In an op-ed in the New York Times a couple of days ago, Kurt Eichenwald claims to have seen excerpts from presidential daily briefs from throughout 2001, and says that the lone declassified one (“Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.”) is nothing compared to those in the months beforehand. He says that the White House actively discredited strong, specific CIA warnings that Al Qaeda was planning a big attack in the U.S. for some time in the summer. On July 9, hen it became clear that Bush was going to completely ignore their warnings, the CIA counterterrorism group even talked about all leaving en masse so that they wouldn’t have to take the fall for the attack. Note that this is an op-ed—presumably it hasn’t been subjected to the Times’ rigorous fact-checking. →
This should be a wake-up call to the grown-ups in the Republican Party. Fetishizing ignorance and demonizing education has led to two-thirds of the party’s members being morons. I can understand why some people are confused about global climate change and evolution—there’s been a well organized attempt to spread misinformation on these scientifici topics. But being wrong on these topics? It’s pure insanity, on the level of faking the moon landing or Elvis being alive. →
- Washington Post: Poll Finds Public Wary on Tax Cut
The A1 headline in the Washington Post on the morning of September 11, 2001 was for this prescient story: "A majority of Americans say they are prepared to roll back President Bush's $1.35 trillion tax cut to help deal with the shrinking federal budget surplus and say Bush more than congressional Democrats bears responsibility for a problem that has suddenly put him on the defensive."
- Commonwealth of VA vs. Kathleen Sebelius
I recommend a quick reading of the Fourth Circuit Court's smackdown of Ken Cuccinelli. The decision starts on page 17, and it reads like a Constitutional Law 101 lesson, one that Cuccinelli needs badly. "The sole provision challenged here—the individual mandate—imposes no obligations on the sole plaintiff, Virginia." End of story.
- Wall Street Journal: Many Afghans Shrug at ‘This Event Foreigners Call 9/11’
In two Afghani provinces, 92% of 15–30-year-old men surveyed had never heard of September 11th. Keep in mind that few people have access to newspapers or television (TV was banned by the Taliban), that many Afghanis were young children when it happened, and that many of them probably find it preposterous that a building could be so tall that thousands of people could die in one.
- CBS News: Like Every Administration, White House Defends Obama "Vacation"
President Obama has taken 38 days of vacation so far in his presidency. At this point in Bush's presidency, he'd taken 102 days of vacation.
- Rick Perry’s Texas A&M Transcript
Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry's academic record is on par with President Bush's—which is to say, very poor—but perhaps most telling is the "D" that he earned in Principles of Economics. That's about right.
- Los Angeles Times: Missing Iraq money may have been stolen, auditors say
How could we have known that shipping 21 C-130s to Iraq full of $12,000,000,000 in cash to be distributed without any sort of bookkeeping or audit trail would end badly? I mean, who could have forecast such a thing?
- Wall Street Journal: Perry Points to ‘Idiotic’ U.S. Rule That Doesn’t Exist
In Rick Perry's imaginary United States, things are going very badly indeed. No doubt he has some imaginary solutions to propose.
- New York Times: Policy Changes Under Two Presidents
This chart of new costs versus savings under Presidents Bush and Obama is really striking. The total cost of Obama's new policies comes to $1.44T. Bush's? $5.07T. Just his tax cuts alone cost more than Obama's policies, at $1.8T. Once you figure in two wars, TARP, and the stimulus, we're talking about a great deal of money indeed.
- Wikipedia: States Rights Gist
CSA Brigadier General States Rights Gist, born in 1831, had a father who felt very strongly about politics. His family, from South Carolina, called him "States." He died at the Battle of Franklin, in 1864.
- Library of Congress: Soldier’s Joy
This tune has been played on nearly every instrument known to man since at least the late 1700s, which is as far back as historians have traced it. The version with lyrics dates only to 1957, when Jimmy Driftwood wrote them. Nearly every version that I've heard has been instrumental. Courtesy of the LoC, you can even hear a 1938 recording of Albert Gore and his band performing it at the National Folk Festival. If you're not familiar with Gore, you'll at least know of his son, Vice President Al Gore.
- WordPress Publisher Blog: A complete publishing system on WordPress
The Bangor Daily News managed to turn WordPress and Google Docs into an entire newspaper publishing system, by using a bunch of plugins to create an editorial workflow. Having written a lot of code to perform this very task, I'm really impressed by this. Better still, it all integrates with InDesign, and all of the plugins are open sourced. Bravo!
