Saturday, May 22, 2004

Goodnight, moon 

I just can't get my head around this:

Neo-con slut Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi Garibaldi, Waura's guest at a SOTU, whose supremely counterfactual intel Rummy's Office of Faith-Based Intelligence mainlined right into the West Vein of the White House, is an Iranian spy.
I mean, I always knew things weren't good, but that's really, really, really not good.

Doubleplus ungood.

Super ungood.

Double-mondo-super-plus ungood.

I'm not sure that "Freedom's untidy" or "What difference does it make?" is going to cut the mustard on this one.

And I just can't get this one picture out of my head. From Fahrenheit 911:

Wolfie licking his comb and then running it through his hair

Eeew. Does Wolfie do that a lot, like, around other people? Is this Pink Flamingos stuff, or what? Don't think about this while trying to sleep, OK?

NOTE Image from here.

Bush not gay! Film at 11. 

From the Department of Thinly Veiled Euphemism, more flackery on His bike accident:

"It's been raining a lot and the topsoil is loose," the spokesman said. "You know this president. He likes to go all out. Suffice it to say He wasn't whistling show tunes."
(via AP)


So, why the wave of insider selling? 

Could it be that the insiders know something we don't?

Insiders Are Selling Like It's 1999
Across corporate America, executives have been selling company stock as if it were 1999. Even amid this resurgence of insider selling, however, a few dozen executives - including those at Zimmer - stood out for having unloaded supersized portions of their personal stakes in their company's future. At Wendy's International, Qualcomm, Occidental Petroleum, Boston Scientific and Comverse Technology, one or more executives sold at least half their holdings, according to a SundayBusiness analysis of hundreds of big companies.
(via NY Times)

The Times then goes on to a lot of thumbsucking speculation about why on earth the execs would be doing this, but I'd classify it under the Department of Rats Leaving the Sinking Ship: The execs realized that through his Iraqi blunder, Bush has totally hosed the war against the real enemy: AQ and its mutations.

If a dirty bomb hits, the market will tank. So why not cash in?

"Training wheels," eh? 

This is a bike! Not a snowboard! So it isn't the same!

Right. First the pretzel, then the Segway, now the bike accident. Sensing a pattern?

A bike ride has left President Bush a bit dinged up.
The White House says Bush suffered cuts and bruises today after taking a spill while mountain biking on his Texas ranch.

A spokesman says Bush has minor abrasions and scratches on his chin, lip, nose, right hand and both knees.

His personal doctor was along for the ride and cleaned the cuts. Bush finished the last mile of his ride -- refusing a Secret Service offer to drive him home.

The spokesman says there had been a lot of rain in the area lately and that the topsoil was wet.
(via AP)


Maybe the twins got new stuff, and the dosage is different?

Fahrenheit 911 wins Palme D'Or at Cannes 

Aw, what do the French know! It isn't like they ever got into un grand projet of an endless colonial war on the wrong side of a national movement, or started torturing prisoners. Oh, wait. You know, I guess they did, didn't they? In their own small way....

With Moore's customary blend of humor and horror, "Fahrenheit 9/11" accuses the Bush camp of stealing the 2000 election, overlooking terrorism warnings before Sept. 11 and fanning fears of more attacks to secure Americans' support for the Iraq war.

Moore appears on-screen far less in "Fahrenheit 9/11" than in "Bowling for Columbine" or his other documentaries. The film relies largely on interviews, footage of U.S. soldiers and war victims in Iraq, and archival footage of Bush.

Just back in Cannes after his daughter's college graduation in the United States, Moore dedicated the award to "my daughter and to all the children in America and Iraq and throughout the world who suffered through our actions."

"Fahrenheit 9/11" made waves in the weeks leading up to Cannes after the Walt Disney Co. refused to let subsidiary Miramax release the film in the United States because of its political content. Miramax bosses Harvey and Bob Weinstein are negotiating to buy back the film and find another distributor, with hopes of landing it in theaters by Fourth of July weekend.

"Fahrenheit 9/11" was the first documentary to win Cannes' prestigious Palme d'Or since Jacques Cousteau's "The Silent World" in 1956.
(via AP)

Sheesh, I remember seeing Jacques Cousteau movies on our black and white TV when I was growing up. They were boring as hell. So you'd think Michael Moore would be able to find a US distributor for a film that's a lot more exciting. Eh?


WASHINGTON -- The Defense Intelligence Agency has concluded that a U.S.-funded arm of Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress has been used for years by Iranian intelligence to pass disinformation to the United States and to collect highly sensitive American secrets, according to intelligence sources.

"Iranian intelligence has been manipulating the United States through Chalabi by furnishing through his Information Collection Program information to provoke the United States into getting rid of Saddam Hussein," said an intelligence source Friday who was briefed on the Defense Intelligence Agency's conclusions, which were based on a review of thousands of internal documents.

The Information Collection Program also "kept the Iranians informed about what we were doing" by passing classified U.S. documents and other sensitive information, he said. The program has received millions of dollars from the U.S. government over several years.

An administration official confirmed that "highly classified information had been provided [to the Iranians] through that channel."

[via Newsday]
I guess we know who the "useful idiots" really were now, don't we?

I wonder what the warfloggers will say now?

Eh, Insty?

What's it feel like to be played for a fool, Glenn?

Plame Affair: Heating up? 

Federal law requires that subpoenas to journalists is a last resort, not a first. Well, I guess we're at the last resort stage:

The special prosecutor investigating whether the Bush administration illegally disclosed a CIA operative's name to the media has subpoenaed NBC correspondent Tim Russert and a Time magazine reporter, seeking information about the leak.

Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald issued the subpoenas late yesterday, according to the media outlets. His spokesman, Randall Samborn, had no comment.
(via Newsday)

Funny how big this story was... It really did show that Bush would do anything, including outting an undercover agent to gain revenge on a whistleblower. Of course, now if we want to show that Bush will do anything, we can point to Abu Ghraib and the Special Access Program of extra-judicial assassination.

Lawlessness. That's the common thread between the Plame Affair and Abu Ghraib. It's the modus operandi of the Bush regime.

Should Kerry postpone his nomination so he has as much money as Bush? 

Good question.

Once Bush and Kerry are officially nominated by their parties, they will no longer be permitted to raise and spend private donations. Instead, each will receive $75 million in federal funds for the general election.

By postponing his official nomination — an unparalleled move for a presidential candidate — Kerry could spend his privately raised donations for longer and receive his public funding at about the same time as Bush. The president is to be nominated at the Republican convention in early September in New York, five weeks after Democrats gather in Boston.

The Massachusetts senator demurred when asked about the possible delay of his nomination.

"The decision hasn't been made," Kerry told The Times. "But I am for anything that would level the playing field."

(via LA Times)


I'm not sure. However, I can make a case for answering No. I thought the Dean campaign went off the rails when it made exactly the same decision: forgoing Federal matching funds because the Internet fundraising operation was going so amazingly well. I thought then—and was, in retrospect, in error not to criticize Dean—that it would have been better to take the matching money, and work out a way to make the Internet fundraising operation into an operation to benefit all Democrats. If Dean had done that, he might not have been so alone at the end, and the party and the activists would have been in much better shape....

But, hindsight is 20/20, another cliche that has a certain truth.

Readers, what do you think? Should Kerry postpone the nomination? Is there a principled way to justify it?

When the elephants dance, we pass the popcorn 

I think Josh Marshall—commenting on the almost-too-beautiful revelation that neocon creature and White House invitee Ahmed Chalabi was either a fool or working for the Iranian Secret Service—has cause and effect exactly right here:

But what we're seeing here is less the result of new revelations than the outward signs of deep tectonic shifts within the US government -- the discrediting of some factions and agencies, the attempts of others to reposition themselves in a moment of acute crisis and get ahead of the storm, and the freeing up of others to assert themselves for the first time in years.

It's probably too dramatic to compare this to the bubbles, choppy water and occasional scraps churned up by a Piranha feeding. But the struggles that are giving rise to all these leaks and tergiversations of the state are the real story -- one that it is difficult to see directly, but possible to glimpse in what we can infer from its effects and repercussions.
(via Talking Points Memo)

Sure, there are bad guys and worse guys, but that's politics....

On being unemployed 

If the contract had come through... But it didn't. If the family support had been able to continue... But it couldn't.

And then the cut-offs began. In September, the phone. In October, the electricity. And finally, the gas, which meant the cooking and the heat. In the winter. All that was left then was the freezing apartment, and on December 1, I told my long-suffering landlord I was going, and used up the last month's rent.

Every night sleep was a methodical battle, as I arranged the covers, all the coats, all the sweaters over and around me to seal any chink against the cold.

What saved the situation, was, first, my fellow bloggers Leah, the farmer, and tresy, who paid for the Blogger Professional when I had no money to contribute.

