We played very well tonight: 15-3, 15-3, 11-15. We got punchy the last game and had to stage a massive comeback after spotting the other team 12 points; a little short, but pretty cool. We're apparently 7th seed (of 10 teams) in the tourney, which starts next week. Yay us!
Afghanistan: Preventing a Return to a Failed State
The latest report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (PDF):
Reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan thus far do not provide much room for hope. Those efforts have been plagued by woefully inadequate security measures and funding commitments from the international community. Donors must reverse this trend, starting at the upcoming Berlin conference. Without a dramatic increase in international focus and resources, Afghanistan could deteriorate into that which the international community has been working to prevent—a failed state serving as a breeding ground for terrorists and narco-traffickers.
Five US soldiers died today. According to Lunaville, that makes 700 "coalition" troops have been killed in Iraq, 599 of them American1. How many more grim milestones will we reach before Bush's misadventure is over?
And lest we forget noncombatants, around 10,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed2. So our little diversion has snuffed the lives of at least 3 times as many innocents as died on 9/11, while helping al Qaeda recruit more jihadis. Feel safer?
1 - CNN pegs the US total at 600.
2 - Iraqi military casualties are unclear, but Global Security quotes a study that estimates 13,500 to 45,000.
[Update: made a minor correction. Also note that 5 civilians, 4 American, were also killed today. There's some gruesome footage of bodies being desecrated.]
¶ 8:33 AM
President Bush's decision Tuesday to allow his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, to testify publicly before the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks reversed earlier White House insistence that she would only appear privately.
Some previous Bush reversals in the face of criticism:
_He argued a federal Department of Homeland Security wasn't needed, then devised a plan to create one.
_He resisted a commission to investigate Iraq intelligence failures, but then relented.
_He also initially opposed the creation of the independent commission to examine if the 2001 attacks could have been prevented, before getting behind the idea under pressure from victims' families.
_He opposed, and then supported, a two-month extension of the commission's work, after the panel said protracted disputes over access to White House documents left too little time.
_He at first said any access to the president by the commission would be limited to just one hour but relaxed the limit earlier this month.
In light of BushCo's recent tizzy over Kerry's use of Scripture, Kevin at Lean Left has a wonderful post about faith (via andante). You won't get such thoughtful writing here, but you will get commentary beyond the bounds of acceptable discourse and a sad exploitation of Scripture for a political attack1. Here's Psalm 5:9-10 (NIV), which I think articulates my view of BushCo:
Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with destruction. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongue they speak deceit.
Declare them guilty, O God! Let their intrigues be their downfall. Banish them for their many sins, for they have rebelled against you.
1 - I hope Fremlin and my other trolls appreciate it.
¶ 7:04 PM
Why Oh Why...
...does Zell Miller still have a D next to his name? Shorter Miller (on C-SPAN2 right now): the 9/11 hearings give aid and comfort to our evil enemies, all administrations from Jimmy Carter to George W. Bush are responsible for 9/11, and Dick Clarke deserves the most blame for everything.
[Update: For the record, here are Miller's own words (PDFs of CR pages S3350 and S3351):
These [9/11 Commission] hearings, coming on the heels of the election the terrorists influenced in Spain, bolster and energize our evil enemies as they have not been energized since 9/11.
Chances are very good that these evil enemies of America will attempt to influence our 2004 election in a similar dramatic way as they did Spain's. And to think that could never be in this country is to stick your head in the sand.
That is why the sooner we stop this endless bickering over the past and join together to prepare for the future, the better off this country will be. There are some things--whether this city believes it or not--that are just more important than political campaigns.
The recent past is so ripe for political second-guessing, "gotcha,'' and Monday morning quarterbacking. And it is so tempting in an election year. We should not allow ourselves to indulge that temptation. We should put our country first.
Every administration, from Jimmy Carter to George W. Bush, bears some of the blame. Dick Clarke bears a big heap of it, because it was he who was in the catbird's seat to do something about it for more than a decade. Tragically, it was the decade in which we did the least.
Zell Miller: unswervingly dedicated to the truth.]
¶ 5:04 PM
A Ride In The Car
Stef, Cairo and I piled into the Subaru for a little mid-morning hooky. Mommy had to stop to get a scone at the Foothills Bakery, while daddy and dog waited in the car.
[Update: an interesting problem posed by the new camera is that I can get such high res, large pics, that scaling down really doesn't look good on the web. Case in point, a picture of the Fletcher Union Meeting House, which I shot today on our mini-adventure--couldn't reduce the size/reso without major artifacts cropping up. Click on the thumbnail to see a larger version (shrunken, but passable):
So now I need to play with settings on the cam to take lower quality pics if I want to post online. Nice thing about the D70 is that I can pretty quickly change the size and res of the shots on the fly, so I can probably do both more or less at the same time...]
¶ 4:48 PM
The White House will allow national security adviser Condoleezza Rice to testify in public and under oath before the commission investigating the 9/11 attacks, a senior administration official said today.
Not a surprise. Here's what it says in the CRS report on such matters (see below):
"Although White House aides do not testify before congressional committees on a regular basis," it has been observed, "under certain conditions they do. First, intense and escalating political embarrassment may convince the White House that it is in the interest of the President to have these aides testify and ventilate the issue fully. Second, initial White House resistance may give way in the face of concerted congressional and public pressure."
In case you missed her 60 Minutes interview, the WH has posted the transcript of Condi's interview on CBS last night. Funny typo in the hed on the WH site: Dr. Condoleezza Rice Discussses the War on Terror on "60 Minutes". I hear Smeagol has a new job as copywriter for the administration...
[Update: the WH corrected the typo. Sauron doesn't like errors.]
¶ 8:35 PM
Stef gave me permission to get a new toy: the Nikon D70. Here are my first pics...
Alas, I can get huge shots with amazing resolution, and I have to downgrade it all to put on the web. Anywayz, this is the view of Mt. Mansfield from one of my bike routes, 'bout 3 miles down the road from our house.
The golden who came out to greet me as I took the above shot.
The new cam is wicked sophisticated (read: complicated). I've just started playing, and have 10 days to learn all I can about it to decide whether to keep the thing.
Atrios is as indignant as I am about Condi's excuse for not testifying before the 9/11 panel. I wanted to blog about it since Weds, but haven't had the time. Allow me to expand on a comment I left on Eschaton...
I have a responsibility to maintain what is a longstanding separation — constitutional separation between the executive and the legislative branch.
This body is — the commission is a body under Article II of the legislature, and so I have to maintain that separation.
Uh, WTF is "Article II of the legislature"? "Article II of the Constitution" establishes the Executive branch. And nowhere do I see anything in the doc that states the Exec can't talk to the Leg. In fact, members of the Exec--e.g., Cabinet member Rummy--did last week. And while powers are indeed explicitly separated in the Constitution, it is for the purpose of checks and balances. For me, Federalist 481 boils it down exactly:
An ELECTIVE DESPOTISM was not the government we fought for; but one which should not only be founded on free principles, but in which the powers of government should be so divided and balanced among several bodies of magistracy, as that no one could transcend their legal limits, without being effectually checked and restrained by the others.
