Saturday, January 15


WaPo has an article in the Sunday edition summarizing a recent interview with Bush on Air Force One.

There are so many clues to Bush's thinking patterns included in the interview, but here's just a peek at a couple:

Bush acknowledged that "some of the decisions I've made up to now have affected our standing in parts of the world," but predicted that most Muslims will eventually see America as a beacon of freedom and democracy.

"There's no question we've got to continue to do a better job of explaining what America is all about," he said.
On the election Bush said he was puzzled that he received only about 11 percent of the black vote, according to exit polls, about a 2 percentage point increase over his 2000 total.

"I did my best to reach out, and I will continue to do so as the president," Bush said. "It's important for people to know that I'm the president of everybody."

In other words, he doesn't care to actually DO anything substantive or corrective to change negative perceptions; in his mind, it can all be accomplished with the right market conditioning, a skillful message, and an efficient delivery system. I've said it before: the only thing George W. Bush ever succeeded at is politics. Unfortunately, he's very, very good at that -- he understands marketing and public relations principles very well. Too bad he doesn't understand or care about geopolitical strategy, domestic issues, and the Constitution equally.

UPDATE: Forgot to include this little gem from the top of the story:

President Bush said the public's decision to reelect him was a ratification of his approach toward Iraq and that there was no reason to hold any administration officials accountable for mistakes or misjudgments in prewar planning or managing the violent aftermath.

"We had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 elections," Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post.

So, another "Bush Doctrine" -- If the voters let you get away with it at the polls, no accountability is required for individual actions. What a sweetheart.


This would be funny if it weren't so serious:

There is a fifth realm beyond known reality. It is a realm as vast as space and timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground of haze and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies at the pit of man's fears. This is the realm of the unimaginable. It is an area we call "The Bush Zone."


My dad had two careers in his life -- first as an Air Force officer and then, after he retired, as a Social Security Administration bureaucrat.

Our nightly dinner table was a lively scene of family news, opinion about current events, gossip about people we knew, and, for fun and inspiration, tales from Daddy's day at work. I have memorized so many stories Daddy told about dealing with people applying for Social Security (NOT all old people; at least as many were widows and orphans seeking survivor benefits and handicapped people submitting claims for assistance). He felt he was doing noble work, and he was.

Daddy had traveled so much during his Air Force, and our formative, years (even being forced to miss his own father's funeral) that he was determined to put down real roots for his family at last and refused any geographical transfer, which was at the time required for promotion. But Daddy's work was so exemplary, acknowledged both by the SSAdministration and the public, that at last they got around the regulations by including his promotion in an almost-invisible rider to an Act of Congress.

It's not a hardship to brag on my beloved father, departed from this world for more than a decade now, one of the funniest, wisest and fairest-minded men I've ever known. But as usual in my personal meanderings there's a (possibly obscured) point.

I'm certain that Daddy, who took such pride in the success of the Social Security "experiment" and in the importance of his own work, would be horrified and defiant about reports that over the objections of many of its own employees, the Social Security Administration is gearing up for a major effort to publicize the financial problems of Social Security and to convince the public that private accounts are needed as part of any solution.

The agency's plans are set forth in internal documents, including a "tactical plan" for communications and marketing of the idea that Social Security faces dire financial problems requiring immediate action.

Our own family, as most American families I imagine, has found Social Security benefits an indispensable part of our effort to remain in middle-income America.

My mother, through her survivor benefits, has been able to remain in the home she and Daddy shared. At 84, she is the chief manager and mainstay of her church's Wal-Mart-sized thrift store, working two full days a week in the store and on call almost constantly. She bores my daughters with her precious but interminable stories of helping prostitutes, her special mission (the girls may be bored but they're proud!). Society is the better for keeping her out of the poorhouse.

Our oldest son, who has mild cerebral palsy, is receiving Medicare health benefits for as long as he is a college student. When he graduates and gets a job those benefits will end (they're tied to his income), but meanwhile they're a godsend since he is too old to be a party to our work-related health plans, and his condition makes it completely unaffordable to secure health coverage. Since his health is excellent he's cost the government almost nothing over the past two years of his eligibility -- but it sure does provide peace of mind.

These are not unusual American stories. But I wonder, is the average voter thinking about the value of our current Social Security system to him/her PERSONALLY?


Atrios has the words from the horse's (mare's?) mouth. From Laura Gross of DFA:

I know many of you have questions so I wanted to give you the full story. I am sorry I have not responded sooner, I have been traveling all day with Gov. Dean and I'm in St. Louis now. Thank you for your messages and e-mails . . . here's the full story:

So I got a call Thursday from the Jeanne Cummings, The Wall Street Journal reporter who covered the Dean campaign. By all accounts, she did a fine job -- covered all aspects of the campaign, even met the Web team and wrote a long story on their work. She was calling, she said, on behalf of some of her paper's reporters in Boston who were looking into a story about the campaign and the blogs.

She said she thought she knew what was going on, and we talked "on background" so she could "just clear things up once and for all" -- that is, not for attribution. By the end of the conversation she had confirmed what she thought -- that there was no news, that this was what she called a "dead story" -- and said that she didn't think there would be any article at all, much less one that mentioned Dean. She said that if for some reason she needed a quote she'd call me back.

Next thing I know there appears in the WSJ an article so sloppy and so inaccurate that I spent the morning trying to track Jeanne down to find out what happened. She called me back at 10:30 a.m. -- and actually apologized for the article (written by two colleagues). She said that she wouldn?t work with those reporters in the same capacity again, would only give them on-the-record quotes and assured me that she had notified her editors.

Jeanne's colleagues committed a journalistic no-no: they took her background conversation with me and made up a quote from "a Dean spokeswoman". Their fake quote had this spokeswoman apparently admitting that the bloggers were paid for promoting the campaign. They completely mischaracterized our conversation -- and Jeanne was rightly upset about it. I was, and am, too.

Since a distorted version of the conversation has been put in print, I'll tell you what was told to Jeanne when she asked what the story was with the campaign and these bloggers.

I said that, as many media outlets noted at the time and a giant disclaimer on their blog said, these guys were hired as technical consultants. Specifically, they helped the Web team pick a technology platform for the blog (Movable Type) and helped manage Internet advertising (banner ads, Google ads, etc.). They weren't paid to write content -- either for the campaign or on their own blogs. And just in case there was any ambiguity, the campaign made sure they had a notice saying "I am a paid consultant for Howard Dean" right smack on the front of their personal blogs.

The only people the campaign paid to write blog posts were full-time staff at headquarters who wrote the content here on Blog for America. They and the rest of the staff at headquarters were people who quit their jobs and upended their lives to work 100 hours a week for a campaign they believed in -- and frankly, compared to "normal" jobs, the campaign barely even paid them. Had the campaign been throwing around cash to people just to write nice things on blogs, there would have been a mutiny in Burlington.

The point was also made that, besides being not true, this kind of accusation is in fact the exact opposite of the truth. Hundreds of thousands of people gave their time, money and hearts to the Dean campaign; all they wanted in exchange was their country back. They organized in their communities and they organized online, and many of them blogged every minute of it.

Some people even made the trip to headquarters -- on their own dime. They stuffed envelopes by day and slept in motels or on someone's couch by night -- and they blogged that too. To suggest that there was some network of paid advocates, as some of the more irresponsible outlets have done, disrespects one of the best things to happen to our democracy in a generation.

Jeanne's colleagues not only misrepresented my conversation with her, they also made a sloppy and completely ridiculous analogy to the Armstrong Williams scandal -- an analogy that has been snapped up and repeated ad nauseum by both lazy journalists and the right-wing media machine.

Here's the deal: the campaign paid these guys with private funds to do work that did not include writing content or otherwise talking/writing about the campaign -- and widely disclosed the relationship at the time anyway, just in case. The Bush administration used taxpayer dollars to pay Williams to lace his commentary with praise for a certain policy -- and both the administration and Williams covered it up. Also, it appears that what they have done is illegal.

No journalist with any integrity would be writing about these things in the same story.

I don't think I've ever met Markos, and I've met Jerome, but only briefly -- if the blogs or the media want to debate with them or about them, they can go right ahead. But they can leave us out of it. Because when it comes to Howard Dean and his presidential campaign, this is exactly what the Wall Street Journal's Jeanne Cummings called it as we hung up the phone: a dead story.


Get more information on The Fairness Doctrine and/or sign the petition here.

I have a little piece of personal trivia regarding the days when The Fairness Doctrine was still the law of the airwaves. My first-grade boyfriend's dad was an on-air personality on our local TV morning show (the only channel operating in our town at the time) when he decided to run for public office. Because he was understandably extremely well-known in the community by virtue of his TV show exposure, the FCC ruled that the station had to give his (Republican) opponent an hour of free airtime every day until the election. So the opponent showed up every day, trying to entertain and speechify for an hour without making an utter fool of himself, until he acknowledged that that's just what had happened and voluntarily gave up his hour.

