Wednesday, June 30, 2004


The Blue Lemur reports:

Conservative commentators have been coming to Cheney's defense, adding their own repartee to Cheney’s now-infamous 'go fuck yourself' remark to Vermont senator Patrick Leahy.

On June 25, Mark R. Levin – a WABC radio talk show filling in for regular ABC Radio host Sean Hannity on his radio program The Sean Hannity Show, addressed Senator Leahy on Cheney’s behalf:

LEVIN: By the way, Senator Leahy out there, "F-you."

Rush Limbaugh, on vacation June 25, added his insight on June 28:

LIMBAUGH: "You expect me to come over here and act like you’re my friend after all this rotgut garbage you’re saying about me? F-you."

LIMBAUGH: "F-you. You aren’t my friend; I don't want you in my company. And I'm not going to smile when I'm around you, because you don't deserve my friendship. You haven't earned my friendship. You are my enemy. And I'm not going to come here and put on a show, phony-baloney show that says I like you, and that we are convivial, and that are we are colleagues, and all we do is disagree in the daytime, but at night we go out and have a beer. F-you. I don't want to have a beer with you. I don't want to be anywhere near you. I don't like you. You do not deserve my friendship, and don't act like we’re friends here."

Limbaugh added:

LIMBAUGH: [A]ll he [Cheney] did, was suggest a certain sexual practice that Senator Leahy try on himself.


...insults and rage impede understanding.

--Nicholas Kristof, in one of several columns he has written for The New York Times denouncing harsh language by Democrats and liberals; this blog is not aware of any Kristof column that has focused primarily on intemperate language by Republicans and conservatives

The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

Nader, Dean to debate whether Ralph should run

Among the debate topics: Should Ralph run for president? The participants: Howard Dean and a candidate who always has an opinion on the subject -- independent Ralph Nader.

Dean, the former Democratic presidential hopeful who attracted legions of liberal followers before his bid fizzled out, will debate Nader for 90 minutes on July 9 before a studio audience.

National Public Radio's weekly program "Justice Talking" is sponsoring the debate, and correspondent Margot Adler will moderate....

I like it -- a gadfly-gadfly smackdown!

Go, Howard!
47 percent of registered voters now believe Bush deliberately misled the people to make his case for war in Iraq, while 44 percent think he gave the country the most accurate information he had.  

--NBC/Wall Street Journal poll

Please stop whimpering, Nick Kristof.

It's a good thing the Supreme Court left the Internet alone, because Matt Drudge just posted some purpose-built porn for Dick Morris.

(No, I don't believe it for a minute.)
How many Bush administration talking points can the new Iraqi prime minister squeeze into a three-question interview? Well, count 'em:

Brokaw: As long as the United States military remains a conspicuous presence in your country working hand in glove with the new Iraqi government, won’t you always be seen really as an instrument of the U.S. military and therefore of America?

Allawi: Iraq, as everybody knows, is the front state now — as the main theater to oppose and fight terrorism.  And, with the help of international community and with the help of the region and with the help of the Iraqi people, we are going to win.  We are going to prevail.

Brokaw: I know that you and others like you are grateful for the liberation of Iraq.  But can’t you understand why many Americans feel that so many young men and women have died here for purposes other than protecting the United States?

Allawi: We know that this is an extension to what has happened in New York.  And — the war have been taken out to Iraq by the same terrorists.  Saddam was a potential friend and partner and natural ally of terrorism.

Brokaw: Prime minister, I’m surprised that you would make the connection between 9/11 and the war in Iraq.  The 9/11 commission in America says there is no evidence of a collaborative relationship between Saddam Hussein and those terrorists of al-Qaida.

Allawi: No.  I believe very strongly that Saddam had relations with al-Qaida.  And these relations started in Sudan.  We know Saddam had relationships with a lot of terrorists and international terrorism.  Now, whether he is directly connected to the September — atrocities or not,  I can’t — vouch for this.  But definitely I know he has connections with extremism and terrorists.

Yikes -- he's not even reciting Bush's lines. That last one is Cheney's -- not "We don't believe Saddam worked on 9/11," but rather "We just haven't found the evidence yet."

Let me remind you, by the way, that back in December Allawi vouched for the phony Niger uranium memo.

Put this together with the Saddam dog-and-pony show Allawi's conducting right now, and with the suggestions he's made at times that both Saddam's trial and Iraqi elections could take place in the fall (perfectly timed for maximum impact on U.S. elections), and you can see he's not even trying to conceal the fact that he's the Bushies' poodle.

So, do you think he'll take at least some time off from his Bush campaign work to put in a few hours as prime minister?
In The New York Times, Nicholas Kristof is fretting again about those nasty, intemperate lefties. This time it's the word "liar" that's causing him to wring his hands:

Bookshops are filled with titles about Mr. Bush like "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them," "Big Lies," "Thieves in High Places" and "The Lies of George W. Bush."

A consensus is emerging on the left that Mr. Bush is fundamentally dishonest, perhaps even evil — a nut, yes, but mostly a liar and a schemer. That view is at the heart of Michael Moore's scathing new documentary "Farenheit 9/11."

In the 1990's, nothing made conservatives look more petty and simple-minded than their demonization of Bill and Hillary Clinton, who were even accused of spending their spare time killing Vince Foster and others. Mr. Clinton, in other words, left the right wing addled. Now Mr. Bush is doing the same to the left.

I have to confess that I more or less agree with a point Kristof makes later in the column:

Mr. Bush's central problem is not that he was lying about Iraq, but that he was overzealous and self-deluded. He surrounded himself with like-minded ideologues, and they all told one another that Saddam was a mortal threat to us. They deceived themselves along with the public -- a more common problem in government than flat-out lying.

But that's precisely why calling Bush a liar is different from calling Clinton a murderer. Vincent Foster wasn't murdered. Ron Brown wasn't murdered. In each case, the Clintons were accused of a horrific crime, and there was no crime. Bush, on the other hand, is guilty of something with regard to Iraq -- either dishonesty or incompetence. You may be off base if you charge him with one when he's guilty of the other, but you're not off base by much.

(UPDATE: Link fixed.)

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

The 9/11 Commission has declared that there was no operational link between Saddam and al-Qaeda, and an alleged smoking gun, the discovery that a member of the Fedayeen Saddam had a name similar to that of a man who was present at an al-Qaeda conference, has gone down a damp squib.

Laurie Mylroie isn't deterred.

Last Thursday she published a 2,400-word article in the New York Sun in which she insisted, yet again, that "Iraq was almost certainly directly involved" in 9/11.

Her theory? That many of the best-known terrorists aren't actually related, as most observers believe. Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, isn't really the nephew of the notorious Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, mastermind of the September 11 attacks, and other terrorists who are believed to be members of their family aren't members of their family.

It's all a fake. And just about everyone is in on the cover-up:

The Clinton administration, however, did not want to hear this....

I met with [Itamar Rabinovich, then Israel’s ambassador to Washington] to explain that Iraq was behind the Trade Center bombing. Mr. Rabinovich was not keen to hear that....

The CIA is a bureaucracy run amok, more interested in covering up its mistakes than understanding Al Qaeda. Senior administration officials responsible for the Iraq war have come under vicious attack, and they are on the defensive....

But a few people believe her, as I learned from an April Newsweek story by Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball. And at one point they wanted to retroactively declare Ramzi Yousef an "enemy combatant" just so they could test her cockamamie theories:

...The proposal, pressed by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, called for President George W. Bush to declare Ramzi Yousef, the convicted mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, as an enemy combatant in the war on terror....

Wolfowitz contended that U.S. military interrogators -- unencumbered by the presence of Yousef’s defense lawyer -- might be able to get the inmate to confess what he and the lawyer have steadfastly denied: that he was actually an Iraqi intelligence agent dispatched by Saddam to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993 as revenge for the first Persian Gulf War....

Now, let's round up the usual suspects:

Wolfowitz’s interest in the procedure, sources said, stemmed from his longstanding interest in the theories of Mylroie, a controversial academic and former fellow of the conservative American Enterprise Institute. Her 2001 book, "Study of Revenge: The First World Trade Center Attack and Saddam Hussen's War against America," cites Wolfowitz in the acknowledgements for providing "crucial support" for the project. Others who merit expressions of gratitude in Myleroie's acknowledgements are three top aides to Cheney -- chief of staff Lewis (Scooter) Libby and foreign-policy advisors John Hannah and David Wurmser-- as well as Undersecretary of State John Bolton and Francis Brooke, a principal Washington lobbyist for the Iraqi National Congress.

