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Monday, February 28, 2005

Irony Died This Weekend 

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"Putin thought we'd fired Dan Rather," says a senior Administration official. "It was like something out of 1984."

Really?

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post incurred official disfavor by writing about the taboo subject of how much the President loves to lie...By withholding routine information such as travel itineraries from troublesome reporters like Milbank, the White House was able to prevent them from asking embarrasing questions. It's hard to ask the President embarrasing questions if you can't find him.
It wasn't just the White House. Over at the Pentagon, tough guy Donald Rumsfeld knew how to court-martial a nosy reporter...When [Thomas] Ricks [of the Washington Post] asked why he had been excluded from a trip on which American journalists were allowed to cover a Special Forces operation for the first time, a press officer told him: "We don't like your stories, and we don't like the questions you've been asking."


---Al Franken

Not a senior Administration official, but an Actual Journalist


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How the U.S. Became the World's Dispensable Nation 

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by Michael Lind

In a second inaugural address tinged with evangelical zeal, George W. Bush declared: "Today, America speaks anew to the peoples of the world." The peoples of the world, however, do not seem to be listening. A new world order is indeed emerging - but its architecture is being drafted in Asia and Europe, at meetings to which Americans have not been invited.

Consider Asean Plus Three (APT), which unites the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations with China, Japan and South Korea. This group has the potential to be the world's largest trade bloc, dwarfing the European Union and North American Free Trade Association. The deepening ties of the APT member states represent a major diplomatic defeat for the US, which hoped to use the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum to limit the growth of Asian economic regionalism at American expense. In the same way, recent moves by South American countries to bolster an economic community represent a clear rejection of US aims to dominate a western-hemisphere free trade zone.

Consider, as well, the EU's rapid progress toward military independence. American protests failed to prevent the EU establishing its own military planning agency, independent of the Nato alliance (and thus of Washington). Europe is building up its own rapid reaction force. And despite US resistance, the EU is developing Galileo, its own satellite network, which will break the monopoly of the US global positioning satellite system.

The participation of China in Europe's Galileo project has alarmed the US military. But China shares an interest with other aspiring space powers in preventing American control of space for military and commercial uses. Even while collaborating with Europe on Galileo, China is partnering Brazil to launch satellites. And in an unprecedented move, China recently agreed to host Russian forces for joint Russo-Chinese military exercises.

The US is being sidelined even in the area that Mr Bush identified in last week's address as America's mission: the promotion of democracy and human rights. The EU has devoted far more resources to consolidating democracy in post-communist Europe than has the US. By contrast, under Mr Bush, the US hypocritically uses the promotion of democracy as the rationale for campaigns against states it opposes for strategic reasons. Washington denounces tyranny in Iran but tolerates it in Pakistan. In Iraq, the goal of democratisation was invoked only after the invasion, which was justified earlier by claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was collaborating with al-Qaeda.

Nor is American democracy a shining example to mankind. The present one-party rule in the US has been produced in part by the artificial redrawing of political districts to favour Republicans, reinforcing the domination of money in American politics. America's judges -- many of whom will be appointed by Mr Bush -- increasingly behave as partisan political activists in black robes. America's antiquated winner-take-all electoral system has been abandoned by most other democracies for more inclusive versions of proportional representation.

In other areas of global moral and institutional reform, the US today is a follower rather than a leader. Human rights? Europe has banned the death penalty and torture, while the US is a leading practitioner of execution. Under Mr Bush, the US has constructed an international military gulag in which the torture of suspects has frequently occurred. The international rule of law? For generations, promoting international law in collaboration with other nations was a US goal. But the neoconservatives who dominate Washington today mock the very idea of international law. The next US attorney general will be the White House counsel who scorned the Geneva Conventions as obsolete.

A decade ago, American triumphalists mocked those who argued that the world was becoming multipolar, rather than unipolar. Where was the evidence of balancing against the US, they asked. Today the evidence of foreign co-operation to reduce American primacy is everywhere -- from the increasing importance of regional trade blocs that exclude the US to international space projects and military exercises in which the US is conspicuous by its absence.

It is true that the US remains the only country capable of projecting military power throughout the world. But unipolarity in the military sphere, narrowly defined, is not preventing the rapid development of multipolarity in the geopolitical and economic arenas -- far from it. And the other great powers are content to let the US waste blood and treasure on its doomed attempt to recreate the post-first world war British imperium in the Middle East.

That the rest of the world is building institutions and alliances that shut out the US should come as no surprise. The view that American leaders can be trusted to use a monopoly of military and economic power for the good of humanity has never been widely shared outside of the US. The trend toward multipolarity has probably been accelerated by the truculent unilateralism of the Bush administration, whose motto seems to be that of the Hollywood mogul: "Include me out."

In recent memory, nothing could be done without the US. Today, however, practically all new international institution-building of any long-term importance in global diplomacy and trade occurs without American participation.

In 1998 Madeleine Albright, then US secretary of state, said of the U.S.: "We are the indispensable nation." By backfiring, the unilateralism of Mr Bush has proven her wrong. The US, it turns out, is a dispensable nation.

Europe, China, Russia, Latin America and other regions and nations are quietly taking measures whose effect if not sole purpose will be to cut America down to size.

Ironically, the US, having won the cold war, is adopting the strategy that led the Soviet Union to lose it: hoping that raw military power will be sufficient to intimidate other great powers alienated by its belligerence. To compound the irony, these other great powers are drafting the blueprints for new international institutions and alliances. That is what the US did during and after the second world war.

But that was a different America, led by wise and constructive statesmen like Dean Acheson, the secretary of state who wrote of being "present at the creation." The bullying approach of the Bush administration has ensured that the US will not be invited to take part in designing the international architecture of Europe and Asia in the 21st century. This time, the US is absent at the creation.

The writer is senior fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington, DC

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Florida Public Schools The Worst In The Nation 

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I'll bet Texas schools are wondering how they could possibly lose their place.


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Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas) On Christian Love 

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via atrios


Now we know where Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas) thinks the weapons of mass destruction are buried: in Syria, which he said he’d like to nuke to smithereens.

Speaking at a veterans’ celebration at Suncreek United Methodist Church in Allen, Texas, on Feb. 19, Johnson told the crowd that he explained his theory to President Bush and Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) on the porch of the White House one night.

Johnson said he told the president that night, “Syria is the problem. Syria is where those weapons of mass destruction are, in my view. You know, I can fly an F-15, put two nukes on ‘em and I’ll make one pass. We won’t have to worry about Syria anymore.”


{Ed- ahhh Christianity}

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Atrios Says 

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Yglesias notices that conservatives are surprisingly quiet on Egypt making a bit of noise about making baby steps towards Democracy. I know liberals are rather quiet because these things have a habit of not actually happening. It's not exactly the same, but I remember the good old days when babies were being ripped from incubators in Kuwait by Iraqi soldiers when we were promised that women in Kuwait would get to vote real soon now. And, then we were promised that again in 1999. And, hey, again in 2004. Well, at least they're still talking about it. They sure do keep talking about it, even proposing bills and whatnot. But, amazingly it doesn't happen.


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63 dead in 28 days 


58 Dead In 28 Days 


Sunday, February 27, 2005

W.'s Stiletto Democracy By MAUREEN DOWD  

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It was remarkable to see President Bush lecture Vladimir Putin on the importance of checks and balances in a democratic society.

Remarkably brazen, given that the only checks Mr. Bush seems to believe in are those written to the "journalists" Armstrong Williams, Maggie Gallagher and Karen Ryan, the fake TV anchor, to help promote his policies. The administration has given a whole new meaning to checkbook journalism, paying a stupendous $97 million to an outside P.R. firm to buy columnists and produce propaganda, including faux video news releases.

The only balance W. likes is the slavering, Pravda-like "Fair and Balanced" coverage Fox News provides. Mr. Bush pledges to spread democracy while his officials strive to create a Potemkin press village at home. This White House seems to prefer softball questions from a self-advertised male escort with a fake name to hardball questions from journalists with real names; it prefers tossing journalists who protect their sources into the gulag to giving up the officials who broke the law by leaking the name of their own C.I.A. agent.

W., who once looked into Mr. Putin's soul and liked what he saw, did not demand the end of tyranny, as he did in his second Inaugural Address. His upper lip sweating a bit, he did not rise to the level of his hero Ronald Reagan's "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall." Instead, he said that "the common ground is a lot more than those areas where we disagree." The Russians were happy to stress the common ground as well.

An irritated Mr. Putin compared the Russian system to the American Electoral College, perhaps reminding the man preaching to him about democracy that he had come in second in 2000 according to the popular vote, the standard most democracies use.

Certainly the autocratic former K.G.B. agent needs to be upbraided by someone - Tony Blair, maybe? - for eviscerating the meager steps toward democracy that Russia had made before Mr. Putin came to power. But Mr. Bush is on shaky ground if he wants to hold up his administration as a paragon of safeguarding liberty - considering it has trampled civil liberties in the name of the war on terror and outsourced the torture of prisoners to bastions of democracy like Syria, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. (The secretary of state canceled a trip to Egypt this week after Egypt's arrest of a leading opposition politician.)

"I live in a transparent country," Mr. Bush protested to a Russian reporter who implicitly criticized the Patriot Act by noting that the private lives of American citizens "are now being monitored by the state."

Dick Cheney's secret meetings with energy lobbyists were certainly a model of transparency. As was the buildup to the Iraq war, when the Bush hawks did their best to cloak the real reasons they wanted to go to war and trumpet the trumped-up reasons.

The Bush administration wields maximum secrecy with minimal opposition. The White House press is timid. The poor, limp Democrats don't have enough power to convene Congressional hearings on any Republican outrages and are reduced to writing whining letters of protest that are tossed in the Oval Office trash.

