Monthly Archives: June 2004

Supremes On A Roll

Once again, I think the Supreme Court got it right today. The case is Ashcroft v. ACLU. In a close 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court struck down the latest version of the Child Online Protection Act.

This is like the second or third time COPA has come before the Supreme Court, and each time it comes up, it gets struck down. COPA is intended to keep Internet pornography out of easy reach of children. Certainly, that’s admirable, but — you guessed it — there are First Amendment issues.

The make-up of the SCOTUS majority was odd: Stevens, Souter, Thomas, Ginsburg, and Kennedy. Breyer sided with Rehnquist, Scalia and O’Connor. Kennedy wrote the opinion, saying that the latest version of COPA (re-written in 1998) is still too broad and violates the First Amendment. Here’s part of the problem: the standard of obscenity set by the latest COPA is the "contemporary community standard". That standard, however, makes no sense when you are talking about the Internet — I can assure that the "contemporary community standard" of obscenity is different in Buloxi, Mississippi than it is in NYC. That effectively means that the people in Buloxi will have veto power over what the people in NYC can see on the Internet.

Kennedy also noted that COPA was written in 1998, and since then, web-filtering technology has gotten better. It may be possible — now — to prevent kids from seeing Internet porno WITHOUT violating the First Amendment rights of the rest of us horny people who actually LIKE it and WANT it. (Those weren’t Kennedy’s exact words, but that’s the gist). Anyway, an interesting, and correct (in my view), opinion (PDF).

Ruminations of ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ – Part II of II

Well, shit. Kevin Drum took my Part II point. Almost verbatim.

[T]he thing that really struck me about the film was the almost poetic parallellism between its own slanders and cheap shots and the slanders and cheap shots of pro-war supporters themselves over the past couple of years. If Moore had done this deliberately, it would have been worthy of Henry James.

Take the first half hour of the film, in which Moore exposes the close relationship between the Bush family and the House of Saud. Sure, it relies mostly on innuendo and imagery, but then again, he never really makes the case anyway. He never flat out says that the Bush family is on the Saudi payroll. Rather, he simply includes "9/11," "Bush," and "Saudi Arabia" in as many sentences as possible, thus leaving the distinct impression that George Bush is a bought and paid for subsidiary of the Saudi royal family.

Which is all remarkably similar to the tactic Bush himself used to link Saddam Hussein to 9/11. He never flat out blamed Saddam, but rather made sure to include the words "9/11," "Saddam Hussein," and "al-Qaeda" in as many sentences as possible, thus leaving the distinct impression that Saddam had something to do with it.

Exactly. Exactly. Exactly. That even dawned on me as I was watching the movie: "Isn’t Moore doing in this part exactly what I have accused Bush (and Bush supporters) of doing)"? The answer was "yes".

Here’s the meta-point: IT’S ALL ABOUT DOTS AND CONNECTIONS. I don’t care if the topic-du-jour is the "Iraq has WMDs" or "Iraq had Al Queda connections" or "Bush had bin Laden connections". The entire debate turns around the dots and the connnections that one chooses to make between them.

Typically, what we have are facts (the "dots"), on the one hand . . . and what those facts mean (the "connections"), on the other hand. People who think they can nail Moore on his facts are going to be sadly disappointed. And mark my words, the anti-Moore websites will soon realize that Moore’s vulnerability lies not in his facts, but the connections he makes from those facts.

Of course, such criticisms will probably ignore that this is JUST what Bush did in the run-up to the war. He took the dots he liked, ignored the dots he didn’t like, and made his case/connection. Just like Moore.

But there’s one important difference: when Moore makes questionable connections between his dots, nobody dies — all that happens is that a silly movie gets made. When the President of the United States makes questionable connections — on matter of war — thousands of people get killed. The approach is the same; the flaw is the same; but the consequences are extremely different.

More Disgruntled Conservatives Speak Out

Normally, if a conservative says something anti-Bush, I would pass it on and say that another conservative has left the ranch. But this happens with such frequency, that I am beginning to think that is Bush who has left the conservative ranch.

Anyway, today’s discontented conservatives are two heavyweight staples of the right, Jesse Helms (R-N.C) and William F. Buckley:

"I would not have voted for [President Bush’s] tax cut, based on what I know…There is no doubt that the people at the top who need a tax break the least will get the most benefit…Too often presidents do things that don’t end up helping the people they should be helping, and their staffs won’t tell them their actions stink on ice."

– Jesse Helms to Business North Carolina magazine, as reported here

The Terrorism Opinions

The Supreme Court has ruled on three cases involving terrorism detainees. I’ve only browsed the opinions, but one thing is clear: if Bush thinks he can do whatever he wants regarding prisoners by virtue of being a "war president", THAT myth is shattered.

That’s not to suggest that Bush got his ENTIRE ass handed to him today. The SCOTUS opinions are going to take a while to digest. But here’s my first blush view.

PADILLA – The issue in this case was whether an American arrested and held in America could be labelled an "enemy combatent". Regretably, SCOTUS punted on this. Like Newdow, they didn’t reach the case on the merits but rejected it on jurisdictional grounds. Padilla has to make his claims in South Carolina, not New York.

HAMDI – Here, the prisoner was an American too, but unlike Padilla, he was arrested in Afghanistan fighting against the U.S. The issues were (1) could Hamdi be labelled an "enemy combatent" and (2) could Hamdi challenge that designation in federal courts. The opinions are all over the place, but the answer appears to be "Yes" and "Yes".

This is by far the most interesting of the three cases, because the opinions provide a lot of meat. For example, the plurality writes that a war prisoner’s detention must be "to prevent a combatant’s return to the battlefield." What does this mean in terms of Hamdi? It means, says the Supremes, that he can be held only until the end of the "active combat operations in Afghanistan" — NOT (as some have said) until the whole "war on terror" is over. The kapow sentence, however, is this: "Certainly, we agree that indefinite detention for the purpose of interrogation is not authorized."

RASUL – The issue in this case was whether U.S. courts had jurisdiction to hear the claims of foreign prisoners being held at Gitmo. This was clearly a defeat for Bush, as SCOTUS ruled (distinguishing Eisentrager) that the war prisoners had the right to the writ of habeus corpus. All in all, the opinions slap Bush’s hand pretty good.

UPDATE: I missed this, but it looks like even Scalia agrees with me. Check on this strong language from Scalia in his Hamdi dissent:

Many think it not only inevitable but entirely proper that liberty give way to security in times of national crisis-—that, at the extremes of military exigency, inter arma silent leges. Whatever the general merits of the view that war silences law or modulates its voice, that view has no place in the interpretation and application of a Constitution designed precisely to confront war and, in a manner that accords with democratic principles, to accommodate it.

Bam! Well-said, Antonin.

FURTHER UPDATE: And it looks like the Court is getting a little snarky, too. Check out this quote:

"History and common sense teach us that an unchecked system of detention carries the potential to become a means of oppression and abuse of others who do not present . . . an immediate threat."

And here is how SCOTUSBlog summarized today’s opinions:

By a vote of 5-4, the Court found the 2001 congressional declaration did give the President power to detain citizens and foreign nationals, if they are found on a foreign battlefield. By a vote of 8-1, citizens detained as "enemy combatants" have the right to a fair process under which they can challenge that designation and their continued detention. By a vote of 6-3, the Court ruled that the foreign nationals detained at the Cuba base have a right to file lawsuits in civilian courts to contest their detention and conditions at the base.

By the way, in the 8-1 ruling mentioned above — the dissenter was Thomas.

Ruminations of ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ – Part I of II

Warning: “Fahrenheit 9/11” is a rich film jam-packed with facts, factoids, opinions, interviews, and messages. Unless one recounts every little moment, it is impossible for a review to “spoil” the entire film in a Rosebud-is-his-sled-type manner. Nevertheless, my essay below does reveal certain parts of the film — so if you plan on seeing it and don’t want anything revealed before then, then skip over this article

Let’s be clear about one thing: Michael Moore is a cheap shot artist in every sense of the phrase. By that I mean — he employs the strategy of taking cheap shots . . . and raised it to an art form. Ultimately, that is why “Fahrenheit 9/11” succeeds and fails at the same time.

