Monday, April 30, 2007
Almost four years after George W. Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, the New York Times reports today that the White House is still looking for an Iraq czar -- or, as National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley puts it, an "implementation and execution manager" who would brief the president each morning and then work with Cabinet secretaries to ensure that they're carrying out White House orders.
On the first point, Hadley seems to have concluded that he's either too busy or otherwise inadequate for the job. He tells the Times that the White House needs someone to work Iraq "full-time, 24/7." "What we need," he says, "is someone with a lot of stature within the government who can make things happen."
Sunday, April 29, 2007
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April 29, 2007
Diplomacy at Its Worst
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
In May 2003, Iran sent a secret proposal to the U.S. for settling our mutual disputes in a “grand bargain.”
It is an astonishing document, for it tries to address a range of U.S. concerns about nuclear weapons, terrorism and Iraq. I’ve placed it and related documents (including multiple drafts of it) on my blog, www.nytimes.com/ontheground.
Hard-liners in the Bush administration killed discussions of a deal, and interviews with key players suggest that was an appalling mistake. There was a real hope for peace; now there is a real danger of war.
Scattered reports of the Iranian proposal have emerged previously, but if you read the full documentary record you’ll see that what the hard-liners killed wasn’t just one faxed Iranian proposal but an entire peace process. The record indicates that officials from the repressive, duplicitous government of Iran pursued peace more energetically and diplomatically than senior Bush administration officials — which makes me ache for my country.
The process began with Afghanistan in 2001-2. Iran and the U.S., both opponents of the Taliban, cooperated closely in stabilizing Afghanistan and providing aid, and unofficial “track two” processes grew to explore opportunities for improved relations.
On the U.S. side, track two involved well-connected former U.S. ambassadors, including Thomas Pickering, Frank Wisner and Nicholas Platt. The Iranian ambassador to the U.N., Javad Zarif, was a central player, as was an Iranian-American professor at Rutgers, Hooshang Amirahmadi, who heads a friendship group called the American Iranian Council.
At a dinner the council sponsored for its board at Ambassador Zarif’s home in September 2002, the group met Iran’s foreign minister, Kamal Kharrazi. According to the notes of Professor Amirahmadi, the foreign minister told the group, “Yes, we are ready to normalize relations,” provided the U.S. made the first move.
This was shaping into a historic opportunity to heal U.S.-Iranian relations, and the track two participants discussed further steps, including joint U.S.-Iranian cooperation against Saddam Hussein. The State Department and National Security Council were fully briefed, and in 2003 Ambassador Zarif met with two U.S. officials, Ryan Crocker and Zalmay Khalilzad, in a series of meetings in Paris and Geneva.
Encouraged, Iran transmitted its “grand bargain” proposals to the U.S. One version was apparently a paraphrase by the Swiss ambassador in Tehran; that was published this year in The Washington Post.
But Iran also sent its own master text of the proposal to the State Department and, through an intermediary, to the White House. I’ve also posted that document, which Iran regards as the definitive one.
In the master document, Iran talks about ensuring “full transparency” and other measures to assure the U.S. that it will not develop nuclear weapons. Iran offers “active Iranian support for Iraqi stabilization.” Iran also contemplates an end to “any material support to Palestinian opposition groups” while pressuring Hamas “to stop violent actions against civilians within” Israel (though not the occupied territories). Iran would support the transition of Hezbollah to be a “mere political organization within Lebanon” and endorse the Saudi initiative calling for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Iran also demanded a lot, including “mutual respect,” abolition of sanctions, access to peaceful nuclear technology and a U.S. statement that Iran did not belong in the “axis of evil.” Many crucial issues, including verification of Iran’s nuclear program, needed to be hammered out. It’s not clear to me that a grand bargain was reachable, but it was definitely worth pursuing — and still is today.
Instead, Bush administration hard-liners aborted the process. Another round of talks had been scheduled for Geneva, and Ambassador Zarif showed up — but not the U.S. side. That undermined Iranian moderates.
A U.S.-Iranian rapprochement could have saved lives in Iraq, isolated Palestinian terrorists and encouraged civil society groups in Iran. But instead the U.S. hard-liners chose to hammer plowshares into swords.
Sunday, April 29, 2007; A01
As the winds and water of Hurricane Katrina were receding, presidential confidante Karen Hughes sent a cable from her State Department office to U.S. ambassadors worldwide.
Titled "Echo-Chamber Message" -- a public relations term for talking points designed to be repeated again and again -- the Sept. 7, 2005, directive was unmistakable: Assure the scores of countries that had pledged or donated aid at the height of the disaster that their largesse had provided Americans "practical help and moral support" and "highlight the concrete benefits hurricane victims are receiving."
Many of the U.S. diplomats who received the message, however, were beginning to witness a more embarrassing reality. They knew the U.S. government was turning down many allies' offers of manpower, supplies and expertise worth untold millions of dollars. Eventually the United States also would fail to collect most of the unprecedented outpouring of international cash assistance for Katrina's victims.
Allies offered $854 million in cash and in oil that was to be sold for cash. But only $40 million has been used so far for disaster victims or reconstruction, according to U.S. officials and contractors. Most of the aid went uncollected, including $400 million worth of oil. Some offers were withdrawn or redirected to private groups such as the Red Cross. The rest has been delayed by red tape and bureaucratic limits on how it can be spent.
