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Saturday, May 08, 2004

DOD, via Halliburton, cutting off "inessential" access to email by the troops 

Gee, there's a morale booster. I wonder why they're doing it?

Kathryn Kramer and Electrolite via Scaramouche.

UPDATE Perhaps, just perhaps, this is why. Via Modo:

In the information age, [Rumsfeld] complained to senators, "people are running around with digital cameras and taking these unbelievable photographs and then passing them off, against the law, to the media, to our surprise, when they had not even arrived in the Pentagon."

That's interesting. "Against the law." Is Rummy suggesting that anyone should be prosecuted for distributing and printing the photos?


Iraq prison torture: Bush pushes discredited "bad apples" theory 

Yawn.

Readers, if you've been following the story, you know that the the Taguba report says the torture was a systemic problem.

YABL, YABL, YABL.

UPDATE It's really pitiful, isn't it? At this point, all Inerrant Boy is doing is giving ways for desperate believers to avoid cognitive dissonance. The truth isn't in him. Whoops! I meant, "the truth isn't in Him." Sorry.

A Revolution in Media Affairs? [draft] 

The ever essential Orcinus has had enough and issues a manifesto here. I hope this post from him is one day known as Orcinus's "Long Post", following George Kennan's "Long Telegram," since both will have inspired a strategy for a winning another long, cold war.

Memo to the SCLM: We're coming.

UPDATE: I'd like to respond to Orcinus's manifesto with a lengthy posting of my own.

Alert readers as good citizens
I'll begin with the notion of "alert reader." I started using this phrase for contributors in the comments who shared information I thought was especially useful or interesting, when filling in for the mighty Atrios. I stole the phrase from Dave Barry, partly to honor him, and partly to honor the readers and their efforts.

But after reading Orcinus, I'm thinking that being an "alert reader" is one qualification for being a good citizen. It takes a lot of alertness and desire to be informed: To get the real story, if that's even possible, from reading our "free press." Why is that? What can we do about it? And can the blogosphere help? I think so, through a "Revolution in Media Affairs", whose ethical, business, and technical foundation I will sketch below. Readers, your feedback will be greatly appreciated. I hope the spark that Orcinus struck with his manifesto roars into life quite quickly.

"Beautiful plumage!"
We the People can't "form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity" if we aren't informed, because if we don't know what's going on, we can't exercise our responsibilities as citizens. The First Amendment establishes a free press for this very reason: To keep power in the hands of the people by keeping them informed. A long train of abuses shows that press has shamefully abandoned its responsibilities to inform. I don't care whether this is due to corporatization, media concentration, or millionaire pundit values: Despite the best efforts of dedicated individuals like Seymour Hersh, the free press, institutionally, is pushing up the daisies.

There's an old Navy saying: "You can't buff a turd." And, really, that's what I was going to do today, and maybe what I've been doing for the last year: To follow along after the Unfree Press, trying to clean up the distortions, make the unmade connections, read between the lines for the real story, hiss the villains, and cheer the heroes and heroines. Trying to clean up our discourse by buffing one turd at a time. It can't be done. Too many turds, and not enough hours in the day.

A Revolution in Media Affairs (RMA)
What is to be done? The question brings us at once to the blogosphere. Orcinus, if I summarize correctly, hopes to intensify the role of the blogosphere as a "central clearinghouse for information in the media revolt," a "media watchdog", an uber-ombudsman, campaigning to bring pressure to bear on the legitimate media and thereby freeing real journalists—they do exist—to do the jobs they need to do, campaigning for the reinstatement of the Fairness doctrine, and so forth.

I disagree. With Carlyle, recall the words of the courtier Liancourt to Louis XVI: "Sire," answered Liancourt, "It is not a revolt, it is a revolution." Revolt would mean that the blogosphere would help the Unfree Press to be a little more free, so they can do their jobs better. Revolution would mean mean the blogosphere would become the Free Press that the SCLM can no longer be.

What needs to be done: Gut the Unfree Press by taking our discourse back from them, and create a Free Press to bring our stories forward.

Creating a Free Press
The requirements for creating a free press fall into three categories: Ethics, Business Model, and Infrastructure.

Ethics. Since the beginning of the slow-moving, Unfree Press-fuelled winger coup that began with Whitewater and ended with Florida 2000, we've seen—with the exception of a few shining individuals like Seymour Hersh (back)—a complete collapse of journalistic ethics. See The Daily Howler, day after day after day. Orcinus summarizes the relentless and corrosive trivialization of our discourse relentlessly in his "Long Post". The Unfree Press simply doesn't cover the story! Rather, as the Howler shows, the Unfree Press recycles the same old scripts (example) [1].

The remedy is an ethic with two parts: (1) Facts rule, and (2) Theories are disclosed.[2] This should be the contract of Free Press bloggers with their readers.

Facts rule. A simple example: I just read a story in the print Atlantic about oppo research, and there, right in the lead paragraph, was the false meme that Gore claimed he invented the Internet. Obviously, a publication with an immune system too weak to defend itself against that meme is doomed to die—eviscerated by faster, smaller, smarter creatures—like thecreatures living in the blogosphere. To defend my interests as a citizen, I should have put $4.95 in a blogger's tip jar, not given it to an enterprise that's corrupting my discourse.

Facts rule! Not stories about hair cuts, peanut butter, interns, cute children, "court news, ... who loses and who wins; who's in, who's out", and all the other phases of Operation Steaming Load. The Media Revolution has to follow the facts wherever they lead, as a Free Press should do. Maybe that's going to contradict some cherished beliefs. Fine. If it turns out that the earth really is 6000 years old, as the fundamentalists claim, then we had better be prepared to accept and deal.

Note, with Orcinus, that the blogosphere has "just in time fact checking" built in. Get a fact wrong, and alert readers write in at once with links to the correct information.

Disclose theories. By "theory" I don't mean bias; I mean a picture of how the world works that is testable. Where necessary, the theory (if any) under which a news story is being told should be disclosed. Example: In my role as Sultan of Snark, I slammed Bush as a narcissist and a sociopath (blog). [Readers: comments on this are OT.] Alert reader Rebecca Allen commented that the two were quite distinct, and as a professional, ethics restrained her from making a diagnosis without having met the man. She fully disclosed the theory under which she was operating, and that raised the level of discourse and moved the story forward.

Here again, the blogosphere, in the person of Rebecca Allen, had "just in time theory checking" built in.

Checks and balances I think I'm getting this twin ethic—that facts rule and theories are disclosed—from the academic/professional notion of the footnote: Footnotes provide alert readers with a check on the authors. (One of Anne Coulter's worst perversions is her abuse of the footnote mechanism.)

Here again, as we have seen, the blogosphere excels. With links and URIs, facts are checkable, and theories can be named and disclosed. For example, when we cite the PNAC plans for a series of wars beginning with Iraq, the militarization of space, and so forth (PDF), we can link to their report, and use "PNAC" as a shorthand for what that picture of the world is.

Note, however, that this ethic requires some revision to existing editorial practice in the blogosphere. Now, a blog is all about authorial voice in the present. Granted, there may be several authors. And granted, the present may mean anything from "the top post" to "this week's posts." But the ethics outlined above mean that there must be more voices than the author's: the alert readers will have voices, too. And fact and theory checking are based on linking, perhaps into the deep past. This means that rich links within, between, and outside of the blogosphere will take on great importance.

Readers, thoughts?

Business Model
The difficulty with the blogosphere—and possibly why Orcinus confines its effect to that of revolt, rather than revolution—is that at present it is still dependent on the Unfree Press. For the most part we are, like it or not, parasites on a news stories generated by others. There are matchbook covers for truck driving, art school, and so forth, but none with "Get paid to blog!" on them.

Reportage means funding. A business model is needed to sustain a Free Press, RMA-enabled blogosphere. A Free Press can't create all its own content for free. Commentary is reasonably easy. All the blogger needs for commentary is a laptop and a connection. Reportage, however, is key. If we have an ethic that facts rule, facts are something we need to go get, not allow to be brought to us. And reportage takes sustained effort, involves travel, may involve liability, and can involve a lot of risk—from nobody taking the story up all the way to getting killed. If there is no reportage in the blogosphere, there is no RMA, and we're still buffing the turds. Finally, in the case of a massive, RIAA-style assault on the blogosphere over "fair use" issues, generating our own, unencumbered content will become critical.

Existing practices. To take the story away from the Unfree Press, and replace it with a story based on the ethics of a Free Press, at least some story writing in the blogosphere has to be funded; no other solution will scale. How can work in the blogosphere be made to pay? Existing practice (besides foundation money and patronage) for funding falls into the following categories:

  1. Make the leap to mainstream journalism.

  2. Sell site advertising and promotional items. The money right now can be "beer money," but could become substantial with time.
  3. .
  4. Solicit donations to cover costs: the server, and so forth.

