Observations on the world today.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Responsibility Theory 

Los Angeles Times: When the Mud Flies This Time, Bush Can't Duck:
His positive spots had been on the air for barely a week when his campaign began firing electronic cruise missiles at presumed Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry. And every single one of those bash-and-trash ads, thanks to the new federal campaign finance law passed in 2002, now has to include Bush's own Good Housekeeping seal of approval. "I'm George Bush," the president says on each one, "and I approve this message."
Just a quick observation, but I've noticed that on Bush's negative ads, he puts the mandatory "I approved this ad" at the beginning. While on his positive ads, he puts it at the end.

Kerry probably does the same, but I haven't noticed. Anyway, here is my thought. The whole statement is so geeky and distracting, the candidates should split it up. For example, on his next "negative ad", Kerry could open with, "The following ad meets my approval," or, "I approved this message," but he shouldn't use his name. Then after the ad, he could come back on and say, "I'm John Kerry, and I think America deserves better." That way, he meets all of the criteria under the law, and he still ends on a positive beat.

It's a minor thing, but unfortunately, these things matter these days.


Friday, April 02, 2004

Heart of the Beholder  

Heart of the Beholder - FlashThis looks interresting. It's a plan for a movie about a family that was terrorized by the religious right for daring to rent movies like The Last Temptation of Christ through their chain of video stores. It's based on a true story, but if the website is to be believed, this is "based on" as in The Diary of Anne Frank is based on the actual diary; not "based on" like the recent remake of Walking Tall is based on the life of Buford Pusser.

Sibel's back 

Independent News:
Sibel Edmonds said she spent more than three hours in a closed session with the commission's investigators providing information that was circulating within the FBI in the spring and summer of 2001 suggesting that an attack using aircraft was just months away and the terrorists were in place. The Bush administration, meanwhile, has sought to silence her and has obtained a gagging order from a court by citing the rarely used "state secrets privilege".
I've blogged on this woman before, but I really really REALLY think we need to put her forward much much MUCH more.

One thing I expect is that if we make her the next Richard Clarke, the right would have a field day with her name. Sibel is very like Sybil which was the pseudonym of a famous schizophrenic. So, I have a suggestion. Let us steal their thunder. Let us make the Sybil-connection first, but let's make the connection from the original.
"If future fate she plans 'tis all in leaves, Like Sibyl, unsubstantial, fleeting bliss; At the first blast it vanishes in air.

. . . . . As worldly schemes resemble Sibyl's leaves, The good man's days to Sibyl's books compare, The price still rising as in number less."
Or this:
In the reign of one of the Tarquins there appeared before the king a woman who offered him nine books for sale. The king refused to purchase them, whereupon the woman went away and burned three of the books, and returning offered the remaining books for the same price she had asked for the nine. The king again rejected them; but when the woman, after burning three books more, returned and asked for the three remaining the same price which she had before asked for the nine, his curiosity was excited, and he purchased the books. They were found to contain the destinies of the Roman state. They were kept in the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, preserved in a stone chest, and allowed to be inspected only by especial officers appointed for that duty, who on great occasions consulted them and interpreted their oracles to the people.
And once the mythology connection is made, it's just a short hop to Cassandra:
Queen Hecuba and her daughter Cassandra were carried captives to Greece. Cassandra had been loved by Apollo, and he gave her the gift of prophecy; but afterwards offended with her, he rendered the gift unavailing by ordaining that her predictions should never be believed.


Thursday, April 01, 2004

The Fools of April 

A press release from the Democratic National Committee announcing Thursday that it had reached an agreement with the Republican National Committee to hold five presidential debates between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., was a hoax meant as an April Fool's Day joke, DNC spokesman Jano Cabrera said.
Come on, guys. Are you trying to give fodder to the right to beat us with?

April Fools 

By the way, if you are looking for a good April Fools joke, check out this site I designed a few years ago. The Saccoist Homepage:
Saccoism is a non-religion founded by the visionary Joseph Sacco in 1976. We call it a non-religion because the philosophy has no dieties though there is a very specific and evolving mythology.
I designed it over a two day period to lampoon some people on a local message board which I frequent. I wanted to convince them that our town was being infiltrated by culties. It was fun, and I think a few of them even fell for it. To expose the site as a hoax, just click on the big picture on the front page.

