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7.27.2004

Obama's speech

Just great. Take 18 minutes to listen to Barack Obama's speech at the DNC. He's the Dem Senator from Illinois.
Here. Requires RealPlayer.

Link to Obama's blog/site here.

(Paul notes I've jumped the gun - currently, B Obama is merely a *State* Senator. Not U.S. Sorry!)


Zakaria on the 9/11 Report

Excellent read (via link at Tacitus.org)

Money grafs:

It is increasingly clear that the conflict in Afghanistan falsely fed the idea that the war against terrorism was a real war. In fact, Afghanistan was an exception. The reality of this threat, the very reason it is so difficult to tackle, is precisely that it cannot be addressed by conventional military means. Yet the prism of war has distorted the vision of important segments of Washington, especially within the Bush administration. This has produced bad strategy. The Yale historian John Lewis Gaddis has written on the Bush administration's strategy and describes its three pillars as hegemony, preemption and unilateralism. All three approaches seem justifiable if you believe that we are in a war that can be won militarily. All are counterproductive in a struggle that seeks to modernize alien societies, win over Muslim moderates and sustain cooperation on intelligence and law enforcement across the world.

The issue of Iraq highlighted these choices. If you believed that this was truly a war, all that mattered was defeating the enemy. If you believed that a broader political struggle was key, then creating a new and modern Iraq was in many ways more important than defeating Saddam Hussein. The administration showed its colors with a brilliant war plan and no postwar planning. Even in Afghanistan, where the war succeeded and the postwar settlement is working (though fragile), the administration's superhawks (such as Donald Rumsfeld) were continually opposed to greater efforts at nation-building. It doesn't help the war on terror, they argued. But it does help the struggle against Islamic extremism. And there is no war on terror that is not fundamentally an ideological struggle.


At Last

One of my standard rants over the last couple years has been that someone needs to clearly unpack the tax cuts and show how much they benefitted the upper-upper crust of American society. Newspaper ads that show how much Cheney or Bush or Lay got from the tax cuts, that sort of thing; maybe people wouldn't care - after all, Cheney probably worked really hard for all that money, and it's more about MY tax cut.

So I was wildly impressed when Clinton made a long departure into his personal relation to the tax cuts last night in his speech opening the DNC. More humorous in person than on the page, but he makes the salient points very clearly. Nice.

(Transcript of entire speech on CNN)

For the first time when America was in a war footing in our whole history, they gave two huge tax cuts, nearly half of which went to the top 1 percent of us.

Now, I'm in that group for the first time in my life.

And you might remember that when I was in office, on occasion, the Republicans were kind of mean to me.

But as soon as I got out and made money, I became part of the most important group in the world to them. It was amazing. I never thought I'd be so well cared for by the president and the Republicans in Congress.

I almost sent them a thank you note for my tax cuts, until I realized that the rest of you were paying the bill for it. And then I thought better of it.

Now look at the choices they made, choices they believed in. They chose to protect my tax cut at all costs while withholding promised funding to the Leave No Child Behind Act, leaving 2.1 million children behind.

They chose to protect my tax cut, while cutting 140,000 unemployed workers out of their job training programs, 100,000 working families out of their child care assistance, and worst of all, while cutting 300,000 poor children out of their after-school programs, when we know it keeps them off the streets, out of trouble, in school, learning, going to college and having a good life.




7.23.2004

Hey Jimmy and Ben, How Does It Feel?

Alleged Jenna/Barbara Bush Chat. Zo, you like the indie rock? I wonder if Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello vote Republican? Not to mention Isaac Brock (actually, I bet Isaac is on the fence).

Nick Reiter II, B.S. from Bensalem PA wrote:
Dear Barbara and Jenna, When is your birthday and who are your favorite singers? Keep up the great work in helping your dad!! Nick
Barbara and Jenna Bush answered:
Nick, since we are twins, we obviously share the same birthday, November 25, 1981. We will be turning 23 in the fall. We both love, love, love music (we inherited it from our Mom -- she has a great old record collection). Our favorite musicians range from reggae artists, like Jimmy Cliff and Bob Marley, to classic rock stars like Paul Simon and Van Morrison. We also love newer musicians like Modest Mouse, The Strokes and Postal Service.


7.22.2004

A Strange Kind of Cowardice

Mystifying. And sort of heartening and sad at the same time.

Flight 93 hijackers crashed plane before cockpit fight.

Relying on the cockpit recorder and flight data, the commission said terrorist-pilot Ziad Jarrah violently rocked the jet's wings and told another hijacker to block the door. With the sounds of fighting outside the cockpit, Jarrah asked, "Is that it? Shall we finish it off?"

Another hijacker, who wasn't identified, replied, "No, not yet. When they all come, we finish it off." Jarrah then began pitching the nose of the plane up and down to throw passengers off balance.

