Saturday, June 19, 2004

Times Fact Checks F 911. It's Factual.  

Let's hope so. I'm not a giant MM fan, but if this movie tells the truth about the Bush administration and doesn't make any mistakes or reach too far into conspiracy-land, he will have done the world a great service:
After a year spent covering the federal commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks, I was recently allowed to attend a Hollywood screening. Based on that single viewing, and after separating out what is clearly presented as Mr. Moore's opinion from what is stated as fact, it seems safe to say that central assertions of fact in "Fahrenheit 9/11" are supported by the public record (indeed, many of them will be familiar to those who have closely followed Mr. Bush's political career).

Letter To The Times  

To The Editor,

There is a major factual error In your editorial today, Show Us the Proof (editorial, June 19 ). You write:
"Mr. Bush said the 9/11 panel had actually confirmed his contention that there were 'ties' between Iraq and Al Qaeda. He said his administration had never connected Saddam Hussein to 9/11. Both statements are wrong."
The last sentence is wildly inaccurate. It should read, "Both statements are lies." Please issue a correction as soon as possible.



Friday, June 18, 2004

Going The Wrong Way, Folks  

Poll suggests Bush support has grown Apparently, there was a Reagan funeral bounce.

Anne Applebaum On Torture  

More eloquent writing on the torture scandal:
To understand the magnitude of what may have gone on in America's secret prisons, you don't need special security clearance or inside information. Anyone who wants to connect the dots can do it. To see what I mean, review the content of a few items now easily found on the Internet...

As I say, connect the dots: They lead from the White House to the Pentagon to Abu Ghraib, and from Abu Ghraib back to military intelligence and thus to the Pentagon and the White House. They don't, it is true, make a complete picture. They don't actually reveal whether direct White House and Pentagon orders set off a chain of events leading to the abuses at Abu Ghraib, prisoner deaths in Afghanistan or other uses of torture we haven't learned about yet.

But who will fill in the blanks? Here is the tragedy: Despite the easy availability of evidence, almost nobody has an interest in pushing the investigation as far as it should go...

For in the end, it is public opinion that matters, and it is on public opinion that the fate of any further investigations now depends. Voters have some items of information available to them, as listed above. Voters -- ultimately the most important source of pressure on democratic politicians -- can petition their congressmen, their senators and their president for more. If they don't, the elections will be held, the subject will change. Without a real national debate, without congressional approval, without much discussion of what torture actually means and why it has so long been illegal at home and abroad, a few secret committees will have changed the character of this country.

Indeed, if the voters can't move the politicians, and the politicians aren't courageous enough to act alone, we may wake up one morning and discover that torture has always been legal after all. Edmund Burke, a conservative philosopher, wrote, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." It looks as if he was right.


' "You'd think the end of slavery would be a holiday for all Americans," ' said Wade Woods, a member of the committee for Juneteenth in San Francisco..."

Exactly. If you don't know what Juneteenth is, read all about it. Can't think of a better idea for a national holiday.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

The New York Times: Bizarro World Edition  

Man oh man, the New York Times has truly outdone itself. It seems the editorial staff has decided to go out on a real limb and opine that Bush may have been...dishonest about the war rationale . No, he's not a liar. Just, you know...dishonest:
Of all the ways Mr. Bush persuaded Americans to back the invasion of Iraq last year, the most plainly dishonest was his effort to link his war of choice with the battle against terrorists worldwide.
No shit, Sherlock.

And what does the Times suggest? Now that countless thousands of Iraqis have died, well over 800 Americans too, and terrorism has increased mightily? Read it and weep, my friends:
President Bush should apologize to the American people...
Wow! That'll really humble him. Wonder what Bush should say? Like on national TV? How about something like this, Mr. Keller?

GENERIC AVUNCULAR VOICEOVER: "Ladies and gentleman, the President of the United States."

THE PRESIDENT: "Good evening, fellow Americans. My bad. Gotta go now. Bye."

GENERIC AVUNCULAR VOICEOVER: "Ladies and gentleman, that was the President of the United States."

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Pipes Pipes Up. Told To Pipe Down. Everyone Feels Good.  

I don't have much of an opinion on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict other than this: there have been enough atrocities committed on all sides for everyone to feel ashamed of themselves. All sides are convinced they are morally beyond reproach and all are prepared to retaliate via murder for an earlier murder. At the rate they're going, it still may take a while, but sooner rather than later, everyone in Israel/Palestine (excuse me, Palestine/Israel) will be dead. As the saying goes, when you're practicing "an eye for an eye," the whole world will go blind.

Recently, an article in the East Bay Express, about a recent contretemps on the UC Berkeley campus, drove this point home again.

It's a long article regarding many incidents and refreshingly, only slightly biased to one side. It focuses to great extent on the occasion of a lecture by Daniel Pipes on campus and the furor that surrounded it.

Now Danny Pipes is a real piece of work. To quote the article Danny "writes a steady stream of articles with intentionally provocative headlines such as 'When Osama Bin Laden Becomes PC' and 'The Muslims Are Coming! The Muslims Are Coming!' " Now a headline's a headline but alas, these titles are all too indicative of the caliber of intellectual argument Danny musters in defense of his position. They also provides prima facie evidence of the sheer obnoxious arrogance of the man. I could go on, and maybe someday I'll provide link after link after link to examples of his total lack of scholarly weight and total lack of consideration for others, but right now, it's a sickening prospect to think about reading a lot of him again. But to give you an idea, here's a little nugget illustrative of his scholarly acumen culled from the East Bay Express article:
"The politicization of this university began forty years ago, and what has emerged at Berkeley is a working relationship between the leftists and the Islamists," he continued. "The left has been looking for a revolutionary movement for quite some time. So here come these people and they're actually doing it." Pipes was careful to remind his listener that the revolution in question entails "the blowing up of buildings."
This is sheer idiocy. Many people who say they are on the left are, indeed, rabidly pro-Palestinian. (And many on the left are, in fact, rabidly pro-Israel.) But pro-Palestinian lefties are emphatically not Islamists, let alone radical Islamists. To conflate support for Palestinians with support for Islamism and then to conflate support for Islamism for support of radical Islamism is so profoundly ignorant as to be worrisome. Indeed, it was precisely this stupid mistake that led to the belief that al Qaeda and Saddam were in cahoots, and we know what that led to. Here's Danny again, making that very same and entirely wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong conflation:
"The same people who support militant Islam [sic]," Pipes ventured in a butter-cookie voice whose softness seemed a calculated counterpoint to its message, "support suicide bombers and Saddam Hussein."
In short, Danny has no business being invited anywhere to speak publicly by any group seriously interested in an intelligent discourse about the Arab/Israeli conflict. And, of course, the more sane members of Berkeley Hillel knew this full well when they invited him to speak. But everyone in Berkeley Hillel, meshuggah or not so, knew what would happen when they invited Danny: feces would sprout wings and fly.

