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Tuesday, August 31, 2004

You Go Girl -- and take Bush and the Neocons with You

NewsMax.com: (Fox News) reported the other day that Dr. Condoleezza Rice, former Stanford Provost and current National Security Advisor has been named "the most powerful woman in the world" by Forbes magazine.



The article didn't say, but maybe the honorary degree she got from University of Louisville put her over the top?

Actually, as I noted in February,
it's hard for me to forgive Rice for not reading what she called a "footnote" to the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate. As it happens, because of a book chapter I'm writing, I read most of that document today.

Let me remind readers of one of the report's central conclusions (this is a part she claimed to have read): "Iraq does not yet have a nuclear weapon or sufficient material to make one." The CIA thought such a weapon would be in Iraq's arsenal by 2007 to 2009...so you can see why it was so urgent to attack in March 2003.

Then again, according to a USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll conducted just days after the 2002 State of the Union address (that's the Niger uranium one), 28% of the respondents said they were "certain [it] is true" that "Iraq has nuclear weapons." Another 49% said it was "likely but not certain."

Do you suppose Rice's statement about not wanting to wait for a mushroom cloud had anything to do with that?

I guess the fact that Rice recommended war in the face of the skeptical intelligence data, helped convince people that it was true, and then made sure the President agreed...means she is powerful! Really powerful.

You also know someone is powerful when she becomes a cultural icon. For instance, supremely talented Texas singer-songwriter Steve Earle has a tune about Dr. Rice on his latest CD. I don't own it (yet), but the San Jose Mercury News had this Saturday:
Over a calypso beat, he [Earle] sings the praises of the former Stanford professor in ``Condi Condi.''

"Sweet and dandy, pretty as can be

"You be the flower and I'll be the bumble bee

"Oh she loves me, oops she loves me not"

"People say you're cold but I think you're hot."

Nobody ever called Earle a shrinking violet. But his new album, "The Revolution Starts . . . Now," which came out Tuesday, is political even by his outspoken standards.
Apparently, the song also includes this line, "Pretty little Condi, precious as can be, Bet you never had another love like me."


Note: The Washington Post says the Earle record is good, though flawed.
It is a "frisky combination of early-'90s-reminiscent alternative country and shuffly, Keith Richards-style rock. While it isn't the record it might have been, much of it is literate and sympathetic in the way the best Earle efforts can be.


Monday, August 30, 2004

Investigations update

I need to update the "neo-convicts" post already.

First, all four investigations I mentioned yesterday may be the same.

The Franklin case is apparently linked to the Plame leak and linked to the Feith op and linked to the Chalabi case.

Former CIA agent and current MSNBC talking head Larry Johnson said the other day that the Franklin affairs "was linked to the investigation on the forged uranium documents." I've found a MSNBC transcript from August 27 on LexisNexis:
I've heard about this investigation for, you know, several months now. And you know it is -- it actually is tied into the forged memo regarding the sale of uranium to Iraq from Niger.

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNSON: What I've been told is that there's a strong belief that the forgery was carried out by Israel in an effort to help build up the evidence to allow the United States to justify going to war. So, this whole thing that started with the outing of Valerie Plame, the CIA officer, started growing and expanding when they saw that there's this forged memo and then people linked to the office of -- in the office of Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Fife [sic] at the Department of Defense were seen as having some very close contacts and sharing information with the Israeli intelligence sources.
The Marshall, Rozen, and Glastris story doesn't mentioned Israeli agents present at the Franklin/Rhode meetings with Ledeen, Ghorbanifar and SISMI in Rome.

Hmmmm.

Warren Strobel of Knight-Ridder more directly makes a connection that I suggested yesterday. The Franklin-Israel investigation does tie directly to the Chalabi-Iran leaks:
An FBI probe into the handling of highly classified material by Pentagon civilians is broader than previously reported, and goes well beyond allegations that a single mid-level analyst gave a top-secret Iran policy document to Israel, three sources familiar with the investigation said Saturday.

The probe, which has been going on for more than two years, also has focused on other civilians in the Secretary of Defense's office, said the sources, who spoke on condition they not be identified, but who have first-hand knowledge of the subject.

In addition, one said, FBI investigators in recent weeks have conducted interviews to determine whether Pentagon officials gave highly classified U.S. intelligence to a leading Iraqi exile group, the Iraqi National Congress, which may in turn have passed it on to Iran....both center on the office of Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith, the Pentagon's No. 3 official.
Richard Sale of UPI links several investigations together indirectly. For example, he ties the "non lawful" intelligence op Feith was allegedly running to the neocons in Vice President Cheney's office -- the primary area of interest to the Plame investigators, apparently:
[William] Luti, a former Navy captain, switched to the Pentagon from Vice President Richard Cheney's staff, according to a congressional investigative memo.

According to other congressional memos, Luti was made deputy undersecretary and reported directly to Feith.

Luti also presided over the NESA office that worked closely with OSP "with sometimes an interchangeable staff," according to one congressional memo described the OSP "as a loose group of acolytes and hired hands" for Cheney, and (Cheney's chief of staff) I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Feith -- all "performing a mixture of intelligence, planning and other unspecified operational duties in support of preordained policy."
In regard to the Chalabi leak, Sale specifically discusses Harold Rhode a great deal, saying that he has had his security clearances lifted in the past (as did Ledeen in the '80s) and may even now be on administrative leave:
According to one former senior U.S. intelligence official who maintained excellent contacts with serving U.S. intelligence officials in the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad, "Rhode practically lived out of (Ahmad) Chalabi's office."

This same source quoted the intelligence official with the CPA as saying, "Rhode was observed by CIA operatives as being constantly on his cell phone to Israel," and that the information that the intelligence officials overheard him passing to Israel was "mind-boggling," this source said.

It dealt with U.S. plans, military deployments, political projects, discussion of Iraq assets, and a host of other sensitive topics, the former senior U.S. intelligence official said.
Sale also reports that Michael Ledeen worked on a contract basis for OSP under Feith!

Cheney's office, where Libby and Hannah worked, dispatched Luti to Feith, who already served as boss to Franklin, Ledeen, and Rhode. Did these guys prompt someone (Israel? Italy?) to cook up the Niger uranium story, burn Plame when that forgery was found out, and leak all kinds of state secrets to their pals in Israel and the INC? And then, Chalabi screwed them all over by leaking to Iran?

That's the picture that may be coming into focus.

It is such a tangled web. Thanks go out to uggabugga for the visual aid.



Notes: Wolfowitz's name is starting to pop up in the stories, but so far I've seen no allegations tied to him.

Also, one potential problem with Sale's story is that he quotes Karen Kwiatkowski and may have used her as a source for many of his claims. Some bloggers wonder if she's 100% reliable on all this, since she allegedly tried to peddle her story to one of Lyndon LaRouche's rags. The Weekly Standard throws a lot of mud too.

Neo-convicts?

If 2002 was the year of the neocon in Washington, 2004 (well, maybe 2005) may yet prove to be the year of the neo-convict.

The neocons and their associates are apparently the subject of three investigations by various parts of the Justice Department and have the attention of several key Democratic members of the Senate Intelligence Committee as well. All these inquiries seem to overlap, as all involve key national security figures and topics.

Here are the investigations. I'll try to highlight a few points of overlap.

1. Most recently, a former Defense Intelligence Agency expert on Iran is apparently under investigation by the FBI for allegedly leaking to Israel information about US policy toward Iran. The Washington Post reported on August 29, 2004:
FBI officials have been quietly investigating for months whether [Lawrence] Franklin gave classified information -- which officials said included a draft of a presidential directive on U.S. policies toward Iran -- to two Israeli lobbyists here who are alleged to have passed it on to the Israeli government.
Franklin works in the Bush Pentagon in the office of William Luti, deputy undersecretary of defense for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs. Luti's office is under the purview of Douglas Feith, the #3 man in Secretary's Rumsfeld's civilian chain-of-command.