Tarnish on the Golden Boy 

Clarke Asks Group to Pull Anti-Bush TV Ads:
"I just don't want to be used,'' Clarke told The Associated Press. "I don't want to be part of what looks like a political TV ad. I'm trying hard to make this not a partisan thing but a discussion of how we stop terrorism from happening in the future, keep this on a policy issue. I don't want this to become any more emotional or personal than it has already.''
Again, I sympathize, and so to do a few of the other liberals in the blogosphere. Ezra Klein sarcastically says:
Go ahead and piss off Clarke while associating your ardently liberal organization with the critiques he's trying to present as nonpartisan. That'll help. And ignore him when he asks you to stop. Nicely played.
Kevin from MarchSeventh says:
MoveOn should pull the ad. Not because I think it is bad strategy or unethical. Instead I think there are better ways to make the point without getting in a pissing match with Richard Clarke.
Both have a point, but I still tend to agree with a blogger named Matt from NotGeniuses who says:
Look, folks, this isn't about dragging Clarke into partisan politics. This is about a national organization highlighting a real concern with Bush. Would we prefer MoveOn used our money raising less important concerns with our President? Do people really want election issues to be meaningless?
But all of this brings me to another point. There are things that we on the left can disagree with Clarke about. There are and there should be. The man is a conservative after all. Granted, he's one of the good ones, but he's not a liberal and we should stop treating him (or rather the issue of him) as though every word he utters is golden.

For example, he criticizes Bush for not taking the threat risk seriously enough, and he is very very credible in this. However, he also criticizes Clinton for not having attacked Afghanistan when he (Clarke) wanted to during the late nineties. And what has the response from the left been? We have been so keen on advancing the truth that Clarke is credible that it almost seems as if we have actually embraced the suggestion that Clinton should have championed this version of the philosophy of pre-emption.

Come on, Clarke is wrong about some things. Clinton could not have and should not have followed every single recommendation Clarke made prior to 9/11. Acknowledging that does not mean that we are saying that Bush was right to not take the threat seriously at all. There is a balance, isn't there?

And before anyone asks, no, this is not an April Fools joke. I mean it.


Wednesday, March 31, 2004

We Distort, You Deride. 

FOXNews.com - You Decide 2004 - Clarke Wants Pro-Kerry Group to Remove Comments From Ad:
President Bush's former counterterrorism adviser complained Wednesday about the use of his name and comments critical of Bush in a new broadcast advertisement from a political group supporting Democratic candidate John Kerry.
Okay, first, MoveOn is not a pro-Kerry group. They are an anti-Bush group. Get it straight, Feux.

Second, I sympathize with Clarke, but his words are pretty much public domain. The left has quoted everyone from Theodore Roosevelt:
"...to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”
...to Herman Goering:
"Why, of course people don't want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don't want war. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of a country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."
...to make the point that Bush is a bad president. Clarke is no different just because he doesn't want to be quoted. This is not as bad as Fox suing Franken over the words "Fair and Balanced," or Donald Trump trying to copyright the words, "You're fired," but it is the same principal. We on the left are free to quote Bush to discredit Bush ("Bring 'em on!") Why wouldn't we be free to use Clarke?

Of course, I suspect that Clarke doesn't even really object to the use of his quotes. I suspect that he simply made a show of protesting so that he can use the argument that he is non-partisan. The argument is true whether he protests or not, but if he didn't protest, he'd be vulnerable to attacks that he supplied MoveOn with the quotes as part of his imagined "grandstand."

Air America Radio 

Air America Radio: "You can also hear us on the following radio stations:

New York - WLIB 1190 AM
Los Angeles - KBLA 1580 AM
Chicago - WNTD 950 AM
Portland, OR- KPOJ 620 AM
Inland Empire, CA- KCAA 1050 AM
Minneapolis MN - WMNN 1330AM
The O'Franken Factor from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
XM Satellite Radio - Channel 167 "
They also have streaming audio, and I am listening to the O'Franken Factor as I type this. Not bad, could be funnier.

Dick Clarke Does Not Stand Alone 

Somehow, Richard Clarke has become a sort of figurehead for internal opposition to Bush's invasion of Iraq and Bush's disinterest in concentrating on the real objective of squashing al Qaeda. In the brouhaha, it almost begins to seem that Clarke stands alone; that he and no other insiders have spoken out to make exactly the same criticisms. But this is not the case. There are others. Many others. All saying basically the same thing. Most notably is Paul O'Neill, but there are more who have not garnered the spotlight quite so brilliantly, but perhaps only because they have not also penned books.

