(For a news source that requires a username and password, use "thelofty" for both.)
(* means blog has been updated recently)
The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad by Fareed Zakaria
Polyarchy by Robert Dahl
The Nazi Seizure of Power by William Sheridan Allen
Terror and Liberalism by Paul Berman
The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck
Pants On Fire VII
It looks like we have another exaggerated threat to deal with. Not only is there the yellowcake scandal, now there's the Iraq-Al-Qaeda link.
"The report of the joint congressional inquiry into the suicide hijackings on Sept. 11, 2001, to be published Thursday, reveals U.S. intelligence had no evidence that the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein was involved in the attacks, or that it had supported al-Qaida, United Press International has learned.
"The report shows there is no link between Iraq and al-Qaida," said a government official who has seen the report.
Former Democratic Georgia Sen. Max Cleland, who was a member of the joint congressional committee that produced the report, confirmed the official's statement.
"The administration sold the connection (between Iraq and al-Qaida) to scare the pants off the American people and justify the war," said Cleland. "What you've seen here is the manipulation of intelligence for political ends."
Although the committee completed its work at the end of last year, publication of the report has been delayed by interminable wrangles between the committees and the administration over which parts of it could be declassified.
Cleland accused the administration of deliberately delaying the report's release to avoid having its case for war undercut.
"The reason this report was delayed for so long -- deliberately opposed at first, then slow-walked after it was created -- is that the administration wanted to get the war in Iraq in and over ... before (it) came out," he said.
"Had this report come out in January like it should have done, we would have known these things before the war in Iraq, which would not have suited the administration."
The connection never existed. It was obvious to everyone but those with an ideological agenda in the White House. Saddam's secular tyranny and Al-Qaeda's Islamic fundamentalist motivations were never compatible. Conventional wisdom told us this much. Nevertheless the Bush administration pushed this point, and pushed it so far on the American people that the public actually began to believe it! At one point a majority of Americans believed that Iraq was responsible for September 11! If convincing the herd is that easy, I seriously worry about the state of the American intellect.
The fact that the administration prevented this report from coming out until after the war in Iraq was over should warrant it's own questions and investigations. If the administration couldn't convince the public using the truth, why did it create grammatical tricks and manipulate the timing of congressional reports? There is a serious credibility gap in this administration. They did a great job of tailoring the truth to their ideology, but how honest is that? If the public will only support your case for war if you make up allegations and play with verbs, then your case for war is flimsy, plain and simple.
When will we get the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
It's been well over a week since I put up the poll on what to call the misinformation intelligence fumble of the Bush administration, so let's see what you've decided:
With an overwhelming 60% of the vote, "Yellowcakegate" has, well, taken the cake. This of course makes sense since the mere fact that the words "yellow" and "cake" are words to play with for this scandal's name is just too enticing. You can say Bush wants to have his yellowcake and eat it too; you can point out that Republicans don't want to make the yellowcake bigger for all of society, they just want a bigger piece of yellowcake for themselves, Bush can say "let them eat yellowcake!" and... well, you get the idea. It becomes obvious that this choice was a favorite because of the ridiculous possibilities of it's use.
Then there was "Lyingate," which is efficient in it's use of the letter "g." For those on the right who dismiss this whole controversy, the use of the big "L" word would no doubt make them brush it off even more. They may be right though, technically no one lied, except of course in their public statements where they claimed the nuclear program had been reconstituted. But I won't get into the realm of technicalities. Bush's defenders are tying themselves in knots just fine on their own. Plus, isn't everything that ends in -gate somehow about a lie?
Next is "Iraqgate." Frankly this is just boring. No doubt a broad name like this could be necessary to sum up all the exaggerations and misrepresentations of the administration since tomorrow the 9-11 report will show that there never was any relation between Iraq and Al-Qaeda, and various other claims by the administration are showing their holes, but "Iraqgate" is just too bland and serious to be a good -gate.
"Uranigate" had just one vote, and is somewhat catchy, but why not just go with "Yellowcakegate?" It's so much more fun to say.
