at home.

We the people just don’t get to see classified intelligence reports; we’re dependent on our elected leaders to make an honest, unbiased assessment of the information they contain, and use that information to keep us safe. We have to just trust them on that. But if they’re willing to distort that information in pursuit of a particular political agenda, emphasizing some parts and suppressing others, then they have violated that trust, and if we catch them at it, we have to hold them accountable. If we fail to do so, it’s all downhill from there. They absolutely will not police themselves on our behalf.

Cote on the WMD Fallacy

Saturday, June 21st, 2003

Owen R. Cote, Jr., associate director of MITís Security Studies Program and a coeditor of the journal International Security, has written a powerful indictment of the Bush administration’s approach to dealing with WMDs: Weapons of mass confusion. He points out that nuclear weapons on the one hand, and chemical/biological weapons on the other hand, are distinctly different problems. By pursuing policies that treat them as one and the same, Bush & Co. are hampering their own effectiveness and exposing us to horrible dangers.

Cote’s arguments sound solid to me. See, this is why we have experts. Because to really smart people who have specialized knowledge and lots of experience in particular fields, thorny problems are significantly easier to break down into their component parts and solve. Listening to experts doesn’t always mean the resulting policies will succeed, but routinely ignoring them is a pretty sure prescription for failure.

Which is what we have with George Bush. He doesn’t trust experts. He trusts his gut. As a result, decisions on matters ranging from defense against terrorists to invasion of other countries to dealing with global climate change are being made by a man who is notoriously uninterested in critical thinking, and who instead substitutes the dimly understood urgings of his own psyche and the advice of a tight circle of ideologues and political tacticians.

So, do you feel safer?

Thanks to Janus/onan for the link.

Hymen-Restoration Surgery

Friday, June 20th, 2003

I’m not going to comment on this, beyond posting the item. You get to assign your own meanings. From ABC News’ Lynn Sherr: Like a virgin. (Thanks to Aaron/Hiro for the link.)

MoJo on the WaPo on Jessica

Friday, June 20th, 2003

So, I’ve gone from ignoring the sweet little waif to being the All-Jessica, All-the-Time weblog. For your Jessica-obsessed pleasure, Mother Jones’ Daily MoJo has the latest on the Private Lynch meta-discussion: Pfc. Lynch: Cut! It’s a wrap!

They come down closer to Craig’s take on this than my own, siding with a recent Slate piece that criticized the Washington Post for having soft-pedaled their own role in hyping the bogus version of the story initially. Also has some interesting links to back-and-forth sniping between CBS and the New York Times over their respective maneuvering to get the exclusive post-amnesia Jessica interview, and discussion of the question of how journalistic ethics are to be maintained in an era when honest news reporting might well be at cross-purposes with the aims of the news organization’s megamedia parent.

Update: And courtesy of Craig in the comments on the previous Jessica item, here’s Nicholas Kristof’s op-ed piece in the New York Times: Saving Private Jessica. Offers some really interesting tidbits about the ambulance trip just prior to the rescue: Kristof’s sources say she was slated to be killed in an Iraqi propaganda ploy, but that her ambulance driver talked the military triggerman out of it with an appeal to God.

Wow. I think the Movie of the Week rights are getting more valuable, not less.

Dirty Tricks Campaign Against Dean & Clark?

Friday, June 20th, 2003

Kynn of Shock & Awe has posted some interesting information about people apparently masquerading as Clark supporters beating up on Dean, or Dean supporters beating up on Clark, in the Yahoo Groups forums for the respective candidates: Trying to set Dean and Clark supporters against each other.

Interesting. And totally believable, at least to me. Indeed, I’m sure the response from certain quarters will be, yeah? So what?

You mean people actually lie online? *gasp*

Yeah, well, us lefties are like that. Kumbaya, give peace a chance, building a better, more-inclusive future for all humanity. Sheesh. What a bunch of chumps, huh?

Whitman’s Not-So-Comprehensive Environmental Report

Friday, June 20th, 2003

Much ruckus being kicked up regarding the New York Times’ article, yesterday, that blew the whistle on the White House having so watered down the section on global warming in the EPA’s upcoming big-ass report on the state of the environment that it was eventually decided to just remove that section altogether: Report by the EPA leaves out data on climate change. Editorial/opinion pages are pretty universally taking up the call against such politicization of scientific findings. From Derrick Z. Jackson in the Boston Globe: Bush fries climate change. SunSpot: More revisionist history. And the NYT itself: Censorship on global warming.

