Friday, October 13, 2006


Condoleezza Rice, in an interview on a Detroit radio talk show:
Does anybody really believe that somebody would have walked into my office and said, oh, by the way, there's a chance of a major attack against the United States and I would have said, well, I'm really not interested in that information?

Easy answer: Yes. Hell yes.

From the Aug. 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing:
Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.

The FBI is conducting approximately 70 full-field investigations throughout the U.S. that it considers bin Laden-related. CIA and the FBI are investigating a call to our embassy in the UAE in May saying that a group or bin Laden supporters was in the U.S. planning attacks with explosives.

How did Rice describe this information to the 9/11 Commission?
The briefing item reviewed past intelligence reporting, mostly dating from the 1990s, regarding possible al Qaeda plans to attack inside the United States. It referred to uncorroborated reporting that from 1998 that terrorists might attempt to hijack a U.S. aircraft in an attempt to blackmail the government into releasing U.S.-held terrorists who had participated in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. This briefing item was not prompted by any specific threat information. And it did not raise the possibility that terrorists might use airplanes as missiles.

And the 9/11 Commission's description of the White House response:
We have found no indication of any further discussion before September 11 among the President and his top advisers of the possibility of a threat of an al Qaeda attack in the United States. DCI Tenet visited President Bush in Crawford, Texas, on August 17 and participated in PDB briefings of the President between August 31 (after the President had returned to Washington) and September 10. But Tenet does not recall any discussions with the President of the domestic threat during this period.

And that FAA response that Rice touts now?
Although the FAA had authority to issue security directives mandating new security procedures, none of the few that were released during the summer of 2001 increased security at checkpoints or on board aircraft. The information circulars mostly urged air carriers to "exercise prudence" and be alert. Prior to 9/11, the FAA did present a CD-ROM to air carriers and airport authorities describing the increased threat to civil aviation. The presentation mentioned the possibility of suicide hijackings but said that "fortunately, we have no indication that any group is currently thinking in that direction."47 The FAA conducted 27 special security briefings for specific air carriers between May 1, 2001, and September 11, 2001.Two of these briefings discussed the hijacking threat overseas. None discussed the possibility of suicide hijackings or the use of aircraft as weapons. No new security measures were instituted.

With all this squirming and obfuscation, it's not hard to see why Rice fought so hard against having to testify in the first place.

The orca question

For people in the Puget Sound region, killer whales are more than just a nature story. They're also a political story.

Certainly, they’ve been in the news a lot more lately. The New York Times recently ran a lengthy feature on the problems they face, while the Seattle P-I this week has been running an in-depth report on orcas and the Sound that features the always-superb environmental reporting of Robert McClure, and revolves around an excellent series by M.L. Lyke about our longest-lived matriarch, the 90-year-old orca named "Granny."

Politics are plainly involved in any orca recovery effort, on a number of fronts. First, the effort will require federal funding and the active participation of the state's congressional delegation as well as state and local governments. There will many tough decisions to make about toxic-waste cleanup, estuary management, and salmon habitat recovery. Most of all, the ardent opponents of the whales’ listing as "endangered" under the Endangered Species Act are well-moneyed development interests with considerable political clout -- and acting to save the whales will entail standing up to them.

So it's natural to wonder: Where do our politicians stand?

I tried surveying a number of congressional candidates in this election to try to get positions clarified, with mixed results; most of the state's politicians simply don't have it on their radars as a potential electoral issue.

So I decided to narrow it down to the most significant race in the state this year: the U.S. Senate contest between incumbent Democrat Maria Cantwell and her Republican challenger, former Safeco CEO Mike McGavick.

Cantwell's position on orca recovery, as it happens, couldn’t be clearer. As a senator, she’s been an aggressive advocate for both the research and habitat work. She also is an advocate for ocean cleanup and introduced a resolution opposing any return to commercial whaling.

McGavick, however, is something of a different story. His Web site stakes out a position on the Endangered Species Act that is essentially hostile and echoes the charges made by some of the ESA's most rabid "reformers" in Congress, such as Rep. Richard Pombo:
Reform the Endangered Species Act. This law is an example of well-intended legislation that has had unintended consequences at the local level. We all share the desire to protect species. However, the act has resulted in more battles over land use than species it has saved. The law penalizes those with species on their land instead of incenting conservation. The law must be reformed to use incentives rather than penalties to create conservation opportunities and actually save species.

This antagonism to the ESA emerged in the response I received from the McGavick campaign regarding his position on the orcas' listing -- though it is ameliorated to some extent by a lot of sincere words about how deeply he appreciates the orcas' presence:
Thank you for contacting us regarding Mike McGavick's views regarding the federal government's recent Endangered Species Act listing of the southern resident killer whale population.

Mike is in complete agreement with the vast majority of Puget Sound citizens who believe that the orca whales are a remarkable animal that have gained a special identity in the Puget Sound, and he supports continued university and federal research to better understand and address potential causes of their decline. Mike also supports current locally-based efforts to develop a conservation plan to ensure the long-term health of orca whales.

The reality, however, is that the issue is more complex than just orcas -- it includes recovering Puget Sound Chinook salmon (which are also currently listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act), better understanding the conditions and health of the Pacific Ocean and its interaction with the whales and their food, and monitoring actions to ensure they are cost-effect and to alter when needed through adaptive management.

With regard to the Endangered Species Act, this listing and all listing under ESA are not panaceas. Mike believes that the Act appears too often in recent years to have been used as a tool for lawyers and the courtroom at an enormous waste of resources and at the costly price of discouraging people to work together to protect species and the environment. We absolutely must balance these important protections with a strong Pacific Northwest economy -- that's why so many people love living and working in Washington. If the Endangered Species Act needs to be improved to do that, then we should improve it. Mike supports collaborative processes such as the Puget Sound Shared Salmon Strategy to allow local ownership in the difficult policy decisions required to recover species, but that we can do more, including better use of hatchery facilities to rebuild naturally-spawning salmon stocks and ensuring the harvest of Puget Sound and Columbia River salmon does not interfere with recovery.

