Monday, January 31, 2005


It is a good thing that the Iraqi people have a chance to vote, and it is a good thing that insurgent attacks did not kill a lot more innocent people. But the cynical attempt of Bush Co. to exploit these events as a vindication of their wrongheaded policies in Iraq is hard to swallow (especially because they OPPOSED these elections in the first place). Bush gives a speech immediately after the polls close calling it a “resounding success” (the first time in his life he has ever uttered the word “resounding,” I am sure) – but this means the speech must have been written well before the actual voting numbers or outcomes were known. They were determined to call ANYTHING that happened a “resounding success.” The conventional line from CNN and other celebratory commentators is that the vote totals “exceeded expectations,” but since the Bush people never publicly stated any predicted numbers, ANYTHING that happened could be described as “exceeding expectations.”

As usual, this is a case where there are the facts, and then the representation of the facts. The tv visuals were inspiring indeed, but only for the film crews allowed near heavily-protected sites where the turnout was good. The “intrepid Iraqis bravely risking death out of their love for democracy” narrative was just too hard to resist. Of course, in other parts of the country the polls didn’t even open for voting – but we never saw those. And while we don’t know the final vote numbers (and can hardly trust the numbers we do get), the widely quoted estimates of 50-60% were actually LESS than had been floated by some Bush people and Iraqi leaders. But the important fact, almost unmentioned in the celebratory coverage (yeah, I’m a party pooper) is that electoral “success” and legitimacy can’t be measured simply by turnout, whatever the numbers. If the voting patterns were as uneven as reported, the new assembly will be drastically skewed and unrepresentative. As with so much of this hapless misadventure, we’ve solved one problem only to put off a much bigger problem for another day.
[Kevin Drum] The voting in Iraq seems to have gone pretty well. As expected, there were some attacks, but not many more than on a normal day. Also as expected, turnout was high among Kurds and Shiites, but lower in Sunni areas. . . So how is the press treating it? I'm watching CNN right now and they seem pretty enthusiastic. . . they're just gushing.
[James Wolcott] Yesterday on one of the Fox financial shows, James Rogers, author of Investment Biker, commodities guru, and neighbor-down-the-block (an utterly irrelevant detail I thought I'd toss in to make this blog sound more "personal"), was asked by host Neil Cavuto whether the elections in Iraq would be successful. Rogers said, "They'll be successful because the media will say they're successful," adding impishly, "Fox News probably already has the results."

[Digby] And I think they got them from CNN. I haven't seen this much gushing since Asheigh Banfield threw on a little black burka and hitched a camel ride to Kabul. . . Clearly, the media loves these trumped up Iraq milestones. They sent Anderson and Campbell over to hang out in the Green Zone and get "the feel" for the place while they patch up their pancake blush and admire each other's groovy winter desert wear in the bar.
[Juan Cole] I'm just appalled by the cheerleading tone of US news coverage of the so-called elections in Iraq on Sunday. I said on television last week that this event is a "political earthquake" and "a historical first step" for Iraq. It is an event of the utmost importance, for Iraq, the Middle East, and the world. All the boosterism has a kernel of truth to it, of course. Iraqis hadn't been able to choose their leaders at all in recent decades, even by some strange process where they chose unknown leaders. But this process is not a model for anything, and would not willingly be imitated by anyone else in the region. The 1997 elections in Iran were much more democratic, as were the 2002 elections in Bahrain and Pakistan.

Moreover, as Swopa rightly reminds us all, the Bush administration opposed one-person, one-vote elections of this sort. First they were going to turn Iraq over to Chalabi within six months. Then Bremer was going to be MacArthur in Baghdad for years. Then on November 15, 2003, Bremer announced a plan to have council-based elections in May of 2004. The US and the UK had somehow massaged into being provincial and municipal governing councils, the members of which were pro-American. Bremer was going to restrict the electorate to this small, elite group. . . Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani immediately gave a fatwa denouncing this plan and demanding free elections mandated by a UN Security Council resolution. . .

With all the hoopla, it is easy to forget that this was an extremely troubling and flawed "election." Iraq is an armed camp. There were troops and security checkpoints everywhere. . . The Iraqis did not know the names of the candidates for whom they were supposedly voting. What kind of an election is anonymous! There were even some angry politicians late last week who found out they had been included on lists without their permission. . . This thing was more like a referendum than an election. It was a referendum on which major party list associated with which major leader would lead parliament.

Many of the voters came out to cast their ballots in the belief that it was the only way to regain enough sovereignty to get American troops back out of their country. . . Iraq now faces many key issues that could tear the country apart, from the issues of Kirkuk and Mosul to that of religious law. James Zogby on Wolf Blitzer wisely warned the US public against another "Mission Accomplished" moment. Things may gradually get better, but this flawed "election" isn't a Mardi Gras for Americans and they'll regret it if that is the way they treat it.

“The elections Bush didn't want”
On an another note, this was not the elections the neo-cons had in mind. Read Lawrence Kaplan's piece in TNR or some of Richard Perle's recent interviews for more. Sistani forced these elections on the US. . . And no, Sistani and Al-Dawa and the SCIRI are not going to install a theocracy.

If turnout was “better than expected,” what WAS “expected”?
Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawar said on Saturday he expected up to two-thirds of eligible Iraqis to vote in Sunday's election, after earlier appearing to suggest most would not cast their ballots. I expect a majority, up to two-thirds of eligible Iraqis, to vote”
The electoral commission said it believed, based on anecdotal information, that turnout overall among the estimated 14 million eligible Iraqi voters appeared higher than the 57 percent, or roughly 8 million, that had been predicted before the vote. But it would be some time before any precise turnout figure was confirmed, they said.
National turnout in Iraq's landmark election on Sunday was estimated at 72 percent of registered voters by 2pm (11h00 GMT), a far higher figure than most expected, the country's Electoral Commission said.
The IECI clarified an earlier estimate of a 72 percent turnout, saying that the "figures are only very rough, word-of-mouth estimates gathered informally from the field."
There was no firm count of the number of people who voted, as Iraqi election officials in the evening backed away from an earlier estimate that turnout was approximately 72 percent. Sarid Ayar, spokesman for the electoral commission, said in the evening that the earlier numbers were "anticipations," and Reuter quoted him as "guessing" that maybe 8 million Iraqis voted, which would be a little over 60 percent of registered voters.
But more complicated questions emerged as the day wore on. What does "high turnout" mean? Is it a percentage of all eligible voters or just those who registered? Do the vast disparities suggest a coming civil war? Did the insurgency suffer a death blow in failing to severely disrupt the process? And what are the results of the voting likely to show, a broadly representative government or one that may take Iraq in a direction troublesome for the United States?
[Kevin Drum] I just finished skimming through a bunch of reports on the Iraqi elections, and the current consensus seems to be that overall turnout was about 60% — which is pretty good. Turnout appears to have been very high in Shiite and Kurdish areas and very low in Sunni areas.