In Mylroie's current article, she says the fakery took place in Kuwait when it was occupied by Iraq in 1990 -- there are fingerprints in a file in Kuwait for Abdul Basit, whose identity Ramzi Yousef assumed, but it doesn't matter if those fingerprints match Yousef's because, Mylroie says, the Iraqis corrupted the Kuwaiti files.

Er, but Isikoff and Hoseball point out this:

Wolfowitz’s interest in proving Mylroie’s "switched identity" theory got him to persuade the Justice Department shortly after September 11 to provide a government jet and FBI staff support for a secret mission to England by former CIA director James Woolsey. The idea behind the mission was to check fingerprints on file in Swansea, England, where Basit had once gone to school, and compare them to the fingerprints of the Ramzi Yousef in prison....

Justice Department officials tell NEWSWEEK that the results of the Woolsey mission were exactly what the FBI had predicted: that the fingerprints were in fact identical...

So another set of fingerprints -- in England -- provided a match ... two and a half years ago.

But Isikoff and Hosenball say Wolfowitz wouldn't let the theory go. And clearly Mylroie won't, either.


I don't think we'll ever know the whole truth about the Iraq war until we know who in the administration believes Mylroie's theories, and until we know how much those beliefs influenced the decision to go to war. I think Cheney believes them, and I think that may have been a huge factor in the decision to invade.
Nick Confessore at The American Prospect reads this New York Times story and draws the obvious conclusion:

OCTOBER SURPRISE NUMBER ONE. The New York Times is reporting that the new Iraqi government will put Saddam Hussein on trial "in the next few months."

I.e., before Election Day....

Expect the trial to make frequent appearances in Bush's stump speech this fall and likely at the Republican convention, as the incumbent proclaims that he has made the world safer from terrorism by bringing down Saddam and forcing him to face justice at the hands of the formerly ruled.

Yes, but doesn't a trial of Saddam potentially cut both ways? If, as the U.S. election approaches, Saddam is on trial, or convicted, or even executed, and the violence in Iraq continues unabated, doesn't that reinforce the sense that driving Saddam from power did nothing to make the world safer?
So Nader is referring to the Green Party nominating convention as a "cabal" and describing Michael Moore as "like a giant beach ball, while Bush is in a snit because an Irish reporter asked him tough questions, and Cheney is proud of the fact that he verbally flipped off Senator Patrick Leahy.

All of which, I think, makes John Kerry look like the grown-up in the race right now.

Remember 1992? Perot was in, then he was out, then he was in again, ranting all the while; the elder George Bush, meanwhile, spewed insults like a pro wrestler, calling Al Gore "Ozone Man" and saying of Gore and Clinton, "My dog Millie knows more about foreign affairs than these two bozos." By late October, if you wanted to vote for an adult, it was clear you had to vote for Clinton. You could paint him as the guy you couldn't trust because he'd once been a shaggy-haired peacenik, but he sure looked as if he'd have the steadiest hand on the tiller. Twelve years later, something similar might be happening.
The headline on Gallup's Web site for the story on its latest Iraq poll is

Americans Applaud Transfer of Sovereignty to Iraq

Have mixed expectations for future of Iraq.

Mixed feelings indeed -- here's AP on the same poll:

Americans are skeptical about the turnover of political control to Iraqis at a time the country has not been stabilized, according to polls released Monday.

By a 2-1 ratio, Americans say the turnover of political control to Iraqis now is not a sign of success, but a sign of failure because the nation's stability remains in question, according to a CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll....

In the Gallup poll, six in 10 said the handover of authority at such an unstable point is a sign of failure, while about three in 10, 32 percent, said the handover of authority on schedule is a sign of success, according to the Gallup poll taken last week.

Six in 10 said they think it is unlikely internal security will be established in Iraq in the next five years and slightly more, 63 percent, said they think U.S. troops will be in Iraq for another three years or more....

The public is starting to get it.

Monday, June 28, 2004

So there was an article yesterday in The New York Times Magazine by Michael Ignatieff, "liberal hawk" and useful idiot, about Iraq and torture and other things.

I'm happy to learn from the article that Ignatieff believes torture is bad, even when it's done by the government he trusted to bring freedom and human rights to Iraq. But now that Ignatieff has had to acknowledge an unpleasant truth about George W. Bush, he seems ready to canonize ... Ronald Reagan:

As Americans remembered the boys of Pointe du Hoc and the president who immortalized them, they had to read reports of government lawyers telling their superiors that "the infliction of pain or suffering per se, whether it is physical or mental, is insufficient to amount to torture." The discordance between the high sentiments heard at President Reagan's funeral and the lawyers' attempts to justify the unjustifiable left you unable to determine whether the rhetoric of the funeral was a moment of spiritual reaffirmation or just an exercise in organized amnesia.

True enough -- but, er, what about the discordance between Ronald Reagan's stirring rhetoric and Ronald Reagan's human rights record? If you're ignoring that, aren't you experiencing in a bit of amnesia yourself? Michael, meet the dead nuns from El Salvador.

But Ignatieff doesn't want to hear it:

You will say: Remember the departed president. Don't stain his memory with painful associations.

Yes, heavens no. We wouldn't want to mention Abu Ghraib and sully the memory of a man who never met a Latin American "dirty war" he didn't like.

Further on, Ignatieff asks three rhetorical questions about the Bush administration's conduct of the Iraq war. These questions have two obvious answers:

Who can read Bob Woodward's "Plan of Attack" and not find his jaw dropping at the fact that from the very beginning, in late 2001, none of the civilian leadership, not Rice, not Powell, not Tenet, not the president, asked where the plan for the occupation phase was? Who can't feel that U.S. captains, majors and lieutenants were betrayed by the Beltway wars between State and Defense? Who can't feel rage that victorious armies stood by and watched for a month while Iraq was looted bare?

Who can read Plan of Attack and not find his jaw dropping at Bushie indifference to peacemaking? Oh, just everybody who's been paying attention to this administration from Day One.

Who can't feel that U.S. military personnel were betrayed by the Rummy's battle with Powell? Who can't feel rage that Rummy's inadequately large force allowed Iraq to be looted? I'll tell you who can't: the Bush base. Bush says he stands for good and these people redraw the contours of "good" to encompass whatever he sees fit to do. And Michael Ignatieff threw in his lot with these people.

He still apparently does, even as he denounces what happened in Bush's prisons. His penultimate paragraph is nothing more than a recasting of Bush bullet points:

The United States has only one remaining task in Iraq: to prevent civil war and the dismemberment of the country. Sending in more troops will only turn them into targets and delay the day when Iraqis are required to defend themselves. The troops should be there to train enough Iraqis loyal to the national government to prevent Kurds from turning on Sunnis or Shiites from turning against both. America cannot defend Iraq from its demons of division: it can only help Iraqis do so. When there is a freely elected government, the United States should come home. January 2006 is the date for return set by the United Nations resolution. By then the oil should be flowing, the coffers of the Iraqi state should be filling up and what Iraq will do with the money will be up to the Iraqis, not us.

Throw in a few "we"s and this could be a Bush speech from anytime in the past year -- we mustn't withdraw the troops, and we mustn't increase the number of troops either (we have exactly the right number of troops -- isn't that obvious?); and very, very soon everything will be hunky-dory in Iraq -- can't you see the light at the end of the tunnel?

Save me from liberal hawks.
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor ... and seven other justices held that the detention of Yaser Esam Hamdi, a native-born United States citizen seized in Afghanistan in 2001, was invalid for constitutional or statutory reasons. Only Justice Clarence Thomas dissented from that basic position.

Justice O'Connor wrote that the campaign against terrorism notwithstanding, "a state of war is not a blank check for the president when it comes to the rights of the nation's citizens."

--New York Times

Even Scalia wouldn't vote with the administration. Only Thomas.

Now I'm more certain than ever: If Bush is reelected, Thomas is going to be his pick to replace Chief Justice Rehnquist.
This jumped out at me from a New York Times story this morning:

A defense official said one of the aides, who was captured last week, had told American interrogators that Mr. Zarqawi was less interested in the future of Iraq specifically than he was in establishing a base in Falluja from which to foment violence against the United States and American allies in the region.

There it is: Iraq is a failed state, the perfect breeding ground for terrorism. Or, at the very least, Falluja is a failed, lawless region, a place Zarqawi believes is likely to be out of the reach of civil authority for the forseeable future -- his own little Waziristan.

And it happened on our watch. Nice work.
Just catching up...

