Arianna writes about the Republican Palace in Iraq.

I call it the Republican Crony Club.

Have A Nice Weekend

RADIO AUSTRALIA: "North Korea says nuclear stand-off 'at brink of war'"

Rice's testimony supports Clarke

In her testimony before the 9/11 Commission, Condoleezza Rice spoke repeatedly about "structural and legal impediments", "structiral problems", "structural inability", etc., etc. The basic idea is that the failure to respond to warnings about terrorism was because of problems in the bureaucracy, and that the Bush administration was working on these problems when 9/11 hit.

Richard Clarke knew all about structural problems. When Clinton's National Security Adviser Sandy Berger "convened the Principals [Cabinet-level officials] in crisis mode", he was taking steps to get all of the top people in the Clinton Administration to work at overcoming the structural problems of the system.

In the Clinton Administration the top people worked to overcome the structural problems. In the Bush administration, they didn't. The bureaucrats were the same in both cases.

The problem wasn't structure, but leadership. The ones responsible are Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Cheney, Bush -- and above all, Rice.

We need more partisanship

Mild-mannered Kevin Drum (now writing for the insanely-moderate Washington Monthly) has linked to a wonkish yet fluffy article which bemoans America's increasing partisanship and suggests some nice bipartisan reasons for it. (One of the reasons was people becoming more partisan in a heavily partisan environment just to fit in).

The viciousness that has won the Republicans a lot of elections during the last decade or so is not mentioned, of course, nor is the stolen 2000 Presidential election.

Here's my slightly-edited comment, which was a response to a poster named Carl:

Carl is right. The article didn't mention people becoming LESS partisan (perhaps by making remarks about "pandering to the core constituency") in order to be accepted. I mean the various counter-intuitive, DLC Democrats -- for example, the leadership of the Democratic Party.

While I have been harsh in the past about the wimpiness of the Democratic leaders, I now grudgingly admit that to a degree it is a reasonable response to a situation in which you are not the majority party and you have to work with the majority to get anything done, combined with the fact that a considerable proportion of the Dems are personally half-Republican and will cave in a showdown.

But Democratic leadership should be thinking a lot harder of ways to take back the majority, rather than resigning themselves to minority status. Their main leadership strategy that I've seen is to wait for the Republicans to move even further right so that the Dems can pick up "moderate" Republicans of the McCain type (thus moving further right themselves.)

I am also convinced that Peretz and a number of other significant voices in the party (i.e., his stable of punks) are much more intent on destroying the left wing of the party than they are in putting the Democrats in power.

The partisanship seen on the left is mostly anger at the 2000 election and the generally vicious trend of the Republicans, especially over the last decade. In other words, Democratic partisanship is a belated response to vicious Republican partisanship (a response which is replacing the DLC "submissive wetting" strategy).

Some of the demographic and other wonk explanations in the article might be partly true, but overall I think that it is fundamentally misleading.

The more partisan the Democrats get, and the more partisan Democrats there are, the happier I'll be. The two-party system only works if there are plenty of partisans, as the Republicans very well know. We have to learn to play the game the way it's played.

Time to cut some brush

The Washington Post via Josh Micah Marshall:

"Bush has spent all or part of 500 days in office at one of his three retreats, or more than 40 percent of his presidency."

The whole Bush family has always taken the whole month of August off. If you want an image of The Bosses, forget about top hats and cigars and the other cartoonist's cliches. Just think of every member of a large family being able to say "Oh, by the way, I'm taking August off".

That's not the common American experience. Few workers can schedule their vacations whenever they want to, and few indeed get a whole month off. On my mother's 80th birthday we moved heaven and earth so that finally 20 out of 22 children, inlaws, and grandchildren were able to be there at some point during the same week.

In France, of course, because of a strong labor movement and strong labor laws, most people do get a full month off (often in August). And any good Republican can tell you how terrible a thing that is, when it's workers who are able to do it. And the Republicans have done a good job of making sure that that kind of thing doesn't happen here.

