Wednesday, March 31, 2004

These people are desperately angry

Following up on my post this morning (Shades of Somalia)...

This time it happened in the tumultuous hotbed Iraqi city of Fallujah, in what is being often referred to as the "Sunni Triangle." An enraged mob shot and killed four foreign reconstruction workers Wednesday, hacked the corpses to pieces and then suspended body parts from a nearby bridge. A group of men dragged one of the corpses into the street and ripped it apart, according to one report. Someone else then tied a chunk of flesh to a rock and tossed it over a telephone wire.

Meanwhile, less than 15 miles away, in the same area of the increasingly violent Sunni Triangle an explosive charge blew up near a U.S. military patrol, killing five U.S. troops. One year after the fall of Saddam Hussein and 11 months after President George W. Bush declared major combat operations in Iraq over, U.S. military officials say there is now an average of 26 attacks against coalition troops every day.

...The steadily deteriorating security situation in the Fallujah area, west of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, has become so dangerous that no American soldier or Iraqi security staff responded to the murderous attack against the ill-fated contractors.

There are a number of police stations in Fallujah and a base of more than 4,000 Marines nearby. But even while the two vehicles burned, sending plumes of thick, black smoke over the shuttered shops of the city, there were no ambulances, fire engines or security dispatched to try and rescue the victims of Wednesday's attack.
  United Press International article

Is this really a world better off without Hussein?

And just in case we want to get caught up in Arab-bashing (or Somali-bashing), Billmon reminds us that this kind of thing is not limited to "savage" foreigners.

Barbarous Savages

However, it shouldn't be necessary -- but apparently is -- to point out that the destruction and, yes, savage mutilation of other human beings isn't a uniquely Iraqi, or Arab or Islamic spectator sport. And we don't need to visit the killing fields of Bosnia or El Salvador to find the proof. It's tucked away in the attic of our own national memory. And it isn't all that dusty, either:

Now to my eyes, at least, the participants in this particular public atrocity don't appear to be either Arab or Muslim. Interestingly enough, they're not even white Southerners. This 1919 snapshot was snapped in Duluth, Minnesota -- peaceful, tolerant, Scandinavian Minnesota. And somebody liked the picture so much they turned into a postcard.

...This is fitting, in a way, since murdering people with dark skins -- plus the occasional Jew or labor union organizer -- remained a popular form of American light entertainment deep into the 20th century:
At its height at the turn of the century, two to three people, mostly southern blacks, were lynched every week.

Railroads ran special excursion trains to lynching sites, and thousands gathered to watch the beating, hanging, and burning of human beings. Spectators brought cameras and vendors printed photographs on the spot, minting a small fortune by turning the prints into souvenir postcards.

Some of those photographs are now part of a new exhibit at the New York Historical Society, and what they show is the shameless, festive carnival of lynching: Women with parasols, children lifted onto shoulders for the view, and large groups of men, all expectant and exultant.
You can find more memorabilia from that not-so-distant era at the online version of the same exhibit, Without Sanctuary. But be warned: Some of the photos are every bit as graphic as anything you'll find on Yahoo News from today's massacre in Fallujah.

The rest of his post is here.

Venezuelan fugitive thrown out of Costa Rica

I forgot to tell you about this...

Costa Rica's government says it has cancelled the asylum given to a leading Venezuelan opposition figure, after he gave a controversial speech in the US.

Union leader Carlos Ortega requested asylum last year, saying he faced persecution in Venezuela.

Last week he reportedly told a meeting in Miami, Florida, that he would return to Venezuela to work clandestinely to remove the government of Hugo Chavez.

Costa Rica said this speech violated the terms of Mr Ortega's asylum.

"In the judgement of the Costa Rican government, the statements made by this asylum holder are decidedly contradictory to the spirit of political asylum, and to his responsibilities as a recipient of asylum," the foreign ministry said in a press statement.
  BBC article


Mr. Ortega was one of the major 2002 coup leaders and organizer in the strikes that followed in an attempt to ruin the Venezuelan economy.

Notice he went to Miami. If he truly goes back to Venezuela, he'd better lie very low, as he's wanted for treason, and I don't think claiming publicly that he'll work to clandestinely overthrow the government will work in his favor (except in Miami).

Previous posts on Venezuela
More information on Venezuela

Update 6:00 pm: What I've read has been a bit misleading, or else I didn't read it carefully. At any rate, Ortega was in Miami when he made the comments that are getting him booted from Costa Rica. However, Mr. Ortega has not yet left the country. His attorney is saying he rejects the "invitation" to leave. Stay tuned.


The Bush administration continues to believe there's a "strong" case that Cuba has a limited biological weapons effort, although some of the intelligence is "questionable," according to testimony on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

"The case for the existence of a developmental Cuba BW R&D [biological weapons research and development] effort is strong," John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control, told the House International Relations Committee.

"The administration believes that Cuba remains a terrorist and BW threat to the United States," he added.
  Miami Herald article

The U.S. is determined, and has been for over a hundred years, to have done with Cuba one day. By hook or by crook.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.


VHeadline, you may recall, was running an online poll on the Chavez referendum issue. When I posted about it earlier, the poll results were very heavily pro-Chavez, which I suggested was in large part due to the likelihood that most readers were pro-Chavez.

Well, an anti-Chavez reader took issue with the way the poll was worded, suggesting it was misleading, so VHeadline restructured the poll, and whooops....

VENEZUELA: In the event of a national referendum, should Hugo Chavez Frias remain as President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
YES (15.8 %)185 votes
NO (84.2 %)983 votes

1168 people have taken part in this poll

Either there are more anti-Chavez readers of VHeadline than I would have imagined but who aren't very careful about how they read a poll, pro-Chavez people voted more than once each (a quirk that has been fixed in the new poll), or the anti-Chavez reader who complained sent word to a bunch of friends to spike the poll.

At any rate, it's still a good lesson in online polls - they're even more meaningless than independent "scientific" polls.

Previous posts on Venezuela
More information on Venezuela

Boris and Natasha to face the Worthless Commission together

You are probably already wondering about this curious arrangement that I mentioned in an earlier post. What I hadn't known at the time was that there will be no recording of the testimony. Only one commission staffer will be permitted to take notes! Private and no oaths. And, the deal for getting Condoliar to testify under oath is that she will not be called back another time, and no other White House officials will be called to tetify! Really, I think it's largely an issue of dealing with the ultimate in control freaks.

Josh Marshall speculates on the reasons for it:

The first -- and most generous -- explanation is that this is simply another way to further dilute the Commission's ability to ask questions.

If, say, the meeting lasts three hours, that's three hours to ask questions of both of them rather than three hours to ask questions of each -- as might be the case in separate meetings.

That wouldn't be any great coup for the White House. But it would be one more impediment to throw in front of the Commission's work, which would probably be a source of some joy for the White House.

From here the possible explanations go down hill -- in every respect -- pretty quickly.

Explanation number two would be that this is a fairly elementary -- and, one imagines, pretty effective -- way to keep the two of them from giving contradictory answers to the Commission's questions. It helps them keep their stories straight.
The third explanation is that the White House does not trust the president to be alone with the Commission members for any great length of time without getting himself into trouble, either by contradicting what his staff says, or getting some key point wrong, or letting some key fact slip. And Cheney's there to make sure nothing goes wrong.

And Billmon writes a script to present his view.

A commenter at Billmon's Whiskey Bar:

What is with this Howdy Doody shit? I want to see Cheney take a sip of water while Bush is talking. How humilitating this must be for our boy president. Will they have two chairs or is Jr going to sit on Cheney's lap?

And another, obviously still thinking:

I thought they were not supposed to be in the same place together, as a precaution against a terrorist attack. That's why they keep Cheney chained up in a cave unless Bush is off clearing brush. Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe I read that Bush was "on vacation" 43% of the time between January and 9/11.

