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Frame the Debate
Wednesday, March 31, 2004
  (UPDATE) Liberal Radio Launches... Get it online here.

PREDICTION: Randi Rhodes (2 to 6 p.m. Central time) will emerge as the star of the station.

Ralph Nader just hung up on Randi because she kept talking over him telling him not to run. Here's a reasonable facsimile of the segment

RANDI: We can't afford you

RANDI: If you won, who would you caucus with?

RALPH: Kennedy.

RANDI: KENNEDY? You really think Kennedy would vote with you?

RALPH: I'm very persusive...

RANDI: Nobody's gonna vote with you, Ralph.

RALPH: AirAmerica should be ashamed. You are denying millions of America the choice to vote for me. You're fillibustering me. As an interviewer, you should let me answer...

RANDI: I'm not interviewing you. I'm MAD at you. I was mad at you in 2000, and I'm mad at you now! I agree with you on so much but we can't afford you right now!

RALPH: You're ruining the first day of AirAmerica...click. 
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  Letterman Pokes Fun... at W. Then CNN makes some shit up about it. Then Dave gets annoyed. Then CNN makes up more shit.

Atrios has a string on it all with some bogus Wolf Blitzer stuff and great reader comments about CNN and the White House as pathological liars. 
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  I vote for explanation #3... White House counsel Alberto Gonzalez wrote this letter to the 9-11 Commission. In addition to agreeing to letting Condi testify in public, Gonzalez also wrote:

I am authorized to advise you that the president and vice president have agreed to one joint private session with all 10 commissioners, with one commission staff member present to take notes of the session.

Why insist that Bush and Cheney appear together? Josh Marshall seems the only journalist to have questioned this strategy, and offers these three possible answers (shortened for space considerations):

1. It's another way to further dilute the Commission's ability to ask questions. If, say, the meeting lasts three hours, that's three hours to ask questions of both of them rather than three hours to ask questions of each

2. This keeps the two of them from giving contradictory answers to the Commission's questions.

3. The White House does not trust the president to be alone with the Commission members for any great length of time without getting himself into trouble, either by contradicting what his staff says, or getting some key point wrong, or letting some key fact slip.


 
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  The SLUT* of Iraq Shuts Newspaper Down Whether from ignorance, laziness, or bias, American newspapers publish many lies. Imagine our military padlocking the Washington Times (pity) or the Kansas City Star (would anyone notice?) because some authority claimed it published "lies that incited violence."

I wonder if this would qualify. After all, by accusing the Bush administration being rotten, resorting to character assassination, intimidating critics, and abusing power, shouldn't this voice be silenced for inciting rebellion against the administration? Who gets to define "lies" and who gets to judge whether those "lies" may incite violence?

Welcome to the world of L. Paul Bremer, Sovereign Leader of the U.S. Territory* (SLUT) of Iraq. Having struck the deal with the appointed Council to keep military bases in Iraq after the transfer of power, Bremer continues to shape the country in the image of a John Ashcroft society, declaring certain opinions out of favor and using the military to squelch them.

Baghdad, Iraq, March 28 - American soldiers shut down a popular Baghdad newspaper on Sunday and tightened chains across the doors after the occupation authorities accused it of printing lies that incited violence.
 
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Monday, March 29, 2004
  Carville in Lawrence, Kan. Carville received a lukewarm greeting at KU's Leid Center last night (Monday). His opening jokes got laughs. But he soon started shouting that Democrats must be united, and the coed on Lauren's right summed it up: "Wow. He sounds so angry!"

He failed right then to get the audience on his side. Time and again throughout his speech he got back to his mantra - "We're gonna win. We got hope. Send money. Unite." with almost no audience reaction. Lileks writes he sounds "like cat that had been dipped in turpentine."

His best line came in response to a question asking what Kerry would do that Bush wouldn't: "Bush fights alone because he can. He fights with friends when he must. Kerry fights with friends because he can. He fights alone when he must." But it's too long for a bumper sticker.

