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November 13, 2005 - Lots of Things Blow Up in the Middle of the Week

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Recedite, plebes! Gero rem imperialem! (Stand aside, plebeians! I am on imperial business!)

Okay, that appeared here, so who knows if the Latin is accurate, or the translation? But it's pretty cool. Those charged with implementing the policies of the administration might want to commit this to memory, as it might be useful when asked questions about our secret prisons in the old soviet satellite countries, what's up with asking for the authority to torture folks and all the rest.

Are people thinking that way? Well, the Comptroller General of the United States, David Walker of the General Accounting Office, says in this in Business Week


The Roman Empire fell for many reasons, but three seem particularly relevant for our times: (1) declining moral and ethical values and political comity at home, (2) overconfidence and overextension abroad, and (3) fiscal irresponsibility by the central government. All these are certainly matters of significant concern today. But it is the third area that is the focus of my responsibility and authority as Comptroller General, the nation's top auditor and chief accountability officer.


Yes, running an empire is hard work, and our imperial war seems to have grown.

Wednesday, November 9, suicide bombers carried out nearly simultaneous attacks on three hotels in the Jordanian capital of Amman that night, killing at least 57 (the count so far) and wounding 150.

This does appear to be an al-Qaeda assault on this Arab kingdom with very close ties to the United States. The hotels - the Radisson and Day's End and Hyatt - are part of US chains. And Jordan has helped us with the war - training Iraqi police and such things. In the Clinton years we convinced them to sign a peace treaty with Israel. They made their choices.

The wider implications? We may think by invading and occupying Iraq, and setting up there the kind of government we know they really ought to have, we were excising a cancer of sorts, a malignant influence in the region. But we may have started a region-wide war. Why would the bad guys decide that all the bad stuff would have to be carried out inside the Iraq borders? They don't think much about borders, or more probably, think they are artificial barriers to the way the world should be. We fight nations. They don't.

Of course Ahmed Chalabi, who will, it seems, soon run Iraq, was in Washington the same day, and he's from Jordan - although he can't go back what with that conviction for bank fraud and the sentence of twenty-two years hard labor - so maybe there's some message here.

The message might just be this whole business is more than Iraq. We shall see.

Minor blowups?

Mentioned elsewhere, there were rumors that Judy Miller of the New York Times, the reporter who got the Times to publish all the pre-war stories about Iraq having a nuclear program and tons of chemical weapons - straight from her inside sources, Ahmed Chalabi and Scooter Libby and the White House Iraq Group - would return soon to the newspaper. Yeah, she went to jail to protect Libby, and she got the Times to publish single-source propaganda, but would she return as a reporter or even an editor? Would she be telling editor Bill Keller and publisher Arthur Sulzberger what they should and should not print each day?

It seems not. She resigned Wednesday. The Times explains here.


They know they were burned. Enough is enough.

Somewhat larger blowups?

That would be the results of the off-year elections all around the country. Something is up.

The Democrat, Corzine, wins in New Jersey (here)
The Democrat, Kaine, win in Virginia (here)

That's two state governors.


The Democrat, Mallroy, wins in Cincinnati (here, the first black mayor they've ever had)
The Democrat, Kilpatrick, wins in Detroit (here)
The Democrat, Frank Johnson, wins in Cleveland (here)
The Democrat, Ryback, wins in Minneapolis (here)
The Democrat, Coleman, wins in Saint Paul (here)

Other races?

The Dover Pennsylvania School Board - all eight "intelligent design" proponents were voted out of office, as they paid the price for the showplace trial on teaching such stuff in science classes. The locals seem to be asserting that Pennsylvania isn't Kansas. It seems they won't be redefining science there. It will be, there at least, just the study of natural phenomena, and not the study of the supernatural or metaphysical.

Out here in California, all eight initiatives on the ballot got voted down.
Proposition - 73 Abortion Notification - no at 52.52 percent
Proposition - 74 Teacher Tenure - no at 54.08 percent
Proposition - 75 Union Dues - no at 53.45 percent
Proposition - 76 Spending Cap - no at 62.00 percent
Proposition - 77 Redistricting - no at 59.46 percent
Proposition - 78 Drugs-Industry - no at 58.42 percent
Proposition - 79 Drugs-Labor - no at 61.02 percent
Proposition - 80 Electricity Deregulation - no at 65.64 percent

Okay, the first was a nod to the religious right, as all teenage girls would be required to let their parents have the final say.

The second was an attempt to hit the teachers' union - and made little sense. Make tenure harder to get. Drive teachers away.

The third was classic union busting - making sure the unions were quiet. No dues for political action, unless with specific instructions each time.

The fourth was classic - give the governor the authority to override everyone and make all budget decisions himself any time there's not a budget surplus.

The fifth was to give a panel of three retired judges the authority to draw the lines, and to get more Republican districts.

The sixth was to cap drug prices in the way the pharmaceutical industry wanted.

The seventh was to cap drug prices in the way the Ralph Nader followers wanted.

The eighth was changing the rules on energy production to make things more "free market."

The voters here, as it seems to some of us, just said they don't trust the governor and would prefer not to have these special elections to decide things he cannot be bothered to work out with the state legislature. This "special election" cost us around seventy million in state funds. It was bullshit. The voters just said so.

