A tossup


I wrote a lengthy (and respectful, I hope) reply to my friend Paul Berman's profoundly misguided review of a new I.F. Stone biography (and collection) here for The American Prospect Online. I did not want to do this, but I had to.

It's a tossup in my mind as to whether it serves one's interest in greater measure to be incompetent, dishonest, purposely ignorant, ideologically and/or religiously obsessed, cavalier about the loss of human lives and the destruction of tens and hundreds of thousands of families, fisacally promiscuous, or sexually promiscuous with innocent 16-year-olds, and hence, quite possibly guilty of statutory rape, to rise in the modern Republican Party. This sex scandal is a pretty good example of a Big Story to which I have absolutely nothing of use to contribute, though I did receive this kinda funny list in the mail this morning.

What is currently driving me the craziest, however, are the variations on this story. The upshot is this. Tenet briefed Condi Rice about a potentially catastrophic terrorist attack on the United States on July 10, 2001. Rice ignored the briefing, just as she and Bush both ignored the August 6 "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US" memo, when Bush told the CIA briefer who delivered the memo to him that he had "covered his ass" and then went fishing for the rest of the day. Rice not only ignored the briefing, but also misled the 9-11 Commission and then lied when confronted with the evidence by Bob Woodward. Add her name to the long list of Bush administration officials who will leave office with the blood of thousands of innocents on her hands, and who was promoted by Bush for exactly that reason. Greg Mitchell has more here. Of course Rice should be fired, and perhaps tried, but instead she will be given the Presidential Medal of Freedom and Bush will run another campaign on how Democrats cannot be trusted to protect you from the terrorists he's created.

Here is the summary in today's Progress Report from CAP:

Asleep At The Switch

Yesterday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice insisted that she did not attend a meeting on July 10, 2001 with then-CIA director George Tenet and his deputy Cofer Black in which she was warned of an impending attack on U.S. interests. Rice said, "I don't know that this meeting took place, but what I really don't know, what I'm quite certain of, is that it was not a meeting in which I was told there was an impending attack and I refused to respond." Actually, there was a meeting and Rice was warned. The New York Times reports, "A review of White House records has determined that George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, did brief Condoleezza Rice and other top officials on July 10, 2001, about the looming threat from Al Qaeda." Tenet and Black requested the emergency meeting with Rice because they "were so alarmed about an impending Al Qaeda attack." The revelation deals a severe blow to Rice's credibility at a time when she is trying to convince the public that "what we did in the eight months (before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks) was at least as aggressive as what the Clinton administration did in the preceding years."

WHAT DID RICE DO?: In his new book, State of Denial, Bob Woodward reports that Tenet and Black "felt the brush-off" from Rice during their meeting. Richard Ben-Veniste, a 9/11 Commissioner who learned about the meeting during an interview with Tenet, stated, "Tenet never told us that he was brushed off. We certainly would have followed that up." In any event, it's clear not much was done. Woodward reports that, "though Rice had given them a fair hearing, no immediate action meant great risk."

IGNORING URGENT THREAT REPORTING: Yesterday, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the meeting "'was not new' and didn't amount to an urgent warning. Rather, it was a good summary from the threat-reporting from the previous several weeks." McClatchy reports, "One official who helped to prepare the briefing...described it as a '10 on a scale of 1 to 10' that 'connected the dots' in earlier intelligence reports to present a stark warning that al-Qaida, which had already killed Americans in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and East Africa, was poised to strike again." The State Department's downplaying of the briefing mirrors Rice's approach to the President's Daily Brief entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US." Rice and President Bush described that document as "historical."

WHAT DID ASHCROFT AND RUMSFELD DO?: Yesterday, McCormack said Rice "requested that Mr. Tenet make the same presentation to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Attorney General John Ashcroft." Ashcroft told the New York Times that he was "disappointed that I didn't get that kind of briefing. I'm surprised he didn't think it was important enough to come by and tell me." Actually, Ashcroft and Rumsfeld were briefed. According to the State Department, Rumsfeld and Ashcroft "received the same CIA briefing about an imminent al-Qaida strike on an American target" within a week of Rice's briefing. A Pentagon spokesman said he had "no information 'about what may or may not have been briefed' to Rumsfeld at Rice's request." According to officials, at the time, Rumsfeld "was focused mostly on his plans to remake the Army into a smaller, high-tech force and deploy a national ballistic missile defense system."