  5. Solicit donations to cover a story: the Iowa primaries, for example.
  6. Open a tip jar; use PayPal, or some similar service.


Model 1 ("mainstreaming") is all to the good, but not revolutionary. It does not take the stories away from the Unfree press.

Models 2 ("advertising") and 3 ("cover costs") enable revolution—"Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one"—but are not in themselves revolutionary, since they are neutral in regard to the relation of writer to reader (see "Ethics", above).

Model 4 ("cover a story") is genuinely revolutionary: Imagine! Readers funding the writing they want, with no intermediary.

Model 5 ("tip jar") is also revolutionary, since again the contract between reader and writer is altered by disintermediating the Unfree Press.

Proposal. I would like to propose the following extension of the "tip jar" model:

A tip jar for every contributor

This model is also revolutionary, since it insists that any alert reader can become an informative writer. Hopefully, this will create a virtuous cycle, as writing communities develop in which more and more readers support more and more informative writers.

Readers, thoughts?

Infrastructure
Finally, let's turn to the technical infrastructure that would underpin an RMA. Without speaking of particular technologies (this or others) I would like to throw out some thoughts, which experts (I am not one!) may wish to clarify:

Storage. Storage needs to decentralized and permit replication. We have to assume that people are going to want to take the system down. If storage is decentralized (yet retrieval from store is transparent) that will be much harder. Similarly, information needs to be stored redundantly (with retrieval again transparent). If the Free Press goes down in country A due to attack, it should be able to switch seamlessly to country B. It may be that P2P techniques have their place here.

Licensing. Creative Commons. Part of me wants to be able to have writers own their material, a la Xanadu. But I'm not sure that's possible with the storage model above. It may be that the answer is in the ethical realm: Material put into the blogosphere belongs to the blogosphere (modulo "fair use" material). The tip jar takes care of compensation.

Protected identity. It will be best for the Free Press if contributors are identifiable. Readers will find it easy to return to contributors they trust, and writers will find it easier to build their tip jars and increase their congtributions to the story the Free Press is telling. (It may be that the tip jar is sufficient reputation system, but of that I am not sure. Readers?) This does not at all imply that contributor's "real world" identities should be revealed; quite the reverse. [3]

Open source blog tool. The Free Press will be much less vulnerable to attack if it runs on open source software. For example, if the Free Press ran using proprietary software on servers owned by a large corporation, no matter how benevolent, one may easily imagine a text-based algorithm built into the software for detection of certain word clusters in certain blogs, with the identities of the contributors data-mined and forwarded to the relevant authorities. If the software on which the Free Press runs is open source and widely distributed, and the storage and identity features listed above are in place, this nightmare scenario is much less likely to happen.

Plug-in architecture. The "facts rule" and "disclose theories" ethics of the Free Press demand a lot of linking, as we have seen: The self-correcting nature of the blogosphere depends on this. Smarter links may be needed for sites that handle particular kinds of stories, facts, and theories. It's highly likely that existing linking techniques are not robust enough to meet these requirements on a global scale. Is it sufficient to arrive at a page without knowing why? Probably not; certainly not in the case of a speaker whose native language is not English. The "class" attribute in the (X)HTML <a> attribute seems to be ripe for exploitation here. (Readers?) In addition, different media must be accommodated. I would like to be able to blog from my mobile phone, send pictures from my phone, send voice, etc. A plug-in architecture would accomodate these different media types.

Conclusion
To summarize: For the safety of the Republic, a Revolution in Media Affairs is required to re-establish a Free Press, and as a consequence disintermediate and gut the SCLM and its MWs. The RMA will not be televised, but will take place in the blogosphere, where a lot of people have "had enough." The RMA needs a foundation in ethics, business, and technology. The ethical foundation: Facts rule; Disclose theories. The business foundation: All contributors can get a tip jar. The technical foundation: Decentralized and replicating storage, creative commons licensing, protected identity, and open source software with plug-ins that support robust linking and content submission in multiple media types.

That's my thought today. I put "[draft]" at the top in case there's sufficient interest in developing these ideas further.

Readers? Thoughts? Post them to the comments or mail me here.

Notes
[1] As farmer (back) shows, we're seeing one such story now on CNN with Rumsfeld: A story named by the authors of Military Misfortunes "The Man in the Dock."
[2] The distinction comes from a wonderful story by Adam Gopnick, who explains how his Parisian friends were astounded by the idea that The New Yorker would have a "fact checker." On the other hand, New Yorkers would be astounded to hear of a "theory checker," which wouldn't give the Cartesian French a moment's pause.
[3] We might, following current practice in the executive branch, call this "Blogosphere Privilege": In the current climate, citizens will not feel free to give "unfettered advice and counsel" to their government unless their identities are protected.



Progress of the google bomb 

Which is:

A "total failure of leadership".

(on Iraq prison torture, the Iraq war, the WMDs, and so much else).

The string is up to number six now (Atrios, of course). But the "feeling lucky" link is not.

Let's all try to do our part. Granted, it's a simple, mindless pleasure. So?

CNN and Me ~ slinking into the weekend 

What's with all this: Listening to CNN last night (Friday, May 07), the shut-ins at CNN were breathlessly yammering on about Donald Rumsfeld's revelatory bombshell announcement, made during congressional hearings, that there are more ugly photos, even videotapes, depicting torture and possibly the rape and murder of prisoners at Abu Ghraib (and god only knows where else).

Here's CNN's dozy porch dog Aaron Brown yapping about the matter to Jamie McIntyre: (bold emphasis in transcripts is mine)

[excerpts] CNN Newsnight, May 07, 2004
BROWN: The secretary before the Congress today. As you heard, even as he apologized the secretary dropped a bombshell, within the Pentagon there is more, more photographs, videotapes, perhaps more to tarnish the country in the eyes of the world, at the very least more to investigate and explain.

With that side of the story here's CNN's Jamie McIntyre. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE (voice-over): The revelation that there are many more photographs, even videotapes said to show prisoner abuse described as blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhuman, resulted in an ominous warning.

[...]

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Apparently, the worst is yet to come potentially in terms of disturbing events.

MCINTYRE: But there are no plans to release them.

RUMSFELD: If these are released to the public, obviously it's going to make matters worse. That's just a fact. I mean I looked at them last night and they're hard to believe.


"Bombshell"—"revelation"—???—Since when? Why didn't this bombshell revelation warrant a revelation, or at the least a bombshell mention from CNN on May 02, 2004 (back here) when Seymour Hersh revealed the exact same information to that CNN "news" delivery automaton Wolf Blitzer?

BLITZER: And I just want to point out, General Myers said he has not read that report yet, it hasn't reached up to him yet in the chain of command.

HERSH: I certainly believe him, which as far as I'm concerned, more evidence of the kind of systematic breakdown we're talking about. But let me read you the kind of stuff he said that predated the photographing.

"Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoritic acid liquid on detainees, pouring cold water on naked detainees, beating detainees with broomhandle and a chair, threatening them with rape, sodomizing a detainee with chemical lights and perhaps a broomstick, sicking military dogs on detainees." I mean...

[...]

BLITZER: So, what you're suggesting is that the six soldiers who have now been indicted, if you will -- and they're facing potentially a court martial -- they were told to go ahead and humiliate these prisoners? And several of these soldiers were women, not just men.

HERSH: In one photograph, you see 18 other pairs of legs, just cropped off. There were a lot of other people involved, watching this and filming this. There were other cameras going. There were videotapes too.

And this -- I'm sure that, you know, in this generation these kids have CD-ROMs all over the place. We'll see more eventually.

[...]

BLITZER: Well, beyond the politics of this, but you're assuming that this is much more widespread than this one incident, and then that these pictures that we have -- we don't have pictures of other incidents. That's what you're...

HERSH: It's not just a question of what I'm assuming. General Taguba says it's systematic, it's out of control, it's a problem, we've got to deal with it. This is what the report says. It's a devastating report, and I just hope they make it public.

[...]

BLITZER: We heard from Dan Senor earlier in this program, suggesting he said he didn't know of anyone who died at Abu Ghraib prison.

HERSH: I have some photographs I'll be glad to share with him anytime he wants to know.


Hersh said all that on May 02. Hersh also revealed this information during a radio interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!.

I myself listened to Hersh's interview with Goodman while driving around in the countryside hither and fro in search of a nice old isolated farmhouse where I can raise me up an airforce of agile attack starlings that will be trained to pounce from the sky upon my command. For instance, to plummet from the azure firmament upon Sean Hannity and sodomize him in front of a bus load of horrified pilgrims bound for a Legion of Christ picnic. I have photos too. Of the starlings that is. I'm still working out the logistics of plummeting and pouncing and swooping and bird sodomy and so forth, but you get the idea. Plus, I have some other shit to do so it's not like I can just be driving around all day thinking up good ideas. But you get the idea.