Second, public space. Having no phone, gas, or heat I could deal with: But no Internet connection would really have been a problem. Fortunately, the Philadelphia Free Library has Internet terminals, and so I would walk over in the morning and move, nomadically, from terminal to terminal as each 45 time minute expired. Here, I was in strange company, since a crew of street people were doing the same thing. The public terminals are a catchbasin, filled with students, the poor, unemployed IT professionals—I looked over the shoulder of one terribly scruffy guy, and saw he had a network administrator's resume a mile long—the homeless, and, as we know now, potential terrorists. And here, too, the end was approaching, since the Library, at wit's end with the homeless monopolizing the system, was about to install card readers, so that only paid-up patrons would be able to use the system, and then only for a single session.[1] And that wasn't enough time, and anyhow I didn't have the money. That would have been more than my food budget for a month!

Electricity: Every night I unscrewed the lightbulb on the stairs, screwed in an adapter, and ran extension cord into the apartment, so I could use a hotplate; the laptop, too, sometimes: Later, I learned that there was a vagrant WiFi signal that I could just pick up, sometimes, if I held the laptop at the right height and angle.

Food: I discovered dollar stores. Dollar stores are amazing and wonderful, especially if you don't care about brand names. Chinese Crest! Turkish soap. And two nights worth of spaghetti sauce for one dollar. My worries about retirement have been considerably reduced... Oh, and charity? It isn't. I had the foolish notion that I could go to a church for food, if I needed it. Not a chance—they all had means testing, which required a checking account, which at that point I didn't have.

Fortunately, at this point a friend arranged to fly me out to California for a conference, and I was able to update my linux system to install the WiFi drivers I was previously unable to install. This meant that I was able to go to coffee houses, rent my seat for an hour, and connect. Not Starbucks, of course, but the local houses that compete with the chains by offering a free connection. Far improved from the library, where the librarians had me classified as an abuser of the system, as I was, but had no way to protect the system from me.

Now that I had a reliable Internet connection, I discovered that there was a salaried job—after two years—that I could apply for, and so I got a prepaid phone to have a number on the resume, and applied. Remember the month when Bush created 500 jobs? The job I got was 1/500th of the job creation total in that month.

And then a fellow coffee house patron mentioned Craigs List, and all in the one week between Christmas and New Year's I used it to find a new, cheaper, and better apartment, then found a mover, and moved.

This experience explains why I give Bush zero credit on the economy, or the Wecovery.

For one thing, it's obvious that the recovery we are now in—even if all the jobs are for manicurists, security guards, and other providers of personal services—happened in spite of Bush, not because of Him. When two hundred billion of war money gets injected into the economy, it would be remarkable if the economy did not grow. Especially with Greenspan inflating a housing bubble.

And I rememember a lot about Republican policies and actions when I was unemployed.

I remember the Bush promises, promises about all the jobs that would be created through His policies. And then month after month after month after month of nothing, with all the professional employed analysts and MWs acting surprised at the most obvious thing in the world: that the horrible job market was a touch of the overseer's lash on the backs of those who had jobs, to make them work harder for the same money ("be more productive").

I remember the Republicans not renewing unemployment payments. Over Christmas. Not that I had any, but one thinks of others.

I remember the Republicans trying to take away overtime—another touch of the lash. How many families, right on the edge, would be pushed over the line into my condition if their overtime disappeared?

I remember countless acts by the Republicans to give more to those who were already rich, and take away more from those who were already poor.

And do I have any confidence that I won't be thrown on the trash heap again, with millions of others? Of course not.

Give Bush credit for the economy? Don't make me laugh. It hurts too much.

[1]I don't think, unfortunately, that the library was wrong in this. A few months later, a streetperson—who I am almost certain I sat next to; he was, of course, browsing porn—raped and almost killed a little Chinese girl in the Independence Branch, who had been brought there by her non-English speaking grandmother, on the premise, no doubt that the library was safe.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Goodnight, moon 

Hey, great news! My train down the Northeast Corridor didn't get bombed (back), no thanks to Inerrant Boy.

And let's look on the bright side! I had no trouble getting a seat, no trouble at all...

So I went out once again to Pasion.

Eat, drink, and be merry....

Oh, and what Digby said.

And Aaron Swartz opens the green door.

Moral clarity 

Culture of responsibility, rule of law, strong leadership, yadda yadda yadda:

Hundreds of new images ... videos.. 13 previously secret sworn statements by detainees ... "Because they started to hit my broken leg, I curse my religion. They ordered me to thank Jesus I am alive." ...prisoners being fondled by female soldiers... forced to masturbate ... an Army translator having sex with a screaming boy 15 to 18 years old .... prisoners being ridden like animals, sodomized with a phosphoric light and forced to retrieve their food from toilets ... "We had to bark like a dog, and if we didn't do that they started hitting us hard on our face and chest with no mercy." ... U.S. soldiers shown laughing and delighting in the abuses .... five hooded and naked detainees standing against the wall in the darkness, each masturbating
(via Reuters)

"Having sex"?!? WTF? That would be rape, right?

And good one, guys, on renouncing Islam and thanking Jesus. We just sold the whole Arab world on the idea that the war really is a crusade.

Then this little tidbit:

The Washington Post said the 65 pages of sworn written statements in Arabic were taken in January and were translated by U.S. contractors.

"Contractors," eh? Wonder if we're getting the unexpurgated story, or the expurgated one?

Great headlines of our time 

Bush to outline "clear strategy" for Iraq Monday.

What a relief!

I was beginning to worry that He didn't have one!

But now the Truth will be made plain!

Ouch! I've got to stop slamming my head on the table...

Iraq reconstruction: Universities still trashed, with only $8 of $500 million spent 

The actual situation is bad enough, but there was one quote that just leaped out at me....

The United States has failed to rebuild Iraq's university system just weeks before the planned handover of control, [John A. Agresto], the top American education adviser to Iraq told The Associated Press on Friday.

Congress has provided only about $8 million of the $500 million needed to repair damage resulting mainly from postwar looting, and foreign governments have done little more, John A. Agresto said in an interview at Samford University, where he was scheduled to give a commencement speech Saturday.

As a result, Agresto said thousands of Iraqi university students and faculty members do not have basic supplies like desks and chairs, and teaching equipment stolen from technical schools has not been replaced.

At some vocational colleges, students learn "theoretical carpentry" because they lack tools, he said.
(via AP)

"Theoretical carpentry," don't you just love it?

Because it's so much like everything else about this farcical war: "theoretical freedom," "theoretical democracy," "theoretical WMDs"...

Bush to Alabama Kids: Eat Twinkies and Die 

I was going to title this "Leave No Child's Behind Behind" but didn't want to give the impression I was making fun of fat kids when the intended target was fatHEADS, one in Washington in particular. To any fat kids reading this, I was once a fat kid too, but am no longer. I am now..old.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- The state is eliminating a popular school program to teach healthy eating because changing policies have eliminated its federal funding, officials said.

The Nutrition Education Program, which served 600 schools statewide will be ended Sept. 30, said Evelyn Crayton of the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service, which manages the program.

Alabama's Nutritional Education Program has relied on funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service and matching money from local schools and governments. They supplied $6 million apiece.

Under the program, nutrition educators taught students the basics about healthy eating. Schools in all but one county chose to participate in the program, Crayton said. About 700,000 children were served by the program last year.

Federal officials now say the program must target food stamp recipients, and children don't apply for food stamps, state officials said.

A spokesman for the Department of Agriculture's regional office in Atlanta denied that the federal government directed the state to pull the program out of schools.

Crayton said the state doesn't have the money to replace the lost federal funding.

Miriam Gaines, director of nutrition and physical activity at the state Department of Public Health, said students will still learn some nutrition basics in health classes, but it won't be enough, given Alabama's problem with obesity. She said many schools have phased out home economics classes.

So how could we have stabbed them in the back, when they're so busy shooting themselves in the foot? 

Just asking.

TROLL PROPHYLACTIC By "them," of course, I mean Bush and His acolytes, not the troops. Obviously.

My Lai 4 - Ramadi 2004 (?) 

A long time ago, in a small village, many miles from "the nearest civilization."

Dear Mom and Dad:
Today we went on a mission and I am not very proud of myself, my friends, or my country. We burned every hut in sight!
It was a small rural network of villages and the people were incredibly poor. My unit burned and plundered their meager possessions. Let me try to explain the situation to you.
The huts here are thatched palm leaves. Each one has a dried mud bunker inside. These bunkers are to protect the families. Kind of like air raid shelters.
My unit commanders, however, chose to think that these bunkers are offensive. So every hut we find that has a bunker we are ordered to burn to the ground.
When the ten helicopters landed this morning, in the midst of these huts, and six men jumped out of each "chopper", we were firing the moment we hit the ground. We fired into all the huts we could....
It was then that we burned these huts....Everyone is crying, begging and praying that we don't separate them and take their husbands and fathers, sons and grandfathers. The women wail and moan.
Then they watch in terror as we burn their homes, personal possessions and food. Yes, we burn all rice and shoot all livestock.

