Category Archives: Politblog

Hate The Player, Not The Game

Well, I think we all are, especially the people who are the audiences of these shows. You know, and I’ve seen this in families. You know, you have one uncle who listens to Rush and another uncle who listens to Air America, and they don’t talk to each other any more. People who are neighbors you know, they’re far more likely to go turn on the O’Reilly show or listen to, you know, whatever, you know, radio show that appeals to him than they are to go next door and talk to the neighbor who they think might be of an opposite political orientation.

We’ve gotten to the point where we’ve instructed our audiences to really believe that they are the sum of their political beliefs; that if you are a follower of a certain political ideology, you can never, under any circumstances, mix with a person who doesn’t believe in those things.

And it’s just not true. I mean, there’s a lot more to all of us than the way we vote or what we believe in politically. It’s an obvious truism, and it sounds pious to point that out, but the thing is, you never hear that on the news or in any of these shows. You never hear it said that, yeah, we disagree, but it’s just not that big a deal [LAUGHS] in the end. And there’s a reason why we, they don’t say that because that would spoil the entire formula.

European Citizens Initiative

Time has come for citizens to play a genuine and meaningful role in the European project. The goal of this campaign is is to collect one million signatures of people from all member states, demanding the introduction of the European Citizens Initiative (ECI) by a regulation into European law. Such a regulation would require the European Commission to respond to a proposed change in European law signed by at least one million EU citizens.

When implemented, the ECI will be the first transnational tool of participatory democracy. It would enable European citizens to directly influence the political agenda of the EU for the first time in history.

The campaign is now in the preparatory phase, working towards a series of events, widepread publicity and a large-scale drive for signatures in the autumn. The initiative is based on an ever broadening alliance of individuals and civil society organizations. However, for a successful start, there is still need for more supporters to join. What about you?

That would have been it for the communists

But in the long run, as users inevidibly figure out ways to thwart these new regulations (short messages can be sent in code, for instance), text messaging poses a serious threat to Beijing’s control. As a political marketing tool, the technology is hard to beat. It can be carried anyplace. It is instant. And because it is connected to a much larger network, it gives single messages exponential power and reach (you send a message to 50 people, they each pass it on to another 50, and so on) “Imagine if this technology had been around at Tiananmen,” Wilkin says. “That would have been it for the communists.”


Arnie has left voters in stitches with his weird slogans, garbled speeches
and bizarre policy statements – dubbed Arnie-isms. His top quotes include:

On whether to run for power:
“It’s the most difficult decision I’ve made in my entire life – except the
one I made in 1978 when I decided to get a bikini wax.”

On youth issues:
“I’m very much for children, and children’s issues and all dat stuff.”

On the details of his employment policy:
“We have to make sure everyone in California has a great job. A fantastic

On marriage:
“I think that gay marriage should be between a man and a woman.”

On taxing Californians:
“From the time they get up in the morning and flush the toilet, they’re
taxed. Then they go and get the cup of coffee, they’re taxed… This goes on
all day long. Tax, tax, tax.”

Responding to accusations that he was a sexist, Arnie vowed to be a
“champion of women… especially very sexy blonde ones.”

On his economic policy:
“The public doesn’t care about figures.”

In a speech to taxpayers:
“This is really embarrassing. I just forgot our state governor’s name, but I
know that you will help me recall him.”

After being hit by an egg-throwing protestor:
“This guy owes me bacon now. I mean there’s no two ways about it because, I
mean, you can’t just have eggs without bacon.”

On his pal Kurt Waldheim, a Nazi war criminal:
“My friends don’t want me to mention Kurt’s name because of all the recent
Nazi stuff and the UN controversy, but I love him and Maria does too, and so
thank you, Kurt.”

On going for the Latin vote:
“I don’t understand how they can call me anti-Latino when I’ve made four
movies in Mexico.”

On secrets:
“I think that the only way that you really keep it a secret is by not
telling anyone.”

On California’s economic crisis:
“We have such a great state, there’s no reason why we are in the state we
are in today.”

On the environment:
“Don’t worry about that.”

When pushed on allegations about his past:
“What is important is that I cannot remember what was happening 20 years ago
and 15 years ago. But some of the things sound like me.”

After being asked why he had bragged about taking part in a 1979 sex orgy,
he closed his speech by grinning:
“California – I’m going to sex you up.”

On pledging to combat special interest lobbyists:
“Special interests are going to go crazy because they know I’m here to kick
some serious butt. When they start trying to push me around, I will push

On his first decision in power:
“The first thing I’d do when I go to Sacramento is put a spending cap on
those politicians because they just can’t help themselves. They’re addicts
and should go to an addiction place.”

Apologising for assaulting women:
“A lot of what you see in the stories is not true. At the same time, I have
to tell you what I always have to say: wherever there is smoke, there is
fire. That’s true.”


