Deep Underground with Raul Groom

Thursday, September 30, 2004

The excellent Juan Cole has a post up today about the Plame investigation, which is notable for two reasons. One is timing; as I noted previously, Bill Safire and Bob Novak both penned articles recently excoriating the two main administration antagonists vis-a-vis the Plame affair - Safire went after the investigators themselves shortly after Novak blasted the complaining party, i.e. the Central Intelligence Agency. If you're behind on your Grooming, you can get at those articles here:

Safire hilariously laments the erosion of the freedom of the press.
Novak details the raging war between the Bush administration and the CIA, curiously omitting his own substantial role in firing the first shot of said war.

The second thing that makes Cole's post about Plame remarkable is that Cole is almost exclusively an Iraq blogger, which means that if he's hearing rumors about the Plame investigation, they must really by flying around D.C. In fact, I'm a little embarrassed I haven't heard these rumors.

But what Cole doesn't know, because he hasn't been following the Plame rumors like I have, is that all the rumors thus far have pretty much turned out to be false. Basically, we've heard several times that Fitzgerald was getting ready to indict people. Each time we heard that, there would be a development in the next couple of days clearly indicating that was not about to happen. It left a few outsiders like me with considerable egg on our faces after we predicted - several times - that Bush was about to have his balls chomped off by Pat "The Bulldog" Fitzgerald.

So since I responded to that earlier stimulus (rumors that Fitzgerald was ready to indict) by saying "Bush is doomed" and was proven wrong, I will now fallaciously assume that I am correct in responding to the opposite stimulus (rumors Fitzgerald has been pressured into backing off) by saying "Bush is doomed."

Bush is doomed.

I actually have a running debate with a guy in my office who thinks Bush is so bulletproof that even if Cheney's Chief of Staff is indicted in October, Bush will still win. Maybe he's right, but I'd love to see how Rove would squirm the Chimp in Charge out of that one.

In any case, what I think may have happened here is this - Fitz has kept his office clean of leaks throughout the case, which created an environment where people were hungry for leaks. Then, some people who really didn't know shit gave some bogus info out on background about how Fitz was ready to indict. It wasn't true.

Then, months later (around two weeks ago) Fitz actually did get pretty close to an indictment. Somebody in Justice tipped the White House, and they called up their two favorite lap dogs, old Nixon men Bill Safire and Bob Novak. They said "we're going to push the FBI to quash this stuff until after November, then we'll fire the SC and everything will be cool." They asked Safire and Novak to provide some cover fire by making the whole thing out to be a big turf war that was undermining national security (which, ironically, it probably is.)

So Fitz, being a king-hell evil prosecutorial cyborg, knows what to do. He sees to it that his office finally springs a couple leaks about how the Bush administration is pressuring his people to delay indictments. Then when the indictments come down and the Phife-dawgs in the press start yakking on and on about how the indictments are "politically motivated in an election season" Fitz can just say "Whose booty rhymes?"

That last one was for Sophia, and Nate, if you're out there. I should contact you, but I'm a coward. Selah.

This debate primer in the Washington Post is the perfect example of what one of Kissinger's "Revolutionary Powers" can do to an independent(-ish) press corps.

The gold standard for "mainstream" journalism is not accuracy but balance. So clearly, if you're a revolutionary power, the best strategy for paralyzing a press operating under these rules is to become so unglued from any kind of responsible behaviour that it becomes impossible to describe what you are doing in a balanced way, because there's simply no equivalent on the other side.

So as a result we get pieces like this one, which tries its damndest to offer us a balanced view of all the misleading things each candidate has said leading up to the first debate.

When presented in this prose format, you get the sense of balance. But let's make a list of the "misleading" claims chronicled in this piece and see how they stack up.

1b) Bush says Kerry would "Nationalize" health care.
1k) Kerry says the Iraq War has already cost $200 billion.

Bush's claim about Kerry's health care plan is simply a screaming lie. No aspect of Kerry's health care plan could be construed by an honest observer as "nationalizing" health care beyond the level to which it is already nationalized.

Meanwhile, what's misleading about Kerry's assertion that the Iraq War has cost $200 billion? Well, it turns out that while Congress has indeed appropriated $200 billion for the Iraq War at the request of the president, not all of it has actually been spent. So this is a tiny bit misleading, but is Kerry really supposed to stand up and say "This war has already caused Congress to appropriate $200 billion worth of funds from the Federeal Treasury?" Wouldn't that sound, I don't know, a little wooden, and complicated, and even nuanced?

Or, more to the point, if we opened up the Bush misstatement canon to this level of scrutiny, how many "misleading" statements do you think we could turn up?