But how high and how low? Here's my rough guess:

• Shiite turnout: 70%

• Kurdish turnout: 70%

• Sunni turnout: 20%

(Based on an ethnic/religious makeup of 60% Shiite, 20% Kurd, and 20% Sunni, this adds up to a total turnout of 60%.)

If this is indeed how the turnout breaks down, and assuming that everyone votes for their own people, here's how the constitutional assembly will look:

• Shiites: 70%

• Kurds: 23%

• Sunnis: 7%

[NB: I read the same news sources, and I think this overestimates Kurdish and Sunni turnout. But, hey, what do I know?]
[Iyad Alawi] called on his countrymen to set aside their differences Monday while jubilant Iraqis sifted through millions of ballots, tallying the results of a vote they hoped would usher in democracy and lead to the departure of 150,000 American troops. . . But there were fears that not everyone would accept Sunday's results. Sunni participation was considerably lower than other groups, a U.S. official said on condition of anonymity. That raised fears that Sunni radicals who drive Iraq's insurgency could grow ever more alienated. . . Exact figures were not available, but few voters visited polls in Sunni areas — and four stations didn't open — during Sunday's election.

News wrap-up

George’s very, very, very good day

Condi’s rosy debut

In Najaf

In Basra

In Mosul

In Baqubah
[Juan Cole] On the other hand, if the turnout is as light in the Sunni Arab areas as it now appears, the parliament/ constitutional assembly is going to be extremely lopsided

In Samarra

In the Sunni Triangle
Polling centers were largely empty all day in many cities of the Sunni Triangle north and west of the capital, particularly Fallujah, Ramadi and Beiji, The Associated Press reported. In Baghdad's mainly Sunni Arab area of Adhamiyah, the neighborhood's four polling centers did not open, residents said.


On the blogs

Maybe Matt’s right, we’ve been playing this all wrong
The vote was a stunning success. The war's critics have been completely discredited. Democracy is here! The war is won! George W. Bush is a genius! Time to bring the victorious troops home for a ticker tape parade. Democracy has happened, we were wrong, Bush was right, the war is won, and now it should be done with.

Unfortunately, no
The question of U.S. withdrawal has become especially acute in Washington in the days leading up to today's elections, which will open a new phase in the U.S. involvement in Iraq. White House officials worry that Americans will see the vote as a natural turning point and expect quick reductions in U.S. forces afterward. In the face of growing pressure in Congress to begin bringing troops home, President Bush has tried to prepare the public for a long-term deployment.

So, what does it all mean?
[Matt Yglesias] It's time to prepare for three weeks of gloating from the hawks before they realize that nothing has really changed and they return to previous hawk practice of not mentioning Iraq. The interesting thing to watch, I think, will be whether or not Shiite political unity starts to break down now that the elections are behind us.
[Fred Kaplan] Few sights are more stirring than the televised images of Iraqi citizens risking their lives to vote in their country's first election in a half-century, kissing the ballot boxes, dancing in the streets, and declaring their hopes for a new day of democracy.

And yet, the challenges and uncertainties that seemed so daunting last week—about Iraq's security, society, and governance—are unlikely to turn less daunting next week, next month, or the month after. . .

Nearly all of the moving TV footage was taken in southern Iraq, the stronghold of Shiite Muslims, where Sunni insurgents lack a base of operation and where, therefore, turnout was expected to be high. The picture was more mixed in Baghdad (though, according to some reports, many more people voted than had been anticipated) and quite dismal in Sunni-dominated areas. (Just 5 percent voted in Fallujah, and commentators were surprised the number wasn't lower still.). . .

The precise results won't be known for days, perhaps weeks. But the vast bulk of votes will probably be split between two Shiite parties—the slate led by Acting Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and the coalition put together by the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Much depends on whether the winners reach out to the dispossessed Sunnis and let them have some say on the constitution's provisions—as well as shared access to the country's wealth. (Iraq's oil is concentrated in the Shiite south and the Kurdish north; hardly any graces the "Sunni triangle.") If Sunni leaders see they have something to gain by joining the new Iraqi order, they might be less willing to harbor insurgents. If they get nothing out of the deal, chaos will likely continue.

Much will also rest on the outcome of the struggle within the Shiite parties, specifically between the religious and secular factions. If the constitution imposes Muslim law too insistently, the Kurds—who comprise another 20 percent of the population, many of them Christians—may move toward secession. The Kurds, who also voted in very large numbers, elected not only a national slate but a regional assembly. Thanks to protection from U.S. air power, they have enjoyed a certain autonomy from Baghdad for the past decade, and they are not likely to surrender it just because Saddam Hussein is gone; they too need some assurances and rewards before they settle in to a Shiite-majority regime. The Turkish government, which has periodic problems with its own Kurdish minority, has warned that it will not tolerate an independent Iraqi Kurdistan on its southern border. . .

President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice may say that Iraq has 140,000 security forces, but U.S. military officers in the region concede that only about 10,000 have been trained or equipped. Anthony Cordesman, a well-briefed military analyst who has been to Iraq many times and has written several studies for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, estimates that only about 4,500 are capable of fighting effectively on their own. Only in the past few weeks has the Bush administration shifted the resources necessary to mount a serious training effort. . . The upshot of all this is that if President Bush means it when he says U.S. troops will stay in Iraq until its new leaders can provide for their own security, then we are going to stay there for years. . .

A sure consequence of the election's success will be the derailing of any movement in the U.S. Congress to push for a swift troop withdrawal. In his State of the Union Address this week, President Bush will probably say that we cannot desert the Iraqis after their brave display of commitment to freedom. . . In other words, along many avenues of Iraq's journey to democracy (or wherever it's headed), there are many, many miles to go.
[John Quiggin] The Iraqi elections seem to have been about as successful as could have been hoped, and may represent the last real chance to prevent a full-scale civil war. The pre-election analysis suggests that the United Iraqi Alliance, the main Shiite coalition, will get the biggest share of the votes, but probably not an absolute majority. If so, their leaders will face two immediate choices.

The first is what to do about forming a government. The obvious choice is a coalition with Allawi. Given the power of incumbency and the fact that there was no real campaign in many areas, his group is bound to get a fair number of votes, even though it’s clearly unpopular. There’s even talk that he could re-emerge as PM.

