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Off for South Dakota

I'm headed to South Dakota with the DCCC. One of the benefits of being virtually unemployed, I guess - the chance to put your feet where your mouth is, without actually putting them in there.

They Might Want to Add Iraq to this List

Panel Holds Hearings on U.S. Intelligence (washingtonpost.com): "The panel -- officially called the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction -- focused yesterday on the weapons programs of North Korea, Libya and other countries, and the session included a discussion of intelligence-collection practices. The other countries covered reportedly included Iran, Pakistan and India. "

Greg Thielmann

Greg Thielmann was "director of the Strategic Proliferation and Military Affairs Office at the US State Department until his retirement last year."

"[T]he credibility of the intelligence community has taken a real hit because of the way the information has been used by senior officials." [PBS 6/13/02]

"One analyst, Greg Thielmann, told Correspondent Scott Pelley last fall that key evidence cited by the administration was misrepresented to the public.
Thielmann should know. He had been in charge of analyzing the Iraqi weapons threat for Powell's own intelligence bureau.

“I had a couple of initial reactions. Then I had a more mature reaction,” says Thielmann, commenting on Powell's presentation to the United Nations last February.

“I think my conclusion now is that it's probably one of the low points in his long, distinguished service to the nation."[CBS News 2/4/04]

"Our conclusion was that Saddam would certainly not provide weapons of mass destruction or WMD knowledge to al Qaeda because they were mortal enemies," said Greg Thielmann, who worked at the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research on weapons intelligence until last fall. "Saddam would have seen al Qaeda as a threat, and al Qaeda would have opposed Saddam as the kind of secular government they hated."[National Journal 8/8/03]

A recently retired State Department intelligence analyst directly involved in assessing the Iraqi threat, Greg Thielmann, flatly told NEWSWEEK that inside the government, "there is a lot of sorrow and anger at the way intelligence was misused. You get a strong impression that the administration didn't think the public would be enthusiastic about the idea of war if you attached all those qualifiers." [Newsweek 6/4/03]

Thielmann also tells Pelley that he believes the decision to go to war was made first and then the intelligence was interpreted to fit that conclusion. “…The main problem was that the senior administration officials have what I call faith-based intelligence,” says Thielmann.

“They knew what they wanted the intelligence to show. They were really blind and deaf to any kind of countervailing information the intelligence community would produce. I would assign some blame to the intelligence community and most of the blame to the senior administration officials.”[CBS News 10/15/03]

Flynt Leverett

"From February 2002 to March 2003 Dr. [Flynt] Leverett was Senior Director for Middle East Affairs at the National Security Council."

Not only has the war in Iraq not advanced the fight against terrorism, it has helped al-Qaeda regroup and recover. Flynt Leverett, a former director at the National Security Council in the Bush White House told NBC, "There were decisions made to take key assets, human assets, technical assets, out of theater in Afghanistan in order to position them for the campaign to unseat Saddam."
He added, "We see today that al-Qaida has been able to reconstitute leadership cells in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region and it would seem in Eastern Iran." [MSNBC] 7/03
"Clarke's critique of administration decision-making and how it did not balance the imperative of finishing the job against al Qaeda versus what they wanted to do in Iraq is absolutely on the money."

Roger Cressey

Former National Security Council member and expert on terrorism in both the Clinton and GWB White Houses, Roger Cressey:

One ally, Clarke's former deputy, Roger Cressey, backed the thrust of one of the most incendiary allegations in the book, about a conversation that Clarke said he had with Bush in the White House Situation Room on the night of Sept. 12, 2001. Clarke said Bush pressed him three times to find evidence that Iraq was behind the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The charge is explosive because no such link has ever been proved.

"'I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything, everything,'" Clarke writes that Bush told him. "'See if Saddam did this. See if he's linked in any way.'"

When Clarke protested that the culprit was Al Qaeda, not Iraq, Bush testily ordered him, he writes, to "'look into Iraq, Saddam,'" then left the room.

Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, responded at a White House briefing on Monday by saying that Bush did not remember having the conversation and that there were no records that placed the president in the Situation Room at the time. [IHT]
And this MSNBC article from just before Clarke came out of the closet:
Now Cressey is speaking out for the first time. He says in the early days of the Bush administration, al-Qaida simply was not a top priority, “There was not this sense of urgency. The ticking clock, if you will, to get it done sooner rather than later.”

Cressey and other witnesses have told the 9/11 commission of long gaps between terrorism meetings and greater time and energy devoted to Russia, China, missile defense and Iraq than al-Qaida.

For example: One document shows a key high-level National Security Council meeting on Iraq on Feb. 1, 2001. Yet, there was no comparable meeting on al-Qaida until September.

Is Cressey saying that some senior members of the Bush administration viewed Saddam Hussein as a greater threat to the United States than Osama bin Laden? “Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. It was inconceivable to them that al-Qaida could be this talented, this capable without Iraq, in this case, providing them real support." [MSNBC]
Cressey maintains that the US had the intelligence and a plan to strike terrorst Abu Musab Zarqawi and his training camps in the Kurdish controlled Northern Iraq area long before the Iraq war. We didn't execute those plans because George W. Bush was "more obsessed with developing the coalition to overthrow Saddam than to execute the president’s policy of preemption against terrorists," according to Cressey.

Thanks to Drum and Atrios for the tip:

Eason Jordan:

I want to register my disappointment with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer program last night, where CNN correspondent Kelli Arena questioned three “experts” on who Osama bin Laden wants to win the November presidential election. Aside from the fact that the question is ridiculous, and certainly not “news,” your experts seemed to be “fair and balanced” in a Fox News way, if you know what I mean.

George Bush has hopelessly muddled our foreign policy and given al-Qaeda recruiting gift after recruiting gift. I find it hard to believe that they would prefer a president that was actually focused on fighting and eliminating them, rather than getting us bogged down in an interminable, irresolvable war against an admittedly evil, but secular, anti-Islamist regime. If you bother to ask such inane questions in the future, you might want to ask an “expert” like Rand Beers, Richard Clarke, General Zinni, Thomas Maertens, Greg Thielmann, Flynt Leverett, Roger Cressey, or any of the host of other people that have left the administration over its mangling of the response to September 11th.

Thanks for your time,

David Meyer

Washington Times Corrections Policy

Thanks to Kos.

Mr. Mueller,

I want to draw your attention to an internal memo circulated by the Washington Times in April, regarding a corrections policy. It is available on-line, in case you missed it: http://poynter.org/forum/?id=Memos#coombs. Now I understand that this is a new policy, and you are still working out the kinks, but your efforts seem to be flagging.

The memo suggests this form for corrections: “The Washington Times in (date or day) editions incorrectly reported XXX (in correct fact.” Now I know that that is not a coherent sentence, but you should have been able to pick up at least one tip from it: when a fact is corrected, you should acknowledge that there was something incorrect in the original piece. Your article on Oceana, available at http://washingtontimes.com/sports/20040518-112102-4405r.htm, has multiple errors, as pointed out to you, and the public, on the Oceana website, available at http://community.oceana.org/displaystory/2004/5/26/115216/347.

It is understandable that you might make these errors, given the rage one naturally feels when actors get involved in politics (except for President Reagan and Governor Schwarzenegger, and overlooking the fact that the actors you identified weren’t involved with Oceana, of course). Nonetheless, when cooler heads prevail, and your mistakes come to light, your new policy clearly recommends acknowledging the error. The entire corrections memo might not have been on line, but I’m pretty sure that it didn’t recommend ridiculing the aggrieved party or issuing non-sequitur, loosely veiled threats, as in your “correction” available at http://washingtontimes.com/sports/20040525-112254-4031r.htm.

Keep trying, I’m sure you’ll get it right eventually.

Dave Meyer

Government Resources for Campaign 2

Bush Meshes Official, Political Stops to Cut Campaign Costs:

"In the last month, Bush often has attended GOP events and conducted taxpayer-financed business while on the same trips outside of Washington. He delivered the commencement address at Louisiana State University before raising $2 million near New Orleans, spoke to graduates of a Wisconsin college shortly after taking in $2.2 million in nearby St. Louis, and hailed his commitment to the environment near a Florida bay before pulling in more than $4 million for the Republican National Committee in Naples and Miami.