Supposedly Bush "works from home". Most people have heard that one before too. Sometimes the people working at home actually do work, and sometimes you're pretty sure they don't, but almost always you know that they're able to do it because they're the boss. As Bush says about himself, they're the boss and don't have to answer any questions.

Of course, we can also ask ourselves whether Bush has ever really been management either. Harken and Arbusto seem mainly to have been shell companies used to launder funds being transferred from one mysterious entity to another, like a Mafia-owned cafe. And with the Texas Rangers, Bush lent his name and face as a front, but otherwise was a silent partner.

Of course, there's a standard troll answer to this: "Work smarter, not harder! Look how hard Jimmy Carter worked, and look at the terrible results he got!"

Which might be fine, except that the wheels are coming off Bush's cart. The biggest job loss since Hoover, and a lose-lose war of attrition in Iraq. Bush's campaign only has two things to run on: first, smears against Kerry, and second (if things improve slightly) talk about how "He turned things around". Which amounts to running against himself, because he can't afford to compare himself to Clinton. "Things are a lot better now than they were during my first 3 1/2 years!"

Sounds like a good time for the trolls to be spending some time with their families. I bet there's a lot of brush to cut on those little troll ranches.


What Really Happened Today

What really happened today is we learned about "the memo." You're going to be hearing a lot about this memo.

Bush Administration Warned 'Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States' - Center for American Progress:
"Two and a half years after 9/11, the American public learned today that President Bush received explicit warnings that Osama bin Laden was planning to attack the United States -- including activities 'consistent with preparations for hijacking.' Yet, there was no domestic follow-up by the Bush administration. No high level meetings. No sense of urgency. No warnings to FBI agents across the country.

  • We now know why the Bush administration has been hiding the Aug. 6, 2001, intelligence briefing for the president, called 'Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States.' All of the 9/11 Commission members -- Republicans and Democrats -- have asked the Bush administration to declassify this document. There are precedents for releasing presidential daily briefings and the American public deserves to know what President Bush knew and when."
OK, on August 6, 2001, Bush gets a CIA briefing memo titled 'Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States'. It says they're going to hijack airplanes. The next day Bush left on the longest vacation any President had taken and the administration ignores the warning. (Read this one for a real kick - but look at the date first.)

I think this is going to sink in. The title of the memo makes it too easy to see that they just blew it off. And the things they have been saying - that they were never warned, even that the only things in this memo were in obscure footnotes... AND that they have been doing everything in their power to block the public from learning about this memo. Now we know why.

Meanwhile, Bush is on vacation again, while Iraq falls apart. As of the last time I turned on the news (a few hours ago) at least 41 American soldiers dead in combat so far this week.

Today may have been it for Bush.

You've Probably Heard It

An e-mail I just received:

Have you heard of the No-Carb Diet for 2004?

NO C-heney

NO A-shcroft

NO R-umsfeld

NO B-ush

and absolutely NO RICE!

Why Are We In Iraq?

A simple question. Why are we in Iraq now? There is no threat to the U.S. No weapons of mass destruction. Saddam and his sons no longer run the country.

The people in our military did not sign up and put their lives on the line to defend Iraq or to build democracy in the Middle East (a cover story for going and getting the oil -- watch what they DO, not what they SAY; putting Chalabi in charge in Iraq has NOTHING to do with building democracy. NOTHING.) These people signed up and put their lives on the line to defend America, their families, you, and me. That might sound extremely self-centered, but we're when talking about asking people to do and die I don't think America's youth signed up to lay their lives down for reasons having so little to do with the defense of America.

I think that being self-centered about lives might be a good idea. It is supposed to keep us from doing stupid things like starting wars.

So now we are in Iraq BECAUSE we are in Iraq. Now that we have invaded we can't leave. It's a fact on the ground now. As Chalabi said, with a smug smile, what happened in the past doesn't matter because we're in Baghdad now.

