Saturday, October 30


Ellen Goodman shares her "post-Bush mind-set":

On Sept. 12 the world was divided into us and them, the community of nations against the terrorists. Today, the world is divided into the United States and them. After all the bungling and arrogance, we are nearly isolated.

I have an entire Rolodex of reasons why I would not vote to keep this president in office. But none of them trumps my sense of danger at being led by a man who tailors the facts to fit the mind that is indeed set.

My pre-Sept. 11 mind-set was never that sunny. I grew up under the threat of a mushroom cloud and remember the Cuban missile crisis. Now we are led in a dangerous time by a man who calls chaos "freedom on the march," a president who uses Sept. 11 as his cover story.

And that is my November 2nd mind-set.


This story in The Oregonian expands the "missing explosives" story that is shaping up as a major scandal and campaign issue:

Six months after the fall of Baghdad, a vast Iraqi weapons depot with tens of thousands of artillery rounds and other explosives remained unguarded, according to two U.S. aid workers who say they reported looting of the site to U.S. military officials.

The aid workers say they informed Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the highest ranking Army officer in Iraq in October 2003 but were told that the United States did not have enough troops to seal off the facility, which included more than 60 bunkers packed with munitions.


Checking in with Riverbend, who is thinking about OUR upcoming election:

Who am I hoping will win? Definitely Kerry. There’s no question about it. I want Bush out of the White House at all costs. (And yes- who is *in* the White House *is* my business- Americans, you made it my business when you occupied my country last year) I’m too realistic to expect drastic change or anything phenomenal, but I don’t want Bush reelected because his reelection (or shall I call it his ‘reassignment’) will condone the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq. It will say that this catastrophe in Iraq was worth its price in American and Iraqi lives. His reassignment to the White House will sanction all the bloodshed and terror we’ve been living for the last year and a half.

I’ve heard all the arguments. His supporters are a lot like him- they’ll admit no mistakes. They’ll admit no deceit, no idiocy, no manipulation, no squandering. It’s useless. Republicans who *don’t* support him, but feel obliged to vote for him, write long, apologetic emails that are meant, I assume, to salve their own conscience. They write telling me that he should be ‘reelected’ because he is the only man for the job at this point. True, he made some mistakes and he told a few fibs, they tell me- but he really means well and he intends to fix things and, above all, he has a plan.

Let me assure you Americans- he has NO PLAN. There is no plan for the mess we’re living in- unless he is cunningly using the Chaos Theory as a basis for his Iraq plan. Things in Iraq are a mess and there is the sense that the people in Washington don’t know what they’re doing, and their puppets in Iraq know even less. The name of the game now in Iraq is naked aggression- it hasn’t been about hearts and minds since complete areas began to revolt. His Iraq plan may be summarized with the Iraqi colloquial saying, “A’athreh ib dafra”, which can be roughly translated to ‘a stumble and a kick’. In other words, what will happen, will happen and hopefully- with a stumble and a kick- things will move in the right direction.

So is Kerry going to be much better? I don’t know. I don’t know if he’s going to fix things or if he’s going to pull out the troops, or bring more in. I have my doubts about how he will handle the current catastrophe in Iraq. I do know this: nothing can be worse than Bush. No one can be worse than Bush. It will hardly be fair to any president after Bush in any case- it's like assigning a new captain to a drowning ship. All I know is that Bush made the hole and let the water in, I want him thrown overboard.
I guess what I’m trying to say is this: Americans, the name of your country which once stood for ‘freedom and justice’ is tarnished worldwide. Your latest president has proved that the great American image of democracy is just that- an image. You can protest, you can demonstrate, you can vote- but it ends there. The reigns were out of your hands the moment Bush stepped into the White House. You were deceived repetitively and duped into two wars. Your sons and daughters are dying, and killing, in foreign lands. Your embassies are in danger all over the world. ‘America’ has become synonymous with ‘empire’, ‘hegemony’, and ‘warfare’. And why? All because you needed to be diverted away from the fact that your current president is a failure.

Some people associate the decision to go to war as a ‘strength’. How strong do you need to be to commit thousands of your countrymen and women to death on foreign soil? Especially while you and your loved ones sit safely watching at home. How strong do you need to be to give orders to bomb cities to rubble and use the most advanced military technology available against a country with a weak army and crumbling infrastructure? You don’t need to be strong- you need to be mad.

Americans- can things be worse for you? Can things be worse for us in Iraq? Of course they can… only imagine- four more years of Bush.

The Sage talked tonight to an election supervisor who said early voting results in Dallas County are running 48% Bush - 44% Kerry.

THIS IS TEXAS, REPUBLICAN TEXAS. Neither candidate has even bothered to campaign here, and Kerry/Edwards bumper stickers/signs/pins are so rare they cause a commotion (remember the guy who was so excited to see my sticker that he nearly drove me off the road?). And the number of early voters has been huge. Youngest daughter stood in line two hours today to vote for the first time.

This election is going to surprise everyone. Remember, I said it a week ago: Kerry by four.

Billmon's back, and must be read.

Friday, October 29


Sometimes I feel like I'm living in a bad movie:

Politics: I Pledge Allegiance

The following fascist display is brought to you by the Bush-Cheney campaign:

"I want you to stand, raise your right hands," and recite "the Bush Pledge," said Florida state Sen. Ken Pruitt. The assembled mass of about 2,000 in this Treasure Coast town about an hour north of West Palm Beach dutifully rose, arms aloft, and repeated after Pruitt: "I care about freedom and liberty. I care about my family. I care about my country. Because I care, I promise to work hard to re-elect, re-elect George W. Bush as president of the United States."

This Bush Pledge is really taking this whole loyalty oath garbage a bit too far. First, only pledged supporters or fundraisers were allowed to see Bush or Cheney on the campaign trail. Now, a publicly uttered oath. I'm not sure what country we're living in anymore. This is scary, scary stuff.


Cable TV news is going crazy about the new Osama bin Laden tape. Is this supposed to scare us into voting for Furious George? Why, I ask? We have 300,000,000 people, trillion-dollar revenues, the most formidable military organization in the world, and we're supposed to shiver like at a Halloween movie monster who darts from cave to cave and depends on his dialysis machine to keep making tapes?

We're Americans. We've got too much guts, history, resources and chutzpah to cower at the specter of a techno-sophisticate shaman.

Don't we?

Being horribly sick with the flu, I've been forced to watch (because our Internet connection was down for two days) a lot of television (my vision was blurred, so reading was not a pleasurable experience). Caught a cable showing of John Grisham's A Time To Kill, which was my first Grisham read, now seemingly long ago.

I confess to loving police procedurals and true-crime novels. The Sage, who thinks they're depressing, nonetheless appreciates the novels of his old school chum Scott Turow (The Sage was sports editor of their high school newspaper when Turow was managing editor). But Grisham, I protest, is often a neat read, especially because he writes about The South, my home turf.

Seeing the film's ending again, where defense attorney Matthew McConaghey asks the jury to imagine not a little black girl, but a blonde blue-eyed girlchild being assaulted by three men who not only rape her but hang her and then toss her supposedly lifeless body into a dump, I suddenly thought, "What if American voters imagined some unnamed Democrat doing -------- (promoting choice, like Schwarzeneggar, Giuliani, and Pataki; criticizing the troops, as did Giuliani; revealing the name of a covert CIA agent, as did Republican/conservative pundit Robert Novak from administration sources; I'm too sick to go on (so many things sprang to mind)?"

