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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


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"?

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.

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"

"The commission will have a Web site, at, 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 

Open thread 

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 

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Goodnight, moon 

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.

Paging alert reader Xan 

Will you contact lambert with an email address that works? (The one in comments doesn't seem to—unless my fingers outran my brain, as indeed often happens.)

I have a question for you. TIA!

First as Tragedy, Finally as Justice? 

In another laugh-out-loud column, David Brooks takes us on a fact-free tour of his papier mache version of American history to demonstrate that the unfolding catastrophe in Iraq is actually going according to, if not a plan, then at least an ultimately happy American pattern:

The guides who aided and fleeced the pioneers who moved West were struck by how clueless many of them were about the wilderness they were entering. Their diaries show that many thought they could establish genteel New England-style villages in short order. They leapt before they looked, faced the shock of reality, adapted and cobbled together something unexpected.

And it is that way today.

Now I really don't know who Brooks imagines the contemporary versions of thse unscrupulous guides are, but I think most people would think of the very Administration that lied, schemed, and bullied us into this disaster, and who now disavow any responsibility for its unfolding consequences. (Does Brooks think before he commits his nitwit ideas to paper?) Some might even think of the story of the Donner Party, whose horrific ordeal began with a decision to trust some of those very hucksters with an untried, and largely invented "shortcut" through the high Sierras. Even before their fateful ascent to the verdant hell that now bears their name, the party had been decimated by Indian attacks and the punishing heat of the Great Basin Desert, but showing Brooks' virtues, they persevered. "They looked, faced the shock of reality, adapted and cobbled together something unexpected." That is to say, they wound up eating each other.

Happily, unlike the other Donner Party, the hucksters behind this one find themselves trapped as well, in a sort of meteorologically inverted version of that party's snowy tomb, but with similar cannibalistic dynamics. Fred Kaplan writes:

All of these hound-hunts will be fueled by the extraordinary levels of internecine feuding that have marked this administration for years. Until recently, Rumsfeld, with White House assistance, has quelled dissenters, but the already-rattling lid is almost certain to blow off soon. As has been noted, Secretary of State Colin Powell, tiring of his good-soldier routine, is attacking his adversaries in the White House and Pentagon with eyebrow-raising openness. Hersh's story states that Rumsfeld's secret operation stemmed from his "longstanding desire to wrest control of America's clandestine and paramilitary operations from the CIA." Hersh's sources—many of them identified as intelligence officials—seem to be spilling, in part, to wrest back control. Uniformed military officers, who have long disliked Rumsfeld and his E-Ring crew for a lot of reasons, are also speaking out. Hersh and Newsweek both report that senior officers from the Judge Advocate General's Corps went berserk when they found out about Rumsfeld's secret operation, to the point of taking their concerns to the New York Bar Association's committee on international human rights.

The knives are out all over Washington—lots of knives, unsheathed and sharpened in many different backroom parlors, for many motives and many throats. In short, this story is not going away.

It would be nice if, just once, the hucksters upon whom the babbling Brooks unblinkingly gazes paid the price for their chicanery. For thousands of their victims, it is of course too late to matter. Still, some measure of justice for the perpetrators of this outrage would indeed be "the start of a new beginning now," if not the one that a witless shill like Brooks has in mind.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Goodnight, moon 

I'm thinking of having cards made up that look something like this:


your very special ringtone
your business affairs
your medical history
the most intimate details of your hopes, fears, and dreams
with me
with your neighbors
with the entire:
for the last:
few minutes
half hour
several hours


Then, just check of the appropriate boxes and hand the card to the offender. Simple and clean. As long as I don't get shot.

Readers, any thoughts on additions to the list?

Say, will Bush dump Cheney for Smarty Jones, if Smarty Jones wins the Belmont? 

After all, Pennsylvania's a swing state!

But why does the word "Caligula" come into my mind....

Nick Berg mystery: Aziz, the mysterious friend. And what about Berg's cell phone records? 

Could it get any stranger? Yes. Remember, from Nick Berg's diary, "Aziz will do us well I think"? (back) Our own Daily News gets the story:

Aziz Kadoory Aziz, also known as Aziz al-Taee, hooked up earlier this year with the 26-year-old West Chester man to start a small company called Shirikat Abraj Babil, or Babylon Towers Co., that would install, inspect and repair telecommunications and utility towers.

After living in Philadelphia for two decades, Aziz arrived in Baghdad sometime last year. A friend said he left for Iraq before the government moved on the deportation case.

Here in America, Aziz was the highly visible spokesman for a group he'd founded called the Iraqi American Council and appeared frequently on major media outlets like Fox News Channel calling for the military ouster of Saddam Hussein.

Aziz' outfront role also included speaking at pre-war, pro-troop rallies. It continued even after it was reported the inner-city electronic entrepreneur had pleaded guilty in [selling millions of crack vials in a] case in 1994 and later had legal run-ins involving stolen computers and bootlegged CDs.

Berg's first efforts to win radio-tower repair work were unsuccessful, and he was robbed on the streets of Baghdad.

Aziz said that Berg left his equipment with him during a short trip back to the U.S. When he came back, the two spent an hour climbing tall buildings at Abu Ghraib, site of the infamous prison. Aziz said they re-recorded measurements that were in his stolen notebook.

It's not clear whether Aziz received "media training," but the handsome, nattily dressed ex-pat, now 40, probably didn't need it. He addressed similar rallies in Valley Forge, St. Louis and Washington, where he claimed Hussein's henchmen killed both his cousin and brother-in-law. The rallies were launched by Clear Channel syndicated talk-radio host Glenn Beck, and the media giant sponsored many of them.

"There are no cell phones in Iraq," Aziz told a reporter in May 2003. "That's the way to the future."

Now, Aziz is now getting publicity for monitoring the final cell-phone calls of his slain partner. He said this weekend he understands Berg's phone was used as recently as April 19, and that three calls were made that day to Jordan, to the United Arab Emirates and to a local number.

"He could still have been alive."
(via our own Daily News)

Hmmm... Wonder where the cell phone records are? Wonder who he called?

Fill up and weep, Hummer owners! 

Gas is $2.00 a gallon.

Another "Mission Accomplished" for the Bush administration!

Sheesh, if they'd just cut that deal with Qaddafi sooner, or gotten that guy in Venezuela, Chavez, overthrown ... Or hadn't turned Iraq into be a geopolitical dry hole....

