F U G O P

A Reality-Based Blog.

Atom Feed

Friends

Good Blogs

Not So Good Blogs

News Sources

Profile

 

7/16/2004

Mohammed Harith and James Woolsey

Knight Ridder provides new details on how the administration distorted pre-war intelligence.  In Feb. 2002, former CIA Director James Woolsey arranged for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) to debrief the Iraqi National Congress provided defector Maj. Mohammad Harith.  Harith's intelligence confirmed Curveball's claims regarding mobile biological weapons labs.  His information has since been completely discredited as part of the tidal wave of false INC reportsattributed to INC coaching
 
Woolsey is now profiting from the war
 
The Guardian's David Rose's gushing initial article on Harith, published in Vanity Fair in May 2002, is posted on this listserv.  The Columbia Journalism Review recently highlighted Rose's role in disseminating Harith's misinformation.  Rose half apologized for the credulous reporting.  For examples:

Perhaps someone should ask Woolsey if, while he was gallivanting about Europe immediately after 9/11, he also provided Rose access to Abu Zeinab, the defector that told us all about Salman Pak.

Wilson's Response

Joe Wilson's response to the SSCI report is available here. He denies, with support from the CIA, that his wife recommended him for the trip.  He denies claiming to have debunked the forged Italian documents.

Disingenuous Democracy Promotion

Salon has an excellent piece on the anti-democratic (small "d") efforts a Congressionally established, Republican run group in Haiti.  The International Republican Institute may have been involved in the anti-Aristide coup.  This suggests a fairly provocative line of questioning for reporters around Bush's appearance next week at the National Urban League.
 
Josh Marshall, Kevin Drum, and Matt Yglesias have all recently commented on Bush's weak commitment to international democracy.  Jonathan Chait has recently commented on Bush's weak commitment to domestic democracy.

Politicizing Churches

Falwell busted.  Americans United for Separation of Church and State has filed a complaint alleging violation of tax laws

Stonewalling the UN

Almost two weeks ago, the AP reported that the US had spent about 2% of the $18.4 billion allocated by Congress for Iraqi reconstruction.  At the same time, as much as $19 billion in Iraqi oil revenue was spent, much of it in a hurried splurge before the 6/28 sovereignty handover (more than $2 billion on May 15th, 2004 alone according to the Financial Times article linked below).  UN sanctioned auditors, working as the International Advisory and Monitoring Board (IAMB), are trying to figure out how this money was spent. 
 
Some of that oil revenue may have been used to pay no-bid contracts awarded to Halliburton and other corporations working in Iraq, and there were serious accountability problems, according to a KPMG audit.  Our government has audited some of these no-bid contracts, including three Halliburton contracts worth over $1.4 billion.  Yet the Bush administration refuses to turn these audits over to the IAMB.  No explanation for the refusal, just excuses.
 
More at Iraq Revenue Watch and at the House Committee on Government Reform Minority Office.

7/15/2004

Uranium from Africa

Warbloggers are gloating[2] over the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's (SSCI) attacks on Joe Wilson.  They seem to think that it has irreparably destroyed Joe Wilson's credibility and that it has absolved the administration of wrong-doing in the uranium from Africa claim. 
 
Glenn Reynolds touts his wisdom - he avoided being taken in by the huckster Wilson and sagely avoided tackling the "too complicated" story.  Now, though, the complicated - read "inexcusably bad for Bush" - story has been revealed in its simplicity.  The liberal media bought what Wilson was selling.  It is no longer complicated, Bush's credibility is no longer on the line, and gloating is now appropriate.  No need to wait for Wilson's response before passing judgment. 
 
I won't bother to defend Wilson in this post, though I think an entirely credible case for him can be made.  Instead of gloating, let's look at just what evidence the administration relied on in claiming that Iraq was attempting to purchase uranium from an African country (the "16 words").
 
First, the SSCI report establishes the unique importance of the uranium claim.  The administration claimed that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program - that a mushroom cloud was on the horizon.  The bulk of the evidence was Iraq's efforts to acquire dual use technology through clandestine means.