So, #1 we have a screaming bald-faced Bush lie vs. a Kerry statement that's maybe a little imprecise.

2b) "I went to the United Nations, because I was hoping that diplomacy would work," [Bush] tells audiences, adding that "it is documented" that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein "systematically deceived the inspectors the United Nations sent in."
2k) "The administration misled America, the United Nations and the world. This administration rushed to war without a plan to win the peace."

Bush went to the United Nations because Colin Powell threatened to jump ship on the invasion if he didn't at least try to get a Security Council authorization. Meanwhile, Saddam Hussein's "documented deception" of weapons inspectors happened a long, long time ago. There is no evidence that Iraq deceived weapons inspectors during the run-up to the Iraq War - the allegations of "denial and deception" were based on the false assumption that Iraq was hiding an active nuclear and bioweapons program that Iraq in fact did not have.

Meanwhile, the Kerry statement is, well, completely true. Using the standards of this very Post article, Bush's wild claims about Iraq in the run-up to the war were clearly misleading. The Post notes, somewhat generously, that there is "little evidence" that the Bush adminsitration directly, materially lied in claiming that Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of bioweapons and an active nuclear program. But "misled" and "lied" have different standards, as the authors of this article clearly understand.

The rest of the article, to be fair, is not as bad. But this debate is, after all, about foreign policy, and here we see why Kerry is having such a tough time of it in the press. Bush is totally untethered from any need to tell the truth, because no one can point out his lies without pretending Kerry does the same thing.

Newsweek had a bit this week on blogs and how awful they are because they are so fiercely partisan and unbalanced. But in a very real sense, "balance" is killing us. When one party, or one candidate, has gone completely off the map and is destroying the country with lies and idiotic schemes based on paranoid fantasies, a balanced perspective on that reality only serves to reinforce the illusion that everything is pretty much okey dokey.

Well, I for one, refuse to participate in such nonsense.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Safire has a piece today about the horrors of the Plame investigation. The heat must be getting close. More soon.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

David Brooks is funny. Deep Underground took note of a Brooks column not too long ago where Brooks told a pleasing tale about the "settlement" of the U.S., and drew a parallel with the U.S. attempt to reorganize Iraq after invading and destroying it.

Now, the new parallel is between El Salvador in 1982 and Iraq in 2005. Brooks tells us that El Salvador in 1982 was a place of terrible strife and violence. Of course, we're supposed to assume - and if we're Brooks' target audience, we probably will - that this strife and violence was just sort of an endemic condition in El Salvador, which after all, if full of dark-skinned indigenous people of the sort that the U.S. bravely and wisely exterminated during our grand triumph of spirit. So they are probably just violent by nature, right?

Hmm. Actually, looking in my history book here, it seems that El Salvador was ruled for decades by dictators installed and supported by the United States. This state of affairs worked out well for Washingon until, in 1980, Archbishop Romero appealed to the Carter administration to stop sending money and weapons to the right-wing neo-nazi government that was crushing the nascent stirrings of democracy in his country. A month after the letter was received, the Salvadoran government, still receiving ample aid from the U.S., began a brutal war against its own population, massacring hundreds of people and assassinating Archbishop Romero.

These incidents were not particularly of interest to people in the United States, but when four nuns were raped and killed by the Salvadoran army, there began to be an outcry for a change in the U.S. relationship with this murderous terror state.

The reaction of the incoming Reagan administration was to install an apparatus for "free elections" in the country, while allowing the right-wing death squads to continue to arrest and kill any socialist candidates or their supporters. It was against this backdrop that the 1982 elections were held, and the U.S.-backed candidate predictably won. The resulting war of extermination by Duarte's newly installed "democratic" regime would eventually claim some 75,000 lives.

So this gives us a good understanding, actually, of how Brooks feels about the Iraq elections. Obviously when a country is in a violent state of chaos, any elections held in that context are going to favor the side with the most ability to perpetrate massive violence against their opponents. So really, it's wonderful to have elections in Iraq while people are being shot at and blown up from all sides. After all, is a few thousand Iraqi deaths that high a price to pay for an election in which the U.S.-backed candidates are likely to win?

Apparently, a few thousand Iraqi deaths is not really too high a price to pay for anything, considering what the first ten thousand or so got us.

Monday, September 27, 2004

OK, so after this morning's gun-jumping, let's move along to a story that is really quite funny, as long as, as usual, you ignore the depressing fact that due to this gross incompetence and obvious bald-faced lying, thousands of people have been killed with no end to the carnage in sight.