Franklin last appeared in this blog as part of a travel story, as he and some prominent neocons had an interesting adventure in Rome during December 2001 and June 2002.

More on that below.

2. Earlier this summer (the first week of June), various media sources reported that Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad Chalabi leaked to Iran highly classified US intelligence information. The fear is that Chalabi told Iran that the US had broken its codes -- and could therefore easily monitor Tehran's secret communications. From Newsweek:
"This is an enormous loss to the U.S. intelligence community," one former U.S. intelligence official said today about the reported leak of the secret code system. "Obviously, the Iranians are not going to use that code anymore. We're going from having a complete window into what their intelligence service was doing to having no window at all."
That's very bad, whether you think Iran is evil, or not.

Where did Chalabi receive top US secrets? That is the $100,000 question:
[There are a] spate of media reports alleging that Chalabi or one of his associates told the Iranians that U.S. intelligence had cracked a secret code system used by the Iranian intelligence service. U.S. political activists close to Chalabi have told reporters in recent days that Chalabi learned about the codebreaking in Baghdad from a drunken U.S. official....

But, given that Chalabi is not a U.S. citizen and does not have a U.S. security clearance, the more critical issue for investigators will be to find out who in the U.S. government might have leaked such highly sensitive information to Chalabi and the INC, some officials say. Law-enforcement sources indicated that the American investigation will likely focus on whether sensitive information might have been leaked to Chalabi by officials in either the Pentagon or the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad.
Some sources say the investigation is centering upon US authorities based in Baghdad.

The New York Times more specifically said that investigators were taking aim at Chalabi's neocon supporters, but didn't name any names:
The inquiry, still in an early phase, is focused on a very small number of people who were close to Mr. Chalabi and also had access to the highly restricted information about the Iran code.

Some of the people the F.B.I. expects to interview are civilians at the Pentagon who were among Mr. Chalabi's strongest supporters and served as his main point of contact with the government, the officials said.
After a little digging on the internet, I discovered two guys who are often named as suspects by bloggers.

First, consider Harold Rhode, who met with Michael Ledeen, Manucher Ghorbanifar, Larry Franklin, and the head of Italian Intelligence (SISMI) in Rome in December 2001, possibly to talk about Iraq's alleged uranium trade:
Rhode got another big break when Pentagon hawks sent him to Baghdad this spring as their chief liaison (read: handler) to Iraqi National Congress chief Ahmed Chalabi, the hawks' favorite exile.

But problems cropped up then, too, when, during his stay at the occupation headquarters in Baghdad, Rhode quickly alienated most of the American military and civilian pros in the country...Later he holed himself up with Chalabi at the latter's hunt-club headquarters...
So after working with Feith in the DoD, Rhode was Chalabi's handler in Iraq and lived in his compound. Interesting, eh?

Anyone else a viable possibility? Well, I always shop for neocons at Benador Associates. From the agency's webpage:
Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, having recently served 18 months in the Office of the Secretary of Defense as an Iraq and Iran advisor, during which time he was also seconded to the Coalition Provisional Authority [CPA] governance team. The only CPA official to live outside the American security bubble, Rubin was free to travel Iraq and without restriction to a single region, and so was able to maintain extensive contacts with ordinary Iraqis, be they Arab Sunnis or Shi'a, or Kurds.
Both Rubin and Rhode are neocons who were living in Iraq, had ready access to Chalabi, and served in the Pentagon during the buildup to the war.

Motive, means and opportunity?

3. As I've occasionally discussed, someone leaked Valerie Plame's name in an attempt to discredit Joseph Wilson in June 2003. At the time, Wilson was publicly challenging the administration's claim that it had not known that the uranium from Africa story was based on fabricated documents at the time of the President's 2003 State of the Union Address.

While some fingers were first pointed at Karl Rove, the Justice Department investigation has apparently centered upon the neocons in the Vice President's office: Lewis "Scooter" Libby's name has appeared prominently, as has John Hannah's , in numerous news stories.

Libby is a neocon who signed the Project for a New American Century's "Statement of Principles," dated June 3, 1997. Other notable Bush administration signatories include Elliott Abrams, Jeb Bush, Dick Cheney, Zalmay Khalilzad, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz.

I'm not sure why Feith was not part of PNAC, but he did work for Richard Perle in DoD earlier in his career.

4. In an attachment to the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Iraq, US Senators Jay Rockefeller (WV), Richard Durbin (IL) and Carl Levin (MI) criticize Doug Feith's office for running a private intelligence failure that was "non lawful" during the runup to the war in Iraq. Here's what they say:
The Intelligence Community’s findings did not support the link between Iraq and the 9/11 plot Administration policy officials wanted to help galvanize public support for military action in Iraq. As a result, officials under the direction of Under Secretary Feith took it upon themselves to push for a change in the intelligence analysis so that it bolstered Administration policy statements and goals.
After Feith and crew failed to convince the intelligence agencies to change their assessment, they took their case directly to the White House in a September 16, 2002, briefing. CIA Director George Tenet learned of this briefing in March 2004.
Following the publication of the Intelligence Community’s terrorism and weapons of mass destruction analytical estimates and the subsequent congressional vote authorizing the use of force in Iraq, Administration public statements leading up to the war became increasingly hyperbolic and urgent.

The qualifications the Intelligence Community placed on what it assessed about Iraq’s links to terrorism and alleged weapons of mass destruction programs were spurned by top Bush Administration officials, early casualties in the war with Iraq....

By the time American troops had been deployed overseas and were poised to attack Iraq, the Administration had skillfully manipulated and cowed the Intelligence Community into approving public statements that conveyed a level of conviction and certainty that was not supported by an objective reading of the underlying intelligence reporting.
Again, Rockefeller called Feith's intelligence op "non-lawful," but it's hard to say whether he was referring to the Office of Special Plans, the Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group or the Rome adventure.

Maybe it's a trifecta?

In any case, all these investigations (save the Plame) are focusing on the same small group of neocons who are suddenly facing some serious problems.

As Jim Lobe wrote back in June, "the neocon retreat has turned into a rout."

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Cheering Bush

The Republican National Convention is about to begin.

What will we hear?

Lots and lots of cheering, of course.

Expect President Bush and his party to cheer the "war on terror" -- and claim that Iraq is a key front.

They'll cheer the tax cuts -- and claim that those cuts are helping the economy.

They'll cheer their own dominance of the US political system, as they currently control the White House, the Congress, the Supreme Court, most of the state governorships, and most state legislative bodies.

Do you remember the cheerleaders from high school, who cheered the home team no matter how pathetic they might have been?

It'll be kind of like that.

After all, the cheerleader-in-chief has previous experience:



Saturday, August 28, 2004

Earnest, but dry

Rochelle Renford of the local Leo weekly (the title acronym stands for Louisville's eccentric observer) wrote about blogs in the issue dated August 25, 2004.

"Do your part: Read a blog," she declared.

And the very first recommendation?
• Roger A. Payne’s Blog (http://rpayne.blogspot.com): He’s not funny; in fact, he’s kind of depressing in an earnest, caring-about-the-country’s-future way, but you could quite possibly learn more than a little something.
Of course, she left out the "d" and the on-line article doesn't have working links...but thanks, I guess.


Note: When I spell-checked this post (which I too rarely do, but since I mentioned spelling...), the blogspot software recommended I replace the word "blog" with "bloc" or some other word. Hmmm.

Friday, August 27, 2004

The Biggest SBVT Lie

If you read a few right-leaning blogs about the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth...you'll quickly think of 100s of things you'd rather do...wash the outside of your second story windows, clean out the garage, finally start that exercise regime...finish the great American novel you started sophomore year in college...you get the idea.