For me, 98% of F9/11 was old news. If you already know about James Bath, The Carlyle Group, Unocal, and the like, then chances are good that you can probably enjoy the film for his presentational value, rather than its educational value.

In fact, I only learned one new thing from the movie, and even though it is a relatively small matter, I will use it as a launching point to discuss what is both good and bad about F9/11. Okay?

Here’s the “new thing”: In the summer before 9/11, the Bush government welcomed members of the Taliban to the United States in an effort to soften their image and make the more palatable. The Taliban representatives made dog-and-pony shows to the State Department and were paraded before the press.

Moore makes the argument that the Taliban visit had something to do with Bush’s financial interest (through Unocal) in building a pipeline through Afghanistan. In other words, the Bush family financial interest was connected to Unocal’s ability to construct this Afghan pipeline, which depended on the West becoming a little more happy with the Taliban.

Now, when I say that “Moore makes the argument”, I mean to say that Moore doesn’t make the argument — he merely implies it.

You see, throughout the film, Moore often employs an effective, but somewhat annoying, technique — something he also did in “Bowling for Columbine”: Asking the rhetorical question for which the answer has been predisposed.

Here’s a typical example laid out more fully (and it’s a paraphrase since I obviously haven’t committed the movie to memory).

Moore explains the Bush interest in Unocal. Moore explains Unocal’s interest in the Afghanistan pipeline. Moore explains the Taliban visit to the U.S. before 9/11. Moore explains that after 9/11, the number of troops deployed to Afghanistan was small enough only to overthrow the Taliban (but not annihilate it), and virtually ineffective in getting bin Laden. Moore explains that the new President selected to head Afghanistan is Hamid Karzai, who was — wink, wink — a consultant to Unocal on the pipeline. Moore explains that one of Karzai’s first acts was to sign approval of the Unocal pipeline.

Then comes Moore’s voiceover rhetorical question (which, again, I have paraphrased): “Could it be that George Bush, having installed Unocal consultant Armed Kharzi as Afghanistan President and gotten the pipeline deal, was now simply uninterested in capturing bin Laden, the man behind the attacks on America that killed 3000 of our people?”

See what Moore did? He asked a rhetorical question where the answer (based on everything that preceded it) points in one direction — Yes! From all that Moore has laid out, it really looks like George Bush wasn’t all that interested in getting bin Laden, the guy who murdered 3000 Americans!

But sitting there, I asked myself: Do I REALLY believe that? Do I REALLY believe that Bush wasn’t interested in nailing bin Laden?

And that’s what I mean by Moore being a cheap shot artist. Moore builds facts in a certain way in order for the nondiscerning viewer to accept his implied messages — in this example, the message that Bush doesn’t care about getting bin Laden. And for that, we can be highly critical of Moore.

On the other hand, Bush & Co. make it so easy for him to do that. Because just after Moore asks his rhetorical question about Bush not caring about getting bin Laden, he cuts to Bush, saying (of bin Laden): “I don’t know where he is. I have no idea and I really don’t care. It’s not that important. It’s not our priority.”

And suddenly, Moore’s wacky rhetorical implications don’t look all that wacky. (Personally, I still don’t think that Bush sent troops into Afghanistan for financial/pipeline interests, but Moore’s broader point — that Bush has paid minor attention to capture of the murderer of 3000 Americans — is pretty irrefutable). A good portion of the movie is simply Bush & Co. (Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Rice, and Powell) eating their words.

And that’s where F9/11 excels — when it is at its snarkiest. Sometimes, that snarkiness is remarkably subtle.

For example, Moore barely mentions the Bush/Vietnam/National Guard issue. It’s only referred to once, in a small detour to get to James Bath (Bush’s buddy who ALSO missed his National Guard obligations, who later became the bin Laden family representative for investments in Bush’s oil businesses).

But when Moore DOES mention Bush’s failure to show up for a required National Guard medical exam, you hear the opening riff (no words, just the riff) of Clapton’s “Cocaine”. Heh. Cheap shot, but . . . heh.

Even subtler was the music Moore put behind the footage of Bush landing on the aircraft carrier. It was the theme to “The Greatest American Hero” — a short-lived 1970’s(?) T.V. show. If I am not mistaken, Moore was making a reference to Gore through a verse of that song:

“Look at what’s happened to me
I can’t believe it myself
Suddenly I’m on top of the world
Should have been somebody else . . .”

I may have been the only one in the theater who got the Gore reference . . . . .

The first third of the film is devoted largely to the financial ties between Bush and the Saudis and the bin Ladens, and this is probably the weakest part. Moore does a good job in explaining the ties — and to his credit, he doesn’t resort to flow charts with arrows and boxes. But in the end, it’s just not entertaining OR that informative. Yes, Bush had ties to the bin Laden family and Saudis. And yes, the bin Laden family was able to fly out of the country after 9/11 without being so much as questioned. And yes, that is embarrassing for our government, and possibly Bush. But beyond that, it doesn’t really SAY much.

However, once the film drifts away from that, and focuses on Iraq, it starts to fly. Moore’s camera becomes a knife. He takes it all on — not just the Iraq war and the pre-emption doctrine itself, but the complacent media, the complacent congressional Democrats, the fear-mongering by Bush, the posturing of homeland security without actually funding it, the abuses of the Patriot Act, etc.

Moore’s images from the front lines in Iraq remind you what war is like. I mean, we instinctively KNOW that innocent people and solders get killed, but they are not mere statistics with Moore. He puts human faces on them, except where their faces have already been blown off.

In one exceptional segment, he touches upon the most under-reported aspect of the Iraq War — the thousands of Americans who have been permanently injured and disabled. When we are all done debating the wisdom of the Iraq War, and the historians will be working on their first drafts of what it was all about, these men and women will be living every day with it (no limbs, nerve damage, etc.). To these fine people, the Iraq War is not an academic debate, or even a political cost-benefit analysis. It’s physical and permanent.

In another exceptional segment, a grieving conservative mother, whose son was killed in Iraq, walks on the mall in front of the White House consumed with her loss. She engages in a discussion with a “peacenik” only to be confronted by a Bush/war supporter. The mother (a one-time war supporter herself) explains that her son died in Iraq and walks away from the confrontation. The Bush supporter (after about ten seconds of thought) calls out to the mother “Blame al Qaeda”. The comment literally causes the grieving mother to double over. Blame al Qaeda for her son’s death in Iraq?!? “The ignorance . . .” the mother moans.

It is clear that Moore loves — literally loves — the American soldier. His commentary towards the end of the film is filled with awe and respect for them. Quietly and somberly, Moore reverently notes how those Americans who typically benefit least from our society (the poor, etc.) are usually the first to join up and put their lives on the line for America’s defense. “All they ask in return,” Moore says, “is that we don’t send them into an unnecessary war.” The viewer is left to ruminate on that for a moment, and then Michael asks the final rhetorical question: “Will they ever trust us again?”

The answer, sadly, is “yes”. But just like Vietnam, it will take another 30 years or so.

The Image To Remember Bush By

bushknew33.jpg

This is Andrew Card telling GWB, on 9/11, about the plane crashing into the World Trade Center. What is remarkable is that Bush had this look for a FULL SEVEN MINUTES before he did anything. Instead, he continued to read to schoolchildren.

Many of us have seen the footage of Bush just sitting there, and it is pretty condemning. Hopefully, many more will see it when they see "Fahrenheit 9/11". But for now, look at the picture above. That’s your President — a man-deer eternally lost in the headlights.

Drum Explains It All

What is a "lie"? What is a "deception"? What is it that the left accuses the Bush White House of doing?

