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The LiberalOasis Blog
August 13, 2004 PERMALINK
Yesterday, Dick Cheney tried to wimpify John Kerry:
Senator Kerry has also said that if he were in charge he would fight a "more sensitive" war on terror.
America has been in too many wars for any of our wishes, but not a one of them was won by being sensitive.
I just kind of shook my head when I heard that. With all due respect to the Senator, it just sounded so foolish.
I can't imagine that al Qaeda is going to be impressed by sensitivity...
...This is kind of left-wing foolishness that certainly isn't appropriate for someone who would seek to be Commander-in-Chief.
It goes without saying that the Cheneys were bastardizing Kerry's statement from last week:
I believe I can fight a more effective, more thoughtful, more strategic, more proactive, more sensitive war on terror that reaches out to other nations and brings them to our side and lives up to American values in history…
…I set out a path to win the peace in Iraq and to get the terrorists, wherever they may be, before they get us.
ABC's The Note, surely speaking for the entire snarky political press corps called Kerry's statement:
…the silliest thing John Kerry has said about national security since his "I actually voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it" classic.
No doubt that gave the green light for the rest of the press corps to paint Kerry the loser in this skirmish.
But if Kerry's a silly, left-wing fool, then so is Def. Sec. Don Rumsfeld, Dep. Def. Sec. Paul Wolfowitz, Gen. Richard Myers and former Asst. Def. Sec. Victoria Clarke.
We'll let the following post-9/11 quotes speak for themselves (emphasis added in all).
Q: President Musharraf has repeatedly talked about an excess of hope for suspension of military operations, if they are not over, in the month of Ramadhan.
Was this issue discussed today and what are your views on this?
RUMSFELD: I'm certainly aware of the views of the president of Pakistan and indeed the views of any number of countries across the globe.
It is an important question and certainly an issue that all of us are sensitive to.
The reality is that the threats of additional terrorist acts are there.
They are credible, they are real, and they offer the prospects of still thousands of more people being killed.
Our task is to certainly be sensitive to the views in the region, but also to see that we aggressively deal with the terrorist networks that exist.
THOMAS GORGUISSIAN, AL-WAFD, EGYPT: ...[Are] you doing any kind of estimate or guessing how the rest of the world is looking to this war?...
CLARKE: …are we listening to what is going on around the world? Absolutely. Absolutely.
We could not do this alone, so we are constantly working with, consulting with, talking with literally hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people around the world from over a hundred countries on how the best way to prosecute this war.
I think one of the reasons for the success thus far has been that kind of extraordinary sensitivity.
And to say in a very non-patronizing way, we appreciate whatever you can do to contribute to this effort.
And far be it for us to tell you that it's all or nothing, or you have to let us completely run the show and you have to let us say whatever we want to say about your country's contributions.
I think it's been an extraordinarily sensitive appreciation that different countries have different concerns and needs -- appreciate and value that they share with us this desire to root out terrorism and work with them in a very flexible fashion.
So we are extraordinarily sensitive to that, and I think that's what's contributed to the success thus far.
Q: …you consider it also a political decision that the consequences of continuing [military operations] through Ramadan with your troops in Pakistan, where people would be outraged or other places in the Muslim and Arab world.
Of course, you know that President Mubarak and others called for this kind of a truce.
MYERS: Right. And I would just say that we are, I think, very culturally sensitive.
We go to the leaders at the political level and at the military level, and ask for their advice.
So actions we will take I think will be consistent with that advice.
But we're not unaware and we're not insensitive. These are important issues.
Q: …can you address this question about the military utility and the risks that are inherent in going after targets, the more intensified bombing, the risk increases of collateral damage despite all the care that goes into that.
MYERS: ...The commanders on the ground are responsible for the tactics.
They are very sensitive to the balance between appropriate military action and not trying to turn the average Iraqi against the coalition.
So they work this very hard.
They have taken great steps to minimize collateral damage and I think they’ve done a superb job as I understand it.
Q: ...can I pick up on the Ramadan issue? We know that you and your colleagues have said there's no question of a pause in the terrorist campaign and I understand that.
We understand you can't say what you're going to do in advance.