On a side note, Mike does not support breaching dams on the Snake and Columbia River—which are an important clean, renewable source of energy for Washington residents. Moreover, we can and should do more in the Puget Sound to aid orcas. More must be done to reduce predation of young salmon, protecting habitat, utilizing hatcheries to protect wild salmon, understanding and managing around changes to ocean climate and conditions, and ensuring harvest doesn't interfere with rebuilding salmon runs.

The response was actually prepared by Megan Dawe, a research and communications assistant with the McGavick campaign.

What you'll notice, of course, is that it is artfully evasive: It doesn't tell us whether or not McGavick supports the ESA listing. But reading between the lines, it becomes clear that he does not. The only effort he expressly supports is the research and local efforts to help them. The ESA listing, as his previous position makes clear, is something he doesn’t support.

Much of what he does say is quite obvious: Of course the problem involves more than just killer whales. Of course Chinook are a critical cornerstone of orca recovery. And of course, the ESA listing is not a panacea. But it is a significant start -- the first and only serious step taken by any government agency -- local, state, or federal -- to seriously address the threats faced by the orcas. It also is the only chance that governmental intervention will have any kind of teeth whatsoever.

It’s also especially noteworthy that, even as he notes the critical role played by Chinook salmon in saving the orcas, McGavick forecloses on any possibility of tearing down the four dams on the Snake River that have had such a long-term role in devastating salmon runs in the Columbia River system.

But, as I explored in an article for the Seattle Weekly earlier this year, the orcas and the dams may well be connected: The resident killer whales appear to be most at risk of dying during the winter months, when they rely heavily on the stocks of Chinook salmon who populate the continental shelf within about 50 miles of the continent's shore. The primary source of those Chinook within that range, historically, has been the Columbia.

So it may turn out -- though no one knows for sure -- that in order to save the Puget Sound's killer whales, we’re going to have to restore Chinook runs on the Columbia to some semblance of their historic levels. And that simply isn't going to happen as long as those four dams are there. Foreclosing on the possibility of taking that step may, in fact, doom our orcas.

McGavick has a history of avoiding taking clear positions on the issues -- particularly issues that actually matter to people in Washington state -- and this one is no exception. But the totality of this response essentially comes down to the same as that taken by the Building Industry Association of Washington. When I interviewed their lawyer for the Weekly story, here's what he told me:
"It's not that we're against orcas or anything like that. ... It could be any other species. You know, we love orcas as much as anyone else. But here we believe there's a much larger legal issue that is at stake, and it just happens to involve orcas."

In other words: The orcas are nice to look at, but if they happen to get in the way of paving over every inch of Puget Sound, well, too bad for them. Making money for the construction industry and developers is much more important.

The same BIAW, of course, is the lead organization (along with the Farm Bureau) filing a lawsuit seeking to overturn the ESA listing.

And as it so happens, it's also the same BIAW that has so far donated thousands of dollars to McGavick's campaign.

But when I asked, McGavick's campaign responded that he "is not taking a position" regarding that lawsuit.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The enemies within

The whole "treasonous liberals" meme has been bubbling along for some time now, starting probably with Ann Coulter and Michael Savage. It's significant for many reasons, not the least of which is the trend toward eliminationist rhetoric it deeply reflects.

But it's reaching new heights, so to speak, with the pending publication this January of Dinesh D'Souza's new book, The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11. This is not just another Regnery mass-sales job, the publisher is Doubleday. D'Souza, despite a career built on some dubious racial theories, is nonetheless a fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institute and a frequent guest on the cable gabfests.

James Wolcott regales us with some appropriate samples from the manuscript, including this capper:
"There is no way to restore the culture without winning the war on terror. Conversely, the only way to win the war on terror is to win the culture war. Thus we arrive at a sobering truth. In order to crush the Islamic radicals abroad, we must defeat the enemy at home."

As Wolcott says:
We're not the enemy, and if you engage us as the enemy, all you'll be doing is starting yet another war you can't win.

D'Souza's is something of a fresh variation on the standard theme against liberals, one voiced unmistakably a little while ago by Michael Barone:
Our covert enemies are harder to identify, for they live in large numbers within our midst. And in terms of intentions, they are not enemies in the sense that they consciously wish to destroy our society. On the contrary, they enjoy our freedoms and often call for their expansion. But they have also been working, over many years, to undermine faith in our society and confidence in its goodness. These covert enemies are those among our elites who have promoted the ideas labeled as multiculturalism, moral relativism and (the term is Professor Samuel Huntington's) transnationalism.

We have always had our covert enemies, but their numbers were few until the 1960s. But then the elite young men who declined to serve in the military during the Vietnam War set out to write a narrative in which they, rather than those who obeyed the call to duty, were the heroes. They have propagated their ideas through the universities, the schools and mainstream media to the point that they are the default assumptions of millions. Our covert enemies don't want the Islamo-fascists to win. But in some corner of their hearts, they would like us to lose.

But D'Souza expands on this theme to suggest that the very source of Muslim radicals' hostility is the same liberalism to which he and his fellows on the right are nearly as hostile themselves.

