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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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Tuesday, 15 November 2005

Topic: Couldn't be so...

Choose Your Poison: The Array from Tuesday, November 15

Choice One: Empty Gestures

As the day opened Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Senator John Warner were pushing a proposal that would call on the president to lay out a plan for ending the war in Iraq, but not really. They basically took the proposal from the Democrats - set a timetable for getting out, to force the Iraqis to develop the ability to keep their own country stable - and edited it. Their special version doesn't have anything to do with setting dates for the gradual withdrawal of troops. It demands paperwork.

And they passed that. The Democrats' version just wasn't going to fly.

As the New York Times explains here -
The Senate signaled its growing unease with the war in Iraq today, voting overwhelmingly to demand regular reports from the White House on the course of the conflict and on the progress that Iraqi forces are making in securing their own country.

The vote, 79 to 19, came on an amendment to a spending bill that ultimately passed without opposition. The bipartisan support for the amendment sponsored by Senator John W. Warner, the Virginia Republican who heads the Armed Services Committee, reflected anxiety among Republicans as well as Democrats.

Mr. Warner said afterward that he was "very grateful" for the wide backing of his amendment, which he called "forward looking" and distinctly different from a Democratic alternative that many Republicans said would signal that the United States was ready to "cut and run" from the battlefield.

The message that Iraqis should take from the Senate action, Mr. Warner said, is that "we have stood with you, we have done our part," and now it is time for them to do theirs. He said 2006 would be a pivotal year for the campaign in Iraq.

Minutes before endorsing Mr. Warner's amendment, the Senate voted, 58 to 40, against a measure offered by Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, to demand that President Bush set a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq.
Well, it's something. Is it progress? The demand is non-binding, as they say. They may get the reports, and they may not.

So while the president was in Japan, the first stop on the Asia tour that ends in Mongolia, his own party, out of "anxiety" or something, suddenly demands they be let in on what's going on. Scan the general reaction on the right - these backstabbers in his own party are saying they don't trust the guy, who really shouldn't have to explain anything to anybody. Faithless cowards! Scan the reaction on the left - even the man's own supporters know enough is enough and we all deserve to know what's going on.

And the most obvious thing everyone knows, and many say - with sixty percent of the public now saying this war hasn't been worth the cost, and with a clear majority now saying the president obviously misled us into this war, these guys were trapped. They, unlike the president, will be up for reelection. They had do something that looked like the were players in this game, something that gave the appearance they had some control, that they were doing the "oversight" part of their actual job.

So they said they'd like a status report now and then. Are we making progress? Are any more Iraqi battalions anywhere near ready to do anything at all this quarter? What's up?

You can imagine each "regular report," should they get one now and then, will be a highly structured set of variations on the familiar theme: "Things are fine; trust me on that."

That will do for the president's party. And so it goes. It's cover. They're losing control of the situation and now playing defense. Very odd for the majority here.

But there's a bit more.

As you recall, last week there was this: Senate Approves Limiting Rights of U.S. Detainees - "The Senate voted Thursday to strip captured 'enemy combatants' at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, of the principal legal tool given to them last year by the Supreme Court when it allowed them to challenge their detentions in United States courts."

This was covered in these pages in some detail here last weekend.

There was no end to the controversy this created - see this for links to Monday's editorials suggesting habeas corpus is a good thing, and giving one man the power to lock up anyone he decided was bad, without proof, and with specific charges, without communication, forever, with no way to appeal what was happening to him or to explain to anyone - no trial at all - was maybe something we ought not to grant this president, or anyone. here three hundred fifty of the top law professors in America say this is madness, but carefully. My high-powered Wall Street attorney friend forwarded me the letter from Michael Greco, the president of the American Bar Association, saying much the same:
The U.S. Senate last week adopted with no hearings and with little debate Senator Lindsey Graham's proposal to eliminate habeas corpus rights for Guantánamo detainees, denying them access to federal courts. The American Bar Association urges the senators to reconsider and defeat that enormous change to our fundamental legal system.

Throughout our nation's history, starting with the defense by lawyer, later president, John Adams of Massachusetts, of the British soldiers who fired on patriots in the Boston Massacre, it has been our commitment to basic principles of justice, even for the most unpopular among us, that has allowed us to maintain the high moral ground in the world, the most strategically important territory for us to occupy as we struggle with the enemies of freedom.

Our influence in the world is directly affected by our actions with respect to those we detain. The prisoners in Guantánamo have been held there, largely incommunicado, for four years. That fact alone offends our heritage of due process and fairness. The writ of habeas corpus was developed precisely to prevent the prolonged detention of individuals without charge, by allowing those held to petition the federal courts. To eliminate the right of habeas corpus would be shocking to our nation.

As Senator Graham himself has stated repeatedly, in the battle against terrorism we cannot allow ourselves to become like the enemy. Adoption of his amendment would undermine the very principles that distinguish us from our enemies.
Such comments seem endless, and on the other side you hear stuff like this, defending unlimited detention and even torture:
The enemy being fought is undeserving of humane treatment, and the Arabs and Muslims must be made to understand this. Indeed, it is an affront to morality and decency to so treat people with humanity. All war is nasty, and this war is particularly nasty and cannot be made pretty. It is the reluctance of the Americans and the British to use the appropriate level of force that is a cogent reason why Iraq should never have been fought.
That's the core counterargument - "it is an affront to morality and decency" to treat such people with "humanity."