When nearly $9 billion allotted for Iraqi reconstruction during Paul Bremer's tenure went up in smoke, Democratic lawmakers vainly pleaded with Republicans to open a Congressional investigation.

Even the near absence of checks and balances is not enough for W. Not content with controlling the White House, Congress, the Supreme Court and a good chunk of the Fourth Estate, he goes to even more ludicrous lengths to avoid being challenged.

The White House wants its Republican allies in the Senate to stamp out the filibuster, one of the few weapons the handcuffed Democrats have left. They want to invoke the so-called nuclear option and get rid of the 150-year-old tradition in order to ram through more right-wing judges.

Mr. Bush and Condi Rice strut in their speeches - the secretary of state also strutted in Wiesbaden in her foxy "Matrix"-dominatrix black leather stiletto boots - but they shy away from taking questions from the public unless they get to vet the questions and audiences in advance.

Administration officials went so far as to cancel a town hall meeting during Mr. Bush's visit to Germany last week after deciding an unscripted setting would be too risky, opting for a round-table talk in Mainz with preselected Germans and Americans.

The president loves democracy - as long as democracy means he's always right.


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Saturday, February 26, 2005

How long can Bush get away with lies? 

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BY ANDREW GREELEY


As the criminal, sinful war in Iraq enters its third year, the president goes to Europe to heal the wounds between the United States and its former allies, on his own terms of course. The White House propaganda mill will hail it as another victory for the president and ignore the fact that most Europeans still consider the war dangerous folly and the president a dangerous fool.

One hears new rationalizations for the war on this side of the Atlantic. After the hearings on Secretary of State Rice, a Republican senator, with all the self-righteous anger that characterizes many such, proclaimed, "The Democrats just have to understand that the president really believed there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq." This justification is not unlike the one heard frequently at the White House, "The president believed the intelligence agencies of the world."

Would it not be much better to have a president who deliberately lied to the people because he thought a war was essential than to have one who was so dumb as to be taken in by intelligence agencies, especially those who told him what he wanted to hear?

It is also asserted that the election settled the matters of the war and the torture of prisoners. These are dead issues that no longer need be addressed. Yet the president received only 51 percent of the vote and carried only one more state than the last time (picking up New Mexico and Iowa and losing New Hampshire). This is a validation of the war and of prisoner abuse? This is a mandate to do whatever he wants to do and whatever the leadership of the evangelical denominations want? A percentage point and a single state are a mandate for more war? Never before in American political history!

Finally, we are told that the Iraqi election confirms the Bush administration policy in Iraq. The president's supporters must be in deep trouble to reach so far for that one. All the election proves is that the Iraqis want to run their own country. It also raises the possibility that Shia clerics will deliver Iraq into the hands of the Iranians. Some kind of victory!

How do these kinds of arguments play in the precincts? The survey data suggest that war has become more unpopular. The majority of the American people now think it was a mistake, in a shift away from the 51 percent that endorsed it on Election Day. Admittedly this is only a small change in the population, from a majority to a minority. Nor do the changers earn grace for their new opinions. They still endorsed the war on Election Day and are still responsible for it.

How long can the administration get along with its policies of spinning big lies into truth -- as it has more recently done on Social Security?

Note the three most important Cabinet positions. Rice said that it was better to find the weapons of mass destruction than to see a mushroom cloud. "Judge" Gonzales said the Geneva Convention was "quaint" and in effect legitimated the de facto policy of torture. Rumsfeld repealed the "Powell Doctrine" -- only go to war when you have the massive force necessary to win decisively and quickly. Brilliant businessman that he is (like Robert McNamara of the Vietnam era), he thought he could win with 130,000 (unlike at least 200,000 as the army chief of staff insisted) and hence made the current "insurgency" inevitable.

The presence of these three towering giants in the administration certainly confirms that the president is confident that he is "right" on Iraq and that he has a mandate from the American people and from God which confirms that he is "right."

Nothing, in other words, has changed in the last two years. The war is still the "right thing to do," it is still part of the "war against terrorism," it is still essential to keep Arabs from blowing up our skyscrapers.

You can still get away with the "big lie" as long as Karl Rove and his team of spinners keep providing persuasive rationalizations. The American public is still supine, uneasy about the war, but not willing yet to turn decisively against it. Will that still be the case next year when we "celebrate" the third anniversary of the war? Is the patience of the American people that long suffering? Is there no outrage left in the country?



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But They Just Had Elections! 

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BAGHDAD, Iraq - A major oil fire raged Saturday after insurgents blew up a pipeline in the north of the country. The family of an anchorwoman for a U.S.-funded state television station -- a mother of four who was repeatedly shot in the head -- found her body dumped on a street in the northern city of Mosul. Insurgents, meanwhile, killed two civilians in a roadside bombing west of Baghdad, a suicide car bomber killed an Iraqi national guardsman and injured 7 people southwest of the capital and the U.S. military announced the death of an American soldier killed in a massive security sweep in the Sunni Triangle.


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Friday, February 25, 2005

US Losing Influence 

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Of course, following the heady assault on Baghdad, the conflict took an unexpected turn — precisely as wars throughout history have tended to do. As a consequence, today a low-tech enemy force estimated at about 10,000 fighters has stymied the mightiest military establishment the world has ever seen. To be sure, the adversary cannot defeat us militarily. But neither can we defeat it. In short, U.S. troops today are no longer fighting to win, but simply to buy time: This has become the Bush administration's substitute for victory. Worse, in a war such as in Iraq, time is more likely to work in the other guy's favor.

Whether this reality has yet to fully sink in with the majority of the American people is unclear. No doubt President Bush hopes the citizenry will continue to snooze. Better to talk about Social Security reform and banning gay marriage than to call attention to the unhappy fact that we are spending several billion dollars per month and losing, on average, two soldiers per day — not to prevail but simply to prolong the stalemate. Moreover, if the administration gets its way, we can expect that expenditure of blood and treasure to continue for many months, until there emerges an Iraqi government able to fend for itself or Iraq descends into chaos.

Pending the final judgment of President Bush's war, this much we can say for sure: Two years after the dash on Baghdad seemingly affirmed the invincibility of the U.S. armed forces, the actual limits of American power now lay exposed for all to see. Our adversaries, real and potential, are no doubt busy contemplating the implications of those limits.

So too must we. Our effort to do so should begin with the admission that the idea, promoted during the heady spring of 2003, that through the aggressive use of military power the United States might transform the Islamic world and cement U.S. global preeminence was a dangerous delusion. It remains a delusion today.


More On Our Continued Irrelevance


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Thursday, February 24, 2005

James Wolcott 

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That joint press conference with Bush and Putin--jayzus. I suppose it's healthier for the well-being of the world not to have Bush in his belligerent rooster mode, mouth downturned with determination as he chops the air with his fist and puts the bad guys on notice that he means business, but oy is it embarrassing watching him act like Andy of Mayberry with world leaders, praising Putin as an honest "fella," sorta inviting Chirac to visit the Crawford ranch since he's always "lookin' for a good cowboy," and referring to the members of the press as "a nice bunch of folks." It's wonder he didn't send in Aunt Bea to present the Russian premier with homemade chicken pot pie. Bush was less gauche and aggressive this trip, yet more of a sagebrush rube, playacting the part as if he thought it had made him a beloved character at home. The most interesting aspect of the press conference was how unamused and uncharmed Putin looked as Bush did his John Denver thank-God-I'm-a-country-boy shtick. He refused to play along. Unfortunately, the questions from the reporters present were so rambling and shambling that they didn't penetrate Bush's strawman act and throw him off script. Reporters seem to have forgotten how to ask brief, pointed questions that elude easy deflection; they talk out the clock. If the American reporters had anything other than rubber-tipped arrows in their armory, they would ask the president where this administration gets off lecturing other countries about human rights abuses and rollbacks of civil liberties when it's flying suspects to other countries to be tortured, abusing prisoners in Guantanamo, and running its own far-flung gulag archipelago. Lecturing Putin is an exercise in hubris when American liberty itself is under such rapid assault and decay.


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Fighting For the Window Seat On The Hindenberg 

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“The United States of America, the last superpower in the world will not hesitate to act when we so determine that it is in our own best interests. ….We will not ask for permission to defend ourselves, specially from the French.”

Hello….is this thing on?”

Something must be wrong here. I mean Moscow has decided to send nuclear fuel to Tehran when US envoys clearly stated that it would affect our “mutual future interests”.


What’s this about Russian sending Strelet anti aircraft missiles to Syria? Don’t they know we have over a thousand combat aircraft in theatre flying around, trying to stabilize the area for democracy?

Hey, Europe can’t lift the arms embargo on China. With advanced aircraft and submarines, the Chinese might start throwing their weight around. Doesn’t anyone remember Tiananmen Square? Those people are crazy.

Didn’t anyone notice how fast we romped into Mesopotamia two years ago?

The more you look at how we have extended US power in the world, the more it looks like the world is not that impressed. In fact, the “great uniter” has united the rest of the world into working to cut us off. More often than not, the actual reaction to our policy missives is polite feigned respect followed by ignoring us altogether.


China and Iran must be very happy that we invaded Iraq. It’ll make our own global hegemony harder. The costs of Iraq will make it impossible to upgrade our military in any significant way, and the Bush administration’s obvious intentions of staying in Iraq is not exactly shooting yourself in the foot. It’s shooting yourself in both feet. China, as we speak, is upgrading its naval forces, its air forces, and is now launching its own military satellites. China is now cutting deals with Venezuela and Iran over oil rights, making them officially the largest trading partner south of our own border. China and Iran are already arranging for Iranian oil to be developed by China.


