Rice Gets an F

That's what Slate's Fred Kaplan says:

    One clear inference can be drawn from Condoleezza Rice's testimony before the 9/11 commission this morning: She has been a bad national security adviser—passive, sluggish, and either unable or unwilling to tie the loose strands of the bureaucracy into a sensible vision or policy. In short, she has not done what national security advisers are supposed to do.

To bin Ladens it May Concern:

Dear Osama,

I know we have a sort of love-hate relationship, you and the United States. Sure, we blame you for everything but you also have to admit that through the Carlisle Group, we help make you and your family as rich as the Bushes, the Cheneys, and the Lays.

Isn't it all quite amazing that we can successfully make the American public believe you're the root of all evil and that's why we need to spend an outrageous amount of the budget on defense. But the result is that our mutual friends in the energies industry, the defense industry, the homeland security biz, and the funders of contract armies are getting very rich, and cutting us both in on the action. So our current relationship cuts well both ways for our mutual benefit.

However, much as I enjoy working with you, my first allegiance always has to be (wiping tear from my eye) My President. I love him and I cannot let him down.

Thus, it would be enormously helpful if, next time you plan to attack us, you could provide the following information well in advance of the attack (and please don't plan it for one of My President's vacations - these become hard to schedule, of course, because there are so many of them. And, as you know, I spend my time away from Washington with him.

So please let us know at least 6 months in advance:

    The time of the attack

    The place of the attack

    The method of the attack (please be as specific as possible)

    How we should respond

Thank you for your cooperation is this highly important matter. Now I must go - it's time for me to read My President a bedtime story.
Yours in infamy

Just Historical, Condi?

From an AP report on CNN now:

    WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush's August 2001 briefing on terrorism threats, described largely as a historical document, included information from three months earlier that al-Qaeda was trying to send operatives into the United States for an explosives attack, according to several people who have seen the memo.

    The so-called presidential daily briefing, or PDB, delivered to Bush on August 6, 2001 -- a month before the September 11 attacks -- said there were various reports that Osama bin Laden had wanted to strike inside the United States as early as 1997 and continuing into the spring of 2001, the sources told The Associated Press.


Kerry-McCain 2004?

This is one getting more and more play in the last couple of weeks - more and more play in my thoughts, too. But there are so many complexities, too many points good and bad... and I'm afraid the end result of such a play would ultimately be less than stellar.

First and foremost, the idea of an atypical alliance such as Kerry and McCain would represent is appealing on a number of different levels.

Of course, I'm not somebody who sees the immediate world around me as "GOP vs. Democrat", although it's seemed more like that for years. All Republican's aren't bad to me, nor are all Democrats good. As humans - like the rest of us - they have miserable failings mixed with a few great goods (at best).

But beyond that take - that you don't have to just see the whole of America in just two flavors - is the appeal of two men who know what war means (as opposed to Bush who once watched it in a movie and thought, "cool!") being in charge. Those who've seen war - and not totally lost their souls - are probably a little less sanguine about sending lives off to combat without distinct planning and consideration.

And McCain to some degree (not entirely) fits the bill of the Republican of maybe 30 years ago, the more sane one who wasn't totally devoted to screwing everyone else so they could have it better themselves. You know, the Republicans who could see that Nixon had made a deal with the devil and lost as opposed to the Republicans who thought that Nixon's only crime was that he got caught.

Also, as liberal and progressive as I tend to me (I believe), I suspect the road to this country's salvation from the misery inflicted upon in from the Bush Administration (and the right wing lynching of Bill Clinton - who had far more serious faults than getting a blowjob, thank you very much - that distracted everyone while the plan for 9/11 was being made) is an approach that's probably far more centrist. Kerry isn't a left winger. Nor was Howard Dean. Of course, in George Bush's Republican Party, John McCain is considered dangerously left wing, while McCain himself runs on the staunchly conservative side of centrist. This is a long winded way of saying that Kerry and McCain aren't an unnaturally bad match.

So yeah, McCain could bring some votes (though probably not as many as some might conjecture), some states, and some real saber rattling and "suddenly extreme orange alerts everywhere" manuevers out of Karl Rove and his puppet, George. Swing voters might go for that ticket because they think that McCain will be a balancing weight for Kerry or vice versa.