Choose your side of the argument. A web search will give you thousands folks agreeing with you, with supporting documentary stuff, whichever way you choose.

The senate had to vote on this, and came up with a compromise, seriously detailed here and here. Basically Senator Graham proposed an amendment to his own amendment, co-sponsored by Carl Levin and John Kyl (text here) - this still denies habeas corpus to these folks but allows a bit more judicial review than the version that Graham attached the appropriations bill last week. Senator Bingaman proposed a different amendment (text here) - and that allowed habeas, but it cut off lawsuits challenging the conditions of confinement. The Bingaman version got voted sown 44-54, and the Graham-Levin thing passed 84-14, so in short, this would, like the original, eliminate habeas for Guantánamo detainees, overturn the previous ruling these guys had rights (Rasul), and more than likely prevent the Supreme Court from ruling on the merits of the Hamdan case now under review.

So? Half a loaf is better than none? The bottom line is you get to have your say if you're in for ten years or set to be executed. Otherwise you're shit out of luck.

As in this in the Washington Post, some comments from an attorney representing a curious detainee at Guantánamo. As noted here, "When senators complain that 'terrorists' shouldn't be entitled to habeas corpus review of their detentions, they're missing the point. It isn't enough for the administration to claim someone is a terrorist."

This "terrorist" named Adel, and his attorney notes this -
Adel is innocent. I don't mean he claims to be. I mean the military says so. It held a secret tribunal and ruled that he is not al Qaeda, not Taliban, not a terrorist. The whole thing was a mistake: The Pentagon paid $5,000 to a bounty hunter, and it got taken.
No problem? Not exactly. -
The military people reached this conclusion, and they wrote it down on a memo, and then they classified the memo and Adel went from the hearing room back to his prison cell. He is a prisoner today, eight months later. And these facts would still be a secret but for one thing: habeas corpus.
Oh well. To treat such people with "humanity" is "an affront to morality and decency," after all.

Yes, the military admits many of those held at Guantánamo are guilty of nothing, and have little or no useful "intelligence' for us, to match their admission that perhaps ninety percent of those held at Abu Ghraib in Baghdad were just caught up in sweeps and were just unlucky. But it's war. You just can let people go. It looks bad.

Everyone is posturing. The unlucky disappear or die.

Oh yeah, the McCain amendment, saying we will follow our own rules and not torture folks, is still alive, attached to the bill in question.

Will Bush veto the bill, as he says he will, to block the McCain "restrictions" on his rights as president? To get this restriction on detainee appeals that the administration wants, he may have to sign the anti-torture provision Vice President Cheney opposes and has been trying to stop, or modify to allow the CIA to torture at will. Sending a silly report every few months is not a problem. This McCain stuff is.

We'll see what happens after Mongolia.

Choice Two: Bad Polls

Late Monday the 14th -' from a CNN and US Today and Gallup poll here - Americans say they trust George W. Bush less than they trusted Bill Clinton, by a pretty big margin. About fifty percent of people polled said they disliked Bush, and six percent claimed to hate him. Overall approval - thirty-seven percent. Do folks trust Bush more than they did Clinton? Forty-eight percent said they trusted Bush less, while only thirty-six percent said they trusted him more. Yipes! Fifteen percent called it a tie - a pox on both their houses.

Also of note, approval rating exactly four years ago of eighty-seven percent, and now thirty-seven, percent, with now majority disapproval how things are handled on all issues - the economy, immigration, federal spending, Iraq, terrorism in general. Doesn't matter. Take your pick. For the first time in these Gallup polls, a majority of Americans - 52 to 46 percent - say the guy is neither honest nor trustworthy.

And that Clinton thing just has to hurt.

So now what?

If you watch Fox News and such you hear, endlessly, the story of how Reagan recovered from low numbers after Iran-Contra and all that, and "ended the cold war" (single-handedly, we're told), so Bush will do the same. He'll do something spectacular that will make him a universally loved and respected leader like Reagan (yes, yes, some disagree on that).

But what rabbit will he pull out of his hat? He cannot go to Berlin and say, "Pull Down this wall!" No wall now. No one to say it to - no Soviet Union or anything like it.

Trapped by a lack of a good opportunity!

And he may not have the personality for such gestures.

The Washington Times notes this -
President Bush feels betrayed by several of his most senior aides and advisors and has severely restricted access to the Oval Office, administration sources say. The president's reclusiveness in the face of relentless public scrutiny of the U.S.-led war in Iraq and White House leaks regarding CIA operative Valerie Plame has become so extreme that Mr. Bush has also reduced contact with his father, former President George H.W. Bush, administration sources said on the condition of anonymity.
Matt Drudge reports this -
The sources said Mr. Bush maintains daily contact with only four people: first lady Laura Bush, his mother, Barbara Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes. The sources also say that Mr. Bush has stopped talking with his father, except on family occasions.
Comment here -
This man is running our country. And he won't speak to anyone - ANYONE - other than Condi Rice, his mom, and Karen Hughes? That leaves out the entire Department of Defense - kind of important during wartime - the CIA, every other agency and the entire White House staff.