It’s part of the same pattern that gave us sexed-up evidence of Iraqi WMDs. Bush & Co. have little use for expert opinion that doesn’t square with their political agenda. Yeah, I realize all politicians do the same thing to some degree, but with Bush it’s off the charts. And since simply pretending very, very hard that things are true that really aren’t, or aren’t true that really are, has a poor track-record in terms of actually changing reality, this becomes pretty scary for anyone who has to live with the consequences of the resulting decision-making.

Lesh: It’s the Security, Stupid

Friday, June 20th, 2003

Writing at Democratic Underground, Thomas Lesh makes a case I can pretty much agree with: Carpe Diem. He says the current Democratic leadership is being too timid in attacking Bush’s inept foreign policy, that being an effective opposition to the current train wreck of a ruling regime means articulating a credible alternative on the issues people care about. These days, that means national security. Of course, that would entail taking some risks, rather than trying to drift with the current of public opinion, waiting for the polls to change before popping up at the head of the parade. Which basically disqualifies most of the politicians we currently have at a national level.

In reviewing which of the Democratic presidential contenders lives up to this higher standard, Lesh dismisses from the get-go anyone who voted in favor of the war resolution, meaning he dismisses my current favorite, Kerry, and focuses on Dean and Kucinich as the only viable choices. (I suppose you could throw in Wesley Clark, assuming he stops being coy and enters the race.)

I’ve been leaning toward Kerry mainly for that Clinton-inspired “electability” factor: I’ve been trained to believe that in order to win the presidency a Democrat has to be a politician first and a leader second. But it’s true that Kerry’s war resolution vote is problematic. As the anonymous, droll, permalink-challenged foks at the WSJ’s OpinionJournal put it recently:

For the sake of argument, let’s say Kerry is right and Bush perpetrated a sham. In a hypothetical general-election match-up, who would you rather choose to deal with hostile foreign leaders: a guy who’s capable of pulling off such an elaborate deception, or the sucker who fell for it?

I’m not sure how Kerry solves that problem, at least in terms of satisfying someone like me. But then my cynical side observes that it doesn’t matter if Kerry can satisfy me; it only matters if he can satisfy enough of Middle America to get elected. And I’m very much in the anyone-but-Bush camp.

Still, it would be nice to believe in somebody for a change. Maybe I’ll start paying more attention to Dean.

Kinsley: WMDs No Longer Matter

Thursday, June 19th, 2003

Slate’s Michael Kinsley writes some of the most intelligent stuff I’ve seen on WMDs in a while: Did Iraq have weapons of mass destruction? It doesn’t matter. I especially like his comments on the meaning of recent poll results, in which a large majority of respondents, even those who clearly haven’t been anywhere near actual data in a long time, are convinced they have the straight dope.

Verily, we live in the Age of Mutually-Exclusive Certainties. Wild.

9/11 Survivors Pissed at Bush

Thursday, June 19th, 2003

Here’s an article from Salon that’s worth enduring the click-through ad for the one-day pass: Bush’s 9/11 coverup? It goes over some things I’ve harped on here before, with some additional details.

I’m really pretty outraged about this one, and more, about the apparent willingness of large chunks of the country to turn a blind eye to it. All that righteous anger that was on display in the wake of 9/11; where’d it go? You remember? “Never forget?”

Palast on the Media on McKinney

Thursday, June 19th, 2003

Here’s a fun story from Alternet’s Greg Palast: The screwing of Cynthia McKinney. Well, fun if you’re not Cynthia McKinney, or someone who cares about the truth-value of what passes for journalism in this country.

Berlow on Bush Lawyer Alberto Gonzales

Thursday, June 19th, 2003

Here’s an interesting article from Alan Berlow in The Atlantic on the legal briefs prepared by Alberto Gonzales, then-legal counsel to Governor Bush of Texas, concerning upcoming executions: The Texas clemency memos.

I guess the tendency of Bush to lean towards simplistic, slanted portrayals of potentially complex issues, even in the face of severe consquences for wrong decisions, isn’t anything new. And the picture gains additional relevance in that Gonzales is apparently the most-frequently-cited prospect for a Bush nomination to the presumed upcoming vacancies on the US Supreme Court.

Oh, joy. Another Clarence Thomas.

Life in These United States (Or Not)

Thursday, June 19th, 2003

Alan Bisbort, writing in the Hartford Advocate, talks about something that a lot of us have probably been thinking about lately: Luck of the Irish. Basically, he considers some of the costs and benefits, should Bush win (re-)election in 2004, in emigrating to another country.

