The Greatest American President, Part II

OK, it turns out that there were already people calling Ronnie the greatest American President of all. Links below.

Lots of people called him the Greatest American President Since Lincoln, or the Greatest American President of the Twentieth Century. Nobody actually came out and said that Lincoln sucked, but then I didn't dig very deep either. The most famous person so far to call Reagan the greatest President of all was Larry Klayman of Judicial Watch, who is mostly famous for his Clinton-impeachment activities. One admirer proposed replacing the evil French Statue of Liberty with a statue of Ronald Reagan: here's the Google cache.

One contrarian, however, calls Martin Van Buren the greatest of American Presidents.

Klayman: http://www.judicialwatch.org/archive/2000/430.shtml

Gallup poll: http://www.motherjones.com/news/feature/2001/03/reagan.html

Family values: http://www.familyfirst.com/archives/003148.html

Military: http://www.military.com/HomePage/UnitCreatedPage/0,11003,200190,00.html

Tennessee: http://www.knoxcounty.org/current/mrrmabe.html

Free term paper: http://www.freefortermpapers.com/show_essay/32844.html

The Greatest American President of Them All?

No, I don't think so either, but I am willing to bet that someone will say so.

Another in the E-mail

Another one just in:
President Bush gets out of his helicopter in front of the White House carrying a baby pig under each arm.

The Marine guard snaps to attention, salutes, and says: "Nice pigs, sir."

Bush replies: "These are not pigs, these are Texan Razorback Hogs. I got one for Vice-President Cheney, and I got one for Defence Secretary Rumsfeld."

The Marine again snaps to attention, salutes, and says, "Nice trade, sir."

Fools rush in: What the hell is going on? (Part II)

I'm a bit astonished about the lack of speculation about what's going on in Iraq, the CIA, the State Department, the Bush Administration, etc. Probably it's a sign that nobody really knows, and it's so messy that no one is willing to take a chance. So fools rush in, etc.

What are the relationships between Chalabi's disgrace, Allawi's nomination as Prime Minister, and Tenet's resignation? The only people who seem to be talking are Chalabi's neocon defenders, who blame the liberals, but fail to mention that the raids on Chalabi seemingly had President Bush's support.

The fact that Chalabi's "security chief" Aras Karim Habib has apparently taken refuge in Iran makes Chalabi's guilt seem pretty probable. While the U.S. always knew that Chalabi was in contact with Iran, his willingness to compromise American security the way he did apparently went beyond what we were willing to accept. There were already good reasons not to want Chalabi is the Iraqi head of state, and raiding his office and accusing him of spying had the added advantage of putting the neocons on the spot. So my theory is that the anti-Chalabi activity comes from the CIA, who got Bremer's and possibly Bush's support (though it might also be possible that Bremer simply presented Bush with a fait accompli.)

Meanwhile Brahimi of the UN, seemingly with US approval (probably by Powell's State Department), had selected Adnan Pachachi, a moderate, secular Sunni, as the first Prime Minister of the new Iraq. The IGC, however, which was not really supposed to play a big role in the process (a process which had been devised specifically for the purpose of freezing the IGC out) refused to accept Pachachi (after smearing him as an American tool) and instead nominated one of their own members, Iyad Allawi.

Allawi has a rather unsavory reputation as a former Ba'athist who worked with Western intelligence services while in exile from Iraq. He is a political rival of Chalabi, but also his nephew, and it's most reasonable to guess that their clan hedged their bets by placing members in more than one faction. Chalabi himself is now cultivating the Shia leader Sistani and has declared his support for Allawi. Both Chalabi and Allawi are making anti-American nationalist noises from time to time, though Allawi has asked the American troops to stay to protect him (though at least he didn't call them "blond slaves" the way the Saudis do). One issue between Chalabi and Allawi is that Allawi opposed Chalabi's de-Ba'athification campaign, and Ba'ath people are increasingly being rehabilitated and taken into government service.

My interpetation here is that Chalabi was ultimately behind the IGC's initiative, and that the CIA and State Department endorsed it, willingly or not, at the cost of alienating the U.N. one more time and also of making the State Department look like idiots. (And Bush too, since he's been talking about the U.N.'s role for over a month). So the CIA is in the driver's seat so far, and we can look forward to a tough, old-fashioned Iraqi police state which the Chalabis will loot as fast as possible (given the precariousness of their mandate). "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.'

So why did Tenet quit? Well, the rest of the CIA thought he was too close to Bush and didn't fight hard enough against the neocon deceptions, so they wanted him out. And the CIA is going to be heavily-criticized in the 9/11 report, and he can be the fall guy for that. And the neocons all hate him too, for completely different reasons. So even though the CIA is winning, Tenet isn't.

The Bush goal, seemingly, is to neutralize the Iraq situation in any way whatever, regardless of who it is that ends up holding nominal Iraqi sovereignty. An election looms, and Bush will accuse the naysayers of treason, etc.

And meanwhile, the Plame affair grinds on. What's with that?

My previous post.

Chalabi is probably the smartest guy in the game

William Beeman: "The choice of Iyad Allawi as prime minister designate of Iraq further cements Ahmad Chalabi's hold on power -- virtually guaranteeing that he and his family will be the future rulers of Iraq."

[Allawi] ran the IGC's security committee, which is responsible for training the new Iraqi police, army and intelligence services. However, an overall impression within informed circles in Iraq is that his excessive focus on security will push him in the direction of building strong security at the expense of even stymieing efforts to build democracy.

Adnan Pachachi, the man who turned down the Iraqi presidency earlier this week, accused rivals on the now defunct Governing Council of indulging in "dirty politics at its worst" in organising a smear campaign against him.

Put another way, the demand to bring U.S. troops home will be presented by the president - at the Security Council and in the campaign - as aid and comfort to the terrorist enemies of Iraq and America.

“Short-term expediency to get George Bush re-elected” is the verdict on the new transitional Iraqi administration from leading Iraqi expert Toby Dodge.

Chalabi cultivates Sistani

Sistani's support for the new government is conditional

Vincent Cannistero on Aras Karim Habib

Poll: Are you FOR Kerry, or AGAINST Bush?

O.K. folks, question time:

How many of you are FOR Kerry, more than you are AGAINST Bush? What's your sense on how the people around you feel? Do you know any Kerry partisans? What's the ratio of Kerry enthusiasts to Bush bashers in your circle?


Bush Conspiring With Foreign Government to Influence Election

Go read Whiskey Bar: Oil's Well That Ends Well.

This is a blatant as can be, and as illegal as can be. But there is no law, because The Party controls the Justice Dept. and the Congress and the media and everyone who matter will look the other way. Just like always.

ENRON TAPES - California energy markets: deliberately designed "... to provide wealth for Enron and others of its ilk."

I don't want to flood Dave's blog, but I have to say this:

Even more astonishing to me than the sheer calumny of Enron's trading staff, was the sheer absurdity of the way the California energy market was structured... I'm not an expert here, by any means, but it is my understanding that California choose to adopt a "bi-lateral" trading system - one in which sellers and producers contracted directly with each other to buy and sell power, and no public "market clearing price" existed in most cases... a structure that Dr. Carl Pechman contends, in his testimony of February 27th, 2004 (page 59 and onward) was deliberately fostered by Enron, with the goal of ultimately being able to profit from it due to what they believed were superior methods of garnering information about the true market price of energy (many of them based on "inside information" gained from various deals they had put together to manage other companies energy trading and sales). This is opposed to a "stock market" like model (POOLCO is the term, see pages 62-65 of Dr. Pechman's testimony), in which there are publicly disclosed bids and offers, which all eventually resolve to a single market price.

Here's a direct quote from Dr. Pechman's testimony:

"...many of the traders were benefiting from a market that they themselves had helped design. The market had been designed to be very inefficient to allow gaming, and to provide wealth for Enron and others of its ilk."

The following paragraphs of his testimony describe, in detail, exactly what Enron did to ensure that inefficient markets were created - ones with plenty of opportunities to "steal" ... oops, let me rephrase that, "arbitrage" millions of dollars a day, and the reasons why the inefficiencies in question were artificial in nature. If you care about understanding what happened to California, as I said in a previous posting, you've GOT to read Dr. Pechman's testimony (warning: 15 megabyte PDF). It is only 98 pages, and worth every minute spent downloading and reading it.

