Dissento's (Culture) War Journal

Friday, April 30, 2004
  Doubleplus Bad Timing

Oh boy. Look at this. The president isn't doing himself any favors by not reading news papers. Here's what he said TODAY in defense of his aircraft carrier speech last year:

"A year ago I did give the speech from the carrier saying we had achieved an important objective, accomplished a mission, which was the removal of Saddam Hussein," Bush said.

"As a result, there are no longer torture chambers or mass graves or rape rooms in Iraq," the president said.

What a master of timing!

Thursday, April 29, 2004
  Where's Nightline?

Atrios explains how tomorrow Nightline is being pulled from several markets because it is going to feature all of the soldiers who have died in combat in Iraq. This includes my local affiliate, in Springfield Mass. I've left an angry, but civil, message on the voicemail of the Head of Programming there, and it felt real nice. If you're in the area, I encourage you to do the same. Here are the Sinclair Broadcasting Group's affiliates:

WXLV, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, High Point NC 336-274-484
WEAR, Pensacola 850-456-3333
KDNL, St. Louis
WSYX, Columbus OH 614-481-6666
WLOS, Asheville NC 828-684-1340
WCHS, Charleston, Huntington W VA 304-346-5358
WGGB, Springfield MA (413) 733-4040
WTXL, Tallahassee (850)893-4140

By the way, this how I learned that Mark Hyman, of "The Point" earns his paycheck. Hyman is basically a right-wing jackoff who subjects us to juvenille rants on nightly basis.


Monday, April 26, 2004

It's going to be a loooong election season if all we can talk about it is Kerry's medals. I guess the good news is that this is a pretty lame attack. Who? Cares? Really? 

Friday, April 23, 2004
  Finding New and Exciting Ways to Screw Workers

Republicans remain innovators at finding ways to kick the common laborer around. The lastest travesty is a ruling that lets employers cut retirees health benefits. Yea for capitalism! Yipee! Take note:

The commission voted 3 to 1 for the proposed rule, with three Republicans in favor and one Democrat opposing it.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Just twenty-six days until gay marriage becomes a reality in Massachusetts. Have YOU found your gay spouse yet? Don't make me pick one for you! 

  Donnie Darko

Hey, this good news: Donnie Darko is being re-released. Go check it out -- it's one of my favorites of the past five years. Think of it as a pomo version of The Breakfast Club or Better Off Dead.

Obligatory 'Jacko is Whacko' Comment: While we're on the culture topic, my only comment about Michael Jackson's case is that I wish it would just go away. I'm not a fan, nor a detractor. I just don't care (at least not any more than any other child molestation case). This is going to suck massive amounts of media time away from more important matters. You know, like the Kobe Bryant case. Or who "Apprentice Bill" is dating. < /sarcasm> 

  Ooooh, Good Comeback

Sometimes the back-and-forth between campaigns gets a little silly. Regarding Kerry's service records, Terry McAulifffe had this to say:

"Simply put, Kerry has a proud record of sacrifice and service whereas Bush has a record of cashed-in connections and evasion,"

The republican reply from spokeswoman Christine Iverson:

"Like so many of Terry McAuliffe's comments, this one is not worthy of the dignity of a response."

Man, is that weak or what? Why bother saying anything?  

  God Doesn't Love George Bush Anymore

Church leaders challenge Bush on his environmental record. Seeing stuff like this gives me a little smile.  

Monday, April 19, 2004
  The Wonderful World of Cokie Roberts Logic

So I'm listening to NPR this morning, and perfectly good car ride was ruined by the presence of Cokie Roberts on my radio. She did a completely meaningless segment on John Kerry and his Catholicism and voters which Bob Edwards quickly rebutted. Then she went on to other, various demographics that at play in the 2000 race and the two concluded with this exchange (paraphrased):

Edwards: "So that left Gore with the unarmed atheist vote?"

Roberts (laughing): "Yeah, and that was a lonely place to be."

Lonely? Apparently the unarmed atheist made up 50,996,116 voters, more than Bush got, lest we forget.

Smarter commentators please. 

Thursday, April 15, 2004
  Help the President!

Hey, don't let it be said that we won't help the president when he's in need. The Center for American Progress provides a way for you to lend the Prez and hand. Gosh, it's tough to only pick one! 

Tuesday, April 13, 2004
  The Press Conference

Even after three years, I can still be astounded by how we put such empty-headed, morally vacant, lightweight into the White House. Ho-lee-shit.

I thought he was going to black out while trying to concoct a "mistake" in his head. You could practically see the little hamster spinning like crazy: "OK, think of a mistake, but nothing too big...umm...no, that won't work...ooh! Sammy Sosa! -- no, already used that one." The man is physically incapable of admitting error. How does such a collosal fuck-up cultivate such a massive ego? Astounding.

And then, there's the usual suspects discussing the affair with a straight face, as if Bush helped himself out! I think for those on the fence (y'now, real people -- not the talking heads), this might be a real eye-opener for them. THIS is the guy representing and protecting you. Ho-lee-shit. 