He was sent off with a polite standing O. More polite than the dead silence that greeted his message. 
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  Because like 9/11, they own that, too

Kerry quotes Bible, irks Bush camp

By the Associated Press , Copyright © 2004 Detroit Free Press Inc.
ST. LOUIS -- Sen. John Kerry cited a Bible verse Sunday to criticize leaders who have "faith but has no deeds," prompting President George W. Bush's spokesman to accuse Kerry of exploiting scripture for political gain.

Kerry never mentioned Bush by name during his speech at New North Side Baptist Church, but aimed his criticism at "our present national leadership." Kerry cited scripture in his appeal to the worshipers, including James, 2:14: "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?"

"The scriptures say, what does it profit, my brother, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?" Kerry said. "When we look at what is happening in America today, where are the works of compassion?"

Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt said Kerry's comment "was beyond the bounds of acceptable discourse and a sad exploitation of scripture for a political attack."

Kerry told the largely black congregation that the country has served privileged people while ignoring Americans who live in neighborhoods like theirs. 
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Saturday, March 27, 2004
  Chomsky Has a Blog  
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  The Colin Powell We'd Always Hoped He Would Be? From the NY Times' article on Frist's effort to debunk Richard Clarke:

Mr. Clarke, the former National Security Council aide, received support on Friday from an unlikely source — Secretary of State Colin L. Powell. In a television interview, Mr. Powell said that Mr. Clarke had "served his nation very, very well" and was "an expert in these matters," referring to counterterrorism.

While saying that Mr. Clarke's book is "not the complete story," Mr. Powell said on the PBS program "NewsHour" he was "not attributing any bad motives" to Mr. Clarke.

"I'm not aware of a campaign against Mr. Clarke, and I am not a member," Mr. Powell said. "The book is the book, and you can read it and make your own judgment as to whether it's accurate."


There are many Democrats who believe that Powell has been the perfect loyal soldier in this administration, filling his role against his own core beliefs and better judgement. We hoped against hope on the eve of the Iraq war Powell would somehow climb the roof and say "stop this insanity! There are no WMD's!" After all, Powell had uttered virtually those very same words in a February, 2001 press briefing. But alas, Powell's February, 2003 appearance before the U.N. squelched all hopes.

Mayhap Richard Clarke has rekindled Powell's sense of right and wrong...or is this more hope against hope...? 
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  David Brooks' Primer on Republicans' Talking Points on Richard Clarke I did a cursory look at 9-11commission.org for the reports Brooks references up front, but could not find them. I do not have the time to research further or to parse this column right now. I have made some comments, in italics.
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March 27, 2004
OP-ED COLUMNIST
See Dick Spin
By DAVID BROOKS

Warren Bass, Michael Hurley and Alexis Albion are not exactly household names. But they are a few of the authors of the outstanding interim reports released by the 9/11 commission this week. In clear, substantive and credible prose, these staff reports describe the errors successive administrations made leading up to the terror attacks. More than that, they describe the ambiguities and constraints policy makers wrestled with.

But, of course, these reports were eclipsed. This was the week the Richard Clarke circus came to town.

It should be said that Clarke used to be capable of the sort of balanced analysis contained in these reports. Indeed, he was a major source for them. But that was the old Richard Clarke. That was the Richard Clarke who could weigh the pros and cons of the Clinton and Bush terror strategies. That was the Clarke who expressed frustration at the glacial pace of the pre-9/11 antiterror policy process, but who also, in 2001, sent out e-mail praising the White House for alerting agencies to a possible attack, and who praised the Bush team for "vigorously" pursuing the Clinton strategy while deciding to quintuple the C.I.A.'s anti-Qaeda budget.

But that wonky Richard Clarke doesn't become a prime-time media sensation or sell hundreds of thousands of books. Because in this country, we speak only one language when it comes to public affairs, the language of partisan warfare. When you say "we," you're not including yourself, are you? No, I thought not. So out goes Mr. Wonk. Clarke turns himself into an anti-Bush attack machine, and we get a case study of how serious bipartisan concern gets turned into a week of civil war. It was the Bushies who turned it into civil war. Had they said, "Clarke has valid points, we agree with some of what he says, there is enough blame to go around," or similar words, they would have neutralized Clarke and very likely endeared themselves to the swing voters, who hate the very partisanship you are engaging in here, David.