Ramadi - May 2004:
[excerpt:] Late in the evening the guests heard the sound of jets overhead. Then in the distance they saw the headlights of what appeared to be a military convoy heading their way across the desert.

The party ended at around 10.30pm and the neighbours left for their homes. At 3am the bombing began. "The first thing they bombed was the tent for the ceremony," said Mr Nawaf. "We saw the family running out of the house. The bombs were falling, destroying the whole area."

Armored military vehicles then drove into the village, firing machine guns and supported by attack helicopters. "They started to shoot at the house and the people outside the house," he said.

Before dawn two large Chinook helicopters descended and offloaded dozens of troops. They appeared to set explosives in the Rakat house and the building next door and minutes later, just after the Chinooks left again, they exploded into rubble.

"I saw something that nobody ever saw in this world," said Mr Nawaf. "There were children's bodies cut into pieces, women cut into pieces, men cut into pieces."

[excerpt:] "We went out of the house and the American soldiers started to shoot us. They were shooting low on the ground and targeting us one by one," she said. She ran with her youngest child in her arms and her two young boys, Ali and Hamza, close behind. As she crossed the fields a shell exploded close to her, fracturing her legs and knocking her to the ground.

She lay there and a second round hit her on the right arm. By then her two boys lay dead. "I left them because they were dead," she said. One, she saw, had been decapitated by a shell.

"I fell into the mud and an American soldier came and kicked me. I pretended to be dead so he wouldn't kill me. My youngest child was alive next to me."

[excerpt:] "We took ground fire and we returned fire," said Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of operations for the US military in Iraq. "We estimate that around 40 were killed. But we operated within our rules of engagement." -- US Soldiers Started to Shoot Us, One by One Survivors describe wedding massacre as generals refuse to apologize - by Rory McCarthy in Ramaldi, May 21, 2004 by the Guardian/UK

My Lai - March, 1968:
The story of the battle, as told by Lieutenant Colonel Frank Barker, leader of the task force bearing his name, detailed sniper attacks from the village, fierce fighting, booby traps, the killing in action of 128 "VC" and the capture of thirteen "sympathizers." Later he changed his report and said the residents of My Lai had been killed either by artillery or gunship fire. Both versions of events were false, but Barker would not have to answer for them. He died in an air crash soon after My Lai. ~ Source: The Wound Within; America in the Vietnam Years 1945-1974, by Alexander Kendrick - Little Brown, 1974.

May, 2004:
Major General James Mattis, commander of the 1st Marine Division, was scathing of those who suggested a wedding party had been hit. "How many people go to the middle of the desert ... to hold a wedding 80 miles (130km) from the nearest civilization? These were more than two dozen military-age males. Let's not be naive." -- Gaurdian/UK

"Let's not be naive." - Yeah, I'll remember that.
What really happened in Ramadi, in "the middle of the desert,... 80 miles (130km) from the nearest civilization?"

Notes: "Dear Mom and Dad" letter above was written by a GI in Vietnam and mailed home to his parents. The letter was also reported by Seymour Hersh and is republished in A People's History of the United States, by Howard Zinn - chapter 18, The Impossible Victory: Vietnam

Also see: Seymour Hersh, My Lai 4: A Report on the Massacre and its Aftermath, NY, Random House, 1970. And: Hersh/My Lai 4 - 1970


A really, really, really bad commute 

Could Terrorists Be Casing New York-Philadelphia-D.C. Rail Corridor? (via the essential Agonist).

Here's one detail I don't like at all:

[In a separate investigation], the FBI's Philadelphia field office is probing the discovery of an infrared sensor that was carefully concealed along the track bed of a Pennsylvania Southeast Transit Authority line.

The device — a commercially available wireless infrared transmitter made for home security use — was discovered, spraypainted black and tucked neatly into the trackside ballast, by a conductor. Such devices transmit a signal when something cuts across their infrared beam.

Gee. More proof that the flypaper theory is really, really working, eh? I'm sure glad we're in Iraq, because.... Because.... Because...

I take SEPTA—or, as we Philadelphians lovingly call it, SEPTIC—every day, on this very route.

It's a train not a car, it doesn't use enough oil, it's in a blue state, and it doesn't provide any nice photo ops, so Inerrant Boy doesn't give two shits about it. And I'm a Democrat and not a SIC, so He doesn't give two shits about me. Grrrr!

My only consolation is that SEPTA probably doesn't run reliably enough to trigger anything.

Nick Breg atrocity: Four arrested, two released 

First reports were that the arrestees where Saddamites from Tikrit, but that seems to have faded from the scene.

The U.S. detained four men two days ago in Baghdad on suspicion of involvement in the murder of American Nicholas Berg in Iraq, U.S. Army Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt said during a briefing televised from Baghdad.

Two of the individuals have been set free, Kimmitt said. The intelligence leading to the detentions came from tips from Iraqis, and troops from the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq took the suspects into custody, he said.
(via Bloomberg)

Funny timing, though, isn't it? "Round up the usual suspects"?

Froom's Onto a Big One Here 

Dan Froomkin writes an entirely invaluable column for the Washington Post called White House Briefing which you should try to read daily (Monday through Friday anyway.) Often this is little more than snarky gossip from the journo-industrial complex, but he's doing some real journalism the last few days.

Did you know there was such a thing as the "Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction," or that the panel was created by an executive order of President Bush in February? I didn't think you did. I didn't either.

Why they're so concerned, considering the way they've stacked the membership of this body, I'm not sure. But their dedication to openness and transparency can be guessed from this note to nosy lawyers with the National Resource Defense Council and the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, groups who for some reason want to be involved in this matter:

"Because of the inherently sensitive nature of the materials it will be reviewing during the course of its work, the Commission's offices will be contained within a Sensitive Compartmentalized Information Facility ("SCIF")...providing public access to those offices would raise security concerns, and accordingly [we are] exploring various locations for its reading room."

Per the Federal register notice of May 13: "Members of the public who wish to submit a written statement to the Commission are invited to do so by facsimile at (202) 456 -- 7921. Comments also may be sent to the Commission by e-mail at comments@wmd.gov"

"The commission will have a Web site, at wmd.gov, up and running in the near future, [commission and former WH spokesflack Larry] McQuillan says.

I just wonder if there will be anything on it." [end Froomkin remarks]

Brethren and sistren, I know it's getting to be Commission Overload time. Earlier this week we were cursing the networks for putting on the 9-11 Commission testimony because that is now Old News, when we wanted the Senate Icky Pictures Committee testimony instead. Neither of those panels is done with their work, so we're now going to have THREE of the damn things to keep track of.

I not only think we can do it, we may be the ONLY ones who can do it. If, for instance one Mr. Chalabi suffers a tragic accident before he can testify here for instance, we at least will know why.

According to Froom, there was posted "a notice in the Federal Register of [the commission's] intention to hold a closed meeting May 26-27". So we know who, and we know when. We may have to raise some hell to find out any more, or get it out in the open air and healing sunlight.

Moore's Fahrenheit 911 reviewed 

Gee, sure hope this movie finds a distributor. Maybe FUX?

Whatever you think of Moore, there's no question he's detonating dynamite here. From a variety of sources - foreign journalists and broadcasters (like Britain's Channel Four), freelancers and sympathetic American TV workers who slipped him illicit video - he supplies war-time pictures that have been largely shielded from our view. Instead of recycling images of the planes hitting the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, once again, Moore can revel in extended new close-ups of [Bush] continuing to read "My Pet Goat" to elementary school students in Florida for seven long minutes after learning of the attack.

We also see some of the 4,000-plus American casualties: those troops hidden away in clinics at Walter Reed and at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where they try to cope with nerve damage and multiple severed limbs. They are not silent. They talk about their pain and their morphine, and they talk about betrayal. "I was a Republican for quite a few years," one soldier says with an almost innocent air of bafflement, "and for some reason they conduct business in a very dishonest way."

Perhaps the most damning sequence in "Fahrenheit 9/11" is the one showing American troops as they ridicule hooded Iraqis in a holding pen near Samara in December 2003. A male soldier touches the erection of a prisoner lying on a stretcher underneath a blanket, an intimation of the sexual humiliations that were happening at Abu Ghraib at that same time. Besides adding further corroboration to Seymour Hersh's report that the top command has sanctioned a culture of abuse not confined to a single prison or a single company or seven guards, this video raises another question: Why didn't we see any of this on American TV before "60 Minutes II"?

Speaking of America's volunteer army, Moore concludes: "They serve so that we don't have to. They offer to give up their lives so that we can be free. It is, remarkably, their gift to us. And all they ask for in return is that we never send them into harm's way unless it is absolutely necessary. Will they ever trust us again?"
(via International Herald Trib)

Not "hate." Outrage!

Moral clarity 

New photos, videos.

UPDATE Hersh: "I'm still working on the story.". Thank God.

Open thread 

Have at it!

Say, how's the investigation coming of whoever stole John Kerry's papers? 


Just one of the many, many unanswered questions....