Sometimes, as with the commencement speeches, campaign strategists build fundraisers around the president's official schedule.

Other times, a fundraiser prompts White House aides to set up an official event. That is how Bush came to hold a 'conversation' on healthcare information technology Thursday in Nashville, a White House spokeswoman said. She said the White House had been seeking an opportunity to hold a healthcare technology event anyway."
When a candidate has raised $200 million, is it really fair to continue to subsidize his campaign? John Kerry had to pay for his new plane. Old post.


Washington Monthly on Strauss

"Con Tract" by Laura Rozen: "Critics also point to passages in Strauss's own writings which they say countenance deception, even against the public, if committed by the select few who are wise enough to truly understand the national interest. Whether Strauss himself actually advocated this view is debatable; Shulsky and Schmitt don't make the argument in their essay. But they do credit their mentor with an acceptance of the inevitability of deception that seems, in retrospect, rather suggestive. 'Strauss's view certainly alerts one to the possibility that political life may be closely linked to deception,' the authors write. 'Indeed, it suggests that deception is the norm in political life, and the hope, to say nothing of the expectation, of establishing a politics that can dispense with it is the exception.' "

Interview with Strauss expert, Shadia Drury

Noble lies and perpetual war: Leo Strauss, the neo-cons, and Iraq Danny Postel - openDemocracy

Harper's Magazine the pernicious influence of Leo Strauss

I am frustrated by Harper's Magazine. It is a great publication, frequently plumbing the depths of American society in ways that no other magazine, except perhaps the New York Review, can match. Yet its impact on the public psyche is woefully discounted, not by the quality of their work, but by the magazine's refusal to develop an on-line presence. Certain features - the Harper's Index in particular - are almost preternaturally suited for on-line circulation and recirculation. Such things quickly become viral, disseminating the name of the magazine far beyond the band of people that would ceteris paribus frequent its pages.

What gets lost in the magazine's stubborn ludditism is of much value. Last month's Thomas Frank article on the Midwest's masochistic adoption of conservative doctrine is a case in point - the rhetoric of that article would have sunk into the institutional memory of the liberal blogosphere, if only it had had a chance.

The month's Harper's is no exception, particularly its great Earl Shorris article on Leo Strauss. Sy Hersh mentioned the Abram Shulsky channelling of Strauss in directing the Office of Special Plans. Other publications, including a firewalled NYT article, have emphasized the Straussian origins and intonations of the Bush administration and neoconservatism.

Shorris takes the conversation a bit further, providing a crypto-analysis of Strauss' infamously opaque ouvre, and how it has translated into action in the current administration. He provides background necessary for understanding Strauss' psychology: the anxiety of fleeing Nazi Germany, the betrayal by his patron Heidegger, his never-forgotten Socratic lesson that ideas are dangerous things to be left in code.

Strauss's fear of the Hemlock, coupled with his inveterate Germanness, explains the deliberate difficulty of his writing:

Leo Strauss is more difficult to read than almost anyone, including Wittgenstein, Heidegger, and Joyce at his most involuted and eloquent. The reason for the difficulty grows out of Strauss's intent: He believed in what you and I would call bad writing...Here was a man who did not want to be understood by any but the few, his disciples. Obscurantism is a conceit, and it is an old technique." [66]
Shorris notes the centrality of contradiction to Strauss' philosophy, then explains them with examples from our regime:
Contradictions are not lies: they are nonsense, unreason. An axis of evil made up of countries that cannot be connected along any imaginable axis is a nonsense statement. A constitutional amendment banning marriage between people of the same gender would pit one part of the Constitution against several others - more nonsense. And when a State of the Union speech has for its peroration the problem of athletes using steroids, nonsense appears to be a preoccupation of the state.