In addition, valuable supplies and services -- such as cellphone systems, medicine and cruise ships -- were delayed or declined because the government could not handle them. In some cases, supplies were wasted.
The struggle to apply foreign aid in the aftermath of the hurricane, which has cost U.S. taxpayers more than $125 billion so far, is another reminder of the federal government's difficulty leading the recovery. Reports of government waste and delays or denials of assistance have surfaced repeatedly since hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck in 2005.
Administration officials acknowledged in February 2006 that they were ill prepared to coordinate and distribute foreign aid and that only about half the $126 million received had been put to use. Now, 20 months after Katrina, newly released documents and interviews make clear the magnitude of the troubles.
More than 10,000 pages of cables, telegraphs and e-mails from U.S. diplomats around the globe -- released piecemeal since last fall under the Freedom of Information Act -- provide a fuller account of problems that, at times, mystified generous allies and left U.S. representatives at a loss for an explanation. The documents were obtained by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a public interest group, which provided them to The Washington Post.
In one exchange, State Department officials anguished over whether to tell Italy that its shipments of medicine, gauze and other medical supplies spoiled in the elements for weeks after Katrina's landfall on Aug. 29, 2005, and were destroyed. "Tell them we blew it," one disgusted official wrote. But she hedged: "The flip side is just to dispose of it and not come clean. I could be persuaded."
In another instance, the Department of Homeland Security accepted an offer from Greece on Sept. 3, 2005, to dispatch two cruise ships that could be used free as hotels or hospitals for displaced residents. The deal was rescinded Sept. 15 after it became clear a ship would not arrive before Oct. 10. The U.S. eventually paid $249 million to use Carnival Cruise Lines vessels.
And while television sets worldwide showed images of New Orleans residents begging to be rescued from rooftops as floodwaters rose, U.S. officials turned down countless offers of allied troops and search-and-rescue teams. The most common responses: "sent letter of thanks" and "will keep offer on hand," the new documents show.
Overall, the United States declined 54 of 77 recorded aid offers from three of its staunchest allies: Canada, Britain and Israel, according to a 40-page State Department table of the offers that had been received as of January 2006.
"There is a lack of accountability in where the money comes in and where it goes," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of the public interest group, which called for an investigation into the fate of foreign aid offers. She added: "It's clear that they're trying to hide their ineptitude, incompetence and malfeasance."
In a statement, State Department spokesman Tom Casey said that the U.S. government sincerely appreciated support from around the world and that Katrina had proved to be "a unique event in many ways."
"As we continue our planning for the future, we will draw on the lessons learned from this experience to ensure that we make the best use of any possible foreign assistance that might be offered," Casey said.
Representatives of foreign countries declined to criticize the U.S. response to their aid offers, though some redirected their gifts.
Of $454 million in cash that was pledged by more than 150 countries and foreign organizations, only $126 million from 40 donors was actually received. The biggest gifts were from the United Arab Emirates, $100 million; China and Bahrain, $5 million each; South Korea, $3.8 million; and Taiwan, $2 million.
Bader Bin Saeed, spokesman for the Emirates Embassy in Washington, said that in future disasters, "the UAE would not hesitate to help other countries, whether the U.S. or any other state, in humanitarian efforts."
Kuwait, which made the largest offer, pledged $100 million in cash and $400 million in oil. But the Kuwaitis eventually gave their money to two private groups: $25 million to the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund, a project of the former presidents, and another $25 million to the American Red Cross in February 2006. They still plan to contribute another $50 million, said the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States, Salem Abdullah al-Jaber al-Sabah.
"It was based on my government's assessment of the fastest way to get money to the people that needed it," he said. "The Red Cross was on the ground and action-oriented."
In the White House's February 2006 Katrina report, U.S. officials said Kuwait's $400 million oil donation was to be sold for cash. Sabah said it was an in-kind pledge made when it appeared that U.S. refining capacity was devastated and that the American public would need fuel.
"We have to see what we have to do with that. When you pledge something in-kind, your intention is to give it in-kind. I do not think now the American people are in need of $400 million of fuel and fuel products," he said.
Of the $126 million in cash that has been received, most has not yet been used. More than $60 million was set aside in March 2006 to rebuild schools, colleges and universities, but so far, only $10.4 million has been taken by schools.
Half the $60 million was awarded last fall to 14 Louisiana and Mississippi colleges, but five have not started to claim the money. Only Dillard University in Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College have tapped their full awards, worth $6 million, U.S. Education Department officials said Friday.
Another $30 million was sent to Orleans, St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes in Louisiana and to the state-run Recovery School District in New Orleans to build libraries, laboratories and other facilities for 130 public schools.
But none of that money has been used yet, said Meg Casper, spokeswoman for the Louisiana Department of Education. Allocations were just approved by the state board last week, she said, "so the money should start to flow."
The first concrete program officials announced in October 2005 -- a $66 million contract to a consortium of 10 faith-based and charity groups to provide social services to displaced families -- so far has assisted less than half the 100,000 victims it promised to help, the project director said.
The group, led by the United Methodist Committee on Relief, has spent $30 million of the money it was given to aid about 45,000 evacuees. Senate investigators are questioning some terms in the contract proposal, including a provision to pay consultants for 450 days to train volunteers for the work the committee was paid to do.