Intelligence information provided to the Committee shows that Iraq was trying to procure magnets, balancing machines, and machine tools, all materials that have potential applications in a nuclear program. These materials, however, are all dual use and none of the intelligence provided said that the materials were intended for a nuclear end user. [SSCI Report, p. 19]
The CIA was eager to assume that dual use meant bad use, but it had no evidence for this claim.
The Committee found that the IC had a tendency to accept information which supported the presumption that Iraq had active and expanded WMD programs more readily than information which contradicted it. This was evident in analysts' assessments of Iraq's attempts to procure dual-use materials and activities at dual-use facilities. Dual-use materials and facilities are those which could be used in a WMD program, but which also have conventional military or legitimate civilian applications. The IC properly noted the potential threat embodied in these dual-use capabilities, should they be turned toward WMD purposes, and did an effective job of analyzing XXRedactionXX Iraq's attempts to purchase dual-use equipment and materials to show how they could advance Iraq's WMD capability. But, the IC fell short by accepting most reporting of dual-use material imports or capabilities as intended for WMD programs. Information that contradicted the IC's presumption that Iraq had WMD programs, such as indications in the intelligence reporting that the dual-use materials were intended for conventional or civilian programs, was often ignored. The IC's bias that Iraq had active WMD programs led analysts to presume, in the absence of evidence, that if Iraq could do something to advance its WMD capabilities, it would. [SSCI Report, p. 19-20]
Even the fact that Iraq was using clandestine methods in its attempts to acquire dual use tech is not dispositive.
Intelligence analysts' presumption that all dual-use activity was intended for WMD programs recurs throughout the 2002 NIE. Analysts believed that the fact that Iraq often attempted to obtain dual-use materials surreptitiously, through front companies and other illicit means in violation of UN sanctions, indicated that Iraq intended to use those materials for WMD. Analysts argued that Iraq would have no reason to hide itself as the end user of these materials if they were intended for legitimate purposes. However, analysts ignored the fact that Iraq typically used front companies and evaded UN sanctions for imports of purely legitimate goods. Analysts who monitored Iraq's compliance with the Oil for Food Program noted several reasons that Iraq wanted to avoid legitimate channels for imports including 1) the UN often denied materials needed for legitimate purposes because the materials had WMD applications, 2) using the UN's bureaucratic process was more cumbersome and time consuming than using illicit channels, and 3) transactions using front companies were less transparent, making corruption and profit taking easier for Iraqi managers and officials. [SSCI Report, pp. 20-21]
The only cited evidence that definitely pointed to reconstitution was Iraqi efforts to obtain uranium yellowcake.
Other WINPAC analysts told Committee staff that by January, they had come to believe that if Iraq was in fact attempting to acquire uranium from Africa, it would bolster their argument that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program because Iraq had no other use for uranium. Most of the other elements of the reconstitution case, the tubes, magnets, machine tools and balancing machines, were all dual-use materials, while for Iraq, uranium had only one potential use - a nuclear weapons program. [SSCI Report, p. 63]
Yellowcake acquisition is the lynchpin of the case for nuclear reconstitution. As the only piece of evidence that couldn't be explained away, it should have been subjected to significant scrutiny. 
 
I can't address the claims that Iraq sought uranium from the Congo or Somalia.  There simply isn't enough evidence in the public domain for me to pass judgment.  I will probably talk about the smuggling claims at some later point.  The administration has basically conceded that Bush was referring to Niger in the State of the Union, so I will limit myself to that claim.  The evidence that Iraq was attempting to acquire yellowcake from Niger is exceedingly sparse. 
In early 1999, Iraqi officials visited a number of African countries, including Niger. The visit[2] was detected by intelligence, and some details were subsequently confirmed by Iraq. The purpose of the visit was not immediately known. But uranium ore accounts for almost three-quarters of Niger’s exports. Putting this together with past Iraqi purchases of uranium ore from Niger, the limitations faced by the Iraq regime on access to indigenous uranium ore and other evidence of Iraq seeking to restart its nuclear programme, the JIC judged that Iraqi purchase of uranium ore could have been the subject of discussions and noted in an assessment in December 2000 that:

. . . unconfirmed intelligence indicates Iraqi interest in acquiring uranium. (JIC, 1 December 2000) [Butler Report, Para. 493]

[FN 2] This visit was separate from the Iraqi-Nigerien discussions, in the margins of the mid-1999 Organisation of African Unity meeting in Algiers, attested to by Ambassador Wilson in his book “The Politics of Truth” (Carroll & Graf, NY 2004, p28).
The Butler report later clarifies by quoting an IAEA report that this contact was between the Iraqi ambassador to the Vatican, Mr. Wissam al Zahawie, and four African states, including Niger [Para. 502].  After the SOTU, the IAEA determined that this meeting was not for the purchase of uranium, but to arrange a state visit to Iraq by the then President of Niger.  The indispensable Sy Hersh provided this background on the intel:
In the fall of 2001, soon after the September 11th attacks, the C.I.A. received an intelligence report from Italy’s Military Intelligence and Security Service, or SISMI, about a public visit that Wissam al-Zahawie, then the Iraqi Ambassador to the Vatican, had made to Niger and three other African nations two and a half years earlier, in February, 1999. The visit had been covered at the time by the local press in Niger and by a French press agency. The American Ambassador, Charles O. Cecil, filed a routine report to Washington on the visit, as did British intelligence. There was nothing untoward about the Zahawie visit. “We reported it because his picture appeared in the paper with the President,” Cecil, who is now retired, told me. There was no article accompanying the photograph, only the caption, and nothing significant to report. At the time, Niger, which had sent hundreds of troops in support of the American-led Gulf War in 1991, was actively seeking economic assistance from the United States.

