Open eyes, open ears, open mind
December 04, 2003
That's all, folks!
For various reasons, I've decided to move on from Blogger and take my blog to a site which requires me to spend some money. For the past few days, I've been double-posting here and at the new site,

This will be my last post at this site, though if any of my legion of fans would like to take over here, let me know, and we can work something out. It seems that it may be possible for me to export the contents of this blog to the new site; I'll try to get that done in the next few days.

Hope to see you over there! Don't forget to reset your bookmarks!
Terrorists? Protestors? What's the Difference?
So, I've had a thread running for the past week or so about official suppression of legitimate opposition speech under the guise of fighting terrorism. So it should come as no surprise that the FBI is tacitly targeting legitimate protests as part of the War on Terror.

But I was surprised anyway.

At first, I didn't think this memo really had anything to do with official abuse of the War on Terror for political ends, until I saw the very last line: "Law enforcement agencies should be alert to these possible indicators of protest activity and report any potentially illegal acts to the nearest FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force."
A Confession . . .
Okay, I admit it. That wasn't a nice thing I did just now. In the previous post, I unfairly characterized the defenders of the Plame leak by intentionally citing their weakest, most surreal arguments, and providing none of their stronger arguments.

They actually do have one moderately strong argument: it seems likely that Aldrich Ames blew Valerie Plame's cover back in 1994, in which case nothing Karl Rove or Bob Novak says about her should matter now. You need to pay to see Nicholas Kristof's original article about this, but as usual, Calpundit gives a good explanation of things.

Ordinarily I would never play such a mean-spirited trick on my opponents, but I do have a reason for stooping to this level: the Bush team is engaging in exactly this sort of puerile behavior. Bush recently started a running a campaign ad in Iowa which states, among other things, that "Some are now attacking the president for attacking the terrorists." There is no doubt that this is true, but most of the folks who are upset with Bush actually have valid reasons, not the stupid one cited in the ad (see rest of blog).

(In case the Aldrich Ames thing has shattered your faith, there are at least two reasons why the Kristof article shouldn't undermine the case against Rove: (1) It seems the CIA only suspects that Ames gave Plame to the Russians; they aren't certain about it, and (2) Publishing an agent's name in the paper is on a whole separate plane of wrongness from simply revealing her to a foreign intelligence agency.)
Principled or Hypocrite? You Decide!
Since people are starting to talk about the Plame thing again, albeit for all the wrong reasons, I thought now would be a good time to continue our comparison of two leaks: the Plame leak, and Katherine Gun's leak. You may recall that I posted a fun game comparing these two stories some time back.

This time, instead of comparing the leakers (Katherine Gun, who has readily admitted that she leaked, and Karl Rove, who is relying on reporters to fulfill their professional obligation not to reveal their sources), let's compare the folks who defend the leakers.

Believe it or not, all of the following are arguments set forth by defenders of the Bush administration, in an attempt to convince us all that the Valerie Plame thing is no big deal:
Now, those are pretty compelling reasons to just give up on Plamegate and call it a day. In fact, I won't be surprised if Ashcroft drops the ostensible Justice Department investigation for reasons just this sound.

As for Ms. Gun, well, she herself provides the best reason for defending her: she leaked a secret email because it was The Right Thing To Do. "I will defend the charge against me on the basis that my actions were necessary to prevent an illegal war in which thousands of Iraqi civilians and British soldiers would be killed or maimed."
December 03, 2003
So the media have finally given some more attention to the Valerie Plame story. Unfortunately, the defenders of the Bush administration see this as an excuse to dump the whole investigation.

So I said to Roger Simon:
"Let me make sure I've got this straight. It seems to me that you wingnuts contend:

1) Some senior administration official outed a covert CIA operative working on WMD. Whether you accept that this was done to intimidate other potential whistleblowers or to punish Wilson, U.S. intelligence operations were compromised.

2) As a consequence, Plame's career is over.

3) She has said that she does not want to appear in or speak to the media.

4) But it seems that she recently changed her mind.

5) And so, the fact that a senior administration official committed a felony and compromised the war on terror (see (1)) is no big deal.

