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The Secret Koch Brothers Tapes...

By Brad Friedman on 6/10/2004 10:49pm PT  

Here's more that you likely missed while the "Liberal" media was spending 7 days of expensive air time --- during a time of war, mind you --- to televise the one flag-draped coffin we've been allowed to photograph for the last year.

The insidious John Aschcroft was layed out by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday for, amongst other things, refusing to turn over a 100 page memo, uncovered by The Wall Street Journal describing how the US could justify the torture of prisoners and somehow work around both US laws and Geneva Convention rules against such behavior. They could do this, according to the memo, "since authority to set aside the laws is inherent in the president."

Yikes. There goes the few bad apples theory if it wasn't already long gone.

Anyway, Aschroft refused to either turn over the memo or answer any questions about it --- or most of the other things the Senators, (who are Constitutionally mandated to oversee the Justice Department, ya know, Rule of Law and all) wanted him to explain.

All the while, Ashcroft arrogantly and outrageously insisted he just wasn't talkin'! And, he also wasn't invoking the 5th or Executive Privilege. He just didn't wanna talk, cuz...well...he didn't want to.

Senator Joe Biden, didn't much care for that...

BIDEN: Well, General, that means you may be in contempt of Congress then. You got to have a reason not to answer our questions, as you know from you sitting up here. There may be a rationale for executive privilege that misses the point, but, you know, you have to have a reason. You are not allowed, under our Constitution, not to answer our questions, and that ain't constitutional.

...

Now, one of the questions I have --- and if you don't have an answer, I understand. If you could just let me know. So seldom we get to see it. You know, I mean, when you were on the committee, Janet Reno was up 12, 13 times, 22 times in her tenure. You've been up three times. We miss you, John. We'd like to see you more.

It got pretty hot in there as Biden concluded with a useful reminder for both the Attorney General, and all of the jackasses out there in Bushland and Rushville who'd like to minimize what went on at Abu Ghraib:

I'll conclude by saying --- there's a reason why we sign these treaties: to protect my son in the military. That's why we have these treaties. So when Americans are captured, they are not tortured. That's the reason, in case anybody forgets it. That's the reason.

But it was was ranking minority member, Patrick Leahy who put into perspective just how this Administration has failed the people of the United States of America by failing in their fight against terror. Here's the full brutal and spot-on indictment:

Mr. Attorney General, welcome. It's been, I believe, about 15 months to pass since your last very brief appearance in March last year. Your testimony here comes today about 1,000 days after the September 11th attacks, and the subsequent launch of your efforts against terrorism.

As National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice acknowledged in her testimony before the 9/11 commission, the terrorist threat to our nation did not begin in September 2001. But the preliminary findings of the 9/11 commission suggest that counterterrorism simply was not a priority of your Justice Department prior to September 11th.

Problems ranged in your department from an understaffed foreign translation program, woefully inadequate information systems, cultural attitudes that frustrated information sharing across agencies. Just one day before the attacks, on September 10th, you rejected the FBIs request to include more money for counterterrorism in your budget proposal.

And while you have recently been critical of the so-called wall between criminal investigators and intelligence agencies, you did nothing to lower it during your first seven full months in office.

In fact, you put up exactly the same wall in your administration.

The president is fond of saying that September 11th changed everything, as if to wipe out all missteps and misplaced priorities of the first year of this administration. After the attacks, you promised a stunned nation that its government would expend every effort and devote all necessary resources to bring the people responsible for these crimes to justice. Certainly the American people would expect no less.

So a thousand days later and it is time to ask for the fulfillment of the promise you made.

Mr. Attorney General, your statement lists accomplishments of the Department of Justice since 9/11, but you leave out a number of things.

For example, of course the obvious, Osama bin Laden remains at large.

At least three senior Al Qaida operatives who helped plan the 9/11 attacks are in U.S. custody, but there has been no attempt to bring them to justice.