Michael Berube earlier gave us a heads-up about this book, and quotes from the press release:
D'Souza shows that liberals—people like Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy, Barney Frank, Bill Moyers, and Michael Moore -- are responsible for fostering a culture that angers and repulses not just Muslim countries but also traditional and religious societies around the world. Their outspoken opposition to American foreign policy -- including the way the Bush administration is conducting the war on terror—contributes to the growing hostility, encouraging people both at home and abroad to blame America for the problems of the world. He argues that it is not our exercise of freedom that enrages our enemies, but our abuse of that freedom—from the sexual liberty of women to the support of gay marriage, birth control, and no-fault divorce, to the aggressive exportation of our vulgar, licentious popular culture.

The cultural wars at home and the global war on terror are usually viewed as separate problems. In this groundbreaking book, D'Souza shows that they are one and the same. It is only by curtailing the left's attacks on religion, family, and traditional values that we can persuade moderate Muslims and others around the world to cooperate with us and begin to shun the extremists in their own countries.

OK, suppose we take for granted D'Souza's logic: We liberals are the source of the cultural animus to which the jihadis are violently opposed.

Doesn't that, by the same logic, place right-wingers like D'Souza and the whole range of conservative ideologues on the side of Al Qaeda?

Isn't he essentially saying that the terrorists are right to have this animus?

Isn't his solution -- suppressing liberalism -- essentially a capitulation to the anti-democratic "Islamofascism" everyone else on the right has been steadily denouncing?

I'm looking forward to reading the book so I can figure this out for myself. Though, knowing D'Souza, I'm guessing there will be some handy bits of sophistry that let him leap over the hard rocks of logic.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Fall Housecleaning

by Sara Robinson

Frank James at the Chicago Tribune's political blog, The Swamp, asks:

So are we seeing the beginnings of the Mark Foley-related backlash at the hands of religious and other conservatives against Republican gays with important Capitol Hill staff jobs?

When I tried to gauge that last week by phoning religious-conservative groups like the Alliance for Marriage and Focus on the Family, they demurred. Even the Family Research Council didn’t get back to me with a spokesman.

Anyway, I'm not taking it personally that Tony Perkins, the council’s president, devoted his Washington Update yesterday to the very matter I wanted to talk with him about.

In an item headlined, “Party of Whose Values?” he essentially seems to be accusing gay GOP staffers of being a fifth column within the congressional Republican power structure, thwarting legislative initiatives dear to social conservatives.

“Sunday's New York Times revealed that a homosexual former Clerk of the House of Representatives, Jeff Trandahl, was ‘among the first to learn' of Mr. Foley's’ messages to pages. The Clerk's job is described as a ‘powerful post with oversight of hundreds of staffers and the page program.’ This raises yet another plausible question for values voters: has the social agenda of the GOP been stalled by homosexual members and or staffers? When we look over events of this Congress, we have to wonder. This was the first House to pass a pro-homosexual hate crimes bill. The marriage protection amendment was considered very late in the term with no progress toward passage. Despite overwhelming popular approval, the party seldom campaigns as the defender of marriage. The GOP will have to decide whether it wants to be the party that defends the traditional moral and family values that our nation was built upon and directed by for two centuries. Put another way, does the party want to represent values voters or Mark Foley and friends?”

So Perkins is essentially accusing gay staffers of willfully sabotaging the gay marriage amendment while greasing the skids for its own hate-crimes legislation. Perkins doesn’t offer an explanation as to how non-gay members of Congress could be bamboozled to the point that they’d go along with legislative moves that would weaken their position with conservative voters.

But American history is littered with examples of powerful accusations being made in the absence of evidence. Think Sen. Joseph McCarthy and the Red Scare of the 1950s.

The last line of Perkins’ is an unmistakable challenge to congressional Republicans. He is essentially putting the Republican Party on notice, saying it’s either us or them, the religious right’s agenda or that of gay Americans.

Yesterday also saw a column by Cliff Kincaid, editor of the conservative organization Accuracy in Media's AIM Report in which he shouts a similar rooftop warning about the damage gays in the congressional Republican establisment have done to the conservative agenda.

In the column titled "Homosexual Blackmail on the Capitol Hill, he said: "For the sake of honest and open government, not to mention protection of the children, the secret Capitol Hill homosexual network must be exposed and dismantled. But only Republican leaders can do that. Their failure to do so suggests that the network may go higher and deeper—and have more power—than even the New York Times article indicated."

So is this the start of a movement to purge gays from the senior staff positions on Capitol Hill? Such undertakings usually begin with jeremiads such as the ones we are witnessing that are then transformed into action.

The openly gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.,) in a recent question-and-answer session with the Advocate, a gay publication, expressed fears of such a result.

“This is a real crisis, since before, gays in the Republican Party were willing to be tolerated, but Republicans will now be more nervous having gay people in positions of power. They have been critical of people who are out and gay—there could be a real purge of gays in the Republican Party now. It's probably just enough for people to be perceived to be gay.”

If Republicans wind up losing the House or Congress entirely, and Foleygate comes to be seen as the event that put the Democrats over the top, the probability of such a bloodletting would seem to rise. It would not be the first gay purge in the nation's capital. "

Part of me reads this and thinks: Oh please oh please oh please. There's no shortage of reasons that this might be a very good thing to have happen.

First, the sheer hypocrisy of it all needs to stop. The Republicans have been trying to have it both ways for decades -- the faithful support of dedicated gay staffers in their offices, and the seething hatred of gays they've stirred up in their base to get them into the voting booth. The duplicity here has always been despicable, and the time is long past for them to reckon with the consequences.

If this list is to be believed, the GOP may have enough gay staffers that a public purge could functionally cripple the party, creating the kind of chaos that would take years to recover and rebuild from. At the same time, it would totally discredit the party in the eyes of religious conservatives. The party would have to re-write its entire "moral values" storyline from nothing, find and train a whole new generation of footsoldiers, and try to muddle by in the future without support from either the church folk or the right-wing gays.