[NB: See,,1400478,00.html]

The second choice is what to do about the Americans. Until a couple of days ago, the UAI platform called for a timetable for US withdrawal, but this was apparently changed at the last minute Meanwhile the Pentagon has been talking about continuing full-scale occupation for at least two years. In view of the security situation and the obvious pressure from the Bush administration, the obvious course of action is to defer any talk of withdrawal to the indefinite future.

In my view, the obvious choices would be disastrous in both cases, and for much the same reason. Holding elections is great, but the point of democracy is that they should make a difference and that governments should act in accordance with the wishes of voters. If the election leaves Allawi in office (even as a coalition partner) and the Americans in charge, it will be soon come to be seen as a pointless farce. And unless the government makes early US withdrawal a central demand, it will inevitably end up being seen, at best as a client and at worst a creature, of the Americans. The Sunnis won’t be slow to point this out, and neither will the Sadrists, who have played a cautious game that has given them some representation in the new assembly while maintaining a public boycott of the election.
[Kieran Healy] The Iraqi elections have gone off successfully, in the sense that the turnout was good and the violence relatively contained. That’s very good news. Now comes the hard business of establishing a real government. I’m sympathetic with John’s view that it might not be such a bad thing if the U.S. took a “Declare Victory and Go Home” attitude, even though that’s one of the scenarios people were most worried by before the invasion. Getting out would leave the government in a position to at least try to run its own country, instead of inevitably playing second-fiddle to the U.S. occupying forces. I’m not sure any more that this is likely to happen, though.

The best possible outcome of the weekend’s election is a successful completion of the present government’s term followed by another real election. It’s often said that the key moment in the growth of a democracy is not its first election but its second, because — as Adam Przeworski says somewhere — a democracy is a system where governments lose elections. The question planners need to be asking is what are the chances that Iraq will be able to do this again in four or five years without the presence of U.S. troops and with the expectation that whoever wins will get to take power. This partly depends on whether some functioning government can really be established within the country, and partly on whether the U.S. wants a working democracy in Iraq (with the risks that implies) or just a friendly puppet state.

Rice conceded, however, speaking on ABC's "This Week, that "it's not a perfect election" and added, "there are going to be many, many difficult days ahead."

[Armando] The days ahead. Precisely. This Election is simply, in my estimation, an exercise in pretty pictures. Why? Because Elections are to choose governments, not to celebrate the day. Are the people elected capable of governing Iraq at this time? Without 150,000 U.S. soldiers? Or even with them? I have been accused of gloating by people right HERE because of my focus on the continuing violence. But my focus has been on the realities of governing a land in chaos, in the midst of civil war, with 150,000 U.S. soldiers the only force with the ability to provide security. And this is 2 years after the invasion.
[Shahin Cole] Iraq after its elections is not out of the woods, and some severe dangers loom ahead. Iraq has had the form of elections, but will it have the substance of democracy? Can candidates who were afraid to reveal their identities before the election now be secure in doing so afterwards? Will not the members of the new parliament become immediate targets for kidnapping and assassination?

Moreover, now comes the hard part of drafting a permanent constitution in a way that meets the expectations of all the major groups in the country. Some substantial portion of them is likely to come away disappointed. What if controversial issues cause the negotiations to bog down? Will the third of the candidates who are women accept the likely attempt of the religious parties to impose religious codes in family law? Can a way be found to mollify the Sunni Arabs, who will be highly underrepresented in the parliament, and the legitimacy of which they are unlikely grant?

Far from seeing the elections as a good thing to be emulated, the Sunni Arab neighbors of Iraq are likely to be alarmed at the rise of Shiite dominance. They will also be disturbed at any close Shiite-American alliance. Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and Salafi fundamentalists elsewhere in the Gulf (including Iraq itself), deeply disapprove of Shiite doctrine and practice.

Chalabi (he’s baaack!)

The fiercely partisan worldview of George Bush
[Kevin Drum] I continue to dither about what exactly it is that motivates George Bush, but there's at least one thing that's always seemed clear to me: he is the most unfailingly partisan president we've had in a long time. It's genuinely hard to figure out a political philosophy that ties together tax cuts, Medicare expansion, war in Iraq, immigration reform, Mars missions, Social Security privatization, and vastly increased domestic spending, but even if ideological coherency sometimes takes a backseat in Bush's world, partisan advantage is always front and center.

Bush and his allies. . . are trying to link Bush's agenda with Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Bill Clinton. . . In each case, to put it mildly, the connection is a stretch. In fact, in each instance, the Bush team is citing the Democrats to sell policies that reverse the strategies those presidents pursued.

More trouble for Chertoff

The job nobody wants (can you blame them?)

Brad DeLong proposes a Social Security compromise that could get support (and share the credit) on both sides of the aisle – which is why it won’t happen. The GOP has other plans for Social Security. . .
"It could be many years before the conditions are such that a radical reform of Social Security is possible," wrote Stuart Butler and Peter Germanis, Heritage Foundation analysts, in a 1983 article in the Cato Journal. "But then, as Lenin well knew, to be a successful revolutionary, one must also be patient and consistently plan for real reform.". . . analysts Butler and Germanis argued in their prescient 1983 article — provocatively titled "Achieving a 'Leninist' Strategy" — that privatizing Social Security required a calculated, long-term campaign to transform the political environment.
“The congressional Republicans' confidential plan was developed with the advice of pollsters, marketing experts and communication consultants, and was provided to The Washington Post by a Republican official. The blueprint urges lawmakers to promote the "personalization" of Social Security, suggesting ownership and control, rather than "privatization," which "connotes the total corporate takeover of Social Security." Democratic strategists said they intend to continue fighting the Republican plan by branding it privatization, and assert that depiction is already set in people's minds.”