The Moussaoui prosecution has bogged down before any trial.

A German court acquitted two 9/11 co-conspirators, in part because the U.S. government and Justice Department and others refused to provide evidence to them.

Three defendants who you said had knowledge of the 9/11 attacks did not have such knowledge. The department retracted your statement and then you had to apologize to the court because you violated a gag order in the case.

The man you claimed was about to explode a dirty bomb in the U.S. had no such intention or capability, and because he's been held for two years without access to counsel, any crimes he did commit might never be prosecuted.

Terrorist attacks on Capitol Hill and elsewhere involving the deadly bioterror agent anthrax have yet to be solved, and the department is defending itself in a civil rights action brought by a man who you probably identified as a person of interest in the anthrax investigation.

U.S. citizens with no connection to terrorism have been in prison as material witnesses for chunks of time, and then, "Oops, I'm sorry," when what the Justice Department announced was a 100 percent positive fingerprint match turned out to be 100 percent wrong.

Non-citizens with no connection to terrorism have been rounded up seemingly on the basis of their religion or ethnicity, held for months without charges, and in some cases physically abused.

Interrogation techniques approved by the Department of Justice have led to abuses that have tarnished our nation's reputation and driven hundreds, if not thousands, of new recruits to our enemies to terrorism.

Your department turned a Canadian citizen over to Syria to be tortured. And then your department deported another individual to Syria over the objection of experienced prosecutors and agents who thought he was a terrorist and wanted to prosecute him.

And one of the most amazing things, your department, under your direction, has worked to deny compensation to American victims of terrorism, including former POWs tortured by Saddam Hussein's regime. You have tried to stop former POWs tortured by Saddam Hussein --- Americans --- you tried to stop them from getting compensation.

And documents have been classified, unclassified, reclassified, to score political points rather than for legitimate national security reasons.

Statistics have been manipulated to exaggerate the department's success in fighting terrorism. The threat of another attack on U.S. soil remains high, although how high depends primarily on who within the administration is talking.

Mr. Attorney General, you spent much of the past two years increasing secrecy, lessening accountability and touting the government's intelligence-gathering powers.

The threshold issue, of course, is --- and I believe you would agree with me on this --- what good is having intelligence if we can't use it intelligently. Identifying suspected terrorist is only a first step. To be safer we have to follow through.

Instead of declining tough prosecutions, we need to bring the people who are seeking to harm us to justice. That's how our system works. Instead, your practices seem to be built on secret detentions and overblown press releases.

Our country is made no safer through the self-congratulatory press conferences when we're facing serious security threats.

The government agency that bears the name of justice has yet to deliver the justice for the victims of the worst mass murder in this nation's history.

The 9/11 commission is working hard to answer important questions about the attacks and how the vulnerabilities in our system that allowed them to occur, but it can't mete out justice to those involved. Neither the 9/11 commission nor this committee can do the work of your Department of Justice.

Mr. Attorney General, since September 11th, you blamed former administration officials for intelligence failures that happened on your watch. You've used a tar brush to attack the patriotism of the Americans who dared to express legitimate concerns about constitutional freedoms. You refused to acknowledge serious problems, even after the Justice Department's own inspector general exposed widespread violations of the civil liberties of immigrants caught up in your post-September 11th dragnets.

Secretary Rumsfeld recently went before the Armed Services Committee to say that he, he Secretary Rumsfeld, should be held responsible for the abuses of Iraqi prisoners on his watch.

Director Tenet is resigning from the Central Intelligence Agency. Richard Clark went before the 9/11 commission and began with his admission of the failure that this administration bears for the tragedy that consumed us on 9/11.

And I'm reminded this week, as we mourn the passing of President Reagan, that one of the acts for which he will be remembered is that he conceded, that while his heart told him that the weapons for hostages and unlawful funding of insurgent forces in Nicaragua should not have been acts of his administration, his head convinced him that they were, and he took personal responsibility.

