Archive for March, 2004

Prankster Engineers Restaurant Strip Searches

Wednesday, March 31st, 2004

In these dangerous times, it’s comforting to know that so many people have taken to heart our government’s admonitions to cooperate with law enforcement authorities whenever possible. People like Allan Mathis, former manager of a South Dakota fast food restaurant, who, at the request of a police officer who phoned him up one day, held a 19-year-old female employee in a back office against her willl for three hours, forcing her to remove her clothes and have her body cavities searched. Well, except that it wasn’t actually a police officer who phoned him; it was some random prankster who apparently has been phoning up restaurants from Arizona to Massachussetts, successfully getting managers to search female employees and patrons: Bizarre hoax leads to strip searches.

Corn: What To Ask Rice

Wednesday, March 31st, 2004

As long as you’re getting the one-day pass at Salon, check out this excellent item from David Corn: Condi’s conundrum. It covers the questions he’d like to see the 9/11 commission ask her when she gives her much-resisted public testimony.

Dean: I Know Creepy. And These Guys Are Creepy.

Wednesday, March 31st, 2004

Watergate stool pigeon John Dean has a new book out. It’s titled Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush, and over at Salon David Talbot has an interview with the author: Creepier than Nixon (subscription, or watch-the-commercial one-day pass, required).

Thanks to Yian for the heads up.

Teen Arrested for Sexually Abusing Herself

Tuesday, March 30th, 2004

From the AP, via USA Today: “A 15-year-old girl has been arrested for taking nude photographs of her self and posting them on the Internet, police said. … She has been charged with sexual abuse of children, possession of child pornography and dissemination of child pornography.

What’s next, arresting a 14 year old boy caught masturbating for child molestation?

Rice’s Credibility (Or Lack Thereof)

Monday, March 29th, 2004

Nice summary from the Center for American Progress on the various ways in which Rice is dangling out in public, having asserted things that are not quite factual lately: Condoleeza Rice’s credibility gap.

Condoleeza Rice: Doing Her Job

Friday, March 26th, 2004

Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words. Like this one, swiped from the AP:


There’s Condoleeza Rice watching Bush speaking at some press event. Doesn’t her expression, and the way she seems to be trying to merge herself into the flag, speak volumes about what she’s been going through lately?

Here are a few interesting links on the embattled national security advisor. From Scott Forbes of A Yank in Oz: Witness protection. From Ryan Lizza at The New Republic: Logic jam. And from Joshua Micah Marshall: How low will they go? (Also from Marshall, though it focuses more on Clarke: Last night I heard…)

There are more good links at the Center for American Progress: Bush admits negligence.

Republican Senator Bill Frist is apparently among those encouraging Bush to have Rice testify publicly, under oath, for the commission. And I have to say, that would certainly help clear up a few things. At this point, Rice is the one most directly damaged (well, beyond Bush himself, I guess) by Richard Clarke’s testimony. He pretty much called her a liar.

From his 9/11 commission testimony:

GORELICK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you, Mr. Clarke, for your testimony today. You have talked about a plan that you presented to Dr. Rice immediately upon her becoming national security adviser, and that in response to questions from Commissioner Gorton, you said elements of that plan, which were developed by you and your staff at the end of 2000 — many elements — became part of what was then called NSPD-9, or what ultimately became NSPD-9.

When Dr. Rice writes in the Washington Post, “No Al Qaida plan was turned over to the new administration,” is that true?

CLARKE: No. I think what is true is what your staff found by going through the documents and what your staff briefing says, which is that early in the administration, within days of the Bush administration coming into office, that we gave them two documents. In fact, I briefed Dr. Rice on this even before they came into office.

CLARKE: One was the original Delenda Plan from 1998, and the other document was the update that we did following the Cole attack, which had as part of it a number of decisions that had to be taken so that she characterizes as a series of options rather than a plan. I’d like to think of it as a plan with a series of options, but I think we’re getting into semantic differences.

GORELICK: Thank you.

I’d like to turn NSPD-9, the document that was wending its way through the process up until September 4th. The document is classified so I can only speak of it in generalities.

But as I understand it, it had three stages which were to take place over, according to Steve Hadley, the deputy national security adviser, over a period of three years.

The first stage was, we would warn the Taliban. The second stage was we would pressure the Taliban. And the third stage was that we would look for ways to oust the Taliban based upon individuals on the ground other than ourselves, at the same time making military contingency plans.

