August 2004
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Posted August 30, 2004
The Quid Pro Quo

In light of the publicity surrounding the admission byformer Texas Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes that

I got a young man named George W. Bush into the Texas Air Guard--and I'm ashamed

investigative journalist Greg Palast is revisiting his reportage on what Barnes did with this knowledge. I'll let Palast tell the story:

By [1994], Barnes had left office to become a big time corporate lobbyist...Barnes appears to have made lucrative use of his knowledge of our President'sslithering out of the draft as a lever to protect a multi-billion dollarcontract for a client...

Just after Bush's election, Barnes' client GTech Corp., due to allegations ofcorruption, was about to lose its license to... run the Texas state lottery.Barnes... made a call to the newly elected governor's office and saved GTech'sstate contract.

[A confidential letter buried deep in the files of the US Justice Department]said, "Governor Bush ... made a deal with Ben Barnes not to rebid [the GTechlottery contract] because Barnes could confirm that Bush had lied during the '94campaign."

Read the story in its entirety here.

Sidebar: Swift boat shipwreck. Do thedetails, charges and countercharges of the whole swift boat smear have your headspinning? Here's a good condensed version of the whole thing at Democratic Underground (see #1)

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Posted August 27, 2004
All 527s are not created equal

I am leaving it to others to explode the allegations of John O'Neill and all the other liars involved with Swift Boat Veterans for 'Truth'. What I want to address is the apparent failure of the media to challenge the Bush line that all the 527 groups ought to stop issues ads. Dubya's argument is is to equate SBVT and progressive groups:

Bush urges Kerry to condemn attack ads
One reporter cited the swift boat ads and asked, "When you say that you want tostop all --" "All of them," Bush responded. "That means that ad, every other ad.Absolutely. I don't think we ought to have 527s."
Bush said "unregulated soft money" of 527 groups "is wrong for the process."

The president said he "thought we'd gotten rid of that" when he signed theMcCain-Feingold legislation instituting campaign finance reform. CNN Inside Politics, 8/24/2004

And the most frequent comparison being drawn by the spinners is with MoveOn and Sierra Club (and sometimes George Soros).

Why has no one made what I think is the obvious objection? SBVT is nowherenear in the same league as MoveOn and Sierra. SBVT is a shadowy group of arelatively few people, nursing a decades-long hatred of Kerry—this seemsto be their sole reason for existing. In contrast, MoveOn and Sierra are openorganizations with highly public agendas, and with millions of members who helpdetermine those agendas.

The difference seems obvious.

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Posted August 26, 2004
John O'Neill: Misreporting For Duty

0820 PDT—John O'Neill (of Swift Boat Veterans For 'Truth') has just crashed and burned on NPR (below :03:15), in a Juan Williams report that also makes FEC Chairman Bradley Smith look like the Bush apologist he is.

Bush Lawyer Quits over Ties to Anti-Kerry Group: Listen Realaudio

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Posted August 25, 2004
The View from Bush Country

Grapeview, WA— State Representative "Ike" Eickmeyer must be the loneliest Democrat in this part of the state. This is the inescapable conclusion from the distribution of political yardsigns along State Routes 160 and 3. These stretches of road connecting sleepy Grapeview with the ferry terminal in Southworth are like a free-association Burma Shave of candidates with R appended to their names.

Eickmeyer is one of the D exceptions. His signs are like a sore thumb, physically standing apart from big clumps of Johnsons, Angels, Hendens, Bazes and other Rs. And one prominent Democrat: U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks (Wa-6), a holdover from the Jurassic era of a Democratic House majority. That Dicks's signs mix freely with Republican ones is a clue to where he stands on the issues. It is also a peek into the souls of 6th Congressional District conservatives—they may hate liberals, but they love their pork even more.

Seattle-to-Southworth-to-Grapeview is a mix of blue collar and affluence. Longtime residents inhabit practical, proud homesteads, often on large acreages with livestock. Barbed wire is still a common property boundary. Next to the old timers are well-heeled yuppies and retirees from Seattle; theirs are the smart custom remodels (each with just the right amount of neo-Craftsman balanced with graceful country living) crowded along the miles and miles of saltwater shore. So far everyone gets along; a bulletin board at a roadside store near Union has flyers for a regatta, a local wrestling tournament, and the county food bank.

You're not going to see Kerry/Edwards signs here. Though you will see stickers on the main highway—on the backs of cars with license plate frames from Seattle dealerships. These are urban liberals out for a weekend in the country, bound for B&Bs and rented (or borrowed) cabins. That's Ms_Blog and I in the silver Prius; we and our comrades drive straight past the Republican signs as if running a gauntlet.