Where was I? Oh yeah.... CNN's attempt to portray Rumsfeld and the Pentagon as forthcoming and on top of the whole Abu Ghraib "scandal" in order to mask the impression that Rumsfeld would not clearly answer the important questions he was asked. Like when, where, and how did he really learn about the bullshit taking place in Abu Ghraib.

Leave it up to CNN to conveniently forget what Seymour Hersh had told them on May 2nd, five days before Rumsfeld's later "revelations". Why? To shine all later hosannas for any forthcoming-like glorious strikes and bombshells of enlightenment upon the heroic leadership at the Pentagon. Not to mention the gallant exploits of His Holy Archangel of the first circle of the de hierarchia celesti, the Seraphim Rumsfeld.

No, I don't recall any excitable declarations of bombshells and great revelations from the celebrated porch chimes at CNN following Seymour Hersh's earlier visit with Parade Marshall Blitzer. Not until May 7th, following Herr Rumsfeld's self serving regurgitation of the already obvious revelations, do we get any big CNN noise making and falling bombshells or any other manner of how should we say, erect manipulated grand attentions.

Just listen to that awful crypt keeper Judy Woodruff filling in for CNN wax museum doorstop Paula Zahn: May 07. 2004

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington. Paula Zahn is off tonight. It has been a day of drama and political tension, as the Iraqi prison scandal led to an extraordinary round of hearings on Capitol Hill. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF (voice over): Donald Rumsfeld says he's sorry. He says there are more and even worse pictures of prisoner abuse that we haven't seen. And while he didn't resign, he says it's possible.

[...]

WOODRUFF: Here's what you need to know right now. Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld says he is sorry for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners. In testimony today on Capitol Hill, Rumsfeld warned that even more graphic videos and pictures of abuse will likely surface. Rumsfeld later announced three of the four people who will sit on an independent panel to investigate the scandal.


Judy also informed us that the donut-crap manufacturer Krispy Kreme Worldwide issued its first diabetes—I mean profit!—warning.

Krispy Kreme issued its first profit warning. The doughnut maker blames the low-carb diet craze. It says earnings for fiscal year 2005 will be 10 percent lower than expected.


Thanks Judy—Who the FUCK cares! (fairness correction) No, really, we can't learn about this kind of important corporate news-o-mercial gah-gah grabass just anywhere. If it were not for CNN how would we learn about important shifting investment opportunities in the sexy fast paced global junk-pastry manufacturing sector. You're on top of your game Judy, and don't let any unwashed low bred rust-belt flyover leech like me tell ya different. Smooches!

Hey. Screw youz guys. I love Judy Woodruff. Without Judy i wouldn't be able to inform you that whenever i watch Judy on my cheap third world 20th century low definition TV display device I am reminded of tragic domestic pet tragedies. Judy always has that bereft faraway look on her face which always reminds me of the grim stranger who shows up at your front door to tell you that they have just run over a cat on the road in front of your house. And it's almost always, almost certainly, your cat. Know that "look" I'm talkin' about? Eh? Have you noticed that about Judy too, or is it just me?

Judy also reminds me of a chattering stringy haired shrunken head being jostled around on the end of a fireplace poker—but that's obviously partisan and not really the point is it?

What was the point anyway? I can't remember. LOL! Uh-oh, wait... I recall Larry King and some old guy with dignified hair named John Warner (R-Virginia) babbling about revelations and "worst yet to come" scenarios but I can't remember why those worst case yet to come scenarios were supposed to be worse or why or who John Warner (R-Virginia) even is. Even though his hair was very attractive to people who buy magazines in drug stores. Is John Warner (R-Virginia) one of those nuts Larry King always interviews who can communicate with dead people on cell phones? Could be. Tune in to CNN Saturday night as Nancy Grace asks the question, "Should dead people who communicate from beyond the grave over cell phones be allowed testify against defendants in death penalty cases?" Very compelling. Get all you need from Gateway for under 500 bucks! Welcome back. I got a letter from an escort service lady in LA who would like a reciprocal link to her web-log! She seems pretty cool and sits on a balcony in a pink bikini and rubs ice cubes all over her thighs. (Who can argue with that.) I like her. Next: Have you heard about Lynndie England's upcoming Playboy shoot?! Oh my gawd! I'm so sure—Hey, shout out, like yo, I should be working for CNN totally! Awe my Gawd!—Wows of the week!—I am!

Update: Never never never try to operate self publishing machinery when you are drunk!

*

Friday, May 07, 2004

Goodnight, moon 

Rummy. So very, very duckpit ready.

First day with a hint of Philly's steam heat summer. Spring was nice while it lasted....

The Unbearable Light Shed By A Mind Beseiged 

Riverbend has given me an opportunity to link back to one of Tresy's more essential posts: Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind; click here to re-read it.

Tim Dunlop rightly calls it challenging, and warns that if you think it unAmerican, you are part of the problem.

There is no better evidence that both Tresy and Tim are right than the agonized cry from the heart this young Iraqi woman shows us in her latest post, dated today.

I can't bear to quote from it; just read it. And then think about it. Don't take easy vindication from it, either, just because you were against this war.

I'll have more to say about it on the weekend, I suppose; it deserves something more than easy reponses.

Iraq prison torture: Entirely predictable, indeed the desired result of Bush policies 

The Sidster:

bu Ghraib was a predictable consequence of the Bush administration imperatives and policies.

Bush has created what is in effect a gulag. It stretches from prisons in Afghanistan to Iraq, from Guantánamo to secret CIA prisons around the world. There are perhaps 10,000 people being held in Iraq, 1,000 in Afghanistan and almost 700 in Guantánamo, but no one knows the exact numbers. The law as it applies to them is whatever the executive deems necessary. There has been nothing like this system since the fall of the Soviet Union. The US military embraced the Geneva conventions after the second world war, because applying them to prisoners of war protects American soldiers. But the Bush administration, in an internal fight, trumped its argument by designating those at Guantánamo "enemy combatants". Rumsfeld extended this system - "a legal black hole", according to Human Rights Watch - to Afghanistan and then Iraq, openly rejecting the conventions.

Private contractors, according to the Toguba report, gave orders to US soldiers to torture prisoners. Their presence in Iraq is a result of the Bush military strategy of invading with a relatively light force.

"This is the only one where they took pictures," Tom Malinowski, Washington advocate of Human Rights Watch, and a former staff member of the National Security Council, told me. "This was not considered a debatable topic until people had to stare at the pictures.
(via Guardian)

On the contractors and the staffing, what we said. See The perfect shitstorm (back).

On the gulag: Yes, and it would be nice to see this on the nightly news.

It's the combination of thuggishness and ineptness that's driving me nuts. When you're being totally fucked by these guys, you never know if it's because they're true thugs and they've targetted you, or whether you're caught up in a clusterfuck they created when they didn't get the memo on something.

Eesh.



Who Needs Bob Woodward? 

In The Sopranos this week, we find Little Carmine Lupertazzi dealing with the fallout from his ill-thought out decision to whack Joe Peeps over a dispute about protection money. Nicknamed "Brainless the Second" by Tony, Little Carmine has seized the reins of power after his father's death; his idea of being a Leader is handing out washing machines to his friends while boasting of his tacky "trompay la oil" paintings. In this scene, he tries to dismiss the growing worries of his older, loyal lieutenant, Angelo, and is supported by his second in command, the conniving toady Rusty Millio:

Little Carmine: The point I'm trying to illustrate is that of course no one wants conflict, but historically, historical changes have come out of war.

Rusty: As far as I'm concerned, it's a new day. All treaties and old ways of doing things are null and void.

Little Carmine : Exactly.

Angelo: And the Joe Peeps thing? Where does that leave us?

Rusty: When you've had a quadruple bypass like I did, it gives you a lot of time to think. The only thing Johnny understands is force.

Angelo: But the fact is, though, we pissed on a bees' nest.

Fourth Thug: So what's the other option--roll over?

Angelo: [pause] We could have had a sit down. Captains maybe...

Little Carmine: This isn't the UN, Angelo. I won't let what happened to my father, happen to me.

Rusty [unctuously]: God forgive me, but you may be a stronger man than your dad was.

[Carmine places his arm on Rusty's shoulder, affectionately.]

Little Carmine: The fundamental question is, will I be as effective as a boss as my Dad was? And I will be, even more so, but until I am, it is going to be hard to verify that I think I will be more effective.