As Glenn Reynolds would say: Interesting."

Unseal Everything
Analysts are starting to see the presidential race as Bush vs. Dean. They are also, interestingly enough, starting to remark on the similarities between them.

One unsettling similarity these two former governors share is a desire to conceal facts about their terms as governor. The Washington Post reports that the GOP is going after Dean because Dean took steps to insure that records of his tenure as governor of Vermont remain sealed for 10 years --- 4 years longer than what is typical for a Vermont governor.

Sure, this is a little suspicious, but the Bush camp is suffering from a severe case of 'Hello, Kettle, this is Pot, you're black' by criticizing Dean here. Three weeks before taking the presidential oath of office, Bush shipped all of his gubernatorial records off to his father's Presidential library, where there was some doubt whether they would be accessible to the public. After a court battle, it appears that the public can now make requests for these records.

Of course, Bush's penchant for secrecy didn't end there. Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Bush issued an executive order which allows a sitting President to withhold records from his or any previous administration, an act which experts called 'unprecedented'. And most recently, of course, the Bush team has succeeded in restricting the independent commission investigating 9/11 from viewing most of Bush's daily briefing documents leading up to 9/11.

Until Bush revokes his executive order, and gives the 9/11 commission access to every single document they ask for, I don't want to hear Ed Gillespie or any Republican criticizing Dean on this issue.
November 30, 2003
More From Miami
Today, at least one Florida paper devoted an extensive amount of space to the police abuse at the FTAA meeting in Miami. The St. Petersburg Times corroborates other reports that police use of force was excessive and often arbitrary, and exercised with little accountability.

The Times also mentions the checkered past of Miami police chief John Timoney, who apparently gained his current position by using his ruthlessly effective techniques to suppress protestors' right to free speech at the 2000 Republican National convention.

For this and other reasons mentioned here, I expect that the 2004 RNC convention will feature Bush/Ashcroft/the Republican party using the First Amendment for toilet paper.

Apparently Kevin Phillips thinks the same thing (link via Atrios).
Via Atrios . . .
Bush has some competition for the Republican nomination.

This guy's candidacy is almost certainly going nowhere. But it's fun to fantasize about him distracting Bush from his relentless craven attacks on Democrats' patriotism.

More important, it good to see at least one Republican stand up and acknowledge that Bush is not governing in line with traditional conservative principles.
November 29, 2003
Watergate Redux
No, I'm not going to talk about the story that a GOP staffer seems to have hacked into Democrats' computers. This is a bigger deal than that.

Cliff Schecter reports at that there have been two incidents in the past year of "'politically motivated investigations' and the questionable methods employed to conduct these investigations by two U.S. attorneys with strong Republican credentials."


"In both Pennsylvania and Georgia, private computers and personal records have been confiscated from Democratic elected officials before charges have been issued. In two of the cases, the timing has been suspiciously close to important elections with national implications. And the refusal of FBI officials to publicly comment on the nature of these investigations has only fueled the fire of those who claim that political character assassination is the only motive.


In light of the leak of a CIA agent's name as a political tactic by the White House, the bullying and redistricting mid-session in Texas and other very similar stories of politically motivated, alleged prosecutorial misconduct, the question many Democrats are asking themselves is what they will do in the face of what seems like an all-out assault intended to turn our country into a one-party state."

We Can't Even Trust the 'Good Guys'
There's a Boston Globe article republished today in Truthout (scroll down), in which a U.S. Lieutenant General stationed in Iraq makes a couple of interesting comments.

First, he tells us that "We still haven't conclusively established an al-Qaida operative in this country." Sure, there's every reason to believe that al-Qaida is behind at least some of the attacks on U.S. troops, but it's a bit unsettling that the military hasn't been able to conclusively prove that yet.

The more troubling revelation is that, apparently, some U.S.-trained Iraqi police and civilian informants appear to have conducted some of the attacks.