Kevin Drum explains the difference here. Now basically, Bush & Co. — technically speaking — don’t lie . . . usually. I’ll let Kevin explain:

Let’s take this statement from Dick Cheney on "Meet the Press" last year:

"If we’re successful in Iraq…we will have struck a major blow right at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11."

To see how this is technically defensible, let’s break it down:

* Who attacked us on 9/11? Al-Qaeda.

* Where do they operate from? Various places in the Middle East and Central Asia.

* What’s the geographic base of that region? Arguably, Iraq is dead center.

Each phrase, then, is technically accurate. Taken as a whole, though, it’s obvious that his intent was to imply that Iraq was a primary base for al-Qaeda’s activities, which is clearly untrue. [Emphasis added – CKB]

The whole exercise is sophomoric, of course, sort of like listening to a first grader who doesn’t quite realize that adults can easily see through statements that he thinks are rather sophisticated. The difference is that in this case the first grader is surrounded by thousands of people who will dutifully pretend that of course he wasn’t implying that Iraq had anything to do with 9/11 and then shake their heads in sorrow that anyone could be so consumed by Bush hatred as to misunderstand the vice president’s plain intent. [Emphasis in original – CKB]

Bam! You said it, KD.

Oh, Yes You DID!

Cheney gets busted in another lie.

Transcript, CNBC’s “Capital Report,” June 17, 2004:

Gloria Borger: “Well, let’s get to Mohammed Atta for a minute, because you mentioned him as well. You have said in the past that it was quote, “pretty well confirmed.”

Vice President Cheney: No, I never said that.

BORGER: OK.

Vice Pres. CHENEY: Never said that.

BORGER: I think that is…

Vice Pres. CHENEY: Absolutely not.

Transcript, NBC’s “Meet the Press,” December 9, 2001.

Vice-President Cheney: “It’s been pretty well confirmed that he did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in Czechoslovakia last April.”

Source.

Orwellian Memo Discovered

The Washington Post reports about an interesting memo from Republican pollster Frank Luntz. Knowing that how you frame the issues is more important than the issues themselves, Luntz offers Republicans some talking points on phraseology.

With voter anxieties about Iraq shadowing this year’s campaign, pollster Frank Luntz has some advice for fellow Republicans: Mind your language. Luntz, according to a strategy paper that fell into the hands of Democrats, says minor changes in language used by politicians can lead to major differences in voter perceptions — turning a potential liability into an asset.

Among his suggested talking points, in the nine-page section on Iraq and terrorism:

• It’s not the war in Iraq — it’s the war on terror. "You will not find any instance in which we suggest that you use the actual word ‘preemption’ or the phrase ‘the War in Iraq’ to communicate your policies to the American public. To do so is to undermine your message from the start," it said. "Your efforts are about ‘the principles of prevention and protection’ in the greater ‘War on Terror.’"

• Remember: better there than here. "’Prevention at home can require aggressive action abroad’ is the best way to link a principle the public supports with the policies of the Administration," it said. " ‘It is better to fight the War on Terror on the streets of Baghdad than on the streets of New York or Washington.’"

• Don’t forget the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. "’9/11 changed everything’ is the context by which everything follows. No speech about homeland security or Iraq should begin without a reference to 9/11."

• Don’t forget Saddam Hussein. "’The world is a better place without Saddam Hussein.’ Enough said."

• And don’t forget the troops. "Nothing matters more than Americans in the line of fire," it said. "Never, ever, EVER give a speech or issue a press release that makes no mention of our troops."

In an e-mailed response, phrasemaker Luntz declined to comment on his paper.

Read the bullet points. Learn them. And recognize it when you see it.

Cheney Makes Me Sick

Why do many people think that Iraq may have had something to do with 9/11? Cheney provided the answer today. It’s the media’s fault! That’s right. According to Cheney, the anti-Bush liberal media has been making an argument for war against Iraq that the White House never made.

THEN, in the same press conference, Cheney goes on to suggest that, despite the 9/11 Commission assertion to the contrary, he is still of the opinion that Iraq might have had something to do with 9/11.

Yet, according to Cheney, it’s the MEDIA’S fault for planting that connection in the peoples’ minds.

Go figure. Here’s the story.

Oh, and here’s a few Cheney quotes where he tries to dispel the Iraq-9/11 connection that the media has so stupidly foisted on the American people:

"If we’re successful in Iraq, if we can stand up a good representative government in Iraq, that secures the region so that it never again becomes a threat to its neighbors or to the United States, so it’s not pursuing weapons of mass destruction, so that it’s not a safe haven for terrorists, now we will have struck a major blow right at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11." Source: Meet the Press, NBC (9/14/2003).

"QUESTION: When I was in Iraq, some of the soldiers said they believed they were fighting because of the Sept. 11 attacks and because they thought Saddam Hussein had ties to al Qaida. You’ve repeatedly cited such links. . . . I wanted to ask you what you’d say to those soldiers, and were those soldiers misled at all? VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: . . . . With respect to . . . the general relationship. . . . One place you ought to go look is an article that Stephen Hayes did in the Weekly Standard . . . That goes through and lays out in some detail, based on an assessment that was done by the Department of Defense and forwarded to the Senate Intelligence Committee some weeks ago. That’s your best source of information. I can give you a few quick for instances, one the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. Source: Transcript of interview with Vice President Dick Cheney, Rocky Mountain News (1/9/2004).

"We did have reporting that was public, that came out shortly after the 9/11 attack, provided by the Czech government, suggesting there had been a meeting in Prague between Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker, and a man named al-Ani (Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani), who was an Iraqi intelligence official in Prague, at the embassy there, in April of ’01, prior to the 9/11 attacks. It has never been — we’ve never been able to collect any more information on that. That was the one that possibly tied the two together to 9/11." Source: Transcript of Interview with Vice President Dick Cheney, Rocky Mountain News (1/9/2004).

"VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Well, I want to be very careful about how I say this. I’m not here today to make a specific allegation that Iraq was somehow responsible for 9/11. I can’t say that. On the other hand, . . . new information has come to light. And we spent time looking at that relationship between Iraq, on the one hand, and the al-Qaeda organization on the other. And there has been reporting that suggests that there have been a number of contacts over the years. . . . There is — again, I want to separate out 9/11, from the other relationships between Iraq and the al-Qaeda organization. But there is a pattern of relationships going back many years. And in terms of exchanges and in terms of people, we’ve had recently since the operations in Afghanistan — we’ve seen al-Qaeda members operating physically in Iraq and off the territory of Iraq. . . ." QUESTION: But no direct link? VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: I can’t — I’ll leave it right where it’s at. I don’t want to go beyond that. I’ve tried to be cautious and restrained in my comments." Source: Meet the Press, NBC (9/8/2002).

There are also dozens of examples where Cheney, quite intentionally it seems, speaks about Saddam/Iraq and 9/11 in the same sentence. In fact, it is quite common that a question about Saddam invokes a response which references 9/11 (and vice versa).

And it’s the MEDIA’S fault for blurring that distinction?

And speaking of distinctions:

"You can’t distinguish between Al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror". – George Bush, September 2002

Gingko Trees?

Jonah Goldberg at National Review Online shows what a total imbecile he is in this article.

The nut says, in a nutshell, that the Geneva Convention is like a contract. And since al Qaeda didn’t sign the contract, the Geneva Convention doesn’t apply to them. Which means, he says, we should be able to torture AQ. Goldberg’s words:

If you sign a contract with your neighbor agreeing that neither of you will plant stinky ginkgo trees on your property, that contract is binding on you and your neighbor. It’s not binding for the guy who lives across the street.

Therefore, Goldberg concludes, we can plant our stinky ginkgo trees and the guy who lives across the street can’t complain (although the neighbor who signed the contract can).

The argument is simply wrong. The Geneva Conventions compel the signers to treat ALL prisoners of war humanely. It does not limit it to the prisoners of co-signers.

The argument is also stupid. Under that logic, the U.S. could sign a nuclear test ban treaty with Russia, and then conduct nuclear tests in violation of the treaty, arguing that Madacasgar was not a signer of the treaty.