Is it just me, or do you not have to be Jean Baudrillard to deconstruct this scene? Map Little Carmine, Rusty, and Angelo to Smirk, Dick and Colin, and you have a near-perfect fit, right down to Cheney's cardiac history, Shirk's Oedipal obsessions, and his sophomoric, macho gibberish.

Consider, too, that this episode was probably in the can at least six months ago. Who needs Bob Woodward?

I think "Little Carmine" is going to be my new nickname for Smirk.

Leadership and its discontents: Narcissistic Personality Disorder 

I think Tresy hit the nail on the head a long time ago with this post on Bush's narcisstic personality disorder. In light of His absolute inability to offer a genuine, meaningful apology to the Iraqi people for the torture the soldiers under his command inflicted on them, I thought I'd pull out Tresy's checklist and look at it:


  1. Since I am so superior, I am entitled to special treatment and privileges.

  2. I don't have to be bound by the rules that apply to other people.

  3. Other people should satisfy my needs.

  4. Other people should recognize how special I am.

  5. Since I am so talented, people should go out of their way to promote my career.

  6. No one's needs should interfere with my own.

  7. If others don't respect my status, they should be punished.



And then of course we have this piece of shameless manipulation, that I imagine we'll be seeing much more of. What a user.

Question for study and discussion: Can a sociopath cry?

Iraq prison torture: [snappy headline here. Yech] 

Missed this one.

U.S. soldiers who detained an elderly Iraqi woman last year placed a harness on her, made her crawl on all fours and rode her like a donkey, Prime Minister Tony Blair's personal human rights envoy to Iraq said Wednesday.
(via AP via cursor)

Eesh. Somebody's grandmother. Guess somebody was just having a good time.

Iraq prison torture: CNN whores already covering for Bush 

Unbelievable. Or not.

At a news conference following a meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah II, Bush said he was "sorry for the humiliation suffered" by Iraqi prisoners at the hands of U.S. troops.
(via CNN)

CNN takes the quote out of context to help save aWol's narrow ass. Here's what Bush actually said:

I told [visiting King Abdullah of Jordan] I was sorry for the humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners and the humiliation suffered by their families," Bush said.

Not the same. Bush gave no apology. Last night, we don't think so; today, WaPo doesn't.

I'd call it a total failure of leadership.

Iraq prison torture: Now, a non-apology from Rumsfeld! 

Incredible but true! We've parsed Bush, now let's parse Rummy:

"To those Iraqis who were mistreated by members of the armed forces, I offer my deepest apology. It was inconsistent with the values of our nation," Rumsfeld said in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
(via CNN)

I like "mistreated" for tortured. That's rich.

But Rummy isn't apologizing, on behalf of our country, for the civilian contractors or the (Israeli?) foreign nationals—just the guys who worked for him. And he isn't apologizing, to the country, for letting the torture happen, or for covering it up. He's apologizing with one hand and covering his ass with the other. How he can do that and raise a hand to take the oath I don't know....

Style note 

Wrong:

Even if Bush lies, he's doing the Lord's work.

Right:

Even if Bush lies, He's doing the Lord's work.

Since we know that Bush was sent by God to lead the country, it would be inappropriate not to capitalize references to Him. Corrente deeply regrets any offense that lowercasing His name may have given.

Iraq prison torture: Did Bush apologize? 

Last night, we parsed Bush's prose and said No. Today, WaPo agrees.

Typically, when you apologize, you apologize to the people who have been harmed. But instead, Bush here is not apologizing directly to the Iraqis, he is reporting that he apologized to a third party.

Does that meet the schoolyard test? If your little boy came home and said that after he kicked Tommy he apologized to Jimmy, would you be satisfied?

SCLM gives Bush a pass yet again.... The headlines say He apologized. He didn't.

I'd call it a total failure of leadership.

What Even The Washington Chestnut Won't Print 

John Gorenfeld will.

And for my money, there is no more valiant journalistic enterprise that that of this self-described "extremofile" whose self-assigned task is to keep track of the Moon empire, which in a sane world would be nothing more or less than a bizarre joke, but which ceases being funny the minute one realizes the extent of its influence on American political and cultural life.

Not that John's weblog won't keep you laughing. Here's a catch he makes from Rev Moon's sexual insights:

We learned that sex makes you feel good, but it can kill you or make you sterile. We hear that to be happy you need to be sexy. Only losers and nerds are missing out on the fun, but then why do so many sexually active girls try to take their own lives?

If that isn't downright hilariouis, I don't know what is. Not so amusing, on the other hand, is that such insights come from a website, with, as John explicates here, the typically loonily moony off-kilter name, "Free Teens, USA" which, as John explains here, has actually received government funding for its work.

This is a particularly good time to visit John's weblog because of the astonishing series of photographs that accompany his exclusive post about a "Moon," (in every sense of that word) event held at the Senate Office Building, and pretty much tell the tale of the extraordinary influence on our government this strange creature has managed to accrue.

Whatever Gods may or may not exist, one thing you can bet on, John is doing his/her/their/secular humanist/work. Make sure he's able to continue to do it by using the PayPal option he has up. Although this is a completely unsolicited (by John) suggestion, I have it on good authority that small donations are welcome. Is there any more important cause for all of us than to support genuinely independent journalism?

Above the Fold ~ Your Paper of Record 





The Washington Chestnut

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Goodnight, moon 

It's a full moon, right? That would explain a lot.... No, two days ago. Oh well.

Hunter Thompson said, "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." I guess I can't be weird then, since I'm still an amateur. Shoot. Or.... Maybe it isn't weird yet, by the standards of weirdness yet to come.

Yawn. Snarfle.

Garbo speaks!  

Well, not exactly. Bush apologizes. Sorta. Again, even though it makes my head hurt, I parse Bush's words, as a public service:

"I told [visiting King Abdullah of Jordan] I was sorry for the humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners and the humiliation suffered by their families," Bush said. "I told him I was equally sorry that people who've been seeing those pictures didn't understand the true nature and heart of America. I assured him that Americans like me didn't appreciate what we saw and that it made us sick to our stomachs."
(via WaPo)

Well.

It just gets more sociopathic, doesn't it? I've been sick to my stomach for some time now.

First, Bush still can't say "I'm sorry." (Even the SCLM are beginning to notice.) Instead, we get this weird indirection: "I told him I was sorry." (Which we don't really know, not having seen their private meeting.)

Sheesh, why not just say it? Not that it would mean anything now, anyhow, since now it just looks like He was forced into it, which He was. The time for the apology was during the TV speeches He made in public to the Iraqis, not in private to a King.

And then it gets even more sociopathic. Bush is equally "sorry that people who've been seeing those pictures didn't understand the true nature and heart of America."

Bush just doesn't understand the meaning of the word "sorry"!

Bush might be "sorry" for the prisoner's suffering—and if he is, that should involve penitence. The torture was perpetrated by soldiers under His command, as commander-in-chief. They did evil, and they, and their acts, were His responsibility, and so He ought to feel penitent.

But then Bush goes on to say, He's "sorry that the people ... didn't understand...." This "sorry" cannot involve penitence—the understanding of the people who saw the pictures are not His responsibility.

Bush seems to think that "sorry" means "feeling bad." He "feels bad" about the torture, and he "feels bad" that people think ill of America, and somehow that all evens things out. It doesn't. I don't care if Bush feels bad; I want him to accept responsibility and show penitence. That might mean something.

And what puts the sociopathy over the top is the loopy emphasis on seeing the photos. Bush is "sorry for the people seeing these pictures..." and "Americans like me didn't appreciate what we saw..." So, if the photos had not been taken, and the torture had not been seen, there would be nothing to be sorry about. And indeed this is entirely consistent with the Bush penchant for secrecy. In Gitmo, for example, nothing is seen, so all is well. Stalin said: "No man, no problem." In today's media saturated world, Bush says "no image, no problem" (see back). Oh, and I love the little twist of "Americans like me"—as if there were some unnamed, doubtless evil, Americans, not like Bush, who were not sickened. What a piece of work!

Last month, we had a huge controversy over another series of brutal images: Hours of beating, whipping, scourging, torture, culminating in murder.

And what did The Mighty tell us? The wingers, the theocrats, the Jeebofascists, the MWs, and, through winks and nods, Bush Himself, all of them told us that these images of human suffering were of immense, indeed redemptive significance.

I'm referring, of course, to The Passion of the Christ. And that was just a movie!

Now, not in a movie, but in real life, we get beating, whipping, sexual abuse, rape, and murder—our own soldiers, acting just like the Roman soldiers of 2000 years ago. And what do the The Mighty have to say of this human suffering? Most are silent. Some make jokes. All of them minimize it. Hypocrites. Pharisees.

And Bush is using a lot of words where two would do:

"I'm sorry."

Haven't heard those two words yet.