Is there any real question on who's compromising their "deeply held beliefs" in order to retain power?

In the category of some-call-it-cool-but-you-decide, here's an incredibly neat (my decision) clock.


Awesome interview with Big Paul (Krugman) and good advice for President John Kerry:

TO: The day after the election, what’s the column if Kerry wins?

PK: Do not be magnanimous in victory. I hope the people around him understand that this is not politics as we know it. It’s not, “OK, well, we won an election. After the election we’ll get together and work in a bipartisan way to help the country.” They didn’t work in a bipartisan way when the United States was attacked. They immediately saw it as a way to achieve political dominance. Kerry has got to understand that he has a window of opportunity to expose what’s going on and to rock these people back to the point where we can try to reclaim the normal workings of democracy. Unless there’s a true miracle and the Democrats take the House—which is extremely unlikely—it’s going to be very bitter political civil war from Day One. The House leadership will try to undermine Kerry. I’m sure they’ll try to impeach him almost immediately. On anything.

We can go on and on about Tom DeLay, but the point is Tom DeLay is not an aberrant thing. He’s not an accident. The whole thrust of where we’ve been going for a couple of decades in this country has been towards putting someone like Tom DeLay in a position of great power. So, my column to Kerry, my open letter to him if he wins, will be: Do not be magnanimous. You need to expose and dismantle this machine.
TO: In writing about the cult of personality surrounding the president, you mention the 27 photographs of him that appear in the 2005 Budget.
PK: I actually went to check and looked at a budget from the Clinton years. It’s a rather dry-looking thing with charts and tables. The Bush budget is very much short on charts and tables–it’s better not to think about what would be in them. But it has these themes, uplifting themes of various kinds and each of them is illustrated with multiple glossy color photos of Bush doing presidential-type things. Obviously you see him standing in front of a giant American flag talking about homeland security, but you also see him hiking along a mountain trail, comforting the elderly, helping children learn how to read. It really does look like something from a Communist country. You know, I joked when I wrote about it that they forgot the photo of him swimming the Yangtze River. It’s very un-American, but it fits in with Operation Flight Suit—that kind of stagecraft, that glorification of the individual leader. What I wrote at the time of the carrier landing is that in the American tradition, the president is a civilian—even if he’s a former general. The president does not appear in uniform; he’s not a generalísimo; he’s not a hero. That’s why the Constitution says the president is the commander-in-chief: to make it very clear that civilian authority, not military, runs the country. And then here we are doing these things that are really something that you would expect to see in a banana republic.

TO: What’s the column if Bush wins?
PK: I don’t really want to think about that. The problem is there are different ways he could win, too.

TO: Jimmy Carter has already written an op-ed in The Washington Post saying that the basic international conditions for a fair election are not there in Florida.
PK: We’re within inches of having most of the world, actually all of the world, and quite a few Americans, believing that we’re no longer a functioning democracy. That could happen a month from now. Moderates and liberals made a terrible mistake in 2000. Their attitude was well, this was very bad, but the right thing to do was to basically gloss over it and pretend it’s okay. That just encouraged these guys. It should have been a mobilizing point. Instead, everything we really know about the voting looks worse this year…. Sometimes it’s a little soothing to read history. I have developed a big taste for the novels of Alan Furst, who writes these historical thrillers set in the thirties and forties in Europe. I think the very darkness of it—the fact that we know that it all came out okay, makes you sort of feel better. The other book I read in the last couple of weeks was Rubicon, a new, rather well-written story about the fall of the Roman republic. You find yourself doing that sort of thing. Me and Robert Byrd.


Amy Sullivan is, as usual, spot-on when she reviews the candidates and their use of religion/faith in the presidential race:

The Bible is replete with warnings to beware of those who wear their religion on their sleeve: "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men," says Jesus (Matthew 6:5).

Instead, voters need to know whether a politician’s actions match the religious values they profess - whether, in other words, they walk the walk in addition to talking the talk. And it is on this point that the two presidential campaigns have provided distinct models this year.

ALTHOUGH BUSH has, over the course of his time in the White House, proven himself adept at evocative, under-the-radar uses of religious language and imagery, his second presidential campaign has been anything but subtle. During a fall campaign stop in Michigan, Bush was introduced by a young man who led the crowd in prayer, declaring that they were "gathered to lift high the name of Jesus Christ" and praising God for the election of Bush. ("We know you appointed him to the position.") Some of Bush’s supporters have argued that he is superior to Kerry precisely because of his born-again experience. In attacks that carry undertones of anti-Catholicism, both Zell Miller and conservative adviser Marvin Olasky have claimed that Kerry lacks the "spiritual support" Bush has because, as a Catholic, he has never rededicated his life to God.
The implication of all of this, of course, is that Bush has the endorsement of God and is, by extension, infallible. While once conservatives argued that opposition to Bush’s policies was tantamount to treason, under this logic opposition to the president becomes heresy. If you’re not with us, you’re not just against us, you’re against God.
Kerry and his campaign have used religion to critique Bush’s record and policies in a manner that is unprecedented in recent American politics. A candidate who runs on religion, they suggest, must be prepared to be judged by religious standards. "What good is it, my brothers," Kerry asks audiences, quoting James 2:14, "if a man claims to have faith, but has no deeds?" It’s a short leap from that jab to an evaluation of how Bush’s rhetoric matches up against his accomplishments on issues from the environment to faith-based initiatives to anti-poverty efforts. In a September address to the National Baptist Convention, Kerry used the parable of the Good Samaritan to highlight Bush’s abandonment of social policy programs, casting Bush as the Levite who avoided helping the man who lay by the side of the road. For four years, charged Kerry, Bush has "seen people in need, but he’s crossed over to the other side of the street."

No one could have anticipated that Kerry would end up playing the role of prophet to Bush’s Pharisee, but the senator has spent much of the year calling out the president for his explicit appropriation of religion. One of the biggest crowd-pleasing lines in Kerry’s acceptance speech was the retelling of a story about Abraham Lincoln in which some ministers asked him to pray with them that God was on their side. "As Abraham Lincoln told us," Kerry said, "I want to pray humbly that we are on God’s side." The "pray humbly" part was an addition by Kerry that underscored the frustration many voters feel with Bush’s solid confidence that he is doing God’s will. It’s a sentiment that can be found even around the president’s own office. "I think you have to wonder when people are so sure they know what God wants them to do," a White House aide recently told me. "I just want to ask them, ‘Really? God told you that? That’s amazing.’ Because God seems like a pretty busy guy to me."

Politicians should be careful about claiming divine endorsement in electoral contests, and American voters should follow this closely. Because in this country we shouldn’t elect presidents (or any other official, for that matter) based on how many Christian rock stars they can line up on a stage, or whether televangelists call the election for them based on "talks" with God, or if they claim their unofficial running mate is Jesus Christ. Any politician who appeals to voters in that way is more than likely trying to deflect attention from their actual record, from what they have done. But talking the God-talk is no replacement for walking the walk.


