Saturday, April 17, 2004

Thabo Mbeki's ANC party won another landslide victory in South Africa.

Should Aristide step forward to try and regain his constitutional place in Haiti, Mbeki will probably be able to help him a little more overtly without an election to distract him.
Where are all the free market idealogues when you need them?
Some reflections on a local newscast's entertainment report:

- No, no, it's not the 'self-proclaimed' King of Pop. You bastards are the one who stuck that title on him after Thriller came out, and now that you use him as the butt of your jokes you keep trotting it out for an added little jolt of ridicule.

- What kind of sick world do we live in where Toni Colette is forced to be Nia Vardalos' sidekick, and not the other way around?
Sully noted this amazing thing a couple of days ago... conspiracy theory dictates that the Refrigeration-Industrial Complex will soon be sending in their minions to silence Mohammed Abba, so read his story while you can!
Doesn't this suggestion from the 9/11 commission:

The commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks has concluded that the hijackers would probably have postponed their strike if the U.S. government had announced the arrest of suspected terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui in August 2001 or had publicized fears that he intended to hijack jetliners.

sound strangely familiar...?

"...the most fascinating thing that Clarke said... during the hearings today was he laid out a scenario by which -- actually, a plausible one, by which September 11 could have been prevented if there had been the kind of urgency to the issue that he thought it could be. And that was, we did know. The government did know. The CIA knew and the FBI late in August knew that two of the hijackers -- Nawaf al Hazmi (ph), Khalid al Midar (ph) -- were inside the United States. Two suspected al Qaeda operatives were inside the country. Yet there was no concerted government attempt to find these guys. There was a late bulletin from the FBI.

What Clarke suggested he would have done -- he says he would like to think he would have done, had he known about this, was an all-out public manhunt. Put these guys' pictures all over the place, "America's Most Wanted," have their pictures in the paper..."

Funny as Scottie Mac's gaffes on the 15th were, they can't compare to this mind-boggling series of exchanges:

Q So he did ask him to draw up invasion plans in November of 2001?

MR. McCLELLAN: You're talking about the late period of November, when things were winding down in Afghanistan. He did talk to Secretary Rumsfeld about planning related to Iraq.

Q And that would include an invasion?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, let me walk back, let's talk about planning versus the actual decision, because as I said, there is a difference there.

Remember that when we came into office, the President was talking about Iraq very early on. He talked about the threat posed by Iraq from the very early period in this administration. In fact, the very first time that the President and Prime Minister Blair met, they talked about how the sanctions on Iraq were not effective and how they weren't working. And they talked about the importance of Iraq complying with all relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions. That was back in February of 2001.


Q Can I ask you one other question about this Woodward book? And I'm just curious if, with this book now, and then the similar -- there was the allegation by Richard Clarke that there was an obsession with Iraq. I wonder if there's a danger that there becomes an impression that you guys were obsessed with Iraq?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's just not the case.

Thinking about Iraq constantly from the moment they took office, and ignoring any evidence that they were no longer worth worrying about? Sure. But obsessed? That's just crazy talk.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Apparently Bush's problems with the English language, illustrated so clearly on Wednesday, are spreading to other people in the White House...

McCLELLAN: And in his remarks I expect the President will talk about how the tax relief that we worked to pass is working.

McCLELLAN: And I think it is a clear reminder that we are still at war on terrorism.

If you need a vacation, Scottie, just say so!
Finishing up my sweep o' the blogs: as Papa Aardvark says, "...the war for Arab public opinion ended yesterday. We lost."

It's in reference, of course, to Bush bending over for Ariel Sharon the other day (and even if you know the story, check out the picture CNN.com ran with.)

But hey, why shouldn't Bush reward Sharon? The number of world leaders who can shake Li'l Georgie's hand without that sour expression on their face gets smaller and smaller. If Ariel's the only one who'll take his calls and listen to him complain about how Dick won't let him play with his dollies on Air Force One any more, then darnit Ariel's the one who will get the goodies.
Um, wow. I guess this means Woodward is off the White House Christmas card list?