A government would collapse if it spoke nothing but nonsense. Under George W. Bush the government has learned to speak on two levels at the same time. What appears to be nonsense to most people makes perfect sense to those who are initiated into a way of thinking abd a certain set of references, many of them biblical. From the constant use of the word 'evil' to subtle reference to the Book of Revelation, the favorite text of endtime thinkers on the Christian right, Bush's remarks and speeches had carried an esoteric message. [68]
The article goes on to note the Straussian idea of the "noble lie," or any lie that comes from the mouth of a noble. Obscurantism is premised on elitism: only the elite, the Platonic gold, will understand my writing - for those people, the fetters are off, they can do no wrong. Democracy, of course, gives power to those who don't deserve it, non-elites who would lead the country into mediocrity.

There is much more, and it is worth reading. If only I could link to it.


History of Liberalism, Post 2: Preview

Given all the provisos I make in this post about the impossibility and artificiality of tracing the roots of liberalism, I still want to draw some attention to some people and movements that should be part of any such discussion. My biases are obvious, and my knowledge partial, but these are the historical phenomena I will intermittently address over the next few weeks:

  • Legal Realism
  • Critical Legal traditions
  • Institutional Economics
  • Progressive American historians
  • Scottish Enlightenment
Undoubtedly my weakest area is the Scottish Enlightenment, but I just read James Buchan's Crowded with Genius (reviewed here, here, and in a bone to the Conservatives, here), and much of it is fresh on my mind. My first post, which will have to wait until tomorrow, will focus on legal realism, particularly the radical traditions of Felix Cohen and Robert Hale. I won't make much of an effort to justify the inclusion of any one position in the liberal pantheon, I just want to bring some of these ideas and people up for discussion.

Flashpoint: Extraordinary Rendition

The New Republic Online: Outsourcing:

"The inquiry will spotlight a policy called 'extraordinary rendition,' in which the United States hands suspected terrorists over to authoritarian Muslim regimes. American officials say those regimes are better culturally equipped to elicit information from suspected Islamic militants. But there is little doubt that one of their primary 'cultural' tools is torture. As one American official told The Washington Post's Dana Priest and Barton Gellman, who broke the 'rendition' story in December 2002, 'We don't kick the shit out of them. We send them to other countries so they can kick the shit out of them.' "
We can expect the upcoming Canadian legal proceedings in the Maher Arar case to bury us further under the detritus of torture.

History of Liberalism, Post 1: Reservations

Much bandwith has been spent on the National Review initiated discussion on the roots of American liberalism, and why, Mr. Goldberg alleges, so few modern liberals have a full understanding of their history. A brief history of the conversation:


  • Jacob Levy at Volokh has another post, where he uses a charicature of modern liberalism to deny it its legitimate heritage.
  • Jacob Levy at Volokh has a post emphasizing Rawls.
  • Goldberg at NRO has a snide post about how Cato interns are smarter than anyone at CAP.
  • Goldberg at NRO has another post on how a preference for change doesn't obviate the need for knowledge of history.
  • Steve Hayward at NRO has a post on how there is no foundational text of American liberalism.
  • Goldberg at NRO has a post on how a preference for change doesn't obviate the need for knowledge of history.
  • Goldberg has a snide post claiming that he's "observed first hand" that liberals are ignorant of their history.
  • Matthew Yglesias has a number of posts on the subject, here and here, generally defending pragmatism and impugning conservatism.
  • John Holbo has a thorough criticism of Goldberg's rhetorical assumptions.
  • John Rosenberg responds, emphasizing legal realism.
  • Mark Schmitt starts a new American Prospect column on liberal history.
I am actually something of a liberal history buff, despite being just a random fellow. I want to attack what are some misguided premises underlying this entire conversation, but only in part - because I think its currency is an excellent opportunity for resurfacing some old ideas that are useful in modern debates.

Criticism 1: Liberalism is a Position, Not a Movement. Goldberg, the poster boy for movement conservatism, is befuddled by modern liberalism because its structure and organization is so foreign to him. Conservatism is a clearly defined movement, with fairly concrete historical origins, and an obvious network of relationships. Conservatives working on taxes, conservatives working against regulations, conservative culture warriors, all conceive of themselves as part of a greater movement. Until recently, liberalism has been completely different. It has been comprised of a number of people, who generally share certain epistemological foundations, that enter into coalitions as the need arises. If you work for NOW, or NARAL, you might work with environmental groups on third world development, human rights groups on trafficking in women, and civil rights groups on pre-natal care. You don't necessarily work with these groups because of some ideological affinity, because you are all part of the "movement" - you work with them for a discrete policy goal.