I'd call it a total failure of leadership.

Rapture index steady as Beast Government up, Wild Weather down 

Here (as of May 4—somehow missed it in all the excitement.)

Poor old Colin Powell 

They really took away his dignity, didn't they?

Shortly before Bush administration officials presented Republican congressional leaders with a request for $25 billion in Iraq funding this week, Secretary of State Colin Powell was telling members of the Congressional Black Caucus that no such request would be forthcoming.
(via WaPo)

Why doesn't he just resign? He might take one or two of his masters with him....

9/11 tape destruction: Was anyone controlling the controllers? 

I give up. I don't need a tinfoil hat anymore.

If this were a slow news day. From the Times via Atrios:

At least six air traffic controllers who dealt with two of the hijacked airliners on Sept. 11, 2001, made a tape recording that same day describing the events, but the tape was destroyed by a supervisor without anyone making a transcript or even listening to it, the Transportation Department said in a report today.

Officials at the center never told higher-ups of the tape's existence, and it was later destroyed by an F.A.A. official described in the report as a quality-assurance manager there. That [quality assurance] manager crushed the cassette in his hand, shredded the tape and dropped the pieces into different trash cans around the building, according to a report made public today by the inspector general of the Transportation Department.

The tape had been made under an agreement with the union that it would be destroyed after it was superseded by written statements from the controllers, according to the inspector general's report. But the quality-assurance manager asserted that making the tape had itself been a violation of accident procedures at the Federal Aviation Administration, the report said.

The tape was made because the manager of the center believed that the standard post-crash procedure would be too slow for an event of the magnitude of 9/11. After an accident or other significant incident, according to officials of the union and the F.A.A., the controllers involved are relieved of duty and often go home; eventually they review the radar tapes and voice transmissions and give a written statement of what they had seen, heard and done.

People in the Ronkonkoma center at midday on Sept. 11 concluded that that procedure would take many hours, and that the controllers' shift was ending and after a traumatic morning, they wanted to go home.

The center manager's idea was to have the tape available overnight, in case the F.B.I. wanted something before the controllers returned to work the next day, according to people involved.
(via NY Times)

Just when I think the world can't get any weirder. So, who was the "quality assurance manager" who crushed the casette, and how is he or she doing today?

Or was it actually destroyed? Perhaps a copy was made? Certainly there was plenty of time:

Sometime between December 2001 and February 2002, an unidentified Federal Aviation Administration quality assurance manager crushed the cassette case in his hand, cut the tape into small pieces and threw them away in multiple trash cans, the report said.
(via Post Interlligencer)

Curiouser and curiouser. Why cut the tape into small pieces? Why multiple trash cans? Kinda makes you think, doesn't it? Like maybe at least the "quality assurance manager" listened to it?

The report concluded that there was "some measure of consistency" between witness statements later taken from the controllers and what was recorded on the tape. That conclusion was based on interviews with the six controllers and all 10 witnesses to the taping, and on sketchy notes taken during the tape recording. Also retained were radar data and recordings of radio transmissions from the cockpit.

"Some measure"? WTF?

And then there's the detail that the FAA was told not to destroy anything:

The New York managers acknowledged that they received an e-mail from FAA officials instructing them to retain all materials related to the Sept. 11 attacks. "If a question arises whether or not you should retain the data, RETAIN IT," the report quoted the e-mail as saying.
(via WaPo)

Kinda makes you wonder who was controlling the controllers, doesn't it?

Somehow I feel the report of the 9/11 commission is going to have about the same credibility as the Warren Commission. And that's a shame, because the unanswered questions from the JFK assassination have a lot to do, I think, with the increasing loss of legitimacy of the Republic. And, of course, RFK, MLK Jr., and George Wallace getting assassinated all in the same election year (though Wallace survived) didn't help any.

And the unanswered questions raised by this tape are potentially just as corrosive.

"Events, dear boy. Events" 

British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, when asked what would determine his government's policy. Seems like Unka Karl agrees

Karl Rove, the president's chief political adviser, has told one Bush adviser that he believes that it will take a generation for the United States to live this scandal down in the Arab world, and that one of the dangers of basing a campaign on national security and foreign policy is that events can be beyond the president's control.
(via NY Times)

And it's funny that MacMillan said what he did during the Suez Crisis of 1956, when the British Empire jumped the shark. Parallels, anyone?

Frosting Lickers and Freebooters 

Someone needs to chuck a cold bucket of ice water at Aaron Brown. Wake the listless bastard up! You know the one, Aaron Brown, anchors that Newsnight program on CNN, the Cakewalk News Network. Unfortunately listening to Brown is often like listening to pondwater evaporate. And Brown isn't even the worst offender. Compared to that robotic ciper, and Likud Party embed Wolf Blitzer, Brown at least, when hes conscious, exhibits actual signs of sentient life.

Unfortunately, that too often is not the case. Just listen to this horseshit: Brown gets a visit from American Enterprise Institute hustler Michael Rubin, "an adviser to the Pentagon on Iraq and Iran." - who - "...recently returned from a long stretch in Iraq working for the CPA." So the story goes.

CNN NEWSNIGHT AARON BROWN - May 4, 2004

[...]...It's nice to see you, Michael. Thank you.

MICHAEL RUBIN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: Thanks for having me here.

BROWN: Let me start with the hanging curve and then we'll go to a few fast balls here and there. But take 30 seconds and tell me what we're missing, what we don't see.

RUBIN: One of the things which I always looked at when I was in Baghdad is what people were investing in. If people are willing to put down tens of thousands of dollars into a new house, for example, that shows they have some confidence in the future.


Oh sure, its a regular Chamber of Commerce weekend over there. What fun, lets go real estate hunting honey! One might suppose, considering the vast numbers of homes that have been turned into smoking holes and heaps of grilled rubble, some people who can still actually afford to invest in a roof over their head might feel compelled to do so regardless of forward looking statements. They might also be willing to purchase food and water. Assuming the have "confidence" in the good times just around the bend.

In one area, Jolan - the scene of the fiercest fighting - I saw houses that had been completely flattened by American bombs. There was a lot of anger there. I spoke to one man who said he was just locking up his door, and had just got his family out of the house, when a bomb hit. It destroyed his house - and he was injured in the leg. He told me the bombing was everywhere - it was random. He said he had nothing to do with the resistance, he had no weapons. [...] Another witness told me he had seen an American sniper shoot a taxi driver in the head as he was trying to take a wounded man to hospital. At another house I was taken to, I was told that 36 people - members of one extended family - had been killed when two rockets went through their roof. ~ Eyewitness: Falluja's grief and defiance, By Caroline Hawley - BBC Baghdad correspondent in Falluja


Rubin cheerily jabbers on:

RUBIN: When I got to Baghdad back in July there were very few women on the streets and those that were, were fully veiled. People said it wasn't out of religious conviction. It was more because they were worried about security.

But by the time I left in March you had teenage girls walking without escort down the streets in Baghdad and Nasiriyah in Iraqi Kurdistan basically enjoying the nightlife, window shopping into the new boutiques and everything like that. It did show some improvement.


There ya go. Happy days are here again. At least the last time Michael Rubin checked up on the matter. Shopping, "nightlife", "new boutiques", why its like a carefree evening stroll through Georgetown. God bless the American Enterprise Institute and "everything like that."

Saturday, March 06, 2004.
Today was a mess. It feels like half of Baghdad was off-limits. We were trying to get from one end to the other to visit a relative and my cousin kept having to take an alternate route. There's a huge section cut off to accomodate the "Green Zone" which seems to be expanding. We joke sometimes saying that they're just going to put a huge wall around Baghdad, kick out the inhabitants and call it the "Green City". It is incredibly annoying to know that parts of your city are inaccessible in order to accomodate an occupation army.
Riverbend / Sistani and the Green Zone...

BROWN: Would you say it's fair to say that what you have is a very complicated picture in Iraq that on the one hand clearly things are better, whether it be newspapers and satellite dishes and Internet cafes and all the rest that's going on and, ......

[...]

RUBIN: ... When you actually go down the streets, you see electrical appliances stacked on the sidewalks. The age of looting and the age of just random violence is over but Iraqis are still worried about terrorism and we need to be worried about force protection.


The "age" of looting...? Who does Rubin think he is, Will Durant?

Friday, April 9, 2004 | One Year Later.
The south isn't much better… the casualties are rising and there's looting and chaos. There's an almost palpable anger in Baghdad. The faces are grim and sad all at once and there's a feeling of helplessness that can't be described in words. It's like being held under water and struggling for the unattainable surface- seeing all this destruction and devastation. [Baghdad Burning / Riverbend]


[...]

BROWN: Michael, it's very good to have you on the program. I hope you'll come back from time to time. It helps, I think, paint the broadest picture which is good for all of us. Thank you.