In other words, the Leg has a duty to limit the overreach of the Exec. And Rice is full of it.
1 - Aptly titled "These Departments Should Not Be So Far Separated as to Have No Constitutional Control Over Each Other".
[Update: FAS has a PDF of a Congressional Research Service report called "Presidential Advisers' Testimony Before Congressional Committees: A Brief Overview" (this is what informed Josh Marshall's posting on the subject last week). Some snips:
Congress has a constitutionally rooted right of access to the information it needs to perform its Article I legislative and oversight functions. Generally, a congressional committee with jurisdiction over the subject matter, which is conducting an authorized investigation for legislative or oversight purposes, has a right to information held by the executive branch in the absence of either a valid claim of constitutional privilege by the executive or a statutory provision whereby Congress has limited its constitutional right to information.
Executive privilege was invoked during the Nixon Administration when congressional committees sought the testimony of a White House aide at a Senate confirmation hearing and the testimony of the White House Counsel at Senate committee hearings on the Watergate incident and related matters.
[E]xecutive branch officials who may appropriately assert executive privilege...and the circumstances under which they may do so, remains unresolved by the courts,and is a matter that may be determined by case-by-case accommodation between the political branches. Some guidance in this regard was offered by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, when he was Assistant Attorney General in the Nixon Administration. Rehnquist distinguished between "those few executive branch witnesses whose sole responsibility is that of advising the President," who "should not be required to appear [before Congress] at all, since all of their official responsibilities would be subject to a claim of privilege"...
Why is Nixon always the common thread in all such shenanigans?]
['nother update: In light of the CRS report above, it's interesting to note this tidbit from the ROAD MAP FOR NATIONAL SECURITY (PDF) produced in February 2001 by the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century (aka the Hart-Rudman Commission):
We recommend...that the President's National Security Advisor and NSC staff return to their traditional role of coordinating national security activities and resist the temptation to become policymakers or operators...The higher the profile of the National Security Advisor the greater will be the pressures from Congress to compel testimony and force Senate confirmation of the position.
Condi's certainly had a high profile in the administration, and in all her public spin appearances.]
[Last one: On April 12, 2003 during a forum on the role of the National Security Advisor, Andrew Goodpaster, who served under Ike, said:
Going back, particularly to the Eisenhower time when he really established in modern years the idea of executive privilege and the idea of confidential advice that the president is entitled to receive that need not be reported in any other place. Now, so long as it's advice, that works...When you come to the Congress, it's a little different. There is such a thing as accountability in our government, and the national security advisor is either the top advisor to the president or among the top two or three advisor to the president on foreign policy. Why should not a national security advisor, who holds this position, not be directly accountable to the American people through the Congress?
A lot of it comes down to whether the NSA should be confirmed by the Senate, and how that might change the role. The whole discussion is very interesting.]
¶ 7:23 PM
Rose Mary Woods demonstrates how she accidentally erased the Bush administration's credibility.
MR. RUSSERT: [T]o be clear, Mr. Clarke, you would urge Congress, the intelligence committees, to declassify your sworn testimony before the congressional inquiry two years ago as well as your testimony before the September 11th Commission?
MR. CLARKE: Yes, and those documents I just referred to and Dr. Rice's testimony before the 9-11 Commission because the victims' families have no idea what Dr. Rice has said. There [sic] weren't in those closed hearings where she testified before the 9-11 Commission. They want to know. So let's take her testimony before the 9-11 Commission and make it part of the package of what gets declassified along with the national security decision directive of September 4 and along with my memo of January 25.
In fact, Tim, let's go further. The White House is selectively now finding my e-mails, which I would have assumed were covered by some privacy regulations, and selectively leaking them to the press. Let's take all of my e-mails and all of the memos that I've sent to the national security adviser and her deputy from January 20 to September 11 and let's declassify all of it.
Remember, this is OUR government. It's supposed to be transparent. And if you want to run on your "war" record, you've got to lay it on the table.
to recreate the syntax and measure of poor human
prose and stand before you speechless and intelligent
and shaking with shame,
rejected yet confessing out the soul to conform to the rhythm
of thought in his naked and endless head,
the madman bum and angel beat in Time...
[T]he current president is -- at the moment -- in a generally more propitious position in terms of his re-election probabilities than was his father at this point in 1992...There are still two concerns for the current president. First, despite his relatively more positive positioning compared with his father's situation in 1992, none of the election indicators for George W. Bush are strongly positive. His numbers are, in short, weak, but not as weak as his father's. Second, the current president has been behind his probable Democratic opponent in Gallup's trial heat ballots over the last month, a contrast to the fact that his father was ahead of Clinton in the same ballots in the early months of 1992.
CNN and MSNBC have gotten used to losing to Fox News. But during the Democratic primaries, an unexpected foe stole the ratings crown from all three. The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, a mock news program airing on Viacom's (VIA) Comedy Central, attracted more viewers at 11 p.m. than any of the cable news channels in the last two weeks of January, outdoing Fox by 20 percent even as the news network was running live campaign coverage. Stewart's fake news show has won ever-growing audiences with help from real politico guests like John McCain, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards.
Watch Jon Stewart do the headlines, and you'll see why the Daily Show is the best source of news in America today.
I continue to be amazed by Bush's audacity. Here he is in New Mexico yesterday:
[O]n your TV screens you saw the words "Marching to War." I don't know if you remember that or not. As we were trying to get Saddam to disarm peacefully through the United Nations, and the collective will of the world, you see "March to War," that's hard if you're a business person. It's hard to risk capital or expand your business when the country is marching to war. It's not a good thought.
Or if you're a consumer, maybe thinking about buying a house, if you look on your TV screens that say "March to War," you're not so sure you want to buy the house then, because you're not sure what the consequences of marching to war will be.
Once again, the "not my fault" excuse--the media kept pushing this war thing, and that hurt the economy. Wonder why we saw "March to War" on our teevees all the time? A few quotes from Bush:
July 30, 2002: The crisis between the United States and Iraq that led to the declaration of a national emergency on August 2, 1990, has not been resolved. The Government of Iraq continues to engage in activities inimical to stability in the Middle East and hostile to U.S. interests. Such Iraqi actions pose a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States. For these reasons, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency declared with respect to Iraq...
[T]he intelligence I get is darn good intelligence.
That wouldn't be the same intelligence that didn't detect an imminent attack on the US in 2001, would it? No, it's the stuff that came from our man in Baghdad, Ahmed Chalabi:
A June 26, 2002, letter from the Iraqi National Congress to the Senate Appropriations Committee listed 108 articles based on information provided by the INC's Information Collection Program, a U.S.-funded effort to collect intelligence in Iraq.
