Interview with Michael Ledeen

Raw Story's Larissa Alexandrovna interviews Iran Contra and neocon heavy Michael Ledeen (part one in a series).


Another Reporter Takes the Daou Challenge (Sort of)

Another reporter responds to the Daou Challenge as well as to the previous post about it:

I think [Daou is] absolutely right about storylines. (I hadn't seen that post until just now.) I think a number of things are at play here: The dominance of TV, especially the 24-hour networks; the reliance on punditry rather than objective analysis by such networks (and other sources); the nature of neoconservatism, which favors the sort of hypersimplistic, slogan-based worldview that's so easily digestible by reporters and anchors, not to mention the public, compared to liberals' more nuanced worldviews; the fact that Americans, by and large, ain't real smart; the fact that many reporters, especially on TV, are lazy or incompetent or both; and the fact that the administration and their propaganda ministers at Fox and on radio tend to set the approved script for a given incident early, so that everything that follows runs smack into the "received wisdom." The Cheney shooting story's a good example. And right-wing media can do it with zest because they don't have to worry about balance, fairness or nuance. The Cheney shooting story isn't the story; the story is the press daring to question his character during what must have been a terrible day for him, bless his heart. The proposed port deal with the UAE -- A NATION WITH ESTABLISHED TIES TO AL-QAIDA RUNNING A PRIME GATEWAY FOR WEAPONS -- isn't the story; the story is those duplicitous, hysterical Democrats, yet again playing politics by opposing the deal to make themselves look strong on defense in order to conceal their weakness on defense in the past. The key is staying on message and delivering a simple, consistent, easily digestible meme you can return to again and again. Democrats have trouble doing that; I'm still not sure why.

I also think you're right: The administration intimidates the shit out of the Times and Post and others.
Of course, for all our chatter about bias and storylines and narratives and journalistic negligence, what's even more frustrating is what comes out but doesn't stick. CNN has run an hour-long special report that lays out thoroughly how the Administration cherry-picked intelligence to lead us into war with Iraq. It's impeccably sourced, well-done, incontrovertible. And yet no one seems to care enough.

[The reporter from the previous WPC post] alluded to something that's true. If media are biased toward anything, it's toward making money, like any other business. Fewer owners and larger conglomerates mean less independence, more pressure on newsrooms and the increasing ability of government to intimidate media outlets into complicity and silence. The people who run these corporations don't have Che posters on their office walls, I can assure you.


Bush Does Something Good

I know, you didn't expect to see it here, but Bush is seeking $1.46B for flood protection here--specifically, gates to keep storm surges from rolling up the Industrial Canal. If we'd had them before, many people would still be alive and thousands of homes would be intact. Oh, well. Let's hope that 1) it's enough money and will be properly spent, and 2) Congress approves it. From the Times Picayune (our local news god):
The construction of sector gates to keep storm surges out of the Industrial Canal, and permanent backflow protection to stop inland flooding through pump stations in Orleans and Jefferson parishes, are among $1.46 billion in hurricane protection improvements the Bush administration is asking Congress to authorize and finance.

This is the first time since Katrina slammed the area that President Bush and the Army Corps of Engineers have formally proposed building gates to beef up protection for the New Orleans area from the ravages of another hurricane.

The proposal calls for building one set of gates where the Industrial Canal flows into Lake Pontchartrain and a second set somewhere west of the juncture of the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet and the Intracoastal Waterway.

Other enhancements to the region's battered hurricane protection system include construction of permanent pump stations at the lake for three New Orleans outfall canals, armoring to protect especially vulnerable sections of levee from scouring, construction of 23 miles of new levee in Plaquemines Parish, restoration of coastal wetlands and ecosystems especially hard-hit by Katrina, and "storm-proofing" individual pump stations.
Keep your fingers crossed that this actually happens and we don't get screwed.



Are in front of my apartment right now, waiting to join the Krewe d'Etat parade in half an hour.

  Posted by Picasa


The Washington Press Corpse? a Journalist Responds

One of those pesky mystery reporters who sometimes appears here was conscripted responded to my post on the Daou Challenge:
I think Daou has a good general point, and you as well have some good points. I must say, though, I get tired of some of the nitpicking criticism out there, when there could be good, harmless explanations.

For instance, the alleged CBS story [one of Daou's examples] about the Secret Service interference after the Cheney shooting that never aired. Perhaps it never aired because it had weak sourcing or was contradicted by other evidence. Anybody think of that? That's the most common reason why news organizations pull breaking stories.Whatever happened to benefit of the doubt? He seems too sensitive. For instance, pointing out headlines from Bush's State of the Union that he think gave Bush too much credit. Headlines by their nature leave out nuances like the ones he's mentioning. The news was that an ex-oil man says the country is addicted to oil and needs to change. Several media outlets pointed out either right away or within a day or two that this was a fairly hollow challenge. Why isn't he highlighting those stories as examples of the media doing their job right?