We need checks and balances. As much as gone wrong that you stubbornly refuse to admit. For this democratic republic to work, we need openness and accountability.

Now, Mr. Attorney General, your style is often to come to attack. You came before this committee shortly after 9/11 to question our patriotism when we sought to conduct a congressional oversight and ask questions.

You went before the 9/11 commission to attack a commissioner by brandishing a conveniently declassified memo and so unfairly slanted a presentation that President Bush himself disavowed your actions.

So I challenge you today to abandon any such plans for the session. Begin it instead by doing that which you have yet to do: talk plainly with us and with the American people, about not only what's going right in the war on terrorism --- and there are those things that are going right --- but also about the growing list of things that are going wrong, so we can work together to fix them.

Let's get about the business of working together to do our job, a better job of protecting the American people and making sure that the wrongdoers are brought to justice, are brought to trial and are given the justice that this country can mete out.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Hopeful signs that I someday may be able to support the Democratic Party again.

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(Especially when you tell them what they wanted to hear anyway.)
By Brad Friedman on 6/10/2004 9:47pm PT  

According to an exhaustive new report from the Pew Research Center released Tuesday on partisanship and news reading habits, Americans of both major political parties have lost confidence in "all or most" of the reporting from every major news outlet over the last four years.

Good. They should.

The only exception to that four year trend covering the two major politcal parties and twelve major media outlets?

Who else?...Republicans who watch the Fox News Channel.

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By Brad Friedman on 6/10/2004 9:35pm PT  

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By Brad Friedman on 6/9/2004 11:01pm PT  

Gotta few pressing deadlines...Should be back on the blog job soon!

So...OPEN THREAD! Go ahead, beat the crap out of each other! You know you want to!

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By Brad Friedman on 6/9/2004 10:55pm PT  

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By Brad Friedman on 6/9/2004 9:37am PT  

Thought I was off-base suggesting the Bushies would attempt to co-opt Reagan's death for their own cynical re-election purposes?

Take a look at www.GeorgeWBush.com - "The Official Re-Election Site for George W. Bush" as of this moment.

Tacky? Extremely. Surprising? Not anymore.

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By Brad Friedman on 6/8/2004 10:53pm PT  

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By Brad Friedman on 6/8/2004 7:07pm PT  

If Bush thought all the books published by Administration Insiders were rough now, it should be amazing to watch what happens once he's out of office.

An amazing report from Doug Thompson in Capitol Hill Blue speaks of a President simply coming unhinged in the Whitehouse as the situation continues to deteriorate for him and as he berates staffers perceived as disloyal as "fucking assholes", "unpatriotic" and "un-American".

It also gives an interesting picture of how George Tenet was invited to not let the door hit him on the ass on the way out. You've got to read the whole thing.

It relies only on several unnamed "top" Whitehouse insiders --- understandably so, given the nature of the article --- so it's credibility is worth holding with a grain of salt. But if Thompson has it even half right, it's an amazing tale of what's going on over there beyond the Looking Glass...

Just the first few grafs...:

President George W. Bush's increasingly erratic behavior and wide mood swings has the halls of the West Wing buzzing lately as aides privately express growing concern over their leader's state of mind.

In meetings with top aides and administration officials, the President goes from quoting the Bible in one breath to obscene tantrums against the media, Democrats and others that he classifies as “enemies of the state.”

Worried White House aides paint a portrait of a man on the edge, increasingly wary of those who disagree with him and paranoid of a public that no longer trusts his policies in Iraq or at home.

“It reminds me of the Nixon days,” says a longtime GOP political consultant with contacts in the White House. “Everybody is an enemy; everybody is out to get him. That's the mood over there.”

In interviews with a number of White House staffers who were willing to talk off the record, a picture of an administration under siege has emerged, led by a man who declares his decisions to be “God's will” and then tells aides to “fuck over” anyone they consider to be an opponent of the administration.