I hadn't even thought of that. The two in the same place deal. Ooooooh...I bet the security at that event is gonna cost us.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

New Liberal talk radio

With shows by Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo.

If you want to listen in, it's premiering today in a few selected cities, and here on the web:

Daily lineup:
Morning Sedition 6:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time
Unfiltered w/Lizz Winstead and Chuck D. 9:00 a.m.
Al Franken Noon
Ed Schultz 3:00 p.m.
Randi Rhodes 6:00 p.m.
Marty Kaplan 7:00 p.m.
Jeanene Garofalo 8:00 p.m.
Alan Colmes 10:00 p.m.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

U.S. Navy officer "outs" Bush

They just keep coming.

Are Americans even listening? Or are they just determined to defend the indefensible? Today I mentioned something about the children in the Middle East who are getting blown to bits, and immediately the office administrative assistant said, "But that's coming from those people fighting each other." Serious denial. Or something.

A year ago Saturday Lt. John Oliveira was aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt in the Mediterranean Sea. He was serving as public affairs officer for the 5,000-troop aircraft carrier. He was overseeing embedded reporters. He was speaking to the national and international media defending the U.S. invasion.

To mark the first anniversary of the invasion, Oliveira was far from the battlefront -- he was taking part in his first peace rally. Two months after being honorably discharged, Oliveira decided to speak out against the invasion of Iraq for the first time. Today this decorated 16-year Navy veteran talks with Democracy Now! in his first national interview to criticize the U.S. invasion of Iraq and President Bush.

Democracy Now! interviews Lt. Oliveira.

9/11 Commission

The excellent Daily Show with John Stewart summarizes the two days of public hearings.

Watch it.

....hell, do what you will anyway.

Don't harm our economy

OPEC on Wednesday forged ahead with tighter oil supply curbs from April, deaf to consumer country complaints about crude prices close to 13-year highs.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed to turn down the taps despite calls from the United States for cheaper fuel.
  Reuters article

The White House urged OPEC Wednesday not to take any actions that may harm the U.S. economy but stopped short of criticizing its decision to forge ahead with tighter oil supply curbs.

"It's important for producers not to take actions that hurt our economy. We believe oil prices should be set by market forces in order to make sure that we have adequate supplies available," White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters after OPEC's decision.
  Forbes article

Is there an "or else" implied here?

Bush said during the 2000 presidential campaign it was the job of the president to "jawbone" OPEC producers to lower oil prices. "What I think the president ought to do is he ought to get on the phone with the OPEC cartel and say we expect you to open your spigots," Bush said in a January 2000 presidential debate.

While McClellan said the administration "remained engaged in close discussion with major producers from around the world," he made clear that Bush himself did not press them directly to lift export restrictions to help control U.S. pump prices.

"We believe oil prices should be set by market forces in order to make sure that we have adequate supplies available," McClellan told reporters.
  Reuters article

That's what he expected Clinton, as president, to do. He didn't say that's what he himself should do.

I have a feeling that Bush is loathe to take on Chavez personally. Little bullies usually know where they can't get away with their bullying.

Kerry said he would ease prices by pressuring the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to increase oil supplies, ''momentarily'' stopping deliveries to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and developing more energy-efficient vehicles. Kerry would also simplify rules on gas additives.

Experts questioned whether Kerry's plan would have much impact on prices, especially in the short term. ''I don't know if you could measure the impact'' of halting additional reserves because the amount involved is small, says James Williams of WTRG Economics, an energy consulting firm in London, Ark.

Bush said the answer was passage of the administration's energy bill, long stalled on Capitol Hill, which would encourage the use of coal and open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration.

''There are some in the other party in Washington who would like to raise gas taxes,'' Bush said in Appleton, Wis. ''I think it would be wrong. I think it would be damaging to the economy.'' Kerry hasn't proposed raising gas taxes, but he has supported the idea in the past as a deficit-reduction and environmental measure.
  Am Int'l Auto Dealers article

Be afraid when we tell you to be

And not at any other time.

Don't worry, they'll let us know which events are accidents and which are terrorist acts. And performed by which terrorist organization. And just like Spain's Aznar, they'll always tell the truth.

An explosion and fire have rocked a BP oil refinery in Texas, the third-largest in the United States, driving gasoline prices to an all-time high and unnerving currency markets worried about security threats. BP said there was no sign of "any outside influence" in the blast and fire, which came days after the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation warned Texas oil refiners of possible terror attacks ahead of elections in November.
  Reuters article

No! It couldn't be the white guys!

Attacks on Jews have increased in several European Union states, especially in France, with the main perpetrators young, white males, an EU report says. Wednesday's report by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) contrasted with controversial findings of a Berlin study last year which blamed young Arabs and Muslims predominantly for rising anti-Semitism.
  Reuters article

Shades of Somalia

A crowd of cheering Iraqis have dragged charred and mutilated bodies through the streets of the town of Falluja after an ambush on two vehicles that witnesses said killed at least three foreigners. In a separate attack five American soldiers were killed when a roadside bomb was detonated beside their convoy west of Baghdad, the U.S. army said.
  Reuters article

Maybe somebody's smarter than they've been acting

Thanks to La Belle Soeur for this story:

Over strenuous objections from the White House, the Senate voted on Tuesday for a significant increase in money to provide child care to welfare recipients and other low-income families.

The vote, 78 to 20, expressed broad bipartisan support for a proposal to add $6 billion to child care programs over the next five years, on top of a $1 billion increase that was already included in a sweeping welfare bill. The federal government now earmarks $4.8 billion a year for such child care assistance.

The Bush administration objected to the increase in child care money, saying it was not needed.
  NY Times article

"Let them eat cake," I believe they were overheard to utter in unison.

But President Bush and Republican leaders in Congress favor the overall bill, which would renew the 1996 welfare law and impose stricter work requirements on welfare recipients.

Now that's something they can support.

Members of both parties said they voted for the increase because Congress could not require welfare recipients to work longer hours without more child care.

Surprisingly (to me, at least) both Bill Frist and Orrin Hatch voted in favor of the funding.

Not surprisingly, Rick Santorum was dead against it.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Taking responsibility

From The Daily Mis-lead:

President Bush has told America many times that he wants to "usher in an era of personal responsibility". Yet instead of following former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke's lead and admitting some responsibility for overseeing the worst national security failure in American history, the White House has pushed its allies to unleash a vicious attack on Clarke. Instead of apologizing to the families as Clarke did, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) said Clarke's apology "was not his right, his privilege or his responsibility". Meanwhile, a Bush official said Clarke's apology was "bull".

Similarly, the President has told America he wants a "society in which people take responsibility for the decisions they make" instead of "blaming somebody else." Yet the President still refuses to own up to specific decisions he and his Administration made before 9/11 to "de-emphasize terrorism" as a priority, terminate a key program to track Al Qaeda suspects in the United States, and "veto a request" to put more money into counterterrorism after the Bush White House tried to slash the FBI's counterterrorism budget.

The Administration also refused to take responsibility for rejecting January 2001 recommendations from the U.S. Government's bipartisan Commission on National Security and instead waited five months to create a counterterrorism task force, which it then never once convened. When asked about this on CBS' Face the Nation, Secretary of State Colin Powell said only "I--I--I can't answer the specific question".

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Peas in a pod

"He is very good at denial and deception. I am not sure he even knows what the truth is anymore...I think he's been surrounded by yes-men and syncophants."

Not said about Peerless Leader. But it could have been.

This is one of the the pot's syncophants calling the kettle black. House Intelligence Chairman Porter Goss, R-Fla. reporting on the status of Saddam Hussein.

In an interview with the Associated Press last week, FBI Director Robert Mueller said the FBI is assisting with "certain interrogations" in Iraq, as well as helping with investigations into killings there. He said the bureau is also working with documents obtained in Iraq.

