Copyright © 2005 Frank Lynch.
Me: Frank Lynch
These are my mundane daily ramblings.
Pessimism over Iraq. I'm sure I'm the last person on earth to write about this, but maybe not, so what the hell. A bunch of US generals are re-casting their opinions about what we're facing in Iraq, and their forecast isn't pretty. If I understand the Internet, I suspect that most of you (here) won't be surprised by the downturn in the perspective, but are more likely to ask why dawn has been so slow to break on Marblehead. You probably also haven't been surprised by the continual downward spiral in Bush's approval ratings (disclosure: I work at SRBI, but not in the polling group), nor by the Downing Street memo story...
The problem for us all, I guess, is how we cope with the preposterousness of the Preznit claiming he had his accountability moment, and secondly, how we deal with our fellow citizens who not only participated in re-electing his Putzness, but also (lets face it) implicitly condoned everything he did before and since.
There was a book which came out about five years ago dealing with German culture in the 1930's and 1940's, called something like "Hitler's Willing Accomplices," and it was an indictment of the German people's willingness to comply. So far as you know, has anyone delimned the difference here? What with the falsification of intelligence, is this different from invading Poland and acting like Poland was being aggressive?
More adventures in cooking. If you've been here a while, you know about my off the beaten path adventures such as poffertjes and squid... Well, in keeping with my openness about such efforts, I should tell you that tonight we did grilled octopus. It turned out exactly as it should have, although my daughter and I were far more accepting of the texture than my wife was. It's really not difficult, and the key thing to remember is that in all likelihood the octopus you buy has already been cleaned. You can't say that for squid.
It's not a show stopper for your dinner party, but you'll
certainly get high marks for doing something besides chicken.
(But you may want to do a little exploratory research with your
dinner guests in advance.)
"...people that would be in a better position..." Oh, by now you know the story is unfolding with respect to Newsweek and the claims that a copy of the Koran was flushed down a toilet to provoke a Guantanamo detainee to talk. And doubtless you know that although General Richard B. Myers testified that his best sources in Afghanistan had concluded that riots there, as well as subsequent deaths, had not been caused by Newsweek's now-retracted story, that WH spokesliar Scott McClellan had disregarded Myers' testimony and cried out that people had died due to the Newsweek article.
That summary having been done, did you catch this part of Scotty's briefing today?
So, since you may not be reading this with your better glasses, let's connect the dots: remember that crystal ball which enabled the Wicked Witch of the West to see distant events? All of a sudden Scotty's has gone on the blink. It was working just fine when the news was bad — in fact, Scotty's worked even better than General Myers' model — but now that Scotty was asked if all the violence had abated, he has to KICK KICK it (damn, still too much snow, definitely need a new pair of rabbit ears).
It is hard not to notice two contrasting stories that have run side by side during the past week. One is the story about the violent protests in the Muslim world triggered by a report in Newsweek (which the magazine has now retracted) that U.S. interrogators at Guant namo Bay desecrated a Koran by throwing it into a toilet. In Afghanistan alone, at least 16 people were killed and more than 100 wounded in anti-American rioting that has been linked to that report. I certainly hope that Newsweek story is incorrect, because it would be outrageous if U.S. interrogators behaved that way.
The whole "Newsweek caused it meme" has been generated by Scott McClellan (White House press secretary) and Larry DiRita (similar, for the Pentagon). And it's been picked up by lazier members of the press.
I think that people who are trying to point to Newsweek are
relying merely on the contiguity of events, and assuming
causality. You can't even claim it's a catalyst: at best, it was
merely the gripe closest at hand. (A point made first in this
Editor's Note: On Monday afternoon, May 16, Whitaker issued the following statement: Based on what we know now, we are retracting our original story that an internal military investigation had uncovered Qur'an abuse at Guantanamo Bay.
90% or more of my last post stands, however. The US hasn't been exonerated over the use of the Koran in interrogations, as prior claims of this sort of thing had occurred, so Newsweek was correct in viewing the recent charge within the context of what had already been claimed. (Whether or not those prior claims have been fully investigated, I don't know.)
Regarding my other points, the White House was clearly asking
for more exoneration than it deserved based on yesterday
morning's information, it's done so in the past, and we have a
horrible record in this war. We're not exonerated. (More on the
full extent of the allegations
NEWSWEEK National Security Correspondent John Barry, realizing the sensitivity of the story, provided a draft of the NEWSWEEK PERISCOPE item to a senior Defense official, asking, "Is this accurate or not?" The official challenged one aspect of the story: the suggestion that Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, sent to Gitmo by the Pentagon in 2001 to oversee prisoner interrogation, might be held accountable for the abuses. Not true, said the official (the PERISCOPE draft was corrected to reflect that). But he was silent about the rest of the item. The official had not meant to mislead, but lacked detailed knowledge of the SouthCom report.