One of the most common signs we pass is the one for county commission candidate Randy Neatherlin. His signs almost scream Xenophobic Wacko—"I M 1 of U" is the slogan across the top of his standard, two-color yardsign, as though his opponents are not. Maybe they're brie eating, french-speaking, ACLU card-carrying, My Life readers. Or they are on record as visiting Canada and having a good time. A set of Neatherlin signs in Belfair, hand-lettered on plywood, bear the triple-slogan, "Big Man — Big Job — Vote Local." Small penis? Don't know; don't care.

The surprise is that Bush/Cheney signs are not as numerous as one would expect. There are a few small ones, and a handful of the large 6x8 variety. Perhaps it is due to the clear signs everywhere of the Bush recession. Belfair is the antithesis of the french roots from which its name originates, hardly more than a shabby thickening of traffic on SR-3.

Just past Belfair, the small town of Allyn is down to two restaurants, one of which uses canned mushrooms on its pizzas. My favorite, the Allyn Inn, sits vacant; the second-floor dining room with a spectacular view of North Bay were not enough to keep it in business. Rundown waterfront properties, built in the Nixon years and never remodeled, are on the market but sit unsold.

Not everyone is at home for Mr. Cognitive Dissonance, though. Grapeview's big Bush/Cheney sign adorns a cinderblock office, right next door to what was the town's only store—a once-thriving gas station and quickie-mart, now vacant. Ms_Blog and I bring a cooler of groceries from home. The nearest supermarket is a QFC (Kroger's), and we refuse to get one of those infernal club cards.

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Posted August 17, 2004
Gone Fission

We (Ms_Blog and I) have abandoned the city due to the heat. Yes, Seattlites are heat wimps.A possible travelogue when we return.

Sidebar: By the way, just in case your mainstream US media doesn't pick up this story, it looks like Hamid Karzai attended the Diebold School of Elections (Katherine Harris, Dean):

Afghan vote threatens Bush's credibility
KABUL (Toronto Star)—With evidence mounting of plans for widespread vote-rigging inAfghanistan's upcoming elections, U.S. experts say the controversy could emergeas a serious liability for U.S. President George W. Bush's re-election campaign.After voter registration centres closed across Afghanistan on the weekend,election officials acknowledged the number of voting cards issued far exceededthe estimated number of eligible voters—and that the illegal practice ofmultiple registrations is widespread.

...Bush has staked his claims on a successful democratic Afghanistan,saying it would serve as an example of howAmerica can bring democracy, and free and fair elections to thedeveloping world.

"The rise of democratic institutions in Afghanistan and Iraq is a great steptoward a goal of lasting importance to the world," Bush said in a speech inWashington last March. "We have set out to encourage reform and democracy."
Observers also claim the ground work necessary for a free and fairelection... has not been established in Afghanistan and that the U.S. hurriedlypushed the country into elections to further its own agenda.
"The United States wants, before the November elections, to showcase a victory of the Bush administration..." said Assem Akram, anAfghan historian and author... "And if American voters grant George Bush a newmandate, his administration will reproduce the same successful model in Iraq.That is why there is so much hurry."
United Nations officials overseeing the elections admit thatmore than 10 million voting cards have beenissued—surpassing the estimated 9.8 million eligible voters.
Jawed Ludin, a spokesperson for Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, insisted no one involved in Karzai's election campaign has bought votingcards. "The president is a candidate who would never do anything like that."
Mustafa Durani, country representative for the International Republican Institute in Kabul, stressed that it does not matter if someone registers one or30 times because they are only allowed one vote. Source

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Posted August 12, 2004

Can you hear the scapegoats?By an amazing coincidence, a number of political blood sacrifices are in progress which seem designed to divert blame for mistakes in the war against terror/Iraq away from the White House.

Lynndie England. You'd think publicity surrounding her court martialwould be an embarrassment to the Administration, and you'd be right. So thehearings have been moved to Germany, and England's trial has conveniently been put on hold while the judge decides whether to allow the defense to call Cheney, Rumsfeld and top generals to testify. But she is extremely pregnant, and I can't imagine a woman near term being made to stand trial—the USA is pro-motherhood, after all. Nor would it be proper for a woman to be dragged into court and away from her newborn. And if she can't be tried, then she also can't be called to testify inany other trials—such as that of sperm donor ex-Sgt. Charles Graner. So alltrials will be on the back burner until the child is old enough for daycare.

