Saturday, April 10, 2004
The secret is who's (not) running things
I don't think I've ever posted a comment as a primary source, unless it was one I've written. At this moment I have no idea who Beverly Mann is, but she wrote this in response to Fred Kaplan's slap on Dr. Rice. I'd like to find out more about her, but in the meantime, enjoy the writing. It's thorough and excellent. Money excerpt:
The structural problem is simply this: Bush was the president in name only, a genuine figurehead, with no intellectual decisionmaking capability whatsoever, and that Cheney was the actual president at least with respect to national security matters. The information in the Aug. 6 "PDB"—the presidential daily briefing—wasn't given to the actual president. Nor were Tenet's daily oral and written reports. They were given only to the figurehead president, and not transmitted to the real one, who already had determined the administration's national security agenda and therefore wasn't interested in them.
Among the more annoying euphemisms in currently in vogue among the punditry is the one they use to acknowledge that Bush is very seriously lacking in intellectual capacity: they say he is "incurious". But stupid as I recognize him to be, even I wouldn't have suspected that, handed information that the FBI indicates patterns of suspicious activity in the United States consistent with preparations for hijacking, and handed information that al Qaeda was planning an attack it thought would cause a huge uproar, George W. Bush would be so incurious as to not phone the FBI director and ask what exactly were those patterns of suspicious activity in the United States consistent with preparations for hijacking.
But now, thanks to Rice's testimony yesterday, I and all the world know that that wasn't tasked to Bush. It was tasked to Cheney—or rather it would have been, had Cheney rather than Bush been the one to receive the Aug. 6 PDB, and had he been the one to meet daily with Tenet.
Friday, April 09, 2004
These are battle stations?
GORELICK: Dr. Rice, thank you for being here today.
I'd like to pick up where Fred Fielding and you left off, which is this issue of the extent to which raising the level to the Cabinet level and bringing people together makes a difference.
And let me just give you some facts as I see them and let you comment on them.
First of all, while it may be that Dick Clarke was informing you, many of the other people at the CSG-level, and the people who were brought to the table from the domestic agencies, were not telling their principals.
Secretary Mineta, the secretary of transportation, had no idea of the threat. The administrator of the FAA, responsible for security on our airlines, had no idea. Yes, the attorney general was briefed, but there was no evidence of any activity by him about this.
You indicate in your statement that the FBI tasked its field offices to find out what was going on out there. We have no record of that.
The Washington field office international terrorism people say they never heard about the threat, they never heard about the warnings, they were not asked to come to the table and shake those trees.
SACs, special agents in charge, around the country -- Miami in particular -- no knowledge of this.
And so, I really come back to you...
Rice Testimony before 9/11 Commission, 4/8/04
It's amazing how little we know about what's going on in Iraq, all over the country. I can't believe that Coalition forces have lost control of at least two, possibly three cities...a year after their supposed conquering. It appears now that--at least in Shiite areas--the US is going to let the religious holiday go by before moving in. Sources close to Juan Cole report from Najaf that supposedly they will give Sistani four days before trying to root out the Sadrists.
But the real story that's slowly building is the awakening of the Iraqi nationalist mind. One can't overgeneralize from a few quotes, but I'm starting to read of people dismissing the difference between Shiite and Sunni, emphasizing Iraqi commonality and a shared hatred of the occupation. And when large masses of ordinary Iraqis get in their cars and start hammering on US troops with rocks and shoes at roadblocks, there is little politically that they can do but back up and be overrun. And according to the Oz article, people are finding ways to get both in and out of Fallujah, which brings even more headaches.
Finally, I haven't seen anyone mention this: with such a great influx this weekend of foreign worshippers and those from the countryside of Iraq, the question could be: will they all leave, or will some stay? Considering the danger they face just going there, what happens if the locals get the idea to stir up new recruits to the cause?
I really don't want to overreact, but I'm not seeing much control being exerted over this situation, either militarily or diplomatically. The US can't even get in the TOWN to see Sistani. How's that for ineffectual? The guy with the best chance to calm down at least the Shiites, and the CPA can't get in to see him.