Good thing the Saudis are rock solid, or we'd really be in trouble!

And hey, look on the bright side! Pretty soon it's going to be profitable to drill in Texas again!

Chain of command: Pass the popcorn! 

Fred Kaplan writes in Slate:

Read together, the [Hersh and Newsweek] magazine articles spell out an elaborate, all-inclusive chain of command in this scandal. Bush knew about it. Rumsfeld ordered it. His undersecretary of defense for intelligence, Steven Cambone, administered it. Cambone's deputy, Lt. Gen. William Boykin, instructed Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who had been executing the program involving al-Qaida suspects at Guantanamo, to go do the same at Abu Ghraib. Miller told Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who was in charge of the 800th Military Brigade, that the prison would now be dedicated to gathering intelligence. Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense for policy, also seems to have had a hand in this sequence, as did William Haynes, the Pentagon's general counsel. Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, learned about the improper interrogations—from the International Committee of the Red Cross, if not from anyone else—but said or did nothing about it for two months, until it was clear that photographs were coming out. Meanwhile, those involved in the interrogations included officers from military intelligence, the CIA, and private contractors, as well as the mysterious figures from the Pentagon's secret operation.

That's a lot more people than the seven low-grade soldiers and reservists currently facing courts-martial.

The knives are out all over Washington—lots of knives, unsheathed and sharpened in many different backroom parlors, for many motives and many throats. In short, this story is not going away.

Much is at stake here—budgets, bailiwicks, careers, reputations, re-elections, to say nothing of national security and the future of Iraq. Get ready for a bumpy ride.

And really, it couldn't be happening to a nicer set of guys! Double butter with mine, please!

Timmy "can do" Timken picks up his ball and bearings and stomps off the field. 

As an addendum to Tresy's post below: PoTimken Village Closes Up Shop -- earlier initial context on Timken and his company and relations to the Bush pool can be found previously on this page. See Saturday, May 15 post titled Commander LeGree's Magical Productivity Tour. The comments section to this that (Magical Productivity Tour) post contains a wealth of links to articles, speeches, fund raising efforts, background info on Timken and associates, and their cozy relationship to Bush and the Republican Party down through the years. Including Timken's postion on the board of Diebold Corporation.

One of the corporations in charge of electronic vote counting, Diebold, has funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates and one of its board members, W.R. Timken, is a Bush "Pioneer." Diebold will be counting votes in the electoral-vote rich state of Ohio next year. According to Democracy Now, Diebold can not only track election returns as they come in, but it can change them without leaving any evidence. LINK

Likewise, Sid the Fish has been all over this story for days. See, for instance: Hey, Ohio: Mission accomplished! and or HERE

WR Timken, no doubt one of those small business mom and pop entrepreneurs the Bushlette is always yammering about, also managed to secure hisself a nomination and appointment to the National Consumer Cooperative Bank and the Securities Investor Protection Corporation. Hi-ho silver spoons away!

Likewise, in 2001, Stephen A. Perry, former "senior vice president - human resources, purchasing and communications, at The Timken Co.," was booted up the greasy pole to serve as Bush appointed Administrator of the General Services Administration. It's all just one big happy mom and pop family over there at Timmy Timken town.

Timken is also a Bush Pioneer. Which means he gets to wear a funny hat and "discover" new continents and stuff like that. Timken's pirate ship will sail for the East Indies any day now. As for all you sore losers in Canton, Ohio, - hey, why don't you just shut up and get a friggin' job!


PoTimken Village Closes Up Shop 

This story neatly encapsulates everything meretricious about this Administration (not to mention its plutocratic supporters), and it doesn't have anything to do with Iraq. This could do for Junior what a supermarket checkout scanner did for his Dad. If the Kerry campaign can't give the story legs, I'm going to start worrying that his doubters have a point.

Hesiod has more.

Update: Sid's Fishbowl has still more (plus a URL with a Pynchon reference in it, making his post doublegplusgood).

Abu Ghraib torture: Pentagon: Hersh guilty of "journalistic malpractice" 

Well, there's hysterical and then there's hysterical, you understand..

"This is the most hysterical piece of journalist malpractice I have ever observed," said Lawrence DiRita, spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, in response to Hersh's report.

A senior intelligence official said the article contains "fantasy," adding, "I haven't found any truth in it."

The unit described simply does not exist, the intelligence official said
(via CNN)

Well, of course, they have to say exactly what they are saying. It's a Special Access Program. Looks like they've decided to tough it out—which should last, oh, until next week's New Yorker.

Remember how Perle was going to sue Hersh in the UK courts? How's that coming, anyhow?

UPDATE Tom tells me I got my neocons confused: Perle, not, as I had it, Wolfie.

Iraq occupation: Is the Bush doctrine of pre-emption dead? 

Bush is sure mentioning his doctrine about as often as going to Mars or the gay marriage amendment.

The second anniversary is approaching of the speech in which President Bush unveiled the doctrine of preemption that he hoped to enshrine as the centerpiece of America's national security strategy. But the celebration is likely to be muted, inside the White House and beyond. Preemption, as applied in Iraq, has become the greatest threat to its author's reelection.

"As a doctrine, it's dead as a doornail," insists Ivo Daalder, a former national security aide under President Clinton and coauthor of "America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy." Even one GOP strategist familiar with White House national security thinking acknowledges that for any president looking to apply the doctrine again, "the bar is higher, the country would be more reluctant, and the case would be harder to make."

The reason, of course, is Iraq, the doctrine's first test.

But after the intelligence debacle in Iraq, Bush or any successor is certain to face stiffer demands at home and abroad for proof before acting.

The world, and perhaps the American public as well, would probably demand much more proof than Bush mustered in Iraq. That looms as the ironic legacy of Bush's attempt to elevate preemption from a tactic of last resort to a guiding doctrine. By defining preemption so much more aggressively than his predecessors, he may have reduced his successors' ability to employ it.
(via LA Times)

I don't think Bush does irony, though. And what the heck is a doornail, anyhow?

Iraq occupation: Will the WMD hype begin again? 

An Improvised Explosive Device exploded by an Iraqi roadside:

"The round was an old binary-type requiring the mixing of two chemical components in separate sections of the cell before the deadly agent is produced," Kimmitt said. "The cell is designed to work after being fired from an artillery piece."

I can hear the drums starting to beat on finding WMDs... I wonder how many reports will retain the word "old"?