Criticism 2: There is No Such Thing as a Professional Liberal. Perhaps as an analogue of the organizationl structure of modern liberalism, there is no single person that embodies "liberalism." In fact, liberals work in particular policy areas, and develop what we like to call "expertise." Conservatives think they are qualified to talk on something when they have received the Heritage or AEI talking points - liberals let the actual experts do the talking. Putting an expert on regulation, like OMB Watch's Gary Bass, on a panel with a random conservative is a charade - the conservative currency of apocryphal anecdotes can't buy a thing compared to the cash of genuine expertise liberals bring to the table. Even conservative leaders of the anti-regulatory think tanks, like Tozzi of the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness, are clearly movement men first. Legal experts like Kip Viscusi or current OIRA head John Graham are better, but only marginally: their reliance on industry funding ensures that they toe a party line. When was the last time the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis published a pro-regulation piece?

When Goldberg claims that Young Republicans know a lot more about their intellectual forefathers than College Democrats, he is probably right. But if you asked the same groups about about, say, international development, you would have some liberals that knew a lot of real science on it, and some conservatives that had read their talking points. If you asked about tax policy, or Constitutional law, or American history, or any other of a number of subjects, the response would be the same: some liberal experts, some conservative ideologues. That is actually the strength of ad-hoc coalitions - specializiation - something the benefits of which conservatives should be able to recognize.

Criticism 3: Much of the Conservative Knowledge about their Roots is Counter-Factual. Conservatives stake a broad claim to much of the intellectual history of Classical Liberalism (as opposed to American liberalism). Unfortunately, much of their geneological tracing is based on distortions, hope, and "lawyer's history," in the phrase of Morty Horwitz. For instance, the libertarian fetishization of Adam Smith is simply ridiculous - the author of a Theory of Moral Sentiments, the ally of Hume and leader of the Scottish Enlightenment - would probably be repulsed by the quasi-theological interpretation of one of his texts. The Scottish Enlightnment comprised a motley crue, and Smith had more mot than most. Emma Rothschild, for instance, has admirably filled the academic literature with analysis of Smith's muddled, occasionally radical, occasionally liberal positions.

Rothschild's texts are largely ignored by liberals, though. Why? Because liberalism is not a movement. Movement's rely on appeals to authority, be they to Strauss and the classics, Hayek and the Chicago/Austrians, or Kirk and the banal.

All this said, it is a worthwhile project to retrospectively build a body of literature capable of motivating a liberal movement. I hope the blogosphere is up to it. I'll try to do my part.

Gore's Amazing Remarks

MoveOn PAC

What Do You Think? Should Rumsfeld Resign?

The Onion: "'Look, if we start by holding one member of Bush's administration responsible for his actions, where's it all gonna end?'"

Fed-Up Cheney Enters Presidential Race Himself

The Onion

Cockburn on Chalabi

Guardian Unlimited: The trail to Tehran

Abu Ghraib Roundup

The press is giving significant coverage to the role of private contractors.

Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth

The New York Times > Washington > Campaign 2004 > Kerry Says He Would Clear the Air With U.S. Allies:

"When one man asked if it was realistic to think that a new president could begin anew in the Middle East, Mr. Kerry responded, 'I believe it will take a new president of the United States to clear the air, to re-establish American credibility in the world and to be able to reach out to leaders not just in the Middle East but all over the world.'"
Seriously, this is an excellent article. John Kerry is saying all the right stuff - he is almost as hard on the administration as he should be. I'm impressed.

A Hawk with a Brain

Five Points of Reality That Bush Overlooked (washingtonpost.com)

Stay Afraid.

