Yesterday I ran this quote:

I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.
— Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

Followed by this comment from chemistry professor Dana Dlott:

Watson was almost exactly right but he was quoted out of context. What he was REALLY saying was, ‘I think there is a world market for maybe five VACUUM TUBE computers.’ The transistor would not be invented for more than a decade hence and Watson couldn’t even imagine it. There were just a handful of major vacuum tube computers built . . .

To which a reader named Orval responded: ‘Gee! I feel as if I have been revised out of history. Did I imagine those hundreds of vacuum-tube computers I worked on and observed in the ’50s? Actually there were thousands of them. We shipped to Germany and Japan as well as all over the country. IBM itself was a major player. Sylvania, Sperry, Honeywell, RCA, Burroughs, GE, and many other companies, shipped business, research and military vacuum-tube computers. Watson was an ass.’

☞ Well, maybe so. But I doubt he was intentionally trying to mislead the public.

Speaking of which, I assume President Nixon was merely being wry when he said (as recalled by his Council of Economic Advisors chairman, Herbert Stein) . . .

‘Honesty may not be the best policy,
but it’s worth trying once in a while.’

. . . but it’s an interesting quote as we try to figure out what to make of our current President. Is there a pattern of misleadership?

‘This is a Pinocchio President,’ Senator Bob Graham claimed, criticizing Bush about last week’s major power failure. He said the President opposed federal legislation two years ago that would have provided $ 350 million to assist states and utilities in increasing the reliability of the electrical grid. – Manchester Union Leader, 8/17/03

In his news briefing five hours after the power went off, the President said of modernizing the nation’s power grid, quote, ‘I happen to think it does need to be and have said so all along.’ But Democrats have pointed out in three separate Congressional votes in 2001, Republicans quashed bills to loan $ 350 million toward the improvement of transmission grids, mostly but not solely in California, and that the Majority Whip, Tom Delay of Texas, called the proposal by the Democrats pure demagoguery. – Keith Olbermann, MSNBC, 8/16/03

This article from the August 10 Washington Post indicates . . .

. . . a pattern in which President Bush, Vice President Cheney and their subordinates — in public and behind the scenes — made allegations depicting Iraq’s nuclear weapons program as more active, more certain and more imminent in its threat than the data they had would support. On occasion administration advocates withheld evidence that did not conform to their views. The White House seldom corrected misstatements or acknowledged loss of confidence in information upon which it had previously relied . . .

And this op-ed, four days later, echoed the theme [emphasis added]:

The Bush Deceit
By Peter D. Zimmerman
Thursday, August 14, 2003; Page A19, The Washington Post

It was not just 16 words. It was every word concerning Iraq’s nuclear weapons program in George W. Bush’s 2003 State of the Union speech.

The president’s principal argument for going to war — to prevent a “smoking gun that would appear as a mushroom cloud” — was based on bad intelligence that was misused while good intelligence was ignored.

Available evidence demonstrates that Saddam Hussein, an evil man who should have been evicted in 1991, lacked a serious nuclear weapons program in 2003. And if Mr. Bush had not held out the threat of Iraqi nuclear weapons “within months,” it is doubtful that Congress would have given him a blank check.

How can one conjure up a benign explanation for the president’s assertions?

The claim that Niger was selling uranium was based on disputed intelligence, since retracted by the White House and CIA. The National Intelligence Estimate on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction carried prominent warnings that knowledgeable agencies and analysts dissented from its conclusions. It is hard to believe that national security adviser Condoleezza Rice or her deputy, Stephen J. Hadley, missed or forgot about the red flags.

If the Bush administration had been wrong only about the Niger purchase, it would have indicated carelessness. But the references to nuclear weapons, taken as a whole, indicate dissatisfaction with the truth of the matter and a disregard for inconvenient facts.

Political leaders must not tell intelligence analysts what to write; the intelligence services cannot tell the elected decision maker what to do. The president, of course, is free to disregard intelligence, but he is not free to lie about it — either directly, indirectly or by innuendo — when making the case for war.

President Bush said that in the early 1990s Iraq “had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb.” Not exactly. Nuclear weapons experts serving as inspectors for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) called the bomb “design” more of a parts list than a description of a buildable device. The five ways to enrich uranium really
boiled down to two — electromagnetic separation and gas centrifuges, neither working well. Iraq’s crude experiments in the 1990s showed that it was a very long way from nuclear success.