Light blogging for me today: Deliverables. Oh, the joys of nine-to-five. I mean, aside from actually being able to pay the rent and bills, and stuff like that....

For the linux weenies among us 

man bosskill.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Goodnight, moon 

Come, my coach!

Iraq clusterfuck: Chalabi a spy for Iran?! 

Send in the clowns!

Senior U.S. officials told 60 Minutes Correspondent Lesley Stahl that they have evidence Chalabi has been passing highly-classified U.S. intelligence to Iran.

The evidence shows that Chalabi personally gave Iranian intelligence officers information so sensitive that if revealed it could, quote, "get Americans killed." The evidence is said to be "rock solid."
(via CBS)

Don’t you love a farce?

If it's true, what are the odds that Wolfowitz or Perle will admit they were wrong to support Chalabi? Or apologize? Or take any accountability?

Look, I'm going to bed. It's dark under the table, and it's far too late to try to make sense of this. If indeed such a thing is possible.

But just one question: Doesn't "rock solid" mean about the same thing as "slam dunk"?

Johnny to Bush: I Got Your Number, Pally 

We call it "troll prophylaxis" when we warn the enemy in advance that we're onto their tricks, so they might as well not bother. We could learn something from the esteemed Sen. McCain.

Republicans Postpone Senate Vote on Budget
(via NYT)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republicans retreated Thursday and decided to postpone a Senate vote on their $2.4 trillion budget until at least next month, averting a certain defeat by party moderates demanding curbs on future tax cuts.

The decision was an election-year embarrassment for both the Republicans who control Congress and President Bush. It came just hours after Bush met privately with GOP lawmakers at the Capitol and urged them to push the 2005 budget through the Senate.

But that could be a tall order: Four moderate GOP senators and moderate Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska have all resisted weeks of entreaties to support the budget, leaving GOP leaders two votes shy of passage.

Asked what might make them change their minds, one of the moderates, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., joked,
``Some of us could get killed in tragic accidents.''

A stalemate over the issue has persisted for two months. Its continuation has overtaken earlier statements by GOP leaders that they would complete the plan on time -- April 15 -- to show how well they could govern.

The other recalcitrant senators were Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both R-Maine, and Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I."

No small plane rides for them either. Sorry kids, maybe when the fair comes to town next year.

"Training wheels," eh? 

Sorry for the size, I'm thinking of having a postage stamp made up....

NOTE From a suggestion from alert reader pansypoo.

Spiky: Inerrant Boy mouthpiece Gonzales warned Bush of war crimes prosecution 

Newsweek, via alert reader scaramouche's new blog.

Why? Because of the "unorthodox measures" used in the war on terrorism. (Nice euphemism, "unorthodox measures.")

Unorthodox like targetted assassiations in the Special Access Program?

The Special Access Program that's the real story behind Abu Ghraib?

The story that Hersh broke (back)—and from which everybody else in the SCLM and the political establishment is studiously averting their eyes?

Mr. Information Always Answers Questions 

Not! So Inerrant Boy goes to the Hill to throw the troops some red meat:

At a closed-door meeting described by some as a pep rally, Bush vowed to "stay the course" and do what is right for America, prompting lawmakers to shower him with ovations, Republicans said afterward.

"The overall thing he accomplished was it's clear to everybody in the room this guy is leading," said Rep. John Boehner, an Ohio Republican.

Bush took no questions from lawmakers.

(via Reuters)

Heh. Bush sure is addicted to ovations (back) Remember when He wouldn't speak before the European Parliament unless they guaranteed Him a standing one? An ovation, I mean. The European Parliament turned down the demand, but the House Republicans? No problem, sir!

Isn't it weird? I truly don't understand the Republican notion of leadership. How can taking no questions from the guys on your own side be seen as strong leadership?

Oh, wait. Now I understand. There must be no need for questions, since that would imply a lack of faith, and that would imply that Inerrant Boy was not The Leader. Phew! Now I feel better.

Chickening Out of the Draft 

My Uncle Clyde was as patriotic as the next guy in 1941. His devotion to the American war effort led him on a different path though. Instead of rushing down to the recruiting center like everybody else (including his half-blind father-in-law, which is another story) he wisely sought his father's counsel on the subject. His dad arranged for him to contribute to victory by wrangling him a job in a chicken hatchery, which was a guaranteed draft deferrment as vital agricultural work.

Clyde worked as a chicken sexer. In those days (and maybe these days too for all I know) the newly hatched little yellow balls of fluff would roll out of their nests and into the hands of the cruel world of agribusiness in the person of my uncle. His task was to pick up each one, pry its little toothpick legs apart, and inspect the region between them to determine whether this was a future hen (guaranteed a long and happy life of egg production followed by a starring role in Sunday dinner) or a rooster. Those got tossed in a box and I never heard what became of them thereafter.

It was nice work if you could get it. Required a certain amount of standing but you got to go home to your wife every night (although if you knew Aunt Maxine that might not...well, best not go there). And it required building up an immunity to the sort of odors which accumulate around any area where chickens live, thrive, eat, lay eggs, and poop.

This discussion of chickenshit seemed an appropriate introduction to today's topic of "What The Hell Is Going On With This "Ready Reserve" Thing Anyway?"

We start in chronlogical order. One week ago, May 13, the mighty Army PR machine groaned and brought forth a press release which began thusly:

"The Army's Human Resources Command - St. Louis (HRC-STL), is identifying Individual Ready Reserve Soldiers with a statutory Military Service Obligation (MSO) remaining for possible assignment to an Army Reserve unit. These Soldiers may be assigned to position vacancy requirements within designated Reserve units based upon the needs of the Army.

At this time, there have been no involuntary assignments of IRR Soldiers to any Army Reserve units. The HRC-STL is identifying IRR Soldiers for possible assignment."

Enlistments in the military, you see, are sort of like the yin-yang symbol. You sign up for, say, six years. Three years are active duty, the other three years you are in this Ready Reserve thing and subject to callback. This has been virtually ignored for decades--it may have been used to some extent in Vietnam but the last really big callup under these provisions was the Korean War.

Today we hear--or at least people in the vicinity of Salem, Oregon hear--that this was all a big "oopsie." Per the Salem Oregonian:

SALEM -- Thousands of recent U.S. Army veterans nationwide were told to choose by Monday a new assignment in the Army Reserve or National Guard -- meaning a potential return to active duty -- or the military would decide for them. The Army now says the order was a mistake.

The consequence of the error appears to be a sharp increase in enlistments in Oregon and elsewhere by reservists who feared being assigned a unit without their consent. They face possible deployment to the Middle East.

Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly, commander of the Army Reserve, declined comment on how the mistake was made, a spokesman said. How the mistaken order was issued is a mystery, said Steve Stromvall, the civilian public affairs director for the U.S. Army Reserve Command in Atlanta.

"God only knows at this point where the miscommunication started," he said.

God may not. Gen. Helmly may not. But YOU do.

Assault on your right to vote continues 

First, the "Northwest Cyber Crime Task Force" wants the logs, the messages, and the IP addresses from pro-voting rights/anti-electronic voting machines activist Bev Harris's site (Leah, back here). Yikes!

Now, Xan comes up with this, from the Baltimore Sun:

"About 100 Maryland voters who requested paper ballots for the March primary because they did not trust the state's new touch-screen voting machines may never have their votes counted.

"The Campaign for Verifiable Voting had urged thousands of its supporters to request paper ballots to create a verifiable paper trail.

"State officials learned of the protest effort, and on Feb. 20, 11 days before the primary, distributed a list of "last minute instructions" to local election boards.

"Instruction No. 4 addressed the provisional ballot issue: "Do not issue a provisional ballot to a voter who simply does not want to use the DRE [electronic] voting equipment. The voter can either use the DRE voting equipment or forfeit his or her right to vote."

"Forfeit the right to vote?" How is it I'm hearing those words from a local election board? Sounds like they'll be using their "training wheels" (back) for awhile, eh?

Bush infantilizes 5000 year old civilization 

From the Department of Throwing My Hands Up at the Sheer Boneheadedness of It All:

"[Bush] talked about 'time to take the training wheels off,'" said Rep. Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio. "The Iraqi people have been in training, and now it's time for them to take the bike and go forward."
(via LA Times)

Sheesh. Just as if the Iraqis were little kids. What next? Is he going to start calling them "our little brown brothers?"

Jobless claims up 

But don't worry, it's just a blip.

Jobless claims last week rose 3.6% to 345,000, according to a report today that analysts describe as a small bump in a downward trend in the number of Americans applying for unemployment insurance.

Last week's small spike "is mildly disappointing but likely inconsequential," said Ian Shepherdson, an economist with a New York-based consulting firm. "There is every reason to expect claims to continue falling over the next few weeks," he said.
(via LA Times)

"Inconsequential" if you lost your job? When are we going to start outsourcing the analysts, anyhow?

Of course, the moving average looks better. But what's the bottom line?

