May 31, 2007

Rats Jump Overboard: The Bush Administration Exodus

The Kuwait Times compiles a list. It's a long one.

May 30, 2007

All The President's Men

Here is what Alan Foley, the head of the CIA's Weapons Intelligence Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Center (WINPAC), told his senior staff in December 2002:
"If the president wants to go to war, our job is to find the intelligence to allow him to do so."
WINPAC led the CIA's analysis of Iraq's purported WMD, and so Foley is at the very center of what happened. More at A Tiny Revolution.

May 28, 2007

Y donde esta el cabron?

Si no estoy aqui,
Todavia estoy en algun lugar.
Todavia haciendo algo.
Y algun dia, voy a volver.

hasta entonces, g.

As Josh says:
We're so far deep into this mess that sometimes I believe we're past the point of argument. You look at the evidence and you either see it or you don't.
It reminds me of George Orwell's 1984:
In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality, was tacitly denied by their philosophy. The heresy of heresies was common sense. And what was terrifying was not that they would kill you for thinking otherwise, but that they might be right. For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable—what then?
Winston Smith says:
"Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows."
Or to quote Orwell from "Looking Back on the Spanish War":
Nazi theory indeed specifically denies that such a thing as "the truth" exists... The implied objective of this line of thought is a nightmare world in which the Leader, or some ruling clique, controls not only the future but the past. If the Leader says of such and such an event, "It never happened"—well, it never happened. If he says that two and two are five—well, two and two are five.
Nazi Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring said:
"If the Führer wants it, two and two make five!"
It wasn't just a Nazi term, however. Joseph Stalin also used the slogan "2+2=5" to suggest his Five Year Plan would finish a year early. And Leo Tolstoy's last words, when urged to convert to the Russian Orthodox Church, were:
"Even in the valley of the shadow of death, two and two do not make six."
That was probably a reference to Ivan Turgenev, who said:
"Whatever a man prays for, he prays for a miracle. Every prayer reduces itself to this: Great God, grant that twice two be not four."
If you believe in Bush, anything is possible, and reason goes out the window.

May 27, 2007

US Motorists Drive To Mexico For Cheap Fuel

Just look what back-to-back White House terms for two former oil company CEOs can do for your country:

And let's stop pretending it's got nothing to do with politics:

And this little story perfectly illustrates the harsh reality:
U.S. motorists are flocking to gas pumps south of the border to save 25% or more on the cost of a fill-up — courtesy of the Mexican government.

Worried about inflation, Mexican officials are keeping a lid on retail prices at the state-owned petroleum company Pemex.
Of course, what would such a US media story be without a little obligatory fear-mongering thrown in:
Mexican stations are notorious for dispensing short liters. And their fuel isn't as clean as that mandated in California. That's tough on the environment, and it could harm your vehicle too, said Rich Kassel, a clean-fuel expert with the Natural Resources Defense Council in New York. Mexico's regular gasoline is loaded with sulfur. Kassel said frequent fill-ups could wreak havoc on the catalytic converters of the newest cars and trucks sold in the U.S.
Don't let all those late-model cars running perfectly well on Mexican roads fool you folks! State-owned oil is just inherently dirty!

The irony of course is that Bush and Cheney are doing everything they can to privatise Iraq's oil resources, which used to be state-owned under Saddam. In fact most big petrol-exporting countries have state-owned industries. Even Mexico. So why can't they do it in Iraq? Because US-based Big Oil wants MONEY MONEY MONEY!!!

Also ironic is the fact that Mexico's new Bush-loving rightwing President is being forced to keep gas prices low, because runaway inflation is threatening to cause him huge social, economic and political problems. Heh. Sucker.

Bush's Big Money friends are now doing what they can to spin the horrible reality:
This week, in an apparent attempt to lessen the psychological blow to American consumers, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) adjusted its inflation calculations and made it look like gasoline prices were not at record highs after all.

But according to the numbers from both AAA and the Lundberg Survey, the EIA is whistling in the dark: The previous record was March 1981 when the national price of gasoline was $1.35, or $3.15 in current dollars. Now it's nearly $3.23.

So this is a new all-time record. Period.
Big Oil CEOs are doing their own fearmongering as well. This is from a New York Times front-page story last week:
"Some oil executives are now warning that the current shortages of fuel could become a long-term problem, leading to stubbornly higher prices at the pump. They point to a surprising culprit: uncertainty created by the government's push to increase the supply of biofuels like ethanol in coming years."
Yup, don't let all them Brazilian hybrid vehicles fool you. Non-carbon-based fuels are just inherently dangerous!

May 25, 2007

Al Gore On The Loss Of Moral Authority

An extract from his new book, "The Assault on Reason":
The pursuit of "dominance" in foreign policy led the Bush administration to ignore the UN, to do serious damage to our most important alliances, to violate international law, and to cultivate the hatred and contempt of many in the rest of the world. The seductive appeal of exercising unconstrained unilateral power led this president to interpret his powers under the constitution in a way that brought to life the worst nightmare of the founders. Any policy based on domination of the rest of the world not only creates enemies for the US and recruits for al-Qaida, but also undermines the international cooperation that is essential to defeating terrorists who wish to harm and intimidate America. Instead of "dominance", we should be seeking pre-eminence in a world where nations respect us and seek to follow our leadership and adopt our values.

With the blatant failure by the government to respect the rule of law, we face a great challenge in restoring America's moral authority in the world. Our moral authority is our greatest source of strength. It is our moral authority that has been recklessly put at risk by the cheap calculations of this wilful president.

The Bush administration's objective of attempting to establish US domination over any potential adversary was what led to the hubristic, tragic miscalculation of the Iraq war - a painful misadventure marked by one disaster after another, based on one mistaken assumption after another. But the people who paid the price have been the American men and women in uniform trapped over there, and the Iraqis themselves. At the level of our relations with the rest of the world, the administration has willingly traded respect for the US in favour of fear. That was the real meaning of "shock and awe". This administration has coupled its theory of US dominance with a doctrine of pre-emptive strikes, regardless of whether the threat to be pre-empted is imminent or not.