None of the contemporaneous reports, as far as is known, made any mention of uranium. But now, apparently as part of a larger search for any pertinent information about terrorism, SISMI dug the Zahawie-trip report out of its files and passed it along, with a suggestion that Zahawie’s real mission was to arrange the purchase of a form of uranium ore known as “yellowcake.” (Yellowcake, which has been a major Niger export for decades, can be used to make fuel for nuclear reactors. It can also be converted, if processed differently, into weapons-grade uranium.)
So British intelligence either read about the visit in the press or received the same report from Italian intel. According to Hersh, this intelligence report was stovepiped up to Cheney, and he pressed the CIA to send someone to investigate.  The Italian intelligence had details, but was not credible (I assume that following SSCI para. refers to the SISMI report).
Reporting on a possible uranium yellowcake sales agreement between Niger and Iraq first came to the attention of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) on October 15, 2001. The Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) Directorate of Operations (DO) issued an intelligence report XXRedactionXX from a foreign government service indicating that Niger planned to ship several tons of uranium to Iraq XXRedactionXX. The The intelligence report said the uranium sales agreement had been in negotiation between the two countries since at least early 1999, and was approved by the State Court of Niger in late 2000. According to the cable, Nigerien President Mamadou Tandja gave his stamp of approval for the agreement and communicated his decision to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The report also indicated that in October 2000 Nigerien Minister of Foreign Affairs Nassirou Sabo informed one of his ambassadors in Europe that Niger had concluded an accord to provide several tons of uranium to Iraq. [SSCI Report, p. 36]
In February 2002, Wilson was sent to check things out.
During 2002, the UK received further intelligence from additional sources which identified the purpose of the visit to Niger as having been to negotiate the purchase of uranium ore, though there was disagreement as to whether a sale had been agreed and uranium shipped. [Butler Report, Para. 495]
This may be a reference to the CIA's interpretation of the Wilson's visit.  Wilson reported that the Nigerien Prime Minister thought the Iraqi ambassador obliquely referred to uranium in a conversation, but never explicitly mentioned to it.  The CIA took this as supporting Iraq's uranium seeking, while the State Department's intelligence service took it as contradicting. 
U) IC analysts had a fairly consistent response to the intelligence report based on the former ambassador's trip in that no one believed it added a great deal of new information to the Iraq-Niger uranium story. An INR analyst said when he saw the report he believed that it corroborated the INR's position, but said that the "report could be read in different ways." He said the report was credible, but did not give it a lot of attention because he was busy with other things.

(U) DIA and CIA analysts said that when they saw the intelligence report they did not believe that it supplied much new information and did not think that it clarified the story on the alleged Iraq-Niger uranium deal. They did not find Nigerien denials that they had discussed uranium sales with Iraq as very surprising because they had no expectation that Niger would admit to such an agreement if it did exist. The analysts did, however, find it interesting that the former Nigerien Prime Minister said an Iraqi delegation had visited Niger for what he believed was to discuss uranium sales. [SSCI Report, p. 46]
Either way, it is weak evidence, and the SSCI report notes that fact [46].  The Butler Report may also be referring to foreign intelligence services' (i.e., Franceinterpretations of the fraudulent Italian documents.  This portion of the Butler Report contains no way to evaluate its strength or foundation but is the only evidence that may have specifically mentioned uranium.
We conclude that, on the basis of the intelligence assessments at the time, covering both Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the statements on Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa in the Government’s dossier, and by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons, were well-founded. By extension, we conclude also that the statement in President Bush’s State of the Union Address of 28 January 2003 that:

The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

was well-founded. [Butler Report, para. 499]
I appreciate the assist from the Brits, but would like to know why President Bush thought it necessary to cite British intelligence.  Not wanting to disclose sources and methods isn't enough, since he could have simply said "We have learned..."
From our examination of the intelligence and other material on Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa, we have concluded that:

a. It is accepted by all parties that Iraqi officials visited Niger in 1999.

b. The British Government had intelligence from several different sources indicating that this visit was for the purpose of acquiring uranium. Since uranium constitutes almost three-quarters of Niger’s exports, the intelligence was credible.

c. The evidence was not conclusive that Iraq actually purchased, as opposed to having sought, uranium and the British Government did not claim this.

d. The forged documents were not available to the British Government at the time its assessment was made, and so the fact of the forgery does not undermine it. [Butler Report, para. 503]
The b. & d. points are the key.  The only information in the public domain that implies Iraq was trying to purchase uranium from Niger is the CIA's interpretation of Wilson's visit and the fraudulent documents.  If there is something else out there, both the American and British government should either release it or explain why they can't.  If the intelligence is reports from foreign government services - France and Italy, in particular - then they probably were based on the forgeries.  In the post 9/11 era of interdependence between intelligence services, no country is stronger than the weakest link.  American intelligence was based on weak British intelligence and false Italian intelligence.  British intelligence was based on false French intelligence.  French intelligence was based on false Italian intelligence.  And it was all based on forged documents that, to make a claim without any evidence, are probably related to the INC. 
 