The New York Times > Washington > Public's Help Is Sought to Prevent Terrorist Strikes: "WASHINGTON, May 25 - Attorney General John Ashcroft and Director Robert S. Mueller III of the F.B.I. plan to begin a campaign of public vigilance on Wednesday, warning that terrorists still hope to strike inside the United States, law enforcement officials said on Tuesday evening.
The officials said that Mr. Ashcroft and Mr. Mueller planned to hold a news conference at F.B.I. headquarters to discuss a well-known pattern of intelligence indicating that the United States remained the highest priority target for Al Qaeda and affiliated extremist networks.
Contradicting news reports Tuesday saying that new information pointed to a specific threat, the officials said Mr. Ashcroft and Mr. Mueller had no new intelligence to suggest that an attack was being planned or that preparations were under way.Instead, the officials said they would issue a new call for public awareness and ask again for the public's help in apprehending suspected terrorists who have long been sought by the F.B.I. and whose names are on the bureau's Web site."

More Boeing Shenanigans...

...if you can call anything involving $20 billion and national security "shenanigans."

Rumsfeld has announced that he is delaying a decision on an idiotic contract with Boeing until after the election. It is a good decision, if the administration takes the opportunity to put together a legitimate plan for modernizing its tanker fleet. Yesterday's report from www.sensiblesafeguards.org had this, and more, to say about the Boeing deal:

Posted by Hello

Update on 9-11 Commission: Trouble in the Endgame

The 9-11 Commission is apparently having some difficulties closing out its investigation. The NYT reports that it may have trouble reaching unanimity in its final report. The members of the Commission seem to think they can issue a unanimous report on the facts and failures precipitating 9-11, but will struggle to reach unanimity on recommendations for reforming the intelligence and homeland security apparatus. The dispute isn't partisan, according to Slade Gorton.

"From a personal point of view, I am not certain that we will be unanimous on all of the recommendations," Mr. Gorton said. "Just take the issue of the way we organize intelligence. Reasonable people can differ on that. I know I've seen some recommendations, some tentative ones, with which I don't agree.''

Mr. Gorton said the commission's staff had recently presented members of the panel with a list of possible recommendations for the panel's final report.

While refusing to describe the recommendations or say which he might support, Mr. Gorton said that if there was a split on the commission in the final report it would not necessarily be on partisan lines.

"Certainly, the tentative debates have no split on partisan lines by any stretch of the imagination," he said.

The commission has prided itself on what it has insisted are nonpartisan policy deliberations behind closed doors.

Additionally, the Commission has rankled some in the publishing industry by awarding a private publishing contract to W.W. Norton & Company. Norton is planning to print a first run 500,000 paperback copies, and sell them in bookstores for $10. Although Zelikow, a conflict-of-interest laden character, is involved, it seems like a pretty good deal to me.

NYT Contributes to Dissection of Bush Patriot Act Ad

The New York Times > Washington > Campaign 2004 > The Ad Campaign: Portrait of a Patriot and a Flip-Flopper

The NYT joins the fray, criticizing the Bush campaign's new anti-Kerry ad, which alleges that Kerry has sacrificed "vital tools to fight terrorism" because of "pressure from fellow liberals."

The NYT adds this tidbit:

In October, the Bush campaign's chairman, Marc Racicot, told a questioner at an Arab-American Institute conference that changes in the law might be in the offing, saying that members of Congress "presently have legislation pending to provide refinements to that act, to bring that balance even truer than it has been, so that it does not end up invading the civil rights of any American.''
Factcheck, among others, has already shown that the ad is based on lies and distortions. Neither article, though, mentions the real issue highlighted by this ad: Bush is politicizing the war on terrorism. For three years now, Republicans have impugned the patriotism of anyone questioning the prosecution of the war on terrorism, and fecklessly hurled charges of "politicization" at anyone offering substantive criticism. Now Bush uses the War on Terrorism as a political prop in a misleading ad. Duplicity is too nice a word.


Washington Post Top 10 List; referenced below Posted by Hello

NYT Apology for Judith Miller

The New York Times > International > Middle East > From the Editors: The Times and Iraq

Judith Miller was a useful idiot for Chalabi, the neoconservatives, and the administration. She bears some responsibility for our Iraqi morass, as do the NYT editors, and much of the rest of the press.

Update: Michael Massing's New York Review dismantling of the pre-war press coverage is still the best article on this topic. The Review featured an exchange on the topic with some of the reporters implicated.