...Er, "Clinton summer"? Hell, it wasn't even Clinton week. Michael Moore (and the Supreme Court, and the desperate-for-a-handover Bushies, and a few terrorists with swords) saw to that. The book's selling like hotcakes (still #1 at Amazon as I write this), but it's no longer dominating the headlines, less than a week after its release.

That's how news works nowadays -- stories with no ongoing drama or narrative don't stick. I knew that. You probably did, too. Undoubtedly Clinton knew that -- he sure as hell knew he'd be off the front pages by Democratic Convention time, a whole month from now. So how come Howard Fineman ("June 22 allows Clinton to ride the wave of politics for five months") didn't, and he gets to pontificate for Newsweek?

Friday, June 25, 2004

It looks as if I won't be blogging again for a couple of days. See you (I think) late Monday.

White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card yesterday called on his home state's senator to apologize to President Bush, calling it "beneath" John F. Kerry to use an expletive to blast Bush's handling of the Iraq war.

The Holbrook native, who serves as Bush's top deputy, said Kerry shouldn't have used the phrase "f--- it up" to assail Bush.

"I've known John Kerry for a long time and I'm very disappointed that he would use that kind of language," Card said on CNN's Late Edition.

"That's beneath John Kerry.... I'm hoping that he's apologizing, at least to himself, because that's not the John Kerry that I know," Card said.

The comments were the first White House rebuke of a Democrat in the presidential primary campaign.

Local and national Republicans joined the fray, saying Kerry's comments seemed to be prompted by his steady drop in primary polls.

"A drop in the polls seems to correspond with a drop in word choice for Sen. Kerry," RNC spokeswoman Lindsay Taylor said. "It's not the type of language you would expect to hear from a leader."

"John Kerry's pathetic campaign has sunk to a new low," added Massachusetts Republican Party Executive Director Dominick Ianno. "It's to the point where he just keeps embarrassing himself." ...

--Boston Herald, 12/8/03 (via Free Republic)


By the way, I noticed this in the CNN story about Cheney's outburst, which took place as an official photo of the Senate was being taken:

Using profanity on the Senate floor while the Senate is session is against the rules. But the Senate was technically not in session at the time and the normal rules did not apply, a Senate official said.

Recently the White House had lawyers looking for ways around the torture laws. Do you think the White House would waste taxpayer money by having some of the same lawyers look into whether Cheney could do this without technically violating the rules of the Senate (of which he is, constitutionally, the president)?
A lot of lefty bloggers have written about the fact that Dick Cheney on Tuesday cursed out Senator Patrick Leahy on the Senate floor using the F word. They've noted that Cheney promised to bring civility back to Washington.

You know, I could be just another lefty blogger, piling on, criticizing Cheney for this. But I'm not going to do that. I'm going to let someone else comment in my place.

Rush Limbaugh's brother:

...Senator Kerry, in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, let his stiff hair down just a bit too far in response to a question about how his support for the resolution authorizing war against Iraq damaged his campaign....

 "I voted for what I thought was best for the country. Did I expect Howard Dean to go off to the left and say, 'I'm against everything?' Sure. Did I expect George Bush to f--- it up as badly as he did? I don't think anybody did."

Deborah Orin in the New York Post quoted Brookings Institution presidential scholar Stephen Hess as saying that to his recollection this was the first time a presidential candidate used X-rated language to attack another candidate publicly. "It's so unnecessary," said Hess. "In a way it's a kind of pandering to a group he sees as hip."

Precisely. Democrats must be hip today to appeal to the hipster vote....

We're definitely living in a divided America, with one half (and hopefully more) still clinging to those things almost every American once held sacred, and the remainder having "graduated" to become "progressives." The 2004 election will not only be a contest between the presidential candidates, but a referendum on America's values.

So there you go -- Cheney's trying to destroy traditional values, all because he's desperate to appear "hip."
Keep saying it to yourself ... just a few bad apples ... just panties on the head ...

The company commander of the unit charged with abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib testified Thursday that the top military intelligence officer at the prison was in the cellblock the night a prisoner died during interrogation....

Testifying at a hearing for one of the seven accused members of his unit, the 372nd Military Police Company, Capt. Donald Reese said that one night in November 2003, he saw the bloodied body of an Iraqi prisoner who had died during interrogation inside a shower stall in a prison cellblock. He said a number of officers were standing around it, discussing what to do.

One of them, he said, was Colonel Pappas, the head of the military intelligence at the prison. "I heard Colonel Pappas say, 'I'm not going to go down alone for this,' " Captain Reese testified.

An autopsy the next day established the cause of death as a blood clot from trauma, he said....

In addition to Colonel Pappas, Captain Reese testified that among the others in the room were members of the Central Intelligence Agency. He also said there was a female major present, as well as a man named Jordan. It was not clear whether he was referring to Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, the head of the interrogations center at Abu Ghraib.

Captain Reese, whose testimony lasted several hours and was covered in a news pool report, said he had been told the detainee had died from "a heart attack." But, he said, the body was "bleeding from the head, nose, mouth."...

--New York Times

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Well, this New York Times story is going to make right-wingers feel smug, but it shouldn't:

Contacts between Iraqi intelligence agents and Osama bin Laden when he was in Sudan in the mid-1990's were part of a broad effort by Baghdad to work with organizations opposing the Saudi ruling family, according to a newly disclosed document obtained by the Americans in Iraq.

American officials described the document as an internal report by the Iraqi intelligence service detailing efforts to seek cooperation with several Saudi opposition groups, including Mr. bin Laden's organization, before Al Qaeda had become a full-fledged terrorist organization. He was based in Sudan from 1992 to 1996, when that country forced him to leave and he took refuge in Afghanistan.

The document states that Iraq agreed to rebroadcast anti-Saudi propaganda, and that a request from Mr. bin Laden to begin joint operations against foreign forces in Saudi Arabia went unanswered. There is no further indication of collaboration....

Just what the 9/11 Commission said -- no collaboration on terrorism, attempts to forge a real working relationship rebuffed.

Oh, and this document came from Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress.

A translation of the new Iraqi document was reviewed by a Pentagon working group in the spring, officials said....

The task force concluded that the document "appeared authentic," and that it "corroborates and expands on previous reporting" about contacts between Iraqi intelligence and Mr. bin Laden in Sudan, according to the task force's analysis.

It is not known whether some on the task force held dissenting opinions about the document's veracity.

Recall one of the more delicious details from Jane Mayer's New Yorker portrait of Chalabi:

In 1994, [CIA agent Robert] Baer said, he went with Chalabi to visit "a forgery shop" that the I.N.C. had set up inside an abandoned schoolhouse in Salahuddin, a town in Kurdistan. "It was something like a spy novel," Baer said. "It was a room where people were scanning Iraqi intelligence documents into computers, and doing disinformation. There was a whole wing of it that he did forgeries in." Baer had no evidence that Chalabi forged any of the disputed intelligence documents that were used to foment alarm in the run-up to the war. But, he said, "he was forging back then, in order to bring down Saddam."

But hey, maybe this document is authentic. It's such small beer, it might be.

Imagine you're working for the street-gang unit of a big-city police force. Your worst gang is doing really nasty, violent things and has to be stopped. You know who the gang leaders are. You want to conduct a major operation to bring the gang down. But the mayor, for reasons of his own, keeps insisting that you should focus your attention on arresting someone who keeps trying to join the gang -- someone who's no angel, but who's never been part of the big gang's inner circle. And on the mayor's orders, the entire gang task force is redirected toward the arrest of that guy.

That's the Iraq war.

Bill Clinton published his book now because he wants voters to be reminded of his sleazy behavior -- that way they'll appreciate what a normal guy Bush is and decide to vote for him, thus defeating Kerry and allowing Hillary to be the clear favorite for the Democratic nomination in 2008.

No, I'm not making this up.
Can the Right use McCain-Feingold to ban TV and radio ads for Fahrenheit 9/11? Well, maybe:

Michael Moore may be prevented from advertising his controversial new movie, “Fahrenheit 9/11,” on television or radio after July 30 if the Federal Election Commission (FEC) today accepts the legal advice of its general counsel....

In a draft advisory opinion placed on the FEC’s agenda for today’s meeting, the agency’s general counsel states that political documentary filmmakers may not air television or radio ads referring to federal candidates within 30 days of a primary election or 60 days of a general election....

The proscription is broadly defined. Section 100.29 of the federal election regulations defines restricted corporate-funded ads as those that identify a candidate by his “name, nickname, photograph or drawing” or make it “otherwise apparent through an unambiguous reference.”...

I can't see why this has to happen. Surely ads can be made for this movie that don't mention Bush and don't make "an unambiguous reference" to him.