Think that sounds alarmist? Well, when did you ever know BushCo to champion regulation of any sort as opposed to privatization and increased opportunity for corporate profits? Getting suspicious now? Read this important article, which contains great insight into the Bush administration's true agenda behind the No Child Left Behind Act. It's not the first time (but pray God it's the last time they'll have the opportunity!) the Bushies have pulled the wool over trusting Democrats' eyes.

There's so much more than I've included. Mothers and fathers of America, read the whole thing:

A grim conspiracy theory, starting with the destruction of public education

Before the Bush regime destroys public education, you'd better hit the books.

The latest crack in the facade of the No Child Left Behind Act just became visible in Philadelphia, where the Inquirer reported that "school accountability gains that Pennsylvania education officials lauded resulted from lower standards, not improved performance."

Educators are caught in a bind: The new federal "standards" are impossibly high, even for good schools, and especially because the Bush regime and its pals in Congress didn't provide the funding for the new law's massive revamping and retooling. Schools that "fail" are in danger of being converted to charter status.

As we've said before, Bush's vaunted No Child Left Behind maneuvers are designed to suffocate public schools. In the '80s era, neocons tried to do it by calling for the abolishment of the U.S. Department of Education—Ronald Reagan himself promised to abolish it. (For background, read this PBS piece from 1996.) Now they're smarter and are drilling holes in the foundation of public education from within.

It's a beautiful union-busting maneuver. The two main groups of unionized workers left in the U.S. are teachers and government employees. If the conservative cabal can privatize in those sectors, America's labor movement, already laboring, will be on death's door as far as political power goes.
The Goodmans insist that the No Child Left Behind Act "does not have good intentions," adding:

"It is a major part of a sustained campaign being waged to transform American education from one in which almost all our children and young people attend common, neighborhood schools administered by an elected board of concerned citizens of each community under state laws, into a system which more closely matches the system of third world nations."


The worst GOP nightmares are coming true.

But Tony Fabrizio, a Republican who served as chief pollster for Bob Dole's '96 presidential campaign, doesn't have much incentive to game the numbers to hearten anxious Democrats. And if his latest analysis is correct, the only way Bush can win will be if fewer minorities turn out this year than they did in 2000, when the stakes were far lower.

Fabrizio's latest poll of 12 battleground states shows the race dead even, with Bush getting 47.3 percent and Kerry getting 47.1. But a press release for the survey says: "[W]hen the data is weighted to reflect minority turnout based on the 2000 exit polls, Sen. Kerry leads by 3.5 percent and if minority turnout is weighted to census levels Sen. Kerry's lead expands to 5.2 percent."

"It is clear that minority turnout is a wildcard in this race and represents a huge upside for Sen. Kerry and a considerable challenge for the President's campaign," Fabrizio is quoted saying. "If one assumes minority turnout exceeds their 2000 election levels, then it appears a number of these states would tip to Sen. Kerry."


Furious George lies and cheats just as he did when he was younger. NASA photo analyst says Bush bulge not caused by wrinkled clothing:

George W. Bush tried to laugh off the bulge. "I don't know what that is," he said on "Good Morning America" on Wednesday, referring to the infamous protrusion beneath his jacket during the presidential debates. "I'm embarrassed to say it's a poorly tailored shirt."

Dr. Robert M. Nelson, however, was not laughing. He knew the president was not telling the truth. And Nelson is neither conspiracy theorist nor midnight blogger. He's a senior research scientist for NASA and for Caltech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and an international authority on image analysis. Currently he's engrossed in analyzing digital photos of Saturn's moon Titan, determining its shape, whether it contains craters or canyons.

For the past week, while at home, using his own computers, and off the clock at Caltech and NASA, Nelson has been analyzing images of the president's back during the debates. A professional physicist and photo analyst for more than 30 years, he speaks earnestly and thoughtfully about his subject. "I am willing to stake my scientific reputation to the statement that Bush was wearing something under his jacket during the debate," he says. "This is not about a bad suit. And there's no way the bulge can be described as a wrinkled shirt."

In the enhanced photo of the first debate, Nelson says, look at the horizontal white line in middle of the president's back. You'll see a shadow. "That's telling me there's definitely a bulge," he says. "In fact, it's how we measure the depths of the craters on the moon or on Mars. We look at the angle of the light and the length of shadow they leave. In this case, that's clearly a crater that's under the horizontal line -- it's clearly a rim of a bulge protruding upward, one due to forces pushing it up from beneath."

Hapke, too, agrees that the bulge is neither anatomy nor a wrinkled shirt. "I would think it's very hard to avoid the conclusion that there's something underneath his jacket," he says. "It would certainly be consistent with some kind of radio receiver and a wire."

Nelson admits that he's a Democrat and plans to vote for John Kerry. But he takes umbrage at being accused of partisanship. "Everyone wants to think my colleague and I are just a bunch of dope-crazed ravaged Democrats who are looking to insult the president at the last minute," he says. "And that's not what this is about. This is scientific analysis. If the bulge were on Bill Clinton's back and he was lying about it, I'd have to say the same thing."

"Look, he says, "I'm putting myself at risk for exposing this. But this is too important. It's not about my reputation. If they force me into an early retirement, it'll be worth it if the public knows about this. It's outrageous statements that I read that the president is wearing nothing under there. There's clearly something there."

100,000 Iraqi civilians dead, says study

That's the ultimate "liberation."

About 100,000 Iraqi civilians - half of them women and children - have died in Iraq since the invasion, mostly as a result of airstrikes by coalition forces, according to the first reliable study of the death toll from Iraqi and US public health experts.
The study, which was carried out in 33 randomly-chosen neighbourhoods of Iraq representative of the entire population, shows that violence is now the leading cause of death in Iraq. Before the invasion, most people died of heart attacks, stroke and chronic illness. The risk of a violent death is now 58 times higher than it was before the invasion.

Last night the Lancet medical journal fast-tracked the survey to publication on its website after rapid, but extensive peer review and editing because, said Lancet editor Richard Horton, "of its importance to the evolving security situation in Iraq". But the findings raised important questions also for the governments of the United Sates and Britain who, said Dr Horton in a commentary, "must have considered the likely effects of their actions for civilians".
"US General Tommy Franks is widely quoted as saying 'we don't do body counts'," they write, but occupying armies have responsibilities under the Geneva convention." This survey shows that with modest funds, four weeks and seven Iraqi team members willing to risk their lives, a useful measure of civilan deaths could be obtained."

Thursday, October 28


Woa. I love our young people. Read this and be revitalized.

I am a 21-year-old African-American/loyal Salon reader/ frequent writer to you. Although I love you all a lot and, like you (assuming so), I am a liberal, I just feel I have to scream at you for a bit. Almost two weeks ago, I sent a letter to you guys telling you how the new Eminem song "Mosh" has many young'ns riled up, angry, motivated and against Bush. Now 10 days or so later, not only you guys but many publications are up on it. My point? Maybe you guys should listen more to us young'ns, maybe have a young person consultant of sorts. After all, we will decide this election, as I will point out later in this letter.