What this translated into, in practice, was an utterly insane system in which you had traders sitting around randomly calling each other to say, "Hey, you got any energy? No? Have you heard that anyone else is selling?" "Yeah, I hear that Bob over in Podunk's been selling for the past few hours." Then the energy trader calls Bob at Podunk Energy, Inc. and Bob says, "Nope, sold it all a few minutes ago... but I hear that Mary over at Pipsqueak's got some. Don't think it'll come cheap though." Then the energy trader calls Mary at Pipsqueak, and they cut a deal - often at a price that varied significantly from the one the trader cut just a few minutes before with someone else. Sometimes, Enron's traders would arrange to buy energy from one company, and then, before closing the deal, put them on hold, call up another company, and sell it at a premium, before going back and closing the first deal. Pretty cool if you're running a swap meet, not very cool if you're a ratepayer at either end of that deal.

Meanwhile, Joe Blow a couple of desks over is spending half his day trying to track down a 2 megawatt discrepancy in a power schedule. And Anna Podana is trying to figure out why her notes say Enron sold 25 megawatts to Bigassenergyco, but Bigassenergyco says they bought 30. When she calls them up, the trader over there says, "Oh yeah, sorry about that, I guess I wrote it down wrong." Doh!

I'm serious. This is the kind of craziness I listened to every day. It is a bleedin' miracle that the system worked as well as it did! The system was completely dependent on very labor intensive and error-prone manual accounting / papershuffling (whole categories of people existing to do nothing more than call each other up all day and arrange accounting "swaps" that canceled out debts the companies owed each other - at least this was my understanding of what they were doing) and subject to simple human error at every step of the way (something that appears to have happened regularly). As someone who built a multi-million dollar business on automating stupid, repetitive, human-error prone processes, what I heard just blew my mind. The politicians who allowed this system to be created oughta be tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail, and the Enron executives who promoted it ought to be sentenced to breaking rocks on a chain gang for the next fifty years! Even then, that hardly makes up for seeing my energy bill go from $120/mo. to $600/mo. and counting before I was finally forced to sell my house (for that and other reasons).

--Thomas Leavitt

ENRON TAPES - The Snohomish vs. Enron case itself...

The Seattle Times has one of the best "in-depth" articles covering the legal/regulatory battle that produced the tapes themselves.

At the most simplistic level, the dispute comes down to this: Did Enron's gaming practices and other activities constitute a violation of the tariffs (federal regulations) that allowed them to charge a "free market" price for energy? Did, as Dr. Carl Pechman contends in his testimony on February 27th, 2004 (warning: 15 megabyte PDF), these practices not only affect short term prices, but long term prices (driving them up) - and thus require that the price Snohomish contracted to pay Enron be recalculated on a "fair market" basis... thus, presumably, wiping out the $122 million dollar premium Enron claims it is entitled to as a result of the contract being canceled (its anticipated profit over the life of the contract)?

I can't quote specifics that I don't know are in the public record yet, but it is absolutely clear to me, having heard numerous discussions between Enron and its customers, that the latter were extremely alarmed by the unprecedented level of volatility and potential exposure that the short-term fluctuations in pricing induced by Enron's gaming practices created, and that their behavior changed dramatically as a result - specifically, many of them started considering signing contracts for much longer durations than they had ever considered before (as Snohomish did), and many of them started looking seriously at energy "products" offered by Enron and others that purported to allow them to "hedge" their risk against future volatility of this type. The volatility created a "market" for Enron and others that simply had not existed up to that point - and Enron's employees were not at all hesitant to serve that market or encourage consideration of such "products" - especially considering that while such contracts were usually priced at a discount to the then current price of energy, said prices were also at significant premiums to long term historical prices for energy.

In other words, California ratepayers and taxpayers shouldn't be left holding the bag for the high-priced contracts that Gray Davis was strong-armed into signing at the height of the energy crisis, because said prices were the product of artificial manipulations by Enron's traders (and others... this isn't just about Enron, a hell of a lot of other folks were playing the same games).

Side note: Dr. Pechman's testimony, and the accompanying exhibits, consists of a 15 megabyte PDF file of graphic images of text - but, it is well worth reading, even absent the specifics the case, it is a fascinating overview of how the American power system works.

--Thomas Leavitt

ENRON TAPES -- Quote from Dr. Carl Pechman's testimony (expert witness)

"The evidence I now present has never [my emphasis] before been analyzed by the Commission or FERC Trial Staff's witnesses. The recordings demonstrate an extremely callous abuse of consumers, large pattern of misconduct, and reckless disregard of government authority by Enron..." (my emphasis again)

... and he's right. This is good stuff - straight from the horse's mouth: the Enron traders and managers themselves. Raw evidence of the most valuable and indesputable sort.

Another question I have to ask... why was it left to a small public utility district in the state of Washington to expose this material to the light of day? Where was the State of California? Where was the Justice Department (who served the original warrants for these tapes along with the FBI)?

The Snohomish P.U.D. has $120 million+ at stake in this battle, a large sum to their ratepayers, but pennies in comparison to California's exposure -- why didn't the state ask the same question that Snohomish did - "where are the tapes"?

From the supplemental testimony asking leave to file these documents, it also appears that there was substantial resistance to their release from the Department of Justice, which claimed a desire to preserve the ability to use these materials in criminal prosecutions - a reasonable position... until you consider that these tapes sat in a warehouse At Aspen Systems Corporation for an extended period (at least a year or two), inaccessible to anyone and presumably likely to stay that way indefinitely. Why?

Again, even in an era of limited budgets, one has to ask why these tapes didn't surface earlier? Why was the DOJ dependent on a tiny little public utility to put up the cash to get these tapes into a useable format? What else is out there?!?

--Thomas Leavitt

ENRON TAPES -- Footnote... FERC Trial Staff "aligned with Enron"?

Footnote 35 of Snohomish's motion to file supplemental testimony (i.e., the transcripts of The Enron Tapes):

"The audio recordings also refute positions taken by FERC Trial Staff that are, alarmingly, aligned with Enron."

The also here is a reference to the fact that the tapes emphatically refute contentions by Enron's "expert witness" that Enron "engaged in little to no gaming practices, caused little to no economic harm, and earned little to no unjust profits".

The footnote above follows that paragraph.

Not knowing the particulars of the case, I can't comment on what positions Snohomish's counsel is referring to - but it is worth asking the question: "Why would FERC's lawyers be on Enron's side?"

--Thomas Leavitt

The Unvarnished Right

If you want an unvarnished look at the right wing's true agenda, take a look at the platform of the U.S. Constitution Party. These people are seriously scary... and then take a look at the Texas Republican Party's platform and ask yourself whether the difference is one of kind or degree (I vote for the latter). That Constitution Party platform is what the Texas Republicans WISH they could write. For the short of time among you, Theocracy Watch has a good summary of the most extreme elements. CalPundit also has a good analysis of the year 2000 version.

--Thomas Leavitt

ENRON TAPES - Full set of The Enron Tapes now available from FERC!

Feast your ears on this (but make sure your children's are protected):

Here's the filing:
Public Utility District 1 of Snohomish County, WA fowards Exhibit SNO-245, a CD containing .wav audio files that correspond to transcripts etc re Enron Power Marke ting Inc under EL03-180 et al.

And this should take you directly to the full list of audio files (all 82 of them, I think).

As I mentioned before, complete transcripts of all the posted audio files are available (10 megabyte PDF of graphic images, non-searchable). Anyone out there have a sheet fed scanner with OCR software that could convert these back to text format (they're a good candidate, the font and files are very clean)... I'd love to count how many times "fuck" can be heard in these files. :)

You can match up the posted sound files with the posted transcripts, by looking at Exhibit SNO-162 (starts on page 26 of the automatically generated PDF from FERC).

The ears of a lot of former Enron employees must be burning right now. :) Which may be why the #2 person in Enron's Investor Relations department pleaded out two days after the transcripts went public.

To look at even more files, do a search here and enter "EL03-180*" in the "docket" field, along with a suitably broad date range... we were told that there was ANOTHER team of listeners out there, composed of lawyers(?) who had access to the same set of raw materials that my group did. Presumeably, at some point, whatever they've found will be made public, and posted to the FERC web site.

