Saturday, June 10

Nick Lachey : Behind the Bullshit

Since not everything in the world is about Politics and stuff - tonight I had a chance to view what was probably the absolute worst. episode. ever. in the great VH-1 series Behind The Music, featuring boy-toy pinup Backstreet N-Suck wannabe Nick Lachey.

Don't get me wrong, I don't have a stick up my ass about Boy Bands. I know a bunch of Backstreet Songs I like, and I have to admit that except for his fast hands and instant coward (who? What? Me grab the titty? NO!) routine with Janet Jackson at the Superbowl - I generally respect Justin Timberlake for taking Britney's virginity. (We all know somebody had to do it, eventually -right? At least he waited couple years first like a semi-gentleman.)

But this episode was just fucking pathetic. Ok, sure, I was mildly impressed that Nick's original group 98 degrees actually put themselves together, and weren't arranged by some outside empressario. (Technically N'Sync did the same thing, but let's not quibble). I also thought it was cool that they moved to Hollywood and lived in the same type of rat and roach enfested hovel's that Motley Crue and Poison did back in the day - only without the groupies and the parties, or the drinking, the puking, the fucking and the - well - the Rocking.

It was neat that they were "discovered" backstage at a Boyz II Men show - just like Boyz II Men themselves were discovered backstage at a - I think - a Bel-Biv-Devoe performance. (They didn't mention this irony during the BTM, I just happen to realize it while the show was on).

After that they signed to a management deal, showcased for Motown records - fucking MOTOWN if you can believe that - got sent to the scary inner-city of Harlem to "learn some soul" for 90 days, then out on the road in a Winnebago.

Can you feel the glamour? Almost reminds me of Goo Goo Dolls and their 11 years of touring in a van. Ok, not quite -but close.

Things go a bit sideways when their benefactor, the President of Motown gets fired. New people come in, decide to "Pop-itize" the largely R&B stylings of the band - actually I can't legitamately call them a "band" since they don't play any instruments, they're a singing goup - and once they've thoroughly sold what little souls they ever had to the beast of the musical corporate machine - they start selling in the millions. Yeah, the devil always makes you "Buy in" before you sell out, doesn't he?

The thing about 98 degrees and their rising heart-throb Nick Lachey is that they don't really have any songs. I watched the entire episode and I didn't recognize a single track. Even as I type this nothing sticks. Nada. You play "Backstreet's Back" and I'm humming along, even if I've never heard the track before. These four generic pasty-faced white guys may sing pretty and do nice barber-shop harmony but they frankly got nothing on Colour Me Badd. (Ah, Mi Amour...)

Fucking Huey Lewis and the News do better barber-shop than these guys. Seriously. And the ROCK too, even in their 50's.

It's during their main heyday and staduim tour that Nick meets, you guessed it, Jessica Simpson. The wannabe diva Christian cookie from Texas who couldn't cut it as a Mousekateer, she couldn't dance (so she was obviously no competition for a mega-performer like Britney) and then broke down, ran away and cried after she heard Christina Aguilera's audition. (The upside of this being she actually bothered to learn to sing after the experience) When she met Nick she was a mouse, one who had yet to learn to roar. Eventually she became the opening act for 98, so Nick got his groupies screaming after him and a veritable live-in girlfriend on tour with him too.

Then came September 11th.

Nick and Jessica had been drifting apart after the end of the tour , but this made them refocus back on what was important. They decided it was each other and got engaged, meanwhile the rest of 98 degrees decided their priority should be "family" and took a break from music.

This move in particular pisses me off. If you have people's attention, if you have a platform, if people are gracious enough to listen to you - I believe you have a responsiblity to fucking say something. These guys, at the height of their career, when one of the most devestating tragedies of the last 50 years occurs - decide to go slink home. Music wasn't important anymore.

Ok, well let's just be honest - their music wasn't important - ever. Not everyone can by Dixie Chicks. Or Neil Young. Or Pink.

Most Behind The Music's have a point. Usually there's some big tragedy that personally befalls the members, one that they have to struggle with and overcome. Like Def Leppard's Rick Allen losing his arm in a car accident. Metallica's bassist Cliff Burton dying while on tour. Riots and destruction when Axl Rose stormed offstage in Canada. Twice. Ratt's Robin Crosby and his heroin addiction, which led to his contracting Aids. Billy Joel getting ripped off for millions by his brother-in-law. Leif Garrett getting high, crashing his car and paralyzing his best friend - then facing him for the first time over 20+ years after the fact. Nikki Sixx dying of a speedball overdose and then coming back because one of the EMTs was a Motley Crue fan and refused to let him die!

So, what's the big tragedy in Nick Lachey's life? What horrid struggles has he had to overcome?

The Tabloids.

He got too famous because of the TV show he and Jessica decided to make about their married life. I'll be honest, I had barely ever heard of either of them before "Newleyweds" came on eMpTyV. After that show debuted Jessica became a superstar for saying stupid shit like "Chicken of the sea: Is it Chicken or is it Tuna?" Yes, really. This catapulted them onto the tabloid pages with the main issue being - their marriage.

Now I have to say, when you put your marriage as being the big reason people should pay attention to you - it's pretty damn lame to then turn around and whine that too many people are paying attention to your marriage. Are they breaking up? Is Nick Cheating? Is Jessica getting into a Jonny Knoxville and Bam sandwitch between shooting scenes of the Dukes of Hazzard?
You delt those cards Nicky, now you gotta play 'em.

Tabloids are disgusting, but they do serve a purpose for your stars and starlets. They let them know that they still matter to people. People aren't doing tabloid stories about Corey Haim anymore. First off, he's gained weight and they wouldn't recognize him, and second - Nobody Fucking Cares! He's got the TV-Q of a gerble.

TV Networks and Movie studies bank upon people identifying and fantasizing about their young hunks and stunning starlets so that they'll watch the shows and pay $10 bucks a seat in the threatre or $4 bucks to rent a DVD. The only difference is that in one case the studio provides a script and makes up the story and in the other case - the magazine does it. None of it is real. None. Both are a means to an end. Making money in Hollywood by giving people sordid stories (on the screen or in magazine form) about people who have their attention.

Amazingly, it seems that according to Nick, he and Jessica broke up not because of anything either of them were doing, or not doing - but because the tabloids kept talking about them breaking up. Talk about self-actualization. Speak of the break-up, and it will come?

Ok, so Nick's single now. Boo hoo, now he has to find a fresh new blond who'll refuse to give him head. He still has both his arms. He still has all his money, for now. Would one of his fans bring him back from the dead or just let him turn blue? (Probably the former, but the the latter might wipe that smug look off his face at least for a while)

But wait, Nick's gonna be fine - why he's got a brand new CD of soul baring songs to sell. A CD of songs which sound amazingly like Coldplay, which I guess is natural since everyone criticized his previous solo record - the oh-so-brilliantly titled "Soulo" - for sounding too much like the only band - uh, group - he'd ever been in, which would be 98 degrees. VH-1 has just brought you this entire 48 minute of slumberfest just to treat you to several well shot sequences of studio recording scenes and live performance from the new disc.

Oh joy.

It's a TV show, it's a Biography, it's a Tabloid, it's an Info-mercial - it's like the latest Swiss-Army video from Ronco - it's got dozens and dozens of uses.