Thursday, April 08, 2004
Wal-Mart takes it in the smiley face again
Inglewood voters say "you've been served" to a Wal-Mart backed initiative to bypass city ordinance and allow the company to build a sprawlcenter on 17 acres of parking lot. Great to see this potential trend of end-running by the Bentonville Bandits nipped in the bud. It was decisive, too--actually a bit surprising. Sometimes, people CAN be counted on to act outside of their own immediate interest. A good day for Mom and Pop.
Rice for breakfast
When it was announced that Dr. Rice would indeed testify, I figured her appearance would be challenging of the Clarke account, and smooth enough--with the Commission deferential enough, overall--to muddy the waters into a he-said/she-said set of accounts that left everyone more confused than anything else. Which is of course what the White House and BC04 fervently hope. But now I have a feeling that they aren't going to go so easy on her. I'm sure she can't be thrilled with the intervening events leading up to the testimony, spun out almost as if they hoped make a profit mining the tin in their collective ears...let's see, there's
What McClellan didn't tell reporters was that on Nov. 21 — long before Rice met with the five commissioners in February — the White House counsel's office had sent the commission a letter saying no more than three commissioners could attend meetings with White House aides of Rice's rank.
Given that demand, "we are a little surprised that the White House has repeatedly implied to the public that commissioners were uninterested in attending these meetings," commission spokesman Al Felzenberg said Tuesday.
No pressure, Condi! She's a personal friend of the President, but I have no doubts they would consider giving her the Oliphant treatment if she is unconvincing.
Enjoy the coverage.
Ashcroft and the new face of porn
Wednesday, April 07, 2004
Where is the reportage?
The news from Iraq is frustratingly sparse and scattershot. No one seems to have noticed just how little we are privy to, undertaken under our flag. Where did the embeds go? We got night vision views of all the action a year ago, breathless reports of firefights and missions of rolling armored thunder. What happened?
I'm starting to get a little embarassed about relying on the yeoman Juan Cole, because implicit in such repeated linkage is the message, "Stop going to Torrid for this; just go to Juan." Sadly I have no rejoinder, but I do offer free taffy. Cole does his best stringing together the scattershot inputs, in this case running down stories on a series of cities in which noted unrest is occurring. Before you read that, though (if you're the type who click the links right when they see them, and are only now just reading this, heh...sorry), look over Donald Rumsfeld's comments on the outbreak of "tensions":
Rumsfeld said the violence, which has claimed nearly three dozen American lives since last weekend, is the work of a few "thugs, gangs and terrorists" and was not a popular uprising over the U.S.-led occupation.
"The number of people that are involved in those battles are relatively small," Rumsfeld said. "And there's nothing like an army or ... large elements of hundreds of people trying to overthrow or to change the situation. You have a mixture of a small number of terrorists, a small number of militias, coupled with some demonstrations and some lawlessness."
I put Cole first but had you read Rumsfeld first, because that's the order in which it happened. Cole seemingly had already anticipated what administration officials might say:
But if the Sadrist uprising were a minor affair of a few thousand ragtag militiamen, it is difficult to understand how they could survive the onslaught of 150,000 well-armed and well-trained European and North American troops for more than a day. Rather, it is clear that urban crowds are supporting the uprising in some numbers. Even when the Coalition puts the uprising down, it may well incur the wrath of many persons who had earlier viewed it with favor.
Why do they do this? It's obvious that this is some big trouble--why shame yourself and everyone by continually dismissing reality? You don't even have to offer that things are going badly, but if it's clear even WITHOUT comprehensive reportage that indigenous Iraqis are turning restless in large groups and bringing the guns, you just look dangerously out of touch by calling an armed militia of 10,000 people a gang or group of thugs.
And another thing, Don--stop calling people terrorists when there's no evidence they're committing terrorism. The rebels in Fallujah are not terrorists. The Sunni in Ramadi were not terrorists. The slum denizens of Sadr are not terrorists. It's unclear to what extent foreign fighters may be involved among the Shia in particular, but one thing is clear: they're not hitting civilians; they are going into the teeth of Coalition forces. Terrorists don't stand on rooftops and snipe foreign military personnel. They have a different word for that; they're called guerrillas. You could call them rebels (I think I already have), but you really need a government to rebel against, and there really isn't a government in Iraq at the moment. Insurgents is another good one. So: there ARE terrorists now in Iraq, but they are not the ones holding Najaf and Kut tonight.
