Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Herbert Says Bush is Just A Broken Record

I was thinking the same thing as Bob Herbert this morning. Every time we see the President lately, he's telling us how much safer from terrorists we are by fighting in Iraq. I guess we should thank ourselves for getting rid of all those WMDs, too, huh?

December 1, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist
Bush Hits Rewind

It's weird. It's like watching a computerized model of a president. Somebody programs George W. Bush, carefully embedding the information to be dispensed over the next several hours, and then he goes out and addresses the nation - as a computerized bundle of administration talking points.

"We will never back down," said Mr. Bush in his speech at the U.S. Naval Academy yesterday. "We will never give in. And we will never accept anything less than complete victory."

I don't think there were many people who believed him. Members of Mr. Bush's own party are nervously eyeing next year's Congressional elections. They would abandon Iraq in a heartbeat if it meant the difference between getting re-elected or having to hunt for a real job.

This war (which has already cost the lives of more than 2,100 Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis) was cynically launched (it was never about Sept. 11) and incompetently fought (we have never sent enough troops or sufficient equipment), and will be brought to a close by people obsessed not with the security of the United States and the welfare of the troops, but with the political calendar.

"I will settle for nothing less than complete victory," said Mr. Bush. He then dutifully defined victory as follows:

"Victory will come when the terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten Iraq's democracy, when the Iraqi security forces can provide for the safety of their own citizens, and when Iraq is not a safe haven for terrorists to plot new attacks on our nation."

Those were some of yesterday's talking points. Here's today's reality: the $6-billion-a-month U.S. military mission in Iraq is unsustainable, as is the political support for the war. There is now a virtual consensus that a significant American troop withdrawal will get under way in 2006.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi security forces are ill equipped, understaffed and widely infiltrated by private militia members and insurgents. In many ways, it's an amateurish operation.

As Senator Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat who served in the 82nd Airborne, told reporters this week:

"Without an effective ministry that can keep track of soldiers and police, pay those soldiers and police, apply those soldiers and police and essentially provide the foundation, then you're going to have some tactically trained units, but they're not going to be a coherent or effective force."

Despite the rosy scenarios offered by President Bush, American-style democracy is nowhere in sight in Iraq. Among other things, the evidence of horrific human rights abuses by Iraqi forces allied with us - including kidnappings, torture and murders - is increasing.

In short, the picture in Iraq is not a pretty one, and there is no indication that substantial improvements are coming soon.

If the president gets any of this, you couldn't tell it by his appearance yesterday. He stuck to his talking points. "To all who wear the uniform," he said, "I make you this pledge: America will not run in the face of car bombers and assassins so long as I am your commander in chief."

We may not cut and run in Iraq, but with the G.O.P. sweating out next year's elections, the plans are already under way for American forces by the tens of thousands to cut and speed-walk toward the exits. Mr. Bush could have been honest about this yesterday, but he chose not to be.

If the administration does not address this inevitable pullout, or pullback, seriously, it will be conducted as incompetently as the post-invasion operation.

The inevitable drawdown of U.S. forces is hardly a secret. In addition to the political pressures coming from the G.O.P., there's the fact that we don't have enough people in the military - and can't entice enough people into the military - to back up the president's blithe promises.

Senator Joseph Biden, a Delaware Democrat, said in an op-ed article in The Washington Post that it was likely that 50,000 troops would be redeployed out of Iraq by the end of next year and "a significant number" of the remainder in 2007.

A president who's little more than a bundle of talking points cannot possibly maintain the long-term trust and confidence of the public. There's a disturbing remoteness to President Bush that seems especially odd in a politician who was selected by his party because of his supposed ability to project warmth and the kind of fundamental authenticity that his Democratic opponents lacked.

Bad News From Black Rock

I don't usually think about "60 Minutes" very often, but I have been haunted by a story that ran on Sunday night about how the process to approve the "Plan B" pill is being fucked with. I realize this is just a cynical ploy by the Bushies to manipulate the Evangelicals, but it's being done in the name of opressing women and Americans ought to be outraged by it (at the very least). No matter how much we may want to, we need to keep our noses out of other people's business. Sheesh! Isn't that something we learn when we're 10?

More good news: If Mr. Alito mounts the bench, he's got a lot of history that shows his true colors. (NYT article). Here's an excerpt from today's NYT story.

"As a lawyer in the Reagan Justice Department, the Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. played an integral role in devising legal strategy to pare back the landmark abortion rights case Roe v. Wade, documents disclosed Wednesday show.

Judge Alito argued in a 1985 memorandum to the Reagan administration's solicitor general that two pending Supreme Court cases were an "opportunity to advance the goals of overruling Roe v. Wade and, in the meantime, of mitigating its effects."

Ladies...hide your uteruses! (uterii?)

Shenon Ain't No Judith Miller

Jack Abramoff listening to his lawyer

Terry Gross is pissing me off. It's too damned cold outside to sit in the car and wait for one of her fabulous interviews to end so I can come in the house. But I couldn't peel myself away tonight as I heard her and NYT reporter Phillip Shenon struggle to unravel the issues that have woven Jack Abramoff, Michael Scanlon, Ralph Reed, and Grover Norquist into a corrupt and tangled web.

This whole thing is going to make a helluva book. Abramoff's e-mail alone will be better than the Starr report.

You can listen to the "Fresh Air" interview on NRP with Terry Gross here

And, since the NYT is so dang stingey with their content, here's the latest Shenon article about this whole scam-booty.

Former Top Aide to DeLay Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy
Published: November 22, 2005

Michael Scanlon, a former business partner of the lobbyist Jack Abramoff and a former top aide to Representative Tom DeLay, pleaded guilty on Monday to conspiring to bribe a member of Congress and other public officials.

Mr. Scanlon also agreed to repay $19.6 million to his former Indian tribe lobbying clients.

He acknowledged in a plea agreement that he and Mr. Abramoff, identified in the court papers as ''Lobbyist A,'' agreed to make lavish gifts to public officials, including all-expense-paid trips to Europe and the Super Bowl, in exchange for official actions.

Federal law enforcement officials portrayed the plea bargain, under which Mr. Scanlon faces up to five years in prison, as an important development in the larger criminal investigation of Mr. Abramoff, who has been under scrutiny by a grand jury here for more than a year.

The investigation, which initially centered on accusations that Mr. Abramoff had defrauded tribal casinos of tens of millions of dollars in lobbying fees, has created alarm on Capitol Hill, where the lobbyist and his junior partner, Mr. Scanlon, claimed friendships among the Republican leaders of Congress.

Prosecutors have not named any of the public officials who were the targets of Mr. Scanlon's scheme.

But court papers in the case filed Monday and last week singled out one member of Congress -- ''Representative No. 1'' -- as a focus of Mr. Scanlon's illegal lobbying, asserting that the lawmaker accepted gifts, including a 2002 golf trip to Scotland and regular meals at Mr. Abramoff's restaurant, ''in exchange for a series of official acts and influence.''

Representative Bob Ney, an Ohio Republican and chairman of the House Administration Committee, has acknowledged that he is the lawmaker, while saying there was no quid pro quo with Mr. Abramoff or Mr. Scanlon. Mr. Ney, who was subpoenaed this month by the grand jury investigating Mr. Abramoff, has said he was ''duped'' by the lobbyists.

Brian J. Walsh, the lawmaker's spokesman, said, ''All this plea agreement shows is that Mr. Scanlon had a deliberate, secret and well-concealed scheme to defraud many people, and it appears, unfortunately, that Representative Ney was one of the many people defrauded.''

Mr. Scanlon, 35, a longtime Republican operative in the capital, said little during the hearing Monday in Federal District Court here.

''Guilty, Your Honor,'' he replied calmly when asked by Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle for his plea.

Under the agreement with the Justice Department, Mr. Scanlon pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate a series of criminal laws, including those against bribery, and pledged to cooperate with the Justice Department's investigation of Mr. Abramoff and others.

At a news conference after the hearing, Mr. Scanlon's lawyer, Plato Cacheris, stood alongside his client and said Mr. Scanlon was ''obviously regretful'' about the fraud committed against the Indians, who paid Mr. Abramoff and Mr. Scanlon more than $80 million in fees.

Asked if he expected the investigation to bring many members of Congress under scrutiny, Mr. Cacheris replied, ''I would rather not comment on that.''

Asked if Mr. Scanlon had information that would bring Mr. DeLay under investigation, the lawyer replied, ''You'll have to ask his lawyers.''

Mr. Scanlon, tanned and grinning, referred questions to his lawyer. Asked why he appeared so relaxed and why he was smiling so broadly, he replied, ''I always smile.''

There was no suggestion in the Justice Department's paperwork that the $19.6 million in restitution, reflecting Mr. Scanlon's profits from four of the Indian tribes he defrauded, would leave him destitute.

His lawyers said Monday that Mr. Scanlon now lived in Rehoboth Beach, Del., a resort town on the Atlantic coast, and continued to work as a consultant, sometimes traveling abroad on business. Judge Huvelle did not seize Mr. Scanlon's passport, instead ordering him to provide prosecutors with two weeks' notice of any foreign travel.

Before turning to lobbying in 2000, Mr. Scanlon was press secretary to Mr. DeLay, the former House majority leader, who is under indictment in Texas on unrelated charges of violating state election laws.

The plea agreement released Monday offered new details of many of the accusations against Mr. Scanlon.