Some of them are democrats, some - like Clarke - are republicans, and some are of indeterminate political affiliation; but they all share the same common denominator of having served this administration in some capacity or other. Last week, I mentioned one of these people; Sibel Edmonds, who worked as a translator and saw the transcripts of evidence that the white house either never got from DoJ or which they chose to ignore. Another such person was FBI agent John O'Neill, who features heavily in my timeline, What They Should Have Known. As it says about O'Neill on a website dedicated to his memory:
In August 2001, FBI Deputy Director John O'Neill resigned from his post over George W. Bush's policy on terrorism and Osama bin Laden. Specifically, O'Neill's department was told to "back off" their bin Laden and Al Queda investigations while the Bush administration negotiated with the Taliban. O'Neill became the security chief of the World Trade Center - where he died during the events of 9/11.
But there were still more. Several are discussed in a TomPaine.com essay entitled Conscientious Objectors. Among them Ann Wright, John Brown, and John Brady Kiesling, who in an eloquent letter of resignation wrote:
The policies we are now asked to advance are incompatible not only with American values but also with American interests. Our fervent pursuit of war with Iraq is driving us to squander the international legitimacy that has been America’s most potent weapon of both offense and defense since the days of Woodrow Wilson. We have begun to dismantle the largest and most effective web of international relationships the world has ever known. Our current course will bring instability and danger, not security.
Others who have nobly sacrificed their careers - or at least put their careers at risk - to protest this foolhardy administration are heralded in a recent editorial by William Rivers Pitt. These modern-day heroes include, Tom Maertens, Roger Cressey, Donald Kerrick, Joseph Wilson, Greg Thielmann, Karen Kwiatkowski and Rand Beers in addition to Richard Clarke and Paul O'Neill.

There is a final name that I feel belongs on this list. Wesley Clarke was one of the first to burn his bridges with this administration and put his neck on the chopping-block lorded over by the modern day Praetorian Guard. And let us not forget David Kay and John McCain who have also been at least politically bold if not downright brave in asserting their disapproval of some of the policies of these little Napoleons masquerading as a democratically elected administration. Our nation owes them all a debt of gratitude, and perhaps under the Kerry administration, the national sentiment will see it's way clear to acknowledge that debt with tribute rather than scorn.


Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Po-ta-toes, Po-tah-tohs 

Yahoo! News - U.S. Weapons Hunt Shifts Focus to 'Intent' in Iraq:
The U.S. search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq will continue despite the failure so far to find them but the mission will also investigate whether Saddam Hussein intended to develop such weapons, the chief U.S. arms hunter said on Tuesday.
Later in the article...
The new direction of trying to determine whether the former Iraqi president was actively pursuing the development of banned arms reflects the Bush administration's evolving public rationale for the war on Iraq.

Initially, the administration said an invasion was necessary to find and destroy weapons of mass destruction that Iraq possessed and was prepared to use. With none uncovered, the White House now says the war, in which more than 500 U.S. troops and thousands of Iraqis have died, was justified by Saddam's alleged intent to build and use such weaponry.
The ever evolving rationale for a done-deed? That is not rationale. It is rationalization. See for yourselves: rationale, rationalization.

Can I Get a Witness? No, I Said Witness, Not Witless. 

Transcript: Condoleezza Rice on '60 Minutes' (washingtonpost.com)
RICE: Nothing would be better, from my point of view, than to be able to testify. I would really like to do that. But there's an important principle involved here. We have separate branches of government -- the legislative branch and the executive branch. This commission, it takes its authority, derives its authority from the Congress, and it is a long-standing principle that sitting National Security Advisors do not testify before the Congress. And...

BRADLEY: But there is a long list -- not to cut you off, but there is a long list of presidential advisors who have testified before the Congress in public and under oath.

RICE: Well, let me be very clear about this, because the people who -- the only National Security Advisors, sitting National Security Advisors that to our knowledge have testified did so in matters having to do with either criminal intent or criminal allegations, or impropriety -- not on matters of policy. Indeed, Brent Scowcroft and Sandy Berger and Tony Lake and Henry Kissinger have all declined to testify when matters of policy come up because it's important for the President's close, personal staff to not breach this line between the executive and the legislature.
American Progress had no difficulty disproving this assertion. But what I want to talk about is how the right has glommed onto this assertion as if it had validity, despite the fact that it is a transparent attempt to shield Rice from telling the truth.

Case in point: A right-wing blogger named Brian said:
It is beyond disgraceful that the 9/11 Commission is allowing itself to be used like this. And the usual suspects are out in force.
But the real disgrace is that the right is allowing us all to be used this way by the administration. Don't they want the truth? Isn't that more important than partisanship? Brian continued:
There is only 2 reasons that Democrats want Rice to testify publicly:

1. To destroy a possible future political threat. Is there any doubt that if she ran for President, Republicans would rally around her?

2. To get her to say something like, "We discussed the possibility of airplanes being hijacked in a briefing," so that the lapdog media can run with the "Bush Knew" meme again.
Do they really think this makes a strong case for refusing to testify before a commission that is charged with learning if we could have protected America better? In fact, I replied to Brian:
This only adds support to the argument that her refusal is due to political concerns rather than security or constitutionally motivated.
Sadly, I don't think he'll get the point.

Another worthwhile point is that Rice really has no legs to stand on when she argues that she is unable to testify due to the seperation of powers. For two seperate reasons.

• As I also pointed out to Brian, "Rice's argument is that she cannot be compelled to testify, and that is true. But there is no prohibition against her voluntarily testifying. So the argument for dangerous precedent is a non-argument. Nobody is saying that she should be compelled to testify. What some in the press and everybody on the commission is saying is that she should voluntarily testify."