RUBIN: Thank you for having me.


Well, there ya have it. Count the fast balls in that fat mans softball game. This is the kind of opiated bullshit that drives me absolutely nuts. And what does this mean: "It helps, I think, [to] paint the broadest picture which is good for all of us". Someone slap this guy.

Why does it help? Help who? Help what? The problem, Aaron Brown, is that CNN paints a broad picture of everything. CNN doesn't dabble in details. CNN is by calculated design a big broad blur. Any attempt to closely emphasize details, examine demonstratable evidence, draw actual conclusions and actually answer questions honestly is swept away with a big wash brush of muddied think tank policy crank, official White House publicity stunts, corporate press releases disguised as news items, unsourced rumor, consumer product news-o-mercials, and any number of simple minded in-house produced sentimentalist claptrap come-ons delivered with a sniff and a giggle. All spoon fed into the gullible gaping maw of Americanus moronicus. And while we're on the subject isn't that big broad happy-brush paint-job precisely the technique employed by the frosting lickers at CNN to color the entire Cakewalk War from the git go?

Hey Aaron Brown, here's some more of "what we're missing," some more of "what we don't see." Aaron -- Aaron! Wake up and pay attention!

One Year Later | April 9, 2004
Over 300 are dead in Falloojeh and they have taken to burying the dead in the town football field because they aren't allowed near the cemetery. The bodies are decomposing in the heat and the people are struggling to bury them as quickly as they arrive. The football field that once supported running, youthful feet and cheering fans has turned into a mass grave holding men, women and children. [Baghdad Burning/Riverbend]


[...]

The American and European news stations don't show the dying Iraqis… they don't show the women and children bandaged and bleeding- the mother looking for some sign of her son in the middle of a puddle of blood and dismembered arms and legs… they don't show you the hospitals overflowing with the dead and dying because they don't want to hurt American feelings… but people *should* see it. You should see the price of your war and occupation- it's unfair that the Americans are fighting a war thousands of kilometers from home. They get their dead in neat, tidy caskets draped with a flag and we have to gather and scrape our dead off of the floors and hope the American shrapnel and bullets left enough to make a definite identification… [Baghdad Burning/Riverbend]


Maybe Michael Rubin will take all the widows and orphans window shopping at the new boutique. As for CNN -- Eat your fucking cake. You helped decorate it.

Source reference: "One Year Later", blockquotes cited above / LINK:Baghdad Burning | Riverbend


Google bomb, anyone? 

Try total failure of leadership.

NOTE Thanks to alert reader Stentor.


Iraq prison torture: Chain of custody on the images 

From the beginning, it was the images that counted, not the words.

Spc. Joseph M. Darby, a 24-year-old Army Reserve soldier with the 372nd Military Police Company of Cresaptown, Md., heard about the computerized photos and video of the detainees, naked and in humiliating poses, with his fellow soldiers smiling nearby.

He got a set of the photos on a computer disk, said an Army official familiar with the investigation. Troubled by the images that flashed on the screen Jan. 13, Darby turned them over to a sergeant in his unit, who immediately notified Army criminal investigators.

Within hours, the investigators seized computers and disks from members of the unit.

The next day, Gen. John Abizaid, commander of all U.S. forces in the region, was on the phone to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

The photos and video were locked in the safe of the Army Criminal Investigation Division in Baghdad.
(via ChicagoTribune)


So they put the photos on ice. But that didn't help them. Why? Power of the Internet...

Officials now think that before the scandal erupted, the Maryland soldiers might have e-mailed those pictures back to the United States, where they fell into the hands of CBS's 60 Minutes II, which first ran them last Wednesday.

Other news organizations were also on to the story, including The New Yorker magazine. But the most concern centered on CBS. "The New Yorker was not going to run any pictures," said a senior Pentagon official.

"The concern was the images would get out before we could absorb the legal significance of what we had to do," a senior official said. "We couldn't believe the media hadn't gotten them earlier."

Apparently the generals think the SCLM is something to fear.

By the second week in April, it happened. CBS called the Pentagon about the story, saying they had interviewed one of the soldiers charged and had the horrifying images of the Iraqi detainees.

And now a word from the "Commander" in "Chief":

"The first time I saw or heard about pictures was on TV," [Bush] told the U.S. government sponsored Arabic language network Al-Hurra. His spokesman, Scott McClellan told reporters yesterday that Rumsfeld had told the president about the allegations of detainee abuse but McClellan said he did not know precisely when.

Notice the very artful wording Bush uses. He doesn't say he hadn't been briefed on the facts. He just says he hadn't seen the pictures (plausible deniability, don't you know). And given McClellan's vague statement, I'd say Bush set the policy, and knew about the torture right after Rummy knew. Either that or when Rove told him, when someone from the CPA told Rove.

Eesh. A total failure of leadership.

Iraq prison torture: Thank you, Gen. Antonio Taguba 

A snark-free moment!

Profile.


Iraq prison torture: "Bad for the country" 

Bad for the tortured, certainly. And bad for the torturers, even.

But the meme is spreading that this episode is "bad for the country."

But why, exactly? Because it makes it harder for us to keep occupying Iraq?

If it fundamentally discredits PNAC project for an American world empire based on military force—and these are the guys who hijacked 9/11 to get us into the Iraq mess—then that's a good thing for the country, right?

Prevents the Army from being entirely privatized, saves a lot of lives, maybe innoculates us just a little against militarism, saves the Constitution, saves the Republic, right?

What's not to like, here?

Iraq prison torture: Hersh says, "More to come" 

From Hersh on The O'Reilly factor (of all places) via Washington Monthly

HERSH: First of all, it's going to get much worse. This kind of stuff was much more widespread. I can tell you just from the phone calls I've had in the last 24 hours, even more, there are other photos out there. There are many more photos even inside that unit. There are videotapes of stuff that you wouldn't want to mention on national television that was done. There was a lot of problems.

HERSH: There was a special women's section. There were young boys in there. There were things done to young boys that were videotaped. It's much worse. And the Maj. Gen. Taguba was very tough about it. He said this place was riddled with violent, awful actions against prisoners.
(via FUX)

And what does Bush want? More of the same! That's why General Miller is in charge, now:

HERSH: One of them was done by a major general who was involved in Guantanamo, General Miller. And it's very classified, but I can tell you that he was recommending exactly doing the kind of things that happened in that prison, basically. He wanted to cut the lines. He wanted to put the military intelligence in control of the prison.

O'Reilly tries for the alibi:

O'REILLY: So I'm going to dispute your contention that we had a lot of people in there with just no rap sheets at all, who were just picked up for no reason at all. The people who were in the prison were suspected of being either Al Qaeda or terrorists who were killing Americans and knew something about it.

HERSH: The problem is that it isn't my contention. It's the contention of Maj. Gen. Taguba, who was appointed by General Sanchez to do the investigation.

It's [Taguba's] contention, in his report, that more than 60 percent of the people in that prison, detainees, civilians, had nothing to do with the war effort.

HERSH: And I could tell you something else. Let me just say this. I believe the services have a -- look, the kids did bad things. But the notion that it's all just these kids [doing these things]... The officers are "in loco parentis" with these children. We send our children to war. And we have officers like that general, whose job is to be mother and father to these kids, to keep them out of trouble. The idea of watching these pictures, it's not only a failure of the kids, it's a failure of everybody in the command structure.

O'REILLY: Well, yes, it's the failure of the supervisors of those soldiers to create an environment of fear so they wouldn't do that. See, it's just appalling to me that they would take this so casually.

And who would be the chief of the command structure? Wait, let me guess...

NOTE I'd say it's a total failure of leadership.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind 

One annoying aspect of reaction to the Abu Ghraib scandal is the bipartisan fretting that the scandal has "damaged" our moral prestige in the world, as if the rest of the world had previously shared our preening self-regard. This abuse story is really only news to people who have not been paying attention, or who have conveniently forgotten. John Kerry's efforts to erase his perfectly truthful 1971 statements about atrocities in Vietnam, aided by a jingo media, are only the most conspicuous example. The CIA contra assassination manual has also apparently been consigned to the memory hole, as have the small library of books by disaffected CIA (not to mention the Church Committee report on the CIA) that document our long history of official support for atrocities abroad. The amnesia continues right up to the present: the New Yorker, one week before breaking Sy Hersh's story, ran an article on Iraq that matter of factly recounted the CV of James Steele, whose peregrinations through Central America in the 80s constitute a virtual Fodor's Guide to Third World abbatoirs. Only in a world expunged of this history could the Abu Ghraib photos come as much of a surprise.

