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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Monday, 14 November 2005

Topic: Bush

Parting Shot: Did so! Did Not! Did So! Did Not!

The speech the president gave on Veterans Day should be old news, except its not. It was covered in these pages here, and that should have been that.

But no, the speech contained the core of the argument that is supposed turn everything around and make those poll numbers go up again. Forget the Veterans - they're not important, or they're dead or whatever. Veterans Day was the day to give a speech attacking the opponents of the administration who said all those awful things about the administration conning everyone in to pointless war that's making thing worse, and to say to the nearly sixty-percent of the population that judges the president as dishonest that well, they're just wrong. Nixon was forced to say, "I am not a crook." Same sort of thing - "So they call me a liar? I'm not."

But if he's seen as a liar then that statement could be a lie, right? The assertion defeats itself. The polls won't change.

From the shooting script of the Blake Edwards movie Charade (1963), this dialog -(Reggie is Audrey Hepburn and Dyle is Cary Grant, in their hotel in Paris) -
REGGIE: Alex - how can you tell if someone is lying or not?

DYLE: You can't.

REGGIE: There must be some way.

DYLE: There's an old riddle about two tribes of Indians - the Whitefeet always tell the truth and the Blackfeet always lie. So one day you meet an Indian, you ask him if he's a truthful Whitefoot or a lying Blackfoot? He tells you he's a truthful Whitefoot, but which one is he?

REGGIE: Why couldn't you just look at his feet?

DYLE: Because he's wearing moccasins.

REGGIE: Oh. Well, then he's a truthful Whitefoot, of course.

DYLE: Why not a lying Blackfoot?

REGGIE (confused): Which one are you?

DYLE (entering, smiling): Whitefoot, of course.

REGGIE: Come here.

He goes to the bed.
And so on and so forth.

In this case, what's the president to do? He's not taking off his "executive privilege" moccasins, after all. What really was decided and how it was decided isn't for the public.

What to do? Keep repeating the assertion, as on Monday, November 14, while leaving town, as in Terence Hunt reports for the Associated Press -
President Bush, heading to Asia with hopes of improving his image on the world stage, hurled a parting shot at Iraq war critics on Monday, accusing some Democrats of "sending mixed signals to our troops and the enemy."

"That is irresponsible," Bush said in prepared remarks he planned to deliver to U.S. forces during a refueling stop in Alaska. Excerpts from the remarks were released by the White House as Bush flew to Elemendorf Air Force Base on the initial leg of an eight-day journey to Japan, South Korea, China and Mongolia.

"Reasonable people can disagree about the conduct of the war, but it is irresponsible for Democrats to now claim that we misled them and the American people," Bush said in his prepared remarks.

"Only one person manipulated evidence and misled the world - and that person was Saddam Hussein," Bush added.

The president sought to defend himself against Democrats' criticism that he manipulated intelligence and misled the American people about Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction as he sought grounds to go to war against Saddam Hussein in 2003.

... In his prepared Alaska remarks, Bush noted that some elected Democrats in Congress "have opposed this war all along.

"I disagree with them, but I respect their willingness to take a consistent stand," he said. "Yet some Democrats who voted to authorize the use of force are now rewriting the past. They are playing politics with this issue and sending mixed signals to our troops and the enemy."
There he goes again. This was repeating the charge in the Veterans Day speech (text here. That was summarized by the New York Times this way - "President Bush lashed out today at critics of his Iraq policy, accusing them of trying to rewrite history about the decision to go to war, and saying their criticism is undercutting American forces in battle." The Washington Post summary - "President Bush lashed out today at critics of his Iraq war policy, strongly denying any manipulation of prewar intelligence and accusing his detractors of sending "the wrong signal" to U.S. troops and America's enemies."

So he denied he had manipulated intelligence in order to take the country to war against Iraq - and said that the Democrats in congress had seen the same evidence he had seen, and all those commissions had all said nothing like that happened, and that even the Clinton administration had also seen Iraq as a threat.

Yeah, well, Walter Pincus and Dana Milbank on the front page of Saturday's Post, the day after the speech, suggested he was full of crap, although they said it nicely:
President Bush and his national security adviser have answered critics of the Iraq war in recent days with a two-pronged argument: that Congress saw the same intelligence the administration did before the war, and that independent commissions have determined that the administration did not misrepresent the intelligence.

Neither assertion is wholly accurate.
And that "neither assertion is wholly accurate" is to say, what?

These two remind us that the only committee investigating the matter of this pre-war intelligence in Congress, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has not yet done its inquiry into whether officials "mischaracterized intelligence" by omitting caveats and dissenting opinions. They haven't even started. That's Phase II - and the Democrats had to shut down the senate November 1st and make everyone meet behind closed doors just to get Pat Roberts, who chairs the committee, to get going. It's been two years or more. (Discussed in these pages here.) Yep, the committee did NOT say the administration manipulated anyone or anything. True enough. They haven't found the time or energy to look into it yet. They haven't said anything about it.

The Post guys also note that Judge Laurence H. Silberman - chairman of Bush's own commission on weapons of mass destruction - said in releasing his report on March 31, 2005, none of this was his business - "Our executive order did not direct us to deal with the use of intelligence by policymakers, and all of us were agreed that that was not part of our inquiry."

So, yes, technically no one has concluded anyone in the administration was playing fast and loose way back when with junk data about how we just had to go to war at that moment. That no investigation has yet covered the issue proves that manipulation never happened?

No wonder this man comes off so badly on "trustworthiness" in the polls. They should poll people who have taken courses in symbolic logic. That poll would be devastating.

And this business about everyone working from the same data - that everyone looked at the same intelligence? The Post points out no president shares the most sensitive intelligence, things like the President's Daily Brief (PDB), with any lawmakers. And too, the National Intelligence Estimate summarizing the intelligence community's views about the threat from Iraq was given to Congress "just days before the vote to authorize the use of force in that country." No one had time to read it, which was probably the idea. And all the doubts and "maybe this isn't so" stuff wasn't in there anyway. Ah well.

Democrats in Congress seem to be saying that most of what they knew about Iraq before the war came from briefings from the administration and the Pentagon, and now feel they were lied to - consistently and systematically.

Poor babies. Of course you could argue that since the world is made of only fools and knaves, as Swift famously formulated it, the worse things is not to have a good bullshit detector. Everyone lies. That's life. The greater blame goes to the fool who doesn't see the lie - and the greatest blame to the perceptive man who sees the lie and won't say anything for fear of being called unpatriotic or some such thing. Heck, liars are a dime a dozen. You expect that in government.

Of course some tell the truth. The Post drags out a news conference in February 2001 in Egypt with Colin Powell - Secretary of State at the time - saying of the economic sanctions against Iraq were just fine and there was no threat: "Frankly, they have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction."

Just who is rewriting history? No one noticed at the time?

And the "smoking gun" October 2002 joint resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq never did mention the removal of Saddam Hussein from power and occupying the country. It was in support for "diplomatic efforts" to enforce "all relevant Security Council resolutions," and for using the armed forces to enforce the resolutions and defend "against the continuing threat posed by Iraq."

These guys didn't even vote for the war and occupation. One might mention that, but of course Kerry did and got smashed in the media as a flip-flopper.

Ah, he should have known - they should have known. Had they never dealt with a Texan before?

But then there's more.

What you also hear in the new offensive from the White House is much more of the charge that everyone thought there was a real big threat - all foreign governments and even the previous administration said so. This is the "Don't blame us - we were all wrong!" argument, the one where "we" excludes Scott Ritter and Hans Blix of course.