But are you nevertheless open to some sort of gesture? We noticed for example that you did not bomb on the first Friday of the campaign.
Is it still possible, bearing in mind enormous sensitivity in the Muslim world, that something might be possible, can you give us a hint that you might be --
WOLFOWITZ: I think we've made it clear we're going to be sensitive to the fact that Ramadan is the holiest month on the Muslim calendar and we will have that in mind.
We're not going to write a blueprint for the Taliban or al Qaeda or the people that we're after to say oh, now you not only know that mosques are safe but these other sanctuaries are sanctuaries you can operate in.
But we will be sensitive.
(UPDATE 8/13 7:45 AM ET -- Readers are noting the omission of two key Dubya "sensitive" quotes, one from last week -- "in terms of the balance between running down intelligence and bringing people to justice obviously is -- we need to be very sensitive on that" and one from 3/01 -- "we must be sensitive about expressing our power and influence".)
August 12, 2004 PERMALINK
The updated and expanded paperback edition of Paul Krugman's "The Great Unraveling," is now available.
Krugman reflected on the year since the hardcover version was published, in an interview with LiberalOasis yesterday.
He remarked that even though the book was "very downbeat, very negative about where we are going," he conceded that, "I was wrong. Pretty much everything has been worse than I could have imagined."
The following is an edited transcript of the interview.
LO: When you started your column, you probably didn't expect to become a media critic, but you seem to have taken on that role.
PK: Yeah. I got alerted to the problems of the media way back during the 2000 campaign, when you just couldn't get a straight discussion of the economic plans.
And I've broadened that. Although the core of it is still -- here we have actual policy initiatives, where's the reporting?
There's an interview with [Warren] Strobel and [Jonathan] Landay of Knight Ridder in the American Journalism Review about pre-war coverage…and [Landay] said that the failures of the media in this period are as serious a national problem as the failures of intelligence.
And I think that's exactly right.
PK: What I learned is how hard it is to argue with a pathological liar.
Because the problem is in real time, as it's happening, you can't fact check everything.
We now know, a couple of people have checked it, in talking about the war, he talked at length about what Hans Blix told him on his program before the war, except Hans Blix never was on his program before the war.
So what do you do? Somebody just makes shit up, how do you deal with it?
So it was an interesting experience.
LO: Turning to policy, the knock on John Kerry's plan is that he pledges to cut the deficit in half, but he doesn't say how, and that the rollback of the tax cut for the wealthy can't pay for his health care plan and deficit reduction.
Is that a fair criticism?
PK: Yeah, it's a fair criticism.
He is talking about bigger corporate tax enforcement and so on, but I would say that certainly there isn't a fleshed out strategy for bringing the deficit down a lot.
It's important to say that compared with Bush, he's actually in great shape.
Because Bush is proposing all sorts of things that will enlarge the deficit, and Kerry is at least proposing a revenue-neutral way to pay for the programs that he wants.
So if you're a deficit hawk, you're not going to be happy with Kerry, but you're going to be furious at Bush --
LO: Bush's pledge on the deficit is similar to Kerry's --
PK. Well, yeah, but less credibly.
Because Bush has pledged on the deficit, explicitly, the projection of cutting the deficit in half, [but he] specifically assumes that Congress will not pass measures that Bush himself is asking for.
It's basically saying, I have a plan to cut the deficit in half, which depends on my not getting my own way on legislation.
So it's really egregious...
...I think the story is that basically Kerry has concluded that deficits are too abstract, and running on a deficit hawk platform is not going to work.
And if he can say instead, look, I'm certainly at least as tough on deficits as the other guy, plus I'm going to give you health care, then he's got a better shot.
LO: One of Bush's big health care proposals is private health savings accounts.
There was a time when this would be practically a third rail. Now it seems like these privatization proposals don't get the same level of ire.
Is it possible that he is on to something politically?
PK: It will be a miracle of salesmanship.
Because for...private savings accounts to attract any popular support, people have to not understand what they actually entail.
...You have to take a very high deductible policy, which means that for middle and working class families this is not going to actually provide them enough insurance.
So it is really not acceptable.
And what you get in return is, the funds you put into the thing are tax deductible.