The assertions in the articles reinforced President Bush's claims that Saddam Hussein should be ousted because he was in league with Osama bin Laden, was developing nuclear weapons and was hiding biological and chemical weapons.
Feeding the information to the news media, as well as to selected administration officials and members of Congress, helped foster an impression that there were multiple sources of intelligence on Iraq's illicit weapons programs and links to bin Laden.
In fact, many of the allegations came from the same half-dozen defectors, weren't confirmed by other intelligence and were hotly disputed by intelligence professionals at the CIA, the Defense Department and the State Department.
Perhaps a reminder about intelligence from someone who knew a hell of a lot more about war than our "war president" is in order. Clausewitz wrote:
It is much worse for the inexperienced when accident does not render him [a certain balance of probability], but one report supports another, confirms it, magnifies it, finishes off the picture with fresh touches of colour, until necessity in urgent haste forces from us a resolution which will soon be discovered to be folly, all those reports having been lies, exaggerations, errors, &c., &c. In a few words, most reports are false...
Yup, that about sums up the intelligence capabilities of BushCo. And all of this bad intel formed the foundation of their oft-repeated lies used to justify their march to war. Apparently BushCo is really good at the repetition thing:
''This business of saying the same thing over and over and over again -- which to a lot of Washington insiders and pundits is boring -- works,'' [Reagan PR man, Michael Deaver] said. ''That was sort of what we figured out in the Reagan White House. And I think [the Bush] people do it very, very well.''
[T]he most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly and with unfiagging attention. It must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over. Here, as so often in this world, persistence is the first and most important requirement for success.
In the end, I don't care if it was "darn good" or "freaking impeccable" intelligence. I don't care if BushCo simply got hoodwinked by Chalabi. I don't even care if they knew Saddam had no WMD. For me it all comes down to what Justice Jackson said about the Nuremberg War Trials on August 12, 1945:
[W]e must not allow ourselves to be drawn into a trial of the causes of the war, for our position is that no grievances or policies will justify resort to aggressive war. It is utterly renounced and condemned as an instrument of policy.
I therefore want to make clear to the American people that we have taken an important step forward in this instrument in fixing individual responsibility of war-mongering, among whatever peoples, as an international crime.
The war-mongering Bush is not a miserable failure: he's an international war criminal. No amount of repeating the "march to war" propaganda and blaming the media is going to change that fact.
Isn't that just like a liberal? The chair-warmer describes Bush as a cowboy and Rumsfeld as his gunslinger -- but the black chick is a dummy. Maybe even as dumb as Clarence Thomas! Perhaps someday liberals could map out the relative intelligence of various black government officials for us.
Novakula is also running that "Clarke is a racist" meme to discredit his obviously damaging 9/11 testimony:
NOVAK: Congressman, do you believe, you're a sophisticated guy, do you believe watching these hearings that Dick Clarke has a problem with this African-American woman Condoleezza Rice?
EMANUEL: Say that again?
NOVAK: Do you believe that Dick Clarke has a problem with this African-American woman Condoleezza Rice?
[Update: should've mentioned that we're up another 25 bucks to $550. Thank you!]
¶ 5:19 PM
Burn The Tapes!
A grumpy Condoliar Rice gets ready to face reporters and rebut the damning testimony Richard Clarke gave during yesterday's 9/11 hearings.
Observation: Clarke made his charges under oath; Rice won't testify. Who's got more cred?
Now that Kerry's vacation is done, maybe you should give him some money to keep the fire lit under BushCo's ass...
[Update: speaking of the contrast between Clarke and Rice, Josh has some interesting info/perspective on the "precedent" Condoliar keeps referring to as her excuse to not testify under oath. (via Tena over at Eschaton)]
¶ 7:29 AM
Thursday Postcard From Home
Sam thinks he still fits in the same spots he used to six months ago. He's right in this case...barely.
To [the loved ones of the victims of 9/11] who are here in the room, to those who are watching on television, your government failed you, those entrusted with protecting you failed you and I failed you. We tried hard, but that doesn't matter because we failed. And for that failure, I would ask -- once all the facts are out -- for your understanding and for your forgiveness.
Thus far the only person to take responsibility and apologize for the failures of the Bush administration.
In light of recent combat with AQ in Pakistan, I thought this was appropriate. Last week Anthony Cordesman of the CSIS was part of a panel discussing the fallout of M-11 (transcript PDF):
[W]e need to remember that because it's an umbrella organization it doesn't really ultimately matter that much whether bin Laden is captured or al Qaida's key cells and leadership are destroyed. This movement will reemerge and mutate again and again. It will be seen over a period of a decade or more and the forces inside this region are forces that will not go away.
[F]rom al Qaida's perspective they can make a claim that they are in fact winning, not losing, the war on terrorism. The victory we have won in Afghanistan is tenuous at best. It is more Kabulstan than Afghanistan. The fighting goes on. The United States is tied down there. The problems of Central Asia continue.
As a result of 9/11 the United States has been pushed away from its traditional Arab allies. There are great tensions between the United States and the Arab Islamic world, partly as a result of our reaction to those crises.
From al Qaida's viewpoint Iraq is by any standard not an American victory as yet. We have seen a contained secular movement replaced by deep divisions within the Islamic world and Islamists emerging as a serious threat within Iraq. Al Qaida has so far done more to dominate the Arab media than the United States. The U.S. effort to win the information battle and hearts and minds has been sufficiently inept so it gets condemned even in the Jerusalem Post. We need to be very careful about what has happened there. We have found our calls for democracy and reform often seen in the Arab world and not without support from or encouragement from al Qaida and imperialism, as trying to dominate the region, as overthrowing the regime. We have seen what are often good initiatives twisted and turned into what appears to be the U.S. enforcing its own dual standard.
This does not mean we are losing the war on terrorism and al Qaida's perspectives are not the perspectives we have in the United States and the West. But I think it is very important in looking at what is happening here to see not only how al Qaida may view this but other Salafi Islamists and other extremists and terrorist groups throughout this region.
I should mention one last point. The Arab-Israeli conflict remains an open wound amid all of this. A wound that divides us from Europe as well as from the Arab world. A wound which threatens Israel. And it is a wound which more and more if you look at Islamist extremists is one which they have picked up. On 9/11 it seems fair to say that the Arab-Israeli conflict was largely ignored by these movements and it was also seen at best as a secondary priority. Since that time they have capitalized on that as they have on Iraq.
Echoes some things I've said here recently, and over the past year. I'm too busy to add anything of substance right now. Just thought people should see Cordesman's analysis, which I think is spot on (again).
[Update: ATimes has an article about blowback, and offers a little more on the Salafist movement Cordesman alludes to...]