A Spy in the House of Love 

I have nothing original to contribute to this morning's statutory unfurlings in the Mayflower state. Aside from imagining the continuous stream of dejected rag tag ultra-conservative Bible thumping refugees fleeing that ground and bound for Salt Lake City or Midland Texas or any other number of brutal outbacks, with all of their belongings lashed to the roof of Ford Explorer flipover carriages like so many retreating rebels fleeing over the Potomac at Williamsport, i haven't prepared any additional official imaginings. Perhaps though, it will all remind some of Josiah Gorgas's grim diary entry of July 28, 1863,: "It seems incredible that human power could effect such change in so brief a space. Yesterday we rode on the pinnacle of success - today absolute ruin seems to be our portion. The Confederacy totters to its destruction."

In which case all i can say is: Yeah well Josiah, ya win some and ya lose some. Git over it.

So heres to all the same sex marriage victors in Mass who will celebrate liberty this morning - May 17, 2004 - and their new won freedom to hitch their wagon to whoever the hell they want to hitch their wagon to. And as a hi-ho thumbs up go-get-em don't tread on me salute i offer an old yarn, written a year ago and tossed into the roaring current of the Eschaton, in honor of the occasion. Just for the celebratory fun of it.

Originally titled "A Spy in the Garden of Sapphos," here goes again. Roll the tape.

Obviously, Bill Clinton's bad example put Mary Cheney on the path to lesbianism.

I was shown the path to lesbianism once.
It seemed a worthy enough path. So I decided to venture down it. And at the end of the path there was an inn tucked into a green woodlot at the base of a hill. A handmade sign that hung at the entrance to the inn read "The Tenth Muse". Ok then, pretty regular looking place, front porch, flower garden, pickup truck in the drive with a "Melissa Etheridge rocks" bumper sticker attached. Whatever. So I went up to the door and rang the bell. A woman opened the door and I said "Is this the path to lesbianism"? She said "no, this is the end of the path to lesbianism, the path to lesbianism is behind you." Then she whacked me in the side of the head with a paperback edition of 'The Journals of Anais Nin'.

"Ow" I said. She said "c'mon in". So I went inside with her. It was a nice enough place filled with light and the sounds of falling water. Then she took me out into a backyard garden where a mountain brook fed into a beautiful pool of lilies ringed with iris and globeflower, aspodels and babys breath. Spotted baby fawns drank from an indigo fountain and a jaguar lay sleeping in the crook of a huge Banyan tree. And right there, in the middle of the pool, was none other than the Clenis. Naked as a wood duck. Frolicking among the sapphic nymphs as Erato plucked notes from a lyre. They were all singing a stanza to a little song, which went like this:

Albert Mooney says he loves her
All the boys are fighting for her
Knock at the door and they ring that bell
"Oh my true love, are you well?"
Out she comes as white as snow
Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes
Old Jenny Murphy says she will die
If she couldn't get the fellow with the roving eye.

And then they'd laugh and laugh and clap and begin the stanza all over again.

I said to my host, "I had no idea that the path to lesbianism would lead me to the Clenis." She said "Oh yes, sometimes it may. He frequently stops by for a swim with the nymphs and naiads. Then she told me, "Although the Clenis has a penis, he's a friend of Venus! A special genus. We like to kid him and call him the Clenis Dionysus... think about it."

"I am" I informed her.

I then remarked, "You have a nice place nestled here beside this hill. Not without its troubles I'm sure, but cozy enough and well away from the harpies and scirons of reactionary theogony or the reckless plunders of spartan conservatism. But why not build it atop the hill so you could look down upon those encroaching upon your path." At which point my host pointed to a sign swinging from an arbor made of woven willow boughs smothered with morning glory and grapes - the sign read:

"No house should ever be on a hill or on anything. It should be of the hill, belonging to it, so hill and house could live together each the happier for the other."

"Frank Lloyd Wright" my host informed me.

"I like it!" I exclaimed. "It makes good sense!"

"Now, can I have a sponge bath?" I could see her cocking the Anais Nin volume again so I jumped to my own defense, "just kidding, just kidding" I quipped, "you know how it is." And she looked at me in a mischievous way that reminded me of a wood-sprite and said, "I do at that." Then she slapped me smartly on the back of the head with Anais Nin anyway, and said, "watch here."

At which point I heard splashing sounds and giggling coming from the garden pool. I turned quickly, just in time to see the Clenis, bathed in a rainbow, transformed magically into a silenus. The Clenis silenus. At which point the whole noisy pool party went skipping off into the fauna, the Clenis silenus and the nymphs, all of them, laughing and clapping and singing together:

Tell me ma when I go home
The boys won't leave the girls alone
They pulled my hair, they stole my comb
But that's all right till I go home
She is handsome, she is pretty
She is the bell of Dryad city
She is a-courting one, two, three
Pray won't you tell me who is she
Let the wind and rain and the hail blow high
And the snow come tumblin' from the sky
She's as nice as apple pie
She'll get her own lass by and by.....

And then they were completely gone. Swallowed up by the woodland twilight.

I thanked my host for her hospitality and told her I'd be back as soon as I could find a copy of Henry Miller's "Tropic of Cancer" to bludgeon her with. She laughed and said, "good one", and then we shook hands and said goodbye.

I walked back up the winding path from lesbianism and when I got home late that evening I sat down and turned on the TV. There was that obnoxious boob-toob man-shrew Joe Scarborough sneering forth with some self-righteous opinionated bit of excitable concocted quackery or another. Desecrating whatever sliver of journalistic integrity MSNBC might still have left. Which granted, ain't much of a sliver these days. Click.

I wasn't going to let that horseshit shoveler ruin my day. No siree by mother nature. So I poured me a shot of bourbon and took a big drink and slid into my manly action outerwear jacket from the Cabela's sporting goods catalog mail order warehouse and went out hunting. Hunting like a rutting buck......through the bookstore stacks and used book bins for my very own copy of "Spy in the House of Love".

Dateline: Lexington and Concord, May 2004.
amor vincit omnia


Sunday, May 16, 2004

Goodnight, moon 

I feel like howling, even if the moon isn't full.

After reading Sunday in the Park with Seymour (back)...

Powell agrees to Sistani's price 

I always worried what Sistani's price was for letting us invade Najaf to take down the Sadrists. Now I know:

The United States, in a policy reversal, yesterday signalled its readiness to accept an Islamic theocracy in Iraq.