Too bad they can't get Chalabi to turn over the bundles of Saddam's records he took into custody. We're still paying him a fat 6-figure monthly stipend for information, after the information he already gave us was proven to be bogus, and he publicly admitted such, effectively thumbing his nose at us. And we have him sitting on the Iraqi National Council, some say poised to be installed as Prime Minister. Chalabi has got some American official(s) by the short ones.

Rumsfiend's new friend? Now that Saddam has fallen into disfavor? Take out one slimeball and put in another one. See how long this one plays the game our way. I have a feeling it won't be long, since he's already got the upper hand.

Sentenced in Jordan, in absentia, to 22 years hard labor for massive bank fraud, Chalabi hints he also has incriminating evidence of a close "subsidiary" relationship between Jordan's King Abdullah and Saddam's depraved, sadistic elder son, Uday, killed last year in a shootout with U.S. troops.

Potentially embarrassing for prominent U.S. citizens, Chalabi's aides hint his treasure trove of Mukhabarat documents includes names of American "agents of influence" on Saddam's payroll, as well as a number of Qatar-based al-Jazeera TV news reporters who were working for Iraqi intelligence.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

X-ing out the bad guys

I didn't see much about this comment from Richard Clarke in his interview with Leslie Stahl on 60 Minutes, but I think it underlines the immaturity - or the developmental stage at which George Bush's psyche was arrested. And, I just like to point out those little reminders that we have a spoiled, willfully ignorant, rich brat in the White House. The Little King.

He asked us after 9/11 to give him cards with pictures of the major al Qaeda leaders and tell us when they were arrested or killed so he could draw X's through their pictures, and you know, I write in the book, I have this image of George Bush sitting by a warm fireplace in the White House drawing X's through al Qaeda leaders and thinking that he's got most of them and therefore he's taken care of the problem, and while George Bush thinks he's crossing them out one by one there are all these new al Qaeda people who are being recruited who hate the United States in large measure because of what Bush has done.

Clarke obviously recognizes how stunningly out of touch with reality Bush is, but even he doesn't seem to register how juvenile a mind this man has.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.


You think this might have anything to do with bringing the former Soviet Block countries into NATO?

If the U.N. Security Council were to authorize an international security force for Iraq, then NATO might be willing to command part of it, the alliance's most senior civilian official said Monday.

Too hot in the kitchen - Condi is forced to testify

As some have been saying would eventually happen...

President Bush reversed course on Tuesday and agreed to let his national security adviser give sworn public testimony before the 9/11 commission, while he and Vice President Dick Cheney will meet privately in a separate session with the full panel.
  Reuters article

Not just Condi forced to testify under oath in public, but Boris and Natasha are now going to meet with the full panel.

Way to go, Richard Clarke.

"We applaud the decision of the president to allow the national security adviser, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, to testify," Hastert and Frist said in a statement noting the "unique nature" of the hijacked airliner attacks on New York and Washington that killed nearly 3,000 people.

What a freaking dufus. That "unique nature" bit came from the 60 Minutes interview with Rice when she tried to say her testimony would be unprecedented, and Ed Bradley said it was an unprecedented event: "it's a big enough issue to talk in public."

The New News - Satire for the Unwashed Masses

Secrecy freaks.

This administration, as you've seen printed elsewhere, I'm sure, is the most secretive ever - more paranoid about secrecy than Richard Nixon, they say. The absurdity of Conoleezza Rice's refusal to testify publicly or under oath privately is one example of the unreasonableness of their demands for secrecy. It seems like secrecy for secrecy's sake. Or, more likely, for the sake of control and power. And perhaps to cover up the blunders of their incompetency.

Now, the Federation of American Scientists has secured documentation that shows the NSA changed its classification rules in March of 2001 on signals intelligence information and "total personnel strength in the cryptologic community". That information had been classified for a time period of 25 years. In March of 2001, it became classified for "all time frames". Now, it really doesn't make any sense to classify something that has already been declassified. Offhand, I can think of three reasons you would do that.

1) You are obsessed with secrecy. It's just a matter of principal that you want total control of information, and so you don't consider whether it's reasonable or not.
2) There is something in the records beyond 25 years ago that is problematic for you, and to date, luckily, no one has filed a request for the records containing that information, so you're going to lock it up before they do.
3) There is something you are doing now that you don't ever want to become public knowledge, not even 30 years from now.
4) You really think that there is something 25 years old that might provide a terrorist or "rogue state" with information they could use to destroy this country. (Like how many people we had working cryptology 25 years ago.)

What have I missed?

According to Secrecy News:

Even as they extended the secrecy of the total number of SIGINT personnel indefinitely, officials at the National Security Agency in 2001 simultaneously declassified the number of civilian and military personnel who work at NSA headquarters at Fort Meade, MD.


Because the Bush Administration's NSA Transition Team asked them to, in response to a request from the Maryland congressional delegation.

Furthermore, "it is in NSA's best interests to declassify basic civilian personnel figures in order to be able to advocate more effectively for NSA," according to an internal NSA memorandum dated January 19, 2001 obtained by Secrecy News.

In other words, in this case classification and declassification were political decisions, not national security decisions.

Another internal NSA document from April 2001 elaborated on the purely political drivers behind such classification actions.

NSA officials, it said, were "under pressure to declassify the numbers of military personnel at NSA. They are not under pressure to declassify any other numbers (e.g., number of military personnel living in Maryland or the total number of contractors employed at NSA), so those items remain classified."

It was a simple political calculation. But it had nothing to do with national security.

Sounds like number 1.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Remember Dr. Butler?

You don't, do you? The researcher railroaded by the FBI over missing biotoxins. Stories don't stick around long. Just long enough to ruin a life or two sometimes. I'd almost forgotten about him, myself. Had to Google for this....


U.S. District Judge Sam R.Cummings sentenced Butler to 24 months in prison and fines totaling more than $58,000. A jury found Butler guilty of 47 of the 69 counts against him on Dec. 1, in association with 30 missing vials of the bubonic plague in January 2003.

...In a settlement in January, Butler agreed to pay the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center $250,000 for fraud of research funds and to retire from his position within the university. He also surrendered his Texas medical license.

Cummings approved the defense's request for a downward departure at the sentencing, giving himself the discretion to determine how far below the maximum 87 to 108 months in prison Butler would serve.

During his reasoning, Cummings said the "conduct occurred on one occasion" and not during a repeated number of instances. Butler's interest was not "in evil or terrorist intent," in the pursuit of medical reasons for research, Cummings said.
  University Daily article

Butler's lawyer will appeal.

Maru asks...

Why buy the cow...

Halliburton dramatically reduced what it spent on lobbying Congress and the federal government after the Bush-Cheney misadministration took office, the Duh Institute reports.

You can be a billionaire

Click graphic

Bumper stickers.

NY Times story.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Sick of Clarke yet? Well, I find it more interesting than "The Passion", so....

Follow the bouncing story line. Richard Clarke, the White House former antiterrorism tsar, wasn't in the White House antiterror loop, Vice President Dick Cheney says.

No, wait, he was in the loop, says National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice; he is just wrong about what was going on in the loop.

But, truth be told, it doesn't matter whether he was in or out of the loop because, according to Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and the White House, and various voices on the right, he is a disloyal, lying war profiteer.

The double-talk emitting from the White House and the Capitol this past week has been truly entertaining...

The point here should not be to look for a scapegoat for the terrorist attacks. There is no proof that anyone could have prevented them. But between the inconsistent stories coming out of the Bush administration and the seriousness of the allegations being leveled, the response from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has to be more than, "Well, that's not what he said before, and he's a jerk." That, however, is essentially the message....

If you've forgotten what it looks like when the wheels come off an administration, you're seeing it happen before your eyes.
  Christian Science Monitor article

Discounting the possibility that the White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, is secretly a publicist for the Free Press, one must assume that the Bush administration really is angry at its former counterterrorism czar, and isn't simply trying to help him sell more books. But if President Bush and his advisers were hoping that their loud pre-emptive attacks on ''Against All Enemies'' would make this book go away, they were sadly mistaken. Richard A. Clarke knows too much, and ''Against All Enemies'' is too good to be ignored.