¶ 5:36 PM
Note: I'd planned to publish this on 3/20, but weather and mechanical delays conspired against me, so I arrived in DFW very late. Anyway, I decided to back date it even though this is appearing on 3/21. And yes, it really was snowing as I departed on the Vernal Equinox.
¶ 10:03 PM
Okay, so Atrios has raised $72264.09 for Kerry thus far, compared to $525.00 from DM readers. As my wife observed, if you look at his daily traffic versus mine, it turns out that my readers have given 2 times more money on average. Excellent job, everybody!
We will begin with this proposition. In 2004, to start taking back America, we must take back the White House. We must expose and defeat George W. Bush and his radical agenda. Our new enterprise will help in every way possible. We intend to focus on key battleground states, mobilizing our national network of supporters and the groundbreaking organizing tools we developed during our campaign. We will help some with support through our political action committee. I will travel to speak on behalf of candidates. We will put to work our national grassroots network and organizing tools to help candidates win.
Our already relatively good unemployment situation is gradually improving here. The labor force grew from 353,400 people to 353,800, and employment went up from 339,990 to 340,700. All told, our unemployment rate dipped another 0.1% to 3.7%.
It's unclear if people are getting good jobs or not. It also appears that temp work accounts for increased employment in professional and business services, which seems par for the course during this "recovery". All that said, I'll take this as a positive sign. Would that the rest of the country was doing better.
A bomb exploded today outside a hotel in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, and guerrillas and American forces exchanged fire west of Baghdad, continuing the violence that has marked the first anniversary this week of the Iraqi war.
More violence in the clusterfuck known as Iraqi Freedom, which wingers like to conflate with the "war" on terror. Alas, they're now probably right to do so since our illegal invasion has only fostered conditions for even more terrorism. This guy is on the right track:
I do not fault George Bush for doing too much in the War on Terror; I believe he's done too little. When the focus of the War on Terror was appropriately in Afghanistan and on breaking al Qaeda, President Bush shifted his focus to Iraq and Saddam Hussein. He's pushed away our allies at a time when we need them most. He hasn't pursued a strategy to win the hearts and minds of people around the world and win the war of ideas against the radical ideology of Osama bin Laden.
Kerry hits an important point: this "war" at its heart is about ideas. We can't win if we give bin Laden perfect material for his recruitment videos while we fail to provide a positive alternative. Further, BushCo keeps referring to how many al Qaeda leaders we've captured or killed since 9/11, but that sounds chillingly similar to body counts during Viet Nam, and is about as productive. In that vein, G.I. Wilson, a retired a Marine Corps Reserve Colonel, has this to say:
This enemy cannot be overcome by simply killing them. Their deaths mean martyrdom. Where they fall, dozens or hundreds spring up to take their places. They cannot be overcome solely through firepower attrition, because all death caused by the West accrue to this enemy's benefit, proving their thesis that annihilation is still King in all struggles for power. Waging conflict with massive firepower and high technology are the hallmark of the great Satan to them.
As in all conflict the aftermath is not pretty and we need to recognize with Iraq that "the baby is ugly". Wehave violated General Zinni's twenty principles* of humanitarian operations. However, we still have a window of opportunity to make a dramatic difference if we work hard at creating Iraqi jobs, get Iraqi security forces firmly in place, establish venues for free press, provide extensive internet and media access to the Iraqi people, enhance the infrastructure, and control the borders of Iraq.
Yet a year into the conflict, Iraq's infrastructure is a shambles (e.g., electricity production is still below pre-war levels), and Iraqis throw stones and yell at us to leave whenever another bomb goes off. Small wonder Spain wants to withdraw their troops if we still are in charge of the mess.
The late Colonel John R. Boyd, the brilliant strategist who introduced the concept of the OODA loop1, put a lot of thought into the type of "highly irregular warfare" that we're encountering in Iraq, Spain and elsewhere. First we need to look at the essence of moral conflict, as practiced by our opponents, which is based on three elements:
Menace: Impressions of danger to one's well being and survival.
Uncertainty: Impressions, or atmosphere, generated by events that appear ambiguous, erratic, contradictory, unfamiliar, chaotic, etc.
Mistrust: Atmosphere of doubt and suspicion that loosens human bonds among members of an organic whole or between organic wholes.
We've certainly got all that in spades. Boyd observed that we need positive counterweights to the negative side of moral conflict:
[W]e find that the counterweights to menace and uncertainty are not at all obvious unless we start with mistrust and work in the reverse order. Proceeding in this way we note that...[t]he presence of mistrust implies that there is a rupture or loosening of the human bonds or connections that permit individuals to work as an organic whole in harmony with one another. This suggests that harmony itself represents an appropriate counterweight to mistrust.
Harmony for Boyd was defined as interaction of apparently disconnected events or entities in a connected way. To me this all fits in with the Spanish elections and our fight against al Qaeda.
First of all, the conflict is not just about the United States and al Qaeda, but involves other entities including our allies. It also includes civilians, not just members of the military, for we are both victims of terror attacks and part of the defense against them. Civilians in a democracy are key to success, so any government that wants to defeat al Qaeda must engage the people constructively.
The conflict is also not as simple as "they hit us, we hit back". It involves diplomacy, economics, culture, and myriad other factors. We must be aware of these diverse element and understand that not everybody is going to perceive the problem or the solution in the same way. To assume that Arabs want their country to be an American-style capitalist democracy is unwise. Similarly, to dismiss Spaniards as cowards or appeasers does nothing to bring about harmony.
As I've said before, it's clear that the greatest impact 11-M had on the electorate was not the attack per se, but the government's reaction (i.e., misleading the public). I suspect the PSOE still might've won, judging by the polls, but it was the atmosphere of mistrust that sealed the PP's fate.
Mistrust is exactly what hinders us the most in this struggle. It's mistrust between people and their government, and mistrust between governments. That's probably the biggest negative consequence of the missing WMD in Iraq: the US made terrible weapons out to be the basis for the war, and whether it be through willfull deceit, disastrous incompetence, or a combination of both, BushCo sowed the seeds of mistrust themselves. With more Americans doubting the case for Iraq2, and allies such as Spain and Poland feeling deceived, we lose the necessary counterweight of harmony and are in grave danger of losing this moral conflict.
So what can the Bush administration right now do to be truly "tough on terror"? There's one lesson they should really take from Spain: come clean. The American people are sensing the deceptions used to get us into Iraq, and the adminstration is getting publicly caught in their lies and exaggerations2. In the end, the truth will out and we will punish those who misled us, just as the Spaniards did. It would be much better for BushCo to be up front about their mistakes, truly cooperate with the 9/11 and Iraq Intel commissions, and support a full accounting of what happened.
Beyond any political considerations, being truthful is an absolute requirement for us to defeat al Qaeda and their ilk. If the US government cannot be honest with its own people, then it is clearly not capable of being honest with its allies, nor with the people whose hearts and minds we need to win over if we wish to succeed in this moral conflict.