Even Canada has said they will not participate in or allow work on our new strategic missile system in territory under their purview.

The European Union sees Condi Rice’s Nice-A-Thon last week, and Bush’s mending fences tour as the silent nod that we do need the help of ‘Old Europe’ after all. Bush dined with the head Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkey and announced progress in Iraq. Yes, France will train 1,000 Iraqis a year. Given that they need about 150,000 troops, well…you do the math. Social Security will truly be empty by the time France has trained all the Iraqis. With the fall of dollar and the strength of the Euro, jolly Chirac served French wine and fois-gras to Bush while Schroeder suggested defunding NATO, which would effectively and permanently cut down our military power and footprint in Europe. To the press here, and likely to Americans in general, there seems to be no problem telling other sovereign nations they cannot have WMDs, while we improve our stockpiles. The fact is, no president before Bush did more to convince other countries to develop nukes as soon as they can.

Brazil Russian India and China have formed a trade pact appropriately titled BRIC. It’s one of at least six trade pacts formed by members of the top twenty industrialized nations without us and in fact to counter us.

China and Japan own almost 43% of our Treasury bonds. Holding onto a currency with sliding value is costing them dearly. A single decision by Asia to switch to Euros would devalue the dollar until even petrochemicals are traded in Euros. The debt we are carrying requires literally a billion dollars a day just to pay the monthly nut. Either of these plates spinning at the end of poles is a disaster waiting to happen.

While we all slept, while we were transfixed by Saddam and our boys over seas, Europe signed a Constitution that made them the largest economy in the world. You can now drive from one end of the EU to other without visas or passports. Every citizen has universal health care and all the freedoms we bragged about before the Patriot Act. European Union members have a higher standard living, better educated children, and there is larger gap between a Texas Republican and a Vermont Democrat than there is between a Romanian student and Spanish soldier. More and more Europeans see themselves as not Americans. They have a good thing going, and they know it.

The press here and the press outside the country are two completely different animals. In a country that won’t show it’s dead even draped in flag and casket, it’s no wonder we are still strutting around in our own heads with the most powerful military and the most powerful currency. To the rest of the world, we have fallen from grace with the collapse of our cassus beli. Furthermore, despite our cowboy bellicosity and big ass Army, it’s obvious to the rest of the world that we cannot even defeat an insurgency whose strength is variously given as between 5,000 and 200,000.


American citizens are whistling pass the graveyard, holding onto a new world order that is already obsolete. Around the world, new bonds of trade and strategic cooperation are being forged around the U.S. and without the US. I asked my niece who lives in London what she thought about Bush’s trip. She told me that she loves comedies. She especially loved the part about Bush telling Putin to create democracy. “That part really made me laugh.”



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Wednesday, February 23, 2005

congrats kos and juan cole 

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Regarding the Sandy Koufax Awards, Kos won Best Blog and Juan Cole won best post for "If America were Iraq,...?




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Do We Even Matter Anymore? 

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(empire? or nuissance?)



In their efforts to put a bright face on the administration's diminishing strategic influence, the Bush administration is accentuating the positive — the Europeans have agreed, they point out, to help train Iraqi security forces. Sure, they've agreed to train 1,000 Iraqis a year at a location outside of Iraq. To put that in perspective, the current U.S. goal is to train a further 200,000 Iraqis by October 1 — in other words, the NATO contribution will amount to 0.5 percent of the total. That's a little like the geopolitical equivalent of a Hallmark good-luck greeting card.

Iraq, of course, is where the problem began in earnest, even before the war. By pressing ahead to war two years ago without the evidence to back its case and without waiting for UN inspectors to complete their work, the Bush administration inadvertently created a rupture in the international system of alliances that has proved disastrous. It created a situation where longtime U.S. allies found themselves with no choice but to say no to Washington on a strategic priority — and then not only to face no negative consequences, but to see the U.S. struggle under the weight of its occupation mission and then return to Europe calling for fences to be mended without the Europeans having changed their position. Well, not quite true: a number of European countries have changed their positions — they've pulled their troops out of Iraq. As the old gangster movie adage goes, "You run this town only because people think you run this town." Now when President Bush comes calling offering quotes from French existentialists — “Albert Camus said that freedom is a long distance race,” the president said Monday — sweet talk about the environment and promises to make the Israeli-Palestinian peace process a top priority, the Europeans know the reason is that Washington has been humbled by events. Indeed, it may be a measure of how the strategic balance has shifted that President Bush not only tosses around bon-mots from the existentialists; he hosts a dinner for President Chirac — a European leader he plainly detests, and who has not given an inch in his opposition to U.S. policy in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. France won't even consent to U.S. pressure to make the relatively meaningless gesture of putting Hezbollah on a terrorist list.

The net effect of Operation Iraqi Freedom has not been to make U.S. enemies tremble in the face of American power. Instead, it has made them more aware of the limits of that power. A two-year occupation by 150,000 U.S. troops has failed to subdue an insurgency by a Sunni Muslim force that U.S. officials insist numbers no more than 12,000. Today, U.S. officials concede that the insurgency can't be defeated militarily, and it has long been evident to the Europeans and others that Washington's military resources are badly overstretched by the mission in Iraq — and that Washington's bean-counters are not amused by the $5 billion monthly bill for its operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Iran may be sandwiched between Iraq and Afghanistan, but it's not acting as if it believes it's in any danger of being invaded. And in light of the difficulties it has faced in Iraq, it's hard to imagine the U.S. managing to invade and occupy a country three times as large and as populous as Iraq, an unlikely to be any more welcoming of American troops than the Iraqis have been.



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Bush refuses To Answer Unscripted Questions 

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(LMAO)




During his trip to Germany on Wednesday, the main highlight of George W. Bush's trip was meant to be a "town hall"-style meeting with average Germans. But with the German government unwilling to permit a scripted event with questions approved in advance, the White House has quietly put the event on ice. Was Bush afraid the event might focus on prickly questions about Iraq and Iran rather than the rosy future he's been touting in Europe this week?

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Tuesday, February 22, 2005

You Can Die For America. But That’s About It. 

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Hired security contractors, or mercenaries, and recruits who are not citizens who enlisted to obtain a "green card," are not counted or mentioned. A large number of the green card recruits are from Mexico and Central America. There are no organizations to look after their rights or help them once they're in Iraq. Most of them are buried in Iraq when killed.




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Christinianity Has Changed A Bit 

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"How did the faith of Jesus come to be known as pro-rich, pro-war and only
pro-American? It is almost as if Jesus' top priorities have become a
capital gains tax cut and the occupation of Iraq. It seems that religion
has been hijacked and it is time for a rescue operation to take back the
faith."

-- Rev. Jim Wallis, the editor of Sojourners magazine and a founder of Call to Renewal, an evangelical ministry to the poor, continuing the discussion among Democrats as to the best way to present faith in public policy in coming elections.


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More Reason To Consider A New War Is Brewing 

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But a president can always change the subject to national security if he wants to - and Mr. Bush has repeatedly shown himself willing to play the terrorism card when he is losing the debate on other issues. So it's important to point out that Mr. Bush, for all his posturing, has done a very bad job of protecting the nation - and to make that point now, rather than in the heat of the next foreign crisis.


Snip



Well, it's still happening. An audit of the Homeland Security Department's (greatly inadequate) program to protect ports found that much of the money went to unlikely locations, including six sites in landlocked Arkansas, where the department's recently resigned chief of border and transportation security is reported to be considering a run for governor.

Nor are Mr. Bush's national security failures limited to nonmilitary policy. The administration appears to be in a state of denial over the effects of the endless war in Iraq on U.S. military readiness, particularly the strains on the reserves and the National Guard.



Perhaps the Iranians ought to come out and support Privatizing Social Security

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Monday, February 21, 2005

Chavez Says Bush Trying To Kill Him  

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Feb. 20, 2005 - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Sunday the United States was planning to assassinate him, but offered no evidence to support his accusation.

"I know I am condemned... I'm sure in Washington they are planning my death," Chavez said in a regular Sunday broadcast. "If anything happens to me, you can forget about Venezuela's oil Mr Bush."



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James Wolcott Rules 

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Jeff Gannon, undergoing Jack Webb interrogation by Anderson Cooper on CNN, was pure comedy gold. Gannon came across as--how to put this euphemistically?--not-quite-bright as he stalled before answering each question like an unprepared student trying to bluff his way through an exam. (His bald head may resemble a lightbulb, but there's faint illumination within.) Even more hilarious was what a transparently bad dissembler he is. Jeff Gannon is like a buffer version of Jon Lovitz's "Liar," cloaking himself in implausible deniability to buy time until the referee rings the bell.

He did provide some genuine insight into the journalistic standards of the far-right fake-news prosties and their blog enablers. To Gannon, and presumably to other fine fax-gathering organizations being fronted by Republican shills, objective journalism consists of running White House press releases verbatim--to him, that's providing vital information without a "liberal filter." Gannon really does embody the Bush-Rove ideal of the journalist as empty vessel. His tactical mistake was to be such an Eddie Haskell suck-up at the presidential news conference and draw attention to himself. Otherwise, he'd still be attending White House briefings and sending Scott McClellan secret messages with coded blinks.


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and




Digby, a drowning man in a sea of rising blather, asks:

"Did anyone happen to catch the happy little hen party on Chris Matthews' week-end show tonight in which Chris, Clarence Page, Kathleen Parker, Andrew Sullivan and Gloria Borger ripped Hillary for being a 'castrating Bitch' and 'Nurse Ratchet' replete with a full-on harpy imitation by Borger?"