That argument relies on everyone having an amazingly bad memory or short attention span, or whatever. Juan Cole in his collection of such things notes, from the BBC in mid-February 2003, this -
France, Germany and Russia have released an unprecedented joint declaration on the Iraq crisis, demanding more weapons inspectors and more technical assistance for them.

... "Nothing today justifies a war," Mr Chirac told a joint news conference with Mr Putin. "This region really does not need another war." He said France did not have "undisputed proof" that Iraq still held weapons of mass destruction.
And Cole notes reports like this - the Russians were even more skeptical.

Just who is rewriting history? (By the way, Juan Cole's site Informed Comment is blocked in Iraq and Afghanistan - our guys cannot get to it.)

But then there's more - evidence that if there ever is an official inquiry in "manipulating" things there's a bit to explain.

There's just leaving things out - like how the Osama dude had flatly prohibited any al Qaeda operatives from cooperating with that heretical secular Arab nationalist, Saddam Hussein. We had that from informants. We had on record. That never got into any intelligence report, but the 9/11 Commission found it. Oops.

And as mentioned in these pages last week - here, section two, and in the Juan Cole roundup - there's the case of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi. The man who was the source of all the lies about Iraq training al-Qaeda operatives, even though the Defense Intelligence Agency and other high-level intelligence operatives had already dismissed this information as unreliable. Well, as Newsweek reported, this was a test case to see what we could get from torture - the fellow spent some time in Cairo. Didn't work out.

Add this. No supporting evidence. Cole: "It should be noted that no money traces showed al-Qaeda funds coming from Iraq. No captured al-Qaeda fighters had been trained in Iraq. There was no intelligence that in any way corroborated al-Libi's story. And, it was directly contradicted by two of his superiors."

But Powell took it to the UN, after all the times the administration hyped it. Cole has all the citations.

Kevin Drum more here in a nifty table - "a list of five key dissents about administration claims, all of which were circulated before the war but kept under wraps until after the war." He lists this liar, and the famous "Curveball," and the aluminum tubes that turned out to be something else, the hypothetical yellowcake from Niger, and those drone planes that we coming. It's all there, as a preliminary list.

And he adds this:
... the issue here is not who was right and who was wrong, or even whether the overall weight of the evidence was sufficient to justify the war. It would have been perfectly reasonable for the White House to present all the evidence pro and con and then use that evidence to make the strongest possible case for war. But that's not what they did. Instead, they suppressed any evidence that might have thrown doubt on their arguments, making it impossible for the public to evaluate what they were saying. In fact, by abusing the classification process to keep these dissents secret, they even made it impossible for senators who knew the truth to say anything about it in public.

This is not the way to market a war. It's certainly not the way to market a war that requires long-term support from citizens in a democracy. But that's how they marketed it anyway.
Yeah, and they're still at it.

As mentioned last weekend, it was Glenn Reynolds, one of the most influential voices on the right, who said this -
"The White House needs to go on the offensive here in a big way - and Bush needs to be very plain that this is all about Democratic politicians pandering to the antiwar base, that it's deeply dishonest, and that it hurts our troops abroad.

And yes, he should question their patriotism. Because they're acting unpatriotically.
Yeah, but who's lying?

James Walcott notes the idea, that all this wanting the truth stuff is unpatriotic, is spreading, and not working -
Bill Kristol said something similar today on Fox News Sunday, explaining Bush's falling poll numbers regarding Iraq (especially on the "trust issue") as being the product of certain Democrats and their allies in the liberal media. No one better embodies the creamy elitism of the neocons than does Kristol, who believes that the American people are a lumpy mass easily manipulated and are incapable of arriving at judgments of their own. But they can, they do, and they have. They have turned against this war and slowly come to the conclusion that they were deliberately misled. Questioning the patriotism of the war's critics isn't going to work because a majority of Americans now share that criticism and don't think of themselves as unpatriotic. Bush's counteroffensives are no longer effective because he's lost the confidence of the American people: they've had it with this guy.
Could that be so?

Does Josh Marshall speak for America here? -
What a sorry, sorry, unfortunate president - caught in his lies, his half-truths, his reckless disregard ... caught with, well ... caught with time. Time has finally caught up to him. And now he doesn't have the popularity to beat back all the people trying to call him to account. He could; but now he can't. So he's caught. And his best play is to accuse his critics of rewriting history, of playing fast and loose with the truth - a sad, pathetic man.

... In the president's new angle that his critics are trying to 'rewrite history', those critics might want to point out that his charge would be more timely after he stopped putting so much effort into obstructing any independent inquiry that could allow an accurate first draft of the history to be written. In any case, he must sense now that he's blowing into a fierce wind. The judgment of history hangs over this guy like a sharp, heavy knife. His desperation betrays him. He knows it too.
Oh my, that's a bit overwrought, but then, Nixon only had to say "I am not a crook" and feel desperate. The smart-ass kid from Texas has to say, over and over, "I did NOT con you into a war using bullshit, and hiding things from you, and now your kids are dead, but you bought the crap so it's your fault." Nixon had it easy. They're now calling the frat-boy bully a liar to his face, and bringing up just why they're saying that.

One suspect he resents that, and resents that saying the clear facts really mean nothing is getting nowhere. Were they that hard on him a Yale when he turned in an embarrassingly dumb-ass paper, as he did quite often as many have mentioned? There he could laugh it off - he was the son of a famous Yale father and Yale grandfather so what were they going to do?


Well, he has his base of screw-them-all wannabe bullies, but that has its limitations, as Ron Brownstein explains here -
After Tuesday's election results, the threat is most visible for Republicans. From the federal intervention in the Terri Schiavo case to the unsuccessful attempt to add private investment accounts to Social Security, President Bush aimed his 2005 agenda mostly at the preferences of his Republican base. That followed the pattern of his first term. Bush's top political goal has always been to mobilize a massive turnout of Republicans by pursuing an unapologetically polarizing agenda, even at the price of straining his relations with moderate voters.

That strategy helped power the GOP victories in 2002 and 2004, but its limits have grown increasingly apparent in the last year, and never more so than in the last week. The great political risk in this approach always was that it left Bush without much of a margin for error. Because his sharp-edged agenda and uncompromising style antagonized so many centrist voters, he lacked a deep pool of goodwill to draw from when times got tough.

And tough times have arrived in waves this year. Battered by miscalculations (Schiavo, Social Security), bad news (high gas prices), missteps (the faltering federal response to Hurricane Katrina), ethical controversies and the grinding war in Iraq, Bush has seen his approval rating among independent voters fall to an almost unimaginable 29%.

Last week's elections demonstrated those numbers have consequences. Jerry W. Kilgore and Douglas R. Forrester, the defeated Republican gubernatorial candidates in Virginia and New Jersey, were routed in socially moderate, upscale suburbs. Their deficiencies as candidates obviously contributed to those results. But few Republicans denied that swing voters' disillusionment with Bush compounded the problem.

... Bush can't ignore his base. But if he stays this weak in the center, turnout alone probably can't protect the GOP next year.
And that will tick off his base.

The man cannot be very happy. And now it's even harder to start another war to fix it all.


Note: Digby at Hullabaloo on how to discuss this all with your conservative friends, an excerpt from a longer item -
Again, establishing a fact is not the same as persuading others to accept that fact. The fact - the president is a liar - has long been established. Now, how do you get others to accept it? Say it: The president is a liar. Say it again: The president is a liar. And when someone demands proof, you repeat: The president is a liar.

Now, suppose they say, "But you've shown me no proof. That's just your opinion. Prove it." Now what? You say, "The president is liar."