The doctrine is presented in open-ended terms, which means that Iraq is not necessarily the last application. In fact, the very logic of the concept suggests a string of military engagements against a succession of sovereign states - Syria, Libya, North Korea, Iran - but the implication is that wherever the combination exists of an interest in weapons of mass destruction together with an ongoing role as host to, or participant in, terrorist operations, the doctrine will apply. It also means that the Iraq resolution created the precedent for pre-emptive action anywhere, whenever this or any future president decides that it is time. The risks of this doctrine stretch far beyond the disaster in Iraq. The policy affects the basic relationship between the US and the rest of the world. Article 51 of the UN charter recognises the right of any nation to defend itself, including the right to take pre-emptive action in order to deal with imminent threats.

By now, the administration may have begun to realise that national and international cohesion are indeed strategic assets. But it is a lesson long delayed and clearly not uniformly and consistently accepted by senior members of the cabinet. From the outset, the administration has operated in a manner calculated to please the portion of its base that occupies the far right, at the expense of solidarity among all Americans and between our country and our allies. The gross violations of human rights authorised by Bush at Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo Bay and dozens of other locations around the world, have seriously damaged US moral authority and delegitimised US efforts to continue promoting human rights.

President Bush offered a brief and halfhearted apology to the Arab world, but he should make amends to the American people for abandoning the Geneva conventions, and to the US forces for sending troops into harm's way while ignoring the best advice of their commanders. Perhaps most importantly, he owes an explanation to all those men and women throughout our world who have held high the ideal of the US as a shining goal to inspire their own efforts to bring about justice and the rule of law.

Most Americans have tended to give the Bush-Cheney administration the benefit of the doubt when it comes to its failure to take action in advance of 9/11 to guard against an attack. Hindsight casts a harsh light on mistakes that should have been visible at the time they were made. But now, years later, with the benefit of investigations that have been made public, it is no longer clear that the administration deserves this act of political grace from the American people. It is useful and important to examine the warnings the administration ignored - not to point the finger of blame, but to better determine how our country can avoid such mistakes in the future. When leaders are not held accountable for serious mistakes, they and their successors are more likely to repeat those mistakes.

Part of the explanation for the increased difficulty in gaining cooperation in fighting terrorism is Bush's attitude of contempt for any person, institution or nation that disagrees with him. He has exposed Americans abroad and in the US to a greater danger of attack because of his arrogance and wilfulness, in particular his insistence upon stirring up a hornet's nest in Iraq. Compounding the problem, he has regularly insulted the religion, the culture and the tradition of people in countries throughout the Muslim world.

The unpleasant truth is that Bush's failed policies in both Iraq and Afghanistan have made the world a far more dangerous place. Our friends in the Middle East, including most prominently Israel, have been placed in greater danger because of the policy blunders and sheer incompetence with which the civilian Pentagon officials have conducted this war.

We as Americans should have "known then what we know now"- not only about the invasion of Iraq but also about the climate crisis; what would happen if the levees failed to protect New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina; and about many other fateful choices that have been made on the basis of flawed, and even outright false, information. We could and should have known, because the information was readily available. We should have known years ago about the potential for a global HIV/Aids pandemic. But the larger explanation for this crisis in American decision-making is that reason itself is playing a diminished, less respected, role in our national conversation.
Via ICH.

May 23, 2007

What Are The Democrats Doing?

All you need to know about the Iraq Funding Bill is right here:
Democrats accepted a GOP plan to establish 18 benchmarks for the Iraqi government and to require Bush to report on progress starting in late July. If the Iraqis fall short, they could forfeit U.S. reconstruction aid.
It's a pity the Dems wont play hardball on this, but at least they have set up a system which will come back and bite Bush in the ass very soon.

Meanwhile, they can impeach Gonzales. Right? Err... maybe not.

How Do We Make The Hot Chick Talk?

How about waterboarding?

May 22, 2007

Bush Backs Embattled Fuhrer

From the International Herald Tribune(*):
President George W. Bush insisted Monday that he still supported his embattled Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, and he denounced Democratic plans for a no-confidence vote as "pure political theater."

Hitler, meanwhile, who is set to invade Poland this week, scrapped a meeting with his Italian counterpart and shelved tentative plans for a tour and a meeting in Czechoslavakia. But the Poland invasion is still on, and troops are expected to leave Tuesday.

Bush, making an impassioned defense of his longtime friend and adviser during a news conference at his Texas ranch, said that Hitler had "done nothing wrong."

"I stand by Adolph Hitler, and I would hope that people would be more sober in how they address these important issues," Bush said.

The president told the Democrats to get back to more pressing matters.
* with modifications.

May 18, 2007

Tony's Last Sleepover At The White House

Wow, what fun it must've been out on that windy White House lawn yesterday! Huffington Post has video of Bush berating reporters for not showing Blair more respect:
You're trying to do a tap dance on his political grave, aren't you? You don't understand how effective Blair is...

He happens to be your prime minister, but more importantly, he is a respected man in the international arena. People admire him...

It's not just the American president who admires him...A lot of people admire him...And so he's effective...

There's a lot of blowhards in the political process, a lot of hot-air artists, people who've got something fancy to say. Tony Blair is somebody who actually follows through with his convictions.
And Talking Points Memo has video of Bush refusing to answer a simple question: Did he personally send Card and Gonzales to John Ashcroft's hospital bedside in an effort to get his signature on their illegal wire-tapping scam?
The funny thing about this dodge is that the president is saying not only that the nature of the program is highly classified and must be kept secret, which may be true, but that his apparent order for Gonzales and Card to go squeeze the semi-concsious John Ashcroft is also highly classified and must be kept secret. Somehow I just don't get that one. The president's refusal to answer tells the tale. The president gave the order and even placed the call, as James Comey all but told us yesterday.
Juan Cole also has some informed commentary:
At one point, a reporter asked Bush point blank if he was the cause of Tony Blair having to step down as prime minister.