By the time another close family friend, a local news anchor, made a decision to run for Congress, his (also Republican) opponent didn't even try to raise the issue. But that's beside the point. My point is that while the community (and my family) kvetched about the futility of trying to "even up" the playing field by awarding free airtime to non-professionals running for office, WE ALL KNEW AND ACKNOWLEDGED THAT IT WAS THE RIGHT THING TO DO because democracy depends on an informed citizenry, exposed to both sides of important issues. Cases like I've just reported (shades of welfare abuse! frivolous lawsuits! though note that the litigant was a REPUBLICAN) provided fuel for Reagan's dismissal of the Doctrine, but the Doctrine itself is sound.

The Fairness Doctrine is about much more than this little piece of history demonstrates. Its real purpose is to give "fair and balanced" coverage, or information, to the public. The airwaves are OWNED BY THE PUBLIC and their guardians are supposed to be serving the interests of their public masters, not their corporate leaseholders.

Gee, imagine an American citizenry that was actually INFORMED rather than just PROPAGANDIZED.

The actual proposed legislation is here.


Ukraine is the latest nation to secede from the "Coalition of the Willing."

Ukraine's withdrawal punches a major and potentially fatal hole in the much-ballyhooed multinational division that Poland volunteered to lead in Iraq. Spain was the first to drop out, and Ukraine had the second-largest contingent after Poland itself.

The coalition has also lost Hungary, the Philippines and Honduras, among others, while Poland itself, long regarded as second only to Britain in its fealty to the United States, is talking of cutting back. Several other countries intend to reduce their participation in the next few months.

Most of these countries provided token forces of a few dozen or less. But the Bush administration expended considerable political capital to beg or bully governments into joining the campaign to give it the semblance of an international operation in the absence of a credible international endorsement. Washington was especially keen to underscore the support of young democracies, which were supposed to be better capable of appreciating the blessings that Iraq was about to reap.

But in Ukraine, neither bad old dictators nor promising new democrats ever really backed the Iraq war. Like many other coalition members, the government weighed the potential benefits of making nice to Washington against the potential costs of not doing so and hoped it would all be over soon. Now that doesn't look likely, the exodus is on. When you go for facade, facade is what you get.


No WMD in Iraq, so we'll just manufacture our own.

While Americans were dying over non-existent WMD's in Iraq, it was recently revealed by the Sunshine Project that the U.S. military was researching and developing chemical and biological weapons of our own. Documents obtained by the organization detailed a variety of different chemical agents to be used for non-lethal purposes. Additionally, the group found that the military was experimenting with agents similar to the deadly Sarin and VX within the non-lethal program.

Within a September 2003 report the group stated, "The discovery that the Army is investigating close relatives of extremely lethal nerve gases as "non-lethal" weapons heightens concerns previously raised that the Army's "non-lethal" chemical weapons program is practically indistinguishable from one with a fully lethal intent. The Army's interest in tacrine should draw particular scrutiny from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and governments who are members of the Chemical Weapons Convention."

For more information see: The Sunshine Project.

Reminds me a little of the difference between the no-no "torture resulting in death or a pain akin to losing a body part" and the OK "non-lethal torture," which is, of course, not torture at all, but ABUSE. By such definition, I suppose, "non-lethal" chemical weapons are OK with the U.S. as opposed to "fully lethal," which are not.

Sounds of hollow laughter.


On Monday we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr.

My heroes have always been progressives.

Friday, January 14


Skippy directs us to Barbara Boxer's petition supporting her plan to ask tough questions of Condo-Lies-a Rice at her confirmation hearings. Sign up here.


In the interests of full disclosure:

(1) One of the contributors to this site, Aguamire, who has posted primarily about University of Florida football (shows how fair-minded we are since the rest of us are FSU fanatics), was once a paid employee of the Kerry-Edwards campaign. No one associated with the campaign had any idea that Aguamire was a relative of the writers of the notorious (not!) blog No More Apples, and I suspect that if they had, they'd have paid him extra to stay away from his good old aunt, uncle and cousin.

(2) I am the primary writer of No More Apples, and I get my paycheck from a Fortune 250 company whose senior management team is 100% Republican. If they knew I authored this blog, they would shrug and say, "So what else is new? That's ------ (my real name)." In light of Zealous Zephyr Teachout's crusade, I feel I should disclose that they influence my opinions of Repugs by their humanity and their strong record of integrity and transparency in their business dealings. They motivate me to continue to reach out to the decent wing of the Republican Party. So I guess you could say (appropos Teachout's reasoning) that they make it possible for me to continue this blog (but not for the purpose of influencing it, since they don't know it exists).


Sidney Blumenthal reports that George Bush has purged the last of his father's senior advisers, handing over control to his neocon allies.

The transition to President Bush's second term, filled with backstage betrayals, plots and pathologies, would make for an excellent chapter of I, Claudius. To begin with, Bush has unceremoniously and without public acknowledgement dumped Brent Scowcroft, his father's closest associate and friend, as chairman of the foreign intelligence advisory board. The elder Bush's national security adviser was the last remnant of traditional Republican realism permitted to exist within the administration.

At the same time the vice president, Dick Cheney, has imposed his authority over secretary of state designate Condoleezza Rice, in order to blackball Arnold Kanter, former under secretary of state to James Baker and partner in the Scowcroft Group, as a candidate for deputy secretary of state.

"Words like 'incoherent' come to mind," one top state department official told me about Rice's effort to organise her office. She is unable to assert herself against Cheney, her wobbliness a sign that the state department will mostly be sidelined as a power centre for the next four years.

Rice may have wanted to appoint as a deputy her old friend Robert Blackwill, whom she had put in charge of Iraq at the NSC. But Blackwill, a mercurial personality, allegedly assaulted a female US foreign service officer in Kuwait, and was forced to resign in November. Secretary of state Colin Powell and his deputy, Richard Armitage, presented the evidence against Blackwill to Rice. "Condi only dismissed him after Powell and Armitage threatened to go public," a state department source said.

Meanwhile, key senior state department professionals, such as Marc Grossman, assistant secretary of state for European affairs, have abruptly resigned. According to colleagues who have chosen to remain (at least for now), they foresee the damage that will be done as Rice is charged with whipping the state department into line with the White House and Pentagon neocons. Rice has pleaded with Armitage to stay on, but "he colourfully said he would not", a state department official told me. Rice's radio silence when her former mentor, Scowcroft, was defenestrated was taken by the state department professionals as a sign of things to come.

Bush has long resented his father's alter ego. Scowcroft privately rebuked him for his Iraq follies more than a year ago - an incident that has not previously been reported. Bush "did not receive it well", said a friend of Scowcroft.
The rejection of Kanter is a compound rejection of Scowcroft and of James Baker - the tough, results-oriented operator who as White House chief of staff saved the Reagan presidency from its ideologues, managed the elder Bush's campaign in 1988, and was summoned in 2000 to rescue Junior in Florida. In his 1995 memoir, Baker observed that the administration's "overriding strategic concern in the [first] Gulf war was to avoid what we often referred to as the Lebanonisation of Iraq, which we believed would create a geopolitical nightmare."

In private, Baker is scathing about the current occupant of the White House. Now the one indispensable creator of the Bush family political fortunes is repudiated.

Republican elders who warned of endless war are purged. Those who advised Bush that Saddam was building nuclear weapons, that with a light military force the operation would be a "cakewalk", and that capturing Baghdad was "mission accomplished", are rewarded.


I was an almost-founding subscriber to Mother Jones, that's how long I've been following the magazine. But I have never read a more compelling article in its folds than this one: Falluja: City Without a Future? There is now nothing more desolate in Iraq than what we've created in Falluja.

Read it and weep.


See, if we don't give more bilions to the mega-wealthy, our economy will stall. Since there are so many new jobs appearing, and those that ARE lucky to be the working poor are doing so well with his tax cuts that they dare not risk losing their jobs by openly OPPOSING him. We're all so lucky to have such a compassionate man of god taking care of us.

Bush said his fiscal 2005 budget, which he will send to Congress February 2, would call on Congress to make permanent all his tax cuts -- from the $1,000 child credit to breaks for small businesses, investors and estates.

"If Congress fails to act, this tax relief will disappear and millions of American families and small businesses would see tax hikes starting in 2005," Bush said.

"For the sake of our economic expansion, and for the sake of millions of Americans who depend on small businesses for their jobs, we need Congress to act to make tax relief permanent," he added.

In making his case, Bush said the U.S. economy was "strong and getting stronger," and cited recent gains in home ownership, business investment, and manufacturing activity.

In a rare reference to stocks, Bush said: "Stock market wealth has increased by more than $3 trillion over the past year."

Well, when manufacturing activity has resulted in the loss of MILLIONS (not thousands) of jobs over three years, it doesn't take much to show "gains." As for home ownership -- let's not go there. On my own single block of $400,000+ lakefront homes, a very neat diverse community, four out of fourteen homes are for sale because their owners have been laid off from their lucrative managerial and/or technical jobs. That's not unusual, and we live in what passes for a thriving economic environment in these days.

And when will the right wing "get it" that 90% of Americans don't give a daily flip about how much stock market wealth has increased when they have no share in it? When will Democrats (unfortunately the current leadership is part of that Beltway-insider mentality and privileged experience) ALSO get it? Up till now we haven't made a case for economic parity because of (1) the fact that our leadership was part of the "ruling economic class"; and (2) the American Dream was to one day be a PART of that class, so how would it appeal to the masses to destroy that possibility?