I worry there's a new conventional wisdom forming that liberals are the real victims of media bias now. I don't think this is true any more than I think there was any pervasive liberal bias in the past. The result, unfortunately, is routine and often irrational distrust of large news organizations from all sides. I think that's dangerous.

Let me introduce a few caveats. Serious journalism is a shrinking business. There are only a few major newspapers and small number of magazines that engage in it day in day out. The big TV networks still do some decent work, but the quality of coverage has been declining for years. The 24-hour cable competition has edged out news coverage in favor of punditry, which overall has a conservative bent. The serious news coverage that the 24-hour channels still do is subordinated to the latest shark attack and missing white girls in Aruba. Entertainment coverage also routinely trumps serious reporting.

We also have now a conservative media -- talk radio, Fox News, right-wing bloggers, political magazines, Christian news organizations -- that has matured into a powerful force in today's information competition, unmatched, unless you count Air America and a few blogs and political magazines, by a literal counterweight. That is changing. I predict in 10 years, the media is going to be a three-headed beast. Conservative media, liberal media, and more traditional non-partisan media increasingly henpecked and squeezed. Consumers will feel they're getting the real news from their chosen echo chamber and will distrust news that tries to address both sides of issues. It could go further with the US turning into Italy with the state controlling certain media organizations. Not a healthy development.

And as I've said before, what liberal bias may have infected some news coverage in the 70s and 80s has largely disappeared. You don't for instance see stories that off-handedly dismiss supply side economics as you might have seen once. You don't see apologist stories about the great economic progress in Cuba and the Soviet Union. You don't see stories that make it seem like any Republican presidential candidate is one step from starting a nuclear war.

I can tell you reporters don't spend their days trying to figure out ways to slant stories ideologically. I do think that the liberal bias drumbeat has led some journalists to make sure that if they have a story critical of Republican that they also need to throw in some Democrats, and sometimes this leads to lazy, knee-jerk "pox on both houses" reporting. I think this may explain some of what Daou is highlightling.

There has always been lazy reporting -- read some old newspaper sometime and you'll see -- but now the Internet makes it easier to point out those instances and amplify them 1000-fold. I think overall that's good. It leads to more careful work. But it also erodes trust in the news media. I worry that we may end up doing irreparable damage in the end.

Also, I think Daou's critique gives short shrift to some truly exceptional reporting in the past year: NSA spy story, various terrorism stories, coverage of the cracking up of the military, paying for stories in Iraq, clandestine prisons in Eastern Europe, great Katrina exposes, wonderful explanations of the Abramoff scandal, and the list goes one. And a time when prosecutors are increasingly going after journalists who bring this stuff to light! These stories have, rightly put the Bush administration in a bad light. Daou astutely notes that critical coverage alone is no proof of bias. But I think the overwhelmingly negative weight of all this news, however, casts doubt on his central premise that the bias pendulum is swinging the other way.

And liberal bias has not disappeared, it's just morphed into more of a cultural bias. Nicholas Kristof has written about this insightfully. I see it in the coverage of evangelicals. It's there in the NY Times running hundreds of relatively sympathetic stories about gay marriage and very little highlighting the many Americans who are uncomfortable with the idea. It's in ignoring stories about the great trouble many parents face in finding TV their children can watch. I think this is starting to change. Major organizations are doing much better work than they have in the past on religion in America and all its permutations. But there's more to be done.

Rob, I think your point about media missing big stories is more on point that Daou's. But I would put it a little differently.

All the stuff you mentioned, perhaps with a couple of exceptions, has been reported by at least a couple of major organizations in this country. What hasn't happened is these stories haven't caught fire and received the kind of red ball treatment that say the Valerie Plame case or the NSA spying case has. So the stories are not really missing, but they have not reached critical mass.

Frankly, I don't know why some stories become covered by everybody and others don't. News unfortunately has a pack mentality. So if the NY Times, the Washington Post or NPR lead with something many other organizations follow. What needs to happen is more organizations blazing their own paths and not playing follow the leader. That would require more money and commitment than many of these profit-oriented organizations are willing to put forward.

Another problem with the stories you mentioned is that the media reflexively recoils from things that look they might be conspiracy-mongering. That leads to some self censorship. So stories that Republicans may have pulled some fast ones to win Ohio in 2004 get downplayed lest reporters seem like Kennedy assassination nuts. I think every story should be looked at on its own merits. While some of what you talk about may not ultimately prove a huge deal, some of it may. Who would have thought a few years ago that the United States would advocate torture and no-limits spying on its own citizens?

This is kind of rambling, but those are my thoughts.
Next, I'll post my reply and then his. No, really, I will.

If You Want to Destroy My Sweater

If you want to destroy my sweater
Hold this thread as I walk away
Watch me unravel, I'll soon be naked
Lying on the floor (lying on the floor)
I've come undone
Now I'm not suggesting that this post at The Next Hurrah will unravel that for which "sweater" is a metaphor here, but it leads in some tantalizing directions regarding war, lobbying and defense contracting. Highly recommended.