WHY WASN'T THE MEETING INCLUDED IN THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT?: The July 10 meeting, which was potentially damaging for Rice and the Bush administration, was not mentioned in 9/11 Commission report. The report's main author, Philip Zelikow co-authored a book with Rice earlier in thier careers and is now a top aide in the State Department. Yesterday, Zelikow "didn't respond to e-mail and telephone queries" asking why the meeting was kept secret.

More here.

Another tidbit I found in Woodward's book that matches one of my obsessions here was this discussion of Donald Rumsfeld, who, like Rice (and Bush and Cheney, etc.), deserves to be jailed and possibly tortured, rather than driven around in limousines and protected by Secret Service agents at taxpayer expense. " ... A second term traditionally leads to personnel changes. The question was whether one of them would involve Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld....Card had the names of 11 possible Rumsfeld replacements in his 'hit-by-the-bus' book, among them Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.), who had been Al Gore's vice presidential running mate in 2000 and was a staunch defender of the Iraq war, and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).... With Card's knowledge and encouragement, Michael Gerson, the chief White House speechwriter, also lobbied the president. Gerson said he believed that Rumsfeld should be replaced, as a symbol of change. The president should talk to Lieberman about taking over for Rumsfeld, Gerson recommended. What better symbol of change could there be than to bring in Gore's running mate?"

Has anyone yet asked Lieberman point blank: "Sir, if elected, will you promise to serve out your term and refuse any appointment offered to you by a Republican president, and thereby open your seat to a Republican appointment by the governor?" If so, please let us know.

Did you notice this?:

About six in 10 Iraqis say they approve of attacks on U.S.-led forces, and slightly more than that want their government to ask U.S. troops to leave within a year, according to a poll in that country.

The Iraqis also have negative views of Osama bin Laden, according to the early September poll of 1,150.

The poll, done for University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes, found:

  • Almost four in five Iraqis say the U.S. military force in Iraq provokes more violence than it prevents.
  • About 61 percent approved of the attacks -- up from 47 percent in January.

More here.

It's official -- Ailes: Fox News Like the Yankees, here. (And Siva, Danny, everybody: Don't tell me Bruce went to a Yankee game. I went to a Yankee game too. Watched the Sox beat 'em, as a matter of fact.)

My friends at Cursor.org have created this website to help you navigate the 2006 midterms with hundreds of links to national and local coverage of the races, including maps, polls, watchdogs, election video, talk radio, and even the latest betting odds. It's called Bring It On, and it's here.

Read this stuff too:

Michael Bérubé's blog, here, is beyond crazy but in a good way. Buy his book, but read it only if you want to.

Rashid Khalidi on the unwritten Palestinian history here.

McCain blows it at the Tory conference, here.

Also, The Nation has an excellent piece on the "Revolt of the Generals" here.

Quote of the Day: "It's vile. It's more sad than anything else, to see someone with such potential throw it all down the drain because of a sexual addiction." -- Mark Foley, R-West Palm Beach, September 12, 1998, referring to Bill Clinton in the St. Petersburg Times.

Correction of the Day: "An article on Sept. 17 about the abundance of satire in American culture referred incorrectly to an episode of 'South Park.' In it, the character Cartman tricks another child into eating his own parents in a bowl of chili; Cartman himself does not eat them." Here.

Ben Stein should be shunned.

From the Committee to Protect Journalists, here:

The Committee to Protect Journalists has called on the U.S. military to provide a fair and open legal process for an Al-Jazeera cameraman who has been imprisoned for five years without charge or trial on the basis of secret evidence. CPJ outlines the case against Sami al-Haj, the only confirmed journalist held at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, in a new report called "The Enemy?"

The report, written by Middle East Program Coordinator Joel Campagna, traces al-Haj's journey from assignment on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in late 2001 to detention in an 8-by-7-foot cell today. Championed as a prisoner of conscience in the Arab world but virtually unknown in U.S. media circles, al-Haj is accused of working as a financial courier for armed groups and assisting al-Qaeda and extremist figures. His lawyer calls the charges baseless and notes that no supporting evidence has been put forward.