Seconds later, a passenger who wasn't identified yelled, "In the cockpit! If we don't, we die!" And 16 seconds afterward, another passenger yelled, "Roll it!" Investigators previously have said they believe passengers tried to use a food cart to break the cockpit door.

Jarrah said, "Allah is the greatest! Allah is the greatest!", and he asked his fellow hijacker, "Is that it? I mean, shall we put it down?"

The other hijacker answered, "Yes, put it in, and pull it down."

Roughly 90 seconds later, the jet rolled onto its back and crashed into a Pennsylvania field at more than 580 mph, killing everyone aboard


7.21.2004

More Wonkette, Please

AMC to cover DNC for MTV. Say it five times fast.

Article from the Village Voice here. Recorded purely for archival purposes. Good passage:

Any jitters, Wonkette? "I'm feeling nervous, and I worry, but that's my thing; I worry a lot. I'm a worrier." Pushing the joke to an extreme, a Wonkette signature move, as evidenced by her repeated references to John Kerry's allegedly massive endowment (no, not his campaign war chest), Cox riffs, "I hope that worrying will be the new black or the new trucker hat. I'm hoping there are trucker hats that say 'I'M WORRIED' on them. It's not gonna be Williamsburg anymore, it's gonna be Worriesburg." (Going one riff too far is also a Wonkette move.)



7.20.2004

Go Directly to The Head of the Class.


From the WaPo

Bush Defers Decision on CIA Chief
"More recently, White House aides, always speaking anonymously, havefloated other names as they continue looking for a viable nominee. John E.McLaughlin, the deputy director, has taken over as acting head of the CIA,and officials said he is a candidate to hold on to the job.
...
Bush's deputy national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, has also been mentioned in news reports, as has former Navy secretary John F. Lehman,although a White House official said last week Lehman was not underconsideration."

Hmm. Stephen Hadley? The same Stephen Hadley who made sure the '16 words' found their way into the State of the Union? Great guy. I'm really glad he took full responsibility. Now, maybe he'll be head of the CIA. I think that sends the right message about getting intel right, don't you?

From April 2003.
http://slate.msn.com/id/2086029/
...the Bushies earlier this week served up the NSC deputy, Stephen Hadley, who received two memos and at least one phone call from George Tenet in early October warning him off a reference to the yellowcake story in a speech the president was to give in Cincinnati, but somehow forgot about the warning when it was inserted into the State of the Union three and a half months later. In a July 22 press briefing, Bartlett introduced Hadley as "the most senior person in the White House that is in charge of vetting for substantive purposes the President's State of the Union address" (a formulation that, at the very least, is a profound insult to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice), and offered Hadley up to reporters for questioning.
 
Bartlett had earlier claimed that Tenet's only objection to the Cincinnati speech was its specific reference to "550 tons" of yellowcake, but Hadley now retracted that caveat. He said the "550 tons" reference was removed from an early draft at Tenet's request, but that Tenet objected more broadly to a yellowcake reference in a later draft:

[H]e asked that any reference [italics Chatterbox's] to Iraq's attempt to purchase uranium from sources from Africa to be deleted from the speech. The language he was referring to when he made that call was language that said the following—and I'll just quote it—"And the regime has been caught attempting to purchase substantial amounts of uranium oxide from sources in Africa, and a central ingredient in the enrichment process."

Hadley also described an Oct. 6 memo from Tenet, after Hadley had removed the yellowcake reference, explaining why it was important to keep the yellowcake reference out:

"The memorandum describes some weakness in the evidence, the fact that the effort was not particularly significant to Iraq's nuclear ambitions because the Iraqis already had a large stock of uranium oxide in their inventory. The memorandum also stated that the CIA had been telling Congress that the Africa story was one of two issues where we differed with the British intelligence. This memorandum was received by the Situation Room here in the White House, and it was sent to both Dr. Rice and myself. "

Hadley then accepted blame for letting the faulty language into the State of the Union:

"[G]iven the October 5 and 6 CIA memorandum, and my telephone conversation with the DCI Tenet at roughly the some time, I should have recalled at the time of the State of the Union speech that there was controversy associated with the uranium issue. … The President and the National Security Advisor look to me to ensure that the substantive statements in those speeches are the ones in which the President can have confidence. And it is now clear to me that I failed in that responsibility. … "

Hadley added that "Condi wants it clearly understood that she feels a personal responsibility for not recognizing the potential problem presented by those 16 words," but in the context of his remarks it was clear this was merely a gracious gesture. (She was traveling, Bartlett told reporters, and therefore unavailable to elaborate.) 
 


7.15.2004

It Just LOOKS Like We're Homophobic. Really.

NYT piece here. Requires registration blah blah blah blah.