This seems to further corroborate my earlier conclusion that the United States has now irrefutably and irreversibly lost the peace in Iraq.
November 27, 2003
Of Course You've Heard of 'The Miami Model'
As usual, I'm amazed at the minimal press coverage of the FTAA protests in Miami and subsequent police abuse. A search in the 'liberal' Washington Post turns up nothing. A search in the 'liberal' New York Times turns up two articles, both buried.

A search in the Miami Herald turns up a few articles, but almost none of them discuss allegations of police abuse of authority. The one editorial which does discuss the issue makes two interesting statements. The opening sentence asserts "it's fair to say that the worst fears -- on both sides -- about protests during the conference didn't materialize," which suggests that both the police and the protestors were well-behaved. However, the fourth paragraph contains this: "It didn't seem to make much difference if you were a peaceful demonstrator, trouble-causing provocateur or a working member of the press. Your chances of getting shot with pepper balls or rubber bullets were about the same at times."

I guess he's right, though. Random people getting shot by pepper spray and rubber bullets for no discernible reason isn't the worst thing the police could do.

Apart from the few articles cited in the earlier post (from a British news source and a little-known leftist radio show, you'll notice), the only significant coverage is at Common Dreams, where a lot of folks sound off. Even in the blogosphere, there's little or no discussion about it.

Well, Instapundit mentions it in passing, but only to denigrate the protestors.
Forget the Patriot Act, We've got Bigger Problems
"Armed checkpoints, embedded reporters in flak jackets, brutal suppression of peaceful demonstrators. Baghdad? No, Miami." That was the tag line to an article published in The Guardian yesterday, concerning protests and the police response to them at the recent FTAA meeting in Miami. Among other things, protesters allege:

". . . police had fired on unarmed protesters with rubber bullets that left large welts, forced them to the ground and handcuffed them at gunpoint and used pepper spray on them. They said the police also stopped hundreds of people on the streets, searched them without cause and sometimes seized their possessions.

Dozens of protesters were jailed for hours or even a few days, and the coalition members said many had been denied water, food and, in some cases, medical treatment."
The allegations of abuse (which are quite credible, by the way) are disturbing enough. What's really frightening, though, is that there's every reason to think that, as the mayor of Miami put it, this will become 'a model for homeland defense'. After all, the Miami cops paid for their efforts using $8.5 million of the $87 billion earmarked for Iraq.

Bush's campaign ads insinuate that those who disagree with his policies are aiding the terrorists, but the events in Miami prove that he's not just running a smear campaign --- he really intends to treat the constitutionally protected right to dissent as an act of terrorism.

Read the Guardian piece and Jeremy Scahill's article on the Miami model to get a glimpse of the next phase in Bush's war on free speech. Next to this, the Patriot Act is small potatoes.
November 26, 2003
Mistakes were made
The Boston Globe has published an interview with former Iraqi administrator Jay Garner, in which he enumerates several mistakes the Pentagon made in post-war Iraq. While acknowledging that he made some mistakes during his tenure, he also criticizes his successor, Paul Bremer, for disbanding the Iraqi army. "You're talking about around a million or more people ... that are suffering because the head of the household's out of work."

Garner also gives some crucial insight into why it was that the Army had no plan for postwar Iraq. Apparently Powell had completed a 'study' for postwar Iraq, and Garner had brought in a senior State Department planner, Tom Warrick, to discuss the plans. But Rumsfeld insisted that Garner fire Warrick:

"Tom was just beginning to get started with us when one day I was in the office with the secretary of defense, and he said 'Jay, have you got a guy named Warrick on your team?' I said, `yes, I do.' He said, 'well, I've got to ask you to remove him.' I said, `I don't want to remove him; he's too valuable.'

But he said, 'This came to me from such a high level that I can't overturn it, and I've just got to ask you to remove Mr. Warrick.'"
I can only think of two possible 'higher levels' above Rumsfeld, so one has to ask: Didn't Bush or Cheney realize that by firing Warrick they were leaving the military hanging without a postwar strategy?

Garner also throws his support behind the 'flypaper' theory for the war on terror. Garner says about the fact that international terrorists appear to be swarming to Iraq to battle our troops: "That's not all bad. Bring 'em all in there, we'll kill 'em there." Lovely.