Of course, I don’t see any reason why a recent US emigre would expect to find a particularly warm welcome overseas. What must they think of the US these days in those other countries? Our principal exports to the rest of the world lately are unprovoked invasions and radio DJ prank phonecalls. Polls show that disturbingly large numbers of us are full-on idiots. And so on.

Still, even though the US character can be assumed to lean heavily toward the desire to light out for parts unknown when the going gets tough (such motivations having served as the principal source of US immigrants through the years), I’m not going anywhere. I intend to stay, and to be as annoying as possible while doing so. So there.

NYC Flash Mobs

Wednesday, June 18th, 2003

From Daypop, and not to be missed: Flash mobs take Manhattan. This is so New York.

Of course, we Southern Californians have our own version of this. It takes place every day, on the 405 freeway.

Update: See also this account of the event in question: Mobs rule! And also these additional photos.

This Just In…….Joseph Goebbels Is STILL Dead!

Tuesday, June 17th, 2003

This will come as quite a buzz kill for those who seem to believe that Joey and his Nazi cronies are alive and well within Bush’s Administration. The media microscope is steadily coming closer into focus on the details of the Private Lynch story. The Washington Post has gathered the most information yet, from a larger pool of sources, of the events, from the ambush of the US convoy to Jessica’s rescue and recovery. Of course, there are still some conflicting stories to shake out, and some missing pieces. Interestingly, apart from some purposeful willingness on the part of the Pentagon and White House to not jump in very quickly to correct some positive details that the initial media scrum was cranking out, it seems a great deal of the “Hollywood” storyline to this incident was due to the media feeding on each other’s flawed information. Not really the carefully scripted propaganda story that is being credited in some circles to Joseph, er, I mean, Ari, Donald and the rest.

Granted, the microscope of truth will continue to bring the facts even more into focus. But what appears to be becoming clearer is the ever-increasing likelyhood that this Hollywood tear-jerker was not made in D.C.

Laughing at Ari Some More

Tuesday, June 17th, 2003

Fun White House press conferences today: Transcript: White House Daily Briefing, June 17, 2003. I especially like this exchange:

Q: Ari, a quick two-part question. You said there will come a time
when the President engages in political activities. How will we know
when that happens? (Laughter.)

MR. FLEISCHER: You’re not trying to lead me somewhere with that type
of question, are you?

Q: Never, Ari.

MR. FLEISCHER: Very judicious of you.

Q: Will you be landing somewhere? (Laughter.)

MR. FLEISCHER: I hope you enjoyed it. (Laughter.) Your network surely
did.

As I’ve said before, I really am going to miss Ari. There’s lots of other good stuff in the transcript, including hammering on Ari about WMDs, about which the president is sticking to his guns, at least as far as Ari is concerned. And his (the president’s) supporters continue to do their best to shore him up; witness the following editorial from today’s Washington Times: What credibility gap?

Poll Shows Many Americans Believe WMDs Found AND Used

Tuesday, June 17th, 2003

The polls keep getting better. By which I mean, worse. Dumber. Wronger? Something.

Anyway.

War poll uncovers fact gap. According to a recent poll from the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, a third of US citizens believe US forces have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Twenty-two percent believe such weapons were actually used by Saddam’s forces during the recent war.

Whoa.

Interesting discussion by the people who conducted the poll, trying to figure out how so many people would believe something that not even the president’s strongest supporters on the WMD thing claim to be true. “Given the intensive news coverage and high levels of public attention, this level of misinformation suggests some Americans may be avoiding having an experience of cognitive dissonance,” said Steve Kull, director of the program. You think?

Hartmann on the Bush/Adams Connection

Tuesday, June 17th, 2003

Here’s a really interesting article by Thom Hartmann on the history of President John Adams and the Alien and Sedition Acts, including comparisons with what is going on these days: An earlier “Patriot” law brought down a president.

Dyer on the Emerging Iraq Quagmire

Tuesday, June 17th, 2003

Either Gwynn Dyer is reading Steve Gilliard, or they’re both coming to the same conclusions independently: US faces long, hot summer in deadly tinderbox.

Krugman on Bush’s Domestic-Security Failings

Tuesday, June 17th, 2003

Paul Krugman’s latest New York Times column is dead on, focusing on what I seriously believe could be the issue that defeats Bush at the polls next year: Dereliction of duty. He points at the Washington Post piece on Rand Beers that I mentioned yesterday, and goes on to talk about some of the ways Bush is failing to deal with the terrorist threat effectively.