Sister Novena's PortaPulpit
freedom, liberalism, movies, and truth

Friday, March 26, 2004
Mistakes Were Made

And who the fuck needs Clarke anyway when we've got the administration's old statements to prove how far their collective head was lodged up their collective ass?

White House, 4/01: Focus on Bin Laden "A Mistake"

A previously forgotten report from April 2001 (four months before 9/11) shows that the Bush Administration officially declared it "a mistake" to focus "so much energy on Osama bin Laden." The report directly contradicts the White House's continued assertion that fighting terrorism was its "top priority" before the 9/11 attacks1.

Specifically, on April 30, 2001, CNN reported that the Bush Administration's release of the government's annual terrorism report contained a serious change: "there was no extensive mention of alleged terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden" as there had been in previous years. When asked why the Administration had reduced the focus, "a senior Bush State Department official told CNN the U.S. government made a mistake in focusing so much energy on bin Laden."2.
From the Daily Mis-Lead

5:49 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Rant Round-up, Vol. 2

Before I talk about any of this other stuff, I gotta tell you about my dream last night. It's not (I hope) a prophetic dream, but it's an interesting dream... and I stand by that assertion.

The setting: Election night, 2004, at what appears to be the Election Party That Matters. Everybody is here: Bush himself, all his people, Kerry and his people, and unidentified but apparently significant folks from both parties. In addition, there are many fairly average people, including myself and a few of the people from the Co-op. I have no idea how we got invited, but it doesn't matter.

My friends and I are sitting on the floor, leaning against the back wall of the room, waiting impatiently for the early results. Now, as with any dream, some elements of this story are slightly... odd. The first odd thing in this particular vision is the small point that, normally, Big Bi-Partisan Election Parties don't take place in Midtown Memphis (at the approximate site of the Bank of America at Cooper and Young), if indeed they are held at all. But odder still, most normal elections aren't decided by 300 or so individuals weilding two flavors of muffins (at least, I hope not.) And yet -- I swear, this is exactly how I dreamed it -- that's what I found here: everybody in the room had two muffins -- a chocolate muffin and a plain yellow muffin -- and as baskets were passed around, they'd place one muffin inside to represent their vote. Chocolate muffins were for Kerry, and yellow muffins were for Bush. The muffin/vote baskets were kept covered by tasteful linen tea towels, but I took the liberty of peeking under the towel covering the basket closest to me, and counted 13 chocolate muffins and 27 yellow muffins. I returned to my companions and said, "it doesn't look good according to that basket."

A brief aside: some of you, being mostly friends of mine, may be worried about my mental state when I get to the point that I'm actually dreaming about the 2004 election. I understand your concern; I find it diconcerting myself. But so far it's just a one-time thing. If I have another one, I promise I'll take a week off from stewing about politics. Okay? Okay.

Back at the party, my friends and I decide we all need a drink, so we head downstairs to an open bar where most of the average people are hanging around. I have the distinct feeling that none of these guys ever got a muffin to vote with -- in fact, I'm pretty sure I didn't, either. And as we order our drinks and start introducing ourselves, word comes down: Bush has just won the election. A wave of anger washes over the room, half-full drink glasses are thrown againt walls, and despair sets in. My friends and I sit on a small staircase and begin to count the many ways in which this development Sucks Major Ass... our friends will be drafted; the war will continue; none of us will ever find good jobs; my mother will gloat; my troubled relationship with my native country will no longer be salvageable. We all begin a little game, going around the room, each person taking a turn naming a country they would rather be living in. "I wish I was in England." "I wish I was in Australia." "I wish I was in Japan." etc. You lose when you can't name another country that you'd rather be in... okay, so I possess some subconscious anti-American sentiment, so sue me.

After a few minutes of this, we get up and leave our new friends and head up a ramp into a small art gallery. We're still grumbling and bitching -- how could this have happened? what are we gonna do now? -- when we hear agitated, angry shouting coming from somewhere above us. There's a rumor that mass electoral fraud has been discovered. We all look at each other, silently sharing the insight that perhaps all is not lost after all, although it does us little good at the moment. I reflect briefly on the potential for committing electoral fraud with muffins -- did someone eat all the chocolate ones, or what? -- and ascend through a back exit out onto Cooper Avenue. The group disbands, and I volunteer to drive Morgan home -- which is silly, because in reality he lives like a block from there.

And that's it. Post thoughts and interpretations -- especially about the muffin thing -- in the comment thread.