It said that beginning in January 2000, Mr. Scanlon and Mr. Abramoff conspired to begin offering a ''stream of things of value to public officials in exchange for a series of official acts and influence and agreements to provide official action and influence.''

''Those things of value included, but are not limited to, travel, golf fees, frequent meals, entertainment, election support for candidates for government office, employment for officials and relatives of officials and campaign contributions,'' it said.

For Mr. Ney and his staff, the agreement said, the gifts included ''all-expense-paid trips, including a trip to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in 2000, a trip to the Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla., in 2001, and a golf trip to Scotland in 2002.''

Mr. Ney and his staff also took ''numerous tickets for entertainment, including concerts and sporting events in the Washington, D.C., area,'' and were given ''box suites and food at various sport and concert venues and at a restaurant in the Washington, D.C., area.''

The restaurant was Signatures, which Mr. Abramoff once owned and which he had long used as a second office, wining and dining members of Congress. The plea agreement said Mr. Ney and his staff received ''regular meals and drinks'' at the restaurant.

As a result of what prosecutors described as Mr. Scanlon's ''course of conduct,'' Mr. Ney and his House staff offered ''their official positions and influence'' to help Mr. Scanlon, Mr. Abramoff and their lobbying clients, including directing a House contract for wireless telephones to one of Mr. Abramoff's lobbying clients.

Mr. Walsh, Mr. Ney's spokesman, said in a statement that the plea bargain was wrong in many of its details. ''Whenever Representative Ney took official action -- actions similar to those taken by elected representatives every day as part of the normal, appropriate government process -- he did so based on his best understanding of what was right and not based on any improper influence,'' the statement said.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


I couldn't resist including her new photo from the NYT website.

The New York Times
November 30, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist
The Autumn of the Patriarchy

In the vice president's new, more fortified bunker, inside his old undisclosed secure location within the larger bunker that used to be called the West Wing of the White House, Dick Cheney was muttering and sputtering.

He wasn't talking to the pictures on the wall, as Nixon did when he finally cracked. Vice doesn't trust those portraits anyway. The walls have ears. He was talking to the only reliable man in a city of dimwits, cowards, traitors and fools: himself.

He hurled a sheaf of news reports with such force it knocked over the picture of Ahmad Chalabi that he keeps next to the picture of Churchill. Winston Chalabi, he likes to call him.

Vice is fed up with all the whining and carping - and that's just inside the White House. The only negativity in Washington is supposed to be his own. He's the only one allowed to scowl and grumble and conspire.

The impertinent Tom DeFrank reported in New York's Daily News that embattled White House aides felt "President Bush must take the reins personally" to save his presidency.

Let him try, Cheney said with a sneer. Things are nowhere near dire enough for that. Even if Junior somehow managed to grab the reins to his presidency, Vice holds Junior's reins. So he just needs to get all these sniveling, poll-driven wimps and losers back on board with the master plan.

Things had been going so smoothly. The global torture franchise was up and running. Halliburton contracts were flowing. Tax cuts were sailing through. Oil companies were raking it in. Alaska drilling was thrillingly close. The courts were defending his executive privilege on energy policy, and people were still buying all that smoke about Saddam's being responsible for 9/11, and that drivel about how we're fighting them there so we don't have to fight them here. Everything was groovy.

But not anymore. Cheney could not believe that Karl had made him go out and call that loudmouth Jack Murtha a patriot. He was sure the Pentagon generals had put the congressman up to calling for a withdrawal from Iraq. Is the military brass getting in touch with its pacifist side? In Wyoming, Vice shoots doves.

How dare Murtha suggest that Cheney dodged and dodged and dodged and dodged and dodged the draft? Murtha thinks he knows about war just because he served in one and was a marine for 37 years? Vice started his own war. Now that's a credential!

It always goes this way with the cut-and-run crowd. First they start nitpicking the war, complaining about little things like the lack of armor for the troops. Then they complain that there aren't enough troops. Well, that would just require more armor that we don't have. Then they kvetch about using incendiary weapons in a city like Falluja. Vice likes the smell of white phosphorus in the morning.

What really enrages him is all the Republicans in the Senate making noises about timetables. Before you know it, it's going to be helicopters on the rooftop at the Baghdad embassy.

Just because Junior's approval ratings are in the 30's, people around here are going all wobbly. Vice was 10 points lower and he wasn't worried. Numbers are for sissies.

Why do Harry Reid and his Democratic turncoats think they can call the White House on the carpet? Do they think Vice would fear to lie about lying about the rationale for going to war? A real liar never stops lying.

He didn't want to have to tell the rest of the senators to go do to themselves what he had told Patrick Leahy to go do to himself.

Now all these idiots are getting caught, even Scooter. DeLay's on the ropes and the Dukester is a total embarrassment, spending bribes on antique commodes and a Rolls-Royce. Vice should never have let an amateur get involved with defense contracts.

Republican moderates are running scared in the House, worried about re-election. Even senators seem to have forgotten which side their bread is oiled on. Ted Stevens let oil company executives get caught lying about the energy task force meeting, while Vice can't even get a little thing like torture chambers through the Senate. What's so wrong with a little torture?

And now John Warner wants Junior to use fireside chats to explain his plan for Iraq. When did everybody get the un-American idea that the president is answerable to America?

Vice is fed up with the whining of squirrelly surrogates like Brent Scowcroft and Lawrence Wilkerson on behalf of peaceniks like George Senior and Colin Powell. If Poppy's upset about his kid's mentor, he should be man enough to come slug it out.

Poppy isn't getting Junior back, Vice vowed, muttering: "He's my son. It's my war. It's my country."

(And the bad news is: this man is our vice president.)

Monday, November 28, 2005

I Want My $100 Million Back!

How the hell do we recover up to $100 million the Defense Department paid to The Rendon Group to set the stage for, build support for, spread misinformation about, and promote the Iraq War? Rolling Stone has a terrific story about how Americans were "sold" this war just like a brand new I-Pod model. Judging from last weekend's Wal-Mart mob scene, being sold something might be the best thing we do!

Related Links: Village Voice: "If Old Journalism Dies..." Sidney Schanberg

Transcript of Interview with author James Bamford and Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!

Al Franken: "Tired of Being Lied To? Modern History You Can't Afford to Ignore"

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Kristof Asks "How Much Genocide is Too Much?"

Nick Kristof is beating the drum as loud as he can for us to hear the dire messages coming out of Darfur. Condi has given it lip service. Is anyone going to say, "If not now, when? If not me, who?"

If not soon, Darfur might make Rwanda look like a dress rehearsal.

The New York Times
November 27, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist
A Tolerable Genocide

NYALA, Sudan

Who would have thought that a genocide could become worse? But after two years of heartbreaking slaughter, rape and mayhem, the situation in Darfur is now spiraling downward.

More villages are again being attacked and burned - over the last week thatch-roof huts have been burning near the town of Gereida and far to the northwest near Jebel Mun.

Aid workers have been stripped, beaten and robbed. A few more attacks on aid workers, and agencies may pull out - leaving the hapless people of Darfur with no buffer between themselves and the butchers.

The international community has delegated security to the African Union, but its 7,000 troops can't even defend themselves, let alone protect civilians. One group of 18 peacekeepers was kidnapped last month, and then 20 soldiers sent to rescue them were kidnapped as well; four other soldiers and two contractors were killed in a separate incident.

What will happen if the situation continues to deteriorate sharply and aid groups pull out? The U.N. has estimated that the death toll could then rise to 100,000 a month.

The turmoil has also infected neighboring Chad, which is inhabited by some of the same tribes as Sudan. Diplomats and U.N. officials are increasingly worried that Chad could tumble back into its own horrific civil war as well.

This downward spiral has happened because for more than two years, the international community has treated this as a tolerable genocide. In my next column, my last from Darfur, I'll outline the steps we need to take. But the essential starting point is outrage: a recognition that countering genocide must be a global priority.

It's true that a few hundred thousand deaths in Darfur - a good guess of the toll so far - might not amount to much in a world where two million a year die of malaria. But there is something special about genocide. When humans deliberately wipe out others because of their tribe or skin color, when babies succumb not to diarrhea but to bayonets and bonfires, that is not just one more tragedy. It is a monstrosity that demands a response from other humans. We demean our own humanity, and that of the victims, when we avert our eyes.

Already, large swaths of Darfur are so unsafe that they are "no go" areas for humanitarian organizations - meaning that we don't know what horrors are occurring in those areas. But we have some clues.

There are widespread reports that the janjaweed, the government-backed Arab marauders who have been slaughtering members of several African tribes, sometimes find it convenient not to kill or expel every last African but to leave a few alive to grow vegetables and run markets. So they let some live in exchange for protection money or slave labor.

One Western aid worker in Darfur told me that she had visited an area controlled by janjaweed. In public, everyone insisted - meekly and fearfully - that everything was fine.

Then she spoke privately to two sisters, both of the Fur tribe. They said that the local Fur were being enslaved by the janjaweed, forced to work in the fields and even to pay protection money every month just to be allowed to live. The two sisters said that they were forced to cook for the janjaweed troops and to accept being raped by them.

Finally, they said, their terrified father had summoned the courage to beg the janjaweed commander to let his daughters go. That's when the commander beheaded the father in front of his daughters.

"They told me they just wanted to die," the aid worker remembered in frustration. "They're living like slaves, in complete and utter fear. And we can't do anything about it."