Vh-1 used this show on the Star of sister station MTV's highest rated show ever and therefore ensured lots of re-run residuals and DVD sales as people pick the programs apart for clues of the couples future break-up. Oh, and Nick might sell some CD and concert tickets too. I haven't seen anything so shameless since the so-called Nirvana:Behind The Music, which was nothing more than a very thinly veiled 48 minutes commercial for then just released Nirvana box set.

If this new album is supposed to be Nick Goes Rock in the way that Alanis Morissette was able to redefine herself in her post-teen pop years or our former teen-idol Tiffany managed to dig deep into her heart and return to the music scene with a powerful CD that was a major hit with critics, or even how Ashlee Simpson seperated herself from her big sis by "rocking out, like totally" - I think Nicky has got another thing coming.

And if this Behind the Music was supposed to take us through a trip through the depths of his heart and soul - then I think most of us probably didn't get our ankles wet.

Vyan

Friday, June 9

Vanity Fair : The War they Wanted

Vanity Fair has a new article up that I don't think is getting nearly the play that it should. It details how the tragic intelligence "failures" which led up to the Iraq War weren't failures at all - they were actually part of a covert psy-ops campaign on the American people and the world. The "mistake" was quite deliberate, a part of the overall campaign - and it worked amazingly well.
For more than two years it has been widely reported that the U.S. invaded Iraq because of intelligence failures. But in fact it is far more likely that the Iraq war started because of an extraordinary intelligence success—specifically, an astoundingly effective campaign of disinformation, or black propaganda, which led the White House, the Pentagon, Britain's M.I.6 intelligence service, and thousands of outlets in the American media to promote the falsehood that Saddam Hussein's nuclear-weapons program posed a grave risk to the United States.

The Bush administration made other false charges about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (W.M.D.)—that Iraq had acquired aluminum tubes suitable for centrifuges, that Saddam was in league with al-Qaeda, that he had mobile weapons labs, and so forth. But the Niger claim, unlike other allegations, can't be dismissed as an innocent error or blamed on ambiguous data. "This wasn't an accident," says Milt Bearden, a 30-year C.I.A. veteran who was a station chief in Pakistan, Sudan, Nigeria, and Germany, and the head of the Soviet–East European division. "This wasn't 15 monkeys in a room with typewriters."

In recent months, it has emerged that the forged Niger documents went through the hands of the Italian military intelligence service, SISMI (Servizio per le Informazioni e la Sicurezza Militare), or operatives close to it, and that neoconservative policymakers helped bring them to the attention of the White House. Even after information in the Niger documents was repeatedly rejected by the C.I.A. and the State Department, hawkish neocons managed to circumvent seasoned intelligence analysts and insert the Niger claims into Bush's State of the Union address.

Several current and former government officials, whose names I find quite familiar, have come forward to point out that these documents were part of a "a disinformation operation," others as "black propaganda," "black ops," or "a classic psy-ops [psychological-operations] campaign."

The officials are Bearden; Colonel W. Patrick Lang, who served as the D.I.A.'s defense intelligence officer for the Middle East, South Asia, and terrorism; Colonel Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell; Melvin Goodman, a former division chief and senior analyst at the C.I.A. and the State Department; Ray McGovern, a C.I.A. analyst for 27 years; Lieutenant Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski, who served in the Pentagon's Near East and South Asia division in 2002 and 2003; Larry C. Johnson, a former C.I.A. officer who was deputy director of the State Department Office of Counterterrorism from 1989 to 1993; former C.I.A. official Philip Giraldi; and Vincent Cannistraro, the former chief of operations of the C.I.A.'s Counterterrorism Center.
Wilkerson has been extremely critical of the Bush Administration.
"This is really a very inept administration," says Wilkerson, who has credentials not only as an insider in the Bush I, Clinton and Bush II presidencies but also as a former professor at two of the nation's war colleges. "As a teacher who's studied every administration since 1945, I think this is probably the worst ineptitude in governance, decision-making and leadership I've seen in 50-plus years. You've got to go back and think about that. That includes the Bay of Pigs, that includes -- oh my God, Vietnam. That includes Iran-contra, Watergate."
Ray McGovern has been a lightenrod for his questioning of Donald Rumsfeld.
QUESTION: So I would like to ask you to be up front with the American people, why did you lie to get us into a war that was not necessary, that has caused these kinds of casualties? why?
RUMSFELD: Well, first of all, I haven't lied. I did not lie then. Colin Powell didn't lie. He spent weeks and weeks with the Central Intelligence Agency people and prepared a presentation that I know he believed was accurate, and he presented that to the United Nations. the president spent weeks and weeks with the central intelligence people and he went to the american people and made a presentation. i'm not in the intelligence business. they gave the world their honest opinion. it appears that there were not weapons of mass destruction there.
QUESTION: You said you knew where they were.
RUMSFELD: I did not. I said I knew where suspect sites were and -
QUESTION: You said you knew whe
re they were Tikrit, Baghdad, northeast, south, west of there. Those are your words.
Karen Kwaitkowski on her Pentagon experience leading up to the War on Iraq.
I had observed that many of the neoconservatives in the Pentagon not only had limited military experience, if any at all, but they also advocated theories of war that struck me as rejections of classical liberalism, natural law, and constitutional strictures. More than that, the pressure of the intelligence community to conform, the rejection of it when it failed to produce intelligence suitable for supporting the “Iraq is an imminent threat to the United States” agenda, and the amazing things I was hearing in both Bush and Cheney speeches told me that not only do neoconservatives hold a theory based on ideas not embraced by the American mainstream, but they also have a collective contempt for fact.

So clearly, this isn't exactly the George Bush Booster Club, but neither are they crazed tin-foil hat Liberals. Many are Republicans and have worked extensively within Republican Administrations.

In addition, Vanity Fair has found at least 14 instances prior to the 2003 State of the Union in which analysts at the C.I.A., the State Department, or other government agencies who had examined the Niger documents or reports about them raised serious doubts about their legitimacy—only to be rebuffed by Bush-administration officials who wanted to use the material. "They were just relentless," says Wilkerson, who later prepared Colin Powell's presentation before the United Nations General Assembly. "You would take it out and they would stick it back in. That was their favorite bureaucratic technique—ruthless relentlessness."
Following a complex series of back and forth events - the documents in question fell into the hands of the Italian Secret Service following a break-in at the Niger embassy.

Shortly after New Year's 2001, the break-in took place at the Niger Embassy. Martino denies any participation. There are many conflicting accounts of the episode. According to La Repubblica, a left-of-center daily which has published an investigative series on Nigergate, documents stolen from the embassy ultimately were combined with other papers that were already in SISMI archives. In addition, the embassy stationery was apparently used to forge records about a phony uranium deal between Niger and Iraq. The Sunday Times of London recently reported that the papers had been forged for profit by two embassy employees: Adam Maiga Zakariaou, the consul, and Montini. But many believe that they, wittingly or not, were merely pawns in a larger game.

According to [Italian Secret Service Officer Rocco] Martino, the documents were not given to him all at once. First, he explained, SISMI had La Signora give him documents that had come from the robbery: "I was told that a woman in the Niger Embassy in Rome had a gift for me. I met her and she gave me documents." Later, he said, SISMI dug into its archives and added new papers. There was a codebook, then a dossier with a mixture of fake and genuine documents. Among them was an authentic telex dated February 1, 1999, in which Adamou Chékou, the ambassador from Niger, wrote another official about a forthcoming visit from Wissam al-Zahawie, Iraq's ambassador to the Vatican.