Still, I do want to emphasize a point I've learned the last couple of days by checking on the right:
The right claims that the SBVT are merely responding to John Kerry, who made his Vietnam service the centerpiece of his campaign.
Hmmmm? Is that so?

I followed the Democratic campaign and primaries very closely. Go back and read my archives if you don't believe me.

Wes Clark made his military service the center of his failed campaign, but John Kerry talked about lots and lots of issues during the campaign. Kerry most certainly did not make his Vietnam experience the centerpiece of his campaign.

There, I've said it so it must be true. Actually, I know my readers have a higher standard of proof, so...

Note: Kerry did talk a great deal about security issues, but it was perfectly logical for the candidate to remind voters that he had some personal experience in the military.

Moreover, I acknowledge that Kerry emphasized his Vietnam service at the Democratic National Convention. Presumably, Kerry and his backers wanted to introduce the candidate to the non-party faithful that were paying attention to the candidate for the first time. Those November voters weren't paying much attention during the primaries when the Democrats were discussing health care, energy independence, the Bush tax cuts (and deficits) and other domestic issues, as well as terrorism and, of course, Iraq.

Why did they playup the Vietnam experience at the Convention? My theory is that they didn't want the Republicans to define Kerry...as a liberal Massachusetts Senator who is a threat to national security.

Why would the Dems think that was possible? Well, maybe they recalled the 1988 election, listened to Republicans talk about Ted Kennedy for decades, and watched President Bush's TV ads throughout the spring and summer of 2004.

My question for the right: if Kerry only started emphasizing his Vietnam service at the Democratic National Convention, how did the Swift Vote jokers manage to produce a book about his service in such short order? As The Washington Times reported on July 30, 2004, which was the day after Kerry's convention speech, the Swiftees already had a book in the pipeline. John O'Neill's screed was due September 25, but actually went on sale August 11. Indeed, it was supposedly already #2 on amazon's best-seller list on July 30, and had already been featured prominently on Drudge.

So, right-leaning readers (both of you), does that sound like a reaction to Kerry's convention?

To my mind, Kerry and the Dems were simply striking preemptively in July. As Digby points out, imagine what the Swift Boat stories would sound like if the Dems hadn't seen and heard Kerry's "band of brothers" at the convention?

There was very good reason for the Dems to think ahead. O'Neill has been after Kerry since the early 1970s. He's the same guy that helped Bush/Rove smear McCain in 2000 and has been after Kerry/McCain together since they collaborated on Vietnam MIA issues years ago.

I know that publishers can produce books in a relatively short time frame, but how can a book that was already #2 on the best-seller list the day after Kerry's speech be a reaction to that speech? Obviously, this book was in the works for months, likely initiated sometime in February or March when it was apparent that he would be the Democratic nominee.

Major Wall Street Republican Jumps Ship

Two weeks ago, The New York Times ran a book review by Christopher Caldwell of Peter G. Peterson's RUNNING ON EMPTY How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It.

The author makes a pretty damning charge:
Thanks to three unaffordable tax cuts and an unfinanced Medicare drug benefit that will eventually cost $2 trillion a decade, Mr. Peterson writes, "this administration and the Republican Congress have presided over the biggest, most reckless deterioration of America's finances in history."
Lots of partisan Democrats probably feel this way, so you probably aren't too surprised to read this quote here.

So, why am I bothering to note it?

Well, Peterson is yet another Republican who has abandoned his party in 2004. He was Secretary of Commerce under Richard Nixon and later chaired the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

The book, by the way, apparently take plenty of potshots against Democrats, mostly for increasing spending on various government programs. But the most striking criticism is reserved for Bush because of the combined effect of the new spending (represented by the Medicare plan) and the enormous deficits caused by the huge tax cuts.

If you've lost track, I've posted on this Republican thread here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. There may be more.


Note: Thanks to one of my colleages for highlighting the Peterson quote in a recent letter-to-the-editor of the Louisville Courier Journal. I cannot find that letter on-line.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Bush's Youth

The swiftboat controversy has resulted in a great deal of media scrutiny of John Kerry's youth.

In fairness, shouldn't they also be asking about the President's youth?

And perhaps about Dick Cheney's youth?

Of course, in regard to Cheney, Michael Tomasky is on-point:
there exists no Vietnam Veterans for the Truth About Deferments, financed by wealthy Democratic donors and out peddling its wares
Cheney received a series of deferments in response to his country's call to go to Vietnam.

In 2000, the media noted a bit about George W. Bush's life in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This is from the BBC:
Bush's time at Yale is said to have been dominated by drinking and partying with other members of the Skull and Bones fraternity.

After graduation, he joined the Texas national guard as a pilot - despite a poor test grade and a long waiting list - prompting recent allegations that his family pulled strings to keep him out of Vietnam.

He has characterised these years as aimless. "When I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible," he once said.
Readers who've seen the swiftboad TV ads probably want more information. "Details," you might declare, "we want details!"

On the issue of Vietnam Bush has sometimes been quite candid about his strong desire not to go to Vietnam:
In 1994, the President told the Houston Chronicle, in relation to his joining the National Guard, "I was not prepared to shoot my eardrum out with a shotgun in order to get a deferment, nor was I willing to go to Canada, so I chose to better myself by learning how to fly airplanes."
Remember, on his enlistment forms, Bush checked the box that said: "Do Not Volunteer For Overseas" duty.

The former speaker of the Texas state legislature has testified under oath that he was asked by a Bush family friend to help Bush get into the Guard -- and that he did intervene successfully on Bush's behalf. Remember, Bush had the lowest score acceptable (25%) and was sworn in on the day he applied.

Many other bloggers have covered the gaps in Bush's National Guard story, so I'll just note that some interesting unanswered questions remain about a 5 or 6 month period in Alabama, when Bush did not show up for drills -- and apparently did not make them up either. Bottom line: where's the DD214 or NGB22 form that would clearly answer all the important questions, perhaps even why Bush failed to show up for a required physical in 1972?

The AP has sued for more complete records, so there's a chance this story could still go somewhere before the election.

In any event, what else was up with the President in those years? Let's go back to the BBC story from the 2000 election:
Asked by one reporter if he would pass a White House background check, Bush replied that he had not taken drugs for seven years.

That date was soon moved further back to 1974 but he has refused to rule out any drug abuse at any point.
That's right, Kerry is being asked detailed questions about the bullets that were flying at him during an ambush, and how much he bled from particular shrapnel wounds, but the President has historically refused to answer detailed media questions about his own behavior during this same time:
"I've told the people of this country that, over 20 years ago, I made some mistakes when I was younger. I've learned from those mistakes," Bush said....

Bush spokeswoman Mindy Tucker later said the Republican presidential front-runner was saying that he has not used illegal drugs at any time since 1974, when the 53-year-old Bush was 28.
I'm quoting from a story, by the way, that appeared during the Republican primary season when opponents like Steve Forbes were hinting that candidate Bush should be a bit more forthcoming:
The Texas governor is the only major presidential candidate who has not answered the question about whether he has ever used cocaine.
This is why Michael Moore used a bit of Eric Clapton's tune in "F 9/11."

For those trying to recall details of Bush's life, he entered Harvard Business School at age 27, after receiving his early exit from the National Guard.

Bush says his religious conversion occurred in 1986.



Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Youth Will be Served

Classes have started, so I am again surrounded by young men and women and teaching about American Foreign Policy. I have 2 sections and 85 total students this term.

What do I tell them? Am I biased if I make my views on the war in Iraq crystal clear? What about if I state the administration's case and then attempt to undermine it completely?

Ultimately, I decided to have them read a couple of studies from the US Army War College by Jeffrey Record (one is coauthored with Andrew Terrill): Bounding the Global War on Terrorism and Iraq and Vietnam: Differences, Similarities and Insights. These are in addition to some sections of the State Department's annual Patterns of Global Terrorism and the White House's September 2002 National Security Strategy document.