That aid worker has found her own voice, by starting a blog called "Sleepless in Sudan" in which she describes what she sees around her. It sears at, without the self-censorship that aid groups routinely accept as the price for being permitted to save lives in Darfur.

Our leaders still haven't found their voices, though. Congress has even facilitated the genocide by lately cutting all funds for the African Union peacekeepers in Darfur; we urgently need to persuade Congress to restore that money.

So what will it take? Will President Bush and other leaders discover some backbone if the killing spreads to Chad and the death toll reaches 500,000? One million? God forbid, two million?

How much genocide is too much?

What Goes Around Comes Around

Frank Rich explains how W's lies are coming back to bite him in the ass, no matter how hard he and his cronies try to cover up the mess. Note: the Rolling Stone Article Rich cites is chilling.

Read Frank's book.

The New York Times
November 27, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist
Dishonest, Reprehensible, Corrupt ...

GEORGE W. BUSH is so desperate for allies that his hapless Asian tour took him to Ulan Bator, a first for an American president, so he could mingle with the yaks and give personal thanks for Mongolia's contribution of some 160 soldiers to "the coalition of the willing." Dick Cheney, whose honest-and-ethical poll number hit 29 percent in Newsweek's latest survey, is so radioactive that he vanished into his bunker for weeks at a time during the storms Katrina and Scootergate.

The whole world can see that both men are on the run. Just how much so became clear in the brace of nasty broadsides each delivered this month about Iraq. Neither man engaged the national debate ignited by John Murtha about how our troops might be best redeployed in a recalibrated battle against Islamic radicalism. Neither offered a plan for "victory." Instead, both impugned their critics' patriotism and retreated into the past to defend the origins of the war. In a seasonally appropriate impersonation of the misanthropic Mr. Potter from "It's a Wonderful Life," the vice president went so far as to label critics of the administration's prewar smoke screen both "dishonest and reprehensible" and "corrupt and shameless." He sounded but one epithet away from a defibrillator.

The Washington line has it that the motivation for the Bush-Cheney rage is the need to push back against opponents who have bloodied the White House in the polls. But, Mr. Murtha notwithstanding, the Democrats are too feeble to merit that strong a response. There is more going on here than politics.

Much more: each day brings slam-dunk evidence that the doomsday threats marshaled by the administration to sell the war weren't, in Cheney-speak, just dishonest and reprehensible but also corrupt and shameless. The more the president and vice president tell us that their mistakes were merely innocent byproducts of the same bad intelligence seen by everyone else in the world, the more we learn that this was not so. The web of half-truths and falsehoods used to sell the war did not happen by accident; it was woven by design and then foisted on the public by a P.R. operation built expressly for that purpose in the White House. The real point of the Bush-Cheney verbal fisticuffs this month, like the earlier campaign to take down Joseph Wilson, is less to smite Democrats than to cover up wrongdoing in the executive branch between 9/11 and shock and awe.

The cover-up is failing, however. No matter how much the president and vice president raise their decibel levels, the truth keeps roaring out. A nearly 7,000-word investigation in last Sunday's Los Angeles Times found that Mr. Bush and his aides had "issued increasingly dire warnings" about Iraq's mobile biological weapons labs long after U.S. intelligence authorities were told by Germany's Federal Intelligence Service that the principal source for these warnings, an Iraqi defector in German custody code-named Curveball, "never claimed to produce germ weapons and never saw anyone else do so." The five senior German intelligence officials who spoke to The Times said they were aghast that such long-discredited misinformation from a suspected fabricator turned up in Colin Powell's presentation to the United Nations and in the president's 2003 State of the Union address (where it shared billing with the equally bogus 16 words about Saddam's fictitious African uranium).

Right after the L.A. Times scoop, Murray Waas filled in another piece of the prewar propaganda puzzle. He reported in the nonpartisan National Journal that 10 days after 9/11, "President Bush was told in a highly classified briefing that the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to the attacks and that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda."

The information was delivered in the President's Daily Brief, a C.I.A. assessment also given to the vice president and other top administration officials. Nonetheless Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney repeatedly pounded in an implicit (and at times specific) link between Saddam and Al Qaeda until Americans even started to believe that the 9/11 attacks had been carried out by Iraqis. More damning still, Mr. Waas finds that the "few credible reports" of Iraq-Al Qaeda contacts actually involved efforts by Saddam to monitor or infiltrate Islamic terrorist groups, which he regarded as adversaries of his secular regime. Thus Saddam's antipathy to Islamic radicals was the same in 2001 as it had been in 1983, when Donald Rumsfeld, then a Reagan administration emissary, embraced the dictator as a secular fascist ally in the American struggle against the theocratic fascist rulers in Iran.

What these revelations also tell us is that Mr. Bush was wrong when he said in his Veterans Day speech that more than 100 Congressional Democrats who voted for the Iraqi war resolution "had access to the same intelligence" he did. They didn't have access to the President's Daily Brief that Mr. Waas uncovered. They didn't have access to the information that German intelligence officials spoke about to The Los Angeles Times. Nor did they have access to material from a Defense Intelligence Agency report, released by Senator Carl Levin of Michigan this month, which as early as February 2002 demolished the reliability of another major source that the administration had persistently used for its false claims about Iraqi-Al Qaeda collaboration.

The more we learn about the road to Iraq, the more we realize that it's a losing game to ask what lies the White House told along the way. A simpler question might be: What was not a lie? The situation recalls Mary McCarthy's explanation to Dick Cavett about why she thought Lillian Hellman was a dishonest writer: "Every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the.' "

If Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney believe they were truthful in the run-up to the war, it's easy for them to make their case. Instead of falsely claiming that they've been exonerated by two commissions that looked into prewar intelligence - neither of which addressed possible White House misuse and mischaracterization of that intelligence - they should just release the rest of the President's Daily Briefs and other prewar documents that are now trickling out. Instead, incriminatingly enough, they are fighting the release of any such information, including unclassified documents found in post-invasion Iraq requested from the Pentagon by the pro-war, neocon Weekly Standard. As Scott Shane reported in The New York Times last month, Vietnam documents are now off limits, too: the National Security Agency won't make public a 2001 historical report on how American officials distorted intelligence in 1964 about the Gulf of Tonkin incident for fear it might "prompt uncomfortable comparisons" between the games White Houses played then and now to gin up wars.

SOONER or later - probably sooner, given the accelerating pace of recent revelations - this embarrassing information will leak out anyway. But the administration's deliberate efforts to suppress or ignore intelligence that contradicted its Iraq crusade are only part of the prewar story. There were other shadowy stations on the disinformation assembly line. Among them were the Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group, a two-man Pentagon operation specifically created to cherry-pick intelligence for Mr. Cheney's apocalyptic Iraqi scenarios, and the White House Iraq Group (WHIG), in which Karl Rove, Karen Hughes and the Cheney hands Lewis Libby and Mary Matalin, among others, plotted to mainline this propaganda into the veins of the press and public. These murky aspects of the narrative - like the role played by a private P.R. contractor, the Rendon Group, examined by James Bamford in the current Rolling Stone - have yet to be recounted in full.

No debate about the past, of course, can undo the mess that the administration made in Iraq. But the past remains important because it is a road map to both the present and the future. Leaders who dissembled then are still doing so. Indeed, they do so even in the same speeches in which they vehemently deny having misled us then - witness Mr. Bush's false claims about what prewar intelligence was seen by Congress and Mr. Cheney's effort last Monday to again conflate the terrorists of 9/11 with those "making a stand in Iraq." (Maj. Gen. Douglas Lute, director of operations for Centcom, says the Iraqi insurgency is 90 percent homegrown.) These days Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney routinely exaggerate the readiness of Iraqi troops, much as they once inflated Saddam's W.M.D.'s.

"We're not going to sit by and let them rewrite history," the vice president said of his critics. "We're going to continue throwing their own words back at them." But according to a Harris poll released by The Wall Street Journal last Wednesday, 64 percent of Americans now believe that the Bush administration "generally misleads the American public on current issues to achieve its own ends." That's why it's Mr. Cheney's and the president's own words that are being thrown back now - not to rewrite history but to reveal it for the first time to an angry country that has learned the hard way that it can no longer afford to be without the truth.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Smoke 'Em While You Can

That's the motto posted above one of our favorite neighborhood "dives." It's only a matter of days until Washington smokers get the boot from all bars and restaurants. Not only do they have to leave the premises, they have to be 25 feet away! Sheesh! In the words of that famous cultural critic Stephen Sondheim, "When did the whole world become one big operating room?"

So, it seems fitting to post this piece from Marjane Satrapi as a last gasp (so to speak) celebration of smoking featured this week in the New York Times.

As my boyfriend says about smokers: "We had a good run."

Friday, November 25, 2005

Brownie's New Job

Now that former FEMA Director Michael Brown has set a shining example of turning "chicken shit" into "chicken salad" by becoming a Disaster Relief consultant, I have decided to become a mathematician.

Wish me luck!

Most Americans Say Bush Lies. DU-UH!

A majority of U.S. adults believe the Bush administration generally misleads the public on current issues, while fewer than a third of Americans believe the information provided by the administration is generally accurate, the latest Harris Interactive poll finds.

Via Crooks and Liars and The Moderate Voice

Thursday, November 24, 2005

He's B-a-a-a-ck!

Syracuse Post Standard reporter Hart Seely is back from Iraq. If you want to know what it's like in Iraq, you should check out his blog and his news coverage.