First, let me just say prepare for the death of polls, as that will be the dominant story coming out of election night. First blacks. I saw Ann Coulter on some show where she was literally speaking for black America. Being that she is an aging white chick with poorly dyed roots, she obviously got it wrong. Those polls saying how Bush will get 16 to 18 percent of the black vote are just wrong. To quote ODB, "Nigga please." Since black people aren't really polled, here is a bit of insight. Although we aren't that excited about Kerry, he has nothing to worry about with the African-American community. We as a whole don't like Bush, period. Yes, Democrats take us for granted and regardless of which party, we are at the bottom of the totem poll, but we realize that Democrats talk to us, try with us, are down with us, and give us a seat at the table. We are gamed to what the GOP do, or rather don't do for us."
ext, us young'ns. We aren't as stupid as people think. Simply put, we are in Iraq fighting or we know someone there, we have no health insurance, no jobs, and are generally pro-human rights (not for the gay marriage amendment, PATRIOT Act, etc.). We aren't going to vote for Bush, period. Kerry will take about 70 percent of the young vote. I am predicting, collectively there will at least 20 million more voters from these two groups, young'ns and blacks. You maybe think "yeah the fuck right" -- but trust me. On average 30 percent of African-Americans vote. Expect a minimum of 50 percent this time, maybe close to double. That is anywhere between 7 to 9 million more blacks voting. Young'ns will have a similar margin. Again, we at most vote at a 40 percent rate. Young'ns will easily double their numbers, going from 18 million to about 36 million.
Just to save space and time: Kerry wins Arkansas, New Mexico, Ohio, Florida, N. Hampshire, and Penn. He may lose Iowa, as I really don't know much about that state. Kerry wins nationally in a blowout. Election night is over as central time zone states finish reporting. Why? Because of blacks and young'ns. Bush's people know this, as their strategy is to turn out their base while suppressing our base ... fuckers.

I ask that in the future that you at least take in more opinions from us young'ns and Afro Americans.


OK, work buddies who devour the conservative British Economist, read this.

Britain's Economist magazine, a weekly publication which says it has a U.S. readership of 400,000, is urging its American readers to vote for Democratic Party candidate John Kerry at the Nov. 2 presidential polls.
``It was a difficult call, given that we endorsed George Bush in 2000 and supported the war in Iraq,'' Economist editor Bill Emmott, who wrote the editorial backing Kerry, said in a pre- publication e-mail. ``In the end we felt he has been too incompetent to deserve re-election.''

Kerry, a Vietnam veteran who is the Democratic Senator for Massachusetts, has already been endorsed by the New York Times, the Washington Post, Financial Times and New Yorker magazine, the first time in the publication's 80-year history that it's taken a position on a candidate. Opinion polls in recent days show the two men tied in the race for the White House.

The Economist said Bush's presidency had to be judged against the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and it said his record in the three years after the attacks had been inspiring and disturbing, the Economist said.

The magazine said Bush's credibility had been undermined by events at Guantanamo Bay, what it called the ``sheer incompetence and hubristic thinking'' evident in the handling of postwar Iraq, and the prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.

``America needs a president capable of admitting to mistakes, and of learning from them,'' Emmott wrote. ``Mr. Bush has steadfastly refused to admit to anything.''

Given that U.S. presidents should be chosen for their character, leadership qualities and ability to deal with crises, Kerry's apparent oscillation on some issues is a worry, the Economist said. On the other hand, his qualities as a naval officer during combat in Vietnam, the determination he showed in speaking out against that war on his return, and his reputation as a strong finisher in political races made him a strong candidate, the magazine concluded.


Oh Florida, my Florida. Remember me? My family are fifth-generation Floridians. We still have pictures of Granddaddy (Captain, USAF, Retired) wrestling alligators. We (72 of us) went to FSU. Bobby Bowden was a pallbearer at Uncle Jimmy's funeral. I was Jeannie-With-The-Light-Brown-Hair of 19-- and Miss Florida Seafood of 19--. My sister Linda was the best teacher at XXX County High School three years running. Great-granddaddy was the first doctor in Defuniak Springs. Cousin Steve was the cop who finally caught Ted Bundy (in Tallahassee). The Sage and I had two aides to Florida Governor Reubin Askew as groomsmen at our wedding.

We may live in Texas, but most of those I love (except The Sage and four of our five offspring, and The Sage's twin and his wife and kids, who live in Arkansas, and The Sage's mom, who lives in Waco, and my niece and nephew and kids, who live in Seattle...oh well, make it "many of those I love most") still live there. It's Home, and we visit as often as we can. In fact, we have three homes: Florida, my "ancestral" home and with such a wonderful heritage and such a loving extended family a great draw to our children (even they consider it "home," and our oldest has settled there with his own family); Texas, where we have lived for 20 years and raised our children, becoming a part of the community in ways we never imagined; and Arkansas, the land of our dreams, where we lived for 10 years as a young family so happily that we will forever be grateful to the people there and lift them up in our prayers.

So having said all that, I return to the land of my birth, youth and eduation: Postal Experts Look For Missing Ballots in Florida.

U.S. Postal Service investigators on Wednesday were trying to find thousands of absentee ballots that should have been delivered to voters in one of Florida's most populous counties, officials said.
U.S. Postal Service Inspector Del Alvarez, whose federal agency is independent from the U.S. Postal Service, said it had yet to be determined if the ballots reached the post office.

"It's highly unlikely that 58,000 pieces of mail just disappeared," he said. "We're looking for it, we're trying to find it if in fact it was ever delivered to the postal service."


From Eric Alterman, our "Quote of the Day":

The most pro-Bush, he said, are the foreign extremists.  "They prefer Bush, because he's a provocative figure, and the more they can push people to the extreme, the better for their case.
-Mowafaq al-Tai a London-educated architect and intellectual, on  different types of resistance fighters’ views of the U.S. election.

The Sage and I keep marveling lately that it seems like we're part of a very tiny remnant of passivist-activists from the late sixties and early seventies that haven't forgotten what the world was like during those years of crisis. Hey, I belonged to a sorority, and The Sage was not only an athlete but a cheerleader and a fraternity man, but we marched, we sat-in, we slept-in, we READ -- even our more conventional sisters/brothers knew the basic tenets of Mao and had thought through and discussed endlessly at late-night college bull sessions the justifications pro- and anti- the Vietnam War, the draft, civil rights, God, Christ, peace, the distribution of wealth, drug policy, abortion, women's rights, the environment, economic parity, trade policy. Everyone had a copy of The Whole Earth Catalog and everyone had read The Greening of America, The Medium Is The Message, Autobiography of a Yogi, Quotations from Chairman Mao (or had read enough Cliff Notes to pretend), and/or anything by any member of the Chicago 8.

We all knew about the Weather Underground and as time progressed and we aged and were mainstreamed into American life, we learned about Red October, the Baader-Meinhoff Gang, and other terrorist organizations. So many of these groups caused horrific loss of life and shocked our national, and our world, consciousness. And what we knew both from our college-days reading and experience, and from our now-adult-world information, was that what all of these groups, indeed nearly all violently revolutionary groups from the beginning of time, aim to do is to so radicalize their enemy as to cause it to suppress the native populace until they cry out for "liberation" and take to the streets in violent protest. At that time, so the theory goes, the well-organized and -prepared revolutionary cadre steps in to provide security and a "democratic" solution for the chaotic situation.