The Daou Challenge, or the Washington Press Corpse, Part MMVI

Last week, Salon's Peter Daou issued a challenge to right-wing bloggers: If you hold the news media responsible for the "Cheney mess...prove it." He listed numerous examples of what he calls pro-Bush "storylines" (or narratives), then asked right-wing bloggers to list counter examples. So far, none has. Daou did, however, receive one interesting reply from Jon Henke of QandO, who argued that anecdotal evidence proved nothing:
I'm positive that the kind of challenge issued by Peter Daou will be useless, as are his own answers. Anecdotal data is interesting, certainly, but it's usually confirmation of the whatever you want to learn. Fact is, there's a plethora of anecdotal data for media bias in either direction — left or right (etc, etc). The idea that there is a monolithic media bias is tempting — it appeals to our idealogical desire for a bogeyman — but I think it is ultimately an obscurant.
My take is this. I think Daou's right about the national news media channeling pro-Bush narratives, but I also think that: 1) His litany of examples was convincing and yet 2) John Henke was right in saying that the list did not prove his assertion. It did, however, make Daou's assertion difficult to argue against.

Underlying Henke's point is the typical scientific bias against anecdotal evidence, which, while understandable, is often used to dismiss many observations out of hand. Anecdotal evidence may not be hard evidence, but it's still evidence. If we didn't use it, we wouldn't have a news media, a judicial system, sociology, history books or He's Just Not That into You.

One of the biggest problems is that, when it comes to allegations of media bias, the GOP has so purposefully muddied the waters that the word "liberal" means nothing anymore, as Glen Greenwald recently observed. (Daou's posts on the resulting fracas are must-reads, as are Greenwald's.)

For a successful study we need 1) definitions of "liberal," "conservative," and everything in between, fleshed out with policy examples (you could use a neutral, multi-category taxonomy even, that eschewed all political terms), and 2) the systematic application of that taxonomy to a series of major "storylines." A list of apolitical media biases would help, too. That would include biases favoring drama, bad news, etc.

What Henke doesn't appreciate is that Daou's post was a blog post and not an article, let alone a thorough scientific study. It was a challenge which should have resulted in counter examples. Unfortunately, it did not.

What I'm more concerned with than storylines, though, is that the Washington Press Corpse (a term I coined here), while played by Rove and Company, routinely neglects major stories. They have been doing this for years, but in the last five it's been appalling. Coverage of 9/11 and Iraq was sorry, at best, so much so that you had to read the foreign press (or Knight-Ridder) to find out what was going on. A few (familiar) examples: The complete, devastating Phoenix/Rowley memo, fraud in the 2000 and 2004 elections, the Downing Street set of memos, the latest UK memo (reported on by the UK news media but not the US), the use of a PR firm to sell a war to the public, the revelation that outed CIA agent Plame was working on Iran, and a recent allegation by one of the sources of the NSA story that there is a much larger and widespread domestic surveillance program than the one in the papers now. And that's the short list. If it weren't for sites like Salon and Raw Story, I'd probably lose my mind—assuming I haven't already.

The big question isn't why all this is so, it's Why haven't the Democrats learned how to use the media?

RELATED: Daou's recent post "Blog Wars: Bush Cultism versus Bush Derangement Syndrome" (linked to above) is a heartbreakingly true lament on the internicene blue-versus-red battle in America and why progressive bloggers are so upset.


US Nat'l Security Strategy Quote of the Day

This is old news but considering its relevance and the Washington Press Corpse's refusal to report it, it bears repeating. According to US Central Command:

U.S. Policy

The broad national security interests and objectives expressed in the President's National Security Strategy (NSS) and the Chairman's National Military Strategy (NMS) form the foundation of the United States Central Command's theater strategy. The NSS directs implementation of a strategy of dual containment of the rogue states of Iraq and Iran as long as those states pose a threat to U.S. interests, to other states in the region, and to their own citizens. Dual containment is designed to maintain the balance of power in the region without depending on either Iraq or Iran. USCENTCOM's theater strategy is interest-based and threat-focused. The purpose of U.S. engagement, as espoused in the NSS, is to protect the United States' vital interest in the region - uninterrupted, secure U.S./Allied access to Gulf oil.


The national interests outlined in the National Security Strategy and the objectives articulated in our National Military Strategy form the bases for the Central Command's objectives and supporting strategy. Primary among U.S. interests in the USCENTCOM AOR is uninterrupted secure access to Arabian Gulf oil. That in turn ensures freedom of navigation and access to commercial markets, security of friends and allies, and regional peace and stability through containment of Iran and Iraq and prevention of hostilities between India and Pakistan. Other interests include a comprehensive breakthrough in the Middle East Peace Process, and security of U.S. citizens and property throughout the region.
(Emphasis mine.)

As a friend of mine recently wrote about a related document, "Mein Kampf, but without the subtlely"(that's hyperbole).