But for most families who are in the 10 or 15 percent bracket at most, that's not worth a lot, even if they could bring themselves to accept a 2000-dollar deductible.
But of course, it's worth a great deal to people in the 35 percent bracket.
And then the last bit, which is probably hard to explain, is that it actually undermines the health care system we have.
Because it means that high-income healthy workers have an incentive to opt out of group health insurance, which then undermines the plan for everyone else.
As opposed to the "establishment" [or "payroll"] survey [which showed a mere 32K new jobs in July].
Because the establishment survey does not count the self-employed.
PK: Actually, you can find out how important the self-employed number is in the household survey. It doesn't make any significant difference.
The real thing about the household survey, first of all, for month-to-month changes it's useless. Because it’s just too noisy.
If you want me to believe in the 600,000 job gain in July, you have to then say you also believe in the 270,000 job loss in February, which nobody thinks happened.
And in fact if you go back in November 2002, the household survey said, I think, that 600,000 jobs disappeared, which nobody believes.
It's just a lousy...very noisy measure, month-to-month.
The other thing: people who take a longer-term thing and talk about the household survey have this funny habit of not reading the footnotes.
You can't just take the number from some month in 2001 and compare it with a month now, because there are population adjustments that are made in January...
...Anyway, the right way to do it is to look at the employment-population ratio, which is what the household survey tells you. What fraction of adults are working.
And what that number does is it goes from, I think, 64.4 in early 2001, drops to 62.2 -- in one month 62.1 but that's probably just noise -- last summer, and it's now recovered to 62.5.
The point is what you got is this drastic deterioration in the number of jobs available per person. And a tiny recovery, maybe, over the past year.
And that's basically a story that's consistent with the payroll numbers.
LO: Does that mean we've turned the corner?
PK: No. It might be a dead cat bounce, right?
All we know is that things are maybe a little better than they were a year ago, but certainly nothing to write home about.
Every time I hear Bush talk about 1.5 million jobs, I think about Dr. Evil saying "one million dollars." It's not a large sum these days.
A million and a half jobs over 11 months is pretty poor.
In fact, Clinton never had an 11 month stretch that bad and if he had, the Republicans would have been screaming about what a lousy economy it was.
LO: The Fed seems to feel that the slowdown in the economy is temporary, and therefore it's justified to go back to a policy of raising interest rates to keep inflation in check.
You said in your column this week, you didn't get what Greenspan is doing.
PK: Like a lot of people, I have a theory that -- well first off, that they raised rates yesterday because not to raise rates would have been to admit that there are bad problems and that would have spooked people to no end.
Because they sort of pretty much pre-announced that a long time ago.
But I have to say...the Fed doesn't know anything, really, that the rest of us don't know. They have basically the same information...maybe a few more numbers, but nothing really.
It's kind of mystery how the Fed…lately is so optimistic...I think they are a lot more optimistic than many of the private sector forecasters.
And there was even something in today's Wall Street Journal about, someone saying that Greenspan wants to believe this because it would vindicate his inaction during the bubble.
I don't know. I'm not going to try to psychoanalyze the man.
But it is funny, because the numbers do not say that we have a vigorous recovery.
August 11, 2004 PERMALINK
Once again, Laura Bush was deployed in a futile attempt to defuse the stem cell issue.
And once again, utterly incapable of making a politically appealing and legit argument, she lied.
Last time, she laid out the basic lie, that Dubya "supports stem cell research."
That lie, of course, was repeated in her Monday remarks.
But a new lie was thrown on top, when Laura said:
Few people know that George W. Bush is the only President to ever authorize federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.
Oh really? How soon they forget a little executive order from one Bill Clinton.
…President Bill Clinton, after asking his national bioethics advisory commission for a report on human stem cells, issued an executive order clarifying an existing congressional ban on the use of federal funds to create or destroy human embryos.
His order did allow federal funding for research on human stem-cell lines, but not for creating them.
Most researchers were satisfied that sufficient private money could be raised to create new stem-cell lines; they could then use federal money to pursue their research.
But eight months after George W. Bush became president, he extended the funding ban to research on all human stem-cell lines, except those already in existence on August 9, 2001, the day he announced his policy.