Jim Cox, the program director, said that the project is "right on track" but that its strategy of relying on volunteers foundered because of burnout and high turnover. He acknowledged that more people need help than are receiving it and said the program will be extended to March to use available funds.
"The resources aren't there, but these resources certainly are coming," Cox said.
Saturday, April 28, 2007
Friday, April 27, 2007
by Joe Conason —
By appointing corrupt and incompetent cronies to represent the United States, the Bush administration has damaged more than America’s reputation, weakening the international organizations the world depends on now more than ever.
Giuliani hits "a new low in the politics of fear"
By Joe Conason
Thursday, April 26, 2007
The LA Times reports that presidential candidate John McCain was one of three senators who did not show up to vote today on the Iraq war spending bill (it just passed in the Senate). "This is the fourth major Iraq-related vote missed by McCain." But, it's not just Iraq votes that McCain skips. Politico points out that according to Congressional Observer Publications, McCain doesn't show up to vote for much these days. In fact, since January, he has missed one in three votes. Need a little context? The senator's Democratic cohorts, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have both missed just three.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
I've been trying to track the worst explanations for the Virginia Tech massacre, and I don't know how I missed this one. ABC News' Jake Tapper reports that on April 19, days before Newt Gingrich blamed liberalism, Limbaugh went one better, insisting that shooter Cho Seung-hui himself "was a liberal."
How did Limbaugh reach that conclusion about the mentally ill Cho, raised a devout Christian in a red state, who had no apparent political affiliations? "This guy had to be a liberal," the pain-med aficionado told his listeners. "You start railing against the rich and all this other -- this guy's a liberal. He was turned into a liberal somewhere along the line. So it's a liberal that committed this act. Now, the drive-bys will read on a website that I'm attacking liberalism by comparing this guy to them. That's exactly what they do every day, ladies and gentlemen. I'm just pointing out a fact. I am making no extrapolation; I'm just pointing it out."
As I wrote Monday, I'm not aware of any major liberal or Democratic political leader or pundit who has blamed conservatism for Cho, or claimed he was a Republican. And if one did, he or she would be consigned to the outer fringes of Ward Churchill-land. But hate-mongers like Limbaugh have bullied political discourse so far to the right that such claims go unchallenged and even sometimes unreported. Thanks to Tapper for picking up on that one.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
The New York Times
April 22, 2007
Iraq Is the Ultimate Aphrodisiac
By FRANK RICH
PRESIDENT BUSH has skipped the funerals of the troops he sent to Iraq. He took his sweet time to get to Katrina-devastated New Orleans. But last week he raced to Virginia Tech with an alacrity not seen since he hustled from Crawford to Washington to sign a bill interfering in Terri Schiavo’s end-of-life medical care. Mr. Bush assumes the role of mourner in chief on a selective basis, and, as usual with the decider, the decisive factor is politics. Let Walter Reed erupt in scandal, and he’ll take six weeks to show his face — and on a Friday at that, to hide the story in the Saturday papers. The heinous slaughter in Blacksburg, Va., by contrast, was a rare opportunity for him to ostentatiously feel the pain of families whose suffering cannot be blamed on the administration.
But he couldn’t inspire the kind of public acclaim that followed his post-9/11 visit to ground zero or the political comeback that buoyed his predecessor after Oklahoma City. The cancer on the Bush White House, Iraq, is now spreading too fast. The president had barely returned to Washington when the empty hope of the “surge” was hideously mocked by a one-day Baghdad civilian death toll more than five times that of Blacksburg’s. McClatchy Newspapers reported that the death rate for American troops over the past six months was at its all-time high for this war.
At home, the president is also hobbled by the Iraq cancer’s metastasis — the twin implosions of Alberto Gonzales and Paul Wolfowitz. Technically, both men have been pilloried for sins unrelated to the war. The attorney general has repeatedly been caught changing his story about the extent of his involvement in purging eight federal prosecutors. The Financial Times caught the former deputy secretary of defense turned World Bank president privately dictating the extravagant terms of a State Department sinecure for a crony (a k a romantic partner) that showers her with more take-home pay than Condoleezza Rice.
Yet each man’s latest infractions, however serious, are mere misdemeanors next to their roles in the Iraq war. What’s being lost in the Beltway uproar is the extent to which the lying, cronyism and arrogance showcased by the current scandals are of a piece with the lying, cronyism and arrogance that led to all the military funerals that Mr. Bush dares not attend. Having slept through the fraudulent selling of the war, Washington is still having trouble confronting the big picture of the Bush White House. Its dense web of deceit is the deliberate product of its amoral culture, not a haphazard potpourri of individual blunders.
Mr. Gonzales’s politicizing of the Justice Department is a mere bagatelle next to his role as White House counsel in 2002, when he helped shape the administration’s legal argument to justify torture. That paved the way for Abu Ghraib, the episode that destroyed America’s image and gave terrorists a moral victory. But his efforts to sabotage national security didn’t end there. In a front-page exposé lost in the Imus avalanche two Sundays ago, The Washington Post uncovered Mr. Gonzales’s reckless role in vetting the nomination of Bernard Kerik as secretary of homeland security in December 2004.
