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:: Friday, March 26, 2004 ::

GOP Moves to Declassify Clarke Testimony

Oh sweet lord.
In a highly unusual move, key Republicans in Congress are seeking to declassify testimony that former White House terrorism adviser Richard Clarke gave in 2002 about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Friday.

Frist said the intent was to determine whether Clarke lied under oath — either in 2002 or this week — when he appeared before a bipartisan Sept. 11 commission and sharply criticized President Bush (news - web sites)'s handling of the war on terror.
As if we needed any more proof that the Administration views security classification as nothing more than a useful tool to hide the bad news and promote the good. My favorite bit is this, though:
Frist disclosed the effort to declassify Clarke's testimony in remarks on the Senate floor, then talked with reporter. He said he personally didn't know whether there were any discrepancies between Clarke's two appearances.
You don't know? Then why bring it up? Why admit you don't know? What the hell are you thinking? Best case, Clarke spun the truth before, and now you're on the block to explain why you're super happy to declassify this stuff, but not...say...internal White House records? (Or allow Rice to testify under oath). They're stuck in a hole, and don't seem to know that the first rule is to stop digging. Maybe getting away with serial lies has made them arrogant....or perhaps the potential collapse of three years of lies is making them desperate.

Jesus, they're chasing their tails over there. For an administration that was once lauded -- by friends and foes alike -- for it's ability to keep everyone "on message" they're really hosing the damage control.

Either that, or they think the American public is too stupid to notice the wealth of contradictory claims the Administration is making. (Link via Atrios)
:: Morat 10:23 AM :: ::

On Newdow..

I think the saddest part of the whole Pledge case, the most depressing part of the whole coverage, is that while it appears virtually everyone seems to agree that Newdow is clearly right, none of them expect him to win. (See here, here, here, and here for a sample).

What's that say about the rule of law, about the strength of the Constitution?

I don't consider the Pledge to be as big a problem as Newdow does (and I live in Texas, where it might not be mandatory for children to recite it, failure to do so will get you in a heap of trouble), but so what? How important I feel this issue is shouldn't have any bearing on whether it's Constitutional or not. How the American public feels about the issue should have no bearing on it.

Hell, that's the whole point of the Amendment process. If the Constitution doesn't say what you want it to say, and enough people agree with you, it can be changed.

As such, I can't help put be saddened by the belief (one which I share) that the Supreme Court will abandon it's responsibility, and do the popular thing....and not the Constitutionally correct thing.
:: Morat 8:02 AM :: ::

Lying under oath...

Josh Marshall notes that Rice really wants to talk to the 9/11 commission. The sticking point is the "under oath" part.
Last night MSNBC is reported that, according to a senior White House official, Richard Clarke's testimony on the 9/11 'terrorist attacks was considered so damaging that national security adviser Condoleezza Rice planned to ask the panel for a private interview to answer his allegations.'

Again, the request is for a private interview. But if you read down into the piece it seems the hang-up may be that Rice or the White House don't want the testimony to be under oath.
Did you get that? Rice wants to rebut sworn testimony, but "privately". And she doesn't want to be under oath.

There's a silver lining here, you know. The only way to read this is that Rice has no problems lying to the 9/11 Commission in general, but she's not willing to lie if she's under oath. Hey, for the Bush Administration, that's almost integrity.


:: Morat 7:38 AM :: ::

Stupid GOP tricks

Daily Kos points out this notable piece of idiocy:
Republicans have accused Democratic U.S. House candidate Stephanie Herseth of maintaining a secret Web page to receive campaign donations raised from ads on liberal groups' Internet sites.

But a Herseth campaign official scoffed at the charge, saying the Web page is not secret and can be found easily with a standard search of the Internet.
That's right. Her secret web site that is prominently advertised on BlogAds, that bloggers have been linking to and talking about for months and which can be found via a simple Google search. It's "secret" in the sense that Herseth has set up a separate page for blog contributions via her BlogAd (which don't go through the main page). Clicking the "contribute" button then takes you to the regular contribution page. (You can see her contribution page here, and her blog contribution page here)

So, basically, the GOP is angry, angry, angry that Herseth added a special page of information for people who are coming from her BlogAd rather than through her main page. NAUGHTY Herseth!