Somehow, Laura was able to spin the AP, which said she made a distinction over who spent federal funds first (Bush is the technical winner there).
But her speech said Bush was the first to "authorize" federal funding. Flatly untrue.
Having said that, Laura's lying isn't going to get her husband very far.
Because in their attempt to craft stem cell messages that will mislead so-called moderates, they managed to contradict themselves into meaninglessness.
Laura wants to portray Dubya as someone who deserves applause for believing in the promise of stem cells, but also argues there's little promise to be had:
I know that embryonic stem cell research is very preliminary right now, and the implication that cures for Alzheimer's are around the corner is just not right, and it's really not fair to the people who are watching a loved one suffer with this disease.
Well if no one should be expecting very much from stem cells, then what's the point of bragging about funding the research?
The mixed signals make the whole spin effort look ridiculous.
Furthermore, Laura is totally disingenuous citing Alzheimer's alone in her downplaying of stem cell's potential.
While it's true that many scientists feel that work on Alzheimer's is not likely to benefit from stem cell research, they are still very confident about Parkinson's, diabetes and spinal cord injuries.
Voters are unlikely to be fooled.
As the LA Times reported yesterday:
Findings released Monday by the University of Pennsylvania's National Annenberg Election Survey showed that about two out of three American adults — including more than half of Republicans — favored research using stem cells taken from human embryos.
Andrew Kohut, director of the nonpartisan Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, said the preliminary findings of a poll he was conducting showed intense interest in the issue among undecided voters.
"On most issues, swing voters are less engaged than committed voters," Kohut said.
In this case, "they're moderates. And a lot of middle-age people are more interested in this than they were a few years ago."
August 10, 2004 PERMALINK
Can the NY Times please stop publishing conservative liars on its op-ed page?
Daniella Pletka, a neocon from the American Enterprise Institute, is the latest to fallaciously paint John Kerry as a cold-hearted foreign policy "realist" who resists the spread of freedom.
This is part of a larger strategy by conservatives to take away the moral high ground from liberals on matters of global affairs.
But Pletka needs to put words in Kerry's mouth to make her argument.
Mr. Kerry has not been specific about many of his goals, but one thing he's gone out of his way to advertise is his distaste for pushing reform at the expense of "stability" in the Middle East.
Sure, he's in favor of democracy in principle, but not as the centerpiece of his foreign policy agenda.
"Realism," in the fashion of Metternich and Kissinger, is his guiding light, Mr. Kerry told The New Yorker.
If you are not familiar with what a slur it is to be called a "Metternich" in foreign policy circles, this passage from a 1997 Economist piece, "The Bloodhounds of History," sums it up well:
As Henry Kissinger writes in his book, “Diplomacy”…“Ideological fervour propelled French armies across Europe on behalf of universal principles of liberty, equality and fraternity.”
In the aftermath of the wars, conservative statesmen like Metternich…were determined to reimpose peace and order.
They believed the Napoleonic wars were the sort of ghastliness that happens when countries try to export “the rights of man”.
Order, they argued, had to be maintained through a balance of power, in which states did not challenge each other’s legitimacy.
Thus two sides quickly emerged in the early 19th century, one concerned with the role of the universal rights of man in the formulation of foreign policy, the other concerned with order.
The two sides persist today. Call them liberals and realists.
So to be called a Metternich is to be viewed as one who does not care about human rights, only order. You might as well as be a Nazi.
So did Kerry say that the principles of Metternich and Kissinger are his "guiding light"?
This is the passage in the New Yorker article that Pletka alludes to:
[Kerry said,] "...I'm clear about my willingness to use force if necessary to protect our interests in the world and obviously to protect the security of our country."
At the same time, he said, "There are some clear routes by which you build alliances and make yourself stronger...build legitimacy for what you might have to do on your own otherwise."
After all, he said, "nineteenth-century and twentieth-century leaders didn't have it all wrong as they understood the machinations of alliance politics and the need to negotiate your interest to the degree that you can until you've exhausted every possibility of doing so.
"You go backward to Disraeli and Metternich and forward to Henry Kissinger, in more recent times, and see how effectively we've moved on that stage.
