September 24, 2004
Anatomy of a Debacle
Bush's misguided focus on Iraq in November 2001 helped Bin Laden get away.
If you can explain to me why this catastrophic failure has not been a campaign issue, please feel free to contact me. Otherwise, please help spread the word.
November 17, 2001
An officer of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), speaking on condition of anonymity, tells TIME that bin Laden was last seen on November 17, departing the city of Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan in anticipation of the imminent collapse of the Taliban regime. The officer says bin Laden headed for the Tora Bora area in a convoy of 25 vehicles that included four trucks carrying his family members and personal belongings.
November 18, 2001
According to Afghan military commanders, some of whom were already on Western payrolls when bin Laden was leaving, the al-Qa'eda base held between 1,500 and 1,600 of the best Arab and Chechen fighters in the al-Qa'eda network.
Haji Zaman Ghamsharik, one of the warlords who attacked Tora Bora, said on Nov 18 - 10 days before bin Laden's departure - that the fight would be a tough one.
November 19, 2001
WASHINGTON ? Defense Department strategists are building a case for a massive bombing of Iraq as a new phase of President Bush's war against terrorism, congressional and Pentagon sources say. Proponents of attacking Iraq, spearheaded by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, are now arguing privately that still-elusive evidence linking Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's regime to the terrorist attacks Sept. 11 is not necessary to trigger a military strike.
November 21, 2001
Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack:
President George W. Bush clamped his arm on his secretary of defense, Donald H. Rumsfeld, as a National Security Council meeting in the White House Situation Room was just finishing on Wednesday, November 21, 2001. It was the day before Thanksgiving, just 72 days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the beginning of the eleventh month of Bush's presidency.
"I need to see you," the president said to Rumsfeld. The affectionate gesture sent a message that important presidential business needed to be discussed in the utmost privacy. Bush knew it was dramatic for him to call the secretary of defense aside. The two men went into one of the small cubbyhole offices adjacent to the Situation Room, closed the door and sat down.
"I want you..." the president began, and as is often the case he restarted his sentence. "What kind of a war plan do you have for Iraq? How do you feel about the war plan for Iraq?" (Page 1)
"Let's get started on this," Bush recalled saying. "And get Tommy Franks looking at what it would take to protect America by removing Saddam Hussein if we have to." He also asked, Could this be done on a basis that would not be terribly noticeable? (Page 2)
When he was back at the Pentagon, two miles from the White House across the Potomac River in Virginia, Rumsfeld immediately had the Joint Staff begin drafting a Top Secret message to General Franks requesting a "commander's estimate," a new take on the status of the Iraq war plan and what Franks thought could be done to improve it. The general would have about a week to make a formal presentation to Rumsfeld. (Page 5)
"Hey," Newbold said in his best take-notice voice, "I've got a real tough problem for you. The secretary's going to ask you to start looking at your Iraq planning in great detail - and give him a new commander's estimate."
"You got to be shitting me," Renuart said. "We're only kind of busy on some other things right now. Are you sure?"
"Well, yeah. It's coming. So stand by."
The current Iraq war plan, Op Plan 1003, was some 200 pages with 20-plus annexes numbering another 600 pages on logistics, intelligence, air, land and sea operations. According to this plan, it would take the United States roughly seven months to move a force of 500,000 to the Middle East before launching military operations. Renuart went to see General Franks, who had received only a vague indication there had been discussion in Washington about the Iraq war plan. Renuart now had more detail.
"Hey, boss," Renuart said, reporting that a formal request of a commander's estimate was coming. "So we'd better get on it."
Franks was incredulous. They were in the midst of one war, Afghanistan, and now they wanted detailed planning for another, Iraq? "Goddamn," Franks said, "what the fuck are they talking about?" (Page 8)
Afghanistan is just the beginning on the war against terror. There are other terrorists who threaten America and our friends, and there are other nations willing to sponsor them. We will not be secure as a nation until all of these threats are defeated. Across the world and across the years, we will fight these evil ones, and we will win.
November 25, 2001
On November 25th, the New York Times printed the following text: "... Law and Order Minister for Eastern Shura, Afghanistan, says Osama bin Laden was seen this week at the large and well-fortified encampment in Tora Bora; aides to [the minister] say as many as 2,000 'Afghan Arabs,' or foreign fighters, are at Tora Bora, armed with rifles, machine guns and surface-to-surface missiles."
And in his interview with Newsweek, President Bush for the first time declared that "Saddam is evil." In Bush's moral algebra, that would seem to mean that Saddam Hussein is a legitimate, indeed necessary, target, writes Fineman. "I think Saddam is up to no good," said Bush. "I think he's got weapons of mass destruction. And I think he needs to open up his country to let us inspect ... Show the world he's not [evil]. It's up to him to prove he's not. He is the one guy who has used weapons of mass destruction -- not only against his neighbors in Iran, but against people in his own country. He gassed them." Asked if there is a time limit for letting U.N. weapons inspectors back in, Bush replies: "I just told him."
November 26, 2001
The hunt for Osama bin Laden may be narrowing to a network of caves near the village of Tora Bora, in Afghanistan's eastern White Mountains.
Mr. Bin Laden has been seen in the last four days, spending his days in caves and moving around on horseback by night, according to local intelligence reports.
Squatting in the dark cave with a glass of green tea in hand, Osama bin Laden must have felt awkward. It was late November, the 11th day of Ramadan.
In a cavern high in the mountain complex, bin Laden delivered a diatribe on "holy war" to his elite al-Qa'eda fighters, telling them that unity and belief in Allah would lead to victory over the Americans.
Even as he spoke, he was planning to abandon them. Part of the audience that day were three of his most loyal Yemeni fighters.
One of them was Abu Baker, a square-faced man with a rough-hewn beard. He recalled his leader's words.
"He said, `hold your positions firm and be ready for martyrdom'," Baker later told his Afghan captors. "He said, `I'll be visiting you again, very soon'."
Between three and four days later, according to lengthy and detailed accounts gathered by The Telegraph in eastern Afghanistan, the world's most wanted man left through pine forests in the direction of Pakistan.