It's super secret. She only paid a few thousand dollars to advertise it's existence all over the internet.

Fricking idiots.

:: Morat 6:52 AM :: ::

Kay implores US to admit mistakes in Iraq

Poor Bush. All that demand for personal loyalty, and he finds that even his handpicked "Yes Men" will occasionally -- and publicly own up to the facts:
The former chief US weapons inspector in Iraq warned yesterday that the United States is in 'grave danger' of destroying its credibility at home and abroad if it does not own up to its mistakes in Iraq.

'The cost of our mistakes . . . with regard to the explanation of why we went to war in Iraq are far greater than Iraq itself,' David Kay said in a speech at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.
'We are in grave danger of having destroyed our credibility internationally and domestically with regard to warning about future events,' he said. 'The answer is to admit you were wrong, and what I find most disturbing around Washington . . . is the belief . . . you can never admit you're wrong.'
I think that it's rare when anything powerful (whether a political administration or a well-entrenched belief) is taken down by one powerful blow. I think that, most often, it's the steady drip-drip of doubt that kills you in the end.

Oh, Clarke might go down as the "man who destroyed the Bush presidency", but he's nothing more than the end point of a long process that's been running a long time. I doubt Clarke would have found fertile ground -- or an audience willing to listen -- if we hadn't had a steady stream of people pointing out the basic dishonesty of the Bush administration.

Krugman, Blix, O'Neill, Wilsom, Howard Dean... countless small journalists and bloggers and experts and politicians who kept looking at the big picture and saying "These pieces don't add up. It sounds good and all, but it just doesn't make sense once you look at it".

David Kay is just another part of the process, another man who has -- unlike the White House -- owned up to the fact that what he believed and what existed were two different things. (Link via Political Animal)
:: Morat 6:42 AM :: ::

Update on the AP report

I went ahead and added this to the post itself as an update, but felt it deserved it's own entry. Someone who was able to access the Washington Post transcript pointed out that the BOP transcript was in error. My update:

According to the Post the actual quote is as follows:

GORTON: Now, since my yellow light is on, at this point my final question will be this: Assuming that the recommendations that you made on January 25th of 2001, based on Delenda, based on Blue Sky, including aid to the Northern Alliance, which had been an agenda item at this point for two and a half years without any action, assuming that there had been more Predator reconnaissance missions, assuming that that had all been adopted say on January 26th, year 2001, is there the remotest chance that it would have prevented 9/11?

CLARKE: No.
I still think the article is slightly misleading, but not deliberately so. Clarke is quite obviously of the opinion that 9/11 might have been prevented if the Bush administration hadn't been preoccupied with Iraq and had taken AQ seriously. He's just not of the mind that his specific plan for dealing with Al Qaeda would have prevented it, which makes sense, as his plan wasn't developed to spoil 9/11, but to hamper, restrict or (hopefully) kill AQ...which would have hampered new plans, but probably wouldn't have interrupted old ones. My apologies to Ken Guggenheim.

:: Morat 6:30 AM :: ::

:: Thursday, March 25, 2004 ::

Newdow v. SCOTUS

Dahlia Lithwick's Supreme Court Dispatches are always fun to read, and her coverage of the Newdow case is no exception. Apparently, Newdow did not, as many people felt likely, embarrass himself in court as many expected. Instead, he apparently held his own quite well. It's worth reading the whole thing (I'm still thinking 4-4 tie, since Scalia recused himself) but the last paragraph sums up my feelings on the case:
This case is a mess, and not just because of the underlying custody issue, and not just because of the 11,000 outrageous 'tests' the court has cooked up for Establishment Clause cases, and not just because of the serious possibility that it all ends in a 4-4 tie. The case is a mess because, whatever you may think about God or the pledge, if you really apply the case law and really think 'God' means 'God,' then Newdow is right. But Newdow can't be right. Can he?
Newdow is right. Case law here is crystal clear (anyone who read the original decision will find it hard to argue hat). Courts have held, for decades, that while many minor infringements of the Church/State wall are permissible because "reasonable adults" would understand them for the meaningless detritus of history they were, such breaches are not acceptable inside a public schoolroom for the simple reason that children are not adults....reasonable or otherwise. If this were just about the Pledge in general, I'd say the Court would chalk it up to "ceremonial deism" -- their way of saying "Yes, it's a violation, but let's not piss everyone off. After all, who does it hurt?" -- and call it a day.