EDIT: I just checked in with Intel Dump, and I'm happy to say that Phil Carter posted the same warnings to Rumsfeld yesterday as well, not to minimize what's happening. I've got as much respect for Phil's military perspective on Iraq as I do for Juan Cole's political perspective, so it's nice to see that Rumsfeld's comments caught his eye the way they did mine. Validatored!
Tuesday, April 06, 2004
Kevin Bacon "All is Well!!!" Award
commemorating Kevin's memorable role as the smarmy ROTC student Chip in Animal House, trampled while attempting to maintain order...
Today's winner is CPA Administrator Paul Bremer, who admittedly has had his free pass for a visit back to Washington cancelled this week, and must be under some serious pressure. But he had to have been reading Iraqi Information Minister files before coming up with the party line on the status of Iraq:
"I know if you just report on those few places [Fallujah, Ramadi, Baghdad, Najaf, et al], it does look chaotic," Bremer said.
"But if you travel around the country ... what you find is a bustling economy, people opening businesses right and left, unemployment has dropped."
One imagines that ammunition stores and black-pajama outfitters are doing quite well, and people do seem to be finding vocations that take up their day. Real estate speculation appears very popular right now. The medical field is also hiring, I hear.
The gentle art of persuasion
At the time the Bush administration reversed itself on the issue of allowing Dr. Rice to testify before the 9/11 Commission, I remember thinking, "Wow--for once the Oval Office quickly perceived the PR nightmare and caved. How unlike them!"
I feel redeemed. From the Commission itself comes word that perhaps there was a trigger for such a sudden capitulation to the idea of unseparating powers:
Commission spokesman Al Felzenberg said Monday the decision to let Rice testify might have been influenced by a 1945 photo the panel sent to the White House showing a top presidential aide appearing before a congressional panel to discuss policy advice.
The Nov. 22, 1945, New York Times photograph shows Adm. William D. Leahy, chief of staff to Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, appearing before the special congressional panel investigating the Pearl Harbor attacks.
Felzenberg said the commission's executive director, Philip Zelikow, faxed the photo the day before the White House reversed its position, showing the administration there was historical support for allowing a top presidential aide to testify under oath before a congressional panel.
"It deals with the historical precedent which the White House and we were concerned about," Felzenberg said. "You won't find a clearer case."
I suppose they still get credit for knowing when they are totally and irretrievably whipped.
What I got from Bush's tortured prose
A few people like Marshall are posting Bush's remarks to reporters in North Carolina today, trying to parse it in a rejuvenation of that old parlor game, "What the Fuck is He Talking About?" I think the part where he asks "who are you talking to" may be a rebuke to being called "Sir" instead of "Mr. President," but I'm not 100% on that. And you gotta love the "this has been a public service message" quality of his conclusion--"And that's an important message that I wanted to share with you today." The rest of it is just weird.
But his first real answer is a classically tailored response to an important and obvious question:
Q Mr. President, in regard to the June 30th deadline, is there a chance that that would be moved back?
THE PRESIDENT: No, the intention is to make sure the deadline remains the same. [emphasis mine]
The deadline may or may not remain the same, apparently (and if I were he I'd definitely be rethinking it), but by golly the INTENTION is to make sure it does. Imagine if you booked a rental car and asked, "so the car will be there by 2PM Tuesday, right?" and the rental agent said, "The intention is to make sure that the car will be there, yes." Well cool!--I'm glad the intention is not for employees to take it drag racing the night before and leave it at their house by mistake while they sleep one off.