November 27, 2001
Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack:
That morning, six days after the president's request on the Iraq war plan, Rumsfeld flew to see General Franks at CENTCOM headquarters in Tampa. After greeting everyone, he kicked Franks's staff as well as his own aides out of the room, even telling his military assistant, Vice Admiral Giambastiani, "Ed, I need you to step outside."
"Pull the Iraq planning out and let's see where we are," Rumsfeld told Franks when they were alone. (Page 36)
"Let's put together a group that can just think outside the box completely," Rumsfeld ordered. "Certainly we have traditional military planning, but let's take away the constraints a little bit and think about what might be a way to solve this problem."
After the meeting, Rumsfeld and Franks appeared before the news media to brief on the ongoing Afghanistan war called Operation Enduring Freedom. Franks, a head taller than Rumsfeld, loomed over him physically. But there was no question who was boss. The war in Afghanistan was essentially won, at least the first phase. Widespread predictions of a Vietnam-style quagmire had been demolished, at least for the time being, and Rumsfeld was in a bouyant mood. (Page 37)
I'm sorry, I did forget that. The question about Tora Bora. There are two areas that are very interesting to us, one of them for the leadership of the Taliban, and that is out in the vicinity of Kandahar, well reported and true; and the other is in the area between Kabul and Khyber, to include the Jalalabad area and down toward Tora Bora, which you mentioned.
And so these are the two areas that we're paying very, very careful attention to.
November, 28, 2001
Between two and four days later, somewhere between Nov. 28 to Nov. 30 - according to detailed interviews with Arabs and Afghans in eastern Afghanistan afterward - the world's most-wanted man escaped the world's most-powerful military machine, walking - with four of his loyalists - in the direction of Pakistan.
November 29, 2001
On November 29th, Vice President Dick Cheney told ABC's "Primetime Live" that bin Laden was in Tora Bora. "I think he was equipped to go to ground there," Mr. Cheney said. "He's got what he believes to be a fairly secure facility. He's got caves underground; it's an area he's familiar with."
December 1, 2001
Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack:
Four days later, December 1, a Saturday, Rumsfeld sent through the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff a Top Secret planning order to Franks asking him to come up with the commander's estimate to build the base of a new Iraq war plan. In two pages the order said Rumsfeld wanted to know how Franks would conduct military operations to remove Saddam from power, eliminate the threat of any possible weapons of mass destruction, and choke off his suspected support of terrorism. This was the formal order for thinking outside the box.
The Pentagon was supposed to give Franks 30 days to come up with his estimate - an overview and a concept for something new, a first rough cut. "He had a month and we took 27 days away," recalled Marine General Pete Pace, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a Rumsfeld favorite. Franks was to report in person three days later. (Page 38)
On Dec. 11, in the village of Upper Pachir - located a few miles northeast of the main complex of caves where Al Qaeda fighters were holed up - a Saudi financier and Al Qaeda operative, Abu Jaffar, was interviewed by the Monitor. Fleeing the Tora Bora redoubt, Mr. Jaffar said that bin Laden had left the cave complexes roughly 10 days earlier, heading for the Parachinar area of Pakistan.
December 4, 2001
Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack:
An impatient Rumsfeld wanted the first formal presentation on the Iraq war plan from Franks three days later on December 4 at the Pentagon. It was to be done in the strictest secrecy. Franks asked who he could bring to their meetings. Rumsfeld said that Major General Gene Renuart, Franks's operations director, could attend and even accompany them to the White House for the NSC meetings with the president. Renuart had commanded a fighter squadron during the Gulf War and flown 34 combat missions himself. Before becoming Franks's J-3, he had spent a year in Saudi Arabia commanding the Southern Watch no-fly zone enforcement, so he had the most immediate on-the-ground knowledge of the region and intelligence on Iraq.
"Look, if Gene is around, you can bring Gene into anything as far as I'm concerned," Rumsfeld told Franks.
So on December 4, Franks and Renaurt came to Rumsfeld's Pentagon office. Franks began by saying that in the short period of time all he had been able to do was tinker with Op Plan 1003. He now had it trimmed down to a force level of 400,000 over six months, having cut 100,000 and one month from the base plan. (Page 40)
December 10, 2001
Pir Baksh Bardiwal, the intelligence chief for the Eastern Shura, which controls eastern Afghanistan, says he was astounded that Pentagon planners didn't consider the most obvious exit routes and put down light US infantry to block them.
"The border with Pakistan was the key, but no one paid any attention to it," he said, leaning back in his swivel chair with a short list of the Al Qaeda fighters who were later taken prisoner. "And there were plenty of landing areas for helicopters, had the Americans acted decisively. Al Qaeda escaped right out from under their feet."
The intelligence chief contends that several thousand Pakistani troops who had been placed along the border about Dec. 10 never did their job, nor could they have been expected to, given that the exit routes were not being blocked inside Afghanistan.
September 18, 2004
Supporters who can't talk aren't a community
In many ways an online community is like an offline community. The parallels are just harder to see because things taken for granted in the real world can be difficult to recognize online. The most important example is the ability to meet your neighbors. Citing privacy concerns, most campaigns don’t even give their supporters the option of allowing other supporters to contact them by email. This is the equivalent of a big “No Trespassing” sign. Sure, some will prefer to keep it that way, but many will understand being an active part of a community means answering the door bell. It is important to give those who want to participate, the option to do so - or there won’t be a community.
During the Democratic presidential primaries, both the Edwards campaign and the Dean campaign did just that. Through the Dean campaign’s Project Commons and the Edwards campaign’s volunteer-run Win-with-Edwards network, supporters had the option of letting other supporters contact them by email. Both systems were featured prominently on their respective campaigns’ homepage. Neither system revealed the email address of any supporter. Instead, it was a directory with names of supporters, and optional extra information they might have provided about themselves or their interests. Sorted by state then town, or searchable by zip code within a given radius, these tools let supporters find other supporters nearby and fill out an online form to send them an email. If the recipient chose to respond, they could email the sender directly at the sender’s email address, only then revealing their own email address - once trust was established.