Porter Goss. Bush's nominee to head the CIA, Goss is a congressman (veryR) and former CIA agent. So you'd think that he'd be perfect for the job offixing the Agency's shortcomings. But since 1997 Goss has also been Chairman ofthe House Select Intelligence Committee, a perfect position from which tomonitor and evaluate CIA. Therefore if things are as bad at CIA as claimed, Goss been dropping the ball for years. Goss's job will be to play at being a reformerand pin all the blame on George Tenet, allowing Bush to claim "not myfault—gosh, if only I'd known."

Ahmad Chalabi. Already a fugitive from Jordanian justice (bank fraud), Ahmad Chalabi, former great white hope of the Iraqi exile movement, is now in trouble at home too. He's officially charged with counterfeiting. (A murder warrant has been issued for his son Salem, who is only the freaking head of the tribunal in the Saddam Hussein trial.) Ahmad Chalabi and his organization were the source for much of the bad WMD intelligence that was the pretext for war. And now he's going to get all the blame. Again, "not my fault."

Prison abuse; intelligence breakdowns; Iraq. All embarrassing for Bush, all being manipulated for his advantage. Now if only he can find someone else to blame for the economy.

Sidebar: Speaking of goats. (1000 PDT)Al Franken's acumen as a radio host continues to amaze. Regular guest David Sirota related a little-known story of John Kerry heroism, in which he administered the Heimlich Maneuver to Senator Chick Hecht, saving the Nevada Republican's life. Franken quipped, "Bush would have waited seven minutes."

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Posted August 9, 2004
The PR Campaign Against Terror

Is this getting much play in the US media? It seems that many international security experts shared this blog's alarm over the rapid public disclosure of last week's "second stream of intelligence." The snarky online journal Capitol Hill Blue is reporting that someone in the US government confirmed to the New York Times that we were holding Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan, the "al Qaeda computer expert" secretly captured last month—at the same time that he was actively cooperating with us:

Reuters learned from Pakistani intelligence sources on Friday [Aug. 6] that computerexpert Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan, arrested secretly in July, was working undercover to help the authorities track down al Qaeda militants in Britain and theUnited States when his name appeared in U.S. newspapers.
"After his capture he admitted being an al Qaeda member and agreed to sende-mails to his contacts," a Pakistani intelligence source told Reuters. "He sentencoded e-mails and received encoded replies. He's a great hacker and even theU.S. agents said he was a computer whiz."
Last Sunday [Aug. 1], U.S. officials toldreporters that someone held secretly by Pakistan was the source of thebulk of the information justifying thealert. The New York Times obtained Khan's name independently, and U.S. officials confirmed it when itappeared in the paper the next morning.
A day later, Britain hastily rounded up terrorism suspects... Washingtonhas portrayed those arrests as a major success...But British police have acknowledged the raids were carried out in a rush.Suspects were dragged out of shops in daylight and caught in a high speed carchase, instead of the usual procedure of catching them at home in the earlymorning while they can offer less resistance.

Haven't these guys ever heard of "no comment"? The rush by the Bushies to score political points in the media was more important to them than maintaining the security of the investigation—or improving the chances of long-term success in fighting terrorism.

But don't take my word for it:

Security experts... were shocked...that the source... was identified within days,and that U.S. officials had confirmed his name.
"The whole thing smacks of either incompetence or worse," said Tim Ripley, asecurity expert who writes for Jane's Defense publications. "You have to ask:what are they doing compromising a deep mole within al Qaeda, when it's sodifficult to get these guys in there in the first place?
It's not exactly cloak and dagger undercover work if it'son the front pages every time there's a development, is it?"

The Mood Stabilization of the President. I don't know what the disinformation factor is in this one, but The Blue is also reporting that "powerful anti-depressantdrugs" have been prescribed for Bush, in order to control "his erratic behavior,depression and paranoia". The journal first wrote about Bush's questionable mental stability in June.

I.O.U. 6 Million Jobs. The Labor Department released the July job figures on Friday, just in time to make the Saturday papers which few people read. Only 32,000 new jobs were created, far from the 200,000+ that were expected. Bush's comment?

"economic growth is strong and it's getting stronger."

All summer Bush has bragged that he has created over a million jobs, alwaysneglecting to mention that he had previously lost 2 million (some say 3million). Furthermore, month-by-month jobs results over the last few months describes a downward trend, not a stronger one:

monthjobs created

What few seem to recall is that in his 2000 campaign, the Prez promised tocreate 5 million jobs. Hey Dubya: even with credit for the jobs you've created,you still owe America about 6 million jobs.