It's time for a dose of reality, folks.


Wow. Mahablog has one of her best posts ever.

Read it and then read it again. Then pass it on to everyone you know. The facts need to get out, first in the office breakroom, the Sunday School class, ultimately the mainstream media. THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE.


It looks as if the campaign for leadership of the Democratic National Committee is narrowing to a two-man race: Howard Dean and Simon Rosenberg. We've learned a lot about Howard over the past couple of years, but who is this guy nobody ever heard of who's getting Kerry and Trippi endorsements? Sure, I know him as the founder of the New Democratic Network, but I barely know who they are and what they're all about. Here's Rosenberg's official NDN resume.

Formalized bios aside, just who is Simon Rosenberg and why should he head the DNC? Well, Joe Trippi endorsed him. But Joe's endorsement is cold, all about SR's embrace of technology, no passion there or commitment to core Democratic values. A commenter on Joe's blog says it well:

Rosenberg's NDN organization has spent 10 years stifling dissent, vetting, eliminating and weeding out any and all forms of so-called liberal thought from the Democratic Party. Rosenberg has candidates fill out questionaires and undergo rigorous interviews to make sure that they were acceptable to NDN corporate donors.

It is going to take a hell of a lot more than just putting an iPod in voters hands to reform the party. The party needs to reform its ways and Rosenberg hasn't shown an iota of being receptive to progressive ideas that are not technology based.

All this talk about technology...yet no one has brought up the obvious and the MAIN REASON (IMO) why Dean's campaign failed...techonology is a tool and not a means to an end.

Joe, you forgot the basic rules of a campaign and was blinded by the bat. You forgot that only 13% of the population was politically connected. You forgot to go to Iowa yourself and make the alliances.

Rosenberg maybe a good technician...which I still don't see, but what I do see is that the man has a very "limited" range of Democratic voters he has moved among and the majority of those are NOT from the traditional Democratic base ie African Americans (non-DLC), Labor, Women, Pro-Choice etc. Rosenberg for 10 years has sought out to "create" Democratic candidates in "his own image" that embraces the DLC agenda.

Of course you have the right (as I) to endorse or not endorse anyone you want but at least be honest... Rosenberg is the old DLC wine in a new NDN bottle.

This "manifesto" by Rosenberg, "Where We Are," is both interesting and compelling. I see tremendous value in much of its technical/demographic assessments, yet it strikes me as lacking in principle, passion and populism. Rosenberg, like Trippi, would obviously be an important, even visionary functionary, but I just can't see him in the lead of a movement. A D.C.-insider, he's unmistakably a product of a business marketing education rather than a man of the people. American voters have evidently had enough of smart insiders; they prefer one of their own.

And that's Howard Dean, who's proven his passion, principles, and populism. How often do we have to be told "we don't get it"? Howard gets it. He knows how to connect with ordinary people. He's the first Democratic presidential candidate in I-don't-know-when to actually WANT to pursue a "Southern strategy" of our own. He's real. He's what we need.


Sometimes there's just no need to comment:

"In order for there to be success in the Middle East, the Palestinians must develop a state where the institutions are bigger than the people . . . ," Bush said. "It's one thing to have elections in the Palestinian territory. It's another to have the guarantees of rule of law, protection for minorities and the right to free speech."

I really think the man is demented. At the very least, he has no sense of irony.


Fold, Spindle and Mutilate has an important post you should read, "Something's Gotta Give." It's a decent summary of BushCo offenses and the challenges we face as a result, not only in the next four years but for a long time after.

It is impossible to predict the outcome of Bush’s radical experiments with the American economy, his disregard of our political traditions, and his freedom from constraints from the Congress, the media, and soon the federal judiciary. Most scenarios are, quite frankly, dreadful. If we are to avoid the precipice toward which we are accelerating, this deliverance must come from a shock of recognition of our perilous condition followed by decisive and concerted action by the financial establishment, the media, and the general public.
It is almost impossible to overstate the arrogance of George Bush, and those immediate around him. Those who disagree with Bush’s “gut,” such as Colin Powell, Paul O’Neill, Joseph Wilson and the senior officers of the CIA, are banished from the Presidential Presence. Empirical research and rational assessment of policy alternative have no place in the Bush White House. Instead, George Bush and his circle presume themselves to have a God-like ability to create reality out of wishful thought.

An exaggeration? Consider Ron Suskind’s report of his conversation with “a senior advisor to President Bush:

"The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality. .. That’s not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.'

And Seymour Hersh:

"There are many who believe George Bush is a liar - a president who knowingly and deliberately twists facts for political gain. But lying would indicate an understanding of what is desired, what is possible and how best to get there. A more plausible explanation is that words have no meaning for this president beyond the immediate moment. And so he believes that his mere utterance of the phrases makes them real. It is a terrifying possibility. (Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 and Abu Ghraib. p. 416).

"This is beyond arrogance. It is insanity. And I measure that word carefully and employ it in a clinical sense: as "a detachment from reality.”

And it is an American tragedy. This derangement at the head of our government is a ominous burden upon all of us who dwell in this once-blessed land, and a threat to the humanity that lives beyond our borders.

This derangement also presents an opportunity for the progressive opposition. For such a “leader,” and such an administration can, if carefully studied and skillfully provoked, be led to their own destruction, for they are blind to their own shortcomings and incapable of responding rationally and effectively to unexpected obstacles that are placed before them.

The Bush regime will eventually collapse of its own ignorance, arrogance and folly. The task of a responsible opposition is to hasten this collapse, while seeing to it that as few innocent bystanders as possible are struck by the falling debris.


FBI translator Sybil Edmonds is vindicated.

Edmonds maintains she was fired in March 2002 after she complained to FBI managers about shoddy wiretap translations and told them an interpreter with a relative at a foreign embassy might have compromised national security by blocking translations in some cases and notifying some targets of FBI investigations about surveillance of them.

``The FBI's failure to handle her allegations adequately contributed to Edmonds' increasingly vociferous complaints, which ultimately led to the termination of her services,'' the inspector general concluded.

Fine did not determine whether Edmonds' charges of espionage were true, which he said was beyond the scope of his investigation.

But he criticized the FBI's review of the espionage accusations, saying its initial questioning of Edmonds' co-worker by an investigator was ``significantly flawed'' and ``seemed not to appreciate or investigate the allegation that a coworker may have been committing espionage.''

``We found that many of Edmonds' core allegations relating to the co-worker were supported by either documentary evidence or witnesses other than Edmonds,'' the report said. ``Moreover, we concluded that, had the FBI performed a more careful investigation of Edmonds' allegations, it would have discovered evidence of significant omissions and inaccuracies by the co-worker related to these allegations.''

How are we supposed to trust ANY of our institutions anymore? Sybil Edmonds implicates a co-worker in TREASONOUS ACTIVITY and SHE's the one who's fired?

New rule (apologies to Bill Maher): If, as a U.S. government employee, you expose any incompetence or any embarrassing facts internally to your superiors or subsequently to the outside world, you will be fired and vilified. Take note, future whistleblowers! In BushLand, there is no "amending the system from within." And when that possibility for "gradualism" disappears, only external rebellion and revolution are left as options.


Susan of Suburban Guerrilla directs us to this article about the madness of George W. Bush. Susan's excerpts:

At the root of Bush's pathology is a deep dissociation. Like the terrorists, he has split-off from his own darker half, projecting the shadow ‘out there,’ and then tries to destroy this dis-owned shadow. By projecting the shadow onto each other, Bush and the terrorists are each seeing their own shadow reflected in the other. They see each other as criminals, as the incarnation of evil. By projecting the shadow like this, they locate the evil ‘out there,’ which insures that they don't have to recognize the evil within themselves. It's interesting to note that the inner meaning of the word 'mirror' is ’shadow holder.’ Ironically, by fighting against their own shadow in this way, they become possessed by the very thing they are trying to destroy, thereby perpetuating a never-ending cycle of violence. To quote Jung, "The psychological rule says that when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside, as fate. That is to say, when the individual remains undivided [not in touch with both the light AND dark parts of themselves] and does not become conscious of his inner opposite, the world must perforce act out the conflict and be torn into opposing halves."

By projecting the shadow, Bush is unwittingly being a conduit for the deepest, archetypal evil to possess him from behind, beneath his conscious awareness, and to act itself out through him. At the same time, ironically enough, he identifies with the light and imagines that he is divinely inspired. To quote Jung, a person in a position of power who has become dissociated like Bush “even runs the grave risk of believing he has a Messianic mission, and forces tyrannous doctrines upon his fellow-beings.” He then believes that any action he desires is justified in the name of God, as he can rationalize it as being God's will. Unable to self-reflect, he is convinced of the rightness of his viewpoint, which he considers non-negotiable. This is a very dangerous situation, as Bush has become unconsciously identified with and possessed by the hero, or savior archetype. This figure is religious in nature, as it derives from the transpersonal, archetypal dimension of the collective unconscious. Being inflated with the hero archetype, he (archetypically) wants to save the world from evil and to liberate the planet.