- Joel Stein: How Jewish is Hollywood?
- Washington Post: Congressional Budget Office warns of debt explosion
The CBO reports that threre's a simple solution to our budget problem: let the Bush tax cuts expire.
- New Scientist: Lab yeast make evolutionary leap to multicellularity
In just 60 days, yeast cells became multicellular, dividing labor between cells. Apparently this isn't nearly as complicated or unlikely as some evolutionary theorists believed.
- Texas Tribune: Counting Confusion Keeps Texas Cowboy Confined
I've become a real fan of the Texas Tribune, the new nonprofit news outfit in Austin, and this story is a good example of why. It's a pleasure to read, with some nice turns of phrase, and some great quotes from the subject of the article. I came across this in the New York Times, which has started to syndicate the Tribune's stories.
- New York Times: A Tipping Point for Gay Marriage?
With the government unable to muster a legally defensible argument against gay marriage, it's amazing that the House of Representatives went ahead and hired their own private law firm to carry on the right. But it's more amazing still that the law firm dropped the case, finding the Republican majority's position impractical to defend. This looks like the beginning of the end of anti-gay discrimination. My children will almost certainly not know a world in which marriage is only for opposite-sex couples.
- Salon.com: "USA! USA!" is the wrong response
I'm glad to see that others share my discomfort with some of the reaction to the death of Osama bin Laden. "In the years since 9/11, we have begun vaguely mimicking those we say we despise, sometimes celebrating bloodshed against those we see as Bad Guys just as vigorously as our enemies celebrate bloodshed against innocent Americans they (wrongly) deem as Bad Guys."
- The Independent: Bush rejects Taliban offer to surrender bin Laden
Remember when the Taliban offered to hand over Osama bin Laden to the U.S., the President Bush rejected the offer? That was in October 2001, a week after we started bombing. Bush's response? "When I said no negotiations I meant no negotiations."
- The Washington Post: How the U.S., on the road to surplus, detoured to massive debt
In case you've forgotten how we went from record surpluses to record deficits in a decade (hint: you have), the Post recounts the story of how President Bush blew President Clinton's carefully crafted budget by going on the largest-ever tax-cutting spree, recklessly distributing our nation's wealth to the nation's wealthiest.
- Wall Street Journal: Jobless claims
The WSJ put a sparkline in a tweet. *swoon*
You’ll remember the name Abu Zubaida. That’s the guy President Bush bragged about capturing back in 2002, describing him as “al-Qaeda’s chief of operations.” Zubaida denied it, saying that he had nothing to do with al-Qaeda. So we held him at a CIA black operations site and tortured him in order to get him to give up the location of Osama bin Laden. We waterboarded him 83 times and brought him to the edge of death on four occasions. And now it turns out—oops!—that he’s not “al-Qaeda’s chief of operations.” He’s just some dude, a Pakastani guy with nothing to do with al-Qaeda, just a fixer for radical Muslim tourists. Where is he now? Guantanamo. The man has broken no laws, committed no act of war, and there has never been any evidence against him…and yet we’ve held him for seven years, with no apparent plan to release him.
What ever happened to that “shining city on a hill”?
In yesterday’s New York Times, Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti reveal how top White House and congressional officials all came to agree that torture was legal in 2002:
This extraordinary consensus was possible, an examination by The New York Times shows, largely because no one involved — not the top two C.I.A. officials who were pushing the program, not the senior aides to President George W. Bush, not the leaders of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees — investigated the gruesome origins of the techniques they were approving with little debate.
According to several former top officials involved in the discussions seven years ago, they did not know that the military training program, called SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, had been created decades earlier to give American pilots and soldiers a sample of the torture methods used by Communists in the Korean War, methods that had wrung false confessions from Americans.
Even George J. Tenet, the C.I.A. director who insisted that the agency had thoroughly researched its proposal and pressed it on other officials, did not examine the history of the most shocking method, the near-drowning technique known as waterboarding.
This is one of those articles where I just can’t figure out when to stop the excerpt, because it’s just so compelling. My favorite bit is this: “The process was ‘a perfect storm of ignorance and enthusiasm,’ a former C.I.A. official said.” That’s a pretty good summation of the Bush administration.
Yesterday whitehouse.gov prohibited search engines from indexing 2,400 pages on their site. Today 0 pages are prohibited.
That really says it all about this transition, doesn’t it?