Archive for April 17th, 2008

Bush Administration Still Soft On Terror

Not that this is a surprise…

Here is the title of a report from the Government Accountability Office on combating terrorism released today:

The United States Lacks a Comprehensive Plan to Destroy the Terrorist Threat and Close the Safe Haven in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

That is not some line buried in the report. That is the title. Wow.

This GAO report may be the most damning condemnation of the Bush administration’s counter-terrorism efforts. The report goes on to say that the Bush administration has failed to develop any plan to address the Al Qaeda threat. Worse, the report finds that Al Qaeda is now able to attack the United States and represents the “most serious” threat to this country.

The report’s opinion of the Bush administration efforts speaks for itself:

The United States has not met its national security goals to destroy the terrorist threat and close the safe haven in Pakistan…

Not only have we not met our goals but we have no plan to meet our goals:

No comprehensive plan for meeting U.S. national security goals in the FATA has been developed, as stipulated by the National Strategy for Combating Terrorism (2003), called for by an independent commission (2004), and mandated by congressional legislation (2007). Furthermore, Congress created the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) in 2004 specifically to develop comprehensive plans to combat terrorism. However, neither the National Security Council (NSC), NCTC, nor other executive branch departments have developed a comprehensive plan that includes all elements of national power—diplomatic, military, intelligence, development assistance, economic, and law enforcement support—called for by the various national security strategies and Congress.

Al Qaeda can now attack the United States:

“we found broad agreement, as documented in the unclassified 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), State and embassy documents, as well as among Defense, State, and other officials, including those operating in Pakistan, that al Qaeda had regenerated its ability to attack the United States and had succeeded in establishing a safe haven in Pakistan”

The Bush administration has no interest in actually defeating terrorists; they never have.  They are only interested in using the threat of terrorism as a pretense to invade and threaten other countries, and to expand presidential powers far beyond their constitutional limits.  This report is further proof that Bush has used his unprecedented presidential powers to do precisely… nothing.  Sure, he’s authorized torture and wiretapping and blown Iraq all to hell, but other than kicking al Qaeda out of Afghanistan, he’s pretty much let them do what they want.  And now they’re back at full strength and ready to hit us again.

Heckuva job, Bushie.

April 17th, 2008 at 11:10pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Republicans,Terrorism

Subpoenas Continue To Be Optional

The executive privilege defense appears to be metastasizing…

In remarkable defiance of Congressional oversight, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has flatly declined to respond to a House Global Warming Committee subpoena. The subpoena for documents relating to the EPA’s refusal to obey the Supreme Court mandate to regulate greenhouse gases was issued by a unanimous, bipartisan vote on April 2, a year after the Supreme Court decision.

On April 11, the EPA requested and received an extension to respond, but today the agency has decided not to turn over the documents:

As we noted in our April 11, 2008 letter, EPA has grave concerns relating to the Committee’s subpoena.  In particular, we are concerned that the release of the deliberative, pre-decisional documents that don’t reflect the agency’s final thinking would be injurious to important Executive Branch institutional prerogatives: such release may have a chilling effect on future deliberations in this and other matters; it may create erroneous impressions of the Agency’s thinking; and it may raise questions about the Agency having reacted in response to, or having been influenced by, proceedings in a legislative or public forum outside the established administrative process.


The EPA is also defying the House Oversight Committee’s subpoena for related documents on White House involvement.

I am not a lawyer, but the EPA’s argument, especially the part about the “chilling effect on future deliberations,” sounds pretty similar to the executive privilege argument, i.e., that the president’s advisers and subordinates shouldn’t have to worry about their counsel to the president being made public.  Except, of course, that the head of the EPA is not the president, and therefore not covered under executive privilege.

I’m not sure if this is just another fanciful BushCo. legal argument, or if it’s a deliberate bid to expand executive privilege to cover all federal agencies (the reference to “important Executive Branch institutional prerogatives” seems especially telling). That certainly would shut down those pesky congressional investigations once and for all.  Of course, a Democratic president could invoke it if a Republican Congress started witch-hunting (like that would happen!), but he or she wouldn’t get the same kind of obliging media coverage or lack thereof that Dubya has.

I guess we can add “interpretation of the law” to the long list of things that are faith-based in the Bush administration.

1 comment April 17th, 2008 at 09:16pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Environment,Republicans,Wankers

Cenk Has Questions

The Young Turk wants to know, What’s Up With The Media Already???