If those ads are banned, then it's war. If the FEC rules, in effect, that any ad for Fahrenheit 9/11, with any wording, is ipso facto a campaign commercial, just because of the content of the movie being advertised, then every TV and radio ad for a right-wing talk-radio host should be pulled from the airwaves, starting a month before the Democratic convention.

If Moore has to pull all his ads, then, two days from now (i.e., a month before the Democratic convention begins), WRKO in Boston shouldn't be able to run any ads that say, "Coming up at three this afternoon, Howie Carr" -- because that would be given airtime to an ad for a full-time Kerry hater. MSNBC shouldn't be able to interrupt Headliners to run a plug for professional Democrat-hater Joe Scarborough's show. Fox News shouldn't be able to run any ads for any of its shows.

If Moore really does take the big hit, let's sue 'em all and make sure this ban extends to everyone it applies to.

(Moore story via BuzzFlash.)
Insurgents Kill 69 People in Iraq

Turkey Bus Blast Kills 3 People Before NATO Summit

Well, so much for Bill Clinton hogging the headlines.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004


Since Clinton was impeached, liberals have been trapped in a time warp. They just can't seem to "move on." Books retelling Clinton's side of impeachment -- only since the decadent buffoon left office -- include: ... Joe Eszterhas' "American Rhapsody," Joe Klein's "The Natural: The Misunderstood Presidency of Bill Clinton" ...

--Ann Coulter column released tonight

Eszterhas feels betrayed by Clinton, precisely because he once believed in him.... So this is a long yell of protest from a professional hedonist who, faced with the ugliness of professionalized hedonism in the White House, doesn't care for the refraction of the mirror.

--Christopher Hitchens, review of Joe Eszterhas's American Rhapsody, New York Times, 7/30/00

Much of the drama in this volume can be found in tracing vacillations in Mr. Klein's views of Mr. Clinton, from his sense of ideological kinship, as a New Democrat, with the president, to his disappointment with the man's failure to make the most of his talents and opportunities.... this volume suggests that "moral turpitude" and the distractions caused by the president's personal behavior cast a long shadow over his presidency.

--Michiko Kakutani, review of Joe Klein's The Natural, New York Times, 3/12/02


As far as I know, conservatives have produced one book touching on Bill Clinton's impeachment in this time: In 2003, National Review's Rich Lowry decided it was finally safe to attack Clinton and thereupon produced the only Regnery book with Bill Clinton's mug on the cover that did not make the New York Times' best-sellers list. That's how obsessed the Clinton-haters are.


Sell Out: The Inside Story of President Clinton's Impeachment by David P. Schippers (Regnery; published August 21, 2000)

Mission: Impeachable by K. Alan Snyder (Allegiance; published May 1, 2001. "Mission: Impeachable reveals the truth about the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. Told from the perspective of the House Managers, the author uncovers the brave and courageous actions of the Republicans who lead the cause to impeach the President.")

The Wizard of "IS": The Short, Ugly Story of the Impeachment of Billy Jeff Clinton and His Trailer Park Presidency by Jerry Mander (J. Mander Press; published June 1, 1999)

(Though, to be honest, the bigger names in conservatism have avoided the subject of impeachment, preferring instead to write books such as Losing Bin Laden: How Bill Clinton's Failures Unleashed Global Terror, Dereliction of Duty: The Eyewitness Account of How Bill Clinton Endangered America's Long-Term National Security, and The Final Days: The Last, Desperate Abuses of Power by the Clinton White House.)


Most presidential memoirs get right to the president part....


I was born in the house my father built.

--first sentence of Richard Nixon's presidential memoir RN

If I'd gotten the job I wanted at Montgomery Ward, I suppose I would never have left Illinois.

--first sentence of Ronald Reagan's presidential memoir An American Life
About a month ago I posted a story about Sean Baker, a National Guardsman who was asked to portray a prisoner at Guantanamo for a training exercise and was beaten so severely (by U.S. soldiers who didn't know he wasn't a real detainee) that he was left with a seizure disorder. Well, last night ABC News ran a story about Baker with a detail I hadn't heard:

[Baker] said the four soldiers stopped beating him only when they saw he was wearing parts of an Army uniform beneath the prison jumpsuit. Then they realized he was one of them.

Baker said: "I could only grunt it out, you know, 'I'm a U.S. soldier. I'm a U.S. soldier.' And one of them said, you know, something like, 'Whoa, whoa, hold on. Stop. Stop.' "

But even then, Baker said he had to face the dogs outside the cell, which were apparently trained to attack anyone in an orange jumpsuit.

"I moved out into the causeway and the canine unit was going wild because I had the orange jumpsuit on," he said. "And someone screamed, yelled back and said, 'Cut the suit off of him! Cut that suit off of him! Get that suit off him!' "

I know what right-wingers would say about the soldiers who beat Baker, but what about the dogs? Were they "bad apples," too? Bad apple dogs?


In addition, The Guardian has a story about prisoner abuse at Bagram in Afghanistan --

American soldiers stripped him naked and photographed him, set dogs on him, asked him which animal he would prefer to have sex with, and told him his wife was a prostitute. He will tell also of hoods being placed over his head, of being forced to roll over every 15 minutes while he tried to sleep, and of being kept on his knees with his hands tied behind his back in a narrow tunnel-like space, unable to move.

-- and there's a USA Today story about the "quick results" Major General Jeffrey Miller promised (i.e., better intelligence) if his Guantanamo methods were adopted at Abu Ghraib -- never mind the fact that Monday's New York Times told us that the intelligence coming from Guantanamo hasn't been all that great.

Professor Juan Cole utterly demolishes the story about the Fedayeen Saddam guy who supposedly attended an Al Qaeda conference in Kuala Lumpur:

The family name (here, nisba) of the al-Qaeda guy in Malaysia is Azzawi.

The family name of the guy in Iraqi intelligence is Ahmad.

Do you notice how they are not the same?

The personal or first name of the al-Qaeda guy is Ahmad.

The personal or first name of the Iraqi intelligence agent is Hikmat.

Do you notice how it is not the same?

So, Ahmad Azzawi is not Hikmat Ahmad. See how easy that is?

...Azzawi is a nisbah, a form of last name having to do with a place or occupation or tribe. I'm not sure, but an `azzaw might be someone who specialized in consoling family members over the death of a loved one. It is being used as a family name.

Lt. Col. Ahmad's last name could also be used as a first name. It may well be his father's first name. Some Arab families use a system like that in Scandinavia. Thus, the father is Thor Odinsson and the son is Loki Thorsson. There isn't a stable family name in that case. In the old style, he might be Hikmat ibn Ahmad or the son of Ahmad, but a lot of people drop the ibn nowadays. Most families either have a nisba type family name or they don't. If a guy's last name is Azzawi, that would certainly be in the government records. Lt. Col. Ahmad did not have Azzawi as a family name....

There's more at the link, if you're still not convinced.

(Juan Cole link via Billmon.)
For what it's worth, Knopf is declaring victory, according to this press release, which I just received via e-mail:




NEW YORK, 23-June-04 – First day sales for Bill Clinton’s MY LIFE exceeded 400,000 copies in the U.S., it was announced today by Sonny Mehta, president of the Knopf Publishing Group. “This is a record-breaking number for a work of non-fiction,” says Mehta. “Indeed, we are seeing exceedingly strong sales for MY LIFE not only across the country but around the world.”

In light of the unprecedented demand from retailers, Knopf printed an additional 725,000 pre-publication copies of the book beyond the initial print run of 1.5 million, bringing the total number of copies in print for MY LIFE up to 2.25 million copies.

The Random House Audiobook of MY LIFE had a record-breaking laydown for an adult book with over 315,000 copies. Monday’s sales broke first-day sales records, as well, with over 35,000 copies sold yesterday, nearly ten times the typical audio bestseller....

Because of continuing sales and demand from retailers, Knopf is planning additional printings of the book.

MY LIFE is already a worldwide bestseller, ranking number-one on Amazon in the United States, England, France and Japan....

Democrats, please: Stop trying to persude Ralph Nader to drop out of the race, and stop trying to keep him off state ballots. AP reports that members of the Congressional Black Caucus were doing the former yesterday and Arizona Dems are doing the latter today.

It's not going to work. It's obvious that every effort to talk Nader out of running only makes him dig in his heels a little bit more. And ballot challenges, even if successful in some states, will become a rallying point in other states.

Now that I've said that, let me say this: Ralph, shut the hell up.

Nader is now trying to pick a running mate for Kerry. His choice is Edwards.