Asked if a theocratic Islamic government would be acceptable, Mr Powell indicated it was ready to entertain this option.

'We will have to accept what the Iraqi people decide upon,' he said in comments to be broadcast in yesterday's 'Meet the Press' programme.
(via Straits Times)

Question: If the administration had known that the result of going to war in Iraq was a second Shi'ite theocracy in the Arab world, would they still have gone to war? Just asking.

Special Access Program: Hersh's real story and what it means 

Seymour Hersh kicked the Abu Ghraib story into another level today (the ugly story).

The real story is the Special Access Program of targetted assassination
Here's the money paragraph:

Rumsfeld reacted in his usual direct fashion: he authorized the establishment of a highly secret program that was given blanket advance approval to kill or capture and, if possible, interrogate “high value” targets in the Bush Administration’s war on terror. A special-access program, or SAP—subject to the Defense Department’s most stringent level of security—was set up, with an office in a secure area of the Pentagon. The program would recruit operatives and acquire the necessary equipment, including aircraft, and would keep its activities under wraps.
(via The New Yorker)

Note the order:

1. Kill
2. Capture
3. if possible interrogate

Note: AP gets this wrong. They call the SAP a program of "aggressive interrogation." But see above, especially the artful "if possible."

A classic non-denial denial from the Pentagon
Here's Lawrence Di Rita's non-denial denial, straight from the Pentagon. I quote it in full, for the sheer pleasure of wallowing in high-grade flackery:

"Assertions apparently being made in the latest New Yorker article on Abu Ghraib and the abuse of Iraqi detainees are outlandish, conspiratorial, and filled with error and anonymous conjecture.
(via DOD)

Heh. The fact that they are "outlandish" and "conspiratorial" makes it par for the course with this administration. One fact (below) is challenged.

"The abuse evidenced in the videos and photos, and any similar abuse that may come to light in any of the ongoing half dozen investigations into this matter, has no basis in any sanctioned program, training manual, instruction, or order in the Department of Defense.

Right. It's a Special Access Program! It's secret, so they have to lie about it!

"No responsible official of the Department of Defense approved any program that could conceivably have been intended to result in such abuses as witnessed in the recent photos and videos.

Whooo! Parse that one.... I can't, my head is starting to hurt.

"To correct one of the many errors in fact, Undersecretary Cambone has no responsibility, nor has he had any responsibility in the past, for detainee or interrogation programs in Afghanistan, Iraq, or anywhere else in the world.

Re Cambone: Hersh writes that Cambone was in charge of the SAP, which is the real story. This statement says "detainee or interrogation programs," so is a non-denial with respect to the SAP. Anyhow, Hersh has got two sources on Cambone, so I take that over the flak.

"This story seems to reflect the fevered insights of those with little, if any, connection to the activities in the Department of Defense."

True, the sources are mostly CIA, DOD consultants, and JAGs. Does that make the story untrue?

Can we fight and win a war on terror?
So, the story is true.

The SAP is a program of targetted assassination of AQ suspects.

The story begins at Abu Ghraib, but becomes the story of how Pentagon neo-cons, in the fathomless incompetence that has become the hallmark of Inerrant Boy's malAdministration, brought the spark of the SAP's black world interrogation techniques and operatives together with the human fuel at Abu Ghraib: the human fuel of prisoners, demoralized GIs, their families, and the people in the legal chain of command. The explosion of torture begat an equal and opposite reaction: An explosion of truth-telling in the "white" world by the GI families to Congress (though ignored until they went to CBS), and ultimately by the legal chain of command in the persons of whistleblower Joseph Darby and General Taguba. Now the explosion is reverberating outward through the efforts of what we have left of a free press, doing its best in what we have left of a free society.

In danger, opportunity. Now that we know the way the Bush administration has really been fighting the war on terror, there is at last a way for liberals and democrats to begin to pose alternatives to it.

To begin with, the Bush administration has been making the same mistake all along: They retain the mental habits of the cold war, when our enemies were states. When fighting states, we could always, through our nuclear arsenal, say in effect to the leaders of enemy governments, "We can kill you. Personally." There are a host of works from the 60s, from Seven Days in May to Doctor Strangelove, that make this point. The desire of the Pentagon for a "bunker busting" bomb shows that this mindset persists today.

So, Bush thinks he can decapitate AQ, as if AQ were a state or a corporation, and sets up an SAP to do just that. But AQ and its mutatations after 9/11 aren't like states: They are a lot like the leaderless resistance championed by winger ideologues. AQ and its ilk are project-based and corpuscular: They fragment and mutate. We can't kill 'em all.

Even if we can't kill 'em all, was it right to try? Maybe. I don't like the prospect of a dirty bomb in Philadelphia's port any more than the next guy, and if there's a 200-person SAP, a "heart of darkness" as Hersh puts it, that prevents that, well ... Tell me the other choice that's better?

But the abstract question isn't really the right one. The real question is, Was the Bush Administration right to try? Here, the answer is almost certainly No, because they've already given ample proof they're incompetent at best, starting with the WMD fiasco, and continuing on with the botched post-war planning. And now they've proved it all over again: Assume that the SAP was justified; assume that it was keeping America (more) safe. In that case, the Bush administration has managed to blow the cover, not just of a single intelligence operative (Valerie Plame) but a large, critically important, and ongoing, intelligence operation. That's what the decision to combine the SAP with military intelligence at Abu Ghraib did.

So, still assuming the SAP program of targetted assassination was and is justified, how do things net out? With the photos, we've covered the walls of the Arab world with recruiting posters for AQ or worse. And if in fact the SAP did work, Bush blew its cover. I think it's a net loss. No wonder they don't know what to say.

It may be too late to put the toothpaste back in the tube. It may be too late to restore America's soft power—the reality of the freedom Bush keeps talking about—but let's hope not. Surely we still do have a reservoir of good will from those who seek to immigrate here, or having immigrated, send money home, among those with whom we have shared schooling, vacations, human contacts. Surely just as there are People of the Book there are also People of the Law, who would wish to see us restored by the better angels of our nature.

I still think the so-called war on terror is a law enforcement problem and should be treated that way: Wars against states can be won (or lost). Wars against social conditions, like poverty or drugs, are never won. The so-called war on terror falls into this category.