And sure enough:
...the largest sign said, "I Want You! to DIE for Israel. Israel sings: 'Onward christian soldiers.'" On the reverse side, in an attempted riff on "Pax Americana," the sign said, "I WANT YOU TO KILL FOR THE AMERA-ISRAELA POX!" Large rakish swastikas replaced the letter "s" in "Israel" on both sides of the sign. The sign-bearer's Uncle Sam hat was emblazoned with another swastika.
Meanwhile, those who presumably supported Danny's appearance took the high road when they encountered these sick bastards. NOT:
Two male students, like college guys anywhere, eyed a group of young women whose hair was hidden under the hijab, their blue-jeaned legs and excited voices shivery in the cold. "I wonder how all these women who are supporting the Arabs would feel about being clitorecticized," one of the guys murmured to his friend. By that, he meant the practice of clitoridectomy, which is followed in some traditional Islamic cultures.
And so it went. Folks were spat upon, cursed, humiliated, shouted down, yadda, yadda, yadda. Danny handed the taunts like an old pro, of course. Hey, that's what they pay him the big bucks for. And everyone eventually left, convinced they had (1) stood up to the slimy commie Islamic assholes and held their intolerant extremism up to the world to see; or (2) they had shown the world beyond a doubt that those hellbound racist Nazi Jews were, um, hellbound racist Nazi Jews. A splendid time was had by all, I'm sure.

Hokay. Where to begin?

1. To repeat: Pipes is not a responsible spokesmen. He is an ideologue and a fool. He pretends he wants to encourage a moderate Islam, but since he clearly doesn't know what he's talking about, no one really believes him (except for the Bushites, but in this fight, they're not important because no one believes them either).

2. To state the obvious: the anti-Semitism shown by the protestors is way, way, way beyond the pale, veering into the psychotically bigoted. At the end of the article, someone says to the reporter, "As a Muslim, I just want to apologize." Indeed.

And now what? The Arab/Israeli conflict is one (tragic and impossible) situation, but surely discussions about it in the US need not descend into a sick farce, right?

Exactly right. And often they don't. But that's only when genuine scholars are leading the discourse instead of clowns like Danny. Despite the fact that Islamic studies are - from what I could tell when I had occasion to study translations of the Qu'ran recently - nowhere near as rigorous in the US as studies of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, there are many genuine scholars.

Michael Sells comes to mind immediately for one. And therein lies the crux of the matter.

Sells, you may recall, achieved a little bit of notoriety post 911 when his magnificent translation of the so-called early Suras of the Qu'ran was assigned to incoming frosh at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The right wing hit the fan: It's an offense to "real" Christians! Why don't they assign the jihadist passages from the Qu'ran that show how evil Islam is? And so on.

Where did these morons, who trashed a genuine scholar like Sells, ever get the standing to be listened to by the University, let alone the mainstream media? Ahem. Look at whose in the White House, folks, or whose controlling the Congress. The very same species of right wing nut as the bozos who kvetched about Sells. Yeah, sure, Bush makes noises about "reaching out" to Muslims, but it's his government who (some time after the Sells blow-up) provided an imprimatur to... well, not to Sells, are you kidding? but to... you guessed it! Professor Danny Pipes! He was appointed to the "US Institute For Peace," thereby guaranteeing that said group could have no conceivable positive influence in Palestine/Israel (excuse me, Israel/Palestine).

In short, you wanna prevent the sheer awfulness of what happened at Berkeley from happening again? First, remove from power the kinds of people who think Danny's a legitimate voice. And be sure to keep Danny and his ilk from having any kind of influence over American foreign policy (note to rightwingers: by "Danny and his ilk," I'm not talking about Jews, you schmucks! I'm talking about ignorant rightwing ideologues. There's a helluva difference, y'know.).

Next, increase funding and provide more attention to legitimate scholars of Islam and the Middle East who will, as a matter of course, rapidly displace Danny's Islamist doppelgangers, the pricks who are presently teaching the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a genuine Jewish text. (Oh yes, indeed: there are some major league slimebags in Islamic Studies right now. But Danny's not the boy to be casting stones at 'em.)

After that, I dunno what to do. But hey, that's a pretty good start.

Political Hate Speech  

Franken is Goebbels, or maybe Moore is Goebbels, well anyway, O'Reilly is sure one of them is:
Joseph Goebbels was the Minister of Propaganda for the Nazi regime and whose very famous quote was, 'If you tell a lie long enough, it becomes the truth.' All right? 'If you tell a lie long enough, it becomes the truth.'

"And that's what Stuart Smalley [a well-known Al Franken character from "Saturday Night Live"], and Michael Moore and all of these guys do. They just run around."
Later, on O'Reilly flip flops: he decides Al and Mike may be Leni Riefenstahl instead of Goebbels.

Sage Advice From Billmon  

Mosey on over to Whiskey Bar, read this, then clean up all the spilled hooch after you've finished laughing yourself silly.

Story From The Future  

Sent By A Friend:

One sunny day in 2005 an old man approached the White House from  across Pennsylvania Avenue, where he'd been sitting on a park bench.  He spoke to the U.S. Marine standing guard and said, "I would like to go in and meet with President Bush." The Marine looked at the man and said, "Sir, Mr. Bush is no longer president and no longer resides here." The old man said, "Okay" and walked away.