It's possible that this is clever strategy -- urge Kerry to pick Edwards so Kerry looks weak and manipulable if he does pick Edwards, or so Kerry will react by refusing to pick Edwards, the running mate likely to do him the most electoral good.

But I think Nader's just doing what he's been doing for years: He's being the nation's political backseat driver. A guy who used to be a respected, feared advocate of change is now nothing more than a noodge -- he hasn't influenced the debate on any issue in America in years, but he can show up every four years and pester people (well, Democrats).

Nader could still be a player, and I'd welcome that -- I wish he'd logged as many miles opposing the Iraq war or the tax cuts as he does every four years trying to get 5% of the vote. But Nader doesn't even try to make change anymore. He'd rather be a pest. A couple of months ago he was telling Kerry to loosen up, and now it's this.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

If you're going to argue that Michael Moore appeals to emotion at the expense of reason, and does so in order to distort the truth, shouldn't you refrain from invoking Leni Riefenstahl and the "big lie" in your review of his movie, as Christopher Hitchens does in Slate, or declaring Moore's method "liberalism with a fascist face," as New York Press's Armond White does?

I'm exempting Bill O'Reilly from this discussion -- he's made a career of appealing to his listeners' basest instincts, so you expect him to compare Moore to Leni Riefenstahl and Joseph Goebbels. But Hitchens and White want thoughtful people to believe that they care deeply about the misuse of language and imagery; Hitchens, of course, can't get through an essay without suggesting that he alone keeps the Orwell flame.

Michael Moore is never going to wield state power, repressive or otherwise, or put his work in the service of those who do. And don't tell me he might do so in a Kerry administration -- if there ever is a President Kerry, he'll always be to Moore's right, and he'll eventually become a Moore target. Moore certainly isn't wielding state power now. It's pure demagoguery to emerge from his movie and claim to hear the sound of jackboots.


U.S. Approved Use of Dogs Against Prisoners


Rumsfeld OKd marathon questioning, prisoner threats


U.S. Let Interrogators Strip, Hood Prisoners, Documents Show


Bush Claimed Right to Waive Torture Laws


Orders by Bush About Prisoners Set Humane Tone

--New York Times


(UPDATE: That Times headline was accurate when I put this post up. Sometime overnight the headline changed to "White House Says Prisoner Policy Set Humane Tone." Google News and Yahoo News still cite the old headline, though their links go to the retitled story.)
Yes! I agree with Liberal Oasis 100%:

What if John Kerry took a stand?

What if John Kerry said at least one of the debates should include everyone who is on the ballot in a minimum of, say, 40 states, after which they could revert to Commission rules?

Here's what that could do.

By legitimizing third parties, it could win Kerry some appreciation from a chunk of the 40% the country who do not consider themselves with the major parties.

By displaying a willingness to debate all comers, it would showcase Kerry's self-confidence, and burnish his rep as a thoughtful politician who encourages a free exchange of ideas.

And by proposing a debate that potentially included not just Nader, but the nominees of the anti-government Libertarian Party (Michael Badnarik), the Christian-right Constitution Party (most likely, Michael Peroutka), and possibly the Green Party's David Cobb (if he can fend Nader off this Sat.).

That would put a spotlight on the other, more conservative, third-party contenders, who deserve it as much as Nader does....

It's a no-cost, no-risk move. And the right thing to do too.

As I said in the early days of this blog, that's what Gore's position should have been in 2000.

(Liberal Oasis link via Cursor.)
The Saddam = Osama "smoking gun" doesn't look all that smoky to me. Here's how Stephen Hayes reported it in The Weekly Standard earlier this month:

In late February 2004, Christopher Carney made an astonishing discovery. Carney, a political science professor from Pennsylvania on leave to work at the Pentagon, was poring over a list of officers in Saddam Hussein's much-feared security force, the Fedayeen Saddam. One name stood out: Lieutenant Colonel Ahmed Hikmat Shakir. The name was not spelled exactly as Carney had seen it before, but such discrepancies are common....

An Iraqi of that name, Carney knew, had been present at an al Qaeda summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on January 5-8, 2000. U.S. intelligence officials believe this was a chief planning meeting for the September 11 attacks.

Now there's this in today's Washington Post:

Former Navy secretary John Lehman, a Republican member of the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, said Sunday that documents found in Iraq "indicate that there is at least one officer of Saddam's Fedayeen, a lieutenant colonel, who was a very prominent member of al Qaeda." ...

Yesterday, [a] senior administration official said Lehman had probably confused two people who have similar-sounding names.

One of them is Ahmad Hikmat Shakir Azzawi, identified as an al Qaeda "fixer" in Malaysia. Officials say he served as an airport greeter for al Qaeda in January 2000 in Kuala Lumpur, at a gathering for members who were to be involved in the attacks on the USS Cole, the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Iraqi military documents, found last year, listed a similar name, Lt. Col. Hikmat Shakir Ahmad, on a roster of Hussein's militia, Saddam's Fedayeen.

"By most reckoning that would be someone else" other than the airport greeter, said the administration official, who would speak only anonymously because of the matter's sensitivity.

Look, I don't know much about the rendering of names in that part of the world, but Hayes led me to expect a minor difference in spelling -- maybe a discrepancy of one or two letters -- not something like this. Hell, there was a 9/11 hijacker named Mohammed Atta and an Afghan warlord named Atta Mohammed, who fought with the U.S. against the Taliban. This a greater difference.

(For that matter, there also seems to be a competitive bodybuilder named Atta Mohammad.)


By the way, Dick Cheney smugly said on TV that he "probably" knew more about Iraq-Al Qaeda connections than the 9/11 Commission, after which the commission was told about Shakir. But if Cheney thought this information was important, why didn't he mention it to the commission when he gave testimony? He appeared before the commision on April 29; Hayes wrote about Shakir for the Standard last October and then again in November. As you'll see at the top of the November link, Cheney publicly cited the Hayes article in January:

Editor's Note, 1/27/04: In today's Washington Post, Dana Milbank reported that "Vice President Cheney ... in an interview this month with the Rocky Mountain News, recommended as the 'best source of information' an article in The Weekly Standard magazine detailing a relationship between Hussein and al Qaeda based on leaked classified information."

If Cheney thought it was so damn important, why didn't he mention it to the 9/11 panel three months later?
The Bush administration's policy of barring news photographs of the flag-covered coffins of service members killed in Iraq won the backing of the Republican-controlled Senate on Monday, when lawmakers defeated a Democratic measure to instruct the Pentagon to allow pictures.

The 54-to-39 vote came after little formal debate, with 7 Democrats joining 47 Republicans to defeat the provision.

--New York Times

I'm trying to figure out the conservative line on this kind of thing: On the one hand, TV news should arouse righteous American outrage by showing, in all their gory detail, beheadings of U.S. hostages and the severing of fingers and tongues in Saddam's prisons. But coffins at Dover Air Force Base? Heavens, no. That would upset people.

Meanwhile, today's New York Daily News has the Marine ambush on the cover, but the cover of the Bushite New York Post avoids it altogether. What's the standard here? I'm just a humble blogger; I'm confused.

Monday, June 21, 2004

The Daily Howler notes today that Jodi Wilgoren of The New York Times and Nedra Pickler of AP have been writing about John Kerry's wealth in excruciating detail, while saying little more about Bush than that he "spends his down time trying to be more of an everyman" (Pickler) at his "sweltering ranch" (Wilgoren).

Well, I'm the guy who told you about Bush's rather expensive boots (UPDATE: sorry -- I misread that; Bush's father was the boot buyer), but I just found out about something else Bush doesn't stint on -- something for his ranch.

Portable toilets.

You probably don't remember this AP story about Black Tie Services -- it ran just as we were on the verge of invading Iraq. Black Tie provides portable toilets ... but not just any portable toilets:

Boasting amenities that range from tuxedoed attendants to brass fixtures and oak paneling, upscale portable restrooms are showing up everywhere from weddings to PGA tournaments to President Bush's ranch.

...Black Tie is among a handful of companies across the country that specialize in the restrooms, which from the outside look like plain white trailers.

The surprise is inside, where vanity mirrors, flushable toilets, full sinks, piped-in music, air conditioning and dishes of potpourri make the restrooms almost indistinguishable from those in a home or nice hotel.

... the trailer suites ... range from a couple of bathrooms to more than a dozen and average around $3,000 to rent ...

That $3,000, I gather, is for one night at your mansion, beach house, or, perhaps, "sweltering ranch." Now, how does that compare to your run-of-the-mill porta-potty? This is not my area of expertise; all I know is what it says in this document from the California state government:

The current cost for a portable toilet alone with weekly servicing including delivery to, and pick-up from, the worksite ranges in price from approximately $90 to $110 per month.