November 25, 2003
The most brutal attack on American soldiers?
In a follow-up to the previous post, I should mention that there are now conflicting accounts of exactly how brutal the recent attack in Mosul was. In a follow-up story on NPR, John Daniszewski reports that although all eyewitness accounts confirm that there was a mob attack, the Army reports that the only injuries to the soldiers were bullet wounds.

It's probably worth mentioning that the original report states that American soldiers seemed to believe the mob theory.

The Army has an obvious motive for wanting to dispel the notion that this was a mob attack; it's less clear why all Mosul eyewitnesses would want to exaggerate the seriousness of it. But even if the mob element of this story really is just a myth, the fact that so many people in Mosul want us to believe it was extremely brutal goes to show how deep the anti-American sentiment is among ordinary Iraqis.
It's Over, Guys (WARNING: Links to strong language)
There has been considerable comment sparked by a letter Salam Pax, the Iraqi blogger wrote to The Guardian (you can scroll down to see it, but it is reproduced in most of the other links referenced here). On the one side, we have James Lileks, who seems to have captured the essence of the war hawks' view, along with Glenn Reynolds, Roger Simon and N.Z. Bear. On the other side, we have Dan Drezner and others. Drezner does a good job of summarizing the whole exchange.

It seems to me that the hawks' argument boils down to this: Sure, Bush and co. have made some mistakes in Iraq, but our soldiers are dying out there trying to help the Iraqi people, so Pax shouldn't be so 'snarky' when he criticizes Bush. Lileks in particular seems offended that Pax is writing to Bush in a condescending tone when he and the Iraqi people 'owe' the U.S. for deposing Saddam.

Lileks' rage is understandable, but entirely beside the point. Without realizing it, N.Z. Bear highlighted the true relevance of Pax's remarks when he closed his rant by saying to Pax: ". . . realize that like it or not, you now speak for your whole country --- and what matters is not just what you say, but how you say it."

That's exactly right. Pax has eloquently summarized in just a few paragraphs the mood of most Iraqis, and instead of sitting over here and shouting obscenities at Pax through their blogs, it's time the pro-war crowd woke up and recognized that Pax's letter foreshadows an unprecedented depth and breadth of Iraqi hatred toward America which will mark the months to come. Of course the pro-war crowd doesn't like it. No one should like it, because it's going to get unspeakably ugly, but it's important to understand that Pax is just a symptom of a much bigger problem, and venting our spleen on Pax does nothing to address that problem.

The problem is, whether or not you supported the war, the United States has now irrefutably and irreversibly lost the peace in Iraq. 434 American casualties is nothing compared to what we're likely to see in the next 6 months.

You want proof? Three days after Salam's letter appeared, we saw what was probably the most brutal attack on American soldiers since 'major combat operations' ended. The Guardian description of events is less graphic than others I have heard or read, but should still make anyone's blood run cold: "Witnesses described seeing the gunmen shoot the soldiers before a crowd dragged their bodies out, beat them and stole their equipment."

Note that a crowd dragged the soldiers' bodies out of the car and beat them (with cinderblocks, I've heard). Sure, it was militants who shot and killed them, but everyday Mosul citizens who trashed the corpses.

As ugly as this incident was, is it perhaps the nadir of the post-war troubles? Not likely. NPR reports that the Coalition has only managed to stockpile about 20% of the heating oil necessary to get through the winter. Iraqis are likely to blow up American humvees and outposts just to stay warm.

So let's suck it up and get the UN and/or NATO in to help clean things up. If it means that Halliburton and Bechtel have to share some of their war profits with *gasp* foreign interests, who cares? It might save some lives.
Fiscal Conservatives
Via Calpundit, the House Democrats have produced a report which outlines how the number and overall cost of pet projects, known as "earmarks" have exploded since the Republicans took control of Congress.

You remember how the Republicans took control of Congress, with the infamous Contract With America. That's the contract where, among other things, the Republicans vowed to "restore fiscal responsibility to an out-of-control Congress."

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