This is squeamish stuff, to be sure. It's sure as hell not something either the Democrats or the press should have any truck with. But if a pissed-off religious right is bent on this kind of mayhem, I'm not sure we should try to stop them, either. Consider this: If they found the switch to a death trap that would throw the Democrats into total disarray for the next 20+ years, do you think they'd hesitate for one minute to throw it? Politics is war, and this could be the moment of self-immolation that ends the battle and wins the peace for a very long time.

Second, this could be a prime opportunity to get fundamentalist Christians out of government for the foreseeable future. American fundamentalists have always had a very uneasy relationship with politics. Deep down, they regard it as the devil's business, inappropriate for Godly people. Getting them over this notion and getting them mobilized in the late 70s was a striking political coup, in large part because it went so hard against their historical and theological grain.

Whenever religious conservatives have been moved to get involved in public issues, the effort typically lasted 20-30 years -- and usually came to an ignomious end, as some tremendous public humiliation shamed back into silence. After the Second Great Awakening, it was the Millerites -- and the subsequent defeat of the Confederacy -- that drove them out of politics from the 1860s through the early 1900s. Though they emerged briefly into the early 20th century, the Scopes Trial in 1926 shamed them so badly that they went home and shut up for another 40 years -- a total abdication that opened the way for the liberal rise from FDR through Carter.

This history suggests that we may be due once again for that kind of profoundly deep shaming -- an event so traumatic that it will discourage fundamentalists from returning to the political scene for a good long while. Finding out that the entire edifice of the party they worked so hard to build -- specifically so they'd be safe from the gay menace -- is shot through with gays would be enough to disillusion them for a couple generations. Frustrated and betrayed, they may simply pack up, go home to their churches, and cease political action. Think about how much easier our lives could be for decades to come.

(It is, of course, possible that this time could be different. Now that they've tasted power, the combination of frustration and betrayal could push them beyond the reach of any political force, and over the edge into violence. We've often discussed the possible outcomes of this here, so I'm not going to go over the possibilities. Suffice to say that it could end with the right being shunned by all right-thinking Americans -- or the rise of a new brownshirt class, depending on who chooses to support them and how.)

Third, it might, in the end, also be a very healthy thing for DC (and America) as a whole. Louis Bayard recently argued at Salon that political closets in general are incredibly archaic. Most other American institutions abandoned them long ago, or at least are well along in the process of leaving them behind. It's beyond high time for politics to catch up with this trend. We're almost 40 years post-Stonewall, and the vast majority of Americans under 60 support gay rights. We need to acknowledge the huge presence gay people have in our public life, get over it, and move on.

A good old-fashioned McCarthyite witchhunt that outs the GOP's gays could move that process along very quickly. While fundamentalists may be horrified, and the party as a whole crippled, most Americans would likely welcome the change. For them, the GOP's purging morality play would only reveal, in an unmistakable way, the deep hatred, intrusiveness, and hypocrisy at the core of the party's value system -- and its irrelevance to the real social priorities of the country's majority. The purge would be excruciating for those now in the closet (though there's a good argument that every gay person working for the Republicans should have known the risks when they took those jobs); but there's a real possibility that the spectacle would be so repugnant to Americans' basic standards of privacy and fairness that the very idea of closets and outing would vanish from our culture for good. (The Kenneth Starr Chamber, Part II.) If the religious right goes ahead with this purge, these could be among the last gay people outed anywhere in America.

If the nation's moral scolds are so hell-bent on having their Inquisition, let's not get in their way. Open up the GOP's big walk-in closet, and let the fall housecleaning begin.

Making shit up

Hip waders are in full fashion now that the attack ads against Darcy Burner are all over the airwaves. Just on the facts alone, as Daryl at Hominid Views details, the ads are grossly misleading and riddled with falsehoods.

It's predicated on characterizing a Seattle Times story as critical of Burner -- when all it actually does is report the Reichert campaign's claims against her:
The video cites this 9/24 article and quotes from the article, "Burner's charges hurt by inaccuracies."

The only problem is, that's not what the article says! Nowhere does the article "cry foul" against Darcy. Instead, it reports that the Reichert campaign was "crying foul."

In fact, the author, Jonathan Martin, doesn’t take a stand on who is correct and who is incorrect. What the article does say is, "[a]ds against both candidates contain inaccuracies" and prints pros and cons claimed by both campaigns. The print edition even sports the subtitle, "[c]laims by both sides are open to contention."

The words "charges" and "hurt" don't even appear in the article. You know, as in the quote "Burner's charges hurt by 'inaccuracies,'" a quote that they specifically attribute to the Seattle Times on 9/24/2006. The Seattle Times didn't say any such thing.

In other words, Reichert's ad "misquotes" the Seattle Times by ... umm ... making up new words and constructing a phrase that doesn't appear in the article!

That's your Republican Party: Creating their own make-believe reality.

Too bad it looks like Bizarro World.

Goldy has more.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Stepping into the Spotlight

Following in Jane Hamsher's footsteps, I've decided to sign on to the Spotlight Project, a kind of blog experiment that lets readers forward posts they particularly like to members of the media they think ought to be reading it.

I'm a bit tired tonight, and Jane explains it so well, I'm going to just cut and paste her instructions:
At the bottom of each post you'll now see a "Spotlight" tag next to the permalink. Clicking it takes you to The Spotlight Project, which offers you a list of contact information which allows you to forward the post of your choice to specific journalists. I'll ask that folks consider several things when doing this:

-- Please be polite and reasonable. We don’t want folks to get angry and up-in-arms over a bunch of ad hominem attacks.

-- Since it's a serious tool that could have a profound effect as we try to re-shape the dominant narrative with key opinion makers, abusing it could not only lessen its effectiveness, it could neutralize it completely.

-- Praise is just as important -- if not more so -- than criticism.