--Thomas Leavitt

The Stuff I Come Across

I spend a good part of each day researching the Right on the web. Sometimes its for articles, sometimes for reports, sometimes for pieces I post here. I'm currently doing research (not on the Right, for once) for a union project. Anyway, all of this has me reading a lot of stuff written by right-wingnuts and their organizations. I'm immersed in it, and I "have my arms around" a certain amount of it... But the extent of it, and the intensity of it ... even I am continually shocked, depressed, disillusioned, discouraged, stunned, horrified and terrified by what's going on out there.

But I digress. ;-) I want to share with you something I came across this morning. I'm sharing it because I think it helps explain the mindset of anti-Semitism. This is NOT (I think) reflective of the mainstream Christian Right's thinking, it's by (apparently) an actual fringe wingnut (I hope) - as contrasted with the mainstream Right wingnuts that many who don't know better THINK are the fringe. If you start reading this, it's sort of hilarious and saddening at the same time. From the "Caucasian Pride Report" here is A Report To The People:
"Between the Christians whose beliefs and faith are in God and the Son of God; and the Jews who are devotees and followers of Satan there is nothing capable of existing together. Those who espouse the Judeo-Christian lies betray God and Jesus Christ, the Son of God. They must remain absolutely separate.

As I wrote more than 20 years ago in my book, `There's a Fish in the Courthouse,' quote, "Ages and ages ago the world's wickedness began. Satan offered the Jews the secret of acquiring great wealth and political power, but in return they must accept him as their leader. Upon the acceptance of his evil contract Satan impregnated into Jews a primordial, bestial lust for gold and power. It was their inexorable curse struck with the mark of Cain, the evil ways established by Satan worked fine for the Jews. As the years passed they became wealthier and more powerful. Then Jesus Christ, son of God, the Savior appeared. Entering into the Jews Temples he toppled their idols of gold and denounced the evils of murder and usury.

"Raging at this intrusion into their lucrative, well organized rackets the Jews screamed for Satan's protection. Obeying Satan's order of covert intrigue and vicious lies they conspired to kill Christ. For gold, the Savior was betrayed, the Jews perpetrated their ultimate crime. On Mount Calvary, blood flowing from hands and feet cruelly spiked to the wooden cross, Christ was crucified. A sight that can never be forgotten or forgiven, except by God himself, father of Jesus Christ. Upon his death the Jews were stricken suddenly, not by remorse but by uncertainty. They'd been enticed by Satan's sly words, `Seize the wealth of the world, steal, kill and lie. Sate yourselves lavishly, fear no spiritual punishment for `believe me,' there is no here-after, you have no soul, when you die you are dead. This is the secret of your power. Now go, propagate, teach your off-spring in our ways to perpetuate themselves as possessors of all wealth.' A psychalgiac dread smote the Jews, they'd been tricked. Satan had said, 'When you die you are dead.' Though they could control the wealth of the universe, shadowy, brooding wings of death constantly hovered over the Jews while Christians had eternal life in the here-after."
Anyway, it goes on and on. There are several websites that reference this guy or his book... Scary stuff.

What the hell is going on?

I don't really know what's going on either in Iraq or within the Bush administration, but nobody else seems to either, and as far as I can tell, very few seem to completely appreciate the weirdness and importance of the present situation. As far as I can tell, there are five or more factions fighting within the Bush administration, and more than that in Iraq, and new alliances and new double-crosses are happening every day.

I think that from an American point of view, we're seeing a Bush attempt to find a face-saving solution in Iraq before the election, and an internal struggle within the administration to find a scapegoat for a policy which, ironically, they still have to insist was successful. Tenet, the CIA, and the FBI are pointing to Rumsfeld and the neocons, who richly deserve blame regardless of what you think about the CIA and FBI. Bush himself apparently is twirling around in circles trying to figure out what happened to the adults who were supposed to be taking care of him.

In Iran the various factions, including but not limited to Chalabi, realize that the U.S. is no longer capable of doing much of anything and are playing us for fools. If this war accomplishes anything, it should lay rest to the idea that Republicans are good on defense issues.

NEOCONS: Some are still defending Chalabi, even though it's pretty clear that Bush was ultimately behind the raids on him (seemingly after getting information from Blair, from Jordan, and from the CIA). This apparently means that the neocons know that they're not going to be able to distance themselves from Chalabi the way Bush has been doing. (Bush's recent self-defense require people to forget completely things Bush said about Chalabi three months ago, but that's par for Bush and it seems to work with his imbecile base).

ARAS KARIM HABIB: Chalabi's "security chief" hasn't been mentioned anywhere since May 23. Supposedly he's taken refuge in Iran, which sounds pretty damning. His job description seems to indicate that he was in a position to do a lot of damage.

ALLAWI: The new prime minister is a nephew of Chalabi, but apparently a rival; it's not certain that he's a Chalabi stooge, though their supposed rivalry might be a smokescreen -- their differences may be limited to the division of the spoils. In any case, both are expatriates, with little Iraqi support. Allawi apparently went from being a Ba'athist goon to being a CIA resource.

ALLAWI'S SELECTION: Apparently the U.S. originally intended for Brahimi of the U.N. to play a major role in setting up the new government, but the Interim Governing Council (a corrupt U.S.-appointed group which Brahimi was trying to freeze out) hijacked the process by naming Allawi as Prime Minister, and later also chose a President not wanted the U.N. or the U.S. By doing this they protected their own position while setting themselves up to pose as independent nationalists. (Some have speculated that this was all a U.S.-staged charade meant to give credibility to the new government).

Brahimi and the U.N. clearly were humiliated in this episode. Brahimi says Bremer was behind it (he seems to have been behind the Chalabi raids too), but a special envoy named Robert Blackwill who had recently been sent from Washington also played a role. Seemingly the winners were the I.G.C, where Chalabi is probably behind the scenes; U.S. support seems to have been after-the-fact.

TENET: He was under attack both because of 9/11 unpreparedness and because of his support for Bush WMD argument, and Chalabi claims that Tenet was behind the Chalabi raids. Perhaps he was asked to quit, and perhaps he did so voluntarily to separate himself from the Bush administration. Some say he quit because he couldn't get Bush to fire Rumsfeld and the neocons. (Because of Tenet's involvement with Bush, it seems likely to me that there are also other CIA factions acting independently, motivated by the neocons' Chalabi connections.)

PS: Originally I was also going to cover the Plame affair too, which also part of the U.S. internal power struggle, but this is complicated enough already, right? But there definitely is a power struggle going on within the Bush administration, and all bets are off as far as I'm concerned.

John Micah Marshall on Tenet's resignation, June 3

Josh Micah Marshall, June 3 but written earlier

Guardian: How Brahimi was sidelined, June 3 (print)

Kevin Drum, June 3

Allawi (Cockburn in Salon)

The LA Times lacks confidence, June 2

Time Magazine on Allawi, June 1

Highly unfriendly summary of Bush Iraq policy

Chalabi and Aras Karim Habib, New Yorker, May 31


Gore'ing John Kerry

I recently received an innocent seeming email from a relative of mine who is even more radically anti-Bush than I am...

It contained a series of jokes (some of which were even funny) in which various political and public figures answer why the chicken crossed the road (a copy of it is enclosed below). Just another joke email, right? NO! I read through the first couple of jokes, and even laughed. Then I got to this one:

JOHN KERRY: Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road I am now against it.

A one line throwaway, positioned right below a couple of fairly funny anti-administration jokes and an much long Nader joke that does Nader no harm with his core constituency (neither does the GWB joke, for that matter) - more on the Nader joke, later. Not particularly funny, not particularly memorable - especially after you've read the whole thing. The punch line is great.


My reaction was to do a doubletake... Kerry best known for being a waffler?!? It seemed out of left field - surely that isn't the first thing most people think of when Kerry is mentioned?!? Yet, if you search Google, this meme is all over the place ("Kerry flip flop" - 37000 hits, "Kerry waffle" - 16000, "Kerry liar" - 90000 vs. 66,000, 49000, and 224,000 for Bush, one of the most polarizing Presidents in history with a 4 year lead at accumulating references). Methinks the key to the Bush re-election strategy is thus revealed: tag Kerry with a negative character trait meme early on and Gore him to death by creating uncertainity in the minds of swing voters.