“We're at war, there's no doubt about it. What I don't know anymore is just who the enemy might be,” says one troubled White House aide. “We seem to spend more time trying to destroy John Kerry than al Qaeda and our enemies list just keeps growing and growing.”

Go read it.

(Thanks to Brenda V. for the heads up!)

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By Brad Friedman on 6/8/2004 4:13pm PT  

A few items you may have missed so far while the nation desperately seizes the opportunity to avoid our woes for a few days...And the "Liberal Media" helps to play along...

For the record, so far, at least 7 US Troops in Iraq have died in the 3 days since Ronald Reagan did...

From the AP, Rumsfeld in Singapore last Saturday, on losing the "War on Terror":

The United States and its allies are winning some battles in the terrorism war, but may be losing the broader struggle against Islamic extremism that is terrorism's source, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Saturday.

The troubling unknown, he said, is whether the extremists --- whom he termed "zealots and despots" bent on destroying the global system of nation-states --- are turning out newly trained terrorists faster than the United States can capture or kill them.

"It's quite clear to me that we do not have a coherent approach to this," Rumsfeld said at an international security conference. [emphasis added]

(Now it occurs to you!)

From AP, Former Chief Weapons Inspector David Kay on the WMD Dead-Enders:

"Anyone out there holding - as I gather Prime Minister Blair has recently said - the prospect that, in fact, the Iraq Survey Group is going to unmask actual weapons of mass destruction, are really delusional."

(Liar!)

From The Wall Street Journal on the Administration's classified 100-page report on how they might avoid US Law and the Geneva Convention in order to use torture:

To protect subordinates should they be charged with torture, the memo advised that Mr. Bush issue a "presidential directive or other writing" that could serve as evidence, since authority to set aside the laws is "inherent in the president." [emphasis added]

(And you thought Clinton had no respect for "The Rule of Law"?! Little did he know he actually had the "inherent authority" to set it aside!)

For more fun ways in which God was at work to help the Bushies understand that "The infliction of pain or suffering per se, whether it is physical or mental, is insufficient to amount to torture." And "must be of such a high level of intensity that the pain is difficult for the subject to endure." - see Billmon's alarming and excellent side-by-side comparison of The Report and the Women of God who put it all together.

Now back to your previously scheduled week-long period of mourning.

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By Brad Friedman on 6/8/2004 3:03pm PT  

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Ronald Reagan through Rose, White & Blue Colored Glasses
By Brad Friedman on 6/8/2004 12:50pm PT  

Some fine satire by James A. Bartlett over at The Democratic Underground today where, incidentally, they've also run my "Mourning in America" piece. Self-serving plug not withstanding, here's just a few of the highlights from Bartlett's well done satirical look at the life and times of Reagan, as seen through the dutifully partisan "fair and balanced" hagiography of Fox News...

Reagan became a successful movie actor beginning in 1937, making nothing but wholesome films that could be enjoyed by the entire family. Some believe that he was a New Deal Democrat during these years, but this is a vile slander by the Hillary/Kerry wing of the liberal media elite.

Reagan enlisted in the Army during World War II. On D-Day, he led the American column ashore at Omaha Beach, carrying one machine gun in each arm and a dagger in his mouth, even though his poor eyesight made him technically ineligible for combat.
...
He gained the Republican presidential nomination in 1980. Every American who was alive then recalls where he was on the night God himself pre-empted The Love Boat to announce that the November election would be canceled. Reagan was inaugurated the next afternoon.