Is that correct?

CLARKE: Well, that’s right. The military contingency plans had always been around, but there was nothing in the original draft, NSPD, that was approved by the principals to suggest U.S. forces would be sent into Afghanistan on the ground.

GORELICK: In addition to that, Director Tenet was asked to draft new additional covert action authorities. Is that right?

CLARKE: That’s right, in part because Mr. Hadley found the existing six memorandums of covert action authority to be talmudic — it’s actually I think Mr. Hadley who gets credit for that word.

But it wasn’t really meant to expand them significantly other than providing direct aid to Afghan factions.

GORELICK: Now you have just described, then, the skeleton, if you will, of what was approved by the administration as of September 4th. And we know that no further action was taken before September 11th.

GORELICK: And so I would read to you — and these are questions I would have put to Dr. Rice had she been here, and I will put to her, the White House designee, Secretary Armitage. She says our strategy, which was expected to take years, marshalled all elements of national power to take down the network, not just respond to individual attacks with law enforcement measures. Our plan called for military options to attack Al Qaida and Taliban leadership, ground forces and other targets, taking the fight to the enemy where he lived.

Is that an accurate statement, in your view?

CLARKE: No, it’s not.

Personally, I don’t think there can be any serious doubt that Clarke’s version of events is much closer to the truth than Rice’s. I mean, it’s documented. So what is Rice going to do?

Well, she can go on like she has been, using executive privilege as an excuse to avoid testifying, while peddling spin to the media. Or she can reverse herself, and go ahead and testify. In that case, though, she’ll have to walk a very fine line. Democratic members of the commission, at least, will be in a position to make her time in the witness chair a living hell. She’ll be extremely hard-pressed to avoid saying things that are demonstrably false (and hence would be perjury) while still defending and burnishing Bush’s reputation.

And as we all know by now, protecting Bush’s reputation is Job One for Condoleeza Rice these days. It’s a much more important part of her job than thwarting terrorists, or helping the 9/11 commission get to the bottom of the events that led up to that day. If you want a national security advisor who’ll spend her time on those sorts of things, you’re going to have to elect a different president. Because George Bush isn’t about to get rid of Condoleeza Rice. Not while she’s doing such a good job.

Rock Against Bush

Friday, March 26th, 2004

I really love the whole concept of HyperText.

As a member of the Sum41 Fan Club, I got an email the other day letting me know about Rock Against Bush Vol .1. It sounds like it will be a sweet rock/punk CD, packed full of some great songs you know, and a ton of new tracks written by bands who (as Canadian Sum41 put it in their newsletter) feel they “just can’t sit quietly and watch that idiot fuck up your country and the rest of the world.”

So why do I love HyperText?

While preparing this little blurb, I noticed the link to, where I discovered:

God bless the Internet, and God bless America Burma

Daschle on the Bush Mafia

Thursday, March 25th, 2004

I feel like my country is being run by an organized crime syndicate. Here’s what Tom Daschle has to say about it: Floor Statement of Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle on the Administration Attacking Good People for Telling the Truth.

You know what Daschle’s enumeration of grievances against Bush reminded me of? It reminded me of that central part of the Declaration of Independence when they’re griping about all the crap George III had been pulling.

Wednesday, March 24th, 2004

I was flying back from Vegas this afternoon, and I found a copy of AA’s AmericanWay Magazine in the boarding area for SWA. I flipped through it while waiting to board (because I was too lazy to get my book out of my carry on bag), and found the most compelling argument against online music downloads (legal or otherwise) I’ve ever heard.

I think more people should apply this argument to more things.

Kaplan on Clarke

Wednesday, March 24th, 2004

So, I caught most of Richard Clarke’s testimony before the 9/11 commission today. That guy is so credible, it’s not even funny. Everything the Republican members of the commission tried to use to pick him apart, he just demolished.

I can’t overstate the significance of this factor, too: Everyone else I saw testify before the commission over the last two days went to great lengths to insulate themselves, or their bosses, from criticism; talking about what a fabulous job they’d done, how the attacks were completely unpredictable, and so on. Clarke got up there and said to the families of the victims, I’m sorry. I failed you.


Anyway, here’s some more good stuff, pre-testimony, from Slate’s Fred Kaplan: Dick Clarke is telling the truth.

Update: More Kaplan on Clark: Richard Clarke KOs the Bushies. Which is pretty much how I saw it, too.