The last one Martino says he received, and the most important one, was not genuine, however. Dated July 27, 2000, it was a two-page memo purportedly sent to the president of Niger concerning the sale of 500 tons of pure uranium per year by Niger
to Iraq.

The essential allegation being suggested here by Vanity Fair is that the theft at the Nigerian embassy didn't actually produce the key document, but instead stationary obtained during that theft was used to create the key documents needed to fuel the disinformation campaign by former Reagan NSC member Micheal Ledeen (who had a direct hand in various illegal and quesionable activities including Iran-Contra) and his long-standing associates at SISMI just prior to the start of the incoming Bush Administration in January of 2001. The Niger forgeries just might have been the work of Ledeen working as a rogue/independant U.S. Intelligence Operative.

The forged documents were full of errors. A letter dated October 10, 2000, was signed by Minister of Foreign Affairs Allele Elhadj Habibou—even though he had been out of office for more than a decade. Its September 28 postmark indicated that somehow the letter had been received nearly two weeks before it was sent. In another letter, President Tandja Mamadou's signature appeared to be phony. The accord signed by him referred to the Niger constitution of May 12, 1965, when a new constitution had been enacted in 1999. One of the letters was dated July 30, 1999, but referred to agreements that were not made until a year later. Finally, the agreement called for the 500 tons of uranium to be transferred from one ship to another in international waters—a spectacularly difficult feat.

Eventually the documents made their way to several journalists at La Repubblica and over the next two years - America.
"It was the Italians and Americans together who were behind it. It was all a disinformation operation," Martino told a reporter at England's Guardian newspaper. He called himself "a tool used by someone for games much bigger than me."
A plan with well entrenched roots.

Because the Niger break-in happened before Bush took office, La Repubblica and many others assume that the robbery was initiated as a small-time job. "When the story began, they were not thinking about Iraq," says La Repubblica's Bonini. "They were just trying to gather something that could be sold on the black market to the intelligence community."

But it is also possible that from its very inception the Niger operation was aimed at starting an invasion of Iraq. As early as 1992, neoconservative hawks in the administration of George H. W. Bush, under the aegis of Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, unsuccessfully lobbied for regime change in Iraq as part of a grandiose vision for American supremacy in the next century.

Once the information reached the U.S, things started to become interesting.

To many W.M.D. analysts in the C.I.A. and the military, the initial reports sounded ridiculous. "The idea that you could get that much yellowcake out of Niger without the French knowing, that you could have a train big enough to carry it, much less a ship, is absurd," says Larry Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former chief of staff.

"The reports made no sense on the face of it," says Ray McGovern, the former C.I.A. analyst, who challenged Rumsfeld about the war at a public event this spring. "Most of us knew the Iraqis already had yellowcake. It is a sophisticated process to change it into a very refined state and they didn't have the technology."

"Yellowcake is unprocessed bulk ore," explains Karen Kwiatkowski, who has written extensively about the intelligence fiasco that led to the war. "If Saddam wanted to make nuclear bombs, why would he want unprocessed ore when the best thing to do would be to get processed stuff in the Congo?"

"When it comes to raw reports, all manner of crap comes out of the field," McGovern adds. "The C.I.A. traditionally has had experienced officers…. They are qualified to see if these reports make sense. For some reason, perhaps out of cowardice, these reports were judged to be of such potential significance that no one wanted to sit on it."

After September 11th, with Bush's approval ratings through the roof at 90% - despite being informed that the 9-11 attack had come from Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, the time came to focus on Bush and the neo-cons long term goal. Iraq and Saddam.
Now the Niger operation went into overdrive. The details of how this happened are murky. Accounts from usually reputable newspapers, the United States Senate Intelligence Committee, and other sources are wildly at variance with one another. In October 2001, SISMI, which had already sent reports about the alleged Niger deal to French intelligence, finally had them forwarded to British and U.S. intelligence. The exact dates of the distribution are unclear, but, according to the British daily The Independent, SISMI sent the dossier to the Vauxhall Cross headquarters of M.I.6, in South London. The delivery might have been made, Italian reports say, by Rocco Martino. At roughly the same time, in early October, according to La Repubblica, SISMI also gave a report about the Niger deal to Jeff Castelli, the C.I.A. station chief in Rome. According to a recent broadcast by CBS's 60 Minutes, C.I.A. analysts who saw the material were skeptical.

...

In December 2001, Greg Thielmann, director for strategic proliferation and military affairs at the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), reviewed Iraq's W.M.D. program for Colin Powell. As for the Niger report, Thielmann said, "A whole lot of things told us that the report was bogus. This wasn't highly contested. There weren't strong advocates on the other side. It was done, shot down."
The erroneous report that just wouldn't die.

By early 2002, career military and intelligence professionals had seen the Niger reports repeatedly discredited, and assumed that the issue was dead. But that was not the case.

"These guys in the Office of Special Plans delighted in telling people, 'You don't understand your own data,'" says Patrick Lang. "'We know that Saddam is evil and deceptive, and if you see this piece of data, to say just because it is not well supported it's not true is to be politically naïve.'"

Not everybody in the C.I.A. was of one mind with regard to the alleged Niger deal. As the Senate Intelligence Committee report points out, some analysts at the C.I.A. and other agencies considered the Niger deal to be "possible." In the fall of 2002, the C.I.A. approved language referring to the Niger deal in one speech by the president but vetoed it in another. And in December 2002, analysts at WINPAC, the C.I.A.'s center for Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control, produced a paper that chided Iraq for not acknowledging its "efforts to procure uranium from Niger."

Enter Darth Cheney.

Cheney gave the Niger claims new life. "The [C.I.A.] briefer came in. Cheney said, 'What about this?,' and the briefer hadn't heard one word, because no one in the agency thought it was of any significance," says Ray McGovern, whose job at the C.I.A. included preparing and delivering the P.D.B. in the Reagan era. "But when a briefer gets a request from the vice president of the United States, he goes back and leaves no stone unturned."

The C.I.A.'s Directorate of Operations, the branch responsible for the clandestine collection of foreign intelligence, immediately tasked its Counterproliferation Division (CPD) with getting more information. According to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report, just hours after Dick Cheney had gotten the Niger report, Valerie Plame, who worked in the CPD, wrote a memo to the division's deputy chief that read, "My husband has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity."

Based on this recommendation, management at CPD interviewed Plame's husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson, and decided to send him to Niger to use his contacts to dig around about the story.

A few days later, Wilson returned from Niger and told C.I.A. officials that he had found no evidence to support the uranium charges. By now the Niger reports had been discredited more than half a dozen times—by the French in 2001, by the C.I.A. in Rome and in Langley, by the State Department's INR, by some analysts in the Pentagon, by the ambassador to Niger, by Wilson, and yet again by State.

But the top brass at the C.I.A. knew what Cheney wanted. They went back to French intelligence again—twice. According to the Los Angeles Times, the second request that year, in mid-2002, "was more urgent and more specific." The C.I.A. sought confirmation of the alleged agreement by Niger to sell 500 tons of yellowcake to Iraq. Alain Chouet reportedly sent five or six men to Niger and again found the charges to be false. Then his staff noticed that the allegations matched those brought to him by Rocco Martino. "We told the Americans, 'Bullshit. It doesn't make any sense.'"

