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August 20, 2009

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it was no secret, btw that Nixon tried to use Médici for this. His rule was the most brutal during the 21 year military dictatorship in Brazil.

Gotta say I'm a little disappointed -- I had trouble getting your point at first read, had to read the link to see a blogger by the name of emptywheel make it more concisely:

"God forbid a journalist use simple empiricism... to assess the terror alerts... There was a pattern. And normal human beings equipped with the gift of empiricism that apparently gets weeded out at journalism school tend to look at patterns and conclude that if a relationship consistently has happened in the past, then it probably will exist in the future. But no!! Journalists can't do what normal human beings do all the time, and make certain conclusions by watching patterns develop."

See, that's a cogent point -- that there was ample evidence of terror manipulation available at the time, and so it is inexcusable that the media establishment as a whole treated skepticism so coldly.

Instead, you just say that you weren't surprised by Tom Ridge's revelations, and throw in a comparison of Nixon's involvement in Chile. My initial impression of your point was "left wing conspiracy theories often turn up true, so the media should treat them more seriously".

But that couldn't be right*, since that logic would apply to all kinds of crazy shit like 9/11 truthers, Vince Foster nuts, and so forth.

I just really enjoy your posts overall, and felt a little let down. I'm (honestly) sorry if this seems harsh.

*FWIW, I'm thinking your point was more like what emptywheel said, but it came out like this.

i got Eric's point just fine.

cause i'm special.

Oh, fek all. I wrote a response and typepad eated it. I'm gonna hunt for it in the spam folder. Be right back.

the dirty f*cking hippies were right again

Nope, gone for good. But it is amazing what you can find in the spam filter. But in response to Point:

This post is really about the fact that the media treats left-wing critiques differently. That is, the media is quick to dismiss left-wing critiques as baseless conspiracy theories, even where there is plenty of credible evidence.

For example, the terror alerts were curiously timed, and the scares always turned out to be based on flimsy pretenses. After a while, a reporter should be able to catch on, like many citizens did.

For example, again, there were government leaks about the US involvement in Chile, Brazil, Argentina, with Allende, Pinochet, Medici, the Generals, Operation Condor, etc., and yet the allegations were brushed aside because the hippies just hate them some Nixon.

On the flip side, we have hours and hours dedicated to probing the veracity of death panels, CNN hosts talking about birth certificates, tens of millions for investigating whitewater, travelgate, Vince Foster murder dramatizations carried out in the House, etc.

It would be nice if critiques on the left that are prima facie plausible would be treated a little differently by an establishment that more frequently displays open contempt for the riff raff. But the elites prefer Marc Ambinders who toe the line.

(* And, no, I'm not arguing that all conspiracy theories are thereby valid or deserve attention/respect. Exactly the opposite. I'm arguing that plausible ones do, and ridiculous ones don't. Suggesting that the Bush administration was putting politics ahead of policy was not an earth-shattering accusation. Suggesting 9/11 was an inside job, on the other hand, is a different story IMHO.)

See, now that's why I read you -- you make a great point in your response.

My only point is it should have been the post.

"Suggesting that the Bush administration was putting politics ahead of policy was not an earth-shattering accusation."

Or perhaps Bushs' advisors wer telling him a crisis was a terrible thing to waste.....

Hold your fire, I was just saying and I know I'm unarmed.


"Hold your fire, I was just saying"

Yes, either you're making a claim, or you're not. There's no "I was just saying" defense that will allow you to make a claim and state that people can't critique it. Please don't try that gambit. If you're "saying," it's up for response. If you don't want it up for response, don't hit "post."

Or perhaps Bushs' advisors were telling him a crisis was a terrible thing to waste.....

Oh absolutely, but I think that's the same thing. Basically: let's use this whole terrorism thing to our advantage politically including by hyping color coded warnings when we need a bump in the polls.

With you 100% on that.

Is Marty's "just saying" anything like the new "Just Sayin'" segment on CNN?

"Yes, either you're making a claim, or you're not. There's no "I was just saying" defense that will allow you to make a claim and state that people can't critique it. Please don't try that gambit. If you're "saying," it's up for response. If you don't want it up for response, don't hit "post.""

You are right of course Gary. I just couldn't help myself. :)

It's hard for me to work up outrage over the Bush administration at this point -- the whole eight years was a freaking outrage.

Still, the manipulation of the terror warnings strikes me as a form of terrorism unto itself.

Very perverse, and pathetic, from a crowd that thought it wrote the book on patriotism.

"Oh absolutely, but I think that's the same thing. Basically: let's use this whole terrorism thing to our advantage politically including by hyping color coded warnings when we need a bump in the polls."