Bush wants to cut and run, starting June 30. Great. Leave the place a mess, like Afghanistan. Put corrupt cronies in charge to keep the oil flowing our way, and bug out, timed perfectly for the election. Elections in Afghanistan in October, troops out of Iraq by October, too. Chaos delayed until December but the past won't matter because we're in the White House for good now.

But we have a "we broke it, we fix it" situation. Now we have to stay because if we leave now the country descends into chaos -- and it will be our fault if that happens. The Geneva Convention says we are responsible because we invaded. AND the country could actually become what Bush said it was. It could become a cauldron of terrorism directed at the United States -- developing weapons of mass destruction, with terrorist training camps in the country and financing terrorist activities around the world. So we have to stay.

None of us signed up or this. I think the country is going to start realizing this. I think the people in the military are realizing it already. I think the people who were thinking of joining the military are realizing that, too -- so I think the draft is inevitable now.

I think Bush has created the terrorist nightmare. It's only just beginning now. And we can't leave.

Update - A comment I left somewhere:

A cousin's son is in the Marines. He's in Recon and went into Iraq BEFORE the war started. People with relatives or friends over there don't talk so much about the strategic benefits or higher meanings of all of this, they talk about their relatives and friends and worry that they'll be OK. Strategery and higher meaning I guess is for the country's leaders - NONE of whom have relatives at risk. I guess that's why they're our leaders? Because they can strategize and move chess pieces around the world without worrying about it hitting home.

I think about all the people in the military who signed up and put their lives on the line to DEFEND AMERICA. I don't know when there has ever been such a betrayal of them as this. It could be reasoned that Vietnam was about defending America, but not this. No way this.

Yes, it's late. I can't sleep tonite for some reason.

More here. Mindblowing.


Expect a Terror Alert

President Bush is vacationing today, after a pleasant day yesterday joking around on the campaign trail.

Meanwhile the nightmare in Iraq has started to unfold. The Shias and the Sunnis are working together, there is fighting in seven or more different cities, and some of the Iraqi police we trained are joining the rebels.

Nothing Bush has said about the war has been true, and the planning for the occupation was insanely optimistic and unbelievably sloppy. How can anyone still support the guy?

In the Washington Post, Meyerson says what we've all been saying -- dump Bush. Even George Will seems shaken, as if he's starting to realize how worthless our President is. (Though all he really recommends is a delay in the fake transfer of sovereignty).

Bush has to counterattack, but he's running out of tricks. Expect the worst.

Meyerson -- Washington Post:

"The only unequivocally good policy option before the American people is to dump the president who got us into this mess, who had no trouble sending our young people to Iraq but who cannot steel himself to face the Sept. 11 commission alone."

George Will in the Washington Post:

"Not much else having gone as planned since the fall of Baghdad, a delay in the transfer of sovereignty, scheduled for June 30, should not be unthinkable. A delay would trigger violence. But, then, the transfer on schedule probably would be preceded by an offensive by the insurgents. The transfer is to be from the Coalition Provisional Authority, whose authority does not extend throughout the country. A U.S. official in Baghdad says Sadr will be arrested if he appears "any place that we control."


Pandagon: Corporate Taxation

I left a comment to this post: Pandagon: Corporate Taxation about whether companies pass taxes along to their customers: (ETMMLB)
Taxes are not a COST. You don't even know your taxes until the end of the year, after you figure your costs and revenues. THEN you compute your taxes. So you can't pass on your taxes to customers.

AND, if you did add something for taxes, what about your competitors? They don't have to, and that makes them more competitive because they aren't tacking on some extra price, so why would you add to the price?

AND if you are not optimally pricing your product... I mean, if you are not charging what you can get ALREADY you are n't doing a good job.

This argument that companies pass on their taxes to their customers is so silly.

A corporation SHOULD be taxed. Otherwise there is no reason for us to charter them. We let corporations do business (and give the stockholders benefits like limited liability) IN ORDER TO BENEFIT US. So if they make money, we tax them and have schools and stuff. Jeeze. How far have we been pushed by this right-wing stuff?
And now thinking about it, the people who really ARE taxed when corporations are taxed are the rich clucks who own most of the stock in corporations. So by convincing people not to tax corporations they're convincing the public to give the rich clucks a break and tax themselves instead. Nice work if you can get it.