Compared with the commission reports, Clarke's book, "Against All Enemies," is as subtle as an episode of the Power Rangers. See Dick Clarke courageously take control of the government in the middle of the terror attacks! See him heroically lead a teleconference! Behold his White House conversations! Everything he says is farsighted and brave! Everything the Bushies say is incorrect. And he remembers it all perfectly! Better than Dick "not in the loop" Cheney.

Clarke manages to absolve Bill Clinton for many of his mistakes — or Clarke says the vast right-wing conspiracy is to blame. What about Clinton's decision not to bomb Al Qaeda's terrorist camps when we had a chance? Not a mistake, Clarke now says. We had higher priorities, like the former Yugoslavia.

All of Bush's errors, on the other hand, are magnified. Shrill passages about Bush's stupidity are inserted into Clarke's tendentious prose. In 2002, Clarke said there was "no plan on Al Qaeda that was passed from the Clinton administration to the Bush administration." But now Clinton is portrayed as the Winston Churchill of the antiterror brigades, and Bush is Neville Chamberlain.

And this week Clarke goes on a book tour and hypes it up another notch. Time's Romesh Ratnesar recently compared Clarke's book with the representations he is making of it up and down the TV dial. Ratnesar found that Clarke is sexing up his own stories to score political points. Wait, the British accused Blair of this. It didn't work for them, either.

So here we are in a familiar spot. Instead of talking about the bipartisan failures and systematic shortcomings of our terror policy, we're seething at one another about one man. It's the Clinton scandals and Bork hearings all over again — except this time the pretext for our hatred just happens to be security policy. Conservatives, including myself, believe that Clarke has turned himself into a mendacious glory-hound whose claims are contradictory. "Mendacious." Isn't that similar to "counterfactual," Clarke's euphemism for that lying sack of shit Conwoman Rice? Liberals see him as the Erin Brockovich of the Bush years.

There's plenty of blame to go around. Clarke deserves blame for his shrill partisanship. True, if by partisanship you mean Clarke blamed himself as well as the Democratic and Republican administrations in which he worked. The media deserve blame for neglecting the commission reports (The Times is an honorable exception). Most important, the administration deserves blame. Instead of focusing on the substantive commission reports and treating Clarke with the back of its hand, the Bush administration got right in the mud with him. No, they attempted to drag him down into the mud with them. He wouldn't play, which is why you and every other Bush apologist is trashing Clarke instead of just saying we screwed up, let's make it better.

Meanwhile, actual policy matters get tossed about in the roiling seas. Though we never really had a discussion about it, now everybody is embracing pre-emptive action against potential terrorist threats.

This has not been a good week for American politics. Yes, yes it has. Just not good for the Bush administration, which, by definition, is good for American politics. It's been another week (the 4,000th in a row, I believe) in which serious issues were treated as a soap opera. If you want to live the soap opera, buy Clarke's book. If you want something serious, read the commission reports. You'll find them at www.9-11commission.gov.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company 
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  Kettle, Black Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist calls former terrorism aide Richard Clarke's appearance before the 9/11 Commission "an appalling act of profiteering." Frist wants America to believe Clarke lied to sell his book, "Against all Evil."

And Frist knows a little something about profiteering
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Friday, March 26, 2004
  And the joke's on...? Bush's slide show presentation at the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association Dinner, where he parodied himself looking for non-existent WMD's, drew laughter from most in the audience but angry, righteous responses from every corner of the political spectrum, including John Kerry, David Corn, and Michael Savage (no transcript available, sorry), all of whom lambasted Bush for joking about the failure to find WMD's.

I too think there is something wrong with this picture, but not so much with the president, who did what was expected of him at the dinner by telling self-deprecating jokes, but with the media's culpability in banging the drumbeat to war. They are the ones who should have been bending over looking for corroborating evidence of the Bush administration's claims, instead of publishing government press releases verbatim.

Now that I think of it, could Bush have been mocking the audience? "Here I am pretending to make fun of myself looking for WMD's but really the joke's on you 'cause there never were any and you fell for it and here you are laughing at what you think is a parody of me but really it's not..." I mean, his writers couldn't be THAT twisted, could they? 
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  Bumper Sticker: Nader=Bush 
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  The Invincibility of Dubya? Somebody asked me last night whether I thought Clarke's testimony in the 9/11 hearings will have any lasting impact on swing voters. I think yes.