Bush: Screw the Constitution, Screw Congressional Oversight

Congress Disputes Bush Pledge (washingtonpost.com):

"White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said U.S. taxpayers will finance a second prison to replace Abu Ghraib. She said there is sufficient flexibility within the $18.4 billion in Iraq reconstruction aid approved in October to build the prison.
But Tim Rieser, a Democratic aide on the Senate Appropriations foreign operations subcommittee, which is monitoring the reconstruction, said Bush would have to consult Congress on such a large transfer of money. 'For all intents and purposes, the money is not there,' Rieser said. "

Barone: Hard Headed

Michael Barone's book, Hard America, Soft America, has already been shown to be so much ideological claptrap. The "soft" states subsidize the "hard" states, as Media Matters and various bloggers have shown.

Other obvious rejoinders: unions increase productivity, investments in education produce significant economic benefits, market compensation packages rarely reflect performance (especially for CEOs).

Barone is right that there are two Americas. One America thinks the proles will only work hard under threat of starvation, one thinks Americans take pride in their work.

Objective and Professional v. Fair and Balanced

Campaign Ads Are Under Fire for Inaccuracy

Much has already been written about this NYT article. Campaign Desk has written about it, as has Nick Confessore at Tapped. Both of them criticize the NYT's handling of the story, turning what should be an empirical dispute about the accuracy of political ads into a "he says - she says" story.

In light of the new David Brock book, The Republican Noise Machine, the NYT's framing of the story this way moves from an issue of institutional incompetence to evidence of a sinister degradation of the media. Brock devotes significant sections of his book to the Right's efforts to shift media standards from objectivity and professionalism to "balance." In a balanced press, every issue has two sides, and the only obligation a journalist has is to seek them out. Scientists say global warming is happening, industry think tanks say it is not. The journalist reports "both sides," and the audience decides, one might say.

The problem with all of this, of course, is that the audience usually isn't able to evaluate the merit and qualifications of two competing voices, absent background information. The idea of balance is really, ironically given the Republican spin machine, indistinguishable from empirical relativism. In a discussion about Fox News, Brock says:

"Yet the question of FOX's politics was almost a distraction from the more grave matter at stake: Ailes was not wiping out liberal opinion, which was heard on the channel. "Balance" was beside the point; Ailes was wiping out news itself. The process that the highly rated FOX set into motion within the entire TV news industry - observers began to call it "FOXificiation" - ultimately meant that news was being replaced by partisan opinion about the news. And should it ever come, the end of news - the end of true facts and good information absent spin - would mean the end of democracy." [317]
Brock has better quotes about the phenomenon elsewhere in the book, but I suspect you get the point. The Right, knowing that the facts couldn't support its program, cynically assaulted the very idea of "facts." It explicitly began badgering and hectoring media to include "balance" - to include an alternative opinion, an opinion from the Right - even where there is no reasonable grounds for dispute. They merely wanted to "expand the spectrum," by granting validity to fringe interpretations about reality. The Right spearheaded a parodic postmoderinzation of the press.

Government Resources for Campaign Events

Politics News Article | Reuters.com:

"The president came on official business but the friendly crowd exposed the campaign nature of the trip by shouting 'four more years' at the end of a round-table discussion on health care at Youngstown State University.
Sitting on a stool and holding a microphone, he promoted community health centers, which are aimed at helping people in urban and rural areas, who often rely on hospital emergency rooms for health care. "

Malevolent Governance: Donors First at the Trough

The administration’s assault on our public infrastructure, a relentless effort to systematically dismantle any obstacle to Bush’s backers’ spiraling accumulation of power and wealth, may have finally hit a wall. Central to the viability of the assault is its covertness, its operation under the radar of public awareness and concern.

A series of recent developments are beginning to cast some light. Texans for Public Justice, an excellent group that provides some of the best monitoring of Bush’s financial backers, released a comprehensive report on their connections, interests and rewards. TPJ, Campaign Money Watch's Special Interest Spotlight and the Progress Report have been tracking the Pioneers and Rangers since the start of the election cycle. Kerry's campaign issued a press release about the TPJ report.