However, let me point out that McCain's maverick status runs hot and cold. One minute, he's taking a brave stand out and away from the Frist/DeLay/Hastert/Rove/Chambliss/Pat Roberts bullshit on a point that truly matters. And the next, he seems to be kissing George's well-preserved-from-no-labor-ever cushy little tushie. Then there are times when the stands he takes seem patently like he's taking a stand just to take a stand and get airplay.

If John McCain turned around and bit the Democrats' ass on a valid point, fine. I don't like malfeasance and smarminess any better when a Democrat does it. But what about those times when McCain just bites the GOP ass now for his own grandeur? Think he won't do that with Kerry and Company?

Thus, while I admit I'm still having problems getting warm and toasty about the prospect of President Kerry, my concerns are not aided by the possibility of a VP McCain. I think there are better Democratic or Independent choices. If we can't take Bush out in Election 2004 with all the crap he's committed on the entire world, maybe America deserves what it gets with another 4 years of Bush just like we deserve rotten TV programming like "The Apprentice" and "Survivor."

"He Remains in Touch," said the WH

But from the Washington Post this morning:

    This is Bush's 33rd visit to his ranch since becoming president. He has spent all or part of 233 days on his Texas ranch since taking office, according to a tally by CBS News. Adding his 78 visits to Camp David and his five visits to Kennebunkport, Maine, Bush has spent all or part of 500 days in office at one of his three retreats, or more than 40 percent of his presidency.

    The anti-Bush group America Coming Together issued a news release yesterday noting that Bush was on his ranch on Aug. 6, 2001, when he received a crucial intelligence briefing that was prominent in Rice's testimony yesterday.

So Much for That

Reports are that we've restarted the offensive in Fallujah. Portland Indy Media has several pictures of dead, mostly quite young children. They don't much appear to be Sadr followers.

And unless he really misspoke or I really misheard, Barry McCaffrey was on Tom Brokaw tonight making it sound like we'd pretty much lost Baghdad, too. Others were saying that they're growing very tired of hearing the Bush Administration make everything sound so hunky-dory.

Considering the Washington Post today says that the president has spent about 40% of his presidency on vacation, you'd think everything would be functioning better than this.

Good Friday?

One has to wonder - although we can always hope - whether this temporary cease in the battering of Fallujah will do anything to calm tempers down. It sounds, however, that the American offense was pretty much outnumbered so perhaps we need the breather even more than the Iraqis.

Like many people, I have a hard time with what I saw happen to those contractors last week and about the Japanese kidnap victims this week.

However, go to Blackwater's site - read about them - and you understand that Blackwater doesn't go in with the purpose of serving nutritious meals for hungry kids. They're private army - and remember, Rumsfeld wants to privatize the military - and reports are that the typical Blackwater folks drive around Iraq everywhere with a gun or guns pointed out the window, ready to shoot. In other words, I'm not sure that Blackwater folks haven't perpetrated some pretty terrible acts, too. Sorry, folks, but not everyone drawing a check either directly or indirectly from the DoD is a nice person and a humanitarian.

As many Americans and other forces have been lost in the past two weeks, the number of dead Iraqis in Fallujah is skyrocketing. Many are, most likely, innocent civilans caught in the crossfire because we stepped up operations at a time when our troops are in graver and graver danger, their morale shrinking, hopes of getting out soon shrinking fast, and with what sounds like pretty rotten support coming in from command (different soldiers have told stories about being surrounded, beaten upon even by old woman and children, and denied evacuation from central command. We sent a missile into a mosque as if to remind the entire Muslim world that we don't give a damn about their religion.

I'm also quite concerned that the number of casualties we're hearing about is just a smidgeon of the real numbers. Bush and Company work very hard to control every detail of information, and in a time of serious heat, they aren't going to think twice about fudging the numbers to make the situation look less horrible than it is.


Pay Heed, Mr. Ashcroft

From March 18th:

    BRASILIA, Brazil - The health threat from legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco is much greater than that from illegal narcotics, the World Health Organization said Thursday.

    The first report of its kind by the global body found that dependence on alcohol and cigarettes has a much greater cost for societies than illegal drugs like cocaine and crack.