Despite the optimistic showing on employment, the job market needs to get even stronger. The economy has lost a net 1.5 million jobs since President Bush took office in January 2001. Private economists said it will take time to recoup those losses.
(via LA Times)

Not to mention that the ones that will never be outsourced are the ones where "meeting the public" is part of the job description. Security guards, manicurists....

Tell me again why the Republicans are the party of fiscal responsibility? 

A little gem from the Department of Keeping a Straight Face:

Without a budget, it would be harder for Congress to cut taxes and raise the government's borrowing limit later this year.
(via AP)

Hey, here's an idea! I'm going to arrange to make less money, and start buying food and paying the bills with a credit card! Yeah, that's the ticket...

Anyone ever done that? I have, more or less. And you know what? It ended very badly. As I hope it will for President Charge It.

Iraq occupation: Chalabi arrested. Plotting a coup? 

In Iraq, it seems people don't just play both ends against the middle, they play all sides against the middle.

The U.S. command in Baghdad raided Ahmed Chalabi's home and headquarters in Baghdad at dawn today. U.S. soldiers put a gun to his head, according to his nephew Salem Chalabi, the Associated Press reports. Chalabi aides blame the CIA and Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority.

Why did the Bush administration turn against its former favorite Iraqi? Almost certainly because it realized that Chalabi, maddened by the realization that he was being excluded from the post-June 30 hand-over arrangements, was putting together a sectarian Shiite faction to destabilize and destroy the new Iraqi government.

"His dream has always been to be a sectarian Shia leader," says the Iraqi political observer of his old friend Chalabi. "He knows that, sooner or later, Muqtada al-Sadr is going to be killed, [and] that will leave tens, hundreds, of thousands of his followers adrift, looking for a new leader. If Ahmed plays the role of victim after [today's raid], he can take on that role."

U.S. disenchantment with Chalabi has been growing since it dawned on the White House and the Pentagon that everything he had told them about Iraq -- from Saddam Hussein's fiendish weapons arsenal to the crowds who would toss flowers at the invaders to Chalabi's own popularity in Iraq -- had been completely false. Some months ago King Abdullah of Jordan was surprised to be informed by President Bush that the king could "piss on Chalabi." Fanatic neoconservatives like Richard Perle and Michael Rubin may have continued to champion Chalabi, insisting that the United States should have imposed him as Iraq's ruler right after the invasion, but elsewhere in Washington his stock has been dropping like a stone.
(via Salon)

So much for the Garibaldi of Iraq. No wonder Bush is going to have to make so many speeches on Iraq.... But don't cry for Chalabi, Iraq! He's still got the millions we gave him, the files we gave him from Saddam's secret police, and his brother is in charge of the tribunal that's going to try Saddam...

I haven't seen any apologies from the nec-cons on Chalani, incredible though that may seem. Readers?

UPDATE Then, of course, there is the conspiratorial view. Leave it to the Brits in the person of the London Times Diplomatic Editor who writes:

"Paradoxically, Mr Chalabi's fall-out with America may actually work in his favour. He has been regarded by many Iraqis as little more than a CIA stooge since arriving here. Now that their relations have ended, that charge no longer applies."

So Bremer is doing Chalabi a favor, since Chalabi is the strong man we really want? The mind reels....

Culture Clatches 

Samuel Huntington, fresh from the triumph of having predicted a global "Clash Of Civilizations" that the American right may well be able to take credit, in the near future, for having made into a reality, has recently moved from the macro to the micro. In an article based on a chapter in his new book, “Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity” published recently in Foreign Policy, Huntington zeroed in on Hispanics as the weak link attenuating what it is that makes us Americans, which turns out to be having last names that couldn't possibly be taken for Hispanic ones, like, for instance, Huntington. Of course there's always a Bill Richardson...oh, never mind.

Lucky us, Louis Menand, writing in the New Yorker, takes on Huntington's not so new new ideas, and pays them the enormous compliment, coming from a critic and prose stylist of Menand's stature and grace, of taking Huntington exactly as seriously as his work here deserves, not a jot less, and not a jot more. What ensues, in addition to delicious merriment of a very high order, is a way to think about the differences between the liberal response to 9/11 and the right wing response to it, in which our side does rather better than than the other side does, to indulge in a bit of bifurcation that isn't entirely true to the tenor or Menand's review.

A few samples to whet your appetite:

Most readers who are not political scientists know Huntington from his book “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order,” which was published in 1996, and which proposed that cultural differences would be the major cause of global tension in the future. The book was translated into thirty-three languages and inspired international conferences; its argument acquired new interest and credibility after the attacks of 2001 and the American response to them


The optimal course for the West in a world of potential civilizational conflict, Huntington concluded, was not to reach out to non-Western civilizations with the idea that people in those civilizations are really like us. He thinks that they are not really like us, and that it is both immoral to insist on making other countries conform to Western values (since that must involve trampling on their own values) and naïve to believe that the West speaks a universal language. If differences among civilizations are a perpetual source of rivalry and a potential source of wars, then a group of people whose loyalty to their own culture is attenuated is likely to be worse off relative to other groups. Hence his anxiety about what he thinks is a trend toward cultural diffusion in the United States.

You might think that if cultural difference is what drives people to war, then the world would be a safer place if every group’s loyalty to its own culture were more attenuated. If you thought that, though, you would be a liberal cosmopolitan idealist, and Huntington would have no use for you. Huntington is a domestic monoculturalist and a global multiculturalist (and an enemy of domestic multiculturalism and global monoculturalism). “Civilizations are the ultimate human tribes,” as he put it in “The Clash of Civilizations.” The immutable psychic need people have for a shared belief system is precisely the premise of his political theory. You can’t fool with immutable psychic needs.

"Who Are We?” is about as blunt a work of identity politics as you are likely to find. It says that the chief reason—it could even be the only reason—for Americans to embrace their culture is that it is the culture that happens to be theirs. Americans must love their culture; on the other hand, they must never become so infatuated that, in their delirium, they seek to embrace the world. “Who Are We?” would be less puzzling if Huntington had been more explicit about the larger vision of global civilizational conflict from which it derives. The new book represents a narrowing of that vision. In “The Clash of Civilizations,” Huntington spoke of “the West” as a transatlantic entity. In “Who Are We?” he is obsessed exclusively with the United States, and his concerns about internationalism are focussed entirely on its dangers to us.

The bad guys in Huntington’s scenario can be divided into two groups. One is composed of intellectuals, people who preach dissent from the values of the “core culture.” As is generally the case with indictments of this sort, recognizable names are sparse. Among those that do turn up are Bill Clinton, Al Gore, the political theorist Michael Walzer, and the philosopher Martha Nussbaum. All of them would be astonished to learn that they are deconstructionists. (It is amazing how thoroughly the word “deconstruction” has been drained of meaning, and by the very people who accuse deconstruction of draining words of meaning.) What Huntington is talking about is not deconstruction but bilingualism, affirmative action, cosmopolitanism (a concept with which Nussbaum is associated), pluralism (Walzer), and multiculturalism (Clinton and Gore). “Multiculturalism is in its essence anti-European civilization,” Huntington says. “It is basically an anti-Western ideology.”

He thinks that the deconstructionists had their sunny moment in the late nineteen-eighties and early nineties, and were beaten back during the culture wars that their views set off. They have not gone away, though. In the future, he says, “the outcomes of these battles in the deconstructionist war will undoubtedly be substantially affected by the extent to which Americans suffer repeated terrorist attacks on their homeland and their country engages in overseas wars against its enemies.” The more attacks and wars, he suggests, the smaller the deconstructionist threat. This may strike some readers as a high price to pay for keeping Martha Nussbaum in check.

Menand shreds both the theoretical and the statistical basis for Huntington's belief that Hispanic migration,(he means from Mexico), is somehow different (he means worse, because of a refusal to assimilate) from all the other historical waves of immigration from everywhere else in the world, a faith-based creed shared alike by Jonah Goldberg, David Frum, Michele Malkin, and pretty much most others of their ilk. Menand's discussion here, based on some very smart academic research by others, is not to be missed and leads to this rollicking insight.

This brings us back to the weird emptiness at the heart of Huntington’s analysis, according to which conversion to a fundamentalist faith is counted a good thing just because many other people already share that faith. Huntington never explains, in “Who Are We?,” why Protestantism, private enterprise, and the English language are more desirable features of social life or more conducive to self-realization than, say, Judaism, kibbutzim, and Hebrew. He only fears, as an American, their transformation into something different. But how American is that? Huntington’s understanding of American culture would be less rigid if he paid more attention to the actual value of his core values. One of the virtues of a liberal democracy is that it is designed to accommodate social and cultural change. Democracy is not a dogma; it is an experiment. That is what Lincoln said in the Gettysburg Address—and there is no more hallowed text in the American Creed than that.