The Bush administration, in its crude and principle-free way, seems to understand this idea. Stupidly killing Saddam's sons, they were smart enough to hold Saddam for trial (though not smart enough to make the lawful conditions for that trial an end in itself). And even a show trial of the soldiers involved in the Abu Ghraib trial shows they understand the value of the appearance of the rule of law. (Like so many of the Republican talking points during the coup against Clinton, the "rule of law" was stood on its head as soon as Bush seized power.) So why not turn the appearance into reality?

Seems to me we could turn the war on terror into a law enforcement problem in the following way:

1. The American voters must repudiate Bush. There's no other way, since he's a proven liar, and no program he proposes will have credibility.

2. Publish whatever documents and directives there are that show Bush's plans for the war. The directive establishing the SAP would be a good start. Do the same for Bush's directives on treatment and handling of prisoners. Repudiate as much as necessary.

3. Restore the Geneva Convention.

4. Join the International Criminal Court.

5. Turn the SAP into a police-like force. We should be able to change the rules to put interrogation and capture first, instead of last, on the list. Then internationalize it, maybe through NATO.

6. When the SAP has some prisoners, try them. Now, we've got the rule of law back in place, and the court (the ICC) to do the trials.

7. Make sure the trials become a media event—the ultimate "reality show" that in fact it is. We're good at this, it's our ultimate soft power, and this is where the Hague has failed. If the court is sufficiently well run, it won't become a platform for fundamentalists we're fighting. Further, if the message of the the fundamentalists is as stunted and trivial as we think it is, we have nothing to fear. Finally, it will expose the workings of a system of justice and the rule of law to a worldwide audience. Heck, if people watch soccer, they'll certainly watch this.

8. Get serious about loose nukes. If we need war dogs and a heart of darkness for that, the world will understand.

If anyone thinks this is Utopian or idealistic—please, tell me how it is more crazy than what Bush is doing now?

NOTE Alert reader riggsveda recommends the following study by Dr. Jeffrey Record: "Bounding the Global War on Terrorism." Here's the abstract:

The author examines three features of the war on terrorism as currently defined and conducted: (1) the administration's postulation of the terrorist threat, (2) the scope and feasibility of U.S. war aims, and (3) the war's political, fiscal, and military sustainability. He believes that the war on terrorism--as opposed to the campaign against al-Qaeda--lacks strategic clarity, embraces unrealistic objectives, and may not be sustainable over the long haul. He calls for downsizing the scope of the war on terrorism to reflect concrete U.S. security interests and the limits of American military power.

These are sober, Army war college types.

Blogger spooge 

I sure wish Blogger, or Mozilla, or Haloscan, or whoever, would fix whatever is causing this blog, written and stored on billion dollar corporation Google's system, to stop spewing tons of garbage instead of HTML pages into the browsers and, worse, the caches, of Mozilla users.

Sheesh. Please don't tell me to use IE5, I'm on linux.

NOTE Alert reader fightingdem reminds me to fix the long URLs that are pushing the sidebar too far right.

Turkee for Atrios 

Nick Berg atrocity: Where's that video, again? 

One of the unanswered questions about Nick Berg's death is the site where the video originally surfaced.

Alert reader john says the site is this:

Nada. Interesting.

Even Google cache, here:
Cache Link

shows nothing but an empy frameset.

Then again, here's the cache form the main page:
Cache Main Page

And the left column:
Cache Left Column

Readers? Can anyone shed any light here? To start with, is the URI the right one?

Abu Ghraib torture: Dozens of videotapes of torture stored at Gitmo 

Here is the standard operating procedure at Gitmo:

Dozens of videotapes of American guards allegedly engaged in brutal attacks on Guantanamo Bay detainees have been stored and catalogued at the camp, an investigation by The Observer has revealed.

[UK citizen Tarek Dergoul, a] 26-year-old, from Mile End in east London, spent 22 months at Guantanamo Bay from May 2002. Today he tells The Observer of repeated assaults by Camp Delta's punishment squad, known as the Extreme Reaction Force or ERF.

'They tied me up like a beast and then they were kneeling on me, kicking and punching. Finally they dragged me out of the cell in chains, into the rec[reation] yard, and shaved my beard, my hair, my eyebrows.'

Dergoul who now reveals that every time the ERFs were deployed, a sixth team member recorded on digital video everything that happened.

Lieutenant Colonel Leon Sumpter, the Guantanamo Joint Task Force spokesman, confirmed this last night, saying all ERF actions were filmed so they could be 'reviewed' by senior officers. All the tapes are kept in an archive there, he said. He refused to say how many times the ERF squads had been used and would not discuss their training or rules of engagement, saying: 'We do not discuss operational aspects of the Joint Task Force mission.'
(via The Observer)

Well, so much for the bad apples theory! The torture, and the filming, was indeed systemic.

So, Miller organized Gitmo, then Miller organized Abu Ghraib. Clearly the filming technique was part of the interrogation technique he brought with him—and the videos may indeed just have been for CYA. However, someone in Iraq thought of using the videotapes for blackmail.... I wonder who?

And, as we keep asking? What was the distribution list for the photos and tapes?

After all, we know that Bush keeps a list of targets in his desk drawer, and likes the cross off the ones that "are no longer a problem" (back). Hmmm... Wonder where those photos came from? Wonder if, well, any new photos are ever compared to the old ones?

Abu Ghraib blowback: Gonzales's dirty fingerprints all over abandoning the Geneva Convention 

One of the few pleasant features of the exploding story of the decisions and policies that led to the Abu Ghraib clusterfuck is the way we keep meeting old friends.

Old friends like Alberto Gonzales, counsel to Inerrant Boy in Texas and now in the WhiteWash House. Newsweek reports:

By Jan. 25, 2002, according to a memo obtained by NEWSWEEK, it was clear that Bush had already decided that the Geneva Conventions did not apply at all, either to the Taliban or Al Qaeda. In the memo, which was written to Bush by Gonzales, the White House legal counsel told the president that Powell had "requested that you reconsider that decision." Gonzales then laid out startlingly broad arguments that anticipated any objections to the conduct of U.S. soldiers or CIA interrogators in the future. "As you have said, the war against terrorism is a new kind of war," Gonzales wrote to Bush. "The nature of the new war places a high premium on other factors, such as the ability to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists and their sponsors in order to avoid further atrocities against American civilians." Gonzales concluded in stark terms: "In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions."