Mr. Kerik, you may recall, withdrew from consideration for that cabinet post after a week of embarrassing headlines. Back then, the White House ducked any culpability for the mess by attributing it to a single legal issue, a supposedly undocumented nanny, and by pinning it on a single, nonadministration scapegoat, Mr. Kerik’s longtime patron, Rudy Giuliani. The president’s spokesman at the time, Scott McClellan, told reporters that the White House had had “no reason to believe” that Mr. Kerik lied during his vetting process and that it would be inaccurate to say that process had been rushed.
THANKS to John Solomon and Peter Baker of The Post, we now know that Mr. McClellan’s spin was no more accurate than his exoneration of Karl Rove and Scooter Libby in the Wilson leak case. The Kerik vetting process was indeed rushed — by Mr. Gonzales — and the administration had every reason to believe that it was turning over homeland security to a liar. Mr. Gonzales was privy from the get-go to a Kerik dossier ablaze with red flags pointing to “questionable financial deals, an ethics violation, allegations of mismanagement and a top deputy prosecuted for corruption,” not to mention a “friendship with a businessman who was linked to organized crime.” Yet Mr. Gonzales and the president persisted in shoving Mr. Kerik into the top job of an already troubled federal department encompassing 22 agencies, 180,000 employees and the very safety of America in the post-9/11 era.
Mr. Kerik may soon face federal charges, and at a most inopportune time for the Giuliani presidential campaign. But it’s as a paradigm of the Bush White House’s waging of the Iraq war that the Kerik case is most telling. The crucial point to remember is this: Even had there been no alleged improprieties in the former police chief’s New York résumé, there still would have been his public record in Iraq to disqualify him from any administration job.
The year before Mr. Kerik’s nomination to the cabinet, he was dispatched by the president to take charge of training the Iraqi police — and completely failed at that mission. As Rajiv Chandrasekaran recounts in his invaluable chronicle of Green Zone shenanigans, “Imperial Life in the Emerald City,” Mr. Kerik slept all day and held only two staff meetings, one upon arrival and one for the benefit of a Times reporter doing a profile. Rather than train Iraqi police, Mr. Kerik gave upbeat McCain-esque appraisals of the dandy shopping in Baghdad’s markets.
Had Mr. Kerik actually helped stand up an Iraqi police force instead of hastening its descent into a haven for sectarian death squads, there might not now be extended tours for American troops in an open-ended escalation of the war. But in the White House’s priorities, rebuilding Iraq came in a poor third to cronyism and domestic politics. Mr. Kerik’s P.R. usefulness as a symbol of 9/11 was particularly irresistible to an administration that has exploited the carnage of 9/11 in ways both grandiose (to gin up the Iraq invasion) and tacky (in 2004 campaign ads).
Mr. Kerik was an exploiter of 9/11 in his own right: he had commandeered an apartment assigned to ground zero police and rescue workers to carry out his extramarital tryst with the publisher Judith Regan. The sex angle of Mr. Wolfowitz’s scandal is a comparable symptom of the hubris that warped the judgment of those in power after 9/11. Not only did he help secure Shaha Riza her over-the-top raise in 2005, but as The Times reported, he also helped get her a junket to Iraq when he was riding high at the Pentagon in 2003. No one seems to know what she actually accomplished there, but the bill was paid by a Defense Department contractor that has since come under official scrutiny for its noncompetitive contracts and poor performance. So it went with the entire Iraq fiasco.
You don’t have to be a cynic to ask if the White House’s practice of bestowing better jobs on those who bungled the war might be a form of hush money. Mr. Wolfowitz was promoted to the World Bank despite a Pentagon record that included (in part) his prewar hyping of bogus intelligence about W.M.D. and a nonexistent 9/11-Saddam connection; his assurance to the world that Iraq’s oil revenues would pay for reconstruction; and his public humiliation of Gen. Eric Shinseki after the general dared tell Congress (correctly) that several hundred thousand troops would be needed to secure Iraq after the invasion. Once the war began, Mr. Wolfowitz cited national security to bar businesses from noncoalition countries (like Germany) from competing for major contracts in Iraq. That helped ensure the disastrous monopoly of Halliburton and other White House-connected companies, including the one that employed Ms. Riza.
Had Iraqi reconstruction, like the training of Iraqi police, not been betrayed by politics and cronyism, the Iraq story might have a different ending. But maybe not all that different. The cancer on the Bush White House connects and contaminates all its organs. It’s no surprise that one United States attorney fired without plausible cause by the Gonzales Justice Department, Carol Lam, was in hot pursuit of defense contractors with administration connections. Or that another crony brought by Mr. Wolfowitz to the World Bank was caught asking the Air Force secretary to secure a job for her brother at a defense contractor while she was overseeing aspects of the Air Force budget at the White House. A government with values this sleazy couldn’t possibly win a war.
Like the C.I.A. leak case, each new scandal is filling in a different piece of the elaborate White House scheme to cover up the lies that took us into Iraq and the failures that keep us mired there. As the cover-up unravels and Congress steps up its confrontation over the war’s endgame, our desperate president is reverting to his old fear-mongering habit of invoking 9/11 incessantly in every speech. The more we learn, the more it’s clear that he’s the one with reason to be afraid.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Friday, April 20, 2007
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Posted by Sabrina Eaton
Cleveland congressman Dennis Kucinich sent his Democratic colleagues a two-sentence email this morning announcing imminent plans to introduce "Articles of Impeachment with respect to the conduct of Vice President Cheney."