Here's an overly kind Reuters story called "Key Bush Assertions About Iraq in Dispute." Actually, if you read the article, there isn't much of a dispute. The dispute is between what Bush says and the facts.

For instance, Bush said we had over 100,000 Iraqi troops "fully trained and equipped." The Pentagon says there are actually less than 23,000 and that they have only received enough training to make them "minimally effective."

The Bush administration responded, not by saying Bush made a mistake, but by redefining the term "fully trained and equipped" to mean that they have gone through "initial basic operations training."

And actually, this is helping me a lot. Because since I've made the initial basic loan payments on my house, I now own it free and clear according to this new standard. I'm now referring all communications from my lender to the Defense Department.

And since I once watched "Serpico" I am now a fully-trained and equipped police officer who is also sexually irresistible. I once rapelled about 10 feet down a rock at great falls, so I am now a fully-trained and equipped world-class mountain climber.

This can work for you, too. Ever watched Emeril? You're a five-star chef! Taken a driver's test? You've won the Indianapolis 500 six times!

At long last, a solution to the nation's unemployment problems - once the resume implications of this new standard are fully realized, I'll be qualified to be CEO of Disney. After all, I've seen Snow White like 15 times.

See? It's funny, if you just forget about all the dead people. Shoo, dead people! You're ruining America's laugh riot! Shoo!

Now, one thing to keep in mind as you're laughing at your only president. The Pentagon said that only 23,000 soldiers had been through enough training to make them "minimally" effective. Which is not very effective, minimally effective. But the Bush Training Standard is apparently so expansive as to include at least 77,000 soldiers who have NOT received enough training to be "minimally effective." So to the Bush White House, the standard of "fully trained and equipped" falls far, far, far below the standard of "minimally effective."

Hey! George W. Bush is now "fully trained and equipped" to be President!

Comeuppance for the Knave of Darkness?

Funny thing happened to me on the way to the blogspot this morning. I was sitting on the Metro, reading the WaPo, and I came across this hilarious column by Bob Novak titled "The CIA vs. Bush." Regular readers of this space and of the Raul Groom DU column will remember that Novak actually fired the first shot in the war he purports to describe; this piece of information goes unmentioned in the Op/Ed.

So my blog post this morning was going to be one excoriating the Post for printing such obviously dishonest, conflicted hogwash, but when I went to link to the article, I found it does not appear - anywhere - online.

So until I get a Nastygram from the Post (accompanied by an explanation of why the piece is not available online), here's the full text, typed from the Post. Feel free to link to if you want to link to this story.

The CIA vs. Bush
Robert D. Novak

A few hours after President Bush dismissed a pessimistic CIA report on Iraq as "just guessing," the analyst who identified itself as its author spoke at a private dinner last week of secret, unheeded warnings years ago about going to war in Iraq. Tis exchange leads to the unavoidable conclusion that the president of the United States and the Central Intelligence Agency are at war with each other.


False alarm - you can read the article (which has a different title) at the Sun-Times here:

My bad.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Oh, and my favorite blog of the day is Josh Micah Marshall's Talking Points Memo. Josh is, like pretty much everyone worth listening to, way to my right on foreign policy, but the kind of analysis he does is really tough to find anywhere else. Excellent political mind, great knowledge of history, and a good writer. If the Raul Groom Stamp of Approval has a litmus test, that's it.

A stamp of approval having a litmus test? Wow, that's my Raul Groom Knee-Deep Baloney Mixed Metaphor of the Week.

Bush is having a rough day in the Washington Post. They gave him some inches to tell his side of the story, which he did as good a job of as he ever does. Bush and Allawi's main talking point these days seems to be that "at every turn, the Iraqi people have proved the doubters wrong." Which is a good sount bite, I guess, except for the rather sticky fact that at every turn, the Bush administration has proved the doubters right. Almost nobody in Iraq will go on record now to support what Allawi and Bush are saying. Everyone knows the situation is a complete mess. Aside from that, the article written on Bush's perspective has he and Allawi all over the place, saying more troops are needed, but that they aren't really needed, and that they'll get more foreign troops, but they don't need any more foreign troops, etc. A bland and uninspired effort.

Meanwhile, here's the Kerry version of the same story. Check this sound bite "The president says that things are getting better in Iraq and we must just stay the same course," Kerry said. "Well, I disagree. They're not getting better and we need to change the course to protect our troops and to win."

This is good stuff, people. It's great because it's not a straw man - Kerry really is accurately restating the Bush position, which is that things are going according to plan and we need to stay the course. So the Bush position only makes sense in this crazy fantasy world where everything in Iraq is cool.