Paul Bremer’s CPA “lost” $9 billion in reconstruction money

ACLU pressuring Gonzales to appoint a Special Counsel to investigate prison torture

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

You can also help by voting for PBD as the blog “Most Deserving of Wider Recognition” at

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Sunday, January 30, 2005


A little lightbulb went off for me yesterday. I’m not a reporter, and have no access to sources – perhaps one of you does. But it occurred to me, reading this story about the sudden pull-out of Halliburton from Iran: What if Halliburton employees include covert operatives who are among those “advance forces” Seymour Hersh told us about? If Halliburton is providing cover for CIA or other agents who do surveillance, intelligence gathering, etc., it would explain a lot. It would explain why they get contracts with countries that U.S. says it won’t do business with, without being penalized in any way. It would explain their especially cozy relationship with the Defense Dept. It makes a lot of sense, with someone like Cheney in charge. Their leg up, then, is not just a matter of crony capitalism, but that the govt WANTS them to be boots on the ground in hotspots around the world, and so it gives them an edge in getting contracts there. And since being “outed” by Hersh, it would explain why suddenly they’re pulling out of Iran. Complete speculation, I admit, but it makes a certain amount of sense to me,0,6199862.story?coll=la-home-world

Hey, how’s that Iraq vote going?
Fear and hope collide
Bombers target Iraqi voters
The Vote, and Democracy Itself, Leave Anxious Iraqis Divided
Dozens Killed in Election Day Guerrilla Campaign

By saying that ANY election, however unpopular, however low the turnout, whoever wins, is somehow a victory – just because we said so – haven’t we cheapened the meaning of what “democracy” is?
[Armando] Iraq's interim president Ghazi al-Yawar said that only a minority of voters would take part in the country's historic election on Sunday because of fears of violence. We hope that everybody will participate, but most of the Iraqi people will not participate," he told a press conference. Most of them will not take part because of the security situation and not because they want to boycott the elections," Yawar added. . . Yawar also said he would oppose Iraq being used as a base for an invasion by US-led coalition forces against a neighbouring country. "I don't think that we Iraqis want to be a jumping off point against any of our neighbours. Personally, at least, I would not accept that."

I guess Negroponte moves fast. Now the Iraq President says:

Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawar said on Saturday he expected up to two-thirds of eligible Iraqis to vote in Sunday's election, after earlier appearing to suggest most would not cast their ballots. I expect a majority, up to two-thirds of eligible Iraqis, to vote," said Yawar, a Sunni Arab.

[NB: Two thirds? This has me expecting massive vote inflation, especially if the prediction is coming via the Americans. Look at this Zogby poll (done ten days ago, BEFORE the escalation of prevote violence) and tell me if you think it looks like a two thirds turnout:
The survey, to be released at 5 p.m. ET on Abu Dhabi Television, found three-quarters (76%) of Sunni Arabs say they definitely will not vote in the January 30 elections, while just 9% say they are likely to vote. A majority of Shiites (80%) say they are likely to vote or definitely will vote, as are a smaller majority of Kurds (57%).]

Let’s be serious. Isn’t it possible that the way the U.S. has gone about forcing “democracy” upon Iraq, on its own timetable with its own interests in mind, has actually set back progress toward democracy in Iraq, and throughout the Middle East?
Arab human rights activists say the Iraqi election is deeply flawed and will give democracy a bad name. They say violence and the prospect of a Sunni Arab boycott will undermine the poll. Many Arabs, already suspicious of U.S. intentions in Iraq, are also dismissing the vote's credibility because of the presence of the 150,000 U.S. troops there.

"The influence of the elections for us as democrats is disastrous," Syrian human rights activist Haytham Manna told Reuters from Paris. "When you marginalize wide sections of society from the political process. . . this is not democracy."

"With this example, all the Arab extremists will say to us: 'You democrats, go to hell, because you haven't been able to solve our problems with your democracy and elections'," said Manna, who left Syria in 1978 as a political exile. . . "The elections depict democracy as if it is connected to the idea of submission to the American occupier," said Abdel Halim Qandil, who is campaigning against an extension of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's 23-year-old rule. . . "The idea of democracy will lose its reputation in the Arab world entirely," Qandil said, comparing the Iraqi election with 20th-century polls held in Egypt under British occupation. "Democratic charades of this type were going on then," he said.
But today, as Iraqis vote in their first modern election, the war in Iraq is also transforming the Middle East and its relations with the United States in directions the Bush administration might not have expected.

Even many of the region's skeptics about the war say Iraq might, in the end, build a relatively stable democracy. But some of America's most steadfast allies, knowing how shaky their own hold on power is, fear that the Iraqi insurgency may encourage violent anti-government dissidents or Islamic militants in their own countries.

Among many ordinary Arabs, moreover, Iraq's example also has been more alarming than inspiring. Whatever hopes these citizens have for democracy, they have started to wonder if Iraq has paid a high price to get there by first descending into violence, sectarian strife and greater susceptibility to those who preach hatred of the United States.

Two questions are on their minds: Even if democracy takes root and grows in Iraq, will a more stable Middle East follow? And if civil war consumes Iraq, how quickly will instability engulf its neighbors?
Many here harbor suspicions that the U.S. has designs on Iraqi oil and wants to keep the country unstable to keep control over it. We "thought the Americans would come and build Disneyland here. I thought there would be good jobs for everybody, but I think the Americans were slow to take actions," said Ahmed Salam, a 42-year-old owner of a travel and tourism business. Alaa al Tamimi is more blunt. "They blew up a major water [line]. Iraq is the size of one state in America," he sputtered, leaning forward and growing louder. "Why can't the U.S. Army guard it? There are no rules. There is no law. This is freedom?" Despite their anger, most Iraqis don't want the U.S. troops to leave, at least not yet. It's not from any affection for America. No one likes the idea of being occupied or having Humvees zooming through their streets and helicopters screaming overhead. But many fear the country is so fragile that total anarchy will ensue if U.S. soldiers suddenly pack up and go home. They blame the U.S. for creating a mess but are grudgingly resigned to the fact that they need it to stay to clean it up.
Many Iraqis, interviews in recent months have shown, do not accept that fundamental choices about the shape of their future political system should be made by a foreign power, particularly one they regard as a harbinger of secular, materialistic values far removed from the Muslim world's. . . But questions over the election go far beyond the American stewardship, to issues that touch on whether it was ever wise or realistic to think that Jeffersonian-style democracy, with its elaborate checks on power and guarantees for minority rights, could be implanted, at least so rapidly, in a country and a region that has little experience with anything but winner-take-all politics. . . Compounding these objections, the elections are being held in the grip of a paralyzing fear that many Iraqis see as inconsistent with a free vote.
President Bush praised the Iraqi people on the eve of their historic elections Saturday for their "courage and determination" and pledged that U.S. involvement in Iraq will not end after the vote. . . "As democracy takes hold in Iraq, America's mission there will continue," Bush said in his weekly radio address. . . "Our military forces, diplomats and civilian personnel will help the newly elected government of Iraq establish security and train Iraqi military police and other forces."

