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Saturday, February 12, 2005

Al Qaeda's Long Term...Izzard-Style 

Any mention of a good one liner from Eddie Izzard in a blog is worth linking to.

In an interesting reaction to 'how the left will help Islamic radicals win' (Vol 6 No 114), Ted at Crooked Timber quotes the comic in likening the theo-radicals' long-term prospects to his cracked history routine:

" I’m reminded of Eddie Izzard’s recounting of Imperial Japan’s strategy in WWII: “First, we’ll bomb one of their bases, and then… we’ll win.” "

The Real Enemy 

Per my previous post, this Administration appears to have two kinds of enemy:

1) ...the Al Queda enemy, hard to find, difficult to kill, committed to devastating attacks against us, and hence, a slightly lower priority

and

2) ...political opponents, easy to find, playing by Marquis de Queensbury rules, committed to the easily manipulated political process, and hence, priority one

See No More Mister Nice Blog for a full rant on this.

Democracy Denied- American Style 

All right, all right, I know I’m probably a day late and a dollar short on this news flash, but it’s been burning a hole in my stomach lining since Thursday morning…

So the Administration has ‘redacted’ (I love that word—when you mean censored, but really feel you shouldn’t say so) portions of the 9/11 Commission Report regarding some 50-odd alert memos to the FAA during the spring and summer of 2001. The memos mentioned warnings about, let’s see… Al Queda attacks, skyjackings, and WHOA—suicide attacks. They mention all the elements of the 9/11 attacks, not all together with a bow on them, but all the elements.

Now, I can see how the fact that the FAA did NOTHING about this might be spun for the public as part of the general lack of preparedness of the Administration for an attack on the ‘homeland,’ or as somehow a legacy of all things bad, the Clinton Administration. Certainly, the Bush campaign, oops, Administration would have found a way to distract us from thinking of the huge vacation the President was on all summer of 2001, clearing brush and clearing his mind of the possible implications of these warnings.

No, that’s actually NOT what’s really burning me up inside about this little morsel of uncovered secrecy. It’s the idea that this news would be hidden from the public until months AFTER the November 2004 election. Obviously, the existence of warning memos to the FAA in 2001 is of no more national security sensitivity than the 9/11 Commission Report information that was released in August 2004, becoming a national bestseller in the process. Nonetheless, this tidbit was hidden away. The only difference is that this information gives lie to the contention by Administration officials (like Condi Rice, who testified before the commission itself) that “no one could have known” this sort of terror was possible.

Whether or not the FAA warnings were filtering up to Dr. Rice, the President, or other White House officials, the question would be asked of the White House (and Dr. Rice in particular), “Were you lying to the 9/11 Commission about the lack of knowledge or was your Administration simply so inept that this kind of information, supplied to and ignored by the FAA, was not making it’s way to the upper echelons of the Government?”

The fact that this information was hidden from the American public speaks more volumes about the Administration’s unwillingness to enter into the ‘accountability moment’ the President has described the election as. Clearly, no one in the White House wanted to have to spin this information. Whether or not they could have brazened it out is less important and far less disgusting than the presumption that they would classify the information itself until after the people had spoken in November.…this, while running a campaign based on 9/11— 24/7. It’s breathtaking in its duplicity and in it’s authoritarian presumption that the people are better off not knowing things that are inconvenient.

This news should prompt outrage and a demand for a complete accounting of all ‘redactions’ from the 9/11 Commission Report. Immediately.

The Administration has skated along for far too long, opposing the creation of the Commission itself, then withholding resources from it, then withholding information from it, then attempting to testify without oath, then testifying only with a buddy (as the President did with the Vice President) and only on their turf (in the Oval office, ushering the Commission out when they’d had enough). None of that compares to censoring the Commission’s report itself. This is an insult to the people —who, after all, run the government and should be taken as such. We need answers now.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Condi Euro Posing 

You had to hope that with the good news of a thaw between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, as well as a momentary pause in the bad news coming out of Iraq, that Condi Rice meant it when she went to Europe and reached out.

Alas, it seems no more real than a bug in Karl Rove’s office. Apparently, what Condi really meant was, “This is your moment to get on board, you stupid European twits. We’re giving you another chance, so don’t blow it.”

While the rhetoric at her public event in France was mild, the behind-the-scenes discussion with European diplomats left their blood running cold and sparked new fears of military action in Iran. Maureen Dowd notes today that Condi’s references to the “totalitarian” government in that theocracy left diplomats wondering if she was laying the groundwork for a strike on the country’s nuclear facilities.

If the Bush Administration had a sense of realism, this would be a great time to bring more partners on board for it’s diplomatic efforts, not challenge them to say they were wrong and will do better. Today’s good news inevitably gives way to tomorrow’s tragedies and it would be nice to have walked together while the sun still shines. Once the Quartet begins meeting again, Hamas challenges the cease-fire, and the insurgency in Iraq inevitably cranks up the violence, we may want to have a real discussion going with our allies.

But I guess I’m just showing my lily-livered, Euro loving liberalism.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Dean and Election Reform 

Between a bad cold and large, converging projects, there's been limited time and energy for the blog these past few days, but I came across this pledge by the incoming DNC Chairman Howard Dean. The issue of election reform is critical and it's good to know that the Governor thinks so too:

"If elected Chair of the DNC, I intend to work with Members of Congress, the state Democratic parties, secretaries of state, the Democratic Governors' Association, other stakeholders, and the grassroots to ensure that every legitimate voter -- regardless of their political affiliation -- is able to vote and have their vote counted. We must address the obstacles that some voters in some locations faced this past November, like inadequate numbers of voting machines at certain polling locations, faulty electronic voting machines, and voting rolls that failed to include some properly registered voters' names. And critically, we must take steps to ensure the verifiability of all electronic voting. For instance, we need to use the referendum process (in states that allow this) to ban unverifiable voting machines and to protect voters from partisan secretaries of state."

It's especially heartening to hear that he wants to take the issue directly to voters, since the vendors of electronic systems are big donors and have many friends in legislatures around the country. We deserve to have verifiable, open, and voter-friendly elections— and if the DNC will fight for them, many will join in.

Monday, February 07, 2005

The Real Goal... 

"Social Security is the soft underbelly of the welfare state," declares Stephen Moore of the Club for Growth and the Cato Institute. "If you can jab your spear through that, you can undermine the whole welfare state."

See Tuesday's Paul Krugman column for an analysis of privatization withn the larger goal of destruction of the New Deal and Great Society legacy programs.

Drum Weighs In On "Compromise" 

Today, Kevin Drum joins in the criticism of Nicholas Kristof's ill-considered Saturday column on Social Security. My thoughts below on Saturday.

Gitmo Justice Stories (again) 

The stories of a freed British detainee at Gitmo are beyond shameful. As we watch torture boy Alberto Gonzales installed at the Department of Justice, it’s especially sad and disgusting to hear the stories of abuse and lawlessness practiced there as SOP. Bob Herbert writes today about the outrageous stain this camp is leaving on the history of a country whose story should be about freedom, but is, under this Administration, about torture and abuse of other’s rights.

“During the whole time we were at Guantánamo," said Shafiq Rasul, "we were at a high level of fear. When we first got there the level was sky-high. At the beginning we were terrified that we might be killed at any minute. The guards would say to us, 'We could kill you at any time.' They would say, 'The world doesn't know you're here. Nobody knows you're here. All they know is that you're missing, and we could kill you and no one would know.' "

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