President criticizes Education Dept.'s payout to Armstrong.

In the interview, Bush said, "I appreciate the way Armstrong Williams has handled this, because he has made it very clear that he made a mistake. All of us, the Cabinet, needs to take a good look and make sure this kind of thing doesn't happen again."

A Democratic member of the Federal Communications Commission joined the debate Thursday, saying the FCC should investigate whether Williams' actions broke the law. "I certainly hope the FCC will take action," Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein said.

He said the agency has received about a dozen complaints against Williams. Republican members would not comment.

Williams called Adelstein's remarks a "witch hunt," telling the Associated Press that what he did "was strictly advertising. ... I know that I've done nothing wrong."

First, note Bush's phrasing -- Armstrong Williams has made it very clear that HE'S the one who made the mistake. Bush would never admit his own administration made an error. Second, how does Williams get away with being praised by Paul Begala on Crossfire and now Bush, for "admitting he made a mistake" when in the very next breath he says, "I know that I've done nothing wrong"?

Note the partisanship on the FCC -- though Williams' AND THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION's actions are clearly against the law, and have been recognized as such by nearly every fair-minded person on the right AND left, Republican commissioners are refusing to comment -- and none of them have taken any action. Crucify Janet Jackson and Howard Stern, oh yes! but let's not take seriously a prima facie case of subverting the airways with paid-for propaganda disguised as honest and untainted opinion.


Harold Meyerson: Some leaders overcome crises. George W. Bush invents them.

The fabricated crisis is the hallmark of the Bush presidency. To attain goals that he had set for himself before he took office -- the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the privatization of Social Security -- he concocted crises where there were none.

So Iraq became a clear and present danger to American hearths and homes, bristling with weapons of mass destruction, a nuclear attack just waiting to happen. And now, this week, the president is embarking on his second great scare campaign, this one to convince the American people that Social Security will collapse and that the only remedy is to cut benefits and redirect resources into private accounts.
We've had plenty of presidents, Richard Nixon most notoriously, who divided the media into friendly and enemy camps. I can't think of one, however, so fundamentally invested in the spread of disinformation -- and so fundamentally indifferent to the corrosive effect of propaganda on democracy -- as Bush. That, too, should earn him a page in the history books.

Thanks to reader HL for the tip.


Great article on Bush, Social Security, etc. One to pass around to your naive friends and family.


Andy Borowitz with breaking news:

Just hours after confirming that the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was over, President George W. Bush leveled his harshest charge ever at Saddam Hussein, accusing the former Iraqi dictator of "knowingly telling the truth" about not possessing WMD in the months leading up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

"After years of lying about his weapons, Saddam Hussein willfully decided to tell the truth about them," Mr. Bush said. "His treachery knows no bounds."

After Mr. Bush excoriated Saddam for his "wanton truth-telling," he added that "thanks to the work of our coalition, Mr. Saddam Hussein will never be free to tell the truth again."

Thursday, January 13


I never expected to see such a relatively new blog as No More Apples being nominated for the Koufax Awards. I voted a full week ago, never having noticed our own nomination ("Most Humorous Post"). It's nice in a way to be such a small voice that I can without prejudice vote for another blog. I guess I'm the moral equivalent of a Libertarian or Green voting Democratic so that my vote counts for something.

But it's really surprisingly nice and flattering to even be nominated. Thanks, whoever you are.Vote here.


The Repugs persist in using historic Democratic images to promote their own anti-Democratic agenda.

The ad, running on Fox News and CNN through January 19, shows FDR signing the legislation creating the Social Security system and refers to the courage needed both to create the system and to protect it.

To compare the courage needed to create Social Security "to the courage it will take to dismantle the most successful social program in history is simply unconscionable," Roosevelt, 70, wrote.

Bush wants to remake Social Security by letting workers divert some of their payroll taxes from the retirement system into personal investment accounts. Critics argue that such a move is too risky and would undermine the system's financial solvency.

Well, everything seems to be copasetik on Safari, but Explorer refuses to acknowledge our blogroll, news sources, and other links.

Anyone have a solution? I must stipulate that I'm a Mac user.


We're trying to change the design of our web site, but we're having awful technical problems. The blogroll, contact info, and other elements keep disappearing. Please try back later.


U.S. trade deficits at record levels:

JOHN SNOW, the US Treasury Secretary, last night renewed demands for Europe and Japan to boost growth to ease global economic imbalances after America’s trade gap surged to a monthly record of $60 billion (£32 billion) in November.

A slump in US exports, blamed on weak demand in key trading partners, combined with a sharp rise in America’s oil imports to trigger the surprise jump in the trade deficit. Wall Street analysts had expected it to decline to $54 billion.
Analysts said that the November data left the US firmly on course to register a record trade gap for the year, with the deficit in the fourth quarter set to climb above 6 per cent of GDP for the first time, after a figure of 5.6 per cent in the previous three months.

The US trade shortfall for the first 11 months of last year already totals $561.3 billion — well above the record $496.5 billion set for 2003 as a whole.

This is the Bush Standard Operating Procedure: Nothing is ever our fault, and if you think it is (or especially, SAY it is) then you're an America-hating leftist loonie. And you should be run out of the country -- preferably to an Arab nation where you can hobnob with all your terrorist buddies until we blow up your village, and you with it.

And how DARE those slacker Japanese and Eurotrash not grow their economies as fast as we do? If they'd just follow our example and change methods of accounting, we'd all look a lot better. It must be a plot. They're refusing to grow just to spite us. Because they hate Bush.

UPDATE: For a more serious, insightful exploration of Snow's comments, see Blogging Of the President

Thanks to one of our favorite readers, HL, for suggesting we add Truthout to our blogroll.

I read it quite often; don't know why I never linked to it here.


(With apologies to Kris Kristofferson and “Billy Dee”)

Here comes January and Inauguration Day,
Bush will celebrate in style while corporations pay.
But there is a way that we can make the parties less sublime
If we all resolve to call in sick and spend not one damn dime.
They may think that it makes sense when we’re engaged in war
To spend those tens of millions on the rich instead of poor;
We’ve one good chance to spoil their act, expose their pantomime --
Let’s shut the retail system down and spend not one damn dime.

Going his own stubborn way and speaking lying words,
Bush has plain forgotten every warning that he heard.
Now we’re losing forces every day, their armor is a crime,
We’ve billions for the wealthy, for the warriors not a dime.
It’s a coronation for our Boy King and his Veep.
The fact the world’s in crisis doesn’t cost them any sleep;
Their wallet is the only thing that keeps these guys in line.
On January twenty let’s not spend a single dime.

It’s useless to protest, you say, for no-one even cares;
But what will ever change, I say, if no-one ever dares?
The little that we do to say: you guys are evil slime,
Will get us into practice when it’s confrontation time.
All around our nation and our world the cries abound,
But Bush’s ears are tuned into a different kind of sound.
Like Scrooge and Midas, only money makes that joyful chime,
So let the silent protest flow, and DON’T SPEND ONE DAMN DIME.


Echoing Atrios, Matt Yglesias has it right:

Then the inspectors came back to Iraq and went searching around. They didn't find any WMD stockpiles or evidence of advanced WMD programs. They did find some banned missiles with ranges beyond what was permitted by the Gulf War cease-fire. Those missiles were duly destroyed. At that point, rational people began to think that the intelligence consensus was, perhaps, mistaken. It already became clear that several of the specific charges the Bush administration had raised were false, and that despite repeated statements from administration officials that they were sure Saddam had WMD, they couldn't provide the inspectors with any useful clues to their whereabouts. But the United States wasn't being governered by rational people, so they, along with their cheerleaders in the press, proclaimed that if inspections weren't finding the weapons, that wasn't because the weapons weren't there but because the inspectors were corrupt, incompetent, or something like that. Therefore, an invasion was necessary.

This judgment -- the judgment that took us to war, the judgment that's led to all the many American casualties and the many more Iraqi casualties, didn't reflect any sort of international consensus whatsoever. If people aren't aware of that fact (which they largely aren't) it's because the "liberal media" was so busy gearing up to "embed" reporters and put on a show of patriotic pomp when the shooting started that they couldn't be bothered to tell anyone what was going on. Needless to say, unlike with the Killian memo story, no one has been held accountable for this and no one ever will be.


E-mail message from Democracy for America:

Since Governor Dean has entered the race for DNC Chair, thousands of you have been asking in e-mail and on the blog: what comes next? I wanted to write to you about how the process works, how we can win and -- most importantly -- how you can help.

Here's how the process works: less than a month fro today, on February 12, the 447 members of the Democratic National Committee (made up of leaders from across the country) will meet to select a new chairman. Between now and their vote, DNC members from various states will be holding a series of forums and listening sessions to hear from candidates and grassroots Democrats -- these events have already begun.

As Governor Dean criscrosses the country, he will try to meet face-to-face with as many DNC members as possible. He has a strategy for this race not unlike his strategy for our party's future -- stand up for what you believe, make a clear case for reform, and fight for every single vote.