I confess: I did. I witnessed that sorry exhibition. And it was every bit as appalling as Digby reports, as if the panelists (save Clarence Page) had been busy filling their shopping carts at George Costanza's Jerk Store before hitting the studio. Every misogynist cliche about the junior senator from NY was taken out for a brisk trot before Hillary was given a few patronizing pats so that the panel could proceed to peeing merrily on their next Ice Queen sculpture, Martha Stewart. They dished on the post-prison prospects for Stewart, "Gloria saying that people will find her interesting because the less they see of her the more they like her. Everyone cackled wickedly as she went on to mock her potential good works on behalf of women prisoners. Andy snorted delicately." And Matthews, as I recall, did a riff about how hard it is to decorate a jail cell with the toilet always in plain view.

Of course, to Beltway bubble boys and girls, the plight of women in prison, of anyone in prison, is risible...caring about anyone in severe, systematic distress is considered uncool and probably insincere, certainly not "sexy." Digby is also correct about the dumb-cluck level of the show's discussion of the Larry Summers Harvard controversy, with most of the panelists falling over themselves to disassociate themselves from "PC." Andrew Sullivan tried to make it sound as if Summers Agonistes is a pivotal Galileo moment in the fight over free inquiry and the pursuit of ideas as one man with unpopular notions finds himself witch-hunted by wheezing lefties. But anyone who's been closely watching the weathervane knows that it is the Israeli-loyal right led by Daniel Pipes and David Horowitz who are spearheading the ideological purges of professors. John Kasich's weekend Fox News show recently had a segment called "Firing Tenured Professors," and that's the goal of conservative pressure groups, to drive out those political targets who would otherwise be protected by tenure. They began by picking a mostly obscure minor offender like Ward Churchill in the hopes of bagging him and moving on to bigger trophies.

It was bad enough watching Gloria Borger this morning chortling and preening as she spewed conventional wisdom like Cokie Roberts with a perkier case of the cutes, but I also make the mistake of reading her in the Sunday NY Daily News drivelling about how Democrats are too negative, the party of "No."

Borger: "It's tempting for Democrats to say I-told-you-so when CIA Director Porter Goss testifies that the U.S. occupation in Iraq has become a recruiting tool for Al Qaeda. Or to complain that a successful Iraq election doesn't guarantee a defeat of the insurgents." But Borger counsels Democrats to resist the temptation to gloat or kvetch, and start proposing positive solutions with a can-do spirit. I don't recall Dick Cheney, Tom DeLay, Jesse Helms, James Sensenberger, or Duncan Hunter being tendered such fizzy advice, but that's how it is in the Washington media world now. Democrats have to play by Republican rules, and Republicans don't have to play by anybody's rules.

Digby also says that Borger was flirty with Matthews. But was he flirty in return? I thought he gave her "a look," but perhaps he was simply picturing her as a cheeseburger.

P.S. Also courtesy of Digby: The Wall Street Journal presents a poll revealing that, contrary to Gloria Halleluhah, 60% want the Democrats to be an opposition party and apply the brakes. This is why it never pays for Dems to listen to the pundits!--the same pundits who tell hail how Bush's popularity is when his approval numbers barely break even.



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Hunter S Thompson 1937-2055 


Next Stop: Iran. June 2005 

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On Iran, Ritter said that President George W. Bush has received and signed off on orders for an aerial attack on Iran planned for June 2005. Its purported goal is the destruction of Iran’s alleged program to develop nuclear weapons, but Ritter said neoconservatives in the administration also expected that the attack would set in motion a chain of events leading to regime change in the oil-rich nation of 70 million -- a possibility Ritter regards with the greatest skepticism.


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Sunday, February 20, 2005

Secretly Having To Beg The Enemy For Help 

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. diplomats and intelligence officers are conducting secret talks with Iraq 's Sunni insurgents on ways to end fighting there, Time magazine reported on Sunday, citing Pentagon and other sources.

The Bush administration has said it would not negotiate with Iraqi fighters and there is no authorized dialogue but the U.S. is having "back-channel" communications with certain insurgents, unidentified Washington and Iraqi sources told the magazine.

The magazine cited a secret meeting between two members of the U.S. military and an Iraqi negotiator, a middle-aged former member of Saddam Hussein 's regime and the senior representative of what he called the nationalist insurgency.

A U.S. officer tried to get names of other insurgent leaders while the Iraqi complained the new Shi'ite-dominated government was being controlled by Iran, according to an account of the meeting provided by the Iraqi negotiator.


What Asshats!


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Joe Biden Says 

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Why isn't every major network in the country investigating a security breach, forget anything else. How could the FBI, for 17 years I was chairman of the Judiciary Committee, the ranking member. I've read more FBI reports than I ever wanted to know. How could that happen and no one had any idea who this guy was?... The Judiciary Committee of the United States Senate should be investigating it. The House Judiciary should be investigating it. And if it were the other party in charge, it would be investigated


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Saturday, February 19, 2005

Tbogg is Brilliant 

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Yet another urban term whitebreaded to death

This is Tim Graham.

This is Tim Graham on NRO:

Liberal Washington Post reporter Evelyn Nieves writes the "peace" movement is plotting to re-emerge, and she's making a case for them: "In a way, the antiwar groups' task is easier than it was before the U.S. invasion, when the idea of then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein attacking the United States with weapons of mass destruction convinced many people that a preemptive strike was necessary. Polls show that support for the war has eroded as its cost in lives, the economy and the social fabric of communities throughout the nation has climbed." But if you weren't a liberal reporter, you might see that in a way, the "peace" movement now looks like an "anti-democracy" movement.

Yadda yadda yadda...whatever, Timmy. Then this:

PS: To get the real flava of the current "peace" organizing with its radical-left talk of American "empire" and "killing machines," see here.

"Flava"?

You're Tim Graham. You can't say "flava". You can't say "mad props". You're not allowed to call anyone "g" either. You're Tim Graham. You put mayonaise on pastrami. You listen to Enya. You ask hookers if they take Discover card.

But you aren't allowed to say "flava".

Ever.

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Music To My Ears 

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From a post at Kos, I finally hear the other side say they are afraid of something we have done. Yes, the Left has enough strength now to break your nose, if we have to.

Kossacks do what Harry Truman used to explain this way: "I don't give them Hell. I just tell the truth and they think it's Hell." (Quoted various ways)


Today, while teaching an Internet Activist Seminar, Mike Krempasky told his conservative youngens, "Daily Kos is a site built by the hard-left. There is no doubt, they are effective - they are freighteningly effective...It's probably bigger than the Washington Times right now."

He was less sparing about Atrios:

"Atrios is a raging left-wing blogger. He actually hates America. He hates apple pie, he even hates his own mother."  



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Friday, February 18, 2005

While America Sleeps 

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Tom Ridge Met With Pollsters before Election, Then Raised Threat Levels.

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Bush Has No Intention Of Leaving Iraq 

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Kerry Won: 900 Pages of Evidence Filed re: OH Fraud '04 


How Did Gannon Get All This Access? 

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I am just asking.


Perhaps he and Scott McLelland are gay lovers.

Or, maybe he and some gay lover in the Bush White House are connecting.

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Thursday, February 17, 2005

Tools 

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"The Iraq conflict, while not a cause of extremism, has become a cause for extremists," Goss told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

"Those jihadists who survive will leave Iraq experienced in and focused on acts of urban terrorism. They represent a potential pool of contacts to build transnational terrorist cells, groups and networks in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other countries," he said.

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Our Own CIA Chief Admits Iraq Is A Training Ground For Terrorists.

LIARS!!!!!!!WAKE UP EVERYONE 

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Bush's Barberini Faun
By MAUREEN DOWD


WASHINGTON

I am very impressed with James Guckert, a k a Jeff Gannon.

How often does an enterprising young man, heralded in press reports as both a reporter and a contributor to such sites as Hotmilitarystud.com, Workingboys.net, Militaryescorts .com, MilitaryescortsM4M.com and Meetlocalmen.com, get to question the president of the United States?

Who knew that a hotmilitarystud wanting to meetlocalmen could so easily get to be face2face with the commander in chief?

It's hard to believe the White House could hit rock bottom on credibility again, but it has, in a bizarre maelstrom that plays like a dark comedy. How does it credential a man with a double life and a secret past?

"Jeff Gannon" was waved into the press room nearly every day for two years as the conservative correspondent for two political Web sites operated by a wealthy Texas Republican. Scott McClellan often called on the pseudoreporter for softball questions.

Howard Kurtz reported in The Washington Post yesterday that although Mr. Guckert had denied launching the provocative Web sites - one described him as " 'military, muscular, masculine and discrete' (sic)" - a Web designer in California said "that he had designed a gay escort site for Gannon and had posted naked pictures of Gannon at the client's request."

And The Wilmington News-Journal in Delaware reported that Mr. Guckert was delinquent in $20,700 in personal income tax from 1991 to 1994.

I'm still mystified by this story. I was rejected for a White House press pass at the start of the Bush administration, but someone with an alias, a tax evasion problem and Internet pictures where he posed like the "Barberini Faun" is credentialed to cover a White House that won a second term by mining homophobia and preaching family values?

At first when I tried to complain about not getting my pass renewed, even though I'd been covering presidents and first ladies since 1986, no one called me back. Finally, when Mr. McClellan replaced Ari Fleischer, he said he'd renew the pass - after a new Secret Service background check that would last several months.

In an era when security concerns are paramount, what kind of Secret Service background check did James Guckert get so he could saunter into the West Wing every day under an assumed name while he was doing full-frontal advertising for stud services for $1,200 a weekend? He used a driver's license that said James Guckert to get into the White House, then, once inside, switched to his alter ego, asking questions as Jeff Gannon.

Mr. McClellan shrugged this off to Editor & Publisher magazine, oddly noting, "People use aliases all the time in life, from journalists to actors."