It honestly sounds like he's losing control.

And he's in charge of our country.

Not just worst president ever. But quickly becoming scariest president ever.
They shouldn't have asked that poll question about Clinton.

Choice Three: Uppity Foreigners

Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, has been sending email on this.

Spain announced it will "probe allegations" that our CIA used one of their airports, somewhere near Mallorca, to transfer our "ghost detainees" we send to our overseas "interrogation facilities" where there are no rules. Reuters here:
The Spanish government had no knowledge of the alleged flights but a judge was investigating them, [Spanish Interior Minister Jose Antonio] Alonso told Spanish television channel Telecinco.

"If it were confirmed that this is true, we would be looking at very serious, intolerable deeds because they break the basic rules of treating people in a democratic legal and political system," he said.
Ric in Paris -
First heard of this Tuesday, 15 November, on radio France-Info. No mention found on French Google or Yahoo news, nor AP on the NYT.

Radio France-Info said airports in the Canaries might have been used too.

The German guy, Khaled el-Masri, has had his story batted around a bit. If I remember correctly, he was tortured in Egypt, Syria, and stuck in a hole in the ground someplace. Then he was let go, and now he's thinking of suing the United States.
Oh my. This is not good.

But later, Tuesday, November 15, by 7:30 in the evening out here in Hollywood, Google News showed 175 stories - the New York Times here, ABC News here, and Associated Press here. Of course the story hit Europe first.

Oh heck, a number of probes are underway in Europe over covert CIA operations there. The Italian and German governments are both investigating allegations that the CIA has kidnapped individuals within their borders. Italy is now working on the extradition of twenty-two CIA agents for their involvement in one of these kidnappings.

This is all over the European press, but doesn't get much coverage here.

Are these "intolerable deeds because they break the basic rules of treating people in a democratic legal and political system?"

Maybe, but we don't care. See "Choice One" above.

Rules are for the other guys.

Choice Four: Why Bother?

Monday the Washington Post reported something curious over at the Department of Justice, in the Civil Rights Division - career attorneys are leaving at a rate nearly double that of prior administrations. Why? It seems the agenda has changed a bit. The Post reports this -
The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, which has enforced the nation's anti-discrimination laws for nearly half a century, is in the midst of an upheaval that has driven away dozens of veteran lawyers and has damaged morale for many of those who remain, according to former and current career employees.

Nearly 20 percent of the division's lawyers left in fiscal 2005, in part because of a buyout program that some lawyers believe was aimed at pushing out those who did not share the administration's conservative views on civil rights laws. Longtime litigators complain that political appointees have cut them out of hiring and major policy decisions, including approvals of controversial GOP redistricting plans in Mississippi and Texas.

... At the same time, prosecutions for the kinds of racial and gender discrimination crimes traditionally handled by the division have declined 40 percent over the past five years, according to department statistics. Dozens of lawyers find themselves handling appeals of deportation orders and other immigration matters instead of civil rights cases.

The division has also come under criticism from the courts and some Democrats for its decision in August to approve a Georgia program requiring voters to present government-issued identification cards at the polls. The program was halted by an appellate court panel and a district court judge, who likened it to a poll tax from the Jim Crow era.
What to make of this?

One attorney here - "I'd be embarrassed to work there, too. A Civil Rights Division working against civil rights follows the Administration's plan. If War=Peace and Clean Air Initiative=No Clean Air, then Civil Rights=Less Civil Rights. It must keep minorities from voting because they likely will vote Democratic. It all follows."

Maybe so.

Choice Five: The Big Debate

The New York Times publishes a startling editorial, Tuesday, November 15, that opens with this -
To avoid having to account for his administration's misleading statements before the war with Iraq, President Bush has tried denial, saying he did not skew the intelligence. He's tried to share the blame, claiming that Congress had the same intelligence he had, as well as President Bill Clinton. He's tried to pass the buck and blame the CIA. Lately, he's gone on the attack, accusing Democrats in Congress of aiding the terrorists.

Yesterday in Alaska, Mr. Bush trotted out the same tedious deflection on Iraq that he usually attempts when his back is against the wall: he claims that questioning his actions three years ago is a betrayal of the troops in battle today.

It all amounts to one energetic effort at avoidance. But like the WMD reports that started the whole thing, the only problem is that none of it has been true.
There a big section in the middle with proof of what was bit true, and they end with this -
The president and his top advisers may very well have sincerely believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. But they did not allow the American people, or even Congress, to have the information necessary to make reasoned judgments of their own. It's obvious that the Bush administration misled Americans about Mr. Hussein's weapons and his terrorist connections. We need to know how that happened and why.

Mr. Bush said last Friday that he welcomed debate, even in a time of war, but that "it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began." We agree, but it is Mr. Bush and his team who are rewriting history.
Well, some of it happened because the Times printed story after story from Judy Miller, planting there what the administration wanted her to plant, and the Times was unwilling to question her or her sources. But she's gone now. This is the new Times, it seems.