The Edwards site provided a link in each email which could be clicked on to report abuse, or block a sender. No abuse was reported. The Dean campaign allowed their supporters to contact dozens of others all at once by checking a box next to their names. However, that soon became a problem for Dean because people started getting too many messages. This helps to show that it is still important to discourage abuse, and do things like force users to register with a verified email address. Limits can also be placed on the number of people someone can contact or how often they can do so in a given period of time. Even without these safeguards in place, both campaigns showed that supporter to supporter contact works. The Dean online community is legendary, and the Edwards staffers were repeatedly surprised when they moved into a state and found a connected network of online supporters there to help. The successes of both campaigns owe a debt to their decision to take the risk and actually let their supporters talk to each other.
Another popular tool that both campaigns used were two-way email list serves. For Dean, this took the form of yahoo groups linked to from the main campaign web site. For Edwards, when someone registered with the Win-with-Edwards system, they had the option of signing up for the list in their state. The difference between a two-way list, and the one-way lists that all campaigns use, is that anyone can send an email on a two-way list - not just the campaign. For example, if a supporter in Tucson wants to go register voters on Sunday, instead of making dozens of calls to a list of supporters, they just send a message to the list and it gets broadcast out to everyone else in the group. Anyone who is interested can contact the original sender directly to respond, or post to the main group.
These lists are by definition more vulnerable to abuse - due to the broadcast nature of the tools, but there are several ways to reduce the risk. First, an easy to use unsubscribe link should be included in each message, as it was with the Edwards lists. Second, if traffic reaches levels of more than a few per day, volunteer moderators can be appointed to review all of the messages submitted before they are broadcast to the group. Third, as with the Dean yahoo groups, messages can be posted online in a discussion group type forum, for users who prefer to read the notes online instead of getting them in their inbox. For a national campaign, a list serve could be created for all 500 or so metropolitan areas. If it’s done right, a two-way list serve can be a very effective organizational tool, for one simple reason: The more ways people can talk with each other, the more likely they will.
At the Democratic National Convention in Boston, tens of thousands of Democrats from across the nation came together for the shared experience of nominating John Kerry and the chance to meet each other. Most consider this type of interaction a good thing. No question, some abuses did take place. Fringe groups and conspiracy theorists tried to recruit new supporters. Yet these were the exception, not the rule. They did not ruin the convention and no one suggested we should stay home and watch it all on television next time to prevent the abuses that freedom of interaction at a convention allows. There are a lot of parallels between an online community and a national convention, but it’s hard to see out there in cyberspace. So the freedom of interaction at a convention is praised, but the prevailing wisdom says all this freedom of interaction on the internet is a bad thing!
The prevailing wisdom misses several points. First, that just like a convention - an online community is not only a shared experience, but a chance to meet and interact with others. Second, individuals are much more likely to take action if they are working together, as opposed to on their own. Not only can people see the effect of their actions more clearly in a group, and share ideas for more effective ways to take action, but peer pressure can also help motivate group members to stay involved. Third, just like offline groups or relationships, simple rules and common sense can prevent abuses and keep someone from hijacking the agenda. Fear of the unknown and the potential for abuse of "peer to peer" communication has so far prevented the formation of the online community we ought to be building. The only question now is if we will work to get past those obstacles, or let them stop us from realizing the true potential of an online organization this fall. The only way to get 5 million volunteers to reach out to 55 million voters is to let those 5 million volunteers work together by letting them reach out to each other, as well.
JohnKerry.com already has a feature that lets supporters find each other by zip code. However, there is no mechanism to allow them to contact each other. Not even an optional feature for only those supporters who are interested. Unlike Win with Edwards, JohnKerry.com already requires users to register with a verified email address in order to access the volunteer center. That would be an added safe guard that prevents someone from providing a false return address when sending emails to supporters. Additional safeguards could limit one user to one account, or prevent users from sending more than a given number of emails in a given time period. If someone was not willing to receive the messages at their primary email address, a message inbox feature could be added, so that someone only sees their messages when they login to their JohnKerry.com account. In short, all of the key building blocks are there, and could be integrated without much effort. The only thing missing is the realization that supporters who can’t talk aren’t a community.
September 17, 2004
Keeping a diary is bad for your health, say UK psychologists. They found that regular diarists were more likely than non-diarists to suffer from headaches, sleeplessness, digestive problems and social awkwardness.
Their finding challenges assumptions that people find it easier to get over a traumatic event if they write about it.
“We expected diary keepers to have some benefit, or be the same, but they were the worst off,” says Elaine Duncan of the Glasgow Caledonian University. “In fact, you’re probably much better off if you don’t write anything at all,” she adds.
The study, carried out with David Sheffield of Staffordshire University, was presented on Wednesday at a meeting of the British Psychological Society in Edinburgh.
Note to self: Apparently, ignorance really is bliss after all.
September 11, 2004
Remarks of Senator John Edwards
September 11, 2004
Good morning. Today, on this day of remembrance and mourning, we have the Lord's word to get us through. "The bricks have fallen, but we will build with dressed stones; the sycamores have been cut down, but we will put cedars in their place."
And let me show you how we are building and putting cedars in those three hallowed places-the footprints of the Towers, the Pentagon, and the field in Pennsylvania. Walk with me through this day and you will see that this is a season of hope.
For at this moment, just outside of New York, a mother laces up her daughter's shoes. And they are ready to start their long walk through this day. The daughter is two and a half. She can say his name, "Dad." She can point to his picture, but she does not know him.
On this day, they go to Central Park to remember with the other families. Then, they head downtown to place a flower where he died-the once tall tower where he left his first, last and only message addressed to her. And they return home still in their Sunday bests after a Saturday of sorrow.
So walk with me through this day.
Today, a town gathers in front of their church. It is a town where so many-53-were taken before their time. For a week after that September day, the Lord's doors were open. The Lord's doors were open for that hour of loneliness just before dawn. That night when the silence inside the house was too much to bear. And for that moment when just missing their wife, their husband and the love of their life was the greatest pain they'd ever known.
But today, they are there to ring a new church bell-a gift born out of their grief. They want it to ring from the bell tower to ensure that "sorrow and sighing shall flee away." That bell will toll for the souls gone home. It will toll for those who still weep. And it will toll for those who rejoice in life's great gifts.
Walk with me through this day.