The explosive details about President Bush's obsession with Iraq in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks captured the headlines in the days after the book's release, but ''Against All Enemies'' offers more. It is a rarity among Washington-insider memoirs - it's a thumping good read.

...[Steve Coll's] ''Ghost Wars'' also corroborates many of Clarke's assertions that counterterrorism policy was largely ignored by the new Bush administration before Sept. 11. Coll notes, as does Clarke, that the Bush team didn't hold its first cabinet-level meeting on Al Qaeda and Afghanistan until Sept. 4, one week before the twin towers fell.
  New York Times book review - Against All Enemies; Ghost Wars

In a few months former diplomat Joseph Wilson, will publish his book, an account of the build-up to the war in Iraq, called The Politics of Truth. Wilson last summer accused the White House of ignoring evidence in its efforts to show Iraq had WMD. The White House responded by leaking the identity of Wilson's wife, an undercover CIA operative.

That scandal led to a criminal investigation of White House staff, which is still ongoing.

Brace yourselves.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Sharon on the brink

Another righter than right wingnut going down. And hopefully in the nick of time.

Billmon has the summation (there are other embedded links in his post, so go directly to it if you want expansion):

The news just keeps getting worse for Israeli Prime Minister Arial Sharon -- the state prosecutor has recommended his indictment (on corruption, not war crimes charges), his son has been ordered to hand over potentially incriminating documents, his coalition is on the verge of collapse, his plans to bring the opposition Labor Party into the government are being opposed by his own party, the Likud, and the Bush administration isn't cooperating with his plans for a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, right?


For some background on how the PM managed to get himself into such a legal mess, here's a post on the subject I wrote last year while I was guest hosting over at Daily Kos. It's actually a fairly amusing tale, one that bears some resemblance -- as I noted in the post -- to story of the old lady who swallowed the fly.

What Sharon's growing legal and political woes will mean for Israel, the Palestinians and the shredded scraps of the "peace process" I don't know. I'm tempted to argue the old thug's passing has to be an improvement of some sort -- but I've watched enough Middle Eastern politics to know better.

More likely, the situation will remain FUBAR -- but in a different, if equally intractable way. But at least we won't have Ariel Sharon to kick around any more.

And Billmon is probably right. Just the roles will change, but the show will go on and the plot will remain the same.

Still, I like to dream. do what you will anyway.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Maybe soup pots won't be enough

Two years after a report on the 2001 anthrax attacks was completed, the Pentagon has released parts of the unclassified document, which concludes that the nation is woefully ill-prepared to detect and respond to a bioterrorist assault.

In a sweeping assessment, the report identifies weaknesses in "almost every aspect of U.S. biopreparedness and response." But perhaps equally significant is the two-year battle over the Pentagon's refusal to release the study. That struggle highlights the growing tension between public access to information and the government's refusal to divulge anything it says terrorists could use to attack Americans.
  NY Times article

You know of course that the Bush administration has done absolutely nothing to protect the citizens of the United States. The Bush administration has been far too busy enriching itself and its cronies by actually putting the citizens of the United States in far more danger than they've ever been in since the Revolutionary War. Either they figured they'd enrich themselves as much as possible in four years of ruining the country and take their money and run, or they figured they'd have total power by the end of their first term, and wouldn't need to be elected to a second. The latter is still doable. All it calls for is a Federal Emergency.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

The crowd gets ugly

The peasants pay a visit to Marie Antoinette Rove.

Several hundred people stormed the small yard of President Bush's chief political strategist, Karl Rove, yesterday afternoon, pounding on his windows, shoving signs at others and challenging Rove to talk to them about a bill that deals with educational opportunities for immigrants.

Protesters poured out of one school bus after another, piercing an otherwise quiet, peaceful Sunday in Rove's Palisades neighborhood in Northwest, chanting, "Karl, Karl, come on out! See what the DREAM Act is all about!"

Rove obliged their first request and opened his door long enough to say, "Get off my property."

"Seems like he doesn't want to invite us in for tea," Emira Palacios quipped to the crowd.

Yes, the police and secret service arrived to rescue Karl. I bet he was sh#tting his pants waiting for them. And I bet he's never experienced anything like this before.

My, oh my. What a difference a day makes.

And after about 30 minutes of goading by protesters in English and Spanish, Rove agreed to meet with two members of the coalition on the condition that the rest of the protesters board their buses and leave his street. The group obliged.

Rove opened his garage door and allowed Palacios and Inez Killingsworth to enter. The meeting lasted two minutes and ended with Rove closing the garage door on Palacios while she was still talking.

Palacios said that Rove was "very upset" and was "yelling in our faces" and that Rove told them "he hoped we were proud to make his 14-year-old and 10-year-old cry."

A White House spokesman said one of the children was a neighbor.

Palacios, trembling and in tears herself, said, "He is very offended because we dared to come here. We dared to come here because he dared to ignore us. I'm sorry we disturbed his children, but our children are disturbed every day.

"He also said, 'Don't ever dare to come back,' " Palacios said. "We will, if he continues to ignore us."

Helmets on tight? Heavy soup pots will do in a pinch.

Update 03/30 am: Interesting comments going on at Bubba's on this story. Bubba says the protestors were out of line, no matter what. Comments linked.

Whoa, dude!

Kerry in Missouri.

Kerry never mentioned Bush by name during his speech Sunday at New North Side Baptist Church, but aimed his criticism at "our present national leadership." Kerry cited Scripture in his appeal for the worshippers, including James 2:14, "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?"

"The Scriptures say, what does it profit, my brother, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?" Kerry said. "When we look at what is happening in America today, where are the works of compassion?"

Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt said Kerry's comment "was beyond the bounds of acceptable discourse and a sad exploitation of Scripture for a political attack."

I love it.

Two can play that game, huh? Oooooh, Johnny, you are skating on some thin ice pre-empting Jesus from the Boy King.

Get those soup pots ready, now folks!

Armageddon is on its way.

And more democracy for Iraq

Boy, we're just really laying it on.

The United States wants to transfer power in Iraq to a hand-picked prime minister, abandoning plans for an expansion of the current 25-member governing council, coalition officials in Baghdad say.

...The search is now on for an Iraqi to serve as chief executive. He will almost certainly be from the Shia Muslim majority, and probably a secular technocrat. It is not clear if Iraqi agreement on this issue has been sought. article

Ho ho ho.

Oh. My. God.

It just keeps getting better and better. I hope you all have large soup pots if you haven't yet gotten your helmets.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

More democracy for Iraq

From the New York Times, via Left I, via Bob...

March 28 — American soldiers shut down a popular Baghdad newspaper on Sunday and tightened chains across the doors after the occupation authorities accused it of printing lies that incited violence.

Thousands of outraged Iraqis protested the closing as an act of American hypocrisy, laying bare the hostility many feel toward the United States a year after the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

It's not the first one. It would seem that the U.S. sponsored news services haven't been really "taking off" over there. Shutting down opposition news sources and offering your own propaganda really is pretty Banana Republican, isn't it?

I suppose it's a step above shooting the journalists.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.


Here's a video clip purportedly of some of the firemen who were at the scene 9/11 discussing what happened.

fireman1: floor by floor it started poppin' out

fireman2: it was like, as if they had detona....

fireman1: detonators, yeah

fireman2: if they were plannin' on takin' down a building

And, here is an interesting transcript of an interview with a retired U.S. Army colonel by Prison Planet's Alex Jones. Make of it what you will.

"Portugal-based investigative journalist has presented The News, with the version of the September 11th attacks that has to-date failed to attract the attention of the international press. The report, compiled by the independent inquiry into the September 11th World Trade Center attack, warns the American public that the government's official version of the events does not stand up to scrutiny."