It's at this point that the serious marketing campaign to "take care of Iraq' began.
The opening salvo was fired on Sunday, September 8, 2002, when National-Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice told CNN, "There will always be some uncertainty about how quickly [Saddam] can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

The smoking-gun-mushroom-cloud catchphrase was such a hit that Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld all picked it up in one form or another, sending it out repeatedly to the entire country.

Let's just remember that the French were in control of the Nigerian mines in question, and that they were later called things like "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" for not backing Americas eventual decision to invade Iraq -- maybe they had good reasons, eh? Just like Germany, who also opposed the war and had in their custody "Curveball" the one and only source for continuing allegations that Saddam still possesed WMD's, except that the Germans knew - and told us - he was totally full of crap.

But the problem was regardless of the French calling "Bull" and the Germans saying "Curveball is full of shit", the White House just didn't care. They already had an agenda - the "facts were clearly being made to fit the policy."
Meanwhile, the C.I.A. had finally penetrated Saddam's inner sanctum by "turning" Foreign Minister Naji Sabri. Tenet delivered the news personally to Bush, Cheney, and other top officials in September 2002. Initially, the White House was ecstatic about this coup.

But, according to Tyler Drumheller, the C.I.A.'s chief of operations in Europe until he retired last year, that reaction changed dramatically when they heard what Sabri had to say. "He told us that they had no active weapons-of-mass-destruction program," Drumheller told 60 Minutes. "The [White House] group that was dealing with the preparation for the Iraq war came back and said they were no longer interested. And we said, 'Well, what about the intel?' And they said, 'Well, this isn't about intel anymore. This is about regime change.'"

So we have the Niger claim shot down repeatedly, a member of Saddam's inner circle - a credibel source - saying "They have no WMD's".

But what about the aluminum tubes that Iraq really was trying to buy?

At roughly the same time, highly placed White House sources such as Scooter Libby leaked exclusive "scoops" to credulous reporters as part of the campaign to make Saddam's nuclear threat seem real. On the same day the "mushroom cloud" slogan made its debut, The New York Times printed a front-page story by Michael Gordon and Judith Miller citing administration officials who said that Saddam had "embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb." Specifically, the article contended that Iraq "has sought to buy thousands of specially designed aluminum tubes, which American officials believe were intended as components of centrifuges to enrich uranium."

The next day, September 9, the White House received a visitor who should have known exactly what the tubes were for—[SISMI Chief] Nicolò Pollari. As it happens, the Italians used the same tubes Iraq was seeking in their Medusa air-to-ground missile systems, so Pollari presumably knew that Iraq was not trying to enrich uranium but merely attempting to reproduce weaponry dating back to an era of military trade between Rome and Baghdad. As La Repubblica pointed out, however, he did not set the record straight.

The harmlessness of the tubes was later confirmed by the Energy Dept, (a fact that was hidden by Hadley and Rove during the 04 elections). That's when the President joined the Marketing Campaign, and the CIA directly tried to stop him.
In early October, Bush was scheduled to give a major address on Iraq in Cincinnati. A few days earlier, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee report, the N.S.C. sent the C.I.A. a draft which asserted that Saddam "has been caught attempting to purchase up to 500 metric tons of uranium oxide from Africa—an essential ingredient in the enrichment process."

The C.I.A. faxed a memo to Hadley and the speechwriters telling them to delete the sentence on uranium, "because the amount is in dispute and it is debatable whether it can be acquired from the source. We told Congress that the Brits have exaggerated this issue. Finally, the Iraqis already have 550 metric tons of uranium oxide in their inventory." Iraq's supply of yellowcake dated back to the 1980s, when it had imported hundreds of tons of uranium ore from Niger and mined the rest itself. The C.I.A. felt that if Saddam was trying to revive his nuclear program he would be more likely to use his own stockpile than risk exposure in an illegal international deal.

But the White House refused to let go. Later that day, Hadley's staff sent over another draft of the Cincinnati speech, which stated, "The regime has been caught attempting to purchase substantial amounts of uranium oxide from sources in Africa."

This time, George Tenet himself interceded to keep the president from making false statements. According to his Senate testimony, he told Hadley that the "president should not be a fact witness on this issue," because the "reporting was weak." The C.I.A. even put it in writing and faxed it to the N.S.C.

But somehow, some magical way - the reference to Iraq and Uranium just kept popping back up.
The neocons were not done yet, however. "That was their favorite technique," says Larry Wilkerson, "stick that baby in there 47 times and on the 47th time it will stay. At every level of the decision-making process you had to have your ax out, ready to chop their fingers off. Sooner or later you would miss one and it would get in there."
In additional to the skeptism of the analysts and the direct admission by Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri that "We have no WMD's", in December Saddam released a full and complete disclosure which indicated that their WMD programs were long dead - several month's before the war and even before the inspectors were returned to Iraq. Never the less, Condoleeza Rice eventually dismissed this disclosure claiming that Saddam had failed to account for the Uranium from Niger, which as a matter of fact he had never tried to buy.
For the next two months, December 2002 and January 2003, references to the uranium deal resurfaced again and again in "fact sheets," talking-point memos, and speeches. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, and Rice all declared publicly that Iraq had been caught trying to buy uranium from Niger. On December 19, the claim reappeared on a fact sheet published by the State Department. The bureaucratic battle was unending. In light of the many differing viewpoints, the Pentagon asked the National Intelligence Council, the body that oversees the 15 agencies in the U.S. intelligence community, to resolve the matter. According to The Washington Post, in a January 2003 memo the council replied unequivocally that "the Niger story was baseless and should be laid to rest." The memo went immediately to Bush and his advisers.

Nevertheless, on January 20, with war imminent, President Bush submitted a report to Congress citing Iraq's attempts "to acquire uranium and the means to enrich it."
So the President distributed a lie to Congress, one that George Tenet had tried repeatedly to have removed. Next up - The American People.
At an N.S.C. meeting on January 27, 2003, George Tenet was given a hard-copy draft of the State of the Union address. Bush was to deliver it the next day. Acutely aware of the ongoing intelligence wars, Tenet was caught between the hard-liners in the White House, to whom he reported, and the C.I.A., whose integrity he was duty-bound to uphold. That day, he returned to C.I.A. headquarters and, without even reading the speech, gave a copy to an assistant who was told to deliver it to the deputy director for intelligence. But, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee report, no one in the D.D.I.'s office recalls receiving the speech.

The next day, despite countless objections from the C.I.A. and other agencies, Bush cited the charges from the fraudulent Niger documents in his speech. Later that year, Stephen Hadley accepted responsibility for allowing the sentence to remain in the speech. He said he had failed to remember the warnings he'd received about the allegations.

Failed to remember numerous phone calls and faxes directly from George Tenet? Not bloody likely. And how about having some outside experts take a look at the documents?

A week after Bush's speech, on February 4, the Bush administration finally forwarded electronic copies of the Niger documents to the I.A.E.A. Astonishingly, a note was attached to the documents which said, "We cannot confirm these reports and have questions regarding some specific claims."

On March 7, the I.A.E.A. publicly exposed the Niger documents as forgeries. Not long afterward, Cheney was asked about it on Meet the Press. He said that the I.A.E.A. was wrong, that it had "consistently underestimated or missed what it was Saddam Hussein was doing." He added, "We know [Saddam] has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons. And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons."