But we're not talking about the Pledge in general. We're talking about schoolchildren. Not just high school students, but the whole range of public school...from near graduates to children as young as six or seven.

Legally, children aren't required to say the pledge. (They haven't been since 1952, two years before "Under God" was inserted into the Pledge) In practice, however....well, you all remember school. If you don't, let me assure you: Here in Texas, you don't have to say the Pledge. You're merely expected to, and in many school districts failure to do so can lead to quite a few problems, ranging from being labeled a "troublemaker" by teachers to name-calling and abuse by students (and, not infrequently, teachers).

So how will the courts rule? Beats me. I'd say there's a 40% chance they'll extend the exemption to schools. (Although if they don't, the rabid response of some Christians, the President, and 99 Senators in wake of the initial ruling will have a lot to do with it). I'd give it a 40% chance of deadlocking, and a 20% chance of deciding the whole insertion in 1954 was unconstitutional, and chunking the thing entirely.

Update: It was 1943, not 1952, when the Supreme Court held that mandatory pledge recitation was unconstitutional.
:: Morat 9:10 AM :: ::

Stargate SG-1

I admit, I'm a fan. It's well-written, funny in a "realistic" way (watching MacGuyver mock a Goa'uld for speaking like a stock movie villain, for instance), and while it has the techno-babble of most sci-fi shows, I can ignore it.

So I finally got around to watching the season finale, and it occurred to me: If you do steal an advanced ship from the Goa'uld (noted for claiming to be deities), rework it to become your sole space-worthy worship, of course you have to name it Prometheus. I like those sort of small touches, and I think that they are often the difference between a good show and a bad one.

I admit, it's not that subtle a reference. But some times it takes a while for things to filter through....
:: Morat 8:14 AM :: ::

Richard Clarke KOs the Bushies hearings.

Fred Kaplan gives a pretty good summation of Richard Clarke's testimony. Worth a read.
:: Morat 7:40 AM :: ::

AP selective quoting...

Check the selective quoting in this AP article (perhaps we need a Ken Guggenheim watch!):
Former Republican Sen. Slade Gorton asked Clarke if there was "the remotest chance" that the attacks could have been prevented if the Bush administration had adopted his aggressive counterterrorism recommendations upon taking office in January 2001.

"No," Clarke said.
That's what the AP article said. According to the transcript (the Washington Post has one here, but I can't load it. So I used the BOP one here. If there is a discrepancy, please let me know). Here is the actual question:
GORTON: Now, since my yellow light is on, at this point my final question will be this: Assuming that the recommendations that you made on January 25th of 2001, based on Delenda, based on Blue Sky, including aid to the Northern Alliance, which had been an agenda item at this point for two and a half years without any action, assuming that there had been more Predator reconnaissance missions, assuming that that had all been adopted say on January 26th, year 2001, is there the remotest chance that it would have prevented 9/11?

GORTON: It just would have allowed our response, after 9/11, to be perhaps a little bit faster?

CLARKE: Well, the response would have begun before 9/11.

GORTON: Yes, but there was no recommendation, on your part or anyone else's part, that we declare war and attempt to invade Afghanistan prior to 9/11?

CLARKE: That's right.

GORTON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Now, perhaps it's just me but there appears to be a slight disconnect between the AP article and the actual transcript. I don't know about you, but I don't think "invading Afghanistan" was the "only way to prevent 9/11", nor do I see Clarke actually saying that. And that's the only way to make this article conform to the testimony.

Naughty boy, Mr. Guggenheim! Naughty! Anyone know how to contact the AP and complain about blatant lying in their articles? Isn't spin supposed to be subtle?

