March 9, 2008History is Catching Up to Bush -- It's still only the Sydney Morning Herald, not a US paper, but very close, considering that Australia sent troops to Iraq in support of the US attack. A March 8 headline reads "They knew, but did nothing," referring to Bush and Condoleezza Rice. According to a preface to the article: "In this exclusive extract from his new book, Philip Shenon uncovers how the White House tried to hide the truth of its ineptitude leading up to the September 11 terrorist attacks." The article says, "The warnings were going straight to President Bush each morning in his briefings by the CIA director, George Tenet, and in the presidential daily briefings. It would later be revealed by the 9/11 commission into the September 11 attacks that more than 40 presidential briefings presented to Bush from January 2001 through to September 10, 2001, included references to bin Laden... During his 2003 investigations it was startling to Mike Hurley, the commission member in charge of investigating intelligence, and the other investigators on his team, just what had gone on in the spring and summer of 2001 - just how often and how aggressively the White House had been warned that something terrible was about to happen... It was especially troubling for Hurley's team to realise how many of the warnings were directed to the desk of one person: Condoleezza Rice, the National Security Adviser. Emails from the National Security Council's counter-terrorism director, Richard Clarke, showed that he had bombarded Rice with messages about terrorist threats. He was trying to get her to focus on the intelligence she should have been reading each morning in the presidential and senior briefings." There are many many more details in the article, but here's a sneak peak at the concluding line: "But what had happened in the White House in the first eight months of George Bush's presidency had all but guaranteed that 19 young Arab men with little more than pocket knives, a few cans of mace, and a misunderstanding of the tenets of Islam could bring the US to its knees."
March 10, 2008Hillary Crosses the Line -- According to Gary Hart, writing on the Huffington Post, "It will come as a surprise to many people that there are rules in politics. Most of those rules are unwritten and are based on common understandings, acceptable practices, and the best interest of the political party a candidate seeks to lead. One of those rules is this: Do not provide ammunition to the opposition party that can be used to destroy your party's nominee. This is a hyper-truth where the presidential contest is concerned. By saying that only she and John McCain are qualified to lead the country, particularly in times of crisis, Hillary Clinton has broken that rule, severely damaged the Democratic candidate who may well be the party's nominee, and, perhaps most ominously, revealed the unlimited lengths to which she will go to achieve power. She has essentially said that the Democratic party deserves to lose unless it nominates her."
Good piece and very important point by one of the most authoritative voices on the subject. Hart concludes: "Senator Obama is right to say the issue is judgment not years in Washington. If Mrs. Clinton loses the nomination, her failure will be traced to the date she voted to empower George W. Bush to invade Iraq. That is not the kind of judgment, or wisdom, required by the leader answering the phone in the night. For her now to claim that Senator Obama is not qualified to answer the crisis phone is the height of irony if not chutzpah, and calls into question whether her primary loyalty is to the Democratic party and the nation or to her own ambition." Hart has articulated something that perhaps many will recognize as the American people, the public mind, the collective consciousness, assimilates what has just gone down.
There is a sort of collective consciousness that is perceptible in a general sense in terms of the statistical likelihood of large numbers of people reacting in similar ways to a given incident. The voters in each primary have reacted to the ones before and each part of the drama unfolds through each successive step of action takes place. Voters have seemed to resist drawing it to a conclusion. Specific voting blocs have gone back and forth in ways that seemed unpredictable at the time, but in fact can be seen as reactions to the new dynamic created at each marker along the road. Obama won 11 in a row, the pundits, forever stuck in pugilist metaphors, were trumpeting a "knockout blow". And the voters resisted in Texas and Ohio, at least that is one possible factor in Hillary's so-called "comeback". Many people were reluctant to end it, and perhaps having second thoughts about Obama being so far in the lead, so it swayed a number toward Hillary, and since all these are very close, one constituency can push it back the other way.