Obviously this is far from a retraction, and I was wrong to characterize it as such yesterday.
The vehemence of the reaction to what Newsweek has "failed" to do is surprising, however. Perhaps Scott McClellan didn't have the benefit (yeah, right) of the full Newsweek article by the time of this morning's gaggle...
McClellan's position, of course, is to maximize the nature of Newsweek's error, make it seem as if the small error is everything, and that the entire story should be thrown out. But as today's Newsweek article states on page two,
NEWSWEEK was not the first to report allegations of desecrating the Qur'an. As early as last spring and summer, similar reports from released detainees started surfacing in British and Russian news reports, and in the Arab news agency Al-Jazeera; claims by other released detainees have been covered in other media since then.
So McClellan wants all this disregarded because of one small fact which Newsweek says it got wrong. (Note also, that when McClellan was asked point blank about whether or not a copy of the Koran was flushed, the best he could do was say that there's been no evidence; that's a little better than the "non-denial denial" one frequently hears on these occasions, but "100 percent sure" isn't something you can ever say about something not happening. And as for McClellan's claim that "people have lost their lives," well, the Defense Department has said that's not true.)
Have we learned nothing since "Rathergate"? The right sought to throw away all allegations that Bush had failed to fulfill his National Guard duties by pointing to one questionable story on CBS. To some extent, that's what is going on now and in the blogosphere. (The Poor Man's retort is well worth a read, by the way.)
In an atmosphere where we have...
We cannot shirk our moral obligations. We must look evil in the eye when it approaches us, and be firm. We cannot look away in its presence. If need be, we must summon our courage in order to do what is right. The world, after all, depends on us as a great nation to do what is right.
The leaked minutes of a 2002 meeting with Bush show that Bush had decided to war against Iraq, and that
Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.
This memo, of course, is a serious piece of evidence. Can a nation make any more important decision than whether to war?
The minutes are dated July 23, 2002. Less than three months later, Bush would give his speech in Cincinnati, one outlining the threat which it's apparent he wanted us to believe was there (prophetically, the White House page with that speech is headed with a graphic that reads "Iraq: Denial and Deception"). This was the speech warning of smoking guns in the form of mushroom clouds. A few months after the Cincinnati speech came the State of the Union address, warning of chemical weapons, attempts to buy refined uranium, and so on. Condoleezza Rice, of course, had appeared on Wolf Blitzer's show months beforehand, touting aluminum tubes as being certainly for enriching uranium, when she knew that the most authoritative sources in the U.S. government had concluded that they couldn't conceivably be used for that purpose.
In March of 2003, Vice President Cheney appeared on NBC's "Meet The Press" and stated that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons; he would later claim that he had merely misspoken, that he had meant to say reconstituted its nuclear programs, yet he didn't clarify that until six months had passed, long after the war had started: even though his March statement was in the Washington Post at the time.
It could not be plainer but that evil has taken over the White House. We cannot look away from this — the evidence has become so massive that if we lapse into denial that we are complicit in its continuation.
It is time for us to all to work together to at least minimize the threat of this evil, if we cannot eradicate it from power completely. Certainly, we must work towards this through peaceful means, but just as certainly, if a President can be impeached over consensual sexual relations, a President can be impeached for lying to the public in the way that George W. Bush did to us. The more so if Republicans continue to insist that Clinton was impeached for lying.
You can find your Senators and Representatives through this link for Senators and this link for Representatives. You must contact them now, and make them our allies in seeking the truth. You must also contact your local newspaper and television stations, as well as the major networks, and insist on their diligence in covering this story.
We must work together on this; as Samuel Johnson wrote long
ago, "No people can be great who have ceased to be virtuous." We
can be great again, but we must first insist on virtue.
Newsweek is retracting a charge in one of its stories. Last week Newsweek reported that a copy of the Koran had been flushed down a toilet in an effort to taunt a detainee at Guantanamo (and I blogged about their report last Sunday). Today they're retracting their story:
Normally, I don't copy this much from a news report, but this
retraction is important enough, seeing as how very few people
really click through links to read a story. (And there's more at
the link by the way.) For what it's worth, I've also added a
notice at my original post.