Anyway, getting back to reality, there is way too much stuff going on to possibly cover now:

Is it just me, or are things kinda tense? Not for me, of course, I'm enjoying it; I'm talking about the parties. Kerry remains on vacation and thus mostly silent -- probably a good thing, but I do hope he says something before long -- but everyone else is going all-out crazy-ass apeshit. Especially the Republicans... Jeebus H. Christ, there is NO fucking fury like a Republican administraton scorned.

Case in point:

Republicans seek to declassify 2002 Clarke testimony
WASHINGTON -- In a highly unusual move, key Republicans in Congress are seeking to declassify testimony that former White House terrorism adviser Richard Clarke gave in 2002 about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Friday.

Frist said the intent was to determine whether Clarke lied under oath -- either in 2002 or this week -- when he appeared before a bipartisan Sept. 11 commission and sharply criticized President Bush's handling of the war on terror.

"Until you have him under oath both times you don't know," Frist said while vivsecting a shelter kitten.

Italicized words my addition.

When I first read this, my first two thoughts were, "uh-oh," and "holy shit, they are pissed. Presumably, "uh-oh" is exactly the reaction this move is intended to inspire, while the second is more complicated and not beneficial to this administration. It's possible that the "uh-oh" is all they want... it's only a request, after all, and one that likely as not won't be fulfilled. But "uh-oh" in and of itself has value if the purpose is to plant seeds of doubt, and let the voter's imagination take them where it will. Sometimes "uh-oh" is all you really need.

And in this particular case, I'd argue that the risks involved in moving beyond "uh-oh" are pretty goddamn big. I mean, c'mon... does this administration really want to start playing with classified documents? 'Cause I'm guessing there are some pretty interesting classified documents the Democrats might want to see as long as we're at it...

In any case, if push came to shove, what does it benefit them, even if they can find a discrepancy? Clarke already said in his testimony that some of his past statements were not entirely reflective of the whole truth (so to speak) because that's what the administration told him to say.

Use occam's razor:

1. Clarke lied in earlier statements because the Bush administration instructed him to do so.
2. Clarke lied on Tuesday out of pure spite.

If there's a discrepancy, then one of these has to be true. Looking at the available evidence -- including, but not limited to, the absolute refusal of Condi Rice to testify publicly under oath even though she's been blabbing non-stop for days on any TV news show that would have her, the refusals of many other administration insiders to testify, and the growing number of former staffers who have confirmed Clarke's allegations -- I'm guessing it's the first one.

I can't really see many ways in which the fulfillment of this request can benefit the White House, but I can see a whole lot of ways that it could lead to their ultimate destruction. Which is why I hope they do declassify the damn thing. The angrier they get, the closer I know we are to The Actual Goddamn Truth, and It's About Time You Assholes.

The Guardian has a good summary of the situation.

A quick run down of everything else, so we can all get on with our lives; I reserve the right to expand on these topics later.

Passage of "fetal protection bill" : complicated, but not good. Potentially very bad.

Condi Rice wants another private meeting with 9/11 Commission: please, by all means.

Alleged al-Zawahri tape urging Pakistanis to overthrow their government: seriously bad, but not unexpected. It would follow completely from everything that's gone before.

Kerry's plan to cut corporate taxes in return for getting rid of incentives to move overseas: errrr... not sure. Maybe. Uncomfortable with it, though.

Georgia House including piercing in a bill outlawing genital mutilation in women, and only women: insert slack-jawed bafflement here .

And since it's Friday, we can look forward to something important being dropped sometime this evening. Drip, drip, drip...

Update: Is this all they've got?

While gutting a cute, furry little orphan kitten with a scalpel,[Frist] quoted Clarke as telling Congress behind closed doors, "the administration actively sought to address the threat posed by al Qaeda during its first 11 months in office."
via this "Hammer" fellow

Again, the words in italics are my own editorial addition.

First... that's a hell of a big ruckus for that stupid little detail. Second... seeing as how the document hasn't been declassified yet, what's the deal with revealing classified information? Huh, big guy? Mr. Kitten Killer? What gives?

Heh... keep diggin', boys. China's down there somewhere.

Clarification: for those wondering what's up with the cat thing, click here. We kid because we love.
4:21 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Thursday, March 25, 2004
Okay, So It's Not Ha-Ha Funny...

I admit that my taste in humor tends to be rather black. I'm very polite around people I don't know, but once I've gotten comfortable with someone, it's usually not long before the jokes about dead babies and people having sex with animals start up... I consider it a way to get closer to my new friend.

But -- and here's the point -- I know when to keep my mouth shut, I know when I'm possibly about to touch on a too-sensitive subject, and I can take responsibility for myself when I offend people.