Now to us liberals, this may appear at first to be a bit, how shall I say it, irrational and unfair. It is not. First of all, the person you are trying to convince is perfectly capable and in fact probably has read many of the same articles you have read, in which the lies of Bush are so painfully apparent. Their ability to reason is skewed, not their ability to read. Attempts to "set their reason straight" by advancing reasoned arguments merely reinforces the delusion.

The important thing to remember is that a deeply held delusion is invested with deep emotional attachment. One's self-esteem, one's positive opinion of oneself, has become deliberately intertwined with maintaining that delusion at all costs. Dangerously so. It is that emotional attachment you must confront. When that has been dealt with, the ability to reason is freed to arrive at the obvious conclusion: The president is a liar.

Now in dealing with someone on the emotional level, there's no reason to be cruel, but you need to be firm. You need to weaken, in the face of enormous resistance, the emotional glue that binds the deluded to his/her delusion. You don't humiliate as in, "Schmuck! Any moron can see the president is lying through his teeth. WTF is wrong with you?" That further binds the delusion to the person's sense of self, which now feels attacked and therefore becomes defensive. Instead, you simply repeat, "The president is a liar."

Eventually, the repetition will permit the idea to seep enough into their consciousness to make the deluded start to wonder whether it is worthwhile investing their sense of self so deeply in someone who just may be, in fact, a liar. Your clue that this is happening is a change in the way the way the discourse is conducted. Instead of, "Oh yeah? Prove he's a liar!" you'll start to hear things like, "I guess he did cherrypick the intelligence a bit and in a sense, that's a lie. But you don't think Bush made stuff up out of whole cloth, do you?"

At which point, you respond, "The president is a liar" but, as Sean-Paul says, don't go into the details. Remember, they've already heard them but they can't reason about them properly yet and the problem they are having is emotional, not intellectual. They've started to wake up, but they are still entangling their own sense of integrity with Bush's.

It's only when they respond, "Okay, he's a liar. He lied and manipulated intelligence to get us into the war. But we have to support Bush now if we are not going to embolden the enemy" that you ease up slightly. You say, "The president is a liar. He lied to your face. Over and over. He lied to the soldiers who are now fighting for their lives over there. The president is a liar. You owe him nothing. He owes you the truth."

Got it.

Posted by Alan at 18:40 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, 14 November 2005 18:46 PST home

Monday, 3 October 2005

Topic: Bush

Assuming a Role: Bush on the Couch

There are three things to note here, and maybe a fourth.

First, a psychiatrist is an MD who has, after his or her general medical training, specialized in matters pertaining to disorders that result in dysfunctional behavior of all sorts, like severe schizophrenia, clinical depression and that sort of thing - and is attuned to the idea that much of this may be the result of chemical imbalances in one's neurochemistry, as well as the idea that some disorders may have some origin in the emotional and social environment of the patient, or in the patient having, for some reason, adopted dysfunctional notions of the best way to behave in any given situation. But the model, as far as etiology goes, is more often than not one of "organic brain damage." As an MD, a psychiatrist can, and likely will, prescribe medication as part of treatment, or even treat severe problems with such things as electrical or chemical shock to alter the operation of the brain itself for a time.

On the other hand, a psychotherapist is not an MD but rather licensed by the state to provide "therapy" to change dysfunctional behaviors or to increase one's ability to deal with debilitating circumstances - thus we have licensed "marriage and family counselors," grief therapists and all the rest. Here etiology doesn't matter very much. This issue is what to do, right now, to get back to something like normal, whatever that is. This is the realm of "talk therapy" and working on cognitive patterns, as how you frame what is happening around you determines your response, your mood, your paranoia and so forth. A psychotherapist cannot prescribe medication, or any kind of medical treatment. When a patient is not responding then it's time to call in the psychiatrist, with his or her arsenal of psychopharmaceutical goodies and physical interventions.

The third leg of the stool, so to speak, is the psychoanalyst. Cue up Freud and Jung - Woody Allen is in the waiting room. Here etiology is everything. This is the realm of hour-long sessions up to five days a week, often over many years, on the couch, delving into past conflicts and one's childhood and sorting out id impulse from ego and super-ego and all that. The idea is that knowledge of how you got to where you are will fix things in the here and now. (Some doubt the logic there.) And of course you do all the work - the psychoanalyst will nudge you along, now and then, as you discover the root of what seems to be the problem, if there even is one. And of the three, the psychoanalyst probably has the most rigorous and lengthy training - he or she goes through deep analysis as part of that training. Needless to say, this treatment, at hundreds of dollars a session, is really expensive. Woody Allen needed to keep making all those films.

All three do agree on what constitutes a condition to be treated, as opposed to the person just being a jerk. There's a book of such things, the DSM-IV - the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. It might be handy to have copy the next time you're in a political argument about the current Republican leadership, or the feckless Democrats. You can then do name-calling with a certain flair.

There is a fourth category of professionals - those who state, on the net, that they are one of the three above, as does one "artebella" here with a post late Sunday evening, October 2, with the title "Danger - Bush Could React Violently To Fitzgerald's Action - How We Can Protect Ourselves."

This is a speculation how Bush would react if he or any close to him in the White House were indicted. The possibility has come up - see Peculiar News on a Slow News Day on the guesswork that this "get Joe Wilson's wife" investigation may lead to criminal conspiracy charges against Vice President Cheney and Bush himself.

But the writer just doesn't sound like a psychoanalyst.
I'm a shrink - a psychoanalyst - and think we can keep this real simple. We have no right to diagnose from afar but we can surely describe Bush in old-fashioned everyday language based on his public behavior.

He's a mean SOB, unable and unwilling to care about others - uninterested in any reality other than the one that comforts him. He clearly needs to be comforted, applauded and admired all the time. (It's no accident that press conferences and election appearances were so controlled). He is amazingly immature though canny and, as a sadistic SOB, he will destroy or have destroyed anyone who opposes him. His characteristics, if seen in a child, are considered ominous. Hence the story of his childhood practice of putting firecrackers inside frogs and lighting them would have sent any thoughtful parents straight to a child psychiatrist screaming for help for their disturbed child. Clearly that didn't happen.
This just doesn't sound professional, in spite of the writer claiming no right to do this "diagnosis from afar." The writer does just that.

Note this on defense mechanisms:
Maybe his "charm" (joke telling, life of the party, etc) protected him while things were going well. But now, when the chickens are coming home to his roost, he's scared - and watch out. He will get mean and meaner. The more deprived of comfort (high poll numbers) the more frantic he will be. Nuking Iran or North Korea are an easy out - just as turning up the terror alerts when things got bad (sliding poll numbers) worked here at home. He got his jollies by scaring the rest of the country so he wouldn't feel so alone in his fear.

Deprived children tend to feel the world owes them something - a lot - to pay back for all that early pain. And they feel totally justified in their anger and the expression of it. I do unto you as was done unto me. So there!! Btw, they usually don't know about this particular dynamic unless they've been in therapy. Clearly that hasn't happened either. Alcohol or any substance he may have used was probably his attempt to self medicate.
As a descriptor of dysfunctional behavior, "he got his jollies," while vivid, probably isn't in the manual.

The there's this:
He's not dumb so on some level at some times he knows something about himself he'd rather not know. Constant movement - bicycling, etc, rigid routines, prayer sessions, surrounding himself with sycophants and fellow sadists will keep further self knowledge at bay.

And let's not forget his belief in the apocalypse. It's a sadist's perfect plan. Total destruction. Yikes.
I had a friend in psychoanalysis for a time, and I cannot imagine her therapist saying "Yikes!" But I wasn't there.