Everything we've seen since 9/11, indeed since the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, is like deja vu for people like me and The Sage. What bewilders us is the reaction of our countrymen. Instead of standing defiant ("You won't change us a lick by your murdering threats!") and releasing all our considerable resources against a band of thugs (to call it "war" against Al Qaeda is to elevate them in their recruits' eyes and in world opinion -- always a bad public relations move against an enemy), we overreacted and gave them everything they wanted, restrictions on our civil liberties and the arousal of suspicion and fear among our people being among the foremost. Of course, what bin Laden couldn't do (wreak havoc upon the American economy, splinter and overextend our military, polarize our citizenry, gain sympathy for the Islamofascist movement among the peoples of the world) Bush did for him.


Poor Tom Friedman. He had such hopes for a creative solution to the Middle East crisis that he hung on to Bush for as long as hope was able to triumph over reason. He's given up on that now.

How do we begin to repair this jagged hole? There is no cure-all, but three big things would help. One is a different U.S. approach to the world. The Bush-Cheney team bears a big responsibility for this hole because it nakedly exploited 9/11 to push a far-right Republican agenda, domestically and globally, for which it had no mandate. When U.S. policy makes such a profound lurch to the right, when we start exporting fear instead of hope, the whole center of gravity of the world is affected. Countries reposition themselves in relation to us.

Had the administration been more competent in pursuing its policies in Iraq - which can still turn out decently - the hole in the heart of the world might not have gotten so large and jagged.

I have been struck by how many foreign dignitaries have begged me lately for news that Bush will lose. This Bush team has made itself so radioactive it glows in the dark. When the world liked Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, America had more power in the world. When much of the world detests George Bush, America has less power. People do not want to be seen standing next to us. It doesn't mean we should run our foreign policy as a popularity contest, but it does mean that leading is not just about making decisions - it's also the ability to communicate, follow through and persuade.

If the Bush team wins re-election, unless it undergoes a policy lobotomy and changes course and tone, the breach between America and the rest of the world will only get larger. But all Mr. Bush and Dick Cheney have told us during this campaign is that they have made no mistakes and see no reason to change.


Link here.

The Bush administration is trying to stifle scientific evidence of the dangers of global warming in an effort to keep the public uninformed, a NASA scientist said Tuesday night.

“In my more than three decades in government, I have never seen anything approaching the degree to which information flow from scientists to the public has been screened and controlled as it is now,” James Hansen told a University of Iowa audience.

Hansen is director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York and has twice briefed a task force headed by Vice President Dick Cheney on global warming. He was also one of the first government scientists tasked with briefing congressional committees on the dangers of global warming, testifying as far back as the 1980s.

Hansen said the administration wants to hear only scientific results that “fit predetermined, inflexible positions.” Evidence that would raise concerns about the dangers of climate change is often dismissed as not being of sufficient interest to the public.

“This, I believe, is a recipe for environmental disaster.”
[emphasis mine]


"I don't especialy care about the Democrats; I care about this country."

The mess is such that Kerry, if he wins, is likely to have to make rapid decisions that will make enemies and disillusion some. You could, in fact, make a powerful case that the best thing that could happen to the Democratic Party would be to have Dubya narrowly re-elected next week.

So monumental are the looming disasters that the Democrats would be a cinch to win both houses of Congress two years from now, and then reclaim the presidency, possibly with John Edwards as the candidate, in two years more.

But I don’t especially care about the Democrats; I care about this country. George W. Bush has been a disaster in nearly every way, and a second term would be disaster beyond belief for this nation.

It’s not so much that the man’s policies are ridiculously and dangerously wrongheaded, although they are. It isn’t even that he’d be in a position to do far more damage to our rights and liberties for decades by naming a bunch of new Supreme Court justices, although that is a hugely legitimate fear.

What’s most frightening about George W. Bush is his seemingly total inability to admit error, let alone change course. Asked repeatedly during press conferences and during a debate to name a mistake he has made, he refused.

Worse, he seems to think any admission of error is a weakness. Whether this is because of his own insecurity or, ominously, because he thinks that God talks directly to him, that’s a potential prescription for the end of the world.

This column doesn’t contain enough space to recite all the appalling deeds of the Bush administration...


Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles) says that an FDA insider contacted him and informed him that the FDA is withholding data relating to the flu vaccine shortage until after the election.

"After the election" is becoming quite a date, isn't it? Can't wait for all the news that will break then --


The CIA declines to back up White House assertions that the Iraq war has made America "safer."

In an internal memorandum sent to the White House in August, the C.I.A. declined to take a position on whether overthrowing Saddam Hussein had made America "safer," the officials said. Spokesmen for the C.I.A. and the White House said that stance reflected the agency's unwillingness to become involved in policy judgments.

But in that memorandum, administration officials acknowledged, the agency proposed "factual corrections" to assertions included in a draft fact sheet prepared by the White House titled "America Is Safer Without Saddam Hussein."

The assertions to which the C.I.A. recommended changes were included under headings that described Mr. Hussein as "a major obstacle" to political reform in the Middle East and said he "maintained ties to terrorists and terrorist organizations."

The agency's comments about a draft White House fact sheet were described by current and former counterterrorism officials and confirmed by an administration official. They reflected what counterterrorism officials say is a continuing debate among intelligence officials, with some senior analysts within the C.I.A.'s Counterterrorism Center arguing that the invasion of Iraq has helped to fuel Islamic terrorism by inflaming anti-American sentiment.

This picture needs to be shown to every voter in the United States. This does not look like Bush patting a little girl on the head. This looks very much like (if you're not familiar with charismatic Christian rituals) Furious George laying on hands for healing, or to call out a demon.

Anyone think that maybe W's Messianic complex is getting worse?


What's this all about? Black boxes from the 9/11 jeliners WERE found? So who's lying, and why?

Two men who worked extensively in the wreckage of the World Trade Center claim they helped federal agents find three of the four “black boxes” from the jetliners that struck the towers on 9/11 - contradicting the official account.

Both the independent 9/11 Commission and federal authorities continue to insist that none of the four devices - a cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and flight data recorder (FDR) from the two planes - were ever found in the wreckage.

But New York City firefighter Nicholas DeMasi has written in a recent book -- self-published by several Ground Zero workers -- that he escorted federal agents on an all-terrain vehicle in October 2001 and helped them locate three of the four.

His account is supported by a volunteer, Mike Bellone, whose efforts at Ground Zero have been chronicled in the New York Times and elsewhere. Bellone said assisted DeMasi and the agents and that saw a device that resembling a “black box” in the back of the firefighter’s ATV.

Their story raises the question of whether there was a some type of cover-up at Ground Zero. Federal aviation officials - blaming the massive devastation - have said the World Trade Center attacks seem to be the only major jetliner crashes in which the critical devices were never located.

A footnote to the 9/11 Commission Report issued this summer flatly states: “The CVRs and FDRs from American 11 and United 175” - the two planes that hit the Trade Center - “were not found.”

And officials for the FBI - which oversaw the cleanup at Ground Zero - and the New York City Fire Department repeated this week that the devices were never recovered.

The “black boxes” - actually orange - could have provided valuable new information about the worst terror attack to ever take place on American soil.


Well, well, well. It looks like the spin cycle might be ending.

THE PROOF IS IN. It looks like the final blow to the official spin on Al Qaqaa will be dealt by KSTP, a local ABC affiliate out of Minneapolis, which via Laura Rozen has the explosives on tape. The station had a crew embedded with the 101st Airborne during their visit to Al Qaqaa:

There were what appeared to be fuses for bombs. They also found bags of material men from the 101st couldn't identify, but box after box was clearly marked "explosive."