And across our great river, the men and women who stood at their posts at the Pentagon; who helped rescue the wounded and carried the dying, and who still guard their post at this moment will pause in a sea of stone and valor. They will lay a wreath. They will pray onward soldier you answered your calling here but your work is not done in the Lord's house. And they will pray for those whose wounds have not healed-the burns that cause them great pain every time they reach out to hold their wife's hand until the stars rise and the night falls on this day in September.
So walk with me through this day.
To that field in Pennsylvania where-the mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, friends and neighbors of that day's warriors- will stand in the middle of all things beautiful. They will read the names of those who charged. Those who fought back. Those who never gave up so that evil never had the chance to finish its plan. They come together, as their loved ones did, to find hope in the middle of the Lord's green field.
They will sing. They will pray. And they will lay a wreath where Flight 93 fell. And in a place where smoke once rose, you and I we will see that cedar rising.
Walk with me through this day.
At this hour and all day long, strangers will follow the Lord's wish. In memory and in the hope that goodwill and grace will always triumph out of tragedy, they will give. In "a day's payment of service," New York City firefighters will give and fly to California to help rebuild homes destroyed in the fires. Businessmen from Long Island will give and take sick kids to a ball game. Men and women in Memphis will give and build wheelchair ramps for the disabled. And there are thousands standing in Afghanistan, standing in the very place where evil grew, giving their service to ensure that evil never rises again.
These Americans will give because so many were taken from us. And for them-the three strangers who came together to start this day of service-a mother who lost her son, a brother who lost a brother, and a friend who lost a friend-for them September 11th is never in the past; it is enduring. It is never just an anniversary; it is a time of renewal for each and every one of us to do God's work here on earth.
So walk with me through this day.
At this breakfast, our prayers will be heard and answered for those who still need comfort. They need a hand to hold as they try over and over again to forget the crashing windows, the fire, and the falling steel that took their coworkers but not them. They need the comfort of prayers as they sit in solitude. They have their head in their hands as they wonder like the other tens of thousands who walked out-why I lived and the others did not. And they need to know that we are with them even when it feels like we aren't as they try to rebuild their lives without.
Whether it's one year, two years, three years or until our short time on this earth comes to an end. Those who lost that day will always miss them. Those who worked night and day until the last cart was carried out of Ground Zero will always know they did their best. And those who unfurled their flags, gave blood, comforted a child who lost their Dad, and made that day the defining day for them to leave their mark on this earth-we will always remember that unity of purpose.
Walk with me through this day. And you will see that while those bricks fell and the sycamores cut down, our people are making those cedars rise.
"And let us not grow weary in well-doing for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart."
And let us not grow weary of taking care of those families. Let us not grow weary of praying for those soldiers who defend us from that evil at this hour. Let us not grow weary for giving up a day in our lives for those who are gone. And let us not grow weary in our determination to never forget, to never grow indifferent to what occurred that dark day in September.
This season of hope does not have to end tomorrow. We do not have to wait for yet another anniversary to come and go. We know what we want in this country. We want that one America.
There have been few times when we saw the possibilities of one America more than on September 11, 2001. All Americans, black and white, young and old, rich and poor, were bound together in tragedy and resolve to ensure that once again good triumphed over evil.
Sitting here today, after so long in the desert, it may seem like a mirage. But we know it is real, and that it is possible because we have seen it. We want one America. We want that hope, that faith, and that purpose without the tears, the pain, and the sorrow.
You know, I have learned two lessons in my life. One is that there will always be heartache and struggle in our lives. We can't make it go away. And the other is that people of good will can make a difference. One lesson is sad and the other is inspiring. And walking together through this day, we choose to be inspired because we know that we can fulfill the promise.
In times like these, if we can work together, comfort together, and help communities rebuild together, then let's do that for all of the challenges that exists right now and build one America.
For that child we see every day sitting on the front step, locked out and alone, let's work together to give him a safe place to go with friends and teachers while his mom works.
For that mother who works hard all day-forty hours plus a week- and she still has to sit at the kitchen table and divide her bills into pay now and pay later, let's work together to give her a country that honors work so she can get ahead.
For that whole town that's watched their factory lock its doors, let's work together to make sure that we bring opportunity and an equal chance to their front door.
For that young boy who always sits in the back of the classroom unable to read the basic instructions, but is too scared to ask for help, let's build him a school that's a palace for learning so no child is ever afraid to ask for help.
And for that family we know on every street. The mother and father are working hard. He takes the late-bus to work and she takes the early bus. They're doing what's right, what they're supposed to do to take care of their family. And yet later tonight, they might have to put their kids to bed hungry again because they can't afford dinner on a Saturday.
So let's work together to end poverty. Now some are going to say "end poverty" you can't do that. That's something we've been fighting for centuries. We just have to live with it. Says who?
Anything is possible in this country when you and I work together. If we put a man on the moon; if we conquered diseases like polio; if we can live through a terrible day like September 11th , then we can build the Lord's house in every heart and home across this land.
Some days sorrow just storms in doesn't it. You wake up one beautiful morning and the kingdom is at hand. You're on your way to work, to school, or to fly west to see your family. You're washing down the fire truck or walking the halls in the Pentagon. You're waving good bye to your young son on his first day at his new job. You're just talking on the phone with your child. And then sorrow hits.
It never asks if it can drop by. It doesn't knock. And it never asks if you're ready. It just hits and knocks everything down. And the next day, grief washes over thousands and sorrow surrounds us.
But we know how to beat it back. In America, we always rise up. Sometimes not on the first day or the second day, but we begin to rise up and build something new.
This is who we are, and this is the eternal spirit of America.
That is why that young girl who never knew her father, will feel the comfort of millions as we walk with her through this day and her life. That is why the men and women at the Pentagon will feel the prayers of millions as they salute their fallen. That is why the families in Pennsylvania will know that we weep with them. That is why the firefighters and police officers who miss their brothers will know that we miss them too. And that is why a new bell tolls in a church on the other side of the Hudson River.
You and I, we hear it. It tolls once for the dead. It tolls a second time for the mournful. And the third time, it tolls for us. It tolls for us to seek joy in our families, comfort in our children, and hope in our neighbors.
Each time that bell tolls, it calls us to a greater purpose. It calls us to never forget. It calls us to do the Lord's work here on earth. And it calls on us to always remember that when we walk through this day together-the cedars will rise, the stones will go up, and this season of hope will endure.