Is Wexler's proposition even
necessary? The projected shortfall for Social Security is
subject to so many assumptions, assumptions about productivity
rates, economic growth, immigration, life spans, future incomes,
and so on, that it's a miracle if they get anything right.
Furthermore, the projections are highly sensitive to slight
variations in the inputs. The "shortfalls" we hear about are
based on the middle of three projections. But guess what
projection has been accurate more often than the others? It's the optimistic one, under which we won't see
shortfalls. (That link takes you to a post by Kevin Drum, and
there's a link in it which is probably behind the New York Times
archive gates; if so, try this
Boldly touching the third rail. It's
not an easy thing for a politician to break from the crowd, and
do the unthinkable — that is, boldly touch that third rail
of American politics, Social Security. But a Democrat has done
so, and surprisingly, Donald Luskin isn't happy. Apparently, all
that talk which Luskin was doing about Social Security's finances
was insincere. Hmmm.
The value of putting the Social Trust Fund to government spending. This morning John Tierney morphs from a complaint about pork in the new highway and transportation bill to a complaint about how the government utilizes funds it borrows from the Social Security Trust Fund, leaving the trust fund with "IOUs."
The basic rhetorical technique is to say, here are two things I object to, and I want to obscure their differences. The core idea which drives his column is that when a trust fund is created, it shouldn't be put to any other use than what was originally envisioned. Regarding Social Security, Tierney's suggests that when the government borrows money from the Social Security Trust Fund, the money does nothing for Social Security.
He couldn't be more wrong. Our budget funds pork, true, but amidst that pork are initiatives which keep the country healthy and ensure its long-term growth. National Defense, for instance. Do we need to worry about Social Security's supposed insolvency issue if the country isn't around? And how about education? Education helps ensure that the populace is well-prepared to work and find jobs; without jobs, people don't pay payroll taxes. And healthcare? If people aren't healthy, they aren't at work. And food stamps? Do hungry workers have their minds on being productive? And aren't productivity assumptions an important input to the Social Security Admin's actuarial projections?
(You may want some background from this discussion at snopes.com , where they write "true" about the claim "President Bush has appointed W. David Hager, a physician and anti-abortion activist, to an FDA committee on reproductive drugs.")
"That decision is a matter for the FDA." From this page at the FDA you can learn that Hager's term began in December 27, 2002. Who was the head of the FDA at the time? Why, none other than Scott's brother Mark, who was in charge of the FDA from November 2002 to March 25, 2004. And what was Dr. McClellan's prior position, just before the FDA? That bio page will tell you that "[d]uring 2001 and 2002, Dr. McClellan served in the White House as a Member of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, where he advised on domestic economic issues and was a senior policy director for health care and related economic issues."
So Scott could have rephrased "that decision is a
matter for the FDA" as, "yeah, my brother made that decision,
just after the White House put him in charge of the FDA; yup, we
got our mole in, and then all hell broke loose. Sometimes your
family just turns on you or something. I dunno."
Bill Frist is completely lacking in perspective. It looks as if Frist is set to force a showdown over federal judicial nominees and the use of the filibuster, to the point of being willing to deploy what Republican Senator Trent Lott referred to as "the nuclear option," removing the filibuster from the equation. There are lots of reasons to be concerned here; the shape of the judiciary is one concern (although it's appropriate to point out that the federal judge who was harshest about federal intervention from the executive and judiciary branches regarding Terri Schiavo was nominated by a Republican President), but it doesn't stop there.
In fact, I'm not sure people have even thought long enough about its impact on the judiciary alone; certainly the GOP would have screamed about Trott's "nuclear option" had the Democrats deployed it during the Clinton years, when Clinton nominee after Clinton nominee never came to the Senate floor. There is also the sad possibility that were Trent Lott's nuclear option deployed, it would happen again when Democrats return to power (they will: Republicans need to recognize that), and then what? Do we see another round of polarizing judicial nominees from the Democrats, in an effort to play "catch up"? And each time the pendulum swings, will it get worse and worse, leaving fewer and fewer moderate judges? At such a point, imagine what the courts will be like: how many decision will be appealed unnecessarily, out of an attempt to get a hearing from judges who share your politics? How inefficient will the judiciary then become? Will the Supreme Court be called upon far more often? And will the SCOTUS find itself accepting cases based on the political leanings of the previous court?