Does Stephanopoulos realize that he is helping the Republican election strategy by asking an insane and inane question about whether Obama wears an American flag? Or does he have no clue as to how he is being spun?….


This game sickens me. All I want to know now is whether the so-called news folks are in on it or if they are fools being played like clueless puppets. I want to know whether I should be angry or sad. Imagine how embarrassed they must feel this morning if none of this had ever occurred to them and for the first time they realized they’ve been played for fools all along. That the Republicans call them names, accuse them of being biased and then have them do their bidding every year — and then laugh at them behind their back and talk about how pathetic they are.

They know.  The media’s willful stupidity is a pose, an alibi to disguise the fact that most of them work for extremely pro-Republican corporations.

Here’s Mr. Snuffalupagus’s defense of his worthless questions:

…Stephanopoulos strongly defended his handling of the debate. He dismissed criticism that it had focused too heavily on “gotcha” questions, arguing that they had gone to the heart of the “electability” that, he said, is forefront in the minds of voters evaluating the two Dems.

“Overall, the questions were tough, fair, relevant, and appropriate,” Stephanopoulos argued….


Asked to defend the fact that policy didn’t come up for the first 40 or so minutes of the debate, Stephanopoulos said:

“We decided to focus at the top on the issues that had been at the center of the debate since the last debate. Everything we brought up in that front section had not come up since the last debate. And they all focused on the same theme — which candidate would be a stronger Democratic candidate in November.”

“This is the core question for the campaigns, and a lot of Democratic voters right now. That’s why we decided to lead with it.”
Asked why we should presume that electability, rather than issues, was the dominant concern of many Dems right now, Stephanopoulos argued that it was a frequent topic of discussion on the campaign trail.

“People also take into account…how candidates handle controversy,” he said. “That’s what campaigns are about, as well.”

Asked why the moderators had chosen to spend time on Wright, when Obama has repeatedly responded to questions about him, Stephanopoulos defended it by saying that Wright’s most incendiary comments had come to light, and Obama’s speech in response, had both come after the previous debate.

When I asked him whether asking about Obama’s derelict approach to his flag lapel pin risked making it look like right-wing frames were dictating the line of questioning, Stephanopoulos said:

“Sure, there’s a risk.” But he added: “If you look at the fall campaign, there are some clear signals from Senator Obama’s opponents that all of these issues are going to be put together in a general argument. They all go back to that same theme.”

This is strongly reminiscent of “journalists” who report on smears and gossip against Democrats because the story is “out there” and so they’re obliged to talk about it.  If they have to talk about electability, they could ask each candidate one Inane Fake Scandal question and then move on.  50 minutes on contentless, uninformative gotchas is… obscene.  It’s like they watched the Williams/Russert-moderated debates and decided to see how much further they could push the envelope.

And let us not forget how they shrugged off blockbuster stories like the male prostitute in the White House press corps, or that the President Of The United States just admitted to personally authorizing torture.

They’re in on it.

April 17th, 2008 at 08:06pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Media,Politics,Republicans,Wankers

Revenge Of The Son Of Post-Implosion Blogging Strikes Again

Yes, the post-implosion photoblogging is still going strong.  I just can’t get enough of construction equipment and twisted wreckage.

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April 17th, 2008 at 11:21am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Photoblogging,Pittsburgh

Will Bunch Speaks For Me

He’s as disgusted by the right-wing gotcha moderation of last night’s debate as I am.

It’s hard to know where to begin with this, less than an hour after you signed off from your Democratic presidential debate here in my hometown of Philadelphia, a televised train wreck that my friend and colleague Greg Mitchell has already called, quite accurately, “a shameful night for the U.S. media.” It’s hard because — like many other Americans — I am still angry at what I just witnesses, so angry that it’s hard to even type accurately because my hands are shaking….

With your performance tonight — your focus on issues that were at best trivial wastes of valuable airtime and at worst restatements of right-wing falsehoods, punctuated by inane “issue” questions that in no way resembled the real world concerns of American voters — you disgraced my profession of journalism, and, by association, me and a lot of hard-working colleagues who do still try to ferret out the truth, rather than worry about who can give us the best deal on our capital gains taxes. But it’s even worse than that. By so badly botching arguably the most critical debate of such an important election, in a time of both war and economic misery, you disgraced the American voters, and in fact even disgraced democracy itself. Indeed, if I were a citizen of one of those nations where America is seeking to “export democracy,” and I had watched the debate, I probably would have said, “no thank you.” Because that was no way to promote democracy.