Other candidates for DMC Chair have put together high-powered slates of wealthy fundraisers to support their campaigns. That's not how we do things. By relying on financial support from small donors, Governor Dean will be accountable only to you. Make a contribution now to support his candidacy -- and to show that we really mean it when we say we want a Democratic Party accountable to the people: Contribute here.

The plan for nonstop person-to-person outreach to DNC members reequires relentless travel, staff resources, and materials to inform voting members about Governor Dean, his record, and his plan to rebuild a lasting Democratic majority.

Governor Dean wants a Democratic Party that competes in all 50 states every single year -- not just 18 states every four years. He wants a Democratic Party that thrives on grassroots energy and stops putting our fates in the hands of consultants who lose elections over and over again. He wants a party that stands for reform.

We can't afford to let superficial pundits, the Republican spin machine, or insiders addicted to the status quo define this race -- the stakes are too high. Governor Dean needs your help to put his record of leadership and his plan for fundamental change in front of DNC members.

Please contribute whatever you can to help: Contribute here.

You can also support the campaign by doing what you do best -- organizing in your local community. On January 20, George Bush will spend tens of millions of dollars celebrating with his richest supporters. That same night you can host your friends for your own party -- celebrating the victories of progressive candidates up and down the ballot.

You helped elect Dean Dozen candidates across the country -- a Governor in Montana, a Mayor in Utah, and an African-American woman to the bench in Alabama -- along with dozens of other fiscally responsible, socially progressive candidates at every level of office. And your hard work helped more people vote to replace George Bush than any other sitting president in history. Democracy for America has a lot to celebrate.

Most of all your parties will support Governor Dean's campaign for DNC Chair in the crucial weeks before the vote. We've launched brand new tools to make it easier than ever to invite your friends over and plan your party -- get started right now:

This race will be tough. Some people would rather have a position of influence in a losing party than make the reforms necessary to build a lasting majority. We may not win this race, but we can only achieve change if we step into the fray and fight for it. Together we could shape not only the future of the Democratic Party but the future of our country -- so let's get to work.

Thank you.

Tom McMahon
Executive Director
Democracy for America


Via The Smirking Chimp, Brian Morton: 'Mind the gap':

Conservatives of the hard-right used to slander anyone contesting the Bush administration's War on Abstract Noun as "objectively pro-terrorist."

Well, President George W. Bush's nominee for attorney general has come out as "objectively pro-torture." One might even say the whole administration is "objectively pro-lawbreaking." Think about it--can you name any other time and any other administration that has violated the law so rampantly, freely, with impunity and no consequences? No public opprobrium, no investigations, no firings, no censures?
Our government talks about "freedom" and "democracy" to the world while its policies promote torture, encourage graft, dismiss lawbreaking, revel in cronyism, and foster government run for the few and by the few, in secret. Soon, the nation's top law-enforcement official will be a man who "objectively" believes that the president can override the law and immunize his policy-makers from criminal prosecution.


Anna Quindlen misses Paul Wellstone:

...I hope the memory of Paul Wellstone will haunt the Democrats as they go about the very public business of finding themselves in the wake of their November defeat. Not because they will necessarily embrace his positions, but because they ought to assume his legacy of passionate conviction.

If the Democratic Party still believes in any of the things it once stood for—a living wage for working people, equal access regardless of race or gender, freedom from overbearing government intrusion, help for the needy—then the future of the party alone should not be its primary concern. Leading Democrats should be meeting to chart the future of the nation. In the hole economically, unable to compete as manufacturers with Asia, enmeshed in a war in the Middle East, fearful of terrorist attacks and afflicted with the anomie of people concerned that they leave the next generation with the dream of nothing grander than a higher credit limit—we are in need of the long view.

Authentic leadership is in short supply. Republicans would have it that the president provides it. I don't see it. This is a purported regular guy who is the scion of privilege and whose resume owes more to the family tree than the grindstone. A fiscal conservative who has blown the deficit and government spending sky-high. A candidate who said he was not interested in nation-building undertaking it aggressively. It all reminds me of the punch line to that old joke: who you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes? Look at the upcoming Inaugural, close to $40 million worth of parties, pageantry and canapes paid for by corporate largesse and said to be in honor of our troops, troops whose families are struggling to get by. A triumph of style over substance.

Yet I suspect the Democratic Party is even now considering which potential candidate has a similarly invulnerable Q rating. Image, tactics, communication: politics has increasingly become a prizefight taking place while a conflagration rages outside. Did the Democrats learn nothing from that war resolution, on which most of them played possum, trading human life and political principle for poll numbers? Later, when the tide had turned, when the Iraqis who the administration insisted would welcome us with flowers threw bombs instead, party leaders were left with a vote they couldn't even justify. They had not compromised, they had capitulated.

There is an alternative to capitulation. It is unconditional authenticity.
Instead of playing desperate defense, the Democrats might try searching their souls, asking themselves simple questions with complex answers. What really matters to me? What are the principles on which I will not compromise? If my campaign plane should go down, what legacy would I leave behind? (Hint: it sure shouldn't be making the Democrats more like the Republicans.)

Mario Cuomo, the former governor of New York, reflected upon his defeat in the 1994 conservative GOP rout in his book "Reason to Believe." Ten years old, it is nevertheless an apt playbook for the Democratic Party in the years to come. "In those instances where interests collide," he writes, "the flash points where those who have a little feel threatened by those who have less, we Democrats have not worked hard enough at finding ways to harmonize the competing interests." He also skillfully dissects the opposition: "When they shift from propaganda to policy their proposals are inadequate and in some cases demonstrably harmful. For the most part, they seek to evade the nation's problems rather than to solve them."

The success of America, he writes, has grown out of "being better than our worst impulses." There's a goal to steer your ship by. And never mind holding fingers to the wind. That combination of spit and hot air never amounts to much in the long run; real leadership, the kind that led to the Emancipation Proclamation or the Civil Rights Act, is often a matter of doing what's unpopular. Party strategists may privately complain that that's no way to win. But as Paul Wellstone seemed to understand, particularly with that last, potentially politically disastrous vote, there are worse things than losing.


Andrew Sullivan reviews two new books on the Abu Ghraib/Gitmo/torture/abuse issue, and it's worth a read.

The Official Report of the Independent Panel and Pentagon on the Shocking Prisoner Abuse in Iraq.
Edited by Steven Strasser.
Illustrated. 175 pp. PublicAffairs. Paper, $14.

America, Abu Ghraib, and the War on Terror.
By Mark Danner.
Illustrated. 580 pp. New York Review Books. Paper, $19.95.

That tells you something important at the start. Whatever happened was exposed in a free society; the military itself began the first inquiries. You can now read, in these pages, previously secret memorandums from sources as high as the attorney general all the way down to prisoner testimony to the International Committee of the Red Cross. I confess to finding this transparency both comforting and chilling, like the photographs that kick-started the public's awareness of the affair. Comforting because only a country that is still free would allow such airing of blood-soaked laundry. Chilling because the crimes committed strike so deeply at the core of what a free country is supposed to mean. The scandal of Abu Ghraib is therefore a sign of both freedom's endurance in America and also, in certain dark corners, its demise.

The documents themselves tell the story. In this, Danner's book is by far the better of the two. He begins with passionate essays that originally appeared in The New York Review of Books, but very soon leaves the stage and lets the documents speak for themselves. His book contains the two reports Strasser publishes, but many more as well. If you read it in the order Danner provides, you can see exactly how this horror came about - and why it's still going on. As Danner observes, this is a scandal with almost everything in plain sight.

The critical enabling decision was the president's insistence that prisoners in the war on terror be deemed ''unlawful combatants'' rather than prisoners of war. The arguments are theoretically sound ones - members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban are not party to the Geneva Convention and their own conduct violates many of its basic demands. But even at the beginning, President Bush clearly feared the consequences of so broad an exemption for cruel and inhumane treatment. So he also insisted that although prisoners were not legally eligible for humane treatment, they should be granted it anyway. The message sent was: these prisoners are beneath decent treatment, but we should still provide it. That's a strangely nuanced signal to be giving the military during wartime.

You can see the same strange ambivalence in Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's decision to approve expanded interrogation techniques in December 2002 for Guantánamo inmates - and then to revoke the order six weeks later. The documents show that the president was clearly warned of the dangers of the policy he decided upon - Colin Powell's January 2002 memo is almost heart-breakingly prescient and sane in this regard - but he pressed on anyway. Rumsfeld's own revocation of the order suggests his own moral qualms about what he had unleashed.

But Bush clearly leaned toward toughness. Here's the precise formulation he used: ''As a matter of policy, the United States Armed Forces shall continue to treat detainees humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of Geneva.'' (My italics.)