Now the dynamic has changed again, and Hillary is said to have, "the Big Mo" (a phrase that George Bush senior introduced to the pundit vocabulary and there it remains). Of course in this country we are never sure any voting result is even close to a true representation because our elections are determined by slot machines creepier than the slots in Vegas. But whether the victory is real or phony, in the wake of it we are seeing Hillary gushing with hubris, and getting very jolly about going for the jugular vein, and the public is seeing a side of her that is as creepy as the side of Bill Clinton that oozed out in South Carolina. I'm wondering if Hart's reaction, and many others that I am seeing in the public domain, do not represent another turn of fortunes for Ms. Clinton. Surely Gary Hart was not alone in experiencing flashing red lights when that a very serious line was crossed and Clinton told the world that she and McCain were qualified to be president but Obama was not.
Hart articulates it perfectly. This has stripped bare any facade that would lead people to think that Hillary Clinton is not in it primarily for Hillary Clinton. It has been said that character is what is revealed under pressure, and we have seen the underside of the Clintons in this campaign, the composite person of Bill and Hillary, which is even stranger than the individuals taken separately. Bush is such a disaster that Bill Clinton could have sailed into history looking like a great hero. Instead he came out in full force to aid his wife in her bid for the presidency. Like Bush taking the country into war because someone "tried to kill my dad,"
Bill Clinton is trying to pay back Hillary for personal things, for giving up her own career to support his, for being pushed out of her co-president role when so much of what she touched turned to crap, and ultimately for enduring the massive shame he brought on her over his handling of the Monical Lewinsky matter. So he came out of a dignified retirement, became an attack dog for her, and showed his ruthless side. And he hurt more than he helped in South Carolina. The handlers pushed him back, he smoothed his approach, and the public let the incident slip into the stream of collective short-term memory deficiency.
But now the Clintons mounted an ambush on Obama in Ohio and Texas and pulled out a couple of big victories that put Hillary back in the race. But suddenly people have a chance now to see how she is behaving. She smells blood and she is becoming frenzied. To push the boxing metaphors, she's an old heavyweight who was always too clumsy to get very high in the ratings, who finally got a shot at the title and rocked her opponent with a wild hook and now she's trying to finish him off before he gets his bearings back. She is losing her mind with eagerness to connect the knockout blow. But I'm afraid her eagerness, her willingness to go to any length for her objective is creating an unbecoming spectacle for the public and this may turn out to be the straw that breaks this camel's back.
The 'Shadow of 9/11'-- The New York Times reports that, "The shadow of the Sept. 11 terror attacks is eclipsing press freedom and other constitutional safeguards in the United States, Associated Press President and CEO Tom Curley said Thursday. 'What has become clear in the aftermath of 9/11 is how much expediency trumps safeguards,' Curley said during the annual dinner of the Radio and Television News Directors Foundation. 'Congress steps back from its constitutional role of executive oversight. Civilian oversight of the military wanes. A Justice Department interprets laws in ways that extend police powers. More drastically, prisons are established in places where government or military operatives circumvent due process or control trials,' Curley said in accepting the foundation's First Amendment Leadership Award. It's at moments like these when a free press matters most,' he said." An awareness of how all this connects is starting to be expressed in the mainstream. The way that 9/11 has been misused to essentially nullify the Constitution is really the issue. The fact that the Bush administration demonstrated utter incompetence in responding to warnings at the very least (see Sydney Morning Herald), only makes the issue that much more outrageous. It is important for people to see how 9/11 has been misused, and to be very wary of how any future attacks may be similarly used to push the country farther into an authoritarian military state. It is good to see such concerns gradually surfacing into the collective consciousness of the mainstream press, including the New York Times, which demonstrated virtually no vigilance in regard to the original cock-and-bull stories that got the U.S. into this disastrous situation. Perhaps now even they are seeing the error of those who originally supported the war, including the Times. What is being lightly touched on here metaphorically as "the shadow" of 9/11 is actually a large complex of abuses that were carried out on the people of the United States under the cover of the panic of 9/11 and using the idea that only the Bush administration could protect us all from utter devastation as we saw on September 11. This