In one bunker, there were boxes marked with the name "Al Qaqaa", the munitions plant where tons of explosives allegedly went missing.

Once the doors to the bunkers were opened, they weren't secured. They were left open when the 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS crew and the military went back to their base.

"We weren't quite sure what were looking at, but we saw so much of it and it didn't appear that this was being secured in any way," said photojournalist Joe Caffrey. "It was several miles away from where military people were staying in their tents".

So that's that. And to be clear, the point here is not that the soldiers in the 101st Airborne didn't do their jobs properly -- they didn't know what they were looking at, and didn't have any orders to secure the facility. The higher-ups in the chain of command, on the other hand, new exactly what was in the facility and, had they used some common sense, would have ordered it secured. But they didn't.

UPDATE: A top Iraqi science official denies that the explosives could have been moved before or during the war.

"It is impossible that these materials could have been taken from this site before the regime's fall," Mohammed al-Sharaa, who heads the Science Ministry's site monitoring department, said.
"The officials that were inside this facility (Al-Qaqaa) beforehand confirm that not even a shred of paper left it before the fall.

"I spoke to them about it and they even issued certified statements to this effect which the US-led coalition was aware of."

Mr Sharaa also warns that other nearby sites with similar materials could have also been plundered.

CBS News (radio) just announced that 56% of the votes cast so far in Florida have been for Kerry.

Interesting thing about coming back to work after three days with the flu -- a number of so-called Bush supporters seem to want reassurances from me that he won't win. I think with several of them, they want credit for supporting a Texan, a Republican, and someone with "conservative values" (???) but are truly scared to death that we might actually have to suffer another four years of bad government.

Let's pray and hope that others feel the same way when they enter the voting booth.

Two years before 9/11, candidate Bush was already talking privately about attacking Iraq

Well, we already knew this, didn't we?

wo years before the September 11 attacks, presidential candidate George W. Bush was already talking privately about the political benefits of attacking Iraq, according to his former ghost writer, who held many conversations with then-Texas Governor Bush in preparation for a planned autobiography.

“He was thinking about invading Iraq in 1999,” said author and journalist Mickey Herskowitz. “It was on his mind. He said to me: ‘One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief.’ And he said, ‘My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it.’ He said, ‘If I have a chance to invade….if I had that much capital, I’m not going to waste it. I’m going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I’m going to have a successful presidency.”

Herskowitz said that Bush expressed frustration at a lifetime as an underachiever in the shadow of an accomplished father. In aggressive military action, he saw the opportunity to emerge from his father’s shadow. The moment, Herskowitz said, came in the wake of the September 11 attacks. “Suddenly, he’s at 91 percent in the polls, and he’d barely crawled out of the bunker.”

That President Bush and his advisers had Iraq on their minds long before weapons inspectors had finished their work – and long before alleged Iraqi ties with terrorists became a central rationale for war – has been raised elsewhere, including in a book based on recollections of former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill. However, Herskowitz was in a unique position to hear Bush’s unguarded and unfiltered views on Iraq, war and other matters – well before he became president.

Wednesday, October 27

Fun with Rhymes

This is a fun re-working of Dr. Suess that I found on Matthew Ryan's website. Check it out. And if you haven't, you should check out his music - it is awesome. Just ask Silmarill.

Monday, October 25

List of endorsements for Kerry. This is responsible America speaking.

Sick. Flu. 'nough said?

Sunday, October 24

"Huge Cache of Explosives Vanished From Site in Iraq"

Now THIS is what I'd call an "October surprise."

UPDATE: Josh Marshall has much more. Apparently, not only did we fail to secure huge amounts of explosives after the invasion, explosives that are even now probably being used against our troops and innocent Iraqis, we've known for more than a year that they were gone, but suppressed the information for political reasons:

It is apparently widely believed within the US government that those looted explosives are what in many, perhaps most, cases is being used in car bombs and suicide attacks against US troops. That is, according to TPM sources and sources quoted in this evening's Nelson Report, where the story first broke.

One administration official told Nelson, "This is the stuff the bad guys have been using to kill our troops, so you can’t ignore the political implications of this, and you would be correct to suspect that politics, or the fear of politics, played a major role in delaying the release of this information."
When the US was still the occupying power in Iraq, we didn't inform the IAEA.

And once Iraqis were in semi-control over the reporting process and now under de jure control, with the reestablishment of a nominally sovereign Iraqi government, the US continued to order the Iraqis not to report the theft of the explosives to the IAEA.

There are a number of reasons why you can imagine the White House and the civilians at the Pentagon wouldn't want to inform the IAEA. But one pretty clear one is that letting the IAEA find out would pretty clearly mean that the American public would find out what a major league screw-up the president and his advisors had allowed to happen.

Only a couple weeks ago did the Iraqis finally report the theft to the IAEA. And from there it was only a matter of time till the yearlong cover-up started to unravel.
As another administration source told Nelson, "What the hell were WE doing in the year and a half from the time we knew the stuff was gone, is obviously a huge question, and you can imagine why no one [in the Administration] wants to face up to it, certainly not before the election."

Another told Nelson, "You would be correct to suspect that politics, or the fear of politics, played a major role in delaying the release of this information."

It's a story that really brings together the adminstration's two cardinal sins: dishonesty and incompetence.

And what other stories are they trying to push back until after November 2nd?


The right-wing blogs are buzzing about some big surprise, some dirt on Kerry, will be shoveled out tomorrow by the Washington (Moonie) Times. I'm going to take a guess at what it is.

I've long been surprised that the Repugs haven't had some surrogate beat up Kerry because of his divorce from (at the time) Julia Thorne, a deeply depressed woman. His subsequent annulment of the marriage in order to marry Teresa Heinz caused some ripples at the time, with charges that he was making "bastards" out of his daughters.

Now that the right has beaten the Mary Cheney thing to death, I'm betting that someone on their side is saying that now that Kerry's made "fair game" of the children of candidates (it was Mary Beth Cahill, of course, not Kerry, that uttered that unfortunate remark), we need for the public to see Kerry as an overly ambitious husband who chose his career over his sick wife and cast his daughters into illegitimacy.

It's old news, but I don't think much of the electorate is aware of this story, and it's rife with potential for damage to the Kerry campaign among Catholics, women and undecideds.

Of course, David Thorne, Julia's brother and Kerry's best and most loyal friend for 40+ years, would try to counter such charges, but it would certainly be awkward for him. And it would be awful for Alexandra and Vanessa Kerry. But as more and more editorials and people apply words like strength, dignity and decency to Kerry, the Repugs would surely like to muddy that image. I can't imagine what's stopped them up till now. It's certainly not due to strength, dignity or decency.

UPDATE: Kos has the scoop. I was wrong. You won't believe how feeble the real "surprise" is...Rove is truly getting desperate.


A hat tip to Corrente for this wonderful Kerry endorsement editorial in the Des Moines Register.John Kerry, The Real Thing:

National polls show the president's disapproval numbers hoving near 50 percent.
Now it is time to take the next logical step and recognize John Kerry as someone who could do better. It's time to see Kerry as the person he is, not as the caricature created in the president's campaign ads.

Kerry won the presidential debates because the man Americans saw on live television differed from the caricature. Americans saw a thoughtful, experienced, exceptionally well-informed candidate who cares deeply about his country and its people.