“The vast majority of our imports come from outside the country.”
George W. Bush
“If we don’t succeed, we run the risk of failure.”
George W. Bush
“The inhabitants of Greece are the Greecians”
George W. Bush

“The French don’t have a word for ‘Entrepreneur’” (***one of my personal
George W. Bush
“I have made good judgments in the past. I have made good judgments in the
George W. Bush
“The future will be better than tomorrow.”
George W. Bush

“We’re going to have the best educated American people in the world.”
George W. Bush
“I stand by all the misstatements that I’ve made.”
George W. Bush
“We have a firm commitment to NATO, we are a part of NATO. We have a firm
commitment to Europe. We are a part of Europe.”
George W. Bush
“A low voter turnout is an indication of fewer people going to the polls.”
George W. Bush
“For NASA, space is still a high priority.”
George W. Bush

“Quite frankly, teachers are the only profession that teach our children.”
George W. Bush
“It isn’t pollution that’s harming the environment. It’s the impurities in
our air and water that are doing it.”
George W. Bush
“It’s time for the human race to enter the solar system.”
George W. Bush

Mystery of the Missing W.M.D

Published on Tuesday, May 6, 2003 by the New York Times
by Nicholas Kristof

When I raised the Mystery of the Missing W.M.D. recently, hawks fired barrages of reproachful e-mail at me. The gist was: “You *&#*! Who cares if we never find weapons of mass destruction, because we’ve liberated the Iraqi people from a murderous tyrant.”

But it does matter, enormously, for American credibility. After all, as Ari Fleischer said on April 10 about W.M.D.: “That is what this war was about.”

I rejoice in the newfound freedoms in Iraq. But there are indications that the U.S. government souped up intelligence, leaned on spooks to change their conclusions and concealed contrary information to deceive people at home and around the world.

Let’s fervently hope that tomorrow we find an Iraqi superdome filled with 500 tons of mustard gas and nerve gas, 25,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, 29,984 prohibited munitions capable of delivering chemical agents, several dozen Scud missiles, gas centrifuges to enrich uranium, 18 mobile biological warfare factories, long-range unmanned aerial vehicles to dispense anthrax, and proof of close ties with Al Qaeda. Those are the things that President Bush or his aides suggested Iraq might have, and I don’t want to believe that top administration officials tried to win support for the war with a campaign of wholesale deceit.

Consider the now-disproved claims by President Bush and Colin Powell that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger so it could build nuclear weapons. As Seymour Hersh noted in The New Yorker, the claims were based on documents that had been forged so amateurishly that they should never have been taken seriously.

I’m told by a person involved in the Niger caper that more than a year ago the vice president’s office asked for an investigation of the uranium deal, so a former U.S. ambassador to Africa was dispatched to Niger. In February 2002, according to someone present at the meetings, that envoy reported to the C.I.A. and State Department that the information was unequivocally wrong and that the documents had been forged.

The envoy reported, for example, that a Niger minister whose signature was on one of the documents had in fact been out of office for more than a decade. In addition, the Niger mining program was structured so that the uranium diversion had been impossible. The envoy’s debunking of the forgery was passed around the administration and seemed to be accepted except that President Bush and the State Department kept citing it anyway.

“It’s disingenuous for the State Department people to say they were bamboozled because they knew about this for a year,” one insider said.

Another example is the abuse of intelligence from Hussein Kamel, a son-in-law of Saddam Hussein and head of Iraq’s biological weapons program until his defection in 1995. Top British and American officials kept citing information from Mr. Kamel as evidence of a huge secret Iraqi program, even though Mr. Kamel had actually emphasized that Iraq had mostly given up its W.M.D. program in the early 1990′s. Glen Rangwala, a British Iraq expert, says the transcript of Mr. Kamel’s debriefing was leaked because insiders resented the way politicians were misleading the public.

Patrick Lang, a former head of Middle Eastern affairs in the Defense Intelligence Agency, says that he hears from those still in the intelligence world that when experts wrote reports that were skeptical about Iraq’s W.M.D., “they were encouraged to think it over again.”

“In this administration, the pressure to get product `right’ is coming out of O.S.D. [the Office of the Secretary of Defense],” Mr. Lang said. He added that intelligence experts had cautioned that Iraqis would not necessarily line up to cheer U.S. troops and that the Shiite clergy could be a problem. “The guys who tried to tell them that came to understand that this advice was not welcome,” he said.

“The intelligence that our officials was given regarding W.M.D. was either defective or manipulated,” Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico noted. Another senator is even more blunt and, sadly, exactly right: “Intelligence was manipulated.”