Put another way, if I contract with my neighbor to NOT plant ginkgo trees on my property, I cannot plant gingko trees on my property. If I DID violate ginkgo trees on my property, I have violated the contract.

But of course, the Geneva Conventions are more than just a "contract". They, like all international treaties, have the force and effect of United States law. Goldberg, I suspect, knows better than to suggest otherwise.

Well, maybe not.

Bush’s Cheat Sheet

An alert reader of Atrios saw this picture of Bush

b3.jpg

from yesterday’s cabinet meeting.

He captured and blew up Bush’s notes from the meeting (heh heh). Here they are:

BUSH1.jpg

As best as I can tell, the left hand page says:

"Saddam was a threat . . . sworn enemy of U.S. . . . destabilizing force in volatile part of the world . . . (?????) . . . has WMD – used them . . . ties to terrorist orgs . . . contacts with al Qaeda over last decade"

The right hand page is a list of reporters, including Deb Reichmann (AP), David Morgan, John Roberts, Ann Compton . . .

At the cabinet meeting press conference, Bush took two questions from two reporters. They just happened (coincidentally) to be "Deb" and "Morgan", the top two names on his right-hand-page list. Here’s the partial transcript:

BUSH (continuing): Yet our military on the ground has done an excellent job of making sure the conditions are such that an Iraqi government can emerge and lead their nation to the better days.

I’ll be glad to answer a couple of questions. Deb, why don’t you lead it off?

Q Mr. President, why does the administration continue to insist that Saddam had a relationship with al Qaeda, when even you have denied any connection between Saddam and September 11th. And now the September 11th Commission says that there was no collaborative relationship at all.

THE PRESIDENT: The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al Qaeda, because there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. This administration never said that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and al Qaeda. We did say there were numerous contacts between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. For example, Iraqi intelligence officers met with bin Laden, the head of al Qaeda, in the Sudan. There’s numerous contacts between the two.

I always said that Saddam Hussein was a threat. He was a threat because he had used weapons of mass destruction against his own people. He was a threat because he was a sworn enemy to the United States of America, just like al Qaeda. He was a threat because he had terrorist connections — not only al Qaeda connections, but other connections to terrorist organizations; Abu Nidal was one. He was a threat because he provided safe-haven for a terrorist like Zarqawi, who is still killing innocent inside of Iraq.

No, he was a threat, and the world is better off and America is more secure without Saddam Hussein in power.

Let’s see — Morgan.

Q Mr. President, given your administration’s assertions that it works closely with the International Red Cross, are you disappointed that Secretary Rumsfeld instructed military officials in Iraq to hold a member of Ansar al-Islam without telling Red Cross officials?

THE PRESIDENT: The Secretary and I discussed that for the first time this morning. And he’s going to hold a press conference today to discuss that with you. I’m never disappointed in my Secretary of Defense. He’s doing a fabulous job, and America is lucky to have him in the position he’s in. But the Secretary will hold a press conference today, and you might want to ask him that question at his press conference.

Thank you.

The other right hand page, I can’t make out, but I can see at the bottom "Contacts with Al Q . . . (?????) to share (information?)"

Now, what does all this mean?

It means that the President still needs to take notes on his standard line, one which even I could recite by heart. In other words, he’s an idiot or he has some memory problems.

It also means that much of the WH press pool are merely stenographers. Well, think about it. If you are a reporter and ask, you know, PROBING questions, you don’t get invited to the cabinet room. So you curry favor with the White House by pitching softball questions — questions to which the President has already prepared an answer. The top right hand page is a list of reporters that was obviously handed to the President before the press conference (the writing is different, the paper siae is smaller). Who wrote the list (Scotty McClellan, I’m guessing), and why are THOSE names on the list?

Clinton Haters v Bush Haters

Chicago Sun-Times reviewer (and Roger Ebert compadre) Richard Roeper loved "Fahrenheit 9/11" (as did some folks at Fox News, by the way). The response was hundreds of vitriolic e-mails. Richard Roeper responds here, making several astute observations about anti-Bush people vs. anti-Clinton people.

The money quote:

Folks, do you not see the hypocrisy at work here?

This makes about as much sense as a bully taking a kid’s lunch money for eight years — only to complain when the kid finally lands a counterpunch during freshman year in high school. "Ow! You’re mean!"

(Hat tip to Lizard Queen)

Fox News Loves “Fahrenheit 9/11”

Yup. It did. Some excerpts:

It turns out to be a really brilliant piece of work, and a film that members of all political parties should see without fail.

As much as some might try to marginalize this film as a screed against President George Bush, "F9/11" — as we saw last night — is a tribute to patriotism, to the American sense of duty — and at the same time a indictment of stupidity and avarice.

***

But, really, in the end, not seeing "F9/11" would be like allowing your First Amendment rights to be abrogated, no matter whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat.

***

More than even "The Passion of the Christ," "F9/11" is going to be a "see it for yourself" movie when it hits theaters on June 25. It simply cannot be missed, and I predict it will be a huge moneymaker.

Not bad for Fox News. But then again, this website is reporting that Bill O’Reilly, who went to the NY premiere, walked out one-quarter of the way through. Pussy.

Today’s WH Press Gaggle

Q Can I ask about Vice President Cheney, because yesterday he repeated what is a very controversial claim. He said that Saddam Hussein had long-established ties with al Qaeda. Does the President believe that Saddam Hussein had long-established ties with al Qaeda?

MR. McCLELLAN: We certainly talked about the ties with terrorism between the — between the regime that was removed from power, and we talked about those ties prior to the decision to remove that regime from power. So that was well-documented. Secretary Powell went before the United Nations and talked about some of those ties to terrorism, as well. And Zarqawi is certainly a senior al Qaeda associate who was in Iraq prior to the decision to go in and remove the regime from power.

Q There’s also al Qaeda in the United States. That does not mean the United States is cooperating with those members of al Qaeda. Just by the presence of someone does not mean there’s a cooperation.

Zing! Hello, logic.

But check out McClellan’s non-answer answer:

MR. McCLELLAN: But, remember, we’re talking about an oppressive regime that was in power in Iraq that exercised control over that country.

Well . . . yes . . . Scott . . . when we talk about Saddam’s Iraq, we are talking about an oppressive regime. But even Saddam’s Iraq didn’t exercise control over the entire country, because it couldn’t. No system of government, no matter how hard it tries, can possibly have command and control over every single corner of its region.

So the reporter’s point still stands: "Just by the presence of someone does not mean there’s a cooperation".

President Obama

Sounds like the leader of some distant "third-world" country, no?

Nope. We might be talking about "U.S. President Barack Obama" 20 years from now (or less). The bright new wunderkind of the Democratic Party is getting all kinds of good press, and deservedly so.

Starting in November, and until he decides to move onward and upward, you’ll be hearing much about Senator Obama.

Hold On To Your Hats . . .

The Telegraph understands that four confidential Red Cross documents implicating senior Pentagon civilians in the Abu Ghraib scandal have been passed to an American television network, which is preparing to make them public shortly. . . . "There are some extremely damaging documents around, which link senior figures to the abuses," said Scott Horton, the former chairman of the New York Bar Association, who has been advising Pentagon lawyers unhappy at the administration’s approach. "The biggest bombs in this case have yet to be dropped."

Daily Telegraph

Shock & Awe Report Card

Yes, the "Shock and Awe" campaign that opened the Iraqi War was shocking and awesome. But according to this, it was also not very successful. Not only did ALL the airstrikes miss their mark, but they resulted in "significant civilian casualties".

What’s to blame? Bad intel. What else?

High Praise Indeed

Question: Who was Bush talking about when he expressed these words today?

"As a candidate for any office, . . . he showed incredible energy and great personal appeal. As chief executive, he showed a deep and far-ranging knowledge of public policy, a great compassion for people in need, and the forward-looking spirit that Americans like in a president."