1 - Boyd spelled it out in Patterns of Conflict, available in complete form as a PDF. The file is a couple meg and is essentially a scan of Boyd's typewritten monograph. For ease of excerption, I'm linking to another site which has distilled the concepts in HTML in a discussion on business strategy.
[Update: fixed a couple of things, including my misordered footnotes.]
¶ 2:34 PM
I Was Right
The other day I observed that the PP was losing ground in Spain before 11-M, and that if anything, the governments lies about the attacks were just the last straw. The UPI appears to support my view:
Islamist fundamentalists may well think they have won, and that Thursday's slaughter moved the Spanish electorate to vote the way they intended them to. However, believing that would be wrong.
Independent polls carried out on Wednesday, the day before the bombings, showed the Socialists ahead with a slight majority.
A poll carried out by Noxa Consulting on Wednesday gave the Socialists less than a 2 percent margin, putting them, nevertheless, in the lead. A similar poll conducted Friday -- a day after the attacks, gave the Socialists an even greater lead. The big difference -- and the clear reason of the Socialist victory -- was the nearly 3 million votes the Socialists added while Aznar's now not so Popular Party lost about 690,000 votes.
One also must take into consideration the millions of young protestors who took to the streets of Spanish cities in the days before the start of the Iraq war a year ago this week. They were expressing their opposition to Aznar's policy of allying Spain with the United States in the war effort. Then, many were too young to vote. This year they voted.
There ya go, wingnuts. But please, do carry on with your rants about al Qaeda winning and how Spainiards are appeasers.
Whoohoo! We won all three of our v-ball games tonight. The secret: only 6 people from our team showed up, so we didn't have to rotate anybody in. That always kills our chemistry. Oh, and we got our serves in consistently, and played very well overall.
I was extremely pleased with how I played. Some monster spikes, a few nice blocks, and my serve was really on. I served for 7 points in the 1st game, 6 in the 2nd, and served out the last 5 in the 3rd. Nice to be on the other side of a sweep for a change.
A statement from the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades, who claims responsibility for 11-M, was released today (via Atrios):
The statement said it supported President Bush in his reelection campaign, and would prefer him to win in November rather than the Democratic candidate John Kerry, as it was not possible to find a leader "more foolish than you (Bush), who deals with matters by force rather than with wisdom."
In comments addressed to Bush, the group said:
"Kerry will kill our nation while it sleeps because he and the Democrats have the cunning to embellish blasphemy and present it to the Arab and Muslim nation as civilization."
"Because of this we desire you (Bush) to be elected."
So will the wingers now say we should vote for Bush because the terrorists want him to win? The battle of wits has begun:
Me - Now a clever terrorist would endorse the man they don't want to win, because he would know that only a great fool would vote for whomever AQ endorsed. I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the candidate AQ endorsed. But they must have known I was not a great fool, they would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the candidate they did not endorse.
A powerful explosion, apparently from a car bomb, went off in central Baghdad today, killing 27 people and wounding 40, according to senior U.S. military officials. The blast destroyed the Mount Lebanon Hotel and damaged nearby houses and offices. "It's a scene from hell here," CNN Baghdad Bureau Chief Jane Arraf said.
According to Brookings' Iraq Index, it's a scene that has been more or less repeated 61 times since August, 2003, killing a total of 722 people, and wounding 1849. While there have been fewer "mass casualty bombings" this month than in February, the insurgents appear to be getting more effective at killing and wounding:
Is the tragedy in occupied Iraq only going to get worse? A year after the war began, I'm more pessimistic than ever.
* The Iraq Index was complete through 3/15, and I added today's reported casualties when making the chart.
¶ 3:29 PM
Happy St. Pat's Day
BushCo and their hit squads must've gotten into the sauce a little early this year1. How else to explain the latest wacko lies and smears?
Josh over at TPM (via BBWW) addresses the latest Bush ad:
This one uses last year's $87 billion Iraq supplemental, and the fact that Kerry voted against it, to accuse him of voting against each of the various line items for troop funding included in the bill. Now, this is inherently misleading since I believe Kerry, like many other Dems, voted for an alternative bill which would have funded these needs by rescinding part of Bush tax cuts.
As I observed over at Mustang Bobby's, Josh is sorta right. Kerry was co-sponsor of the Biden amendment (S.Amdt. 1796) that proposed to "provide funds for the security and stabilization of Iraq by suspending a portion of the reductions in the highest income tax rate for individual taxpayers." That would've been tacked onto the Emergency Supplemental (S.1689) that was eventually passed, but the amendment was tabled.
Here's what Kerry said on the Senate floor on October 17, 2003 (PDF of CR page S12816):
I have said many times, and I will say it again, it is critical that we succeed in Iraq. But it is equally important that we do the job the right way--the way that best protects our troops on the ground, enhances our security, and shields the American taxpayer from undue burden. President Bush's approach fails this test.
I support our troops in Iraq--and their mission. I believe we must do our part to reconstruct Iraq and make it a force for peace and stability in the region. I am prepared to spend whatever it takes to win the peace. But I want to spend that money responsibly and effectively--pursuant to a strategy that will maximize our prospects for success through greater internationalization and burden sharing and provide the transparency and accountability that American taxpayers expect and deserve when we spend their hard-earned money. I want to be sure that the financial costs are distributed, in the spirit of shared sacrifice, among those Americans who can best afford to pay. Unfortunately, the President and his advisers disagree.
I cannot vote for the President's $87 billion request because his is not the most effective way to protect American soldiers and to advance our interests.
Kerry had 5 objections to the bill, which I'll summarize:
The reconstruction portion was clearly padded with unnecessary spending.
Halliburton got billions of dollars in a no-bid contract.
There was no specific spending plan for 20 billion in reconstruction dollars.
There was no plan to pay for it all. That's where the Biden amendment came in.
There was no urgency to pass the bill since there was already money allocated. Kerry wanted to take the time to get more contributions from other countries.
All very reasonable issues to bring up. Kerry concluded his remarks:
[I]t is incumbent upon us to ask what needs at home are underfunded? The answer is: plenty, including health care, education and homeland security.
The President must be held accountable and he must change course. While he may still salvage success in Iraq, the question we must ask is: at what cost--in terms of dollars and lives? We should do this the right way. We can win the peace in Iraq but we cannot--and should not--do it alone. Our troops on the ground deserve a strategy that will take the target off their backs and bring them home more quickly. The American people deserve a strategy that decreases the bill, pays our costs fairly, and makes America safer. We must have a new approach, one that maximizes international cooperation and burden sharing and minimizes the risk of failure. If the President adopts that new approach, I will gladly support any proposal that funds it.