Let's hope our Fratboy-In-Chief can do the same...

Bush pokes fun at himself over missing WMD

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush poked fun at his staff, his Democratic challenger and himself Wednesday night at a black-tie dinner where he hobnobbed with the news media.

Bush put on a slide show, calling it the "White House Election-Year Album" at the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association 60th annual dinner, showing himself and his staff in some decidedly unflattering poses.

There was Bush looking under furniture in a fruitless, frustrating search. "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere," he said.

In other news, three more US soldiers were killed today as part of the search for Bush's WMDs, bringing the total of dead WMD-searching soldiers to 589. Available reports do not confirm whether furniture was involved.

Three US soldiers killed in ambushes in Iraq

6:07 PM ::
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Wednesday, March 24, 2004
Still More on Clarke

For anyone who, like me, didn't get to watch Richard Clarke's testimony today, the Agonist has thoughtfully posted a transcript:

9/11 Testimony for March 24, 2004

I'm going to peruse this tonight, and if I have anything to say about it, I'll do so in the morning (okay, afternoon... morning for me.) Til' then, you can head on over to the Whiskey Bar for a helping of Billmon's always-insightful commentary.
11:39 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Yeah, let's see how you fuckers like it...

Oregon county bans all marriages

PORTLAND, Oregon - In a new twist in the battle over same-sex marriage roiling the United States, a county in Oregon has banned all marriages -- gay and heterosexual -- until the state decides who can and who cannot wed.


"It may seem odd," Benton County Commissioner Linda Modrell told Reuters in a telephone interview, but "we need to treat everyone in our county equally."

State Attorney General Hardy Myers said in a statement that he was "very pleased" with Benton County's decision. "It is my sincere hope that legal process will provide clarity for each of Oregon's counties."

It's such a simple concept: people need families. The right to establish and maintain a family is a god-given human right. Without them, we cannot be sane, we cannot be productive, and we likely won't survive intact. I expect it's doubly important for the many gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people in the world who have been rejected by their native families... to tell these people that their own hard-won families are somehow less important or less "real" than our own is a form of emotional violence... it denies them their very humanity.

And like it or not, in most cultures and societies the concept of family is inextricably bound up with marriage. You need the laws, yes, but you also need the social recognition, the acknowledgement from the rest of your society that the bond you've formed is valid and meaningful and beneficial to all of us.

Now I'm not entirely naive; I don't actually expect marriage to instantly bring respect and recognition from some of these bigoted assholes. But I believe that there is value in the recognition from society as a whole that gays are indeed the perfect and holy children of God just like the rest of us, and thus are entitled to the same rights we straight folks take for granted.

I want to see this Oregon county's initiative blaze across the entire US, catching fire in every single state until people finally fucking get it. It's a brilliant bit of protest... all the state attorney generals in the world can't touch this. Likewise, I'd like to start seeing straight couples refusing to wed in solidarity with their gay and lesbian counterparts. If enough anxious would-be mothers-in-law get this one thrown in their faces, I assure you things will change eventually... hell, probably by June.

11:01 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

There Are Tapes?!

Please please please... oh, god, let it be true...

4:45 PM ::
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More On Clarke

If I find the time tonight (time seems to be in short supply for me this week), I hope to write a bit more about Clarke's testimony today, once it's finished and a transcript has been posted.

But in the meantime, if you're wondering about the WH's attacks on the man's credibility and haven't read this article yet... go, read. Now.

Dick Clarke Is Telling the Truth

Like the article? Then read the cartoon. (Novelization, major motion picture, and Broadway musical still in development.)

PS... That's why we call 'em the Flying Monkey Right.
4:07 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

It's the Lying That Hurts Us the Most

At last, somebody with the balls to say plainly what has been all-too-obvious for some time.
Your government failed you. Those entrusted with protecting you failed you. I failed you. We tried hard, but we failed you...I ask for your understanding, and your forgiveness.

Richard Clarke, 9/11 Commission testimony

I await the day when politicians come to understand that this, really, is all we want... don't spin us, don't manipulate us, just tell us you fucked up. We might hold you responsible, but we won't hold it against you.

Well... okay, we might hold it against you. But not nearly as much as if you lie about it, too.

Addendum: But what's really at stake when this administration lies about how badly it fell short that day? Whom does it hurt? This is politics... who cares about the truth anymore?

Victims do.

3:32 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Go Get 'Em, Dick

FYI, there's a really excellent interview with Richard Clarke over in today's Salon.