Think I'm being paranoid? Last night, as I walked out of the home of a pair of devoutly anti-Bush types, what was the topic of discussion? Reasons why Gore... oops, excuse me, Kerry, is not a flip-flopper. It is working that well, folks. If we're talking about it, what is the vast undecided middle talking about and debating? You got it.

Folks, we need to stop this meme in its tracks (ironic that I'm talking about it, yes). We need to make a personal commitment to not talk about it, to not forward on emails referring to it, to totally invalidate the idea every single time it is raised and paint it as a Republican scheme to undermine Kerry's credbility and integrity.

Here's the email... I noticed, after searching through Google, that it has mutated a bit - the first hit has the Al Gore joke leading off, and no Hans Blix (among other changes).



We don't really care why the chicken crossed the road. We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road or not. The chicken is either against us or for us. There is no middle ground here.


Now to the left of the screen, you can clearly see the satellite image of the chicken crossing the road.


We have reason to believe there is a chicken, but we have not yet been allowed to have access to the other side of the road.


Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road I am now against it!


The chicken's habitat on the other side of the road had been polluted by unchecked industrial greed. The chicken did not reach the unspoiled habitat on the other side of the road because it was crushed by the wheels of a gas-guzzling SUV.


To steal the job of a decent, hardworking American.


I don't know why the chicken crossed the road, but I'll bet it was getting a government grant to cross the road, and I'll bet that somebody out there is already forming a support group to help chickens with crossing-the-road syndrome. Can you believe this? How much more of this can real Americans take? Chickens crossing the road paid for by their tax dollars. And when I say tax dollars, I'm talking about your money, money the government took from you to build a road for chickens to cross.


No one called me to warn me which way that chicken was going. I had a standing order at the Farmer's Market to sell my eggs when the price dropped to a certain level. No little bird gave me any insider information.


Because the chicken was gay --- isn't it obvious? Can't you people see the plain truth in front of your face? The chicken was going to the 'other side'. That's what they call it the other side. Yes, my friends, that chicken is gay. And if you eat that chicken, you will become gay too. I say we boycott all chickens until we sort out this abomination that the liberal media whitewashes with seemingly harmless phrases like "the other side."


Did the chicken cross the road? Did he cross it with a toad? Yes, the chicken crossed the road, but why it crossed I've not been told.


To die in the rain. Alone.


I envision a world where all chickens will be free to cross roads without having their motives called into question.


In my day, we didn't ask why the chicken crossed the road. Somebody told us the chicken crossed the road, and that was good enough.


Isn't that interesting? In a few moments, we will be listening to the chicken tell, for the first time, the heartwarming story of how it experienced a serious case of molting, and went on to accomplish its life long dream of crossing the road.


Imagine all the chickens in the world crossing roads together in peace.


It is the nature of chickens to cross the road.


It was an historic inevitability.


What chicken?


To boldly go where no chicken has ever gone before.


The fact that you are at all concerned that the chicken crossed the road reveals your underlying sexual insecurity.


I have just witnessed eChicken2004, which will not only cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents, and balance your checkbook, - and internet explorer is an integral part of eChicken.


Did the chicken really cross the road, or did the road move beneath the chicken?


I did not cross the road with THAT chicken. What is your definition of chicken?


I invented the chicken!


And God came down from heaven, and he said unto the chicken THOU SHALT CROSS THE ROAD. And the chicken didst cross the road, and there was much rejoicing.


Did I miss one?

Side note: I'd lay odds that thirty years from now, when no one knows who the hell Al Gore is, they'll STILL be making the same jokes... Your grandchildren will know nothing about Al Gore except that he claimed to have invented the Internet, the Republican hatchet job was that through. Sigh.

Side note two:


The chicken's habitat on the other side of the road had been polluted by unchecked industrial greed. The chicken did not reach the unspoiled habitat on the other side of the road because it was crushed by the wheels of a gas-guzzling SUV.

...this is obviously put forth as a hyperbolic extension of Nader's normal anti-corporate rhetoric. What the author doesn't get is that this is "red meat" to Green folk and Nader supporters, and not exaggeration at all. We expect our candidates to talk like this. It certainly isn't the way typical politicians talk... and it's presence, right below a "reminder" that Kerry is a waffler, just serves to remind folks like me why I voted for Nader in 2000. Brilliant, eh? Get Kerry from the right AND left and do no damage to GWB that matters.

I wish the operators on our side were half as clever at manipulating memes.

--Thomas Leavitt

ENRON TAPES - Enron Audio Tapes now public!

Filing listing exhibits associated with the sound files.

These correspond to exibits SNO-179, SNO-203, SNO-221, SNO-222, SNO-223, SNO-224, SNO-227, SNO-230, SNO-240. These are the files that have been distributed to the news media over the past few days. "Grandma Millie" is in here, along with "Burn, baby, burn..." and all the other quotes you've seen recently.

There are another 73 audio tapes which it is my understanding will eventually become public (and available via the FERC web site), probably sooner rather than later. It is unclear what will happen to the rest of the 2600+ hours of audio... my personal hope is that some enterprising news reporter or author gets ahold of it via a FOIA request (or some equivalent). Even with all the confidentiality restrictions and exclusions, there's enough material there to fill a full length novel (or two) and to get a picture of the character and style of each of the individuals involved and how much they knew (or didn't know) about what was going on and the potential legal ramifications.

--Thomas Leavitt



Don't be an asshole.

Get Yourself a Beer, George

Because the future's uncertain,

and the end is always near.

See The Fahrenheit 9/11 Trailer

See the Fahrenheit 9/11 Trailer here. (It's very popular, so keep trying.)

Enron Tapes

In case you missed this, one of the transcribers of the Enron tapes has posted a guide for readers.


Dog People

My wife and I are dog people. So we enjoyed the Redneck Pet Carrier over at South Knox Bubba.

Just Arrived

This just arrived in my inbox:
George Bush is out jogging one morning and notices Little Hannah on the corner holding a box. Curious, he runs over and says, "What's in the box, kid?"

Little Hannah says, "Kittens, they're brand new kittens."

Bush laughs and says, "What kind of kittens are they?"

"Republicans", says Little Hannah.

"Now that's cute", Bush says and goes on his way.

A few days later, Bush is running with the Vice President Cheney and he spies Little Hannah with her box just ahead.

He says to Dick, "You gotta check this out.", and they both jog over to Little Hannah.

Bush says, "Look in the box Cheney. Isn't that cute? Hey, kid, tell my friend what kind of kittens they are."

Little Hannah replies, "They're Democrats."

"Whoa!", Bush says, "I came by here the other day and you said they were Republicans. What's up?"

"Well", Little Hannah explains, "their eyes are open now."

the american street

Lots of stuff over at the american street today, as every day.

ENRON TAPES - Enron: Weeding out the weak...

This is Matt Motley, a trader at Enron's West Power desk, talking to another trader...

MATT: Yeah, that’s a bunch of bullshit. You know what – you know what really pisses me off?
TOM: The price caps?
MATT: The price caps! You know what -?
TOM: Fucking bullshit. It would take care of all the weak. Get ‘em out.

Another gem:

MATT: We need to get the fucking um – [...] - environmentalists on this shit.

CBS News picked up on this one:

MATT: Tell you what – you heard this here first: When Bush wins –
TOM: Caps are gone.
MATT: That Fuckin’ Bill Richardson, he’s fuckin’ gone. The fucking, ah, Clinton, he’s fuck – all these fuckin’ ah, socialists are gone –
TOM: Yeah.
MATT: And who’s the biggest, ah, single contributor to the Bush campaigners?
TOM: You.
MATT: [laughs] Enron.
TOM: Enron. What?
MATT: Enron.
TOM: Is it Enron?
MATT: Yeah.
TOM: Jesus Christ. Is it – is that true?
MATT: Yeah, I think it is.
TOM: The biggest single contributor.
MATT: Yeah, the biggest corporate contributor to the –
TOM: Holy –
MATT: [simultaneous]
TOM: Really?! That’s huge.
MATT: And number one.
TOM: That’s huge.
MATT: Ken Lay’s going to be Secretary of Energy.
TOM: Get out of here!
MATT: But ah –
TOM: Can you imagine that? Why not, though? Why not? He could be, right?
MATT: Yeah. And why not? Who – you know, who’s to say why not? He could be.
TOM: That would be awesome, actually.
MATT: That would be - how great would that be for all the players in the market!
TOM: It’d be great. I’d love to see Ken Lay be Secretary of Energy.
MATT: He would open these markets up.