In short, Kerry supported our troops, reconstruction efforts in Iraq, and winning the peace. He voted against a bill that he (rightly) felt was ineffective and incorrectly funded, but in BushCo's binary world there are no alternative approaches: it's either the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Iraq and Afghanistan Security and Reconstruction Act, 2004, or the highway.
Josh has more:
[T]he commercial highlights three budget items, each of which were ones the president opposed and had to be bullied into supporting -- by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. The text narration says: ""No body armor for troops in combat. No higher combat pay. No to better health care for reservists and their families. No -- wrong on defense." What's most bracing about this narration is that this is actually a pretty factual statement if the target is the president, not Kerry. Now, one claim really stands out here. The ad says Kerry voted no to "higher combat pay." This is truly a milestone in the long bilious history of gall.
Read the whole post to see BushCo chutzpah in all its glory. And if that isn't enough to get your blood boiling, check out another wonderful smear that Hesiod debunks (via ODub):
Now the fuckers are saying that John kerry ignored a warning about lax security at Logan airport in 2001, which directly led to (ta! da!) the 9/11 attacks!
I hope Kerry fights back quickly, and hard, against this bullshit. He'll need money to do it--thanks very much to all of you who have helped him out thus far.
1 - In all fairness, they might've started partying for St. Urho yesterday, just as we did.
¶ 12:29 PM
Yesterday the Times withdrew its objection and sent Cox the following email:
Thank you for responding to our complaint. By adding the bold-faced disclaimer at the top of the faux Columnist Corrections Page, you are no longer confusing readers and as a result of this change, we agree that the page is now a parody which is protected under the First Amendment. We are copying Verio on this e-mail in order to inform them that we no longer have any objections to your site.
...I got an email from their new Public Editor (or, rather, from "The Office of the Public Editor") telling me about their change of heart. Presumably they sent this email to anyone who blogged about this...
Okay, so my lark actually meant nothing, nor did I get an e-mail from the Times. Sigh. Well, at least the right thing happened (note the passive voice).
[T]he terrorists want the political parties of the pro-American right to lose, as they did in Spain. Logically, then, that implies that the terrorists want the parties of the anti-American left to win.
Jesse at Pandagon helps us understand Frum's babble:
If someone attacks the U.S. successfully before the election, it's evidence that we need to reward the people who failed to prevent the attack. Failure to prevent terrorist attacks necessitates a reward so that the terrorists don't know that their successful mass murder affected us at all.
In other words, Frum has said, in print, that the American people should not under any circumstances vote for who they think would be the best candidate. No, instead, they have an obligation to try and figure out what the terrorists want us to do and then do the opposite.
To be fair, Frum doesn't come right out and say we should vote for Bush if there's an attack, and a vote for Kerry is a vote for Osama bin Missing, but that's clearly the subtext. It all comes down to our assumptions about what the terrorists want.
I saw on CNN that al Qaeda planned "terrorist attacks to oust Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's Partido Popular from power and replace it with the Socialists."2 So in the winger world, Spain should have voted unanimously to keep the PP in power because that's exactly the opposite of what the terrorists wanted! Why does the "battle of wits" in Princess Bride suddenly spring to mind?
Now a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet, because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he was given. I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But you must have known I was not a great fool, you would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.
In all seriousness, doesn't all this stuff sound like a bunch of reverse-reverse-reverse psychology? That's why we must safeguard our democratic processes more than ever and vote for whom we want, not for the candidate we think somebody else doesn't want. Otherwise, the terrorists have already won the battle of wits.
1 - Sorry, but I didn't feel like coming up with a new nickname.
2 - How much credence do you give information that came from an Internet discussion board?
[Update: I changed HFPST's name, per norbizness' exhortation. I also added a link to a page with the full "battle of wits" exchange.]
I'm only going to say this once: The Spanish election results are not a victory for al Qaeda.
While clearly the 11-M attacks had some impact on the election, it was not the only factor in the outcome. Many wingers claim that the PP was poised to win 'handily', and thus the terrorists swayed the election the other way. But if you look at the polls leading up to the election, you can clearly see that support was already falling away.
Support for the Spanish People's party government is ebbing away as concern about terrorism and separatism dominates the general election campaign, according to opinion polls published yesterday.
Nine days before polling, its lead over the opposition Socialists has fallen to 5-7 points.
Two months ago some polls gave [the PP] a lead of almost 11 points.
Before the attacks, polls gave [the PP] a 3-5% point lead over the Socialists...
So there was a already a downward trend for the ruling party, and its fate seems only to have been sealed by the Spanish government's bumbling attempt to pin blame for the attacks on ETA and not al Qaeda:
A lot of people were already angry with the goverment before the 11-M, but many of them didn't feel happy with the socialist party either. But it's true that after the bombs, and when the spaniards realized that it was not ETA, and after the way the government handled the situation, many people decided to vote against the goverment. It was a punishment to the goverment more than a reward to the socialists.
In other words, the democratic process worked. The people were already down on the folks in power, turned out in record numbers, and voiced their displeasure with a government that defied their will, was not effectively dealing with terrorism, and lied to them. Democracy won.
That's what is supposed to happen, although you'd never guess it from what fascist savants like David Brooks write:
[I]t was crazy to go ahead with an election a mere three days after the Madrid massacre.
So after 9/11 we were told to go shopping and go about our lives as normal because otherwise "the terrorists have already won." But heaven forfend that an election in a democracy could go on in the wake of an attack--that's just crazy talk! There's more:
If a terrorist group attacked the U.S. three days before an election, does anyone doubt that the American electorate would rally behind the president or at least the most aggressively antiterror party?
Ah, now I see where the wingers are heading: the Spaniards might have been foolish voting after a tragic failure to prevent terrorism, but we won't make the same mistake. Might as well cancel the election because we know Bush will win. And thus, so will al Qaeda.
The Madrid bombings were timed for just three days before the general election. The Aznar government fell into the trap and immediately blamed ETA, without any evidence or investigation. Already by Thursday night it was leaked that the Foreign Ministry had ordered Spanish ambassadors around the world to blame ETA. Then the global jihad started unleashing its second artillery barrage: al-Qaeda and/or affiliates started claiming authorship by e-mail and video, as clues were progressively "dropped" around - the van with the detonators and the Koran tape, the dynamite backpack linked to a cellular phone. For its part, ETA vehemently denied any involvement - twice. The ruling Popular Party may have seen it coming by Saturday, when a real "SMS revolution" - as the word in Barcelona's streets goes - launched a series of spontaneous political demonstrations against the government's "lies" and "manipulation".
Barcelona took to the streets in force on Saturday - again displaying countless badges and flags first used in February 2003, when the city was in the frontline of the demonstrations against the coming war on Iraq. Meanwhile, in the Basque country, solidarity with the victims in Madrid soon merged with deep anger. "To see the word 'Basque' assimilated to this barbaric act, this creates a shock beyond anyone's ideology. We defend our identity and our culture, but no one is ready to pay such a price," said Panpi Dirassar, a spokesman for Batasuna. The crowds in Bilbao were furious that "the Basques had become the new Jews of this century".