March 22: Bullshit Day

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2004

I think we should henceforth enshrine March 22 as “Bullshit Day”, the day on which members of the Bush administration fanned out across the media landscape, saying anything and everything they could think of to try to blunt the impact of Richard Clarke’s charges that Bush ignored the threat of terrorism in the months leading up to 9/11, and was obsessed with constructing false-to-fact links to Saddam Hussein after the attacks.

There’s a nice roundup of yesterday’s hijinks in the Washington Post: White House counters ex-aide. And insightful analysis is available from Kevin Drum (Bush’s secret plan and Panic mode) and from Joshua Micah Marshall (A request… and Alright, I promise…). And if you prefer your bulllshit straight, no chaser, you can go right to the source of some of the best of it: Cheney to Rush: Clarke “not in the loop”.

The interesting thing here isn’t that the Bush people are hitting back hard; that was predictable. The interesting thing is the nature of the response. They’re trying to slam Clarke as an unreliable partisan. They’re claiming this is just politics as usual. They’re hoping they can get Joe Sixpack disgusted enough from campaign-season name-calling to tune the whole thing out; affter all, that worked pretty well on the Valerie Plame thing.

They’re not actually refuting Clarke’s charges. Because they can’t. They’re too well-documented, too consistent with other things we already know. The few attempts to undercut them have been laughable. So they’re left with trying to smear the messenger.

And note that it isn’t just angry lefties like me who see their response this way. The other side essentially acknowledges that this is what they are doing. From the Washington Post article I linked to above:

Clarke’s allegations come after two weeks in which Kerry (D-Mass.) struggled for footing and the Bush campaign enjoyed what his aides believed was their best run of the year. But by Friday, a Republican official said the campaign was bracing for a tidal wave of negative publicity from Clarke’s book. The campaign’s defense strategy was that although Clarke could not be roundly refuted on the facts, enough doubt about the issue could be raised by portraying him as reckless and partisan.

You catch that? We can’t dispute the facts (that Bush ignored repeated warnings about al Qaeda in the months before 9/11, and sought to tie Saddam Hussein to the attacks afterward, even when all the experts insisted to him that where was absolutely no connection between the two), because, well, unfortunately, those facts happen to be true. So instead we’re going to take a guy who is pretty much the definition of non-partisan sobriety, who served under four presidents, Republican and Democrat alike, and whose pre-9/11 warnings and proposals for dealing with the threat of al Qaeda make him look like the most prescient person since Nostradamus; we’re going to take that guy, and make him out to be an unreliable party hack, disgruntled over having been turned down for a promotion, who as a result is trying to hurt Bush with hateful lies.

Bullshit Day! Hooray!

Update: See the great Tom Coles cartoon about this (link courtesy of Talking Points Memo).

Al Franken Profiled

Sunday, March 21st, 2004

From tomorrow’s (oops; today’s) New York Times Magazine: Al Franken, seriously.

Marshall on Clarke, Zelikow

Saturday, March 20th, 2004

Joshua Micah Marshall writes more about the significance of the Clarke revelations (that Bush’s people wanted to bomb Iraq immediately after 9/11, and had to be talked out of it by the terrorism experts who pointed out that Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks). There’s also some good stuff about Philip D. Zelikow, who was a member of the Bush transition team, and sat in on the anti-terrorism briefings at which the outgoing Clinton people begged the Bush team to pay more attention to al Qaeda. And, surprise, surprise, he’s now executive director of the 9/11 commission. Can you say “conflict of interest”? What do you think the chances are that Zelikow will probe deeply into the question of whether he made a horrible mistake in ignoring the warnings of the Clinton folk? Anyway: Richard A. Clarke said in a television interview…

This is the big one. This is the granddaddy of Bush’s accountability problems: The way he ignored the threat of al Qaeda in the months leading up to the 9/11 attacks. Marshall writes:

It is fair to say that anyone who has seriously reported on this issue, or has read a lot of the good reporting on it, already knows this: namely, that the incoming Bush administration downgraded the attention given to terrorism and al Qaida specifically in the last years of the Clinton administration, and this after being warned by out-going members of the Clinton team that combatting al Qaida should be at the top of their agenda.

In short, they pushed al Qaida and a lot of resources aimed at fighting al Qaida to the backburner until the whole thing blew up in their faces on 9/11.

Their focus, as we’ve noted before, was on the centrality of states rather than shadowy transnational terrorist groups — thus their preoccuption with issues like national missile defense.