The following day, the same man approached the White House and said to the same Marine, "I would like to go in and meet with President Bush." The Marine again told the man, "Sir, as I said yesterday, Mr. Bush is no longer president and no longer resides here." The man thanked him and, again, just walked away.

The third day, the same man approached the White House and spoke to the very same U. S. Marine, saying "I would like to go in and meet with President Bush."

The Marine, understandably agitated at this point, looked at the man and said, "Sir, this is the third day in a row you have been here asking to speak to Mr. Bush. I've told you already that Mr. Bush is no longer the president and no longer resides here. Don't you understand?"

The old man looked at the Marine and said, "Oh, I understand. I just love hearing it."

The Marine snapped to attention, saluted, and said, "See you tomorrow."

(To make this story come through, be sure to register and then VOTE!)

But Why Are Freedom Fries Vegetables?  

The Reality Stick gets to the bottom of the fries story.

A large US food service distributor went Chapter 11 in 2000. All claims were settled except for about $11 million in "coated and battered potato products" which the firm claimed it was not responsible to reimburse as a priority claim as per the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act:
As I see it, the bankruptee told five of it's [sic] suppliers that they were S.O.L. for immediate money from the gov't. trust and they'd just have to wait for the bankruptcy court to settle what's which point the FPPI swings into action to lobby the USDA to change the rules so that, in the event of future such cases, the FPPI's members can go to the head of the trough. They won.
[UPDATE] The description of the firm's claim in re: PACA, has been more accurately described. It originally read: All claims were settled except for about $11 million in "coated and battered potato products" which the firm claimed was not covered under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act.

The Connection Between Al Qaeda And Saddam's Iraq  

Bottom line: They talked a few times but never did anything because they didn't like each other:
The commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks reported Wednesday that Osama bin Laden met with a top Iraqi official in 1994 but found "no credible evidence" of a link between Iraq and al-Qaida in attacks against the United States.

In a report based on research and interviews by the commission staff, the panel said that bin Laden explored possible cooperation with Saddam even though he opposed the Iraqi leader's secular regime.

A senior Iraqi intelligence official reportedly met with bin Laden in 1994 in Sudan, the panel found, and bin Laden "is said to have requested space to establish training camps, as well as assistance in procuring weapons, but Iraq apparently never responded."

"There have been reports that contacts between Iraq and al-Qaida also occurred after bin Laden had returned to Afghanistan, but they do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship," the report said. "Two senior Bin Laden associates have adamantly denied that any ties existed between al-Qaida and Iraq."
I suppose if Bush tortures the "Bin Laden associates" some more, they'll change their story.

One More O'Reilly LIe  

About Eric Alterman:
Alterman's Miami-based attorney, Sarah Clasby Engel, sent a demand letter to O'Reilly last week, saying, "We would like to take this opportunity to identify a lie you recently broadcast." On his show in early May, the conservative yakker called Alterman "another Fidel Castro confidant."

Threatening a defamation suit unless O'Reilly makes a retraction, Engel states: "We are certain that you will be unable to point us to any proof whatever of a personal relationship between Alterman, a proud anti-Communist liberal, and Fidel Castro." The letter notes that in mid-May, Alterman signed a public rebuke of Castro, assailing the "brute repression" of his dictatorship.

The lawyer gave O'Reilly five business days to respond.

October Surprise Poll  

Which dirty trick will happen before the '04 election. Vote your favorite here.

Farce Repeated As Tragedy  

William Pfaff gets it exactly. The widespread justification and use of torture is a "ghastly scandal, one of the worst in American history." This is one of the best op-eds I've read on the subject. But here's just a taste of the beginning. I'd quote more excerpts except the cumulative effect is so profound, it's not fair to the author, or to you:
People like to quote Karl Marx's comment on the two successive Napoleonic empires, that of Bonaparte himself, and, after 1848, the second empire of his nephew, Napoleon III. Marx said that it was a tragedy repeated as a farce.

The United States has reversed the sequence, so that a few years ago the nation, or at least Congress and the media, was obsessed by President Bill Clinton's disputed definition of what does or does not amount to sexual congress with a White House intern.

The tragedy that has followed the farce is torture as an instrument of American national policy in the cause of spreading democracy.

Documents recently obtained by the press reveal White House anxiety about how to protect President George W. Bush and members of his cabinet from going to prison for ordering, authorizing or deliberately permitting systematic torture of persons in their control, but technically outside formal American legal jurisdiction. The question put to lawyers was how the president and the others could commit war crimes and get away with it.
Let's repeat that last line, because it is the crux of the matter:

The question put to lawyers was how the president and the others could commit war crimes and get away with it.

We are a long, long way from arguing whether a president lied about a blow job, ladies and gentleman.

via Atrios.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Some Model  

Iraq should look like Afghanistan, sez Bush:
President Bush on Tuesday held up progress in Afghanistan as a model for Iraq as he tried to paint the U.S. involvement in the Asian state as a success in his run-up to the November U.S. election...

Karzai is favored to win a September presidential election in Afghanistan but concerns have mounted about worsening provincial violence and threats from the Taliban and allied Islamic militants...

An international peacekeeping force provides security for Karzai's fragile government in Kabul, but government control outside the capital is limited with parts of the country in the grip of regional warlords and militant fighters.

During Karzai's visit to Washington, a rocket hit a military base near the U.S. embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul, wounding an Afghan soldier. A government official was shot dead in a separate incident in Kandahar.

A former Clinton administration official slammed Bush for not proposing new steps to crack down on opium cultivation in Afghanistan, which has grown sharply since the Taliban was ousted. "Heroin is an enormous threat to the national security of this country," said Robert Weiner, who worked in Clinton's office of national drug policy...

AMA Tells Bush To Shove It  

The issue is Morning After pills:
The American Medical Association voiced its support for over-the-counter sales of morning-after birth control, saying the Food and Drug Administration was wrong to reject such sales and urging doctors to write advance prescriptions.

The AMA approved a resolution Monday during its annual meeting opposing the FDA's position. The resolution passed without debate and had drawn applause and wide support at a committee meeting the day before.

Taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse, the drug can cut a woman's chances of pregnancy by up to 89 percent. But it can be hard to find a doctor to write a prescription in time, especially on weekends and holidays.