President Bush said that Iraq had sought to buy “high-strength aluminum tubes” to be used in gas centrifuges to make bomb-grade uranium. The proliferation experts at the Department of Energy could not comment publicly, but they dissented privately. The inspectors of the IAEA produced clear evidence of the truth: rocket bodies, not nuclear weapons. The tubes could be used for centrifuges only after lengthy and complex reworking. The facts had been available to the White House for months, as declassified excerpts from an October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate demonstrate.

The current President Bush was not the first leader to take the United States to war with Iraq using phony intelligence.

In September 1990 his father’s administration claimed that Iraq had hundreds of tanks and 300,000 troops in Kuwait massed on the Saudi border. But independent analysis by me and a colleague, using extremely sharp Soviet satellite photos, showed no evidence whatever of a significant Iraqi force in Kuwait. Nonetheless, in 1990 the American people were told that an attack on Saudi Arabia was imminent.

Postwar analysis showed that the independent analysis published in this country in the St. Petersburg Times was dead accurate: There were not 300,000 but fewer than 100,000 Iraqi troops and only a few Iraqi tanks in Kuwait.

George W. Bush’s backing and filling, his staff’s confused explanations, revised explanations and new explanations, plus the immutable fact that most of his arguments for war in Iraq were misleading, have seriously damaged his credibility abroad and are eroding it at home.

When an American president needs to take the nation to war, Americans must be able to trust him and must believe that the case for conflict is sound. The next time Bush wants to use armed force to preempt or prevent an attack on this country, he will have to prove his case far more completely than before. Two presidents of the United States have forfeited the benefit of the doubt.

The writer, a physicist, was chief scientist of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and science adviser for arms control at the State Department during the Clinton administration.

Then, of course, there was his insider trading, selling his entire position in Harken Oil – most of his net worth – eight days before the company announced very bad news of which, being on the company’s board and its three-man audit committee, he was surely aware. He claimed that the S.E.C. had exonerated him, but this was not true. It had merely decided not to prosecute the son of the President of the United States. (His lawyer in that case was subsequently appointed ambassador to Saudi Arabia.)

And there were the numbers he told us during the campaign added up, even allowing for the recession that he anticipated. We would be able to make his tax cuts for the rich (which he said in the second debate would go ‘mostly to people at the bottom end of the economic ladder,’ which was completely false) without having to dip into the Social Security trust fund (ah, but dip we do) and without sending the nation into deficit (the largest ever, in nominal terms, and no slouch as a percentage – 5.7% – of GDP).

The latest round of tax cuts, we were told, was crafted with one goal in mind: maximum job creation. Any economist will tell you this claim is laughable.

And then there’s the secret energy policy. Even the General Accounting Office, resorting to a subpoena, no less, could not wrest loose the list of energy executives the White House consulted in formulating its policy.

In which regard, Denis Trover sends along this letter that appeared August 18 in his local newspaper, The Ventura County Star:

When the novelty of the new Darrell Issa-Arnold Schwarzenegger bobblehead puppet wears off, we will still have the following timeline of events to consider how we got into this condition.

1987-1999: Population of California nearly doubles while [Republican] Govs. George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson fail to make any preparations by building any additional power generators in the state.

1996-97: Gov. Wilson (not Gray Davis) signs a bill that when the budget reaches base-line-level deficit, car registration tax automatically kicks in.

1999: First four months of Davis’ administration, Davis authorizes building of four additional power sources in the state.

2000: Bush gets his tail beat in California by a wide margin.

2001: First four months of Bush administration, energy companies, many from Texas and all heavy Bush supporters and benefactors, decide that not one, but two, power generators need to be closed for routine maintenance, causing severe deficient supply … Power companies increase California energy costs 10 times.

Davis files complaint to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission about energy price fixing, but Bush tells him it’s a ‘California’ problem. Some say he didn’t lift a finger to help California. I say his actions did raise a finger toward California.

2002-2003: Energy companies, including Enron, admit manipulating energy prices in the state. Bush administration still fails to get money back for the state. California, like every other state, has to pay for federal mandates unsubstantiated by funds.

Is it possible this whole thing was orchestrated by the Bush administration and the Republican National Committee out of revenge and political opportunity to bring the right-wing Republican agenda to a progressive state that would not otherwise embrace it? Do they see a chance where they can ambush the state leadership by winning [the governorship with] 25 percent of the votes?