Reagan's presidency was nearly short-circuited in 1981 when a gunman attempted to assassinate him outside a Washington hotel. When the shots rang out, Reagan deftly ditched his Secret Service agents and chased the assailant into an alley, where he used kung fu to disarm him and turn him over to D.C. police. Due to the meddling of activist judges, however, Reagan's true assailant was allowed to go free and another man, John Hinckley, was incarcerated in his place. (Fox News recently revealed that Reagan's real assailant was Bill Clinton.)
...
When prayer was restored to the public schools in 1984, the Soviet Union dissolved, the nations of Eastern Europe were liberated from Communism, the Cold War came to an end, and Reagan's beloved Chicago Cubs won their first pennant in 39 years. (Reagan pitched seven shutout innings in the pennant-clinching win over Pittsburgh.)
...
Reagan was working on a new translation of the Bible from the original Greek and Hebrew when God called him home on Saturday. God was unavailable for comment, but his son, Jesus, told the Washington Post, "We're thrilled to have Mr. Reagan up here with us. I've been waiting for somebody to take my seat next to Dad for quite a while now."

The above might be even funnier, if it wasn't so close to what you'll actually find out there right now in "Reagan's America" where it seems his greatest legacy is a lock-step marching band of rightwing sycophants hell-bent on slinging fistfulls of shit at political opponents while cowardly hiding behind the flag-draped coffin of their fallen hero.

Something tells me Reagan wouldn't much approve of their kind of less-than-positive divisive hatred disguised as "patriotism". But unlike them, I'll not ascribe my own words and ideas onto a dead man. His legacy will speak for itself, unless Fox News and the Freepers have anything to say about.

(I tried to find a representative thread of the bile being spewed forth from the Freepers at FreeRepublic.com - but there was so much of it, I couldn't choose between any one thread. Stop by and browse for yourself instead. You may wanna bring a bucket).

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By Brad Friedman on 6/7/2004 12:32pm PT  

...And here come the vultures.

From the NY Times:

Mr. Bush's advisers said Sunday that the intense focus on Mr. Reagan's career that began upon the news of his death on Saturday would remind Americans of what Mr. Bush's supporters have long described as the similarities between the two men as straight-talking, ideologically driven leaders with swagger and a fixed idea of what they wanted to do with their office.

"Americans are going to be focused on President Reagan for the next week," said Ed Gillespie, the Republican national chairman. "The parallels are there. I don't know how you miss them."

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By Brad Friedman on 6/6/2004 5:32pm PT  

I recall back during the 2000 campaign, when things didn't look very good for Dubya I had told a couple of folks that the only way George W. Bush could pull out a victory at that point was if Ronald Reagan died prior to the election and the country found itself swept by a temporary nostalgia for the golden days when there really was a vast sense of unity --- for the most part --- in America.

Compared to the divisive years of reprehensible --- yes --- Republican partisanship, disgraceful and baseless attacks on a sitting President, unending trumped-up investigations and an eventually discredited impeachment, it seemed to me that America might just latch onto Dubya's rising star as he inevitably would have sought to capitalize on Reagan-mania by casting himself in The Gipper's warm after-glow.

Such a comparison at the time, had it played out that way, as morbidly opportunistic as it might have been, could have caught the imagination of a nation starved for optimistic days of unity and propelled George W. Bush to the front of the race. It seemed, back then, Bush's only hope as I saw it.

Little did I imagine, of course, that they'd end up stealing an election to seal the deal. And of course, Reagan suprisingly held on for another four years, only to "slip the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God" at a time that may as well be 100 political years later than the year 2000.

Now, instead, it seems that Reagan's passing occurs at a rather unfortunate moment for George W. Bush. Aside from occuring on a weekend during which Team Bush had otherwise hoped to benefit from the now routinely "decadanal" D-Day Bump in Presidential esteem, his death at this time succeeds only in pointing up how Bush so desperately pales by direct comparison to a real American leader.

Oh, darn the luck.

Undoubtedly the desperate Right will twist history any way they can to draw some kind of inevitable tortured positive comparison. (Be sure to listen for it as it undoubtely happens live tomorrow on both Rush's and Sean's shows). But I think the trick is now unlikely to gain much traction. The vast differences between the real McCoy and the boy Pretender are now simply all to clear.