The thing to keep in mind, especially if you don't look at the right-wing press, is that there actually exists a substantial percentage of the population - say 21-25% - that actually lives in this crazy fantasy world. These people are constantly bombarded with propaganda that reassures them that what "the media" (that being all media except right-wing media) is telling them about Iraq is all a bunch of lies and that really things are hunky-dory.

This is one of the major disadvantages the Democrats have is that the "liberal" press is actually mostly mainstream news organizations that are bound to some degree to the actual facts of a story. You can see that, ironically, in the CBS document flap - CBS is a real news org, so if they screw up the facts of the story, there are consequences. You don't have this enormous machine that can just gin up some new reality where we can pretend the documents have proven to be real.

This is a big plus for the Republican side, of course, but it has a limitation - namely that when the facts are overwhelmingly and incontrovertibly making your position look like the most ignorant hogwash, you can only get maybe one in five people to believe the crap you're saying. Makes it tough to win elections.

So in the end, the Republicans often have to fall back on trying to suppress Democratic voter turnout, because if everyone who wanted to vote actually got to vote, the Republicans would always lose.

The point is, get out there and vote. Not only that, drive some other folks to the polls so they can vote, too. And read this message from Michael Moore. I don't care if you're a good liberal and you hate Michael Moore like you're supposed to. You can still read this message. It's for everybody!

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

OK, I figured it out. With my move order, black has Kxd8, saving the queen. So only the text works. I lose.

Also, I'm trying to figure out how to do that cool frames thing where you have constant links in your left-hand column. There I'll put links to all the blogs I read regularly. Unlike a lot of bloggers (many of whom are pro writers) I don't read a ton of blogs, but the ones I do read, I read every day.

Until then, every day I'll try to post a link to a blog I like. Today's featured blog is David Corn's. Good stuff. Tell him Raul sent you! ;->

I'm not dead. Really. Though it would be a pretty good excuse, no? Tough to blog from beyond the grave, or so one would assume. Anyway, I finally ponied up an article for DU, which I promised myself I would do before I put in the next installment of the minimum wage debate. I also got some complaints from regular readers that the MW debate was pretty boring. But that's my fault. My next post will be more incendiary.

In any case, let us turn our thoughts today to Tom Delay, who has had several aides indicted for money laundering, corruption, and fraud. Asked if Delay would be indicted, the lead investigator said "Anyone who has committed a crime is a target."

What's interesting about this whole situation is not that Delay is a creepy-ass crazy criminal, which of course everybody already knew. It's that now we know that the Texas legislature was taken over by illegal means. In a multi-party state, the remedy for this would be severe - basically, the party would be banned in Texas. Can you imagine if the Republicans were suddenly banned from Texas? I feel a Butthead-laugh bubbling up at the very thought.

But in a two-party system, you can't really do that. So the question becomes, what's the remedy? The Texas House, immediately upon being illegally taken over, called an unprecedented special session and redistricted Texas to ensure that Republicans would gain seats in the U.S. House, making a Democratic takeover of the House basically impossible (by some estimates, the Democrats could win the Votes-Cast race nationally by eight to ten points and still not retake the chamber, largely due to the Texas fiasco). As this was happening, as you may recall, Tom Delay used the Homeland Security Department (which is supposed to be going after terrorists, in case you're just joining us) to track down and arrest some Democrats who had tried to break the quorum. In doing this, Delay violated several laws, but fortunately for him, that investigation would have to be conducted by the U.S. House, which due to Delay's monstrous and varied illegal acts, the Republicans control indefinitely. Nice work if you can get it.

If you think about it for too long, it's a little scary that the President, Vice President, and Speaker of the House are all Texas Republicans who rose to power largely on the strength of contributions collected from criminals, sham companies, and money launderers, then used their power to recraft the laws of the country and launch illegal, aggressive wars that made gobs of money for those same bad actors.

And you probably shouldn't think about the fact that these folks have a huge, impeccably coordinated media machine devoted to continually painting these two-bit hucksters as the saviors of all that is good and right with America. So instead, check out this chess puzzle:


Now, the reason I sent you there is, I have a question. Is there something wrong with the move order 1. Bxf6 Bxf6 2. Rxd8+? Obviously, this allows black to retake with the Bishop rather than the rook, and prevents Nf6+ from winning the bishop. But after 2... Bxd8 3. Nf6+ Bxf6, 4. Qxb7 is still an easy win, as Black cannot save the rook with 4... Rd8 because of 5. Qxf7 mate. Thus this alternate move order produces essentially the same result as the text.

Somebody please comment on this post if you see a flaw in this move order; I'm losing sleep over this.