NOTE: Even now, oil companies are pushing the new Iraqi gov't to sign Production Sharing Agreements, which almost always work out well for the oil company and ill for the country. Think "blood-sharing agreement" with a cloud of mosquitos.

BONUS: The CENTCOM website promises two new features are "coming soon": "Ask CENTCOM" and podcasting—though what, exactly, would be podcast it doesn't say. Current features include "Heroes in Action!" and "What Extremists Are Saying" (see above). Disclaimer: I'm not against military heroism, just the feature and exclamation point. It's a shame the site doesn't also include "Recent Collateral Damage!"

UPDATE/MUSINGS: When, exactly, did we move from the 1995 "dual containment" strategy to the current "overthrow" strategy? Was it with the 1998 "Iraq Liberation Act" or was that merely Congressional cover for a strategy already on the books? I have no idea how these sorts of strategies develop; I'm just curious. Joshua Kurlantzick's GQ article "The Next War Is Closer Than You Think" shows an Iran regime-change policy moving from think tanks to the government, but while tantalizing and informative, it's only a piece of the puzzle.


Why the Towers Fell - Video Edition

Here's a video of physicist Dr. Steven Jones' presentation on why the World Trade Center towers collapsed into their own footprints at near freefall speed. (PowerPoint presentation and White Paper links included.)

UPDATE: Two excellent related articles are here and here.

Looking for a straight, tuff, local Naggin [sic] supporter for fist fight - m4m - 34

Only on Craig's List:
I would like to fight a Naggin supporter to vent my anger. If you are one, have a fiery streak, please contact me so we can meet and physically fight. I would like to beat the shit out of you.

Name the place and time... NOLA Courthouse Steps, Saturday at noon would be perfect for me!
Note: If you don't know who our "Chocolate City" mayor is...well, never mind.


Woohoo! (About Effing Time Edition)

We were way overdue some good news:
Lawmakers voted Friday to merge the levee boards of southeast Louisiana, hoping to ease concerns in Congress that the state lacks competent oversight of its flood-control system.
Under Blanco's plan, flood-control experts with the state's Coastal Restoration and Protection Authority will negotiate directly for federal funding with Congress and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Under the current system, the local levee board members—some with little expertise in engineering or hydrology—lobby Congress for funding for their projects.


I keep reviewing the details of Vice President Cheney's version of how he shot Harry Whittington in the face and I think I've constructed how the events unfolded:

Whittington's car flushed from the west, at a 40-degree angle. Standing on the grassy knoll, behind the low brick wall, the Vice President wheeled left, the sun in his eyes, following the quail, and fired. The first shot hit Governor Connally in the chest, the second hit Whittington in the face, throwing his head back and to the left. Katherine Armstrong, sitting 100 yards away in the Vice Presidential motorcade, definitely heard two shots, at least one from the grassy knoll. She claims that she may have heard another shot from the book depository. Her testimony that the Secret Service seemed to "take their time" reaching Whittington is questionable, however, given her close relationship with the vice president and the GOP. The salient question here is, why did the Secret Service allow anyone to stand behind the low brick wall on the grassy knoll? Why were the windows of the cars in the motorcade left open when procedures for presidential protection clearly stipulate that all windows should be closed? Clearly, everything here is not as it appears to be.

The Abu Ghraib File

Australian SBS and the Sydney Morning Herald published never before seen Abu Ghraib photos two days ago. Now, Salon may have the mother load. Highlight:
The DVD containing the material includes a June 6, 2004, CID investigation report written by Special Agent James E. Seigmund. That report includes the following summary of the material included: "A review of all the computer media submitted to this office revealed a total of 1,325 images of suspected detainee abuse, 93 video files of suspected detainee abuse, 660 images of adult pornography, 546 images of suspected dead Iraqi detainees, 29 images of soldiers in simulated sexual acts, 20 images of a soldier with a Swastika drawn between his eyes, 37 images of Military Working dogs being used in abuse of detainees and 125 images of questionable acts."
The collection may well be the information long-sought by the ACLU and others.


Bush's Misleading Katrina Math

The Times-Picayune reports that Bush's claim that the Gulf Coast is getting $85B in relief is misleading, or worse. (Via Schroeder, who links to New Orleans bloggers who noted this a while ago.)

Hunting Story Full of Holes

More holes than Harry Whittington has in him, thanks to Bush's Dick. Here's a list.


Australian TV to Show Previously Unseen Abu Ghraib Photos

The Sydney Morning Herald has an article with pictures here. Warning: Some of them are even worse than the ones released in 2004. (Via Raw Story. Again...)

UPDATE: Sully links to video with (mostly) different pictures here.

And let's remember: The president attached a "signing statement" to the McCain anti-torture bill he was forced to sign. While it's not clear what, exactly, the statement means, it appears to be an open door for the Administration to approve torture whenever they feel like it deem it necessary.