Richard Clarke terrorizes the White House

If you're not a subscriber, you'll have to watch a brief ad before you can get to the article, but once you have you can read that and anything else on the site for the rest of the day. This interview alone justifies the 15 seconds.
2:31 AM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Tuesday, March 23, 2004
You Are Cordially Invited, RSVP

I've in the middle of preparing for a long talk on film history at the Co-op tonight, so I won't have time to hit this subject thoroughly until afterwards. But a few brief thoughts, because I just can't contain myself:

First, regarding this story:

9/11 panel cites Clinton, Bush inaction

March 23, 2004 | WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Clinton and Bush administrations' failure to pursue military action against al-Qaida operatives allowed the Sept. 11 terrorists to elude capture despite warning signs years before the attacks, a federal panel said Tuesday.


Bush officials, meanwhile, failed to act immediately on increasing intelligence chatter and urgent warnings in early 2001 by its counterterrorism adviser, Richard A. Clarke, to take out al-Qaida targets, according to preliminary findings by the commission reviewing the attacks.

I've been wondering how this one was going to work out. A tiny bit of background: the members of the 9/11 commission were all selected by the White House, and thus are all relatively friendly to Bush. I think it's fair to presuppose that the administration was somewhat taken aback when they actually started, y'know, investigating. But there was also always this sense that, while they might ultimately prove willing to reveal Bush's failures, they wouldn't do it without trying to draw some Democratic blood as well. The implication? Yeah, Bush buggered it up, but then so did Clinton. (Considering most Republicans regard the Clenis as the doom of democracy and a traitor to all that is good and decent, I can't imagine that the standard is one they'd accept in their own Republican president... but then, these guys routinely let me down in the integrity department.)

Second, this little tidbit:

President Bush said Tuesday he would have acted quicker against al Qaeda if he had information before Sept. 11, 2001, that a terror attack against New York City was imminent.

"If we had specific information that on the morning of September 11, four planes would be hijacked, 2 would be flown into the world trade center, 1 into the Pentagon, and 1 into an unknown target, then we would have acted..."

So lemme make sure I've understood you correctly. You only act on terrorist threats when the terrorists have sent you a memo telling you exactly when and where the attack is going to take place?

He's waiting for a fucking invitation. Figures.

Anyway, more later...
3:57 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Visions of Indictments Danced in Their Heads

Officials Before 9/11 Panel on Threat Handling

Secretary of State Colin Powell and his predecessor Madeleine Albright, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his predecessor William Cohen will testify before the national commission investigating the 2001 hijacked plane attacks that killed about 3,000 people.

Oh man... I can't wait to see what 9/11-Commission Claus leaves in our collective stocking tomorrow!
2:23 AM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Monday, March 22, 2004
Still Gonna Run on 9/11, Georgie?

I'm not going to go into great length about the 60 Minutes/Clarke interview myself... there are a ton of great analyses of all that was said (and not said) already floating around the blogosphere.

A few of the choicest ones:

Talking Points Memo

Political Animal

Sadly, No!

And if you're out of range of 60 Minutes and want to check the full interview out for yourself, Sadly, No! has furnished us with a rough-n-ready transcript.

Predictably, the Rove Slime Machine is barrelling ahead with its non-denial denials and insinuations about Clarke's bitterness at having "been fired" (he quit). And the most popular denunciation of Clarke thus far? Obviously, it's Clinton's fault... Clarke was one of Clinton's guys, and so he's patently unreliable.

That, of course, completely overlooks the fact that a) Clinton's counter-terrorism efforts, had they been maintained after Bush took office, might well have prevented the WTC attacks; and b) Clarke also worked in both the Reagan and Bush I administrations from day fucking one. That means that Clarke was dealing with terrorism back when Dubya was still just another failed businessman with a coke habit and a drinking problem.

But while feathers have been ruffled and Cheney has already been dispatched to Rush's studio to make with the spin, nobody seems to be coming up with anything substantial to use against him.

Seeking to turn Mr. Clarke's government experience against him, Mr. Cheney noted that Mr. Clarke was in the government at the time of the first attack on the World Trade Center, in 1993; when American embassies were attacked in Africa in 1998; and when the warship Cole was attacked in 2000.

Dude, it takes some big-ass balls to say that when your boy was reading a story about a pet goat even after he was told about the second tower.

Anyway, while they've responded with much sound and fury, the substance of their rebuttals has basically amounted to "he's one of Clinton's" and "he's wrong." No specific instances of how exactly he's wrong, no hard evidence proffered to back the statement up. Just wrong. Period. How dare you question this administration? And why do you hate America?