Update: JB in comments notes that the BOP transcript and the Washington Post transcript differ.. According to the Post (link above) the actual quote is as follows:
GORTON: Now, since my yellow light is on, at this point my final question will be this: Assuming that the recommendations that you made on January 25th of 2001, based on Delenda, based on Blue Sky, including aid to the Northern Alliance, which had been an agenda item at this point for two and a half years without any action, assuming that there had been more Predator reconnaissance missions, assuming that that had all been adopted say on January 26th, year 2001, is there the remotest chance that it would have prevented 9/11?

CLARKE: No.
I still think the article is slightly misleading, but not deliberately so. Clarke is quite obviously of the opinion that 9/11 might have been prevented if the Bush administration hadn't been preoccupied with Iraq and had taken AQ seriously. He's just not of the mind that his specific plan for dealing with Al Qaeda would have prevented it, which makes sense, as his plan wasn't developed to spoil 9/11, but to hamper, restrict or (hopefully) kill AQ...which would have hampered new plans, but probably wouldn't have interrupted old ones. My apologies to Ken Guggenheim. :)
:: Morat 7:22 AM :: ::

Phone call versus Sworn Testimony? Who shall win?

Hmmmm:
National security adviser Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday that administration records -- including former White House counterterrorism official Richard Clarke's own words and actions -- prove false his 'scurrilous allegation that somehow the president of the United States was not attentive to the terrorist threat.'
All right children. Time to play spot the difference. Who testified under oath? Rice or Clarke? Anyone? Anyone? Buellar?

Sorry, Condi. Clarke testified under oath. You won't. I'm afraid that he doesn't look like the one with something to hide.
:: Morat 7:14 AM :: ::

Tom DeLay Leaves Washington? We can hope.

The Mighty Political Animal reports that Tom DeLay might have to step down as Majority Leader. From Roll Call:
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) has begun quiet discussions with a handful of colleagues about the possibility that he will have to step down from his leadership post temporarily if he is indicted by a Texas grand jury investigating alleged campaign finance abuses.
And it's not even my birthday!
:: Morat 6:47 AM :: ::

:: Wednesday, March 24, 2004 ::

"Your Government Failed You"

Damn.
Your government failed you. Those entrusted with protecting you failed you. I failed you. We tried hard, but we failed you...I ask for your understanding, and your forgiveness.
I don't think I've seen a more powerful and savage testimony ever. Clarke isn't pulling any punches, and he's handling the antagonistic members of the committee like they're children. They can't seem to find a foothold on him.

At one point, Clarke said: " By invading Iraq, the President of the United States has greatly undermined the war on terrorism." in response to a question from (I think) Lehman....I thought CNN had lost the feed, because it was dead quite for about five seconds.

They didn't. It was an actual pause. Everyone was speechless. Just the awed silence as everyone stared at him. Lehman couldn't seem to open his mouth.

:: Morat 1:13 PM :: ::

Flying Shark versus Flying Crocodile

I see that Jesse over at Pandagon has weighed in on the critical "Flying Shark versus Flying Crocodile" match.

I think he's wrong. It's Flying Crocodile, all the way. In the water, the shark would tear the crocodile to shreds. But I think Jesse underestimates the manueverability element. The crocodile has wings, which means lower speed than the jetpack-powered shark, yes. But also far greater manueverability. Newton's got the shark in a bind, as he's going to have tons of inertia to shed every time he wants to change direction, whereas the crocodile will have something akin to the agility of a hawk.

And let's face it: A crocodile is armored from nose to tail, whereas -- the jaws aside -- a shark is pretty much squishy from one in to the other.

I see this being a brief fight, wherein the crocodile simply dodges the bullrush of the shark, latches onto the shark's back, and goes to town on it's juicy cartilaginous body....
:: Morat 8:54 AM :: ::

New blogging goodness

Welcome to the The Panda's Thumb, a new group blog dedicated to evolution discussions. (A topic near and dear to my shriveled liberal heart!). (Link via PZ Myers, the owner of Pharyngula and one of the contributors to The Panda's Thumb).