-- We may have some initial birth pangs, so if you have any problems please report them here.

As Jane says, it's a potentially important tool in integrating the blogosphere in the larger public discourse. I think journalists and bloggers are starting to figure out their symbiotic relationship, and this is one way of helping disseminate information within the traditional press that otherwise might go unnoticed.

Give it a spin and let me know what you think.

POSTSCRIPT: Hope you all noticed that I finally posted Sara's bio, now that she's officially part of the team, over in the blue sidebar. I also created links to her two excellent series, Cracks in the Wall and Tunnels and Bridges. Be sure to check them out.

Bush go boom

As a resident of one of the cities potentially in the sights of North Korea should it actually prove to have become a member of the nuclear club, and eventually develop the capacity to deliver, I just want to say ...

Gee, thanks, Mr. Bush, for once again, through misfeasance, malfeasance, and plain old stupidity, creating a world in which I and my family are more likely, not less, to be blown up by a national enemy.

After all, we now know that the 9/11 attacks were in large part enabled by your administration's utter non-response to urgent warnings about impending terrorist attacks. Yet by bullying, blustering, and bullshiting, you managed to convince at least a portion of the nation -- and more importantly, the Beltway pundit and political-consultant class -- that you were actually strong on national security.

We now know that you persuaded the nation to invade another under false pretenses, and in the process made our situation in regard to fighting terrorism demonstrably and markedly worse. And the people who warned of this outcome before the invasion? They weren't "serious."

And now the debacle in North Korea, which has been building for some time and, as with your other history-making botches, is a direct product of the right-wing style of governance, which at its bottom is reactionary: its guiding principle is being anti-liberal. If Bill Clinton or liberals in general favored a policy or action, then it behooved the Bush White House to embrace its opposite. Bill Clinton was obsessed with Al Qaeda. He was soft on Saddam. He played footsie with North Korea.

You get the idea. It didn't matter whether a policy was perhaps diplomatically wise or otherwise had long-term value. It didn't matter whether it was effective. What mattered was whether it was liberal policy.

Thus, three great national debacles, all under the guidance of one president.

All along, Josh Marshall has been covering the North Korea mess, dating back to the administration's early days, and everyone should heed his consummate post on the Korean nuclear test. In particular, this paragraph should be etched in stone:
The bomb-grade plutonium that was on ice from 1994 to 2002 is now actual bombs. Try as you might to imagine a policy -- any policy -- which would have yielded a worse result than the one we will face Monday morning.

As Barbara at Mahablog points out, the neoconservative faction in the White House has been clearly pursuing a policy of confrontation (or "regime change") with North Korea for some time, and won out last year when they managed to impose sanctions on Pyongyang four days after diplomats at State had crafted a denuclearization treaty with Kim Jong Il's regime -- thereby sabotaging the hopes of settling the matter through diplomacy.

But, as Marshall has been reporting all along, this disaster has been on the rails ever since Bush stepped foot in the Oval Office, and has been brewing in the neocon agenda for longer than that.

Back in 1998, John Bolton -- currently Bush's ambassador to the United Nations, and one of the leading neocon lights in the administration -- testified before Congress, as the Center for American Progress details, and said that "sounder U.S. policy would start by making it clear to the North that we are indifferent to whether we ever have 'normal' diplomatic relations with it."

A few years later, there was this:
For instance, on the eve of talks with North Korea about their nuclear weapons, Bolton took a novel approach to public diplomacy and publicly called King Jong Il a "tyrannical dictator" and an "evil regime." The State Department was forced to send a replacement representative after North Korea responded by calling Bolton "human scum" and stating their objection to negotiating with him.

The dealings with Korea, as Marshall has been documenting all along, included a series diplomatic screwups and a seriously embarrassing moment for both the administration and its allies:
The defining encounter came in March 2001 when then-President Kim Dae Jung visited the White House only to be told that we were withdrawing support for his policy. As Jessica Matthews, head of the Carneigie Endowmentation, put it, President Bush "took the architect of the North-South reconciliation -- and publicly humiliated him."

In the process, Bush also managed to humiliate Colin Powell, then his Secretary of State.

The Korea debacle has been predictable. It also fits into a larger pattern of Bush administration malfeasance -- a volatile concoction of equal parts of arrogance, mendacity, incompetence, and viciousness.

And now we're all paying the price: A nation less secure, more vulnerable to attack by both military enemies and terrorists, and ineluctably more fearful.

Thanks, George. For nothing.

UPDATE: Michael Stickings has a good blogospheric roundup. Also, be sure to read Sean-Paul Kelly at the Agonist, who has a wrapup replete with lengthy excerpts from Chris Nelson.

If This Goes On....A Scenario

by Sara Robinson

Richard Dawkins has done several hour-long TV shows for the BBC in recent months, premised on an idea so politically and culturally unthinkable in the US that they would never be shown on American TV. His preposterous proposition? He argues openly, pointedly, and persuasively that monotheistic religion has outlived its usefulness to humankind; creates far more problems than it solves; and therefore must be recognized as a failure and mercifully put to rest in history's dustbin.

Of course, this realization is hardly original. The need to either radically re-structure or entirely scrap the authoritarian underpinnings of all three major monotheisms has been dawning in liberal minds everywhere since the first moments of the Enlightenment, and progressing in fits and starts -- two steps forward, 1.9 steps back -- ever since. But watching Dawkins' shows has inspired me to do a little scenario play. This post is a conversation with myself and you about how monotheism's endgame may be upon us even as we speak.

We have a brand-spanking-new torture bill that allows the President to arrest and torture anyone (American or not) whom he believes may be giving any kind of aid or comfort to "the enemy" -- and, for the perfect tyrannical touch, leaves the definition of such enemies at his sole discretion. If recent trends continue uninterrupted -- and that's really up to us, and the outcome of this election -- the Bush Administration will almost certainly use these new powers to expand the ranks of the condemned well beyond the 14,000 languishing in the American gulag now.