"[He] could always see a better day ahead and Americans knew he was working hard to bring that day closer. Over eight years it was clear that [he] loved the job of the presidency. He filled this house with energy and joy. He’s a man of enthusiasm and warmth, who could make a compelling case and effectively advance the causes that drew him to public service."

Answer: Bill Clinton. No kidding.

SCOTUS Punts The Pledge Issue

Court dismisses Pledge of Allegiance suit
Justices sidestep church-state issue in tossing atheist’s case

Read more here.

The opinion is not available yet, but it will be interesting to see what, if anything, the justices said about the merits of Newdow’s case. Apparently, Rehnquist wrote about it, but his views were already pretty well-known.

Torture Memos

More on the torture memos. On this blog, I have been focussing on the Draft Walker Group Memo, but of course, there are others. Discourse.net has a good analysis of the Bybee Memo. It also has a good analysis of the Draft Walker Group Memo. Although, really, all you need to know is that both memos consider torture to be legal and justified in the guise of (a) the nation’s self-defense/national security interests, and/or (b) the President’s (supposedly) sweeping powers as Commander-in-Chief.

The Bybee memo, available here in PDF format, is interesting in its appendix, starting at page 47. The appendix lists several U.S. cases in which U.S. courts have concluded that the defendant tortured the plaintiff. Reading the descriptions of those cases (and the torture involved), it is hard to see a distinction between those examples, and what we have been hearing about from Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. Yet, the DOJ memos certainly ignore the obvious similarities.

It’s sad when Jay Leno makes more sense than our best government lawyers:

According to the New York Times, last year White House lawyers concluded that President Bush could legally order interrogators to torture and even kill people in the interest of national security – so if that’s legal, what the hell are we charging Saddam Hussein with?

Good question.

Torture Scandel Just Keeps Getting Worse

From here

The top U.S. commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, issued a classified order last November directing military guards to hide a prisoner, later dubbed "Triple X" by soldiers, from Red Cross inspectors and keep his name off official rosters. The disclosure, by military sources, is the first indication that Sanchez was directly involved in efforts to hide prisoners from the Red Cross, a practice that was sharply criticized by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba in a report describing abuses of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.

Taguba blamed the 800th Military Police Brigade, which guarded the prison, for allowing "other government agencies"–a euphemism that includes the CIA–to hide "ghost" detainees at Abu Ghraib. The practice, he wrote, "was deceptive, contrary to Army doctrine, and in violation of international law." Taguba’s report did not cite the November 18 directive issued by Sanchez to hide Triple X, identified as a high-ranking terrorist. It is not known if Taguba saw the directive. He declined to comment. The Army said it could not discuss a classified order.

I find it difficult to believe that Bush Administration, as well as its supporters, can spin their way out of this ever-devolving story. A few bad apples? Puh-lease.

This is only one aspect of the story. Live Journal has an excellant torture link dump about all that relates to the torture scandal.

Huge Non-endorsement Of Bush

From the Associated Press, as printed here:

WASHINGTON — Angered by Bush administration policies they contend endanger national security, 26 retired U.S. diplomats and military officers are urging Americans to vote President Bush out of office in November.

The group, which calls itself Diplomats and Military Commanders for Change, does not explicitly endorse Democrat John Kerry for president in its campaign, which will start officially Wednesday at a Washington news conference.

The Bush-Cheney campaign said Sunday it would have no response until the group formally issues its statement at the news conference.

Among the group are 20 ambassadors, appointed by both Democratic and Republican presidents, other former State Department officials and military leaders whose careers span three decades.

Among the more prominent members are retired Marine Gen. Joseph Hoar, commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East during the administration of Bush’s father; retired Adm. William Crowe Jr., ambassador to Britain under President Clinton and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Reagan; and Jack Matlock Jr., a member of the National Security Council under Reagan and ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1987 to 1991.

"We agreed that we had just lost confidence in the ability of the Bush administration to advocate for American interests or to provide the kind of leadership that we think is essential," said William Harrop, the first President Bush’s ambassador to Israel, and earlier to four African countries.

Coool.

Why W Isn’t Reagan – Part III

Again, this one is courtesy of Ron Reagan, Jr. again. His eulogy for his father on June 11 included this shot-across-the-bow of the Bush Administration:

Dad was also a deeply, unabashedly religious man. But he never made the fatal mistake of so many politicians, wearing his faith on his sleeve to gain political advantage. True, after he was shot and nearly killed early in his presidency, he came to believe that God had spared him in order that he might do good. But he accepted that as a responsibility, not a mandate. And there is a profound difference.

Well done, RRJr.

Andrew Sullivan Tells It Like It Is

Conservative-Except-When-It-Comes-To-Gay-Issues, Brit-American, and Bush-Excusing pundit Andrew Sullivan is getting more ornery these days . . . and about Iraq. Here’s what he recently wrote:

Take the case of Specialist Sean Baker. He was permanently wounded by other U.S. soldiers in a simulated exercize [sic] where his fellow soldiers assumed he was an Iraqi or a terrorist. Here’s what happened:

"They grabbed my arms, my legs, twisted me up and unfortunately one of the individuals got up on my back from behind and put pressure down on me while I was face down. Then he — the same individual — reached around and began to choke me and press my head down against the steel floor. After several seconds, 20 to 30 seconds, it seemed like an eternity because I couldn’t breathe. When I couldn’t breathe, I began to panic and I gave the code word I was supposed to give to stop the exercise, which was ‘red.’ … That individual slammed my head against the floor and continued to choke me. Somehow I got enough air. I muttered out: ‘I’m a U.S. soldier. I’m a U.S. soldier.’"

Baker went on to have seizures and permanent brain injury. The military, after lying, now concedes that his injuries were a result of intentional physical violence. Now ask yourself: what if he were not a U.S. soldier? Would he be dead like several other prisoners under U.S. supervision? The evidence of American-sanctioned torture and abuse of prisoners is mounting. It seems to me that those of us who support this war should be most outraged. This administration has violated the Geneva Conventions – not just in a few cases, but across the board. It has erased some of the distinction between who we are and what the enemy is, a distinction central to the moral case for this war. It has done so secretly and with no public debate, resting on the notion that presidents are somehow above the law (or can get legal advice from a pliant Justice Department telling them that the law doesn’t count). Ashcroft still won’t release unclassified documents pertinent to the matter. Why not? What is he hiding?

DOJ To Face Defeats In Supreme Court

This Newsweek article lays it on the line: it looks like Bush and the DOJ are about to get bitch-slapped by the U.S. Supreme Court, and they know it.

The overall administration argument of the Padilla case, as well as the GITMO cases, is that "we are in a time of war, and because of that, we — as a matter of law — can suspend (or outright ignore) the law". This theme has been fortified by the "torture memo" of much recent discussion.

The problem with ignoring the constitutional protections of the accused (whether they be foreign or domestic) is rather obvious — they simply have no means to show their innocence, a cornerstone (I submit) of our country. Interestingly, the Newsweek article suggests that, at least in Padilla’s case, this danger has come to pass. Put simply, it’s not clear that Padilla actually committed a crime or, at the very least, not the crimes for which he was originally imprisoned.

The Padilla and GITMO controversy reminds me of a scene from "The West Wing". The cast members — White House Press Secretary C.J. Craig, Communications Director Toby Ziegler, Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborne, and Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman — were having a midnight beer on the stoop of Josh’s Georgetown apartment. The subplot of the episode dealt with radical extremist groups here in the United States (a few members of the hate groups had fired shots at the fictional President several episodes earlier, and wounded Josh). These White House staffers were discussing the inability of the Justice Department (among others) to simply eradicate these hate groups from the face of the planet.

Josh sipped from his beer and mused. "Here we are, sitting outside with open beers in violation of like a hundred city ordinances. And those hate groups get to go around free. What can you say about a country that protects the rights of those who want to overthrow it?"

Toby thought for a moment and answered: "God bless America". And everyone took a sip in agreement.