Okay, assume the writer really is a psychoanalyst just adopting a "voice" here, to make the crushingly Freudian stuff accessible to an audience that wouldn't tolerate professional jargon. That's a stretch, but note this:
I've wondered why Bush was "successful" for so long. He did get to be POTUS twice. It can't be all Karl Rove and Diebold. So, it finally dawned on me that he is gifted. He has a special gift for destruction. Think about it - he has destroyed America's reputation in the world, he is well on the way to destroying the economy, civil liberties, the environment, my peace of mind, democracy, the treaties and behavior that kept nations away from the idea of using nuclear weapons, respect for the rule of law, the compact with Americans that the president will do all he can to protect you, the Geneva conventions ...

The point is that when it comes to building and growing anything - this man does not have the psychological ability to handle it. It's not stupidity; I don't even think it's just greed and incompetence - though he and his buddies have plenty of both. It's a knack to be consistent at destroying things. It's related to meanness of spirit - you know the opposite of generosity. The Bush crime family has given nothing to this country. Some robber barons of the past at least left libraries and foundations behind. What has the Bush family ever built (for the benefit or use of others)?
Yes, this is nine parts political rant, one part simplistic idea. This is no professional. But we get anecdotes mixed in, as in this:
I have worked with some sadistic patients. They feel empty inside and/or full of rage. They are certain they have been deprived of love and do not carry a fund of memories of being cared for inside them. They find ways to be with others - charm, but they often haven't a clue as to why people don't really like or trust them.

Oh yes, they know how to exert power over people and keep them in their place. That is the essence of sadism - I am the master - you are the slave. Bush and Rove clearly deserve each other.
This sounds like someone who took one semester of Abnormal Psych years ago and pulled out the old textbook to assume a role here. Well, there's a tradition of such things in political writing and satire. One thinks of Swift's Modest Proposal (1729) - "A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland from Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public." That's Bill Bennett sort of thing - roast 'em and eat 'em - and effective for its reasoned, sane tone.

Here, on the other hand, we get this bogus "psychoanalyst" putting on the tin-foil hat:
Why this matters now is the possible reaction of Bush to Fitzgerald's next serious move. My fear is that the inner emptiness in Bush will respond with absolute panic to the potential loss of Rove and his other pals. Panic in a sadist who believes in the apocalypse is something serious about which we all should be worried.

He could set off a nuclear holocaust. He could merely nuke Iran or North Korea (the latter is less likely for the moment). He will be drawn to do something to make him feel powerful and less humiliated. What can we do about it?

I am writing this diary because I think there is something we can and should be doing now before he is "compelled" to react to the worst news of his life.

We should be predicting his irrational destructive reaction to everyone. With any luck it will get back to him and his courtiers and could slow him down. Or at least some of his marginally sane advisors could slow him down.

BTW, I was worried about his creating a "terrorist attack" just before the election for the obvious reasons and was reassured to learn that the democratic leadership and Kerry campaign were well aware of that possibility and the repugs knew that he was being watched for any such dirty trick which reduced the likelihood of it happening.

In the same spirit, I think we should make sure that as many people as possible should be aware that a man with such a hair-trigger response to humiliation and who has his finger too close to the wrong buttons will be watched and prevented by saner minds from doing his best (which is unfortunately everybody else's worst.)
Well, that may be a reasonable warning. Anyone in a position of enormous power should be watched. That's just common sense.

But it's too bad about the hyperbolic delivery of this amateur psychoanalysis, some of which may be spot on.

Of course, what the writer does not address is the extent to which much of the adult population in the United States these days identifies or even bonds with someone who is spiteful, mean-spirited, and slyly vindictive - and feels unloved and unappreciated, and is a tad paranoid that everyone is against him, and really wants to strike out at others. America and the world, no? That's been our national character for the last five years. More than half of the voters last time around decided that was is just the way it is in this sorry world.

Who we choose to lead us is who we are. We should all be on the couch.

Posted by Alan at 17:37 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, 3 October 2005 17:39 PDT home

Tuesday, 30 August 2005

Topic: Bush

The President's Rentrée: When it rains, it pours…

This site, and the weekly parent site Just Above Sunset, seldom deal in breaking news. They have evolved from whatever they were when the weekly started in May of 2003, and the daily a month later, into places for commentary and analysis, with photography, and comment on music and books and sometimes science, not to mention weekly columns from "Our Man In Paris," and now "Or Man in London," and sporadically, "Our Man in Tel-Aviv" - not to mention the weekly columns from The World's Laziest Journalist and The Book Wrangler (both Bob Patterson), and photo-essays from Phillip Raines and fiction from our MD friend in the Boston area.

We don't do news, as such.

Thus there has not been much of anything on either site about this worst-of-all hurricane that slid across the bottom of Florida, grew strong in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, then slammed into the Gulf Coast, pretty much destroying Biloxi and leaving four-fifths New Orleans underwater, in some places twenty feet deep, and now under marshal law to stop the looting. What's to say? You can go elsewhere for the folks on the left spinning this as a told-you-so about global warming and the right saying baloney, or go to the business-minded folks fretting about what it means to have a quarter of our domestic oil supply offline and multiple refineries flooded and not operable (and what that means to the economy and interest rates and a possible recession and all that). You can find many commenting that a lot of the manpower that would help with recovery - and heavy equipment for the recovery - is now in Iraq. We sent the National Guard there, didn't we? There's also a lot out there on how FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has been sort of disassembled since it was subsumed under the Department of Homeland Security and its funding cut left and right. Stopping terrorists was more important. Now?

All this may be important, but it seems ghoulish. And it seems, well, just a little wrong to hitch one's political views to all this misery and death. Let the others do it, if they must. But you could send some money to the Red Cross instead. People need help, not polemics.

"When it rains, it pours" actually refers to some odd things in the news on Tuesday, August 30 - political things.

New polling shows a clear majority now supports that woman in Texas, Cindy Sheehan - a clear majority supports protest in that they believe she deserves to ask Bush directly about "the noble cause for which her son died." In contrast, a clear majority disapproves of the way Bush is handling his presidency and objects to the way he's dealt with the war. It breaks down to fifty-three percent supporting Sheehan's efforts to question the war, while fifty-eight percent disapprove of George Bush's efforts to manage the war. All this is discussed in Bush v Sheehan - only one has majority support, which provides links to all the polling data.

Something is changing. The message has been, from the right side (in the political, not logical sense), that she represents a small minority of disturbed people who perhaps ought to be pitied for their personal loss, but certainly ought to be silenced before they give any more "aid and comfort to our enemies," as the statute on treason reads. But the details of the polling? Fifty-two percent of the public says Bush should talk to Sheehan while forty-six percent said he should not. So much for the "small minority." Of course, this is not saying these folks are arguing Bush should agree with her and do what she says, which seems to be to stop the war cold. It reads more like more that half the folks are saying he should just have the common decency to meet with her.

But common decency isn't the man's strong suit.

Of course, to a get a sense of his strong suit it probably would have been a good idea to hop in the car Tuesday and drive out to the San Bernardino area where the president was giving a major address on the sixtieth anniversary of V-J Day. (We actually won that one.)

But it was in the nineties here in Hollywood and out there well over one hundred, and the Just Above Sunset staff car was built in England (Oxford) from a German design and those folks just don't understand what kind of air-conditioning cars need out here. That ninety-minute drive seemed like a really bad idea - and the audiences are screened anyway. A fellow from Hollywood with his artsy, left-leaning web sites wouldn't get in the door.