And by the way, the president is not only saying that asking questions is irresponsible, he is saying asking questions undermines our troops and gives aid and comfort to the enemy in time of war. You know those words. They're from the statute that defines treason. That's punishable by death.

These guys need to be careful.

Anyway, the White House has issued a point-by-point response here. They didn't used to do such things. They were believed. Times have changed. Like the Nixon, "I am not a crook" business, the new line is, "We did not mislead." (And there's a corollary many point out - the full argument they're making is "We did not mislead, you misfollowed.")

But here's something cool, Matthew Yglesias saying the whole argument is on the wrong topic, with this (emphases added) -
As the country debates the genuine intelligence failures along with the various deceptions that led us into the Iraq War, it's worth recalling that this has first and foremost been a failure of strategy. Specifically, the Bush administration concluded that the thing to do in the world was wage preventive war in order to secure "a balance of power that favors freedom." Preventive war is rightly condemned by international law and the counsels of prudence alike, the administration, in its typical matter, decided to dress this up as something else, namely "preemption" of a terrorist surprise attack. That dressing-up led the administration into a thicket of deceptions regarding the possibility of Iraqi co-operation with al-Qaeda.

That notwithstanding, in order to appease Colin Powell and/or Tony Blair, the administration eventually found itself at the UN, sponsoring resolutions and offering ultimata. Thus, the ready-made preemption/prevention morass got dragged into yet another idea - coercive diplomacy, where threats of war are intended to produce not war, but compliance with demands. Unfortunately for Bush, Saddam unexpectedly wound up substantially complying with his demands and inspectors entered the country. It was here that we got the very most egregious dissembling about weapons of mass destruction. Inspectors were on the ground, not finding weapons, debunking certain specific administration claims, and asking the US for the rest of the evidence to substantiate all the big talk.

The hawks chose to portray this situation as proof that inspections "weren't working" because the (obviously incompetent) inspectors were failing to find the WMD facilities that "everyone knew" were there.

There's a lesson or two in here about honesty, but first and foremost it should be a lesson about strategy. The war has not, shall we say, gone swimmingly, which is always a risk when you go to war. Nor did the intelligence - even the parts of it the administration wasn't spinning, twisting, or otherwise sexing up - hold up to scrutiny, which is also always a risk in the intel game. The result has been something of a fiasco across the entire spectrum of American power.
Ah yes, true, but the bigger is sort of... what were they thinking?

Posted by Alan at 20:55 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 16 November 2005 05:31 PST home

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

Sunday, 13 November 2005

Topic: World View

Reality Check: A Note to London from Paris via Hollywood

The new issue of Just Above Sunset, the weekly magazine-style parent site to this daily web log, was posted around midnight, Pacific Time, and there is already a response to Mick McCahill's "Our Man in London" column on the ongoing riots in riots in France as seen from the UK - Vive La Difference.

The response comes from "Our Man in Paris," Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis.

Mike says this:
The odd thing is just how far outwards. There are two things I've found bizarre about the French riots, and I'm hoping someone can explain either or both of them to me. Firstly, that the rioting has spread to such relatively calm, sleepy bourgeois destinations as Rouen, favoured spot for many a English school trip over the years. The other odd fact is just how precise details of the rioting have been. The other morning, the BBC's electronic text service Ceefax was reporting that "408 cars have been torched overnight". Either the rioters have been keeping count, or the journalists covering the story have been unusually precise in their reporting. And what were 400-plus cars still doing out on the streets, given the combustible nature of the nights which preceded it?"
As a reply for Mike McCahill, Ric offers this:

Rouen - has public housing estates just like every other French city. The situation in the HLMs away from Paris may be more hopeless - less optimistic - because the great Paris pot is not merely a metro or RER ride distant. There is simply less opportunity than in the Paris area.

'HLM' - habitation with moderate rent, or, council housing. In Paris, much sought by the vast lower middle-class, for fair rent/size value. Waiting lists are long. The poor face several kinds of discrimination hindering access - they don't have enough family income is a common one; the suburbs are cheaper. Consumer and anti-racist organizations turn up racial discrimination occasionally. It's against the law so it's concealed.

Precise Details

Precise details for the numbers of vehicles fried and arrests come daily from the head of the national police. Between the lines I read I suspect that there is a daily press conference, giving the details that the minister of the interior wants known. Number of convictions, as opposed to arrests, are not given so systematically. The minister likes high numbers.

As for owners leaving their cars where they can be attacked - the HLM estates have free, and usually assigned, parking. If not parked near where their owners live - where else then? France is not a big parking lot.

This raises another question - if there are so many police mobilized, for this emergency, how is it that so many cars can be destroyed? Or, put another way - how many cars are saved from destruction by police? Residents are increasingly out in the parking lots defending their property - except where they are forced to stay in because of local curfews.

A startling number has emerged - on average 80 cars are torched daily in the area around Paris, according to police. Apparently there are few arrests because first the cars are stolen, then joyridden, then torched. Perps seem to be seldom caught in the act.