Gonzales also argued that dropping Geneva would allow the president to "preserve his flexibility" in the war on terror. His reasoning? That U.S. officials might otherwise be subject to war-crimes prosecutions under the Geneva Conventions. Gonzales said he feared "prosecutors and independent counsels who may in the future decide to pursue unwarranted charges" based on a 1996 U.S. law that bars "war crimes," which were defined to include "any grave breach" of the Geneva Conventions. As to arguments that U.S. soldiers might suffer abuses themselves if Washington did not observe the conventions, Gonzales argued wishfully to Bush that "your policy of providing humane treatment to enemy detainees gives us the credibility to insist on like treatment for our soldiers."

Well, what is one example of wishful thinking among so many?

Of course, anyone who thinks that Gonzales's "counsel" is anything other than sycophantic bloviation in service to yet another one of Bush's death dealing fiascos should examine the Texas Clemency Memoes once again:

During Bush's six years as governor 150 men and two women were executed in Texas—a record unmatched by any other governor in modern American history. Each time a person was sentenced to death, Bush received from his legal counsel a document summarizing the facts of the case, usually on the morning of the day scheduled for the execution, and was then briefed on those facts by his counsel; based on this information Bush allowed the execution to proceed in all cases but one. The first fifty-seven of these summaries were prepared by [Albert] Gonzales, a Harvard-educated lawyer who went on to become the Texas secretary of state and a justice on the Texas supreme court. He is now the White House counsel.

Gonzales's summaries were Bush's primary source of information in deciding whether someone would live or die.

A close examination of the Gonzales memoranda suggests that Governor Bush frequently approved executions based on only the most cursory briefings on the issues in dispute. In fact, in these documents Gonzales repeatedly failed to apprise the governor of crucial issues in the cases at hand: ineffective counsel, conflict of interest, mitigating evidence, even actual evidence of innocence.

The scum also rises...

So, who wants to bet on how long the administration will allow the New Yorker to keep publishing? 

And let's hope Seymour Hersh (the ugly story, back) doesn't go up in any small planes, have a heart condition that suddenly worsens, or agree to meet a source in a parking garage after a phone call from a mysterious stranger. Or open an envelope with white powder in it, from one of those guys we just don't seem able to catch...

I mean, Hersh just ripped the lid of the story beneath the story:

Not just the torture at Abu Ghraib, but the existence of a Special Access Program (SAP) at the Pentagon whose ground rules were Grab whom you must. Do what you want.’”.

Sure, mixing the "unconventional," covert SAP with regular army in interrogations at Abu Ghraib, as Carbone>Rumsfeld>Bush did, was a blunder fit to be measured on the Richter scale.

But what about the SAP itself? Sounds like a targetted assassination program, to me. Readers, any thoughts on this?
UPDATE AP gets it wrong:

The Iraq prisoner abuse scandal shifted on Sunday to the question of whether the Bush administration set up a legal foundation that opened the door for the mistreatment.

The roots of the scandal lay in a decision approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to expand a classified operation for aggressive interrogations to Iraqi prisoners, a program that had been focused on the hunt for al-Qaida, The New Yorker magazine reported.

The real story is not the Bush trashing the Geneva convention—though that's a good story—but Hersh's story (back) on the Special Access Program, which is starting to look like a program of targetted assassination of AQ suspects. Compared to that story, the legality story pales.

Nick Berg atrocity: The unanswered questions 

A compendium from Buzzflash.

Plenty of them. Why the Gitmo-style orange jumpsuits in the video, for example? Are they that common in Iraq?

And if we combine what we read today about Abu Ghraib below—that it was a nexus of CIA, military intelligence, and a highly secret Pentatgon Special Access Program, code named "Copper Green," that was directing a program of torture—with what we know, that Nick Berg was climbing an nearby antenna (back) ....

Well, it gets weird, doesn't it? And then there's the timing of it all, as well as the obvious use the administration's Department of Changing the Subject makes of the story.

Certainly Abu Ghraib was a very wrong place. Could Berg have been there at a very wrong time? Unanswered questions....

UPDATE Alert reader scaramouche points us to this excellent post by soj at Kos. Among other incongruities, he points out that although the story broke simultaneously in many media outlets, they all refer to an Islamic website—which cannot be found. There's also the odd fact that Nick Berg's father appears on an Enemies List posted by freepers. Weirdness piled on wierdness.

UPDATE Alert reader Grrrpy points to this RNC/CPA transcript on the orange jumpsuit:

Q Bill Glauber with the Chicago Tribune. It appeared in the video that Mr. Berg was wearing an orange prison jumpsuit. Are such orange prison jumpsuits used in any detention facilities in Iraq that you know of? And also, he was, I believe, released a day after a court case in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Can you explain why that was?

MR. SENOR: He was released by the Iraqi police service?

Q Yeah.

MR. SENOR: I would refer you to the Iraqi police service on the exact day -- or the reason behind the exact day he was released. I am aware of the court case that was filed. It is public knowledge. But all I know about it is that it was filed. As for the exact moment or day, time that he was released, that's something for the Iraqi police to address.

What was your -- ?

Q He was pictured in an orange -- what appeared to be an orange prison jumpsuit.

MR. SENOR: Oh, the orange -- yeah. You know --

Q Are any such jumpsuits used in Iraq in any detention facilities, coalition and/or Iraqi?

MR. SENOR: I'll let General Kimmitt speak to security detainees. As far as criminal detainees that are under the jurisdiction of the Iraqi police service or the Iraqi Ministry of Interior or the Iraqi Ministry of Justice, I don't know of any policy that they have. I would -- you should ask them, you should contact them about uniforms that they require inmates to make. To my knowledge, there's no such case in which that is done. But I will check on that and check with the various ministries.

I don't see an answer to the question, here.

Abu Ghraib: Pulitzer-light, demoralized Newspaper of Record blows story yet again 

On page A1, the positively whorish headline "Accused G.I.s try to shift blame in prison abuse" takes pride of place at right above the fold. Sheesh. Is Kate Zernike Judith "Kneepads" Miller writing under a pseudonym, or what? (For Kate Zernicke see the A1 Project, but see also following posts)

So much for page A1.

Now let's look for some mention of Seymour Hersh's explosive revelation that "the Pentagon’s operation, known inside the intelligence community by several code words, including Copper Green, encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners" (more below).

Is the story on A2? No. A3? No. A4? No. A5? No. A6? No. A7? No. A8? No. A9? No. A10? No. A11? No. A12? No. A13? No. A14? No. A15? No. Aaah!