Four years ago, when Mr. R and I started planning to our exodus from America, we had a scenario in our minds that we found so preposterously unlikely at the time that we didn't even discuss it with close friends, because we knew they'd think we were crazy. "This is how it happened to my grandparents," he kept telling me. "It was frogs in pots. The Czar came, and their rights were abrogated. The Cossacks came, and there were progroms. Isadore and Bessie left Kiev around that time -- but for their relatives who stayed, the Nazis came, and there was Baba Yar and Auschwitz. Frogs. In. Pots. It may only feel tepid now -- and I'm not going to hang around, adapting and denying, until the day comes that we're cooked." In the privacy of our own conversations, the potential for disaster was enough to keep us going, one foot in front of the other, until we found ourselves all the way up in the Great White North.

And so, from our sunny perch on a hillside in western Canada, we've watched the pot get warmer down there in the lower 48, as every horror that seemed so insane to imagine in those early days has come to pass. Remember how outraged we were when just 1400 Muslims were rounded up and held in the days after 9/11? Now, we've got an order of magnitude more such prisoners, in far worse conditions -- and we passed that stupid law anyway. Which, as long as we're drawing trendlines, means that the next order of magnitude -- 140,000 -- will be reached by 2010, and their conditions will be far more dismal yet. And the next -- 1.4 million -- will be just a couple years beyond that. As the numbers increase, and more people become complicit with and invested in the evils being committed, the travesty we unleashed week will only gather momentum -- and become far harder to stop.

We may, in fact, be watching our last easy, bloodless chance to avoid this outcome slip by us this fall. If you reward the people who passed this outrage by returning them to Congress, my beloved ones, you will officially be on boil.

If you assume a logarithmic progression (a big if, admittedly) and map the trend out all the way, some time in 2015 or so, we could have 14 million people in a system well beyond Hitler's dreams. And, of course, along the way someone will do the sensible cost/benefit analysis and realize that it's much cheaper to kill these people than it is to hold or torture them. So, of course, we'll need death camps. And when a horrified world closes ranks against our treachery -- another trend that's already begun to emerge -- and starts imposing sanctions against us, we'll be forced to justify our actions and quash dissent by taking the battle to all of them, as well. No declaration of war will be needed. That's as quaint as the Geneva Conventions, now that the US President has full permission to torture and kill anyone on the planet on his say-so alone. It'll be a robust and festive beginning to World War III.

Watching Dawkins, though, I'm also thinking: Maybe this is how monotheistic fanaticism ends -- not with a whimper, but the biggest possible bang. Maybe it will consume itself in a reign of terror, a global clash against Islam and the domestic infidel, that rises up to wield more power and create more havoc than the world has ever seen -- for 15 or 20 years, anyway. And then, like the Nazis, their thousand-year Millennialist Reich will fall to ashes, spent at last, despised by its victims in every time zone, remembered and revered only by a few unstable people on the lunatic fringe.

Popes and pastors have been waging war against the likes of Dawkins since the days of Galileo. But over the last century and a half, they've sustained serious blows that have undercut the very foundations of the ancient edifice, and accelerated the erosion. Still, religions that have been around for thousands of years are not likely to vanish from the future without one hell of a fight -- and, perhaps, without one final attempt to bring on the doomsday they've waited and prayed for all that time. Mr. Cheney has made a worldwide joke of the idea of "last throes," but this may be in fact what they look like.

After the fall, what will be left to history is a few new names for ultimate evil to be inscribed next to "Nazi" in the history books. When our grandchildren speak of the basest instincts of humankind and the unleashing of unimaginable horror, the shorthand word they will use might be "Christian." Or "Muslim." Or "fundamentalist." For, of course, these 21st Century fascists will make sure that everything done -- the burning, the torture, the killing, the bombing -- will be done in the name of Our Lord, with the cross of Jesus or the crescent of Muhammed going on before. Nobody will be allowed to forget it. After they're done ravaging the planet, nobody will be able to -- not for centuries to come.

As our grandparents did, this future generation will spend decades in a searching inquiry of What Went Wrong, reconstructing (perhaps even from blogs like this one) the path that led to the future they'll be living in. Where WWII taught us about the dangers of child abuse, the banality of evil, the true costs of political and economic instability, and the perils of authoritarianism, the scholars of our grandchildren's generation will look at the effects of religious fanaticism, and decide with a unanimous certainty that such delusions are a luxury neither the Earth nor her people can continue to afford.

In this scenario, they'd probably pin a good share of the blame on our generation -- the Boomers and Xers who now hold power. If we allow history's greatest democracy to degenerate into a rough fascism in a fraction of our lifetimes, our most-remembered legacy will not be weaving the Web or decoding the genome, but our complicity in the epochal evil about to occur. More pointed yet will be the blame belonging to liberal, moderate, and evangelical Christians who fully understood the true meaning of "whatever you did to the least of these, you did to me" -- and still kept their silence while a fearful, violent minority rose up and walked off with their good name.

There's no hope or wish here. It's not a prediction, or a forecast. It's just a quick sketched-out projection of where things might end up if current political and social trends continue where they're headed.

Fortunately, the future is made of far more complex stuff than mere current trends. It's also built of events, visions, and actions. Change happens partly because it just does, and partly because we will it to be so. There's still time to re-direct the trendlines, embrace other visions, and take other actions. We still have choices -- at least for the next while, until the moment comes we're finally too far cooked to jump out of this pot.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Atrios in Seattle

The headliner at Saturday night's Town Hall gig -- a panel discussion on blogs and the press that was a fund-raiser for Foolproof -- was Janeane Garofolo, who I've liked well enough over the years. But I think a lot of us were there to listen to what Duncan Black, aka Atrios, proprietor of Eschaton, had to say. (He was being joined, I should mention, by my pal Goldy as well as Matt Stoller from MyDD and David Postman of the Seattle Times.