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Posted August 6, 2004
Harry Shearer Report Card: A-

Harry Shearer was exceedingly competent in his guest-host stint on the DaveRoss Show, which was this morning on Seattle's KIRO 710-AM. I listen to hisweekly public radio show fairly often, so I know he's good on the radio. But itwas a pleasant surprise to hear how good he is in a straight news/talk format.The only thing that would have pushed his grade to a full A would have been ifhe had created one of his sublime parodies about Seattle or Seattlepolitics—the Ross show is local, after all.

And the callers! Seattle has always been pretty low-key when reacting tocelebrities; back in the days when Northern Exposure was being shot inRedmond, you would see the cast members around town going about their business,and people left them alone. People who called Shearer this morning weresimilarly non-starstruck. In the second hour Harry's guest was Bev Harris of Black Box Voting, and acaller opened with "Hello, I'm a big fan... of Bev Harris." It wasn't until thefinal hour that a few Spinal Tap references slipped in.

Could this have been an audition for a more regular gig for Shearer on KIRO?One caller summed up my opinion on the question, in the morning's only episodeof blatant hero worship: "If Dave wins and you're in, I'd be happy."

Listen before they take it down: Harry Shearer interviewing Jim Rassmun, one of John Kerry's 'Band Of Brothers', :07 (Windows media)

Did he stuff them in his socks? (2100 PDT) In June 2002 a little story surfaced in the UK's Daily Telegraph: someoneconnected to the Senate Select Intelligence Committee had leaked copies of terroristcommunications, intercepted on Sept. 10, 2001, which could have warned USauthorities of the 9/11 attacks—had they not been translated on 9/12.Long rumored to be the leaker, Senator Richard Shelby (R) has finally been fingered:

Federal investigators concluded that Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) divulgedclassified intercepted messages to the media when he was on the Senate SelectCommittee on Intelligence, according to sources familiar with the probe.

Specifically, Fox News chief politicalcorrespondent Carl Cameron confirmed to FBI investigators that Shelby verballydivulged the information to him during a June 19, 2002, interview, minutes after Shelby's committee had been giventhe information in a classified briefing...

Cameron did not air the material. Momentsafter Shelby spoke with Cameron, he met with CNN reporter Dana Bash, and about half an hourafter that, CNN broadcast the materialSource

Picture Shelby receiving the files, giving them the once-over, shouting "ohboy!" and jumping up to rush out and leak them. Dare we hope Fox and the rest ofthe right wing media gives this as much fanfare as they did the Sandy Berger"scandal"?

Unreal(2355 PDT).Hey everybody! Our President can distinguish between real and unreal:

Bush Defends Terror Alert, Challenges Kerry (from Reuters)
President Bush on Friday defended his administration against charges it issueda terror alert this week for political purposes
. . .
"When we find out intelligence that is real... we have an obligation as government to share that with people," Bush told a skeptical audience at a conference of minority journalists.

Stop laughing, maybe he's trying to make an effort.

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Posted August 5, 2004
Melange a schtuff

A vote.Missourians on Tuesday approved a ban on gay marriage, voting 71% in favor of a state constitutional amendment. More evidence that you don't allow majorities to make decisions about minority rights, because the minorities will lose every time. This is really a job for the activist judiciary.

A ruling. In contrast, King County Superior Court Judge William Downing got it right. Yesterday, Downing declared Washington state's Defense of Marriage Act of 1998 unconstitutional, because preventing gay marriage serves no legitimate purpose (Article). The ruling now goes to the state Supremes, but for now chalk one up for the progressive side.

An also-ran. It turns out my parodyof the gubanatorial campaign platform of King County Executive Ron Sims was alittle off. But I'm not apologizing. Turns out he's pandering in an even biggerway than I had thought possible: he wants to totally eliminate state taxes onbusiness. What do the rest of us get? Well, a property tax exemption on thefirst $100,000 of home value. This would have been a big help 15 years ago whenthere were $100,000 homes in Seattle. But now those "starter" homes are $250,000and up. True, another Sims proposal would eliminate the state's portion of local sales taxes, but then there's his idea for a new state income tax, under which even those earning under $25,000 a year would still be taxed at 4%. Hey Ron, here's a tip: revenue neutrality leads to policy mediocrity.

And a typo. Yesterday's P-I editorial on waterfront and port security refers to

Slade Gorgon, a former U.S. senator from Washington and a 9/11 commissioner

For the last time: the man's name is Skeletor Gorgon.