The Scalia... er.. Scale is Tipping

Anyday now, I expect to hear that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia will totally come unhinged and appear in open court wearing a bustierre, garter, fishnets, and heels while singing Poynter Sisters' hits. I mean, he's just been on this very strange side trip for sometime now, and he keeps steering to the far right out toward Neptune. You figure sometimes, he feels he's Michael Douglas in "The Star Chamber", only he decided the Star Chamber was "his due".

Now - as opposed to all the other times he's been - controversial because he forgot to tell reporters covering some damned speech of his that they couldn't tape him, so he had a federal marshal go to the reporters and demand they destroy their recordings.

I'm sure there's an illness in the DSM-III with his picture on it.

Trudeau Can Be Truly Brilliant

Doonesbury sums it up.

From Josh Marshall

Related to >Condi Rice today:

    bear in mind that few people across the ideological spectrum believe that Rice has been an effective National Security Advisor.

    People on the (relative) left like Powell's team at State; those on the right prefer Rumsfeld and the neocons at DOD. The Strangelovians go for Cheney at OVP. But across the board people fault her managerial competence.

    Every administration has its interagency antagonisms, often between the National Security Advisor and Secretary of State. But this one's in a class by itself on pure disorganization and factionalism.

9/11 Probably Could Have Been Prevented

That's the message I get from the Newsweek article, which Atrios thankfully points us toward.

My Immediate Reaction

Unfortunately, a tense deadline kept me from listening to all of Dr. Rice's testimony, although I saw spots and I'm just sitting down now to read an early transcript.

But everything I saw made me ask just one compound question I've actually never asked myself before:

    Has this woman only existed within two presidential administrations for the sole purpose of protecting and defending the Bushes? And if so, why in God's name was she put in charge of something that had such potential for damage when she did it badly?

This is a whole order of magnitude worse than I thought. This is gross incompetence and everything I heard and have now read implies that her only job is to protect Junior - the rest of us bloody be damned.


Preparing for Her Testimony

Since I have to work well into the night and might get up just in time to see Dr. Rice sit down with the 9/11 investigatory panel, I'm trying to decide what I should have handy. Right now, I figure I'll need:

    big soft bunny slippers so I won't break the glass when I kick the TV in disgust

    easy access to any of Sissela Bok's books on lying

    a barf bag courtesy of the last time I flew since we realized Dr. Rice wasn't paying attention to airplanes used as weapons

    an Anybody-But-Bush button to prick myself with whenever I'm sure I must be dreaming all of this

    a good stiff drink (alas, for me, coffee...)

    to put fresh batteries in the smoke detector in case my head spontaneously combusts from all the lies

Does He Need an Entire Week Off to Dye Eggs?

While our soldiers - and coalition soldiers along with innocent Iraqi civilians - are getting hammered in Iraq this week and while Condi Rice prepares to sit down with the 9/11 panel tomorrow and lie through her perfect, oversized teeth, the president has taken the entire week off to spend at his Crawford ranch (you know, the one he bought as a prop just before Election 2000).

I can't remember the statistics, but Bush is either the president who has taken the most vacation time of any president, or any president in recent time. I mean, whenever his father went away during his presidency, you knew we were about to attack someone. His son learned, however, to have constant war so he can have constant vacation time.

And yes, I find it supremely creepy that Condi Rice proudly reports that she spends most of her weekends with the Bushes. Does George have her dress up in a French maid's costume? I mean... it just doesn't sound too normal.

I notice that even pro-war pundits like Barry McCaffrey and others on today seemed to not know quite what to say with Bush insisting we're being attacked just because "some Iraqis hate freedom and WE love freedom so that's why they attack us."

And why do I feel like I'm in that Peter Sellers movie where he plays the gardener who just says these odd, out of place things that everyone cheers as brilliant and well-considered?

Best Line of the Week (So Far)

In response to Ted Kennedy's comment that Iraq was Bush's Vietnam, Jon Stewart just said:

    If only President Bush had gotten his Vietnam out of the way during Vietnam.

On a Related Point

I can't help thinking how many servicemen and women, American and other coalition, along with Iraqis civilians, will die because we dropped a bomb on a mosque today.