[NB: Clever, how they switch from being an “occupying force” on one day to being a friendly “helper” the next. Now we know why ANY kind of vote was essential]

Also, let’s be clear what people will and won’t be voting for: this is clearly a process thoroughly hedged with controls to assure that only a narrow range of possible outcomes can result
Ideally, the cleaning up will get started with the national election, which is intended to eventually lead to an autonomous government for Iraq. It's a complicated process: On Sunday, a 275-member national assembly will be chosen. That group will choose a president and two deputies. The president and deputies will choose a prime minister, with the approval of the assembly. Then the prime minister will choose a cabinet, again with the approval of the assembly. The assembly will then set to writing a constitution to replace the temporary one drawn up last spring. The constitution will pave the way for elections for a new government to be held by the end of this year and mark the beginning of a truly sovereign government run and chosen by Iraqis. Also on Sunday, Iraqis will vote for local provincial councils that will act much like a state government in the U.S. At least that's the plan.

Good thing the Iraqi people weren’t given the option of voting about this issue (you don’t want TOO much democracy, do you?)
"Majorities of Iraq's Sunni Arabs (82%) and Shiites (69%) favor U.S. forces withdrawing either immediately or after an elected government is in place," according to a new Zogby Poll. . . The Washington Post notes similar surveys: "Public opinion polls show 80 percent want the Americans out of their country. In the election campaign, one common theme among candidates was the withdrawal of occupying forces."

CIA refuses to release documents detailing its collaboration with Nazi war criminals

On Social Security. Here’s one thing we’ve learned about the Bush Way (WMD, Saddam/Al Qaeda, etc) : when you’ve tried a lie and no one buys it, the solution is. . . tell an even bigger one
The GOP clearly doesn't really believe that the Social Security system will be in crisis by 2008 - those who think that matters, though, are mere members of the reality based community. That which serves the Party is true.

The New York Times: Party leaders and White House officials who gathered at the Greenbrier resort also discussed a new rhetorical twist in their campaign to remake Social Security. In meetings on Friday, Treasury Secretary John W. Snow and Representative Bill Thomas of California, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, discussed redirecting public attention on 2008 as an imminent danger point for the Social Security trust fund because baby boomers will begin retiring, people present said. Even the most dire analyses say the fund will remain solvent for a decade or longer after that.


Social Security: for most Democrats, the fight of their political lives (and no, that isn’t hyperbole)

What will Bush’s Social Security proposal (when he finally gets around to giving us one) look like?,1,6781580.story?coll=la-headlines-nation

And they’re STILL using the SSA to plan and fund a promotional campaign for Bush’s initiative (after denying that they would EVER do such a thing)
The employees, Deborah Fredericksen and Steve Kofahl, testified Friday at a hearing by Senate Democrats who oppose Bush's plan. They said the strategy was devised by Social Security's Office of Communications. It was then disseminated to all of the agency's regional offices, which fell in line behind it. . . Fredericksen and Kofahl said the strategy improperly uses public resources to sell two notions central to Bush's plan: that Social Security faces an imminent funding crisis and that any solution must include private accounts. . . In a statement, Social Security Commissioner Jo Anne Barnhart denied that she had told agency employees to promote "any specific proposal for Social Security reform." She said the agency has sought to "educate the American public about the programs and finances of Social Security."

[NB: It all depends on what the meaning of “specific” is]

Chief Justice Antonin Scalia?

Orwell watch, Minnesota edition: “welfare health care”

The GOP discovers blogging
So let us get this straight: The top Democrat in the Senate loses a race where the GOP sets up a phony blog that passes along news reports from a pseudo media organization, written by a reporter given White House credentials under a fake name.

Hello to my friends in Porto Alegre!

Bonus item: a fabulous debate between Graham Larkin and David Horowitz over academic freedom, diversity of viewpoints, and the supposed “leftism” of university faculties. Good to see someone exposing DH’s intellectual dishonesty with clear analysis and arguments

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

You can also help by voting for PBD as the blog “Most Deserving of Wider Recognition” at

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Saturday, January 29, 2005

FAUX PAS (False Steps)

Buh-bye! DHS nominee Chertoff helped formulate torture policies


Iraqi election “a sham” (thanks to Doug Kellner for the link)


Bob Dreyfuss provides a handy-dandy Iraq election guide

Why Iraq dropped its troop withdrawal demand

Allawi/Chalabi Steel Cage Death Match continues

Some say “Duck!” and others say “Crouch!” (are you listening, Iran?)
Rumor has it that J.D. Crouch is set to become deputy national security advisor, working under Stephen Hadley. Told that Crouch is an "uber hawk". . .
A champion of U.S. withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty, Crouch has supported military action against Cuba; defended the development of offensive chemical weapons; opposed the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT); and advocated the development of new nuclear weapons for such purposes as destroying underground facilities (bunker-busters). . . Before his appointment in 2001, he also strongly criticised the previous Bush administration decision to withdraw nuclear weapons from South Korea, and called for Washington to unilaterally destroy suspected nuclear and missile installations in North Korea unless Pyongyang complied with an ultimatum to dismantle them.

More evidence that an Iran attack is on the horizon

Dick Cheney’s fashion faux pas
"Cheney stood out in a sea of black-coated world leaders because he was wearing an olive drab parka with a fur-trimmed hood. It is embroidered with his name. It reminded one of the way in which children's clothes are inscribed with their names before they are sent away to camp. And indeed, the vice president looked like an awkward boy amid the well-dressed adults. . . Like other attendees, the vice president was wearing a hat. But it was not a fedora or a Stetson or a fur hat or any kind of hat that one might wear to a memorial service as the representative of one's country. Instead, it was a knit ski cap, embroidered with the words "Staff 2001." It was the kind of hat a conventioneer might find in a goodie bag. . . It is also worth mentioning that Cheney was wearing hiking boots -- thick, brown, lace-up ones."
Vice President Dick Cheney "was dressed in the kind of attire one typically wears to operate a snow blower."
Cheney's flagrant violation can, Givhan rightly suggests, be considered an affront to the dignity of the ceremony and signal that Cheney took it less seriously than previous leaders have. At a time when the United States is widely reviled internationally for its brusque and imperious ways, such an arrogant disregard for protocol can only further damage America's international image. . . It's hard to imagine what Cheney was thinking when he prepped for this event. . . There's no question in my mind that Cheney knew what he was doing when he chose to play the role of ugly American in his embroidered parka and knit cap. Perhaps he was trying to signal something about America casting aside the constraints of history. If so, it was a message ill-suited to the occasion. As Paul Fussell noted in his acclaimed book Class: A Guide Through the American Status System, even in the United States the wearing of any items of clothing with writing on them signals a lack of sophistication and education on the part of the wearer, and an intention to engage in leisure activities.
Nothing says "go f-ck yourself" more than wearing your Cracker-Parka to a somber and elegant and formal ceremony of great symbolic importance to your alleged allies.
I didn't think Dick Cheney was a good choice to represent the U.S. at the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, but I didn't expect this. Can anyone find another time he appeared at an official event so dressed down? I bet not. It's not like he flew commercial and they lost his baggage. So why the nonchalance (at best) and disrespect?
This is not the biggest deal in the world, but it sure is peculiar — especially since, as the bottom picture from a ceremony today shows, Cheney had a dark overcoat with him. It's not like he accidentally left it at home or something. I wonder what the deal was?
Dick Cheney's disrespectful cold weather gear at Auschwitz yesterday reminded me of something. . .