Thank you and God bless you, the families and friends who mourn, and our great United States of America.
September 04, 2004
Must - stop - blogging
I've never ate right, but I stopped exercising and have put on twenty pounds since I started blogging a year and a half ago. My readership took a spike after the DNC convention, to over 600 visitors a day fairly regularly now, and I was getting more into the groove. However, I still don't know who most of you people are, and I don't know how I can cut back on my obsession with checking the latest news and blogs, unless I go cold turkey and stop publishing myself.
Feel free to email me and ask me to change my mind or something, but it's probably too late. My primary focus has always been just recording things for my own interest. I need to start doing some volunteer work for the Kerry campaign, and there is just no way I can blog, do that, work, sleep, eat right, and start exercising, too. So blogging is the odd one out. When I start again, I hope to have the site converted to MT 3.1 with comments and everything, but for now you can reach me by email. My new Gmail account is topdog04. Time to stop talking and start helping Kerry win this.
I hope you'll consider doing the same. Sixty days from today we'll have a new President elect. I hope to God it's not George W Bush.
September 03, 2004
Abridged version of Bush's speech
"While my opponent wants to raise some taxes to increase spending for new programs. I'm going to spend billions on better programs - but cut spending and cut everyone's taxes! I held a bull horn on a pile of rubble at Ground Zero, and if you're a good-fearing, patriotic American, I know you'll be voting for me."
Mo Rocca on CNN: "I get it, I submit. 9/11 is all that matters. Bush got on a pile of rubble with a bullhorn and that makes him god like. I get it."
Nobody was impressed with the first fifty minutes. Not even the delegates right on the floor. The last ten minutes he struck a personal, human tone. Is that enough to win over some undecided voters? Probably, but I hope they got to see some of John Edwards' rebuttal at 11:45. Forget sending out Joe Lockhart (although he beats Tad Devine.) Start booking the Edwardses for interviews.
Is Mrs. Edwards great or what?
I don't know if she's ever watched Reno 911, and I probably haven't seen enough of it to characterize it, but it takes some guts to blog about that show.
I sit here thinking about my trip to Nevada yesterday (first to Reno, then to Las Vegas), and as I type, I have Comedy Central on in the background. And Reno 911 comes on. Odd coincidence, but okay, I’m fine with that. Then the premise of the story is that George Bush is coming to town and the police force is finding out that they will be blocking the streets for his motorcade. Lots of talk about how they feel about that, and . . . no, I think I’ll leave it there. Back to my trip, and I guess I’ll take a cue from the show and tell you about the Reno part of the trip.
Reno was awesome. Five hundred people had gathered in the University of Nevada student union (great campus) for our round table town hall, and I shared the stage with four people who were concerned about what is happening in education – including Erin, the articulate student body president who gave me a Wolf Pack sweatshirt and joked that he was in his fifth year of college. The point of these round table events is to gather undecided voters and let them direct the conversation to the topics that matter to them in this election. Although it means that I am never sure where the conversation will lead, I am almost never disappointed. We discussed college tuition and Senator Kerry’s ideas about how to make it more affordable. We discussed the importance of arts education, which was raised both by a parent whose son saw his band director let go last year and by an assistant principal in charge of curriculum, and what a difference full funding of No Child Left Behind would make. We discussed the need for teachers who are role models for various student populations and the under-representation of Hispanic teachers even in schools with significant Hispanic populations. We discussed the need – so often mentioned by Senator Kerry – to support advanced studies in science and engineering. We could have gone on all afternoon, but I had to go to Las Vegas to meet with waiting military families, so I shook some hands and said goodbye. While I was working the rope line, a woman said she was massage therapist and reach to give me a shoulder rub. Let me tell you, the Secret Service was more than a little alarmed.
Well, the President’s motorcade has whizzed by on the television show – and I’ll move on too – and get a little sleep before tomorrow’s trip to Little Rock, St. Louis and on to Lansing. . . . Okay, I'm going to watch the rerun of tonight's Daily Show (which got great reviews on DU) and then get some sleep.
Who does Frank Luntz think he's fooling?
Apparently the big wigs at MSNBC. If I see another focus group of "swing voters" where he clearly labels one half REP in red and the other DEM-IND in green, then goes around asking people questions without identifying who self identifies as a member of what party, I'm gonna throw something at my TV, and it's a big enough TV that I might not miss. MSNBC, fire this chump already!
I was worried about disillusioned voters, not the next generation of Arabs....
Al-Jazeera TV brings GOP to the Arab world
For 40 million viewers in the Arab world, Al-Jazeera, a Qatar-based satellite television channel, provides a window into the intricate world of American politics. This week, its 16 reporters and staff will air 13 hours of broadcasts from the convention -- more time than the combined coverage of America's major television networks, ABC, CBS and NBC.
Al-Jazeera's coverage includes live broadcasts from the channel's skybox above the convention floor in Madison Square Garden, interviews with Republican delegates, dispatches from outside the midtown Manhattan convention center and two talk shows, one of them modeled loosely on CNN's "Crossfire" and featuring Arab American Democratic and Republican commentators.
For many of Al-Jazeera's viewers in the Middle East, these insights into the American political system are more than an excursion into foreign politics, said Hafez al-Mirazi, the Al-Jazeera Washington bureau chief.
"American politics for them is almost domestic politics," said al-Mirazi. "The Arabic society wants to know how serious are the statements they hear about America's commitment to democracy."
Lee Atwater, meet Muqtada Al-Sadr.
I guess Cheney supported arming our troops with spitballs
Given his endorsement of Zell Miller's speech right before his, and Miller's question to John Kerry: "American forces armed with what, spitballs?" The following from Fred Kaplan begs somebody to ask Cheney the same question, if only to prove that it's an ignorant, false premise.
In the case of Sen. Zell Miller's keynote address, "lies" might be too strong a word. Clearly not a bright man, Miller dutifully recited the talking points that his Republican National Committee handlers had typed up for him, though perhaps in a more hysterical tone than anyone might have anticipated. (His stumbled rantings in the interviews afterward, on CNN and MSNBC, brought to mind the flat-Earthers who used to be guests on The Joe Pyne Show.) Can a puppet tell lies? Perhaps not.