— Bill Gorback, Thousand Oaks

No, it was pure supply/demand at work, with the only solution being to bring one new power plant on-line every week for five years. And that’s why the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission refused to exercise its clear authority to temporarily cap prices and avert the crisis. Or so we were told.

Except that then the crisis went away almost as quickly and mysteriously as it appeared, without building the 250 new power plants.

(For some interesting background on California’s energy situation, click here.)

A WORD FROM AUSTIN

David Parr, Austin, TX: ‘In this country, we have a tradition of using elections to voice our concerns about power and government. If there is someone we don’t like in power, we don’t assassinate them or have a coup d’etat — we simply elect someone else. This has worked for 220 years. But it seems to me that there is a pattern going on in the past five years where the Republican party has consistently used undemocratic methods to attempt to unseat Democrats in power. In particular, we have:

  • Delay’s Texas redistricting power grab [trying to pick up six more House seats];
  • the Californian gubernatorial recall
  • the impeachment proceedings;
  • worst of all, the stolen election of 2000.

‘It’s troubling. It’s a methodical subversion of the democratic process! I believe that it’s happening so often now, that it’s clearly planned and orchestrated.’

ANOTHER WORD FROM AUSTIN

Molly Ivins noted a lot of little news clips in her August 5th column that, she said, ‘left one overwhelming impression: deception … government by deception.’ Including . . .

  • Administration announces with great fanfare new regs to control listeria, a deadly bacteria that can contaminate certain foods. Great, they put in new regs, but first they eviscerated them so they have no real impact.
  • New study shows 8 million mostly low-income taxpayers will get no benefit from the latest round of tax cuts, despite repeated assurances that it would help everybody who pays income taxes.
  • “American officials are considering a plan to use Iraq’s future oil and gas revenues as collateral to raise cash to rebuild the country. Several U.S. companies, including Halliburton and Bechtel, which are jostling for the lucrative reconstruction contracts, are reportedly pushing the scheme to expedite the commissioning process.” That means there’s no Marshall Plan, we’re not going to rebuild Iraq, we’re going to going to take their oil to pay our corporations to fix what we messed up.
  • President nominates Daniel Pipes to the board of the United States Institute of Peace. This is one of a series of cruel-joke appointments: Pipes is a Middle East expert whose vision of ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is no negotiation, no hope for compromise and no use for diplomacy. He wants the Palestinians defeated, period. Just the man for the Institute of Peace.
  • On Friday, April 11, three days after “coalition” forces entered Baghdad, the Interior Department announced a settlement with the state of Utah that effectively destroys the executive branch’s key powers to protect wilderness, reversing three decades of environmental policy. Starting immediately, oil, gas and mineral companies are granted access to more than 200 million acres of public lands. Bet you saw a lot of headlines about that one.
  • “And I said on my program, if, if the Americans go in and overthrow Saddam Hussein and it’s clean, he has nothing, I will apologize to the nation, and I will not trust the Bush administration again.” — Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly on “Good Morning America,” March 18.
  • “The White House today defended the decision of congressional negotiators to deny millions of minimum-wage families the increased child tax credit, saying the new tax law was intended to help people who pay taxes, not those who are too poor to pay.”
    The poorest people in this country pay exactly the same percentage of their income in payroll taxes as wealthy people do in total taxes.
    “Ain’t gonna happen,” said House Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay. The only way DeLay would support tax cuts for the working poor would be if for every $1 in tax cuts to the working poor, rich people got another $22 in tax cuts. Lends new meaning to phrase “without DeLay.”
  • The “death tax,” as the Republicans so cleverly misnamed the estate tax, which affects 2% of all Americans, has now been replaced by the Bush birth tax — if you’re born in this country, you’re in debt — you have to help pay back the money the Bushies took out of Social Security, plus the interest on the debts they’re running up.

Charlie Mac: ‘I’ve recently returned from duty in Jordan and Iraq. Though normally a moderate libertarian who usually votes Republican, this administration has me convinced to vote Democrat in the next election. Truly amazing, I never would have believed it if someone had told me this only 2 years ago. Ignore all those who say your column is ‘too political/liberal/etc’. I like it even when I fully disagree.’

REGIME CHANGE

David Bruce: ‘Have you seen this site which gives over 1,000 reasons to dump Bush?’

In case you don’t favor a complete right-wing lock on all three branches of our government, click here.

[No column tomorrow. After this, you deserve a very long weekend.]

 

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