Oh, and for those who don't get the reference: The thumb of a panda is an excellent example of jury-rigged design, and also the name of one Gould's better known essays. If you haven't read it (or any of Gould's Natural History essays) I suggest picking it up. The Panda's Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History is a really well-written, fascinating, and quite approachable even to us laymen.
:: Morat 8:29 AM :: ::

Democrats may get edge in education debate

I saw this in the paper this morning:
If there is a special session on school finance this spring, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst plans to reinstate a tradition that will make it more difficult to win Senate approval of private school vouchers and other controversial proposals.

Dewhurst said the Senate would require a two-thirds vote to debate all legislation. As presiding officer, he set that requirement aside during the highly charged partisan debate over redistricting last summer, prompting 11 Democratic senators to shut down Senate business by fleeing to New Mexico.

Some major education initiatives, including part of Perry's property tax limitation plan, would require constitutional amendments and two-thirds votes in the House and the Senate regardless of the procedural change.
My first thought on this is pretty simple: Ah shit, they're going to blame us for this damn mess. Perry's been putting off actually doing something about this because practically any solution is simply going to make everyone mad. Worse yet, the GOP is pretty divided on what to do...they can't even agree on what's the best solution. Perry doesn't want to touch this issue at all.

It's one of those lovely political issues where, no matter what you do, even the people you're helping are going to decide they're getting the shaft.

Any special session is either doomed to failure (most likely) from lack of consensus, or will end up passing a bill that won't fix the problem...but piss off anyone not already angry. So what's the solution? Reinstate the 2/3rds rule then blame the Democrats for lack of progress. Sure it's cynical....but nothing in Texas politics surprises me anymore. And to think that, before George Bush, we were noted for our bipartisanship. It's amazing how much that man can ruin in so short a time....
:: Morat 8:03 AM :: ::

Richard Clarke terrorizes the White House

There's a good interview with Clarke on Salon. One answer in particular caught my eye:
You said on '60 Minutes' that you expected 'their dogs' to be set on you when your book was published, but did you think that the attacks would be so personal?

Oh yeah, absolutely, for two reasons. For one, the Bush White House assumes that everyone who works for them is part of a personal loyalty network, rather than part of the government. And that their first loyalty is to Bush rather than to the people. When you cross that line or violate that trust, they get very upset.
The rest of it is pretty much a rehash of the 60 minutes interview (if you didn't see it, Salon's interview gives you a good summation).

I think Bush and Rove see this as a potential nightmare. You don't send the Vice-President out to peddle lies on Rush Limbaugh unless you're damn worried.
:: Morat 7:02 AM :: ::

:: Tuesday, March 23, 2004 ::

Fresh Yummy Refunds

Matt Singer (over at Not Geniuses) is a little peeved at Reynold's happiness over his tax return.:
Look, the fact is that for most Americans, real tax relief would involve payroll tax cuts. And for young Americans like myself, the tradeoff of even a twice-as-large tax refund versus the public debt we're now dealing with does not make it worth it. That means that basically old, rich guys are doing very well. And, in the long run, we're getting screwed.

Hey, old, rich guys, enjoy your god damn money. I'll be pissing on your grave when the world goes to hell.
In the spirit of things (since Glenn listed what he's doing with his tax return) let me list what I'm doing with my much larger than expected refund*:
  • Paying three months mortgage at once, because Bush's economy left my wife unable to find a job for six months. I'm so thrilled that Bush's tax cuts allowed me to handle Bush's economy as a lump sum, as opposed to the "paying it in installments over 12 months".
  • Paying off a third of the debt I accumulated over my wife's unemployment. Thanks George!
  • Taking my two dogs to the vet, and my child to the dentist...things that have been put off in favor of making sure the bills are paid. Thanks George!
There you have it folks. I'm so lucky. Why, without George's economy and the NCLB act, my wife would have been gainfully employed the whole school year, and I'd have only gotten half the refund....

Sure, I wouldn't have any debt, and my wife's salary would have been several times the "little bit extra" George slipped into my refund....but who pays attention to such fiddling little details anyways?

*Note. I do also plan to take my wife out to a nice dinner and buy her some makeup she needs. Such luxury! Thanks George. You can bet I'll vote Republican this fall!
:: Morat 12:55 PM :: ::

Happiness is...

A two hour meeting that results in you learning that, yet again, the drive to avoid duplication of work has led to massive duplication of work.