"Please have your staff contact my office," the missive continued,"if you would like to receive a confidential copy of the document prior to its introduction in the House."
Kucinich press secretary Natalie Laber refused to comment on Kucinich's email or to provide any more information about his efforts to push for Cheney's impeachment. The Plain Dealer obtained the email from a different Democratic congressional office.
Cheney's deputy press secretary, Megan McGinn, said she couldn't comment on Kucinich's email because she hadn't seen it.
Asked whether Cheney had done anything he could be impeached for, McGinn replied: "The vice president has had nearly 40 years of government service and has done so in an honorable fashion."
While Democratic activists have called for impeachment of Cheney, President Bush and other administration officials, Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have not expressed interest in doing so.
by Sen. Robert Byrd
Members of Congress are elected to make laws based on sound public policy, not to capitulate to presidential threats. Let the president issue his veto threats, but also let the Congress dutifully represent the will of the people.
The Surge is a Disaster
by Stephen Schlesinger
The addition of more troops has made absolutely no difference to the way this war is being conducted. It has only reinforced the fury of the Sunni irregulars, the Al Qaeda opportunists, the Shiite fundamentalists.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Paul Wolfowitz, the former deputy secretary of defense who helped sell a stupid war, now finds himself in a bit of trouble. As head of the World Bank, he secured a cushy pay raise for his girlfriend, lied about it and alienated his staff in the process. Not to worry—President Bush still thinks he’s doing a bang-up job.
As more details emerge from the massacre at Virginia Tech, it has become tragically clear that the least remarkable aspect of the crime was the purchase of the weapons that killed 33 people. An investigation has found that Cho Seung Hui bought two pistols quickly, affordably and, for the most part, legally.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
by Gore Vidal
Whenever The New York Times finally gets the point to what is going on in our native land a celestial choir can be heard in Times Square, shouting hosannas. This happened recently, on April 14th, when they realized that there could be a dark explanation for what W. is doing when he sends a Mr. Bolton, a U.N. hater, to be ambassador to that body or a Mr. Wolfowitz to the World Bank, a man as ignorant of history and finance as the president himself. Maureen Dowd in the Times was allowed to set the pitch for the latest revelations with her “More Con Than Neo” headline. Meanwhile, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of incompetents are now cluttering the Justice Department while known incompetents are in place to wreck from within regulatory systems and even mighty Walter Reed Hospital itself.
And then such investigations that W. has cut back—particularly at the height of the pet food investigation, a matter of such passionate interest to our countrymen.
Needless to say, the Times, instinctively pro-Bush, as it too is an inept creature of our leviathan master: corporate America. But though the Times now notes a mysterious problem with Bush’s general relations to the outside world, the Times, as usual, cannot grasp what so many of us fans of the American Republic can see so clearly: In the name of Manichaean religious cults he is eager to destroy every last trace of the New Deal (privatize Social Security) by destroying both the state and its global imperium.
W.’s love of torture and the death penalty suggests this that is Caligula Redux, but actually he is a home-grown Romulus Augustulus, the last Roman emperor as viewed by the Swiss playwright Friedrich Dürrenmatt and refashioned by me in an English version that played on Broadway in the 1960s. As the play opens, the northern barbarians are closing in on Rome, while the emperor dawdles, neglecting to appoint a “war tsar” to defend the city itself. What is wrong with him? Well, he does have a plan. When Odoaker, the king of the Teutons, arrives, Romulus expects to be executed, but Odoaker also has a plan: The two rulers will unite in a realm of peace. Romulus then admits that all his actions and non-actions had a single end: the destruction of the bloody empire he had inherited.
For the admiring Teutons he holds up an imaginary globe. “Now watch,” he says, as the emperor dissolves his empire. “Look, all of you, once more upon this tinted globe, this dream of a great empire, floating in space, driven by the slightest breath of my lips, yes, look once more upon the far-flung lands encircling the blue sea with its dancing dolphins, these rich provinces golden with wheat, these teeming cities overflowing with life, yes, the empire was once a sun, warming mankind, but at its zenith it scorched the world. Now it is a harmless bubble, and in the hands of the emperor it dissolves into nothing. And, thus, the throne of blood is overturned!”
Obviously, our weird little emperor is incapable of moral reflection, thus inviting us to reflect morally upon him as he has gone about his systematic wrecking of our common empire, which, after 1945, should have come into its own but thanks to Truman et al. it stayed forever at war and now but, Hark! what is the Times chorus singing now? Can it be a new weekend edition? Without troubling news? Or has W. finally snapped our military machine for fun if not global peace. On a high moral ground Romulus the Great disowned his empire. W. the Minuscule, driven by ignorance and greed like his cronies, leaves us defenseless and at sea in a terrorized world of prisons, phony trials, renditions, executions without due process of law, while leaving in the Middle East a vast charnel house which he likes to call “a fledgling democracy.”
At the end of the Broadway play, one Roman soldier (played by Robert Duvall) eager to save Rome joins Romulus but Romulus tells him “the Roman empire has been dissolved,” as surely as W. is dissolving us as hurricanes, tempests, droughts of his making ravage our alabaster cities and amber waves of grain. Ave Atque Vale.