[Don’t miss it!]

Here’s what matters about all this: the pattern of missteps by Bush Team 2.0

Mr. Contrarian, Matt Yglesias, gleefully gives a different view
Thinking it through over the course of a very cold day in New York, I've come to the following conclusion. Cheney probably wore the parka because it was cold, and parkas are warmer than formal overcoats. . . I feel that this sneering will, like my museum thoughts, merely redound to the benefit of the Bush/Cheney team. If we've learned anything over the past four years its that heartland ressentiment against disresrespect -- both real and imagined -- from the American cultural elite is a power force in motivating conservative politics. So speaking of which, how come no one is talking about the possibility of a Cheney '08 run? He's gotten a reputation as "too old" but he's really not that old at all. Much younger than, for example, Ronald Reagan, who was certainly good at winning elections. As I see it, the wheels will start to fall off the Bush White House circa winter 2006-7 unless the president can unite the party around a designated "establishment" choice for the nomination, and Dick and Jeb remain the logical choices.

A more substantive problem for Cheney. Wonder why there hasn’t been a more thorough investigation into the Oil-for-Fool scandal (aside from using it rhetorically to hammer Kofi Annan)? Could it be. . . ?

Court says Cheney can keep energy task force documents secret

Bush (hearts) junk social science

Of course, Bush is in good company. The President of Harvard (hearts) junk social science too

BRILLIANT! Just brilliant. By Bush’s reasoning, if Social Security is “bankrupt,” so is his own administration
[A]s the great Carpetbagger notes, if you define ‘bankruptcy’ as ‘cash flow out exceeds cash flow in’ or ‘cash flow flow out exceeds cash flow in plus assets on hand’ then the US government, GWB proprietor, is ‘bankrupt’.

The incoherence of GOP arguments on Social Security

Interesting discussion: where does Bush go now that his initial foray into Social Security reform has (apparently) crashed and burned?
[Kevin Drum] What I mean is this: it now looks pretty certain that George Bush's private account plan isn't going to fly. Democratic opposition is pretty firm and it increasingly looks like too many Republicans are backing away from private accounts for Bush to pull out a victory. So what's the backup plan?

A different analysis of exactly the same point
[Josh Marshall] As badly as the White House has stumbled in these early weeks of the Social Security debate, the presidency is an office of tremendous force and power, particularly one as familiar with and wedded to discipline and demagoguery as this one. All the folks who cover the White House are looking for WMD2. It'll be one big push of fear-mongering and fibs to bum-rush the country into phasing out Social Security. . . Do not underestimate it.

As this and other articles make clear, the president will hit the road right after the State of the Union, with the avowed aim of breaking through the biggest obstacle standing in the way of his efforts to begin phasing-out Social Security. As the Times puts it, "the trip next week will be in part an effort to crack the Democratic wall" of opposition. . .

So there it is. The Democrats have built a solid wall of opposition to phasing out Social Security. And it's there -- in many ways more than in his own party -- that his plan has been momentarily stopped in its tracks. He knows it. The Dems know it. Everybody knows it. . . The Dems have built it up. And next week we get to see if the president can knock it down.

And what IS Bill Thomas’ game?

WH Office of Special Counsel may have broken the law

Old tricks: Bush raising “fees,” but not “taxes”

Bonus items: Bring me the head of “Jeff Gannon” (not his real name)
According to sources, Jeff Gannon's real name is not, in fact, Jeff Gannon. According to the same sources, his White House press credentials list him as "Jeff Gannon" - they let him use his pseudonym -- even though married female reporters, who use their maiden name professionally, are given credentials with their married name and aren't allowed to be credentialed under their maiden names. . . not sure why this isn't clear, but the point is that he's allowed to be credentialed under his professional pseudonym even though women whose "professional pseudonyms" are their maiden names aren't.

Gannon responds to accusations that he recycles GOP and WH press releases as his own news reports
“Just for the record, all material in these articles come from White House PRESS RELEASES, (you know, those things that a PRESS OFFICE puts out for use by the PRESS) and speech transcripts that are attributed to and accurately reflect the position of the President. In many cases I have liberally used the verbiage provided on key aspects of the issue because it is the precise expression of where the White House stands -- free or [sic] any "spin." Its [sic] the ultimate in journalistic honesty -- unvarnished and unfiltered. If only others would be as forthcoming.”

[NB: Because, you know, the job of an unbiased and objective media is simply to repeat government propaganda and disseminate it far and wide. This, of course, is the ultimate expression of turning the press into professional stenographers]

Holden, the “Gaggle Obsessed,” has been onto Gannon’s game for a long time: a few gems

And Gannon’s employer, “Talon News”? Let the eagle soar. . .

Hope you read this far: a possibility that Gannon and Talon are implicated in the Plame affair (thanks to Laura Rozen for this link)

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

You can also help by voting for PBD as the blog “Most Deserving of Wider Recognition” at

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Friday, January 28, 2005


So if the new party line in Iraq is that U.S. troops will be asked to leave as soon as Iraqi troops are capable of taking over security on their own, what will “capable” mean – and who will decide?
[T]he top U.S. commander here, Gen. George Casey, said Iraqi forces were not ready to take over the fight against the insurgents and there was no guarantee they would ever be able to do so.

Bush says he will pull out troops if the new Iraqi govt asks him to (which means he knows they won’t)

Meanwhile, back home, denial, self-delusion, and the suppression of dissent remain the Order of the Day
[Seymour Hersh] "Everybody is afraid to tell Rumsfeld anything. That's just the way it is. It's a system built on fear. It's not lack of integrity, it's more profound than that. Because there is individual integrity. It's a system that's completely been taken over -- by cultists.”

Reality bites
More than two-thirds of all Iraqis live in districts that have experienced insurgent attacks in the past month, according to an analysis of new intelligence data. . . More than half the Iraqis live in districts - roughly the equivalent of large counties in the United States - that suffered an average of at least one attack every three days. . .
Ash-Sharq al-Awsat reports that guerrillas killed 15 Iraqis on Thursday and blew up six polling sites, continuing their campaign to prevent successfull elections on Sunday. One such attack involved a clash with the new Iraqi army, and when the smoke cleared 11 Iraqis and one US soldier were dead.
Citing Iraq's profound insecurity, foreign countries and international organizations mustered only a single accredited observer, and she is expected to remain in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone.