In that moment, Aaron Sorkin (the show’s writer and creator) captured the essence of what makes our country unique and special. It’s not our flag, or our military, or the fact that we have the largest GNP. It’s the principles we embody — a country so morally correct (in theory, anyway) that it goes to great lengths to afford rights to everybody — including those people who want to destroy it. Isn’t that cool?!?

Torture Training

From the NY Times

LOUISVILLE, Ky., June 8 — Reversing itself, the Army said Tuesday that a G.I. was discharged partly because of a head injury he suffered while posing as an uncooperative detainee during a training exercise at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

The Army had previously said Specialist Sean Baker’s medical discharge in April was unrelated to the injury he received last year at the detention center, where the United States holds suspected terrorists.

Mr. Baker, 37, a former member of the 438th Military Police Company, said he played the role of an uncooperative prisoner and was beaten so badly by four American soldiers that he suffered a traumatic brain injury and seizures. He said the soldiers only stopped beating him when they realized he might be American.

That’s how bad and widespread out torture tactics are — we’re doing it to ourselves.

The Torture Memo – A First Stab

I’ll throw my hat into the legal analysis ring, although you can (or will) find good analyses here and here as well.

UPDATE: A very fine first draft critique by University of Miami law professor Michael Froomkin can be found here. I say "very fine" because it mirrors my comments, plus a few more . . . and is better written then my hastily-crafted analysis below (as one would it expect it to be).

The Torture Memo can be found (in PDF format) here. What follows are some random thoughts as I pour over the memo in my not-so-copious free time:

Page 4: The memo states that the position of the United States viz the Geneva Convention. Specifically, the terms of the Convention do not apply to al Qaida detainees (because they are not a contracting party to the Convention), nor to the Taliban detainees (because they do no qualify as prisoners of war under Article 4 of the convention).

Oddly, two footnotes relating to these sentences have been blacked out. I wonder what they would have said.

And, even though it has been oft-debated, this point is worth mentioning again: Take a gander at Article 4 — the whole thing — and tell me why Taliban detainees don’t fit in at least ONE of those categories.

Page 6: The memo states that the U.S. is bound only by its understanding of what the Geneva Convention meant at the time it ratified it. Specifically, at the time of ratification, the U.S. thought the phrase "degrading treatment" was vague and ambiguous, but considered itself bound only to the extent that the treatment of prisoners violated the 5th, 8th and 14th Amendment.

That means, in a nutshell, that we agreed that we would not violate our own Constitution (particularly the part about "cruel and unusual punishment") with respect to prisoners under the Geneva Convention. Good to know.

Page 6 again:

In particular, the Department of Justice has opined that "under clear Supreme Court precedent, any presidential decision in the current conflict concerning the detention and trial of al-Qaida or Taliban militia prisoners would constitute a "controlling" Executive act that would immediately and completely override any customary international law"

In context, it is clear that "customary international law" does not mean the Geneva Conventions or treaties. But it begs the question: what is "customary international law" . . . at least for the purposes of this memo?

Page 7: Here’s where some fun begins.

Moving away from international law, the memo focuses on federal criminal law, specifically 18 USC 2340. That law pertains to acts of torture which "occur outside the United States". Under that statute, according to the memo, Guantanamo Bay Naval Station (GTMO) is NOT outside the United States jurisdiction (and it gives all kinds of reasons why, citing to internal DOJ opinions, the Patriot Act, etc.), and therefore — according to the memo — 18 USC 2340 does not apply.

Wait. back up. Gitmo is within U.S. jurisdiction? That’s odd, because this is what the DOJ argued in front of the Supreme Court a couple of months ago:

The Guantanamo detainees . . . are being held outside the sovereign territory of the United States. It is "undisputed" that Guantanamo is not part of the sovereign United States. – United States Brief

Bald-faced contradictions aside, the memo at least acknowledges (on page 8) that 18 USC 2340 would apply — in theory — to detainees in, say, Afghanistan.

Page 8: So how can one commit torture to detainees in Afghanistan and get around 18 USC 2340? Here’s the defense (according to the memo): The statute requires "specific intent". What this means, in non-legal terms, is that to violate that law, the wrongdoer must have in mind the specific illegal act. For example, if a prison guard strapped electrodes to a prisoner’s privates in order to cause bodily injury, that’s illegal. But if he did the exact same thing in order to extract information, that’s okay. See, it’s the purpose BEHIND the torture someone that makes the difference (so says the memo).

The memo also argues (at pages 11-13) that "good faith" may be a defense to the torture crime. So, for example, if the torturer believed in good faith that his torture would not result in serious/prolonged, physical/mental, pain/suffering, then he has a valid defense. Put another way, if Rush Limbaugh was doing the torture, he could get acquitted because he doesn’t see it as, you know, "torture". Whereas, someone who actually KNOWS better and understands the consequences of his torturing . . . would be guilty. Go figure.

Page 20: This is where the memo really goes off the rails.

In a section entitled "Commander-in-Chief Authority", the memo quotes an 1874 Supreme Court case, saying that it is "the President alone who is constitutionally invested with the entire charge of hostile operations". From that quote, the memo continues:

In light of the President’s complete authority over the conduct of war, without a clear statement otherwise, criminal statutes are not read as infringing on the President’s ultimate authority in these areas

Now where does THAT notion come from? It is true, I agree, that the president is constitutionally in charge of all wartime operations. That does NOT suggest — in ANY way — that he is above the law (as the latter quote indicates). Being in charge does not mean one gets to act outside the boundaries of law — it just means that one is in charge within the boundaries of law.

The memo then discusses how the Supreme Court has adopted a canon of statutory construction "in a manner that avoids constitutional difficulties so long as a reasonable alternative construction is available". This is true, but I admit to total confusion as to why this sentence was included. Is the author suggesting that the President has been given the power (by the Supreme Court) to avoid "constitutional difficulties"? If so, this is a frightening interpretation. When the Supreme Court adopts a canon of statutory construction, it does so for itself merely for the purpose of going about its business. Courts can apply the "avoidance canon" — not Presidents.

Still, the memo chilling concludes in this section (at page 21) that 18 USC 2340 "does not apply to the President’s detention and interrogation of enemy combatants pursuant to his Commander-in-Chief authority".

Let’s reflect on that logic for a moment. The President wears many hats, and is the chief authority in many realms, not just in wartime. For example, the Constitution states that the President "shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed" (Article II, Section 3), thus making him the Chief Law Enforcement Officer in the land. Can he, by virtue of that position and power choose to make (or ignore) whatever laws he wishes? No. Then why does he have such power in his Commander-in-Chief authority?

While we are in Constitution-land, what can be said of Article I, Section 8, Clause 18, which gives Congress to "make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the . . . Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof"? Doesn’t that fly in the face of the notion that the Commander-in-Chief authority gives the President carte blanche to circumvent laws?

And besides, as even non-lawyers know, no president is above the law. The Supreme Court said it in U.S. v. Nixon, and the attempt to create a "Commander-in-Chief" exception simply has no legal basis.

Page 22: The torture memo invokes Hamilton and Federalist No. 23., saying that national security was top priority for the Constitution’s framers. It then states that "the text, structure, and history of the Constitution establish that the Founders entrusted the President with the primary responsibility, and therefore the power, to ensure the security of United States in situations of grave and unforeseen emergencies".

Really? The Constitution says that? Where? Apparently it is the Commander-in-Chief Clause.

Mmmmm. Let’s go back to the Federalist Papers — this time to No. 69, because that’s what discusses the constitutional authority of the Commander-in-Chief. This was also written by Hamilton, by the way:

The President is to be commander-in-chief of the army and navy of the United States. In this respect his authority would be nominally the same with that of the king of Great Britain, but in substance much inferior to it. It would amount to nothing more than the supreme command and direction of the military and naval forces, as first General and admiral of the Confederacy; while that of the British king extends to the DECLARING of war and to the RAISING and REGULATING of fleets and armies, all which, by the Constitution under consideration, would appertain to the legislature.