And the man who put this on was Col. Donn de Grand , who's an American in a 72-hour non-stop symposium, deliberation by a group of military and civilian pilots under the chairmanship of Col. Donn de Grand. After deliberating non-stop for 72-hours, has concluded the flight crews of the four passenger airliners involved in the September 11th tragedy had no control over their aircraft.

...[T]here was an the Washington Times saying the morale in the Pentagon had never been lower. And you would think it would be high right after 911 and getting together to fight the enemy. But it said that the officers didn't believe in the "mission" or in the intelligence.

...COL. deGRAND-PRE: That came out of the Washington Times and I can verify that from Col. Dick Schultz, who is a friend of mine in the Joint Chiefs. Morale was not only low but he said some of the troops are ready to mutiny...It wasn't an overnight thing. You see...we were on the verge of a military coup d'etat. And this was long in the planning and even after the 78 days of bombing Kosovo, it became critical. And we were close to a coup d'etat at that time. In my survey of the reports and the pilots who worked with that, a coup was a possibility. In fact, a coup d'etat was pulled on the morning of September 11th. Only it was an administrative or what we call a cold coup d'etat.

...DGP: Okay, I've got three books out, Alex, under the title, "Barbarians Inside the Gates." Book 1 was "The Serpent's Sting," Book 2 is "The Viper's Venom," Book 3 which just came out is "The Rattler's Revenge." And I'd like to quote from Book 2, which came out October of 2002. There is a very important paragraph there. It says, "The trigger for the 911 activity was the imminent and unstoppable world-wide financial collapse which can only be prevented temporarily by a major war, perhaps to become known as World War III. To bring it off one more time, martial law will probably be imposed in the United States."

AJ: And now we've seen Gen. Eberhart say that that's the next step. Tommy Franks said that's the next step. Are those now chilling statements?

DGP: Yes, they are. This next step will be preceded by what I write up in book 1 ' "The Serpent's Sting." I wrote of a coming coup d'etat. And this was written in the year 2000. And sure as blazes, it's coming. And it will be preceded by these kinds of things as enunciated by Tommy Franks, among others. So we are in a world of hurt, Alex.

...AJ: You're talking about an intensification of the elite in a coup d'etat against America.

DGP: That is correct.

AJ: Well, I mean, it's ongoing. They are federalizing everything, they are militarizing everything, they're engaging in the classic takeover, are they not?

DGP: Yes, there are. And from this, Alex, and I bring this out very clearly in book 3, the only way we can stop it is with the classic counter-coup d'etat where the military steps in. And under the aegis of the military itself, disengaging or disemboweling the civilian hierarchy and taking over and re-running or re-organizing the federal government.

Now, that's pretty scary. If some in the military are actually talking about a military coup d'etat. I suppose I wouldn't be surprised, considering all the hostility we have actually been privileged to see and hear about between the Pentagon and State. But I suppose this is why it's important to have high military officials like Colin Powell, who are actually boys for the civilian administration. It's my understanding that when John F. Kennedy had the first huge blunder of his presidential career over the Bay of Pigs, it was largely due to a bid for power between the CIA and a rabid chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Lyman Lemnitzer.

Let me say here that Alex Jones is way out on the fringe, convinced that the U.S. is a police state. I've read a few of his articles over time. The title of his website (Prison Planet) pretty much sums up his views. But there's always that saying that just because you're paranoid doesn't mean nobody's after you, so I think we dismiss out of hand "lunatic ravings" with some risk.

At any rate, everyone has to make a judgment for him/herself. Read the interview. Col. deGrand-Pre also talks about Perle and Cheney and Wolfowitz - remember the near-hit when he was in Baghdad, when we said that probably scared him out of ever going back? Well, Col. de Grand-Pre says essentially the same thing, but he also says he believes that was U.S. forces firing. I don't know about that one - anything's possible, we know that - but it's kind of hard to believe they'd fire on their own people (a colonel was killed in that bombing). Maybe they count on us not believing things like that, though. Certainly CIA has long held that there are acceptable deaths that include U.S. personnel. DeGrand-Pre also talks about the planes that crashed the WTC as being replacement remote controlled planes. Pretty much all the "conspiracy" events you've seen mentioned elsewhere, and then some.

I don't know. Interesting anyway. If you like political intrigue, this is the interview for you.

I'm not ready to buy Col. deGrand-Pre and Alex Jones' assessments completely, because hell, I think they're already there; the elites already control everything (that's another post on "fraudulent democracy"), so why would they be engaging in a coup? I could see the argument of a ploy to prevent a military coup, but how about just removing the suspect officers? Is that not possible? I actually don't know. I'm used to watching this type of story in Banana Republics, not here. (Perhaps I should consider my own assessment that we have turned into a Banana Grapefruit Republic, though, eh?)

Anyway, maybe a better way, besides a military coup d'etat, would be a citizens' push to retake the government and reform it into authentic democracy. But I don't suppose we're going to do that. We don't even realize we don't have a democracy. We don't even realize we don't really have a choice. So we just keep on going along with it.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

How about a mirror?

Would we even then recognize ourselves?

America - Defender of Freedom and Democracy

The Democratic Facade

I've only read a couple pages of these excerpts, but I think they're pretty well written. On the other hand, I don't think that many Americans really care whether we live in a democracy or not. In fact, I think if they understood the real effects of doing so, most would choose not to live in an authentic democracy, because that would preclude them from the possibility of the advantages of great wealth and the exploitation of others it takes to garner great wealth. Of course, most people are never going to get to that point anyway, but they are encouraged by those already there to think they might, because that keeps them playing the game and supporting those at the top.

America's history is replete with evidence that we have never been, nor are we now, a democracy. Rather we are a wholly owned subsidiary of an elite class. And here's a quick (obvious) list of how they have maintained their holdings (I'm sure you can come up with more items):

genocide - American natives
Civil War
bloody strike busting and attacks on organizers - America's union foundations
WWII detention camps and property confiscation for Japanese- and European-Americans
House on Unamerican Activities and "red baiting"
Cvil Rights movement police action
police action against protesters
arrests for Free Speech Zone violations
reprisals against whistleblowers

Idea and communication control:
expense of higher education
elite ownership of media
expense of advertising
government control of patents
approved school curicula and textbooks

Control of the wealth:
selective taxation
private control of natural resources and utilities

Election and policy process manipulation:
property restrictions for voters
slaves denied voting rights
women denied voting rights
voter intimidation
vote fraud
lobbying or direct membership in Congress
legislative policy-making without popular vote
districting manipulations
expensive campaigns
campaign focus on ideologies
limited public debates, replaced by (expensive) political advertisements
electoral college rather than direct vote for president
two-party system
no instant runoff voting
intervention of Supreme Court in election
covert operations and policy formation without transparency
executive privilege
no term limits on Congressional seats
little or no accountability for corporate or government office abuses

Back to the The Democratic Facade:

Had the delegates to the Constitutional Convention been representative of the people instead of the merchants, bankers, and plantation owners who composed it in secrecy in 1787, a much more democratic document would have emerged. In 1776, for example, backwoods farmers, laborers, artisans, and small tradesmen had taken control of Philadelphia and drafted a constitution that extended popular control to an extent "beyond any American government before or since." It created a single-house legislature and a weak executive (composed of twelve elected members of a Supreme Executive Council). Representatives had to stand for election every year before an electorate made up of anyone, propertied or not, who paid taxes. Compared to this plan, the Constitution should be regarded as a conservative, even counterrevolutionary document.

...In its self-proclaimed sphere of influence, the Caribbean and Latin America, the United States has repeatedly destroyed democracy and protected repressive regimes. Democracies based on mass participation have consistently been opposed, often violently, by U.S. political and corporate elites. Conversely, political systems pasted over with a transparent patina of democracy have been both supported and sponsored. These ostensible democracies are often as far removed from popular influence as are the military dictatorships that they often replace, but they are enthusiastically embraced as "democratic" by U.S. foreign policy elites. These cynical manipulations of democratic symbols can be used as a mirror that faithfully reflects the ideal of democracy embraced by America's elites. They tolerate democratic processes only if these processes pose no significant danger to their autonomy and political hegemony.