• As Atrios points out, "Legally, there is difference between testifying in front of a Congressional Committee and testifying in front of a commission established by a Bill signed into Law by the preznit."

Ultimately, Rice's decision not to testify under oath and not publicly only serves to undermine any determinations ultimately made by the commission. From what we have seen in public and what we have read in the news, if the commission decides that the powers that be did everything possible, it feeds the conspiracy theorists for Rice to have spoken behind closed doors. And if they find guilt on anybodie's part, Rice's closed-door testimony will only be worse for the president's legacy.


Monday, March 29, 2004

Political Wire: Kerry Pledges To Tap Gephardt 

According to Taegan Goddard
Over the weekend, Sen. John Kerry "held a reception for former backers of Rep. Dick Gephardt's presidential bid," Knight Ridder reports. Kerry then hinted that Gephardt "could become his running mate or serve in a Kerry administration."

Said Kerry: "If I have my way, I will be finding some way, somehow that this man continues in public service."
I've never been a huge Gephardt supporter. It was his decision to go negative against Dean in Iowa that cost him the caucus which arguably led to his loss of the nomination. But if Kerry insists on putting Gephardt on the staff in some capacity, I suppose I should adjust my picks to reflect that fact. So here are my updated picks:

President John Kerry
VP Max Cleland
National Security Advisor Wes Clark
Deputy to the National Security Advisor Rand Beers
Sec. of State Lt. General Claudia Kennedy
Chief of Staff Gary Hart
Sec. of Homeland Security Al Gore
Sec. of Defense Leon Fuerth
Deputy Secretary of Defense Joe Wilson
Co-Deputy Secretary of Defense Karen Kwiatkowski
Attorney General John Edwards
Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin
Surgeon General Howard Dean
EPA Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Fed Chair Paul Krugman
Media Liason Dick Gephardt

Hey, the guy knows how to schmooze.

A Mule in Every Pot 

Kevin Drum of the Political Animal had this to say about Bush's Broadband proposal:
These guys really don't even pretend to care about whether stuff is possible before they start yapping about it, do they? Besides, I thought Republicans were in favor of the free market handling this kind of stuff. What's with the "bold plan"?
Here is the story:
President Bush on Friday called for affordable high-speed Internet access for all Americans by 2007 in a speech that left many Washington insiders curious as to the timing.

Campaigning in Albuquerque, Bush also said that once universal, affordable broadband is a reality, ''we ought to make sure that as soon as possible thereafter consumers have plenty of choices."

But while the specifics of the proposal were vague and the topic hardly controversial, it was the first time in nearly two years the president talked about broadband Internet service.

Executives in the telecom and electronics industries have urged Bush to publicly support broadband as a way of boosting the economy and generating jobs. They thought he would promote broadband in his 2003 State of the Union address, but it never happened.
Now don't get me wrong. I would love universal access to broadband for all Americans. I truly would. But then, I'm a democrat.

The only problem I have with this is not the timing (as the story I linked indicates) but the time-frame. There is not even fiber-optic cable access in much of the country, let alone the infrastructure to make this feasable.

It is the 21st century equivilent of the chicken-in-every-pot kind of political promise.

Of course, if he wins reelection in November, it will be a promise he will be expected to live up to. (Just like he lived up to "No Child Left Behind") And when he tries to "live up to the promise," it will probably end up being far less than what we are being promised and far more a financial Halliburton-like boon for his pals Rupert Murdoch and the gang at AT&T. Which makes it not so much a chicken/pot promise as it is a "forty acres and a mule" promise.


Sunday, March 28, 2004

What's a Blog? 

GeorgeWBush.com :: Official Blog :: March 21, 2004 - March 27, 2004 Archive
The New York Post today reports on a new nonpartisan study that confirms what Americans have seen playing out for almost a year – John Kerry is running a shockingly negative campaign. While the President’s tone has remained positive, Kerry, more than any other Democrat, has broadcast a message of negativity to America.
Okay, so where to begin? Well, there is the fact that they are positing that an article in the New York Post proves something. All that it proves is that the Rupert Murdoch owned New York Post is pro-Bush. Big surprise there. This is the same New York Post renowned around the world for their inciteful front page headlines, including such gems as this one about the male birth control pill:
... and a story about how it was scientifically found that children of abuse often turn to alcohol as adults ...
But beyond that, there is the reality to which we were all exposed and which clearly repudiates at least HALF of this claim. That being Bush's early and viscious (and inaccurate) political ads. Even John McCain said the president was being too negative too early.

Then there is the article itself which fails to report who did the study. All that the report says is that it was a "nonpartisan study." If it is a legitimate study, why is it that no reputable source other than the Post (not that I mean to imply that the Post is reputable) seems to have picked up on it?


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