It IS a Bit of a Miracle

When I was a kid, my LEAST favorite holiday movie was Miracle on 34th Street. Well, this year, that all changed.

First, I melted into tears when the little Dutch girl got on Santa's lap and he could sing the Christmas song with her. That's one of the sweetest scenes ever.

And Thelma Ritter is priceless. She has a gem of a scene where she is amazed at Macy's new policy of referring customers to other stores for the best deals. I LOVE her! She's even better in Rear Window.

The rest of the movie pokes fun at psychology, commerce, government, the courts, and the conflict between practicality and idealism. But my favorite semi-profound scene is:

The new Macy's store Santa Claus -- he calls himself Kris Kringle -- has undergone a mental evaluation by the company's intelligence tester who has determined that Kris is insane with violent tendencies.

Desperate to keep Kris at Macy's because of his popularity, the Assistant Store Manager speculates that Kris may not be so bad after all:

"Maybe he's just a little insane. Like composers. Or painters. Or some of those men in Washington."

Krugman on GM's Crash

This commentary is very timely -- we had this same discussion at our house recently. As debilitating as the cost of health care seems to be for U.S. corporations, I'm surprised it hasn't been solved by now. Corporations seems to be pulling all the political strings and W might as well be President Coolidge whose mantra was "The business of America is business." Unfortunately, America's business seems to center around consumption rather than production.

For the system to change, severe "torque" must be placed on it. Isn't 30,000 more jobless souls in the country enough "torque" to move us closer to a national health care system?

The New York Times
November 25, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist
Bad for the Country

"What was good for our country," a former president of General Motors once declared, "was good for General Motors, and vice versa." G.M., which has been losing billions, has announced that it will eliminate 30,000 jobs. Is what's bad for General Motors bad for America?

In this case, yes.

Most commentary about G.M.'s troubles is resigned: pundits may regret the decline of a once-dominant company, but they don't think anything can or should be done about it. And commentary from some conservatives has an unmistakable tone of satisfaction, a sense that uppity workers who joined a union and made demands are getting what they deserve.

We shouldn't be so complacent. I won't defend the many bad decisions of G.M.'s management, or every demand made by the United Automobile Workers. But job losses at General Motors are part of the broader weakness of U.S. manufacturing, especially the part of U.S. manufacturing that offers workers decent wages and benefits. And some of that weakness reflects two big distortions in our economy: a dysfunctional health care system and an unsustainable trade deficit.

According to A. T. Kearney, last year General Motors spent $1,500 per vehicle on health care. By contrast, Toyota spent only $201 per vehicle in North America, and $97 in Japan. If the United States had national health insurance, G.M. would be in much better shape than it is.

Wouldn't taxpayer-financed health insurance amount to a subsidy to the auto industry? Not really. Because most Americans believe that their fellow citizens are entitled to health care, and because our political system acts, however imperfectly, on that belief, tying health insurance to employment distorts the economy: it systematically discourages the creation of good jobs, the type of jobs that come with good benefits. And somebody ends up paying for health care anyway.

In fact, many of the health care expenses G.M. will save by slashing employment will simply be pushed off onto taxpayers. Some former G.M. families will end up receiving Medicaid. Others will receive uncompensated care - for example, at emergency rooms - which ends up being paid for either by taxpayers or by those with insurance.

Moreover, G.M.'s health care costs are so high in part because of the inefficiency of America's fragmented health care system. We spend far more per person on medical care than countries with national health insurance, while getting worse results.

About the trade deficit: These days the United States imports far more than it exports. Last year the trade deficit exceeded $600 billion. The flip side of the trade deficit is a reorientation of our economy away from industries that export or compete with imports, especially manufacturing, to industries that are insulated from foreign competition, such as housing. Since 2000, we've lost about three million jobs in manufacturing, while membership in the National Association of Realtors has risen 50 percent.

The trade deficit isn't sustainable. We can run huge deficits for the time being, because foreigners - in particular, foreign governments - are willing to lend us huge sums. But one of these days the easy credit will come to an end, and the United States will have to start paying its way in the world economy.

To do that, we'll have to reorient our economy back toward producing things we can export or use to replace imports. And that will mean pulling a lot of workers back into manufacturing. So the rapid downsizing of manufacturing since 2000 - of which G.M.'s job cuts are a symptom - amounts to dismantling a sector we'll just have to rebuild a few years from now.

I don't want to attribute all of G.M.'s problems to our distorted economy. One of the plants G.M. plans to close is in Canada, which has national health insurance and ran a trade surplus last year. But the distortions in our economy clearly make G.M.'s problems worse.

Dealing with our trade deficit is a tricky issue I'll have to address another time. But G.M.'s woes are yet another reminder of the urgent need to fix our health care system. It's long past time to move to a national system that would reduce cost, diminish the burden on employers who try to do the right thing and relieve working American families from the fear of lost coverage. Fixing health care would be good for General Motors, and good for the country.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Those Lips, Those Eyes...

W pardons the annual Thanksgiving turkey.


Celebrate With a Toast

Here's the recipe for Oprah's favorite drink: a Pomegranate Martini! This would go so well with some turkey and stuffing. Toast and enjoy!

martini1 1/2 cups pomegranate juice
2 oz. Absolute Citron vodka OR white tequila
1 oz. Cointreau liquor
Cup of ice
Optional: Splash of sparkling water
Optional: Squeeze of lemon

Shake ingredients in a shaker and put in chilled martini glasses. Put pomegranate fruit into glass as garnish.

Something To Be Thankful For

We are most grateful that Syracuse Post-Standard reporter Hart Seely will home for turkey and stuffing after spending a month reporting and blogging from Iraq.

Welcome Home, Hart!

If you haven't read his blog, do it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

She's More Than Mean...Jean's a Liar

The Marine Jean Schmidt quoted on the House floor last week now denies the quote she attributed to him. Tsk. Tsk. Tsk. Jean...Paul Hackett's gaining on you.

Read more at Crooks and Liars.

What's FOX Afraid Of?

FOX was certainly happy to take money from the Swift Boat assholes in 2004, but an anti-Alito ad? No Way! Thanks for showing your true colors, you faux newsies! Don't try to tell us it's a factual problem...otherwise, you'd be returning a WHOLE lot of money.

Here's the story on Crooks and Liars.

Thank You, Ted

Tonight is Ted Koppel's last appearance on "Nightline," the news magazine he helped to start nearly three decades ago.

In college, I rarely watched television, but I always wandered down to the dorm's TV room to watch Ted and to see if the Iranian hostages were ever going to be released. Eventually, "Nightline" became my intellectual option to late-night viewing. Sometimes I'm in the mood for it, and sometimes I prefer Letterman. But I know that Koppel (and the show) will always be interesting.

The show is not dead. Check TV Newser for constant updates on hosts, format, etc. But Ted is going away and I will miss him.

He was always smart, frequently aggressive, and viciously funny (off the air). Between Koppel and Peter Jennings, ABC cornered the market on great news guys.

You can hear his farewell interview with Terry Gross on "Fresh Air". Reuters has an interview and so does the New York Times. He's going out with a tribute to Morrie (as in "Tuesdays With...").

Without Ted, there's one less person on TV who talks to us like we have a brain. Damn.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Truth About "Mean Jean"

If you live in a glass house...

Turns out "Mean Jean" might have a few skeletons in her own closet -- and so does the "Marine" she used as her alibi in her tirade on the floor. Read about it at Talking Points Memo.

And...if you missed the video of her pitiful display of nastiness, Crooks and Liars has it.

Before You Read Tomorrow's New York Times...

According to Daily Kos, the NYT is still printing crap. Two stories set to run tomorrow need to be fact-checked. One about SCOTUS nominee Alito's rulings on religious freedom and another about Senators McCain, Graham, and Warner who appear to be "defying" Bush. Read more about it.

Via Eschaton

C & L Deserves Our Support

c&lYou MUST read Crooks and Liars! Just today, it's RICH with great stuff like:
  • Rumseld now says he was never asked to give advice invading Iraq (no lie!)
  • Bill O'Reilly says Ted Kennedy should be hanged (again, no lie!)
  • President Bush can't get through the door in China
  • Dick Cheney has a 19% approval rating

And much more... It's not just fun and enlightening. It's important.

Go there. Read. Donate.

Bob Graham Explains...

The White House keeps talking about how the Democrats are revising history by criticizing the intelligence that (supposedly) drove us into war. Here's a testimonial from someone who was there -- Senator Robert Graham of Florida -- and his explanation of why he voted NO.

Op-Ed Washington Post

Better Than Heroin

I realize it's the season of turkey and mashed potatoes, but you are going to be READY for something different this week, too. Instead of pizza, do this in 30 minutes.

Grab a few ingredients and make this pasta dish. I swear to God it is more addictive than Ben and Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream. Although that would be good for dessert.

Shrimp (any size)
Frozen peas
Red Bell Pepper
Whipping Cream
Olive oil
Pasta (spaghetti, linguini, or angel hair)

Cook the pasta.

While the pasta is cooking, saute the olive oil, garlic, and red bell pepper for about 5 minutes.

Keep the pan on the burner and top with the frozen shrimp, frozen peas, and noodles. Cover with the whipping cream. Add salt and pepper and let it sit until cream starts to bubble. Salt and pepper to taste.

Once the mixture starts to bubble, stir occasionally. Cook until the whole dish thickens (grab a spoonful of the liquid -- it should barely be dripping off the spoon).