"...The end of July 2002, they need $700 million, a large amount of money for all these tasks. And the president approves it. But Congress doesn't know and it is done. They get the money from a supplemental appropriation for the Afghan War, which Congress has approved. ...Some people are gonna look at a document called the Constitution which says that no money will be drawn from the treasury unless appropriated by Congress. Congress was totally in the dark on this."

Looks like yet another must-see 60 Minutes on Sunday night...
Here's the most depressing thing you're going to read today (spotted on Atrios).

But of course Iraq is nothing at all like Vietnam. The despair and guilt felt by the returning soldiers due to the futility of their mission and all the senseless deaths is completely different this time.
Now that he's off the meds, Rush lets his tinfoil hat show for a second...

First, let's dispel with the notion that the Hatfields "know" Kerry is going to lose. Any objective observer of the trends in this election would conclude the exact opposite.

Second, even if you buy that the Clintons did have Foster killed, what would the hurry be to get Kerry out of the way? The Clintons are horrible evil geniuses; surely they'd just let Kerry reign for eight years, then take the White House themselves for another eight. That would give them 16 years in power, not the 10 or so they'd have if they bumped Kerry off.

So not only does Rush have paranoid fantasies, they're logically inconsistent paranoid fantasies.

Good to know.
Reading a CNN transcript of an interview with Donald Trump over on Kos, I'm forced to ask the question: does Wolf Blitzer get stupider every day, or does it merely seem that way?

BLITZER: The Depression was bad, as we all remember.

Wolf looks pretty good for a man in his eighties.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Those who ignore history, etc. etc. Leave it to a Brit to point out some blindingly obvious parallels between the US invasion of Iraq and the British one -- after all, the Brits don't seem to have a problem admitting when they are/were wrong (warning: stereotype alert!) because of all that public school-instilled masochism.
Most of the focus on Tenet's recent testimony is on how he "failed" to brief the president in August.

Not that Tenet needs my help, but can people try to remember that it is not the job of the head of the CIA to give daily briefings to the president? What Tenet did throughout the first months of Bush's term was unprecedented -- briefings were traditionally given by underlings, not the head honcho himself:

The other senior policymaker who served in both administrations, CIA Director George Tenet, confirms the different approach to the al-Qaeda threat. Mr. Bush, he told the commission, wanted daily face-to-face briefings from the CIA director—something Mr. Tenet did not do under President Clinton.

So while the timing of Tenet's leave turned out to be horrifically bad, I don't know that I hold it against him that he wanted a month off from beating his head against the thick brick wall that was George W. Bush.
Capt. James Yee was finally cleared of all charges on Wednesday. About damn time.

No wonder the White House keeps insisting that battling terrorism isn't a "law enforcement" matter, given their track record in investigating and prosecuting it.
Just as the Bushies predicted, once they went into Iraq the rest of the Middle East would fall like dominos. I don't think this is what they had in mind, however.
Everyone else (JMM, Drum, etc.) is linking to Fred Kaplan's damning piece in Slate, so who am I to buck a trend?

Larry Johnson, a former CIA officer and the State Department's counterterrorism chief from 1989-93, explained on MSNBC this afternoon, during a break in the hearings, why the PDB—let alone the Moussaoui finding—should have compelled everyone to rush back to Washington. In his CIA days, Johnson wrote "about 40" PDBs. They're usually dispassionate in tone, a mere paragraph or two. The PDB of Aug. 6 was a page and a half. "That's the intelligence-community equivalent of writing War and Peace," Johnson said. And the title—"Bin Laden Determined To Strike in US"—was clearly designed to set off alarm bells. Johnson told his interviewer that when he read the declassified document, "I said 'Holy smoke!' This is such a dead-on 'Mr. President, you've got to do something!' "

Historical document my ass. Although, to be fair to Condy, it is a historical document now, in that history will probably reference it again and again and again...
I've been trying to find something interesting to say about Bush's press conference but really, what is there to say? It was an intellectual vacuum. Reading the transcript is like staring into the void and realizing that not only is it staring back, it's chewing its cud as it does so.

