Media Revolution

Friday, January 30, 2004

The Administration Hasn't Been Cleared on WMD

I think it's a joke to say that the Bush administration didn't manipulate the information about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. You have Powell saying Saddam "has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction" in a speech in February 2001. Two months later, Condi Rice said of Saddam, "We are able to keep his arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt." But boy did they change their tune less than a year later. If you want more, check out the testimony of Scott Ridder, the former UN chief weapons inspector in Iraq, although the above two statements give lie to the notion that everyone, all along, thought that there were huge WMD stockpiles in Iraq.

Certain members of the CIA have taken the rap for the Bush Administration. In press statements, Kay sucked up to Bush while the search was in process, and he is transferring blame to the CIA now. Tenet took the blame for the "16 words" about Iraq's nuclear program in Bush's state of the union speech last year, but if you looked into it, it was clearly bullshit. The administration had been informed that the Niger story was bogus back in October of 2002. They had been told by the CIA -- by Tenet, even--to take it out of a different speech. When Condi was asked on TV why the claim was still in the state of the union, she said that everyone forgot. She said, "We are trying to put now in place methods so you don?t have to be dependent on people?s memories for something like that."

We forgot? You don't "forget" about things like that. I love Tom Tomorrow's comeback on that one:

Gosh, I guess we all forget things from time to time. What we had for dinner last night, or whether a key piece of evidence supporting a planned unilateral invasion is credible or not. Things like that. At least they're working on methods to supplement fallible human memory. And Condi, if you're reading this, might I suggest Post-It notes? You can just scribble a quick note to yourself -- yellowcake uranium story utterly fictional, say -- and stick it on your computer monitor, so that when you get to work on that State of the Union address, you and everyone else who vets the SOTU speech in the entire goddamned White House don't "forget" anything.

Another thing... Don't forget the report in the New Yorker that "some senior Administration people [including VP Cheney], soon after coming to power, had bypassed the government?s customary procedures for vetting intelligence." Normally, the CIA processes raw intelligence to corroborate it and make sure it isn't frivolous noise. But Cheney wanted to make sure they didn't miss any dirt to support their desired actions, and he latched on a vague suggestion of an Iraq / Niger link regarding uranium that CIA consultants said lacked credibility.

I'm not disagreeing with the statement that there are problems with the CIA's set-up... both with their setup (too much reliance on satellites and not enough people on the ground) and with constraints against voicing opposing viewpoints. But it that's not grounds for saying that the Bush administration isn't at fault. They spun the information so hard that it broke. As Kenneth Pollack, who made the case for invading Iraq in his book The Threatening Storm, now says

The intelligence community did overestimate the scope and progress of Iraq's WMD programs, although not to the extent that many people believe. The Administration stretched those estimates to make a case not only for going to war but for doing so at once, rather than taking the time to build regional and international support for military action.

On the other side of the Atlantic, you have the Hutton report exonerating the Blair administration from naughtiness in exaggerating the WMD threat and in leaking the identity of David Kelly, the source of the BBC story who later appeared dead in the woods near his house. I was seething when I heard Blair on the radio yesterday saying "we never leaked Kelly's identity." Yet when the controversy was in full steam, you had a reporter saying that it was easy to figure out Kelly's identity with a little poking about on the Web. The government had leaked enough information so that he was clearly identifiable, and when the reporter narrowed it down to two names, they confirmed which one it was. To say that they didn't leak his identity is like quibbling over the definition of "leak".

Furthermore, in reading some of the testimony from the Hutton hearings, it's not justifiable to say that they didn't exaggerate the WMD threats. The whole 45 minute claim was basically out of nowhere and even that nowhere source was exaggerated. It was only Hutton who exonerated Blair. When Hutton was appointed (by Blair) he was identified as having a distinguished career, but was also called "a pair of safe hands", according to an interviewee on NPR yesterday.

Finally, there are still the other reported complaints from intelligence agents that they felt pressured to come up with specific findings. That is what this whole Wilson/Plame case was about. The media always says that it was to punish Wilson for going against the president. But I've only heard one person say what I also think is the real reason: it was to give a signal to other intelligence officers what the price could be for speaking out.