Notice the qualifications. The president wants to stay not within the letter of the law, but within its broad principles, and in the last resort, ''military necessity'' can overrule all of it. According to his legal counsel at the time, Alberto R. Gonzales, the president's warmaking powers gave him ultimate constitutional authority to ignore any relevant laws in the conduct of the conflict. Sticking to the Geneva Convention was the exclusive prerogative of one man, George W. Bush; and he could, if he wished, make exceptions. As Assistant Attorney General Jay S. Bybee argues in another memo: ''Any effort to apply Section 2340A in a manner that interferes with the president's direction of such core war matters as the detention and interrogation of enemy combatants thus would be unconstitutional.'' (Section 2340A refers to the United States law that incorporates the international Convention Against Torture.)
The president's underlings got the mixed message.
What's notable about the incidents of torture and abuse is first, their common features, and second, their geographical reach. No one has any reason to believe any longer that these incidents were restricted to one prison near Baghdad. They were everywhere: from Guantánamo Bay to Afghanistan, Baghdad, Basra, Ramadi and Tikrit and, for all we know, in any number of hidden jails affecting ''ghost detainees'' kept from the purview of the Red Cross. They were committed by the Marines, the Army, the Military Police, Navy Seals, reservists, Special Forces and on and on. The use of hooding was ubiquitous; the same goes for forced nudity, sexual humiliation and brutal beatings; there are examples of rape and electric shocks. Many of the abuses seem specifically tailored to humiliate Arabs and Muslims, where horror at being exposed in public is a deep cultural artifact.
Who was responsible? There are various levels of accountability. But it seems unmistakable from these documents that decisions made by the president himself and the secretary of defense contributed to confusion, vagueness and disarray, which, in turn, led directly to abuse and torture. The president bears sole responsibility for ignoring Colin Powell's noble warnings. The esoteric differences between legal ''abuse'' and illegal ''torture'' and the distinction between ''prisoners of war'' and ''unlawful combatants'' were and are so vague as to make the abuse of innocents almost inevitable. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote for the majority of the Supreme Court in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld that ''the government has never provided any court with the full criteria that it uses in classifying individuals'' as enemy combatants. It is one thing to make a distinction in theory between Geneva-protected combatants and unprotected Qaeda operatives. But in the chaos of a situation like Iraq, how can you practically know the difference? When one group is designated as unworthy of humane treatment, and that group is impossible to distinguish from others, it is unsurprising that exceptions quickly become rules. The best you can say is that in an administration with a reputation for clear lines of command and clear rules of engagement, the vagueness and incompetence are the most striking features.

Worse, the president has never acknowledged the scope or the real gravity of what has taken place. His first instinct was to minimize the issue; later, his main references to it were a couple of sentences claiming that the abuses were the work of a handful of miscreants, rather than a consequence of his own decisions. But the impact of these events on domestic morale, on the morale of the vast majority of honorable soldiers in a very tough place and on the reputation of the United States in the Middle East is incalculable.
And the damage done was intensified by President Bush's refusal to discipline those who helped make this happen. A president who truly recognized the moral and strategic calamity of this failure would have fired everyone responsible. But the vice president's response to criticism of the defense secretary in the wake of Abu Ghraib was to say, ''Get off his back.'' In fact, those with real responsibility for the disaster were rewarded. Rumsfeld was kept on for the second term, while the man who warned against ignoring the Geneva Conventions, Colin Powell, was seemingly nudged out. The man who wrote a legal opinion maximizing the kind of brutal treatment that the United States could legally defend, Jay S. Bybee, was subsequently rewarded with a nomination to a federal Court of Appeals. General Sanchez and Gen. John P. Abizaid remain in their posts. Alberto R. Gonzales, who wrote memos that validated the decision to grant Geneva status to inmates solely at the president's discretion, is now nominated to the highest law enforcement job in the country: attorney general. The man who paved the way for the torture of prisoners is to be entrusted with safeguarding the civil rights of Americans. It is astonishing he has been nominated, and even more astonishing that he will almost certainly be confirmed.

But in a democracy, the responsibility is also wider. Did those of us who fought so passionately for a ruthless war against terrorists give an unwitting green light to these abuses? Were we naïve in believing that characterizing complex conflicts from Afghanistan to Iraq as a single simple war against ''evil'' might not filter down and lead to decisions that could dehumanize the enemy and lead to abuse? Did our conviction of our own rightness in this struggle make it hard for us to acknowledge when that good cause had become endangered? I fear the answer to each of these questions is yes.
Perhaps the saddest evidence of our communal denial in this respect was the election campaign. The fact that American soldiers were guilty of torturing inmates to death barely came up. It went unmentioned in every one of the three presidential debates. John F. Kerry, the ''heroic'' protester of Vietnam, ducked the issue out of what? Fear? Ignorance? Or a belief that the American public ultimately did not care, that the consequences of seeming to criticize the conduct of troops would be more of an electoral liability than holding a president accountable for enabling the torture of innocents? I fear it was the last of these. Worse, I fear he may have been right.
[emphasis mine]

Oliver Willis is all over the Armstrong Williams payola scandal.


Greg Palast puts a different spin on the "Memogate Report" and reminds us that we're not dealing with the broadcast news of Walter Cronkite and John Chancellor anymore. Corporate media ownership has changed everything. Used to be, networks habitually lost money on the news operation and were sanguine about it in the belief that network news lent prestige and public notice to the brand and was thus a kind of "loss leader" for the entertainment division. Today, the bottom line has been substituted for news integrity as a preeminent value in broadcast media, and the push for consolidation and corporate growth in the industry is driving news content.

At the top of the network's craven and dead wrong apology to the President is that cyclopsian CBS eyeball. But I suspect that CBS itself has little interest in eating its own flesh. This vile spike-after-broadcast serves only its master, the owner of CBS, Viacom Corporation.

"From a Viacom standpoint, the election of a Republican administration is a better deal. Because the Republican administration has stood for many things we believe in, deregulation and so on…. I vote for Viacom. Viacom is my life, and I do believe that a Republican administration is better for media companies than a Democratic one."

That more-than-revealing statement, made weeks before the presidential election, by Sumner Redstone, billionaire honcho of CBS' parent company, wasn't reported on CBS. Why not? Someone should investigate.

Viacom needs the White House to bless its voracious and avaricious need to bust current ownership and trade rules to add to its global media monopoly. Placing the severed heads of reporters who would question the Bush mythology on the White House doorstep will certainly ease the way for Viacom's ambitions.

At the least, at the upcoming inaugural parties, CBS' ruler Redstone can expect that White House occupants will give him a standing Rove-ation.

Wednesday, January 12


I just got a call from the "Dove Foundation." Caller ID failed me here, I have a tendency to link the word "dove" with Christian, so took the call. Boy did I make a mistake.

The caller sounded like a bright, energetic, white Midwestern U.S. young man. He started by qualifying me as a mother or grandmother who has seen at least one of her progeny twice in the past month. OK, that's a yes. He stuck to his script, which asked me if I agreed with various generic loaded statements I can't quite remember but were something like, Do you believe Hollywood doesn't produce family movies. Would I like more family movies. I asked him how he defined family movies, but he ignored me and went straight back to the script. More disorienting questions related to "family" issues, more requests for definition on my part and evasions on the part of the caller. He finally gave up on me and our business was done.

I did a little Googling, and I like some of the comments but am spooked by the organization.


Easter Lemming points us to Paul Lukasiak's response to the "Memogate Report."

And from the facts of which I’m aware, the Memogate Report can be described in one word.


The report is a complete smear job on Mary Mapes, and although Mapes made mistakes the manner in which the “facts” (and I use that term loosely) are presented are utterly biased.


I was wondering how the right-wing talk yahoos would deal with the end of the WMD hunt, and its yield of bupkes.

The answer's the same as it's been when every Iraq Survey Group chief quit and came home, disputing nearly every pre-war assertion. Let's use Dallas KLIF host Greg Knapp as an example: We DID find weapons -- we found a nuclear centrifuge buried in a scientist's rose garden! The weapons could have been, and probably were, moved pre-invasion to Syria or other Middle Eastern countries. And anyway, if the Iraqis could bury a dozen MIGs in the sand, they could surely have hidden WMD in the same manner. Besides, WMD wasn't the only justification for the invasion, just one of many. Bush couldn't have been expected to conduct his own intelligence -- so it's George Tenet's fault for telling Bush that WMD was a "slam dunk" rationale for the war. And oh! almost forgot! the British stood by their story about Saddam seeking to buy yellowcake uranium, so THAT's obviously true, and that's more evidence Saddam was reconstituting WMD, in particular his nuclear ambitions.

EVERY SENATOR AND CONGRESSMAN BELIEVED THE SAME THING BUSH BELIEVED ABOUT SADDAM'S WMD. And of course, every one of those politicians was privy to the same information as the CIA and BushCo. Don't even suggest that they were so naive as to believe the representations of Bush, Cheney, and Powell -- these Democrats just hate George Bush so much they wouldn't believe him if he said up was down (oops!), I mean up was up. They're just irrational in their hatred. Why do they hate America? We KNOW Saddam had WMD! He used them on his own people! There were links between Saddam and Al Qaeda! We found three Abous in Iraq when we got there! They had to shut down a couple of terrorist training camps when we invaded! (Don't ever try to explain how Saddam had no hegemony over Kurdish territory, the locus of all these events. These guys are too geopolitically savvy not to understand -- they just choose not to share that information with their listeners.)