Now, when you get a question like that as a politician, surely you have a lot of options for answering. You could reply with a self-deprecating joke. Or you could insist that Blair is a statesman in his own right whose record stands on its own. Or something.

What you wouldn't want to do is to grant the premise of the reporter's question.

Bush, with his deer in the headlight gaze, actually answered the question.

In the affirmative.
As the Guardian reported it:
Mr Bush winked at a British reporter who had asked whether the president was responsible for Mr Blair's resignation. "I haven't polled the Labour conference, but ... could be."

He added: "The question is, am I to blame for his leaving? I don't know."
Cole suggests a follow-up question:
Are you responsible, Mr. President, for sending the Middle East up in flames?


Predictably, the long-overdue news comes via Josh Marshall.

TIME has more:
"He assured us that he acted ethically and in good faith in what he believed were the best interests of the institution and we accept that," the board said in its announcement of his resignation...

The board said it was clear that a number of people had erred in reviewing the pay package.
That's his girfriend's pay package they are talking about. But the next big discussion will be all about Wolfie's "golden parachute" payout. His contract calls for severance equal to one year's pay (i.e. $400K) based on completing at least one year on the job (which he has).

If Wolfowitz does have "dirt" on other senior World Bank figures, then he should share it now: wasn't he the one who promised to root out corruption?

It's a pity, but no surprise, that the World Bank has made a deal with him. He did not deserve even a semi-dignified exit. They should tie up his severance pay so that he never gets his blood-soaked hands on the money.

Now the Bank will have to struggle to resurrect their tarnished image. I suspect the spotlight of recent weeks will leave it irreparably damaged. So much the better. The world is waking up.

Helen Thomas Says Goodbye To Blair

The veteran White House reporter's Salt Lake Tribune article also gives a pretty good rundown on the state of play in Washington today.
The loss of the British leader's support will make Bush even lonelier in his war leadership... Now it's about time for some on the U.S. home front to pay for their misjudgments and incompetence.

Endgame: Cheney And Rove Seek Immunity From Prosecution

Cheney is actually arguing that he and Bush are legally untouchable! From Carol D. Leonnig at Washington Post:
Attorneys for Vice President Cheney and top White House officials told a federal judge today they cannot be held liable for anything they disclosed to reporters about covert CIA officer Valerie Plame or her husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV.

The officials, who include senior White House adviser Karl Rove and Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, argued that the judge should dismiss a lawsuit filed by Wilson that stemmed from the disclosure of Plame's identity to the media...

Attorneys for Cheney and the other officials said any conversations they had about Plame with each other and reporters were part of their normal job duties because they were discussing foreign policy and engaging in an appropriate "policy dispute." Cheney's attorney went farther, arguing that Cheney is legally akin to the president because of his unique government role, and has absolute immunity from any lawsuit.
Battle lines have been drawn. No wonder Bush's cabal is desperate to keep Abu Gonzales in his job.

Meanwhile, a Senate vote of no confidence in Gonzales could be expanded to include Wolfowitz. TPM suggests the vote will pass.

May 17, 2007

The Hot Chick Is Back!

Via Talking Points Memo :
Rove's former assistant, Susan Ralston, is currently seeking immunity to testify before Waxman's committee.
I knew she would come back one day!

By The Time You Read This, Wolfowitz Will Have Resigned

UPDATE: Or maybe not... Still there Thursday night, US time. Gosh, it's like pulling teeth with these guys, isn't it?
The World Bank is currently negotiating Wolfowitz's exit. There are very strong rumours that he will resign today.

Alberto Gonzales is also in a heckuva lotta trouble. And once these two are gone, who's next in the firing line? Condi and Rove. Then Cheney and Bush. The whole house of cards could come down pretty quickly, IMHO.

In fact, Bush is already feeling some heat from the Gonzales Senate hearings. Not from the press, of course. The New York Times saysthat that a heroic Bush was the one who called off the DoJ dogs when they went trying to get a hospitalized A.G. to sign off on their illegal NSA wiretapping scheme:
President Bush intervened in March 2004 to avert a crisis over the National Security Agency’s domestic eavesdropping program after Attorney General John Ashcroft, Director Robert S. Mueller III of the F.B.I. and other senior Justice Department aides all threatened to resign, a former deputy attorney general testified Tuesday.

Mr. Bush quelled the revolt over the program’s legality by allowing it to continue without Justice Department approval, also directing department officials to take the necessary steps to bring it into compliance with the law, according to Congressional testimony by the former deputy attorney general, James B. Comey.
Wow, what a guy: calling off the dogs and taking the heat for a tough decision as well! But in fact it seems that Bush (presumably at Rove or Chenney's prompting) was actually the one who sent the bastards over to the ailing Ashcroft's bedside!
Comey: Mrs. Ashcroft reported that a call had come through and that as a result of that call Mr. Card and Mr. Gonzales were on their way to the hospital to see Mr. Ashcroft.

Schumer: Do you have any idea who that call was from?

Comey: (hesitation) I have some recollection that the call was from the president himself. But I don't know that for sure. It came from the White House. And it came through and the call was taken in the hospital.
Oh my.

May 16, 2007

Gonzo And The Wolf: The Bitter End

A great quote from Paul Wolfowitz:
"If they fuck with me or Shaha, I have enough on them to fuck them too."
The fucking seems to be pretty one-sided at the moment. Even the White House is backing away from Wolfie:
A senior White House official tells ABC News that "all options are on the table" regarding Paul Wolfowitz's future and that "it is an open question" whether he should should remain as president of the World Bank.
Meanwhile Gonzales Throws McNulty Under The Bus:
Despite having delegated the task of putting together the list of fired U.S. attorneys to his chief of staff Kyle Sampson, Gonzales claimed that “the one person I would care about would be the views of the Deputy Attorney General. … At end of the day, my understanding was that Mr. Sampson’s recommendations reflected the consensus view of the senior leadership of the Department — in particular the Deputy Attorney General.”