Another unanswered question - what, exactly, do all the police do when they are not facing urban unrest? This weekend there are an extra 3000 police on duty in Paris - in case of an attack from the suburbs. Routes into the city are being watched. This is supposedly the result of reading other people's online mail, Web sites, telephone SMS messages. There are a lot of police in France but nobody knows what most of them are doing in 'normal' times.

Lacking facts, we live with a blurred reality, in France.
It's odd to be moderating an exchange between Paris and London from Hollywood, but why not?

Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta, adds this -

Then again, this exchange began with your photo of "no cruising" zones in Hollywood, to which Ric replied that in his country, young guys have taken to burning cars (it was that first night of trouble, as I recall) instead of riding around in them to look at each other. [That is here. - AMP] I remember being tempted to return that I wish we here might live in a country where young people weren't so spoiled and frivolous and took serious matters more seriously. It would have been a statement made in ironic jest, of course, and now I'm glad I didn't make it.

But the Tale, I suppose, need not be one only of Two Cities, so to speak. The fact that the noise has spread to Belgium and Germany says it could spread through that tunnel under the channel, and causes one wonder if it's of a nature that might bring it even to the states, no?

Since the early and simpler story of it being all about pissed-off Muslims, the latest - probably smug - narrative to emerge here seems to the be that the land that gave a home to Josephine Baker where she seemed to have lost one in America, in fact, probably tries a bit too hard at equalité, and allows so much injustice to occur under the cloak of color blindness. After all, throughout it's history, hasn't the second land of liberty found itself constantly behind barricades, a stream of violent episodes that all run together into one big blur of undistinguished revolution that someone will eventually turn into an epic novel or heroic musical for the Broadway stage?

If this is true, I will feel much more comfortable allowing emigrant and native cultures to "celebrate" their pride than I've previously allowed myself. But somehow, I can't be so sure this idea that the French are just too preoccupied with idealism to deal with the reality of their existence is the true answer as to why this is all happening.

In short, is this a French thing? A European thing? Just something Americans will not be able to sink their teeth into, and something that they will eventually demand that our TV news shows stop showing, since it only serves to remind us how stupid we are about what's going on in the rest of the world?
Well, there seems to be no political agenda with those rioting in France, much less an Islamic agenda. Anyone seen a manifesto - some clear demands? The right-wing reaction over here - that this proves the Islamic hoards are coming for our women or whatever - posits something for which there is no evidence.

These rioters don't want to bring down the state - they seem to want some share in the state and just a few of the goodies. Disenfranchised and alienated beyond anything Camus imagined - remember where he was born - it seems to be "burn it all down" time. The excluded know they're not going to get any such thing. Hell, burn it all. At least one expresses one's frustration.

Yes, 1992 in Los Angeles. Same thing.

"The fact that the noise has spread to Belgium and Germany says it could spread through that tunnel under the channel, and causes one wonder if it's of a nature that might bring it even to the states, no?"

That is already a concern. Langston Hughes ended the poem about the "raisin in the sun" with "or does it explode?" - as this is not new. See A Dream Deferred, of course. That's from 1951.


French Riots Raise Spectre of Los Angeles Violence
AFP - Sunday, 13 November 2005 11:21:00 GMT
The explosion of urban violence in France has raised fears that Los Angeles, rocked by riots in 1992, could again fall prey to unrest as still-festering problems spawn the "quiet riots" of gang warfare.

Many of the same social, economic and racial tensions that led to the worst riots in US history remain rampant, generating anger, frustration, disaffection, street gangs and crime that could turn into full blown rioting if ignited by the right spark, experts and community leaders warned.

"All this is tinder for social and political unrest and, in America's urban ghettos and barrios, the frustration can lead to riots, triggered by an incident of police abuse or something else, as also happened in France," said Peter Dreier, politics professor at Occidental College in Los Angeles.

"While cars are burning on the streets of France, we in the US are experiencing the 'quiet riots' every day: suicides, gangs, alcoholism, drug use and other self-destructive behaviors.

"They don't explode like civil disobedience but they are result of the same sense of social frustration and they are with us every day," said Dreier, who is also director of Occidental's Urban and Environmental Policy Program. ...
Don't the French have an expression about how the more things change the more they remain the same?


For reference, direct links to specific pages in the new issue of Just Above Sunset, Volume 3, Number 46 for the week of Sunday, November 13, 2005

Current Events ______________________

Anticipation: The National Conversation Panned Out as Predicted
Oddities: What couldn't be so is so...
Entropy: Trying to Hold It all Together and Facing Facts
Too Much News: Lots of Things Blow Up in the Middle of the Week
Veterans Day: The World Gone Mad, or at Least Angry

The International Desk ______________________

Our Man In Paris: This Week
Our Man in London: Vive La Difference

Bob Patterson ______________________

WLJ Weekly: from the desk of the World's Laziest Journalist - "What we have here is..."
Book Wrangler: Venice, Frogs, and Racing Ferraris

Guest Photography ______________________

Paris Untouched: Christmas Lights and a Show at the Grand Palais
Our Eye on Paris: Three from Paris

Local Photography ______________________

Peculiarly Los Angeles: Melrose Avenue
Ephemera: Catching the Past in Los Angeles Before it Disappears - the Tail O' the Pup
Local Sports: The Cow

Quotes for the week of November 13, 2005 - Government and Reality

Links and Recommendations: New Photo Album

Posted by Alan at 10:40 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, 13 November 2005 14:00 PST home

Saturday, 12 November 2005

Topic: Breaking News

Just in From Paris: Paris 'Quasi-Normal'
Today's news from France, from Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis - an account of the situation on the ground there today, received in Hollywood just after four in the afternoon, well after midnight in Paris.