Multiculturalism, in the form associated with people like Clinton and Gore, is part of the democratic experiment. It may have a lot of shortcomings as a political theory, but it is absurd to say that it is anti-Western. Its roots, as Charles Taylor and many other writers have shown, are in the classic texts of Western literature and philosophy. And, unless you are a monoculturalist hysteric, the differences that such multiculturalism celebrates are nearly all completely anodyne. One keeps wondering what Huntington, in his chapter on Mexican-Americans, means by “cultural bifurcation.” What is this alien culture that threatens to infect Anglo-Americans? Hispanic-American culture, after all, is a culture derived largely from Spain, which, the last time anyone checked, was in Europe. Here is what we eventually learn (Huntington is quoting from a book called “The Americano Dream,” by a Texas businessman named Lionel Sosa): Hispanics are different because “they still put family first, still make room in their lives for activities other than business, are more religious and more community oriented.” Pull up the drawbridge!

Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing.

I should admit a bias: If it's possible to have a crush on someone's mind and writing style, then I have a crush on Louis Menand. If you haven't read "The Metaphysical Club," a brilliant work of intellectual history that is also a captivating page-turner, hop to it. I noticed the other day at The Corner that Jonah G was putting out a call to receive recommended citations for works of intellectual history, John Dewey being one of the subjects he mentioned, perhaps some kind reader might like to email Jonah this recommendation, although I think he was looking for works that debunk, and doubtless would regard any work of intellectual history that aims at a complex understanding its subject as being biased. Such is the rich life of ideas enjoyed by our rightward brothers and sisters.

BTW, don't just go to The New Yorker online; the new issue just went up (an excellent Nick Lehman takedown of on Russert's new book replaces Menand's review), so use the link, and hurry while it's still good.

Bev Harris: Under Government Scrutiny? 

Quick reminder who Bev Harris is - perhaps the most effective grassroots activist since Ralph Nader decided he'd rather be President. Or as the Seattle Weekly puts it:

In the past 20 months, Harris has become America’s leading critic of electronic voting Her reporting on the problems with new computer voting machines has been a key component in a national, grassroots movement to safeguard voting. Her astounding discoveries have resulted in important studies by distinguished computer scientists. She has been leaked thousands of pages of internal memos from Diebold Election Systems, one of the country’s leading electronic voting companies. She is frequently cited by newspapers across the country and is a guest on national and local television and radio stations. Thousands of people visit her Web site and participate in its reader forums. Now, Harris claims, the government wants our names, forum messages, and computer addresses.

On the advice of her lawyer, Harris refused to be interviewed for this article which tries to piece together what's going on using other sources.

I'm not sure what to make of it. But its worth worrying about. Here's a link to Harris' own website,

Readers, any other information out there about this?

Bush to make a speech a week on Iraq 'til transition 

Sorting out all the lies will be a full-time job.

Beginning with Monday's address at the Army War College, Bush will give a major speech on Iraq every week through June 30, when the U.S.-led coalition is due to turn over limited authority to a new interim Iraqi government. "We're entering a critical phase, and the president will be speaking out each week to discuss with the American people, and the world, the way forward in Iraq," said a White House official.
(via WaPo)

Wow, in the midst of a Presidential campaign? How will He find the time?

The Memory Hole: FBI to retrospectively classify Sibel Edmonds 9/11 testimony 

Sheesh, when it's already out in the public domain? Have they never heard of the blogosphere? Winston Smith, will you please report to the office?

The Justice Department has taken the unusual step of retroactively classifying information it gave to Congress nearly two years ago regarding a former F.B.I. translator who charged that the bureau had missed critical terrorist warnings, officials said Wednesday.

Law enforcement officials say the secrecy surrounding the translator, Sibel Edmonds, is essential to protecting information that could reveal intelligence-gathering operations.

Ms. Edmonds testified in a closed session this year before the Sept. 11 commission, and she has made increasingly vehement charges about the F.B.I.'s intelligence failures, saying the United States had advance warnings about the attacks. Families of the Sept. 11 victims - who are suing numerous corporate and Saudi interests whom they accuse of having links to the attacks - have sought to depose her as a witness, but the Justice Department has blocked the move by saying her testimony would violate "the state secret privilege.'' Her lawyer could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

While some Congressional officials said they were confident the Justice Department had followed proper procedure in classifying the information, others said they could not remember any recent precedents and were bothered by the move.

"I have never heard of a retroactive classification two years back,'' said an aide who spoke on condition of anonymity because the subject is classified.

"It would be silly if it didn't have such serious implications,'' the aide said. "People are puzzled and, frankly, worried, because the effect here is to quash Congressional oversight. We don't even know what we can't talk about.''
(via NY Times)

I'm not sure the aide really sees the true beauty of this....

You remember Sibel Edmonds, right? See DOJ tries to bribe FBI translator Sibel Edmonds to alter terrorist intercept transcripts (back)

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Goodnight, moon 

So the kids from the Real World are hanging out at a Starbucks? When Old City Coffee is so much more hip, doesn't burn the coffee, and has free WiFi? WTF!

Powell: They lied to me on WMDs. But who is "they," exactly? 

Missed this one. It's from Powell's bizarre interview with Tim Russert, where his minder tried to pull the plug on the interview before Powell and Russert were done. Via the ever essential Juan Cole:

MR. RUSSERT: Thank you very much, sir.

In February of 2003, you put your enormous personal reputation on the line before the United Nations and said that you had solid sources for the case against Saddam Hussein. It now appears that an agent called "Curve Ball" had misled the CIA by suggesting that Saddam had trucks and trains that were delivering biological chemical weapons.

How concerned are you that some of the information you shared with the world is now inaccurate and discredited?

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm very concerned. ... But I'm also comfortable that at the time that I made the presentation it reflected the collective judgment, the sound judgment, of the intelligence community, but it turned out that the sourcing was inaccurate and wrong and, in some cases, deliberately misleading. And for that I'm disappointed, and I regret it.

"Deliberately misleading," eh? Too bad Russert didn't ask the obvious follow-up, but maybe poor old humiliated Colin will find a way to say who misled him.

Rule of Law: Republican Medicare videos illegal propaganda 

But since it was His will, how could it violate the law?

The Bush administration's ad campaign to promote changes to Medicare violated two laws, Congress' investigative arm said Wednesday.

The General Accounting Office (GAO) concluded that the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) illegally spent money on what amounted to covert propaganda by producing videos that were made to look like news reports. Portions of the videos, which have been broadcast by 40 television stations, did not make clear that the announcers were not actual news reporters and that they were paid by the department.

The 16-page legal opinion says that HHS's "video news releases" violated a statute that forbids the use of federal money for propaganda, as well as an "Antideficiency Act" that prohibits misuse of federal funds for unauthorized purposes.

The finding does not carry legal force, because the GAO acts as an adviser to Congress. House and Senate Democrats immediately vowed to try to extract repayment of the $44,000 that the administration spent for the three videos, two in English and one in Spanish.

Administration officials insisted they had not erred with the videos, and they predicted the GAO findings would have no effect on their efforts to implement the Medicare changes -- or on public opinion. "That's an opinion of the GAO. We don't agree," said Bill Pierce, an HHS spokesman.

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, called the videos "another example of how this White House has misrepresented its Medicare plan."
(via Minneapolis Star Tribune)

No, Senator. It's another example of how Republicans break the law with impunity.

Nick Berg atrocity: Total information awareness 

Nick Berg has his own Wikipedia entry. With a page of conspiracy theories.

And he's number one in search:

"Nick Berg-related searches are so prevalent that they dwarf all other searches, including the consistent pop-culture leaders.

"Over the past week, Nick Berg searches were 24 times higher than Britney Spears (number 4), Paris Hilton (number 6), and US pop singer Clay Aiken (number 5).

Top 10 internet searches in the week ending May 15, as released by Terra Lycos internet group: 1. Nick Berg, 2. War in Iraq, 3. Muntada al-Ansar, 4. Britney Spears, 5. Clay Aiken, 6. Paris Hilton, 7. al-Qaeda, 8. Kazaa, 9. Al Jazeera, 10. Survivor.
(via The Age)

Tell me it's not a great country...

Bush Up-is-Down-ism 

The Times gets a little feisty and actually puts two and two together. Well, they got three, but they get an A for effort!

[M]any administration officials are taking credit for spreading largess through programs that President Bush tried to eliminate or to cut sharply.

For example, Justice Department officials recently announced that they were awarding $47 million to scores of local law enforcement agencies for the hiring of police officers. Mr. Bush had just proposed cutting the budget for the program, known as Community Oriented Policing Services, by 87 percent, to $97 million next year, from $756 million.

The administration has been particularly energetic in publicizing health programs, even ones that had been scheduled for cuts or elimination.

Tommy G. Thompson, the secretary of health and human services, announced recently that the administration was awarding $11.7 million in grants to help 30 states plan and provide coverage for people without health insurance. Mr. Bush had proposed ending the program in each of the last three years.

The administration also announced recently that it was providing $11.6 million to the states so they could buy defibrillators to save the lives of heart attack victims. But Mr. Bush had proposed cutting the budget for such devices by 82 percent, to $2 million from $10.9 million.
(via Times)

That was the windup—the pitch—

Whether they involve programs Mr. Bush supported or not, the grant announcements illustrate how the administration blends politics and policy, blurring the distinction between official business and campaign-related activities.