In any case, as I say, we’ve basically known this.

But it’s another thing to have the person who was there at the center of the action as NSC counter-terrorism czar — both under Clinton and Bush — saying on camera that the president ignored terrorism and al Qaida right up until the day of the attacks. Clarke was there. In fact, to the extent that Bush and Rice and Cheney and the rest of the team were ignoring the issue, it would have been Clarke’s urgent warnings they were ignoring — since he was the head of counter-terrorism on the NSC staff.

Riverbend on Iraq, One Year Later

Saturday, March 20th, 2004

An important perspective — and in a certain respect the only important perspective, given that liberation of the Iraqi people appears to be the sole survivor of the many justifications Bush has offered for the pre-emptive Iraq war — on what has been accomplished in Iraq over the last year: The war on terror…

But we’ve learned a lot. We’ve learned that terrorism isn’t actually the act of creating terror. It isn’t the act of killing innocent people and frightening others… no, you see, that’s called a ‘liberation’. It doesn’t matter what you burn or who you kill- if you wear khaki, ride a tank or Apache or fighter plane and drop missiles and bombs, then you’re not a terrorist- you’re a liberator.

Dear Mr. President Letters: Parts 5 and 6

Saturday, March 20th, 2004

The good people at the Dear Mr. President Letters Project have done some updates lately. I confess I’d totally forgotten about it, but then a wave of nostalgia had me re-reading my posts from March of last year, and I came across my second posting about the project, which referenced my original item about it. Anyway, there’s some good stuff in the latest batch; see Part 5 and Part 6.

My favorite is from Part 5:

Dear Mr. President,

You can be walking down the street and suddenly bump your head into someone else’s thought. Sex thoughts are the biggest. They come in the shape of toast, or falling leaves.

I used to skip along on a beautiful song called dirt. Once some big boys beat me up and kicked the song in my face.

Our tree house was the closest point to the moon.

Eric Morgan

Marshall to Kerry: Time to Live Up to that Reputation as a ‘Fighter’

Saturday, March 20th, 2004

Joshua Micah Marshall has a lengthy, and really interesting, piece this morning on the current state of the Bush/Kerry battle: Listen carefully to these passages… Basically, Marshall, who has been pulling for Kerry more or less from the beginning, says it’s time Kerry joined the fight in earnest, doing the sorts of things he’s going to need to do if he’s going to beat Karl Rove’s dirty tricks and Bush’s mountains of TV-advertising money.

‘Against Us’ Gaining in the ‘With Us/Against Us’ Equation

Saturday, March 20th, 2004

Kos has an excellent piece today: Losing allies on the WOT. It runs through some of the bad news that has come out in the last few days regarding the rapidly thinning ranks of Bush’s “Coalition of the Willing”.

It’s not just lefties like Kos, and craven appeasers like the Spanish, who are increasingly having a problem siding with Bush in his “with us or against us” world. Check out the following from the Los Angeles Times editorial writers, a group that tends to be pretty little-c conservative, at least from my perspective: A war’s woeful results. An excerpt:

At least the president might score a debatable point in asserting that life in Iraq is far better without Saddam Hussein. But he’s the president of the United States and leader of the free world. So it’s fair to ask whether the war has made life better for this nation and its allies. In our assessment, it has not. Although ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction was the administration’s major selling point for the war, it is now clear that Hussein’s regime no longer possessed those weapons. And European allies, including Poland — which Bush on Friday used as a post-communist model of how Iraq could evolve — feel misled and more worried than ever about their security.

Hussein’s Iraq played no part in 9/11, even as the administration insisted that the war in Iraq was an inevitable consequence of the 9/11 attacks. Al Qaeda followers, perpetrators of the assault against the United States, were and still are more likely to be found within the borders of U.S. ally Pakistan than within the borders of Iraq. Islamic radicals were able to portray the war as an imperialist ploy of the U.S. and its reluctant followers, invading Iraq because it was a Muslim nation with a stand-up Hussein as leader. That propaganda, which the Bush administration helped mightily to feed through its hubris and miscalculations, has spawned a new generation of recruits for terror. Those recruits have joined Hussein’s followers to kill U.S. soldiers and Iraqis cooperating with the occupation forces. More than 570 U.S. troops have died in Iraq, along with soldiers from Britain, Spain, Italy and other nations. The war has killed thousands of Iraqis as well. Nations must retaliate for attacks like those on the World Trade Center and Pentagon and expect casualties in war. But the invasion and occupation of Iraq — a nation that did not pose an imminent threat — and the shameful underfunding of homeland security have not lessened U.S. vulnerability. The U.S. grows increasingly isolated from its allies, and that gives comfort and strength to its enemies.