Paris 'Quasi-Normal'

PARIS - Saturday, November 12 –

On the 16th straight night of urban violence the number of incidents in the Ile-de-France region diminished but increased elsewhere in France. The hottest scenes last night were in Lyon, Toulouse, Strasbourg and Lille.

While 416 vehicles were destroyed beyond the Ile-de-France region, 86 were set on fire in the area surrounding Paris. General Director of the National Police, Michel Gaudin, told reporters that the situation was 'quasi-normal' in the Paris region. The police arrested 206 overnight, bringing the total since October 27 to 2440.

Given menacing rumors police placed an extra 3000 police and CRS officers on guard in Paris. These joined a force 11,620 throughout France. Curfews were applied in communes in six departments, but none so far in the Paris area.

Tonight Nicolas Sarkozy was shown on TV-news inspecting forces under his command on the Champs-Elysées. Earlier he had been reported as saying that a combination of rain tonight and a football match between France and Germany at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, would 'calm' the troublemakers.

Injunction Against Sarkozy Refused

Saturday: Meeting today, the Conseil d'Etat rejected the injunction sought by anti-racist group SOS Racisme, to prevent the minister of the interior Nicholas Sarkozy from expelling foreigners convicted of violent acts during the current wave of urban unrest. On Wednesday the minister told deputies in the Assembly National that he was instructing pr?fets to deport foreigners.

SOS Racisme, despite the rejection, noted the argument of the judge, which pointed out that a ministerial declaration could not lead to administrative acts contrary to the law. Apparently the judge considered the fact that the minister issued no order for his directive to be carried out. If it had been, he would have been warned at least, about the legality.

SOS Racisme also pointed out that the actual number of foreigners that could have been deported as a result of an arrest and conviction was no more than 12 - merely one-tenth of the 120 foreigners mentioned to the Assembly National by the minister on Tuesday, November 8.

For his part Sarkozy stated in a press release that he was 'delighted' with the decision by the Conseil d'Etat. "The instructions given to préfets to deport foreigners seriously troubling public order are perfectly legal and not any way an infraction of fundamental rights," he said, adding, "Consequently, in all the cases that the law permits, foreign troublemakers will be deported to their countries of origin. The procedures are in preparation."

Once again Sarkozy has given potential law-and-order fans a reason for cheer without actually doing anything. Who will forget his stirring promise in the Assembly National to deport foreign scum? But who will note that today's injunction failed because Sarkozy failed to do something illegal that he said he would do? That he persists in saying he will do.

Photo: Saturday Night in Paris

Photo and Text, Copyright © 2005 © Ric Erickson, MetropoleParis

Posted by Alan at 16:30 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, 12 November 2005 16:42 PST home

Friday, 11 November 2005

Topic: Couldn't be so...

Veterans Day: The World Gone Mad, or at Least Angry

President Wilson said that on the eleventh day of the eleventh month at the eleventh hour of each year we should celebrate the end of the Great War, what was the first of the World Wars. In 1918 this was Armistice Day. Now it's Veterans Day, one more day in the Iraq war, a day we lost five more soldiers, bringing us to 2,065 or so.

Traditionally, the president gives a speech for this occasion. Usually this has to do honoring those who fought.

This Veterans Day was a bit different, with the president in some trouble - almost six in ten Americans think he lied to get us into this war (see the AP item here), and his approval ratings in all polls now in the mid-thirties, and disapproval ratings generally around sixty percent.

The New York Times noted, the day before, what was coming in the speech: His Image Tarnished, Bush Seeks to Restore Credibility - "Faced with a bleak public mood about Iraq and stung by Democratic accusations that he led the nation into war on false pretenses, President Bush is beginning a new effort to shore up his credibility and cast his critics as hypocrites."

And so he did. The text of the speech is here. There wasn't that much about the veterans - or anything about the Armistice of 1918 and it implications. This was something else.

The New York Times - Bush Forcefully Attacks Critics of His Strategy in Iraq - "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 - Bush Attacks Iraq War Critics - Senator Kennedy Accuses Bush of Exploiting Veterans Day - "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."

You get the idea.

And this "rewriting history" business?

The speech was centered on the hypocrisy of those claiming they were misled into this war. They voted for it, those Democrats, and they all thought Saddam was building nuclear weapons and had tons of bad stuff and all the rest. And they had the same information.