The jig was almost up... but not quite.
On March 14, Senator Jay Rockefeller IV, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote a letter to F.B.I. chief Robert Mueller asking for an investigation because "the fabrication of these documents may be part of a larger deception campaign aimed at manipulating public opinion and foreign policy regarding Iraq." But Senator Pat Roberts, of Kansas, the Republican chair of the committee, declined to co-sign the letter.
Five days later - we were at War with Iraq.

The article spends quite a bit of time looking the critical linkages between neocon Michael Ledeen and key events between the original forgery of the Niger documents and their eventually being mentioned in the 2003 State of Union - but in the end doesn't exactly succeed in pining the entire plot on his shoulders.
Despite all the speculation, there are no fingerprints connecting Ledeen to the Niger documents. Even his fiercest adversaries will concede this. "In talking to hundreds of people, no one has given us a hint linking Ledeen to the Niger documents," says Carlo Bonini of La Repubblica, which is facing a defamation suit by Ledeen in Italy.

Regardless of who fabricated the Niger documents, it is difficult to overstate the impact of the war they helped ignite. By May 18, 2006, the number of American fatalities was 2,448, while various methods of tracking American casualties put the number of wounded at between 18,000 and 48,000. At least 35,000 Iraqis have been killed. A new study by Columbia University economist Joseph E. Stiglitz, who won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2001, and Harvard lecturer Linda Bilmes concludes that the total costs of the Iraq war could top $2 trillion. That figure includes the long-term health-care costs for injured soldiers, the cost of higher oil prices, and a bigger U.S. budget deficit.
$2 Trillion dollars in a War without a valid reason? Sure, getting rid Saddam isn't entirely a bad thing, but there had to be a better way -- it certainly didn't cost this much blood and teasure to remove Slobidan Milosevic from power. Bosnia actually is a thriving Democracy now, instead of a hell-hole of War and Ethnic Cleansing during the reign of the elder (G.H.W.) Bush. But just wait - the fraud, waste and abuse of the Bush Administration isn't done yet. Not hardly.
Perhaps it is not surprising that the Bush administration is now rattling its sabers against Iran, which has been flexing its muscles with a new nuclear program. As a result, according to a Zogby poll in May, 66 percent of Americans now see Iran as a threat to the U.S. Zbigniew Brzezinski, national-security adviser to President Carter, has argued that starting the Iraq war was a catastrophic strategic blunder, and that taking military action against Iran may be an even bigger mistake. "I think of war with Iran as the ending of America's present role in the world," he told Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. "Iraq may have been a preview of that, but it's still redeemable if we get out fast. In a war with Iran, we'll get dragged down for 20 or 30 years. The world will condemn us. We will lose our position in the world."

No, I think we'll lose America itself, our budget will be crushed, our values and long since turned into tiny grains of dusk will be - the truth.

Vyan

Thursday, June 8

They're ALL Ann Coulter

On the front page of Democratic Underground is a journal entry by BobcatJH that deserve a second look - even a third.

The kind of bile that slipped tourettes-like from the lips of Ann Coulter on the Today Show on Tuesday is far from an isolated incident. That kind of vicious rhetoric has been the stock-in-trade of reich-wing punditry for quite some time.

Think about what Coulter and her defenders are really saying. First, that if you're in some way attached to a tragedy like September 11 or the war in Iraq, it's fine that you speak your mind - if, and only if, we agree with what you say. Second, that if what you say dissents from our views, not only do you not have the right to say it, but it's unfair for you to say it because for us to personally attack you makes us look like assholes. Well, if it looks like an asshole, sounds like and asshole and smells like an asshole, it's probably an asshole. And assholes they are.
Yes, because only an asshole, a professional asshole mind you, would sink so low - so regularly.

What Coulter and her Republican friends seem unable to do is disagree with someone simply on the merits of their arguments. Instead, they feel it necessary to call these widows "broads", "witches" and "harpies" and say things like, "I have never seen people enjoying their husbands' death so much." Then, when pressed on the sheer audacity of such statements, they bemoan the fact that they can't make personal attacks on the victims of tragedy - while they're making personal attacks on the victims of tragedy.
Hypocrasy much?

But the points is Coulter is far from alone in her style of statements.
When Republican partisans aren't defending Coulter's remarks by agreeing with them and needlessly piling on, they're excusing them as the absolute eventuality of a brilliant marketer and author trying to sell books. Let's for one moment play a thought game and assume that Coulter wasn't selling a book at the moment. Given her proven track record of ridiculously vile statements, do they really expect us to believe that Coulter would otherwise not be saying these things if she weren't selling a book? I can tolerate quite a bit of bullshit, but that assertion shatters my bullshit detector.

Actually on this point, I disagree with Bobcat -- I absolutely do think Ann Coulter would be saying exactly the same things if she wasn't promoting a book. It might be while hanging upside down from the corner of her spider-hole over a boiling cauldron and chanting "John Kerry Must Die" -- or more realistically over hors d'oeuvres at some upscale eatery with a room full of nose-high blue bloods from the Decider-class, but shes saying this crap because it's what she - and frankly many other Republicans in their own self-congratulatory superiority to every other human on the planet- very desperately need to believe.

And then of course you have the instant leader phenomenon.

What's more, those defending Coulter do so primarily not by distancing themselves or the Republican Party from the things she says, but by seeking out "balance". Every time public outrage over Coulter being Coulter reaches a peak, the Bill O'Reillys of the world tell us that there are far worse examples to be found on the "far left". Then, he places Coulter's remarks against those by, say, Ward Churchill or, as ABC did, Harry Belafonte. Subsequent liberal guests are forced into a trap by which Churchill or others like him are artificially given the same status as Coulter. But that couldn't be further from the truth.

Tell me, in what alternate universe is Churchill given the same prominence within the Democratic Party as Coulter is within the Republican Party? Belafonte, too. But that's how it works. Someone like me says something outrageous and, all of a sudden, I speak for the entire party. And I know, because it happened to me. I criticized Joe Lieberman last year for sharing a hug and a kiss with the president following his State of the Union address. Hardly outrageous, but that's beside the point.

No sooner had I written about Lieberman than Michelle Malkin, herself no stranger to Coulter Territory, cited my critique as as evidence Democrats were "livid about the public display of bipartisan affection between the two men." One thing: Malkin only cited me. No one else. Never mind that countless others felt the same way I did. I was the voice of the entire Democratic Party. So where's my check, Democratic National Committee? But seriously, folks, this is what they do.
Republicicans grabbing one off-hand comment by one person and turning it into an Party Platform Plank? Nah, that's never happened. Not like the RNC claiming Democrats have an Impeachment Agenda - while even the "very far-left" Congressman John Conyers has denied that very thing, and three pro-impeachment Democrats went down in flames on Tuesday.

The difference is that Belefonte and Churchill or even temporarily infamous school teacher Jay Bennish aren't professional Liberal Democratic Operatives - they don't make their living working for the Democratic Party and saying outrageous shit in order to support party objectives. They aren't on the secret mail list from the DNC on the "Message of the Day". Sometimes I wish they were, I wish that their were some real live fire-breathing bomb-throwing LIBERALS in the Democratic Party - because Democrats are constantly fucking up their message of the day, week and month. People likeBelefonte, Churchill and Bennish only become Conservative "Bogey-men" when people like Sean Allen (who secretly taped Bennish) wind up on Fox News - grinning like a chesire cat that they finally found one of dem dag-gum "libruls" to string up and burn at the stake. If there's any relationship between Bennish and the core members of the Democratic Caucas - I've yet to see it.