If you don't think this administration pressures people and manipulates information and intelligence for its own purpose, just look at what's happening in the EPA. When it came time to publish a State of the Environment report, they clashed with the administration over the environment. An internal memo was leaked from this period of negotiations in which it was stated that they could not comply with the White House and still publish a credible report on climate change. So they just purged that section from the report completely. At the same time that the Bushies claim there is no greenhouse effect, you have the Pentagon actively strategizing for the changes that may come. As far as the EPA goes, I've read headlines now saying that the administration is trying to change the scientific research process to make the results more controllable.

UPDATE: See this compendium of evidence that the Bush Administration "repeatedly and deliberately refused to listen to intelligence agencies that said its case for war was weak," put together by the Center for American Progress. Also see this Krugman Op-Ed; he also says the Plame leak was partially to intimidate other intel officers from speaking out against the administration.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Current Status of Media Consolidation Fight

Here's the dope on where the current Media Consolidation fight stands, last I looked:

(1) The FCC passed a suite of rule changes last June 2 which would allow lots more media consolidation on the local and national levels (one corporation could own (from memory) 3 TV stations, 8 radio stations, the newspaper, and the cable system in one city.

(2) The implementation of these rule changes have been put on hold by an injunction pending a legal challenge. This challenge, brought by the Media Access Project and the Prometheus Radio Project will be heard soon.

(3) There have been a number of efforts in the House and Senate to reverse these rule changes, most of them piecemeal. The opposition to the rule changes has been mostly Democrat, but some Republicans have been vigorous, too (including Trent Lott).

The best effort to support, I think, is a Resolution of Disapproval which would cancel all the rule changes. It passed in the Senate through through a special process which bypassed committee. In the House, it's being held indefinitely by Speaker Hastert even though 205 Reps signed a letter demanding it be brought to the floor. They could force the bill to the floor if 211 Reps supported a measure to(some who signed the letter may not want to do this).

At the Nat'l Conference on Media Reform in November, I spoke to NY Rep. Hinchey. He said he and others would be pushing to force their bill to the floor at the begining of this year. I don't see any mention of it on his website, but I know it hasn't been dropped. WHEN IT GETS CIRCULATED, IT IS THIS EFFORT MUST GET PUBLIC SUPPORT. SOME REPRESENTATIVES WILL NEED PURSUADING. I just emailed Hinchey's office to find out about the status of this bill.

(4) Meanwhile, CBS-Viacom is giving favors to Bush to defeat these rollback efforts. With blatant horse-trading, they cancelled the Reagans and are blocking MoveOn's ad in the Super Bowl. In return, the Omnibus Spending Bill a week ago included a custom rider to allow companies own stations reaching 39% of the market (Fox and I think CBS were already over the old limit).

The power that these corporations wield is stunning. They've got their propaganda and distractions bombarding us at an incredible rate. To think that the airwaves are technically public property...

Always a good place to go on this issue:

The Political Opinion Complex: Effective of Media Coverage on Democratic Candidate Rankings

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Three Doctors Dispute How David Kelly Died

David Kelly was at the center of a power struggle between Tony Blair's administration and the BBC, because he was the source of a story which claimed that a WMD report had been "sexed up". In the middle of the controversy, Kelly was found dead near his house. The cause of death was ruled to be a suicide -- a slit wrist.

An inquiry into the circumstances around David Kelly's death ("The Hutton Inquiry") unearthed some dirt on the Blair administration regarding WMD claims. Lord Hutton's final report is due tomorrow.

But today, as London's Evening Standard reports, "Three senior specialists said they could not accept the evidence of how Dr Kelly died presented to the Hutton Inquiry." In a letter to The Guardian, they say that it is "highly improbable" that Kelly died from the wound in his left wrist. The cut would have caused blood loss of about a pint, and a loss of about three liters is necessary for death.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Ex-CIA Aides Press Congress for Independent Investigation of Plame Leak

Interesting. By the way, I'm tired of stuff like this:

The officials who identified Ms. Plame as a C.I.A. officer to Mr. Novak were apparently trying to cast doubt on the credibility of Mr. Wilson, who emerged as a prominent critic of the administration after being enlisted by the C.I.A. to investigate a claim related to Iraq's reported nuclear weapons program.

It wasn't so much about casting doubt on Wilson or even about punishing him. It was to make an example of him to other Intel agents who might want to challenge the president.

Omnibus Spending Bill Riders
There's a big spending with seven riders stuck into it that will probably pass tomorrow. Dems and some Repubs have been fighting it but appear ready to give up. NPR is the only source I've found that details the riders. A story was on All Things Considered this evening and I've put their blurb here and then summarized the riders below. (Link -- scroll down to "Congress Returns to Face Big Budget Issues" for the audio for this story.)