Well, they didn't have the same information. A lot of it was a summary of this or that with any doubts left out. It was "shaped." And much was information the administration knew fell between questionable and already disproved. But close enough? The White House now says yes, close enough, and the opposition says no. These people now say they wanted details?

And the vote was to send a message to get the UN inspectors and Iraq to let us know all - we were serious. But the administrations says these folks who claim to have been deceived must have know that they were voting for what actually happened - telling the inspectors to stop immediately, get out for their own safety, and then we invade and occupy. When the president said they were voting for a form of pressure and that war was his "last resort," they should have KNOWN he didn't mean that? That seems to be the implicit message - they were too dumb to understand what they were voting for, and now is no time cry foul.

And this bellyaching sends "the wrong signal" to our troops and "America's enemies." It's unpatriotic. As Glenn Reynolds, one of the main voices on the right, says of all this here - "And yes, he should question their patriotism. Because they're acting unpatriotically." Well, the charge could be hurled the other way - conning us into a war on bullshit information doesn't seem too patriotic.

If they administration conned themselves? Well, then we're in real trouble - but we really don't have to keep participating in this madness.

This speech? It would have been nice if he thanked the veterans. Well, to be fair, he did. But he also had other, bigger fish to fry. Too bad. They deserve better.

And there was nothing new here. In fact, you might want to look at this table - the speech is almost word for word what he gave to the National Endowment for Democracy, Oct. 6, 2005.

Ah well.

But for a different bit of discourse you might turn to a slightly different way of dealing with people who disagree with you, something that entered the national dialog late in the week. You call for their death and destruction, as in these.

In Tuesday's off year election voters in San Francisco decided military recruiters would be banned from public schools. The schools weren't the right place for that. Enter Bill O'Reilly, the voice of sensible America, the "no spin" guy, as reported here:
Hey, you know, if you want to ban military recruiting, fine, but I'm not going to give you another nickel of federal money. You know, if I'm the president of the United States, I walk right into Union Square, I set up my little presidential podium, and I say, "Listen, citizens of San Francisco, if you vote against military recruiting, you're not going to get another nickel in federal funds. Fine. You want to be your own country? Go right ahead."

And if Al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it. We're going to say, look, every other place in America is off limits to you, except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead.
So they're not part of America any longer? Bill has decided that? Well, they're all queers, of course. Cut 'em off. (As for Coit Tower, would its removal be that much of a loss?)

The same day CNN was reporting this from the Reuters wire - Pat Robertson, the voice of the Christian conservative right, the evangelical leader with a pipeline into the White House - was upset with the off year election results in Dover, Pennsylvania, where the school board that was advancing "intelligent design" in the public schools there, in a trial that got worldwide attention, was voted out office. Now they want science taught in science class, and discussion of the supernatural, that science doesn't cover, taught in classes that cover religion and philosophy. It seems they feel one ought not to confuse the one with the other. Pat's not happy, and says God isn't happy either.
"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city," Robertson said on his daily television show broadcast from Virginia, "The 700 Club."

"And don't wonder why He hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for His help because he might not be there," he said.
Citizens of San Francisco, and citizens of Dover - you voted, and now you have been cast out.

Well, some people just don't count, as in last Thursday's senate vote. Senate Approves Limiting Rights of U.S. Detainees - "The Senate voted Thursday to strip captured 'enemy combatants' at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, of the principal legal tool given to them last year by the Supreme Court when it allowed them to challenge their detentions in United States courts."

Well, that will end the lawsuits, and the reaction was immediate from the right, as in Michelle Malkin calling this Sanity in the Senate. She loves this move by senator Lindsay Graham. Of course, she's been calling for internment camps for all American Muslims too. Her point? Some people just don't deserve the right to know what they're charged with, or the right to explain themselves, or the right to humane treatment. They're a "different sort" of people.

From the left? Steven Clemons - Lindsey Graham Leads on Shameful Legislation. And out here at UCAL, Mark Kleiman doesn't know whether to Laugh, cry, or puke: "How Graham intends to square this with Article 1, Section 9 - The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it. - is beyond me." (And he consults some legal experts here.)

That famous criminal defense attorney from Denver you see on television off and on does the legal thing with No Habeas for Them, No Habeas for Us - Tinkering with habeas corpus ?. Habeas Corpus is now being discussed all over, and nine democratic senators who missed the vote are asking for a new vote.

So who gets to have rights? And who doesn't?

Anyone can see what's at the core of this. Those who we capture who seem to be bad guys, or may know what the bad guys are up to, or who are just damned unlucky to have been picked up by mistake, are not really like us. Are they really humans like us? The question underlies the whole argument as to whether we, who never would torture anyone, should be allowed to practice torture. It's the argument for this being a "special case" in each circumstance - they're not really fully human, or we're so frightened we cannot allow that they are.

And this torture issue won't go away.

Put aside what it says about those who practice it, and their humanity. The problem is that it just doesn't work. Even the guys in the CIA, at the "worker bee" level, say so in this bit of digging from Knight-Ridder - Operatives Say CIA Exemption on Torture a Mistake. It's detailed, but boils down to use torture and you get unreliable information - folks say lots of things to stop the pain - and too those others who might have been inclined at sometime in the future to help you out will hate your guts, and so all your sources dry up. It just screws things up.