"It's a net loss for Republicans politically," said one prominent Republican in Washington who works closely with the White House. "It does nothing for our base, because they're grumpy about not having it, and it energized a significant portion of their base. I guarantee you that the gay community will give twice as much money and work harder for Kerry now, not so much because they care about marriage per se, but because this effort plays to their fears that we're homophobic."

Gee, I wonder why anyone'd think that?
Oh, wait, here's the money shot: back it as a political issue even though you know it won't pass, then claim this is part of a 'first salvo.' Brilliant! And like, completely unexpected.

"James Thurber, director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University, said Mr. Bush had used the issue skillfully to reassure conservatives without alienating voters in the center.

"It was a classic way to appeal to the conservative values base, knowing full well that it wouldn't pass but that he would still get credit," Mr. Thurber said. "He can say it was the first step, and that he is on the side of his base, but he is not making it a major strategy, theme and message of his campaign nationally."


The other Jim Thurber is probably doing the backstroke in his grave. Hopefully.


7.14.2004

Paging Tom Ridge

Another entry from the Dept. of Tortured Analogy:

"I would argue that the future of our country hangs in the balance because the future of marriage hangs in the balance," said Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa. ".....Isn't that the ultimate homeland security, standing up and defending marriage?"

Pushing on in his case to make himself look like an utter idiot, Santorum continued:

"If you support ... a mother and a father for every child, you are a hater. If you believe that men and women for 5,000 years have bonded together in marriage, you're a gay-basher. Marriage is hate. Marriage is a stain. Marriage is an evil thing. That's what we hear," said Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa.

So...gays who want to be married...think marriage is evil? Isn't the whole movement towards same-sex marriage based on the history of marriage, anyway?

AP: GOP vows to continue push for anti-gay marriage amendment.


7.06.2004

Hold the Indie-Band-Name Pun, Please.

Despite its awful title ("Def Cab for Cutie"), Kaus's humorous paeon to the Scion XB (a car I loathe almost as much as it's bigger, pointier 'milk box on wheels' cousins the Aztek and the Element) nonetheless makes a great point about the evolution of the SUV. To wit:

"I love it. Why? First, it completes the deconstruction of the SUV that began with the "cute ute" Toyota RAV4. The RAV4 answered the question, "What if you kept the SUV's tough, off-road image but subtracted the heavy chassis and gas-chugging V-8?" Then came the Honda Element, which (like the RAV4) had the guts of an economy car but (unlike the RAV4) managed to keep an SUV's cavernous interior volume. Now comes the Scion, which subtracts two more factors in the traditional SUV equation—pointlessly high ground clearance and four-wheel drive."


When I Take You Out In My Slurry

Takes a long time to dig through the article to get to money grafs like this one:

But one defector, an Iraqi scientist, said he had been working on a technical program known as a "protein slurry," and that his work was unrelated to biological weapons. He said he did not know of any other biological weapons activity under way in Iraq. Senate investigators did not discover that his statements contradicted the view that Iraq had an active biological program until they read the original reports of his debriefings from before the war, officials said. A C.I.A. official said the agency still had good reasons to use the defector's information, and has been trying to explain that to the Senate committee. The official would not elaborate.

NYT, requires registration. read the whole article here.

First two grafs:

WASHINGTON, July 5 The Central Intelligence Agency was told by relatives of Iraqi scientists before the war that Baghdad's programs to develop unconventional weapons had been abandoned, but the C.I.A. failed to give that information to President Bush, even as he publicly warned of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's illicit weapons, according to government officials.

The existence of a secret prewar C.I.A. operation to debrief relatives of Iraqi scientists and thea agency's failure to give their statements to the president and other policymakers has been uncovered by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The panel has been investigating the government's handling of prewar intelligence on Iraq's unconventional weapons and plans to release a wide-ranging report this week on the first phase of its inquiry. The report is expected to contain a scathing indictment of the C.I.A. and its leaders for failing to recognize that the evidence they had collected did not justify their assessment that Mr. Hussein had illicit weapons.


7.01.2004

"Can you make it less blue?"

BAGHDAD — Shortly after the interim government of Iraq was installed on Monday morning, a huge flag was hoisted atop a 10-story building at the edge of central Baghdad's green zone, visible to the traffic-trapped motorists nearby. But it was not the blue, white and yellow banner introduced with some fanfare in April by the Iraqi Governing Council. Nor was it the simple red, white, black and green flag that flew over Iraq before the rule of Saddam Hussein. With no formal announcement or decision, Iraq's new leaders, like its history-obsessed people, appear to have embraced the Saddam-era flag — the traditional standard as amended by the dictator shortly after the 1991 Persian Gulf war with the words "God is great" scrawled across its face in Arabic. The same flag was raised over the new Iraqi Embassy in Washington yesterday by Ambassador-designate Rend Rahim and an aide...

Read the rest of the story here.


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