Yes, it is very much like padding an absolutely required stimulus bill with as many social agenda items as possible because you know it will get passed. Then hyping that every day it doesn't get signed brings us to the brink of extinction.

Then using the moral imperative of insuring the uninsured to facilitate the creation of the most expensive government program in the last 50 years and trying to hype that as requiring the same level of speed to get done.

I, the cynical side of me, call that the politics of fear or, more precisely, politics as usual. Neither what the Bush administration did or what the Obama administration (or any Congress in that stretch) has done creates any faith that the government should be trusted very much.


"It's hard for me to work up outrage over the Bush administration at this point -- the whole eight years was a freaking outrage."

Learn to appreciate history. I'm still outraged by the James Buchanan administration, the Pierce administration, and not to mention the Harding administration, or a number of others, myself.

Thank you, Marty, for that classic example of high Broderism.

While I'm sure Marty himself is a great guy, his 4:58 comment is a perfect example of the "pox on both their houses" style of intellectually lazy false equivalence that is utterly without value. You can make any two things sound alike if you cherry-pick enough details, but it's not going to convince anyone who knows better and it just dilutes the credibility of your argument.

Marty, you would be right if we were talking about the passage of the Patriot Act.

But here, there was no bill. Nothing. Just raw political power grab.

It's different you know.

Not to mention your shameless hyperbole.

There weren't that many social agenda items at all, let alone as many as could be added. Do you have actual facts/links/examples (I expect numerous given your language)

Ditto on health care. This is a moral issue. And the uninsured, and soon to be unionsured, and underinsured are real people suffering every day.

Fake plots and color codes aren't really as real, you know.

Here's how you know Marty's comment was akin to what was described by Catsy:

In order to draw the false equivalency, he had to load the Obama side up with overwrought hyperbole, exaggeration and outright distortion.

Bush's sins, in this example, are stand alone. All you need are Tom Ridge's words. No extra sauce, no accoutrement, no embellishment, no razzle dazzle.

When you're sweating that hard to try to draw an even-steven, you're kind of giving away the game. I'd call it a tell, but it's really so much more.

Marty, you would be right if we were talking about the passage of the Patriot Act.

Are you saying he'd be right if you were comparing the Patriot Act to the Obama healthcare/stimulus initiatives, or that he'd be right if you were comparing the terror alert manipulation with the Patriot Act?

I can agree with the latter--both were textbook Bush admin fearmongering.

I can't agree with the former. Even if you change the Bush example to the Patriot Act instead of the terror alert manipulation so that you're comparing passage of a bill with passage of a bill, it's still an inapt analogy.

There's a big difference between fearmongering on the one hand, and explaining that (not) doing X will have Y consequences on the other. One has the purpose of making people unjustifiably afraid for selfish gain. The other has the purpose of producing a more informed public. One is based on lies and exaggerations, the other on facts.

Can we please, stop calling right-wingers "small-government" types?

They are all for a robust intrusive state as long as it is a Right-Wing State.

I had trouble getting your point at first read, had to read the link to see a blogger by the name of emptywheel make it more concisely

Actually, lots of folks at the time saw the pattern and called attention to it.

They were called crazy, partisan, Bush-hating, foaming-at-the-mouth lunatics.

Which oddly enough brings us to Eric's point.

Bush certainly did know that Bin Laden was planning an attack. That's not the same a saying he knew about 9/11 ahead of time as carried out.

But knowing what Bush did regarding the Iraq War, and promoting it with lies, it is no big stretch of imagination for me to think he planned ahead of time to use any possible future attacks to advance his policy and political aims.

Much he has done is consistent with such base lack of morals, and it would not surprise me if there was an element of truth to it.

I'll say it straight, not just sayin'.

Just read Ambinder's brilliant piece in the Atlantic.

Has there ever been a sorrier exercise in lameness? Seriously, why write anything at all? Just take the freaking day off.

Our skepticism about the activists' conclusions was warranted because these folks based their assumption on gut hatred for President Bush, and not on any evaluation of the raw intelligence.

Wrong. The folks who were crying foul at the time put basic, solid evidence on the table. Every time a politically dicey situation came up, the alert level would escalate.

If it smells like a turd, it's probably a turd.

Ambinder missed it because his head was too far up his own freaking behind.

He was wrong. So he wrote a piece to explain that, even though he was wrong, he was right to be wrong. Then he had to correct that, and the correction made the whole piece not only pointless, but embarrasingly petty.

What do you have to do to to lose your job in pundit-land?

But knowing what Bush did regarding the Iraq War, and promoting it with lies, it is no big stretch of imagination for me to think he planned ahead of time to use any possible future attacks to advance his policy and political aims.

Elapsed time between the 9/11 attacks and Rumsfeld's directive to consider Iraq as a military target was about five hours.

Have you read the transcript here, Russell?