They are also reading a couple of chapters from the 9/11 Commission Final Report, the Executive Summary of Walsh's Iran/contra report, and a John Kerry speech.

At some point, perhaps I should just appeal to their most basic interests...

After all, as Herbert Hoover(!) apparently once said:
"Older men declare war. But it is the youth that must fight and die."
And from Herodotus:
"In peace, sons bury their fathers; in war, fathers bury their sons."
Can anything be done about that reality?

P.J. O'Rourke, who may or may not be kidding, recently advocated for a different system:
Killing is not as physical as it once was. It's time for young, hopeful people to be relieved of fighting duties. War should be fought by the middle-aged men who are the ones who decide that war should be fought anyway. We don't have our whole lives in front of us. We're already staring down the barrel of heart disease and SEC investigations. Being wrenched from home, family, and job would not be that wrenching for many of us.
Albert Einstein was perhaps more realistic:
"The pioneers of a warless world are the youth who refuse military service."

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Alfred French Lied in his Affadavit

I haven't commented too much about the slimey swiftboat veteran ads. One after another of the stories by the 13 men appearing in those ads have been completely discredited and I haven't had much to add to that.

However, I saw this today, from ABCNEWS.com.

The swift boat critics signed an affidavit that said this:
"I am able to swear, as I do hereby swear, that all facts and statements contained in this affidavit are true and correct and within my personal knowledge and belief."

It goes on to say that "Kerry has wildly exaggerated and lied about his record in Vietnam" and that he received his Purple Heart medals "in the absence of hostile fire."
Pretty damning stuff, at least potentially.

One of the men appearing in the ad, however, now faces his own political troubles. He's a prosecutor, and probably shouldn't have been swearing to events that he did not personally witness.
Alfred French of the Clackamas County district attorney's office appears in the ad sponsored by the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. In the spot, French says: "I served with John Kerry. ... He is lying about his record."

In an interview The Oregonian newspaper last week, French said he relied on the accounts of three other veterans in making the statement about Kerry and did not personally witness the events.
Bottom line: Alfred French's account is based almost entirely on hearsay evidence. Heck, here's the quote from French:
"I was not a witness to these events but my friends were," said French.
Personally, I never saw George Bush drink or use drugs, but...you see where this kind of crap can go?

The Oregon county prosecutor's affadavit is quite detailed considering he wasn't even there:
French wrote in his affidavit that two of Kerry's Purple Hearts were obtained under "false pretenses from negligently self-inflicted grenade wounds in the absence of hostile fire."
By way of contrast, here's the first-hand account of Jim Rassmann, the guy Kerry pulled out of the water:
"I don't know if you were ever shot at," said Rassmann, who also appears in a new TV commercial for Kerry, ". . . but it tends to focus the mind wonderfully, and you will never forget it. When you have bullets hitting the water around your head and torso, you know exactly what they are."
These attacks are the lowest form of politics and George W. Bush should be held accountable for them.

Update: I found this in the section on "professionalism" in Oregon Bar Association's rules (adopted October 1990):
1.11 We will avoid unjust and improper criticism and personal attacks on opponents, judges, and others and will refrain from asserting untenable positions.

4.3 We will avoid advertising that is not fair, factual, informative, sensitive to the recipients, or beneficial to the public.
Note too this:
Compliance with high standards of professionalism depends primarily upon understanding the value to clients, the legal system, the public, and lawyers of adhering to the voluntary standards. Secondarily, compliance depends upon reinforcement by peer pressure and public opinion, and finally, when necessary, by enforcement by the courts through their powers and rules already in existence.
This is FYI:

Contacting the Discipline Department
Oregon State Bar
Disciplinary Counsel’s Office
P.O. Box 1689
Lake Oswego, OR 97035-0889

503-620-0222 or toll free in Oregon 800-452-8260

For more information, contact Jeff Sapiro, Disciplinary Counsel, by e-mail at jsapiro@osbar.org, or by telephone at extension 319.

If you make contact, be nice...and specific.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Has Bush Lost His Mojo?

According to the conventional wisdom (or at least Republican talking points), George Bush can win reelection in 2004 because of his leadership fighting the "war on terror." Most presidential elections turn on perceptions about the state of the economy, which is not good if you are the first president since Herbert Hoover to govern during a period of net job loss.

Luckily for the President, polls show that people are going to vote on foreign policy and national security questions, and they still think Bush is doing a good job -- despite the mounting evidence accumulated in this blog and elsewhere.

So, what should the Democrats do about the apparent public perceptions that Bush is a good leader for the "war on terror"?

Can they steal Bush's mojo?

Maybe the Dems should just wait patiently, as at least one source says the President's ratings may be about to slide.

I received a link to the following report in email from Media Tenor today:
President Bush's ratings on anti-terror policies are likely to decrease in the next weeks. A study by Media Tenor, a non-partisan, independent institute analyzing the presidential campaign coverage, shows the connection between TV network coverage of Bush's anti-terror policies and public approval ratings on his handling of terrorism.

While the media has turned more critical of Bush's anti-terror policies, the public, according to the latest Gallup poll, still highly approves of Bush's handling of terrorism. However, this public approval is not likely to persist. Media Tenor's study of media trends and their effect on public opinion has shown that the view of a situation or issue presented on TV usually impacts public opinion within the following two weeks. When TV ratings of Bush's handling of terrorism were high, public opinion followed approximately two weeks later. Likewise, media criticism of Bush's anti-terror policies has also affected public opinion.
The group, Media Tenor, describes itself as "the world's leading provider of international media content analysis and provides in-depth analysis of new and traditional media content worldwide." It has offices in NY, London, Bonn/Berlin, Monaco, Pretoria and Ostrava (CZ).

[Page down for the graphic and rest of this post, which is apparently too wide to fit the space]


Source: Gallup Report, August 9-11: “Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling terrorism?”

Basis: Total of 408 statements in ABC, NBC and CBS news 3/29 -8/12/2004

Media Tenor also has a page that monitors the media coverage of Bush and Kerry. From August 2-12, the group claims Kerry got slightly positive coverage, while Bush's was somewhat more negative. CBS was the most neutral toward the President, ABC the kindest to Kerry.

Anyone know more about this outfit? They seem to have some interesting material about Al Jazeera, Tony Blair and various demographic groups (age, race, etc.). It's all in the context of mass media coverage.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Bob Dylan: Live And In Person!

From the Bob Dylan: Live And In Person! website, last night's setlist:
Lexington, Tennesee [Kentucky!]
Applebee's Park
August 21, 2004

Maggie's Farm
The Times They Are A-Changin'
Cold Irons Bound
I Shall Be Released [with Willie Nelson]
Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum
Stuck Inside of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again
Blind Willie McTell
Watching The River Flow
I Believe In You
Honest With Me
The Ballad of Hollis Brown
Summer Days

Like A Rolling Stone
All Along The Watchtower
I heard a lot of people complaining about his voice, and few people could understand the words...but it was fun.

From the Lexington Herald-Leader:
the master pop poet submerged the show in rock 'n' roll.

Dressed in a black suit and white cowboy hat, Dylan remained a mysterious presence onstage. He hardly spoke a word to the audience. He played a small, stage right keyboard instead of guitar. And his voice -- a scorched, raspy wail -- was positively ghostly.

But with the roar of a highly functional quartet to back him up, Dylan ran from the quiet and mostly acoustic menace of 1964's The Ballad of Hollis Brown to the dark, thundering twang (fortified by guitarists Larry Campbell and Stu Kimball) of 1997's Cold Irons Bound.

Best of all, the often detached Dylan looked to be having a ball as he flashed huge grins to his bandmates during the bluesy rumble Honest With Me. Such a moment hardly demystified Dylan. But it certainly presented him as an involved, invigorated and, yes, very human rock 'n' roll voice.
Willie Nelson was good, my wife and kids liked his set better than Dylan's.