When asked why two inexperienced staffers — Sampson and Monica Goodling — were given prominent roles in the firing process, Gonzales responded, “Well again you have to remember at the end of the day, the recommendations reflected the views of the Deputy Attorney General. He signed off on the names and he would know better than anyone else.”
McNulty has now resigned (Gonzo said he wasn't a "top aide" anyway) but Gonzales, who has now missed a deadline to turn over emails from Karl Rove, is still in trouble. More dirt here.

May 15, 2007

Why Karl Rove Cared About DOJ Attorneys

Dan Froomkin:
President Bush's powerful adviser is one part spreadsheet-carrying, vote-counting political wonk, and one part no-holds-barred, brass-knuckled political operative.

Vote-counting Rove knows that -- particularly in battleground states, where a few votes can make all the difference -- every little bit helps. Brass-knuckled Rove has energetically used government power to meet political ends.

Vote-counting Rove has long been obsessed by voter fraud, either because (according to him) it threatens the integrity of the elections process or because (according to his critics) it gives Republicans an excuse to pursue measures that suppress poor and minority turnout. They also disagree on whether fraud is widespread (Rove) or rare (his critics).

And it's not hard to believe that brass-knuckled Rove decided at some point that politically appointed federal prosecutors were important tools in his bag of tricks -- tools that occasionally needed a little sharpening, or replacement.
One thing that bugs me about such anti-GOP reporting on this matter is that it all-too-frequently ignores the fact that vote-rigging is a very real and very serious issue in Bush's USA: but it's not the Dems who are doing it!

May 12, 2007

Blair's Big Mistake

He was talking to the wrong guy:
BRITISH Prime Minister Tony Blair was "tearing his hair out" over his inability to influence the Pentagon over postwar planning in Iraq, his former political secretary has claimed.

Lady (Sally) Morgan, in an interview with The Guardian said: "We could talk to the US State Department and to the President, but we had no leverage over the Defence Department, and he (Donald Rumsfeld, the former US defence secretary) had been given the power to make decisions," she said. "It was up to Bush to do the right thing and be in charge, but he was not. Sometimes he (Blair) was tearing his hair out."

Lady Morgan said George Bush was "straight to deal with", and many of the best meetings with him were when he and Mr Blair were one to one. She added: "That is why Tony went to Washington so much. The video conference was no substitute."
If only he had walked down the corridor to the VP's office, everything could have been different!

May 11, 2007

Richard Perle: R.I.P.

So I see somewhere that Richard Perle has written a WaPo article dissing George Tenet. My, my, my. And so I click on the link, and I go to the story. And there it is, in all its royal blue WaPo format glory. But I am suddenly overwhelmed with a sense of fatigue: I simply cannot be bothered even looking at what this wanker has got to say about anything, least of all his presumedly predictable bile directed at a fellow traveller now mired in the same trough of self-induced sewerage on the wayside of public opinion. So I just close the window and walk away. But why does WaPo still offer these fools a (paid) forum for their verbal diahorrhea?

Iraqi "Lawmakers" Launch A Coup

Politicians being what they are, it is no surprise that the puppets in Iraq would turn on their US masters as soon as they had a chance to seize real power for themselves. The moment has come:
A majority of members of Iraq's parliament have signed a draft bill that would require a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. soldiers from Iraq and freeze current troop levels. The development was a sign of a growing division between Iraq's legislators and prime minister that mirrors the widening gulf between the Bush administration and its critics in Congress.

The draft bill proposes a timeline for a gradual departure, much like what some U.S. Democratic lawmakers have demanded, and would require the Iraqi government to secure parliament's approval before any further extensions of the U.N. mandate for foreign troops in Iraq, which expires at the end of 2007.
This is, and always has been, a war of propaganda. And now, as Dick Cheney flies off into the sunset, the Iraqi parliament has just pulled off a master stroke.

Given all Bush's bullshit "we-standup-down-as-they-stand-up" rhetoric, how can the US power-brokers possibly garner public support for further funding of the war in Iraq, if the "sovereign" (chuckle, chuckle) Iraqi government is telling them to piss off? The Bush Boyz need to find a whole new song to sing, quickly, or get off stage.


And so a bunch of no-good opportunists in exile have seized control of Iraq, sharing power with the tribal and religious elite. Can they make it work? Who knows. But surely they cannot be any worse than the current mob.

The funny thing is, I remember living in London (oh so long ago) and seeing headlines where the government (under John Major at the time) was basically imploring anyone - anyone! - to come forward and help them challenge Saddam. Well, they got what they asked for. I remember thinking that I should have put in a call to somebody, with some sort of a story, but I was only a young tourist at the time. Just think: I could be the new viceroy by now!

PS: It's funny to write the words "John Major" again after so long. Will anyone, ever, remember him?

US House Of Reps Turns To Gandhi For Help

Somebody in the US House Of Representatives just dropped by, searching for this pic of former Karl Rove aide Susan Ralston:

Given that Gonzales is currently testifying under oath (or not, depending on the question), I suspect someone was trying to cross-check his statements against what Ralston said. Also, Murray Waas has just dropped another Rove bombshell, which could have had something to do with it too:
The Bush administration has withheld a series of e-mails from Congress showing that senior White House and Justice Department officials worked together to conceal the role of Karl Rove in installing Timothy Griffin, a protégé of Rove's, as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas.
Here's the House hit:

I should keep a collection of these hits. The last big one was the Executive Office of the President. Always glad to help guys. Don't forget to pass the URL on to the Press!

May 09, 2007

What If Two "Nobodies" Ran For President in '08?

What if both the Democratic and GOP candidates for President in '08 were people nobody had even heard of today? There's a chance it could happen.