What think you?

Iraq seems to be falling apart

I know that no one comes here for late-breaking news, but it's Tuesday afternoon and all hell has broken loose in Iraq. At least 20 coalition troops have died in the last 24 hours, and the uprisings seem to be by many different groups in at least 4 different places -- and the Fallujah offensive is continuing.

Juan Cole has speculated (and mild-mannered Kevin Drum seems to agree) that hawkish elements in the administration, sensing confusion (!!) at the top, have deliberately escalated military action in order to leave the relative doves in the State Department a fait accompli which would be hard to withdraw from -- Ariel Sharon's old "facts on the ground" trick.

I have never gone wrong so far in expecting the worst from the Bush administration. The worst we can see here would be continued escalation (with each American death being used as a reason for further escalation) coordinated with vicious domestic attacks on the patriotism of any American who criticizes or opposes the Bush plan. War is going to be the only thing Bush has to sell this fall, and a hot war of revenge would be easier to sell than the piecemeal war of attrition we have been seeing up until today.

I don't see any possible positive outcome in Iraq itself, but I can easily imagine that if the killing continues the Bush propaganda machine might be able to spin his disastrous failure into a heroic defense of freedom -- and re-election.

I was not active in the last three anti-war movements, and I only really opposed the second Iraq War. However, if we see Bush continuing to escalate the killing while demonizing his opponents and supercharging his election campaign, I think that the time to take to the streets wil have come.

Even if you never call your Congressman, call him now.





The Truth Really IS "Out There"

Cross-posted at The American Street.

The Bush campaign is marketing a candidate as a consumer product. Where Senator Kerry talks of "issues" and "has positions" the Bush campaign talks about "feelings and values" and avoids specifics. As a person with a marketing background I understand that the Bush approach is very effective. After all, his campaign is handled by the kind of people who sell tobacco, convincing people to kill themselves and hand over their money while doing it; they are very good at what they do. But as a citizen I blanch.
Sales and marketing is not about "truth," it's about forming an emotional attachment with a "brand." Consumers tend to make purchases seeking short-term emotional satisfaction rather than long-term value. They buy "brands" based on emotional things like a "new car smell" or because "nothing says loving like something form the oven." (Psychological studies show that this ad's target demographic -- homemakers -- feel they best express their love for their families by cooking or baking things for them. So instead of selling taste or ease-of-baking or other attributes, they sell "says loving.")

When we hear that Bush is trying to "define" Kerry, it means he is trying to establish a "brand identity" and an emotional attachment in the consumers' mind. (Negative emotions for Kerry, positive for Bush.) Bush is selling himself as the "low taxes, leadership" brand. Here's the key: in branding you only have to repeat it over and over, not actually be it, for the brand identity to stick. "Compassionate Conservative" is a great example of this. By repeating over and over that he was a "compassionate conservative" Bush BECAME that in the public mind. You don't have to BE it, you just have to SAY you're it. It works.

Unfortunately segments of the American public are increasingly trained to see themselves as consumers rather than citizens, so there we are. Bush blasts out another $10 million in ads funded by corporate special interests, and we see poll numbers move in his favor. (Bush is the "low taxes and leadership brand." Can you tell me what brand Kerry is?)

Just this morning in a Washington Post article about the Republican National Committee’s Ed Gillespie, we read the following:
"Gillespie's mission is stripped-down simple: He has a presidential election to win. You do that by having the most votes (okay, usually). To get the most votes, you expand your party. To expand your party, you make your message very clear, distilling policy until a voter can throw it down like a shot of whiskey."
And, of course, you repeat it over and over. And again.