The Washington Post also ran two articles, which have received far less notice than they deserve considering the amount of information they contain. The first article was released last Sunday, and it has a solid analysis of Bush’s contributors and what they have received, particularly appointments, in return for their "beneficence." The second article focused on the graft gained by individual contributors, particularly this piece on CINTAS and environmental regulations. The CINTAS piece includes this pleasant timeline, this collection of e-mails and source documents, and the pictograph of pioneers reproduced below. Finally, the Post included this well put-together interactive feature, which highlights some of the more obvious networks of influence.

The following weekend, just last Sunday, the Denver Post published an exclusive look at "when advocates become regulators," detailing "more than 100 high-level officials under Bush who helped govern industries they once represented as lobbyists, lawyers or company advocates." There's also this Guardian piece.

Finally, this morning I went to a panel discussion with Carol Browner, Gary Bass, Phillip Landrigan, Sylvia Lowrance, Bruce Buckheit, Peter Infante, Celeste Monforton, and Bill Wade (bios available here), where they were discussing Reece Rushing's report: Special Interest Takeover: The Bush Administration and the Dismantling of Public Safeguards. The report is thorough and well documented, a good reference for anyone looking at the administration's politicization of science, undermining of environmental, health and safety regulation, and general "strategic incompetence," as one of the questioners called it. Reece has started at the Center for American Progress.

The timing for all of this is great, since Bush-Cheney 04 just raised the bar, with the creation of "Super-Rangers," or people that give +$100,000 to Bush-Cheney and +$300,000 to the RNC.

Update 5/26 11:31: I don't know how I missed this, but Sirota has a great post on some of this.


New info. on Republican Outsourcing: RNC Lies

The story of Republican Party outsourcing campaign operations to India originated in an Indian “Business Standard” article dated 1/30/03. The Business Standard link is dead, but the article has been mirrored on the Free Republic.

The RNC officially denied the allegations, and issued a cease and desist letter, which probably accounts for the missing Business Standard article. It too is available at Free Republic.

The story resurfaces with the Hindustan Times article of May 16, 2004. The Hindustan Times article claims that 125 Indians were calling for the RNC between May 16, 2002 and July 22, 2003, using an RNC call list, immediately prior to the RNC’s misleading legal threat.

The Asia Times ran perhaps the best article on the subject on May 19th. It appears to independently verify the Hindustan Times Piece.

The conclusion: the RNC sent a cease-and-desist letter to the media that was deliberately based on lies.

More Administration Undermining of the Geneva Conventions

From Atrios, the NYT has a scoop on a third (fourth?) Bush administration effort to carve out standing exceptions to the Geneva Conventions, this time for "security detainees."

"Professor Silliman, a former Air Force lawyer who heads the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security at Duke, said the response of authorities at Abu Ghraib to the Red Cross appeared to be part of a larger pattern in which the administration and the military devote great energy to find ways to avoid the jurisdiction of the Geneva Conventions.

"If you look at this in connection with other things that are coming out, it doesn't seem like a snap decision but part of an across-the-board pattern of decision-making to create another category outside the conventions."

He cited a memorandum written in January 2002 by Albert R. Gonzales, the White House counsel, recommending that President Bush decree that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to prisoners from the war in Afghanistan. In the memorandum, Mr. Gonzales said that getting out from under the restrictions of the Geneva Conventions would preserve the government's flexibility in fighting terrorism."
The exceptions to the GC championed by the administration include: 1. don't apply to terrorists; 2. don't apply to people from failed states; 3. don't apply to civilians with high value information; 4. don't apply to people not formally under the jurisdiction of the United States. I'm sure there are more.

New York Review of Books is Out

The new edition of the NY Rev is chock full of goodness. For the Chris Mooney and Tim Lamberts of the world, there is the Bill McKibben's Crossing the Red Line, a broad overview both of recent scholarship on environmental science and of Bush administration hostility to it.

It has an in depth analysis of the Taguba report and the Red Cross Report, in Mark Danner's Torture and Truth.

It has an analysis of the Bush campaign, which focuses on the difficulties created by his mangled foreign policies, in Elizabeth Drew's Bush: The Dream Campaign.

It also has a mixed, but informative review of Woodward's Plan of Attack, in Brian Urquhart's A Cautionary Tale.


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