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Posted August 4, 2004
Coup d'Great

Seattle news/talk station KIRO (710 AM) is promoting a guest-host appearance by the fantastic Harry Shearer, of The Simpsons, Spinal Tap and A Mighty Wind fame.He'll be on the air this Friday, Aug. 6, from 9 AM to noon. Unfortunately, KIRO does not stream on theWeb, so you won't be able to hear Harry if you are outside the Puget Sound region.

Shearer is subbing for KIRO morning man Dave Ross (who often subs for Charles Osgood on CBS Radio), who is on leave to campaign for Congress.

On the Web:
      Le Show,
Shearer's weekly program on KCRW-FM, Santa Monica


The Continuing Manipulation Continues (1445 PDT).Usually the Bushies are quick to invoke national security as a reason to keepa whole host of things secret, even the list of who lobbied Dick Cheney onenergy policy. Yet on Aug. 1 DHS's Tom Ridge said "we do have new and unusually specific information about where al-Qaeda would like to attack," and went on toname specific targets.Then, after spending a couple days defending themselves from disclosures that the "new" data is really 3-4 years old, the White House magically trots out this news:

Fresh data spurred terrorism warning
Senior government officials said [Aug. 3] that new intelligence pointing to... targets in New York and possibly Washington... was a major factor in the decision over the weekend to elevate the terror alert.
The officials said a second stream of intelligence... reached the White House only late last week and was part of the flow that... prompted them to act urgently in the past few days. [This] a day after the Bush administration acknowledged... much of the surveillance activity cited this weekend by [Tom Ridge]... had been at least three years old.
Senior government officials described [the intelligence] as discrete documents, each at least 20 pages long and devoted to a particular target, and... written in "perfect English." New York Times, 8/4/04

Here's the thing: if you did have a new source ofintelligence, would you publicly disclose you had it? And only a few daysafter it reached you? The Administration apparently would. They are telling Al Qaeda exactly what intelligence we have!

The description of the "discrete documents" is specific enough to cause any selfrespecting terrorist to abandon those plans. If there was an Al Qaeda cell inNew York, they're certainly not there any longer—meaning there is no impendingthreat. Catching the cell means having to wait until they develop a whole newplot for us to detect—meaning there is no counterintelligence benefit from the disclosure.

A reason for disclosing such a new intel stream might be if one were sure theplot had been called off for some reason, and there were no further leads. Butit is doubtful investigators could conclude this so quickly—and the Administration sold this as a new, chilling, imminent threat. It is clear, therefore, that there was no intelligence or public safety reason for scaring the crap out of the greater New York area over the last few days. That leaves politics: the politics of fear.

      Terror Alert, Pakistan and Presidential Politics Realaudio

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Posted August 3, 2004
The Manipulation Continues

You've probably heard by now that the Aug. 1 Orange Alert for certain buildings in New York City was based on intel collected years ago:

Much of the information that led authorities to raise the terror alert atseveral large financial institutions in New York City, Washington and Newark,N.J., was 3 or 4 years old, intelligence and law enforcement officials saidMonday. Authorities reported that they had not yet found concrete evidence thata terror plot or preparatory surveillance operations were still under way.
Frances Fragos Townsend, the White House homeland security adviser, saidMonday in an interview on PBS that surveillance reports, apparently collected byAl-Qaida operatives, had been "gathered in 2000and 2001." But she added that information may have been updated asrecently as January.
In Washington, President Bush said, "We wouldn't be contacting authorities at the local levelunless something was real."Source: New York Times

Like WMDs? The question we have to keep asking is Whynow? As demonstrated last month in this blog, it seems a good bet thatthe Administration has been manipulating terror warnings and alerts forpolitical benefit. Shall we see if any new trends are in evidence?

Here's the landscape for the past week:

Pakistanis capture Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani: July 25
Democratic Convention: July 26-28
Ghailani capture announced: July 29
New York City warning: July 31
New York City Orange Alert: August 1
Kerry's support down 2%: Aug. 1
Bush's support up 5%: Aug. 1
Speculation that Ghailani capture prompted NYC alert: Aug. 2 (AP)
NYC alert really based on old intel: Today

To sum up: a capture, announcement is delayed until after Democratic Convention;announcement is falsely linked to New York alert; Bush gets the post-conventionbounce. What's our mantra? It doesn't prove the party in power manipulatespolicy for electoral gain—but it sure is amazing how one follows the otherso closely.

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