Caller has a fabulous point! If we can't find Jimmy Hoffa, DB Cooper, WMD or Osama, then THEY MUST NOT HAVE EXISTED. Wow, that's sarcasm at its best! Let's all laugh at those stupid, immoral lefties for their ridiculous reasoning.


Whistleblower Staff Claiming Retaliation
Forced Moves to New “Midwest Field Office”

The U.S. Special Counsel, the principal protector of federal whistleblower and merit system rights, has abruptly ordered more than 20 percent of his headquarters legal and investigative staff to relocate or be fired. According to a letter of protest filed today by three national whistleblower watchdog groups, those targeted for forced moves are all career employees hired before Bloch became Special Counsel, as part of a purge to stifle dissent and re-staff the agency with handpicked loyalists.
"This crude purge attempt is just the latest stage in Scott Bloch’s reign of terror at the Special Counsel,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch who referred to Bloch’s previous issuance of gag orders to staff directing them not to discuss problems with the office. “The only thing this Special Counsel has brought to the merit system is new techniques for circumventing it.”

In a January 7th press release, Bloch claims that the Detroit office was created “after extensive discussions with staff and an outside assessment team’s review of the Agency structure.” In fact, none of the affected staff was notified in advance, let alone party to “discussions,” about the move. Moreover, the assessment review did not recommend creation of a new office; in fact the creation of the new office and the transfer of senior executives to field offices is directly contrary to the assessment team’s recommendations.

“The irony is overwhelming – how could the federal protector of whistleblowers make a bigger mockery of his agency's mission than this?” asked Danielle Brian, Executive Director of the Project On Government Oversight, adding that members of Congress have already called for Bloch’s removal and employees may now have to rely on Congress to intervene to stop the move. “The pattern of behavior from the Special Counsel certainly indicates he took this job to dismantle the office, rather than its mission."

But of course that's the point. Bush systematically appoints cabinet secretaries and top bureaucrats whose sole responsibility is to undermine the mission of their agency and ultimately leave it gutted and useless.


Writing in, Dan Ackman scoffs at CBS' show trial:

If CBS's Mary Mapes and Josh Howard, two of the producers who worked on the now-infamous 60 Minutes report regarding President George W. Bush's military record should be fired, it's hard to imagine what reporter should not be.
But the problem is this: Whether media insiders want to admit it or not, if all reporting was held to the courtroom-high standards laid out by the results of the investigation, they might have to scrap the news altogether. Of course, the next step would be to fire a lot of other folks inside the news business and out, starting with the secretary of state. [emphasis mine]

In her defense, CBS News producer Mary Mapes said, "I am very concerned that [CBS's] actions are motivated by corporate and political considerations--ratings rather than journalism. [CBS President ] ' response to the review panel's report and the panel's assessment of the evidence it developed in its investigation combine not only to condemn me, but to put all investigative reporting in the CBS tradition at risk." That's a strong statement, but it doesn't go far enough.

Of course, the original CBS broadcast was itself ridiculous, but for reasons much more basic than the fact that some of the supporting evidence may have been inauthentic or even faked. CBS is a unit of Viacom (nyse: VIA.b - news - people ).

The basic charge against the reporters is that a segment broadcast on the Wednesday edition of 60 Minutes, raising supposedly new questions about President Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard in the early 1970's, relied on documents that were not verified as authentic. The four documents, described as memorandums from the files of his commander, Lieutenant Colonel Jerry B. Killian, who died in 1984, suggested that Bush, then a lieutenant, had received preferential treatment.

The story itself was old news. That Bush was in the National Guard at all was preferential treatment. But the story was worth pursuing because the documents added some new details. If the documents were not genuine, therefore, there was no real reason to air the report at all, except for the fact that equally old news about the war service of John Kerry, the Democratic nominee and Bush's proponent, was getting ample air time, even without new details.

One of the oddities of the internal investigation led by former Attorney General Richard Thornburgh is that it does not even find that the documents were inauthentic. But it does say, as is well-known, that soon after the broadcast aired, members of the blogosphere, pointed out that the typography and other aspects of the documents cast them into doubt. ABC, a unit of The Walt Disney Co. (nyse: DIS - news - people ), soon attacked the report, too.

While the Thornburgh report denounces the reporters' failures, they did make an effort to determine the reliability of the Killian memos. They hired four document examiners; they looked for independent sources who could verify the information. They asked for a comment from the White House, which did not dispute the authenticity of the documents (though it did dispute that the documents showed the president had done anything wrong). The documents came from a source, retired Texas Army National Guard Lieutenant Colonel Bill Burkett, who was a Kerry supporter. But if news reporters were to exclude partisan sources, they might as well close shop altogether.

The CBS reporters believed that other news organizations were pursuing the same angle. Still they spent about two weeks on the story, a pretty long time in the news field. Still, it seems now that the documents may have not been from Killian. CBS was forced later to admit they could not be certain the documents were authentic. But the report makes no case that the error was even negligent, let alone reckless or systemic. If the reporters were too rushed, that was the nature of the business, not something unique to them.

CBS continued to back its story even after reasons for doubt emerged, insisting it was correct even in its particulars. Ultimately, CBS admitted it could not authenticate the documents, and that it should not have used them. But there was never a question about the thrust of the report, old news though it may have been. Nor is there any hint that any of the reporters knew that the documents were false.

If there was a problem, it would seem to be with CBS's self-defense, not in the initial broadcast. Even after months and with resources sufficient to draft a 220-page report, Thornburgh and a team of lawyers were not "able to conclude with absolute certainty whether the [documents] are authentic or forgeries." That being the case, how can they possibly fire a news reporter operating under extreme time pressure and institutional pressure to get a scoop, for failing to do just that. Still, "[T]he failure to obtain clear authentication of any of the [documents] from any document examiner," is the very first charge in the report.

More broadly, CBS is retroactively applying the standards of the courtroom to the newsroom. Among its more than 300 references to document authentication, the report states, "[Associate producer Yvonne] Miller did not have sufficient time to learn the fundamentals of document authentication."

Here is a news flash: Very few reporters have "sufficient time" to learn these "fundamentals." The supposed fundamentals are laid out in a seven-page appendix, which reads like a manual for trial lawyers. The plain fact is that few reporters have the time to "authenticate" documents in any systematic way--though these reporters made an honest effort.

Every reporter, for instance, will rely on statements, whether from government officials or from companies, that are not authenticated in the legal sense. Reporters rely on documents written by people they don't know all the time, and no one suggests there is something wrong with the practice. When the author of the document is dead, as was the case with the 60 Minutes report, legal authentication is often impossible, which is why lawyers have a big problem when witnesses die.

Most historical documents are not subject to formal authentication. Reporters of today's news or yesterday's events must do their best. To cite one example close at hand, I am relying on the report issued by CBS that I found on the Web, even though I never spoke to Thornburgh. I failed to authenticate. Of course, I had no reason to doubt that the document I was reading was the Thornburg Report. If a reporter has reason to believe a document has been forged, he should check it out. But the fired CBS reporters did that.

It happens daily. To cite a less trivial example, in February 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell made his famous speech to the U.N. about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. He played audiotapes of phone conversations in which the speakers, much less the tape-recorders, were not identified; he showed photographs without saying how they were taken; he claimed sources he would not identify.

Colin Powell's speech is hardly the standard. Indeed, in the annals of sourcing and verification it ranks pretty low. But the point is that standards of proof vary with the circumstances. What qualifies as evidence in news might not qualify in law or science. But it's never fair to judge solely by the result. And there is no sense from the Thornburgh report that Mapes, Howard and company failed to meet the standard that was properly applied to them. They are fall guys.

No one should hold them--or Powell for that matter--to the standard of the courtroom, because such a standard would be impossible to meet. The CBS internal report, however, should meet that standard. But for all its lawyerly detail and apparent exactitude, it reeks of a show trial.

Tuesday, January 11


I was wondering how the right-wing talk yahoos would deal with the end of the WMD hunt, and its yield of bupkes.

The answer's the same as it's been when every Iraq Survey Group chief quit and came home, disputing nearly every pre-war assertion. Let's use Dallas KLIF host Greg Knapp as an example: We DID find weapons -- we found a nuclear centrifuge buried in a scientist's rose garden! The weapons could have been, and probably were, moved pre-invasion to Syria or other Middle Eastern countries. And anyway, if the Iraqis could bury a dozen MIGs in the sand, they could surely have hidden WMD in the same manner. Besides, WMD wasn't the only justification for the invasion, just one of many. Bush couldn't have been expected to conduct his own intelligence -- so it's George Tenet's fault for telling Bush that WMD was a "slam dunk" rationale for the war. And oh! almost forgot! the British stood by their story about Saddam seeking to buy yellowcake uranium, so THAT's obviously true, and that's more evidence Saddam was reconstituting WMD, in particular his nuclear ambitions.