Possible Massive Domestic Surveillance Program

Raw Story's linked to a UPI story that, if true, is staggering in its implications. The first few paragraphs:
WASHINGTON, Feb. 14 (UPI) -- A former NSA employee said Tuesday there is another ongoing top-secret surveillance program that might have violated millions of Americans' Constitutional rights.

Russell D. Tice told the House Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations he has concerns about a "special access" electronic surveillance program that he characterized as far more wide-ranging than the warrentless wiretapping recently exposed by the New York Times but he is forbidden from discussing the program with Congress.

Tice said he believes it violates the Constitution's protection against unlawful search and seizures but has no way of sharing the information without breaking classification laws. He is not even allowed to tell the congressional intelligence committees - members or their staff - because they lack high enough clearance.

Neither could he brief the inspector general of the NSA because that office is not cleared to hear the information, he said.
Toward the end of the article, we read this:
Tice was testifying because he was a National Security Agency intelligence officer who was stripped of his security clearance after he reported his suspicions that a former colleague at the Defense Intelligence Agency was a spy. The matter was dismissed by the DIA, but Tice pressed it later and was subsequently ordered to take a psychological examination, during which he was declared paranoid. He is now unemployed.

Tice was one of the New York Times sources for its wiretapping story, but he told the committee the information he provided was not secret and could have been provided by an private sector electronic communications professional.
Is he deluded or dead right and discredited by the DIA? His role in the NSA leak lends credence to his claims.

Just speculating here, but this may be part of what author Robert O'Harrow addresses in No Place to Hide--the use of private contractors to collect massive amounts of data and pass it on to the federal government. Hoover's wet dream.

The rest here.

UPDATE: Air raid sirens should be going off all over the country, this is so serious. The WaPo reports that "the National Counterterrorism Center maintains a central repository of 325,000 names of international terrorism suspects or people who allegedly aid them, a number that has more than quadrupled since the fall of 2003, according to counterterrorism officials." That's a lot of people. Who are "people who allegedly aid [terrorists]"? This at the same time we learn that the NSA has hired news agencies to provide information, the nature and purpose of which the NSA refuses to disclose. (Via POAC.)


Raw Story: Plame was Working on Iran

Larisa Alexandrovna reports:
The unmasking of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson by White House officials in 2003 caused significant damage to U.S. national security and its ability to counter nuclear proliferation abroad, RAW STORY has learned.

According to current and former intelligence officials, Plame Wilson, who worked on the clandestine side of the CIA in the Directorate of Operations as a non-official cover (NOC) officer, was part of an operation tracking distribution and acquisition of weapons of mass destruction technology to and from Iran.
The rest here.

Bush™ Spends Hundreds of Millions on PR per Year

Raw Story reports that a new Government Accountability Office reveals that the Bush Administration has spent more than $1.6 billion in public relations and media contracts in a two and a half year span. Now pick up your jaw, reattach it to your skull and read that again.

Far from the Madding Crowd

The White House is calling for a hair-splitting retraction from the NYT because they reported that Bush was "on vacation" while New Orleans was flooding on August 30 when, in fact, he was giving a Yoo Ess Ay speech with the USS Ronald Reagan and accompanying naval personnel in the background. As TAPPED's Greg Sargent points out, this was many hours after the White House had learned that New Orleans was flooding and, in some cases, on fire. It's worse: This was days after the WH had received urgent warnings and even a PowerPoint presentation on how the levees might breach and tens of thousands of people die. So where was the president?

San Diego. Plugging a breach in support for the war.

Heckuva job.

UPDATE: As the WaPo noted, according to the recently released 600-page report on the post-Katrina fiasco, "'earlier presidential involvement could have speeded the response' because [the president] alone could have cut through all bureaucratic resistance." Too bad Bush was busy. (Article via PGR.) A CNN article is here.


The First Post-Katrina Mardi Gras Parade

Krewe du Vieux (translation: Crew of the Vieux Carre, a.k.a. the French Quarter) rolled last night. Pics here.

Quote of the Day

“One man's piss-soaked sadomasochistic orgy is another man's poetic ecstasy.”
Dan Savage
Context here.

Happy Mardi Gras.


Anderson Cooper at the 17th Street Canal Breach

Anderson Cooper at the 17th Street Canal breach

I spent a couple of hours this afternoon shooting pictures of the neighborhood right next to the infamous 17th Street Canal breach--the one that inspired FEMA to tell DHS to tell the White House that Ferris passed out at 31 Flavors New Orleans was flooding the night of the storm. I was taking pictures of the breach area when I noticed a camera crew trotting up. Lo and behold, it was Anderson Cooper. I guess he didn't notice the sign (I disregarded it too). I wish I'd had a video camera with sound because he kept starting the story and then stopping and making minor changes to his performance, reading FEMA documents or something from what looked like a Treo. His "handler," a local guy, told me he's been driving them around since six days after the storm. Anderson Cooper's doing his show live tonight from Gentilly. The piece he was taping at the breach will probably be on tonight.Posted by Picasa

They Knew (Part Umpteen)

There's no excuse for this shit:
Congressional investigators have now learned that an eyewitness account of the flooding from a federal emergency official reached the Homeland Security Department's headquarters starting at 9:27 p.m. the day before, and the White House itself at midnight.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency official, Marty Bahamonde, first heard of a major levee breach Monday morning. By late Monday afternoon, Mr. Bahamonde had hitched a ride on a Coast Guard helicopter over the breach at the 17th Street Canal to confirm the extensive flooding. He then telephoned his report to FEMA headquarters in Washington, which notified the Homeland Security Department.