The problem for Bush's boy's boys, however, is that even their own telling of the story over time gives a lot more creedence to Clarke's version (as if he needed the additional credibility) than it does to the version that ends with Dubya becoming a national hero. Not so much in that they acknowledge the administration's shortcomings, but in that they just don't manage to jive with each other. They can't even keep their own story straight. (Damn you, WSJ, for not giving me a clear link.)

And then there's that little reality problem.
6:11 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Resurrected Or Merely Undead?

I don't really have much to say about this one; I'm just sitting here enjoying the joke that dares not speak its name...

Undead nudge Mel off top spot in US

Or as the MiniTru might say: Jesus is doubleplusundead!
3:56 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Read Me a Bedtime Story

One quick note before I head off to bed (yeah, it's 3 AM... you wanna make somethin' of it?) There might be one bit of good news in what seems to be shaping up to be a bad day: the major media outlets seem to be picking up the Richard Clarke story. The Yassin story might yet bump it out of the way, but so far things look promising. (CNN remains hesitant to hit the story squarely... so much for liberal media bias.)

I used to say that I wouldn't be satisfied until we had hearings. Fuck that. The only thing that'll make me happy now is a tribunal.
3:08 AM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Sunday, March 21, 2004
The Infinite Retch

Okay... so let me get all this straight.

1. The current government of Afghanistan (such as it is) is wobbly:

Fighting erupts in Herat after Afghan cabinet minister slain; up to 100 dead

2. The Palestinians are likely to be a bit upset after this:

Leader of Hamas reported dead after Israeli raid

3. And -- oh, joy! -- al-Qaeda says they have nukes.

al-Qaida No. 2: We Have Briefcase Nukes

And by the way...

U.S. Will Celebrate Pakistan as a 'Major Non-NATO Ally'

Pakistan? You mean, nuke-plan-selling, bin-Laden-ignoring Pakistan? THAT Pakistan?

Oh well... I suppose it makes about as much sense as us invading Iraq while shrugging off the fact that much of al-Qaeda's forces come from Saudi Arabia. And still -- STILL -- Bush wants us to re-elect him because he's "tough on terror," and wants to bring "stability and democracy" to the Middle East.

My disgust is infinite.

(Say... d'ya think a missile defense system works against briefcase nukes?)

UPDATE: That didn't take long...

11:16 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

A Dead Girl or a Live Boy, Indeed...

"I kept thinking of the words from 'Apocalypse Now,' the whispered words of Marlon Brando, when he thought about Vietnam. 'The horror. The horror.' Because we knew what was going on in New York. We knew about the bodies flying out of the windows. People falling through the air. We knew that Osama bin Laden had succeeded in bringing horror to the streets of America,"

"Rumsfeld was saying that we needed to bomb Iraq... and we all said ... no, no. Al-Qaeda is in Afghanistan. We need to bomb Afghanistan. And Rumsfeld said there aren't any good targets in Afghanistan. And there are lots of good targets in Iraq. I said, 'Well, there are lots of good targets in lots of places, but Iraq had nothing to do with it.

"Initially, I thought when he said, 'There aren't enough targets in-- in Afghanistan,' I thought he was joking.

"I think they wanted to believe that there was a connection, but the CIA was sitting there, the FBI was sitting there, I was sitting there saying we've looked at this issue for years. For years we've looked and there's just no connection."

"The president dragged me into a room with a couple of other people, shut the door, and said, 'I want you to find whether Iraq did this.' Now he never said, 'Make it up.' But the entire conversation left me in absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said Iraq did this.

"I said, 'Mr. President. We've done this before. We have been looking at this. We looked at it with an open mind. There's no connection.'

"He came back at me and said, "Iraq! Saddam! Find out if there's a connection.' And in a very intimidating way. I mean that we should come back with that answer. We wrote a report."

"It was a serious look. We got together all the FBI experts, all the CIA experts. We wrote the report. We sent the report out to CIA and found FBI and said, 'Will you sign this report?' They all cleared the report. And we sent it up to the president and it got bounced by the National Security Advisor or Deputy. It got bounced and sent back saying, 'Wrong answer. ... Do it again.'

"I have no idea, to this day, if the president saw it, because after we did it again, it came to the same conclusion. And frankly, I don't think the people around the president show him memos like that. I don't think he sees memos that he doesn't-- wouldn't like the answer."

--Richard Clarke, former WH counter-terrorism advisor

Why aren't we impeaching these assholes yet?

By the way, Billmon has written an excellent piece on Clarke and his part in all this over at the Whiskey Bar.
7:51 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink