Spencer Blog Archives 09-02





WARMONGERS, ER, WAR BLOGS, DISSENT, AND REASONED DEBATE 9-30-02

Jeff Cooper has raised an interesting question in his blog today. He argues that warblogs are no longer a good place to go for reasoned analysis for those of us who have questions about Bush's case for war with Iraq. Jeff writes:

As the fall elections draw near, though, and as we move closer to action against Iraq, I find myself reading the warblogs less and less. It's not simply because they support the president's posture toward Iraq, a subject about which I have serious misgivings. It's that so many of them deny any legitimacy whatsoever to those who hold positions different from their own. Consider the following, posted by Bill Quick over the weekend:

The left is clueless, suicidal, morally bankrupt, and ethically a contradiction, concerned only with power for the sake of power and, yes, in their lust for a phony"internationalism," deeply and profoundly unpatriotic. They hate the spirit of the Constitution, wish to pick and choose among those few parts of it they like, loathe America, are ashamed to be American (despite all their lies about"loving America, they don't really love this country - they love only their desperate, ugly wish for an America structured to the socialist, statist horror they truly desire), and would destroy the America of the Founders and the Constitution in a moment if they could wave a magic red wand and do so.
My goodness. But surely he's talking only about the radical leftist fringe, the tiny fragment of the American polity that occupies a relationship to mainstream Democrats similar to that between Buchananites and mainstream Republicans? Well, no:
Yes, I can hear the gasps. I'm accusing men like Tom Daschle and Richard Gephardt of being unpatriotic, am I? Well, yes, as a matter of fact, I am. Their only concern at the moment is not that Saddam Hussein might be a deadly danger to the people they claim to represent, it is that they somehow find a way to take power in the House and Senate in the upcoming national elections, so they can more effectively assault a President who is charged with defending American citizens against one of the greatest threats we've faced in the modern era. That's not patriotism, it's only partisanship, and no matter how they try to gussy them up, the two are not the same thing.
I'm sorry, but this is intolerable. It's pernicious nonsense like this that justifies Samuel Johnson's description of patriotism as the last refuge of the scoundrel. It is entirely possible to love one's country, to recognize that Saddam Hussein is an evil man who has done evil things and will do more in the future if unchecked, to believe that terrorism must be opposed forcibly, and still to harbor grave doubts about the course on which we are now set. This is especially so when the administration's public argument for action against Iraq is so deeply based on demonstrable lies—lies recognized as such even by the Washington Times, for goodness sake. Given the dishonesty with which the case against Iraq is presented, it is, I would think, a demonstration of devotion to one's country to question the wisdom of pursuing unilateral action in the face of our allies' opposition, and indeed to question the motives of those who repeatedly rely on falsehoods to press their case.

As someone who is relatively new to this blogging thing, it was surprising to hear that war blogs ever were a good source for reasoned debate and analysis. I have found that most of them eschew any sort of analysis in favor of good old-fashioned chest-thumping and cheerleading. And Jeff points out that most of them impugn the patriotism of the administration's opponents instead of answering their criticisms. I find this to be almost universally the case with most of the more popular war blogs.

I find a similar sort of reasoning (if I can dignify it by calling it"reasoning") being employed by folks in the blogosphere who are raising a stink over the comments of Jim McDermott and David Bonior from Baghdad in which they criticize the administration's case for war against Iraq. Now, I think it is a bad idea to criticize Bush's Iraq policy from Baghdad. It makes you look like propaganda tools for Saddam. It looks very bad and clearly these guys were not exercising the best judgement in saying such things from Iraq. However, I don't find anything they're saying to be that outrageous -- they just should be saying those things over here rather than in Baghdad. The administration has misled the American people on numerous occasions recently with regard to Iraq. If you recall, it was just this weekend that the administration was caught essentially falsifying evidence about Iraq's nuclear capabilities.

However, the rhetoric and condemnation by Republicans in Washington has seemed awfully forced -- and it is. The same Republicans who are now blowing-and-going about Bonior and McDermott undercut Bill Clinton's foreign policies at every opportunity. Look at the comments below by Trent Lott and Tom DeLay regarding the Iraq situation in 1998. Lott and DeLay essentially abandoned Bill Clinton in 1998 regarding Iraq. Lott insisted that we should"go slow" and downplayed Iraq as a serious threat. Who were the appeasers back then? Lott, Delay, et. al essentially forced Clinton to follow the policy they desired -- which was essentially to do nothing. The lame congressional resolution produced by the Republican congress in 1998 was little more than a warm bucket of spit. Republicans insisted that Clinton not use force to compel Saddam to allow arms inspectors into Iraq. How dare these sunshine patriots condemn Bonior and DeLay when their own behavior was so cowardly with regard to Iraq not so long ago. How amazing it is for these same Republicans to blame the Iraq situation on Clinton, conveniently forgetting their own complicity in the developments in 1998 and 1999.

However, the same folks in the blogosphere who are blasting the administration's critics are only following the lead of their heroes in the White House. The administration long ago gave up making any sort of reasoned case with evidence for war with Iraq. Like their supporters in the blogosphere, they're content to make assertions without evidence and to question the patriotism of their critics rather than attempt to answer their questions. I'm just surprised anyone would expect reasoned discussion and debate from these folks, whether we're talking about Republicans in Washington or war bloggers. Maybe at one time they were capable of it but clearly they no longer are.

BLUE BOOKS DONE FOR TODAY -- MORE AWAIT ME TOMORROW -- A COUPLE OF MORE LINKS BEFORE HEADING HOME 9-30-02

Robert Torricelli has officially pulled out of the New Jersey Senate race. The Democrats are going to try to replace him on the ticket just 36 days before the election. As usual, expect the Republicans to take this one to court. If the Democrats replace Torricelli on the ticket, the Republicans will probably lose. The funniest part of all this is when a Republican official talks about how New Jersey Democrats are"manipulating democracy." Isn't that rich? In 2000, the Republicans"manipulated democracy" through their cronies in the courts all the way to the White House. Just a wee bit hypocritical, eh?

Sorry warmongers, the Turkish police didn't seize 33 pounds of Uranium, just five ounces. I know many bloggers have been writing breathlessly all weekend about how this was a"smoking gun" in the case against Saddam. Sorry guys, no cigar. I know it disappoints you so. One of the more prominent of these folks is now claiming that he really didn't believe these early reports but his actual words betray him.

I'll probably write more later today from home.

BLUE BOOKS CALLING MY NAME -- BUT I'LL PROVIDE A FEW LINKS BEFORE I DIVE INTO THE STACK 9-30-02

William Raspberry of the Washington Postasks several important unasked questions about the impending war with Iraq.

Does anyone else think this sounds like a hair-brained idea to stop Iraqi commanders from using chemical or biological weapons?

Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is certainly onto something in this article. He argues that the administration's desire for war isn't about Iraq, it isn't about the war on terrorism, it's about establishing a Pax Americana. We need to conquer Iraq to prove our power and begin our drive toward a world empire. And while we spend billions on arms to keep the peace the rest of the world will surpass us in every major quality of life measure that we know of but, hey, we'll be the big boy on the block. This article is definitely worth the time.

Larry Sabato's current prediction for the November 5th elections is that it's going down to the wire. He doesn't even venture a guess about the Senate and he gives the Republicans a small edge in the House races. Therefore, I expect a great deal more wagging the dog from Republicans in the coming weeks.

In his article about the midterm elections, Howard Fineman at Newsweek certainly agrees with me that W is trying to wag the dog. In fact, his article is titled"Wag the War." His analysis is quite good. He argues that the economy is likely to be the deciding factor. In a shopping mall in W's home state he discovers that even wealthy Houstonians aren't sold on this war's necessity and that the economy is more important to them.

Isn't it about time to replace the top people at the FBI and CIA? Here's a story about how the upper echelons in both agencies are upset that the congressional investigation is making them look so bad. Try not to cry too much into your beer guys. I just want to know how these folks are holding on to their jobs! If W's administration was worth anything, they would have fired most of these folks already.

Now I'll dive into the pile! However, I'll probably update the blog a few more times today for a diversion from the tedium.

LINKS TO MY ARTICLES ON HNN 9-30-02

I know that a few folks have asked where to find my past articles for HNN before I started writing the blog. You simply need to use HNN's search feature. However, I'll make it much easier for you and just post links to them here.

February 11:"Did President Bush Pass Up an Attempt to Get Bin Laden Before 9-11?"

March 11:"Bush in the Bunker"

April 29:"Does the NRA Mistrust Democracy?"

May 16:"Caught in a Lie?"

June 24:"Is the 'War on Terrorism' just another 'Quasi War'?"

July 23:"10 Days that Shook the Bush Presidency"

I do miss writing the articles. However, I think I'll be sticking to blog-writing for the foreseeable future. It's taking up enough of my time at the moment.

A COUPLE OF LINKS ON A LAZY SUNDAY
9-29-02

Here's a good op-ed by Cragg Hines of the Houston Chronicle about Bush's shameful performance this week. I'll give you a quote of the first four paragraphs:

While President Bush is playing fast and loose with the politics of the war on terror, he should consider that were it not for Sept. 11 his administration and its Republican friends on Capitol Hill likely would be deep in the tank and about to go down for the third time. Or, more likely, Bush (or Karl Rove) has thought of that. And the realization led the president into his sorry enterprise of declaring that the Democratically controlled Senate is"not interested in the security of the American people."

Without the veneer of national solidarity produced by the attacks, most Americans rightly would be focused on the flaccid economy and thinking that Bush was a fiscal doofus and corporate crony who should be hitting the road and taking Trent Lott and Tom DeLay with him.

The war has saved their skins, and Bush's implicit suggestion that he and other Republicans are morally superior to Democrats in the fight against Osama bin Laden and even Saddam Hussein is egregious and sickening -- not to mention baseless.

Bush's success in the fight against bin Laden is modest enough and his mooted battle with Saddam, although well founded, is tricky enough that there is no room for his chest-thumping commentary that grows more urgent as mid-term elections approach.

The rest of the op-ed is worth reading as well. This administration would be teetering on the edge of irrelevancy if it weren't for September 11th -- and it's still possible that the midterms will make that so as well. That's why the administration is fighting"bear knuckles" style right now.

Nicholas Confessore's piece in the Washington Monthly is quite interesting. He makes the argument that a Republican victory in the midterms would essentially bring political armaggedon for those of us who value a government whose raison d'etre isn't to enrich the already rich. Here's a short quote from the much larger piece:

The GOP already controls the White House, the Supreme Court, and the House of Representatives. The Democrats control the Senate, but by only one vote. Polls of the handful of competitive Senate races indicate that control of the chamber is a toss-up. And while Democrats are optimistic about retaking the House, Republicans are increasingly sure that their larger war chests and a late-campaign public focus on national security threats will keep them in power. So if Johnson loses, and the Democrats don't win elsewhere, then, for the first time since 1953, the GOP would control both Congress and the White House for at least two years. Throw in the Supreme Court, and Republicans will have won control of the entire federal government for the first time since 1929. With that kind of power, it would take only a few years for the Republican Party to fundamentally reshape American government in ways that can't be undone no matter which party wins in 2004--from more tax cuts that would bankrupt Washington for decades, to a continued unilateralist foreign policy that would wreak further havoc on international institutions, to judicial precedents that would permanently cripple the ability of the federal government to grapple with social and economic problems. By any reasonable measure, the most pivotal issue facing voters in this congressional election is control of Congress itself.

This piece is worth your time. Give it a read.

A COUPLE OF TIDBITS 9-28-02

In addition to W being caught lying through his teeth, there are a couple of other interesting tidbits today.

Despite the administration's best efforts, The dog continues to refuse to be wagged. Public support for action against Iraq without the support of allies is dropping fast according to a recent poll. It drops to a mere 33% if the U.S. must act unilaterally. As I've said before, if W wants public support, he's going to have to work through the U.N. He'd better get used to the idea.

Now who does Dick Cheney work for? The American people or energy companies? Boy, the arguments the administration is advancing to ward off the GAO's lawsuit certainly look bad to anyone who cares about congressional oversight. Using their logic, an administration never has to turn over documents to congress. Just a wee bit secretive aren't they? Reminds me a lot of Nixon's administration.

Boy, what a difference an administration makes for Republicans on Iraq. You ought to take a look at the arguments Republicans like Trent Lott made when Saddam kicked inspectors out of Iraq in 1998. They argued it wasn't that big of a deal and that we should"go slow" in Iraq. I guess the devil wasn't quite so evil back then. I've seen absolutely no evidence to convince me much has changed in Iraq since then, so why the change Trent? Oh yeah, I forgot. Midterm elections are coming up -- never mind.

W IS MAKING STUFF UP 9-28-02

You knew they'd get caught making stuff up eventually. W and the boys want a war with Iraq and will say anything to get it. Here's the story: the folks at the International Atomic Energy Agency says that the 1998 report W has been citing about Saddam's nuclear capability"doesn't exist." The best part is when the administration spin machine (so it doesn't seem like they're lying outright) claims that they were really talking about the 1991 report. The agency says that report doesn't exist either. Oops. How embarrassing.

This is pretty astonishing. W has now been caught essentially falsifying evidence in trying to make the case against Iraq. However, the most amazing thing here has got to be that the story accusing W of making stuff up is written by the Republican Party's often-reliable lapdogs at the moonie-owned Washington Times! Here's a quote:

The International Atomic Energy Agency says that a report cited by President Bush as evidence that Iraq in 1998 was"six months away" from developing a nuclear weapon does not exist.

"There's never been a report like that issued from this agency," Mark Gwozdecky, the IAEA's chief spokesman, said yesterday in a telephone interview from the agency's headquarters in Vienna, Austria.

"We've never put a time frame on how long it might take Iraq to construct a nuclear weapon in 1998," said the spokesman of the agency charged with assessing Iraq's nuclear capability for the United Nations.

In a Sept. 7 news conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Mr. Bush said:"I would remind you that when the inspectors first went into Iraq and were denied — finally denied access [in 1998], a report came out of the Atomic — the IAEA that they were six months away from developing a weapon.

"I don't know what more evidence we need," said the president, defending his administration's case that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was building weapons of mass destruction.

The White House says Mr. Bush was referring to an earlier IAEA report.

"He's referring to 1991 there," said Deputy Press Secretary Scott McClellan."In '91, there was a report saying that after the war they found out they were about six months away." Mr. Gwozdecky said no such report was ever issued by the IAEA in 1991.

Amazing stuff, eh? Of course, you knew it was only a matter of time before somebody in our rather subservient press corps began to fact-check some of W's most outrageous and evidence-free statements in his case for war with Iraq.

HOT LINKS FOR THE DAY 9-28-02

Frank Rich has yet another great column out today. You should read it. Here's a bit of it:

The"fuzzy math" of this White House's tax cut and budget projections, chronicled by my colleague Paul Krugman from the start, is compounded daily rather than corrected. When we poor shareholders worry too loudly about our growing economic pain, the administration's antidote to our woes is not more honesty in bookkeeping but Ken Lay-style cheerleading. This month Mr. Bush's S.E.C. chief, Harvey Pitt, went so far as to tell Americans it is"more than safe" to get back in the market — as the Dow plummeted for its sixth consecutive month. It's the same pitch Mr. Lay offered his employees in an e-mail —"I want to assure you that I have never felt better about the prospects for the company" — on the day Jeffrey Skilling resigned as chief executive in anticipation of Enron's collapse.

But this administration no longer cooks the books merely on fiscal matters. Disinformation has become ubiquitous, even in the government's allegedly empirical scientific data on public health. The annual federal report on air pollution trends published this month simply eliminated its usual (and no doubt troubling) section on global warming, much as accountants at Andersen might have cleaned up a balance sheet by hiding an unprofitable division. At the Department of Health and Human Services, The Washington Post reported last week, expert committees are being"retired" before they can present data that might contradict the president's views on medical matters — much as naysaying Wall Street analysts were sidelined in favor of boosters who could be counted on to flog dogs like WorldCom or Pets.com right until they imploded.

It's when such dishonesty extends to the war on terrorism, though, that you appreciate just how much a killer arrogance can be. Even with little White House cooperation in its inquiry, this month's Congressional intelligence hearings presented a chilling portrait of the administration's efforts to cover up its pre-9/11 lassitude about terrorist threats. Exhibit A was Condoleezza Rice's pronouncement from last May:"I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center . . . that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile." In fact, the committee reported, U.S. intelligence had picked up a dozen plots of a similar sort, over a period from 1994 to pre-9/11 2001, with some of them specifically mentioning the World Trade Center and the White House as potential targets. In the weeks before the attack the C.I.A. learned that in Afghanistan"everyone is talking about an impending attack."

I don't know if I have anything to add. Just read it. As usual, it's quite good.

My understanding is the liberal, communist and anti-war New York Times refused to run this op-ad by the folks at TomPaine.com. Boy, what's the controversy here? Yeah, sure the picture of Osama is a bit shocking but the text of the op-ad isn't that outrageous. It's amazing to me when our so-called"liberal" press practices a little censorship of anti-war views, isn't it?

I'm happy to report that the dog is still refusing to be wagged before the midterm elections.

There was a large explosion in Kabul today. I'm so glad we're succeeding in keeping the peace in Afghanistan. Does anyone else think that Afghanistan is eventually going to disintegrate into a civil war again because of the administration's inattention? I know the international community believes it's just a matter of time. If I were a betting man, I'd put money on it -- but I'm not.

OPEN-MINDEDNESS, GUN"ENTHUSIASTS" AND THE BELLESILES CASE 9-27-02

I haven't said much about the Bellesiles case because I wanted to wait until the process is finished. As it becomes increasingly obvious that Bellesiles is going to be punished for his historical sins, I now feel I can say a little something. The blogosphere has been filled with discussion of this case. I'll quote a couple of folks that actually make a little sense and aren't gun"enthusiasts" who are celebrating like they actually had some hand in it themselves.

First, a quotation from Jeff Pasley's blog here on HNN:

---If you want an explanation for many historians' unwillingness to join the chorus of condemnation against Michael Bellesiles despite the evidence, check out the mob ripping apart his scholarly carcass on another part of this site. Ecch. The"pig roast" guy obviously heard that bit in church about"there but for the grace of God go I." Did I miss the part in Arming America where Bellesiles impugned gun-rights enthusiasts' mothers? You would think that Bellesiles was Stalin's right-hand man from the tone these people take.

It looks like Michael is going to be punished in some way by Emory, and he may well deserve it, but come on. Cooking history books may be a scholarly crime, but it surely does not measure up to say, defrauding thousands out of their livelihoods. (Have to disagree with the person who made the Enron comparison.) His book cost none of his critics more than the price of the book -- their millions of man-hours online being voluntary -- the controversy has done far more damage to the cause of progressive history (if that's the term) and gun control than even its full acceptance could have to the NRA and their fellow travellers. Kudos to the people who are trying to react reasonably, on HNN and elsewhere. The others can call off the public victory toga party anytime they like. Of course, what Charlton Heston does behind closed doors is nobody's business but his.

Now, a quotation from blogger Kevin Drum, better known as Calpundit:

But why is this so interesting? A historian wrote a book on an obscure subject not accessible to fact checking by laymen (or lay book critics). Professional historians have investigated and decided that the book is bogus. And now his support is melting away.

What else would you expect? Isn't this just evidence that professional historians are doing their job? And that Bellesiles' original supporters really aren't doctrinaire liberals stubbornly determined to support their cause at all costs? Shouldn't Glenn [Instapundit] and all the pro-gun folks be congratulating them for keeping an open mind?

I guess that's not a very realistic hope, is it?

Well said. This episode has actually shown that the system works. Maybe it doesn't work as quickly as the"enthusiasts" would like it to but aren't the wheels of justice supposed to be deliberate? Aren't we not supposed to rush to judgement? I know because what Bellesiles said disagreed with what many of the"enthusiasts" believed, he was supposed to be tarred and feathered on the spot and ridden out of town on a rail but that's not how the system works -- fortunately for all of us.

And now, as I said in an earlier blog entry, it's time to find something else to talk about guys. I know that your lives will lose a great deal of meaning but that's just part of life.

SOME HOT LINKS TODAY 9-27-02

Timothy Noah of Slate has a nice column arguing that the real reason for the blow-up in Washington this week was the president's demagogy about government rather than any serious issues about the war with Iraq.

Here's a nice editorial about how W is trying to have it both ways on the federal judiciary. If W disagrees with an opinion, he blasts the judge for making a politically-motivated decision. However, in the confirmation process he argues that judges should be confirmed without considering their politics. So, if being a judge is apolitical, why does he so often criticize a judge's politics?

Nicholas Kristof's article suggests that Iraqis may fight more passionately once the war is brought to them. That's an obvious point but one that, for some reason, the administration doesn't grasp.

Finally, here's an interesting analysis by W's favorite reporter for the New York Times about the way the house races are shaping up. You'll notice there's ample evidence here that the administration is wagging the dog for political gain which I believe is, as you can probably tell from my earlier comments, about as shameful a use of war as is possible.

KRUGMAN'S COLUMN IS, ONCE AGAIN, QUITE GOOD TODAY 9-27-02

Another good Paul Krugman column is out today. In this one, he talks about how the fake power crisis in California is sure to repeat itself with this bought-and-paid-for administration in power. Here's a snippet:

But why did energy companies think they could get away with it?

One answer might be that the apparent malefactors are very big contributors to the Republican Party. Some analysts have suggested that energy companies felt free to manipulate markets because they believed they had bought protection from federal regulation — the conspiracy-minded point out that severe power shortages began just after the 2000 election, and ended when Democrats gained control of the Senate.

Federal regulators certainly seemed determined to see and hear no evil, and above all not to reveal evidence of evil to state officials. A previous FERC ruling on El Paso was, in the view of many observers, a whitewash. In another case, AES/Williams was accused of shutting down generating units, forcing the power system to buy power at vastly higher prices from other units of the same company. In April 2001, FERC and Williams reached a settlement in which the company repaid the extra profits, but paid no penalty — and FERC sealed the evidence. Last week CBS News reported that"federal regulators have power control room audiotapes that prove traders from Williams Energy called plant operators and told them to turn off the juice. The government sealed the tapes in a secret settlement" — the same settlement? —"and still refuses to release them."

If that's true, FERC caught at least one power company red-handed, in the middle of the crisis, at a time when state officials were begging the agency to take action — and then suppressed the evidence. Yet this story has received little national play.

Why has this story"received little national play" Krugman asks? Because we're talking about war instead, that's why. But I'm sure that's just a coincidence.

A COUPLE OF INTERESTING THINGS 9-26-02

Holy Moly! You've gotta read this. Ashcroft has personal connections to an Iraqi group the administration is now declaring a terrorist organization. The administration is now trying to use Saddam's ties to this organization to declare he supports terrorism. Using this administration's often specious logic, doesn't that now mean that Ashcroft supports terrorism? Doesn't that mean W should declare him an enemy combatant?

In other wacky Ashcroft news, his Justice Department gave Zacarias Moussaoui 48 classified documents by mistake. The best part of the article is when the Justice Department spokesman tries to reassure us that Moussaoui never read the documents. Why is Ashcroft still in charge of the Justice Department? This is certainly major league incompetence, wouldn't you say?

Further proving that this administration of millionaires, for millionaires, and by millionaires is out of touch with the average Joe, Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill declared today that the economy is doing just fine. For filthy rich folks like him, I'm sure it is. Now, for the rest of us, many of whom are suffering mightily because of the state of the economy, well, our opinions just don't count with this administration.

ODDS AND ENDS ON A BUSY DAY 9-26-02

I've got a giant stack of blue books that will keep me pretty busy for the next few days. I will, of course, continue to blog but it may be a bit more sporadic than it has been. I will keep it going. With that in mind, I'll give you some links to some interesting news tidbits.

You know the ghoul, er, Don Rumsfeld is in trouble when Bob Novak, noted Republican lapdog, calls him a liar. Novak points out that Rumsfeld's testimony before congress the other day about his role in building up Saddam in the 1980s stretches the truth just a wee bit.

W sounds awfully desperate when he asserts, with absolutely no evidence, that Saddam has ties to Al-Qaeda. Obviously, W thinks this assertion will help to shake his pro-war resolution loose in congress. However, just repeating something over and over doesn't make it true -- even if most conservatives seem to think it does.

Richard Cohen of the Washington Post apparently agrees with me that it's time for the administration to provide answers to critics' questions instead of trying to shout them down or impugn their patriotism.

It also appears that the Washington Post editorial staff agrees with me as well.

Okay, so I'm not that original. The New York Timesagrees with me too.

POISONING THE WATERS OF PUBLIC DISCOURSE 9-26-02

Instead of relying on hawkish"war bloggers" or even quotations from media websites for accounts of Daschle's speech, I would suggest that folks should actually read Daschle's remarks before the Senate. After watching Republicans mischaracterize this speech for the last 24 hours, I think it's time for folks to actually read the speech. What you see there may surprise you.

Republicans keep claiming Daschle is confusing the Iraq war and the war on terrorism in his remarks. However, if you actually read the speech, you can see that Daschle clearly is referring to the"war on terrorism" not the impending war with Iraq. It is the war on terrorism, of which the new Homeland Security Agency created by the bill in question would be a part, that Daschle is referring to. Any Republican who suggests different is clearly trying to mislead the public. After watching Newt Gingrich's performance last night on Nightline, I think it's time for everyone to actually read the speech rather than relying on the Republican spin of it that is dominating our subservient Washington media's discussion of the speech.

Of course, Senator Charles Schumer made another excellent point last night on Nightline when he argued that what we're seeing is an administration that questions the patriotism of anyone who disagrees with them on some aspect of the war on terror. I love listening to Republicans like Trent Lott call Daschle's remarks"unhelpful" and"partisan." Hey Trent, how helpful is it to question the patriotism of everyone that disagrees with you? You guys on that side of the aisle have been doing it for months now. I suspect he's just upset because someone finally called him on it.

This administration has gone a long way toward poisoning the discourse in this country over the last few months and it's about time that Republicans begin to realize that and take responsibility for it. This from an administration that swore it was going to" change the tone" in Washington. They changed the tone all right. In fact, they turned the treble knob all the way up.

It's also about time for someone, anyone, in the White House to actually take responsibility for something. Whether we're talking about the economy, the deficit, or security mistakes, this administration weasels off, passes the buck, and avoids responsibility. Daschle is only voicing the concerns and anger of a growing number of Americans today who see an administration that avoids taking responsibility for anything and uses the worst possible tactics to get its way.

I think Daschle is right. It is time for an apology to Democrats and the American people for the shameful and outrageous way that the administration is impugning the patriotism of its critics rather than trying to respond to the actual content of their criticisms. It shows you the moral and political bankruptcy of this administration that it is using this old and disingenuous tactic instead of engaging in genuine debate and discussion about its domestic security policies and the impending war on Iraq.

I think it's time for it to stop.

Today.

Right now.

Do you think this will happen?

Of course not.

A FEW GOOD LINKS BEFORE I RETIRE FOR THE EVENING 9-25-02

W plans to cut several domestic federal programs -- including several in education -- in order to pay for his tax cut and the war in Iraq. Whatever happened to"the education president?" I guess, like most things that don't involve tax cuts or war, this was just lip service rather than any sort of meaningful commitment.

James Pinkerton has a powerful op-ed in the Los Angeles Times about Bush's"strategy" of wagging the dog. Here's a bit of it:

The Bush administration dominates the news every time it says anything about its prospective war with Iraq. As an example, the"strategy" document released Friday, calling for preemptive action against terror, was mostly a rehash of the president's speech of June 1. And yet discussion of its particulars dominated the weekend, as other news was mostly buried.

And maybe that's the real brilliance of the Bushies--changing the subject away from the economy, stupid.

Consider: The Dow Jones industrial average fell below 8,000 last week and closed Monday at 7,872. Just Sunday, Peregrine Systems, a San Diego-based software company, filed for bankruptcy. As an example of the cratering in high tech, Peregrine sold off a subsidiary unit for $350 million after having paid $1 billion for that same unit in August 2001. Speaking of lost billions, WorldCom revealed last week that it probably misreported $9 billion in revenue, not $7 billion. Meanwhile, leading economic indicators and housing starts have fallen for three months in a row. Finally, oil prices went above $30 a barrel Monday, up 40% since the start of the year.

If this news seems secondary, maybe there's a reason for that. But not a good reason, according to Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.). The octogenarian legislator offered his own explanation on the Senate floor Friday:"The president was dropping in the polls and the domestic situation was such that the administration was appearing to be much like the emperor who had no clothes." Speaking in his usual flowery prose, Byrd described the coming of"the war fervor, the drums of war, the bugles of war, the clouds of war."

I think some folks in the media are beginning to pay attention. It's about time.

Layoffs soared in August, up 46% from July. I think it's time to talk some more about Iraq, don't you?

However, judging from these poll numbers, the dog is still refusing to be wagged.

MORE TRAVEL MONEY FOR CHENEY -- ARE YOU KIDDING ME? 9-25-02

This USA Todaystory recounts how Dick Cheney has come begging to the congress for more travel money. Here's a snip:

Vice President Cheney, whose travel this year has been mainly trips to"secure undisclosed locations" and GOP fundraisers, has exceeded his travel budget and is asking Congress to approve shifting $100,000 from other White House accounts to cover the tab.

Congress approved $386,000 for travel by the vice president this year and authorized the White House to spend an additional $50,000 if necessary — a total of $436,000. So far, Cheney's travel costs for the year total $432,000, but the figure is expected to go higher because of lag time in processing bills.

Isn't it amazing that the fiscal conservatives are always the ones who personally waste the most of the taxpayers' money on themselves while in office? Isn't it just a wee bit hypocritical when your tax cut has depleted federal coffers and you're threatening to veto important spending bills to be asking for additional money so you can fly around the country from fundraiser to fundraiser attacking the patriotism of Democrats? I say it's time to tell Dick to either stay home or go to his undisclosed location -- and live within his means. The rest of us manage to do so somehow. Besides, Dick made $50M or so running Halliburton into the ground in the 1990s. Why doesn't he cover the shortfall? Why should we have to cover it?

DASCHLE FIRES BACK 9-25-02

It appears that Tom Daschle has had enough. He's exasperated about Bush's rather careless remarks regarding the Democratic-controlled Senate yesterday. I think W may have finally overstepped his bounds. I wondered what sort of shameless act by W was required to make Democrats finally say something. I guess now we know. Here's a bit of the story:

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle on Wednesday demanded an apology from President Bush for comments the South Dakota Democrat said were"outrageous" and politicized a possible war with Iraq.

His voice thick with emotion, the normally soft-spoken Daschle said Bush had insulted Democrats, many of them veterans of war, in saying the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate was"not interested in the security of the American people."

"That is outrageous, outrageous," Daschle said on the Senate floor.

He demanded the president apologize to Democrats and the American people.

"We ought not to politicize this war. We ought not to politicize the rhetoric about war and life and death," Daschle said.

As I said earlier, it does appear the dog is beginning to refuse to be wagged. It's almost as if Bush doesn't know when to stop. He's already getting nearly everything he wants but, like the spoiled child that he is, it's never enough to please him.

However, the most amazing part of this story is at the end when the reporter, apparently with no sense of irony, includes a Trent Lott quote in which Lott accuses Daschle of being too partisan in his comments. Now, after what the president said yesterday, isn't that the pot calling the kettle black? Of course, with the lilly white nature of Lott's supporters in Mississippi and his frequent appearances before militant racist groups there, I guess I should've chosen a different turn of phrase to describe Lott's hypocrisy.

ODDS AND ENDS 9-25-02

Here's an analytical article about how the administration lost the battle over worker's rights in the Senate's version of the Homeland Security Bill. Isn't it a good idea for employees in this agency to be covered by the worker protections given to other federal employees? Isn't it a bad idea to create a security agency that has the potential of becoming a patronage machine for the current administration? Wouldn't that actually endanger domestic security?

This analysis of Bush's flub in being unable to say"shame on me" is quite good. W apparently is unable to even ponder himself doing anything wrong. Take a look.

What does Molly Ivins think about W's new National Security strategy? Not much as you might imagine. She also points out that this is the same misguided document that the same folks during Bush I put out to deal with the Soviet Threat before it, er, disappeared. They've now gussied it up and re-introduced it as a"new" plan for the world. Here's a snippet:

All the experts tell us anti-Americanism thrives on the perception that we are arrogant, that we care nothing for what the rest of the world thinks. Even our innocent mistakes are often blamed on obnoxious triumphalism. The announced plan of this administration for world domination reinforces every paranoid, anti-American prejudice on this earth. This plan is guaranteed to produce more terrorists. Even if this country were to become some insane, 21st century version of Sparta -- armed to teeth, guards on every foot of our borders -- we would still not be safe. Have the Israelis been able to stop terrorism with their tactics?

Not only would we not be safe, we would not have a nickel left for schools or health care or roads or parks or zoos or gardens or universities or mass transit or senior centers or the arts or anything resembling civilization. This is nuts.

This creepy, un-American document has a pedigree going back to Bush I, when -- surprise! -- Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz were at the Department of Defense and both such geniuses that they not only didn't see the collapse of the Soviet Union coming, they didn't believe it after they saw it.

In those days, this plan for permanent imperial adventurism was called"Defense Strategy for the 1990s" and was supposed to be a definitive response to the Soviet threat. Then the Soviet threat disappeared, and the same plan re-emerged as a response to the post-Soviet world.

It was roundly criticized at the time, its manifest weaknesses attacked by both right and left. Now it is back yet again as the answer to post-Sept. 11. Sort of like the selling of the Bush tax cut -- needed in surplus, needed in deficit, needed for rain and shine -- the plan exists apart from rationale. ` As Frances Fitzgerald points out in the Sept. 26 New York Review of Books, its most curious feature is the combination of triumphalism and almost unmitigated pessimism. Until last Friday, when the thing was re-released in its new incarnation, it contained no positive goals for American foreign policy, not one. Now the plan is tricked out with rhetoric like earrings on a pig about extending freedom, democracy and prosperity to the world. But as The New York Times said,"It sounds more like a pronouncement that the Roman Empire or Napoleon might have produced."

Tell us how you feel Molly! Don't hold back now!

THE DOG IS REFUSING TO BE WAGGED 9-25-02

A new CBS News poll does not have good news for the administration on Iraq. Most Americans believe we should wait on the U.N. and should only act on Iraq in concert with our allies. Despite all the bluster of the past few weeks, most Americans still aren't buying the administration's spin on Iraq as a" clear and present danger." However, in an interesting twist, more Americans now believe that Saddam is a threat that Osama bin Laden. That is pretty astonishing. That part of the administration's campaign, ridiculous as it is, certainly appears to be working on the minds of Americans.

However, does this really make any sense? Honestly, if left alone, which of these two guys would you bet on striking us first in the next couple of years? It's not Saddam, is it? Past experience suggests Osama, no matter what the Al-Qaeda network's condition, is the much bigger threat.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON SAYS"SEND IN THE POPULISTS" 9-25-02

Arianna Huffington has a good column out today on her website. In it she describes how so many candidates running for the Senate are hypocritically trying to make themselves out to be populists. Here's a quotation about my state's Senate contest:

Corporate connections have also played a central role in the Missouri Senate race, where Democratic Sen. Jean Carnahan is locked in a tight contest with Republican former congressman Jim Talent.

Carnahan and her supporters have drawn blood by playing up Talent's most recent gig as a moderately talented $230,000-a-year corporate lobbyist, and by attacking his pro-fat cat voting record while serving in the House -- including his support of a federal loophole that allows super-rich Americans to renounce their citizenship as a way to avoid paying taxes. It doesn't help Talent's cause that during his time in Congress he was part of a group of young congressmen who dubbed themselves the"Lobster Tails" -- renowned for dining out at fancy restaurants on lobbyist's expense accounts.

In the finest tradition of American politics and schoolyards everywhere, Talent has responded to the attacks on his career as a lobbyist by finding a lobbyist of his own to smear -- making mud pies out of the fact that Roy Temple, Carnahan's chief of staff, worked as a lobbyist for MCI during the time it was acquired by the sleazoids at WorldCom.

Talent's buddies in the Missouri GOP have also joined the fray, running TV ads attacking Carnahan as a hypocrite in populist’s clothing for having accepted campaign cash from executives at Global Crossing -- including the ubiquitous Hindery --"who bankrupted the company and cost the employees their jobs and life savings." The commercials fail to mention, however, that the Republican Senatorial Committee, which helped pay for the ad, also took money from Global Crossing. Maybe irony didn't score well in the committee’s focus group tests.

It's definitely the last days of Rome as far as the candidates and soft money are concerned. When I watch television on my low-budget small-town station from St. Joseph, it's nonstop commercials for this race, all paid for by soft money. Sometimes, three of the four commercials are for the Senate race! BTW, Jean Carnahan is apparently ahead of Jim Talent by eight to ten points in most polls in the state. So I'm not quite sure if it still qualifies as a"tight contest."

MEET THE NEW BOSS, SAME AS THE OLD BOSS 9-25-02

There's a great Gene Lyons column out this morning. I'll provide you with a quotation for now and, as soon as it is available, I'll provide you with a free link for access. The folks who run my old hometown paper, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Republicans that they are, try to keep Gene's columns off their website unless you're a subscriber. If you want your Gene Lyons almost as soon as it hits screen doors in Little Rock, send an e-mail to this address.

And now, the promised quotation from Gene's latest column:

Now let me get this straight: Saddam Hussein is a deadly threat to American security, the worst since Hitler or Stalin. Why, it may take as long as two weeks to conquer Iraq. So now that President Junior's returned from a month-long vacation at his Texas ranch, which he apparently spent rounding up and branding golf carts, the sky is falling and there's not a moment to spare.

A Democrat-Gazette headline last week actually quoted Bush stating"If you want peace, it's necessary to use force."

War is Peace. Where have I heard that before?

"Regime change," the man calls it. Translation: assuming Junior doesn't get diplomatically outmaneuvered by the Iraqi strongman (and especially if he DOES), the administration is determined to invade a sovereign nation that hasn't attacked or threatened us, kill thousands of its citizens and install a dictator more to our liking. Preferably one who sells cheap oil and buys mass quantities of American-made weapons to replace the ones we're fixing to blow to smithereens.

Meanwhile, it's everybody's patriotic duty to keep a straight face. That's why the serious news broadcasts and the heavyweight pundits ignored Junior's unintentionally hilarious performance in Nashville last week. Speaking to one of his preferred audiences of schoolchildren, Bush told them Saddam can't be trusted.

"There's an old saying in Tennessee," he began."I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee--it says 'fool me once..." A long pause ensued. A befuddled, then somewhat panicky expression appeared on Bush's face."Shame on...shame on...you." Second pause."Fool me...can't get fooled again," he finally blurted out.

The irony of Bush's channeling The Who's caustic anthem was almost paralyzing. Written to satirize Sixties-style hippie utopianism,"Won't Get Fooled Again" all but took the roof off Madison Square Garden when they performed it with a backdrop of British and American flags before cheering cops and firemen at the 2001"Concert for New York." Thirty years on, the song's acid pessimism, fierce anger and anarchic joy somehow made it the perfect 9/11 elegy.

I have to credit my wife, Melissa, though. She recognized that W was channeling the Who immediately. Well, that's all I can really get away with posting of this column for now. As soon as the free link is up, I'll post it.

Update: The column is now up on the"unofficial website." Go read it!!!

A COUPLE OF LINKS BEFORE BED 9-24-02

Here's an interesting editorial from a Yale law professor about who the most dangerous person on Earth is right now -- and it's not who W wants you to think it is.

The Dow reached a four-year low today. The NASDAQ reached a six-year low. Is it any wonder that W and Republicans only want to talk about war with Iraq?

ODDS AND ENDS 9-24-02

Why did Bush flip-flop on the independent commission to investigate 9/11? Michael Isikoff of Newsweek explains why and, once again, it involves domestic political concerns rather than any higher goods such as a desire to get to the truth or trying to prevent such a thing from happening again.

In congressional testimony yesterday, one of the FBI agents in Minneapolis testified he was"trying to get people at FBI headquarters 'spun up' because he was trying to make sure that [Zacarias] Moussaoui 'did not take control of a plane and fly it into the World Trade Center." Now that's embarrassing. Of course, the worst part is when the agent's supervisor claims that he doesn't recall the conversation. Do you think he's really telling the truth? Why do I doubt it?

Here's an interesting op-ed piece from a trained propaganda analyst about the administration's propaganda campaign on Iraq from the Ann Arbor News that's worth reading.

Here's a story on how we sent 72 shipments of dangerous biological materials to Iraq during the Reagan and Bush I administrations in the 1980s. If Saddam has a biological weapons program now, it appears we gave it to him.

GOT EVIDENCE? 9-24-02

Since our own press is useless for this, I have to go to the foreign press, more specifically the Guardian, for any real listing of evidence against Iraq that isn't a 1980s rehash of well-known crimes. Tony Blair released a dossier yesterday with a list of allegations against Iraq.

The response in Britain by members of Blair's own party has been, essentially,"Big deal. Tell me something new will you?" I don't know what else to say about it. Take a look. I do assume W, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et. al can do better than this for evidence, right?

Update: It took a while but now American media sources have starting reporting on Blair's dossier. Here's MSNBC's story and an entire copy of the dossier.

THE GERMAN QUESTION 9-24-02

W is supposed to know what he's doing, right? Biting the hand of an ally isn't very helpful and surely isn't very damn"diplomatic." The administration's spoiled child-like response to Germany's entreaties yesterday was shameful. Bush has only himself to blame for these problems. Schroeder was one of the first to speak out against Bush's unilateralist" cowboy" stance on Iraq earlier this year. The New York Times has an editorial about the situation as well.

In other historical analogy news today, Richard Cohen of the Washington Post, a hawk on Iraq, accuses Condi Rice of employing"bad history" in her remarks about the diplomatic situation with Germany. He uses this to question whether her remarks don't tell us something about the administration's view of the nature of the impending war. He suggests it may not be very easy to"liberate" Iraq at all.

"WHITE MAN'S BURDEN" 9-24-02

Paul Krugman has another good op-ed piece in the New York Times this morning. This one should interest HNN readers. It involves the analogy I have already raised recently (with the assistance of a reader on the comment board below) about the current situation and the Spanish-American War. Krugman also raises the wagging the dog issue at the end. Here's a quote:

First, the experience of the Spanish-American War should remind us that quick conventional military victory is not necessarily the end of the story. Thanks to American technological superiority, Adm. George Dewey destroyed a Spanish fleet in Manila Bay without losing a single man. But a clean, high-tech war against Spain somehow turned into an extremely dirty war against the Filipino resistance, one in which hundreds of thousands of civilians died.

Second, America's imperial venture should serve as an object warning against taking grand strategic theories too seriously. The doctrines of the day saw colonies as strategic assets. In the end, it's very doubtful whether our control of the Philippines made us stronger. Now we're assured that military action against rogue states will protect us from terrorism. But the rogue state now in our sights doesn't seem to have been involved in Sept. 11; what determines whose regime gets changed?

Finally, we should remember that the economic doctrines that were used to justify Western empire-building during the late 19th century — that colonies would provide valuable markets and sources of raw materials — turned out to be nonsense. Almost without exception, the cost of acquiring and defending a colonial empire greatly exceeded even a generous accounting of its benefits. These days, pundits tell us that a war with Iraq will drive down oil prices, and maybe even yield a financial windfall. But the effect on oil prices is anything but certain, while the heavy costs of war, occupation and rebuilding — for we won't bomb Iraq, then wash our hands of responsibility, will we? — are not in doubt. And no, the United States cannot defray the costs of war out of Iraqi oil revenue — not unless we are willing to confirm to the world that we're just old-fashioned imperialists, after all.

In the end, 19th-century imperialism was a diversion. It's hard not to suspect that the Bush doctrine is also a diversion — a diversion from the real issues of dysfunctional security agencies, a sinking economy, a devastated budget and a tattered relationship with our allies.

All right readers, it's time for me to ask the relevant question: Does the analogy between the present situation and the Spanish-American War work? Why or why not? Respond however you would like, whether on the comment boards or in a private e-mail. I look forward to hearing from you.

REHNQUIST AND CIVIL LIBERTIES DURING WARTIME 9-23-02

You should read this op-ed piece by Adam Cohen about Rehnquist's book All the Laws But One. Here's a quote:

Justice Rehnquist's eagerness to see things from the viewpoint of those charged with keeping order — and his relative lack of concern about their victims — could have important implications for the cases the court hears this term. If the justices think only of terrorism and the threat to national security, they may be inclined to uphold whatever restrictions the Bush administration imposes. The more they actually consider the people being held in secret, or denied the right to see a lawyer, the more likely they are to appreciate the costs of those policies.

Another problem with"All the Laws but One" is its contention that presidents cannot be reined in during wartime, so it is pointless to try. Justice Rehnquist quotes, with approval, Francis Biddle, President Franklin Roosevelt's attorney general, who said,"The Constitution has not greatly bothered any wartime president." The opposite case can be made. When President Harry Truman tried to seize the nation's steel mills during the Korean War — arguing that an impending strike threatened national security — he backed down when the Supreme Court objected. Other presidents would probably be just as compliant.

But the most disturbing aspect of Justice Rehnquist's book is the lack of outrage, or even disappointment, he evinces when rights are sacrificed. The greatest American patriots have been eloquent about the danger of letting freedom lapse even briefly. Benjamin Franklin said,"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." There are times when Justice Rehnquist sees the wisdom of standing up to wartime fervor — he is particularly good about the importance of freedom of speech and assembly. But too often, giving up essential liberty for temporary safety seems an easy call for him.

Frightening stuff, eh? Now, go and read the entire piece!

THE LIBERAL MEDIA CANARD 9-23-02

A media watchdog group, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) reports that sources on the television news are almost always, male, white, elite, and Republican. Here's a bit of it:

A study of ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News in the year 2001 shows that 92 percent of all U.S. sources interviewed were white, 85 percent were male and, where party affiliation was identifiable, 75 percent were Republican.

Conducted for FAIR by the media analysis firm Media Tenor, the study shows that the big three nightly news shows rely heavily on society's most powerful groups when they report the news of the day. More than one in four sources were politicians-- George W. Bush alone made up 9 percent of all sources-- versus a mere 3 percent for all non-governmental advocacy groups, the sources most likely to present an alternative view to the government's.

So much for the myth of the liberal media. When can I stop hearing that ridiculous argument advanced?

"HIGH-ALTITUDE RAMBOS" 9-23-02

Have you ever wondered how the air marshal program is working out? Read this and you'll learn that the answer is not too well. I'll give you a quote just to whet your appetite:

One of the marshals pulled a gun and brandished it at the passengers. The marshals loudly demanded that all passengers remain in their seats, and remain still. They barked a series of orders. No one should stand for any reason. Arms and legs should not extend into the aisles. No one should try to visit the restroom. The message could not have been clearer: anyone who disobeyed the marshals was in danger of being shot.

Can we change this program -- immediately? Clearly the training is inadequate. Of course, as I've said before (on August 16th to be exact), having any firearms on passenger aircraft is sheer lunacy that will, more than likely, cause much more trouble than it is worth. As you'll remember from that earlier blog entry, the air marshal program is nearing the point of collapse, at least according to this article in USA Today from last month. It's only a matter of time before one of these ill-trained bozos discharges a weapon on a crowded aircraft and either injures or kills someone. It appears that nightmare scenario came close to happening last month.

TODAY'S ODDS AND ENDS 9-23-02

Have you ever wondered who W and the boys envision putting in power after Saddam is gone? Read this and you'll see why many in the region aren't too wild about the prospect of Saddam being toppled. The candidates for the open job might be as bad or worse than Saddam it appears.

Here's a story about the disastrous impact the war may have on the federal budget. As I was reading this story, I noticed the Dow Jones is already down 160 this morning. Hasn't W been great for the economy?

When Bob Novak, a Republican lapdog if you've ever seen one, says a Republican president is having problems with the"vision thing," that should tell you something. Novak goes on to say that the GOP's wagging the dog for the midterms is a pretty risky strategy. Has he been reading this blog or something?

Maureen Dowd checks in over the weekend with her piece about how the administration is using 9/11 to go after Saddam. Here's a snippet:

When Senator Mark Dayton of Minnesota asked the defense chief on Thursday,"What is compelling us to now make a precipitous decision and take precipitous actions?" an exasperated Mr. Rumsfeld sputtered:"What's different? What's different is 3,000 people were killed."

The casus belli is casuistry belli: We can't cuff Saddam to 9/11, but we'll clip Saddam because of 9/11.

Mr. Rumsfeld offered sophistry instead of a smoking gun:"I suggest that any who insist on perfect evidence are back in the 20th century and still thinking in pre-9/11 terms."

Ah, Rummy. Evidence, civil liberties, debating before we go to war . . . it's all sooo 20th century.

Nice use of sarcasm, wouldn't you say?

Why does Bush continue to lie about what happened on the morning of 9/11? Here's the true story about it.

The Washington Post had a nice analysis of the new Bush Doctrine yesterday. It gives the green light to anyone who wants to invade another country because of a perceived threat. And with the weakness of our case against Iraq, the threat certainly doesn't have to be very real.

You should read this carefully reasoned piece by James Fallows in the Atlantic Monthly about what our long-term obligations are once Saddam has been overthrown.

WAR, WAR, WAR: IT'S NOW OFFICIAL, THE ADMINISTRATION IS WAGGING THE DOG FOR ADVANTAGE IN THE MIDTERM ELECTIONS
9-22-02

You have to read this story from the New York Times today. I'll give you a quote but you really should read the entire story. Here goes:

Senator Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican who once led his party's campaign arm in the Senate, said,"I do believe the issue of terrorism and Iraq will be very much on the mind of voters going in to Election Day."

Mr. McConnell noted that Republicans traditionally had a strong lead on national security issues.

Scott Reed, a Republican consultant, said:"The secret to the election now is to beat the clock. Every week, you can hear the ripping noise of another page of the calendar coming off the wall. Another week has gone by. And there's only six more to go."

Democrats, in contrast, are voicing frustration with the turn of events, even as they note that six weeks can be a long time in politics.

"Iraq is the only thing we're talking about right now," Senator John B. Breaux, Democrat of Louisiana, recently said before Democrats finally decided that a swift vote on military action against Iraq was better for them.

If Congress did not act soon on Iraq, Mr. Breaux said:"It means we probably won't get to do anything else. And there are a lot of issues that need our attention."

A striking reminder of how the war talk has drowned out issues that Democrats believe work in their favor came on Thursday, when the Dow Jones average sunk to 7,940. That was the lowest it had been since last July, when many Democrats believed that the nation's fixation on a plummeting market and reports of corporate malfeasance were setting the stage for Democrats to win control of both houses of Congress.

Asked today if the latest dip on Wall Street drew the kind of coverage the last one did, a senior Democratic strategist responded with a glum e-mail message:"Not at all. War, war, war."

Now that, my friends, is absolutely shameless. This is about as cynical and frightening a thing as I've seen in domestic politics in my lifetime. Bush certainly isn't going to like how historians treat him here in 20 years or so.

BUSH ADMINISTRATION NOW SAYS IT WILL STOP WEAPONS INSPECTORS FROM ENTERING IRAQ IF THE U.N. DOESN'T DO WHAT THE ADMINISTRATION WANTS -- NOW THIS LOOKS GOOD TO THE REST OF THE WORLD, HUH?
9-21-02

You've got to read this story from BBC News. This is absolute and utter insanity! We're essentially refusing to let the U.N. process plays itself out. Here's a snippet from the story:

The American Secretary of State, Colin Powell, has said the United States will find ways to stop weapons inspectors going back to Iraq unless there is a new United Nations Security Council resolution on the issue.

Addressing a Congressional committee, Mr Powell said the Security Council must spell out to Iraq the serious consequences if it fails to co-operate with the inspectors.

The BBC State Department correspondent Jon Leyne says the US is in effect giving an ultimatum to the Security Council.

This is absurd. Won't it impress the rest of the world if we STOP weapons inspectors from entering Iraq? Do you need any more prima facie evidence that this is really more about Operation Repair Dad's Legacy than reducing Iraq as a threat to the world? I don't think W and the boys could play this much more poorly if they tried. It really does look like a tantrum now.

IMPORTANT QUESTIONS BEING ASKED BY BLOGGERS ABOUT THE STRENGTH OF W'S CASE AGAINST IRAQ -- WHY ISN'T THE PRESS CAPABLE OF ASKING SUCH QUESTIONS? 9-21-02

Many bloggers are beginning to raise questions about the administration's case against Iraq. Where is the evidence? I find it interesting that the administration went on and on about how it would present evidence but it produced no new evidence of any kind. In fact, the administration is lying about the evidence that it does have. In his blog, Josh Marshall raises this point quite effectively:

But let me discuss with you for a moment what I find the most difficult about this debate. The more ardent supporters of regime change lie a lot. I really don't know how else to put it. I'm not talking about disagreements over interpretation. I mean people saying things they either know to be false or have no reason to believe are true. Perhaps the word 'lie' is a very slight exaggeration. Perhaps it's better to say they have a marked propensity to assert as fact points for which there is virtually or absolutely no evidence. How's that?

Let's just take one example, one among many. In the proposed use of force resolution the president sent to Congress on Thursday it cites as one reason for war"the high risk that the current Iraqi regime will either employ those weapons to launch a surprise attack against the United States or its Armed Forces or provide them to international terrorists who would do so." Whether Iraq would give WMD to terrorists to use against the United States is debatable. But is there a high risk that Iraq will launch a surprise attack against the United States? Really? Is there any risk this will happen? Is it even conceivable that this will happen? I don't think anybody of sound mind seriously believes this. That doesn't mean that Iraq isn't a serious threat or that an Iraq with nuclear weapons is not an eventuality we cannot allow to come into being. But a surprise attack against the United States? It's not a serious statement.

So why is it there? I assume it is just there as one more throwaway line that has no relation to the truth but sounds good and ups the ante. And the carefree indifference to the truth that that sort of statement betrays is worrisome in the extreme -- even if it's said in the service of a goal you think we should pursue.

Another blogging compatriot, Jeff Cooper considers the further ramifications of this:
This approach to government—determine a policy, then offer a series of dishonest (or at best half-honest) rationales in support of the predetermined policy—is deeply corrosive in a democracy; it betrays utter disdain for the public. And, as others have observed, this approach has characterized the Bush administration from day one, from the tax cut on down. Rather than focusing on the fundamental dishonesty of the administration's methodology, however, the Washington Post today essentially celebrates its effectiveness. As Tim Dunlop notes today, the approach works only because the press's fascination with winners and losers rather than policy allows it.

The administration's approach is alarming in another respect as well: the president and his advisors seem indifferent to the larger consequences of their actions. We saw this with the tax cut. When opponents argued that the plan would cause the deficit to explode, the president simply asserted that it wouldn't. And when deficits did in fact return, the administration insisted that the tax cut had nothing to do with it, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

We're seeing the same thing with Iraq. It is quite clear that the administration intends to remove Saddam Hussein from power. It's not at all clear, however, what the administration envisions happening next. Indeed, at one point the administration suggested that it would not decide that question, but would leave it to the international community. That may have been a faint gesture toward multilateralism, but it came across as an abdication of responsibility. Unless we go in with a clear vision of the endgame and the aftermath, how dare we act unilaterally to throw Iraq into disarray?

Dishonesty? From this administration? Say it isn't so! I think Marshall's and Cooper's analysis is dead-on. With the embarrassing unilateralist and"wrong headed" (to use Douglas Brinkley's words) Bush Doctrine that was announced on Friday (I'll have much more to say about this next week) that makes pre-emptive invasion now a part of U.S. policy, it would appear that this administration is well on its way to becoming a pariah to the rest of the world. We seemingly have no principles anymore or we shed one set of them to gain new ones all the time. Again, these folks are supposed to be good at foreign policy, right? I see absolutely no evidence of that at the moment.

ISRAEL, IRAQ, AND THE DANGERS OF THIS ADMINISTRATION'S ONE-TRACK MIND 9-21-02

Many in the press have also talked about this administration's one-track mind. They focus on an issue and go for total victory. All other issues, concerns, etc. are pushed to the side in the drive for victory on the one issue of the moment. This single-mindedness is seen as an asset by folks in the administration.

However, I'm afraid to say the developing situation in Israel is an example of how this is not a workable strategy in foreign policy. The Bushies ignored the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the last several weeks in order to focus on getting support from the international community for a war on Iraq. Now the potential support from Arab nations is about to disappear because of both Israel's actions yesterday and Bush's flip-flop (within one week!) on unilateralism. If the administration were capable of dealing with more than one thing at a time, perhaps they could gain the support of Arab nations and could've convinced the Israelis not to undertake their latest actions.

The desperate and flailing manner in which the administration tried to resolve this conflict yesterday tells you how little attention they were paying to the region. They were offering to mediate the conflict and do things that should've been on the table a month ago rather than offered desperately at this late date.

In fact, if the administration would simply be patient, perhaps things would turn out differently with the Iraq situation as well. Let the inspectors go in. Let's wait and see. If Saddam gives them any trouble, then you can move towards military conflict with the support of the world.

Alas, we know the single-mindedness of this administration gets in the way of such reasonable approaches to Iraq. W, Cheney, et. al wants war with Iraq and will stop at nothing to get it.

THANKS MSNBC, ERIC ALTERMAN AND TALKLEFT! 9-20-02

This little blog is getting a bit of attention these days. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank Jeralynn Merritt at Talkleft and Eric Alterman at MSNBC for adding links to my blog in the last couple of days. I'm glad to be associated with you.

Since these new links have been added, the web traffic on this site has really picked up. So there are probably a lot of new readers seeing this site for the first time today. I do want to take this opportunity to thank you for stopping by and I encourage you to come back often.

Now, onward to the topics of the day...

"FOOL ME ONCE..." 9-20-02

As someone who speaks in public for a living, it really embarrasses me how poor a speaker W is. However, just yesterday, W proved he really knows his quotations! Here's a quotation from W yesterday:

"There's an old saying in Tennessee -- I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee -- that says, 'fool me once, shame on -- shame on you. Fool me' -- you can't get fooled again."
The quote doesn't really do it justice, so take a look at the video clip itself from MSNBC. The priceless part is about 23 seconds into the clip (which follows the 16 second advertisement). Be patient. Believe me, this is worth your time.

"THIS IS THE WAY THE RECOVERY ENDS -- NOT WITH A BANG BUT WITH A WHIMPER" 9-20-02

Paul Krugman's column is out this morning and, as usual, it's good. Krugman is beginning to sound the alarm that the infamous"double-dip" appears to be just around the corner. We should listen to Krugman. He's been right a heck of a lot more often than Bush's economic experts the last couple of years. Krugman was the voice in the media wilderness during the campaign in 2000, telling us what was coming with the deficit and that a recession was brewing. Here's a quote:

But the most striking similarity between now and a decade ago, it seems to me, is political. For all the differences between the moderate father and the deeply conservative son, now as then we have an administration whose key figures are fundamentally uninterested in and uncomfortable with economic policy.

That statement may strike you as strange: wasn't the tax cut George W. Bush's central achievement before Osama bin Laden came along? But the tax cut was never intended as an economic policy: it was a political gesture designed to ward off a challenge from Steve Forbes and satisfy the conservative base. Only later did the administration make the providential discovery that it was also just the thing to fight recession, promote family values and cure the common cold.

And it can't seem to come up with anything else, now that the tax cut that wasn't designed to fight a recession has, sure enough, failed to fight a recession. When Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill was asked for new ideas that came out of the comical Waco summit, his answer was — are you ready? — making the tax cut permanent.

Should we be worried about the administration's lack of the vision thing when it comes to economics? Yes, we should. The excesses of the 1990's dwarfed those of the 1980's, and the economic risks are correspondingly larger. Suppose that, as seems increasingly plausible, the deteriorating job situation finally undermines the dogged optimism of America's consumers. In that case we'll need some decisive action — action determined by what the economy needs, not by what Karl Rove thinks will play in the polls. How much chance is there that we'll get it?

When Krugman says these things we should be afraid. Be very afraid. For those of us at public higher education institutions, who have already suffered major budget cutbacks for this academic year, it now appears that the budget situation will only get worse.

WE'RE GETTING WAR WHETHER WE LIKE IT OR NOT 9-20-02

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank's article about how Bush is apparently going to get his way with congress on the Iraq war is worth reading. Her analysis, strangely enough, says absolutely nothing about the midterm elections. I think it's safe to say she's missed a rather important piece of the political puzzle. As I said here yesterday, like in 1898, the midterms, I'm afraid, are the key ingredient here.

I'm not going to post a quote from the article but it's worth a read. I will warn you, though, that the tone is awfully celebrative and Milbank comes off more than a little subservient to the administration and appears to be buying the administration's spin at face value. If you're not on the Iraq war wagon, it's likely to irritate you that the administration and the press are declaring victory for W so early. However irritating, though, they're right. We're getting war and there isn't anything we can do to stop it.

Here's a Reuters news story that demonstrates Bush is now planning to ignore the U.N. and go it alone. Great. I'm sure the world will be impressed. His once laudable speech at the U.N. is now looking like empty verbiage.

Robert Scheer's column focuses in on how this Iraq war talk is more about domestic politics and the midterms than anything else. This column was clearly written before it became apparent that the Iraq war was a fait accompli.

WAGGING THE DOG OR NOT? 9-20-02

You know my position on this. There's now a battle going on in the op-ed pages about whether W's raising of the Iraq issue at this point is wagging the dog to gain advantage in the November midterm elections. Here are a couple of other opinions:

The New York Times says the administration is wagging the dog.

E.J. Dionne in the Washington Post is turning himself in knots trying to deny the administration is wagging the dog. Here's a quote:

It is absurd to say that the Bush administration's Iraq policy is driven largely by this November's elections. It is equally absurd to deny that President Bush and his party are playing this issue for political gain and that the buildup to war has come at an extremely convenient time for Republicans.

Say what? Dionne says the administration isn't wagging the dog but that Republicans are just taking advantage of the issue that is very conveniently happening right before the midterm elections.

Boy, Dionne's splitting hairs, isn't he? If you engineer a situation in which you distract the American public's attention from the economy, the budget, and your woeful performance on domestic issues by raising the spectre of war and seeking support for it, isn't that wagging the dog by most people's definition? Is the actual physical occurence of war even necessary? I really don't think so.

HONESTY AND THE CASE FOR THE IRAQ WAR -- ARE YOU KIDDING? 9-20-02

Many bloggers are starting to talk about the administration's fundamental dishonesty in how it is presenting the case for war. Josh Marshall put it quite well last night:

But let me discuss with you for a moment what I find the most difficult about this debate. The more ardent supporters of regime change lie a lot. I really don't know how else to put it. I'm not talking about disagreements over interpretation. I mean people saying things they either know to be false or have no reason to believe are true. Perhaps the word 'lie' is a very slight exaggeration. Perhaps it's better to say they have a marked propensity to assert as fact points for which there is virtually or absolutely no evidence. How's that?

Let's just take one example, one among many. In the proposed use of force resolution the president sent to Congress on Thursday it cites as one reason for war"the high risk that the current Iraqi regime will either employ those weapons to launch a surprise attack against the United States or its Armed Forces or provide them to international terrorists who would do so." Whether Iraq would give WMD to terrorists to use against the United States is debatable. But is there a high risk that Iraq will launch a surprise attack against the United States? Really? Is there any risk this will happen? Is it even conceivable that this will happen? I don't think anybody of sound mind seriously believes this. That doesn't mean that Iraq isn't a serious threat or that an Iraq with nuclear weapons is not an eventuality we cannot allow to come into being. But a surprise attack against the United States? It's not a serious statement.

So why is it there? I assume it is just there as one more throwaway line that has no relation to the truth but sounds good and ups the ante. And the carefree indifference to the truth that that sort of statement betrays is worrisome in the extreme -- even if it's said in the service of a goal you think we should pursue.

In his blog, Jeff Cooper adds this:
This approach to government—determine a policy, then offer a series of dishonest (or at best half-honest) rationales in support of the predetermined policy—is deeply corrosive in a democracy; it betrays utter disdain for the public. And, as others have observed, this approach has characterized the Bush administration from day one, from the tax cut on down. Rather than focusing on the fundamental dishonesty of the administration's methodology, however, the Washington Post today essentially celebrates its effectiveness. As Tim Dunlop notes today, the approach works only because the press's fascination with winners and losers rather than policy allows it.

The administration's approach is alarming in another respect as well: the president and his advisors seem indifferent to the larger consequences of their actions. We saw this with the tax cut. When opponents argued that the plan would cause the deficit to explode, the president simply asserted that it wouldn't. And when deficits did in fact return, the administration insisted that the tax cut had nothing to do with it, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

I think the analysis here is quite sound. And Marshall and Cooper are right here about the celebratory manner of Milbank's piece. Dishonesty from this administration? Say it isn't so!

ODDS AND ENDS 9-20-02

Acclaimed journalist Seymour Hersh weighs in on the current situation and, as you might imagine, what he has to say is not very positive. Here's a quote from the story:

Bush administration officials have employed obsessive secrecy and scare tactics for political gain, Hersh said Thursday at the Westminster Town Hall Forum."They've got to keep us scared and they've got to keep us jacked up on Iraq" because national security and terrorism are the only issues where most Americans back Bush, he said.

"Their definition of national security and mine are different," he said."In this White House, disagreement is not dissent -- it's disloyalty. Dissent is treason."

As for the Democratic Party, it"seems to have disappeared," Hersh said."The morality of the Democrats' position is astonishing to me. If the war turns out to be a disaster, it's good for us because we're not responsible. We didn't elect them to take a dive on this issue."

Well said.

Remember a year ago this summer when the administration insisted that the California energy crisis was all California's fault? Think again. The California energy crisis was a sham. Don't you think we need more energy deregulation? Don't you think we need W's energy bill which essentially gives energy companies freedom to do what they want? Isn't that a great idea?

The Washington Post has an editorial on the war on terrorism and its impact on the federal budget. They suggest postponing future tax cuts. Doesn't that seem the least we can do? Here's a quote:

The administration has therefore been right to play down the economic side of the Iraq decision. But it has failed to face up to the economic consequences of its longer-term struggle against terrorism. The burden of a bigger defense budget, an ambitious homeland security agenda and expanded commitments in areas such as intelligence and foreign aid imposes a clear strain on the budget; unlike the one-time cost of fighting an Iraq war, it represents new expenses that stretch out indefinitely. The administration ought to accept that this burden requires rethinking its promised but not yet implemented tax cuts. Instead it pretends that the nation can afford to fight terrorism and cut taxes at the same time; it is even proposing a new wave of cuts on top of the huge package it secured from Congress last year. The attacks of last September have forced a reexamination of assumptions about security and foreign affairs. The rethinking now needs to extend to the nation's long-term finances.

While I don't necessarily agree that one should ignore the economic consequences of the war, the argument that we need to take all of these things into account when deciding federal tax policy seems quite reasonable, even obvious. Do you want to bet whether that will happen? This is the most short-sighted administration on both foreign and domestic policy in my lifetime.

Here's a nice op-ed from Michael Kinsley on some leading conservatives' rather simplistic view of evil and how it applies to the war on terrorism.

Nicholas Kristof advocates "inspections with teeth" in his column today. Interestingly, he also tells us that visitors to the Al-Rasheed hotel in Baghdad have to step on Bush I's face everytime they enter the hotel.

A SHIP OF FOOLS 9-19-02

As the world backpedals away from supporting us because of W's bellicosity and impatience, I have a simple question: do W and the supposed"pros" in his administration have any understanding of diplomacy? Remember, these are the folks who told us they knew all about these things during the campaign. You remember all that bunk about when W came to power that the adults were back in control? Well the adults are behaving like children at the moment, throwing tantrums because the U.N. doesn't see it their way.

I think experience has shown that W's foreign policy team was thoroughly over-rated in the campaign in 2000. I don't even want to get into the fact that they apparently blew off the threat of terrorism as a concern even though the relevant members of the Clinton administration briefed them on the threat in January of 2001. But, at least Poppy had the patience to work through the U.N. in 1990 and 1991. He felt the U.N. process was important -- and not just as a rubber stamp for his actions. He stopped military action short of removing Saddam because that was not called for by the U.N. resolutions. While there are many things I personally didn't like about Bush I, Bush certainly valued the U.N.'s input and was patient in waiting for it.

The same cannot be said of Junior. Junior's actions have now convinced many other nations that Bush only wanted to use the U.N. as" cover" for his previously-planned unilateral actions and they're backing away from us as quickly as they can. By not taking the time to wait for the U.N. to act, Bush now looks worse to potential allies than he did before. It appears that Bush really believed the requested U.N. resolutions would be passed within a week. It takes the U.N. two weeks to approve the menu for lunch, doesn't it? What did he expect? So much for Bush's administration being good at foreign policy. I've seen enough in the last couple of months to convince me Bush's foreign policy crew is damn-near a ship of fools. They apparently lack both judgement and patience.

"THE CURRENT WAS TOO STRONG, THE DEMAGOGUES TOO NUMEROUS AND THE FALL ELECTIONS TOO NEAR" 9-19-02

I have to say, though, that the opposition party's performance on this issue is embarrassingly bad as well. In contrast to the U.N., the Democrats in congress, wishing to neutralize the war as an issue in the upcoming midterm elections, are going to happily act as a rubber stamp for W's war. Give him credit, Bush and his crew has certainly played his domestic political cards well. He's wagged the dog as well as any president I can think of. It appears Democrats are likely to give W the support he seeks, whether he has provided an adequate case for it or not.

It's pretty depressing to me that we're apparently facing a war because of domestic politics. Bush wants re-election and the Republicans want to use the issue to win the congress. The Democrats support the war because they don't want to be tarred with"disloyalty" by the neo-McCarthyites in the administration. The situation now is beginning to remind me of the Spanish-American war that was played by both parties for political advantage. On the comment board below, a reader, Chuck Van Hof provides an excellent and a propo quotation from Senator John Spooner of Wisconsin about the Spanish-American War. Spooner said that the war might have been avoided but"the current was too strong, the demagogues too numerous, and the fall elections too near." I believe over the last few weeks we've reached the point where Spooner's words certainly seem to apply to the present as well.

I just hope innocent young Americans aren't about to die for what appear to be purely political purposes.

In my opinion, even one death for such purposes is one too many.

IN OTHER NEWS 9-19-02

Get a load of this passage in this A.P. news story by Ken Guggenheim about the congressional hearings into 9/11 intelligence failures:

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said lessons from the attack show the need for the United States to take action against Iraq.

"When people threaten openly to kill Americans, we should take them very seriously," he said."That is true of Osama bin Laden and it is true of the regime in Baghdad."

Evidence? Does anyone have any evidence that Saddam is threatening America? I'm just asking. I have seen not one shred of it so far. These folks in the administration are beginning to sound like a broken 45 rpm record (remember those?). On one side, is the hit"tax cuts will cure all that ails you" and on the other is the new up-and-coming single,"We must attack Iraq now." This is becoming ridiculous.

I still want someone to explain to me where the $200B is coming from to pay for the war. I haven't heard an answer to that question yet.

Those of you who make between $75,000 and $100,000 per year and thought W had cut your taxes, had better think again. According to a study by a widely respected bipartisan group, you guys will have to pay the confusing alternative minimum tax starting in the next couple of years. In short, you'll lose most of the tax cuts Bush's plan gave you. However, it should comfort you to know that, at the same time, those who earn more than $1M per year are going to see their taxes go down. Now that's fair, isn't it?

If you ever wanted to know how W views science, here's a good article about it. The folks at the Health and Human Services Department are quietly seeking science (and scientists) that will support their Christian conservative and pro-business values. So, science, like everything else, can be manipulated to match your agenda it appears. That's awfully comforting, isn't it?

Here's a good op-ed from Richard Cohen of the Washington Post about the administration's efforts to gain support for a war with Iraq. Here's a quote:

The drums of war, once sharp and snappy, are sounding muddled. Do we want an Iraq without Hussein or merely one without weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear ones? Frankly, I don't know anymore, and I don't think the Bush administration does either. The more time between windup and delivery, the more questions get raised. Since last Sept. 11, a cause for war has become a cause to wonder.
That's all for today folks. Enjoy!

ENRON-STYLE ACCOUNTING FOR THE FEDERAL BUDGET: DYNAMIC SCORING TO BE USED BY THE CBO 9-18-02

Republicans are about to get what they want: Enron-style accounting in the federal budget. The Congressional Budget Office is going to adopt what is one of the fishiest approaches to federal accounting to come down the pike in a long time, "dynamic scoring." This way, tax cuts won't only be measured in the federal budget by the amount of revenue that will be lost but by the supposed"stimulative effects" the cuts will have on the economy. Presumably, using this approach, one could argue that tax cuts could actually increase government revenue. Therefore, like Enron, the Federal Government will now be able to count a loss as a gain and can hide future budget shortfalls in phony-baloney accounting. Great idea, huh?

Is it my imagination but wasn't this, to use Bush Sr.'s words,"voodoo economics" approach to the federal budget proven disastrously wrong quite some time ago? Say, perhaps, in the 1980s? If you recall, Reagan kept telling us how his tax cuts were going to actually increase government revenue. As we all know, it never happened. In fact, federal revenue dropped disastrously and the deficit quadrupled during the Reagan-Bush years using such unproven supply-side theories. Did Republicans learn anything at all about fiscal responsibility in the 1980s? I guess not.

PERHAPS THE WAR TALK IS ALL ABOUT WINNING THE MIDTERM ELECTIONS AFTER ALL 9-18-02

A Washington Poststory this morning by Jim VandeHei certainly raises many interesting questions about the timing of the Iraq war talk. This is all beginning to sound like a coordinated campaign that has a great deal more to do about the upcoming midterm elections than about anything else.

I'm just trying to decide what Republicans would be saying if Clinton were attempting what is beginning to appear to be a"wag the dog" maneuver around the time of the midterm elections. Remembering Trent Lott, Tom DeLay, et. al.'s embarassing performance during the Kosovo campaign that was in not tied to domestic political concerns at all, this is all beginning to look rather fishy.

It appears that Karl Rove and the Republican attack machine are seeing that this may be their only shot at any sort of success in the November midterms. There's more than a whiff of desperation here. I would argue that this strategy is pretty high risk. It will either succeed brilliantly or fail miserably. With six weeks to go until the campaign Republicans run the risk of voters by the first week of November beginning to feel that the Iraq situation is being used by the administration to manipulate them. They are truly running the risk of a backlash in November. (For more evidence of a"wag the dog" scenario, see here.)

IRAQ WAR TALK IS"UPSIDE DOWN" 9-18-02

Thomas Friedman has a nice article about how he believes the debate over the Iraq war, for many Americans, is"upside down." Here's a snippet:

Recently, I've had the chance to travel around the country and do some call-in radio shows, during which the question of Iraq has come up often. And here's what I can report from a totally unscientific sample: Don't believe the polls that a majority of Americans favor a military strike against Iraq. It's just not true.

It's also not true that the public is solidly against taking on Saddam Hussein. What is true is that most Americans are perplexed. The most oft-asked question I heard was some variation of:"How come all of a sudden we have to launch a war against Saddam? I realize that he's thumbed his nose at the U.N., and he has dangerous weapons, but he's never threatened us, and, if he does, couldn't we just vaporize him? What worries me are Osama and the terrorists still out there."

I think Friedman is about where I am on this. I still haven't been convinced that Saddam is as big a threat as bin Laden is. I also agree that we have to do something to change the Middle East or we'll never be rid of terrorists who want to kill us.

JEB, NOELLE, HYPROCRISY, AND THE DRUG WAR 9-18-02

In more news regarding the case of poor Noelle Bush, here's the transcript of the 911 call that led to her getting in trouble. The most interesting part of it is when the person at the center who turned her in says"she's been caught about five times" buying crack. The woman goes on to say"she does this all the time and she gets out of it because she's the governor's daughter. But we're sick of it here 'cause we have to do what's right, but she gets treated like some kind of princess." Can Jeb avoid looking like an incredible hypocrite about all of this? We'll see.

BTW, I have been told by some readers of the blog that I seem to take a"perverse pleasure" in the troubles of Noelle Bush. It amazes me when folks tell me that talking about the hypocrisy in Republican drug policy that is exposed by Noelle's case is"perverse." Of course, I have to remember that I am being told this by people who I'm sure got much more than a fleeting amount of what was certainly"perverse pleasure" talking about a certain president's penis a few years back. Therefore, I really should consider the base hypocrisy of the folks raising such issues in the first place, but I digress.

Let me make this clear: I don't relish this. I think we should all pity Noelle who clearly has a major problem. I just find it astonishing how hypocritical many prominent Republicans are about drug policy. If it's their kid, they need privacy and every chance to reform themselves. If it's somebody else's kid, well, jail's the only thing that's good enough for 'em. It has been proven time and again that drug treatment works much better than incarceration for reforming drug addicts. Why Republican leaders, many of whom have first hand knowledge in this area, don't acknowledge this and change their policies I simply cannot understand. I think Noelle should be in a drug treatment center -- and so should other drug offenders who need such help but instead are rotting in jails across the United States. I don't know if I really can make that clear enough for such folks but I thought I'd give it a try.

THESE GUYS ARE SUPPOSED TO BE GOOD AT THIS, AREN'T THEY? 9-18-02

With Saddam's offer of renewed inspections, the U.N. is now backing away from supporting Bush's invasion of Iraq it appears. Bush will likely get approval from our congress for war fairly soon but the U.N. is now taking a"wait and see" attitude. According to most polls, Americans believe we should get U.N. approval. Will W do the politically smart thing and let this process play itself out? We'll see. After the disastrous way the administration handled the Iraq issue in July and August, I can't tell you.

The administration's response today that Iraq's offer for inspections is only a "ploy" sounds way too over the top at this point in the crisis. This response confirms all of the suspicions other countries have about this administration's true motives for engaging the U.N. Many world leaders are starting to argue that the administration just wants to use the U.N. as cover for its already-planned unilateral action.

Come on guys, at least back off the rhetoric a bit for a couple of weeks, will you? Less than a week after his speech, W is already scaring off the allies that were starting to warm up to his case about Iraq. W's just not particularly good at this sort of thing, is he? Now, again, why is it that these guys are seen as being particularly good at foreign policy? I'm just curious. BTW, this article has some quotations from former U.N. weapons inspectors that we should be cautious. As is usually the case in these situations, the response should not be to be too bellicose or too trusting of Iraq. The proper response according to folks at the U.N. is to play it right down the middle. If I understand this, why can't the"pros" in the administration?

ODDS AND ENDS 9-18-02

Bush is stretching his case against Iraq according to this story. He's essentially ignoring the opinions of the intelligence experts who gave him the evidence he's now using against Iraq. In short, it appears we're getting lied to. I guess I'm supposed to be surprised.

There's a nice Nightline series on how we created Saddam in the 1980s. Included in the story are allegations are that we provided him with the anthrax needed for his biological weapons. It's worth a look. I think they're continuing the series on Nightline tonight.

Maureen Dowd's column today is amusing.

Here's an amusing piece from the New York Times about Katherine Harris, calling her the"poster girl for Florida's dysfunctional elections."

Government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich: W's cabinet is filled with millionaires. Read all about it here.

NOW WE WILL LEARN W'S TRUE MOTIVATIONS REGARDING IRAQ 9-17-02

Saddam has now offered to allow U.N. weapons inspectors access "without condition." I'm as suspicious as the next guy about Saddam really giving us unfettered access, but if he does this will be a true test of W's foreign policy crew. These guys are clearly all gung-ho to go to war. If the whole world hadn't shouted us down, W would've never gone to the U.N. at all.

If Saddam allows inspectors back in and we still go to war, you know this is all more about"Operation Repair Dad's Legacy" than anything else. My suspicion is that nothing will be sufficient to forestall war in the warmonger's eyes but we'll see. I have very low expectations for both sides on this. I expect Saddam to do something ridiculous and stupid sometime soon and I expect W to send us in with guns blazing shortly thereafter. I'm thinking sometime next spring to be more precise. March, perhaps?

MSNBC has a good story about how we created Saddam. Thanks Don Rumsfeld, I'm so glad young Americans may have to die to clean up your twenty year old foreign policy mess! Of course, thank you too Mr. Reagan.

BTW, four years ago the current leading chickenhawk in this administration, Paul Wolfowitz, opened his testimony before congress on Iraq this way:

It is an honor to appear as part of a hearing in which Scott Ritter testifies. Scott Ritter is a public servant of exceptional integrity and moral courage, one of those individuals who is not afraid to speak the truth. Now he is speaking the truth about the failures of the UN inspection regime in Iraq, even though those truths are embarrassing to senior officials in the Clinton Administration. And the pressures he is being subjected to are far worse. After first trying to smear his character with anonymous leaks, the administration then took to charging that Mr. Ritter doesn’t “have a clue” about U.S. policy toward Iraq and saying that his criticisms were playing into Saddam Hussein’s hands by impugning UNSCOM’s independence.
Isn't it ironic that Wolfowitz and his cronies are now smearing Ritter by saying precisely the same things about him that Wolfowitz was so outraged by four years ago? Ah, the hypocrisy in this administration is hip-deep wouldn't you say?

Here's a nice article by Thomas Oliphant about the Bush administration's changing tactics on Iraq from the Boston Globe. I'll give you the most revealing quotation that reveals the foreign policy split within the administration most clearly:

The Bush administration has at last decided to challenge the UN rather than ignore it - the course advocated through a difficult summer by Secretary of State Colin Powell against the weak reasoning by the rest of the president's national security team (most prominently Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld) that going to Baghdad via New York would tie the United States in diplomatic knots.

Evidence that the opposite is true is already in hand. Remember the supposedly intractable opposition to a confrontation with Iraq from Middle Eastern powers like Saudi Arabia and Egypt?

Well, it turns out that those who saw wiggle room in their positions had a point. Even before the president got to New York the government of Egypt had budged a bit. Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher said that his country's opposition was to the unilateral use of force by the United States. If the UN should speak, Maher said that would change the atmosphere dramatically, providing justification for force if it proves necessary.

And after Bush's speech, Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said that not only would force be justified against an Iraq that defied international authority, but that the previous Saudi refusal to consider military bases in support of an attack on Iraq would not necessarily apply.

This is called progress.

So why is it that Bush's foreign policy folks are considered so good? They could've saved several months worth of public relations and diplomatic disaster by doing the obvious and smart thing in the first place.

CORPORATE SCANDALS ARE THE BACKGROUND MUSIC DURING THE CAMPAIGN FOR WAR 9-17-02

Paul Krugman's article this morning on Thomas White, Dick Cheney, Enron, Halliburton, etc. is quite good. It's worth reading. Here's a quote from the end:

What kind of administration would keep Mr. White in office?

A story in last week's Times may shed light on that question. It concerned another company that sold a division, then declared that its employees had"resigned," allowing it to confiscate their pensions. Yet this company did exactly the opposite when its former C.E.O. resigned, changing the terms of his contract so that he could claim full retirement benefits; the company took an $8.5 million charge against earnings to reflect the cost of its parting gift to this one individual. Only the little people get shafted.

The other company is named Halliburton. The object of its generosity was Dick Cheney.

Now you're not cynical enough to think this war talk is designed to distract the public from W, Cheney, White, et. al's corporate responsibility problems? Surely not, right? Unfortunately, I suspect just as it is"only the little people" that get shafted, it's also only the little people who have to fight and die in wars, not the chosen like W, Cheney, Perle, Wolfowitz, etc. When it was their turn, they had more"important" things to do.

Isn't it great that at the same time the campaign for war continues and all of these important things are going on that W is spending three days a week raising money for Republicans? As one political scientist puts it in the article:"Republicans used to criticize Bill Clinton for the permanent campaign, but this puts Bill Clinton to shame...George Bush is a political animal." Sigh. Only W could see nothing wrong with only spending two days per week on his job as president.

Here's a blast from Arianna Huffington about Jeb's hypocrisy in the drug war. It's quite a good read. Here's a tasty snippet:

But when I think about the heartless stance the Governor has taken toward the drug problems of those less-fortunate and well-connected than his daughter, my empathy turns to outrage.

While Noelle has been given every break in the book -- and then some -- her father has made it harder for others in her position to get the help they need by cutting the budgets of drug treatment and drug court programs in his state. He has also actively opposed a proposed ballot initiative that would send an estimated 10,000 non-violent drug offenders into treatment instead of jail. I guess what's good for the goose, gets the gander locked away.

Of course, Jeb's wildly inconsistent attitude on the issue -- treatment and privacy for his daughter, incarceration and public humiliation for everyone else -- is part and parcel of the galling hypocrisy that infects America's insane drug war on every level.

I think we're going to have to stop calling Arianna a Republican. She is far too consistent and reasoned in her arguments nowadays.

WHERE'S BELLESILES? HE'S GOT TO BE HERE SOMEWHERE DOESN'T HE? 9-17-02

You've got to get a load of the exchange on the comment boards of Michael Nelson's recent article here on HNN. One of the more frequent contributors on the comment boards regarding the Bellesiles case insists that Bellesiles is supposed to be in Nelson's article somewhere. One of his cohorts points out that Bellesiles isn't mentioned in the article in the next post.

I guess we should forgive them. We all know that, for the six of them anyway, everything important that is happening in history these days has to involve the Michael Bellesiles case, right? I know it must be driving these guys nuts that we haven't talked about Bellesiles in a month or so.

As someone who doesn't like to give advice, I think it's time to provide some. It's time to get something else to talk about. The one-note symphony on Bellesiles has got to end sometime, doesn't it? What else will you talk about when it's over? It's time to start looking for new topics of conversation I'm afraid.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not someone who ever defends people who falsify their evidence, as it appears Bellesiles has, but such obsessive behavior in pursuit of Bellesiles does not help their case. It's gotten so bad that these folks now apparently see Bellesiles in articles even when he's not there.

That's an obvious sign that it's time to move on. That's just my two bits (and perhaps less) on this.

Update: It gets worse. One of the folks on the boards has now taken to fussing at Nelson for not mentioning Bellesiles because (as we all should know by now of course)"Bellesiles is the worst thing to have happened in what I'm tempted to call recorded history." Just a wee bit obsessive aren't we? Everything on HNN should be about Bellesiles, right?

COMMENTS, QUESTIONS, ETC., ARE ENCOURAGED 9-16-02

I want to take this opportunity to encourage readers to use the comment boards or send me an e-mail. I enjoy hearing from readers. As evidenced by my exchanges with fellow HNN contributor Mark Safranski below, I also enjoy defending my positions on the boards as well. However, I cannot promise I'll respond to everything down there on the boards. Regardless of whether you agree with me or not, I encourage readers to engage themselves and talk about all of these issues if they are so inclined! Unlike the Bush administration, I won't question your patriotism if you disagree with me. If you'd rather have a more private exchange, my e-mail address is above as well. I hope to hear from you in the future.

And speaking of comments, I would implore everyone to read Ron Radosh's rather odious piece on HNN this week and comment on it. I've started what hopefully will be a civil airing of dissenting views on the comment boards at the bottom of the piece. Radosh is quite a piece of work. Just read the piece and you'll see what I mean. It deserves a response.

Update: According to the folks on the boards, I believe what I believe because, as a liberal, I hate America and don't know right from wrong. What strange universe do these folks inhabit anyway? I guess it's time to realize that Radosh's views, hateful as they are, certainly represent the world views of some people -- and that's really quite scary.

BUSH'S U.N. SPEECH MORE A"PISTOL-WHIPPING" THAN A CONSULTATION 9-16-02

Folks in the press are starting to read Bush's speech more carefully and have begun to realize that it says nothing new and actually raises a more relevant question:"Why now?" Many interesting items are out this morning along these lines. These sorts of thoughtful and critical articles aren't going to work for the warmongers (and it amazes me how many otherwise thoughtful people in the blogosphere fit that description), but it at least demonstrates that our press is becoming less subservient as the reality of the impending war begins to sink in. I'm sure it won't stop us from getting into the war, but at least the American public will hear the other side of things -- at least a little bit.

I'm waiting for Republicans to start questioning the patriotism of these critics any minute now.

Do you think Don the ghoul, er, Rumsfeld can be on Fox News by lunchtime?

Mary McCrory's column in the Washington Post this morning focuses on how Bush wasn't consulting, he was jawboning the United Nations. Here's a quotation:

Consult with the United Nations? George W. Bush's speech sounded more like a pistol-whipping. Either the wimpy, no-account folks in the glass palace on the East River get with his Iraq program or else.

"Else" is having yourself consigned to irrelevance by the boss of the Free World.

It is a measure of the president's success in wrenching the question about a first-time preemptive war from"why?" to"how?" that many people were relieved he even went to the United Nations.

McCrory certainly sums up how I feel about it. I was relieved that Bush even went to the U.N. All the earlier signals were that he'd just skip that rather important step.

A New York Times editorial advocating a similar opinion is here.

DEMOCRATS BEGIN TO ACCUSE BUSH OF"WAGGING THE DOG" -- NO KIDDING? WHATEVER GAVE YOU THAT IMPRESSION? 9-16-02

Dana Milbank, in the Washington Post, writes a story about how Democrats are beginning to question the timing of the Iraq war. They're only now beginning to say the things I've been saying for weeks now. In this snippet from the beginning, you'll see they're beginning to ask a rather obvious question:

Why now?

That's the question Democratic lawmakers and strategists are asking about President Bush's demand that Congress authorize war against Iraq before November's midterm elections. Though few doubt the merits of the case against Saddam Hussein, an increasing number are questioning whether the timing -- 60 days before an election -- was designed to benefit Republican candidates.

Bush provoked suspicions Friday when he warned Democrats not to wait for the United Nations to act."If I were running for office, I'm not sure how I'd explain to the American people -- say, vote for me, and, oh, by the way, on a matter of national security, I think I'm going to wait for somebody else to act," he said. The president's words closely followed those used by one of his top advisers in a briefing Thursday, indicating a coordinated White House strategy.

Two weeks ago, the headlines were about a lethargic economy, a depressed stock market and corporate misdeeds; the news about Iraq was about policy disagreements among Bush advisers. Now, the debate has shifted almost entirely from Democrats' preferred domestic issues to preparations for military action, a GOP favorite.

"It's hard not to notice that the sudden urgency of war with Iraq has coincided precisely with the emergence of the corporate scandal story, with the flip in the congressional [poll] numbers and with the decline in the Republicans' prospects for retaking the Senate majority," said Jim Jordan, director of the Democrats' Senate campaign committee."It's absolutely clear that the administration has timed the Iraq public relations campaign to influence the midterm elections . . . and to distract the voting public from a failing economy and an unpopular Republican domestic agenda."

The article is worth the time to read it. My favorite quote was from Chris Lehane about the suspicious timing of the administratin's public relations campaign:"If Iraq truly is a threat -- and it may very well be -- Saddam is not constructing his weapons of mass destruction in accordance to our midterm calendar."

I just love the response from the White House that these timing questions are"reprehensible." Reprehensible? In a rare moment of candor, Card and Rove already admitted they were wagging the dog a week or so ago (for more on this, see here).

And, BTW, such questions are not un-American, they're relevant and important. If all the evidence on this guy is stuff that was true when the administration came into power, one should be asking the administration why it has suddenly become so important to go to war with Iraq right now, two months before the midterms. Clearly, using the administration's logic that he's a clear and present danger, we should've invaded Iraq in March of 2001 and certainly shouldn't have waited until now. If this evidence is so compelling, it's the administration that should now be accused of foot-dragging. Since there is no apparent connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda, the question of timing now becomes even more relevant.

In William Raspberry's column, he writes that Al Gore has awoken from his self-imposed slumber. He gave a feisty speech at the Congressional Black Caucus on Saturday night. My favorite soundbite:"The surpluses are gone -- where'd they go? One year, boy that was fast work." As someone who is not very excited about Gore running again, I still have to say he has been entirely vindicated over the last eighteen months. Everything he said about what Bush would do to the federal budget and the economy have turned out to be absolutely on target.

ANOTHER EXCELLENT FRANK RICH COLUMN 9-14-02

Mr. Rich has got to quit publishing these columns on the weekend. It forces me to post a link immediately. You really should read this in its entirety but I'll give you a snippet of the best part:

But on to Iraq. Anyone who believes that Mr. Bush might turn back now has not been following the path of a president who, by his own account, never second-guesses a decision; indeed, we're already ratcheting up our longstanding military engagement with Saddam. As we move from containment to attack mode, though, it might be best to focus less on procedural debates, such as the timing and wording of whatever rubber-stamp approval Congress will deliver, and more on the tougher questions the administration would prefer to ignore.

What happens if Al Qaeda attacks the U.S., or if Afghanistan or Pakistan falls while we're at war in Iraq? Can we continue to meet all our commitments with an all-volunteer army? As budget deficits spiral into the foreseeable future, where will we get the tens of billions of dollars we need to support the post-Saddam Iraq that we will surely inherit? Is Saddam our new focus because he's the most catastrophic threat or is there another agenda that should be spelled out, whether it involves oil or unfinished Bush family business?

This is the candid talk we need to have. Maybe the administration can make the case that we can simultaneously whip Al Qaeda and Saddam, secure Afghanistan for keeps, tame the rest of the"axis of evil," guzzle gas in perpetuity and keep cutting taxes (for some of us). If that's so, and someone else's children will be marching on Baghdad, what patriot would not stand up and say"Let's roll"?

Bravo!

Take a look -- right here.

THE CRITICS ARE OUT IN FORCE TODAY 9-13-02

The long knives are out for W on the op-ed pages this morning. Of course, W deserves the criticism. He really thought he was going to tell us all that we were going to war with Iraq and we'd all line up behind him it appears. He is, finally, talking to the U.N. at least. That's a good thing.

However, I really can't buy the line that some of the lap dogs in the media are floating that this was all part of the plan. That's the biggest line of b.s. I've heard in quite a while. If W succeeds in getting inspectors in or toppling Hussein without getting many Americans killed, it'll be luck, not his" cunning plan." And he still hasn't explained how the crimes we sanctioned in the 1980s qualify Hussein for such an urgent exit today. What he argues about Saddam was true during the campaign in 2000 and Bush carefully avoided saying he would topple him. So here's yet another example of false advertising by the Bushies in 2000. Of course, the entire campaign of 2000 was a case of false advertising for the Bushies but I digress.

I still believe the administration is using the war on terror as a convenient excuse to settle an old score ("Operation Repair Dad's Legacy" as the fellow at The Daily Brew calls it) but at least W is behaving in a more reasoned manner than a couple of weeks ago. However, unless Saddam does something out of character, we're getting a war. Bush has made it abundantly clear he doesn't give a damn what anyone else thinks but at least Bush is pursuing his warmongering in a more dignified and proper manner.

Now -- onto the criticism!

Nicholas Kristof's penetrating critique of Bush's address to the U.N. in the New York Times is quite extensive and well worth a look.

Here's a more carefully-worded critique from Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post.

Paul Krugman weighs in today on the impact that war will have on the economy and on oil prices. In short, it's not going to be pretty.

E.J. Dionne's take on Bush's case against Iraq is here. His opinion: it's all about making the case Saddam has nukes -- despite the fact that there's no evidence of this at all.

The New York Times editorial staff gives its opinion about W's speech as well.

The Washington Post's view is here.

In a column entitled "My 'Reprehensible' Suspicions on Iraq," Matthew Miller lays out many things that I suspect are part of the Karl Rove-inspired"talk about the War in Iraq to distract people from the economy before the midterms" plan. Like everything in this administration, it's all about politics. Here's a tasty quote:

But a cynic might imagine a different scenario - one that should at least be on the table as events unfold. In this Stage Manage Events For Political Purposes Scenario, we'd see Bush and the GOP ride the benefit of today's calculated Iraq focus between now and November. Then, in a show of eminent reasonableness, Bush would agree to work first through the United Nations, which would authorize a resumption of inspections. Bush would allow these inspections a year to see whether they work, as any patient global statesman would.

Then, just as the presidential campaign heats up in 2004, something will happen, and Bush will say that time has run out, that inspections have proven fruitless, that the danger is even closer than we thought, and the nation cannot wait. Another"positive issue environment," in other words, that would shift attention from the administration's budget deficits, economic mismanagement and bankrupt domestic agenda.

Again, let me be clear because I know some people will misread this: It may be an entirely sound judgment that we need to act against Iraq because of imminent threats to U.S. security. Like every patriot, I'm ready if this is the case. I respect the experience of Messrs. Cheney, Powell and Rumsfeld and don't doubt their sense of duty and responsibility.

And yet - is it just me? - I can't shake the suspicion that we'll be doing this again in 2004, when the real invasion is close at hand as Bush's reelection campaign looms. And Dick Cheney will again be calling questions of timing"reprehensible."

I disagree. I think we're moving against Iraq sooner rather than later. However, we'll see. If Bush suddenly and suspiciously begins to back off early next year, I think Miller may be on to something here. Read the entire article. It's worth your time.

An anti-war piece on Alternet from Mark Weisbrot focuses on the wag the dog scenario of raising this war at this time as well.

ODDS AND ENDS 9-13-02

Here's a damning analysis of the administration's report on Iraq. The conclusion: there is absolutely nothing new here. However, I suspect the administration will try to convince you otherwise. I can hear Rumsfeld warming up on the Faux News Channel as we speak. And I'm sure the administration will question the patriotism of anyone who questions their version of things.

Speaking of Rumsfeld, Alexander Cockburn's most recent piece about "Mr. Creepy" is quite something. I know Cockburn is quite frequently way over the top but I still enjoy reading his articles just to laugh out loud at his outrageousness. He says so many things the rest of us would love to say but just can't. I'll give you my favorite quote from it:

Back to Rumsfeld once more. He's dangerous because he's brimful of arrogance, surrounded by fanatics like DoD Undersecretary Paul Wolfowitz, and has successfully occupied the vacant territory known as George Bush's brain. For an equivalently troubling figure you have to go all the way back to Defense Secretary James Forrestal, whose own brain finally exploded under the weight of his own paranoia. Early in 1949, he resigned his post as DoD secretary and not long thereafter threw himself to his death out of a window in the Bethesda Naval Hospital. There's no chance of Rumsfeld taking such a step. He's way too pleased with himself.

Ouch.

Here's an informative article about how Scott Ritter, an ex-Marine and ex-UN weapons inspector, is being smeared by people in the administration and the media who don't like what he's saying about the impending Iraq war.

Seymour Hersh's article in the New Yorker about how and why we keep letting the Saudis off the hook is quite interesting -- take a look.

Has anyone else noticed that Ashcroft has disappeared from public since he made a fool of himself with his pronouncements regarding the Padilla"dirty bomber" case? It's not by accident.

Take a look at this cool website from Larry Sabato that tracks the midterm elections.

WE SURVIVED! 9-12-02

I'm happy to report that we all survived the media's 9/11 onslaught yesterday. I only watched 10 minutes of it all day long. It was the last 10 minutes on ABC and just that 10 minutes reminded me of why I didn't watch any more. Diane Sawyer said some half-coherent thing about how"we're all now soldiers in this war" and there was a lot of near weeping going on at the end. I was very glad to miss it.

Unfortunately, this means I missed W's speech last night. I did read it online but that's not quite the same as seeing him deliver it in person with that"deer in the headlights" look he gets in his eyes when he begins his struggle with the teleprompter. He really is bad at delivering addresses like that. It's just not his thing. The address certainly wasn't very lyrical, at least in reading it. In fact, parts of it are quite clumsy. Someone's going to have to explain the meaning of this line to me:"We have no intention of ignoring or appeasing history's latest gang of fanatics trying to murder their way to power." How in the world can terrorists"murder their way into power?" Especially since most of these fanatics are dead after the attack. That just doesn't make any sense. Of course, I'm not sure it was supposed to. Overall, I must say that it seems to have been an effective speech. I can only imagine the tough day W did have. He spent the entire day meeting people who had lost their families. It had to be a tough day for him.

OTHER ODDS AND ENDS TODAY 9-12-02

I have to say I am encouraged by Bush's speech at the U.N. today. It does appears he's backing away from his unilateral ways. Perhaps he's been paying attention to Poppy after all. The only hope we can have of avoiding a potentially disastrous war is if Saddam does give in and let the inspectors in. I don't think it's a" cunning plan" as some of the more subservient in the press corps do, but I am hopeful. If Saddam doesn't let the inspectors in after all this build-up, then perhaps we should go after him. If he does, we can't -- and that would be a good thing. I'm worried about urban warfare in Baghdad.

BTW, if you want to get the explanation right out of Poppy's mouth why they didn't remove Saddam, go here.

If you ever wondered what happened to that most crooked of Bush brothers, Neil Bush, whose savings and loan robbed all of us of about $1B, here's your answer.

In other criminal Bush news, Noelle Bush is likely to get away with it again. This is her third drug lapse this year. Does anyone doubt that if Noelle were black or, heck, even a common hispanic person instead of the daughter of the governor in Florida, she'd be serving 3-5 currently? Isn't it amazing how tough love in the drug war is reserved by Republicans only for other people? Bill Clinton allowed his brother to be sent to prison and have the book thrown at him. Meanwhile, John Ashcroft got his nephew off damn near scot-free in Missouri a few years ago despite the fact that he should've been sentenced to a minimum of 10 years in jail. Of course, I know, I know, Republicans, who have been behind all these tough love drug laws, don't think they apply to themselves or their families -- just others, preferably those of darker complexions. Taking responsibility for your actions is just for the rest of us, not themselves. The Republicans' drug war hypocrisy is about hip-deep, eh?

Here's a nice piece from Joe Conason about what he believes would be"the best memorial" for victims of 9/11,"genuine freedom."

Mary McCrory's piece in the Washington Post about the administration's constitutional depredations is quite good. Take a look. Another good op-ed on this score is from the Los Angeles Timeshere.

The midterm elections are still a toss-up. It's not clear what's going to happen. It could be a"throw the bums out" sort of election or a lame apathetic"re-election-fest."

Speaking of elections, if Jeb keeps this up, he's going to lose his bid for re-election. Nothing makes people madder than when you question their intelligence. Jeb, buddy, you need Democratic votes to get elected, you might want to cool it.

ONE YEAR LATER 9-11-02

There is no shortage of 9/11 commentary today. One of the more interesting is by Jim Dwyer in the New York Times about how 9/11 still hasn't been investigated. We still don't know much more about it at all. And no one has suffered any consequences at all.

James Ridgeway of the Village Voice has titled his Mondo Washington column "I Hear America Sinking: Bush Pulls a Grieving Nation Into War" this week. He provides a nice summary of the impact of 9/11 over the last year. At points, Ridgeway is a bit over the top but it's a good piece overall.

Maureen Dowd weighs in on 9/11 today as well.

So does Ted Rall -- right here.

Simon Schama writes in the Guardian about the questions Americans should be asking themselves today.

The Washington Post9/11 op-ed is reasonable although a bit hawkish at the end about Iraq.

Myriam Marquez's column in the Orlando Sentinelmourns the loss of civil liberties since 9/11. It's an excellent piece that is heart-felt and effective.

NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT AMERICA! 9-11-02

Does anyone else find it a bit disturbing for the administration to issue a terrorism alert on the eve of the 9/11 commemorations and send the Vice President off to his press-proof hidey hole? I know they're probably purposefully trying to scare us at this point but isn't it astonishing for an administration to do that? I've argued it very well might be unconstitutional for an administration to do that but that's an argument for another day. They keep telling us that nothing's wrong but they keep sending Cheney off into hiding. I know, I know, he may have just been leaving because he heard someone in the press might ask him a question about his insider trading at Halliburton, but it's still concerning to me.

Well, I guess it isn't entirely true that Cheney will be hiding all day. I have heard that Cheney is going to take a break from his all-consuming duties in the hidey-hole today to appear on the Rush Limbaugh's program. Boy, now there's a great way to honor the victims of 9/11, wouldn't you say? Does Cheney have a political tin ear or what? Since the administration seems to live in a cartoon universe of its own making, it makes perfect sense that Cheney would want to have an interview with a real live cartoon character, Rush Limbaugh. I wonder what these two chickenhawks are going to talk about today? Are they going to share stories about how they both so artfully dodged the draft during Vietnam? I think Rush ought to invite his fellow Missourian and chickenhawk John Ashcroft on too so the A.G. can share his own inspiring story about how he got the local draft board to rule his job (teaching business law at Southwest Missouri State University) was a necessary wartime position (he got an"occupational deferment") so he wouldn't be drafted.

ODDS AND ENDS 9-11-02

A couple of other items of interest:

Myriam Marquez's column from yesterday in the Orlando Sentinel was about the impending Iraq war. Marquez argues that Bush must "stop telling us about mushroom clouds and show us the evidence" regarding Iraq. No argument from me about that. BTW, Marquez is quite a good columnist and worth reading on a regular basis.

There's an excellent piece by Byron York in the National Review Online about the bin Laden family's post-9/11 escape from the U.S. Why isn't anyone looking into this? This looks pretty suspicious to me. I suspect that if Clinton had been president when this took place, the folks at the National Review would've been accusing him of treason but that's an argument for another day.

It's still not clear whether there will be a vote on the Iraq war resolution before the November midterm elections. The Democrats in the senate and Dick Armey in the house are against it. The administration's chutzpah on this is amazing. This is an issue that is deserving of long debate and discussion as well as some very public evidence presentations by the administration. This is not something that the congress should rush through just to be on the right side of the mid-term elections. I honestly don't think Bush will have trouble getting such a resolution no matter when he asked for it. The Democrats have essentially ceded the public forum to the administration on Iraq and the war on terror in hopes of gaining the house in the midterm elections. However, the move by the administration to push this through before the midterms is pure politics. Like most things the administration does nowadays regarding the impending Iraq war, it is absolutely shameless.

I'M NOT ALONE -- I'M VERY GLAD TO HEAR THAT! 9-10-02

I'm so glad to hear that I'm not alone on being concerned about the impact of 9/11 on civil liberties. There have been several good editorials today that have echoed my sentiments. There's a nice Orlando Sentinel piece by Myriam Marquez today you might want to check out. The New York Times also chimes in on this theme in an op-ed this morning.

Nicholas Kristof writes an excellent column in the Times on this as well. Here's an excerpt:"When I lived in Beijing years ago, I once bitterly remonstrated to a Communist Party official about the detention of a dissident friend, Ren Wanding, the bravest man I've ever known. 'If America were threatened by chaos and instability,' the Chinese official replied contemptuously, 'then it would do the same.' I scoffed. But today, while I exult in the heroism of the last year, while I admire President Bush's response in the first few months after 9/11, one thing bothers me just a bit: a sense that perhaps we've reacted in such a way that that Chinese official is feeling vindicated." Ouch.

Paul Krugman also speaks his mind about the loss of civil liberties since 9/11. Toward the end of his article he asks a pretty chilling question:"Can anyone think of an event that would persuade our current leaders that they no longer need extraordinary powers?" What frightens me is the answer is, unequivocally, no.

In case you're curious, here's a summary of the changes to Americans' civil liberties because of the inaptly named PATRIOT Act.

I do want to thank Buzzflash for linking to my blog yesterday. I do hope Buzzflash readers like what I have to say. Many of them may have read my pre-blog columns for the History News Network. Welcome to the blog!

IN OTHER GULF WAR PART II NEWS 9-10-02

I'm in complete agreement with Richard Cohen in his latest column about the flimsiness of the current case being made for a war with Iraq.

You want evidence that this Iraq war talk is an attempt to wag the dog? Try this from the Post's Dana Milbank:

An agitated Vice President Cheney, in a tête-à-tête with NBC's Tim Russert on Sunday, said it was"reprehensible" that people would think the administration had"saved" its ammunition on Iraq to bring it out now, 60 days before an election."So the suggestion that somehow, you know, we husbanded this and we waited is just not true," Cheney said.

Now where would people get such a cockamamie idea? Well, maybe from White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. and Bush political adviser Karl Rove, who made the case to the New York Times's Elisabeth Bumiller last week that they pretty much did what Cheney said they didn't do -- waited patiently and deliberately to launch a long-planned rollout."From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August," Card said. Added Rove:"The thought was that in August the president is sort of on vacation."

So, there you have it folks. In a moment of candor, Card and Rove just admitted they're wagging the dog for the midterm elections.

Boy, it's amazing how the administration will just retract its lies when they have to fool more than just the American people. The Bush administration is now quietly backing off on the claim that Hussein is linked to al-Quaeda. If he isn't, then what's really the point of this war? How does one connect this to the war on terror then? The real answer is you can't."Regime change" ain't gonna convince most folks, George. This may very well be the turning point in the struggle against this war -- at least for the international community. W has been lying about U.N. reports about nuclear capability and now quietly disassociates this effort to topple Hussein from the war on terror. I wondered how long it would be before the administration would admit it was full of it on this one. It took about a year.

Can you believe W is saying it's not the responsibility of the United States what happens after his proposed"regime change" in Iraq? Now this is really impressive, George. How ridiculous and short-sided is this? Bush argued in a phone call to European leaders that"any alternative is preferable to Saddam." Actually, George, no. It was just that sort of thinking that got us the Taliban in Afghanistan that harbored al-Quaeda and, by extension, the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Anything was supposedly better than communism and instability, remember? Since this story apparently comes straight from the European Union's president's office, you know this leak was meant to embarrass Bush and make him out to be an unsophisticated and short-sighted moron in the eyes of the leaders in Europe. Mission accomplished -- although it wasn't a particularly hard mission in first place.

OF CONSERVATISM, 9/11, AND COMMEMORATIVE PIZZA PARTIES 9-9-02

This 9/11 commemoration is likely to drive me over the edge this week. And I absolutely hate myself for saying that. The 9/11 attacks were a truly awful thing and we should commemorate them. However, I also know this commemoration is going to be used so cynically by the administration and conservatives to bolster public support for their candidates in mid-term elections and the upcoming Gulf War II. I have to say I tend to agree with Laura Bush that the best thing to do on Wednesday very well may be to just turn the television off. Most networks have 20 hours or so of non-stop coverage planned for Wednesday. Why not just go for broke and do all 24 hours of the day?

I guess the thing that bothers me the most about the way Bush and conservatives have used 9/11 is the raw emotionalism of it. Conservatives have so cynically appealed to the emotional side of 9/11. They have used it to chop away mightily at our constitutional rights and are preparing to use it to support the upcoming war.

Why is it that Republicans so frequently appeal to freedom but are usually the first to try to curtail it in real terms? Why for conservatives is freedom an entirely economic thing? Freedom for them is freedom from taxes, freedom from government regulation and freedom to buy and sell stocks on insider information. But, for them, freedom from government surveillance, freedom of reproductive choice and, most importantly, freedom of speech, don't seem to exist.

My wife had an interesting experience this weekend that sort of ties all of this together. She gave a forthright opinion on the coming war with Iraq on a discussion board of a website that she visits regularly. In response to the question"what do you think of the Iraq war?," my wife gave a long response, backed up with web citations about her concerns about the coming war and saying how she just didn't like Bush in general. A couple of the conservatives on the website just climbed her, calling her"disrespectful" and"abrasive" for voicing her opinions and asked her to stop it, claiming that this forum just wasn't a place for such things. To the discussion board members' credit, the rest of the folks on the board backed my wife up and said she had every right to say them. In America we are allowed to say such things after all.

Fascinatingly enough, the woman who was leading the online persecution of my wife was busily planning her company's commemoration of 9/11 on Wednesday which is to consist of, essentially, an entire day off with pay and lots of emotionalism. There will be a tree-planting, a plaque, and the oh-so-thoughtful 9/11 commemorative pizza party that is scheduled to last the entire afternoon. Don't you know the victims of terrorism will be honored by knowing someone had a pizza party in their honor? Doesn't that seem just a bit inappropriate to you?

But, I guess, as an academic, I get the most upset when people appeal to my emotions instead of my reason. It used to be that liberals were more given to emotion but, since the era of the Great Fabricator, er, Communicator, it has been Republicans. For example, I want somebody to tell me why we should invade Iraq and I don't want" could be" involved at all. I want evidence. I also want evidence people can agree on, not something you've cooked up (see below). Don't try to scare me -- prove it to me. In no way should a war be"preventive" unless you can prove to me there's a real danger involved and that we're all in real eminent danger unless we move immediately to end it. So far, using that standard, the Iraq case appears to fail on all counts.

I guess that's what drives me nuts about what 9/11 is going to mean for many Americans, conservatives in particular. On Wednesday, they want to dedicate plaques, plant trees and have pizza parties instead of think about what that day a year ago has meant for the nation -- and much of it beyond the horrible loss of life. Like many concerned Americans, I see the nation headed down a dangerous path of eroding civil liberties and non-stop war being cynically used by an administration as a way to rally the population to support pet political and foreign policy causes. And nothing makes me angrier than somebody trying to shut people up who want to speak their mind in times like these. Senator Shelby's McCarthy-style efforts to shut Scott Ritter up just today make me absolutely furious. It's Ritter's right to say what he wants. Let him. I'm sure Shelby just thinks that Ritter is being too"abrasive" and"disrepectful." I wonder how many times prominent members of the administration have looked at his FBI file today? How long before Ritter has trouble getting a job?

I know. I know. I should just relax, shut up, and have a slice of pizza. But I can't.

ODDS AND ENDS ON A VERY BUSY DAY 9-9-02

You know, there are times that in comparison to W, Poppy actually seems bright (I'm not sure how much brighter he is than W but I'm pretty sure he is a few IQ points ahead). There was an interesting story in the Washington Post over the weekend about how Bush I realized in 1991 that he couldn't expand the war's mission and that, if he had, the"United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land." Give Poppy credit for viewing the war's impact beyond next week's poll numbers.

Here's a good editorial from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution from the weekend about how Bush's argument for a war in Iraq is unconvincing. This editorial raises many good points about the foolishness of Bush's proposed war.

Another good editorial about the idiocy of our current plan of "regime change" is by William Raspberry of the Washington Post. Fred Hiatt of the Post writes a nice piece about how what happens in Afghanistan reflects on what sort of success we're likely to have in Iraq. He argues that Afghanistan is our"proving ground for a just war" and insists that"no speeches on Iraq will carry the day, no matter how inspiring the rhetoric or solemn the promises to stay the course, if explosions in Afghanistan are the accompaniment." Well said.

Chris Matthews of MSNBC's Hardball writes his last newspaper column and can't help but include a parting shot at the clueless Bush administration. I'll quote the relevant paragraph (the rest of it isn't as interesting):"I hate this war that's coming in Iraq. I don't think we'll be proud of it. Oppose this war because it will create a millennium of hatred and the suicidal terrorism that comes with it. You talk about Bush trying to avenge his father. What about the tens of millions of Arab sons who will want to finish a fight we start next spring in Baghdad?"

Here's a good op-ed entitled "Patriotically Incorrect" about how some things have changed for the worse since 9/11. It's a nice piece in general.

It is nice to see that someone is trying to stand up to Bush's apparent disinformation campaign about Iraq. Ex-UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter is apparently pretty hacked off. The best part of this article, though, is the quote from Colin Powell:"Secretary of State Colin Powell told NBC's 'Today' show Monday that the U.S. has the intelligence to prove that Iraq is developing weapons of mass destruction - but 'It is not for us to prove they have it; it is for them to prove they don't have it,' he said." Surely we're really not going to go war on that flimsy basis, right?

You really ought to take a look at the U.S. News article about the Secret Service. The most eye-opening thing is how Bush, the"good family man," is aiding and abetting his daughter's underage drinking at bars in Austin. The foolish part is that Bush has now forced the Secret Service to pull back their protection of Jenna, thus endangering his daughter's life. However, the most amazing thing is that Secret Service agents are now openly talking about the problems that Bush is causing them and how morale is low in the Secret Service. And, you know, if something awful happens to Jenna some people are going to try and blame the Secret Service for it I'm sure.

THE LIES HAVE NOW OFFICIALLY BEGUN -- U.N. AGENCY DISPUTES EVIDENCE AND SAYS SATELLITE PHOTOS ARE MISINTERPRETED -- SOUNDS LIKE 1991 TO ME 9-7-02

Okay, the lies to justify the upcoming war have now begun -- at least according to this MSNBC story. Read it! Essentially, the writer of this story is politely calling Bush a liar. It's sort of spooky for me to have posted that link to the story in the Christian Science Monitor just last night and to be reading today about how this administration is trying to pull off the same sorts of shenanigans as were committed in 1991. In fact, in light of this story, Bush looks like a moron by what he said to Blair just today. I'll just quote him, just for fun: “I don’t know what more evidence we need... We owe it to future generations to deal with this problem.” I think someone's nose should be growing.

If you read further down into the story, you see something quite interesting:"A senior White House official acknowledged Saturday night that the 1998 [U.N.] report [on Saddam's nuclear capability] did not say what Bush claimed. 'What happened was, we formed our own conclusions based on the report,' the official told NBC News' Norah O'Donnell." Translation:"We lied."

"THIS ADMINISTRATION IS CAPABLE OF ANY LIE...IN ORDER TO ADVANCE ITS WAR GOAL IN IRAQ" 9-6-02

There's a fascinating story in the Christian Science Monitor that raises real questions about whether we can trust what we're going to hear about the current situation in Iraq. In this story, Scott Peterson recounts the many whoppers that were told and the fake intelligence data (including satellite photos) that was presented by Bush I in 1991 to justify our involvement in Iraq the first time around. Peterson quotes John McArthur, publisher of Harper's Magazine, as saying"These are all the same people who were running it more than 10 years ago...They'll make up just about anything ... to get their way."

So, when some of the same Bush loyalists start wheeling out the evidence and the satellite photos in the next few weeks, one should be very skeptical. I can't help but wonder if all these things I've been reading and looking at on the web purported to be evidence of Saddam's nuclear capability aren't similar whoppers being told by Bush allies today. I can't help but wonder if folks like Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit aren't being duped like the rest of us were in 1991. After all, you'll see what they want you to see because you don't know any better. So -- get prepared everyone. Someone's nose may grow while testifying in front of a congressional committee in the next few weeks. And, remember, the guy who is likely to sanction such lying to congress in the next few weeks is the same fellow who told us he was going to restore honor and dignity to the White House. But, as in Gulf War Part I, we probably won't know this until years later, when the war is long over and the damage is done.

That's all folks. I'll see you Monday.

WAR IS PEACE 9-6-02

Leave it to Paul Krugman to write the ultimate column about Bush's Orwellian designs. While many have discussed it in the blogosphere for weeks, finally someone in the mainstream press has taken it up. I think it's safe to say the blogosphere, blogistan, whatever you want to call it, has arrived. This is an excellent column that, as usual, is well worth the time. Here's a tasty quote:"Once an administration believes that it can get away with insisting that black is white and up is down — and everything in this administration's history suggests that it believes just that — it's hard to see where the process stops. A habit of ignoring inconvenient reality, and presuming that the docile media will go along, soon infects all aspects of policy. And yes, that includes matters of war and peace. The trouble is that eventually reality has a way of asserting itself. And in case you are wondering, ignorance isn't strength.

There's another great piece in the New York Times this morning by Nicholas Kristof. It recounts how the military rigged the last wargame and the major mistakes that were made. The point of the piece is that the administration is really fooling itself if it thinks this war is going to be easily won by the results of these unrealistic wargames in which navy rematerialize and the dead come back from the grave. War, heck reality, doesn't often work that way.

"WE'RE GOING TO DO FOR IRAQ WHAT WE DID FOR AFGHANISTAN!" 9-5-02

Anyone remember a few weeks ago when Don the ghoul, er, Rumsfeld said that"we are going to do for Iraq what we did for Afghanistan!" What did we do for Afghanistan anyway? After what happened today, it appears that our legacy in Afghanistan is to have helped send them over the precipice into chaos and violence. Anyone else think this is yet another time that the administration should be criticized for major failures in policy? However, I doubt it will happen. Sometimes current events have a way of making you pause and reconsider -- at least those of us with gray matter anyway. Surely people in the administration who were crowing about our great success in Afghanistan are paying attention, right? They've noticed that our supposed greatest success in the war on terrorism is teetering on the edge, right? Don't count on it. Remember, they want to bring this same level of success to Iraq.

Speaking of Dr. Anrak, er, Don Rumsfeld, isn't it great to hear that he was drawing up plans to attack Iraq within a couple of hours of the 9/11 attacks? If you ever needed evidence that the war on terror has just become a big excuse to launch, as the Daily Brew has been calling it, Operation Repair Dad's Legacy, this little news tidbit has to be it. This guy was planning an attack on Iraq before we even had evidence (and I'm not really sure there is any even now) that Saddam was part of the 9/11 attacks.

Here's an interesting piece by Marty Jezer of the New Hampshire Gazette about the chickenhawks who are leading us to war. This newspaper also has compiled the " chickenhawk" database.

There's an excellent piece in the Guardian about this sudden desire on the part of the administration to present"evidence" that Saddam should be taken out. Of course, since it's from the foreign press it's much more critical of the administration than most of the stories produced by our more subservient press corps. The upshot of this story is that, having failed to win public opinion, it's time for the administration to manufacture, er, cobble together some evidence against Saddam.

The Chicago Tribune's Howard Witt has written an excellent analytic piece about how the war on terrorism is rapidly becoming the new rallying cry for dictators and human rights violators worldwide -- and a great way for these creeps to get U.S. backing a la the Cold War. Here's a good quote from it:"When President Bush declared war on terrorism a year ago and divided the world into 'with us or against us,' savvy governments around the world seized their chance. Suddenly, nearly every country facing a domestic insurrection, a civil war or just an inconvenient opposition declared that it, too, was fighting terrorism and sought a place for itself on the right side of Washington's new world view. The Chinese battling separatist Uighurs, the Russians fighting the Chechens, the Colombians hunting narco-rebels, the Indians struggling in Kashmir, the Israelis against the Palestinians--these conflicts and many others were instantly recast in post-Sept. 11 terms, often with Washington's eager assent. Terrorism has become the new communism. The grim realpolitik calculations of the Cold War, which for so long compelled Washington to support dictators, strongmen and crooks, are now being employed in a new global fight portrayed as an epochal battle of good versus evil." This is good stuff and is worth a look.

9/11 FATIGUE AND A COUPLE OF OTHER ITEMS 9-5-02

This is an interesting article on "9/11 fatigue." I'm sure, if you aren't already, we'll all be suffering from this by the end of next week. I think I may be already.

Does anyone else find it creepy that Cheney is still refusing to release energy task force documents? What in the world can he hope to gain from this? I would guess he's going to lose on this eventually. Is this administration the most secretive since Nixon or what?

In an absolute non-sequitur, we're no longer number 1 in basketball -- at least for the next few days. I'm not that upset about it but I just thought you should know.

SCORE ONE FOR 1,100 HISTORIANS 9-4-02

I'm happy to report that W has said he will seek congressional support before going to war with Iraq. While I'm sure this is more about the fact that Bush's administration is having trouble gaining public support for the war than his wanting any sort of reasoned debate or his wishing to follow proper constitutional procedure, it's a good development nonetheless. This is, at least, a more proper course of action. However, as Richard Filipink's article on HNN this week attests, seeking congressional support doesn't let an administration off the hook if the war goes badly.

I still can't help but wonder: if the public relations campaign wasn't floundering, would we be hearing this eleventh hour contrition from the administration? I doubt it. In fact, the Bushies have spent the last few weeks insisting they didn't need to seek congressional support so this change of heart is at the very least a tacit acknowledgement that the administration's effort to get public support for the war was failing. Regardless, this is at least a more rational course -- and I'm all for reason when it comes to war. Now if Bush could just get the two main chickenhawks, Rumsfeld and Cheney, to stop making bellicose statements maybe cooler heads will eventually prevail. We'll see.

WAG THE OSAMA 9-4-02

An interesting column by Ted Rall entitled "Where's Osama?" is definitely worth reading. Now, I must admit, at times Rall goes a bit too far for me. When he insists that the Bush administration really didn't want to get Osama last October, I can't go with him that far. However, he does ultimately make an argument (like all good liberals nowadays, he uses Orwell's 1984 for inspiration) that holds water. The Bush administration is using Osama, the war on terror, and the impending war on Iraq to distract Americans from major domestic problems; domestic problems that would doom a president who didn't have a"war on terrorism" card to play. The worst part of all of this is that it has become so darned obvious. It's very clear that's what is going on.

I remember when people accused Clinton of wagging the dog for launching cruise missiles against bin Laden during the impeachment debacle. While I'm not sure that was the case at the time, just for the sake of argument I'll grant you that one. But, heck, that is quite a different thing from an administration that appears to desire nothing more than SEVERAL YEARS worth of wagging the dog. As I've said before, this is an administration that, for some reason, believes its own press and is working hard to construct its own alternate universe in which such wagging the dog doesn't have anything to do with domestic politics. All of this is for the good of the world of course.

In other war news today, Donald Rumsfeld is out there beating the old war drum again. Isn't he one of the more frightening ghouls today? Anyway, Rumsfeld is telling us that the administration has top-secret-never-before-released information that Saddam is close to nuclear capability. Don, I don't want to tell you your business, but, if you guys want war, it's about time for super-duper-secret information to become public information. Show it to me. I can't help but wonder if it really exists or if it is as lame as that now thoroughly debunked story about the meeting between Mohammad Atta, one of the 9/11 terrorists, and an Iraqi intelligence official. Or perhaps it's as baseless as the alleged"dirty bomber" plot? Who knows but it's time for the Bushies to put up or shut up on this. Lay it out there. Let the public decide. So far the public is beginning to suspect you're blowing smoke.

Evidence of this"blowing smoke" suspicion on the part of the public is in the latest poll numbers. An ABC News / Washington Post poll shows that now only 56% of Americans support a war against Iraq. If you ask Americans if they'd support the war without the support of allies, the support drops to 39%. As I've said already, Bush is looking political armageddon in the face with this Iraq war. Is he smart enough to pull back? Stay tuned.

There's an interesting piece in the Washington Post this morning by the former Secretary of the Navy under Reagan, James Webb. Webb believes the current plan for the Iraq war is a mistake because it is too short-sighted. The major question he raises is whether we're committed to occupying Iraq for the next 30 years or not. If so, fine, let's go ahead. If not, we should think about this much more because that's what's going to be necessary.

Well at least Colin Powell is finally acknowledging differences within the administration over Iraq. I love how the Bushies try to pretend everyone in the administration agrees on everything. Powell has finally had to (very vaguely) acknowledge that he's not so wild about the idea. My favorite part of this article is where Powell says that the president will"'pull all these threads together' to conclude the debate" by next week. Wait, have you not been listening, Colin? The debate was over before it started. Bush and Cheney apparently made up their minds long ago. Why else would Cheney have chastised us traitorous peaceniks last week?

Maureen Dowd's column is pretty good this morning. She primarily talks about how Bush II's administration is trashing Bush I's reputation, even going so far as to accuse Poppy of being soft on Iraq the first time, essentially accusing him of being, yes, here we go once again, a"wimp." I wonder if Poppy's going to talk to W when this is all over?

An entertaining op-ed appears in the Los Angeles Times this morning by Robert Scheer. Entitled "Dick Cheney's Nightmare of Peace," Scheer maintains that Cheney is finding peacetime pretty difficult, so much so that he probably dreams of war as a entertaining diversion. As he emerges from the Halliburton Witness Protection Program periodically to talk up the war, he's having to duck questions about his own ethics-challenged past as a CEO. Scheer argues that Cheney's worst nightmare is being hauled off in cuffs in front of television cameras. Anyone else find it pretty hypocritical for Bush, Cheney, et. al to be choosing certain executives to haul off in cuffs in front of television cameras when they've perpetrated similar types of frauds? It's takes some real cahones to pull that off, wouldn't you say?

Finally, there's a thoughtful 9/11 piece on the American Prospect by Paul Starr this morning. As I brace myself for the odious politically-opportunistic jingoism I'm preparing to witness for a solid week, I probably should return to this piece a few times to get some perspective.

A FAILED ANALOGY 9-3-02

Has anyone else about had it with the administration trying to compare Saddam Hussein to Adolf Hitler? Has anyone else thought about that one very long? It's preposterous. That line fell flat eleven years ago when Poppy tried it before the Gulf War (Part I). The administration has got to quit trying to convince us that Saddam is Hitler -- it's not going to work. They didn't convince us of that in 1991 because we all knew that he wasn't then. He had invaded his neighbor and therefore needed to be kicked out of Kuwait but that was it. Hitler was a threat to the world. It appears that Saddam isn't really even a threat to his own region. If he had nukes you know we'd have taken care of that long ago. He doesn't. He may have some chemical or biological weapons (that we probably provided him with in the 1980s) but not what we would today consider"Weapons of Mass Destruction." I'm sorry but in today's world, chemical and biological weapons simply aren't WMD. To argue they are is quite a stretch. That's the only thing keeping the Bushies' war hopes alive is trying to convince us that Saddam's early twentieth century technology mustard gas is a WMD. Sorry, nice try -- we know different.

However, we all know that this is really about getting rid of Poppy's nemesis. I just wish they would at least be honest and admit as much. We also all know this is about making rhetorical mistakes that now make it necessary to go to war with Iraq so that you don't look like a blustering simpleton who doesn't even read a tele-prompter very well. This is all about a president that is too dense to realize that when you start rattling the saber you eventually have to do something about it -- especially if you don't have the good sense to shut up about it after a couple of months. This is all about a president who can't even listen to his father's advice and put the kibosh on this war.

We also know that this is also all about winning re-election for Bush. This is all about winning re-election for a president who has now presided over four presidencies' worth of disasters and economic misfortunes. This is a president who has never owned up to a mistake in his life and isn't about to start doing so now. As his approval rating inevitably heads south (it's now 61%, not far from pre-9/11 territory), war with Iraq is probably the only way Bush can get re-elected in 2004. I only hope he doesn't get too many innocent American soldiers killed along the way. These young Americans didn't create Saddam -- Reagan and Bush I did that with $5B worth of our tax money in the 1980s. Unfortunately, some of these brave young people are likely to pay for this rather major 1980s foreign policy miscalculation with their lives.

So, please, Bushies, let's quit using this ridiculous analogy. Unlike Hitler, Saddam does not threaten the democracies of Europe. Heck, Saddam doesn't even threaten our allies who are in charge of the aristocracies in the Middle East. If the analogy didn't work in 1991 it sure as hell isn't going to work now. Try something new and halfway original for a change, would you? I know you may not be capable of it but give it a try, will you?

OUR PART-TIME PRESIDENT -- AND OTHER TIDBITS ON A BUSY DAY 9-3-02

It's a busy day, so I don't have much more time. Those of us with 4/4 teaching loads really do have to teach for a living, so I need to finish up my prep for my night class tonight. However, here are a few other items of interest today:

There's an interesting story in the Washington Post about how Bush is truly a part-time president. He has now spent 42% of his presidency on vacation. That's an eye-opener! Anyone else think it's awfully ironic for the guy who's been on a month-long vacation to be advocating September as a"month of service?"

Another good Paul Krugman column is in the New York Times this morning. This one is about the irritating"it's not my fault" attitude of Alan Greenspan who, Krugman discovers, had a pretty fair idea that during the 1990s we were in the midst of a stock market bubble. Take a look.

Another good op-ed piece by Nicholas Kristof is in the New York Timesabout the failure of American agricultural policy over the last century. He argues that one of the biggest government boondoggles was to encourage settlement of the Great Plains.


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