And, we are back to the present...Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, and Venezuela, to name a few "problem" areas.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Condi knows, but she figures you don't

"It's a long-standing principle that the president's advisers do not testify in front of congressional committees," Rice said Tuesday [March 23] on Fox News Radio's Tony Snow Show. "So, as much as I would like to be able to do this, it would really not be a good precedent."

Two points, please:

1) A long-standing principle apparently is of one year's duration, as presidential adviser and head of the Department of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge testified before Congress on April 9, 2003.

2) The 9/11 Commission is not a Congressional committee. It was created by Congress and signed into commission by the pResident. Some (maybe most) are ex-legislators, but none are congresspeople now; therefore, this is not a congressional committee. Chairman Kean is president of Drew University in New Jersey. Vice Chairman Hamilton is president and director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Richard Ben-Veniste is a partner in the Washington law firm of Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw. Fred Fielding is senior partner in the law offices of Wiley, Rein, & Fielding. Jamie Gorelick is a partner at Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering. Slade Gorton is of counsel at Preston Gates & Ellis LLP. Bob Kerrey is President of New School University in New York City. John Lehman is chairman of J.F. Lehman & Company, a private equity investment firm. Tim Roemer is president of the Center for National Policy (CNP). James Thompson is chairman of the law firm of Winston & Strawn.

In keeping with typical operating procedure for the Switch to Another Lie When the First One Is Challenged administration, Rice has been forced (on 60 Minutes) to modify her story about precedent, narrowing the limitation to National Security Advisers only. (And it certainly isn't bothering her to talk to any and all news media. She'll even talk to the committee - just not under oath, and not in public. How much more public can you get than 60 Minutes?)


To quote an anonymous Cyberspace Orbit forum participant from somewhere in the past on another subject:

"What a huge stinking shadow government olive green repturd pile of fragging disinformationalistic fusterclucked crap."

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Update 8:00 pm: Excuse me, Condi's restatement is even narrower. Excrutiatingly, insanely, ridiculously narrow. As Josh Marshall points out, it's "flagrantly bogus":

Look again at these last two sentences of Rice's flagrantly bogus argument: "This is a matter of policy. And we have yet to find an example of a national security advisor, sitting national security advisor, who has - been willing to testify on matters of policy."

Each word of these two sentences was chosen to fit an unhelpful set of facts.

Sandy Berger twice testified in 1990s -- once in 1994 on Haiti and then again in 1997 during the Asian campaign contribution hearings. In 1994 though Berger was Deputy National Security Advisor. Constitutionally, it's not at all clear to me why a Deputy National Security Advisor should be more obliged to testify before congress than his boss. But that's their out in this case.

Then in 1997, when he was NSC Director, he was testifying in the course of an investigation into a scandal -- but certainly one with policy implications, since I'm pretty sure what they were asking him about was whether money affected policy. Why this is a constitutionally significant distinction is lost on me too. But again, that's their out -- it wasn't about 'policy'.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Richard Clarke fights off the dogs

Richard Clarke, the former terrorism adviser whose revelations threaten to torpedo George Bush's re-election strategy, launched a counterattack yesterday at a White House that he said was determined to destroy him.

In a riveting television performance, Mr Clarke called on his principal critic and former employer, the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, to release the entire record of their emails in the months up to the September 11 terror attacks to prove his contention that the White House did not then take the threat of al-Qaida seriously.

He also agreed to Republican demands to declassify testimony he gave to the Senate two years ago - to "prove" there were no inconsistencies. "Let's take all of my emails and all the memos I sent to the national security adviser and her deputy from January 20 to September 11 and let's declassify all of them," Mr Clarke told NBC television.

Mr Clarke's bravura presentation surprised the Bush administration. The decision to stand his ground could also be destructive to Ms Rice.

I hope he takes them all down.

Meet the Press transcript.

Here's an NPR Fresh Air interview with Richard Clarke the day before his 9/11 testimony. If you haven't heard Mr. Clarke speak, this is an excellent interview. There are links to either Real Player or Windows Media audio. (No written transcript.)

Socialists gaining ground

President Jacques Chirac and his ruling conservative party suffered a crushing defeat in regional midterm elections Sunday, with the opposition Socialists, and their Green and Communist allies seizing control of the vast majority of regional councils. The results marked a sharp rebuke for the government's attempts to reform France's costly health care, pension and education systems.

Europe's socialists are knocking back the right-wingers right and left - or is that right to left? Well, you get it.

This is bound to be pinching Washington into a reactionary mode. Who's going to take the pre-emptive strike?

Look out Venezuela.

[Prime minister, Jean-Pierre] Raffarin, appearing subdued, said, "It is clear that the opposition has won this ballot." But, he said, "the reforms will continue simply because they are necessary."

Ah, the George Bush method of governance. Screw the people, I've got a job to do.

Oh, by the way

What she says in public isn't necessarily what she says to a commission, and no effing wonder she refuses to say anything under oath.

A member of the 9/11 commission said yesterday that national security adviser Condoleezza Rice indicated in a private session she was wrong to have once stated no one expected terrorists to use planes as missiles.

And it's not just her.

The White House reportedly also backpedaled yesterday on whether President Bush pressed counterterror czar Richard Clarke the day after the attacks to find evidence that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was involved.

Clarke said the meeting occurred in the White House Situation Room and presidential aides said earlier this week the meeting never happened. But CBS News reported last night that White House aides now concede the meeting "probably" occurred.


Scream out the lies when the issues arise, and quietly correct them when fewer people are watching.

Richard Ben-Veniste, a member of the 9/11 panel, said that during a closed door session Rice..."corrected [herself] in our private interview by saying, 'I could not anticipate that they would try to use an airplane as a missile,' but acknowledging that the intelligence community could anticipate it," Ben-Veniste said.

So, let me get this straight....she's head of the National Security Council, and she doesn't get the information that the intelligence community has?

We are totally, and probably irrevocably f#@ked. It's nothing new. It's just that now they don't even bother to be clever or covert. Because, apparently, we're either too stupid or too unconcerned with how our government actually works.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Stolen files - for info on John Kerry?

FBI documents about FBI surveillance of John Kerry in the early 1970s have been stolen [on Thursday], according to their owner, a historian who lives near San Francisco, California.

...Nicosia, author of "Home At War: A History of the Vietnam Veterans Movement," had obtained about 20,000 pages of FBI documents through Freedom of Information Act requests.

The documents center on FBI surveillance of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), which Kerry represented as national spokesman. In April 1971, the decorated veteran testified in televised hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and led a large protest of veterans in the capital.

Nicosia estimated that 20 percent of his documents are missing.

..."I hadn't gotten a chance to review them all. I am sure there were some things about John Kerry that weren't known," Nicosia said. "These files would also cast a bad light on the ... Republican Party. This surveillance happened under the Nixon White House and Nixon FBI."

Nicosia showed about 50 pages of the documents to CNN last week.

Spinning war

Spin certainly isn't anything new. Lately I've come to have some doubts about Reuters' reporting. It doesn't seem exactly unbiased. Today's reporting is a fair example.


Pakistan forces have retrieved 12 captive government men after smashing an al Qaeda-linked militant den and the troops have agreed to lift a cordon around mud-fortresses that sheltered the Islamic radicals.

The 12 were captured by foreign fighters and their local allies last week at the start of a clash on Pakistan's desolate Afghan border in which more than 100 people were killed and a notorious Uzbek al Qaeda leader seriously wounded.

Two men still held captive would be released later on Sunday, said a tribal elder involved in the negotiation of their freedom.