[...] The old line about it being better to be conventionally wrong than unconventionally right really does apply. And I've noticed that in areas that are not, in any direct sense, part of the political – I mean, everything is political to some extent – but much less so.

So, for example, if you read Dean Baker, an economist who has a blog at The American Prospect, a media criticism blog which is about economic reporting, he points out that, look, what we know about the Iraq thing is no one who was actually right about Iraq is considered respectable and suitable to be discussing the Iraq situation today; panels of experts that discuss Iraq range from liberal hawks to conservative hawks, and no one who was actually against the war is on them.

Well, it turns out that the same thing applies on housing. No one who actually said, "My god, we've got a big housing bubble," is actually asked to comment for articles about the housing crisis. Only the same organizations that said, "Oh, it's great, it's going to continue." There's the same issue of there's something wrong with you if you actually saw this too early.

Some of the same thing applies on oil, again. All of these things have some political side to them. If you said there was a housing bubble...I was accused of only saying that there was a housing bubble because I hated Bush. And there is some that always. But still, on oil, the only people who are considered respectable, even-handed authorities were the ones who said we were going to have lots of new oil supplies coming along in the middle years of this decade. And that's the usual thing.

That's some Nobel Prize-winning guy you may have heard of; there's a lot more there in that discussion, which includes Rick Perlstein, Duncan Black, and digby.

Can we tie in this discussion to the revelation of the Blackwater mercenary assassination squad?

Sure, they never actually became operational.

Which I believed for half a day. Now, I'm doubting that claim too.

Can we tie in this discussion to the revelation of the Blackwater mercenary assassination squad?

Remember Fallujah? The 4 "contractors" who were killed, and their dead bodies set afire, then hung from a bridge trestle?

And remember how much grief RW nutbags gave Kos for saying he didn't care what happened to mercenaries, as if he had insulted some big ol' American heroes?

We never did find out who those contractors were, or who they worked for, did we?

How much you want to bet they were Blackwater mercs, and that the people of Fallujah had pretty damn good reason to want them dead?

What do you have to do to to lose your job in pundit-land?

expressing actual liberal views seems to do the trick.

We never did find out who those contractors were, or who they worked for, did we?

Um, what? That they were Blackwater employees was known at the time of the incident. As were their identities. That info was never anything resembling a secret, or even hard to come by. E.g.

The trouble with contractors separated from the boundaries of law is both that there is no law to constrain them and no law to protect them.

Those 4 killed Blackwater employees could very well have been regular guys, doing their job without any malice or malpractice. But as Blackwater was set up in a separate legal universe, what recourse can be called upon?

What do you have to do to to lose your job in pundit-land?

I believe Robert Novak just demonstrated that.

Bush certainly did know that Bin Laden was planning an attack.

Oh? Well, then. I suppose Bush therefore deliberately ignored such warnings, and in effect facilitated the attacks. Since it was known that Bin Laden was planning something, and all.

If it had been England, they would have sent James Bond in. Bond would have then found bin Laden, encountered him at the baccarat table at some fabulously ostentatious gambling casino, annoyed bin Laden by beating him at his best game, gotten himself taken prisoner, subsequently escaped with the help of a beautiful, charmingly-named temptress, and singlehandedly taken down all of Al Qaeda. If only we were as smart as England, we wouldn't have gotten into this mess in the first place.

"Oh? Well, then. I suppose Bush therefore deliberately ignored such warnings"

That's correct.

We've known for years now that George W. Bush received a presidential daily briefing on Aug. 6, 2001, in which he was warned: "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." We've known for almost as long that Bush went fishing afterward.

What we didn't know is what happened in between the briefing and the fishing, and now Suskind is here to tell us. Bush listened to the briefing, Suskind says, then told the CIA briefer: "All right. You've covered your ass, now."

Every assertion I've ever seen Ron Suskind make has turned out to be true.

I recommend reading his books on the Bush administration, if you wish to comment knowledgeably about this.

PDB:

Convicted plotter Ahmed Ressam has told the FBI that he conceived the idea to attack Los Angeles International Airport himself, but that in ---, Laden lieutenant Abu Zubaydah encouraged him and helped facilitate the operation. Ressam also said that in 1998 Abu Zubaydah was planning his own U.S. attack.

Suskind:

Abu Zubaydah also appeared to know nothing about terrorist operations; rather, he was al-Qaeda's go-to guy for minor logistics -- travel for wives and children and the like. That judgment was "echoed at the top of CIA and was, of course, briefed to the President and Vice President," Suskind writes.

I've got a whole lot of WTF going on right now. The same PDB that warned Bush that an attack was in the offing told him that Zubaydah, who was (according to Suskind) well known to be insane and inept, was planning an attack of his own. As a credible threat, I imagine, or it just wouldn't be in there.