I know the F.B.I. computers don't work, but this is ridiculous. After getting gobsmacked by the louche sagas of Mr. Guckert and Bernard Kerik, the White House vetters should consider adding someone with some blogging experience.

Does the Bush team love everything military so much that even a military-stud Web site is a recommendation?

Or maybe Gannon/Guckert's willingness to shill free for the White House, even on gay issues, was endearing. One of his stories mocked John Kerry's "pro-homosexual platform" with the headline "Kerry Could Become First Gay President."

With the Bushies, if you're their friend, anything goes. If you're their critic, nothing goes. They're waging a jihad against journalists - buying them off so they'll promote administration programs, trying to put them in jail for doing their jobs and replacing them with ringers.

At last month's press conference, Jeff Gannon asked Mr. Bush how he could work with Democrats "who seem to have divorced themselves from reality." But Bush officials have divorced themselves from reality.

They flipped TV's in the West Wing and Air Force One to Fox News. They paid conservative columnists handsomely to promote administration programs. Federal agencies distributed packaged "news" video releases with faux anchors so local news outlets would run them. As CNN reported, the Pentagon produces Web sites with "news" articles intended to influence opinion abroad and at home, but you have to look hard for the disclaimer: "Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense." The agencies spent a whopping $88 million spinning reality in 2004, splurging on P.R. contracts.

Even the Nixon White House didn't do anything this creepy. It's worse than hating the press. It's an attempt to reinvent it.

E-mail: liberties@nytimes.com


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LIARS!!!!!!!FUCKING LIARS!!! 

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The White House Stages Its 'Daily Show'



February 20, 2005
FRANK RICH

THE prayers of those hoping that real television news might take its cues from Jon Stewart were finally answered on Feb. 9, 2005. A real newsman borrowed a technique from fake news to deliver real news about fake news in prime time.

Let me explain.

On "Countdown," a nightly news hour on MSNBC, the anchor, Keith Olbermann, led off with a classic "Daily Show"-style bit: a rapid-fire montage of sharply edited video bites illustrating the apparent idiocy of those in Washington. In this case, the eight clips stretched over a year in the White House briefing room - from February 2004 to late last month - and all featured a reporter named "Jeff." In most of them, the White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, says "Go ahead, Jeff," and "Jeff" responds with a softball question intended not to elicit information but to boost President Bush and smear his political opponents. In the last clip, "Jeff" is quizzing the president himself, in his first post-inaugural press conference of Jan. 26. Referring to Harry Reid and Hillary Clinton, "Jeff" asks, "How are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?"

If we did not live in a time when the news culture itself is divorced from reality, the story might end there: "Jeff," you'd assume, was a lapdog reporter from a legitimate, if right-wing, news organization like Fox, and you'd get some predictable yuks from watching a compressed video anthology of his kissing up to power. But as Mr. Olbermann explained, "Jeff Gannon," the star of the montage, was a newsman no more real than a "Senior White House Correspondent" like Stephen Colbert on "The Daily Show" and he worked for a news organization no more real than The Onion. Yet the video broadcast by Mr. Olbermann was not fake. "Jeff" was in the real White House, and he did have those exchanges with the real Mr. McClellan and the real Mr. Bush.

"Jeff Gannon's" real name is James D. Guckert. His employer was a Web site called Talon News, staffed mostly by volunteer Republican activists. Media Matters for America, the liberal press monitor that has done the most exhaustive research into the case, discovered that Talon's "news" often consists of recycled Republican National Committee and White House press releases, and its content frequently overlaps with another partisan site, GOPUSA, with which it shares its owner, a Texas delegate to the 2000 Republican convention. Nonetheless, for nearly two years the White House press office had credentialed Mr. Guckert, even though, as Dana Milbank of The Washington Post explained on Mr. Olbermann's show, he "was representing a phony media company that doesn't really have any such thing as circulation or readership."

How this happened is a mystery that has yet to be solved. "Jeff" has now quit Talon News not because he and it have been exposed as fakes but because of other embarrassing blogosphere revelations linking him to sites like hotmilitarystud.com and to an apparently promising career as an X-rated $200-per-hour "escort." If Mr. Guckert, the author of Talon News exclusives like "Kerry Could Become First Gay President," is yet another link in the boundless network of homophobic Republican closet cases, that's not without interest. But it shouldn't distract from the real question - that is, the real news - of how this fake newsman might be connected to a White House propaganda machine that grows curiouser by the day. Though Mr. McClellan told Editor & Publisher magazine that he didn't know until recently that Mr. Guckert was using an alias, Bruce Bartlett, a White House veteran of the Reagan-Bush I era, wrote on the nonpartisan journalism Web site Romenesko, that "if Gannon was using an alias, the White House staff had to be involved in maintaining his cover." (Otherwise, it would be a rather amazing post-9/11 security breach.)

By my count, "Jeff Gannon" is now at least the sixth "journalist" (four of whom have been unmasked so far this year) to have been a propagandist on the payroll of either the Bush administration or a barely arms-length ally like Talon News while simultaneously appearing in print or broadcast forums that purport to be real news. Of these six, two have been syndicated newspaper columnists paid by the Department of Health and Human Services to promote the administration's "marriage" initiatives. The other four have played real newsmen on TV. Before Mr. Guckert and Armstrong Williams, the talking head paid $240,000 by the Department of Education, there were Karen Ryan and Alberto Garcia. Let us not forget these pioneers - the Woodward and Bernstein of fake news. They starred in bogus reports ("In Washington, I'm Karen Ryan reporting," went the script) pretending to "sort through the details" of the administration's Medicare prescription-drug plan in 2004. Such "reports," some of which found their way into news packages distributed to local stations by CNN, appeared in more than 50 news broadcasts around the country and have now been deemed illegal "covert propaganda" by the Government Accountability Office.

The money that paid for both the Ryan-Garcia news packages and the Armstrong Williams contract was siphoned through the same huge public relations firm, Ketchum Communications, which itself filtered the funds through subcontractors. A new report by Congressional Democrats finds that Ketchum has received $97 million of the administration's total $250 million P.R. kitty, of which the Williams and Ryan-Garcia scams would account for only a fraction. We have yet to learn precisely where the rest of it ended up.

Even now, we know that the fake news generated by the six known shills is only a small piece of the administration's overall propaganda effort. President Bush wasn't entirely joking when he called the notoriously meek March 6, 2003, White House press conference on the eve of the Iraq invasion "scripted" while it was still going on. (And "Jeff Gannon" apparently wasn't even at that one). Everything is scripted.

The pre-fab "Ask President Bush" town hall-style meetings held during last year's campaign (typical question: "Mr. President, as a child, how can I help you get votes?") were carefully designed for television so that, as Kenneth R. Bazinet wrote last summer in New York's Daily News, "unsuspecting viewers" tuning in their local news might get the false impression they were "watching a completely open forum." A Pentagon Office of Strategic Influence, intended to provide propagandistic news items, some of them possibly false, to foreign news media was shut down in 2002 when it became an embarrassing political liability. But much more quietly, another Pentagon propaganda arm, the Pentagon Channel, has recently been added as a free channel for American viewers of the Dish Network. Can a Social Security Channel be far behind?

It is a brilliant strategy. When the Bush administration isn't using taxpayers' money to buy its own fake news, it does everything it can to shut out and pillory real reporters who might tell Americans what is happening in what is, at least in theory, their own government. Paul Farhi of The Washington Post discovered that even at an inaugural ball he was assigned "minders" - attractive women who wouldn't give him their full names - to let the revelers know that Big Brother was watching should they be tempted to say anything remotely off message.

The inability of real journalists to penetrate this White House is not all the White House's fault. The errors of real news organizations have played perfectly into the administration's insidious efforts to blur the boundaries between the fake and the real and thereby demolish the whole notion that there could possibly be an objective and accurate free press. Conservatives, who supposedly deplore post-modernism, are now welcoming in a brave new world in which it's a given that there can be no empirical reality in news, only the reality you want to hear (or they want you to hear). The frequent fecklessness of the Beltway gang does little to penetrate this Washington smokescreen. For a case in point, you needed only switch to CNN on the day after Mr. Olbermann did his fake-news-style story on the fake reporter in the White House press corps.

"Jeff Gannon" had decided to give an exclusive TV interview to a sober practitioner of by-the-book real news, Wolf Blitzer. Given this journalistic opportunity, the anchor asked questions almost as soft as those "Jeff" himself had asked in the White House. Mr. Blitzer didn't question Mr. Guckert's outrageous assertion that he adopted a fake name because "Jeff Gannon is easier to pronounce and easier to remember." (Is "Jeff" easier to pronounce than his real first name, Jim?). Mr. Blitzer never questioned Gannon/Guckert's assertion that Talon News "is a separate, independent news division" of GOPUSA. Only in a brief follow-up interview a day later did he ask Gannon/Guckert to explain why he was questioned by the F.B.I. in the case that may send legitimate reporters to jail: Mr. Guckert has at times implied that he either saw or possessed a classified memo identifying Valerie Plame as a C.I.A. operative. Might that memo have come from the same officials who looked after "Jeff Gannon's" press credentials? Did Mr. Guckert have any connection with CNN's own Robert Novak, whose publication of Ms. Plame's name started this investigation in the first place? The anchor didn't go there.