Regardless of Wilson's credibility, the Uranium-Niger connection is almost entirely meritless.  Considering its importance, its weakness severely undermines the case for war.


38 Mistakes

The DNC's Kicking Ass points to this LA Times article on the intelligence debates on Powell's 2/5/03 speech before the UN.  The entire article is worth reading, but this paragraph is the most damning:
The CIA rejected requests for initial versions of what became the Powell presentation on the grounds that they were internal working documents and not finished products. And the Republican-controlled committee did not seek access to a 40-plus-page document that was prepared by Vice President Dick Cheney's office and submitted to State Department speechwriters detailing the case the administration wanted Powell to make.
What grounds are those to refuse to give the documents to the SSCI?  The entire point of the investigation was to determine where the intelligence process broke down - how can the CIA declare internal working documents off limits?  They are the whole ball game.
 
The SSCI report has been interpreted as exonerating the Office of the Vice President on the charge that it politicized intelligence.  Yet the Committee didn't even ask to see the 40 something page memo sent by Cheney's office?  Why was the OVP involved in the process at all - did it haven some unique capacity, other than a willingness to misread raw intelligence, to contribute? 

Blogger changes

Wow.  Lots of new toys.  I think I like it. 

Hostile to Libertarianism

Libertarians like to claim to be social liberals and economic conservatives.  They think that opposing draconian drug laws makes them a liberal, while opposing taxes makes them a conservative.  This libertarian commonplace is, of course based on believing liberal mockeries of conservatism and conservative mockeries of liberalism, but more importantly, it misses a simple reality: social liberalism costs money. 
 
Social liberalism includes support for civil and political rights, things like a woman's right to choose, rights to participation in the political system, rights against abusive treatment from the criminal justice system.   But it also includes expanding health care access, improving access to, and the quality of, education, improving the rights of workers in the economic system.  Some of these things require money.  So long as libertarians harbor a kneejerk antipathy towards taxation, and not just wasteful spending, any claim to social liberalism is just so much talk.
 
I don't like taxes.  I don't like to pay them, I don't like that other people have to pay them.  Nonetheless, I think that they are necessary, and even good, because I support the things that they pay for - the services government provides.  A refusal to tax implies that the funding policy isn't worth it.  Until libertarians accept that liberal social policy is worth funding, their claims to social liberalism are empty. 

7/14/2004

Butler Report Available

The Butler Report analyzing British intelligence, is on line.

Weird Correction

This Knight Ridder story starts out:

President Bush continued to insist Monday that there was an operational link between former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida despite reports by the Senate Intelligence Committee and the commission that's investigating the Sept. 11 attacks that there was no evidence that Saddam and Islamic terrorists collaborated to kill Americans.
It bases the claim that Bush asserted an operational link on this evidence:
"Although we have not found stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, we were right to go into Iraq," the president said. "We removed a declared enemy of America, who had the capability of producing weapons of mass murder, and could have passed that capability to terrorists bent on acquiring them."

He added: "In the world after September 11th, that was a risk we could not afford to take."

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said Bush was speaking broadly about "the nexus between terrorists and outlaw regimes." Asked if the president was speaking about a Saddam-al-Qaida connection, McClellan said, "We know there were ties between Iraq and terrorists, including al-Qaida."

McClellan noted that Abu Musab al Zarqawi, a Palestinian from Jordan held responsible for numerous terrorist attacks in Iraq and who ran an al-Qaida camp in Afghanistan, was a "senior al-Qaida" member who was in Iraq.
That sounds like a tough, but reasonable interpretation of Bush's statement. But appended to the bottom of the article is this correction:
President Bush's comments Monday about terrorism were incorrectly reported in that saying the president insisted there was an operational link between al Qaida and Saddam Hussein. The president suggested that such a link existed, but didn’t explicitly make that connection. His comments, as correctly reported in the story, were: "Although we have not found stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, we were right to go into Iraq. We removed a declared enemy of America, who had the capability of producing weapons of mass murder, and could have passed that capability to terrorists bent on acquiring them. In the world after September 11th, that was a risk we could not afford to take."
Sounds like they got a talking to. The whole article is good, continuing the trend of Knight Ridder producing the best intelligence reporting.

Signs of Decline

You know we've hit rock bottom when Iraqis are monitoring US-run prisons for human rights abuses. Still, provided we've stopped the abuse, probably a good development, establishing Iraqi oversight.

More War President

Unfortunately, at war with John Kerry. The NYTimes has a great nuts and bolts article on the Bush war room. The LATimes has a similar piece.

More Evidence of Medicare Perfidy

3.8 million retirees will lose their private prescription drug coverage when the Medicare prescription drug benefit kicks in, according to a new Department of Health and Human Services study. My favorite quote:

Still, Republican supporters of the new law and many employers said it would help stabilize retiree health benefits. "Rather than worsening the situation, it works to stop the trend of employers' dropping retiree coverage,'' said Representative Bill Thomas, Republican of California, one of the principal architects of the law.
Of course it will: over a third of retirees will lose their benefits immediately. There won't be a trend, there will be a spike - a downward spike.