A few days ago, my good friend Winter Patriot introduced me to a virtually unknown Democratic candidate, Mike Gravel. Gravel was largely ignored during the Dems first TV debate, but still managed to make a big splash on the Net. At first I was suspiscious that Gravel could be running as a Howard-Dean-type flop, and info about him is still thin on the ground, but he has articulated one idea which I think could be very big indeed:


It's a brilliant strategy... if the Dems can pull it off. Pelosi could call on the troops to disengage and prepare to withdraw immediately; an investigation of who (???) started this illegal war could get underway (impeach!); and best of all (from a handwringing Democrac point of view anyway), the most atrocious mistake in US history would forever be known as the Bush GOP's FAULT!!!

Declaring the war illegal would also ensure that the USA was held legally responsible for reimbursing the Iraqi people for all the loss and suffering it has caused. So much the better!

Gravel may not go far, but maybe this idea of his could go all the way. And maybe it could even take him with it. Of course, declaring the war illegal presents a major problem for people like Hillary Clinton, who voted for it, so maybe the Dems won't touch it...?

Anyway, that's the Democrat side of the field, what about the GOP? Major Repug candidates are uniformly atrocious at the moment, and none of them are rating in the polls. They all have so much baggage it's not funny, and even Big Media is stuggling to make them sound credible. That's leaving a big, gaping hole for a minor candidate who can call the GOP back to their traditional (remember "small government"?) values.

Enter Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas. This time I'll let Antony Loewenstein handle the introductions:
Last week’s Republican debate surprised many and produced an unexpected winner by a huge margin.

Ron Paul has injected a great deal of excitement from both sides of the political spectrum, which is remarkable given how little time he was given to speak by Chris Matthews...

Ron Paul is is the only truly conservative candidate in the traditional sense. He is the only candidate dedicated to restoring the constitution, cutting spending (i.e putting an end to corporate welfare), ending foreign intervention. He was after all, the only candidate who voted against the Iraq war.

Of all the candidates, he is the only one who has not flip-flopped on any issue he has stood for. Paul’s no nonsense message is resonating with the public, from where his support is now emerging.

Little wonder that big business and lobbyists are so afraid of him.
Gravel's experience of being ignored in the TV debate was very similar to Paul's (at one stage he complained, "I feel like a potplant up here"), and his surge of support is likewise coming from the Netroots. I doubt Gravel can knock over both Clinton and Obama (who I like: but he is playing old-fashioned Washington politics, which I hate).

I hope Gravel's idea to declare the Iraq War illegal has some legs. And I suspect Paul may one to keep an eye on.

As ever, you heard it here first. Well, actually you might have heard it at WP's blog, or AL's blog, first, but you definitely heard it here, right?

The New Cold War

Two hundred years from now, will there be a global civil war raging across every continent between distinct social groups with names like the "Reds" and the "Blues"? If so, the last five years will certainly mark its inception.

I don't know if my US readers are familiar with the term, but here in Australia the concept of "wedge politics" is deeply entrenched in the national psyche. It's the reason why we have suffered a long, soul-destroying decade of Conservative rule.

PM John Howard is a master of "driving the wedge". Take an issue about which the public is passionate - immigration is a favourite - and then pick a spot somewhere along the fluid spectrum of public opinion. Where do you draw the line? M is OK, but N... well, that's just a little over the top! And P is clearly way too far!

Then you drive home the wedge with a passion! You mark a point on the spectrum and create an either/or dilemma for the public. Either you support me, or you support P,Q,R,S,T,U,V,W,X,Y and Z! Or, as Bush so elegantly put it, you are with us or you are against us. And this is who "us" is right here: there's the wedge.

Only a very cynical politician exploits the wedge tactic to the degree John Howard and Karl Rove have employed. It is, after all, divisive. And divisive politics have serious repercussions. Nasty ones. But that is not stopping rightwing politicians around the globe from exploiting the tactic to the max.

France today is the latest example. Newly elected President Sarkozy has divided the country into red and blue zones just as surely as Bush & Co. did in the USA. Now, while France burns, Sarkozy is calmly cruising the Mediterranean on a yacht. He has left it to the defeated Socialist Party chief, Francois Hollande, to appeal for calm. Some leader!

Meanwhile, in the housing estates and marginal suburbs, neighbour is turned against neighbour. Racist skinheads, elated by their side's victory, taunt the stuggling immigrant families across the street. One thing leads to another...

The old Cold War, which pitted left against right, is dead. And now...?
Long live the New Cold War!
The Old Cold War was mostly international in scope, but the New Cold War is being fought in every country, in every newsroom, on every corner. It pits ordinary working people against the might and power of the global elite: Big Money, Big Oil, Big Media and their government pawns.

On one side stand the billionaires and trillionaires, with their gated communities and their private jets, their thinktanks and their institutions, their manicured lawns and their investment funds. On the other side stand the impoverished masses of the Third World, with their lost dreams and their empty stomachs, their ancient visions and their simmering resentment. The future of the world is at stake.

Where do YOU stand? Where do YOU see the wedge?

May 06, 2007

Confessions Of An Anonymous Wingnut

I just got this email from someone who wishes to remain anonymous (wish granted). I publish it verbatim, without further comment:

OK. I visited your blog again today after seeing your latest comment at ITM. And your last post is exactly right.

I remember you from yr previous atttacks on Omar and Mohammed. I always thought you were a jerk, and I admit that I was one of the ppl who used to post nasty comments about you. To be honest, I guess I never thought to much about what you were saying or why you were saying it. I was just angry that you were disrupting a blog where I enjoyed spending time.

Sorry about that.

My attitude to the Iraq War and other things has changed a lot in the last few months. I no longer believe that the USA will achieve anything like "victory" in Iraq. In fact, I think the whole thing has been a big disaster, and I am very angry about it.

I am angry at all the people like George Tenet and Wolfowitz, who lied to us, but I am also angry at myself for believing the lies. Actually I don't think I ever really believed them, I just accepted them thoughlessly because they fitted with what I wanted to believe. I didn't really care if they were true of not.

I am also really sorry that I have spent so much of my time and enrgy on something that was not just worthless, but actually WRONG. Countless people have died because of lies that I helped to spread. When you stop and think about that, it is chilling.