"The overwhelming data is that it is safe, effective and usable across age groups," said Vivian Dickerson, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, in remarks to the committee. "Clearly we know accidents can happen to anyone."

FDA acting drug chief Dr. Steven Galson overruled his own staff to issue the rejection last month. The FDA cited concern about young teenagers' use of emergency contraception without a doctor's guidance, but Galson said the agency will reconsider the decision if given more data.

Frozen Freedom Fries Are 'Fresh' Veggies  

Yup, Bush is trying to be Reagan II:
Based on a little-noticed change to obscure federal rules, the USDA now defines frozen French fries as "fresh vegetables..."

The Frozen Potato Products Institute appealed to the USDA in 2000 to change its definition of fresh produce under PACA to include batter-coated, frozen French fries, arguing that rolling potato slices in a starch coating, frying them and freezing them is the equivalent of waxing a cucumber or sweetening a strawberry.

The USDA agreed and, on June 2, 2003, the agency amended its PACA rules to include what is described in court documents as the "Batter-Coating Rule..."

"This is something that only lawyers could do," [Chicago attorney Tim] Elliott said, pointing to a stack of legal documents debating the French fry change. "There must be 100 pages there about something you could summarize in one paragraph: Batter-coated French fries are not fresh vegetables..."

While plaintiff argued that battered-coated French fries are processed products, they have not been 'processed' to the point that they are no longer 'fresh,' " attorneys for the USDA argued.

"It is still considered 'fresh' because it is not preserved. It retains its perishable quality."

"The Worst Attorney General In History"  

So says Paul Krugman. But what I'd like to know is what has John Ashcroft done for Krugman that made the Krugster go so easy on him?

Monday, June 14, 2004

When The Next Big Attack Comes...  

...and there certainly will be a next big attack now that Bush has made us the world's pariah, I predict:

The rightwing, in their infinite wisdom will say over and over, "See? Now don't you wish we had really, really tortured them?"

And the response is:

You fools. no amount of torture would have prevented an attack. And the knowledge that Bush approved torture surely tipped the precarious mental health of numerous disturbed men and women to participate in some kind of psychotic retaliation. In other words, Bush-approved torture will be one of many factors that helps invite future big attacks.

Violence begets violence, my friends.

Rightwingers: No, you idiots, I don't want anyone to terrorize the US (and I don't want the US to attack or torture anyone, either). I want to prevent more attacks by getting this country to stop making the world so dangerous. And yes, I think Bush's stupidity and incompetence has made the US infinitely more vulnerable than it was on March 18, 2003, the day before we officially invaded Iraq. And yes, Bush literally invited attacks. Remember, "Bring 'em on?"

Molly Ivins Is Awesome  

What Have We Come To?
The damage is incalculable. When America puts out its annual report on human rights abuses, we will be a laughingstock. I suggest a special commission headed by Sen. John McCain to dig out everyone responsible, root and branch. If the lawyers don't cooperate, perhaps we should try stripping them, anally raping them and dunking their heads under water until they think they're drowning, and see if that helps.

And I think it is time for citizens to take some responsibility, as well. Is this what we have come to? Is this what we want our government to do for us? Oh and by way, to my fellow political reporters who keep repeating that Bush is having a wonderful week: Why don't you think about what you stand for?[Emphasis Added.]
Oh, she is such a masterful writer.

By the by, CNN says the official torture report next week will blame, get this, poor training for the torture and to "to focus sharply on failures at the infamous prison." Translated: it's gonna be a whitewash limited to a few bad apples, ignorant, unwashed, uneducated privates.

Nonsense. The people who ordered up the tortures are wearing expensive suits, come from the finest schools, and are members of the most exclusive country clubs in the DC area.

There Really Is Something About Mary  

You remember Mary Walker, right? The hypocritical hypocrite who actually dared to claim she was a Christian? Well, Billmon's been all over her sick, sick career. In this post, we learn Christian Mary helped downplay what Billmon rightly calls an "epidemic" of rape at the Air Force Academy.

This is not Christianity. This is perversion.

Email Addresses To Support Fahrenheit 911  

The rightwing loon site very kindly posted the emails of numerous people at movie theater chains to contact to express your opinion of Fahrenheit 911. I have harvested them into a comma-delimited text suitable for a bulk mailing. Simply click here, select all, copy, then paste them into the BCC field of your email. Please be extra polite when expressing your support. It helps not at all to scream at people.

Great MoveOn Commercial Re: Halliburton  

Watch it here and then, donate here.

Hah Hah! Hah!  

Couldn't happen to a nicer adulterer:
Former Rep. Bob Barr cannot bring a $30 million defamation suit against former President Clinton, Democratic political adviser James Carville and publisher Larry Flynt, a federal appeals court ruled Monday.

The Georgia Republican alleged that the three conspired to smear him by publishing information about his private life as retaliation for his outspoken role in the impeachment proceedings against Clinton.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said Barr failed to make his conspiracy claim against Clinton and Carville within the three years permitted by law.

As to Flynt, the panel ruled that Barr's claim is barred by the First Amendment because he failed to show that the information printed in a one-time issue called 'The Flynt Report' was false or was published with knowledge that it was false.

Sanctions Worked In Iraq  

The July/August issue of Foreign Affairs, which is not yet posted to the net, has an extremely important article by George Lopez and David Cartwright entitled "Containing Iraq: Sanctions Worked." It gives the history of the sanctions regime and makes the point that, in fact, they fully succeeded in disarming and containing Iraq.

While the article acknowledges the humanitarian problems with the original sanctions, it claims that in 2001/2002, Colin Powell helped negotiate reforms, so-called "smart" sanctions, which focused more on containing only the military threat of Iraq. As a result, "'smart' sanctions removed the controvesrsial humanitarian issue from the debate, focusing coercive pressure in a way that everyone could agree on."

Lopez and Cartwright go on to write, "The adoption of 'smart' sanctions in Iraq was a diplomatic triumph for the Bush administration. It was followed a few months later by Iraq's acceptance of renewed inspections and Security Council approval of a tougher monitoring regime in Resolution 1441...By the fall of 2002, it had constructed the core elements of an effective long-term contaiment system-only to discard this achievement in favor of war."