We saw Nelson a year or two ago in Louisville, and this show wasn't all that different. Nelson plays his hits in almost sing-along style, and everyone has a pretty good time. He also played a couple of Hank Williams hits, which everyone in this part of the world learns from birth.

The warmup act was Hot Club of Cowtown, which played a lot of Texas swing. Not bad.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

"The feel-good hit of this endless summer"

That's a line from "The Ballad of the Kingsmen" by alt.country musician Todd Snider. If you haven't heard the song, find it and give it a listen. Call your local radio station or visit your favorite CD store. Or buy it from Snider's record company.

The title refers to the song "Louie, Louie," by the Kingsmen, which was supposedly the subject of a long-ago FBI investigation because of hard-to-understand lyrics. Even if that's a myth, it serves an artistic purpose for Todd Snider.

According to reviewer Peter Cooper, writing this past Monday (August 16) in the East Nashville Skyline Snider is making a valuable statement about contemporary American life, sort of like the point addressed in Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine":
what messes up kids' heads isn't their music, but a conflicting, war vs. meek-shall-inherit, free-market vs. love-thy-neighbor upbringing that can make the world harder to understand than Louie Louie's garbled verses. ''The next time some latchkey kid goes wrong/ It ain't gonna be because Eminem gets to say the word (expletive) in his song,'' he [Snider] advises.
Cooper called the song "unbelievably, undeniably stunning" and also wrote that "stunning doesn't begin to describe" the CD.

Needless to say, Cooper gave the recording four stars.

Cooper's praise may be a little over the top but it is a damn fine song and I wish I could hear it again.

Right now.



The CD is on Oh Boy Records.

For my DC area readers, note that Snider will be in Alexandria, VA at the Birchmere on August 26 and in Germantown, MD on the 28th at the Black Rock Center for the Arts.


Note: This weekend I'll be taking in Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson, who are touring minor league ballparks.

Cross your fingers for me as they did have one rainout.

Republican House Member Jumps Ship

I've blogged about a number of Republicans who have abandoned the GOP on Iraq and other important issues of the day, such as the environment.

Here's another one, at least on Iraq: outgoing Representative Doug Bereuter of Nebraska.

Bereuter served more than a quarter century in Congress, including many years on the House International Relations Committee and service as the vice chair of the House Intelligence Committee.

Here's what he wrote to his constituents recently, as reported by the Associated Press:
"I've reached the conclusion, retrospectively, now that the inadequate intelligence and faulty conclusions are being revealed, that all things being considered, it was a mistake to launch that military action," Representative Doug Bereuter wrote in a letter to his constituents.

"Left unresolved for now is whether intelligence was intentionally misconstrued to justify military action."
There's more, and it's clear that this House member, despite voting for and speaking in favor of the 2002 congressional resolution on Iraq, disagrees sharply with the neocons who hijacked administration policy:
"From the beginning of the conflict, it was doubtful that we for long would be seen as liberators, but instead increasingly as an occupying force," Bereuter wrote. "Now we are immersed in a dangerous, costly mess, and there is no easy and quick way to end our responsibilities in Iraq without creating bigger future problems in the region and, in general, in the Muslim world."

As a result, he said, "our country's reputation around the world has never been lower and our alliances are weakened."
As Kos points out, Bereuter represents a district Dems could win this November, and, because of Nebraska law, could even win an Electoral vote (Maine also allows electoral vote splitting).

The Nebraska Congressman refused to answer reporters' questions about his missive, but a spokesperson said the letter "speaks for itself."

Indeed.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Ha Ha Ha

The San Jose Mercury News had an interesting story Monday about political humor and this year's presidential race.

The journalist, Mark de la ViƱa, found some academics to play up the importance of comedy:
Comedians, unlike many mainstream media outlets, can -- and increasingly do -- express what the average citizen is thinking, says Frederick Turner, assistant professor of communications at Stanford University.

``Sometimes, information is too hard to take in all at once, and that's one thing that comedians do in a culture -- they serve as early warning systems. They're the clowns who can tell the truth, the clowns who can say the emperor has no clothes,'' notes Turner, who specializes in media and American cultural history.
One scholar even thinks comedians constitute a "fifth estate" and help make the press (the "fourth estate") accountable:
Those jokes and more like them are playing an important role in the run up to the election, [Robert J.] Thompson [professor of popular culture at Syracuse University] maintains. Though journalism was long ago dubbed the ``fourth estate,'' helping keep the three branches of government in check, humor is now doing something that far transcends escapism, he argues.

``I'd go so far to say that comedy is the fifth estate,'' Thompson adds. ``It's able to report certain ideas in keeping up with what the government is doing. In some ways, the fifth estate of comedy is able to keep the fourth estate of journalism in line.''
This may be overstated, but it is interesting...

A good portion of the article talks about the importance of Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show" (which is perhaps most important to relatively younger audiences):
Leading the charge is Comedy Central's ``The Daily Show'' the news-program satire hosted by Jon Stewart. It has a ``huge influence on what other comedians are doing,'' according to Robert J. Thompson, professor of popular culture at Syracuse University, ``and political leaders, the establishment and the intellectual minority are paying attention.''

``The Daily Show'' has been broadcasting hard-hitting pieces that, though laced with humor, take leaders to task at the same time. On June 21, the program ran a June 2004 clip of Dick Cheney saying he had ``absolutely not'' linked 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta with Saddam Hussein's government, and then followed it with a December 2001 clip where Cheney says a meeting between Hussein and Atta was ``pretty well confirmed.''

``Mr. Vice President,'' Stewart said, staring into the camera, ``I have to inform you: Your pants are on fire.''
Of course, the old guys are getting into the act as well:
Perhaps no mainstream entertainer reflects the postwar shift in tone more vividly than Letterman. Last September, in one of his most pointed jokes, the ``Late Show'' host said, ``President Bush is asking Congress for $80 billion to rebuild Iraq. And when you make out that check, remember there are two L's in Halliburton.''
Great stuff.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Blogroll Update

I've made a couple of recent changes to the blogroll on the right.

First, tonight I added a link to FunctionalAmbivalent, largely because I read an op-ed by the writer in my local paper. I'm planning to check in frequently.

I also added a link to unfutz, largely because Ed Fitzgerald (the blogger) is updating his survey of blog Electoral College predictions. He reads the projections so we don't have to -- and then averages the results. The mean of the 38 sites in his latest (August 15) update has the race Kerry 293, Bush 222 (remainder 23 because of tossups). Cool!

In recent weeks, I also added links to Laura Rozen, a journalist who blogs mostly about national security issues, Juan Cole, an historian and Middle East specialist who blogs a great deal about Iraq, and Discourse Net, which is written by Michael Froomkin, a lawyer interested in deliberative democracy.

There are a lot of other good reads over there, of course.

The "tool of choice"

This is from the Florida Department of of Law Enforcement Report on "Florida Voter Fraud Issues," January 5, 1998:
"The lack of "in-person, at-the-polls" accountability makes absentee ballots the "tool of choice" for those inclined to commit voter fraud. "
Paul Krugman in today's New York Times:
"Recently the Florida Republican Party sent out a brochure urging supporters to use absentee ballots."
Sometimes, 1 + 1 = 2.


Note: I've referenced that FDLE quote many times since November 2000, when I started following the story about Republican operatives "fixing" 5000 absentee ballot applications in Seminole County by adding voter ID numbers.

I used to send out numerous emails about the Florida debacle to a select group of friends and colleagues. For example, I told them about the email I exchanged with a Volusia County election official (concerning the "computer error" and 10,000 possible Gore votes), reporter Jake Tapper (who was covering the Florida story on-line for salon.com), Steve Griffin (a constitutional law scholar and friend who testified in Florida hearings about the possible Electoral College shenanigans), other lawyers who explained the "consent decree" relating to the late military ballots, etc.