I did find it interesting that he reached deep into the McCoy bag of cliches to pull out "stay the course", though. Somehow I don't think 22-year-old Reagan references are going to turn the tide for him -- especially when I suspect most people remember the phrase from Dana Carvey doing Papa Bush.
And now for something completely different.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

About ten minutes after showing horribly brutal footage of a seal hunt, followed by an interview with Hugh Hefner (and who doesn't love Hugh Hefner?), Anderson Cooper 360 asks this poll question:

Which do you think is more indecent on television?

Graphic sex
Graphic violence

Given that violence is beating sex by about 4:1 right now, I'd say they successfully stacked the deck on that one.
Since nobody reads my blog but my friends anyway, I'll link to the utterly terrifying LGF Quiz. I scored 54%, and my faith in humanity was shaken to the core.

Incidentally, if you want to see what might happen if someone other than my friends DID read my blog, set aside a couple of hours and read this.
Crooked Timber (via Political Animal) points out a textbook example of the "Faux-Objective" school of modern journalism.

Essentially, the theory behind Faux-Objective goes something like this:

There are three ways of looking at any issue: the right-wing way, the left-wing way, and the correct way which lies between them. Therefore, the easiest way to get to the correct way is to present both the left-wing and right-positions, and let the news consumer split the difference.

This is, of course, stuff and nonsense. It completely disregards the possibility that:

- either the left or the right simply has it 100% right for once
- either the left or the right have no idea what they are talking about, and are simply lying/BSing
- both the left and the right are clueless and the truth lies, not between them, but in some uncharted region neither has explored

All those possibilities, however, require a reporter to do something other than parrot talking points.

Really, if all you're doing is repeating what other people say, you're not a journalist. You're a gossip.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Bush on CNN: "There will never be a Palestinian state as long as terrorists are willing to kill."

So the mere existance of terrorists completely derails the process of Palestinian statehood? Shouldn't any sane White House position be that whatever plans freedom-loving nations have will proceed despite terrorism, not grind to a halt in the face of it?

Of course such a position wouldn't allow for an open-ended "War" with no end in sight...
Hopping into the wayback machine for those wondering why Kerry is taking so long to select a VP/busting his chops for flip-flopping on his VP choice, we find (without effort) this CNN.com article from July 25, 2000, the day Cheney's selection was announced:

Ironically, Cheney was the man Bush had tapped to lead his vice presidential search efforts. After three months of deliberations and "vetting" of potential candidates, Bush has chosen a trusted family adviser with whom he has already forged a close working relationship.

We also get this:

A leading Bush strategist characterized the selection of Cheney on Tuesday morning as "solid, serious," and said Cheney's addition to the GOP ticket should convey a message of how determined Bush is to build a "staff of experienced adults ready to effectively manage the government and do the people's business in an air of greatly reduced partisanship."

Nothing can beat history in the irony department.
No one states the obvious with quite the panache of Mickey Kaus:

I'm not an Iraq expert (though I have played one on TV!), but I don't completely understand the U.S. reluctance to hold quick elections, unless the Bush administration still entertains the fantasy of turning over power to Ahmad Chalabi. (Was the purpose of Bremer's June 30 transition to an unelected government designed precisely to avoid elections for another half year and give people we picked--i.e. non-legitimated people--a leg up?)

That Kaus, he's such a naive little scamp.

As though frightened by his sudden outbreak of logic, though, he quickly retreats to righthink:

It means that the Iraq War--even if we basically succeed in nation-building--could result in the creation of a new series of towns that --like the towns on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border--are a terrorist Petri dish. If that's the outcome, then in one respect at least we will have succeeded in replacing one terror threat (Saddam) with another, no?

(Emphasis mine, not his.)

Umm, yeah, in the same way that loading a rifle replaces one threat (a metal stick) with another (a loaded gun). There's threats, and then there's threats... I'd launch into a Lloyd Bentsen-ish "Saddam, you're no bin Laden" thing here but I suspect it works better in my head than on screen.

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