Worse Yet

Every single day there is news that shocks me, makes me wonder that the effect of the Bush administration on our country is EVEN WORSE than I even imagined any given yesterday. It just gets worse and worse.

Today we learn that someone in the Bush administration told Chalabi that we have broken Iran's encryption and are listening in on their most secret communications. -- and he told Iran. So now we can't listen in on Iran anymore AND they are changing any agents, operations, nuclear activities, etc. we might have learned about. But even THIS is even worse than it sounds. You see, this also tells ALL THE REST of the world that we are probably able to listen to their communications, so now North Korea and China and all the rest are busy changing their codes, and operations, etc.

But it's even worse than that. You see, Chalabi ALSO has Saddam's secret police files, because WE gave them to him. Which likely means Iran has them, which means any new Iraqi leadership will be Iran's bitch.

Matthew Yglesias thinks Bush it's even worse, too: "The truth, hard as it is to accept, is that Bush is an Iranian agent." :-)

American secrets to the Axis of Evil? Who cares?

OK, so it turns out that America's main man in Iraq was sending American secrets to Iran over at the Axis of Evil, and that someone in U.S. government was illegally giving these secrets to him.

This story is (very slowly) working its way through the media, but there's no urgency or excitement. Another little Middle East scandal, tee hee. Aren't those guys funny over there?

Besides getting rid of a few people in the defense department immediately, and President Bush this fall, there really needs to be some turnover among our opinion leaders.

The Chalabi story isn't causing a buzz because practically the whole media establishment was complicit, especially the foreign-policy fatheads. The only noise you're going to be hearing about this thing is the discreet swish of ass-covering.

Schwarzenegger and Enron.

Thomas Leavitt has some juicy stuff from the Enron tapes down below, so I thought I'd dig out the old stuff about Schwarzenegger and Enron.

Schwarzenegger met with Enron shortly before the election. It's impossible for me to believe that he was not actively complicit in the looting of Calfornia and the fake energy crisis. There should be another recall, but there won't be.

Everyone hates Grey Davis, but (at least in the end) he actually did a fairly good job fighting Enron -- the voters just preferred to elect one of the bad guys. The Schwarzenegger election was one of the worst ever. Even without the Enron meeting, Schwarzenegger was a total fake.

And it was the moderates who elected him -- the right wing had their own wacko candidate, who got about 15%. The goddamn Kennedy family even pitched in, or some of them anyway. It was completely, completely depressing.

Greg Palast on Schwarzenegger and Enron

Meteor Blades (from Kos) on Schwarzenegger and Enron

Chalabi's Nigerian Letter

"Hello, my name is Ahmed Chalabi. I am unable to access my funds in the oil-rich nation of Iraq. I am writing to you because I know that you are an honest and well-intended person. If you can forward me eighty-seven billion dollars I assure you that you will be richly rewarded for your generosity...."

I still don't know what's going on in Iraq. Josh Micah Marshall doesn't either, and he's really been working on the story. (Just page down for the last couple of weeks, and watch him trying).

Apparently the Iraqi Governing Council, which was supposed to be frozen out of the new government, has hijacked the process, making the UN completely irrelevant, and the US has ratified what happened (but apparently only after the fact).

The new Prime Minister, Allawi, is a cousin or something of Chalabi, whose home and office were just raided, apparently with American approval, and who is being accused of sending American secrets to Iran (which remains a member of the Axis of Evil, as far as anyone knows).

So is Allawi a rival of Chalabi's or his stooge? Does anyone know? Are the Americans who support Allawi different people than the Americans who are trying to bust Chalabi and his American friends? My reading is that nobody is on charge either in Iraq or in Washington D.C., and that anything might happen. (Sort of like a bloody situation comedy, I guess.)

One theory is that the Chalabi raids were fake, meant to give Chalabi street cred with the Iraqis. That seems unlikely to me, however -- there would have been less messy ways to do that, which would have had fewer damaging domestic (US) repercussions.

Americans, including the best and brightest, have a strong tendency to underestimate the political skills of third-worlders. Economically, technically, and militarily the third world is weak, but many of their leaders have learned how to play their weak hands very skillfully. And in fact, many of them have thousands of years of experience at playing political games.

Chalabi is an MIT-Chicago math PhD, which suggests that he's not too dumb. Iraq also has a continuous 5,000-year history of bureaucracy, which means that Iraqi skills at bureaucratic infighting, (deception, manipulation, conniving, double-crossing, etc.) are going to be highly sophisticated.

By contrast, our own representives are mere political science PhD's (also from Chicago). It's no wonder they were snookered. One of the beauties of American life is the degree to which it is actually possible to be successful while remaining straightforward and honest, but this doesn't translate well in diplomacy.

Many versions of the "Nigerian letter" scam depend on convincing previously-honest citizens that they, personally, have finally been awarded a chance to get in on some of the crime action. Maybe that's what happened in Iraq. For many, Chalabi's criminal past was actually part of his appeal.


Moore Gets Distributor

Yahoo! News - Moore Documentary Gets U.S. Distributor:
"Michael Moore (news)'s award-winning documentary 'Fahrenheit 9/11' has picked up a U.S. distributor and will hit theaters June 25. "

ENRON TAPES - The ENRON Tapes and "Grandma Millie"

For the past three months, I've been working more or less full time as a research assistant for an expert witness contracted by Snohomish County P.U.D. No. 1 to testify on their behalf before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in a dispute between them and Enron.

The details of the case are available on the FERC web site, as part of case No. EL03-180-000, and can be found by visiting this URL ( http://elibrary.ferc.gov/idmws/search/fercgensearch.asp )

and doing a search for: EL03-180*

The documents in question that I helped research and prepare are available at this URL:

http://elibrary.ferc.gov/idmws/nvcommon/NVViewer.asp?Doc=10152323:0 (note: this is a 10 megabyte PDF file that will load into a Java based viewer on the FERC website - the lawyers filed this as scanned photoimages of the original documents)

These are redacted (sections relating to personal matters immaterial to the case have been removed) transcripts of 82 audio files that the team of researchers I worked with identified as particularly relevant to this case - this is out of 2600 hours of audiotape salvaged by the FBI and stored in a warehouse for several years, until Snohomish managed to pry them out of the hands of Ashcroft's Justice Department and get them transfered to digital format (the document cited below tells the story of this in detail). My sense is that, while we skimmed off the cream of these tapes, there's still a lot more that could be uncovered.

I have to be careful about what I say, given that the case in question is still pending, and that I've signed confidentiality agreements designed to protect the privacy of the individuals heard on these tapes - but: the documents above are public. And CBS News has broken the story big time...


including posting copies of the Yoder-Hall Memo (an internal Enron document put together by their lawyers) that outline the nature of the games played by Enron traders to manipulate prices and California's energy trading system in search of profit at the expense of California ratepayers (of which I was one, seeing my utility bill soar from $120/mo. to $600/mo. before I started turning everything off in a desperate attempt to keep it down).

As the CBS News report so vividly demonstrates, the employees at Enron's West Power trading desk were arrogant, crude, and often utterly indifferent to the effects that their machinations and the California energy crisis were having on ratepayers... the Grandma Millie tape, in particular, is one of the most appalling. CBS News, given their limited time, can only give you the barest flavor of how utterly venal these folks were.

Here's the full excerpt, sourced from the FERC website (this is Exhibit SNO-224, on page 331-339 of the FERC's dynamically generated 11.3 megabyte PDF) - this is been Bob Badeer (a trader at Enron's West Power desk in Portland, CA, where all these tapes were recorded) and Kevin McGowan (in Enron's central office in Houston, TX, as he mentions in the transcript):

BOB: [laughing]
KEVIN: So the rumor’s true? They’re fuckin’ takin’ all the money back from you guys? All those money you guys stole from those poor grandmothers in California?
BOB: Yeah, grandma Millie, man. But she’s the one who couldn’t figure out how to fuckin’ vote on the butterfly ballot.
KEVIN: Yeah, now she wants her fuckin’ money back for all the power you’ve charged right up – jammed right up her ass for fuckin’ 250 dollars a megawatt hour.
BOB: You know – you know – you know, grandma Millie, she’s the one that Al Gore’s fightin’ for, you know? You’re not going to –
BOB: Grandma Millie –

another great excerpt (this tape is full of 'em):

KEVIN: Fuckin’ stock market and Enron, everything else, Jesus.
BOB: Oh, Enron! Oh! Oh, dude.
KEVIN: Not kidding.
BOB: Kid, it even hurts, I don’t – I guess it could hurt worse, but it doesn’t you know, holy shit, its’ that – that thing got smoked.
KEVIN: Oh, god – I can’t handle it any more.
BOB: I can’t either man.