Page A16. Buried. Really pitiful.

You can share your considered thoughts with sadly overworked yet increasingly co-opted Public Editor Daniel "Bud Man" Okrent here: Maybe he can tell you why we have to get news coverage from a New York weekly.

Abu Ghraib torture: Hersh strikes again: Rummy's program, approved by Bush 

Hey, and Hersh finally writes a lead! Here it is:

The roots of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists but in a decision, approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to expand a highly secret operation, which had been focussed on the hunt for Al Qaeda, to the interrogation of prisoners in Iraq. Rumsfeld’s decision embittered the American intelligence community, damaged the effectiveness of élite combat units, and hurt America’s prospects in the war on terror.

The Pentagon’s operation, known inside the intelligence community by several code words, including Copper Green, encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in an effort to generate more intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq. A senior C.I.A. official, in confirming the details of this account last week, said that the operation stemmed from Rumsfeld’s long-standing desire to wrest control of America’s clandestine and paramilitary operations from the C.I.A.
(via The New Yorker)

Not that the CIA wouldn't have done all this themselves, of course. But, as any parent knows, "Everyone's doing it" is no excuse.

So, I guess I'll just start at the top of the story, and excerpt and comment as I go. Note that it looks like No More Mr. Nice Blog put a broad outline of the story together, from open sources, two weeks ago.

The origins of the program:

[A]lmost from the start, the Administration’s search for Al Qaeda members in the war zone, and its worldwide search for terrorists, came up against major command-and-control problems. ... In November, the Washington Post reported that, as many as ten times since early October, Air Force pilots believed they’d had senior Al Qaeda and Taliban members in their sights but had been unable to act in time because of legalistic hurdles. ...

Rumsfeld reacted in his usual direct fashion: he authorized the establishment of a highly secret program that was given blanket advance approval to kill or capture and, if possible, interrogate “high value” targets in the Bush Administration’s war on terror. A special-access program, or SAP—subject to the Defense Department’s most stringent level of security—was set up, with an office in a secure area of the Pentagon. ...

The operation had across-the-board approval from Rumsfeld and from Condoleezza Rice, the national-security adviser. President Bush was informed of the existence of the program, the former intelligence official said

Approval would not have been difficult to secure from Bush. Remember "they are no longer a problem for the United States," from Bush's first post-9/11 SOTU. I—and if I'm not alone in the blogosphere on this, I'd be very glad to hear this—saw this statement as the sign of an Operation Phoenix-style (or, if you prefer, an Israeli style) program of extra-judicial assassination of suspected AQ members. Looks like I was right, and the SAP is that program (see back here, 11/30/2003 ([1]. This SAP sounds like the program that enabled Bush to childishly cross out photographs (hmmm...) of "high value targets" that he keeps in his desk drawer as they were killed (see back here).

Here's the nature of the SAP and who knew about it:

Fewer than two hundred operatives and officials, including Rumsfeld and General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were “completely read into the program,” the former intelligence official said. The goal was to keep the operation protected. “We’re not going to read more people than necessary into our heart of darkness,” he said. “The rules are ‘Grab whom you must. Do what you want.’

One Pentagon official who was deeply involved in the program was Stephen Cambone...

Ah. Cambone. The Bad Cop the Pentagon wanted at Good Cop Taguba's side when testifying. Ah. Cambone. The guy in charge of the WMD search. The boss of that Jeebofascist nutter Boykin

So far so good! But enter the Iraqi insurgency:

In mid-2003, the special-access program was regarded in the Pentagon as one of the success stories of the war on terror. ...By then, the war in Iraq had begun. The SAP was involved in some assignments in Iraq, the former official said. C.I.A. and other American Special Forces operatives secretly teamed up to hunt for Saddam Hussein and—without success—for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. But they weren’t able to stop the evolving insurgency.

In fact, in mid-2003 the military (honest, at least to a degree, internally) knew that even if they had won the battle for Baghdad, they could be losing the war:

[One internal report prepared for the U.S. military] concluded, “Politically, the U.S. has failed to date. Insurgencies can be fixed or ameliorated by dealing with what caused them in the first place. The disaster that is the reconstruction of Iraq has been the key cause of the insurgency. There is no legitimate government, and it behooves the Coalition Provisional Authority to absorb the sad but unvarnished fact that most Iraqis do not see the Governing Council”—the Iraqi body appointed by the C.P.A.—“as the legitimate authority. Indeed, they know that the true power is the CPA.”

So, as the danger of losing the war becomes real, the SAP's mission is changed:

The solution, endorsed by Rumsfeld and carried out by Stephen Cambone, was to get tough with those Iraqis in the Army prison system who were suspected of being insurgents. A key player was Major General Geoffrey Miller, the commander of the detention and interrogation center at Guantánamo, who had been summoned to Baghdad in late August to review prison interrogation procedures.

Miller’s concept, as it emerged in recent Senate hearings, was to “Gitmoize” the prison system in Iraq—to make it more focussed on interrogation. He also briefed military commanders in Iraq on the interrogation methods used in Cuba.

Or, as we would say in Texan, "git tough." But Rummy and Cambone went beyond Miller's recommendation:

[T]hey expanded the scope of the SAP, bringing its unconventional methods to Abu Ghraib. The commandos were to operate in Iraq as they had in Afghanistan. The male prisoners could be treated roughly, and exposed to sexual humiliation.

[T]he former intelligence official told me: “Cambone says, I’ve got to crack this thing and I’m tired of working through the normal chain of command. I’ve got this apparatus set up—the black special-access program—and I’m going in hot. So he pulls the switch, and the electricity begins flowing last summer. And it’s working. We’re getting a picture of the insurgency in Iraq and the intelligence is flowing into the white world. We’re getting good stuff. But we’ve got more targets”—prisoners in Iraqi jails—“than people who can handle them.

Once again, Rummy's ideologically driven poor planning is (almost literally) the Achilles heel. Without enough manpower, Cambone brings people from the "white" world into the heart of darkness:

Cambone then made another crucial decision, the former intelligence official told me: not only would [Cambone] bring the SAP’s rules into the prisons; he would bring some of the Army military-intelligence officers working inside the Iraqi prisons under the SAP’s auspices. “So here are fundamentally good soldiers—military-intelligence guys—being told that no rules apply,” the former official, who has extensive knowledge of the special-access programs, added. “And, as far as they’re concerned, this is a covert operation, and it’s to be kept within Defense Department channels.”