Don't miss it.

Like A Caged WHAT, Ms. Wilgoren?  

Y'know, there's so much of this gratuitous biased trash littered all throuhg the Times and the rest of the mainstream media that you tend to overlook it. But it's insidious, and disgraceful. Jodi Wilgoren:
Like a caged hamster, Senator John Kerry is restless on the road. He pokes at the perimeter of the campaign bubble that envelops him, constantly trying to break out for a walk around the block, a restaurant dinner, the latest movie.
That's right. Kerry is restless like a "caged hamster."

He's not restless like a caged lion.

He's not restless like a caged tiger.

He's not even restless like a caged gorilla.

At least he's not restless like a caged alligator because, well, alligators don't get too restless. At least the last time I checked.

No, Ms. Wilgoren. Bad form. Instead, how about leading your article like this:

"Like the extreme overachiever that he has been his entire life, Senator John Kerry is restless on the road."

Political Hate Speech  

From the blog set up by a GOP political operative that's masquerading as a grass-roots effort to stop Fahrenheit 911 screenings comes this sleazy bit of trashtalk:
We have a right to tell movie theaters we object to their promoting a movie that is nothing more than a political campaign commercial which should be shown at the Democrat National Convention or as an Al Qaeda training video before it's shown at our local cinema.
Get it? DNC=Al Qaeda.

Y 'know, now that I think about it, has anyone seen bin Laden and Kerry in the same room at the same time??? They are about the same height, y'know.

Cheney Lied. What A Surprise!  

Y'know, I have to say that the spectacle created by the implosion of the Bush administration has reached the level of performance art. Not quite at the Karen Finley level, to be sure, but still pretty good.

Here's the latest:
In the fall of 2002, in the preparations for possible war with Iraq, the Pentagon sought and received the assent of senior Bush administration officials, including the vice president's chief of staff, before hiring the Halliburton Company to develop secret plans for restoring Iraq's oil facilities, Pentagon officials have told Congressional investigators.

The newly disclosed details about Pentagon contracting do not suggest improper political pressures to direct business to Halliburton, the Houston-based company that Vice President Dick Cheney once led. [Of course they don't. Absolutely. Pure coincidence that they picked the only company among the few qualified for such work that was cutting $100,000 plus checks payable to the Vice President of the United States.]

But they raise questions about assertions by Mr. Cheney and other administration officials that he knew nothing in advance of the Halliburton contracts and that the decisions were made by career procurement specialists, without involvement by senior political appointees...

Appearing on the NBC News program "Meet the Press" on Sept. 14, 2003, Mr. Cheney said, "And as vice president, I have absolutely no influence of, involvement of, knowledge of in any way, shape or form of contracts led by the Corps of Engineers or anybody else in the federal government." He referred to the Army Corps of Engineers, which has managed oil infrastructure contracts.

Asked if he had been aware of Halliburton's noncompetitive awards, Mr. Cheney said, "I don't know any of the details of the contract because I deliberately stayed away from any information on that."

Richard A. Boucher, the State Department spokesman, said of Iraq contracting in a news conference last October: "The decisions are made by career procurement officials. There's a separation, a wall, between them and political-level questions when they're doing the contracts."
A nice collection of Halliburton-related links can be found here.

Connecting The Dots, Faith-Based Style  

The New York Times reminds us of a bizare amendment to an important, albeit pork-laced, bill:
And now, just as House action is approaching, Republican leaders have added an outrageous sop for political-minded church leaders.

Under the proposal, churches that venture too zealously into politics would be allowed three "unintentional violations" of the law governing nonprofit organizations without risking immediate loss of their tax-exempt status. Wouldn't we all love such tax-code mercies? This transparent bridge across the church-state divide comes as hustings-tempted clergy are already being openly enlisted by White House campaigners as "friendly congregations" for the November elections.
'Friendly congregations" is a gross understatement. Bush shamelessly, and shamefully, lobbied the Pope Himself to help get him elected, saying "Not all the American bishops are with me" on issues like gay marriage and abortion.

"With me." "With me." A rather remarkable way to phrase it. As in "with me, or with the terrorists."

A Peace President, My Patootie  

Fool me once:
Indeed, the President is privately telling aides that after leading the nation to war in his first term, he wants to spend his next four years being 'a peace President.

Thomas Powers: "A Catastrophe Beyond Belief"  

Interview with Thomas Powers, intelligence expert and author of Intelligence Wars: American Secret History from Hitler to Al-Qaeda:
"It's a catastrophe beyond belief. Going into Afghanistan was inevitable, and in my opinion the right thing to do. But everything since then has been a horrible mistake," Powers says. "The CIA is politicized to an extreme. It's under the control of the White House. Tenet is leaving in the middle of an unresolved political crisis -- what really amounts to a constitutional crisis."
Read the whole interview. Here's his theory of what happened to Chalabi:
It's astonishing that things would get to such a level, where the CIA actually oversaw a team of people who broke into Chalabi's headquarters -- which was paid for by the Pentagon -- and ransacked the place and carried away his computers. Who do you think bought those computers? Those are your American tax dollars at work.

That level of internal animosity is amazing. Look at the chronology: First you have a moment when the Pentagon announces that it's cutting off the funds to Chalabi's intelligence operation. A few days later this raid takes place. Well, it looks pretty clear that somebody warned the Pentagon this was going to happen, so that they could at least cut off his funding and not be caught with their pants down.

When Will Bin Laden Be Killed/Captured?  

There's been a lot of intense fighting on the Afghan/Pakistan border these days and a major Qaeda cell was captured thanks to a dumb-as-a-post security blunder by one of the members. It sounds, frankly, like there's more fighting going on than there was in the fall of 2001, like they're concentrating on eliminating Al Qaeda once and for all.

Concentrating on eliminating terrorists! What a concept!

Anyway, this begs the question: When will Osama bite the dust?

I'm betting we'll receive word of Osama's fate during the Democratic Convention, perhaps even when Kerry is delivering his acceptance speech. Of course, that would be a mere coincidence if it happened, no connection whatsoever.

Notice to rightwing loons: Heavy sarcasm and baseless speculation at work above.