Probably the highlight of the discussion -- other than determining that perhaps we should rename Goldy's blog Sheep's Back -- came when Matt and Duncan riffed on the how the profession of journalism is being tainted by a whole class of essentially unqualified "pundits" who hold forth as elite opinion makers on a wide variety of subjects without having to actually have any expertise in any of those subjects. Worst of all, as Stoller put it, is the way so many of them claim to be journalists without ever having actually been reporters, and then that is compounded by the failure of working journalists to actually differentiate themselves from the pundit class.

Atrios is the blogfather of Orcinus, so I made a special point to be there. A group of local bloggers (including Goldy and the General) met with him before the gig at a local brewhouse, which gave us all the chance to do the small chat thang. Then we all trundled off to Town Hall, were duly entertained and enlightened, and then drifted off for the night.

As it happened, though, Duncan had nearly the entirety of the next day to visit Seattle, so I met him downtown in the late morning and we went on a walking tour of the city. Eventually we exchanged secret instructions from the Vast Left Wing Foulmouthed Blogger Conspiracy via our decoder rings over oysters at Emmett Watson's down at the market. Bwah hah hah. (Later we retired to Chez Neiwert where he was entertained by an Irish dance routine by the Princess Fiona.)

Anyway, I think a pleasant time was had by all.

Reichert, Rove, and the inevitable

Sure enough, just like clockwork, no sooner are we blessed with a visit from Karl Rove in support of Republican Rep. Dave Reichert of Seattle's suburban 8th District than our airwaves are rippling with attack ads against Reichert's Democratic opponent, Darcy Burner.

Andrew at Northwest Progressive Institute unpacks the ads' predictable mishmash of falsehoods, distortions, and general calumny. As he explains, the Reichert ad is virtually a verbatim restatement of the line of attack taken in the National Republican Congressional Committee's flyer attacking Burner that she has effectively debunked at her Web site. Among the ads' nakedly false claims: That Burner "may want to give tax breaks to oil companies" and that she "supports 'amnesty' for illegal immigrants." The chief claims the Reichert ad pick up are these:
Claim #7: "Darcy Burner wants to increase taxes by returning to the marriage penalty and wiping out half the child tax credit."

The Truth: Darcy Burner has never advocated, and she does not support, a return to the marriage penalty, wiping out the child tax credit, or implementing any other tax increase on working families or small businesses. We need to keep tax cuts that truly benefit working Americans. That's why Darcy will work to keep the state and local sales tax deduction, the college tuition tax deduction, the child tax credit, and to permanently repeal the marriage penalty. Darcy has been on the record for months in support of tax relief for working families. She has also publicly decried the failure of the Republican-led Congress to renew important tax relief measures, including an extension of the federal sales tax deduction for Washington State residents. Darcy believes strongly that when it comes to taxes working Americans are currently paying more than their fair share of taxes.

As Andrew points out:
[These] are pure scare tactics designed to intimidate voters. But this is nothing new. Republicans have been using fear as a weapon for years. "If you vote for the Democrats, America will be less safe. (Hint - you don't want another terrorist attack, do you?)" "If you vote for the Democrats, your taxes will go up."

Let's get the facts straight here: it is in fact the Republicans and Dave Reichert who cannot be trusted with our nation's finances. Republicans have doled out tax breaks to the rich, while giving next to nothing to middle and low income families. Republicans are creating taxes on future generations with their incredible deficit spending and fiscal mismanagement.

Republicans reward their corporate and special interest friends with big subsidies and giveaways. They let corporate lawyers write our laws and let corporate executives have at our natural resources and public lands.

The conservative agenda has been a disaster for America. Dave Reichert has been a disaster. We can't afford to have someone in Congress who only does what the House Republican leadership tells him to. The same leadership, remember, that is more interested in winning elections then locking up sex predators.

I'm wondering if these attack ads could possibly be related to rumors I've heard that Reichert's own internal polling shows Burner leading him by a point ...


Censorship, oh my

The unhinged right blogosphere, led as usual by Michelle Malkin, and concern trolls like Instawanker and Peter Beinart, are all together up in arms these days over the cancellation of Mozart's Idomeneo by a Berlin Opera House. They're arguing that liberal bloggers should be all over this, by golly, and their failure to do so only demonstrates their real callowness on issues of free speech and civil liberties.

Right. Well, in the same spirit, Tristero directs them a case of free-speech suppression right here in America.

For that matter, the General brought up another instance of it right in the heartland:
YAKIMA -- There was shock among several students after learning their fall play would be postponed until next spring or possibly indefinitely.

"We'd brought it up in the meetings...there might be issues we never really expected it was going to be the school district," said drama club president and Davis senior Kristie Prescott.

Prescott and several drama club students decided to do the Laramie Project last month at the start of the school year. It's a play about the aftermath of a young Laramie, Wyoming man brutally murdered by two men for being gay.

But soon after, controversy erupted in the high school's community with students, their parents and even staff.

"When I read the play I didn't have a similar reaction," said Lee Maras, principal of Davis High School. "But the ones I did talk to didn't even want to read it, didn't even want to look at it - just felt it was inappropriate for our school."

I'm sure our mighty defenders of civil liberties and free speech such as Reynolds -- that oft-self-proclaimed libertarian -- and Beinart are gonna be all over it.

Or should I simply take their obvious disinterest in these stories evidence of their hypocritical interest in civil liberties solely as a convenient club for bashing liberals?