Other Medicare Posts: propaganda, incompetence, impossibility, backstab.

Vindication for Michael Moore

I wonder if this article was inspired by the unforgettable scene in Fahrenheit 9/11 of the conference on business opportunities in a postwar Iraq. Like pigs at the trough, pre-invasion cheerleaders are post-invasion beneficiaries.

WASHINGTON — In the months and years leading up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, they marched together in the vanguard of those who advocated war.

As lobbyists, public relations counselors and confidential advisors to senior federal officials, they warned against Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, praised exiled leader Ahmad Chalabi, and argued that toppling Saddam Hussein was a matter of national security and moral duty.

Now, as fighting continues in Iraq, they are collecting tens of thousands of dollars in fees for helping business clients pursue federal contracts and other financial opportunities in Iraq. For instance, a former Senate aide who helped get U.S. funds for anti-Hussein exiles who are now active in Iraqi affairs has a $175,000 deal to advise Romania on winning business in Iraq and other matters.

Convention Line Up

The DNC put together an excellent convention line up. I especially like the first day and the last: having Cleland introduce Kerry give a good example of Democratic "values."

Monday, July 26: Former Vice President Al Gore, former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio, Rep. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Rep. Bob Menendez of New Jersey.

Tuesday, July 27: Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, Christie Vilsack, wife of Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona, Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of Sen. John Kerry

Wednesday, July 28: Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, Mayor Martin O'Malley of Baltimore, Md., Retired Marine Lt. Col. Steve Brozak of New Jersey, presumptive vice presidential nominee Sen. John Edwards, who will be introduced by his wife, Elizabeth Edwards.

Thursday, July 29: Presumptive presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry, who will be introduced by former Sen. Max Cleland of Georgia, Kerry's daughters Alex and Vanessa Kerry, and Kerry's stepsons, Chris and Andre Heinz.
This lineup fairly represents the core of the Democratic Party, unlike the whitewashed GOP convention.

Dashed Hopes

I thought this might be a good article: Kerry-Favored Industries See More Job Growth-Study. Then I read it, and realized it was totally devoid of content. Then I looked at who commissioned the study, and saw that it was an "outplacement firm," or a company that helps corporations fire employees.

Nice Reporting

From AFP:

The president assailed Kerry's vote against an 87-billion-dollar Republican spending bill to fund the Iraq war, which came after the senator backed its 87-billion-dollar Democratic counterpart.
It's shocking how easily this issue can be defused by the mere recitation of facts.

More Selective Declassification

The Justice Department released a memo showing some concrete uses of the USA PATRIOT ACT

The report did not mention some more controversial powers, such as the FBI's ability to obtain library and bookstore records in terrorism cases or the so-called "sneak and peek" search warrants in which agents need not immediately tell suspects their home or business had been searched.

Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, accused the department of selectively releasing information and refusing to address civil liberties concerns.

"Coupled with the department's consistent record of exaggerating their record about terrorism, this entire report is suspect," Conyers said. [AP]
This is good advice. John Ashcroft should follow it:
Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said he considered the report a political document rather than a serious examination of the Patriot Act's impact. The Bush administration, he said, should "spend less time waging public relations campaigns and more time responding to the specific, legitimate concerns of the American people."
More on selective declassification here, here, here, here, and here.

Update 7:42 EST: Volokh has a link to the DOJ document.

Good Bush Policy Change

The Bush administration managed to discredit preventive war.

The debate [over the quality of prewar intelligence] is about more than history, and is more than partisan posturing in a presidential election year. Any future debate on the use of military power "will have that overlay" of the intelligence failure on Iraq, said Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), who voted in October 2002 to authorize President Bush to use force.

"There's a greater burden of proof now when someone comes up here suggesting preemptive action," Smith said, adding that Congress will insist "that we have more concrete facts."
Even conservative Republicans are losing faith in the venture.

More Politicizing the Government

Searching for "Kerry" on the Department of Homeland Security's Web site Tuesday afternoon turned up an unexpected top hit: a Republican attack on the Democratic presidential candidate. [AP]
Probably benign, but it's funny how the errors always cut the same way.

Deficits 20% Larger than 2003

The government's deficit ballooned to $326.6 billion in the first nine months of the 2004 budget year, according to a snapshot of U.S. balance sheets released Tuesday.

That's more than 20 percent larger than the $269.7 billion shortfall for the corresponding period last year. For the current budget year which began Oct. 1, this spending has totaled $1.73 trillion, 6.4 percent more than the same period a year ago. Revenues came to $1.40 trillion, 3.5 percent more than the previous year. [AP]

Liking John Kerry

Kerry has really grown on me. This story from today's Washington Post is a good example of why:

"We have a high-class problem on this campaign," Bianchi said. "People want a change -- a lot. There is an unprecedented amount of energy. That leads to a lot of people wanting to do everything they can."