To Win Arguments, Go To Winning Argument  

Judd Legum of Center for American Progress has a groovy new blog called Winning Argument. Check it out.

Southern Baptists Watch  

Not a good thing:
A dispute between the Southern Baptist Convention and a global Baptist group may result in a split this week.

At issue is the Southern Baptist Convention's continuing membership in the Baptist World Alliance, an umbrella organization for the faith that it sees as too liberal.
In addition to splitting themselves off from other Baptists around the world, they also want to avoid dealing with fellow Americans who disagree with them:
Another issue that may surface this week involves a call for Baptists to boycott United States public schools. A resolution circulated before the meeting says children in public schools are taught that "God is irrelevant" and that a homosexual lifestyle is acceptable. It suggests that home schooling or private religious schools are proper alternatives.
This is in no one's interests, neither the Southern Baptists' themselves, nor our country as a whole.

Democratic National Convention  

If you are looking for the site of the Democratic National Convention, you can find the Democratic National Convention site at either of the links above. Apparently, the Democratic National Convention site has been the target of some google-bombing, so in order to help ensure that the Democratic National Convention is not displaced, I am posting this repeated link to the Democratic National Convention. If you have a blog or website, you too can post many links to the Democratic National Convention. What fun.

August, 2002 DOJ Torture Memo Now Available  

Via TalkLeft comes word that the memo Ashcroft refused to release to Congress can be found here. I haven't read it yet, but will post excerpts if there's anything of particular interest.

[UPDATE] Excellent analysis of this memo and its role in things here. Note that one of the signers of this memo, Jay Bybee is now a sitting judge on the Ninth Circuit. Hat tip to Atrios.

Torture 'Em Globally, Beat 'Em Up Locally  

Dave Neiwert on the increasing violence from the right. He focuses on an incident in San Francisco, where a gallery owner was punched out, but here's a little taste of what we can expect when Michael Moore's new movie opens:
This is how it happens on the small, mostly unnoticed level -- what Ann Coulter affectionately calls a little "local fascism."

The most interesting development in this trend, however, is the way it appears to be coalescing on a national level -- aimed particularly at the antiwar wing of the liberal bloc, in the person of filmmaker Michael Moore.

I'm not a huge Moore fan [though he'll always have a place of affection in my heart for three things: 1) His marvelous interviews of Robert Miles in Blood in the Face; 2) his interview of James Nichols in Bowling for Columbine; and for his "Pedophiles for Buchanan" donation stunt detailed in Downsize This!, my all-time favorite bit of guerrilla politics]. The downside to Moore is that he plays fast and loose with facts too often, which makes him something of a loose cannon who can be as much embarrassment as asset.

There has already been a huge outcry over Moore's forthcoming film, Fahrenheit 9/11, partly because the Disney Corp. killed its distribution deal for the film due to its anti-Bush content. The movie is being released anyway, and it's garnering lots of attention, pro and con, all of which no doubt will make it a box-office hit.

It has all the earmarks of being a kind of cultural watershed, a reverse image, as it were, of Mel Gibson's The Passion. Where conservatives organized an off-the-boards campaign to drive out support for Gibson's anti-Semitic exercise in masochism, they appear poised to do the same to keep Moore's film from being shown.

There has recently appeared a Web site calling itself "Move America Forward" -- which in turn is being promoted by the right-wing Web site NewsMax -- that is dedicated to shutting down showings of Fahrenheit 9/11, at least in part by urging the public to contact theater owners directly. The result, according to What Really Happened, is that some of these owners "are reporting receiving death threats."

WRH also reports that it ran a DNS check on the "Move America Forward" site and found that it is owned by the San Francisco public-relations firm of Russo Marsh & Rogers. Sal Russo, one of the firm's principals, has extensive GOP ties, including service as an adviser for the "Recall Grey Davis" campaign. (Kurt Nimmo has been tracking these developments as well.)

None of this will ever be directly connected to George W. Bush, of course. There's no need. There are too many people out there willing to do whatever it takes to keep him in office. Whatever it takes.
Go to Dave's site to get the links for this excerpt.

[UPDATE:] Here, courtesy is the information regarding who is behind the anti-Farenheit 911 film. Russo Marsh & Rogers is a GOP consulting firm. After they were outed, the WHOIS was changed to eliminate reference to the firm.

Russo Marsh & Rogers
770 L Street, #950
Sacramento, CA 95814


Administrative Contact:
Lorenz, Douglas
770 L Street, #950
Sacramento, CA 95814
916-441-3734 Fax: 916-441-6057

Technical Contact:
Lorenz, Douglas
770 L Street, #950
Sacramento, CA 95814
916-441-3734 Fax: 916-441-6057

[UPDATE] Hah, hah. They're pretty inept at hiding their tracks, if that was their intention. When they changed the name on the WHOIS, they included the name of a prominent Republican, one Howard Kaloogian, who was a candidate for Senator from California and one of the folks behind the effort to shut down the CBS Reagan biopic. Thanks to Metafilter for the heads up.

Abu Ghraib Torture Reported In November, 2003  

2 months earlier than previously asserted and there were allegations of torture in other prisons besides Abu Ghraib:
Beginning in November, a small unit of interrogators at Abu Ghraib prison began reporting allegations of prisoner abuse, including the beatings of five blindfolded Iraqi generals, in internal documents sent to senior officers, according to interviews with military personnel who worked in the prison.

The disclosure of the documents raises new questions about whether senior officers in Iraq were alerted about serious abuses at the prison before January. Top military officials have said they only learned about abuses then, after a soldier came forward with photographs of the abuse.

"We were reporting it long before this mess came out," said one of several military intelligence soldiers interviewed in Germany and the United States who asked not to be identified for fear they would jeopardize their careers.

The Red Cross has said it alerted American military commanders in Iraq to abuses at Abu Ghraib in November. But the disclosures that the military's own interrogators had alerted superiors to abuse back then in internal documents has not been previously reported.