For my "friends" and I the war was never real, it was just a TV game, a fantasy. We were a big, strong "team" and we worked hard to defeat "the enemy" (and that made us feel good about ourselves). But our enemy was never really Al Queda or even the insurgency, it was ppl like YOU. I only just realised that recently.

The Iraq War was a game to us. The rise of blogs and the Internet made it possible for us to join in, to be players on the field of battle. We already knew which "side" we were going to be on when Pres. Bush stood in the rubble of 911 and called us to action. What we didn;t know was where that action would lead us. Or who we were following.

You need to understand that many of the people "fighting" you are actually good, decent ppl who are just going in the wrong direction. BTW I still think that ppl like you and Michael Moore are jerks. Your rudeness actually forces ppl like me to ignore you, or fight you. A more polite and humble approach would be better. But that;s just free advice. What I really wanted to say was "thanks" becaue you were right and I was wrong, and maybe people like you helped me to wake up, in the end.

Also, I wanted to say about your comments about Mo and Omar being CIA agents, and people who post comments there being paid US agents and stuff. It's not true, at least I dont think so, but in a way it is true too.

For example, I know a guy with a kinda popular blog who makes a lot of money from advertising rightwing stuff. He is also increasingly skeptical about the war but he is afraid to say anything in case he loses his sponsors. Another guy got onto a college campus he never thought he would get and the dean (or somebody) said something like "great work on the internet, J." Then you have those US Attorneys, right? It's not as obvious as you think it is, but it's there: everybody supporting the war knows that it could be good for them one way or another, just like everyone who helps out on campaigns knows it could lead to a job or something later.

I'm sure the military is doing PsyOps too, of course, ad there have been a few strage comments at ITM that made even me think "HMMM" but I doubt its like u say.

OK gotta go. But I just wanted to say sorry.


I guess I can't blame you if you want to publish my email address, but please don't: I am working to fix some of the damage I have helped cause, so pls give me a chance. Like I said before, don't be a jerk! LOL.
Here is the post that did the trick, if anyone is interested. But I guess there were plenty of post and comments etc etc before that which also helped!

Bush is now at a record low of 28%. There must be a few million people feeling a lot like P. out there in BushWorld.

Before You Can Love Iraqis You Have To Love Yourself

"If the United States leaves Iraq things will really get bad."

This appears to be the last remaining, barely-breathing argument of that vanishing species who still support the god-awful war. The argument implies a deeply-felt concern about the welfare and safety of the Iraqi people. What else could it mean? That the US military can't leave because it's needed to protect the oil bonanza awaiting American oil companies as soon as the Iraqi parliament approves the new written-in-Washington oil law? No, the Bush administration loves the people of Iraq. How much more destruction, killing and torturing do you need to be convinced of that? We can't leave because of the violence. We can't leave until we have assured that peace returns to our dear comrades in Iraq.
What's even more hypocritical is that many of those who are "loving Iraqis to death" also choose to blame the Iraqis for the fact that things are not improving. Vaya que gente!

How does someone wake up from such a state of mind? The guilt must be quite overwhelming, enough to keep them all in denial (at least for another three to six months, by which time things in Iraq will surely be improving... right?).

If you were a fervent Bush supporter, and a fervent Iraq War supporter, for the past four years, I guess the only way you could turn all that around (properly) would be to examine how and why you ever came to believe what you said you believed.

And if you took a really good look, you might find out that you had been lied to repeatedly by people in postions of power and authority, including many in the press. And that might make you angry, even if some wierd little part of you had been all too willing to accept those lies at face value.

So what would you do? Get angry at Bush, the GOP, or your local pastor? Get angry at the whole damned network of industrial military Big Money enablers behind Bush, or just give up on all sorts of government, everywhere, forever? Take a vow of silence and go live in the woods?

Or would you work to bring others like you across to reality, and spend some time and money trying to somehow repair at least a fraction of the damage you and your kind had done?

Iraq Is Still Stuck In The Stone Age

Wasn't one of the later rationales for invading Iraq the confident assertion that Western-style "democracy" would stop this sort of thing?
In the video, Aswad is shown lying on a road as men kick her and throw a large lump of rock or concrete at her head. Her face is drenched in blood.

Uniformed and armed Iraqi police stand by as a crowd storms her home and do nothing to prevent the attack.

The slim, dark-haired girl is wearing a red tracksuit top and black underwear and during the beating, someone drapes a jacket over her to cover her bare legs.

At one point she struggles to sit up and cover herself, but a man kicks her in the face knocking her violently back to the ground.

The assault continues for several minutes and she does not appear to cry out or resist her attackers.

Members of a large crowd can be seen filming the murder on their mobile phones, some of them shouting or kicking out at the cowering victim.

Nobody tries to help her.
I am infinitely sadded by human nature.

Of course, I remember reading a newspaper article written by a UK journalist who was brutally attacked and nearly killed by a madman in a tube station tunnel. Again, nobody tried to help.

And of course, we now have a madman in the White House, overseeing a global bloodbath creeping towards a million, and nobody does anything.

What are we like? For all our species' generations of "civilized" achievement, we still have greedy souls and lizard brains.

May 04, 2007

Condi's Cairo Dinner Date

Sounds like the Egyptian government, presumably at the behest of the U.S. government, sought to embarrass the Iran delegation:
The seating had been arranged by the host Egyptian government so that Rice would be sharing at least the butter plate with Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, Egyptian and Iraqi diplomats said.

As Rice walked in, Mottaki slipped out a side door and so evaporated what might have been the marquee event of the two-day conference on Iraq's economy and security held in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik: the first open, high-level meeting with Iran in three decades.

"Secretary Rice stayed for dinner," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack today. He told reporters he understood Mottaki left the meal because the evening's entertainment included a violin player in a low-cut red dress. "I'm not sure which woman he was afraid of: the one in the red dress or the secretary of state."