The "real" news from CNN was no news at all, but it's not as if any of its competitors did much better. The "Jeff Gannon" story got less attention than another media frenzy - that set off by the veteran news executive Eason Jordan, who resigned from CNN after speaking recklessly at a panel discussion at Davos, where he apparently implied, at least in passing, that American troops deliberately targeted reporters. Is the banishment of a real newsman for behaving foolishly at a bloviation conference in Switzerland a more pressing story than that of a fake newsman gaining years of access to the White House (and network TV cameras) under mysterious circumstances? With real news this timid, the appointment of Jon Stewart to take over Dan Rather's chair at CBS News could be just the jolt television journalism needs. As Mr. Olbermann demonstrated when he borrowed a sharp "Daily Show" tool to puncture the "Jeff Gannon" case, the only road back to reality may be to fight fake with fake.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company | Home | Privacy Policy | Search | Corrections | RSS | Help | Back to Top


Liars. FUCKING LIARS


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Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Occupation from Iraqis perspective 

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In October 2003, the TV series Frontline did a show from Iraq, "Truth, War, and Consequences," that featured a remarkable scene shot the previous April, not long after American troops arrived in Baghdad. A group of GIs have captured some Iraqis whom they accuse of stealing wood. As an instant punishment in the "Wild West" of that moment, they simply run their tank over the Iraqis' car. First the tank climbs forward over the car's body, then does it again in reverse, two sustained blows that turn the vehicle into something like a metal pancake. (GI: "We try to stop them from looting, and they don't understand, so we take their car and we crush it, the United States Army tankers. That's what you get when you loot.") One of the Iraqis later says to an interviewer simply: "I am a taxi driver. The car was my livelihood."


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Elliot Spitzer Hands Neil Cavuto His Ass 

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from a post on Kos


CAVUTO: Continuing my conversation with New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.  He talks about the criticism he faces and his ongoing battle with former NYSE boss Dick Grasso. But first, Spitzer weighs in on one of his biggest critics, Tom Donohue who heads the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

SPITZER: I think he is a shill for guilty people, and Tom Donohue has never once found a crime that he couldn't justify, as long as it was committed by one of his dues-paying members. And it is too bad. The Chamber of Commerce should rise above that sort of rhetoric.

Tom Donohue cannot show you one fact we've alleged that is wrong. And yet, if Mr. Donohue wants to be an apologist for criminal conduct, so be it.  Then he is, I think, tarnishing the reputations of many of his members who don't want that sort of voice out there saying that illegal conduct is good. It isn't.

My job has been to reveal facts, to bring the cases.  And I think if you ask any investor, if you ask any executive, do you want to live in a world where analytical work is fraudulent, where mutual funds are diluting and skimming profits, where insurance companies are bid rigging, I think they will tell you no.  The reason is that those behavior patterns cut against the market as we want it to operate.

I'm protecting the market. Mr. Donohue is protecting an ossified culture of illegality. And if he wants to be an apologist for crime, then I think his board members should consider whether or not that's the job.

CAVUTO: The feeling seems to be -- not across the board, but amongst some, that you get a little too zealous, that maybe you get too vindictive. Ken Langone, the former New York Stock Exchange director said you wanted to put a stake through his heart.

SPITZER: No, I didn't. Look, Ken Langone has been charged because he and Mr. Grasso turned the New York Stock Exchange into the piggy bank for Mr. Grasso. And Ken Langone was the chairman of the compensation committee that oversaw the distribution of about $200 million to Mr. Grasso, a case that is ongoing. The Web report that was revealed last week I think laid out the facts for many to see.

(snip)

We will go to trial. We will prove our facts against Mr. Langone, against Mr. Grasso. And as I've said from the beginning,  after many months trying to settle that case before trial so we didn't need to go through this, when that failed because they simply refused to be reasonable, we will now go to trial and prove our case, and we will win.

And that is the nature of these proceedings and if all I have to stand up against is Mr. Langone and Mr. Donohue, then I think I'm doing quite fine.

CAVUTO: But I found it interesting, sir, that you went after Mr. Langone, but you didn't do the same with Carl McCall, who essentially approved the Grasso pay package.

SPITZER: No. What we did, and, Neil, you need to understand here, the New York Stock Exchange is a not-for-profit. And we charged Mr. Grasso because he improperly received close to $200 million. Mr. Langone because he is alleged to have deceived the board and misled the board.

There were many other board members, comp committee members, CEOs of the major investment banks, whom I don't think you would view as being my closest allies and buddies these days, whom we did not charge because the distinction is between making a fundamental misrepresentation to the board, versus simply making a bad decision.

Board members should not be charged for making a bad decision. That falls within the business judgment rule.  We may say, bad judgment, guys, you should learn from it. But deceiving the board is the distinction, and that is why Mr. Langone and Mr. Grasso were charged, a distinction that is appropriate, given not only the law but the public policy of encouraging people.

(snip)

CAVUTO: You know, I know now you're running for governor, sir. The present governor, George Pataki, still isn't clear if he's going to run for a fourth term, has said that your zeal going after the financial industry is one thing, but it could chase business away from the state. He said: "It does concern me that I've had corporate and other business leaders come to me and say, 'Why should we be in New York?'"

How do you answer that?

SPITZER: Well, because business leaders whom I deal with want an honest marketplace.  And you would be amazed, Neil, how many CEOs come up to me every day and say, Eliot, thank you for what you're doing. Yes, you're going after the bad guys. We want you to do that. We depend on an honest, level playing field.

The honest players out there don't want a system that is rigged. They want to be able to compete, create jobs. Most of them say, you know what, a hundred years ago, a lot of CEOs didn't like it when Teddy Roosevelt went after the cartels. But we applauded that. We know what it did for the economy. It created jobs.

They say to me, we need somebody who cleans up the illegality to permit the rest of us to play fair.   That's what we approve of. It encourages investment, encourages job creation. Look at the markets these days. They're doing fine.

CAVUTO: So, you don't think, sir, that it would chase business out of the state?

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Does this make sense? 

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The FDA is considering an extra panel that would warn people of the dangers of drugs that the FDA approves.



Um...huh???!!!

That's what you do when you recreate an FDA to make sure pharmaceuticals make money, rather than protect the population.

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The Full Court Press 

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Remember all the accusations about WMDs in Iraq?

Remember the orchestrted efforts and talk ahow appearance where the accusations were repeated again and again?

Last night I watched as Republican representative Curt Weldon on MSGOP said "It's got to be Syria." I mean how could they have this level of organization and this much explosive power without Syria?"

Of course he conveniently forgot all the weaponry we lost track of that came out last Fall.

He conveniently forgot the warnings from our own soldiers of the open ammunition dumps everfywhere that we are too short staffed to clean up.



Watch over the next two months a more concerted effort to bomb yet another country in the mideast.

Just watch.

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Monday, February 14, 2005

Jesus Christ On A Cracker 

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Was This Worth Billions?

By JOHN J. LUMPKIN, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - A test of the national missile defense system failed Monday when an interceptor missile did not launch from its island base in the Pacific Ocean, the military said. It was the second failure in months for the experimental program.

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This is what your government does 

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MORE PROPAGANDA

Fake reporter's questioning of the president fits into the administration's widening pattern of manufactured journalism.
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

The unmasking of an alleged journalist who used a pseudonym to gain access to White House briefings and news conferences raises more questions about the Bush administration's tactics for securing favorable news. James Guckert, who used the Talon News byline "Jeff Gannon," managed to get access to the White House on a daily basis for two years.




Guckert questioned President Bush at a January news conference last month, tossing a softball query that ridiculed Democrats for "being divorced from reality." The organization Guckert worked for turned out to be an arm of a partisan group, GOPUSA, a conservative Web site based in Houston and dedicated to "spreading the conservative message throughout America." It turns out Talon News was created only a few days before Guckert first applied for a White House daily pass.

Guckert was denied similar credentials to cover Capitol Hill because of questions about his legitimacy as a reporter. His identity was exposed by bloggers, and he turned out to be associated with a number of sexually oriented Web sites. Guckert resigned, claiming harassment by liberals.

Guckert's only credential as a journalist appears to be attendance at a two-day seminar by the conservative Leadership Oriented Broadcast Journalism School. He apparently gained access to the White House using little more than a fake name, a Social Security number, and date of birth. In an age of heightened security, it's hard to believe this lapse could occur without someone inside the White House vouching for Guckert. The alternative would be little meaningful security at the executive mansion.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan said President Bush did not know who Guckert was. A journalist familiar with the process says it's likely Bush was tipped by his press staff that "the bald guy would lob him an easy one." If so, setting up ringers to toss fawning questions to the president is another indication, if any were needed, that the administration prefers the media to be propagandists rather than independent inquisitors.

At least there's no indication the White House was involved in directly paying Guckert for his services, as the administration did in three other recent incidents. Last month, conservative commentator Armstrong Williams apologized for not disclosing that his company had received $240,000 from a public relations agency hired by the Department of Education to promote Bush's No Child Left Behind Act.

Syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher also apologized to her readers for not disclosing a $21,500 contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to help create materials used to promote Bush's $300 million initiative encouraging marriage to strengthen families.

HHS later disclosed that a third conservative columnist, Mike McManus, had received $10,000 to promote Bush's marriage initiative, according to an Associated Press report. His weekly column appears in about 50 newspapers.

The practice of buying ostensibly independent reporters and writers to shill for politicians deceives the public and corrupts the free media. Allowing fake reporters to compete with credentialed journalists for sparse press conference time with the leader of the free world demeans the whole process.



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Liars 

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The gap between troops "on hand" and the overall target for fully trained and equipped security forces has actually widened in recent months, according to John Pike of GlobalSecurity.org, a Washington- based think-tank. Between October and November last year, just before the Pentagon quietly stopped giving figures for fully trained troops, the shortfall more than doubled, from 69,400 to 159,000. At current levels, the targets would not be met until next year.

The sleight of hand over troop numbers provoked a sharp clash during Condoleezza Rice's Senate confirmation hearings to become Secretary of State. After she quoted Pentagon figures claiming 122,000 Iraqis had been trained, she was told by Democratic Senator Joseph Biden: "Time and again this administration has tried to leave the American people with the impression that Iraq has well over 100,000 fully trained, fully competent military police and personnel. And that is simply not true. We're months, probably years, away from reaching our target goal."