My personal favorite, one that I thought up only after I had made this poll, is "Pantsonfiregate." The word itself is painfully long and looks too jumbled to be of any use to the English language. But then this particular scandal isn't exactly founded on clear syntax and semantics. When we have an administration willing to modify the action verb in order to make it's case, it's quite possible that a manufactured word like "Pantsonfiregate" is not nearly long enough or jumbled enough to adequately describe the extent of the scandal. The added bonus of this particular -gate is it's obvious witty and feel-good nature. "Lyingate" is somewhat obtuse, but "Pantsonfiregate?" It doesn't get any better than that.
I've noticed in the course of the Bush administration that the methods of dissent are just plain better from the left than they ever were from the right during the glorious Clinton years. While conservatives went to their 50,000 member, stadium-seating churches for inspirational sermons on the evils of the immoral, devil-like liberals, lefties are making movies, drawing murals, forming the words "NO WAR" with their naked bodies on hillsides in Denmark, and coming up with some of the best political cartoons of our time. As far as opposition ideologies go, liberals will always have conservatives beat. It must be that artsy thing.
My conservative readers will no doubt say, "and you're welcome to stay as the out-of-power opposition," I will pre-emptively say, "No Thanks." Come January 20, 2005, conservatives will have to learn how to be creative in their dissent. Good luck.
In case there was any doubt about which party truly cares about defending the American people, there's this little nugget from today's Post. Senate Republicans are blocking new funding for Homeland Security.
"Byrd's proposal sought to add $602 million for transit security; $729.5 million for police, firefighters and "first responders"; $238.5 million for border protections; $100 million to safeguard air cargo; and $80 million to protect chemical facilities."
While our ports continue to only be able to check 1-2% of all containers that enter the U.S. through Seattle, San Diego, New York and others, Senate Republicans are standing in the way to actually ensuring the safety their constituents. Little actual progress has been made since September 11 to honestly make the nation safer. Instead, the Bush administration has pumped up it's own image as the defender of patriotism while doing little to actually change the flaws that allowed the country's largest city to be attacked. Lip service is not enough. If we really want to be safer today than two years ago we must fund the first responders who are responsible for making the country safe.
Increasing the arbitrary color code level from orange to red doesn't make America safer, it only requires local governments who are already cash-strapped to pay for the extra hours of overtime that are required to defend the country. Why are states in such bad economic shape? Because Republicans don't want to fund the necessary first responders in order to make the country noticeably safer. They would rather watch F-16's morph into eagles on Fox News and feel good about their steadfast patriotism.
Unfortunately for them, no matter how much Republicans wrap themselves in red, white and blue, the country remains no safer today than yesterday without the funding necessary to make it that way. It's time for Republicans to stop with the faux superiority on national security issues. Not until they are willing to truly make America safer will they have actually done anything worth bragging about. If they want to wear the flag, they should fund port security.
After a week of harrassment by the otherwise unquestioning "liberal" media, the Bush administration decided they needed to sacrifice another lamb to appease the critics. Last week it was George Tenet, this week it's Stephen Hadley. Hadley, the deputy to National Security Advisor Condi Rice, said that it was his fault
"I should have recalled at the time of the State of the Union speech that there was controversy associated with the uranium issue," Hadley said in a meeting with reporters that ran nearly 90 minutes.
"I should have either asked that the 16 words dealing with that subject be stricken or I should have alerted DCI (Director of Central Intelligence) Tenet.
"And had I done so this would have avoided the whole current controversy. It is now clear to me that I failed in that responsibility," Hadley said."
Gee, doesn't that sound convincing? That sure is a lot of "should have's" for someone who claimed upstandingness just a few days ago. He must have seen the light. I don't know if I've ever heard a person sound so fake sorry since, well, George Tenet. Who writes the statements for these guys? This White House just doesn't know how to close a wound when it gets a chance.
"He said he had failed to recall the CIA objections, which were included in two memos and a telephone conversation with Tenet in the days before Bush outlined his case against Iraq in an Oct. 7, 2002 speech in Cincinnati.
"Hadley said the CIA memos which had been sent to him were found over the weekend. White House officials had previously said they had not been informed of CIA doubts over the claim."
Oh, there they are! Silly me! They were in that drawer the whole time! How stupid does this White House think the public is? Absentmindedness is hardly a defense when what we're talking about is the intelligence that takes the country to war. The administration either thinks the American people are incredibly dimwitted, or are just horrendously bad at covering their own missteps. It's not a good thing either way.