Congress returns from its holiday recess this week to face budget issues that were unresolved at the end of 2003. The Senate has yet to approve an immense omnibus spending bill that provides funding for most of the government's operations. It also includes many provisions that had been rejected when considered separately.

The Riders:

** Undo Congressional Block of New Rules on Overtime and denying overtime pay rights to 8 million

** Kill Congressional moves in both houses to block greater media consolidation (just the national tv cap).

** Fund $11 billion in projects for specific states that the congress never authorized. (McCain said it's plain that the New Years parties haven't ended in Congress.)

** Block a bill aleady passed in Congress to label meat's country of origin (In spite of Mad Cow disease).

** Require FBI to destroy documents on gun background checks within 24 hours rather than the current 90 days.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Vast Conservative Conspiracy
I was reading an article in In These Times about the origins of the Right Wing movement to control the very underpinings of society's "common sense" by setting up think tanks and disseminating "received wisdom" to journalists, academics, and the rest. This article is an update.

George W. Bush, with the help of his advisor, Karl Rove has mastered the art of portraying himself as a man of great principle, integrity, honesty, caring, compassion, and character.


[Conservatives] have 1,500 conservative radio talk show hosts. They have a huge, very good operation, and they understand their own moral system. They understand what unites conservatives, and they understand how to talk about it, and they are constantly updating their research on how best to express their ideas.


[T]hey build infrastructure, they build TV studios, hire intellectuals, set aside money to buy a lot of books to get them on the best-seller lists, hire research assistants for their intellectuals so they do well on TV, and hire agents to put them on TV.

Somebody predicted Kerry's win in Iowa

Friday, January 16, 2004

Interesting Atrios post about the Dollar
And the fact that it's been propped up by Japan and China, who have amassed huge stores of our currency so that their exports to us stay cheap. The question: will this last? Japan appears to be running on a treadmill, buying dollars and more dollars.

They're Killing the Hubble Telescope!
An argument that it's a defensible decision is here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

More evidence against Saddam - al Queda link

Saddam Hussein warned his Iraqi supporters to be wary of joining forces
with foreign Arab fighters entering Iraq to battle American troops,
according to a document found with the former Iraqi leader when he was
captured, Bush administration officials said Tuesday.
The document appears to be a directive, written after he lost power, from
Mr. Hussein to leaders of the Iraqi resistance, counseling caution against
getting too close to Islamic jihadists and other foreign Arabs coming into
occupied Iraq, according to American officials.

It provides a second piece of evidence challenging the Bush administration
contention of close cooperation between Mr. Hussein's government and
terrorists from Al Qaeda. C.I.A. interrogators have already elicited from
the top Qaeda officials in custody that, before the American-led invasion,
Osama bin Laden had rejected entreaties from some of his lieutenants to
work jointly with Mr. Hussein.

Officials said Mr. Hussein apparently believed that the foreign Arabs,
eager for a holy war against the West, had a different agenda from the
Baathists, who were eager for their own return to power in Baghdad. As a
result, he wanted his supporters to be careful about becoming close allies
with the jihadists, officials familiar with the document said.

Halliburton is going to Mars

From an old Petroleum News. They'd be drilling for water this time...

If there is life on Mars, it would probably be microorganisms in water deep below the surface of the planet. Dr. Geoffrey Briggs, director, Center for Mars Exploration at the NASA Ames Center, told “Meet Alaska” that NASA is looking at ways to drill on Mars to look for water — and the life it might contain.

Briggs said NASA has been working with Halliburton, Shell, Baker-Hughes and the Los Alamos National Laboratory to identify drilling technologies that might work on Mars.

Thanks to This Modern World and Billmon.

O'Neill Backtracks, but Disingenuously
If you watched the 60 Minutes interview, it was clear that O'Neill is idealistic about the value of truth and is thus politically naive in the face of those who would manipulate the truth. The extent of his naivete is such that he said that he would be suprised if he were attacked by Republicans. Now that he has been attacked, it isn't a surprise that he has back-pedaled. He's now saying that the Iraq regime change agenda was inherited from the Clinton administration. But compare that to this evidence to the contrary.