What makes Abu Ghraib a scandal is the incontrovertible, photographic evidence; for that we have the Bush Administration's signature incompetence to thank. Surely the millions of people around the world, who have been on the receiving end of our tender mercies over the decades, do not have the luxury of our comfortable amnesia. In this regard it's like the Rodney King video, which, we should recall, only surprised white people.

As far as I'm concerned, losing our illusions can only be a good thing. The question remains how long until we once again "forget". Meanwhile, outside the United States, the Abu Ghraib story doesn't so much "damage" our reputation, as it merely cements it.

Iraq prison torture: Operation Steaming Load continues 

Rummy to take the fall? It couldn't happen to a nicer guy. Bush is "not satisfied" and "not happy" (via WaPo) with Rummy. (See Tom below).

Of course, this is all part of the damage control operation. I love the part in WaPo where the official refuses to be named "so he could speak more candidly." As if any of these guys knew what speaking the truth was like.

Why should we believe that Bush only knew about this from news reports? Every player knows that this White House is politicized to the very marrow. Can anyone seriously believe that when the investigations began to happen, nobody gave the operatives a heads-up?

And we also know that the major drivers for the whole episode were civilian contractors outside the chain of command. And can anyone seriously believe that the chain of command for the contractors doesn't run through the RNC/CPA in Baghdad, and end up in the West Wing, just like Iran-Contra?

Is Bush the commander-in-chief for photo-op opportunities only? If not, it would be nice to see him take some responsibility for this criminal blundering.

NOTE I'd say it's a total failure of leadership.

Thank-God Bush Brought Libya Into The Western Fold 

What hath Bush boldness wrought? Behold.

And note the date of the arrest of these Bulgarian medics. This case has been watched for years now. The charges are trumped up, an excuse for Libyans, starting at the top with a certain Colonel, not to take responsibility for AIDS happening there.

I wonder if our government will have anything to say about this outrage? Remember, we're talking about dealth penalties here.

This is not to say that Libya's renouncing of both terrorism and nuclear weapons is not a good thing, it is.

It just won't do, though, for the Bush administration to take all the credit for that, and make the entirely implausible claim that Gadhafi was reacting solely to Bush's invasion of Iraq, when we know that much of the credit belongs to the private citizens who survived those lost in the seas off Lockerbie, Scotland, bolstered by its citizens, who formed a special bond with those victims of whom they took such magnificent and generous care, when we know that it was the "families" of the lost, (and if that reminds you of any other families, rightly so, it was from certain of the Lockerbie families that the 9/11 families received advice and guidance), who brought the Colonel to his fiscal knees by suing his ass off, though so predictable and typical of the Bush administration is this ungenerous, ahistorical and utterly arrogant politicla gambit, that it seems pointless to make an issue of it, but even were it true that all such credit accrues to Bush's bold Middle East initiative, that would not be sufficient to justify this administration actively intervening on behalf of these newest victims of Gadhafi.

Am I being too pickey? Well, then note also what had drawn the attention of the international human rights community.

The suspects have said they were jolted with electricity, beaten with sticks and repeatedly jumped on while strapped to their beds. Two of the women said they were raped

Remember how everything was different after 9/11? Actually, it doesn't require much memory; just this week I've read several references to John Kerry as a 9/10 candidate. I don't disagree that 9/11 was an historical marker. But what if it was, and this administration picked out the wrong lesson and based its policies on the wrong difference? Because after the last week or so, (no convenient single date presents itself, but I'm sure you get history's drift) let me assure you, everything that is done in the name of this government will be viewed in a different light.

Taking sole credit for Libya may work as a piece of intramura political propoganda, but the rest of the world will judge in the harshest possible terms, the failure of this country to ameliorate Libyan behavior towards these seven international medical workers. Will this administration even notice? Support for human rights on an international basis is hard; it is an unyielding and often paradoxical credo, unless, of course, one embraces it on a purely verbal level.

Bush "Not Happy" 

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush has told Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld he was "not happy" that he learned about photos of Iraqi prison abuse by watching television, a senior administration official told CNN.

Bush held a private meeting in the Oval Office with Rumsfeld about the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, the official said Wednesday.

"He was not happy, and he let Secretary Rumsfeld know about it," the official said.
(via CNN)
"Not happy," huh?

Boy now that's letting him have it!

How's that for decisive "the buck stops here" leadership?

But come one folks, does anyone really believe W really said anything like that?

Hell, does anyone believe Bush even "chastised" Rumsfeld at all?

Like Nixon and his aides (which, suspiciously enough, are largely the same people around W today), they're just angry that they got caught.

W's mock outrage is downright hilarious, isn't it?

Iraq prison torture: Great moments in public relations 

So, the word was that Bush would talk on two Arab stations... But on the one the US funds, he wasn't translated! So does that really count as two stations?

U.S. government-financed channel Alhurra, which appears to be little watched in the Arab world, ran its interview with Bush without a translation into Arabic, much reducing the impact.
(via Reuters)

"Greatly reducing its impact"—I love it.

Hey, they're for campaign commercials anyhow! Why translate them into Arabic?

Iraq prison photos 

More here (WaPo).

UPDATE From alert reader Tim

Geez, the whole setup reeks of being intentional. The same stuff happening at Gitmo, Afghanistan, and Iraq; the increasing use of contractors; and the investigations that go nowhere all scream out "plausible deniability". From Rumsfeld on down, and probably Bush, almost certainly knew and approved. Their mistake was their usual; they thought that they'd only have to do it for a couple of months and that for such a short period of time they could bury it. When Iraq steadily went downhill, they kept thinking that only another month or two and they'd get the intelligence that would save the situation, and besides, they gotten away with it so far so a few more weeks wouldn't matter. They successfully sat on Gitmo for years, they forgot that Iraq is a lot bigger and has a lot more foreign media. Note that CBS only released the photos when they got concerned they would be scooped bu foreign newspapers.


NOTE I'd say it's a total failure of leadership.

Iraq prison torture: Torture at Gitmo too 

Who knew?

Promising a broader investigation, the U.S. military acknowledged yesterday that two guards at the U.S. prison camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, had been disciplined over allegations of prisoner abuse.
(via Seattle Times)

And hey! Didn't we just put the guy who ran Gitmo in charge of Iraq's prisons?

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Goodnight, moon 

Yawn. Snarfle. Lotta hours. Snore.

Canadian Cheese-eating Surrender Chimp 





(via Reuters)

We already know Bush's (luxury) bus is Canadian (back). But what's with the hand on the French flag?

RNC to shut down midtown Manhattan for political convention 

Here's the plan:

Midtown Manhattan around the site of the Republican National Convention could be locked down for blocks, with major avenues closed and nearby residents and workers required to show identification, officials said Tuesday as they outlined tentative security plans for the four-day event.

Miller said Seventh and Eighth avenues were likely to be closed at times and that the boundary "won't be measured in terms of feet or yards, probably in blocks."
(via Salon—go on, get the day pass)

Gee, that's going to make protesting difficult, won't it? (Not that the protesters shouldn't have prepared for this; surely they have some alternative to marches? Which didn't work at all in Philly?)

Worse, it's going make life really hard for ordinary people in Manhattan who, you know, work for a living. Probably most of them will be taking "vacation days." But I'm sure the Republicans will be compensating them! Right?

Transplanting a heart back into Dick "Dick" Cheney? 

Whereever he goes, they have a hospital suite ready for him.

When Sen. Victor Crist was briefly hospitalized for a hypoglycemic reaction on the final night of the legislative session, he could not believe the accommodations at a local hospital.

"They put me in this room where there were flowers, a big TV set and Secret Service agents outside the door," said Crist, who was taken by ambulance to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital after feeling faint Friday night on the Senate floor.

The 46-year-old Republican lawmaker from Tampa was quite impressed.

Then he learned that the room, the only empty one the hospital had, was prepared just in case anything might happen to Vice President Dick Cheney, who was in town to deliver the graduation speech Saturday at Florida State University.
(AP via Salon via Tagen Goddard)

I guess there is such a thing as an innocent Republican. You'd think Crist would have learned to keep his mouth shut....

NOTE Seems like this is standard practice.

Iraq prison story: Briefing General Kimmit screws the pooch 

Here is a profile in courage from Briefing General Kimmit:

Gen Peter Pace, the vice chairman of the joint chiefs, denied all talk of a cover-up. He protested that Brig Gen Mark Kimmitt, the US military spokesman in Baghdad, had alerted the media to allegations of abuse as early as mid-January and in March said six military personnel had been charged.

However, when pressed, senior Pentagon officials conceded that those two announcements were buried, or sneaked out, over a weekend. Gen Pace was technically correct to say that, on March 20, Brig Kimmitt told reporters in Baghdad that six soldiers had been charged with assault, indecency and cruelty against prisoners.