Grievance is something right-wingers do, no matter how much power they have. They are shocked, shocked, that they don't have all the power, shocked and victimized and angry. You could tell it in Bush's response to today's shooting. First he said he was shocked and saddened. Then he said everyone has the right to bear arms. He wouldn't want to let any of those NRA-types imagine for a second that any amount of senseless killing could possibly shake his commitment to a fully-armed populace.
Monday, April 16, 2007
Whoopsie! We lost 5 million e-mails! Thus spoke the White House, as Dan blogged earlier today. And a particularly huge number seem to belong to a certain Mr. Rove. All of these e-mails were exchanged during the period of time U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald investigated in connection with the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson's identity. Fitzgerald had been led to believe that he had a full accounting of official communications during the period in question. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington—a watchdog group that is also representing Joe and Valerie Wilson in their civil suit against administration officials—is now calling on Fitzgerald to re-open his investigation, given that the source of the leak may well have covered his electronic tracks. This is getting fun, isn't it?
Posted by Cameron Scott
By: John Amato
Calling Gov. Corzine a crash dummy is pretty appalling. This was a tragic event, and a serious car wreck, but these morons can't help themselves. Yes, he should have worn his seat belt, but his family are suffering tremendously right now and you'd think they would give it a few days before they turned ugly like they always do.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Former US military leaders have called on the Bush administration to make major cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
In a report, they say global warming poses a serious threat to national security, as the US could be drawn into wars over water and other conflicts.
They appear to criticise President George W Bush's refusal to join an international treaty to cut emissions.
Among the 11 authors are ex-Army chief of staff Gordon Sullivan and Mr Bush's ex-Mid-East peace envoy Anthony Zinni.
The report says the US "must become a more constructive partner" with other nations to fight global warming and deal with its consequences.
It warns that over the next 30 to 40 years, there will be conflicts over water resources, as well as increased instability resulting from rising sea levels and global warming-related refugees.
"The chaos that results can be an incubator of civil strife, genocide and the growth of terrorism," the 35-page report predicts.
'Pay now - or later'
Writing in the report, Gen Zinni, a former commander of US Central Command, says: "It's not hard to make the connection between climate change and instability, or climate change and terrorism."
He adds: "We will pay for this one way or another. We will pay to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today, and we'll have to take an economic hit of some kind.
"Or we will pay the price later in military terms. And that will involve human lives. There will be a human toll."
The report was issued by a Virginia-based national security think-tank, The CNA Corporation, and was written by six retired admirals and five retired generals.
Climate scientists broadly endorsed the report.
But Stanford scientist Terry Root, a joint author of this month's international scientific report on the effects of global warming on life on Earth, said its timescale might be too alarmist, as some of the predicted events - while likely to occur - could take longer than 30 years to happen.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/04/15 16:46:52 GMT
© BBC MMVII
Saturday, April 14, 2007
George W. Bush is upset with the Democrats for wanting to withdraw from Iraq, just when we’ve finally started to make progress. Just starting? The president has been citing “progress” in Iraq for years now, and Jon Stewart has the clips to prove it.
Watch it here.
Friday, April 13, 2007
The Republican front-runner prides himself on his leadership but has an unfortunate history of valuing loyalty over wisdom and stubbornly pursuing ill-conceived policies against the better judgment of experts. Sound familiar?
The New York Times
April 13, 2007
For God’s Sake
By PAUL KRUGMAN
In 1981, Gary North, a leader of the Christian Reconstructionist movement — the openly theocratic wing of the Christian right — suggested that the movement could achieve power by stealth. “Christians must begin to organize politically within the present party structure,” he wrote, “and they must begin to infiltrate the existing institutional order.”
Today, Regent University, founded by the televangelist Pat Robertson to provide “Christian leadership to change the world,” boasts that it has 150 graduates working in the Bush administration.
Unfortunately for the image of the school, where Mr. Robertson is chancellor and president, the most famous of those graduates is Monica Goodling, a product of the university’s law school. She’s the former top aide to Alberto Gonzales who appears central to the scandal of the fired U.S. attorneys and has declared that she will take the Fifth rather than testify to Congress on the matter.
The infiltration of the federal government by large numbers of people seeking to impose a religious agenda — which is very different from simply being people of faith — is one of the most important stories of the last six years. It’s also a story that tends to go underreported, perhaps because journalists are afraid of sounding like conspiracy theorists.
But this conspiracy is no theory. The official platform of the Texas Republican Party pledges to “dispel the myth of the separation of church and state.” And the Texas Republicans now running the country are doing their best to fulfill that pledge.
Kay Cole James, who had extensive connections to the religious right and was the dean of Regent’s government school, was the federal government’s chief personnel officer from 2001 to 2005. (Curious fact: she then took a job with Mitchell Wade, the businessman who bribed Representative Randy “Duke” Cunningham.) And it’s clear that unqualified people were hired throughout the administration because of their religious connections.
For example, The Boston Globe reports on one Regent law school graduate who was interviewed by the Justice Department’s civil rights division. Asked what Supreme Court decision of the past 20 years he most disagreed with, he named the decision to strike down a Texas anti-sodomy law. When he was hired, it was his only job offer.
Or consider George Deutsch, the presidential appointee at NASA who told a Web site designer to add the word “theory” after every mention of the Big Bang, to leave open the possibility of “intelligent design by a creator.” He turned out not to have, as he claimed, a degree from Texas A&M.