Along those lines, a NY Times editorial today tells the Bush administration to grow up and deal with Clarke's assertions instead of just attacking him.

 
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Thursday, March 25, 2004
  Siding with (gulp) Kathleen Parker It isn't easy for a dyed-in-the-wool liberal Democrat to find common ground with conservative columnist Kathleen Parker. But it seems I have: We both believe the Holocaust happened, and are willing to say so publicly.

Some conservative columnists, who excoriate the liberal media for its considered tendency to avoid invoking G-d in their output, are filled with glee that Mel Gibson is flaunting the liberal establishment with a religious film, and a wildly successful one at that. You can read columns by Ann Coulter and David Limbaugh, to name two, who invoke The Passion of the Christ in part, I believe, as an excuse to spout their "liberals hate religion" jargon.

Attending The Dishonor Awards: Roasting the Most Outrageously Biased Liberal Reporters of 2003, Parker writes in her column today she "was struck by speakers' repeated invocations of (Mel) Gibson." I wouldn't have been particulary struck; conservatives and the religious right have been bedfellows for many years. But I digress.

Gibson's father Hutton, she notes, believes the Holocaust never happened. "Both Gibsons subscribe to a Pre-Vatican II Catholicism," Parker says. "And while the son can't be held accountable for the wacky views of his father, the younger Gibson refuses to come out and say what everyone wants to hear: 'I love my father, but disagree with him about the Holocaust.' Instead, he says, 'My father has never told me a lie.'

"Holocaust deniers justifiably might feel that they have their own movie star poster boy. And this may not be the group hug in which conservatives want to participate."

When you partner with the religious right, shit happens. 
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Wednesday, March 24, 2004
  Ronald Brownstein's Take Is... a good read and an antidote to FoxNews coverage, which is spotlighting a curious 2002 briefing by Clarke that paints Bush in a positive light
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  Mo. Gubernatorial Primary Race Update I attended challenger Claire McCaskill's fundraiser at the Arrowhead Club last night. Her two key talking points are this:
1) I won't play the blame game, and similarly
2) I won't play politics with Missourians' concerns (education, healthcare, taxes)

Those are clear digs at incumbent Gov. Bob Holden, who regularly confronts the Republican-run House and its social-program-cutting, corporate-profit-protecting, pro-gun, pro-God agenda. House Speaker Catherine Hanaway and her group are not the sort of people you can really negotiate with. It's their way or you pay the price. Holden stands up to them, and gets criticized for not playing ball.

After McCaskill's speech I waited in line to shake her hand. "I'm glad you won't play the blame game with Catherine Hanaway," I said. "But don't let her run the agenda. Don't capitulate." McCaskill's reply, "Oh I won't. I'll outsmart her. I'll outflank them." She turned away to greet the next person. I wasn't convinced.

 
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Tuesday, March 23, 2004
  Dems Stronger on Terror than Repubs The complete transcript of this morning's interview of Richard Clarke on CNN is here. The info below distils Clarke's main points:

AMERICAN DEATHS AT HANDS OF TERRORISTS UNDER CLINTON ADMINISTRATION: Fewer than 50
AMERICAN DEATHS AT HANDS OF TERRORISTS UNDER BUSH I ADMINISTRATION: 260
AMERICAN DEATHS AT HANDS OF TERRORISTS UNDER REAGAN ADMINISTRATION: 300

Clinton retaliated against Al Qaeda with covert CIA action, cruise missile strikes and sanctions against Afghanistan. Neither Bush I nor Reagan took any retaliative action. 
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  Euphemism for "Lie" Con woman Rice can't publicly testify before the 9/11 Commission because of separation-of-power issues, but it's okay for her to attack Richard Clarke on TV talk (aka "news") to defend her handling of pre-9/11 terrorist threats. Does that make sense?