So Bush clearly likes to go in style.
Mr. Moore may also have to defend his portrayal of Mr. Bush's presidency as sinking prior to Sept. 11, citing an inability to win support for his legislation. But he fails to mention that in May, Congress agreed to Mr. Bush's $1.35 trillion tax cut, the centerpiece of his legislative agenda. Mr. Moore said that his review of news coverage before Sept. 11 shows that, with or without the tax cut, the Bush presidency was floundering before the terrorist attacks. Mr. Moore said, "I've read what other people wrote and said at the time, and he was definitely on the ropes."

--Philip Shenon in yesterday's New York Times

... on September 10, 2001, George Bush was not on his way to a very successful presidency....

... Bush was unsuccessful in his political strategy.... The fight to enact his first big initiative, his tax cut, depleted the strength of his weak administration. As a result, from May 2001 onward, his domestic policy consisted of a series of increasingly desperate concessions to his opponents (on education, on spending) and to small interest groups within his own ranks (on steel, on farm subsidies)....

Above all, Bush lacked a big organizing idea.... I think it was the randomness and unrelatedness of George Bush’s policies, much more than his relative newness on the national political scene, that explains why so many Americans felt in September 2001 that they did not know this new president of theirs.

That's from pages 272-274 of The Right Man, an admiring book by former Bush speechwriter David "Axis of Evil" Frum.
The #2-ranked story today at is "Clinton Book Puts Familiar Foe Back in Conservatives' Sights," from The New York Times. But Lucianne Goldberg begs to differ with the headline:

Wishful thinking. Conservatives are finished with Clinton. Too tiresome to bash and so Sept.10th

That's what she says at the top of her page. Scroll down a bit to the photo illustration and see how not interested she is.
Michiko Kakutani ends her New York Times pan of Bill Clinton's book this way:

...the former president's account of his life, read in this post-9/11 day, feels strangely like an artifact from a distant, more innocent era.

Lies about sex and real estate, partisan rancor over "character issues" (not over weapons of mass destruction or pre-emptive war), psychobabble mea culpas, and tabloid wrangles over stained dresses all seem like pressing matters from another galaxy, far, far away.

The patronizing tone of this is odd, because a week or so ago we were told in the media that it was a good thing to wallow in the recent past. At that time, of course, the focus was on Ronald Reagan.

I don't know about you, but to me the accomplishments Reagan has been credited with -- fighting the communist threat, conveying the sense that America stands tall -- seem a lot more like artifacts of a lost era than the concerns of Clinton; we seem to be in a hell of a lot more danger now than in the Cold War era, and we certainly don't seem to be standing tall.

But we're told that Reagan nostalgia is good -- and oh, by the way, only a liberal throwback emphasizes the failures and shortcomings when remembering the Reagan presidency. Listing just the failures and shortcomings is a perfectly acceptable way to remember Clinton, however -- pay no attention to that economic boom or balanced budget or plummeting crime rate.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

"I have found that the best way to get a rousing response from a crowd is to say that whatever disagreements you may have with President Bush on one issue or another, nobody can argue that he hasn't restored honor to the White house," said Gary L. Bauer, chairman of the organization American Values.

--New York Times

The bizarre thing is, he's dead serious.
Did Adam Nagourney really coauthor an article in today's New York Times that suggested the Bush campaign is something less than a juggernaut? Yes -- amazing!

Then again, Nagourney did his bit for the Bush campaign on Friday with "Account Recalls Cheney as a Swift and Steady Hand," which, at a moment when Cheney seems like a bitter conspiracy-minded crank, paints him (as the title makes clear) as one of the heroes of 9/11.

Somehow, even the fact that not everyone in the room at the time can actually recall Cheney getting the President's OK before ordering airliners shot down is treated as a mark of his -- and Bush's -- character:

Yet the almost unspoken nature of the conversation that morning signaled the unusual depth of the relationship between Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney....

Well, that's charitable -- it's not clear that Cheney even waited for his (nominal) superior to give the order, so Nagourney splits the difference in the conflicting accounts and says Bush and Cheney had an "almost unspoken" conversation ... whatever the hell that is. By the way, here's Nagourney explaining the mystery:

When it came to making one of the most agonizing decisions any leader could imagine - ordering fighter jets to shoot civilian airliners out of the sky - George W. Bush and Dick Cheney did it together, after the most hurried of conversations in the most trying of moments....

Mr. Bush, in an account the two men [Bush and Cheney] provided to the commission investigating the attacks that was released on Thursday, said that in one of the calls with his vice president he authorized shooting down civilian airplanes that might have been seized by hijackers. But it was Mr. Cheney who, "in about the time it takes a batter to decide to swing," as one person in the room told the commission, issued the shoot-down order as he weighed reports of a hijacked commercial airplane streaking toward Washington....

The commission cited a number of discrepancies in the accounts of officials who were with Mr. Cheney in the bunker, reporting that some people taking notes there had made no record of a call between the president and vice president during the moments Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney recalled it taking place.

Among those who said they had not heard any prior conversation between the president and the vice president on the issue was Joshua Bolten, then the deputy White House chief of staff and the aide who suggested that Mr. Cheney call the president to make certain he knew about the order.

But it wasn't just Bolton and some nonentities who heard no call from Bush, as another Times article on Friday made clear:

Neither Mr. Bolten, nor I. Lewis Libby, Mr. Cheney's chief of staff, nor Lynne V. Cheney, his wife, all of whom were in the bunker, said they recalled a phone call minutes earlier that Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush said they had had authorizing the drastic action.

But hey, don't worry. It's not that Cheney is really the president in this administration, or it's not that he usurped authority that day -- the call hardly anybody heard really happened ... it was just that it was "almost unspoken." The call was, y'know, telepathic or something.
You recently created a stir when you defended the interrogation techniques at Abu Ghraib.

Most of the people in Mississippi came up to me and said: "Thank Goodness. America comes first." Interrogation is not a Sunday-school class. You don't get information that will save American lives by withholding pancakes.

But unleashing killer dogs on naked Iraqis is not the same as withholding pancakes.

I was amazed that people reacted like that. Did the dogs bite them? Did the dogs assault them? How are you going to get people to give information that will lead to the saving of lives?

--interview with Trent Lott in today's New York Times Magazine

Lawmakers who viewed hundreds of images of mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners said Wednesday that the photographs were even more graphic than they had expected, and included pictures of forced sexual acts between male detainees, a soldier posing with the body of a dead prisoner, and consensual sex between American soldiers....

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, said he had not seen the pictures and saw no need to. Senator Trent Lott, Republican of Mississippi, said he felt the same way. "I've already seen enough," Mr. Lott said. "Why would I want to go see a bunch of perverted pictures?"...

Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Republican of Colorado ... said the photographs also showed dogs snarling at cowering prisoners; other lawmakers said some prisoners appeared to have dog bite wounds and abrasions...

--Ndew York Times, 5/13/04

This week's Entertainment Weekly describes a documentary Disney plans to release after refusing to release Fahrenheit 9/11:

...Louis Schwartzberg's 86-minute greeting card, America's Heart & Soul. The ode to American values -- picture purple mountains majesty -- hits theaters July 2 (Fahrenheit, released by the Fellowship Adventure Group, opens June 25). "Unlike [Moore], Schwartzberg doesn't cram his message down your throat. He just shows the world as we know it," says [Dennis] Rice [of Disney], who's hoping Disney's outreach to Rotary Clubs will help draw crowds to witness America's 24 patriotic vignettes, including profiles of a blind mountaineer and a reformed felon. "The film is like a patchwork quilt of all the different voices that make up this country."...

You know what? I'd be perfectly happy if this movie made a hundred million dollars. Needless to say, I hope Fahrenheit 9/11 makes three hundred mil, but I have no problem if this one's a huge hit -- I want the movies I want, but if traditionalists aren't getting the movies they want, I don't want to stand in the way of anyone who'd like to fill that need.

Then again, maybe Fahrenheit 9/11 is going to be a big hit and America's Heart & Soul isn't because people don't go to the movies to see traditional values affirmed -- people go to the movies to see authority defied, battles waged, the order of things upset.

Friday, June 18, 2004

It's horrifying if Paul Johnson has really been beheaded (and, alas, it certainly seems likely).