Regulating our armies is a job for the legislature. Gee, what a concept. And they have done so, with 18 USC 2340, a law which the torture memo says the president (as C-I-C) can ignore.

Page 27: The Torture Memo gets into possible defenses that a "government defendant" could use if he were to be charged with violation of a criminal torture statute. This particular section states that he could use the "right of self-defense" defense. I won’t go into the whole law of self-defense, but this makes an interesting read, especially when it talks about "imminent" threats. Draw your own parallels.

Okay. I’m spent. Maybe more on this later. Maybe not.

Why W Isn’t Reagan – Part II

"[Reagan] had decades of experience in public life. He was president of his union, he campaigned for presidential candidates, he served two terms as governor of California — and that was not a ceremonial office as it is in Texas. And he had already run for president, against Ford in ’76, nearly unseating the sitting president in his own party. He knew where he was coming from, he had spent years thinking and speaking about his views. He didn’t have to ask Dick Cheney what he thought.

"Sure, [Reagan] wasn’t a technocrat like Clinton. But [he] was a man — that’s the difference between him and Bush. To paraphrase Jack Palance, [he] crapped bigger ones than George Bush."

"The big elephant sitting in the corner is that George W. Bush is simply unqualified for the job… What’s his accomplishment? That he’s no longer an obnoxious drunk?"

– Ronald Reagan, Jr. in a 2003 Salon interview.

Why Is Everyone Calling This Woman A Nazi Bitch?

MaryWalker.gif

Her name is Mary L. Walker. You can read about her here. [UPDATE: No, you can’t. They took her down a coupla days after I posted this. But you can read the same interview here] She’s the General Counsel of the U.S. Air Force. A woman devoted to God, she offers such advice:

To live your life in that context while depending on God for whatever the outcome takes faith and courage. Making moral decisions in the workplace where it is easy to go along and get along takes courage. It takes moral strength and courage to say, "I’m not going to do this because I don’t think it’s the right thing to do." I don’t believe I would have the courage to live that way if I was not personally connected to the God of the universe.

Sounds innocent enough. So, I ask again, why is everyone calling her a Nazi bitch?

Because she also wrote a confidential (now leaked) Pentagon memo give legal rationales by which US personnel could use torture in contravention of various international treaties and US laws. Not "compliance" with treaties and laws, but contravention.

The story was broken by the Wall Street Journal (subscription required, but reprinted here), which says:

To protect subordinates should they be charged with torture, the memo advised that Mr. Bush issue a "presidential directive or other writing" that could serve as evidence, since authority to set aside the laws is "inherent in the president."

Come again? The authority to set aside laws is inherent in the president? Didn’t he, you know, take an oath to uphold the laws? Did we become some sort of dictatorship when I wasn’t paying attention?

Anyway, this women is getting the wrath she richly deserves – from both Christian fundamentalists and the left.

(Hat tip: Billmon)

Fahrenheit 9/11 Trailer

Check out the trailer here.

Oh. And here’s another good movie trailer — this movie is probably not coming to your area, but it’ll be out on DVD one of these days. It would make a good double bill with Fahrenheit 9/11, would it not?

More W and Reagan Comparisons

This time, a stupid one from James K. Glassman at Tech Central Station. Let’s pick it apart, shall we?

First, like Reagan, the current president adopted a simple, straightforward program and is resolutely pursuing it: 1) cutting taxes, 2) bringing the fight against terrorism directly to the enemy, 3) building democracy in parts of the world where it has been suppressed, and 4) advocating compassionate, conservative policies in health care, the environment and education.

Substitute "communism" for "terrorism" in the in the second part of the program, and you have — at least for numbers one through three — the same goals pursued by Reagan.

First of all Jimbo, this President is advocating compassionate, conservative policies in health care, the environment and education? Mmmmm. I guess he’s "advocating" them (from time to time) — but he’s not doing it. And this is what really separates Bush from Reagan — Reagan, for all his flaws, wasn’t an empty mouthpiece who "advocated" something and then ignored it (or did the opposite).

Second, like Reagan, the current president is determined to see his program through — despite the opposition of the media, academia, the bureaucracy, Europe and, unfortunately, parts of the business community as well.

What does that mean? ALL Presidents face opposition. This is a meaningless similarity. It’s kind of like saying, "Secondly, like Reagan, the current President works in Washington, D.C."

Third, like Reagan, the current president has an optimistic view of America. As Reagan said in his second inaugural, "There are no limits to growth and human progress, when men and women are free to follow their dreams." Bush, also, sees this nation and its people as a force for good in the world with a glorious future — again, in contrast to Europeans and European wannabes on the East and West Coasts.

Ignoring the ridiculous swipe (and BTW, isn’t Georgia and South Carolina on the East Coast?), one has to wonder what Jimbo thinks an "optimistic view" is, and how Clinton (or Bush the Elder for that matter) lacked such a view. Again, every President likes to paint rosy scenarios — the difference with Bush Jr is that he thinks optimism is ALL that is required.

Case-in-point: What was the post-war planning for Iraq? The "optimistic" notion that Iraqis would throw flowers at our feet — that was the extent of it. Even Reagan (or at least his advisors) understood the complexities of global situations.

It is interesting to note that Glassman’s article appears on the Bush-Cheney website under the headline "Reagan’s Legacy in Good Hands". Puh-lease. And remember how Democrats were criticized for supposedly turning Paul Wellstone’s memorial into a political rally? Hello?!? The problem here is, of course, even by conservative standards, Bush 43 — the Worst Communicator — is no Ronald Reagan. Not by a long shot.

Why W Isn’t Reagan

Nick Confessore at Tapped as an excellent post on the subject of "Reagan’s Other Legacy". In it, he refers to an article by New Republic contributor Jonathan Chait (posted at the Reagan legacy website). The Chait article is prescient, being dated before 9/11 — indeed, being dated before George W. Bush was "elected". He summarizes the Reagan mystique in this way:

The Reagan presidency lives on in conservative mythology as a bygone utopia peopled by titans against whom the mortals of today must be measured. As conservative writer David Frum observed in his 1994 lament, Dead Right, "Post-Bush conservatives look back on the accomplishments of the early Reagan years the way seventh-century Romans must have looked at their aqueducts: to think that we once built all this!" When conservatives debate the Reagan legacy, it is not to dispute its merits but to lay competing claims to its mantle. Witness this year’s intraconservative debate over expanding trade with China. Proponents of permanent normal trading relations pointed to Reagan’s support for free trade; opponents invoked his anti-communism. Had someone dug up a forgotten diary entry laying out Reagan’s position for such a future contingency, it might have settled the argument then and there. The premise underlying such debates was explicated by Reagan hagiographer Dinesh D’Souza, who wrote that "the right simply needs to approach public policy questions by asking: What would Reagan have done?"

And therein lies the problem. Once it is agreed that all wisdom resides in the canon of Reagan, then the hard work of debate and self-examination and incorporating new facts is no longer necessary. On economics, defense, and morality, the Republican Party has refused to adapt itself to a patently changed political landscape for fear of acknowledging that the old ideas–the Reagan ideas–no longer work. And those who have tried to adapt have been cast out as heretics–anti-Reagan and therefore anti-conservative or even anti-Republican. When Ronald Reagan was actually president, Republicans prided themselves on being "the party of ideas." Now, as their hero fades into the twilight, his memory sits at the heart of a deep intellectual ossification.

And then predicts what this would mean for the younger Bush:

The mortals of the present can never live up to the icons of the past. In George W., the Reaganites appear to have everything they have always wanted: a popular conservative poised to end the political exile into which his father thrust them. But at some point W.’s ideology will smack up against the hard reality of today’s very different world, and either his popularity or his conservatism will give way. At that point the true believers will discover ideological deviations and conclude bitterly that the younger Bush is his father’s son after all. And then, the verity of their doctrine reaffirmed, they will begin once more their search for the true heir to Ronald Reagan.