What the heck, Fox News carried the whole thing, every word. Saw a bit of it. It was more of the same.

But maybe there is a bit of common decency in the fact the White House announced Tuesday afternoon that the president will cut short his vacation so that he can oversee the government's response to this worst-of-all hurricane and what it's done to the lower right quadrant of the country. As the Washington Post explains it, his advisors are "sensitive to the image of a president vacationing amid the hurricane crisis."

Yeah, that looks kind of bad. End the long vacation. Wrong image. The in-your-face now-watch-this-drive sneering isn't polling well. Folks really used to like that - a strong a decisive leader telling the rest of the world to go pound sand. That's now getting old.

But Tim Greive over at Salon has some other questions -
... isn't it also fair to ask, what about Iraq? By our count, 71 Americans have been killed in Iraq since Bush arrived in Crawford on Aug. 2. The president didn't return to Washington on Aug. 3, when 14 Marines were killed near Haditha. He didn't return on Aug. 9, when five National Guardsmen and a soldier were killed in separate incidents. He didn't return when Iraqi negotiators failed to meet a deadline, then failed to meet a deadline, then failed to meet a deadline, then failed to meet a deadline and then failed to reach agreement on a draft constitution.

Instead, the president stayed in Crawford, bicycling with Lance Armstrong and avoiding Cindy Sheehan while making the occasional side trip to Utah, to Idaho, to an RV park in Arizona and finally to an Air Force Base in California. That's where the president was this morning, commemorating the 60th anniversary of V-J Day and talking about the "sacrifice" - he used the word seven times - that Americans have always been willing to make in times of war.

And now the president will make his own sacrifice, albeit for Katrina, not Iraq. The president will squeeze in one more night at Crawford tonight, then he'll fly back to Washington Wednesday.

He'll have spent 28 full days away from the White House, two short of the 30 he had planned.
Well, maybe it's not just the hurricane. Something is changing. He may not know it. His aides seem to.

Even the acerbic and extremely conservative Jack Cafferty over at CNN got into this exchange with Wolf Blitzer on the mid-afternoon news show "Situation Room." -
Cafferty: Where's President Bush? Is he still on vacation?

Blitzer: He's cut short his vacation he's coming back to Washington tomorrow.

Cafferty: Oh, that would be a good idea. He was out in San Diego I think at a Naval air station giving a speech on Japan and the war in Iraq today. Based on his approval rating, based on the latest polls, my guess is getting back to work might not be a terrible idea.
Geez, when you've lost Jack Cafferty...

Well, getting back to work might not be a terrible idea with stuff like this popping up in the Washington Post -
The nation's poverty rate rose to 12.7 percent of the population last year, the fourth consecutive annual increase, the Census Bureau said Tuesday.

The percentage of people without health insurance did not change... Charles Nelson, an assistant division chief at the Census Bureau, said the percentage of uninsured remained steady because of an "increase in government coverage, notably Medicaid and the state children's health insurance program, that offset a decline in employment-based coverage."

... The median household income, meanwhile, stood at $44,389, unchanged from 2003.
Let that sink in.

Question 1: what's the point of a strong economy if it produces higher poverty rates, declining private sector healthcare coverage, and stagnant incomes?

Question 2: Whenever there are any nuggets of good employment news, the explanation from various quarters is either (a) tax cuts or (b) welfare reform. Do these two things also get the credit when there's bad news?
Ah, when it rains it pours. One more thing for the administration to explain. Back to work. (Explanation to expect: Tax cuts for the wealthy WILL cause the economy to boom one day, and that will trickle down somehow if you damned peasants will just be patient and accept stagnant wages and higher prices and cuts to welfare and services - and besides, corporate profits are soaring, CEO's are earning more than ever, and THAT is economic health - so quit bellyaching!)

Other issues? Tuesday, August 30, down on Sunset, the price of gasoline for the staff car - 3.20 per gallon and rising fast. With the oil platforms off the Louisiana coast out for a bit and the refineries there underwater, that's just going to get higher - much higher.

That'll need some spin. And spinning that one will be hard work.

Here's an idea:

Why high oil prices are a force for good
Eberhard Rhein, The International Herald Tribune, Wednesday, August 31, 2005

That ends with this:
Politicians should be preparing citizens worldwide for a future in which energy prices will remain high, and policy makers should be ready to keep the oil price near the present level by raising the level of excise taxation when necessary. Unfortunately, most politicians are still too myopic or timid to deliver such a message. This needs to change.

The high oil price is a bonanza for advocates of the Kyoto Protocol, who will probably claim for the protocol what the market has achieved: the decline of carbon dioxide emissions.

If oil prices can be maintained at or above today's high levels, there is less urgency for the extension of the protocol beyond 2012. The market is doing the job - and it embraces all types of energy consumption, which the Kyoto Protocol does not. It becomes therefore almost immaterial whether or not China and the United States will one day join.
Yep, high oil prices may save the plant, but one cannot imagine the president spinning it just that way.

Well, the president's vacation is so over. And it was so very French - five or six weeks off, bicycling with Lance through the fields of poppies. But as in France, it's time for the September rentrée - that time the French "reenter" the real world after their long summer vacations - as Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, puts it, "when the last French holiday-er is supposed to have returned and applied his or herself to the garlic grindstone."

As there, so here. The real world needs some attention.

Posted by Alan at 19:45 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 31 August 2005 08:36 PDT home

Tuesday, 24 May 2005

Topic: Bush

Say what? Michael Jackson and Postmodernism

Terry Eagleton is a professor of cultural theory at Manchester University and offers us this - The Ultimate Postmodern Spectacle - Wednesday May 25, 2005, The Guardian (UK) – where he argues that Michael Jackson and his trial hold a mirror to modern western civilization and its blurring of fact and fiction.

Well, given American politics and the current war in Iraq now being waged on its twenty-seventh premise – there being no WMD and no ties to the al Qaeda baddies there at all, and clear evidence even the powers that be knew what they were telling everyone way back when was essentially a grand fiction – Eagleton may be onto something.

For us postmodernists reality is overrated. And the Jackson trail proves that? I think that’s the idea.

Here’s the premise -
Celebrity trials, like those of OJ Simpson and Michael Jackson, are sometimes loosely called postmodern, meaning that they are media spectaculars thronged with characters who are only doubtfully real. But they are also postmodern in a more interesting sense. Courtrooms, like novels, blur the distinction between fact and fiction. They are self-enclosed spheres in which what matters is not so much what actually took place in the real world, but how it gets presented to the jury. The jury judge not on the facts, but between rival versions of them. Since postmodernists believe that there are no facts in any case, just interpretations, law courts neatly exemplify their view of the world. There is a double unreality about staging the fiction of a criminal trial around a figure who has been assembled by cosmetic surgeons. Jackson's freakish body represents the struggle of fantasy against reality, the pyrrhic victory of culture over biology.
Well that’s a handful. Postmodernists believe that there are no facts in any case, just interpretations?

One thinks of the New York Times Sunday magazine item Without a Doubt by Ron Suskind (October 17, 2004) – a discussion of how George Bush makes decisions.
… In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''
Ah yes, creating our own realities – the basis for all courtroom tactics. Having served on jury duty many times, that fits. And listening to what comes from the Mouth of Scott – Scott McClelland, the White House press secretary, not to be confused with the nasty Mouth of Sauron from Book III of Tolkien’s odd epic – one does feel hammered by something like a clever attorney, arguing for a reality that may not be what you think it is. It all depends on how you look at it. Scott makes his case. We take notes.