Eat up.

You can substitute any vegetable or protein but the peas make it INCREDIBLE!

Krugman: Murtha's the Man

The New York Times
November 21, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist
Time to Leave

Not long ago wise heads offered some advice to those of us who had argued since 2003 that the Iraq war was sold on false pretenses: give it up. The 2004 election, they said, showed that we would never convince the American people. They suggested that we stop talking about how we got into Iraq and focus instead on what to do next.

It turns out that the wise heads were wrong. A solid majority of Americans now believe that we were misled into war. And it is only now, when the public has realized the truth about the past, that serious discussions about where we are and where we're going are able to get a hearing.

Representative John Murtha's speech calling for a quick departure from Iraq was full of passion, but it was also serious and specific in a way rarely seen on the other side of the debate. President Bush and his apologists speak in vague generalities about staying the course and finishing the job. But Mr. Murtha spoke of mounting casualties and lagging recruiting, the rising frequency of insurgent attacks, stagnant oil production and lack of clean water.

Mr. Murtha - a much-decorated veteran who cares deeply about America's fighting men and women - argued that our presence in Iraq is making things worse, not better. Meanwhile, the war is destroying the military he loves. And that's why he wants us out as soon as possible.

I'd add that the war is also destroying America's moral authority. When Mr. Bush speaks of human rights, the world thinks of Abu Ghraib. (In his speech, Mr. Murtha pointed out the obvious: torture at Abu Ghraib helped fuel the insurgency.) When administration officials talk of spreading freedom, the world thinks about the reality that much of Iraq is now ruled by theocrats and their militias.

Some administration officials accused Mr. Murtha of undermining the troops and giving comfort to the enemy. But that sort of thing no longer works, now that the administration has lost the public's trust.

Instead, defenders of our current policy have had to make a substantive argument: we can't leave Iraq now, because a civil war will break out after we're gone. One is tempted to say that they should have thought about that possibility back when they were cheerleading us into this war. But the real question is this: When, exactly, would be a good time to leave Iraq?

The fact is that we're not going to stay in Iraq until we achieve victory, whatever that means in this context. At most, we'll stay until the American military can take no more.

Mr. Bush never asked the nation for the sacrifices - higher taxes, a bigger military and, possibly, a revived draft - that might have made a long-term commitment to Iraq possible. Instead, the war has been fought on borrowed money and borrowed time. And time is running out. With some military units on their third tour of duty in Iraq, the superb volunteer army that Mr. Bush inherited is in increasing danger of facing a collapse in quality and morale similar to the collapse of the officer corps in the early 1970's.

So the question isn't whether things will be ugly after American forces leave Iraq. They probably will. The question, instead, is whether it makes sense to keep the war going for another year or two, which is all the time we realistically have.

Pessimists think that Iraq will fall into chaos whenever we leave. If so, we're better off leaving sooner rather than later. As a Marine officer quoted by James Fallows in the current Atlantic Monthly puts it, "We can lose in Iraq and destroy our Army, or we can just lose."

And there's a good case to be made that our departure will actually improve matters. As Mr. Murtha pointed out in his speech, the insurgency derives much of its support from the perception that it's resisting a foreign occupier. Once we're gone, the odds are that Iraqis, who don't have a tradition of religious extremism, will turn on fanatical foreigners like Zarqawi.

The only way to justify staying in Iraq is to make the case that stretching the U.S. army to its breaking point will buy time for something good to happen. I don't think you can make that case convincingly. So Mr. Murtha is right: it's time to leave.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Beware of Brownies


Devil Worshippers.

Baby Killers.

Be Afraid.

Be Very Afraid.

Check out SuperFrankenstein

While the Republicans Fiddle...

Nicholas Kristof reminds us that while our congressional leaders pick their collective noses, there IS suffering out there in the world.

The New York Times
November 20, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist
Never Again, Again?

TAMA, Sudan

So who killed 2-year-old Zahra Abdullah for belonging to the Fur tribe?

At one level, the answer is simple: The murderers were members of the janjaweed militia that stormed into this mud-brick village in the South Darfur region at dawn four weeks ago on horses, camels and trucks. Zahra's mother, Fatima Omar Adam, woke to gunfire and smoke and knew at once what was happening.

She jumped up from her sleeping mat and put Zahra on her back, then grabbed the hands of her two older children and raced out of her thatch-roof hut with her husband.

Some of the marauders were right outside. They yanked Zahra from Ms. Fatima's back and began bludgeoning her on the ground in front of her shrieking mother and sister. Then the men began beating Ms. Fatima and the other two children, so she grabbed them and fled - and the men returned to beating the life out of Zahra.

At another level, responsibility belongs to the Sudanese government, which armed the janjaweed and gave them license to slaughter and rape members of several African tribes, including the Fur.

Then some responsibility attaches to the rebels in Darfur. They claim to be representing the tribes being ethnically cleansed, but they have been fighting each other instead of negotiating a peace with the government that would end the bloodbath.

And finally, responsibility belongs to the international community - to you and me - for acquiescing in yet another genocide.

Tama is just the latest of many hundreds of villages that have been methodically destroyed in the killing fields of Darfur over the last two years. Ms. Fatima sat on the ground and told me her story - which was confirmed by other eyewitnesses - in a dull, choked monotone, as she described her guilt at leaving her child to die.

"Zahra was on the ground, and they were beating her with sticks, but I ran away," she said. Her 4-year-old son, Adam, was also beaten badly but survived. A 9-year-old daughter, Khadija, has only minor injuries but she told me that she had constant nightmares about the janjaweed.

At least Ms. Fatima knows what happened to her daughter. A neighbor, Aisha Yagoub Abdurahman, is beside herself because she says she saw her 10-year-old son Adil carried off by the janjaweed. He is still missing, and everyone knows that the janjaweed regularly enslave children like him, using them as servants or sexual playthings. In all, 37 people were killed in Tama, and another 12 are missing.

The survivors fled five miles to another village that had been abandoned after being attacked by the janjaweed a year earlier. Now the survivors are terrified, and they surrounded me to ask for advice about how to stay alive.

None of them dared accompany me back to Tama, which is an eerie ghost town, doors hanging off hinges and pots and sandals strewn about. The only inhabitants I saw in Tama were camels, which are now using the village as a pasture - and which the villagers say belong to the janjaweed. On the road back, I saw a group of six janjaweed, one displaying his rifle.

Darfur is just the latest chapter in a sorry history of repeated inaction in the face of genocide, from that of Armenians, through the Holocaust, to the slaughter of Cambodians, Bosnians and Rwandans. If we had acted more resolutely last year, then Zahra would probably still be alive.

Attacks on villages like Tama occur regularly. Over the last week, one tribe called the Falata, backed and armed by the Sudanese government, has burned villages belonging to the Masalit tribe south of here. Dozens of bodies are said to be lying unclaimed on the ground.

President Bush, where are you? You emphasize your willingness to speak bluntly about evil, but you barely let the word Darfur pass your lips. The central lesson of the history of genocide is that the essential starting point of any response is to bellow moral outrage - but instead, Mr. President, you're whispering.

In a later column, I'll talk more specifically about actions we should take, and it's true that this is a complex mess without easy solutions. But for starters we need a dose of moral clarity. For all the myriad complexities of Darfur, what history will remember is that this is where little girls were bashed to death in front of their parents because of their tribe - and because the world couldn't be bothered to notice.

I Heart Frank Rich

I love Frank Rich. Here's today's brilliant take on the exchange of fluids between the "War on Terrorism" and the Iraq war.

Buy his book, Ghost Light

The New York Times
November 20, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist
One War Lost, Another to Go

IF anyone needs further proof that we are racing for the exits in Iraq, just follow the bouncing ball that is Rick Santorum. A Republican leader in the Senate and a true-blue (or red) Iraq hawk, he has long slobbered over President Bush, much as Ed McMahon did over Johnny Carson. But when Mr. Bush went to Mr. Santorum's home state of Pennsylvania to give his Veterans Day speech smearing the war's critics as unpatriotic, the senator was M.I.A.

Mr. Santorum preferred to honor a previous engagement more than 100 miles away. There he told reporters for the first time that "maybe some blame" for the war's "less than optimal" progress belonged to the White House. This change of heart had nothing to do with looming revelations of how the new Iraqi "democracy" had instituted Saddam-style torture chambers. Or with the spiraling investigations into the whereabouts of nearly $9 billion in unaccounted-for taxpayers' money from the American occupation authority. Or with the latest spike in casualties. Mr. Santorum was instead contemplating his own incipient political obituary written the day before: a poll showing him 16 points down in his re-election race. No sooner did he stiff Mr. Bush in Pennsylvania than he did so again in Washington, voting with a 79-to-19 majority on a Senate resolution begging for an Iraq exit strategy. He was joined by all but one (Jon Kyl) of the 13 other Republican senators running for re-election next year. They desperately want to be able to tell their constituents that they were against the war after they were for it.