The dinnertime escapade provided an anti-climax to intense speculation that Rice and the Iranians would use the conference as a chance to break the ice and begin some sort of dialogue over a range of problems.
I'm sure lowcut dresses are widely tolerated at a whole host of diplomatic Middle East dinners, but in this case you cannot blame the Iranians for walking out. Just think what a leaked US/Egyptian photo could do to their own regime's credibility.

That's not diplomacy. That's stupidity. Don't these Bush people realise that many lives are at stake if they cannot come to some agreement with Iran and end the bloodshed in Iraq? Apparently not.

At least there was some progress. In fact, I should probably be more positive about this. It is, after all, an enormous backflip for a bumbling administration which last month criticized Nacy Pelosi for visiting Syria:
Rice did meet with the foreign minister of Syria, another country the U.S. says foments trouble in Iraq and supports terror. The meeting with Walid Moallem lasted a half-hour yesterday.
Let's hope Rice learns something from the talks with Syria. But don't hold your breath:
After her meeting with Moallem, Rice went out of her way to dampen expectations about discussions with Iran. ``We did not approach them for a meeting,'' she said. ``I think I've made clear that if I have an opportunity to deliver a message, or to reinforce the message that has been delivered here about the need to support Iraq, and if there's an opportunity to deliver that message and to report the message that is being delivered here about the need to support Iraq, then I'll take that opportunity.

``But we haven't planned and have not asked for a bilateral meeting, nor have they asked us,'' she said in a statement released by the State Department late yesterday.

The only verbal contact Rice had with Mottaki took place at lunch yesterday, when they exchanged greetings at a table. They did not sit next to each other.

Is The Iraq War Already Winding Down?

Suppose you read a few stories in quick succession which gave you the trong impression that high-level political and military people were already planning for an end to the war in Iraq, wouldn't that make you happy?

Supposing you could read all these stories nicely amalgamated into a single blog post? Even better, right? Well, here is that post, my friend, courtesy of Antony Loewenstein.

May 03, 2007

Gonzales Has Gotta Go

Gonzales: The Lawyer Who Lied to the Judge:
The piece is devastating and further proof to anyone who is following this story that so long as Gonzales remains in office there will be these sorts of drip-drop embarrassments. Just think about it. In this latest case, the Attorney General was unwilling or unable to accomplish one of the most basic tasks and responsibilities of being a lawyer-- telling the judge the truth. What a terrible example to set. And what a terrible standard he sets every day he remains in office.

Iraq Is Cheney's War

The guardian has an astonishing interview with the former UK Defence Minister Geoff Hoon, who was one of the warmongers in the room with Bush, Blair and others when the Downing Street Memos were being written:
"Sometimes ... Tony had made his point with the president, and I'd made my point with Don [Rumsfeld] and Jack [Straw] had made his point with Colin [Powell] and the decision actually came out of a completely different place. And you think: what did we miss? I think we missed Cheney."
So Cheney was over-ruling Rumsfeld, no big surprise there. But it leaves the question open: did Cheney over-rule Bush, or did Bush leave it to Cheney to decide whether or not the USA went to war? This is from the Guardian editorial today:
Time has not dulled the urge of any present member of his government to slither around with words which disguise the truth about the unfolding catastrophe. Geoff Hoon, the defence secretary during the invasion, makes a series of candid admissions to the Guardian today. He admits that the decision to disband Iraq's army and to de-Ba'athify its civil service two months after the invasion unleashed a host of highly trained and angry people into the hands of the insurgency. It allowed Saddam Hussein's people to link up with al-Qaida and ultimately with Sunni insurgents. He says that attempts by members of the government to lobby their counterparts in Washington somehow missed the fact that it was the neoconservative vice-president, Dick Cheney, who pulled the strings (as if we did not know that at the time). And he concludes: "Maybe we were too optimistic about the idea of the streets being lined with cheering people."

Is this honesty, or yet another political counter-measure? Mr Hoon admits that the tactics were wrong, but continues to defend the strategy. He still feels that the decision to go to war was right, even though it was based on the wrong evidence, and challenged anyone "to go through what they went through" and come to a different conclusion. This is all of a piece with the non-apology Mr Blair gave in an exchange in October 2004, apologising for faulty pre-war intelligence - which he was careful not to take responsibility for - but sticking by every decision he had taken.

Heroes Don't Resign, They Stand And Fight

Ted Rall says George Tenet could have been a hero:
Imagine the scenario: It's January 18, 2003. Congress has signed off on military action. Tens of thousands of troops are in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, waiting for marching orders. War fever is at a pitch, yet millions of Americans remain unconvinced. At an antiwar rally on the Washington Mall, the Rev. Jesse Jackson steps to the podium to address 200,000 marchers. "It does not stand to reason," he says as the crowd cheers, "to have an unfinished confrontation with Al Qaeda, ignore the Middle East, and fast-forward to Iraq." Then he introduces the next speaker, who is visibly angry and upset. "Now let's hear from someone who speaks from firsthand knowledge. Ladies and gentleman, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency."

"The president and vice president--my bosses--are liars," says the CIA director, pointing toward the White House. "They say we must go to war to keep our country safe, but they have never held a serious debate, even among themselves, to discuss whether Iraq really poses a threat."

The major TV networks break into their Sunday afternoon sports broadcasts to air the speech.

"The Bush Administration doesn't care about weapons of mass destruction," Tenet continues. "They know that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11. They're just using his face to sell you a war that dangerous ideologues like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld have wanted for years. My fellow Americans, I will not stand by passively and watch our country wage an unjustifiable, unwinnable war that will kill thousands of innocent Americans and Iraqis. I hereby resign my position as CIA director."
But perhaps the people who should resign are the Bush's and Cheney's of this world, not those who oppose them. A lot of people in very powerful positions have resigned over the past six years, and what have their resignations accomplished, except to open positions for Bush's team of intellectual dwarfs?

I guess the danger in not resigning is that the Bush pyschos and their kin will come after you with character assassination plots, and you will be forced out in disgrace. But how bad is that, really? The truth will out, eventually, but only if enough people stand up for it.