It has also opened the campaign to Republican ridicule. Stanzel said the campaign's policy apparatus "demonstrates John Kerry's indecisiveness."

"Why is it that after 20 years in United States Senate, John Kerry needs that many people to tell him what he thinks?" Stanzel said.

But Kerry aides and advisers defended the structure. They said it has opened Kerry to a healthy blend of perspectives and yielded realistic policies that balance competing views.

"The mark of too many cooks would be drift," said Lael Brainard, a Kerry adviser and international economist at the Brookings Institution. "I don't see drift. I see decisions. That leads me to believe the big tent is bringing in a broad range of opinions and is bringing about well-crafted decisions."
Republicans think advisers are there to tell the candidate what to do. Obviously, that's how Bush "governs," but it's produced nothing but bad policy. John Kerry is smart and confident enough to handle it.
From his ski-vacation home in Idaho, Kerry phoned in to the final conference call, deciding a corporate rate cut would signal that his intention was business tax reform, not a tax hike, Bianchi said. Overriding some economists, he also insisted that a provision be added to allow multinationals based in the United States to continue deferring taxation on overseas sales to customers in local markets.

"In the end, he's the guy who makes the call," Sperling said.
Note that Kerry has the capacity to work while on vacation.
Mostly, however, the outer ring serves another purpose. By casting a wide net, Bianchi said, the campaign is always ready with an expert when an unexpected issue crops up suddenly. Many members of the policy councils can also be effective Kerry advocates in their far-flung communities, she said.
Let's get some more of these people on TV.

Two More Bush Flip Flops

Bush had two major flip flops this week. He promised to support the assault weapons ban in the 2000 election, and, though the legislation is now in his hands, he is doing nothing. His administration supported the "roadless rule," limiting the building of new roads in portions of the National Forests, but has proposed a new rule gutting it. See also The Wilderness Society June '03 press release; Earth Justice Aug. '02 press release.

These aren't fake Kerry flip-flops, where he was operating in the Senate on an area of uncertainty and had to vote the way he thought was right. No mislead Bush into these positions. These are cases where nothing has changed, no new evidence has come to light, and Bush's earlier statements were unequivocal. In short, they are simple lies, evidence that Bush thinks the commitments he makes in the light of an election can be discarded at his convenience.

The confluence of the flip-flops also risks separating hunters from the NRA. The NRA, with about 4 million members, is a huge political organization - but 2 million of those members are hunters. Many hunters are appalled with the change to the roadless rule:

Unlike many public lands issues, this one unites environmentalists with hunters.

"It's about open space and clean water and providing hunting and fishing opportunities as more and more land is posted 'no trespassing'," says Chris Wood, vice president of the conservation group Trout Unlimited. "This is an issue that certain people care very, very deeply about." [Christian Science Monitor]

7/12/2004

7/12 Press Releases from Conservative Groups



7/12 Kerry Press Releases

  • Kerry Statement on Reducing Nuclear Threats; Fact Sheet on Bush and Nuclear Terrorism
    Senator John Kerry released the following statement today in response to the president's speech in Tennessee:

    "The gravest threat we face is terrorists or hostile states getting their hands on a nuclear weapon. Since that dark day in September, have we reached out to our allies and forged an urgent global effort to ensure that nuclear weapons and materials are secured? Have we taken every step we should to stop North Korea and Iran's nuclear programs? Have we restructured our intelligence agencies and given them the resources they need to keep our country safe?"

    "The honest answer, in each of these areas, is that we have done too little, often too late, and even cut back our efforts. It's not enough to give speeches - America will only be safer when we achieve results. The facts speak for themselves -- there was less nuclear weapons materials secured in the two years after 9/11 than in the two years before. North Korea has reportedly quadrupled its nuclear weapons capability in the past year. Iran is developing a nuclear weapons capability. Afghanistan has become a forgotten front in the war on terror.

    "As president, my number one security goal will be to prevent terrorists from gaining weapons of mass murder. I have proposed an ambitious and aggressive plan for dramatically reducing the threats from nuclear terrorism -- we will greatly accelerate work to secure nuclear materials at risk and invest the time and leadership needed to address the nuclear threats in North Korea and Iran. I will appoint a National Director of Intelligence so that there is one individual with responsibility and accountability for intelligence operations."
  • Kerry-Edwards Fact Sheet: Bringing Opportunity to All of America's Families
  • Kerry Pledges to Stand Up for America's Values and Help All Americans Get Ahead

Good Work from CREW

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), has FOIA'd the FEC for a report on WESTAR contributions to Members of Congress. Westar Energy bribed Tom Delay, among others, and was an important part of Rep. Chris Bell's ethics complaint against Delay [PDF].

GOP Hitlermongering

Moveon.org had a contest where people submitted homemade political advertisements - Bush in 30 seconds - to be judged by celebrities. Two out of the more than 1500 entries had footage of Hitler. They were not sponsored by Moveon.org.

Conservatives have used this to claim that Moveon compares Bush to Hitler, and have included footage of the submitted ads in a bizarre ad campaign against John Kerry.