"I don't think this crowd has moved with great effect at all.
"I think they've been strangely and uniquely ideologically obsessed, Iraq-centric, to the exclusion of other critical priorities on the face of this planet and our security needs as a nation."
Saying that Metternich and Kissinger "didn't have it all wrong" is not saying that they had everything right.
And nothing remotely like the phrase "guiding light" crossed Kerry's lips.
Kerry was strictly drawing lessons about "alliance politics." He was not making any sort of argument about order and stability trumping democracy and freedom.
And we can be sure that Kerry was not embracing Kissinger in full.
For one thing, Kissinger played a wee role in this thing called Vietnam, which Kerry wasn't a big fan of.
But Kerry was indicating, in his comments to the New Yorker, that you can take things from people, even those that you strongly disagree with on many matters.
Also, Pletka said Kerry called himself a disciple of "realism" in the New Yorker article.
Not so. It was the author who foisted that label on Kerry:
...John Kerry is often described as a foreign-policy "realist."
He recently told the Washington Post that he did not think human rights should be the defining issue in international relations...
Here is an extended excerpt from that interview, after Kerry is asked if he shares, and finds realistic, Bush's goals for democracy in the Middle East and Iraq:
I do...We should never be put in a position where we have to back away from our values...
...Democracy and freedom and individual rights, human rights are the greatest idea developed on the planet.
The idea of America is, I think, proudly and chauvinistically the best idea that we've developed in this world...
...I think it's important for us to sell it, and to market it, and try to make it available to other people.
But how fast you can do that, and how rapidly others can embrace it, and what can be expected over a period of a time varies from country to country...
...I think it's a legitimate goal for the Middle East [and] Iraq. I'd like to see it achieved.
But I think you have to be thoughtful about what the time period will be, and what the full measurement of that will be, that we can control in the course of this particular exercise [in Iraq].
I think a free election, a movement towards democracy...would be a great standard.
Now does that show realism coldly squelching idealism? Or does it show a marriage of the two?
Pletka tries to distort his views as siding with stability over freedom.
But Kerry is not choosing sides. He's just trying to lay down a more practical path for spreading freedom.
And since the impractical, neocon path has been nothing but a disaster, perhaps the NY Times editorial page editors should give the lying Pletkas of the world some rest.
August 9, 2004 PERMALINK
Meet Frances Townsend
One, this week we heard Tom Ridge is reportedly planning to resign, and at the same Townsend became a main public spokeswoman on terror (complete with a puff profile spoon-fed to the NY Times.)
So she may be being tested to see if she could take over.
Two, the GOP's hot made-up demographic is the "security mom," as they hope to peel off some suburban votes on terror issues.
And Townsend has been pitched as the ultimate security mom (a notion that the NYT lapped up).
She positioned herself as such on FTN, when defending the terror alerts:
I'm a mother of small children, and I want as much information as the government can give me to make smart decisions for my family.
(As if single people would want as little info as possible so they can make bad decisions for themselves.)
So, how did Townsend do in her debut?
Most Beltway observers will no doubt be impressed, as she is self-assured and articulate.
But she also proved herself to be a hack.
This was most clear on an issue that people outside of the District of Columbia haven't been following:
Many District residents are livid that the feds are again usurping local control.
FTN's Bob Schieffer grilled Townsend on this point, and Townsend disingenuously spun away:
SCHIEFFER: Why did you not share [all the threat information] with the district police?…
…Apparently, the Capitol Police, when they threw up all these roadblocks, caught the other police in town totally by surprise.
TOWNSEND: Well, each works within their own sort of jurisdiction and mandate and takes those steps that they believe they need to take to protect their buildings and responsibilities.
Through Secretary Tom Ridge and the Department of Homeland Security, we did communicate with a number of state, city and local officials.
SCHIEFFER: But, apparently, you didn't deal with the District police, because they say they were caught completely unawares…
TOWNSEND: …[I] do think that the Department of Homeland Security, and Secretary Ridge in particular, did work with officials in the district.
SCHIEFFER: Well, are you saying that all these police forces got the same information and they made different judgments about what to do about it?
