Saturday, July 31, 2004

If you believe a story leaked to the New York Times in today's paper,
Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi
, hardly a household name, is the source of much of the erroneous material used to justify a supposed link between Al Queda and Iraq. This Queda member was interrogated at length and corroborated suspicions of collaboration between Saddam's Iraq and Al Queda, before recanting his story some time later.

The Senate Intelligence Committee, not a notably tough audience during the runup to war, has faulted the CIA for not providing enough skepticism about his claims.

Is it just me, or does it appear that there is now much effort to diffuse the responsibility for decisions about war and peace that were clearly in the works before 9/11? Now we are to attribute to Al Queda (and to the CIA) a rationale for attacking Iraq when the Administration was really using the Al Queda "connection" more as cover than as a basis for decision-making?

No so much...

Friday, July 30, 2004

Common wisdom is that John Kerry delivered the speech of his life last night. By offering little in the way of specific promises regarding foreign policy, Kerry smartly sidestepped his inablity to control events abroad between now and election time. He laid out a biography (see Peter S. Canellos, Boston Globe) for the voters who don't yet know him. This bit of political theater was accomplished as well as one could imagine.

In terms of priorities, however, the most inspected parts of his platform during the upcoming donnybrook will be his promise to cut middle class taxes and to propose sweeping improvement in the nation'shealth care benefits (see Paul Krugman, NY Times). Unfortunately for his campaign, Kerry finally chose to mention them more than thirty minutes into his acceptance speech. Many Americans were asleep by then.

Speaking of timing, Karl Rove clearly understands the value of great hype- see Krugman also for his final graph. It didn't overshadow the DNC acceptance speech, but his plan to have Pakistan announce the capture of a major Al Queda operative before the acceptance speech had been in the works for weeks.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

"No Retreat, No Surrender"

Best political music selection yet.

At approximately 9:50 PM, a guy got up at the Fleet Center to tell the country that John Kerry saved his life in Vietnam. Only nobody but c-SPAN and PBS viewers saw it, since the coverage on the networks doesn't start till 10PM.

Is somebody getting fired? You gotta wonder... is this the campign juggernaut we're being told about?

The Sibel Edmonds story has finally blown up. As we discussed here on July 10, Ms Edmonds is a former FBI translator who blew the whistle internally after 9/11 that a lot of slipshod work was being done on translations of material relating to terrorism suspects. Additionally, Edmonds accused a fellow translator of blocking translation of material relating to his acquaintances and complained that the Bureau had let material lay around without translation because it might embarrass higher-ups.

Edmonds was not rewarded for pointing out these security issues. She was fired and her ensuing civil case was dismissed for “national security” reasons at the behest of John Ashcroft himself.

Well, the FBI’s Inspector General found that her dismissal, lo and behold, was retribution for her whistleblowing, first internally and then publicly. See today’s New York Times.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Abdullah Iskandar, in Dar al hayat, the Lebanon English language paper argues for a considered pace in the provisional Iraqi government working to prepare a case against Saddam Hussein. His point is that Saddam has been able to take advantage of the rather obvious connection in timing of the pre-trial hearing and the American election cycle.

He also points out that if the trial is to be of help to Saddam's victims, it must come only after a point-by-point series of specific charges and evidence has been laid out. This can't be done quickly, or his victim's families will never be given THEIR day in court.

Do we want to take odds on whether the trial will be held before or after the US election?

Richard Cohen in yesterday's Washington Post assails the "Casablanca" sytle faux-outcry of President Bush upon hearing the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. He's running off to implement their suggestions, right way... right away?

You may remember Claude Rains character Capt. Louis Renault uttering, "I'm shocked, shocked that gambling is going on in this establishment!"

Followed by, "Round up the usual suspects."

Captain Renualt will be back to gamble there himself tomorrow. But tonight, he'll make a show.

Bush has been busy in Iraq for the last year and change, but today, he's in a hurry to go after the terrorists. Tomorrow?