At least 20 accounts of mistreatment were included in the documents, according to those interviewed. Some detainees described abuse at other detention facilities before they were transferred to Abu Ghraib, but at least seven incidents said to be cited in the documents took place at the prison, four of them in the area controlled by military intelligence and the site of the notorious abuses depicted in the photographs.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

The Road To Abu Ghraib  

This is a Human Rights Watch report, current as of June 9, 2004. Go read it.
...the only exceptional aspect of the abuse at Abu Ghraib may have been that it was photographed. Detainees in U.S. custody in Afghanistan have testified that they experienced treatment similar to what happened in Abu Ghraib -- from beatings to prolonged sleep and sensory deprivation to being held naked -- as early as 2002. Comparable -- and, indeed, more extreme -- cases of torture and inhuman treatment have been extensively documented by the International Committee of the Red Cross and by journalists at numerous locations in Iraq outside Abu Ghraib.

This pattern of abuse did not result from the acts of individual soldiers who broke the rules. It resulted from decisions made by the Bush administration to bend, ignore, or cast rules aside. Administration policies created the climate for Abu Ghraib in three fundamental ways...

The administration effectively sought to re-write the Geneva Conventions of 1949 to eviscerate many of their most important protections. These include the rights of all detainees in an armed conflict to be free from humiliating and degrading treatment, as well as from torture and other forms of coercive interrogation. The Pentagon and the Justice Department developed the breathtaking legal argument that the president, as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, was not bound by U.S. or international laws prohibiting torture when acting to protect national security, and that such laws might even be unconstitutional if they hampered the war on terror.   The United States began to create offshore, off-limits, prisons such as Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, maintained other detainees in “undisclosed locations,” and sent terrorism suspects without legal process to countries where information was beaten out of them.

White House legal counsel Alberto Gonzales, while suggesting that the Geneva Conventions be circumvented, did convey to President Bush the worries of military leaders that these policies might “undermine U.S. military culture which emphasizes maintaining the highest standards of conduct in combat and could introduce an element of uncertainty in the status of adversaries.”  Those warnings were ignored, but proved justified.  In May 2004, a member of the 377th Military Police Company told the New York Times that the labeling of prisoners in Afghanistan as “enemy combatants” not subject to the Geneva Conventions contributed to their abuse. “We were pretty much told that they were nobodies, that they were just enemy combatants,” he said. “I think that giving them the distinction of soldier would have changed our attitudes toward them...”

It is not yet clear which techniques of ill-treatment or torture were formally approved at which levels of the U.S. government and the degree of severity allowed in their application, or whether they were informally encouraged. What is clear is that they were used systematically both in Afghanistan and then in Iraq, and that they were also used on some scale at Guantánamo. It is also clear that the purpose of these techniques is to inflict pain, suffering and severe humiliation on detainees. Once that purpose was legitimized by military and intelligence officials, it is not surprising that ordinary soldiers came to believe that even more extreme forms of abuse were acceptable...

Bush administration officials took at best a “see no evil, hear no evil” approach to all reports of detainee mistreatment. From the earliest days of the war in Afghanistan and the occupation of Iraq, the U.S. government has been aware of allegations of abuse. Yet high-level pledges of humane treatment were never implemented with specific orders or guidelines to forbid coercive methods of interrogation. Investigations of deaths in custody languished; soldiers and intelligence personnel accused of abuse, including all cases involving the killing of detainees, escaped judicial punishment. When, in the midst of the worst abuses, the International Committee of the Red Cross complained to Coalition forces, Army officials apparently responded by trying to curtail the ICRC’s access...

Rather than advance the war on terror, the widespread prisoner abuse has damaged efforts to build global support for countering terrorism. Indeed, each new photo of an American soldier humiliating an Iraqi could be considered a recruiting poster for al-Qaeda. Policies adopted to make the United States more secure from terrorism have in fact made it more vulnerable.
And folks, that's just the introduction. Here's a footnote from another section:
Gherebi v. Bush 9th Circuit, Dec. 18, 2003. The United States asserts the power “to do with [them] as it will, when it pleases, without any compliance with any rule of law of any kind, without permitting [them] to consult counsel, and without acknowledging any judicial forum in which its actions may be challenged. … Indeed, at oral argument, the government advised us that its position would be the same even if the claims were that it was engaging in acts of torture or that it was summarily executing the detainees. To our knowledge, prior to the current detention of prisoners at Guantánamo, the U.S. government has never before asserted such a grave and startling proposition. …a position so extreme that it raises the gravest concerns under both American and international law.”
And here's what happened when the Red Cross tried to protest, before some -and I stress the word "some"- of the shameful pictures were made public:
In May 2003, the ICRC sent a memorandum based on over 200 allegations of ill-treatment of prisoners of war during capture and interrogation at collecting points, battle group stations and temporary holding areas. That same month, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Sergio Vieira de Mello raised concerns about the treatment of detainees with the Coalition Administrator, Ambassador Paul Bremer. In early July 2003, the ICRC presented a paper detailing approximately 50 allegations of ill-treatment in the military intelligence section of Camp Cropper, at Baghdad International Airport.

According to the ICRC these incidents included:

 “a combination of petty and deliberate acts of violence aimed at securing the co-operation of the persons deprived of their liberty with their interrogators; threats (to intern individuals indefinitely, to arrest other family members,87 to transfer individuals to Guantánamo) against persons deprived of their liberty or against members of their families (in particular wives and daughters); hooding; tight handcuffing; use of stress positions (kneeling, squatting, standing with arms raised aver the head) for three or four hours; taking aim at individuals with rifles, striking them with rifle butts, slaps, punches, prolonged exposure to the sun, and isolation in dark cells. ICRC delegates witnessed marks on the bodies of several persons deprived of their liberty consistent with their allegations.”

In one case, a detainee:

“alleged that he had been hooded and cuffed with flexi-cuffs, threatened to be tortured and killed, urinated on, kicked in the head, lower back and groin, force-fed a baseball which was tied into the mouth using a scarf and deprived of sleep for four consecutive days. Interrogators would allegedly take turns ill-treating him. When he said he would complain to the ICRC he was allegedly beaten more. An ICRC medical examination revealed haematoma in the lower back, blood in urine, sensory loss in the right hand due to tight handcuffing with flexi-cuffs, and a broken rib.”