... seriously pathetic, dude. They are moaning and groaning like you wouldn't believe.

and, of course, here's a great example of their attitude re: California consumers...

KEVIN: There was a guy he was yesterday, he’s – he’s some consultant for some fuckin’ other business we’re supposed to be starting or whatever.
BOB: Right.
KEVIN: He came in, he – and I wasn’t – I didn’t even meet the guy. I was sittin’ here, he was talking to George McLellan and George’s desk, he’s like, yeah, you know, I’m in California now and my small consulting business, my energy costs have gone from 100 to 500 dollars a month. It’s unbelievable, I don’t know what to do. I just turned from my desk, I just looked at him, I said, ‘MOVE.’
KEVIN: The guy was like horrified. I go, look, don’t take it the wrong way: ‘Move; it isn’t getting’ fixed any time soon,’
BOB: You know man, it’s unbelievable, it’s like at that – that’s the – that’s the best thing that [inaudible] about it. That’s so beautiful.
KEVIN: Oh best thing that could happen is fuckin’ an earthquake, let that thing float out to the Pacific and put ‘em fuckin’ candles.
BOB: I know. Those guys – just cut ‘em off.
KEVIN: They’re so fucked and they’re so, like totally
BOB: They are so fucked.

You have to hear it to really get it. Two good ole' boys chucklin' to each other about how fucked over California is. Just unbelieveable.

And note the politics - as CBS News reports, these guys were gung-ho capitalists and ecstatic about the idea of a Bush Administration and the possibility of Ken Lay having a major voice in national energy policy. And, as the excerpt above demonstrates, many of them had nothing but contempt for Al Gore. Kevin even says that everyone in his office is betting on Bush to win (except him - he's doing the contrarian thing).

More later... much more, as I have more time to sort through the files on the FERC website.

--Thomas Leavitt

More dirt on Judith Miller

Here are some updates on my Judith Miller post below.

Yes, I indeed do believe that malicious gossip and schadenfreude are healthy and nutritious, when part of a balanced diet of factual reporting, analysis, and advocacy. Nothing is too bad for that bitch.

Cache from the time when Miller was actually listed as an expert by Richard Pipes' Middle East Forum advocacy group(this is no longer on the web)

Did she fuck her way to the top? Nobody likes Judith!

Steve Gilliard: it's unusual for a reporter to be as thoroughly disliked as Miller is.

Perhaps her primary loyalty was not to journalism: one proposed alternative

Miller's father ran a Mafia hangout (see more below)

More on the Riviera / Marine Room Mafia hangout

Part I of a series on Miller; Part II; Part III; Part IV.

Blog for Victory | America Coming Together

I didn't know that America Coming Together has a weblog: Blog for Victory.

While you are there, sign up for their newsletter. Maybe throw them some money. They're organizing ads and door-to-door visits with voters in 17 crucial swing states.

Terror and intimidation at home...

Lori Haigh, owner of the Capobianco Gallery, has been driven out of business by insults, threats, and physical assault for showing a work of art whose subject was the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. servicepeople in the Abu Ghraib prison. I'm not terribly surprised - something not generally talked about is the flood of truly vicious hate directed at anyone who offends the American right. Fortunately, in most cases, it is all hot air - but as this incident demonstrates, it can go a lot further than that.

From the San Francisco Examiner:


The painting, titled "The Abuse" by East Bay artist Guy Colwell, shows Pfc. Lynndie England and another soldier smiling gleefully as they look upon a trio of naked, hooded Iraqi prisoners who are hooked up to electrical wires. In the background, a third American soldier is escorting a Muslim woman in a dress into the torture chamber.


Book publisher Ron Turner, whose company Last Gasp published Colwell's art, was sympathetic.

"She got threats," he said. "She is a single woman with two kids trying to be a business woman and there are crazies threatening to roast her children."



Here's a link to the image:


and a reworked image posted to the San Francisco Indymedia web site:



It gets worse... according to the Associated Press, someone punched her in the face on Thursday, giving her a black eye and bloodied brow (pictures on KRON 4 site and SF Gate site).

But the real concern leading her to shut down the gallery was for the safety of her children, 4 and 14 who hang out with her at the gallery on a regular basis. Quite understandable, from my point of view, as a parent.

My friend Renee Amiri videotaped the gallery's closing on Saturday, and blogged about it, in response to the limited coverage this has received in the press. Any doubt that this type of violence is the true face of the American right, aided and abetted by the vitriolic demagogues they sponsor, should be erased by the comments following Renee's posting...

"you richly deserved it"

"I was quite pleased in reading that the traitor Haigh was dealt a blow from a TRUE AMERICAN."

"you call her a hero, I call her a fuckin dumbass"

"Ahh I just love reading the comments of typical socialist kalifornians. You should all move to north korea."

note the parroting of Michael Savage's "islamofascist" meme in this posting:

"What about an art show on the Killing of Mr. Pearl or even the painting of Nick Berg getting his head sawed off by a group of islamofasist's done in human blood. Now that would be good. Wake up. Do you think that the people you support with your sympathy will allow you to just get away with a black eye? A woman with your ideas would be dragged into the street and stoned to death by the very people you support. (If you were lucky)."

Comments of this sort are not atypical. I get them on a daily basis in response to various websites I run.

It is also interesting to see how the right-wing's echo chamber tactics play out at the grassroots - on this, and numerous other forums (as a casual search of Google will reveal), wingers are doing their best to suggest that this is all just an opportunistic scam by a psychologically disturbed individual with a failing business, posting all sorts of allegations without any documentation whatsoever (she was behind on her rent, the IRS is after her for back taxes from a lawsuit settlement, etc. etc.). A search for information on Google reveals nothing about either of these items - so where are they getting this information from? A quick scan of Freeper response reveals a flood of speculation about the viability of her gallery business and whether she is faking these incidents in order to break her lease, but no hard evidence whatsoever... and this gets echoed elsewhere as "fact".


There are also some great comments (note the generally higher level of literacy/spelling ability and coherency), here are my favorites (wish we had more folks like this in the military... hell, running things in Washington):

I am a United States Marine. I was as shocked, disgusted, and angry as I have ever been when I heard about the abuses perpetrated by our own people on those we had come to "liberate". There is absolutely NO reason to have done what they did. To defend them is to condone their actions. NOT to scrutinize what happened is to allow it to happen again.

Americans DO NOT treat prisoners this way. They are protected by the Geneva Convention. The White House says so. If WE had been the prisoners and this was done to us, you know we would all be howling MAD it happened, and demand retribution.

I served my time in Iraq during the war, and probably will find myself back there sooner or later. I am appreciative of the time I was there for the children, women, and some men that I met. They smiled (the kids loved me), they waved (the women would peek out from the curtains in their house to get a glimpse of me), and they chatted (the men were inscrutable).

And yet I would gladly exchange my next tour of duty in Iraq to post myself at the front door, in uniform, to defend Lori and the artists she hosted.

Americans. It is amazing to me that the very concept of liberty gets so clouded in our minds. The offending piece of art must have really struck a nerve, huh? Personally, I think the ones that are struck the most by it are the ones who look inside themselves and see the potential to do the same thing lying in wait in their own hearts. Indeed, to spit in her face; to physically attack her and damage her - only lives down to the perversion portrayed in the art.

But I am with her. Do not let the obtuse, witless bully prevail. I wish her the best.

Posted by: Joan at May 30, 2004 10:42 AM


I am sorry to hear about the hassling you have been receiving and that you felt you should close your doors.

While I think Colwell's painting is in incredibly poor taste and I feel it is more fitting as a cartoon on the opinion page of a liberal newspaper, it is his right to create such pieces and it is your right to show them.

Some of my fellow service men and women have let the rest of us down. They have violated principles they were taught in basic training/boot camp. They have forgotten lessons taught to them in their technical schools and every year after that. They have brought shame on those of us who wear or have worn the uniforms of the United States' military. They will be punished.