"FYI from FEMA," said an e-mail message from the agency's public affairs staff describing the helicopter flight, sent Monday night at 9:27 to the chief of staff of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and recently unearthed by investigators. Conditions, the message said, "are far more serious than media reports are currently reflecting. Finding extensive flooding and more stranded people than they had thought — also a number of fires."

Michael D. Brown, who was the director of FEMA until he resigned under pressure on Sept. 12, said in a telephone interview Thursday that he personally notified the White House of this news that night, though he declined to identify the official he spoke to.
You know, this series of revelations about the White House knowing things much earlier than they claimed to reminds me of a certain day to which Il Duce so often refers. Gee, how could we have known Muslims would use airplanes as bombs? How could we have known water was washing away New Orleans? I'm surprised Bush™ isn't using Katrina as an excuse to grab more power. Oh, wait....

UPDATE: I see Schroeder's also pushing for prison.

UPDATE: Pulling back a bit, Peter Daou sums up the present situation: bleak. Daou also reminds me of why I want to punch Alberto Gonzales.

COMING SOON: Recent pictures of the neighborhood right next to the 17th Street Canal breach, the one seen from the helicopter the evening of the storm--the one the White House was notified about.


Cheney ‘Authorized’ Libby to Leak Classified Information

As Homer Simpson would say, "Mmmmmmm...."

From the National Journal (Murray Waas):
Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, testified to a federal grand jury that he had been "authorized" by Cheney and other White House "superiors" in the summer of 2003 to disclose classified information to journalists to defend the Bush administration's use of prewar intelligence in making the case to go to war with Iraq, according to attorneys familiar with the matter, and to court records.
Atrios points to this Bush quote:
But I want to tell you something -- leaks of classified information are a bad thing. And we've had them -- there's too much leaking in Washington. That's just the way it is. And we've had leaks out of the administrative branch, had leaks out of the legislative branch, and out of the executive branch and the legislative branch, and I've spoken out consistently against them and I want to know who the leakers are.
We wait with bated breath for President Nixon Bush to ask for Agnew's Cheney's resignation.

BONUS: Was Bush briefed on Wilson's Niger trip?

Strangers on a Plane

Many years ago, I attended Presidential Classroom, a week-long educational event where lots of high-school seniors from all over the country learn about government, debate issues and meet their senators and representatives. It was a memorable week, but one of the most memorable parts was the trip to DC itself.

That's because I spent the entire plane ride arguing about abortion with the lady sitting next to me. Back then I was a Pat Robertson Christian (I even worked for his campaign) and was sure that abortion was murder. The woman in the aisle seat vehemently disagreed. She was older, maybe in her fifties, with striking features. And while she was pointed in her argument, she was remarkably patient with me, and our heated discussion made an impression on my stubborn young mind.

Years later, I saw a picture of her and my jaw dropped. There, on the cover of a book about aging*, was the woman I'd argued with on the plane.

It was Betty Friedan.

Ever since then, I've wondered about her. Now that she's dead, I'm sorry to see her go. But if anyone lived a full life and contributed to this society, it was she.

And if I sat next to her on a plane today, we wouldn't disagree.

*The current cover doesn't show her.


New Lower Ninth Ward Pics

Here's a set of pictures of New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward that I took on January 5. I'd guesstimate that 12-16 blocks are just gone. Many more are 70% rubble, 30% collapsed houses. As you'd expect, the further away you get from the breaches and the higher the ground, the better off the houses. You see a similar, if more glaring effect on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. There, if you drive north from the beach, everything for three blocks is gone; then, on the next block, suddenly everything is standing but damaged by wind and trees. But New Orleans lost approximately eight times as many homes as the Gulf Coast.

The earlier set of Ninth Ward pics is here. Gulf Coast pics are here. Correction to WaPo: Un ungodly number of restaurants are open, though many are short-staffed. And bands are playing. Have you checked Gambit?

Coming soon: Gentilly pics and N.O. at night.

NOT QUITE UPDATE: The WaPo covers the limbo people are in here.


Endless War = Endless Power

Since Abu Gonzales is on the hot seat today regarding the NSA domestic surveillance dillio and seems to think President Bush has dictatorial powers, it seemed a good time to share a (mystery) reporter's take on the whole affair and the Bush Administration's PR campaign about it.