was a systematic abuse very consciously and deliberately manipulating the fear of 9/11, and the fact that they had the USA PATRIOT Act ready to go immediately after 9/11 shows that they were ready to jump into action if something happened. And if you are in charge, and you do nothing, you can be damn sure something is going to happen. As the Herald article makes clear, there were plenty of warnings, many many and nothing was done of any consequence. Not even the things that the average man on the street would suggest if you asked the question, "What would you do?" Well, alert the country, for one thing. Put an alert on all the systems that are involved when someonoe tries to hijack a plane. Mobilize a military alert with contingency plans in place, with certain signs to watch for. Those are things anyone would think of. What would a security, law enforcement or defense professional come up with? If they were notified and consulted. So at the very least we are talking about supreme incompetence that qualifies as criminal negligence, or would if a private citizen was guilty of such an abrogation of responsibility. But instead we have it used to make Bush a big hero, to present the idea that he is the only man who can protect us from destruction, and to use it as an excuse to give the government far more power. How subtle is all this? It's not that hard to get, but people have been frozen in fear and compliance and unwilling to even consider the implications of putting two plus two together. Let's now get down to talking about this "shadow" explicitly, not metaphorically. We know what we are talking about, let's name it. Let's get this country back to some semblance of a democratic consciousness. Adult Audiences Only -- Russian Television reports on Vote fraud in New York. youtube.com. The same network provides a Russian view of the voting problems in Ohio (see youtube.com.) Bush Rocks -- Not as square as you might think, George W. Bush performs a touching rendition of Imagine/Walk on the Wild Side on youtube.com. Bush's Fingerprints in South America -- These recent military events between Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador have brought light onto Bush's lousy Latin American policies. According to Andrés Cala of consortiumnews.com, "George W. Bush’s strategy of countering Venezuela’s leftist president Hugo Chávez by strengthening ties to Colombia’s rightist government has been undercut by fresh evidence of high-level drug corruption and human rights violations implicating President Alvaro Uribe’s inner circle."
March 11, 2008Overs -- Dick Morris writes about why it's over. "The results are already clear. Obama will go to the Democratic Convention with a lead of between 100 and 200 elected delegates. The remaining question is: What will the superdelegates do then? But is that really a question? Will the leaders of the Democratic Party be complicit in its destruction? Will they really kindle a civil war by denying the nomination to the man who won the most elected delegates? No way.... Suggestion for Obama: The next time Hillary uses the recycled red phone ad, counter with one of your own. When the phone rings in the middle of the night, have a woman’s voice, with a flat Midwestern accent, answer it and say, 'Hold on' into the receiver. Then she should shout, 'Bill! It’s for you!' Because with Hillary’s complete lack of any meaningful experience in foreign affairs, and her lack of the 'testing' that she boldly claims, she’ll be yelling for Bill."
Funny Stuff in Texas -- Daily Texan reports that "Volunteers who worked the Jester Center caucus on Tuesday are suspicious of at least one of the caucus lists, the precinct chairman said late Thursday night. At least three students who signed the list verified that the candidates attached to their names were not the candidates they voted for. Government senior Ray Skidmore, precinct chair for the voting precinct that includes all UT dorms, said one of the caucus volunteers on Thursday noticed almost identical handwriting on one of the caucus sheets... When recounting, the volunteer noticed a whole list had Sen. Hillary Clinton written in similar handwriting in the presidential preference column for each of the six voters on that list. Skidmore started calling each of the voters on the list when he reached finance senior Ronesha Holmes, who told him she did not write Clinton as her preference; Holmes said she was instructed to leave that line blank." Republicans for Hillary -- Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, writing on Op-Ed News, ask, "Did Republicans give Hillary her victory in Ohio? ... Hillary Clinton's larger-than-expected victory in Ohio may have been won with votes from Republicans, and from independents who usually vote Republican. Much has been made of Rush Limbaugh’s other far-right commentators’ pleas to Republicans to cast their ballots for her in open primary states like Ohio and Texas. Part of the strategy is to slow down Barack Obama, who analysts argue will be harder for John McCain to beat this fall. Others, like Ann Coulter, have gone so far as to say they actually PREFER Clinton to McCain. Such voters would certainly also prefer the former first lady to Obama."