  Deconstructing Condi

Slate carries this brilliant letter on Dr. Rice (scroll down to Thursday. This is as good an analysis of the the testimony as you'll find anywhere:

Date: Fri Apr 9 1229h

One clear inference can be drawn from Condoleezza Rice's testimony before the 9/11 commission this morning: She has been a bad national security adviser—passive, sluggish, and either unable or unwilling to tie the loose strands of the bureaucracy into a sensible vision or policy. In short, she has not done what national security advisers are supposed to do.

Actually, what is clear to me now—after watching Rice's testimony and then reading some of the more astonishing quotes from it last evening in various news reports—is that Rice isn't a national security adviser at all. That is, her job—unlike that of all the others, such as Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, John Poindexter, Anthony Lake and Sandy Berger—was, and is, not to give the president national security advice but instead to carry out orders given by those who actually were devising national security policy: Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Feith.

Rice was simply a glorified supervisory bureaucrat. Her job was to take and carry out orders—or, as she repeatedly put it, to be "tasked"—to carry out this or that bureaucratic aspect of the national security policy set by Cheney and Rumsfeld with the input of Wolfowitz and Feith. Rice was almost as much out of the loop as was Richard Clarke; she was present at these principals' meetings, but only to receive her marching orders.

Rice didn't get Clarke a meeting with the principals because Rice couldn't get Clarke a meeting with the principals. Rice didn't order the FBI director to "shake the trees" of that agency—nor even to notify the field offices of the stunningly clear indications from al Qaeda intercepts about a very, very, very, very big and imminent terrorist attack possibly within this country, or even inquire whether the field offices that were tracking al Qaeda cells within this country had any information that, viewed in light of the intercepted messages, might help pinpoint any such plot within the U.S.—because Rice lacked the authority to do so on her own.

Nor, apparently, did she even have the authority to decide on her own to demand that the FBI director (and later the acting FBI director) do so. Apparently, she lacked the authority even to notify the FBI director of the threats—excuse me, of the non-threats—about some "unbelievable news in coming weeks," about a "big event" that will cause "a very, very, very, very big uproar," about the announcement that "there will be attacks in the near future".

And she didn't have the authority—or maybe the proper word here is clout—to persuade Bush meet not just with the CIA director but also with the FBI director. In that dramatic exchange between her and Ben-Veniste in which Ben-Veniste demanded a yes-or-no answer to his question whether Rice had told Bush "at any time prior to August 6th, of the existence of al-Qaida cells in the United States" although Rice herself had been told of this in early 2001, she answered, finally, that she didn't recall whether or not she had done so.

Rice wasn't tasked to tell the president of the existence of al Qaeda cells in the United States, and so she didn't. Rice was tasked with furthering Cheney's and Rumsfeld's goals of pushing the missile defense system's funding and development and of toppling Saddam Hussein.

The threat posed by Al Qaeda cells in the U.S. didn't further either of these two goals, and in fact hindered the first of them; a big argument against the obscenely expensive and scientifically unperfected missile system was precisely that with the end of the Cold War, the biggest security threat to the U.S. was the potential for terrorists to wreak havoc simply by infiltrating the country. So Rice, untasked to tell the president of the presence of al Qaeda cells within the U.S., didn't tell the president of the presence of al Qaeda cells within the U.S.

Bizarre though it was, her weirdest statement was not the one in which she says that the intercepts about "a very, very, very, very big uproar" that will be caused by "unbelievable news in coming weeks" about "attacks in the near future" were "[t]roubling, yes," but because "they don't tell us when; they don't tell us where; they don't tell us who; and they don't tell us how" they were not quite troubling enough for her to task herself to notify the FBI director and the field offices about them.

No, of all the many bizarre comments Rice made yesterday, the loopiest, in my opinion— and anyway the most starkly factually inaccurate—was her incessant claim that because of "structural" and legal prohibitions, the CIA director couldn't tell the FBI director that there were certain known al Qaeda operatives who had entered the country.

Is she claiming that at the "battle stations" shake-the-trees meetings that Clarke and others say occurred in late 1999 among the various national security "principals" including the CIA director and the FBI director didn't really occur because of structural problems? Or that those meetings occurred but that the CIA director didn't tell the FBI director any valuable information he had because it would have been illegal to do so? Or that the CIA director did pass along to the FBI director the information he had, and that his doing so violated the law?

Good heavens. What law, pray tell, is she talking about? What law would have prevented George Tenet from giving to the FBI director the pertinent information he had—about the contents of the al Qaeda intercepts and about the few al Qaeda operatives the CIA knew already had entered the country?

"Every day now in the Oval Office in the morning," Rice said in answer to a question about whether the structural problems that hampered communications between the CIA and the FBI had been resolved, "the FBI director and the CIA director sit with the president, sharing information in ways that they would have been prohibited to share that information before." Indeed. And that's precisely what Clarke said transpired during the Clinton administration in the weeks before the millennium, in order to try to thwart any planned terrorist attacks then. And it's exactly what Clarke says he tried to communicate with Bush, via Rice, that he, Bush should do.

Perhaps the most revealing answer Rice gave yesterday was in answer to a question inquiring about the steps, if any, Bush took in response to the information in the Aug. 6 security briefing that said [according to Bob Kerrey and Ben-Veniste] "that the FBI indicates patterns of suspicious activity in the United States consistent with preparations for hijacking." Rice said Bush met every day with the CIA director.

Not with the CIA director and the FBI director. Just with the CIA director. The structural problem that kept the FBI director and the CIA director from communicating the most critical information to each other during the months preceding 9/11 was, in other words, a structural problem of the Bush administration's own making.

That structural problem was, in turn, created by a truly profound one, a thoroughly stunning one—even to me. It's a structural problem revealed most starkly by Bush's failure, upon being told on Aug 6, 2001 that "that the FBI indicates patterns of suspicious activity in the United States consistent with preparations for hijacking" especially in light of George Tenet's warnings to him throughout that summer that al Qaeda intercepts were speaking of a very, very, very big event.

The structural problem is simply this: Bush was the president in name only, a genuine figurehead, with no intellectual decisionmaking capability whatsoever, and that Cheney was the actual president at least with respect to national security matters. The information in the Aug. 6 "PDB"—the presidential daily briefing—wasn't given to the actual president. Nor were Tenet's daily oral and written reports. They were given only to the figurehead president, and not transmitted to the real one, who already had determined the administration's national security agenda and therefore wasn't interested in them.

Thus Rice's constant references to policy rather than to responding to—acting in light of—information being received. Rice wasn't tasked to attempt to learn of the nature and locale of the impending very, very, very big event al Qaeda was planning because the policy regarding invading Afghanistan, and what they thought was the requisite of getting Pakistan on board, wasn't yet in place.

Among the more annoying euphemisms in currently in vogue among the punditry is the one they use to acknowledge that Bush is very seriously lacking in intellectual capacity: they say he is "incurious." But stupid as I recognize him to be, even I wouldn't have suspected that, handed information that the FBI indicates patterns of suspicious activity in the United States consistent with preparations for hijacking, and handed information that al Qaeda was planning an attack it thought would cause a huge uproar, George W. Bush would be so incurious as to not phone the FBI director and ask what exactly were those patterns of suspicious activity in the United States consistent with preparations for hijacking.

But now, thanks to Rice's testimony yesterday, I and all the world know that that wasn't tasked to Bush. It was tasked to Cheney—or rather it would have been, had Cheney rather than Bush been the one to receive the Aug. 6 PDB, and had he been the one to meet daily with Tenet.

I had thought throughout the Clarke controversy, until yesterday, that the real political damage to Bush from would come from the recognition by a majority of the public, finally, that it makes us less rather than more safe—both physically and economically—to have a strong-'n-decisive leader whose strength-'n-decisive leadership amounts to determining policy based purely on ideology and patronage rather than on the actual needs of the county and on facts, and who forces through these polices irrespective of circumstances and evidence about their actual effects on the country.

But I think now that that, even more than that, the political damage Bush will suffer will come from the ultimate epiphany that the most damning caricature of this president is true: He's jaw-droppingly stupid, and so Dick Cheney is the actual president. Cheney isn't obsessively secretive for nothing.

Troubling, yes. Very.

Condi Rice was asked to fall on her sword in order to try to keep this secret from escaping. She obliged and destroyed herself, but didn't succeed in her mission.

  Robot Wars!

Technology is good thing. A robot was blown up in Iraq instead of a soldier. Rest in peace, Packbot! 

  Makes Sense to Me

A Strategy for Iraq by John Kerry. 

Sunday, April 11, 2004
  Casting Dick Clarke's Movie

According to CNN, Clarke's Book Is Optioned by Sony. How about some casting suggestions? Here's mine:
Dick Clarke = Brian Dennehy
Tom Kean = Gary Shandling
Bob Kerry = George Clooney
Condi Rice = Angela Bassett
George Tenet = Paul Dooley
Richard Ben-Veniste = Eugene Levy
Jamie Gorelick = Jamie Lee Curtis
James R. Thompson = Peter Boyle
George Bush and Dick Cheney = Eng & Chang (Because they're apparently joined at the hip)

A look at politics, media, current events, and the "culture wars."

07/2003 - 08/2003 / 08/2003 - 09/2003 / 09/2003 - 10/2003 / 10/2003 - 11/2003 / 11/2003 - 12/2003 / 12/2003 - 01/2004 / 01/2004 - 02/2004 / 02/2004 - 03/2004 / 03/2004 - 04/2004 / 04/2004 - 05/2004 / 05/2004 - 06/2004 / 06/2004 - 07/2004 / 07/2004 - 08/2004 / 08/2004 - 09/2004 / 02/2005 - 03/2005 / 03/2005 - 04/2005 / 02/2007 - 03/2007 /

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