David Isenberg, an analyst at the British and American Security Council, said "disaster is too polite a word" for efforts to train Iraqi forces. "We are not being honest about the numbers," he added. "We have no consensus about who has been trained, about who we are talking about."

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Sunday, February 13, 2005

What The Deficits Will Bring 

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From the Gray Lady


The Importance of Being Earnest



For all its talk of deficit reduction, President Bush's 2006 budget is a map of reckless economic policies and shows how they have backed the United States into a precarious position in the global financial markets.

Mr. Bush needs to convince foreign investors that he's serious about cutting the budget deficit. Here's why: Each day, the United States must borrow billions of dollars from abroad to finance its enormous budget and trade deficits. Without a steady stream of huge loans, the country would face rising interest rates, higher inflation, a dropping dollar and slower economic growth. The lenders want to see less of a gap between what the government collects in taxes and what it spends, because a lower budget deficit always eases a trade deficit. A lower trade deficit also implies a stronger dollar. And a stronger dollar would reassure foreign investors that dollar-based assets remain their best choice.

As it is, their belief is being sorely tested: in 2003, the European Central Bank lost $625 million to the weak dollar and reportedly stands to lose $1.3 billion for 2004. Japan's central bank, which has the world's largest foreign stash of dollars - some $715 billion - could lose an estimated $40 billion if the dollar weakened to around 95 yen, a level many analysts expect to see this year. No wonder that a week before Mr. Bush released his budget, Japan's finance minister said that Japan had to be careful in managing those dollar-filled foreign currency reserves.

It's not hard to see what brought the United States to this juncture. Mr. Bush's first-term tax cuts were too expensive and too skewed toward top earners to work as effective, self-correcting economic stimulus. Instead, predictably, they've driven the nation deep into the red. Having reduced tax revenue to a share of the economy not seen since 1959, the cuts are a huge factor in the swing from a budget surplus to a $412 billion deficit.

The administration also erred big in deciding to deal with the ballooning trade imbalance by letting the dollar slide. That might have been a winning gambit if it had been paired with a commitment to cut the deficit. Theoretically, a weakening dollar would have begun the process of easing the trade imbalance, while deficit reduction, which takes longer to bring about, would have addressed the gap in a more lasting way. Instead, Mr. Bush has unceasingly pursued deficit-financed tax cuts, even as the weak dollar has failed to fix the trade imbalance. The result is that the country's deficits - and borrowing needs - remain enormous even as dollar-based investments are becoming less attractive.

Lately, Mr. Bush has been talking the deficit reduction talk, but there's no sign that he is willing to walk the walk. In his 2006 budget, he pledges to slash spending, but largely in areas that would have only a small impact on the deficit and where cuts would be politically difficult, not to mention cruel, such as food stamps, veterans' medical care, child care and low-income housing. Meanwhile, he is pounding the table for more deficit-bloating measures - making his first-term tax cuts permanent, at a 10-year cost of as much as $2.1 trillion; putting into effect two high-income tax breaks that were enacted in 2001 but have been on hold, at a 10-year cost of $115 billion; and introducing new tax incentives to allow high earners to shift even more cash into tax shelters, at a cost that would ultimately work out to more than $30 billion a year when investors cashed in their accounts tax-free.

Oh, yes. Mr. Bush also wants to borrow some $4.5 trillion over two decades to privatize Social Security, which is a bad idea even without the borrowing and a horrendous one with it.

The global financial community won't be fooled. The dollar may have bouts of relative strength, as it has recently. But these are due largely to currency traders' focus on short-term advantages, like Federal Reserve interest-rate hikes, which are perceived as a positive for the dollar, or the appearance of profit-taking opportunities. Inevitably, the budget and trade deficits will reassert their drag on the dollar, and then on Washington's ability to comfortably borrow money from abroad.

Congress can avert this crisis-in-waiting by forcing Mr. Bush to be serious about deficit reduction. The first-term tax cuts should be allowed to lapse. Cuts that are not yet in effect should not be allowed to begin. And no new programs should be started that require megaborrowing. If the president doesn't see that he has more important tasks than cutting taxes for the rich and undermining Social Security, Congress should set him straight.





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Cooked Rice 

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Sun Feb 13th, 2005 at 10:07:17 PST

So Condoleeza Rice was on my side of the Atlantic this past week, and the U.S. press was all a flutter about her heretofore unknown diplomatic skills. Anne Gearan, diplomatic writer for the AP said that Rice was upbeat about her visit and that she won "mostly good reviews" and quoted a Rice aid in saying that "both sides seem to have already begun to put the disagreements of the past behind us."

How nice. Knight-Ridder comments on Rice's "orchestra of discipline, with no time left unscheduled and no detail of diplomacy overlooked," in an effort to point out that if the European ties are not mended, it's certainly not her fault. After all, she works out.

Both The New York Times and The Washington Post declared that both Rice and Rumsfeld (!) have been making "overtures" to Europe for help in training Iraqi police forces. "Overtures" is another word for "demands" when diplomatic writers don't want to get calls from the White House.

Now you have to imagine my surprise in reading all of this as apparently the U.S. reporters know something I don't know: there are no Europeans in Europe.



Not a one, except for the Secretary General of NATO. He's it, people. I'm actually here by myself, which explains why the Metros are so empty. The speech in Paris was actually given to a group of American tourists on their way to see the Eiffel Tower. In all of the articles I've read, the success of Rice's trip was measured as a function of the quotes given by Rice and her aides. These reporters are in Europe and almost none of them deigned to ask any Europeans--official ones, never mind the European street--how they actually felt.

So allow me.

The Vancouver Sun had the audacity to point out that outside of the rebranding functions, in the areas of actual work that needed to be done--Europe aid on Iraq, a coalition to deal with Iran, arms sales to China--not a sliver of progress was made. Rice's interview on Fox News where she made tacit threats against Iran and Europe were not well-received, and Europe scoffed in her general direction over training more Iraqi cops on Iraqi soil.

Agence France Press echoed these disagreements, and also got into Rice's assertion that NATO won't be the "policeman of the world." This statement was viewed by many in European diplomatic circles as the U.S.'s continued requirement that only by way of U.S. leadership shall the world be changed. It was also picked up in Bahrain as a sign that the U.S. would continue it's go-it-alone adventures in the Middle East.

Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported that some European countries actually think for themselves and have no intention of kowtowing to the U.S. Gerhard Schroeder made this clear when he pointed out that "it's clear that our policy of self-confidence ... was right," and "I told our American friends clearly there is a line which I don't even think about crossing: German soldiers will not be in Iraq," He even threw in a shot about the elections, "The elections were progress--but only small progress."

The Daily Telegraph gave us this more complete quote of the famous "Dear Condi" line: "Our two countries, dear Condi, are each other's oldest allies ... I also think that alliance doesn't mean allegiance," The last part was more the focus here in Europe, with French diplomats rushing to point out that the U.S. and Europe, if they will proceed, will proceed together, not with Europe following. They praised Condi's style, if not the substance "The US has started to realise that the EU exists," said an EU diplomat. "But that's very far from having a complete convergence of views."

I could go on, but the bottom line is that from this side, things are not all rosy and "Dear Condi" and whatnot. People are pleased to have the charm offensive, and diplomats are making pleasant noises about having Bush address NATO in Brussels on the 22nd, but by and large Europeans don't give a damn about the White House's feeling that they now have a position of strength. The general sentiment is that Bush needs something and fine, we'll discuss it, but the White House is not to be trusted on matters of diplomacy.

Put another way, Europeans have not gotten over their disagreement with Washington because the disagreement has not gone away. The U.S. sees its unbridled power as a good thing and wields it in unruly and clumsy ways. Europe feels that this is a recipe for disaster, and while Americans see success in Iraq, Europe sees a generation more of conflict and the very real possibility of Iraq "electing" themselves a strongman. The papers here, when discussing Iraq, often point out Tehran's very skillful manipulation of the Shiite political players as a foreboding sign of what may be to come. Europe is vocally concerned about taking over operations in Iraq--as they have done in Afghanistan--and the U.S. declaring success and pulling out before any of the hard work is done.

Here, the major talk is of the European constitution, which Americans scoffed at, but then again, Americans scoffed at the Euro. Three countries have already ratified it, and parliamentary debates are to begin in earnest in 9 more this month and Spain is voting on the 20th. Seems like an unrelated process, but many diplomats and smart people see the U.S. status as "hyperpower" to be far more dangerous than they had thought. Even typically Europhobic Britain is signalling via the Blair government that they are serious about political consolidation with the continent. And even though everyone is concerned about Turkey, the bottom line is that in news analyses Turkey is seen as the final step in making Europe the "other pole" of global power, at least in the West.

(Turkey gives Europe a stronger foothold in negotiations with the Middle East, something that might even give them leverage over the U.S. in terms of influence. Economically speaking, they're dead weight but reforms are underway with help from Brussels and in a couple of years they might be at the level of an East Germany or a Hungary.)

So Europe is dealing with the Americans in typical Euro-realist fashion. American papers are all excited that "Dear Condi" and a newly victorious and magnanimous Cowboy may thaw the chilly trans-Atlantic relationship, but they ignore some important points. Namely that Europe has opened up diplomatic discussions with China, Iran, Cuba, and Russia all as a component of using soft power and influence to get those countries to change their undesirable policies. The U.S. is no different.

Europe's lessons from the Cold War have nothing to do with Reagan's "Take down this wall" speech, but with the Solidarity movement in Poland, strong political leadership from Czechoslovakia and Hungary, and Ostpolitik in Germany. To that end, they view diplomacy as paramount and will pursue it with the Americans, just like everyone else.