“What I Heard About Iraq” (thanks to Mathew Gross for the link)

Interrogation techniques in Iraq: in some ways I find stuff like this even more disturbing than the waterboarding, etc.

Leap of Feith
We remember other things about Feith's tenure at the Pentagon. A few Feith flashbacks:

From Carl Levin's report on Feith's faulty intelligence assessments: "This report shows that in the case of Iraq's relationship with al Qaeda, intelligence was exaggerated to support Administration policy aims primarily by the Feith policy office, which was determined to find a strong connection between Iraq and al Qaeda, rather than by the [intelligence community], which was consistently dubious of such a connection. In order to present a public case that heightened the sense of threat from Iraq, Administration officials reflected more closely the analysis of Under Secretary Feith's policy office rather than the more cautious analysis of the [intelligence community]."

Not one, not two, but three government investigations into the goings on at Feith's office. Borrowing from a Progress Report summary: The FBI probe involves charges that a Pentagon Iran analyst, Larry Franklin, passed secret government documents concerning the administration's Iran policy to an Israeli lobbying group, AIPAC. The Senate Select Intelligence Committee is looking into "back channel" meetings between officials from Feith's office and the former Iran contra arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar and other Iranian exiles, dissidents and government officials. And the House Judiciary committee probe also focuses on the Ghorbanifar/Iran back channel meetings, with the key players attempting to destabilize the government of Syria.

Remember the propaganda office? (Sorry, the "Office of Strategic Influence.") That was Feith's baby, and he was forced to shut it down.

And who can forget Tommy Franks' observation of Mr. Feith? According to Bob Woodward, Franks called Feith "the f-cking stupidest guy on the face of the earth."
[Juan Cole] Feith is clearly resigning ahead of the possible breaking of major scandals concerning his tenure at the Department of Defense, which is among the more disgraceful cases of the misleading of the American people in American history.

[NB: For more on these and other scandals, search the PBD archives using the keyword “Feith”]


Orwell watch, part 1. Who is this biased commentator, throwing around nonapproved WH lingo?
“But we've got to worry about the youngsters, our kids and our grandchildren, when it comes to the solvency of the Social Security system. That's why I believe younger workers ought to be able to take some of their own money, set aside a personal savings account that will help Social Security fulfill its promise, a private account that they can call their own, a private account they can pass on to the next generation and a private account that Government can't take away.”


Orwell watch, part 2. Who is relying on the “politics of fear”?
"I fully understand the power of those who want to derail a Social Security agenda by, you know, scaring people."


Orwell watch, part 3. Why does someone proclaiming to be a “uniter and not a divider” rely on “wedge” issues so much? Isn’t a wedge issue by definition “divisive”?

Krugman on Bush’s cynical use of race to promote his Social Security proposal
[T]he claim that blacks get a bad deal from Social Security is false. And Mr. Bush's use of that false argument is doubly shameful, because he's exploiting the tragedy of high black mortality for political gain instead of treating it as a problem we should solve.

Chile reception
"Members of Congress could take some lessons from Chile, particularly when it comes to how to run our pension plans. Our Social Security system needs to be modernized, Mr. President, and I look forward to getting some suggestions as to how to do so, since you have done so, so well."
- President Bush speaking to the Chilean president, 4/16/01
Nearly 25 years ago, Chile embarked on a sweeping experiment that has since been emulated, in one way or another, in a score of other countries. Rather than finance pensions through a system to which workers, employers and the government all contributed, millions of people began to pay 10 percent of their salaries to private investment accounts that they controlled.

Under the Chilean program - which President Bush has cited as a model for his plans to overhaul Social Security - the promise was that such investments, by helping to spur economic growth and generating higher returns, would deliver monthly pension benefits larger than what the traditional system could offer. . . But now that the first generation of workers to depend on the new system is beginning to retire, Chileans are finding that it is falling far short of what was originally advertised. . . Even many middle-class workers who contributed regularly are finding that their private accounts - burdened with hidden fees that may have soaked up as much as a third of their original investment - are failing to deliver as much in benefits as they would have received if they had stayed in the old system.


It starts with the DHS staff, but eventually Bush means to dismantle civil service protections for all Federal workers
This is only one front in a very aggressive White House mobilization against federal labor structures and the civil service unions (who are set to sue DHS over the new changes), an initiative that has met with mixed results during Bush’s first term but that looks to be ramped up in the coming years.

Trouble for Bush: the coming internal GOP war over immigration policy
But in typical fashion, Bush also sounded like he wanted to have it both ways on the issue (and as long as immigrants don't take over the desirable jobs in America): "I'm against amnesty; I've made that very clear. On the other hand, I do want to recognize a system where a willing worker and a willing employer are able to come together in a way that enables people to find work without jeopardizing a job that an American would otherwise want to do."

More on the debate over religion and politics, a wonderful essay by Jim Wallis (thanks to K.C. Martin for the link)
Those are the two ways that religion has been brought into public life in American history. The first way - God on our side - leads inevitably to triumphalism, self-righteousness, bad theology, and, often, dangerous foreign policy. The second way - asking if we are on God’s side - leads to much healthier things, namely penitence and even repentance, humility, reflection, and accountability. We need much more of all those, because they are often the missing values of politics. . . Martin Luther King Jr. did it best. With his Bible in one hand and the Constitution in the other, King persuaded, not just pronounced. He reminded us all of God’s purposes for justice, for peace, and for the "beloved community" where those who have been left out and left behind get a front-row seat. And he brought religion into public life in a way that was always welcoming, inclusive, and inviting to all who cared about moral, spiritual, or religious values. Nobody felt left out of the conversation.

. . . Of course, God is not partisan. God is not a Republican or a Democrat. When either party tries to politicize God or co-opt religious communities to further political agendas, it makes a terrible mistake. The best contribution of religion is precisely not to be ideologically predictable nor loyally partisan. Both parties, and the nation, must let the prophetic voice of religion be heard. Faith must be free to challenge both the Right and the Left from a consistent moral ground. . . "God’s politics" are therefore never partisan nor ideological. But God’s politics challenge everything about our politics. God’s politics remind us of the people our politics always neglect - the poor, the vulnerable, the left behind. God’s politics challenge narrow national, ethnic, economic, or cultural self-interest, reminding us of a much wider world and the creative human diversity of all those made in the image of the creator. God’s politics remind us of the creation itself, a rich environment in which we are to be good stewards, not mere users, consumers, and exploiters. And God’s politics plead with us to resolve, as much as possible, the inevitable conflicts among us without the terrible destruction of war. God’s politics always remind us of the ancient prophetic prescription to "choose life, so that you and your children may live," and challenge all the selective moralities that would choose one set of lives and issues over another. This challenges both the Right and the Left, offering a new vision for faith and politics in America and a new conversation of personal faith and political hope. . .