Coulter on the other hand, first grew to her infamy as a member of the "elves" working behind the scenes with Paula Jones to keep her case alive when her first set of attorney's walked away from it because it was ridiculously frivolous. Something the judge also figured out, eventually. She's been a Republican/Conservative Operative for a very long time.

That's when Bobcat brings it home, by pointing out that Ann Coulter is far from a "radical" within the Republican Party -- she's pratically mainstream. The reason she remains popular in the party isn't because the "pushes the envelope" it's because she dares to say publically exactly what many Republicans are already thinking.
Distancing themselves from Coulter won't cut it, either. The Republican Party is Ann Coulter's party. It's the party of O'Reilly calling the victims of Hurricane Katrina "drug-addicted" and "thugs". It's the party of Glenn Beck calling them "scumbags" and talking about "choking the life out" of Michael Moore. It's the party of Bill Bennett talking about "you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down". It's the party of Pat Robertson calling for Hugo Chavez's assassination. Want some more? Fine.

It's the party of Michael Reagan saying Howard Dean should be "hung for treason". It's the party of Brit Hume saying his first thought upon learning about the London terror attacks was, "Hmmm, time to buy". It's the party of John Gibson wishing those attacks on France. It's the party of Neal Boortz calling Rep. Cynthia McKinney a "ghetto slut". Get the picture?

Republicans, if you want to challenge my party to a tit-for-tat battle of outrageous statements, go right ahead. To paraphrase your president, bring it on. Because I know the final outcome before we even begin. Why? Because there's a little bit of Ann Coulter in every Republican. Because every conservative that defends her or even looks the other way while she spews her garbage is forgiving her for poisoning the debate. For lowering the bar. For appealing to the lowest-common denominator. And for that, they're all Ann Coulter.

Amen Brother Bobcat, Amen. Bobcat is preaching exactly what I said just a week ago about Republicans being obsessed with "Hating the Enemy" - and I didn't mean Zarqawi.

Update: Here's an excellent analysis on Kos about how the right uses the Overton window, and needs people like Coulter to say the most crazy shit possible in order to make all the rest of their ideas more acceptable and palatable.

Update II: It looks like Bully O'Leilly has wasted absolutely no time at all leaping to Coulter's defense. What a surprise, eh?
While questioning her methods, O'Reilly accepted Coulter's underlying point in attacking the 9-11 widows: "Miss Coulter has a good point about these women being used by one spectrum of the political debate in this country. That is a valid point." In her new book, Godless: The Church of Liberalism (Crown Forum, June 2006), Coulter pointed to certain 9-11 widows' disapproval of the Bush administration's foreign policy and their support for Sen. John Kerry's (D-MA) presidential campaign to argue, as she did on the June 6 edition of NBC's Today, that "the left" exploits a "doctrine of infallibility" by promoting these widows to make "a political point while preventing anyone from responding." As a result, Coulter said, conservatives "always have to respond to someone who just had a family member die" and appear to be "questioning the authenticity of the grief."

As purported examples of "far-left pundits" who are treated better than Coulter by the mainstream media, O'Reilly asserted filmmaker Michael Moore, whose film, Fahrenheit 9/11 (Miramax Films, June 2004), was "pretty brutal" and "said a lot of things about President Bush and other conservatives," and Air America Radio, which O'Reilly claimed "does the most vile, despicable things on a daily basis." In his June 8 interview with Coulter on The Radio Factor, O'Reilly likened Coulter to liberal Air America host Al Franken, stating that Coulter risked becoming "the right-wing Al Franken" because both "smear" others in their books.

As Media Matters for America has documented, O'Reilly has also compared Coulter to Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines, stating that both women spout "rhetoric" that is "extreme." O'Reilly was apparently referring to Maines's remark during a March 2003 performance in London, where she told the audience, "Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas."

But O'Reilly provided no specific examples of Moore, Franken, Maines or any other progressive individual or organization making any remarks similar to those made by Coulter.

If the best he can bring up is Franken, Moore and Maines -- O'Reilly is definately r-e-a-c-h-i-n-g to claim they are anywhere close to Coulter's flat-out slime. Now one Air America Host that I could buy in that category would be Mike Malloy - whose actually frightened openly liberal friends of mine away from the station - but not Franken. Besides unlike Coulter, Franken's jokes are genuinely funny.

And he fact checks.

Vyan

Ok, Zarqarwi is Dead - Can we go home now?

The Mission is Accomplished. Again.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, whose bloody campaign of beheadings and suicide bombings made him the most-wanted terrorist in
Iraq, was killed when U.S. warplanes dropped 500-pound bombs on his isolated safe house, officials said Thursday. His death was a long-sought victory in the war in Iraq.

The targeted airstrike Wednesday evening was the culmination of a two-week-long hunt for al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq. Tips from senior militants led U.S. forces to follow al-Zarqawi's spiritual adviser to the safe house, 30 miles outside Baghdad, for a meeting with the terror leader. The adviser, Sheik Abdul Rahman, was among seven aides also killed.

Two weeks? They only decided two weeks ago that al-Zarqawi needed some right fine killin'?
Just what nitwit us running things around here... Oh yeah - that one, never mind.

Already there are optimistic reports that this victory will give Bush a much needed bounce and deflate the prospects of the insurgency.

And certainly there is some legitimate credit due for finally killing the man that the Bush Administration let escape before the war, and who actually had been captured just before he was mistakenly released by the that Fine fresh New Iraqi Puppet Regime Demo(lition)ocracy we've managed to plaster together like a mismatched set of Legos(tm) and an Erector Set in Bahgdad.

Yay, for our side.

Can we bring our troops home now?

I know the President doesn't want to set "Timetables", he want to let the "Facts on the ground" dictate our troop deployment. But already, just hours after the news of Zarqawi's most excellent death the question is being asked.

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The White House has cautioned against expecting that the killing of Al-Qaeda's chief in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, would lead to a quick change in US troop levels in that country.

"The death of Zarqawi does not change overnight the situation," said spokesman Tony Snow. "Nobody expects a snap change."

Oh, let's get serious please. Nobody expects any change what-so-ever. It doesn't matter that we've supposedly trained almost twice as many Iraqi troops as the America Deployment.
We've got new troops already on their way for their next rotation.

PENTAGON A defense official says an Army brigade whose deployment to Iraq was put on hold just last month is now scheduled to be sent there this summer.

When the Pentagon announced the unit would not begin its deployment to Iraq as scheduled, it triggered talk that a U-S troop cut might be in the offing. But it now appears American commanders are sticking largely to their original plan for early summer rotations. And that leaves unclear when and if a sizable reduction in troop levels will begin this year.

Now with a simple search for "iraqi army" on Yahoo I can find a ton of reports on how the Iraqis are finally being rotated in to replace American Soldiers -- it's just that those reports seem eerily similar to me.