This morning Drudge claimed Moveon still had the ads on its website. Ed Gillespie, Chairman of the RNC released a Press Release condemning it. Wes Boyd, of Moveon.org, responded. The ads were placed in a secure location on the server so that journalists could look at them for stories on the RNC ads. The public had no access to them.

Roads in National Forests

From the NYT:

WASHINGTON, July 12 — The Forest Service today proposed scuttling a Clinton-era rule, which put 58.5 million acres of national forest largely off-limits to logging, mining or other development, in favor of a new system that leaves it to state governors to seek greater or fewer strictures on the construction of logging, mining, recreational or other roads on federal forest land.

The announcement, made by Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman in Boise, Idaho, a state where ideological opposition to the Clinton rule was most pronounced, was a signature moment for the Bush Administration's environmental policy.

After three years of gradually retreating from the sweeping preservationist rule, which covered about 30 percent of the 191 million acres of national forests and was embraced by environmentalists, the administration decisively rejected it and substituted a patchwork process that makes state officials the moving force in decisions of whether to log or to conserve forest lands.
From the LA Times/AP, the National Environmental Trust criticized the "states' rights" rationale for the policy change:"
Philip Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust, called the administration proposal the biggest giveaway to the timber industry in history, arguing that many western states would likely press for development to help struggling rural economies.

"The idea that many governors would want to jump head first into the political snake pit of managing the national forests in their states is laughable," he said. "Besides, the timber industry has invested heavily for years in the campaigns of governors with the largest national and state forests, giving almost equally to Republicans and Democrats."
Press releases: National Environmental Trust, Earth Justice ("Expecting the Bush administration to protect pristine forest areas is like asking a shark to be a lifeguard at the local swimming pool..."), Heritage Forests Campaign ("They promised to defend the rule in the courts, but that promise was quickly abandoned to serve timber interests...").

George Bush has staked his claim in the ongoing battle, within the NRA, over conservation issues. He risks splintering the NRA:
Also fueling the anger in Spokane -- and injecting presidential politics into the argument -- was Robinson's assertion that hunters are being denied access to 26 million acres because of a Clinton-era policy that limits road construction on federal land.

The Bush administration, which has the backing of the NRA in the Nov. 2 election, has moved to limit the roadless rule in national forests. Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), President Bush's Democratic challenger, has said he would reinstate all roadless areas.

The Bush and Kerry campaigns are courting hunters and anglers, whose numbers are large in swing states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania and who tend to turn out to vote. In the 2000 election, the "hook and bullet" vote went mostly to George W. Bush and gun rights were a decisive factor, according to several major hunting and conservation groups. But according to these same organizations, resource extraction efforts by the Bush administration on prime hunting and fishing habitat have upset many outdoorsmen.

In Spokane, many of the outdoor writers said they disputed Robinson's statement that roadless areas are closed to hunters. In fact, roadless areas are open to hunting and fishing, if sportsmen are willing to get out of their cars and ply these areas on foot or horseback.

The best hunting and fishing in Idaho and Oregon -- as measured by the size and number of big game taken and fish caught -- occur in roadless areas, according to two new studies by Trout Unlimited, a conservation group. The studies were presented at the convention.

"I was embarrassed and appalled by what Robinson had to say," said Pat Wray, a member of the Outdoor Writers board of directors. Wray is author of "The Chukar Hunter's Companion" and is a 20-year member of the NRA.

Wray, who drafted the letter of complaint to Robinson, said the NRA struggles with a "basic conundrum" that limits its willingness to protect wildlife habitat.

"Its primary purpose in life is protecting Americans' right to keep and bear arms, but they are trying to play that game in a hunter's realm," Wray said. "The NRA will make a push on behalf of politicians who are strong supporters of gun rights, but very often these are the same people who are the least supportive of efforts to protect hunting habitat from roads, logging and mining."

Wray said there are "a great many hunters out there like me. I am a registered Republican. I am a longtime member of the NRA. But George Bush's administration scares me to death, when it comes to the environment."
See also the SF Chronicle, the Oregonian, the Salt lake Tribune.

This is the type of decision a lame duck President might make - it will energize his opponent's base while risking his own.

Firing of U.S. Park Police Chief Teresa Chambers

Almost two months ago, I went to a panel discussion announcing the unveiling of the Citizens for Sensible Safeguard's Special Interest Takeover Report. Bill Wade, of the Coalition of Concerned National Park Service Retirees, was one of the panelists. He largely focused on the fox-guarding-the-henhouse tendencies of the Bush administration, where political appointees with backgrounds hostile to government agencies are put in charge of said agencies.

The Coalition of Concerned NPS Retirees has been trying to draw attention to the Bush administration's woeful underfunding of the National Park System since its inception.