I'm familiar with that PDB, Gary, and its lack of specifity makes it pretty damned useless. Unless there's more, that's relevant, that has been redacted.

We're almost certainly going to disagree on this, but unless there was much more specific information there, and it's clear from the PDB that the FBI was busy looking for such information, in my opinion there just wasn't much to be done on the basis of a warning. I think it's fair to assume that bin Laden will always be planning something, as long as he's got a pulse.

I'll try to pick the book up on your recommendation, thanks. Doubtless (and hopefully!) it has more substantiation than we see in reviews of the book.

"I'll try to pick the book up on your recommendation, thanks."

Three books, actually, although let me immediately confess that, as yet, I've only read excerpts and lots of reviews and interviews (new books are expensive, and I don't get out to the library here much, given how much of a backlog of unread books I already have, plus the internet), so I didn't mean to imply that I've read the books, myself, actually, although I rather carelessly wrote in a way that could be fairly interpreted as implying I had. My comment could, of course, be fairly interpreted as saying that I'm not fit to "comment knowledgeably about this," but I shouldn't have, or didn't meant to have, implied that if one hadn't specifically read Suskind's books in their entirety, one can't have sufficient knowledge to comment.

The three books, which I've so far only read excerpts from, and lots of reviews, are The Way of The World, The One Percent Doctrine, and The Price of Loyalty.

We may not agree, but my point wasn't, to be sure, that the PDB was very specific, since of course it wasn't.

My point was, however ignorant or knowledgeable/thorough, that Bush was, I think demonstrably, highly uninterested in the threat of bin Laden and al Qaeda terrorism, as was Cheney, as was Rumsfeld. They were interested in state threats, not threats of non-state-sponsored terrorism.

There are plenty of other sources on this point, such as Richard Clarke, although perhaps you might consider them biased or unfair or otherwise not particularly worthwhile. But one specific point of substantiation is the indisputable fact that, immediately upon the attacks, the first questions and ordersfrom both Bush and Cheney were to investigate Saddam Hussein's possible/likely involvement. They seemed convinced right from the first moment that he had to be behind the attacks, not al Qaeda, or an al Qaeda unconnected to Iraq. They seem to have continued to hold such views for dog knows how long, but a long time. I could give you cites on this, if you like.

I consider "Bush therefore deliberately ignored such warnings" a fair statement as a general statement, and not a claim along the lines that "Bush was informed that in the month of December al Qaeda would be attacking NYC" or "Bush was informed that al Qaeda specifically planned to attack a major U.S. target with commercial airplanes in the next three months," or anything quite so specific. The claim is, rather, that Bush generally ignored and was indifferent to warnings about al Qaeda attacks. I think that's a perfectly fair claim from everything we know.

And, specifically, the part of the PDB you didn't quote:

[...] Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.

The FBI is conducting approximately 70 full-field investigations throughout the U.S. that it considers bin Laden-related. CIA and the FBI are investigating a call to our embassy in the UAE in May saying that a group or bin Laden supporters was in the U.S. planning attacks with explosives.

Bush's response was "All right. You've covered your ass, now."

I'm unaware of any signs that point to Bush taking any further actual steps to follow up on this PDB, other than to dismiss it entirely, and I'd call that decision "deliberate" and I'd call that "deliberately ignoring" a "warning," even though perhaps you feel it was too vague to warrant the President doing anything at all about, such as, perhaps, asking any of his cabinet or National Security Council, or the CIA, or anyone, "are you doing anything about this?," following that PDB.

It seems to me a not unsafe assumption that if there were any evidence of Bush doing any such thing, it would have been publicized by Dick Cheney or someone by now. Does that seem unreasonable to you?

Moreover, you write that "The same PDB that warned Bush that an attack was in the offing told him that Zubaydah, who was (according to Suskind) well known to be insane and inept, was planning an attack of his own."

But Zubaydah wasn't "well known to be insane and inept" until he was captured, well after the September 11th attacks, so I'm not following how that's relevant.

Richard Ben-Veniste.

As a secondary point, the White House made up a lot of false claims about the PDB. This raises a lot of secondary questions as to why. It's hard to not suspect that the primary answer is largely "because it made the president look bad," rather than any of the answers that have at least some factual basis behind them.

Besides, your expressed view, Slart, is the defense the Bush White House made at the time, and therefore must, ipso facto, be wrong. :-)

Not to forget the insipid claims that noone could have foreseen the use of planes in that fashion (I think Condi Rice came up with that first in public). Even, if we assume that noone in the WH had ever read Tom Clancy novels, the basic idea is much older. And there was that 1945 crash of a B-25 into the Empire State Building as a real-life precedent (accident not terrorism though).

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