Clarke strikes back against Rice in his 9/11 Commission testimony, calling Rice's claims "counterfactual." 
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Monday, March 22, 2004
  PAGE ONE: bin Laden Controls Bush's Mind Publication of former Bush administration terrorism czar Richard Clarke's book, Against All Enemies, has sparked the Iraq war debate anew. From his appearance on "60 Minutes" to front page stories in the "newspapers of record," Clarke is the latest in a long string of insiders to claim Bush dropped the ball before and since 9/11. In typical fashion, the NY Times gives more weight to the administration's side of the story than the Washington Post, which closes with Clarke describing the war on Iraq as bin Laden's desired outcome. 
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  Safire Inspires This Thought I haven't thought this through yet, but reading pseudo pro Democracy opinions like Safire's gives me pause about leftist arguments that money spent to rebuild Iraq could be better spent here at home on schools, health care, etc. That's the kind of tack that could easily cause purveyors of that argument to be perceived as lousy on terror.

I mean, I'm as goldurned angry as anyone that my tax dollars are supporting this war, let alone going to a crooked company like Halliburton, when we could instead be investing in small businesses, et cetera, here at home.

But we're trying to win an election. Politically speaking, there are better arguments against the war and better arguments about creating jobs and being fiscally responsible than to suggest we underfund or defund Iraqi reconstruction. 
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Sunday, March 21, 2004
  NY Times Headline Writer Blames Kerry for Economy The NY Times headline, "At Florida Rally, Bush Attacks Kerry on Economy," is more appropriate for The Onion. As if Kerry is responsible for the current economy!

The article presents Bush's attack plan on Kerry as someone who has a history of taxing to reduce deficits. (And the problem with that is...what?)

Compare the Times' Headline with this far more accurate, objective one from the Washington Post: "Bush Camp to Spotlight Kerry's Fiscal Policy." Of course, even this article is not without its problems, saying Bush "enjoys a clear advantage (over Kerry) on the issue of terrorism." This is true only because the mainstream media has handed that advantage to Bush. 
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  Renaming the EPA: CPA In response to a jury verdict in rural Missouri -- awarding $18 million to a microwave popcorn plant worker for irreversible lung damage caused by exposure to chemicals in the popcorn's butter flavoring -- the EPA said microwave popcorn is safe to eat.

That is a logical conclusion any sane agency would come to. Especially if it's called the Corporate Protection Agency.

The Kansas City Star published my letter in response to the CPA claim. It's the third letter on the page. 
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Thursday, March 18, 2004
  H. R. 557 Update (see below) It passed overwhelmingly. Karen McCarthy was one of only 93 no votes. Gephardt voted yea, joining Republicans as usual in voicing support of the Iraq war. (Does anybody still wonder why his bid to be the Democratic presidential candidate went nowhere?)

Look for Republicans to use this vapid resolution -- and the lack of unanimous support by Dems -- again and again as they accuse Democrats of being unpatriotic, weak on terrorism, and unsupportive of troops. Bastards. 
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  Coincidence? or Murdoch BU? (Business as Usual)
Every now and again my satellite loses the signal. The TV first goes blank, then gives off static and snow. When it comes back on, no matter what channel it had been on previously, it's tuned to channel 260 -- FOXNEWS. F u cn gs wch sat svc I sbscrb 2, u wn. 
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Wednesday, March 17, 2004
  Caught on Tape
Rumsfeld on Face the Nation calls the "immediate threat" claim folklore, then he's confronted with his own words. 
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  We are safer - the law says so
House Resolution 557, introduced today by House Republicans, states, "the United States and the world have been made safer by the removal of Saddam Hussein and his regime from power in Iraq;"

The resolution also commends the Iraqi people for their courage under Saddam's regime and for adopting an interim constitution, and commends the U.S. armed forces for their valient service.

Thus, a vote against the resolution by Democrats, who are shaking their fists lividly in debate over this bill, can be characterized by Republicans as a vote against the troops and a preference to have Saddam Hussein in power. It is, as Rep. Meeks said just moments ago, a resolution without substance, a resolution of politricks. 
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"If you have been framed, the only response is to reframe. But you can't do it in a sound bite unless an appropriate progressive language has been built up in advance. Conservatives have worked for decades and spent billions on their think tanks to establish their frames."--George Lakoff, Professor of Linguistics, University of California, Berkeley

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