One of their projects, undertaken last November, was to survey NPS employee opinions of the management of the Park system. The survey found that:
Nearly nine out of 10 current National Park Service (NPS) employees participating in a recent survey are concerned that decisions affecting national parks are based more on politics and special-interest deals than on science and what is best for the parks, according to results of a Campaign to Protect America's Lands survey of NPS workers released today.
One of the clearest examples of politics dominating the NPS is the sad saga of Teresa Chambers, appointed Chief of Park Police in Dec. 2001. In Dec. 2003 she spoke to the Washington Post about low staffing levels. The Park Police are responsible for "icons," like the D.C. monuments and were struggling to meet new staffing requirements passed after 9/11. Just days after she spoke to the Post, she was placed on administrative leave and the NPS initiated proceedings to fire her. In a contentious battle, Chambers' good name and reputation were dragged through the mud - she got the Wilson/Plame treatment. Back in January, Tim Noah of Slate started what is now a five part series on the case, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, where he accused the NPS of "Stalinism" - it will probably be a six part series shortly.

On June 28, Chambers sued for reinstatement. Last Friday, she filed an affidavit seeking immediate reinstatement. Just hours later, the Park Service finished firing her. Saturday her termination was finalized and a gag order lifted; Sunday, she fired back:
"The American people should be afraid of this kind of silencing of professionals in any field," she said. "We should be very concerned as American citizens that people who are experts in their field either can't speak up, or, as we're seeing now in the parks service, won't speak up."
Only two weeks ago, Park Service Deputy Director Donald Murphy circulated a memo reaffirming NPS employees of their right to report "wrongdoing or mismanagement."

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility has set up a webpage, www.honestchief.com, to advocate for Chief Chambers.

7/11/2004

Doxosophers

As might be clear, I recently re-read the two volumes of Pierre Bourdieu's Against the Tyranny of the Market, Acts of Resistance and Firing Back. His work is foreign, yet astonishingly relevant, to a random liberal guy trying to navigate modern political controversies. Consider his resuscitaton of the term doxosopher:

The intellectual world is now the site of a struggle aimed at producing and imposing 'new intellectuals', and therefore a new definition of the intellectual and the intellectual's political role, a new definition of philosophy and the philosopher, henceforward engaged in the vague debates of a political philosophy without technical content, a social science reduced to journalistic commentary for election nights, and uncritical glossing of unscientific opinion polls. Plato had a wonderful word for all these people: doxosophers. These 'technicians of opinion who think themselves wise' (I'm translating the triple meaning of the word) pose the problems of politics in the very same terms in which they are posed by businessmen, politicians and political journalists (in other words the very people who can afford to commission surveys...).
Acts of Resistance 7. Doxa is Plato's word for opinion, or subjective judgment, as opposed to episteme, or systematic knowledge.

Protectionism and Progress

Norman Solomon has an article at Tom Paine on The Media's Class War:

"Whether praising Edwards, bashing him or somewhere in between, the mainstream spectrum of media punditry is on the same page about “globalization” (the misleading buzzword for corporate globalization). Media coverage often equates promoting the trade agendas of huge corporations with providing responsible leadership.

And, in the simple algebra of corporate media, “protectionism” equals “demagogic.” So, in the media worldview, economic populism is like a dog that must be housebroken and kept on a leash. Sometimes, to maintain discipline, it needs to be whacked on the nose with a newspaper.
Perhaps the most pernicious aspect of "globalization" and its embrace by the DLC, is that it has been defined as the progressive position. Opposition to it is seen as retrograde, reactionary. From Pierre Bourdieu:
In order to break with the tradition of the welfare state, the 'think tanks' from which have emerged the political programs of Reagan and Thatcher and, after them, of Clinton, Blair, Schroeder, and Jospin, have had to effect a veritable symbolic counterrevolution and to produce a paradoxical doxa. This doxa is conservative but presents itself as progressive; it seeks the restoration of the past order in some of its most archaic aspects (especially as regards economic relations), yet it passes regressions, reversals, and surrenders off as forward looking reforms or revolutions leading to a whole new age of abundance and liberty (as with the language of the so-called new economy and the celebratory discourse around 'network firms' and the internet). All of this can be clearly seen in the efforts to dismantle the welfare state, that is, to destroy the most precious democratic conquests in the areas of labor legislation, health, social protection, and education. To fight such a progressive-retrogressive policy is to risk appearing conservative even as one defends the most progressive achievements of the past. This situation is all the more paradoxical in that one is led to defend programs or institutions that one wishes in any case to change, such as public services and the national state, which no one could rightly want to preserve as is, or unions or even public schooling, which must be continually subjected to the most merciless critique.
Pierre Bourdieu, For A Scholarship with Commitment, Firing Back: Against the Tyranny of the Market II, 22-23. To abuse Duncan Kennedy and his theory of loopification articulated in The Stages of the Decline of the Public/Private Distinction, 130 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1349 (1982), this is another case where the ends of a continuum appear closer to each other than to the middle.

 

Recent Posts

There Is No Crisis: Protecting the Integrity of Social Security

Articles

Archives

Powered by BloggerWeblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com