Mark Danner in the New York Review of Books, Volume 52, Number 10 - issue date: June 9, 2005 (item dated May 12, 2005) ? in The Secret Way to War parses the Suskind item slightly differently.
Though this seems on its face to be a disquisition on religion and faith, it is of course an argument about power, and its influence on truth. Power, the argument runs, can shape truth: power, in the end, can determine reality, or at least the reality that most people accept - a critical point, for the administration has been singularly effective in its recognition that what is most politically important is not what readers of The New York Times believe but what most Americans are willing to believe. The last century's most innovative authority on power and truth, Joseph Goebbels, made the same point but rather more directly: There was no point in seeking to convert the intellectuals. For intellectuals would never be converted and would anyway always yield to the stronger, and this will always be "the man in the street." Arguments must therefore be crude, clear and forcible, and appeal to emotions and instincts, not the intellect. Truth was unimportant and entirely subordinate to tactics and psychology.
Okay, and that is fine in the world of politics. But is there a wider implication? Can the techniques of Joseph Goebbels make Michael Jackson anything Michael Jackson wishes to be?

Is Michael Jackson black? Depends. Eagleton points out that quite a few young people are not even aware that he is. Nothing is what is seems. Reality? Nature? Don’t worry about it.
If postmodern theory won't acknowledge that there is any such thing as raw nature, neither will this decaying infant.

It is hardly surprising that he has expressed a wish to live forever, given that death is the final victory of nature over culture. If the US sanitizes death, it is because mortality is incompatible with capitalism. Capital accumulation goes on forever, in love with a dream of infinity. The myth of eternal progress is just a horizontalized form of heaven. Socialism, by contrast, is not about reaching for the stars but returning us to earth. It is about building a politics on a recognition of human frailty and finitude. As such, it is a politics which embraces the reality of failure, suffering and death, as opposed to one for which the word "can't" is almost as intolerable as the word "communist".
Whoa, Nellie! Mortality is incompatible with capitalism? The myth of eternal progress is just a horizontalized form of heaven?

Could the appeal of Bush’s divorced-from-reality optimism – the war is going well, tax cuts for the obscenely rich make life so very much better for those scrambling to avoid falling into homelessness and starving in the streets – just be just a yearning for heaven?

Josh Marshall on September 2003 in the Washington Monthly offered this: The Post-Modern President - Deception, Denial, and Relativism: what the Bush administration learned from the French - and the core about the Bush folks is this:
Ideology is really all there is. For an administration that has been awfully hard on the French, that mindset is... well, rather French. They are like deconstructionists and post-modernists who say that everything is political or that everything is ideology. That mindset makes it easy to ignore the facts or brush them aside because "the facts" aren't really facts, at least not as most of us understand them. If they come from people who don't agree with you, they're just the other side's argument dressed up in a mantle of facticity. And if that's all the facts are, it's really not so difficult to go out and find a new set of them. The fruitful and dynamic tension between political goals and disinterested expert analysis becomes impossible.
Reality? Who needs it?

And yes, facticity isn’t a real word – but it works here.

But Terry Eagleton, considering the trial of Michael Jackson, is onto something bigger. It’s not Bush and his troop. It’s western civilization! Golly!
If Michael Jackson is a symbol of western civilization, it is less because of his materialism than because of his immaterialism. Behind the endless accumulation of expensive garbage lies a Faustian spirit which no object could ever satisfy.

Like Jackson's cosmetic surgeons, postmodernism believes in the infinite plasticity of the material world. Reality, like Jackson's over-chiseled nose, is just meaningless matter for you to carve as you choose. Just as Jackson has bleached his skin, so postmodernism bleaches the world of inherent meaning. This means that there is nothing to stop you creating whatever you fancy; but for the same reason your creations are bound to be drained of value. For what is the point of imposing your will on a meaningless reality? The individual is now a self-fashioning creature, whose supreme achievement is to treat himself as a work of art.

Ethics turns into aesthetics.
Somehow Michael Jackson has morphed in Oscar Wilde, without the talent. And Bush becomes a self-referential, self-indulgent work of art? Something like that.

Eagleton does make the obvious connection to Bush -
… just as there are no constraints on the individual self, so there are no natural limits to promoting freedom and democracy across the globe. What looks like a generous-hearted tolerance - you can be whatever you like - thus conceals an imperial will. The tattoo parlor and George Bush's foreign policy may seem light years distant, but both assume that the world is pliable stuff on which to stamp your will. Both are forms of narcissism for which the idea of reality putting up some resistance to your predatory designs on it, whether in the form of the Iraqi opposition or a visit from the local district attorney, is an intolerable affront.
Well, Bush does get obviously pissed off when reality puts up some resistance to his predatory designs on it. Terry has that right. If you cannot stamp your will on life, on all of reality, where’s the fun?

The conclusion?
Postmodern culture rejects the charge that it is superficial. You can only have surfaces if you also have depths to contrast them with, and depths went out with DH Lawrence. Nowadays, appearance and reality are one, so that what you see is what you get. But if reality seems to have dwindled to an image of itself, we are all the more sorely tempted to peer behind it. This is the case with Jackson's Neverland. Is it really the kitschy, two-dimensional paradise it appears to be, or is there some sinisterly unspeakable truth lurking beneath it? Is it a spectacle or a screen?

If courtrooms are quintessentially postmodern, it is because they lay bare the relations between truth and power, which for postmodernism come to much the same thing. Truth for them, as for the ancient Sophists, is really a question of who can practice the most persuasive rhetoric. In front of a jury, he with the smoothest tongue is likely to triumph. On this view, all truth is partisan: the judge's summing up is simply an interpretation of interpretations. …
That does seem to be where we are – all truth is partisan. He who can practice the most persuasive rhetoric wins.

I’m not sure depths went out with DH Lawrence, but let that pass. I blame William Carlos Williams, myself – you know, that doctor from Patterson, New Jersey and that dammed Red Wheelbarrow.

Whatever. Eagleton’s advice in this postmodern world? Get yourself a good lawyer.

Works for me.



Terry Eagleton blames DH Lawrence - and I blame William Carlos Williams and that Red Wheelbarrow ? for taking the depth out of things, or removing fixed meaning or whatever. Morris Dickstein teaches English at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and says his students not longer want to read such stuff ? as they prefer nineteenth-century realism. You know, Theodore Dreiser, Stephen Crane, Sinclair Lewis, Edith Wharton, Willa Cather and such folks. Really?

See Postmodern Fog Has Begun to Lift
In an era of uncertainty, reality makes a comeback.
Morris Dickstein, Los Angeles Times, May 26, 2005

? for many contemporary academics, especially those who bought into postmodern theory in the last few decades, the idea of the "real" raises serious problems. Reality depends on those who are perceiving it, on social forces that have conditioned their thinking, and on whoever controls the flow of information that influences them. They believe with Nietzsche that there are no facts, only interpretations. Along with notions like truth or objectivity, or moral concepts of good and evil, there's hardly anything more contested in academia today.

Both sides have a point here. No one could survive for a day if he or she really tried to live by the relentless relativism and skepticism preached by postmodernists, in which everything is shadowed by uncertainty or exposed as ideology.
But many of us are still living, in spite of sensing Nietzsche was onto something.

Dickstein?s nod to Bush -
?there are many ways to simulate reality: staying on message, for instance, impervious to correction and endlessly reiterating it while saturating the media environment. Ideologues, whether they're politicians or intellectuals, dismiss any appeal to disinterested motives or objective conditions. They see reality itself, including the electorate, as thoroughly malleable.
Yeah, what else is new?

