New Tricks for an Old Dog

June 17th marked the 30th Anniversary of the Watergate break-in. In August of 1973, opposite its Watergate coverage, the Washington Post reported that internal Republican National Committee memoranda alleged that before and after the Watergate break-in Karl Rove, then chairman of the College Republicans, had taught seminars in such "dirty tricks" to young politicos. According to Bad Boy: The Life and Times of Lee Atwater by John Joseph Brady, techniques included "purloining the opposition party's garbage to obtain inside memos and lists of contributors." RNC chairman at the time, George H.W. "Poppy" Bush told the Post that he would initiate an internal GOP investigation to "get to the bottom" of the Rove allegations. Some months later "Poppy" hired Rove as his special assistant at the RNC. "Nixon was political godfather to the House of Bush." says Mark Crispin Miller, author of The Bush Dyslexicon. Thirty years later, Rove has graduated (though not from college) to the White House where his "dirty tricks" have been relabeled "Strategic Initiatives." The embarassing discovery of his Power Point presentation titled The Strategic Landscape seemed to confirm that the overarching principle shaping administration decisions is Rove's view that it should do whatever gives it a political advantage. This includes, of course, coddling to special interests, but more ominously, the war on terrorism, which Rove told a Republican gathering in Austin, TX in January they could "go to the country on."

The Return of COINTELPRO?

"I can't say for sure that there wasn't the possibility that we would have come across some lead that would have led us to the hijackers," FBI Director Robert Mueller told journalists last week. Evidence had emerged that FBI headquarters

  • dismissed speculation by an agent in Minneapolis suggesting that French-Moroccan flight student Zacarias Moussaoui might be planning to "fly something into the World Trade Center,"
  • failed to connect the Moussaoui lead with a July report from Phoenix suggesting that Osama bin Laden might be attempting to infiltrate U.S. flight schools,
  • and failed to share either piece of information with the interagency Counterterrorism Security Group.

But the next day, Attorney General Ashcroft announced he was loosening guidelines that restrict the Bureau's surveillance of political and religious organizations.

An Absence of Nuance

Peggy Noonan, formerly a speech writer for Ronald Reagan and "Poppy" Bush, and now a Wall Street Journal contributing editor, interviewed George W. Bush in June 2001, shortly after his return from meetings with European leaders and Russian president Vladimir Putin. Noonan apparently asked Bush what he thought of the prospect of Russia joining NATO. Bush responded, "I haven't thought about the nuance of it." The remark is particularly telling as reported by Noonan -- a commentator undoubtedly sympathetic to the Bush clan -- and printed in the Wall Street Journal, whose editorial pages sometimes read like a house organ for the Bush administration. Yet it neatly summarizes Bush's approach to and grasp of foreign policy.

Gomer as Claudius

by John Chuckman
Reprinted from YellowTimes.org.

There has been a fair amount written recently about whether America should just get over the inhibitions of its anti-imperial origins and boldly embrace the fact of its having swelled and fattened into a full-fledged empire - a kind of imperial coming out of the closet, if you will. Favoring, as I do, honesty in politics and human affairs, I tend to support this approach.

But before all the drawling, born-again, yahoo-patriots with custom shotgun racks in the rear windows of their Cadillacs and faded little flags fluttering from the antennas break into the chorus of "Onward Christian Soldiers" (actually, an excellent choice for a new Imperial Anthem), a few qualifying reflections are in order.

Rome built magnificent roads, aqueducts, forums, and theaters where its imperial footstep trod. America leaves behind Coca-Cola bottlers, Lay's potato-chip distributors, piles of trash, cluster-bomb canisters, and landmines. Rome built beautiful temples and embraced all religions. America sends loopy fundamentalist missionaries and people who believe God is an alien life form speaking from tin cans to disparage the ancient beliefs of others.

Privacy President? Not When It Comes to Medical Records

Updated September 2, 2002

Add support for privacy of medical records to the list of campaign promises Bush has reneged on. In the June 5, 2000 issue of Business Week Bush said, "I'm a privacy-rights person.... The marketplace can function without sacrificing the privacy of individuals.... [C]ustomers should be allowed to opt in [to sharing information]. The company has got to ask permission." At the time, pollsters for both parties were noting public concern over access to financial and health care records, and worry that the government or corporations would misuse the information. Bush took credit for the wide-ranging privacy rules issued by former President Bill Clinton when they took effect in 2001. The Clinton rules required that health care providers obtain written permission from patients before using personal health information for any of a long list of health-care related activities or transactions. On August 9, in response to pressure from health care companies, the Bush administration formally rolled back the Clinton rules, including the consent requirement. The new rules had been first proposed in March, prompting public outcry and a hearing before Senator Edward Kennedy's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee. "The administration appears more interested in protecting communications between the vice president and oil companies than between doctors and patients," said James C. Pyles, a lawyer for the American Psychoanalytic Association (APA).

The Brilliant Offer Israel Never Made

by David Clark
guardian unlimited

Yesterday's carnage in the West Bank provided a bloody illustration of the limits of Ariel Sharon's military strategy. Armed force cannot provide his people with the security they crave because the terrorist infrastructure he has set out to destroy consists of little more than the willingness of ordinary Palestinians to kill themselves while taking as many Israelis with them as possible. This week, the hatred on which it is built burns deeper than ever. In the absence of a meaningful peace
process, further atrocities are inevitable, and when they happen, the consequences may be far worse than anything we have so far seen.

Spinning Dispensationalism

This month's Washington Monthly features an exposé by Joshua Green of the myth that the Bush administration doesn't use polling. The article has been quoted by commentators and op-ed columnists around the country, including Howard Kurtz in his Washington Post "Media Notes", and Maureen Dowd in the New York Times. There are two central revelations in Green's piece:

  1. The Bush administration publicly pretends disinterest in polls, while privately spending millions on them.
  2. Unlike other recent administrations, the Bushies do not use polls to determine what the public would like, they use them to discover how best to sell what they've already decided to do anyway.

More Foreign Policy Lies?

"The trip has taken on, I suppose, a little bit of added significance because of the Middle East crisis with respect to the peace process, but I wouldn't over-emphasize that aspect of it," vice president Dick Cheney told journalists last week as he left on a trip to enlist support for an eventual military campaign against Iraq. Saudi Arabia and Jordan quickly called Cheney's nonchalance into question as they insisted on talking first about limiting violence between Palestine and Israel. Cheney's view of that situation, reportedly shared by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, is that it is essentially a counter-terrorism problem, and that the violence will decline once the price to the Palestinians is high enough. Some observers have reported that moderate Arab leaders "feel like nervous householders who, after complaining for months about a gas leak, have been sent a known arsonist with a blowtorch." While America's allies in the Middle East joined the fight against Al-Qaeda in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, and questioned linking Islamic terrorism to the plight of Palestinians, this support is not likely to extend to war against Iraq. As Julian Borger of the Guardian suggests, "An Iraqi war without a Middle East cease fire could give [the extremists] exactly what they want."

Ashcroft, American history, and speaking in tongues

by John Chuckman
Reprinted from YellowTimes.org.

John Ashcroft, Attorney General of the United States, recently repeated an old chestnut about America being a Christian nation whose founders were Christian gentlemen.

The claim is common among the country's fundamentalist Christians, but it is so ignorant of actual history one wonders whether it should not be taken as another serious indictment of American public education. Some readers may not be aware that Mr. Ashcroft's background includes familiarity with such arcane subjects as speaking in tongues. As for Mr. Bush, who touched the same theme in China, perhaps no comment on his grasp of history is required.


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