That mailing list was a fairly direct precursor to this blog.

The Wrong War on Terror

Does George Bush have the best strategy for fighting the "war on terror"?

Given his campaign strategy (and polling strength), this seems like a vital question for the President's reelection bid and may well be centrally important to the country's security over the next four years.

I've blogged often about the unprovoked and disastrous attack of Iraq. And I've very frequently criticized the the so-called "Bush Doctrine" of preventative war outlined in the 2002 National Security Strategy of the United States.

But I haven't nearly as often addressed the "war on terror" directly.

In my own defense, I do not think the President has focused much attention on the real war either.

Quite obviously, from the very beginning, this administration has hopelessly focused the "war on terror" on alleged state sponsors like Iraq and still doesn't take too seriously the threat of terror from truly decentralized non-state actors.

Bluntly, they have a fundamentally flawed worldview that diverts attention and resources from the actual people who attacked the US on September 11, 2001.

That's why we hear more from the White House about Iranian proliferation than we do about port or rail vulnerability, shoulder-fired missiles...or Osama bin Laden.

Indeed, Dan Froomkin had a great piece making this latter point about the President's oversights in the August 12, 2004, washingtonpost.com: "The Unnamed Enemy."

Osama bin Laden, of course, is the unnamed one. Bush almost never talks about the terror leader:
Since the beginning of 2003, in fact, Bush has mentioned bin Laden's name on only 10 occasions. And on six of those occasions it was because he was asked a direct question.

In addition, there were four times when Bush was asked about bin Laden directly but was able to answer without mentioning bin Laden's name himself.

Not once during that period has he talked about bin Laden at any length, or said anything substantive.
It has been a very long time since the tough-talking Texan in the White House quipped that he wanted Osama "dead or alive." Indeed, Bush inspired this image on September 17, 2001, which was 35 months ago to the day:



So what does Bush talk about when he's emphasizing ways to make America more secure against terror? The fact is, Bush seems focused on one man "like a laser beam."
During the same period [since January 2003], for comparison purposes, Bush has mentioned former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein on approximately 300 occasions.
Just in 2004, Froomkin reports that Bush has mentioned bin Laden's name just 8 times (and talked about him on one other occasion in response to a question), but uttered Saddam Hussein's name 125 times.

Think about that. Saddam Hussein has been in prison since December 2003, Osama bin Laden is presumably at-large, and Bush still talks about Saddam 15 times as often!

The last time Bush talked about bin Laden at length was in March 2002 [Froomkin writes 2003, but links to this exchange], when reporter Kelly Wallace of CNN asked him these questions:
Q Mr. President, in your speeches now you rarely talk or mention Osama bin Laden. Why is that? Also, can you tell the American people if you have any more information, if you know if he is dead or alive? Final part -- deep in your heart, don't you truly believe that until you find out if he is dead or alive, you won't really eliminate the threat of --

THE PRESIDENT: Deep in my heart I know the man is on the run, if he's alive at all. Who knows if he's hiding in some cave or not; we haven't heard from him in a long time. And the idea of focusing on one person is -- really indicates to me people don't understand the scope of the mission.

Terror is bigger than one person. And he's just -- he's a person who's now been marginalized. His network, his host government has been destroyed. He's the ultimate parasite who found weakness, exploited it, and met his match. He is -- as I mentioned in my speech, I do mention the fact that this is a fellow who is willing to commit youngsters to their death and he, himself, tries to hide -- if, in fact, he's hiding at all.

So I don't know where he is. You know, I just don't spend that much time on him, Kelly, to be honest with you. I'm more worried about making sure that our soldiers are well-supplied; that the strategy is clear...

We have a good strategy. We are showing the world we know how to fight a guerrilla war with conventional means.

Q But don't you believe that the threat that bin Laden posed won't truly be eliminated until he is found either dead or alive?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, as I say, we haven't heard much from him. And I wouldn't necessarily say he's at the center of any command structure. And, again, I don't know where he is. I -- I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him. I know he is on the run. I was concerned about him, when he had taken over a country. I was concerned about the fact that he was basically running Afghanistan and calling the shots for the Taliban.

But once we set out the policy and started executing the plan, he became -- we shoved him out more and more on the margins. He has no place to train his al Qaeda killers anymore. And if we -- excuse me for a minute -- and if we find a training camp, we'll take care of it. Either we will or our friends will. That's one of the things -- part of the new phase that's becoming apparent to the American people is that we're working closely with other governments to deny sanctuary, or training, or a place to hide, or a place to raise money...
Given what they say, in contrast, I'm certain John Kerry and the Democrats understand the appropriate priorities.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Lugar targets Bush/Kerry

Senator Richard G. Lugar, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations delivered a speech entitled "Nunn-Lugar in an Election Year" at the National Press Club in Washington, DC on August 11, 2004. The full transcript is available on the Senator's website.

The bipartisan Nunn-Lugar legislation has for many years funded efforts to dismantle and secure WMD and missile assets in Russia. The successes so far have been impressive (this is a partial list):
To date, the weapons systems deactivated or destroyed by the United States under these programs include:

6,312 nuclear warheads;
537 ICBMs;
459 ICBM silos;
11 ICBM mobile missile launchers;
128 bombers;
708 nuclear air-to-surface missiles;
408 submarine missile launchers;
496 submarine launched missiles;
27 nuclear submarines; and
194 nuclear test tunnels.
As Lugar notes in this speech, he has been concerned with this issue for many, many years. In the 1996 presidential campaign, Lugar argued that nuclear terrorism should be the #1 issue of the day and he made nonproliferation the center of his own campaign. The public and media paid scant attention.

Now, of course, people are eager to hear about this problem. Nicholas Kristof just penned a couple of pessimistic op-eds. In both, he claimed that some experts expect a 10 KT bomb to be detonated in DC or NY in the next decade.

One news blog called the first piece a "quick read to unsettle your nerves." If this sounds like fertile material for blogging, you are right. Many voices in the blogosphere have been debating the implications of the proliferation threat.

What should the US do about it?

Lugar, of course, confronts this query -- and wants to start with improvements for Nunn-Lugar.

However, the Indiana Senator first highlighted some unfortunate resistance the program has faced over the years:
Nevertheless, from the beginning, we have encountered resistance to the Nunn-Lugar concept in both the United States and Russia. In our own country, opposition often has been motivated by false perceptions that Nunn-Lugar money is foreign assistance or by beliefs that Defense Department funds should only be spent on troops, weapons, or other warfighting capabilities. We also have encountered latent and persistent Cold War attitudes toward Russia that have led some Nunn-Lugar opponents to be suspicious of almost any cooperation with Moscow.
Frankly, it seems as if Lugar has problems with many of his Republican colleagues (and the Bush White House), since they tend to be the ones who make these charges and establish most of the roadblocks.

What about the Democrats? Well, Lugar certainly has their attention:
During the recent Democratic primary season, we even experienced a bidding war in which candidates competed to offer the most effusive endorsements and the largest funding increases for the Nunn-Lugar program and other non-proliferation efforts. Howard Dean and John Edwards called for a tripling of funds devoted to Nunn-Lugar, while John Kerry called for a “major” increase in funding without specifying an exact amount.
Of course, cash alone isn't enough.

Stop me if you've read this before, but Lugar argues that the success of non-proliferation efforts hinges on diplomacy as well.
At this stage, diplomatic breakthroughs with resistant Russian authorities are almost a prerequisite to putting major funding increases to work. Although the Russian government has opened a remarkable number of facilities to the Nunn-Lugar program, others remain closed. Convincing Russia to accelerate its dismantlement schedules, to conclude umbrella agreements that limit liability for contractors, and to open its remaining closed facilities are the most immediate challenges for Nunn-Lugar. Whoever wins election in November must make the removal of these roadblocks a priority.
Again, this sounds like one of Kerry's talking points.