The Aznar strategy totally backfired. According to numerous polls, as many as 70 percent of Spaniards consider Aznar, Bush's and Tony Blair's "third man in the photo", an "arrogant and intolerant" character. During his second term (2000-04), he personalized authoritarian, centralized Castile almost to cartoonish proportions, fighting against Basque and Catalan nationalism (no wonder both regions voted massively against the PP).
Only one day before M-11, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization had finished the simulation of an Islamist attack against a Dutch chemical plant, leaving 200 dead. But what really happened the day after was even more unprecedented: the global jihad directly influencing the outcome of a general election in a Western democracy.
Senator John Kerry, campaigning last week in Chicago, let loose with his opinion of Republicans opposing him as "the most crooked, you know, lying group I've ever seen."
Was it wise for a candidate for president to characterize Republicans — tens of millions of American voters, including even veterans — as thieves and liars?
No duh, it's not wise to charactierize tens of millions of Republican voters as thieves and liars, which is why Kerry didn't do that. And Safire knows it, as you can tell by his first graf: Kerry's comment was about the "Republicans opposing him". In other words, BushCo.
The full quote, told to a supporter, was about carrying the fight to the GOP this year:
Let me tell you, we've just begun to fight. We're going to keep pounding. These guys are the most crooked, you know, lying group I've ever seen.
The supporter agreed, saying, "It's scary."
It certainly is scary, and it certainly is nice to see that Kerry won't make the same mistakes Dukakis and Gore did. He's not going to allow the GOP to frame this debate and stick negative labels on him: he's fighting back. I think that has unsettled BushCo and apologists like Safire, so they are printing more and more fallacious tripe in their columns, working themselves into a fit of faux pique about an imagined insult against millions of Republicans. Proof positive that the wheels are flying off the winger machine.
The next 8 months are going to be nasty, but I suspect also quite entertaining.
In a dramatic rebuff to the ruling conservative Popular Party, Spain's Socialists have claimed victory in Sunday's national elections.
With more than 90 percent of the vote counted, the Socialist Workers Party is on track to win 163 seats in the country's 350-seat parliament, just shy of an absolute majority.
Turnout was high at 76 percent with voters seeming to expressd anger with the government, accusing it of provoking the Madrid attacks by supporting the U.S.-led war in Iraq, which most Spaniards opposed.
Spain's general election was thrown wide open by a reported al Qaeda claim that it was responsible for Thursday's Madrid train bombings to punish the government for supporting the Iraq war.
Before Thursday, the Popular Party had been favored to win by a comfortable margin, making its leader, Mariano Rajoy, the prime minister.
[Update: since my predictions are usually pretty bad, I'd like to point out that I speculated the PP would lose over at dKos today:
I can't think that any attack helps incumbents at this point.
It's cliched to say 9/11 changed everything here, but it certainly did in this sense: we learned how vulnerable we were, and the American public turned to the only guy available to protect us. If an attack happened on US soil any time leading up to our election, I have to think that people would view it as a definite failure of BushCo. He got a pass because he was newly installed when 9/11 happened, it was such a shock, and nobody at the time knew just how badly he fucked things up before then. Now after years of hearing Bush say we're "safer, stronger", an attack would pop that balloon really fast. No chance to blame Clinton this time.
I think there could be a similar, but even more intense reaction to Aznar. Voting ends at 1900GMT, so I guess we'll know in a few hours.
Some folks over at CalPundit are declaring the Spanish results a victory for Al Qaeda. I disagree: this is a repudiation of failed policies, and victory for the democratic process. If anything, AQ should be worried that the people aren't willing to continue trying the same old, wrong crap.]
¶ 5:18 PM
Iraqi WMD: Bush Administration Competent, Credible
"We bring the good news to Muslims of the world that the expected 'Winds of Black Death' strike against America is now in its final stage...90 percent (ready) and God willing near." (via Kick the Leftist)
Without the steady leadership of George W. Bush, "Winds of Black Death" would be 100% ready.
[Correction: It's clear that Bush's policies haven't done a damn bit of good. And while the NTodd Times obviously cannot determine if the message is authentic, it does give the editors a bit of a the creeps (aside: did you know that if you enter 'heebiejeebies' at MW.com, one of the suggested words that comes up is 'Wahhabis'? Coincidence? I think not.) Does the strike name refer to a dirty bomb? A biological attack? Is it just a psyop? Will a Kerry presidency be able to defend against terror any better than BushCo? How? What do you think, readers?]
[Further correction: Analysis by the Middle East Media Research Institute concludes the letter is not from Al Qaeda. The editors at The NTodd Times are not sure if that makes us feel any better.]
¶ 10:52 AM
Bombings In Madrid, Iraq Prove War On Terror Succeeding
Spain's interior minister said early Sunday that a videotape has been discovered claiming that Al Qaeda carried out train terrorist attacks on Thursday that killed hundreds, but that its authenticity could not be confirmed. Several hours earlier, Spain arrested three Moroccans and two Indians in connection with the bombings.
With Al Qaeda on the run and completely incapable of conducting terrorist activities, I think we can safely declare victory now, just as we'll be able to soon in Iraq:
Bomb attacks in Baghdad killed four U.S. soldiers, the Army said on Sunday, bringing to nine the number of troops killed in Iraq in the last four days by explosives planted by guerrillas to target American patrols.
While there was no mention of WMD being found, which would completely justify the soldiers' deaths, I'm sure the New York Times' Judith Miller will find something soon. But whatever--clearly our fly paper strategy continues to be effective.
[Correction: Al Qaeda apparently is capable of conducting terrorist activities, and no WMD will ever be found in Iraq.]
¶ 9:43 AM
Some politicians in Washington see this new [economic] challenge, and they want to respond in old, ineffective ways.
While the President criticized protectionist policies, he neglected to mention the steel tariffs his administration imposed in a cynical political gambit to secure votes in Rust Belt states. Mr. Bush went on to say that his tax cuts, which have resulted in nearly flat job growth despite administration claims that they would create millions of new jobs, should be made permanent. He then called Senator John Kerry, his opponent in this year's presidential election, a poopy head.
[Correction: It has been brought to the editor's attention that Mr. Bush in fact did not call Mr. Kerry a poopy head. The NTodd Times regrets the error. Sorta.]
¶ 1:18 PM
Why I Hate The DMCA: Reason# 314
It has pretty much destroyed the concept of "fair use", and bullies like the NYTimes wield the act to bludgeon free speech with reckless abandon. Maybe the big bloggers like Kevin and Atrios should sponsor a "Talk Like The Times Day" or something. I think I'll rename my blog NTodd Times and start publishing wildly inaccurate information...