They know the voters have decided the war is over, no matter what symbolic resolutions are passed or defeated in Congress nor how many Republicans try to Swift-boat Representative John Murtha, the marine hero who wants the troops out. A USA Today/CNN/Gallup survey last week found that the percentage (52) of Americans who want to get out of Iraq fast, in 12 months or less, is even larger than the percentage (48) that favored a quick withdrawal from Vietnam when that war's casualty toll neared 54,000 in the apocalyptic year of 1970. The Ohio State political scientist John Mueller, writing in Foreign Affairs, found that "if history is any indication, there is little the Bush administration can do to reverse this decline." He observed that Mr. Bush was trying to channel L. B. J. by making "countless speeches explaining what the effort in Iraq is about, urging patience and asserting that progress is being made. But as was also evident during Woodrow Wilson's campaign to sell the League of Nations to the American public, the efficacy of the bully pulpit is much overrated."

Mr. Bush may disdain timetables for our pullout, but, hello, there already is one, set by the Santorums of his own party: the expiration date for a sizable American presence in Iraq is Election Day 2006. As Mr. Mueller says, the decline in support for the war won't reverse itself. The public knows progress is not being made, no matter how many times it is told that Iraqis will soon stand up so we can stand down.

On the same day the Senate passed the resolution rebuking Mr. Bush on the war, Martha Raddatz of ABC News reported that "only about 700 Iraqi troops" could operate independently of the U.S. military, 27,000 more could take a lead role in combat "only with strong support" from our forces and the rest of the 200,000-odd trainees suffered from a variety of problems, from equipment shortages to an inability "to wake up when told" or follow orders.

But while the war is lost both as a political matter at home and a practical matter in Iraq, the exit strategy being haggled over in Washington will hardly mark the end of our woes. Few Americans will cry over the collapse of the administration's vainglorious mission to make Iraq a model of neocon nation-building. But, as some may dimly recall, there is another war going on as well - against Osama bin Laden and company.

One hideous consequence of the White House's Big Lie - fusing the war of choice in Iraq with the war of necessity that began on 9/11 - is that the public, having rejected one, automatically rejects the other. That's already happening. The percentage of Americans who now regard fighting terrorism as a top national priority is either in the single or low double digits in every poll. Thus the tragic bottom line of the Bush catastrophe: the administration has at once increased the ranks of jihadists by turning Iraq into a new training ground and recruitment magnet while at the same time exhausting America's will and resources to confront that expanded threat.

We have arrived at "the worst of all possible worlds," in the words of Daniel Benjamin, Richard Clarke's former counterterrorism colleague, with whom I talked last week. No one speaks more eloquently to this point than Mr. Benjamin and Steven Simon, his fellow National Security Council alum. They saw the Qaeda threat coming before most others did in the 1990's, and their riveting new book, "The Next Attack," is the best argued and most thoroughly reported account of why, in their opening words, "we are losing" the war against the bin Laden progeny now.

"The Next Attack" is prescient to a scary degree. "If bin Laden is the Robin Hood of jihad," the authors write, then Abu Musab al-Zarqawi "has been its Horatio Alger, and Iraq his field of dreams." The proof arrived spectacularly this month with the Zarqawi-engineered suicide bombings of three hotels in Amman. That attack, Mr. Benjamin wrote in Slate, "could soon be remembered as the day that the spillover of violence from Iraq became a major affliction for the Middle East." But not remembered in America. Thanks to the confusion sown by the Bush administration, the implications for us in this attack, like those in London and Madrid, are quickly forgotten, if they were noticed in the first place. What happened in Amman is just another numbing bit of bad news that we mentally delete along with all the other disasters we now label "Iraq."

Only since his speech about "Islamo-fascism" in early October has Mr. Bush started trying to make distinctions between the "evildoers" of Saddam's regime and the Islamic radicals who did and do directly threaten us. But even if anyone was still listening to this president, it would be too little and too late. The only hope for getting Americans to focus on the war we can't escape is to clear the decks by telling the truth about the war of choice in Iraq: that it is making us less safe, not more, and that we have to learn from its mistakes and calculate the damage it has caused as we reboot and move on.

Mr. Bush is incapable of such candor. In the speech Mr. Santorum skipped on Veterans Day, the president lashed out at his critics for trying "to rewrite the history" of how the war began. Then he rewrote the history of the war, both then and now. He boasted of America's "broad and coordinated homeland defense" even as the members of the bipartisan 9/11 commission were preparing to chastise the administration's inadequate efforts to prevent actual nuclear W.M.D.'s, as opposed to Saddam's fictional ones, from finding their way to terrorists. Mr. Bush preened about how "we're standing with dissidents and exiles against oppressive regimes" even as we were hearing new reports of how we outsource detainees to such regimes to be tortured.

And once again he bragged about the growing readiness of Iraqi troops, citing "nearly 90 Iraqi army battalions fighting the terrorists alongside our forces." But as James Fallows confirms in his exhaustive report on "Why Iraq Has No Army" in the current issue of The Atlantic Monthly, America would have to commit to remaining in Iraq for many years to "bring an Iraqi army to maturity." If we're not going to do that, Mr. Fallows concludes, America's only alternative is to "face the stark fact that it has no orderly way out of Iraq, and prepare accordingly."

THAT'S the alternative that has already been chosen, brought on not just by the public's irreversible rejection of the war, but also by the depleted state of our own broken military forces; they are falling short of recruitment goals across the board by as much as two-thirds, the Government Accountability Office reported last week. We must prepare accordingly for what's to come. To do so we need leaders, whatever the political party, who can look beyond our nonorderly withdrawal from Iraq next year to the mess that will remain once we're on our way out. Whether it's countering the havoc inflicted on American interests internationally by Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo or overhauling and redeploying our military, intelligence and homeland security operations to confront the enemy we actually face, there's an enormous job to be done.

The arguments about how we got into Mr. Bush's war and exactly how we'll get out are also important. But the damage from this fiasco will be even greater if those debates obscure the urgency of the other war we are losing, one that will be with us long after we've left the quagmire in Iraq.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Tom Cruise Believes THIS Shit?

Sometimes I really appreciate Larry Flynt for the publisher he is/was. He was always prepared to tell a story -- no matter how sordid it might be.

Here's a Penthouse interview from 1983 with L. Ron Hubbard Jr. that makes you wonder why Scientologists:

A) Buy into all this shit
B) Admire an asshole like L. Ron Hubbard
C) Pay so damn much money to these idiots
D) Wear military uniforms at their formal events
E) Ever got tax-exempt status as a religion
Via Konolia

Oh, Yeah, This Privatization Thing is Terrific

Ronald Reagan hated government so much he...ran for President! And then he proceeded to dismantle it and offer it up to the highest bidder. As the old right-wing talk radio bromide goes, "Government can't do anything as well as private industry can."

Several problems with private enterprises ever offered my elderly grandmother a clean, spacious, safe apartment at an affordable rent so she could live her 80s and 90s in dignity. And could any of them run the Medicare program with a 2% overhead? Role models like Enron and WorldCom really do inspire the rest of us to be the best, don't they?

Yes, privatization has brought us so many good things, like Halliburton and now the prescription drug benefit. Here's Paul Krugman:

The New York Times
November 18, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist
A Private Obsession

"Lots of things in life are complicated." So declared Michael Leavitt, the secretary of health and human services, in response to the mass confusion as registration for the new Medicare drug benefit began. But the complexity of the program - which has reduced some retirees to tears as they try to make what may be life-or-death decisions - is far greater than necessary.

One reason the drug benefit is so confusing is that older Americans can't simply sign up with Medicare as they can for other benefits. They must, instead, choose from a baffling array of plans offered by private middlemen. Why?

Here's a parallel. Earlier this year Senator Rick Santorum introduced a bill that would have forced the National Weather Service to limit the weather information directly available to the public. Although he didn't say so explicitly, he wanted the service to funnel that information through private forecasters instead.

Mr. Santorum's bill didn't go anywhere. But it was a classic attempt to force gratuitous privatization: involving private corporations in the delivery of public services even when those corporations have no useful role to play.

The Medicare drug benefit is an example of gratuitous privatization on a grand scale.

Here's some background: the elderly have long been offered a choice between standard Medicare, in which the government pays medical bills directly, and plans in which the government pays a middleman, like an H.M.O., to deliver health care. The theory was that the private sector would find innovative ways to lower costs while providing better care.

The theory was wrong. A number of studies have found that managed-care plans, which have much higher administrative costs than government-managed Medicare, end up costing the system money, not saving it.

But privatization, once promoted as a way to save money, has become a goal in itself. The 2003 bill that established the prescription drug benefit also locked in large subsidies for managed care.

And on drug coverage, the 2003 bill went even further: rather than merely subsidizing private plans, it made them mandatory. To receive the drug benefit, one must sign up with a plan offered by a private company. As people are discovering, the result is a deeply confusing system because the competing private plans differ in ways that are very hard to assess.

The peculiar structure of the drug benefit, with its huge gap in coverage - the famous "doughnut hole" I wrote about last week - adds to the confusion. Many better-off retirees have relied on Medigap policies to cover gaps in traditional Medicare, including prescription drugs. But that straightforward approach, which would make it relatively easy to compare drug plans, can't be used to fill the doughnut hole because Medigap policies are no longer allowed to cover drugs.

The only way to get some coverage in the gap is as part of a package in which you pay extra - a lot extra - to one of the private drug plans delivering the basic benefit. And because this coverage is bundled with other aspects of the plans, it's very difficult to figure out which plans offer the best deal.

But confusion isn't the only, or even the main, reason why the privatization of drug benefits is bad for America. The real problem is that we'll end up spending too much and getting too little.

Everything we know about health economics indicates that private drug plans will have much higher administrative costs than would have been incurred if Medicare had administered the benefit directly.