Which explains something the poor old Times (for example) just can't understand: the chain of command is murky because that's the nature of a covert operation: another word for a murky chain of command is "plausible deniability" (meaning the kind of story the Times falls for).

Enter The Fog Machine (back):

Who was in charge of Abu Ghraib—whether military police or military intelligence—was no longer the only question that mattered. Hard-core special operatives, some of them with aliases, were working in the prison. The military police assigned to guard the prisoners wore uniforms, but many others—military intelligence officers, contract interpreters, C.I.A. officers, and the men from the special-access program—wore civilian clothes. It was not clear who was who, even to Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, then the commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade, and the officer ostensibly in charge. “I thought most of the civilians there were interpreters, but there were some civilians that I didn’t know,” Karpinski told me. “I called them the disappearing ghosts."

Nacht und nebel....

The CIA was apparently smart enough to bail from the Abu Ghraib operation at this point, seeing Carbone's actions as a recipe for blowing the cover of the SAP in its original form:

“This was stupidity,” a government consultant told me. “You’re taking a program that was operating in the chaos of Afghanistan against Al Qaeda, a stateless terror group, and bringing it into a structured, traditional war zone. Sooner or later, the commandos would bump into the legal and moral procedures of a conventional war with an Army of a hundred and thirty-five thousand soldiers.”

I've been reading, lately, about the rise of Hitler, and it seems clear that in the United States—so far—our democratic traditions have been an order of magnitude stronger than those German liberals and democrats had to draw on during the demise of the Weimar Republic. The above is one example; there are more in this story.

And now, how the "bad apples" went bad:

The notion that Arabs are particularly vulnerable to sexual humiliation became a talking point among pro-war Washington conservatives in the months before the March, 2003, invasion of Iraq.

The government consultant said, “I was told that the purpose of the photographs was to create an army of informants, people you could insert back in the population.” The idea was that they would be motivated by fear of exposure, and gather information about pending insurgency action, the consultant said. If so, it wasn’t effective; the insurgency continued to grow.
Making the question I keep asking—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?—still pertinent. Is there a reason to think it all stops with Cambone?

Finally, the clash between the military and the heart of darkness happens. A soldier with a some sense of respect for our democracy blows the whistle, and the Pentagon at once goes to work pushing the "Bad Apple" theory. It's a bad choice, except for all the others:

The abuses at Abu Ghraib were exposed on January 13th, when Joseph Darby, a young military policeman assigned to Abu Ghraib, reported the wrongdoing to the Army’s Criminal Investigations Division. He also turned over a CD full of photographs. Within three days, a report made its way to Donald Rumsfeld, who informed President Bush.

Remember when "the adults were in charge"? To me, it looks like Joseph Darby is one of the few adults in this story. Certainly the "six morons who lost the war" aren't ...

The inquiry presented a dilemma for the Pentagon. The C.I.D. had to be allowed to continue, the former intelligence official said. “You can’t cover it up. You have to prosecute these guys for being off the reservation. But how do you prosecute them when they were covered by the [SAP]? So you hope that maybe it’ll go away.”

Once again, the Bush administration reacts to unpleasant reality with denial.

The Pentagon’s attitude last January, he said, was “Somebody got caught with some photos. What’s the big deal? Take care of it.” Rumsfeld’s explanation to the White House, the official added, was reassuring: “‘We’ve got a glitch in the program. We’ll prosecute it.’ The cover story was that some kids got out of control.”

Denial, and throwing the little guys to the wolves.

This official went on, “The black guys”—those in the Pentagon’s secret program—“say we’ve got to accept the prosecution. They’re vaccinated from the reality. The SAP is still active, and the United States is picking up guys for interrogation.

That is, Abu Ghraib undermines the Operation Phoenix-, Israeli-style, targetted assassination program: the SAP that is the part of the "legitimate" war on terror.
"The question is, how do they protect the quick-reaction force without blowing its cover? Nobody will talk. So the only people left to prosecute are those who are undefended—the poor kids at the end of the food chain.

The former intelligence official told me he feared that one of the disastrous effects of the prison-abuse scandal would be the undermining of legitimate operations in the war on terror, which had already suffered from the draining of resources into Iraq. He portrayed Abu Ghraib as “a tumor” on the war on terror. He said, “As long as it’s benign and contained, the Pentagon can deal with the photo crisis without jeopardizing the secret program. As soon as it begins to grow, with nobody to diagnose it—it becomes a malignant tumor.”

Depends on what you mean by maligant, I supppose.

So let's look at the bottom line so far. Bush, through his deputy, Rumsfeld, and Rumsfeld, through his deputy, Carbone, have:

1. With the torture photos, managed to splash every wall in the Arab world with recruiting posters for AQ.

2. Managed to blow a (reportedly) successful and highly covert program against the AQ leadership. (We can talk about what "success" might mean in another post).

Makes the Plame affair look like a tiny slip, eh? Tell me again why the Republicans are supposed to be so good on national security?

Readers, now that you've come to the bottom of this long post, what's your take on the bottom line?


[1] After noticing that an Iraqi general had "fainted" in US custody, this on 11/30: "Torture, assassination, arbitrary detainment ... Hope none of the karma on this catches up with us!" Heh. THE LIBERALS WERE RIGHT AGAIN, YOU WINGERS, JUST LIKE WE WERE RIGHT ON THE WAR. The comments section is available for the requisite apologies to be entered.

With trembling fingers 

I don't think it's accurate to describe America as polarized between Democrats and Republicans, or between liberals and conservatives. It's polarized between the people who believe George Bush and the people who do not. Thanks to some contested ballots in a state governed by the president's brother, a once-proud country has been delivered into the hands of liars, thugs, bullies, fanatics and thieves. The world pities or despises us, even as it fears us. What this election will test is the power of money and media to fool us, to obscure the truth and alter the obvious, to hide a great crime against the public trust under a blood-soaked flag. The most lavishly funded, most cynical, most sophisticated political campaign in human history will be out trolling for fools. I pray to God it doesn't catch you.

(via Independent Weekly)

"Why should we hear about body bags, and deaths, and how many, what day it’s gonna happen, and how many this or what do you suppose? Oh, I mean, it’s not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?" - former first lady Barbara Bush - "Good Morning America" March 18, 2003


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