But Kerry, we believe, has a better chance of overcoming that anger. It is the nature of the man to listen and to respect others. He does not tend toward vindictiveness or in-your-face triumphalism. There is a dignity about him. We have watched him from early in the Iowa caucus campaign through a grueling general-election campaign in a battleground state. We have seen Kerry grow and develop in presidential qualities to the point we're confident in recommending him as a person of common sense and decency - a leader who has what it takes to bring Americans back together.


The Sage is still in shock over the Orlando Sentinel's endorsement of John Kerry. He reminds me that when he was in graduate school in journalism at Florida State U., his professor agreed with him that the Sentinel was a "conservative rag, not a newspaper." As a native Floridian, I can tell you that this is HUGE:

Four years ago, the Orlando Sentinel endorsed Republican George W. Bush for president based on our trust in him to unite America. We expected him to forge bipartisan solutions to problems while keeping this nation secure and fiscally sound.

This president has utterly failed to fulfill our expectations. We turn now to his Democratic challenger, Sen. John Kerry, with the belief that he is more likely to meet the hopes we once held for Mr. Bush.

Our choice was not dictated by partisanship. Already this election season, the Sentinel has endorsed Republican Mel Martinez for the U.S. Senate and four U.S. House Republicans. In 2002, we backed Republican Gov. Jeb Bush for re-election, repeating our endorsement of four years earlier. Indeed, it has been 40 years since the Sentinel endorsed a Democrat -- Lyndon Johnson -- for president.

But we cannot forget what we wrote in endorsing Mr. Bush in 2000: "The nation needs a leader who can bring people together, who can stand firm on principle but knows the art of compromise." Four years later, Mr. Bush presides over a bitterly divided Congress and nation. The unity following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks -- the president's finest hour -- is a memory now. Mr. Bush's inflexibility has deepened the divide.


So how did the Sinclair anti-Kerry program turn out last night? Did anyone see it?

UPDATE: Steve Soto has the scoop:

Pat yourself on the back: Sinclair caved.

After stirring up protest over its plans to broadcast a documentary critical of Senator John Kerry, the Sinclair Broadcast Group presented a program last night that gave short shrift to that film and offered instead a measured analysis of the debate over Mr. Kerry's Vietnam War record.

The hourlong special program, produced by the news department at Sinclair, a major financial supporter of Republican candidates and which regularly features conservative commentary on its newscasts, included as many backers of Mr. Kerry as critics.

Sinclair's producers seemed to go out of their way to create a balanced political collage in the special, called "A P.O.W. Story: Politics, Pressure and the Media."

Only about four minutes of Carlton Sherwood's anti-Kerry film, "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal," were included - and virtually the same amount of time was devoted to an excerpt from "Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry," a film by George Butler that presents Mr. Kerry as a war hero.

The program was apparently balanced enough to satisfy a consortium of media watchdog groups, which held a telephone news conference last night to say Sinclair had acted responsibly. It also enraged a number of conservative viewers who tuned in expecting to see a hour of attacks on Mr. Kerry.


American Conservative endorses Kerry:

Bush has behaved like a caricature of what a right-wing president is supposed to be, and his continuation in office will discredit any sort of conservatism for generations. The launching of an invasion against a country that posed no threat to the U.S., the doling out of war profits and concessions to politically favored corporations, the financing of the war by ballooning the deficit to be passed on to the nation's children, the ceaseless drive to cut taxes for those outside the middle class and working poor: it is as if Bush sought to resurrect every false 1960s-era left-wing cliche about predatory imperialism and turn it into administration policy. Add to this his nation-breaking immigration proposal--Bush has laid out a mad scheme to import immigrants to fill any job where the wage is so low that an American can't be found to do it--and you have a presidency that combines imperialist Right and open-borders Left in a uniquely noxious cocktail.
George W. Bush has come to embody a politics that is antithetical to almost any kind of thoughtful conservatism. His international policies have been based on the hopelessly naive belief that foreign peoples are eager to be liberated by American armies--a notion more grounded in Leon Trotsky's concept of global revolution than any sort of conservative statecraft. His immigration policies--temporarily put on hold while he runs for re-election--are just as extreme. A re-elected President Bush would be committed to bringing in millions of low-wage immigrants to do jobs Americans "won't do." This election is all about George W. Bush, and those issues are enough to render him unworthy of any conservative support.


Now this pisses me off. Republicans are blocking the renaming of a Minnesota VA for Paul Wellstone.


Michael Kinsley explains Teresa Kerry's taxes.


In an editorial that at some points seems a reluctant victory of good sense over emotional attachment, WaPo endorses (weakly) John Kerry for president:

On balance, though, we believe Mr. Kerry, with his promise of resoluteness tempered by wisdom and open-mindedness, has staked a stronger claim on the nation's trust to lead for the next four years.
These failings have a common source in Mr. Bush's cocksureness, his failure to seek advice from anyone outside a narrow circle and his unwillingness to expect the unexpected or adapt to new facts. These are dangerous traits in any president but especially in a wartime leader. They are matched by his failure to admit his errors or to hold senior officials accountable for theirs.
SO MR. BUSH HAS not earned a second term. But there is a second question: Has the challenger made his case? Here's why we say yes.

Mr. Kerry, like Mr. Bush, offers no plan to cope with retirement and health costs, but he promises more fiscal realism. He sensibly proposes to reverse Mr. Bush's tax cuts on the wealthiest and pledges to scale back his own spending proposals if funds don't suffice. He would seek to restore budget discipline rules that helped get deficits under control in the 1990s.

On many other issues, Mr. Kerry has the better approach.
We do not view a vote for Mr. Kerry as a vote without risks. But the risks on the other side are well known, and the strengths Mr. Kerry brings are considerable. He pledges both to fight in Iraq and to reach out to allies; to hunt down terrorists, and to engage without arrogance the Islamic world. These are the right goals, and we think Mr. Kerry is the better bet to achieve them.


Well, well, well. WaPo has an article on the same topic as the post below:

At the request of the CIA, the Justice Department drafted a confidential memo that authorizes the agency to transfer detainees out of Iraq for interrogation -- a practice that international legal specialists say contravenes the Geneva Conventions.

One intelligence official familiar with the operation said the CIA has used the March draft memo as legal support for secretly transporting as many as a dozen detainees out of Iraq in the last six months. The agency has concealed the detainees from the International Committee of the Red Cross and other authorities, the official said.
According to current and former agency officials, the CIA has a rendition policy that has permitted the agency to transfer an unknown number of suspected terrorists captured in one country into the hands of security services in other countries whose record of human rights abuse is well documented. These individuals, as well as those at CIA detention facilities, have no access to any recognized legal process or rights.
Michael Byers, a professor and international law expert at the University of British Columbia, said that creating a legal justification for removing protected persons from Iraq "is extraordinarily disturbing."

"What they are doing is interpreting an exception into an all-encompassing right, in one of the most fundamental treaties in history," Byers said. The Geneva Convention "is as close as you get to protecting human rights in times of chaos. There's no ambiguity here."


This is long, but it's a revealing look inside the workings of the post-9/11 Bush administration. As has been reported about so many other critical issues, the shrill, panicked and Cheney-pleasing voices of a small group of neocons and their youthful and relatively inexperienced minions were favored in the White House over the more reasoned, deliberative arguments raised by experienced foreign policy and military justice professionals.