The endless retrospectives via every imaginable media outlet only serves to shore up the vast differences between the two men. Reagan actually was, it seems to me, someone with true core beliefs gained by decades of real life experience on both sides of the political aisle; The bold ideas of his strongly held Liberal FDR New Deal roots were applied to a time-earned move to the Right as experience not opportunistc political idealogy - --- as with our boy who would be king --- seemed to govern his core beliefs. Like him or hate him, Ronald Reagan, at least, was the real thing.

Former Reagan Chief-of-Staff and Secretary of State James Baker related this morning on This Week that Reagan "would rather get 80% of what he wanted then go over the cliff with his flag flying". It was a life-lesson learned which Dubya, apparently, hasn't the body of knowledge or intellectual curiosity to even contemplate. That, as he makes his Wile E. Coyote-like descent to disappear in a tiny poof at the bottom of the cliff.

Reagan was so successful in politics because he allowed for pragmatism to win out over rigid Conservative hopes. As Governor, he raised taxes to help balance the budget, he signed the country's most liberal abortion rights legislation at the time, and imposed strict environmental regulation on industry in places like Lake Tahoe ensuring that --- to this day --- there are still clear blue waters visible for 70 feet below the surface.

An Op/Ed in today's LA Times speaks of the many paradoxes of Ronald Reagan, outlining changing and/or nuanced beliefs that the transparently disingenuous GOP of today would have described as little more than "flip-flops" --- assuming, of course, that they applied to a candidate they opposed instead of supported.

Of note also, on a personal and local level, is that Reagan was first an actor from "Liberal Elitist" Hollywood. Who was wise enough to acknowledge on many occassions that "I don't know how you do this job without being an actor".

Meanwhile, for political expediency, today's GOP are the first to denigrate an American with an opinion on the basis that they are "an actor from Hollywood". Pusillanimously reserving, in the meantime, a convenient and hypocritical blind-eye for the Reagans, Schwarzeneggers, Eastwoods, Bonos, Thompsons and Gibsons that carry their water.

Reagan also displayed the strength of character necessesary to take real responsibility, at least occassionally, when things went horribly wrong.

As the ever sharp (and delightfully ascerbic) BRAD BLOG commenter Jaime pointed out, after 241 US marines were killed by terrorists in Beirut and America subsequently withdrew, Reagan bravely told the country "If there is to be blame it rests here and with this president."

Contrast that courageous admission to Bush's hemming and hawing, inability to recall a single mistake in his policies, continuous avoidance of any responsibility for anything from 9/11 up to the present day Iraqi morass were over 800 are now dead and thousands more wounded for a cause that was tenuous at best, and completely discredited now at worse. The stark difference between these two men couldn't be clearer.

Only the despicably blood-sucking Paul Wolfowitz (someone please explain to me why this man still has a job on the United States payroll!) was debased enough to attempt to usurp the nation's love for a true leader before the body was even cold. Just an hour or so after the news broke, while most thoughtful commentators had the reason to focus on Ronald Reagan and avoid comparison in the short term to George W. Bush, there was Wolfowitz on Fox (where else?) attempting to tell America how Ronald Reagan would have supported Bush's current policies in Iraq. How reprehensible. Not to mention, more than likely wrong.

Unlike George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan actually was a uniter, not a divider. Or as close to it, in any case, as anybody can come to such a thing in national politics today anyway.

Mr. Wolfowitz, I grew up during Ronald Reagan's presidency. I voted for Ronald Reagan. Mr. Wolfowitz, George W. Bush is no Ronald Reagan.

ReddIt this story!



By Brad Friedman on 6/5/2004 4:47pm PT  

"Life is just one grand, sweet song. So start the music."

- Caption from Ronald "Dutch" Reagan's
1928 Senior Highschool Yearbook photo.

ReddIt this story!



The heat is on...
By Brad Friedman on 6/4/2004 10:50pm PT  

ReddIt this story!



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