March 12, 2008Whores and High Crimes -- Of course the Spitzer prostitute story is the big gossip now, and it is a tragedy for his family and for anyone who had a vested interest in his career and what he stood for because it's over. He was monumentally stupid to engage a prostitute, even more than he would have been to just have an affair with a consenting adult because it's a crime and he's a public official, a former attorney general. If he'd had an affair but not with a prostitute, it would technically be just a matter between him and his wife, but as we've seen, in politics, one's sex life becomes everyone's concern, and given that reality it is a betrayal of everyone who believes in you and depends on you. So yeah, Eliot screwed up big time, threw it all away in one stroke.
In my hometown of Hoboken, New Jersey, across the Hudson, we have a parallel sex scandal going on this week in which a number of Hoboken police were seen at a Hooters club getting a little wild. There's a picture on the front page of the local paper showing one of them clowning with a Hooter's girl, his hand on her breast very theatrically, all in good fun, or bad fun depending on your point of view. Embarrassing, but hardly a matter for which to cast away a good police officer or end someone's career. The fixation on sex in this country is weird. It seems infantile considering the issues that surround us every day.
A friend was recently in New Orleans and reported a conversation with a person who had previously been a lifelong Republican, and he said he believed the Bush administration had allowed the disaster in New Orleans to happen for their own agenda. His belief had been bolstered by the fact that they had done nothing virtually to help clean up the mess. Yes we know they diverted funds from the levee repair for the Iraq war and they took the National Guard for the war too. And the disaster has been a windfall for developers and various members of Bush's base. As Naomi Klein has pointed out in her book Disaster Capitalism, this is the modus operandi of the Bush set.
And we know that Bush lied, told hundreds of lies one after the other, changing his story over and over to con the country into war in Iraq. And he subverted the Justice Department as part of Karl Rove's masterplan for a permanent Republican majority. And the Bush administration was behind the purging of voter rolls in Florida, phone jamming in New Hampshire, widespread vote fraud in Ohio, oh the many crimes they have committed! But Bush hasn't been personally involved in any sexual scandals that have been plastered all over the media yet. He had his hundred or so visits with male prostitute Jeff Gannon, but the press never seemed too interested in following that story.
Now the administration is officially in contempt of Congress as a policy, through the creepy attorney general that we can thank Democratic senators Schumer and Feinstein for giving us. No word better describes the Bush-Cheney attitude toward the whole world than contempt. And yet they get away with it? Why is that? The wimpy Congress, firmly attached to the tit of corporate America, will not stand up to the administration's most egregious crimes. Crimes! These are crimes! It's torture is a violation of the Geneva Conventions. They are now making it supposedly legal, even though it is in violation of the treaty. Democrats have to be complicit in all this stuff now for it to happen. And very few of them seem to think impeachment is politically convenient. Holding criminals in office accountable is not convenient. The congressmen and women believe they are too busy right now with "the business of the people" to protect the Constitution from the shredding of the Bush administration. They are rats. They have sold their souls.
Get Ready for More War -- Meanwhile, Bush and Company has kicked out the top commander in the Middle East and the big problem with him was that he didn't go along with Bush's mad scheme to attack Iran (New York Times). So what next? Now that congress has been too busy to oppose Bush's previous crimes, he is busy getting ready to commit more, to create more catastrophes, more mass death. What was it, by the way, that these congress people have been so busy accomplishing that they couldn't defend us against these criminals? Tucker Slimes UK Press -- That weenie-faced little twit Tucker Carlson, that war loving wimp, ass-kissing pretty boy told the Scottish reporter Gerri Peev that " journalistic standards in Great Britain are so much dramatically lower than they are here" as he was castigating her for reporting Obama advisor Samantha Power's referring to Hillary Clinton as a "monster" after Power had tried to retract the statement by saying it was off the record. (See some of the transcript in this piece by Glenn Greenwald). It's great to have the whores of the corporate media like Carlson tell us about journalistic standards. Whoa! What a laugh! We Vote For You -- No muss, no fuss! We take the hassle of voting off your hands. Diebold voting machines in DuPage County, Illinois, were flashing "Republican" so much that some precincts put tape over that part of the screen. See bradblog.com Because of Who He Is -- Suddenly being a black candidate for president is seen as an unfair advantage. Never before has such an idea been utterable in the US, but now Geraldine Ferraro says that Obama is getting preferential treatment because he is black. If it's true, why has the opposite always been true until this moment? Ferraro is closer to the truth when she says, "He happens to be very lucky to be who he is." NY Times. Ohio and Texas Erased -- According to bloomberg.com, "Obama's victory in Mississippi last night along with his weekend win in Wyoming has enabled him to erase the advantage with delegates Hillary Clinton won in high-profile races in Ohio and Texas last week."