Still, it is worth setting the record straight. The main falsehood, we have gone over before, but it keeps getting repeated, so here we go again: It is the claim that John Kerry, during his 20 years in the Senate, voted to kill the M-1 tank, the Apache helicopter; the F-14, F-16, and F-18 jet fighters; and just about every other weapon system that has kept our nation free and strong.
Here, one more time, is the truth of the matter: Kerry did not vote to kill these weapons, in part because none of these weapons ever came up for a vote, either on the Senate floor or in any of Kerry's committees.
This myth took hold last February in a press release put out by the RNC. Those who bothered to look up the fine-print footnotes discovered that they referred to votes on two defense appropriations bills, one in 1990, the other in 1995. Kerry voted against both bills, as did 15 other senators, including five Republicans. The RNC took those bills, cherry-picked some of the weapons systems contained therein, and implied that Kerry voted against those weapons. By the same logic, they could have claimed that Kerry voted to disband the entire U.S. armed forces; but that would have raised suspicions and thus compelled more reporters to read the document more closely.
What makes this dishonesty not merely a lie, but a damned lie, is that back when Kerry cast these votes, Dick Cheney—who was the secretary of defense for George W. Bush's father—was truly slashing the military budget. Here was Secretary Cheney, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Jan. 31, 1992:
"Overall, since I've been Secretary, we will have taken the five-year defense program down by well over $300 billion. That's the peace dividend. … And now we're adding to that another $50 billion … of so-called peace dividend."
Cheney then lit into the Democratic-controlled Congress for not cutting weapons systems enough:
"Congress has let me cancel a few programs. But you've squabbled and sometimes bickered and horse-traded and ended up forcing me to spend money on weapons that don't fill a vital need in these times of tight budgets and new requirements. … You've directed me to buy more M1s, F14s, and F16s—all great systems … but we have enough of them."
September 02, 2004
Where greed and public safety diverge
I don't know how simple this software is, but assuming the phone companies have some basic safeguards to prevent spoofing, this application seems to offer con artists (and much worse) the perfect way to fool people. Just because it's not against the law yet, doesn't mean it's right to let them do it. Link via P6.
The service, the first commercial version of a technology known mainly among software programmers and the computer-hacker underground until now, was introduced nationwide on Wednesday by a California company called Star38.
For $19.99 a month and as little as 7 cents a minute, customers can go to the company's Web site (www.star38.com), log in and then type the number that they want to call and the number that they want to appear on the caller ID screen of the recipient's phone.
For an additional fee, they can also specify names that can appear along with their telephone numbers.
Jury convicts `Fantasy Man' in rape cases
Nashville, Tenn. (AP) The "Fantasy Man" faces as long as 30 years in prison after a jury convicted him of tricking women into having sex blindfolded by telling each one he was her boyfriend. Businessman Raymond Mitchell, 45, was convicted Thursday of rape by fraud and attempted rape by fraud. He will be sentenced in March. The defence said the women agreed to have sex. Prosecutors said Mitchell called hundreds of women over the years, most of whom hung up on him. Of the 30 women who reported encounters with him to police, eight said they had sex with the caller. One woman said she had sex with "Fantasy Man" twice a week for two months in 1992 because she thought he was her boyfriend. She said she discovered he wasn't when her blindfold slipped off. Mitchell was convicted in the early morning sexual encounters with two women and of attempting sex with a third woman who realized she was being duped in time to lock the man out of her room. Each instance began with a phone call to the sleeping women and a whispered voice. He said he was their boyfriend [by name] and asked them to fulfill his fantasy of having sex with a blindfolded woman. Defense lawyer Edward Fowlkes said in his closing argument that the women agreed to act out the sexual fantasies Mitchell suggested. "How do you spell consent?" Fowlkes asked the jury. "Talk dirty 20 or 30 minutes on the phone, that's how." Fowlkes argued the women knew they were engaging in sex play with a stranger, but called police later for some reason. Fowlkes said he will appeal the decision, "but that's still down the road."
Given the availability of prepaid debit cards and other methods of electronic payment for using services like Star 38 anonymously, watch for more cases like this, although I hope most will only involve petty fraud, not sadistic impersonation and rape.
Rap Lyrics of the Month
I searched and searched for the answer to Zell Miller. This song came to mind.
Artist: Willie D
Album: I'm Goin' Out Lika Soldier
Song: I'm Goin' Out Lika Soldier
Born, born, born, born, born, born, born killer
I'm that mothafucking god damn nigga
The brother that's tougher than any other you cover
The one you don't wanna take home to your mother
Fuck a loose screw, let me enlighten
I got a whole mothafucking toolbox need tighten
Fast like lighting, punch like Tyson
It's a clash of titans when I start fighting
So what's a god damn reporter?