They have their tool, we have our tool, and despite the fact that they both do the same thing (ours is better, of course), in the end they'll both be used. On the bright side, they'll be used by separate groups in separate places, so it's not quite as bad as it sounds.

Strange as it sounds, there are times when it's really best to use two simple tools whose functions overlap, rather than create the Unified Power Tool that does both, but requires two years of training before you're even allowed to log on.
:: Morat 12:44 PM :: ::

Blogging today...

Blogging will be fairly light, I think. I'm pretty busy at work, and probably have to leave early to pick up my child from school. More tonight, hopefully.
:: Morat 10:02 AM :: ::

:: Monday, March 22, 2004 ::

Rice will not testify before 9/11 panel

Oh really?:
Starting Tuesday, the most important Sept. 11 Commission hearings yet will scrutinize counterterror efforts of two presidential administrations, but a star witness will not be there.

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice refuses to testify under oath, insisting that presidential advisers need not answer to legislative bodies.
Pull the other one, Rice...it's got bells on. You're a high-ranking figure in the executive department. You answer to the American people....especially for your mistakes.

Damn that pisses me off. "Presidential advisors need not answer to legislative bodies". Screw that. (Link via Billmon, who notes that it probably won't work any better for Rice than it did for Nixon)
:: Morat 10:24 AM :: ::

Lies, Damned Lies, and the Patients Bill of Rights.

Kevin Drum, our new Political Animal, brings up something that's been bugging me ever since the 2000 election: George Bush's "support" for the Texas Patient's Bill of Rights and the media coverage of his claims.

Basically speaking, George "supported" the Texas bill by vetoing it, then when it came up again, refusing to support it, and then when it passed by a veto-proof majority, refused to sign it. (And now, when it's before the Supreme Court, his administration is asking the court to strike it down).

Yet he still claimed, on the campaign trail, that he supported the thing and stumped around talking about how he got things done to help patients.

And no one called him on it.

I wonder, to this day, if that particular incident is what set the pattern for this Administration. Perhaps they were getting away with it before, but that's the first time I remember George Bush repeatedly lying and getting away with it. No subtle lies...not lies difficult to check. We're talking bald-faced lies that are about as hard to fact-check as statements like "My eyes are blue".

For a politician, learning you can utter even the most ridiculous lie and get a free pass from the press is golden. Why would you ever stop?

:: Morat 9:51 AM :: ::

Clarke on 60 Minutes

I saw the interview, and I'm not sure how explosive or damaging it's going to be. In a purely rational society, it'd be fairly substantial proof that the Bush Administration is incapable of dealing with reality. On the other hand, it's nothing really new. We all knew that Bush and Co. focused on Iraq from the day they took office (for varying reasons, ranging from a firm belief Saddam was a danger to a firm belief that knocking off an Arab country would show everyone we're still the baddest country on the block), and we all knew they spent a lot of time lying about how Iraq and Al Qaeda were, basically, the same thing. I don't think it really matters if they were lying to us, or lying to themselves...although the way their statements were parsed indicates at least some of them (Yes, Colin, I'm looking at you) knew it was complete and utter BS.

I think what bugs me the most is that I don't want to be right about this. We're a powerful country and, like it or not, the things we do have massive consequences. Deep down, I've always hoped that Bush was, somehow, capable of dealing with this problem. That I was "misunderestimating" him, that he was actually surrounded by intelligent advisors who were capable of solving problems. That he only appeared to be the most incompetent President of the 20th century because he was making decisions on data we didn't have.

So to see a prominent figure go onto national TV and say "Nope. He's really clueless, and he's surrounded by idiots to boot." and follow up with "You know, they're just not capable of handling this. They can't handle modern problems, so they've decided to solve the problems we had a decade or two ago...despite the fact that they've mostly solved themselves", well....that's just damn scary.

I've always thought George Bush was out of his depth. I've always thought most of his advisors were as well. And I've always thought -- rather cynically -- that he saw terrorism not as a threat, but as an opportunity to push more of his agenda.

I thought that. But the last thing I wanted was to be proven right...in retrospect, perhaps electing a C-student was a bad idea.


:: Morat 9:43 AM :: ::

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