What has changed?
? many Americans today, sensing that the foundations of their world have crumbled, feel a deep nostalgia for something solid and real. Surrounded by a media culture, adrift in virtual reality, they seek assurance from their own senses. They turn to what John Dewey called "the quest for certainty."
Well, this deep nostalgia for something solid and real probably explains the evangelical Christian capture of the whole of the Republican Party, and events in Kansas trashing science, claiming God is real and Darwin a secular, relativistic fool.

Dickstein only notes reading preferences -
? In his book "After Theory," a widely discussed obituary for decades of obfuscation that he himself had helped to promote, Terry Eagleton mocks "a certain postmodern fondness for not knowing what you think about anything."

To understand the changes that shook the modern world, my students and colleagues have returned in recent years to long-neglected writers in the American realist tradition, including William Dean Howells, Theodore Dreiser, Stephen Crane, Sinclair Lewis, Edith Wharton and Willa Cather. For readers like me who grew up in the second half of the 20th century on the unsettling innovations of modernism, and who were attuned to its atmosphere of crisis and disillusionment, the firm social compass of these earlier writers has come as a surprise.

Like Henry James before them, they saw themselves less as lonely romantic outposts of individual sensibility than as keen observers of society. They described the rough transition from the small town to the city, from rural life to industrial society, from a more homogeneous but racially divided population to a nation of immigrants. They recorded dramatic alterations in religious beliefs, moral values, social and sexual mores and class patterns. Novels like Dreiser's "Sister Carrie" and Wharton's "House of Mirth" showed how fiction paradoxically could serve fact and provide a more concrete sense of the real world than any other form of writing.
Yeah, but these authors are, each, deadly dull. Give me William Carlos Williams, and Wallace Stevens and his Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird. Sinclair Lewis and his outrage at the meat processing industry is not something one returns to now and then ? and even my eighth grade students way back when found Stephen Crane simple-minded. Things solid and real can be a tad stultifying.

Posted by Alan at 20:54 PDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 26 May 2005 08:21 PDT home

Friday, 1 April 2005

Topic: Bush

The Report: Newsmen Don?t Throw Curveballs

Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, who often comments in the pages, says he thinks somebody should find some way to connect in print this week?s spy report, that showed Bush was getting "lies" and exciting "headlines" in his daily briefings on Iraq, and his statements at the time that the reason he doesn't read newspapers or watch television news because he'd rather get his news from the "objective" folks who put together his daily briefings.

Well, we do have a mess. The presidential commission investigating the intelligence fiasco that preceded the Iraq invasion reported this week that the damage done to US credibility would "take years to undo.? The general idea in the report was that American intelligence was in chaos, often paralyzed by the rivalry of fifteen different agencies and affected by unchallenged assumptions about Baghdad's supposed weapons of mass destruction.

In fact, the 601-page document is a comprehensive assessment of our intelligence failures and identifies breakdowns in dozens of cases involving multiple countries and terrorist organizations.

The conclusion? "The commission found no evidence of political pressure to influence the intelligence community's prewar assessments of Iraq's weapons programs."

George is off the hook. But it does mention that there are the dangers of intelligence leaders becoming too close to the president and risking the loss of objectivity.

Any news there? No.

Was this a whitewash? Some see it that way.

To anyone who says it was a whitewash there is this sarcastic comment here -
I'm shocked, shocked to think that anyone would interpret Dick Cheney's visits to the CIA, W's immediate assignment of blame to Iraq after 9/11 and Don Rumsfeld's, Colin Powell's and Condi Rice's flagrant disregard for facts, evidence and integrity in the run up to war as somehow proving much of the blame lies with senior cabinet members. Next you'll be asserting that the man who preaches personal responsibility and honesty should take a "buck stops here" approach and accept accountability for a war that never should have been fought. Oh and I'm sure you'll want to dredge up the ever changing "101 Best Reasons We Went to War" aided by the MSM [mainstream media] and how facts were interpreted at the White House in the worst possible light in order to justify an unjustifiable attack. Well if you're going to be a spoilsport, we'll just have to empanel another commission--this one to prove there never was a second Iraq war and that this has all been misinformation fed to us by that liberal media. That'll show you.

But who does the president trust for knowing what?s up? Here?s Michael Kinsley from October 16, 2003 explaining it all -
To President Bush, the news is like a cigarette. You can get it filtered or unfiltered. And which way does he prefer it? Well, that depends on the circumstances. When he is trying to send a message to the public, Bush prefers to have it go out unfiltered. He feels, for example, that the "good news about Iraq" is getting filtered out by the national media. "Somehow you just got to go over the heads of the filter and speak directly to the American people," he said the other day. So, lately he has been talking to local and regional media, whom he trusts to filter less.

But when he is on the receiving end, Bush prefers his news heavily filtered. "I glance at the headlines, just to get kind of a flavor," he told Brit Hume of Fox News last month. But, "I rarely read the stories" because "a lot of times there's opinions mixed in with news." Instead, "I get briefed by [White House Chief of Staff] Andy Card and Condi [Rice, the national security adviser] in the morning."

The president concluded, "The best way to get the news is from objective sources. And the most objective sources I have are people on my staff who tell me what's happening in the world."
Drat, it SO hard to find good servants these days!

But think about this -
? And where does the Rice-Card News Service obtain its uncontaminated information? Bush conceded his shocking suspicion that Rice and Card "probably read the news themselves." They do? Whatever is next? The president apparently is willing to tolerate the reading of newspapers by his staff members in the privacy of their own homes, as long as they don't flaunt this unseemly habit by bringing the wretched things into the White House or referring to them at staff meetings.

The president noted, though, that Rice and Card also get "news directly from participants on the world stage." ("Hi, Achmed?it's Condi. What's going on there in Baghdad? What's the weather like? And how's traffic? Thanks, I'll go tell the president and call you again in 15 minutes.") The notion that these world-stagers are sources of objective opinion while newspaper reporters are burdened by insuppressible opinions and hidden agendas is another odd one.
Well, you have to assume a functioning, inquisitive press, digging into things ? they call it investigating ? to go with Kinsley here. Does our press still do that?

But assume they had done that ? looking into things and asking probing questions and challenging the official word of the administration. Of course that is hard to imagine, given everyone what deathly afraid of being seen as unpatriotic and on ?the other side? with the bad guys - but try.

Ah, Bush would still have dismissed whatever was uncovered ? as he?d rather listen to the "actual participants on the world stage."

A fat lot of good that did him.

All these participant on the world stage were listening to Curveball.

Who? That would be a fellow who claimed to be an Iraqi chemical engineer who defected to the side of the good guys. That would be us. Unfortunately he was a liar and a drunk. The local paper here, the Los Angeles Times, broke the story on him in March of 2004 ? but he?s key now.

The Times follows up on that on, appropriately enough, April Fools Day.

Intelligence Analysts Whiffed on a 'Curveball'
Greg Miller and Bob Drogin, Friday, April 01, 2005

Cute headline, isn?t it?

Anyway, the details are depressing.

Like this -
Prewar claims by the United States that Iraq was producing biological weapons were based almost entirely on accounts from a defector who was described as "crazy" by his intelligence handlers and a "congenital liar" by his friends.

The defector, code-named "Curveball," spoke with alarming specificity about Iraq's alleged biological weapons programs and fleet of mobile labs. But postwar investigations showed that he wasn't even in the country at times when he claimed to have taken part in illicit weapons work.