Lugar closed with a dozen non-proliferation goals, though he was really mixing ends (stopping North Korean and Iranian bombs) and means (diplomacy, transparency, etc.). Still, the US clearly needs to have a multi-faceted policy and anyone serious about WMD proliferaiton will need to ponder the range of problems Lugar mentions.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Is the President "Delusional"?

Here's an idea for a John Kerry TV commercial. Run some tape from David Kay, just a few weeks ago.

This Reuters report (on ABC New) appeared July 28, 2004:
U.S. officials should give up the "delusional hope" that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction so they can move forward with reform, David Kay, who once led the U.S. hunt for banned weapons, said on Wednesday.

"I think it's most important that the president of the United States recognizes that in fact the weapons are not there," Kay told reporters after speaking at The Government Security Expo and Conference.
As recently as July 6, the President said this:
Saddam Hussein had the intent, he had the capability, and the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power.
Keep in mind that Kay was an Iraq hawk before the war and genuinely believed the country had WMD stockpiles.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Thanks

I hope everyone enjoyed reading Paul Parker's blog entries while I was on vacation. They were great and I really appreciated him substituting for me while I was mostly inactive.

I was also very grateful to Avery on the 4th of July weekend, though I think I forgot to say so publicly.

Again, great work guys -- and thanks.

Sensitive Men

Out on the campaign trail, Vice President Dick Cheney is making fun of John Kerry for wanting to conduct the "war on terror" in a more "sensitive" fashion. I won't bother to skewer this at length since Jon Stewart's "Daily Show" did a fantastic job on that front last night. If you missed it, catch the replay tonight at 7 pm ET.

Bottom line: Kerry's use of the word "sensitive" was in a string of adjectives describing how he would better conduct the "war on terror." Stewart twice showed film of President Bush describing the sensitivity of America's mission and also went "live" to Rob Corddry in Najaf...where American forces did not attack al-Sadr forces at a mosque. Stewart noted this reflected American cultural sensitivity (and some might add the laws of war).

I think this was the Bush quote:
Now in terms of the balance between running down intelligence and bringing people to justice obviously is -- we need to be very sensitive on that.
That's from August 6, 2004, so the flip-flopping of this administration can be quite speedy.

Poking some more around the White House website, I found this quote from former Spanish President Jose Maria Aznar:
PRESIDENT AZNAR: I'd like to underscore the extreme sensitivity of President Bush with regard to Ibero-American issues, as was evidenced by the various initiatives he has implemented since becoming President of the United States, and which I, myself, have been able to see during our discussions today.

...And obviously, his sensitivity is demonstrated in a very intense way.
Aznar said this at a joint press conference with Bush in Madrid.

This is the Vice President himself, earlier this year:
We are currently involved in thinking about what our force posture ought to be on a worldwide basis, not just with respect to the Pacific and Japan, but forces in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and elsewhere. And it's conceivable as part of that some adjustments will be made in the posture of U.S. forces in the years ahead. And certainly, as we go through that process, we'll want to take into account the need to be sensitive to the concerns of local folks.
Who's the sensitive man now?

Or the Veep on "60 Minutes II" in November 2001:
A lot of things are changing. We're going to be more sensitive, I think, with respect to what goes on around us. The American people have to be.
Wait, there's more than one way to be "sensitive"?


Footnote: Bush repeatedly says the debate about gay marriage is sensitive and he also often uses the word when describing the resolution of Israeli-Palestinian relations.

French Kiss of Death?



Do you recognize the tall fellow in the center of the picture? The one with the long face and pointy chin posing with his family in front of the Capitol?

While he looks like he could be Senator John Kerry's younger brother, he's actually a Republican Senator from Oregon, Gordon Smith.

Compare their faces...were they separated at birth?



According to the Los Angeles Times, Smith attacked Kerry yesterday for looking and acting French:
"It's not John Kerry's fault that he looks French," Smith told reporters on the conference call arranged by the Bush campaign.

"But it is his fault that he wants to pursue policies that have us act like the French."
Smith then said some something silly about Kerry's policies promoting "additional socialism at home" and "appeasement abroad." These guys sure learned their Nixonian/John Birch Society lessons well, eh?

Does anyone really think that Americans are going to reject Kerry on the grounds of "creeping socialism" even as the Bush administration runs around bragging about its giant Medicare plan?

In any case, I got to looking around for information about Smith and naturally thought, what could be more French than traveling to France and working with the French (or Francophiles)?

For the record, in Oregon, Smith's former staffer Goli Ameri is trying to get elected to the House of Representatives. Her campaign bio brags that she "studied at the Sorbonne in Paris, France" and "is fluent in French."

I wonder if Smith taunts Ameri about her French-ness?

Smith himself traveled to France as recently as June.

On May 8, 2001, Smith participated in a policy roundtable on "U.S.-France Global Dialogue" at the Center on the United States and France. It was cosponsored by the French American Foundation.

On December 3, 2003, Smith introduced Jean-David Levitte, Ambassador of France to the US, when the latter spoke in Maryland at the 26th Festival of Lights. Since this latter event is associated with the Mormon Church, which is Smith's faith, I presume the Senator helped arrange the French Ambassador's appearance. After all, ambassadors or spouses from 55 countries were represented and the French ambassador was chosen to deliver the keynote address for the occasion.

According to news reports of the event, Smith declared "France was this country"s first ally." He also noted the importance of France to the President of the Church of Latter Day Saints. The ceremony serves as a "diplomatic bridge-builder for the church."

Smith is a former Chair of the Senate European Affairs Subcommittee and undoubtedly formed close bonds with all sorts of European appeasers and socialists.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Proliferation

I'm back.

I'd like to say that I'm "tanned, rested and ready" but that would be too many lies even for Dick Nixon. My skin burns, so I avoid and/or block the sun, I stayed up too late virtually every night on vacation and, frankly, I wouldn't have minded another week or two off with my family.

Sigh.

Still, upon my return, I couldn't help but notice that the part of the blogosphere that I follow is carefully re-examining the problem of nuclear proliferation.

More than a month ago, Matt Yglesias asked: "Iranian Nukes: So What?". Yglesias acknowledged that he'd prefer a non-nuclear Iran, but didn't think the goal was worth a war:
Perhaps a case can be made that a nuclear Iran is such a bad thing that's it's worth preventing by any means necessary. But it's not a case I've heard.
This week, Dan Drezner's guest blogger Siddharth responded:
we don’t want a radical anti-American regime with links to terrorist organizations to have nuclear weapons. It’s another version of the Pakistan problem
Yglesias has now attempted to debunk this argument too:
the "madmen give nuclear weapons to Hezbollah" scenario strikes me as a bit, well, far-fetched. It's similar to the Pakistan problem except (a) less realistic, and (b) less threatening to the USA.
Chris Young at Explananda has also joined the fray, seemingly on Siddharth's side of the argument:
A world in which a whole lot of unstable, undemocratic countries have nuclear weapons is a world in which there is a much greater chance of fatal miscalculation.

I'm not a dove on this issue....We are running out of time. The spread of fissile material and nuclear technology is unstoppable, but it is slowable. For the short and the medium term we need to slow it as much as possible.
This is an issue I've long followed. My 1983 undergrad honor's thesis was entitled, "Pondering the Perils of Nuclear Proliferation: American Foreign Policy Choices" and my intercollegiate academic debate career was based in large part on my secondary research on the topic.

So, where do I stand?

First, I'm with Yglesias and the academic realists on the inappropriateness of the Bush Doctrine as a tool of nonproliferation. I wouldn't go to war with either Iran or North Korea.

Second, Young makes a point that I've made before, but that is too often overlooked. Western countries, including the US, are often completely hypocritical on this issue.

I won't reproduce Article VI of the NPT, but it's easy enough to find.

The US is pursuing new, more usable nuclear bombs, reversed sanctions on India and Pakistan after 9/11, and refuses to ratify various arms control agreements, including the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

I'm not saying that the US should "Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb," but I do think that deterrence means something real to states. More importantly, the US and other states need to get their own houses in order and stop pursuing hawkish measures that promote proliferation.

Fred Kaplan's piece on how the Bush team botched North Korea is a very good read on this topic.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Symbolic Politics

Guest Blogger Paul Parker

Last week I wrote about George Lakoff and the importance of framing for purposes of political persuasion. How a choice or policy is presented affects how people respond.

A cousin to framing is the concept of symbolic politics. Murray Edelman articulated this in his 1964 book, The Symbolic Uses of Politics; among the more important follow-ups is his 1988 book Constructing the Political Spectacle . Another great book in this genre – sadly out of print -- is Charles Elder and Roger Cobb’s 1983 work, The Political Uses of Symbols

A core assumption of this literature is that in a representative democracy, political elites use symbols and myths to secure and maintain the support of the (largely disinterested and politically unaware) masses.

  • Symbols: “An object becomes a symbol when people endow it with meaning, value, or significance.” (Elder and Cobb, 1983: 29). Think of the flag, “security,” and “marriage.”.
  • Myths are stories or narratives, “that simply, highlight, and dramatize basic cultural premises and conclusions. They offer socially constructed accounts of exemplary behavior and significant events in the life of the polity.” (54)

The low level of political knowledge of most Americans makes myths and symbols central to governing: symbols and myths connect the polity and the political leaders. Since by definition symbols have no inherent meaning, significant political conflict is over appropriating particular symbols or in establishing the superiority of one symbol over a competing symbol.

Thus, as Lakoff noted in his American Prospect article, Republicans have succeeded in framing taxes as inherently bad, an affliction from which we need “relief.”

“Taxes look very different when framed from a progressive point of view. As Oliver Wendell Holmes famously said, taxes are the price of civilization. They are what you pay to live in America -- your dues -- to have democracy, opportunity and access to all the infrastructure that previous taxpayers have built up and made available to you …”

Among the symbols and myths we will hear more about in the coming election season (and beyond, should Bush be elected) are those associated with lawyers and our civil justice system.

You know the refrain: John Edwards is a trial lawyer.

Sometimes that is the extent of the speaker’s statement; you are left to draw the conclusion. Sometimes the speaker provides a little more context, making sure you draw the correct conclusion. Such was the case last week in Davenport, IA when Mr. Bush argued for the need to stop frivolous lawsuits that allegedly are harming the economy and driving up medial costs: ‘You know what side my opponent is on. He picked a trial lawyer for his running mate.’

Ah, so John Kerry is for needlessly higher medical costs? Or, John Kerry supports special interests (the trial lawyers, who indeed are a main source of funding for the Democratic Party) over you and me and common sense?

What follows is not a defense of the civil justice system as it exists; I would prefer a "no-fault" system of compensation, akin to worker's comp. The present system tends to overcompensate small claims and undercompensate large claims, and again, most people do not file a claim in the first instance.

However, we must take the world as we find it. As Thomas Burke nicely discusses in his recent book Lawyers, Lawsuits and Legal Rights, the US forgoes the greater government regulation and bureacuracy known by other western democracies for a system of private compensation and deterrence through trial lawyers. So the effort to limit lawsuits is an effort to limit compensation and whatever deterrence threat of being sued provides.

In the political battle over our civil justice system, the Republicans have the symbols and myths on their side. We all know the symbol of Stella Liebeck, the McDonald’s Coffee Lady. Ms. Liebeck is commonly used as an symbol of the decline in personal responsibility in American society: spill coffee on yourself, get rich

Last week Kos blogger DHinMi had a reasonably good treatment of some of the distortion of this case. But even the best popular media story about the case, the Wall Street Journal article that Dien relies upon, is incomplete. In addition to the Journal’s treatment, add in the facts that a) Liebeck was a passenger, not driving, b) in a car that was parked at the time. How she became a symbol is the subject of this forthcoming book, Distorting the Law.

The myth or narrative of individual responsibility helps tort feasors and medical malpractitioners by making people reluctant to make a claim when they are harmed.

Consider some evidence of harms and claims.

  • In 1999, the Institute of Medicine reported that as many as 48,000-96,000 people die prematurely each year due to “adverse medical events.”
  • A November 2003 study stated, “It is evident that the American medical system is the leading cause of death and injury in the United States.”
  • In a recent Kaiser Family Foundation Report , 42% of respondents acknowledged they had “personally been involved in a situation where a preventable medical error was made in their own medical care or in that of a family member” (report 3373).
  • And yet consistently researchers find that Americans are quite unwilling to sue someone: only between two and three percent of subjects of “adverse medical events” bring a malpractice lawsuits in the first instance. Briefs of some studies on this topic are found on this page.

Excellent sociological work has demonstrated the importance of myths about community and harmony that help to construct some plaintiffs as worthy, and others as not. In Law and Community in Three American Towns the three coauthors found personal injury plaintiffs were routinely characterized as outsiders who threatened the community, while elites’ use of law to enforce rental or business contracts was accepted under the personal responsibility narrative noted above.

Maybe people who sue are troublemakers. Certainly those defending the school districts in Brown v. Board thought so (note the use of positive symbol to justify litigation). As Laokff noted during his July 23 2004 appearance on NOW, why do we call them plaintiff attorneys?

That is a frame that has been constructed by conservatives to attack trial lawyers, because trial lawyers, you know, support the Democratic Party in many parts of the country. So they're trying to de-fund the Democrats by attacking trial lawyers.

Now instead of trial lawyers, you should say what folks really are doing. These are public protection attorneys. They're doing public protection law. These are…

BRANCACCIO: Protecting the public.

LAKOFF: Protecting the public from corporations and professionals who are either negligent or unscrupulous. And they're the last line of defense we have.

But it is the doctors who are highly regarded by Americans, so we have the “good vs. evil” / you- and-me (and my personal physician, and affordable medical care), against the greedy trial lawyers. And as he has done in Texas, Bush wants to limit lawsuits in the federal courts.

The facts are not on Mr. Bush’s side: this study by the Congressional Budget Office indicated that lawsuits and malpractice rates are a neglible cost of American medical bills (although insurance rates may affect your individual physician).

Of course in the world of symbolic politics, facts are secondary – it’s the symbols that matter. That’s why Bush uses anecdotes and prop-people. But those can be inconvenient, too: as Bob Herbert noted in a June 18 NewYork Times column (intro para only), the physician Mr. Bush chose to appear with in Youngstown is a serial medical malpractitioner:

To bolster his argument Mr. Bush introduced a local doctor, Compton Girdharry, to an audience at Youngstown State University. Dr. Girdharry, an obstetrician/gynecologist, said he had been driven from a practice of 21 years by the high cost of malpractice insurance.

The president praised Dr. Girdharry and thanked him for his ''compassion.''

If Mr. Bush was looking for an example of a doctor who was victimized by frivolous lawsuits, Dr. Girdharry was not a great choice. Since the early 1990's, he has settled lawsuits and agreed to the payment of damages in a number of malpractice cases in which patients suffered horrible injuries.

Ultimately, this is a political battle: limiting lawsuits will harm some people and help others. The abstract groups include insurance companies,and potentially some physicians (most studies have found little to no relationship between malpractice protection legislation and lower rates). Specific beneficiaries include Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, whose family owns HCA, as well as the second largest malpractice insurer, Health Care Indemnity.



For more on this topic, consider this November 2003 Washington Monthly article, Malpractice makes perfect

The academic paper on which this is blog entry is based should be archived here by the Midwest Political Science Association.