Attention Bush supporters: You have a problem.

Clarke on the Immediate Response to 9/11

Saturday, March 20th, 2004

I’ve noted before how with the passage of time, the disagreements and confusions of the present get clarified. So with the Bush people’s immediate reaction to the 9/11 attacks. If you folllow the angry yapping lefties, as I (obviously) do, the following isn’t really news. But the interview with Richard Clarke, former top White House terrorism advisor, that CBS is running tomorrow on 60 Minutes, will probably raise a few eyebrows among those who either haven’t given the question much thought until now, or who have been giving Bush & Co. the benefit of the doubt so far.

Anyway, as submitted by reader Barry Ritholtz: Sept. 11: Before and after.

Some choice quotations:

Clarke was surprised that the attention of administration officials was turning toward Iraq when he expected the focus to be on al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

“They were talking about Iraq on 9/11. They were talking about it on 9/12,” says Clarke.

The top counter-terrorism advisor, Clarke was briefing the highest government officials, including President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.

“Rumsfeld was saying we needed to bomb Iraq….We all said, ‘but no, no. Al Qaeda is in Afghanistan,” recounts Clarke, “and Rumsfeld said, ‘There aren’t any good targets in Afghanistan and there are lots of good targets in Iraq.’ I said, ‘Well, there are lots of good targets in lots of places, but Iraq had nothing to do with [the September 11 attacks].'”

And there’s this one:

“Frankly, I find it outrageous that the president is running for re-election on the grounds that he’s done such great things about terrorism,” says Clarke in Sunday’s interview. “He ignored it. He ignored terrorism for months, when maybe we could have done something to stop 9/11. Maybe. We’ll never know.”

Righties will be quick to smear Clarke. I’m guessing they’ll try to link him with Clinton, or will focus on the fact that he’s trying to drum up sales for his new book. They can’t dispute his facts, so raising a smokescreen of irrelevancies is all they have. But Clarke is a top terrorism expert, advisor to four presidents, who was there, in the room with Bush and his staff, as the response to the 9/11 attacks was put together. He’s rock-solid credible. And the picture he’s painting isn’t pretty.

Attention Bush supporters: You have a problem.

Milbank and Wright’s Iraq Post-Mortem

Saturday, March 20th, 2004

So, it’s one year later, and Bush gave a speech about Iraq today (well, yesterday, now). I assume he wanted to talk about how great things are going, but it ended up being a speech more about the importance of not letting the terraists win, a goal we can achieve, apparently, by not questioning his ongoing foreign policy failures.

In the meantime, Dana Milbank and Robin Wright have an excellent article in the Washington Post: Off the mark on cost of war, reception by Iraqis. It reminds us what Bush & Co. were saying about the upcoming war this time last year, and details the many ways in which their predictions have failed to come true.

I note that the story appeared on page “A01”, according to the slugline. It’s nice to see this kind of thing on the front page, rather than buried on A20.

Krugman: The Illegitimacy of Criticism

Friday, March 19th, 2004

Nice piece from Paul Krugman: Taken for a ride. The conclusion:

This week the Bush campaign unveiled an ad accusing John Kerry of, among other things, opposing increases in combat pay because he voted against an $87 billion appropriation for Iraq. Those who have followed this issue were astonished at the ad’s sheer up-is-down-ism.

In fact, the Bush administration has done the very thing it falsely accuses Mr. Kerry of doing: it has tried repeatedly to slash combat pay and military benefits, provoking angry articles in The Army Times with headlines like “An Act of `Betrayal.’ ” Oh, and Mr. Kerry wasn’t trying to block funds for Iraq — he was trying to force the administration, which had concealed the cost of the occupation until its tax cut was passed, to roll back part of the tax cut to cover the expense.

But the bigger point is this: in the Bush vision, it was never legitimate to challenge any piece of the administration’s policy on Iraq. Before the war, it was your patriotic duty to trust the president’s assertions about the case for war. Once we went in and those assertions proved utterly false, it became your patriotic duty to support the troops — a phrase that, to the administration, always means supporting the president. At no point has it been legitimate to hold Mr. Bush accountable. And that’s the way he wants it.