Don't get too excited over accounts of European swooning over Condi's shoes and piano recitals. This is European diplomacy at it's finest--making the other side think they've made progress when nothing actually happened.

De Tocqueville said: "Democratic peoples scarcely worry about what has been, but they willingly dream of what will be, and in this direction their imagination has no limits." Indeed, the Americans seem to forget that not long ago, they were trying to foment fractions in the continent, and used Europe as a convenient punching bag during the elections. Now, they see that they won, and all is well and Europe will go along and fall in line behind the great Crusading Cowboy.

The response to this idea is summed up best by an actual European diplomat: "Bush is making this magnanimous gesture in coming to Brussels. Wonderful. But we want Bush to change...It is not right
simply to say we will adapt our agenda to theirs."

American press, take note.

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Saturday, February 12, 2005

Kevin Drum Asks: 

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In 2018, Social Security will begin paying out more money than it takes in. This is what Dennis Hastert calls the "crisis point." But the entire federal government is paying out more money than it takes in right now. Indeed this has been the case for four years, thanks in no small measure to GOP tax-and-spending policies. And it will continue to be the case indefinitely under the president's own supposedly-tough budget. Why is it that a modest deficit in Social Security that won't begin for almost a decade and a half requires immediate radical action, while a vastly greater overall federal deficit occurring right now doesn't?


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Journalists Discovered in Russia 

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(from Moscow Times)

The hoary adage that "there are none so blind as those who will not see" should be carved in stone at the National Press Club in Washington. Surely there can be no better motto for the cozy clubhouse of America's media mavens, who seem preternaturally incapable of recognizing the truth -- even when it stands before them, monstrous and unavoidable, like a giant Cyclops smeared with blood.

For just as they botched the most important story of our time -- the Bush Administration's transparently deceptive campaign to launch a war of aggression against Iraq -- the clubby mavens are now missing the crowning achievement of this vast crime: the mother of all backroom deals, a cynical pact sealed by murder, unfolding before our eyes.

The Administration's true objective in Iraq is brutally simple: U.S. domination of Middle East oil. This is no secret. Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz began writing about this "strategic necessity" in 1992, as Alternet reminds us; and in September 2000, a group led by Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld openly called for a U.S. military takeover of Iraq -- even if the regime of Saddam Hussein was no longer in power. At every point in their savaging of Iraq, the Bushists have pressed relentlessly toward this oily goal.




The objective was revealed -- yet again -- in a recent Washington appearance by Iraqi Finance Minister Adil Abdel-Mahdi. Standing alongside a top State Department official, Abdel-Mahdi announced that Iraq's government wants to open the nation's oil fields to foreign investment -- not only the pumped product flowing through the pipes, but the very oil in the ground, the common patrimony of the Iraqi people. The minister said plainly that this sweet deal -- placing the world's second-largest oil reserves in a few private hands -- would be "very promising to the American investors and to American enterprise, certainly to oil companies," InterPress reports. These are the spoils for which George W. Bush has killed more than 100,000 human beings.

The American media completely ignored Abdel-Mahdi's declaration, but this is not surprising. After all, it occurred in the most obscure venue imaginable: an appearance before oil barons and journalists at the, er, National Press Club. Where better to hide open confessions of war crimes than in the very midst of the Washington hack pack? Yet here was a story of immense importance. For Abdel-Mahdi is not only a functionary in the discredited collaborationist government now in its last days. He is also one of the leading figures in the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), the Shiite faction that has been swept to somewhat more legitimate power by the national election that was forced on George W. Bush by Islamic fundamentalist Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. In fact, Abdel-Mahdi is frequently mentioned as a leading choice for prime minister in the new government; whatever happens, he will certainly play a primary role.

So we have a top official -- perhaps the top official -- in the incoming government offering American oilmen ownership rights in Iraqi oil. We have top American officials -- such as Cheney and Rumsfeld this week -- taking a benign view of the UIA's demand that the new Iraqi state be based solely on Islamic law, with crippling restrictions on women's rights, free expression, free association, plus, if Sistani has his way, Talibanic bans on music, dancing and even playing chess, Newsweek reports.

What we have, in other words, is the making of a monstrous, Cyclopean deal: not just "Blood for Oil," as the anti-war critics have said all along, but also "God for Oil." The Shiite clerics -- who eschew direct control but whose precepts can be translated into state power by secular representatives like Abdel-Mahdi -- seem willing to trade a goodly portion of Iraq's oil wealth in exchange for establishing a de facto "Islamic Republic" in the conquered land, with tacit American approval.

Sistani's word could move millions into the street to hamstring U.S. forces; but despite his notional disapproval of the occupation, he has stayed his hand, waiting for power to fall like a ripe fruit into the Shiite basket. Like Bush, he is apparently willing to countenance mass slaughter by the U.S.-led "Coalition" to achieve his objectives; but then, like Bush, Sistani is not an Iraqi either: He's an Iranian. Now these two foreigners are rolling dice to settle the nation's fate.


All we ask is that you include your full name, the name of the city from which you are writing and a contact telephone number in case we need to get in touch.
We look forward to hearing from you.


But there's yet another glaring truth that's escaped the media mavens, and most of the war's opponents as well. Even if the grand objective of oil control slips away somehow -- through a falling-out with Sistani, say, or civil war -- Bush has already won the game. The war has transferred billions of dollars from the public treasuries of the United States and Iraq into the coffers of an elite clique of oilmen, arms dealers, investment firms, construction giants and political operatives associated with the Bush family. And this goes beyond the official, guaranteed-profit contracts to favored firms; Bush's own inspector general reported this month that $8.8 billion in unaccounted "reconstruction" funds have simply vanished -- much of it in bribes for Bush officials and corporate kickbacks, the BBC reported.

This blood money will further entrench the Bushist clique in unassailable power and privilege for decades to come, regardless of the bloody chaos they cause, or even the occasional loss of political office. The American power structure has been permanently altered by the war -- just as American society has been immeasurably corrupted by Bush's proud embrace of aggression, torture, lawlessness and militarism as national values.

Bush lied. He stole. He murdered. In broad daylight. And he got away with it. That's the story. But you'll never hear it at the Press Club.



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Friday, February 11, 2005

This Is Your Government 

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Scientists say they've been told to withhold species findings



WASHINGTON -- Scientists in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service say they've been forced to alter or withhold findings that would have led to greater protections for endangered species, according to a survey released by two environmental groups.

The scientists charge that top regional and national officials in the agency suppressed scientific information to avoid confrontations with industry groups or to follow the Bush administration's political policies.

The mail-in survey by the Union of Concerned Scientists and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility -- which drew responses from 414 of 1,400 biologists, ecologists, botanists and other scientists -- was not a scientific poll. But the two groups said the large number of responses reflect concern by many Fish and Wildlife Service employees that political appointees are inappropriately influencing the science that drives decisions to list species and protect their habitat.

Federal Regulators on Rail Safety


America's four biggest railroads suffer from substantial and systemic safety problems, according to a new federal audit that raises questions about how well federal regulators are overseeing the rail industry.

Citing a series of serious accidents in recent months, the Transportation Department's inspector general said he was concerned that the Federal Railroad Administration's approach to regulation, which stresses "partnership" over punishment, might be failing to fix the most persistent safety problems. He asked the agency to prepare a comprehensive plan to improve its inspection of railroads and enforcement of federal safety rules.



Senator Says F.D.A. Asked Canada Not to Suspend Drug


WASHINGTON, Feb. 10 - A day after Canadian officials suspended the use of a hyperactivity drug amid reports of deaths associated with its use, Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa contended that United States health officials had asked the Canadian regulators not to do so.

Senator Grassley, a Republican, said on Thursday that the Food and Drug Administration had made the request of Canadian health officials because the F.D.A. could not handle another "drug safety crisis." Mr. Grassley said he was basing his contentions on reports from whistle-blowers within the agency.

Dr. Robert Peterson, director general of the therapeutic products directorate at Health Canada, said through a spokeswoman that reports that F.D.A. had asked Health Canada to refrain from suspending the drug "are untrue."



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Condi Lies 

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EIGHT months before the September 11 attacks the White House's then counterterrorism adviser urged then national security adviser Condoleezza Rice to hold a high-level meeting on the al-Qaeda network, according to a memo made public today.

"We urgently need such a principals-level review on the al-Qaeda network," then White House counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke wrote in the January 25, 2001 memo.

Mr Clarke, who left the White House in 2003, made headlines in the heat of the US presidential campaign last year when he accused the Bush White House of having ignored al-Qaeda's threats before September 11.

Mr Clarke testified before inquiry panels and in a book that Rice, his boss at the time, had been warned of the threat. Rice is now US Secretary of State.

However, Ms Rice wrote in a March 22, 2004 column in The Washington Post that "No al-Qaeda threat was turned over to the new administration".




Mr Clarke told a commission looking into intelligence shortcomings prior to the attacks, "There's a lot of debate about whether it's a plan or a strategy or a series of options - but all of the things we recommended back in January were those things on the table in September. They were all done, but they were done after September 11."

The document was released by the National Security Archive, an independent US group that solicits government documents for public review.

Another document released by the archive said that from April to September 2001, the US Federal Aviation Administration received 52 intelligence reports on al-Qaeda, including five that mentioned hijackings and two that mentioned suicide operations, according to today's New York Times.

The Times quoted a previously undisclosed report by a commission set up to investigate the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

The report criticises the FAA for failing to strengthen security measures in light of the reports and describes as "striking" the false sense of security that appeared to predominate in the civil aviation system before the attacks, the paper said.

Condi Liar Rice
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