Hmmm... well, as far as I can tell, this particular change of is only in this one Toronto paper. But he also says he wishes he could take back the statement that Bush was "like a blind man in a room full of deaf people" and that he would probably vote for Bush. Take that as you will--to me it sounds like he's a goody-two-shoes who called things like he saw them, but then was embarrassed by all the furor it caused.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Iranians may have gassed the Kurds

This much about the gassing at Halabja we undoubtedly know: it came about in the course of a battle between Iraqis and Iranians. Iraq used chemical weapons to try to kill Iranians who had seized the town, which is in northern Iraq not far from the Iranian border. The Kurdish civilians who died had the misfortune to be caught up in that exchange. But they were not Iraq's main target.

And the story gets murkier: immediately after the battle the United States Defense Intelligence Agency investigated and produced a classified report, which it circulated within the intelligence community on a need-to-know basis. That study asserted that it was Iranian gas that killed the Kurds, not Iraqi gas.

The agency did find that each side used gas against the other in the battle around Halabja. The condition of the dead Kurds' bodies, however, indicated they had been killed with a blood agent -- that is, a cyanide-based gas -- which Iran was known to use. The Iraqis, who are thought to have used mustard gas in the battle, are not known to have possessed blood agents at the time.

Fed dollar euro iraq oil -- (just a note to myself)

This Counterpunch article on O'Neill says, "In the latest edition of Z Magazine, the details of how Iraqi oil revenues are being illegally diverted from the Central Bank of Iraq into the Federal Reserve...[blah blah blah]."

The Price of Loyalty

The big buzz from Paul O'Neill's interview on 60 Minutes yesterday is that Iraq was in the crosshairs from day one of the administration. But I think that's only one of three major points. The other two are:

2) Just how clueless and disconnected the president is, and how he is being manipulated.
3) This manipulation forced through the second tax break for the rich, against even the president's concerns.

1) Enemy Iraq
And what happened at President Bush's very first National Security Council meeting is one of O'Neill's most startling revelations.

“From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go,” says O’Neill, who adds that going after Saddam was topic "A" 10 days after the inauguration - eight months before Sept. 11.


And that came up at this first meeting, says O’Neill, who adds that the discussion of Iraq continued at the next National Security Council meeting two days later.

He got briefing materials under this cover sheet. “There are memos. One of them marked, secret, says, ‘Plan for post-Saddam Iraq,’" adds Suskind, who says that they discussed an occupation of Iraq in January and February of 2001.
Based on his interviews with O'Neill and several other officials at the meetings, Suskind writes that the planning envisioned peacekeeping troops, war crimes tribunals, and even divvying up Iraq's oil wealth.

He obtained one Pentagon document, dated March 5, 2001, and entitled "Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield contracts," which includes a map of potential areas for exploration.

“It talks about contractors around the world from, you know, 30-40 countries. And which ones have what intentions,” says Suskind. “On oil in Iraq.”

2) Clueless George
"At cabinet meetings, he says the president was "like a blind man in a roomful of deaf people. There is no discernible connection."

3) The Second Tax Cut
He says everyone expected Mr. Bush to rubber stamp the plan under discussion: a big new tax cut. But, according to Suskind, the president was perhaps having second thoughts about cutting taxes again, and was uncharacteristically engaged.

“He asks, ‘Haven't we already given money to rich people? This second tax cut's gonna do it again,’” says Suskind.

“He says, ‘Didn’t we already, why are we doing it again?’ Now, his advisers, they say, ‘Well Mr. President, the upper class, they're the entrepreneurs. That's the standard response.’ And the president kind of goes, ‘OK.’ That's their response. And then, he comes back to it again. ‘Well, shouldn't we be giving money to the middle, won't people be able to say, ‘You did it once, and then you did it twice, and what was it good for?’"

But according to the transcript, White House political advisor Karl Rove jumped in.

“Karl Rove is saying to the president, a kind of mantra. ‘Stick to principle. Stick to principle.’ He says it over and over again,” says Suskind. “Don’t waver.”

In the end, the president didn't. And nine days after that meeting in which O'Neill made it clear he could not publicly support another tax cut, the vice president called and asked him to resign.

With the deficit now climbing towards $400 billion, O'Neill maintains he was in the right.

Site of the day: Banksy

Via B3TA
Via MemePool

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Money supply falling
Interesting conversation about the money supply falling and what it could mean. Post is a little dated, but still relevant and the coversation dates until a couple of days ago. Nathan mentions Secrets of the Temple, which I'm currently reading. Compare to this this and this.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Saturday, January 03, 2004

Another two insightful posts on the Plame affair by John Marshall at Talking Points Memo.