One measure of just how many Bushies were appointed to promote a religious agenda is how often a Christian right connection surfaces when we learn about a Bush administration scandal.
There’s Ms. Goodling, of course. But did you know that Rachel Paulose, the U.S. attorney in Minnesota — three of whose deputies recently stepped down, reportedly in protest over her management style — is, according to a local news report, in the habit of quoting Bible verses in the office?
Or there’s the case of Claude Allen, the presidential aide and former deputy secretary of health and human services, who stepped down after being investigated for petty theft. Most press reports, though they mentioned Mr. Allen’s faith, failed to convey the fact that he built his career as a man of the hard-line Christian right.
And there’s another thing most reporting fails to convey: the sheer extremism of these people.
You see, Regent isn’t a religious university the way Loyola or Yeshiva are religious universities. It’s run by someone whose first reaction to 9/11 was to brand it God’s punishment for America’s sins.
Two days after the terrorist attacks, Mr. Robertson held a conversation with Jerry Falwell on Mr. Robertson’s TV show “The 700 Club.” Mr. Falwell laid blame for the attack at the feet of “the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians,” not to mention the A.C.L.U. and People for the American Way. “Well, I totally concur,” said Mr. Robertson.
The Bush administration’s implosion clearly represents a setback for the Christian right’s strategy of infiltration. But it would be wildly premature to declare the danger over. This is a movement that has shown great resilience over the years. It will surely find new champions.
Next week Rudy Giuliani will be speaking at Regent’s Executive Leadership Series.
Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company
Thursday, April 12, 2007
"We have a President who knows absolutely no history, and he is surrounded by men who pay no attention to history. They imagine that they are great politicians inventing something new. In fact, it’s really quite old stuff: tyranny. But they imagine they’re being creative."-Kurt Vonnegut
by Bill Maher
John McCain's not an idiot. I'm sure he knows that it's not safe in Baghdad, but he has to pretend that it's safe in Baghdad because that's what the GOP base wants to hear.
We keep hearing that a significant majority of Americans think the war was a mistake and want the troops out.
And that's true. But those figures are an average of all voters and are pretty deceptive, because most Republicans are still gung-ho about the war. In fact, two-thirds of likely GOP primary voters support what Bush is doing in Iraq. They support the surge. They've swallowed so much Kool-Aid that any change in their diet would kill them.
What this means is, every GOP candidate has to say the war is going great, whether they believe it or not, at least until the primaries are over. Giuliani's very rah-rah about the war, Romney doesn't like to talk about it, but then he has his own religious jihad to worry about. But none of them will be able to say anything other than "the surge is working," or "if we leave now things will get really bad" because the base won't stand for it. And this means they're going to look increasingly ridiculous and out-of-touch as the months go on. And there's no way they can "move to the middle" once the primary is over on an issue like this
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Saturday, April 07, 2007
By MICHAEL R. GORDON and MARK MAZZETTI
WASHINGTON, April 7 — Three months after the United States successfully pressed the United Nations to impose strict sanctions on North Korea because of the country’s nuclear test, Bush administration officials allowed Ethiopia to complete a secret arms purchase from the North, in what appears to be a violation of the restrictions, according to senior American officials.
The United States allowed the arms delivery to go through in January in part because Ethiopia was in the midst of a military offensive against Islamic militias inside Somalia, a campaign that aided the American policy of combating religious extremists in the Horn of Africa.
American officials said that they were still encouraging Ethiopia to wean itself from its longstanding reliance on North Korea for cheap Soviet-era military equipment to supply its armed forces and that Ethiopian officials appeared receptive. But the arms deal is an example of the compromises that result from the clash of two foreign policy absolutes: the Bush administration’s commitment to fighting Islamic radicalism and its effort to starve the North Korean government of money it could use to build up its nuclear weapons program.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, as the administration has made counterterrorism its top foreign policy concern, the White House has sometimes shown a willingness to tolerate misconduct by allies that it might otherwise criticize, like human rights violations in Central Asia and antidemocratic crackdowns in a number of Arab nations.
It is also not the first time that the Bush administration has made an exception for allies in their dealings with North Korea. In 2002, Spain intercepted a ship carrying Scud missiles from North Korea to Yemen. At the time, Yemen was working with the United States to hunt members of Al Qaeda operating within its borders, and after its government protested, the United States asked that the freighter be released. Yemen said at the time that it was the last shipment from an earlier missile purchase and would not be repeated.
American officials from a number of agencies described details of the Ethiopian episode on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing internal Bush administration deliberations.
Several officials said they first learned that Ethiopia planned to receive a delivery of military cargo from North Korea when the country’s government alerted the American Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, after the adoption on Oct. 14 of the United Nations Security Council measure imposing sanctions.
“The Ethiopians came back to us and said, ‘Look, we know we need to transition to different customers, but we just can’t do that overnight,’ ” said one American official, who added that the issue had been handled properly. “They pledged to work with us at the most senior levels.”
American intelligence agencies in late January reported that an Ethiopian cargo ship that was probably carrying tank parts and other military equipment had left a North Korean port.
The value of the shipment is unclear, but Ethiopia purchased $20 million worth of arms from North Korea in 2001, according to American estimates, a pattern that officials said had continued. The United States gives Ethiopia millions of dollars of foreign aid and some nonlethal military equipment.