In response to a TAPPED post about the new Ionesco work entitled, "White House Press Briefing," the reporter wrote the following in an email to me. If you substituted Gonzales for McClellan and senators for reporters, the reporter's remarks would apply to today's dog-and-pony show:
...I think generally the press fails at these things [press briefings] by making their questions too long, thereby giving McClellan et al a chance to answer an extraneous part of the question while ignoring the substance.... I'm sure McClellan would try to argue that Congress did in fact give the president the authority for warrantless wiretaps with the 2001 authorization of force resolution. But that's a canard that is completely unsupportable by the evidence.

The only argument they have is that in a time of "war"—whatever that is—a president has broad authority to do whatever it takes to fight the enemy, Congress bedamned. I'm more amenable to this argument in a situation where we have actually declared war, though only in emergencies and with the understanding that Congress will be consulted very soon.

But what kind of war are we in? An endless one to my mind. That's an extremely dangerous precedent: to give a president open-ended authority in an undeclared, unending war that's not really a war at all. There, I said it. There is no war on terror, no more than there is a war on cancer or a war on obesity. We've devalued the term war by applying it to non-wars for too long. [Pappy Bush's "War on Some Drugs" comes to mind. -Ed.] What we have really is an international legal, law enforcement struggle that occasionally employs warfare. Afghanistan was the best example of what I'm talking about. There an entire government had been distorted by an Islamist terrorist organization "with global reach," as Bush would say. The Taliban government itself became a legitimate target, though I think Taliban soldiers should have been given the benefit of the Geneva conventions. In almost every other case, though, Al Qaida is separate from the governments in question. In those cases, then the "war on terror" slips back into the traditional international law enforcement effort. The more we act like an imperial power and use war as our default response to problems (read: Iraq) then we lose the goodwill and cooperation of governments around the world who rightfully worry that they could be next.

Unfortunately, the phrase "war on terror" is more emotionally satisfying for a country that after all had its own war department headquarters attacked. I remember right after 9/11, in the first issue of The New Yorker after the attacks, Rick Herzberg made the very argument I'm making at the time. In the heat of 9/11, I thought Rick's formulation was kind of wishy-washy, but now I see the danger of elevating something to a "war" when it's really not. The only thing I think he missed was that if a government itself has become a terrorist organization it becomes a legitimate target. While it's one thing to threaten a country that is "harboring" terrorists, the harboring has to be pretty high up for us to justify a war. Look at Pakistan. In the Bush doctrine we could invade Pakistan because of the Al Qaida members in the tribal areas of the country. See they're harboring terrorists. But as we've come to see, Musharref has little control of this region of his country.

To me, the current Islamic terrorism movement is similar to the rise of the Anarchists 100 years ago. What makes it different is that we have mass communications and the Internet. Also, the Islamists can argue that today's fight is a clash of religions, in the mold of the Crusades.

If a politician could successfully undermine the "war on terror" terminology as false and destructive, then maybe we could get somewhere. It's too bad Clinton isn't still in office (or Gore for that matter) because I know he would not have elevated things into such a simple good vs. evil way. We would have attacked Afghanistan. Gore might have even been better because I think he would have used ground troops more readily (Clinton was very averse to use of ground troops). But Clinton and Gore would have better seen the limits of American power. Where there's broad international support, we can use power more effectively in a more sustained way. There would have been Americans clamoring for raw meat and Republicans would have postured that we weren't bellicose enough, but a successful overthrow of the Taliban by a Democratic president would have gone a long way in blunting such attacks.

(Ellipses mine.)
Note: As has been widely underreported, both the Clinton and Bush administrations supported, even bankrolled, the Taliban, a creation of Pakistani intelligence, which was in bed with the CIA.


The Iraq War Was a War of Choice (Reprise)

Both the Guardian and Independent are reporting that Blair was "solidly behind" invading Iraq on January 31, 2003, weeks before the war began. From the Guardian:
Tony Blair told President George Bush that he was "solidly" behind US plans to invade Iraq before he sought advice about the invasion's legality and despite the absence of a second UN resolution, according to a new account of the build-up to the war published today.

A memo of a two-hour meeting between the two leaders at the White House on January 31 2003 - nearly two months before the invasion - reveals that Mr Bush made it clear the US intended to invade whether or not there was a second UN resolution and even if UN inspectors found no evidence of a banned Iraqi weapons programme.

"The diplomatic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning", the president told Mr Blair. The prime minister is said to have raised no objection. He is quoted as saying he was "solidly with the president and ready to do whatever it took to disarm Saddam".

The disclosures come in a new edition of Lawless World, by Phillipe Sands, a QC and professor of international law at University College, London. Professor Sands last year exposed the doubts shared by Foreign Office lawyers about the legality of the invasion in disclosures which eventually forced the prime minister to publish the full legal advice given to him by the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith.

The memo seen by Prof Sands reveals:
  • Mr Bush told Mr Blair that the US was so worried about the failure to find hard evidence against Saddam that it thought of "flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft planes with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours". Mr Bush added: "If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach [of UN resolutions]".