But the briefing took place at the weekend, was not relayed to the press in Washington, as normally happens, and is not included in the Pentagon's official media archives.

A senior defence official said there was no apparent record of Brig Kimmitt's January announcement that abuse allegations were being investigated. "I believe he did speak with reporters about the investigation being under way. I think it might have been a background briefing."
(via Telegraph)

Funny, though, that none of the reporters who were there in Baghdad, even on the weekend, followed up on the story. Eh? Your SCLM at work again. Thank heavens for Seymour Hersh!

Iraw prison torture: The man just can't apologize! 

And everybody is noticing.

Including the Iraqis.

Iraqis were having none of it.

Virtually every Iraqi man and woman interviewed said that American soldiers who took part in the sexual humiliation of Muslim prisoners should be put to death.

"They promised to liberate us, give us freedom - that's their slogan. But there is no safety here," said Manal Abed, 24, who stayed home all year rather than work as a biologist because she's afraid of crime and American troops in Baghdad.

Soldiers who took part in the prisoner abuse, she said, "should get the same punishment as the people who committed the genocide, the mass graves. That way, there would be balance."

Abed's husband, Muattez, 27, an electrician, said soldiers who abuse prisoners should get "an Islamic punishment - stone them, like the time of the prophet."

A merchant, who gave his name as Abu Hatem, 44, said American apologies and courts-martial aren't enough.

"They should put them on trial - on TV - to show us this disgrace," he said.
(via Knight Ridder)

Sheesh. The guy is commander-in-chief, and using every ounce of that power running for President. So American men and women under his command torture Iraqi prisoners, and he can't take responsibility for it—even though it wouldn't cost him anything and would make the country look good.

What's wrong with him? Moral cowardice?

"Liberal" Times and its subsidiary, the Boston Glob, Goring Kerry. 

It's 2000 all over again. Read the ever essential Howler.

Campaign trail: Inerrant Boy surrounds himself with sycophants 

Disgusting. And it could explain a lot, don't you think?

At least one person who said he waited patiently in line came away empty handed.

"Bill Ward, of Dubuque, said he arrived at about 7:30 a.m., and waited an hour. When it came time to show his identification, Ward said he was asked if he supported Bush in 2000.

"'I said I didn't vote for him then and I won't vote for him now,' Ward said.

"Saying he is a World War II veteran who served in Germany and France, Ward is strongly critical of the war in Iraq.

"'The only thing I wanted to do was get down to the riverfront and ask Bush some questions,' he said.

"Ward's lack of support for the president apparently was his undoing.

"'They asked some girl to escort me out and I told them I don't need to be escorted out,' Wards said. 'I'm a veteran of World War II.'
(via AP)

What's Bush so afraid of? Someone will say he has no clothes?

You know, the weird thing is that the veteran who didn't vote for Bush told the truth. Anyone who was a real danger to Bush would just lie, right? Or perhaps having truthful people around is what Bush is afraid of?

Oh Canada! 

Guess where Bush's luxury campaign bus was built!





That's right!.

That's going to go over real well in the Rust Belt, eh?

Being Bush means never having to say you're sorry 

Go on, George! Say it! You know you want to!

Bush's interviewers did not ask him whether he thought an apology was appropriate, and Bush did not offer one.

But his spokesman used the word "sorry" a half-dozen times.

"We've already said that we're sorry for what occurred, and we're deeply sorry to the families and what they must be feeling and going through as well," McClellan said. "The president is sorry for what occured and the pain it has caused."

Asked why Bush himself had not apologized, McClellan said: "I'm saying it now for him."
(via AP)

Faugh.

Bush gave a Beltway non-apology: "Mistakes were made." Could it be that he knows that, once he starts apologizing he won't be able to stop for a long time?

UPDATE No, the man just can't say it. From the campaign trail, a classic Bush non-answer answer (quoted, alas, in full):

"Q. You made very strong statements condemning the abuse of Iraqi prisoners. but do you think it would be appropriate for you to apologize to the Iraqi people on behalf of the American people for that?

"A. Well, I think the best thing I can do is explain as clearly as I can to the American people that it's abhorrent practices, abhorrent; that we will fully investigate, we will find out the facts. There could be criminal charges filed, so, therefore, I don't want to go beyond what I've said up until now.

"But I'm appalled like you're appalled. I mean, every American is appalled who saw that on TV. It doesn't represent what we believe. It does not represent our country. And we've got a lot of work to do in the Arab world to explain that to people, because the people are seeing a different picture."
(via WaPo)

Sheesh. At least he gives the Arabs "mistakes were made" (back) ! He doesn't give us anything!

Kerry 47, Bush 43 

Rasmussen:

This is the first time Kerry has held a three point edge for three straight days since March. Neither candidate has held a three-point advantage for four consecutive days since Kerry emerged as the Democratic frontrunner.

Given the bad month that Kerry has had, with questions being raised about his antiwar activities, his service record, his cars, and his butler, not to mention the $60 million spent by the Bush campaign on political attack ads, the fact Bush can't seem to gain any traction suggests that the campaign is over and Bush is toast. Concerned Republicans will be well-advised to look for a dark horse insurgent to head off what is looking likely to be a disastrous GOP convention in September. Expect to see a steady stream of articles wondering aloud if it's not too late to find someone else to lead the GOP in November.

Nonsense of course, unless the numbers were reversed. Then it's the kool kidz CW about Kerry.

Iraq prison torture 

What did Bush know, and when did he know it? Bush is sure some CEO president, if, as his handlers claim, the first he knew of this is when he saw the pictures on TV:

The military had prepared a detailed 11-page plan nearly three weeks ago to address the fallout that officials expected once the photographs of Iraqi prisoners began circulating. Nevertheless the Pentagon, the State Department and the White House had difficulty explaining why they had not acted earlier and more aggressively to deal with the abuse.

Even as the White House emphasized the president's revulsion and his anger about what had happened, it appeared intent on insulating him from political fallout. Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, told reporters with Mr. Bush on a campaign trip in Ohio that the president had only become aware of the photographs and the Pentagon's main internal report about the incidents from news reports last week.

White House officials said the Pentagon had not informed them about its efforts to persuade CBS to delay broadcasting its report last week about the abuse, or kept them up to date about the explosive nature of the abuse. In an interview, Mr. Bartlett said he had only learned about the pictures when they were broadcast by CBS on "60 Minutes II."

Military officials said Tuesday that when they learned three weeks ago that CBS News had obtained the photographs of Iraqi inmates, they began planning an extensive campaign to blunt the impact. The plan included three dozen questions and answers anticipated from reporters.

At the request of Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top American commander in the Middle East, General Myers asked CBS to postpone the broadcast. CBS delayed the broadcast for two weeks.

Once the photographs were shown, the strategy was to have senior officials in Baghdad emphasize that an American soldier had brought the abuses to the attention of his superiors, that military commanders had quickly begun criminal and administrative inquiries, that criminal charges had been brought against six soldiers and that a new commander had been assigned to revamp detention facilities and practices in Iraq.

But the revelation of details of the abuses and the photographs shocked Pentagon officials.

"The actual firestorm was more overwhelming than anyone could have imagined," said one military official. "How do you get in front of something like that?"
(via NY Times)

Come on. The Pentagon didn't check with Unka Karl or KaWen? They may be fools about some things, but certainly not about that.

And here I thought Bush was taking the Greyhound, like the rest of us do 

Rats

He rode his bullet-proofed, high-tech bus for only a bit more than an hour, but used it for maximum political effect.
(via NY Times)

What's with the "but"? Shouldn't that be "and"? Sloppy writing.....

Iraq occupation: We just attacked Karbala 

While Bush was talking on TV? Well, probably the timing wasn't that good.

The American military launched its first major assault against insurgents led by Moktada al-Sadr, a rebel Shiite cleric, striking early this morning at militia enclaves in this holy Shiite city and in another city in southern Iraq in an effort to retake control of those areas.

The coordinated attacks here and in Diwaniya began hours after powerful Shiite politicians and religious leaders met in Baghdad to urge Mr. Sadr to withdraw his militia from the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala. Now that the occupation forces have restored a veneer of calm to the volatile city of Falluja, they are upping the military and political pressure on the 31-year-old cleric. In early April, Mr. Sadr ignited a Shiite uprising throughout central and southern Iraq as marines were invading Falluja to root out a mostly Sunni Muslim insurgency there.

The American assault today took place in a neighborhood southwest of the holy shrines. Town leaders did not raise a furor, and dozens of families stood outside their homes watching the convoy as it rolled toward the battle site. American commanders said they were trying to make precise attacks so as not to incur the wrath of the Shiites, who make up at least 60 percent of the population of Iraq.
(via NY Times)

Well, I just hope they got Sistani's OK ....

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