Most of us see Bush ads saying Kerry will raise taxes, or won’t protect us from terrorists, and we are insulted, and we wonder how anyone can be stupid enough to believe this stuff. We know lies when we hear them, and we resent that they would think we are stupid enough to be tricked by such deceptions. (We know that the Bush smell is anything but "new car" -- not by a long, long shot.) But unfortunately many, many people are not as well-informed as we are, and are busy, and don't know much about Kerry or about politics in general, so these ads do have an effect. Keep this in mind: polls show that most people STILL believe that Iraq was responsible for 9/11! Meanwhile Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the Right are telling people not to believe any news other than FOX.

So the question is: How do we -- informed online blog-readers -- fight this? How do we do our part? We fight it with information. There is a tremendous power that comes from lots and lots of people with good information. And there are lots and lots of us. We must get more and more people connected to information and news sources that are willing to tell it like it is. There is a list of weblogs on the left side of this page, and every one of them is a great resource. (Start with BuzzFlash and go there every day.) Then we take our information out there and talk to people, and persuade them.

Note – I’m talking about us here, the well-informed, online, active people. In hi-tech marketing we would be called the "early adaptors" and "influencers." We still need -- more than ever -- the short, condensed, focus-group-tested sound-bytes that convey our message in a few words, designed to be repeated over and over. That must also be there for the general public, and for US to use as talking points. And that's the job of the professionals. (I hope they're working on this -- where's my talking points?)

Air America Radio is off to a great start, and I can feel the positive effect it has on our morale and our courage to FINALLY hear a counter to the incessant 24-hour 7-day right-wing pro-Republican propaganda. It is just so refreshing and I hope you are listening, too. (You can listen online from anywhere in the world by visiting their website.) One thing that I find very encouraging is that I am hearing them using bloggers as their pundits! Last week I heard Atrios, and Kos, and Josh Marshall on the air! This is a significant development because it further legitimizes what we are doing here, offering an alternative voice.

What've I Been Saying?

Ed the Quipper, about the head of the Republican National Committee:
"To get the most votes, you expand your party. To expand your party, you make your message very clear, distilling policy until a voter can throw it down like a shot of whiskey."
Bush is the "lower taxes, leadership" brand. Can anyone tell me what Kerry's short, simple message is?

Who Gets the Money?

Today columnist Bob Herbert writes, We're More Productive. Who Gets the Money?: "American workers have been remarkably productive in recent years, but they are getting fewer and fewer of the benefits of this increased productivity. "

Or, as I like to put it, Who is our economy FOR, anyway?


The Other Side of the Story

People complain that we at STF don't give the opposition a chance to be heard, so I've decided to offer equal time to "Al" (none@none.com), who diligently defends our President on The Washington Monthly comments board and elsewhere. The topic is the claim that the Republicans have been demanding that Bush and Cheney be questioned together because they're worried that Bush will embarass himself if he doesn't have a handler present.

I have deleted an unfortunate personal attack on Kevin Drum who, whatever he is, is a happily married man and in no sense a "fucking" liar.

Al speaks:

"This can easily be dealt with, and I'm confident that the President will do so in his usual masterful fashion.

Get Bush's toughest press critics together (yes, even the fearsome David Broder -- Bush isn't afraid of anyone.) Bring out the gum, pass it around so everyone knows that it's really gum. Have him put the gum in his mouth in such a way that everyone can clearly see it. Then have [him] walk across the room and back without falling down, and the whole controversy is over and done with.

And for a clincher, he can confidently and unerringly reach around and grab his butt with both hands, looking all of those bastards straight in the eye. A lot of people are going to have egg on their faces.

And the whole story will disappear. Just like the fake Plame controversy, and the fake WMD conbtroversy, and the fake cocaine controversy, and the fake AWOL controversy, and the fake drug bill controversy, and the fake "jobless recovery" controversy, and the fake Harken controversy, and the fake Halliburton controversy, and the fake Florida election controversy, and all the other BS that the Democratic conspiracy theorists have dreamed up in order to cripple a lawfully elected President who is proudly supported by over two-thirds of the American voters.

People say that Cheney is worried about the results of the gum-chewing photo-op and wants to videotape it just in case, but that's complete lying bullshit......"