Militants linked to Al Qaeda have released 12 Pakistani soldiers they had been holding hostage for almost two weeks.

A total of 14 men were captured at the start of a Pakistani military campaign against hundreds of suspected Al Qaeda militants and their tribal allies in the area.

A tribal leader who was involved in negotiating the release says the two remaining hostages will be freed later.


Tribal leaders had been trying for days to secure the release of the 12 Pakistani soldiers and two government officials.

The Yargulkhel tribesmen had insisted they would not release the hostages until the army ceased its operation in South Waziristan.

Troops began withdrawing to Wana on Sunday after "destroying dens, searching of homes, taking people into custody and the recovery of gadgets and equipment," Mr Shah said.

Reuters makes it seem as though Pakistani soldiers went in blasting to "retrieve" captives. The other reports make it fairly obvious that having the hostages provided the negotiating room to have the Pak army retreat.

The difference between a rescue mission for POWs and a hostage exchange for demands. Although Reuters does put in the line about two captives and negotiations, so that if you read carefully, at least you question what really happened.

And Juan Cole is adding to my concerns about Reuters:

Reuters is reporting that Kuwaiti papers on Saturday discussed the Friday sermon of Muhammad Baqir al-Muhri, a lieutenant of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in that country. Al-Muhri (Mohri) threatened that if key passages of the interim constitution are not amended, Sistani would call for massive street demonstrations against it.

I looked up some Kuwaiti newspapers on line and could not find this report in Arabic, checking both the Saturday and Sunday editions. I think it should be remembered that al-Muhri cannot possibly be in close contact with Sistani, and that there is a tendency for junior clerics to say they are speaking for Sistani when they are not. Earlier reports had said that Sistani does not want to instigate street demonstrations, lest the country fall into chaos.
posted by Juan Cole at 3/28/2004 10:12:38 AM

Sometimes I think news sources are purposely spinning, and sometimes I think they just got lazy. And perhaps competitive - just crank out some headlines, capture the audience. We don't have time to get the truth. And nobody's going to be all that interested in it anyway. Keep moving.

Afghan elections moved back

President Karzai has moved the elections from June to September due to the security worries created by fighting. Personally, I have my doubts that three months is going to change things much for the better. After all, the fighting has been going on for over two years, and we've already been told to expect it to go on for years. (Which some of us expected without being told to.)

The same problem exists in Iraq. I don't think a summer switch-over is going to put a huge damper on the violence there. Too many people don't seem to be all that satisfied with the proposed interim government. Security issues are going to be a big concern for elections there.

Hell, they might be a big concern for elections here at the rate we're going.

Italy, on the other hand, may be expected to hold their June elections as scheduled. They look like a possible remake of the Spanish elections.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

U.S. military bases

On February 20, I posted about the rarely-mentioned U.S. military base dividend of Operation Inigo Montoya.

That was one of only three times I'd seen anything about it since coming across an obscure article from Melbourne Indymedia from November of '03: Secret Washington plan to establish six permanent US, UK military bases in Iraq.

The subject is coming up again.

Mar. 23, 2004: Expansion of military bases overseas fuels suspicions of U.S. motives

In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States has dramatically expanded its military presence in the Middle East and Central Asia, building a vast network of bases designed to counter what military officials call an "arc of instability."

..."No one could have anticipated in the summer of 2001 that the United States would be basing forces at Karshi Khanabad, Uzbekistan, or conducting a major military operation in Afghanistan," Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told Congress last year.

...Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has rejected the notion that the United States is interested in a permanent, large-scale presence in the Middle East and Central Asia and has stated that once the Taliban and al-Qaida have been defeated, the United States will have no bases in Afghanistan.

But, the Oaf of Office and CIA director Tenet have specifically told us that the "war on terror" is going to go on for years.

[T]he United States now has bases or shares military installations in Turkey, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as on the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

Rumsfeld and Pentagon officials are soon expected to unveil plans for a new U.S. military "footprint" on the rest of the world. The plan is expected to include a shift of resources from the huge Cold War-era bases in Western Europe to new and smaller ones in Poland and other Eastern Europe nations as well as a relocation of U.S. troops in South Korea.

Bootprint, I think would be more accurate.

Pursuing a strategy of "places, not bases," the administration wants to strengthen its alliances with friendly countries in the region - and its access to their military facilities. But it doesn't want to engage in extensive base building, as it did in Western Europe after World War II and in northeast Asia after the Korean War.

And they all should be falling all over themselves for the opportunity to bear the expense of maintaining permanent bases while we "access" them.

On the other hand, according to a Chicago Tribune March 23 article, we're building 14 bases in Iraq. Fourteen!

That may be in question, but there are at least some.

[Camp Victory] is to be one of eight long-term bases American troops plan to use on Baghdad's outskirts in a move out of the city center to coincide with the return of sovereignty to the nation on June 30.
  March 14 Quad City Dispatch article

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Presidential Auction 2004

With Democratic primaries and caucuses still ahead in 16 states and U.S. territories, millions of voters still have a chance to influence the direction of the Democratic Party, Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich said today.

"Even though the nomination may be decided, why should millions of Democrats in these sixteen voting areas be denied a chance to affect the direction of our party?" Kucinich said. Voters still have "sixteen chances to register your concerns about peace, about universal health care, about the Patriot Act, about our trade policies which are costing us millions of jobs while diminishing workers rights and environmental protections everywhere."

...During April, May, and June, primaries or caucuses will be held in Colorado, North Carolina, the Virgin Islands, Guam, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Nebraska, West Virginia, Arkansas, Kentucky, Oregon, Alabama, South Dakota, Puerto Rico, Montana, and New Jersey, as well as Oregon.

"Even though eight other presidential campaigns have conceded," said Kucinich, in a message specifically directed to supporters and contributors, "you've helped us make a difference over the past year. You have brought us a great distance." He urged his supporters to "help us arrive at the convention with the message of hope, of peace, of social and economic justice. The convention is only a few months away. We need you now more than ever."

Kucinich added, "Now is the time for us to make a renewed commitment while there still is a chance to influence the debate within the party."


...but hey, do what you will anyway.

9/11 The Worthless Commission

Well, holy crap. An FBI translator says she was told by the DoJ to "retranslate and adjust" terrorist suspect intercepts.

March 24, 2004: FBI translator, Sibel Edmonds, was offered a substantial raise and a full time job in order to not go public that she had been asked by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to retranslate and adjust the translations of [terrorist] subject intercepts that had been received before September 11, 2001 by the FBI and CIA.

Edmonds, a ten year U.S. citizen who has passed a polygraph examination, speaks fluent Farsi and Turkish and had been working part time with the FBI for six months-- commencing in December, 2001.

In a 50-reporter scrum in front of some 12 news cameras, Edmonds said "Attorney General John Ashcroft told me 'he was invoking State Secret Privilage and National Security' when I told the FBI I wanted to go public with what I had translated from the pre 9-11 intercepts".

...Incredibly, Edmonds said "The Senate Judiciary Committee and the 911 Commission have heard me testify for lengthy periods of time time (3 hours) about very specific plots, dates, airplanes used as weapons, and specific individuals and activities."

This explosive information has been kept under wraps by the White House, CIA, FBI, and DOJ since Edmonds' 60 Minutes interview segment.
  Tom Flocco article

March 26, 2004 |

A former FBI wiretap translator with top-secret security clearance, who has been called "very credible" by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has told Salon she recently testified to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States that the FBI had detailed information prior to Sept. 11, 2001, that a terrorist attack involving airplanes was being plotted.

Referring to the Homeland Security Department's color-coded warnings instituted in the wake of 9/11, the former translator, Sibel Edmonds, told Salon, "We should have had orange or red-type of alert in June or July of 2001. There was that much information available." Edmonds is offended by the Bush White House claim that it lacked foreknowledge of the kind of attacks made by al-Qaida on 9/11. "Especially after reading National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice [Washington Post Op-Ed on March 22] where she said, we had no specific information whatsoever of domestic threat or that they might use airplanes. That's an outrageous lie. And documents can prove it's a lie."