It's also clear that the private plans will spend large sums on marketing rather than on medicine. I have nothing against Don Shula, the former head coach of the Miami Dolphins, who is promoting a drug plan offered by Humana. But do we really want people choosing drug plans based on which one hires the most persuasive celebrity?

Last but not least, competing private drug plans will have less clout in negotiating lower drug prices than Medicare as a whole would have. And the law explicitly forbids Medicare from intervening to help the private plans negotiate better deals.

Last week I explained that the Medicare drug bill was devised by people who don't believe in a positive role for government. An insistence on gratuitous privatization is a byproduct of the same ideology. And the result of that ideology is a piece of legislation so bad it's almost surreal.

Anderson, What the Hell?

Anderson Cooper is pissing me off.
Although he's not my cup of tea for an evening anchor (Reporter? Yes. Co-anchor? Yes. Morning host? Probably. Evening sole anchor? NOT!), I was willing to give him a shot. Sure, I was pissed that he displaced Aaron Brown, but I understand how the news business is. Aaron's a grown-up. We'll go on.

But, Jesus!

Anderson's CNN Show (360) is so goddamned over-produced, it's hard to watch. Talking heads are framed by moving graphics that make a viewer queasy and the announcer's voice is downright oily (they have an ANNOUNCER!).

But here are the final stakes in the heart of Anderson the newsman:

On election night (when Democrats made some nice gains across the country, thank you -- that's news, isn't it?), what story did Anderson lead with? That's right...the effects of divorce on children. Eleven fucking minutes of a lead story about divorce. On ELECTION night! Hell, even Wolf Blitzer scooped the pants off Anderson with election results. So much for Cooper's "nose for news."

And last night -- I still can't believe this -- Anderson let his producers air a feature story on Anderson himself being listed in People Magazine's sexiest people issue. I AM NOT LYING! Shit, even Dan Rather would have balked at that much self-promotion. I mean, CNN has 22 OTHER hours to run a story like that.

What the hell happened to the reporter part of Anderson Cooper? Looks like he misplaced it behind his new cheesy-ass anchor desk.

He's One Baaaad Murtha

He looks like Clarence the Angel in "It's A Wonderful Life" but in reality Rep. John Murtha has served three decades in Congress on behalf of Pennsylvania's 12th district. He served in two wars (one of the first Vietnam vets elected to Congress) and has always been strong on American defense and now. . . he's being called unpatriotic?

Take a look at his speech urging the U.S. to get the hell out of Iraq and you can make your own decision. Crooks and Liars has both the video and text of yesterday's speech.

Go Jo-ohn! Go Jo-ohn!

More coverage:

USA Today Story

NY Times Article

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Don't Miss This!

If you didn't catch "South Park" last night, it was a brilliant attack on Scientology and, at the end, an open invitation for the church to sue the creators. For most of the show, Tom Cruise was urged to "come out of the closet" and R. Kelly kept bringing out his gun and singing "Trapped in the Closet." All of the credits were listed as "John Smith" and "Jane Smith" (underlining the dangers of Scientology's litigiousness) and there is a hilarious summary of Scientology's credo (it's harder to follow than one of L. Ron's sci-fi books!)

Check here for more viewing times

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

I Think I Enjoy Being a Girl

I don't really know how to talk about this.

I have hated my body since I became aware I was fat -- I think I was 10 and I was riding my bike when the back seam of my red-checked bell bottom pants split wide open. But for about a decade, I wrestled the demon and maintained a "normal weight." Mostly out of the fear of rejection. But, to be fair, I didn't give my friends and family much credit for unconditional acceptance.

Now, middle age sedentary life has set in and the pounds have drizzled on. My body is larger than ever. It is not something I really recognize and I'm having a hard time getting used to it. Frankly, it's overflowing with female-ness and it scares me a little. But I also kinda like it.

OK, don't start in on the whole diet thing. Like I haven't thought of that? You don't think that every day since this weight began to creep into my life I didn't wake up determined to start a new, healthier eating plan? Or to start working out? Get real!

But eventually the painful redundancy of that daily punishment became intolerable and I just wanted it to stop. For God's sake, how much imagination does it take to want to lose weight? Oooh...there's an innovative concept! NO-body wants to do THAT!

So I recently decided to ditch the self-criticism and just be THIS person in THIS body AND still be fantastic. I'm not waiting for permission (which would apparently come after losing 70 pounds) to be magically interesting. I'm just going to be that NOW. One thing I have learned: if you wait for permission, it ain't never gonna come. I mean, let's say I DID lose the weight. Is there gonna be someone there with a "golden ticket" that gets me into the land of my wildest dreams? Uh-uh. I gotta get there myself and there's no reason to wait.

Another thing I have learned. If you wanna be wonderful, you can't really carry it off unless you are REALLY wonderful. Just GO THERE and BE THAT. Half-assed only makes you look half-assed.

I ran across a photo of myself during the "lean years" and I mistook myself for a guy. Before I recognized myself, I was admiring the jeans, the sweater, the short hair, and then I realized it was ME! I truly looked like a boy. What was THAT about? As thin as I was, I covered myself in tailored clothes or baggy sweaters. Anything tight was painful to wear -- in more ways than one.

What was I doing? Was I trying to maintain my personal power by holding on to masculinity? Or by rejecting my femininity?

Now, showing off my curves and wearing bright colors is kinda fun. And I've realized that being a girl takes courage. You have to be willing to show yourself off. You have to risk looking like you are TRYING to be pretty and that makes you a little vulnerable. Your curves go on display. Your skin (and the accompanying flesh) shows. Not everyone can carry it off.

But when you go through life convinced that you are WONDERFUL, it feels great.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Which Way Out of This Quagmire?

Nicholas Kristof has a dream:

The New York Times
November 15, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist
Iraq in the Rear-View Mirror

As we puzzle over how to end our nightmare in Iraq, the central question is the one raised by The Times on Aug. 7: "How much longer are valuable lives to be sacrificed in the vain endeavor to impose upon the Arab population an elaborate and expensive administration which they never asked for?"

Not this Times, though. It was The Times of London on Aug. 7, 1920, as a ferocious insurgency threatened the British occupation of Iraq.

The British had also started out thinking that they were liberators, only to find that they had catastrophically underestimated Iraqi nationalism. They ended up being sucked into what Lawrence of Arabia described as "a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honor." Yet, ultimately, the British did manage to extricate themselves, providing lessons for us.

In my last column, I looked at two options for Iraq and found both wanting. Immediate withdrawal would risk abandoning the country to civil war and chaos. But President Bush's approach - grimly staying the course indefinitely - inflames nationalistic resentment and feeds the insurgency.

So what should we do?

My vote is to set target dates for withdrawing our troops. I suggest that we announce that we intend to pull out at least half our troops by the end of 2006 - and the very last soldier by the end of 2007. We should also pledge not to keep any military bases in Iraq.

Democrats are beginning to rally behind this strategy, mostly, however, on more hurried timetables than mine. Senator Russell Feingold was among the first to call for a timetable, and Senators John Kerry and Edward Kennedy have since signed on to this approach, as has former Senator Tom Daschle.

Will this work? I'm not sure. We could invest tens of billions of dollars more in Iraq, and hundreds more lives, and still see the country fall apart. Moreover, I have to acknowledge that the big disadvantage of target dates is that they can encourage insurgents to think, "We just need to hang on for one more year, and then Iraq will be ours for the taking."

That's a legitimate concern, but a tentative timetable does avoid the worse pitfalls of the other two approaches. And target dates and a renunciation of bases at least show some sensitivity to the resentment of our presence, while giving the Iraqi political system and Army more time to coalesce.

I met last month with three visiting Iraqi journalists, all of them anti-insurgency and pro-constitution. All three favored a target date for withdrawal.

"I would like the American troops to get out of Iraq because I don't want my country occupied," said Muna Muhsin Muhammad from Radio Baghdad (the only one who dared to be named).

Another groused that American troops stole gold and money when they raided houses, opened fire when they got nervous, and blocked roads in ways that created incredible inconveniences. Driving from Baghdad to Mosul used to take four hours; now it can take 20.

"The Americans said that they came to overthrow Saddam Hussein," she said. "They did so and Saddam Hussein is gone, and they are still there. So they are there for their own reasons" - she was apparently alluding to stealing oil and setting up bases.

The insurgents have traction only because many ordinary Iraqis (particularly Sunnis) share this hostility to American troops. If we can make it clear that we're headed for the exits, that'll make it harder for the insurgents to portray themselves as nationalist heroes.

A target date would also light a fire under all Iraqis to work out a modus vivendi. Time and again, deadlines have proved the only way to get Iraqi politicians to do anything.

The British finally calmed the insurgency of 1920 by installing King Feisal, who created enough trouble that he didn't come across as a puppet. Afterward, the British managed to muddle through their mess, and Iraq found greater stability than the pessimists had expected.

Likewise, our exit strategy needs to focus on healing nationalist resentments, not inflaming them by settling our troops in for a long haul.

President Bush said last month that "we're making good, steady progress" in Iraq. That sounds delusional because we may be in the early stages of civil war.

All the Iraq options are bad. But this is the least bad.

Monday, November 14, 2005

FINALLY! A Springsteen Fan!

Back in 2001, the goofy red-haired guy on "Sunday Morning" chronicled the tragic passing of a man in his New Jersey community. A loving father, Little League coach, and successful business man, he was truly beloved by his fellow townfolk who were shocked at his death in the attack on the World Trade Center.