Eesh. Outside and away, all the way to the backstop.

No, the announcements don't illustrate the "blend of politics and policy." Give me a break.

They illustrate how the administration just flat out lies. Up is down. "We had to cut the program's budget in order to save it."

And the story illustrates how the press, and the Times, keeps giving Inerrant Boy a free pass.

Dumb and Dumber 

Somewhere in the world there must be a contest for World's Stupidest Smart Person, because William Saletan is clearly competing for the crown. Following up on his First Round essay, "George Bush Does Not Lie", Saletan outdoes himself today with "[Kerry] Can't Talk Either!" Here's his idea of a Kerryism on a par with any random Bushism. And this is going to be a regular Slate feature? Bring it on. Apparently it's news to Saletan that extemporaneous speech is not as terse as edited prose.

It's apparently news to Christopher Hitchens, too, speaking of windy. Compare any paragraph of Hitchens tedious piece with Saletan's Kerryism, and tell me which one gets to the point about Abu Ghraib faster. Trick question: only Kerry's statement has an intelligible point.

I'd say that Hitchens is giving Saletan serious competition for the title, but chronic abuse of performance-enhancing drugs should, I think we all agree, be grounds for automatic disqualification.

Taking Things Personally 

The delightful column to which I am about to link you is not my find; that honor belongs to the Farmer, who is busy tending to more earthly matters, (of the daily bread, production of variety), and thus asked if I might wish to blog upon it.

The intriguing title of the column by Tom Blackburn of the Palm Beach Post is "A girl gave Rove a bloody nose," which refers to a story Mr. Rove told as part of a commencement talk he gave at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. Mr. Blackburn gives us the AP version of that story:

"At the age of 9, I put a Nixon bumper sticker on my wire basket in the front of my bicycle. Unfortunately, the little Catholic girl down the street was a couple of years and about 20 pounds on me. She was for Kennedy. When she saw me on my bike with my bumper sticker for Nixon, she put me on the ground, flattened me out and gave me a bloody nose."

Mr. Blackburn then goes on to comment:

That's supposed to be a cute story about the man who enjoys being called "Bush's brain" bleeding for Republican Richard Nixon at the age of 9. But why did his assailant have to be a Catholic? Is the implication supposed to be that no one else would stick up for a Catholic running for president? It is, despite the plain historical fact that John F. Kennedy wouldn't have been elected if his votes came only from Catholics.

But Mr. Rove's bully had to be a Catholic, not a generic American. She was undoubtedly Irish, which would make her a brawler, although Mr. Rove didn't spell it out. With that audience, he didn't have to; the Liberty graduates could fill in the blank.

The point I take from the story -- even though Mr. Rove didn't intend it -- is that at a tender age, Mr. Rove was attracted to the kind of politician who leaves office one step ahead of the impeachment posse. For that point, the girl didn't have to be Catholic. For Mr. Rove's intended point, though, she had to be Catholic because the politics he preaches and practices is "us against them," and there weren't likely to be many Catholic "thems" in the Liberty audience.

Mr. Blackburn takes what Mr. Rove was doing personally, and in the process of explaining why, gives us a stirring defense of the separation of state and religion.

Read the whole thing here, you'll be glad you did.

While we are speaking of a certain evangelical, fundamentalist approach to the Bible, the one that tends to fetishize the Book of Revelations, let me recommend for any of you who haven't had a chance to follow-up the other copious recommendations you've probably encountered during you're travels in blogovia, Fred Clark's brilliant "Left Behind" series at The Slacktivist, which, with wit and brilliance analyzes the Tim LaHaye ultra bestseller novels which spin out narratives of modern life in which the Rapture is an ever present reality: Fred's work is not only important to understanding the world view of a highly influential portion of the evangelical community, but is also invaluable if, like myself, you were ever traumatized by a too early exposure to "Revelations," (in my case, a neighboring family close to my family, genuinely lovely people who wished to spread the "good news" of how one could be included in the Rapture, but which had the opposite effect on me when informed that it was not certain that all of my family would be included and I realized that I preferred, in that case, to be left behind), an outcome you can insure by patterning your life after any of the "bad" characters in the Left Behind series. Here's a hint: If you read Corrente, you probably don't have to worry; you'll be here for the apocalypse.

Fred also has an interesting "take" on the Rick Perlstein Village Voice article previously blogged by Atrios, so interesting that Perlstein visited to add his own comment to it

While you're there, check out this sharply worded post about Bishop Michael Sheridan of the Colorado Roman Catholic Diocese; I doubt that any secularist would dare be as cutting as a religionist like Fred feels free to be. And don't miss this lovely, and somewhat surprising, I'll admit, post about C.S. Lewis's view of theocracy.

Bubbling up from the depths 

Greetings all...the Esteemed Lambert has invited me to join the Privileged Poo-Bah's of Page 1 Posting Primacy. This is my first try at this Blogging stuff (aside from incessant drivel in the comments sections) so please be kind if I screw anything up.
If anybody was watching the Senate Armed Services committee this morning they saw a good deal of talk about a slide, of a poster, of a list of things interrogators at Abu Ghraib were allowed to do (which were listed on the left side of the sheet) and things they had to get the Commanding General (CG)'s permission to do (right side of the poster).

Never did find the poster itself but turned up this transcript of a "background" briefing given at the Pentagon last Friday. I would describe it in theatrical terms as a "tryout in the sticks" for today's Senate testimony, since some paragraphs were repeated almost word for word.

(via Briefing transcript)

The money quotes are just short of halfway down. Check the dates on when "changes were made." And, oh yeah, way down at the bottom, on who made the decision to send commanders from Gitmo to Iraq...this just may be the smoking gun to Rummy.

And don't ask me why the only place this turned up was on the website of the US Embassy in Tokyo.

I am suddenly taken back to the day I first got behind the wheel of a car with permission to turn the key. Being as I figured that out (eventually), I expect this will work too. Lambert et al, thanks for the invite.

WhiteWash House assumes attack will happen before election 

Oh, in October?

White House officials say they've got a "working premise" about terrorism and the presidential election: It's going to happen. "We assume," says a top administration official, "an attack will happen leading up to the election." And, he added, "it will happen here." There are two worst-case scenarios, the official says. The first posits an attack on Washington, possibly the Capitol, which was believed to be the target of the 9/11 jet that crashed in Pennsylvania. Theory 2: smaller but more frequent attacks in Washington and other major cities leading up to the election. To prepare, the administration has been holding secret antiterrorism drills to make sure top officials know what to do. "There was a sense," says one official involved in the drills, "of mass confusion on 9/11. Now we have a sense of order." Unclear is the political impact, though most Bushies think the nation would rally around the president. "I can tell you one thing," adds the official sternly, "we won't be like Spain," which tossed its government days after the Madrid train bombings.
(via US News)

What's wrong with being like Spain? They got out of a war that had nothing to do with fighting Al Qaeda, one of their real enemies. Sounds like a reasonable sense of priorities, to me.

Oh, wait a minute. It's the "tossed the government" part that won't be the same. So, would not being like Spain mean cancelling the election?

Why on earth would the country rally round Bush, when an attack would be totally His screw up?

What does the word "weakness" mean to you? 

From God's lips to Inerrant Boy's ear:

"My resolve is firm," [Bush] said in a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. "This is an historic moment. The world watches for weakness in our resolve. They will see no weakness. We will answer every challenge."
(via WaPo)

Truly weird.

Inability to admit error. That's not weakness?

Wishful thinking and faith-based planning. That's not weakness?

Seeking revenge on truthtellers (Snow, Clarke, Shinseki). That's not weakness?

Really, this does remind me of 1984: "Ignorance is Strength."

UPDATE An off-by-one error in "1984" fixed, thanks to alert readers.

Unclean Spirits 

Your morning craziness - Report from the Bughouse:
John Gorenfeld has it all cued up for you.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004
Audio of the Washington Times owner at full snarl Listen to this...

"this" can be found right HERE

The hissing, snarling, venom spitting, demon infested ravings of an unglued scary. I'm not exagerrating either. Go hear it for yourself. (what you'll hear jumps right out at ya)


Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Goodnight, moon 

Office Space! What a great movie!

Bush to New York City: Drop dead! 

Surprise! When Bush distributes homeland security money, it's not on the basis of any actual threat.

New York City is expected to receive $96 million in federal antiterrorism aid this year, roughly half the amount it received in 2003, prompting the city's new emergency management commissioner to add his voice yesterday to those urging Washington to change the way funds are disbursed.

The commissioner, Joseph F. Bruno, who took office last month, said it was illogical to base so much of the states' shares of homeland security funds on population, since doing so does not take into account other factors that make some places, like New York City, more likely to be attacked. Currently, states receive the same base amount plus additional funds depending on population.