  • Mr Bush even expressed the hope that a defector would be extracted from Iraq and give a "public presentation about Saddam's WMD". He is also said to have referred Mr Blair to a "small possibility" that Saddam would be "assassinated".

  • Mr Blair told the US president that a second UN resolution would be an "insurance policy", providing "international cover, including with the Arabs" if anything went wrong with the military campaign, or if Saddam increased the stakes by burning oil wells, killing children, or fomenting internal divisions within Iraq.

  • Mr Bush told the prime minister that he "thought it unlikely that there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups". Mr Blair did not demur, according to the book.
The revelation that Mr Blair had supported the US president's plans to go to war with Iraq even in the absence of a second UN resolution contrasts with the assurances the prime minister gave parliament shortly after. On February 25 2003 - three weeks after his trip to Washington - Mr Blair told the Commons that the government was giving "Saddam one further, final chance to disarm voluntarily".
The meeting between Mr Bush and Mr Blair, attended by six close aides, came at a time of growing concern about the failure of any hard intelligence to back up claims that Saddam was producing weapons of mass destruction in breach of UN disarmament obligations. It took place a few days before the then US secretary Colin Powell made claims - since discredited - in a dramatic presentation at the UN about Iraq's weapons programme.
The rest here. The Independent's story is here. Will the US Washington Press Corpse report the story? Start the counter, people.

UPDATE: Raw Story has the Channel 4 video.

UPDATE (sort of): Crooks and Liars points to a Guardian article from 2003 about the Ba'athist regime's desperate offers for peace, which we rejected. The lede:
In the few weeks before its fall, Iraq's Ba'athist regime made a series of increasingly desperate peace offers to Washington, promising to hold elections and even to allow US troops to search for banned weapons. But the advances were all rejected by the Bush administration, according to intermediaries involved in the talks.
C&L also has the piece Olbermann did on the memo cited above.


You Go, Girl

Governor Blanco pushes for oil royalties. If we get them, maybe we can secede. (Okay, I'm just fantasizing.)

The State of the Union

Is dire*. And in New Orleans, it's worse. Unless, like George Bush, you live in a bubble of pure fantasy:
A hopeful society comes to the aid of fellow citizens in times of suffering and emergency -- and stays at it until they're back on their feet.
Where is that? the Netherlands? Let's go!
So far the federal government has committed $85 billion to the people of the Gulf Coast and New Orleans.
Whoa. What? When did that happen? Last I heard, we were getting half of $13B. Because, you know, we lost 200,000 homes and Mississippi lost, oh, 35,000. Yeah, that makes sense.
We're removing debris and repairing highways and rebuilding stronger levees....
"Rebuilding stronger levees"? Really? There's no evidence that levees as bad as we had before (thanks, Corpse of Engineers!) will be ready by next summer, and Bush has refused to order the construction of Category 4 or 5 flood protection.

*The short list:
  • A not-exactly-free Iraq that's in a low-grade civil war and seems headed for some theocracy
  • Decimated cities, one of which is being left twisting in the wind
  • Warrantless wiretaps of American citizens
  • Possibly a federal police force with nebulous powers of arrest
  • One or more stolen elections
  • A thoroughly corrupt Republican government
  • The sale of critical regulatory functions of government to representatives of the industries they are supposed to regulate
  • A massive federal debt owed mainly to potential rivals, with only token reductions in spending taken out of aid for the poor
  • Mediocre job growth
  • An insane foreign policy used for the benefit of monied elites and the securing of access to oil and gas
  • A neglect of the environment
  • Federal indifference to the coming global difficulties posed by global warming
  • No push for reduction in burning fossil fuels, despite Peak Oil and overwhelming evidence of the human contribution to global warming
  • The suppression and alteration of government reports supporting positions contrary to those of the Administration (see global warming, cost of Medicare, etc.)
  • The appointment of a fascist to the Supreme Court
  • The suppression of dissent through influence of the news media, disinformation, misinformation, outright lying and faux news
  • A corporate-owned, increasingly consolidated national news media that distorts most stories, worships power and has for the most part abdicated its function to critically examine anything that non-Democrats do; so the press is "free," just not the press most people get their news from (apologies to James Risen and other courageous reporters)
  • They can get away with all this without abrogating freedom of speech, because character assassination is a professional Republican Washington sport and non-Bushian bloggers are inconsequential
  • An Executive Branch that refuses to stop torturing suspected terrorists
  • American citizens can be detained indefinitely without representation or judicial review
  • The inability for the minority party to hold Congressional investigations of anything and the Majority able to stonewall and/or rig investigations inconvenient to the Administration (see 9/11 Commission and every other investigation in the last 5 years)
  • The manipulation of the population through fear-mongering (see election-season threat levels)
  • Reporting in Washington is so atrocious that conservatives will read this and think I'm "fevered" instead of just reciting facts
  • It gets much, much worse, but I'm not saying anything about that