Now, let's be serious about the concerns: can anyone be assured that the power hungry GOP will be satisfied with limiting the nuclear option to just judicial nominees? I'm not talking about this year: let's just say for a moment that the nuclear option goes through. 15 years from now, we could well still have a GOP which continues to pander to its most conservative elements, which will then be working in the context of nuclear as acceptable for judges. (It will be part of their cognitive framework by then.) Can we be confident that they won't want to extend it to other areas? Not just nominees, but legislation? An end to debate and an airing of the concerns of the senators and the people?
And since pendulums do have a habit of swinging, how stable will our government be at that point, with no protection for the minority, and a constant back and forth?
Call me Chicken Little here, but I think that Bill Frist has
not imagined the future. We know he knows nothing of the
past — he continues to refer to the current actions of the
unprecedented obsructionism in a foul attempt to hide the
history of how the Senate behaved regarding Clinton's nominees.
And if Frist can't be bothered with looking back to the easily
verifiable past, who could trust him to contemplate the future,
or a shoe on the other foot?
Daniel Okrent was better on Ken Burns' "Baseball." If you've seen Ken Burns' "Baseball," you may remember a recurring commenter with glasses who spoke eloquently about the game (and I don't mean George Will). It was Daniel Okrent, who we now know as the Lame Duck Public Editor of the New York Times. The Times recently released a set of conclusions on how it should move forward, and I, for one, am glad Okrent won't be part of the forward movement.
While I love his contribution to the Burns documentary, I
think that he made a huge strategic mistake by refusing to
fulfill his quality control role regarding Bush vs. Kerry
until the election was over. If you read the Times'
coverage, you were constantly treated to reporters avoiding the
truth, either by not commenting on the falsehoods or by offering
countering perspectives, legitimate or not. Thus, Ken Mehlman was
allowed to baldly say that Kerry had no plan — even though
any visitor to johnkerry.com could see that Kerry did, and
it was detailed. This sort of thing went on day after day,
letting political hacks have free access to the Times' readers,
without any added value from the Times. This isn't a whole lot
worse than what Jeff Gannon was doing by cut and pasting RNC
talking points into his pieces; the Times only gave a name to the
fax machine. Big damn difference. And Okrent didn't do a thing
until after the election. That was helpful. See that
approaching iceberg? Ah, I'll tell you later.
It took less than an hour for the SFRC to endanger the nomination of John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. After missing the first two Bolton hearings and delaying a committee vote on Bolton's nomination an additional month, Ohio Republican George Voinovich Thursday ensured that Bolton would not leave the committee with a positive recommendation.
Let's be clear: the Senate Foreign Relations Committee never
endangered Bolton's nomination. There are plenty of nominees who
would have sailed through hearings and received broad support.
But Bolton isn't one of them, and the blame for Bolton's
difficulty lies with Bolton and Bush, not the committee. And it's
just laughable to suggest otherwise.
If the election were held today, would Blair have retained a majority for Labor? Would Bush have gotten his slim margin of victory? An article in this morning's Washington Post has more on early warnings to Blair that Bush was twisting the intelligence in order to invade Iraq.
Clearly, the reason Bush refused to give the inspectors more time had nothing to do with finding out the truth, but avoiding the exposure of Bush's charade. And now, of course, 1615 US troops have died; perhaps 100,000 innocent Iraqis; our military is depleted, and the budget's a wreck.
How many on the right are soothing themselves by saying, "at
least Bush is against abortion"? What have they gotten in bed
with? Do they have any idea where this man will stop?
Someone who really should know better forwarded me an email about Hillary Clinton, hot outta their in- box without giving it any serious scrutiny. The claim was that as First Lady she was abusive to Secret Service personnel in front of reporters, and the press was always too scared to report it. As if the press gave the Clintons anything close to a free pass — remember how willing they were to talk about Clinton supposedly screwing up all the take-offs at LAX while he had his hair done? And did you notice how much the press rallied around the Clintons once it was clear that Whitewater amounted to nothing?
Sadly, this came from the same person who I lambasted last October for forwarding incredible lies about Kerry. At the time, I was harsh about the failure to do the slightest checking before participating in slander. They heard me (and I think I saw the sputter and blush, even through denial), and have completely forgotten that incident.
Was it worse than we feared? One of the controversial elements surrounding
the nomination of John Bolton to U.N. Ambassador surrounds a
fiery speech he gave over North Korea, a speech which displeased
a number of people in the State Department. Guess what? The speech was approved. To some
extent, then, it mitigates perceptions of Bolton as a loose
cannon. But at the same time, not only does it leave concerns
about his policy skills still questionable, it calls into
question those who approved the speech. I am not encouraged.