And of course, just minutes after Hadley fell on his sword, the White House issued it's total faith in him and the rest of the national security council. How long will it be before Bush is expressing confidence in everyone in his administration except himself, who ultimately should be responsible for every word he says. Where exactly does the buck stop?
To break the tension of Pantsonfiregate, I figured it was time for another story about my summer roommate.
After waking up late for work today, he stumbled into his office around 12:30. Apparently the NRCC doesn't exactly run the tightest ship because no one seemed to notice. As any reasonable person might decipher, this is because he's a mere intern. To use the words of one, Kweisi Mfume: his political capital was the equivalent of Confederate dollars. To him though, the apathy from his fellow cubicle dwellers was because they "loved and feared" him.
So I asked him, "do you even know who originally said that phrase?" I suppose it could be an unfair question to ask of your average America, but let's keep in mind that my roommate is a political science major just like myself. This should be a no-brainer.
He had, though, no clue that Niccolo Machiavelli had proclaimed that very thought in his Idiot's Guide to Being A Prince. Even after I told him who had said it, he still had no clue. Shouldn't a political science major know who Machiavelli is? Am I wrong here?
But it gets worse. I asked him if he knew who Fredrick Nietszche was. No idea. He dismissed these questions as being slanted and that he shouldn't be expected to know who a bunch of liberal commies are. That's right, Machiavelli and Nietszche are liberal commies. The man who wrote a "how to" for being a control freak dictator, and the man who inspired Hitler - yes, these are the liberals and Communists.
But it doesn't stop there. "What about John Locke? Do you know who John Locke is?" I ask him. Again, no clue. Now, Machiavelli and Nietszche I suppose I could maybe dismiss as obscure (or can I?), but John Locke??. The man who founded the Liberal political thought that helped inspire Thomas Jefferson, who in turn wrote our beloved Declaration of Independence. How could they have neglected to cover John Locke in his political science classes? That's shameful. Life, Liberty and Property. It's basic stuff.
I hope he's the exception and not the rule for my generation. For if he's the rule, I fear for our future.
Finally some good news out of Iraq: Both of Saddam Hussein's sons have been killed.
"We're certain that Uday and Qusay were killed," Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez said in Baghdad. "We've used multiple sources to identify the individuals."
Great news, but where is Saddam himself? Once the Iraqi people know that Saddam is dead - very, very, very dead - there will be a more open relationship with American forces. Until then, we can only expect more attacks that are fueled by a blinded view of reality that somehow imagines Saddam could come back to power. In a nation that lived in fear for decades, simply removing the regime from power is not enough. Not until the leadership is dead and gone will the people have true freedom from terror. Hopefully this is the first step towards the final freedom.
Josh Marshall has been, and continues to be all over the uranium scandal. He writes that when Bush came into office his cronies decided it was time for the CIA and the rest of the intelligence community to see the light about Iraq-Al Qaeda, about Iraq's aggressiveness, about Iran, about the Palestinian leadership, about... well, about everything Neoconservatives like to point to about their plan for the Middle East and Central Asia. He says the Bush administration came into office and has spent two years trying to browbeat the intelligence community into seeing it their way. Josh comes up with the perfect analogy for this as well. It goes like this:
"Let's say a CEO took over a Fortune 500 company. Let's further say that his first act was to walk down to the advertising division and tell them they had no idea what they were doing and had to change the way they did business. He also told them he was going to bring in some outside consultants to comment on (read: second guess) their work. Now, the CEO and his new crew didn't have a huge amount of experience with ad work. But he talked a good game. So people thought he might have something up his sleeve. Then the new results come in at the end of the year and the company's revenues fell off the cliff.
Now, needless to say, the boss's cronies and sycophants would say that it was just an example of how bad the ad division was doing in the first place, or come up with some other such excuse. But how long do you think that CEO would hold on to his job?"
I'd say not very long, but seeing as this is probably big business' favorite administration since the 19th century, where corporate accountability is non-existant (which course if Ken Lay playing today?), I'm guessing the CEO will dump his own failure on someone else, get away with it and hire a brand new intellig... er, advertising department and the company won't be any better off than before he came in.
I'm beginning to have a hard time keeping up with all the lies that are only now coming out from the Bush administration about their use of intelligence, but here's the latest:
"Beginning in October, the CIA warned the administration not to use the Niger claim in public. CIA Director George J. Tenet personally persuaded deputy national security adviser Stephen Hadley to omit it from President Bush's Oct. 7 speech in Cincinnati about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.