The C.I.A. was terribly damaged when William Casey, its director in the Reagan era, manipulated intelligence to exaggerate the Soviet threat in Central America to whip up support for Ronald Reagan’s policies. Now something is again rotten in the state of Spookdom.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

Conservatives in transports of social and political engineering


There’s nothing scarier than conservatives in transports of social and political engineering.

The Republicans strain to appear diffident in Iraq, not wanting to be cast as overbearing imperialists. (Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, the new American viceroy, affects a Dockers look while meeting Arabs in jackets and ties.)

The Bushies pretend that we don’t want an all-access pass to Iraqi bases (we do); that we are not interested in influencing the disposition of Iraqi oil (we are); that we will stay out of Iraqi politics, even if they go fundamentalist (we won’t); and that we will leave Iraq soon (we can’t).

Even as they stifle their Pax Americana impulses in Iraq, the imperialists swagger with a Pox Americana at home. Karl Rove has broken creative new ground in appalling political opportunism by pushing back the Republican National Convention in New York City to September 2004, the latest date for a convention in the party’s history and only days away from you-know-when.

Mr. Rove envisions merging the Madison Square Garden party with the 9/11 anniversary commemorations into one big national security lollapalooza. Perhaps President Bush should just skip the pretense of the Garden and give his acceptance speech at ground zero.

In another red-meat moment, Rick Santorum, the obnoxious Pennsylvania senator who is No. 3 in the G.O.P., equated homosexuality with incest, bigamy and polygamy. “In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality,” he told The A.P. “That’s not to pick on homosexuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be.”

Even Mr. Santorum’s old mentor, Newt Gingrich, felt emboldened to slither back on stage with a proposal to eviscerate the State Department.

After vowing to reshape the American character when he became speaker in ’94, Mr. Gingrich ultimately faced ethics questions and criticism for having an extramarital affair with a young Congressional aide after pushing for Bill Clinton’s impeachment over his extramarital affair with a young White House aide. He stepped down in ’98.

The man who once depicted himself as an “Arouser of Those who Form Civilization” stepped back yesterday into a clash of civilizations between the Pentagon and the State Department. In remarks at the Temple of Triumphalism here (the American Enterprise Institute), Mr. Gingrich denounced Colin Powell’s domain as a “broken bureaucracy of red tape and excuses” and demanded it be “transformed,” like Rummy’s.

He attacked Mr. Powell for announcing that he would visit (rather than bomb) Damascus and for the prewar failure of diplomacy with Turkey � conveniently ignoring the fact that it was the Pentagon hawk Paul Wolfowitz who had tried and failed to talk turkey with Turkey.

Rummy, who has taken on a Mars-like glow among carnivorous conservatives who crave more and more red meat, circulated a Kubrickian memo on North Korea, according to The Times’s David Sanger. While Mr. Powell pressed for diplomatic talks in China to help de-escalate tensions between the U.S. and North Korea, Rummy’s memo suggested that the U.S. and China gang up on the crazed Kim Jong Il to force a regime change.

Even as the conservatives thump their chests in Washington, they have gotten a little nervous watching throngs of men flogging their chests bloody in Karbala. Their coolly rational schemes for establishing 18th-century-style democracy have run up against the 8th-century practices of Islam.

The Bushies were unpleasantly surprised by the sudden muscularity of the Shiite clerics in southern Iraq. According to The Times’s Douglas Jehl, Iranian-trained operatives have crossed into southern Iraq to help the Shiites who are demanding a state like Iran’s.

Administration officials have whispered other fears to reporters � that some of the weapons of mass destruction may have been removed to sell on the terrorism black market, accelerating the proliferation they had hoped to prevent. Or that Saddam loyalists are sneaking back into the government, waiting for the Americans, with their short attention spans, to pull out.

The Saudi bombings

Maureen Dowd NYT
Thursday, May 15, 2003

WASHINGTON America has had its regime change in the Middle East. Now Qaeda terrorists want theirs.

Even before Al Qaeda claimed credit for the explosions that ripped through Riyadh on Monday night, the Saudi princes were frightened and seeking American help. They were scared that Al Qaeda, which they once used to deflect resentment away from their own corruption, had succeeded in infiltrating various levels of society, including the government.

The problem with Saudi Arabia is that it is such an opaque society, you can never be sure what’s going on there from the outside – and apparently it’s not spectacularly transparent from the inside, either.

U.S. intelligence analysts warned the Saudis that an attack on American interests in the kingdom was coming. The Saudis reacted the way they typically do, defensively. Intercepted anti-American chatter had become such a din in the last two weeks that the State Department had warned Americans not to travel there.

The Saudi princes reluctantly began an investigation into the possible Qaeda plot. But even in such a repressed and repressive state, Saudi security forces couldn’t stop the terrorists. They tried to seize an Islamic militant cell with links to radical clerics on Tuesday last week. But although the authorities found 365 kilograms (800 pounds) of explosives, all 19 cell members – 17 Saudis, one Iraqi and one Yemeni – escaped.