After a brief debate in Washington, the decision was made not to block the arms deal and to press Ethiopia not to make future purchases.
John R. Bolton, who helped to push the resolution imposing sanctions on North Korea through the Security Council in October, before stepping down as United Nations ambassador, said that the Ethiopians had long known that Washington was concerned about their arms purchases from North Korea and that the Bush administration should not have tolerated the January shipment.
“To make it clear to everyone how strongly we feel on this issue we should have gone to the Ethiopians and said they should send it back,” said Mr. Bolton, who added that he had been unaware of the deal before being contacted for this article. “I know they have been helpful in Somalia, but there is a nuclear weapons program in North Korea that is unhelpful for everybody worldwide.
“Never underestimate the strength of ‘clientitis’ at the State Department,” said Mr. Bolton, using Washington jargon for a situation in which State Department officials are deemed to be overly sympathetic to the countries they conduct diplomacy with.
Sean McCormack, the State Department spokesman, declined to comment on the specifics of the arms shipment but said the United States was “deeply committed to upholding and enforcing U.N. Security Council resolutions.” Repeated efforts to contact the Ethiopian Embassy were unsuccessful.
In other cases, the United States has been strict in enforcing the Security Council resolution. For instance, late last year, American intelligence agencies tracked a North Korean freighter suspected of carrying illicit weapons and pressed several nations to refuse to allow the ship to dock. Myanmar, formerly Burma, allowed it to anchor and insisted that there was no violation.
North Korea conducted its first nuclear test on Oct. 9, and the Security Council resolution, adopted less than a week later, was hailed by President Bush as “swift and tough,” and a “clear message to the leader of North Korea regarding his weapons programs.”
Among the biggest sticking points during the negotiations over the resolution were Chinese and Russian objections to language requiring inspections of ships leaving North Korea. The United States repeatedly pressed China and Russia to agree to the inspections, saying they were essential to enforcing the resolution’s embargo on North Korea’s sale of dangerous weapons, like ballistic missiles. In addition to the ban on the purchase of weapons from North Korea, the resolution also called for a ban on the sale of luxury goods to it and the freezing of its financial assets in banks worldwide.
The measure had special relevance for several African states that have long purchased low-cost military equipment from North Korea. Ethiopia has an arsenal of T-55 tanks that it acquired years ago from the Soviet Union and Eastern European nations. For years, it has turned to North Korea for tank parts and other equipment to keep its military running.
The Ethiopians bought the equipment at a bargain price; the North Koreans received some badly needed cash. In 2005, the Bush administration told Ethiopia and other African nations that it wanted them to phase out their purchases from North Korea. But the Security Council resolution put an international imprimatur on the earlier American request, and the administration sought to reinforce the message.
“They really are one of the larger conventional arms purchasers from North Korea, and we’re pressing them hard and saying, ‘Let’s get you out of that business,’ ” said the American official.
Another American official, who is involved in Africa policy, said: “These are cash on the barrel transactions. The Ethiopians know that they can get the best deal in Pyongyang,” a reference to North Korea’s capital.
In late January, the Central Intelligence Agency reported that an Ethiopian-flagged vessel had left a North Korean port and that its cargo probably included “tank parts,” among other military equipment.
American officials said that the ship, the Tekeze, a modern vessel bought from a company in Montenegro and named after an Ethiopian river, unloaded its cargo in Djibouti, a former French colony where the United States has based Special Operations troops and other military forces. From there, the cargo was transported overland to Ethiopia.
The Security Council resolution’s list of prohibited items included spare parts. Because the cargo was never inspected, some administration officials say the United States cannot say for certain that the shipment violated the resolution.
It is not clear if the United States ever reported the arms shipment to the Security Council. But because the intelligence reports indicated that the cargo was likely to have included tank parts, some Pentagon officials described the shipment as an unambiguous Security Council violation.
American officials said that the Ethiopians acknowledged that the ship was en route and said they needed the military equipment to sustain their Soviet-era military. Ethiopia has a longstanding border dispute with Eritrea, but of more concern to Washington, Ethiopia was also focused on neighboring Somalia, where Islamic forces that had taken over Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, six months earlier were attacking Baidoa, the seat of a relatively powerless transitional government that was formed with the support of the United Nations.
The timing of the shipment was extremely awkward, as the Ethiopian military was preoccupied with Somalia and also quietly cooperating with the United States. Ethiopia began an offensive in Somalia to drive back the Islamic forces and install the transitional government in Mogadishu late last year. The United States was providing it with detailed intelligence about the positions of the Islamic forces and positioned Navy ships off Somalia’s coast to capture fighters trying to escape the battlefield by sea.
On Jan. 7, American AC-130 gunships launched two strikes on terrorist targets from an airstrip inside Ethiopia, though it did not appear that the casualties included any of the few top Qaeda operatives American officials suspected were hiding in Somalia.
After some internal debate, the Bush administration decided not to make an issue of the cargo ship.
American officials insist that they are keeping up the pressure on Ethiopia. While Ethiopia has not provided an ironclad assurance that it will accept no more arms shipments from North Korea, it has told the United States that it will look for other weapons suppliers.
“There was a lot going on at that particular moment in time,” said the senior American official. “They seem to have the readiness to do the right thing.”
Friday, April 06, 2007
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