A nigga with a foot in his ass and a tape recorder
Dissing W-I double L-I-E-D
And don't know shit about me
But you don't see me running
I'm from the ghetto, hoe, so I keep coming
With more nerves, more verbs, more cuss words
To fuck with the suburbs
You can't stand me or can me
Bullets gonna go thru people if you ban me
Cause you fucking with my livelihood
For your health that ain't no good
Like Breed I'm 20 below and getting colder
Going out lika soldier
Crisp and clean I'm leaving the scene
Blowing mothafuckas to smithereens
And if I fall you know they didn't pimp me
Cause the banana clip will be empty
You say: Willie, clean up your act
And maybe you can sell more records than that
Survival comes before principles and morals
So to the man on the street I'ma stay loyal
And fuck up those who oppose
Outta there smelling like a rose
You ain't never seen a mothafucka kill a mothafucka
Lika mothafucka named Willie D mothafucka
Rambo can't go
And Robocop get dropped like a hoe
By something that they never saw
An M-72A2 mothafucking law
We can rumble in the jungle
Or have a World War 3 right here on the concrete
God damn, I done told ya
(Willie D) goin' out lika soldier
Fuck this, fuck that is my motto
Willie D is fucking everybody like a hot hoe
So you better put a condom on your ear
Cause I'm burning up the normal shit you hear
Y'all mothafuckas know I ain't joking
I've been paying my dues for a decade
(What time it is?) It's time to get paid
Yeah, fuck the bullshit
And that nigga standing at the damn pulpit
I left Charlie Brown on the cut
Cause I felt like Snoopy working for peanuts
Now my ass is soe
And I can't be fucked no mo'
So if you wanna test me, that'll hold ya
I'm goin' out lika soldier
I'm goin' out lika S-O-L-D-I-E-R
Pumped up for an all out war
Searching like a predator
With an M-16 looking for a magazine editor
I know they don't write the columns
But they co-sign every volume
So I'm cutting off the head of state
So the rest of the body can't operate
And while I'm into the slaughter
I may as well bust a cap on a TV reporter
And a DJ by the way
For giving that wicky wack shit radio play
If that's your preference so be it
But I'ma call it like I mothafucking see it
And never be a pop chart trick
Y'all talk loud but you don't say shit
I'd rather boycott that picture
And rap about that which affects ya
You wonder why the cussing won't disappear
God damn, we ain't happy down here
Willie D got problems
So when mom walk in, turn down the volume
And act like you're doing your homework
Or get your pussy or your dick knocked in the dirt
There's a vet in your vicinity
So pump up Ice Cube and jam Public Enemy
And let the O.G. Ice-T kick a rhyme that'll mold ya
And go out like a soldier
Referendum on democracy
But the important thing isn't the falsity of the charges, which Republicans continue to repeat despite press reports debunking them. The important thing is that the GOP is trying to quash criticism of the president simply because it's criticism of the president. The election is becoming a referendum on democracy.
In a democracy, the commander in chief works for you. You hire him when you elect him. You watch him do the job. If he makes good decisions and serves your interests, you rehire him. If he doesn't, you fire him by voting for his opponent in the next election.
Not every country works this way. In some countries, the commander in chief builds a propaganda apparatus that equates him with the military and the nation. If you object that he's making bad decisions and disserving the national interest, you're accused of weakening the nation, undermining its security, sabotaging the commander in chief, and serving a foreign power—the very charges Miller leveled tonight against Bush's critics.
Are you prepared to become one of those countries?
I like this quote from Jonathon Alter, on MONDAY. Wonder how he feels after last night?
While Kerry has repudiated an ad made by MoveOn.org that ridicules Bush and Dick ("I had other priorities") Cheney for skipping a war they hypocritically favored, Bush has repeatedly refused to do the same on his side, which gives the news media license to take the whole thing seriously. Bush told The New York Times last week that he thought Kerry was telling the truth, but he still wouldn't denounce the ads attacking Kerry as a liar. (His call for a ban on all "527" independent ads is a transparent dodge.) So much for any sense of decency. The man who was once an inept right-wing president but a nice guy is now just an inept right-wing president.
I once made the mistake of asking for Miller at a trendy, urban bar. Andrew Sullivan explains why it was a mistake for Republicans to embrace their long disavowed Dixiecrat roots:
THE MILLER MOMENT: Zell Miller's address will, I think, go down as a critical moment in this campaign, and maybe in the history of the Republican party. I kept thinking of the contrast with the Democrats' keynote speaker, Barack Obama, a post-racial, smiling, expansive young American, speaking about national unity and uplift. Then you see Zell Miller, his face rigid with anger, his eyes blazing with years of frustration as his Dixiecrat vision became slowly eclipsed among the Democrats. Remember who this man is: once a proud supporter of racial segregation, a man who lambasted LBJ for selling his soul to the negroes. His speech tonight was in this vein, a classic Dixiecrat speech, jammed with bald lies, straw men, and hateful rhetoric. As an immigrant to this country and as someone who has been to many Southern states and enjoyed astonishing hospitality and warmth and sophistication, I long dismissed some of the Northern stereotypes about the South. But Miller did his best to revive them. The man's speech was not merely crude; it added whole universes to the word crude.
With all the talk of Kerry's overconfidence, it looks like Rove who overreached.
No cheap shot left behind
Well, at least unlike 2000, Bush is showing his true colors this time around. If he says he's a uniter not a divider, or talks about reaching across the aisle, anyone who watched Cheney's performance last night would simply laugh in his face:
CHENEY: People tell me that Senator Edwards got picked for his good looks, his sex appeal and his great hair....
Senator Kerry began his political career by saying he would like to see our troops deployed "only at the directive of the United Nations." ....
CHENEY: Even in this post-9/11 period, Senator Kerry doesn't appear to understand how the world has changed. He talks about leading a "more sensitive war on terror" as though Al Qaida will be impressed with our softer side....
Senator Kerry denounces American action when other countries don't approve, as if the whole object of our foreign policy were to please a few persistent critics....
George W. Bush will never seek a permission slip to defend the American people....
And then Cheney's version of a climax:
CHENEY: He voted against body armor, ammunition, fuel, spare parts, armored vehicles, extra pay for hardship duty and support for military families.
CHENEY: Senator Kerry is campaigning for the position of commander in chief.
CHENEY: Yet he does not seem to understand the first obligation of a commander in chief, and that is to support American troops in combat.
CHENEY: In his years in Washington, John Kerry has been one of a 100 votes in the United States Senate. And fortunately on matters of national security, his views rarely prevailed.
But the presidency is an entirely different proposition. A senator can be wrong for 20 years, without consequence to the nation.
But a president -- a president -- always casts the deciding vote.
And in this time of challenge, America needs and America has a president we can count on to get it right.
AUDIENCE: Four more years. Four more years. Four more years.
CHENEY: On Iraq, Senator Kerry has disagreed with many of his fellow Democrats. But Senator Kerry's liveliest disagreement is with himself.
His back-and-forth reflects a habit of indecision and sends a message of confusion. And it's all part of a pattern. He has, in the last several years, been for the No Child Left Behind Act and against it. He has spoken in favor of the North American Free Trade Agreement and against it. He is for the Patriot Act and against it.
Senator Kerry says he sees two Americas. It makes the whole thing mutual.
America sees two John Kerrys....
Zell Miller challenges Chris Matthews to a duel
Watch this interview then tell me, do you think Zell Miller is right in the head? On Imus this morning he was ready to challenge Imus to a duel, too....