After the 2002 mid-term elections, I attended a private dinner for Harvard Fellows in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Our speaker was a Republican political strategist. . . This very smart political operative said that Republicans won middle-class and even working-class people on the "social" issues, those moral and cultural issues that Democrats don’t seem to understand or appreciate. He even suggested that passion on the social issues can cause people to vote against their economic self-interest. Since the rich are already with us, he said, we win elections. . . I raised my hand and asked the following question. "What would you do if you faced a candidate that took a traditional moral stance on the social and cultural issues? They would not be mean-spirited and, for example, blame gay people for the breakdown of the family, nor would they criminalize the choices of desperate women backed into difficult and dangerous corners. But the candidate would be decidedly pro-family, pro-life (meaning they really want to lower the abortion rate), strong on personal responsibility and moral values, and outspoken against the moral pollution throughout popular culture that makes raising children in America a countercultural activity. And what if that candidate was also an economic populist, pro-poor in social policy, tough on corporate corruption and power, clear in supporting middle-class and working families in health care and education, an environmentalist, and committed to a foreign policy that emphasized international law and multilateral cooperation over pre-emptive and unilateral war? What would you do?" I asked. The Republican strategist paused for a long time, and then said, "We would panic!". . .

A totally unfair attack on DHS nominee Michael Chertoff, but my new mantra is WWRD do? (What would Rove and DeLay do?) By that standard, swing away

Help Bush get past the “liberal media filter” (donate here)

[NB: I assume that this is all about finding non-taxpayer supported funds to continue their aggressive PR campaigns in support of their proposals. But then isn't this a concession that having spent millions in public funds on such purposes in the past was wrong?]

Of course, Bush does pretty well getting past the liberal media already (like by ignoring them)
There are assigned seats in the briefing room, and Bush started, like press secretary Scott McClellan normally does, by working his way through the first few rows. . . With one exception: "He called on everyone in the front two rows except for Helen," Kumar said, referring to firebrand Helen Thomas, doyenne of the White House press corps, now a columnist for Hearst, and a scourge to the Bush administration

“Questions I would have asked”
[Dan Froomkin] Sir, there were two big developments yesterday about torture in Iraq. Newly released Army documents show that there have been many more alleged acts of brutality and abuse of Iraqis at the hands of military personnel than we knew of. And a new report from Human Rights Watch says some of Saddam's torturers are back in business under new management and that torture is again routine in Iraq. Are you outraged?

Sir, in one of the new incidents made public yesterday, a 73-year-old Iraqi woman was captured by members of the Delta Force special unit and allegedly robbed and sexually abused. One of your special assistants, whose name was redacted, apparently took an interest in the case. But like all of these newly released cases, it was closed without a conclusion. Did you know about this -- or any other of the incidents made public yesterday?

Sir, let me read you a question Sen. Ted Kennedy asked Alberto Gonzales: "The FBI e-mails produced in the ACLU lawsuit include reports that detainees in Iraq and Guantanamo have suffered from the following abuses: Detainees were bound hand and foot and left in urine and feces for 18-24 hours; cigarette burns were inflicted; detainees were exposed to extreme temperatures for prolonged periods; enemas were forced on detainees. Do you believe any of these practices were or are lawful interrogation techniques or lawful detainee management?" In his written reply, Mr. Gonzales refused to rule any of those out. Will you?

Sir, you spoke in your inaugural address about bringing liberty to every corner of the globe. Do you mean like in Iraq? Are you aware that some people who don't share your world view don't consider that a good example?

Sir, why do you continue to say that Social Security will go bankrupt in 2042 when in fact even in the worst-case scenario it could still pay out 73 percent of wage-adjusted benefits? That's not bankrupt. In fact, your staffers are talking up a plan that would cut benefits even further than that. So why use the term bankrupt?

Sir, Social Security isn't really a retirement plan, it's more like an insurance plan, making sure that the elderly, the disabled, their dependents and survivors don't go destitute. Some people get a lot more out than they put in; others get a lot less; it's like insurance that way. Private accounts would be a huge change to the structure as established by FDR. What in your view is wrong with the way Social Security works now, other than the alleged financial shortfall, which private accounts don't address anyway?

Sir, when you go out into the country to make your case on Social Security "directly to the American people" will you only be meeting with and speaking to pre-screened groups of people who already agree with you? Or will you be willing to hear dissenting voices?

Scotty’s press gaggle “warming up”
Q Scott, is Tony Blair right when he says the U.S. has to get on board with the agenda of countries who see climate control as a major priority?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I'm not sure that that's an accurate way to describe what he's saying. First of all --

Q How do you interpret it?

MR. McCLELLAN: I mean, climate change is an issue we take very seriously. And in terms of discussing it at the G8, we welcome a discussion of climate change at the G8. . .

Q Don't you think Prime Minister Blair was telling the U.S. that it should change its approach --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think that there are many areas where we agree on how to move forward on climate change. . .

Now let's see what Tony Blair actually said.

"Interdependence is no longer disputed," said Blair, speaking to a forum of business and political leaders. "If America wants the rest of the world to be part of the agenda it has set, it must be part of their agenda too."

Jeff Gannon, “Talon News” (discussed yesterday) is such a right-wing shill that he’s actually recycling old – and UNTRUE – Rush Limbaugh lines
Gannon asked Bush: "[H]ow are you going to work with people [Democratic leaders] who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?" prefacing the question with the assertion that Senate Minority Leader "Harry Reid was talking about [the poor having to get food in] soup lines." But Reid made no reference to soup lines. As Limbaugh noted, "Uh, Harry Reid never said 'soup lines.' That's my term for the simple way to characterize the Democrats' view of America." Limbaugh said he was "flattered and honored and proud to have a point made by this program represented in the press conference and asked by a reporter."


But that’s not all: Gannon files “news reports” that are simply recycled text from GOP documents

Number three in the Payola scandal (Michael McManus). What is the tipping point?

Democrats respond: the “Stop Propaganda Act”

Bonus item: Funny photos, c/o First-Draft

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

You can also help by voting for PBD as the blog “Most Deserving of Wider Recognition” at

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***