But three years later, not a single terrorist has been prosecuted. Of the roughly 560 men being held at the United States naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, only 4 have been formally charged. Preliminary hearings for those suspects brought such a barrage of procedural challenges and public criticism that verdicts could still be months away. And since a Supreme Court decision in June that gave the detainees the right to challenge their imprisonment in federal court, the Pentagon has stepped up efforts to send home hundreds of men whom it once branded as dangerous terrorists.

"We've cleared whole forests of paper developing procedures for these tribunals, and no one has been tried yet," said Richard L. Shiffrin, who worked on the issue as the Pentagon's deputy general counsel for intelligence matters. "They just ended up in this Kafkaesque sort of purgatory."

The story of how Guantánamo and the new military justice system became an intractable legacy of Sept. 11 has been largely hidden from public view.

But extensive interviews with current and former officials and a review of confidential documents reveal that the legal strategy took shape as the ambition of a small core of conservative administration officials whose political influence and bureaucratic skill gave them remarkable power in the aftermath of the attacks.
Military lawyers were largely excluded from that process in the days after Sept. 11. They have since waged a long struggle to ensure that terrorist prosecutions meet what they say are basic standards of fairness. Uniformed lawyers now assigned to defend Guantánamo detainees have become among the most forceful critics of the Pentagon's own system.
In devising the new system, many officials said they had Osama bin Laden and other leaders of Al Qaeda in mind. But in picking through the hundreds of detainees at Guantánamo Bay, military investigators have struggled to find more than a dozen they can tie directly to significant terrorist acts, officials said. While important Qaeda figures have been captured and held by the C.I.A., administration officials said they were reluctant to bring those prisoners before tribunals they still consider unreliable.
"What several of us were concerned about was due process," said John A. Gordon, a retired Air Force general and former deputy C.I.A. director who served as both the senior counterterrorism official and homeland security adviser on President Bush's National Security Council staff. "There was great concern that we were setting up a process that was contrary to our own ideals."
[emphasis mine]
Mr. Yoo noted that those actions could raise constitutional issues, but said that in the face of devastating terrorist attacks, "the government may be justified in taking measures which in less troubled conditions could be seen as infringements of individual liberties." If the president decided the threat justified deploying the military inside the country, he wrote, then "we think that the Fourth Amendment
[ed. note: Constitutional rights against unreasonable search and seizure] should be no more relevant than it would be in cases of invasion or insurrection."
Military commissions, he thought, would give the government wide latitude to hold, interrogate and prosecute the sort of suspects who might be silenced by lawyers in criminal courts. They would also put the control over prosecutions squarely in the hands of the president.

The same ideas were taking hold in the office of Vice President Cheney, championed by his 44-year-old counsel, David S. Addington. At the time, Mr. Addington, a longtime Cheney aide with an indistinct portfolio and no real staff, was not well-known even in the government. But he would become legendary as a voraciously hard-working official with strongly conservative views, an unusually sharp pen and wide influence over military, intelligence and other matters. In a matter of months, he would make a mark as one of the most important architects of the administration's legal strategy against foreign terrorism.

Beyond the prosecutorial benefits of military commissions, the two lawyers saw a less tangible, but perhaps equally important advantage. "From a political standpoint," Mr. Flanigan said, "it communicated the message that we were at war, that this was not going to be business as usual."
With the White House in charge, officials said, the planning for tribunals moved forward more quickly, and more secretly. Whole agencies were left out of the discussion. So were most of the government's experts in military and international law.

The legal basis for the administration's approach was laid out on Nov. 6 in a confidential 35-page memorandum sent to Mr. Gonzales from Patrick F. Philbin, a deputy in the Legal Counsel's office. (Attorney General Ashcroft has refused recent Congressional requests for the document, but a copy was reviewed by The Times.)

The memorandum's plain legalese belied its bold assertions.

It said that the president, as commander in chief, has "inherent authority'' to establish military commissions without Congressional authorization. It concluded that the Sept. 11 attacks were "plainly sufficient" to warrant applying the laws of war.

Opening a debate that would later divide the administration, the memorandum also suggested that the White House could apply international law selectively. It stated specifically that trying terrorists under the laws of war "does not mean that terrorists will receive the protections of the Geneva Conventions or the rights that laws of war accord to lawful combatants."
The following day, the Army's judge advocate general, Maj. Gen. Thomas J. Romig, hurriedly convened a meeting of senior military lawyers to discuss a response. The group worked through the Veterans Day weekend to prepare suggestions that would have moved the tribunals closer to existing military justice. But when the final document was issued that Tuesday, it reflected none of the officers' ideas, several military officials said. "They hadn't changed a thing," one official said.

In fact, while the military lawyers were pulling together their response, they were unaware that senior administration officials were already at the White House putting finishing touches on the plan. At a meeting that Saturday in the Roosevelt Room, Mr. Cheney led a discussion among Attorney General Ashcroft, Mr. Haynes of the Defense Department, the White House lawyers and a few other aides.
No ceremony accompanied the signing, and the order was released to the public that day without so much as a press briefing. But its historic significance was unmistakable.
The White House did its best to play down the drama, but criticism of the order was immediate and widespread.

Civil libertarians and some Congressional leaders saw an attempt to supplant the criminal justice system. Critics also worried about the concentration of power: The president or his proxies would define the crimes (often after an act had been committed); set the rules for trial; and choose the judges, juries and appellate panels.
Critics seized on complaints from abroad, including an announcement from the Spanish authorities that they would not extradite some terrorist suspects to the United States if they would face the tribunals. "We are the most powerful nation on earth," Mr. Leahy said. "But in the struggle against terrorism, we don't have the option of going it alone. Would these military tribunals be worth jeopardizing the cooperation we expect and need from our allies?"
Many of the Pentagon's uniformed lawyers were angered by the implication that the military would be used to deliver "rough justice" for the terrorists. The Uniform Code of Military Justice had moved steadily into line with the due-process standards of the federal courts, and senior military lawyers were proud and protective of their system. They generally supported using commissions for terrorists, but argued that the system would not be fair without greater rights for defendants.

"The military lawyers would from time to time remind the civilians that there was a Constitution that we had to pay attention to," said Admiral Guter, who, after retiring as the Navy judge advocate general, signed a "friend of the court" brief on behalf of plaintiffs in the Guantánamo Supreme Court case.
On Dec. 28, 2001, after officials settled on Guantánamo Bay, Mr. Philbin and Mr. Yoo told the Pentagon in a memorandum that it could make a "very strong" claim that prisoners there would be outside the purview of American courts. But the memorandum cautioned that a reasonable argument could also be made that Guantánamo "while not part of the sovereign territory of the United States, is within the territorial jurisdiction of a federal court." That warning would come back to haunt the administration.
The Gonzales memorandum suggested that the "new kind of war" Mr. Bush wanted to fight could hardly be reconciled with the "quaint" privileges that the Geneva Conventions gave to prisoners of war, or the "strict limitations" they imposed on interrogations.

Military lawyers disputed the idea that applying the conventions would necessarily limit interrogators to the name, rank and serial number of their captives. "There were very good reasons not to designate the detainees as prisoners of war, but the claim that they couldn't be interrogated was not one of them," Colonel Lietzau said.