Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The "Not A Shred Of Credibility Left" award goes to...

John Snow!! OK, try this:

The Clinton surplus was inflated by a stock-price bubble... "You're going to make a lot of mistakes if you forecast based on a bubble," [Snow] said. "Bubbles burst."

Snow has some support for his view. "Capital gains receipts were unusually high'' during the last years of the Clinton administration, said Ed McKelvey, senior U.S. economist at Goldman, Sachs & Co. in New York. He estimated that when the budget surplus reached a peak of $237 billion in 2000, capital gains tax payments were about $90 billion higher than the norm for the early-to-mid 1990s.

Let's accept those figures and normalize them for the excessive activity at the height of the bubble... so that'd be... let's see... $237 billion.... minus $90 billion... carry the 12... and that gives us.... $147 billion! Why that's hardly a surplus at all! The Bush Administration can cut $147 billion in taxes without any discussion at all!

Of course, Snow doesn't acknowledge that the government's recent success in reducing the size of the deficit is owed at least in part to a similar "bubble", one based not on soaring stock prices, but instead on a provision in the tax code that will effect this year and this year only. As the Bloomberg article notes: "After reaching a record in 2004, the deficit fell by $94 billion in the budget year that ended Sept. 30 as tax receipts soared." That is fueled by taxes on hundreds of billions of dollars in profits repatriated by U.S.-based companies. These funds had been sheltered overseas, but this "penalty vacation" allowed companies to drag in all that cash over the period of a year.

Here's the problem: they won't be able to do that next year. And even if they could, they won't have years and years of profits sheltered to bring in. So the only year that the deficit didn't get worse under Bush, it was only due to... well, I guess they'd be technically correct in saying that it's not a bubble, but as to the underlying characteristic criticized by Snow, namely that you'll make a lot of mistakes if you forecast based on something that'll go away, that remains the same.

Administration rationale for illegal wiretaps assailed

This is, I think, a very important article. What I think is absolutely crucial to discerning the intent of the administration is this:
NSA and Bush administration officials were urged repeatedly by members of the joint inquiry and by the Sept. 11 commission to recommend FISA reforms that they felt were needed... Said Eleanor Hill, staff director of the joint inquiry and former inspector general for the Pentagon... "The question was always asked of these witnesses: 'What do you need?'"

Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales said this week that the administration had discussed possible reforms to FISA with members of Congress. "We were advised that … that was not something we could likely get," he said.
So, although there was opportunity to get some reforms, since the particular reforms they wanted weren't attainable, they just decided to ignore the law. That's... oh, what's the word? Oh yeah, illegal!

What is unclear in this exchange is precisely the nature of the disagreement between Hill's statement that Congress asked the Administration, "What do you need?" and Gonzales's statement that, "[T]hat was not something we could likely get..." There are two possible scenarios here:
  • The first is that either Gonzales or Hill is lying. Gonzales indicates that the Administration wanted reforms to FISA that would allow the NSA to "address that problem," but that Congress wouldn't accomodate them. This would make Hill a liar. Hill indicates that Congress offered the opportunity to request changes to the law, but the Administration didn't follow up on those chances for whatever reasons, making Gonzales a liar.
  • The second is that Congress did offer the opportunity for reforming FISA, but the Administration asked for something that went too far in Congress's view and that was the thing that "was not something we could likely get..."
You can make your own guess as to which of these scenarios is closest to reality. The bottom line, though, is that it doesn't really matter. In the end, regardless of the reason there was no reform to FISA and the Administration then chose to ignore the law. These rationalizations are just that: rationalizations.

Even the matter at issue in this article, the oversight of calls between a San Diego residence housing two of the 9/11 hijackers and a known safe house in Yemen, provides only a rationalization. If that really was a problem (and I don't concede that it was; read the article for more), the law has to be changed to provide the "flexibility" required before the "flexibility" can be used.

Bush is clearly responsible for this breech and assault on the Bill of Rights. He should be impeached.

Meet the fan...

According to this morning's N.Y. Times, Jack Abramoff is about to spill the beans:
Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist under criminal investigation, has been discussing with prosecutors a deal that would grant him a reduced sentence in exchange for testimony against former political and business associates... Prominent party officials, including the former House majority leader, Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, are under scrutiny involving trips and other gifts from Mr. Abramoff and his clients.