At his funeral, his lovely wife played his favorite music: Bruce Springsteen's "Thunder Road." Oh, brother, I thought. How long was this guy gonna hang on to his youth? I mean, hasn't he listened to anything since the 1970s?

Well, "Sunday Morning" (and later, Terry Gross on "Fresh Air") brought me to my senses. Both shows featured interviews with Springsteen on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the release of "Born to Run," which is being re-packaged and re-released with a lot of extra cool stuff.

I was sitting in my office, alone, when the Terry Gross interview aired and... OH. MY. GOD. When "Thunder Road" came on, my heart clenched, my stomach flipped and instantly my thoughts stretched back to teenage summer nights, driving around late at night, looking for something but not sure what. Springsteen's teenagers are yearning -- he describes this as "pull your pants down" but for me, they shared my longing to get out of this dinky little town and escape to something thrilling somewhere, anywhere, else.

Whatever it is, Springsteen achieved his goal. He wanted to eternally preserve that era for all of us. Frankly, you gotta be a little brave when you listen to "Thunder Road" -- in middle age, past longing and deep emotion can be too much.

But the New Jersey man who died on 9/11 was courageous enough to remind himself of all that and still dive into his present and future with his whole self. Adults and children alike mourned his passing. He wasn't trying to re-live his past. He embraced it and used it to enliven his future. Like Springsteen, he was a very wise man indeed.

Born to Run Reborn 30 Years Later: NY Times

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Freedom of Speech Starts Early

pressfreedomMy buddy from Wenatchee just keeps amassing awards and recognition for his work in student journalism. That's certainly something to be proud of, but for their journalism program, it's nothing new. But his story about the recent censorship of the student newspaper at a high school in Everett, Washington definitely deserves your attention.

Two very bright young female editors are fighting the good fight. Read about it here.

Today's Frank Rich: To Torture or to Lie about Torture

The New York Times
November 13, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist
'We Do Not Torture' and Other Funny Stories

IF it weren't tragic it would be a New Yorker cartoon. The president of the United States, in the final stop of his forlorn Latin America tour last week, told the world, "We do not torture." Even as he spoke, the administration's flagrant embrace of torture was as hard to escape as publicity for Anderson Cooper.

The vice president, not satisfied that the C.I.A. had already been implicated in four detainee deaths, was busy lobbying Congress to give the agency a green light to commit torture in the future. Dana Priest of The Washington Post, having first uncovered secret C.I.A. prisons two years ago, was uncovering new "black sites" in Eastern Europe, where ghost detainees are subjected to unknown interrogation methods redolent of the region's Stalinist past. Before heading south, Mr. Bush had been doing his own bit for torture by threatening to cast the first veto of his presidency if Congress didn't scrap a spending bill amendment, written by John McCain and passed 90 to 9 by the Senate, banning the "cruel, inhuman or degrading" treatment of prisoners.

So when you watch the president stand there with a straight face and say, "We do not torture" - a full year and a half after the first photos from Abu Ghraib - you have to wonder how we arrived at this ludicrous moment. The answer is not complicated. When people in power get away with telling bigger and bigger lies, they naturally think they can keep getting away with it. And for a long time, Mr. Bush and his cronies did. Not anymore.

The fallout from the Scooter Libby indictment reveals that the administration's credibility, having passed the tipping point with Katrina, is flat-lining. For two weeks, the White House's talking-point monkeys in the press and Congress had been dismissing Patrick Fitzgerald's leak investigation as much ado about nothing except politics and as an exoneration of everyone except Mr. Libby. Now the American people have rendered their verdict: they're not buying it. Last week two major polls came up with the identical finding, that roughly 8 in 10 Americans regard the leak case as a serious matter. One of the polls (The Wall Street Journal/NBC News) also found that 57 percent of Americans believe that Mr. Bush deliberately misled the country into war in Iraq and that only 33 percent now find him "honest and straightforward," down from 50 percent in January.

The Bush loyalists' push to discredit the Libby indictment failed because Americans don't see it as a stand-alone scandal but as the petri dish for a wider culture of lying that becomes more visible every day. The last-ditch argument rolled out by Mr. Bush on Veterans Day in his latest stay-the-course speech - that Democrats, too, endorsed dead-wrong W.M.D. intelligence - is more of the same. Sure, many Democrats (and others) did believe that Saddam had an arsenal before the war, but only the White House hyped selective evidence for nuclear weapons, the most ominous of all of Iraq's supposed W.M.D.'s, to whip up public fears of an imminent doomsday.

There was also an entire other set of lies in the administration's prewar propaganda blitzkrieg that had nothing to do with W.M.D.'s, African uranium or the Wilsons. To get the country to redirect its finite resources to wage war against Saddam Hussein rather than keep its focus on the war against radical Islamic terrorists, the White House had to cook up not only the fiction that Iraq was about to attack us, but also the fiction that Iraq had already attacked us, on 9/11. Thanks to the Michigan Democrat Carl Levin, who last weekend released a previously classified intelligence document, we now have conclusive evidence that the administration's disinformation campaign implying a link connecting Saddam to Al Qaeda and 9/11 was even more duplicitous and manipulative than its relentless flogging of nuclear Armageddon.

Senator Levin's smoking gun is a widely circulated Defense Intelligence Agency document from February 2002 that was probably seen by the National Security Council. It warned that a captured Qaeda terrorist in American custody was in all likelihood "intentionally misleading" interrogators when he claimed that Iraq had trained Qaeda members to use illicit weapons. The report also made the point that an Iraq-Qaeda collaboration was absurd on its face: "Saddam's regime is intensely secular and is wary of Islamic revolutionary movements." But just like any other evidence that disputed the administration's fictional story lines, this intelligence was promptly disregarded.

So much so that eight months later - in October 2002, as the White House was officially rolling out its new war and Congress was on the eve of authorizing it - Mr. Bush gave a major address in Cincinnati intermingling the usual mushroom clouds with information from that discredited, "intentionally misleading" Qaeda informant. "We've learned that Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases," he said. It was the most important, if hardly the only, example of repeated semantic sleights of hand that the administration used to conflate 9/11 with Iraq. Dick Cheney was fond of brandishing a nonexistent April 2001 "meeting" between Mohamed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague long after Czech and American intelligence analysts had dismissed it.

The power of these lies was considerable. In a CBS News/New York Times poll released on Sept. 25, 2001, 60 percent of Americans thought Osama bin Laden had been the culprit in the attacks of two weeks earlier, either alone or in league with unnamed "others" or with the Taliban; only 6 percent thought bin Laden had collaborated with Saddam; and only 2 percent thought Saddam had been the sole instigator. By the time we invaded Iraq in 2003, however, CBS News found that 53 percent believed Saddam had been "personally involved" in 9/11; other polls showed that a similar percentage of Americans had even convinced themselves that the hijackers were Iraqis.

There is still much more to learn about our government's duplicity in the run-up to the war, just as there is much more to learn about what has gone on since, whether with torture or billions of Iraq reconstruction dollars. That is why the White House and its allies, having failed to discredit the Fitzgerald investigation, are now so desperate to slow or block every other inquiry. Exhibit A is the Senate Intelligence Committee, whose Republican chairman, Pat Roberts, is proving a major farceur with his efforts to sidestep any serious investigation of White House prewar subterfuge. Last Sunday, the same day that newspapers reported Carl Levin's revelation about the "intentionally misleading" Qaeda informant, Senator Roberts could be found on "Face the Nation" saying he had found no evidence of "political manipulation or pressure" in the use of prewar intelligence.

His brazenness is not anomalous. After more than two years of looking into the forged documents used by the White House to help support its bogus claims of Saddam's Niger uranium, the F.B.I. ended its investigation without resolving the identity of the forgers. Last week, Jane Mayer of The New Yorker reported that an investigation into the November 2003 death of an Abu Ghraib detainee, labeled a homicide by the U.S. government, has been, in the words of a lawyer familiar with the case, "lying kind of fallow." The Wall Street Journal similarly reported that 17 months after Condoleezza Rice promised a full investigation into Ahmad Chalabi's alleged leaking of American intelligence to Iran, F.B.I. investigators had yet to interview Mr. Chalabi - who was being welcomed in Washington last week as an honored guest by none other than Ms. Rice.

The Times, meanwhile, discovered that Mr. Libby had set up a legal defense fund to be underwritten by donors who don't have to be publicly disclosed but who may well have a vested interest in the direction of his defense. It's all too eerily reminiscent of the secret fund set up by Richard Nixon's personal lawyer, Herbert Kalmbach, to pay the legal fees of Watergate defendants.

THERE'S so much to stonewall at the White House that last week Scott McClellan was reduced to beating up on the octogenarian Helen Thomas. "You don't want the American people to hear what the facts are, Helen," he said, "and I'm going to tell them the facts." Coming from the press secretary who vowed that neither Mr. Libby nor Karl Rove had any involvement in the C.I.A. leak, this scene was almost as funny as his boss's "We do not torture" charade.

Not that it matters now. The facts the American people are listening to at this point come not from an administration that they no longer find credible, but from the far more reality-based theater of war. The Qaeda suicide bombings of three hotels in Amman on 11/9, like the terrorist attacks in Madrid and London before them, speak louder than anything else of the price we are paying for the lies that diverted us from the war against the suicide bombers of 9/11 to the war in Iraq.