But please -- don't even tell me about any Internet blowhard who says in reaction to this, "See? See what those people are like? How can the treasonous liberals say we shouldn't have gone to war with Iraq?" This is Al Qaeda. This is Saudi Arabia. And we're futzing around in Baghdad.
Talk about your law of unintended consequences: The 9/11 Commission said Saddam and Al-Qaeda weren't working together, and now the administration is flat-out flaunting its belief that the two were significantly linked -- a belief the Bushies (Cheney excluded) more or less slunk away from a long time ago.

Maybe we should have seen this coming. Now it's probably punk rock to believe in the Saddam-bin Laden link -- it's iconoclastic, like snickering at the Warren Commission.

Republicans since the Reagan era have loved acting as if they were Sticking It To The Man. Nnever mind the fact that for years Republicans have been The Man -- they've controlled the White House, both houses of Congress, or both for 21 out of the last 23 years, and they've controlled the Supreme Court since Jesus was a corporal.

So now preppy, tweedy Tom Kean is driving the totalitarian tank and Bush and Cheney are the brave, lonely rebels standing in front of it. Maybe I'm misreading this -- I sure hope so -- but I'm really afraid this is how the whole thing is playing.
Fred Kaplan has a great article in Slate on the Bush administration's word games about Iraq and Al-Qaeda. The title alone is priceless:

It Depends What the Meaning of "Relationship" Is

I'd quibble with Kaplan about Cheney -- I think he, like Bush, tortures the language just enough to be a truth-torturing sneak rather than a baldfaced liar -- but it's a fun read anyway.

Condi Rice was talking about Iraq to Juan Williams on NPR this morning. In response to questions about the 9/11 Commission's insistence that Saddam and Al Qaeda weren't working together, she talked about the "contacts" between Al Qaeda and Iraq, then said,

Why would you leave this threat in the world's most dangerous region?

The Bushies, or at least Rice and Rumsfeld, keep returning to this message: that it doesn't matter whether Saddam and bin Laden were actually working together to export terror to the U.S., and it doesn't matter whether there was actually any evidence that they intended to work together -- they were bad, and they were neighbors; what more do you need to know? Even though the idea of collaboration was rejected by Iraq, it would surely just happen, by ... osmosis or something, because, well, they lived near each other.

And the result, inevitably, would be another 9/11:

What we knew going into the war was that this man [Saddam Hussein] was a threat... He was sitting astride one of the most volatile regions in the world, a region out of which the ideologies of hatred had come that led people to slam airplanes into buildings in New York and Washington.

--Rice, 7/30/03

If we're successful in Iraq ... we will have struck a major blow right at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11.

--Dick Cheney, 9/14/03

A clever way to fudge the facts, given that a large percentage of Americans couldn't find Iraq or Afghanistan on a map, and think all angry Muslims essentially think exactly alike.

(Last two quotes via Spinsanity.)

Russia gave the Bush administration intelligence after the September 11 attacks that suggested Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq was preparing attacks in the United States, President Vladimir Putin said Friday....

"After Sept. 11, 2001, and before the start of the military operation in Iraq, the Russian special services, the intelligence service, received information that officials from Saddam's regime were preparing terrorist attacks in the United States and outside it against the U.S. military and other interests," Putin said....


Gosh, and yet nothing was said about this -- not in the 2003 State of the Union address, not in Powell's U.N. show-and-tell, not by Cheney or Condi in their stubbornly defiant talk-show interviews, then or since. With all the documents that have been declassified by the Bush administration, nothing about this report has seen the light of day. Curious.

Look, either this report was so laughably implausible that even Tenet and Cheney didn't believe it or it never existed at all, and Putin is just lying to help Bush get reelected.

And really, why wouldn't he? He has to suspect that President Kerry might internationalize the Iraq problem in a way that would put pressure on Russia to help -- whereas Bush's reelection would mean the U.S. would essentially keep its quagmire to itself. It's Realpolitik, and maybe it's revenge -- surely Putin wouldn't mind seeing the U.S. weakened for a few years longer in Iraq, perhaps just as payback for U.S. efforts to bog the Soviet Union down in Afghanistan.

It won't happen, but reporters should press the Bush administration to reveal what this report said in detail. There's no national-security reason to keep it secret with Saddam in jail, so let's hear it -- what exactly did Putin say, and when? If he said anything at all?


UPDATE: The Mahablog has a somewhat different take:

One wonders what quid pro quo was agreed to.  We may have a hint in today's Washington Post. In "Veering from Reagan," a fellow at the Hoover Institution writes,

Bush praises Putin as an ally in the fight against terrorism and a man with a vision for Russia "in which democracy and freedom and the rule of law thrive." Rather than speak the truth about Russia's autocratic drift, Bush seems content to maintain his personal relationship with Putin, even if it comes at the expense of his principles -- not exactly Reagan's approach to foreign policy.

We don't know if today's fib was just Putin returning a favor or if more substantial exchanges were made behind closed doors. But this
stinks, people. It stinks out loud.

UPDATE: A commenter at Daily Kos quotes this from a March 20, 2003, article about a Putin speech:

The Russian leader told Washington that he had seen no evidence to support US allegations that Iraq was linked to international terror groups, and said the White House's declared intention of removing President Saddam was illegal.

"What's more, up until the start of (military) operation, Iraq did not represent any danger to its neighbours, or to other countries or regions of the world," he said....

The source seems to be "Russia Berates US for Attacks" by Dan McLaughlin and Derek Smally, Irish Times, 3/20/03.

Thursday, June 17, 2004


"Zarqawi's the best evidence of a connection to al Qaeda affiliates and al Qaeda," Bush told reporters at the White House.

--CNN, 6/15/04

The other thing I would say is that it appears -- I guess I don't know if I should say this or not, but I -- I suppose I can -- it appears that Zarqawi -- who is, everyone in the intelligence community seems to agree, is engaged as a significant leader of a network in Iraq and has in his past been identified by at least some intelligence as being a leader with respect to terrorist activities in other countries, not just Iraq -- may very well not have sworn allegiance to UBL [bin Laden]. But he -- maybe, because he disagrees with him on something, maybe because he wants to be "The Man" himself, and maybe for a reason that's not known to me.

Now, therefore you probably -- someone could legitimately say he's not al Qaeda. On the other hand, as many people have testified to in open hearings, the linkages in the relationships and the similarities, in some cases of financing as well as methods of operation, are such that even though he may not have sworn allegiance, he clearly is someone that is doing work of a very similar nature. And therefore, I don't -- since I am not in the intelligence business, my instinct is to leave the direct answer to your question to what was said by Director Tenet before the Senate Intelligence Committee unless the agency is updating it since.

--Donald Rumsfeld today
By the way, autographed Clinton books (most of them apparently not even autographed yet) are selling for as much as 400 bucks on eBay.

The highest actual bid I see for a signed copy of George W.'s A Charge to Keep is $75....

(Thanks to Publishers Lunch for the tip.)

Many seem to have forgotten that the first U.S. military action after 9/11 was to invade Afghanistan and destroy its Taliban government, targeting bin Laden strongholds -- and capturing many of his top aides -- in the process.

-self-righteous editorial in today's New York Post

What the hell? Has anyone forgotten that?
Matthew Yglesias's current American Prospect article, about why Dick Gephardt absolutely should not be John Kerry's running mate, is terrific. He reminds us that in 2002, when some Democrats and even a few Republicans wanted to put conditions on the use of force in Iraq, Gephardt engineered "a total capitulation to the president's demands." He explains how unpopular Gephardt is in much of his own (battleground) state. And he points out that Gephardt really has been the flip-flopper Republicans say Kerry is.

There's another huge problem, of course: Gephardt has absolutely no Elvis in him. The Democratic ticket obviously could use some more Elvis, but it sure isn't coming from Gephardt. (John Edwards, my choice for VP, doesn't have Elvis in him so much as Paul McCartney -- but McCartney in the Beatle years, when he still had an edge. I actually relish the prospect of an Edwards-Cheney debate, in which Edwards would be seen as a baby-faced underdog against the despicable old sewer rat -- Edwards made a hell of a lot of money as a trial lawyer, and I've read that he made it, in part, by not looking like the bulldog he actually was.)

Also, I worry about Gephardt's identification with unions and his stance on globalization. Hear me out on this: I like a lot of what Gephardt says on these subjects, but in the universe of "acceptable" discourse there is such a consensus on globalization (it's good for the world and, besides, it's inevitable, so quit bellyaching) and unions (Democrats need 'em, but boy, they sure are corrupt, parasitic dinosaurs) that a Kerry-Gephardt ticket will fight an uphill battle for respect all the way to November. And I don't mean Fox News's respect -- I mean the respect of The New York Times and The Washington Post and Time and Newsweek and all the other high-poobah, allegedly liberal news organizations. Gephardt as running mate? Just imagine the reaction of Thomas Friedman -- who, whether you like it or not, is one of the two or three most widely respected op-ed columnists in America. Now you can start to see the problem.