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you, when Democrats come out, as they often do, liberal Democrats, and attack conservatives, and say they want to starve little kids, they want to get rid of education, they want to kill the old people...
MILLER: I am not saying that. Wait a minute.
MATTHEWS: That kind of rhetoric is not educational, is it?
MILLER: Wait a minute.
Now, this is your program. And I am a guest on your program.
MATTHEWS: Yes, sir.
MILLER: And so I want to try to be as nice as I possibly can to you. I wish I was over there, where I could get a little closer up into your face.
MILLER: But I don‘t have to stand here and listen to that kind of stuff. I didn‘t say anything about not feeding poor kids. What are you doing? ....
MATTHEWS: OK. Do you believe now—do you believe, Senator, truthfully, that John Kerry wants to defend the country with spitballs? Do you believe that?
MILLER: That was a metaphor, wasn‘t it? Do you know what that metaphor is?
MATTHEWS: Well, what do you mean by a metaphor?
MILLER: Wait a minute. He certainly does not want to defend the country with the B-1 bomber or the B-2 bomber or the Harrier jet or the Apache helicopter or all those other things that I mentioned. And there were even more of them in here.
You‘ve got to quit taking these Democratic talking points and using what they are saying to you.
MATTHEWS: No, I am using your talking points and asking you if you really believe them.
MILLER: Well, use John Kerry‘s talking points from the—from what he has had to say on the floor of the Senate, where he talked about them being occupiers, where he put out this whenever he was running for the U.S. Senate about what he wanted to cancel. Cancel to me means to do away with.
MATTHEWS: Well, what did you mean by the following.
MILLER: I think we ought to cancel this interview....
And then later:
MILLER: Get out of my face. If you are going to ask me a question, step back and let me answer.
MATTHEWS: Senator, please.
MILLER: You know, I wish we...
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MILLER: I wish we lived in the day where you could challenge a person to a duel.
MILLER: Now, that would be pretty good. Don‘t ask me—don‘t pull that...
MATTHEWS: Can you can come over? I need you, Senator. Please come over.
MILLER: Wait a minute. Don‘t pull that kind of stuff on me, like you did that young lady when you had her there, browbeating her to death. I am not her. I am not her....
September 01, 2004
They hired Lockhart August 19th
Update: The National Journal reports Kerry's campaign today "announced the official addition of several 'key new staff' for the race's final weeks. Joe Lockhart joins as a senior adviser, while Joel Johnson will be director of rapid response; other additions include Lori Denham, Karen Finney, Dr. Susan Rice and former Congressman Mel Levine. Rumor has it that the recent Swift Boat skirmishes are at least part of the reason behind the hires." -August 31, 2004
Former White House press secretary Joe Lockhart and another former aide to President Clinton are joining Kerry's campaign to help bolster its communications team.
The hiring of Lockhart and Joel Johnson are part of an effort by Kerry to expand and improve his team for the stretch drive against Bush. Johnson also has worked for Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.
Former Clinton White House adviser Doug Sosnik, strategist Michael Whouley and several others recently joined Kerry's political shop.
"Joe and Joel are the best the Democratic Party has to offer," communications director Stephanie Cutter said. "I'm pleased they agreed to come aboard to help get us over the finish line." -August 19, 2004
Stay tuned for more two-week-old news, coming sometime later this month....
Quotes of Note
Fred Kaplan of Slate is even more pessimistic. "This is a terribly grim thing to say," he wrote recently, "but there might be no solution to the problem of Iraq" -- no way to produce "a stable, secure, let alone democratic regime. And there's no way we can just pull out without plunging the country, the region and possibly beyond into still deeper disaster." Deeper disaster? Yes: People who worried about Ramadi are now worrying about Pakistan.
So what's the answer? Here's one thought: Much of U.S. policy in Iraq -- delaying elections, trying to come up with a formula that blocks simple majority rule, trying to install first Chalabi, then Allawi, as strongman -- can be seen as a persistent effort to avoid giving Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani his natural dominant role. But recent events in Najaf have demonstrated both the cleric's awesome influence and the limits of U.S. power. Isn't it time to realize that we could do a lot worse than Sistani and give him pretty much whatever he wants?
Here's another thought. President Bush says the troubles in Iraq are the result of unanticipated "catastrophic success." But that catastrophe was predicted by many experts. Cordesman says their warnings were ignored because we have "the weakest and most ineffective National Security Council in postwar American history," giving control to "a small group of neoconservative ideologues" who "shaped a war without any realistic understanding or plans for shaping a peace."
Bush, who took a "winning the war on terror" bus tour just a few months ago, conceded Monday that "I don't think you can win" the war on terror. But he hasn't changed the national security adviser, nor has he dismissed even one of the ideologues who got us into this no-win situation. Rather than concede that he made mistakes, he's sticking with people who will, if they get the chance, lead us into two, three, many quagmires.
NEW YORK, Aug. 31 -- Ben Wilson sat in his living room in Harlem late Monday and listened as former mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani talked of Sept. 11, 2001, and why the events of that day all but demanded that Americans vote for President Bush.
Wilson listened -- and clicked off his television. He had watched the first airplane crash into the World Trade Center. His son serves in Iraq with the Marines.
"Listen to me: A lot of us suffered that day," said Wilson, who is African American. "You tell me what Bush has done that gives him the right to come here and milk that attack for votes? Man, the Republicans annoy me."
And, ladies and gentlemen, if you believe that we must be fierce and relentless and terminate terrorism, then you are a Republican.
Now, there's another way you can tell you're a Republican. You have faith in free enterprise, faith in the resourcefulness of the American people and faith in the U.S. economy. And to those critics who are so pessimistic about our economy, I say: Don't be economic girlie-men.
Interestingly, Arnold said this, too:
And when Nelson Mandela smiled in election victory after all those years in prison, America celebrated, too.
One former stance Cheney said he would not change was his 1986 vote against a nonbinding House resolution on Nelson Mandela. -Michael Finnegan, LA Times Jul 31, 2000
As a top Republican in the US House, Dick Cheney outdid the NRA in his opposition to gun control. He was an impassioned backer of aid to the Nicaraguan contras but declined to join a call for South Africa to free Nelson Mandela. -Michael Kranish, Boston Globe, p. A13 Jul 26, 2000