  1. Iraqi army takes over from US in rebellious area
    Reuters via Yahoo! News - Jun 06 7:05 AM
    An Iraqi army division has taken over from U.S. forces in patrolling an area in Anbar province, the U.S. military said on Tuesday, the first transfer on that level in the western heartland of the Sunni Arab insurgency.
  2. Iraqi army takes responsibility over part of restive Anbar from US
    Fort Wayne News Channel 15 - Jun 07 4:22 AM
    BAGHDAD, Iraq The U-S military command has officially handed over responsibility for patrolling a volatile part of Iraq to an Iraqi army unit.
  3. Iraqi army takes responsibility over part of restive Anbar from US
    KRIS-TV Corpus Christi - Jun 06 6:57 PM
    BAGHDAD, Iraq The U-S military command has officially handed over responsibility for patrolling a volatile part of Iraq to an Iraqi army unit. Iraq's First Army Division is...
  4. Iraqi army takes responsibility over part of restive Anbar from US
    KXLY-TV Spokane - Jun 06 4:28 PM
    BAGHDAD, IRAQ -- The US military command has officially handed over responsibility for patrolling a volatile part of Iraq to an Iraqi army unit. Iraq's First Army Division is now in control of security for an area in the Sunni Arab province of Anbar, between the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah.
  5. Iraqi army takes over in Anbar
    News Interactive - Jun 06 1:22 PM
    AN Iraqi army division has taken over from US forces in patrolling an area in Anbar province, the US military said today, the first transfer on that level in the western heartland of the Sunni Arab insurgency.
  6. Iraqi army takes over from US in rebellious area
    RedNova - Jun 06 9:11 AM
    BAGHDAD (Reuters) - An Iraqi army division has taken over from U.S. forces in patrolling an area in Anbar province, the U.S.
  7. Iraqi army takes responsibility over part of restive Anbar from US
    KBCI Boise - Jun 06 12:20 PM
    BAGHDAD, Iraq The U-S military command has officially handed over responsibility for patrolling a volatile part of Iraq to an Iraqi army unit. Iraq's First Army Division is now in control of security for an area in the Sunni Arab province of Anbar, between the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah.


Is it just me or that look exactly like one of Bush's Astro-Turfing Campaigns in full swing? Again, this is good news - it's what I think should have been happening for -- well, three fucking years now.

The real question is - will it change anything?

I severly doubt it, because why should the Bush Administration completely change their spots by actually doing the right thing rather than continue to manipulate the war on terror for political gain and let their next October surprise out of the bag before it can totally undermine the Democrats this November?

Not a chance.

Vyan

Nov 06: We're gonna need a bigger boat...

As you get up occasionally and walk away from the computer screen and interact with the non-online world (the supposedly "real" one), do you ever get an odd feeling of disconnection? Like you're living a parrellel existence that the "real person" on the street simply isn't quite getting, almost as if were living in a horror movie - but some of us just don't know it yet?

Like you're Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) from the Original Nightmare on Elm Street, fighting desperately to stay awake and explain to your dad (John Saxon) that this monster named "Freddie" is killing all your friends, including your boyfriend (Johnny Depp) by invading their dreams...

Well, that Nightmare is real, you are trapped in a terrifying dream - only "Freddie" is the Bush Administration and their Corporate Overlords - and you aren't going to be waking up anytime soon...

Or worse yet, you're Chief Brody on Amity Island in the middle of summer vacation season and you know in you're gut that there's a big f-ing shark out there in the water, but nobody else - especially not the city council who only care about making a profit on tourist season - will believe it until they start seeing bodies floating in with the tide. Maybe not even then.

Well, the bodies are starting to show up as I look at the results of tuesday's election results and I think we're gonna need a bigget boat.

We here on this site and elsewhere understand the gravity of the situation that America finds itself in, like being trapped in a pit of quicksand infested with rapid neo-conservative leaches - the values and ideals that this nation were founded upon have been ever-so-slowy, inch by inch, sinking into oblivion as our life (our blood, treasure and freedom) are sucked out of us.

It's a surprisingly peaceful process, as enzymes from the big business parasites who fuel the Bush Administration and now that cover nearly every portion of our extremeties extrete a steady stream of anesthesia (Gay Marriage, Immigration, Zarqawi) to numb the pain.

We have to keep focused on The Important Stuff (Froomkin).

President Bush is running around the country this week talking about immigration, and on Monday he gave a much-hyped speech on gay marriage. In neither case has he said anything remotely new, and yet the press coverage is intense.

But what about the stuff the White House doesn't want us talking about.

You know, the important stuff.

High on that very long list: The war in Iraq -- and particularly the atrocities allegedly committed by U.S. troops; also, the continued expansion of executive power -- including the administration's warrantless domestic spying.

People - not us of course, all those other people out there - don't yet take the important stuff seriously. They don't yet know how these things affect them in thier lives, in the real world. They don't yet feel the pain (except at the pump).

This is why we couldn't even win the vacant Republican seat left by criminal scum like Randy "Duke" Cunningham. Not only that but the three upstart challengers who called themselves the Impeach Team (Marcy Winograd CA-36, Charles Coleman, Jr. CA-28 and Bob McCloskey CA-29) all lost to their entrenched Democratic incumbents.

We're like Nancy and Chief Brody screaming - "Don't go back to sleep" and "Get out of the water" - and we know that to some of those we're trying to save, we sound like fucking lunatics, but we're still here - and we're gonna keep on screaming about the things that are gradually killing America.


And the Flaccid Do Nothing Congress that continues to let all this go on - unabbatted and unregulated.

Freddie and Bruce (The Shark) - under the guise of the neo-Conservative Cabal that has seeped it's way into both our government (Bushco) and top positions at many of our major corporations (Enron, Tyco, Global Crossing) - are still out there, circling, waiting for their next oppurtunity to strike.

Even though we suffered a series of defeats tuesday, we still have Jon Tester and Ned Lamont in the running. We still have an oppurtunity to show long term Faux-mocrats like Jane Harmon that it's not too late to grow a spine. Not yet.

We have to remember what's at stake.

The monster of neo-conservatism has been gathering steam for thirty years, it won't go down easily.

All we need is bigger boat...and a scuba tank, and one lucky shot...

(Although, having Ann Coulter display once again just how batshit crazy she is on National TV doesn't hurt. The truth is - she's far from alone in her viciousness.)

Vyan

Wednesday, June 7

Gay Marriage Amendment Blocked in Senate

From Bloomberg...

June 7 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Senate blocked a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage as a Republican-led election-year drive fell short of clearing a procedural hurdle.

The Senate voted 49-48 to shut off debate on the measure, 11 votes shy of the 60 needed to force the proposal to a final vote. Supporters said they took some solace from the fact that the measure got a public airing and picked up one more vote than the 48 who backed it in a similar procedural test in 2004.

``The people around this country who care passionately about this issue have the right to have their voices heard,'' said Senator John Thune, a South Dakota Republican.

Proposed amendments to the Constitution require the support of two-thirds of the members of the House and Senate -- 67 votes in the Senate -- and then passage by three-fourths, or 38, of the 50 state legislatures.

Now we all knew they were going to fail and fail badly, so what exactly was the point of this?

To create an issue to energize the base for November.

By yet again returning to the gay-bashing trough for votes, Republicans show exactly what their values are and that they care more about cultivating fear than they do about families.

For years, Republicans have claimed the the Liberal's "War on Poverty" was just a ruse. An attempt to make poor people dependant upon Democrats for government funds, and creating a permenent underclass of loyal Democratic voters.

Of course this argument is difficult to support when you look at the great success of Democrats at moving people out of poverty and growing the size of the middle-class when compared to Republians and Conservatives who've seen the ranks of the poor expand -- but it does allow us a window into the conservative mindset. Trying to help and protect people is bad because they might grow to expect if from you?