March 13, 2008Media Holiday -- It was a nice, easy day for the media. They could virtually take the day off. Everyone knew what the lead story would be so everyone could get his two cents worth in. The comedy shows could all get their shots in, it was their license to do gutter humor. The numbskull news stations could pontificate endlessly and moralize -- oh we're such a moral country! When we're not strafing villages and mass murdering children, we can always find time to castigate someone for falling to sexual temptation. The news stations love a sex scandal because it allows them to titillate their audiences endlessly with sex, while still maintaining a standoffish, moral posture. Nothing sells like sex. It became a sex carnival of sorts, a media-wide celebration of prostitution, sex and sin. They showed shots of the high price call girl Spitzer was supposedly seeing so everyone can imagine her in action, a nation of voyeurs; Anderson Cooper interviewed a former pimp on the business, carefully suppressing the snickers and salacious grins that would involuntarily issue forth at certain moments; another news channel interviewed a high-priced call girl; CNN's "Showbiz Tonight" compared it to Hollywood sex scandals, taking the opportunity to replay Hugh Grant and Jude Law sex scandals. It was a real party. Meanwhile, the Spritzer family is going to be living with this pain a long, long time, and for them it is no joke, no passing distraction that can be forgotten the next day when the snickers die down and the hangovers set in.
March 13, 2008Obama Wins Texas -- According to news.aol.com, when all the tallies are in from the Texas primary election/caucus, Obama will come out ahead. He'll get four fewer delegates from the popular vote count, but nine more delegates in the caucus count. Here's the breakdown: Obama -- 61 delegates from the popular vote + 38 delegates from caucuses = 99 delegates. Clinton -- 65 delegates from the popular vote + 29 delegates from Caucuses = 94 delegates. So scratch that state off Hillary's list.
Behind Closed Doors -- The emerging Democratic plan for a mail-in vote in Florida includes having a private firm count the votes. That sounds very suspect given what we have seen with private firms taking over electoral processes in the past. Not a good sign. Not a time for blind faith. iht.com Peace Possibilities Post-Bush -- Bernard Weiner on the possibilities of a Post-Bush peace in the Middle East. "Those on the extremes in both Israel and Palestine (including those inside the governing entities on both sides) are attempting to make sure there will never be a peace settlement. And, by and large, both both sides' leaders allow that interference in the peace process to rule their responses, even though polls in both Israel and Palestine indicate most citizens would prefer a peaceful two-state solution. The Israel/Palestine situation is so seemingly intractable in how to get to that solution that it leads to regional, indeed almost universal, despair and depression." Some points: "Israel is not going to go away. Even if most Arabs in the region believe that the establishment of Israel in 1948 on land taken from Palestinian residents was grossly illegal, the practical reality is that the Israeli state is there to stay. No amount of international pressure or bullets or suicide bombers is going to alter that reality, though the permanent borders are still up for discussion.... Both sides have to realize that each has historical justifications on its side, and that in their behavior both sides are both right and wrong. In short, the question of who is the more aggrieved victim, while important, is not going to get either side anywhere, certainly not to a just peace. It's long since time to put that history to the side, so to speak, and just get it done.... Israel will have to end its Occupation and return to its pre-1967 borders. It will have to abandon its settlements in the West Bank/Gaza so that the requisite geographically-contiguous state of Palestine can be made viable. Maintaining the Occupation of Palestinian lands is bleeding Israel of treasure and, more importantly, of its moral sense of itself.... Jerusalem is holy land for all three major religions in the area. It would make sense for Jersualem to become an 'international city,' administered either by a joint Christian/Jewish/Islamic body or by an already existing international