"But on the eve of Bush's Jan. 28 State of the Union address, Robert Joseph, an assistant to the president in charge of nonproliferation at the National Security Council (NSC), initially asked the CIA if the allegation that Iraq sought to purchase 500 pounds of uranium from Niger could be included in the presidential speech."
"Alan Foley, a senior CIA official, disclosed this detail when he accompanied Tenet in a closed-door hearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Wednesday.
"Foley, director of the CIA's intelligence, nonproliferation and arms control center, told committee members that the controversial 16-word sentence was eventually suggested by Joseph in a telephone conversation just a day or two before the speech, according to congressional and administration sources who were present at the five-hour session.
"At the hearing, Foley said he called Joseph to object to mentioning Niger and that a specific amount of uranium was being sought. Joseph agreed to eliminate those two elements but then proposed that the speech use more general language, citing British intelligence that said Iraq had recently been seeking uranium in Africa."
So, knowing that he couldn't mention Niger, since it was false, and he couldn't use American sources, since they had said it was false, Robert Joseph somehow thought it would be OK to muddle fact and fiction.
I think we've found our culprit, folks. Robert Joseph, an assistant to President Bush in charge of nonproliferation at the National Security Council. A decision to add such a crucial passage like that seems like something that the National Security Advisor ought to have reviewed as well. Did she? And if she didn't, why the heck not? Someone has some 'splaining to do.
On another note, those poorly forged documents that seem to have been found via an Italian journalist (not the French, as most Neocons would have you believe), which the CIA and others spend months studying to determine if they were forgeries or not, were determined to be fake by the IAEA within days. How did they do it, you ask?
"On Feb. 4, the U.N. inspectors' Iraq team was called to the U.S. mission in Vienna and verbally briefed on the contents of the documents. A day later, they received copies, according to officials familiar with the inspectors' work.
"Using the Google Internet search engine, books on Niger and interviews with Iraqi and Nigerien officials, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) experts determined that the documents were fake."
I laughed out loud when I read this. Some things are just too ridiculous to be believed.
Could it be that after 1998 Saddam Hussein never had any real chemical or biological weaponry, that he just thought he did?This account from various former Iraqi military officers seems to suggest that fear of the brutal dictator compelled them to tell him whatever he wanted to hear. No one could tell Saddam the truth. No one could tell him that his military's capabilities were a fraction of what he thought they were. Could it be that the tyrant never had weapons of mass destruction after all?
"Hussein's system of rewards also spawned an atmosphere of deceit that deluded the president into believing his armed forces went into the war far better equipped and militarily capable than they really were, senior officers said.
Gen. Yasin Mohammad Taha Joubouri, an artillery specialist with 38 years in the regular army, said he was summoned to a meeting with the president in 1999, who ordered him to help the Defense Ministry build one of the largest artillery pieces in the world.
The army, with assistance from specialists, designed a cannon with a barrel 210 millimeters -- more than eight inches -- in diameter, a weapon so cumbersome that Joubouri and the other specialists knew it could not work. Still, Joubouri helped build a full-scale model and drafted fake performance records to convince the president that the project was progressing.
"No one could tell him it couldn't work," said Joubouri, who said he was still working on the cannon when he left the army six months ago. "He was giving us awards and presents."
It seems there was plenty incentive for the military officers to lie about the progress of various weapons programs. Why not weapons of mass destruction as well? It seems Saddam was living in a fantasy land while his generals lied to save themselves. We seem to have underestimated the psychological motivations that would twist reality in Iraq. Brutality and oppression don't lend themselves to the truth. It's something these officers knew all too well, and something that we may have underestimated in our calculation of Iraq's weapon capabilities. Perhaps someone should have read the whole book before writing the book report. Sigh.
I'm not sure what to think of this report that Scottie Pippen is coming back to the Chicago Bulls. It's too weird to comprehend. I guess I'm just so used to the Jerry Krause era where hatred seemed to be mutual between the Penguin-like owner and the Jordan sidekick. I never thought we'd ever see Pippen back in a Bulls uniform but it's becoming apparent that the Paxson era will be different, and hopefully much better for player-front office relations. Hopefully it will work out.
The real question now though is this: is Michael coming back too?