EVERY SENATOR AND CONGRESSMAN BELIEVED THE SAME THING BUSH BELIEVED ABOUT SADDAM'S WMD. And of course, every one of those politicians was privy to the same information as the CIA and BushCo. Don't even suggest that they were so naive as to believe the representations of Bush, Cheney, and Powell -- these Democrats just hate George Bush so much they wouldn't believe him if he said up was down (oops!), I mean up was up. They're just irrational in their hatred. Why do they hate America? We KNOW Saddam had WMD! He used them on his own people! There were links between Saddam and Al Qaeda! We found three Abous in Iraq when we got there! They had to shut down a couple of terrorist training camps when we invaded! (Don't ever try to explain how Saddam had no hegemony over Kurdish territory, the locus of all these events. These guys are too geopolitically savvy not to understand -- they just choose not to share that information with their listeners.)

Caller has a fabulous point! If we can't find Jimmy Hoffa, DB Cooper, WMD or Osama, then THEY MUST NOT HAVE EXISTED. Wow, that's sarcasm at its best! Let's all laugh at those stupid, immoral lefties for their ridiculous reasoning.


I fear that Professor Robert Jensen of the University of Texas at Austin has days-that-are-numbered. Sean Hannity just excoriated the poor journalism professor for nearly thirty minutes, was as ugly, pompous and arrogant as I've ever heard him, and seemed to be encouraging listeners to make sure Professor Jensen never teaches again. BTW, the only clear thought I ever heard Jensen get out was that "we've lost the war in Iraq" -- well, duh! Of course Sean refuted it with his usual "evidence": "No-one credible is saying that." Scotch Brent Scowcroft and all the other Repugs and high-ranking retired military and diplomats who agree; guess they're not credible to Hannity.

Sean was impossible today, refused to let the man finish a single thought. In typical style, Sean repeatedly asked a 15-part question and when Jensen tried to answer, cut him off almost immediately, shouting, "How dare you make such an assertion when you can't back it up?" As Jensen remarked, Hannity's MO is to switch subjects every time he is confronted with a fact that is "inconvenient to [his] ideology or worldview." This particular show was a textbook example of how these right-wing talk yahoos operate: (1) ascribe positions or beliefs to the loony lefties that they've not taken and then SWAT those suckers down; (2) prevent the guest from articulating a single coherent thought by means of constant and distracting interruptions; (3) heap invective upon the guest and, if the guest DARES to respond in kind, say to the audience, "You see how they operate, folks? When they can't come up with an argument they resort to ad hominem attacks" (in Jensen's case, after Sean had REPEATEDLY called him a danger to our youth, a traitor who hates America and not qualified to teach beyond the third grade, Jensen responded so mildly that I can't even recall what he said); (4) threaten the guest -- in Jensen's case, it was "who pays your salary? Do you teach at a government-funded school?" implying that we taxpayers are going to demand "our" money back.

Sean was insufferable and, as always, insulting, as he retreated to a favorite theme: "Let me educate you." Over and over he told Prof. Jensen what a bad education he must have had, "must have been at some liberal school," and that he needed to listen to Sean to get the real scoop on the history of U.S. foreign affairs. Meet Sean Hannity, who dropped out of college to further his radio career. Lord knows that the lack of an undergraduate degree surely doesn't mean you can't challenge those who possess one -- but it should, sort of, preclude a college dropout from accusing someone who received a Ph.D. from a major state university of "not being educated."

As much as I despise George W. Bush, it's no greater a distaste than I have for Rush, Sean, and their ilk. Bush's enablers are as despicable as he is. He just has a bit more power. They gave him that power -- and it's a gift they just keep on giving.

UPDATE: I'm just now remembering Darrell Ankarlo's subject this morning: theocracy vs. democracy, with a little introduction stating that while Louis Farrakhan (Darrell believes) is a monster and/or a crazy, he might be onto something in stating, "Let us alone": that Islamic (or other non-Christian) nations just might be happy with their own system, and that it's presumptuous and illegal for the USA to assume that their political system of democracy might not be adaptable or desirable by indigenous peoples of other regions. It seemed an interesting subject that at first I thought might hold some promise for real debate since the first three callers seemed very informed and open-minded. Darrell didn't like the way the conversation was going, I assume, since the next umpteen callers were all in favor of a government directed by "Christian values" -- whatever some people conceive those to be.

Let it be said, at some point Darrell DID address the definitions of "theocracy" and "democracy" and inject "republic" into play.

UPDATE: Sudden thought/memory. Sean's big pressure point seemed to be any criticism of any American government under a Republican president. (E.g., it was under Jimmy Carter that Islamo-fascism took hold in Iraq, but Ronald Reagan, whose legacy is tainted by well-documented criminal trafficking of arms with Iranian Islamo-fascists in order to benefit totalitarian Central American despots AND Saddam Hussein, is a total American hero.) But it's heresy to suggest that U.S. Republican administrations ever trafficked or supported totalitarian governments in the Middle East or elsewhere (Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe, etc.) More evidence that he's just a party hack, not an independent media voice of any kind.


Oh this is GOO-O-O-DDD. Seem that at the same time BushCo is trying to sell our citizens on a British-like privatization plan to "reform and save" our Social Security program, the Brits are deliberating replacing their catastrophe of a "reform" pension system initiated by Lady Thatcher in her first term, with something more similar to THAT OF THE U.S. SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEM.

Let's understand this and understand it now: Bush etc. don't care if the system works. They're only interested in deferring some of that nice green money to their cronies and supporters in the financial services industry and destroying a safety net that has kept millions of "low-rent" elderly Americans alive and afloat. Dagnabbit! If they can't save (because they're in too low an income bracket), can't they at least keep working till they die?


Don't forget Not One Damn Dime day, coming January 20. Shorter version: don't spend a single dime on Bush's Inauguration Day. Boycott ALL FORMS OF CONSUMER SPENDING to protest what's being done in our name in Iraq. It's about supporting the troops, and you don't have to do anything. Instead, do NOTHING. Let's shut the retail economy down for just one 24-hour period.


When it comes down to it, the STORY was right. Only some last-minute questionable documents supporting what needed no support (Ben Barnes' own statement that he had, himself, at the request of a Bush buddy, gotten Bush Boy a valued spot at the head of the line for the TANG). Col. Killian's sentiments, as Mapes points out, were corroborated by his own commander and long-time secretary; the memos were just "icing" -- toxic icing, as it turned out, that poisoned the whole segment (I still suspect it was a Republican dirty trick to discredit the story!).

And boy, am I sick and tired of self-righteous pundits who LIE AND/OR MISLEAD THE PUBLIC EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK taking such glee in CBS', and Mapes/Rather/Heyward/et al's woes. I'm going to lose a TV or computer monitor to an angrily thrown shoe if I don't start on happy pills.


I am terribly disappointed in the conclusions of the report and its effects on the four of us who will no longer work at CBS News. I am disappointed as well for the entire organization. It has been my second family and I will miss my colleagues there.

I am shocked by the vitriolic scape-goating in Les Moonves's statement. I am very concerned that this actions are motivated by corporate and political considerations -- ratings rather than journalism. Mr. Moonves's response to the review panel's report and the panel's assessment of the evidence it developed in its investigation combine not only to condemn me, but to put all investigative reporting in the CBS tradition at risk.

Much has been made about the fact that these documents are photocopies and therefore cannot be trusted, but decades of investigative reporting have relied on just such copies of memos, documents and notes. In vetting these documents, we did not have ink to analyze, original signatures to compare, or paper to date. We did have context and corroboration and believed, as many journalists have before or after our story, that authenticity is not limited to original documents. Photocopies are often a basis for verified stories.

Before the Bush/Guard story aired, the newly found documents that supported it were thoroughly examined and corroborated. The contents of the new documents mesh perfectly, in large ways and small, with all previously known records. The new documents also were corroborated by retired Gen. Bobby Hodges, the late Col. Killian's commander, who said that the documents showed Col. Killian's true sentiments as well as his acttions in the case. After the broadcast, Marian Carr Knox provided the same corroboration in her televised interview. Yet, despite the panel's recognition of the heretofore unchallenged integrity of my work in the past, the panel was quick to condemn me here on the basis of statements of people who told my associates and me very different versions than what they told the panel.

I cooperated fully with the review panel, provided them with more than 1,000 pages of reporting and background materials and answered each and every one of their questions completely and truthfully. To the extent that my answers differed from others' statements, I can only emphasize my own honesty and integrity in attempting to reconstruct the details of the days leading up to the story's airing.

It is noteworthy the panel did not conclude that these documents are false. [emphasis mine]Indeed, in the end, all that the panel did conclude was that there were many red flags that counseled against going to air quickly. I never had control of the timing of any airing of a 60 Minutes segment; that has always been a decision made by my superiors. Airing this story when it did, was also a decision made by my superiors, including Andrew Heyward. If there was a journalistic crime committed here, it was not by me. Those superiors also made the decision to give the White House little time to consider or respond to the Killian documents. Contrary to the conclusions of the panel, I vetted all aspects of the story with my editors. In fact, as I have always done with my editors, I told them everything.

I believe the segment presented to the American people facts they were free to accept or reject, and that as those facts were presented, there was nothing that was false or misleading. I am heartened to see that the panel found no political bias on my part, as indeed I have none. For 25 years, I have built a reputation as a fair, honest and thorough journalist. I have had 15 wonderful years at CBS and four very bad months. I love and respect the people there and I wish them every good fortune.

January 10, 2005