But of course the Knight-Ridder item doesn't cover the obvious. If you want lies to support your view of the world then torture can provide those lies, and you can tell others, and yourself perhaps, that things really are as bad as they seem. The poor devil will tell you anything you want to hear. The key is you really want to hear it. And that's your problem. The long-cultivated sources aren't telling you what you want.

Ah well, this too doesn't matter. The trades are full of stories that the Knight-Ridder chain is up for sale, and the key bidder is a rich Republican operative. Such stories will disappear. Cheney will be a hero again.

Out here, the Chicago-based Tribune folks who own the Los Angeles Times are cleaning house. They just fired their liberal columnist Robert Sheer after twenty-eight years, the one who Bill O'Reilly wanted fired when he made fun of Bill, and fired their political cartoonist. Circulation is down. Shift right?

In any event, the Times is now contracting with various folks while building a new "stable" of editorial writers. In the transition you get a bit of this and a bit of that, as in what they came up with on Friday, November 11, on this torture thing.

David Gelernter here argues the usual - what if you had someone who knew where a nuclear bomb was set to go off in Manhattan and you had no time? You'd have to torture him to get to the bomb and disarm it and all the rest. You save the city!

Hollywood stuff. You have to do what you have to do, or millions die? Yeah, yeah. What if, to stop the unbearable pain, he (or she) tells you this bomb is in a storage room uptown at 7th and 52nd Street, when it's really in a basement down on lower Broadway? They win. The unbearable pain stops. The bomb goes off. What are you going to do? Sue them? Hurt them more?

The Times also prints this from Larry C. Johnson: "I think Dick Cheney has been watching too many Hollywood flicks that glorify torture. He needs to get out of his undisclosed location and talk to the people on the ground."

Johnson is a retired career officer from the CIA and covers the same ground as in the Knight-Ridder item, but with personal stories. He says even the Israelis have given up on torture - they play cards with their captives and let them call home and all the rest. And they do get their information. Yeah, it's sneaky, and not very heroic, but in the real world it actually works.

But what if, what if, what if...

All these special cases, all this talk that these are the worst of the worst and really different from "real" people, and we have to do what we have to do, even if it doesn't work, makes one wonder if we have two realities here.

As for special cases, on a lighter topic, you have to love this one, concerning the new nominee to the Supreme Court. From the Washington Post, Alito Defends His Actions In Two Appeals Court Cases: "In Letter to Senators, Nominee Denies Conflict of Interest - Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. said yesterday that he did nothing improper when he ruled in cases involving two financial firms in which he held accounts." Except he's on record saying he would recuse himself. He was kidding? No, these were "special cases." Duncan Black's take on this? Alito: I Lied and I'm Proud of It.

Whatever. He will be confirmed. People can be so picky.

On the other hand, one cannot take the whole crew in Washington too seriously.

We're in some fiscal difficulty. Big federal deficit (record), big trade deficit (record), all those hurricane recovery costs (record number this year), an expensive war, tax cuts for the wealthy reducing tax revenue by a third or more - quite a mess.

But there's this: House Leaders Postpone Vote on Budget Bill: "Facing defeat, House Republican leaders on Thursday abruptly called off a vote on a contentious budget-cutting bill in a striking display of the discord and political anxiety running through the party's ranks."

Some objected to oil drilling in protected areas Alaska (ANWAR), some to cutting 300,000 kids from the food stamp program, some to cutting Medicaid benefits so fewer people could see a doctor on the government's dime even if they paid taxes for just that, some, from the northeast, objected to cutting funds to help the poor meet their heating bills with fuel prices at record highs and oil companies making record profits. No one wants to be the bad guy. And people vote when they're angry.

One of our congressmen from out here in California said, "We are not cutting Medicaid for those truly in need." He seems to think there are upper and middle-income Medicaid beneficiaries. Say what?

Reactions? From the left: GOP: The gang that can't shoot straight. From the right: Republican Bedwetters on the Hill.

Well, Tom DeLay is no longer running the shop and is not there to slap everyone around. Karl Rove is occupied with the possibility he will be indicted for a felony or two and hasn't the time to warn any one of these folks if they don't vote right they will be personally destroyed and their families will go down with them. What the president wants? Who cares?

Will the next three years be like this, a free-for-all?

Nothing will get done. Well, the bad stuff won't get done. But the good stuff won't get done either.

Finally, just a note. Like a dog gnawing an old bone, Steven Hadley, one of the guys who really, really, really wanted this war, now in Condoleezza Rice's old job as National Security Advisor, is still at it.

Bush Aide Fires Back at Critics On Justification for War in Iraq - "The White House went on the offensive in the debate over the Iraq war yesterday, insisting that U.S. intelligence had compiled a 'very strong case' that Saddam Hussein harbored banned weapons and accusing congressional critics ... "

What? Steve, we've moved on. They weren't there. Get over it.

So the week ended with Veterans Day, and no end to the madness.

Posted by Alan at 21:49 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 11 November 2005 22:02 PST home

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