I just want to win this one. For crissakes, John -- pick somebody else.
Enough! Enough! Now it's Deborah Orin in the New York Post who's saying (in an op-ed piece with the libelous title "Reporting for the Enemy") that newspapers and TV networks won't show extreme violence because they all hate Bush:

The video only lasts four minutes or so — gruesome scenes of torture from the days when Saddam Hussein's thugs ruled Abu Ghraib prison. I couldn't bear to watch, so I walked out until it was over.

Some who stayed wished they hadn't. They told of savage scenes of decapitation, fingers chopped off one by one, tongues hacked out with a razor blade — all while victims shriek in pain and the thugs chant Saddam's praises.

Saddam's henchmen took the videos as newsreels to document their deeds in honor of their leader.

But these awful images didn't show up on American TV news.

In fact, just four or five reporters showed up for the screening at the American Enterprise Institute think tank, which says it got the video via the Pentagon. Fewer wrote about it.

No surprise, since no newscast would air the videos of Nick Berg and Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl getting decapitated, or of U.S. contractors in Fallujah getting torn limb from limb by al Qaeda operatives.

But every TV network has endlessly shown photos of the humiliation of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. troops at Abu Ghraib. Why?

"Because most [journalists] want Bush to lose," says AEI scholar Michael Ledeen, who helped host the screening of the Saddam video....

THIS IS UTTERLY PREPOSTEROUS. Agree with the networks' standard or disagree, but at least acknowledge that it's been a single standard so far: Avoid images of bloodshed or extreme physical brutality. The networks won't even show bloody Abu Ghraib dog bites; they're damn well not going to show the cutting out of tongues.

If the administration and its supporters really want this material to be seen, they should post it on the Internet. The footage will be linked all over the Net; the shockmeisters at Ogrish will certainly post any such footage as soon as it's made available.

But that's not the point of all this phony self-righteousness, is it? The point is to use the victims of Saddam's torture chambers to scare the media away from reporting evidence of the Bush administration's less horrendous but still appalling moral failure.


By the way, this all takes place at the same time that the FCC is arguing that children are unwittingly compelled to have sexual thoughts when Bono exclaims "Fucking brilliant!" on TV after winning an award. (No, I'm not making that up, as anyone who heard the FCC lawyer interviewed last week on This American Life knows.)

So what's the Bushie standard here? Broadcast one incidental "Fucking" used as a vulgar euphemism for "Really" and face a huge fine -- but fail to broadcast video of fingers being sliced off and get accused of treason?
Well, I'm no Dick Cheney -- if I say that two organizations were connected and I'm proven wrong, I'll admit it. Yesterday I said that is the English-language site of Al-Jazeera; a reader has pointed out that the two are unrelated. (The English Al-Jazeera site is here.) My apologies for a dumb mistake.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Gary Aldrich, the disaffected FBI guy who wrote the Clinton-bashing Unlimited Access (#1 in The New York Times back in '96), has discovered the source of Hillary's diabolical power:


This past Sunday, Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton had a chance to return to the scene of their many crimes - the White House - as President Bush hosted the unveiling of dual portraits of Bill and Hill. I guess it really was a co-presidency.

For the first time ever, a former First Lady is portrayed in a pantsuit - and a black one at that. I found it interesting that she came to the White House on Sunday dressed in a bright pastel – still a pantsuit – but one that would be suitable for a nationwide photo-op....

The word on Capitol Hill is that Senator Hillary and all her staff, which mainly consists of unhappy-looking young women with perpetually frowning facial masks, have made a pact that all shall wear black pantsuits on a daily basis. This is because today’s enlightened women (read Feminists) can’t be bothered thinking about what to wear as they rise in the morning. They have more important things to think about. For example, like how to take over the world in 2008....

Hillary, fresh from new attacks on President Bush, some fairly ugly and personal, didn’t turn down a chance to come back to where it all came apart for her and Bill. Did she bring her tape measure to plan for new curtains in the Oval Office? Does she imagine these to be black as well?

Yes -- not just a pants suit but a black pants suit! The preferred color of Satan himself!

(Er ... no, that's not right -- Satan is red, isn't he?)

Look, you really should read the whole thing -- just so you can be thankful this guy doesn't live next door to you, scaring your children. If you were casting the movie, you'd have to gene-splice George C. Scott and Anthony Perkins to play Aldrich. ("The other day, I watched a cat stalk and torture a helpless mouse – just before she killed and ate it. I swear I saw her grinning. The lesson? The mouse should never drop his guard because the cat has no sense of mercy and the cat is always hungry.")

And yes, your memory is correct -- he's the guy who claimed that the Clintons hung sexually explicit ornaments on the White House Christmas tree. For which he was rewarded not with a libel suit or institutionalization, but with multiple appearances in the mainstream media.
Interesting: Slate's Alan Berlow notes that Alberto Gonzales, President Bush's top legal counsel, didn't just start writing documents justifying evasion of international law in the past couple of years -- he did it for Bush when Bush was still governor of Texas.

On June 16, 1997, Gonzales first showcased his proclivity for torturing international law when he sent a letter to the U.S. State Department in which he argued that, "Since the State of Texas is not a signatory to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, we believe it is inappropriate to ask Texas to determine whether a breach ... occurred in connection with the arrest and conviction" of a Mexican national. Or, put another way, he asserted that an international treaty just didn't apply to Texas.

The Mexican in question, Irineo Tristan Montoya, was a fisherman convicted of brutally stabbing and murdering John Kilheffer in Brownsville, Texas, in 1985....

The Vienna Convention, ratified by the Senate in 1969, was designed to ensure that foreign nationals accused of a crime are given access to legal counsel by a representative from their home country. In the absence of a lawyer and without access to Mexican authorities, Tristan, who neither spoke nor understood English, signed a confession that he later said he believed to be an immigration document.

Bush and Gonzales apparently believed that international law, as embodied in the Vienna Convention, was somehow inapplicable to Texas.

What a team.

"My Life" ... is setting pre-order records on online booksellers...

Come Monday, bookstores in Washington and New York are considering staying open until after midnight for the first official sales of the $35 book.

On, the former president's book is setting a record for the most pre-orders in the autobiography and memoir category, according to a spokeswoman who would not disclose actual figures but said it was outpacing pre-orders of his wife's book by 7-to-1....


Part of the fun is going to be watching as all the conservatives in America try to execute a group 180. All last week they told us that public tributes to Reagan were proof that Reagan was a great president and an exemplary human being. Next week, however, when crowds -- possibly even larger ones -- turn out for Clinton, right-wing pundits will all declare at once that you simply mustn't pay attention to the braying of the rabble.
No blood. That's why you're seeing TV footage of Paul Johnson, the hostage in Saudi Arabia, even though you didn't see the actual sawing off of Nick Berg's head on your local news (though I certainly saw parts of that video on TV that didn't involve actual use of the blade).

I've been saying this for a while now: The mainstream press doesn't like to show blood -- not deep gashes from dog teeth at Abu Ghraib and not the removal of Berg's head. Johnson seems to have no fresh, gaping wounds, so images of his captivity are OK.

In a silly post at Rantingprofs, Cori Dauber argues that the reason for the seeming double standard is that, in our wussy, feminized culture, we're encouraged to get teary-eyed (for Johnson) but not angry (for Berg):

The footage of Berg's death is the footage of a fait accompli....

The footage of the fait accompli calls forth
anger. The footage of the on-going event calls forth sympathy. The one is deemed inappropriate (remember all those anger management shrinks on the air after September 11th?),* not an emotional response so much as a state demanding a theraputic response, to be avoided at all costs in this Oprah nation. The other is to be encouraged whenever possible, so that we might all "feel one another's pain"...

But wouldn't explicit images of blood and sexual violation at U.S.-run prisons overseas lead Oprah Nation to have even more moral-clarity-sapping, moist-eyed sympathy for the detainees? So why aren't the truly horrid images we've heard so much about all over the airwaves and the front pages?

Of course, maybe Dauber hasn't thought about this because, as Pandagon's Jesse Taylor notes, she doesn't even seem to know that abuse at Abu Ghraib consisted of more than panties on men's heads, even though she's a gen-yoo-wine Professor of Communications Studies whose "focus since September 11th has been on the performance of the media in its coverage of the war on terrorism."


*Er, no, not really.