Testifying at a joint hearing of the City Council's finance and public safety committees, Mr. Bruno cited a statistic often used by critics of the federal allocation formula showing that Wyoming's share comes to $38 per person while New York City's is $5. New York City officials estimate that the city would receive $400 million a year if the formula considered the many likely targets here.

"We've got to have threat-based funding - we need it," Mr. Bruno said. "It's absurd to do it any other way."

A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security in Washington said no one was available yesterday to comment on how funds are allocated to states.
(via NY Times)

What possible explanation could there be? Silly Mr. Bruno! New York City is blue!

Why on earth these clowns think they'll be welcome in New York for their convention I cannot imagine. Fingerprint them at the bridges and the tunnels, say I.

Abu Ghraib torture: Prison network administrator starts coming clean 

ABC has the story, but they don't know they have the story:

"There's definitely a cover-up," the witness, Sgt. Samuel Provance, said. "People are either telling themselves or being told to be quiet."

Provance, 30, was part of the 302nd Military Intelligence Battalion stationed at Abu Ghraib last September. He spoke to ABCNEWS despite orders from his commanders not to.

"What I was surprised at was the silence," said Provance. "The collective silence by so many people that had to be involved, that had to have seen something or heard something."

Provance also described an incident when two drunken interrogators took a female Iraqi prisoner from her cell in the middle of the night and stripped her naked to the waist. The men were later restrained by another MP.

Provance, now stationed in Germany, ran the top secret computer network used by military intelligence at the prison.
(via ABC)

Well, it's nice to hear someone in the midst of the maelstrom confirm what we already know, that a cover-up is going on.

We've been asking (back):

Who ran the system on which the photos were stored, who had privileges on that system, and what was the distribution list for the system?

Now, thanks to ABC, we have a possible name of the system administrator: Sgt. Samuel Provance. So, that answers the first question. So, ABC, why not ask who had privileges on the system, and wwhat was the distribution list? So, even if the chain of command was deliberately obscured, for pplausible deniability, perhaps we can still follow the trail of the photos themselves, since they would go to the people who set up the system.

Say, I wonder if the logs of the Abu Ghraib system have been sequestered? Or has The Fog Machine already erased them? You'd think the defense lawyers for the scapegoats in the Baghdad show trials would want to know that...

Rapture index closes up 2 on financial unrest, inflation 


Hey, and they've re-"designed" their web site. I thought the old design was more authentic. Retro, don't you know.

And speaking of loons, get this from the Village Voice via Atrios:

The problem is not that George W. Bush is discussing policy with people who press right-wing solutions to achieve peace in the Middle East, or with devout Christians. It is that he is discussing policy with Christians who might not care about peace at all—at least until the rapture.

I think it's time someone ripped this "Methodist" veil off Inerrant Boy....

Say, remember Condi's Iraq Stabilization Group? 

Condi's big committee seems to have gone the way of so many other Bush "initiatives": Announced, then dropped... Mission to Mars, Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment, Iraq stabilization....

President Bush and his aides announced with some fanfare in October that they were creating the Iraq Stabilization Group within the National Security Council to increase the White House's role in coordinating Iraq policy. "We're trying to mobilize the entire U.S. government to support this effort" in Iraq, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said at the time.

But seven months later, the four original leaders of the Stabilization Group have taken on new roles, and only one remains concerned primarily with Iraq. A search of the White House Web site indicates the phrase "Iraq Stabilization Group" has not been mentioned publicly since October.
(via WaPo)

Condi does a great Emily Litella imitation, doesn't she?

Say, is Enron's "Kenny Boy" Lay still walking the streets? 

I wonder why? Perhaps there is a smoking gun:

Enron Corp. employees spoke of "stealing" up to $2 million a day from California during the 2000-01 energy crisis and suggested that their market-gaming ploys would be presented to top management, possibly including Jeffrey K. Skilling and Kenneth L. Lay, according to documents released Monday.

The evidence of apparent scheming — in one recorded conversation, traders brag about taking money from "Grandma Millie" in California — is in a filing by a utility in Snohomish County, Wash. The municipal power unit north of Seattle wants refunds for alleged overcharges made by Enron during the electricity market meltdown.

The utility obtained transcripts of routinely recorded trader discussions from the Justice Department, which seized them in its Enron investigation.
(via AP)

I can see it all now: Taking OBL off the ice and indicting Kenny Boy, packaged as a twin surprise in October...

Abu Ghraib torture: The word is "systemic" 

Looks like photography really was part of the modus operandi, unless it's just the parallelism of great minds. And not just at Abu Ghraib.

Reuters said Tuesday three Iraqis working for the news agency were beaten, taunted and forced to put shoes in their mouths during their detention at a military camp near Fallujah in January.

After being freed from their Jan. 2-5 detention, the men told Reuters about their alleged ordeal but only decided to make it public when the U.S. military said there was no evidence of abuse, and news broke about the mistreatment of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.

Reuters quoted all three men as saying they were beaten and forced to make demeaning gestures as soldiers laughed, taunted them and took photographs. Two told the news agency they also were degraded by being forced to insert fingers into their anuses and then lick them, and to put shoes in their mouths.

"The U.S. investigation in this case remains totally unsatisfactory as far as we're concerned," Susan Allsopp, a Reuters spokeswoman in London, said Tuesday. "We would urge them to reevaluate the investigation in light of recent invents."

The Reuters staff said the abuse happened at Forward Operating Base Volturno, near Fallujah, after they were detained while covering the aftermath of the shooting down of a U.S. helicopter near the Iraqi city. There were held at Volturno, then at Forward Operating Base St. Mere, they said.

The men were Baghdad-based cameraman Salem Ureibi, Fallujah-based freelance television journalist Ahmad Mohammad Hussein al-Badrani and driver Sattar Jabar al-Badrani. They were released without being charged.

On Monday, the news agency said, it received a letter dated March 5 from U.S. Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of ground forces in Iraq, that he was confident the investigation had been "thorough and objective" and its findings were sound.
(via AP)

Smart move, guys. Abusing reporters...

W and the boys are in trouble 

The pattern of the latest wave of revelations is clear: They are coming from significant numbers of senior figures in both the U.S. military and intelligence services. They reflect the disgust and contempt widely felt in both communities at the excesses; and at long last, they are being listened to seriously by senior Republican, as well as Democratic, senators on Capitol Hill.

Rumsfeld and his team of top lieutenants have therefore now lost the confidence, trust and respect of both the Army and intelligence establishments. Key elements of the political establishment even of the ruling GOP now recognize this.

Yet Rumsfeld and his lieutenants remain determined to hang on to power, and so far President Bush has shown every sign of wanting to keep them there. The scandal, therefore, is far from over. The revelations will continue. The cost of the abuses to the American people and the U.S. national interest is already incalculable: And there is no end in sight.
Read the rest of it here.

Is W really stupid enough to keep Rummy around?

Worthy Of Note 

Jon Stewart returned to his alma mater, WILLIAM & MARY, to give the commencement address. My favorite part:

Lets talk about the real world for a moment. We had been discussing it earlier, and I…I wanted to bring this up to you earlier about the real world, and this is I guess as good a time as any. I don’t really know to put this, so I’ll be blunt. We broke it.

Please don’t be mad. I know we were supposed to bequeath to the next generation a world better than the one we were handed. So, sorry.

I don’t know if you’ve been following the news lately, but it just kinda got away from us. Somewhere between the gold rush of easy internet profits and an arrogant sense of endless empire, we heard kind of a pinging noise, and uh, then the damn thing just died on us. So I apologize.

But here’s the good news. You fix this thing, you’re the next greatest generation, people. You do this—and I believe you can—you win this war on terror, and Tom Brokaw’s kissing your ass from here to Tikrit, let me tell ya. And even if you don’t, you’re not gonna have much trouble surpassing my generation. If you end up getting your picture taken next to a naked guy pile of enemy prisoners and don’t give the thumbs up you’ve outdid us.

We declared war on terror. We declared war on terror—it’s not even a noun, so, good luck. After we defeat it, I’m sure we’ll take on that bastard ennui.

But obviously that’s the world. What about your lives? What piece of wisdom can I impart to you about my journey that will somehow ease your transition from college back to your parents' basement?

To find out what advice Jon has to give, read the whole thing here; the rest is just as rude, smart, and amusing.

As smart, but with a keener, rawer edge, and surely the most amusing reference to the Donner Party in years, DO NOT MISS Tresy's post below on the latest babbling from the pundit Brooks.

Alert reader Beth, in the excellent Comments section which you should also not miss, offers this excellence:

Shorter Brooks
The early settlers were heroes for going out West, ill-equipped and unprepared. Therefore Bush is a hero for sending American servicemen and women into Iraq, ill-equipped and unprepared

A Modest Suggestion:
Dear Mr. Brooks,
For an exciting and rewarding adventure, try jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. It might be scary at first, but never fear. Good old-fashioned American adaptability will save you long before you hit the ground.

Mustang Bobby has more on Brooks' historical analogies at Bark Bark Woof Woof.

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