Despite persistent doubts about his credibility, Curveball's claims were included in the Bush administration's case for war without so much as a caveat. And when CIA analysts argued after the war that the agency needed to admit it had been duped, they were forced out of their jobs.

The disclosures about Curveball and the extensive role he played in corrupting U.S. intelligence estimates on Iraq were included in a devastating report released Thursday by a commission established by President Bush to evaluate U.S. intelligence on weapons of mass destruction.

? U.S. intelligence agencies' reliance on Curveball and their failure to scrutinize his claims are described in the report as the "primary reason" that the CIA and other spy agencies "fundamentally misjudged the status of Iraq's [biological weapons] programs." No other episode is explored in as much detail, or recounted with as much evident dismay.

"Worse than having no human sources," the commission said, "is being seduced by a human source who is telling lies."
Well, at least Curveball wasn?t an investigative newspaper reporter.

The Times also notes that the CIA never even had access to Curveball. He was controlled by Germany's intelligence service, and they passed along the information they collected to our guys through the Defense Intelligence Agency - and that?s the Pentagon agency that at the time handled information from Iraqi defectors. So, false information, and secondhand too. And it seems the Defense Intelligence Agency used his stuff in a hundred reports or so. And according to the report, the Defense Intelligence Agency "did not even attempt to determine Curveball's veracity."

Oops. Really should have checked.

Oh yeah, that October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate claiming Iraq "has" biological weapons was "based almost exclusively on information obtained" from Curveball.

Not good. That?s what Colin Powell took to the UN.

But this is just classic -
? there were problems with Curveball's claims at an early stage. Some CIA officials noted that Curveball's memory showed significant "improvement" as he pursued a European immigration deal and deteriorated when it was granted.

In May 2000, a Defense Department official assigned to the CIA was allowed to meet with Curveball, apparently to examine the source physically to see whether he bore signs of having survived a biological weapons accident or had been vaccinated for exposure to such agents.

The evaluation was "inconclusive," according to the commission. But the official expressed concern that Curveball had a "hangover" during their meeting and "might be an alcoholic." Further, the official was surprised that Curveball spoke excellent English because the Germans had said he didn't speak the language.

By early 2001, the CIA was getting messages from German intelligence that Curveball was "out of control" and could not be located. Some of Curveball's information was contradicted by other intelligence. His description of a depot for the weapons labs didn't match surveillance images, which showed a wall where Curveball said vehicles were entering and exiting.

As war approached, new problems surfaced. Before Powell's presentation, the CIA pressed for permission to speak directly with Curveball. The head of one of the agency's divisions arranged a lunch with a German intelligence official.

The German official discouraged the idea, saying, "You don't want to see him because he's crazy," according to the commission report. The German went on to suggest that Curveball had suffered a nervous breakdown, that speaking with him would be "a waste of time," and that he might be a "fabricator."
Well, at least Curveball wasn?t a reporter.

Other stuff?
The commission report revealed details about problems with other prominent prewar claims. The CIA asserted that Iraq was importing aluminum tubes to be used as centrifuges in a nuclear weapons program, although authorities have since concluded they were for conventional rockets.

An allegation that Iraq was seeking to acquire uranium from Niger was based on "transparently forged documents" purporting to show a contract between the countries, the commission concluded. There were "flaws in the letterhead, forged signatures, misspelled words, incorrect titles for individuals and government entities," the report said.

The contract document also referred to an alleged meeting "that took place on 'Wednesday, July 7, 2000,' even though July 7, 2000, was a Friday," the report said.
Oh well, we wanted that stuff to be true.

Well, how to explain this all? Bush tried in a news conference this week (transcript here) that was pretty bizarre, as he had to speak of the death of that woman in Florida too.

What he said?
? the work intelligence men and women do is, by nature, secret, which is why the American people never hear about many of their successes. I'm proud of the efforts of our intelligence workers. I am proud of their commitment to the security of our country. And the American people should be proud too.

And that's why this report is important. It'll enable these fine men and women to do their jobs in better fashion, to be able to more likely accomplish their mission, which is to protect the American people. And that's why I'm grateful to the commission for this hard work.
Again, whatever.

But Juan Cole, that University of Michigan professor ? the expert in the Middle East ? was having no part of it, as he says here -
Bush's bizarre press conference on Thursday was according to the Washington Post "on Terri Schiavo and Weapons of Mass Destruction." That US newspapers report this bewildering juxtaposition without so much as a "Huh?" tells you to what estate political discourse in this country has fallen.

It should be obvious that Bush was cynically using the Schiavo tragedy to draw attention away from his massive intelligence failures with regard to alleged Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Just as the Right employed the deaths of innocent Americans on 9/11 as a cover to pursue an unrelated war in Iraq, so Bush is using the death of an innocent woman to direct attention away from a supremely embarrassing report on US intelligence. Back when people used to put gold fillings in their teeth, it gave burglars an incentive occasionally to rob graves. This news conference was a sort of Public Relations grave robbery, and among the blackest moments in the history of the presidency.
Oh my! But Bush did say nice things about our intelligence folks, didn?t he?

That only made Cole angrier -
That is supposed to make it all right that we sent a high-tech army into a poor, weak country and turned it into a failed state, killing 40,000 innocent Iraqis and suffering over 1500 coalition troops dead and over 10,000 US troops wounded, many maimed for life, and spending $300 billion on it? For no reason? When the poor weak state did not in fact have the weapons of mass destruction that Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz insisted it had? When they bullied anyone who questioned their evidence for all this, and got their billionaire buddies who own the media to have their anchors and editorialists also bully any dissidents?

Because intelligence work is hard and secret?

How does Bush square all the violence he has unleashed in the world with his praise of "life?" What is the link between war-mongering and being "pro-life?"
Well, yeah, if your read the transcript you?ll find Bush talking about protecting life, as in the Florida pull-the-plug controversy, and alluding to opposing abortion as also protecting life, and to the intelligence report. Are this connected?

Cole thinks so -
It turns out that anti-abortionism is not about life at all. It is about social control. It helps establish a hierarchical society in which men are at the pinnacle and women kept barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen. Likewise, the Schiavo case was in part about the religious Right dictating to Michael Schiavo how he must lead his private life.

This campaign is not really about life at all, as the examples of the raped woman or the woman whose pregnancy puts her life in danger demonstrate. It is about control, and the imposition of a minority's values on others.

And that is why the Iraq war is the perfect symbol for the anti-abortionists. Colonial conquest is always a kind of rape, but now the conquered country must bear the fetus of Bush-imposed "liberty" to term. The hierarchy is thus established. Washington is superior to Baghdad, and Iraq is feminized and deprived of certain kinds of choices.

And that is also how the Schiavo case makes sense in the end, because the religious Right feminized Michael Schiavo, made him into the pregnant woman seeking an "abortion," and wished to therefore deprive him of choice in the matter. If hierarchy is gendered, then the persons over which control is sought are always in some sense imagined as powerless women. Powerful non-fundamentalist men and uppity Third World countries that won't do as they are told are ultimately no different from feminist women seeking an abortion. All must be subdued, in the view of the Christian Right.

It is about hierarchy, power and control. It is not about life.
Perhaps you should read the whole Cole item at the link. You?ll see his point.

But Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, only wanted someone to point out that the man who doesn?t trust those whose job it is to dig up what comes the closest to the truth in any matter would rather trust the secondhand news from Curveball that his staffers tell him about.

Well, there more to it. It?s a matter of hierarchy, power and control. The news guys are too uppity and they must be ridiculed and ignored. Heck, they?re kind of girly-men.

Posted by Alan at 17:14 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 1 April 2005 17:17 PST home

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