...Edmonds cannot talk in detail about the tapes publicly because she's been under a Justice Department gag order since 2002.

"President Bush said they had no specific information about Sept. 11, and that's accurate," says Edmonds. "But there was specific information about use of airplanes, that an attack was on the way two or three months beforehand and that several people were already in the country by May of 2001."

This week Edmonds attended the commission hearings and plans to return in April when FBI Director Robert Mueller is scheduled to testify. "I'm hoping the commission asks him real questions -- like, in April 2001, did an FBI field office receive legitimate information indicating the use of airplanes for an attack on major cities? And is it true that through an FBI informant, who'd been used [by the Bureau] for 10 years, did you get information about specific terrorist plans and specific cells in this country? He couldn't say no," she insists.

Edmonds first made headlines in 2002 when she blew the whistle on the FBI's translation department, which was suddenly thrown into the spotlight as investigators clamored for original terrorist-related information, often in Arabic. Edmonds made several reports of serious misconduct, security lapses and gross incompetence in the FBI translations unit, including supervisors who told translators to work slowly during the crucial post-9/11 period to ensure the agency would get more funds for its next annual budget. As a result of her reports, Edmonds says she was harassed at the FBI. She was fired in March 2002.

...The Inspector General's office then launched an investigation into Edmonds' charges and told her to expect a finding in the fall of 2002. The report has yet to be released. Edmonds suspects if it is ever publicly released Ashcroft will demand that it be immediately classified. "They're pushing everything under the blanket of secrecy," she says.

That's why she felt it was so important to appear before the 9/11 commission: "It's the only hope I have left to get this issue added to the public domain."
  Salon article

July 13, 2003:
Sibel Edmonds, a translator who worked at the FBI's language division, says the documents weren't translated because the divison was riddled with incompetence and corruption.

Edmonds was fired last year after reporting her concerns to FBI officials. She told her story behind closed doors to investigators in Congress and to the Justice Department. Last October, she told her story to Correspondent Ed Bradley.
  CBS 60 Minutes article

DO read that 60 Minutes transcript.

The sticky trap

As opposed to the spider hole.

Josh Marshall discusses Condi Rice's own 2000 article in Foreign Affairs giving her recommendations for American foreign and national security policy.

The central policy recommendation is national missile defense -- a defensive capacity aimed at states. And though there is mention of chemical and biological agents and the need to "expand intelligence capabilities against terrorism of all kinds" even a quick read of the entire section shows clearly that ideologically-based transnational terrorism simply wasn't on her radar as a significant threat to the United States.

There's no mention of Afghanistan or the madrassas in Pakistan, the importance of knocking down terrorist financial networks, Islamist sleeper cells in American or Germany. None of it.

Rice's own words from 2000 provide a lot of back-up for one of the major arguments for which Clarke is now being villified by Rice and her allies.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Politics break

Cable TV reform? A la carte channels?

Not likely. But it could happen.

Besides adding to the cost, cable companies say, selling channels individually might make it difficult for lesser-watched, niche channels to survive.

Isn't that what the free market is all about?

Under the current system, consumers effectively subsidize less-popular channels, which cable companies say provides diversity in the cable and satellite universe.

However, they certainly don't want to extend that diversity to include other cable companies in your marketplace. (How many choices of cable companies do you have?)

The cable industry is urging the government not to return to the days when it regulated rates and demanded public access channels and other programming, arguing such mandates stifle innovation.

Is it just me, or does that not directly contradict their great concern for "niche" channels?

Anyhoo, they're having hearings on this pressing issue now.

And the cable companies have a solution to offer those of you who are paying for packages in which there are channels you don't want - they're proposing to hand out free channel blockers. But you're still going to pay for those channels. Buy something I don't want and then lock it in the closet where I can't use it. Why didn't I think of that?

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Presidential Auction 2004

From Black Commentator:

John Kerry this week signaled that he’s a coup-maker, too. His bald bid for the Cuban Florida vote – while simultaneously chastising Bush for the Haiti coup and the attempted coup against Chavez! – puts Kerry in a doublespeak class of his own. We submit the full text of Kerry’s statement as a sordid example of unprincipled – and incompetently executed – deception.

...Kerry methodically lays out the rationale for a U.S. overthrow of Chavez, then blames Bush for actually trying to do it. This man is dangerous. If elected, he will fight tooth and nail to preserve the NED and the entire apparatus of U.S. subversion around the globe. He is no friend to the people of Haiti, Venezuela, or anywhere else in the developing world.

And there, Black America is in the same dilemma as leftist America.

Graphic by Jihad Unspun

By the way...

The Black Commentator "encourages donations to the Haiti Information Project, whose reporters risk their lives daily to tell the truth about life in Haiti under the rule of criminals and foreigners."

Journalists associated with the deposed Aristide government or the mass organizations of Lavalas enjoy none of the immunities accorded the corporate media in Haiti. They are fair game for the death squads – who since last Saturday are acknowledged partners in the U.S.-installed government. There is, literally, no safe place for real journalism in Haiti, thanks to the Bush regime.

But “Truth, crushed to earth shall rise, again.” The Haitian Information Project (HIP), begun in the months before the coup in cooperation with the Marin Interfaith Taskforce, in northern California, has fielded teams of young journalists from the ranks of the oppressed...The Project’s reporters must operate in what one of them calls “a witch-hunt environment, where the term ‘chimere’ is used as a code word to justify slaughter.”

To fund this project make checks payable to: MITF/Haiti Info.

Mail to:

Marin Interfaith Taskforce
P.O. Box 2481
Mill Valley, CA 94942

Voice (415) 924-3227 Fax (415) 924-3227

In some instances, the truth truly will set you free. Free of your mortal bonds.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

GOP response to Richard Clarke

Maru sums it up:

Bush says: "If we had any inkling, we would have done everything we could." (stupid)

Powell says: "We did know and we were trying as hard as we could to stop it."

Condi Says: "Clarke is lying, but I can't say how."

Cheney says: "Clarke? Never heard of the guy."

Billmon has some comments on the squawkings of Dr. Frist (the cat killer - oh, sorry, couldn't resist):

Now you see, I didn't have to declassify any sensitive national security documents, and I've already caught Frist in a false statement. Either he lied when he claimed to know that Clarke "told two different stories under oath" (which seems to me to be a reasonably good definition of perjury) or he lied when he told the journalistic stenographers that he "personally didn't know whether there were any discrepancies."

Funny how apparently none of our watchdogs of the Fourth Estate thought to ask him about that little inconsistency. Nor did they see fit to comment on the fact that Frist apparently has not yet read the testimony that may or may not (depending on which set of Fristian remarks you go by) prove that Richard Clarke was (or is now) a perjurer:

And regarding Goss' threat for a perjury probe into Clarke's allegations...

But if -- a big if -- Goss actually sets a perjury probe in motion, it would tell me the White House is worried about more than just losing an election. It would suggest there's something about the 9/11 saga that could send people -- even high-ranking elected people -- to the slammer. In which case this might be a good time to pursue that Canadian residency application.

Right now, the signs are ambiguous -- which under the circumstances means not too encouraging:

Goss said he is reviewing testimony and other documents and plans to request the declassification - a sometimes lengthy process - in case a need for public hearings or other disclosure arises. (emphasis added)

That phrase "other disclosure" could cover a whole lot of ground.

So is this just a phony ploy to try to rattle Clarke and scare away any other would-be informants? Or is Bush really going to take Nixon's re-election strategy a step further?

Well, you know what I think. This bunch will stop at nothing. They will destroy (or attempt to) anyone who stands in their path to total power. And, I have reason to worry that they might be willing to destroy anything.

If there is such a thing as evil, these people personify it.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.