A string of glaring missteps by President Bush's economic team has raised alarm among the president's supporters that his economic policymakers may have lost the most basic ability to formulate a persuasive message or anticipate the political consequences of their actions.
In recent weeks, the White House has had to endure its chief economist's positive comments about job "outsourcing," or sending work overseas; controversial passages in the annual Economic Report of the President; questions over the legitimacy of Bush's 2005 budget; a California swing in which Bush bragged about the possible addition of two or three jobs to a 14-person business in Bakersfield and a flap over a job-creation forecast that not even the president could stand by.
"Clearly, the machinery's not working very well," said Bruce Bartlett, an economist with the conservative National Center for Policy Analysis, who noted that this White House has been known for its discipline on message.
[O]utside the White House, allies are worried. The recent losing streak has the administration "on its heels," said Daniel J. Mitchell, an economist at the Heritage Foundation.
There's still a long way to go, so let's not get cocky. But damn, it's nice to see the administration not get a free pass for its gaffes. They clearly assumed they could get away with anything because the press has been so compliant since the 2000 election--I wonder if they can adjust their strategy to take the new Democratic spine and a questioning media into account?
Very fun poker night yesterday. I missed our last session, so it was great to see everybody and get back into it. After a few hours of playing very well and being up quite a bit for the night, I had a wonderful hand and totally misplayed it, and it was downhill from there. Oy, I lost 16 bucks in the end. What are the odds of that?
So the CA Supreme Court has halted gay marriages in SFO. Bad news, not unexpected, and not a show stopper. Let's keep the faith. There was a rally in response, and I virtually attended (look in the red circle!) with some other folks you know from the blogosphere:
"I think considering the possibility of extending unemployment benefits is not a bad idea," Greenspan said in response to questioning at a hearing of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. He added that he has supported such extensions before, "in times like this."
This makes a lot of sense, so our compassionate conservatives in charge are falling all over themselves to immediately implement this sound advice, right? Here's yesterday's WH press gaggle:
Question: Scott, one other question. Mr. Greenspan, this morning, before a House Education Committee, endorsed an extension of unemployment benefits. The administration has been opposed to that so far. Is the President --
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't -- I think that -- let me correct the premise of your question. Where has anyone ever said -- made such a statement?
Question: Well, do you endorse what Mr. Greenspan said?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President is going to be talking about our economy today. The President is optimistic about the direction our economy is moving. And the best thing we can do for those who are looking for work and cannot find a job is to continue taking steps that create as robust an environment as possible for job creation. You heard the President talk yesterday about how we are an economy in transition. And you heard him talk about the trade adjustment assistance we have provided. You heard him talk about the job training resources that we have provided. And you heard him talk about the importance of acting on his 21st century initiative to make sure workers have the skills to fill the jobs of the 21st century.
Obviously, we've always said that -- in terms of the question that you asked -- that we will continue to work with Congress on those issues. But I think that the best way to help those who are out of work is to create an environment for robust job creation. So we've added jobs now for six straight months. The unemployment rate is below the average of the '70s, '80s, and '90s. We've seen a sharp decline in the unemployment rate. But this President recognizes there's more to do and that's why he's continuing to advocate the policies he talked about yesterday.
Question: So what about Mr. Greenspan's comments on supporting extension of jobless benefits?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think I've expressed our view.
You certainly have expressed your view, Scotty. You pulled out the tired "when did we ever say that" crap and evaded the question. Further, when you claim BushCo will "work with Congress" it is clear that you don't want to extend benefits at all. Sen. McConnell said this the other day* in the Senate (PDF):
[A] 5.6 percent jobless rate was the best of times under President Clinton and now it is the worst of times under President Bush. It's the best of times under President Clinton, worst of times under President Bush. This is spin. That is all it is. How can at one time 5.6 percent be considered the sign of a healthy economy and at other times not?
We see the same kind of spin on policy. Under the previous administration and when the House and Senate were controlled by our friends on the other side of the aisle, temporary unemployment compensation benefits were allowed to expire at 6.4 percent unemployment. Again, temporary jobless benefits expired when the jobless rate was at 6.4 percent and not a word of complaint was heard from our friends on the other side of the aisle in 1994. It was the best policy back in 1994 to allow temporary unemployment to expire at 6.4 percent. That was the policy back then. Now 10 years later, when the same temporary unemployment compensation benefit expired because the unemployment rate is at 5.6 percent, the same policy under a better economy is called an outrageous act.
Sen. McConnell and his friend Sen. Santorum had a nice little repartee in which they expressed great confusion over why 5.6% unemployment today isn't the same as it was in 1996. To them, things are rosy and thus unemployment benefits should not be renewed during the Bush Jobloss Recovery, just like during the Clinton Boom. They doesn't read too good, does they?
First of all, we can't really compare apples to apples because we only have 2 months of data for 2004, with a steady 5.6% unemployment rate2. In 1996 that rate actually was as low as 5.1% during the year, and fluctuated quite a bit between 5.2 and 5.4%. Jury's still out on this year, but given our practically nonexistent job growth it's hard to see the situation really improving. However, there's one thing that has helped keep the rate artificially low: people falling off the labor radar screen.
The labor force participation rate dropped to 65.9% last month, which is lower than at any point during 1996. This is happening because we only count people who are actively looking for work, and there are no jobs to be found so people are just giving up. According to the Economic Policy Institute, if we count the "missing labor force", the unemployment rate would actually be 7.4%. Folks, that would put us at exactly the same politically deadly figure as we had in 1992!
In other words, the situation is bad and lots of people are hurting. The average duration of unemployment is now a staggering 20.3 weeks, which is significantly higher than the 16.4 week average at the same point in 1996. It's unconscionable that Bush and GOP Congress members have refused to extend unemployment benefits, justifying their actions by trotting out the canard that unemployment isn't so bad.
One of the reasons Bush I lost his job in 1992 was that he appeared to minimize the economic pain people were enduring. He was "out of touch" and thus seemed to lack compassion. At this point, I can't accept that these guys are ignorant about the differences between 1996 and 2004, so I can only conclude that they are in fact heartless bastards and spinning madly in a desperate attempt to confuse the public, hoping we'll yet again vote against our own economic interests.
Another thought occurs: what if the Republicans are holding back on benefits in an effort to keep the unemployment rate low? If you pass another extension, people will start getting counted again as being in the workforce because you have to be "available for and actively seeking work" to get benefits. With no jobs being created, this would boost the size of the labor pool without a corresponding increase in the number of people employed. The unemployment rate would balloon, perhaps up to that very high, unspinnable 7.4% level. That would be as bad for Bush II as it was for Bush I, so clearly this must be avoided at all costs, even if it means pain for average Americans.
Or perhaps I'm being too cynical...
1 - A million bonus points for anybody who guesses the significance of the post title.