This has proven to be true. Bush’s poll numbers have been in steady decline . . .

Blog_bush_approval_may_2004

. . . but for three huge crises which have shot up his approval. As for that, Confessore has the right analysis:

These crises have obscured the inevitable clash between Bush’s ideology and his popularity, and of course Bush has also tried hard to camoflage many of his most purely conservative proposals in a way Reagan never bothered to.

Indeed. Even for conservatives, Bush (like his father) isn’t Reagan.

Ronald Reagan

It seems fitting to say a few words in honor of "The Great Communicator" at the time of his passing. It seems more fitting that I not be the one to give such a eulogy. Ronald Reagan had skills as a politician which were undeniable. And his message was welcome to many. But not to me, and it would hypocritical of me to say otherwise.

What strikes me as amusing is how the so-called "liberal" media is turning his passing into an outright love-fest. They seemed capable of noting, in Nixon’s passing, of taking stock of some of the negative aspects of that man’s presidency. Not so with Reagan. He seems to get a pass. Turn on the T.V. and you will hear, for example, how Reagan passed the biggest tax cut in American history. Which is true, but do they also mention that the biggest tax cut was followed by the biggest tax increase in American history, thanks also to Reagan?

Perhaps it is too soon to be thinking about legacies — the man only died two days ago — but it seems that the first draft of history is being written inaccurately.  One has to wonder what effect, if any, this will have on Bush’s numbers. Will he benefit from the reflected glory of Reagan, or will voters compare and contrast . . . and find Bush wanting? Time will tell.

UPDATE: Or maybe not. Apparently, the Reagan sheen might not reflect on Bush as much as conservatives hope. From yesterday’s New York Times:

Some Republicans said the images of a forceful Mr. Reagan giving dramatic speeches on television provided a less-than-welcome contrast with Mr. Bush’s own appearances these days, and that it was not in Mr. Bush’s interest to encourage such comparisons. That concern was illustrated on Sunday, one Republican said, by televised images of Mr. Reagan’s riveting speech in Normandy commemorating D-Day in 1984, followed by Mr. Bush’s address at a similar ceremony on Sunday.

"Reagan showed what high stature that a president can have — and my fear is that Bush will look diminished by comparison," said one Republican sympathetic to Mr. Bush, who did not want to be quoted by name criticizing the president.

Another senior Republican expressed concern that by identifying too closely with Mr. Reagan, Mr. Bush risked running a campaign that looked to the past, which this adviser described as a recipe for a loss.

Several Republicans added that Mr. Bush’s hopes of enlisting Mrs. Reagan might be complicated by the differences between Mrs. Reagan and Mr. Bush on the issue of embryonic stem-cell research. Mrs. Reagan has been vocal in arguing that the research might help others suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, which doctors diagnosed in Mr. Reagan after he left office, while Mr. Bush’s policy restricts public financing for this kind of research to existing cell lines.

Mmmmmmm . . .

Way To Go, Kid!

Frankly, I think anyone who can spell "autochthonous" deserves far more than $18,000. He deserves a Congressional Medal of Honor or something.

And now I am stuck trying to think of any other English word which has "-chth-" in it (in a row, of course). Anyone?

Bush Campaign Enlisting Help Of Churches

As reported here:

The Bush campaign is seeking to enlist thousands of religious congregations around the country in distributing campaign information and registering voters, according to an e-mail message sent to many members of the clergy and others in Pennsylvania.

Liberal groups charged that the effort invited violations of the separation of church and state and jeopardized the tax-exempt status of churches that cooperated. Some socially conservative church leaders also said they would advise pastors against participating in such a partisan effort.

But Steve Schmidt, a spokesman for the Bush administration, said "people of faith have as much right to participate in the political process as any other community" and that the e-mail message was about "building the most sophisticated grass-roots presidential campaign in the country’s history."

As far as I can tell, this does not violate any constitutional notions of "separation of church and state" — the Bush-Cheney ’04 campaign is not, technically, "the state".

However, any church that joins or endorses the Bush campaign will lose their tax-exempt status, as this IRS news release make very clear. One has to wonder if the Bush campaign people know that . . . or care.

A Tale Of Two Headlines

Veterans Dismiss Comparisons with Iraq – MSNBC, June 2, 2004; 7:48 a.m. E.T.

. . . Yet, as a handful of U.S. veterans from the Normandy invasion explained, there are few parallels between the two undertakings.

As far as they are concerned, World War II represented a unique era because of the very real, palpable, and all-encompassing threat posed by Hitler’s Nazi regime.

Bush Likens War Against Terrorism to WWII – Associated Press, June 2, 2004; 2:45 p.m. E.T.

"Our goal, the goal of this generation, is the same," Bush said Wednesday, after referring to World War II. "We will secure our nation and defend the peace through the forward march of freedom."

Thus goes the Republican attempt to cast the War in Iraq as something noble. Jeez. Not even the vets are buying . . .

Cheneyburtongate

Cheney has stated that he has had no role or influence in the government’s award of no-competitive-bid contracts to Halliburton.

As Time and CNN are reporting, a March 5, 2003 e-mail puts those comments into question. The email is "an internal Pentagon e-mail from an Army Corps of Engineers official to another Pentagon employee". As the story says:

The e-mail — dated March 5, 2003 — says Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy, approved the arrangement to award the contract to the oil-services company. According to an e-mail excerpt in Time, the contract was "contingent on informing WH [White House] tomorrow. We anticipate no issues since action has been coordinated w[ith] VP’s office."

. The contract was awarded 3 days later. Time reports the e-mail also says Feith got the "authority to execute RIO," or Restore Iraqi Oil, from his supervisor, Paul Wolfowitz.

Now, all that’s bad enough, but listen to the excuses.

[A] senior official told CNN the e-mail was a typical "heads-up" memo from one government agency to another that "a decision has been made, we’re about to announce this contract, and as a courtesy we are alerting the White House of a public announcement. This is a standard practice."

The "coordinated action" referred to, the senior administration official said, was "that of publicly announcing the contract decision that has already been made."

So the decision to award the contract to Halliburton had "already been made"? Okay, but then why does the email itself say that the contract was "contingent about informing WH [White House] tomorrow"?

The lame excuse-making goes on:

The heads-up would have been given because of Cheney’s previous involvement in the company as chief executive officer, and the anticipated controversy over the noncompetitive bid, the official said.

But the email itself says "We anticipate no issues since action has been coordinated w[ith] VP’s office."

So let me get this straight – – The e-mail was a heads-up that there might be controversy over the Halliburton non-competitive bid contract, yet the email itself says that there would be "no issues . . ."?

Seriously . . . WTF?!?

Cheney Is A Lying Liar

Hat tip to Lizard Queen for catching this recent news item:

WASHINGTON (AFP) – A Pentagon e-mail said Vice President Dick Cheney coordinated a huge Halliburton government contract for Iraq, despite Cheney’s denial of interest in the company he ran until 2000.

The March 5, 2003 e-mail, from an Army Corps of Engineers official, said that top Pentagon official Douglas Feith got the job of shepherding the contract, according to the newsweekly Time that hits newsstands Monday.

Feith had approved the multi-billion-dollar deal "contingent on informing WH (the White House) tomorrow. We anticipate no issues since action has been coordinated w(ith) VP’s (vice president’s) office," said the e-mail obtained by Time.

The newsweekly said it was three days later that Halliburton won the contract, although no other bids had been submitted.

"As vice president, I have absolutely no influence of, involvement of, knowledge of in any way, shape or form of contracts led by the Corps of Engineers or anybody else in the federal government," Cheney told NBC’s "Meet the Press" in September, Time said.

Whatever . . . you liar.

“Pop” vs. “Soda”

When people refer to "soft drinks" generically, what word do they use?

Well, it depends. This map has the answer. (Note: Click on it to make it big).

Totalcounty_1

Anyone want to do one for hoagies/submarines/grinders?