TOWNSEND: They got the information that was relevant to their area or locality.
Obviously, the District wouldn't have been interested in the detailed information that regarded New York.
Obviously, the matter at hand has nothing to do with New York. And District most certainly is interested in what is happening in its own city.
But Townsend wouldn't come clean and say they cut the District out of the loop, only lamely and vaguely saying they "did work with officials in the district."
So say hello to latest person in homeland security biz who, like Ridge, doesn't "do politics."
Townsend vs. Rice
Both were asked about the botched Orange Alert, why it wasn't initially communicated that much of the key info was old.
But they couldn't get their stories straight.
Townsend's line was that the actually was relayed, just done "on background" to selected media (which differs from "off the record" in that the info can be used by the media, but cannot be attributed to an individual by name):
TOWNSEND: …when Tom Ridge did the press conference, what we did right after it was we had four career intelligence counterterrorism officials there to brief the press…
…in that backgrounding brief, we talked about the age of the intelligence and how that was not relevant.
SCHIEFFER: But why wasn't that announced by Secretary Ridge?
Because, as we all know, when you have a background briefing, what is said, the government hasn't--doesn't have to take responsibility for that.
That's a way for the government to put out information and not take responsibility for it…
TOWNSEND: …Secretary Ridge was sort of talking at the strategic level, and we decided that we thought it was important to give the additional detail.
But…it wasn't important to have it come particularly from Secretary Ridge.
SCHIEFFER: Well, it became important, if I may say so.
But over at CNN, Rice was contending that it never "occured" to them to give out that info:
WOLF BLITZER: Last Sunday, [Tom Ridge] failed to mention that most of the information is three or four years old, and that caused a lot of angst the next day. Was that a mistake?
RICE: Well, I don't think that it really occurred to us to mention it, and I'll tell you why.
Al Qaeda does meticulous planning over many years. We know that the material that they used to case the East Africa bombing, which was done in 1998, had been generated probably five years before…
…And so, the key was to tell people who were responsible for security in buildings that have been cased that they had been cased…
…It seemed just irresponsible not to tell people that their buildings had been cased.
So which is it? You said it on background last Sunday, or you didn't say it all because it didn't cross your mind?
Townsend Knows How To Reassure The Public
From Fox News Sunday:
…the timing of the casings was not what's important.
It's the detailed nature of them that ought to frighten us.
Condi Knows How To Keep A Secret
BLITZER: In mid-July, Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, there is some suggestion that by releasing his identity here in the United States, you compromised a Pakistani intelligence sting operation.
Because he was effectively being used by the Pakistanis to try to find other al Qaeda operatives. Is that true?
RICE: Well, I don't know what might have been going on in Pakistan. I will say this, that we did not, of course, publicly disclose his name. One of them...
BLITZER: He was disclosed in Washington on background.
RICE: On background.
More on this from Juan Cole.
The Blog Wire
Fiore: Buster, The Friendly Nuke
War and Piece has her eye on the oft-forgotten anthrax investigation
Air America's Randi Rhodes (3-7 PM ET) has Willie Nelson
Juan Cole: Bill Clinton questions use of Pakistan military in terror fight
Grist checks out Obama's enviro record: It's good!
Stone Court adds to today's LO post on the oil market
Feministing is creeped out by a new product on the market: the "Boyfriend Pillow"
Air America's Al Franken (12-3 PM ET) has Joe Conason and Micheal Kinsley
Times of India: Pakistan skeptics within Bush Administration leaking anti-Pakistan stories
The Stakeholder: 9/11 Report's Biggest Obstacle: A GOP Congress
Just Another Bump On The Beltway has a Korea news roundup, inc. a govt ban on local media reporting on Iraq troop deployments
Head Heeb: Central African Republic refugees face starvation
The Talent Show: More Reasons SUVs Suck
Progressive On The Prairie reports on a Cheney visit to his state of SD
John Kerry Rapid Response Ctr: Bush Threatened To Veto The $87B
The Nation on the return of the right-wing Committee on the Present Danger
Nathan Newman on the marine featured in the film "Control Room" who has been harassed out of the service
World O'Crap clears up the "Scary Skies"
New Republic: "July Surprised?"
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