OK, I can't resist one more snippett of vintage Bush:
We're, obviously, constantly in touch with Jerry Bremer on the transfer of sovereignty. The United Nations is over there now. The United Nations representative is there now to work on the -- on a -- on to whom we transfer sovereignty. I mean, in other words, it's one thing to decide to transfer. We're now in the process of deciding what the entity will look like to whom we will transfer sovereignty. But, no, the date remains firm. [emphasis mine]
Entity? Is he leaving open the possibility of appointing a Cyborg to the post? Deciding what it will look like? I tell ya, G, based on the planning you and your lot have done on it so far, all you have to do is snap a Polaroid of Chalabi to see to whom it's looking you'll transfer sovereignity to. Maybe you're thinking of having Queer Eye do him over first, or something.
Still only April. Sigh.
Via Sullivan via Instapundit (doubling your dose of alternate viewpoint links!), meet Zeyad.
Due to a bit of Daylight Savings and Greenwich meridian confusion, Instapundit took yesterday's frantic post from Zeyad to be today's, but in so doing introduced him to a massive audience. Zeyad is Iraqi, and lives in Baghdad. This is a guy apparently very typical of Iraqi elite--ie, educated in the West, specifically England in Zeyad's case, although he returned to high school in Baghdad. But he had been living under Saddam's rule since 1987, so he's Iraqi through and through.
Two lines in particular from the excited post in question struck me. The first is funny in the way that people from other places bitching about their own leaders is always funny. The second is more than a little chilling:
The second is maybe a bit out of context (the rest of the paragraph expresses the sentiment that maybe Iraq deserves Saddam), but that one would not only think it but write it, is compelling.
Check in with Zeyad now and again, see how he's doing.
UConn beats GTech, Nader
At least that's what Nader thinks, anyway. Reprising his role as the egomaniac who never gets any respect, Ralph Nader hit town in a one-night-only club act (literally), trying to assemble 1,000 people to sign a petition placing him on the OR ballot for President. He gathered the still-faithful at Roseland, but mustered only 741 by night's end. Oregon has two different ways to get on the ballot--the assembly method, where you need 1,000 signatures in 12 hours; or the traditional method, 15,000 in 90 days. It's unclear to me, especially based on this turnout in by far his best area of the state, whether he can amass that total in time. Which is fine with me, frankly. According to KGW, he will have a much easier time of it in Washington, which only requires 200 delegates at a nominating convention.
As a way of explaining some of the harsh criticism of Nader above, I voted for him happily in 2000, have no regrets about that, and blame Gore for losing rather than Nader. However, in 2000 he ran with a party's imprimatur (although not strictily speaking on their platform), and with the goal of placing the party on ballot footing in as many states as possible for the future. It appeared to be an effort larger than Nader himself.
All that has changed for 2004. Nader is running for Nader, and I don't think he really wants to be President anymore. He knows he won't win, and that masks the fact that in my opinion, he no longer seems to be interested in the job. However, he likes rallying people and the attention he gets for it. But that's not why I vote for people, their sensible platform notwithstanding.
So I'm fine with him trying to get on the ballot, and if he deserves to be he will, and come what may. But I'm glad his support was weak--to me it means others see the same thing I do. Either that, or they're all just big hoops fans.
Sunday, April 04, 2004
Criticisms of what unions have become in this country are valid. But all of the malfeasance and corruption of organized labor in the US should not take attention away from the reality that day in and day out, ordinary workers are being shafted by their employers.
NYT has an article out for Sunday on the phenomenon of "time shaving"--the practice of electronically deleting employee hours in order to credit the store with better profits from decreased labor charges. A fundamental difference in the labor market is the difference between salaried labor and hourly labor. On a wide range of issues, hourly workers get screwed. This is just one more way, and it's a pretty despicable one.
One of the harder workers in the fight against time shaving and employee payroll theft is an old high school classmate, James Piotrowski. James has been representing Wal-Mart employees in a variety of locations around the country, in charges of both shaving and what I'd call "post-shift kidnapping"--forcing workers to clock out and continue working for a period before letting them go home. In February Piotrowski won long-sought restitutional damages for dozens of workers in Oregon, although punitive damages were not forthcoming. But the key is that people who had hours taken from them, were given them back, and that's worthwhile and important no matter how many peopleit affects. I only got 13 bucks back from the CD price fixing scam lawsuit, but I got 13 bucks and I knew it was RIAA money that I was spending. It felt gooooood.