One interesting thing about this is that it probably means that the investigation into the killing of Konstantin "Gus" Boulis is probably not involved. I can't imagine that Abramoff would lie down in a case where he could be involved in a murder conspiracy. That probably means that, out of all the possible targets of the investigation, Bob Ney is probably breathing a bit more easily.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Taking responsibility while not taking responsibility

Remember how this was gonna be the responsibility administration? Well, we took a big step there today, right?
When we made the decision to go into Iraq, many intelligence agencies around the world judged that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction. This judgment was shared by the intelligence agencies of governments who did not support my decision to remove Saddam. And it is true that much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong. As President, I'm responsible for the decision to go into Iraq -- and I'm also responsible for fixing what went wrong by reforming our intelligence capabilities. And we're doing just that.
Right? It's good to see the President taking responsibility, right?

But this is yet another smokescreen, just like after Katrina. Let's look at what Bush really says. He's reforming those intelligence agencies that let him down so bad. Everyone had the same faulty intelligence, so he's reforming the process that gave us that faulty intelligence.

The great trick here is that Bush is trying to get credit for taking responsibility while actually shirking responsibility for the "intelligence failure." He casts the blame on the intelligence agencies and the international community and everybody else for the information the Administration used to justify going to war. But as we know, the Administration was informed repeatedly that the yellowcake claim was bogus, including by the very intelligence agencies he blames for mis-informing him. The U.N. weapons inspectors repeatedly said that they could find no WMDs in Iraq and there were no indications that there were on-going weapons programs. The Administration was informed repeatedly that the sources on which they were relying for intelligence were unreliable and had plenty of reasons to lie about Iraq's programs.

There may have been intelligence failures, but the simple fact is that the Bush Administration lied, manipulated evidence, ignored anything that weighed against the point they wanted to make, and endeavoured mightily to make a clearly baseless link between Iraq, al Qaeda, and the 9/11 attacks. Where there were intelligence failures, the Administration exacerbated those by exploiting any faulty evidence that supported their pre-determined conclusions, turning a skeptical eye only on that information that worked against them. That was the failure here and, until Bush takes responsibility for that, he's still just trying to obscure his true failures in the build-up to the war in Iraq.

Update: One other thing. Let's keep in mind that Cheney himself visited CIA headquarters in the run-up to the war to "assist" in intelligence analysis:
...[T]he vice president was at the forefront of a White House campaign... to build the case that Iraq was an imminent threat because it possessed a dangerous arsenal of weapons.

Before the war, he traveled to CIA headquarters for briefings... After the war, when critics started questioning whether the White House relied on faulty information to justify war, Cheney and Libby were central to the effort to defend the intelligence and discredit the naysayers in Congress and elsewhere.

Administration officials acknowledge that Cheney was immersed in Iraq intelligence, and pressed aides repeatedly for information on weapons programs.
Does the plan to reform our intelligence apparatus include sacking the man who put the greatest pressure on the involved agencies to generate intelligence supporting a particular conclusion? Or does it at least include a directive banning the involvement of political operatives in what should be an objective process? Because the biggest failure as we prepared to go into Iraq seems to be not of the process of intelligence gathering or analysis, but the skewing and manipulation of that process in pursuit of the political goals of the Bush Administration.

And another update: Greg Sargent at TAPPED has a post making basically the same point. This is the first mention I've seen (besides myself) of this sneaky rhetorical dodge.

Douche-ly mentions

As I've noted before, I think calling guys douches is funny. So here's a comic where someone calls someone else a douche. That's funny in and of itself, and the context is even funnier.

Man, the search on this hyeah blog bites nuts. I was trying to dig up the URLs for those douche posts. So I searched for "douche", "douche" in the title, "douche" in the body text, etc. But it couldn't find any results. That's retarded. What's up with Google sucking?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

This is what we've come to

So this morning I get an e-mail in my Inbox with the subject line, "Blast 'kills al-Qaeda commander'." And I think to myself, "Yeah, right, this is the, what, 5,000th al-Qaeda commander so far?" Then, looking at the body of the e-mail, I saw that it was Pakistan that was reporting that they had killed an al-Qaeda commander, and I was like, oh!

So... When I thought it was the U.S. reporting that, I assumed it was a lie. As soon as I found out Pakistan had said it, I was interested. And no one--no one--can credibly argue that our government hasn't earned that level of distrust from its public and the world at large. That's pathetic.