agency, perhaps under United Nations auspices. (Again, discussions already have taken place on such a potential arrangement.)" Questions on the Spitzer Sting -- harpers.org, more at firedoglake.com. As someone pointed out, the concern is not about Spitzer. He put himself in a defenseless position. But there are questions about this prosecution, how it came about, how the Justice Department is operating, and they are questions about the rule of law, not about defending Spitzer. What Triggered The Investigation? "The way prosecutorial power is wielded divides a real democracy from a banana republic. The story emerging around the fall of Eliot Spitzer suggests that the case did not start with the report of a crime. Rather it started with a decision to look into Spitzer and his financial dealings. In the course of an open-ended investigation, information about a prostitution circle surfaced. That looks abusive. An investigation like that provides no basis to acquit Spitzer. But it suggests that when his case is done, the public should be pressing some tough questions about why this investigation was launched and pushed forward." New Republic Prison Time? Spitzer could be indicted for money laundering for trying to conceal financial transactions; tax evasion, if he was a knowing party to an all-cash business that wasn't filing taxes; violation of the Mann Act for paying for the trip from New York to D.C.; misuse of state resources, if he used his state-issued credit card for hotels or meals with prostitutes; or soliciting prostitution. CBS On the Subject of Whores -- Cheney's DC Madam Problem. opednews.com, Wayne Madsen Report, Cheney Scandal Widens The Ohio Problem -- Did Clinton Win Ohio on a Lie? By Paul Rogat Loeb at truthout.org Potential Monster -- "Hothead McCain" by Robert Dreyfuss in The Nation.
March 14, 2008Why Spitzer Had to Go -- According to Greg Palast, the destruction of Spitzer, despite the fact that he set himself up with his own reckless behavior, was brought about because of Spitzer's inconvenient stance toward taxpayers bailing out the mortgage speculators. "Spitzer’s lynching and the bankers’ enriching are intimately tied," says Palast. "Since the Bush regime came to power, a new species of loan became the norm, the ‘sub-prime’ mortgage and it’s variants including loans with teeny 'introductory' interest rates. From out of nowhere, a company called ‘Countrywide’ became America’s top mortgage lender, accounting for one in five home loans, a large chuck of these ‘sub-prime.’ Here’s how it worked: The Grinning Family, with US average household income, gets a $200,000 mortgage at 4% for two years. Their $955 a month payment is 25% of their income. No problem. Their banker promises them a new mortgage, again at the cheap rate, in two years. But in two years, the promise ain’t worth a can of spam and the Grinnings are told to scram - because their house is now worth less than the mortgage. Now, the mortgage hits 9% or $1,609 plus fees to recover the "discount" they had for two years. Suddenly, payments equal 42% to 50% of pre-tax income. Grinnings move into their Toyota." Palast breaks this down beautifully into easy-to-understand language. "But there was this annoying party-pooper. The Attorney General of New York, Eliot Spitzer, who sued these guys to a fare-thee-well. Or tried to... Spitzer not only took on Countrywide, he took on their predatory enablers in the investment banking community. Behind Countrywide was the Mother Shark, its funder and now owner, Bank of America. Others joined the sharkfest: Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and Citigroup’s Citibank made mortgage usury their major profit centers. They did this through a bit of financial legerdemain called 'securitization.'" So Spitzer had to go. Meanwhile, the plutocracy is getting ready to hit taxpayers with a bailout of the predatory loan industry, instead of the people who lost their homes.
From Under a Rock -- BuzzFlash's hypocrite of the week is Roger Stone, a Rovian reptile dirty trickster of politics who was apprehended for threatening Eliot Spitzer's father over the phone and seems to have tacitly admitted to having had a hand in Spitzer's downfall, too proud of his work to entirely hide his involvement he said, "I didn't make him go to a prostitution ring. He did that all on his own." See this article in Newsday for more of the juice on Stone.
-- David Cogswell