During a visit to Abu Ghraib prison in October 2003, ICRC delegates witnessed “the practice of keeping persons deprived of their liberty completely naked in totally empty concrete cells and in total darkness,” the report said. “Upon witnessing such cases, the ICRC interrupted its visits and requested an explanation from the authorities. The military intelligence officer in charge of the interrogation explained that this practice was ‘part of the process.’”

Rather than responding to these warning signals, however, according to one senior U.S. Army officer who served in Iraq, Army officials responded to the report of abuses at Abu Ghraib prison by trying to curtail the ICRC’s spot inspections, insisting that the ICRC should make appointments before visiting the cellblock.
And here's a little taste of their report on Iraq:
ven though his title appears on the document, which also carried the logo of Combined Joint Task Force-7, the U.S.-led coalition force in Iraq, General Sanchez denies having seen or approved the rules of engagement posted at Abu Ghraib (although he acknowledged that in twenty-five separate instances, he approved holding Iraqi prisoners in isolation for longer than thirty days, one of the methods listed in the posted rules). Keith B. Alexander, the head of the Army intelligence, however, said that they were the approved policy for interrogations of detainees in Iraq.97

What is clear is that U.S. military personnel at Abu Ghraib felt empowered to abuse the detainees. The brazenness with which the soldiers at the center of the scandal conducted themselves, snapping photographs and flashing the “thumbs-up” sign as they abused prisoners, suggests they felt they had nothing to hide from their superiors. The abuse was so widely known and accepted that a picture of naked detainees forced into a human pyramid was reportedly used as a screen saver on a computer in the interrogation room. [Emphasis added.]
Are we outraged yet, folks? If not, what could it possibly take?

"We Can't Get Away With That Now."  

Oh? And when could you get away with that, General?
A State Department report that incorrectly showed a decline last year in terrorism worldwide was a ``big mistake,'' Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday...

Powell said he planned a meeting on the issue Monday and that the intelligence agency [CIA] was working through the weekend in preparation.

``I'm not saying it is responsible until I sit down with all of the individuals who had something to do with this report: CIA, my department, members of my department, other agencies that contributed to it,'' Powell said.

``It's a numbers error. It's not a political judgment that said, `Let's see if we can cook the books.' We can't get away with that now. Nobody was out to cook the books. Errors crept in,'' he told ABC's ``This Week.'' [Emphasis added.]
I believe him. Really, I do. Absolutely, he's coming clean. No question about it. I mean it. Seriously.

Sanchez Ordered Prisoner Hidden from Red Cross  

From US News and World Report via TalkLeft:
The top U.S. commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, issued a classified order last November directing military guards to hide a prisoner, later dubbed "Triple X" by soldiers, from Red Cross inspectors and keep his name off official rosters. The disclosure, by military sources, is the first indication that Sanchez was directly involved in efforts to hide prisoners from the Red Cross, a practice that was sharply criticized by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba in a report describing abuses of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.
How much more information is needed, for heaven's sake, for this country to get outraged?

Torture Link Dump  

Sisyphus Shrugged has a post that links to the major issues in the torture story. I'm posting it here because, as this story unfolds, it will become more and more valuable as a reference. Special thanks to Digby for pointing it out.

Amy Sullivan Is Exactly Right  

And she includes a link to one of the greatest Jon Stewart segments ever, now in a more common format. "Willfully ignorant" isn't the half of it:
I chuckled a few times while watching this Daily Show segment on Ashcroft's testimony today before the Senate Judiciary Committee -- during which he flat-out refused to give the senators his memos to the president regarding the use of torture -- but even Jon Stewart couldn't make me feel anything other than utterly depressed. The forty-five percent of Americans who steadfastly plan to vote for Bush in November have to be willfully ignorant. There's no other explanation for why they continue to support the man and the administration in the face of endless violations of democratic principles and ideals.

The Reason Why Church And State Are Separated In The Constitution  

Beyond belief:
On his recent trip to Rome, President Bush asked a top Vatican official to push American bishops to speak out more about political issues, including same-sex marriage, according to a report in the National Catholic Reporter, an independent newspaper.

In a column posted Friday evening on the paper's Web site, John L. Allen Jr., its correspondent in Rome and the dean of Vatican journalists, wrote that Mr. Bush had made the request in a June 4 meeting with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican secretary of state. Citing an unnamed Vatican official, Mr. Allen wrote: "Bush said, 'Not all the American bishops are with me' on the cultural issues. The implication was that he hoped the Vatican would nudge them toward more explicit activism."

26 Ex-Officials Say Bush Has Got To Go  

Only 26???:
A group of 26 former senior diplomats and military officials, several appointed to key positions by Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, plans to issue a joint statement this week arguing that President George W. Bush has damaged America's national security and should be defeated in November.

The group, which calls itself Diplomats and Military Commanders for Change, will explicitly condemn Bush's foreign policy, according to several of those who signed the document.

'It is clear that the statement calls for the defeat of the administration,' said William C. Harrop, the ambassador to Israel under President Bush's father and one of the group's principal organizers.

Those signing the document, which will be released in Washington on Wednesday, include 20 former U.S. ambassadors, appointed by presidents of both parties, to countries including Israel, the former Soviet Union and Saudi Arabia.

Others are senior State Department officials from the Carter, Reagan and Clinton administrations and former military leaders, including retired Marine Gen. Joseph P. Hoar, the former commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East under President Bush's father. Hoar is a prominent critic of the war in Iraq.

Some of those signing the document — such as Hoar and former Air Force Chief of Staff Merrill A. McPeak — have identified themselves as supporters of Sen. John F. Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. But most have not endorsed any candidate, members of the group said.

Why Torture's A Stupid Idea  

A letter in The New York Times
Visiting Germany in 1963, my friends and I were eating at a restaurant in Munich when a group of Germans approached to ask if we were Americans. When we acknowledged that we were, they insisted on paying for our dinners because, they said, they had been German war prisoners in American custody and, unlike the Soviet captors, the American soldiers had treated them so well that they wanted to express their gratitude in this gesture.

It was a moving moment; the men and their wives stood around four young Americans, all weeping. And at that moment, we were proud to be American.

Dayton, Ohio, June 10, 2004
George W. Bush - the man who made torture an official, legal American institution.

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