Campagna reviewed previously classified transcripts of hearings involving al-Haj and conducted numerous interviews with his lawyer, family, and colleagues. He found that al-Haj's open-ended detention raises questions about the U.S. military's treatment of journalists as it pursues a global war on terrorism-and fits into a broader pattern CPJ has documented in Iraq, where a number of journalists have been jailed for months without charge.

The journalist's lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, contends that al-Haj's continued detention is political and that U.S. interrogators have focused almost exclusively on obtaining intelligence on Al-Jazeera and its staff. He said military officials told al-Haj that he would be released if he agreed to inform U.S. intelligence authorities about the satellite network's activities. Al-Haj refused, he said.

"Was al-Haj a knowing or unwitting conspirator with terrorist groups?" Campagna asks. "Or is he entirely innocent-a journalist plucked from the field while covering the world's biggest story? What crime has he committed? What is the evidence against him? Only a fair and transparent legal process can provide those answers."

Read CPJ's report.

Alter-review by Sal:

ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA - REISSUES: On The Third Day, Face The Music, and A New World Record. One story about the long delay of these reissues was contractual disputes with some of the band members. Another story was Sony refusing to release them until Jeff Lynne cut off that big stupid Afro. Regardless, they're finally here -- three brilliant releases by the oft-maligned supergroup, all featuring amazing sound and unreleased bonus tracks.

Many people think just having their 16-track greatest hits CD is plenty. But as a longtime fan of The Move and The Idle Race, Jeff Lynne's earlier bands, I can tell you that their hits, while not bad, represent some of ELO's weakest material. These three reissues just happen to be three of their finest albums.

There's more here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Joe Raskin
Hometown: Brooklyn
Dr. Alterman:

If this was Pedro Martinez's initial injury this season, I'd be in a sheer state of panic. It isn't, and I'm not. They managed to get through a significant part of the season with both Pedro and Tom Glavine injured, and their main set-up guy in the bullpen (Duaner Sanchez) out for the season following an automobile accident.

Realistically, most of the teams that are going to be in the post-season have pitching problems (in my mind, the Astros have the best rotation, but they still have to get past the Cardinals to get there). The other National League teams are in a struggle to get into the playoffs, and will not have their pitching rotations set for the playoffs. The Mets won't have Pedro Martinez available, but they will have the opportunity to get things set up in exactly the way that will be most advantegous for them.

Don't get me wrong. It's terrible not to have Pedro pitching. At the same time, the Mets, to me, have a special team this year. They have great unity, they never give up, and they will fight back against a huge obstacle.

And I still want the Oakland Athletics (with absolutely no disrespect meant to the Twins and Tigers, who both deserve tremendous credit for what they've accomplished this year).

Name: Rick Dare
Hometown: Vancouver, BC

Eric: the reason Gene Clark and Michael Clarke were not part of the reunion is that at the time there was serious legal wrangling and court cases over the exploitation of the Byrds name by the Clark(e)s. Gene and Michael had been performing as part of a Byrds tribute band. McGuinn et al had recently unsuccessfully taken Clark to court over his use of the Byrds name. The bitter feelings between the two factions lasted until the deaths.

Name: Steve Elworth
Hometown: Brooklyn
Hi Eric:

Two things. One, Gene Clark and Mike Clarke were alive when the Byrds nominally reformed in '90. Clarke touring with a band that called themselves The Byrds was the reason that Hillman, Crosby and McGuinn reformed to keep control of the name. So, there was no way for Mike Clarke to be asked to join them. In 1973, shortly after the last McGuinn-led Byrds broke up. The five founding members recorded for Asylum as The Byrds without success.

Point Two.

I was also at MSG to see Eric. What a gig. Begun on time, out by eleven, a great set by Mister Cray who also sat in with two tunes with EC, including a vocal duet for the encore, a little tune called Crossroads and the playing of DT who is becoming greater and greater every time that I hear him. His style is different than the mighty Duane, but just as he makes the ABB greater, he is a wonderful foil for EC who can make minor records, but live is as extraordinary as on the Derek and Dominoes tour, more years ago than I want to admit.

As we face this country that has now seemingly legalized waterboarding and other fine kinds of torture, I wish all of us a Happy New Year, a meaningful fast and a good election day.

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