We're waiting on word about a cousin - an Army Ranger - who got called in. He's a career soldier and I have to respect his decision to take part in this. It's a bit different for those poor 18-21 yr olds who had no idea what they were signing up for, along with all the National Guard and reservists who likely are going to see their tours extended yet again.

Winning the Hearts and Minds of Iraqis...

one missile dropped onto a mosque at a time.

Gee, I'm glad President Bush declared all major combat over 11 months ago or you'd think there was a war going on in Iraq.

This Will Make the Wingnuts Crazy

A new study suggests frequent sex cuts down on cancer risk.

Now, the "Family Values" wingnuts hate the idea of frequent sex, at least with their own spouses. If it's their own wives, for example, sex should only occur when it's absolutely necessary for procreation and then should be enjoyed by neither party. But if it's some young staffer working for them (or in Henry Hyde's and Neil Bush's cases, someone else's wife and mother), frequent sex is a different matter. Right, Newt?

Air America

Because I live hundreds of miles from the closest broadcast point for the new network, I've only been able to catch a bit of it via online stream.

I'm not going to attempt any real critique of it here, because a) so many others are already critiquing and b) because I don't think the test of time is last week or this week, but closer to the election and then beyond. Everyone needs time to settle in and see how the format gets changed as time passes.

Yet, as glad as I am that Air America is here, it also grieves me that you can't trust most media outlets to offer a real balance on their own. I can't turn on AM radio anymore, because it's either all the same music or all the same angry voices. In fact, here in Vermont, I'm down to listening to the occasional NPR program (and then, only in the car where I have no other choice), Congressman Bernie Sanders' program on WDEV (Mondays at 1 PM ET), and a local community radio station, WGDR, that is filled with progressive voices and which broadcasts Democracy Now twice a day. Everything else is just too crappy to bear.

But I'll also freely admit I'm a snob. I don't like 99.8% of the commercial music produced today, while I adore that little stations like WGDR in Plainfield (VT) and WPKN in Bridgeport, CT - both available over the net via stream - not only provide some alternative voices, they also give me a real range of music from all over the world, in all genres. Hail community radio!


Numbed into Silence?

I'm not sure that the above quite adequately describes my state the last few days regarding the news, but it comes probably about as close as I'll get. Instead of posting, I've been ravenously trying to make sense of what I can glean from news reports both here and abroad about what's currently going on in Iraq. I mean, with what we've seen so far of how honest this administration puts any case forward, I'm not just willing to believe that this cleric Sadr is the "baddest of the bad."

Yet after much reading, I only know that indeed, he sounds like he's very angry with the U.S. but it's too hard to tell how much our actions may have spurred that sentiment. It's too easy to say, "Well, sheesh, the only places we're having trouble are those places where they liked Saddam because they were treated better than most."

Yes, there apparently are spots in Iraq that are relatively more safe than others. But the more I hear Bush and Company say things like, "the people doing this are doing it because they hate freedom," the more tempted I am to vomit. This isn't freedom we've given them. We are an occupying force, and whenever we feel like it, we basically turn cities into prisons from which few can escape.

Some of the hardball tactics aren't going to change the minds of those who would cheer when the contractors were killed and displayed last week. Meanwhile, if you go to the Blackwater site (Blackwater being the "private army" contractor these men worked for), you see people all dressed up like black stormtroopers training massive weapons on you with a cheery logo beneath that reads something like, "Protecting Freedom."

Silly me, but freedom for me isn't discerned at the end - either end - of a massive shotgun.

I'm also terribly worried that when all is said and done, the 12 Americans (and lots more Iraqis) dead today will actually turn out to be significantly more. The chaos right now doesn't make counting bodies all that easy.

I'm also angry. Yes, the polls against Bush are mostly turning bad for him, but so many of the American people seem to give him an enormous benefit of the doubt.

Today, I heard that Condi has a 2/3rds majority approval rating with the American public. What? She's been the enabler of every stinking act that has been perpetrated by this administration. A polygraph machine would go into fibrillation with her attached.

Who besides the "Jersey girls" (some of the widows of 9/11) care that this administration has done absolutely everything in its power to be sure we don't have a solid idea of what allowed 9/11 to happen and play out exactly as it did?