…You asked virtually nothing that reflected our everyday issues — trying to fill our gas tanks and save for college at the same time, our crumbling bridges and inadequate mass transit, or the root causes of crime here in Philadelphia. In fact, there almost isn’t enough space — and this is cyberspace, where room is unlimited — to list all the things you could have asked about but did not, from health care to climate change to alternative energy to our policy toward China to the deterioration of Afghanistan to veterans’ benefits to improving education. You ignored virtually everything that just happened in what most historians agree is one of the worst presidencies in American history, including the condoning of torture and the trashing of the Constitution, although to be fair you also ignored the policy concerns of people on the right, like immigration issues.

(…)…[Y]ou wasted more than half of the debate — a full hour — on tabloid trivia that for the most part wasn’t even that interesting, because most of it was infertile ground that has already been covered again and again and again. I’m not saying that Rev. Wright and Bosnia sniper fire and “bitter” were never newsworthy… but the questions were stale yet clearly intended to gin up controversy…. The final questions of that section, asking Obama whether he thought Rev. Wright “loved America” and then suggesting that Obama himself is somehow a hater of the American flag, or worse, were flat-out repulsive.

Are you even thinking when simply echo some of the vilest talking points from far-right talk radio? What are actually getting at — do you honestly believe that someone with a solid track record as a lawmaker in a Heartland state which elected him to the U.S. Senate, who is now seeking to make some positive American history as our first black president, is somehow un-American, or unpatriotic? Does that even make any sense? Question his policies, or question his leadership. because that is your job as a journalist. But don’t insult our intelligence by questioning his patriotism.

Here’s a question for you, George. Is it true that yesterday you appeared on the radio with conservative talk radio host Sean Hannity, and that you said you were “taking notes” when he urged you to ask a question about Obama’s supposed ties to a former member of the Weather Underground — which in fact you did. With all the fabulous resources of ABC News at your disposal, is that an appropriate way for a supposed journalist to come up with debate questions, by pandering to divisive radio shows?

And Charlie…could you be any more out of touch with your viewers? Most people aren’t millionaires like you, and if Pennsylvanians are losing sleep over economic matters, it is not over whether the capital gains tax will go back up again. I was a little shocked when you pressed and pressed on that back-burner issue and left almost no time for high gas prices, but then I learned tonight that you did the same thing in the last debate, that you fretted over that middle-class family that made $200,000 a year. Charlie, the nicest way that I can put this is that you need to get out more.

…As a journalist, you appeared to confirm all of the worst qualities that cause people to hold our profession in such low esteem, especially your obsession with cornering the candidates with lame “trick” questions and your complete lack of interest or concern about substance — or about the American people, or the state of our nation. You embarassed some good people who work at ABC News — for example, the journalists who worked hard to break this story just last week — and you embarassed yourselves. The millions of people who watched the debate were embarassed, too — at the state of our political discourse, and what it has finally become, at long last.

Quickly, a word to any and all of my fellow journalists who happen to read this open letter. This. Must . Stop. Tonight, if possible. I thought that we had hit rock bottom in March 2003, when we failed to ask the tough questions in the run-up to the Iraq war. But this feels even lower. We need to pick ourselves up, right now, and start doing our job — to take a deep breath and remind ourselves of what voters really need to know, and how we get there, that’s it’s not all horserace and “gotcha.” Although, to be blunt, I would also urge the major candidates in 2012 to agree only to debates that are organized by the League of Women Voters, with citizen moderators and questioners. Because we have proven without a doubt in 2008 that working journalists don’t deserve to be the debate “deciders.”

It truly was the worst debate I have ever seen.  The shallow gotcha questions were useless, awful timewasters (good on Obama for calling the moderators and media out on their focus on “manufactured issues,” and bad on Hillary for eagerly playing along with them), and they completely ignored real, important topics like what the candidates would do about Bush’s admission that he authorized torture, or whether they would seek to investigate and punish his administration’s many other crimes.

I didn’t think it would be possible to have worse, more in-the-tank moderators than Brian Williams and Tim Russert, but ABC pulled it off.  Bravo.

April 17th, 2008 at 07:21am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Elections,Media,Politics,Wankers

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