The people who are hassling you should direct their attention to the people who caused and committed the abuse. By attacking you, these people have shown that they are as bad or worse than the people who committed the abuse in the first place.

I have men down range and in harm's way as I write this. The actions of their fellows and consequences thereof already weigh heavily on their minds. The actions of people who threaten or attack you does a great disservice to our men and women in uniform and is even more disheartening to them--it goes against the very principles we have sworn to defend.


Master Sergeant John Bloodgood

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. -- Evelyn Beatrice Hall, The Friends of Voltaire, 1906

Posted by: John Bloodgood at May 30, 2004 03:26 PM

2004 Democratic National Convention Blog

The new 2004 Democratic National Convention Blog needs a name. Go participate!

Corporation Say No

Doc Searls has a story about Clear Channel buying up a patent on musicians making CDs of their concerts to sell at the end of the concert. Now only Clear Channel can make the money from that.


Open source voting

The New York Times has it right on electronic voting. It's not the editorial page, or even an op-ed. But at least the Times Magazine's "Idea Lab" section plugs one of the two neglected requirements for genuinely trustworthy electronic voting systems: open source software. (The other is extensive exit polling, and the third requirement -- that gets all the press -- is a voter-verifiable paper trail.)

First off, the government should ditch the private-sector software makers. Then it should hire a crack team of programmers to write new code. Then -- and this is the crucial part -- it should put the source code online publicly, where anyone can critique or debug it. This honors the genius of the open-source movement. If you show something to a large enough group of critics, they'll notice (and find a way to remove) almost any possible flaw. If tens of thousands of programmers are scrutinizing the country's voting software, it's highly unlikely a serious bug will go uncaught. The government's programming team would then take the recommendations, incorporate them into an improved code and put that online, too. This is how the famous programmer Linus Torvalds developed his Linux operating system, and that's precisely why it's so rock solid -- while Microsoft's secretly developed operating systems, Linux proponents say, crash far more often and are easier to hack. Already, Australians have used the open-source strategy to build voting software for a state election, and it ran like a well-oiled Chevy. A group of civic-minded programmers known as the Open Voting Consortium has written its own open-source code.

Ditch the private sector, indeed. The mechanism by which I vote is not anybody's fucking trade secret. Make a profit somewhere else, like torturing muslims. But leave me my vote. It's pretty much just ceremonial at this point, but, please.

(Via Slashdot.)

Win or Lose

This is Part II of The Right Will Fight Dirty.

Major league baseball teams use the minor league teams as a place to "farm" new baseball players. These minor league teams plant seeds by hiring hundreds of young "wannabe" players, providing them with a place to make a living while they train and gain experience, and eventually some of the best players rise up to "the majors." Hence the term "farm teams."

In The Next Generation, Atrios linked to Right On, a piece by Matthew Yglesias, which links to a piece by Laura Rozen describing how the right-wing American Enterprise Institute enthusiastically recruits young interns. They are discussing how the Right has a "farm team" system in place to provide internships, training, materials, etc. to a next generation of right-wingnuts to be political candidates at all levels, Congressional staffers, pundits, speakers, activists, etc. The Right has farm teams to recruit young people who are interested in politics, train them, give them a place to grow and learn. Moderates and Progressives do not.

In Political Entrepreneurs vs. Political Managers John Emerson talks about the differences between businesspeople and academics as being behind some of this problem, and moderate/liberal philanthropic foundations keeping their grantees on short leashes, and writes, "Eric Alterman noticed early in his career that his conservative friends all had cushy jobs, and he didn't." Finally, Jesse at Pandagon writes from a perspective of having interned (for free) at some liberal outfits.

This "farm team" system is just one part of the massive "infrastructure" that the Right has in place. This infrastructure consists of hundreds of organizations, all designed from scratch to change public opinion and the resulting political environment. This infrastructure was developed by a core group of funders who have, in effect, taken over the Republican Party and the "conservative movement" for their own ends. This money has built a network -- an infrastructure -- of over 500 organizations, centrally funded and coordinated and designed to market to the public. Because it is infrastructure for their movement, these organizations and the people in them are available to act on any issue at any time. What they sell is the Republican Party -- not the honorable GOP of the past, but the new monolithic, cultish, far-right, secretive, post-Bircher, Nixonian, elitist, warlike, corporate Party, hawking a strange mixture of anarchic libertarian fantasy economics, money-worshiping, and desiring a one-party corporate/theological governance ruled by a behind-the-scenes aristocracy of inherited wealth. This sales job goes on 24 hours a day, every day, through every channel by which information reaches people.

A collection of links to articles, reports and resources for learning about the right-wing movement, its history, how it is funded and how it operates is available here. It is so important to our future that we understand just who is behind this right-wing movement and how they have been able to accomplish what they have, so I encourage you to visit this site and read the articles and studies it links to.

You've probably heard of the value of "early money" in elections. The influential "Emily's List" is named after this concept. "EMILY" stands for "early money is like yeast." The idea is that money that comes to a campaign very early is the most important because the earlier a candidate is able to campaign and start advertising, contacting the press and community groups, explaining positions, establishing an identity, etc., the more likely the campaign will be successful.

What the Right has is even better than that. Their network of organizations is like an early money tree -- pumping out the benefits of early money years and years before any election, during elections, and the day after an election, getting started on the next one. The Right's machine is not oriented around the election cycle, it is constant, yet this is why they win elections. Their organizations provide a drumbeat of propaganda all year, every year, working with the latest PR and marketing techniques, utilizing the latest research into the psychology of persuasion, exploiting the latest trends, etc. Because its marketing is constant, their politicians have it easy -- they just show up and echo the ideology that this machine has been pumping out and ride along on the rest of the resulting public opinion. Their politicians are almost interchangable, their work having been already done for them by the organizations, they have only to show up and say the right things and they have an automatic base of support.

Moderate and Progressive politicians, on the other hand, have to develop their positions each election cycle largely on their own, and communicate their ideas themselves. Everyone blames the Democratic Party for lack of vision, lack of marketing, etc. when the problem really is that there is not a comparable network of moderate and progressive ADVOCACY MARKETING AND COMMUNICATIONS organizations that are OUTSIDE of the party apparatus, supporting it, feeding it ideas, foot soldiers and voters.

Organizations on the Right, like the Heritage Foundation provide talking points, training, media skills, and most important, farm teams -- EMPLOYMENT for thousands of "foot soldiers" for the Right! Almost everyone on the Right is paid, and paid well (which serves to buy their loyalty to the core group of funders, their ideology and their goals.) They follow a long-term approach, which is why recruiting lots of young people and finding them paid positions as foot soldiers is an important part of their operation. Eventually these people will become activists, candidates, etc. And by having an employed stable of professional pundits, speakers, activists, etc., they are able to bring their "wurlitzer" to bear on any issue at any time, as necessary.

So the question here is why doesn't "our side" have a similar infrastructure in place? I've spent a lot of time studying this problem and have developed some theories. And I have some ideas about how to begin to counter what the Right is doing.

Yglesias hits the nail on the head when he writes, "It's the attitude of an arrogant, bloated, dominant movement that would have been appropriate in 1967 or 1977 but was clearly outdated by 1997 and will be simply pathetic by 2007." This jibes with my own theory about why things are the way they are, that is similar to evolution: adapt to changing environments or die.

Here's what I mean. Look back at the origins of this right-wing network. (See also here.) The "liberal establishment" used to be the only game in town. Growing up from the roots of modern philanthropy at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, the system of philanthropic foundations and non-profits that was in place by the 1960s consisted of scholarly issue-oriented think tanks, and program-oriented public-service organizations that operated from a base of public agreement over common goals. In other words, in the 60's there was universal agreement that it was a good thing to help the poor, protect the environment, provide universal education, etc.

And one of the things this system depended on was that not only the public was in agreement about their mission, but that the resulting political environment was supportive of it as well. Because the public environment already shared and was already supportive of its values and ideals, the "liberal establishment" was not designed to have organizations that work to change the underlying public environment and the resulting political environment. In fact, this was AND IS strongly considered to be against the rules!