Frist vows to continue the fight...

Everyone knew it was going to fail and it did. So there was no surprise that the Senate voted this morning 49-48 to essentially keep debating a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, the Senate's way of giving a piece of legislation the kiss of death.

But death in the Senate does not mean the demise of a gay marriage amendment as an issue. Sen. Bill Frist, (R-Tenn.,) the Senate Majority Leader and a presidential hopeful, indicated this is an issue he intends on keeping alive through a statement his office issued after the vote.

"For thousands of years, marriage -- the union between a man and a woman -- has been recognized as an essential cornerstone of society," Frist is quoted in the statement as saying.

Ok, So what then can we say about this entire "Defense of Marriage" business when the people putting forth the idea knew from the beginning that it never had a chance? Most likely, that the goal has nothing to do with protecting marriage at all.

Just as was beautifully displayed by Jon Stewarts debate with Bill Bennett, the ultimate issues here involve the question of Freedom and the Human Condition.

The one thing I found a striking admission was Bennett's statement that..."When you start to define it out... and say anyone who loves each other can be married, you can have serious problems".

But seriously, what is wrong with a marriage being Based on Love? And exactly who is to define which pair of persons love is legitimate or not?

Stewart makes the point that the natural progression of America, is towards freedom. He generalizes, but specificaly there was a point in time when marriage between people of different races was prohibited by law. They were called the anti-miscegenation laws.

In the 18th, 19th, and early 20th century, many American states passed anti-miscegenation laws, often based on controversed interpretations of the Bible, particularly the story of Phinehas. Typically a felony, these laws prohibited the solemnization of weddings between persons of different ethnic groups and prohibited the officiating of such ceremonies. Sometimes the individuals attempting to marry would not be held guilty of miscegenation itself, but felony charges of adultery or fornication would brought against them instead; Vermont was the only state to never introduce such legislation. The constitutionality of anti-miscegenation laws was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1883 case Pace v. Alabama. In 1965, Virginia trial court judge Leon Bazile sentenced to jail an interethnic couple who got married in Washington, D.C., writing:

    Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.

In all honesty, is this arguement all that different from what's recently been said on the floor of the U.S. Senate by Republicans?


This decision was eventually overturned in 1967, 84 years after Pace v. Alabama, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Loving v. Virginia that

    Marriage is one of the 'basic civil rights of man,' fundamental to our very existence and survival.... To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law.

Just as the Fourteenth Amendment, which states that all persons within jurisdiction of the states will be afforded the equal protection of the law was eventually extended to including the rights of Women and Black, so too will it eventually include the rights of gays to love who they will, and indeed to consecrate that love via marriage and the creation of that essential value that Republicans and Conservatives claim to treasure most -- Family.

Vyan

O'Reilly reverts back to Bully with Maines

Newshounds has the details.

Apparently Bill O'Reilly was intimidated into faux politeness at the TIME Magazine fete where he met Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks face to face. He rescinded his gracious remarks and returned to his low-class ways of mocking the singer in his Talking Points Memo tonight 5/22/06.

O'Reilly claims he made a mistake the other day, trying to have a civil conversation with Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks, "a committed member of the far-left." He should have known better, he claims, but he felt sorry for her because of the death threats she has received. He gets that stuff and knows how disturbing it is.

Contiued ...

So, O'Reilly says, when he saw her at the TIME Magazine event he complimented her on her performance that evening and they "chatted" for a minute or two. Yesterday, Natalie's version of that conversation appeared in the New York Times . (At this point the edited quote appears and O'Reilly reads it. Edited out, among other things, is that O'Reilly said he liked the new song. Perhaps he was not being truthful with Maines, or he doesn't want his followers to be encouraged in any way to hear for themselves.)

"It's like, 'Just want to say that was great!' O'Reilly says, 'We really respect what you did. And we really respect that you stand up for yourself and blah blah blah.' "

O'Reilly continues, "Apparently Miss Maines also called me despicable. So much for polite discourse."

Having blamed her for "starting it" he tells her off, impolitely and publicly, hiding behind his desk:

"Let me put it in words even Natalie Maines can understand because I don't think she'll be holding a geo-political seminar anytime soon. (Comment: he learned that word from Jeremy Glick.) It's like, Natalie, I said I respected your right to say what you want, not, like, I respect what you said. That would be impossible, because no one has any idea why you dislike [Bush] or what your view of the world, like, really is. Whatever.

Truth be told, I'm as dense as Miss Maines. After I complimented George Clooney on his movie last October, he also trashed me in the press. Did I learn my lesson? Like, no."

This contemptuous rant was in the greater context of warning Democrats running for office with whom and what they should avoid associating: "far-left smear sites", namely Media Matters and Think Progress, and "far-left fanatics, who are not looking out for you (points at camera) or anyone else who doesn't share their foolish view of the world."

O'Reilly also panned students at the "ultra-liberal" New School in NYC for voicing dissent at John McCain's commencement speech there. O'Reilly childishly oversimplified the issue for his viewers: " These students apparently believe the Senator is a bad person while they are good, so they tried to demean him . The result was shame upon the New School, as "most" Americans understand that these students have done little or nothing for their country, and their actions are deplorable. Yet this exposition is standard procedure for the far left, which tolerates no dissent."

Speaking of not learning lessons, O'Reilly has yet to fess up and apologize for his repeated smearing of American Soldiers who were massacred Nazi SS at Malmedy, Belgium during WWII - mistaken claiming they the U.S. soldiers commited a "War Crime". This in addition to the fact that he has attempted to use Malmedy as a way to excuse and justify both Abu Ghraib and Haditha.

With that in mind it's not that surprising that he would be nice to Maines, only to turn around and immediately attack her again for not buying into his bull-crap.

O'Leilly is a classic bully, one who'll bash anyone when he thinks he can get away with it, but will curl up in a ball and cry "uncle" as soon as anyone with clout and integrity actually bother to respond to his smears.

Just like the Mark of the Coulter, he think's he has an absolute right to speak, and insult and defame, but no one else has a right too if they happen to disagree with him. They should just "Shut Up".

Too bad for you they're not going to anytime soon Billy.

Vyan

Stewart v Bennet on Marriage and the Human Condition

Jon Stewart takes on Former Reagan Education Secretary and Right-Wing Radio Host Bill Bennet - a man who think pulitzer prize winning journalists should go to jail - From Crooks and Liars.

I shouldn't be surprised anymore when I see Jon Stewart take a conservative ideologue to the woodshed because he does it every time when he tries. Bill Bennett is the latest one to get played by Stewart. The topic is gay marriage and once again Jon gets the better of a conservative pundit.

Video-WMP Video-QT (not the whole segment)

(rough transcript)

Stewart: So why not encourage gay people to join in in that family arrangement if that is what provides stability to a society?

Bennett: Well I think if gay..gay people are already members of families...

Stewart: What? (almost spitting out his drink)

Bennett: They're sons and they're daughters..

Stewart: So that's where the buck stops, that's the gay ceiling.

Bennett Look, it's a debate about whether you think marriage is between a man and a women.

<>Stewart:I disagree, I think it's a debate about whether you think gay people are part of the human condition or just a random fetish.

Jon does such a good job of handling Mr. "Abort Every Black Baby" his head on a pike, I don't have much too add.

Vyan