The Very Last Word On Monica

by Sara Robinson

Anybody who spends much time in bloggerland knows that once a right-winger gets ahold of a talking point, there's no getting them to ever let go again. (Those of us who grew up in Republican families fondly recall elders who were still holding forth on that Antichrist, FDR, well into the Reagan Administration.) They'll parrot the party line for decades, never varying the words or melody. Rush said it, I believe it, and that settles it.

So I shouldn't have been surprised, when, this very Thanksgiving morning (it's Canada -- they do turkey on the second Monday in October here), what should I find in my e-mail but a geezer on a list that I'm on invoking (wait for it) Bill Clinton's dalliance with Monica Lewinsky as the argument-ending rebuttal that proves Democratic perfidy for all time and eternity.

You can hardly blame him. He's no doubt been slinging this one around for eight long years. It's great rhetorical ammo that's pretty much guaranteed to make progressives all tounge-tied and squirmy. After all these years, they've got the quick-draw reflex on this one honed to the point where they don't even have to fumble for the holster.

So it was with a certain amount of glee that I fired back on him. Huh-uh. Not this time. And not ever again. We are off that hook now, and it's the right wing's turn to squirm. Clinton? How very last millennium. That was eight years ago, dude. But what are you doing about your guy Foley, and all the Congressional leaders who protected him? Hmm? What family values were y'all defending there?

What's worse: a little oral sex between consenting adults, behind a closed office door -- or the pages of lurid e-mails in which a 52-year-old man invited multiple 16- and 17-year-old boys to describe their masturbatory habits and measure their penises (and broke actual federal laws in the process)? What's more embarassing: Clinton hugging Monica at a rally, or a drunken Foley howling outside the pages' dorm? Who's the biggest liar: Clinton saying "I did not have sex with that woman," or the half-dozen Congressmen who knew about this for years and denied it all to cover up the fact that they sat on their hands?

Nope. The Era of Monica is over, as of today. Our guy was stupid, but their guys were downright venal. And now we get the fun of reminding them of that every day until, by my calculations, about 2014.

After all, you just know they'd do the same for us.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Buchanan's racism

How much longer, one has to wonder, will our mainstream press continue to pretend that Pat Buchanan has not gone completely around the bend? That he is no longer the avuncular conservative from old episodes of Crossfire but a full-fledged extremist trying to resurrect the once-discredited ethos of white supremacism?

Though there have been some reports bringing attention to this (Media Matters in particular has been good at cataloguing Buchanan's ceaseless white nationalism), but so far, little has made its way into the mainstream press.

On the contrary: Buchanan's many friends in the media have instead been conferring the mantle of respectability and normalcy on these views, promoting them on their TV programs and helping boost his book, State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America, onto the bestseller lists.

This is acutely illsutrated by Alexander Zaitchik's report for the SPLC about Buchanan's book and the media response:
In fact, the book reflects racial views that have now veered to the extreme. White America is changing color, Buchanan argues -- "one of the greatest tragedies in human history." The Mexican government is involved in a plot to take over the Southwestern United States, and parts of this country already look like the "Third World." The segregated South wasn't all bad "culturally" -- blacks and whites were united, after all. America, despite what its founders wrote, was a nation formed not on the basis of creed but rather a homogenous ethnic culture. To put it plainly, State of Emergency is a white nationalist tract. The thesis is that America must retain a white majority to survive as a nation. It is rooted in a blood-and-soil nationalism more blood than soil. The echoes of Nazi ideology are clear and chilling. As Buchanan helpfully explained to John King, who was interviewing him in one of his several CNN appearances: "We gotta get into race and ethnic questions."

State of Emergency unapologetically reflects Buchanan's insistence on the centrality of race to the United States and its culture. "This idea of America as a creedal nation bound together not by 'blood or birth or soil' but by 'ideals' that must be taught and learned ... is demonstrably false," Buchanan writes in the book.

Simply put, America is not a nation of ideas. It is a nation of people -- white people. Buchanan is especially overt in making this case when he endorses the view of his late mentor and editor Sam Francis, that American and European civilizations could never have been created without the "genetic endowments" of whites. He goes on to describe discussions of race as "the Great Taboo"; to ignore the role of race, he adds, is "like not telling one's doctor of a recurring pain that could kill you."

Foremost among Buchanan's media boosters has been CNN's Lou Dobbs, whose proclivity for pushing extremist nonsense into the mainstream has beem previously noted:
"Congratulations on the response to your book," said Lou Dobbs, the CNN anchorman who has made a profession of attacking illegal immigration in story after story after story, as he introduced his old CNN colleague. Dobbs then offered up his own view that President Bush was carrying on an "outright war" against middle-class Americans by allowing illegal immigration. Wrapping up the interview, Dobbs concluded: "The book is State of Emergency. It's No. 3 on the best-selling list. ... I'm going to repeat it one more time. The book is State of Emergency. Pat Buchanan, always good to talk to you. ... [Y]ou've got a lot of readers, so keep it rolling."

Particularly telling is Buchanan's sourcing:
Once again, to make his case in State of Emergency, Buchanan relies on a trove of extreme-right sources. His urgent call for thwarting the "invasion" of non-European immigrants leans heavily on material written by hate group members or postings on hate sites, with citations to nearly every sector of the hate movement, from neo-Nazis to neo-Confederates. He cites the work of white supremacist James Lubinskas; Edward Rubinstein, of the white nationalist think tank National Policy Institute; Clyde Wilson, a board member of the racist and secessionist League of the South; and Wayne Lutton, a veteran immigrant- and gay-hater. Buchanan also quotes Lutton's anti-immigrant hate journal The Social Contract.

There's more, including Buchanan's lionization of Samuel Francis. Yes, that Samuel Francis.