Look at Wolfie and Gonzo, hanging in there, fighting teeth and nail, refusing to give an inch. A**holes, obviously! But to their demented supporters, these guys are heroes. Their fight draws attention to both sides of the struggle. Their words are still heard, even amplified by the public debate, and of course they still have (nominally, at least) access to all the resources their departments control.

Sure, Tenet could have resigned, joined Jesse Jackson on stage and then headed off to Crawford to camp out with Cindy Sheehan's peace moms. And all the Bushistas would have shaken their heads sadly and said, "Well, what a pity, he has just lost the plot, poor man."

Or he could have stood his ground at the CIA, ordered his staff to disobey the White House's calls for war, handed over all the CIA's incriminating evidence on forged intelligence to the press, and maybe received a Medal Of Honour when Bush and Cheney were impeached for High Crimes And Misdemeanors.

Same goes for Powell, obviously:
"I'm not reading this," Powell had shouted while preparing for his U.N. speech, written by then-Cheney chief of staff Scooter Libby. He threw pages of the draft in the air. "This is bullshit!"

Nonetheless, buckling under, Powell carried out his mission. Like a good soldier. Like a toady.
If Powell had stood his ground, would Tenet have stood with him? Probably not. But as long as we are imagining alternative realities, and how things might have been, it's a nice dream.

May 02, 2007

Innocents Abroad In Rough Neighbourhoods

This quote from George Tenet's new book deserves a bit of airplay:
"You guys just don't understand. This is a rough neighborhood."
-- Saddam to FBI agent, on why he pretended to have WMDs.
Most of the people who support Bush's stupid policies in the Middle East probably are not as stupid as they seem, they just have no idea what the f*@% they are talking about. They have no idea what life is like in a Third World country. They have a fantasized, glirified vision of war. Their understanding of other cultures is zero. They don't ever even try to imagine what really goes on in the Oval Office, or at Carlyle Group board meetings. They are just ignorant.

Unfortunately, the people who have been responsible for Bush's policies are also ignorant. The US government worked with Saddam (and Bin Laden) for years. There were no doubt many experienced people within the CIA and elsewhere who knew exactly what these people were like, how to handle them, and what to expect from them. Unfortunately, those people never formed part of the Bush administration Ship Of Fools.

May 01, 2007

Juan Cole Slam Dunks George Tenet

Lovely stuff, and so true:
The French call it "the spirit of the staircase" (l'esprit d'escalier), the clever reply to someone that comes to you on your way up to the bedroom after a cocktail party. In his new book, released Monday, former CIA Director George Tenet has delivered himself of hundreds of pages on the staircase, imagining what he should have said or could have said to Richard Perle, Dick Cheney, Condi Rice and the other neoconservatives who marched the country to war in Iraq using the pretext of Sept. 11. In his April 29 interview with "60 Minutes" touting the book, Tenet came across as a spectacularly tragic Walter Mitty, daydreaming about how things would have been different if only he had spoken up, if he'd only been a James Bond-style spymaster instead of a timid, fawning bureaucrat. But of course, when it really mattered, at the critical juncture of his seven-year tenure as CIA chief, Tenet said nothing.

Is Wolfowitz Looking For An Exit?

From the International Herald Tribune:
Paul Wolfowitz defended himself vigorously on Monday, declaring that it would be "unjust and frankly hypocritical" for the World Bank's board to find him guilty of ethical lapses. But he also hinted that he would discuss whether to resign as bank president if the board cleared him of misconduct...

"The goal of this smear campaign, I believe, is to create a self-fulfilling prophecy that I am an ineffective leader and must step down for that reason alone, even if the ethics charges are unwarranted," he said. "I, for one, will not give in to such tactics. And I will not resign in the face of a plainly bogus charge of conflict of interest." ...

Wolfowitz's defiant response left unclear what would happen next, but many at the bank saw it as a prelude to his eventual departure if negotiations could lead to the board's endorsement of his claim that he had acted in good faith, not favoritism, in arranging for a pay increase for Shaha Ali Riza, his companion, in 2005.
If Wolfie offered YOU a deal, would you take it? Personally, I can't help wondering if Wolfie or Gonzo might not somehow end up embroigled in the D.C. Madam case... Now that would be sweet. But imagine you made a deal with one of them just before their name came up?

I'm also wondering if Condi ever worked as one of Palfrey's "sex play" hoes, but's that just pure fantasy...


Chickenhawk Memo #4361: Embracing Our Fear Of "The Other"

Aussie blogger and economics professor John Quiggin makes a good point with regard to ending our little adventure in Iraq:
[A]ny serious proposal to do something about refugees would involve a massive increase in the intake by members of the coalition countries, and (as I’ve found from previous discussions of the topic) the chickenhawks who pushed this war are utterly terrified by the risks this would involve, given that many of these refugees have little reason to love us. Even suggestions that we are obligated to rescue those who risked their own lives working for the coalition are much too scary for these fighting keyboardists.
As Colin Powell once warned George W. Bush:
You broke it, you own it.
We turned these ordinary, decent people into refugees and we have an obligation to help them. Our soldiers are not the solution.

Either the US-led forces in Iraq should withdraw immediately, handing over power to a UN-led force, or they should withdraw immediately, handing over power to nobody and leaving it to ordinary Iraqis to sort out their own destinies. Either way, we, the people of the invading countries, have an obligation to do everything we can to repair the damage our democratically-elected (???) governments have wrought. And the most obvious, most humane step is allowing refugees from Iraq into our own countries.

But of course the chickenhawks who said we had to attack Saddam to free the Iraqi people from violent subjugation will be the first ones to say that we cannot allow these same people across our borders. Why not?

Because they are so pissed off with us that we cannot trust them? But wait a minute - I thought that (according to those same people) the US-led occupation was "achieving its goals", the "vast majority of Iraqis" were peaceful and happy, and that gigantic pink and blue lollipops were about to start falling from heaven onto the streets of Baghdad any day now. So that might explain why they have to stay in Baghdad - to experience the rapture for themselves!


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