Well, the leaders and funders of the far Right didn't agree with this, and started building institutions of their own, designed from the start to fight against this "liberal establishment" and change that public consensus. The key is that their organizations grew from an effort to fight against liberal organizations and change public thinking. So they designed advocacy organizations with a marketing and communications focus. And over time they became more and more effective at accomplishing their mission, changing the way more and more people think, and discrediting who they saw as their opponents and enemies.

So while the organizations of moderates and liberals kept plodding along as if nothing had changed, the reality is that now there is no longer a public consensus that it is good to help the poor, protect the environment, provide universal education, etc. And, most important, the result of the Right's efforts is that the political environment is now hostile to the goals of the major philanthropic foundations and the non-profit organizations they support. Like the proverbial frog in water that is heating to boiling, the UNDERLYING environment has changed without the "liberal establishment's" organizations and their methods changing in response to the new environment. The Right's entire system was designed from the beginning to change the public and political environment and undermine the effectiveness of the system. "Our side's" organizations pre-existed this so they are not designed to respond, and have not yet adapted.

Here's my usual example of what this means. Suppose you are a philanthropist supporting programs to protect a redwood grove. What you might do is spend money on a biologist, and on programs to have the public learn about the grove, and on lawyers for the occasional lawsuit, etc. And that always used to be an effective way to use your money. But in today's evolved political environment an elected official can say that to fight forest fires we need to cut down the trees, or a judge can say that the "public good" is the market system so trees should be used for corporate profit. And, you might even face public protests and ridicule for your efforts to protect the environment (often led by the local far-right radio station...) So just like that the redwood grove is gone, and your entire philanthropic investment wasted.

The changed public environment means that traditional methods of philanthropy are a waste of money. In TODAY'S environment the battle must be to change underlying public attitudes, and with them the resulting political environment. The Right has worked to change this underlying public and political environment, and the moderate and progressive establishment still consists largely of organizations that are not designed at their core to fight to change underlying public attitudes and the resulting political environment. They are designed to implement programs that depend on an environment in which the public-at-large supports their goals.

The organizations of the Right are designed from scratch to work against the ideals and values that we all (reading this) cherish. Moderates and Progressives urgently need to build a number of powerful advocacy organizations designed from scratch to affect the underlying public and political environment. They need to explain to the public the value and benefit to them of ideals of nurturing, supporting each other, caring for the environment, even democracy. They need to build a "farm team" system that trains large numbers of young people to become activists, political candidates, writers, educators, commentators, filmmakers, etc., all working to restore support for progressive values and ideals.

The failure on the part of mainstream moderate and progressive philanthropy -- the larger foundations -- to recognize the seriousness of the threat from the Right AND to respond by developing a long-term plan and build a comparable infrastructure of hundreds of advocacy marketing/communicating organizations, recruit thousands of young foot-soldiers, etc. -- has had disastrous consequences. It has led to the current emergency of the Bush administration. The photos of torture in Iraqi prisons tell us that it does not overstate matters to say that America has been transformed into a hostile, aggressive, warlike, brutal nation that few of us recognize. Democracy itself is being undermined.

This is beginning to change. Moderates and Progressives are beginning to understand the need to develop new organizations designed to respond to those of the Right. And many are beginning to understand the need to change the way their philanthropy is organized. For example, see the new GiftHub. And, last week, Alternet had a good article on this subject, Building the Countermovement
by Laurie Spivak.

The new organization Center for American Progress is an example of what we need to build. David Brock's new organization Media Matters is another such organization, designed to counter the Right's media, and it is already having an impact. Commonweal Institute has been building an organization to work on language and communication of ideas. Those of us in the blogging universe see the effects of these organizations. So it is easier to understand that many more such organizations would begin to seriously counteract the effect of the Right's machine, and start taking the country back.

But these are only three, where the Right has over 500 such organizations, built over the last 30 years! We need to work to move the thinking of "our" leaders and "our" philanthropists toward understanding the need to build a permanent long-term progressive infrastructure. This is where my research has been focused. I've been on this like a drumbeat for a couple of years now, and I see more and more people coming to see this need as well.

We need to start building our own "machine" to take back the country -- and save the world. Literally. If Kerry manages to win, all the better, but what if this means that this wonderful energy we see around us leading to a revival of progressive spirit, campaign contributions and volunteers then goes back into hibernation as it did after Clinton's election? The Right only grew stronger during the Clinton years. And if Kerry loses, we MUST change our strategy and start working to bring the public back to understanding the benefits of sharing, community, democracy and caring for the environment. We MUST begin long-term efforts to return to the majority. WIN OR LOSE it is time to start building a moderate/progressive advocacy marketing infrastructure to fight back against the powerful organizations of the Right.

A rabid lame duck?

I doubt that Josh Micah Marshall's post or this article by Dana Milbank and Jim Vandehei will tell anyone here much of anything that they don't already know, but it might be evidence that this year the media won't be quite as willing to carry water for Bush as it was in 2000. Milbank has always been more willing than most to tell it like it is, and success-worshippers who support Bush for that reason alone might be figuring out that the guy is turning into a loser.

As Marshall points out, Bush has virtually nothing positive to run on, and has to run entirely by stressing's Kerry's negatives. But negative campaigning has worked in the past, so we can hardly be complacent.

In a negative campaign, the Nader factor becomes more important, since the Bush people can sit back and let the Nader campaigners do a lot of their work for them. Bush's core constituency of hard-core rightwingers seems to be at least 30% of the electorate, so Kerry needs almost three-quarters of the remainder.

If Nader gets a significant chunk of the vote, he could make it possible for Bush to win with a plurality even if most independents and non-insane moderate Republicans desert him. (And as I keep saying, centrists and independents aren't necessarily all that smart -- some of them are just random airheads).

So Bush could be elected by a plurality without the vote of anyone whatever except fanatics and airheads. The lame duck we'd end up with would be a rabid one.



See Sam Waterston deliver Abraham Lincoln's 1860 speech at Cooper Union. It's brilliant -- both the speech and the recreation. If only...

Chalabi story spins out of control

I don't think anyone knows what's going on in Iraq right now. Seeing the Forest isn't normally an up to the minute newsblog, but this is getting so weird that I can't help myself.

Nobody really knows who ordered the raids on Chalabi. No one really knows who chose Chalabi's cousin Alawi to be head of state, either. Don't ask me.

UPDATE: It seems now that Alawi was the American candidate, and that the Iraqis and the UN were presented with a fait accompli. The relationship between the raids on Chalabi and the Alawi nomination still remains unclear: Washington Post.

Chalabi is apparently still in the driver's seat in Iraq; one of his cousins is in line to be come head of state

Chalabi seemingly in control

Chalabi's office raided a second time by someone or other

Among the charges against Chalabi is implication in blatant corruption

Raid apparently was by private contractors hired by the State Department

Cheney and Chalabi were very tight buddies, but Chalabi was smarter

Chalabi's dupe Michael Ledeen of the National Review spins furiously in Chalabi's defense

An unbelievable performance by David Ignatius: He praises Bush for trying feebly to clean up the mess he made

Glorious Leader Bush -- ON HIS WATCH!

The President: Paying the Price:
[After 9/11] "At first, Bush did a masterful job of pulling the country together. Democrats as well as Republicans joined him at the ramparts. "We will speak with one voice," Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle declared on 9/11. Bush's decision to go to war in Afghanistan won support across the political spectrum because it seemed an entirely appropriate response to an attack on our country by terrorists harbored by that nation's government."
"Bush did a masterful job of pulling the country together?" BULLSHIT! Yes, the Democrats acted patriotically, pulling together behind the President. This piece, oddly crediting Bush, says right in it that it was DASCHLE, not Bush, declaring that we will speak with one voice. But do you remember Bush acting to bring the country together and hold it together? Do you remember Bush calling for setting aside political differences? Tell me what Bush did to bring us together. What I remember is The Party immediately trying to pass yet another tax cut because they had a political advantage.

Why does Bush get the credit for being a leader because the Democrats acted patriotically? If Gore were President do you think he would have failed to try to calm the country, instead of stoking the fear ever since, as Bush has? Do you think he would have failed to ask all of the diverse groups that make up America to join together? Do you think he would have politicized 9/11 and divided the country in HALF, as Bush has? And do you think FOR A MINUTE that the Right would have partriotically united behind Gore?

So Bush gets credit as a leader because the Democrats did the right thing. 9/11 happened ON HIS WATCH. Maybe he should be getting some credit for THAT.