Robert Scheer, the Los Angeles Times' token leftie (fired at the end of the week), had this to say about all these results:


The lessons of Tuesday's election both in the bellwether state of California and across the nation is that Lincoln was right: the American people will not forever be fooled. The negative message of the Republican right, even when fronted by a smirking action hero, has lost its power to terrorize voters.


On the other hand, Washington Post columnist Howard Kurtz said this


Every four years, the press grabs onto the flotsam of the Jersey and Virginia races and the New York mayoral contest - boosted this year by Arnold's special election in California - and tries to interpret, infer and extrapolate what it all means. And it may not mean squat beyond the borders of those states.


Maybe so.  All Americans trust Bush and are in awe of Arnold Shwarzenegger, as Kurtz know in his bones.  And we're all terrified, and will thus, in the end, vote Republican.

Some of us think not.  But we're probably wrong.

Still, the results are interesting.

Other blowups?

This should be noted. It hit the media on Wednesday, November 9 -

Who Is Lying About Iraq?
Norman Podhoretz, Commentary Magazine, December 2005

"Among the many distortions, misrepresentations, and outright falsifications that have emerged from the debate over Iraq, one in particular stands out above all others. This is the charge that George W. Bush misled us into an immoral and/or unnecessary war in Iraq …"

He says it never happened. People like that Wilkerson fellow just misunderstood things. (In these pages see this and this for what Wilkerson was saying.)

His conclusion: "For the most part, the problems discussed so far have more to do with the methods of Administration officials than with their motives, which were often misguided and dangerous, but were essentially well-intentioned. The one action for which I cannot hold Administration officials blameless is their distortion of intelligence estimates when making the public case for going to war."

But there were those good intentions.

There was tons of reaction.

Matthew Yglesias here


Now look. Maybe you want to argue that Pollack doesn't know what he's talking about. Maybe the administration's actions weren't "misguided and dangerous." Maybe they didn't engage in "distortion of intelligence estimates" (or, in layman's terms, "lying") when talking to the public. But surely if there's any justice on earth we can all agree that you can't cite an article that calls Bush a liar as evidence that he did nothing wrong.


Kevin Drum here -


Unless you think that going to war is no more serious than planning a marketing campaign for a new brand of toothpaste, all of this contrary evidence should have been publicized and acknowledged along with all the evidence that went in the other direction. It wasn't. Given this, the fact that so many people believed that Saddam had an active WMD program simply doesn't perform the analytic heavy lifting that Podhoretz thinks it does.

In any case, if it's really true that the Bush administration did nothing to spin, exaggerate, or lie about WMD before the war, why are war supporters so relentlessly trying to suppress any congressional investigation into this? You'd think they'd welcome it instead. For a bunch of innocent bystanders, they sure are acting awfully guilty.



This will be the political discussion for the next three years? Seems so. What was said wasn't the truth, but it wasn't really lying.


Other things blowing up?

Douglas Jehl in the New York Times with this - the CIA's Inspector General warned in a report a long time ago that interrogation techniques approved after 9/11 might violate provisions of the Geneva Conventions.


The current and former intelligence officials who described Mr. Helgerson's report include supporters and critics of his findings. None would agree to be identified by name, and none would describe his conclusions in specific detail. They said the report had included 10 recommendations for changes in the agency's handling of terror suspects, but they would not say what those recommendations were.

Porter J. Goss, the C.I.A. director, testified this year that eight of the report's recommendations had been accepted, but did not describe them. The inspector general is an independent official whose auditing role at the agency was established by Congress, but whose reports to the agency's director are not binding.


So we're actually doing eight of ten things that might be legal. What are the other two? Heck, what are the first eight we're no longer doing?

More CIA stuff - over at the Washington Post there was an editorial by Jeffery Smith, who used to be their top lawyer, the former General Counsel there. He thinks Cheney's call for an exception to allow the CIA to practice torture is loony:


The Post reported on Oct. 27 that John Negroponte, director of national intelligence, has directed intelligence agencies to "bolster the growth of democracy" and support the rule of law in other nations. Those are noble causes that will be embraced by all intelligence officers. But if the vice president's proposal is adopted, the CIA will presumably be free to bolster democracy by torturing anyone who does not embrace it with sufficient enthusiasm. Some democracy.


The vice president is taking heat from all over.

And there's this - some very influential conservatives are getting behind the McCain amendment to follow the existing rules and not torture people, and make no exception to that for the CIA, no matter what the vice president wants.

This torture thing is harder to sell than the plan to wipe out the Social Security program.

And then there's something that just might blow up. Karl Rove is not at all out of the woods. Susan Ralston, Rove's personal assistant, is being called before the Fitzgerald grand jury again, as noted here. That's not over yet?

And there's this. It seems in a White House press briefing Scott McClelland, the press secretary, is asked this:


Whether there's a question of legality, we know for a fact that there was involvement. We know that Karl Rove, based on what he and his lawyer have said, did have a conversation about somebody who Patrick Fitzgerald said was a covert officer of the Central Intelligence Agency. We know that Scooter Libby also had conversations.


He answers, "That's accurate."

The White House transcript publishes his answer as, "I don't think that's accurate."

The White House is now trying to get the Congressional Quarterly and everyone else to change their transcripts. They're resisting. It's on tape, and they don't want to lie. The White House sees it as a courtesy. He didn't mean to say that. But no one is cutting anyone slack these days.

The mood of the country has changed.


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
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