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Barack Obama - oh my God... this guy could really be the future of the Democratic Party

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Thomas Frank, author of “What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America,” is closing in on one of the sad truths of American politics of the last forty years. The right and a huge element of the Republican Party has sewn up the hearts and minds of many Americans who stand to lose the most from conservative policies.

In thinking about the entry I made here last weekend about why “Glorious Appearing,” the latest serial novel in the “Left Behind” series, (which apparently features Jesus as advocate of Christian ethnic cleansing) has sold 60 million copies in the US, I had to wonder about our culture. How do people who are deeply religious, kind folks, the kind of people who’d help you out if you were stuck without gas on the highway, get revved up by the sort of faceless hatred these tomes advocate?

Then yesterday, a friend suggested I read Frank’s recent New York Times column and a transcript of his interview on PBS’s NOW with Bill Moyers. After reading Frank, the answer begins to come through. Hardworking poor people and religious, upstanding middle class folks have been targeted throughout the years since the 1960’s by the dedicated shoe leather culture politics of the right.

A lot of people who take it on the chin from the results of trickle-down economics and an arrogant foreign policy are more deeply offended by what they consider to be elitist social mores and a lack of values on the left. They continue to care about the Roe v. Wade battles of the 70’s and the Vietnam culture clash of the 60’s. And the left walks right into the trap of vehemently opposing whatever the latest straw man issue the culture warriors throw up, from gay marriage to partial birth abortion, without pointing out that each attempt to roll back privacy rights or civil rights is intended to take ordinary people’s attention away from the elephant in the kitchen, the economy.

Gay or straight, fundamentalist or atheist, most ordinary Americans are getting nailed to the wall by economic policies that favor the rich at the expense of the middle class. Most Americans have much more to gain by focusing on where the money has gone in the years that the right has taken control of our economic policy through deregulation, defunding oversight, eviscerating housing and education assistance, and undermining worker’s rights than by fighting a largely ephemeral culture war.

Most people, wherever they fall on the political spectrum, don’t focus on the profound changes in our domestic politics. We don’t, because we’re being constantly distracted by a barrage of purposely futile attacks on the “culture” of progressives. Whether it’s about Volvo driving, liberal judge loving, latte drinking, Godless fornicating, abortion loving, or any other broad stroking liberalism, the distractions are an attempt to associate the largely faceless opposition with some activity meant to undermine life as we know it in the heart of America.

It’s an almost endless task to attempt to set straight all the lies being thrown around by right-wing radio and television or supposedly moral majority political operators about the culture issues. In addition, the natural reaction to fight back vociferously against them is exactly the desired effect of the culture Molotov cocktail. What Frank gets at in his Times column is that the energy spent on these culture battles (like the Defense of Marriage Amendment) is INTENDED to end in failure, to leave the dispossessed followers with the feeling that their troubles and sense of ineffectiveness come not from their lack of political and economic power, but from a social and religious schism in America.

Each outrageous attempt to tie progressive thinking to the debasement of the culture needs to be met with a first things first attitude.

I’d love to hear this preface often: “I could spend all night talking about this, but I hope it’s clear in this moment that we ought to be talking about the really big issues of life and death, about keeping jobs, about educating our kids, about feeding our families, about decent housing, about foreign policy that enhances our safety instead of lining the pockets of the oil club. Instead, we’re being treated to the political equivalent of a diversionary attack.”

“It’s about the economy, stupid,” James Carville’s 1992 mantra, was right on the money. Politics is about money and power. When the right complains about “class warfare,” they mean, “Don’t talk about money, corporations, and jobs, talk about culture, religion, and values— and then let’s imply that those liberal perverts who have the power to pollute your culture ARE the moneyed class.”

The operating philosophy of the radical right is to subvert an honest discussion about how the middle class gets economically screwed by pretending we should be fighting against the imminent loss of civilization. It’s time for a sustained effort by progressives to build a counterforce that describes an America with values of shared responsibility and interconnectedness, working together to build a better culture, founded on fairness and decent lives for working people. That’s a culture war worth fighting.

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