So, with a new Qaeda spokesman warning that “an attack against America is inevitable” and that “future missions have been entrusted” to a new team “well protected against U.S. intelligence services,” now we have to worry about 19 slippery Islamic terrorists coming at us from Saudi Arabia?

Talk about a sickening sense of deja vu.

Busy chasing off Saddam Hussein, the president and vice president had told us that Al Qaeda was spent. “Al Qaeda is on the run,” President George W. Bush said last week. “That group of terrorists who attacked our country is slowly but surely being decimated,” he added. “They’re not a problem anymore.”

Members of the U.S. intelligence community bragged to reporters that the terrorist band was crippled, noting that it hadn’t attacked during the assault on Iraq.

“This was the big game for them – you put up or shut up, and they have failed,” Cofer Black, who heads the State Department’s counterterrorism office, told The Washington Post last week.

Of course, the other way of looking at it is that Al Qaeda works at its own pace and knows how to conduct operations on the run.

Al Qaeda has been weakened by the arrest of leaders like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. But Osama bin Laden, in recent taped messages, has exhorted his followers to mount suicide attacks against the invaders of Iraq. And as one ambassador from an Arab country noted, the pictures of American-made tanks in both Iraq and the West Bank certainly attracted new recruits to Osama.

The administration’s lulling triumphalism about Al Qaeda exploded on Monday in Riyadh, when well-planned and coordinated suicide strikes with car bombs and small-arms fire killed at least 20 people in three housing complexes favored by Westerners, including seven Americans.

The attack was timed to coincide with Secretary of State Colin Powell’s visit to the kingdom, and clearly meant to hurt both America and Saudi Arabia. Even though Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced two weeks ago in Riyadh that he was pulling out of Saudi Arabia the U.S. troops bin Laden hated so much, Qaeda leaders still want to undermine the Saudi monarchy that has been so receptive to infidel U.S. presidents.

Buried in the rubble of Riyadh are some of the Bush administration’s basic assumptions: that Al Qaeda was finished, that invading Iraq would bring regional stability, and that a show of American superpower against Saddam would cow terrorists.

Bob Graham, the Florida senator running for president, said at the Capitol on Tuesday that Iraq had been a diversion: “We essentially ended the war on terror about a year ago. And since that time, Al Qaeda has been allowed to regenerate.”

Doing a buddy routine with Rummy on Tuesday in Washington, as the defense secretary accepted an award, Vice President Dick Cheney was as implacable as ever. “The only way to deal with this threat ultimately is to destroy it,” he said.

So destroy it.

And here comes the coup

The below comments refer to the media show held in the Hall of Mirrors on

“Democracy is more theatrical than the great king. (Coronal) House thought
it more like a Roman triumph, with the defeated being dragged behind their
conqueror’s chariots: To my mind it is out of keeping with the new era which
we profess an ardent desire to promote. I wish it could have been more
simple and that there might have been an element of chivalry, which was
wholly lacking. The whole affair was elaborately staged and made as
humiliating to the enemy as it well could be”

and here comes the coup!

“Perhaps, thought a young American more optimistically, the old vicious
cycle of revenge and more revenge in Europe had finally been broken”

Paris 1919

Quote from Margaret MacMillian’s book “Paris 1919″, p. 397-398

“Basra, Baghdad, and Mosul should be regarded as a single unit for
administrative purposes and under effective British control.” It never seems
to have occurred to (Arnold Wilson, British Foreign Office) that a single
unit did not make much sense in other ways. In 1919, there was no Iraqi
people; history, religion, geography pulled the people apart, not together.
Basra looked south, toward India and the Gulf; Baghdad had strong links with
Persia; and Mosul had closer ties with Turkey and Syria. Putting together
the three Ottoman provinces and expecting to create a nation was, in
European terms, like hoping to have Bosnian Muslims, Croats, and Serbs make
one country. As in the Balkans, the clash of the empires and civilizations
had left deep fissures. The population was about half Shia Muslim and a
quarter Sunni, with other minorities from Jews to Christians, but another
division ran across the religious one: while half of the inhabitants were
Arab, the rest were Kurds (mainly in Mosul), Persians or Assyrians. The
cities were relatively advanced and cosmopolitan; in the countryside,
hereditary tribal and religious leaders still dominated. There was no Iraqi
nationalism., only Arab. Before the war, young officers serving in the
Ottoman armies had pushed for greater autonomy for the Arab areas. When the
war ended, several of these, including Nuri Said, a future prime minister of
Iraq, had gathered around Feisal. Their interest was in greater Arabia, not
in separate states.